Citi Double Cash vs. PayPal Cashback: PayPal’s Friendlier

Both earn a high flat rate with no annual fee, but the PayPal card can offer more value.

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When it comes to flat-rate cash-back credit cards, 1.5% back has long been the standard — but a growing number of cards now offer a more lucrative 2% cash back on all purchases.

In that category, the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has been a perennial favorite, but there's a new winner in town: the PayPal Cashback Mastercard®.

Both cards offer a 2% cash-back rate. But what gives the PayPal Cashback Mastercard® the edge is that it also features another tier: an unlimited 3% cash back when you use PayPal at checkout. Plus, you’ll get your cash back in one swoop, unlike the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer, which doles out rewards in two steps: 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay it off.

The Citi card still has some appeal thanks to it being slightly simpler to manage: You won’t have to join a payment network (like PayPal) to get it, and you’ll have only one rewards rate to keep track of. And unlike the PayPal card, it features some potentially useful redemption options besides just cash back, including the ability to transfer rewards to a handful of travel partners.

But overall, in terms of cash-back cards, the PayPal Cashback Mastercard® wins this duel.

How the cards stack up

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

PayPal Cashback Mastercard®

Complete card details and application link:

Citi® Double Cash Card
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Complete card details and application link:

PayPal Cashback Mastercard
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OR

Annual fee

$0.

$0.

Sign-up bonus

For a limited time, earn $200 cash back after spending $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening..

For a limited time, new cardholders can earn a sign-up bonus of $100 cash back when you spend $500 in the first 90 days.

Rewards

2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay it off.

  • 3% cash back on PayPal purchases.

  • 2% back on all other purchases.

APR

0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 16.24%-26.24% Variable APR.

The ongoing APR is 16.49%, 25.49% or 28.49%, Variable APR.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Technically, the Citi Double Cash earns rewards as Citi ThankYou points, not direct cash back. But this doesn't have any practical effect on the card's earn rate. You'll get 1 point per $1 spent and 1 point per $1 paid off, and those points are worth 1 cent each when redeemed for cash back — so 2% cash back on all purchases.

» Worried about the shift to points? Don't be. The Citi Double Cash is still a cash-back card

Why the PayPal Cashback Mastercard® comes out on top

PayPal Cashback Mastercard
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3% back via PayPal — and many, many places take PayPal

The PayPal Cashback Mastercard®, issued by Synchrony, earns an uncapped 3% cash back when you use it to check out with PayPal. This elevated rate applies to online, mobile and in-person purchases — the latter of which can be done by scanning a QR code through the PayPal app.

Examples of merchants that offer PayPal at checkout include Target, Apple, eBay, Netflix and many more, as well as travel-related retailers like Airbnb, American Airlines and United Airlines. That's a wide variety of retailers, so you can earn the card's top rate easily, regardless of how you spend. And that's in addition to the unlimited 2% cash back you’re earning on everything else.

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer doesn't feature a 3% rate, and even its 2% rate comes in pieces: 1% as you buy, 1% as you pay it off.

Fast access to rewards

Cash back earned with the PayPal Cashback Mastercard® is redeemable within three days of earning it, which means you won’t have to wait until the end of the billing cycle to get your rewards. Plus, cardholders can redeem their rewards in any amount at any time, unlike some cards that have minimum redemption requirements.

True, there's no minimum redemption threshold for the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer — you can redeem rewards in any amount at any time. But you'll have to wait until the end of your billing cycle for those rewards to post and be available to you.

It's also worth reiterating that the Citi card's earning rate is structured differently. Yes, you can get 2% back on all purchases, but it's not automatic: You'll earn 1% cash back on all purchases, but you don't get the other 1% back until you pay off that purchase. And while that may incentivize you to not carry a balance on the card, it's still a peculiar caveat that you won't find on other cash-back cards.

Instant use

Once your application is approved for the PayPal Cashback Mastercard®, you’ll be granted a temporary credit line to begin using right away. (Your physical card will arrive in the mail in about seven to 10 days.)

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer doesn't provide instant access to your credit line.

Why you might choose the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Citi® Double Cash Card
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No membership required

In order to apply for the PayPal Cashback Mastercard®, you must have a PayPal account. You can open one before applying, and it's free, but it’s still a hoop to jump through.

What's more, you'll need a PayPal Balance account — PayPal's version of a bank account — if you want maximum flexibility on redemptions. A PayPal Balance account lets you use cash rewards to make purchases or payments, send money to fellow PayPal users, or transfer rewards to your bank account or debit card tied to your PayPal account. Without a PayPal Balance account, your redemption options are limited to transferring rewards to your linked bank account or debit card.

If you’ve never used PayPal before and have no desire to start now, the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer might be more appealing because there are no extra steps to take when applying for it.

A little easier to track

With the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer, you don't have to keep track of multiple rewards rates. You get 2% back on everything: 1% as you buy, 1% as you pay it off.

The PayPal Cashback Mastercard® is (slightly) more complex, since it has both a 3% tier and a 2% tier.

Redemption flexibility

Because the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer technically earns Citi ThankYou points, you're not locked into using them for cash back. The card features a handful of travel partners, including JetBlue, Wyndham and Choice Privileges, so you might be able to squeeze more value from your points when you use them to book a flight or hotel this way.

Just be aware that transfer ratios aren't immediately in your favor: 1,000 ThankYou points will snag you only 800 points with JetBlue or Wyndham.

Still, it can get more interesting and favorable if you have multiple Citi cards. Products like the Citi Premier® Card and Citi Prestige® Card feature many more travel partners than does the Double Cash, and you can transfer points across Citi cards.

The PayPal Cashback Mastercard® has no travel partners, and your redemption options are pretty much limited to cash back in some form.

Introductory 0% APR

New cardholders will get a 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 16.24%-26.24% Variable APR. If you're looking for a breather on a high-interest balance, you could move it to this card. The 3% balance transfer fee is a factor to think about, but it’s on the lower end for that kind of fee.

The PayPal Cashback Mastercard® doesn't offer an intro APR period.

Which card should you get?

As long as you don't mind joining PayPal, the PayPal Cashback Mastercard® has the clear edge. Its rewards rates — 3% back on PayPal purchases, 2% back on all other purchases — make it a winning option for those looking for a simple yet lucrative card.

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is still a fine option. But its two-step rewards system, which makes you wait until you pay off your bill to get the full 2% back, keeps it lagging behind the growing number of $0-annual-fee cards that offer the same lucrative rate in one go.

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