Citi is launching a new 5% cash-back credit card — and unlike other 5%-back cards, this one won’t require any activation of categories.

The Citi Custom Cash Card will earn 5% back automatically in your eligible top spending category per billing cycle, on up to $500 spent. All other purchases earn 1% back.

Eligible 5% categories include:

  • Restaurants.

  • Gas stations.

  • Grocery stores.

  • Select travel.

  • Select transit.

  • Select streaming services.

  • Drugstores.

  • Home improvement stores.

  • Fitness clubs.

  • Live entertainment.

Rewards are earned in the form of Citi ThankYou points, but you can redeem them for cash back at a value of a penny per point. Other redemption options include gift cards, travel or purchases on Amazon.com, though point values may vary for those choices.

Nerdy tip: Don’t confuse the Citi Custom Cash Card with the issuer’s other 5%-back card — the Citi Dividend Card. The latter is no longer accepting applications and it works differently: It features 5% cash-back categories that rotate each quarter and those categories aren’t customizable.

Other incentives

The Citi Custom Cash Card will also offer the following for new cardholders:

  • A sign-up bonus: Earn $200 in cash back after spending $750 in the first three months of opening an account. (This offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou Points, which can be redeemed for $200 in cash back.)

  • An introductory APR: Get 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% – 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.

Is it a good deal?

Yes, definitely. The Citi Custom Cash Card is an excellent option — if you use it strategically. For starters, it’s rare to find a no-annual-fee card that offers an ongoing 5% rewards rate on frequently used categories like groceries or dining. Plus, it’s low-maintenance compared with other 5% credit cards because you don’t have to remember to activate rotating quarterly categories or keep them top of mind as you spend.

However, it is worth mentioning that in some ways, this new card is a little less flexible than other 5%-back cards. Here’s why:

The Citi Custom Cash Card’s $500 spending cap means that the most cash back you can earn in one billing cycle from a 5% category is $25. Other 5%-back cards don’t cap monthly spending in bonus categories and instead cap quarterly spending, typically at $1,500. This means you can earn up to $75 back per quarter and have much more flexibility as to how you spend over those three months. For example, if your 5%-back category was groceries, you might spend $600 one month, $350 the next month and $550 the last month of the quarter to arrive at the $1,500 spending limit. And you would be rewarded with $75 cash back.

With the Citi Custom Cash Card, you can certainly still earn a cumulative $75 back over three billing cycles, but it could be harder to do so. If you wanted 5% back on groceries, you would need to spend exactly $500 per billing cycle on them — no more, no less — to get $25 back for that period, or $75 per quarter. If you weren’t paying attention and spent like you did in the example above ($600 in one billing cycle, $350 the next, and $550 the last billing cycle), you would earn $25, $17.50, and $25 back per billing cycle, respectively. So, all the spending would get you just $67.50 back.

The information related to the Citi Dividend Card has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.

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