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Citi Double Cash Review: Twice the Rewards, Plus an Incentive to Pay Off Debt

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Citi Double Cash: Now Smart Spenders Finish First

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is a valuable workhorse among credit cards. With superior flat-rate cash back, it’s ideal for consumers who want to haul in low-hassle cash rewards on everything they charge. What it lacks in sizzle it makes up for in daily dependability. It’s a Honda Accord in a credit card market that’s lately gotten jammed with Lamborghini wannabes.

Most of what you need to know: The card gives you 1% cash back on all purchases, then another 1% back when you pay them off, with no limit to how much you can earn and an annual fee of $0.

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer stands up well on its own, but it also makes an ideal companion to a bonus-category credit card for those who use a two-card strategy to maximize cash back.

It’s not all perfect: The card offers no sign-up bonus, nor does it offer ways to earn more than its (admittedly high) base rewards rate. For those who want to transfer a balance, terms are decent but not top-of-class.

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Apply Now on Citibank's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 690
    850
    Good - Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • High rewards rate
    • No annual fee
    • 0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months

    Annual Fees

    $0

    APR

    • APR: 14.24% - 24.24% Variable APR
    • Penalty APR: Up to 29.99%, Variable
    • Cash Advance APR: 25.99%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    Earn cash back twice on every purchase

    Intro APR

    • 0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months
  • Additional Information
    • Earn cash back twice on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
    • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back
    • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.24% - 24.24% based on your creditworthiness
    • Click 'Apply Now' to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases.
    • No categories to track, no caps on cash back, no annual fee*

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer: Basics and benefits

  • Earn 1% cash back on every dollar spent
  • Earn an additional 1% back for every dollar paid off
  • $0 annual fee
  • No limit on rewards
  • Start redeeming with as little as $25 in rewards
  • Redeem for a statement credit, bank account deposit, gift card or a check
  • 0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.24% - 24.24% Variable APR

High rewards rate. The industry standard for cash back used to be 1%. As its name implies, the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer essentially doubles that rate, paying 1% on the front end and 1% after paying the bill. The sooner you pay your balance, the sooner you earn the second half of the rewards. That’s a powerful incentive to pay your credit card bill in full every month, which we recommend you do anyway to avoid interest.

Nerdy tip

When you redeem cash back for a credit on your statement, you don’t earn the second 1%. That’s because you’re not actually paying off that amount; it’s just subtracted from your bill. But that’s a minor consideration. Redeeming a hefty $1,000 per year would mean forgoing $10 in rewards for the convenience of taking the money in the form of a statement credit. That’s a return of 1.98% on spending, assuming you pay off your bill monthly.

Simplicity. Many cash-back cards offer bonus categories, some of them permanent, some that change every month. They allow you to earn extra rewards at featured retailers, such as gas stations, restaurants and home-improvement stores. They can be a hassle to keep track of. Some limit the amount of spending eligible for bonus rewards, and all spending over that limit earns a mundane 1% cash back.

With the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer, you can be a lazy optimizer and whip out the same card all the time, without thinking about retailers or spending limits. And cash back is simple, unlike points or miles that can require intricate strategy to optimize.

It’s easier to qualify for this card than it is even for many cards that pay a lower rate. You need good credit; many of its lower-paying rivals insist on excellent credit only.

Perks. Lower on the list of priorities are card perks. For example, Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer will waive the fee on a first late payment. Citi Price Rewind, if you register purchases online, will notify you of lower prices on those items and refund the difference. Citi Private Pass offers special access to entertainment deals and tickets to special events.

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer: Pitfalls and other possibilities

No bonus. The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has no sign-up bonus, but cash-back card bonuses usually aren’t high, typically $150 or less.

No outsized rewards. Double cash on all purchases is nice, but it doesn’t approach the 5% back you can get on some spending if you’re willing to invest more effort by using quarterly category cards.

Foreign transaction fee. Its 3% fee for foreign transactions means this is not the ideal card to use abroad. Many cards have no such fee.

Balance transfer fee. A lengthy no-interest period on balance transfers is competitive, and a 3% balance transfer fee with a minimum of $5 is typical but still hurts. That amounts to a $300 fee on $10,000 transferred.

Reward expiration. Citi says cash rewards balances “expire” if you don’t earn cash back from purchases or payments for 12 months. If you quit using the card, be sure to first redeem eligible rewards — or make a minor purchase with the card at least once a year to reset the clock on expiration.

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer versus the competition

The stiffest competitors are cards that give huge cash back for specific categories of spending, based on where you use it.

Rotating categories. Some cards offer 5% back on certain spending categories that change quarterly. In the past, categories have included gas stations, restaurants, supermarkets, department stores and home-improvement stores. Good examples are the  Chase Freedom® and the Discover it® - Cashback Match™. Both offer 5% back on rotating categories that you activate, on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter (equal to $75 in cash back). After that, cash back is 1% for the rest of the quarter.

Permanent categories. With other cash-back cards, bonus categories stay the same. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is a good example. The card offers 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 a year in spending (then 1%); 3% cash back at gas stations and select department stores; and 1% cash back everywhere else. Terms apply. It has an annual fee of $95.

Nerdy Tip

For optimizers, the decision is not either-or, but both. Boost cash rewards by using a bonus-categories card to get higher earnings on certain purchases, and use the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer for everything else. That reaps a superior return with a little more effort.

Other flat-rate cards. The Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card is a straight 2% cash-back card, but redemptions must deposit into a Fidelity account. A few credit union cards might have flat-rate cash-back programs that match or exceed the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer, but you must qualify to be a member of the credit union.

And the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer beats the more typical flat rate of 1.5% cash back offered by such cards as the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card.

Balance transfers. The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer also markets itself as a balance transfer card. Its offer: 0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.24% - 24.24% Variable APR. It has a 3% balance transfer fee, and transferred balances do not qualify for cash back. An alternative that waives the balance transfer fee for new cardholders is Chase Slate®.

Is it right for you?

If you want a low-hassle, flat-rate rewards card, it’s difficult to beat the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer because its rewards apply to all spending and have no limit. Returns can be even better if you use it in conjunction with a bonus-categories card.

Gregory Karp is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: gkarp@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @spendingsmart.

Updated March 31, 2017