You can buy a car with a credit card in certain circumstances, or at least cover a portion of the purchase, such as the down payment. However, it’s likely not a good idea. That’s because you’ll face high credit card interest charges and potentially fees, and you’ll drive up your credit utilization (that is, if your credit limit is even high enough to cover a car purchase).
Before swiping your card for a new set of wheels, pause to ask yourself whether this is really the best way for you to purchase your vehicle. There are alternative options to help you purchase a car that may not cost you to the same extent.
Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit?
What to Know About Buying a Car With a Credit Card
In short, the benefits of using a credit card to buy a car will likely outweigh the perks. That being said, it is possible to do — assuming you can find a dealership that will accept credit card payments for car purchases. Not all dealerships do, and many that do will tack on a fee for credit card payments.
Perhaps the biggest draw to buying a car with a credit card is the potential to earn rewards. You might also be able to take advantage of a promotional offer that features 0% interest for a limited period of time. But be sure to consider those perks against the risks. If you don’t pay off your full balance before interest kicks in, you’ll be paying at a high rate — much steeper than car loans, for instance. You also could do damage to your credit if you’re late on payments or if your automobile purchase eats up too much of your credit limit.
Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card
Cash in on up to $250–and 3% cash back for 365 days.¹
Apply and get approved for the SoFi Credit Card. Then open a bank account with qualifying direct deposits. Some things are just better together.
Recommended: Apply for an Unlimited Cash Back Credit Card
Buying a Car With a Credit Card
If, after considering the drawbacks, you decide you want to use a credit card to buy a card, here’s a step-by-step look at how to do so.
1. See if the Dealership Takes Credit Card Purchases
You’ve decided how much you want to spend on a new car, and you’ve negotiated a fair price with a dealer. But before slapping down your plastic to purchase a new or used car, you’ll first need to check with your car dealership to verify that they accept credit card purchases. Additionally, you’ll need to find out which cards they accept and how much of the total purchase price they will allow you to charge.
If you go to a dealer that won’t accept credit card purchases, or that limits the amount, you’ll have to decide whether to pay another way or to go to another place that sells the car you want and allows credit card purchases.
2. Check Your Credit Limit To Determine if It’s High Enough
If you’ve selected a car at a dealership that takes credit card payments, your next step is to check your credit limit to determine whether it’s high enough to use one card. You may need to spread out the purchase across multiple cards.
If your combined limits aren’t enough, you could pay the difference with a cashier’s check and still reap some of the rewards available through credit card use. Or, you could ask your credit card companies to increase your credit limits.
3. Notify Your Credit Company
It makes sense to notify your credit card companies that you intend to use your credit cards to make a large purchase. If you don’t regularly make large purchases on your credit cards, the transaction might get flagged as potentially fraudulent and could get declined.
4. Get Strategic With Credit Card Rewards and Promos
At a car dealership that does let you pay for a car with a credit card — or at least a portion of it — you might consider using a card that offers credit card rewards. If you have cash to pay the charge before it starts accruing interest, you’re basically getting a no-interest, short-term loan while taking advantage of credit card perks.
Recommended: Apply for a Rewards Credit Card
5. Determine How You’ll Pay Off Your Balance in Time
Before handing over your credit card to buy a car, make sure you know how you’ll pay off your balance. Ideally, you’ll pay it off in full by the statement due date, so as to avoid accruing interest on what’s likely already a hefty charge. Or, if your credit card has a 0% introductory APR offer that you’re taking advantage of, determine how you’ll pay off the full balance before the standard interest rate kicks in and interest charges start accruing.
If you’re not sure you can pay off your car before interest kicks in, you might reconsider whether you realistically can use a credit card to buy a car. Instead, you might consider ways to save money on your car purchase, such as buying a high-mileage car or weighing the cost of leasing vs. buying a car.
Recommended: What is a Charge Card?
Why Some Car Dealers Don’t Accept Credit Cards
On the surface, it might seem odd that auto dealers wouldn’t accept credit cards. Afterall, they want to make a sale, right? Of course they do, but, like other merchants, auto dealers must pay credit card processing fees for each credit card transaction they make. These fees tend to be around 2%, and they can add up pretty quickly when you consider that cars can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. By rejecting credit cards, dealers can save themselves the expense and hassle of paying these fees.
If a dealer that normally doesn’t allow credit card purchases makes an exception, expect them to tack on convenience fees of 2% to 4% to help them cover the cost of the transaction. Pay close attention to these fees because they may offset any benefit you might gain from using a rewards card.
How Much Will Buying a Car With a Credit Card Cost You?
The cost to buy a car with a credit card can exceed the vehicle’s sticker price. For one, it’s likely that you’ll see a convenience fee added to your bill. Some dealerships may have this already baked into their prices, but for others that don’t commonly accept credit cards, they’ll add it on themselves to cover their processing costs. Typically, convenience fees run anywhere from 2% to 4% of the purchase amount, which may be enough to offset any credit card rewards you’d earn.
Second, your costs could increase thanks to interest charges. If you buy a car with a credit card and then don’t immediately pay off the full statement balance, interest can start to accrue. Average credit card interest annual percentage rates (APRs) are around 16.44%. That can start adding up fast on a car purchase that’s likely in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Pros of Car Buying With a Credit Card
Under certain circumstances, using a credit card to buy a vehicle may be a strategy you’d consider, especially if you have enough money to pay off the balance in full when your statement comes. Here’s a look at the upsides to buying a car with a credit card.
Fast and Easy Way to Buy a Car
With a credit card, you’ll have a fast and easy way to purchase your car of choice. You can skip the hassle of filling out loan paperwork and waiting to find out if you’re approved.
Potential to Earn Rewards
By purchasing a car with a credit card, you may earn rewards — something you wouldn’t get if you simply used a cashier’s check to buy the car. But before you get too swept up in your purchase’s rewards potential, see if the amount you’ll earn in rewards will offset how much you may end up paying in fees or interest.
Take Advantage of a Zero-Interest Promo
You may have slightly longer to pay off your purchase if you use a no-interest credit card. Often, these 0% interest offers last for a certain period of time, usually anywhere from six to 21 months. In order to avoid interest payments, you must finish paying off your vehicle in that time period. Still, it offers a little leeway.
Keep in mind that this strategy may be riskier than paying off your full balance immediately though. If, for some reason, you can’t pay off the balance within the introductory no-interest period due to unforeseen circumstances, the card will revert to its regular rate, which may be quite high. Should that happen, the situation can go downhill from there. Some credit card companies will then charge the full interest rate on the entire purchase, not just on the remaining balance.
Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due?
Cons of Car Buying With a Credit Card
In contrast to the few upsides, there are a number of major drawbacks to turning to your credit card to make a car purchase.
High Credit Card Interest Rates
The biggest reason not to buy a car with your credit card is that credit card interest rates are typically much higher than other available options. The average credit card APR is 16.44%. In contrast, the average interest rate for an auto loan to purchase a new car is close to 4%, while for used cars it’s over 8%.
Credit Card Fees
You also might get stuck with some costly fees by buying a car with a credit card. For starters, there’s the previously mentioned fee that the dealership will likely charge you for the convenience of using your credit card. Convenience fees typically run 2% to 4% of the purchase amount.
That’s not the only fee you might run into either. For example, let’s say that your strategy is to purchase a car on your current credit cards, then transfer the balance to a zero-interest credit card. Besides the challenges listed above, you may add balance transfer fees to the mix. These fees can be as high as 5%, which, on a $20,000 car, is $1,000.
Potential to Harm Your Credit Score
Another major downside of purchasing a car with a credit card is that it can majorly increase your credit utilization, which accounts for 30% of your FICO score. With the price of a car, it can be easy to push your credit utilization ratio way past the recommended 30%, which could translate to negative effects to your credit.
Further, if you miss payments or are late making them, that could lead to further damage to your credit score.
No Addition to Your Credit Mix
Here’s something else to consider: Having different kinds of debt can actually help with your credit score. So using an installment loan, such as a traditional auto loan, to buy your car instead of a credit card may be helpful to your overall long-term financial situation. And if you have a good enough credit score to get approved for an auto loan with lower interest rates than the average credit card interest rate, you’ll come out ahead.
Other Options for Buying a Car
While technically you can pay for a car with a credit card, it might not be your best option. Here are a couple of alternatives to consider.
If you decide to finance some or all or all of your auto purchase, you can apply for a car loan through the dealership or other lenders. Auto loans are typically secured loans that use the vehicle as collateral. So, if you fail to make payments, your lender has the option to repossess the vehicle to cover some of your debt.
Dealers are often able to get same-day financing approved, but there may be some pressure to buy while the salesperson takes advantage of your excitement. Banks and private lenders may take longer to approve an application, but sometimes offer better deals on terms or interest rates. Taking emotion out of the equation when buying a car will allow you to compare rates and terms to get the best deal for your financial situation.
You may also want to consider buying a car with a personal loan, which is an unsecured loan that’s not backed by collateral. Personal loans can be used to cover many expenses, including the cost of buying a car. Because they are unsecured, interest rates on personal loans may be higher than other auto financing options, depending on the applicant’s creditworthiness.
While you can buy a car with a credit card, you may not necessarily want to now that you’re aware of all of the potential pitfalls. But if you find a dealership that accepts credit card payments and you decide it’s the best path for you, make sure to take the necessary steps of checking in on your credit limit, alerting your credit card company, and making a plan for prompt repayment.
It might be better to select another option to cover your car purchase, and reserve your credit card for other spending. With the SoFi credit card, for example, you can earn generous cash-back rewards that you can then use to invest, save, or pay down eligible SoFi debt.
Do car dealers accept credit cards?
It depends. Many dealers won’t accept credit cards due to the processing fees they’d incur, but some do. In those cases, dealers may pass the cost along to the consumer in the form of a convenience fee.
Can you use a credit card for a car down payment?
It’s more common for dealers to allow you to use a credit card to use a credit card to pay for a portion of your purchase, such as your down payment, as opposed to the entire car purchase. Still, some dealers won’t accept credit cards at all.
Is it better to pay for a car with a credit card or loan?
It’s likely better to use a loan to pay for a credit card. That’s because loans tend to have significantly lower interest rates than credit cards.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SoFi cardholders earn 2% unlimited cash back rewards when redeemed to save, invest, a statement credit, or pay down eligible SoFi debt.
The SoFi Credit Card is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A. pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.
1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.
Members earn 2 rewards points for every dollar spent on purchases. No points will be earned with respect to reversed transactions, returned purchases, or other similar transactions. When you elect to redeem rewards points as cash deposited into your SoFi Checking and Savings account, as a statement credit to a SoFi Credit Card account, as fractional shares into your SoFi Invest account, or as a payment toward your SoFi Personal Loan or Student Loan Refinance, your rewards points will redeem at a rate of 1 cent per point. For more details please visit the Rewards page. Brokerage and Active investing products offered through SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. SoFi Securities LLC is an affiliate of SoFi Bank, N.A.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .
SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.