Which Credit Card Is Right for Me

Ever since the first credit card debuted in 1958, people have been using them as a convenient form of payment, whether for big-ticket items or small daily purchases. As credit cards have become increasingly popular, options have multiplied. If you are looking to open a new credit card, you may be wondering, “Which credit card is right for me?”

While there is no single perfect credit card that is the best one for everyone, you can follow a few steps to see if you can find the right card for you. There are several variables to consider, from rewards to interest rates. Depending on your answers to some of the questions below, you may be able to narrow down your options and decide on the right card to apply for and use.

Check Your Credit

One of the first things that you will want to do is check your credit score. There are a number of places where you can check your credit score for free once a year. Credit scores typically range from 300 to 850, from poor to excellent.

Understanding your credit score can help you determine which credit cards you might be able to get. The way credit cards work is that typically, the cards with the highest rewards and most benefits also require the best credit scores. If your credit is fair or poor, you are not likely to be approved for those credit cards, so it may not make sense to even fill out an application.

Recommended: Guide to Credit Score Ranges

Identify Which Type of Credit Card You Need

There are many different types of credit cards out there, so the next step can be identifying which type of credit card you are looking for.

•   If you are looking for a rewards credit card that offers airline miles or other travel rewards, that can help narrow down your choices.

•   Another option might be a credit card that earns cash back with every purchase.

•   You might also compare interest rates and see which offer is most attractive to you.

•   If you are working on building your credit, there may be a student or secured credit card to suit your needs.

Understanding the different types of cards that are available can help you choose the right credit card for your specific situation.

Narrow Your Choices by Asking the Right Questions

As you make your decision about which credit card is right for you, consider these points:

•   Some credit cards offer higher rewards in specific bonus categories, while others may offer a flat rate on all purchases. If you make a lot of purchases at grocery stores, gas stations, or home improvement stores, you may want to get a credit card that offers higher rewards rates in those categories.

•   If you have more balanced spending, it might make more sense to get a credit card that offers a high rewards rate on all purchases, no matter where you spend. Many people like using cash back rewards, among the various redemption options.

•   You’ll also want to look at any annual or other fees associated with a card to make sure you are getting enough in value to offset the cost of any fees you have to pay. It can sometimes make sense to have a credit card with an annual fee if the benefits are worth it to you (say, you travel a lot, and the card offers access to a network of posh airport lounges). That said, there are many excellent credit cards that do not charge an annual fee.

•   If you are focused on building your credit, see which secured credit cards are available. These cards involve a cash deposit that serves as collateral in case you can’t make a payment.

Recommended: Understanding Purchase Interest Charges on Credit Cards

Apply for the Credit Card That Offers You the Highest Value

Once you’ve figured out what kind of rewards you want to earn and what card you are likely to be approved for given your credit history, you can look at a few cards that fit those criteria. Compare interest rates, and consider the three main reasons you might consider applying for any particular card:

•   The value of the rewards you will earn with everyday purchases.

•   How much you might get from any one-time initial credit card bonus offers.

•   Any perks or benefits you receive just from having the card.

Carefully review each of these benefits for any cards you are considering and then apply for the card that gives you the best value.

Credit Card Tips

Once you’ve received your new credit card, these tips may help as you use it:

•   Set up a plan to pay it off in full each and every month if possible. Interest rates on your balance tend to be steep, so avoid paying those costs as best as you can.

•   While you may be able to pay your credit card with a debit card in some instances, it will likely be easier to set up your credit card account to automatically be paid from your bank account.

•   If you’re using this new card to replace a previous card, you may want to update any automatic bill payments to use your new card information.

•   If your bill is due right before payday, call the issuer and see if you can shift the date by which payment is needed. Some card issuers can accommodate this request.

The Takeaway

There are hundreds of different credit cards out there, and each one comes with their own terms and perks. If you’re curious about “Which credit card is right for me?” know that there isn’t a single credit card that is the best credit card for everyone — instead, you’ll have to analyze the options and pick the best one for you.

Carefully review which cards you’re likely to be approved for, the rewards and benefits of each one, and any annual fees associated with the card to find the one that’s right for you.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

How do I know what credit card is right for me?

There are a couple of different questions you’ll want to ask yourself to help decide which credit card is right for you. First, check your credit score, and look for a card that targets users within that credit score range. Then look for a card that offers rewards or benefits that you will find useful; also review whether an annual fee is charged.

How do I choose which card to use?

When you go to use your credit card, check to see which of your cards offers the most rewards for that type of purchase. If you have a card that offers a bonus rewards rate for those types of purchases, that could be a good one to use. Otherwise, use a credit card that offers a high rewards rate on all purchases.

Which credit card do most millionaires use?

It’s hard to say which credit card is most popular with millionaires, since that information is not generally considered public. However, it’s probably a safe bet that many millionaires might look for cards that offer a high level of benefits though they charge high annual fees. This might include The Platinum Card from American Express, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, or the Capital One Venture X card.


Photo credit: iStock/AscentXmedia

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.

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 .

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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Where Is the Security Code on a Credit Card?

The credit card security code is generally found on the back of the credit card, close to or within the signature field. (There are a few exceptions, however; some American Express cards present the security code on the front of the card, separate from the main credit card number.)

In this article, you’ll learn the details you need about credit card security codes: not just where to find them, but also what they are, why they’re important, and tips for increasing your overall credit card security.

What Is a Credit Card Security Code?

A credit card security code is a numerical code, usually three or four digits long, that helps prevent fraudulent charges.

When you make a purchase that doesn’t involve physically presenting the credit card — for example, online — the point-of-sale system will usually prompt you to enter this security code.

Because the security code is not allowed to be stored by merchants, which helps protect against credit card hackers getting the information. Thus, the security code helps ensure fraudsters can’t use stolen credit card numbers to make digital purchases.

Other Common Names for Credit Card Security Codes

You may also hear the credit card code referred to as:

•   CVV, or Card Verification Value

•   CSC, or Card Security Code

•   CVC2, or Card Verification Code

•   CID, or Card Identification number

All of these terms signify that same three- or four-digit code on the back (or occasionally front) of your card.

When Do You Need Your Credit Card Security Code?

Your credit card security code is usually requested by the merchant whenever you’re making a credit card transaction without being physically present with the card.

The most common instance of this by far these days? That’s probably when you make an online purchase, but you may also make a credit card purchase over the phone and be asked to provide the security code.

Recommended: Understanding Purchase Interest Charges on Credit Cards

Why Credit Card Security Codes Are Important

Again, credit card security codes work to make your credit card information more secure — at least during purchases where you’re not physically present with the card. (When you are physically inserting, swiping, or tapping a credit card, other security features, such as the EMV chip, offer security measures.)

Where to Find Your Credit Card Security Code Number

Your credit card security code number is almost always on the back of your credit card, usually toward the right-hand side of the card beside or within the signature box. Some credit cards may list the credit card number on the back of the card, as well, but the security code is separate.

American Express cards list the security code on the front of the credit card, usually to the left of the card and always above the main credit card or account number.

Recommended: Guide to Checking Your Credit Card Approval Odds

How to Find Card Security Code Without the Card

The whole point of your credit card’s security code is to make the card impossible to use without being physically present. So, unfortunately, if you’ve lost your credit card, there’s no way to recover the code separately.

You may be able to ask the credit card issuer for a virtual version of the card, which will allow you to see the security code, or you may need to report the card lost or stolen and wait for a new card — with a new account number and security code — to arrive by mail.

Example of Credit Card Issuers That Use a Credit Card Security Code

These days, just about every major credit card issuer uses credit card security codes to help ensure the safety of their cardholders.

Discover, Visa, MasterCard, and American Express all use security codes — though as noted above, American Express cards are the only ones that list the code on the front of the card instead of the back.

Tips on Credit Card Security

Keeping your credit card information safe is the first step in preventing identity theft and fraudulent purchases. Fortunately, security measures like CVCs help make it easier, but here are some tips to help double your defenses.

•   Use secure passwords. These days, most people manage their credit cards (and many other types of financial accounts) online. Using secure passwords helps ensure fraudsters can’t hack into your online profiles to steal your information. Using a long password with a mix of numerical, alphabetical and special characters can help increase your level of security. If your credit card utilizes a PIN, change it often.

•   Be careful how you share credit card information. Though it may be safe to make a purchase through a legitimate, secure website or on an official company phone line, you should never email your credit card information or write it on a slip of paper for someone. If a merchant requests you to do so, shop elsewhere.

•   Sign up for alerts. Many credit card accounts can alert users by email, text message, or phone call when suspicious activity, like very high-priced purchases or transactions done at a different physical location than your home area, are made. Some cards may also automatically decline such transactions. (Don’t worry: if the charges are legit, you’ll be able to quickly verify them with the credit card company to get the transaction approved. It can also be helpful to let your credit card company know ahead of time if you’re planning to travel.)

The Takeaway

Want to know where the security code is on a credit card? Your credit card security code is located, in most cases, on the back of your card, close to or within the signature box. American Express cards list the security code on the front of the credit card. No matter where it is, the code helps keep your information safe when making transactions online or over the phone.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

Is a credit card security code 3 or 4 digits?

Credit card security codes can actually be three or four digits long. Discover, Visa, and MasterCard all use three-digit codes that are printed on the back of the credit card, while American Express employs a four-digit code printed on the front of the card.

Is the security code the same as CVV?

Yes, the credit card security code is the same as the CVV, which stands for Card Verification Value. The code can also be known as a CSC (Card Security Code), CVC2 (Card Verification Code), or CID (Card Identification number).

Are all credit card security codes 3 digits?

Not necessarily. Credit card security codes can be three or four digits long, depending on what kind of card you have. The four- or three-digit code on a credit card is typically found on the back, but occasionally on the front.


Photo credit: iStock/Kantamard Lamasai

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.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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What Is a Good APR for a Credit Card? Here’s What to Look For

When it comes to picking a new credit card, there’s one detail you should not overlook: the card’s annual percentage rate, or APR. This represents the rate lenders charge to borrow, including fees and interest. But credit cards don’t have one single rate, and it may be hard to evaluate what’s a good deal and what isn’t.

In general, a good APR is one that’s below the current average interest rate, which is 21.47%, according to the latest data from the Federal Reserve at the start of 2024. However, what’s a good APR will also depend on the type of credit card, the various rates that could be assessed, and your own creditworthiness. This guide will take you through the details.

What Is an Annual Percentage Rate (APR)?

The APR on a credit card represents the total cost of the loan expressed in annual terms. A credit card’s APR includes the interest rate as well as any fees, including for late payments, foreign transactions, or returned payments.

Taking these fees into account when applying for a credit card helps to provide a fuller picture of what the loan may actually cost over its lifetime.

Keep in mind that APR is distinct from interest rate, which is simply the additional cost of borrowing money. Like APR, interest rate is typically expressed as a percentage of the principal. However, when looking at the average credit card interest rate vs. the average APR, you’re not comparing apples to apples.

For example, if a consumer takes out a $1,000 loan with a 10% simple interest rate and a one-year term, they will pay $1,100 over the lifetime of the loan — the principal $1,000 plus interest of $100.

While this example is extremely simplified, it’s helpful in demonstrating the difference between a simple interest rate and a not-so-simple APR calculation. If the consumer calculates the cost of the same $1,000 loan, considering the various fees that go into the APR, the number will likely be higher than the stated interest rate.

How Is APR Determined?

Knowing how APR is determined is an important part of understanding how credit cards work. A credit card’s APR is largely determined based on an individual’s financial specifics when they open the account.

•  The lender will look at the person’s credit score and credit history, as well as factors like their payment history and debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, which represents how much of an individual’s gross income is already going toward debt payments. In general, someone with a good payment history and credit score and a lower DTI ratio will qualify for a better APR.

•  However, APR isn’t only based on a borrower’s creditworthiness. Lenders will also take into account the current US prime rate, which is used to set rates on consumer loan products. Typically, a lender will take this rate and then bump it up a bit to minimize risk and increase profits.

•  Lastly, APR will vary based on the type of credit card. If you know what a credit card is, you’ll know all credit cards aren’t created equal. For instance, a credit card that offers lucrative rewards (like travel points or cash back) will generally have a higher APR than a more basic card.

When It Matters to Look at APR

If a consumer is comparing two similar loan or credit card offers, they may want to also look at the offer’s APR.

Let’s say a person has two loan offers. Each is a $1,000 loan with an interest rate of 10%. With just that information to compare the two, they seem equal to each other. A little more digging, though, will uncover that Offer A has a $100 origination fee while Offer B only has a $50 origination fee — both of which could be calculated and accounted for in the offer’s APR.

With credit cards, it could be that two cards have the same interest rate, but Card A has no late payment fees, while Card B carries a 20% late payment fee, making its APR potentially higher.

When it comes to APR, the devil really is in the details. And reading the fine print can reveal that the APR could make a difference to your credit card balance and debt management.

Types of Credit Card APR

To further complicate the answer to the question of what’s a good APR for a credit card, it’s important to understand that credit cards have different types of APR. The main one you’re probably going to want to consider when considering your total cost of borrowing is the purchase APR. However, if you’re planning to take out a cash advance or do a balance transfer, you’ll want to look at those APRs as well.

Introductory APR or Promotional APR

Sometimes, cards will offer a lower (or even 0%) APR to new customers for a limited time after they open the account. This APR can apply to purchases or to balance transfers. Introductory or promotional APRs must last at least six months, but they can be longer, too. Once this period is up, the regular APR kicks in.

Purchase APR

The purchase APR is the rate that applies when you use your credit card to make a purchase and then carry a balance into the next billing cycle, perhaps only making the credit card minimum payment. This is the most commonly discussed type of APR, and the main one you’ll want to look out for when comparing credit cards.

Cash Advance APR

A cash advance APR applies if you withdraw money from an ATM or bank using a credit card. Unlike your purchase APR, this APR doesn’t have a grace period, meaning interest starts accruing immediately. Additionally, cash advance APRs tend to be on the higher side.

Penalty APR

If you fail to make your payments on time, the penalty APR will kick in, driving up your card’s previous APR to one that’s often much higher. This is why it’s always important to make your credit card payments on-time — even if you’re in the midst of disputing a credit card charge, for instance.

Balance Transfer APR

A balance transfer APR will apply when you transfer any balances from other cards onto your credit card account. Often, this APR is comparable to the purchase APR, though this can vary depending on the credit card company.

How to Evaluate and Compare APRs

To get a sense of a credit card’s APR, follow these steps:

•  First take a look at a card’s purchase APR range, and compare that to other credit cards. For a fair comparison, make sure to look at the same type of credit card. (For example, only compare travel rewards cards to other travel rewards cards, or a credit-building card to another credit-building card.)

•  Then, get into the nitty-gritty and look at the APR for different types of transactions. Even one credit card can have varying APRs on different transactions. For example, a card may have a different APR on late payment penalties than it does for balance transfers or cash advances.

•  Evaluate each APR and compare those to any other offer you may have in front of you to ensure you pick the most competitive option. It’s a good idea to attempt to seek out the lowest rate possible for your financial situation. That way, you can feel confident using your credit card for what you need to use it for — which might include paying taxes with a credit card.

Low vs High APR Credit Cards

As you’re evaluating credit card APRs, it’s important to keep in mind that some credit cards tend to have higher APRs than others. For example, rewards credit cards generally have higher APRs, but provide value through perks, discounts, points, or other benefits.

On the other hand, many low-interest cards come with fewer perks. But again, these cards can save someone money in the long run if they need to carry a balance from, say, covering a large purchase at an establishment that accepts credit card payments.

Low-interest cards also tend to be reserved for those with higher than average credit scores, so they may be harder to qualify for with lower credit.

What Is a Good APR for a Credit Card?

According to the Federal Reserve, the U. national average credit card APR was 21.47% in December 2023. It’s reasonable to assume that an APR at or below the national average is considered “good.”

That said, qualifying for a “good” APR may hinge on a consumer’s credit score. For instance, someone with a below-average credit score may have a different definition of a good APR for a credit card compared to someone whose score is excellent.

APR and interest rates also change alongside federal interest rates changes. Because of this, it’s important for consumers to find the most recent data available on average credit card APR to ensure they aren’t relying on out-of-date information to inform their decision.

How to Avoid Paying APR

The APR a person qualifies for typically depends on their individual credit score. This means that those with credit scores on the higher end of the scale might qualify for lower APRs. If a consumer has a lower credit score, that doesn’t mean they’re totally out of luck, but they might be offered the same card at a higher APR.

However, there are a few ways a person can improve their chances of qualifying for a lower APR, and that starts by doing the work to build one’s credit score.

Tips for Qualifying for a Better APR

The APR a person qualifies for typically depends on their individual credit score. This means that those with credit scores on the higher end of the scale might qualify for lower APRs. If a consumer has a lower credit score, that doesn’t mean they’re totally out of luck, but they might be offered the same card at a higher APR.

However, there are a few ways a person can improve their chances of qualifying for a lower APR, and that starts by doing the work to improve their credit score.

•  One step is to check your credit report regularly for accuracy. US federal law allows consumers to get one free credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting agencies. Look out for any incorrect or suspicious charges. Even if you’d thought you’d resolved an issue related to a credit card skimmer, for instance, you’ll want to make sure those charges aren’t affecting your credit report in any way.

•  You can build your personal credit scores by making debt payments on time and trying to use only 30% of your available credit limit at any given time. Payment history accounts for 35% of the total credit score, and credit utilization — how much of a person’s total credit is being used at a given time — accounts for 30% of the total credit score.

Rebuilding a poor credit score can take some time, but it’s worth the work.

The Takeaway

Currently, the average credit card APR is 21.47%, and anything below that could be considered a good rate. However, when it comes to what is a good APR for a credit card, the answer is that it depends on a variety of factors. It will also depend on your credit scores and history as well as what type of credit cards and rewards you’re looking for. When you do get a credit card, it’s important to use it wisely so that you don’t wind up getting charged higher penalty rates.


Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

What is a bad APR rate?

A bad APR for a credit card is generally one that’s well above the current national average credit card rate. APR for a credit card can vary widely, with some offering APRs as high as a whopping 36%.

What APR will I get with a 700 credit score?

A credit score of 700 is considered in the good range. It’s likely you could qualify for an APR around the average, though of course this will also depend on other factors, including the type of card and the current prime rate.

Does the interest rate on my credit card change?

Your credit card company can increase your interest rate. However, they are not permitted to do so within the first year of opening the account. Additionally, they must give you notice at least 45 days in advance.

What other financial products have an APR?

Many different types of lending products have APR. Beyond credit cards, this can include mortgages, car loans, and personal loans.


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.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

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What Is an Unsecured Credit Card and How Does It Work?

What Is an Unsecured Credit Card and How Does It Work?

Unsecured credit cards, which don’t require a form of collateral to use them, tend to be the most popular kind of credit card. In addition to helping you build credit, these cards often come with perks and benefits, like cash back rewards or free travel insurance.

To decide if an unsecured credit card is right for your financial situation, read on. You’ll learn what an unsecured credit card is, how it works, and the pros and cons of using one.

What Is an Unsecured Credit Card?

When you think of what a credit card is, you’re most likely thinking of an unsecured credit card. An unsecured credit card is a line of credit that gives cardholders the ability to use credit at their whim. In other words, as a cardholder, you can use your credit up to its limit and pay it off continuously, with no end date. Unsecured credit cards get their name since they don’t require a deposit or collateral, unlike secured credit cards.

Depending on the credit card you qualify for, you might be able to receive some additional benefits and perks with an unsecured credit card like cash back rewards.

How Does an Unsecured Credit Card Work?

You’ll receive a credit limit when you open an unsecured credit card. Your credit limit is the maximum credit you can use on this account. You must pay at least the credit card minimum payment each billing cycle if you’ve used the card. Here are some points to know:

•  Your monthly payment will vary depending on how much credit you used during that billing cycle (in fact, some months, you may even have a negative balance on your credit card).

•  If you miss a monthly payment, you’ll likely have to pay a penalty or fee for the infraction.

•  If you make only the minimum monthly payment, your remaining balance (plus accrued interest based on the APR on a credit card) will carry over until the next month.

So, to avoid penalties, fees, and accrued interest, it’s best to pay your balance in full every month.

But, if this isn’t feasible with your budget, aim to pay more than the minimum every month so you can quickly chip away at your total outstanding balance. Just be sure to keep in mind how credit cards work when deciding how much to pay in a given month.

Pros and Cons of Unsecured Credit Cards

Some of the benefits and drawbacks of unsecured credit cards may be obvious. But, to help you determine the risks and rewards of using this type of credit card, here are some pros and cons to get familiar with.

Pros

Upsides of unsecured credit cards include:

•   Higher credit limits: Applicants usually must have a competitive credit score to qualify for an unsecured credit card. For this reason, credit card companies may apply a higher credit card limit since you’ve proved your creditworthiness.

Also, having a higher credit limit can impact your credit utilization ratio, the amount of credit you use compared to the amount of credit you have available. Your credit utilization ratio is used to assess your credit score, and a higher ratio may negatively impact your score. With a higher amount of credit available, it’s easier to maintain a lower ratio.

•   Potential to earn rewards: Many unsecured credit cards offer incentives like cash back or airline miles to encourage cardholders to use their credit. They may also offer additional benefits, such as complimentary airport lounge access or hotel credits. So, when comparing your unsecured credit card options, be sure to look at all perks and rewards that may be offered.

•   Frequently reports credit history to credit bureaus. Since card issuers take on more risk by lending credit to cardholders, they usually report your credit activity to the credit bureaus on a monthly basis.

Your credit usage is another factor used to determine your credit score, so these regular reports can help you assess how well you’re managing your credit. If you’re managing it well, these frequent reports can help your score.

•   An abundance of options: Unsecured credit cards are the most popular type of credit card. Therefore, there’s a vast array of credit card options at your disposal. Because there are so many options, you’ll likely be able to find one suitable to fit your needs.

Cons

While there are many advantages of using an unsecured card, some may come with some downsides, including:

•   Varying approval requirements: Every credit card company usually has different credit card approval requirements, and you’ll generally need a higher score to qualify for an unsecured versus a secured credit card.

For example, some secured credit card requirements are a credit score of at least 580; others may require a score of at least 680. Researching requirements beforehand can help you identify the best cards available that you can qualify for with your credit score.

•   Extra fees: Some unsecured cards may come with extra fees, such as convenience fees, cash advance fees, or foreign transaction fees. Keep in mind that not all cards charge these fees, though, so it’s worth it to compare your options based on your needs. For example, if you travel abroad often, you may want to choose a card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees.

Pros

Cons

Higher credit limits May charge additional fees such as convenience fees, balance transfer fees, or cash advance fees
Wide range of credit card options available Different credit requirements for approval
Rewards such as cash back or miles
Usually report to credit bureaus

Unsecured vs Secured Credit Cards: What Are the Differences?

The most significant difference between unsecured versus secured credit cards is that secured cards require a deposit while unsecured cards don’t. Your deposit on a secured credit card usually dictates your credit limit. Depending on the credit card company and your credit score, your deposit may vary between $200 and $3,000, which is far lower than the average credit card limit.

Requiring a security deposit eliminates some of the creditors’ risks; thus, it can be easier to qualify for a secured credit card than an unsecured credit card. Keep in mind, no matter what type of card you have, you’ll find the most favorable terms if you have good credit, such as a good APR for a credit card. Also, you may have to forgo any rewards while you build your credit with a secured card, as they don’t often offer them.

If you fall behind on your payments, your creditor could cancel your card and send your remaining outstanding balance to a third-party collector with either an unsecured or a secured credit card. However, if you have a secured credit card and your payment is past due, your creditor may keep your security deposit to pay off some of the remaining balance.

Beyond these few items, there is no other real difference between the inner workings of a secured credit card and an unsecured credit card.

•  Each card allows you to make purchases at locations that accept credit card payments.

•  During the billing cycle, you must make at least a credit card minimum payment.

•  Otherwise, you may have to pay fees or penalties with your secured or unsecured credit card.

Secured Credit Card

Unsecured Credit Card

Requires a refundable deposit X
Can qualify with poor credit
Can come with rewards
Requires at least a minimum payment every month
Used to make purchases

Who Should Consider an Unsecured Credit Card?

Since there are plenty of unsecured credit card options available, they can suit the needs of many different types of consumers. If you’re in the market for a new credit card, here’s how to decide if an unsecured card is right for you.

The Budgeter

If you’re big on budgeting, you can use an unsecured credit card as a tool to help you as you make a budget and stick to it. Many credit issuers offer online statements or apps that can make it easy to track all of your spending right on your phone.

But, if you’re going to use your credit card for all of your spending, make sure to keep the interest in mind. While unsecured credit cards can help you budget, they can also hinder you if you get into the habit of overspending.

The Frequent Flyer

Do you love spending your time on the move? Many unsecured credit cards provide travel rewards that help you earn free travel experiences. For example, some cards can come with reward points or miles that you can use toward booking airfare or accommodations.

You may also receive additional perks like annual hotel credits, access to airport lounges, or discounts on flights when using miles.

The Business Owner

Unsecured credit cards are also useful for business owners. Business owners can capitalize on the perks of unsecured credit cards like rewards, sign-up bonuses, and other benefits. Also, an unsecured card can provide short-term funding for business growth. Plus, it can help businesses build credit for future financing endeavors.

Of course, benefits and terms will vary depending on the type of card you choose.

Typical Requirements to Apply for an Unsecured Credit Card

When you apply for an unsecured credit card, you must meet certain criteria to qualify. Some common requirements when applying for a credit card include:

•   Be at least 21 years of age. While this is generally the age required to get a credit card, if you’re over 18 and can prove you have an income, you may qualify.

•   Provide proof of income to demonstrate you can make the minimum payments.

•   Be a U.S. citizen or have the authority to work in the U.S.

•   Have an acceptable credit score range per the lender’s requirements.

•   Provide personal information such as your name, age, address, Social Security number, and more.

Keep in mind that all credit issuers have different criteria for approval. Some credit issuers may give you the option to pre-qualify. This way, you can see if you may qualify without submitting a hard inquiry on your credit, which can impact your credit score.

The Takeaway

Unsecured credit cards can come with many perks, such as earning cash back rewards and helping you build credit. But, before you apply for just any old card, make sure to compare your options, keeping the average credit card interest rate in mind, and understand the criteria for approval. Identifying an unsecured credit card that’s suitable for your needs might take a little time, but it’s worth it.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

Is it good to have an unsecured credit card?

If you can handle an unsecured credit card responsibly, it can help you build credit. Also, it can be a good way to receive additional benefits, such as cash back or other rewards, for completing your daily transactions.

What credit score do I need for an unsecured credit card?

Typically, if you have a credit score of 579 or less, credit issuers may be reluctant to approve your application. To qualify for the most competitive rates and offers, you typically want to have a credit score of 670 or higher.

How long before I can get an unsecured credit card?

If you’re working on building credit and don’t qualify for an unsecured credit card, you may have to start with a secured card. But, the amount of time you must use your secured credit card before you graduate to an unsecured time can vary from a few months to several years. Ultimately, it will depend on factors like your current credit score and the criteria of the unsecured credit card you’re applying for.


Photo credit: iStock/Zhonghui Bao

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.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

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What Credit Score is Needed to Rent an Apartment in 2021?

What Credit Score Is Needed to Rent an Apartment in 2024?

While there’s no universally required credit score needed to rent an apartment, having a solid credit score can certainly help your chances of a landlord handing you a set of keys. In general, a landlord will look for a credit score that is at least “good,” which is generally in the range of 670 to 739. However, that can vary by landlord or property manager, as well as the location in which you’re renting.

Read on to learn more about how your credit score can affect renting an apartment — and how you can approach renting if you have a lower credit score.

What Credit Score Do I Need to Rent an Apartment?

Truth is, the answer to what credit score you need to rent an apartment is a bit squishy. In general, you’ll have a better chance of approval if your credit score is at least deemed “good.”

What’s considered good? Credit scores are generally classified as follows per FICO® (keep in mind that different scoring models may vary):

•   Exceptional: 800-850

•   Very good: 740-799

•   Good: 670-739

•   Fair: 580-669

•   Very poor: 300-579

There also are variables that can affect whether your credit score qualifies you to rent an apartment. For example, if you live in a city where there is huge demand for apartments, landlords may give preference to those with higher credit scores.


💡 Quick Tip: What is credit monitoring good for? For one, maintaining a high credit score can translate to lower interest rates on loans and credit card offers with more perks.

Can You Get an Apartment if One Person Has Bad Credit?

If one person has bad credit, know that it will likely make it tougher for you to get an apartment. Landlords have a lot of leeway and can follow criteria of their choosing.

Still, it’s not impossible even if it is trickier. One smart strategy in this situation is to put the lease in the name of the person whose credit and income is best. You could also offer to show your income or provide a reference.

Check your score with SoFi

Track your credit score for free. Sign up and get $10.*


What Landlords Look at on Your Credit Report

When your landlord reads your credit report, they will be looking for clues about your financial health and habits.

Of much importance is your debt-to-income ratio. In a nutshell, this is the amount of your monthly pre-tax income that gets spent on debt payments. It’s certainly not news to you that filing for bankruptcy can have a negative impact on one’s credit. A landlord also may be spooked if you have hefty credit card balances.

Your credit history disclosed on your credit report also may include your rental history, since some landlords and rental property managers share your data with the credit bureaus. This can be a plus if you’ve been doing the right thing; if not, this can work against you.

Too many hard inquiries also can raise red flags for a landlord. This is because frequently applying for different types of credit could suggest financial instability, which increases risk in the eyes of lenders — as well as landlords.

How to Rent an Apartment with a Lower Credit Score

Just because your credit score isn’t stellar doesn’t mean you’re resigned to sleeping on a friend’s couch or living with your parents. There are ways to rent an apartment even with a lower credit score.

Pay a Higher Security Deposit

One way to show that your credit history is just history is by offering to make a higher security deposit. Say you are required to pay first and last month’s rent upfront. To sweeten the deal, maybe you tack on a couple additional months of rent.

If you want to instill confidence in your potential new landlord, this might do it. Just make sure you actually have the room in your budget to offer up the cash.

Recommended: What Is The Difference Between Transunion and Equifax?

Get a Cosigner

While getting a cosigner may put a damper on feeling like you’re finally a grownup, it may be worth sucking it up and getting a creditworthy parent or other trusted individual to cosign for your apartment. This can give your landlord peace of mind if someone is willing to pay the rent on your behalf if you’re unable to.

Just keep in mind that your cosigner will be on the hook if you miss a payment, and that cosigners generally must meet even steeper credit score and income requirements.

Play Up Your Income

Maybe your credit score is nothing to brag about, but you’ve worked hard and now have your finances in order, with solid savings and a good income. If you could show that you earn three or four times your rent on a monthly basis, that might divert attention from your lousy credit score. Additionally, if you have a solid stash in your savings account, that can also give your landlord assurance that you have the funds to cover your monthly rent.

Consider Getting a Roommate

Adding a roommate to your lease or rental agreement can increase your creditworthiness and your qualifying income. This is especially the case if you can find a roommate with good credit — and get your landlord to pull their credit first.

Benefits of Good Credit When Renting an Apartment

A landlord needs more than their gut instinct to help them determine who to rent to, which is why a credit score carries a lot of weight when it comes to getting your rental application approved. A good or — better still — an excellent score can give landlords the confidence to consider you for the apartment, especially if all other signals they get when checking on your background indicate they should give you the green light.

Having a solid credit score can help you to snag the apartment you want, and avoid the hassles associated with trying to secure an apartment when your credit isn’t as great, such as getting a roommate or a cosigner. Especially if you live in a city with a competitive rental market, a good credit score can be a serious edge.

How to Monitor Your Credit Score

Ideally, you want to check your credit and get a copy of your credit report before you start apartment hunting. It’s important to know where you stand, and if there are any errors, you want to fix them right away.

Through the end of 2023, you can get free weekly credit reports from the three national credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

To get your free reports, simply go to AnnualCreditReport.com .

While your credit report provides information on your various credit accounts and their balances and your payment history, it does not include your credit score. You can check your credit score by looking at a loan or credit card statement or through an online credit score checker. You can also buy a score directly through credit reporting companies. Even if you might have checked your credit score not that long ago, don’t skip doing so again — your credit score updates every 30 to 45 days.

If your score is low, consider taking steps to improve it before jumping into your apartment search. Actions like paying down credit card balances and making sure you don’t have any more late or missed payments for a stretch can show progress.

Recommended: What Credit Score Is Needed to Buy a Car?

What to Expect in 2024

According to Zillow, demand for rentals will remain strong this year. There’s an increase in the number of buildings under construction, and vacancy rates are close to what they were before the pandemic.

Market rental rates are slowing down, but that doesn’t mean housing prices are cheap. Apartment rents have risen 23.6% since the start of the pandemic. Inflated prices could lead to a rental market that is even more competitive, which may not bode well for those with less than stellar credit.


💡 Quick Tip: One way to raise your credit score? Pay your bills on time. Setting up autopay can help you keep your account in good standing.

The Takeaway

You’ll want to shoot for having a good credit score — generally in the range of 570-739 — to get an apartment. While you may be able to still get an apartment if you don’t have solid credit, it will make it more challenging with the competition you’re likely to face.

If you have the luxury of time, do what’s necessary to improve your score so that when you begin your search, you’ll be an ideal candidate. An online credit monitoring tool can make it easier.

Take control of your finances with SoFi. With our financial insights and credit score monitoring tools, you can view all of your accounts in one convenient dashboard. From there, you can see your various balances, spending breakdowns, and credit score. Plus you can easily set up budgets and discover valuable financial insights — all at no cost.

SoFi helps you stay on top of your finances.


Photo credit: iStock/MixMedia

SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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.

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