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Citi Double Cash: A great cash back card for paying off debt

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According to data from the Federal Reserve, Americans carry more than $4,000 on average in outstanding consumer credit. But, if you’re in need of inspiration to pay off your debt, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s 2021 report revealed that consumers have been paying down their debt and lowering the nation’s total credit card debt in record numbers—from $926 billion in 2019 to $825 billion in 2020.

If you’re looking to reduce or pay off your personal debt, a balance transfer credit card, like the Citi® Double Cash Card, can be an effective tool to utilize. The Citi Double Cash is one of the best cash back cards available thanks to a generous cash back rewards program combined with no annual fee and a lengthy balance transfer offer.

Details of the Citi Double Cash Card

Rewards rate

As its name suggests, the Citi Double Cash Card offers cash back rewards at an exceptional rate, particularly for a card without an annual fee. The card earns 2 percent cash back on all purchases: 1 percent when you make purchases, plus an additional 1 percent as you pay for those purchases.

Introductory 0% APR offer on balance transfers

While the great cash back rate is appealing on its own, this card can be a helpful tool for those seeking a longer intro balance transfer offer—the Citi Double Cash card includes a 0 percent intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months (14.74 percent to 24.74 percent variable thereafter), which is ample time to reduce your debt significantly.

Other Citi Double Cash Card benefits

Other Citi Double Cash Card benefits include a host of security perks, such as $0 liability on unauthorized purchases, fraud alerts, and Citi’s Lost Wallet Service, which replaces your lost or missing card within 24 hours in most cases. You’ll also gain access to the Citi Entertainment program, which offers cardholders early or VIP access to concerts, sporting events and other live events.

Why the Citi Double Cash balance transfer offer is worth mentioning

The Citi Double Cash card has one of the longest 0 percent intro APR periods for balance transfers at 18 months, after which the rate converts to a 14.74 percent to 24.74 percent variable APR.

Does the Citi Double Cash charge a balance transfer fee?

Yes. The Citi Double Cash charges a fee of 3 percent or $5, whichever is greater, for any balance transfers you complete within the first four months of opening your account. If you complete a balance transfer after four months, the Citi Double Cash balance transfer fee jumps up to 5 percent ($5 minimum) for each transfer. The fee structure for this card is not the best, but it’s consistent with other balance transfer cards.

Paying off your debt with the Citi Double Cash

Let’s say you’re like most Americans with an average consumer debt totaling more than $4,000, as mentioned above. If you transfer that debt to the Citi Double Cash card, you can pay off that debt interest-free for the first 18 months. To pay off your debt, one good strategy is to divide your balance into 18 monthly payments. However, keep in mind that you’ll pay a balance transfer fee of 3 percent, too.

For example, say you have $4,346.80 in debt. When you transfer that balance to the Citi Double Cash card within the first four months, you’ll pay a balance transfer fee of 3 percent, which comes to $130.40. So, your balance is now $4,477.20. To pay off that debt within 18 months, simply divide that number by 18 months: $4,477.20 / 18 = $248.73. Thus, you’ll have to pay $248.73 per month to eliminate your consumer credit debt within the 0 percent intro APR period.

How much are Citi Double Cash rewards worth?

Very few credit cards offer a higher flat rewards rate than Citi Double Cash. But keep in mind that the 0 percent introductory offer does not apply to purchases. If you use the card for purchases, make sure to pay your bill in full each month to optimize rewards and avoid paying interest.

Rewards rate

The Citi Double Cash is one of the best Citi credit cards because cardholders earn 2 percent cash back: 1 percent when you make purchases and an additional 1 percent as you pay off those purchases. This rewards structure incentivizes responsible financial behavior since you’ll reap the most rewards by paying your bill in full and on time. Remember, any interest you accumulate on your balance can offset or even negate any rewards you earn.

This rewards card is relatively hassle-free, with no quarterly activation of categories required or restrictive categories to worry about, and there’s no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn. This card should appeal to anyone looking for a more effortless way to swipe and earn.

Redemption options

You can redeem your cash back rewards for a check, statement credit or direct deposit.

Another option is to convert your rewards to Citi ThankYou Points, which only requires $1 in rewards to redeem. When converting your cash back earnings to ThankYou points, $1 in cash rewards is equal to 100 ThankYou points.

Citi automatically creates a ThankYou account for you when you opt to redeem your rewards for points. Through your ThankYou account, you can cash in your points for gift cards, travel with Citi or Shop with Points on Amazon or PayPal. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to transfer ThankYou points to a Citi travel partner without a premium Citi travel card such as the Citi Premier® Card or the Citi Prestige® Credit Card.

An important note: Your Citi Double Cash rewards will expire if you don’t use your card for 12 months.

Tips for maximizing the value of Citi Double Cash rewards

Without spending caps or rotating bonus categories to concern yourself with, you’ll get the most value from the Citi Double Cash if you use it for as many expenses as possible, including gas, groceries, shopping and your cellphone bill.

Pairing your points with a premium Citi card is an excellent strategy to maximize your rewards. If you already own a Citi Premier card or Citi Prestige card, you can combine your ThankYou points and redeem them at the higher rate earned by these premium Citi cards. According to The Points Guy, Citi ThankYou points are valued at 1.7 cents each. You’ll typically get a better value by transferring your ThankYou points to one of Citi’s airline transfer partners.

Redemption options to avoid

Citi offers several ways to redeem your rewards, including through a statement credit, cash back or the Shop with Points program. While these options provide convenience and flexibility, they’re also a poor value, providing far less than 1 cent per point.

Who is the Citi Double Cash best for?

The Citi Double Cash card is best for cardholders who are looking for a flat-rate cash back card and a solid balance transfer offer. Just remember, when the 0 percent intro APR period of 18 months expires, your card will have a variable APR between 14.74 percent to 24.74 percent, depending on your creditworthiness.

Also, since there’s no 0 percent intro APR offer on purchases, this card may be best suited for someone who won’t be tempted to make purchases they can’t pay off if they’re primarily using the card to pay off debt. You don’t want to risk adding to your overall debt when you make a balance transfer. A better strategy would be to wipe out your balance transfer debt first before using your card for purchases.

The bottom line

If you want to pay down high-interest balances, it may be worth it to transfer your balances to the Citi Double Cash since you’ll have 18 months free of interest to tackle the debt. This card is also a good choice if you’re looking for an everyday cash card without quarterly activation categories or category bonuses to worry about. You’ll earn 2 percent cash back for every purchase you make and pay off, which means you’ll continue to receive value from the Citi Double Cash even after the balance transfer promotion expires.

Written by
Tim Maxwell
Contributor
Tim is a freelance personal finance writer and blogger with a particular focus on credit cards and consumer lending. In 2002, he stumbled upon a copy of "The Millionaire Next Door," by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko, which ignited a passion for learning and sharing fact-based money principles. Tim has a passion for demystifying personal finance and helping people live their best lives.
Edited by
Associate Editor