Review: Forward Visa From Citi

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Think of your wallet as a toolbox – and each credit card in it is a separate tool. You wouldn’t use a screwdriver to hammer nails, would you? Likewise, each credit card is designed with a specific purpose in mind.

The Forward Visa card from Citi has all sorts of incentives for paying your bills on time and staying within your credit limit – but it’s the perfect tool for earning rewards at restaurants and on purchases of books, movies, and music.

Advantages

  • Earn bonus points. Earn 5 “ThankYou” points for each dollar spent at restaurants and on purchases of books, movies, and music. Earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Each point is worth 1 cent each toward gift cards and other rewards.
  • Get a sign-up bonus. Citi will award 9,000 points if you spend $650 on your card within three months of opening an account. You get another 1,000 points from dropping paper statements. Those 10,000 points are worth up to $100 in gift cards.
  • Promotional financing. There’s a zero-percent introductory APR for 12 months on balance transfers and seven months on new purchases. There’s also a 3 percent balance transfer fee.
  • Earn additional points for on-time payments. You can earn 100 points each month for paying on time and staying below your credit limit. You should do this anyway, but it’s nice to get a small reward for it.
  • Qualify for interest rate reductions. Your interest rate will decline by 0.25 percent each quarter when you pay on time and stay within your credit limit.
  • No annual fee. None.

Disadvantages

  • Fees. There’s a 3 percent foreign transaction fee on all charges processed outside the United States, and another 3 percent fee on balance transfers. That’s unappealing at a time when many cards are ditching this unnecessary fee.
  • Interest rates. The standard APR is 12.99 to 22.99 percent, depending on your creditworthiness. That’s a little on the high side. As usual, people who carry a balance should look for cards with the lowest interest rates, not the best rewards.
  • Low-value promotions. The five-times points at restaurants is excellent, but what’s with the 100-point bonus and 0.25 percent interest rate reduction for paying on time and staying within your credit limit? Turns out 100 ThankYou points are worth, at most, $1. A 0.25 percent interest rate reduction is even less valuable. In fact, the lower rate is only worth about 21 cents in interest each month on every $1,000 owed.

Bottom line

It’s always great to find a card that offers leading rewards, even if it’s only at certain types of merchants such as restaurants. Nevertheless, for those who dine out frequently or spend a lot on books, movies, and music, the Citi Forward card can be a valuable addition to your toolbox, er, wallet.

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