And you’d be wise to consider both of them. Each ranks among our top cash back credit cards.
Money expert Clark Howard has the Citi Double Cash in his wallet, but he also has favorable things to say about the PayPal Cashback Mastercard. Both cards fit into his strategy for steady cash back returns with no annual fees.
“It means everything you buy is essentially discounted by two percent,” Clark says.
While it’s true that both cards can earn you 2% cash back, they do have their differences. In this article, I’ll compare the two cash back cards to help you choose the best one for your wallet.
Table of Contents
- Quick Comparison
- Card Overview: Citi Double Cash
- Card Overview: PayPal Cashback Mastercard
- Key Differences Between the Cards
- Final Thoughts
|Credit Card Perk||Citi Double Cash||PayPal Cashback Mastercard|
|Intro Period for 0% APR on Balance Transfers||18 months||None|
|Cash Back Rewards||Up to 2% unlimited (1% when you purchase, 1% when you pay your bill)||Unlimited 2%|
|Cash Back Balance Redemption Minimum||$25||No minimum|
|Cash Back Redemption Method||Check, statement credit, credit to linked bank account, or credit card points||Via linked PayPal account: Debit card or bank account credit|
|Intro Period for 0% APR on New Purchases||None||None|
|Welcome Bonus Opportunity||None||Targeted email offers only|
|Foreign Transaction Fees||3%||None|
|Apple App Rating||4.9 out of 5||4.8 out of 5|
|Google App Rating||4.6 out of 5||4.3 out of 5|
Card Overview: Citi Double Cash
The marketing pitch for the Citi Double Cash is that you earn 1% cash back when you make a purchase and then another 1% cash back when you pay the bill on that purchase. And with no category spending limits, that’s 2% cash back — unlimited!
Here’s a quick look at some of the other top perks to consider with this card:
- Introductory Balance Transfer Period: Citi offers 18 months of 0% APR on balance transfers made to this card. To qualify for this perk, you must make the transfer within the first four months of your card membership. And it will be subject to a fee of either $5 or 3% of the transfer balance (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 says it can get a replacement card in your hands as soon as 24 hours after you report the card lost. 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.
For a deeper dive into the Citi Double Cash, check out Team Clark’s full review of the card here.
Card Overview: PayPal Cashback Mastercard
You don’t have to worry about the whole split reward structure with this card. You get a full 2% of unlimited cash back on purchases with this card. No category concerns.
Here’s a quick look at some of the other perks to consider with this card:
- No Foreign Transaction Fees: This is a nice perk to have with a cash back card if you travel abroad often. Some of the competing cards in this category (like the Double Cash) charge in the range of 3% per transaction (post-currency conversion). If you leave the United States for any length of the time, the savings can add up pretty quickly.
- Easy Reward Redemption: One of the top perks to this card is that there are no spending minimums required to claim your cash back balance. And it’s pretty easy to claim. Since you have to have a PayPal account attached to this PayPal-branded credit card, the cash back balance is simply transferred to your PayPal account balance.
- PayPal Protection Program: When you use this card to buy something on PayPal, you get an added layer of security on the purchase — for free — through the PayPal Protection Program.
- Free Credit Monitoring: This card includes single-bureau credit report monitoring via TransUnion.
- Mastercard Airport Concierge: Cardholders receive a 15% discount on this service, which is available at at more than 700 airports. You can find out more about the benefits of using a concierge here.
For a deeper dive into the PayPal Cashback Mastercard, check out Team Clark’s full review of the card here.
Key Differences Between the Cards
While these cards are very similar in the way they reward cardholders, there are some key differences that may “break the tie” for those of you who are on the fence.
Cash Back Payout Method
The most important reward from each of these credit cards is the cash back earned on purchases, so it stands to reason that you’d want to make sure that the payout method for the card you choose is best suited to your situation.
With the PayPal card, you must have a PayPal account to redeem your cash back rewards (and apply for the credit card at all, for that matter). The good news, though, is that there is no minimum amount to earn before you can claim your rewards. Also, you can connect a bank account or debit card to your PayPal account if you need a quick way to move that reward money elsewhere.
As for the Citi Double Cash, there is a $25 cash back redemption minimum. However, Citi gives you a lot of redemption options. You can request a check, use the balance as a statement credit, transfer to a linked Citi bank account or convert to Citi ThankYou rewards points.
Potential for Welcome Bonus Opportunity
Chances are that you may not be able to get a welcome bonus from either of these credit cards. Neither offers one as a part of its promotional package for the credit card.
However, from time to time, the PayPal Cashback Mastercard does target some PayPal customers with limited-time welcome bonus offers.
For example, I’ve gotten promotional emails promising things like 4% cash back for the first 90 days of card membership.
I probably got this offer based on my PayPal history: It’s not an offer that was ever promoted on the website.
And keep in mind that Clark does not recommend making a long-term decision on a credit card based on the short term gains of a welcome bonus.
Balance Transfer Policy
If you are trying to transfer an existing credit card balance to one of these cards, the Citi Double Cash is the better choice for you.
The Citi card offers an 18-month period for 0% APR on balance transfers completed within the first four months of card membership. They are subject to a 3% fee at the time of the transfer.
Meanwhile, the PayPal card does not offer balance transfers at all.
If you are looking for a steady, everyday 2% cash back credit card, you really can’t go wrong with either of these options.
Some things you’ll probably want to consider:
- Whether or not you have a PayPal account that makes you eligible for a special offer for its Mastercard
- Whether the balance transfer period offer for the Citi Double Cash matters to you
If you’re a regular PayPal user, my advice is to consider taking the 2% cash back on the front end of your transaction rather than going through the 1% when you buy, 1% when you pay model of the Double Cash.
However, Clark Howard would tell you that you should not carry a balance on either of these cards because of their potentially high APRs. So if you’re using the Double Cash card properly, you should also see quick cash back returns on paying that bill in full each month.