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Bank of America Premium Rewards® Credit Card Review: Rewards for High Spenders with a BofA Relationship

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Bank of America is joining the premium rewards card category with the new Bank of America Premium Rewards® credit card. This card boasts a 50,000-point sign-on bonus and a much lower annual fee ($95) than comparable cards, making it a great way for consumers to earn rewards at a low yearly cost. There are additional perks for Bank of America account holders that will allow you to earn a higher rewards rate, making this card a great choice if you have an account with Bank of America and are looking for a premium rewards card.

We believe that everyone should be able to earn at least 2% cash back, without paying a fee (thanks to Citi Double Cash). If you have over $20,000 in a Bank of America checking, savings, or investment account, you will be able to earn more than 2%. If you have less (or no relationship balance), it gets more complicated.

Key insights

  • This card only works if you have a deep relationship with Bank of America. If you don’t have other assets (either in a savings account or investment account), you are better off with a flat-rate cash back card, such as the Citi® Double Cash Card
  • This card is probably not for you:
    1. If you have less than a $50,000 relationship with Bank of America and spend less than $2,000 a month on the card.
    2. If you spend a lot in travel and dining but have less than a $20,000 total relationship balance with Bank of America.
  • This card is for you – and you can earn more than 2%:
    1. If you spend at least $2,000 a month and have at least a $50,000 relationship balance with Bank of America
    2. If you have a relationship balance between $20,000 and $50,000 and spend a lot on travel and dining.
  • The biggest winners are people who have more than $100,000 at BofA (and that can include an IRA at Merrill Edge) and spend more than $3,000 a month on the card. People with this profile can earn up to 3% – which is hard to beat.

How the card works

This card charges a $95 annual fee, which is much less than competing premium rewards cards that have annual fees around $450. But this card competes on value (the amount of cash back you can earn) rather than luxury (you will not get access to swanky Amex lounges, for example).

There is a 50,000-point intro bonus offer, available for qualifying customers. Customers must make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first three months of opening to earn the bonus. This is a feasible amount if you typically charge $1,000 a month.

The amount you earn depends upon your relationship with the bank. Your total relationship includes:

  • How much you have deposited in a checking and savings account. (But beware: interest rates are very low at BofA. Find the best savings account rates here).
  • How much you have invested at Merrill Lynch, which includes Merrill Edge (the self-directed brokerage account that has very competitive fees and commission).

As a cardholder you will automatically earn 2 points per dollar spent on travel and dining and 1.5 points per dollar spent on all other purchases. The more assets you have at BofA, the more points you can earn. Account holders must enroll in Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program to benefit from these higher rewards levels. See the breakdown below.

We like the concept: BofA is trying to reward their most loyal customers with the best rewards.

The Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card is most beneficial to those who have $20,000 or more in a Bank of America account. This is a lot of cash for a savings or checking account with low interest rates. However, it’s possible to earn a higher interest rate from your Bank of America account if you roll over your IRA or 401(k) into a Merrill Edge® account. You can learn more here.

The table below shows your effective annual cash back rate depending on your monthly spending and relationship with Bank of America. This first table demonstrates the cash back rate earned for cardholders who are not big spenders in the bonus categories of travel and dining. Monthly spending was allocated at 40% toward travel and dining and 60% on all other purchases. The effective annual cash back rate deducts the annual fee, but does not factor in the sign-on bonus.

As you can see from the table, you won’t see significant return until you have at least a $50,000 relationship with Bank of America and spend over $2,000 a month. This will allow you to earn an effective annual cash back rate of over 2%. From this point on, you will start to see higher cash back earning potential.

Now if you’re a big spender in the bonus categories of travel and dining, you will see higher cash back earning potential at lower relationship levels. For the table below, monthly spending was allocated at 80% toward travel and dining and 20% on all other purchases. Again, the effective annual cash back rate deducts the annual fee, but does not factor in the sign-on bonus.

As you can see from this table, having at least a $20,000 relationship with Bank of America and spending over $3,000 a month allows you to earn an effective annual cash back rate of over 2%. From this point on, you will start to see substantial cash back earning potential.

In conclusion, the Bank of America Premium Rewards card is a good option if you are an affluent account holder at Bank of America and prefer to open a premium rewards credit card from the same bank as your savings account. If you plan on moving your IRA or 401(k) to Merrill Edge®, you will benefit from a higher interest rate.

How to qualify

To qualify for this card you will need excellent credit. The higher rewards levels for Bank of America checking, savings, and investment accounts with large amounts of money target affluent customers. Therefore, you will also need to have a steady job, which will show that you are responsible and can pay your bills.

What we like about the card

Large sign-on bonus

This card offers a 50,000-point sign-on bonus when you spend $3,000 in your first three months of account opening. This a reasonable amount of money to earn the large sign-on bonus, and lower than competing cards.

Reasonable annual fee

This card charges an annual fee that is significantly lower than competitors who can charge upward of $450 a year. The low annual fee allows you to enjoy more of the rewards you earn.

Bonus for Bank of America account holders

If you have a checking, savings, or investment account with Bank of America, you will benefit greatly from the additional points you earn. Higher tier points depend on the amount of money you have in your account and can increase your rewards potential significantly.

Unlimited higher rewards rates

You will benefit from the higher rewards rate for travel and dining without any caps. This means you don’t have to worry about hitting a predetermined dollar value and then being downgraded to a lower rewards rate.

What we don’t like about the card

Must be a Bank of America account holder for higher rewards rates

To earn more points per dollar spent you need to be a Bank of America account holder with a checking, savings, or investment account. If you don’t have an account, you will still earn the 2 points per dollar on travel and dining and 1.5 points per dollar on all other purchases, but can find a better deal with a flat-rate card such as the Citi® Double Cash.

Who the card is best for

This card benefits affluent Bank of America account holders with a checking, savings, or retirement account balance over $20,000 at the bank. If you fall in this category, your loyalty to Bank of America will be rewarded with the higher tiered rewards levels that allow for high rewards earning potential. In addition, this card has one of the lowest annual fees for premium rewards cards on the market and offers a large intro bonus.

Alternatives

There are multiple combinations of savings accounts and credit cards that you can use to maximize your savings. In the table below we compared the Citi® Double Cash Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card, and the Citi ThankYou® Premier card paired with an Ally Bank savings account to the Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card.

Note that the Citi ThankYou® Premier card waives the annual fee in year one. Also, we listed the effective annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card; assuming you spend $300 in travel a month, the $450 annual fee would be an effective $150.

*.06% interest may be available if you roll over an IRA or 401(k) into a Merrill Edge® account.

From this table we can draw several conclusions:

  • The Citi® Double Cash Card paired with an Ally Bank savings account will earn you the most money at year’s end.
  • Ally Bank earns you the most interest compared to the other savings accounts.
  • The Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card will earn you the most cash back, but coupled with the low interest rate from the Bank of America savings account, you will fall short of earning as much money at year’s end as Citi® Double Cash or Chase Sapphire Reserve® cards paired with an Ally Bank savings account.

To sum it all up, if you want to earn the most money at year’s end, the best option would be the Citi® Double Cash Card paired with an Ally Bank savings account. The high interest rate that Ally Bank offers coupled with the card’s flat-rate cash back rewards are what make this the most profitable pairing. The Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card lures consumers in with the higher tier rewards levels for affluent account holders, but offers a low interest rate for those accounts that ultimately hinders your year-end earning potential. However, if you transfer your IRA or 401(k) to Merrill Edge, you will earn a higher interest rate than a typical Bank of America savings account and can make up some of the difference.

Here’s an overview of the alternative cards:

Citi® Double Cash Card

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

1% when you buy, 1% when you pay

APR

14.49%-24.49%

Variable

The Citi® Double Cash Card is a flat-rate cash back card that will earn you a consistent cash back rate. You will earn 1% when you make a purchase and an additional 1% when you pay your bill. This card has no annual fee unlike the Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card or the other alternatives. Keep in mind this is a cash back card, so you will not be earning points that can be redeemed for travel. Cash back comes in the form of a statement credit, deposit, check, or gift card. Paired with an Ally Bank savings account, this card will earn you the most money at the end of the year (excluding year one), beating the Bank of America Premium Rewards card by $177 in subsequent years. Refer to our chart above for a detailed comparison.

 Chase Sapphire Reserve<sup>SM</sup>

Annual fee

$450 For First Year

$450 Ongoing

Rewards

3X points on travel and dining, 1 point on everything else

APR

16.99%-23.99%

This card comes with several great perks that make it a stand-out favorite among frequent travelers. Each account anniversary year, Chase automatically gives you $300 in statement credits as reimbursement for travel purchases you make throughout the year on your card. This lowers the $450 annual fee to an effective $150. You will also benefit from a 50% rewards boost when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals, and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is a great alternative if you are a frequent traveler and want a higher redemption value for your rewards.

Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$95 Ongoing

Rewards

3X on travel, 2X on dining and entertainment, 1X on all other purchases

APR

15.49%-24.49%

This card is a good alternative if you want a card that offers a high rewards rate for travel, dining, and entertainment. If you’re not a Bank of America account holder, you will earn a higher rewards rate on travel and entertainment with the Citi ThankYou® Premier card. Citi also charges an annual fee, but this is waived the first year. Keep in mind that you will fall short of earning as much money at the end of the year with this card compared to the Bank of America Premium Rewards card (by approximately $63 in year one and $158 in subsequent years). Refer to our chart above for a detailed comparison.

FAQ

This card will be released in September 2017.

Yes, anyone can apply for this card. Keep in mind, an excellent credit score is needed to have the highest approval odds.

No, there are no limits to the amount of points you can earn in each category. That means you will consistently earn the higher rate for travel and dining, regardless how much you spend.

Alexandria White
Alexandria White |

Alexandria White is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Alexandria at alexandria@magnifymoney.com

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Building Credit, Credit Cards, Reviews

Discover it® Secured Card Review: Rebuild and Establish Credit

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Secured cards are great if you have little to no credit history or have poor credit history. With proper credit behavior they are a great way to build credit. The Discover it® Secured card is an excellent secured card that lets you build credit while also earning cash back. There is no annual fee associated with this card, making it easier to put your money where it’s needed.

Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee

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Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Minimum Deposit
$200
APR
23.99% APR

Variable

Credit required
zero-credit
No credit, 670 or less

How the card works

The Discover it® Secured card is meant to help you rebuild or establish credit. You need to make a $200 security deposit that will become your credit line. If you want a credit limit that is higher than $200, you will need to put down a larger security deposit.

Discover reviews your account monthly starting at eight months to see if you can be transitioned to an unsecured card. This is a feature that makes the Discover it® Secured card unique. If you have responsible credit management, you may benefit from this feature and be transitioned to an unsecured card. If moved to an unsecured card, you will receive your security deposit back. This is hassle free and another reason the Discover it® Secured card is a great option.

This card offers 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. This is a great bonus, but the main goal of a secured card is not to earn rewards, but to be responsible and build credit. Don’t let the prospect of cash back lead you to overspending. That will only defeat the purpose of this card.

To get the most benefit from your secured card, keep a low utilization rate and pay your statements in full and on time every month. Utilization is the amount of your total credit limit you use. It is calculated by dividing your statement balance by your available credit. A low utilization is not spending more than 20% of your credit limit. So if you have a credit limit of $200, that means don’t spend more than $40.

By following these two practices, you will begin to see your credit score rise. You can even build credit with $10 a month using a secured card.

How to qualify

To qualify for the Discover it® Secured card, you need to be at least 18 years old, have a Social Security number, U.S address, and U.S bank account and provide all the required information in the online application. Be sure to have your bank routing number and account number ready when you apply as they will be needed for the $200 security deposit. Don’t worry if your credit history is nonexistent or unfavorable — this card is great for people who are new to credit or are looking to rebuild credit.

What we like about the card

Earn cash back

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. This is a great added bonus that most secured cards do not offer. Discover will automatically match all of the cash back you earned at the end of your first year as a cardholder.

Automatic monthly reviews after 8 months

Discover takes the guessing out of wondering when you will qualify for an unsecured card by reviewing your account monthly starting at eight months. If you have responsible credit management across all of your credit cards, you may be transitioned to an unsecured card. This is hassle free and another reason the Discover it® Secured card is a great option.

Free FICO Score

It is important to monitor your credit score and each month you will receive your FICO Score for free. If you practice proper credit behavior, you will see your score increase.

What we don’t like about the card

High APR

This card, like most secured credit cards, has a high APR. If you pay your statement balance in full and on time every month, the APR will not matter (because no interest will be charged). And if you do that every month, your credit score will improve over time — making it cheaper to borrow money (if you need to) in the future.

Who the card is best for

This Discover it® Secured card is best for people looking to rebuild or establish credit. In addition to an easy transition to an unsecured card when the time is right, the Discover it® Secured card provides a cash back program and has no annual fee. By using this card coupled with proper credit behavior you can see a boost in your credit score.

Alternatives

If you want a smaller security deposit

Secured MasterCard from Capital One Bank

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Minimum Deposit

$49

APR

24.99% APR

Fixed

The Secured MasterCard from Capital One is made for people who want to rebuild credit. There are lower security deposit options than the Discover it® Secured card, making it a good alternative if you can’t afford a large security deposit. However, it’s important to note that the lower security deposit is not guaranteed. This card also has no annual fee and offers your free credit score; however, there are no rewards. Just remember: A lower security deposit also means a lower credit limit.

An unsecured card from a credit union

Visa® Classic from Georgia's Own Credit Union

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

-

APR

12.99%-17.99%

The Visa Classic from Georgia’s Own Credit Union offers a competitive APR that is lower than Discover. There is no annual fee associated with this card and no rewards, making this card strictly for rebuilding credit. Keep in mind you will need to join the credit union, and the application process is more complicated compared to Discover. This card is a good alternative if you prefer to have an unsecured card and don’t mind working with a credit union.

FAQ

No, your cash back does not expire as long as your account remains open.

If you pay your balance in full and close your credit card account, your security deposit will be refunded. This can take up to two billing cycles plus 10 days. Also, during Discover’s monthly automatic reviews of your credit card account starting at eight months, they will see if they can return your security deposit while you continue to enjoy your card benefits.

The maximum credit limit is $2,500. This will be determined by your income and ability to pay. Keep in mind your security deposit must equal your credit limit, so you will have to deposit $2,500 if approved for this credit limit.

Alexandria White
Alexandria White |

Alexandria White is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Alexandria at alexandria@magnifymoney.com

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Credit Cards, Reviews, Small Business

Capital One Spark Classic for Business Review: Unlimited Cash Back for Small Business Owners

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

The Spark Classic for Business card is a good card for small business owners with average credit. This card has unlimited 1% cash back and no annual fee, making it a great way to earn rewards from everyday business purchases. If you’re a business owner who frequently travels abroad, there are also no foreign transaction fees, which can save you money compared to other cards.

Spark Classic for Business from Capital One

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Spark Classic for Business from Capital One

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
1% on all spend
APR
23.99%
Credit required
fair-credit

Average

How the card works

The Spark Classic for Business card offers unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases; there are no changing categories to keep track of each quarter. To redeem cash back, you can request a statement credit or a check. You can also set up automatic redemption either at a set time each calendar year or when a specific threshold ($25, $50, $100, or $200) has been reached. This can be done online at capitalone.com or by contacting the Rewards Center. Cash back can also be redeemed for credits on previous purchases, gift cards, and more.

This card also offers credit-building tools that help you monitor your credit score. Frequently monitoring your credit score will allow you to build and strengthen credit for your business as long as you practice responsible credit behavior.

Capital One offers quarterly and year-end summaries of your spending that break down what you purchased. This simplifies planning, budgeting, and taxes. Your purchase records are also easily downloadable to multiple formats such as Quicken®, QuickBooks™ and Excel®, making accounting easier for your small business.

How to qualify

This is a small business credit card. But to qualify, Capital One will consider both you and your business. That means your personal credit score matters — and you need to have average credit to qualify. Capital One defines average credit as someone who has defaulted on a loan in the past five years or has limited credit history (having a credit card or other credit for less than three years). Your business will need to have an average credit score and an EIN. You will also need to provide details regarding your business’s revenue. Remember — even though this is a business credit card, you will be personally liable for any charges on the card — even if your business goes bankrupt.

What we like about the card

No annual fee

You won’t pay an annual fee with this card. Many small business rewards cards charge a fee, making this card unique.

No foreign transaction fees

There are no fees when you travel abroad and use this card. This is beneficial if you travel for business frequently or only on occasion, as you will avoid foreign transaction fees that most other cards have.

Unlimited cash back

This card offers unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases. There is no minimum amount to redeem cash back. This is a great way to earn rewards on your business purchases.

Free employee cards

Employee cards come at no additional cost. No longer do you have the hassle of reimbursing employees when they use personal cards. You will also earn rewards points from their purchases. Just remember — any spending by an employee on a small business card will be your personal liability.

You don’t need perfect credit

Capital One is willing to work with people and companies that have less than perfect credit.

What we don’t like about the card

High APR

There is a high APR for this card. Make sure that you pay all of your bills on time and in full in order to ensure you will not rack up debt. Keeping a balance on your card will defeat any cash back you earn.

Who the card is best for

The Spark Classic for Business card is best for small business owners with average credit who want to earn rewards with minimal additional fees. We recommend this card for business owners who travel abroad and plan on having multiple employee cards, as you will not be charged any fees. With unlimited 1% cash back and no annual fee, this card is a great option for business owners.

Alternatives

If you frequently spend on gas

Sam's Club Business MasterCard<sup>®</sup>

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

-

APR

15.40%-23.40%

The Sam’s Club Business MasterCard offers 5% cash back on gas purchases for the first $6,000 in a year (except when purchased from other wholesalers) and 1% cash back on all other purchases. This is a great added bonus for business owners who frequently spend on gas. Keep in mind that there is a $5,000 cap on cash back rewards you can earn each calendar year. Once you hit this cap, you will not earn any more rewards that year.

If you need to finance a purchase

Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Rewards

up to 2x points

APR

12.24%-20.24%

Variable

Owning a small business can be overwhelming, and at times, though not ideal, you may have to carry a balance on your credit card. If this is the case, the Blue BusinessSM Plus Credit Card from American Express offers competitive interest rates and a 0% introductory offer. This can help you save money while you pay off your purchase. In addition, there are rewards points you can earn on purchases. Keep in mind you need excellent credit to apply for this card.

FAQ

No, cash back does not expire as long as your account remains open.

No, you can redeem your cash back for any amount, anytime.

You can get your cash back upon request in the form of a statement credit or a check. You can also set up automatic redemption either at a set time each calendar year or when a specific threshold ($25, $50, $100, or $200) has been reached. Just go online to capitalone.com or contact the Rewards Center. You can also redeem for credits for previous purchases, gift cards, and more.

Alexandria White
Alexandria White |

Alexandria White is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Alexandria at alexandria@magnifymoney.com

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Building Credit, Credit Cards, Reviews

Georgia’s Own Visa Classic Review: Good Choice for Rebuilding Credit

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

The Georgia’s Own Visa Classic card is made for those with low credit scores and helps you rebuild and re-establish your credit. If you’ve struggled in the past with getting approved for other credit cards due to poor credit, you may qualify for this card. By using this card, coupled with proper credit behavior, you will be able to improve your credit score.

Visa® Classic from Georgia's Own Credit Union

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Visa® Classic from Georgia's Own Credit Union

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
APR
12.99%-17.99%
Credit required
bad-credit
Bad

How the Card Works

This is a relatively straightforward credit card. There is no annual fee and no rewards. Lack of a rewards program makes this card predominantly for rebuilding credit. Look at it this way — there are no tempting rewards to lead you to overspend, allowing you to focus on rebuilding your credit.

The APR for this card is a fair 12.99% to 17.99%. Other cards charge upward of 20%, so this is reasonable. However, a lower APR shouldn’t encourage you to accrue a balance month to month. Always make it a point to pay your balance in full and on time.

A good way to start rebuilding your credit with the Georgia’s Own Visa Classic is to add a recurring payment, like Netflix or Spotify. You can solely have your monthly Netflix or Spotify charge on your credit card statement and increase your credit score as long as you pay your bill in full and on time. This will give you a low utilization (the amount of your credit limit you use), which is a key factor in determining your credit score. For example, if you have a credit limit of $100 and charge your recurring $7.99 Netflix bill, then you will have a utilization of 8% (below 20% is ideal).

How to Qualify

In order to qualify for this card, you need to have a stable source of income, so a job is needed. This will prove that you can afford to make your monthly payments on time and are responsible.

In addition, since this card is provided by a credit union, you have to join Georgia’s Own Credit Union. Don’t worry if you reside outside of Georgia; anyone can become a member regardless of residence. There are four free eligibility options that can qualify you for free membership. Otherwise you will have to join the GettingAhead Association, with a $5 annual membership fee. The best bet is to speak to a Georgia’s Own loan officer (404-874-1166) and see if you’re pre-approved for the credit card. If pre-approved, you can join the GettingAhead Association while completing your credit card application. All members will also need to keep $5 in a savings account that must remain in the account while you have the card open.

A note on the application process for Georgia’s Own — when you apply for a credit card on Georgia’s Own website, you are directed toward an application that is for all the credit cards they offer. This means that depending on your creditworthiness, you may not be directed to the Visa Classic as an option. Therefore if you want to apply directly for the card, the best bet is to speak with a loan officer, who will tell you if you’re pre-approved for the Visa Classic card.

What We Like About the Card

Good chance of getting approved

Georgia’s Own tailored this credit card toward those needing to rebuild or re-establish their credit history. This gives those with bad credit a greater chance of being approved. Also, if your score is above 620, you are more likely to be approved.

Fair APR

This card has a fair APR ranging from 12.99% to 17.99%. This is significantly lower compared to other cards targeted to people with less than perfect credit, with APRs as high as 23.99%. Although your goal is to pay every bill in full and on time each month, if you keep a balance this low, APR won’t accrue as much interest as other cards.

What We Don’t Like About the Card

Have to join the credit union

In order to get this card, you have to join Georgia’s Own Credit Union. There are four free eligibility options, and if you don’t qualify for free membership, you will have to join the GettingAhead Association, with a $5 annual membership fee. You will also need to keep $5 in a savings account that must remain in the account while you have the card open.

2% foreign transaction fee

Make sure to leave this card at home when you travel abroad as you’ll be charged a 2% foreign transaction fee on all purchases. This is slightly lower than most cards, which charge a 3% foreign transaction fee, yet high enough to increase your bill significantly if you make purchases abroad.

No rewards program

There is no rewards program for this credit card. Georgia’s Own offers a Visa Platinum card that has a rewards program, but you may have a harder time qualifying if you don’t have a good credit score.

Who the Card Is Best For

If you’re someone who has a low credit score and doesn’t mind working with a credit union, this card may be right for you. We recommend this no-frills card for people who want to rebuild their credit with a credit card. While you won’t earn any rewards with this card, if you practice proper credit behavior, you’ll be rewarded by a better credit score.

Alternatives

Secured Card with Rewards

Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Minimum Deposit

$200

APR

23.99% APR

Variable

If you don’t want to join a credit union, you might want to consider a secured credit card to help you build credit. With a secured card, you make a deposit – and receive a credit limit based upon that deposit. The good news is that your secured credit card will report to the credit bureaus. That means your good behavior can help you improve your credit score over time. One of our favorite secured credit cards is from Discover.

Rewards Card with Good Approval Odds

Walmart® MasterCard<sup>®</sup>

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

up to 3%

APR

17.65%-23.65%

Store cards are more likely to approve people with low credit scores, and the Walmart MasterCard can be a good option for you. The Walmart MasterCard has unlimited rewards with up to 3% cash back. Don’t worry if you don’t shop at Walmart since you can earn rewards on any purchase. Be aware that this card has a higher interest rate than the Georgia’s Own card, so compare which card is best for you.

Bottom Line

With no annual fee and fair interest rates, the Georgia’s Own Visa Classic credit card is a good option for those with bad to fair credit who are looking to improve their credit score. If you don’t mind working with a credit union, this card is a good option to rebuild credit.

FAQ

If you don’t qualify for the four free eligibility options, you will have to join the GettingAhead Association, with a $5 annual membership fee. The best bet is to speak to a Georgia’s Own loan officer (404-874-1166) and see if you’re pre-approved for the credit card. If pre-approved, you can join the GettingAhead Association while completing your credit card application. All members will also need to keep $5 in a savings account that must remain in the account while you have the card open.

You should work hard to make sure you make payments on time every month. A missed payment will lead to a late fee and interest accruing on the balance. This will ultimately leave a negative mark on your credit report and lower your credit score. Try not to spend more than you are able to and stick to a budget with these helpful budgeting apps in order to rebuild your credit score.

There is no one way to increase your credit score; rather, there are numerous behaviors responsible cardholders practice to establish good credit history. Good practices include paying all of your statements on time and in full and keeping a utilization below 20%; these will help you rebuild credit.

Alexandria White
Alexandria White |

Alexandria White is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Alexandria at alexandria@magnifymoney.com

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College Students and Recent Grads, Credit Cards, Reviews

Altra Federal Credit Union Student Visa Review: Great Savings for Future Auto Loans

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

The Altra Federal Credit Union Student Visa card is made for college students and helps you build credit while also taking advantage of rewards. You’ll earn 1 point per dollar spent, and double points during the 60 days after opening your card. The rewards points can be redeemed for cash back, travel, merchandise, and more. This card is especially beneficial if you plan on taking out an auto loan in the next few years, as you may be eligible to redeem rewards points for a .25% or .50% interest reduction on an Altra auto loan. The various features Altra provides make this card a good option for students starting their credit journey. The Altra Federal Credit Union Student Visa card is featured as one of our recommendations for best student credit cards of 2017.

Altra Federal Credit Union Student Visa

APPLY NOW Secured

on Altra’s secure website

Altra Federal Credit Union Student Visa

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Rewards
1 point per dollar spent
APR
14.90%

Fixed

Credit required
zero-credit
New to Credit

How the Card Works

Altra offers a credit card designed with students in mind to help you build credit. There is no annual fee for this card, though you may have to pay a $5 membership fee; but more on that later. In addition to a low 14.90% APR, Visa Checkout, and fraud alerts, Altra offers a rewards program. You will earn 1 point per dollar spent on all purchases and will earn double points during the 60 days after opening your new account. This allows you to get a rewards boost while you’re in the honeymoon phase of being a cardholder. However, this may not be the largest rewards program compared to other cards, but it is better than no rewards.

The reward points that Altra offers do not have a standard value like most rewards programs. Instead, points can be redeemed for merchandise or cash back at CURewards.com. Note that there is only one cash back option of $50, and you need 8,334 points to redeem. So you would need to spend $8,334 to receive $50 cash back.

Although you earn unlimited rewards points, they expire after five years — but on the last day of the year. For example, if you earned points on June 1, 2017, they would expire in five years but on the last day of the fifth year — December 31, 2022. As a result, think twice about saving all your points for a large reward because you may lose them.

In addition to a rewards program, Altra will give you a $20 cash back reward at the end of your first year as a cardholder. All you need to do to qualify is to maintain your account in an “exceptional” manner by having no late payments, no over-the-limit usage, and 6 out of 12 months’ activity. This should be an easy $20 since your goal is to pay every statement in full each month.

If that isn’t enough, Altra will choose one cardholder at random each quarter and pay their previous month’s purchases, with a minimum of $50 and maximum of $500 paid. To qualify for this “lottery” you need to be in good standing, which means you pay your bill on time and in full every month, and wait for your lucky day!

If you plan on taking out an auto loan in the next few years, Altra has a unique offer that can save you significant money. You are able to redeem 5,000 points for a .25% interest reduction or 10,000 points for a .50% interest reduction on your Altra auto loan.

Keep in mind that your primary goal with a student card is to create a positive credit history with the hopes of having a credit score in the 700s upon graduation. Don’t let the prospect of rewards hinder your credit and lead to overspending. Some best practices to promote a positive credit score include paying each statement in full and on time and using no more than 20% of your credit limit — meaning don’t max out your card.

How to Qualify

Altra designed this card with students in mind, which means they don’t expect you to have a great credit history, or any at all. Though they do expect you to have a stable source of income, so a job is needed to apply for this card. This will prove that you can afford to make your monthly payments on time and are responsible.

Another requirement Altra has that is unique to credit unions is that you need to be a member to become a cardholder. No worries, though, since the application process is simple. You can either qualify for membership via various eligibility options or by joining the credit union for $5. In addition, while you’re actively using the card you will need to keep $5 in a savings account.

What We Like About the Card

Low APR.

Altra offers a relatively low 14.90% APR, compared to other cards that offer APRs as high as 24.74%. The low APR is beneficial if you don’t pay your balance in full one month and as a result are charged interest. It helps that Altra has an APR 10% lower than competing cards; however, you should always pay your bill in full every month to avoid interest charges and damage to your credit score.

Earn rewards points.

Altra provides you the opportunity to build your credit while also earning rewards. With this card you can earn 1 reward point per dollar spent. Even better is that during the first 60 days after opening your account you will earn double rewards points. Don’t let this get to your head and spend more than you can to maximize your double points. Remember that your primary goal is to build good credit, and earning rewards is only an added bonus. It’s important to note that Altra rewards points do not have a standard value like typical rewards programs from other credit cards. Point value varies based on each redeemable item.

$20 cash back for good behavior.

If at the end of your first year as a cardholder you have no late payments, no over-the-limit usage, and used your card for 6 out of 12 months, you will receive a $20 cash back reward. This is an added perk for responsible cardholders that makes Altra’s card more appealing.

Random winner each quarter.

An added level of excitement is Altra’s bill pay “lottery.” Each quarter Altra will choose one random cardholder and pay their previous month’s purchases, anywhere between $50 and $500. Make sure you’re in good standing to qualify.

Redeem points for a lower interest rate on an Altra vehicle loan.

If a car is in your near future, Altra provides a great option that can save you money. You will receive a .25% or .50% point reduction on your loan by redeeming 5,000 and 10,000 points, respectively. This may save you a significant amount of cash in the long run.

What We Don’t Like About the Card

Foreign transaction fee.

Be careful if you travel abroad since this card charges a 1% foreign transaction fee. This isn’t as high as some cards that charge 3%; however, you can find other student cards that don’t charge a fee when you’re traveling out of the country, such as the Discover it for Students card or the Capital One Journey Student Rewards card.

Need to join the Altra Federal Credit Union.

Unlike credit cards from banks, you have to be a member of the Altra FCU. There are two ways to become a member, and the first option — meet their eligibility requirements — is free. Otherwise you will need to pay a one-time $5 membership fee. All members will also need to have a $5 balance in an Altra savings account that must remain in the account while you have the card open.

Who the Card Is Best For

If you’re a student who doesn’t mind joining a credit union and wants to earn rewards while building your credit score, this card may be right for you. We recommend this card for students who plan on taking out an auto loan since you can benefit greatly from the .25% or .50% interest reduction Altra offers. With numerous cardholder benefits, the Altra FCU Student Visa card is a good choice for students starting their credit journey.

Alternatives

If You Frequently Spend on Gas, Groceries, and Restaurants

The Golden 1 Credit Union Platinum Rewards for Students card is a great card if you want to receive a cash rebate for your purchases. With Golden 1 you will earn a cash rebate instead of rewards points that will be deposited into your account at the end of every month. The cash rebate program also boasts a high 3% rebate for gas, grocery, and restaurant purchases, with 1% for all other purchases. If you frequently spend money in these areas, you’ll be able to maximize your cash rebate. You can become a member of Golden 1 by joining the Financial Fitness Association for $8 per year and keeping at least $5 in a savings account.

If a Credit Union Isn’t for You

Not everyone wants to join a credit union, and there are numerous student credit cards offered by banks. The Discover it for Students card is a great card to help you build credit while earning cash back. With Discover you will earn 5% cash back on quarterly rotating categories and 1% elsewhere — but it doesn’t end there. They also reward students with good grades, match your cash back at the end of the first year, and provide access to your FICO score for free. Overall, Discover is a great card for students who don’t mind tracking rotating categories to maximize cash back.

FAQ

It’s a smart choice to start building your credit while you’re in college so by the time you graduate you have a healthy credit score in the high 600s to mid 700s. As a result, you’ll be in good standing with financial institutions and will benefit from being able to make larger purchases like a new car. Also, if you want to get an additional credit card that offers cash back or rewards, you will be more likely to get approved with a good credit score. Check out our student credit card guide.

To join the Altra Federal Credit Union you may already meet several eligibility options that come at no cost. If not, there is a one-time $5 membership fee. You will also need to have a $5 balance in an Altra savings account that must remain while you have the card open.

You should work hard to make sure you make payments on time every month. A missed payment will lead to a late fee and interest accruing on the balance. This will ultimately leave a negative mark on your credit report and lower your credit score. Try not to spend more than you are able to and stick to a budget with these helpful budgeting apps.

If a credit card isn’t the right product for you, don’t fret, there are other options available. You can build credit by using a secured card or by becoming an authorized user on your parents’ account. A secured card is where you deposit an amount of money that acts as collateral, and the amount you deposit becomes your credit limit. This is a great way to build credit with less risk than a typical credit card. Compare the best secured cards for your needs. Your second option, becoming an authorized user, allows you to piggyback off of someone else’s good credit. You will receive their good credit behavior on your credit report.

Alexandria White
Alexandria White |

Alexandria White is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Alexandria at alexandria@magnifymoney.com

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Building Credit, Credit Cards

A Guide to Getting Your Free Credit Score

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

As a consumer of financial products it is important to monitor your credit score on a regular basis. This will ensure that you know where you stand in the credit landscape when it comes time to apply for a new credit card, loan, mortgage, or other product. Monitoring your credit score regularly can also help notify you of any unexpected changes to your credit history such as fraud.

There are numerous free credit scores available for you to access; however, not all scores are considered equal. Credit lenders will often pull specific scores, depending on the product you are applying for. Therefore, we have created a simple chart for you to see where you can get specific credit scores from the top two companies — FICO® and VantageScore. The best part is, it’s all for free!

Read on for details on important aspects that make up your credit score and which score suits your individual needs.

 

Finding the Right Credit Score

Where to Access Your Credit Score for Free

The below chart lists some of the various versions of credit scores and where you can access them for free from a variety of banks, credit card companies, and personal finance websites.

FICO® Score vs. VantageScore

You may be wondering which score is better — FICO® score or VantageScore? We’re going to break down what the different versions of the two scores are best for in the next section, but for now here are several differences between the two major types of credit scores.

Find the Best Credit Score for Your Needs:

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

Credit Score Monitoring

The best options: All VantageScores and FICO® scores

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

New Credit Card

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

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

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

Mortgage Loans and Mortgage ReFis

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

Where to get them: myFICO for $59.85

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

Auto Loans

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

Where to get them: myFICO for $59.85

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

Personal Loans, Student Loans, and Retail Credit

The best option: FICO® Score 8

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

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

Other Scores and Their Value

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

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

Credit Score Basics

What are the three credit bureaus?

There are three credit bureaus that report your credit score to financial institutions and personal finance websites. The bureaus are TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. They collect credit information from a plethora of lenders and data providers and then consolidate it into a credit file, with your credit score being the key piece of information. You can’t get your credit score directly from the bureaus, but earlier in this article we discussed numerous resources where you can access your credit score — for free.

What is a FICO® score?

A FICO® score is a number that predicts how likely you are to pay back a loan or other credit products in a timely manner. FICO® scores range from 300 to 850. The higher your score, the more likely you are to be approved for credit cards, loans, mortgages, and other financial products. FICO® scores are the most widely used credit scores — influencing over 90% of U.S. lending decisions.

How is a FICO® score calculated?

FICO® scores are calculated from data in your credit reports and made up of the following five key factors:

Source: ficoscore.com
  1. Payment history (35%):
    Your payment history is simply a record of your on-time or missed payments. It’s the largest component of your FICO score — and therefore the most important aspect to focus on if you want to improve it.
  2. Amounts owed — aka utilization (30%):
    Utilization is the amount of your credit limit you use. It is ideal to have a utilization below 20%. If you have two credit cards, one with a $10,000 limit and the other $5,000, then your total credit limit is $15,000. If you have a combined $3,000 debt across both cards, then your utilization would be 20%.
  3. Length of credit history (15%):
    The total length of time that you’ve had credit across all products you have. For example, expect your credit score to be slightly lower if you have had credit for six months versus six years.
  4. New credit (10%):
    Frequency of credit inquiries and new account openings. When you open a new account, your credit score will take a slight dip for about six months, then it will rise — as long as you’re responsible in the other four factors mentioned.
  5. Credit mix (10%):
    This is the different types of credit you have. This includes credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, and other financial products. The more variety of credit you’re responsible with, the better your score will be.

What is a VantageScore?

A VantageScore is also a number that measures your credit risk. These scores typically range from 300 to 850 (501-990 for earlier models) and are used by 20 of the 25 largest financial institutions. VantageScores are in line with FICO® — the higher your score, the better. VantageScores are more widely available for free from online resources than FICO® scores; however, a majority of lenders pull your FICO® score when making decisions.

How is a VantageScore calculated?

VantageScores are calculated from data in your credit reports and influenced by the following six key factors:

Source: your.vantagescore.com

FAQ

Credit scores are typically updated every 30 days. Depending on your activity, your score may remain the same or fluctuate.

No, checking your score will not do any damage to your score.

Your credit scores differ based on the information that each bureau pulls. Most information is the same, but one bureau may use unique information that another bureau doesn’t have, creating a difference in scores. Also, if you compare your FICO® scores and VantageScores, they will differ because they use different criteria when pulling your score.

A FAKO score is a non-FICO score that is known as an “equivalency score” or “educational score.” FAKO scores give you a general picture of where you stand, but aren’t used by lenders when making a credit decision and therefore aren’t accurate in predicting if you’ll be approved.

Alexandria White
Alexandria White |

Alexandria White is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Alexandria at alexandria@magnifymoney.com

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