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Making the Most of Citi Simplicity

October 31, 2016
Balance Transfer Credit Cards, Credit Cards
Making the Most of Citi Simplicity
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We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

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The Chase Slate® is no longer available on NerdWallet. See NerdWallet’s best low interest and 0% APR credit cards.

You’ll know when you’re making the most of the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever — when it seems simple.

That’s because the card’s virtue lies in what it lacks: no rewards program to learn, no late fees or penalty interest rates, no interest for 18 months, an annual fee of $0. If you’re exerting effort to optimize this card, you’re doing it wrong.

Even so, some of the card’s distinguishing features seem to subliminally whisper, “Don’t worry. It’s OK to be sloppy with your finances.” It makes us nervous that the card could encourage bad money habits, so any strategy to maximize the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever should involve not falling prey to them.

Use the interest-free period

If you’re a newish cardholder, one of the most valuable features of the card is its lengthy no-interest period. That makes it one of the better balance-transfer cards on the market. The card has an introductory annual percentage rate of 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 15.74% - 25.74% Variable APR.

That 0% rate on transfers is available only to new cardholders, and transfers must be completed within four months of opening the account. You can’t transfer balances from other Citi credit cards.

Note that the interest-free period applies not only to balance transfers, but also new purchases. That means the card could be ideal for charging an unexpected purchase you can’t pay for right away, such as a leaky roof or medical test. Finance charges kick in on any outstanding balance when your introductory period ends.

Note that any savings from the 0% period on transfers will be partially offset by the card’s balance transfer fee of 5% or $5, whichever is greater. That fee gets more significant the larger the balance you transfer.

Nerd tip

If you’re willing to trade a few months at 0% to get your balance transfer fee waived, you might want to check out the Chase Slate® instead. It’s our top pick for transferring high-interest debt.

Pay on time, for your own good

If you pay your Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever bill late, Citi pledges not to charge late fees or hike your interest rate. That’s a nice feature for the chronically forgetful, as the typical credit card late fee runs about $35.

That said, as a personal finance concept, it’s important not to be seduced into keeping the card solely for that reason. Paying late can create bad habits in the rest of your money life. Other lenders aren’t so forgiving.

And if you’re late enough, it could damage your credit, even if there’s no consequence from Citi. You could be reported to the credit bureaus if you fail to pay within 30 days, which will hurt your credit scores.

Consider moving on

Once the 0% APR period expires, the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever becomes a bare-bones credit card. For some, making the most of this card might mean stashing it away.

If you don’t carry a balance and seldom pay late, the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever probably doesn’t hold much allure. You’d be better off with a rewards credit card that gives you cash or points when you use it. If you switch to another card, though, keep your Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever account open. Closing accounts can ding your credit scores by reducing your available credit. There’s no cost to keeping the card around because of its annual fee of $0.

Other features

If you want to dig deep into the card’s trough of features, you’ll find the usual collection of minor benefits. If you already have the card, you might as well use them.

For example, you can set account alerts and choose your preferred monthly payment date. And you get some of the standard perks, such as price protection. Citi calls it Price Rewind, and it’s more robust than most.

You also get car rental insurance, travel insurance and extended warranty protection.

If you’re in debt and don’t have a head for due dates, the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever could be an ideal card for you and provide real value. But once you get your money life on sounder footing, you may find it harder to make the most of the card and might want to graduate to a different one.

Gregory Karp is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter: @spendingsmart.  

Information related to the Chase Slate® has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.