On paper, the no-annual-fee Citi Dividend credit card looks pretty similar to a few other popular cards in its class: It offers 5% cash back in rotating categories that change quarterly (1% back on other purchases).
But if you don’t already have the card, you’re out of luck. And if you do have it, it's worth understanding how it differs from competitors in some key ways.
Here's what to know about the Citi Dividend.
1. It’s no longer available to new applicants
The Citi Dividend isn't open to new applicants; in fact, it stopped accepting new applications several years ago. At one point, it was potentially an option if you requested a product change from another Citi card, but that's no longer the case, according to Citi.
If you still have the card, you can keep using it and earning rewards. Citi still releases a 5% bonus calendar for the Citi Dividend.
2. There’s a cap on annual cash-back earnings
Every calendar year, you’re limited to $300 in cash back, total. That includes earnings from 5% bonus categories, as well as the 1% back you get with all other purchases. That's a big drawback, and it's different from how other rotating bonus category cards work.
For example, with products like the Discover it® Cash Back or the Chase Freedom Flex℠, you'll be subject to a quarterly cap on bonus rewards, but your other earnings (at 1% back) continue throughout the year.
With the Citi Dividend, once you earn $300 back, no matter how you earn it, you're done for the year. That's quite limiting.
Nerd tip: There's a workaround to this limit, and it's by shopping via Citi’s Bonus Cash Center, an online portal where you can earn additional cash back on purchases at participating retailers. Any bonus cash back you’d earn this way wouldn’t apply to the $300 cap, but it would come in the form of Dividend Dollars, the same cash-back currency you get through normal use of the card. You can only redeem Dividend Dollars for a check.
3. An annual bonus cap is potentially more flexible
Unlike competitors mentioned above, the Citi Dividend does not institute a strict $1,500-per-quarter spending cap in bonus earnings. Yes, you'd still be subject to a cumulative $6,000 cap annually for bonus spending, but it wouldn't have to break down as "$1,500 neatly multiplied by four quarters."
For example, if home improvement stores were a Citi Dividend bonus category for three months, you could spend the entire $6,000 at Home Depot in those three months, earning 5% on all of it and then putting the card away for the rest of the year.
This flexibility is not available with other 5% cash-back competitors. With those products, once you spend $1,500 in a bonus category, you drop back to 1% back until the next quarter.
4. Bonus categories are on par with similar cards
The Citi Dividend offers many of the same bonus categories you see with other cards of its kind, including supermarkets, Amazon.com and streaming services (a category that’s steadily gaining popularity). Here’s what you can earn 5% back on this year:
Citi® Dividend Card bonus rewards categories for 2021
Q1 (Jan. 1 - March 31)
• Amazon. • Select streaming services.
Q2 (April 1 - June 30)
TBD (In 2020: drugstores; Amazon.com.)
Q3 (July 1 – Sept. 30)
TBD (In 2020: home improvement stores; streaming services.)
Q4 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31)
TBD (In 2020: Best Buy; online purchases from warehouse clubs.)
5. Categories are kept a surprise
One competitor that offers rotating bonus categories, the Discover it® Cash Back, announces its full year of categories all at once, which is useful because it lets you anticipate how you can benefit from the card throughout the year.
However, the Citi Dividend takes after the Chase Freedom Flex℠, unveiling bonus categories quarter by quarter.
Depending on how much you like to plan ahead, this could be a downside or a delight.