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Review

2020 Review: Citi Double Cash Card – Best Flat-Rate Credit Card?

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Sean Messier By Sean Messier Dec 26, 2019 | Updated Jan 22, 2020
Our rating
Min. credit level: Good
Annual Fee: $0
Regular APR: 15.49% – 25.49% (Variable)

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is, in our humble opinion, one of the best cash back credit cards. Period.

There’s no annual fee, and you get 2% cash back on every purchase you make — 1% when you swipe the card, and another 1% when that purchase is paid off. That’s basically the best rate you’ll find with a flat-rate cash back rewards card.

You can redeem your rewards as cash back, or if travel’s your thing, you can convert them to ThankYou points and transfer them to Citi’s partner airlines to max out your return on spend.

The Double Cash card also features an exceptionally strong introductory balance transfer APR offer, with a 0% rate for 18 months on Balance Transfers (then 15.49% – 25.49% (Variable)).

That’s pretty much all there is to it. Like other Citi cards at this fee tier, its benefits aren’t too valuable, but that’s no problem. The card is fantastic as it is.

Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer

Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR15.49% – 25.49% (Variable)
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Our Rating: 5 Out of 5 Stars

We’re giving the Citi Double Cash 5 out of 5 stars. There’s really not much to complain about. It’s a simple card that serves its two primary purposes — flat-rate rewards and balance transfers — very well.

Why We Like It

  • 2% cash back on every purchase, with no limit
  • Redeem rewards as statement credits, by check, or via direct deposit
  • Convert cash back to ThankYou points and transfer to a partner airline for a better return on spend
  • Long balance transfer intro period
  • No annual fee
  • Quick access to customer service
  • Free credit score access for easy credit monitoring

Why It Could Be Better

  • No introductory bonus
  • $25 minimum for redemptions
  • The intro rate covers only balance transfers, and not purchases
  • Benefits aren’t all that valuable
  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%
  • Balance transfer fee: 3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.

Insider Advice: Getting the Most Out of Your Card

  • Use the Double Cash for, well, everything: If you’re looking for a well-rounded credit card that’ll earn you rewards on every purchase, it’s hard to do better than this.
  • Pair it with other credit cards: Though you’ll rarely find a higher flat reward rate, many rewards cards provide higher cash back equivalents on select spending categories. Use those cards where you’ll earn more rewards, then use the Double Cash when you have nothing else that’ll give you at least 2% back. It doesn’t get much better than the Double Cash for that kind of tag-team credit card approach.
  • Redeem for statement credits if you prioritize simplicity: A flat 2% reward rate on a simple card like this is solid, so redeeming for cash back is a great choice.
  • Convert to ThankYou points if you’re a dealseeking travel enthusiast: There’s more value to be gained by converting your rewards to points than there is with cash back. But you have to be willing to put the effort in — the Double Cash only allows transfers to one travel loyalty program, JetBlue TrueBlue, so you need either the Citi Premier Card or the Citi Prestige® Card if you want access to the rest of Citi’s rather lengthy list of transfer partners.
  • Pay off another card’s large balance: The Double Cash card’s lengthy balance transfer APR offer makes it a great destination for a balance that’s currently accumulating interest. You’ll have to pay a balance transfer fee (there are cards without this fee), but if you’re dealing with debt that would take you quite a while to pay off, that fee will likely be offset and then some by the interest charges you’ll avoid.
  • Get tickets: The Double Cash card’s Citi Entertainment benefit offers special access to tickets for sporting events, concerts, and more, making it easier to add excitement to your everyday routine.
  • Monitor your credit: Keep an eye on your credit situation with a free FICO Bankcard Score 8, based on your Equifax credit report.

The Rewards

The Double Cash isn’t going to give you a crazy return on spend, no matter how you use it. But the fact that you can rely on a consistent 2% (at least) cash back rate for every single purchase, no matter the category, is a unique asset.

Convert your rewards to ThankYou points and redeem them with a transfer partner, and you may be able to get a better value — something like 2 cents per point, for a cash back equivalent of 4%. That’s a very strong rate for a card like this.

In terms of rewards, the Double Cash is likely best used as something of a safety net, a card you can use when there’s nothing else in your wallet that’ll give you a better rate.

READ MORE

Best Cash Back Credit Cards

Earning

Spending Rewards
  • 2% cash back for every purchase you make
    • 1% back when you make a purchase
    • 1% back when you pay for that purchase

Compared to some cash back cards, the simplicity of the Double Cash’s rewards program might seem like a comfort. You’ll earn the same 2% rate on every purchase with no limit on the amount of cash back you can earn. That’s it.

You won’t get the entire 2% back at the same time, though. You’ll get 1% back after the transaction, and 1% back when you pay it off. With that said, we recommend you use the card responsibly by paying it off in full each month. That way, you should be getting the full 2% back within a few weeks of each purchase at most.

The main disadvantage when it comes to the card’s earning potential is that there’s no introductory bonus. That’s not a huge deal since there’s no annual fee to offset, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Certain cash back cards, for example, offer a slightly lower 1.5% flat reward rate, but also provide signup bonuses that can give you a lot of value a lot faster than the Double Cash can. We’ll talk about a few of these cards later.

Redeeming

Citi presents the Double Cash as a no-frills cash back card, and that’s mostly accurate, but there are actually a few ways to redeem your rewards balance.

You can:

  • Redeem for statement credits
  • Receive your cash back via check or direct deposit
  • Convert your rewards to ThankYou points

Redeeming for statement credits or receiving your rewards via check or direct deposit are great choices. You just won’t get quite as much value as you would with a carefully planned point transfer (which we’ll talk more about in a second — it’s kind of complicated).

Still, a guaranteed earning rate of 2% per dollar is very good, and the simplicity of these methods probably makes up for the difference in monetary value for most cardholders.

Converting Your Rewards to ThankYou Points (And Making the Most of Them)

Compared to the Double Cash’s typical redemption options, converting to ThankYou points offers a higher potential value. Unfortunately, this method isn’t as simple as settling for cash back.

The only transfer partners available to Double Cash cardholders are JetBlue TrueBlue and Shop Your Way, the Sears loyalty program. You can access a larger list of transfer partners by sending your points to another eligible Citi card, but they both charge annual fees. We’ll talk about that after discussing the Double Cash card’s own transfer partners.

If you transfer your points to JetBlue, you’ll get 800 points for every 1,000 ThankYou points transferred. Careful redemption can still give you a decent return on spend, but you have to plan meticulously, because your actual cash back equivalent from this method will usually depend on a bunch of factors, including when you book, where you’re traveling, and your flight class.

Transferring ThankYou points to Shop Your Way gives you 12 Shop Your Way points for every 1 ThankYou point transferred. Shop Your Way points are reportedly worth $0.001 each, so that’s a value of 1.2 cents per ThankYou point. Not a bad deal if you’ll actually be able to use them.

Transferring ThankYou Points to Other Citi Credit Cards

If you’re a serious traveler who already holds either the Citi Premier Card (Review) or the Citi Prestige® Card (Review), think about transferring converted ThankYou points to one of those cards. They both feature a much larger selection of transfer partners than the Double Cash, including renowned airlines from Air France to Virgin Atlantic and beyond.

Most transfers from these cards will give you a 1:1 rate. That includes JetBlue, so that’s a slight upgrade from what you’d get by transferring to TrueBlue from the Double Cash.

What’s more is that redeeming for airfare directly through Citi with the Premier card will give you a 25% bonus, upping your per-point value to 1.25 cents. You could get more with a transfer to an airline, but it’s a nice choice to have, as it requires a bit less work on your part.

The main obstacle here is that both the Premier and the Prestige have annual fees, so this probably isn’t the right redemption process for the casual cardholder.

The Benefits

The Double Cash card’s benefits don’t offer too much in the way of monetary value, but there are quite a few perks that you may find useful throughout your time as a cardholder.

  • Citi Concierge: Request assistance with non-emergency tasks, like booking flights, finding coveted concert tickets, and reserving tables at your favorite restaurants.
  • Citi Entertainment: Immerse yourself in the action with special access to tickets for sporting events, concerts, and exclusive experiences.
  • Free FICO score: Monitor your credit by checking your FICO Bankcard Score 8 credit score, based on your Equifax credit report, for free.
  • Citi Identity Theft Solutions: Speak with a Citi identity theft specialist if your personal information has been stolen. They’ll help you report the incident, activate fraud alerts, monitor your credit reports, and more.
  • Citi Quick Lock: Lock your Double Cash card the moment it’s lost or stolen, and then unlock it as necessary.
  • The Lost Wallet Service: Lose your card? Contact Citi to get a replacement, usually within 24 hours. You’ll also be able to borrow emergency cash, but that’s treated as a cash advance, so we don’t recommend it.
  • Virtual account numbers: For added security while shopping online, create virtual credit card account numbers tied to specific merchants, each with its own custom spending limit and expiration date.
  • Fraud protection: Set 24-hour alerts to keep on top of fraudulent activity. Plus, if unauthorized charges appear on your account, you won’t be responsible for paying them.

Yearning for some tasty drinks? Ready to mosh to New Jersey thrash metal titans, Overkill? Citi Entertainment can help.

The Terms & Fees

Purchase APR Balance Transfer APR Cash Advance APR
15.49% – 25.49% (Variable) 0% for 18 months on Balance Transfers, then 15.49% – 25.49% (Variable) 26.74% (Variable)
Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee
$0 3%
Balance Transfer Fee Cash Advance Fee
3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum. 5% of each cash advance; $10 minimum
Penalty APR Late Fee Returned Payment Fee
Up to 29.99% Variable Up to $40 Up to $40

There are a few points of interest here.

The Double Cash flaunts an excellent balance transfer APR offer. It’s not the longest available, but it’s pretty darn close. You’ll have to pay a balance transfer fee, however, which is normal when the introductory period lasts this long.

There’s also a foreign transaction fee, and that means you’ll probably want to avoid using this card in another country unless it’s your last resort.

No worries, though — there are all sorts of reward cards that come standard with no foreign transaction fee, including many with bonus categories (travel, dining, etc.) that might be useful while you’re abroad.

The Bottom Line

There are a lot of cards out there that’ll reward you with high rates in very specific categories.

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer isn’t one of them. Instead, it’s pretty much the best card you’ll find to use on all those purchases that aren’t covered by other cards in your wallet.

Its cash back rewards program is very simple, and for the serious rewards junkie, the option to convert your cash back to ThankYou points provides great flexibility (plus an opportunity to ramp up your return on spend).

The card also has one of the longer introductory balance transfer APR offers you’ll currently find.

The two main downsides are the Double Cash’s lack of welcome bonus and its vanilla selection of benefits. When compared to the card’s huge long-term value, though, these little issues are easy to brush aside.

How to Apply for the Citi Double Cash Card

Click the “Apply Now” button below. You’ll be directed to the official Citi website, and you’ll have to submit an application form. Citi will then perform a hard credit inquiry to determine whether your creditworthiness measures up to its standards, and you’ll likely be approved or denied instantly. On the off chance that you aren’t, Citi might follow up to request more information.

What Credit Scores Do You Need for the Citi Double Cash Card?

The Citi Double Cash is intended for applicants with good credit. That means you’ll probably have higher approval odds with a FICO score of at least 670, and a VantageScore of at least 700.

But those scores won’t guarantee approval. Other factors, such as your monthly income, are also evaluated during the approval process. You might be denied with great credit, or approved with average scores.

Qualifications and Requirements

  • Must be 18 to apply
  • Personal information: Name, date of birth, Social Security number, U.S. citizenship status
  • Address and contact information: Home address, phone number, email address
  • Financial information: Total annual income, monthly mortgage or rent payment
Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer

Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR15.49% – 25.49% (Variable)
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

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Alternatives to the Citi Double Cash Card

The Citi Double Cash has several great features (2% reward rate, long balance transfer offer), but it’s not quite perfect (signup bonuses are always nice). Whether it’s the right card for you depends on what you’re looking for.

To that end, here are a few alternatives that might be worth your consideration.

Discover it® Cash Back

Discover it® Cash Back

Our rating
Min. credit level Good
Details
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR 13.49% - 24.49% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The Discover it® Cash Back (Review) is one of select few credit cards that have gained a lot of popularity for their rotating rewards systems.

The card provides 5% cash back (up to $1,500 in combined quarterly spending) on select categories that change every three months, and features Discover’s renowned Cashback Match signup bonus.

Its reward system is actually different enough that this could be a great card to use with the Double Cash, rather than in place of it.

Spending Rewards
  • 5% cash back in categories that rotate every three months (see calendar below), up to $1,500 spent per quarter
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • Cashback Match: New cardmembers get double cash back in the first year (awarded after the first year)

Here’s the 5% cash back calendar for 2020, including the final quarter of 2019. Take note that while Q4 2019 includes Target purchases in general, Q4 2020 only covers Target.com

Quarter 5% Cash Back Category
October – December (2019) Amazon.com, Target, Walmart.com
January — March Grocery Stores, Walgreens, CVS
April – June Gas Stations, Uber, Lyft, Wholesale Clubs
July – September Restaurants, PayPal
October – December Amazon.com, Target.com, Walmart.com

The Cashback Match signup bonus effectively ensures you’re getting at least a 2% cash back rate on every purchase throughout the first year, which is competitive with the Double Cash. But that’s only for a year.

After that, this card loses appeal as an alternative, per se, but remains a great option to use alongside the Double Cash thanks to its 5% categories.

  • Free FICO credit score: See your TransUnion-based FICO Score 8 on statements, online, and by mobile app.
  • Cash at Checkout: When shopping at participating locations, you can get immediate cash back by charging an additional amount over your purchase for no extra fee.
  • Refer a Friend: Receive a statement credit if you refer people you know to apply for a Discover card and they’re approved. They’ll receive statement credits, too.
  • Security features: Social Security number alerts, $0 fraud liability, and quick freeze, a feature that allows you to suspend your card if it’s misplaced
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 14 months, then 13.49% - 24.49% Variable
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit level Good
Details
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR 15.49% - 25.49% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Another prominent flat-rate rewards card, the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card (Review) offers a slightly lower cash back rate of 1.5%.

What gives the Quicksilver a leg up is that there’s a solid welcome bonus. You won’t get one at all with the Double Cash.

Spending Rewards
  • 1.5% cash back for every purchase
Welcome Bonus Offer
  • $150 cash back for spending $500 in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Return on spend: 30%

The Quicksilver’s welcome bonus offers an excellent return on spend as it is.

Then, when you consider how the Double Cash offers no such bonus whatsoever, it becomes clear why you might prefer the Quicksilver — especially if you won’t be using the card all that much.

You’d have to spend a whopping $30,000 in order to finally reach a point where you’re getting more out of the Double Cash than you would the Quicksilver, including its signup bonus.

The Quicksilver’s 1.5% back would earn you $450 on $30,000. That amounts to $600 with the welcome bonus included.

The Double Cash would give you $600 from its standard 2% cash back rate.

So, beyond $30,000 in spending, the Double Cash is going to be the more rewarding option.

Your decision will ultimately depend on whether you’re playing the long game or hoping to maximize your short-term rewards.

  • Luxury Hotel Collection: Receive special perks at select hotels worldwide, including automatic room upgrades, free WiFi, and complimentary breakfast for two.
  • Shopping discounts: Get discounts at select retailers.
  • Visa Signature Concierge: Call the Visa Signature concierge service 24/7 for assistance with non-emergency tasks like travel arrangements or dinner reservations.
  • Capital One CreditWise: The CreditWise service provides free access to your VantageScore 3.0 credit score based on your TransUnion credit report.
  • Shopping protections: You’ll get shopping protections like Purchase Security, Fraud Coverage, and Zero Liability Protection.
  • Travel protections: When traveling you’ll have access to Travel Accident Insurance, Lost Luggage Reimbursement, and a Roadside Dispatch service.
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 months, then 15.49% - 25.49% Variable
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0

Note: Benefits depend on card tier.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Our rating
Min. credit level Good
Details
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR 16.49% - 25.24% Variable

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® (Review) looks, at first, just like the Capital One Quicksilver. All of the welcome bonus details and calculations we discussed concerning the Quicksilver also apply here.

But the Freedom Unlimited offers something the Quicksilver doesn’t: the ability to transfer your rewards to a Chase Ultimate Rewards card where they could be more valuable.

There are three good options: the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Review) and Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review) — two incredibly popular travel rewards cards — plus the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card (Review).

Once your rewards are moved to one of these cards, you’ll have several ways to max out your redemption value, including point transfers and redemption bonuses.

The key drawback to this method is that all three of those Ultimate Rewards cards feature annual fees.

Spending Rewards
  • 1.5% cash back on all purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • $150 bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
    • Return on spend: 30%

If you’re planning on boosting the value of these rewards by transferring to another Chase card, you’ll have a few options.

Redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, and you’ll get a 25% point bonus with the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Business Preferred cards, or a 50% bonus with the Sapphire Reserve.

Or, transfer your rewards to one of Chase’s many partner airline or hotel loyalty programs. You’ll sometimes be able to secure a much higher cash back equivalent than 1.5%, you just have to put some effort in to find the best deals.

  • $100 referral bonus: You’ll get $100 cash back for every friend you refer who successfully applies for the Freedom Unlimited, up to $500 per year.
  • Shop through Chase: Earn extra cash back at select retailers via the Shop through Chase shopping portal, like Lowe’s, Macy’s, Staples, HP.com, and many more (current offers at the time of publication).
  • Chase Offers: Take advantage of discounts on certain products or with select retailers. Deals must be activated first through either Chase.com or the Chase mobile app.
  • Credit Journey: Monitor your credit with this useful tool by viewing your VantageScore 3.0 based on your TransUnion credit report.
  • Shopping protections: Including Purchase Protection and Extended Warranties
  • Travel protections: Such as Travel and Emergency Assistance Services and Auto Rental Collision Damage Waivers
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 months, then 16.49% - 25.24% Variable
  • Annual fee: $0

Note: Benefits depend on card tier.

PayPal Cashback Mastercard®

PayPal Cashback Mastercard®

Our rating
Min. credit level Fair
Details
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR 22.24%, 26.24% or 29.24% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The PayPal Cashback Mastercard® is perhaps the closest direct competitor to the Citi Double Cash. You have to have a PayPal account in good standing if you’d like to apply, but aside from that, it’s very similar.

This cash back credit card features a flat 2% earning rate, and you can redeem that cash in a variety of ways, including for statement credits and as a contribution to your PayPal balance.

Like the Double Cash, the PayPal card lacks a signup bonus.

There are two clear ways the Double Cash gets the advantage.

One is that the redemption options aren’t as flexible with the PayPal card. You can’t convert your cash back into points, so it’s probably not going to be the first choice for travel rewards junkies.

The other is that the PayPal card doesn’t provide an introductory APR offer, as the Double Cash and the other alternatives listed above do. Again, this will only impact a specific subset of people, so if that’s something you’re looking for, you won’t find it here.

Spending Rewards
  • 2% cash back for every purchase

This card is very simple. You get 2% back on everything, all at once — it doesn’t come 1% at a time like with the Double Cash.

  • ID Theft Protection: Get a variety of identity theft resolution services, including alerts when your identity is used on the surface, dark, and/or deep web, lost wallet assistance, TransUnion credit report monitoring, and more.
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0

Did we miss something? Please let us know in a comment below. Otherwise, don’t hesitate to share this review if you found it useful — we’d appreciate it!

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AT A GLANCE

The Citi Double Cash Card offers 2% cash back on every purchase with no spending limit — 1% back when you make the purchase and 1% back when it’s paid off. There’s also a fairly long balance transfer offer, giving you a chance to pay off a high-interest balance from another card.

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