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Credit Cards

Home Depot Credit Card vs. Lowe’s Credit Card

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.

Updated June 28, 2018

Home improvements can be extremely costly and many people don’t have the money to pay for them upfront so they look to special financing options like store credit cards. If you’re looking to make renovations to your home, there’s a good chance you’ve looked into buying supplies from two of the biggest home improvement retailers in the U.S. — Home Depot and Lowe’s. Both stores offer special financing options and discounts that you can utilize to make your purchases more affordable.

In this post, we compare the key features of the Home Depot Consumer Credit Card and the Lowe’s Advantage Card, and provide you with our top pick for your next home improvement project.

We also discuss a few alternative financing options because credit cards aren’t always the best financing option — especially if you can’t afford to pay them off quickly.

Home Depot Consumer Credit Card vs. Lowe’s Advantage Card


Home Depot Consumer Credit Card


Lowe’s Advantage Card


Winner


Annual Fee

None

None

Tie


Regular Purchase APR

17.99%-26.99% Variable

26.99% Variable

Home Depot (so long as your credit is good enough to score the better rate).


Everyday Financing

6 Months Every Day Financing on Purchases of $299 or More. No interest if paid in full within 6 months.*

6 months special financing on purchases of $299 or more. No interest if paid in full within 6 months.*

Tie


Project Financing

Up to 24 months during special promotions.*


(Note that Home Depot offers a Project Loan Card with a fixed rate and 84 months to pay off purchases.)

Special fixed-rate interest offers for 36, 60 or 84 months and on purchases of $2,000 or more.*

Lowe’s (they offer financing options greater than 24 months).


Fine print

“Interest will be charged to your account from the purchase date if the purchase balance is not paid in full within 6 months.”


This is called deferred interest and means you are responsible for all the interest you would have been charged during the 0% interest period if you carry a balance after the 6 months.

If you don’t pay in full within 6 months, “interest will be assessed on the promotional purchase from the purchase date.”


This is called deferred interest and means you are responsible for all the interest you would have been charged during the 0% interest period if you carry a balance after the 6 months.

Tie


New card member discount

Save $100 on your qualifying purchase of $1,000 or more. Valid 5/24-7/11/18.*

None

Home Depot


Everyday discount

No everyday discount, but rotating limited time offers for a variety of products and services.*

5% off your eligible purchase.*

Lowe’s (since Home Depot doesn’t offer a discount).

Apply Now Secured

on Home Depot’s secure website

Apply Now Secured

on Lowe’s secure website


The Overall Winner: Lowe’s Advantage Card


The Lowe’s Advantage Card is the winner in this comparison since it offers a consistent, everyday discount and several financing options. Both cards offer the same everyday financing option, but the Lowe’s Advantage Card offers more options for project financing, which may be more beneficial for a home financing project. The Home Depot Consumer Credit Card unfortunately doesn’t offer everyday discounts or long-term financing options past two years, though it does have the potential for a lower APR with its range; unlike the Lowe’s Advantage Card which only has one APR. All in all, the Lowe’s Advantage Card provides more benefits to consumers looking to finance a home improvement project.


Apply Now Secured

on Lowe’s secure website

*Terms and conditions apply.

What to know before you open a store card for home improvements

Focus on your needs vs. rewards. Prior to applying for a store card, try not to let the promise of a cushy reward offer cloud your judgment. Consider which store you shop more and which store card has offers that suits your needs best.

For example, if you’re planning on doing exterior installations like roofing, siding or windows, Home Depot has no interest if paid in full within 12 months on purchases of $5,000 or more (offer valid until 1/31/18). Meanwhile, Lowe’s offers 5% off your eligible purchase, which can be helpful if you plan on making numerous purchases below $299 — since the 5% discount can’t be combined with special financing discounts that start at $299.

Decide how long you need to finance your improvements. Home Depot and Lowe’s both offer different financing options where you can pay a fixed interest rate for up to 84 months. While the Home Depot Consumer Credit Card only offers up to 24 months financing, they have another card, the Project Loan card, offering 84 months financing at a fixed 7.99% with a 6-month buying window to purchase needed products and services. On the other hand, the Lowe’s Advantage card offers project financing on any in-store purchase of $2,000 or more: 36 fixed monthly payments at 3.99% APR until paid in full, 60 fixed monthly payments at 5.99% APR until paid in full or 84 fixed monthly payments at 7.99% APR until paid in full.

Review selection offerings. Another key point to consider is that one store may have a better rewards program, but you may prefer the selection of items at the other store.

Consider access to the retailer. If you’ve never shopped at either store, do some research to see which one has more items you need. Also, check out the location of the stores — Home Depot has over 2,200 while Lowe’s has over 1,700. It may not make sense to apply for a Lowe’s card and trek 30 minutes to the nearest store if there’s a Home Depot around the block.

Read the fine print. Another key point to look at are the terms and conditions for each card. You want to check if there are any unusual fees and what the interest rates are if you carry a balance. This information can be a deciding factor in your decision. As you can see from our review, both Home Depot and Lowe’s credit card offerings carry a deferred interest clause — if you don’t pay off your balance by the time the promotional period ends, you could get hit with a hefty interest charge.

Take note that a store card can only be used at the issuing store, meaning you will only be able to use a Home Depot credit card on Home Depot purchases. Meanwhile, regular credit cards have more flexibility and can be used anywhere.

Other ways to finance a home improvement project

There are several other options for you to utilize if you decide that a store card from Home Depot or Lowe’s isn’t the best choice. There are other types of credit cards you can choose, such as cards with long 0% intro periods or cashback cards that offer high rates. Besides credit cards, you can take out a personal loan, home equity loan or home equity line of credit. Below, we detail what other options you have for your home improvement project and the pros and cons associated with each.

0% Intro APR cards

An alternative to store cards are 0% intro APR cards, which provide a period of time for you to carry a balance without racking up interest. The better 0% intro APR cards have intro periods of 18 months, allowing you well over a year to pay off debt from new purchases. These cards often offer longer 0% intro periods than store cards, and although they won’t have store specific rewards, you can benefit greatly from the long intro period.

Pros:

  • Long intro periods: The 0% intro periods for these cards are longer than those provided by store cards and can provide you with as long as 18 months interest-free.
  • Wide acceptance: These cards can be used at any store, unlike store cards, which are restricted to the issuing store.

Cons:

  • Often lack rewards or store specific discounts: Many 0% intro APR cards lack rewards programs or don’t provide store specific discounts like the Home Depot or Lowe’s cards.

Cards to Consider

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever

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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.

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever

Regular Purchase APR
16.74% - 26.74%* (Variable)
Intro Purchase APR
0%* for 12 months on Purchases*
Intro BT APR
0%* for 21 months on Balance Transfers*
Annual fee
$0*
Balance Transfer Fee
5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum
Credit required
good-credit
Excellent/Good

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever offers a competitive intro 0%* for 12 months on Purchases*, then 16.74% - 26.74%* (Variable) APR applies. This is one of the longest intro periods for purchases available and can provide you ample time to pay off your debt. Other great features of this card include no late fees, no penalty rate and a $0* annual fee. Although there are no rewards, the long 0% intro period can provide more benefit if you can’t pay off purchases within the short 0% periods of the Home Depot or Lowe’s cards.

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

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on US Bank’s secure website

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

Regular Purchase APR
14.49% - 25.49%* (Variable)
Intro Purchase APR
0%* intro for 18 billing cycles on Purchases*
Intro BT APR
0%* intro for 18 billing cycles on Balance Transfers*
Annual fee
$0*
Balance Transfer Fee
Either 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater.
Credit required
good-credit
Excellent/Good

The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card offers an 0%* intro for 18 billing cycles on Purchases* on purchases (after, 14.49% - 25.49%* (Variable) APR applies). This is a great length of time for you to pay off any purchases you make, regardless if they’re for home improvement or not. The APR range for this card has a low starting rate, promising if you have Excellent credit. Besides the 0% intro period, this card is fairly basic and has no rewards.Read our guide to the longest 0% purchase credit card offers and use our personalized tool to compare introductory 0% interest cards.

Cashback and rewards cards

Another alternative to a Home Depot or Lowe’s credit card may be cashback or rewards cards. These cards offer rewards for all your spending, with some offering higher rates on select purchases and 0% intro periods. Often, these cards provide more long-term value than a store card you may open since they don’t limit your purchases to select stores.

Pros:

  • Versatile rewards programs: These cards provide rewards or cashback programs that allow you to earn rewards on all your spending, regardless of where you shop. Some cards even offer high rates on certain purchases, like home improvements.
  • Wide acceptance: There are no restrictions on where you can use these cards, and you earn rewards on all purchases.

Cons:

  • No store discounts: Since these cards aren’t store cards, you most likely will not receive the same store discounts or rewards that a store card offers.

Cards to consider

The Farmers® Rewards Visa® Card from Comenity Bank

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on Comenity Bank’s secure website

The Farmers® Rewards Visa® Card from Comenity Bank

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
3X points for $1 spent on Farmers products, 3X points for $1 spent on Fuel / Gas, 3X points for $1 spent on Home Improvement, 1X points for $1 spent everywhere else Visa is accepted
Regular Purchase APR
14.74% to 21.74% Variable
Credit required
good-credit
Excellent/Good

The Farmers® Rewards Visa® Card from Comenity Bank offers a high 3X points for $1 spent on Farmers products, 3X points for $1 spent on Fuel / Gas, 3X points for $1 spent on Home Improvement, 1X points for $1 spent everywhere else Visa is accepted. Each account anniversary you receive 1,000 points (equal to a $10 statement credit). Although you earn points, they can be redeemed as a statement credit with 1 point worth $.01. This card offers more flexibility than a Lowe’s or Home Depot card since it can be used anywhere. The intro period is also longer with a 0% introductory purchase APR for 12 months. After that your APR will be 14.74% to 21.74% Variable APR.

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

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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.

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay.
Regular Purchase APR
15.99%– 25.99% (Variable)
Credit required
good-credit
Excellent, Good

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is the trend setting flat-rate cash back card where you can earn cash back twice on every purchase. You Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay.. Points are redeemable for statement credit with 1 point worth $.01. This card allows you to earn a high, consistent cash back rate on all spending without limiting you to select categories or stores. With this card, you have the freedom to use it anywhere and can see more long-term value compared to a store card you may only use for a home improvement project.Read our roundup of the best cash back cards for every category and compare cash back cards.

Personal loans

Depending on your situation, a credit card may not be the best option; especially if you have less than perfect credit and can’t get approved. A personal loan is when you borrow a fixed amount of money for a fixed time period at a fixed rate.

Personal loans are a more liquid approach to financing a home improvement since you receive deposited money in your bank account. The interest rates for personal loans vary by issuer and your creditworthiness, but if you’re someone with excellent credit you may receive the lowest rates, with some issuers offering as low as 3.99% APR. That’s substantially lower than a credit card.

On the other hand, you may find some personal loan lenders willing to work with you if you have bad credit, although you are likely to get stuck with a pretty high APR. Some APRs can easily run above 30% on the high end.

Pros:

  • Better approval odds: If you’re someone with bad or fair credit, you may have an easier time qualifying for a personal loan compared with a credit card. Some personal loans either don’t have a minimum credit score or accept people with low scores.
  • Fixed interest rates: Unlike the majority of credit cards, personal loans have a fixed interest rate. You don’t have to worry about your rate increasing during your term.
  • May be able to check your rates without harming your credit: Some personal loans allow you to see if you prequalify by performing a soft pull of your credit. A soft pull doesn’t affect your credit score, and with many personal loans you can shop around for the best rate without harming your credit. Just be careful and read the disclaimers before you check to make sure it’s a soft pull — not a hard pull. Once you officially apply for a loan, they will do a hard pull.

Cons:

  • Origination fee: Some personal loans have origination fees. These fees are a percentage of the total loan amount. For example, a 1% origination fee on a $5,000 loan is $50.
  • Possible prepayment penalty: Some personal loans will charge a fee if you pay off your loan early, which can be more costly than riding out your term.

How to compare personal loan options

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LendingTree is our parent company

LendingTree

Loan Amount
up to $50,000
Term
24 to 60 Months
APR Range
As low as 3.99%
Origination Fee
Varies
Credit Required
Minimum 500 FICO®
Soft Pull
Compare offers without hurting your score.

LendingTree is our parent company. LendingTree is unique in that you may be able to compare up to five personal loan offers within minutes. Everything is done online and you may be pre-qualified by lenders without impacting your credit score. LendingTree is not a lender.


A Personal Loan can offer funds relatively quickly once you qualify you could have your funds within a few days to a week. A loan can be fixed for a term and rate or variable with fluctuating amount due and rate assessed, be sure to speak with your loan officer about the actual term and rate you may qualify for based on your credit history and ability to repay the loan. A personal loan can assist in paying off high-interest rate balances with one fixed term payment, so it is important that you try to obtain a fixed term and rate if your goal is to reduce your debt. Some lenders may require that you have an account with them already and for a prescribed period of time in order to qualify for better rates on their personal loan products. Lenders may charge an origination fee generally around 1% of the amount sought. Be sure to ask about all fees, costs and terms associated with each loan product. Loan amounts of $1,000 up to $50,000 are available through participating lenders; however, your state, credit history, credit score, personal financial situation, and lender underwriting criteria can impact the amount, fees, terms and rates offered. Ask your loan officer for details.

As of 17-May-19, LendingTree Personal Loan consumers were seeing match rates as low as 3.99% (3.99% APR) on a $10,000 loan amount for a term of three (3) years. Rates and APRs were based on a self-identified credit score of 700 or higher, zero down payment, origination fees of $0 to $100 (depending on loan amount and term selected).

LendingTree has a great feature where you can compare personal loans from multiple issuers within minutes. You can select home improvements from the drop-down menu when asked “How are you going to use the money?” and continue with the prompts until you receive your personalized loan rates. This tool performs a soft pull on your credit so your credit score will not be affected by comparing rates.

We have a personal loan calculator that can help you see if a personal loan is a good option for your home improvement project:

Check out where to get the best personal loan rates online and use our personalized tool to compare personal loans.

Home equity loan or home equity line of credit

You may have heard the terms home equity loan and home equity line of credit (HELOC) before, and are now considering them as options to finance your home improvement project. Before you decide, it’s a good idea to know what these home equity options are and how they can be helpful — and potentially harmful.

A home equity loan is similar to a personal loan where you have a fixed loan amount, with a fixed interest rate and fixed term — but a home equity loan is secured by your home. This means your home is collateral and if you don’t pay your loan, the lender can foreclose on your home.

Similar to a credit card, a HELOC provides you with a revolving line of credit where you can borrow money and you only make payments on what you borrow. Any funds borrowed are charged interest, and unfortunately, the interest rates are often variable, which means they can increase at any time. You can withdraw funds with a credit card or check linked to your account. And, like home equity loans, your home acts as collateral if you don’t pay off your HELOC.

Pros:

  • Fixed interest for home equity loans: When you borrow money with a home equity loan, you receive a fixed amount of money for a fixed term and a fixed interest rate. This creates stability when repaying your loan and you don’t have to worry about increasing interest rates.
  • Revolving line of credit for a HELOC: With a HELOC, you receive a revolving line of credit. Similar to a credit card, when you make charges and pay them off, your available credit is replenished.

Cons:

  • Your home is collateral: If you don’t pay off your loan, the lender can take action against your home and possibly foreclose. This is a big risk that other financing options on this list don’t have.
  • Look out for fees: Home equity loans and HELOC can come with numerous fees like origination fee, lender fee, application fee, appraisal fee and more. It’s a good idea to ask questions and read the terms before signing anything.
  • You need equity in your home to qualify: Most lenders require you to have a loan-to-value ratio of 80% or below. To get your LTV, it’s pretty simple: add the amount you want to borrow with a home equity loan to the amount you still owe on the home. Once you’ve got that figure, divide it by the market value of the home. Let’s say you’re looking for a $10,000 home equity loan and you owe $80,000 on your mortgage. If your home is currently valued at $200,000, that would give you an LTV of about 45%.
  • Watch out for refinancing: Some lenders may pressure you into refinancing a loan that you’re struggling to pay off. By refinancing, the lender benefits from charging you more fees and interest points that end up hurting you and increasing your debt.

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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 – September 2019

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

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

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 you can earn even more with a bit of work. At the 2% cash back rate, the money can add up quickly. If you spend $1,000 a month, you can earn $240 a year.

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. 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.

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent, Good

Purchase Interest Rate : 15.99%– 25.99% (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.

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent Credit

Purchase Interest Rate :15.99% 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.

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on Fidelity’s secure website

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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 unlimited 5% cash back on gas and 1% cash back on all retail 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.

Transparency Score 3
Transparency Score
  • No limit to the cash back you can earn, even in the bonus category
  • You have to be a member of the credit union to get the card

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good

Purchase Interest Rate : 11.50% - 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.

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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 and select U.S. streaming subscriptions 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 and transit (e.g., taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more), 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.

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent/Good

Purchase Interest Rate : 14.99%-25.99% 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 may be better off 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, including UberEats, 3% back on hotel and airfare, 2% back for online purchases, Uber and music streaming services, 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.

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

Key Information

Purchase interest rate : 17.74% - 28.49% Variable

Annual fee :$0

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

Intro purchase APR : None

Intro balance transfer : None

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

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

FULL REVIEW 

Check out other dining cards.

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

Best Travel Credit Cards

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

Best Credit Cards for U.S. Travel

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

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

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

With this card, you Earn unlimited 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 : 16.99% - 24.99% 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.

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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.

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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 a card that offers a 0% introductory rate on 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 on 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 introductory 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 21 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 : 16.74% - 26.74%* (Variable)

Annual Fee : $0*

Sign-on Bonus : None

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

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

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

Tip: 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 : 16.99% - 25.74% Variable APR

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : No bonus

Intro Purchase APR : 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months; then 16.99% - 25.74% Variable APR

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months; then 16.99% - 25.74% 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 to cover baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline, and numerous other benefits.

The rewards program is 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.

 

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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 18 Months

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Credit Card

If you are looking to finance a purchase, Citi offers a long introductory APR on purchases: 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 15.74% to 25.74%* (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 : 15.74% to 25.74%* (Variable)

Annual Fee : $0*

Sign-on Bonus : None

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

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

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

Tip: The 18 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 (9.90%-10.90% 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 : 9.90%-10.90% 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.

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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 Citi account you will only be able to transfer debt from credit cards other than Citi.

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 : 24.99% 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.

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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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Best of, College Students and Recent Grads, Credit Cards

Best Student Credit Cards September 2019

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

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

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

Our Top Pick

Discover it® Student Cash Back

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Rates & Fees

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Discover it® Student Cash Back

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
Regular APR
14.99% - 23.99% Variable
Credit required
fair-credit
Fair/New to Credit

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

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

Best Flat-Rate Card

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

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on Capital One’s website

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

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

Magnify Glass Pros

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

Cons Cons

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

Bottom line

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

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

Best Intro Bonus

Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card

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

Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card

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

Magnify Glass Pros

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

Cons Cons

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

Bottom line

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

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

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

Magnify Glass Pros

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

Cons Cons

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

Bottom line

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

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

Best Credit Union Card

Altra Federal Credit Union Student Visa® Credit Card

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on Altra’s secure website

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Altra Federal Credit Union Student Visa® Credit Card

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

Magnify Glass Pros

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

Cons Cons

  • 1.00% 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

Best Secured Card

Discover it® Secured

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on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

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Discover it® Secured

Annual fee
$0
Minimum Deposit
$200
Regular APR
24.99% Variable
Credit required
bad-credit
New/Rebuilding

Magnify Glass Pros

  • Cashback program: This card has a feature uncommon to other secure cards — a cashback program. You earn 2% cash back at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus 1% cash back on all other credit card purchases.
  • Cashback Match™: Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There’s no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched (new cardmembers only). This is a great added bonus that increases your cash back in Year 1.
  • Automatic monthly reviews after eight months: Discover makes it easy for you to transition to an unsecured card with monthly reviews of your account starting after eight months. Reviews are based on responsible credit management across all of your credit cards and loans.

Cons Cons

  • Security deposit: You need to deposit a minimum of $200 in order to open this card, 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

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on Deserve’s secure website

Deserve® EDU Mastercard

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
1% unlimited cash back on ALL purchases
Regular Purchase APR
20.74% Variable
Credit required
bad-credit
Fair/Good Credit or No Credit

Magnify Glass Pros

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

Cons Cons

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

Bottom line

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

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

Also ConsiderAlso Consider

Golden 1 Platinum Rewards for Students

Golden 1 Credit Union Platinum Rewards for Students:

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

What should I look for in a student credit card?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did the CARD Act change student credit cards?

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

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

How can I protect myself from racking up debt?

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

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

How can I automate my credit card usage?

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

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

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

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

What happens to my student credit card when I graduate?

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

Here is a summary of our favorite cards:

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Lindsay VanSomeren
Lindsay VanSomeren |

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