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Discover it Cash Back vs. Citi Diamond Preferred: Which is better for a balance transfer?

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When you’re trying to pay down credit card debt, a balance transfer credit card can be a valuable tool. Cards in this niche let you secure a 0 percent APR for a limited time on transferred debts, and most cards don’t charge an annual fee to take advantage of this perk. But there are plenty of variables among balance transfer cards that are worth paying attention to, including the fact that some intro APR offers last much longer than others.

Two of the top balance transfer cards on the market today are the Discover it® Cash Back and the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card. Keep reading to learn how they compare.

Main details

Discover it Cash Back Citi Diamond Preferred
Welcome bonus Discover will match all rewards earned during the first year None
Rewards rate
  • 5% cash back on rotating categories each quarter (on up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1 percent; activation required)
  • 1% back on all other purchases
None
Intro APR 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (followed by a variable APR of 12.24% to 23.24%) 0% APR on purchases for 12 months and on balance transfers for 21 months (followed by a variable APR of 13.99% to 23.99%)
Annual fee $0 $0

Discover it Cash Back vs. Citi Diamond Preferred highlights

Although both of these cards offer 0 percent APR for a limited time, you might want to choose one over the other depending on your specific goals.

Welcome bonus winner: Discover it Cash Back

The Discover it Cash Back doesn’t offer a traditional welcome bonus, but Discover will essentially double all of the rewards you earn at the end of your first year of card membership. So if you earn $300 in cash back rewards, Discover will match that amount and add another $300 to your rewards balance once the first 12 months are up.

In comparison, the Citi Diamond Preferred does not offer a welcome bonus. The Discover it Cash Back is the clear winner in this category due to its rewards potential (despite the fact that you have to wait 12 months for your rewards balance to be matched).

Rewards rate winner: Discover it Cash Back

The Discover it Cash Back offers 5 percent cash back on rotating categories each quarter (on up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1 percent; activation required). Some of the rotating bonus categories for 2022 include restaurants, Amazon and gas stations. You’ll also earn 1 percent back on all other purchases you make with your credit card.

In contrast, the Citi Diamond Preferred doesn’t offer any rewards. With that in mind, the Discover it Cash Back is the better option if you want to earn rewards on your spending.

Intro APR winner: Citi Diamond Preferred

The Citi Diamond Preferred stands out in this category since you’ll get a 0 percent intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months (13.99 percent to 23.99 percent variable APR after), which is the longest intro APR period on the market. However, you’ll only get a 0 percent APR on purchases for 12 months with this card. In comparison, the Discover it Cash Back offers a 0 percent intro APR on both balance transfers and purchases for 15 months (12.24 percent to 23.24 percent variable APR after).

The Citi Diamond Preferred’s additional six months to pay down debt interest-free could be of tremendous benefit if you have a lot of high-interest debt you need to consolidate. After all, a longer 0 percent APR timeline could allow you pay down a larger balance before the introductory rate expires, or you could pay a lower amount each month during the introductory period and still become free of debt.

Annual fee winner: Tie

Neither one of these cards charges an annual fee, which is good news for consumers who want to consolidate debt while minimizing all out-of-pocket costs.

Foreign transaction fee winner: Discover it Cash Back

The Discover it Cash Back, like all Discover cards, doesn’t charge a fee on foreign transactions. The Citi Diamond Preferred, however, charges a 3 percent fee on purchases made abroad. That makes the Discover it Cash Back the clear winner in this category.

Which card earns the most?

Discover it Cash Back vs. Citi Diamond Preferred balance transfer example

Let’s imagine you have $5,000 in credit card debt. If you decide on a balance transfer with the Citi Diamond Preferred, you would pay a 5 percent (minimum $5) balance transfer fee on that $5,000, which comes to $250. You would then have 21 months to pay off your debt at 0 percent intro APR (13.99 percent to 23.99 percent variable APR after). This means you would start off with a balance of $5,250 and would need to pay $250 per month to become entirely debt-free before your offer period ends.

With the Discover it Cash Back, you’ll pay an introductory balance transfer fee of 3 percent, after which the fee can be up to 5 percent of each transfer amount (see terms). That 3 percent fee on $5,000 in debt comes to $150, so you’ll start off with a balance of $5,150, and you’ll have 15 months to pay off your debt before your offer ends (12.24 percent to 23.24 percent variable APR after). Therefore, you’ll have to pay $343.33 each month for 15 months to become debt-free before your intro APR period ends.

Thus, the Citi Diamond Preferred’s additional six months to pay down debt without interest can make a huge difference in your debt payoff plan. Despite the higher balance transfer fee, the longer intro APR period will allow you to pay a smaller amount each month and still become debt-free before the intro period ends.

Why should you get Discover it Cash Back?

There are several reasons to pick the Discover it Cash Back over comparable balance transfer credit cards. The main perk is that this card offers rewards, which Discover matches after the first year. Here are some other factors to consider:

Additional benefits

The Discover it Cash Back offers some additional benefits that may be worth considering if you can’t decide between these two cards. Some of the perks include Social Security protection, the ability to easily freeze and unfreeze your credit card, $0 fraud liability, 24/7 customer service and a free FICO score on your credit card statement.

Redemption options

This card lets you redeem rewards for direct deposits, statement credits, gift cards or purchases on Amazon or PayPal.

Recommended credit score

The Discover it Cash Back requires a credit score in the good to excellent range, meaning your score must be at least 670 for the best odds of approval.

Why should you get the Citi Diamond Preferred?

If you’re not a huge fan of rewards and are mostly interested in paying off debt, the Citi Diamond Preferred is a better option since you’ll get a 0 percent APR on balance transfers for 21 months (13.99 percent to 23.99 percent variable APR thereafter), which is currently the longest 0 percent APR period for balance transfers offered. Here are some of the other reasons to pick this card:

Additional benefits

The Citi Diamond Preferred comes with a few other benefits worth noting. One example is Citi Entertainment, which provides special access to concert tickets, presale events, exclusive experiences and more. Plus, you’ll get access to Citi Easy Deals, which provides discounts on everyday purchases for a limited time. The card also comes with identity theft solutions, $0 fraud liability, 24/7 customer service and the ability to choose your own payment due date.

Redemption options

Since the Citi Diamond Preferred doesn’t offer any rewards, there are no redemption options for this card.

Recommended credit score

The Citi Diamond Preferred requires a credit score in the good to excellent range, meaning your score must be 670 or better.

The bottom line

Before you craft a plan to get out of debt with a balance transfer card, you should first compare all of the top 0 percent intro APR card offers on the market today. Some cards in this niche offer rewards and welcome bonuses, while others offer a much longer 0 percent APR period or lower balance transfer fees. Deciding on what you’re looking for and comparing cards will help you to find the best card for your needs and goals.

Written by
Holly D. Johnson
Author, Award-Winning Writer
Holly Johnson writes expert content on personal finance, credit cards, loyalty and insurance topics. In addition to writing for Bankrate and CreditCards.com, Johnson does ongoing work for clients that include CNN, Forbes Advisor, LendingTree, Time Magazine and more.
Edited by
Associate Editor