Citi Flex Loan Review: Pay Less Interest By Borrowing Against Your Credit Card
As an existing Citi credit card customer, you may have received mail or notices that you have an interesting financing option -- called a Flex Loan -- built into your credit card account.
You won't use this option on a regular basis.
But, there are times when a Citi Flex Loan may be a cheaper way to either:
- make certain purchases or
- better manage your credit balances to pay them off more quickly.
Learn how it works to see if you should keep it in mind for future borrowing on your Citi credit card.
What is Citi Flex Loan?
Citi Flex Loans aren’t personal loans in the strict sense. (Citi already offers standard personal loans to borrowers.)
They’re more of a hybrid between personal loans and traditional credit card credit limits.
But for practical purposes, they can function much like a personal loan, but with a much faster process.
Unlike traditional personal loans, where you need to make a formal application, Citi Flex Loans work within your existing credit card arrangements.
For example, if you have a credit card with a current credit limit of $8,000, you may have a Flex Loan offer of $5,000 – or even the entire amount of your total credit limit.
You don’t need to apply for a Flex Loan at all.
If you’re an existing Citi credit card customer, the offer will be presented on your online statement. You can then choose to use the Flex Loan provision if it works to your advantage, or ignore it completely if it doesn’t.
And just as a Flex Loan doesn’t increase your existing credit card credit limit, it doesn’t reduce it either.
If you don’t take advantage of the Flex Loan, the full credit limit will be available for your credit card.
How a Citi Flex Loan Works
Flex Loans give you complete control over the loan process.
As described above, a certain amount of your existing credit limit will be available for a Flex Loan. You can then choose to customize the loan to fit your own needs.
An example based on different loan amounts and loan terms, but with a single interest rate for each:
Examples of monthly payments on Citi Flex Loans (based on 9.99% APR)
|Loan amount||12 months||24 months||36 months||48 months||60 months|
That interest rate will be provided by Citi in advance, so you’ll just need to select the loan amount – up to the maximum allowed – and the term that best creates a monthly payment that will work for you.
If you already have an outstanding balance against your credit limit, the new loan will represent an additional monthly payment.
For example, let’s say you take a Flex Loan of $5,000 for 60 months, with a monthly payment of $106. If you already owe $3,000 on your credit card, with a monthly payment of $60, your new payment will be $166, with a combined balance of $8,000.
If your total credit card credit limit is $10,000, your available credit will then be reduced to $2,000.
The flexibility of this loan program is what makes it attractive.
For a lump sum loan
It enables you to access part of your credit line like a term loan with a fixed interest rate, monthly payment, and limited term.
It also has the advantage that there is no application fee for each Flex Loan you take.
Once you access a Flex Loan – other than for a purchase – funds can be transferred to your bank account in as little as 1 to 2 business days. But you will also have the option to receive a check by mail.
For a purchase
Another feature is that you can sometimes use Flex Loans to make an eligible purchase.
For example, if you are purchasing computer equipment for $2,000, you may be able to use a Flex Loan to make the purchase at the register.
This will give you the ability to determine how quickly you want to pay the purchase off.
Who can access this financing option?
Flex Loans are available only with an existing Citi credit card.
However, they’re only available to select customers.
Even if you’ve had a Citi account for years, it’s possible no Flex Loan provision will be offered.
What’s more, even if you have a Flex Loan provision, it may not be a permanent feature of your credit card. Citi may make the offer available to you “from time to time”.
When Citi Flex Loan Can Work to Your Advantage
Probably the two biggest advantages of the Citi Flex Loan are:
- It may offer a lower interest rate than your regular credit card APR.
- It will give you the ability to maintain at least part of your outstanding card balance as a fixed-rate term loan.
The second advantage may be the biggest.
A fixed payment structure
One of the major disadvantages of credit cards is their revolving nature. Unless you have the discipline to pay your balance off in full each month, you may carry a balance – forever.
With the Flex Loan, you can make a purchase, and limit the term to as little as 12 months.
That will force you to pay off at least part of your balance on a fixed schedule, rather than letting it roll forward for years.
No origination fees or credit check
Another advantage of a Citi Flex Loan is that there are no origination fees.
This can be a major factor because personal loan lenders typically charge an origination fee of between 1% and 6% of the loan amount.
For example, if you take a $10,000 personal loan, with a 6% origination fee, you’ll pay a full $600 for the fee.
Not only that, but the origination fee will be deducted from your loan amount.
Instead of getting $10,000, you’ll receive just $9,400. That may not be quite sufficient for all that you want to do with the personal loan.
There are also no application fees and no credit check involved when you access your Citi Flex Loan.
Since you’re already a Citi customer, with an approved credit limit, you can simply access the loan when you choose to.
How Citi Flex Loan May Not Work For You
Though Citi Flex Loans adds an additional option to your credit card account, there are some limitations you need to be aware of.
Loan size may be limited
The minimum loan amount is $500.
The maximum loan amount is your credit limit (unless the Flex Loan maximum has been set at a lower level by the bank).
The Citi Flex Loan can’t be applied to your current outstanding balance due, perhaps in an attempt to get a lower interest rate or set the definite payoff term.
Any outstanding balance on one or more of your cards will need to be paid according to the original terms.
The interest rate matters the most
Though it may be lower than your regular Citi credit card rate, it may be higher than what you would pay for a typical personal loan, especially when you compare it to the top online personal loans available.
You're probably going to pay less in interest if you just applied for a regular personal loan.
Not a reliable financing option
The Flex Loan does not represent the extension of additional credit.
If your credit card limit is $10,000, and you are offered a Flex Loan provision, it will not increase the amount of the credit limit.
It just gives you the ability to categorize some of your outstanding balance as a fixed-rate loan, rather than revolving debt.
The Flex Loan may be available on your account for a time, then be withdrawn.
Citi has not indicated that it will be a permanent feature of any account, but rather one that will be made available “from time to time”.
That makes it more of a promotional offer than an ongoing benefit, similar to the way credit card companies occasionally offer a temporarily low rate on new purchases and balance transfers.
A Citi Flex Loan gives you the ability to access your credit limit under more controlled circumstances.
If you have a major purchase or a need for funds on a short-term basis, you can access the Flex Loan portion of your credit limit, and pay it off in as little as 12 months.
In most cases, the interest rate on the Flex Loan should also be lower than your regular credit card rate.
In that way, it will function as a limited-use feature in very specific situations. But precisely because it eliminates the revolving aspect of credit cards, it won’t be nearly as flexible.
Still, it gives Citi credit card customers the ability to have better control over at least a portion of their outstanding credit card balance.