These are the cards TPG staff reach for in case of emergency
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Emergencies can be scary, exhausting, startling and, perhaps most stressful of all, financially strenuous. Depending on the nature of your particular crisis, you’re going to want some kind of plan for any unexpected expenses that may arise.
We asked TPG writers which card they use when disaster strikes. The answers are diverse and cover a spectrum of situations. From included travel insurance to excellent earning rate and helpful concierge benefits, there isn’t a wrong answer — it really just depends on the emergency and which cards you have at your disposal.
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Best credit cards to use in an emergency
Stella Shon: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Annual fee: $95
Sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
Why it’s great for emergencies: Stella’s go-to credit card for emergencies is her Chase Sapphire Preferred for a couple of reasons.
- It offers extensive travel and shopping protections. Depending on the type of emergency, you may need to use the card for expensive items. The card gives you purchase protection of up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account. You’ll also receive extended warranty protection, giving you an additional year of coverage on eligible purchases that come with a manufacturer’s warranty lasting three years or less.
- Its travel protections are among the best available, with trip interruption and cancellation coverage, trip-delay and both lost and delayed baggage insurance, and primary auto rental collision and damage coverage.
- It’s the credit card in Stella’s wallet that has the largest credit limit.
This last bullet is particularly interesting. If your emergency is expensive, it’s always nice to have a credit card with a large credit line as a last resort. Note that some banks, including Chase, will allow you to move some of your credit line from one card to another if you need to increase your credit limit with a specific card.
Read our Chase Sapphire Preferred review for more details.
Apply here: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Chris Dong: Citi® Double Cash Card
Annual fee: $0
Sign-up bonus: This card currently offers no intro bonus.
Why it’s great for emergencies: Chris reaches for the Citi Double Cash during most emergencies as it’s one of the most rewarding credit cards for non-bonused spending. Many cards offer bonus points for everyday spending in popular categories like supermarkets, gas stations, Amazon, etc. But what if your emergency is some kind of medical procedure or vehicle part? You won’t find a card that earns bonus rewards for that.
That’s where the Citi Double Cash shines. You’ll earn 1% cash back when you make a purchase, and 1% cash back when you pay your balance. That’s an effective 2% back for all purchases — notably more rewarding than many other rewards credit cards.
Plus, if you also have the Citi Premier® Card or Citi Prestige® Card (not available to new applicants), you can convert the cash back you earn into Citi ThankYou points. That gives the value of your rewards a significant boost, as you can transfer ThankYou points to over a dozen airline partners. We estimate the value of ThankYou points to be 1.7 cents each. If you’re earning effectively 2 points per dollar with the Citi Double Cash, that’s like earning 3.4% back on your emergency expense.
The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Read our Citi Double Cash review.
Apply here: Citi® Double Cash Card
Katie Genter: The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
Annual fee: $595 ($695 if application is received on or after 01/13/2022) (See rates and fees)
Welcome bonus: Earn 120,000 bonus Amex Membership Rewards points after spending $15,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
Why it’s great for emergencies: In case of emergency, Katie touts the Amex Business Platinum for two main reasons…
- It earns 1.5 Amex Membership Rewards points per dollar on purchases of $5,000 or more, up to one million bonus points per calendar year. If the emergency costs at least $5,000, she’ll get a 50% bonus over her regular spending. We value Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each, meaning Katie would receive a 3% return.
- The card comes with a complimentary concierge service. These concierges have been known to help tremendously with emergencies that arise in the lives of their cardholders. From helping you obtain an item you’ve lost or forgotten to reserving last-minute travel for you — and even arranging a pickup for your kids from school. You can read our guide on the American Express Platinum Concierge to see just how amazing a concierge can be.
Read our Amex Business Platinum review.
Juan Ruiz: Chase Sapphire Reserve
Annual fee: $550
Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
Why it’s great for emergencies: Juan keeps the Chase Sapphire Reserve with him in case of emergency. It’s a Visa card, which means it’s almost universally accepted (no need to check the door or cash register as is sometimes the case with a network like American Express). The card also offers top-tier travel insurance if he needs to take a trip at the last minute, such as:
- Baggage delay insurance kicks in after six hours and covers you and your immediate family, $100 per day (for up to 5 days) for reasonable expenses like toiletries, clothes, etc.
- Trip delay insurance activates after delays of six hours (or overnight), and covers up to $500 per ticket for food, accommodation, transportation, etc.
- Trip cancellation and interruption insurance which covers a load of emergencies, though you must book your travel with the card to receive protection — you can’t expect the card to cover an emergency if you used another card to pay for your plans.
Read our Chase Sapphire Reserve review for more information.
Apply here: Chase Sapphire Reserve
Joseph Hostetler: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Annual fee: $95
Sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus Capital One miles after spending $3,000 on the card within the first three months of account opening.
Why it’s great for emergencies: This is a surprising selection for me, as I’ve allowed my Capital One Venture to gather a thick layer of dust in my nightstand. But in light of the recent improvements to the Capital One Venture (namely, improved transfer ratios to valuable travel partners), it’s my go-to card for emergencies.
My reasoning is identical to Chris’ selection of the Citi Double Cash — the Capital One Venture is perfect for non-bonused spending, which is where unexpected emergencies tend to fall. It earns a flat 2 miles per dollar on all purchases. If a large expense crops up, and I need to take the sting out of the bill, I’ll earn 2x Capital One miles for it.
We estimate Capital One miles are worth 1.85 cents each, meaning I’ll effectively earn 3.7% back in travel (valuation not provided by the issuer).
Read our Capital One Venture review.
Apply here: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Alternative: Balance transfer/0% APR cards
If you don’t have the funds to cover a large and unexpected purchase, the best bet for your situation can be to open a credit card that offers a balance transfer or perhaps 0% APR for a limited time. Depending on your balance, this can save you hundreds of dollars. Here are our top recommendations.
Chase Freedom Flex
Annual fee: $0
Sign-up bonus: Earn $200 (20,000 bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Additionally, 5% cash back (5x Chase Ultimate Rewards points) on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year of account opening.
Why it’s great for emergencies: The Chase Freedom Flex is a great card to have regardless (most of us on the TPG team have it) because it’s got such a strong return on everyday spending. However, one of the best features of the card, especially in an emergency, is its intro offer of 0% APR for the first 15 months for new purchases (then a variable APR of 14.99%–23.74% applies).
If you’ve got a large bill coming that you can’t pay off, consider opening this card (if you’ve got the time) and putting the balance on there. As long as you pay it off in 15 months, you’ll won’t get hit with crippling interest charges.
Read our Chase Freedom Flex review.
Apply here: Chase Freedom Flex
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
Annual fee: $0
Sign-up bonus: This card currently offers no intro bonus rewards.
Why it’s great for emergencies: This is not a great card for earning rewards on spending. In fact, I would argue that this card should be opened almost exclusively in the event of an emergency since it doesn’t offer a sign-up bonus and doesn’t accrue rewards of any kind for spending.
However, this card is one of the best in the game for balance transfers. You’ll get 0% intro APR for 21 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer and 0% intro APR for 12 months on purchases from the date you open the account (then a variable APR of 13.74% – 23.74%, based on creditworthiness). Your balance transfers must be completed within the first four months of opening the account.
That’s extremely generous, and gives you significant time to manage an unexpected bill that you might have to pay off over time.
Apply here: Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
The TPG team have different strategies when it comes to our card of choice for emergencies. But all the cards above have very compelling traits for different situations. Let us know which card you rely on for emergencies.
Featured photo by Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum, click here.
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