Citibank recently launched the new Citi Simplicity Card that takes away an important sting felt by many consumers: late fees. In an unusual move, the bank is now offering consumers “permanent forgiveness” for late payments and will no longer assess the customary $39 late fee when a payment arrives after the due date. While the offer sounds great on surface, if you dig a little deeper you will soon learn that there are some things about the new Citi Simplicity card that can cost you more money in the long run. Let’s take a closer look at what this credit card issuer is really offering with its new card.
Consumer advocates have long cried foul when it has come to credit card late fees and penalties. Not only would you be assessed a one time late fee ranging from $29 to $39 if your payment arrived late, but your interest rate could be permanently increased to the default rate, typically as high as 29% annually. This “double whammy” further made it difficult for you, the credit card holder, to ever pay down debt.
In a bold marketing move, Citibank – one of the largest issuers of credit cards in the world – came up with its Citi Simplicity card in response to criticism levied by consumer advocates at the industry and at the bank personally. The new card, with no annual fee and no late fees, is designed for card holders who have been bitten by the late fee bug. No longer will you, as a card holder, have to worry if the check you sent off just before the payment due date arrived on time. With the Citi Simplicity card, a late arriving payment will be credited and no late fee assessed.
Taking a Closer Look
Within Citibank’s offer are a few things that you should understand before you make the switch:
1. A late fee will not be charged to your account, but your interest rate may surge to the default rate. The default rate, in this case, can be as high as 29%! That’s bad news for you especially if you had a fixed low rate previously.
2. You could also get a false sense of security by incorrectly believing that paying late regularly doesn’t harm you in some other ways. For instance, consistently forwarded late payments can become part of your credit report, thereby negatively affecting your ability to purchase a car or a home down the road at a favorable interest rate. Important to note, a higher interest rate can add thousands of dollars to the purchase of a new home.
3. Finally, Citibank will waive the late fee only if you promise to continue to use the card. This is bad news for you especially if you are trying to reduce your balance each month without having to purchase something new, which simply adds to your balance.
In all, the Citi Simplicity Card has much more to it than what meets the eye. For some people, the new card is a welcome change especially if you are one who pays off his balance in full each month. If you aren’t, the Citi Simplicity card may cost you much more in the long run. Should you fall into this second category, it would be better for you to keep your existing card or shop for a new card with other features and more favorable requirements.
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Click here to view Citi Simplicity Credit Card Offers.
Ed Vegliante runs www.credit-card-surplus.com, a directory of credit card offers.
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