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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 18.24% to 28.99% 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 18.24% to 28.99% 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 18.74% to 28.74% 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

Best card for premium perks while traveling
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

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
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

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
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

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • 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.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023