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Best credit cards for empty nesters

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Your children have grown up and moved out of the house. Now what? For many people, becoming empty nesters is a challenging and lonely transition. But, despite the drawbacks, there are benefits to becoming an empty nester too. Often, this life stage offers a chance to recover financially from the costs of raising a family, and the ability to shift priorities and finances to new adventures.

A rewards credit card can unlock access to benefits ideal for the empty-nest lifestyle, from the practical to the adventurous. Credit cards for empty nesters typically earn rewards for dining out, entertainment, travel and other desired spending categories. But they can also offer practical help in paying down debt, so you can build up resources to spend on leisure activities, hobbies and travel.

If you’re part of a couple, you can double your rewards by employing a two-player strategy where both individuals apply for cards that earn the same rewards. Or, you can apply for cards with shared benefits, or perks and rewards that complement other cards.

Either way, empty-nesters can boost their rewards by getting a credit card that earns bonus rewards in categories that align with their evolving spending habits. Here are a few to consider:

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card: Best for new travelers

Why we picked it: The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card comes with several travel benefits that may appeal to couples traveling for the first time without children — like travel protections and access to Capital One lounges — without the burden of paying an annual fee. The card earns unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar spent and 5 miles per dollar spent on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One. It offers flexible redemptions, too, like booking travel, covering past travel purchases and transferring miles to over 15 travel loyalty programs.

Pros

  • Generous welcome offer (20,000 bonus miles after spending $500 within the first three months)
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • High APR range
  • Ongoing rewards rate is relatively low

Who should apply: Individuals looking to start traveling more and interested in exploring travel rewards for the first time. The card’s lack of annual fee and solid welcome offer (with low spending requirement) make it an easy entryway into earning rewards for travel.

Who should skip: More advanced travelers who want access to luxury travel and other benefits.

The Platinum Card from American Express: Best for luxury travel

Why we picked it: The Platinum Card® from American Express offers the newly child-free an entrée into the world of luxury travel. The card carries a steep $695 annual fee but offers enough value to make that worthwhile, if you take advantage of the card’s many perks. Benefits include a $200 annual hotel credit, airport lounge access, elite hotel status and excellent travel insurance.

Pros

  • Generous welcome bonus (100,000 Membership Rewards points, after spending $6,000 in the first six months)
  • Elite Marriott and Hilton status
  • Several partner credits

Cons

  • Steep annual fee ($695)
  • Bonus categories favor spending directly through American Express
  • Complicated rewards

Who should apply: Frequent travelers who are looking forward to some ambitious, adult-style R&R involving long flights, fine dining and luxury accommodations — and are willing to pay for access to luxury travel benefits. With the high annual fee, this card is best suited for those who plan to use most of the card’s partner credits and other benefits.

Who should skip: Those who don’t travel in the style necessary to make the steep fee worth paying every year.

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for foodies

Why we picked it: Foodies and culture hounds who love to go out or entertain guests at home will appreciate the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card’s cash back offers on dining, entertainment, groceries, streaming services and travel booked through Capital One. This card also carries no annual fee and comes with a respectable welcome offer.

Pros

  • Easy-to-earn welcome offer ($200 after spending $500 in the first three months)
  • $0 annual fee
  • Long intro APR offer for purchases and balance transfers (0 percent for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, with 3 percent fee)

Cons

  • Requires excellent credit
  • High APR range after intro period

Who should apply: Individuals who don’t want to pay an annual fee and those who frequently spend money on dining out, travel, and entertainment.

Who should skip: People who prefer to earn travel rewards or whose monthly budget doesn’t include spending in the card’s bonus categories.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Best for savers

Why we picked it: Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers a near-perfect mix of cash back rewards potential without an annual fee. The card earns at least 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases, plus higher bonus rates in categories like dining, drugstore purchases, and travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Don’t forget the card’s lengthy 0 percent intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • 5 percent cash back on Lyft (through March 2025), 3 percent on dining and drugstore purchases
  • Lengthy intro APR period (15 months)

Cons

  • 3 percent foreign transaction fee
  • 3 percent fee on balance transfers increases to 5 percent after 60 days
  • Points are only worth 5 percent for travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards portal

Who should apply: Those who want to earn cash back rewards on everyday spending without paying an annual fee, those who already have a more premium Chase travel rewards card, such as Sapphire Preferred, to transfer rewards for better redemptions.

Who should skip: Those who want better travel value. (Consider pairing with Chase Sapphire Preferred for more flexible redemption.)

Wells Fargo Reflect® Card: Best for paying down debt

Why we picked it: For empty nesters taking on renovations or trying to recover from debt accrued from putting kids through college, the Wells Fargo Reflect® Card comes with one of the longest introductory APR offers available. This no annual fee card offers 18 months of 0 percent intro APR on purchases and qualifying balance transfers from account opening (then 15.99 percent to 27.99 percent variable APR). You can get up to an up to three-month extension of the intro offer by making monthly on-time minimum payments during the intro and extension periods.

Pros

  • Long intro APR offer (18 months)
  • No annual fee
  • Cellphone protection (up to $600, subject to a $25 deductible)

Cons

  • No ongoing rewards program
  • No welcome bonus offer
  • 3 percent foreign transaction fee

Who should apply: Empty nesters with large purchases coming up or who want to pay down existing debt without costly interest charges.

Who should skip: People who want to earn rewards for card spending.

How to choose a card for empty nesters

As you transition into a new life stage, there are several factors to keep in mind when selecting the best credit card for empty nesters. Here’s what you should pay attention to when choosing a card:

Spending habits: As you transition to life with an empty nest, your spending habits may change. Instead of a good portion of your monthly budget going towards groceries, you may decide to dine out more. Travel is often a bigger priority for empty nesters, so a card that earns bonus points for gas purchases or earns miles towards award flights may be a good option. Determine where you spend the most money and find a rewards card that earns big in those categories.

Welcome offers: There’s no better way to quickly earn points and miles than qualifying for welcome offers. Many cards allow you to earn sign-up bonuses by meeting spending requirements during a period of time. Make sure you can meet a card’s spending requirements to earn the welcome offer.

Card benefits: Beyond rewards, you should think about the long-term benefits associated with a card, like ongoing rewards, brand partnerships, elite loyalty status, travel and purchase protections, cellphone insurance, and other perks.

Redemption options: Select a credit card with redemption options that line up with the type of travel or other redemptions you prefer, like cash back, travel upgrades, and more. If you’re not sure how you want to spend your rewards, look for a flexible rewards credit card that offers several redemption options.

Fees: Annual fees can sometimes cut into the value of a credit card, especially if the card doesn’t come with long-term benefits. Weigh the annual fee cost against the value provided by the card to ensure it’s worth adding to your wallet.

The bottom line

Becoming an empty-nester doesn’t mean the end of a rewarding life. There are plenty of adventures to plan, and a solid credit card can help you earn rewards towards travel and other redemptions. Not only can you earn rewards that match your spending habits, but you can gain access to beneficial cark perks like loyalty status, travel and purchase protections and partner perks.

Consider your own finances, changes in lifestyle and spending habits, to determine if one of these credit cards is a good fit right now. Use Bankrate’s CardMatch tool to find credit cards that match your spending habits and earn rewards that match your needs.

Written by
Kevin Payne
Travel Rewards Expert Contributor
Kevin Payne is a freelance writer focused on the personal finance and travel spaces. He frequently writes about credit cards, banking, student loans, insurance, travel rewards and more. He is also the personal finance expert behind Family Money Adventure, where he regularly shares practical advice on managing family finances and traveling with a family.
Edited by
Senior Editor