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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 intro APR for a limited time on transferred debts, and many of these cards don’t charge an annual fee. But there are plenty of variables among balance transfer cards that are worth paying attention to, including that some intro APR offers last much longer than others.
Two of the best balance transfer cards on the market today are Discover it® Cash Back and the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card*. Keep reading to learn how they compare.
|Cards||Discover it® Cash Back||Citi Diamond Preferred Card|
|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 back; activation required); 1% cash back on other purchases||N/A|
|Intro APR||0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months (followed by a variable APR of 17.24% to 28.24%)||0% intro APR for 12 months on purchases and for 21 months on balance transfers completed within the first four months (followed by a variable APR of 18.24% to 28.99%)|
Discover it® Cash Back vs. Citi Diamond Preferred highlights
Welcome bonus winner: Discover it® Cash Back
It isn’t a traditional bonus offer, but what Discover it® Cash Back does offer could be even better. Through its Cashback Match™ offer, Discover will double all of the rewards you earn during your first year of card membership. So if you earn $300 in cash back rewards, Discover will match that amount at the end of your first year, bringing your rewards for that year to $600.
The Discover it® Cash Back card is the clear winner in this category due to its rewards potential (despite the fact that you essentially have to wait a year for the bonus). The Citi Diamond Preferred, however, doesn’t currently offer a welcome bonus, though it has occasionally done so in the past.
Rewards rate winner: Discover it® Cash Back
Discover it® Cash Back offers 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 spent in categories that rotate quarterly (activation required). After reaching the cap, and on purchases not in the rotating categories, you earn 1 percent cash back. Some of the rotating bonus categories in the past have included restaurants, Amazon, grocery stores and gas stations.
In contrast, Citi Diamond Preferred doesn’t offer any rewards. With that in mind, 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 card stands out in this category since you can take advantage of a 0 percent intro APR for 21 months on balance transfers made in the first four months of account opening (18.24 percent to 28.99 percent variable APR after), which is one of the longest 0 percent intro APR periods on the market. However, you’ll only get a 0 percent intro APR on purchases for 12 months with this card (18.24 percent to 28.99 percent variable APR after that).
In comparison, Discover it® Cash Back offers a 0 percent intro APR on both balance transfers and purchases for 15 months (17.24 percent to 28.24 percent variable APR after that).
The Citi Diamond Preferred’s additional six months to pay down existing 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 intro APR timeline could allow you to 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 achieve debt payoff.
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 card, 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 or in foreign currency. That makes Discover it® Cash Back the clear winner in this category.
Which card earns the most?
Since Discover it® Cash Back offers 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 spent in quarterly rotating categories when you activate (then 1 percent back), and the Citi Diamond Preferred doesn’t offer any rewards, you’ll earn more with the Discover it® Cash Back every time. If you’re able to max out Discover it® Cash Back’s spending limit each quarter, you’ll earn at least $300 in cash back each year.
However, if your primary goal is to transfer a balance and pay off debt over a long period of time, Citi Diamond Preferred may be the better card for you. Let’s take a look at an example.
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 balance transfer fee ($5 minimum) on that $5,000, which comes to $250. You would then have 21 months to pay off your debt at a 0 percent intro APR (18.24 percent to 28.99 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 entirely wipe out your debt 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 (17.24 percent to 28.24 percent variable APR after). Therefore, you’ll have to pay $343.33 each month for 15 months to pay off your debt 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 0 percent intro APR period will allow you to pay a smaller amount each month and still become debt-free before the intro period ends.
Ultimately, you need to decide whether those extra six months are worth the extra balance transfer fee.
Why should you get the Discover it® Cash Back?
There are several reasons to pick Discover it® Cash Back over comparable balance transfer credit cards. The main factor is that this card offers rewards, which Discover matches the first year. Here are some other factors to consider:
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 number alerts, 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.
This card lets you redeem rewards for direct deposits, statement credits, gift cards or purchases with select merchants (such as Amazon and PayPal).
Recommended credit score
Why should you get the Citi Diamond Preferred?
If you’re mostly interested in paying off debt, the Citi Diamond Preferred is a better option since you’ll get a 0 percent intro APR for 21 months on balance transfers made in the first four months (18.24 percent to 28.99 percent variable APR thereafter), which is currently one of the longest 0 percent intro APR periods for balance transfers offered. Here are some of the other reasons to pick this card:
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 MyDeals, which provides limited time discounts on everyday purchases. The card also comes with identity theft protection, $0 fraud liability, 24/7 customer service and the ability to choose your own payment due date.
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 intro 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.
*The information about the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.