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Best of, Credit Cards, Reviews

2017 Best Credit Cards for Small Businesses

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.

Note from the Editor: The information related to Chase Ink Business Preferred Card credit card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

 

As a small business owner you know you need to manage your cash flow and plan for financing. Credit cards can be an ideal way to meet those needs. But business owners need to be savvy cardholders. Small business credit cards come with unique risks that personally affect entrepreneurs.

 

In this roundup we cover the risks and advantages of small business credit cards. And we’ll show you what card fits your business needs.

 

Best Cards for Financing

If credit cards are an important source of financing and capital for your business, then you need to be a savvy borrower. Look for cards with compelling terms, and take the time to understand the fine print. Remember, the card may be in the business’s name, but you’re personally liable for the debt. Don’t take on more debt than you can handle.

Best 0% Financing

The American Express Blue for Business card offers 15 months of 0% APR for financing. If you fail to pay back your purchases within 15 months, your interest rate will move to 11.74%-19.74%, depending on creditworthiness. You lose access to the introductory rate if you make a late payment.

The 15-month 0% APR window is one of the most generous offers available. On top of generous financing, you earn rewards for spending.

You can also earn 10,000 Membership Rewards points after making your first purchase. Every year, you’ll also receive a bonus of 30% of the previous year’s points earned.

The card offers perks including secondary car rental insurance, purchase protection, extended warranties, baggage insurance, trip accident insurance, and travel hotline help.

The Fine Print
  • Introductory rate: 0% APR financing for 15 months. You must pay on time, or you lose this rate.
  • APR: After 15 months, 11.74%-19.74%, depending on your creditworthiness
  • Penalty APR: 29.74%
  • Annual fee: No annual fee
  • Late fee: Up to $38
  • Returned payment fee: $38
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $5 or 3%
  • Cash advance APR: 25.74%
  • Rewards: 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Bonus: 2 points for every dollar you spend booking travel at amextravel.com

Apply Now

Low Interest Rates

If you and your business have excellent credit, the Platinum Plus for Business MasterCard from Bank of America offers low ongoing financing. This is a great card for businesses with periodic short-term borrowing needs. Besides interest rates as low as 9.74%, it offers a seven-billing-cycle 0% APR promo rate and $200 statement credit if you spend $500 in the first 60 days.

Plus, the card offers travel accident insurance, secondary rental insurance, and automatic downloads to QuickBooks.

Remember, it’s not wise to use a small business credit card for long-term financing. Many credit unions will offer low rates on installment business loans.

The Fine Print
  • Introductory rate: 0% APR financing for seven billing cycles.
  • APR: 9.74%-20.74% variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness (after seven billing cycles)
  • Annual fee: No annual fee
  • Late fee: $19-$49 (depending on your balance)
  • Returned payment fee: $39
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $10 or 4%
  • Cash advance APR: 24.74%
  • Sign-up bonus: $200 statement credit if you spend $500 in your first 60 days
  • Rewards: None

Apply Now

Cash Flow Management

Managing cash flow can be one of the most difficult problems facing small business owners. The Plum Card by American Express makes cash flow easier. The Plum Card is a charge card not a credit card. This means that it is designed to give you access to short-term working capital. However, it is not a good source of financing.

If you pay your bill within 10 days of statement closing, you’ll get a 1.5% discount on eligible charges. Otherwise you have a full 60 days without interest before you need to make a payment. Beware, these benefits come at a steep price. After one year, you’ll pay a $250 annual membership fee. Plus, carrying a balance on a charge card comes with huge penalties. The first time you go past due, you’ll be charged 1.5% of the balance. After that, they charge a late fee of 2.99%. The minimum fee is $38.

The Fine Print
  • Late fee: 1.5%, then 2.99%; minimum of $38
  • Returned payment: $38
  • On-time payment bonus: 1.5% discount if you pay balance within 10 days of statement closing
  • Annual fee: $0 for the first year, $250 thereafter
  • No cash advance
  • Rewards: None

Apply Now

Imperfect Credit

If you’re struggling to get approved for a small business credit card, the Spark Classic from Capital One offers an excellent option. The card has a high variable APR (23.49%) and mediocre rewards (1% cash back). But Capital One will approve business owners with just average credit.

This isn’t a great card for borrowing, even in the short term. However, the Spark Classic will give you some working capital, and it will help your business build its credit. Just remember to pay your bill on time each month and to keep your credit use low.

The Spark Classic also offers perks like purchase protection, free extended warranties, and travel and emergency assistance. These protections offer tremendous value to business owners.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 23.49% variable APR
  • Annual fee: No annual fee
  • Late fee: Up to $39
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $10 or 3%
  • Cash advance APR: 23.49%
  • Rewards: 1% cash back on all purchases

Apply Now

Cards for Service Members

Former and current members of any branch of the military can join Navy Federal Credit Union and apply for these high-quality credit cards. The Visa and MasterCard have the same fees and conditions, but they offer different perks.

 

Navy Federal Credit Union’s Visa for Business credit card gives former service members access to low interest rates and rewards spending. This can be an excellent choice for service members with excellent credit who may have to borrow for short-term needs.

The card gives access to the Visa SavingsEdge program, which gives up to 15% off business purchases at qualifying retailers. However, the card doesn’t offer extended warranties or other protections, so it isn’t always the best choice.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 9.65%-18.0%
  • Annual fee: No annual fee
  • Late fee: Up to $20
  • Returned payment fee: Up to $20
  • Cash advance fee: $0 at Navy Federal Credit Union branch ATM, 50 cents domestic, $1 foreign
  • Cash advance APR: APR + 2%
  • Rewards: 1 point per dollar spent

Apply Now

Navy Federal Credit Union’s MasterCard for Business credit card gives former service members access to low interest rates and rewards. The low interest rates make it a compelling choice for service members with short-term borrowing needs.

The card gives access to the MasterCard Easy Savings program, which gives automatic 10% rebates at a network of gas stations, auto repair shops, and shipping companies. This can lead to significant savings. The card also connects to the MasterCard Business Network, which makes expense reports easy. However, the card doesn’t offer extended warranties or other protections.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 9.65%-18.0%
  • Annual fee: No annual fee
  • Late fee: Up to $20
  • Returned payment fee: Up to $20
  • Cash advance fee: $0 at Navy Federal Credit Union branch ATM, 50 cents domestic, $1 foreign
  • Cash advance APR: APR + 2%
  • Rewards: 1 point per dollar spent

Apply Now

Best Cards for Rewards

Many small business credit cards offer compelling rewards to cardholders. These rewards can allow you to reinvest in your business, or you can take them for personal use. If you choose to use a rewards credit card, try to avoid paying interest. Most of these cards are not good choices for short-term borrowing.

Travel Perks

If you’re a frequent traveler, these small business credit cards give you access to incredible perks. But be sure to read the fine print. These cards have a few gotchas attached.

 

The American Express Business Platinum Card is a charge card with a premium price tag ($450 per year) and premium benefits for some users. Please note, it is not a credit card; you should not plan to borrow money with this card. These are the most significant perks:

  • Global Lounge Collection access, which includes access to Delta Sky Club lounges and American Express Centurion lounges
  • $200 airline fee credit (for checked bags, inflight refreshment, etc.)
  • One free Global Entry or TSA Pre-check application fee (allows you to expedite security at select airports and U.S. Customs)
  • 10 free passes per year to inflight Gogo Wi-Fi and unlimited Boingo (land-based Wi-Fi) access
  • 50% airline points redemption bonus on first- or business-class tickets (if you spend 100,000 points on a business-class ticket, you’ll get 50,000 points back 6-10 weeks later)
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Gold Elite Status, which also gets you Marriott Rewards Gold status for room upgrades and free breakfast. It also gets you access to the Fine Hotels and Resorts Program (perks like in-room WiFi, complimentary breakfast, and other hotel perks at participating luxury hotels).
  • Elite status for National car rental for free upgrades whenever you rent a car.
  • This could be a great card for frequent Delta fliers; not only do you get access to the Delta Sky Club lounges but you can also convert the points you earn into Delta SkyMiles.
The Fine Print
  • Annual fee: $450
  • Late fee: 2.99% or $38, whichever is greater
  • Returned payment fee: $38
  • No cash advance
  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $10,000 within three months of card membership. Earn 25,000 more points after spending an additional $10,000 within your first three months.
  • Rewards: 1 point per dollar spent
  • Bonus rewards: 1.5 points per dollar for first $5,000 spent in a year; 2 points per dollar spent through amextravel.com.

Apply Now

As a business owner, little incidentals can add up in a big way. The Chase Ink Business Preferred Card mitigates these costs by providing high-value insurance protection to you and your employees. Not only will you earn rewards (outlined in the fine print), you’ll enjoy these perks, too.

Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance
If your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather, or other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $5,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours, and hotels.

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

Travel Accident Insurance
When you pay for your air, bus, train, or cruise transportation with your card, you are eligible to receive accidental death or dismemberment coverage of up to $500,000.

Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver
Decline the rental company’s collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card. Coverage is primary when renting for business purposes and provides reimbursement up to the actual cash value of the vehicle for theft and collision damage for most cars in the U.S. and abroad.

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

Lost Luggage Reimbursement
If you or an immediate family member check or carry on luggage that is damaged or lost by the carrier, you’re covered up to $3,000 per passenger.

Extended Warranty Protection
This warranty extends the time period of the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year on eligible warranties of three years or less.

Cellphone Protection
Get up to $600 per claim in cellphone protection against covered theft or damage for you and your employees listed on your monthly cellphone bill when you pay it with your Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. There is a maximum of three claims in a 12-month period with a $100 deductible per claim.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 16.99%-21.99%
  • Annual fee: $95 per year
  • Late fee: $15-$39, depending on balance
  • Returned payment fee: $39
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $15 or 5% of transaction
  • Cash advance APR: 25.99%
  • Sign-up bonus: 80,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months
  • Rewards: 1 point per dollar spent, 3 points per dollar spent on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable or phone services, or online advertising (social media or search engines)
  • Bonus: Points worth 25% more when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards (Chase’s travel website)

Big Introductory Bonuses

Business owners who know they’ll spend a lot in a short period of time should take note of these cards. These bonuses provide excellent value if you can meet the spending requirements. But be wary: these cards have high interest rates. You won’t come out ahead if you end up financing a big purchase with these cards.

The Business Platinum Card offers excellent travel perks, but it offers an unparalleled sign-up bonus, too. Right now, you can earn 50,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $10,000 within three months of card membership. You’ll also earn 25,000 more points after spending an additional $10,000 within your first three months.

If you plan to spend $20,000 or more in the next three months, this bonus is worth the highest value when redeemed for travel rewards. Depending on which option you choose, this bonus may offset annual fees. You need to churn through a lot of money to meet the spending minimums, but this is a lucrative bonus.

Click here to see details including perks and the fine print.

The Chase Ink Business Preferred Card offers ideal perks for frequent travelers, but right now you can get a great sign-up bonus, too. By spending $5,000 in three months, you’ll earn 80,000 points. This bonus is worth $1,000 if you spend your points through Chase Ultimate Rewards for travel or $800 if you redeem for cash back. You can also transfer the points to airline partners like United and Virgin Atlantic and hotel partners like Marriott and Hyatt.

In addition to the lucrative bonus, you can earn everyday spending rewards (including 3 points per dollar spent in certain categories) and valuable trip insurance.

Click here to see details including perks and the fine print.

Cash Back Rewards

Every business owner can benefit from more cash in their pocket. These cards give you the best cash back offers for everyday spending. You can find better rewards if you use multiple cards, but these have excellent rewards for those who don’t want to mess around with multiple cards. Plus, these cards have excellent protections, too. But be careful when you finance with these cards; they don’t offer great terms for borrowing.

 

The Spark Cash card from Capital One offers unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases, and it is free for the first year. Plus, if you spend more than $4,500 in the first three months of holding the card, you get a $500 cash bonus. After the first year, you’ll pay $59 to hold the card. After the first year, if you spent more than $3,000 per year, it’s worth it.

The Spark Cash card also offers valuable protective features like purchase protection, free extended warranties, primary auto rental collision coverage, and more. Overall, the Spark Cash card gives straightforward rewards to business owners with excellent credit.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 17.49% variable APR
  • Penalty APR: 29.9% (applied if you make a late payment)
  • Annual fee: Free for the first year, $59 per year afterward
  • Late fee: Up to $39
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $10 or 3% of transaction
  • Cash advance APR: 23.49%
  • Sign-up bonus: $500 reward when you spend $4,500 in the first three months
  • Rewards: 2% cash back on all spending

Apply Now

The Spark Cash Select card from Capital One offers a rare combination of friendly financing terms and rewards. You’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back rewards on all purchases, and you’ll receive a $200 sign-up bonus if you spend $3,000 or more in your first three months.

On top of that, you’ll have a 0% APR financing rate for nine months, and an APR as low as 13.49% afterward.

This isn’t the most lucrative rewards card, but you won’t pay an annual fee. This makes it a great card for businesses that don’t spend as much on a credit card.

The Fine Print
  • Promo APR: 0% for nine months
  • APR: 13.49%-21.49%, depending on your creditworthiness
  • Penalty APR: 29.9% (applied if you make a late payment)
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Late fee: Up to $39
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $10 or 3% of transaction
  • Cash advance APR: 23.49%
  • Sign-up bonus: $200 reward when you spend $3,000 in the first three months
  • Rewards: 1.5% cash back on all spending

Apply Now

Best Category Bonuses

If you and your employees spend a lot of money in a limited number of categories, you might want to consider a rewards card with heavy bonuses in those categories. These cards offer at least 3 points for every dollar you spend in a given category. That’s the equivalent of a 3% reward.

Remember, rewards cards aren’t usually a good choice for financing purchases. Look to pay off these cards every month.

Online Advertising

Businesses that regularly advertise on social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) or via search engines (Google, Bing) can earn impressive rewards on their marketing spending. These are the best cards for heavy online advertisers.

 

You’ll earn 3 points for every dollar you spend on online advertising. In addition, you’ll be eligible for travel perks, sign-up bonuses, and more.Click here to see details including perks and the fine print.

The American Express Business Gold Rewards Card allows you to choose to earn 3 points per dollar spent on any one of the following categories: advertising in select online media, airfare from airlines, gas, shipping, or computers and cloud services from select providers. You’ll earn 2 points per dollar on the categories you don’t choose.

All other spending earns 1 point per dollar you spend.

As a sign-up bonus, you’ll earn 50,000 points if you spend $5,000 or more in your first three months of holding the card. In addition to the rewards, you get trip accident insurance, extended warranties, and purchase protection.

Since the Business Gold Rewards Card is a charge card, you shouldn’t plan to borrow with the card. But the rewards for online advertisers are excellent. Just watch out for the $175 annual fee that kicks in after the first year.

The Fine Print
  • Annual fee: $0 for the first year, then $175
  • Late fee: 2.99% or $38, whichever is greater
  • Returned payment fee: $38
  • No cash advance
  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 within three months of card membership
  • Rewards: 1 point per dollar spent
  • Bonus rewards: 3 points in one category (pick between advertising in select online media, airfare from airlines, gas, shipping, or computers and cloud services from select providers).
  • 2 points rewards on remaining four categories.

Apply Now

Dining and Travel

Dining and travel cost a lot, but these cards offer enticing rewards. The cards we recommend offer more than 3% cash back on restaurant spending, travel, or both. Plus, they have other compelling perks. But most of these cards aren’t great for borrowing, so check the fine print.

 

The American Express Blue for Business card offers the single best dining deal, at least during your first six months. During the first six months of holding the American Express Blue for Business card, you’ll get 10 points for every dollar you spend at a restaurant up to $2,000. Once the six-month offer period is over, you may want to turn to other rewards programs from the cards we outline below.

This is also one rewards card that has a decent financing option. Right now you can get 0% APR financing for the first twelve months.

Learn more here about the perks, rewards, and fine print before you apply.

Looking to thin down your wallet? A Sam’s Club Business MasterCard, doubles as your membership card. But it’s not just for wholesale shopping. Spending on the Sam’s Club Business MasterCard gives you the opportunity to earn 3% cash back rewards on all restaurant spending worldwide. It also gives 5% cash back rewards on gas (except when purchased at other wholesalers) and 1% on all other spending.

Road warriors and frequent business entertainers will love this card. Plus, the $45 statement credit (if you spend $100 the day you open it) pays for your annual Sam’s Club membership.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 15.15%-23.15%
  • Penalty APR: 29.99% (applied if you make a late payment)
  • Annual fee: $0 (requires $45 Sam’s Club membership)
  • Late fee: Up to $39.99
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $5 or 3% of transaction
  • Cash advance APR: 20.15%-26.15%
  • Sign-up bonus: $45 statement credit when you spend $100 on your first day (applying in-store makes this easy).
  • Rewards: 1% cash back on all spending. Maximum of $5,000 back in a given year.
  • Bonus rewards: 3% on dining and travel expenses. 5% on gas (up to $6,000 in gas purchases). Gas cannot be purchased from other wholesale clubs.

Apply Now

If you prefer Costco to Sam’s Club, the Costco Anywhere Visa Business Card offers similar terms. Their 4-3-2-1 program includes 4% on gas purchases (up to $7,000 per year), 3% cash rewards for all dining and travel expenses, 2% on Costco purchases, and 1% on all other spending.

While the rewards are sweet, the terms can be expensive. This is not a good card for borrowing, so be sure to pay it off each month.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 0% for seven months, then 15.74%
  • Penalty APR: 29.99% (applied if you make a late payment)
  • Annual fee: $0 (requires $55 Costco membership)
  • Late fee: Up to $37
  • Returned payment fee: Up to $37
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $10 or 5% of transaction
  • Cash advance APR: 22.49%
  • Rewards: 1% cash back on all spending.
  • Bonus rewards: 4% on gas (up to $7,000 in gas purchases). Gas cannot be purchased from other wholesale clubs. 3% on dining and travel expenses. 2% rewards on all purchases from Costco and Costco.com.

Apply Now

If you’re a frequent business traveller, Chase Ink offers the best rewards. You earn 3 points for every dollar you spend on travel, but you get a travel bonus. Every point is worth 1.25 points when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Travel perks also include trip insurance, auto rental collision damage waivers (this is primary coverage), and more.

Click here to see details including perks and the fine print.

Gas

 

As a small business owner, you know that driving can be an economical choice, but you can also earn rewards for all those miles on the road. Sam’s Club Business MasterCard gives 5% cash back rewards on gas (except when purchased at other wholesalers), and 1% on all other spending.

Even if you don’t frequent Sam’s Club, this is the best category for rewards for gas purchases.

Click here to see details including perks and the fine print.

Learn More

Risks of Using Small Business Credit Cards

Many business owners see credit cards as an easy solution to their capital needs. But small business credit cards have unique risks. Savvy entrepreneurs will consider the risks before opening a new line of credit. These are the most important considerations.

 

1. Personal Liability

As a small business owner, you’re personally liable for credit card debt. Business bankruptcy won’t protect you. Whether your business succeeds or fails, you have to pay back the debt.

The only way to get rid of small business credit card debt is to declare personal bankruptcy. Bankruptcy destroys your credit history for a few years, and it stays on your report for 7-10 years.

Don’t treat a credit card like venture capital. It’s not. You need to repay it.

2. Credit Bureau Reporting

Small business cards don’t report to the credit bureaus the same way personal cards do. Depending on which card you choose, if you pay your credit card on time, you may not see any information on your personal report. For most business owners, that is a good thing. It will keep your personal credit utilization low.

However, an unpaid bill will show up on your personal credit report. A bill that goes unpaid for 60 days will generally appear on your personal credit report. Some banks offer more generous reporting and some less. You can speak with a banker to determine your bank’s reporting standards. Still, your personal credit score can take a hit at the same time that your business credit runs afoul.

When you take out a business credit card, put precautions in place to protect yourself. You can limit employee spending, and remove authorized users. You can also set up automatic payments each month.

3. Not Protected by the Credit CARD Act

In 2009, Congress passed the Credit CARD Act. The act curtailed predatory lending behaviors, including raising interest rates on existing balances. It also required credit cards to be more transparent about rates and fees.

This act does not apply to business credit cards. With a small business card, banks can raise the interest rate on your existing balance at any time. A higher interest rate means a bigger minimum payment and a longer time to pay off your debt. If you’re using your small business credit card to finance something, you could be at risk.

Still, many banks will not raise your rate if you have an excellent history of on-time payments. It is simply a risk to understand.

Another risk related to the Credit CARD Act is the possibility of double-cycle billing. Business credit cards do not require an interest accrual grace period. This means you may begin accruing interest on purchases right away. We only recommend cards that have a grace period of at least 23 days built in. If you choose a different card, be sure to check for this in the rates and fees schedule.

4. Employee Risk

Small business credit cards make it easy to watch employee spending. Still, they pose serious risks. You’re personally liable for any employee spending on a credit card. If you wouldn’t trust an employee with your wallet, don’t trust them with a company card. Employees can rack up debt and leave the company. That leaves you with a bill and no recourse to get the money back.

The Best Ways Use Small Business Credit Cards

Once you understand the risks of small business credit cards, you can also understand their best uses. Over 65% of small businesses use credit cards on a regular basis. Some use them for rewards, and some for financing. In fact, close to 10% of all small business financing comes from credit cards.

Here are some of the best ways to use a small business credit card.

 

1. Earning Rewards and Protection

If you pay your small business credit card in full each month, you can earn substantial rewards. Many business credit cards offer perks, including cash back, travel rewards, extended warranties, trip insurance, and more. As a business owner, you can reinvest the rewards into your business or take them for personal use.

2. Managing Cash Flow

Cash flow problems destroy small businesses, but credit cards provide short-term working capital. If you have a sales cycle that lasts 30 days or less, a credit card can fund inventory purchases. By the time your bill comes due, you’ll have money to pay it off. If you follow this practice, you’ll pay no interest, and you’ll manage your cash flow.

Credit cards can simplify employee monitoring, too. Most business credit cards allow you to place individual restrictions on employee use. That means you can limit how much and where employees can use company cards. But your employees may manage to misuse the cards. If they do, you will be stuck with the bill.

3. Building Business Credit

Businesses have credit reports just like people. Business credit cards can help you build your score. To build your business credit, hold the card under your employer identification number (EIN).

When your EIN establishes a record of paying its bills on time, it makes your business creditworthy. That means you’ll have an easier time finding long-term loans at great rates.

63% of all small businesses carry debt. Having a lower interest rate on that debt could make the difference between success and failure. This means every small business should take their credit history seriously from the outset. Small business credit cards may allow you to build that history without paying interest or fees.

4. Short-Term Borrowing

Small business credit cards have high interest rates, but they can work for short-term borrowing. If you know that you’ll only carry debt for a few months, you may want to finance something with a credit card.

Credit cards do not have origination fees or prepayment penalties. Sometimes this means that they offer the best terms for short-term borrowing. Just be careful when you borrow, and pay it back quickly. High interest debt compounds over time.

If possible, borrow on a card with a 0% introductory offer. Remember, failing to pay off 0% interest purchases may result in back interest. Be sure you understand the risks before you borrow.

The Worst Ways to Use Small Business Credit Cards

Small business credit cards aren’t always the best tool to get the job done. These are a few times when you should avoid using credit cards.

 

1. Personal Expenses

Bad accounting sinks many entrepreneurs. Always keep your personal spending off of your business credit cards. This will simplify bookkeeping, and it will keep your business credit utilization low. If you need to borrow for personal expenses, look for a low-interest credit card instead.

2. Long-Term Financing

Due to the high interest rates, most businesses should not finance long-term commitments using credit cards. Instead, consider an installment loan from a local credit union or a bank.

Applying for an installment loan can be a pain, but the lower interest rate will be worth it in the long run. Keep money in your pocket and avoid small business credit cards for long-term financing.

3. Cash Advances

Cash advances are the most expensive way to use a credit card. Banks begin charging interest right away, and the advance has a higher interest rate. Cash advances also have high fees of up to 10% of the amount you withdraw.

If you need cash, withdraw it from your business checking account instead, or take out a traditional loan.

4. Financing a Failing Business

Do not use credit cards to help a failing business limp along. Too many people will not give up on their idea even when the execution doesn’t work out. Credit card debt will bury a failing company and erode your personal wealth.

Remember, negative credit behavior will show up on your personal credit report. Plus, courts hold you liable for all credit card debt your business incurs. Use an objective lens to decide whether you need to shut down your business.

Hannah Rounds
Hannah Rounds |

Hannah Rounds is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Hannah at hannah@magnifymoney.com

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Advertiser Disclosure

Best of, Credit Cards

Best Credit Cards for Fair 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.

Having fair credit doesn’t mean you’re ineligible for great credit cards. We’ve rounded up the top credit cards with the best offers in a range of different categories that you’re still likely to be approved for, even with fair credit. These credit cards can help you build credit as long as you use them wisely. In this guide, we’ll show you the best credit cards for fair credit scores as well as how to use them to boost your credit score even higher.

Here are some of the products we will be discussing today:

Check If You’re Pre-qualified

Before applying for any credit card it’s helpful to check if you’re pre-qualified from a variety of institutions. The soft credit check the institutions perform does not harm your credit score and allows you to compare credit options. Sites such as CreditCards.com provide good tools that can match you to offers from multiple credit card companies without impacting your credit score. You can read our complete guide to getting pre-qualified for a credit card here.

Build Credit with Secured Cards

A great approach to rebuilding credit is to get a secured credit card. In order to get the card, you will have to deposit money that will be your line of credit. To effectively rebuild your credit, you must use the card, and we recommend not charging more than 20% of your credit line. For example, if you have a $500 credit line, you should not charge more than $100. Then, pay off your balance in full every single month. You can even build credit with $10 a month on a secured card and see your credit score rise.

After you’ve consistently managed your secured card well over a period of time, you may be able to increase your credit line beyond your initial deposit or migrate to an unsecured credit card.

We’ve reviewed the best secured cards in the market and found our top pick — the Discover it® Secured Card. This card has no annual fee, a reasonable security deposit and offers an easy transition to an unsecured card. In addition, Discover offers a rewards program and free access to your FICO score. These reasons are why we recommend the Discover it® Secured Card for people with fair credit.

Build Credit with Secured Cards

Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee

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on Discover’s secure website

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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

Best for Cash Back

If you have fair credit and want a cash back card the QuicksilverOne® Rewards credit card from Capital One® is a good option. As a consumer with fair credit you may not qualify for all cash back cards, but you may qualify for the QuicksilverOne® Rewards card since it is made for those with fair credit. With this card you will earn unlimited cash back, with no changing categories, and the rewards never expire.

However, this card comes with a high APR and annual fee. To earn enough cash back rewards to pay for the card itself each year you’ll need to spend $2,600 annually ($217 per month). To net a cash back of $50 you need to spend $5,933 in a year ($494 per month). This card may be an option for you if you want to earn more than 1% cash back.

Best for Cash Back

QuicksilverOne® Rewards from Capital One

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on Capital One’s secure website

QuicksilverOne® Rewards from Capital One

Annual fee
$39 For First Year
$39 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
up to 1.5%
APR
24.99%

Variable

Credit required
fair-credit

Average

Best Low Ongoing APR

No one wants to carry a balance on their credit cards, but if you must, it’s best to get a card with a low ongoing APR. Many lenders charge high APRs around 25%, but you can potentially qualify for an APR as low as 9.15%. This card will charge you less money on your debt than the typical credit card, which can save you big dollars in the long run.

Best Low Ongoing APR

MasterCard Platinum from Aspire FCU

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on Aspire Credit Union’s secure website

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MasterCard Platinum from Aspire FCU

Intro Rate
0%

promotional rate

Intro Fee
2%
APR
8.90%-18.00%

Variable

Duration
6 months
Credit required
fair-credit

Average

Best for Small Business Owners

Running a business is hard. Small business credit cards can make it a bit easier for you by giving you rewards for everyday purchases. Nevertheless, be aware: Business credit cards forego certain protections that personal credit cards have under the Credit CARD Act. For example, card issuers can change the payment due date or interest rate without giving you prior notice.

Still, small business cards can be a great option for you to build your credit and save money, even if you don’t have a traditional brick-and-mortar business. You can apply for these cards with just a DBA or even your own name, if you’re a freelancer.

Best for Small Business Owners

Spark Classic for Business from Capital One

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on Capital One’s secure website

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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

Best for Students

You may have a fair credit score because you are a student. Student cards provide a great way for you to build your credit score and establish good credit history. The Discover it® for Students card is made with students in mind and offers ways to help you build credit and also earn rewards.

Best for Students

Discover it® for Students

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on Discover’s secure website

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Discover it® for Students

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
up to 5%
APR
13.99%-22.99%

Variable

Credit required
zero-credit
New to Credit

FAQ

There’s a lot of math that goes into computing your credit scores, but at the end of the day, a fair credit score is defined as being between 649 and 699. Here’s how a fair credit score sits in relation to other credit scoring classes:

  • Excellent: Above 760
  • Good: 700-759
  • Fair/Average: 649-699
  • Poor: 600-648
  • Very Poor: Under 599

You can check your credit score for free on sites like Credit Karma, Chase Credit Journey, or AnnualCreditReport.com.

Having a good or excellent credit score unlocks a lot of advantages, such as lower interest rates and better approval odds for high-value credit cards and other financial products. These advantages will result in more dollars in your wallet at the end of the day. For example, having a high credit score can save you tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest payments over your lifetime, especially for big-ticket loans like a home mortgage.

But if you have a fair credit score, don’t fret! There is a reason that your score is less than optimal, and thus there are real, concrete steps you can take to boost your credit score into the good and excellent range.

If you play your cards right, you can even join the exclusive 800+ credit score club (unfortunately, it’s not an official club, and you don’t get a shower of balloons and confetti once you reach it — but you will get access to some of the most exclusive financial products).

There can be many reasons why your credit score is below 700. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • You have late payments on your credit report. Having even just one late payment on your credit report can seriously harm it because payment history makes up 35% of your credit score. Unfortunately, unless it’s an error, you’ll just need to wait for it to drop off of your credit report in seven years. To prevent this from happening, make sure all of your debt payments are set up on autopay. That way, you won’t have to worry about it.
  • You have a lot of credit card debt. Credit utilization ratio is one of the biggest factors in calculating your credit score — it affects 30% of the final score. It’s simply how much you owe relative to how much you are allowed to spend. For example, let’s say you have two credit cards with a $5,000 limit each, and you owe $2,000. Your credit utilization ratio is 20% because you owe $2,000 out of a possible $10,000. Luckily, this is one of the easiest factors to correct that will boost your credit score big time in the short run: Pay off your balance, and your score will bump up immediately.
  • You don’t have a long credit history. Although credit history doesn’t factor into the calculation of your credit score as much as the credit utilization ratio and payment history, it still makes up a sizable chunk at 15%. There’s not much you can do about this one: Simply wait for your accounts to age.
  • You have a lot of credit inquiries. Banks don’t like to see you applying for credit like an out-of-control spender in Las Vegas. Each time you apply for credit or a loan, it’s recorded on your credit report as a credit inquiry, and it stays there for two years. To minimize the number of credit inquiries you have, always shop around and make sure creditors use a soft pull credit check unless you’re absolutely ready to apply for the line of credit. This factor makes up just 10% of your credit score, but it’s an easy one you can affect as long as you’re careful about applying for credit.
  • You don’t have a wide variety of account types. You may be an ace at handling your student loans, but creditors also want to know you can handle other types of credit like mortgages and credit card debt, too. The more types of credit accounts you have on file, the better. However, we don’t recommend taking out a loan just for the sake of boosting your credit score — that costs money, and you’ll only receive a modest benefit from it because credit mix only makes up 10% of your credit score.

As you can see, you do have a lot of options when it comes to fine-tuning your credit score into the good or excellent category. We recommend the helpful credit score simulator at Chase Credit Journey to check your current score and see how these adjustments can potentially change your credit level. It’s available whether you’re a Chase customer or not. Give it a try!

Applying for a credit card is easy. You’ll need some basic information like name, address, and Social Security number. You’ll also need employment and income information. Simply enter it into the online form on the credit card company’s website, visit a branch of the bank (if they have one), or call the credit card company directly. You’ll usually receive instant notification if you’ve been approved or not.

There are many ways for you to increase your credit score. Ultimately practicing responsible credit behavior is the best way to see your score rise. Here are a few ways you can increase your credit score:

  • Have someone add you as an authorized user: If you have a willing (and very trusting) friend or family member with better credit, you can ask them to add you as an authorized user onto one or more of their credit cards. Their credit will not be harmed by this (as long as you don’t rack up charges or missed payments), and the credit card will show up on your credit report just as if you had applied for it — boosting your credit utilization ratio, number of accounts, and account age if you keep it for a long time.
  • Increase your credit history length: Unfortunately, you can’t go back in time, but you can still affect your credit history length. Your credit score is partially based off of average credit history length, and the more old accounts you have, the better. If you already have credit cards open, consider keeping them open so your average credit history won’t decrease and ding your credit. Each new credit card you get will drop your average account age, and it’ll take longer to boost this portion of your score.
  • Maintain a low credit utilization: Credit utilization (the percentage of available credit you’re using) is one of the biggest factors in calculating your credit score. The lower, the better. To decrease your utilization ratio, simply pay off your credit card. You can also request a credit limit increase from your credit card issuer to lower your credit utilization ratio — just make sure not to rack up a balance again with that extra credit or you’ll be back to square one.

Missing a payment can single-handedly cause your credit score to drop by 100 points or more. To avoid this, simply set up your credit card on autopay for the minimum amount due — that way you’ll never have to worry about missing a payment.

You can always apply for a personal loan if you need some cash right now for something. You can use this tool to shop around for the best interest rates without hurting your credit score. It’s smart to avoid hard inquiries until you’re ready to actually apply for a personal loan so that your credit isn’t dinged with multiple inquiries.

Each credit card is different, so you’ll need to check the fine print. Usually, though, you’ll need to both charge a purchase and pay off your bill before you’re eligible for those cash back rewards. Then, they’ll tally up this amount and periodically either send you a check, or offer a statement credit.

If you’re running a small business, it’s often easy to mix your personal and business accounts, especially if you’re self-employed. This creates an accounting nightmare to sort through, so it’s recommended (but not required) that you have a separate business banking account and credit card, if you need one.

Lindsay VanSomeren
Lindsay VanSomeren |

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

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Best of, Credit Cards

Best Credit Cards for Bad 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.

If you have bad credit, it can be difficult to get approved for loans and credit cards. But it is not impossible. Even people with bad credit have options – which we will now explain.

What exactly is a bad credit score? When we’re talking about obtaining credit via credit cards, the magic number is somewhere between 620 and 650. If your credit score falls below 650, you’re going to have a difficult time obtaining credit from some of the larger lending institutions, and if it’s below 620, you’re going to have a difficult time obtaining credit from anyone — including smaller financial institutions like credit unions and independent marketplace lenders.

There are, however, some products for which you’ll have an easier time qualifying. Before you apply, make sure you’re prepared to be responsible with your new line of credit so you can boost your score and credit history rather than damaging it further. The best way to do this is to spend within your means by creating a budget and sticking to it. Here are some helpful tools to help you do just that. Remember to always pay your bill off in full on or before the due date each month to establish good credit.

Here are the products and topics we’ll be discussing today:

Check if You’re Pre-qualified

Before you apply for a credit card check if you’re pre-qualified from a variety of institutions. This does not hurt your credit score. Sites such as CreditCards.com provide good tools that can match you to offers from multiple credit card companies without impacting your credit score. This is a good first step when looking to apply for credit. You can read our complete guide to getting pre-qualified for a credit card here.

Build Credit with Secured Credit Cards

If you are trying to rebuild your credit, one of the best approaches is to get a secured credit card. In order to get the card, you will have to write a check to deposit with the credit card company. This money will be your line of credit.

In order to effectively rebuild your credit, you must actually use the card, and we recommend not charging more than 20% of your credit line. For example, if you have a $500 credit line, you should not charge more than $100. Then, pay off your balance in full every single month. You can even build credit with $10 a month on a secured card and see your credit score rise.

After you’ve consistently managed your secured card well over a period of time, you may be able to increase your credit line beyond your initial deposit or migrate to an unsecured credit card. With most companies, this is a tedious process that you’ll have to initiate. You also aren’t guaranteed to get results even after you’ve made a request.

Discover operates differently than most companies in this realm, making it our number one pick for secured cards.

Discover it Secured Card

If you’re looking for a secured credit card, look no further than Discover it Secured card. On top of being great for people with a bad credit score, Discover will also accept applicants who have no credit history at all. Discover offers great ways for you to rebuild your credit and be on the way to an unsecured card.

Build Credit with Secured Cards

Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee

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on Discover’s secure website

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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

Also Consider Also Consider

OpenSky Secured Visa

This card does not do a credit check, and no bank account is needed to apply. This is beneficial for those with low credit scores or no access to a bank account. If you’ve filed for bankruptcy, you’re in luck because they don’t care to know, unlike other institutions. However, OpenSky charges a $35 annual fee, which Discover does not. This can be a deal breaker if you don’t want to pay a fee, since there are many secured cards without fees.

Read MagnifyMoney’s full Secured Credit Card Guide.

Our Credit Union Favorite

If you’re looking to open a credit card with bad credit, it can be hard to find a card you qualify for. That’s where credit unions come in. They are sometimes more accepting of your credit history and have cards especially designed for people with low credit scores — helping your approval chances.

Georgia’s Own Visa Classic

Georgia’s Own Credit Union offers a variety of credit cards all with low interest. Their Visa Classic unsecured card is positioned toward those who need to rebuild credit and boasts a low APR. When you apply for a credit card on Georgia’s Own website you are directed toward an application that is for all 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.

Our Credit Union Favorite

Visa® Classic from Georgia's Own Credit Union

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on Georgia's Own Credit Union’s secure website

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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

Best for Cash: Personal Loans

If you’re looking to get some cash in your pocket, credit cards in general aren’t your best answer. Cash advances are not ideal, and putting a purchase you can’t currently afford onto a credit card with a high interest rate attributable to your not-so-great credit score is going to be an expensive venture.

Instead, you’ll want to consider personal loans. They’re admittedly a little more work up front with the application process, but the savings can be worth it. YOu can check to see if you are prequalified without impacting your credit score at most lenders. And LendingTree (the parent company of MagnifyMoney) has created a tool that lets you compare rates from dozens of lenders at once, without impacting your score.

LendingTree

LendingTree offers a one-stop tool that will recommend numerous personal loan offers. You can see offers from Avant, LendingClub, and more all in one place and in a matter of minutes. If you prefer to go directly to the lender’s site you can use one of the options listed below.

LendingTree

Loan Amount
up to $35,000
Term
up to 60 Months
APR Range
5.99%-35.99%
Origination Fee
Varies
Credit Required
Bad or Could be Better/Average/Good/Excellent
Soft Pull
You can get your rate without hurting your score.

Pros Pros

  • Check Multiple Offers at OnceYou can check personal loan offers from a wide range of lenders including Avant, LendingClub and Best Egg. The entire process happens online for free and is fast and easy.
  • Soft Pull on Your CreditLendingTree performs a soft pull on your credit in order to give you accurate loan offers. This does not affect your credit score and can give you a good picture of what to expect if you're approved for a loan.

Cons Cons

  • Need to Create and Account to View OffersThe only way to view your personal loan offers is to create and account at LendingTree. This is a minor step, but it does allow you the ease of saving your offers so you can review them later.
Bottom line

Bottom line

LendingTree offers a great tool that lets you easily check your rates for a variety of lenders, all in a matter of minutes. This is a great way for you to see what rates you may get and allows you to shop around for the best offer, without the hassle of going to multiple websites.

Avant

Avant offers personal loans even to those with less-than-desirable credit. Because there is no prepayment penalty, you can pay off your loan before the end of your term without consequence.

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on Avant’s secure website

Avant

Loan Amount
up to $35,000
Term
up to 60 Months
APR Range
9.95%-35.99%
Origination Fee
0.95%-4.75%
Soft Pull
You can get your rate without hurting your score.

Pros Pros

  • Apply Online The entire Avant application process happens online. This saves you the hassle of filling out paperwork and visiting a local branch.
  • Find Your Interest Rate Before You Apply Avant allows you to preview the interest rate you would be offered with a soft pull on your credit. This will not impact your credit score. This is helpful if you’re shopping around for different rates and gives you a realistic picture of what to expect should you choose Avant.
  • Could Save Money over Subprime Credit Cards Depending on the interest rate and upfront fee percentage you are offered, a personal loan from Avant could save you money over putting purchases on a subprime credit card. The ability to preview your interest rate can also help you compare between personal loans and other possible options.

Cons Cons

  • High Interest Rates Because you’re a subprime borrower, you’re not likely to qualify for the lowest interest rate offered. You’re more likely to be offered something closer to the 35.99% rate. This is a very high rate, and it’s important that you make all of your payments on time to avoid paying interest and damaging your credit score.
Bottom line

Bottom line

While there’s only one con for Avant’s personal loans, it’s a pretty big one. The interest rate can be extremely high, so do your math before deciding if this is a good product for you. And be sure to take advantage of the fact that they’ll let you check your interest rate before officially submitting your application. Use this feature to shop around for best offers and check if you qualify for a better loan

OneMain Financial

Avant is easier to apply for as the application process will take place online, but if you’re willing to go somewhere in person, you can also apply with OneMain. Its application is also online, but in order to be approved, you’ll have to show up at a local branch with documentation backing the information you submitted at home.

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on OneMain Financial’s secure website

OneMain Financial

Loan Amount
up to $25,000
APR Range
25.10%-36.00%
Origination Fee
No origination fee
Credit Required
Average/Good/Excellent

Pros Pros

  • Talk to a Loan Officer At OneMain you have the benefit of talking to a loan officer and explaining your personal situation. This is a positive experience that can help you explain anything that can’t be seen on an application.
  • Receive Money Same Day If you apply online before noon, you usually will receive the loan the same day. This is helpful if you need money quickly. After the loan is approved, you have 14 days to change your mind and return the loan proceeds. If you do that, you will not be responsible for any of the accrued interest.

Cons Cons

  • High Interest Rates Accrued Daily Even though the interest rates may be more reflective of your situation, they are still high. Interest accrues daily, which could add years to your loan if you don’t pay on time. Be sure to make your payments on time each month to avoid paying high interest rates.
  • Must Meet in Person You have to physically bring your paperwork into a OneMain branch after applying online. You will also have to complete an interview with a loan officer. This can be a tedious process if there is no OneMain branch located near you.
  • Must Borrow a Minimum of $1,500 Depending on how much cash you need, the $1,500 minimum may be too high if you only need a couple of hundred dollars. There is no maximum loan amount offered.
Bottom line

Bottom line

OneMain locations can be a good choice if you want to have your loan the day you apply. If you’re okay meeting someone in person and have the transportation to get to your closest branch, this may be an option worth exploring. Make sure you decide if this offer is right for you and if you need a loan over $1,500. Check to see if you’re pre-qualified for a better offer from other institutions.

Last Resort: Subprime Credit Cards

Subprime credit cards are those that lending institutions issue to those with “bad” credit. They are not a good solution to your credit woes. They almost always come with high interest rates and a litany of fees — both of which make it difficult to use this product responsibly.

For example, First Premier makes a business out of lending to subprime borrowers with bad credit. Most of their applicants are only awarded a $300 line of credit. That’s after they pay a $95 fee just to apply (which is not a common practice in the credit card industry) and a $75 annual fee. If you are approved for a higher credit limit, your annual fee for the first year may be higher ($79-$125). In the second year, the annual fee drops ($45-$49), but at this point you are charged a $6.25-$10.40 account servicing fee every single month.

The cherry on top? The card’s APR is 36%. Heaven forbid you are ever late on a payment — your balance will skyrocket with the insanely high interest rate. Don’t forget about the late payment fee — up to $38.

Another example is Credit One Bank — not to be confused with Capitol One Bank, though their logos do look eerily similar. Not every Credit One Bank credit card comes with outrageous fees. In fact, there are 26 separate possible card agreements. But if you are a subprime borrower, you’re likely to qualify for higher rates.

Your credit may not be great, but that doesn’t make subprime credit cards a “fair” product. You may qualify for other, better options that aren’t as laden with fees. That’s why we recommend you first check if you’re pre-qualified for offers then look at store cards and personal loans before choosing a subprime credit card.

Bad Credit FAQs

Store cards can be used as payment anywhere the credit card company, such as MasterCard or Visa, is accepted. Private label cards can only be used at the branded company’s store. For example, if you get a private label card for New York & Company, you can only use it for purchases at New York & Company. You would not be able to use it at any other store.

Your best bet is to ask. If you are applying online, pick up the phone and call or use the company’s online chat if available.

If you have a physical card in front of you, you’ll notice that store cards always have the associated credit card company shown on the front, whether that be Visa, American Express, MasterCard, or another.

Private label cards tend not to display this information, though a major financial institution that a lot of companies work with for their private label cards is Comenity. If you have a card associated with Comenity Bank, it is likely a private label card.

No. Most businesses have an online application for their store cards.

Personal loans are typically issued by more reputable lenders who aspire to more transparency than those in the payday loan space. Payday loans are often advertised as having interest rates somewhere between 10% and 30%, but that interest is charged over a short period of time, making their effective APR (annual percentage rate) much higher. Some payday loans have an effective APR of 400% or more.

The lender isn’t likely to tell you that, though. Many businesses in this space are predatory. Payday loans also tend to come with outrageous fees.

While rates and fees on personal loans for those with bad credit aren’t ideal, they’re more than substantially lower than those of payday loans. Make no mistake about it: despite enticing advertising promises of deceptive payday lenders, personal loans are an infinitely better option.

Borrowing cash from your credit card company often comes with a fee of 1%-5%. That may not seem terrible when you look at the upfront fees of many personal loans, but you also have to account for interest.

Unlike purchases you charge to your card, interest on cash advances starts accruing immediately. You do not get to wait for your next statement to be issued. The interest rate for cash advances is also often higher than that of regular purchases.

A personal loan is an installment loan with a balance that will go down if you pay the minimum payment each month. This makes it far easier to manage than debt accrued via a cash advance. If you only pay the minimum payment on a cash advance each month, your balance will go up at a quick pace, potentially spiraling out of control.

First of all, the less you charge, the easier it will be to pay back. Since you have a bad credit score, you may have had issues with charging too much in the past and being unable to pay it off.

Secondly, around 30% of your credit score is made up of your credit utilization ratio. You find this ratio by dividing the amount of credit extended to you by the amount you have borrowed. By borrowing only 20% of your available credit, you reduce the risk of having your current balance negatively impacting your credit score.

It can sometimes take a year or more to see your score improve by 100 points if you are doing everything correctly and responsibly.

Yes, but only if you use them responsibly, paying the balance off in full every month. Keep in mind your credit utilization ratio here, too.

Potentially. Ten percent of your credit score is made up of something called “credit mix.” You don’t need to have every single type of credit in your credit report, but you should have more than one type. Here are the five that count:

  • Credit cards
  • Installment loans
  • Retail accounts
  • Finance company accounts
  • Mortgage loans

Conceivably, if you have a mortgage or business debt tied to your Social Security number or EIN, you might be able to get away with rebuilding your score through a personal loan (which is an installment loan). The key is to manage all of those debts well — and to do so consistently — especially since you already have bad credit.

No. Transactions on prepaid debit cards do not get reported to the credit bureaus. Also, it’s important to remember than many prepaid cards come with a ton of fees.

Brynne Conroy
Brynne Conroy |

Brynne Conroy is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brynne at brynne@magnifymoney.com

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Balance Transfer, Best of, Pay Down My Debt

9 Best 0% APR Credit Card Offers – August 2017

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.

There are a lot of 0% APR credit card deals in your mailbox and online, but most of them slap you with a 3 to 4% fee just to make a transfer, and that can seriously eat into your savings.

At MagnifyMoney we like to find deals no one else is showing, and we’ve searched hundreds of balance transfer credit card offers to find the banks and credit unions that ANYONE CAN JOIN which offer great 0% interest credit card deals AND no balance transfer fees. We’ve hand-picked them here.

If one 0% APR credit card doesn’t give you a big enough credit line you can try another bank or credit union for the rest of your debt. With several no fee options it’s not hard to avoid transfer fees even if you have a large balance to deal with.

1. Chase Slate® – 0% Introductory APR for 15 months, $0 Introductory Balance Transfer FEE

This deal is easy to find – Chase is one of the biggest banks and makes this credit card deal well known. Save with a $0 introductory balance transfer fee and get 0% introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and $0 annual fee. Plus, receive your Monthly FICO® Score for free.

You can get this offer if you complete the balance transfer within 60 days of opening the account. So it’s worth a shot to see how big of a credit line you get. If it’s not enough, move on to the other options below.

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on Chase’s secure website

2. Barclaycard Ring™ MasterCard® – 0% Introductory APR for 15 months, $0 Introductory Balance Transfer FEE

BarclaycardThis card is available if you have excellent credit. Be aware that you have 45 days to complete this transfer after opening the account.

You can also nominate and vote on charity partners to donate card profits each year and there are no foreign transaction fees if you use the card abroad.

GO TO SITE Secured

on Barclaycard’s secure website

Tip: The remaining no fee cards on this list are deals for 12 months or less. You might be better off paying a standard 3% balance transfer fee for a longer deal, like 0% for 18 months from the Discover It, one of the better deals with a balance transfer fee of 3%. If you’re trying to transfer from Chase, consider a deal from Bank of America with similar $0 transfer terms.

3. Alliant Credit Union Credit Cards – 0% APR for 12 months, NO FEE

Alliant is an easy credit union to work with because you don’t have to be a Alliant Visa Platinum Credit Cardsmember to apply and find out if you qualify for the 0% APR deal.

Just choose ‘not a member’ when you apply and if you are approved you’ll then be able to become a member of the credit union to finish opening your account.

Alliant Credit Union

Anyone can become a member of Alliant by making a $10 donation to Foster Care to Success.

If your credit isn’t great, you might not get a 0% rate – rates for transfers are as high as 5.99%, so make sure you double check the rate you receive before opening the account, and they might ask for additional documents like your pay stubs to verify the information on your application.

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on Alliant CU’s secure website

4. Edward Jones World MasterCard – 0% APR for 12 months, NO FEE

edwardjonesYou’ll need to go to an Edward Jones branch to open up an account first if you want this deal. Edward Jones is an investment advisory company, so they’ll want to have a conversation about your retirement needs.

But you don’t need to have money in stocks to be a customer of Edward Jones and try to get this card. Just beware that you only have 60 days to complete your transfer to lock in the 0% rate. This deal expires 11/30/2017.

5. First Tech Choice Rewards – 0% APR for 12 months, NO FEE

firsttechrewardsAnyone can join First Tech Federal Credit Union by becoming a member of the Financial Fitness Association for $8, or the Computer History Museum for $15. You can apply for the card without joining first. This introductory 0% for 12 months on balance transfers with no fee deal is for the First Tech Choice Rewards World MasterCard, and you also get 10,000 points after you spend $2,000 on the card in your first 3 months. The points don’t expire as long as you have the card, and 6,000 points is enough for $50 cash back, while 11,000 points is enough for $100 cash back, which can help you pay down your card.

6. La Capitol Federal Credit Union – 0% APR for 12 months, NO FEE

La Capitol Federal Credit UnionAnyone can join La Capitol Federal Credit Union by becoming a member of the Louisiana Association for Personal Financial Achievement, which costs $20. Just indicate that’s how you want to be eligible when you apply for the card – no need to join before you apply. And La Capitol accepts members from all across the country, so you don’t have to live in Louisiana to take advantage of this deal on the Prime Plus card.

7. Navy Federal Platinum – 0% APR for 12 months, NO FEE

Navy Federal is the largest credit union in the country, and from time to time it offers a deal like this. It probably won’t last long, so if you’re interested get on it quickly.

Unfortunately if you don’t have a military affiliation in your family you won’t be able to join Navy Federal to take advantage of this. There used to be a way to  join via the Navy League of San Diego, but that’s no longer an option. You’ll need to have a family member (grandparents, parents, spouses, siblings, grandchildren, children and household members) who is with or has served with the Armed Forces, DoD, Coast Guard or National Guard to be eligible to join.

8. Purdue Federal Credit Union – 0% APR for 12 months, NO FEE

purdue-credit-union-visaThis deal is only for their Visa Signature card – other cards have a higher intro rate. The Purdue Federal Credit Union doesn’t have open membership, but one way to be eligible for credit union membership is to join the Purdue University Alumni Association as a Friend of the University.

Anyone can join the association, but it costs $50. The minimum credit line on the Visa Signature card offering 0% is $5,000, so if approved the $50 would be like a transfer fee of 1% or less. The good news is you can apply and get a decision before you become a member of the Alumni Association.

9. Logix Credit Union Credit Card – 0% APR for 12 months , NO FEE

If you live in AZ, CA, DC, MA, MD, ME, NH, NV, or VA you can join Logix Credit Union and apply for this deal. Some applicants have reported credit lines of $15,000 or more for balance transfers, so if you have excellent credit, good income, but a large amount to pay off (like a home equity line), this could be a good option.

10. First Tennessee Bank Credit Card – 0% APR for 12 months, NO FEE

If you want to apply online for this deal, you’ll need to live in a state where First Tennessee Bank Credit CardFirst Tennessee has a branch though. Those states are: Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

You need to have an existing First Tennessee account to apply online, but if you don’t have one, you can print out an application and mail it into their office to get a decision. You’ll find a link to the paper application when the online form asks you whether you have an account or not.

11. Kinecta MyPower MasterCard – 0% APR for 6 months, NO FEE

Anyone can join Kinecta credit union by becoming a member of the Consumers Cooperative Society of Santa Monica for $10. This card is special because it has no fees of any kind. No late, cash advance, or foreign transaction fees. There’s also no penalty APR either, but if you make a late payment you lose the introductory rate.

12. Money One Credit Union – 0% APR for 6 months, NO FEE

Anyone can join Money One Federal by making a $20 donation to Gifts of Easter Seals. And you can apply without being a member. You’ll see a drop down option during the application process that lets you select Gifts of Easter Seals as the way you plan to become a member of the credit union. Credit lines for the Platinum card are as high as $25,000.

13. Andigo Credit Union – 0% APR for 6 months, NO FEE

You’ll have a choice to apply for the Andigo Visa Platinum or Platinum Rewards. The Platinum Cash Back card doesn’t have this deal. The Platinum without rewards has a lower ongoing APR, starting as low as 10.15%, compared to 12.15% for the Platinum Rewards card, so if you’re not sure you’ll pay it all off in 6 months the Platinum without rewards is a better bet.

Anyone can join Andigo by making a donation to Connect Vets for $15, and you can submit an application for the card without being a member yet.

14. Aspire Credit Union Credit Card – 0% APR for 6 months, NO FEE

You don’t have to be a member to apply and get a decision from Aspire. Once youAspire Credit Union Credit Card do, Aspire is easy to join – just check that you want to join the American Consumer Council (free) while filling out your membership application online.

Make sure you apply for the regular ‘Platinum’ card, and not the ‘Platinum Rewards’ card, which doesn’t offer the introductory deal. Aspire says people with fair credit can apply for its card.

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on Aspire Credit Union’s secure website

15. Evansville Teachers Credit Union – 0% APR for 6 months, NO FEE

You don’t need to be a teacher to join this credit union. Just make a $5 donation to Mater Dei Friends & Alumni Association. The Prime Plus has an ongoing rate as low as 7.25% variable, so you can enjoy a low rate even after the intro deal ends.

16. Elements Financial Credit Card – 0% APR for 6 months, NO FEE

Elements Financial Credit CardTo become a member and apply, you’ll just need to join TruDirection, a financial literacy organization. It costs just $5 and you can join as part of the application process.

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on ELFCU’s secure website

17. Justice Federal Credit Union – 0% APR for 6 months, NO FEE

Justice Federal Credit UnionIf you’re not a Department of Justice, Homeland Security, or U.S. court employee (or a few others), you need to join a law enforcement organization to be a member of Justice Federal. One of the eligible associations for membership is the National Native American Law Enforcement Association. It costs $15 to join.

You can apply as a non-member online to get a decision before joining. And Justice is unique in that its Student credit card is also eligible for the 0% no fee deal, so if your credit history is limited and you’re trying to deal with a balance on your very first card, this could be an option.

18. Xcel Platinum Visa – 0% APR for 6 months, NO FEE

Xcel Platinum Visa credit cardAnyone can join Xcel by becoming a member of the American Consumer Council, and you can apply for the card as a non-member of the credit union, but not everyone who is approved for the card will get the low intro rate. Xcel advises you contact them to get as sense of whether your income, credit history, and employment history will qualify for the intro rate.

Are these the best deals for you?

If you can pay off your debt within the 0% period, then yes, a no fee 0% balance transfer credit card is your absolute best bet. And if you can’t, you can hope that other 0% deals will be around to switch again.

But if you’re unsure, you might want to consider…

  • A deal that has a longer period before the rate goes up. In that case, a balance transfer fee could be worth it to lock in a 0% rate for longer.
  • Or, a card with a rate a little above 0% that could lock you into a low rate even longer.

The good news is we can figure it out for you.

Our handy, free balance transfer tool lets you input how much debt you have, and how much of a monthly payment you can afford. It will run the numbers to show you which offers will save you the most for the longest period of time.

promo balancetransfer wide

The savings from just one balance transfer can be substantial.

Let’s say you have $5,000 in credit card debt, you’re paying 18% in interest, and can afford to pay $200 a month on it. Here’s what you can save with a 0% deal:

  • 18%: It will take 32 months to pay off, with $1,312 in interest paid.
  • 0% for 12 months: You’ll pay it off in 28 months, with just $502 in interest, saving you $810 in cash. That even assumes your rate goes back up to 18% after 12 months!

But your rate doesn’t have to go up after 12 months. If you pay everything on time and maintain good credit, there’s a great chance you’ll be able to shop around and find another bank willing to offer you 0% interest again, letting you pay it off even faster.

Before you do any balance transfer though, make sure you follow these 6 golden rules of balance transfer success:

  • Never use the card for spending. You are only ready to do a balance transfer once you’ve gotten your budget in order and are no longer spending more than you earn. This card should never be used for new purchases, as it’s possible you’ll get charged a higher rate on those purchases.
  • Have a plan for the end of the promotional period. Make sure you set a reminder on your phone calendar about a month or so before your promotional period ends so you can shop around for a low rate from another bank.
  • Don’t try to transfer debt between two cards of the same bank. It won’t work. Balance transfer deals are meant to ‘steal’ your balance from a competing bank, not lower your rate from the same bank. So if you have a Chase Freedom with a high rate, don’t apply for another Chase card like a Chase Slate and expect you can transfer the balance. Apply for one from another bank.
  • Get that transfer done within 60 days. Otherwise your promotional deal may expire unused.
  • Never use a card at an ATM. You should never use the card for spending, and getting cash is incredibly expensive. Just don’t do it with this or any credit card.
  • Always pay on time. If you pay more than 30 days late your credit will be hurt, your rate may go up, and you may find it harder to find good deals in the future. Only do balance transfers if you’re ready to pay at least the minimum due on time, every time.
Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at nick@magnifymoney.com

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Best of, College Students and Recent Grads, Credit Cards

Best Student Credit Cards August 2017

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.

Getting a credit card while you’re in college might seem dangerous or confusing. But if you are able to use a student credit card responsibly, you do not need to be afraid, and you can set yourself up for financial success after you leave school.

Fortunately, 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® for Students

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Discover it® for Students

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
up to 5%
APR
13.99%-22.99%

Variable

Credit required
zero-credit
New to Credit

Best for Commuter Students

Discover it® chrome for Students

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Discover it® chrome for Students

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
up to 2%
APR
13.99%-22.99%

Variable

Credit required
fair-credit
Fair Credit, New to Credit

Best Flat-Rate Card

Journey Student Credit Card from Capital One

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Journey Student Credit Card from Capital One

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
up to 1.25%
APR
24.99%

Variable

Credit required
fair-credit

Average Credit

Best Intro Bonus

Wells Fargo Cash Back College℠ Card

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
up to 3%
APR
11.90%-21.90%

Variable

Credit required
fair-credit
Fair Credit

Best Credit Union Card

Altra Federal Credit Union Student Visa

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Altra Federal Credit Union Student Visa

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
APR
14.90%

Fixed

Credit required
zero-credit
New to Credit

Also Consider Also Consider

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. You can join Golden 1 by joining the Financial Fitness Association for $8 per year and keeping at least $5 in a savings account.

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 will have a few options once you graduate.

First, you can simply keep it. You will want to keep the credit card open, because it helps you build a long credit history. However, you might want to call your credit card company and ask if you can migrate to a standard (non-student) credit card.

But if you have been using your credit card properly, you will have an excellent credit score when you graduate – and you will be able to get any credit card that you want.

Here is a summary of our favorite cards:

Credit cards
Best for
Lindsay VanSomeren
Lindsay VanSomeren |

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

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Balance Transfer, Best of, Pay Down My Debt

Best balance transfer credit cards: 0% APR, 24 months

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.

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Looking for a balance transfer credit card to help pay down your debt more quickly? We’re constantly checking for new offers and have selected the best deals from our database of over 3,000 credit cards. This guide will show you the longest offers with the lowest rates, and help you manage the transfer responsibly. It will also help you understand whether you should be considering a transfer at all.

 

1. Best balance transfer deals

No intro fee, 0% intro APR balance transfers

Very few things in life are free. But, if you pay off your debt using a no fee, 0% APR balance transfer, you can crush your credit card debt without paying a dime to the bank. You can find a full list of no fee balance transfers here.

Chase Slate

15 month 0% intro APR with $0 intro transfer fee

Chase Slate® – 0% Introductory APR for 15 months, $0 Introductory Balance Transfer Fee

With Chase Slate® you can save with a $0 introductory balance transfer fee, 0% introductory APR for 15 months on both purchases and balance transfers, and $0 annual fee. Plus, receive your Monthly FICO® Score for free.

You can get longer transfer periods by paying a fee, so this deal is generally best if you have a balance you know you‘ll pay in full by the end of the promotional period. And don’t expect a huge credit line with this card, so it may be best for smaller balances you can take care of quickly.

Also keep in mind you can’t transfer a balance from one Chase card to another, so this is good if the balance you want to move is from a bank or credit union that’s not Chase.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period
  • There are late payment and cash advance fees

Tip: You have only 60 days from account opening to complete your balance transfer and get the introductory rate.

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Barclaycard Ring

Longest 0% intro APR with no transfer fee ever (For Excellent credit)

Barclaycard Ring™ MasterCard®, 15 months 0% introductory APR, $0 transfer fee

If you don’t want to pay fees, the Barclaycard Ring™ MasterCard® 0% introductory APR for 15 months is the longest 0% deal available that never has a transfer fee, no matter when you make the transfer. You get the 0% intro rate if you complete the transfer within 45 days, which is a little less time than with the Chase Slate. New purchases also get the intro rate for 15 months.

You need excellent credit to get this card, but it has a decent ongoing APR at 13.99% variable and there’s no penalty APR if you miss a payment.

You can get longer transfer periods by paying a fee, so this deal is generally best if you have a balance you know you’ll pay in full by the end of the 15 month promotional period.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period
  • You know the ongoing rate upfront – it’s a variable 13.99% APR for all cardholders
  • There are late payment and cash advance fees

Tip: You can provide the account number for the account you want to transfer from while you apply, and if approved, the transfer will happen 10 days after your card is mailed. You can also cancel the request within that 10 day period.

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0% balance transfers with a fee

If you think it will take longer than 15 months to pay off your credit card debt, these credit cards could be right for you. Don’t let the balance transfer fee scare you. It is almost always better to pay the fee than to pay a high interest rate on your existing credit card. You can calculate your savings (including the cost of the fee) at our balance transfer marketplace.

These deals listed below are the longest balance transfers we have in our database. We have listed them by number of months at 0%. Although you need good credit to be approved, don’t be discouraged if one lender rejects you. Each credit card company has their own criteria, and you might still be approved by one of the companies listed below.

79_cardSpherecardbySantander

Longest 0% intro balance transfer card

Santander Sphere, 24 months, 0% APR, 4% fee

If you have a big balance, or know you can’t pay off your balance quickly – go as long as you can with a good balance transfer rate, even if it comes with a fee.

At 24 months this is the longest 0% APR balance transfer card in the market right now, so you have 2 years to get the balance paid down.

There’s a $35 late payment fee and a penalty APR of 30.74% applies if you make a late payment, and will apply to your existing balances until you make 6 straight months of on time payments.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period
  • The range of the purchase interest rate based on your credit history (13.49% – 23.49%) is more than 10%, which is a wide range.
  • There are late payment and cash advance fees.

Tip: You have 90 days after you open the account to complete the balance transfer.

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Decent 0% intro balance transfer period

Discover it® – 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer: 0% for 18 months, 3% balance transfer fee

This is a basic balance transfer deal with an above average term. If you don’t have credit card balances with Discover it’s a good option to free up your accounts with other banks. With this card, you also have the ability to earn cash back, and there is no late fee for your first missed payment and no penalty APR. Hopefully you will not need to take advantage of these features, but they are nice to have.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is waived during the balance transfer period, no foreign transaction fees and no late fee for your first late payment
  • The range of the purchase interest rate based on your credit history (11.99% – 23.99% Standard Variable Purchase APR) is fairly standard
  • There is a cash advance fee

Tip: Complete your balance transfer as quickly as possible for maximum savings.

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Low rate balance transfers

If you think it will take longer than 2 years to pay off your credit card debt, you might want to consider one of these offers. Rather than pay a balance transfer fee and receive a promotional 0% APR, these credit cards offer a low interest rate for much longer.

The longest offer can give you a low rate that only goes up if the prime rate goes up. If you can’t get that offer, there is another good option offering a low rate for three years.

Signal Financial

Longest low rate balance transfer card

Unify Financial Credit Union, As low as 5.74% APR, no expiration, $0 fee

If you need a long time to pay off at a reasonable rate, and have great credit, it’s hard to beat this deal from Unify Financial Credit Union, with a rate as low as 5.74% with no expiration and no fee to transfer. The rate is variable, but it only varies with the Prime Rate, so it won’t fluctuate much more than say a variable rate mortgage.

Just about anyone can join Unify Financial Credit Union. They’ll help you figure out what organization you can join to qualify, and you don’t need to be a member to apply.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period.
  • There are late payment fees.

Tip: If you’re credit’s not great, this probably isn’t for you, as the rate chosen for your account could be as high as 18%.

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SunTrust Prime Rewards

Long low rate balance transfer card

SunTrust Prime Rewards, 4.00% APR for 36 months, No fee

If you live in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, D.C., or West Virginia you can apply for this card without a SunTrust bank account.

The deal is you get the prime rate for 3 years with no balance transfer fee. That’s currently 4.00% though your rate will change if the prime rate changes, either up or down, and you have 60 days to complete your transfer with no fee. After that, it’s 3%. Also beware the prime rate deal isn’t for new purchases, so only use this card for a balance transfer.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period.
  • The range of the purchase interest rate based on your credit history (11.99% – 21.99%) is more than 10%, which is high.
  • There are late payment and cash advance fees.

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For fair credit scores

In order to be approved for the best balance transfer credit cards and offers, you generally need to have good or excellent credit. If your FICO score is above 650, you have a good chance of being approved. If your score is above 700, you have an excellent chance.

However, if your score is less than perfect, you still have options. Your best option might be a personal loan. You can learn more about personal loans for bad credit here.

There are balance transfers available for people with scores below 650. The offer below might be available to people with lower credit scores. There is a transfer fee, and it’s not as long as some of the others available with excellent credit. However, it will still be better than a standard interest rate.

Just remember: one of the biggest factors in your credit score is your amount of debt and credit utilization. If you use this offer to pay down debt aggressively, you should see your score improve over time and you will be able to qualify for even better offers.

aspire credit union card image

For less than perfect credit

Aspire Credit Union Platinum,
0% APR for 6 months, 0% transfer fee

Balance transfer deals can be hard to come by if your credit isn’t great. But some banks are more open to it than others, and Aspire Credit Union is one of them, saying ‘fair’ or ‘good’ credit is needed for this card. Anyone can join Aspire, but if you’re looking for a longer deal you also might want to check if you’re pre-qualified for deals from other banks, without a hit to your credit score, using the list of options here.

You’ll be able to check with several banks what cards are pre-screened based on your credit profile, and you might be surprised to see some good deals you didn’t think were in your range. That way you can apply with more confidence.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period.
  • The ongoing interest rate isn’t known when you apply.

Tip: Only Aspire’s Platinum MasterCard has this deal. Its Platinum Rewards MasterCard doesn’t have a 0% offer. And if you transfer a balance after 6 months a 2% fee will apply.

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2. Learn more

Checklist before you transfer

Never use a credit card at an ATM

If you use your credit card at an ATM, it will be treated as a cash advance. Most credit cards charge an upfront cash advance fee, which is typically about 5%. There is usually a much higher “cash advance” interest rate, which is typically above 20%. And there is no grace period, so interest starts to accrue right away. A cash advance is expensive, so beware.

Always pay on time.

If you do not make your payment on time, most credit cards will immediately hit you with a steep late fee. Once you are 30 days late, you will likely be reported to the credit bureau. Late payments can have a big, negative impact on your score. Once you are 60 days late, you can end up losing your low balance transfer rate and be charged a high penalty interest rate, which is usually close to 30%. Just automate your payments so you never have to worry about these fees.

Get the transfer done within 60 days

Most balance transfer offers are from the date you open your account, not the date you complete the transfer. It is in your interest to complete the balance transfer right away, so that you can benefit from the low interest rate as soon as possible. With most credit card companies, you will actually lose the promotional balance transfer offer if you do not complete the transfer within 60 or 90 days. Just get it done!

Don’t spend on the card

Your goal with a balance transfer should be to get out of debt. If you start spending on the credit card, there is a real risk that you will end up in more debt. Additionally, you could end up being charged interest on your purchase balances. If your credit card has a 0% balance transfer rate but does not have a 0% promotional rate on purchases, you would end up being charged interest on your purchases right away, until your entire balance (including the balance transfer) is paid in full. In other words, you lose the grace period on your purchases so long as you have a balance transfer in place.

Don’t try to transfer between two cards of the same bank

Credit card companies make balance transfer offers because they want to steal business from their competitors. So, it makes sense that the banks will not let you transfer balances between two credit cards offered by the same bank. If you have an airline credit card or a store credit card, just make sure you know which bank issues the card before you apply for a balance transfer.

3 Steps for Setting up a Balance Transfer

Nick Clements of MagnifyMoney, who once ran a large credit card business, explains how to set up a balance transfer.

Comparison tools

Savings calculator – which card is best?

If you’re still unsure about which cards offer you the best deal for your situation, try our calculator. You get to input the amount of debt you’re trying to get a lower rate on, your current rate, and the monthly payment you can afford. The calculator will show you which cards offer you the most savings on interest payments.

The calculator will show you which cards offer you the most savings
Balance transfer or a loan?

A balance transfer at 0% will get you the absolute lowest rate. But you might feel more comfortable with a single fixed monthly payment, and a single real date your loan will be paid off. A lot of new companies are offering great rates on loans you can pay off over 2, 3, 4, or 5 years. You can find the best personal loans here.

And you might find even though their rates aren’t 0%, you could afford the payment and get a plan that takes care of your debt for good at once.

Use our calculator to see how your payments and savings will compare.

Balance Transfer Graph

Questions and Answers

Yes, you can. Most credit card companies will allow you to transfer debt from any credit card, regardless who owns it. Just remember that once the debt is transferred, it becomes your legal liability.

Yes, you can. Most banks will enable store card debt to be transferred. Just make sure the store card is not issued by the same bank as the balance transfer credit card.

As a general rule, if you can pay off your debt in six months or less, it usually doesn’t make sense to do a balance transfer.

Here is a simple test. (This is not 100% accurate mathematically, but it is an easy test). Divide your credit card interest rate by 12. (Imagine a credit card with a 12% interest rate. 12%/12 = 1%). In this example, you are paying about 1% interest per month. If the fee on your balance transfer is 3%, you will break even in month 3, and will be saving money thereafter. You can use that simplified math to get a good guide on whether or not you will be saving money.

And if you want the math done for you, use our tool to calculate how much each balance transfer will save you.

With all balance transfers recommended at MagnifyMoney, you would not be hit with a big, retroactive interest charge. You would be charged the purchase interest rate on the remaining balance on a go-forward basis. (Warning: not all balance transfers waive the interest. But all balance transfers recommended by MagnifyMoney do.)

Many companies offer very good deals in the first year to win new customers. These are often called “switching incentives.” For example, your mobile phone company could offer 50% off its normal rate for the first 12 months. Or your cable company could offer a big discount on the first year if you buy the bundle package. Credit card companies are no different. These companies want your debt, and are willing to give you a big discount in the first year to get you to transfer.

Completing a balance transfer is easy. If you are applying for a new credit card, most credit card companies will just ask you for the account number of the credit card that has the debt. The transfer will then happen automatically. (It will look like the balance transfer credit card made a payment for you). You can also call your credit card company, and complete the transfer easily on the phone.

Automate your payments so that it doesn’t happen! If you do miss a payment, you will be charged a late fee. If you become 60 days late, you could lose your promotional interest rate and could be charge the punitive rate, which is often near 30% with most companies.

No, you can’t. Credit card companies are trying to steal balances from their competitors. So these deals are only good if you bring balances from competitors.

Many credit card issuers will allow you to transfer money to your checking account. Or, they will offer you checks that you can write to yourself or a third party. Check online, because many credit card issuers will let you transfer money directly to your bank account from your credit card. Otherwise, call your issuer and ask what deals they have available for “convenience checks.”

In most cases, you cannot. Once a balance transfer is complete, it is complete.

Yes, it is possible to transfer the same debt multiple times. Just remember, if there is a balance transfer fee you would be charged that fee every time you transfer the debt.

You can call the bank and ask them to increase your credit limit. However, even if the bank does not increase your limit, you should still take advantage of the savings available with the limit you have.

Yes. You decide how much you want to transfer to each credit card.

No. You do not earn rewards with a balance transfer. No cash back, no points and no miles can be earned with a balance transfer.

No, there is no penalty. You can pay off your debt whenever you want without a penalty.

Mathematically, the best balance transfer credit cards are no fee, 0% offers. You literally pay nothing. The best in the market is offered by Chase, which has a 15 month 0% introductory offer with a $0 introductory fee.

However, if your debt is already with Chase, or you think it will take years to pay off your debt, you should consider a longer duration offer or a personal loan. You can find 21 month offers with 3% fees and 24 month offers with 4% fees. Your savings over the two years would likely be substantial, even when you include the cost of the fee.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at nick@magnifymoney.com

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Best of, Credit Cards

Credit Cards: Find the Best Credit Card Offers & Deals (0% for 24 mos, 6% cash back)

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.

Credit Cards: Find the Best Credit Card Offers & Deals

Updated May 1, 2017

The best credit cards can help you earn $2 or more for every $100 you spend – an easy way to make $100s or even $1,000s a year. When done properly, low rate credit cards are also the cheapest way to borrow. You can get 0% interest for up to 2 years. And credit cards are the best way to build, rebuild or maintain an excellent credit score, without paying fees.

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 (updated daily) while avoiding expensive traps.

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.

The CFPB has a good guide on what to be aware of with your first credit card, as does the Federal Reserve.

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.

How to Choose and Use a Rewards Card

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

How to Choose

Best Cash Back Credit Cards

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

Citi Double Cash Card

1% When You Buy + 1% When You Pay

Citi Double Cash Card

The Citi Double Cash Card is the best overall cash back credit card. So long as you pay your statement balance in full and on time every month, you will earn 2% cash back. You earn 1% unlimited cash back on all of your purchases. You then earn an additional 1% on payments based on your purchases. The bonus cash back can take up to two billing cycles to post.

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent Credit

Purchase Interest Rate : 13.49% – 23.49%

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : None

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer : 0% for 18 months with a 3% fee

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

GO TO SITEFULL REVIEW

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 a generous 2% cash back on all purchases, with no limits or category restrictions. 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. In addition, all domestic ATM fees are reimbursed (unlimited).

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent Credit

Purchase Interest Rate : 14.49%

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : None

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

GO TO SITE FULL REVIEW

Barclaycard Cash Forward Credit Card

1.575% Cash Back

Barclaycard CashForward World MasterCard

Barclaycard has just recently launched this card, which offers a generous 1.5% cash back rate on all purchases. You can earn a 5% bonus when you redeem, which creates an effective 1.575%. Cash redemptions start at $50.

There is a $200 cash rewards bonus after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days after account opening. There is also a generous 0% intro APR on purchases for the first 15 months. The card has no annual fee.

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  • 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 Credit

Purchase Interest Rate : 15.99% – 25.99%

Annual Fee : $0

Sign-on Bonus : $200 after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days

Intro Purchase APR : 0% for 15 months

Tip: Always pay your bill on time to avoid late fees.

GO TO SITE FULL REVIEW

Best Category Bonuses (Gas, Grocery, Travel, Dining)

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 Credit Union Platinum Visa

Unlimited 5% Cash Back on Gas

Fort Knox Credit Union Platinum Visa

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

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : 9.50%

Annual 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.

GO TO SITE More Gas Cash Back Cards

Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

6% Cash Back on Groceries (Up to $6,000 of Spend)

Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

The unparalleled 6% cash back rate on groceries makes this one of the best cards on the market for heavy grocery consumers. Even with the $75 annual fee, most grocery shoppers will come out ahead.

You will also earn 3% cash back on all gas station purchases, 3% at select department stores and 1% on all other purchases. You will earn a bonus offer of $150 after you spend $1,000 in the first three months. And, for a limited time, you can earn 10% back at Amazon.com, up to $200 within the first six months you have the card.

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  • Simple, easy to understand bonus offer
  • There is an Annual fee

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : 13.49% – 22.49%

Annual Fee : $95 (no fee for additional cards)

Intro Purchase APR : 0% for 15 months

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

GO TO SITE More Grocery Cash Back Cards

PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express

4.25% Cash Back on Airfare Expenses

PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express

If you buy a lot of plane tickets every year, this card can be particularly lucrative. You will earn 5 points for every $1 spent on air travel. When you convert those points to a prepaid Visa card, those 5 points turn into a 4.25% earn rate. You earn 1 points per $1 on all other purchases.

There is no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees and 20,000 bonus points when you spend $2,500 within three months.

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  • No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • The conversion from points to $ can be confusing
  • You must be a member of the credit union

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : 9.24% – 17.99%

Annual Fee : $0

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : 0% for 12 months with a 3% fee

Tip: Keep an eye open on the redemption opportunities. You can sometimes find better deals than just prepaid Visa cards.

GO TO SITE More Cards for Travel Spending

AARP Credit Card from Chase

3% Unlimited Cash Back at Restaurants

AARP Credit Card from Chase

You do not have to be over 55, or a member of the AARP, to apply for this credit card. When applying, you just need to keep the “AARP Membership Number” field blank. You can earn unlimited 3% cash back on your dining expenses. So, if you are a foodie, this is a great card. You also get a healthy 3% cash back on gas and 1% on all other purchases.

If you are interested in joining the AARP, you also don’t need to be older than 55. Anyone can join.

You can learn more about the offer by visiting AARP.org.

The information related to AARP Visa credit card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

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  • No limit to the cash back you can earn
  • You do not need to be an AARP member to get the card

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Ongoing Purchase APR : 16.99% to 23.74%

Annual Fee : $0

Intro Purchase APR : 0% for 12 months

Intro Balance Transfer Offer : 0% for 12 months with a fee of 3% or $5 (whichever is greater)

Tip: Joining AARP at a younger age isn’t as crazy as it sounds. There are a lot of benefits and discounts available to members.

More Dining Credit 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 Rewards 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.

BankAmericard Travel Rewards

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

BankAmericard Travel Rewards

You earn 1.5 points for every $1 you spend. There is no limit to the number of points you earn.

The points can be used on any purchase. There are no restrictions and no blackout dates. Every 100 points can buy $1 worth of travel. The rewards get even better if you have “Preferred Rewards” at Bank of America. You can earn a bonus of between 25% and 75% if you have significant balances at Bank of America or Merrill Lynch.

There is no 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 : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : 15.49% – 23.49%

Annual Fee : $0

Intro Purchase APR : 0% for 12 months

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.

GO TO SITE

Amex Everyday Credit Card

Best No Annual Fee Travel Card – Earn Airline Miles & Hotel Points

Amex Everyday Credit Card

You can earn 2 points for every $1 spent at supermarkets, up to $6,000 per year. You will earn 1 point on all other purchases, including supermarket spend above $6,000. And there is an added bonus. If you use your credit card for 20 purchases per month, you will get a 20% bonus. That means you would get 2.4 points on grocery store spend (up to $6,000) and 1.2 points on everything else.

You will be earning Membership Rewards Points, which have a wide variety of redemption options. You can convert these points into frequent flier miles of airlines. Participating airlines include Delta, Virgin America, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and more. You also have the option to convert points into hotel programs, including Hilton and Starwood.

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

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : Prime + 9.74% – Prime + 18.74%

Annual Fee : $0

Tip: Make sure you use this card for all of your everyday spend. The 20% bonus is based upon the number of transactions made, not the value of those transactions. Even buying a package of gum in the grocery store counts.

GO TO SITE

Best Credit Cards for Foreign 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.

First Tech Credit Union Platinum Rewards MasterCard

No Annual or Foreign Transaction Fee + Chip and Pin Functionality

First Tech Credit Union Platinum Rewards MasterCard

This card is the perfect companion for overseas travel. There is no annual fee or costly 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.

The card also offers low credit union interest rates, starting at just 9.99%. It is easy to join the credit union. Membership is free if you work for a sponsor technology company. If you work for the state of Oregon or live in Lane County, Oregon membership is also free. Otherwise, you just need to join the Financial Fitness Association. There is a one-time fee of $8, and you are member. That membership gives you the right to join the credit union and apply for this card.

You will earn 1 point for every $1 you spend. This is not the best rewards program on the market.

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  • No annual fee or foreign transaction fees
  • You have to be a member of the credit union

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : from 10.24%

Annual Fee : $0

Tip: First, join the Financial Fitness Association. Then join the credit union. Finally, apply for the credit card. This can all be done online, and it is an easy process.

GO TO SITE

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard

No Foreign Transaction Fee + Chip and Pin Functionality

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard

With this card, you earn 2 miles for every $1 you spend. When you redeem, you receive a 5% bonus, which gives you a 2.1% earn rate. Your miles can be used on any travel purchase with any airline, hotel or other travel expense. There is an annual fee of $89, which is waived during the first year. If you spend $1,000 a month, you would earn $252 of rewards during the year. After deducting the annual fee, you will have earned 1.4%.

There is a sign-on bonus of 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days. But the real strength of this card is for foreign travel. There are no foreign transaction fees and full chip and pin functionality is available.

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  • No limit on the bonus points you can earn
  • There is an annual fee

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99% variable

Annual Fee : $89 (waived during the first year)

Intro Purchase APR : None

Intro Balance Transfer : 0% for 12 months with a 3% fee

Tip: Given the high annual fee, this card is only worthwhile if you expect to spend a lot on the card.

GO TO SITE

Capital One Quicksilver One Rewards MasterCard

Best Foreign Travel for Fair Credit

Capital One Quicksilver One Rewards MasterCard

This card is designed for people with Average/Fair credit. If you have defaulted on a loan in the past five years (but not more than one), or if you have had limited credit history (at least one account for less than three years), you would be considered “average/fair.”

With this card, you can earn 1.5% unlimited cash back. There is also no foreign transaction fee. That combination of no fee and rewards can make this card lucrative. There is an annual fee of $39.

This card can be useful to build your credit score. Just keep your utilization low (ideally below 20% of the available credit) 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 : Fair or Average

Purchase Interest Rate : 24.99%

Annual Fee : $39

 

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

GO TO SITE

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.

Brian Karimzad, Co-Founder of MagnifyMoney, explains how to get the most out of cash back credit cards in this video:

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 Balance Transfer Credit Cards

With a balance transfer credit card, you can transfer debt from a high interest rate credit card to a 0% introductory promotional rate. You can find no fee balance transfers for up to 15 months. If you are willing to pay a fee, you can find balance transfers for up to 24 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 of the same bank.

Here are the best 0% balance transfer offers in the market today. All of these credit cards waive interest – which means there is no retroactive interest charge to worry about.

Barclaycard Ring

0% introductory APR for 15 months, no balance transfer fee

Barclaycard Ring

With Barclaycard Ring, you can save with a no balance transfer fee and get a 0% introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and $0 annual fee. Plus, receive your FICO® Score for free. At MagnifyMoney, this is our favorite balance transfer offer.

You cannot transfer debt from other Barclays credit cards, but if your balance is with another bank like Chase, Citi, or Discover, this card is a great choice.

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  • Interest is not deferred during the introductory promotional period. It is waived.
  • You know the ongoing rate upfront – it’s a variable 13.99% APR for all cardholders
  • There are late payment and cash advance fees

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent

Ongoing Purchase APR : 13.99% variable

Annual Fee : $0

Intro Purchase APR : 0% for 15 months

Tip: Make sure you complete the balance transfer within 45 days of opening the account.

LEARN MORE Read Our Full Review

Alliant Platinum Visa

No Fee – 0% on transfers for 12 Months

Alliant Platinum Visa

With the Alliant Platinum Visa, there is no balance transfer fee and you pay no interest for 12 months. You can apply for the credit card even if you are not a member of the credit union. If you are approved for the credit card, you can then join

Anyone can join the credit union. You just have to make a contribution of $10 to Foster Care for Success and then you can become a member of the credit union. That is what we love about credit unions: joining requires a donation to a worthy charity.

There is one catch (that we don’t like). Even if you are approved for the credit card, you might not get the 0% offer. Depending upon your credit score, you might be given a much higher introductory interest rate.

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  • Interest is not deferred during the introductory promotional period. It is waived.
  • You might not get the 0% offer, depending upon your credit score
  • You have to join the credit union

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : 9.49% – 21.49%

Annual Fee : $0

Intro Purchase APR : 0% for 12 months

Tip: If your credit score is not excellent, you might find it difficult to get the 0% offer. Pay close attention to the offer details once approved.

GO TO SITE

Santander Sphere Visa

0% on transfers for 2 Years – 4% Balance Transfer Fee

Santander Sphere Visa

This is the longest 0% offer in the MagnifyMoney database. The only catch: it comes with a hefty 4% balance transfer fee. The fee could still be worthwhile, depending upon how long it takes for you to pay off the debt. You cannot transfer debt from other Santander credit cards.

The card also offers a rewards program, with 1 point for every $1 spent. And if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days, you earn 10,000 bonus points.

You have 90 days from account opening to complete the balance transfer, otherwise you lose the promotional rate.

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  • Interest is not deferred during the introductory promotional period. It is waived.
  • There is a range of interest rates. You won’t know yours until you apply.

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : 12.99% – 22.99%

Annual Fee : $0

Tip: This card is a good option if you think it will take a long time to pay off your debt in full.

GO TO SITE Read Our Full Review

Citi Simplicity

0% on transfers and purchases for 21 Months; 3% Fee

Citi Simplicity

Citibank has a strong balance transfer offer, with a long 21 months and a 3% fee. In addition, Simplicity 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 no annual fee
  • Interest is not deferred during the introductory promotional period. It is waived.
  • There is a range of interest rates. You won’t know yours until you apply.

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : 13.49% – 23.49%

Annual Fee : $0

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

GO TO SITE Read Our 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 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 Simplicity

0% on Purchases for 21 Months

Citi Simplicity

If you are looking to finance a purchase, Citibank offers the longest 0% purchase promotion of any credit card in the MagnifyMoney database. The APR on purchases will be 0% for the first 21 months after opening the credit card.

Additionally, Citi Simplicity charges no annual fee, no late fee and has no penalty APR.

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Transparency Score
  • No late fee, no penalty APR and no annual fee
  • Interest is not deferred during the introductory promotional period. It is waived.
  • There is a range of interest rates. You won’t know yours until you apply.

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : 13.49% – 23.49%

Annual Fee : $0

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

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TruWest Visa Signature

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

TruWest Visa Signature

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 (like Motorola) to join. You can learn about membership eligibility here.

If you are able to join, you will find a long 0% promotional period. Even better, the credit card has reasonable credit union interest rates after the promotional period ends. There is no annual fee on the card.

Transparency Score 22
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the introductory promotional period. It is waived.
  • There is a range of interest rates. You won’t know yours until you apply.

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Good or Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : 8.15% – 9.15%

Annual Fee : $0

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

Best Low Interest (not 0%) 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:

Barclaycard Ring

13.99% Variable Interest Rate

Barclaycard Ring

Barclaycard Ring was launched as a new type of credit card. Barclaycard has created a “community” that allows cardholders to share opinions and participate in a charity partner Giveback program.

There is a flat 13.99% APR (variable), regardless of your score. That is a nice card to have in your back pocket in case of an emergency. There is also a generous balance transfer offer. You can get a 0% intro APR for 15 months with no balance transfer fee (balance transfer must be done within 45 days of opening the account).

There are no rewards offered on this card.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • One flat interest rate
  • No annual fee

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : 13.99% Variable

Annual Fee : $0

Tip: This is a good card to keep in your back pocket in case of an emergency

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Langley Select Visa Platinum Card

As Low as 7.50% from a Credit Union Anyone Can Join

Langley Select Visa Platinum Card

Anyone can join Langley Federal Credit Union by joining an association during the signup process for $5.

If you have excellent credit and just want a place for emergency spending with no rewards, consider keeping this card on hand. Although the rates start as low as 7.50%, not everyone will get a rate that low.

It’s more of a hassle than a regular bank card, but if you insist on the very lowest rate consider this.

Transparency Score 25
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the introductory promotional period. It is waived.
  • There is a range of interest rates. You won’t know yours until you apply.
  • You have to join the credit union

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Excellent

Purchase Interest Rate : from 7.50%

Annual Fee : $0

Tip: You need to have an excellent credit score in order to qualify for the lowest interest rate. And unfortunately the online banking is not as good as some of the bigger banks.

GO TO SITE

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

How to Use

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

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

Nick Clements is the Co-Founder of MagnifyMoney. He also used to run a large credit card company and explains how to use balance transfers in this video.

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 for People with 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.

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

Discover it® Secured Card – No Annual Fee

This is our favorite secured credit card. There is no annual fee. You will get free access to your credit score. You can watch your good behavior being rewarded, and you will know when it is time to convert to a fully unsecured credit card.

In order to open the card, you will need to deposit at least $200, depending upon your creditworthiness. With this secured credit card, you will actually be able to earn cash back rewards. If you have previously filed bankruptcy, you still have the chance to be approved.

Our favorite part of the product is the automatic monthly reviews starting at 8 months to see if you can be transitioned to an account with no security deposit. If you qualify, you will be graduated (and get your deposit back).

Transparency Score 25
Transparency Score
  • No annual fee
  • Free FICO credit score

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Best for no credit, 670 or less

Purchase Interest Rate : 23.99% variable APR

Annual Fee : $0

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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Community Secured Visa from Coastal Credit Union

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

Community Secured Visa from Coastal Credit Union

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 an organization 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 a bit higher than the Capital One card, you get the peace of mind that your interest rate will be more reasonable in case you get into trouble. This one takes more work to open than the Capital One card, since it involves joining a credit union, but you deal with less fine print once you have the card.

Transparency Score 27
Transparency Score
  • 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 : 15.50%

Annual Fee : $0

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

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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 for People with 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 Quicksilver One

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

Capital One Quicksilver One

Capital One has created a credit card specifically for people with fair or average 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 fair credit.

You will earn 1.5% cash back, unlimited.

Transparency Score 30
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the introductory promotional period. It is waived.
  • There is an annual fee

Key Information

Credit Score Required : Fair or Average

Purchase Interest Rate : 24.99%

Annual Fee : $39

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.

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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.

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.
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.

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.

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.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at nick@magnifymoney.com

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Advertiser Disclosure

Best of

The Best Tax Software of 2017

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.

 

If you’re like most Americans, you dread filing your taxes. You have to track down the right forms, deal with the IRS, and try to remember all your deductions and credits. That’s why so many people turn to online tax software to help file taxes. Great tax software simplifies the filing process without draining your pocketbook. But choosing the right software can be as much work as filing your taxes.

To help you choose the right software, we’ve tested 11 of the leading online tax software packages. We’ve ranked each software on the following criteria: usability, helpfulness of support articles, availability of audit support, and accessibility of tax and technical support. Then, we compared these criteria to the price to determine which software package is best for your situation.

Which tax software fits your needs? Find out below.

Best Tax Software of 2017

Best Free Filing Service

Of the 11 tax software packages we reviewed only two allow all users to file state and federal taxes for free.

Best Software: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Tax features an outstanding user interface with easy interview questions. The built-in calculators make Credit Karma appropriate for even complex filers. You can’t import information, and Credit Karma doesn’t have robust help, but it’s easily the best software you can use for free.

 

Runner-up: DIY Tax

DIY Tax is a joint partnership between Liberty Tax Services and eSmart Tax. Their user interface is clunky, but it has all the functionality you need. Their software interface allows you to import prior tax returns, and they have excellent support articles.

Best for Simple Filing

Simple filers are W-2 employees who claim the standard deduction. You typically file as Single or Married Filing Jointly. You don’t have dependents, and you earn less than $100,000.

Best Software: TaxAct, free edition

TaxAct offers completely free state and federal filing options for simple filers. However, they do charge $10 for prior year import. The user experience is easy, and TaxAct offers free tax and technical support.

Runner-up: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Tax offers free filing for all users, and they have an easy-to-use interface. While they only offer email tech and tax support, Credit Karma allows simple filers to explore more complex credits and deductions for free.

Best for Maximizing Deductions and Credits

Charitably inclined people, most homeowners, parents who pay for child care, and people who qualify for the earned income tax credit may want to maximize deductions and credits.

Best Software: Credit Karma Tax

Most software packages require you to upgrade to itemize deductions or claim credits. With Credit Karma Tax you can claim them for free. The only problem with Credit Karma Tax? If you fail to qualify for a credit, they don’t offer great explanations.

Runner-up: TaxSlayer Classic

TaxSlayer Classic offers federal filing for $17 and state filing for $22. The software is easy to use and intuitive. It even allows you to upload your W-2 form. For maximizing deductions and credits, you won’t find a better software for the price. TaxSlayer gives you access to technical support, but you need to upgrade to ask tax-related questions.

Easiest for New Filers

We assume that new filers have simple forms to file, but they want a clear user interface and ready access to tax and technical support.

Best Software: 1040.com EZ

1040.com offers free federal filing, and state filing for $9.95. Normally, we don’t recommend paying for a service that you can get for free elsewhere, but new filers will love 1040.com’s user interface and live chat support. Their tax and tech professionals can quickly guide you if you get stuck.

Runner-up: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Tax has an excellent user interface that you can use for free. Even new filers can use the interview questions to determine whether they qualify for credits or deductions. Unfortunately, Credit Karma only offers email support.

Best Audit Protection

The IRS has the right to audit anyone, but people with complex taxes run a greater audit risk. No tax software (or accountant) can prevent you from getting audited. However, some tax software will give you access to a tax specialist or accountant if you undergo an audit. These are the software services that can lend a hand if you need it.

Best Software: FreeTaxUSA Deluxe

FreeTaxUSA Deluxe costs $6.99 for federal filing and $12.95 for state filing. FreeTaxUSA does not feature an intuitive user interface, but they have built-in calculators that most complex filers need. They also promise to give you personal assistance if you’re audited. If you can stand the software, it’s the best price for audit protection.

Runner-up: TaxSlayer Premium

TaxSlayer Premium costs $35 for federal filing and $22 for state filing. At the Premium level, trained tax professionals will help you if you’re audited after using the TaxSlayer software. The software is generally easy to use. However, the amortization and depreciation calculators can be confusing.

Why H&R Block and TurboTax didn’t make the cut

Historically, H&R Block included audit assistance with all of their paid programs. This year, you can only get that protection if you purchase the desktop software. If you purchase H&R Block online, you can pay an additional $79.99 for a “Best of Both” package. In this package, a tax professional reviews your filing, and they offer in-person support if the IRS audits you.

In the past, TurboTax included audit assistance with their paid package. This year, if you want audit assistance from TurboTax, you have to pay for the $44.99 “MAX” package. They give some additional security measures and access to in-person support if you’re audited.

Because of the increase in price, these historic powerhouses didn’t make the cut for best audit protection.

Best Interface for Health Care Premium Tax Credit

Health insurance isn’t only confusing during open enrollment. Tax time means that you’ll need to figure out how much of the premium tax credit you qualified for during the year. If you were on an Obamacare health plan for any part of the year, you’ll need to look for software that can handle this credit.

Best Software: OLT.com

OLT.com offers free federal filing and $9.95 state returns. It’s got a poor user interface, but their Affordable Care Act section offers excellent support articles, and it’s easy to use. You can’t import forms, but it’s easy to copy data from your 1095-A onto the software.

This software is only appropriate for simple filers with a marketplace plan. Everyone else should look elsewhere.

Runner-up: TurboTax Deluxe

TurboTax Deluxe costs $34.99 for federal filing and $36.99 for state filing. This is a steep price if you want to itemize deductions and maximize credits. However, TurboTax offers the best Affordable Care Act information on the market. They even allow you to upload your 1095-A form to the software.

Best for Investors

If you buy and sell stocks, bonds, or options outside of your tax-advantaged retirement accounts, you need a tax software that can handle all your information. Tax software for investors needs to handle dividends as well as short-term and long-term capital gains.

Best Software: H&R Block Premium – Online version

H&R Block Premium online software costs $54.99 for federal filing and $36.99 for state filing. But the price is well worth it in this case. H&R Block allows you to import all major forms from many financial institutions. If you actively trade, you need this capability. H&R Block also has accurate accounting for short-term gains and losses, which will help investors minimize the tax they owe. H&R Block also has helpful community forums and unlimited real-time chat support if you need help.

Runner-up: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Tax offers a free solution for all kinds of investors. You must manually enter all your trading information, but Credit Karma calculates capital gains and losses and the appropriate tax rate. It’s a decent (and free) solution for less active investors.

Best for Real Estate Investors

Real estate investors need to calculate depreciation. They need to amortize certain expenses and deduct others. This can be confusing for DIY tax preparers. The best tax software for real estate investors needs to feature helpful support articles, intuitive depreciation and amortization calculators, and as many import features as possible.

Best Software: TurboTax Premier

TurboTax Premier costs $54.99 for federal filing and $36.99 for state. The real estate portion of TurboTax is second to none. If you use QuickBooks software to manage your real estate accounting, you can connect it directly to TurboTax. If you don’t, you can still upload a Schedule E or use the robust calculators.

Runner-up: H&R Block Premium

H&R Block Premium also costs $54.99 for federal filing and $36.99 for state. The software allows users to import many documents including an entire Schedule E. The depreciation and amortization calculators offer standard inputs, but they are flexible enough for special events. H&R Block also makes it easy to import last year’s tax return. Most real estate investors need this to accurately report depreciation.

Best for Self-Employed People

Are you a freelancer or contractor? If so, you know that you can deduct many business-related expenses. This means that taxes can get messy in a hurry. The best tax software for self-employed people makes it easy to claim business deductions. It will also offer robust explanations that will help you understand amortizing equipment expenses and whether you qualify for a home office deduction.

Best Software: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Tax makes it easy for you to find and deduct appropriate expenses if you’re self-employed. Their built-in amortization calculators are easy to use, and Credit Karma offers helpful explanations. Outside of the most complex self-employment situations, Credit Karma is a simple filing solution.

Runner-up: Jackson Hewitt Basic

Jackson Hewitt Basic software offers one of the lowest cost Schedule C-EZ forms if you’re self-employed. The cost is $19.95 for federal returns and $36.95 for state returns. Their extensive support articles and helpful interface mean that you can find the help you need at the right price. Plus, you can get unlimited live chat support from technical assistants. If you need help from tax experts, you will have to pay for a consultation at a local Jackson Hewitt office.

Best Bargain for Self-Employed People

When you’re self-employed, you don’t always have the luxury of choosing the best-value product. Sometimes, you just need the cheapest product that will get the job done. If that’s you, these are the software products you should consider.

Best Software: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Tax is the best 100% free option if you’re self-employed. It offers all the functionality you need.

 

Best Software: FreeTaxUSA

FreeTaxUSA allows free federal filing and $12.95 state filing. Their calculators and website are adequate for self-employed people. This software allows you to deduct mileage, amortize expenses, and categorize meals and entertainment. FreeTaxUSA isn’t beautiful, but it gets the job done at a low price. If you upgrade to Deluxe, you’ll even get audit assistance.

Best for Small Businesses

Sole proprietors and single member LLCs can also use tax software for self-employed people. As long as the software supports a Schedule C, it will work for your small business needs.

If you’re part of a partnership, a corporation, or a multi-member LLC, then you need more than the standard tax software that we reviewed above.

Corporations need software that supports Form 1120. S Corporations (with more than one member) need tax software that supports Form 1120S. Partnerships and multi-member LLCs need software that supports Form 1065.

If you need business tax software consider one of these options.

TurboTax Business

$149.99 federal (up to five federal e-files); $49.99 per state + $24.99 per state e-filing fee.

TurboTax Business offers the same interview style interface that consumers love, but it offers increased functionality. Small business owners will especially love that they can use it to create unlimited W-2 forms and 1099-MISC forms.

H&R Block Premium and Business

$79.95 federal (up to five federal e-files); first state software free, after that: $35 per state + $19.95 per state e-filing fee. H&R Block offers an excellent interview style user interface with increased functionality such as creating employee forms. This software supports the major forms for businesses, plus the form for nonprofit organizations.

TaxAct for Small Businesses

TaxAct bundles federal and state filing and software for a total of $100. You can purchase federal filing only for $60. TaxAct has a slightly more stripped-down user interface than H&R Block or TurboTax, but business owners can easily complete everything. You can even create as many employee tax forms as you need.

 

Tax Software Pricing, Plans, and Insights

Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Tax offers free federal and state filing for all users. With a robust and easy-to-use interface, it’s an excellent default choice for most filers. Their guided path through the tax software is as good as the most expensive tax software on the market. But it has a few shortfalls. You can’t import your prior year’s taxes. This makes year-to-year comparisons impossible within the software. You also can’t import any forms, which can be a pitfall for active traders and real estate professionals.

Credit Karma offers tax and tech support via email. They currently have at least a 3-day wait time for answers. Credit Karma doesn’t offer audit support either.

Superlatives: Best Free Filing Service, Best for Maximizing Deductions and Credits, Best for Self-Employed People, Best Bargain for Self-Employed People, Runner-up Best for Simple Filing, Runner-up Easiest for New Filers, Runner-up Best for Investors

DIY Tax

DIY Tax offers 100% free federal and state filing for everyone. Their user interface is a bit clumsy, but it proves accurate and usable. They even allow you to import your prior year’s taxes for your reference. Real estate investors and small business owners need to be careful with this platform. The depreciation and amortization calculators can be confusing. Their software offers technical support, but they push Liberty Tax Service offices for tax support. The software doesn’t come with an audit support guarantee.

DIY Tax is sponsored by Liberty Tax, and you will see ads for their offices in the software. Remember, filing in a Liberty Tax office isn’t free.

Superlatives: Runner-up Best Free Filing Service

eSmart Tax

eSmart Tax and DIY Tax are the same software package. However, you have to pay for eSmart Tax. Why would you pay? The Deluxe and Premium packages offer unlimited phone or email support from tax specialists, which can prove helpful. But in most cases eSmart Tax isn’t a great option.

 

Free Basic Deluxe Premium
Price $0 Federal $29.95 State $14.95 Federal
$29.95 State
$19.95 Federal
$29.95 State
$34.95 Federal
$29.95 State
Best For 1040EZ Homeowners, people with dependents, sole proprietors Stock market investors without capital gains or losses Freelancers, real estate investors, people who sold a home in the previous years

Superlatives: None

TaxSlayer

TaxSlayer has an incredible user interface and helpful support articles. When it comes to itemizing deductions or finding credits, it is one of the easiest to use tax software packages on the market.

Unlike most tax software, TaxSlayer supports all forms on its second-tier Classic level. This means that anyone could complete their entire tax return at a relatively low price. Their Premium level gives you access to live chat support, audit protections, and help from tax professionals.

However, TaxSlayer has two demerits. First, you cannot import a prior year’s tax return from a competitor. The only tax information you can use is information you entered into TaxSlayer during a previous tax year. Second, TaxSlayer doesn’t allow you to see internal calculations for depreciation and amortization. That makes TaxSlayer inappropriate if you’re a real estate investor or self-employed.

 

Simply Free Classic Premium
Price $0 Federal
$0 First State ($22 each additional)
$17 Federal
$22 State
$35 Federal
$22 State
Best For 1040EZ All others (itemizers, stock market investors, real estate investors, self-employed, etc.) Comes with audit assistance, ask a task professional, and live chat support

Superlatives: Runner-up Best Audit Protection, Runner-up Best for Maximizing Deductions and Credits

TaxAct

When does free really mean free? When it comes to simple tax filing through TaxAct. People who file a 1040 or 1040EZ can file federal and state taxes for free through TaxAct. Even if you don’t qualify for free filing, TaxAct usually represents an excellent value. At any level, you can receive phone and email support from tax and technical professionals. TaxAct doesn’t offer audit support, but it is priced accordingly.

For the most part, TaxAct simplifies tax filing. It uses simple questions, helpful knowledge articles, and easy navigation to help you complete your taxes. They even make it easy to import your prior year’s taxes into their software. TaxAct also offers some of the best guidance if you’re a stock market investor or self-employed.

Despite all these praises, the software stumbles somewhat on its real estate coverage. The depreciation calculator seems clumsy in certain areas. Outside of this flaw, TaxAct offers tremendous value for the price.

 

Free Plus Premium
Price $0 Federal
$0 State
$27 Federal
$33 State
$37 Federal
$33 State
Best For 1040EZ, 1040A (no dependents, claiming standard deduction) Itemizers, stock market investors Self-employed, real estate investors

Superlatives: Best for Simple Filing

OLT.com

OLT.com offers bargain basement pricing, but it shows in the interface. You have to pay $7.95 for tax and technical support. Nonetheless, the $7.95 also brings audit support, which offers some value.

Their clumsy user interface only allows you to import prior year tax forms from its own database. Their support articles send you to the even more confusing IRS website.

However, OLT.com offers a few bright spots. The health insurance coverage is easy and accurate. It is the only tax software that makes it easy to claim the premium tax credit for part of the year. Also, the real estate depreciation calculators are flexible enough to deal with complex circumstances.

In most cases, we don’t recommend OLT.com, but a few people may benefit.

 

Free Premium
Price $0 Federal
$9.95 State
$7.95 Federal
$7.95 State
Best For All major schedules supported Anyone who wants audit support

Superlatives: Best Interface for Health Care Premium Tax Credit

1040.com

According to 1040.com, tax filing should be smart and simple. If you’re a new filer or a freelancer with basic expenses, 1040.com delivers. 1040.com offers free live chat and email technical support. They also have support articles that are approachable and informative.

In fact, their entire software is friendly and informative. New filers are likely to appreciate the high-quality and low-cost support from 1040.com, but other simple filers can find better deals elsewhere. Their friendly interview style interface starts to falter if you’re a real estate or stock market investor. You will need to add forms that don’t have built-in calculators. This means that 1040.com is best for people with less complexity in their filing.

 

Free $19.95 $39.95
Price $0 Federal
$9.95 State
$19.95 Federal
$14.95 State
$39.95 Federal
$19.95 State
Best For 1040EZ Stock market investors Self-employed, real estate investors, itemizers

Superlatives: Easiest for New Filers

H&R Block Online

H&R Block is one of the biggest names in tax software for good reason. People with complex tax returns will love the value that H&R Block offers. H&R Block offers unlimited technical support to all filers, and phone and chat tax support for those who pay. The only disappointment is that H&R Block online filing customers do not get a free in-person audit support. This is reserved for those who purchase a $79.99 “Best of Both” upgrade or who download H&R Block’s software.

However, the H&R Block interface offsets this disappointment. H&R Block offers easy navigation, helpful interview questions, and robust articles that can help you untangle even the most complex filing situation. H&R Block’s built-in calculators are flexible enough to deal with uncommon filings. Plus, you can import most major forms, including prior year’s tax returns from competitors. This makes H&R Block ideal for anyone with complex filings.

Their software isn’t quite as easy to use as TurboTax, but it’s quite a bit less expensive. In particular, freelancers and self-employed people with basic expenses will see huge value since they can purchase the Deluxe edition.

 

Free Deluxe* Premium*
Price $0 Federal
$0 State
$34.99 Federal
$36.99 State
$54.99 Federal
$36.99 State
Best For New filers, basic filers (allows for earned income tax credit), homeowners Stock market investors, self-employed with basic expenses, other itemizers Real estate investors, self-employed with more complex expenses

*Deluxe and Premium filers can upgrade to a $79.99 “Best of Both” package. This means that a CPA will review your return and you’ll receive in-person audit assistance.

Superlatives: Best for Investors, Runner-up Best for Real Estate Investors

TurboTax

If you’re looking for the Cadillac of tax software, TurboTax emerges as the winner. Their interface is easy to use and navigate. TurboTax even allows you to import last year’s taxes from any of their competitors. 1040EZ filers will even get to file federal and state returns for free. After that, the price climbs quickly. But for many filers the high price is well worth the cost.

The interview style format makes tax filing simple, even if you’re facing a complex situation. Paying customers who get stuck can get help from tax or technical professionals. TurboTax takes their support seriously. With your permission, support staff can “draw” on your screen to guide you through tough situations.

Real estate investors, self-employed people, and small business owners will appreciate TurboTax’s robust interface. The one thing they won’t appreciate? The price of audit support. TurboTax’s MAX costs $44.99. This is the only way to get audit support from TurboTax this year.

 

Free Deluxe Premium Self-Employed
Price $0 Federal
$0 State
$34.99 Federal
$36.99 State
$54.99 Federal
$36.99 State
$89.99 Federal
$36.99 State
Best For 1040EZ/ 1040A Itemizers Investors, real estate investors Self-employed

*Anyone can upgrade to TurboTax’s MAX for $44.99.

Superlatives: Best for Real Estate Investors, Runner-up Best Interface for Health Care Premium Tax Credit

FreeTaxUSA

FreeTaxUSAand TaxHawk offer the same tax software at the same price. They are owned by the same parent company, and you can even move your profile from one site to the next. The websites aren’t pretty, but experienced filers will find everything they need to complete their taxes. You can even upload prior year’s tax returns from competitors. This is a huge value given the bargain basement pricing.

FreeTaxUSA offers two pricing tiers. Both levels support all major tax forms. You can also access chat support from tax and technical specialists from both levels. However, upgrading will give you priority access to specialists. Upgrading also gives you access to a tax specialist if you’re audited.

The name might lead you to believe you’re getting free tax filing, but you’ll have to pay at least $12.95 for state filing. Nonetheless, FreeTaxUSA is a great bargain — especially if you have a complex filing situation.

 

Free Premium
Price $0 Federal
$12.95 State
$6.99 Federal
$12.95 State
Best For All major schedules supported Anyone who wants audit support

Superlatives: Best Audit Protection, Best Bargain for Self-Employed People

Jackson Hewitt Online

Jackson Hewitt brings the neighborhood tax filing office online. They feature excellent knowledge articles and easy interview style tax filing. It’s easy to import your taxes from any major competitor or from Jackson Hewitt. This makes switching to Jackson Hewitt Online easy.

Built-in calculators make depreciation and amortization easy. However, Jackson Hewitt doesn’t offer many import options. This makes their relatively high pricing difficult to justify. Simple filers (1040EZ) and self-employed people with basic expenses may see high value in the Jackson Hewitt software. After all, they offer live chat tech support to all their customers. If you need tax support, you’ll have to upgrade to Premium to get the phone support.

Jackson Hewitt also allows online filers to pay extra for an in-person tax consultation. Prices for these meetings vary by location.

It’s important to note that this review is only for the online Jackson Hewitt software package. Magnify Money did not review Jackson Hewitt office preparations.

 

Free Basic Deluxe Premium
Price $0 Federal
$0 State
$19.95 Federal
$36.95 State
$34.95 Federal
$36.95 State
$54.95 Federal
$36.95 State
Best For 1040EZ Freelancers Investors, families with dependents, homeowners, itemizers Small business owners, real estate investors

Superlatives: Runner-up Best for Self-Employed People

 

Tax Software FAQs

Is online tax software safe?

Tax-related identity theft is the number one reported form of identity theft. However, most theft isn’t the direct result of using online software. Any time you apply for a credit card or use online banking, your information enters the digital world. If this information gets stolen, you’re at risk. Nobody can eliminate the possibility of identity theft, but you can work to protect yourself.

Part of protecting yourself involves only giving out your information on trusted websites. When you file your taxes, you provide all your personally identifiable information to a software service. You need to know whether or not that information is safe.

Every software company that we reviewed is an Authorized IRS e-File provider. This means that these sites comply with the security and business standards set forth by the IRS.

None of the software packages we reviewed will sell your personal information to a third party. Each of the software packages we reviewed requires you to use multi-factor authentication. This makes it difficult for hackers to access your personal information. These websites are as secure as possible, but they are not 100% safe.

If you think you’ve been the victim of tax fraud, contact the IRS immediately at 1-800-908-4490 to work with their resolution specialists. You will need to file an identity theft affidavit that explains that someone filed taxes in your name.

What if I don’t want to use tax software?

If you don’t want to use tax software, you can choose a paper filing option. Each state requires you to mail your check to a different office.

You can also use the IRS’s free electronic fillable forms. However, these offer limited guidance and can be difficult to use. With so many other free options, these should be a last resort.

Finally, you can hire a professional tax preparer to do your taxes for you. Be sure that the person you hire is in the Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications.

Should I hire an accountant?

An accountant can save you time, headache, and in some cases, money. Tax professionals must follow the tax code, but their specialized knowledge helps them pick up on deductions or credits that you might miss on your own.

In general, the more complex your tax return, the more you may want to hire an accountant. If you choose to hire an accountant, be sure that they are an authorized tax return preparer. They should sign your return as an authorized preparer.

Hannah Rounds
Hannah Rounds |

Hannah Rounds is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Hannah at hannah@magnifymoney.com

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