The battle to get to the top of consumer wallets during the holidays is beginning to heat up with the introduction of a new version of the Citi Diamond Preferred card, the Citi Diamond $200. While similar to the Chase Freedom $200 cash back offer in terms of upfront bonuses, this new limited time offer from Citibank differs in many significant ways, most notably in the 0% interest rate department, but also in the spending requirement needed to obtain the Diamond card’s $200 cash back bonus.

The Citi Diamond $200 Bonus Offer

The Citi Diamond Preferred $200 bonus offer provides consumers who make $500 in online purchases within three months of becoming a card member a statement credit for $200.  This differs from similar $200 credit card offers in two key ways. First, while $500 is typical as far as spending requirements go, the online purchase requirement differs from standard offers, which grant bonuses regardless of where money is spent.  The online spending element of this deal is a factor that should be weighed carefully by consumers, particularly those who expect to do the bulk of their holiday shopping off-line.

A second difference between this bonus and similar ones is that the $200 bonus is credited to accounts as a statement credit rather than as reward points or dollars. This is a minor and insignificant difference, as a $200 statement credit is as good as $200 in any other form.

The major differences between this Citi Diamond offer and competing offers lay in the underlying benefits of the card. Most credit cards that offer sign up bonuses are rewards cards, such as the aforementioned Chase Freedom $200 offer or Citi’s $100 Dividend card. With the rewards cards, consumers earn a sign-up bonus, but also have the opportunity to earn rewards on future purchases. The Citi Diamond card is a no-frills, value credit card that does not have a reward programs.

However, in place of a rewards program are features that can benefit consumers who have debt and can benefit from a 0% balance transfer or may take on debt during the holiday season:  a 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers that lasts 18 months. While the Citi Dividend card does offer a 0% APR on everything for 15 months and a $100, competing $200 cash back credit card offers do not come with ultra-long introductory rates. The Chase Freedom $200 card, for example, doesn’t offer a 0% rate at all.

The long 0% rate offered on the Diamond card thus makes this card a very strong option for consumers who want a large upfront sign-up bonus as well as a 0% interest rate. It is also a good alternative to the Chase Slate no fee balance transfer card, which charges no balance transfer fee, but only offers a 0% rate for up to 12 months. With the Diamond Card, consumers who earn the $200 bonus can essentially offset the 3% balance transfer fee this card charges on transfers of over $6,000. When used for balance transfers, this card can actually provide significantly better value than a no fee card.

Citi Diamond $200 Vs. The Competition

The direct competition of the Citi Diamond Card on the bonus front is the Chase Freedom $200 card. Chase’s offer lacks a 0% introductory rate, but does offer a highly competitive cash back rewards program. Consequently, consumers who don’t need a 0% APR and want to earn a hefty bonus and rewards over the long term may be wise to look at the Freedom Card.

Citi’s own Dividend $100 card is very similar to the Freedom card in that it offers cash back rewards on purchases. However, it is very much a compromise between the Freedom $200 and Diamond $200 cards, as it offers a lower sign up bonus, but a 0% APR for 15 months. This card is likely the best option for consumers who can benefit from 0% interest rates and a cash back bonus, but also want to earn rewards over the long term.

Ultimately, the deciding factors that should be taken into consideration when comparing these three cards are whether or not a 0% interest rate is needed and, if so, whether there are better benefits to be had with a card that offers a combination of 0% rates and rewards. Those who don’t need a 0% rate will find that the Freedom $200 card or an even larger Chase Sapphire Preferred $500 bonus card will pay off more over the long term.

Menu