Advertiser Disclosure

Balance Transfer, Best of, Pay Down My Debt

Best balance transfer credit cards: 0% APR, 24 months

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.

btgraphic

Looking for a balance transfer credit card to help pay down your debt more quickly? We’re constantly checking for new offers and have selected the best deals from our database of over 3,000 credit cards. This guide will show you the longest offers with the lowest rates, and help you manage the transfer responsibly. It will also help you understand whether you should be considering a transfer at all.

 

1. Best balance transfer deals

No intro fee, 0% intro APR balance transfers

Very few things in life are free. But, if you pay off your debt using a no fee, 0% APR balance transfer, you can crush your credit card debt without paying a dime to the bank. You can find a full list of no fee balance transfers here.

Chase Slate<sup>®</sup>

15 month 0% intro APR with $0 intro transfer fee

Chase Slate® – 0% Introductory APR for 15 months, $0 Introductory BT Fee

With Chase Slate® you can save with a $0 introductory balance transfer fee for transfers made during the first 60 days of account opening, 0% introductory APR for 15 months on both purchases and balance transfers, and $0 annual fee. Plus, receive your Monthly FICO® Score for free.

You can get longer transfer periods by paying a fee, so this deal is generally best if you have a balance you know you‘ll pay in full by the end of the promotional period. And don’t expect a huge credit line with this card, so it may be best for smaller balances you can take care of quickly.

Also keep in mind you can’t transfer a balance from one Chase card to another, so this is good if the balance you want to move is from a bank or credit union that’s not Chase.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period
  • There are late payment and cash advance fees

Tip: You have only 60 days from account opening to complete your balance transfer and get the introductory rate.

GO TO SITE Secured

BankAmericard® Credit Card

Long 0% intro APR with no intro balance transfer fee
(For Excellent credit)

BankAmericard® Credit Card – 0% Intro APR for 15 months, $0 Intro BT Fee

There is an introductory 0% APR for your first 15 months for purchases and for any balance transfers made within 60 days of opening your account. After that, a Variable APR that’s currently 12.99% to 22.99% will apply.

You need excellent credit to get this card and you can only transfer debt that is not already at Bank of America.

You can get longer transfer periods by paying a fee, so this deal is generally best if you have a balance you know you’ll pay in full by the end of the 15 month promotional period.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period
  • No penalty APR – paying late won’t automatically raise your rate (APR)
  • There are late payment and cash advance fees

Tip: You can provide the account number for the account you want to transfer from while you apply, and if approved, the bank will handle the transfer.

GO TO SITE Secured

0% balance transfers with a fee

If you think it will take longer than 15 months to pay off your credit card debt, these credit cards could be right for you. Don’t let the balance transfer fee scare you. It is almost always better to pay the fee than to pay a high interest rate on your existing credit card. You can calculate your savings (including the cost of the fee) at our balance transfer marketplace.

These deals listed below are the longest balance transfers we have in our database. We have listed them by number of months at 0%. Although you need good credit to be approved, don’t be discouraged if one lender rejects you. Each credit card company has their own criteria, and you might still be approved by one of the companies listed below.

Sphere® Credit Card from Santander

Longest 0% intro balance transfer card

Santander Sphere® – 24 months, 0% intro APR, 4% BT fee

If you have a big balance, or know you can’t pay off your balance quickly – go as long as you can with a good balance transfer rate, even if it comes with a fee.

At 24 months this is the longest 0% APR balance transfer card in the market right now, so you have 2 years to get the balance paid down.

There’s a $35 late payment fee and a penalty APR of 30.99% applies if you make a late payment, and will apply to your existing balances until you make 6 straight months of on time payments.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period
  • The range of the purchase interest rate based on your credit history (13.49% – 23.49%) is more than 10%, which is a wide range.
  • There are late payment and cash advance fees.

Tip: You have 90 days after you open the account to complete the balance transfer.

GO TO SITE Secured

Discover it® - 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer

Decent 0% intro balance transfer period

Discover it® – 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer: Intro 0% for 18 months, 3% BT fee

This is a basic balance transfer deal with an above average term. If you don’t have credit card balances with Discover, it’s a good option to free up your accounts with other banks. With this card, you also have the ability to earn cash back, and there is no late fee for your first missed payment and no penalty APR. Hopefully you will not need to take advantage of these features, but they are nice to have.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is waived during the balance transfer period, no foreign transaction fees and no late fee for your first late payment
  • The range of the purchase interest rate based on your credit history (11.99% – 23.99% Standard Variable Purchase APR) is fairly standard
  • There is a cash advance fee

Tip: Complete your balance transfer as quickly as possible for maximum savings.

GO TO SITE Secured

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever

No late fees and long 0% intro period

Citi Simplicity® Card — No Late Fees Ever: 0% intro for 21 months, 3% balance transfer fee

The Citi Simplicity® Card — No Late Fees Ever offers a long intro period at 0% for 21 months on balance transfers made within four months from account opening. This provides plenty of time for you to pay off your debt. There are several other perks that make this card unique: no late fees, no penalty rate, and no annual fee. If you’re someone who misses a payment on occasion, you won’t be penalized. But make it a goal to pay your bill on time. (Autopay is a great feature.)

Transparency Score
TRANSPARENCY SCORE
  • No late fee, no penalty APR and no annual fee
  • Interest is not deferred during the introductory promotional period. It is waived.
  • There is a range of interest rates. You won’t know yours until you apply.

Tip: Complete your balance transfer within four months from account opening to take advantage of the 0% intro offer.

GO TO SITE Secured

Low rate balance transfers

If you think it will take longer than 2 years to pay off your credit card debt, you might want to consider one of these offers. Rather than pay a balance transfer fee and receive a promotional 0% APR, these credit cards offer a low interest rate for much longer.

The longest offer can give you a low rate that only goes up if the prime rate goes up. If you can’t get that offer, there is another good option offering a low rate for three years.

Variable Rate Credit Card from UNIFY Financial CU

Longest low rate balance transfer card

Unify Financial Credit Union – As low as 5.99% APR, no expiration, 3% BT fee

If you need a long time to pay off at a reasonable rate, and have great credit, it’s hard to beat this deal from Unify Financial Credit Union, with a rate as low as 5.99% with no expiration. The rate is variable, but it only varies with the Prime Rate, so it won’t fluctuate much more than say a variable rate mortgage. There is a transfer fee of 3% or $5.00, whichever is greater.

Just about anyone can join Unify Financial Credit Union. They’ll help you figure out what organization you can join to qualify, and you don’t need to be a member to apply.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period.
  • There are late payment fees.

Tip: If you’re credit’s not great, this probably isn’t for you, as the rate chosen for your account could be as high as 18%.

GO TO SITE Secured

Prime Rewards Credit Card from SunTrust Bank

Long low rate balance transfer card

SunTrust Prime Rewards – 4.25% variable APR for 36 months, $0 intro BT fee

If you live in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, D.C., or West Virginia you can apply for this card without a SunTrust bank account.

The deal is you get the prime rate for 3 years with no intro balance transfer fee. That’s currently 4.25% variable, though your rate will change if the prime rate changes, either up or down, and you have 60 days to complete your transfer with no fee. After that, it’s $10 or 3% of the amount of the transfer, whichever is greater. Also beware the prime rate deal isn’t for new purchases, so only use this card for a balance transfer.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period.
  • The range of the purchase interest rate based on your credit history (11.99% – 21.99%) is more than 10%, which is high.
  • There are late payment and cash advance fees.

Tip: You have only 60 days from account opening to get the intro $0 transfer fee.

GO TO SITE Secured

For fair credit scores

In order to be approved for the best balance transfer credit cards and offers, you generally need to have good or excellent credit. If your FICO score is above 650, you have a good chance of being approved. If your score is above 700, you have an excellent chance.

However, if your score is less than perfect, you still have options. Your best option might be a personal loan. You can learn more about personal loans for bad credit here.

There are balance transfers available for people with scores below 650. The offer below might be available to people with lower credit scores. There is a transfer fee, and it’s not as long as some of the others available with excellent credit. However, it will still be better than a standard interest rate.

Just remember: one of the biggest factors in your credit score is your amount of debt and credit utilization. If you use this offer to pay down debt aggressively, you should see your score improve over time and you will be able to qualify for even better offers.

MasterCard Platinum from Aspire FCU

For less than perfect credit

Aspire Credit Union Platinum – 0% intro APR for 6 months, 0% intro BT fee

Balance transfer deals can be hard to come by if your credit isn’t great. But some banks are more open to it than others, and Aspire Credit Union is one of them, saying ‘fair’ or ‘good’ credit is needed for this card. Anyone can join Aspire, but if you’re looking for a longer deal you also might want to check if you’re pre-qualified for deals from other banks, without a hit to your credit score, using the list of options here.

You’ll be able to check with several banks what cards are pre-screened based on your credit profile, and you might be surprised to see some good deals you didn’t think were in your range. That way you can apply with more confidence.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period.
  • The ongoing interest rate isn’t known when you apply.

Tip: Only Aspire’s Platinum MasterCard has this deal. Its Platinum Rewards MasterCard doesn’t have a 0% offer. And if you transfer a balance after 6 months a 2% fee will apply.

GO TO SITE Secured

2. Learn more

Checklist before you transfer

Never use a credit card at an ATM

If you use your credit card at an ATM, it will be treated as a cash advance. Most credit cards charge an upfront cash advance fee, which is typically about 5%. There is usually a much higher “cash advance” interest rate, which is typically above 20%. And there is no grace period, so interest starts to accrue right away. A cash advance is expensive, so beware.

Always pay on time.

If you do not make your payment on time, most credit cards will immediately hit you with a steep late fee. Once you are 30 days late, you will likely be reported to the credit bureau. Late payments can have a big, negative impact on your score. Once you are 60 days late, you can end up losing your low balance transfer rate and be charged a high penalty interest rate, which is usually close to 30%. Just automate your payments so you never have to worry about these fees.

Get the transfer done within 60 days

Most balance transfer offers are from the date you open your account, not the date you complete the transfer. It is in your interest to complete the balance transfer right away, so that you can benefit from the low interest rate as soon as possible. With most credit card companies, you will actually lose the promotional balance transfer offer if you do not complete the transfer within 60 or 90 days. Just get it done!

Don’t spend on the card

Your goal with a balance transfer should be to get out of debt. If you start spending on the credit card, there is a real risk that you will end up in more debt. Additionally, you could end up being charged interest on your purchase balances. If your credit card has a 0% balance transfer rate but does not have a 0% promotional rate on purchases, you would end up being charged interest on your purchases right away, until your entire balance (including the balance transfer) is paid in full. In other words, you lose the grace period on your purchases so long as you have a balance transfer in place.

Don’t try to transfer between two cards of the same bank

Credit card companies make balance transfer offers because they want to steal business from their competitors. So, it makes sense that the banks will not let you transfer balances between two credit cards offered by the same bank. If you have an airline credit card or a store credit card, just make sure you know which bank issues the card before you apply for a balance transfer.

Comparison tools

Savings calculator – which card is best?

If you’re still unsure about which cards offer you the best deal for your situation, try our calculator. You get to input the amount of debt you’re trying to get a lower rate on, your current rate, and the monthly payment you can afford. The calculator will show you which cards offer you the most savings on interest payments.

The calculator will show you which cards offer you the most savings
Balance transfer or a loan?

A balance transfer at 0% will get you the absolute lowest rate. But you might feel more comfortable with a single fixed monthly payment, and a single real date your loan will be paid off. A lot of new companies are offering great rates on loans you can pay off over 2, 3, 4, or 5 years. You can find the best personal loans here.

And you might find even though their rates aren’t 0%, you could afford the payment and get a plan that takes care of your debt for good at once.

Use our calculator to see how your payments and savings will compare.

Balance Transfer Graph

Questions and Answers

Yes, you can. Most credit card companies will allow you to transfer debt from any credit card, regardless who owns it. Just remember that once the debt is transferred, it becomes your legal liability.

Yes, you can. Most banks will enable store card debt to be transferred. Just make sure the store card is not issued by the same bank as the balance transfer credit card.

As a general rule, if you can pay off your debt in six months or less, it usually doesn’t make sense to do a balance transfer.

Here is a simple test. (This is not 100% accurate mathematically, but it is an easy test). Divide your credit card interest rate by 12. (Imagine a credit card with a 12% interest rate. 12%/12 = 1%). In this example, you are paying about 1% interest per month. If the fee on your balance transfer is 3%, you will break even in month 3, and will be saving money thereafter. You can use that simplified math to get a good guide on whether or not you will be saving money.

And if you want the math done for you, use our tool to calculate how much each balance transfer will save you.

With all balance transfers recommended at MagnifyMoney, you would not be hit with a big, retroactive interest charge. You would be charged the purchase interest rate on the remaining balance on a go-forward basis. (Warning: not all balance transfers waive the interest. But all balance transfers recommended by MagnifyMoney do.)

Many companies offer very good deals in the first year to win new customers. These are often called “switching incentives.” For example, your mobile phone company could offer 50% off its normal rate for the first 12 months. Or your cable company could offer a big discount on the first year if you buy the bundle package. Credit card companies are no different. These companies want your debt, and are willing to give you a big discount in the first year to get you to transfer.

Completing a balance transfer is easy. If you are applying for a new credit card, most credit card companies will just ask you for the account number of the credit card that has the debt. The transfer will then happen automatically. (It will look like the balance transfer credit card made a payment for you). You can also call your credit card company, and complete the transfer easily on the phone.

Automate your payments so that it doesn’t happen! If you do miss a payment, you will be charged a late fee. If you become 60 days late, you could lose your promotional interest rate and could be charge the punitive rate, which is often near 30% with most companies.

No, you can’t. Credit card companies are trying to steal balances from their competitors. So these deals are only good if you bring balances from competitors.

Many credit card issuers will allow you to transfer money to your checking account. Or, they will offer you checks that you can write to yourself or a third party. Check online, because many credit card issuers will let you transfer money directly to your bank account from your credit card. Otherwise, call your issuer and ask what deals they have available for “convenience checks.”

In most cases, you cannot. Once a balance transfer is complete, it is complete.

Yes, it is possible to transfer the same debt multiple times. Just remember, if there is a balance transfer fee you would be charged that fee every time you transfer the debt.

You can call the bank and ask them to increase your credit limit. However, even if the bank does not increase your limit, you should still take advantage of the savings available with the limit you have.

Yes. You decide how much you want to transfer to each credit card.

No. You do not earn rewards with a balance transfer. No cash back, no points and no miles can be earned with a balance transfer.

No, there is no penalty. You can pay off your debt whenever you want without a penalty.

Mathematically, the best balance transfer credit cards are no fee, 0% offers. You literally pay nothing. The best in the market is offered by Chase, which has a 15 month 0% introductory offer with a $0 introductory fee.

However, if your debt is already with Chase, or you think it will take years to pay off your debt, you should consider a longer duration offer or a personal loan. You can find 21 month offers with 3% fees and 24 month offers with 4% fees. Your savings over the two years would likely be substantial, even when you include the cost of the fee.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

Best of, Credit Cards

Credit Cards: Find the Best Credit Card Offers & Deals – October 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 October 3, 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

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.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • 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.

GO TO SITE SecuredFULL 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.

Transparency Score 1
Transparency Score
  • 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.

GO TO SITE 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.

Transparency Score 3
Transparency Score
  • 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.

GO TO SITE SecuredMORE 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.

Transparency Score 5
Transparency Score
  • Simple, easy to understand bonus 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

Sign-on Bonus : $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 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.

GO TO SITE SecuredMORE 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.

Transparency Score 7
Transparency Score
  • 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.

GO TO SITE SecuredMORE CARDS FOR TRAVEL SPENDING 

AARP Credit Card from Chase Bank

3% Unlimited Cash Back at Restaurants

AARP® Credit Card from Chase

You do not have to be over 55, or a member of the AARP®, to apply for this credit card. When applying, you just need to keep the “AARP® Membership Number” field blank. You can earn unlimited 3% cash back on your dining expenses. So, if you are a foodie, this is a great card. You also get a healthy 3% cash back on gas and 1% on all other purchases. You can learn more about the offer by visiting AARP.org.

The information related to AARP® Visa credit card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

Transparency Score 8
Transparency Score
  • No limit to the cash back you can earn
  • You do not need to be an AARP member to get the card

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Ongoing Purchase APR : 17.24% to 23.99% 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 Offer : None

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

Tip: Joining AARP® at a younger age isn’t as crazy as it sounds. There are a lot of benefits and discounts available to members.

GO TO SITE MORE DINING CREDIT CARDS 

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

BankAmericard 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.

Transparency Score 10
Transparency Score
  • 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.

GO TO SITE Secured

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 on grocery store spend (up to $6,000) 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.

Transparency Score 11
Transparency Score
  • Simple introductory bonus
  • 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% to 23.99% Variable

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 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.

GO TO SITE 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.

Transparency Score 12
Transparency Score
  • 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.

GO TO SITE 

QuicksilverOne® Rewards from Capital One

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.

Transparency Score 14
Transparency Score
  • 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.

 

GO TO SITE SecuredFULL 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 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 – 0% on transfers for 15 months

Chase Slate® credit card

With the Chase Slate® credit card you can enjoy a 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.

Transparency Score 11
Transparency Score
  • Interest is waived, not deferred during the promotional 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 : Intro $0 when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open. 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.

GO TO SITE SecuredFULL 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.

Transparency Score 19
Transparency Score
  • No late fee, no penalty APR and no annual fee
  • Interest is not deferred during the introductory promotional period. It is waived.
  • 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.

GO TO SITE SecuredFULL 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.

Transparency Score 21
Transparency Score
  • Interest is waived, not deferred during the promotional 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.

GO TO SITE SecuredFULL 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.

Transparency Score 22
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the introductory promotional period. It is waived.
  • 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.

GO TO SITE Secured

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.

Transparency Score 25
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the introductory promotional period. It is waived.
  • 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.

GO TO SITE 

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.

GO TO SITE SecuredFULL 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.

GO TO SITE 

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:

QuicksilverOne® Rewards from Capital One

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 introductory promotional period. It is waived.
  • 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.

GO TO SITE SecuredFULL 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

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

Balance Transfer, Best of, Pay Down My Debt

9 Best 0% APR Credit Card Offers – October 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.

There are a lot of 0% APR credit card deals in your mailbox and online, but most of them slap you with a 3 to 4% fee just to make a transfer, and that can seriously eat into your savings.

At MagnifyMoney we like to find deals no one else is showing, and we’ve searched hundreds of balance transfer credit card offers to find the banks and credit unions that ANYONE CAN JOIN which offer great 0% interest credit card deals AND no balance transfer fees. We’ve hand-picked them here.

If one 0% APR credit card doesn’t give you a big enough credit line you can try another bank or credit union for the rest of your debt. With several no fee options it’s not hard to avoid transfer fees even if you have a large balance to deal with.

1. Chase Slate® – 0% Introductory APR for 15 months, $0 Introductory Balance Transfer FEE

Chase Slate<sup>®</sup>
This deal is easy to find – Chase is one of the biggest banks and makes this credit card deal well known. Save with a $0 introductory balance transfer fee and get 0% introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and $0 annual fee. Plus, receive your Monthly FICO® Score for free.

You can get this offer if you complete the balance transfer within 60 days of opening the account. So it’s worth a shot to see how big of a credit line you get. If it’s not enough, move on to the other options below.

GO TO SITE Secured

on Chase’s secure website

2. BankAmericard® Credit Card – 0% Introductory APR for 15 months, $0 Introductory Balance Transfer FEE

BankAmericard® Credit Card
This card is available if you have excellent credit. There is a $0 intro balance transfer fee if you complete the transfer within 60 days of opening your account.

Bank of America has just recently launched a balance transfer with no intro balance transfer fee. Credit card debt on an existing Bank of America credit card is not eligible for this offer.

GO TO SITE Secured

on Bank Of America’s secure website

Tip: The remaining no fee cards on this list are deals for 12 months or less. You might be better off paying a standard 3% balance transfer fee for a longer deal, like 0% for 18 months from the Discover it® - 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer, one of the better deals with a balance transfer fee of 3%. If you’re trying to transfer from Chase, consider a deal from Bank of America with $0 transfer terms.

3. Alliant Credit Union Credit Cards – 0% Introductory APR for 12 months, NO FEE

Alliant is an easy credit union to work with because you don’t have to be a member to apply and find out if you qualify for the 0% Introductory APR deal.

Visa® Platinum Card from Alliant CU

Just choose ‘Apply as New Member’ when you apply and if you are approved you’ll then be able to become a member of the credit union to finish opening your account.

Anyone can become a member of Alliant by making a $10 donation to Foster Care to Success.

If your credit isn’t great, you might not get a 0% intro rate – rates for transfers are as high as 5.99%, so make sure you double check the rate you receive before opening the account, and they might ask for additional documents like your pay stubs to verify the information on your application.

GO TO SITE Secured

on Alliant CU’s secure website

4. Edward Jones World MasterCard – 0% Intro APR for 12 months on Balance Transfers, NO FEE

Edward Jones World MasterCard<sup>®</sup>

You’ll need to go to an Edward Jones branch to open up an account first if you want this deal. Edward Jones is an investment advisory company, so they’ll want to have a conversation about your retirement needs.But you don’t need to have money in stocks to be a customer of Edward Jones and try to get this card. Just beware that you only have 60 days to complete your transfer to lock in the 0% introductory rate. This deal expires 11/30/2017.

5. First Tech Choice Rewards – 0% Balance Transfer Intro APR for 12 months, NO FEE

Choice Rewards World MasterCard® from First Tech FCU

Anyone can join First Tech Federal Credit Union by becoming a member of the Financial Fitness Association for $8, or the Computer History Museum for $15. You can apply for the card without joining first. This introductory 0% for 12 months on balance transfers with no fee deal is for the First Tech Choice Rewards World MasterCard, and you also get 10,000 points after you spend $2,000 on the card in your first 3 months. The points don’t expire as long as you have the card, and 6,000 points is enough for $50 cash back, while 11,000 points is enough for $100 cash back, which can help you pay down your card.

6. La Capitol Federal Credit Union – 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 12 months, NO FEE

Visa Rewards Card from La Capitol FCU
Anyone can join La Capitol Federal Credit Union by becoming a member of the Louisiana Association for Personal Financial Achievement, which costs $20. Just indicate that’s how you want to be eligible when you apply for the card – no need to join before you apply. And La Capitol accepts members from all across the country, so you don’t have to live in Louisiana to take advantage of this deal on the Prime Plus card.

 

7. Purdue Federal Credit Union – 0% Intro APR for 12 months, NO FEE

Visa Signature Credit Card from Purdue FCU

This deal is only for their Visa Signature card – other cards have a higher intro rate. The Purdue Federal Credit Union doesn’t have open membership, but one way to be eligible for credit union membership is to join the Purdue University Alumni Association as a Friend of the University.

Anyone can join the association, but it costs $50. The good news is you can apply and get a decision before you become a member of the Alumni Association.

8. Logix Credit Union Credit Card – 0% APR for 12 months , NO FEE

If you live in AZ, CA, DC, MA, MD, ME, NH, NV, or VA you can join Logix Credit Union and apply for this deal. Some applicants have reported credit lines of $15,000 or more for balance transfers, so if you have excellent credit, good income, but a large amount to pay off (like a home equity line), this could be a good option.

9. Premier America Credit Union – 0% Intro APR for 6 months, NO FEE

Premier Privileges Rewards MasterCard® from Premier America CU

Premier America is unique because it has a Student Mastercard® that’s eligible for the balance transfer deal, though limits on that card are $500 – $2,000. There’s also a card for those with no credit history – the Premier First Rewards Privileges®, with limits of $1,000 – $2,000. If you’re looking for a bigger line, the Premier Privileges Rewards Mastercard® is available with limits up to $50,000.

Anyone can join Premier America by becoming a member of the Alliance for the Arts. You can select that option when you apply.

10. Money One Credit Union – 0% APR for 6 months, NO FEE

Visa Platinum Card from Money One FCU

Anyone can join Money One Federal by making a $20 donation to Gifts of Easter Seals. And you can apply without being a member. You’ll see a drop down option during the application process that lets you select Gifts of Easter Seals as the way you plan to become a member of the credit union. Credit lines for the Platinum card are as high as $25,000.

 

11. Andigo Credit Union – 0% APR Intro for 6 months, NO FEE

Visa Platinum Card from andigo

You’ll have a choice to apply for the Andigo Visa Platinum or Visa Platinum Rewards. The Platinum Cash Back card doesn’t have this deal. The Platinum without rewards has a lower ongoing APR, starting as low as 10.65%, compared to 12.65% for the Platinum Rewards card, so if you’re not sure you’ll pay it all off in 6 months the Platinum without rewards is a better bet.

Anyone can join Andigo by making a donation to Connect Vets for $15, and you can submit an application for the card without being a member yet.

12. Evansville Teachers Credit Union – 0% APR on Balance Transfers for first 6 months, NO FEE

ETFCU's Platinum Rewards Credit Card
You don’t need to be a teacher to join this credit union. Just make a $5 donation to Mater Dei Friends & Alumni Association. The Prime Plus has an ongoing rate as low as 7.25% variable, so you can enjoy a low rate even after the intro deal ends.

13. Elements Financial Credit Card – 0% Intro APR for 6 months on Purchases and Balance Transfers, NO FEE

Elements Financial Platinum Visa® Credit Card
To become a member and apply, you’ll just need to join TruDirection, a financial literacy organization. It costs just $5 and you can join as part of the application process.

GO TO SITE Secured

on ELFCU’s secure website

14. Justice Federal Credit Union – 0% Intro APR for 6 months on Purchases, Balance Transfers, and Cash Advances, NO FEE

Student VISA Rewards Card from Justice FCU
If you’re not a Department of Justice, Homeland Security, or U.S. court employee (or a few others), you need to join a law enforcement organization to be a member of Justice Federal. One of the eligible associations for membership is the National Native American Law Enforcement Association. It costs $15 to join.

You can apply as a non-member online to get a decision before joining. And Justice is unique in that its Student credit card is also eligible for the 0% introductory rate on purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances, so if your credit history is limited and you’re trying to deal with a balance on your very first card, this could be an option.

15. Xcel Platinum Visa – 0% Introductory APR for 6 months, NO FEE

XCEL’s Platinum VISA® Credit Card
Anyone can join Xcel by becoming a member of the American Consumer Council, and you can apply for the card as a non-member of the credit union, but not everyone who is approved for the card will get the low intro rate. Xcel advises you contact them to get as sense of whether your income, credit history, and employment history will qualify for the intro rate.

16. Michigan State University Federal Platinum Visa – 0% APR for 6 months, NO FEE

Platinum Visa Card from Michigan State FCU
There is the option to apply for the Platinum Plus Visa or the Platinum Visa. The Platinum Visa has a lower ongoing APR starting as low as 8.9%, compared to the 12.9% for the Platinum Plus which can earn you rewards. Anyone can join the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union by first becoming a member of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. However, this comes at a high fee of $30 for one year.

Are these the best deals for you?

If you can pay off your debt within the 0% period, then yes, a no fee 0% balance transfer credit card is your absolute best bet. And if you can’t, you can hope that other 0% deals will be around to switch again.

But if you’re unsure, you might want to consider…

  • A deal that has a longer period before the rate goes up. In that case, a balance transfer fee could be worth it to lock in a 0% rate for longer.
  • Or, a card with a rate a little above 0% that could lock you into a low rate even longer.

The good news is we can figure it out for you.

Our handy, free balance transfer tool lets you input how much debt you have, and how much of a monthly payment you can afford. It will run the numbers to show you which offers will save you the most for the longest period of time.

promo balancetransfer wide

The savings from just one balance transfer can be substantial.

Let’s say you have $5,000 in credit card debt, you’re paying 18% in interest, and can afford to pay $200 a month on it. Here’s what you can save with a 0% deal:

  • 18%: It will take 32 months to pay off, with $1,312 in interest paid.
  • 0% for 12 months: You’ll pay it off in 28 months, with just $502 in interest, saving you $810 in cash. That even assumes your rate goes back up to 18% after 12 months!

But your rate doesn’t have to go up after 12 months. If you pay everything on time and maintain good credit, there’s a great chance you’ll be able to shop around and find another bank willing to offer you 0% interest again, letting you pay it off even faster.

Before you do any balance transfer though, make sure you follow these 6 golden rules of balance transfer success:

  • Never use the card for spending. You are only ready to do a balance transfer once you’ve gotten your budget in order and are no longer spending more than you earn. This card should never be used for new purchases, as it’s possible you’ll get charged a higher rate on those purchases.
  • Have a plan for the end of the promotional period. Make sure you set a reminder on your phone calendar about a month or so before your promotional period ends so you can shop around for a low rate from another bank.
  • Don’t try to transfer debt between two cards of the same bank. It won’t work. Balance transfer deals are meant to ‘steal’ your balance from a competing bank, not lower your rate from the same bank. So if you have a Chase Freedom with a high rate, don’t apply for another Chase card like a Chase Slate and expect you can transfer the balance. Apply for one from another bank.
  • Get that transfer done within 60 days. Otherwise your promotional deal may expire unused.
  • Never use a card at an ATM. You should never use the card for spending, and getting cash is incredibly expensive. Just don’t do it with this or any credit card.
  • Always pay on time. If you pay more than 30 days late your credit will be hurt, your rate may go up, and you may find it harder to find good deals in the future. Only do balance transfers if you’re ready to pay at least the minimum due on time, every time.
Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

TAGS: ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Earning Interest

The Best CD Rates – October 2017

Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this articles are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any lender or provider of the products listed.

Pay-yourself-first_full

Updated October 2, 2017

If you are looking for a better yield on your savings, a high rate CD (certificate of deposit) offered by an online bank could be a good option. Internet-only banks offer much better interest rates than traditional banks. For example, a 12-month CD at Bank of America would require a $10,000 minimum deposit and would pay only 0.07%. At an online bank, you could earn 1.40% with only a $2,000 minimum deposit. (If you would rather get a savings account or money market with no time restriction, look at the best savings accounts or best money market accounts).

This list is updated monthly, and competition continues to intensify.  Here are the accounts with some of the best CD rates:

  • 6 months – 6 years: Goldman Sachs Bank USA – 0.60% – 2.45% APY, $500 minimum deposit

Goldman Sachs Bank USA
Our advertiser Goldman Sachs Bank USA is the online consumer bank of Goldman Sachs (the large investment bank). Your funds are FDIC insured, and Goldman offers very competitive rates. Even better: there is only a $500 minimum deposit. So, if you don’t have enough money to meet the minimum deposit of the other banks on this list, or you are looking for another bank for your savings, GS is a good option. Here are the rates (which are within a few basis points of the best rates in the market):

      • 1-year: 1.65% APY
      • 2-year: 1.7% APY
      • 3-year: 2.00% APY
      • 5-year: 2.40% APY
      • 6-year: 2.45% APY
  • 3 months – 10 years: Discover Bank – 0.35% APY – 2.35% APY; $2,500 minimum deposit

Discover CD
Discover is known for cash back credit cards. However, Discover has also quietly built a leading internet bank that offers checking accounts, savings accounts and CDs. Discover has invested in a mobile banking app (not found with other companies, like Synchrony) and strong on-shore customer service. Although Discover does not always have the highest rate, it is very close (within basis points) across all durations. If customer service and digital tools (like apps) are important to you, Discover is an excellent consideration. Note: Discover offers a wide range of maturities, and you can get a CD rate with a duration as short as 3 months or as long as 10 years.

  • 1-Year CD: Popular Direct – 1.50% APY, $10,000 minimum deposit

BankDirect
BankDirect, launched in 1999, is a division of Texas Capital Bank. The bank pays competitive rates on savings products. Unfortunately, the user interface and experience still looks like it was created in the 1990s. Your deposits will be insured up to the FDIC maximum. You can only get this APY with a minimum $10,000 deposit.

  • 1-Year CD (from a credit union): PenFed – 1.46% APY, $1,000 minimum deposit – must become a credit union member

Penfed
PenFed is a credit union that offers very competitive interest rates. You need to join the credit union in order to benefit from their products. If you have a military or government affiliation, it is free to join. Otherwise, you would need to join an organization like Voices for America’s Troops, which costs $14.00. Once you are a member, you can open PenFed products (including this certificate) online. Your deposit would be insured by the NCUA, which is the National Credit Union Administration. There is a $1,000 minimum deposit for the one-year certificate – making this a good option if you don’t have the $5,000 required for EverBank. And if you are willing to give up a few points of yield to support a credit union, PenFed is a nice choice.

  • 2 Year CD: Synchrony – 1.75% APY, $2,000 minimum deposit

Synchrony Bank
Synchrony increased interest rates this month on 2-year CDs (Last month Capital One was on the list, at 1.45%). Just remember that FDIC insurance is based upon your total relationship with a bank across all accounts. If you are building a CD-ladder, make sure you keep your total relationship balance at Synchrony below $250,000.

  • 3-Year CD: Connexus Credit Union – 2.00% APY, $5,000 minimum deposit

Connexus
Connexus is a credit union that anyone can join (so long as you make a donation of $5 to the Connexus Association). Your deposit is insured by the NCUA (which is like the FDIC, but for credit unions). Once you are a member of the credit union, you can also take advantage of other products offered by the credit union. This is one of the best APYs we have seen from a credit union for a three year CD.

  • 3-Year CD: EverBank – 2.01% APY, $5,000 minimum deposit to open

Everbank
EverBank has once again increased the 3-year CD rate to a healthy 2.01%. You need at least $5,000 to open the account, and your deposit is FDIC-insured. After EverBank’s acquisition by TIAA-Cref, it has become very aggressive on interest rates, to the benefit of consumers. You can earn these rates on deposits up to $1,000,000.

  • 5-Year CD: Synchrony – 2.35% APY, $25,000 minimum deposit

Synchrony Bank
Synchrony has also increased its 5-year CD rate. You need at least $25,000 to take advantage of the 2.35% APY. If you have less than $25,000 you will get a 2.30% APY rate (but need at least $2,000). After clicking on “Apply Now” you will be taken to their standard CD landing page. Make sure you select the 60-month option. Just remember: if you close the CD early, you would be hit with a 365 day interest penalty. That means if you close the account in the first year, you would actually lose some of your initial deposit. You won’t get rich with a 2.35% APY, but it has been a long time since we have seen rates this high. By comparison, the rate at Bank of America on a 5-year CD is only 0.15%.

3 Questions To Ask Before You Open A CD

1. Should I just open an online savings account instead? 

With a CD, the saver and the bank make stronger commitments. The saver promises to keep the funds in the account for a specified period of time. In exchange, the bank guarantees the interest rate during the term of the CD. The longer the term, the higher the interest rate – and the higher the penalty for closing the CD early. With a savings account, there are few promises. You can empty the account without paying a penalty and the bank can change the interest rate at any time.

If you have a high level of confidence that you do not need to touch the money for a specified period of time, a CD is a much better deal. However, if you think you might need to use the money in the next couple of months, a savings account is a much better idea.

You can earn a lot more interest with a CD. Imagine you have $10,000 and know that you do not need to touch the money for two years. In a high-yield savings account earning 1.10%, you would earn $221 over two years. If you put that money into a 1.50% CD, you would earn $302. Given the ease of switching to an online CD, the extra interest income is easy money.

2. What term should I select? 

The early withdrawal penalties on CDs can be significant. On a 1-year CD, 90 days is a typical penalty. And on 2 and 3 year CDs, a 6-month penalty is common. The impact of the penalty on your return can be significant. If you opened a one-year CD with a 1.25% APY and closed it after six months, you would forfeit half of the interest and earned only 0.63%. You would have been better off with a savings account paying 1.05%.

The worst case scenario is with the longest CDs. 5-year CDs usually have a one-year penalty for taking out funds early. If you open a 5-year CD and close it quickly, you could actually end up losing money.

Given the early penalties, you need complete confidence that you will not need to withdrawal the money early. Ask yourself this question: “do I have 90% confidence that I will not need access to the cash during the CD term?” If you don’t have confidence, go for a shorter term or a savings account.

3. Should I consider my local bank or credit union? 

The interest rates shown in this article are all from online banks that offer products nationally. Our product database includes traditional banks, community banks and credit unions. If traditional banks offered better rates, they would have been featured in this article. The internet-only banks have dramatically better interest rates. That should not be surprising. Because internet-only banks do not have branches, they are able to pass along their cost savings to you in the form of higher interest rates.

However, you can always visit your local bank or credit union and ask them to beat the rates listed in this article. The chance of getting a better deal is extremely low (remember that Bank of America is only paying 0.07%), but you can try.

How To Find The Best Account

If you don’t find an account that meets your needs in this article, you can use the MagnifyMoney CD tool to find the best rate for your individual needs. Input your zip code, deposit amount and term. The tool will then provide you with CD options, from the highest APY to the lowest.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

Earning Interest

Best Money Market Rates & Accounts – October 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.

Updated October 2, 2017

Traditional banks are paying very low interest rates on money market accounts. For example, Bank of America pays between 0.03% and 0.06% APY. Fortunately, you do not need to settle for such ridiculously low rates. You can easily find the best money market rates at internet banks paying 1.05% or more. If you put $50,000 into Bank of America’s account at 0.03%, you will only earn $15 of interest over one year. That same money in an account paying 1.05% would earn you $525 of interest. And you can typically open and fund an online money market account in less than 10 minutes.

MagnifyMoney has searched for money market accounts paying the highest interest rates – and this list gets updated monthly. Here are the best rates for September 2017:

1. Top Rate: UFB Direct – 1.41% APY, $5,000 minimum balance to avoid a monthly fee

Money Market Account
UFB Direct is a division of BofI Federal Bank, a federally chartered, publicly traded and FDIC-insured bank based in San Diego. In recent months, UFB Direct has become increasingly aggressive with high rates targeting big balances. The APY of 1.41% is the highest that we have found. However, there is one catch. You need to keep at least $5,000 in the account in order to avoid a monthly maintenance fee of $10.00. You will get a Visa debit card and have access to limited check writing. We think this is the best option for people with big balances that they want to keep in a money market account.

2.Favorite Online Package: Ally – 0.90% APY, no minimum deposit, and link to free checking

Money Market Account
Ally Bank is a very popular internet-only bank. Although the interest rate on the money market account is not the highest, Ally does offer a very competitive overall package – particularly if you link the account to an Ally checking account. The checking account has no minimum balance and no monthly fee. You can link your money market account to your checking account to provide overdraft protection. Money would be transferred to your checking account with no transaction fee if you ever made a mistake. You would be able to access your money market account with your Ally ATM card, which has free AllPoint access and up to $10 of non-Ally ATM fees reimbursed every month. This money market account is a nice way to provide yourself with overdraft protection while earning interest. If you don’t need check-writing capabilities on your savings, you would still be better off with Ally’s savings account.

3. Top Choice: Sallie Mae – 1.30% APY, no minimum balance and checks available

Money Market Account
If you have student loan debt, you probably are not very excited to see Sallie Mae at the top of this list. However, many people are unaware that Sallie Mae also operates an internet-only FDIC-insured bank with some of the best interest rates in the country. You can earn 1.30% APY, compounded daily and paid monthly. There is no minimum balance and no monthly maintenance fees. You will have check-writing capabilities (although the standard money market limit of six per month applies to this account). The easiest (and best) way to fund and access your funds is via electronic transfer from your existing checking account. If you want a simple account with no fees and check access – this is a good bet. Sallie Mae has just recently increased the APY (it was previously 1.15%), making this one the best rates in the country.

4. High Rate: Self-Help Credit Union – up to 1.37% APY, $500 minimum deposit and minimum balance

Money Market Account
Self-Help is a credit union that anyone can join. If you don’t live, work or worship in one of their eligible counties, you can join by donating $5 to the Center for Community Self-Help. The contribution is tax deductible and will make you eligible for credit union membership. (You can learn more about how to join the credit union here.) At a credit union, your funds are insured up to $250,000 – but it is by the NCUA instead of the FDIC. The money market offers an APY of 1.27% on balances from $500 to $500,000. Even better – you can earn 1.37% APY on balances above $500,000. However, you need to deposit at least $500 and the balance during the month cannot go below $500 – otherwise you will be charged a monthly maintenance fee. You are allowed 6 free withdrawals or transfers from the account each month (including checks).

5. Good Rate: EverBank – 1.31% APY, $5,000 minimum deposit (1-year intro APY)

YIELD PLEDGE MONEY MARKET
EverBank, recently acquired by TIAA-Cref, is a rapidly growing bank that conducts most of its business online (even though it is based in Florida). In 2017, EverBank has become very aggressive on interest rates. Its products have regularly made our list of best CD rates, and – not surprisingly – it also appears on the best money market list. This is a great product, but you should be aware of a few pieces of fine print. The APY is only valid for one year. EverBank does promise that the rate, after the first year, will “never stray from the top 5% of competitive accounts.” Just be prepared for a lower rate after 12 months. You need at least $5,000 to open the account. You will only earn the 1.31% APY on balances up to $250,000. There is no monthly account fee.

6. Good Rate for Big Deposits: Capital One 360 – 1.20% APY on balances above $10,000 (0.60% on balances below)

360 Money Market<sup>®</sup>
Capital One has become more aggressive in recent months on the rate that it pays for online CDs and money market accounts. Capital One is focused on big balances: if you don’t have a lot of money, you can get much better deals elsewhere. But if you have a lot of cash and want another FDIC-insured account, Capital One is a strong option. You earn 0.60% APY on the first $9,999.99 that you deposit. You will then earn 1.20% APY on deposits from $10,000 up to $250,000. There is no monthly fee associated with the account.

7. High Rate: ableBanking – 1.30% APY, $250 minimum, but no check-writing

Money Market Savings
ableBanking is a division of Northeast Bancorp, a community bank headquartered in Maine since 1872. The bank has over $1 billion in assets, and your deposit would be FDIC insured up to the legal limit. At 1.30% APY, this is the highest money market rate that we have been able to find (from a bank) in the country. There is now a minimum deposit of $250, no monthly fee and you do not need to be a resident of Maine (any US resident can open an account). Unfortunately, the account does not come with check-writing privileges and there is no ATM access. You can deposit and access your funds via ACH (electronic transfer), which can take a couple of days. Just remember: there is a limit of 6 withdrawals per calendar month. When we called to ask questions about the account, we could reach a customer service representative very quickly. This is a good new option (just added to the list in June) from a small bank with a great high rate.

3 Questions To Ask Before Opening A Money Market Account

1. Should I open a savings account or a money market account?

Many years ago, money market accounts were higher risk and paid higher returns. The financial crisis of 2008 changed all of that. Money market accounts are now FDIC-insured up to the legal maximum ($250,000 per institution per individual). Interest rates are now very similar – and there is no material difference. In other words – choose whichever account you want.

In general, you tend to get slightly lower interest rates on money market accounts because you have check-writing capabilities. The best savings accounts pay at least 1.15% APY – very similar to the rates on this page. But at Ally, for example, you can get 1.00 APY on a savings account (no check-writing) and 0.85% on the money market account (with check writing).   

We have written a full explanation of the difference between money market and savings accounts here.

2. Am I willing to make a longer term commitment? 

Savings accounts and money market accounts pay much lower interest rates than CDs. Right now you can easily get a 1-year CD paying 1.35% APY (with only a $2,000 minimum). You can find the best CD rates here. If you build a CD ladder, you can take advantage of 5-year rates that are now as high as 2.30%.

Money market accounts are great places to keep money that you might need immediately. But the interest rate on a money market account can change right away, at the bank’s discretion. To lock in a higher interest rate, you should consider a CD. If you need to get access to your CD early, would forfeit interest (typically from 3-6 months). In most circumstances, putting more of your money into CDs can really help boost your returns.

3. Is a money market account the same as a money market fund? 

No, money market accounts (offered by FDIC-insured banks) are not the same as money market funds (most likely sold by your broker). In fact, we really don’t know why people even buy money market funds in the current environment.

For example, Vanguard offers the Prime Money Market Fund. Like other money market funds, this one “invests in short-term, high-quality securities.” Its objective is to keep the fund trading at $1 and generate a decent return. Right now that return is 0.89% – a bit lower than the returns you see from the money market accounts listed in this article. However, money market funds do not have FDIC insurance.

Most people compare the return of a money market fund (sold by their broker) to the interest rate paid by a traditional bank (0.03%, sold by their local bank teller). As a result, they are willing to take the risk of a money market fund. However, as you can see from the best money market accounts in this article, you can get FDIC insurance and beat the return of most funds. Why earn 0.89% with no FDIC-insurance when you can easily earn 1.05% and have FDIC insurance.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

TAGS: ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Best of, Earning Cashback

The Best Cash Back Credit Cards for Every Category – 3% and More in October 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 card and dollar close-up

MagnifyMoney keeps a database of over 2,000 credit cards and their features, including cash back cards you can compare with our tool. We used it to find the absolute highest cash back rewards you can earn in each category, more than the standard 1-2% you usually see.

If you’re ready for cash back there are over 25 categories where you can earn 3% or more in pure cash back on your credit card purchases.

Scroll down and you’ll find links to the best cash back credit cards we’ve found that earn more than 2% cash back in special categories. These are cards that let you get pure cash value, not complicated points that can be used only for travel.

Before you dig into categories, every cash rewards wallet should have one of these cards, with double cash back on everything you spend:

Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card
Citi® Double Cash Card

Once you have one of these, you can add other cards that earn more than 2% in special categories to really boost your cash rewards.

The best cash back credit cards with no limit rewards

Maybe you don’t want to mess with rotating categories or remembering limits on cash back. If that’s you, there are only a handful of cards that you need to carry to get the most in totally unlimited cash back.

As you’ll learn below, you may be leaving about $500 a year or more on the table by not holding at least some of these cards.

They are all no annual fee cards, and they ensure you will earn more than 2% cash back on your total spending with absolutely no limits. Some cards have higher cash back rates with limits, and you can see those below this list in our review of cards for each category

Airfare: PenFed Premium Travel Rewards – 4.25%

PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card

This card advertises 5x points on airfare, but there is a bit of a catch. When you redeem the points it earns for the closest thing to cash, a prepaid Visa card, your points are worth about 0.8 cents each, so that 5x points is really about 4.25% cash back on your airfare spending.

Travel: AAA Member Rewards Visa – 3%

AAA Member Rewards Card from Bank Of America

While the PenFed Premium Travel Rewards wins for airfare spending, the AAA Member Rewards Visa offers 3% back on airfare, plus  all kinds of travel, including hotels, car rentals, and cruises. You don’t have to be a AAA member to get the card.

Supermarkets: PenFed Platinum Rewards – 2.55%

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature®Card

The card earns 3x points on supermarkets, but the points are worth about 0.85 cents each when you redeem them for a prepaid Visa gift card, so the real unlimited cash back rate is about 2.55%.

If you spend less than $6,000 a year ($500 a month) on groceries, then the Amex Blue Cash Preferred offers 6% back on the first $6,000 each year. The $95 annual fee on this card is a better deal vs the PenFed Card if you spend about $3,000 a year in groceries (about $250 a month).

Note that if you live in California, you may earn 3% unlimited cash back on groceries with the Platinum Rewards card from Golden 1 Credit Union.

Gas: Fort Knox Credit Union Platinum Visa – 5%

Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

You might not have heard of this credit union, but anyone can join. You just need to pay $5 to join the American Consumer Council / Kentucky and you’re eligible.

The Sam’s Club MasterCard also offers 5% at the pump on up to $6,000 worth of gas purchases a year at any gas station, plus 3% on travel and dining, but you need to be a Sam’s Club member to hold the card.

Dining: Chase AARP Visa – 3%

AARP Credit Card from Chase Bank

You don’t have to be 55+ to hold this card, it’s available to anyone who is interested and meets the credit standards. So you can enjoy your ‘senior discount’ on dining any time. Capital One also offers a Premier Dining Rewards card with 3% back on dining and 2% on groceries.

(The information related to the AARP Visa and Chase Ink Cash Business credit cards has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of these cards.)

Everything else: Citi Double Cash (up to  1% + 1%) or Fidelity Investment Rewards Visa (2%) 

If you’re willing to pay an annual fee, the Alliant Visa Signature card earns 2.5% cash back unlimited. The $59 fee is worthwhile if you spend over $1,000 a month on the card. Alliant is targeting this card to people with high income who spend $10,000 or more a month, so it might be tough to get approved.

If you have a military affiliation, USAA offers some members the USAA Limitless cash back card, with 2.5% unlimited cash back if you make $1,000 a month in direct deposits to USAA. This card is only targeted to select members, so you won’t see it advertised on their website and no guarantees you will be offered the card.

Or if you live in California, the JCB Marukai Premium card gives you 3% cash back on all purchases beyond $3,000 in yearly spending.

Just mark each of the cards you pick in your wallet with a sticker for each category so you remember which to use, and you’ll rack up lots of cash with minimal hassle. And afraid to have more than one card? Well if you’re responsible with credit, a few additional inquiries might have less of an impact than you think. See our experience with scores and getting several cards for the rewards.

For unlimited retailer-specific discounts, also consider:

If you want to maximize absolutely everything, read on…

We’ve organized cash back cards for each of the over 25 spending categories that are currently eligible for more than 2% in cash back rewards.

They include both year round and quarterly rotating categories like those on the Discover It. Pick the categories that matter most to you, and you’ll see the opportunities you have to earn 3-5% if you’re willing to keep track of some limits and quarterly changes.

Remember, these are all cards that let you earn cash value rewards, with no restriction on where you spend the rewards, unlike travel points.

You’ll find three flavors of cash back rewards, in the order of hassle factor:

  • Unlimited cash back – This is the simplest form. You usually won’t find the very highest 5%+ rewards this way, but we’ve found some great cards that get you 3% or more in some popular categories.
  • Cash back with limits – This is where a card limits the cash back you earn by putting a cap on the spending which earns the cash back in the specific category, on a combination of categories, or the card as a whole.
  • Quarterly rotating categories – These are the cards with the big headline 5% rates. Don’t be fooled. While you can earn the 5% rate, you may have to opt in to categories each quarter manually and be hit with caps on how much you can earn.

Advertising Services

With Limits

3%:  SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express– up to $25,000 in purchases in bonus categories

Airfare

Unlimited

With limits

  • 3% – Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: Nusenda Cash Rewards – Oct – Dec – up to $1,500 – Anyone can join the Nusenda Credit Union (formerly the New Mexico Educators Credit Union) by becoming a member of the La Montanita Food Co-op.

Amazon.com

Unlimited

5% Quarterly Category in 2017

  • 5%: Discover it – up to $1,500 – October – December

Book stores

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose

Car Rentals

Unlimited

With limits

Cell phone

With limits

Cable / Satellite / Landline Phone / Internet

Clothing Stores

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Commuting, Taxis

Unlimited

Quarterly category in 2017

Department Stores

Unlimited

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: Citi Dividend – October – December – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)

Discount stores

  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Drug stores

With limits

Education

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: Nusenda Cash Rewards – July – Sept – up to $1,500 – Anyone can join the Nusenda Credit Union (formerly the New Mexico Educators Credit Union) by becoming a member of the La Montanita Food Co-op.

Electronics

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: (Best Buy only) Citi Dividend – October – December – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)

Furniture

With Limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose

Quarterly Category in 2017

  • 5%: Citi Dividend – January – March – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)

Gas

Unlimited

With limits

Quarterly category in 2017

Grocery Stores

Unlimited

With limits

Quarterly category in 2017

Gyms

With Limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose

Home improvement

No limits

With limits

  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: Nusenda Cash Rewards – April – June – up to $1,500
  • 5%: (Home Depot only) Citi Dividend – January – March – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)
  • 5%: Discover it – up to $1,500 – July – September

Hotels

Unlimited

With limits

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5% – New Mexico Educators Cash Rewards – Oct – Dec – up to $1,500
  • 5%: (Hilton Hotels only) Citi Dividend – July – September – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)

Movie Theaters

With Limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose

Quarterly category in 2017

Office Supply Stores

With limits

Online Retail

Unlimited

Restaurants

Unlimited

With Limits

Quarterly category in 2017

Shipping

Sports

With limits

Target

Unlimited

Trains, Cruises, Other Vacation

Unlimited

With limits

Utilities

  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Walmart

  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Warehouse Clubs

 

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

TAGS: , ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Best of, Credit Cards

7 Best 0% Purchase Credit Card Offers From Banks & Credit Unions – October 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’re about to make a big purchase that you need time to pay off, using a 0% introductory purchase offer on a credit card could be the cheapest way to spread the payment out over time.

  • You can currently find 0% deals for as long as 21 months, with no fees, but since rates after the intro period are high, only use these deals if you’re sure you can handle paying off the debt before the period is up.
  • When searching for 0% purchase cards, make sure you select a card that waives interest. Far too many cards, especially those offered by retailers (like Apple’s offer with Barclaycard) only defer the interest which means you can get get a nasty surprise when the intro period is up.

Below are the 7 longest 0% purchase credit cards from our database of over 3,000 credit card products from banks and credit unions, and all of them have no sneaky deferred interest, so you really are getting a 0% rate for the introductory period.

After the list, we will explain:

1. Citi Simplicity® – 0% Intro Purchase APR for 21 MONTHS

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever

The longest 0% intro purchase APR available now is the Citi Simplicity® Card. This credit card is unique because it also offers no late fees ever, and no penalty APR if you make a late payment.

If you already have the Citi Simplicity®, you can apply for the Citi Diamond Preferred Card. The Diamond Preferred card also has no annual fee and a 0% introductory purchase rate for 21 months. Just beware that it’s not as friendly as the Simplicity®, and has late fees typical of regular credit cards (a fee up to $35. Your rate will go up to a 29.99% penalty APR if you miss a payment.

Citi is OK with you holding both cards to get the 0% on purchases twice, though don’t try to apply for them both on the same day. Better to space it out when you have your next big purchase to manage, and by then you’ll have a good payment history with Citi that could qualify you for the credit line you need for your purchase.

GO TO SITE Secured

on Citibank’s secure website

 2. TruWest Visa Signature Credit Card – 0% Intro Purchase APR for 18 MONTHS

TruWest Visa® Signature Card

While this is a good deal, unfortunately TruWest is a credit union with restricted membership. You need to live in certain regions of Texas or Arizona, or work for a few select employers like Motorola in order to join (details here), but if you can join, you will enjoy 0% into APR for 18 months on purchases with no annual fee.

Even better, after the 0% purchase period is over, your regular ongoing APR is just 8.90% – 9.90% making this one of the safest choices for a 0% purchase credit card.

GO TO SITE Secured

on TruWest Credit Union’s secure website

3. Citi® Double Cash Card – 0% Intro Purchase APR for 18 MONTHS

Citi® Double Cash Card

The Citi® Double Cash offers a 0% introductory APR on purchase for 18 months with no annual fee.

It also happens to be one of the most rewarding cash back cards available. You get 1% cash back on your purchases, plus you get 1% more back when you pay those purchases off. So if you plan to be able to pay things off in full within 18 months this can be a better deal than cards that have no cash back rewards.

GO TO SITE Secured

on Citibank’s secure website

4. Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express – 0% Intro Purchase APR for 15 MONTHS

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
This card offers an introductory 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, and after that your variable rate will be 13.99% – 24.99% depending on your credit history. There’s no annual fee, and it’s also a cash back card.

You can earn 3% at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases), and then 1%. You can also earn 2% at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores and you’ll earn 1% on all other purchases.

GO TO SITE Secured

on American Express’s secure website

5. Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard® – 0% Intro Purchase APR for 15 MONTHS

Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard<sup>®</sup>
This card offers an intro 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months. After the intro period your APR will be 15.99%, 20.99% or 25.99% variable, depending on your credit history.

In addition to the 0% intro period, there is no annual fee and new purchases will earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards. Keep in mind you need excellent credit to qualify, so if you have less than perfect credit check out some of the other offers.

GO TO SITE Secured

on Barclaycard’s secure website

6. Discover It® Cashback MatchTM – 0% Intro Purchase APR for 14 MONTHS

Discover it® - Cashback Match<sup>TM</sup>
This card does not charge an annual fee and offers a 0% introductory APR on new purchases and balance transfers for 14 months after you open the account. After that your regular variable APR will be between 11.99% – 23.99% variable, depending on your credit history.

It also happens to be a cash back card with rotating purchase categories which change each quarter. You can earn up to 5% cash back.

GO TO SITE Secured

on Discover’s secure website

7. Alliant Visa® Platinum – 0% Intro Purchase APR for 12 MONTHS

Visa® Platinum Card from Alliant CU

Alliant is a credit union that anyone can join. You can take a simple eligibility test (here). But don’t worry if you answer “no” to most of the questions. You can always join by donating $10 to Foster Care For Success. With that donation, you can join the credit union.

Their Visa® Platinum offers no annual fee and a 0% purchase APR for 12 months.

GO TO SITE Secured

on Alliant CU’s secure website

Deferred versus Waived Interest

Not all 0% offers are created equally. Some credit card companies offer “deferred” interest, whereas others off “waived” interest.

Let’s take a simple example. You spend $1,000 on a credit card with an APR of 18%. You will make payments of $75 every month. There is a special offer that gives you 0% interest for 12 months. On “Credit Card A” interest is deferred. On “Credit Card B” it is waived. After making 12 payments of $75, the remaining balance in month 13 would be $100.

Credit Card A: Deferred Interest

With a “deferred” interest offer, the bank does not forgive the monthly interest accrual. Instead, the bank just keeps track of the interest that would have accrued. If you do not pay the balance in full during the promotional period, you will get retroactively charged the interest at a high interest rate. In the example above, you would be charged approximately $117 in month 13. (I use “approximately” because credit card companies have slightly different ways of calculating and charging interest. But it is safe to assume that you would be charged more than $100 of interest on your remaining $100 balance.)

Credit Card B: Waived Interest

Waived interest is very different. For every month of the promotional period, the credit card company actually forgives the interest. There will never be a retroactive catch up after the promotional period ends. In our example, you would only be charged $3.26 of interest in month 13, compared to more than $100 in the deferred example.

Deferred interest products are surprisingly common. If you are being offered 0% financing by a retailer, you are probably being offered a deferred interest product.

How To Qualify For A 0% Purchase Credit Card

In order to qualify for a 0% intro purchase credit card, you will need to have good credit. If your credit score is above 700, you are highly likely to be approved by one of the issuers. If your score is between 650 and 700, you still have a good chance.

With a credit score below 650, it is highly unlikely that you would be approved, though you may want to check to see if you are pre-qualified for a card before applying. Many of the banks let you check to see what deals they are specifically targeting to you, and you can see a list of them here. Checking what you’re pre-qualified for won’t show up on your credit report or score.

In addition to your credit score, the credit card company will want to ensure that you are employed. And most credit card companies will look at your debt burden.

If your debt burden is more than 50%, it is unlikely that you will be approved.

The lower your debt burden, the better your chances. You calculate your debt burden by dividing the monthly payments on your credit report (which would include your mortgage, auto loans, student loans, personal loans and credit cards) by your monthly paycheck before taxes are taken out.

When Is A Personal Loan Better?

There is no lower interest rate than 0%. So, if you are able to use a 0% credit card to make a purchase, that is your best bet. However, there are a few circumstances where a personal loan might be a better option:

  • Your credit score is too low for a 0% offer. Personal loan companies are offering increasingly competitive interest rates, especially for people with lower credit scores.
  • You need to borrow money for a big cash expense. For example, you might need to pay a contractor who does not accept credit cards. If you need cash, a personal loan is always a better deal than a credit card.
  • You don’t trust yourself with credit cards. Some people feel nervous with credit cards. You might be tempted to spend more than you want. Or, you might be tempted to only pay the minimum due, extending the repayment term. A personal loan can be an easy way to borrow a set amount of money for a set period of time.

If you want to consider a personal loan, you can compare and apply using our personal loan comparison tool. You can check your interest rate and see if you are approved without hurting your credit score at most lenders.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

Earning Cashback

Best Rewards Credit Cards: Double miles, 5% cash, and more – October 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.

Rewards Credit Cards Illustration

Looking for a rewards credit card to earn cash or travel from the spending you’re already doing? There are hundreds of rewards cards out there, and we’ve combed through our database to hand pick the very best rewards credit cards, most with no annual fee.

If you’re just looking for one card to earn cash rewards, your best bet is to use our calculator to get a personalized recommendation based on your spending habits. Otherwise, read on for our top picks. This guide will help you understand whether you are ready to earn rewards, and whether earning cash back or miles for travel rewards is your best bet.

1. Cash back rewards credit cards

Start here: No annual fee, 2x cash

The most important recommendation we can make is to start with either the Citi Double Cash or Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature in your wallet.

Both earn double cash on everything you purchase and pay off with no limits, and no annual fee.

If you prefer MasterCard or have less than perfect credit, go with the Double Cash. If you prefer Visa or plan to use the card abroad, go with the Fidelity (it has a low 1% foreign transaction fee).

If your credit is fair or you have no credit history, then consider one of these options with a slightly lower cash back rate.

Once you have one of these base cards, you can look at our other favorite cards to earn 3%, or even 5% on some of your other spending. You can scroll down this page to see our top picks, or go to our full directory of dozens of cards that earn 3% or better cash back in many categories.

 

Citi® Double Cash Card

Easy double cash rewards

The Citi Double Cash card offers easy double cash rewards with no annual fee.

You get 1% cash back when you make a purchase, and another 1% when you pay your bill, so it’s easy to earn double cash on everything you buy with the card.

And since there’s no annual fee, you don’t have to miss out on the seductive 5% cash back you sometimes see on other cards. Just keep the Citi Double Cash in your wallet for most of your spending, and if you have a card that earns 5% in special categories, just use it for that spending, so you can really rack up the cash rewards.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Earning cash back is simple – there are no special categories or limits
  • There is a fee on foreign transactions, so only use this card for purchases in the U.S.

Tip: You need to earn or use rewards at least once every 12 months, or else your rewards will expire.

LEARN MORE Secured

Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card

2.5% cash back with an annual fee

If you’re willing to pay a $59 annual fee, this card offers a big 2.5% unlimited cash back on everything you spend. Alliant is a credit union anyone can join online and you don’t need to be a member to apply. There’s also a special 3% cash back rate for your first year, with no annual fee either. If you travel abroad there are no foreign transaction fees to worry about. So is the fee worth it? Basically, if you spend more than $1,000 a month on the card, you’ll earn more than the annual fee in cash back compared to the Citi Double Cash.

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

Tip: Be aware this card is only for people who are eligible for high credit limits, so it’s harder to get than the Citi Double Cash. You’ll need excellent credit and a good income to qualify.

LEARN MORE Secured

Up to 5% rewards with a little effort

Once you have a double cash rewards card in your wallet, you’re ready to start considering cards that earn 5% cash back in special categories. If you’re really serious about earning the most cash from your spending, you can get all of these rotating category cards and leverage the fact they earn 5% in different categories. Then, use your base double cash rewards card for everything else.

All of these cards have a limit on how much cash back you can earn at 5%, so you’ll want to pay attention to that, and some of them require you to enroll each quarter to activate your 5% cash back, so if you miss the deadline you’ll earn just 1%.

Chase Freedom<sup>®</sup>

Our pick for small spenders & travelers

With Chase Freedom you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

If you spend the full $1,500 in bonus categories each quarter all year long, you could earn $300 cash back a year from your bonus category spending.

A good introductory bonus for small spenders. Earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. That’s like earning 30% cash back on your first $500 in purchases with the card and gets you off to a fast start.

Boost your travel rewards. If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card for travel rewards, you can combine your points with those from the Chase Freedom, letting you turn your Chase Freedom points into real airline miles with Ultimate Rewards partners like United MileagePlus and Southwest Rapid Rewards, which can make your points worth even more.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • There’s a nice, simple sign on bonus
  • You have to enroll every quarter to earn 5% in bonus categories
  • There are late payment and cash advance fees.

Tip: You generally have about 2 and a half months during the quarter to activate your 5%. For example, for January – March 2016, you can activate by March 14, and still get the 5% in your bonus category spending for the whole quarter, even if you made purchases in the category before you activated.

LEARN MORE Secured

Discover it® - Cashback Match<sup>TM</sup>

Best 5% cash for bigger spenders

The Discover It and Chase Freedom are pretty similar when it comes to rewards, but if you spend more than about $1,000 a month, the Discover It is your better bet if you’re looking to choose just one.

Double cash back better for big spenders. As an introductory offer for new cardmembers, Discover will give you a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned during your first year (new cardmembers only). So big spenders get more out of this than the introductory offer on the Chase Freedom.

Plenty of 5% categories. Earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like gas stations, Amazon.com, restaurants, wholesale clubs and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. All other purchases get 1% cash back.

From October until December of 2017, the bonus categories are Amazon.com and Target.

If you spend the full $1,500 in bonus categories each quarter all year long, you could earn $300 cash back a year from your bonus category spending.

 

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • There’s a nice, simple sign on bonus
  • You have to enroll every quarter to earn 5% in bonus categories
  • There are late payment and cash advance fees.

Tip: One gotcha about the Discover It is that you only get the 5% in bonus categories for spending you do after you activate your bonus each quarter. For example, for the January – March 5% categories, if you activate on February 15, only spending from February 15 to the end of March will qualify, even if you made purchases in a 5% category before then.

LEARN MORE Secured

Platinum Rewards Card from Nusenda CU

Best 5% with no enrollment hassle

If you want 5% in rotating categories each quarter without having to enroll each quarter, consider the NUSENDA Credit Union’s Platinum Cash Rewards card.

Automatic 5% categories. You’re automatically eligible for 5% cash rewards each quarter, up to $1,500 worth of spending across the categories each quarter. Currently that’s typically a $1,500 per quarter maximum, like the Chase Freedom. But the categories where you can earn 5% are a bit broader.

For 2017 the 5% cashback bonus categories include:

  • January – March: Groceries and Gas
  • April – June: Restaurants, Movies, and Home Improvement
  • July – September: Gas and Education
  • October – December: Restaurants, Hotels, Airfare

The introductory bonus is the weakest of the bunch, and offers 2% on all your purchases for the first 90 days. You’d have to spend $15,000 in 90 days to beat the Chase Freedom’s $150 offer.

 

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • No need to enroll every quarter to earn 5% in bonus categories
  • You need to join a credit union, though anyone can join NUSENDA

Tip: When you apply, you’ll be asked where you live or work to determine your eligibility to join NUSENDA Credit Union. If you don’t live in one of the New Mexico counties listed on the application, just enter the company you work for, and they’ll call you to offer you a non profit organization you can join for a small one time fee to be eligible.

LEARN MORE Secured

Cash back for frequent diners

What’s better than 2% cash rewards? 3%.

While you can get 5% cash back on dining some quarters with the 5% foursome cards above, to get consistently good cash back on dining all the time, read on.

You can also check out our full list of the best cards for dining cash back.

AARP Credit Card from Chase Bank

Best unlimited dining cash back rewards

You don’t need to be over 55 to be a member of AARP, and in fact you don’t have to be a member of AARP to get this card.

If offers unlimited 3% cash back rewards on purchases at restaurants and 3% cash back rewards on purchases at gas stations, along with 1% cash back rewards on all other purchases.

You can learn more about the card (including the most recent product specifics) at AARP.org.

The information related to AARP Visa credit card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • There’s no annual fee.
  • There is no limit to the cash back rewards you can earn.
  • There are late payment fees.

Tip: You get your choice of cash rewards via direct deposit or a statement credit.

Grocery cash rewards

Groceries are one of the most popular spending categories, and you can check out our full list of the best cards for grocery cash back.

But if you’re out to earn the most possible cash back from your grocery shopping, here is our pick:

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Best grocery cash back for heavy shoppers

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is the card that can earn the most straight cash from US supermarket purchases, at 6%, but there are two big hoops to deal with.

  1. There’s a cap of $6,000 a year in supermarket spending that earns 6%, so you can get a maximum of $360 a year in rewards at the 6% rate.
  2. There’s a $95 annual fee. So, this is really offering 4.4% cash back on supermarket spending if you spend the full $6,000 a year at US supermarkets and take the annual fee out of your rewards.

So the rule is this: if you spend about $300 – $800 a month at supermarkets, consider this card. Otherwise, get 3% back at supermarkets with no annual fee with the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express or Consumers Credit Union Visa Signature Cash Rebate Card (anyone can join their credit union).

Transparency Score
TRANSPARENCY SCORE
  • The biggest supermarket cash back rate.
  • There is a $95 annual fee and a cap on the supermarket cash rewards you can earn at 6%.

Tip: If you shop at big box stores like Walmart or Target, those aren’t considered supermarkets, even when you’re buying groceries, and spending there won’t earn the grocery cash back bonus.

LEARN MORE Secured

Cash rewards for less than perfect credit

If you’re credit’s not perfect, but you’re now able to pay your cards in full each month, you won’t yet qualify for the very best cash rewards, but you can do well with no annual fee.

Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee

Best cash rewards for rebuilding credit

If you have little or no credit history, or are rebuilding credit, the Discover It Secured Card is the best way to do it while earning rewards.

You can earn 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations (on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter). Plus, get 1% cash back on all your other purchases. There is no annual fee. A security deposit of $200 or more will establish your credit line (up to the amount that Discover can approve). There are automatic monthly reviews starting at 8 months to see if you can be transitioned to an account with no security deposit.

Transparency Score
TRANSPARENCY SCORE
  • No annual fee.
  • The Regular APR is 23.99% variable.

Tip: You will get your official FICO credit score for free with this card. Watch it closely, because the goal of a secured card is to graduate to an unsecured card as quickly as possible.

LEARN MORE Secured

2. Travel Rewards Cards

Real airline miles

If you’re serious about travel, you want points that give you the option to turn them into real airline miles. Yes, there are ‘no hassle’ cards out there that promise to avoid the rules and traps of airline miles, but you’ll often pay more in points if you use those cards, especially if you’re flying on expensive international flights.

 

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

Best real airline miles with no annual fee

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card earns Amex Membership Rewards® Points.

With Membership Rewards® Points, you can turn your points into real airline miles with several frequent flier programs, including Delta SkyMiles, JetBlue True Blue, Virgin America Elevate, and British Airways Avios.

If you fly Delta and use SkyMiles this is a no brainer way to build on the SkyMiles you already have without a fee. Real airline miles are the best way to get expensive international flights and you can check here to see if focusing on convertible points that can turn into real airline miles is a good plan for you.

Even better, if you don’t want to deal with airline miles, you have the flexibility to use your points for travel on almost any airline. Just book your flight via the American Express website and pay for it with points.

 

Transparency Score
TRANSPARENCY SCORE
  • No annual fee.
  • There are late fees and a wide range of APRs you may be charged depending on your credit profile.
  • You get 2x points per dollar at US supermarkets (up to $6,000), and a 20% bonus on all of your spending each statement period when you use your card to make 20 or more purchase in any category.

Tip: Some people find the Chase Sapphire Preferred we mention below (which has an annual fee) has more useful travel partners, because it lets you transfer points to both United MileagePlus and Southwest Rapid Rewards.

LEARN MORE 

 Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Best for serious travel rewards

The information related to the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

Serious travel rewards are all about being able to earn points you can transfer into real airline miles or hotel points with several travel partners, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s roster of partners is one of the most useful round. It’s why so many travel enthusiasts love this card.

Transfer to real airline miles and hotel points. You can transfer your points into you accounts with United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Hyatt Gold Passport, and more anytime you want. Between United and Southwest you’re covered for getting around in the U.S. or just about anywhere in the world at attractive point prices. And as you learn more about travel rewards you can take advantage of other partners like Singapore KrisFlyer and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.

A fallback for when mile seats aren’t available. You always have the option to book flights directly via Chase on most airlines without the restrictions of frequent flier programs. Every 10,000 points is worth $125 in flights, hotels, or rental cars booked via the Chase website.

A big introductory bonus. The Sapphire Preferred comes with a big introductory bonus offer that can earn you award travel fast.

2x points on dining and travel. You get double points on all dining and travel purchases you make, even cab rides, fast food, and subway tickets.

Check to see if trying to convertible points that can turn into real airline miles makes sense for your habits, but if it does, this is a great card to get started earning big travel value fast.

Transparency Score
TRANSPARENCY SCORE
  • There are no foreign transaction fees.
  • There is a $95 annual fee, after a $0 introductory fee the first year.

Tip: For a real powerhouse combo, pair this up with a no annual fee Chase Freedom. The points you earn from the Chase Freedom can be added to those from your Sapphire Preferred, letting you take advantage of the fact the Freedom earns 5x points in special bonus categories.

And if you really want to turbocharge rewards, but can deal with a higher annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 3x points on travel and dining.

LEARN MORE 

Points that work like cash for travel

If you don’t want to put in the work to get the extra value real airline miles can offer, but like rewards for travel, consider a card that earns points that work like cash. With these cards you just pay for your flight or hotel with the card, and then use points to get statement credit.

 

Venture® Rewards Card

Best for not messing with miles

If you’re a big traveler, the action is with real airline miles. But if you don’t want to keep track of rules, and still want great rewards for travel, the Venture® Rewards Credit Card is one of the biggest earners available.

Pay for travel, get it reimbursed. Instead of using an airline mile program, with the Venture® Rewards Credit Card you just pay for travel with your card, then use your Venture® miles to get it reimbursed on your statement. 10,000 miles is worth $100 toward any travel.

2x miles on everything. Everything you buy with the card earns 2x miles, so you can earn up to twice as fast as many airline cards.

A big introductory bonus. The Venture® Rewards Credit Card comes with a big introductory bonus offer that can save you hundreds on your next trip.

 

Transparency Score
TRANSPARENCY SCORE
  • There are no foreign transaction fees.
  • There is a $59 annual fee, after a $0 introductory fee the first year.

Tip: You can’t mix and match Venture® miles with any regular airline miles you already have. Venture® miles are simply like cash you can use to pay for travel charged to your card.

LEARN MORE Secured

BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card

Best for savers with no fee

This card has a pretty basic 1.5x points per dollar on everything you spend, and you can use those points to cover any travel purchase. There is no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee.

$50,000+ in Bank of America accounts = big earning. Where it gets interesting is if you have $50,000 or more in retirement, savings, checking, or other account balances with Bank of America. That qualifies you for the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program which lets you earn 2.25x – 2.6x points per dollar with no limits.

That’s because Platinum and Platinum Honors level members of Preferred Rewards get a 50% – 75% bonus on all the points earned with many Bank of America credit cards, including the Travel Rewards card.

You can rollover any of your 401k or IRA accounts to a Merrill Edge account with no maintenance fees, so you don’t need a huge checking or savings account balance to get this benefit.

No other card offers so much straight cash for travel earning potential off your spending across any category.

Transparency Score
TRANSPARENCY SCORE
  • There are no foreign transaction fees.
  • You need a big balance in Bank of America accounts to get the most out of the card.

Tip: Bank of America cards have the option to request a PIN that you can use for foreign purchases at places that don’t accept a signature.

LEARN MORE Secured

3. Learn more

Are you ready to earn rewards with a credit card?

Rewards credit cards can be great, and earn you hundreds of dollars a year in savings, but they are still credit cards, with all the dangers that come with them.

 

Answer these questions

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you’re not ready for a rewards credit card.

  • Are you unsure if you’ll be able to pay your balance in full every single month?
  • Do you plan to do a balance transfer to your card?
  • Do you sometimes make late payments?
  • Do you tend to max out your current credit limit, even if you pay it off?

 

Even if you can safely say ‘no’ to the questions, be aware that the lure of rewards can cause you to spend more than you otherwise would.

 

Credit card companies make money every time you spend on the card, so they want you to spend more. And the more you spend, the greater the chance you spend more than you can afford, which makes them even more money in interest payments.

 

How rewards work

This video explains how rewards work, and why banks offer them.

Cash back or miles for travel?

We don’t think most people should be messing with travel rewards.

Cash rewards cards are more generous than ever and choosing our favorite cash rewards cards will earn you 2% or better on your spending, which is hard to beat even with travel rewards.

You’ll get rewards you can use anywhere – to pay down bills, give a gift, or whatever you want – all with the same good value.

Travel rewards require extra effort, and they tend to penalize you if you use your rewards for something besides travel.

If you already travel twice a year or more, then travel rewards can sometimes offer you more rewards than straight cash back and you should read on.

We’ll cover cash back for travel, real airline miles, and a newer development, convertible points that can turn into real airline miles, but give you more flexibility.

 

Cash back for travel

Cards with cash rewards let you book travel with any airline or hotel, any time.

You don’t have to think about award rules or restrictions, but you get less value for your points if you try to use them for rewards that don’t involve travel, but you’re usually better off just earning straight cash rewards via a card like the Citi Double Cash.

Best for: People who want to keep it simple (but a regular cash rewards card Is usually better)

Pros

You can use the rewards for any travel. You can pay for travel with your card and use points to get credit back. No worrying about airline award seats or

There are lots of special category bonuses. If you’re really into maximizing things, cash rewards have the biggest array of extra points you can earn from special categories like grocery, gas, or dining spending. We keep a full list of them here.

Usually no annual fee. Cash rewards cards mostly have no annual fee to worry about.

Cons

They don’t have the biggest intro bonuses. The very biggest introductory offers are typically reserved for cards that earn airline miles or other travel rewards.

Expensive tickets aren’t as good a deal. If you spend a lot and can earn a lot of airline miles, you can save a lot on tickets that are expensive in cash, like big international trips or first class tickets.

 

Real airline miles

These are cards that earn miles directly into your account with one airline, like a Delta SkyMiles American Express. They’re usually not the fastest way to earn miles, but they often come with other benefits like a free checked bag.

Our rule of thumb is you should only consider airline miles if you typically spend $2,000 or more in a month on a credit card, so you can earn enough miles for an award in a reasonable amount of time. Otherwise, stick with a cash back rewards card.

But spending $2,000 a month isn’t the only factor. You should also be able to answer YES to at least one of these three questions:

  1. Do you have 5,000 or more existing airline miles?
  1. Are you planning to fly in business or first class?
  1. Do you want to go to expensive destinations like Asia, Europe, Africa, South America, or Australia?

If you can answer YES to one of them, then airline miles are a good choice for getting the most out of your card spending.

Pros

They can get you luxurious flights. If you’re really flexible with dates and times, a good chunk of real airline miles can get you flights that would otherwise cost thousands of dollars in cash.

You can build on miles you earn from flying.

If you fly more than a few times a year, this can be really lucrative since the miles you earn from your credit card get to build on the ones you already have, getting you to an award ticket a lot faster than spending on a card that just earns regular cash rewards.

They have big intro bonuses

Often, the most generous deals that offer you a bonus to open a new account are on cards that offer travel rewards, rather than regular cash rewards. That’s because travel rewards are more restricted, and not appealing to everyone.

Cons

If you don’t have a big balance, they can be hard to use. To get the most out of airline miles, you really need to pay attention to things like what airline partners you can use with which miles, where to search for award seats, and how many miles is a ‘good’ price to pay.

They can expire. Many airline miles expire after a year or so if you leave your account dormant. It’s easy to avoid it by earning or spending just one mile, but a lot of people forget and end up losing their miles, so unless you’re willing to make them a habit, stay away from regular airline miles.

You need a lot of them to get a good value award. Here’s how much you can expect to pay for flights with miles:

  • 25,000 – 50,000 miles: domestic roundtrip ticket in Economy class (typical value: $300 – $1,000)
  • 50,000 – 100,000 miles: domestic roundtrip ticket in First Class (typical value: $500 – $1,500)
  • 60,000 – 100,000 miles: international roundtrip ticket in Economy Class (typical value: $800 – $1,500)
  • 100,000 – 200,000 miles: international roundtrip ticket in Business Class (typical value: $2,500 – $5,000)

That’s a lot of miles. And if you’re just sticking to one credit card, don’t fly much, and

They have annual fees. Most cards that can earn you real airline miles carry a hefty annual fee, which isn’t worth it if you don’t travel much.

You’re locked into one program. Miles you earn via a traditional airline miles card are stuck in that one program, so if the airline suddenly raises prices or changes rules you’re stuck. Instead, consider convertible points (below) which we prefer over plain airline miles.

 

Convertible points

These are the newest kind of rewards on the block, and cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred earn points you can convert into real airline miles with certain airlines anytime.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred will let you convert points into miles with United MileagePlus and Southwest RapidRewards, so you’re not locked into just one airline program.

Best for: People who want to take advantage of real airline miles, but want extra flexibility

Pros

You get all the advantages of airline miles. With convertible points like Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards®, you can turn your points into real airline miles with several airline programs at any time. The catch is once you turn points into real airline miles, you can’t convert them back.

You’re not stuck with one airline. Convertible points cards let you turn points into real airline miles with several participating airlines, so you have even more options than a traditional airline miles card.

You get some of the cash rewards benefits. Points from convertible points cards can be used for a lot of things besides travel, like gift cards, merchandise, and sometimes statement credit, though your points tend to go much further using them for travel.

Cons

Cash rewards aren’t as generous. If you don’t have a need for airline miles at all, don’t go for a convertible points card. Stick to a straight up cash rewards card and your points will stretch further. Convertible points cards tend to be less generous for straight cash rewards because they use the savings there to help fund the cost of being able to convert your points into real airline miles.

There are usually annual fees. You’ll generally have to pay an annual fee to get a card that earns convertible points. The Amex Everyday® credit card is a notable exception. So again, only use these cards if you can answer “yes” to the 3 questions you should ask before earning airline miles with a credit card.

 

Questions and Answers

With most cash rewards credit cards, your rewards won’t expire as long as you keep your account open. But some like the Citi Double Cash require you to either earn or use rewards at least once every so often. For the Citi Double Cash that’s once every 12 months.

With cash rewards, you may lose all of your unused rewards if you close your account, so make sure you use them before closing. With travel rewards, miles you hold in an airline program aren’t affected if you close your credit card account, but they will be subject to whatever expiration rule the airline has.

No – you can earn rewards, even if you pay off your entire balance each month before it’s due.

Most cash rewards cards have no annual fee. But if you have an annual fee card, and don’t want to pay the fee, you can sometimes ask your bank to ‘downgrade’ you to a version with no fee. It might earn fewer rewards, but you can avoid the hassle of closing your account altogether.

Many cards won’t give you the rewards from your spending in months where you are late on your payment, so always make your payments on time with a rewards card.

Usually mortgage servicers and other loan providers don’t accept credit card payments. Some companies will make payments on your behalf with a credit card, but you’ll be charged a fee, and often that fee is more than the rewards are worth.

Most cards don’t offer rewards for ‘cash equivalent’ transactions like using a cash advance. Some will offer you rewards for completing a balance transfer, but you’re likely to get hit with fees or a less favorable deal than if you use a good card designed for balance transfers..

If you have cash rewards, just send the cash to whomever you want. If you have travel rewards, many cards will let you combine your points with your spouse or domestic partner. Otherwise, you can just book tickets for someone else using your points if you want to make a gift. Airline miles usually can’t be shared with other people unless you want to pay a fee.

You shouldn’t be carrying a balance month to month on rewards cards, because the interest rates on them is sometimes higher than on cards with no rewards. But if you do end up carrying a balance over from one month to another, your rewards won’t disappear as long a you make your payment on time.

5% cards are designed to catch people who aren’t paying attention. So if your card has an enrollment requirement to earn 5% each quarter, and you miss it, you’ll be out of luck for earning 5%.

Yes, many cash rewards cards offer rewards in the form of statement credit, and that reduces the balance you need to pay on your account.

Some cards require you keep your account open for a certain number of months, or else you will lose any sign on bonus you earned. It’s usually best to keep a card open for about a year or more.

Usually authorized users earn rewards in the same account as the primary user.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

Balance Transfer

Capital One Balance Transfer Offer

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.

review-cc-full

Balance transfer offers on credit cards can be an excellent way to reduce the cost of expensive credit card debt, helping you can get out of debt faster. Capital One only offers one card with a balance transfer intro period. Balance transfers are usually offered only to people with excellent credit, however you may qualify if you have good credit. It’s always a good idea to check if you’re prequalified before submitting an application.

In this article, we will:

  • Review the balance transfer offer from Capital One
  • Provide details on who can be approved for the offer
  • Decode the fine print, so that you know how to avoid tricks and traps that could cost you

Note: If you are looking to get out of debt, you should consider downloading our free Debt Free Guide. It will show you how to slash your interest rates, boost your credit score, negotiate hard with creditors and become debt-free fast and forever. Balance transfers can be a great tool in your debt-free strategy, but everyone should have a strategy. And this guide can help you build one.

Offer Review

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Capital One’s secure website

The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card is best known for having no annual fee, and providing unlimited 1.5% cash back on all of your spend. Unlike many cash back credit cards, there are no rotating categories, no caps, and no minimums for getting your cash back. They really raised the bar on cash back credit cards, until Citibank created the Citi® Double Cash Card which does the same thing, except you earn unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers 0% intro APR for 9 months on purchases and balance transfers, with a 3% fee. When compared to the rest of the market, this is a mediocre intro period. You can find cards with intro periods of 15, 21 and 24 months. We list all of the balance transfer options here.

Approval Criteria

Capital One markets this card for people with excellent credit. On their website, excellent credit is defined as someone who:

  • Has never declared bankruptcy or defaulted on a loan
  • Hasn’t been more than 60 days late on any credit card, medical bill, or loan in the last year
  • Has had a loan or credit card for 3 years or more with a credit limit above $5,000

If your credit score isn’t excellent, your options are much more limited. In fact, we recommend considering a personal loan to get a lower rate on your debt, where you will have a better chance of getting a higher loan amount.

 Fine Print Alert

Balance transfers can save you a lot of money. However, there are certain traps out there, and if you fall for those traps it could end up costing you a lot of money. Make sure you do the following:

  • If you are approved for your balance transfer credit card, complete the balance transfer right away. The 0% promotional offer begins the day your account is open.
  • Set up automatic payments so that you are never late. Even being late by one day can result in a steep late fee. And, if you are late by 60 days or more, you can see a big spike in your interest rate.
  • Don’t spend on the credit card. Although Capital One does offer 0% on purchases, they do that as a temptation. They want you to spend, so that you don’t use the promotional period to pay down your debt. If you are using a balance transfer, you should be doing it to get out of debt faster.

To learn more about balance transfers, you can visit our learning center.

Balance transfers, when used properly, can take years off your debt repayment. With proper credit behavior, the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card can save you money and help rid you of debt.

promo-balancetransfer-wide

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

TAGS: , , ,

Advertiser Disclosure

College Students and Recent Grads, Pay Down My Debt

19 Options to Refinance Student Loans in 2017 – Get Your Lowest Rate

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.

19 Options to Refinance Student Loans - Get Your Lowest Rate

Updated: August 31, 2017

Are you tired of paying a high interest rate on your student loan debt? You may be looking for ways to refinance your student loans at a lower interest rate, but don’t know where to turn. We have created the most complete list of lenders currently willing to refinance student loan debt.

You should always shop around for the best rate. Don’t worry about the impact on your credit score of applying to multiple lenders: so long as you complete all of your applications within 14 days, it will only count as one inquiry on your credit score. You can see the full list of lenders below, but we recommend you start here, and check rates from the top 4 national lenders offering the lowest interest rates. These 4 lenders also allow you to check your rate without impacting your score (using a soft credit pull), and offer the best rates of 2017:

LenderTransparency ScoreMax TermFixed APRVariable APRMax Loan Amount 
SoFiA+

20


Years

3.35% - 7.125%


Fixed Rate*

2.815% - 6.740%


Variable Rate*

No Max


Undergrad/Grad
Max Loan
apply-now
earnestA+

20


Years

3.35% - 6.39%


Fixed Rate

2.82% - 6.19%


Variable Rate

No Max


Undergrad/Grad
Max Loan
apply-now
commonbondA+

20


Years

3.35% - 7.12%


Fixed Rate

2.81% - 6.74%


Variable Rate

No Max


Undergrad/Grad
Max Loan
apply-now
lendkeyA+

20


Years

3.15% - 7.26%


Fixed Rate

2.58% - 6.31%


Variable Rate

$125k / $175k


Undergrad/Grad
Max Loan
apply-now

We have also created:

But before you refinance, read on to see if you are ready to refinance your student loans.

Can I Get Approved?

Loan approval rules vary by lender. However, all of the lenders will want:

  • Proof that you can afford your payments. That means you have a job with income that is sufficient to cover your student loans and all of your other expenses.
  • Proof that you are a responsible borrower, with a demonstrated record of on-time payments. For some lenders, that means that they use the traditional FICO, requiring a good score. For other lenders, they may just have some basic rules, like no missed payments, or a certain number of on-time payments required to prove that you are responsible.

If you are in financial difficulty and can’t afford your monthly payments, a refinance is not the solution. Instead, you should look at options to avoid a default on student loan debt.

This is particularly important if you have Federal loans.

Don’t refinance Federal loans unless you are very comfortable with your ability to repay. Think hard about the chances you won’t be able to make payments for a few months. Once you refinance, you may lose flexible Federal payment options that can help you if you genuinely can’t afford the payments you have today. Check the Federal loan repayment estimator to make sure you see all the Federal options you have right now.

If you can afford your monthly payment, but you have been a sloppy payer, then you will likely need to demonstrate responsibility before applying for a refinance.

But, if you can afford your current monthly payment and have been responsible with those payments, then a refinance could be possible and help you pay the debt off sooner.

Is it worth it?

Like any form of debt, your goal with a student loan should be to pay as low an interest rate as possible. Other than a mortgage, you will likely never have a debt as large as your student loan.

If you are able to reduce the interest rate by re-financing, then you should consider the transaction. However, make sure you include the following in any decision:

Is there an origination fee?

Many lenders have no fee, which is great news. If there is an origination fee, you need to make sure that it is worth paying. If you plan on paying off your loan very quickly, then you may not want to pay a fee. But, if you are going to be paying your loan for a long time, a fee may be worth paying.

Is the interest rate fixed or variable?

Variable interest rates will almost always be lower than fixed interest rates. But there is a reason: you end up taking all of the interest rate risk. We are currently at all-time low interest rates. So, we know that interest rates will go up, we just don’t know when.

This is a judgment call. Just remember, when rates go up, so do your payments. And, in a higher rate environment, you will not be able to refinance to a better option (because all rates will be going up).

We typically recommend fixing the rate as much as possible, unless you know that you can pay off your debt during a short time period. If you think it will take you 20 years to pay off your loan, you don’t want to bet on the next 20 years of interest rates. But, if you think you will pay it off in five years, you may want to take the bet. Some providers with variable rates will cap them, which can help temper some of the risk.

Places to Consider a Refinance

If you go to other sites they may claim to compare several student loan offers in one step. Just beware that they might only show you deals that pay them a referral fee, so you could miss out on lenders ready to give you better terms. Below is what we believe is the most comprehensive list of current student loan refinancing lenders.

You should take the time to shop around. FICO says there is little to no impact on your credit score for rate shopping as many providers as you’d like in a single shopping period (which can be between 14-30 days, depending upon the version of FICO). So set aside a day and apply to as many as you feel comfortable with to get a sense of who is ready to give you the best terms.

Here are more details on the 5 lenders offering the lowest interest rates:

1. SoFi: Variable Rates from 2.815% and Fixed Rates from 3.35% (with AutoPay)*

SoFi

SoFi (read our full SoFi review) was one of the first lenders to start offering student loan refinancing products. More MagnifyMoney readers have chosen SoFi than any other lender. Although SoFi initially targeted a very select group of universities (it started with Stanford), now almost anyone can apply, including if you graduated from a trade school. The only requirement is that you graduated from a Title IV school. You need to have a degree, a good job and good income in order to qualify. SoFi wants to be more than just a lender. If you lose your job, SoFi will help you find a new one. If you need a mortgage for a first home, they are there to help. And, surprisingly, they also want to get you a date. SoFi is famous for hosting parties for customers across the country, and creating a dating app to match borrowers with each other.

GO TO SITE Secured

on SoFi’s secure website

2. Earnest: Variable Rates from 2.57% and Fixed Rates from 3.35% (with AutoPay)

Earnest

Earnest (read our full Earnest review) offers fixed interest rates starting at 3.35% and variable rates starting at 2.57%. Unlike any of the other lenders, you can switch between fixed and variable rates throughout the life of your loan. You can do that one time every six months until the loan is paid off. That means you can take advantage of the low variable interest rates now, and then lock in a higher fixed rate later. You can choose your own monthly payment, based upon what you can afford (to the penny). Earnest also offers bi-weekly payments and “skip a payment” if you run into difficulty.

3. CommonBond: Variable Rates from 2.81% and Fixed Rates from 3.35% (with AutoPay)

CommonBond

CommonBond (read our full review) started out lending exclusively to graduate students. They initially targeted doctors with more than $100,000 of debt. Over time, CommonBond has expanded and now offers student loan refinancing options to graduates of almost any university (graduate and undergraduate). In addition (and we think this is pretty cool), CommonBond will fund the education of someone in need in an emerging market for every loan that closes. So not only will you save money, but someone in need will get access to an education.

4. LendKey: Variable Rates from 2.58% and Fixed Rates from 3.15% (with AutoPay)

Lendkey

LendKey (read our full LendKey review) works with community banks and credit unions across the country. Although you apply with LendKey, your loan will be with a community bank. If you like the idea of working with a credit union or community bank, LendKey could be a great option. Over the past year, LendKey has become increasingly competitive on pricing, and frequently has a better rate than some of the more famous marketplace lenders.

In addition to the Top 4 (ranked by interest rate), there are many more lenders offering to refinance student loans. Below is a listing of all providers we have found so far. This list includes credit unions that may have limited membership. We will continue to update this list as we find more lenders. This list is ordered alphabetically:

  • Alliant Credit Union: Anyone can join this credit union. Interest rates start as low as 4.25% APR. You can borrow up to $100,000 for up to 25 years.
  • Citizens Bank: Variable interest rates range from 2.79% APR – 8.14% APR and fixed rates range from 3.35% – 8.24%. You can borrow for up to 20 years. Citizens also offers discounts up to 0.50% (0.25% if you have another account and 0.25% if you have automated monthly payments).
  • College Avenue: If you have a medical degree, you can borrow up to $250,000. Otherwise, you can borrow up to $150,000. Fixed rates range from 4.65% – 7.50% APR. Variable rates range from 4.13% – 7.13% APR.
  • Credit Union Student Choice: If you like credit unions and community banks, we recommend that you start with LendKey. However, if you can’t find a good loan from a LendKey partner, this tool could be helpful. Just check to see if you or an immediate family member belong to one of their featured credit union and you can apply to refinance your loan.
  • Laurel Road (formerly known as DRB) Student Loan: Laurel Roadoffers variable rates ranging from 2.99% – 6.42% APR and fixed rates from 3.95% – 6.99% APR. Rates vary by term, and you can borrow up to 20 years.
  • Eastman Credit Union: Credit union membership is restricted (see eligibility here). Fixed rates start at 6.50% and go up to 8% APR.
  • Education Success Loans: This company has a unique pricing structure: your interest rate is fixed and then becomes variable thereafter. You can fix the rate at 4.99% APR for the first year, and it is then becomes variable. The longest you can fix the rate is 10 years at 7.99%, and it is then variable thereafter. Given this pricing, you would probably get a better deal elsewhere.
  • EdVest: This company is the non-profit student loan program of the state of New Hampshire which has become available more broadly. Rates are very competitive, ranging from 3.94% – 7.54% (fixed) and 3.17% – 6.77% APR (variable).
  • First Republic Eagle Gold. The interest rates are great, but this option is not for everyone. Fixed rates range from 2.35% – 3.95% APR. You need to visit a branch and open a checking account (which has a $3,500 minimum balance to avoid fees). Branches are located in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Newport Beach, San Diego, Portland (Oregon), Boston, Palm Beach (Florida), Greenwich or New York City. Loans must be $60,000 – $300,000. First Republic wants to recruit their future high net worth clients with this product.
  • IHelp: This service will find a community bank. Unfortunately, these community banks don’t have the best interest rates. Fixed rates range from 4.65% to 8.84% APR (for loans up to 15 years). If you want to get a loan from a community bank or credit union, we recommend trying LendKey instead.
  • Navy Federal Credit Union: This credit union offers limited membership. For men and women who serve (or have served), the credit union can offer excellent rates and specialized underwriting. Variable interest rates start at 3.42% and fixed rates start at 4.00%.
  • Purefy: Only fixed interest rates are available, with rates ranging from 3.95% – 6.75% APR. You can borrow up to $150,000 for up to 15 years. Just answer a few questions on their site, and you can get an indication of the rate.
  • RISLA: Just like New Hampshire, the state of Rhode Island wants to help you save. You can get fixed rates starting as low as 3.49%. And you do not need to have lived or studied in Rhode Island to benefit.
  • UW Credit Union: This credit union has limited membership (you can find out who can join here, but you had better be in Wisconsin). You can borrow from $5,000 to $60,000 and rates start as low as 2.87% (variable) and 3.99% APR (fixed).
  • Wells Fargo: As a traditional lender, Wells Fargo will look at credit score and debt burden. They offer both fixed and variable loans, with variable rates starting at 4.49% and fixed rates starting at 6.24%. You would likely get much lower interest rates from some of the new Silicon Valley lenders or the credit unions.

You can also compare all of these loan options in one chart with our comparison tool. It lists the rates, loan amounts, and kinds of loans each lender is willing to refinance. You can also email us with any questions at info@magnifymoney.com.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

TAGS: , ,