A handful of smaller issuers specialize in low APR credit card offers for excellent credit. You've probably never heard their names and they rarely advertise, yet they sailed through the financial crisis relatively unscathed due to their stringent portfolio standards.

  • Simmons Bank Platinum Visa. With only a four percentage point spread from the Prime Rate, the Simmons Bank Platinum Visa offers one of the lowest variable APRs in the country. There's no balance transfer fee and for a cash advance fee only 3 percent of the amount of each cash advance, but not less than $4.00 nor more than $50.00. Cash advances trigger a variable APR just a few points higher than the purchase APR , unlike the high-double-digit interest rates on most Visa credit cards. You'll have to fight your way in, though. Simmons has a reputation for manually reviewing applications from customers with high credit scores to prevent even a trace of default risk from entering their portfolio.
  • IberiaBank Visa Classic. IberiaBank uses similar tight standards when reviewing applications for its lowest-cost classic Visa credit card. Like Simmons, IberiaBank offers its best new customers a spread of just 4 points above the Prime Rate. If you don't make the cut here, however, you'll at least get an opportunity to qualify for one of the bank's other customer tiers. Even at a higher APR, you're likely to save money on a card that boasts no annual fee, balance transfer fees of just 2 percent of the transfer amount, and relatively low interest rates on cash advances.

Small banks aren't the only credit card issuers trying to lure low-risk consumers. Some of the nation's most prominent banks have revamped their "no frills" low interest credit cards to win your business by offering lower APRs than most credit cards in exchange for fewer perks. Because lenders have circled the wagons around their best credit cards, check your free credit report for errors or omissions before applying.

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