How to transfer a balance to a Citi credit card
Here's everything you need to know, including card options, fees, restrictions and tips for approval
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You’ve run up too much debt on your existing credit card with a high interest rate. You’re considering transferring that debt to a Citi credit card that offers a 0-percent interest rate on all balance transfers for a limited promotional period. Are you ready?
Here’s what you need to know, from the balance transfer cards Citi offers to fees, restrictions and your chances for approval.
See related: 6 steps to a successful credit card balance transfer
Citi balance transfer guide
Citi balance transfer options
Citi has four options for consumers who want to transfer an existing balance.
Citi Double Cash Card
- Balance transfer fee: $5 or 3 percent of the amount of each transfer, whichever is higher.
- 0 percent promotional period: 18 months.
- Note: This card doesn’t offer an introductory 0-percent APR on purchases.
- Regular APR: See Citi Double Cash Card review.
- Worth noting: You will earn 2 percent cash back on all purchases with this card – 1 percent when you make your purchase and 1 percent when you pay your bill on time.
Citi Simplicity Card
- Balance transfer fee: $5 or 5 percent of the amount of each transfer, whichever is higher.
- 0 percent promotional period: 21 months.
- Regular APR: See Citi Simplicity Card review.
- Worth noting: The card also offers a 0-percent intro APR on purchases for 12 months. Balance transfers must be completed within four months of opening your account. The Citi Simplicity card charges no late fees or penalty interest rates.
Citi Diamond Preferred Card
- Balance transfer fee: $5 or 5 percent of each transfer, whichever is higher.
- 0 percent promotional period: 21 months
- Regular APR: See Citi Diamond Preferred Card review.
- Worth noting: While the 0 percent period for balance transfers is a long one, this card’s 0 percent promotional period for new purchases is shorter, just 12 months.
Citi ThankYou Preferred card
- Balance transfer fee: $5 or 3 percent of each transfer, whichever is higher.
- 0 percent promotional period: 15 months – both on balance transfers and purchases.
- Regular APR: See Citi ThankYou Preferred Card review.
- Worth noting: You’ll earn 2 points when you use your card when dining out or for entertainment purchases. Earn 1 point for every other purchase.
What you should know about Citi balance transfers before applying
There are limits to balance transfers with Citi credit cards, according to the company.
- Transfers aren't immediate. According to Citi, it will take at least 14 days after you open your new Citi card for your balance transfer to close.
- You can transfer any amount, but there is a limit. Citi says that your total balance transfer plus any transfer fees must be lower than your available credit limit.
- You can't transfer your balance from an existing Citi card to another card provided by Citi.
- Don't stop making payments on your existing credit card until you are sure that your balance transfer has closed and that your debt is now on your new Citi card.
- You need to request a balance transfer quickly. Citi requires that you transfer any balances during the first four months of opening your new account.
How to improve your chances of approval for a balance transfer
Ash Exantus, head of financial education and financial empowerment coach in the New York City office of BankMobile, said that banks will look at both your credit score and debt-to-income ratio when determining whether you qualify for a balance transfer.
Exantus said that your credit score is especially important. Your score might be high enough to qualify for a balance transfer. But if your score isn't a strong one, you might take a hit when that 0-percent offer expires, he said.
"What will your interest rate be after your introductory offer is up?" Exantus asked. The higher your credit score, the lower your interest rate should be, but that's not always the case.
It's important to remember, too, that how much you can transfer will depend on your credit limit on your new Citi card. Your credit score will help determine how high this limit is. And if your limit isn't high enough, you might not be able to transfer all your debt to your new card.
"If you can only transfer part of your debt, a transfer generally isn't worth it," Exantus said. "If you are paying off debt on two cards, it can get complicated. If you are going to do a balance transfer, you want to be able to transfer the full balance from your existing card." However, you can still experience some savings if you can only transfer part of your high-interest debt. You'll just have to learn how to manage multiple card payments.
How to initiate a balance transfer on a Citi credit card
If you already own a Citi credit card:
- Log in to your account and choose the "transfer a balance" option from your account page.
- To start the process, provide key information about the card from which you want to transfer a balance.
If you are applying for a new Citi credit card:
- Start a credit card application for one of the four balance transfer cards that Citi offers.
- During your application, you will be given the option to transfer a balance from an existing card. Select this option to proceed.
- Provide basic information about your existing card and state how much you want to transfer. Remember, there's no guarantee that you will be able to transfer the entire amount as Citi will need to evaluate your creditworthiness when establishing how much of a credit limit you will qualify for.
How to make a balance transfer work
A balance transfer won’t improve your financial situation if you don’t manage to pay off your debt before that 0-percent promotional offer expires.
The key, then, is to do whatever it takes to slash that transferred debt quickly.
Kevin Gallegos, vice president of Phoenix operations for Freedom Debt Relief, said that consumers should always follow a household budget, something that is especially important after initiating a balance transfer.
"Live within your means, or better yet, below your means," Gallegos said. "Know exactly what you have to spend each month and spend less. It means taking responsibility and choosing where your money goes."
See related: Don't become addicted to balance transfer offers
Jon Dulin, Philadelphia-based owner of financial site CompoundingPennies, said that it's all too easy to rack up credit card debt again. He did this after graduating from college, a pattern he continued until he discovered that he was depressed.
Once he addressed that issue, he paid off his credit card debt, including the money he transferred, in two years. He recommends that consumers who are constantly transferring balances search for the real reason for their spending issues.
"Buying stuff gave me a high, but that high wore off faster and faster," Dulin said. "It's important to take an assessment of your life. That's not easy. It's not fun. But it can help you change your spending habits."
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