Citi Simplicity® Card Review: A Balance Transfer Credit Card With No Late Fees

This leading balance-transfer card is one of the best we've come across and it's long 0% intro APR offer can help you get out of debt faster. Learn more with our in-depth review.

Citi Simplicity® Card
Our Bottom Line

Few leading cards on the market can match the length of this promo APR offer. The $0 late fee and no penalty APR make this even more wallet-friendly.

What we Like:
  • 0% intro APR for balance transfers and purchases
  • No late-payment fees
  • No annual fee
Key Scores:
5.0 5 Perks
2.5 5 Fees
4.5 5 APR
Perks 5.0/5
Fees 2.5/5
APR 4.5/5
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 16.24% - 26.24%, variable
  • Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 12 months Balance Transfers: 0%, 21 months
  • The ONLY card with No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and No Annual Fee…EVER.
  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers and Purchases for 21 months. All transfers must be completed in the first four months. After that, the variable APR will be 16.24% - 26.24% based on your creditworthiness.*
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 16.24% - 26.24%, based on your creditworthiness.*
  • Save time when you call with fast, personal help, 24 hours a day – just say “representative.”
  • Enjoy the convenience of setting up your own bill payment schedule on any available due date throughout the month.
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The Citi Simplicity® Card, an advertising partner of The Ascent, claims a rare perk as one of the only cards we’ve come across with no late payment fees, no penalty rate, and no annual fee. The main draw for this card, though, is its intro APR. For the first 18 months after opening the Citi Simplicity® Card, you’ll get a 0% APR on both balance transfers and new purchases. Use this offer to consolidate your debt and pay it off more quickly, or to finance a major purchase without paying interest.

Why you can trust me

I’ve been using credit card offers to my advantage for years. When I first landed myself in debt, I used balance transfer offers to pay off $8,000 without spending a dime in interest. I’ve been debt free for four years now, and since then I’ve been using rewards credit cards to earn free travel. I fly internationally using points at least four times per year, and I’ve also used points for free stays in luxury hotels in New York City, Costa Rica, Bangkok, and Paris. Apart from researching credit card offers for personal gain, I’m also a personal finance writer who specializes in credit cards.

Why I applied

I applied for the Citi Simplicity® Card to help me pay off credit card debt. I had already done a balance transfer with the Chase Slate®, but the credit limit I was approved for wasn’t high enough to transfer all of my debt. At the time, the Citi Simplicity® Card had a long intro period on a balance transfer offer at 21 months, and I knew I would need a longer period of time because I was paying off two balances.

What I like about the Citi Simplicity® Card

Long 0% intro APR offer -- Citi Simplicity® Card offers one of the longest intro periods of any credit card for balance transfers at 21 months. It also offers 0% intro APR for 12 months on purchases.

No late fees -- One of the most unique perks is that there are no late fees, ever. While you should always pay your bill on time, because late payments can still affect your credit, it’s nice to know that you won’t be charged if you do slip up and miss a payment.

No penalty APR -- If you miss two or more payments, most credit cards will increase your interest rate to their penalty APR, which often exceeds 30%. Citi Simplicity® Card never charges a penalty rate, so your APR isn’t at risk of increasing due to late payments.

No annual fee -- When you’re paying off debt, a credit card with no annual fee is a must.

Choose your payment due date -- In order to offer you maximum payment flexibility, Citi Simplicity® Card allows you to select a payment due date from a range of options that works best for you. This allows you to make payments right after you receive your paycheck so you don’t have to worry about running out of money before your payment is due.

Low interest rate on cash advances -- While cash advances are generally not recommended, especially if you’re paying off debt, this is one of the few credit cards that doesn’t charge a separate, higher interest rate on cash advances. If you do a cash advance, you will pay the same APR you would pay on purchases.

What could be improved

Balance transfer fee -- The balance transfer fee is 5% or $5, whichever is higher. This means that if you transfer a $5,000 balance, you’ll pay an extra $250. This is on the higher end, as many balance transfer credit cards only charge 3%, which would only cost $150 for a balance of $5,000.

No rewards -- The card doesn’t have a rewards program, which is in line with most other balance transfer credit cards.

Foreign transaction fee -- You will be charged a 3% foreign transaction fee on all transactions made while outside of the U.S. You should use a different credit card while traveling internationally.

Suggested credit score

You should have good credit before applying. Your FICO Score is considered “good” if it is between 670 and 739. Anything below 670 will make it difficult to receive approval. That being said, there are reports of people with scores in the low 600s being approved for this card and other income and current debt factors inform a credit decision.

What you need to know about Citi’s application rules

Citi does have a couple strict rules regarding approval for their credit cards. Dubbed the 8/65 rule, credit card applicants can’t apply for more than one Citi credit card every 8 days, nor can they apply for more than two Citi credit cards every 65 days. Additionally, you can’t apply for more than one business Citi credit card every 90 days.

If you break either of these rules, your application will be denied. So if you’ve applied for a Citi credit card in the past 8 days, or more than one in the past 65 days, wait to apply until you’re not at this limit.

How to do a balance transfer on the Citi Simplicity® Card

The process of doing a balance transfer is fairly easy and can be done completely online, although you can call a customer service representative if you’d like assistance. It’s worth noting that you have to wait 14 days after opening your account to do a balance transfer, and it usually takes about 7-10 days to process.

  1. Apply for the Citi Simplicity® Card.
  2. Once approved, log into your account. On the main account page you will see your current offers, which should include a balance transfer offer. Click “view offer.”
  3. Select the balance transfer offer, and specify the amount you would like to transfer. You’ll then have to include the account number and the name of the creditor from whom you are transferring a balance.
  4. Verify that all of the information is correct and hit submit.
  5. Set up automatic payments to ensure that your balance is paid off in time. Divide your total balance by 21 to determine your monthly payments. To be safe, divide your balance by 20, and you’ll have it paid off a month early.

The balance transfer must be completed within four months of opening your account in order to take advantage of the promotional offer, but you should initiate the transfer as early as possible. The 21-month period starts when you open your account, not when you transfer a balance.

Citi Simplicity® Card vs Citi® Diamond Preferred®

The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card is another one of Citi’s best balance transfer offers. Here’s how the two compare.

Citi card Balance transfer offer Purchase offer Extra benefits
Citi Simplicity® Card 0% APR on balance transfers for the first 21 months 0% APR on purchases for the first 12 months No late fees, no penalty APR
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card 0% APR on balance transfers for the first 18 months 0% APR on purchases for the first 18 months Citi® Private Pass® for special access to concerts and sporting events

The Citi® Diamond Simplicity® Card offers a 21-month 0% APR intro period on balance transfers, which is the longest intro period currently available on balance transfer offers. This gives you three more months to pay off your balance as compared to the Citi Diamond Preferred® Card.

One big drawback of the Citi® Simplicity® Card is that it has a shorter intro period on new purchases. The Citi® Simplicity® Card offers a 0% APR for 12 months on purchases.

You’ll have access to slightly different benefits with the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card, although neither card offers rewards. The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card does charge late fees and a penalty APR for late payments, whereas the Citi Simplicity® Card does not. However, the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card gets you a Citi® Private Pass® which gives cardholders special access to low price event tickets, VIP packages to concerts and sports games, unique dining experiences, free movie screenings, and more.

Is the Citi Simplicity® Card right for you?

If you’re currently repaying debt at a high interest rate, the Citi Simplicity® Card is a good card to consider, especially if you need a little extra time to pay off your balance. If you’re sure you can pay it off in under 15 months, the American Express EveryDay® card may be a better offer as it doesn’t have a balance transfer fee. If you need 18 months, the Citi Simplicity® might be right for you.

Below you’ll find calculations for your monthly payments and net savings (savings on interest less the balance transfer fee) for three different popular balance transfer cards. These calculations were done for a range of different debt balances and APRs

Credit card $5,000 balance at 18% APR $5,000 balance at 10% APR $10,000 balance at 18% APR $10,000 balance at 10% APR $1,000 balance at 15% APR
Citi Diamond Preferred® $278 monthly payments, $493 net savings $278 monthly payments, $256 net savings $556 monthly payments, $985 net savings $556 monthly payments, $310 net savings $56 monthly payments, $74 net savings
American Express EveryDay® $334 monthly payments, $620 net savings $334 monthly payments, $340 net savings $667 monthly payments, $1,243 net savings $667 monthly payments, $680 net savings $67 monthly payments, $102 net savings
Citi Simplicity® $238 monthly payments, $617 net savings $238 monthly payments, $220 net savings $476 monthly payments, $1,231 net savings $476 monthly payments, $442 net savings $48 monthly payments, $95 net savings

Data source: The Motley Fool credit card debt repayment calculator.

It’s important to take into account the monthly payments you’d have to make and not just your net savings. If you choose the option with the highest net savings but can’t achieve the monthly payments, you’ll end up paying more in interest when the intro period ends.

You’ll notice that the American Express EveryDay® wins out if you’re transferring a balance from a card with a lower APR, while the Citi® Simplicity® wins out if you’re transferring a balance from a card with a higher APR. If your APR is in the middle, the two cards offer nearly the same benefit.

The Citi Diamond Preferred® Card offers savings in each of these situations, but it offers the lowest savings of the three cards in every case. So why choose it over other cards?

Intro APR on new purchases -- The Citi Diamond Preferred® Card offers a longer 0% APR intro period on purchases than the two other cards. If you do plan to use the promotional APR to make purchases with the card, the Citi Diamond Preferred® Card might end up saving you the most money.

Payment flexibility -- The Citi Diamond Preferred® Card also offers some valuable benefits for people who find themselves in a financial bind. While this isn’t something you should plan for, it’s comforting to know you’ll never be charged a late fee or a penalty APR if you miss a payment. If you ever find yourself strapped for cash and have no choice but to do a cash advance, the card also charges a lower APR on cash advances.

Chances of approval -- While there’s no way to know whether or not you’ll be approved and what your credit limit will be, sample data from other cardholders suggest the card is easier to acquire, while the Citi® Simplicity® tends to offer a slightly higher credit limit.

One more important factor to consider is the issuer you’re transferring a balance from. You cannot transfer an American Express balance to another American Express card, nor can you transfer a Citi balance to another Citi card. Also, if you’ve ever had one of these cards before, you might not be eligible for another balance transfer offer.

How to apply

The application takes several minutes to complete and asks for basic information, such as:

  • Your name, date of birth, and address
  • Your social security number and citizenship
  • Your annual income and monthly rent or mortgage payments

You could receive instant approval, or you could be told to wait for a decision by mail or email. If you aren’t approved, you can always call Citi’s reconsideration line to implore them to reverse the decision. At the very least, a customer service agent might give you a more clear idea of why you were denied so you can improve your chances for the future.

Final take

The Citi Simplicity® Card is one of the best credit cards on the market for both balance transfer offers and 0% financing on new purchases. While there are a couple other credit cards that might save you more money on a balance transfer because of the balance transfer fee, this one is a great option if you want 21 months to pay it off. It doesn’t offer a lot of additional perks and rewards, but it is designed to be more lenient than your typical credit card for folks who have trouble paying their bills on time. Overall, it’s a solid get-out-of-debt credit card.