Do you love reading the fine print? Do you enjoy figuring out how many penalties and fees your credit card can impose? Probably not, yet many credit cards come with pages-long terms and conditions that many consumers struggle to understand.
But at the same time, the credit card industry is nothing if not intensely competitive, so card issuers eventually decided that there was a market for simple credit cards. These are cards that have the fewest fees and penalties.
Who Needs a Simple Credit Card?
There are many types of credit card users who would want a card that is as simple as possible. First, there are those who are new to credit cards, and don’t want to have the potential of incurring extra expenses. In addition, there are those who are experienced credit card users who have learned the hard way about all the fees and penalties that can be incurred. Finally, there are those who hold a credit card for just occasional use. These infrequent cardholders have no need for all the rewards, perks and benefits offered by high-end credit cards, and their corresponding cost and complexity.
How to Choose a Simple Credit Card
Before you apply for a credit card, it’s important to know where your credit scores stand so you don’t apply for a card that you won’t get. This year’s winners, for example, require a good or excellent credit score. You can check your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.
Regardless of what type of credit card you are shopping for, the key terms will always be found in a standardized format often called the Schumer Box. Credit card issuers are required to present this table to new applicants showing all the interest rates and fees that will apply to account holders. Key rates and fees to look for include the standard interest rate, the annual fee, and fees for foreign transactions, balance transfers and late payments. The fewer the fees, the simpler the card.
The Winner: PenFed Promise
Why It Won: This is the only credit card offered that has no fees of any kind. This includes no annual fee, balance transfer fee, cash advance fee, foreign transaction fee or even a late payment fee.
Rates & Fees: The standard interest rate for purchases and cash advances is 10.24% to 17.99% variable APR based on your creditworthiness, and there is no penalty interest rate. Currently, new account holders earn a $100 bonus statement credit when they use their card to spend $1,500 in the first 90 days. Finally, this card offers new applicants 4.99% variable APR promotional financing on balance transfers for 12 months, with no balance transfer fee.
When You Apply: To apply, you must be a member of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union, which is open to members of numerous government, military and defense organizations as well as relatives and household members of existing members. Those who aren’t affiliated with the aforementioned groups can join one of the military support organizations listed on the Pentagon Federal Credit Union website for a small one-time donation.
1st Runner-Up: Barclaycard Ring
Why It Won: The Barclaycard Ring is a unique product that allows cardholders to help shape its terms, conditions, and rewards. As a result, it has a very simplified fee structure in accordance with its philosophy of “Clear, Simple Value.”
Rates & Fees:There is just one interest rate for all cardholders that applies to purchases, balance transfers and cash advances. Currently this rate is an 8.25%, but like nearly all credit cards, it is a variable rate subject to change. This card has no annual fee, balance transfer fee or foreign transaction fee, and cash advances are a flat $3 rather than a percentage of the amount advanced. However, it does have a late payment fee of up to $26 ($15 for Iowa residents).
2nd Runner-Up: Citi Simplicity
Why It Won: Its name implies its goal of being a simple card, even though it has more fees than the PenFed Promise or Barclaycard Ring. Nevertheless, it also features one of the most competitive promotional financing offers. (Full Disclosure: Citibank, as well as Barclaycard & Pentagon Federal Credit Union, advertise on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)
Rates & Fees: Simplicity cardholders enjoy no late fees, penalty interest rates or annual fees. New applicants also receive 21 months of interest-free financing on both new purchases and balance transfers, but with a 3% balance transfer fee. After that, the standard interest rate of 13.24% to 23.24% variable APR will apply to purchases, balance transfers and cash advances. There is a 3% foreign transaction fee imposed on all charges processed outside of the U.S.
Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.
At publishing time, the PenFed Promise, Barclaycard Ring, and Citi Simplicity are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.