When we’re young, credit cards seem like this magical object that you can use to purchase all of your heart’s desires, no strings attached. Now that we’re older—and a bit more realistic—we know this isn’t the case. Everything has a price and an interest rate. However, some credit cards come with great benefits and serve as a wonderful addition to your family’s financial life, if you know how to use them properly.
Before thinking about credit card perks, consider how opening and maintaining new lines of credit can affect your family’s lifestyle. A few tips?
- Pay all bills on time and in full
- Know your credit utilization (the amount of debt assumed relative to the amount of debt available to use)
- Keep old, healthy credit accounts open to increase credit age
- Ensure credit report doesn’t contain any errors
Here are the best credit cards for your family:
For families without great credit
If you’re new to the credit journey, card options may be fewer and farther between, as creditors often look to credit scores to determine credit worthiness. That said, there are a few great options for those without a high credit score to back them up. It will be beneficial to begin boosting your credit score now, giving you more opportunity to apply for an array of cards, loans, and mortgages later on.
For cards that do not require previous credit histories or impressive credit scores, the Green Dot primor® Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card and First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard® Secured Credit Card are good places to start. Just note that both come with annual fees ($39 and $49 respectively) and don’t offer any flashy perks or signup bonuses.
For the foodie family
For many families, the dinner table is the encapsulation of family time, but making sure that there’s food on the table is an expense many families need to plan for. Luckily, many credit cards offer cashback or rewards for grocery hauls and restaurant outings to help carry the (grocery) load.
The SavorOne Rewards from Capital One is a great option, giving cardholders 3% cashback on all dining, grocery and entertainment purchases—restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, amusement parks—are included with no annual fee. It’s very convenient if you’re looking for a card that gives perks for all family purchases, from weekly dinners to special occasions. For a card more specific to grocery lists, check out American Express Blue Cash Everyday, which offers 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets for up to $6,000 in annual purchases.
For the world traveling family
Travel points are a highly sought after perk of credit cards, and with many companies offering their own suite of travel points through their individual means (from airlines to ride-sharing brands), it can be tough to navigate.
To get your feet wet with travel cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great place to start. This card, which has a $95 annual fee, offers 2x points per dollar on travel and dining purchases, and new cardholders get a 60,000-point bonus after spending $4K in the first three months (approximating at least $750 in free travel!).
Another type of travel card worth considering is one that gives you points back on gas purchases—Bank of America Cash Rewards gives you 3% cashback on gas purchases if you choose the gas option among their 3% cash rewards categories.
For the fixer-upper family
Good news is the travel cards above are multi-purposeful for when you’re back from your vacays and sprucing up the house. The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers purchase protection for 120 days against damage or theft up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account, which is super helpful for any renovation project purchases, while the Bank of America Cash Rewards also has online shopping or home improvement categories as options for their 3% cash rewards.
For families with college-bound kids
There’s no better time for your children to start understanding the depths of real life than in college. Many credit cards are specifically keen to those in their college years, helping students to begin making mindful contributions to their financial health without worrying about annual fees or credit history requirements. For instance, Capital One’s Journey Student Rewards and Deserve EDU Mastercard are good options to consider and have the same perks. They offer 1% on all purchases with no annual fee and available to those with no credit history.
Tips for using credit cards
With all elements of your wallet, it’s important to keep a close eye on your credit lines. To help you stay on top of it all, set a monthly spending budget and regularly check your bills to make sure you’re spending within your means. Apps like Mint can be a useful tool in making sure you’re staying on track. You can access all your accounts in one place, monitor your everyday spending and check on how your credit score is impacted.