For consumers who carry a balance and owe thousands of dollars in credit card debt, rewards and cash back should be the last thing on their minds. The average credit card interest rate is currently over 16 percent, while the average cash back rate is normally between 1 percent and 2 percent. That difference is so enormous that if you’re carrying credit card debt, you’ll greatly benefit from eliminating it before you start enjoying those rewards.
This is where simple balance transfer cards like the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card or Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card come in. Zero percent APR credit cards might seem boring, but they can help you to pay down debt faster, interest-free. But which of the top balance transfer cards should you choose?
|U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card||Citi Diamond Preferred Card|
U.S. Bank Visa Platinum vs. Citi Diamond Preferred highlights
Welcome bonus winner: Tie
Neither card offers a welcome bonus, so they tie in this category. This is fairly standard for credit cards with longer 0 percent intro APR periods.
Rewards rate winner: Tie
There are also no rewards programs associated with either the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum or Citi Diamond Preferred since these two cards are primarily balance transfer cards.
0% intro APR winner: U.S. Bank Visa Platinum
At first glance, the Citi Diamond Preferred looks like the winner. It offers a 0 percent introductory APR for balance transfers for the first 21 months (variable APR of 14.49 percent to 24.49 percent thereafter) versus the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum’s 0 percent intro APR for 20 billing cycles (variable APR of 15.24 percent to 25.24 percent thereafter). Plus, with the Citi Diamond Preferred, you’ll have four months to transfer your balances, whereas the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum only provides 60 days to qualify for the introductory APR.
However, the Citi Diamond Preferred charges a 5 percent balance transfer fee, while the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum only charges a 3 percent fee, which is more of an industry standard. Even if you must have 21 months to pay off your debt, you’ll actually save money with the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum, despite having to pay interest for the 21st month.
As for purchase intro APR, the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum card offers a 0 percent intro APR period for purchases for a whopping 20 billing cycles (variable APR of 15.24 percent to 25.24 percent thereafter), while the Citi Diamond Preferred offers a 0 percent intro APR for purchases for 12 months (variable APR of 14.49 percent to 24.49 percent thereafter). That makes the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum equally attractive for consumers who are trying to pay off their debt and those who need a breather to buy an expensive item.
Annual fee winner: Tie
Both the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum and Citi Diamond Preferred are no-annual-fee cards, so you won’t have to worry about paying a fee for card membership when trying to pay off debt.
Foreign transaction fee winner: Tie
Both the Citi Diamond Preferred and the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum carry a 3 percent foreign transaction fee, but the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum offers to lower this fee to 2 percent if you’re willing to pay in U.S. dollars while abroad. Be aware, though, that you’ll end up paying a separate dynamic currency conversion fee for converting the local currency to U.S. dollars at the point of sale overseas. Note that most financial experts recommend paying in local currency when traveling abroad.
Which card saves you the most?
Although the Citi Diamond Preferred provides more time to pay off debt interest-free, the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum has a lower balance transfer fee, so you’ll likely save more money by transferring your debt to the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum even if you need a full 21 months to pay off your debt.
U.S. Bank Visa Platinum vs. Citi Diamond Preferred balance transfer example
Let’s say you have $5,000 in credit card debt that you’d like to pay off by transferring it to a balance transfer card. With the Citi Diamond Preferred, you’ll add a 5 percent balance transfer fee for a total of $5,250 to pay off. This means you’ll need to pay $250 a month over 21 months to become debt-free by the time the intro period ends.
Now, let’s say you transfer that $5,000 to the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum instead. With the 3 percent balance transfer fee, you’ll start with $5,150 to pay off. That means you would need to pay $257.50 per month for 20 billing cycles to become debt-free.
However, let’s say that you instead decide to pay that same $250 a month for the first 20 billing cycles. By the end of the intro period, you’ll have paid off $5,000. For the remaining $150 to pay off, the variable APR of 15.34 percent to 25.24 percent kicks in. Even if you pay the highest variable APR of 25.24 percent on that $150, you’d still pay no more than $187.86 for the 21st month. That brings your total to $5,187.86 to pay off instead of the original $5,150.
So, with the Citi Diamond Preferred, you’d need to pay off $5,250 over 21 months and with the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum, you’d need to pay no more than $5,187.86 over 21 months. Hence our verdict that the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum will save you money, even if you need 21 months to pay off your debt, due to its lower balance transfer fee.
Why should you get the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum?
The U.S. Bank Visa Platinum is a great card for consumers who are looking to consolidate their high-interest debt from other credit cards or buy a high-ticket item and pay it off interest-free.
While there are a few standard benefits that almost every credit card offers nowadays — like credit score access, identity theft monitoring and auto bill pay — this card’s cellphone protection is a remarkable perk, especially since this card has no annual fee. This benefit covers primary and additional lines as long as you pay your phone bill with your card. The protection covers damage or theft and pays up to $600 per occurrence with a two-claim maximum over a 12-month period. Additionally, there is a $25 deductible per claim.
Since there is no rewards program associated with U.S. Bank Visa Platinum, no redemption options are available.
Recommended credit score
The minimum recommended FICO score for the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum is 670.
Why should you get the Citi Diamond Preferred?
If you need a generous 0 percent intro APR for 21 months to pay off debt, you will appreciate the Citi Diamond Preferred. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the card gives you four months to transfer your high-interest balances, which could certainly make the card worth it.
No one could claim that this card is ripe with perks, but it does have a few benefits beyond standard card benefits like $0 fraud liability, 24/7 customer service and account alerts. If you like sporting events and shows, Citi Entertainment can get you special access to sales, preferred seating and VIP packages. You can also save money with Citi Easy Deals discounts on everyday purchases. Finally, Citi Diamond Preferred offers an ID Theft Protection program you can enroll in to monitor your personal information and alert you of any suspicious activity.
Citi Diamond Preferred doesn’t offer a rewards program, so there are no redemption options available.
Recommended credit score
For the Citi Diamond Preferred, the minimum recommended FICO score is 670. To increase your odds of approval, you can see if you prequalify for a Citi card through Citi’s website or our CardMatch tool.
The bottom line
Both the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum and Citi Diamond Preferred offer very generous 0 percent introductory APR periods for balance transfers — 20 billing cycles and 21 months respectively. But the Citi Diamond Preferred charges a 5 percent balance transfer fee, whereas the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum charges the industry average of 3 percent. So unless that one extra month is crucial to your debt payoff plan, the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum might be a better choice.
After you’ve paid off your debts — or an expensive purchase — there are no compelling reasons to actively use either card, although the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum tries a little harder to retain cardholders with its cellphone protection coverage. Still, we don’t recommend closing any no-annual-fee cards since doing so may negatively impact your credit score. Just use your plain balance transfer card every now and then to make sure the issuer doesn’t close it for you.