A credit card balance transfer is when you repay existing debt with a new credit card. This moves your balance to the new card but does not reduce the amount you owe. It can, however, get you a lower interest rate. And that would make your debt less expensive, allowing you to save money and pay off what you owe much faster.
Understanding the credit card climate is important for two reasons. First, credit card offers change regularly, based on the health of the economy and issuers’ business objectives. So being able to see the bigger picture – averages, trends, etc. – gives you a baseline against which to compare offers. And that will help you find the best credit card deals as well as ultimately save more money.
Monitoring the credit card landscape can also tell you a lot about the health of the U.S. consumer. For example, 0% introductory APRs and initial rewards bonuses dried up during the Great Recession. And the decline in consumer credit quality during that period was a big reason why.
The Verdict: As a student (or perhaps a concerned parent) looking for a credit card, your top priority should be to find a no-annual-fee offer for which you have a high likelihood of approval. Beyond that, some rewards for using the card or 0% financing would be nice.
Well, the Discover it® for Students and its sibling, the Discover it® chrome for Students, check all those boxes. In addition to their lack of annual membership fees, these Discover student credit cards offer at least 1% cash back on all purchases and 0% interest on all new purchases for the first six months your account is open. Both will also double whatever rewards you earn during the first year.
The Verdict: The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is the it family’s credit-(re)building specialist, and it’s superb at the task.
That’s because it’s one of only 11 “bad credit” credit cards with no annual, monthly or processing fees and one of only nine that offer rewards. You’ll earn 2% cash back on the first $1,000 that you spend at restaurants and gas stations each quarter as well as 1% on everything else. Better still, Discover will double whatever rewards you rack up during the first year your account is open.
The Verdict: Discover it® - Cashback Match™ is a decent everyday credit card for people with excellent credit who want to earn rewards without paying an annual fee, yet might need more than a month to pay off certain expenses. In both respects, it’s particularly beneficial during the first year that you have it.
On the rewards front, it offers 5% cash back in bonus spending categories that change every three months, in addition to 1% cash back on everything else and a promotion that will double your first-year earnings. That’s a package with the potential to make the first 12 months quite profitable but probably not to the extent that you’d assume and with more effort than you might expect. Not only do you have to sign up for the new bonus categories each quarter in order to earn at a 5% rate, but that rate also applies to just the first $1,500 in qualifying purchases you make during that period. So even if the bonus categories complement your spending habits and you remember to enroll on schedule – both of which are far from guaranteed for most people – your ability to earn will still be limited.
Discover (one of our advertising partners) claims to treat you like you treat you. But it’s still fair to wonder which Discover card – if any – you should treat yourself to. Because let’s face it: You don’t want the best Discover card; you want the best overall credit card for your individual needs.
The Verdict: Chase Slate® is hands down the best balance transfer credit card on the market, and perhaps even the best overall card as well. It is a life raft in a sea of debt with the potential to help you reach dry land faster than any competitor.
Many cards offer 0% on transferred debt, some for even longer than Slate’s 15 month intro term, but most sneak in a 2% - 4% transfer fee that makes it even harder to get your head above water. And, the worst thing is, consumers often don’t notice because balance transfer fees are among the least clearly disclosed account terms on issuer websites, according to WalletHub research.
Credit card debt statistics speak to the financial health of American households. And they can foretell overleveraging bubbles that may trigger constriction across lending markets. From that perspective, the $89.4 billion in new credit card debt that we added to our tab in 2016 represents serious cause for concern. And the fact that we repaid $31.5 billion of our debt during the first quarter of 2017 actually provides little reason for comfort.
First-quarter debt reduction is customary because people generally receive annual salary bonuses (and make New Year’s resolutions) early in the year. And while this year’s Q1 payment was 14% higher than the previous year’s, that is still nearly 9% shy of our effort in 2015.
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 Credit 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.
The Verdict: JetBlue is 2017’s second-best airline in terms of operations and amenities — tops in terms of comfort — and its rewards program, TrueBlue, was also named 2017’s third best for frequent flyers by WalletHub. But it’s important to recognize that such accolades don’t guarantee quality plastic.
Your two options are the standard JetBlue Credit Card and the JetBlue Plus Credit Card, both of which are on the MasterCard network and issued by Barclaycard. They’re ultimately quite similar, with the only major differences being that you’ll get six times more of an initial bonus from the Plus Card, while earning twice as much on airfare and paying $99 per year instead of nothing. JetBlue Plus also requires excellent credit, whereas a good rating can get you the standard version (the primary focus of this review).
The Verdict: If you shop at REI and have good or excellent credit, waste no time in adding the REI Credit Card to your payment arsenal.
The only other qualification is that you must pay $20 for a lifetime REI membership, which is well worth the money even before the card enters the equation, given the 10% rebate it gets you on most REI purchases. This is also the only membership charge you’ll have to worry about as far as the card is concerned, given its lack of an annual fee.
The Verdict: Placing a deposit on the Citi® Secured Mastercard® Credit Card is neither an outright mistake nor an ideal decision. You see, it’s a solid credit-building tool with the potential to help you reach a higher credit tier without charging an annual fee, as long as you use it responsibly. But this isn’t the only option you have if you wish to avoid the burden of an annual fee.
So if a low-cost means of credit improvement is what you’re looking for, this middle-of-the-road offer might be for you. The only stipulation is that you can’t have gone through bankruptcy in the past two years. And you can learn everything else you need to know below.
The Verdict: What do you get when you tack the word “One” onto the name of Capital One’s flagship travel rewards card? One of the best offers for light-spending travelers with above-average credit, it seems. The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card is a slightly toned-down version of the long-popular Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card that opens up the savings party to a whole new segment of applicants wallowing in wanderlust.
In place of Venture’s $400 initial bonus for spending at least $3,000 during the first three months, VentureOne offers $200 for spending $1,000 over that same timeframe — making it more attainable, if less valuable. Rather that the miles equivalent of 2% cash back on all purchases, VentureOne gives you 1.25%. And it also throws in a couple of features that its sibling lacks: 0% financing on new purchases for 12 months (12.99% - 22.99% (V) thereafter) and no annual fee.
The Verdict: The Platinum Card® from American Express (American Express is a WalletHub partner) actually costs more than its weight in platinum. Standard plastic credit cards such as Amex Platinum tend to weigh about 5 grams each, you see, and platinum was priced a bit over $31 per gram as of Jan. 27, 2017. That equates to roughly $157, or over one-third of the Amex Platinum Card’s $550 annual fee. While this card is therefore unquestionably expensive, the ultimate question still remains: Is it worth it?
It is if you are a frequent traveler who pays his or her bill in full every month and can take full advantage of complimentary airport-lounge access and hotel rewards status. The fact that it’s a charge card means you won’t be able to finance any purchases, either. If you don’t pay your bill in full one month, you will get hit with a $38 late fee and won’t be able to make any new purchases until your balance is paid.
The Verdict: It’s already in the travel rewards hall of fame and continues to be one of the best offers out there. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card has long served as the standard-bearer for a more straightforward credit card market, with its “No Hassle” double miles, lucrative initial rewards bonus and lack of foreign transaction fees helping to set pro-consumer trends amid a landscape previously characterized by general shadiness.
It’s ultimately no wonder why Venture has been praised by users and emulated by competitors, as WalletHub research reveals that it has the potential to yield the average spender roughly $1,500 in rewards over the first two years of ownership. The key is to redeem Venture Miles to pay for travel-related transactions once they post to your account. Not only does this give you the best redemption rate, but is also eliminates much of the red tape common with travel credit cards – allowing you to focus on finding the best deal, no matter which airline, hotel or travel comparison site offers it.
The Verdict: A secured credit card is the best tool for building or rebuilding credit at the lowest possible cost. And though the Wells Fargo® Secured Credit Card isn’t the absolute cheapest card of its kind, it’s in the conversation.
You see, the Wells Fargo Secured Visa charges a modest $25 annual fee, which is below the $32 first-year average for secured cards, according to WalletHub data. And while we don’t recommend carrying a balance on a secured card, considering that it means paying interest on your own money, this Wells Fargo offer’s regular APR is slightly above average for a secured card as well, according to our latest Credit Card Landscape Report.
The Verdict: The problems that destroyed your credit standing and are now fueling your search for an unsecured credit card likely don’t represent milestones that you’d care to remember for too long. But the Milestone® Gold MasterCard® Credit Card is a bit different, as opening it could prove to be an important turning point in your credit comeback.
Bear in mind that this card is far from perfect. It charges an annual fee, and its 23.90% APR certainly isn’t cheap. But when you compare those terms to other unsecured cards targeted to people with bad credit, that’s where things get interesting. Such cards often charge expensive “application processing” and monthly fees in addition to annual fees and boast APRs north of 30% to boot.
The Verdict: If you drive to work and have good credit — you can find out for free at WalletHub — you should strongly consider applying for the Sam's Club® Credit Card. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t really matter whether you shop at Sam’s Club, as long as you have a membership. The card gives you 5% cash back on the first $6,000 in gas that you buy each year (1% after that), in addition to 3% cash back on travel and dining and 1% cash back on everything else (including Sam’s Club purchases). This card’s connection to Sam’s Club thus is clearly minimal beyond its name.
While rewards are this card’s strong suit, the financing side of things isn’t as appealing, which means you should only pursue it if you pay your bill in full every month. After all, it doesn’t provide a low intro rate and its regular APR ranges from 15.4% to 23.4%, depending on creditworthiness.
Note: Our editorial staff maintains strict independence and integrity, so it is important to note that WalletHub’s legal history with First Premier had absolutely no bearing on my review.
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