Citi shakes things up with new 5x choose-your-own-adventure card

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The Citi Custom Cash Card has debuted this morning and it looks like a keeper: in addition to a decent welcome bonus, this card offers what is arguably the most user-friendly 5x earnings on a consumer card with no annual fee: you earn 5x ThankYou points on up to $500 in purchases in the eligible category in which you spend the most each billing cycle (then 1x thereafter). There are no rotating categories to track. This should make for an easy 30,000 ThankYou points each year for anyone able to max out $500 in purchases each month in an eligible category. Those categories include Restaurants, Gas Stations, Grocery Stores, Select Travel, Select Transit, Select Streaming Services, Drugstores, Home Improvement Stores, Fitness Clubs and Live Entertainment.

The Offer & Key Card Details

Card Offer and Details

Quick Thoughts

I find this card very intriguing. The welcome bonus isn’t huge but is respectable for a consumer card with no annual fee. Citi markets the offer as “$200 cash back” that is “fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou points”, which makes it clear that this card will also carry the ability to cash out points at a value of $0.01 per point. That is interesting because Stephen recently reported on how this 1c per point cashout capability was extended to the ThankYou Preferred card (it had also recently become available on the Premier card).

Citi says that they will only issue one Custom Cash card account per person. It isn’t clear to me whether you may be able to product change your way into more than one, but an individual will apparently not be able to open more than one. The good news is that they are not restricting the card and bonus based on your activity with other ThankYou cards. The offer terms state “Our policy is to offer only one Citi Custom Cash℠ Card account per customer. Bonus is not available if you received one for opening a new Citi Custom Cash℠ Card account in the past 48 months.” If you have recently opened a Premier or Prestige card, you should still be eligible for a Custom Cash card.

This seems like a great card to have in two-player mode. For example, a married couple could have each partner get the card and label those two accounts for different categories (for example, one could be for gas and the other for dining). They should then be able to add each other as AUs to make sure that each partner has both a 5x gas and 5x dining card (you’ll just want to label those cards right away to be sure you don’t mix them up!). With $500 spend in two categories each month, a couple in 2-player mode could net an easy 60,000 ThankYou points per year. That’s enough points for both people to fly round trip to Hawaii twice in economy class or once in business class via Turkish Miles & Smiles as one example of how far that can take you.

I love that the Custom Cash card lets the cardholder choose the category based on spend. That is infinitely more user-friendly than needing to track rotating categories. While you could switch categories each billing cycle, I’d find it easy to pick a single eligible category and kind of set it and forget it — just dedicate your Custom Cash for that purpose. I imagine that most readers spend at least $500 per month in one of the included categories. You obviously want to avoid overshooting the $500 cap or putting additional spend on the card since all purchases beyond the $500 per billing cycle that earn 5x will instead earn only 1x. That’s an equivalent of 1% cash back and represents a very poor return on spend.

Overall, I find this card very interesting and I think it is probably a solid fit for many people who have points in the Citi ecosystem. Keep in mind that you’ll either need to have a Citi Premier or Prestige card or need to transfer your points to someone who does in order to be able to take advantage of transfer partners. The card may still be worth it even for those who aren’t yet invested in the Citi ThankYou ecosystem as 5% cash back on $500 per month would be an easy $300 in cash back per year. I know a lot of people who would be quite happy with that kind of return on a card with no annual fee.

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