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Best Credit Cards for Emergencies in 2021
Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It 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.
Unexpected emergencies — such as car repairs or medical procedures — can happen at any time. If you don’t have enough cash on hand to cover these abrupt expenses, resorting to an emergency credit card may be the answer.
Here are our top picks for the best credit cards to use in an emergency, based on the cards available in the LendingTree database and the top cards offered by major issuers.
Best emergency credit card for saving on interest charges — Wells Fargo Platinum card
The Wells Fargo Platinum card provides one of the longest interest-free periods currently available for a credit card. Cardholders receive a 0% intro APR for 18 months from account opening on purchases. Once the introductory period ends, an ongoing APR of 16.49%-24.49% (variable) applies to any remaining portion of the balance.
Also, like the other cards in this post, the Wells Fargo Platinum card charges a $0 annual fee.
What to look out for. The Wells Fargo Platinum card does not offer rewards for the purchases you make using the card. However, if you plan to take advantage of the card’s introductory APR, it’s best to focus on paying your balance in full within the promotional period over earning rewards.
Best emergency credit card for a cashback sign-up bonus — Chase Freedom Flex℠
If you want to offset an emergency expense with a cashback sign-up bonus while also enjoying an intro 0% APR period, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ can be tempting. New cardholders earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. And earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
Additionally, the $0 annual fee Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers a 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months, then a regular APR of 14.99% - 23.74% variable.
Chase Freedom Flex℠ rewards can be redeemed for statement credits or direct deposits into most U.S. checking and savings accounts, gift cards, travel or Amazon.com merchandise.
Cardholders also earn 5% cash back on eligible purchases in rotating categories, 5% on travel purchased through chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.
What to look out for. If you choose to use the card, once any emergency balance is taken care of, know that you are required to activate the rotating bonus categories each quarter to earn the elevated cashback rate. Otherwise, those purchases will only earn 1% cash back.
Best emergency card for instant approval — The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express
If you need instant access to a line of credit, The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express may be a good fit. Instead of waiting to use your card until your physical card arrives in the mail, American Express gives you access to your credit card number online or by email immediately upon approval.
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express comes with a $0 annual fee and offers an intro APR on purchases of 0% for 15 months, then a 12.99% - 23.99% variable APR applies. Plus, cardholders earn 2x points at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x), and 1x points on other purchases.
What to look out for. Although you can start making charges using your card number right away, know that you might not have access to your full line of credit until your physical card arrives in the mail.
To see rates & fees for The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express please click here.
Best emergency credit card for cash advances — PenFed Platinum Rewards VISA Signature® Card
The PenFed Platinum Rewards VISA Signature® Card offers a reasonable cash advance APR of 13.49% to 17.99% variable. As for cash advance fees — there are none.
The $0 annual fee card also offers rewards on gas and grocery purchases: 5x points on gas paid at the pump and ev charging stations. 3x at the supermarket (including most target and walmart locations), restaurants and tv, radio, cable, streaming services. 1x points on all other purchases. Plus, the PenFed Platinum Rewards VISA Signature® Card offers a 15,000 bonus points when you spend $1,500 in first 90 days..
What to look out for. Keep in mind, interest starts accruing immediately after taking a cash advance. So it’s best to pay off the cash advance as quickly as possible.
Best emergency credit card for health care financing — CareCredit® credit card
If an unexpected surgery, dental procedure or pet surgery pops up, you can finance the expense and pay it off over time with the CareCredit® credit card. The CareCredit® credit card offers special financing options for health, wellness, beauty and veterinary services.
Depending on the amount you need to finance, the CareCredit® credit card provides the following introductory APR offers:
CareCredit financing options
|Purchase amount||Financing options||Regular purchase APR|
|$200-$999||0% intro APR for 6, 12, 18 or 24 months||26.99% APR|
|$1,000 or more||14.90% APR for 24 months, 15.90% APR for 36 months or 16.90% APR for 48 months||26.99% APR|
|$2,500 or more||17.90% APR for 60 months||26.99% APR|
What to look out for: Beware that CareCredit® credit card’s financing options are subject to deferred interest. That means if you continue to carry a balance after the financing period ends, you will be charged all the interest accrued starting from the purchase date. Additionally, your financing offer may require you to make fixed monthly payments until your balance is paid in full.
What to look for in an emergency credit card
Having a credit card available during an emergency can mean the difference between a truly unfortunate event and sailing smoothly through the crisis. Here are some key features to keep in mind when searching for an emergency credit card:
- High credit line: In the case of an emergency, having access to a credit card with a high credit limit can help ensure you have enough room to cover any unplanned expenses.
- Low interest rate: Using a low interest credit card or one that offers a 0% intro APR for an extended period of time can help you save money on interest charges when paying off an emergency expense.
- $0 annual fee: If you’re only intending to use the credit card to cover an emergency expense, it doesn’t make sense to use one that charges an annual fee.
- Low fees. If you need to access emergency cash, in addition to a card with a $0 annual fee, you should opt for one that doesn’t charge high ATM fees or cash advance fees. Just know, because interest starts accruing on cash advances immediately, this option can get extremely costly.
- Revolving credit account. Since you’ll want the ability to pay off the emergency expense over time, your credit card should offer a revolving line of credit. This is opposed to a charge card, which requires that you pay your balance in full each month.
Should you use a credit card for emergencies?
Ideally, an emergency fund is the best way to save for unexpected expenses, but a credit card can serve as a great tool to help you out of an unexpected jam. However, to avoid racking up a large amount of additional debt and interest charges, we recommend that you only use the card for the emergency expense (and not for other purchases), and that you pay off the balance in full as quickly as possible.
The information related to Wells Fargo Platinum card, The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express has been independently collected by LendingTree and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply to American Express credit card offers. See americanexpress.com for more information.