Tag: Bad Credit

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Best of, Credit Cards

Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit September 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Check if You’re Pre-qualified

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

Build Credit with Secured Credit Cards

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

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

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

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

Discover it Secured Card

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

Build Credit with Secured Cards

Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee

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on Discover’s secure website

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Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Minimum Deposit
$200
APR
23.99% APR

Variable

Credit required
bad-credit
Bad

Also Consider Also Consider

OpenSky Secured Visa

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

Read MagnifyMoney’s full Secured Credit Card Guide.

Our Credit Union Favorite

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

Georgia’s Own Visa Classic

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

Our Credit Union Favorite

Visa® Classic from Georgia's Own Credit Union

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on Georgia's Own Credit Union’s secure website

Read Full Review

Visa® Classic from Georgia's Own Credit Union

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

Fair Variable

Credit required
bad-credit
Bad

Best for Cash: Personal Loans

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

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

LendingTree

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

LEARN MORE Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

LendingTree

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

Pros Pros

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

Cons Cons

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

Bottom line

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

Avant

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

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on Avant’s secure website

Avant

Loan Amount
up to $35,000
Term
up to 60 Months
APR Range
9.95%-35.99%
Origination Fee
0.95%-4.75%
Soft Pull
You can get your rate without hurting your score.

Pros Pros

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

Cons Cons

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

Bottom line

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

OneMain Financial

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

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on OneMain Financial’s secure website

OneMain Financial

Loan Amount
up to $25,000
APR Range
25.10%-36.00%
Origination Fee
No origination fee
Credit Required
Average/Good/Excellent

Pros Pros

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

Cons Cons

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

Bottom line

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

Last Resort: Subprime Credit Cards

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Credit FAQs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brynne Conroy
Brynne Conroy |

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

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Building Credit, Credit Cards, Reviews

Georgia’s Own Visa Classic Review: Good Choice for Rebuilding Credit

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.

The Georgia’s Own Visa Classic card is made for those with low credit scores and helps you rebuild and re-establish your credit. If you’ve struggled in the past with getting approved for other credit cards due to poor credit, you may qualify for this card. By using this card, coupled with proper credit behavior, you will be able to improve your credit score.

Visa® Classic from Georgia's Own Credit Union

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on Georgia's Own Credit Union’s secure website

Visa® Classic from Georgia's Own Credit Union

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

Fair Variable

Credit required
bad-credit
Bad

How the Card Works

This is a relatively straightforward credit card. There is no annual fee and no rewards. Lack of a rewards program makes this card predominantly for rebuilding credit. Look at it this way — there are no tempting rewards to lead you to overspend, allowing you to focus on rebuilding your credit.

The APR for this card is a fair 12.99% to 17.99%. Other cards charge upward of 20%, so this is reasonable. However, a lower APR shouldn’t encourage you to accrue a balance month to month. Always make it a point to pay your balance in full and on time.

A good way to start rebuilding your credit with the Georgia’s Own Visa Classic is to add a recurring payment, like Netflix or Spotify. You can solely have your monthly Netflix or Spotify charge on your credit card statement and increase your credit score as long as you pay your bill in full and on time. This will give you a low utilization (the amount of your credit limit you use), which is a key factor in determining your credit score. For example, if you have a credit limit of $100 and charge your recurring $7.99 Netflix bill, then you will have a utilization of 8% (below 20% is ideal).

How to Qualify

In order to qualify for this card, you need to have a stable source of income, so a job is needed. This will prove that you can afford to make your monthly payments on time and are responsible.

In addition, since this card is provided by a credit union, you have to join Georgia’s Own Credit Union. Don’t worry if you reside outside of Georgia; anyone can become a member regardless of residence. There are four free eligibility options that can qualify you for free membership. Otherwise you will have to join the GettingAhead Association, with a $5 annual membership fee. The best bet is to speak to a Georgia’s Own loan officer (404-874-1166) and see if you’re pre-approved for the credit card. If pre-approved, you can join the GettingAhead Association while completing your credit card application. All members will also need to keep $5 in a savings account that must remain in the account while you have the card open.

A note on the application process for Georgia’s Own — when you apply for a credit card on Georgia’s Own website, you are directed toward an application that is for all the credit cards they offer. This means that depending on your creditworthiness, you may not be directed to the Visa Classic as an option. Therefore if you want to apply directly for the card, the best bet is to speak with a loan officer, who will tell you if you’re pre-approved for the Visa Classic card.

What We Like About the Card

Good chance of getting approved

Georgia’s Own tailored this credit card toward those needing to rebuild or re-establish their credit history. This gives those with bad credit a greater chance of being approved. Also, if your score is above 620, you are more likely to be approved.

Fair APR

This card has a fair APR ranging from 12.99% to 17.99%. This is significantly lower compared to other cards targeted to people with less than perfect credit, with APRs as high as 23.99%. Although your goal is to pay every bill in full and on time each month, if you keep a balance this low, APR won’t accrue as much interest as other cards.

What We Don’t Like About the Card

Have to join the credit union

In order to get this card, you have to join Georgia’s Own Credit Union. There are four free eligibility options, and if you don’t qualify for free membership, you will have to join the GettingAhead Association, with a $5 annual membership fee. You will also need to keep $5 in a savings account that must remain in the account while you have the card open.

2% foreign transaction fee

Make sure to leave this card at home when you travel abroad as you’ll be charged a 2% foreign transaction fee on all purchases. This is slightly lower than most cards, which charge a 3% foreign transaction fee, yet high enough to increase your bill significantly if you make purchases abroad.

No rewards program

There is no rewards program for this credit card. Georgia’s Own offers a Visa Platinum card that has a rewards program, but you may have a harder time qualifying if you don’t have a good credit score.

Who the Card Is Best For

If you’re someone who has a low credit score and doesn’t mind working with a credit union, this card may be right for you. We recommend this no-frills card for people who want to rebuild their credit with a credit card. While you won’t earn any rewards with this card, if you practice proper credit behavior, you’ll be rewarded by a better credit score.

Alternatives

Secured Card with Rewards

Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Minimum Deposit

$200

APR

23.99% APR

Variable

If you don’t want to join a credit union, you might want to consider a secured credit card to help you build credit. With a secured card, you make a deposit – and receive a credit limit based upon that deposit. The good news is that your secured credit card will report to the credit bureaus. That means your good behavior can help you improve your credit score over time. One of our favorite secured credit cards is from Discover.

Rewards Card with Good Approval Odds

Walmart® MasterCard<sup>®</sup>

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

-

APR

17.65%-23.65%

Store cards are more likely to approve people with low credit scores, and the Walmart MasterCard can be a good option for you. The Walmart MasterCard has unlimited rewards with up to 3% cash back. Don’t worry if you don’t shop at Walmart since you can earn rewards on any purchase. Be aware that this card has a higher interest rate than the Georgia’s Own card, so compare which card is best for you.

Bottom Line

With no annual fee and fair interest rates, the Georgia’s Own Visa Classic credit card is a good option for those with bad to fair credit who are looking to improve their credit score. If you don’t mind working with a credit union, this card is a good option to rebuild credit.

FAQ

If you don’t qualify for the four free eligibility options, you will have to join the GettingAhead Association, with a $5 annual membership fee. The best bet is to speak to a Georgia’s Own loan officer (404-874-1166) and see if you’re pre-approved for the credit card. If pre-approved, you can join the GettingAhead Association while completing your credit card application. All members will also need to keep $5 in a savings account that must remain in the account while you have the card open.

You should work hard to make sure you make payments on time every month. A missed payment will lead to a late fee and interest accruing on the balance. This will ultimately leave a negative mark on your credit report and lower your credit score. Try not to spend more than you are able to and stick to a budget with these helpful budgeting apps in order to rebuild your credit score.

There is no one way to increase your credit score; rather, there are numerous behaviors responsible cardholders practice to establish good credit history. Good practices include paying all of your statements on time and in full and keeping a utilization below 20%; these will help you rebuild credit.

Alexandria White
Alexandria White |

Alexandria White is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Alexandria at alexandria@magnifymoney.com

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Won’t impact your credit score

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Featured, Mortgage, News

7 Reasons Your Mortgage Application Was Denied

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 few things more nerve-racking for homebuyers than waiting to find out if they were approved for a mortgage loan.

Nearly 627,000 mortgage applications were denied in 2015, according to the latest data from the Federal Reserve, down slightly (-1.1%) year over year. If your mortgage application was denied, you may be naturally curious as to why you failed to pass muster with your lender.

There are many reasons you could have been denied, even if you’re extremely wealthy or have a perfect 850 credit score. We spoke with several mortgage experts to find out where prospective homebuyers are tripping up in the mortgage process.

Here are seven reasons your mortgage application could be denied:

You recently opened a new credit card or personal loan

Taking on new debts prior to beginning the mortgage application process is a “big no-no,” says Denver, Colo.-based loan officer Jason Kauffman. That includes every type of debt — from credit cards and personal loans to buying a car or financing furniture for your new digs.

That’s because lenders will have to factor any new debt into your debt-to-income ratio.

Your debt-to-income ratio is fairly simple to calculate: Add up all your monthly debt payments and divide that number by your monthly gross income.

A good rule of thumb is to avoid opening or applying for any new debts during the six months prior to applying for your mortgage loan, according to Larry Bettag, attorney and vice president of Cherry Creek Mortgage in Saint Charles, Ill.

For a conventional mortgage loan, lenders like to see a debt-to-income ratio below 40%. And if you’re toeing the line of 40% already, any new debts can easily nudge you over.

Rick Herrick, a loan officer at Bedford, N.H.-based Loan Originator told MagnifyMoney about a time a client opened up a Best Buy credit card in order to save 10% on his purchase just before closing on a new home. Before they were able to close his loan, they had to get a statement from Best Buy showing what his payments would be, and the store refused to do so until the first billing cycle was complete.

“Just avoid it all by not opening a new line of credit. If you do, your second call needs to be to your loan officer,” says Herrick. “Talk to your loan officer if you’re having your credit pulled for any reason whatsoever.”

Your job status has changed

Most lenders prefer to see two consistent years of employment, according to Kauffman. So if you recently lost your job or started a new job for any reason during the loan process, it could hurt your chances of approval.

Changing employment during the process can be a deal killer, but Herrick says it may not be as big a deal if there is very high demand for your job in the area and you are highly likely to keep your new job or get a new one quickly. For example, if you’re an educator buying a home in an area with a shortage of educators or a brain surgeon buying a home just about anywhere, you should be OK if you’re just starting a new job.

If you have a less-portable profession and get a new job, you may need to have your new employer verify your employment with an offer letter and submit pay stubs to requalify for approval. Even then, some employers may not agree to or be able to verify your employment. Furthermore, if your salary includes bonuses, many employers won’t guarantee them.

Bettag says one of his clients found out he lost his job the day before they were due to close, when Bettag called his employer for one last check of his employment status. “He was in tears. He found out at 10 a.m. Friday, and we were supposed to close on Saturday.”

You’ve been missing debt payments

During the loan process, any recent negative activity on your credit report, which goes back seven years, can raise concerns. The real danger zone is any activity reported within the last two years, says Bettag, which is the time period lenders play closest attention to.

That’s why he encourages loan applicants to make sure their credit reports are accurate and that old items that should have fallen off your report after seven years aren’t still appearing.

“Many things show on credit reports beyond seven years. That’s a huge issue, so we want to get dated items removed at the bureau level,” Bettag says.

For first-time homebuyers, he cautions against making any late payments six months prior to applying for a mortgage. They won’t always be a total deal-breaker, but they can obviously ding your credit, and a lower credit score can lead to a loan denial or a more expensive mortgage rate.

Existing homeowners, Bettag says, shouldn’t have any late mortgage payments in the 12 months prior to applying for a new mortgage or a refinance.

“There are workarounds, but it can be as laborious as brain surgery,” says Bettag.

You accepted a monetary gift

Your lender will be on the lookout for any out-of-place deposits to your bank accounts during the approval process. Bettag advises homebuyers not to accept any large monetary gifts at least two months or longer before you apply, and to keep a paper trail if the lender has any questions.

Any cash that can’t be traced back to a verifiable source, such as an annual bonus, or a gift from a family friend, could raise red flags.

This can be tricky for homebuyers who are relying on help from family to purchase their home. If you receive a gift of money for a down payment, it has to be deemed “acceptable” by your lender. The definition of acceptable depends on the type of mortgage loan that you are applying for and the laws that govern the process in your state.

For example, Bettag says, the Federal Housing Authority doesn’t care if a borrower’s entire down payment comes as a gift when they are applying for an FHA loan. However, the gifted funds may not be eligible to use as a down payment for a conventional loan through a bank.

You moved a large amount of money around

Ideally, avoid moving large sums of money about two months before applying.

Herrick says many borrowers make the mistake of shuffling too much cash around just before co-signing, making themselves look suspicious to bank regulators. Herrick says not to move anything more than $1,000 at a time, and none if you can help yourself.

For example, If you’re considering moving money from all of your savings accounts into one account to deliver the cashier’s check for the down payment, don’t do it. You don’t need to have everything in one account for the cashier’s check for your closing. You can submit multiple cashier’s checks. All the lender cares about is that all of the money adds up. You may be able to simply avoid some of this hassle by arranging to pay using a wire transfer. Just be sure to schedule it in time.

You overdrafted your checking account

If you have a credit issue already, says Bettag, overdrafting your checking account can be a deal-breaker, but it won’t cause as much of an issue if you have great credit and offer a good down payment. Still avoid overdrafting for at least two months prior to applying for the mortgage loan.

You may be the type to keep a low checking account balance in favor of saving more money. But if an unexpected bill could risk overdrafting your account, try keeping a few extra dollars in the account for padding, just in case.

You forgot to include debts or other information on your loan application

Your loan officer should carefully review your application to make sure it’s filled out completely and accurately. Missing a zero on your income, or accidentally skipping a section, for example, could mean rejection. A small mistake could mean losing your dream home.

There’s also the chance you accidentally omitted information the underwriter caught in the more extensive screening process, like money owed to the IRS. Disclose all of your debt to your loan officer up front. Otherwise, they may not be able to help you if the debt comes up and disqualifies you for your dream home later on.

If you owe the IRS money and are in a payment plan, Bettag says your loan officer can still work with you. However, they want to see that you’ve been in a plan for at least three months and made on-time payments to move forward.

“Can you imagine not paying your IRS debt, getting into a payment plan, and then not paying on the agreed plan? Not cool for lenders to see, but we do,” says Bettag.

The Bottom Line

There is no hard and fast rule on how long before you begin the mortgage process that you should heed these warnings. It all varies, according to Bettag. If you have excellent credit and a strong income, you might be able to get away with a recently opened credit card or other discrepancies — minor faults that might totally derail the application of a person who has bad credit and inconsistent income.

Whatever the case may be, Bettag encourages prospective homebuyers to stick to one general rule: “Don’t do anything until you’ve consulted with your loan officer.”

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com

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Best of, Earning Cashback

The Best Cash Back Credit Cards for Every Category – 3% and More in 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.

One of the easiest ways to maximize the value you get for your money is by using a cash back rewards card with no annual fee. We’ve compiled a list of our top recommendations for the most popular categories from our database of over 2,000 credit cards. You can also use our calculator to see which cards earn the most based on your spending habits, or check out our list of the top rewards for every category, from drugstores to home improvement.

Up to 5% Cash Back

Chase Freedom®

Annual Fee
$0
Cash Back Rate
Up to 5%
APR
15.74%-24.49%
Credit required
Good Credit OK

Good Credit OK

  • Earn a $150 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases — it’s automatic
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.74%-24.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Enjoy new 5% categories every three months
  • Cash back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee

A great way to maximize your cash back rewards is with rotating cash back cards. These cards offer very high cash back levels — 5% — but in specific categories that change each quarter.

This makes it hard to predict whether the card will be good for you or not (unless you have a crystal ball), but they have no annual fee, and you can get a clue as to what they might offer by looking at past categories. Watch out, though most cards require you to manually opt in for the extra bonus each quarter, but you can sign up for alerts.

Magnify Glass Pros

  • $150 intro bonus.If you spend $500 or more within your first three months, Chase will give you an extra $150 in cash back rewards. Earn another $25 within those three months if you add an authorized user who makes a purchase with their card too.
  • 5% cash back categories.Earn 5% cash back on rotating purchases each quarter, up to $1,500. After you hit that cap, you’ll continue to earn cash back at the normal rate of 1%, along with everything else. That means you can earn up to $300 per year just from the bonus categories alone if you spend up to the cap each quarter. Previous categories have included things like grocery stores, drugstores, and gas stations.
  • Combine with travel rewards.The Freedom card earns cash back that you can combine with Chase Ultimate Rewards points anytime. So if you have another Chase card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred that earns Ultimate Rewards, you can add to the points you’re already earning from your Sapphire account with no additional annual fee.

Cons Cons

  • Limits on bonus categories.You can earn great bonus rewards with this card. The only catch is that you’ll earn the bonus rewards rate on up to $1,500 of purchases each quarter — after that, you’ll earn cash back at the normal 1% rate.
  • A deadline to activate 5% categories.You’ll have a new deadline each quarter to manually activate your bonus rewards category, and the deadline varies, but in the past has been about two weeks before the quarter that the category earns 5% ends. So if you activate it after the quarter has started but before the deadline has passed, you’ll still earn 5% cash back for all category purchases — back for all category purchases — including those you’ve already made. If you fail to activate by the deadline, you’ll only earn 1% cash back for all purchases – including those you’ve already made. If you fail to activate by the deadline, you’ll only earn 1% cash back for all purchases.
  • $20 minimum redemption limits.You can only redeem points for cash back in the form of statement credits, gift cards, direct deposit, or redemption through Chase for products and services starting at $20.
Bottom line

Bottom line

The Chase Freedom card is for those who are looking for unlimited cash back rewards and high bonus categories. Just be aware of some of the limitations of the Chase Freedom card — namely, the $20 minimum redemption option and the activation deadlines. If you can steer clear of those, this would be a great card for people looking for a good intro bonus and ways to earn up to 5% cash back every quarter.

Also Consider Also Consider

Discover it® Cashback Match™

This card also earns up to 5% in rotating categories each quarter, and they’re often pretty close to what the Freedom card offers. Discover will give you a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. So you could turn $200 into $400 with Cashback Match™.

If you’re willing to wait a year for the match, you’ll generally come out ahead of the Freedom card if you spend more than $1,500 a month. The Discover it® card also gives you more value for gift card rewards, letting you get a $25 gift card with $20 worth of rewards.

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Big Intro Bonus Cash

Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card

Annual Fee
$0
Cash Back Rate
1.5%
APR
13.74% – 25.74%
Credit required
Good Credit OK

Good Credit OK

There are a lot of ways you can maximize your cash back rewards, and one of the best is to go for an intro bonus card. Before you sign up for an intro bonus though, make sure you look at a few details.

You don’t get the intro bonus automatically; you usually need to spend a certain amount of money within a certain amount of time first. Take a look and make sure you’re able to meet the spending requirements, otherwise it’s a wasted opportunity.

Also consider the annual fee — it can be tempting to sign up for the intro bonus, but if you end up shelving the card later and not using it, you could end up paying more than you earned. On the whole though, these cards are great ways to earn extra cash.

Pros Pros

  • $200 intro bonus. You’ll earn a great $200 cash back bonus as long as you’re able to spend $1,000 within the first three months. You’ll earn another flat 1.5% cash back on all of your purchases (including the $1,000 you spent to get the intro bonus), and 1.8% in your first year on Android PayTM or Apple Pay® mobile wallet net purchases.
  • Cellphone protection. If you charge your monthly cellphone bill to the card, you can get protection to cover damage or theft to your phone, up to $600 per incident, and $1,200 per year with a $25 deductible. You don’t even need to buy your phone with the card to get the protection, just pay your monthly bill with the card.
  • Rewards don’t expire. As long as you keep your account open, your rewards don’t expire.

Cons Cons

  • $20 minimum redemption. You can’t redeem cash back unless you have at least $20 worth of rewards in your account. That’s not a big deal up front, since you can quickly earn over $200 in cash back. But once you’ve used up those rewards, you’ll need to spend over $1,300 on the card to earn another $20 in rewards.
  • 3% foreign transaction fee. The 3% foreign transaction fee beats out the 1.5% cash back rewards rate, so make sure to leave this card at home if you travel abroad.
Bottom line

Bottom line

This card offers a good intro rewards bonus, without a lot of catches. While the ongoing 1.5% cash back isn’t the greatest, with no annual fee it’s worth keeping around for the extra cellphone protection if you pay your phone bill with the card each month.

Also Consider Also Consider

Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard®

This card also offers a $200 bonus if you spend $1,000 in the first three months of holding the card. The catch is the rewards on this card expire if you don’t use your card for six months. And you need to have at least $50 worth of rewards to redeem for cash back. That’s not a problem if you’ve earned the $50 intro bonus, but it’s easy to leave rewards on the table after the first $200.

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Double Unlimited Cash Back

Citi Double Cash

Juggling a lot of bonus categories in your head can get confusing, especially if you don’t have a fine-tuned system down. If you want something easier to use, a flat rate cash back card might be better for you. Sure, you might not earn as much, but you’ll still consistently earn more than if you use no cash back credit card at all.

Annual Fee
$0
Cash Back Rate
1% + 1%
APR
14.24% – 24.24%
Credit required
Good Credit OK

Good Credit OK

  • Earn cash back twice on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • Balance transfers do not earn cash back
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.24%-24.24% based on your creditworthiness
  • Click “Apply Now” to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases.
  • No categories to track, no caps on cash back, no annual fee*

Magnify Glass Pros

  • Earn up to 2% double cash back. Earn 1% cash back when you make a purchase, and get another 1% cash back when you pay it off with no limits. This works out to an effective cash back rate of 2% total — that’s twice as high as the 1% flat rate of most other cards that tempt you with flashy bonus categories. And it can earn you even more than 1.5% cash back cards that are popular. There are no categories to worry about — every purchase can earn you double cash when you pay it off. If you spend and pay off $1,000 a month on the card, you could earn $240 in cash back each year.
  • No annual fee. You won’t pay any annual fees to keep this card. You won’t pay any interest charges either as long as you pay your full balance off by the time your monthly bill is due.

Cons Cons

  • $25 minimum redemption limits. You can redeem cash rewards in the form of a check, a statement credit, or direct deposit (as long as you’ve made at least two payments from this account) — as long as you have at least $25 in accumulated cash back rewards. You can also redeem your cash rewards in the form of gift cards, but only in pre-set denominations from their online selection.
  • You can lose your rewards. Be careful: if you don’t use your Citi Double Cash card to make any new purchases for 12 months, you’ll lose your cash rewards balance. To avoid this, mark your card anniversary date on your calendar and make sure to use it at least once a year before that date. You can also lose your rewards if you close your account, so make sure to redeem them first.
Bottom line

Bottom line

This card would be great for people who don’t spend a ton of money on their credit cards, yet still want to take advantage of a good cash back card. It’s great for casual use because it carries no annual fee — just make sure you do use it at least once per year to avoid losing all of your cash back rewards. When it comes time to close your card, keep an eye on your balance. You can lose up to $24.99 if you don’t meet the minimum redemption limit required to redeem your rewards before you close the card.

Also Consider Also Consider

Alliant Cashback Visa Signature

If you’re a big spender and willing to pay an annual fee of $59, the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature card earns a big 2.5% unlimited cash back on every purchase. And it earns 3% cash back in the first year. You can come out ahead of the Double Cash card even with the annual fee if you spend over $1,000 a month. Alliant is a credit union anyone can join when you apply, but this card requires excellent credit, and Alliant is targeted the card to people capable of spending $50,000 or more in a year on the card.

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OK for Fair Credit

QuicksilverOne Rewards® from Capital One

Annual Fee
$39
Cash Back Rate
1.5%
APR
24.99% variable APR
Credit required
Fair Credit OK

Fair Credit OK

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day with no changing categories.
  • Redeem your cashback for any amount, any time. Cash rewards never expire.
  • Get your FICO® credit score for free on monthly statements, on mobile and online.
  • Get access to a higher credit line with Credit Steps after making your first 5 monthly payments on time.
  • Enjoy unlimited access to your credit score and tools to help you monitor your credit profile with CreditWise.

Just because your credit isn’t top-notch doesn’t mean you’re not eligible for great cash back rewards cards. You can use this card for two things: earn fantastic cash back rewards and build up your credit responsibly.

As long as you pay off your credit card on time each month, you’ll boost your credit score in the long run. Over time you’ll even be eligible for some of the better rewards cards as well.

Magnify Glass Pros

  • Free FICO score.
    You’ll be able to easily keep track of your credit score as you work to improve it. Keeping this card open indefinitely will help build your credit score, along with other good credit-building habits.
  • 1.5% cashback bonus.
    You can earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase and all categories. Cash rewards are convenient and can be redeemed for any amount at anytime and they never expire.

Cons Cons

  • $39 annual fee.
    This card comes with a yearly $39 fee, but you receive the added rewards and benefits of unlimited 1.5% cash back, security monitoring, insurance benefits and more. However, you may be able to find a better card that has no fee by checking if you’re prequalified for a card. Several banks offer a chance to see if you’ll be approved without hurting your credit score. Unlike most cards, the fee is not waived in the first year, meaning you’ll have to pay to use this card upon receiving it. You’ll need to spend at least $2,600 ($217 per month) to earn enough cash back rewards to pay for the card itself each year. To net a cashback of $50 you need to spend $5,933 in a year ($494 per month).
  • APR above 20%.
    This card has a high APR above 20% which can counteract the potential 1.5% cash back rewards if you don’t pay your statement in full each month. If you delay payments you will end up paying interest and up to a $35 late payment fee, therefore lowering your credit score and getting into debt.
Bottom Line

Bottom line

This is a great card for credit building because you can get unlimited 1.5% cash back, and you’ll get a free FICO score to monitor your progress. Knowing your FICO score — and whether it’s good enough to qualify for the best rates — can save you tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars over the lifetime of a big loan like a mortgage. Remember, this card is only good if you pay each statement in full and if you spend at least $2,600 a year ($217 per month) to earn enough cash back to offset the annual fee. This is a good entry point for people with less-than-perfect credit to get in on the cash back rewards game; just be cautious that it doesn’t tempt you into debt and lower your credit score even further. Before applying for this card, check if you’re prequalified for a card with no fee and better rewards.

Also Consider Also Consider

Discover It® Secured Card

If you have bad credit or are still building credit, the Discover it® Secured Card gives you up to 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, you get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. And after eight months, you’ll get automatic monthly reviews to transition you to an account with no security deposit, and you could eventually get a card that earns up to 5% cash back.

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6% Grocery Bonus Cash

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Annual Fee
$95
Cash Back Rate
Up to 6%
APR
13.74% – 23.74%
Credit required
Good Credit OK

Good Credit OK

  • Everyday cash back: 6% at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%); 3% at U.S. gas stations; 1% on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
  • No rotating reward categories. No enrollment required.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit. You can only earn cash back on eligible purchases.
  • $95 annual fee. 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months, then a variable rate, currently 13.74%-23.74%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.
  • Terms apply.

If you have a big family (or even just a big husband like me), you know how expensive grocery bills can be. If you spend time meticulously clipping coupons, you can up your game even further by using cash back rewards cards that offer higher bonus categories for groceries.

Would you say no to a 6% off coupon for your entire grocery purchase?

Just make sure to keep an eye out for the annual fee, especially if you’re a single person and don’t spend hordes of cash on groceries each month. Make sure you’ll at least be able to cover the cost of the annual fee with your cash back rewards, otherwise the card will end up costing you more than it’s worth.

Magnify Glass Pros

  • $150 intro bonus.Earn $150 in cash back rewards if you spend at least $1,000 within your first three months. That’s the equivalent of getting credit for spending $15,000 on non-bonus-category purchases — but for free!
  • Up to 6% cash back.You’ll earn a total of 6% cash back at supermarkets, up to $6,000 in purchases per year. You’ll also earn 3% cash back at gas stations and certain department stores. Everything else (and any supermarket purchases over $6,000 in a year) will earn cash back rewards at a rate of 1%. That means you can earn up to $360 per year from supermarket purchases alone if you spend up to the $6,000 threshold for the 6% cash back level. If you also spend $400 per month on gas, that’s another $144 in cash back per year.

Cons Cons

  • $25 redemption limits.You can redeem your rewards only in $25 increments, and only for statement credits.
  • You can lose your points.If you close your card, you’ll lose any points you have accumulated because of the restrictive redemption limits. So, before you close your card, do the following: calculate how many $25 increments’ worth of rewards you have, charge up to that amount, and redeem your rewards as a statement credit. This means that you will forfeit some rewards when you close the card.
  • $95 annual fee. This card comes with a hefty fee — $95 per year. Unlike most cards, it’s also not waived in the first year, meaning you’ll have to pay to use this card right out of the gate. You’d need to spend at least $1,584 ($132 per month) in supermarket purchases, $4,750 ($396 per month) in gas/department store purchases, or $9,500 ($792 per month) in other purchases to earn enough cash back rewards to pay for the card itself each year.
Bottom line

Bottom line

This card comes with a lot of fantastic features, such as a high intro bonus and the highest percentage cash back rewards for any bonus category we’ve seen (6% on supermarket purchases). But you’ll pay a price for those benefits (literally) — you can only redeem rewards under certain conditions and in certain amounts.

You can’t opt for a check or direct deposit of any amount into your bank account, for example — you can only redeem your rewards as a statement credit in $25 increments. It’d also be good to keep an eye on your spending levels and whether this card would even make sense for you to get — otherwise, it could turn into more of a money sink than it’s worth. You’d need to make $1,584 in supermarket purchases, $4,750 in gas/department store purchases, or $9,500 in other purchases to earn enough cash back rewards to pay for the card itself each year.

Also Consider Also Consider

Consumers Credit Union Visa Signature Cash Rebate Card

If you don’t want to pay an annual fee, this card offers 3% cash back on grocery purchases up to $6,000 worth every year. It also gets 2% cash back on gas purchases. Anyone can join Consumers Credit Union, and you don’t need to be a current member to apply. If you don’t want to deal with a credit union, the Amex Blue Cash Everyday card offers up to 3% cash back at supermarkets as well.

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3% Dining Bonus Cash

Capital One Premier Dining Rewards

Annual Fee
$0
Cash Back Rate
Up to 3%
APR
15.24% -24.24%
Credit required
Excellent OK

Excellent OK

  • One-time $100 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within three months of approval
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, 2% on groceries, and 1% on all other purchases
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back doesn’t expire, and there’s no limit to how much you can earn
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

Whether you’re a true foodie or just like getting takeout for dinner at the end of a long day, why not get paid for your efforts? Dining out can be a big budget buster, but you can lessen the burden just a bit with this card.

Magnify Glass Pros

  • Earn up to 3% cash back.Earn 3% cash back on dining purchases, 2% on groceries, and 1% on everything else. It’s a food lovers’ dream card!
  • No annual fee. This card is basically free to use. If you pay off your bill in full by the due date, you’ll also never be charged interest, meaning that you actually get paid to use this card.
  • $100 Intro bonus.If you spend $500 within the first three months of getting this card, they’ll throw in an extra $100 bonus.

Cons Cons

  • You can lose your rewards. Rewards never expire, but make sure to redeem any rewards in the form of a statement credit or check before you close your account. If you don’t, you’ll lose all of your points.
Bottom line

Bottom line

Foodies, rejoice! This card is totally free (as long as you pay your balance in full each month), and yet it offers crazy high rewards on food, whether you choose to get it from a restaurant or from a grocery store. This card doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles for other things like balance transfers, 0% intro periods, low APRs, or the like, meaning that this card should strictly be used for its reward-earning potential and nothing else. Luckily, though, it doesn’t carry a foreign transaction fee, so bring this card with you on your next vacation abroad.

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5% Gas Bonus Cash

Fort Knox FCU Platinum Visa

Annual Fee
$0
Cash Back Rate
Up to 5%
APR
10%
Credit required
Good OK

Good OK

  • 5% cash back rebates on gas purchases
  • 1% cash back rebates on all retail purchases
  • No balance transfer fee or annual fee
  • Credit limit up to $25,000 for qualifying members
  • Interest rates as low as 10% APR
  • Low monthly payments

Unless you’ve got a shiny cherry-red sports car in the middle of the country’s open roads, you probably don’t like driving too much. It takes up a lot of time, stress, and, more importantly, money. You can put a few dollars back in your pocket each time you fill up your gas tank with this card, however.

Now all you have to worry about is whether or not to put those extra dollars toward your vacation fund to relax from all the stressful driving.

Magnify Glass Pros

  • Earn up to 5% unlimited cash back.This card offers a whopping 5% cash back on gas purchases, with no limit on your cash back potential. This could lead to huge savings each year if you spend a lot on gas. You can also earn 1% cash back on retail purchases.
  • No annual fee. This card comes with fantastic rewards, but what’s even more amazing is that it doesn’t charge an annual fee. The AMEX Blue Cash Preferred card, by contrast, charges $95 per year for offering similar reward levels, but for groceries instead.
  • Low interest rate.Depending on your credit score, you could get an interest rate as low as 10% APR. That’s about 5 points less than most other big-name cards.
  • Automatic redemptions. Any time you make a purchase that generates cash back, it’ll automatically be applied to your balance. For example, if you make a $100 gas purchase, you’ll automatically get a $5 rebate applied to your credit card statement.

Cons Cons

  • 1% foreign transaction fee. If you travel abroad, the 1% foreign transaction fee will essentially negate any cash rewards you earn on regular purchases. You’ll still come out ahead for gas purchases — you’ll just earn a net of 4% rather than 5%. If you still want to earn cash back rewards while traveling overseas, consider another card.
  • Retail purchases can be tricky to decipher.You won’t earn cash back rewards for purchases made at restaurants, auto repair shops, airlines, etc. Rather, you’ll only earn 1% cash back on “retail” purchases, which are determined using specific merchant codes. Unless you have a list of which merchant codes earn rewards and ask each business what merchant code they use, or look up its code ahead of time, it can be impossible to know whether you’ll earn cash back rewards at a particular location or not.
  • You’ll need to join Fort Knox FCU. You don’t have to be a member to apply for this card. If you are approved, however, you will need to join Fort Knox FCU.
Bottom line

Bottom line

Rather than operating as a de facto savings plan as you accumulate cash rewards like most credit cards, this card gives you automatic rebates off purchases each month. This isn’t too different from how coupons operate — you make a purchase, apply the rebate, and your bill is lowered as a result. This can be a pro or a con, depending on how you use your cash back rewards: as a forced savings account or just to make things cheaper. Any way you slice it, though, a 5% cash back rebate on gas is a fantastic rate, especially since this card doesn’t charge an annual fee. It’d be a great card for any motorist to keep in their wallet.

Also Consider Also Consider

Sam’s Club MasterCard®

You can earn 5% cash back on gas up to $6,000 worth each year with this card. And there are no catches with earning cash back at other places as with the Fort Knox card. You also get 3% cash back on dining and travel.

There’s no annual fee, but you need to pay for a Sam’s Club membership, which costs $45 a year. If you’re a Costco member, the Costco Anywhere Visa earns 4% cash back on gas up to $7,000 worth a year.

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2% on Business Spending

Capital One Spark Cash

Annual Fee
$0 the first year, then $59
Cash Back Rate
2%
APR
17.74% variable APR
Credit required
Excellent OK

Excellent OK

  • Earning unlimited 2% cash back could mean thousands of dollars each year going back into your business
  • Plus, a one-time $500 cash bonus once you spend $4,500 on purchases within three months of approval
  • Use Spark Cash across all your business spend, with no categories to limit your purchasing
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $59 after that
  • Rewards don’t expire, and you can redeem your cash back for any amount, any time
  • Get employee cards at no additional cost, and earn rewards from their business spending

Being in business can be tough. The reason most businesses fail is because of cash flow issues. You might not be able to earn enough to fully support your business with a cash back rewards card, but it can ease the burden just a little bit. By investing in more things that’ll help your business, you can boost your chances of long-term success even more.

Magnify Glass Pros

  • $500 intro bonus.You’ll earn a fantastic $500 bonus for your business if you spend $4,500 on purchases within the first three months. That’s more than twice the highest intro bonus for most personal credit cards.
  • 2% cash back.You’ll earn a sweet 2% cash back on all purchases. You can redeem them at any time as a check or a statement credit, and you can even set up recurring automatic redemptions when certain thresholds are met or at certain times of the year.
  • Free employee cards.If your business has employees, you can provide them with employee business cards so they can make the purchases you need to keep your business running. Any purchases your employees make will also earn 2% cash back.

Cons Cons

  • You can lose your rewards if you close the card. Make sure to redeem your cash back rewards before you close the card, otherwise you will lose them all. Luckily, this is the only way that you can actually lose your rewards.
  • Annual fee. You won’t pay any annual fee in your first year, but after that, watch out: this card will cost you $59 per year after that. You’ll need to spend at least $2,950 per year thereafter to earn enough cash back to at least pay the annual fee.
Bottom line

Bottom line

This card offers great cash back earning potential for businesses that spend at least a moderate amount each year. If your business doesn’t make at least $2,950 in purchases each year, this card may be one to skip because it’ll end up costing you to keep, and there are no-annual-fee alternatives out there like the Capital One Spark Cash Select business card.

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What’s the best way to choose a cash back rewards card?

Choosing a good cash back rewards card can take a little bit of time and consideration, but luckily it’s not rocket science. The basic measuring stick you can use to compare different cash back credit cards is one simple number: your spending in a certain category.

The best basic strategy is to get one good unlimited cash back card like the Citi Double Cash, a good up to 5% rotating categories card like the Chase Freedom, and then a card that has a bonus in your biggest spending category like groceries. With no annual fee for most cards, there’s a lot to gain if you have good credit.
You can use MagnifyMoney’s cash back comparison calculator to quickly sift through some of the major cash back categories, like gas, groceries, or dining out. Simply plug in your monthly spending, and it’ll pop out the best rewards card for you.

For other categories you can still do this exercise: simply find out what the cash back rewards rate is and multiply it by your spending in that category. For example, if you spend $1,000 per year on tacos and you were able to find a taco cash back rewards card (wouldn’t that be amazing?) at 2%, you would earn $20 cash back each year.

Once you know how much cash back you can earn in a year with a cash back card, there are a few other considerations. Would you earn enough cash back to offset the cost of the card? For example, if the taco cash back card had an annual fee of $95 per year, you’d lose $75 per year overall.

Also watch out for minimum redemption levels. Sometimes you can only redeem cash back rewards in certain increments. If you could only redeem cash back from your taco card in $100 increments, for example, it’s going to take you five years before you even see any earnings.
Finally, consider if you’re willing to do the work needed to juggle multiple cash back rewards cards. A taco cash back card may be nice, sure, but you’re more likely to spend more money on bigger categories like groceries each year (hopefully). It would be more worth your time to take out a few cards for these major categories, and then a few smaller ones for minor categories, but that does require more juggling to remember program details.

What other cards can I get if I want to maximize absolutely everything?

You aren’t just limited to the cash back cards we’ve outlined above. There are a lot of other cash back credit cards offering bonus categories in all kinds of obscure areas. Here’s a comprehensive list from our database if you’re an uber-cash-back hacker:

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 that 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 – October-December – 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 – dates to be determined

Bookstores

With limits

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

Car Rentals

Unlimited

With limits

Cellphone

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

Drugstores

With limits

Education

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: Nusenda Cash RewardsJuly-September – 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 – October-December– 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

  • 2%: Costco Anywhere Visa – at Costco warehouse clubs
  • 2%: InFirst Credit Union Visa Rewards – no annual fee – can join FAPAC at a reduced rate of $10, using discount code INFIRST

What’s the most effective way to keep track of multiple credit cards?

Keeping multiple cards open can be a great way to maximize your cash back rewards as long as you follow the steps in the previous question (i.e., make sure you earn enough each year to pay for any annual fees, and understand minimum redemption levels). It can be confusing if you’re not prepared, but as long as you have a system in place ahead of time it’ll be a snap.
Keep a list somewhere of the following details for each of your cards:

  • Date applied for
  • Annual fee
  • What happens to rewards when you close the card?
  • Minimum redemption levels
  • Do rewards expire?
  • Rotating bonus categories, or constant?
  • What are the current bonus categories, if they rotate?

This will help you stay organized. Each year you’ll be charged the annual fee (if you have one) on your credit card anniversary. If you find that you’re not spending enough money in those specific categories to pay for the annual fee, you have until that date to cancel the card before incurring the annual fee.

You’ll also want to keep track of what happens when you close the card. Do you lose your rewards? Are they paid out? Making sure you know what’ll happen will help you avoid losing any rewards when it comes time to close the card.

Knowing the minimum redemption levels can help you be prepared ahead of time so you know when you’re ready to redeem your rewards. Keeping track of rewards expirations will also help you to avoid losing them, especially if you’re waiting to build them up to meet a minimum redemption level.

The whole reason of going through the hassle of opening multiple cards is so you can maximize your rewards, so keeping tabs on which cards offer what kinds of rewards is crucial. If you have trouble remembering which cards are for what categories when you’re out and about, stick a little Post-it note with a reminder of which categories it’s used for right on the card.

Some cards offer rotating rewards categories that you have to manually opt in for, like the Discover It. If you have trouble remembering to opt in, set a reminder for yourself on your phone, to-do list, calendar, or carrier pigeon —whatever works best for you.

How do I redeem my cash back rewards?

You can redeem your cash back rewards in a few different ways. One of the most common is simply to receive statement credits, where the credit card company will literally put your cash back rewards in your credit card account to offset any purchases you’ve made.

Another common way to receive cash back rewards is through a physical check that the credit card company mails to you. Sometimes, credit card companies will even allow you to redeem your cash back rewards for gift cards or charity donations, too.

One thing that can be confusing is how cash back rewards are calculated. Some cards say up front that you’ll earn X% back, but other cards operate on a points basis where certain purchases are worth different amounts of points. Points are commonly worth 1 cent each, so if you racked up 1,000 points in cash back rewards, for example, that would be equivalent to $10.00 cash back (simply move the decimal place two spots to the left).

Before you apply for a cash back reward card it’s important to read through and fully understand the details of how that specific card operates. Some cards have minimum redemption rates, for example, and if you’re not prepared for them it can be quite some time before you actually earn anything back.

How can I avoid losing my cash back rewards?

There are a few ways that you can lose your cash back rewards, depending on the stipulations in your credit card agreement.
If you pay late, you may forfeit some of your cash back rewards. Sometimes companies will put an expiration date on any cash back rewards. If you’re holding out for a big jackpot and you’re not aware of these expiration dates, you can lose everything.

You can also sometimes lose your rewards if you close the card with an active rewards balance. When you call the company to close your account, they’ll likely go over your remaining rewards with you and offer to help you redeem them, but they are not obligated to do so.

That’s why it’s important to read the fine print of any card you apply for — these surely won’t be the details that the credit card company is listing in bright shiny letters at the top of their offers. By taking a few minutes to scan through the fine print and look for any details on “rewards expiration, forfeiture of cash back rewards,” or similar language, you can potentially save yourself hundreds of dollars in cash back rewards.

What happens if I keep a rolling balance on my credit card?

It’s best to avoid keeping a balance on your credit card if at all possible. You won’t earn cash back on any interest payments you make. That means every time you pay interest, you’re directly eating into the cost of your cash back rewards, and it can even be more expensive than if you had just paid cash.

An 18% interest rate will beat out a 2% cash back rewards level any day.

How can I avoid keeping a rolling balance on my card?

It’s easy for your spending to get out of control, but it’s also easy to keep it in check if you adopt good spending practices with your credit cards.

It can be tempting to spend more than you normally would have if you know you’re earning cash back rewards. If you pretend like you’re spending cash and not earning cash back rewards, though, it can help you spend like you normally would have.

Another rule is to not spend more than you could pay off today. People sometimes get into trouble when they view credit cards as short-term loans, but something always happens and that’s when the vicious cycle of a rolling balance starts. It’s better to only charge what you can afford to pay off today, even if that means spending less.

Finally, pay off your balance at least once per month. If you do this when the balance is due, you’ll also avoid interest charges, making your cash back rewards essentially free minus the annual fee (if your card has one).

You’ll have enough money to pay it off in full as long as you follow the above rule: don’t charge anything you can’t afford to buy in cash today. Sometimes the sticker shock can be a bit overwhelming even if you have the cash to pay it all off (I spent how much?). To minimize the shock, you can pay it off biweekly, weekly, or even daily if you’re truly serious about keeping your spending in check.

These are the best cash back credit cards of 2017

Credit cards
Best for
sukhesh sojitra |

sukhesh sojitra is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email sukhesh here

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College Students and Recent Grads, Reviews

Wells Fargo Student Credit Card Review: 3% Cash Back

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.

Wells Fargo has a student credit card — but applying online is only available to people who already have an existing relationship (a checking account) with the bank. The card has no annual fee, which we like a lot. If you pay your monthly cellphone bill with the card, you get free cellphone protection insurance, with generous coverage up to $600 per incident (subject to a $25 deductible and limited to $1,200 per year). There is a decent cash back intro bonus — you can earn 3% on gas, grocery, and drugstore spending for the first six months. However, the rest of the card leaves us underwhelmed. A steep 3% foreign transaction fee makes traveling abroad more costly than it needs to be. A flat 1% cash back rate is very low. And with interest rates up to 21.90% this is not a cheap way to borrow. The Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card is featured as one of our recommendations for best student credit cards of 2017.

Wells Fargo Cash Back College℠ Card

Wells Fargo Cash Back College℠ Card

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
up to 3%
APR
11.90%-21.90%

Variable

Credit required
fair-credit
Fair Credit

How the Card Works

In order to apply online, you need to be an existing Wells Fargo customer — which means you should have a checking account. (Note: If you have a Wells Fargo student checking account, you could probably get a much better deal somewhere else, especially from internet-only banks — you can find our list of the Best Online Checking Accounts here — which pay much higher interest rates and charge much lower fees than Wells Fargo.)

You can still apply for the Wells Fargo student card if you don’t have a checking account with them, but you will need to go to a branch in person to apply for the card. Just be prepared for them to try to sell you a checking account while you’re there.

The credit card is fairly straightforward. It has no annual fee, and it offers a mediocre cash back rewards program. During the first six months, you will earn 3% cash back for all gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases. There is no limit to the bonus. However, you only earn the bonus cash back at merchants which are coded as gas stations, drugstores, or grocery stores. If you buy your gas at Costco or your groceries at Wal-Mart, you will not get the bonus — because these “big box” retailers do not have that merchant code.

With all other purchases, you will earn 1% cash back. After the six-month intro period, all of your purchases will get you 1% cash back.

Our favorite feature is the free cellphone insurance. If you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo credit card, you will get up to $600 of protection (with a $25 deductible). This is great coverage for damage or theft of your cellphone, and you can make a claim up to two times each year. Just remember that this does not cover lost phones. This is a great, free way to protect your phone and avoid the financial pain of replacing or buying a new phone after an accident.

Like most student credit cards, Wells Fargo’s is a very expensive way to borrow. In fairness, Wells Fargo does offer a range of APRs (from 11.90% to 21.90%). However, given that most college student will have no or limited credit history, they can expect to pay much closer to 21.90%.

And if you are looking to study abroad or backpack across Europe, your Wells Fargo card is an expensive way to do it. With a 3% foreign transaction fee, the costs of using your card abroad could add up quickly.

How to Qualify for the Card

This card is for college students. However, you will need to have sufficient income to pay your bill each month — so be prepared during the application process to be asked about where you study and how much you make from campus (or other) jobs. Because this card is targeting college students, you are not expected to have a long history of credit, a great score, or high income.

However, if you have already defaulted or missed payments on other accounts, you will likely find it difficult to get approved at Wells Fargo. This card is targeting people who are new to credit, not people with bad credit histories. And if you don’t have any income (or just an allowance from your parents), you will also find it difficult to be approved.

What We Like About the Card

Although this is a relatively simple credit card, there are two standout features to the card.

No annual fee.

We strongly believe that building your credit while in college should be free. Fortunately, this card charges no annual fee — making the card a safe choice. So long as you pay your statement balance in full and on time every month (avoiding interest charges), the card can be completely free.

Free cellular phone coverage.

This feature is unique — and a great asset for college students. So long as you make your monthly cellphone payment with your Wells Fargo credit card, you will get free cellphone coverage. You can get up to $600 (with a $25 deductible) if your cellphone is stolen or damaged. You can make up to two claims per year, for up to $1,200. We know that every college student has a phone — and wants to avoid the steep expense of fixing a broken phone or replacing a stolen phone. This insurance policy is a great feature.

Rewards (Kind Of)

You have the opportunity to earn cash back. We don’t think you should select a credit card based upon cash back — and Wells Fargo does not pay the best cash back rate on the market. But it is still a nice bonus to have.

What We Don’t Like About the Card

You have to be a Wells Fargo customer to apply online.

If you do not have a checking account, you will need to go to a Wells Fargo branch, where they will likely try to sell you a checking account. Because of this feature, Wells Fargo is really limiting the card to their existing customers.

Very high interest rates.

Credit cards come with high interest rates. Wells Fargo is not alone (in fact, the low end of its APR range is actually better than a lot of the competition). However, the rates are still double-digit. And if you end up going into debt, interest expenses will be high.

“Gotcha” fees are very high.

If you miss a payment, expect to pay up to $37. If you travel overseas, you will be hit with a 3% foreign transaction fee. And cash advance fees are equally painful. If you make a purchase in the U.S. (and pay it off in full and on time), you will get a good deal. Any other purchase or mistake will cost you dearly.

Alternatives to the Card

Wells Fargo offers a decent student credit card. But it does not offer the best cash back rewards, and it charges a steep foreign transaction fee. Here are some other options.

If You Want to Earn More Rewards

If you want to earn more cash back, Discover is our favorite option. Discover it® for Students does not charge an annual fee and also provides free access to your FICO score. And it does something we really like: it offers a “Good Grades Reward.” You will get $20 cash back each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years. That is on top of a cash back rewards program that pays 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like Amazon.com, restaurants, ground transportation and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. And you can get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.

If You Want to Travel Abroad

If you want to travel abroad, you should find a Visa or MasterCard option that does not charge a foreign transaction fee or annual fee. Capital One does just that with its Journey Student credit card. In addition to no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, you can earn up to 1.25% cash back. You earn 1% when you spend, and another 0.25% if you make your payment on time.

Bottom Line: Who Benefits Most from the Card

If you are a college student and existing Wells Fargo checking account customer, this could be a good option. By charging no annual fee, it is cheap and easy to build your score. And with the cellphone benefit on top, you can get some great value. If your goal is to earn rewards or travel abroad, there are better options out there.

FAQs

Yes, you will need to demonstrate that you have income in order to qualify for the credit card. The credit card company needs to know that you will be able to make the monthly payment.

No — there is not a limitation based upon which school you attend.

Yes — it is never a good idea to max out your credit card, even if the credit limit is very low. As a general rule, never use more than 10%-20% of the credit limit. You can make payments before the statement date to help keep your statement balance low.

You should work hard to make sure you make payments on time every month. A missed payment will lead to a late fee. It could also lead to interest accruing on the balance and ultimately a negative mark on your credit report.

No, you do not need to be an existing Wells Fargo customer. However, only existing Wells Fargo customers can apply online. Otherwise, you will need to go to a branch to apply.

Brynne Conroy
Brynne Conroy |

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

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Auto Loan, Featured, News

This Woman Fell Into a Used Car Loan Trap — Now She’s Fighting Back

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.

Mary McDuffie Morton, 31, was sued by an auto financing company after she stopped making payments on a used car that had mechanical issues. Now the mother of four, who said she was misled by the company, is fighting their claims in court.

This story is Part I of a MagnifyMoney investigation into the risky business of subprime auto lending. Read Part II here.

In the summer of 2013, Mary McDuffie Morton, 31, needed money to buy a car. At the time, the recently divorced mother of four had a poor credit history. So she was excited to hear she could get a subprime loan at a used auto dealership in Bronx, N.Y.

“It [seemed] too good to be true,” Mary recalls. “As long you have a job, you’re approved. It’s like wow, OK, I’m guaranteed approval.”

Nationwide, customers like Mary owe more than a quarter-billion dollars in high-interest, high-risk subprime auto loans. A recent report by Moody’s Investors Service found that Santander Consumer USA Holdings Inc., a major originator of subprime auto loans, has been slacking when it comes to verifying the income reported by loan applicants, according to Bloomberg. This can make it easier for car buyers to take on more debt than they can afford to repay.

But big banks aren’t the biggest problem in auto lending. About three-fourths of subprime auto loans do not originate in banks or credit unions. Instead, they are often signed at car lots like the one in Bronx, N.Y., where Mary was lured by the promise of easy credit.

In many cases, those customers are taken for a ride by predatory dealerships and finance companies alike.

“Their main job is not to care for you. It’s to care for their pocketbook, and that’s all they’re there for,” says Remar Sutton, a former car dealer turned consumer advocate.

“How many of you have seen the ads that say, ‘No credit, bad credit, no worries, we’re the credit fixer’? That is not why those ads are running. Those ads are running because they know if you think you have bad credit, you will pay anything for a car, and they’ll knock a home run on you,” warns Sutton.

That’s what happened to Mary. To buy a used 2003 GMC Envoy XL, the dealer told her she needed to first borrow roughly $7,000.

“The dealership told me they were going to shop around for lenders for me – and they were going to call one and get back to me,” Mary says.

The dealer selected Dependable Credit Corp. of Yonkers, N.Y. The interest rate on Mary’s loan was a whopping 24.9% – just one-tenth of a point below the threshold of criminal usury in New York State.

Mary signed the contract, despite an interest rate so high that it was nearly illegal.

“I was scared that if I didn’t go along with that deal, I wouldn’t get a car, ” she says.

The Secret Bonus

Like many lenders that work with auto dealers, to get business from dealers, Dependable offers them a secret bonus. It’s called a “Dealer Reserve Advance,” and it can add an extra two points of interest to the consumer’s loan. The dealer keeps 70% of it as a reward for making the referral to the finance company.

“When you go into that dealership, do you think they’re going to point you in the direction of a cheap loan? Of course not. They’re going to send you to the finance source that will pay them cash up front on the loan,” says Sutton.

Dependable executives did not respond to multiple requests for an interview or comment.

On its website, the finance company claims it does business with 250 used car dealers in seven states – Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and New York – and has financed more than $200 million in loans.

“They’re in hundreds of dealerships because they’re making millions of dollars, because people who are poor, people who are worried about their credit, are being taken advantage of by that business,” says Sutton, a co-founder of FoolProof, a nonprofit website devoted to consumer education.

Mary said the vehicle she purchased had mechanical problems that the dealer refused to fix. Sensing that she was being cheated, the former Bronx resident refused to make loan payments until she received a title proving she owned the car.

“They sold me a lemon,” complains Mary. “I knew that the deal was just a big scam.”

A Long Fight in Court

Dependable repossessed the Envoy when Mary’s payments were five weeks delinquent. By the time she received the title, the car was gone – and she was thousands of dollars in debt.

According to records obtained by MagnifyMoney, the finance company sold the vehicle to an undisclosed owner for $4,200 – a price that was $5,000 less than what Mary paid just four months earlier.

Then Dependable sued her in Bronx County Civil Court for a bill packed with extra charges. The tally includes nearly $1,200 in repairs by Westchester Auto Center and more than $1,700 in storage fees charged by Saw Mill River Realty.

The three businesses are located at the same address. State records show that all three share the same chief executive.

Dependable continues to charge Mary 24.9% interest on a loan for a car it repossessed and sold to someone else three years ago. Last year, the company told the court Mary owes nearly $11,000.

“Unfortunately, most places that want to make you a subprime loan simply want to make more money on you,” says Sutton.

With the help of a legal aid group, Mary is countersuing. She alleges she was cheated through deception and illegal business practices by the finance company and the dealer.

In a counterclaim filed by Mary’s attorney, Shanna Tallarico with the New York Legal Assistance Group, in October 2016, Mary claims that the dealer also required her to trade in her 2004 Cadillac CTS in order to purchase the used Envoy.  The dealership agreed to give her just $1,900 for the vehicle, citing “a significant problem with the Cadillac’s engine,” according to Mary’s counterclaim. Days later, she claims the dealership listed that same Cadillac for sale for $9,999.

Efforts to reach the dealer for comment were unsuccessful. Mary’s case is still pending, Tallarico says.

“I felt like I had just thrown money in the garbage,” says Mary. “The whole experience was a waste of money.”

How to Buy a Used Car Without Being Cheated

Shop for financing before you look for a vehicle: The subprime interest rate a credit union can offer may be half of what a car dealer charges you. Don’t assume that your poor credit history means you won’t have a shot at getting a loan from a reputable lender. It’s perfectly fine to get your own financing outside of a dealer — and, as our story shows, it’s often much more affordable. To make matters better, if you come in with a verified offer from another lender, the dealer has an incentive to try to beat their offer.

Check your credit score yourself: Don’t take a dealer’s word on it when it comes to your credit. Your score may be good enough to qualify for a better rate on a loan elsewhere, but the dealer may not want you to know that. You can check your credit score on a number of sites for free, including the Discover Scorecard. And again, if you shop around for rates before you go to the dealer, you will know exactly what rates you deserve — and when they are offering you a bad deal.

Buy a car that works: Bring a mechanic or a knowledgeable friend to check it out before you decide. You can also check the vehicle’s background by getting a vehicle history report through resources such as the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, CARFAX, and AutoCheck.

Buy a car you can afford: If a dealer makes promises, be sure to get it in writing. Go in with a firm idea of what kind of car you want and how much you can afford to pay.

And slow down: Never sign a contract in a hurry. Dealers may be friendly, but they’re not really your friend. To double check a dealer’s reputability, check out their reviews and rating on the Better Business Bureau website.

Additional reporting by Mandi Woodruff

Mark Lagerkvist
Mark Lagerkvist |

Mark Lagerkvist is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Mark here

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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

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

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

With Chase Slate® you can save with a $0 introductory balance transfer fee, 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

on Chase’s secure website

Barclaycard Ring

Longest 0% intro APR with no transfer fee ever (For Excellent credit)

Barclaycard Ring™ MasterCard®, 15 months 0% introductory APR, $0 transfer fee

If you don’t want to pay fees, the Barclaycard Ring™ MasterCard® 0% introductory APR for 15 months is the longest 0% deal available that never has a transfer fee, no matter when you make the transfer. You get the 0% intro rate if you complete the transfer within 45 days, which is a little less time than with the Chase Slate. New purchases also get the intro rate for 15 months.

You need excellent credit to get this card, but it has a decent ongoing APR at 13.99% variable and there’s no penalty APR if you miss a payment.

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.

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  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period
  • You know the ongoing rate upfront – it’s a variable 13.99% APR for all cardholders
  • 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 transfer will happen 10 days after your card is mailed. You can also cancel the request within that 10 day period.

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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.

79_cardSpherecardbySantander

Longest 0% intro balance transfer card

Santander Sphere, 24 months, 0% APR, 4% 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 30.74% applies if you make a late payment, and will apply to your existing balances until you make 6 straight months of on time payments.

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  • 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.

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Decent 0% intro balance transfer period

Discover it® – 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer: 0% for 18 months, 3% balance transfer 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.

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  • 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.

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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.

Signal Financial

Longest low rate balance transfer card

Unify Financial Credit Union, As low as 5.74% APR, no expiration, $0 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 5.74% with no expiration and no fee to transfer. 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.

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.

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  • 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%.

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SunTrust Prime Rewards

Long low rate balance transfer card

SunTrust Prime Rewards, 4.00% APR for 36 months, No 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 balance transfer fee. That’s currently 4.00% 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 3%. Also beware the prime rate deal isn’t for new purchases, so only use this card for a balance transfer.

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  • 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.

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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.

aspire credit union card image

For less than perfect credit

Aspire Credit Union Platinum,
0% APR for 6 months, 0% transfer 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.

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  • 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.

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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.

3 Steps for Setting up a Balance Transfer

Nick Clements of MagnifyMoney, who once ran a large credit card business, explains how to set up 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

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Personal Loans

Avant Loans: Review These Rates Before You Apply for a Loan

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.

Avant Loans Review


Avant_Logo* is a personal loan platform willing to accept borrowers with less than perfect credit scores.

The interest rates are between 9.95% – 35.99% and loans are as small as $1,000 and as high as $35,000.

Avant does not charge a prepayment fee.

Origination fees range from 0.95% – 4.75%, which may be lower than the competition.

They also emphasize speed, and can get the loan to you by the next business day if you have all of your documentation.

What credit do you need?

In general, you will have a much better chance of being approved if your score is above 600, and you can apply for a loan here. Avant is available in all states except: Colorado, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont and West Virginia.

If you have excellent credit, you may be able to get an interest rate as low as 4.82% with another lender and should definitely shop around.

While Avant* can offer access to competitive rates, you should make sure you compare their rates to other providers. And if you are willing to borrow at 35.99%, you should put together a plan to build your credit score over time so that you can get lower cost options. We can help you get started with our debt guide.

Have you tried these lower rate options?

More and more lenders are willing to work with responsible people who have less than perfect credit.

You may qualify for a low rate credit card to pay off your other bills. If your credit score is above 680, you will mostly likely be able to qualify for a low interest rate credit card. You can check to see if you are approved for a credit card without hurting your score. We have a list of where and how to check for your PRE-APPROVED and PRE-QUALIFIED credit card offers.

There are other personal loan companies with lower rates. We keep a list of companies that offer good personal loan rates to people with less than perfect credit. Unlike a lot of other sites, you won’t get calls from a bunch of loan companies.

You only get in touch with the ones you’re interested in dealing with. And many will tell you your rate without doing a hard pull of your credit report or requiring a phone call.

 See our list of low rate personal loans you might qualify for

You should apply for several you feel comfortable with so you have several rates to compare and you can get lenders fighting for your business.

Are you trying to build your credit score?

Don’t use a loan through Avant (or any loan) just to build your credit score.

Yes, a loan through Avant is reported to the major credit bureaus and paying one on time is a good thing for your credit report.

But there’s a much cheaper way to improve your credit and have a bigger impact.

Get a secured credit card. Even with really bad credit you can get approved – and some have no fees at all.

Using one to build credit is simple – we have a guide here.

You just charge a small amount on the secured card every month, and pay the bill on time and in full each month. After about a year or so of doing that you could see a substantial rise in your score if you make all your other payments on time.

There is no need to get a loan simply to improve your score.

Done all of that?

Avant can be a very good option for borrowers, given its transparency and speed. You can check your rate without hurting your score by clicking on the link “Apply Now” below.

Avant_Logo

APPLY NOW Secured

on Avant’s secure website

It’s better than most options you’ll find from payday loan shops because:

It’s a real installment loan. You’re given a real monthly payment, and your payments pay down the loan itself, not just interest, so you have at least a shot at paying it all off if you keep up the payments.

You can check your rate without impacting your credit score. Avant will use a soft pull to provide you with a rate. We applaud this, because it enables consumers to shop for the best loan for their needs without worrying about harming their credit score. Many traditional lenders do not offer this.

Reviews of their customer service are decent. No one likes paying high rates, and Avant is not a place for really low rates. But they do get decent reviews online for their customer service and treating people with decency.

But make sure you get a secured credit card as well so you can more quickly build up your credit profile. That will help you graduate to lenders who can offer you much more reasonable rates, or get a lower rate through Avant.

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Brian Karimzad
Brian Karimzad |

Brian Karimzad is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brian at brian@magnifymoney.com

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Best of, Credit Cards

Credit Cards: Find the Best Credit Card Offers & Deals (0% for 24 mos, 6% cash back)

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 August 24, 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 (updated daily) while avoiding expensive traps.

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.

The CFPB has a good guide on what to be aware of with your first credit card, as does the Federal Reserve.

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.

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 earn 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, it is possible to get something for nothing.

How to Choose

Best Cash Back Credit Cards

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

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

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent Credit

Purchase Interest Rate : 13.49% – 23.49%

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer : 0% for 18 months with a 3% fee

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

GO TO SITEFULL REVIEW

Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card

Unlimited 2% Cash Back on Every Purchase

Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card

The Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature 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. In addition, all domestic ATM fees are reimbursed (unlimited).

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent Credit

Purchase Interest Rate : 14.49%

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : None

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

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Barclaycard Cash Forward Credit Card

1.575% Cash Back

Barclaycard CashForward World MasterCard

Barclaycard has just recently launched this card, which offers a generous 1.5% cash back rate on all purchases. You can earn a 5% bonus when you redeem, which creates an effective 1.575%. Cash redemptions start at $50.

There is a $200 cash rewards bonus after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days after account opening. There is also a generous 0% intro APR on purchases for the first 15 months. The card has no annual fee.

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  • 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 : Excellent Credit

Purchase Interest Rate : 15.99% – 25.99%

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : $200 after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days

Intro Purchase APR : 0% for 15 months

Tip: Always pay your bill on time to avoid late fees.

GO TO SITE FULL REVIEW

Best Category Bonuses (Gas, Grocery, Travel, Dining)

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 Credit Union Platinum Visa

Unlimited 5% Cash Back on Gas

Fort Knox Credit Union Platinum Visa

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

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : 9.50%

Annual Fee : $0

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 More Gas Cash Back Cards

6% Cash Back on Groceries (Up to $6,000 of Spend)

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

The unparalleled 6% cash back rate on groceries makes this one of the best cards on the market for heavy grocery consumers. Even with the $95 annual fee, most grocery shoppers will come out ahead.

You will also earn 3% cash back on all gas station purchases, 3% at select department stores and 1% on all other purchases. You will earn a statement credit of $150 after you spend $1,000 in the first three months.

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  • 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%

Annual Fee : $95

Intro Purchase APR : 0% for 12 months

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 More Grocery Cash Back Cards

PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express

4.25% Cash Back on Airfare Expenses

PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express

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 points 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.

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : 9.24% – 17.99%

Annual Fee : $0

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : 0% for 12 months with a 3% fee

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

GO TO SITE More Cards for Travel Spending

AARP Credit Card from Chase

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.

If you are interested in joining the AARP, you also don’t need to be older than 55. Anyone can join.

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.

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  • 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 : 16.99% to 23.74%

Annual Fee : $0

Intro Purchase APR : 0% for 12 months

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : 0% for 12 months with a fee of 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.

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 Rewards 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.

BankAmericard Travel Rewards

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

BankAmericard Travel Rewards

You earn 1.5 points for every $1 you spend. There is no limit to the number of points you earn.

The points can be used on any purchase. There are no restrictions and no blackout dates. Every 100 points can buy $1 worth of travel. The rewards get even better if you have “Preferred Rewards” at Bank of America. You can earn a bonus of between 25% and 75% if you have significant balances at Bank of America or Merrill Lynch.

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

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : 15.49% – 23.49%

Annual Fee : $0

Intro Purchase APR : 0% for 12 months

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

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Amex Everyday Credit Card

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

Amex Everyday Credit Card

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 spend above $6,000. And there is an added bonus. If you use your credit card for 20 purchases per month, you will get a 20% bonus. 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. You can convert these points into frequent flier miles of airlines. Participating airlines include Delta, Virgin America, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and more. You also have the option to convert points into hotel programs, including Hilton and Starwood.

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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%

Annual Fee : $0

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.

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Best Credit Cards for Foreign 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.

First Tech Credit Union Platinum Rewards MasterCard

No Annual or Foreign Transaction Fee + Chip and Pin Functionality

First Tech Credit Union Platinum Rewards MasterCard

This card is the perfect companion for overseas travel. There is no annual fee or costly 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.

The card also offers low credit union interest rates, starting at just 9.99%. It is easy to join the credit union. Membership is free if you work for a sponsor technology company. If you work for the state of Oregon or live in Lane County, Oregon membership is also free. Otherwise, you just need to join the Financial Fitness Association. There is a one-time fee of $8, and you are member. That membership gives you the right to join the credit union and apply for this card.

You will earn 1 point for every $1 you spend. This is not the best rewards program on the market.

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 : from 10.24%

Annual Fee : $0

Tip: First, join the Financial Fitness Association. Then join the credit union. Finally, apply for the credit card. This can all be done online, and it is an easy process.

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Capital One Quicksilver One Rewards MasterCard

Best Foreign Travel for Fair Credit

Capital One Quicksilver One Rewards MasterCard

This card is designed for people with Average/Fair credit. If you have defaulted on a loan in the past five years (but not more than one), or if you have had limited credit history (at least one account for less than three years), you would be considered “average/fair.”

With this card, you can earn 1.5% unlimited cash back. There is also no foreign transaction fee. That combination of no fee and rewards can make this card lucrative. There is an annual fee of $39.

This card can be useful to build your credit score. Just keep your utilization low (ideally below 20% of the available credit) 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 : Fair or Average

Purchase Interest Rate : 24.99%

Annual Fee : $39

 

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

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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.

Brian Karimzad, Co-Founder of MagnifyMoney, explains how to get the most out of cash back credit cards in this video:

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 up to 24 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.

 

Alliant Platinum Visa

No Fee – 0% on transfers for 12 Months

Alliant Platinum Visa

With the Alliant Platinum Visa, there is no balance transfer fee and you pay no interest for 12 months. You can apply for the credit card even if you are not a member of the credit union. If you are approved for the credit card, you can then join

Anyone can join the credit union. You just have to make a contribution of $10 to Foster Care for Success and then you can become a member of the credit union. That is what we love about credit unions: joining requires a donation to a worthy charity.

There is one catch (that we don’t like). Even if you are approved for the credit card, you might not get the 0% offer. Depending upon your credit score, you might be given a much higher introductory interest rate.

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Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the introductory promotional period. It is waived.
  • You might not get the 0% offer, depending upon your credit score
  • You have to join the credit union

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : 9.49% – 21.49%

Annual Fee : $0

Intro Purchase APR : 0% for 12 months

Tip: If your credit score is not excellent, you might find it difficult to get the 0% offer. Pay close attention to the offer details once approved.

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Santander Sphere Visa

0% on transfers for 2 Years – 4% Balance Transfer Fee

Santander Sphere Visa

This is the longest 0% offer in the MagnifyMoney database. The only catch: it comes with a hefty 4% balance transfer fee. The fee could still be worthwhile, depending upon how long it takes for you to pay off the debt. You cannot transfer debt from other Santander credit cards.

The card also offers a rewards program, with 1 point for every $1 spent. And if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days, you earn 10,000 bonus points.

You have 90 days from account opening to complete the balance transfer, otherwise you lose the promotional rate.

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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 : 12.99% – 22.99%

Annual Fee : $0

Tip: This card is a good option if you think it will take a long time to pay off your debt in full.

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Citi Simplicity

0% on transfers and purchases for 21 Months; 3% Fee

Citi Simplicity

Citibank has a strong balance transfer offer, with a long 21 months and a 3% fee. In addition, Simplicity 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 : 13.49% – 23.49%

Annual Fee : $0

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

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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 Simplicity

0% on Purchases for 21 Months

Citi Simplicity

If you are looking to finance a purchase, Citibank offers the longest 0% purchase promotion of any credit card in the MagnifyMoney database. The APR on purchases will be 0% for the first 21 months after opening the credit card.

Additionally, Citi Simplicity charges no annual fee, no late fee and has no penalty APR.

Transparency Score 21
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 : 13.49% – 23.49%

Annual Fee : $0

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.

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TruWest Visa Signature

0% 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 (like Motorola) to join. You can learn about membership eligibility here.

If you are able to join, you will find a long 0% promotional period. Even better, the credit card has reasonable credit union interest rates after the promotional period ends. There is no annual fee on the card.

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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 : 8.15% – 9.15%

Annual Fee : $0

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

Best Low Interest (not 0%) 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

As Low as 7.50% from a Credit Union Anyone Can Join

Langley Select Visa Platinum Card

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 7.50%, 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 consider this.

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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 : from 7.50%

Annual Fee : $0

Tip: You need to have an excellent credit score in order to qualify for the lowest interest rate. And unfortunately the online banking is not as good as some of the bigger banks.

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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.

Nick Clements is the Co-Founder of MagnifyMoney. He also used to run a large credit card company and explains how to use balance transfers in this video.

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 for People with 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.

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. You will get free access to your credit score. You can watch your good behavior being rewarded, and you will know when it is time to convert to a fully unsecured credit card.

In order to open the card, you will need to deposit at least $200, depending upon your creditworthiness. With this secured credit card, you will actually be able to earn cash back rewards. If you have previously filed bankruptcy, you still have the chance to be approved.

Our favorite part of the product is the automatic monthly reviews starting at 8 months to see if you can be transitioned to an account with no security deposit. 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 : Best for no credit, 670 or less

Purchase Interest Rate : 23.99% variable APR

Annual Fee : $0

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.

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Community Secured Visa from Coastal Credit Union

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

Community Secured Visa from Coastal Credit Union

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 a bit higher than the Capital One card, you get the peace of mind that your interest rate will be more reasonable in case you get into trouble. This one takes more work to open than the Capital One card, since it involves joining a credit union, but you deal with less fine print once you have the card.

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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 : 15.50%

Annual Fee : $0

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

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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 for People with Fair Credit

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

Here are some good cards for people with fair credit:

Capital One Quicksilver One

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

Capital One Quicksilver One

Capital One has created a credit card specifically for people with fair or 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 fair credit.

You will earn 1.5% cash back, unlimited.

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Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the introductory promotional period. It is waived.
  • There is an annual fee

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Fair or Average

Purchase Interest Rate : 24.99%

Annual Fee : $39

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.

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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.

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.
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.

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.

FAQ

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

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21% of Divorcées Cite Money as the Cause of Their Divorce, MagnifyMoney Survey Shows

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.

Magnifymoney - Divorce and Debt Survey

In MagnifyMoney’s 2017 Divorce and Debt Survey, we polled a national sample of 500 divorced U.S. adults to understand how money played into the end of their relationship.

Here are our key findings:

AMONG ALL SURVEY RESPONDENTS

More money = more problems

Among all respondents, 21% cited money as the cause of their divorce.

In fact, the more money a respondent earned, they more likely they were to cite money as the cause of their divorce.

Among people who earned $100,000 or more, 33% cited money as the cause of their divorce.

By contrast, only 25% of people who earned $50,000 to $99,999 cited money as the cause of their divorce. And the lowest income-earners, those earning $50,000 and under, were the least likely to say money was the cause of their divorce at just 18%.

Money might cause more stress for younger couples

While rates of divorce rose along with the amount of a couple’s’ earnings, the opposite seemed to be true when it came to age. Younger couples reported that financial issues drove them to divorce, while the rate went down for older couples.

  • Among 25-44 year olds: 24% cited money as the cause of their divorce
  • Among 45-64 year olds: 20% cited money as the cause of their divorce
  • Among those 65 and over: 18% cited money as the cause of their divorce

AMONG SURVEY RESPONDENTS WHO CITED MONEY AS THE REASON FOR THEIR DIVORCE…

Divorce often led to debt 

AMONG SURVEY RESPONDENTS WHO CITED MONEY AS THE REASON FOR THEIR DIVORCE

Between legal fees, paying for your own expenses instead of sharing the burden with a partner, and other costs that come up when you choose to end a marriage, divorce gets expensive. For couples who already faced financial problems, the added expense often meant getting into even more debt.

Well over half (59%) of respondents who cited money as the cause of their divorce also said they went into debt because of their divorce. And a whopping 60% said their credit score fell after the divorce. By comparison, just 36% of the total survey group said they went into debt because their divorce, and only 37% said their credit score suffered.

Among those who cited money as the cause of their divorce…

  • 2% of respondents said they got away with $500 or less in debt.
  • 13% said they racked up debts of $500 to $4,999.
  • 14% said they took on between $10,000 and $19,999 worth of debt
  • 23% said they owed $20,000 or more

Among all survey respondents…

  • 2% were less than $500 in debt
  • 8% were $500 to $4,999 in debt
  • 6% were $5,000 to $9,999 in debt
  • 8% were $10,000 to $19,999 in debt
  • 12% were $20,000 or more in debt

Overspending was the biggest source of tension

Overspending was the biggest source of tension

Nearly one-third (30%) of those who said that money was the reason for their divorce also said overspending was the most common problem they faced. Overspending can easily add up to carrying credit balances when the cash runs out — and in fact, credit card debt was the second most common money problem these respondents cited.

Bad credit was also a problem, along with other types of debt like medical and student loan debt. Most financial issues seemed to stem from bad cash flow habits, however. Only 3% said bad investments caused trouble within their relationships.

Financial infidelity was rampant

Financial infidelity was rampant

When overspending and debt become issues within a marriage, partners may feel compelled to hide mistakes and bad money habits from each other. In fact, 56% of survey respondents who said money was the reason for their divorce also admitted that they or their spouse lied about money or hid information from the other person. By comparison, just 33% of all divorcees surveyed said they lied or were lied to about money during their marriage.

Among the survey respondents who cited money as the cause of divorce…

  • 37% said their spouse lied to them about money
  • 8% said they lied to their spouse about money
  • 10% reported that they both lied to each other.

Among all survey respondents…

  • 24% said they their spouse lied about money
  • 3% said they lied to their spouse about money
  • 5% said they both lied about money

Most would rather keep separate bank accounts

Separation of finances

With financial stress causing trouble in relationships, it’s not too surprising that 57% of people who cited money as the cause of their divorce said married couples should maintain separate bank accounts. Forty-three percent maintained that within a marriage, couples should keep joint accounts — even though their marriages ended in divorce.

Most failed to keep a budget

Budgeting and divorce

A whopping 70% of respondents who said their marriages ended due to money said they didn’t stick to a budget during their marriage. A budget is such a simple tool, but one that’s essential to tracking cash flow and understanding where money comes from — and goes.

Most don’t believe prenups are necessary

Prenups and divorce
Dealing with divorce is never easy, especially when financial problems caused the separation and continue to plague couples after the paperwork is signed thanks to new debts.

Still, 58% of survey respondents whose marriage ended in divorce due to money said they didn’t think couples should get a prenuptial agreement before tying the knot.

How to deal with your finances after divorce

Here are a few tips to help you get back on your feet, financially speaking, once your divorce is finalized:

Recognize your bad money habits. Money issues can negatively impact a relationship, and even cause it to end. But they can hurt you as an individual, too.

Create a budget. Remember, most people whose marriage ended due to financial stresses didn’t keep a budget during their relationship. Doing so now will help you stay on top of your money and know exactly where it goes. That will allow you to make better spending decisions and help prevent taking on even more debt.

Don’t make major money decisions right away. If you just finalized your divorce, you may feel like you need to make major changes or choices right away. But take a moment to slow down and give yourself time to heal. You shouldn’t make emotional decisions with your money — and going through a divorce is an emotional time. Wait until you can think more clearly and rationally before doing anything with your assets, cash, or career.

Money should not be your therapy. Because divorce can do a number on you, mentally and emotionally, you may need help with the healing process. But that does not mean retail therapy! It’s tempting to spend on material things in an effort to make yourself feel better, but any happiness you feel from shopping sprees is temporary and fleeting. It can also leave you into even more debt. Put away your credit cards, stick to cash, and use your budget to guide you.

Work to rebuild your credit. 60% of people reported their divorce hurt their credit. If your credit suffered too, take steps to rebuild it. Pay down debts, make all payments on time and in full, and don’t continue to carry balances on credit cards. Try to avoid taking out too many new loans or lines of credit all at once.

You should also work through this checklist of important actions to take after your divorce:

  • Update your beneficiary information on your accounts and insurance policies.
  • Update your will and estate plan.
  • Make sure all of your assets are in your name only and no longer jointly held.
  • Cancel accounts or services you held jointly, like utilities or cable. Open new accounts for you in your name.
  • Allocate a line item for savings in your budget. You want to start rebuilding your own cash reserves. Set an automatic monthly transfer from your checking to your savings so you don’t forget.
  • Close joint credit cards and get a new line of credit in your name.
  • If you have children, keep careful records of expenses for them that you plan to split with your ex, in case of disagreements. Ideally, make sure your divorce agreement includes an explanation of how child care will be split and who is responsible for what, financially.
  • Think about whether you need to hire new financial professionals to help you. You may want to find a new financial planner and certified public accountant. You’ll want to update your financial plan to reflect the fact that you’re no longer married.

Survey methodology: 500 U.S. adults who reported they were in a marriage that ended in divorce via Google Surveys from Feb. 2 to 4, 2017.

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