Should you have an emergency credit card?

Even if you don’t use credit card for everyday purchases, there are still a few good reasons to keep one in your wallet. Unforeseen expenses – for a car repair job or home maintenance – can throw a wrench in the best financial plans.

An emergency credit card can help you manage a cash shortage. It can also provide an extra layer of reassurance and security when traveling – in case you lose your debit card or money, become the victim of fraud, or miss your flight and need to make a new reservation immediately.

Load a big expense to a credit card can save you time to rearrange your finances on a schedule that best suits your particular situation. If you can pay off the balance quickly, it’s cheaper than withdrawing money from a retirement account and faster than get the equity in your home or sell physical goods. If you end up using a credit card to deal with an emergency, it’s crucial to hatch a plan to repay debt as quickly as possible.

Whether you’re traveling abroad or just want peace of mind with a secondary payment method, the best emergency credit cards don’t charge annual fees, so you can keep them on the back burner without paying extra charge. And they can also help increase your credit score.

Ideal for long-term financing of unexpected expenses

Introductory offerN / A

APR14.24% – 24.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Intro Purchase APR0% Intro APR for 21 billing cycles for purchases

Recommended credit Excellent/Good

Reward rateN / A

Annual fees$0

Intro Balance Transfer APR0% Intro APR for 21 billing cycles for all BTs made in the first 60 days. A 3% fee (min. $10) applies.

APR balance transfer14.24% – 24.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Balance Transfer Fee Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.

Late payment fees See terms

Foreign transaction fees 3%

APR Penalty nothing

Our opinion

This online-only offer may not be available if you leave this page or visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer by applying now.

The BankAmericard® credit card offers one of the longest introductory APR periods on the market. You’ll get an introductory APR of 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 21 billing cycles (14.24% to 24.24% variable APR thereafter). This means that if you transfer your balance within the first 60 days of opening your account, you won’t pay interest on purchases – as long as you make your minimum payments on time – for approximately 21 months.

This can save you from paying interest charges if you have an urgent expense that you can’t pay immediately, but you’ll need to pay off the purchase by the end of the promotional period to avoid them altogether. After the promotional period ends, this card loses most of its value, as it does not have a rewards program or other special funding options.

Best emergency card for traveling abroad

Introductory offer: Earn 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months of account opening, which equals $200 on travel

APR: 16.49% – 26.49% (Variable)

Intro Purchase APR: 0% intro on purchases for 15 months

Recommended credit: Excellent, good

Reward rate:

  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you’ll get Capital One’s best prices on thousands of travel options
  • Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day.

Annual fees: $0

If you run into a cash crunch while traveling outside the United States, the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card will help you save on foreign transaction fees – an average of 3% per purchase – compared to a debit card.

Even better, the VentureOne card offers travel accident insurance** and car rental collision damage waiver** to further protect you from the unexpected, as well as emergency card replacement if your card is lost or stolen. Meanwhile, the introductory APR is great for temporarily avoiding interest if you need to charge something unexpectedly.

**Terms, conditions and exclusions apply. Please see your Benefits Guide for more details.

Ideal for your first credit card

Introductory offer: N / A

APR: 15.24% – 29.24% (Variable)

Intro Purchase APR: N / A

Recommended credit: Limited/Fair/Good/Excellent

Reward rate:

  • Up to 1.5% cash back on qualifying purchases after making 12 monthly payments on time.
  • 1% cash back on qualifying purchases immediately.

Annual fees: $0

If you’re looking for an emergency credit card, this could also be your first credit card. And if you don’t already have an established credit history, you may not be approved for credit cards that require “good” credit or better. But there are cards for people with lower credit scores, and the Visa Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” credit card, issued by WebBank, is among the best of them.

It offers rewards, a relatively low APR range, and a credit limit of $300 to $10,000 – features that are rare in these types of cards and will give you more flexibility in an emergency.

Ideal for unexpected household maintenance and car repairs

Introductory offerEarn a $200 bonus on your upgrade card after opening a Rewards checking account and making 3 debit card transactions*

APR8.99% -29.99% APR

Intro Purchase APRN / A

Recommended credit Excellent/good/fair credit

Reward rate
  • Unlimited cash back on payments – 3% on Home, Auto and Health categories
  • 1% on everything else

Annual fees$0

Foreign transaction fees $0

  • Unlimited cash back on payments – 3% on Home, Auto and Health categories
  • 1% on everything else

Our opinion

The Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Card offers a unique rewards program for homeowners who finance DIY and other repairs. If you can pay your emergency home or car maintenance costs in full by the first payment due date, you’ll avoid interest charges and earn 3% cash back on home, car and health purchases.

The 3% cash back covers purchases at hardware stores, home supply stores, landscaping services, and heating, plumbing, and air conditioning providers. Purchases from auto parts stores, car dealerships, car washes, tires and towing services are included in the automotive category. Health and beauty spas, gym memberships, exercise equipment and pharmacies such as Walgreens and CVS also gain 3%.


Should I have an emergency credit card in my wallet or keep it at home?

If you’re traveling, we recommend bringing your emergency credit card with you to help with mishaps like a missed flight. Otherwise, leave your emergency credit card at home to avoid the temptation of non-emergency spending.

How can an emergency credit card improve my credit score?

A credit score measures your creditworthiness, based on your credit card, loan, and mortgage history. Establishing a credit history and building your credit score sets the stage for renting an apartment, applying for a car loan, and buying a home — and, generally, the higher your score is. higher, the cheaper it is to borrow. So even if you don’t plan to use an emergency credit card regularly, having one will help you build up credit with minimal effort.

What types of credit cards are good for emergencies?

Some credit cards are better at financing unexpected expenses than others. An introductory APR will allow you to avoid interest while you take the time to pay off a significant cost. A specialized rewards program will allow you to earn cash or other rewards to recoup some of your costs if you can repay it immediately. Pay attention to the deadlines or spending limits of these offers: there may be restrictions on these features.

What happens if I don’t make any purchases with my emergency credit card?

Technically, you never need to use your emergency credit card. It’s a good idea to make a small charge every few months and pay it off immediately to keep your account active, though. Credit card issuers reserve the right to close your account without notice for lack of use.

What happens if I cancel my emergency credit card?

Whether or not you close your credit card account may be a matter of personal preference, but there are some factors to consider. Closing a credit card, especially one that’s been open for a while, can negatively affect your credit score. On the other hand, if you cannot use a credit card responsibly, closing an account may be a good option to avoid using it. Be sure to close the account properly if you choose to do so.

What are the risks of using a credit card?

When you make purchases with a credit card, several risks can have long-term repercussions on your financial health. If you don’t make payments in full, you’ll accrue interest charges if you don’t use an introductory APR promotion. You may also incur late fees and other charges for missed payments. Ultimately, any irresponsible use of credit can lead to debt and a damaged credit rating.

*To qualify for the $200 Welcome Bonus, you must open and fund a new rewards checking account and complete 3 debit card transactions within 60 days of opening your upgrade card account. The bonus will be applied as a one-time credit to your account and will not otherwise reduce your regular monthly payment amount. The bonus credit will be posted to your upgrade card as rewards credit within 1-2 billing periods of the third debit card transaction on your rewards checking account. Your upgrade card must be in good standing to receive a bonus.

Editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our editors and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It was not supplied or commissioned by a third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

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