Updated: 02/18/2017

What are the Best Free and Low Cost Credit Cards?

Free credit cards for bad credit

Who doesn't like the thought of something “free”? One thing that many people assume when they hear the words “credit card” is that there has to be a high expense associated with it. To be honest, there are a fair number of cards with high interest rates and expensive fees, but there are also plenty of cards that somehow manage to give you a line of credit for free.

Find the best free credit cards today - with no annual fee, low APR, and great intro 0% APR offers in our review of the best low cost and easy to get credit cards.

On top of that, many of them give you so many benefits that if you use them right, you can actually profit. Let's take a look at some of the details that you need to know about so you can get the most out of your credit card.

What's the Catch?

The first thing you probably ask when you hear the word “free” is “what's the catch?” However, there isn't always some trap lurking there for you, believe it or not. Sometimes things really are just as good as they sound. When it comes to credit cards, the only real catch usually, is that you use your cards the way they were intended. Play close attention to all the information you're given about your line of credit and how to use it, and you may even come out ahead. The truth is that there are many credit cards available that don’t charge a ton of extra fees.

Cards with No Fees

Most lenders charge a certain amount for their services. After all, they are in the business of lending and need to make money just like any other service. And being in business means making a profit. To that end, lenders charge interest rates, yearly fees, late fees, transfer fees, and sometimes even miscellaneous fees. And yet, there are also companies that don't charge any fees at all, not even late fees. Instead, they offer perks. Do they still make a profit? Of course! Just not the traditional way.

When you get a card that offers extra perks or benefits, those features are usually to specific places or types of places. For one reason or another, that lender has chosen specific benefits when you visit certain places, such as a particular hotel, destination, or even grocery store. Since they are usually places you would go anyhow, you have as much to gain as the lender.

But, what does the lender actually gain from encouraging you to shop with certain retailers? Usually, they have some sort of arrangement or partnership with the business so that the lender gets perks when you shop there. To them, it's really just a marketing method, no different than an internet ad or television commercial, but often far more affordable for the company. So, although the lenders make a profit, you really can use their services for free and even benefit financially from them even if it's just a small savings. In this economic climate, any savings at all is better than none.

Store and Catalogue Cards for Bad Credit

One great example of a free credit card for bad credit is the Emporium credit card. This card is an online store credit card that allows you to shop in the Emporium online store. No annual fee, no processing fee, and a high $5,000 credit limit make this card a good option for someone with bad credit, who can not get approval from traditional lenders.

intro purchase APR n/aregular APRSee website for Details*
bad credit required

no fees

Up to $5,000 Spending Limit in Less than 60 Seconds! Shop from over 100,000 brand name products such as Apple, Samsung, Sony, Gucci, Prada and much more with low easy payments.

Less than Perfect Credit Accepted. Approval is quick and easy. Must be 18 years or older, have a valid checking account and a verifiable source of income.

read review

Unsecured Cards for Bad Credit with Low Fees

Another option for bad credit is the Indigo® MasterCard® for Less than Perfect Credit. You can get approved for a card even previous bankruptcy. Annual fee depends on your credit score and varies from $0 to $99.

intro purchase APR n/aregular APR23.9%
bad credit required

Pre-qualify for a card today and it will not impact your credit score

All credit histories considered

Mobile account access at any time

Fraud protection for stolen or lost cards

Account history is reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.

read review

Low Cost Credit Cards

Of course, there are cards that still charge fees and interest rates. The better your credit is, the lower your rates will be in most cases. At the same time, don't count yourself out of the game if you don't have any credit. Some lenders have designed credit cards that are meant for specific demographics, like young people in college or young professionals. They know that these people are just starting out, and they understand the lifestyle. So, they offer cards that are tailored to meet those needs.

Further, annual fees aren’t always the demons you might think they are. Many cards, especially premium and elite types of credit cards, offer thousands of dollars in perks and benefits in exchange for a hefty annual fee.

Credit Cards with Low Interest

Some of the credit cards with low ongoing costs are the Simmons Bank VISA Platinum and Barclaycard Ring Master Card. Both cards charge no annual fee and have the lowest APR on the market. The drawback is that you need an excellent credit to qualify for these cards.

intro purchase APR no intro offerregular APR8.00% (V)
intro BT APR 8% no BT fee
excellent required

Excellent Credit Required - Applicants that do not have excellent credit will not be approved

Low 8% variable standard purchase APR and platinum benefits

No balance transfer fee for balances transferred in response to this online offer

No Annual Fee

read review

intro purchase APR 0% for 15 monthsregular APR13.49% Variable
intro BT APR 0% for 15 months no BT fee
excellent required

0% Introductory APR for the first 15 months on purchases. Plus, you'll get a 0% introductory APR for 15 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 13.49%

No annual fee

No balance transfer fees

No foreign transaction fees

Chip technology, so paying for your purchases is more secure at chip-card terminals in the U.S. and abroad

Free online access to FICO® Credit Score

read review

If you have fair credit, your can apply for a U.S. Bank VISA Platinum, but expect your APR will be at the upper bound of the promoted range.

intro purchase APR 0% for 12 monthsregular APR10.49 - 22.49% (V)
intro BT APR 0% for 12 months 3% min $5
fair credit required

no annual fee

low APR

12 months intro APR and balance transfer

read review
 

Credit Cards for 0% Balance Transfers

Sometimes you can enjoy a real cost free borrowing on your credit card for many months. This happens with cards, that offer intro 0% APR and intro free balance transfers. These cards fill the very definition of a free credit card and are available for credit ranges from fair to excellent.

Best offer with the longest introductory APR and balance transfer period of 21 months is the CITI Simplicity card that is available for customers with excellent credit only.

intro purchase APR 0% for 15 monthsregular APR15.49 - 24.24% (V)
intro BT APR 0% for 15 months, 0% BT fee 60 days 5% BT fee $5 min
fair credit required

no annual fee

0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers

0% BT fee for 60 days

free FICO score

read review

If your credit is fair to good, you can try applying for one of the cards with the shorter introductory period - Chase Slate or Discover it Chrome. Both cards charge no annual fee and intro period of 15 and 12 months respectively.

intro purchase APR 0% for 21 monthsregular APR13.99 - 23.99% (V)
intro BT APR 0% for 21 months 3% BT fee $5 min
excellent required

no annual fee

0% APR for 21 months for BT and purchases

read review

intro purchase APR 0% for 14 monthsregular APR11.49 - 23.49% (V)
intro BT APR 0% for 14 months 3% BT fee
rewards 1% or 2% 
  • earn 2% cashback on gas and restaurants with $1,000 quarterly limit in combined purchases
  • 1% on all other purchases
good credit / fair credit required

no annual fee

2% on gas and dining out

read review

If you do not have any previous credit history or your credit is in fair range – try the Capital One QuicksilverOne card that has only 9 months of 0% APR, but charges no annual fee and no balance transfer fee.

intro purchase APR no intro offerregular APR24.99% (V)
intro BT APR no intro offer no BT fee
rewards 1.5% on all purchases 

earn 1.5% on all purchases with no cap and limitations

fair credit / no credit required

$39 annual fee

good for average credit/limited credit

1.5% cash back

read review

How to Benefit Most from Your Credit Card

Let's assume you qualify for a credit card that doesn't have any fees or has very few of them. Maybe the card even offers discounts, cash rewards, or some form of the point system. Pay attention to these details, because they can help you develop a strong credit history while you save money.

Many of the perks come in the form of cash back for doing things like getting gas. That means all you need to do is go to the gas station that participates in this program and use your credit card to put gas in your car. You need to get gas anyhow, so why not get something out of it other than the ability to drive down the road? On top of the perks from the card, getting gas this way allows you to track your spending by reviewing your statement at the end of the month. You might realize you drove far more or far less than you thought you did. Now, apply this same idea to each of your perks and before you know it, your credit card will seem to be paying you.

And don't forget to sign up for rewards programs at the various stores, restaurants, hotels, and gas stations that your credit card is connected to. You might be able to cash in on your credit card and a retailer's reward system. Even if that just means getting a free cup of coffee once a month along with other perks, you will find that these free benefits, not matter how big or small, add up over time.

Manage Your Credit

Whether you pay a high interest rate or not, the primary purpose of your credit cards is to build your credit history. This means making payments on time and even paying your balance in full in order to get the most out of your card without paying interest.

Never max out your available line of credit and don't use your credit card for frivolous purchases. The goal is to have access to credit when you need it, not to max out as much debt as you can in the shortest period of time. As you develop your credit history, you'll find that your interest rates get lower, your credit lines get higher, and you're not spending every month wondering how you're going to pay your bills.

Be smart with your money. Look closely at anything that claims to be “free” or sounds too good to be true. Just don't get so cynical that you don't open your mind to the possibilities that are out there. Remember that the digital world requires less cash on hand to take care of your day-to-day obligations. Today, just about everything requires some sort of line of credit, including many employment opportunities. Get started now and before you know it, lenders will be seeking you out with offers instead of you seeking them out.

 



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