Citi Custom Cash Review
Updated September 28, 2021

Citi Custom Cash Review: 5% Cash Back on Restaurants Looks Pretty Tasty

Credit Cards
  • Citi Custom Cash
    Citi Custom Cash
    • Basics: The Custom Cash presents a new spin on the rotating category type of credit card, offering 5% cash back on up to $500 of purchases in your top eligible spend category per billing cycle. Other than that, you earn 1% cash back.
    • Pros: Getting 5% cash back in the eligible category you spend the most in makes this card best-in-class for several spending categories (at least up to $500 of spend per billing cycle), including restaurants. You also don't need to opt in to the 5% back category; whichever eligible category you spend the most on in a billing cycle automatically becomes your 5% cash back category for that cycle.
    • Cons: It's all (5% back) or next-to nothing (1% back) with this card. Paired with a standard 2% cash back card like the Citi Double Cash, though, and you have for yourself quite a winning combination.
    • Welcome Offer

      $200 if you spend at least $750 with the card within the first three months of having it

    • Annual Fee

      $0

    • Credit Score

      Good - Excellent

    • Balance Transfer

      0% introductory APR on balance transfers and purchases

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The Citi Custom Cash is Citi’s newest credit card offering, and while it may appear modest at first glance, it s rewards structure can actually be pretty enticing for the right kind of spender.

Citi Custom Cash Overview

The Citi Custom Cash gives you 5% cash back on up to $500 in purchases in your top eligible spend category per billing cycle (that is to say, roughly speaking, per month).

Other than that, you earn one percent cash back.

Here are the ten eligible spend categories:

  • Restaurants
  • Gas Stations
  • Grocery Stores
  • Select Travel
  • Select Transit
  • Select Streaming Services
  • Drugstores
  • Home Improvement Stores
  • Fitness Clubs
  • Live Entertainment

By the way, you don’t have to opt in every month to earn the 5% back on your top eligible spend category.

Citi automatically looks at your spending, determines which of the eligible spend categories you spent the most in during that billing cycle, and automatically makes that category your 5% cash back category for the billing cycle.

Citi Custom Cash Rewards Example

Let’s say you in your first billing cycle you spend $300 on restaurants using your Citi Custom Cash, which is an amount greater than you spend on any other of the ten eligible spend categories.

Because $300 is less than $500, you would earn 5% cash back on all of your restaurant purchases for his billing cycle and 1% cash back on all other purchases, including those made in the other eligible spend categories.

Now, let’s say during the next billing cycle you spend the same $300 on restaurants but you decide to retile your shower and spend $900 at the home improvement store for the tiles.

Because you spent more on home improvement stores than on any of the other eligible spend categories during this billing cycle, home improvement stores would become your 5% category for this billing cycle.

So while you would only earn 1% cash back on restaurants during this billing cycle, you would earn 5% cash back on your first $500 in purchases at home improvement stores.

So how much cash back would you earn on your home improvement purchase?  You would earn $29, calculated as follows:

  • You would earn 5% back on the first $500 of your tile purchase, which comes out to $25.
  • You would earn 1% back on the remaining $400 of your tile purchase, which comes out to $4.

The Problem With Large Purchases

Now, this is where it gets trick, because the more a single purchase in your 5%-back category for the billing cycle exceeds $500, the lower your total cash back rate becomes on that purchase because every dollar above $500 only earns 1% cash back.

So what’s the breakeven point here compared to say a 2% cash back card like the Citi Double Cash?

The breakeven point is $2,000. If you make a purchase in your 5%-back spend category for the billing cycle for an amount greater than $2,000, you’d get more cash back with a 2%-back card like the Citi Double Cash.

But if the purchase in your 5%-back spend category is for an amount less than $2,000, you’d get more back with the Citi Custom Cash.

Splitting Purchases to Optimize Your Rewards

Now, if you’re a true fiend when it comes to credit card rewards maximization, one thing you can do is split up your large purchases to maximize your cash back.

Let’s go back to that example where you purchase $900 worth of tiles at the home improvement store.

Instead of purchasing them all in one transaction on the Citi Custom Cash, you could:

  1. Make one purchase for $500 (including taxes) with your Citi Custom Cash.
  2. Put those tiles in your car.
  3. Then go right back in the store and purchase the rest of your tiles with your Citi Double Cash.

This way, you’ll get 5% back on the first $500 with your Citi Custom Cash and 2% (instead of 1%) back on the remaining $400 by using your Citi Double Cash.

Citi Custom Cash ThankYou Points

One thing to keep in mind is that the cash back you actually earn with the Citi Custom Cash are Citi ThankYou Points.

Citi ThankYou Points are actually quite flexible.  You can redeem them for a statement credit, as a paper check, or as a direct deposit to your bank account.

You can also redeem ThankYou Points for travel rewards.

There’s no minimum when you redeem for a statement credit or direct deposit, unlike some cards that require you to have some minimum amount of rewards in your account in order to redeem.

Also, your ThankYou Points never expire as long as you have an eligible Citi card.

Citi Custom Cash Pros and Cons

Citi Custom Cash Pros

  1. There is no annual fee.  You don’t have to worry about, “Oh man, I gotta do the math again, see if this card is worth it or not.”
  2. Earnings are best-in-market in some categories up to $500 in spending per billing cycle.
  3. Citi automatically looks at your spending for the billing cycle and determines which of the eligible spending categories you spent the most in for the cycle and makes that category your five-percent-back category.
  4. The introductory zero percent APR offer.  The Citi Custom Cash is offering a zero percent introductory APR on both purchases and balance transfers.  There is a balance transfer fee of the greater of five dollars or five percent of the balance transfer amount, whichever is higher.
  5. The signup bonus of $200 if you spend at least $750 on the card within your first three months of having it.

Citi Custom Cash Cons

  1. While the rewards rate for some categories are certainly best on market at least for up to five hundred dollars in spending per billing cycle, higher earnings rates can be earned in some categories with other cards.
  2. The five percent balance transfer fee
  3. If you’re a rewards maximizer, you really have to be careful with putting large purchases on the Custom Cash even in the eligible spending categories because that five percent is only up to the first five hundred dollars per billing cycle.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Author:

Logan Allec, CPA

Logan is a practicing CPA, Certified Student Loan Professional, and founder of Money Done Right, which he launched in 2017. After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world helping big businesses save money, he launched his blog with the goal of helping everyday Americans earn, save, and invest more money. Learn more about Logan.

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