Citi’s No Annual Fee 5x Card

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Citi Custom CashSM Card

Citibank has a new no annual fee cash back card that’s really interesting. It offers 5% return in specific categories that change each month based on what you’re spending the most on. And since the cash comes in the form of ThankYou points, if you have Citibank cards where points transfer to miles you can pool your points – and earn 5x transferrable points which is amazing.

The Citi Custom CashSM Card has an initial bonus $200 in cash back after you spend $750 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. That’s 20,000 ThankYou points.

How To Earn 5x With Citibank

Here’s how you really benefit from the card: on an ongoing basis you’ll 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). Here are the categories:

  • Restaurants
  • Gas stations
  • Grocery stores
  • Select travel and transit
  • Select streaming services
  • Drugstores
  • Home improvement stores
  • Fitness clubs
  • Live entertainment

What’s great is that you can focus on one area of spending for 5x earning that’s different from the categories where you earn bonuses from other cards in your wallet. And the 5% categories are automatic, you don’t need to signup each billing cycle or quarter – as your spending changes each billing cycle, your earn adjusts automatically when you spend in any of the eligible categories.

Turning These Into Transferrable Points

Now, 5% cash back is great but I think the real value is with this card as part of Citi’s broader ecosystem. Because if you have a Citi Prestige or a Citi Premier® Card you can pool the points and transfer them to airline mileage partners. The Citi Premier® Card has an initial bonus of 80,000 ThankYou® points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening, and earns 3 points per dollar spent at restaurants and supermarkets as well as gas stations, air travel and hotels.

What’s more the Citi® Double Cash Card also has no fee and earns 2% on every purchase (unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you you pay for those purchases) and that comes in the form of ThankYou points that can be pooled if you have Citi Prestige or Premier as well.

If you only have the no annual fee cards you can’t turn those points into airline miles, but if you have the Prestige or Premier you transfer the points from a Citi Custom CashSM Card into the Premier account, and then have the option to move them to airline miles or points:

  • Aeromexico Club Premier
  • Air France KLM Flying Blue
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Etihad Guest
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
  • Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

While Virgin Atlantic miles are often less valuable than other currencies they have incredible sweet spots.

Turkish Airlines offers 48 hour award holds so you can lock in an award prior to transferring points. Cancel and redposit fee is just $25. First class to the Caribbean or Hawaii is just 12,500 miles one-way on United. Europe is just 45,000 miles in business class, and India 52,500 miles (plus fuel surcharges).

Qatar Airways actually recently reduced the prices of their best awards and now is a really useful program.


QSuites Business Class, Credit: Qatar Airways

Singapore Airlines is great for booking awards on Singapore flights themselves in long haul premium cabins.

EVA Airways has a really underappreciated program as well.


EVA Airways Business Class

Getting Approved For This Card

Citibank doesn’t generally have a rule about the number of cards you can have with them, but they will only issue one Citi Custom CashSM Card account per person. That’s going to limit how much you can benefit from this card each billing cycle, but I think the ‘per person’ here is what you should focus on. If you’ve got a spouse, why not both get this card?

The standard Citibank bonus rule applies that you can only qualify for a bonus on this specific product once every 48 months, but since the card is new that should serve as a barrier for most at this point.

Citi Custom CashSM Card

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of advertisers Citibank, Chase, American Express, Barclays, Capital One or any other advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.

Comments

  1. Live entertainment is a very broad category. Would that include sports events such as baseball games or golf?

  2. “you’ll 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)”

    thx but no thx
    I stick to my bofa prem rewards card for daily use too much hassle switching up and keeping track.

  3. I don’t remember the last time I saw saver first on a United flight to Hawaii or the Caribbean.

  4. Wow, what an interesting take on the 5x category concept. It seems perfect for either the compulsive credit card hobbyist who will carefully plan out exactly what category to use the card for each month or the Devil-may-care type who would enjoy getting randomly rewarded for categories they didn’t even realize they were spending on. For anybody in between, I’m not so sure. Thanks for the tip. I’m considering whether I might fall far enough into the first category to go for it.

  5. So, I have an AT&T Access card that I barely use. I was just late on the ability to PC to the Access More (which is why I initially got the card). I have not followed the PC change rule but since both the Access card and this new card earn TYP, what is the general thought about if my points would expire 60 days after PC?

  6. 2500 Thank You points a month. Eh. It’s not nothing, but it’s not workable alongside “hobbyists” who have multiple Freedom cards, and already put streaming services/gas/etc on Ink cards too. Unless there’s a way to game multiple of these Citi cards, and use one for Category A and another for Category B and so on, then it’d be a huge win over unknown, rotating categories on Freedom cards.

  7. Agree with posts, an okay card, but may not be worth the hassle. I would add one thought. Much more so than Chase or Amex, I so often found Citi claiming a transaction didn’t fit the bonus category that I finally downgraded my Premier card. Example, tickets to a touring Broadway show at Dallas’ primary performance venue that didn’t code as entertainment. Another example, gas at Sam’s or Costco qualifies at Chase, not at Citi.

  8. Downgrade or apply for SUB? I have the Premier and the Prestige, and I’ve been planning to downgrade my Citi Prestige to a Rewards+ card, but wondering if I should/can downgrade to Custom Cash. Considering signing up for a Custom Cash or Double Cash card, then downgrading Prestige to Rewards+. Any thoughts?

  9. Mojo, Thanks for the link. Here is a cut and paste for the gasoline category:

    “Excludes gasoline purchases at warehouse clubs, discount stores, convenience stores or other merchants that do not use the gas station merchant category code.”

    Anyone here that gets gas at a station that does not have some kind of convenience store, please raise your hands.

    This means you pretty much do not get any bonus points in that category.

  10. The complaints on certain categories cracks me up. Does anyone here not spend at least $500 a month at the grocery store? This card is a no brainer.

  11. A few years ago, I would’ve unequivocally recommended CSP/UR products because United miles were so easy to use. But now their devaluations are becoming insane, e.g. 93.5k one way for business class US-India. Clearly foreign frequent flyer programs present the best value. I used to snooze on the Citi points, but they actually might be worth it especially now that they have KrisFlyer, LifeMiles, and Miles&Smiles. (Clearly I have a *A bias.) For a $95 annual fee on the Premier, you get:
    – 5x in your top category via Custom Cash
    – 3x on restaurants, gas stations, supermarkets, air travel, hotels via Premier
    – 2x on everything else via Double Cash

    That’s stronger than the CSP+Freedom combo for ordinary spenders.

    Too bad I just applied for CSP to get the 100k bonus, but the Citi Premier doesn’t have travel coverage…

  12. I just went into a citi bank branch and got a 30,000 bonus Sign up offer after $1000 spend on this card. Better than 20,000.

  13. I like the entertainment category. From what I know, this is the only card that bonuses entertainment. That alone makes it for me.

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