Medical bills, vacation expenses or even a temporary drop in your income can force you to carry a credit card balance. If you know you'll make payments consistently, but beyond the length of the typical zero APR introductory offer period, look for a credit card that only adds a few percentage points to today's prime lending rate. We found five of today's least expensive credit cards for consumers who want to minimize their finance charges:
Iberiabank Visa Classic
A credit card from the home of Cajun culture offers surprisingly mild finance charges. Lafayette, Louisiana's Iberiabank offers a no-frills Visa Classic account with a variable purchase APR as low as 7.25 percent, 10.25 percent or 13.25 percent based on creditworthiness. You'll need excellent credit to earn this lowest rate. Otherwise, you may still qualify for an account that adds 10 percentage points to the prime rate.
Iberiabank has built its portfolio by acquiring stable banks over the past 125 years, not by wooing customers. Prepare to jump through a few hoops to score this deal. For instance, Iberiabank often requests that applicants submit up to six months of pay stubs to verify your employment and your income. If you never miss a bill payment and you want a credit card for dire emergencies, this could be the best card for you.
Simmons First Visa Platinum
Another regional bank with national reach, Simmons First markets its Visa Platinum account as a emergency credit card for consumers with excellent credit. Bank officials can afford to offer the card's variable purchase APR of 7.25 percent because of their high underwriting standards. Account holders report getting smaller credit limits with this card than with comparable cards from other lenders.
Like Iberiabank, Simmons First has developed a reputation for scrutinizing new applicants' employment histories and income statements. This regional bank's not even afraid to suggest that it keeps costs low by answering the phone only during business hours. That's why this card fits best with frugal consumers who don't need a lot of hand-holding.
Barclaycard Ring Platinum MasterCard
The U.S. arm of British lender Barclays extended its push beyond affinity and retail credit cards with a consumer account designed to disrupt the marketplace. With a variable purchase and balance transfer APR as low as 8 percent and no balance transfer fees, Barclaycard Ring aspires to win consumers away from better known competitors.
Barclaycard Ring continues to evolve, thanks to a vibrant online community of cardholders that vote on new features and revisions to existing features. So far, members have convinced Barclaycard to start offering one late payment fee waiver every year. With no annual fee and more cardholder benefits on the horizon, this card can help you kick your debt and avoid service charges.
PenFed Promise Visa Card
As one of the country's largest credit unions, Pentagon Federal has led the charge for lower interest rates and higher member satisfaction. Their Promise Visa might sound like a typical no-frills credit card, but it packs some significant perks. Like the other cards on this list, Promise carries no annual fee. But, it also eliminates foreign transaction fees, balance transfer fees, over limit fees, and cash advance fees.
PenFed designed this card for military families who sometimes have to absorb extra costs from unexpected overseas travel. However, you don't have to be in the armed services to apply for this card. You can qualify for membership in the credit union by making a small, one-time donation to join either the National Military Family Association or Voices for America's Troops. With a long introductory period for its teaser rate for purchases and after the introductory period ends a go-to rate for purchases which varies with the market based on the Prime Rate and is currently 9.99 percent APR, that donation could lead to a lifetime of savings.
Discover it Card
While this card's APR is currently 10.99% – 22.99% Standard Variable Purchase APR Discover's major brand relaunch has included some strong balance transfer offers for new or returning customers. While most low introductory rate deals bounce your APR to the mid-teens after a year or eighteen months, the Discover it card's variable rate for customers with excellent credit more closely resembles that of a no-frills card.
However, as Discover has pointed out in television and print ads, this new card also includes a return to highly personalized service for a platinum-level consumer credit card. Discover has ramped up staffing at their U.S-based service centers to offer callers a human voice. In addition, Discover it charges no annual fee and includes a 1 percent cash back rebate on purchases, and you can sign up for free quarterly promotions to earn 5 percent on up to the quarterly maximum in purchases in categories that change throughout the year.
As always, making your payments on time and utilizing just a fraction of your available credit will help you get the lowest possible credit card interest rates. Locking in a low variable rate now can help you save even more money when the prime rate eventually rises.