Credit Cards for Emergencies

Updated on Jun 22, 2017

*Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

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We all know emergencies can happen. They are usually unexpected, unavoidable and expensive. I don’t know about you, but the emergencies that have happened in my life have always come at the worst possible times. This is why it is important to build an emergency fund, but sometimes the extra cushion of cash just doesn’t cut it.

What to Look for in an Emergency Credit Card

Having a credit card on hand during an emergency can mean the difference between a truly unfortunate event and sailing smoothly through the crisis. Emergency credit cards aren’t like other forms of plastic; you’re not going to use them for everyday expenses, so you don’t need to focus on rewards and perks.

Here are some key features to keep in mind when searching for an emergency credit card:

  • Low Interest-If an emergency happens, chances are that you’ll be responsible for paying off a large balance. By using a low interest credit card, or one that offers 0% for 12 months or more, you’ll save money in the long run by avoiding additional charges.
  • No Annual Fee- You should never pay to carry your emergency credit card.
  • High Credit Line- Having access to a high credit limit on your emergency credit card will give you more cushion to work with in the event of an emergency. Plus, this method will also help your credit utilization ratio.
  • Quick Approval- Typically the only credit cards that guarantee an instant approval are those designed for rebuilding credit. In order to receive an instant approval decision on unsecured credit cards, you will need excellent credit. In other words, if an application needs to be reviewed before a decision can be made, that’s typically because the consumer’s credit is right on the border of approval and denial, and the bank needs to look closer at the credit file. However, even if you receive an instant approval, the credit card will still take 7-10 business days to arrive. Most emergencies can’t wait that long, so it’s better to have an emergency credit card before you need it.
  • Additional Protections and Insurances- Most credit cards have additional benefits that many cardholders are unaware of. These benefits can bring extra protections and insurances that may come in handy in the event of an emergency.

Best Credit Cards for Emergencies 

Citi Simplicity® Card - $0 Intro BT Fee- This credit card is known for having the least amount of fees attached with it. It comes with no annual fee, and an intro APR of 0%* for 15 months on Purchases* and 0%* for 15 months on Balance Transfers*. The on-going APR is 14.49% - 24.49% (Variable) based on creditworthiness. The extra-long 0% intro rate makes the Citi Simplicity Card a great option to use for major purchases.

Chase Slate®- This card comes equipped with no annual fee, and 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months. This card would also appeal to those who had to charge an emergency expense to a high-interest credit card because it’s the only credit card on the market that comes with no intro balance transfer fee and an intro balance transfer rate of 0%. The ongoing APR is 15.74% - 24.49% Variable.

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card – 21 Month Intro Offer on BT and Purchases -This low interest and easy to use card would be a good choice if you need to for an emergency credit card. It features no annual fee and an intro APR of 0%* for 21 months on Purchases* and 0%* for 21 months on Balance Transfers*. The on-going APR is 13.49% - 23.49%* (Variable). This is a pretty basic credit card that does not come with any complicated terms and conditions or confusing fine print.

Capital One® Platinum Prestigecapital_one_platinum_prestige_card- This credit card is another one that doesn’t come with any extra bells and whistles, but is perfect to have on hand. You must have excellent/good credit to qualify, but once approved, you’ll pay no annual fees and enjoy 0% interest until July 2016 The APR that kicks in after the intro period is 10.9% – 20.9% variable. *This offer and/or promotion may have since changed, expired, or is no longer available.

Discover it® Cashback Match™Discover It 12-12 - This Discover it comes with 0% APR for 14 months for both purchases and balance transfers, followed by an on-going interest rate of 11.24%-23.24% variable. This credit card comes with no annual fee, so it doesn’t cost you to carry. The Discover it will also earn cardholders 1% cash back on all purchases, which is not a big factor for emergency credit cards, but still a nice feature to mention.

Simmons Bank Visa® PlatinumSimmons First Visa Platinum- There is no intro APR with this offer, but the on-going APR is one of the lowest on the market at 7.25% variable, with no annual or balance transfer fees. You can get a cash advance anywhere Visa is accepted at a rate of 11.25% and a 3% fee. This credit card also comes with travel insurance and car rental coverage.

Maintaining Your Emergency Card

We feel it’s wise to maintain at least one credit card for emergency purchases only, which has a relatively large credit limit. Since you won’t be using your emergency credit card regularly, you want to make occasional small purchases with the credit card to keep the account open and active.

It’s also a good idea to set up a PIN in case you need quick access to cash. Don’t wait until an emergency happens to request a PIN because banks need time to create and send you your PIN.

* Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

*The content in this article is accurate at the publishing date, and may be subject to changes per the card issuer.

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