Credit Card Reviews

Credit cards are a lending tool you can use for individual or business spending purposes. A bank or credit union directly issues a card to you or indirectly issues the card as a branded service through a partner retail or other business. The "issuing company" or "issuing bank," two terms often used interchangeably even when the company is a credit union, controls or manages most of the credit account terms and conditions. It is typically the primary point of customer service contact for cardholders as well.

Banks and credit unions privately approve the lending of hundreds to thousands of dollars through credit cards based on a wide variety of factors, including your credit or bill repayment history, credit score, income sources, total yearly income and work background. Although credit card applicants with positive, low risk backgrounds often receive the highest credit limits and best deals and many companies target frequent shoppers and business leaders, you can also find plenty of products for people who apply with no or limited credit or work histories and/or high risk backgrounds like college students and bad credit score builders.

Whatever your history or credit needs, our consumer reviews can help you find the best credit card issuing company and product to fit your situation.

Our Reviews

We believe that every consumer should learn as much as possible about an issuing company and its products to find the credit card that benefits them the most and to learn the tips and tricks that prevent later financial hardship related to mishandling credit. We require that every consumer reviewer cover at least four areas -- interest, fees, service and satisfaction -- when rating and commenting about an institution and its products. We also request that reviewers go above and beyond by providing a detailed summary of their unique experiences. You should never solely rely on the recommendations of family, friends, co-workers and paid advertisements when selecting a financial institution and credit card. Our reviews give you the opportunity to make a decision based on the positive and negative experiences of your peers from around the world.

Valuable Details

Each review contains valuable information about various companies and their products, including general insight into successfully applying for and using credit. We suggest that you keep an eye out for the following details when reading our reviews and comparing your options:

  • Application Requirements:
    Card issuing companies often create products to help certain types of people gain access to credit. For example, some cards are designed for first-time credit users like students. With these cards, you might have to accept a higher interest rate or provide a security deposit. Many banks and credit unions require that you already have another type of account to open a credit card account. With credit unions, you must also be a member of the group that the credit union represents and supports.
  • Interest Rates:
    Interest rates determine the amount you pay for the privilege of borrowing funds. Interest is expressed as a fixed or variable annual percentage rate (APR) or "purchase rate." Most credit card companies only charge this rate, also known as a "finance charge," if you make payments instead of repaying the full balance each month. Institutions determine the monthly balance based on daily interest over a thirty or sixty day billing cycle. A sixty-day cycle approach can result in you owing more money in certain scenarios, such as when you transition from a zero percent interest period to standard APR. If you are late with a payment or go over the limit, many financial institutions increase the APR.
  • Transfer Policies:
    Credit card issuing companies also increase the APR and charge fees if you attempt to transfer your balance to another company. The amount of any transfer fee is typically a percentage of the balance amount. Some banks and credit unions allow you to add the fee to the balance on the new card. Keep in mind that a fee added to the balance results in you paying more than the fee amount over time because of interest. Additionally, the current credit card company might not even permit balance transfers or limit the amount you can transfer.
  • Common Fees:
    Beyond late payment, over the limit and balance transfer fees, you might see a fee of $25 or more any time you perform a cash advance. You might also face a limit on the amount of times you can make cash withdrawals. Some institutions treat an overdraft fee as a cash advance. When this happens, you typically must pay the standard cash advance fee and additional finance charges. If you attempt to take money out via an ATM, you might receive an additional ATM usage surcharge. Foreign credit card transactions also involve additional fees. Lost or stolen card replacements, secondary card requests for yourself, family or employees, phone-based payments and credit limit increase requests often involve one-time fees.
  • Surprise Penalties:
    Many financial institutions penalize cardholders who spend almost their entire credit limit. Our consumer reviews can help you determine if a specific bank or credit union penalizes cardholders for this action without making it clear to applicants. Penalties typically involve a fee or the institution lowering the cardholder's limit. Most banks and credit unions do not penalize you with any additional fees if the new credit limit suddenly makes your balance over the limit, but you must typically pay off the balance within a much shorter period than originally promised to prevent higher interest and other penalties. Your credit score can also take a hit from a sudden credit card limit drop. An institution might also cut your credit limit without forewarning if your credit score fluctuates, too many businesses check your score or the institution decides to lend less money to everyone.
  • Non-Branch Payments:
    As with other types of bank and credit union borrower-based accounts, you can usually make a payment on your account with a teller, by phone, online or via an ATM. If you are interested in ATM deposit payments, check our consumer reviews for information about ATM surcharges and the number of ATMs that a specific institution offers nationwide and then check the institution's website for details about the proximity of their deposit ATMs to your home, workplace or school residence.
  • Sign-up Bonuses:
    Some of our consumer reviews can help you learn about past and current sign-up bonuses offered by various banks and credit unions so that you can find the best deal or attempt to negotiate a specific type of bonus with a preferred institution. Sign-up bonus incentives include zero or low percent sign-up APR during an introductory period that typically lasts for several months to a year, up front cash, points or travel miles and branded gear. With interest offers, you do not have to pay interest as long as you pay off your balance before the introductory period ends.
  • Reward Incentives:
    Most reward credit cards offer an arrangement where you accumulate cash, points or travel miles based on every dollar that you spend. Sometimes the best rewards cards have higher APRs and stringent signing requirements but also offer impressive rewards that balance out these negatives. In our reviews, look for any mention of restrictions that make it difficult for you to enjoy the offered rewards, such as a minimum redemption amount, reward expiration date or maximum reward limit. In some security deposit situations, you might discover an additional incentive: The issuing company places your secured credit card deposit in an interest-bearing account. When you prove that you are creditworthy, you receive the deposit back plus a monetary reward.
  • Financial Hardship:
    Cardholders usually experience at least one financial hardship during their lives like job loss or a medical crisis. The best credit card company will have a hardship policy where it waives fees, makes payment adjustments and/or writes off the debt for free to help you through a difficult time. Some institutions offer hardship protection products that are similar to insurance. You pay a monthly amount as a premium or fee. If you experience a life-altering event that makes it impossible for you to repay the debt, the bank or credit union agrees to write off some or all of your balance based on the terms of your agreement.
  • Special Features:
    You should look for free offline and online financial management and credit score monitoring tools that provide monthly or real-time credit data. Some institutions also offer identity theft and purchase protection products for free or a nominal fee. These options provide monetary protection and legal help when a thief steals money from your account via cash or purchases or a business provides you with damaged goods or poor service. You can even find insurance for travel and rental situations where you might need to ask for assistance or file a claim for property loss or damage.
  • Online Tools:
    The bank or credit union you choose should offer user-friendly and modern online account tools. It should provide you with safe, secure access to your credit card information online to protect your financial data and your identity from thieves. The online account should provide information about your credit limit, balance, APR, fees and repayment dates along with printable statements and credit handling tips. Some institutions now offer online debt payoff planners and calculators that help you plan out your repayment and better understand how your use of a credit card impacts your budget and credit score.
  • Cardholder Support:
    The type and size of a credit card company can affect the amount and quality of customer service that you receive. Always check our reviews for complaints about different banks and credit unions. Make sure that you go with a company that creates positive experiences and offers at least 24/7 phone and online support. If you plan to apply for a high credit limit, look for a company that offers dedicated account management services so that you receive financial advice and emergency support faster.

It is important to remember that APR extremes can negatively affect your purchases and wallet. A standard low APR card can block access to a higher line of credit. A high APR card that gives you more access can cost you a lot of money in interest and fees if an emergency prevents you from paying off the balance on time or in full during a billing cycle.

When comparing banks versus credit unions, keep in mind that credit unions are owned by and focused on positive relationships with members. As a result, they typically offer credit card products that have lower APRs and fees than banks and waive fees more often. That said, you can find banks that offer better options, including lower rates, greater sign-up bonuses and rewards and longer customer service hours.

Choose Wisely

Always first consider financial institutions that allow you to increase your credit limit and build your credit over time, and then give priority to companies and products that match your plans for credit use and repayment. For example, you should consider a card with a fantastic rewards program and an average APR instead of one that only offers short-term benefits if you plan to pay off your balance in full every month.

Credit spending is a privilege, but it one that almost anyone can enjoy. You merely need to understand how different banks and credit unions treat this important financial tool and then make it work for you. The best part is that an excellent credit history eventually opens doors to other loan products like car, mortgage and business loans.

Research options using our credit card bank reviews today to help you make an informed, wise decision that benefits you for many years to come.