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4 credit cards that will help you manage your finances better

Sept. 11, 2021
7 min read
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The pandemic has taken an unprecedented toll on our finances, changing our everyday spending habits significantly. Here at The Points Guy, we believe that it’s crucial to regularly take stock of what’s in your wallet by evaluating what cards to add, keep, downgrade or cancel.

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According to a recent survey by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), young adults ages 18 to 34 have experienced pandemic-related financial strain three times as great than Americans ages 65 and older. Even more worrisome, young adults have attributed poor mental health specifically to their finances.

As a recent college graduate myself, I wanted to go over four credit cards to help whip your finances into better shape. Credit cards can be excellent budgeting tools that help you track your monthly spending while still earning rewards that fit your lifestyle needs. And though playing fast and loose with credit cards can be a dangerous game, you’ll avoid any trouble by following TPG’s 10 commandments to help you establish good or excellent credit.

Related: Which budgeting technique is right for you

Best credit card for student loans: Laurel Road Student Loan Cashback Card

(Photo courtesy of Laurel Road)

Higher education can be costly, and if you’re looking at thousands of dollars of student loans to repay, you may want to consider applying for the new Laurel Road Student Loan Cashback Card — the first and only card to offer cash-back rewards specifically to pay down student loan payments. The issuer works with 95% of U.S. student loan service providers, so you’ll be able to use this card to redeem 2% cash-back rewards toward eligible student loans and 1% toward anything else.

This card has no annual or foreign transaction fees and is offering a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers for the first 12 months for balance transfers made within the first 60 days (then a variable APR of 13.99 to 22.99% applies, and balance transfers incur fees of $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater). Plus, it’s unique that this card has a sign-up bonus of $500 in cash-back rewards (redeemable for any eligible student loan) after you spend $5,000 in the first 90 days of account opening.

This could be a great rewards card option for college students, but you’ll want to confirm with Laurel Road to ensure that the issuer works with your student loan provider for maximum rewards opportunity. You can call a specialist at (833) 427-2265 or email help@laurelroad.com for more information.

Related: Pay your student loans with a credit card and earn rewards along the way

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The information for the Laurel Road Student Loan card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Best introductory APR card for large purchases: Citi Simplicity® Card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Suppose you’re making a large purchase soon — such as a major home renovation and you need to buy furniture and appliances — or you already have a sizable amount of debt on your credit cards. In either case, you have a couple of financing options available.

For example, you could open a card such as the Citi Simplicity Card, which offers a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers for the first 21 months from the date of first transfer; then a variable APR of 17.74% to 28.49% applies (balance transfers incur a fee of $5 or 3% of each transaction amount, whichever is greater). Balance transfers must be completed within the first four months of account opening. Plus, a 0% introductory APR on purchases for the first 12 months of account opening. You’ll want to pay off your debt within this period, as your APR will be 17.74% to 28.49% variable once the introductory period is over.

While this card doesn’t come with any rewards or a sign-up bonus, sometimes your priority may be to reduce the amount of debt first, and there's no annual fee. The Citi Simplicity can help you get grounded and back on your feet, establishing good credit habits before you’re able to move onto more advanced rewards credit cards.

Related: Cards I’m recommending for a $30,000 home renovation project

Best no-annual-fee cash-back card: Citi® Double Cash Card

For some, the priority may be to maximize daily purchases and earn rewards that are useful to reduce expenses. The Citi Double Cash Card is an excellent cash-back credit card that earns up to 2% cash back on purchases — 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay your purchase off.

At TPG, we often recommend this card to beginners as it helps you establish healthy credit habits so that you can only earn the other half of your cash-back rewards when you pay off your monthly statement.

Once your rewards reach a balance of $25, you can redeem for cash back as a check or a statement credit — which means you can apply your earnings to existing or new charges. Many people will enjoy the flexibility of this card, as it’s always nice to have extra cash on hand rather than points and miles that can only be usable for travel.

Related: Why a credit card is a smarter choice than a debit card

Best balance transfer card:  U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

If you're dealing with existing credit card debt and want to avoid paying interest fees, you should consider transferring your balance to the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card. It offers a 0% introductory APR offer on purchases and balance transfers for the first 18 billing cycles of opening this card, with a 18.24% to 28.24% variable APR afterwards. Balance transfers trigger a fee of $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater (see rates and fees).

The U.S. Bank Visa Platinum has no annual fee and offers one of the longest introductory APR terms we've seen on any card, giving cardholders many months to pay off their debt without accruing any additional interest. Once you finish leveraging this card to pay off your debt, you'll end up with a better credit score and the ability to apply for rewards-earning credit cards.

Related: Tips on making a successful balance transfer

Bottom line

Life comes at you with tons of unpredictable expenses. Even if they are foreseeable, any amount of debt you incur can cause an immense amount of stress. Thankfully, these four credit cards offer financial flexibility whether you’re paying student loans, refinancing your debt or making a large purchase that you may not be able to afford currently.

Featured photo by krisanapong detraphiphat for Getty Images

Featured image by KRISANAPONG DETRAPHIPHAT/GETTY IMAGES
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

TPG Exclusive Offer
TPG Exclusive Offer
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 5X points
5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
1.5XEarn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
1X1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.

Intro offer

Earn 150,000 points120,000 points
The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$695

Recommended Credit

670-850
Good, Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
Apply for The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
TPG Exclusive Offer
TPG Exclusive Offer
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
1.5XEarn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
1X1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 150,000 points
    120,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Good, Excellent

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.