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How to Compare Credit Cards

Retail stores for credit card shopping
Retail stores for credit card shopping
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

There are so many credit cards to choose from that sometimes an example helps.

If you seek a no annual fee credit card with generous 0% transfer and purchase periods, then you have two excellent choices in Slate from Chase, and Citi Diamond Preferred. Chase has a shorter period of interest freedom with no balance transfer fee for 2 months, while Citi has a longer period where no interest accrues. The latter, however, also has more travel perks. Which is the better choice? Let’s get ready to rummmmmble!

0% Balance Transfers and Purchases: Slate from Chase has a particularly attractive feature, in that it there is no balance transfer fee if you transfer a balance within the first 60 days. That saves you 3%, so if you have a few particularly vexing balances that are quite large, the savings may be significant. You can carry that balance for 15 months without incurring interest charges. Alternatively, you can pay 0% interest for the first 15 months of charge activity. Citi Diamond Preferred does not waive the transfer fee, but permits you to carry the transferred balance for 18 months. Purchases also get a free ride for 18 months, with no interest accruing. In my world, cash is king, so when you can save hard dollars, that’s the choice to make. A $10,000 balance transfer costs nothing with Slate, but you’ll get dinged $300 with Citi. I pick Chase in this category, but with one caveat – only if you have a balance transfer. If you aren’t taking advantage of that promo, then run purchases on Citi for free for 18 months.

Travel Benefits: Citibank’s standard travel perks are provided with the Diamond card, but they frankly aren’t much to be excited about. The rental coverage is secondary, and the trip cancellation coverage and travel assistance will only be of use to hard-core travelers. The lost luggage coverage is nice, but only matters if you check bags. Citi wins this category because Slate has no perks at all.

Purchase Benefits: The coverage here is almost identical. Both provide a year of free extended warranty. Slate has $500 of price protection vs. Citi’s $250, although Citi allegedly tracks online prices instead of you having to hunt them down yourself with Chase. Citi also offers $1,000 in purchase protection whereas Chase offers $500. Citi gets the slight edge here.

Other: Slate’s “Blueprint” service is nothing more than an organizational tool, to help set up payment plans for your balances. You don’t avoid any interest charges using it.

Acceptance: It’s Visa (Slate) and Mastercard (Citi). You won’t have much of a problem.

The Final Round

If you want to transfer a balance, particularly a large one, definitely go with Slate. Avoiding that 3% transfer fee could save you hundreds. If you are looking to charge purchases at 0%, however, go with Citi for its longer interest-free period. Citi also gets the edge if you are a traveler.

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