Best credit cards for retirees

By , Editor-in-chief
Best credit cards for retirees

It's amazing how clear a picture many folk conjure up when they think about retired people: lots of luxuriant silver hair, mahogany tans, golf courses, cruise ships, cocktails on the terraces of impossibly exotic five-star hotels ... Such is the stuff of brochures selling retirement products to working people.

In reality, every retired person is unique, with his or her very own lifestyle -- and the individual needs and challenges one of those brings. That's why there's no single best credit card for retirees, any more than there's one that's perfect for all people at other stages of their lives. However, there are some that are particularly good for large groups of retired folk, and they may be much better than ones acquired years ago when life was very different. Here are some choice examples.

Citi® Double Cash Card

Citi® Double Cash CardAbout Our Ratings
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Our editor's take:
Want a simple cash-back card with a great, easy earn rate? Get 1 percent cash back when you buy and another 1 percent when you pay for your purchases.

Card Details
Credit Required Excellent
Cashback Groceries 1% on purchases + 1% on payments
Cashback Gas 1% on purchases + 1% on payments
Cashback Others 1% on purchases + 1% on payments
Annual Fees $0*

There are some good cards that allow you to earn great rewards in categories of shopping that change each quarter. But you have to jump through hoops to earn the high cash-back rates, including re-registering every quarter, scheduling purchases to take advantage of offers and observing caps on high-rate earnings. If you're too busy to bother with all that (who said you'd be bored in retirement?) then why not just go for maintenance-free plastic that gives you high rewards on all purchases?

You can earn cash back twice on every purchase with Citi® Double Cash Card (note: Citi is a CardRatings.com advertiser) -- and there is no annual fee and are no caps on the amount you can earn. You get 1 percent cash back when you buy and 1 percent cash back as you pay for those purchases, whether you pay in full or over time.

Right now, this card is offering a zero-percent introductory APR for 15 months on purchases, so it could be ideal if you need to buy a big-ticket item and would prefer not to touch your savings. The same interest-free 15-month introductory deal is available on balance transfers, but expect to pay a balance transfer fee of $5 or 3 percent of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater, and don't forget these aren't technically purchases so you won't get rewards on the amount you transfer. After the introductory rate period ends, a variable APR applies (currently 12.99 percent to 22.99 percent, based on your creditworthiness).

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Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit CardAbout Our Ratings
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Our editor's take:
Capital One raised the bar with a flexible travel rewards card that doesn't lock you in to a particular airline or hotel chain, and with an easy-to-remember earn rate of 2X miles per dollar spent on every purchase.

Card Details
Credit Required Excellent, Good
Special Offer (bonus offer) Enjoy a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles
once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, equal to $400 in travel
Points or Miles 2X miles/$1
Annual Fees $0 intro for first year; $59 after that

Working Americans have the shortest paid vacations of any people in advanced economies. So it's no surprise that many promise themselves they'll satisfy their wanderlust in their retirements. If you're now itching to explore more of the world, a specialist travel credit card might help you on your way.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card could well be your best choice. To start with, it's currently offering a one-time sign-up bonus of 40,000 miles (equal to $400 in travel). All you have to do to earn those is get approved for the card and make purchases worth $3,000 during the first three months you have it. Earn 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, which can soon add up -- spend $2,500 per month on purchases with this card and you could earn 60,000 miles a year.

The miles you earn don't expire, there's no limit to the amount of miles you can earn, and you can redeem them for many sorts of travel-related benefits, including flights, hotels, car rentals and cruises. This card has a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, and it's $59 after that.

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AARP® Credit Card from Chase

About Our Ratings

Our editor's take:
Always out and about? We think you’ll like paying no annual fee on a card that gives you 3 percent cash back on restaurant and gas station spending.

Card Details
Credit Required Excellent
Cashback Groceries 1%
Cashback Gas 3%
Cashback Others 1% - 3%

In March 2015, for the first time ever, Americans spent more in restaurants than on groceries, according to a recent Bloomberg Business report. If you're on-trend, and spend a lot of time and money eating out, you might benefit from a card that rewards that particularly generously. And if you also shell (geddit?) out serious amounts on gas, there's one card in particular that's well worth considering.

The AARP® Credit Card from Chase delivers an impressive 3 percent cash-back rewards on purchases made in restaurants and gas stations. The rewards you earn never expire, at least for as long as your account's open, and there are no caps or hoops to jump through: 3 percent back on those purchases every day, and 1 percent cash-back rewards on all other purchases. And you can redeem your rewards as cash back, gift cards or on travel. As a nice touch, each time you charge a restaurant meal to your card, 10 cents is donated to the AARP Foundation's Drive To End Hunger campaign, up to a total of $1 million this year.

Of course, there's nothing to stop you using this card strategically with the Citi Double Cash Card. That way, you could earn 3 percent rewards on your restaurant and gas purchases and 2 percent on all other purchases.

The information related to The AARP Credit Card from Chase has been collected by CardRatings.com and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

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Chase Slate®

Chase Slate®About Our Ratings
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Our editor's take:
Want to pay off credit card debt? You could make some serious progress with this card’s introductory zero-percent APR balance transfer offer PLUS an introductory $0 balance transfer fee on transfers made during the first 60 days.

Card Details
Credit Required Excellent / Good
Balance Transfer Intro APR 0% Intro APR
Balance Transfer Intro Period 15 Months
Balance Transfer Fees $0 Intro fee on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that: Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

Debt is much more common among retirees than it once was, and certainly isn't the source of shame it used to be. Indeed, some financial advisers suggest that some forms of borrowing can be beneficial in retirement. But credit card debt -- with its high interest rates -- certainly isn't one of them. If you're uncomfortable with the current balances on your plastic, the only thing to do is bite the bullet and make a plan to reduce them.

Balance-transfer credit cards with introductory zero-percent rates can be useful tools within such a plan, because they remove the burden of interest payments for a limited time, and so allow you pay down more of the balance. The trouble with nearly all of them is that they require you to pay a balance-transfer fee, which is often 3 percent of the amount transferred. So you have to go further into debt before you start to get out of it.

A rare exception to this is Chase Slate®, which currently has a $0 introductory balance transfer fee for transfers made during the first 60 days, along with a zero-percent introductory APR for 15 months on balance transfers. And Chase recently announced that Chase Slate cardholders won’t see their interest rates rise if they pay late, and that the new Chase Slate card features a Credit Dashboard that gives cardmembers access to their FICO credit score, among other features to help you manage your credit health.

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Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

Citi® Diamond Preferred® CardAbout Our Ratings
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Our editor's take:
Whether you’re anticipating a big purchase or want to pay off some debt, consider this user-friendly card, which offers an impressive 21-month, zero-percent intro APR for purchases and balance transfers.

Card Details
Credit Required Excellent
Purchase Intro APR 0%*
Purchase Intro Period 21 months on Purchases*
Purchase APR 11.99% - 21.99%* (Variable)

Many retirees have to live more carefully than they hoped because their savings accounts are offering such poor yields. But that makes the little you get even more valuable, and is no reason to whittle away your capital unnecessarily. However, some expensive purchases (home repairs, maybe, or the replacement of major home appliances that simply can't be fixed economically) are very necessary.

That's when a credit card with a long introductory interest-free period on purchases (not cash advances) can come into its own. And, at 21 months, you're unlikely to find a longer period than the one offered by the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card (note: Citi is a CardRatings.com advertiser). As an extra bonus, you can even earn Citi Easy Deals(SM) Points on your purchases and access some potentially valuable perks.

This means you can buy what you need, and either pay for it over 21 months out of income, or pay it down over that time out of your savings, earning interest on those while you do so. As always with such plastic, just make sure you can get the balance to zero before the standard rate kicks in (the variable purchase APR is currently 11.99-21.99 percent, based on creditworthiness).

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Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum

Simmons Bank Visa® PlatinumAbout Our Ratings
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Our editor's take:
Got a high credit score and want a low APR? You’re not going to beat this card. A lack of annual fee and balance-transfer fee sweetens the deal.

Card Details
Credit Required Excellent
Purchase APR 7.25% Variable
Balance Transfer APR 7.25% Variable
Balance Transfer Fees None

The reason high balances on plastic are generally a bad idea in retirement is because the interest rates on most cards are so high. Once you've racked up a lot of debt, it can be really hard to pay it down. But a small number of products charge more affordable rates, though you're almost certain to need a glittering credit score to get one. Having one could be helpful if your income doesn't come in equal monthly amounts, and you sometimes need to smooth out your cash flow.

Among the best of these ultra-low interest products is the Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum credit card. This is low-frills plastic, with no rewards, but with a low standard purchase APR of 7.25 percent. That, like just about every other card's, is a variable rate, and could go up if and when other interest rates rise. However, any increase should apply only to new purchases; unless you've skipped a couple of payments, existing balances should continue to attract the rate that was in force when each purchase was made.

Retirees don't fit into stereotypes, and you may have particular needs not covered here. If that's the case,  surf through the CardRatings.com lists of the best credit cards of different sorts to find the one or ones that suit you best.

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  1. Paula Dennis June 22, 2015 at 11:10 am
    I am looking for a low interest credit card to transfer a high interest card. I need enough credit to cover 7,743. Thank you
      Reply »  

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