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How to Get Approved for a Credit Card After Bankruptcy

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While filing for bankruptcy can discharge your debt burden or provide you with a more manageable repayment plan allowing you to start fresh, it can have serious negative effects on your credit score. The better your credit, the worse the damage could be, according to myFICO:

“Someone that had spotless credit and a very high FICO score could expect a huge drop in their score. On the other hand, someone with many negative items already listed on their credit report might only see a modest drop in their score.”
Understandably, some lenders are hesitant to approve borrowers who have filed for bankruptcy in the past. And it can take 7 to 10 years for that bad mark to disappear from your credit history.

But there is life after bankruptcy, even if your credit score has suffered.

In this post, we’ll explain a few options you have if you filed for bankruptcy but still want to get approved for a new credit card.

Set realistic expectations

When you’re ready to take on new credit after a bankruptcy, your credit score will be more fragile than ever. It’s not exactly the best time to apply for a bunch of different cards and hit your credit file with a bunch of hard inquiries.

The good news is that you can do your homework ahead of time and avoid applying for cards that are bound to deny you. All credit card issuers have their own policies and protocol they follow when it comes to considering applicants who have filed for bankruptcy in the past.

Some banks and credit card issuers clearly state on their website that they will not approve applicants who filed for bankruptcy and have not yet received a formal discharge, meaning it is still unresolved or not finalized.

In other cases, you can tell you probably won’t qualify if the credit card details state that you need excellent credit to qualify. A bankruptcy will bring your credit score down or you may have even had low credit before you filed if you were missing payments and struggling to pay your debt off for some time beforehand.

Therefore, it’s clear that you won’t qualify for credit cards that offer low interest rates and competitive rewards.

Make sure your delinquent accounts are scrubbed from your credit report

One of the first things you want to do before you consider applying for a credit card is to check your credit report with all three credit bureaus. You should do this to make sure your delinquent accounts are discharged from the bankruptcy as well as to clear up any inaccuracies.

If you still have delinquent accounts open, there’s a slim chance you’ll qualify for a new credit card since your score will just continue to go down. Once your bankruptcy is finalized, you’ll have a chance to start rebuilding your credit.

You can get a free copy of your full credit report annually at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Rebuild your credit with a secured card

If you’ve recently filed for bankruptcy and you’re not even close to the 7- or 10-year mark, you may want to consider trying a secured credit card instead of an unsecured credit card. A secured credit card works just like a traditional unsecured credit card only you need to put down a cash collateral deposit that becomes your credit limit.

Secured credit cards are a great option if you need to rebuild bad credit, and if you use your card wisely, you can establish some positive credit history post-bankruptcy, which will help you qualify for unsecured cards in the future.

With secured credit cards and other credit cards for those with bad credit, you’ll want to watch out for the fees, which are likely to be higher.

Below are some options to consider for secured credit cards post-bankruptcy.

Recommended Secured Cards

Capital One Secured MasterCard

This card is for people with limited or bad credit. It has no annual fee and a variable interest rate of 24.99%. There is a required security deposit of $49, $99, or $200 depending on your creditworthiness, and you’ll receive an initial credit limit of $200.

After five months of making your monthly payments on time, you’ll have access to a higher credit line without having to put up another deposit. Card users will also be able to have unlimited access to their credit score and tools to help monitor their credit with Capital One’s free CreditWise service.

First Progress Platinum Secured MasterCard

The First Progress Platinum secured card is for people with bad or no credit. This card has an annual fee of $44 and a variable 11.99% APR. You must deposit at least $200, but you can deposit at much as $2,000 and your cash deposit will determine your starting credit limit.

The minimum interest charge for this card is $1.50, and there’s a late payment fee of up to $38 if you fail to make at least your minimum monthly payment on time.

Discover it® Secured Card – No Annual Fee

The Discover it® Secured Card has no annual fee, has a variable 23.99% APR, and requires only a minimum security deposit of $200. You can also still qualify for this card if you’ve filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the past.

Discover also mentions on their website that this card is geared toward people who are new to credit or looking to rebuild their credit. They determine eligibility based on the information you provide on the application, your credit report, and other information they may have about your creditworthiness.

If you don’t happen to be approved, they provide you with the score they obtained, which credit reporting agency it was obtained from, and the reasons why they couldn’t approve your application.

This card allows you to earn 2% at restaurants and gas stations (up to $1,000 of spending each quarter) and unlimited 1% on everything else. Discover also matches the cash back you earn during the first year only. You can redeem rewards at any time.

In addition, cardholders receive their free FICO score and can qualify for a higher credit limit after seven months. Most secured credit cards don’t offer rewards, but this one does.

Final word

While at first it may be more difficult to get a new credit card after filing for bankruptcy, it’s not impossible.

Before anything, you need to make sure you’re ready to use a new credit card properly. Make sure your finances are in order and you have a handle on any existing debt you owe especially if you have a payment plan set up as a result of filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Also, make sure you can control your spending and can afford to make credit card payments each month. Then, check your full report and start by comparing options for secured credit cards that will allow you to rebuild your credit.

Watch out for fees like monthly maintenance fees, annual fees, and high interest rates to make sure you’re not losing any money as well.

Chonce Maddox
Chonce Maddox |

Chonce Maddox is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Chonce at chonce@magnifymoney.com

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Practical Advice For Those Facing Bankruptcy, From Someone Who Has Been There

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Mixed Race Young Female Agonizing Over Financial Calculations in Her Kitchen.

My journey to bankruptcy began in 2003 after I was in a major car accident that left me unable to work for several months. Injured and unemployed I was forced to move back home with my mother, younger brother and three foster brothers. As I slowly began to regain my financial independence our family was dealt another blow.

In December of 2004, after what should have been a routine knee replacement surgery, my mother contracted a MERSA staff infection and became gravely ill. Needing around the clock care and help with my four younger brothers, I became a full-time caretaker while my mother fought for her life. It took her over a year to win back hear health. Unfortunately Murphy’s Law was not done with its assault on our family just yet.

In the spring of 2006 I had just gone back to nursing school when I had an emergency appendectomy, which left me with an additional $15,000 of debt. Having no insurance I was responsible for the entire amount due. This surgery was the tipping point in which my debt became too much for me to handle and I had to begin looking for a different solution.

I spent the next several months educating myself on how to handle harassing debt collectors, ways to work with your creditors and how to rebuild your credit score. After struggling to send my creditors every spare penny I had I finally came to the conclusion that filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy was the best solution for my situation.

Walking into bankruptcy court was one of the most nerve-racking things I had ever gone through, but I am so glad that I did.

If you find yourself at a crossroads contemplating bankruptcy there are a few important things you need to take into consideration in regards to your own situation.

Evaluate Your Financial Habits

Before you file for bankruptcy you need to take a long hard look at your finances, your spending habits, and any other situations your currently facing that is causing you financial hardship. Until you know how you wound up in the situation you can’t have a clear plan on how to fix it. This is also the time to decide if going bankrupt is really the right thing for you to do.

[When Should You Consider Bankruptcy?]

Gather All Your Information

Once you have decided to move forward you need to spend some time gathering all of your information. This will include: all of your bank accounts, retirement accounts, your personal property and other assets. Having this information will help you figure out which type of bankruptcy for which you qualify.

Know Your Options

It is very important to know your bankruptcy option and what each will mean for you.

A Chapter 13 bankruptcy does not wipe out your debt. Instead the court will calculate your disposable income and use that number to make a payment plan for you. Over the course of three to five years you will be required to make payments on your debt until it is paid in full or to the agreed upon amount.

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy wipes out your debt completely. There are however a few specific debts that cannot or rarely can be eliminated with a Chapter 7 including back taxes and student loans. It is also important to note that you must qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You must prove that you are unable to pay off your debt either because your income level is below the state median or your living expenses are so high that you simply cannot repay your debt.

[8 Steps for Discharging Student Loans Through Bankruptcy]

Find A Reputable Lawyer

There are many websites out there suggesting that you can file for bankruptcy on your own, and that there is no reason to pay a lawyer. What those sites fail to mention is if you make a mistake on your paperwork you may have to start the process over. You may even find that some of your debt was not included in your bankruptcy leaving you responsible for the payments regardless of what type of bankruptcy you filed.

While hiring a lawyer does increase the expense of filing for bankruptcy it is his or her job to make sure that everything is in order and goes as smoothly as possible. Speaking from personal experience having a lawyer by your side during your proceeding can also help you feel more confident when facing the judge.

Have an After Bankruptcy Game Plan

There is a life after bankruptcy, while it may not feel like it in the moment things will get better. You however need to have a plan for how you will handle your finances from this point on. If you do not make a conscious decision to change the way you have been handing your money you will find yourself right back in the financial mess you have just escaped.

Going bankrupt can seem like the end of your financial life, and you may be wondering how you will ever recover from it. The good news is that you can. If you learn from your mistakes and make the decision to move forward with good money habits it is possible. I went from being financially devastated to a credit score of 740 in just a few short years. It took hard work and dedication to my financial health but I did it and so can you!

Tennille Flowers |

Tennille Flowers is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Tennille at tennille@magnifymoney.com

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Getting a Mortgage After Bankruptcy

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Purchase agreement for house

Whether you’re drowning in loans, unemployed, racking up medical bills, or guilty of too much online shopping, one thing’s for certain — we all hate debt. And when debt becomes impossible to pay back, bankruptcy may seem like the only way to escape.

While filing for bankruptcy may be the right solution, it can negatively affect your finances for years to come. But, fortunately, life moves on. And despite this financial setback, you may want access to credit in the future. Without it, large purchases like a home can be difficult. It’s not impossible, but applying for a mortgage post-bankruptcy means working through a particular set of challenges. Prepare yourself by knowing these important guidelines.

Know the Difference: Chapter 7, 11, & 13 Bankruptcies

We constantly hear about bankruptcies in the media, but what does filing for one actually mean? Bankruptcy is a legal procedure that can help you wipe out or repay debt under the protection of the United States bankruptcy court.

Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 are the main types of consumer bankruptcies. But what are the key differences?

Chapter 7 is typically the preferred type of bankruptcy because involves liquidation and eliminates all your eligible debt. This means your nonexempt property will be sold and the proceeds will be distributed to your creditors. Exempt property varies from state-to-state, but part of your property may be subject to liens or mortgages, promising it to other creditors. It’s important to know Chapter 7 bankruptcies may, but not frequently, result in a loss of your property. You may lose your home outside of bankruptcy to foreclosure if you fall behind on your mortgage payments.

It is much harder to be eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If your income is above the median in your state and you prove you have sufficient cash flow to service some of the debt, then you’ll likely be forced to file Chapter 13.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows you to keep property, adjust debt, and to pay it back over time. This is a long process as the repayment period is typically three to five years. If you’re behind on mortgage payments, it may be easier to keep your home in Chapter 13 because you may be able to make up payments in your repayment plan.

What about Chapter 11 bankruptcies? If your business is a corporation, partnership, or you own a small business, Chapter 11 may give you a chance to reorganize. Chapter 11 also can help restructure debt so it can be paid back over time.

Unfortunately, bankruptcies may stay on your credit report for up to 10 years. Because of this, many people incorrectly assume bankruptcies ruin your chance at homeownership. This definitely isn’t the case, but it does mean the path to purchasing a home will take more time. 

The Waiting Period After Bankruptcy

Even if bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years, you’re not expected to wait that long before trying to buy a home. However, Fannie Mae knows a bankruptcy increases your likelihood of a mortgage default. Despite this red flag, Fannie Mae encourages lenders to investigate the cause of these issues, make sure sufficient time has passed, and verify an acceptable credit history has been re-established. So, how long do you have to wait? The waiting periods begin upon the completion, discharge, or dismissal date of your bankruptcy.

Both Chapter 7 and Chapter 11 require a four-year waiting period. However, if you have documented extenuating circumstances, it’s possible it may be reduced to two years.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires either a two-year or four-year waiting period, depending on what step of the procedure you’re on (discharge or dismissal). If you’ve had more than one bankruptcy within seven years, a five-year waiting period is required. But remember, this time period kicks in after the Chapter 13 bankruptcy is complete, so that’s two to four years on top of the original three to five years working your repayment plan. It could be up to nine years total before you’re eligible.

If you’re anxious to start the home buying process, these waiting periods may feel inconvenient. But they offer a fantastic opportunity to clean up your credit and reduce your debt-to-income ratio before re-applying for a mortgage.

The Importance of Your Credit Score and Debt-To-Income Ratio

As soon as your bankruptcy case has been discharged and closed, it’s time to take a detailed look at your finances. Chances are, you have a lot of room for improvement. Luckily, Fannie Mae’s mandatory waiting period gives you the chance to prepare.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Improve your credit score. First, get a copy of your credit report and a view of your credit score to see what work needs to be done. AnnualCreditReport.com offers a free report every year, but this does not come with a credit score. You can find more information about how to access your score here. Do you know what steps to take next? 35% of your score is based on payment history. That means you need to pay every single bill on time. If you no longer have access to any lines of credit, then consider getting a secured credit card in order to rehabilitate your credit. Start doing this right away and you’ll see improvements. Going forward, you need to monitor your credit report regularly. Remember, your credit score will also affect what interest rate you’ll be able to secure, and consequently, which mortgages you’ll be able to afford.
  • Pay down outstanding debts. After the dust settles from your bankruptcy, do you still owe any money? Try to repay these debts as quickly as possible. Debt-to-income ratio is the single most important factor in getting approved for a mortgage. Looking for your best chance at approval? Aim for a debt-to-income ratio of 40% or less. Also, make sure you don’t take on any additional loans during this period of time.
  • Stick with your Chapter 13 repayment plan. Did you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy? If so, don’t miss any of your court-ordered repayment requirements. Diligently follow exactly what you’ve agreed to.
  • Save as much as you can. Do you have an emergency fund? A health stash of cash reserves can help keep your debt repayment plan on track as unexpected expenses pop up. Don’t forget, you’re also going to need a chunk of change for your mortgage down payment.

Bankruptcy doesn’t have to create a barrier to homeownership. But bouncing back may take time. Whether you’ve filed for Chapter 7, 11, or 13, Fannie Mae’s mandatory waiting periods offer an opportunity to get your finances back on track. Use this time wisely by committing to improve your credit score and reduce your debt-to-income ratio. Save as much as you can. And when the time comes to reapply for a mortgage, be upfront with your lender. Be honest about your setbacks, show how much progress you’ve made, and explain how you’ve learned from past mistakes. Remember, bankruptcy was never meant to be a life-long penance; it’s a chance for you to start over.

Kate Dore
Kate Dore |

Kate Dore is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kate at kate@magnifymoney.com

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When Should You Consider Bankruptcy?

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Young couple calculating their domestic bills

If you’re drowning in debt and having trouble keeping up with your payments while still handling your living expenses, you may have at least begun to consider filing for bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy certainly has its benefits, potentially allowing you to wipe the slate clean and start anew.

But there are a lot of things to consider before making a decision, from the negative consequences of filing to whether bankruptcy would even provide relief for your specific situation.

This is a big decision that requires a significant amount of due diligence before moving forward, and in this post we’ll go over some of the key points to help you get started.

Are You Eligible?

There are two types of bankruptcy for individuals: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.

There are some significant differences between the two programs, but here’s a high-level summary:

  • Chapter 7 allows you to completely discharge your debts, with some exceptions (such as student loans, certain tax obligations, and child support). But you may be obligated to sell some of your property to settle some of your debt obligation.
  • Chapter 13 allows you to create a payment plan to repay some or all of your debts over a 3-5 year period. So your debts are not discharged, but you will also not be obligated to sell any property in order to make your payments.

Either one could be more or less beneficial depending on the specifics of your situation. But the very first question is whether you qualify for either one, and each has its own set of criteria.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy has what’s called the “means test”, which is meant to ensure that only people who truly can’t afford their debt payments are allowed to file. There are two different wants to pass it, and therefore qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy:

  1. If your monthly income is less than the median monthly income in your state for your family size, you pass. You can find current median income numbers by family size here.
  2. If you don’t pass #1, you’ll have to go through a complex calculation to see whether your disposable income after subtracting out certain expenses is enough to satisfy your debt obligations. At this stage it would probably be best to talk to a professional who could help you navigate the process.

Eligibility for Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a little more straightforward. Here’s how it works:

  1. As opposed to Chapter 7, you need to prove that your disposable income is high enough to afford a reasonable repayment plan.
  2. Your secured debt (mortgage, auto loan) can’t exceed $1,149,525, and your unsecured debt (credit cards, medical bills, etc.) can’t exceed $383,175.
  3. You must have filed both federal and state income taxes each of the last four years.

There are some other requirements for each, but those are the major ones. Assuming you qualify for at least one of them, there are a few other things to consider.

What Kinds of Assets and Liabilities Do You Have?

Depending on the specifics of your financial situation, one type of bankruptcy may be preferable to the other. Or it may be that neither would actually be particularly helpful.

As an example, neither type of bankruptcy would likely help you all that much if your primary debts are student loans. They wouldn’t be discharged in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. And while your required payments might be reduced over the 3-5 year repayment period in Chapter 13 bankruptcy, once that was over you would have to continue paying them back as usual.

The type of assets you own and their value also matters, particularly if you’re going through Chapter 7 bankruptcy. During that process your bankruptcy trustee is allowed to sell your property in order to settle your debts, but certain property is protected.

For example, your house and car are protected up to certain limits. Employer retirement accounts like 401(k)s and 403(b)s are fully protected, while IRAs are protected up to about $1 million. But other accounts, such as checking, savings, and regular investment accounts may not have the same protections.

The rules here vary by state, and having a strong understanding of which assets you might be able to keep and which you might end up losing will help you make your decision.

What Are Your Alternatives?

Bankruptcy can have the big advantage of erasing your debts and allowing you to start anew. But there are also some serious consequences, such as a hit to your credit score and a mark on your credit report for up to 10 years. So it makes sense to evaluate your other options before making a decision.

One option may be to call up your lenders and see if you negotiate a lower interest rate, a reasonable payment plan, or a settlement for a smaller amount.

You could also work on making some changes to your spending habits, cutting out certain expenses and possibly selling certain possessions to make room for your debt payments.

If you have student loans, you should look into income-driven repayment plans as a way to decrease your monthly obligation and potentially have some of your debt forgiven down the line.

You could also look into getting some 1-on-1 help from a credit counseling company. Just make sure to stick with reputable companies like The National Foundation for Credit Counseling and to avoid the late-night infomercials promising to wipe your debt away.

Make the Best Decision for You

Filing for bankruptcy is a big decision, and in the end you’re the only one who will know what’s right for you.

Do your research, evaluate all of your options, and then make the decision that most helps you reach your personal goals.

 

Matt Becker
Matt Becker |

Matt Becker is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Matt at matt@magnifymoney.com

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Can You Discharge Student Loans in Bankruptcy?

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Students throwing graduation hats

Student loans have been a hot topic in recent news and for good reason. The level of student loan debt in the United States has grown substantially over the past several decades. As of 2014, the balance of student loan debt reached $1.2 trillion. Students burdened with debt have one option when it comes to repayment: pay the debt. However, in extreme circumstances, it may be possible to completely discharge student loan debt in bankruptcy.

How to Discharge Student Loans in Bankruptcy

The U.S. Department of Education website provides four cases in which federal student loans may be discharged. Those include:

  1. Closed school discharge
  2. Total and permanent disability discharge
  3. Death discharge
  4. Bankruptcy discharge

There are a few more options for partial discharge with qualifications. The website lists bankruptcy as an option in rare cases.

“If you file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you may have your loan discharged in bankruptcy only if the bankruptcy court finds that repayment would impose undue hardship on you and your dependents. This must be decided in an adversary proceeding in bankruptcy court. Your creditors may be present to challenge the request.”

The U.S. bankruptcy court will use the three-part Brunner test to determine if the student loans are eligible for discharge in bankruptcy. To show hardship you must show that:

  1. If you were forced to repay the loan, you would not be able to maintain a minimal standard of living.
  2. There is evidence that this hardship will continue for a significant portion of the loan repayment period.
  3. You made good-faith efforts to repay the loan before filing bankruptcy (usually this means you have been in repayment for a minimum of five years).

If you are unable to satisfy any of the three requirements, the loan will not be discharged. However in a study published in the American Bankruptcy Law Journal by Jason Iuliano, 39% of those who applied were granted at least some discharge.

For example, if you are 30 and your student loan payments make up a significant portion of your total income, and you can prove that this hardship will continue for many years you might be able to have your student loans included in your bankruptcy.

But if you just started making payments and have not attempted to use available programs such as income-based repayment, then you may have a harder time discharging your student loans.

If you feel that bankruptcy is for you, consult a lawyer and consider including your student loans.

[Struggling to pay back private student loans? Learn about loan modification here.]

Ramifications of Bankruptcy

Choosing to eliminate your student loans using bankruptcy is a difficult path. Moreover, you will mark your credit report for 7 or 10 years with a bankruptcy filing. This could prevent you from purchasing a home, opening new lines of credit, and benefiting from the best rates to borrow money. It could also prevent you from getting a job with credit pre-screening.

Options So You Can Avoid Bankruptcy

If you would rather avoid bankruptcy, here are more ways to eliminate your student loan debt.

Reduce or Halt Your Current Payment

Determine if you are eligible for deferment or forbearance. A deferment is a period during which repayment of the principal and interest of your loan is temporarily delayed. Depending on the type of loan you have, the federal government may pay the interest on your loan during this period.

If you can’t make your scheduled student loan payments, but don’t qualify for deferment, a forbearance may allow you to stop making payments or reduce your monthly payment for up to 12 months.

[Miss a student loan payment? Learn how to find help here.]

Choose a Reduced Payment Plan

For federal loans, there are a few repayment plans that can help you manage your student loan repayment. Choose one of the following:

  • Income Based Repayment Plan – Payments are calculated based on your discretionary income and can extend up to 25 years of repayment.
  • Graduated Repayment Plan – Payments start off small then increase every two years for a maximum of 10 years of repayment.
  • Extended Repayment Plan – Payments can extend up to 25 years of repayment.
  • Pay as You Earn Repayment Plan – Payments are calculated based on your discretionary income and can extend up to 20 years of repayment.
  • Income-Contingent Repayment Plan – Payments are based on your adjusted gross income and can extend up to 25 years of repayment.
  • Income Sensitive Repayment Plan – Payments are based on your annual income and last for a maximum of 10 years; however, you will pay more over time versus the standard 10-year repayment plan.

[Read about Student Loan Forgiveness Programs Here.]

Career Based Discharged

You can also have your student loans discharged if you take a certain career path and your loans are: Direct, FFEL Program, or Federal Perkins loans. Private loans are often not eligible for forgiveness programs. As an eligible public service employee you can have 100% of your loan balance forgiven after 120 consecutive payments; this assumes that you maintain your status as an eligible public service employee while making those payments. If combined with one of the reduced payment plan options that could mean a substantial reduction in total repayment balance.

Check out our Student Loan Refinance table to compare your options.

 

LaTisha Styles
LaTisha Styles |

LaTisha Styles is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email LaTisha at LaTisha@magnifymoney.com

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Debt Guide: When to File Bankruptcy

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Below is an excerpt from our Debt Free Forever Guide. Be sure to download the free guide to help dump debt for good.

For some people, bankruptcy may be an appropriate option. In a bankruptcy, you may be able to eliminate some or all of your debts. However, debt forgiveness does not come lightly. Chapter 7 (where all eligible debt is eliminated) stays on your record for 10 years. Chapter 13 stays on your report for 7 years. And, during that time (especially in the first 3-5 years), you may find it virtually impossible to apply for any new credit. And credit is not limited to mortgages and auto loans. It can even include pay-as-you- go mobile phone packages. If you work in the financial services sector, you may find that bankruptcy will make it impossible to get a job. So, this decision should not be taken lightly.

However, for some people, this may be the only option. I will give a few examples of people whom I have met, where bankruptcy made complete sense:

  • A hardworking man had a medical emergency. Unfortunately, he did not have medical insurance. The total bill was over $500,000. And his annual salary was $40,000. There was no chance that he would ever pay off that debt. Bankruptcy made perfect sense.
  • A married couple unfortunately did not plan for the future. They had no life insurance, no savings and credit card debt. The husband was a professional, and the wife stayed at home with the children. The husband died unexpectedly. Between the funeral, the credit card debt from before the marriage and the costs of the transition, the widow had over $75,000 of debt. She was able to get a secretarial job for $25,000. It made sense to eliminate the debt with bankruptcy.

The biggest reasons for bankruptcy are medical and divorce. We always try to work with people to help them prepare for the worst. Everyone should have medical insurance, even if that means paying for a high deductible (low premium) policy that at least insures against bankruptcy. If someone depends upon you (like the husband in the story above), term life insurance is necessity, and it doesn’t cost much. In medicine, it is always better to prevent (via a good diet and exercise) than to fix after something goes wrong. The same is true in financial matters. However, if you are now in the emergency room, a bankruptcy may be the right option.

What can a bankruptcy do for me?

A bankruptcy gives you the opportunity to eliminate a significant portion of your debt. The bank has to write off the debt, and is no longer able to collect on the debt.

In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, all of the eligible debt is eliminated. It takes about 3-6 months to have the bankruptcy discharged.

  • Most or all of your unsecured debt will be erased. Unsecured debt would include things like credit card debt, personal loan debt, medical bills, mobile phone bills and other debt.
  • Certain types of debt are usually excluded from bankruptcy. These include student loan debt, tax obligations, spousal support, child support and some other types of debt can not be eliminated.
  • Some of your property may have to be sold to pay off your debt. However, in most cases, your primary property is exempt.
  • For secured property (like an auto loan), you will be given a choice. You can continue to pay, you can have the property repossessed, or you can make a lump sum payment (at the replacement value).

If your problem is with credit card debt and/or medical debt, than Chapter 7 makes sense. All of that debt will be wiped out. You continue to pay (and keep) your mortgage and auto loan.

In a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, you are not able to eliminate all of your debt. Instead, you will be forced to make regular monthly payments towards your debt before it is completely eliminated.

Chapter 7 or Chapter 13?

If given the choice, most people would choose Chapter 7. From a credit score perspective, they both have equal (negative) impact on your score. In fact, here is what FICO says:

The formula considers these two forms of bankruptcy as having the same level of severity and, for both types, uses the filing date to determine how long ago the bankruptcy took place. As with other negative credit information, the negative effect of a bankruptcy to one’s FICO score will diminish over time.

So, if you get the same penalty, but in one form of bankruptcy all of your debt is wiped out, and you still have to pay back some debt in the other form, then you would probably choose Chapter 7. And most people did, until the law was changed in 2005.

Note: there may be some instances when you will want to file Chapter 13 instead of Chapter 7. For example, if you are behind on your house payments and want to keep your house, Chapter 13 may make more sense. Why? In Chapter 13, you can put your past due mortgage payments into your repayment plan, and pay them back over time. In Chapter 7, your past due mortgage payments may be due right away.

However, in the majority of cases, Chapter 7 is more favorable to the borrower than Chapter 13.

There are now some “means tests” required to see if you can file for Chapter 7. Here are some very basic rules:

  • If your family income is below the median income of your state, you will probably be able to file Chapter 7. The income used is the average of your last 6 months income. You can find the median incomes here.
  • If your income is above the median, you may still be able to file bankruptcy. However, you will have to pass a means test. Your income and expenditures will be looked at, to see if you have the ability to make payments towards a payment plan over 5 years towards the accumulated debt.

In addition, if you tried to be clever, you will likely be caught. Any recent cash advances on your credit card, and any recent luxury purchases can be exempt from the bankruptcy completely.

It used to be very easy to file for Chapter 7 and have all of your unsecured debt eliminated. That is no longer the case. But, if you have low income, you can still proceed. And, if you have a very difficult situation, you can still find a path towards eliminating a significant portion of your debt.

How to Proceed

As part of the bankruptcy legislation, you need to meet with a non-profit debt counselor before you are allowed to file for bankruptcy. So, whether you are thinking about negotiating settlements or filing for ?bankruptcy, it makes sense to meet with a counselor. You can find a list of the approved agencies here.

For further reading on bankruptcy, we recommend this website (NOLO) – they have an excellent library of information.

In Summary

If you are in too deep, bankruptcy may be the only remaining viable option. I have met many people who filed bankruptcy, and went on to live very fulfilling and prosperous lives. Companies file bankruptcy all the time – and I believe that people should have the same legal protections that companies have.

You just need to be realistic about what bankruptcy can and cannot do. If you have student loans, tax liens, spousal support or child support – you will not be able to use this tool. You need to find a way to pay back your debt.

But, if you have been hit with a big medical bill, or your credit card debt is just too large relative to your income, bankruptcy could be the best option. It will be a very difficult 2 years. By Year 3, things will look a lot better. And, 7 years later, your score will reflect the person you have been in the last 7 years. A very good friend of mine had filed bankruptcy. He now has a home (purchased with a mortgage at a low rate). He has a car (purchased with a 0% car loan). And he has a rewards credit card (that he pays off in full every month). His score is high. It was a rough couple of years, but it made sense. Otherwise, he would have been making minimum payments for 30 years and still wouldn’t be out of debt.

Weigh your options carefully. Meet with a non-profit counselor. We are always available at MagnifyMoney to talk as well (just email us at info@magnifymoney.com).

Good luck with your decision.

Download our Debt Free Forever Guide! It’s FREE and will help get you back on track.

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Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at nick@magnifymoney.com

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$

Won’t impact your credit score

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Best of, Credit Cards

Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit December 2017

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Having fair credit doesn’t mean you’re ineligible for great credit cards. We’ve rounded up the top credit cards with the best offers in a range of different categories that you’re still likely to be approved for, even with fair credit. These credit cards can help you build credit as long as you use them wisely. In this guide, we’ll show you the best credit cards for fair credit scores as well as how to use them to boost your credit score even higher.

Here are some of the products we will be discussing today:

Check If You’re Pre-qualified

Before applying for any credit card it’s helpful to check if you’re pre-qualified from a variety of institutions. The soft credit check the institutions perform does not harm your credit score and allows you to compare credit options. Sites such as CreditCards.com provide good tools that can match you to offers from multiple credit card companies without impacting your credit score. You can read our complete guide to getting pre-qualified for a credit card here.

Build Credit with Secured Cards

A great approach to rebuilding credit is to get a secured credit card. In order to get the card, you will have to deposit money that will be your line of credit. To effectively rebuild your credit, you must use the card, and we recommend not charging more than 20% of your credit line. For example, if you have a $500 credit line, you should not charge more than $100. Then, pay off your balance in full every single month. You can even build credit with $10 a month on a secured card and see your credit score rise.

After you’ve consistently managed your secured card well over a period of time, you may be able to increase your credit line beyond your initial deposit or migrate to an unsecured credit card.

We’ve reviewed the best secured cards in the market and found our top pick — the Discover it® Secured Card. This card has no annual fee, a reasonable security deposit and offers an easy transition to an unsecured card. In addition, Discover offers a rewards program and free access to your FICO score.

Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee

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on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

Read Full Review

Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee

Annual fee
$0
Minimum Deposit
$200
APR
23.99% APR

Variable

Credit required
bad-credit
Bad

Best for Cash Back

If you have fair credit and want a cash back card the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Rewards credit card is a good option. As a consumer with fair credit you may not qualify for all cash back cards, but you may qualify for the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Rewards credit card since it is made for those with fair credit. With this card you will earn unlimited cash back, with no changing categories, and the rewards never expire.

However, this card comes with a high APR and annual fee. To earn enough cash back rewards to pay for the card itself each year you’ll need to spend $2,600 annually ($217 per month). To net a cash back of $50 you need to spend $5,933 in a year ($494 per month). This card may be an option for you if you want to earn more than 1% cash back.

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

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on Capital One’s secure website

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Annual fee
$39
Cashback Rate
Unlimited 1.5%
APR
24.99%

Variable

Credit required
fair-credit

Average

 

Best Low Ongoing APR

No one wants to carry a balance on their credit cards, but if you must, it’s best to get a card with a low ongoing APR. Many lenders charge high APRs around 25%, but you can potentially qualify for a variable APR as low as 8.90%. This card will charge you less money on your debt than the typical credit card, which can save you big dollars in the long run.

MasterCard Platinum from Aspire FCU

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on Aspire Credit Union’s secure website

Read Full Review

MasterCard Platinum from Aspire FCU

Intro BT APR
0%

promotional rate

Balance Transfer Fee
$5 or 2% of the amount of the transfer, whichever is greater
APR
9.15%-18.00%

Variable

Duration
6 months
Credit required
fair-credit

Average

Best for Small Business Owners

Running a business is hard. Small business credit cards can make it a bit easier for you by giving you rewards for everyday purchases. Nevertheless, be aware: Business credit cards forego certain protections that personal credit cards have under the Credit CARD Act. For example, card issuers can change the payment due date or interest rate without giving you prior notice.

Still, small business cards can be a great option for you to build your credit and save money, even if you don’t have a traditional brick-and-mortar business. You can apply for these cards with just a DBA or even your own name, if you’re a freelancer.

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

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on Capital One’s secure website

Read Full Review

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

Annual fee
$0
Cashback Rate
1% on all spend
APR
23.99%

Variable

Credit required
fair-credit

Average

Best for Students

You may have a fair credit score because you are a student. Student cards provide a great way for you to build your credit score and establish good credit history. The Discover it® for Students card is made with students in mind and offers ways to help you build credit and also earn rewards.

Discover it® for Students

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on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

Read Full Review

Discover it® for Students

Annual fee
$0
Cashback Rate
up to 5%
APR
13.99%-22.99%

Variable

Credit required
fair-credit
Fair

FAQ

There’s a lot of math that goes into computing your credit scores, but at the end of the day, a fair credit score is defined as being between 649 and 699. Here’s how a fair credit score sits in relation to other credit scoring classes:

  • Excellent: Above 760
  • Good: 700-759
  • Fair/Average: 649-699
  • Poor: 600-648
  • Very Poor: Under 599

You can check your credit score for free on sites like Credit Karma, Chase Credit Journey, or AnnualCreditReport.com.

Having a good or excellent credit score unlocks a lot of advantages, such as lower interest rates and better approval odds for high-value credit cards and other financial products. These advantages will result in more dollars in your wallet at the end of the day. For example, having a high credit score can save you tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest payments over your lifetime, especially for big-ticket loans like a home mortgage.

But if you have a fair credit score, don’t fret! There is a reason that your score is less than optimal, and thus there are real, concrete steps you can take to boost your credit score into the good and excellent range.

If you play your cards right, you can even join the exclusive 800+ credit score club (unfortunately, it’s not an official club, and you don’t get a shower of balloons and confetti once you reach it — but you will get access to some of the most exclusive financial products).

There can be many reasons why your credit score is below 700. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • You have late payments on your credit report. Having even just one late payment on your credit report can seriously harm it because payment history makes up 35% of your credit score. Unfortunately, unless it’s an error, you’ll just need to wait for it to drop off of your credit report in seven years. To prevent this from happening, make sure all of your debt payments are set up on autopay. That way, you won’t have to worry about it.
  • You have a lot of credit card debt. Credit utilization ratio is one of the biggest factors in calculating your credit score — it affects 30% of the final score. It’s simply how much you owe relative to how much you are allowed to spend. For example, let’s say you have two credit cards with a $5,000 limit each, and you owe $2,000. Your credit utilization ratio is 20% because you owe $2,000 out of a possible $10,000. Luckily, this is one of the easiest factors to correct that will boost your credit score big time in the short run: Pay off your balance, and your score will bump up immediately.
  • You don’t have a long credit history. Although credit history doesn’t factor into the calculation of your credit score as much as the credit utilization ratio and payment history, it still makes up a sizable chunk at 15%. There’s not much you can do about this one: Simply wait for your accounts to age.
  • You have a lot of credit inquiries. Banks don’t like to see you applying for credit like an out-of-control spender in Las Vegas. Each time you apply for credit or a loan, it’s recorded on your credit report as a credit inquiry, and it stays there for two years. To minimize the number of credit inquiries you have, always shop around and make sure creditors use a soft pull credit check unless you’re absolutely ready to apply for the line of credit. This factor makes up just 10% of your credit score, but it’s an easy one you can affect as long as you’re careful about applying for credit.
  • You don’t have a wide variety of account types. You may be an ace at handling your student loans, but creditors also want to know you can handle other types of credit like mortgages and credit card debt, too. The more types of credit accounts you have on file, the better. However, we don’t recommend taking out a loan just for the sake of boosting your credit score — that costs money, and you’ll only receive a modest benefit from it because credit mix only makes up 10% of your credit score.

As you can see, you do have a lot of options when it comes to fine-tuning your credit score into the good or excellent category. We recommend the helpful credit score simulator at Chase Credit Journey to check your current score and see how these adjustments can potentially change your credit level. It’s available whether you’re a Chase customer or not. Give it a try!

Applying for a credit card is easy. You’ll need some basic information like name, address, and Social Security number. You’ll also need employment and income information. Simply enter it into the online form on the credit card company’s website, visit a branch of the bank (if they have one), or call the credit card company directly. You’ll usually receive instant notification if you’ve been approved or not.

There are many ways for you to increase your credit score. Ultimately practicing responsible credit behavior is the best way to see your score rise. Here are a few ways you can increase your credit score:

  • Have someone add you as an authorized user: If you have a willing (and very trusting) friend or family member with better credit, you can ask them to add you as an authorized user onto one or more of their credit cards. Their credit will not be harmed by this (as long as you don’t rack up charges or missed payments), and the credit card will show up on your credit report just as if you had applied for it — boosting your credit utilization ratio, number of accounts, and account age if you keep it for a long time.
  • Increase your credit history length: Unfortunately, you can’t go back in time, but you can still affect your credit history length. Your credit score is partially based off of average credit history length, and the more old accounts you have, the better. If you already have credit cards open, consider keeping them open so your average credit history won’t decrease and ding your credit. Each new credit card you get will drop your average account age, and it’ll take longer to boost this portion of your score.
  • Maintain a low credit utilization: Credit utilization (the percentage of available credit you’re using) is one of the biggest factors in calculating your credit score. The lower, the better. To decrease your utilization ratio, simply pay off your credit card. You can also request a credit limit increase from your credit card issuer to lower your credit utilization ratio — just make sure not to rack up a balance again with that extra credit or you’ll be back to square one.

Missing a payment can single-handedly cause your credit score to drop by 100 points or more. To avoid this, simply set up your credit card on autopay for the minimum amount due — that way you’ll never have to worry about missing a payment.

You can always apply for a personal loan if you need some cash right now for something. You can use this tool to shop around for the best interest rates without hurting your credit score. It’s smart to avoid hard inquiries until you’re ready to actually apply for a personal loan so that your credit isn’t dinged with multiple inquiries.

Each credit card is different, so you’ll need to check the fine print. Usually, though, you’ll need to both charge a purchase and pay off your bill before you’re eligible for those cash back rewards. Then, they’ll tally up this amount and periodically either send you a check, or offer a statement credit.

If you’re running a small business, it’s often easy to mix your personal and business accounts, especially if you’re self-employed. This creates an accounting nightmare to sort through, so it’s recommended (but not required) that you have a separate business banking account and credit card, if you need one.

Lindsay VanSomeren
Lindsay VanSomeren |

Lindsay VanSomeren is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lindsay here

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Advertiser Disclosure

Best of, Credit Cards

Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit December 2017

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

If you have bad credit, it can be difficult to get approved for loans and credit cards. But it is not impossible. Even people with bad credit have options – which we will now explain.

What exactly is a bad credit score? When we’re talking about obtaining credit via credit cards, the magic number is somewhere between 620 and 650. If your credit score falls below 650, you’re going to have a difficult time obtaining credit from some of the larger lending institutions, and if it’s below 620, you’re going to have a difficult time obtaining credit from anyone — including smaller financial institutions like credit unions and independent marketplace lenders.

There are, however, some products for which you’ll have an easier time qualifying. Before you apply, make sure you’re prepared to be responsible with your new line of credit so you can boost your score and credit history rather than damaging it further. The best way to do this is to spend within your means by creating a budget and sticking to it. Here are some helpful tools to help you do just that. Remember to always pay your bill off in full on or before the due date each month to establish good credit.

Here are the products and topics we’ll be discussing today:

Check if You’re Pre-qualified

Before you apply for a credit card check if you’re pre-qualified from a variety of institutions. This does not hurt your credit score. Sites such as CreditCards.com provide good tools that can match you to offers from multiple credit card companies without impacting your credit score. This is a good first step when looking to apply for credit. You can read our complete guide to getting pre-qualified for a credit card here.

Build Credit with Secured Credit Cards

If you are trying to rebuild your credit, one of the best approaches is to get a secured credit card. In order to get the card, you will have to write a check to deposit with the credit card company. This money will be your line of credit.

In order to effectively rebuild your credit, you must actually use the card, and we recommend not charging more than 20% of your credit line. For example, if you have a $500 credit line, you should not charge more than $100. Then, pay off your balance in full every single month. You can even build credit with $10 a month on a secured card and see your credit score rise.

After you’ve consistently managed your secured card well over a period of time, you may be able to increase your credit line beyond your initial deposit or migrate to an unsecured credit card. With most companies, this is a tedious process that you’ll have to initiate. You also aren’t guaranteed to get results even after you’ve made a request.

Discover operates differently than most companies in this realm, making it our number one pick for secured cards.

Discover it® Secured Card

If you’re looking for a secured credit card, look no further than Discover it® Secured Card. On top of being great for people with a bad credit score, Discover will also accept applicants who have no credit history at all. Discover offers great ways for you to rebuild your credit and be on the way to an unsecured card.

Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee

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on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

Read Full Review

Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee

Annual fee
$0
Minimum Deposit
$200
APR
23.99% APR

Variable

Credit required
bad-credit
Bad

Also Consider

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card from Capital Bank N.A.

OpenSky Secured Visa

This card does not do a credit check, and no bank account is needed to apply. This is beneficial for those with low credit scores or no access to a bank account. If you’ve filed for bankruptcy, you’re in luck because they don’t care to know, unlike other institutions. However, OpenSky charges a $35 annual fee, which Discover does not. This can be a deal breaker if you don’t want to pay a fee, since there are many secured cards without fees.

Read MagnifyMoney’s full Secured Credit Card Guide.

Our Credit Union Favorite

If you’re looking to open a credit card with bad credit, it can be hard to find a card you qualify for. That’s where credit unions come in. They are sometimes more accepting of your credit history and have cards especially designed for people with low credit scores — helping your approval chances.

Georgia’s Own Visa Classic

Georgia’s Own Credit Union offers a variety of credit cards all with low interest. Their Visa Classic unsecured card is positioned toward those who need to rebuild credit and boasts a low APR. When you apply for a credit card on Georgia’s Own website you are directed toward an application that is for all credit cards they offer. This means that depending on your creditworthiness, you may not be directed to the Visa Classic as an option. Therefore, if you want to apply directly for the card, the best bet is to speak with a loan officer who will tell you if you’re pre-approved for the Visa Classic card.

Visa® Classic from Georgia's Own Credit Union

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on Georgia's Own Credit Union’s secure website

Read Full Review

Visa® Classic from Georgia's Own Credit Union

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
APR
12.99%-17.99%

Fair Variable

Credit required
bad-credit
Bad

Best for Cash: Personal Loans

If you’re looking to get some cash in your pocket, credit cards in general aren’t your best answer. Cash advances are not ideal, and putting a purchase you can’t currently afford onto a credit card with a high interest rate attributable to your not-so-great credit score is going to be an expensive venture.

Instead, you’ll want to consider personal loans. They’re admittedly a little more work up front with the application process, but the savings can be worth it. YOu can check to see if you are prequalified without impacting your credit score at most lenders. And LendingTree (the parent company of MagnifyMoney) has created a tool that lets you compare rates from dozens of lenders at once, without impacting your score.

LendingTree

LendingTree, our parent company, offers a one-stop tool that can help borrowers find numerous personal loan offers. After entering some basic information, you can receive offers from lenders in a matter of minutes. If you prefer to go directly to the lender’s site you can use one of the options listed below.

LEARN MORE Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

LendingTree

Loan Amount
up to $35,000
Term
up to 60 Months
APR Range
5.99%-35.99%
Origination Fee
Varies
Credit Required
Bad or Could be Better/Average/Good/Excellent
Soft Pull
You can get your rate without hurting your score.

Pros Pros

  • Check Multiple Offers at OnceYou can check personal loan offers from a wide range of lenders including Avant, LendingClub and Best Egg. The entire process happens online for free and is fast and easy.
  • Soft Pull on Your CreditLendingTree performs a soft pull on your credit in order to give you accurate loan offers. This does not affect your credit score and can give you a good picture of what to expect if you're approved for a loan.

Cons Cons

  • Need to Create and Account to View OffersThe only way to view your personal loan offers is to create and account at LendingTree. This is a minor step, but it does allow you the ease of saving your offers so you can review them later.
Bottom line

Bottom line

LendingTree offers a great tool that lets you easily check your rates for a variety of lenders, all in a matter of minutes. This is a great way for you to see what rates you may get and allows you to shop around for the best offer, without the hassle of going to multiple websites.

Avant

Avant offers personal loans even to those with less-than-desirable credit. Because there is no prepayment penalty, you can pay off your loan before the end of your term without consequence.

APPLY NOW Secured

on Avant’s secure website

Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC.

Avant

Loan Amount
$2,000 – $35,000
Term
up to 60 Months
APR Range
9.95%-35.99%
Origination Fee
4.75%
Soft Pull
Checking your Loan Options will not affect your credit score.

Pros Pros

  • Apply Online The entire Avant application process happens online. This saves you the hassle of filling out paperwork and visiting a local branch.
  • Check Your Loan Options Before You Apply Avant allows you to check your Loan Options that you would be offered with a soft pull on your credit. This will not impact your credit score. This is helpful if you’re shopping around for different rates and gives you a realistic picture of what to expect should you choose Avant.
  • Could Save Money over Subprime Credit Cards Depending on the interest rate and upfront fee percentage you are offered, a personal loan from Avant could save you money over putting purchases on a subprime credit card. The ability to preview your interest rate can also help you compare between personal loans and other possible options.

Cons Cons

  • High Interest Rates Because you’re a subprime borrower, you’re not likely to qualify for the lowest interest rate offered. You’re more likely to be offered something closer to the 35.99% rate. This is a very high rate, and it’s important that you make all of your payments on time to avoid paying interest and damaging your credit score.
Bottom line

Bottom line

While there’s only one con for Avant’s personal loans, it’s a pretty big one. The interest rate can be extremely high, so do your math before deciding if this is a good product for you. And be sure to take advantage of the fact that they’ll let you check your interest rate before officially submitting your application. Use this feature to shop around for best offers and check if you qualify for a better loan

OneMain Financial

Avant is easier to apply for as the application process will take place online, but if you’re willing to go somewhere in person, you can also apply with OneMain. Its application is also online, but in order to be approved, you’ll have to show up at a local branch with documentation backing the information you submitted at home.

APPLY NOW Secured

on OneMain Financial’s secure website

OneMain Financial

Loan Amount
up to $25,000
APR Range
17.59%-35.99%
Origination Fee
No origination fee
Credit Required
Average/Good/Excellent

Pros Pros

  • Talk to a Loan Officer At OneMain you have the benefit of talking to a loan officer and explaining your personal situation. This is a positive experience that can help you explain anything that can’t be seen on an application.
  • Receive Money Same Day If you apply online before noon, you usually will receive the loan the same day. This is helpful if you need money quickly. After the loan is approved, you have 14 days to change your mind and return the loan proceeds. If you do that, you will not be responsible for any of the accrued interest.

Cons Cons

  • High Interest Rates Accrued Daily Even though the interest rates may be more reflective of your situation, they are still high. Interest accrues daily, which could add years to your loan if you don’t pay on time. Be sure to make your payments on time each month to avoid paying high interest rates.
  • Must Meet in Person You have to physically bring your paperwork into a OneMain branch after applying online. You will also have to complete an interview with a loan officer. This can be a tedious process if there is no OneMain branch located near you.
  • Must Borrow a Minimum of $1,500 Depending on how much cash you need, the $1,500 minimum may be too high if you only need a couple of hundred dollars. There is no maximum loan amount offered.
Bottom line

Bottom line

OneMain locations can be a good choice if you want to have your loan the day you apply. If you’re okay meeting someone in person and have the transportation to get to your closest branch, this may be an option worth exploring. Make sure you decide if this offer is right for you and if you need a loan over $1,500. Check to see if you’re pre-qualified for a better offer from other institutions.

Last Resort: Subprime Credit Cards

Subprime credit cards are those that lending institutions issue to those with “bad” credit. They are not a good solution to your credit woes. They almost always come with high interest rates and a litany of fees — both of which make it difficult to use this product responsibly.

For example, First Premier makes a business out of lending to subprime borrowers with bad credit. Most of their applicants are only awarded a $300 line of credit. That’s after they pay a $95 fee just to apply (which is not a common practice in the credit card industry) and a $75 annual fee. If you are approved for a higher credit limit, your annual fee for the first year may be higher ($79-$125). In the second year, the annual fee drops ($45-$49), but at this point you are charged a $6.25-$10.40 account servicing fee every single month.

The cherry on top? The card’s APR is 36%. Heaven forbid you are ever late on a payment — your balance will skyrocket with the insanely high interest rate. Don’t forget about the late payment fee — up to $38.

Another example is Credit One Bank — not to be confused with Capitol One Bank, though their logos do look eerily similar. Not every Credit One Bank credit card comes with outrageous fees. In fact, there are 26 separate possible card agreements. But if you are a subprime borrower, you’re likely to qualify for higher rates.

Your credit may not be great, but that doesn’t make subprime credit cards a “fair” product. You may qualify for other, better options that aren’t as laden with fees. That’s why we recommend you first check if you’re pre-qualified for offers then look at store cards and personal loans before choosing a subprime credit card.

Bad Credit FAQs

Store cards can be used as payment anywhere the credit card company, such as MasterCard or Visa, is accepted. Private label cards can only be used at the branded company’s store. For example, if you get a private label card for New York & Company, you can only use it for purchases at New York & Company. You would not be able to use it at any other store.

Your best bet is to ask. If you are applying online, pick up the phone and call or use the company’s online chat if available.

If you have a physical card in front of you, you’ll notice that store cards always have the associated credit card company shown on the front, whether that be Visa, American Express, MasterCard, or another.

Private label cards tend not to display this information, though a major financial institution that a lot of companies work with for their private label cards is Comenity. If you have a card associated with Comenity Bank, it is likely a private label card.

No. Most businesses have an online application for their store cards.

Personal loans are typically issued by more reputable lenders who aspire to more transparency than those in the payday loan space. Payday loans are often advertised as having interest rates somewhere between 10% and 30%, but that interest is charged over a short period of time, making their effective APR (annual percentage rate) much higher. Some payday loans have an effective APR of 400% or more.

The lender isn’t likely to tell you that, though. Many businesses in this space are predatory. Payday loans also tend to come with outrageous fees.

While rates and fees on personal loans for those with bad credit aren’t ideal, they’re more than substantially lower than those of payday loans. Make no mistake about it: despite enticing advertising promises of deceptive payday lenders, personal loans are an infinitely better option.

Borrowing cash from your credit card company often comes with a fee of 1%-5%. That may not seem terrible when you look at the upfront fees of many personal loans, but you also have to account for interest.

Unlike purchases you charge to your card, interest on cash advances starts accruing immediately. You do not get to wait for your next statement to be issued. The interest rate for cash advances is also often higher than that of regular purchases.

A personal loan is an installment loan with a balance that will go down if you pay the minimum payment each month. This makes it far easier to manage than debt accrued via a cash advance. If you only pay the minimum payment on a cash advance each month, your balance will go up at a quick pace, potentially spiraling out of control.

First of all, the less you charge, the easier it will be to pay back. Since you have a bad credit score, you may have had issues with charging too much in the past and being unable to pay it off.

Secondly, around 30% of your credit score is made up of your credit utilization ratio. You find this ratio by dividing the amount of credit extended to you by the amount you have borrowed. By borrowing only 20% of your available credit, you reduce the risk of having your current balance negatively impacting your credit score.

It can sometimes take a year or more to see your score improve by 100 points if you are doing everything correctly and responsibly.

Yes, but only if you use them responsibly, paying the balance off in full every month. Keep in mind your credit utilization ratio here, too.

Potentially. Ten percent of your credit score is made up of something called “credit mix.” You don’t need to have every single type of credit in your credit report, but you should have more than one type. Here are the five that count:

  • Credit cards
  • Installment loans
  • Retail accounts
  • Finance company accounts
  • Mortgage loans

Conceivably, if you have a mortgage or business debt tied to your Social Security number or EIN, you might be able to get away with rebuilding your score through a personal loan (which is an installment loan). The key is to manage all of those debts well — and to do so consistently — especially since you already have bad credit.

No. Transactions on prepaid debit cards do not get reported to the credit bureaus. Also, it’s important to remember than many prepaid cards come with a ton of fees.

Brynne Conroy
Brynne Conroy |

Brynne Conroy is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brynne at brynne@magnifymoney.com

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Best of, Credit Cards

Credit Cards: Find the Best Credit Card Offers & Deals – December 2017

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Credit Cards: Find the Best Credit Card Offers & Deals

Updated December 1, 2017

The best credit cards can help you earn $2 or more for every $100 you spend – an easy way to make $100s or even $1,000s a year. When done properly, low rate credit cards are also the cheapest way to borrow. You can get 0% interest for up to 2 years. And credit cards are the best way to build, rebuild or maintain an excellent credit score, without paying fees.

But if you get it wrong, you can easily end up buried under a pile of expensive debt. This is a step-by-step guide that will help you find the best credit cards while avoiding expensive traps.

How to Choose and Use a Rewards Card

It is now easy to earn great rewards when you use a credit card for your spending. You should earn at least 2% cash back, and can earn even more with a bit of work. The money can add up quickly. If you spend $1,000 a month, you can earn $240 a year. It is not very often you can get something for nothing. But if you make the right choice and follow the rules, you can earn significant rewards.

How to Choose

Best Cash Back Credit Cards

Cash back credit cards are a great way for you to earn money back from everyday purchases. There are two types of cash back credit cards — flat-rate and category. Flat-rate cards offer the same cash back rate for all purchases, while category cards offer higher rates for certain purchases like gas, grocery, travel, and dining. Below we break down the best cash back credit cards.

Best Flat-Rate

These are the top cards offering a flat cash back rate.

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

1% When You Buy + 1% When You Pay

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is the best overall cash back credit card. So long as you pay your statement balance in full and on time every month, you will earn 2% cash back. You earn 1% unlimited cash back on all of your purchases. You then earn an additional 1% on payments based on your purchases. The bonus cash back can take up to two billing cycles to post.

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  • No caps on how much cash back you can earn.
  • Cash back earning formula is easy to understand
  • There is a range of interest rates. You won’t know yours until after you apply

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent Credit

Purchase Interest Rate : 14.49% – 24.49% Variable

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer : 0% for 18 months

BT Fee : 3% or $5, whichever is greater

Tip: Make sure you pay your statement balance in full and on time to maximize your cash back.

APPLY NOW Secured

on Citibank’s secure website

FULL REVIEW 

Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Unlimited 2% Cash Back on Every Purchase

Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Credit Card

The Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Credit Card offers Fidelity customers a generous 2% cash back on all purchases, with no limits or category restrictions. The cash back you earn must be deposited into a Fidelity account, but you don’t need to have a Fidelity account to apply for the card. If you do not have a Fidelity account, they will open a Fidelity Cash Management Account to deposit your cash back. It works like a checking account with no minimum balance requirement and no monthly fees.

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  • Simple cash back earning formula
  • No caps on how much cash back you can earn
  • You need to have a Fidelity account in order to redeem your cash back

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent Credit

Purchase Interest Rate : 14.99% Variable

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer : None

BT Fee : 3% or $5, whichever is greater

Tip: You don’t need to keep your retirement or stock accounts with Fidelity to qualify for this card. Anyone can apply.

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on Fidelity’s secure website

FULL REVIEW 

Best Category Bonuses

Here are the top cash back cards that pay much higher rates in certain bonus categories, which can be a great way to boost your returns.

Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

Unlimited 5% Cash Back on Gas

Fort Knox Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

If you spend a lot of money on gas, there is no better card than this. You can earn unlimited 5% cash back on spending at gas stations. You will earn 1% on all other spend. You must be a member of the credit union, but anyone can join. Pay $5 to join the American Consumer Council of Kentucky (you can do that here) and you will be eligible to join.

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  • No limit to the cash back you can earn, even in the bonus category
  • You have to be a member of the credit union to get the card

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : as low as 10.25%

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer : None

BT Fee : None

Tip: If you are not yet a member, you can use the non-member application process. Once approved, you can join with your $5 contribution to American Consumer Council.

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on Fort Knox Federal’s secure website

MORE GAS CASH BACK CARDS 

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

6% Cash Back at U.S. Supermarkets (Up to $6,000 of Spend)

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

The unparalleled 6% cash back rate at U.S. Supermarkets makes this one of the best cards on the market for heavy grocery shoppers. Even with the $95 annual fee, most grocery shoppers will come out ahead. You will also earn 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 3% at select U.S. department stores and 1% on all other purchases. You’ll earn the sign up bonus of a $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

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  • Simple, easy to understand Welcome Offer
  • There is an Annual fee

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : 13.99% - 24.99% Variable

Annual Fee : $95

Welcome Offer : $200 statement credit after you spend $1000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

Intro Purchase APR : 0% for 12 months

Intro Balance Transfer : 0% for 12 months

BT Fee : 3% or $5, whichever is greater

Tip: If you spend less than $200 a month on groceries, you will earn less than 2% cash back (after taking into account the fee) and would be better with Citi Double Cash or Fidelity American Express. But, if you spend more each year, this is a great option.

APPLY NOW Secured

on American Express Bank’s secure website

Terms Apply

Rates & Fees

MORE GROCERY CASH BACK CARDS 

PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card

4.25% Cash Back on Airfare Expenses

PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card

If you buy a lot of plane tickets every year, this card can be particularly lucrative. You will earn 5 points for every $1 spent on air travel. When you convert those points to a prepaid Visa card, those 5 points turn into a 4.25% earn rate. You earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. There is no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees and 20,000 bonus points when you spend $2,500 within three months of account opening.

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  • No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • The conversion from points to $ can be confusing
  • You must be a member of the credit union

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : 9.74% – 17.99% Variable

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : 20,000 bonus points when you spend $2,500 within 3 months of opening an account.

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer : 0% for 12 months

BT Fee : 3%None

Tip: Keep an eye open on the redemption opportunities. You can sometimes find better deals than just prepaid Visa® cards.

APPLY NOW Secured

on PenFed Credit Union’s secure website

MORE CARDS FOR TRAVEL SPENDING 

Uber Visa Card

4% for Dining Out

Uber Visa Card

This card appears to have millennials’ interests at heart, offering higher rewards rates for eating out and credits toward streaming subscriptions. The Uber Visa Card offers 4% back on dining purchases, from restaurant and bar purchases to takeout and UberEATS. Also offered: 3% back on hotel and airfare including vacation home rentals; 2% back for online purchases covering everything from Uber and online shopping to video and music streaming; and 1% on everything else.

As mentioned, dining purchases are defined as spending at restaurants, bars, on takeout or via the UberEATS service. Points can be redeemed for Uber credits, gift cards or cash back.

Another perk: There is no annual fee with this card. And there’s a terrific sign-up bonus that requires you to spend $500 within 90 days from account opening to earn $100. Also, you can earn up to a $50 credit for online subscription services after you spend $5,000 or more on your card per year.

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  • Good disclosure: they tell you what you need to know
  • Simple introductory bonus
  • Impossible to know your interest rate until you apply

Key Information

Purchase interest rate : 15.99%, 21.74% or 24.74% Variable

Annual fee : $0

Sign-on bonus : Earn $100 after spending $500 on purchases in the first 90 days.

Intro purchase APR : None

Intro balance transfer : None

BT fee : $10 or 3%, whichever is greater

Tip: Use this card for all dining, hotel and airfare purchases to maximize your rewards at the higher rate.

FULL REVIEW 

Do you spend a lot of money in other categories? You can find the best cash back credit cards for every category here.

Best Travel Credit Cards

If you would like to earn free travel, there are a number of credit cards designed specifically to help you earn free flights quickly. Here are the best travel rewards credit cards.

Best Credit Cards for U.S. Travel

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card

Best No Annual Fee Travel Card – Miles Can Be Used Anywhere

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card

With this card, you earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend. There are no restrictions and no blackout dates. Every 100 points can be redeemed for $1 worth of travel. The rewards get even better if you have “Preferred Rewards” at Bank of America®. If you’re a Preferred Rewards client, you could increase your points earned with a bonus of 25% – 75%.

There is no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees. You can use your points for a wide range of travel options, including flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars and even pesky baggage fees.

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  • Simple introductory bonus
  • No limit to the points you can earn
  • There is a range of interest rates. You won’t know yours until after you apply

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : 15.99% – 23.99% Variable

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : 20,000 bonus points after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days.

Intro Purchase APR : 0% for 12 months

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : None

BT Fee : 3% or $10, whichever is greater

Tip: The Preferred Rewards program offers excellent rewards. If you rollover your old 401(k) or IRA to Merrill Edge®, you can get up to a 75% credit card bonus and ATM fee reimbursement with a Bank of America® checking account.

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on Bank Of America’s secure website

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

Best No Annual Fee Travel Card – Earn Airline Miles & Hotel Points

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

You can earn 2 points for every $1 spent at U.S. supermarkets, up to $6,000 per year in purchases. You will earn 1 point on all other purchases, including supermarket spending above $6,000. There is an added bonus if you use your credit card for 20 purchases per month — you will get a bonus of 20% more points on those purchases. That means you would get 2.4 points at U.S. supermarkets spending (up to $6,000 per year) and 1.2 points on everything else.

You will be earning Membership Rewards® Points, which have a wide variety of redemption options such as conversion into frequent flier miles. Participating airlines include Delta, Virgin America, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and more. You also have the option to convert points into hotel programs, including Hilton and Starwood.

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  • Simple Welcome Offer
  • The 2-point bonus on grocery store spending is capped
  • You need 20 transactions each month to get the the 20% bonus

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : 13.99% - 23.99% Variable

Annual Fee : $0

Welcome Offer : Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $1000 in purchases in your first 3 months.

Intro Purchase APR : 0% for 12 months

Intro Balance Transfer : 0% for 12 months

BT Fee : 3% or $5, whichever is greater

Tip: Make sure you use this card for all of your everyday spend. The 20% bonus is based upon the number of transactions made, not the value of those transactions. Even buying a package of gum in the grocery store counts.

APPLY NOW Secured

on American Express Bank’s secure website

Terms Apply

Rates & Fees

FULL REVIEW 

Best Credit Cards for International Travel

These are the best credit cards for use when traveling outside of the country. None of these cards have foreign transaction fees. And some of them even have chip and pin, helping to increase acceptance.

Platinum Rewards MasterCard® from First Tech FCU

No Annual or Foreign Transaction Fee + Chip and Pin Functionality

First Tech Credit Union Platinum Rewards MasterCard®

This card is a great companion for overseas travel with no annual fee or foreign transaction fee. Even better, the card offers chip and pin functionality. Most major credit card issuers in America have rolled out chip and signature, which can be problematic overseas. If you try to use your card at a ticket machine or with a waiter’s portable payment device, you have a good chance of being rejected.

It’s easy to join the credit union —membership is free if you work for a sponsor technology company, work for the state of Oregon or live in Lane County, Oregon. Otherwise, you just need to join the Financial Fitness Association with a one-time fee of $8. There is a sub-par rewards program: 1 point for every $1 you spend.

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  • No annual fee or foreign transaction fees
  • You have to be a member of the credit union

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : as low as 10.99% Variable

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : $200 bonus cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer APR : 0% for 12 months

BT Fee : None

Tip: Use this card for foreign travel, not for rewards since you earn a very low rate.

APPLY NOW Secured

on First Technology Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best Foreign Travel for Fair Credit

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

This card is designed for people with average credit. If you have defaulted on a loan in the past five years (but not more than once), or if you have had limited credit history (at least one account for less than three years), you would be considered “average.” With this card, you can earn 1.5% unlimited cash back. There is also no foreign transaction fee, but be aware of the $39 annual fee.

You can use this card to build your credit score by keeping your utilization low (ideally below 20%) and make your payments on time and in full every month. Capital One® provides free access to your FICO score so you can track your score and see when you are eligible for an upgrade to a no-fee card.

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  • No limit to the cash back you can earn
  • No confusing categories or limits
  • No annual fee or foreign transaction fee

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Average

Purchase Interest Rate : 24.99% (Variable)

Annual Fee : $39

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : None

BT Fee : None

Tip: Use this credit card to build your score and avoid expensive foreign transaction fees.

 

APPLY NOW Secured

on Capital One’s secure website

FULL REVIEW 
How to Use

In order to maximize your cash back, make sure you follow these suggestions:

  • Use your chosen cash back card for ALL of your spending. Your goal should be to replace cash, checks, automatic debits and debit cards completely. For example, you can automate bill payments (like your cell phone) to be debited from your credit card. This will make your life easier (only one payment to make each month) and it will make budgeting easier (you can set a target for spending and track it easily).
  • Set up automatic monthly payments for the statement balance, not the minimum due. If you set up automatic payments, you will ensure that your payment will be on time every month. And if you set up the automatic payment for the statement balance, you will ensure that you are never charged interest and only charge what you can afford to repay.
  • Avoid cash advances. If you use your credit card to take out cash, most companies will charge a cash advance fee that averages 3%. The interest rate on cash advances is usually above 20%. And there is no grace period, which means interest starts accruing right away.

Best Luxury Card

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Airline perks, entertainment benefits, rewards and more

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The The Platinum Card® from American Express is the best overall luxury card on the market, offering numerous benefits for cardholders. To name a few perks, you can receive: up to $200 in annual savings on Uber rides, Preferred Seating for select entertainment events, access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection? with over 1,000 airport lounges across 120 countries, a $200 Airline Fee Credit per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline, and numerous other benefits.

There is a rewards program great for frequent travelers — you get five Membership Rewards® points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and five Membership Rewards® points per dollar spent on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com.

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  • Good disclosure: they tell you what you need to know
  • Simple introductory bonus
  • High annual fee

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent / good credit

Annual Fee : $550

Sign-on Bonus : Earn $6,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new card to make $5000 in purchases in your first 3 months

Tip: To earn the most Membership Rewards® points, be sure to purchase flights directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and book hotel stays directly on amextravel.com.

 

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on American Express Bank’s secure website

Terms Apply

Rates & Fees

Best Low Rate Cards

If you’re someone who carries a balance month-to-month, a low rate credit card can be a great way for you to save money. Whether you want to complete a balance transfer, finance a large purchase, of simply have a low rate card in your wallet, there is a card for you. See below for our top picks.

How to Choose and Use a Low Rate Credit Card

When done properly, credit cards can be the cheapest way to borrow. Just make sure you choose the right credit card for your situation and automate a plan to pay off the debt as quickly as possible.

How to Choose

Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards

With a balance transfer credit card, you can transfer debt from a high interest rate credit card to a 0% introductory promotional rate. You can find no fee balance transfers for up to 15 months. If you are willing to pay a fee, you can find balance transfers for 18 or 21 months. The fee is usually worthwhile – if you want to do the calculation, you can use the calculator on our interactive tool.

Remember: You cannot transfer debt between two credit cards of the same bank.

Here are the best 0% balance transfer offers in the market today. All of these credit cards waive interest – which means there is no retroactive interest charge to worry about.

Chase Slate<sup>®</sup>

No Fee – introductory 0% on transfers for 15 months

Chase Slate®

With the Chase Slate® credit card you can enjoy an introductory balance transfer offer for 15 months and pay no balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open. The intro $0 transfer fee is a great way to save money when completing your transfer. In addition to the balance transfer offer, you pay no interest on purchases for 15 months — great for those who want to pay off a large purchase over time without accruing interest.

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  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • Interest rate is not known until you apply.

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : 15.99% – 24.74% Variable

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : 0% for 15 months

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : 0% for 15 months

BT Fee : $0 Introductory balance transfer fee for transfers made during the first 60 days of account opening After, 5% of the amount transferred, with a minimum of $5.

Tip: Compete your transfer within 60 days from account opening to take advantage of the intro $0 transfer fee.

APPLY NOW Secured

on Chase’s secure website

FULL REVIEW 

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever

0% intro APR on transfers and purchases for 21 months; 3% balance transfer fee

Citi Simplicity® Card – No Late Fees Ever

Citibank has a strong intro balance transfer offer, with a long 21 months. In addition, the Citi Simplicity® Card – No Late Fees Ever has some added perks. There are no late fees, no penalty rate and no annual fee. Although you should always try to pay on time, it is nice that this card will not punish you for the occasional mistake. In addition to the balance transfer offer, you pay no interest on purchases for 21 months.

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  • No late fee, no penalty APR and no annual fee
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • There is a range of interest rates. You won’t know yours until you apply.

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : 14.99% – 24.99% Variable

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : 0% for 21 months

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : 0% for 21 months

BT Fee : 3% or $5, whichever is greater

Tip: Make sure you transfer your balance within 4 months of opening the card, otherwise you lose the promotional offer.

APPLY NOW Secured

on Citibank’s secure website

FULL REVIEW 

Paying off credit card debt sometimes requires more than one balance transfer credit card. If you want even more choices, check out our full guide to the best balance transfer cards, or use our balance transfer calculator to see which cards will save you most.

Best 0% Purchase Credit Cards

With a 0% introductory purchase offer, you will not be charged interest for purchases made on the credit card during the promotional period. This is a great way to finance a purchase. Even better, none of these top cards charge retroactive interest if you don’t pay off the balance during the promotional period. (A lot of store credit cards offer 0%, but then hit you with a big penalty. But don’t worry – these recommendations don’t do that).

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

0% intro on Purchases for 21 Months

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card – 21 Month Intro Offer on BT and Purchases

If you are looking to finance a purchase, Citibank offers the longest 0% intro purchase promotion of any credit card in the MagnifyMoney database. The intro APR on purchases will be 0% for the first 21 months after opening the credit card. This is a fantastic length of time for you to pay off your balance. Additionally, Citi® Diamond Preferred® has a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months. There is also no annual fee and the ability to choose your payment due date from any available due date in the beginning, middle or end of the month.

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  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • Interest rate is not known until you apply.

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : 13.99% – 23.99%

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : 0% for 21 months

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : 0% for 21 months

BT Fee : 3% or $5, whichever is greater

Tip: The 21 months starts from when you open the credit card, not when you make the purchase. So make sure you time your application with your planned purchase.

APPLY NOW Secured

on Citibank’s secure website

FULL REVIEW 

TruWest Visa® Signature Card

0% Intro on Purchases for 18 Months – Credit Union Membership Required

TruWest Visa® Signature

TruWest is a credit union with restricted membership. Unfortunately, you need to live in certain regions of Texas or Arizona, or work for a few select employers to join. You can learn about membership eligibility here. If you are able to join, you will find a long 18-month 0% intro APR period. Even better, the credit card has reasonable credit union interest rates after the promotional period ends. There is no annual fee on the card.

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  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • There is a range of interest rates. You won’t know yours until you apply.

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : 8.90% – 9.90%

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : Earn $100 when you spend $100 in the first 90 days of account opening.

Intro Purchase APR : 0% for 18 months

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : 0% for 18 months

BT Fee : 3%

Tip: Make sure you check your membership eligibility before you apply.

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on TruWest Credit Union’s secure website

Best Low Interest Credit Cards

Having a credit card with a rate that stays low is a good idea. In case of an emergency, you will always have access to a low cost way to borrow. Here are some great low interest rate options:

Langley Select Visa Platinum Card from Langley FCU

As Low as 8.00% APR from a Credit Union Anyone Can Join

Langley Select Visa® Platinum

Anyone can join Langley Federal Credit Union by joining an association during the signup process for $5. If you have excellent credit and just want a place for emergency spending with no rewards, consider keeping this card on hand. Although the rates start as low as 8.00% Variable, not everyone will get a rate that low. It’s more of a hassle than a regular bank card, but if you insist on the very lowest rate you may get it with this card.

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  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • There is a range of interest rates. You won’t know yours until you apply.
  • You have to join the credit union.

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : as low as 8.00% Variable

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : None

BT Fee : None

Tip: You need to have an excellent credit score in order to qualify for the lowest interest rate.

APPLY NOW Secured

on Langley Federal Credit Union’s secure website

You might get a lower rate from a credit union or bank near you that doesn’t accept nationwide applications, and you can check our full list of low interest credit cards to see if there is one that works for you.

How to Use

If you need to borrow money, credit cards can be an incredibly low cost way of borrowing. Just make sure you pay attention to the following tips:

  • Get that balance transfer done quickly! If you are transferring a balance, make sure you complete the transfer as soon as possible. The introductory offer starts from when you open the card, not when the transfer is completed. And you can lose the offer with most issuers if you wait more than 60 days to complete the transfer.
  • Automate your monthly payments. If you pay late, you can be charged a costly late fee. And, if your payment is 60 days late, you can lose the introductory offer entirely.
  • You cannot transfer debt between two cards of the same bank. For example, if you open a Citibank account you will only be able to transfer debt from credit cards other than Citibank.

Best Cards to Help Build or Rebuild Your Credit Score

If you’re someone who is new to credit or has poor credit history, there are credit cards designed for you. These cards are a great way to begin your credit journey, or to improve your credit score. See below for our top picks.

How to Choose and Use a Credit Card to Build or Rebuild Your Score

If you are looking to build or rebuild your credit score, a credit card can be the perfect tool.

How to Choose

If you have no credit, or your credit score is below 620, you should consider a secured credit card.

If you have limited credit history (less than three years) or you have only defaulted once on a credit card or loan (not multiple times), you should consider a credit card for fair credit.

Best Secured Credit Cards if You Have Bad or No Credit

Secured credit cards are the best option if you need to build or rebuild your credit score. The best secured credit cards have no annual fees. If you’re going to use a secured credit card, it will help you grow your score if you pay your balance on time every month, keep your credit utilization low, and you apply for an unsecured credit card after 12-18 months of regular use.

Need to know more? These are ways that you can build your credit without paying interest and spending just $10 a month, and these are tips for improving your credit score.

Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee

No Annual Fee Secured Card with Free FICO Score; $200 Deposit Required

Discover it® Secured Card – No Annual Fee

This is our favorite secured credit card. There is no annual fee and you will get free access to your credit score. In order to open the card, you will need to deposit at least $200, depending upon your creditworthiness. If you have previously filed bankruptcy, you still have the chance to be approved. With this secured credit card, you will earn 2% cash back at restaurants or gas stations (on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter) and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Our favorite part of this card is the automatic monthly reviews starting at 8 months to see if you can be transitioned to an unsecured card. If you qualify, you will be graduated (and get your deposit back).

Transparency Score 25
Transparency Score
  • No annual fee
  • Free FICO credit score

Key Information

Credit Score Required : No credit, 670 or less

Purchase Interest Rate : 23.99% variable APR

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : 10.99% for 6 months from date of first transfer, for transfers under this offer that post to your account by January 10, 2018.

BT Fee : 3%

Tip: This product reports to all three credit bureaus. It is a great tool to build your score. But, if you miss payments, you can do damage to your score.

APPLY NOW Secured

on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

FULL REVIEW 

Rate Advantage Secured Visa by Coastal FCU

No Fee Secured Card; Credit Union Membership and $100 Deposit Required

Rate Advantage Secured Visa

This card has no annual fee, and you only need to deposit $100 in a Collateral Savings Account to get started. If you’re not a member of Coastal Credit Union, you can join an organization for $18, which is deducted from your initial deposit, and become a member. So you’ll need $118 to get started. While the initial deposit is lower than the Discover it® Secured Card – No Annual Fee, you lose out on the rewards. This card takes more work to open, since it involves joining a credit union, but anyone can apply.

Transparency Score 27
Transparency Score
  • A single interest rate that you know up front, before you apply
  • You have to join a credit union

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Anyone can apply

Purchase Interest Rate : as low as 16.25% Variable

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : None

BT Fee : 3% or $5, whichever is greater

Tip: It is easy to join the credit union. Join an organization for $18 and you will become eligible.

APPLY NOW Secured

on Coastal Federal Credit Union’s secure website

We also have a list of several other no annual fee secured credit cards from both banks and credit unions anyone can join. Or browse our list of hundreds of secured cards to compare rates, fees, and deposit requirements.

Best Credit Cards if You Have Fair Credit

If you have fair or average credit, you might be able to qualify for an unsecured credit card. If you have more than one default in the last five years, you will find it difficult to get approved. In addition, if you are currently delinquent on any of your accounts it will also be hard to get approved, and you should try a secured card instead.

Here are some good cards for people with fair credit:

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

1.5% Cash Back for People with Average Credit – with $39 Annual Fee

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® has created a credit card specifically for people with average credit. If you have defaulted on a loan (but not more than one) in the last five years, or you have limited credit history (at least one account for less than three years), you would meet the definition of average credit. With this card, you will earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase with no limit on how much you can earn, and no changing categories.

Transparency Score 30
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • There is an annual fee

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Average

Purchase Interest Rate : 24.99% Variable

Annual Fee : $39

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : None

BT Fee : None

Tip: Watch your credit score closely. As you pay down your debt, your score will improve. Once your score is above 700, you can find a lot of choices for credit cards with better rewards or no annual fee.

APPLY NOW Secured

on Capital One’s secure website

FULL REVIEW 

You may also want to try and see if you are pre-qualified for a credit card before applying. Banks can perform a ‘soft’ pull on your credit file to give you a sense of whether you might qualify for one of their products. It leaves no mark on your credit score, and you can see a full list of ways to check if you’re pre-qualified here.

How to Use It

In order to build your credit score with one of these cards, you should follow our tips. By doing this, you should see real improvement in your score.

  • Don’t use more than 10% – 20% of your available credit. For example, if you have a $500 credit limit, never spend more than $50. That keeps your utilization low.
  • Use your card every single month. You should make sure you have a transaction every month, so that positive data is reported to the credit bureaus.
  • Automate and pay your statement balance in full and on time every month. Even just one late payment could crush your score. And by paying the balance in full, you will avoid any interest expense.
  • Watch your score closely. Keep an eye on your credit score. After 12 months, you should really start to see a big improvement. Once your score is above 650, you should try to get your secured card converted or apply for an unsecured credit card.

A Special Note: Beware Predatory Companies

Many lenders target consumers with FICO credit scores of less than 650. If you have searched for “credit cards for bad credit,” you will probably find offers from companies like First Premier. In addition to high interest rates, these lenders often require application processing fees, maintenance fees and more. You could be given a $300 credit limit and see a big portion of it eaten up with fees.

Stay away from these specialist subprime lenders. Instead, consider the following:

  • If you need to borrow, consider a personal loan instead. You can find much better deals. Search for options here.
  • If you want to build your credit score, use a secured credit card instead.

Other Benefits of Using a Credit Card

Not only can you use a credit card to earn rewards, borrow at low rates or build your credit score for free – but there are many other benefits available. Here are some of the benefits that you can find:

Available on Most Credit Cards

  • $0 Liability on Fraudulent Activity: Credit cards are the best way to protect yourself from fraud. So long as you report the fraud to your credit card company, you will not be liable for any losses on any major credit card.
  • Car Rental Collision Insurance: If you waive collision coverage when renting a car, your credit card may provide secondary coverage of $50K or more.

Available on Some Credit Cards

  • Retail Purchase Protection: Protects you from loss, theft, fire or accidental damage for a limited period of time after your purchase has been made. Not all cards protect you from loss, so look it up in the Purchase Protection Coverage Description Document.
  • Price Protection: If you buy something in stores and you see an advertised price, you will receive the difference between the two prices.
  • Extended Warranties: Duplicates both manufacturers and store warranties for a limited length of time and for limited dollar values (varies by card).
  • Travel Accident Coverage: If you are injured during travel, and you purchased the tickets via credit card, your company fully insures you.
  • Lost Luggage Coverage: You can receive compensation for lost, stolen or damaged luggage if you purchased flight or travel tickets using your credit card.
  • Trip Interruption Cancellation Coverage: If travel delays keep you from completing a trip, and you purchased the tickets on your credit card, the full value of the tickets will be refunded
  • Concierge Services: Certain cards offer free access to local concierge services that can help you make dinner reservations, purchase event tickets, and locate items while you are abroad.

Should You Get a Credit Card?

Credit cards are like knives. Used well, they are great (even essential) tools. But if you start playing with them, you can get into trouble quickly.

There are two big risks associated with swiping plastic:

  • You spend more than you should, because it is just too easy
  • You pay higher interest rates than you should, adding years to your debt repayment

Before using a credit card, you need to answer the following question honestly:

Do I trust myself with plastic? Can I exhibit the necessary self-control to spend only what I can afford to pay in full every month?

If you have the discipline and self-control, keep reading and we will help you find the best credit card for your needs. But, if you don’t, it is possible to live a long and fulfilling life without plastic cards in your pocket.

Which type of card is best for you?

Why do you want a credit card? The answer to that question will determine which type of card is best for you.

Just remember this critical rule when selecting a credit card:

You should have a Rewards Card for your spending. You should have a Low Rate Card for your borrowing. But you should avoid mixing the two. The best Rewards Cards tend to have higher interest rates. And the best Low Rate Cards often have no (or bad) rewards.

FAQ

The minimum payment calculation differs by credit card issuer. The most common is 1% of the principal balance plus any interest or fees that accrued in the month (or a set amount, like $25, if the minimum due is very low).

If you use your credit card at an ATM to take out cash, a few things will happen. First, you would be charged a cash advance fee, which is usually about 3%. Second, interest would start accruing immediately, because most issuers do not have a cash advance grace period. And the cash advance interest rate is usually much higher than the purchase rate. Don’t be surprised to see interest rates as high as 24% (or higher).

While there is no over-limit fee, having a credit card with a balance that is greater than the credit limit can have a very negative impact on your credit score. In general, you want to keep your credit card balance below 20% (ideally below 10%) of your credit limit.

We do not recommend closing credit cards, because it can reduce your credit score. Closing unused credit cards does two things. First, it reduces your total available credit. That increases your utilization, which is bad for your score. Second, the age of your open credit cards helps your score. If you close old accounts, you can hurt your score over time.

The law requires that any payment amount beyond the minimum due must be applied to the highest APR balance first. The minimum due is at the discretion of the credit card companies. However, it is usually applied to the balance with the lowest APR first. Your goal is to eliminate high APR debt – so don’t be afraid to make much bigger payments on credit cards. The extra amount will always go to the most expensive debt first.

Each application for new credit can take 5-10 points off your credit score. If you are planning on applying for a mortgage or auto loan in the near future, you have to be very careful. Even just 5 points can be painful. However, if you are not going to be applying for a mortgage or auto loan in the next 6-12 months, you should not worry too much about your credit score. Instead, focus on getting out of debt quickly.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at nick@magnifymoney.com

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Advertiser Disclosure

Best of, Credit Cards, Reviews

Best Credit Cards for Small Businesses December 2017

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Note from the Editor: The information related to Chase Ink Business Preferred Card credit card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

 

As a small business owner you know you need to manage your cash flow and plan for financing. Credit cards can be an ideal way to meet those needs. But business owners need to be savvy cardholders. Small business credit cards come with unique risks that personally affect entrepreneurs.

 

In this roundup we cover the risks and advantages of small business credit cards. And we’ll show you what card fits your business needs.

 

Best Cards for Financing

If credit cards are an important source of financing and capital for your business, then you need to be a savvy borrower. Look for cards with compelling terms, and take the time to understand the fine print. Remember, the card may be in the business’s name, but you’re personally liable for the debt. Don’t take on more debt than you can handle.

Best 0% Financing

The Blue for Business® Credit Card from American Express

The Blue for Business® Credit Card

The American Express Blue for Business card offers an introductory 15 months of 0% APR for financing. If you fail to pay back your purchases within 15 months, your interest rate will move to a variable rate 12.24%, 16.24% or 20.24%, depending on creditworthiness. You lose access to the introductory rate if you make a late payment.

The 15-month 0% intro APR window is one of the most generous offers available. On top of generous financing, you earn rewards for spending.

You can also earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® points after making your first purchase on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. Every year, you’ll also receive a bonus of 30% of the previous year’s points earned.

The card offers perks including secondary car rental insurance, purchase protection, extended warranties, baggage insurance, trip accident insurance, and travel hotline help.

The Fine Print
  • Introductory rate: 0% APR financing for 15 months. You must pay on time, or you lose this rate.
  • APR: After 15 months, a variable rate 12.24%, 16.24% or 20.24%, depending on your creditworthiness
  • Annual fee: No annual fee
  • Rewards: 1 point per dollar spent on all purchases.
  • Terms Apply. See Rates & Fees

The information related to The Blue for Business® Credit Card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

Low Interest Rates

If you and your business have excellent credit, the Platinum Plus for Business MasterCard from Bank of America offers low ongoing financing. This is a great card for businesses with periodic short-term borrowing needs. Besides interest rates as low as 10.24% variable, it offers a seven-billing-cycle 0% APR promo rate and $200 statement credit if you spend $500 in the first 60 days.

Plus, the card offers travel accident insurance, secondary rental insurance, and automatic downloads to QuickBooks.

Remember, it’s not wise to use a small business credit card for long-term financing. Many credit unions will offer low rates on installment business loans.

The Fine Print
  • Introductory rate: 0% APR financing for seven billing cycles.
  • APR: 10.24%-21.24% variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness (after seven billing cycles)
  • Annual fee: No annual fee
  • Late fee: $19-$49 (depending on your balance)
  • Returned payment fee: $39
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $10 or 4%
  • Cash advance APR: 25.24% variable
  • Sign-up bonus: $200 statement credit if you spend $500 in your first 60 days
  • Rewards: None
APPLY NOW Secured

on Bank Of America’s secure website

Cash Flow Management

The Plum Card® from American Express OPEN

The Plum Card® from American Express

Managing cash flow can be one of the most difficult problems facing small business owners. The Plum Card® from American Express makes cash flow easier. You can pay no interest if you take up to 60 days to pay the balance in full. You effectively get a 0% working capital line of credit if you can make your payments within 60 days. And if you are able to pay back your balance sooner – within 10 days – you get a 1.5% early pay discount.

This card is one of our favorites because (a) it has one of the most generous grace periods in the market (60 days), which can really help businesses that have customers who pay on a Net-60 basis. But it is also our favorite because (b) if you pay the balance in full and on time, you are still able to earn really good rewards (a 1.5% discount).

The Fine Print
  • On-time payment bonus: 1.5% discount if you pay balance within 10 days of statement closing
  • Annual fee: $0 for the first year, $250 thereafter
  • Terms Apply. See Rates & Fees.

The information related to The Plum Card® from American Express has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

 

Imperfect Credit

If you’re struggling to get approved for a small business credit card, the Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business offers an excellent option. The card has a high variable APR (23.99%) and mediocre rewards (1% cash back). But Capital One will approve business owners with just average credit.

This isn’t a great card for borrowing, even in the short term. However, the Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business will give you some working capital, and it will help your business build its credit. Just remember to pay your bill on time each month and to keep your credit use low.

The Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business also offers perks like purchase protection, free extended warranties, and travel and emergency assistance. These protections offer tremendous value to business owners.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 23.99% variable APR
  • Annual fee: No annual fee
  • Late fee: Up to $39
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $10 or 3%
  • Cash advance APR: 23.99% variable
  • Rewards: 1% cash back on all purchases
APPLY NOW Secured

on Capital One’s secure website

Cards for Service Members

Former and current members of any branch of the military can join Navy Federal Credit Union and apply for these high-quality credit cards. The Visa and MasterCard have the same fees and conditions, but they offer different perks.

 

Navy Federal Credit Union’s Visa for Business credit card gives former service members access to low interest rates and rewards spending. This can be an excellent choice for service members with excellent credit who may have to borrow for short-term needs.

The card gives access to the Visa SavingsEdge program, which gives up to 15% off business purchases at qualifying retailers. However, the card doesn’t offer extended warranties or other protections, so it isn’t always the best choice.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 9.99%-18.0% variable
  • Annual fee: No annual fee
  • Late fee: Up to $20
  • Returned payment fee: Up to $20
  • Cash advance fee: $0 at Navy Federal Credit Union branch ATM, 50 cents domestic, $1 foreign
  • Cash advance APR: APR + 2%
  • Rewards: 1 point per dollar spent
APPLY NOW Secured

on Navy Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Navy Federal Credit Union’s MasterCard for Business credit card gives former service members access to low interest rates and rewards. The low interest rates make it a compelling choice for service members with short-term borrowing needs.

The card gives access to the MasterCard Easy Savings program, which gives automatic 10% rebates at a network of gas stations, auto repair shops, and shipping companies. This can lead to significant savings. The card also connects to the MasterCard Business Network, which makes expense reports easy. However, the card doesn’t offer extended warranties or other protections.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 9.99%-18.0% variable
  • Annual fee: No annual fee
  • Late fee: Up to $20
  • Returned payment fee: Up to $20
  • Cash advance fee: $0 at Navy Federal Credit Union branch ATM, 50 cents domestic, $1 foreign
  • Cash advance APR: APR + 2%
  • Rewards: 1 point per dollar spent
APPLY NOW Secured

on Navy Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Best Cards for Rewards

Many small business credit cards offer compelling rewards to cardholders. These rewards can allow you to reinvest in your business, or you can take them for personal use. If you choose to use a rewards credit card, try to avoid paying interest. Most of these cards are not good choices for short-term borrowing.

Travel Perks

If you’re a frequent traveler, these small business credit cards give you access to incredible perks. But be sure to read the fine print. These cards have a few gotchas attached.

 

Business Platinum Card from American Express

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express is a charge card with a premium price tag ($450 per year) and premium benefits. Please note, it is not a credit card; you should not plan to borrow money with this card. These are the most significant perks:

  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points.1.5 Points per dollar on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. Up to 1 million additional points per calendar year. 1 point for every dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Global Lounge Collection access, which includes access to Delta Sky Club lounges and American Express Centurion lounges
  • $200 airline fee credit (for checked bags, inflight refreshment, etc.)
  • One free Global Entry or TSA Pre-check application fee (allows you to expedite security at select airports and U.S. Customs)
  • 10 free passes per year to inflight Gogo Wi-Fi and unlimited Boingo (land-based Wi-Fi) access
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Gold Elite Status, which also gets you Marriott Rewards Gold status for room upgrades and free breakfast. It also gets you access to the Fine Hotels and Resorts Program (perks like in-room WiFi, complimentary breakfast, and other hotel perks at participating luxury hotels).
THE FINE PRINT
  • Annual fee: $450
  • Rewards: Earn Membership Rewards® points
  • Terms Apply. See Rates & Fees.

The information related to The Business Platinum® Card from American Express has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

As a business owner, little incidentals can add up in a big way. The Chase Ink Business Preferred Card mitigates these costs by providing high-value insurance protection to you and your employees. Not only will you earn rewards (outlined in the fine print), you’ll enjoy these perks, too.

  • Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance: If your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather, or other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $5,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours, and hotels.
  • Trip Delay Reimbursement: If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket.
  • Travel Accident Insurance: When you pay for your air, bus, train, or cruise transportation with your card, you are eligible to receive accidental death or dismemberment coverage of up to $500,000.
  • Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver: Decline the rental company’s collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card. Coverage is primary when renting for business purposes and provides reimbursement up to the actual cash value of the vehicle for theft and collision damage for most cars in the U.S. and abroad.
  • Baggage Delay Insurance: You are reimbursed for essential purchases like toiletries and clothing for baggage delays over six hours by passenger carrier up to $100 a day for five days.
  • Lost Luggage Reimbursement: If you or an immediate family member check or carry on luggage that is damaged or lost by the carrier, you’re covered up to $3,000 per passenger.
  • Extended Warranty Protection: This warranty extends the time period of the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year on eligible warranties of three years or less.
  • Cellphone Protection: Get up to $600 per claim in cellphone protection against covered theft or damage for you and your employees listed on your monthly cellphone bill when you pay it with your Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. There is a maximum of three claims in a 12-month period with a $100 deductible per claim.
The Fine Print
  • APR: 16.99%-21.99% variable
  • Annual fee: $95 per year
  • Late fee: $15-$39, depending on balance
  • Returned payment fee: $39
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $15 or 5% of transaction
  • Cash advance APR: 25.99% variable
  • Sign-up bonus: 80,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months
  • Rewards: 1 point per dollar spent, 3 points per dollar spent on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable or phone services, or online advertising (social media or search engines)
  • Bonus: Points worth 25% more when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards (Chase’s travel website)

Big Introductory Bonuses

Business owners who know they’ll spend a lot in a short period of time should take note of these cards. These bonuses provide excellent value if you can meet the spending requirements. But be wary: these cards have high interest rates. You won’t come out ahead if you end up financing a big purchase with these cards.

The Business Platinum Card offers excellent travel perks, but it offers an unparalleled Welcome Offer, too. Right now, you can earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 within three months of card membership. You’ll also earn 25,000 more points after spending an additional $10,000 within your first three months (See Rates & Fees).

If you plan to spend $20,000 or more in the next three months, this bonus is worth the highest value when redeemed for travel rewards. Depending on which option you choose, this bonus may offset annual fees. You need to churn through a lot of money to meet the spending minimums, but this is a lucrative bonus.

Click here to see details including perks and the fine print.

The Chase Ink Business Preferred Card offers ideal perks for frequent travelers, but right now you can get a great sign-up bonus, too. By spending $5,000 in three months, you’ll earn 80,000 points. This bonus is worth $1,000 if you spend your points through Chase Ultimate Rewards for travel or $800 if you redeem for cash back. You can also transfer the points to airline partners like United and Virgin Atlantic and hotel partners like Marriott and Hyatt.

In addition to the lucrative bonus, you can earn everyday spending rewards (including 3 points per dollar spent in certain categories) and valuable trip insurance.

Click here to see details including perks and the fine print.

Cash Back Rewards

Every business owner can benefit from more cash in their pocket. These cards give you the best cash back offers for everyday spending. You can find better rewards if you use multiple cards, but these have excellent rewards for those who don’t want to mess around with multiple cards. Plus, these cards have excellent protections, too. But be careful when you finance with these cards; they don’t offer great terms for borrowing.

 

The Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business offers unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases, and it is free for the first year. Plus, if you spend more than $4,500 in the first three months of holding the card, you get a $500 cash bonus. After the first year, you’ll pay $59 to hold the card. After the first year, if you spent more than $3,000 per year, it’s worth it.

The Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business also offers valuable protective features like purchase protection, free extended warranties, primary auto rental collision coverage, and more. Overall, the Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business gives straightforward rewards to business owners with excellent credit.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 17.99% variable APR
  • Penalty APR: 30.4% (applied if you make a late payment)
  • Annual fee: Free for the first year, $59 per year afterward
  • Late fee: Up to $39
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $10 or 3% of transaction
  • Cash advance APR: 23.99% variable
  • Sign-up bonus: $500 cash bonus when you spend $4,500 in the first three months
  • Rewards: 2% cash back on all spending
APPLY NOW Secured

on Capital One’s secure website

The Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business offers a rare combination of friendly financing terms and rewards. You’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back rewards on all purchases, and you’ll receive a $200 sign-up bonus if you spend $3,000 or more in your first three months.

On top of that, you’ll have a 0% APR financing rate for nine months, and an APR as low as 13.99% variable afterward.

This isn’t the most lucrative rewards card, but you won’t pay an annual fee. This makes it a great card for businesses that don’t spend as much on a credit card.

The Fine Print
  • Promo APR: 0% for nine months
  • APR: 13.99%-21.99% variable, depending on your creditworthiness
  • Penalty APR: 30.4% variable (applied if you make a late payment)
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Late fee: Up to $39
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $10 or 3% of transaction
  • Cash advance APR: 23.99% variable
  • Sign-up bonus: $200 cash bonus when you spend $3,000 in the first three months
  • Rewards: 1.5% cash back on all spending
APPLY NOW Secured

on Capital One’s secure website

Best Category Bonuses

If you and your employees spend a lot of money in a limited number of categories, you might want to consider a rewards card with heavy bonuses in those categories. These cards offer at least 3 points for every dollar you spend in a given category. That’s the equivalent of a 3% reward.

Remember, rewards cards aren’t usually a good choice for financing purchases. Look to pay off these cards every month.

Online Advertising

Businesses that regularly advertise on social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) or via search engines (Google, Bing) can earn impressive rewards on their marketing spending. These are the best cards for heavy online advertisers.

 

You’ll earn 3 points for every dollar you spend on online advertising. In addition, you’ll be eligible for travel perks, sign-up bonuses, and more.Click here to see details including perks and the fine print.

The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN

The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN

The American Express Business Gold Rewards Card allows you to choose to earn 3 points per dollar spent on any one of the following categories: airfare purchased directly from airlines, U.S. advertising in select media, U.S. gas stations, U.S. shipping, or U.S. computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers. You’ll earn 2 points per dollar on the four remaining categories.

All other spending earns 1 point per dollar you spend.

As a Welcome Offer, you’ll earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 in qualifying purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card membership. In addition to the rewards, you get trip accident insurance, extended warranties, and purchase protection.

Since the Business Gold Rewards Card is a charge card, you shouldn’t plan to borrow with the card. But the rewards for online advertisers are excellent. Just watch out for the $175 annual fee that kicks in after the first year.

The Fine Print
  • Annual fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year,
    then $175
  • Rewards: 1 point per dollar spent
  • Bonus rewards: 3 points in one category (pick between airfare purchased directly from airlines, U.S. advertising in select media, U.S. gas stations, U.S. shipping, or U.S. computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers).
  • 2 points rewards on remaining four categories.
  • Terms Apply. See Rates & Fees.

The information related to The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express credit card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

Dining and Travel

Dining and travel cost a lot, but these cards offer enticing rewards. The cards we recommend offer more than 3% cash back on restaurant spending, travel, or both. Plus, they have other compelling perks. But most of these cards aren’t great for borrowing, so check the fine print.

 

Looking to thin down your wallet? A Sam’s Club Business MasterCard, doubles as your membership card. But it’s not just for wholesale shopping. Spending on the Sam’s Club Business MasterCard gives you the opportunity to earn 3% cash back rewards on all restaurant spending worldwide. It also gives 5% cash back rewards on gas (except when purchased at other wholesalers) and 1% on all other spending.

Road warriors and frequent business entertainers will love this card. Plus, the $45 statement credit (if you spend $100 the day you open it) pays for your annual Sam’s Club membership.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 15.90%-23.90% (assigned upon aproval)
  • Penalty APR: 29.99% (applied if you make a late payment)
  • Annual fee: $0 (requires $45 Sam’s Club membership)
  • Late fee: Up to $39.99
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $5 or 3% of transaction
  • Cash advance APR: 20.90%-26.90%
  • Sign-up bonus: $45 statement credit when you spend $45 on a single-receipt purchase the same day you open your account.
  • Rewards: 1% cash back on all spending. Maximum of $5,000 back in a given year.
  • Bonus rewards: 3% on dining and travel expenses. 5% on gas (up to $6,000 in gas purchases). Gas cannot be purchased from other wholesale clubs.
APPLY NOW Secured

on Sam's Club’s secure website

If you prefer Costco to Sam’s Club, the Costco Anywhere Visa Card offers similar terms. Their 4-3-2-1 program includes 4% on gas purchases (up to $7,000 per year), 3% cash rewards for all dining and travel expenses, 2% on Costco purchases, and 1% on all other spending.

While the rewards are sweet, the terms can be expensive. This is not a good card for borrowing, so be sure to pay it off each month.

The Fine Print
  • APR: Introductory 0% for seven months, then 16.24% variable
  • Penalty APR: up to 29.99% variable (applied if you make a late payment)
  • Annual fee: $0 with your paid Costco membership
  • Late fee: Up to $37
  • Returned payment fee: Up to $37
  • Cash advance fee: Either $10 or 5% of the amount of each cash advance, whichever is greater
  • Cash advance APR: 26.24% variable
  • Rewards: 1% cash back on all spending.
  • Bonus rewards: 4% on gas (up to $7,000 in gas purchases). Gas cannot be purchased from other wholesale clubs. 3% on dining and travel expenses. 2% rewards on all purchases from Costco and Costco.com.
APPLY NOW Secured

on Citibank’s secure website

If you’re a frequent business traveller, Chase Ink offers the best rewards. You earn 3 points for every dollar you spend on travel, but you get a travel bonus. Every point is worth 1.25 points when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Travel perks also include trip insurance, auto rental collision damage waivers (this is primary coverage), and more.

Click here to see details including perks and the fine print.

Gas

 

As a small business owner, you know that driving can be an economical choice, but you can also earn rewards for all those miles on the road. Sam’s Club Business MasterCard gives 5% cash back rewards on gas (except when purchased at other wholesalers), and 1% on all other spending.

Even if you don’t frequent Sam’s Club, this is the best category for rewards for gas purchases.

Click here to see details including perks and the fine print.

Learn More

Risks of Using Small Business Credit Cards

Many business owners see credit cards as an easy solution to their capital needs. But small business credit cards have unique risks. Savvy entrepreneurs will consider the risks before opening a new line of credit. These are the most important considerations.

 

1. Personal Liability

As a small business owner, you’re personally liable for credit card debt. Business bankruptcy won’t protect you. Whether your business succeeds or fails, you have to pay back the debt.

 

The only way to get rid of small business credit card debt is to declare personal bankruptcy. Bankruptcy destroys your credit history for a few years, and it stays on your report for 7-10 years.

 

Don’t treat a credit card like venture capital. It’s not. You need to repay it.

 

2. Credit Bureau Reporting

Small business cards don’t report to the credit bureaus the same way personal cards do. Depending on which card you choose, if you pay your credit card on time, you may not see any information on your personal report. For most business owners, that is a good thing. It will keep your personal credit utilization low.

 

However, an unpaid bill will show up on your personal credit report. A bill that goes unpaid for 60 days will generally appear on your personal credit report. Some banks offer more generous reporting and some less. You can speak with a banker to determine your bank’s reporting standards. Still, your personal credit score can take a hit at the same time that your business credit runs afoul.

 

When you take out a business credit card, put precautions in place to protect yourself. You can limit employee spending, and remove authorized users. You can also set up automatic payments each month.

 

3. Not Protected by the Credit CARD Act

In 2009, Congress passed the Credit CARD Act. The act curtailed predatory lending behaviors, including raising interest rates on existing balances. It also required credit cards to be more transparent about rates and fees.

 

This act does not apply to business credit cards. With a small business card, banks can raise the interest rate on your existing balance at any time. A higher interest rate means a bigger minimum payment and a longer time to pay off your debt. If you’re using your small business credit card to finance something, you could be at risk.

 

Still, many banks will not raise your rate if you have an excellent history of on-time payments. It is simply a risk to understand.

 

Another risk related to the Credit CARD Act is the possibility of double-cycle billing. Business credit cards do not require an interest accrual grace period. This means you may begin accruing interest on purchases right away. We only recommend cards that have a grace period of at least 23 days built in. If you choose a different card, be sure to check for this in the rates and fees schedule.

 

4. Employee Risk

Small business credit cards make it easy to watch employee spending. Still, they pose serious risks. You’re personally liable for any employee spending on a credit card. If you wouldn’t trust an employee with your wallet, don’t trust them with a company card. Employees can rack up debt and leave the company. That leaves you with a bill and no recourse to get the money back.

 

The Best Ways Use Small Business Credit Cards

Once you understand the risks of small business credit cards, you can also understand their best uses. Over 65% of small businesses use credit cards on a regular basis. Some use them for rewards, and some for financing. In fact, close to 10% of all small business financing comes from credit cards.

Here are some of the best ways to use a small business credit card.

 

1. Earning Rewards and Protection

If you pay your small business credit card in full each month, you can earn substantial rewards. Many business credit cards offer perks, including cash back, travel rewards, extended warranties, trip insurance, and more. As a business owner, you can reinvest the rewards into your business or take them for personal use.

 

2. Managing Cash Flow

Cash flow problems destroy small businesses, but credit cards provide short-term working capital. If you have a sales cycle that lasts 30 days or less, a credit card can fund inventory purchases. By the time your bill comes due, you’ll have money to pay it off. If you follow this practice, you’ll pay no interest, and you’ll manage your cash flow.

 

Credit cards can simplify employee monitoring, too. Most business credit cards allow you to place individual restrictions on employee use. That means you can limit how much and where employees can use company cards. But your employees may manage to misuse the cards. If they do, you will be stuck with the bill.

 

3. Building Business Credit

Businesses have credit reports just like people. Business credit cards can help you build your score. To build your business credit, hold the card under your employer identification number (EIN).

 

When your EIN establishes a record of paying its bills on time, it makes your business creditworthy. That means you’ll have an easier time finding long-term loans at great rates.

 

63% of all small businesses carry debt. Having a lower interest rate on that debt could make the difference between success and failure. This means every small business should take their credit history seriously from the outset. Small business credit cards may allow you to build that history without paying interest or fees.

 

4. Short-Term Borrowing

Small business credit cards have high interest rates, but they can work for short-term borrowing. If you know that you’ll only carry debt for a few months, you may want to finance something with a credit card.

 

Credit cards do not have origination fees or prepayment penalties. Sometimes this means that they offer the best terms for short-term borrowing. Just be careful when you borrow, and pay it back quickly. High interest debt compounds over time.

 

If possible, borrow on a card with a 0% introductory offer. Remember, failing to pay off 0% interest purchases may result in back interest. Be sure you understand the risks before you borrow.

 

The Worst Ways to Use Small Business Credit Cards

Small business credit cards aren’t always the best tool to get the job done. These are a few times when you should avoid using credit cards.

1. Personal Expenses

Bad accounting sinks many entrepreneurs. Always keep your personal spending off of your business credit cards. This will simplify bookkeeping, and it will keep your business credit utilization low. If you need to borrow for personal expenses, look for a low-interest credit card instead.

 

2. Long-Term Financing

Due to the high interest rates, most businesses should not finance long-term commitments using credit cards. Instead, consider an installment loan from a local credit union or a bank.

 

Applying for an installment loan can be a pain, but the lower interest rate will be worth it in the long run. Keep money in your pocket and avoid small business credit cards for long-term financing.

 

3. Cash Advances

Cash advances are the most expensive way to use a credit card. Banks begin charging interest right away, and the advance has a higher interest rate. Cash advances also have high fees of up to 10% of the amount you withdraw.

 

If you need cash, withdraw it from your business checking account instead, or take out a traditional loan.

 

4. Financing a Failing Business

Do not use credit cards to help a failing business limp along. Too many people will not give up on their idea even when the execution doesn’t work out. Credit card debt will bury a failing company and erode your personal wealth.

 

Remember, negative credit behavior will show up on your personal credit report. Plus, courts hold you liable for all credit card debt your business incurs. Use an objective lens to decide whether you need to shut down your business.

Hannah Rounds
Hannah Rounds |

Hannah Rounds is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Hannah at hannah@magnifymoney.com

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