The Verdict: The HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card (HSBC is a WalletHub partner) is a great option for people with good or excellent credit who want to pay for big-ticket purchases over time, offering an 18-month interest-free introductory period that puts it firmly within the top tier of 0% credit cards on the market right now. It doesn’t have an annual fee, either. In contrast, the average card charges $15.75 per year. And the average 0% purchase period lasts for slightly less than 10 months.
The HSBC Gold card gives you 0% on balance transfers for the first 18 months, too. But that’s not quite as good of a deal, largely because HSBC Gold charges a fee equal to 4% of the amount transferred, or $10 if you transfer $250 or less. But it’s still very good compared to most of the competition. The average 0% balance transfer card gives you an 11-month break from interest and charges a transfer fee of less than 3%.
The Verdict: If you’re a loyal United Airlines flyer with excellent credit who likes to splurge on in-flight refreshments, the new United℠ TravelBank Card from Chase could save you a lot of money. The card is most rewarding on United purchases, as you might expect. Airfare, seat upgrades and baggage fees yield the equivalent of 2% cash back, while in-flight drinks and snacks score you a whopping 25% back. But the TravelBank Card’s base earning rate isn’t too shabby, either: 1.5% back on all other purchases.
Plus, there are no annual or foreign-transaction fees to worry about. And spending $1,000+ within three months of account opening will earn you a $150 bonus.
3% intro balance transfer fee for 15 months (5% after)
The Verdict: The Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card (Wells Fargo is a WalletHub partner) is one of the best 0% credit cards on the market right now. It offers 0% introductory APRs on both purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, trouncing the market averages for 0% cards in those categories: roughly 10 months for new purchases and 11 months for transfers.
However, Wells Fargo Platinum’s balance transfer fee (3% intro for the first 15 months) is above average, too. Similarly, Platinum’s regular APR could be 25%+, while the average among credit cards for people with good credit (which you need for approval) is just above 19%. So you may want to think twice about transferring existing debt. And you definitely shouldn’t carry a balance from month to month once the 0% intro rates have come and gone.
A bad credit score is a credit score from 300 to 619, or 639, depending on whom you ask. There’s no universal definition for bad credit for the same reasons there’s no single “real” credit score: Many ways to measure credit exist, and a lot depends on the lender. That said, you probably have a bad credit score if you’ve declared bankruptcy in the last three years or fallen at least 60 days behind on a bill payment in the last nine months. Your odds of having bad credit are also high if you currently have a past-due credit card or loan bill, or your credit cards are maxed out. And no matter what you call it or where you draw the upper limit, you don’t want to be anywhere close to the bad credit section of the credit score range – at least not for long. Not only will a bad credit score make it harder and more expensive to get a loan, but it could also complicate your living situation and even your job options. Fortunately, a bad credit score is not a life sentence. You should be able to go from bad credit to fair credit in 12-18 months, if you’re careful.
Exactly how you should go about repairing your credit and how long that will take depend on how badly damaged your credit is in the first place. So your first order of business should be to check your latest credit score and see where you’re starting from. You can do that for free on WalletHub and get personalized credit improvement advice in the process.
Soft pull credit cards let you check for pre-approval and request a credit limit increase without a hard credit inquiry. Most soft pull credit cards do not, however, allow you to open a new account without a hard inquiry. With the exception of a handful of secured credit cards that don’t check your credit at all when you apply, you can’t get a credit card without a hard inquiry.
A hard inquiry is when a lender reviews your credit history in response to your application for credit. And each one does a bit of temporary damage to your credit score, with the impact being most pronounced when you have numerous inquiries in a short period of time. So being rejected for a credit card will make it harder to get approved for your next choice, and you may need to wait a bit before applying again.
Note: This card is no longer open to new applications. Information listed here is accurate as of Dec. 28, 2017.
The Verdict: The AAA Member Rewards Visa Credit Card is a solid option for AAA members with good or excellent credit who always pay their monthly bills in full and would like to earn rewards on everyday expenses. Although its terms won’t necessarily wow you, there is a lot to like on the rewards front, particularly if you spend a lot on travel, gas, groceries and AAA services. And what AAA member doesn’t?
2 free nights for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
5 points per $1 spent at Ritz-Carlton and partner hotels
$300 annual travel credit
$100 credit on hotel stays of 2+ nights
Gold Elite Status for one year
Complimentary LOUNGE CLUB access
$395 annual fee
Potential for a very high regular APR
The Verdict: A $395 annual fee is probably enough to scare most people off, but then again, the Ritz-Carlton crowd isn’t most people. So if you’re looking for a way to save on swanky hotel stays and can see past The Ritz-Carlton Credit Card’s hefty dues, you’ll find a number of positive attributes that enable the card to pay for itself when in the right hands.
For starters, spending $4,000 within three months of account opening will score you two free nights at a Category 1 to 4 Ritz-Carlton hotel. That’s worth around $720, based on Ritz-Carlton’s average daily room rate in 2015. Those free nights pay for nearly the first two annual fees, but thereafter you’ll need to rely on a $300 annual travel credit, $100 credits for paid hotel stays of two or more nights, and regular purchase-based rewards. More specifically, you’ll earn 5 points for each $1 that you spend at Ritz-Carlton properties and partner hotels such as Marriott; 2 points per $1 on airfare purchased directly from airlines as well as on car rentals and dining; and 1 point per $1 on everything else. Based on WalletHub’s analysis of the average Ritz-Carlton point value, those points equates to 3.95%, 1.58% and 0.79% cash back, respectively, or as much as 4.3% when you factor in your annual 10% earnings bonus.
3% back at gas stations and restaurants (1% everywhere else)
0% financing for the first 12 months
No annual fee
Slightly below-average regular APR
3% foreign-transaction fee
3% balance-transfer fee
The Verdict: You might know that AARP stands for the American Association of Retired Persons, but you probably don’t realize the AARP Rewards Credit Card stands to help qualified applicants of any age save money on everyday expenses. More specifically, the AARP Rewards Card is available to anyone with good credit or better, regardless of AARP membership (which costs $16 per year). And it offers 3% back at gas stations and restaurants plus a 1% base earning rate to supplement the $100+ initial bonus that you’ll receive for spending at least $500 within three months of account opening. That’s a pretty good deal, especially when you consider that the total package would net the average person roughly $1,100 over the first two years of use.
But the AARP Card’s benefits don’t stop there. It also offers 0% introductory rates for new purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months your account is open, though a 3% transfer fee complicates the second part of that equation. Similarly, a 3% foreign-transaction fee makes the AARP Card ill-suited to traveling abroad or buying from merchants based internationally, so it’s best to look elsewhere if seeing the world is on your bucket list.
The Verdict: The Alaska Airlines Credit Card is a solid option for someone with good credit who regularly flies with Alaska Air and its network of 17 partner airlines, both domestic and international. And it’s best suited to be a complementary card, used only for Alaska Airlines expenses to supplement an everyday card with more well-rounded rewards.
You see, the Alaska Airlines Credit Card isn’t one to seek out if you’re looking to take a quick trip on a credit-card company’s dime. Its 30,000-mile initial bonus, which you’ll receive two to three weeks after account approval, is nice, but your good credit can get you a lot more up front. Furthermore, the 1 point you’ll earn per $1 that you spend on most purchases and the ability to earn up to 5 points per $1 by booking restaurant reservations through Alaska’s Mileage Plan Dining program are okay. But the 3 points per $1 that you’ll earn on Alaska Airlines purchases ultimately define the card.
Getting the right credit card doesn’t have to be a struggle or a guessing game. Sure, shopping for plastic might seem like looking for a needle in a haystack. There are hundreds of offers with similar-sounding names to choose from. There’s lots of terminology to learn. And who has either the time or the eyesight to pour through all the fine print?
But finding and ultimately getting approved for the best possible credit card is fairly easy when you know where to look. For starters, you can use WalletHub’s anonymous CardAdvisor tool to get a recommendation based on your answers to a few simple questions. You can get more-personalized picks by signing up for a free WalletHub account. Or you can simply head straight for the top card in your category of choice, as selected by WalletHub’s editors from 1,000+ offers (some offers are from our partners).
The Verdict: The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express wouldn’t be our first choice for an everyday credit card, but it is one of the best balance transfer credit cards around (American Express is a WalletHub partner). So if you have some credit card debt that you’d like to get rid of and the good or excellent credit needed for approval, you should definitely consider Amex EveryDay.
Most importantly, this EveryDay Amex offers 0% intro rates on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months your account is open. There’s also no balance transfer fee and no annual fee. You just have to transfer your balance within 60 days of opening your account. And you’d be wise to repay what you owe before a high regular APR takes effect after 15 months.
The Verdict: Will the real Black Card please stand up? A role call is needed in light of how slang is being manipulated to cost consumers money. The truth is the real Black Card that celebrities flash and rappers namedrop doesn’t even have “Black” in its name. That’s actually the American Express Centurion Card (American Express is a WalletHub partner), and it’s available on an invitation-only basis to extremely high-spenders.
The Mastercard® Black Card merely represents an attempt to mislead consumers into overspending, using the mystique of the rich and famous as bait, like the now-discontinued Visa Black Card before it. That’s why Mastercard® Black is so expensive, charging a $495 annual fee, and why it offers a range of “luxury” benefits to supplement fairly mediocre purchase-based rewards.
2 points per $1 spent on dining and entertainment (1 point per $1 on everything else)
No foreign-transaction fees
$95 annual fee starting year two
No 0% intro rates
Above-average regular APR
The Verdict: Whether it’s truly a premier option is a matter for debate, but the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card (Citi is a WalletHub partner) certainly represents a solid way to subsidize your travel expenses, assuming you have excellent credit.
The $95 annual fee doesn’t kick in until year two and your earnings will always be worth 25% more when redeemed for airfare.
The Verdict: The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (American Express is a WalletHub partner) is the perfect travel companion for fans of hotel brands such as Westin, Sheraton, St. Regis and the seven other members of Starwood’s luxury lodging portfolio. The most striking feature of this card is the fact that its rewards currency, dubbed “Starpoints,” is worth nearly three times as much as Marriott’s and nearly five times as much as Hilton’s. So while the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card’s 25,000-point initial bonus might not seem all that impressive, it’s actually worth an average of almost $650 in SPG reservations, according to WalletHub’s analysis of the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program.
All things considered, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card could yield the average person more than $2,000 in value over the first two years — according to our calculations — even considering the $95 annual fee that kicks in during year two. However, that assumes use of the card for all purchases, not just for hotel reservations. The card can still be valuable when used more selectively, but infrequent travelers must be careful, as Starpoints expire after 12 months of account inactivity.
2 points per $1 spent at restaurants and on airfare booked directly with airlines
Credit of up to $75 and possible room upgrade after hotel stays of at least two nights
$160 annual fee beginning the second year ($0 the first year)
Late fee equal to $38
No preset spending limit promotes uncertainty and potential credit-score damage
This card is no longer open to new applications. The Verdict: Although its metallic moniker might fool you, the standard American Express® Gold Card (American Express is a WalletHub partner) is far from a top-of-the-podium choice for your wallet. It’s a charge card – meaning you have to pay your bill in full every month – that requires excellent credit for approval and begins assessing a $160 annual fee in the second year your account is open. In return, you will receive exceedingly average rewards: up to 2 points per $1 spent and the promise of modest hotel discounts.
As a result, this card isn’t even the best the Amex Gold brand has to offer, with the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express providing significantly better rewards at just a slightly higher price point. But we’ll tell you more about that more golden gold card another time. This review will focus on the ins and outs of the standard version, which is ultimately a costly offer best used by frequent flyers and foodies who always pay their bill in full, if used at all.
3 points per $1 spent on Expedia purchases (1 point/$1 on everything else)
Complimentary Expedia+ Silver status
No annual fee
3% foreign transaction fee
No 0% Intro APRs
Above-average regular APR
Points expire due to inactivity
The Verdict: The Expedia®+ Card from Citi (Citi is a WalletHub partner) is a decent, if complicated, option for people with excellent credit who travel often and tend to book their accommodations on third-party comparison websites — particularly Expedia.com. It’s flexible in the sense that you won’t have to commit to a particular travel provider, but it’s also restrictive in that getting the most bang for your buck necessitates not only booking all of your travel through Expedia, but also limiting your accommodation and redemption options to certain deals offered on the site.
Yes, you will earn 15,000 bonus points for charging at least $1,000 to the card within the first three months of account opening, redeemable for up to $200 toward a hotel reservation. But you only reap maximum value if you choose one of Expedia’s designated +VIP Access hotels. Similarly, the card’s ongoing rewards provide 3 points per $1 spent on “eligible” Expedia purchases, but that excludes certain hotel and rental car reservations, among other limitations. You will earn 1 point per $1 on all others purchases.
Most major credit card companies allow you to prequalify for at least some of their credit card offers (some cards are from WalletHub partners). This is a convenience that lets people gauge their approval odds without triggering a hard inquiry, which could lead to credit score damage. In many cases, they will take the first move by mailing you an invitation to apply, telling you that you’ve been preapproved and providing a special code or website to use when submitting your application. Other times, issuers will let you check which of their cards you pre-qualify for directly from their website.
The Verdict: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Chase is a WalletHub partner) is one of the best rewards credit cards on the market, yielding the average person roughly $1,300 over the course of two year’s use. The core of this offer is the combination of a $500 to $625 initial rewards bonus and a first-year fee waiver, which makes the card somewhat akin to an open house that you get paid to attend. If you enjoy your experience and are a frequent traveler who doesn’t mind booking accommodations through Chase, a $95 annual fee starting in year two shouldn’t scare you away from keeping your account open past the 12-month mark.
Sapphire Preferred pays for itself — or at least it has the potential to — providing two points per dollar spent on travel and dining as well as one point per dollar spent on everything else. When redeemed for cash back, these points are worth a penny each but jump to 1.25 cents each when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
The Verdict: The Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ is a great option for high-spending frequent travelers who spend a lot of time in airport lounges. On the bright side, it offers an initial bonus worth $750 as well as the points equivalent of 4.5% cash back on travel and dining. Sapphire Reserve also gives you a $300 annual travel credit and complimentary access to a network of 100+ airport lounges.
There are a few downsides, though. Chase Sapphire Reserve charges one of the highest annual fees on the market, at $450. Reserve’s annual travel credit and airport-lounge membership can offset most of that fixed cost. But you have to travel to make it work. Not only that, but you also have to book your travel through Chase to get maximum value for your rewards points. Furthermore, as is the case with most rewards cards, you need to pay your bill in full every month. Sapphire Reserve’s high APR will wind up eating away at your earnings if you don’t. You also need excellent credit to qualify, which is a deal breaker for roughly 60% of people, according to WalletHub data.