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Citi Simplicity vs. Barclaycard Ring: Ring Wins

Credit Cards, Low Interest and No Fee Credit Cards
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The Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® and the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever aren’t magic, but they can make the high interest rates on your credit card debt disappear, at least for a while. All you need to do is move your debt to one of these 0% APR balance transfer cards and — presto! — you’ll be able to pay your balances down interest-free.

But if you have to “pick a card, any card,” there’s one key reason to opt for the Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard®: In addition to offering a 0% annual percentage rate period, it never charges balance transfer fees. That generally makes it the most cost-effective choice.

How the cards match up

When you’re paying down debt, you want to minimize your costs. Both of these cards can help you do that.

 Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees EverBarclaycard Ring™ Mastercard®
Annual fee$0$0
APR0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 15.24% - 25.24% Variable APR

The 0% balance transfer APR rate applies to transfers made within the first four months of opening the account.
0% on Purchases for 15 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 15 months (on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening), and then the ongoing APR of 13.99% Variable APR
Balance transfer fees$5 or 3%, whichever is greaterNone
Foreign transaction fees3%None
Late feesNoneUp to $27

Why the Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® wins

You can get out of debt free. The Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® is a triple-threat balance transfer card, offering:

  1. A 0% APR promotion
  2. A $0 annual fee
  3. No balance transfer fees

This rare combination of features allows you to pay down a balance without spending a penny on interest or fees. Among cards from major issuers, the Chase Slate® is the only other one that offers these same benefits. In contrast, the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever charges a balance transfer fee of $5 or 3% right off the bat.

It’s generally the cheapest option, in the short term. Suppose you made a $5,000 balance transfer and paid it off in equal installments. If you took 24 months to pay off the debt, the Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® would still be the cheapest option — even though its 0% APR period ends well before that on the Citi card. The longer you take to pay it off, though, the more the results change.

After the introductory 0% APR period ends, you’ll go back to paying interest on any remaining balance. If you qualify for the lowest possible ongoing interest rate on the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever, it will eventually put you ahead in savings after about three years. At that point, the savings from the extra months of 0% interest rate put you ahead of the Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard®. But there’s no guarantee you’ll qualify for that rate.

You won’t pay foreign transaction fees. Most “get-out-of-debt” cards — including the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever — charge foreign transaction fees on purchases made outside the U.S. The Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® doesn’t. If you’re paying down debt while traveling the world, it’s a great card to have on hand.

Why you might want the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever instead

You have a history of being late on payments. Paying your credit card bill late is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad habit to get into. Even if you’re not charged a fee, a late payment on your credit report can damage your credit more than just about anything. (Generally, payments are reported to the credit bureaus as late if they are 30 days past due.) But if you anticipate slipping up a few more times in the future, the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever is your card. Unlike the Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard®, it never charges late fees.

Your credit isn’t flawless. If you’re carrying major credit card debt, your credit might be less than excellent. That’s why you might want to go for the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever, which requires only a good credit score — generally defined as 690 or higher. The Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® requires excellent credit, generally defined as 720 or higher.

You plan to carry debt long-term and think you can qualify for the lowest ongoing APR. There’s no way to know for sure that you’ll qualify for the lowest interest rate on the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever. But if you’ve got sparkling credit and believe you can, that could make the card a slightly more affordable option in some cases, especially if you need more than three years to pay down your debt.

The real question: What costs less?

When you’re dealing with credit card debt, you don’t want a card with a big annual fee and flashy rewards to match. You want a card that can help you make your debt disappear, on the cheap. The Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® lets you do exactly that. In this matchup, that makes it a winner.

Updated April 7, 2017. 

Claire Tsosie is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter: @ideclaire7.