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Refinancing your student loans can make good financial sense, and thatâs especially true if your current loans are stuck at a high-interest rate. With a new loan at a lower APR, you could save a bundle of money on interest each month and ultimately pay your student debt off faster. Consolidating several loans into one new one can also simplify your financial life and make keeping up with bills a lot easier.
College Ave and Earnest topped our list, but since student loan refinancing is an incredibly competitive space, youâll also want to spend time comparing student loan companies to see who offers the best deal. Many lenders in this space offer incredibly low APRs, flexible payment options, borrower incentives, and more. This means itâs more important than ever to shop around so you wind up with the best student loan for your needs.
What You Should Know About Refinancing Federal Student Loans with a Private Lender
The lenders on this list can help you consolidate and refinance both federal student loans and private student loans. However, there are a few details to be aware of before you refinance federal loans with a private lender.
Switching federal loans to private means giving up federal protections like deferment and forbearance. You also give up your chance to qualify for income-driven repayment plans like Pay As You Earn (PAYE) or Income Based Repayment (IBR). Income-driven repayment plans let you pay a percentage of your discretionary income for 20 to 25 years before ultimately forgiving your remaining loan balances, so this perk isnât one you should give up without careful thought and consideration.
Best Student Loan Refinancing Companies of 2021
As you start your search to find the best student loan for your lifestyle, take the time to compare lenders and all they offer their customers. While there are a ton of reputable companies offering high-quality student loan refinancing products on the market today, there are also companies you should probably steer clear of.
To make your search easier, we took the time to compare most of the top lenders in this space in terms of interest rates offered, fees, borrower benefits, and more. The following student loan companies are the cream of the crop, so you should start your search here.
Our Top Picks:
- Splash Financial
- College Ave
- Wells Fargo
- PenFed Credit Union
Student Loan Refinancing Company Reviews
1. Splash Financial
Splash Financial may be a newer company in the student loan refinancing space, but their offerings are competitive. This company lets you check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report, and their variable rates currently start at just 2.25% APR.
Not only are interest rates offered by Splash Financial industry-leading, but the company has a 95% customer satisfaction rate so far. Their cutting-edge technology also lets you apply for your loan and complete the loan process online, meaning less hassle and stress for you as the borrower.
Check Out Splash Financialâs Low Rates
2. College Ave
College Ave offers student loan refinancing products that can be tailored to your needs. They offer low fixed and variable interest rates, for example, and youâll never pay an application fee or an origination fee. You can even qualify for a discount if you set your loan up on autopay, and a wide range of repayment schedules are available.
College Ave also offers a wide range of online calculators and tools that can help you figure out how much student loan refinancing could help you save and whether the move would be worth it in the end. Considering their low variable rates start at just 2.74% APR, thereâs a good chance you could save money by refinancing if you have excellent credit or a cosigner with great credit.
Get Started with College Ave
Earnest is another online lender that focuses most of its efforts on offering high-quality student loans. This company lets you consolidate debt at a lower interest rate than you might find elsewhere, and you get the option to pick a monthly payment and repayment period that works with your budget and your lifestyle.
While youâll need excellent credit to qualify for the lowest interest rates, loans from Earnest come with variable APRs starting at 1.81% and low fixed rates starting at just 3.45%. To qualify for student loan refinancing with Earnest, youâll need a minimum credit score of 650 and a strong employment and income history. You also need to be current on all your bills and cannot have a bankruptcy on your credit profile.
Refinance and Save with Earnest
Also make sure to check out student loan refinancing company SoFi as you continue your search. This online lender offers some of the best student loan refinancing products available today, including loans with no application fee, origination fee, or hidden fees.
SoFi lets you apply for and complete the entire loan process online, and they offer live customer support 7 days a week. You can also check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report, which makes it easier to see how much you could save before you commit.
Get Pre-Approved with SoFi in Less than 2 Minutes
Commonbond is another online student lender who lets you check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. With student loan refinancing from Commonbond, you could easily save thousands of dollars on interest with a new fixed interest rate as low as 3.21%. Repayment terms are offered for 5 to 20 years as well, letting you choose a new monthly payment and repayment timeline that works for your needs.
You can apply for your new loan online and note that these loans donât come with an origination fee or any prepayment penalties. Your loan could also qualify for forbearance, which means having up to 24 months without payments during times of financial hardship.
Apply Online with Commonbond
LendKey offers private student loans and flexible student loan refinancing options to serve a variety of needs. You can repay your loan between 5 and 20 years, and their refinance loans donât charge an origination fee.
You can use this companyâs online interface to check your rate without a hard inquiry on your credit report, and variable APRs start at just 2.01% for graduates with excellent credit. LendKey loans also receive 9.3 out of 10 possible stars in recent reviews, meaning their customers are mostly happy with their decision to go with this company.
Save Thousands by Refinancing with LendKey
7. Wells Fargo
While Wells Fargo is mostly popular for their banking products, home mortgage products, and personal loans, this bank also offers student loan refinancing products. These loans let you consolidate student debts into a new loan with a low variable or fixed interest rate, and you can even score a discount for setting your loan up on autopay.
Terms for Wells Fargo loans are available anywhere from 5 to 20 years, meaning you can choose a repayment schedule and monthly payment that suits your needs. Wells Fargo also lets you check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report.
Get Started with Wells Fargo
8. PenFed Credit Union
PenFed Credit Union offers unique student loan products powered by Purefy. You might be able to qualify for a lower interest rate that could lead to enormous interest savings over time, and PenFed lets you choose a repayment term and monthly payment that fits with your budget and lifestyle.
You can apply for student loan refinancing on your own, but PenFed Credit Union also allows cosigners. Low fixed interest rates start at just 3.48% APR, and you can check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report.
Learn More about PenFed Credit Union
What To Look For When Refinancing
If you decide you want to refinance your student loans, youâll be happy to know the refinancing market is more robust than ever. A variety of lenders offer insanely attractive loan options for those who can qualify, although you should know that student loan companies tend to be very finicky about your credit score. Some also wonât let you refinance if you didnât graduate from college, or even if you graduated from an âunapprovedâ school.
While you should be aware of any lender-specific eligibility requirements before you apply with any student loan company, there are plenty of other factors to look out for. Hereâs everything you should look for in a student loan refinancing company before you decide to trust them with your loans.
Low Interest Rate
Obviously, the main reason youâre probably thinking of refinancing your loans is the potential to save money on interest. Lenders who offer the lowest rates available today can potentially help you save more, although itâs important to consider that you may not qualify for the lowest rates available if you donât have excellent credit.
Also consider that most lenders will offer better rates and loan terms if you have a cosigner with better credit than you have. This is especially true if your credit isnât great, so make sure to ask family members if theyâre willing to cosign on your new student loan if you hope to get the best rate. Just remember that your cosigner will be jointly liable for repayment, meaning you could quickly damage your relationship if you default on your loan and leave them holding the bag.
Low Fees or No Fees
Student loans are like any other loan in the fact that some charge higher fees or more fees than others. Since many student loans come with an application fee or an origination fee, youâll want to look for lenders that donât charge these fees. Also check for hidden fees like prepayment penalties.
Some student loan companies let you qualify for discounts, the most popular of which is a discount for using autopay. If youâre able and willing to set up automatic payments on your credit card, you could save .25% or .50% off your interest rate depending on the lender you go with.
Rate Check Option
Many of the top student loan refinancing companies on this list make it possible to check your interest rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. This is a huge benefit since knowing your rate can help you figure out if refinancing is even worth it before you take the time to fill out a full loan application.
Flexible Repayment Plan
Also make sure any lender you go with offers some flexibility in your repayment plan and your monthly payment. Youâll want to make sure refinancing aligns with your long-term financial goals and your monthly budget, and itâs crucial to choose a new loan with a monthly payment you can live with.
Most lenders in this space offer repayment timelines of up to 20 years, which means you could spread your payments over several decades to get a monthly payment that makes sense with your income. Keep in mind, however, that youâll pay more interest over the life of your loan when you take a long time to pay it off, so you may want to consider prioritizing a faster payment plan.
The Bottom Line
Student loan refinancing may not sound like a lot of fun. However, taking the time to consider all your loan options could easily save you thousands of dollars. This is especially true if you have a lot of debt at a high interest rate. By consolidating all your student loans into a new one with a lower APR, you could make loan repayment easier with a single payment and save a ton of money that would otherwise go to straight to interest without helping you pay off your loans.
The first step of the loan process is the hardest, however, and thatâs choosing a student loan refinancing company that you trust. The lenders on this list are highly rated, but they also offer some of the best loan products on the market today.
- Work with College Ave, our top pick, to refinance your student loan.
Start your search here and youâre bound to wind up with a student loan you can live with. At the very least, you’ll have a better idea of the loans that are available and how much you might save if you decide to refinance later on.
The post The Best Student Loan Companies For Refinancing appeared first on Good Financial CentsÂ®.
A couple years ago, I was invited to participate in a focus group. I visited in-person along with about 15 other people. For two hours, we vented all of our feelings about the ways a particular health insurance company interacts with its customer base.
At the end, we each walked out with $125. The health insurance company wanted consumer feedback on their products and customer service, and it compensated us for providing our insights.
Focus groups can be a lucrative side hustle when you break down per-hour pay. You get to be a part of a companyâs market research efforts, magnifying your opinion above those of other potential consumers.
These days, you donât have to participate in paid focus groups in person. During the pandemic and beyond, you can use online focus group platforms to earn anywhere from $20 to as much as $600 per hour.
Online Focus Groups: a Viable Side Hustle
Focus groups can pay extremely well for the amount of time you actually âwork.â They can provide surges of side hustle income all at once.
However, theyâre not likely to sustain you in lieu of traditional income. Earnings can be extremely inconsistent. First of all, you wonât qualify for every survey, as each focus group has a specific demographic itâs targeting.
Often, though not always, the highest-paying surveys also have the most exclusive demographic requirements. The company may be looking to work with construction foremen who work with specific brands of equipment, for example, or with mobile app developers who use a specific type of programming.
In addition, some consumer research companies will only allow you to participate in one focus group every six months.
Just because work is sporadic doesnât make this a bad side hustle. When the money does come in, youâre getting paid so much per hour that itâs worth setting aside 30 to 90 minutes of your time.
What You Do in a Paid Focus Group
Most focus groups require between 30 minutes and 90 minutes of work. When youâre doing a focus group remotely, you may be asked to fill out a multiple choice survey. Most of the time, though, youâll complete a phone or Zoom interview with a live person.
Topics for focus groups are unlimited: You could find yourself answering questions about your favorite margarita recipe, how youâre coping with pandemic parenting or a survey related to your profession.
Some focus groups may require you to dedicate some time outside the interview itself. For example, you might have to give a specific product a test run or keep a journal of your experiences. This extra time is often accounted for in the compensation.
Where to Find Online Focus Group Jobs
All of the following focus group companies currently have online opportunities. In the past, many national opportunities could be completed remotely. But during the pandemic, even most of the city-specific assignments are virtual, too.
These market research companies pay well for your time and consistently update listings for more opportunities. We surveyed current listings for hourly pay and estimated average hourly pay given the jobs currently available.
An overwhelming percentage of the focus group opportunities listed on Respondent are remote. The majority of the listings are not city-specific, allowing you to qualify regardless of where you live.
Current job listings range between $20 and $400 per hour, with the average focus group paying around $120 per hour.
WatchLAB doesnât have as many opportunities listed, but it does regularly update its inventory on its Facebook page.
Jobs are often city specific, though there is a wide variety of cities with opportunities available. Even city-specific assignments have been primarily remote through the pandemic.
Pay for WatchLAB focus groups ranges from $60 to $150 per hour, with the average focus group paying around $100 per hour.
Focusscope is another smaller consumer research company. It updates its users regularly about new opportunities on its Facebook page, and most studies are now completed remotely.
Focusscope pays $75 to $250 per focus group, with an average payout of $100.
FindFocusGroups.com isnât a consumer research company in and of itself. Instead, itâs a job listing board. It aggregates current opportunities available across the country, and allows consumer research companies to submit listings.
You can search these focus group listings by state. For example, the pay range for current listings in Pennsylvania is $65 to $160 per hour. The average focus group pays around $100 per hour.
If youâre looking for online or over-the-phone focus group opportunities, User Interviewsâ listings are plentiful. However, compared to the other companies on this list, more of these focus group opportunities are in-person. Use filters while you search to ensure youâre only being shown the remote opportunities.
A portion of the listings on User Interviews are medical studies rather than focus groups.
Participating in medical trials can be another lucrative way to hustle together some extra cash.
Listings on User Interviews pay between $25 and $600 per hour â though very few studies get close to the $600 mark. The average focus group pays $60 per hour.
Brynne Conroy is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
Credit cardÂ billsÂ can be confusing. If everything was straightforward and clear,Â credit cardÂ debtÂ wouldn’t be such a big issue. But it’s not clear, and debt is a massive issue for millions of consumers.Â
One of the most confusing aspects is theÂ minimum payment, with few consumers understanding how this works, how much damage (if any) it does to theirÂ credit score, and why it’s important to pay more than the minimum.
We’ll address all of those things and more in this guide, looking at howÂ minimumÂ credit cardÂ paymentsÂ can impact yourÂ FICOÂ scoreÂ and yourÂ credit report.
What is aÂ Credit CardÂ Minimum Payment?
TheÂ minimum paymentÂ is the lowest amount you need to pay during any given month. It’s often fixed as a fraction of yourÂ total balanceÂ and includes fees and interest. Â
If you fail to make thisÂ minimum payment, you may be hit withÂ late feesÂ and if you still haven’t paid after 30 days, your creditor will report your activity to the majorÂ credit bureausÂ and yourÂ credit scoreÂ will take a hit.
When this happens, you could lose up to 100 points and gain a derogatory mark that remains on yourÂ credit reportÂ for up to 7 years.Â MakingÂ minimum paymentsÂ will not result in a derogatory mark, but it can indirectly affect yourÂ credit scoreÂ and we’ll discuss that a little later.
Firstly, it’s important to understand why you’re being asked to pay aÂ minimum amountÂ and how you can avoid it.
How Much is aÂ MinimumÂ Credit CardÂ Payment?
Prior to 2004,Â monthly paymentsÂ could be as low as 2% of the balance. This caused all kinds of problems as most of yourÂ monthly paymentÂ is interest and will, therefore, inflate every month so that every time you reduce the balance it grows back.Â
Regulators forced a change when they realized that some users were being locked into a cycle ofÂ credit cardÂ debt, one that could see them repaying thousands more than the balance and taking many years to repay in full.
These days, a minimum payment must be at least 1% of the balance plus all interest and fees that have accumulated during that month, ensuring the balance decreases by at least 1% if only theÂ minimum paymentÂ is met.
Do I Need to Make theÂ Minimum Payment?
If you have a rolling balance, you need to make the minimumÂ monthly paymentÂ to avoid derogatory marks. If you fail to do so and keep missing those payments, your account will eventually default and cause all kinds of issues.
However, you can avoid theÂ minimum paymentÂ by clearing your balance in full.
Let’s assume that you have a brand-newÂ creditÂ cardÂ and you spend $2,000 in the first billing cycle. In the next cycle, you will be required to pay this balance in full. However, you will also be offered aÂ minimum payment, which will likely be anywhere from $30 to $100. If this is all that you pay, the issuer will start charging you interest on your balance and your problems will begin.
If you spend $2,000 in the next billing cycle, you have just doubled your debt (minus whatever principal theÂ minimum paymentÂ cleared) and your problems.
This is a cycle that many consumers get locked into. They do what they can to pay off their balance in full, but then they have a difficult month and thatÂ minimum paymentÂ begins to look very tempting. They convince themselves that one month won’t hurt and they’ll repay the balance in full next month, but by that point they’ve spent more, it has grown more, and they just don’t have the funds.
To avoid falling into this trap, try the following tips:
- Only Spend What You Have:Â AÂ credit cardÂ should be used to spend money you have now or will have in the future. Don’t spend in the hope you’ll somehow come into some money before the billing period ends and theÂ credit cardÂ balanceÂ rolls over.
- Get an IntroductoryÂ Interest Rate:Â ManyÂ credit cardÂ issuersÂ offer a 0% intro APR for a fixed period of time, allowing you to accumulate debt without interest. This can help if you need to make some essential purchases, but it’s important not to abuse this as you’ll still need to clear theÂ full balanceÂ before the intro period ends.
- Use aÂ Balance Transfer:Â If you’re in too deep and the intro rate is coming to an end, consider aÂ balance transfer credit card. These cards allow you to move yourÂ full balanceÂ from one card (or cards) to another, taking advantage of yet another 0% APR and essentially extending the one you have.
- Pay the Minimum:Â If you can’t pay the balance in full, make sure you at least pay the minimum. AÂ missed paymentÂ orÂ late paymentÂ can incur fees and may hurt yourÂ credit score.Â
Why Pay More Than the Minimum?
You may have heard experts recommending that you pay more than the minimum every month, but why? If you’re locked into a cycle ofÂ credit cardÂ debt, it can seem counterproductive. After all, if you have a debt of $10,000 that’s costing you $400 a month, what’s the point of taking an extra $100 out of your budget?
Your interest and fees are covered by yourÂ minimum paymentÂ and account for a sizeable percentage of thatÂ minimum payment. By adding just 50% more, you could be doubling and even tripling the amount of the principal that you repay every month.
What’s more, your interest accumulates every single day and this interest compounds. Imagine, for instance, that you have a balance of $10,000 today and with interest, this grows to $10,040. The next day, the interest will be calculated based on that $10,040 figure, which means it could grow to $10,081, which will then become the new balance for the next day.Â
This continues every single day, and the larger your balance is, the more interest will compound and the greater theÂ amount will be dueÂ over the term. By paying more than yourÂ minimum paymentÂ when you can, you’re reducing the balance and slowing things down.
Does Paying the Minimum Hurt MyÂ Credit Score?
Paying theÂ minimum amountÂ every month ensures you are doing the bare minimum to avoid hurting yourÂ credit historyÂ or accumulating fees. However, it can indirectly reduce your score via yourÂ credit utilizationÂ ratio.
YourÂ creditÂ utilizationÂ ratioÂ is a score that compares theÂ credit limitÂ of allÂ availableÂ creditÂ cardsÂ to the total debt on those cards. It accounts for 30% of yourÂ credit scoreÂ and is, therefore, a very important aspect of theÂ credit scoringÂ process.
The moreÂ credit cardÂ debtÂ you accumulate, the lower yourÂ credit utilizationÂ rateÂ will be and the more your score will be impacted. If you only pay the minimum, this rate will become stagnant and may take years to improve. By increasing theÂ payment amount, however, you can bring that ratio down and improve yourÂ credit score.
You can calculate yourÂ credit utilizationÂ score by adding together theÂ totalÂ amountÂ ofÂ creditÂ limitsÂ and debts and then comparing the latter to the former. A combinedÂ credit limitÂ of $10,000 and a balance of $5,000, for instance, would equate to a 50% ratio, which is on the high side.
CanÂ Credit CardÂ Fees Hurt MyÂ Credit Score?
As withÂ interest charges,Â credit cardÂ fees will not directly reduce your score but may have an indirect effect. Cash advance fees, for instance, can be substantial, with manyÂ credit cardÂ companiesÂ (includingÂ Capital One) charging 3% with a $10 minimum charge. This means that every time you withdraw cash, you’re paying at least $10, even if you’re only withdrawing $10.
What many consumers don’t realize is that these fees are also charged every time you buy casino chips or pay for some other form of gambling, and every time you purchase money orders and other cash products.Â
Along with foreign transaction fees and penalty fees, these can increase your balance and yourÂ minimum payment, making it harder to make onÂ time paymentsÂ and thus increasing the risk of aÂ late payment.
Does Paying the Minimum Hurt Your Credit Score is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.
Information about the Amex Everyday Preferred Card and American Express Blue Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuer did not provide the content, nor is it responsible for its accuracy.
American Express offers a large array of cards â including everyday spending cards, travel cards, business cards and co-branded cards â that let you earn Membership Rewards points. It can be confusing to try to sift through all the offerings and figure out where all the bonuses lie, so weâve sorted it out for you.
Hereâs a breakdown of the cards:
American Express Membership Rewards consumer credit cards
|Rewards rate||Introductory bonus||Annual fee|
Blue from American Express card
Amex Everyday Preferred card
15,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months (Terms apply)
American ExpressÂ® Green Card
||30,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months (Terms apply)||$150|
American ExpressÂ® Gold Card
||60,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 6 months (Terms apply)||$250|
The Platinum CardÂ® from American Express
American Express Membership Rewards business credit cards
|Rewards rate||Introductory bonus||Annual fee|
The Blue BusinessÂ® Plus Credit Card from American Express
Business Green Rewards Card from American Express
||15,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months (Terms apply)||$0 intro first year, then $95|
American ExpressÂ® Business Gold Card
||35,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Gold Card within the first 3 months. (Terms apply)||$295|
The Business Platinum CardÂ® from American Express
||85,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months (Terms apply)||$595|
The Blue from American Express card is an entry-level card for newbies with less-than-stellar credit scores. The card offers a paltry rate of 1 point per dollar of spending and 2 points per dollar on American Express Travel purchases and no introductory bonus. Plus, unlike other Membership Rewards cards, it doesnât allow you to transfer points to an outside loyalty program. But you can qualify for the card with a merely average credit score, so it may be a good starting point if you canât qualify for any other American Express card.
Everyday spending cards
Everyday spending is not a strong point in the Membership Rewards program, but Amex does offer a card that lets you earn bonus points on everyday purchases.
The American Express Everyday Preferred card gives you 3% back on U.S. supermarket purchases (up to $6,000 in purchases per year), 2% back on U.S. gas station purchases and 1% back on other purchases, plus a 50% point bonus whenever you use your card at least 30 times in a month, for a $95 annual fee (waived the first year). Thatâs a very generous grocery bonus â amounting to 4.5% back if you trigger the bonus every month â but itâs unfortunately capped at $6,000 in purchases, and the requirement to use the card 30 times each month is onerous.
In fact, the requirements to earn the full bonus are stringent. Unless you use the card for most of your spending, you probably will have a difficult time mustering 30 separate purchases on a single card each month. In other words â if youâre not all about earning Membership Rewards points â this is probably not the card for you.
American Express is the pioneer of travel rewards cards, and its offerings are strongest in this category. You have three levels of card to choose from â all of which offer extensive travel perks, bonuses focused on travel purchases and high annual fees.
The American Express Green cardÂ â the lowest tier card â is a good introduction to American Express travel benefits. The card offers a good earning rate on travel, transit and dining purchases: You earn 3x points on a wide array of travel and transit purchases, including airfare, hotel stays, subways, tolls and more. You also earn 3x points on purchases at restaurants worldwide. The remainder of your purchases earn 1 point per dollar. The card also offers a couple of fairly valuable credits, including up to $100 toward CLEAR membership and up to $100 for LoungeBuddy lounge access each year.
The card comes with a lower $150 annual fee. Altogether, itâs not a bad deal, though can find other starter travel cards with lower fees and better rewards, such as the Chase Sapphire PreferredÂ® Card*. Also, if youâre able to foot a $150 fee, you should ask yourself whether itâs worth doling out a little extra to get much better rewards and benefits with Amexâs higher tier travel cards.
TheÂ American ExpressÂ® Gold Card is a good value for middle-of-the road cardholders and comes with a $250 annual fee thatâs relatively affordable, though on the high side for the level of rewards that it offers. You earn bonus points on both travel and everyday purchases â 4x at restaurants worldwide and on the first $25,000 in U.S. supermarket purchases each year, 3x on flights booked directly with the airlines and 1x on other purchases. You also get a decent 60,000-point bonus for spending $4,000 in the first six months.
And then comes the king of travel cards â the American Express Platinum card â offering a stellar 75,000-point introductory bonus (after spending $5,000 in the first six months), a litany of travel benefits and an outsized $550 annual fee. The Platinum card is squarely aimed at heavy travelers â you earn a massive 5% bonus on flights and hotels and you get some very generous travel credits, including a $200 airline fee credit, a $100 credit every four years for Global Entry, a $100 hotel fee credit and up to $200 worth of Uber credits. Also, the card grants you free lounge access â probably the most extensive lounge access package that any credit card has to offer â including Priority Pass lounges and ultra-posh Centurion lounges. The Platinum card is not for the casual traveler; however, if you travel frequently you can get more than $550 of value out of the Platinum card.
American Express also has several business card offerings that offer American Express benefits for business owners and bonus points on business purchases. These cards are a great opportunity to earn additional introductory bonuses for cardholders who have exhausted the introductory bonuses on Amexâs consumer line of cards.
Note, too, that you donât have to be the owner of a brick-and-mortar business to qualify for a business card; independent contractors of all sorts may qualify.
The Blue Business Plus card is an excellent option for earning bonus points on everyday purchases â you get a 2x point bonus on your purchases, up to $50,000 each year (1x thereafter). Moreover, the card doesnât charge an annual fee.
Like the consumer version of the card, the Business Green Rewards Card offers an insipid rewards rate of 2x points on eligible American Express Travel purchases and 1 point on the rest of your purchases, for a $95 fee. On the plus side, the annual fee is waived for the first year, and it currently comes with an offer of 15,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months.
The Business Gold CardÂ rewards your highest spend in two 4x bonus categories â which can include dining, gas, travel and common business purchases.
The American Express Business Platinum card offers many of the same benefits â including lounge access â as the regular Platinum card. Unforutnately, the card doesnât offer a $200 credit for Uber rides. However, it does have one feature to its advantage: You can earn 35% of your points back when you use them for flights on a qualifying airline that you designate at the beginning of each year (when flight is booked on amextravel.com).
Essentially, you can boost the value of your points to 1.35 cents per point if you use them the right way â thatâs a much better value than the consumer version of the card. Also, the card offers several generous credits targeted to business professionals: You get up to $200 each year on Dell purchases, and up to $200 in statement credits each calendar year for baggage fees and other incidentals at one selected qualifying airline. The value of the added perks can help to outweigh the card’s $595 annual fee.
Co-branded Membership Rewards cards
If the above list of Membership Rewards cards hasnât already boggled your mind, American Express offers several co-branded cards that give you additional options for category bonuses and â most notably â additional options for earning introductory bonuses.
American Express Membership Rewards co-branded credit cards
|Rewards rate||Introductory bonus||Annual fee|
||10,000 points if you spend $100 in first 3 months (Terms apply)||$95|
Ameriprise Financial Gold card
||25,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months (Terms apply)||$160, $0 first year|
Ameriprise Financial Platinum card
||None||$550, $0 first year|
Morgan Stanley card
||10,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months (Terms apply)||$0|
Morgan Stanley Platinum card
||60,000 points if you spend $5,000 in first 3 months (Terms apply)||$550|
Schwab Platinum card
||60,000 points if you spend $5,000 in first 3 months (Terms apply)||$550|
Outside of its Mercedes-Benz card â which offers a bonus on Mercedes-Benz purchases â most of these cards are tied to financial institutions and require that you have a qualifying account to apply for the card. If you can pass that hurdle, thereâs a major plus to qualifying for one of these cards: Theyâre all considered to be separate cards from American Expressâs consumer and business line of cards, which means â if youâve already earned the bonuses on the Gold and Platinum cards â you have additional options for earning a 50,000- to 60,000-point bonus.
Which American Express card should you apply for?
Membership Rewards cards arenât for everyone. The rewards are focused on travel purchases and the best asset of the American Express travel rewards program is its travel perks â including lounge access â rather than travel rewards. In other words, you need to be a frequent traveler to really reap the benefits of the Membership Rewards program. That said, if you fit the bill and want to maximize your points, you should consider signing up for the following:
An everyday spending card â Membership Rewards cards are not the strongest candidates for maximizing rewards on everyday spending, but if you are trying to rack up Membership Rewards points, youâll probably want to sign up for the Amex Preferred Everyday card. If you donât mind the $95 annual fee and you are able to use the card 30-plus times each month, the Amex Everyday Preferred card may be your best bet â with its 50% bonus, you can earn up to 4.5% back on your first $6,000 in grocery purchases and 3% back on gas purchases.
A travel card â If you travel frequently enough to use all of its credits and travel perks, the Platinum card is an exceptional value, even with its $550 annual fee. Or, if you qualify as a business owner, you might want to go with the Business Platinum card, since itâs possible to get a 35% bonus on all your redemptions for airfare with your selected, qualifying airline â youâll need to do some math to decide which card offers the better value for you.
Note, if you donât want to dole out the high annual fee for either of the Platinum cards, you might go with the American Express Gold Card instead â it can serve as both a travel and everyday card since it offers bonuses on flights, restaurants and U.S. supermarket purchases.
A flat-rate spending card â You should also consider adding the Blue Business Plus card to your wallet. You can rotate it with your other cards to earn a 2x point bonus on the purchases that donât fit under any other bonus category.
One other very important consideration is timing. American Express has a very strict policy on earning introductory bonuses, only allowing you to earn the bonus on a particular card once in your lifetime. This means if you want to earn the most bonus points possible, youâll want to keep a close eye on the value of the introductory bonus for each card and apply when the bonus is higher than average.
See related: Best ways to spend American Express points
*All information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. This offer is no longer available on our site.
When it comes to excuses consumers give for their poor credit scores, banks and lenders have heard it all.Â
Maybe you lost your job and couldnât pay your student loan payment for a few months.Â Or perhaps you thought youâd gotten a deferment but were too busy job hunting to find out for sure.Â
Maybe you thought you paid your credit card bill but itâs actually sitting on your kitchen counter waiting for the mail.
Whatever the reason for your low credit score, one thing is for certain â lendersÂ donât care.
In fact, banks and other lenders lean on your credit score and other factors to determine whether they should approve you for a credit card or a loan â and thatâs about it. Your personal situation is never considered, nor should it be.
It would be wonderful if credit card companies understood that âlife happensâ and made special exceptions to help people out, but that’s not the world we live in.Â As most of us already know, thatâs not typically how credit works. Credit cards are backed by banks, and banks have rules for a reason.
Now, hereâs the good news: Credit cards can help rebuild your credit, earn cash back for each dollar you spend, make travel easier, and serve as an emergency fund if youâre stuck paying a huge bill at the last minute. This is true even if you have poor credit, although the selection of credit cards you can qualify for may be somewhat limited.Â
Keep reading to learn about the best credit cards for bad credit, how they work, and how you can get approved.
Best Cards for Bad Credit This Year
Before you give up on building credit, you should check out all the credit cards that are available to consumers who need some help. Our list of the best credit cards for bad credit includes some of the top offers with the lowest fees and fair terms.
- Total VisaÂ®
- Discover itÂ® Secured
- Credit One BankÂ® VisaÂ® Credit Card
- Secured MastercardÂ® from Capital OneÂ®
- MilestoneÂ® Gold MastercardÂ®
- Credit One BankÂ® Unsecured VisaÂ® with Cash Back Rewards
#1: Total VisaÂ®
The Total VisaÂ® is one of the easiest credit cards to get approved for in today’s market, and itâs easy to use all over the world since itâs a true Visa credit card. However, this card does come with high rates and fees since itâs available to consumers with poor credit or a limited credit history.
Processing your application will cost $89, which is extremely high when you consider the fact that most credit cards donât charge an application fee. Youâll also pay an initial annual fee of $75 and a $48 annual fee for each year thereafter.
Once you sign up, youâll be able to pick your preferred card design and your credit card payments will be reported to all three credit reporting agencies â Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. This is the main benefit of this card since your on-time payments can easily help boost your credit score over time.Â
For the most part, the Total VisaÂ® is best for consumers who donât mind paying a few fees to access an unsecured line of credit. Since this card doesnât dole out rewards, however, there are few cardholder perks to look forward to.Â
- APR: 35.99% APR
- Fees: Application fee and annual fee
- Minimum Credit Score: Not specified
- Rewards: No
#2: Discover itÂ® Secured
While secured cards donât offer an unsecured line of credit like unsecured credit cards do, they are extremely easy to qualify for. The Discover itÂ® Secured may not be ideal for everyone, but it does offer a simple online application process and the ability to get approved with little to no credit history.
Keep in mind, however, that secured cards do work differently than traditional credit cards. With a secured credit card, youâre required to put down a cash deposit upfront as collateral. However, you will get your cash deposit back when you close your account in good standing.
Amazingly, the Discover itÂ® Secured lets you earn rewards with no annual fee. Youâll start by earning 2% back on up to $1,000 spent each quarter in dining and gas. Youâll also earn an unlimited 1% back on everything else you buy.
The Discover itÂ® Secured doesnât charge an application fee or an annual fee, although youâll need to come up with the cash for your initial deposit upfront. For the most part, this card is best for consumers who have little to no credit and want to build their credit history while earning rewards.
- APR: 24.74%
- Fees: No annual fee or monthly fees
- Minimum Credit Score: Not specified
- Rewards: Yes
#3: Credit One BankÂ® VisaÂ® Credit Card
The Credit One BankÂ® VisaÂ® Credit Card is another credit card for bad credit that lets you earn rewards on your everyday spending. Youâll earn a flat 1% cash back for every dollar you spend with this credit card, and since itâs unsecured, you donât have to put down a cash deposit to get started.
Other benefits include the fact you can get pre-qualified for this card online without a hard inquiry on your credit report â and that you get a free copy of your Experian credit score on your online account management page.
You may be required to pay an annual fee up to $95 for this card for the first year, but it depends on your creditworthiness. After that, your annual fee could be between $0 and $99.
- APR: 19.99% to 25.99%
- Fees: Annual fee up to $95 the first year depending on creditworthiness; after that $0 to $99
- Minimum Credit Score: Not specified
- Rewards: Yes
#4: Secured MastercardÂ® from Capital OneÂ®
The Secured MastercardÂ® from Capital OneÂ® is another secured credit card that extends a line of credit to consumers who can put down a cash deposit as collateral. This card is geared to people with bad credit or no credit history, so itâs easy to get approved for. One downside, however, is that your initial line of credit will likely be just $200 â and that doesn’t give you much to work with.Â
On the upside, this card doesnât charge an annual fee or any application fees. That makes it a good option if you donât want to pay any fees you wonât get back.
Youâll also get access to 24/7 customer service, $0 fraud liability, and other cardholder perks.
- APR: 26.49%
- Fees: No ongoing fees
- Minimum Credit Score: Not specified
- Rewards: No
#5: MilestoneÂ® Gold MastercardÂ®
The MilestoneÂ® Gold MastercardÂ® is an unsecured credit card that lets you get pre-qualified online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. You wonât earn any rewards on your purchases, but you do get benefits like the ability to select your cardâs design, chip and pin technology, and easy online account access.
You will have to pay a one-time fee of $25 to open your account, and thereâs an annual fee of $50 the first year and $99 for each year after that.
- APR: 24.90%
- Fees: Account opening fee and annual fees
- Minimum Credit Score: Not specified
- Rewards: No
#6: Credit One BankÂ® Unsecured VisaÂ® with Cash Back Rewards
The Credit One BankÂ® Unsecured VisaÂ® with Cash Back Rewards lets you earn 1% back on every purchase you make with no limits or exclusions. Thereâs no annual fee or application fee either, which makes this card a winner for consumers who donât want to get hit with a lot of out-of-pocket costs.
As a cardholder, youâll get free access to your Experian credit score, zero fraud liability, and access to a mobile app that makes tracking your purchases and rewards a breeze. You can also get pre-qualified online without a hard inquiry on your credit report.
- APR: 25.99%
- Fees: No annual fee or application fee
- Minimum Credit Score: Not specified
- Rewards: Yes
The Downside of Credit Cards with Bad Credit
While your odds of getting approved for one of the credit cards for bad credit listed above are high, you should be aware that there are plenty of pitfalls to be aware of. Here are the major downsides youâll find with these credit cards for bad credit and others comparable cards:
- Higher fees: While someone with excellent credit can shop around for credit cards without any fees, this isnât the case of you have bad credit. If your credit score is poor or you have a thin credit profile, you should expect to pay higher fees and more of them.
- Higher interest rates: While some credit cards come with 0% interest for a limited time or lower interest rates overall, consumers with poor credit typically have to pay the highest interest rates available today. Some credit cards for bad credit even come with APRs as high as 35%.
- No perks: Looking for cardholder benefits like cash back on purchases or points toward airfare or movie tickets? Youâll need to wait until your credit score climbs back into âgoodâ or âgreatâ territory. Even if you can find a card for applicants with bad credit that offers cash back, your rewards may not make up for the higher fees.
- No balance transfers: If youâre looking for relief from other out-of-control credit card balances, look elsewhere. Credit cards for bad credit typically donât offer balance transfers. If they do, the terms make them cost-prohibitive.
- Low credit limits: Credit cards for bad credit tend to offer initial credit limits in the $300 to $500 range with the possibility of increasing to $2,000 after a year of on-time monthly payments. If you need to borrow a lot more than that, youâll have to consider other options.
- Security deposit requirement: Secured credit cards require you to put down a cash deposit to secure your line of credit. While this shouldnât necessarily be a deal-breaker â and it may be required if you canât get approved for an unsecured credit card â youâll need to come up with a few hundred dollars before you apply.
- Checking account requirement: Most new credit card accounts now require cardholders to pay bills online, which means youâll need a checking account. If youâre mostly âunbanked,â you may need to open a traditional bank account before you apply.
Benefits of Improving Your Credit Score
People with bad credit often consider their personal finances a lost cause. The road to better credit can seem long and stressful, and itâs sometimes easier to give up then it is to try to fix credit mistakes youâve made in the past.
But, there are some real advantages that come with having at least âgoodâ credit, which typically means any FICO score of 670 or above. Here are some of the real-life benefits better credit can mean for your life and your lifestyle:
- Higher credit limits: The higher your credit score goes, the more money banks are typically willing to lend. With good credit, youâll have a better chance at qualifying for a car loan, taking out a personal loan, or getting a credit card with a reasonable limit.
- Lower interest rates: A higher credit score tells lenders youâre not as risky as a borrower âa sign that typically translates into lower interest rates. When you pay a lower APR each time you borrow, you can save huge amounts of money on interest over time.
- Lower payments: Borrowing money with a lower interest rate typically means you can usually get lower payments all your loans, including a home loan or a car loan.
- Ability to shop around: When youâre an ideal candidate for a loan, you can shop around to get the best deals on credit cards, mortgages, personal loans, and more.
- Ability to help others: If your kid wants to buy a car but doesnât have any credit history, better credit puts you in the position to help him or her out. If your credit is poor, you wonât be in the position to help anyone.
- More options in life: Your credit score can also impact your ability to open a bank account or rent a new apartment. Since employers can request to see a modified version of your credit report before they hire you, excellent credit can also give you a leg up when it comes to beating out other candidates for a job.Â
In addition to the benefits listed above, most insurance companies now consider your credit score when you apply for coverage. For that reason, life, auto, and home insurance rates tend to be lower for people with higher credit scores.
This may seem unfair, but you have to remember that research has shown people with high credit scores tend to file fewer insurance claims.
How to Improve Your Credit: Slow and Steady
When you have a low credit score, there are two ways to handle it. If you don’t mind the consequences of poor credit enough to do anything about it, you can wait a decade until the bad marks age off your credit report. Depending on when your creditors give up and write off your debt, you may not even need to wait that long.
If you donât like the idea of letting your credit decay while you wait it out, you can also try to fix your past credit mistakes. This typically means paying off debt â and especially delinquent debts â but it can also mean applying for new loan products that are geared to people who need to repair their credit.
If you decide to take actionable steps to build credit fast, the credit cards on this page can help. Theyâll give you an opportunity to show the credit bureaus that youâve changed your ways.
Before you take steps to improve your credit score, however, keep in mind all the different factors used to determine your standing in the first place. The FICO scoring method considers the following factors when assigning your score:
- On-time payments: Paying all your bills on time, including credit cards, makes up 35% of your FICO score. For that reason, paying all your bills early or on time is absolutely essential.
- Outstanding debts: How much you owe matters, which is why paying off your credit cards each month or as often as possible helps your score. According to myFICO.com, the amounts you owe in relation to your credit limits make up another 30% of your FICO score.
- New credit: Apply for too many new cards or accounts at once can impact your score in a negative way. In fact, this determinant makes up another 10% of your FICO score.
- Credit mix: Having a variety of open accounts impresses the credit bureau algorithm Gods. If all you have are personal loans right now, mixing in a credit card can help. If you already have four or five credit cards, it may be wise to back off a little.
- Length of credit history: The length of your credit history also plays a role in your score. The longer your credit history, the better off you are.
If you want to improve your credit score, consider all the factors above and how you can change your behavior to score higher in each category. Itâs pretty easy to see how paying all your bills early or on time and paying off debt could make a big positive impact on your credit score when you consider that these two factors alone make up 65% of your FICO score.
If you want a way to track your progress, also look into an app likeÂ Credit Karma, one of my favorite tools. This app lets you monitor your credit progress over time and even receive notifications when your score has changed. Best of all, itâs free.
Should You Use a Credit Card to Rebuild Your Credit Score?
If youâre on the fence about picking up a credit card for bad credit, your first step should be thinking over your goals. What exactly are you trying to accomplish?
If youâre looking for spending power, the cards on this list probably wonât help. Some are secured cards, meaning you need a cash deposit to put down as collateral. Others offer low credit limits and high fees and interest rates, making them costly to use over the long-term.
If you really want to start over from scratch and repair credit mistakes made in the past, on the other hand, one of these cards may be exactly what you need. If youâre determined to improve your score, they can speed things along.
You may pay higher fees and interest rates along the way, but itâs important to remember that none of the cards on this list need to be your top card forever. Ideally, youâll use a credit card for poor credit to rebuild your credit and boost your score. Once youâve reached your goal, you can upgrade to a new card with better benefits and terms.
Credit cards for foodies are the latest trend, with more and more rewards programs and additional card benefits catering to both dining in and eating out. Restaurant and grocery bonus categories are becoming commonplace â letting cardholders rack up a few extra points or cash back on those purchases.
But what about those who prefer to order delivery? If you like to take advantage of popular food delivery services like DoorDash or Uber Eats or simplify cooking with a meal kit subscription, there are plenty of credit card rewards and benefits you can leverage to save a little money.
Finding the best card for your favorite services
Finding the best card for your favorite food delivery or meal kit service depends on a variety of factors, including the cardâs yearly credits, special perks or rewards rate. For example, many dining cards offer bonuses that are tailored to a specific delivery service, as a monthly Uber credit.
See Related: Food delivery perks on luxury travel cards
For meal kit services, matching rewards is a little more complicated. You could opt for a rewarding grocery card, as many meal kit brands are now partnered with major supermarkets â so you can buy them in the store.
merchant category code that qualifies for a point or cash back bonus. You can test it by making a small charge to your card and seeing what rewards you earn.
Online shopping rewards, on the other hand, are much more flexible. They apply to both web and app purchases, so whether your order from your phone or computer, you can rack up bonus points or cash back.
See Related: Make the most of an online shopping bonus category
Best cards by delivery service or meal kit subscription
With all this in mind, here are some of our favorite cards for some of the most popular food delivery and meal kit subscription services.
|Delivery service||Card||Rewards rate||Why we like it|
|DoorDash||Chase Sapphire Reserve||
|Uber Eats||The Platinum CardÂ® from American Express||
|Instacart||Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card||
|Grubhub/Seamless/Boxed/Instacart||American ExpressÂ® Gold Card||
|HelloFresh||Blue Cash PreferredÂ® Card from American Express||
|Home Chef||Blue Cash EverydayÂ® Card from American Express||
|Other delivery services||Bank of AmericaÂ® Cash Rewards credit card||
If you donât have a delivery service you prefer â or if you like to switch back and forth based on restaurant availability â a card with rewards on online shopping is your best bet.
Ordering food can be expensive, but using the right rewards card can help you alleviate some of that cost by racking up points or cash back. With some cards, you might even get a few extras that cover your next couple of meals.
Business credit cards
If you are a small-business owner and cash is not flowing and bills are piling up, the most important thing to do is contact your card issuer.
Some banks are also providing assistance in case you can’t pay your business credit card bill.
Another coronavirus complication: Scams
As consumers wrestle with the impact of the coronavirus, scammers are trying to take advantage of the situation.
In a June 2020 public service announcement, the FBI warned that the increasing use of banking apps could open doors to exploitation.
“With city, state and local governments urging or mandating social distancing, Americans have become more willing to use mobile banking as an alternative to physically visiting branch locations. The FBI expects cyber actors to attempt to exploit new mobile banking customers using a variety of techniques, including app-based banking trojans and fake banking apps,” the PSA warns.
Scammers might also be capitalizing on health and economic uncertainties during this time. In one such scam, cybercriminals are sending emails claiming to contain updates about the coronavirus. But if a consumer clicks on the links, they are redirected to a website that steals their personal information, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC).
Identity theft in 2020: What you need to know about common techniques
The outbreak of a disease can upset daily life in many ways, and the ripple effects go beyond our physical health. Thankfully, many card issuers are offering relief. If you’re feeling financially vulnerable, contact your credit card issuer and find out what assistance is available. And while data security may seem like a secondary consideration, it’s still important to be vigilant when conducting business or seeking information about the coronavirus online.