The Citi Double Cash is, at face value, a no-annual-fee, 2% cash back credit card. But rather than awarding 2% cash back on purchases, the geniuses in Citi's credit card division came up with a way to drag out their cash back awards over the life of a balance (compare to Barclaycard's practice of awarding Arrival+ miles as soon as purchases move to posted from pending status).
According to the card's terms and conditions, there are two ways to earn cash back:
"Cash Back on Purchases: Unless you are participating in a limited time promotional offer, you will earn 1% cash back based upon eligible purchases appearing on your current month's billing statement. Eligible purchases you make will be accumulated in the 'Purchase Tracker' shown on your billing statement. The Purchase Tracker shows the balance eligible to earn cash back on payments each billing cycle.
"Cash Back on Payments: You will also earn 1% cash back on payments you make that appear on your current month's billing statement as long as the amount paid is at least the Minimum Payment Due that is printed on your billing statement and there is a balance in the Purchase Tracker. The balance in the Purchase Tracker is reduced by eligible payments you make. When the Purchase Tracker reaches $0, you won't earn cash back on payments until more eligible purchases are made."
This Rube Goldberg contraption raised a few obvious questions: what's a "Purchase Tracker?" How often is it updated? Most importantly, would payments made against purchases in the same billing cycle award all 2% in cash back when the statement closed, or would cardholders have to wait for a second statement to close before they earned the second 1% cash back?
Now that my first Citi Double Cash statement has closed, I'm prepared to reveal all.
What does a Purchase Tracker look like?
There are two versions of the Purchase Tracker: the one that appears on your billing statement, and the one that appears online. They reflect the same information, but in slightly different ways. Here's the Purchase Tracker that appears on my billing statement:
And here's my online Purchase Tracker:
As you can see, my Purchase Tracker reflects all the purchases and all the payments I made during my first billing statement, and I received 1% cash back on each.
The Purchase Tracker is not updated in real time
The online Purchase Tracker only reflects purchases and payments on your last billing statement; it is not updated in real time, and my best guess it that it's unnecessary to wait for your purchases to post before making payments against them.
In other words, all your purchases in the current billing cycle are added to your previous Purchase Tracker balance, and all your payments during the current billing cycle are compared to that new total. If your total payments are less than that new Purchase Tracker balance, you'll receive 1% cash back on the total payments amount.
Statement credit redemptions are not payments and are not supposed to reduce the Purchase Tracker
When redeeming your Double Cash cash back balance as a statement credit, you're informed that the redemption will not reduce the amount in your Purchase Tracker, since statement credit redemptions are not treated as payments.
On the one hand, that means you won't earn cash back on the amount of your statement credit redemption. On the other hand, that means that even when you pay off your entire remaining balance, you will still have a balance in your purchase tracker.
Direct Deposit redemptions aren't immediately available
While you can redeem your Double Cash cash back for statement credits immediately, you cannot redeem your balance as cash back deposited into a bank account until you initiate two ACH "pull" payments from that bank account. Since my "payments" were balance transfers from my new Chase Slate card, I did not have any eligible linked bank accounts, and made a statement credit redemption instead.
If you pay off your entire Citi balance before your statement closes each month, the Citi Double Cash card is a true 2% cash back card. If you instead take advantage of its 15-month 0% introductory APR by paying off your balance as slowly as possible, you won't receive the entirety of your second percent of cash back until you pay off your balance in your 15th month of card membership.