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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 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.
Why It We’re Mentioning it: This card boasts the lowest APR of any major bank on the U.S. market. It has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees so as far as simplicity goes, this is about as basic as it gets. However, in order to qualify for a card with USAA, you have to be a USAA member. USAA membership is available to active and former military personnel and their eligible family members.
Rates & Fees: The USAA Rate Advantage Platinum Visa® has an APR of 8.15% to 25.15% APR Variable and a $0 annual fee.
Why We’re Mentioning it: 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 go-to APR for all cardholders that applies to purchases, balance transfers and cash advances. Currently, this go-to rate is a 13.99% Variable10.24% Variable, but the card does tout a 0% for 15 monthsN/A introductory APR on purchases. This also applies to balances transfers Intro: 0% for 15 months (on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening)10.24%Variable, after that, the APR is a 13.99% Variable10.24% Variable). This card has an annual fee of $0$0, no balance transfer fee and no foreign transaction fees, 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 $27 ($15 for Iowa residents).
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Why We’re Mentioning it: Its name implies its goal of being a simple card, even though it has a few more fees than the PenFed Promise or Barclaycard Ring. Nevertheless, the Simplicity features one of the most competitive promotional financing offers: a ; after that, the APR will be a . (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)
Rates & Fees: Simplicity cardholders enjoy no late fees, no penalty interest rates and annual fees. New applicants also receive , but with a 3% balance transfer fee. After that, the variable APR of 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.
At publishing time, the USAA Rate Advantage Platinum Visa®, Barclaycard Ring, and Citi Simplicity are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).
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.
This article was last updated September 21st, 2017.