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Best small bank and credit union credit cards of September 2020

Cash back, bonuses and the personal attention and customer service you might not get from large banks. CardRatings editors compare the best small bank and credit union credit cards.
Christina Majaski, CardRatings Contributor Last Updated, September 25, 2020

Our credit card articles, reviews and ratings maintain strict editorial integrity; however we may be compensated when you click on or are approved for offers (terms apply) from our partners. How we make money.

There’s no shortage of big banks out there that hire celebrities to sing the praises of flashy credit cards loaded with perks and features. But what if you prefer banks that are smaller, more personal and less flashy (but still offer cards loaded with perks and features)? In that case, it’s time to look at credit unions and smaller regional banks when you start researching your next credit card.

Here’s the thing: These cards from credit unions and small banks don’t get the same press or buzz that cards from larger issuers do but, in many cases, they offer rewards and perks that are similar or even better. Plus, you get the benefit of more personalized customer service, easier access and, if this is your thing, the knowledge that you’re supporting a small organization rather than a Main Street giant.

LIST OF WINNERS

Before you wonder too much about whether you can qualify for membership in a credit union, keep in mind that many credit unions these days have fairly low bars for membership. They aren’t all "teachers credit unions" anymore.

CardRatings is committed to reviewing as many credit cards as we possibly can and we’ve turned our sights on credit unions and small banks for this best of list. However, in general, larger banks have the resources to offer the top rewards and features so those are the ones that often make our best credit cards of the year list.

Take a look at our top picks for the best credit union and small bank credit cards.

BEST CASH BACK CREDIT CARDS

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: No annual fee or foreign transaction fee and you earn a flat rate of 1.5% cash back on all your purchases with no caps or limits on the amount you can earn. Even better, if you’re a PenFed Honors Advantage Member, you can earn 2% cash back on your purchases. This is a great card for people who don’t like worrying about rotating categories.

The Bonus: Earn a $100 statement credit after spending $1,500 with the card in the first 90 days.

Annual Fee: $0

The Rewards: Use your card to earn a flat rate of 1.5% cash back on all your purchases with no caps or limits. PenFed Honors Advantage Members earn 2% total cash back on your purchases.

Credit Needed: Excellent

Other Details: 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 12 months (then, 14.99% to 17.99% Variable) with 3% per transaction balance transfer fee.

PROS:

  • Earn a $100 statement credit after you spend $1,500 with the card in your first 90 days.
  • This card awards a flat rate of 1.5% cash back without any caps. Plus, certain PenFed members can earn as much as 2% cash back.
  • If you need to transfer a balance from a high APR card, the 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 12 months (then, 14.99% to 17.99% Variable) can allow you to pay it down with no interest.

CONS:

  • Although it’s a flat rate, the 1.5% cash back rate is among the lowest rates offered. If you don’t mind dealing with rotating categories, you can earn more with other rewards cards.
  • This card offers a 0% intro APR for balance transfers but not purchases, which is not ideal if you need to make a large purchase right away.

Read our full PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card review.

4
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This card has no annual fee or foreign transaction fees. Plus, it comes with a simple rewards program where each dollar you spend earns one rewards point, but you can also earn 5x rewards in quarterly categories. Save money on interest with a 0% intro APR for purchases.

Bonus: Earn a $150 statement credit after spending $1,200 with the card in the first 90 days of account opening.

Annual Fee: $0

The Rewards: Earn unlimited rewards of 1 Rewards Point for each $1 spent in purchases, which do not expire. Also earn 5x rewards on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each category in quarterly rotating categories such as groceries and dining.

Credit Needed: Excellent

Other Details: 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months (then, 12.90% - 22.90% Variable).

PROS:

  • Earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,200 with the card in your first 90 days. This is one of the higher bonuses offered with a card that has no annual fee.
  • This card awards a flat rate of 1 point for $1 in purchases but you can also earn 5x rewards in quarterly categories.
  • If you need to make a large purchase right away, you can save money on interest with the offer for 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months (then, 12.90% - 22.90% Variable).

CONS:

  • The flat rate of 1 point per dollar spent is the lowest rewards rate offered by most credit cards. Although you can earn more with the quarterly categories, if you want a flat rate rewards card, there are others with higher rates.
  • This card offers a 0% intro APR for purchases but not balance transfers, so this card won’t work for you if you’re looking to transfer a balance from a high APR credit card.

Read our full ABOC Platinum Rewards Mastercard® Credit Card review.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This card has no annual fee, foreign transaction fees, balance transfer fees or cash advance fees. Earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no limits and save on interest with a 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months.

The Bonus: Earn $150 bonus cash back when you spend $2,000 within the first 90 days of account opening.>

Annual Fee: $0

The Rewards: Earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases made with the card with no limits. You can redeem rewards as soon as you earn them.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good, Fair

Other Details: 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months (then, 9.65% - 18.00% Variable). This card also offers cell phone protection if you pay your monthly cell phone bill with your card.

PROS:

  • New cardholders can earn $150 cash back after spending $2,000 in purchases with the card within the first 90 days. This is one of the higher bonuses offered with a card that also has no annual fee.
  • Earn a flat rate of 1.5% cash back on all your purchases. You won’t have to worry about rotating categories or specific purchase categories to earn your rewards.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months (then, 9.65% - 18.00% Variable) allows you to save money on interest.

CONS:

  • Although 1.5% cash back is a simple rewards rate, it is also not the highest. If you can deal with purchase categories, you can likely earn more with a different rewards credit card.
  • This card offers a 0% intro APR for purchases for just 6 months which is one of the shorter durations offered. If you need more time to pay down your balance, you’ll be better off with one of the cards with 0% intro APR for 12 months or longer. Plus, although there is no balance transfer fee, there is also no 0% intro APR for balance transfers.

Read our full Navy Federal Visa cashRewards Card review.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This card offers a $150 bonus for new cardholders, which is one of the higher bonuses especially for a card with no annual or foreign transaction fees. You also earn as much as 3% cash back when you dine out, and get a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for over a year.

The Bonus: Earn $150 cash back after spending $500 with the card in the first 90 days of account opening.

Annual Fee: $0

The Rewards: Earn 3% cash back on dining, 2% cash back at grocery stores and 1% cash back on other purchases with no caps or limits.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

Other Details: 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 billing cycles (then, 12.99%, 17.99% or 22.99% variable APR based on your creditworthiness).

PROS:

  • This card offers new cardholders a bonus of $150 cash back, which is not only one of the higher bonuses on a no-annual-fee credit card, but it also has one of the lowest spending requirements of just $500.
  • You can earn 3% and 2% cash back on dining and grocery stores, which is at least double the rate you might earn with other cash back cards in these categories.
  • This card offers a 0% intro APR for both purchases and balance transfers for 15 billing cycles (then, APR), which is one of the longest durations you’ll find for an introductory APR offer.

CONS:

  • You can earn 3% when you dine out, but unless you are a frequent diner, you’ll want to take a look at your other spending categories, which will likely only earn 1% cash back.
  • This card also awards 2% cash back on groceries, but if you’re looking for a rewards program for grocery purchases, there are others that award more.

Read our full TD Cash Credit Card review.

BEST REWARDS CREDIT CARDS

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This card has no annual fee or foreign transaction fees and awards one of the highest rates of 5x points for gas and 3x points at supermarkets.

The Bonus:  Earn a $100 statement credit after you spend $1,500 with the card in the first 90 days of account opening.

Annual Fee: $0

The Rewards: Earn 5x points on gas, 3x points at supermarkets and 1x points per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Credit Needed: Excellent

Other Details: 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 12 months (then, 13.49% to 17.99% Variable). 3% per transaction balance transfer fee applies.

PROS:

  • New cardholders can earn a $100 statement credit after you spend $1,500 with the card in your first 90 days.
  • This card awards 5x points on gas and 3x points at supermarkets which are among the highest rewards rates for these two categories. If your spending primarily falls into these categories, you can rack up points just on your everyday spending.
  • If you need to transfer a balance, save money on interest with the offer for 0% intro APR for 12 months (then, 13.49% to 17.99% Variable).

CONS:

  • To get the most from this rewards program, your spending will need to be on gas at the pump or at supermarkets. Otherwise, you’ll only earn 1x point per dollar spent on your purchases.
  • You can earn a $100 statement credit but the $1,500 spending threshold is pretty high for the amount of the bonus.

Read our full <PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card review.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This card has no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, no balance transfer fees and no cash advance fees. You can earn 3X points per dollar spent in a variety of categories and as a new cardholder, a bonus worth $300.

The Bonus: Earn 25,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 within 90 days of account opening. This bonus has a $250 value.

Annual Fee: $0

The Rewards: Earn 3X points at supermarkets, on gas and transit and at restaurants. All other purchases earn 1X points per dollar spent with no limit on the points you can earn. Points also do not expire.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good, Fair

Other Details: This card includes extra benefits such as a discount of up to 10% on Delta Air Lines flights when you book through the American Express travel site and access to the Global Dining Program.

PROS:

  • New cardholders can earn a bonus worth $250 which is one of the highest bonuses you’ll find, especially with a card that doesn’t have an annual fee.
  • This card awards 3X points per $1 spent in a variety of categories so if your spending varies, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to earn plenty of points.
  • This card doesn't charge many of the fees typical to other credit cards, so you have a lot of room to earn rewards and take advantage of bonuses without having to pay extra.

CONS:

  • You can earn 3X points on gas, transit, at supermarkets and restaurants and on food delivery but anything outside of those categories only earns 1x point per dollar spent.
  • There is no 0% intro APR for purchases or balance transfers, which is inconvenient if you are looking for a way to save money on interest for either a large purchase or balance transfer.

Read our full Navy Federal More Rewards American Express® Card review.

BEST BALANCE TRANSFER CARDS

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This card offers 0% intro APR for balance transfers for 12 months with no annual fee or foreign transaction fee. Plus, new cardholders can earn a $100 statement credit.

The Bonus: Earn a $100 statement credit after spending $1,500 with the card in the first 90 days of account opening.

Annual Fee: $0

The Rewards: This card does not earn rewards.

Credit Needed: Excellent

Other Details: 0% intro APR on balance fees for 12 months (then, 7.49% to 17.99% Variable).

PROS:

  • Earn a $100 statement credit after you spend $1,500 with the card in your first 90 days. Low interest and balance transfer cards don’t always offer new cardholders a sign-up bonus.
  • This card has no annual fees or foreign transaction fees.
  • If you need to transfer a balance from a high APR card, you can save money on interest with the offer for 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 12 months (then, 7.49% to 17.99% Variable).

CONS:

  • There is no rewards program because this card is specifically a balance transfer/no interest credit card. There are cards with rewards programs and 0% intro APRs if you prefer both.
  • This card offers a 0% intro APR for balance transfers but not purchases.

Read our full PenFed Gold Visa® Card review.

BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR FAIR CREDIT

Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa®

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)
3
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This card is perfect for people with fair credit because it is one of the few available that comes with a rewards program. You can earn 1% cash back on your purchases and you get access to your Experian credit score so you can monitor your progress.

The Bonus: No bonus with this card.

Annual Fee: $0 - $99

The Rewards: Earn 1% cash back on your purchases. Plus, there are opportunities to earn up to 10% more cash back with participating merchants and offers.

Credit Needed: Fair

Other Details: Access to your Experian credit score and credit report online.

PROS:

  • This card is ideal for people with no credit or might be in the process of building credit from a fair credit score range.
  • Earn cash back while you work on improving your credit score. Also, because it is a Visa card, you also get Visa benefits such as access to special shopping discounts.
  • Get free access to your Experian credit report and score.

CONS:

  • The (annual fee) annual fee could end up being high which might be difficult to pay for year after year, especially with so few chances to earn rewards and perks to offset it.
  • There is no sign-up bonus with this card, which would help to cover the annual fee.

Read our full Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® review

BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR REBUILDING, BAD OR NO CREDIT

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This is a secured credit card that can help you build or rebuild your credit with a manageable annual fee and low APR.

The Bonus: There is no bonus with this card.

Annual Fee: $49

The Rewards: There is no rewards program.

Credit Needed: Poor/Limited/No Credit

Other Details: No minimum credit score or credit history is required to qualify for this card.

PROS:

  • Over time, you can build or rebuild your credit score with this card.
  • The APR is low in comparison to other credit cards that are available for people who have no credit or bad credit.
  • You don’t have to have a minimum credit score or a credit history to qualify for this card.

CONS:

  • The annual fee could get expensive each year, especially with no bonuses or rewards program. Plus, you’ll need at least a $200 security deposit to get started with this card.
  • There aren’t really any benefits or extra perks with this card and you won’t earn any rewards for your purchases. It’s primarily for building or rebuilding your credit.

Read our full First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard® Secured review.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This secured credit card is designed for people who are building or rebuilding their credit. Approval is likely so you don’t have to worry much about whether you will qualify. This card also has a lower APR than most secured credit cards.

The Bonus: There is no bonus with this card.

Annual Fee: $48

The Rewards: This card does not have a rewards program.

Credit Needed: Bad, None

Other Details: Approval for this card is likely. The security deposit is also refundable.

PROS:

  • This card reports your activity to all three credit bureaus, which helps you to build or rebuild your credit over time.
  • The APR is lower than the APR you’ll get with most secured credit cards, with someone going as high as 20%.
  • Approval for this card is likely so if you have bad credit or no credit, you don’t have to worry as much about not qualifying for the card.

CONS:

  • The annual fee could get expensive especially since you also need a security deposit of at least $200 to get started with the card.
  • There are no extra perks or rewards with this card. It’s primarily for building or rebuilding your credit. There are secured credit cards available that also offer minimal rewards.

Read our full Applied Bank Secured Visa® Gold Preferred® Card review.

Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)
4
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This card is one of just a few options for an unsecured card if you have no credit or bad credit. Most of the time, if you have a low credit score, you’ll have to pay a security deposit for a secured card to build your credit. Not only that, this card includes a rewards program.

The Bonus: No bonus with this card.

Annual Fee: $0 - $99

The Rewards: You can earn 1% cash back on your purchases with this card.

Credit Needed: Poor

Other Details: Access to your Experian credit report and credit score.

PROS:

  • Earn 1% cash back when you use your card. Credit cards for poor or no credit that offer cash back for purchases are rare.
  • This card is unsecured and does not require a security deposit to get started.
  • You also get access to your Experian credit score and credit report, which can help you monitor your accounts while you build or rebuild your credit.

CONS:

  • The annual fee is based on your credit score, so it’s likely if you have poor or no credit that you’ll end up with an annual fee at the higher range.
  • If you carry a balance from month to month, the interest you pay will cancel out any cash back you earn. If you cannot pay your balance in full each month, you might be better off with a card that has a lower APR but no rewards or perks.

Read our full Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards review.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is believed to be accurate as of the date it was written. Please keep in mind that credit card offers change frequently. Therefore, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information in this article. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. See the online credit card application for full terms and conditions on offers and rewards. Please verify all terms and conditions of any credit card prior to applying.

This content is not provided by any company mentioned in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed here are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any such company. CardRatings.com does not review every company or every offer available on the market.

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