When it comes to promotional balance transfer offers, applicants search for the longest terms possible. And while the CARD Act requires that these offers last a minimum of six months, the best offers currently on the market last as long as 18 months.
Citi features both the Citi Simplicity® Card and Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card with 18 months of interest free financing on both new purchases and balance transfers. So why not just choose one of the cards with the 18 months offers? Citi also offers its Citi ThankYou® Preferred Rewards Card with 12 months of interest free financing as well as 15,000 ThankYou points after new applicants spending $1,000 within the first three months of opening an account. Since these points are worth $150 in travel, gift cards, or loan repayments, is this a better offer?
The case for the sign up bonus
$150 worth of points is a lot of value, and one would have to compare that value to the additional six months of promotional financing terms offered by the competing Citi cards. Certainly, if an applicant was confident that he or she could entirely repay their debt within 12 months, than there would be no reason to forgo $150 worth of rewards just to enjoy the longer financing terms.
But even those who might need more than 12 months of financing should consider the shorter offer with the sign up bonus. For example, if cardholders are able to pay off all but $3,000 of their debt at 15% APR within the first 12 months of the offer, and it is paid off at $523 a month, the remaining balance will only accrue $133 in interest costs over the final six months. Therefore, the $150 worth of rewards will have been worth more to that cardholder than the final six months of financing.
The argument for longer terms
First, cardholders in debt can never be truly confident that they can always make their payments always happen as planned. Furthermore, the six extra months of promotional financing on new purchases also holds some value. Additionally, the 15,000 ThankYou points are only worth $150 as travel reservations, certain gift cards, or repayments to home or student loans through Citi. So for many, these rewards will not have as much value as cash back. And finally, the ThankYou Preferred card is a reward card, and those who have had trouble with credit card debt should avoid products that reward them for additional spending. For example, anyone who would be tempted make unnecessary purchases to reach the $1,000 minimum spending threshold should think carefully before applying for this card.
By comparing the advantages and disadvantages of these competing offers, cardholders with debt can choose the best promotional financing offer for their needs.