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How Fed Rate Hikes Change Borrowing and Savings Rates

Editorial Note: 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 prior to publication.

Since late 2015, the Federal Reserve has raised the upper limit of its target federal funds rate by 1.75 percentage points, from 0.25% in December 2015, to 2.00%. The Fed is expected to raise rates another 25 basis points on Sept. 26.

MagnifyMoney analyzed Federal Reserve rate data to illustrate how the rates consumers pay for loans and earn on deposits have changed since the Fed started raising them two and a half years ago. In short, we find Fed rate changes have wide-ranging implications for consumers.

  • Credit card borrowers are currently paying $110 billion in interest annually, up $31 billion from the annual $79 billion they paid prior to the first Federal Reserve interest rate hike in December 2015, making introductory 0% APR deals all the more attractive.
  • Meanwhile, depositors earned significantly more from savings accounts. In the 12 months ending in June 2018, depositors earned $26.8 billion in interest on their savings accounts, up $16.8 billion from the $10 billion they earned in 2015.
  • According to our analysis, credit card rates are most sensitive to changes in the federal funds rate, almost directly matching the rate change with a 1.92 point increase since December 2015. Credit card rates will continue to rise in line with the Fed’s rate increases, and if the Fed raises them again, the average household that carries credit card debt month to month will pay over $150 in extra interest per year compared with before the rate hikes began. MagnifyMoney estimates 122 million Americans carry credit card debt month to month.
  • Student loan and auto loan rates have also risen sharply, but only half as much as credit card rates, in part because they are long-term forms of lending that are less reliant on the short-term federal funds rate. Federal student loan rates are set based on the 10-year Treasury note rate each May.
  • Savers at big banks have seen little change, with the average savings and CD account passing through only a fraction of the rate increase. However, that masks a big opportunity for savers who shop around and move deposits to online banks. Online banks have aggressively raised rates, and now offer rates in the 2% range, versus just 1% in 2015. That’s over 20 times what typical accounts pay.

Let’s take a closer look at how the Fed rate hike impacts different financial products:

Credit cards

Most credit cards have a rate that’s directly based on the prime rate, for example, the prime rate plus 9.99%. As a result, card rates tend to move almost immediately in line with Fed rate changes. In the current cycle, the rates on all credit card accounts tracked by the Federal Reserve have increased 1.92 points, roughly in line with the Fed’s increase of 1.75 points.

That said, consumers can still find attractive introductory rate offers.

For example, 0% balance transfer offers have continued to have long terms even as the Fed hiked rates, with offers still available for nearly two years at 0%.

Credit card issuers make up for the rate hike with the automatic rise in variable back-end rates, as well as the increasing spread between the prime rate and what consumers pay on new accounts. They can also increase other fees, like late payment fees or balance transfer fees to keep long 0% deals viable.

The Federal Reserve tends to hike up interest rates gradually over time. And people in credit card debt will barely notice the rate increase in their monthly statement. When rates are increased by 0.25%, the monthly minimum due on a credit card will increase $2 for every $10,000 of debt.

The danger of such a small increase in the monthly payment is complacency. Remember that by paying the minimum due, you could be in debt for more than 20 years.

Rates are expected to keep rising, so it makes sense for consumers to lock in a low rate today. The best ways to lock in lower rates are by leveraging long 0% balance transfer deals or by consolidating into fixed rate personal loans.

Savings accounts

On average, savings account rates haven’t changed much since the Fed started raising rates. That’s largely because big banks with the biggest deposits and large branch networks have less incentive to offer higher rates, and this skews national data on rates earned because most savers don’t shop around to find higher rates at online banks and credit unions.

Consumers who shop around can find much higher savings account rates than three years ago, and shopping around for a better rate on your deposits is one of the best ways to make the Fed’s rate hikes work in your favor.

Back in 2015, it was rare to see savings accounts pay 1% interest.

Today, many online banks are competing for deposits by offering savings account rates approaching 2%, flowing through about half of the Fed’s rate hike into increased rates for depositors. These rates will continue to rise as the Fed hikes rates. The increases are already apparent in the data: In the 12-month period ending June 2018, depositors earned $26 billion in interest on their savings accounts, versus the $10 billion they earned in 2015.

CDs

CD rates have moved faster than savings rates, up 0.19 points for 12-month CDs since the Fed started raising rates. That’s in part because they are a more competitive product that forces consumers to rate shop when they expire at the end of their 6-month, 12-month or longer term.

But that rate rise doesn’t fully reflect what some smaller banks are passing through, as the banks with the largest deposits have been slow to raise rates.

The rates on 1- and 2-year CDs at online banks have been increasing rapidly, and are now well over 2%, reflecting much of the Fed’s rate increases since 2015.

The rates on 5-year CDs have not been increasing as quickly. As a result, the rate curve has been flattening.

A reasonable strategy would be to invest in short-term (1- and 2-year) CDs. If competition on the short end continues, you can get the benefit in a year on renewal.

And if long-term rates start to rise, you can redeploy or build a ladder in a year.

Student loans

Federal student loan rates are set based on a May auction of 10-year Treasury notes, plus a defined add-on to the rate. Today, rates for new undergraduate Stafford loans stand at 5.05%, up from 4.30% before the federal funds target rate began to rise.

Since student loan rates are determined by the 10-year Treasury rate, rather than a short-term rate, they are less directly related to changes in the federal funds rate than some shorter-term forms of borrowing like credit cards. Instead, future market views of inflation and economic growth play a role. Federal student loan rates are capped at 8.25% for undergraduates and 9.5% for graduate students.

For private refinancing options, rates depend on secondary markets that tend to follow longer-term rates, rather than the current federal funds rate, but in general, a rising rate environment could mean less attractive refinancing options.

Personal loans

Personal loan rates tend to be driven by many factors, including an individual lender’s view of the lifetime value of a customer, funding availability and credit appetite. Most personal loans offer fixed rates, and in a rising rate environment overall, we expect these rates will go up, making new loans more expensive, so consumers on the fence should consider shopping for a good rate sooner rather than later. Since the end of 2015, rates on 2-year personal loans tracked by the Federal Reserve have increased by 0.65 basis points.

Auto loans

Prime consumers who shop around for an auto loan can still find very low rates, especially when manufacturers are offering special financing deals to move certain car models.

But the overall rates across the credit spectrum have gone up since the Fed raised rates, in part due to the rate hikes and because of recent greater than expected delinquencies in some parts of the auto lending market.

Mortgages

Since the Fed started raising rates in late 2015, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate has increased from approximately 3.9% to 4.6% as of Sept. 13. The mortgage market tends to follow trends in longer term bond markets, like the 10-year Treasury, since mortgages are a longer-term form of borrowing. That shields them from the impact of Fed rate increases, and it’s not unusual for mortgage rates to decline during some periods when the Fed is raising rates.

What can consumers do

Rates are only going to go up. That means life is going to get more expensive for debtors, and more rewarding for savers.

If you are in debt, now is the time to lock in the lowest rate possible. There are still plenty of options at this point in the credit cycle for people to lock in lower interest rates.

If you are a saver, ignore your traditional bank and look online. Take advantage of online savings accounts and CDs to earn 20 times the rate of typical big bank rates.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

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Earning Interest

The Best CD Rates – September 2018

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

The Best CD Rates
iStock

Updated September 4, 2018

If you are looking for a better yield on your savings, a high rate CD (certificate of deposit) offered by an online bank could be a good option. Internet-only banks offer much better interest rates than traditional banks. For example, a 12-month CD at Bank of America would require a $10,000 minimum deposit and would pay only 0.07%. At an online bank, you could earn 2.45% with no minimum deposit. (If you would rather get a savings account or money market with no time restriction, look at the best savings accounts or best money market accounts).

The Best CD Rates in September 2018

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

Term

Institution

APY

Minimum Deposit Amount

 

1 year

Goldman Sachs Bank USA

2.55%

$500

LEARN MORE Secured

on Goldman Sachs Bank USA’s secure website

Member FDIC

2 years

CD Bank

3.00%

$10,000

LEARN MORE Secured

on CD Bank’s secure website

3 years

Citizens Access

3.00%

$5,000

LEARN MORE Secured

on Citizens Access’s secure website

5 years

KS StateBank

3.37%

$500

LEARN MORE Secured

on KS StateBank’s secure website

See a full list of the best CD rates below.

  • 6 months – 6 years: Goldman Sachs Bank USA – 0.60% APY – 3.15% APY; $500 minimum deposit

Goldman Sachs Bank USA
Our advertiser Marcus by Goldman Sachs is the online consumer bank of Goldman Sachs Bank USA (the large investment bank). Your funds are FDIC insured, and Goldman offers very competitive rates. Even better: there is only a $500 minimum deposit. So, if you don’t have enough money to meet the minimum deposit of the other banks on this list, or you are looking for another bank for your savings, GS is a good option. It also doesn’t hurt that they also offer some of the best CD rates in the market today. Here are their rates:

  • 6-month: 0.60% APY
  • 9-month: 0.70% APY
  • 12-month: 2.55% APY
  • 18-month: 2.55% APY
  • 2-year: 2.60% APY
  • 3-year: 2.65% APY
  • 5-year: 3.10% APY
  • 6-year: 3.15% APY

LEARN MORE Secured

on Goldman Sachs Bank USA’s secure website

Member FDIC

  • 3 months – 5 years: Synchrony Bank – 0.75% APY – 3.00% APY; $2,000 minimum deposit

Synchrony Bank
Synchrony used to be a part of GE, and now has an online bank that pays competitive rates. The online deposits are used to fund their store credit card portfolio – and the company is publicly traded. Your deposit will be insured up to the FDIC limit. In a rising rate environment, this is a great way to get a high interest rate without locking yourself into a long term.

  • 3-months: 0.75% APY
  • 6-months: 1.00% APY
  • 9-months: 1.25% APY
  • 12-months: 2.45% APY
  • 13-months: 2.65% APY
  • 18-months: 2.55% APY
  • 24-months: 2.65% APY
  • 36-months: 2.70% APY
  • 48-months: 2.80% APY
  • 60-months: 3.00% APY

LEARN MORE Secured

on Synchrony Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

  • 1 year – 5 years: Barclays Bank – 2.45% – 3.00% APY, no minimum deposit

12 Month Online CD from Barclays Barclays is one of the oldest banks in the world. Although they’re based in London, they do have a U.S. presence and offer competitive rates on their CDs and savings account. Currently, they’re offering some of the highest CD rates in the market, and they have an edge over the rest of the institutions on this list: they don’t require a minimum balance to earn the APY or open an account. Deposit as little or as much as you’d like into a term of your choice and you can start earning interest as long as the account is funded within 14 days of opening the CD. Additionally, your funds are insured through the FDIC.

  • 1-year: 2.45% APY
  • 2-year: 2.50% APY
  • 3-year: 2.55% APY
  • 4-year: 2.65% APY
  • 5-year: 3.00% APY

LEARN MORE Secured

on Barclays’s secure website

Member FDIC

  • 3 months – 5 years: Ally Bank – 0.75% APY – 2.75% APY; $0 minimum deposit (higher APY with higher deposit)

Ally Bank
Ally is one of the largest internet-only banks in the country. Ally’s former advertising campaign made it very clear: no branches = higher rates. And Ally has consistently paid some of the highest rates in the country across savings accounts, money market accounts and CDs. For savers with fewer funds, Ally is unique. There is no minimum deposit to open a CD. However, if you have more money, you can earn a higher APY. If you have more than $25,000 to deposit, you can earn between 0.75% APY and 3.00% APY. And one of our favorite features of Ally: they often (although not always) offer preferential rates on renewal. Far too often banks give the biggest bonuses to new customers, but Ally has done a good job of rewarding its existing customers. All deposits at Ally are FDIC insured up to the legal limit.

  • 3-months: 0.75% APY (less than $5k); 0.75% APY ($5k minimum deposit) and 0.75% APY ($25k minimum deposit)
  • 6-months: 1.00% APY (less than $5k); 1.00% APY ($5k minimum deposit) and 1.00% APY ($25k minimum deposit)
  • 9-months: 1.25% APY (less than $5k); 1.25% APY ($5k minimum deposit) and 1.25% APY ($25k minimum deposit)
  • 12-months: 2.50% APY (less than $5k); 2.50% APY ($5k minimum deposit) and 2.50% APY ($25k minimum deposit)
  • 18-months: 2.35% APY (less than $5k); 2.45% APY ($5k minimum deposit) and 2.55% APY ($25k minimum deposit)
  • 3-year: 2.50% APY (less than $5k); 2.55% APY ($5k minimum deposit) and 2.60% APY ($25k minimum deposit)
  • 5-year: 3.00% APY (less than $5k); 3.00% APY ($5k minimum deposit) and 3.00% APY ($25k minimum deposit)

LEARN MORE Secured

on Ally Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

  • 12-Month CD: CIT Bank – 2.20% APY, $1,000 minimum deposit

1-Year Term CD from CIT BankCIT Bank is a bank subsidiary of the publicly traded financial holding company, CIT. Established in 2009, the bank has quickly grown to procure over $42 billion in assets. They’re currently offering one of the highest CD rates available. With $1,000 minimum deposit amount, you can earn a 2.20% APY on a 12-month CD.

LEARN MORE Secured

on CIT Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

  • 1-Year CD from a Credit Union: PenFed Credit Union – 2.45% APY, $1,000 minimum deposit

12 Month Money Market Certificate from PenFed Credit UnionPenFed is a credit union that offers very competitive interest rates. You need to join the credit union in order to benefit from their products. If you have a military or government affiliation, it is free to join. Otherwise, you would need to join an organization like Voices for America’s Troops, which costs $17.00. Once you are a member, you can open PenFed products (including this certificate) online. Your deposit would be insured by the NCUA, which is the National Credit Union Administration. There is a $1,000 minimum deposit for the one-year certificate.

LEARN MORE Secured

on PenFed Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

  • 2-Year CD: CD Bank – 3.00% APY, $10,000 minimum deposit

24 Month CD from CD BankCD Bank is the online division of TBK Bank, which is located in Dallas, Texas. With the help of TBK Bank’s backing, the two institutions have over $3 billion in assets. Currently, CD Bank is offering a 24-month CD with a 3.00% APY. There is a steep minimum deposit amount of $10,000, but your deposit is FDIC-insured.

LEARN MORE Secured

on CD Bank’s secure website

  • 2-Year CD from a Credit Union: Communitywide Federal Credit Union – 2.90% APY, $2,000 minimum deposit

24 Month Share Certificate from Communitywide Federal Credit UnionCommunityWide Federal Credit Union was established in 1967 to provide quality financial services to those residing on the west side of South Bend, IN. Today, the credit union operates similarly even though they’ve expanded their footprint in Michigan. Thanks to their online services, however, their able to service customers nationwide. Anyone can become a member of this credit union if they are a donor member of one of their partner organizations, such as the Y.M.C.A. Once you become a member, you can apply for their 24 month CD. You’ll need to deposit $2,000 in order to earn their outstanding 2.90% APY. This account can be managed online or through their mobile app. Deposits made to Communitywide Federal Credit Union are insured by the NCUA.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Communitywide Federal Credit Union’s secure website

  • 3-Year CD: Citizens Access – 3.00% APY, $5000 minimum deposit

Citizens Access
Citizens Access is an online divison of Citizens Bank. While this online bank was recently developed, Citizens Bank has been around for quite some time and has acquired over $122 billion in assets. The online bank is also FDIC insured through Citizens Bank’s. Citizens Access joined the space ready to compete with seasoned online banks by offering highly competitive rates on their products. Currently, they’re offering a 3-year CD with a 3.00% APY. You’ll need a minimum deposit amount of $5000 to open the CD. Their website is easy to use on a desktop, tablet, or mobile device.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Citizens Access’s secure website

  • 3-Year CD from a Credit Union: Greenwood Credit Union, 3.25% APY, $1,000 minimum deposit

Greenwood Credit Union
Greenwood Credit Union is open to anyone and everyone. The only requirement to become a member with this credit union is to open their Share Savings Account with a minimum deposit amount of $5. You’ll also have to maintain that amount in the account to remain an active member. When you go to apply for membership, you can also add that you want to open their 30 month CD. You’ll need to deposit $1,000 in order to earn their outstanding 3.25% APY. This deposit will be in addition to the $5 to open the Share Savings Account. Accounts can be managed online or through their mobile app. Deposits made to Greenwood Credit Union are insured by the NCUA.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Greenwood Credit Union’s secure website

  • 5-Year CD: KS StateBank – 3.37% APY, $500 minimum deposit

5 Year CD from KS StateBankOnce again KS StateBank lands a top spot on our list. Its 5-year CD has an APY of 3.37%, which is one of the highest currently available. You’ll only need $500 to deposit to open the account.

LEARN MORE Secured

on KS StateBank’s secure website

  • 5-Year CD from a Credit Union: United States Senate Federal Credit Union – 3.41% APY, $1,000 minimum deposit

United States Senate Federal Credit Union

Despite what the name may suggest, you do not have to be a Senate employee to join the United States Senate Federal Credit Union. If you don’t meet the work or family qualifications, you can easily become a member by joining the American Consumer Council, Virginia Chapter (VACC) or by joining the U.S. Capitol Historical Society (USCHS). This credit union was established by nine employees of the United States Senate during the Great Depression. Since then, the credit union has grown to have over $717 million in assets.

Currently, the United States Senate Federal Credit Union is offering amazing rates on its 5-year CD. With a minimum deposit of $1,000, you can earn an APY of 3.41%. If you deposit more, the APY increases. The other tiers are as follows:

  • $20,000-$59,999.99: 3.47% APY
  • $60,000-$99,999.99: 3.53% APY

 

LEARN MORE Secured

on United States Senate Federal Credit Union’s secure website

3 Questions To Ask Before You Open A CD

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

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

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

You can earn a lot more interest with a CD. Imagine you have $10,000 and know that you do not need to touch the money for two years. In a high-yield savings account earning 1.60%, you would earn $322.56 over two years. If you put that money into a 2.51% CD, you would earn $508.30. Given the ease of switching to an online CD, the extra interest income is easy money.

2. What term should I select?

The early withdrawal penalties on CDs can be significant. On a 1-year CD, 90 days is a typical penalty. And on 2 and 3 year CDs, a 6-month penalty is common. The impact of the penalty on your return can be significant. If you opened a one-year CD with a 2.20% APY and closed it after six months, you would forfeit half of the interest and earned only 1.11%. You would have been better off with a savings account paying 1.60%.

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

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

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

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

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

How To Find The Best Account

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

You can learn more about us and how we make money here.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

College Students and Recent Grads, Pay Down My Debt

7 Best Options to Refinance Student Loans – Get Your Lowest Rate

Editorial Note: 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 prior to publication.

Updated: September 1, 2018

Are you tired of paying a high interest rate on your student loan debt? You may be looking for ways to refinance your student loans at a lower interest rate, but don’t know where to turn. We have created the most complete list of lenders currently willing to refinance student loan debt. We recommend you start here and check rates from the top 7 national lenders offering the best student loan refinance products. All of these lenders (except Discover) also allow you to check your rate without impacting your score (using a soft credit pull), and offer the best rates of 2018:

LenderTransparency ScoreMax TermFixed APRVariable APRMax Loan Amount 
SoFiA+

20


Years

3.90% - 7.80%


Fixed Rate*

2.57% - 6.61%


Variable Rate*

No Max


Undergrad/Grad
Max Loan
Learn more Secured
EarnestA+

20


Years

3.89% - 6.32%


Fixed Rate

2.47% - 5.87%


Variable Rate

No Max


Undergrad/Grad
Max Loan
Learn more Secured
CommonBondA+

20


Years

3.20% - 7.25%


Fixed Rate

2.48% - 7.00%


Variable Rate

No Max


Undergrad/Grad
Max Loan
Learn more Secured
LendKeyA+

20


Years

3.49% - 8.72%


Fixed Rate

2.47% - 8.03%


Variable Rate

$125k / $175k


Undergrad/Grad
Max Loan
Learn more Secured
Laurel Road BankA+

20


Years

3.50% - 7.02%


Fixed Rate

2.80% - 6.22%


Variable Rate

No Max


Undergrad/Grad
Max Loan
Learn more Secured
Citizens BankA+

20


Years

3.75% - 8.69%


Fixed Rate

2.57% - 8.17%


Variable Rate

$90k / $350k


Undergraduate /
Graduate
Learn more Secured
Discover Student LoansA+

20


Years

5.24% - 8.24%


Fixed Rate

4.87% - 8.12%


Variable Rate

$150k


Undergraduate /
Graduate
Learn more Secured

You should always shop around for the best rate. Don’t worry about the impact on your credit score of applying to multiple lenders: so long as you complete all of your applications within 14 days, it will only count as one inquiry on your credit score.

We have also created:

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

Can I get approved?

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

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

Good or Excellent
score needed

Undergraduate
& Graduate

Private, Federal,
& Parent PLUS

None

Yes


(or signed job offer)
Learn more Secured
Earnest

660

Undergraduate
& Graduate

Private, Federal,
& Parent PLUS

None

Yes


(or signed job offer)
Learn more Secured
CommonBond

660

Undergraduate
& Graduate

Private, Federal,
& Parent PLUS

None

Yes


(or signed job offer)
Learn more Secured
LendKey

680

Undergraduate
& Graduate

Private & Federal

$24K

Yes

Learn more Secured
Laurel Road Bank

Not published

Undergraduate
& Graduate

Private, Federal,
& Parent PLUS

None

Yes


(or signed job offer)
Learn more Secured
Citizens Bank

680

Undergraduate
& Graduate

Private, Federal,
& Parent PLUS

$24K

Yes

Learn more Secured
Discover Student Loans

Not published

Undergraduate
& Graduate

Private & Federal

None

Yes

Learn more Secured

Diving Deeper: The best places to consider a refinance

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

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

Here are more details on the 7 lenders offering the lowest interest rates:

1. SoFi

LEARN MORE Secured

on SoFi’s secure website

Read Full Review

SoFi : Variable rates from 2.57% and Fixed Rates from 3.90% (with AutoPay)*

SoFi was one of the first lenders to start offering student loan refinancing products. More MagnifyMoney readers have chosen SoFi than any other lender. The only requirement is that you graduated from a Title IV school. In order to qualify, you need to have a degree, a good job and good income.

Pros Pros

  • Borrowers can refinance private, federal and Parent PLUS loans together: Through SoFi, borrowers have the ability to combine all of their student loans (private, federal and Parent PLUS) when refinancing. Along with the ability to refinance Parent PLUS loans, parents can also transfer the PLUS loans into their child’s name.
  • Access to career coaches: SoFi offers their borrowers access to their Career Advisory Group who work one-on-one with borrowers to help plan their career paths and futures.
  • Unemployment protection: SoFi offers some help if you lose your job. During the period of unemployment they will pause your payments (for up to 12 months) and work with you to find a new job. However, just remember that any unemployment protection offered by SoFi would be weaker than the income-driven repayment options of federal loans.

Cons Cons

  • No cosigner release: While they offer you the opportunity to refinance with a cosigner, it is important to know that SoFi does not offer borrowers the opportunity to release a cosigner later on down the road.
  • You lose certain protections if you refinance a federal loan: This con is not unique to SoFi (and you will find it with all other private lenders). Federal loans come with certain protections, including robust income-driven payment protection options. You will forfeit those protections if you refinance a federal loan to a private loan.

Bottom line

Bottom line

SoFi is really the original student loan refinance company, and is now certainly the largest. SoFi has consistently offered low interest rates and has received good reviews for service. In addition, SoFi invests heavily in building a “community” – which means you can start to get other benefits once you are a SoFi member.

SoFi has taken a radical new approach when it comes to the online finance industry, not only with student loans but in the personal loan, wealth management and mortgage markets as well. With their career development programs and networking events, SoFi shows that they have a lot to offer, not only in the lending space but in other aspects of their customers lives as well.

2. Earnest

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Earnest : Variable Rates from 2.47% and Fixed Rates from 3.89% (with AutoPay)

Earnest focuses on lending to borrowers who show promise of being financially responsible borrowers. Because of this, they offer merit-based loans versus credit-based ones. 

Pros Pros

  • Flexible repayment options: Earnest offers some of the most flexible options when it comes to repayment. They allow you to choose any term length between 5-20 years. You can choose your own monthly payment, based upon what you can afford (to the penny). Earnest also offers bi-weekly payments and “skip a payment” if you run into difficulty.
  • Ability to switch between variable and fixed rates: With Earnest, you can switch between fixed and variable rates throughout the life of your loan. You can do that one time every six months until the loan is paid off. That means you can take advantage of the low variable interest rates now, and then lock in a higher fixed rate later.
  • Loans serviced in-house: Earnest is one of just a few lenders that provides in-house loan servicing versus using a third-party servicer.

Cons Cons

  • Cannot apply with a cosigner: Unlike many of the other lenders, Earnest does not allow borrowers to apply for student loan refinancing with a cosigner.
  • No option to transfer Parent PLUS loans to Child: If you are a parent that is looking to refinance your Parent PLUS loan into your child’s name, it is important to note that this cannot be done through refinancing with Earnest.
  • You lose certain protections if you refinance a federal loan: When refinancing with any private lender, you will give up certain protections if you refinance a federal loan to a private loan.

Bottom line

Bottom line

Earnest, who was recently acquired by Navient, is making a name for themselves within the student refinancing space. With their flexible repayment options and low rates, they are definitely an option worth exploring.

3. CommonBond

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CommonBond : Variable Rates from 2.48% and Fixed Rates from 3.20% (with AutoPay)

CommonBond started out lending exclusively to graduate students. They initially targeted doctors with more than $100,000 of debt. Over time, CommonBond has expanded and now offers student loan refinancing options to graduates of almost any university (graduate and undergraduate).

Pros Pros

  • Hybrid loan option: CommonBond offers a unique “Hybrid” rate option in which rates are fixed for five years and then become variable for five years. This option can be a good choice for borrowers who intend to make extra payments and plan on paying off their student loans within the first five years. If you can a better interest rate on the Hybrid loan than the Fixed-rate option, you may end up paying less over the life of the loan.
  • Social promise: CommonBond will fund the education of someone in need in an emerging market for every loan that closes. So not only will you save money, but someone in need will get access to an education.
  • “CommonBridge” unemployment protection program: CommonBond is here to help if you lose your job. Similar to SoFi, they will pause your payments and assist you in finding a new job.

Cons Cons

  • Does not offer refinancing in the following states: Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, South Dakota and Vermont.
  • You lose certain protections if you refinance a federal loan: When refinancing with any private lender, you will give up certain protections if you refinance a federal loan to a private loan.

Bottom line

Bottom line

CommonBond not only offers low rates but is also making a social impact along the way. Consider checking out everything that CommonBond has to offer in term of student loan refinancing.

4. LendKey

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LendKey : Variable Rates from 2.47% and Fixed Rates from 3.49% (with AutoPay)

LendKey works with community banks and credit unions across the country. Although you apply with LendKey, your loan will be with a community bank. Over the past year, LendKey has become increasingly competitive on pricing, and frequently has a better rate than some of the more famous marketplace lenders.

Pros Pros

  • Opportunity to work with local banks and credit unions: LendKey is a platform of community banks and credit unions, which are known for providing a more personalized customer experience and competitive interest rates.
  • Offers interest-only payment repayment: Many of the lenders on LendKey offer the option to make interest-only payments for the first four years of repayment.

Cons Cons

  • Rates can vary depending on where you live: The rate that is advertised on LendKey is the lowest possible rate among all of its lenders, and some of these lenders are only available to residents of specific areas. So even if you have an excellent credit report, there is still a possibility that you will not receive the lowest rate, depending on geographic location.
  • No Parent PLUS refinancing available: Unlike several of the other student loan refinancing companies, borrowers do not have the ability to refinance Parent PLUS loans with LendKey.
  • You lose certain protections if you refinance a federal loan: As when refinancing federal loans with any private lender, you will give up your federal protections if you refinance your federal loan to a private one.

Bottom line

Bottom line

LendKey is a good option to keep in mind if you are looking for an alternative to big bank lending. If you prefer working with a credit union or community bank, LendKey may be the route to uncovering your best offer.

5. Laurel Road Bank

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Laurel Road Bank : Variable Rates from 2.80% and Fixed Rates from 3.50% (with AutoPay)

Laurel Road Bank offers a highly competitive product when it comes to student loan refinancing.

Pros Pros

  • Forgiveness in the case of death or disability: They may forgive the total student loan amount owed if the borrower dies before paying off their debt. In the case that the borrower suffers a permanent disability that results in a significant reduction to their income,Laurel Road Bank may forgive some, if not all of the amount owed.
  • Offers good perks for Residents and Fellows: Laurel Road Bank allows medical and dental students to pay only $100 per month throughout their residency or fellowship and up to six months after training. It is important for borrowers to keep in mind that the interest that accrues during this time will be added on to the total loan balance.

Cons Cons

  • Higher late fees: While many lenders charge late fees,Laurel Road Bank’s late fee can be slightly steeper than most at 5% or $28 (whichever is less) for a payment that is over 15 days late.
  • You lose certain protections if you refinance a federal loan: While not specific to Laurel Road Bank, it is important to keep in mind that you will give up certain protections when refinancing a federal loan with any private lender.

Bottom line

Bottom line

As a lender,Laurel Road Bank prides itself on offering personalized service while leveraging technology to make the student loan refinancing process a quick and simple one. Consider checking out their low-rate student loan refinancing product, which is offered in all 50 states.

6. Citizens Bank

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Citizens Bank (RI) : Variable Rates from 2.57% and Fixed Rates from 3.75% (with AutoPay)

Citizens Bank offers student loan refinancing for both private and federal loans through its Education Refinance Loan.

Pros Pros

No degree is required to refinance: If you are a borrower who did not graduate, with Citizens Bank, you are still eligible to refinance the loans that you accumulated over the period you did attend. In order to do so, borrowers much no longer be enrolled in school.

Loyalty discount: Citizens Bank offers a 0.25% discount if you already have an account with Citizens.

Cons Cons

Cannot transfer Parent PLUS loans to Child: If you are looking to refinance your Parent PLUS loan into your child’s name, this cannot be done through Citizens Bank.

You lose certain protections if you refinance a federal loan: Any time that you refinance a federal loan to a private loan, you will give up the protections, forgiveness programs and repayment plans that come with the federal loan.

Bottom line

Bottom line

The Education Refinance Loan offered by Citizens Bank is a good one to consider, especially if you are looking to stick with a traditional banking option. Consider looking into the competitive rates that Citizens Bank has to offer.

7. Discover

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Discover Student Loans : Variable Rates from 4.87% and Fixed Rates from 5.24% (with AutoPay)

Discover, with an array of competitive financial products, offers student loan refinancing for both private and federal loans through their private consolidation loan product.

Pros Pros

  • In-house loan servicing: When refinancing with Discover, they service their loans in-house versus using a third-party servicer.
  • Offer a variety of deferment options: Discover offers four different deferment options for borrowers. If you decide to go back to school, you may be eligible for in-school deferment as long as you are enrolled for at least half-time. In addition to in-school deferment, Discover offers deferment to borrowers on active military duty (up to 3 years), in eligible public service careers (up to 3 years) and those in a health professions residency program (up to 5 years).

Cons Cons

  • Performs a hard credit pull: While most lenders do a soft credit check, Discover does perform a hard pull on your credit.
  • No Parent PLUS refinancing available: Discover does not offer borrowers the option of refinancing their Parent PLUS loans.
  • You lose certain protections if you refinance a federal loan: Be careful when deciding to refinance your federal student loans because when doing so, you will lose access federal protections, forgiveness programs and repayment plans.

Bottom line

Bottom line

If you’re looking for a well-established bank to refinance your student loans, Discover may be the way to go. Just keep in mind that if you apply for a student loan refinance with Discover, they will do a hard pull on your credit.

 

Additional Student Loan Refinance Companies

In addition to the Top 7, there are many more lenders offering to refinance student loans. Below is a listing of all providers we have found so far. This list includes credit unions that may have limited membership. We will continue to update this list as we find more lenders:

Traditional Banks

  • First Republic Eagle Gold. The interest rates are great, but this option is not for everyone. Fixed rates range from 1.95% – 4.45% APR. You need to visit a branch and open a checking account (which has a $3,500 minimum balance to avoid fees). Branches are located in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Newport Beach, San Diego, Portland (Oregon), Boston, Palm Beach (Florida), Greenwich or New York City. Loans must be $60,000 – $300,000. First Republic wants to recruit their future high net worth clients with this product.
  • Wells Fargo: As a traditional lender, Wells Fargo will look at credit score and debt burden. They offer both fixed and variable loans, with variable rates starting at 4.74% and fixed rates starting at 5.24%. You would likely get much lower interest rates from some of the new Silicon Valley lenders or the credit unions.

Credit Unions

  • Alliant Credit Union: Anyone can join this credit union. Interest rates start as low as 3.50% APR. You can borrow up to $100,000 for up to 25 years.
  • Eastman Credit Union: Credit union membership is restricted (see eligibility here). Fixed rates start at 6.50% and go up to 8% APR.
  • Navy Federal Credit Union: This credit union offers limited membership. For men and women who serve (or have served), the credit union can offer excellent rates and specialized underwriting. Variable interest rates start at 4.07% and fixed rates start at 4.70%.
  • Thrivent: Partnered with Thrivent Federal Credit Union, Thrivent Student Loan Resources offers variable rates starting at 4.13% APR and fixed rates starting at 3.99% APR. It is important to note that in order to qualify for refinancing through Thrivent, you must be a member of the Thrivent Federal Credit Union. If not already a member, borrowers can apply for membership during the student refinance application process.
  • UW Credit Union: This credit union has limited membership (you can find out who can join here, but you had better be in Wisconsin). You can borrow from $5,000 to $150,000 and rates start as low as 3.87% (variable) and 3.99% APR (fixed).

Online Lending Institutions

  • Education Loan Finance:This is a student loan refinancing option that is offered through SouthEast Bank. They have competitive rates with variable rates ranging from 2.55% – 6.01% APR and fixed rates ranging from 3.09% – 6.69% APR. Education Loan Finance also offers a “Fast Track Bonus”, so if you accept your offer within 30 days of your application date, you can earn $100 bonus cash.
  • EdVest: This company is the non-profit student loan program of the state of New Hampshire which has become available more broadly. Rates are very competitive, ranging from 4.29% – 7.89% (fixed) and 4.05% – 7.65% APR (variable).
  • IHelp : This service will find a community bank. Unfortunately, these community banks don’t have the best interest rates. Fixed rates range from 4.00% to 8.00% APR (for loans up to 15 years). If you want to get a loan from a community bank or credit union, we recommend trying LendKey instead.
  • Purefy: Purefy lenders offer variable rates ranging from 2.57%-8.17% APR and fixed interest rates ranging from 3.25% – 9.66% APR. You can borrow up to $150,000 for up to 15 years. Just answer a few questions on their site, and you can get an indication of the rate.
  • RISLA: Just like New Hampshire, the state of Rhode Island wants to help you save. You can get fixed rates starting as low as 3.49%. And you do not need to have lived or studied in Rhode Island to benefit.

Is it worth it to refinance student loans?

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

This is particularly important if you have Federal loans.

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

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

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

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

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

Is there an origination fee?

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

Is the interest rate fixed or variable?

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

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

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

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

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

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Earning Interest

Best Money Market Rates & Accounts – September 2018

Editorial Note: 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 prior to publication.

Updated September 1, 2018

Traditional banks are paying very low interest rates on money market accounts. For example, BB&T pays between 0.01% and 0.04% APY. Fortunately, you do not need to settle for such ridiculously low rates. You can easily find the best money market rates at internet banks paying 1.85% or more. If you put $50,000 into BB&T’s account at 0.04%, you will only earn $20 of interest over one year. That same money in an account paying 1.85% would earn you $925 of interest. And you can typically open and fund an online money market account in less than 10 minutes. Also, the differences between savings accounts and money market accounts are narrowing because rates on money market account are increasing each year. You can currently earn the same top rate with a savings account from one bank and a money market account from another.

MagnifyMoney searches over 12,000 banks and credit unions to find the money market accounts paying the highest interest rates. Competition has been increasing and there is a pricing war. As a result, this month there are a lot of new names on the list (many of which you probably will not recognize). Here are the best rates for September 2018:

1. High Rate: CIT Bank – 1.85% APY, $100 minimum balance amount

Money Market Account from CIT Bank CIT Bank recently launched a money market account with a 1.85% APY. You only need $100 to open the account and start earning the APY, and they don’t charge any monthly maintenance fees. If you appreciate the option to write checks with your money market account, or use a debit or ATM card to withdraw funds, this account may not be for you. You can fund the account with ACH, mobile check deposit, or by mailing a check directly to the bank. Accessing funds can be easily done through their online banking platform or mobile banking app. Just keep in mind that due to federal regulations, you’re not able to conduct more than six transactions in a statement cycle. CIT Bank will charge a $10 fee for each additional transaction. While CIT is a thriving bank, you can be assured that your funds are protected by the FDIC up to the legal limit.

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

Online Savings Account from Ally BankAlly Bank is a very popular internet-only bank. If you keep a daily balance of $5,000 or less, you will earn the 0.90% APY. If you’re able to keep a minimum daily balance of $25,000 the APY increases to 1.00%. Although the interest rate on the money market account is not the highest, Ally does offer a very competitive overall package – particularly if you link the account to an Ally checking account. The checking account has no minimum balance and no monthly fee. You can link your money market account to your checking account to provide overdraft protection. Money would be transferred to your checking account with no transaction fee if you ever made a mistake. You would be able to access your money market account with your Ally ATM card, which has free AllPoint access and up to $10 of non-Ally ATM fees reimbursed every month. This money market account is a nice way to provide yourself with overdraft protection while earning interest. If you don’t need check-writing capabilities on your savings, you would still be better off with Ally’s savings account.

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3. Highest Overall Rate: Virtual Bank – 2.01% APY, no minimum balance to earn APY

eMoneyMarket from Virtual BankVirtual Bank, a division of IBERIABANK, is currently offering an introductory rate on their money market account that is the highest available. This rate is guaranteed for 12 months and will adjust to the standard rate that is in effect at the time. New customers can earn the 2.01% APY by depositing a minimum of $100. While there isn’t a minimum balance requirement to earn the APY, there is a balance requirement to avoid incurring the $5 monthly service fee. All you’ll have to do is maintain a daily minimum balance of $100 and they’ll waive the monthly fee. While this account doesn’t have any check writing capabilities, you can easily move money in and out of the account via ACH. Virtual Bank has a mobile app, that has the mobile check deposit feature, in addition to their online banking platform.

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4. High Rate: BankPurely – 2.25% APY, $25,000 minimum balance, ATM access

BankPurely
BankPurely, a division of Flushing Bank, currently offers a 2.25% APY on their money market account. You’ll have to either deposit a minimum amount of $25,000 or grow your balance to that amount in order to earn interest. If you’re not able to deposit that amount, you may want to go with VirtualBank or Sallie Mae since they have the same rate for a lower deposit amount. However, BankPurely does provide an ATM card, which gives you access to surcharge-free ATMs within the Allpoint Network. Just keep in mind that you’ll be limited to withdrawing $1,000 per business day. Per Federal law, you’ll also be restricted to making six transfers per month. You’ll have access to online banking as well as to their mobile banking app to manage your account. Plus, if you open an account with BankPurely, they’ll plant a tree.

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5. Top Choice: Sallie Mae – 1.90% APY, no minimum balance and checks available

Money Market from Sallie Mae BankIf you have student loan debt, you probably are not very excited to see Sallie Mae at the top of this list. However, many people are unaware that Sallie Mae also operates an internet-only FDIC-insured bank with some of the best interest rates in the country. You can earn 1.90% APY, compounded daily and paid monthly. There is no minimum balance and no monthly maintenance fees. You will have check-writing capabilities (although the standard money market limit of six per month applies to this account). The easiest (and best) way to fund and access your funds is via electronic transfer from your existing checking account. If you want a simple account with no fees and check access – this is a good bet. Sallie Mae has just recently increased the APY, making this one the best rates in the country.

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6. High Rate: ableBanking – 1.85% APY, $250 minimum balance, but no check-writing

Money Market Savings from ableBankingableBanking is a division of Northeast Bancorp, a community bank headquartered in Maine since 1872. The bank has over $1 billion in assets, and your deposit would be FDIC insured up to the legal limit. At 1.85% APY, this is the highest money market rate that we have been able to find (from a bank) in the country. There is a minimum deposit of $250, no monthly fee and you do not need to be a resident of Maine (any US resident can open an account). Unfortunately, the account does not come with check-writing privileges and there is no ATM access. You can deposit and access your funds via ACH (electronic transfer), which can take a couple of days. Just remember: there is a limit of 6 withdrawals per calendar month. When we called to ask questions about the account, we could reach a customer service representative very quickly. This is a good option from a small bank with a great high rate.

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7. Capital One – 1.85% APY, $10,000 minimum balance to earn APY

360 Money Market from Capital OneYou may think of credit cards when you think of Capital One, but don’t overlook their deposit accounts. While they don’t require a minimum deposit amount to open the account, you will have to maintain a balance of $10,000 or more to earn their 1.85% APY. If your balance is less than that, you’ll earn an APY of 0.85%They don’t impose any monthly fees, and while they don’t offer checks, they do provide you with an ATM card that you can use to withdraw up to $1,000 per day. You can make an unlimited amount of withdrawals from an ATM per month, but remember that you’re limited to making only six transfers per cycle due to Federal Law. However, Capital One will close the account if you go over six transfers three times within a 12-month period. This is an online-only account, so you can’t go to a branch to open or maintain the account. Fortunately, they make banking-on-the-go easy with their mobile banking app.

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8. High Rate: EBSB Direct – 1.80% APY, $10,000 minimum balance, checks and ATM access available

EBSB Direct
East Boston Savings Bank, or EBSB Direct, is a fairly large bank located in Massachusetts. They have over $5 billion in assets and have only been around since 1991. Currently, they’re offering a 1.80% APY on their money market account. While you’ll only need $2,500 to open the account, you’ll have to have a minimum balance amount of $10,000 to earn the APY. If you have a balance between $10 and $10,000, you’ll earn an APY of 0.50%. While this account does come with Visa debit card and checks, they do charge a monthly maintenance fee of $8 if you’re not able to maintain a minimum daily balance amount of $2,500 during the statement cycle. You’ll be limited to six transfers per statement cycle per Regulation D and if you exceed that amount of transfer, EBSB Direct will charge $15 per additional transfer. While they offer online banking, they don’t currently have a mobile banking app.

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9. High Rate: Salem Five – 1.75% APY, $100 minimum to open, but no check-writing

Salem Five
With a minimum deposit amount of $100, you can open a money market account with Salem Five. While they don’t offer check-writing capabilities, they do issue a debit card to make withdrawing funds easier. Salem Five also complies with Regulation D by limiting the number of transactions account holders can make to six. If the limit is exceeded, they’ll charge $10 per additional transaction. One other limitation this bank imposes is an External Transfer limit. You will only be able to transfer $5,000 per day and $20,000 per month. So, this account may not be right for you if you tend to withdraw more those amounts. While Salem Five truly does offer a great rate for the right price with this account, they do have a lot of limitations including their online and mobile experience.

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10. High Rate: My Banking Direct – 1.75% APY, $25,000 minimum balance, checks available

My Banking Direct
My Banking Direct is part of New York Community Bank, which was established in 1859. New York Community Bank created My Banking Direct as a way to offer competitive rates to consumers and the money market account does just that. Currently, the money market account offers a high rate of 1.75%, but only if you deposit and maintain a balance of $25,000. However, you only need $2,500 to open the account and begin earning 0.25% APY. If your balance increases to $5,000 or you deposit the amount when you open this account, you’ll still earn a very good APY of 1.50%. My Banking Direct doesn’t charge any monthly fees on this account and provides check-writing capabilities. In addition to managing this account online, they also have a mobile app with mobile deposit functionality.

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11. High Rate: Self-Help Credit Union – up to 1.57% APY, $500 minimum deposit and minimum balance

Money Market from Self-Help Credit UnionSelf-Help is a credit union that anyone can join. If you don’t live, work or worship in one of their eligible counties, you can join by donating $5 to the Center for Community Self-Help. The contribution is tax deductible and will make you eligible for credit union membership. (You can learn more about how to join the credit union here.) At a credit union, your funds are insured up to $250,000 – but it is by the NCUA instead of the FDIC. The money market offers an APY of 1.57% on balances from that are at least $500. You also need to maintain the balance during the month – otherwise you will be charged a monthly maintenance fee. You are allowed 6 free withdrawals or transfers from the account each month (including checks).

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Special Mention: Great Rate for Small Deposits: Premier Members Credit Union – 4.00% APY up to $2k

Premier Members Credit Union

Premier Members Credit Union is open to anyone willing to make a $5 donation Impact on Education, a charity for the Boulder Valley School District. This credit union is currently offering an incredible rate of 4.00% with only $5 to open the account. You can earn this APY on balances up to $2,000. Amazingly, even if you grow the balance up to $5,000, you’ll earn 1.49% APY. As the balance increases, the APY decreases to the following:

  • $5,000.01-$10,000: 0.75%
  • $10,000.01-$50,000: 0.50%
  • $50,000.01-$100,000: 0.40%
  • $100,000.01-$250,000: 0.35%
  • $250,000.01+: 0.30%

Premier Members Credit Union rewards low balance savers by placing the highest rate with the lowest deposit, but if the balance grows they start using a reverse tier system where they blend the APY as the balance grows. Checks are available with this account, but you can only make six withdrawals per month. Each additional withdrawal will be assessed a $10 fee.

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3 Questions To Ask Before Opening A Money Market Account

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

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

In general, you tend to get slightly lower interest rates on money market accounts because you have check-writing capabilities. The best savings accounts pay at least 1.50% APY – very similar to the rates on this page. But at Ally, for example, you can get 1.35% APY on a savings account (no check-writing) and 0.90% on the money market account (with check writing).   

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

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

Savings accounts and money market accounts pay much lower interest rates than CDs. Right now you can easily get a 1-year CD paying 1.85% APY (with only a $2,000 minimum). You can find the best CD rates here. If you build a CD ladder, you can take advantage of 5-year rates that are now as high as 3.00%.

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

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

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

For example, Vanguard offers the Prime Money Market Fund. Like other money market funds, this one “invests in short-term, high-quality securities.” Its objective is to keep the fund trading at $1 and generate a decent return. Right now that return is 1.00% – a bit lower than the returns you see from the money market accounts listed in this article. However, money market funds do not have FDIC insurance.

Most people compare the return of a money market fund (sold by their broker) to the interest rate paid by a traditional bank (0.03%, sold by their local bank teller). As a result, they are willing to take the risk of a money market fund. However, as you can see from the best money market accounts in this article, you can get FDIC insurance and beat the return of most funds. Why earn 1.00% with no FDIC-insurance when you can easily earn 1.60% and have FDIC insurance.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

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Building Credit

View Your Free FICO Score for all 3 Credit Bureaus

Editorial Note: 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 prior to publication. This site may be compensated through a credit card partnership.

View Your Free FICO Score for all 3 Credit Bureaus

There are lots of free credit scores floating around, but most of them are not the true FICO® score that lenders subscribe to and use as part of their decision.

However FICO® is working to change that by allowing banks and credit unions to give you free ongoing access to the real score they use to make lending decisions as long as you are an account holder.

The easiest place for anyone to get their free FICO® score is via the Discover Credit Scorecard. You do not need to be a customer of Discover – anyone can register and get their official FICO® score for free. The data is from the Experian credit bureau.

You can also get a free Experian FICO® 8 score at freecreditscore.com. While that site used to require you to enter your credit card to get information, your FICO® score and Experian report are completely free with no credit card information needed.

To find out where to get your FICO® score from the other credit bureaus, read on.


Every bank chooses at least one of three credit bureaus to calculate a FICO® score: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The FICO® score one bank uses can be different than another depending on which credit bureau they pulled a report from.

The good news is, you can now see your real, free FICO® score from all three credit bureaus depending on which banks hold your accounts. FICO® itself charges almost $60 for you to see those scores, though they also throw in full copies of your credit reports, which the free bank scores do not.

Here’s where to find your real, free FICO® scores from banks or credit unions anyone can join:

Equifax Scores

Citibank

  • Available with: Any Citibank branded credit card. This does not include Citibank cards with other brands like the American AAdvantage or Hilton HHonors cards.
  • Score updated: Monthly
  • Where to find it: On your online account or the Citi app
  • Learn more

DCU Credit Union

  • Available with: Any credit card, or a checking account with direct deposit
  • Score updated: Monthly
  • Where to find it: Look for an invitation in your online account
  • Learn more

Huntington Bank

  • Available with: The Huntington Voice credit card – you will get a FICO® Bankcard Score 2 from Equifax
  • Where to find it: Log into your account and you’ll see a link

PenFed

  • Available with: PenFed members with active checking accounts, installment loans, and revolving lines of credit
  • Score updated: When PenFed refreshes – no set schedule
  • Where to find it: Login to your account and click ‘Your FICO® Score is Ready’
  • Notes: PenFed uses a more advanced ‘Next Gen’ FICO® score that has a different scale than traditional FICO® scores, with 150 as the lowest score and 950 as the highest score. Most banks use a score with a scale of 300 to 850. Because of this the score you see on PenFed’s site may be higher or lower than what you see from others.
  • Learn more

Experian Scores

Capital One and American Express regularly use Experian’s FICO® among others for credit decisions.

American Express

  • Available with: Any American Express credit card
  • Score updated: Monthly
  • Where to find it: On your online account

Chase

  • Available with: Chase Slate®* accounts
  • Score updated: Monthly
  • Learn more

Discover

  • Available with: All Discover cards and if you are not a Discover cardholder, you can sign up to get your FICO® score for free by visiting creditscorecard.com.
  • Score updated: Monthly
  • Where to find it: On your statement and online

First National Bank of Omaha

  • Available with: Any credit card account
  • Score updated: Monthly
  • Where to find it: On your online account
  • Learn more

Wells Fargo

  • Available with: Any Wells Fargo credit card
  • Score updated: Monthly
  • Where to find it: On your online account

Please note: a previous version of this blog post noted that USAA provides a free FICO® credit score. USAA actually provides a free VantageScore.

TransUnion Scores

Bank of America

  • Available with: Select credit card accounts
  • Score updated: Monthly, with history
  • Where to find it: Link available on your account summary page under the ‘Tools and Investing’ section

Barclays

  • Available with: Any credit card account
  • Score updated: Monthly
  • Where to find it: Link available on your account summary page

Walmart / Sam’s Club

  • Available with: Walmart Credit Card, Walmart MasterCard, or Sam’s Club Credit Card
  • Score updated: Monthly
  • Where to find it: At Walmart.com/creditlogin, only if you enroll in online delivery of monthly statements
  • Learn more

Unknown Bureau

 State Employees Credit Union of North Carolina

  • Available to all credit card holders

Other, less open to the public free FICO® providers include:

  • Ally, for auto loan holders
  • Hyundai and Kia Motor Finance offer a quarterly score, but only if you’re a new buyer, recent college grad and bring your diploma to the dealer at the time of purchase.
  • Sallie Mae offers a free, quarterly TransUnion score if you receive a new Smart Option Student.
  • Merrick Bank doesn’t have open applications, but does offer free scores to its cardholders.
  • Some credit unions with limited membership also offer scores, so check yours to see if it provides them.

Find the Best Credit Score for Your Needs:

The credit score that you are looking for varies, depending on what type of credit you are looking to apply for. Each credit score version has different benefits, and lenders pull certain scores in accordance with your application.

Credit Score Monitoring

The best options: All VantageScores and FICO® scores

If you’re simply looking to monitor your credit score and stay on top of your credit, either VantageScore or FICO® score will suffice.

New Credit Card

The best options: FICO® Bankcard Scores or FICO® Score 8 primarily; FICO® Score 3

Where to get them: Get your FICO® Score 8 from Credit Scorecard by Discover or freecreditscore.com

When applying for a new credit card, these scores are most likely to be pulled by credit card issuers. Lenders may pull your score from one or all three bureaus.

Mortgage Loans and Mortgage ReFis

The best options: FICO® Scores 2, 4, 5

Where to get them: myFICO for $59.85

These scores are used in the majority of mortgage-related credit evaluations, with lenders pulling your score from all three bureaus. However, these scores are not free and can only be purchased at myFICO.

Auto Loans

The best options: FICO® Auto Scores 2, 4, 5, 8, 9

Where to get them:myFICO for $59.85

Auto scores are industry-specific and used in the majority of auto-financing credit evaluations. Lenders may pull your score from one or all three bureaus. Unfortunately, these scores are not free and need to be purchased at myFICO.

Personal Loans, Student Loans, and Retail Credit

The best option: FICO® Score 8

Where to get it: Credit Scorecard by Discover or freecreditscore.com

For other financial products such as personal loans, student loans, and retail credit, FICO® Score 8 is best. This is the credit score most widely used by lenders, and they may pull your score from one or all three bureaus when making a decision.

Other Scores and Their Value

FICO® Score 9 is the newest model and not widely used yet. It is also not available for free at this time. The benefits of this score are that it doesn’t penalize you for paid collections and reduces the ding you get from unpaid medical collections. See our review for more information.

The FICO® NextGen score is used to assess credit risk, but only a small number of lenders use it due to its 150-950 scoring range and older model.

*The information related to the Chase Slate® has been collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

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Get A Pre-Approved Personal Loan

$

Won’t impact your credit score

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Balance Transfer, Best of, Pay Down My Debt

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

Editorial Note: 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 prior to publication. This site may be compensated through a credit card partnership.

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.

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

APPLY NOW Secured

on American Express’s secure website

Terms Apply

Rates & Fees

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

Annual fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 15 Months
Intro BT APR
0% for 15 Months
Balance Transfer Fee
$0 balance transfer fee.
Regular Purchase APR
14.74%-25.74% Variable
Rewards Rate
2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x), 1x points on other purchases.
Credit required
good-credit
Excellent/Good

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express includes an extended intro period now at an intro 0% for 15 Months on balance transfers and purchases (14.74%-25.74% Variable APR after the promo period ends) and a $0 balance transfer fee. (For transfers requested within 60 days of account opening.) This offer is in direct competition with other $0 intro balance transfer fee cards like Chase Slate®.
In addition to the intro periods, you can benefit from a rewards program tailored to U.S. supermarket spenders where you earn 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x), 1x points on other purchases.
The intro offers, coupled with the rewards program make The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express the frontrunner among balance transfer cards, outpacing competitors. This card presents cardholders with the unique opportunity to transfer a balance and make a large purchase during the intro period, all while earning rewards on new purchases. To qualify for this card, you need Excellent/Good credit.
Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Simple Welcome Offer
  • The 2-point bonus on grocery store spending is capped
  • You need 20 transactions each month to get the 20% bonus

 

Read our full review of The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express here.

 

Chase Slate®

Chase Slate®

The information related to the Chase Slate® has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

With Chase Slate® you can save with a 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months and a balance transfer fee that’s Intro $0 on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that: Either $5 or 5%, whichever is greater.  There’s also a 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months. After the intro periods end, a 16.74% - 25.49% Variable APR applies. This card also has a $0 annual fee. Plus, you can see monthly updates to your FICO® Score and the reasons behind your score for free.

You can get longer transfer periods by paying a fee (either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater), 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.

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, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • There 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.

BankAmericard® Credit Card

BankAmericard® credit card

There is a 0% Introductory APR on purchases for 15 billing cycles and an introductory $0 balance transfer fee for the first 60 days your account is open. After that, the fee for future balance transfers is 3% (min. $10). There’s also an 0% Introductory APR on purchases for 15 billing cycles. After that, a 14.74% - 24.74% Variable APR will apply.
 You need Excellent/Good credit to get this card and you can only transfer debt that is not already at Bank of America. You can get longer transfer periods by paying a fee, so this deal is generally best if you have a balance you know you’ll pay in full by the end of the 15-month promotional period.
Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • No penalty APR – paying late won’t automatically raise your rate (APR)
  • There are late payment and cash advance fees

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

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on Bank Of America’s secure website

 

 

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.

Discover it® Balance Transfer

Decent 0% intro balance transfer period

Discover it® Balance Transfer: Intro APR of 0% for 18 months, 3% BT fee.

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

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is waived during the balance transfer period, no foreign transaction fees and no late fee for your first late payment
  • The range of the purchase interest rate based on your credit history.  The 13.74% - 24.74% Variable 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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on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card– 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer

Longest 0% intro balance transfer card

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card – 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer: 0%* for 21 months on Balance Transfers*, 5% balance transfer fee

The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card – 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer has the longest intro period on our list at intro 0%* for 21 months on Balance Transfers* made within 4 months from account opening. There is also an intro 0%* for 12 months on Purchases*. After the intro periods end, a 14.74% - 24.74%* (Variable) APR applies. The balance transfer fee is typical at 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum. This provides plenty of time for you to pay off your debt. There are several other perks that make this card great: no annual fee, Citi® Private Pass®, and Citi® Concierge.

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

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

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on Citibank’s secure website

Low rate balance transfers

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

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

Variable Rate Credit Visa®Card from UNIFY Financial CU

Long low rate balance transfer card

Unify Financial Credit Union – 6.74%-18.00% Variable APR, no expiration, $0 BT fee

If you need a long time to pay off at a reasonable rate, and have great credit, it’s hard to beat this deal from Unify Financial Credit Union, with an APR of 6.74%-18.00% Variable with no expiration. The rate is variable, but it only varies with the Prime Rate, so it won’t fluctuate much more than say a variable rate mortgage. There is also no balance transfer fee.

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

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

Tip: If you’re credit’s not great, this probably isn’t for you, as the APR chosen for your account is anywhere between 6.74%-18.00% Variable.

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on UNIFY Financial Credit Union’s secure website

Prime Rewards Credit Card from SunTrust Bank

Long low rate balance transfer card

SunTrust Prime Rewards – 4.75% variable APR for 36 months, $0 intro BT fee

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

The deal is you get the prime rate for 3 years with no intro balance transfer fee. That’s currently 4.75% variable, though your rate will change if the prime rate changes, either up or down, and you have 60 days to complete your transfer with no fee. After that, it’s $10 or 3% of the amount of the transfer, whichever is greater. Also beware the prime rate deal isn’t for new purchases, so only use this card for a balance transfer.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • The range of the purchase interest rate is based on your credit history: 12.74%-22.74% (v), and is more than 10%, which is high.
  • There are late payment and cash advance fees.

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

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on SunTrust Bank’s secure website

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.

Platinum Mastercard® from Aspire FCU

For less than perfect credit

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

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

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

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • 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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on Aspire Federal Credit Union’s secure website

2. Learn more

Checklist before you transfer

Never use a credit card at an ATM

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

Always pay on time.

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

Get the transfer done within 60 days

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

Don’t spend on the card

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

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

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

Comparison tools

Savings calculator – which card is best?

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

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.

Questions and Answers

It depends, some credit card companies may allow you to transfer debt from any credit card, regardless of who owns it. Though, they may require you to first add that person as an authorized user to transfer the debt. Just remember that once the debt is transferred, it becomes your legal liability. You can call the credit card company prior to applying for a card to check if you’re able to transfer debt from an account where you are not the primary account holder.

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.

If you transfer your debt and use your card responsibly to pay off your balance before the intro period ends, then there is no trap associated with the 0% APR period. But, if you neglect making payments and end up with a balance post-intro period, you can easily fall into a trap of high debt — similar to the one you left when you transferred the balance. As a rule of thumb, use the intro 0% APR period to your advantage and pay off ALL your debt before it ends, otherwise you’ll start to accumulate high interest charges.

Balance transfers can be easily completed online or over the phone. After logging in to your account, you can navigate to your balance transfer and submit the request. If you rather speak to a representative, simply call the number on the back of your card. For both options, you will need to have the account number of the card with the debt and the amount you wish to transfer ready.

You will be charged a late fee by missing a payment and may put your introductory interest rate in jeopardy. Many issuers state in the terms and conditions that defaulting on your account may cause you to lose out on the promotional APR associated with the balance transfer offer. To avoid this, set up autopay for at least the minimum amount due.

No, you can’t. Balances can only be transferred between cards from different banks. That includes co-branded cards, so be sure to check which issuer your card is before applying for a balance transfer card — since you don’t want to find out after you’ve been approved that both cards are backed by the same issuer.

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. However, if you transfer a balance when you open a card, you may be able to. Some issuers state in their terms and conditions that balance transfers on new accounts will be processed at a slower rate compared with those of old accounts. You may be able to cancel your transfer during this time.

Yes, it is possible to transfer the same debt multiple times. Just remember, if there is a balance transfer fee, you could be charged that fee every time you transfer the debt. Also, don’t keep on transferring your debt without making payments because you won’t accomplish much.

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 are given. Transferring a portion of your debt is more beneficial than transferring none.

Yes, you decide how much you want to transfer to each credit card. For example, if you have $3,000 in debt, you can transfer $2,000 to Card A and $1,000 to Card B.

No, balance transfers are excluded from earning any form of rewards whether it’s points, miles or cash back.

No, there is no penalty. You can pay off your debt whenever you want without a penalty. It’s key to pay off your balance as soon as possible and within the intro period to avoid carrying a balance post-intro period.

Mathematically, the best balance transfer credit cards are no fee, 0% intro APR offers. You literally pay nothing to transfer your balance and can save hundreds of dollars in interest had you left your balance on a high APR card. Check out our list of the best no-fee balance transfer cards here. However, those cards tend to have shorter intro periods of 15 months or less, so you may need more time to pay off your balance.

If you are running out of time on your intro APR and you still have a balance, don’t sweat it. At least two months before your existing intro period ends, start looking for a new balance transfer offer from a different issuer. Transfer any remaining balance to the card with the new 0% intro offer. This can provide you with the additional time needed to pay off your balance. Ideally, look for a card that has a 0% intro APR and also no balance transfer fee.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

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Balance Transfer, Best of, Pay Down My Debt

9 Best 0% APR Credit Card Offers – September 2018

Editorial Note: 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 prior to publication. This site may be compensated through a credit card partnership.

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

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

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

1. The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express – Introductory 0% for 15 Months on balance transfers and purchases, $0 balance transfer fee.

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

APPLY NOW Secured

on American Express’s secure website

Terms Apply

Rates & Fees


This offer edges out competitors with the longest 0% intro period and standout perks. The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express has increased value with an intro 0% for 15 Months on purchases and balance transfers, then 14.74%-25.74% Variable APR and a $0 balance transfer fee. (For transfers requested within 60 days of account opening.) In addition to the great balance transfer offer, you can earn rewards — 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x), 1x points on other purchases.

Note: There are other 15-month offers from big banks offering intro $0 balance transfer fees at the end of this post, but below we’ve listed our favorite offers from credit unions and lesser known banks that provide balance transfer offers up to 12 months. However, if you need a longer intro period, you might be better off paying a standard 3% balance transfer fee for a card like the Discover it® Balance Transfer which offers an intro 0% for 18 months on balance transfers (after, 13.74% - 24.74% Variable APR).

2. Edward Jones World MasterCard® – Intro 0% for 12 billing cycles on balance transfers through 10/31/2018, NO FEE

Edward Jones World MasterCard®

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on Edward Jones’s secure website

You’ll need to go to an Edward Jones branch to open up an account first if you want this deal. Edward Jones is an investment advisory company, so they’ll want to have a conversation about your retirement needs. But you don’t need to have money in stocks to be a customer of Edward Jones and try to get this card. Just beware that you only have 60 days to complete your transfer to lock in the intro 0% for 12 billing cycles, and after the intro period a 14.74% Variable APR applies. This deal expires 10/31/2018.

3. Choice Rewards World MasterCard® from First Tech FCU – Intro 0% for 12 months on balance transfers, NO FEE

Choice Rewards World MasterCard® from First Tech FCU

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on First Technology Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Anyone can join First Tech Federal Credit Union by becoming a member of the Financial Fitness Association for $8, or the Computer History Museum for $15. You can apply for the card without joining first. The intro 0% for 12 months and no transfer fee on balances transferred within first 90 days of account opening is for the Choice Rewards World MasterCard® from First Tech FCU. After the intro period, an APR of 11.74%-18.00% variable applies. You also Earn 20,000 Rewards Points when you spend $3,000 in your first two months.

4. Rewards Visa Card from La Capitol FCU – Intro 0% for 12 months on balance transfers and purchases, NO FEE

Visa Rewards Card from La Capitol FCU

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on La Capitol Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Anyone can join La Capitol Federal Credit Union by becoming a member of the Louisiana Association for Personal Financial Achievement, which costs $20. Just indicate that’s how you want to be eligible when you apply for the card – no need to join before you apply. And La Capitol accepts members from all across the country, so you don’t have to live in Louisiana to take advantage of this deal on the Rewards Visa Card from La Capitol FCU. The introductory 0% for 12 months on balance transfers applies to balances transferred within first 90 days of account opening. After the intro period, a 12.00%-18.00% variable APR applies.

5. Visa® Signature Credit Card from Purdue FCU – Intro 0% for 12 months on balance transfers and purchases, NO FEE

Visa® Signature Credit Card from Purdue FCU

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on Purdue FCU’s secure website

The intro 0% for 12 months offer is only for their Visa® Signature Credit Card – other cards have a higher intro rate. After the intro period ends, 11.50%-17.50% Fixed APR applies. The Purdue Federal Credit Union doesn’t have open membership, but one way to be eligible for credit union membership is to join the Purdue University Alumni Association as a Friend of the University.

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

6. Premier America Credit Union – 0% Intro APR for 6 months on balance transfers and purchases, NO FEE

Premier Privileges Rewards Mastercard® from Premier America CU

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on Premier America’s secure website

Premier America is unique because it has the Student Mastercard® from Premier America CU that’s eligible for the intro 0% for 6 months on balance transfers, though credit limits on that card are $500 – $2,000. There is an 11.50% Variable APR after the intro period. There’s also a card for those with no credit history – the Premier First Rewards Privileges® from Premier America CU, with limits of $1,000 – $2,000 and a 19.00% Variable APR. If you’re looking for a bigger line, the Premier Privileges Rewards Mastercard® from Premier America CU is available with limits up to $50,000 and a 8.45% - 17.95% Variable APR.

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

7. Visa Platinum Card from Money One FCU – as low as 0% intro APR for 6 months on balance transfers and purchases, NO FEE

Visa Platinum Card from Money One FCU

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on Money One Federal’s secure website

Anyone can join Money One Federal by making a $20 donation to Gifts of Easter Seals. And you can apply without being a member. You’ll see a drop down option during the application process that lets you select Gifts of Easter Seals as the way you plan to become a member of the credit union. Credit lines for the Visa Platinum Card from Money One FCU are as high as $25,000. After the as low as 0% intro apr for 6 months, there’s a 8.50% to 17.80% Variable APR.

Other 0% intro APR cards to consider

8. Andigo Credit Union – Intro 0% for 6 months on balance transfers and purchases, NO FEE

Visa Platinum Card from andigo

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on Andigo’s secure website

You’ll have a choice to apply for the Visa Platinum Cash Back Card from andigo, Visa Platinum Rewards Card from andigo, or Visa Platinum Card from andigo. The Visa Platinum Card from andigo has a lower ongoing APR at 11.40% - 20.40% Variable, compared to 11.99% - 20.99% Variable for the Visa Platinum Cash Back Card from andigo and 13.40% - 22.40% Variable for the Visa Platinum Rewards Card from andigo. So, if you’re not sure you’ll pay it all off in 6 months, the Visa Platinum Card from andigo is a better bet.

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

9. ETFCU's Platinum Rewards Credit Card – Intro 0% for 6 billing cycles on balance transfers, NO FEE

ETFCU's Platinum Rewards Credit Card

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on Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union’s secure website

You don’t need to be a teacher to join this credit union. Just make a $5 donation to Mater Dei Friends & Alumni Association. The ETFCU's Platinum Rewards Credit Card has an ongoing APR of 10.00% to 17.70% Variable, so you can enjoy a decent rate even after the intro deal ends.

10. Elements Financial Platinum Visa® Credit Card – Intro 0% for 6 months on balance transfers and purchases, NO FEE

Elements Financial Platinum Visa® Credit Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on ELFCU’s secure website

To become a member and apply, you’ll just need to join TruDirection, a financial literacy organization. It costs just $5 and you can join as part of the application process. The ongoing APR is 10.74% Variable which is lower than typical cards.

11. Justice Federal Credit Union – Intro 0% for 6 months on purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances, NO FEE

Student VISA® Rewards Credit Card from Justice FCU

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on Justice Federal Credit Union’s secure website

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

You can apply as a non-member online to get a decision before joining. And Justice is unique in that the Student VISA® Rewards Credit Card from Justice FCU is also eligible for the intro 0% for 6 months on purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances. So, if your credit history is limited and you’re trying to deal with a balance on your very first card, this could be an option. The APR after the intro period ends is 16.90% fixed.

12. Platinum Visa Card from Michigan State FCU – Intro 0% for 6 months on balance transfers, NO FEE

Platinum Visa Card from Michigan State FCU

APPLY NOW Secured

on Michigan State University Federal Credit Union’s secure website

There is the option to apply for the Cash Back Platinum Plus Visa Credit Card from Michigan State FCU or the Platinum Visa Card from Michigan State FCU. The Platinum Visa Card from Michigan State FCU has a lower ongoing APR at 8.90% APR - 16.90% variable, compared to the 12.90% APR - 17.90% variable APR for the Cash Back Platinum Plus Visa Credit Card from Michigan State FCU which can earn 1% cash back on all purchases. Anyone can join the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union by first becoming a member of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. However, this comes at a high fee of $30 for one year.

Other offers from big banks

13. Chase Slate® – 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months and 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months, $0 Introductory Balance Transfer Fee

This deal is easy to find – Chase is one of the biggest banks and makes this credit card deal well known. Save with a 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months and Intro $0 on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that: Either $5 or 5%, whichever is greater. You also get a 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and $0 annual fee. After the intro period, the APR is currently 16.74% - 25.49% Variable. Plus, see monthly updates to your free FICO® Score and the reasons behind your score for free.’

The information related to the Chase Slate® has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

14. BankAmericard® credit card – 0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles, $0 Introductory Balance Transfer Fee

BankAmericard® Credit Card

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on Bank Of America’s secure website

Cardholders can benefit from an 0% Introductory APR on purchases for 15 billing cycles and an introductory $0 balance transfer fee for the first 60 days your account is open. After that, the fee for future balance transfers is 3% (min. $10). Once the intro period ends, there is a 14.74% - 24.74% Variable APR. You can benefit from a $0 annual fee and access to your free FICO® Score.

Are these the best deals for you?

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

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

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

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

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

promo balancetransfer wide

The savings from just one balance transfer can be substantial.

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

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

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

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

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

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

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Advertiser Disclosure

Best of, Credit Cards

Credit Cards: Find the Best Credit Card Offers & Deals – September 2018

Editorial Note: 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 prior to publication. This site may be compensated through a credit card partnership.

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

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

 

Top Credit Card for 2018

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

APPLY NOW Secured

on American Express’s secure website

Terms Apply

Rates & Fees

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

Annual fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 15 Months
Intro BT APR
0% for 15 Months
Balance Transfer Fee
$0 balance transfer fee.
Regular Purchase APR
14.74%-25.74% Variable
Rewards Rate
2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x), 1x points on other purchases.
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express ranks as our top credit card for 2018. This card offers a combination of benefits that are unmatched among other cards in the market, including 0% intro periods, rewards, and great cardholder perks — all at a $0 annual fee. Cardholders can utilize the intro periods for both balance transfers and purchases by taking over a year to pay off debt without accruing interest. The balance transfer offer has a $0 balance transfer fee. The transfers must be requested within 60 days of account opening, which saves you the typical 3% transfer fee most other cards charge.

Beyond the intro periods, there is a rewards program where cardholders can earn 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x), 1x points on other purchases. This rate is beneficial for people who spend $500 a month at U.S. supermarkets, since this spending allows you to maximize rewards at the higher rate.

The Membership Rewards® points you earn can be redeemed for a variety of options, and a great option for travelers is the ability to transfer points to participating frequent flyer programs including Delta SkyMiles, JetBlue True Blue, Virgin America Elevate, and British Airways Avios. Often these transfers are on a 1:1 rate, with some programs requiring more or less points. Additional redemption options include booking for travel, gift cards, merchandise, pay with points at checkout and statement credit. This card also has a wide range of additional perks that vary from shopping and entertainment benefits to travel and purchase protections.

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

Tip: Make any large purchases or balance transfers as soon as you can so you can benefit from the 0% intro period.

Read our full review of The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express here.

How to Choose and Use a Rewards Card

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

How to Choose

Best Cash Back Credit Cards

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

Best Flat-Rate

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

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

1% When You Buy + 1% When You Pay

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is the best overall cash back credit card. So long as you pay your statement balance in full and on time every month, you will earn 2% cash back. You Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay. The bonus cash back can take up to two billing cycles to post.

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent, Good

Purchase Interest Rate : 15.24% - 25.24%* (Variable) APR

Annual Fee : $0*

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer : 0% for 18 months on Balance Transfers*

BT Fee : 3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.

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

APPLY NOW Secured

on Citibank’s secure website

FULL REVIEW 

Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Unlimited 2% Cash Back on Every Purchase

Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card

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

Transparency Score 1
Transparency Score
  • Simple cash back earning formula
  • No caps on how much cash back you can earn
  • You need to have a Fidelity account in order to redeem your cash back

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent Credit

Purchase Interest Rate :15.74% Variable

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer : None

BT Fee : Either 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater.

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

APPLY NOW Secured

on Fidelity’s secure website

FULL REVIEW 

Best Category Bonuses

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

Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

Unlimited 5% Cash Back on Gas

Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

If you spend a lot of money on gas, there is no better card than this. You can Earn an unlimited 5% cash back on gas and 1% cash back on all other purchases. 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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Transparency Score
  • No limit to the cash back you can earn, even in the bonus category
  • You have to be a member of the credit union to get the card

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good

Purchase Interest Rate : 11.00% - 18.00% Variable

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : N/A

Intro Purchase APR : N/A

Intro Balance Transfer : N/A

BT 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.

APPLY NOW Secured

on Fort Knox Federal’s secure website

Check out other gas credit cards.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

6% Cash Back at U.S. Supermarkets (Up to $6,000 of Spend, then 1%)

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

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

Transparency Score 5
Transparency Score
  • Simple, easy to understand Welcome Offer
  • There is an Annual fee

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent/Good

Purchase Interest Rate : 14.74%-25.74% Variable

Annual Fee : $95

Welcome Offer : $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.

Intro Purchase APR : 0% for 12 months

Intro Balance Transfer : 0% for 12 months

BT Fee : Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

Tip: If you spend less than $200 a month on groceries, you will earn less than 2% cash back (after taking into account the fee) and would be better with Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer or Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card. But, if you spend more each year, this is a great option.

APPLY NOW Secured

on American Express’s secure website

Terms Apply

Rates & Fees

FULL REVIEW 

Check out other grocery credit cards.

Uber Visa Card

4% for Dining Out

Uber Visa Card

This card appears to have millennials’ interests at heart, offering higher rewards rates for eating out and credits toward streaming subscriptions. The Uber Visa Card offers 4% back on dining, 3% back on hotel and airfare, 2% back for online purchases, and 1% on everything else.

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

Another perk: There is a $0 annual fee with this card. And there’s a terrific sign-up bonus – Earn $100 after spending $500 on purchases in the first 90 days. Also, you can earn up to a $50 credit for online subscription services after you spend $5,000 or more on your card per year.

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

Key Information

Purchase interest rate : 16.74% - 25.49% Variable

Annual fee :$0

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

Intro purchase APR : None

Intro balance transfer : None

BT fee : Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

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

FULL REVIEW 

Check out other dining cards.

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

Best Travel Credit Cards

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

Best Credit Cards for U.S. Travel

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card - 25,000 Bonus Points Offer

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

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card - 25,000 Bonus Points Offer

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

There is a $0 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 : Excellent/Good

Purchase Interest Rate : 16.74% - 24.74% Variable APR

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : 25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening

Intro Purchase APR : 0% Introductory APR on purchases for 12 billing cycles

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : None

BT Fee : Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.

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

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on Bank Of America’s secure website

Best Credit Cards for International Travel

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

Platinum Rewards MasterCard® from First Tech FCU

No Annual or Foreign Transaction Fee + Chip and Pin Functionality

Platinum Rewards MasterCard® from First Tech FCU

This card is a great companion for overseas travel with a $0 annual fee or foreign transaction fee. Even better, the card offers chip and pin functionality. Most major credit card issuers in America have rolled out chip and signature, which can be problematic overseas. If you try to use your card at a ticket machine or with a waiter’s portable payment device, you have a good chance of being rejected.

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

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  • $0 annual fee or foreign transaction fees
  • You have to be a member of the credit union

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good

Purchase Interest Rate : 11.74% to 18.00% Variable

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : Earn 10,000 Rewards Points when you spend $2,000 in your first two months

Intro Purchase APR : N/A

Intro Balance Transfer APR : Introductory 0.00% APR balance transfer for 12 months

BT Fee : No balance transfer fee

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

APPLY NOW Secured

on First Technology Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best Foreign Travel for Fair Credit

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

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

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

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Average/Fair/Limited

Purchase Interest Rate : 24.99% (Variable)

Annual Fee : $39

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : None

BT Fee : None

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

 

APPLY NOW Secured

on Capital One’s secure website

FULL REVIEW 
How to Use

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

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

Best Luxury Card

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Airline perks, entertainment benefits, rewards and more

The Platinum Card® from American Express

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

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

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent/Good

Annual Fee : $550

Welcome Offer : 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.

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

 

APPLY NOW Secured

on American Express’s secure website

Terms Apply

Rates & Fees

Best Low Rate Cards

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

How to Choose and Use a Low Rate Credit Card

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

How to Choose

Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards

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

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

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

Chase Slate®

No Fee – introductory 0% on transfers for 15 months

Chase Slate®

The information related to the Chase Slate® has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

With the Chase Slate® credit card you can enjoy an introductory balance transfer offer of 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months and pay an Intro $0 on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that: Either $5 or 5%, whichever is greater. The intro $0 transfer fee is a great way to save money when completing your transfer. In addition to the balance transfer offer, you pay 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months — great for those who want to pay off a large purchase over time without accruing interest.

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent/Good

Purchase Interest Rate : 16.74% - 25.49% Variable APR

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : No bonus

Intro Purchase APR : 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months; then 16.74% - 25.49% Variable APR

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months; then 16.74% - 25.49% Variable APR

 

BT Fee : Intro $0 on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that: Either $5 or 5%, whichever is greater.

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

FULL REVIEW 

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever

0% intro APR on transfers and purchases for 18 months; 3% balance transfer fee

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever

Citibank has a strong intro of 0%* for 18 months on Balance Transfers*. In addition, the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever has some added perks. There are no late fees, no penalty rate and no annual fee. Although you should always try to pay on time, it is nice that this card will not punish you for the occasional mistake. In addition to the balance transfer offer, you pay no interest on purchases for 18 months.

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Transparency Score
  • No late fee, no penalty APR and a $0* annual fee
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • There is a range of interest rates. You won’t know yours until you apply.

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent/Good

Purchase Interest Rate : 15.74% - 25.74%* (Variable)

Annual Fee : $0*

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : 0%* for 18 months on Purchases*

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : 0%* for 18 months on Balance Transfers*

BT Fee : 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum

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

APPLY NOW Secured

on Citibank’s secure website

FULL REVIEW 

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

Best 0% Purchase Credit Cards

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

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card– 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer

0% intro on Purchases for 12 Months

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card – 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer

If you are looking to finance a purchase, Citibank offers the longest 0% intro purchase promotion of any credit card in the MagnifyMoney database. The intro APR on purchases will be 0%* for 12 months on Purchases* after opening the credit card. This is a fantastic length of time for you to pay off your balance. Additionally, the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card – 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer has an intro 0%* for 21 months on Balance Transfers*. There is also a $0* annual fee and the ability to choose your payment due date from any available due date in the beginning, middle or end of the month. After the intro period ends, the APR is 14.74% - 24.74%* (Variable).

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required :Excellent/Good

Purchase Interest Rate : 14.74% - 24.74%* (Variable)

Annual Fee : $0*

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : 0%* for 12 months on Purchases*

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : 0%* for 21 months on Balance Transfers*

BT Fee : 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.

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

APPLY NOW Secured

on Citibank’s secure website

FULL REVIEW 

TruWest Visa® Signature Card

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

TruWest Visa® Signature Card

TruWest is a credit union with restricted membership. Unfortunately, you need to live in certain regions of Texas or Arizona, or work for a few select employers to join. You can learn about membership eligibility here. If you are able to join, you will find a long 0% introductory APR for 18 months period on both purchases and balance transfers (9.65%-10.65% Variable APR, after). 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 balance transfer period, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • There is a range of interest rates. You won’t know yours until you apply.

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent/Good

Regular Purchase & Balance Transfer APR : 9.65%-10.65% Variable

Annual Fee : $0

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

Intro Purchase APR : 0% introductory APR for 18 months

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : 0% introductory APR for 18 months

BT Fee : 3% of the amount of each balance transfer.

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

APPLY NOW Secured

on TruWest Credit Union’s secure website

Best Low Interest Credit Cards

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

Langley Select Visa Platinum Card from Langley FCU

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

Langley Select Visa® Platinum

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

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : as low as 8.50% Variable

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : None

BT Fee : None

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

APPLY NOW Secured

on Langley Federal Credit Union’s secure website

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

How to Use

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

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

Best Cards to Help Build or Rebuild Your Credit Score

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

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

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

How to Choose

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

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

Best Secured Credit Cards if You Have Bad or No Credit

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

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

Discover it® Secured

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

Discover it® Secured

This is our favorite secured credit card. There is a $0 annual fee and you will get free access to your credit score. In order to open the card, you will need to deposit at least $200, depending upon your creditworthiness. If you have previously filed bankruptcy, you still have the chance to be approved. With this secured credit card, you will earn 2% cash back at restaurants or gas stations (on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter) and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

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

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Please refer to issuer's website

Purchase Interest Rate : 24.74% Variable APR

Annual Fee : $0

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

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : 10.99% for 6 months

BT Fee : 3%

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

APPLY NOW Secured

on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

FULL REVIEW 

Rate Advantage Secured Visa by Coastal FCU

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

Rate Advantage Secured Visa

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

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Anyone can apply

Purchase Interest Rate : as low as 16.50% Variable

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : None

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

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

APPLY NOW Secured

on Coastal Credit Union (NC)’s secure website

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

Best Credit Cards if You Have Fair Credit

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

Here are some good cards for people with fair credit:

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

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

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

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

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Average/Fair/Limited

Purchase Interest Rate : 24.99% (Variable)

Annual Fee : $39

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : None

BT Fee : None

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

APPLY NOW Secured

on Capital One’s secure website

FULL REVIEW 

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

How to Use It

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

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

A Special Note: Beware Predatory Companies

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

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

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

Other Benefits of Using a Credit Card

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

Available on Most Credit Cards

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

Available on Some Credit Cards

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

Should You Get a Credit Card?

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

There are two big risks associated with swiping plastic:

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

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

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

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

Which type of card is best for you?

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

Just remember this critical rule when selecting a credit card:

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

FAQ

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

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Best of, Earning Cashback

The Best Cash Back Credit Cards for Every Category – 3% and More in September 2018

Editorial Note: 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 prior to publication. This site may be compensated through a credit card partnership.

credit card and dollar close-up

Note from the Editor: The information related to SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express credit card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

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

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

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

Before you dig into categories, every cash rewards wallet should have one of these cards, with double cash back on everything you spend and $0 annual fee:

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

APPLY NOW Secured

on Citibank’s secure website

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Annual fee
$0*
Rewards Rate
Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay
Regular Purchase APR
15.24% - 25.24%* (Variable)

Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Fidelity’s secure website

Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Unlimited 2% cash back on everyday purchases.
Regular Purchase APR
15.74% Variable

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

The best cash back credit cards with no limit rewards

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

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

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

Airfare – 3%

Uber Visa Card

LEARN MORE 

The information related to Uber Visa Card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Uber Visa Card

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
4% back on dining, 3% back on hotel and airfare, 2% back for online purchases, and 1% on everything else.
Regular Purchase APR
16.74% - 25.49% Variable

The Uber Visa Card* earns 4% back on dining, 3% back on hotel and airfare, 2% back for online purchases, and 1% on everything else. There are also no foreign transaction fees — great if you travel outside the U.S.

Travel – 3%

AAA Member Rewards Visa Signature® Card

LEARN MORE 

The information related to AAA Member Rewards Visa Signature® Card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

AAA Member Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
3 points for eligible travel & AAA purchases, 2 points on gas, grocery store, and drugstore purchases, and 1 point per $1 for all other purchases.
Regular Purchase APR
14.49%-24.49% Variable

The AAA Member Rewards Visa® Card offers 3 points for eligible travel & AAA purchases, 2 points on gas, grocery store, and drugstore purchases, and 1 point per $1 for all other purchases. You don’t have to be a AAA member to get the card.

Supermarkets – 2.55%

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

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on PenFed Credit Union’s secure website

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
5x points on gas at the pump, 3x points on groceries, and 1x points on all other purchases
Regular Purchase APR
11.49% - 17.99% Variable

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

If you spend less than $6,000 a year ($500 a month) on groceries, then the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores. 1% cash back on other purchases. Terms Apply. See Rates & Fees. The $95 annual fee on this card is a better deal vs the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card if you spend about $3,000 a year in groceries (about $250 a month).

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

Gas – 5%

Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

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on Fort Knox Federal’s secure website

Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Earn an unlimited 5% cash back on gas and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Regular Purchase APR
11.00% - 18.00% Variable

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

Another option includes the Sams Club® Mastercard® with 5% at the pump on up to $6,000 worth of gas purchases a year, but you need to be a Sam’s Club member to hold the card.

Dining – 4%

Uber Visa Card

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The information related to Uber Visa Card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Uber Visa Card

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
4% back on dining, 3% back on hotel and airfare, 2% back for online purchases, and 1% on everything else.
Regular Purchase APR
16.74% - 25.49% Variable

*This card earns 4% back on dining, 3% back on hotel and airfare, 2% back for online purchases, and 1% on everything else.

Everything else: Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer (up to  1% + 1%) or Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card (2%)

If you’re willing to pay an annual fee, the Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card card earns Unlimited 3% cash back during the first year; 2.5% cash back afterwards. There is a $59 annual fee, waived the first year This offer is worthwhile if you spend over $1,000 a month on the card. Alliant is targeting this card to people with high income who spend $10,000 or more a month, so it might be tough to get approved.

Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card Or if you live in California, the Marukai Premium JCB Card gives you unlimited 3% cash back during the first year; 2.5% cash back afterwards

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

For unlimited retailer-specific discounts, also consider:

If you want to maximize absolutely everything, read on…

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

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

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

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

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

Advertising Services

With Limits

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

Airfare

Unlimited

With limits

  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – 3X points in one of 10 categories (capped at $2,000 each quarter or 6000 points), and all other purchases earn 1X points.

Quarterly category in 2018

  • 5%: Nusenda Credit Union Cash Rewards – Oct – Dec 2018 – 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

Quarterly category in 2018

Bookstores

With limits

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

Car Rentals

Unlimited

With limits

Cell phone

With limits

    • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
    • 5%: SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express – up to $50,000 in bonus purchases a year. Terms Apply.

Cellular Phone / Landline / Internet / Cable TV

  • 5%: Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card – up to $50,000 in bonus purchases a year

Clothing Stores

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – 3X points in one of 10 categories (capped at $2,000 each quarter or 6000 points), and all other purchases earn 1X points.

Commuting, Taxis

Unlimited

Department Stores

Select U.S. department stores. See the list here.

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – 3X points in one of 10 categories (capped at $2,000 each quarter or 6000 points), and all other purchases earn 1X points.

Quarterly category in 2018

  • 5%: Citi Dividend – October – December 2018 – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)

Discount stores

With limits

  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – 3X points in one of 10 categories (capped at $2,000 each quarter or 6000 points), and all other purchases earn 1X points.

Drug stores

With limits

  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – 3X points in one of 10 categories (capped at $2,000 each quarter or 6000 points), and all other purchases earn 1X points.

Education

Quarterly category in 2018

  • 5%: Nusenda Credit Union Cash Rewards – July – Sept 2018 – 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 Credit Card® – 3X points in one of 10 categories (capped at $2,000 each quarter or 6000 points), and all other purchases earn 1X points.

Quarterly category in 2018

  • 5%: (Best Buy only) Citi Dividend – October – December 2018 – 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 2018

  • 5%: Citi Dividend – April – June 2018 – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)

Gas

Unlimited

With limits

Quarterly category in 2018

  • 5%: Discover it® Cash Back – up to $1,500 when you activate – January – March 2018
  • 5%: Chase Freedom® – up to $1,500 when you activate – January – March 2018
  • 5%: Nusenda Credit Union Cash Rewards – July – September 2018 – up to $1,500
  • 5%: Citi Dividend – January – March 2018 – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)

Supermarket Spending

Unlimited

With limits

Quarterly category in 2018

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

Quarterly category in 2018

  • 5%: Nusenda Credit Union Cash Rewards – April – June 2018 – up to $1,500
  • 5%: (Home Depot only) Citi Dividend – April – June 2018 – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)

Hotels

Unlimited

With limits

Quarterly category in 2018

Movie Theaters

With Limits

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

Quarterly category in 2018

Office Supply Stores

With limits

Restaurants

Unlimited

With Limits

Quarterly category in 2018

Shipping

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

Sporting Goods Stores

With limits

Trains, Cruises, Other Vacation

Unlimited

With limits

Utilities

Walmart

Warehouse Clubs

*The information related to the Uber Visa Card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

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Earning Cashback

Best Rewards Credit Cards: Double miles, 5% cash, and more – September 2018

Editorial Note: 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 prior to publication. This site may be compensated through a credit card partnership.

Rewards Credit Cards Illustration

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

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

 

Intro 0% for 15 months and rewards

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

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on American Express’s secure website

Terms Apply

Rates & Fees

Read Full Review

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

Annual fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 15 Months
Intro BT APR
0% for 15 Months
Balance Transfer Fee
$0 balance transfer fee.
Regular Purchase APR
14.74%-25.74% Variable
Rewards Rate
2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x), 1x points on other purchases.

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express is a $0 annual fee card that earns 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x), 1x points on other purchases.

 

With Membership Rewards® Points, you can turn your points into real airline miles with several frequent flier programs, including Delta SkyMiles, JetBlue True Blue, Virgin America Elevate and British Airways Avios. If you fly Delta and use SkyMiles this is a simple way to build on the SkyMiles you already have without a fee (since the Delta branded cards all have a fee). Check here to see if focusing on convertible points that can turn into real airline miles is a good plan for you.

 

Even better, if you don’t want to deal with airline miles, you have the flexibility to use your points for travel on almost any airline. Just book your flight via the American Express Travel website and pay for it with points. Other redemption options include gift cards, merchandise, pay with points at checkout and statement credit.

 

This card also comes with an intro 0% for 15 Months on purchases that allows you to carry a balance without racking up interest (after the intro period, 14.74%-25.74% Variable APR). And, you earn Membership Rewards® points on those purchases!

 

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  • Simple Welcome Offer
  • You need 20 transactions each month to get the 20% bonus

Tip: Make any large purchases or balance transfers as soon as you can so you can benefit from the intro 0% for 15 Months on purchases and intro 0% for 15 Months on balance transfers (after, 14.74%-25.74% Variable APR).

Read our full review of The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express here.

 

1. Cash back rewards credit cards

Start here: No annual fee, 2x cash

The most important recommendation we can make is to start with either the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer or Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card in your wallet.

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

If you prefer MasterCard or have less than perfect credit, go with the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer. If you prefer Visa or plan to use the card abroad, go with the Fidelity (it has a low 1% foreign transaction fee).

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

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

 

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has easy double cash rewards with a $0* annual fee.

You Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay, so it’s easy to earn double cash on everything you buy with the card.

And since there’s a $0* annual fee, you don’t have to miss out on the seductive 5% cash back you sometimes see on other cards. Just keep the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer in your wallet for most of your spending, and if you have a card that earns 5% in special categories, just use it for that spending, so you can really rack up the cash rewards.

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

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

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on Citibank’s secure website

Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card

2.5% cash back with an annual fee

If you’re willing to pay a $59 annual fee, waived the first year, this card offers an unlimited 3% cash back during the first year; 2.5% cash back afterwards. Alliant is a credit union anyone can join online and you don’t need to be a member to apply. If you travel abroad there are no foreign transaction fees to worry about. So is the fee worth it? Basically, if you spend more than $1,000 a month on the card, you’ll earn more than the annual fee in cash back compared to the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer.

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

Tip: Be aware this card is only for people who are eligible for high credit limits, so it’s harder to get than the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer. You’ll need excellent credit and a good income to qualify.

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on Alliant Credit Union’s secure website

Up to 5% rewards with a little effort

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

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

Chase Freedom®

Our pick for small spenders & travelers

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

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

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

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

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

Tip: You generally have about 2 and a half months during the quarter to activate your 5%. For example, for January – March 2018, you can activate by March 14, and still get the 5% in your bonus category spending for the whole quarter, even if you made purchases in the category before you activated.

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on Chase Bank’s secure website

Discover it® Cash Back

Best 5% cash for bigger spenders

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

Double cash back better for big spenders. As an intro offer for new cardmembers, Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There’s no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.So big spenders get more out of this than the introductory offer on the Chase Freedom®.

Plenty of 5% categories. Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Earn 1% unlimited cash back automatically on all other purchases..

  • January until March 2018 – Gas Stations & Wholesale Clubs
  • April until June 2018 – Grocery Stores
  • July – September 2018 – Restaurants
  • October – December 2018 – Amazon.com & Wholesale Clubs

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

 

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

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

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on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card from Nusenda Credit Union

Best 5% with no enrollment hassle

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

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

For 2018 the 5% cashback bonus categories include:

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

The introductory bonus is the weakest of the bunch, and offers 2% on all your purchases for the first 90 days. You’d have to spend $15,000 in 90 days to beat the Chase Freedom®‘s $150 sign on-bonus (Earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.)

 

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

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

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on Nusenda ’s secure website

Cash back for frequent diners

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

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

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

Uber Visa Card

Best unlimited dining cashback rewards

There is a $0 annual fee with this card. The Uber Visa Card offers 4% back on dining, 3% back on hotel and airfare, 2% back for online purchases, and 1% on everything else. You can earn points through UberEATS and web shopping to video and music streaming services.

This rate is great for people who dine out, whether it’s through a restaurant, a bar, a takeout joint on the corner or UberEATS.

There is a great sign-up bonus: Earn $100 after spending $500 on purchases in the first 90 days. Also, you can earn up to a $50 credit for online subscription services after you spend $5,000 or more on your card per year.

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

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

Grocery cash rewards

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

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

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Best grocery cash back for heavy shoppers

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is the card that can earn the most cash from U.S. supermarket purchases at 6% up to $6,000 per year, then 1%, but there are two big hoops to deal with.

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

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

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

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

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on American Express’s secure website

Terms Apply

Rates & Fees

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card

Best grocery cash back for Whole Foods Market

The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card offers cardholders to Earn 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market with eligible Prime membership, 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores, and 1% back on all other purchases. The rate you earn at Whole Foods Market rivals other grocery cards and is great considering there is no cap on the amount you can spend and no annual fee. However, keep in mind a Prime membership is required — annual plans cost $99 or $49 for students.

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TRANSPARENCY SCORE
  • Earn a high cash back rate on Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market purchases
  • Prime membership is required to earn the 5% back on Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market purchases

Tip: If you don’t have a Prime membership and don’t plan on getting one, check out the Amazon Rewards Visa® Signature Card.

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on Amazon’s secure website

The information related to the Amazon Rewards Visa® Signature Card has been collected by MagnifyMoney.com and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Cash rewards for less than perfect credit

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

Discover it® Secured

Best cash rewards for rebuilding credit

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

You can earn 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations (on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter). Plus, get 1% cash back on all your other purchases. There is a $0 annual fee. A security deposit of $200 or more will establish your credit line (up to the amount that Discover can approve). There are automatic monthly reviews starting at 8 months to see if you can be transitioned to an account with no security deposit.

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  • $0 annual fee.
  • The Regular APR is 24.74% Variable.

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

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on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

2. Travel Rewards Cards

Real airline miles

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

 

 Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Best for serious travel rewards

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

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

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

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

A big introductory bonus. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card comes with a big introductory bonus offer that can earn you award travel fast. (Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®).

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

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

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  • There are no foreign transaction fees.
  • There is a $0 Intro for the First Year, then $95.

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

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

Points that work like cash for travel

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

 

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Best for not messing with miles

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

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

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

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

 

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  • There are no foreign transaction fees.
  • Annual Fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that

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

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This card has a pretty basic. You Earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, and you can use those points to cover any travel purchase. There is a $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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3. Learn more

Are you ready to earn rewards with a credit card?

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

Answer these questions

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

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

 

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

 

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

Cash back or miles for travel?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cash back for travel

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

You don’t have to think about award rules or restrictions, but you get less value for your points if you try to use them for rewards that don’t involve travel, but you’re usually better off just earning straight cash rewards via a card like the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer.

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

Pros

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

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

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

Cons

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

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

 

Real airline miles

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

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

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

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

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

Pros

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

You can build on miles you earn from flying.

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

They have big intro bonuses

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

Cons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Convertible points

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

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

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

Pros

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

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

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

Cons

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

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

 

Questions and Answers

With most cash rewards credit cards, your rewards won’t expire as long as you keep your account open. But some like the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer require you to either earn or use rewards at least once every so often. For the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer that’s once every 12 months.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

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