Citi Double Cash Review: Earn Up to 2% Cash Back on All Purchases

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Citi Double Cash
Image Credit: Citi

If you want rewards for your everyday purchases but aren’t keen on keeping up with all the rotating bonuses or spending categories, the Citi® Double Cash Card might be a card to consider.

With a straightforward cash back policy that can net you up to 2% on every purchase, this card tops Team Clark’s list of cash back credit cards.

The beauty of the Double Cash card is the simplicity of its rewards program. You get 1% cash back when you make a purchase, and then unlock an additional 1% cash back when you pay your bill.

Money expert Clark Howard gives the card his full endorsement. In fact, he likes it so much that he decided to add it to his wallet in 2020.

“The best cash back cards pay 2% and this is one that I’ve recommended for years,” Clark said.

In this review, we will explore the features of the Citi Double Cash card that enticed Clark, and I’ll compare it to a major competitor in the cash back credit card market.


Table of Contents

Team Clark has spent time evaluating the credit card market in several categories including the best cash back credit cards. We’ve compared the Citi Double Cash Card to the best cards in this segment of the market. And we’ve determined that it’s one of the top choices as an everyday spending card thanks to its steady return on every purchase you make.

As you’re making your decision on whether this card is a fit for you, please use this review in conjunction with Clark Howard’s 7 Rules for Using Credit Cards.


What Is the Citi Double Cash Card?

The Citi Double Cash Card is a cash back credit card that rewards customers both when they spend and when they pay their bill. Cardholders can earn as much as 2% cash back on their purchases by earning 1% when they make a purchase and an additional 1% when the bill is paid.

There is no spending cap for cash back earnings, and you do not have to spend in a certain category to earn your 1% reward. You can earn your additional 1% reward even if you pay over time. You just need to make the minimum payment each month for the purchase to remain eligible for the back-end 1% reward.


Citi Double Cash Card: Specs and Perks

Let’s take a look at the fine print to examine some of the card’s perks and drawbacks:

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Cardholder Benefits

  • Up to 2% Cash Back on All Purchases: As mentioned above, there are no spending limits or purchase category requirements to earn the cash back rewards for this card. You get 1% cash back when you make a purchase and an additional 1% back when you pay the balance of that purchase on your credit card bill.
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: Citi offers 18 months of 0% APR on balance transfers made to this card. To qualify for this perk, the balance must be transferred to the Double Cash card within the first four months of card membership. And it will be subject to either a $5 or 3% balance transfer fee (whichever is greater).
  • $0 Fraud Liability Protection: Citi offers full fraud protection on this card, meaning you will not be held personally responsible for fraudulent charges made with this card online or otherwise.
  • Lost Wallet Service: If you lose your credit card, Citi has a program in place that can get a replacement card in your hands as soon as 24 hours after you report the card lost. As a part of this program, Citi also can provide you with a cash advance to help you until your new card has arrived.
  • Citi Entertainment: This card gives you access to the Citi Entertainment portal, which can help you with things like presales for events or discounted ticketing options.
  • Contactless Payments and Digital Wallets: The Double Cash card is equipped with the chip technology required for contactless transactions at the cash register (just tap and go). It also can be used in digital wallets, such as Apple Pay or Google Pay.
  • Identity Theft Solutions: This card grants you access to Citi’s Identity Theft Solutions program should your pertinent information be compromised online.

Cardholder Fees

Here’s a quick look at some of the fees you may encounter with the Double Cash card:

  • Annual Fee: None
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 3% of the balance being transferred, whichever is greater
  • Cash Advance Fee: Either $10 or 5% of the amount of the advance, whichever is greater
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars
  • Late Payment Fee: None for the first late payment but up to $40 for late payments after that. Note that though you will not be assessed a fee for your first late payment, your APR could be raised as a result.

How the Cash Back Program Works

You’ve probably heard the “1% when you buy, 1% when you pay” line when it comes to the marketing of this card. And you may be wondering what exactly that means. Let’s break it down.

Earning the Rewards

When you make a purchase with this card, 1% of the balance of that transaction is the amount that is credited to your cash back balance. So if you make a $100 purchase at your local store, you can expect your Double Cash rewards balance to go up by $1 upon completion of that purchase.

The second 1% comes into play when you pay for that purchase on your credit card bill. While this can be done slowly over time, it’s better to pay the balance on that purchase at the completion of the billing cycle.

Why? Money expert Clark Howard explains:

“Any rewards card of any kind is only useful if you pay your balances in full,” Clark says. “Because usually they’ll charge you high interest rates on any balance you carry. That means any victory of rewards you’re getting is actually a giant defeat.”

Also keep in mind that your card must be considered “current” to accrue cash back rewards. You can read more about this here.

Claiming the Rewards

Once you have accumulated at least $25 in cash back rewards, you can redeem your prize in a variety of ways, including:

  • Request a check as payment for your rewards.
  • Redeem your rewards as a statement credit.
  • Redeem as a credit on a Citi savings or checking account.
  • Convert the cash back rewards to Citi Thank You Rewards points.

Citi Double Cash vs. Alliant Visa Signature Card: Which Is Better?

While the Citi Double Cash is one of Team Clark’s top cash back card choices, it does face some stiff competition from the Alliant Visa Signature Card in the everyday spender category.

Alliant Credit Union offers members unlimited 2.5% cash back with its credit card, which is a bit better than the Citi Double Cash. But the tradeoff is an annual fee that goes into effect in the second year you have the card.

So which one is a better choice for your wallet?

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First, let’s do a quick rundown of what the Alliant Visa Signature Card offers:

  • 2.5% cash back on all purchases
  • $99 annual fee (waived for the first year of membership)
  • No purchase categories
  • No cap on cash back

Now, let’s make some assumptions and issue some reminders for the sake of this comparison:

  • Set aside APR for this exercise. We’re going to assume you’re paying off your bill each month.
  • We’ll evaluate Year 1 and Year 2 of Alliant separately because of the $99 annual fee that’s waived only in the first year.
  • Remember that Citi Double Cash card does not have an annual fee.

Given those parameters, here’s a breakdown of how the annual cash back payouts would look using $500 monthly spending increments:

Annual Cash Back Numbers Based on Monthly Spend

Monthly Spend Alliant Year 1
(2.5% Cash Back, No Annual Fee)
Alliant Year 2 and Beyond
(2.5% Cash Back Minus Annual Fee)
Citi Double Cash (2% Cash Back)
$500 $150 $51 $120
$1,000 $300 $201 $240
$1,500 $450 $351 $360
$2,000 $600 $501 $480
$2,500 $750 $651 $600
$3,000 $900 $801 $720
$3,500 $1,050 $951 $840
$4,000 $1,200 $1,101 $960
$4,500 $1,350 $1,251 $1,080
$5,000 $1,500 $1,401 $1,200

So what conclusions can we draw from this comparison chart?

First, let’s acknowledge that Year 1 of the Alliant Visa Signature Card is going to be pretty solid. The 2.5% cash back and lack of an annual fee makes a difference. But once you finish that introductory period, things become a little murkier when you’re trying to decide between the two cards.

By the time Year 2 rolls around on the Alliant card, some readers may be better off with the Citi Double Cash card. Specifically, if you spend less than $1,500 per month on the credit card, you’ll likely see better results from Citi Double Cash, even though it has a lower cash back percentage (2% vs. 2.5%). Remember, you’ll need to account for the $99 annual fee when assessing the Alliant cash back total after Year 1.

To me, the sweet spot where the Alliant card starts to look better than the Citi card is around $2,000 per month. If you already have the Citi Double Cash card, the threshold may need to be higher than that — once you consider the ramifications of adding another credit card to your portfolio.


Final Thoughts

Are you considering adding the Citi Double Cash to your wallet? Let’s review some of the major pros and cons of the card before you make your final decision:

Citi Double Cash: Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Up to 2% cash back (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay) with no rewards cap There is no welcome bonus
18-month 0% APR period for balance transfers No introductory APR for new purchases
No annual fee Rewards program beyond cash back is lacking

Bottom Line: If you are looking for a cash back credit card that rewards spending without any hoops to jump through, the Citi Double Cash card may be the right choice for you. With up to 2% in unlimited cash back on every purchase, you know exactly what you’re getting when you make purchases and pay off balances on this card.

Do you have experience with the Citi Double Cash Card? Let us know how you like it in the comments below!

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