Foreign transaction fees are irritating little charges that every traveler has faced, and most credit card users have questioned. They are the bane of a frequent flyerâs life and if not managed carefully, could result in some serious charges. But what are these charges, why do they exist, whatâs the average fee, and how can you avoid them?
What is a Foreign Transaction Fee?
A foreign transaction fee is a surcharge levied every time you make a payment in a foreign currency or transfer money through a foreign bank. These fees are charged by credit card networks and issuers, often totaling around 3%.
For example, imagine that youâre on holiday in the United Kingdom, where all transactions occur in Pound Sterling. You go out for a meal and use your credit card to pay a bill of Â£150. Your credit card issuer first converts this sum into US Dollars and then charges a foreign transaction fee, after which the network (Visa, MasterCard, American Express) will do the same.
If we assume that Â£150 equates to exactly $200, this will show on your credit card statement first followed by a separate foreign transaction fee of $6.
When Will You Pay Foreign Transaction Fees?
If youâre moving money from a US bank account to an international account in a different currency, thereâs a good chance you will be hit with foreign transaction fees and may also be charged additional transfer fees. More commonly, these fees are charged every time you make a payment in a foreign currency.
Many years ago, foreign transaction fees were limited to purchases made in other currencies, but they are now charged for online purchases as well. If the site youâre using is based in another country, thereâs a good chance youâll face these charges.
It isnât always easy to know in advance whether these fees will be charged or not. Many foreign based sites use software that automatically detects your location and changes the currency as soon as you visit. To you, it seems like everything is listed in dollars, but you may actually be paying in a foreign currency.
Other Issues that American Travelers FaceÂ
Foreign transaction fees arenât the only issue you will encounter when trying to use American reward credit cards abroad. If we return to the previous example of a holiday in the UK, you may discover that the restaurant doesnât accept your credit card at all.
In the UK, as in the US, Visa and MasterCard are the two most common credit card networks and are accepted anywhere you can use a credit or debit card. However, while Discover is the third most common network in the US, itâs all but non-existent in the UK.Â
Discover has claimed that the card has âmoderateâ acceptance in the UK, but this is a generous description and unless youâre shopping in locations that tailor for many tourists and American tourists in particular, it likely wonât be accepted.
There are similar issues with American Express, albeit to a lesser extent. AMEX is the third most common provider in the UK, but finding a retailer that actually accepts this card is very hit and miss.
Do Foreign Transaction Fees Count Towards Credit Card Rewards?
Foreign transaction fees, and all other bank and credit card fees, do not count towards your rewards total but the initial charge does. If we return to the previous example of a $200 restaurant payment, you will earn reward points on that $200 but not on the additional $6 that you pay in fees.
How to Avoid Foreign Transaction Fees
The easiest way to avoid foreign transaction fees is to use a credit card that doesnât charge them. Some premium cards and reward cards will absorb the fee charged for these transactions, which means you can take your credit card with you when you travel and donât have to worry about extra charges.
This is key, because simply converting your dollars to your target currency isnât the best way to avoid foreign transaction fees. A currency conversion will come with its own fees and itâs also very risky to carry large sums of cash with you when youâre on vacation.Â
Credit Cards Without Foreign Transaction Fees
All credit card offers are required to clearly state a host of basic features, including interest rates, reward schemes, and annual fees. However, you may need to do a little digging to learn about foreign transaction fees. These fees can be found in the credit cardâs terms and conditions, which should be listed in full on the providerâs website.
To get you started, here are a few credit cards that donât charge foreign transaction fees:
- Bank of America Travel Rewards Card: A high-reward and low-fee credit card backed by the Bank of America.
- Capital One: All Capital One cards are free of foreign transaction fees, including their reward cards, such as the Venture card.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred: A premium rewards card aimed at big spenders. There is an annual fee, but not foreign transaction fees.
- Citi Prestige: One of several Citi cards that donât charge foreign transaction fees, and the best one in terms of rewards.Â
- Discover It: A solid all-round credit card with no foreign transaction fees. However, as noted above, the Discover network is rare outside of the United States.
- Wells Fargo Propel World: An American Express credit card with good rewards and low fees, including no foreign transaction fees.
Summary: One of Many Fees
Foreign transaction fees are just some of the many fees you could be paying every month. Credit cards work on a system of rewards and penalties; youâre rewarded when you make qualifying purchases and penalized when you make payments in foreign currencies and in casinos, and when you use your card to withdraw cash.
Many of these fees are fixed as a percentage of your total spend, but some also charge interest and you will pay this even if you clear your balance in full every month. To avoid being hit with these fees, pay attention to the terms and conditions and look for cards that wonât punish you for the things you do regularly.
What is a Foreign Transaction Fee and How Can You Avoid It? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.
The American Express Gold card offers a $100 airline incidental credit each year, a benefit which is ending this year of 2021. In order to be eligible for the 2021 $100 benefit, you need to have an account open by February 3rd and have your airline selected.
Per the FAQ on bottom of this page:
For American Express Gold Card Members who opened accounts before February 4, 2021, the $100 Airline Fee Credit will no longer be available after December 31, 2021. Card Members who opened accounts on or after February 4, 2021 are not eligible for the Airline Fee Credit.
All American Express Gold Card Members who opened accounts prior to February 4, 2021 and have selected an airline for the Airline Fee Credit benefit will still be eligible to receive statement credits for eligible airline purchases made through December 31, 2021.
Sounds like even existing Gold cardholders need to have their airline selections by that date. It does default to what you used last year, so that shouldn’t be an issue for existing cardholders.
AmEx launched a new $10 monthly Uber credit which begins this month, February, as a replacement for the $100 airline incidental credit. 2021 is the one year which you can get in on both credits, but again, only those who already have the card and select an airline by February 3rd will get both benefits.
There’s a good signup bonus offer currently on the Gold card of 60,000 + $250. Hopefully if you apply now and get approved right away it’ll be possible to have your airline selected by February 3rd (see these data points).
Hat tip to Chase-ing UR points
When you have an international credit card, you can use it both in your home country and abroad. Itâs not uncommon to come across businesses abroad that only accept native currency. Thatâs when an international credit card comes in handy. If you want to avoid the hassles of carrying cash or travelerâs checks everywhere you go, these types of credit cards are the perfect solution.
Several established hotels, restaurants and retail outlets you encounter during your travels will accept your international credit card. That card offers many of the same features as a standard version and can also be used at ATM machines. Thus, no matter where you are, you can get cash from your bank account. You can also check your account balance from an ATM, so you can keep track of your spending and make sure youâre sticking to your budget.
Credit Card Foreign Transaction Fees
A foreign credit card transaction fee is charged when you make a payment in a different country with your card. The sale also includes a fee because youâre paying in a foreign currency. Typically, foreign transaction fees are equal to 3% of the total cost of the transaction. They are also set in U.S. currency. If you purchase an item or souvenir in another nationâs currency and the total bill comes to $100, with 3% in foreign transaction fees tacked on, you pay a total of $103.
Foreign transaction fees can be charged on different types of transactions, including withdrawing money from ATM machines, reserving hotel rooms, or even booking your flights. The terms and conditions that apply to foreign transaction fees are usually included in the fine print of your international credit cardâs cardholder agreement. So, make sure you review this information and are fully aware of the terms before using your card for purchases.
The International Chip and PIN
The international chip and PIN are part of a system being integrated into a number of credit cards. Many foreign merchants no longer accept standard magnetic strip credit cards, claiming theyâre unsafe and outdated. The point of an international chip and pin is so that you wonât end up at an unattended kiosk unable to use the card because it requires a PIN to complete your transaction. This specifically applies to retailers in Europe.
Top 4 Brands of International Credit Cards
There are many different international credit cards, but four in particular offer better benefits and interest rates than others.
1. Capital One Venture Rewards Card
The Capital One Venture Rewards Card is another credit card you probably want to consider. The Capital One Rewards card also gives you a solid introductory rate and travel rewards points. It also provides you with a sign-on bonus of up to 50,000 miles or $500 in travel when you spend $3,000 in your first three months from account opening. The only downside is that this card comes with a Â an annual fee after the first year.
2. Capital One Venture One Rewards Credit Card
If you enjoy the Capital One brand but prefer to avoid the annual fee, consider the Capital One Venture One Rewards Credit Card. The card gives you all the advantages of Capital One without an annual fee. This card also gives you major perksâyouâll get 20,000 miles if you $1,000 in the first three months.
3. Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
Chase Sapphire PreferredÂ® Card
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate RewardsÂ®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases.
- 2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate RewardsÂ®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
- With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash’s subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Earn 2x total points on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases per month from November 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Includes eligible pick-up and delivery services.
Card Details +
Lastly, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card has low introductory rates for purchases and balance transfers, though its rewards offerings are somewhat weaker by comparison. This is another card that gives you a major bang for your buckâyou can earn 60,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months.
Do Your Due Diligence Before Traveling Abroad with Your New Cards
Even with an international means of payment, your credit card may not be accepted at all locations. Recently, a Credit.com staffer who traveled to Amsterdam tried to use his World Elite Mastercard at some locations and found that local merchants didnât always accept a Mastercard branded card.
Before going on your trip, check either with stores or the credit card network (Mastercard, Visa, Discover or American Express) Â to see if any conditions exist that might prevent your card from being accepted by foreign merchants. Alternatively, you can take a few different brands with your or have some cash or travelerâs checks on hand.
Check Your Credit
Before applying for an international credit card, itâs important to check your credit score to see what you qualify for. A low score or no score at all could get in the way of your goals of traveling with an international credit card in hand. Be sure to check your score before you apply. Most credit card companies that offer cash-back or miles require a good or even excellent score.
Checking your credit is easy and free depending on the site you use, and checking doesnât hurt your score. You can get your free Experian credit score by visiting Credit.com. Instead of a hard inquiry, Credit.com does a soft inquiry without harming your credit score.
Using Credit.com for Your Travels
Traveling overseas with a credit card is convenient, but it can also be tricky. If youâre planning a trip abroad, itâs important to research which international credit cards will serve you best. Having a credit card that can be used anywhere in the world is a great tool to have in your pocket. But the terms and conditions of each card vary depending on several factors including your credit history, your spending habits and the places you visit.
Credit.com offers travelers just like you the opportunity to check their credit scores and apply for cards that will benefit them on their international journeys. If youâre interested in learning more about credit cards, check Credit.com
Editorial disclosure: Reviews are as determined solely by Credit.com staff. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the reviewers and arenât reviewed or approved by any advertiser. Information presented is accurate as of the date of the review, including information on card rates, rewards and fees. Check the issuerâs website for the most current information on each card listed.
Some offers mentioned here may have expired and/or are no longer available on our site. You can view the current offers from our partners in our credit card marketplace. DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned here.
The post What is an International Credit Card? appeared first on Credit.com.
Editorial Note: This content is not provided by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the authorâs alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.
If left unchecked, extensive amounts of credit card debt can cripple your finances. The good news is there are many ways to handle debt, though each requires a dedicated effort on your part. But if you can manage to consolidate credit card debt, you will reduce your burden relatively quickly. In the process, youâll avoid the exorbitant interest rates that accompany most credit cards. Below we take a look at some of the most effective techniques you can use to make this goal a reality.
Find Out Your Credit Score
Before you can work on improving your credit and minimizing your debt, you have to know where you currently stand.
Many credit card issuers allow cardholders to see their FICOÂ® credit score free of charge once a month, so check out if any of your cards include that free credit score. The three major credit bureaus â TransUnion, Experian and Equifax â also give out free annual credit reports. If thatâs not enough, websites like Credit Karmaâ¢ and Credit Sesame provide a free look at your credit score and reports as well.
It is vital to review your credit report with a fine-tooth comb to ensure the accuracy of the information. If you find errors be sure to let the credit bureau in question know so the issue can be eradicated as soon as possible.
Zero Interest Balance Transfer Cards
Although it might seem counterintuitive to apply for another credit card to lessen your debt, a zero interest balance transfer card could really help. These cards typically include an introductory 0% balance transfer Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for six months or more. This ultimately allows you to move debt from one account to another without incurring more interest. However, once the introductory offer concludes, any leftover balances will revert to your base APR.
These offers arenât totally free, though. Most cards also charge a balance transfer fee thatâs usually between 3% and 5% of the transfer. Even with this initial payment, you will almost always still save money over leaving your debt where it stands currently.
If you want to consolidate credit card debt, here are three different balance transfer credit cards you could apply for, with varying introductory interest rates and transfer fees:
Balance Transfer Credit Cards Card Intro Balance Transfer APR Balance Transfer Fee Chase Slate 0% APR for first 15 months; then 16.49% to 25.24% Variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness No fee for first 60 days; then $5 or 5% of each transfer, whichever is greater Citi Double Cash Card 0% introductory APR for 18 months from date of first transfer when transfers are completed within 4 months from date of account opening; then 15.49% to 25.49% Variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness $5 or 3% of each transfer, whichever is greater BankAmericardÂ® credit card 0% APR for first 15 billing cycles; then 14.49% to 24.49% Variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness No fee for first 60 days; then $10 or 3% of each transfer, whichever is greater Take Out a Personal Loan
The thought of taking out another loan probably doesnât sound too appetizing to consolidate credit card debt. But a personal debt consolidation loan is one of the speediest ways to rid yourself of credit card debt. More specifically, you can use it to pay off most or all of your debt in one lump sum. That way, your payments are all merged into a single account with your lender.
The APR and length of the offered loan and the minimum credit score needed for approval are the main factors that should go into your final decision on a lender. By concentrating on these three components of the loan, you can map out what your monthly payments will be. As a result, you can more easily implement them into your financial life.
Applying for a personal consolidation loan can have a detrimental effect on your credit. Unfortunately, most institutions will run a hard credit check on you prior to approval. However, many online lenders donât do this, which might ease your mind depending on the severity of your debt situation.
These loans are available through a wide variety of financial institutions, including banks, online lenders and credit unions. Here are a few examples of some of the most common debt consolidation lenders:
Common Debt Consolidation Lenders Banks Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, Fifth Third Bank Online Lenders Lending Club, Prosper, Best Egg Credit Unions Navy Federal Credit Union, Unify Financial Credit Union, Affinity Federal Credit Union Auto or Home Equity Loan
If you own assets like a home or car, you can take out a lump-sum loan based on the equity you hold in them to consolidate credit card debt. This is a great way to reuse money you paid toward an existing loan to take care of your debt. When paying back your auto or home equity loan, youâll usually pay in fixed amounts at a relatively low interest rate. Even if this rate isnât great, itâs likely much better than any offer youâd receive from a card issuer.
Equity loans are technically a second mortgage or loan, meaning your house or car will become the loanâs collateral. That means you could lose your house or car if you cannot keep up with your equity loan payments.
Create a Budget
To build a budget, you first need to figure out your approximate monthly net income. Donât forget to take into account taxes when youâre doing this.
You can then start subtracting your variable and fixed expenses that are expected for the upcoming month. This is where you will likely be able to identify where youâre overspending, whether itâs on food, entertainment or travel. Once youâve completed this, you can begin cutting back where you need to. Then, use your surplus cash to pay off your debt one month at a time.
It shouldnât matter if youâre dealing with substantial credit card debt or not. A monthly spending budget should always be a part of how you manage your finances. While this is likely the slowest way to eliminate debt, itâs also the most financially sound. At its core, it attempts to fix the problem without taking funding from an outside source. This should leave very little financial strife in the aftermath of paying off your debt.
Professional Debt Counseling
Perhaps since youâve found yourself in serious debt, you feel like you want professional help getting out of it. Well the National Foundation for Credit CounselingÂ® (NFCCÂ®) is available for just that reason. The NFCCÂ® has member offices all around the U.S. that are certified in helping you consolidate credit card debt.
These counselors wonât only address your current financial issues and debt. Theyâll also work to create a plan that will help you avoid this situation again in the future.
Agencies that are accredited by the NFCCÂ® will have it clearly displayed on their website or at their offices. If youâre not sure where to look, the foundation created an agency locator thatâll help you find a counselor nearby.
Borrow From Your Retirement
Taking money early from your employer-sponsored retirement account obviously isnât ideal. Thatâs means borrowing from your retirement is a last-ditch alternative. But if your credit card debt has become such a handicap that itâs affecting all other facets of your life, it is a viable option to consolidate credit card debt.
Because you are technically loaning money to yourself, this will not show up on your credit report. Major tax and penalty charges await anyone who has trouble making payments on these loans though. To make matters worse, if you quit your job or are fired, youâre typically only given 60 days to finish paying it off to avoid incurring a penalty.
Tips To Consolidate Credit Card Debt
- If you take the time to come up with a budget, donât let it go to waste. While you might find it tough to stick to, especially if youâre trying to cut back, it is the best way to manage your money correctly. Even if a budget becomes habit, stay vigilant with where your money is being spent.
- Although a financial advisor will cost money, he or she might be able to help you keep your finances in check while ultimately helping you plan for the future as well. However, if this isnât an option for you financially, stay on track with your NFCCÂ® debt counselorâs plan.
- There are so many ways to gain access to your credit score that thereâs virtually no excuse for not knowing it. It doesnât matter if you do it through one of the top three credit bureaus, FICOÂ® or one of your card issuers. Just remember to pay attention to those ever-important three digits as often as possible.
Editorial Note: This content is not provided by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the authorâs alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.
Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/Liderina, Â©iStock.com/ferrantraite, Â©iStock.com/cnythzl
The post Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.
Do you keep a close eye on your personal finances? Or maybe youâve never given them much thought. Either way, itâs time to start paying more attention to your credit score. Your credit score can control a lotâwhat loans you qualify for, the credit cards that are available to you, etc. To keep on top of it all, itâs important to check your credit score. But how often can you check your credit score, exactly?
You know what they say: knowledge is power. Find out how often you can check your credit score below so you can arm yourself with knowledge about your personal finances.
The Difference Between Your Credit Score and Credit Report
Before looking into how often you can check your credit score, it’s important to understand the difference between a credit score and a credit report. They can be easy to confuse, so you might think theyâre the sameâbut theyâre not.
Your credit report is a detailed document about your credit history. It shows active and past accounts, whether you paid on time and how much credit you’ve used compared to open balances. Other information might include names of your past employers if you’ve ever included them on a credit application, as well as negative records such as collections accounts and bankruptcies.
Your credit score is a three-digit number, typically between 300 and 850, that’s calculated based on all the information in your credit report. There are many credit scoring models, including popular models such as FICO and VantageScore.
While credit scoring models all work toward the same goalâproviding an overall picture of how likely you are to pay your debtsâthey do so with slight variations in the formulas. That means your credit scores might vary between these models.
You also have more than one credit report. Not every lender or business reports to all three of the major credit bureaus, for example. So the information in your credit file can also vary slightly. That also means that you have different credit scores, too.
How Often Can You Check Your Credit Score for Free?
Here’s where the difference between credit score and credit report comes in. You can get your free creditÂ report from each of theÂ three major bureaus via AnnualCreditReport.com.
Usually, the reports are available once every year. Which means you could get a look at your credit information every four months by spreading out your requests for each of the bureaus. However, due to personal financial stress related to COVID-19 and to help consumers best manage credit and finances during this time,Â AnnualCreditReport.com and the three credit bureaus are making reports available weekly through April 2021.
Unfortunately, a free credit report doesn’t mean a free credit score. When you order your report you get the detailed information in your file. You don’t get the score the bureau might show lenders when you apply for credit. To get regular access to your credit scores, you typically have to pay for it.
Reasons to Check Your Credit Report and Score
So why do you need to keep tabs on your credit score and credit report? Here are a few reasons:
- Keeping a regular eye on your credit report helps you identify inaccurate negative items that might be dragging down your score. The faster you catch and challenge the accuracy of these items, the more likely you’re able to prove they’re not correct. The credit bureaus have to remove them if they can’t be proven correct.
- Checking your credit report regularly helps you see whether suspicious activity is occurring, which can indicate that you’re a victim of identity theft or fraud. Again, knowing and acting early can save you a lot of hassle in the long run.
- Knowing your credit score and how it moves up and down over time can also help you understand whether there might be issues with your report. If you see the score moving in a negative direction and aren’t sure why, you can investigate further.
- You might want to check your credit before you apply for a loan, especially one with greater qualification requirements such as a mortgage. That way, you can fix any possible issues before a lender evaluates you for approval.
- You may also want to ensure there aren’t any surprises on your report before you apply to rent an apartment, get auto insurance quotes or send your resume in for a job opportunity, as some of these opportunities can depend in part on your credit history.
- If you’re working to improve your credit history and score, you may want to see that your efforts are having a positive impact.
How Can You Get Your Credit Score?
You might have access to your credit score via your credit card provider. If this is a benefit you get as a card holder, you can typically see the score by logging into your credit card account online or via a mobile app. The downside is that this is only one possible version of your score.
You can see another version of your score by signing up for Credit.com’s Credit Report Card. You’ll get a score that updates every 14 days as well as information about the five major factors that go into determining credit scores and how you’re faring with each.
If you want to get more bang for your buck, it might be time to look atÂ ExtraCredit. Youâll get access to five useful services, includingÂ TrackIt, which will give you a look intoÂ 28Â of your FICO Scores.Â
How Many Points Does Your Credit Score Go Down for an Inquiry?
Requesting yourÂ own score or credit report doesn’t impact your score at all. That’s because this is considered a soft inquiry. OnlyÂ hard inquiries impact your credit score. Hard inquiries occur when a lender pulls your credit to evaluate you for a loan or other credit.
So, whether you’re requesting your credit report via AnnualCreditReport.com or investing in a service such as ExtraCredit, get as much information about your credit as you can. It won’t hurt your score to do so.
The post How Often Can You Check Your Credit Score, and How Do You Get It? appeared first on Credit.com.
Generally speaking, it takes seven to 10 business days to get a credit card once youâre approved. The specific amount of time can vary as many factors throughout the process affect how fast you receive your card. Getting approved can happen in a matter of seconds or days, depending on what kind of card you apply for. Whether you apply online or in person may also affect how fast youâll receive your credit card in the mail.
How Long Does It Take to Get My Card in the Mail?
The longest step in getting a credit card is waiting for it to come in the mail. Shipping time frames can vary depending on which credit card you apply for. Here are the average time frames of many popular credit card companies today:
- American Express: seven to 10 business days
- Wells Fargo: seven to 10 business days
- Discover: three to five business days
- Capital One: seven to 10 business days
- Bank of America: seven to 10 business days
- Chase: three to 5 business days
- Citi: seven to 10 business days
Unfortunately, the time it takes for the credit card to go through the mail can be impacted by many factors out of your control. You may get your card sooner than stated above, or later if there are external mail carrier issues.
How to Get a Credit Card Right Away
Unfortunately, most credit cards arenât made available to you the same day you apply. Even though you can get approved for a card almost instantly, you must still wait for the card to come in the mail. However, credit card companies sometimes offer options to help speed up the process.
Most banks offer expedited shipping if you need your card delivered faster than usual. Depending on what type of card and bank you apply with, they may charge you an extra fee for this option. Some banks will make things easier for you by giving you your credit card number right after approval. This allows you to start making purchases while waiting for the physical card to arrive. American Express typically allows this with all of their cards to increase their user satisfaction.
What to Do If You Havenât Received Your Card Yet
If you notice that you havenât received your card after some time, reach out to your bank or credit card company. By reaching out, you minimize the risk of the card getting lost or stolen. Your bank may also be able to provide you with a temporary card while they sort everything out. Not all lenders, but if they do they may charge you an additional fee.
How To Apply for a Credit Card
To get a credit card, you must first apply either online or in person for approval. Receiving the credit card itself and waiting to be approved are two separate steps. Therefore, the time it takes to receive your card can vary from person to person.
What Do Creditors Look for in Applications?
Credit card applications typically ask for your personal information as well as your financial background. To determine your financial background, theyâll ask for your Social Security number and source of income.
Your Social Security number will allow the creditors access to your credit report. After close evaluation, youâll either be approved or declined for the card. When looking at your report, creditors typically pay close attention to data such as your debt-to-income ratio, hard inquiries, and any delinquent accounts you may have.
Your debt-to-income ratio refers to how much of your cardâs limit is spent. Consistently using too much of your limit may cause creditors to view you as more of a high-risk borrower. Similarly, too many hard inquiries can make you seem risky. Finally, a delinquent account is another red flag. This shows that you may not have been paying off your credit card bills on time. Lenders wonât be as willing to approve you for a credit card if you have a history of account delinquency, as itâs not a good sign for them that youâll be a reliable borrower.
Some credit card companies pre-approve users who they think may be a good fit based on a soft version of their credit report. A soft version of your report gives lenders a glimpse of your financial background, but wonât affect your credit score. When your report shows that you meet a few requirements, theyâll send a card in the mail for you to use if you apply. Receiving the card in the mail doesnât mean that you are automatically approved. It just helps speed up the process of getting a credit card. Pre-approving users is a way companies market their cards to users, in hopes of them applying later on.
How to Build Credit With a Credit Card
When you use a credit card, you build credit simultaneously. The way you manage and use your card can have either a positive or negative effect on your credit score.
How Long Does It Take to Build Credit?
If this is your first time using a credit card, then you are most likely building credit from scratch. Building a credit score doesnât happen overnight. It usually takes about six months or so to build enough credit to have a credit report. Beginning early can be of great benefit to you down the line. A major factor in the calculation of your credit score is the length of your credit history. The longer youâve spent building your credit, the more of a positive impact it can have on your score.
Ways to Keep Your Credit Score Healthy
When using a credit card, it can pay off in the long run to follow some best practices. You can do this by having a good understanding of what exactly factors into your credit score. The following are good habits to establish for maintaining a healthy score:
- Make on-time payments to avoid a delinquent account.
- Aim to only use 30 percent of your credit limit at a time to show you can manage your card wisely.
- Avoid applying to too many cards or loans in a short time, as it can result in a hard inquiry. Too many hard inquiries can be the reason you are getting declined for your financial requests.
- Stay on top of monitoring your credit score and report, so you can identify any mistakes before itâs too late to fix.
While the most common time frame for getting a credit card is seven to 10 days, it can vary from person to person. If this seems like a long time, try reaching out to your bank. They may be able to expedite shipping or give you access to your credit card number in advance. Each credit card lender is different, so itâs important to do your research before applying. Take a look at our guide on the best credit card offers to help start your search.
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What could be easier than getting a little money back on the things you buy every day? That’s how cash back credit cards work and what makes them appealing to some consumers.
Cash back cards come in a variety of flavors â bonus category, tiered rewards and flat percentage cash back cards â but they all pay you back. Flat percentage cash back cards are ideal for the âset it and forget it” crowd, but bonus category and tiered rewards cards can offer more rewards â if you’re willing to put in a little legwork to maximize your cash back in select spending categories.
Here we take a look at the different types of cash back cards and how they work, the key benefits of cash back cards, how to redeem cash back and how to choose the best cash back card for you.
See related:Â How to choose a credit card
How cash back cards work
So how do all of these cash back cards work? It’s simple: Cash back is essentially a rebate of a percentage of the purchases you make on the card. With flat-rate cash back credit cards, every purchase earns the same percentage cash back, while with category bonus cards and tiered bonus cards, different types of spending earn more cash back.
Card issuers can afford to pay cash back because merchants pay an interchange fee on each transaction. âWhen you pay a merchant $100 with a credit card, the merchant only receives about $97,â says Daniel Mahoney, a certified financial planner in Atlanta.
For example, a TV that costs $700 would net you $14 with a 2% cash back card. The merchant, meanwhile, paid a transaction fee of around $21 when you paid with your credit card.
âRewards or rebates may also be funded by deals between the credit card issuer and specific merchants,â Mahoney adds. An example of this is cash back earned through card-linked offers.
How do card issuers know what types of spending qualifies for which percentage of cash back? Merchant category codes are four-digit numbers denoting a business type, such as a gas station or grocery store. Merchant category codes are used by credit card networks to categorize and track purchases.
How to redeem cash back
There are a number of ways to redeem your cash back rewards, including asÂ a statement credit, check or deposit to a bank account, toward travel, to purchase gift cards or merchandise or as a donation. How many options you have and what requirements must be met before you can redeem will vary from card to card and issuer to issuer.
Statement credits are the most common cash back redemption method and, as the term implies, act as credits against your existing card balance. For example, if you earned $20 in cash back and redeemed your rewards as a statement credit, your card balance would be reduced by $20.
Statement credits give you a simple, convenient way to save money over time, but since they’re tied to your card account, they offer a bit less flexibility than “true” cash back in the form of a check or direct deposit, which you can save or spend however you like.
Generally speaking, redeeming your rewards is as simple as choosing your redemption method, specifying the amount you want to redeem and hitting submit. Some cards also offer automatic cash back redemption in the amount and via the method you specify once you’ve reached a specific earnings threshold.
While statement credits, checks and direct deposits tend to get you full value for your rewards (with $1 earned yielding a $1 credit or direct payment), other redemption methods like gift cards and donations may only net you a fraction of your rewards value.
On the other hand, pairing a cash back card with a higher-tier travel or rewards card can sometimes boost the value of your cash back rewards, as in the case of the so-called “Chase trifecta“.
Check with your card issuerâs rules on cash back redemption amounts and options, as some cards offer more restrictive redemption schemes than others. For example, while a card like the Chase Freedom Unlimited allows you to redeem your cash back as a statement credit, check or direct deposit in any amount, anytime, the Costco Anywhere VisaÂ® Card by CitiÂ only issues rewards annually as a certificate with the February statement.
Benefits of cash back credit cards
Along with the obvious benefit of allowing you to earn a bit of money back on most â if not all â of your spending, cash back cards offer a number of advantages for experienced and newbie cardholders alike.
To start, cash back cards can offer more simplicity than other rewards credit cards. Since you get back a percentage of your card spend, you’ll always have a pretty good sense of how much money you’re earning. Cards that earn points or miles, by contrast, often require you to calculate point values and weigh redemption options to be sure you’re getting the most out of your rewards.
âThe primary benefit of a cash back card is the simplicity,â says Roman Shteyn, owner and CEO of RewardExpert.com.
âYou donât have to think too much about how much youâre earning while using the card, and when it comes to redemption,Â the best cash back credit cardsÂ are pretty straightforward. Most people just deduct their cash back from their statement balance or redeem for gift cards.â
Cash back cards also stand out as a low-effort savings tool. Indeed, the typical savings account earns a measly 0.05% annual yield, while nearly all cash back cards offer at least 1% back on every purchase. Your return is even greater with cash back cards offering a flat 1.5%, 2% or more on every purchase.
And unlike the interest on your bank account, cash back comes tax-free.
âThe IRS has historically viewed credit card cash back as a nontaxable rebate on the purchase price, rather than as a taxable form of income,â says Mahoney.
Something else to think about: Cash back, if loaded back on your card, also earns its own cash back when you spend it, adds financial planner Andrew Feldman of Chicago. âItâs a fraction, but itâs still a little more cash,â he says.
Factor in that some cash back cards offer sign-up bonuses of $150 or $250, and that is even more cash for you for using the card.
See related:Â Cash back vs. points
Types of cash back cards
There are three main types of cash back credit cards: Category bonus cash back cards, which offer a high cash back rate in spending categories that change throughout the year; tiered rewards cash back cards, which offer consistent cash back in specific categories of spending; and flat-rate cash back cards, which get you cash back at the same rate on all purchases.
Category bonus cash back cards
Overview: Category bonus cash back cards offer the lure of 5% cash back from revolving spending categories. These categories are typically set by the issuer every quarter and are usually released a few months before the new quarter starts. Five percent back can be a nice haul if youâre able to max out the spending categories each quarter, but it takes a bit of work.
First, you have to register for the bonus categories every three months, and spending in the categories is capped at a set amount each quarter (typically $1,500 in purchases). Since any purchase not in the bonus category earns 1%, you may not be getting the average return you think you are.
Pros:Â These cards allow you to earn cash back at an impressive rate in a variety of different spending categories, which could be ideal for cardholders whose spending varies from month to month. If your spending habits are flexible and you’re strategic about when and where you buy, category bonus cards can offer lucrative returns.
Cons: They can be a headache to keep up with, often requiring you to manually enroll in a category each quarter and track your spending to ensure you’re maximizing your cash back in a given category. You’re also at the mercy of the issuer when it comes to which categories are eligible for bonus rewards, and categories may not line up with your spending habits or may be tough to maximize.
Top cards: Discover and Chase each offer popular category bonus cards, including the Discover itÂ® Cash Back, Discover itÂ® Student Cash Back and Chase Freedom Flex cards.
The Discover 2021 bonus categories have already been released and include grocery stores, gas stations, wholesale clubs, restaurants and online shopping at stores like Amazon, Target and Walmart. Chase Freedom Flex bonus categories, on the other hand, are only announced on a quarterly basis.
The U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card is a variation on the rotating bonus category theme, but the cardholder picks the bonus categories that will earn the most cash back for the types of purchases they make most.
See related:Â Chase Freedom Flex vs. Discover it Cash Back
Tiered rewards cash back cards
Overview: Like category bonus cards, tiered rewards cards offer more cash back in select spending categories, but to maximize your earnings you have to think about which card to use with each purchase.
For example,Â Feldman puts all his business expenses on his tiered rewards American Express SimplyCash Plus business card and his own personal expenses on a CitiÂ® Double Cash Card that delivers a flat 2% (1% when you buy and 1% as you pay for your purchases).
His Amex business card rewards 5% on office supply stores and wireless telephone service, 3% on gas (cardholders choose from eight categories for this tier) and 1% on everything else.
At the end of each year, Feldman calculates the rewards delivered on the total amount he spent. He says both of his cards end up delivering the same cash back on average.
âThe Amex works out to about 2%, maybe slightly under,â Feldman says. âI just donât spend enough on office supplies to max out that 5% category.â
âCould I get back another couple dollars at the end of the year by using a credit card targeted to each category of my spending?â Feldman asks. âItâs possible, but Iâd have to think about which card to use every time I made a purchase and that would make my life crazy.â
Pros: Tiered rewards cash back cards may offer a bit more consistency than category bonus cards, as bonus categories are the same year-round. You’ll know before you apply if an elevated rewards rate in a given category like travel or dining makes sense based on your spending, and you can pair a tiered rewards card with a flat-rate card to ensure you’re maximizing your earnings.
Cons: These cards tend to earn a low rate on general purchases, and people often overestimate how much they spend in a given category, like gas or airfare. You’ll have to take a close look at your spending habits to determine whether a tiered bonus category card really makes sense for you or if you’d be better off with a card that earns the same flat rate in cash back on every purchase.
Top cards: While the best choice for you will depend on how you spend, one of our top picks is the Blue Cash PreferredÂ® Card from American Express, which offers 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%), 6% back on select U.S. streaming service subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and 1% cash back on all other spending.
Supermarket purchases make up a big chunk of the average person’s spending habits, so a card that offers bonus rewards in this category should be useful to the majority of cardholders.
Flat-rate cash back cards
Overview: With simple cash back cards, also called flat-rate cash back cards, you earn a flat percentage with every purchase. Thereâs no need to track and activate bonus categories. You earn the same cash back on every purchase.
Mahoney carries theÂ Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit cardÂ which earns 1.5 points per dollar (effectively 1.5% cash back) plus a 75% bonus for being part of the bankâs Preferred Rewards Platinum Honors program.
âThatâs effectively 2.625% cash back*,â Mahoney says (2.625% cash back referencing 1.5 points per dollar plus 75% boost for Preferred Rewards program). âThe caveat is the cash back must be used as a reimbursement for travel purchases**, but lots of things count for that, even Uber and Lyft.â
Feldman recently switched from the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, which offers 1.5% cash back, to the CitiÂ® Double Cash Card, which earns up to 2% cash back (1% when you buy and 1% as you pay for your purchases).
Why did he switch? â2% is better than 1.5%,â he says.
Also, âI miss the convenience of being able to log in and get my rewards in one sweep or set it up for an automatic $25 or $50,â he adds. âI like to cash in my points immediately so I donât forget about them.â
Frequent-flyer expert Gary Leff likes the Fidelity Rewards Visa and Citi Double Cash cash back cards.
With theÂ Fidelity Rewards Visa, cardholders earn 2% on all purchases, but you need to be a Fidelity account holder with excellent credit to qualify for the card.
âMost people arenât going to beat 2% cash back, even with travel rewards,â says Leff, who blogs at View from the Wing.
Pros:Â You won’t have to track spending or enroll in bonus categories. You can simply use your card for every purchase and rest assured you’re earning cash back at a consistent rate. This makes flat-rate cards ideal for those who want to avoid the hassle of juggling multiple cards or someone who’s looking to supplement their current tiered rewards or category bonus cash back card.
Cons: While these cards offer consistent rewards on every purchase, you may be missing out on bonus rewards in a category of high spend, like groceries or dining.
Top cards:Â A top pick in this category is the Citi Double Cash card, as it offers one of the highest flat cash back rates available, charges no annual fee and can pair with a premium Citi card to make earning travel rewards a breeze. It also encourages responsible card use by only giving you the second 1% back once you’ve paid off your purchases.
Types of cash back cards compared
We ran the numbers to see how flat rate, category bonus and tiered bonus cash back earnings would break down based on an average Americanâs spending (drawn from a Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer expenditures survey):
|2% flat percentage||5% category bonus*||6% tiered bonus**|
|$21,897*** at 2%||$14,645 at 1% ($14.65)||$16,596 at 1% ($16.59)|
|$6,000 at 5% ($300)||$4,464 at 6% ($267.84)|
|$437.90 in cash back per year||$314.65 in cash back per year||$284.43 in cash back per year|
|* This assumes the category bonus cardholder maxes out the $1,500 in qualified quarterly spending, which is difficult to do every quarter.
** The Blue Cash Preferred from American Express offers 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets and other tiered rewards, so total cash back will be higher.
*** This includes expenses on food, gas and oil changes, vehicle expenses, apparel and services, entertainment and other expenditures
â CreditCards.com research, March 2020
How to choose a cash back credit card
Which cash back card is right for you depends on how much thought you want to put into which card to use where.
While some cash back cards offer outsized bonuses on specific types of purchases or in rotating bonus categories, you’ll have to remember to use the right card at the right time and place. Not only will you need to pay attention to your account to see how your issuer categorized your purchase, but you may also need to manually enroll in a bonus category each quarter to reap the benefit of certain cards.
This makes such cards less than ideal if you’re looking for more of a “no-fuss” way to earn rewards. Additionally, most tiered and category bonus cards only get you 1% cash back on general purchases. This means that unless you spend heavily in a card’s bonus categories, you could be missing out on maximizing rewards on the majority of your spending.
Flat-rate cards, on the other hand, may offer a lower rewards rate in a specific category like dining or groceries, but will help you score extra rewards on general purchases that don’t fall into a specific category, boosting your average cash back rate overall. This is why it’s also worth considering pairing a flat-rate cash back card with a tiered bonus card that fits your spending habits.
Whether you opt for a flat-rate, tiered rewards or category bonus cash back card, you can enjoy earning cash back on all (or nearly all) of your purchases, often with minimal effort.
You may be surprised at just how much 1% or more cash back adds up to at the end of each month. Just be sure to take a close look at your spending habits and each issuer’s terms to be sure the cash back card you’re considering is a good fit for you.
*2.625% cash back referencing 1.5 points per dollar plus 75% boost for Preferred Rewards program.
**Travel or dining purchases
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Ten months into the COVID-19 pandemic, many consumers have settled into new routines and developed new spending patterns. One of the spending categories that hasnât lost its popularity is groceries, as many people are cooking more at home and eating out less frequently.
See related: Grocery shopping and COVID-19: Whatâs changed and how to save money
Credit card issuers are adapting to these new patterns as well.
On Oct. 20, 2020, Chase announced it would be temporarily adding grocery rewards to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card* and Chase Sapphire Reserve®. This comes on top of other limited time offers the issuer has recently added, such as limited time redemption options through Pay Yourself Back and gas and grocery store purchases counting toward the Reserve cardâs $300 travel credit.
See related: Guide to Chase Pay Yourself Back
âThroughout this very unique year, weâve provided our cardmembers flexibility and options to get the most out of their cards â¦ Â as well as limited time opportunities to earn more points on certain spending,â Chase said in a statement. âWe want to continue to give our cardmembers ways to maximize value where they are spending today.â
On top of that, on Jan. 28, 2021, Chase added an offer for new Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders: a one-time automatic $50 statement credit on grocery store purchases.
How the limited time grocery rewards work
Starting Nov. 1, 2020 and running through April 30, 2021, Sapphire Reserve cardmembers will earn 3 points per dollar on grocery store purchases, and Preferred cardmembers will earn 2 points per dollar, up to $1,000 in purchases per month. According to Chase, this will be automatic for existing and new cardmembers.
See related: Best credit cards for grocery shopping
This provides cardholders with an excellent opportunity to earn some of the most valuable travel points while travel is still limited.
The new offer also makes Sapphire cards more competitive when compared with the recently updated Chase Freedom card suite. In August, the issuer replaced the Chase Freedom with the Chase Freedom Flex and added three new valuable rewards categories to both the Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited, namely bonus cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards and on dining and drugstore purchases.
Considering neither Freedom card charges an annual fee and both earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, some cardholders may be wondering if the Chase Sapphire Reserve is worth keeping during a time when most of its premium travel perks might go unused.
Fortunately, all the limited time offers coupled with temporary grocery rewards make it much easier to get value of these popular travel cards â even when youâre not traveling.
How the grocery statement credit works
Another incentive to apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card now is the new one-time $50 statement credit on grocery purchases.
New cardmembers will get access to the statement credit automatically and be able to use it for 12 months from the time of account opening. Eligible purchases include purchases made at merchants coded as grocery stores. Warehouse club purchases wonât qualify.
Chase hasnât announced the offerâs expiration date yet.
Chase Sapphire cards value at a glance
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
|Newly added limited-time benefits||Cardmembers earn more on grocery store purchases: Nov. 1, 2020 â April 30, 2021
Gas and grocery purchases count toward Sapphire Reserve $300 travel credit:Â
|New cardmembers receive an automatic statement credit:
Cardmembers earn more on grocery store purchases: Nov. 1, 2020 â April 30, 2021
While travel isnât the most lucrative rewards category at the moment, your Chase Sapphire card can still bring you plenty of value, especially given the temporary rewards categories and other limited time offers.
*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.