4 credit cards that will help you manage your finances better

Sep 11, 2021

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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

In This Post

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

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 16.24% to 26.24% applies (balance transfers incur a fee of $5 or 5% 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 16.24% to 26.24% 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 20 billing cycles of opening this card, with a 15.99% to 25.99% variable APR afterwards. Balance transfers trigger a fee of $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

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

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.