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The Citi Custom Cash Card Maximizes Your Cash Back Automatically

Your highest eligible spending category will automatically receive the highest rewards rate.

The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card gives you a lot of power with its flexibility. It offers a rotating cash-back category that adjusts to your spending in any given month. Most credit cards with a flex category dictate the terms each rotation, but the Citi Custom Cash automatically applies a 5% cash-back rate on your highest eligible spending category each billing cycle (up to the first $500 spent, then 1%). The card self-customizes to your budget, without any intervention on your part.

On top of that, you can also collect a decent welcome bonus and enjoy an introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers. While it's not the best in its class for the welcome bonus or intro APR, it's a strong card to have in your wallet when combined with the value of the rewards program. Plus, it's low maintenance, with no annual fee or foreign transaction fees.

We'll break down the purchase categories that are eligible for the higher cash back rate, explain other features of this card and also offer recommendations for supplementary cards.

In this article

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

Card Highlights
Intro OfferEarn $200 in cash back after you spend $750 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.
APR16.24% - 26.24% (Variable)
Intro Purchase APR0% for 15 months on purchases
Recommended Credit Excellent, Good
Reward Rates
  • Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, 1% cash back thereafter.
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Annual Fee$0
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APR0% for 15 months on balance transfers
Balance Transfer APR16.24% - 26.24% (Variable)
Balance Transfer Fee Balance transfer fee applies with this offer 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.
Late Payment Fee Up to $41
Foreign Transaction Fees 3%
Penalty APR Up to 29.99% (Variable)
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, 1% cash back thereafter.
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Cash-back program

Offering 5% on your highest eligible spend category, on up to $500 per billing cycle (then 1%), this card will automatically apply the rewards rate based on your spending. So if you spend the most money on grocery stores in one billing cycle, the 5% rewards will be applied to those purchases. If you spend more on gas stations the next billing cycle, the 5% rewards will then be applied to those purchases. 

Eligible spending categories include restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs and live entertainment. These are the biggest spending categories for most Americans, and 5% is one of the highest rewards rates on the market. For all purchases that don't fall into your flexible spending category that month, you'll earn 1%.

Other cards with rotating categories -- like the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Discover it® Cash Back* -- don't adjust according to your spending habits, but set the spending category for specific months or periods.

Citi Custom Cash rewards are earned in the form of ThankYou points. ThankYou points can be redeemed for a statement credit, direct deposit, check, gift card, travel or for purchases at checkout at Points are typically worth 1 cent each when redeemed through Citi's rewards portal

Welcome bonus

For the welcome bonus, you'll earn $200 cash back if you spend $750 within the first three months of account opening, which is a good bonus-to-spend ratio, though not the best available (fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back). Some cards let you earn nominally more, but it's not uncommon to see welcome bonuses with four times the spending requirement to earn the welcome bonus. All things considered, this welcome bonus is pretty accessible.

If you're primarily trying to maximize your welcome bonus earnings, check out our page for the best credit card welcome bonuses.

Intro APR

With the Citi Custom Cash, you'll get 15 months of 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers (16.24% to 26.24% variable APR, thereafter). While not the longest promotional period available, it offers a great way to finance a large purchase while earning cash back.

When it comes to balance transfers -- which must be completed within four months of account opening to qualify for the intro APR -- you might be better off with a different card. While most balance transfer cards charge a 3% fee, and some even offer no balance transfer fees, the Citi Custom Cash Card card charges a particularly high balance transfer fee at 5% (or a $5 minimum). Thus, it's best used for the introductory APR on purchases and the rewards program.

Other cards to consider

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card doesn't offer as high of rewards rates as the Custom Cash's flexible spending category, but it does offer the same simplicity with one of the highest flat-rates on cash rewards on the market. You'll earn 2% cash rewards on purchases -- no thinking required. 

This card offers a 0% introductory APR on purchases and qualifying balance transfers for 15 months from account opening (17.24%, 22.24%, or 27.24% variable APR thereafter). The welcome bonus is also competitive with the Custom Cash's bonus. 

For more details, see our full review of the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

If you're looking to maximize cash back on the common big-spending categories, like U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and transit, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express might be able to earn you even more rewards than the Citi Custom Cash. However, this card comes with a $95 annual fee.

Still, it could be worthwhile. You earn a whopping 6% back on groceries at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%. This will probably cover the majority of your grocery budget for the year, if not all of it. You'll also earn 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% on transit, 3% on gas at U.S. gas stations, and 1% on other purchases. Cash back is earned in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit. This covers a lot of the same ground that the Citi Custom Cash can potentially cover -- but simultaneously.

For more details, see our full review of the Blue Cash Preferred Card.


How do cash-back credit cards work?

Cash-back credit cards offer cardholders rewards on their spending in the form of statement credits or cash. A statement credit is a reduction in the amount due to the credit card company on your monthly bill. Note that rewards are not always available the month you earn them -- they are usually applied to your balance by credit card issuers after one or two billing cycles.

The redemption process for cash-back credit cards is either automatic or very simple. Some cards automatically apply cash rewards to your statement balance each month. Others require you to log in and redeem available rewards points for statement credits. Most points don't expire, but you will lose them if you close the account before redeeming them. 

What types of cash-back credit cards are there?

Cash-back credit cards generally fall into four primary categories: flat-rate, tiered, rotating or choose your own. 

Flat-rate cards offer the same rate for every purchase. Tiered cards offer a different rewards rate for different categories of spending. Rotating category cards offer different rewards each quarter, determined by the card issuer. Choose-your-own category cards allow you to choose your rewards category.

How do you choose a cash-back credit card?

To choose the best cash-back credit card for you, the most important thing is to have a clear idea of how you're already spending money each month. Once you identify the categories where you have the highest, most consistent spending, use the charts in our list to determine which card will net you the highest return. Consider other features of the cards, too, such as APR, sign-on bonuses and foreign transaction fees -- make sure you get something that fits with your lifestyle and spending habits.

Your credit card choice may also be affected by your credit score. Most of the cards we recommend require a good or excellent credit score, which is typically around 670 or higher. If you don't meet the credit criteria required, there are credit cards available that are specifically for those trying to rebuild credit, like secured credit cards. Alternatively, you can look into the best credit cards for no credit and the best credit cards for bad credit.

Our approach

We review the cards that are in the highest demand and offer the best benefits. We scour the fine print so there aren't any surprises when you open an account. We find the key factors that make a card stand out and compare them with other top cards. That way, readers can opt for a different card with similar features if our pick isn't right for them. Our reviews are regularly checked and updated to incorporate new recommendations, as well as to reflect changes in offers and the market.

*All information about the Discover it® Cash Back 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.