The Citi Double Cash is one of the best flat rate cash back cards in the credit card industry. It was introduced in the Fall of 2014 to rave reviews and has been a favorite ever since. The Double Cash has no annual fee, which makes it a great foundational card and long-term keeper. However, its not the best card for many people, especially travelers. The card might have one of the highest flat rates in the industry, but other cards can be surprisingly more lucrative.
The Citi Double Cash is known for its 2% return on all purchases. However, you do not earn the full 2% upon making a purchase like with most other credit cards. Instead, you earn 1% cash back upon purchase and the other 1% upon paying your bill. For example, if I bought $40 in clothing, I would earn $0.40 (or 1%) upon purchase and another $0.40 upon paying my bill.
Unfortunately, the Double Cash Card does not have a sign-up bonus. This is common among high earning flat rate cards such as the American Express Blue Business Plus and its new cash back counterpart. A lack of sign-up bonus makes cards like the Double Cash great long-term keeper cards because you must use them for a long time to earn cash back that’s the equivalent of a sign-up bonus.
Personally, I prefer cash back cards with a slightly lower earning rate (or different earning structure) and a higher bonus. This is because I can get the bonus money upfront. For example, the Bank of America Cash Rewards Card has a bonus worth $200. You would have to spend just $500 to earn the bonus. Earning the same $200 with the Double Cash Card requires you to spend $10,000 and pay it back in full. That’s 20 times more money for the same bonus! Moreover, there are much better ways to spend $10,000, especially if you are a traveler who collects points and miles.
Cash back cards are generally simple in the way of redemption. There is no need to calculate points values and strategize travel redemptions. While that’s a huge part of points and miles, many people do not have the patience for such calculations. Cash back cards provide a simpler alternative for these people.
Minimum Cash Back Balance
The Citi Double Cash has a minimum cash back balance of $25 before you can redeem. This minimum balance can be earned by spending $1,250 and paying it back. Minimum balances are common on a lot of cash back cards, such as the American Express Blue Cash Preferred. Cash back is shown in two columns in your online account. The first column shows how much you have earned from spending. And the second column shows how much you have earned from paying your bills.
The Double Cash is nice because Citi gives you four valuable redemption methods:
Direct deposit is the most valuable because you can move the money into a bank account of your choice. This account does not have to be a Citibank account. I prefer this method because you can use the money for investments or for a designated travel account. You can also simply move it into checking or savings.
The second most valuable option is receiving a check in the mail. This is a nice alternative for those who don’t use the internet or for those times when Citi’s website is glitching. Checks usually come within 7-10 business days
Statement Credits are the most traditional of the four methods. I would only recommend using this option if you use your Double Cash to pay for travel expenses that cannot be paid for with points or miles.
Gift Cards are the most limiting of the four options. I would only use this option if there is a specific card that you want, especially if its travel-related.
As a cash back card with no annual fee, the Citi Double Cash lacks many of the benefits that come with travel cards. This is especially true because it’s a Citibank card. Citi is stripping all of their cards of both premium and standard benefits and the Double Cash is no exception.
The Double Cash has a 0% Intro APR period that lasts for 18 months. While I would not call this a benefit per se, 18 months is longer than average for not having a APR.
This card also comes with MasterCard benefits. Your level of MasterCard and benefits will depend on your credit limit. Most people will receive a World MasterCard. However, others have received the regular version and the World Elite version.
Rules & Regulations
Citi has several rules to consider before applying for one of their cards. While these rules are annoying, they serve as a reminder to be certain before applying. However, their main purpose is to dissuade “churners” from getting sign-up bonuses.
The 1/24 Rule states that you cannot receive a sign-up bonus if you opened or closed a card within the same family in 24 months. For this card, you can’t receive a bonus if you opened a Citi Rewards +, Premier, or Prestige within the last two years.
The 6 Inquiries Rule states that those with more than 5 hard inquiries in 6 months will be automatically denied. This rule is akin to the Chase 5/24 Rule, but it lasts for six months and is for any hard inquiry.
The 1/8 Rule states that only one card can be approved within a rolling 8-day period. Its corollary, the 2/65 Rule, states that only two cards can be approved within a rolling 65-day period.
What if the Citi Double Cash is not for you? Here are some alternatives that might be better:
Chase Freedom Unlimited
This no annual fee card from Chase earns Ultimate Rewards (UR) points at a 1.5x flat rate. It also has a sign-up bonus worth 15,000 UR points which can be earned after spending just $500. The Chase Freedom Unlimited has a much better earning structure for travelers as well as a sign-up bonus. It’s the card that I use for my everyday purchases.
Bank of America Cash Rewards
Cash back lovers might like Bank of America’s (BOFA) flagship cash back card more than Citi’s. The BOFA Cash Rewards Card has a sign-up bonus worth $200. It can be earned by spending just $500 within the first three months. The Cash Rewards Card also has no annual fee.
Furthermore, the BOFA Cash Rewards Card has a tiered earning structure with bonus categories. You can choose your 3% category from a list of seven. The card also earns 2% back at Grocery Stores and Wholesale Clubs, as well as 1% on non-bonus spend.
This BOFA Cash Rewards Card’s earning structure can make it a complement to the Citi Double Cash. You can use the former strictly for your 3% category of choice and the latter for your other expenses.
The Citi Double Cash has one of the highest flat rates in the industry. But that does not make it perfect for all consumers. It has a $25 minimum cash back balance, no sign-up bonus, and not many benefits. The Double Cash Card is great for those who do not travel often or just want to earn cash back in a simple manner.
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