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Best Small Business Credit Cards in July 2019

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

Small business credit cards not only make it easier to separate personal and business finances, they offer business owners advantages they may not need or be able to get with a personal credit card. You might find the number of business credit card options overwhelming, so identifying your priorities will help you choose. Do you want rewards? Or do you merely need a card for short-term financing? The best small business credit card for you will depend entirely on your needs and goals.

Best small business credit cards for financing

0% intro APR financing

When to consider business cards with intro 0% financing: A business card with an intro 0% APR period can save you hundreds of dollars on interest compared to cards without 0% APR introductory periods. During the intro period, new purchases won’t accrue interest, and you can take your time paying off large purchases such as laptops and desks for your business.

The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express

The information related to The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express

Regular Purchase APR
15.49% - 21.49% Variable
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 12 Months
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
2X Membership Rewards® points on everyday business purchases such as office supplies or client dinners. 2X applies to the first $50,000 in purchases per year, 1 point per dollar thereafter.
Credit required
good-credit
Excellent/Good

Why we like it: The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express offers small business owners the chance to finance new purchases with the longest intro period for purchases of any business card at intro 0% for 12 Months; 15.49% - 21.49% Variable APR after. Plus, you can earn rewards, receive purchase protection and get extended warranties — all with a $0 annual fee.

What to watch out for: You can lose the intro APR if a penalty APR applies to your account for any reason. To avoid this, always pay your minimum amount due.

Low interest rate

When to consider business cards with low interest rates: The Bank of America® Platinum Visa® Business credit card has the lowest APR at 11.49% - 22.49% Variable APR. If you find your business has to carry a balance from time to time, it can be beneficial to have a low interest credit card that won’t cause you to rack up as much interest as other cards. But as a rule of thumb, try to pay your balance in full every month to avoid interest charges.

Why we like it: If you qualify for the lowest rate on the Bank of America® Platinum Visa® Business credit card and end up carrying a balance, you’ll be charged substantially less interest than other cards with high APRs. Although there are no rewards, new accounts can earn an $300 statement credit when you make at least $3,000 in net purchases within 90 days of your account opening That’s the lowest spending requirement to get a bonus on a business card.

What to watch out for: You may not qualify for the lowest rate because the APR varies based on your personal or business’ credit worthiness.

The information related to Bank of America® Platinum Visa® Business credit card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Cash flow management

When to consider a business card for cash flow management: Some small businesses may not have a consistent cash flow, and that’s where a card with a flexible payment option comes in handy. You may be allowed to carry a balance interest free until your next statement if you make the minimum payment.

The Plum Card® from American Express

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

The Plum Card® from American Express

Regular Purchase APR
N/A
Annual fee
$0 introductory annual fee your first year, then $250.
Rewards Rate
Get a 1.5% discount when you pay early, with no cap on what you can earn back.
Credit required
good-credit
Excellent/Good

Why we like it: The Plum Card® from American Express has an uncommon payment option where as long as you pay your minimum due, you can pay your balance in up to 60 days without accruing interest (terms apply). This ‘grace period’ is uncharacteristic of business cards (and all cards in general), providing you with twice as much time as other cards do to pay off your statement without incurring interest charges. There are no rewards, but you can Get a 1.5% discount when you pay early, with no cap on what you can earn back.

What to watch out for: To benefit from the extra-days-to-pay feature, make sure you pay your minimum due, or else you’ll miss out on the offer. Also, make sure this card is the best choice for your business because there’s a $0 introductory annual fee your first year, then $250.

Imperfect credit

When to consider a business card for imperfect credit: If you or your business has less-than-good credit, odds are you’ll not only have trouble qualifying for a credit card, but the terms you do qualify for won’t be ideal. However, you’re not out of luck — we found a card that considers small businesses with imperfect credit, and it has decent terms plus the foundation for you to improve your credit with responsible behavior.

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

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Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
1% Cash Back on every purchase
Regular Purchase APR
25.24% (Variable)
Credit required
bad-credit
Average/Fair/Limited

Why we like it: The Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business is for business owners with Average/Fair/Limited credit. Capital One considers Average/Fair/Limited credit as someone who’s defaulted on a loan in the past five years or has limited credit history (holding credit for less than three years). So, if you or your business has less-than-perfect credit, you may have better odds qualifying for this card compared to the majority of business cards, which require good or excellent credit.

What to watch out for: Although this card states it’s for business owners with Average/Fair/Limited credit, that does not guarantee you will be approved. As with any credit application, lenders look at a variety of credit factors.

Available for service members

When to consider business cards for service members: The following business credit cards are provided by credit unions for service members and have added perks, such as low interest rates, rewards, special offers and discounts. These cards require credit union membership, but you can typically qualify depending on where you live or work.

Navy Federal Credit Union Visa® Business Card

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on Navy Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Navy Federal Credit Union Visa® Business Card

Regular Purchase APR
10.15% - 18.00% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Rewards up to 1% return on each dollar spent
Credit required
excellent-credit
Good/Excellent

Why we like it: The Navy Federal Credit Union Visa® Business Card has a $0 annual fee and provides an up to 15% discount on qualifying business purchases with Visa SavingsEdge®. You can receive discounts at restaurants, travel and shipping services, IT solutions and more at no additional cost. As a member of NFCU, you can also receive a discount on Geico auto insurance and access an Auto Buying Program where you can save on new and used cars — great if your business requires you and your employees to drive. Terms & limitations apply.

What to watch out for: The interest rate you receive depends on your creditworthiness, so you may not receive the lowest APR. Because membership is restricted, check here to see if you qualify for membership with Navy Federal Credit Union.

Navy Federal Credit Union Mastercard® Business Card

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on Navy Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Navy Federal Credit Union Mastercard® Business Card

Regular Purchase APR
10.15% - 18.00% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Rewards up to 1% return on each dollar spent
Credit required
excellent-credit
Excellent

Why we like it: The Navy Federal Credit Union Mastercard® Business Card has the Mastercard Easy Savings® Program, which provides you with an up to 10% discount on a wide range of purchases including car rentals, gas purchases, products and services like Bing Ads and Monster, and more. This can simply save your business money on everyday purchases and the program is free. NFCU members have access to perks that suit businesses that require driving for work, like the ability to save on Geico auto insurance and access to an Auto Buying Program where you can receive savings on new and used vehicles. Terms & limitations apply.

What to watch out for: The APR varies based on your creditworthiness, so you may not qualify for the lowest rate. Because membership is restricted, check here to see if you qualify for membership with Navy Federal Credit Union.

RBFCU Business Select Mastercard® credit card

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on Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union’s secure website

RBFCU Business Select Mastercard® credit card

Regular Purchase APR
12.15% - 18.00% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
2% cash back on all purchases
Credit required
good-credit
Excellent/Good

Why we like it: The RBFCU Business Select Mastercard® credit card has a great cashback program with unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases. This flat rate is rare among business cards that tend to favor high rates only on select purchase categories. In addition to a cashback program, members of RBFCU can benefit from members-only pricing at select merchants like TurboTax® and Sprint® to save your business additional money. Terms apply.

What to watch out for: Not everyone will qualify for membership with RBFCU, so fill out this online form to check.

Best small business rewards credit cards

Travel perks

When to consider travel business cards: If you or your employees travel often, a travel card can be more valuable than typical credit cards because many offer travel insurance, airline fee credits, free Wi-Fi access and other travel-related perks.

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

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

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

Regular Purchase APR
N/A
Annual fee
$595
Rewards Rate
5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com and 1.5 Membership Rewards® points per dollar on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more.
Credit required
good-credit
Excellent/Good
Welcome Offer: 75,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership..

Why we like it: We looked at business cards that offered travel perks, and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express emerged as the best overall business travel card because of its extensive benefits for business owners, including rewards potential, Welcome Offer, and added perks. You can take advantage of standout perks like access to over 1,200 airport lounges, credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck and a $200 airline fee credit. Terms apply. These benefits can save your business a substantial amount of money and make travel less of a hassle.

What to watch out for: There is a steep $595 annual fee for this card. However, considering the value you receive with this card, the annual fee may be worth it. For example, the airline fee credit and Global Entry fee credit are valued at $300, decreasing the effective annual fee for this card in the year you use those credits.

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

The information related to Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

Regular Purchase APR
18.24% - 23.24% Variable
Annual fee
$95
Rewards Rate
Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year. Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases—with no limit to the amount you can earn.
Credit required
excellent-credit

Excellent

Why we like it: The Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card allows you to increase the value of your points by 25% when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. This is a great way to increase the effective value of your points. Additional travel benefits include trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance and travel and emergency assistance services.

What to watch out for: The higher rewards rate only applies to select categories, so if you primarily spend outside the select categories, you’ll earn a subpar cashback rate. Consider other travel business cards that suit your spending more.

Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business

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on Capital One’s website

Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business

Regular Purchase APR
19.24% (Variable)
Annual fee
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Rewards Rate
2 Miles per $1 on every purchase, everywhere
Credit required
excellent-credit
Excellent

Why we like it: The Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business offers a hard-to-find flat-rate rewards program at 2 Miles per $1 on every purchase, everywhere. This rate allows you and your employees to earn the same amount of miles on any purchase with no bonus categories or caps. You can easily redeem miles for travel, and there is no minimum redemption amount.

What to watch out for: This card comes with an annual fee at $0 intro for first year; $95 after that, and although it’s lower than most travel business cards, it may not be ideal for everyone. Keep in mind you will need to spend $4,750 a year (after year one) to recoup the fee.

Big intro bonuses

When to consider business cards with big intro bonuses: A large intro bonus can be a simple way for business owners to earn extra rewards within the first few months of account opening — as long as you fulfill the requirements. You can use the rewards you earn in a variety of ways, from travel to statement credits that can lower your business’ expenses. Many cards that have big intro bonuses also have good rewards and perks, providing long-term value in addition to the short-term reward.

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

The information related to Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

Regular Purchase APR
18.24% - 23.24% Variable
Annual fee
$95
Rewards Rate
Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year. Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases—with no limit to the amount you can earn.
Credit required
excellent-credit

Excellent

Intro bonus: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

What to watch out for: There are requirements that you need to follow in order to receive the intro bonus, so make sure you spend the required amount in the stated time period. Also, you miss out on added value by redeeming points outside of Chase Ultimate Rewards, so try to use the portal to receive the 25% more value on travel.

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

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

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

Regular Purchase APR
N/A
Annual fee
$595
Rewards Rate
5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com and 1.5 Membership Rewards® points per dollar on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more.
Credit required
good-credit
Excellent/Good
Welcome Offer: 75,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership..

What to watch out for: You need to satisfy two spending requirements to earn the full welcome offer — so make sure you understand the details of both if you don’t want to leave points on the table.

CitiBusiness®/ AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

The information related to CitiBusiness®/ AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

CitiBusiness®/ AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

Regular Purchase APR
17.99% - 25.99%* (Variable)
Annual fee
$99, waived for first 12 months*
Rewards Rate
2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on purchases at telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and at gas stations*, Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile per $1 spent on other purchases*

 

Sign-up Bonus: Earn 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $3,000 in purchases in first 3 months of account opening*.

Why we like it: The CitiBusiness®/ AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® is one of few airline-specific business cards. This card has the largest limited-time offer compared to competitors and a typical spending requirement. In addition, there are great perks when you fly on American Airlines, such as in-flight discounts, first checked bag free and preferred boarding.

What to watch out for: This is an airline-specific card — if you don’t fly with American Airlines, you’ll miss out on some of the best perks.

Cashback rewards

When to consider cashback business cards: Cash back is a simple and straightforward way for your business to be rewarded for purchases. You can easily redeem your cash back as a statement credit, which is a great way to reduce your bill (just remember that redemptions can’t be applied to minimum payments).

Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

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on Capital One’s website

Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

Regular Purchase APR
19.24% (Variable)
Annual fee
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Rewards Rate
2% Cash Back for your business on every purchase, everywhere
Credit required
good-credit
Excellent/Good

Why we like it: We looked at business credit cards offering cashback rewards and analyzed their rewards rates, fees and APRs, and among the group, The Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business rose to the top. It has a standout cashback program earning you 2% Cash Back for your business on every purchase, everywhere. There are no bonus categories or caps — you’ll earn the same rate on every purchase. You can even make redeeming your rewards simple by setting up automatic redemption, great for businesses that don’t want to fuss with rewards.

What to watch out for: The annual fee is $0 intro for first year; $95 after that — so after year one, you will need to spend $4,750 a year to break even.

Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business

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on Capital One’s website

Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
1.5% Cash Back on every purchase
Regular Purchase APR
15.24% - 23.24% (Variable)
Credit required
good-credit
Excellent/Good

Why we like it: The Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business has a decent rewards rate for business owners who want to avoid an annual fee at 1.5% Cash Back on every purchase. This card is a good alternative to the Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business, offering all the same perks plus a $0 annual fee.

What to watch out for: The cash back rate is below the ideal 2%, and you can do better with a higher flat-rate card or with bonus category cards. But be aware they may have an annual fee.

Hotel rewards

When to consider business cards with hotel rewards: Traveling for business can get costly, but hotel rewards cards can help you save money on hotel stays and other expenses you may incur like meals. Whether you favor a specific hotel or often choose the best priced hotel, there are business cards for you that can earn you rewards and other money-saving discounts. In this section we’re highlighting a card with exceptional hotel rewards.

The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card

The information related to The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card

Regular Purchase APR
17.99% - 26.99% Variable
Annual fee
$95
Rewards Rate
12X at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio, 6X on Select Business & Travel Purchases, 3X Everywhere Else. Terms & Limitations Apply.
Credit required
good-credit
Excellent/Good

Why we like it: The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card offers great benefits for business travelers who frequent hotels in the Hilton portfolio with a wide range of perks including complimentary Hilton Honors Gold Status. This gives you an 85% bonus on Base Points, space-available room upgrades and more benefits that may make your stays more comfortable. Other Hilton perks include a rewards program that allows you to earn Hilton Honors Bonus Points at a fast rate and Weekend Night Rewards (terms apply). In addition, you receive baggage and travel accident insurance, 10 free visits to over 1,000 Priority Pass airport lounges every year and the ability to connect your credit card transactions to Quickbooks®, among other things.

What to watch out for: You don’t want to carry a balance with this card because there is a 17.99% - 26.99% Variable APR. Although this is a typical range, it’s still high and can lead to large interest charges if you don’t pay your bill in full. But, if you pay in full and on time, this won’t be an issue.

Best category bonuses

When to consider business cards with category bonuses: If you spent a lot in particular categories, credit cards with category bonuses may be a great way for you to earn rewards for that spending. For example, if you drive a lot for business, a card with gas rewards may be ideal. Below we list the business cards that offer the highest reward rates on dining, gas and office-supply spending

Dining & gas

Why we like it: The Sam's Club® Business Mastercard® offers a high 5% cash back on gas (on first $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%), 3% cash back on dining and travel, and 1% cash back on other purchases. This rate is ideal for businesses that primarily spend on gas because you earn the highest rate on those purchases compared to other cards. Business owners who often take out clients for meals may want to consider this card because of its cashback rate on dining purchases.

What to watch out for: You need to be a member of Sam’s Club to open this card, and as a business owner you may not have a need for a Sam’s Club membership. However, membership starts as low as $45 a year, and considering there’s no annual fee for this credit card, that’s a small amount.

Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card from Citi

The information related to Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card from Citi has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card from Citi

Regular Purchase APR
17.49% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
4% cash back on gas, 3% on restaurants & travel, 2% at Costco & Costco.com, 1% on all other purchases

Why we like it: The Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card from Citi offers a tiered cashback program with 4% cash back on gas, 3% on restaurants & travel, 2% at Costco & Costco.com, 1% on all other purchases. This is a good rewards program for business owners with Costco memberships if you want to earn cash back in a wide range of categories.

What to watch out for: You need to be a Costco member to open this card, and membership starts at $60 per year. This is higher than Sam’s Club and definitely something to consider if you’re deciding between the two cards.

Gas & office supply stores

Why we like it: The Bank of America® Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card doesn’t require membership with a warehouse club like other gas cards and has a $0 annual fee. Business owners can earn a decent cash back rate at both gas stations and office supply stores, making this card ideal if you often spend in these categories.

What to watch out for: The gas cashback rate is lower than other business cards with gas as a category bonus and won’t earn you as much rewards.

The information related to Bank of America® Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Risks of using small business credit cards

While small business credit cards can provide a wide range of benefits for your company, they have drawbacks.

Here are some of the major risks:

Personal liability. As a business owner, you are solely responsible for all charges made on your account. That means if there are any unpaid balances on your account, whether from your spending or employee spending, you are liable.

Negative impact on you credit. If your account is in poor standing as a result of late payments, overdue balances, bankruptcy or other issues, the credit card issuer may report this information to the credit bureaus. As a result, your personal credit score may take a hit.

Not protected by the CARD Act. Business cards don’t receive the same consumer protections that personal credit cards receive with the CARD Act. The CARD Act requires credit card issuers to provide transparent terms as well as lower fees and interest rates for consumers. But, issuers of business cards don’t have to comply with those requirements. Therefore, a business card may have higher interest rates, more fees and confusing terms.

How to minimize the risks of business credit cards

Monitor employee spending. The ability to open employee cards is a great feature, but if you don’t stay on top of their charges, it can become risky. Some good practices include keeping records of all employees with card access, setting employee spending limits when available and monitoring your credit card statements. This way you can keep track of all spending made on your account and add limits when needed.

Avoid charging personal expenses. Use your business card the way it is intended to be used — exclusively for business purchases. Charging personal expenses makes managing your finances harder and complicates the use of your card.

Do not take out a cash advance. Cash advances are one of the most costly features of credit cards and are rarely a good choice because you’ll be hit with higher than normal interest rates and can rack up debt fast. As an alternative, check out small business loans.

Look at loans for long-term financing. Your business may need to borrow money for purchases like cars or other big-ticket items, and small business loans can be a great way to finance those purchases. Often with straightforward terms, loans can be a good alternative to charging purchases on your credit card. Compare small business loans here.

Do not try to bail out a failing business. If your business isn’t doing well, don’t take out a small business credit card with the hopes of bailing it out. Odds are you’ll only get into more debt and make the situation worse.

Best way to use credit cards for your business

Earn rewards. Almost all of the cards mentioned in this roundup provide rewards, allowing business owners to be benefit from typical business spending. You can use the rewards you earn in a variety of ways, like booking travel, applying cash back as statement credit to cover bills or redeeming them for gift cards for business expenses or employee incentives.

Manage cash flow. Business cards may provide expense-management tools so you can monitor spending and simplify everyday business transactions. You can use your card to automate business expenses like monthly phone bills or regular office-supply purchases.

Build business credit. Opening a small business credit card has the potential to build and improve your business credit. If you make on-time payments and use a relatively small amount of your available credit, your business’ credit can benefit greatly. Having a good business credit score can help you down the line if you plan on taking out a loan or other credit products.

Short-term borrowing. If your business plans on making purchases that can’t be paid immediately, some business credit cards offer 0% intro periods that are ideal for short-term borrowing and can be a better choice than a personal loan — when used responsibly. During the 0% intro period, you can carry a balance without incurring interest, and if you pay it off before the intro period ends, you can save on the interest that you would’ve incurred if you had taken out a loan.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Alexandria White
Alexandria White |

Alexandria White is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Alexandria at [email protected]

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Credit Cards

Unsecured Credit Cards for Bad Credit

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

Unsecured cards are the most popular type of credit cards available — they are simply regular credit cards. The term “unsecured” means that you don’t need to deposit money or use any other collateral in order to receive a line of credit — credit card issuers extend credit based on your credit history and various other factors.

That’s why, if you have bad credit, it can be difficult to qualify for most good credit card deals. Poor credit is considered at or below a 579 credit score, and it signals to lenders that you’re a high-risk borrower.

Poor credit doesn’t make it impossible to access credit cards, however, but the key is to use credit responsibly so your credit score will improve and you’ll have a chance at qualifying for better deals.

We’ve put together this guide to help you understand the best options for people with bad credit.

Our top picks

Unsecured card: Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® with Cash Back Rewards

Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® with Cash Back Rewards

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on Credit One Bank’s secure website

Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® with Cash Back Rewards

Regular Purchase APR
20.24% - 26.24% Variable
Annual fee
$0-$99
Rewards Rate
1% on eligible purchases, terms apply

Credit One is hardly the best credit card out there, with a host of potential fees that make it expensive to carry. On the plus side, however, it is accessible to those with poor credit. It offers several cards that carry the potential for 1% on eligible purchases, terms apply. People with bad credit will find it hard to qualify for credit cards and harder to qualify for cards with rewards. Therefore, the cashback feature is a good perk of Credit One cards. But remember — not everyone will qualify for a cashback card.

Terms

  • Regular purchase APR: 20.24% - 26.24% Variable
  • Cash advance APR: 26.24% Variable
  • Annual membership fee: $0-$99
    Depending on your account, the annual membership fee will be divided into 12 equal portions and billed monthly or it will be billed yearly for the second and each following year your account is open
  • Authorized user participation fee: $19 annually (if applicable)
  • Cash advance fee: Either $5 or 8% of the amount of each Cash Advance, whichever is greater, or $10 or 3% of each Cash Advance, whichever is greater.
  • Late payment fee: Up to $39
  • Returned payment fee: Up to $39

What to watch out for

The annual fee will hit your account right away — eating into your total available limit. The fine print of the terms and conditions explains:

NOTICE: If your Account has an Annual Membership Fee, it will be billed to your Account when it is opened and will reduce the amount of your initial available credit. For example, if your Account is established with a credit line of $300 and your First year Annual Membership Fee is $75, your initial available credit will be $225.

This is key to realize if you are charged an annual membership fee. You can quickly see your credit limit decrease when opening your account; especially if you are charged the highest annual fee.

Another term to be aware of is the authorized user participation fee at $19 annually. Most personal credit cards do not charge a fee for authorized users so this is an added fee Credit One charges if you decide to add an authorized user.

Secured card: Discover it® Secured

Discover it® Secured

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on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

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Discover it® Secured

Regular APR
25.24% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, automatically. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases.
Minimum Deposit
$200
Credit required
bad-credit
Poor/New

The Discover it® Secured is our top pick for secured cards for numerous reasons — from the automatic monthly account reviews starting at 8 months to the cashback program, this card provides exceptional benefits for cardholders.

Pros:

  • Automatic monthly account reviews: Starting at 8 months, Discover will review your account to see if you qualify for receiving your security deposit back. If you have responsible credit management across all your credit products, you may be graduated to an unsecured card and recieve your security deposit back.
  • Cashback program: This card has a unique feature that’s uncharacteristic of secured cards — a cashback program where you can earn 2% cashback at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, 1% cashback on all your other purchases.
  • Free FICO® Credit Score: You receive your free FICO® Credit Score with Discover Credit Scorecard as well as other credit information, like recent inquiries and revolving utilization. This is a great way to track your credit progress and checking your score doesn’t affect hurt your credit.

Cons:

  • High APR: Most secured cards have high APRs, and this one does, too. But, if you pay your balance in full each month, you won’t be charged interest.

Read our review of the Discover it® Secured. 

The risks of unsecured cards for bad credit

The majority of unsecured cards that accept people with bad credit have numerous fees that can have you questioning if the card is really helping you.

Here are several drawbacks you may see with unsecured cards for bad credit:

  • High APRs: Typical cards have APR ranges that max out around 25%, but unsecured cards for bad credit can have APRs near 30%. Also, since you have bad credit, you most often will receive the highest APR listed in the terms and conditions.
  • Annual fee: Many credit cards in general have annual fees, but this can often be outweighed by the added benefits provided. However, unsecured cards for bad credit often lack the added benefits that cards for good credit offer.
  • Program or processing fee: Unsecured cards for bad credit often charge a program or processing fee that serves to open your account and lets you access your credit. This is something you won’t find with unsecured cards from major banks and credit card issuers.
  • Monthly service fee: This fee is characteristic of some unsecured cards and is another cost you have to keep in mind before applying since it can effectively lower your line of credit.

Credit card options when you have bad credit

Store credit cards

Odds are you’ve been asked to apply for a credit card while checking out at a store or online. The card offers often entices you with a rewards program or discount on your current purchase, and gets you thinking if you should apply. The card that you’re being offered is a store credit card and these cards can only be used at the issuing store. Since they are more likely to approve you compared with regular credit cards, they may seem like an easy way to establish credit, but there are some pitfalls to keep in mind.

Pros:

  • Good approval odds: Store cards are more likely to extend you credit than regular credit cards.
  • Rewards and discounts: Store cards often give you rewards for each purchase you make and send you card member discounts. This can be a great way to save money at stores where you frequently shop.

Cons:

  • Limited use: You most likely can only use your card in the issuing store. For example, a Target REDcardTM Credit Card can only be used for Target purchases.
  • High interest rates: Store cards tend to have higher interest rates than regular cards, so make sure you pay your statements in full and on time to avoid interest charges.

Store card options

Walmart Credit Card®

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on Walmart’s secure website

Walmart Credit Card®

Regular Purchase APR
19.15% - 25.15% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Save 3% on Walmart.com purchases including Grocery Pickup, 2% on Murphy USA & Walmart gas, and 1% at Walmart & anywhere your card is accepted.

Target REDcard™ Credit Card

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on Target’s secure website

Target REDcard™ Credit Card

Regular Purchase APR
25.15% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
5% at Target & Target.com

Lowe’s Advantage Card

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on Lowe’s secure website

Lowe’s Advantage Card

Regular Purchase APR
26.99% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Get 5% off your eligible purchase or order charged to your Lowe’s Advantage Card.

Home Depot Consumer Credit Card

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on Home Depot’s secure website

Home Depot Consumer Credit Card

Regular Purchase APR
17.99%-26.99% Variable
Annual fee
$0

Secured credit cards

A secured credit card requires you to deposit money upfront, which acts as collateral in case your account defaults. The amount you deposit typically becomes your line of credit. For example, if you put down a $200 security deposit, that means you likely have a $200 credit limit; deposit more and your credit limit will increase. Typical security deposits are $200, but you can be asked to deposit more or less depending on the card.

Pros:

  • Less chance of overspending: Since your credit limit is equal to the amount you deposit, it’s unlikely you will have a high credit limit. This can prevent you from charging large amounts and falling into debt.
  • Great way to build or improve:Secured cards are our favorite way to build or improve credit since you are more likely to be approved for a secured card with bad credit, and you can see your score rise with proper credit behavior and spending as little at $10 a month.

Cons:

  • Security deposit required: You may not have the money available for the required security deposit, therefore possibly ruling out your chances of a secured card.
  • Low credit limit: Your line of credit is equal to your security deposit and most people don’t have the money available to deposit hundreds or thousands of dollars, making your available line of credit lower than unsecured cards.

Secured card options

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

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on Capital One's website

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

Regular Purchase APR
26.99% (Variable)
Annual fee
$0
Minimum Deposit
$49, $99, or $200

The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is a good option for people who may not be able to afford a $200 security deposit since they also offer a $49 or $99 deposit — but take caution that you don’t choose your deposit, Capital One® does. So you may not receive the lower deposit.

Pros:

  • Potentially low security deposit: You may qualify for a $49 or $99 deposit instead of the $200 deposit depending on your creditworthiness. If you qualify for one of the lower deposits, you will still receive a $200 line of credit.
  • Access to a higher credit line: When you make your first 5 monthly payments on time, you receive a higher credit line.
  • Account reviews: Capital One® reviews your account to see if you can be transitioned to an unsecured card and receive your deposit back. However, there is no set time frame for when your account will be reviewed.

Cons:

  • High APR: Similar to other secured cards, this card has a high APR that can be an issue if you carry a balance. A good rule of thumb is to pay each bill in full and on time to avoid interest charges.

Read our review of the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®.

Credit builder loans

A credit builder loan is when a lender (typically a credit union) puts funds into a savings account or CD and a borrower makes monthly payments until the amount is paid off. Typically, the borrower cannot access the funds until the balance is paid in full. Your savings act as collateral for the lender, so if you don’t make payments they know they won’t lose money.

The monthly payments you make include interest fees and often occur over a 12-, 18- or 24-month term. Credit builder loans can be a good way for you to improve your credit score and act as a forced savings since you can’t withdraw funds until you repay the amount you borrowed.

Pros:

  • Report to the credit bureaus: Credit builder loans report to the major credit bureaus, allowing you to rebuild or establish credit history — as long as you follow the terms of your loan and make timely payments.
  • Source of savings: Since the funds are placed in a savings account or CD, you have a forced savings that is accessible at the end of the loan term.

Cons:

  • Funds are locked: You can’t withdraw money borrowed until your loan is paid off. So if you need money upfront, a credit builder loan isn’t a good option.

Options

Self Lender

Credit builder loans at Self Lender offer 12 or 24 month loans where you pay back a loan from $526 to $1,700. Funds are deposited into a CD that’s FDIC-insured and earns interest. However, you cannot access the funds until the loan is paid off. There is a $15 non-refundable administration fee that you pay when you open your account. After that, you pay equal monthly payments for the term of your account (these payments include interest charges). Once you pay off the amount borrowed, you can access your funds plus interest earned.

Republic Bank

At Republic Bank, you can take out a credit builder loan for 12, 18 or 24 months with loan amounts of $500, $1,000 or $1,500. Your funds are placed in a CD that earns interest and is only accessible once the loan is paid. There is a $10 processing fee when you open your account. When you complete your monthly payments (which include interest), you can either withdraw your funds or leave them in a CD.

Unsecured credit card options for bad credit

An unsecured credit card is simply a regular credit card. Unlike secured cards, there is no minimum security deposit required to access a line of credit. These cards often provide higher credit limits than secured cards and can help you build credit when used responsibly.

Pros:

  • You won’t need to make a deposit to access your line of credit.
  • Unsecured cards typically have higher credit limits than secured cards. And, the two cards mentioned below both have credit limits starting at $300.

Cons:

  • Many secured cards for bad credit come with annual fees, so you’ll have to make sure the fee is worth it. If the unsecured card has an annual fee but no rewards, look for alternatives.

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

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on Capital One’s website

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Annual fee
$39
Rewards Rate
1.5% Cash Back on every purchase, every day
Regular Purchase APR
26.96% (Variable)
Credit required
fair-credit
Average/Fair/Limited

The Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card is a good unsecured card for those looking to earn cash back while building credit — just watch out for the $39 annual fee.

Pros:

  • You can earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day. This is a decent rate considering this is a card for those with average/fair/limited credit.
  • When you make your first five monthly payments on time, you receive a higher credit line.

Cons:

  • This card comes with a $39 annual fee. Annual fees are common for cards aimed at people with poor credit, but you can find cards without annual fees like the Capital One® Platinum Credit Card mentioned below. With this card, if you spend $2,600 a year, you’ll earn enough cash back to recoup the fee.
  • This card comes with a high APR that can be an issue if you carry a balance. Try to always pay on time and in full so you don’t incur interest charges.

Capital One® Platinum Credit Card

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on Capital One’s website

Capital One® Platinum Credit Card

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Non-rewards Card
Regular Purchase APR
26.96% (Variable)
Credit required
bad-credit
Average/Fair/Limited

The Capital One® Platinum Credit Card is a decent option if you want a no-frills, unsecured credit card that can allow you to build credit without the distraction of rewards.

Pros:

  • When you make your first five monthly payments on time, you receive a higher credit line.
  • This card is no-frills, but that may be the best option for you if you think you may be tempted to overspend with a rewards card. You can use this card to build credit and work toward a higher credit score.

Cons:

  • Similar to most cards for less-than-stellar credit, there is a high APR. However, if you pay your balance on time and in full each month, this won’t be an issue.

Total VISA® Credit Card

Total VISA® Credit Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on TOTAL’s secure website

Terms and Conditions

Total VISA® Credit Card

Annual fee
See Terms
Regular Purchase APR
See Terms
Credit required
bad-credit
Bad Credit
The Total VISA® Credit Card is also accessible to those with poor credit, but it comes at a steep price —  a long list of fees. Apply with caution.

Terms

  • Regular purchase APR: See Terms
  • Cash advance APR: See Terms
  • Program fee: If approved, just pay an $89.00 program fee to open your account and access your available credit.
  • Annual Fee: See Terms
  • Monthly servicing fee: None for first year (introductory). After that, $75 annually ($6.25 per month).
  • Additional card fee: $29 annually (if applicable)
  • Cash advance fee: None for first year (introductory). After that, either $5 or 5% of the amount of each cash advance, whichever is greater.
  • Late payment fee: Up to $39
  • Returned payment fee: Up to $39

What to watch out for

The Total VISA® Credit Card has numerous fees that make this card quite expensive to use, and many fees are not typical of mainstream credit cards. The APR is one of the highest on the market (See Terms for APR), and typical credit cards have APRs that max out around 25%.

Similar to Credit One, the annual fee (See Terms) for the Total VISA® Credit Card is deducted from your initial credit line, lowering your available credit until the fee is paid off:

Notice: The Annual Fee will be assessed before you begin using your card and will reduce the amount of credit you initially have available. Based on your initial credit limit of $300.00, your initial available credit will only be $225.00 (only $196.00 if you choose to have an additional card).

There is a monthly servicing fee of $75 annually ($6.25 per month) associated with this card that is quite steep and characteristic of cards for bad credit. Also, if you take out additional cards, you will be charged $29 annually. Considering the program fee, annual fee and monthly service fees, you’re looking at a jaw-dropping amount of fees with this card. In the first year, if you’re only considering the program and annual fee, you would be charged $164 and subsequent years would incur $123 in fees from the annual fee and monthly servicing fees.

Finally, watch out for the credit limit increase fee. Once your account has been open at least a year, Total VISA can charge you a 20% fee on credit limit increases. For example, if your limit is increased by $100, that’s a $20 fee.

Learn more

How to build credit

As someone with bad credit, it’s important to practice responsible credit behavior and follow several rules so you can improve your credit.

  1. Pay your bills on time: When you receive a bill, pay it as soon as possible and always before the due date. By paying on time, you won’t be charged a late payment fee and the lender won’t have to report your bad credit behavior to the credit bureaus. Use autopay features or set calendar alerts so you don’t forget.
  2. Pay your statement balance in full every month: Don’t carry a balance on your card because you’ll be charged interest on any overdue amounts and can fall into debt.
  3. Don’t max out your card: If you receive a $500 credit limit, don’t spend the full amount each month because that shows lenders you’re a risky client and negatively impacts your credit score. The amount of your available credit you use is known as utilization and the goal is to have a 20% or lower utilization rate — so spend $100 on a card with a $500 credit limit.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Alexandria White
Alexandria White |

Alexandria White is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Alexandria at [email protected]

Advertiser Disclosure

Best of, College Students and Recent Grads, Credit Cards

Best Student Credit Cards July 2019

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Getting a credit card while you’re in college can set you up for financial success, provided you avoid racking up unnecessary charges. If you are over 18 and have a steady income, applying for a card now will kick start your credit history, and you can start building that all-important credit score.

Learning how to choose and use the right student credit card is relatively simple. Make sure you avoid annual fees and go with a bank or credit union you can trust. When you get the card, make sure you use it responsibly and pay the balance in full and on time every month. If you do these things consistently over time, you can leave school with an excellent credit score. And if you want to rent an apartment or buy a car, having a good credit score is very important.

Our Top Pick

Discover it® Student Cash Back

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on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

Read Full Review

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
Regular APR
15.24% - 24.24% Variable
Credit required
fair-credit
Fair

Magnify Glass Pros

  • Good Grades Reward program: Did you study extra hard this year? If you’ve gotten a 3.0 GPA or higher for an entire school year, Discover will reward you with an extra $20 statement credit. You can get this statement credit for up to five years in a row as long as you’re still a current student when you apply.
  • Free FICO® score: Just like how you have grades for your classes, your FICO® score is your “grade” for your credit. Credit cards have a huge effect on your FICO® score. You can watch how your new credit card affects your score over time with a free FICO® score update on your monthly statement.
  • 5% cash back : You can earn up to 5% cash back at different places that change each quarter, on up to $1,500 in purchases every quarter that you activate. Past categories have included things like Amazon purchases, restaurants, and ground transportation. Even if you don’t buy something in the bonus category, you’ll still earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Cash back match at end of your first year: In addition to rotating 5% cash back categories, new cardmembers will also get an intro bonus. When your first card anniversary comes around, Discover will automatically match your cash back rewards you earned during your first year.

Cons Cons

  • Remember to sign up for bonus places: Even though this card comes with a great cash back rewards program, it comes with a catch: you’ll need to manually activate the bonus places each quarter. You can do this by calling Discover or logging in to your account online. If you forget, you’ll still earn 1% cash back if you make any purchases in the qualifying categories.
  • Gift certificates only available at certain levels: You can redeem your rewards for many things such as Amazon purchases, a statement credit, or a donation to a charity, to name a few. But, if you’d like to get a gift card instead, you’ll need a cash back balance of at least $20 saved up in your account.
Bottom line

Bottom line

The Discover it® Student Cash Back offers great perks for college students, such as a rewards program for good grades and a free FICO® score so you can learn about your credit firsthand. Its cash back rewards program is our favorite. No other card for students (that we could find) offers the opportunity to earn up to 5% cash back. And with no annual fee, this is our top pick.

Read our full review of the Discover it® Student Cash Back

Best Flat-Rate Card

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

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on Capital One’s website

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
1% Cash Back on all purchases; 0.25% Cash Back bonus on the cash back you earn each month you pay on time
Regular Purchase APR
26.96% (Variable)
Credit required
bad-credit
Average/Fair/Limited

Magnify Glass Pros

  • 1.25% cash back if you pay on time: Each purchase you make earns a flat-rate 1% Cash Back on all purchases; 0.25% Cash Back bonus on the cash back you earn each month you pay on time. This makes it handy for people who want as simple a card as possible. And it rewards great behavior.
  • Higher credit lines after on-time payments: If you’re approved for this card, you’ll receive a credit line of at least $300. If you make five on-time payments in a row, you can call Capital One and ask them to increase your credit line.
  • No foreign transaction fee: This is a great card to take overseas, because you won’t have to pay any foreign transaction fees. Most cards charge an average 3% foreign transaction fee, but Journey allows you to use your card abroad without being charged extra fees.

Cons Cons

  • High APR: This card carries an APR of 26.96% (Variable). That’s almost twice as high as some other student credit cards, such as the Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card with a rate as low as 13.40% - 23.40% Variable APR. It’s just one more incentive to pay off your bill in full each month.
Bottom line

Bottom line

We really like this card because it actively rewards you for developing good credit-management behavior by offering a small cash back bonus for on-time payments. In addition, the cash back program is straightforward with no confusing categories to remember or opt into, making this card a good option for students who want a simple, flat-rate card.

Read our full review of the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Best Intro Bonus

Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card

The information related to Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
3% cash rewards on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first 6 months, 1% cash rewards on virtually all other purchases
Regular Purchase APR
13.40% - 23.40% Variable
Credit required
excellent-credit
Good/Excellent

Magnify Glass Pros

  • Interest rates as low as 13.40% - 23.40% Variable APR: Depending on your credit, your interest rate could be between 13.40% - 23.40% Variable APR, but there is no guarantee you’ll receive the lower rate. This is a lower variable APR range than most student cards, and can help if you aren’t able to pay your balance in full one month.
  • Intro Rewards Bonus: 3% cash rewards on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first 6 months, 1% cash rewards on virtually all other purchases
  • Access to credit education: Wells Fargo provides you with all sorts of tools and information to learn about things like credit, budgeting, and expense tracking. While this is a nice feature, it’s not exclusive to Wells Fargo. You can get this information from free tools such as Mint, or even reading books and blogs. But it is pretty handy having it right at your fingertips when logged in to your account.

Cons Cons

  • Need to be a Wells Fargo member to apply online: You can go into any one of the 6,000+ branches and apply for the card. You can also apply online, but you’ll need to be an existing Wells Fargo customer. However, anyone can open a checking account online with a minimum deposit of $25.
  • High bars for some cash back redemption options: There are a lot of redemption options available through Wells Fargo’s own online cash back rewards mall. However, if you’d just like straight cash, you have a few options. You can request a direct deposit into your Wells Fargo checking account, savings account, or Wells Fargo credit card (if applicable) in $25 increments, or request a paper check in $20 increments. That can take a long time to accumulate if you’re not spending much with your card.
Bottom line

Bottom line

The Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card is a relatively simple card with a great intro bonus of 3% cash rewards on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first 6 months, 1% cash rewards on virtually all other purchases In addition, the low variable APR is handy for those who think they’ll be carrying a balance on their credit card from month to month at some point in the future. This is generally something we recommend against, but if you can’t avoid it, the Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card is your best bet.

Read our full review of the Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

Magnify Glass Pros

  • Unlimited rewards. Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time and no expiration on points.
  • Flexible rewards redemption. You can redeem your points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars or baggage fees. Plus, this card doesn’t restrict you to a particular airline or chain of hotels.
  • Free FICO score. Keep track of your credit score via online banking or Bank of America’s mobile app.
  • Chance to earn more rewards. Have an active Bank of America checking or savings account? Then this card offers a chance to get a 10% customer points bonus on every purchase. The card is also eligible for the benefits of the Preferred Rewards program, though that program is based on banking and/or investment balances that might be too high for many college students to qualify for.
  • Foreign transaction fee? There is None.

Cons Cons

  • Points are not worth as much when redeemed for cash back. When redeemed for a travel credit, each point is worth $0.01. However, if redeemed for cash back, points are only worth $0.006 each. For example, 2,500 points redeemed for travel would be worth $25. The same number of points redeemed for cash back would be worth $15.
Bottom line

Bottom line

If you’re looking for a student card offering travel rewards, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students could be a good option. With an annual fee of $0 and points that can be redeemed for travel with any airline or stays with any hotel line, this card gives you options.

The information related to Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Best Credit Union Card

Altra Federal Credit Union Student Visa® Credit Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Altra’s secure website

Read Full Review

Altra Federal Credit Union Student Visa® Credit Card

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Earn double Reward Points on every dollar of purchases in the first 60 days after opening your new account, then 1 point per dollar spent.
Regular Purchase APR
16.15% Fixed

Magnify Glass Pros

  • $20 reward for good credit card usage: If you can maintain your account in an “exceptional way” for your first year, you’ll get a bonus $20 reward on your card’s anniversary. All you have to do is not have any late payments, don’t charge over your card’s limit, and use your card for at least six out of twelve months.
  • Up to $500 random winner each quarter: It’s like playing the lottery, except you don’t have to buy a lottery ticket. Each quarter Altra will choose one student cardholder at random and pay back all of their purchases from the previous month, anywhere between $50 to $500.
  • Earn rewards: For the first 60 days after you open your account, you’ll earn 2 points per dollar spent. After that you’ll earn 1 point per dollar spent. You can redeem these points for cash back, merchandise through their online rewards mall, or travel.
  • Redeem points for a lower interest rate: If you’ll need a car in the future, this might be a good credit card to get. You can trade in 5,000 points for a 0.25% reduction, or 10,000 points for a 0.50% reduction on an auto loan through Altra Federal Credit Union. That could end up saving you a ton of cash in the long run.

Cons Cons

  • 1% foreign transaction fee: This is definitely one card to leave at home if you’ll be traveling or studying abroad. Most credit cards charge a 3% foreign transaction fee, so this is on the low side. Still, it’s not too hard to find a student credit card with no foreign transaction fee, such as the Discover it® Student Cash Back or the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® card.
  • Must join Altra Federal Credit Union: Luckily, anyone can join, but it might take a bit of legwork on your part compared to a bank. If you don’t meet certain membership eligibility criteria, you can join the Altra Foundation for $5. Then you’ll need to open a savings account with a minimum $5 deposit that must remain in the account while you have your card open.
Bottom line

Bottom line

If you’re a student who doesn’t mind working with a credit union, Altra provides a card that has several rewards benefits. This card is a good option if you may be taking out an auto loan in the next few years, since you’ll benefit from a reduced interest rate by trading in your rewards points. In addition to earning rewards, using this card responsibly can help you build credit.

Read our full review of the Altra Federal Credit Union Student Visa® Credit Card

Best Secured Card

Discover it® Secured

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on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

Read Full Review

Discover it® Secured

Annual fee
$0
Minimum Deposit
$200
Regular APR
25.24% Variable
Credit required
bad-credit
Poor/New

Magnify Glass Pros

  • Cashback program: This card has a feature uncommon to other secure cards — a cashback program. You earn 2% cash back at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus 1% cash back on all other credit card purchases.
  • Cashback Match™: 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 (new cardmembers only). This is a great added bonus that increases your cash back in Year 1.
  • Automatic monthly reviews after eight months: Discover makes it easy for you to transition to an unsecured card with monthly reviews of your account starting after eight months. Reviews are based on responsible credit management across all of your credit cards and loans.

Cons Cons

  • Security deposit: You need to deposit a minimum of $200 in order to open this card. This will become your credit line, so a $200 deposit gives you a $200 credit line. If you want a higher credit limit, you need to increase your deposit. The security deposit is refundable, meaning you will receive your deposit back if you close the card, as long as your account is in good standing.
Bottom line

Bottom line

The Discover it® Secured is great for students who want to build credit. This card easily transitions you to an unsecured card when the time is right, and you can earn cash back. With proper credit behavior, you’ll soon be on your way to an unsecured card.

Read our full review of the Discover it® Secured

Best for No Credit History

Deserve® EDU Mastercard

APPLY NOW Secured

on Deserve’s secure website

Deserve® EDU Mastercard

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
1% unlimited cash back on ALL purchases
Regular Purchase APR
20.99% Variable
Credit required
bad-credit
Fair/Good Credit or No Credit

Magnify Glass Pros

  • No credit history required: You can qualify for this card without any credit history, making this a great option for students new to credit. You don’t even need a Social Security number when applying.
  • Reimbursement for Amazon Prime Student*: This card will reimburse you for the cost of a year of Amazon Prime Student (valued at $49). You need to charge your membership to this card to qualify, and you will not be reimbursed for subsequent years’ membership fees.
  • No foreign transaction fee: Whether you travel abroad or study abroad, you can rest easy: There are no foreign transaction fees with this card.

Cons Cons

  • Low cash back rate: The rewards program has a subpar 1% unlimited cash back on ALL purchases. You can do better with some of the other cards mentioned in this post. Though as a student, rewards shouldn’t be your primary focus — instead, build your credit so you can qualify for better non-student cards.
Bottom line

Bottom line

The Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students is a great choice for students who are looking to build credit. Deserve markets their cards for those who may have trouble qualifying for credit, and students who fall into this category may more easily qualify for this card than for cards from traditional banks. You can earn cash back, and receive a great promotional offer of a year of Amazon Prime Student for free*.

The information related to Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Also ConsiderAlso Consider

Golden 1 Platinum Rewards for Students

Golden 1 Credit Union Platinum Rewards for Students:

This credit card offers a snazzy rewards program: rather than accumulate points, you’ll get a cash rebate instead. All you have to do is make a purchase. At the end of the month, you’ll get a rebate of 3% of gas, grocery, and restaurant purchases, and 1% of all other purchases deposited back into your Golden 1 savings account at the end of the month. Anyone who lives or works in California is eligible for credit union membership.

What should I look for in a student credit card?

The most important thing to consider when looking for a student credit card is that it charges no annual fee. You should never have to pay to build your credit score. Fortunately, most student cards don’t charge you an annual fee, but it’s still something to watch out for.

The second most important thing you should keep an eye out for are tools that help you learn about credit or even promote good credit-building habits. For example, some student credit cards will give you a free monthly FICO® score update. You can use this freebie to see in real time how your credit score changes as you build credit history by keeping the card open, or paying down your credit card balance, for example.

The last thing you should be considering when picking out a student credit card is the rewards program. I know, I know, it seems counterintuitive. But stick with me — I’ll show you why in the next question.

Why shouldn’t I be concerned about maximizing my rewards while in college?

Rewards cards are nice to have. But if you’re a college student, here’s the truth: you probably won’t spend enough to earn meaningful rewards.

Why? With a good rewards program, you can earn points or cash back. A small percentage of your monthly spending can add up quickly. However, given the tight budget that most college students live on, it will probably take a while to earn meaningful rewards. For example, if you earn 1.25% cash back and spend $300 a month on your card, you would earn $45 of cash back during the year.

College students are very good at making good use of $45. And our favorite card offers a great cash back rewards program. Just don’t expect to earn a lot of cash back, given the tight budget of a college student.

Why should I get a credit card as a college student?

There are a lot of great reasons why you should get a credit card, as long as you can commit to using it responsibly.

The single biggest reason why you should get a credit card as a college student is because you can start establishing a credit history now. When you graduate from college, you will need a good credit score to get an apartment. And your future employer will likely check your credit report. Building a good credit history while still in college will help prepare you for life after graduation.

Getting a credit card while in college can also train you to develop good credit habits now. But you need to be honest with yourself. If you find that you can’t avoid the temptation of maxing out your credit card, you might want to switch to a debit card or cash.

Finally, getting a credit card now can be the motivation you need to start learning about credit. These skills aren’t hard to learn, and they could save you thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars later in life (when you want a mortgage, for example).

What is the CARD Act and why should I care about it?

Many years ago, credit card companies would market on college campuses. You could get a free beer mug or t-shirt in exchange for a credit card application. And you would be able to qualify for a credit card without having any income. The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act was signed into law in May 2009 to change a number of practices.

How did the CARD Act change student credit cards?

The CARD Act made a lot of changes in how credit card issuers do business with students. One of the biggest changes was requiring students to be able to demonstrate an ability to pay. If you are under 21 and do not have sufficient income (a campus job, for example), you would need to get a co-signer.

In addition, colleges must now limit the amount of credit card marketing on campus. The days of free t-shirts and pizzas in exchange for credit card applications are gone. But that doesn’t mean it is impossible for a college student to get a credit card. Some highly reputable banks and credit unions still offer student cards. And building a good credit score while still in college is still highly recommended.

How can I protect myself from racking up debt?

When used properly, credit cards are a very convenient method of repayment. However, when not used properly, you can end up deep in credit card debt. It is important to establish a healthy relationship to credit now, with your first credit card.

You should try to ensure that you pay off your credit card bill in full and on time every month. Ideally, you should set up an automatic monthly payment. And to keep yourself on track, take advantage of alerts offered by most credit card companies. You can even get daily text messages reminding you of your balance.

How can I automate my credit card usage?

If all of this sounds confusing, don’t worry. There’s actually a way you can automate your payments so you never even have to bother with the hassle of using a credit card. All it takes is a few minutes of upfront work.

First, you’ll need at least one recurring monthly bill of the same amount, such as Netflix or Spotify. Log in to your account and set up an automatic payment each month using your credit card. Make a note of how much your monthly bill costs.

Next, log in to your bank account. Set up a second automatic payment to go to your credit card each month for the same amount as the bill. If your bank doesn’t offer the option to set up automatic payments, you may also be able to set up your credit card to automatically withdraw the amount of the bill from your bank.

Because you know this bill will be for the same amount each month (barring any price increases), you can literally just leave this running in the background each month on autopilot. You don’t even have to carry your credit card in your wallet if you don’t want to. Then, when you graduate, you’ll automatically have an improved credit score!

What happens to my student credit card when I graduate?

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the finish line. But what about your student credit card? You may choose to hold on to your student card since it might be your oldest credit account and this can play a part in your credit score. If you close your student credit card account, it will reduce your average age of credit accounts and could hurt your credit score. Instead of closing the account, you can ask your student card issuer if there is an option to upgrade your card.

Here is a summary of our favorite cards:

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Lindsay VanSomeren
Lindsay VanSomeren |

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