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Creating a Citi Trifecta: The Best Way to Pair Citi Credit Cards

Use these three Citi credit cards to maximize your rewards.

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A credit card trifecta involves using three credit cards from the same issuer to maximize your rewards. Ideally, each card brings something different to the table, filling in the gaps between what the others provide while charging no or low annual fees. Building a credit card trifecta can help you get the most out of each card without having to settle or sacrifice the features of another.

When looking at Citi credit cards, we recommend using the Citi Double Cash® Card, Citi Custom Cash® Card* and Citi Premier® Card cards together to earn a solid return on most -- if not all -- of your spending.

Rewards and redemption

Each of these three Citi cards offers distinct rewards. While there is some overlap between the Citi Custom Cash and the Citi Premier, the strategy for maximizing your rewards won’t involve using the cards for the same purchase types.

Citi Double Cash

The Double Cash is a straightforward and lucrative cash-back card. You’ll primarily be relying on this card for the bulk of your spending, as it earns rewards no matter what you’re buying. You’ll earn 1% cash back when you make a purchase and the other 1% when it’s paid off. It’s also worth noting that it actually earns rewards as ThankYou points, like the other two Citi cards.

Citi Custom Cash

The Custom Cash is a flexible rewards card that lets you unlock a higher rewards rate when you buy items or services that fall into a specific group, or spend category. You’ll earn 5% cash back automatically on the eligible category where you spend the most money each billing cycle (on up to $500 per billing cycle, then the rate falls to 1%).

Eligible categories include: restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs and live entertainment. There’s also a $200 cash back bonus for spending $1,500 in the first six months from account opening (fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back).

It works best if you spend heavily in one of the above categories. Just be aware there’s a $500 spending limit each billing cycle before rewards fall from 5% to 1%.

Citi Premier

The Premier is primarily a travel card, but it also covers some everyday spending categories. It does charge an annual fee of $95, but if you can take advantage of its travel rewards and competitive welcome bonus, it may be well worth the cost. For a limited time, earn a total of 10x points per dollar spent on hotels, car rentals, and attractions (excluding air travel) booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal (through June 30, 2024). It earns 3x points per dollar at restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations, as well as for air travel and other hotels. It earns 1x point for everything else.

Its welcome bonus of 60,000 ThankYou points for spending $4,000 in the first three months from account opening is worth $600 provided you redeem for travel rewards or gift cards at thankyou.com. It may be worth even more if you transfer your points to one of Citi’s travel partners.

How to use the Citi trifecta

Using these cards together comes down to knowing which purchases they each earn the most rewards for, and how best to redeem your rewards.

CardRewardsRedemption
Citi Custom Cash
  • Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle (up to $500 spent, then 1%)
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Direct deposits
  • Statement credits
  • Paper checks
  • Gift cards
  • Travel through Citi
  • Used with Amazon through Shop With Points
Citi Double Cash
  • Earn 2% on every purchase: 1% when you buy, 1% when you pay it off.
  • Plus, for a limited time, earn 5% total cash back on hotel, car rentals and attractions booked on the Citi Travel℠  portal through 12/31/24.
  • Direct deposits
  • Statement credits
  • Paper checks
  • Gift cards
  • Travel through Citi
  • Used with Amazon through Shop With Points,
Citi Premier
  • Earn 10x points for hotel, car rentals, and attractions (excluding air travel) booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through June 30, 2024
  • Earn 3x points per dollar at restaurants and supermarkets
  • 3x at gas stations, for airfare and other hotels
  • 1x for all other purchases
  • Direct deposits
  • Statement credits
  • Paper checks
  • Gift cards
  • Travel through Citi
  • Used with Amazon through Shop With Points
  • Transferred to Citi’s travel partners

The Custom Cash earns 5% cash back (on the first $500 spent each billing cycle, then 1%) for a single eligible spend category, so you’ll want to either use it for gas stations, grocery stores or one of the more rare eligible spend categories like home improvement stores, fitness clubs or live entertainment.

It’ll also be important to keep its spending limit in mind. Once you hit the $500 mark each billing cycle, you’ll want to swap to either the Double Cash or the Premier depending on the type of purchase.

Use the Premier for all of your air travel, general hotel and restaurant purchases to earn 3x points per dollar. If you’re not using the Custom Cash for either gas or groceries, use the Premier for that as well. If you do use the Custom Cash for a category the Premier earns 3x points on, be sure to swap to the Premier once you hit the Custom Cash’s $500 limit.

The Double Cash will work for all of your general spending. It’ll fill the gaps between the purchases that neither the Custom Cash or the Premier offer better rewards for.

Utilizing the appropriate redemption method is also a key factor in getting the most from your credit cards. To ensure you’re receiving 1 cent per point, redeem your points as either statement credits, direct deposits or gift cards. Using your points for Amazon purchases through Shop With Points will only net you a value of 0.8 cent per point.

However, transferring your points to Citi’s travel partners from the Citi Premier could get you a higher per-point value than 1 cent. If you want to redeem your Citi points for travel, you can transfer ThankYou points from your Custom Cash and Double Cash cards to the Premier, and pool them together to get a potentially higher rate at one of Citi’s hotel or airline partners through ThankYou.com. You can find all of Citi’s travel partners and their transfer ratios here.

The bottom line

The best way to use all three of these Citi credit cards is to use the Custom Cash and Premier cards for their highest rewards potential and the Double Cash for everything else.  Keep an eye on the Custom Cash’s spending limit to make sure you don’t accidentally start earning a lower rate on your spending.

 

Follow these tips:

 

  • Use the Custom Cash for one purchase type that earns the higher rewards rate.
  • Use the Premier for travel and dining, and after you reach the Custom Cash limit (depending on the category).
  • Use the Double Cash for all the purchases not covered by either the Custom Cash or Premier.
  • Redeem your rewards for statement credits, direct deposits or for travel. For an even higher redemption value, transfer ThankYou points from your Custom Cash and Double Cash to the Premier. Then, transfer your points from the Premier to one of Citi’s hotel or airline partners to maximize their value.

 

Be sure you’re able to keep up on all of the required monthly payments to avoid damaging your credit score.

*All information about the Citi Custom Cash Card has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

Evan Zimmer has been writing about finance for years. After graduating with a journalism degree from SUNY Oswego, he wrote credit card content for Credit Card Insider (now Money Tips) before moving to ZDNET Finance to cover credit card, banking and blockchain news. He currently works with CNET Money to bring readers the most accurate and up-to-date financial information. Otherwise, you can find him reading, rock climbing, snowboarding and enjoying the outdoors.
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