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Credit Cards, Reviews

Chase Sapphire Preferred Review: What To Know Before You Apply

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

travel train

The information related to Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

If you want a rewards credit card, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is worth considering. However, the card is not right for everyone. Here are the highlights:

  • A great sign-up bonus – Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening..
  • Annual fee of $95.
  • Earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. If you spend a lot of money on travel and dining, this is a great way to boost your earnings. 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • If you redeem your points for travel using the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal, your points are worth 25% more. For example, that 60,000 point sign-up bonus could be worth $750 of travel purchases.
  • You can also transfer your points to leading airlines (like United and Southwest) or hotels (like Marriott or Hyatt) on a 1:1 basis.=

The most value goes to people who spend a lot of their money on travel or dining and want to redeem their points for travel. If you are a foodie and traveler looking to get free trips faster, this card is a great tool to earn free travel fast. Depending upon how much you spend on travel, you might even want to consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve® instead. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is Chase’s most exclusive card yet. You Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. — That’s $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. You earn 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees. But you have a $450 annual fee (instead of $95), and it is not waived during the first year. The least value goes to people who spend very little or no money on travel or dining and want to redeem for cash back or gift cards. Spending on all other categories (outside of travel and dining) only earns 1 point per $1 spent. And every 100 points is worth $1 of cash back. That means you would only be earning 1% cash back, which is a very low rate. Using our guide to the best cash back credit cards, you should be able to earn at least 2% on your spending.

How to Earn Points

You can earn 2 points on every dollar spent on travel (from cabs to airplane tickets) and dining. In order to get 2 points, the merchant needs to be classified as a “restaurant” or “travel.”

Dining is a relatively simple classification. All restaurants should classify as dining. Many bars (even those that don’t serve food) may be classified as “dining.” And even most popular food delivery services are categorized as dining (although there have been some reports of GrubHub not always earning 2x points). Here is the exact definition from the Chase website:

  • Merchants in the restaurants category are merchants whose primary business is sit-down or eat-in dining, including fast food restaurants as well as fine dining establishments. Please note that some merchants that sell food and drinks located within larger merchants such as sports stadiums, hotels and casinos, theme parks, grocery and department stores will not be included in this category unless the merchant has set up such purchases to be classified in a restaurant category.

The “travel” category is actually a lot broader than you might imagine. Paying for airplane tickets and hotel stays definitely counts as travel. But Airbnb, New York taxis, and even highway tolls will also count as travel. Here is the exact definition from Chase:

  • Merchants in the travel category include airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages. Please note that some merchants that provide transportation and travel-related services are not included in this category; for example, real estate agents, in-flight goods and services, on-board cruise line goods and services, sightseeing activities, excursions, tourist attractions, merchants within hotels and airports, and merchants that rent vehicles for the purpose of hauling. In addition, the purchasing of points or miles does not qualify in this category.

You will earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other spending with your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card card.

There is no maximum to the number of points that you can earn.

How Much Are the Points Worth?

When you earn points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card card, you are earning “Ultimate Rewards®” points. There are a number of ways that these points can be used. How valuable each point is depends on how you choose to use it.

Here’s a summary:

  • When you redeem points for cash, a statement credit, or a gift card: every 100 points earned = $1
  • When you redeem points for travel using Chase’s Ultimate Rewards® travel portal: every 100 points = $1.25
  • When you transfer points to travel partners: It depends upon the award that you are able to get in the program. For example, you could get a round-trip ticket to Europe on United Airlines for as few as 115,000 miles round trip or as many as 300,000 miles. You just have to shop on the United Airlines website to see how many miles they are charging for the flight. Unfortunately, the number of miles is determined by the airline and is at their discretion.

Who the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Doesn’t Work For

If your objective is to earn cash back on all your purchases, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is not the best option for you.

Why? Every 100 points you earn is only worth $1. That means you will get a 2% return on restaurant and travel spending, and only 1% return on everything else. You can do a lot better with a cash back credit card like the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer, where you can Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay.

Redeeming Points for Travel Rewards

As a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card cardholder, you can book travel using the Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel portal. You can book flights, hotels, car rentals, and other activities using the portal. The travel portal is like your own online travel agency:

who-the-chase-sapphire-preferred-card-doesnt-work-for

To pay for the travel, you can use Chase Ultimate Reward® points, your Chase card, or both. Your Ultimate Rewards® points carry even more value when you book using the portal. You only need 80 points to cover $1 of travel expense. For example, if an airfare is $500, you would only need 40,000 points to pay for the ticket. If you only had 30,000 points, you could apply those toward the balance and use cash or your credit card to cover the rest. The 30,000 points would deduct $375 from the purchase price, and you could pay for the remaining $125 out of pocket.

Booking travel through the portal really boosts the value of your credit card. That means you are actually earning:

  • 2.5% on every $1 you spend on restaurants and travel
  • 1.25% on every $1 you spend on everything else — and you can boost this by using Chase Freedom Unlimited® (see below)

Transfer to Travel Partners You have the opportunity to earn the best possible return when you transfer your points to a travel partner. Chase Ultimate Rewards® has an amazing coalition of travel partners where you can transfer your points 1:1. These include: =

  • Airlines: United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and a number of foreign carriers (including British Airways, Air France, JetBlue TrueBlue, Singapore Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic)
  • Hotels: Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, and Ritz-Carlton

The value of your points when transferred depends upon how you redeem them. You will get some of the best returns (and the most fun) when you can you nab a coveted “saver” travel award through one of Chase’s partner airlines. Most airlines have different tiers of fares that are reserved for people who are booking using miles or points. “Saver” awards are often the most deeply discounted and that’s when you get the most bang for your buck when it comes to redeeming points.

For example, we recently looked up a trip to London from Newark on the United Airlines website for a four-day weekend in April. Using our award points, we found a round-trip “saver” award fare for just 115,000 points for business class flight. That same flight cost nearly $5,000 in cash.

If you use those 115,000 points to book travel on the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal, it is worth $1,725. And if you want to convert those points into cash deposited into your bank account, it would be worth $1,150.

With some advance planning, you can get the biggest returns on your Chase Ultimate Rewards® points by transferring your points to Chase airline partners and finding deals on international business class flights. But you have to plan in advance and have a flexible travel schedule if you want to get the best business class redemption opportunities.

Remember: You can transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards® to your existing frequent flier accounts. If you have 40,000 miles in your United Airlines account already and need more miles for an award, you can easily (and instantly) top up your existing account by transferring at a 1:1 ratio.

Boost Your Earning with the  Chase Freedom Unlimited®

One of the weaknesses of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is that you only earn 1 point on all of your spending outside of the restaurant and travel categories. Fortunately, there is a way to boost your earnings.

Chase recently introduced the Chase Freedom Unlimited® credit card. With this credit card, you can earn 1.5% cash back offer. The good news is that you can combine those Chase Ultimate Rewards® points with your Chase Sapphire Reserve® Ultimate Reward® points. Even better: There is no annual fee on the Chase Freedom Unlimited® credit card.

To get the best value, use:

  • Chase Freedom Unlimited® for all purchases except dining and travel, and
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for all dining and travel purchases, and
  • Use your points to redeem for travel on the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal or get a great deal redeeming frequent flier miles with one of the travel partners

The returns could be even higher if you transferred your points to a travel partner and snagged a great reward ticket.

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

What Are the Fees and Charges Associated with the Card?

Here are some of the key fees and charges that come with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card:

  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: $0
  • Late Fee: Up to $15 if the balance is less than $100; up to $27 if the balance is $100 to less than $250; up to $37 if the balance is $250 or more

Having no foreign transaction fee is an excellent benefit, especially if you are a frequent traveler. There are still cards out there charging a hefty 3% on all foreign purchases.

Figuring out whether or not to pay the annual fee does take a little extra work. Remember that you can easily Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay with the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer credit card, which has a $0* annual fee. That is the baseline return. If you spend $2,000 a month, you could earn $480 a year in cash back. Can you beat that return?

If you are a foodie and world traveler, and you spend all $2,000 a month in the dining and travel categories, you can be much better off with Chase. If you use your card to redeem for travel or transfer to partners, you should be able to earn at least a 2.5% return. That means $20,000 of spend in the dining and travel categories would get you $600 of value before the annual fee. After the annual fee of $95 (waived the first year), you would get $505 of value during the ongoing years — which is a better deal than the flat 2% card. And there is a reason the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is such a great option for travelers: you can get even better returns when you use your miles strategically, and the more you spend in dining and travel categories (above $20,000 a year), the better the card.

This card is not ideal for people who:

  • Do not spend a lot of money in travel and dining categories
  • Do not want to redeem their points for travel (would rather have the cash)

Other Card Benefits

In addition to earning points, there are a number of other benefits that come associated with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. You can tell that this card is targeted toward the traveler because some of the richest (and, in our opinion, best) benefits are travel related. Make sure you understand them because if you are a regular traveler, you will likely have the opportunity to take advantage of them.

Car Rental Insurance

With this card, you get a primary auto rental collision damage waiver benefit. If you decline the auto rental company’s collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card, you can receive coverage that provides reimbursement for up to the actual cash value of the vehicle for theft and collision damage for most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad. Having primary coverage is a big deal — it means you don’t have to submit a claim to your own auto insurance company first (which could result in higher insurance rates after a claim).

The insurance provided on the credit card only deals with collision. You need to have a strategy in place for other risks. Auto insurers typically sell four types of policies. They are:

  • Collision (Loss Damage Waiver): Your Sapphire card can replace this.
  • Liability: If you damage someone else’s property or person, you could be held liable (and the amount of the liability could be significant). You should check to see if your existing auto insurance provides liability coverage on your rental. If it doesn’t, or if you don’t have an auto insurance policy, consider buying that protection at the counter.
  • Personal Effects: This policy protects any items that are damaged while in the rental car. Depending upon your situation, you might not need this coverage.
  • Personal Accident Insurance: This is typically a health care policy that is not necessary if you have sufficient coverage from your existing health insurance.

If you are renting a car overseas, be sure to check with your credit card before traveling to make sure you are covered in that country.

Trip Delay

Remember when airlines used to provide you with a free hotel room if you got stuck somewhere overnight? Not any longer. Thankfully, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card steps in to the rescue.

If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket.

Baggage Delay

You can get reimbursed for essential purchases like toiletries and clothing for baggage delays over six hours by passenger carrier up to $100 a day for five days.

Trip Cancellation

If your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather, and other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per trip for your prepaid, nonrefundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours, and hotels.

Other Benefits

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card also offers purchase protection, price protection, return protection, and extended warranty protection benefits.

How to Get Approved

As you can tell from the details of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, it comes rich with rewards and benefits. And it targets people with excellent or good credit.

If you have a a credit score in the fair/average range or you have missed a lot of payments historically, you will likely be rejected.

People with the best chance of being approved have Excellent credit.

If you have a bad credit score and are looking for a credit card, you can review our guide here.

An Example of Who Gets the Most from the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Here is a profile of an ideal Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card customer:

Mary lives in New York City. She doesn’t have a car (because she uses the subway), and she spends a ton of money eating out and traveling. She has a good job and a good credit score but would love to travel even more.

This card is ideal for Mary because:

  • So much of her spending is on dining and travel, which earns at the highest level.
  • She wants to earn free travel, and the redemption opportunities are richest when redeemed for travel.
  • She doesn’t have primary auto insurance (because she doesn’t have a car) so the primary auto rental benefit is ideal.
  • She has excellent credit.

If that sounds like you, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a great addition to your wallet or purse.

An Example of Who Gets the Least from the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Here is a profile of someone who might be better off with a different card:

John is a father of three. He spends a lot of money on groceries (to feed his growing family) and gas (to drive to all of his children’s events). He just doesn’t have the money to eat out, and hopes to do some traveling later in life — once he funds three college educations.

There are other options that would be much better for John. Because none of his spending would be in dining or travel, he would only be earning 1 point for every $1 spent. Because he would not be redeeming his points for travel, he would likely be earning only 1% on his spending. John would be better with a cash back credit card that better rewarded his spending patterns.

Should I Consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Instead?

In the last year, Chase also introduced the incredibly popular Chase Sapphire Reserve® card. Here are the key differences between the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve®?:

  • There is an annual fee of $450. It is not waived during the first year. However, you can receive up to $300 in statement credits annually as reimbursement for travel purchases such as airfare and hotels charged to your card.
  • You earn 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • When you redeem for travel on the Chase travel portal, you get 50% more value (compared to only 25% more value for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card).
  • Just like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you earn 1 point for every $1 spent in all other categories (excluding dining and travel).

For spending in travel and dining that is redeemed on the Chase travel portal, you get incredible value. Every $1 spent on travel and dining is worth 3 points. And 3 points redeemed for travel on the Chase travel portal would be worth 4.5 cents. That means you could get an incredible 4.5% of value on the Chase Sapphire Reserve® compared to 2.5% on Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

When you decide between the two cards ask yourself the following question:

  1. Do you spend at least $300 a year on travel? If yes, answer the next question. If no, the Reserve card might not be for you.
  2. If you spend at least $300 on travel and more than $3,750 a year in travel and dining combined — you will be better off with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card.

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.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at [email protected]

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Credit Cards

Unsecured Credit Cards for Bad Credit

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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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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

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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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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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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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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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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 $525 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 $5 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

APPLY NOW Secured

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
bad-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

APPLY NOW Secured

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.

On the plus side, one fee it doesn’t have is a credit limit increase fee. This is a fee some cards for people with bad credit charge when your credit limit increases, but the Total VISA® Credit Card does not charge this fee. So, going from a credit limit of $400 to $500 will not incur a 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]

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Best of, Credit Cards

Credit Cards: Find the Best Credit Card Offers & Deals – May 2019

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication. This site may be compensated through a credit card partnership.

The best credit cards can help you earn $2-$5 or more for every $100 you spend – an easy way to make hundreds or even thousands a year. When done properly, low-rate credit cards are also the cheapest way to borrow. Some cards won’t charge you interest for almost 2 years! And credit cards are the best way to build, rebuild or maintain an excellent credit score, if you pay on time and as agreed, and don’t carry high balances.

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

 

Top Credit Card for 2019

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express ranks as our top credit card for 2019. This card offers a combination of benefits that are unmatched among other cards in the market, including 0% intro periods, rewards, and great cardholder perks — all at a $0 annual fee. Cardholders can utilize the intro periods for both balance transfers and purchases by taking over a year to pay off debt without accruing interest. The balance transfer offer has a $0 balance transfer fee. The transfers must be requested within 60 days of account opening, which saves you the typical 3% transfer fee most other cards charge.

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

The Membership Rewards® points you earn can be redeemed for a variety of options, and a great option for travelers is the ability to transfer points to 18 participating frequent flyer programs including Delta SkyMiles, British Airways Executive Club, Avianca LifeMiles and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer.

Often these transfers are on a 1:1 rate, with some programs requiring more or less points. Additional redemption options include booking for travel, gift cards, merchandise, pay with points at checkout and statement credit. This card also has a wide range of additional perks that vary from shopping and entertainment benefits to travel and purchase protections.

The information related to The Amex EveryDay® 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.

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

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

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

How to Choose and Use a Rewards Card

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

How to Choose

Best Cash Back Credit Cards

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

Best Flat-Rate

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

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

1% When You Buy + 1% When You Pay

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

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

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent, Good

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

Annual Fee : $0*

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : None

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

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

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

FULL REVIEW 

The information related to Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Unlimited 2% Cash Back on Every Purchase

Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card

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

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent Credit

Purchase Interest Rate :16.24% Variable

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer : None

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

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

APPLY NOW Secured

on Fidelity’s secure website

FULL REVIEW 

Best Category Bonuses

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

Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

Unlimited 5% Cash Back on Gas

Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

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

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good

Purchase Interest Rate : 11.50% - 18.00% Variable

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : N/A

Intro Purchase APR : N/A

Intro Balance Transfer : N/A

BT Fee : $0

Tip: If you are not yet a member, you can use the non-member application process. Once approved, you can join with your $5 contribution to American Consumer Council.

APPLY NOW Secured

on Fort Knox Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Check out other gas credit cards.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

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

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

The unparalleled 6% cash back rate at U.S. Supermarkets makes this one of the best cards on the market for heavy grocery shoppers. Even with the $95 annual fee, most grocery shoppers will come out ahead. You will earn 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), and 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, as well as – NEW 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions & 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more. You’ll earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent/Good

Purchase Interest Rate : 15.24%-26.24% Variable

Annual Fee : $95

Welcome Offer : $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.

Intro Purchase APR : 0% for 12 months

Intro Balance Transfer : 0% for 12 months

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

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

FULL REVIEW 

Check out other grocery credit cards.

Uber Visa Card

4% for Dining Out

Uber Visa Card

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

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

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

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

Key Information

Purchase interest rate : 17.24% - 25.99% Variable

Annual fee :$0

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

Intro purchase APR : None

Intro balance transfer : None

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

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

FULL REVIEW 

Check out other dining cards.

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

Best Travel Credit Cards

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

Best Credit Cards for U.S. Travel

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

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

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

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

There is a $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees. You can use your points for a wide range of travel options, including flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars and even pesky baggage fees.

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent/Good

Purchase Interest Rate : 17.24% - 25.24% Variable APR

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases

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

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : None

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

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

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

Best Credit Cards for International Travel

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

Platinum Rewards MasterCard® from First Tech FCU

No Annual or Foreign Transaction Fee + Chip and Pin Functionality

Platinum Rewards MasterCard® from First Tech FCU

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

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

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good

Purchase Interest Rate : 12.24% to 18.00% Variable

Annual Fee : $0

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

Intro Purchase APR : N/A

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

BT Fee : No balance transfer fee

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

APPLY NOW Secured

on First Technology Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best Foreign Travel for Fair Credit

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

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

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

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Average/Fair/Limited

Purchase Interest Rate : 26.96% (Variable)

Annual Fee : $39

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : None

BT Fee : None

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

APPLY NOW Secured

on Capital One’s website

FULL REVIEW 
How to Use

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

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

Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards

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

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

Here are the best 0% balance transfer offers in the market today. All of these credit cards waive interest during the promotional period, which means there is no retroactive or deferred interest charge to worry about. However, if you fail to pay the balance off within the 0% period, interest will be assessed on the remaining balance.

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever

0% intro APR on transfers for 21 months; 5% balance transfer fee

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever

Citibank has a strong intro of 0%* for 21 months on Balance Transfers*. In addition, the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever has some added perks. There are no late fees, no penalty rate and no annual fee. Although you should always try to pay on time, it is nice that this card will not punish you for the occasional mistake. In addition to the balance transfer offer, you pay no interest on purchases for 18 months.

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent/Good

Purchase Interest Rate : 16.24% - 26.24%* (Variable)

Annual Fee : $0*

Sign-on Bonus : None

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

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

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

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

FULL REVIEW 

The information related to Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Chase Slate®

No Fee – introductory 0% on transfers for 15 months

Chase Slate®

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

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

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent/Good

Purchase Interest Rate : 17.24% - 25.99% Variable APR

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : No bonus

Intro Purchase APR : 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months; then 17.24% - 25.99% Variable APR

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months; then 17.24% - 25.99% Variable APR

 

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

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

FULL REVIEW 

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

Best Luxury Card

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Airline perks, entertainment benefits, rewards and more

The Platinum Card® from American Express

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

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

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent/Good

Annual Fee : $550

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

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

 

APPLY NOW Secured

on American Express’s secure website

Terms Apply | Rates & Fees

Best Low Rate Cards

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

How to Choose and Use a Low Rate Credit Card

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

How to Choose

Best 0% Purchase Credit Cards

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

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Credit Card

0% intro on Purchases for 12 Months

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Credit Card

If you are looking to finance a purchase, Citibank offers the longest 0% intro purchase promotion of any credit card in the MagnifyMoney database. The intro APR on purchases will be 0%* for 18 months on Purchases* after opening the credit card. This is a fantastic length of time for you to pay off your balance. Additionally, the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Credit Card has an intro 0%* for 18 months on Balance Transfers*. There is also a $0* annual fee and the ability to choose your payment due date from any available due date in the beginning, middle or end of the month. After the intro period ends, the APR is 15.24% - 25.24%* (Variable).

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required :Excellent/Good

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

Annual Fee : $0*

Sign-on Bonus : None

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

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

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

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

FULL REVIEW 

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

TruWest Visa® Signature Card

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

TruWest Visa® Signature Card

TruWest is a credit union with restricted membership. Unfortunately, you need to live in certain regions of Texas or Arizona, or work for a few select employers to join. You can learn about membership eligibility here. If you are able to join, you will find a long 0% introductory APR for 18 months period on both purchases and balance transfers (10.15%-11.15% Variable APR, after). Even better, the credit card has reasonable credit union interest rates after the promotional period ends. There is no annual fee on the card.

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent/Good

Regular Purchase & Balance Transfer APR : 10.15%-11.15% Variable

Annual Fee : $0

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

Intro Purchase APR : 0% introductory APR for 18 months

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

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

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

APPLY NOW Secured

on TruWest Credit Union’s secure website

Best Low Interest Credit Cards

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

Visa® Titanium Signature Rewards Card from Andrews Federal CU

As Low as 7.99% APR from a Credit Union Anyone Can Join

Visa® Titanium Signature Rewards Card from Andrews Federal CU

The Visa® Titanium Signature Rewards Card from Andrews Federal CU has the lowest ongoing APR on our list at 7.99% - 18.00% Variable. If you qualify for the lowest rate and end up carrying a balance, you may be charged little interest (compared with higher APR cards). This card is also a good option if you have existing debt on a credit card because you can transfer it during the balance transfer Introductory Rate Special Offer - 0% APR for 12 months.

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  • There is a range of interest rates. You won’t know yours until you apply.
  • You have to join the credit union, but membership is open to all. Click here to check for eligibility.

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : as low as 7.99% Variable

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : None

BT Fee : None

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

APPLY NOW Secured

on Andrews Federal Credit Union’s secure website

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

How to Use

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

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

Best Cards to Help Build or Rebuild Your Credit Score

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

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

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

How to Choose

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

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

Best Secured Credit Cards if You Have Bad or No Credit

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

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

Discover it® Secured

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

Discover it® Secured

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

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

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  • No annual fee
  • Free FICO® credit score

Key Information

Credit Score Required :

Purchase Interest Rate : 25.24% Variable APR

Annual Fee : $0

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

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : 10.99% for 6 months

BT Fee : 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*

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

APPLY NOW Secured

on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

FULL REVIEW 

Rate Advantage Secured Visa Credit Card by Coastal FCU

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

Rate Advantage Secured Visa Credit Card by Coastal FCU

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

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Anyone can apply

Purchase Interest Rate : as low as 17.50% Variable

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : None

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

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

APPLY NOW Secured

on Coastal Credit Union (NC)’s secure website

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

Best Credit Cards if You Have Fair Credit

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

Here are some good cards for people with fair credit:

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

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

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

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

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Average/Fair/Limited

Purchase Interest Rate : 26.96% (Variable)

Annual Fee : $39

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : None

BT Fee : None

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

APPLY NOW Secured

on Capital One’s website

FULL REVIEW 

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

How to Use It

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

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

A Special Note: Beware Predatory Companies

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

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

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

Other Benefits of Using a Credit Card

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

Available on Most Credit Cards

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

Available on Some Credit Cards

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

Should You Get a Credit Card?

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

There are two big risks associated with swiping plastic:

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

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

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

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

Which type of card is best for you?

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

Just remember this critical rule when selecting a credit card:

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

FAQ

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertiser Disclosure: The 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.

Benét J. Wilson
Benét J. Wilson |

Benét J. Wilson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Benét J. at [email protected]

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