Best Unsecured Credit Cards

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Contributor, Benzinga
October 12, 2023

With so many credit cards on the market today, it can be tough to figure out which one is right for you. You’ll want to consider the rewards each card offers, as well as things like the annual fees, interest charges and any intro or bonus offers. Here are some of the best unsecured credit cards for you to consider.

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The Best Unsecured Credit Cards:

Best for Flexible Cash-back Rewards: Chase Freedom Unlimited®

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® card offers flexible cash-back benefits that anyone can benefit from. In a way, it combines the best of both worlds — a flat cash-back rate on purchases as well as higher cash-back rates on some categories. The cash-back rewards rate is:

  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on general purchases
  • Unlimited 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants or with eligible delivery services
  • Unlimited 5% cash back on Lyft purchases through March 2025
  • Unlimited 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase
  • Special offer: Unlimited Match Cash. Use your card for all your purchases for your first year, and Chase will match all your cashback for that first year

After you’ve racked up your cash-back rewards, you’ll have the flexibility to redeem them how you want and when you want. There is no minimum amount for redemption, and your rewards never expire. You can redeem your cash-back rewards for a statement credit or a direct deposit into your bank account. You can also use the points to pay for travel purchases using the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Additionally, you can use your rewards on Apple purchases, Amazon purchases and gift cards. However, the value of the reward points can vary based on the option you choose.

You can enjoy a generous intro APR that helps you get started. Plus, the card comes with several additional benefits, including purchase protection of up to $500 per claim ($50,000 maximum per account) if an item purchased with your card is stolen or damaged in the first 120 days. You can also get an extra year added to the qualifying manufacturer’s warranties.

For travel perks, you’ll benefit from trip cancellation and interruption insurance as well as car rental insurance.

Pros

  • Concierge items like purchase protection are a big deal for consumers
  • The breadth of where you can use your rewards is quite expansive

Cons

  • This card may not offer you the rates or spending limit you were looking for

Best for Payment Plan Offers: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is a great card if you want to use your card to earn cash back. Once you’ve reached a minimum of $25 in cash-back rewards, you can redeem them. Cash back can be redeemed as a statement credit, or you can use it to purchase merchandise or gift cards. 

The cash-back rewards rate is:

  • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets for up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1% cash back at U.S. supermarkets after you’ve reached that threshold
  • 6% cash back on some U.S. streaming subscriptions
  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit
  • 1% cash back on other purchases

Another major benefit of this card is the 0% intro APR on new purchases for the first 12 months. This can be especially useful if you’re planning to make a large purchase and want to be able to pay it off over time without worrying about interest fees. The card also offers a “Pay It Plan It®” program. With this program, you can pay off purchases over $100 in monthly installments that can last anywhere from 3 months to 24 months. 

You can also use this card to get free two-day shipping from over 100 online merchants with a free ShopRunner membership. ShopRunner membership offers free returns on eligible purchases and special discounts with online retailers. Participating merchants include Bloomingdale’s, Fresh, Urban Decay, Swanson health and more.

Like many cards, The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express comes with some extra protection. This includes an extended warranty on eligible items and purchase protection in the case of accidental damage or theft. It also offers return protection of up to $300 per item ($1,000 total per year) if the merchant won’t take your return within the first 90 days.

Pros

  • The intro APR makes this card more affordable and easier to use
  • The option to pay off larger purchases over a specific time period is appealing to many consumers

Cons

  • Sadly, American Express is not accepted everywhere

Best for Unlimited Miles: Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

If you like to use your credit card to build up your miles, the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card is a good option. The card offers a competitive rewards rate on travel purchases as well as everyday expenses so you can get the most out of your card. The rewards rate is:

  • 10X miles per $1 on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • 5X miles per $1 on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • 2X miles per $1 on all other purchases

A major benefit of this card is that you have flexibility when it comes to redeeming your rewards. You can certainly use your rewards to pay for travel through the Capital One Travel portal. However, you can also use them to cover travel purchases made directly with airlines and hotels or with third-party travel sites.

This card comes with other perks that make it worthwhile for travelers, too. You can get a credit of up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years. You’ll also receive a free Priority Pass Select membership, which grants you access to over 1,400 airport lounges worldwide. Additionally, you’ll get unlimited access to the Capital One Lounge with two free guest passes per year. 

Pros

  • The perks for travelers can help you say quite a lot of money and time
  • This card offers a simple way to earn on every purchase while focusing on travel rewards

Cons

  • Because you need to book travel through Capital One to gain massive rewards, this card may not be functional for you

Best for Food and Travel Rewards: American Express® Gold Card

  • Regular APR
    Rating:

    *Terms apply ** Be advised that applicants who do not have a credit history in the U.S. but have had credit cards or loans in Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Dominican Republic, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, South Korea, Switzerland or the United Kingdom will need to provide a SSN or ITIN during the application process.

There truly is a credit card that meets every need, and for foodies who love to travel, the American Express® Gold Card is a good choice. In fact, even if you’re a casual traveler, the card can be a good choice because of its rewards in some of the most popular spending categories. The rewards rate for the card is:

  • 4X points per $1 at restaurants
  • 4X points per $1 at U.S. supermarkets for up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1 point per $1
  • 3X points per $1 on flights booked on amextravel.com or directly with airlines
  • 1X point per $1 on other purchases

Not only is the rewards rate good, but the redemption terms are favorable as well. Points earned using this card don’t expire, and the only point limit is the one on U.S. supermarket purchases. There are no blackout dates, and you can transfer points to airline partners such as Delta Airlines. Points can be redeemed for qualifying travel purchases, as well as gift cards and charity donations.

The extra perks set this card apart as well. You can get $10 per month in Uber Cash to use on Uber rides or Uber Eats. You can also earn up to $10 per month in statement credits if you use the card to purchase from participating partners such as Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory and Milk Bar. When traveling, you can even get a free room upgrade (when available) and a $100 hotel credit when you book a two-night or longer stay through The Hotel Collection.

Pros

  • The range of assorted benefits with this card is more than enough to make it functional for most.
  • You can use this card to save rewards for the future

Cons

  • American Express may not be accepted at the merchants where you prefer to shop simply because their processing fees are high

Best for Business Purposes: Amex Blue Business Cash™ Card

  • Regular APR

    18.49% – 26.49% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors determined at the time of account opening. APRs will not exceed 29.99% | American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card – Rates & Fees

    Rating:

    *Terms apply ** Be advised that applicants who do not have a credit history in the U.S. but have had credit cards or loans in Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Dominican Republic, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, South Korea, Switzerland or the United Kingdom will need to provide a SSN or ITIN during the application process.

The Amex Blue Business Cash™ Card offers features and rewards that are designed to help business owners make the most of their spending. One of the benefits of this card is that you can add employees to the account for no extra cost. The card also offers 2% cash back on purchases up to $50,000 per calendar year. After that, a 1% cash back rate applies to all purchases.

One of the best things about this business card is that it makes redeeming your cash-back rewards as simple as possible. Any cash back that you earn is applied as a statement credit at the end of your billing cycle, so there’s no need to track and redeem your rewards yourself. With this card, you can also enjoy a flexible spending limit. This means that you can spend over your credit limit without penalty and earn rewards on it as long as you pay off the over-limit in addition to your minimum payment by the due date. 

There are additional benefits as well. As the owner of this card, after six months of membership, you can apply for Working Capital Terms, where Amex pays your vendors upfront while you repay Amex later. You can also enjoy free business expense tracking tools, Quickbooks integration and special savings opportunities through American Express Offers.

Pros

  • The consistent cash back is very helpful for those who use the card for everyday purchases
  • Connecting with quite a few accounting platforms makes your life easier, especially if you’re a business owner

Cons

  • The flexible spending limit might not be as flexible as you like

The Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card provides a well-rounded set of opportunities to earn cash back on a variety of purchases. Rewards don’t expire for the lifetime of the account, so you can have full control over when you decide to redeem them. You can also redeem any amount at any time or set up automatic redemption annually or when you reach a certain threshold. The unlimited cash back rewards are:

  • Unlimited 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats
  • Unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • Unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, grocery stores and popular streaming services
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on other purchases

In addition to its cash-back rewards, the Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card card has other benefits. This includes an extended warranty of 2 times of a qualifying manufacturer’s warranty of 24 months or less. It also offers price protection, which allows you to get reimbursed if you find a better price on an eligible item that was purchased with your card within 120 days. Like many other Capital One cards, this one offers car rental insurance for car rentals booked and paid for with your card.

Pros

  • There are more cash back options on this card than most
  • Price protection alone makes this card very functional for most consumers

Cons

  • The card may not offer you the perks that work specifically for your needs

What is an Unsecured Credit Card?

An unsecured credit card is the most common credit card type. It doesn’t require you to put up collateral to get approved for the card. 

Unsecured vs. Secured Credit Card

Unlike an unsecured credit card, a secured credit card requires you to put down a security deposit to open the credit card account. In most cases, secured credit cards have a credit limit that is equal to the security deposit. 

Secured credit cards can be a good option for people who are having trouble getting approved for an unsecured credit card. It’s ideal for building credit for the first time in some cases, and an even better idea if you’re looking to rebuild your credit. 

However, unsecured credit cards typically come with higher credit limits and better rewards. If you can get approved for an unsecured credit card, that’s usually the best option.

Pros and Cons of an Unsecured Credit Card

Pros:

  • No security deposit required
  • Usually have higher credit limits
  • Offers better rewards than secured cards

Cons:

  • Potentially easier to get into credit card debt
  • Harder to get approved for an unsecured card if you have bad credit

How to Apply for an Unsecured Credit Card

The easiest way to apply for an unsecured credit card is by going through the credit card issuer’s website. In most cases, you can compare cards and see whether you’re preapproved for the card before you submit your application. Checking for preapproval doesn’t guarantee approval for the card, but it can give you an idea if you might get approved without reducing your credit score.

Using an Unsecured Credit Card Internationally

Most unsecured credit cards can be used internationally. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted cards worldwide. American Express and Discover cards may also work, but aren’t as widely accepted. Your credit card issuer may have certain terms or fees for using your card internationally, so it’s important to check that before leaving the country.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q

What credit score do I need to get an unsecured credit card?

A

Each card will have a minimum credit card requirement. Most unsecured credit cards require a minimum credit score of 670, while others may accept credit scores as low as 580.

Q

How many times a month should I use my credit card to build credit?

A

It’s typically a good idea to use your credit card at least once per month because this level of use allows you to make monthly payments. When you show a history of making your payments on time, you can increase your credit score.

Q

Do credit card companies like when you pay in full?

A

When you pay your credit card balance off before the due date, you can avoid paying interest charges. Credit card companies might not necessarily like this because it means they make less money from you. However, the credit bureaus do like when you pay off your balance in full, and it’s a good way to increase your credit score.