underscored young couple in debt

CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value. We may receive a commission through the LendingTree affiliate network if you apply and are approved for a card, but our reporting is always independent and objective.

Our quick take: Everything about the Citi Simplicity® Card is, well, simple. The card earns no rewards, but it also has no late fees, no penalty rates and no annual fee. It offers an introductory interest rate on balance transfers that lasts a full 21 months, making it ideal for those who want lots of time to pay off their debt.


  • No late fees and no penalty interest rates for late payments.
  • 0% introductory APR for 21 months on balance transfers made in the first four months after you open the card (18.99% to 29.74% variable APR afterward).
  • 0% introductory APR on all purchases for the first 12 months (18.99% to 29.74% variable APR afterward).
  • No annual fee.


  • There are no rewards on the card, including no sign-up bonus.
  • 5% balance transfer fee with a $5 minimum.
  • 3% foreign transaction fee.
  • No travel or luxury perks and minimal purchase protections.

Current sign-up bonus: None.

Best for: People looking to consolidate debt at a low interest rate for the longest possible period.

Digging into the Citi Simplicity

Some credit cards can be extremely lucrative, offering perks like rewards that can be redeemed for cash back or free trips, annual travel credits or airport lounge access. But before you can get approved for any of these enticing credit cards, it’s important to make sure you have a healthy credit profile and aren’t carrying any credit card debt.

The first step to getting out of credit card debt is putting a halt to the exorbitant interest you’re currently paying on your accumulated debt. The best way to do this is with a credit card that has a long introductory balance transfer offer.

Enter the Citi Simplicity. This credit card doesn’t earn any rewards or offer a sign-up bonus, but it does come with a lengthy 21-month introductory period, during which you’ll pay a 0% APR on any balance transfers made in the first four months you have the card.

However, it’s important to pay off those balance transfers in full during those 21 months, because when that introductory period ends, the rate jumps to a variable APR between 18.99% and 29.74%, depending on your creditworthiness.

Advantages of the Citi Simplicity

Use the Citi Simplicity to get out from under the high interest rates charged by other credit cards.

The biggest perk of the Citi Simplicity is its lengthy introductory interest rate offer — 21 months gives you a lot of runway to pay off your debt. However, it’s important to note that balance transfers on this card do incur a 5% balance transfer fee with a $5 minimum, so the transfer isn’t entirely without cost. But it’s likely a massive improvement over the high interest rate you’re paying on another credit card.

On top of the balance transfer offer, the Citi Simplicity offers a 0% APR on all purchases for the first 12 months after you open the account, which rises to a variable APR of 18.99% to 29.74% afterward depending on your creditworthiness. That’s on the shorter end of cards with introductory rates on purchases, but it’s still a nice feature to have along with the balance transfer offer.

Another plus is that the Citi Simplicity keeps its fees nice and simple. It charges no late fees and no penalty interest rates, meaning you won’t get hit with an extra fee for being a few days late. Late fees on other cards can be as high as $40 after the first time you’re late.

That said, “no late fees” doesn’t mean “no interest” — you’ll still pay interest if you’re late with a payment. So you’ll still want to shoot for paying on time to avoid accruing interest and dinging your credit score. And if you’re utilizing the introductory balance transfer feature and miss a payment, you’ll lose your introductory interest rate.

The Citi Simplicity has absolutely no annual fee, so you can keep the card for as long as you wish without having to worry about whether you’re getting enough value from it. Plus, it’s a Mastercard, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding merchants who will accept it.

Related: Lower your expenses by getting one of these credit cards with no annual fee.

Disadvantages of the Citi Simplicity

The biggest drawback of the Citi Simplicity is that it doesn’t earn any rewards or offer a sign-up bonus. So while the card is great for paying down any debt you might have, there isn’t much value for using it on your everyday spending in the long run.

Similar credit cards tend to offer at least 1% in cash back on spending at a bare minimum, and CNN Underscored’s benchmark credit card, the Citi® Double Cash Card, earns 2% cash back on every purchase you make — 1% when you buy something, and another 1% when you pay it off.

You won’t want to use the Citi Simplicity to make purchases overseas, as you’ll face a 3% foreign transaction fee. That fee can quickly add up when traveling internationally, especially considering you aren’t earning any rewards for your spending on this card.

Finally, the Citi Simplicity doesn’t have any significant travel or purchase protections, nor any other perks. It’s very much a card that should be used primarily to get out from under a tidal wave of debt, so you can stop bleeding interest with another credit card and get your financial house in order.

Related: Having a credit card with trip insurance could save you thousands on your next vacation.

Stacking up the Citi Simplicity to our benchmark card

CNN Underscored has chosen the Citi Double Cash Card as our current “benchmark” credit card. That doesn’t mean it’s the best credit card on the market; rather, we use it as a basic standard to compare other credit cards and see where they score better, and where they’re worse.

Here’s how the Citi Simplicity scores against our benchmark. The features of each card in the below chart are colored in green, red or white. Green indicates a card feature that is better than our benchmark. Red indicates the feature is worse than our benchmark, and white indicates the feature is either equivalent or cannot be directly compared to our benchmark.

Citi Double Cash Card Citi Simplicity Card
Card type Mastercard Mastercard
Sign-up bonus None None
Earning rate 2% on all purchases (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay it off) None
Redemption value 1 cent (cash back) N/A
Ease of basic redemptions Easy N/A
Advanced redemption options Can convert cash back to ThankYou points that transfer to 16 airline partners if you also have the Citi Premier℠ or Citi Prestige® None
Quality of advanced redemptions Good N/A
Annual fee $0 $0
Foreign transaction fee 3% 3%
Travel perks None None
Purchase protections None None
Travel protections None None
Other perks None No late fees and no penalty interest rates
Introductory APR on purchases None 0%
Length of introductory APR on purchases N/A 12 months
Introductory APR on balance transfers 0% 0%
Length of introductory APR on balance transfers 18 months 21 months
Introductory balance transfer fee 3% or $5, whichever is greater 3% or $5, whichever is greater, for transfers made in the first 4 months
APR after intro period ends/standard APR 18.99%-28.99% variable 18.99%-29.74% variable

When reviewing other credit cards, we use this format and these criteria to compare them with our benchmark. You can read our credit card methodology for more details on what we take into account when it comes to perks, protections and redemption value.

Other credit cards similar to the Citi Simplicity

There’s one other credit card that currently offers an introductory rate that’s similarly long, though not quite as good. The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card comes with a 0% APR on both purchases and balance transfers for a full 18 billing cycles (a billing cycle is typically about a month long). The APR then rises to a variable 19.49% to 29.49% after the introductory offer expires.

Like the Citi Simplicity, the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum doesn’t offer any rewards or much in the way of travel perks, but it does have one other advantage: cell phone protection. When you pay your monthly cell phone bill with the card, you’ll have up to $600 in coverage per claim if your cell phone is damaged or stolen, with a $25 deductible and a maximum of two claims per 12-month period.

However, if you’re looking to transfer balances from another credit card, it’s important to note that with the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum card, you must make those transfers in the first 60 days after you open the account in order to take advantage of the introductory interest offer. In comparison, the Citi Simplicity has a longer window of four months to get your balances transferred over.

Related: Read CNN Underscored’s complete review of the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum.

And if you’re looking to also earn rewards with your credit card, our benchmark card, the Citi Double Cash, is also a great alternative to consider, as it offers a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers and no annual fee, but also earns cash back rewards.

The key difference is that unlike the Citi Simplicity, the Citi Double Cash doesn’t come with an introductory purchase interest rate, and only waives your first late fee. But if you want a credit card that’s useful for the long term and not just while you’re whittling down your debt, the Citi Double Cash with its cash back rewards could be the better choice.

Related: Read CNN Underscored’s complete review of the Citi Double Cash Card.

Should you get the Citi Simplicity card?

The Citi Simplicity card can be a great choice if your primary goal is getting out of debt.

With no rewards or major benefits, the Citi Simplicity definitely isn’t a flashy or lucrative credit card. However, it can seriously help those trying to get out of debt, and that’s extremely valuable.

If you only need an introductory rate on balance transfers and don’t need one on your new purchases, you might want to consider our benchmark Citi Double Cash card instead. You’ll need to pay in full for all of the new purchases on your statement every month to avoid paying interest on them, but you’ll also earn cash back on every purchase.

But if you need to pay zero interest on all of your debt — including new purchases — for as long as possible, the Citi Simplicity card can potentially be worth the extra cost to buy yourself time to get back on track and firm up your financial picture. Just remember to pay off all your debt by the end of your introductory rate period, or you’ll be back on the hook for some major interest payments.

Learn more and apply now for the Citi Simplicity Card.

Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as its best balance transfer credit cards currently available.

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