Citi Double Cash card review: What makes it different?

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4 stars(4/5)

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The Citi Double Cash offer for this card is no longer available on this website. The following information is for reference only.

Cards without annual fees that let you earn more than 1 percent cash back on every single purchase across the board are pretty uncommon. But Citi just launched a new product that promises to give you 1 percent when you buy something — and another 1 percent when you pay for it.

The Citi Double Cash card offers a unique way to earn “double” cash back on all purchases.

How you earn the extra cash back

With most cards, you earn rewards as you make the purchase. Say you have a card that gets you extra points or miles on dining. You eat at a restaurant, pay with your card and, as soon as that purchase is posted to your account, those rewards are yours.

Citi’s Double Cash card works a bit differently. When you pay with your card (for any purchase), you get 1 percent back right away. Want those “double cash” rewards the card offers? You’ll get an additional 1 percent when you make a payment. Here’s what the card’s terms and conditions say about getting that additional 1 percent on payments:

    “You will also earn 1% cash back on payments you make that appear on your current month’s billing statement as long as the amount paid is at least the Minimum Payment Due that is printed on your billing statement and there is a balance in the Purchase Tracker. The balance in the Purchase Tracker is reduced by eligible payments you make. When the Purchase Tracker reaches $0, you won’t earn cash back on payments until more eligible purchases are made.”

We reached out to Chris Fred, head of product management at Citi Cards, for a translation. According to Fred, getting that extra 1 percent requires two things:

  • When you make a payment there must be a balance in the Purchase Tracker. That’s a running tally of your purchases and payments. When you make a purchase, that amount gets added to your Purchase Tracker. If you make a payment, you reduce the Purchase Tracker by that amount. If your purchase tracker is at zero, you can’t make an extra payment to earn more cash back. You must first make more purchases, which will then be added to the purchase tracker, enabling you to make more payments (and earn the extra 1 percent).
  • Before the due date, you must pay at least the minimum amount due. For those who like to make multiple “early” payments throughout the month to keep utilization low, payments made before your statement closes will still earn the additional 1 percent. Fail to make the minimum in a given billing cycle, though, and you’re left with the initial 1 percent you earned on spending.

In other words, this card gives you 1 percent when you buy something and another 1 percent when you pay down your balance, whether you pay in full, or just pay the minimum.

Still it’s not always accurate to call this a 2-percent-cash-back card. For one thing, you’re sacrificing that second round of cash back if you fail to pay on time. Plus, if you redeem your rewards for a statement credit, it will reduce the amount you owe by 1 percent and, thus, the amount you can earn rewards on when you pay the rest of the bill. Even so, the card gives you the chance to earn more on every purchase than the competition. Its closest competitors Capital One Quicksilver offer a steady 1.5 percent cash back.

Citi Double Cash redemption options

You can redeem your rewards for a statement credit, cash back (check) or gift card (for a minimum of $25). After that $25 minimum, there’s no requirement to redeem in increments for statement credits or cash back, although gift cards are available only in $25 increments, Fred notes.

Benefits

Citi Price Rewind: This benefit (offered on several other card’s in Citi’s portfolio) monitors price fluctuations after you buy an item. If the price drops within 60 days, you might be eligible for a refund of the difference (up to $500 per item and up to $2,500 per year).

Purchase protection: If an item you bought was stolen or damaged within 120 days of purchase (or 90 days if you’re a New York resident), you can be refunded for up to $1,000 per item.

Extended warranty: If you turned down the extended warranty when you purchased an item, you might regret that decision if the item breaks. This card adds 24 months to your warranty, reimbursing you for up to $10,000.

Travel protections: You get secondary car rental insurance, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, and travel accident insurance.

Citi Private Pass: The Double Cash card gets you access to preferred and presale tickets, as well as access to special events.

What to watch out for

If you carry a balance on the card, that extra 1 percent you get when you pay will be cancelled out by interest. So, while you can earn extra rewards by paying only the minimum, you’re still coming out behind. To get the full potential double cash back reward, you will have to pay your balance in full every month before the due date.

But that’s really no different from any rewards card; paying interest cancels out your rewards, across the board, plain and simple. The plus side of this card is that, because you don’t get the extra 1 percent until you pay, there’s an added incentive to pay – and possibly make larger payments or pay in full. If you’re the type to do that anyway, you might not care. But tying rewards to desired behavior could help those who require a little extra motivation.

Can I product-change from other Citi cards?

In the first days after launch, some of our forum members reported difficulties product-changing from other Citi cards to the Double Cash. Fred says that, as of Sept. 7, 2014, most Citi cardmembers should be able to convert existing Citi cards. Another detail: When Citi announced the Double Cash, it stopped marketing the Dividend Platinum Select. Those currently holding that card, Fred says, can convert to the Double Cash.

The competition — what else is out there?

If you want to earn a full 2 percent cash back, there are ways to do that. The one card without an annual fee that gives 2 percent back on absolutely everything is the Fidelity card from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner). However, you have to have a Fidelity account to get the card.

Also keep in mind there are other no-annual-fee cards that offer 5 percent cash back in certain categories (the Discover it and the Chase Freedom. Depending on your spending, those cards might net you more rewards overall. However, you need to enroll in quarterly categories to get 5 percent back — and those categories have spending caps. The ideal strategy, therefore, might be to combine the Double Cash card with a card that offers elevated category spending. That way, you can get extra cash back within the categories and use the Double Cash for all other spending (and for category spending after you hit your limit on the 5 percent card).

The bottom line: The Citi Double Cash card is likely the easiest way to get a steady higher-than-usual rate of cash back on absolutely everything with no cover charge. It would work well on its own (if you don’t want to mess with chasing rotating categories) — or as a good sidekick to a rotating-category card.

Why we gave it 4/5 stars

This card was rated based our standards for cash-back cards, as cash back is its advertised mode of redemption. If you use this card as recommended above, it delivers a higher-than-average return, compared with other no-annual-fee cards.

We docked it a star because the Double Cash has historically lacked a sign-up bonus and an attached deals/bonus-shopping program.

Full starRewards-earning rate: This card meets our standards for no-annual-fee cards by offering above 1 percent on all spending.
Full starCash-back redemption value: This card meets our standards by giving at least a 1-cent-per point redemption value on cash-back redemptions.
Full starRewards simplicity and transparency: This card’s rewards structure is about as simple as it gets – no category enrollments required.
Empty starBonus-earning opportunities: This card doesn’t have an advertised sign-up bonus and also doesn’t have a deals program/shopping portal that would allow you to boost your earnings beyond the advertised rate.
Full starUnique perks: This card has two notable consumer-friendly perks – free FICO score access and the Price Rewind feature.

Updated Nov. 1, 2016

 
Comments
The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

I was able to successfully product change from my Citi Thankyou to the Double Cash a few weeks ago. This card for everyday purchases and the Chase Freedom for 5% category purchases will certainly yield great rewards. Having been a Citi customer for a while, I feel confident that they will continue to provide me with an excellent product and great customer service.

Earn 2% percent for each dollar spend. Sound very good, but the true is the same 1% cash back. Example: to get $25 you need to earn 5000 points not 2500 points. While other credit card like Chase or Bank of America need only 2500 points for $25 reward. I had 2 Citi credit cards so I knew very much about this. Be aware.

I use the Capital One Quicksilver. I’m tempted by the 2% (I never carry a balance), but I also travel overseas, and the 3% foreign currency transaction fee is a deal-breaker for me. It cost banks and Visa/MC next to nothing for the currency transaction, but they charge customers 1-2-3%. Pure profit for them, pure rip-off for users. Cap One Quicksilver charges NO foreign currency transaction fee, despite Visa/MC charging Cap One 1%. Again, it cost Visa/MC next to nothing for the transaction – it’s been an automated process for 20 years, all done in NY at the end of each day, push a button, currency exchanged at NY currency market rates, all routine.

Is this a visa card or master card?

FINALLY! After losing my 2% FIA card years ago, been waiting for something to match with no annual fee. EMV chip is a nice bonus. Thanks for sharing!