New year, new set of goals and dreams to work toward. 2018 is upon us, and while you might not feel 100% ready, you can get a head start by tackling your New Year’s resolutions head-on. Whether or not you make traditional resolutions, or simply take some time at the start of a new calendar year to assess where you’re at and where you want to be, there’s no reason why you can’t take your financial goals into your own hands to try and make those dreams a reality.
We recently published the results of a survey we did that dug into the kinds of financial resolutions people will be making for 2018, and we realized that an awful lot of those goals can be achieved with the help of a new credit card. It might not be your first thought, but whether you want to start that small business you’ve been thinking about or you’d like to finally pay off your credit card debt, there’s probably a credit card that can aid in making your New Year’s resolution successful. Scroll down to locate your resolution and read about the cards that can help make it happen.
If you want to pay off your debt …
Credit card debt is something that many Americans struggle with, but it doesn’t have to be something you carry with you into 2019. One solution you may not have thought about is a balance transfer to a credit card with a long 0% intro APR period, which can help by reducing the amount you’re paying in interest each month so you can focus on getting to $0 on the debt itself without adding any more on top. Most credit cards charge a balance transfer fee of 3% to 5% of the transferred balance (with the exception of the BankAmericard Credit Card and Chase Slate), but this one-time fee is likely a lot cheaper than the ongoing interest you’re paying on your current credit card, especially since the Fed just increased interest rates. Note that if you have non-credit card debt on top of or instead of credit card debt, you might want to consider a personal loan instead. Here are our top picks for balance transfer credit cards:
The BankAmericard Credit Card is a stellar choice for anyone who needs to move high-interest credit card debt from one or more existing cards as cheaply as possible, as it offers a stunning combination of 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 billing cycles and no balance transfer fee on transfers completed during the first 60 days from account opening. After 60 days, balance transfers will be subject to a 3% or $10 minimum balance transfer fee, whichever is greater. In addition to balance transfers, you also get a 15-month 0% intro APR on purchases with this card and won’t have to worry about penalty APR or an annual fee. You must have good to excellent credit (usually considered a credit score of 700 or higher) for BankAmericard Credit Card, and you can keep an eye on your scores with FICO TransUnion credit scores for free each month. Another stellar option you may want to consider for $0 intro balance transfer fee and 15 months of 0% intro APR is Chase Slate (though note that after 60 days, its balance transfer fee is slightly higher at 5% or $5, whichever is greater).
The Citi Simplicity Card – No Late Fees Ever (a NextAdvisor advertiser) is a great pick for anyone who has a tendency to forget their payment due date from time to time, as it will never charge any late fees or penalty APR if you miss a payment. Plus, with 21 months of 0% intro APR on balance transfers as well as purchases, you can enjoy peace of mind while working to pay down your debt for nearly 2 years! There is a 3% or $5 minimum balance transfer fee, whichever is greater, but that’s a small initial price to pay when you consider the sheer length of the 0% intro APR offered by this card. Other features include setting your own payment due date, free monthly Equifax FICO credit scores and no annual fee. This card requires good to excellent credit for approval.
If you want a balance transfer credit card you can get use out of after the 0% intro APR runs out, Discover it – 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer is your best bet. In addition to the aforementioned 18 months of 0% intro APR on balance transfers (plus a 3% balance transfer fee), 6 months of 0% intro APR on purchases and no annual fee, this credit card earns 1% cash back on all purchases. In addition to the base 1%, you can earn 5% cash back in special rotating categories that change each quarter (up to the quarterly maximum, currently $1,500, then it’s 1% back). You do have to activate the categories every quarter to earn the bonus rewards, but doing so is a breeze thanks to helpful reminders from Discover. And, first-time Discover cardholders get a bonus equal to the amount of cash back earned in their first year once those 12 months are up — e.g., if you earn $500 in the first year, Discover will match that for a total of $1,000 back! Regardless, the ongoing 5% cash back and availability to people with average to excellent credit (usually considered a credit score of 670 or higher) make this a great pick for paying off your debt.
If you want to save money or make a large purchase …
Who doesn’t want to save money? You can save a lot when making your everyday purchases by using a credit card with generous cash back rewards attached. Use your earned rewards to pay yourself back for purchases, or exchange them for gift cards, merchandise or a cash deposit into a bank account (perhaps your online savings account) and make 2018 the year of savings and rewards. And, since many of these cards feature a lengthy 0% intro APR on purchases, you can use them to make those big purchases and have some wiggle room to pay now and get caught up over time. So, bite the bullet and finally make those kitchen renovations you’ve always dreamed about or replace the ancient family couch with something more modern. Try one of these cards to get started:
Families who spend a significant portion of their income at the grocery store can turn all those bags of baby carrots and frozen chicken breasts into cash back with the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express (a NextAdvisor advertiser). When you shop with this card at U.S. supermarkets, you’ll get 6% cash back on up to $6,000/year in purchases! After that, it’s a standard 1% cash back, which still isn’t bad. On top of those grocery earnings, you’ll get an unlimited 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores (like Nordstrom and Macy’s) and 1% on everything else. Rounding out all of these terrific ongoing rewards is a sweet $200 intro bonus if you spend at least $1,000 during the first 3 months you own the card. Although there is a $95 annual fee, this card features 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers alike for 12 months (with a 3% or $5 annual fee, whichever is greater) and a plethora of other nifty perks — such as a free Uber ride (up to $30) to new users who connect their American Express card to the app before July 31, 2018. Not enough to convince you to pay the annual fee? Check out Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express, which offers similar perks and benefits (note it has a 15-month 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers) without an annual fee.
The Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa Card might just have it all. Generous ongoing cash back rewards? Check. No annual fee? Check. Hefty intro bonus? Check. Plus, if you own a cell phone and pay your mobile service bill with this card, you’ll get peace of mind for any future butter fingers mishaps thanks to Well’s Fargo’s mobile phone protection. With this card, you’ll get a flat 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make — 1.8% cash back during your first year for any payments made using your card through Apple or Android Pay mobile wallets — plus a $200 bonus if you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. There’s also a 12-month 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers (plus the introductory balance transfer fee of 3% during those 12 months, which increases to 5% afterward). Note that non-Wells Fargo banking customers can only elect to redeem their rewards for gift cards or a paper check, and you must have good to excellent credit for approval. If you’d prefer a card with more rewards redemption flexibility and a longer 0% intro APR, look into Chase Freedom Unlimited, which earns unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, offers a 15-month 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers (with a balance transfer fee of $5 or 5%, whichever is greater) and has a $150 intro bonus opportunity.
Discover it – Cashback Match makes earning cash back fun with quarterly rotating categories that let you earn 5% cash back on purchases ranging from groceries to ground transportation to Amazon.com (up to the quarterly maximum, currently $1,500, then it’s 1%) and 1% on all other purchases. You must activate the 5% rewards every quarter, but Discover will remind you when it’s time. You can use your cash back how you want to with tons of redemption flexibility — use it to donate to a charitable cause, pay yourself back for a purchase or redeem it as cash into your bank account — and as an added bonus, during your first year, all the cash back you make will be tracked by Discover and matched at the end of the 12 months. That means if you earn $250 during your first year, Discover will give you an additional $250 for a total first-year bonus of $500 cash back. There are a plethora of great perks for Discover cardholders you can take advantage of, and this card also offers a 14-month 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers (note the 3% balance transfer fee) and no annual fee. Best of all, it’s available to people with average to excellent credit, so if you’ve had a few financial scrapes, you might still qualify.
If you want to travel more …
Bitten by the travel bug in 2018? It pays to use a travel rewards credit card when you’re booking those flights to Europe, because in doing so, you can earn miles toward your next trip. Most travel rewards credit cards also come with a handful of travel-specific features and benefits, like rental car insurance or one free checked bag, that can help make your trips just a little bit more enjoyable. You can use our 2017 Travel Rewards Credit Card Analysis to compare all the top-rated travel cards, but we’ve highlighted the cream of the crop here for quick reference:
Fly in style with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, which took top honors in our annual analysis thanks to a redemption value of $2.10 per $100 spent, a mind-blowing 40,000-mile bonus offer, 2 miles per $1 spent on everything and no annual fee your first year (it’s $89 thereafter). You’ll get the 40,000 bonus miles for spending $3,000 in the first 90 days, and it’s enough to redeem for a $400 statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase. Plus, when you redeem miles, you’ll get an extra 5% back to use toward your next redemption — basically, a reward for being rewarded! Unusually for travel rewards credit cards, there’s also a 12-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers made within the first 45 days (with a 3% or $5 minimum balance transfer fee). You do need excellent credit to be approved for this card, but if you’re a global jet-setter, it’s worth applying for as there aren’t foreign transaction fees to hold you back.
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card placed second in our travel analysis, earning 2 miles per $1 spent and boasting an average hotel and flight value of $2.00 per $100 spent. Earn 50,000 bonus miles for spending $3,000 within the first 3 months, which is redeemable for $500 in travel, and use your rewards how you want to with Capital One’s flexible redemption program. Visa travel benefits including complimentary concierge service, road assist service, travel and emergency service and extended warranty protection on items purchased with your card will ensure your travels are smooth, and no foreign transaction fees give you peace of mind around the world. Note that there is a $95 annual fee associated with this card, but it’s waived the first year, so you can try it out for free. Rounding out this card, which requires good to excellent credit for approval, are free FICO TransUnion credit scores every month and notification if your credit report from TransUnion changes to keep you abreast of your credit health.
Average credit doesn’t need to put a damper on your travel plans, thanks to Discover it Miles, which is available to those with average to excellent credit (usually considered a credit score of 670 or higher). Earn a flat 1.5 miles per $1 spent, and enjoy a first-year bonus equal to all the miles you earned in your first year. You’ll have access to all the best Discover perks, from social security number monitoring and the ability to freeze your card in the event it gets lost or stolen to prevent misuse to special shopping discounts through your Discover account online. According to our Travel Rewards Credit Card Analysis, the average flight and hotel value for this card is $1.50 per $100 spent, which is admirable, and there aren’t any foreign transaction fees or an annual fee to worry about. You’ll also get a 14-month 0% intro APR on purchases as well as free FICO credit scores printed on your monthly statements.
If you want to build or improve your credit …
If you’re one of the millions of Americans with below-average credit (typically considered to be scores under 670), then you might be unsure whether you can qualify for a credit card or how having one could benefit you. It might not seem possible, but you can effectively build or improve credit with a credit card so long as you use it responsibly. We’ve outlined some of the best credit cards for fair, poor or limited credit below:
The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card is a smart choice for people with average, fair or limited credit who want to earn cash back, as it nets 1.5% cash back on every purchase. Additionally, if you use your card to pay for Spotify, you can get a 50% discount on your monthly Spotify Premium subscription from now through April 2018. Redeem your rewards as a statement credit to pay yourself back, or for a check or gift cards. Strengthen your credit by paying your bill on time, and after 5 billing cycles of on-time payment, you can gain access to a higher credit line. While there is a modest $39 annual fee, this card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees and if you really wanted to do a balance transfer, there’s no fee for that either (though note that the APR is rather steep).
A secured credit card can be a solid choice for someone with no credit or very poor credit who is looking to establish or improve, and Discover it Secured Card – No Annual Fee is hands-down the best secured card out there. Right off the bat, as the name suggests, there isn’t an annual fee to worry about, which is a rarity among cards for people with less-than-average credit. It also earns 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter and 1% cash back on everything else, plus you’ll get all the cash back you earn in the first year matched at the end of the year as a special intro bonus. You’ll be required to put down a security deposit of $250 to $2,500 to use the card, which secures the purchases you make and is deposited into an FDIC-insured account to be returned if you close your account in good standing. At the 8-month mark, Discover will begin reviewing your account to determine whether you can be transitioned to an unsecured credit line, and it reports to all 3 of the credit bureaus to help you attain your goal of improving and building your credit.
The Credit One Bank Cash Back Credit Card reports your payments to all three of the credit bureaus every month to help you build or improve your credit over time, and since it’s not a secured credit card, you don’t have to put a deposit down to open one. You’ll earn 1% cash back on eligible purchases, which shows up as a credit on your monthly statement. Note that you will be charged an annual fee for this card, ranging from $0 to $99, but if you are looking to boost your credit, it could be worth it. And if you’re a NASCAR enthusiast, check out the Official NASCAR Credit Card from Credit One, which offers similar features plus NASCAR-specific perks.
If you’re starting or furthering your education …
Students of all ages have a few things in common, and that’s why some credit card providers offer student credit cards that are designed to take into account the needs and limitations of student life. Whether you’re a young adult just getting started or somewhat older and getting back to it, you might find that one of these student credit cards is the right pick for you:
The Discover it for Students credit card earns 5% cash back in rotating quarterly categories (on up to $1,500 per quarter, then it’s 1%) plus 1% cash back on everything else. Note that you must sign up for the categories every quarter, which is easy thanks to helpful reminders from Discover. Additionally, all the cash back earned in the first year will be matched by Discover, and students who earn at least a 3.0 GPA during the school year will receive $20 cash back as a good grades reward (for up to 5 consecutive years). There’s no annual fee to worry about, and you won’t be charged a late fee for your first late payment. Additionally, you’ll get a break on interest with 0% intro APR on purchases the first 6 months.
Journey Student Rewards from Capital One is another excellent credit card designed with students in mind, as it helps you build credit while earning rewards on your purchases. Get 1% cash back on all of your purchases, plus an extra 0.25% when you pay those purchases off — effectively earning you 1.25% on every purchase! You can gain access to a higher credit line after your first 5 on-time monthly payments, and you can choose a due date that works for your life. On top of that, there isn’t an annual fee or foreign transaction fees to worry about with this card.
The Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students is a solid choice for students with good credit or better. It earns 2 points on dining out and entertainment and 1 point on everything else, plus you can get a 2,500-point bonus if you spend $500 in purchases within 3 months of opening your account. You won’t have to pay an annual fee with this card, and it features a 0% intro APR on purchases for the first 7 months.
If you plan to finally start that small business …
Does your New Year’s resolution include entrepreneurship? If so, then one of the first things you’ll want to consider as a new small business owner is separating your personal finances from your business expenses. This can be beneficial for taxes, as well as ensuring that any potential business pitfalls don’t directly impact your personal credit. Here are a few of the best small business credit cards we review:
The Ink Business Cash Credit Card is the perfect credit card for a business that’s just getting off its feet, as it earns cash back aplenty in spending categories businesses use most. Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 you spend in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, Internet and cable TV services each year, 3% cash back on the first $25,000 you spend spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each year and 1% cash back on everything else (unlimited). You can get extra employee cards at no additional cost, and there’s no annual fee. Plus, you will enjoy 12 months of 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers (note the 5% or $5 minimum balance transfer fee), and you can earn $300 bonus cash for spending just $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. Other business-savvy features include an easy-to-use receipt organizer app, purchase protection and extended warranty protection on things bought with the card.
The Capital One Spark Cash for Business card earns your business a straightforward 2% cash back on every purchase you make, plus a hefty $500 bonus when you spend $4,500 on purchases in your first 3 months. You’ll get free employee cards to boost your rewards earning potential even more, and the $95 annual fee is waived the first year. There aren’t foreign transaction fees with this card, either, which means you can take it on business trips abroad, plus you’ll have access to features like purchase security, extended warranty protection and travel and emergency services. Not feeling the annual fee? Capital One Spark Cash Select for Business earns comparable (though less) rewards and does not charge an annual fee.
Jumpstart your small business in the new year with the SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express, which earns 5% cash back on up to $50,000/year combined at U.S. office supply stores and wireless telephone services, 3% cash back on up to $50,000/year in a category of your choice (ranging from U.S. gas stations to shipping purchases made in the U.S.) and 1% cash back on everything else. You can change the 3% cash back category once a year during the enrollment period, and all cash rewards you earn will be automatically credited to your monthly statement, so you can rest assured that a percentage of every purchase you make goes straight back to you. Plus, you can earn two bonuses equal to a combined $400 — $200 after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first 6 months and another $200 if you spend an additional $10,000 on purchases within your first year. There’s no annual fee with this card, though it does charge foreign transaction fees so it isn’t the best credit card for international travel. You can also count on 0% intro APR on purchases for the first 9 months and business-specific features like Receipt Match to help you track expenses and free employee cards.
Making your financial dreams into a reality isn’t as easy as one-two-three, but you can get a jump start on your New Year’s resolution with the right credit card. Learn more about managing your money and credit in 2018 and beyond by following our personal finance blog.
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