Best credit cards for large purchases

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Credit cards aren’t generally seen as the best option when it comes to borrowing money, but there are plenty of ways using plastic can get you ahead—particularly when you have a large purchase to make.

The key is to use the right card for your needs. This could mean choosing a credit card that grants 0 percent APR on purchases for a limited time, a good welcome bonus, cash back rewards or, if possible, all of the above.

How to use a credit card for a big purchase

With that in mind, the best credit card for a large purchase depends on the goals of the spender and how much cash they have on hand. As you compare credit cards to find the best one for your needs, you should look for and compare the following factors:

  • Interest rate: Many credit cards grant a 0 percent APR on purchases and balance transfers for up to 18 months. Cards in this category can work as a “short-term loan” with zero interest, provided you pay your large purchase off before the introductory offer ends.
  • Ongoing rewards: Many credit cards let you earn rewards on your spending, ranging from cash back to travel rewards or flexible points. Because you earn more rewards the more you spend, large purchases can help you rack up points fast.
  • Sign-up bonuses: Many rewards credit cards also let you earn a sign-up bonus or welcome bonus when you meet a minimum spending requirement within a few months. These bonuses can be worth $500 or more on their own, and they’re given out on top of rewards earned as a percentage of your spending.
  • Consumer protections: Also, keep in mind that some credit cards offer cardholder protections that can come in handy when making large purchases. Perks to watch out for include purchase protection, extended warranties and guaranteed returns.

Once you decide on your key factors, you can begin searching for a card that offers the benefits or rewards you want the most.

Best cards for sign-up bonuses

The following credit cards can work well for anyone who needs to make a large purchase and has the cash to pay off their balance right away.

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card

  • Sign-up bonus: 50,000 online bonus points worth $500 when you spend $3,000 on your card within 90 days of account opening
  • Ongoing rewards: 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining and 1.5 points per $1 on other purchases
  • Purchase benefits: Return protection and purchase security
  • Annual fee: $95

Why it’s good for large purchases: You’ll earn a big initial bonus on this card when you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days. You can also benefit from return protection and purchase security on eligible items.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

  • Sign-up bonus: 60,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 on your card within three months of account opening
  • Ongoing rewards: 2X miles on all purchases
  • Purchase benefits: Extended warranty protection
  • Annual fee: $95

Why it’s good for large purchases: You can collect 60,000 miles worth $600 in travel right away when you meet the minimum spending requirement of $3,000 in the first three months and benefit from extended manufacturer warranties on eligible items.

Best 0% APR credit cards for big purchases

If you’re interested in rewards but need to pay your large purchases down without interest over time, credit cards that offer 0 percent APR on purchases are your best bet. Consider these cards that offer 0 percent for a limited time.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

  • Sign-up bonus: $200 cash bonus when you spend $500 on your card within three months of account opening
  • Ongoing rewards: Earn 5 percent cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year; 5 percent cash back on Lyft purchases (through March 2022); 5 percent cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3 percent cash back on dining; 3 percent cash back on drugstore purchases; 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases
  • Purchase benefits: 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 14.99 percent to 23.74 percent; purchase protection and extended warranties
  • Annual fee: $0

Why it’s good for large purchases: Earn a sign-up bonus, boosted rewards in bonus categories and ongoing rewards on your spending. Then, you can pay your balance off over 15 months without any interest.

*Chase Slate Edge℠

  • Sign-up bonus: Get a $100 bonus on your statement when you spend $500 in the first six months
  • Ongoing rewards: N/A
  • Purchase benefits: 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months, followed by a variable APR of 14.99 percent to 23.74 percent variable; cardholders are eligible for 2 percent APR reduction each year by paying on time and spending $1,000 on their card before the next account anniversary; purchase and extended warranty protection
  • Annual fee: $0

Why it’s good for large purchases: You’ll earn a welcome bonus, plus the opportunity to reduce your APR with responsible card use over time.

Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card

  • Welcome bonus: $200 bonus cash rewards after spending $1,000 in purchases within the first three months
  • Ongoing rewards: Unlimited 2 percent cash rewards on purchases
  • Purchase benefits: 0% intro APR purchases from account opening and qualifying balance transfers from account opening for the first 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 14.99 percent to 24.99 percent; cellphone protection (subject to a $25 deductible)
  • Annual fee: $0

Why it’s good for large purchases: Use this card to earn a generous welcome bonus as well as ongoing rewards, then pay off your large purchase within the first 15 months without any interest.

Best 0% APR credit cards for balance transfers

If you’ve already made that large purchase, you may be feeling the pain of compounding interest. In that case, a balance transfer card can give you over a year and a half to pay down that balance without accruing interest.

Wells Fargo Reflect℠ Card

  • Welcome bonus: None
  • Ongoing rewards: None
  • Purchase benefits: 0% intro APR for 18 months on qualifying balance transfers (up to 21 months with on-time minimum payments during the intro period) followed by a variable APR of 12.99 percent to 24.99 percent; cellphone protection (subject to a $25 deductible)
  • Annual fee: $0

Why it’s good for large purchases: The Wells Fargo Reflect Card gives you a shot at one of the longest balance transfer offers on the market, allowing you to split up payments into smaller monthly chunks. This card doesn’t offer rewards, but most credit cards won’t let you earn rewards on balance transfers, anyway.

Citi Simplicity® Card

  • Welcome bonus: None
  • Ongoing rewards: None
  • Purchase benefits: 0% intro APR for 21 months on balance transfers followed by a variable APR of 14.74 percent to 24.74 percent
  • Annual fee: $0

Why it’s good for large purchases: In the balance transfer world, a 0 percent intro APR offer of 21 months is the crème de la crème. If you’ve got a sizable debt load, a few extra months without accruing interest can give you some breathing room. Plus, there is no penalty rate and no late fees.

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

  • Welcome bonus: None
  • Ongoing rewards: None
  • Purchase benefits: 0% intro APR for 21 months on balance transfers followed by a variable APR of 13.74 to 23.74 percent
  • Annual fee: $0

Why it’s good for large purchases: Like the Citi Simplicity, this card offers an ultralong 0 percent intro APR period. There are only two major differences between these cards: The Diamond Preferred has a slightly lower APR range, and the Simplicity offers no late fees.

Tips to help you maximize large purchases made with a credit card

Picking a new credit card to use for a large purchase may be an easy feat, but making sure you wind up “ahead” in the end takes some planning and self-discipline. Consider these tips to help you make the most of large purchases this year:

Take advantage of a 0% APR offer

If you want to avoid paying interest on your purchase, compare cards with 0 percent APR offers. The average credit card APR is currently 16.21 percent, so be sure you can afford to pay enough each month to cover your balance in full before the introductory APR period ends.

Don’t overspend to earn more rewards

If your goal is maximizing large purchases to earn rewards, make sure you’re only using credit cards for things you planned to buy anyway. If you spend more than you really wanted just to earn more points, you won’t be any better off in the end.

Consider pairing a few different cards to earn multiple sign-up bonuses

You could potentially pick up a few new cards and use multiple forms of payment for your large purchase. This strategy can work well if you need to make a really pricey purchase that would help you qualify for several sign-up bonuses at once. Be sure to evaluate each card’s terms, including APRs and fees, which could eat into your rewards earnings.

The bottom line

Using a credit card for a large purchase can help you preserve cash and earn rewards in the process. But the best credit card for a large purchase shouldn’t be just for one event. Make sure that the card you choose meets your immediate spending needs and helps you achieve your long-term financial goals.

*The information about Chase Slate Edge℠ has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Written by
Aja McClanahan
Personal Finance Writer
Aja McClanahan is an author, blogger and speaker on personal finance and entrepreneurship. Aja is the author of "How a Mother Should Talk About Money with Her Daughter."
Edited by
Senior Editor, Credit Card Product News