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Citi Simplicity Card: Mitigate Debt With a Balance Transfer

In lieu of rewards, the Citi Simplicity offers cardholders an opportunity to avoid interest by utilizing a balance transfer.

Citi is an advertising partner.

Balance transfer credit cards can be a great way to mitigate debt. If you have a balance on another card that's costing you money due to interest charges, you can transfer it over and pay it down while avoiding interest, usually for 15 to 21 months. 

With the Citi Simplicity Card, you get 0% introductory APR for 21 months from the date of first transfer, then 16.99% to 26.99% variable APR (balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening). However, keep in mind that, with the long offer period, comes a significant balance transfer fee of 5% ($5 minimum), while most cards charge 3%.

The card also features an introductory 0% APR for purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening (then 16.99% to 26.99% variable), which you could use to finance a large purchase. But considering the card offers no rewards, you'd be better off using this card for a balance transfer and then using another card to generate a return on your spending.

The Simplicity does not have an annual fee, so consider pairing it with a rewards credit card. That way, you could use the Simplicity to knock out some credit card debt while still earning rewards via another card.

In this article

Citi Simplicity® Card

7/10 CNET Rating
Card Highlights
Intro OfferN/A
APR16.99% - 26.99% (Variable)
Intro Purchase APR0% for 12 months on Purchases
Recommended Credit Excellent, Good
Reward RatesN/A
Annual Fee$0
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APR0% for 21 months on Balance Transfers
Balance Transfer APR16.99% - 26.99% (Variable)
Balance Transfer Fee Balance transfer fee applies with this offer 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum
Late Payment Fee No Late Fees
Foreign Transaction Fees 3%

Introductory APR on balance transfers

The main feature of the Citi Simplicity is its introductory 0% balance transfer APR for 21 months from the date of first transfer (then 16.99% to 26.99% variable).

If you transfer a balance and then continue to make purchases with the card, it could take longer to pay off. 21 months is a good amount of time for the intro balance transfer promotion, but you don't want to get comfortable and forget how much time you have left, adding new purchases all the while, and then end up not being able to pay it down in time. 

To avoid interest entirely, you'll want to make sure to make all of your minimum payments on time and pay off the whole balance before the promotion ends.

It's important to note that you must transfer your balance within four months of opening your account to take advantage of the introductory APR, so your application must be timely. Citi also doesn't allow balance transfers from one Citi credit card to another.

Another factor to consider is the Citi Simplicity's balance transfer fee. When you transfer over a balance from another card, you'll pay a portion of that balance. In this case, either $5 or 5% of the transfer, whichever is greater.

Why use a balance transfer?

A balance transfer is a great tool against debt. If you're accruing interest on a credit card balance, you can move it to a card like the Citi Simplicity and pay it down faster while avoiding interest charges.

Cardholders can allocate the money they would normally be spending on interest charges toward the balance in order to get rid of it quicker.

Just be sure you're paying more than the minimum each month to ensure you can pay down the balance within the given time period. A good way to figure out how much you should pay is to divide the credit card balance by the number of months you have for the intro APR offer. 

For example, if you have a balance of $3,000 with 21 months to pay it down, you should pay at least $143 each month. But just to be safe -- and if your finances allow it -- pay a little extra just to really be sure you can get the balance down in time.

Is the high balance transfer fee worth it?

More often than not, a balance transfer fee pales in comparison to the cost of the interest charges from the other credit card. With the Simplicity, if you have a balance of $3,000 on another card, you'd need to pay $150 to move it over. There are cards that have a lower fee (see the comparable cards section below), but they may also come with a shorter offer period.

So if you instead transferred $3,000 to a card with a 3% balance transfer fee that offered 15 months to pay it down at 0% interest, for example, you would end up paying $90 in balance transfer fees. However, you would need to pay more each month in order to pay it off in time. 

This is fine if your finances allow you to allocate more money toward the balance, but if you're not able to do that, paying the larger fee to get a longer period might be the better choice. If you can't pay off the balance within the promotional period, it'll start to accrue interest, costing you even more in the long run.

There are some balance transfer cards without balance transfer fees, but they're seldom a better choice, either due to other fees or a shorter time frame to pay the balance down.

Introductory APR on purchases

The Citi Simplicity Card introductory APR covers purchases as well, meaning you can prevent interest charges on your new purchases rather than on transferred balances. But this option gives you much less time to pay off your balance: The introductory 0% APR on purchases lasts for 12 months, and then you will be subject to a 16.99% to 26.99% variable APR after that. But because the Citi Simplicity doesn't feature any rewards, it'd be best to use another card for purchases.

Instead, consider pairing this card with a flat-rate rewards card with no annual fee, like the Citi® Double Cash Card or Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

You can use the Simplicity to help eliminate some credit card debt, and then use either of those cards to earn a return on necessary purchases like gas or groceries. The Active Cash even features an introductory 0% APR for purchases and qualifying balance transfers for 15 months from account opening (then 17.99%, 22.99% or 27.99% variable APR), so you'd be able to avoid interest charges on both the Simplicity and the Active Cash.

Other card benefits

The Citi Simplicity doesn't offer much outside of the opportunity to utilize a balance transfer or finance a large, planned purchase (though another card would be the better choice for the latter). 

There isn't a welcome bonus or any rewards, and few other perks outside of the standard fraud protection. It's an incredibly simple card best used to help alleviate the pressure you might be feeling from credit card debt.

Citi markets the card as having fewer fees than other cards, but it still has balance transfer fees, foreign transaction fees, penalty fees and cash advance fees to be aware of. However, so long as cardholders are making their payments on time, there shouldn't be any issues.

Comparable cards

Consider these alternative cards to the Citi Simplicity. Each one brings something useful to the table, in addition to featuring balance transfer opportunities.

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card is arguably the best balance transfer credit card currently available. Similar to the Simplicity, U.S. Bank Visa Platinum has no annual fee and gives cardholders the opportunity to transfer a balance from another card and then pay it down at 0% introductory interest over 18 billing cycles (then 17.49% to 27.49% variable). It also features the same introductory APR offer for new purchases.

The introductory period on balance transfers is one month less than what the Simplicity features, but it also carries a slightly lower balance transfer fee. The U.S. Bank Visa Platinum's fee is 3% of the transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater, compared to the Simplicity's 5% or $5 minimum.

In addition to offering a lower balance transfer fee, cardholders will get a few extra perks with the U.S. Bank card, including cell phone insurance (so long as they pay their phone bill with the card) that protects against damage and theft, and the ability to check their VantageScore credit score from TransUnion.

So not only does it offer a few extra bells and whistles compared to the Simplicity, but cardholders can also save money should they choose to utilize a balance transfer because of its lower fee.

For more details, see our full review of the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card.

Wells Fargo Reflect® Card

The Wells Fargo Reflect Card is another good choice if you're in the market for a balance transfer card. Cardholders get an intro 0% APR for purchases and qualifying balance transfers for 18 months from account opening (then 15.99% to 27.99% variable). However, you can extend that period by an additional three months -- for a total of up to 21 months from account opening -- if you make your minimum payments on time during the first 18 months.   

It has an introductory balance transfer fee of 3% ($5 minimum) for 120 days from account opening before increasing to up to 5% ($5 minimum). Considering you need to initiate any transfers within the first 120 days from account opening, you'll want to wait to apply for this card until you're ready to make the balance transfer..

The Wells Fargo Reflect comes with cell phone protection against damage or theft (you'll need to pay your phone bill with the card to qualify) and roadside dispatch, giving it a little more utility than the Simplicity. Other than that it's pretty similar. So if you're looking for a card that offers a few extra perks with a low introductory balance transfer fee, consider this card over the Simplicity.


Is it worth paying a balance transfer fee?

It depends on the size of your balance and how high the APR is on the card you're looking to transfer the balance from. In most cases, paying a balance transfer fee will likely be the best course of action as opposed to dealing with the cost of interest charges month after month.

How long does a balance transfer take?

According to Citi, it takes anywhere from two to 21 days to process a balance transfer. During that time, be sure you're still paying the minimum monthly payment on the card you're transferring the balance from to be sure there's no lapse in payments.

What happens if I don't pay off the transferred balance within the given time?

If you're unable to pay off a transferred balance within the given time frame, the balance will begin to accrue interest at the standard APR.

To make sure you can pay off the balance in time, divide the balance by the number of months you have to pay it off. For example, if you're working on a balance of $3,000, and the intro balance transfer offer lasts for 18 months, divide 3,000 by 18. As long as you're paying at least $167 monthly, you shouldn't have any issues. However, if you want to be sure, pay a bit more than that.

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