Edited by: Jessica Merritt
& Juan Ruiz
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The Citi Custom Cash® Card is one of the newest cash-back credit cards from Citi. And it has drawn a few comparisons to the Citi Premier® Card, which is arguably Citi’s flagship rewards credit card.
Even though these 2 cards share a few similarities, the core value proposition is totally different. The Citi Custom Cash card is great for low-spenders who want to maximize rewards on 1 specific category of purchases while minimizing costs.
Meanwhile, the Citi Premier card earns stronger rewards across more categories but comes with an annual fee.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to choose between these 2 cards.
Even though these 2 cards are both issued by Citibank, there are lots of differences. Here are the benefits and features at a very high level:
|Citi Premier® Card
|Citi Custom Cash® Card
|Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Plus, for a limited time, earn a total of 10 points per $1 spent on hotel, car rentals, and attractions (excluding air travel) booked on the Citi Travel portal through June 30, 2024.
|Earn $200 cash-back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening.
|Annual hotel savings benefit of $100 off of a single hotel stay of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com
|Travel Benefits and Protections
|Shopping Benefits and Protections
|No additional annual fees for authorized users
|No additional annual fees for authorized users
When you compare the Citi Premier card with the Citi Custom Cash card, you’ll notice that the rewards structures are totally different, and the Citi Custom Cash card generally falls behind the Citi Premier card in terms of benefits, too.
Indeed, the Citi Custom Cash card has no annual fee, while the Citi Premier card does, so you can expect that the Citi Premier card is probably a better option for rewards and benefits.
The Citi Custom Cash card has both cash-back rewards and a low introductory APR as part of its welcome bonus, which is a notable distinction from the Citi Premier card.
The Citi Premier card offers a great welcome bonus that can easily be worth over $1,000 when transferred to travel partners.
However, the Citi Custom Cash card offers a small welcome bonus plus a low intro APR promotion on purchases and balance transfers. It’s designed to help people consolidate debt or avoid racking up credit card interest for a short period of time.
Here are the credit card welcome bonuses for each card:
Frequent flyers will enjoy 3x ThankYou Points at restaurants, gas stations, supermarkets, air travel, and hotels.
The Citi Premier® Card is an excellent option for anyone looking for an all-around travel rewards credit card. The card helps you earn points fast with great 3x bonus categories such as restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, airfare, and hotels. Plus, it offers access to airline and hotel transfer partners, doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, and has a reasonable annual fee!
Earn big on purchases in your top eligible spend category, up to the first $500 each billing cycle, with no annual fee!
The Citi Custom Cash® Card is inventive when it comes to cash-back credit cards. Instead of earning a set amount of cash-back on predetermined bonus categories, the Citi Custom Cash card earns 5% cash-back on your highest eligible spend category each billing cycle, without an annual fee.
Thanks to that unique perk, you’ll never need to worry about whether you’re using the right card for the right purchase, as your Citi Custom Cash card will always pay you 5% back on whichever category you end up spending the most on each month.
In addition to its rewards bonus, the Citi Custom Cash card offers a 0% Intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 19.24% - 29.24%, which is impressive.
Just keep in mind that there’s a balance transfer fee of 5% (minimum of $5) on each balance transfer.
The Citi Premier card doesn’t offer any 0% introductory APR benefits.
Even though both of these credit cards earn ThankYou Points, having the Citi Premier card opens up many more possibilities to get amazing value from your points.
The Citi Custom Cash card’s ThankYou Points can only be transferred to JetBlue TrueBlue, Wyndham Rewards, and Choice Privileges, which are subpar choices in comparison to the Citi Premier card’s full list of transfer partners, including Avianca LifeMiles and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer.
Additionally, these points can be used for statement credits, cash-back, Citi Travel Center bookings, Amazon.com purchases, gift cards, online shopping, and more.
But we don’t recommend using your points for these redemption options — stick to transfer partners to maximize your value!
|Citi Premier Card
|Citi Custom Cash Card
|Highest Eligible Spending Category*
|5% cash-back (up to $500 per billing cycle)
* Eligible categories include restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs, and live entertainment
Since we value ThankYou Points at 1.6 cents per point, your rewards earned on the Citi Premier card will be equal to a 4.8% return on spending if earning 3x points or 1.6% return on spending if earning 1x points. But the 1.6 cents per point valuation only applies when you have access to the full list of transfer partners.
By doing the math, you’ll discover that the Citi Custom Cash card can outperform the Citi Premier card on the first $500 in spending each billing cycle on that highest eligible spending category!
The points from your Citi Premier card can be transferred to travel partners to book luxury award travel. If you plan your flights properly, you can book super expensive business and first class flights for a lot less than you think.
For example, you can transfer as few as 45,000 Citi ThankYou Points to Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles to book a one-way business class flight from the U.S. to Istanbul. These plane tickets routinely cost $3,000+!
If you have the Citi Custom Cash card, though, you can’t use the same list of transfer partners — you’ll only be able to access a muted list consisting of JetBlue TrueBlue, Wyndham Rewards, and Choice Privileges, and at reduced transfer rates compared to the Citi Premier card.
You can redeem your Citi Custom Cash card’s points for gift cards, merchandise, Amazon.com purchases, statement credits, and Citi Travel Center reservations.
Hot Tip: Savvy travelers should focus on transferring Citi ThankYou Points to travel partners to get the best points value.
The Citi Premier card offers a $100 annual hotel savings benefit once per year. It gets you $100 back off of a single hotel stay of $500 or more excluding taxes and fees booked through thankyou.com.
The Citi Custom Cash card doesn’t offer any statement credit benefits.
In this section, we’ll walk you through what to expect from the 2 cards in the way of travel perks.
The Citi Premier card is a World Elite Mastercard, which means you can access a few different travel benefits, including the Mastercard luxury hotel and resorts portfolio.
Booking a hotel in this portfolio gets you free breakfast daily for 2 travelers, $100 amenity credits, and more at participating properties around the world.
The Citi Custom Cash card doesn’t offer this benefit.
When you use your Citi Premier card to book 3 Lyft rides per month, you’ll get $5 in Lyft credits for future rides, which is great! This benefit is made possible by World Elite Mastercard.
The Citi Custom Cash card doesn’t have such a benefit.
Whether you have the Citi Premier card or the Citi Custom Cash card, you’ll get access to Citi Entertainment, an exclusive platform to get you presale tickets or access to events around the world. These range across music, sports, arts, culture, and more.
Citi cardholders can add select Citi Merchant Offers to their cards to earn statement credits on deals covering retail, dining, travel, and more.
Now, let’s take a look at how the Citi Premier card or Citi Custom Cash card can make your life easier when you’re not traveling.
The Citi Custom Cash card has no benefits with DoorDash.
When you hold the Citi Premier card, you can activate your complimentary ShopRunner membership. This membership gets you free 2-day shipping and free returns at stores including Bergdorf Goodman, Kate Spade New York, Peet’s, the NBA Store, and NFL Shop.
Unfortunately, this benefit is not included with the Citi Custom Cash card.
If you go shopping and your item is damaged or stolen, you can use purchase protection to get reimbursed for replacements or repairs. The Citi Premier card offers terrific purchase protection coverage through World Elite Mastercard.
On incidents that occur up to 90 days after the date of purchase, you can get up to $10,000 per item in purchase protection. This is capped at $50,000 per calendar year.
The Citi Custom Cash card doesn’t offer this benefit.
Another great benefit of the Citi Premier card (made possible through World Elite Mastercard) is extended warranty coverage.
On eligible warranties, you can extend the coverage length by up to 24 months, as long as the total coverage doesn’t exceed 7 years.
The Citi Custom Cash card doesn’t have extended warranty.
Both the Citi Custom Cash card and Citi Premier card help protect you against credit card fraud with $0 liability on unauthorized purchases.
This coverage essentially means you aren’t ever responsible for purchases that you did not authorize.
Citi credit cards enjoy a unique benefit whereby you can generate Virtual Account Numbers while shopping online to avoid having to use your real credit card number.
This adds an additional level of fraud protection if your payment information is hacked or leaked.
Any fraudsters who get their hands on this information will only have your Virtual Account Number, not your real credit card number.
Offered by Mastercard, ID Theft Protection helps monitor and alert you to suspicious transactions made on your credit cards.
Both the Citi Premier card and the Citi Custom Cash card offer this perk.
The Citi Premier card and Citi Custom Cash card are chip-enabled, making it easy to utilize contactless payments.
You can also add your Citi Premier card and Citi Custom Cash card to your digital wallets, including Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay.
The Citi Premier card has no foreign transaction fees, while the Citi Custom Cash card has a 3% foreign transaction fee.
In this final section, we’ll go over what to expect in fees, as well as how authorized users can benefit from these cards.
The Citi Premier card has a $95 annual fee, while the Citi Custom Cash card has no annual fee.
The Citi Premier card and Citi Custom Cash card both have no additional annual fees for authorized users.
Now, let’s talk about inclusions for the Citi Premier card. Authorized users will not get their own welcome bonus. They will also not get their own $100 annual hotel savings benefit (although they can use the primary cardholder’s annual hotel savings benefit without issue).
After that, authorized users on the Citi Premier card will enjoy everything else just the same as the primary cardholder.
The Citi Custom Cash card is the same way — authorized users will not get their own welcome bonus, including the balance transfer benefit. Even though purchases made by authorized users will be eligible for the 0% APR benefit on purchases, authorized users cannot use the 0% balance transfer APR for credit card balances under the authorized user’s name.
Every other benefit is fair game for the authorized user, including the Virtual Account Numbers and $0 liability on unauthorized purchases.
In general, we recommend that you have a FICO score of at least 670 before applying for these cards. However, it might be even better to increase it to 700 before submitting an application.
In particular, the Citi Premier card tends to be sensitive about not having too many new open accounts in the 6 months before you apply for the card.
If you want to accumulate rewards as quickly as possible, the Citi Premier card is probably a better fit for you than the Citi Custom Cash card.
However, the Citi Custom Cash card offers enhanced rewards every month that are designed for low, consistent spenders.
It also has an introductory 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers that will help you reduce the amount of credit card interest you pay.
We hope that this guide has been useful to you in determining which option is best for your situation!
We recommend you apply for the Citi Custom Cash card when you have a FICO credit score of at least 700. However, we’ve seen people who have even higher scores get turned away and people with lower scores get approved.
The Citi Custom Cash card is a Mastercard.
The Citi Custom Cash card earns 5% cash-back on up to $500 of purchases in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle, then 1% cash-back on all other purchases.
In our opinion, the Double Cash card is better, unless you spend $500 or less per month on a consistent type of purchase. Earning 2% cash-back across all purchases is probably more lucrative than earning 5% cash-back on up to $500 in purchases within a specific spending category every month.
The Citi Premier card isn’t necessarily hard to get, but it’s one of the harder credit cards to qualify for from Citibank. We recommend you wait until you have a FICO score of at least 700+ before applying.
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UP's Bonus Valuation
This bonus value is an estimated valuation calculated by UP after analyzing redemption options, transfer partners, award availability and how much UP would pay to buy these points.