I have a pretty good idea that if you’re reading this, you’ve gotten yourself into a bit of credit card debt and you’re looking for the best card you can use for 0% APR balance transfers.
Numerous credit card companies offer this, and Citi has some of the more popular ones. But is Citi the best?
Let’s take a look at what Citi offers…
The Best Three Citi Balance Transfer Offers
At the moment, you have a choice between four Citi balance transfer offers, each with a 0% balance transfer APR. I’m discarding one of those – Citi Rewards+ – because the 0% APR period only lasts 12 months. And given all the balance transfer offers these days that are far more generous, 12 months is a non-starter for me.
So, let’s begin with:
Citi Double Cash Card Balance Transfer Offer
Like I said, numerous cards offer a far more generous 0% APR period, and Citi Double Cash is one of them. Currently, the 0% APR promotion stretches to 18 months.
The caveat to note with this card is that new purchases on the card do not benefit from the 0% APR. That’s a drawback for me, since you can find a variety of cards that do offer this benefit.
After 18 months, if you’re still carrying a balance to pay off, the regular APR kicks in at a minimum rate of 15.24% – not the lowest, regular APR on the planet, but certainly not the worst. Let’s call it “middling.”
As for the cost, you’ll pay a balance transfer fee of $5 or 3% of the value of the balance you transfer, whichever is greater. Which obviously means 3%, since who’s going to the effort of transferring just $167 from one card to another (the amount that would equate to a $5 charge)?
A 3% balance transfer fee is pretty standard fare these days – most cards that charge a balance transfer fee charge between 3% and 5% nowadays. But you can do better.
Aside from Citi’s 0% balance transfer APR for 18 months, the only real benefit from this card is that you collect 2% cash back on every purchase – 1% when you spend, 1% when you repay your bill on time. But even this pales in comparison to certain other cards.
In all, the Citi Double Cash card is squarely in the mediocre range. You can do better.
21 Months Balance Transfer Offer with Citi Simplicity Credit Card
We’re definitely moving up the scale with Citi Simplicity.
This card offers 21 months 0% interest on balance transfers. From my research, this is the longest period of 0% APR I can currently find. (Note: The 0% APR lasts just 12 months on new purchases.)
But the long, interest-free period does come with a cost: The balance transfer fee is $5 or 5%, which, of course, means 5%.
If you’re transferring a hefty balance, then you will pay a sizeable fee, for sure. But as I noted in a previous article, a balance transfer fee isn’t necessarily horrible.
In just a few months, you will recoup the fee by way of interest savings. Then, every month thereafter that you have 0% interest, you are essentially putting money in your pocket by not shelling out those interest payments. That’s money you can use, instead, to pay down your credit card balance more quickly.
Once the 0% APR period is over, the regular, minimum interest rate of 16.24% prevails. Middling, just like Citi Double Cash.
Balance transfer must be requested within four months of opening the card
Don’t forget that. Otherwise, this card doesn’t offer a whole lot of other tempting benefits.
The one real benefit this card offers is that it will never charge a late fee or impose a penalty rate if you miss a payment.
Of course, if you’re conscientious about paying your credit card on time, then there are much better perks and benefits you can find with other cards.
Citi Diamond Preferred Card Balance Transfer Offer
Honestly, I’m not exactly sure what Citi’s going for here. This card is almost identical to Citi Simplicity.
It offers an 18-month 0% APR on balance transfers and new purchases (so that’s a bit better). It has a $5 or 5% balance transfer fee. The regular APR is 15.24% after the 0% promotion ends.
The primary difference is that Citi Simplicity offers the no fee/no penalty-rate benefit and Citi Diamond does not.
Other than that, this card is as mediocre as Citi Simplicity.
The Best Citi Balance Transfer Offer
Of all the Citi balance transfer offers, Citi Simplicity makes the most sense, but only for a particular customer – someone wanting to transfer a large balance (in excess of $10,000), and who wants the longest possible 0% APR period in which to pay down (or pay off) the debt.
If you can get 21 months with Simplicity, I see no real benefit to limiting yourself to 18 months with Citi Diamond Preferred or Citi Double Cash (unless you like the 2% cash back option with the latter).
The Better Balance Transfer Credit Cards
While the Citi balance transfer offers are, at best, middle of the road, you can find much better offers if you spend time shopping around. Here are a few I think are, objectively, better.
Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
- Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
- Earn cash rewards without signing up for rotating categories
- Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
- Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
- $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
- No limit to how much cash back you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account
- Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
- Get customized alerts and manage your account with the Capital One mobile app
Each of those cards offers a 15-month 0% APR period, and each comes with various cash-back sign-up bonuses that, effectively, reduce the balance-transfer fee you’ll pay. Amex EveryDay imposes no balance transfer fee, which can represent a big savings, depending on the balance you’re transferring.
Who Should Consider a Balance Transfer
Two answers here.
1. You have a high balance on a credit card with a high-interest rate.
If you can get 0% APR for 15 to 21 months, you will save a ton of money, even if you do have to pay an upfront balance transfer fee for that. Moreover, you will continue to save money after the regular interest rate kicks in, assuming you choose a card with a rate that is currently less than the rate you’re paying.
2. You have multiple credit cards with multiple payment dates and you want to consolidate everything into a single card. This is more of a logistical, debt-management issue than an interest-rate issue. Still, if you can get 0% APR on balance transfers and new purchases – and assuming you carry a balance – then consolidating your credit onto a single card can simplify your financial life.
How to Get the Most Benefit from a Citi Balance Transfer
Easy. Look for the card that offers you the best options for your lifestyle and needs.
If you know you need a long period of time to repay your debt, then you want a card like Citi Simplicity and its 21 months of 0% APR on balance transfers.
If you want a 0% balance transfer APR card that also offers perks, then you need to decide where most of your spending happens. Amex EveryDay, for instance, 2x points at supermarkets – assuming supermarket spending is a primary expense for you. If not, then maybe Capital One Quicksilver Rewards is better with 1.5% cash back everywhere.
Strategies Once You Get Your 0% Balance Transfer Card
Getting a new 0% balance transfer card is one thing. Using it properly is another.
- First, request a balance transfer immediately after getting your card. All balance transfer cards impose a deadline for requesting a transfer. Miss that date and your effort obtaining the card is wasted.
- Second, never miss a payment. I repeat: NEVER miss a payment. If you do, you risk voiding the 0% APR period, which means the regular interest rate suddenly prevails, negating all the benefits of having a 0% APR card.
- Third, have a plan for paying off your debt (or as much of it as possible) during the 0% APR period. This is the entire reason for getting such a card – so make the most of it.
- Finally, do not use the card for new purchases, even if new purchases are included in the 0% APR option. Use this card simply as a debt warehouse where you store the debt you want to repay – and then conscientiously repay it. Use a different card for new purchases – and be judicious about those purchases so that you don’t need a new 0% balance transfer card in the future.
The Wrap Up
The various Citi balance transfer offers are generally mediocre – though the best of the bunch is clearly the Citi Simplicity card because of its industry-leading 21 months of 0% balance transfer APR.
For someone who needs a long period to repay their debt, Simplicity is hard to beat.
That said, better options exist for balance transfers that combine a relatively long period of 0% APR with various other perks including cash back or no balance transfer fees.
But we want to know: What’s most important to you – the longest possible period of 0% APR or cash back and no balance transfer fees? Let us know in the comments below.