How to Get Cash Back on Your Most Frequent Expense

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Citi recently launched a new credit card that’s meant to mold itself to your spending habits and maximize your rewards — is it worth it?

The card is called Citi Custom Cash, and it works like this: Citi, like many lenders, tracks your transactions by category. But instead of predetermining the credit card rewards you’ll get for a given category, it picks the category you spent the most in that month — say, groceries — and slaps the huge 5% cash-back rate on that spending.

The eligible categories include restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs and live entertainment.

This happens every billing statement, so if you have a big purchase in another category one month, like an expensive flight, that one enjoys the bonus. You don’t have to worry about missing out, and you don’t have to keep track of all the different reward rates and rotating categories you’ll find on other cards.

On top of that, right now as an introductory offer, you can get $200 in cash back after spending $750 in your first three months.

Ready to check it out? Here are the details:

Citi Custom Cash

Why we like it: You get 5% cash back in the category you spend the most on, which can vary from month to month without any effort on your part — no rotating categories or card juggling required. Eligible categories include restaurants, grocery stores, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs, live entertainment and certain travel and transit.

What to know:

Citi Custom Cash
  • Get $200 in cash back after spending $1,500 on purchases in the first six months.
  • Earn 5% cash back in your top eligible spending category on up to $500 each month, with 1% cash back after.
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • 0% introductory APR on purchases for 15 months.
  • 0% introductory APR on balance transfers for 15 months.
  • No annual fee.

Note: Cash back appears as ThankYou Points, which can be redeemed for cash, gift cards, Amazon purchases or travel rewards.

An excellent no-fuss primary or companion card

Citi Custom Cash is a great credit card for people who want cash back without any mess. A 5% cash-back rate you don’t have to do any mental gymnastics for is unparalleled.

If there’s any downside, it’s that you only get the 5% on your first $500 spent in that category each month — everything else gets the standard 1% cash-back rate. That means the big bonus caps out at $25 per month, and if you spend a lot on your credit card each month, you might be leaving credit card rewards on the table.

One way to avoid that — since Citi Custom Cash has no annual fee — is to pair it with another cash-back card that gives a higher rate for the rest of your spending. For instance, Citi’s own Double Cash:

Citi Double Cash

Why we like it: We’ve called this “The Best Cash-Back Credit Card for Everyday Use” since it earns 1% cash back on every purchase, then earns another 1% cash back when you pay for those purchases. If you want the peace of mind that you’re earning good cash-back rewards on everything, with no gimmicks or expiration dates, this is your card.

Plus, for a limited time, you can earn points worth $200 in cash back when you make $1,500 in purchases in your first six months as a cardmember.

What to know:

Citi Double Cash
  • $200 cash back when you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first six months from account opening.
  • Get a total of 2% cash back on every purchase.
  • No limits or caps on cash back.
  • No confusing categories; everything earns cash back.
  • No annual fee.

Note: This card offers 18 months of 0% introductory APR on balance transfers.

With two cards like this, you could only put one kind of spending on Custom Cash — like groceries — that would always get the higher rate, and you could put all other spending on Double Cash or another card. This requires a little bit of planning, but that may be worth it for some cardholders.

Whatever you need in a credit card — whether it’s travel rewards, cash back or a low interest rate — you can find it with our credit card search tool. Click here to search for the plastic that best fits your needs.

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