Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card review: Is it the “preferred” Citi balance transfer card?
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Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card Overview
Whether you’re looking to pay off debt via a balance transfer or finance new purchases, the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card could be a lifesaver. The card comes with a lengthy introductory APR offer on both purchases and balance transfers, charges no annual fee and gives cardholders with good to excellent credit a chance at a relatively low ongoing APR, which could make the Citi Diamond Preferred worth it for you.
The card’s long introductory balance transfer APR is hard to beat and may make the card a good fit if you think you’ll need a long time to pay down your balance. However, you could save more by getting a card with a lower balance transfer fee instead and a long intro purchase APR (if you have big expenses on the horizon). Plus, the card offers little in the way of long-term viability outside its somewhat low ongoing interest rate after the intro APR ends due to its modest benefits and lack of ongoing rewards.
What are the pros and cons?
- The low 12-month 0 percent intro purchase APR (previously 18 months) pigeonholes the already niche Diamond Preferred into a more balance transfer-focused role
- The 5 percent balance transfer fee (or $5, whichever is higher) is on the high end of what is typical (3 to 5 percent)
- The potentially low ongoing APR 14.49 percent to 24.49 percent (variable APR) doesn’t provide enough ongoing value low to warrant keeping the card after you complete your balance transfer
- 3 percent foreign transaction fee
- No ongoing rewards program, which limits your value after paying off your balance
A deeper look into the current card offer
- Rewards Rate: None
- Welcome Offer: N/A
- Annual Fee: $0
- Purchase Intro APR: 0 percent for 12 months
- Balance Transfer Intro APR: 0 percent for 21 months
- Regular APR: 14.49 percent to 24.49 percent (variable)
Current welcome offers
Hardly any balance transfer cards provide a cash intro offer, and the Citi Diamond Preferred is no exception. Citi recently removed the card’s welcomer offer of a $150 statement credit after spending $500 in the first three months, leaving the BankAmericard® credit card as one of the only dedicated balance transfer cards to feature a cash welcome offer: a $100 statement after spending to $1,000 in your first 90 days.
That said, the Citi Diamond Preferred Card’s main introductory offer is its current 0 percent intro APR on both balance transfers (for the first 21 months) and purchases (for the first 12 months) as a cardmember (14.49 percent to 24.49 percent variable APR thereafter). Balance transfers must be completed within four months of account opening. That gives you more than a year to chip away at transferred debt or cover purchases without paying interest.
Though the Citi Diamond Preferred Card has featured an even longer intro purchase APR period in the past for purchases (18 months, most recently), 12 months is still a solid offer. However, this reduction pigeonholes the Citi Diamond Preferred into a more balance transfer-focused role compared to the all-around zero-interest card status it held before. This is a bit disappointing, especially since other prominent balance transfer cards offer matching intro purchase and balance transfer APR periods equivalent to 15 months or more.
For instance, the Wells Fargo Reflect℠ Card provides one of the longest 0 percent intro APR periods on both purchases from account opening and qualifying balance transfers at the moment—up to 21 months with on-time minimum payments during the intro and extension periods (then a 13.74 percent to 25.74 percent variable APR). In fact, this shake-up may make no annual fee cash back credit cards a more valuable option in the long run for many cardholders.
If you need to pay down debt, opting for a balance transfer with Citi could be a great option. Just be sure to complete your transfer within four months of opening your account and pay at least the minimum due each month to protect your credit score (and, ideally, pay more than the minimum to ensure you’re not left with a balance when the intro APR period ends).
Other cardholder perks
Without a doubt, the main benefit of the Citi Diamond Preferred Card is its long intro APR period on balance transfers. The card is noticeably thin on other perks and carries no ongoing rewards program, which severely limits its long-term value. Still, the Citi Diamond Preferred offers a handful of benefits worth mentioning.
Citi Flex Loan
Citi Flex Loans allow you to borrow money against your Citi card credit limit at a fixed rate and pay it back over a set period of time, with no additional fees, application or credit inquiry required. This could be a useful tool should you need a personal installment loan down the line. The catch is you must be targeted for a Citi Flex Loan by the issuer—they’re not available for all cardholders. Cardholders may also have the option to finance Amazon.com purchases with Citi Flex Pay and, depending on the size of the purchase, choose from one to five equal monthly payment plans.
Citi Entertainment can get you early or VIP access to thousands of experiences like concerts, sporting events, dining and more when you pay with your Citi card. While this is not a make-or-break feature of the Citi Diamond Preferred Card, it’s a decent perk if you enjoy live events, special access and unique experiences.
Citi Easy Deals
Citi Easy Deals are a collection of discounts and daily deals on everyday purchases, including local offers from restaurants and retailers. Depending on how much you spend per year, you can also unlock promotions for gift cards, magazines, travel, merchandise and more. Again, this is a minor perk that’s unlikely to save you a ton of money—but it’s welcome nonetheless.
The Citi Diamond Preferred Card also comes with fairly standard features like contactless payments.
Rates and fees
The Citi Diamond Preferred Card carries no annual fee and could offer cardholders with good to excellent credit a decent ongoing APR, but it may prove costly if you have a big balance to transfer, fail to pay off your balance during the introductory period or can only qualify for its high-end APR. Keep these rates and fees in mind as you consider whether the card is a good fit:
- Balance transfer fee: To take advantage of this card’s balance transfer offer, you’ll need to pay a balance transfer fee of 5 percent of the amount you want to transfer (or $5, whichever is higher). Five percent is on the high side of the spectrum, and since many cards charge 3 percent, a lower fee may make up for a shorter intro APR. Check out Bankrate’s credit card balance transfer calculator and see how the math shakes out for you.
- Foreign transaction fee: The card charges a foreign transaction fee of 3 percent for purchases made abroad, so it’s not the best choice for frequent international travelers.
- Ongoing APR: The Citi Diamond Preferred offers a wide range of potential APRs, depending on your creditworthiness. While the card’s low-end variable APR of 14.49 percent is a bit lower than the average credit card APR, the high-end variable APR of 24.49 percent is very high indeed—almost 40 percent higher than the average credit card APR. In either case, carrying a balance will be costly, so do your best to pay off any new purchases or transferred balances before the end of the card’s introductory APR period.
While dependent on your financial situation, the balance transfer fee and ongoing APR could land towards the higher end of the spectrum for balance transfer cards (the standard balance transfer fee is 3 percent). However, the foreign transaction fee is the industry standard among non-travel cards.
First-year card value vs. ongoing value
Unfortunately, the Citi Diamond Preferred card’s lack of ongoing features means it falls into transfer cards’ common trap: not providing much incentive to hold onto the card after settling your balance.
Since there are no rewards or perks packaged with the card that provide monetary value back, any ongoing value to gain from the Citi Diamond Preferred card comes from the time and interest you save with its zero-interest periods—which can be a sizable sum. If your issuer classifies your Diamond Preferred as a World Elite Mastercard, you may be eligible for a $10 Lyft statement credit per month after taking five Lyft rides during that time (up to a $120 value per year). But any eligible Mastercard with World Elite benefits gets that benefit, so it isn’t a Citi-exclusive benefit worth sticking around for.
Otherwise, the Diamond Preferred card doesn’t provide any competitive ongoing value after your intro APR ends. The minimum ongoing variable APR isn’t drastically below average, so the Diamond Preferred isn’t necessarily the best low-interest credit card to hold onto after paying off your balance compared to low-interest rewards cards.
|Benefits and Costs||First-year value||Ongoing value (no welcome offers)|
|Perks (of monetary value)||—||—|
|Total value of balance transfer (if applicable)**||
*Based on our formula used to calculate each card’s average rewards rates and average ongoing rewards value, using Bureau of Labor Statistics spending data and an assumed $15,900 yearly spend over three years ($1,325 per month).
**Pre-transfer card data based on the average credit card debt, average credit card interest rate (at time of writing), minimum ongoing variable APR and the minimum monthly payment to pay off the balance within the transfer card’s intro APR period factored into Bankrate’s balance transfer calculator and credit card payoff calculator for comparison.
How the Citi Diamond Preferred Card compares to other balance transfer cards
While 21-month balance transfer offers can be tough to come by these days, a handful of cards match the Citi Diamond Preferred Card’s intro APR offer, with a few offering additional benefits like cash back rewards or a lower ongoing APR.
Citi Diamond Preferred Card vs. BankAmericard credit card
The BankAmericard credit card is also primarily a balance transfer card, and while it features minimal cardholder perks and no rewards program, it comes with a unique welcome bonus offer that could make it a surprisingly valuable choice for your balance transfer or large purchases. Along with an 18-month 0 percent intro APR on both balance transfers (made within the first 60 days) and new purchases (13.24 percent to 23.24 percent variable APR after that), the card comes with a $100 statement credit after spending at least $1,000 in the first 90 days of opening your account.
That should be a very easy spending threshold to reach and could easily cover the cost of your balance transfer fee on its own. This is an even bigger perk when you consider the Diamond Preferred’s higher 5 percent balance transfer fee compared to the BankAmericard’s 3 percent transfer fee. Looking at the total cost of a balance transfer, the BankAmericard may have an edge if you have a high balance but don’t need as much time to pay it off.
Unless you’ll save over $100 in interest charges by getting three extra months with the Diamond Preferred, the BankAmericard could be the smarter option, even with a shorter intro APR period.
Citi Diamond Preferred Card vs. Citi Double Cash Card
Since the Citi Diamond Preferred Card is primarily suited for balance transfers, it doesn’t carry much value after you’ve paid off your balance. It may be worth choosing the Citi® Double Cash Card over the Diamond Preferred since it earns an excellent cash back rate on top of its competitive 18-month 0 percent intro balance transfer APR (balance transfers must be within the first four months). After your introductory period ends, the Double Cash also provides a similarly low 14.74 percent to 24.74 percent (variable) ongoing APR.
Since the Double Cash earns up to 2 percent flat-rate cash back—1 percent when you buy, plus 1 percent when you pay—its rewards potential can easily outweigh the savings and three extra months of an intro balance transfer APR you would get with the Diamond Preferred. For instance, paying off a $3,000 balance in 21 months with a $150 monthly payment using the Diamond Preferred card would cost you $150 due to the 5 percent balance transfer fee. The Double Cash card’s lower 3 percent balance transfer fee would result in a lower cost—$90—with minimal added cost from the three fewer months of intro APR. This may make the choosing between the Citi Diamond PReferred and Citi Double Cash easier for many cardholders.
Best cards to pair with the Citi Diamond Preferred Card
The Citi Diamond Preferred Card offers no rewards program, so pairing it with a no annual fee rewards credit card could be a great way to earn points or cash back on some of your spending. Depending on your spending habits, you can opt for a card that offers outsized rewards in a specific category or stick with a flat-rate card to earn rewards on every purchase you make. However, whittling down your balance should be your top priority.
The Citi Double Cash Card is a great flat-rate option, offering up to 2 percent cash back on every purchase (1 percent when you buy and another 1 percent when you pay off those purchases). This card is ideal if you’re looking for a low-maintenance way to earn rewards without worrying about whether your purchases will qualify.
The Chase Freedom Flex℠, meanwhile, requires a bit of work, as you’ll have to enroll in a bonus category each quarter to earn rewards. The card may be worth the trouble, though, as it gets you 5 percent cash back in rotating bonus categories each quarter you activate (on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter, then 1 percent). Plus, you’ll also earn a consistent 5 percent back on Chase Ultimate Rewards travel and 3 percent on dining and drugstore purchases.
Bankrate’s Take: Is the Citi Diamond Preferred Card worth it?
If you need to pay down debt or finance purchases, the Citi Diamond Preferred Card should be a good fit. Though it carries a high 5 percent balance transfer fee and comes with little in the way of ongoing rewards or cardholder perks, the Citi Diamond Preferred Card should get the job done if your goal is to tackle debt, avoid interest charges as long as possible and enjoy some room to breathe.
That said, its shortened intro purchase APR and limited long-term value may make no annual fee rewards cards with slightly shorter intro APR periods a more worthwhile option before and after you’ve paid off your balance. If you need the longest period possible to pay down your balance, the Diamond Preferred is still solid, but other balance transfer-focused cards offer comparable intro purchase APR periods as well.