Finding the right credit card can be challenging at the best of times. When comparing three exceptional card offers, such as the Chase Freedom Flex, Citi Custom Cash℠ Card, and Discover It® Cash Back, however, it gets a whole lot more difficult. Never fear – the BestCards team is here to breakdown these cash back behemoths and help you find your Best Card:
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Citi Custom Cash℠ Card, Chase Freedom Flex, or Discover it®: Which Is Right for You?
Before deciding which credit card is right for you, here is a detailed breakdown of the three cards, their features, and their suitability:
Pre-Qualification Before Applying
Applying for a credit card requires a credit check. Often, these credit checks (or credit inquiries) are known as “hard inquiries,” meaning the bank pulls your full credit report before approving (or denying) your credit card application. If you apply for a credit card and are declined, your credit score will likely take a minor hit. One way to avoid a negative impact on your credit score before getting a new credit card is by pre-qualifying before you apply.
Pre-qualification for credit cards is safe, fast, and effective. Citi, Chase, and Discover all offer online pre-qualification before applying, so seeing if you qualify for a lucrative cash back card has never been easier.
Related Article: How to Pre-Qualify for a Credit Card
Credit Score Needed
The Discover It, Chase Freedom Flex, and Citi Custom Cash rewards cards require a “good” or “excellent” credit score, meaning a FICO Score of 670+ is the minimum you should expect to have before applying. For versatile, no annual fee rewards cards, however, a credit score of 700+ is likely needed.
However, keep in mind that your credit score is only one part of the equation. Banks also consider other factors, including how your income compares to your debt obligations and your overall ability to make your monthly credit card payments.
How to Apply
Most credit card applications from major issuers are similar. Here is what you can expect from the application process with all three cards – including what information is needed:
- Full name (middle name and suffix optional)
- Social Security Number
- Phone number
- Email address
- Monthly rent/mortgage expenses
All three cash back cards feature no annual fee. This lack of a yearly charge is excellent, meaning there is no overhead charge before you can begin earning your accelerated rewards.
Like the annual fee, all three card options also feature lengthy 0% intro APR periods. New accounts enjoy 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers with the Custom Cash, Freedom Flex, or Discover It, making them all versatile rewards cards that can also handle emergency expenses or pay down existing balances.
Before conducting a balance transfer, consider the additional fees that occur from the process – the balance transfer fee. All three cards feature a fee of 3% of the transfer amount (or $5, whichever is greater).
Related Article: What is the Longest 0% APR Credit Card?
How to Earn Rewards
Rewards are the main selling point with all three credit cards – and with up to 5% back on select purchases, it is easy to see why. However, the three cards under inspection aren’t entirely similar regarding rewards.
Earning Rewards with the Chase Fredom Flex
Both the Chase Freedom Flex and the Discover It are rotating cash back credit cards. This distinction means the Flex and It earn 5% cash back on purchases in select categories that rotate quarterly.
Here are the Chase Freedom 5% rotating categories for 2023:
|5% Cash Back Category|
|January – March 2023||Target, grocery stores (excluding Walmart), plus fitness and gym memberships|
|April – June 2023||Amazon.com and Lowe’s|
|July – September 2023||Gas stations/EV charging and live entertainment|
|October – December 2023||PayPal, wholesale clubs, and select charities|
The Freedom Flex card also earns 5% back on travel purchases made through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, including vacation and car rental bookings. Cardholders also receive 3% back on dining and restaurant purchases, which also includes takeout orders and deliveries through eligible services, like Grubhub and Uber Eats. That 3% back also applies to drugstore purchases (think Rite Aid, Walgreens, CVS, etc.), which is a really nice bonus.
Earning Rewards with Discover It
Like the Flex, the Discover It Cash Back Card earns 5% cash back on purchases in select categories that rotate quarterly, and 1% back on all other purchases. Unlike the Flex, there are no additional bonus categories – just the 5% back categories, which include the following for 2023:
|5% Cash Back Category|
|January – March 2023||Grocery stores, drug stores, and select streaming services|
|April – June 2023||Restaurants and wholesale clubs|
|July – September 2023||Gas stations and digital wallets|
|October – December 2023||Amazon.com and Target|
Discover matches the rewards earned for the first year with their Cashback Match, meaning they’ll double the total cash back – earn $500 back during the year, and Discover will make it $1,000 automatically.
Earning Rewards with the Custom Cash
In contrast to the two rotating cash back cards, the Citi Custom Cash provides up to 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, and 1% cash back thereafter. Plus, you’ll earn 1% cash back on all other purchases automatically.
Here are the 5% back categories in which Custom Cash cardmembers can earn 5% back on the first $500 spent every billing period:
It’s worth noting that you must pay attention to the merchant’s category code (MCC) when shopping to ensure your purchases fit into your chosen categories. For example, Citi classifies the following as eligible streaming services:
|Amazon Music||Fubo TV||MLB.tv||Prime Video|
|Apple Music||HBO Max||NBA League Pass||Showtime|
|Apple TV+||YouTube (Music/TV)||Netflix||Sling TV|
How to Redeem Rewards
Earning up to 5% cash back is great, but how can you convert those rewards into awards?
How to Redeem Rewards with Citi
While the Custom Cash is theoretically cash back rewards credit cards, there is a great deal of versatility in redeeming rewards. These options include statement credits, direct deposits, or a check.
Cardholders can also automatically convert their cash back towards Citi ThankYou® points. Citi ThankYou® points are the currency of the Citi ThankYou® Rewards Program, with an estimated value of one cent per point. ThankYou® points are applicable towards a wide variety of redemptions, including:
- Gift cards, including 15% more value when redeeming ThankYou points for gift cards from Wayfair®, Sephora®, and Grubhub.
- Merchandise through participating retailers
- Citi loan payments (mortgages, student loans, etc.)
Citibank offers point transfers to nearly 20 airline and hotel partners:
|Wyndham Rewards||Aeromexico||ALL – Accor Live Limitless||Flying Blue||JetBlue TrueBlue||Qantas Frequent Flyer|
|Avianca LifeMiles||Cathay Pacific||Choice Privileges||Qatar Privilege Club||Shop Your Way||Singapore Airlines|
|Emirates Skywards||Etihad Guest||EVA Air||Thai Royal Orchid Plus||Turkish Airlines Miles&Miles||Virgin Atlantic Flying Club|
How to Redeem Rewards with Chase
Chase Freedom Flex cardmembers can opt to redeem their rewards through Ultimate Rewards at a rate of 1% cash back to one Ultimate Rewards point. Cardmembers that choose to earn points instead of cash back can enjoy even more rewards when pairing their Chase Freedom Flex with a Sapphire Reserve or Preferred Card – both of which enjoy enhanced redemption rates through Ultimate Rewards.
Like Citi, Chase offers numerous transfer partners through the Ultimate Rewards program. These programs include:
|Aer Lingus (AerClub)||Air France/KLM (Flying Blue)||Emirates (Skywards)|
|Air Canada (Aeroplan)||British Airways (Executive Club)||Iberia Plus|
|JetBlue (TrueBlue)||Southwest (Rapid Rewards)||Singapore Airlines (KrisFlyer)|
|Virgin Atlantic (Flying Club)||United Airlines (MileagePlus)||IHG Rewards|
|Marriott Bonvoy||World of Hyatt|
Redeeming Rewards with Discover
As with other Discover It credit cards, the Discover it Cash Back offers an easy and straightforward way to redeem the cash back you earn. Cardholders can claim their cash back through statement credits to help pay down balances on their Discover credit cards, or as a deposit into a checking or savings account that they link to their Discover account. There are also other redemption options, including gift cards from major brands, using points to pay for purchases with PayPal or Amazon, and more.
Both the Citi Custom Cash Card and the Chase Freedom Flex are Mastercard products. This means cardholders can expect the following basic Mastercard protections:
|Zero Liability Protection||Mastercard Global Services||ID Theft Protection|
In addition to these basic protections, cardholders may also have access to World Elite Mastercard features, including Luxury Hotels Collection access, Mastercard’s Hotel Stay Guarantee, Priceless Experiences, and more.
The Discover It also provides comprehensive security and fraud protection for cardholders:
Rotating categories are equally frustrating and exciting. They offer the chance to earn enhanced cash back on purchases in categories you love, but for only one quarter each year and up to the quarterly maximum of $2,500). For the rest of the year, you’ll only earn 1% cash back on everyday purchases.
Cards like the Custom Cash make sense as a solution to these types of rotating cards – providing the same versatility of rewards, but with the ability to alter where you earn each billing period.
Here is a quick recap of all the features of all three card offers:
|Citi Custom Cash℠||Chase Freedom Flex||Discover It|
|No annual fee||No annual fee||No annual fee|
|Earn 5% on purchases on your highest eligible spend category each billing cycle up to $500 spent||Earn 5% on up to $1,500 on combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate||Earn 5% on up to $1,500 on combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate|
|0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers||0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers||0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers|
Related Article: Fight Inflation with Cash Back Credit Cards
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