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Unsecured Credit Cards for Bad Credit

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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 pick

Secured card: Discover it® Secured

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

Pros:

  • Automatic monthly account reviews: Starting at eight 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% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • 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.
  • 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 entice 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

Target REDcard™ Credit Card

Target REDcard™ Credit Card

Regular Purchase APR
25.15% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
5% at Target & Target.com
Lowe’s Advantage Card

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

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 than an unsecured card if you have 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

The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is a good option for people who may not be able to afford a $200 security deposit since this card also offers a $49 or $99 deposit — but be aware 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 to $200 deposit. 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 five 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 $520 to $1,663. 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 $9 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

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 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

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

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, 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 or less on a card with a $500 credit limit.

The information related to Total VISA® Credit 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 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.

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Best of, Credit Cards

Longest 0% Purchase Credit Card Offers From Banks & Credit Unions – July 2020

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.

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0% purchase credit card
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If you’re planning to make a large purchase and pay it off over several months, you should consider a credit card that lets you carry a balance for an extended period of time without paying interest.

There are currently several credit cards available that offer 0% introductory APRs on purchases for more than a year. When deciding which one is right for you, in addition to the length of the introductory APR, you should look at the ongoing interest rate, the annual fee and the card benefits.

Based on our research of cards available through MagnifyMoney, as well as top cards offered by major issuers and credit unions, we have compiled a list of credit cards that offer the longest introductory APRs on purchases.

20-month no interest credit card

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card offers the longest introductory APR on purchases currently available. Cardholders receive a 0%* intro APR for 20 billing cycles on Purchases*. After that, a regular APR of 13.99% - 23.99%* (variable) applies.

The card also offers a 0% intro APR for 20 billing cycles on Balance Transfers*, then an APR of 13.99% - 23.99%* (Variable).

Additional U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card benefits:

  • $0* annual fee
  • Cellphone protection
  • Free TransUnion credit score

What to look out for. The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card does not offer a rewards program. However, that is typical for a card offering such a long introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers. Additionally, if you transfer a balance to the card, you will be subject to balance transfer fees of either 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater.

18-month no interest credit card

Wells Fargo Platinum card

Not far behind the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card, the Wells Fargo Platinum card offers an introductory APR of 0% for 18 months, then a regular APR of 15.49%-24.99% (variable) will apply to any remaining balance or new purchases.

Cardholders also receive an intro APR on balance transfers of 0% for 18 months on qualifying balance transfers, then an APR of 15.49%-24.99% (variable).

Additional Wells Fargo Platinum card benefits:

  • $0 annual fee
  • Access to your FICO credit score through Wells Fargo Online
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Travel and emergency assistance services
  • Cellphone protection
  • Overdraft protection

What to look out for. The Wells Fargo Platinum card also does not offer a rewards program. Additionally, the card comes with a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% for 120 days, then 5% with a minimum of $5.

TruWest Visa® Signature Card

Along with an extended introductory APR on purchases and a sign-up bonus, the TruWest Visa® Signature Card offers rewards on every purchase and access to Visa Signature benefits. Cardholders receive a 0% introductory APR for 18 months on purchases. After that, a low, ongoing APR of 7.90%-8.90% variable applies. Plus, cardholders earn 1 point per dollar spent, and up to 10 extra points per dollar spent when you sign up for the Get Extra Points Program.

Additional TruWest Visa® Signature Card benefits:

  • 0% introductory APR for 18 months on balance transfers, then 7.90%-8.90% variable APR
  • $0 annual fee
  • Earn $100 when you spend $100 in the first 90 days
  • Earn up to 1.5% cash back with the TruRewards program
  • Visa Signature benefits, such as hotel upgrades and concierge services

What to look out for. This card is restricted to TruWest Credit Union members, which includes people who live, work, own a business or go to school in select Arizona and Texas counties, or who are related to a current TruWest Credit Union member. You can read more about membership eligibility on TruWest’s website.

TruWest Visa Platinum Card

Like the TruWest Visa® Signature Card, the TruWest Visa Platinum Card also offers a 0% introductory APR for 18 months on purchases, then a low regular APR of 5.95% - 19.95% variable.

Additional TruWest Visa Platinum Card benefits:

  • 0% introductory APR for 18 months on balance transfers, then 5.95% - 19.95% variable APR
  • $0 annual fee
  • Low starting APR on purchases and balance transfers

What to look out for. Unlike the TruWest Visa® Signature Card, the TruWest Visa Platinum Card does not offer a rewards program. Also, keep in mind that the card is only available to TruWest Credit Union members.

TruWest Platinum Points Visa Rewards Card

The TruWest Platinum Points Visa Rewards Card also offers a 0% introductory APR for 18 months on purchases. After the intro period, the regular APR is 7.90% - 14.90% variable.

Similar to the TruWest Visa® Signature Card, the TruWest Platinum Points Visa Rewards Card offers a sign-up bonus and rewards program. Cardholders automatically earn up to 1 point for every $1 you spend, and earn up to 10 extra points per dollar spent. Plus, earn $100 when you spend $100 in the first 90 days.

Additional TruWest Platinum Points Visa Rewards Card card benefits:

  • 0% introductory APR for 18 months on balance transfers, then 7.90% - 14.90% variable APR
  • $0 annual fee
  • Automatically earn up to 1 point for every $1 you spend, and earn up to 10 extra points per dollar spent. Also, earn up to 1.5% cash back with the TruRewards program.

What to look out for. While they offer the same rewards rate, the TruWest Platinum Points Visa Rewards Card does not offer the same exclusive Visa Signature benefits, including hotel upgrades, as the TruWest Visa® Signature Card. Also, as with the other TruWest credit cards, the TruWest Platinum Points Visa Rewards Card is only available to TruWest Credit Union members.

15-month no interest credit card

Chase Freedom®

The Chase Freedom® offers a generous amount of cash back in popular spending categories, with a slightly shorter introductory APR period. The card provides a 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months, then an APR of 16.49% - 25.24% variable. Plus, cardholders earn the following rewards rate: 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.

Additional Chase Freedom® benefits:

  • Earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months, then 16.49% - 25.24% variable APR
  • $0 annual fee
  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranty

What to look out for. The Chase Freedom® only allows you to earn the higher bonus rate on the first $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter. Still, if you max out the $1,500 cap, you can earn $75 cash back per quarter.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers the same introductory APR on purchases as the Chase Freedom®, but with a flat cashback rewards rate. Cardholders receive a 0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases, then a regular APR of 14.99% to 23.74% variable.

Cardholders also earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

Additional Chase Freedom Unlimited® benefits:

  • N/A on balance transfers, then 14.99 - 23.74% variable APR
  • $0 annual fee
  • Complimentary three-month DoorPass membership from DoorDash (activate by Dec. 31, 2021)
  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranty

What to look out for. While the Chase Freedom Unlimited® also offers a long introductory APR on balance transfers, keep in mind that the card charges a Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

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on American Express’s secure website

Terms Apply |  Rates & Fees

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Intro Purchase APR
0% on purchases for 15 months
Intro BT APR
N/A
Regular Purchase APR
13.99%-23.99% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores. 1% cash back on other purchases.

Along with an intro 0% on purchases for 15 months on purchases, then a regular APR of 13.99%-23.99% variable, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express offers an elevated cashback rate in everyday spend categories.

Cardholders earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores. 1% cash back on other purchases. Plus, earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 3 months.

Additional Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express benefits:

  • $0 annual fee
  • Car rental loss or damage insurance
  • Complimentary ShopRunner membership
  • Terms apply.

What to look out for. The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express limits the amount of cash back you can earn at the higher rate, however. Once you spend $6,000, you will only earn the lower cash back at U.S. supermarkets. However, if you max out the $6,000 spend cap, you will earn $180 back on those purchases.

To see rates & fees for the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, please click here.

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express offers an intro APR of 0% for 15 months on purchases. After that, a regular APR of 12.99% - 23.99% variable will apply. Plus, cardholders earn 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x), 1x points on other purchases.

Additional The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express benefits:

  • Introductory 0% for 15 Months on balance transfers, then a 12.99%- 23.99% variable APR will apply
  • $0 annual fee
  • $0 balance transfer fee.
  • 20% extra points when you use your card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing cycle
  • Payment flexibility

What to look out for. The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express does not offer a welcome bonus or rewards on the purchases you make with the card.

To see rates & fees for The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express, please click here.

Chase Slate®

With the Chase Slate®, you can enjoy a 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months, then an APR of 16.74% - 25.49% variable applies. Additionally, the card offers a 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months, then 16.74% - 25.49% variable APR. You also get a Intro $0 on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that: Either $5 or 5%, whichever is greater.

Additional Chase Slate® benefits:

  • $0 annual fee
  • No penalty APR
  • Free credit score access through Credit Journey

What to look out for. The Chase Slate® does not offer a rewards program.

Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card

The Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card offers a straightforward approach to earning rewards, as well as an intro APR of 0% for 15 months on purchases. After that, a regular APR of 13.99%-25.99% (variable) applies.

Cardholders earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. The card also offers a $150 cash bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months.

Additional Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card benefits:

  • Intro APR of 0% for 15 months on qualifying balance transfers on balance transfers, then 13.99%-25.99% (variable) APR
  • $0 annual fee

What to look out for. The Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card charges a balance transfer fee of either 3% for 120 days, then 5%. After that, up to 5% for each balance transfer, with a minimum of $5.

Additionally, cash redemptions are only available in increments of $25 by phone or online, and in increments of $20 from a Wells Fargo ATM. You must have a Wells Fargo debit or ATM card to redeem rewards at a Wells Fargo ATM.

American Express Cash Magnet® Card – $150 Welcome Offer

Similar to the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card, the American Express Cash Magnet® Card – $150 Welcome Offer lets you earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on your purchases, as well as an intro APR of 0% on purchases for 15 months. After that, a regular APR of 13.99%-23.99% variable applies.

Cardholders also earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 or more in purchases with your new card within the first 3 months of card membership.

Additional American Express Cash Magnet® Card – $150 Welcome Offer benefits:

  • $0 annual fee
  • Payment flexibility
  • Car rental loss and damage insurance
  • Complimentary ShopRunner membership

What to look out for. With the American Express Cash Magnet® Card – $150 Welcome Offer, you can only redeem rewards as statement credits.

To see rates & fees for the American Express Cash Magnet® Card – $150 Welcome Offer, please click here.

PNC Core® Visa® Credit Card

The PNC Core® Visa® Credit Card is a basic card that offers an Introductory 0% APR on purchases for the first 15 billing cycles following account opening, then a 11.74%-21.74% variable APR will apply. The card also offers a 0% introductory APR for the first 15 billing cycles following account opening when the balance is transferred within the first 90 days following account opening, then a 11.74%-21.74% variable APR.

Additional PNC Core® Visa® Credit Card benefits:

  • $0 annual fee
  • Earn a $100 bonus after you make $1,000 in the first 3 billing cycles following account opening

What to look out for. While the PNC Core® Visa® Credit Card offers a sign-up bonus, it does not offer rewards on the purchases you make using the card.

Truly Simple® Card from Fifth Third Bank

The Truly Simple® Card from Fifth Third Bank comes with limited benefits and has no rewards program; however, cardholders can enjoy a 0% introductory APR for the first 15 billing cycles after your account is opened on purchases, then a regular APR of 11.99% - 22.99% variable. The card also offers a 0% introductory APR for the first 15 billing cycles after your account is opened on balance transfers, then 11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR.

Additional Truly Simple® Card from Fifth Third Bank:

  • $0 annual fee
  • No penalty APR
  • Access to Mastercard Global Service and Mastercard Priceless Cities

What to look out for. This card is limited to residents of Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.

BB&T Bright Credit Card

The BB&T Bright Credit Card is a no-frills card that offers a 0% intro for 15 months on purchases, then 12.74% - 21.74% variable APR, as well as a 0% intro for 15 months on balance transfers, then a 12.74% - 21.74% variable APR.

Additional BB&T Bright Credit Card benefits:

  • Access to discounts through BB&T Deals
  • Travel and emergency assistance services
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver

What to look out for. The BB&T Bright Credit Card comes with balance transfer fees of 3% or $10 minimum on transactions greater than $10. Additionally, the card is restricted to residents of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and West Virginia.

Visa® Platinum Preferred Rewards from APG FCU

Offered by the APG Federal Credit Union, the Visa® Platinum Preferred Rewards from APG FCU comes with a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases, then 12.49% - 17.99% variable APR.

The card also offers the following sign-up bonus: Earn 1,000 free Welcome points at sign up and 2,500 free Thank You points at first purchase.

Additional Visa® Platinum Preferred Rewards from APG FCU benefits:

  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers, then 10.99% to 17.99% variable APR
  • $0 annual fee

What to look out for. To qualify for this card, you must be a member of APG FCU and live, work, worship, attend school or volunteer in Harford or Cecil County in Maryland or certain areas in Middle River, Maryland.

KeyBank Latitude® Credit Card

The KeyBank Latitude® Credit Card offers a 0.00% Introductory APR for the first 15 monthly billing cycles on purchases. After the intro period ends, a regular APR of 11.99% - 21.99% variable applies.

Additional KeyBank Latitude® Credit Card benefits:

  • 0.00% Introductory APR for the first 15 monthly billing cycles on balance transfers, then 11.99% - 21.99% Variable APR
  • $0 annual fee

What to look out for. This card is restricted to applicants who live in Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont and Washington. The card also comes with a balance transfer fee of either $10.00 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.

When is a personal loan better?

Being able to avoid interest charges on a large purchase can save you a lot of money. So, if you can apply for a 0% intro APR credit card that doesn’t charge an annual fee, that will most likely be your best bet. However, there are a few circumstances where a personal loan might be a better option:

  • You need a longer period of time to pay off a large purchase. Personal loans are considered installment loans, meaning you can borrow one lump sum that you pay off in fixed monthly payments over a specific time frame. Depending on your credit, there are personal loans available with interest rates as low as 4% and payment terms as long as 84 months.By contrast, 0% intro APR credit cards offer interest-free periods on purchases for up to 20 months. If you don’t pay your balance in full within that period, you may be subject to interest charges often ranging from 12% to 24%. Keep in mind, though, you can find cards with lower interest rates in this post.
  • You need cash instead of plastic. For example, you might need to pay a contractor who does not accept credit cards. If you need cash, a personal loan usually makes more sense than a credit card, since credit cards often charge cash advance fees and high interest rates on cash advances. The Chase Slate® card, for example, charges a cash advance fee of Either $10 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater, and comes with a cash advance APR of 26.74% Variable.

If you’re considering a personal loan, you can compare and apply using our personal loan comparison tool, which allows you to check interest rates and see what your chances of approval are without hurting your credit score.

The information related to the Chase Freedom®, Chase Freedom Unlimited®, Chase Slate®, Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card and The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express has been independently collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply to American Express credit card offers. See americanexpress.com for more information. 

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.

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Best of, College Students and Recent Grads, Credit Cards

Best Student Credit Cards July 2020

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.

Written By

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.

Discover it® Student Cash Back

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 categories: 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 benefits 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

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

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 26.99% (variable). That’s almost twice as high as some other student credit cards, such as the Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card with an APR as low as 12.90% - 22.90% Variable. 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 independently 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
12.90% - 22.90% Variable
Credit required
excellent-credit

Magnify Glass Pros

  • APRs as low as 12.90% - 22.90% variable APR: Depending on your credit, your interest rate could be between 12.90% - 22.90% 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.

Best Credit Union Card

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
15.90% 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

  • 1.00% of each transaction in U.S. dollars 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

Discover it® Secured

Magnify Glass Pros

  • Cashback program: This card has a feature uncommon to other secured cards — a cashback program. You earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • 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, which is pretty standard for a secured 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

Deserve® EDU Mastercard

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
1% unlimited cash back on ALL purchases
Regular Purchase APR
18.74% Variable
Credit required
bad-credit
Good/Fair/Limited

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 $59). 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. (Note that if you’ve applied without an SSN, you won’t build credit with this card until you link an SSN to your account.)
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*.

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.

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

Here is a summary of our favorite cards:

Credit cards
Best for

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.