Citi Custom Cash Card—How to Use It & How to Not Use it

Updated: Jan 2

A plumber with a toolbox understands the value of using the right tool for the job. It can mean the difference between getting the job done—or making the problem worse.


When it comes to the variety of credit card products on the market, selecting the right "tool"—or credit card—can make a big difference. The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card is a recently launched product of Citi that you want to include in your toolbox of credit cards!


The Citi Custom Cash Card is the right tool in the Award Travel arena
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card has a unique feature that sets it apart from other no annual fee credit cards. Image courtesy of Wix

All opinions and reviews expressed herein are the author's alone and have not been reviewed or approved by any credit card issuer, airline, bank, hotel chain, or other entity. Some of the credit card offers and links appearing in this article are from companies from which we may receive commission or a referral bonus when you click on the link. You do not need to use our links but we appreciate it when you do—it helps support our website!


The Welcome Bonus


The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card currently has a 20,000 ThankYou® Points welcome bonus! Although it is marketed as a cashback card—or the equivalent of a $200 welcome bonus—the value of 20,000 points, when used strategically for travel, could translate into 1.5 to 2 times the value! In other words, the actual value of the 20,000 ThankYou® Points could be $300 to $400—or even more! You can apply for this card here!


That is not to say having a cashback option is a bad idea; for some cardmembers, that is the ideal use of their credit card rewards. But for other cardmembers who spend money on travel expenses, the cashback option may result in leaving money on the table—something none of us like to experience.


5X Rewards!


This is where the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card shines! Cardmembers earn 5X ThankYou® Points on their highest eligible spend category each billing cycle up to the first $500 spent and 1X back thereafter. You will earn 1X on all other purchases. What are the 5X eligible categories? They are the following:

  • Restaurants

  • Gas stations

  • Grocery stores

  • Select travel¹

  • Select transit²

  • Select streaming services³

  • Drugstores

  • Home improvement stores

  • Fitness clubs

  • Live entertainment

¹Select travel includes airline, hotel, cruise line, and travel agency purchases. Excludes timeshares, boat leases and rentals, campgrounds and trailer parks, and real estate agencies.


²Select transit include car rentals, ferries, commuter railways, subways, taxis/ limousines/ car services, passenger railways, bridge and road tolls, parking lots/ garages, bus lines, and motor home and recreational vehicle rentals. Excludes bike/ scooter rentals, auto clubs, and insurance companies.


³Select streaming services includes the following cable, satellite, and streaming providers: Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Music, Apple Music, CBS All Access, Disney+, AT&T TV NOW, ESPN+, fubo TV, HBO Max, NBA League Pass, Netflix, Pandora, Showtime, Sling TV, Spotify, Starz, SiriusXM, Vudu, YouTube Red, YouTube TV, and Tidal.


It is no secret that the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card is in direct competition with the Chase Freedom Flex℠. The Chase Freedom Flex℠ has a different spin on what it offers to cardmembers—5X Ultimate Rewards® Points on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in activated bonus categories each quarter. In other words, Chase chooses the categories you are eligible for—and it is capped at $1,500 each quarter, which averages out to $500 per month. To learn more about the Chase Freedom Flex℠ see the following post: Chase Freedom Flex—A Remarkable No Annual Fee Card! You can also apply for this card here!


What card should you select—Citi Custom Cash℠ Card or Chase Freedom Flex℠? In my opinion, you should have both! Why? It creates more opportunities to earn 5X back on your purchases. Both of these cards complement each other. Learn more about creative ways to stack your credit card rewards in the following posts: How to Win Points—With Your Spouse and Your Credit Card!


How to Use—and Not Use—Citi Custom Cash℠ Card


Citi Custom Cash℠ Card is marketed to "automatically adapt" to your spending habits by giving you 5X ThankYou® Points on your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent. On the surface, this sounds great. However, what will you earn in your other categories? And, what if you spend over $500 on your top spend eligible category? 1X. That can be a less-than-average earning rate; there are plenty of other cards that would give you more than 1X on those same purchases.


Does this mean the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card is not worth getting? Not at all! It is a great card to have when used to supplement your existing credit card portfolio. The key is customizing your use of the card; you are in control! Select an eligible 5X category and only spend on that category using your Citi Custom Cash℠ Card—up to $500 per month. By utilizing this strategy, you will earn 5X—or 30,000 ThankYou® Points per year!


"Learning how to strategically use your credit cards for purchases can equate to substantial savings within a year."

You can use your other credit cards that earn more rewards on other purchases. For example, Chase Freedom Flex℠ historically has had gas stations and home improvement stores as 5X bonus rotating quarterly categories. In the event history repeats itself, and these same quarterly categories are released by Chase, you would use your Chase Freedom Flex℠ on your gas station and home improvement store purchase—and earn 5X Ultimate Rewards® Points—and your Citi Custom Cash℠ Card during the same quarter on another eligible 5X category—such as grocery store purchases.


This would result in maximizing your 5X purchases—and diversifying your Flexible Points Currencies in the process. Citi ThankYou® Points & Chase Ultimate Rewards® Points are two of the three best Flexible Points Currencies out there—with American Express Membership Rewards® being another major player.


Adding Even More Value


5X—or 5% cashback—can be a good outcome for some. However, there is a way to get even more value! By having one of Citi's travel cards—Citi Premier® Card or Citi Prestige® Card—the door to one of Citi's transfer partners opens! (The Citi Prestige® Card has been removed from the products of Citi; they are, however, servicing existing cardmembers.)


Citi currently has 17 airline transfer partners—although American Airlines is only a temporary partner until November 13, 2021. Perhaps the least understood but, often, the most valuable method of utilizing your existing points is to transfer your existing points to a transferrable partner. You are transferring your points to a partner of Citi, and redeeming those points with that partner for an award flight.


Although the transfer rate is fixed—1:1 point transfer to any airline partner—the end value is not. When done strategically, it is possible to get a value of MORE than 1.4 cents per point! Partners such as Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, and Avianca Airlines LifeMiles can be leveraged for some amazing redemptions!


Calculate "Your" Value of Citi Custom Cash℠ Card


Everyone has their own "custom" spending habits. Therefore, selecting the right credit card is a personal decision. Wouldn't it be great if there was a "custom" calculator that generated a value based upon your spending habits?


There is! AwardYourMiles has developed a Miles & Points Calculator. Select the credit card and enter the amount of money you spend on average per month in the corresponding category. It will calculate the following:

  1. The monetary value of your first and second years using the credit card; and

  2. The miles/ points generated from your spend.

AwardYourMiles has also developed a Credit Card Selector Calculator. It uses our proprietary algorithm which determines the best credit card in our database based on your spending habits. You will be able to determine the value of each credit card in your first year of use!


ThankYou® Points


You are able to earn ThankYou® Points from other Citi credit cards and pool your points together. This includes the Citi Premier® Card, the Citi® Double Cash Card, and the Citi Rewards+® Card. You can combine all of your ThankYou® Points earned using the aforementioned credit cards and have one large "pot" to store your points. You can compare and apply for one of these credit cards here!


Citi has an interesting policy when it comes to being able to "share" your ThankYou® Points with other ThankYou® members. Not only are you able to transfer your ThankYou® Points to family members living within your own household—aka Chase Ultimate Rewards® Points—but you can transfer them to just about anyone else who also has a ThankYou® account with Citi.


There are stipulations that are important to understand before you make this move. For example, the most ThankYou® Points you are allowed to transfer to another ThankYou® member per calendar year is 100,000. Shared ThankYou® Points expire 90 days after they are received. It also is against Citi's policy to sell or barter your ThankYou® Points.


Intro APR and Annual Fee


Citi Custom Cash℠ does not have an Annual Fee. This is impressive when you take into account the rewards it offers. In my opinion, it is one of the best no-annual-fee credit cards to have. There also is a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. This is an added perk of having the card.


Welcome Bonus Stipulations


The current 20,000 ThankYou® Points welcome bonus does come with some stipulations. One requirement is that you will need to spend $750 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Additionally, you aren't eligible for the welcome bonus if you've received a bonus offer for opening a new Citi Custom Cash℠ Card in the last 48 months.


This rule is important to understand. This means you can receive the welcome bonus even if you received a welcome bonus or closed another ThankYou® Points family card—Citi Rewards+®, Citi ThankYou® Preferred, Citi ThankYou® Premier/Citi Premier® or Citi Prestige®. You can apply for the card here!


Benefits


Although the benefits of Citi Custom Cash℠ Card are not as robust as Chase Freedom Flex℠, it does have some interesting additional perks. It includes Citi Entertainment®. This grants cardholders additional access to enjoy music, sports, culinary experiences, and more.


There is also free access to your FICO score. It's updated monthly and has no impact on your score. Learn more about your credit score in the following post: Do You Want a Good Credit Score?

Final Thought


Citi Custom Cash℠ Card is a great card to have! With Citi and Chase competing with each other consumers get to reap the benefits! Right now is a golden opportunity to apply for credit cards. Sign-up bonuses have increased and it has resulted in making it easier than ever to accumulate miles & points which can be redeemed for Award Travel! You can apply for the card here!


Do you feel overwhelmed with all the options available when it comes to redeeming your miles & points? Would you like some assistance to get you started in the right direction? You will benefit from the services of a Credit Card Miles & Points Consultant. You will be assisted with regards to earning miles & points through credit card use and redeeming those miles & points for Award Travel. Or, feel free to use any of our Award Travel Tools online. Get started today!


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