Even as economists debate whether the U.S. could experience a double-dip recession, unemployed and underemployed Americans agree on one thing: looking for work can get expensive. Fortunately, the best credit cards offer ways that you can actually save money during your job hunt, as long as you use them responsibly.
Best credit card for the all-important interview outfit
In a recent interview, New York style adviser Allison Berlin told CBS News that few job seekers need to spend more than $500 on their core interview outfit. For women, a simple sheath dress and a sharp pair of shoes will fit the bill. Men should invest in a classic wool suit.
According to experts at Virginia Tech's Career Services Center, your interview suit's designer doesn't matter nearly as much as how well it fits. Investing just $50 in custom alterations can make even an inexpensive suit or dress help you look corner-office ready.
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express this top-rated credit card offers you 2 percent cash back at select U.S. department stores. Cash back rewards are earned only on eligible purchases. There's no annual fee. Terms and restrictions apply.
If you make the first cut and are called back for a second interview, personal finance expert Barbara Friedberg suggests scanning department stores for clearance-priced accessories. Jazz up your basic suit or dress with a pop of color from a sharp tie or an accent pin. If you feel overdressed during your first interview, hit the sale racks for a blazer and matching slacks or skirt.
Best credit card for basic job-hunting expenses
Chase Freedom® Right now, they're offering a $200 cash rebate after you make $500 in purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. This means that Chase could end up picking up part of the tab for your basic interview wardrobe.
You can also receive 1 percent cash back on all your purchases, giving you something back on related expenses such as online job-search services, networking power breakfasts, resume preparation, interview coaching, and so on. If you enroll you can also earn up to 5 percent cash back on rotating categories subject to quarterly maximum spend limit.
Best credit card to keep the gas tank full
A government survey estimates that most Americans spend just under a half-hour commuting to work every day. When researchers from Gallup excluded telecommuters from a similar poll, they bumped their best guess to a 45-minute round trip to the office. Your first commute, of course, is to the job interview.
Booking multiple interviews could force you to drive in opposite directions throughout the week, so you could easily spend a chunk of your savings on gasoline. Gas rewards cards shave some of those costs, letting you earn back some of your gas money as rebates or bonus merchandise.
PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Visa can keep you moving through the job market with an unusual combination of bonus rebates and low finance charges. New cardholders of the Plus version of this card can earn can earn 5 percent cash back on gasoline when they pay at the pump. To be considered for the Plus card you also need to have a PenFed qualifying product like a money market savings account or IRA certificate to name a few. There is no annual fee with the Plus version of the card.
Of course, PenFed reserves its best rewards credit card for applicants with excellent credit. According to the credit union's website, unemployment doesn't necessarily block you from contention, as long as your credit profile shows that you've worked hard to pay your existing bills on time.
Best credit card for out-of-town job offers
Today's job market forces us to make hard decisions. Sometimes, the right opportunity just isn't in our own backyard. According to government statistics, about one in eight Americans told census takers that job opportunities prompted their most recent move.
And about three in 10 of us moved to stay close to family members, including spouses who had to relocate for work. Not every employer foots the bill for candidates to interview in person, making a flexible travel card essential if you intend to take your job hunt on the road.
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers the benefits of an airline credit card with the earnings potential of a traditional cash rebate credit card. With $0 introductory annual fee for first year; $59 after that. This Capital One credit card plugs cardholders into an innovative way to redeem miles for travel.
You'll get 2 miles for every dollar you spend on the card for purchases, which you can redeem for flights on any airline. Use your leftover miles for hotel stays and car rental fees, and a good chunk of your entire out-of-town interview could be covered by your miles.
Can I get a credit card if I'm not working now?
If you're not currently employed, applying for a new credit card while you're looking for work may sound like an exercise in futility. But as long as you've stayed current with your credit card payments, lenders still want to see your application.
Consider hanging out a consulting shingle and applying as a self-employed business owner. It's a job-hunting strategy that many professionals use, anyway. Your prospective credit card issuer really cares more about whether you're a solid risk than where you intend to work.
Just make sure you don't use a new line of credit to replace your lost income. Stay frugal and focused, using your credit card's rewards to offset the cost of finding a new job--even if you're presently employed.
About the Author
Curtis Arnold, a nationally recognized consumer educator and advocate, has been educating consumers about credit cards since 1998. New! Curtis is the author of 'How You Can Profit from Credit Cards: Using Credit to Improve Your Financial Life and Bottom Line' (FT Press, 2008). He is also the co-author of the upcoming Complete Idiot's Guide to Person-to-Person Lending (Alpha Books/Pengiun Group USA, April 2009), a contribitor to The Ultimate Allowance (InnerWealth Publishing, 2008) and is extensively featured in 42 RulesTM for Driving Success With Books (Super Star Press, January 2009).