PLAYING YOUR CARDS RIGHT
Seniors have different spending priorities and financial realities than those who are younger. This is often tied to the fact that seniors are living on a fixed income made up of retirement funds, Social Security or some combination of both. This reality makes it even more important to choose wisely when opting to use a credit card for purchases and other expenses. With that in mind, Cheapism asked personal finance and credit card industry experts to weigh in on the best credit cards for senior citizens. Here is what they had to say.Related: 21 Ways to Cut Costs in Retirement
AARP CREDIT CARD
The top recommendation, hands down, was the AARP Credit Card from Chase. "The AARP credit card from Chase was specifically made for seniors," said Andy Misek of the website Finance Guru. "You get 3 percent cash back on gas, which is pretty high. You also get 1 percent back on groceries and going out to eat. This is the perfect card for seniors who enjoy going out for dinner." In addition, every time you use your credit card at as restaurant, 10 cents is donated to AARP.
AMERICAN EXPRESS BLUE CASH PREFERRED CARD
Priyanka Prakash, a lending and credit expert at online loan broker Fundera, says the American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card is her top choice for senior citizens for a variety of reasons. "The card provides cash back in areas of spending that are important to baby boomers and seniors," Prakash said. "Compared to millennials, nearly 40 percent of whom shop for groceries online on platforms like Amazon, 85 percent of baby boomers still prefer going to the supermarket." The Blue Cash Preferred card provides 6 percent cash back on groceries, which is the highest of any card on the market, Prakash notes. In addition, it offers 3 percent cash back on fuel purchases, another help for seniors who are continuing to drive, she says. This card also comes with a $250 cash-back offer when spending $1,000 within the first three months.
CHASE SAPPHIRE PREFERRED
Juggling credit cards with different rewards and points-redemption methods can get confusing. The Chase Sapphire Preferred can streamline things for seniors, said Oliver Browne, a credit industry analyst for Credit Card Insider. "The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a fantastic travel credit card for seniors as it allows them to earn and transfer points to a number of partner loyalty programs," Browne explained. The card is much-loved for its ability to transfer points at a 1-to-1 ratio to airline and hotel travel partners, including United MileagePlus and IHG Rewards Club. This card also offers 2 points per dollar on travel and dining, an added bonus for seniors who want to enjoy the finer things in retirement while still putting some money back in their pocket.
CITI DOUBLE CASH CARD
The major benefit of the Double Cash Card is right in its name, says Andy Misek of Finance Guru. The card provides 1 percent cash back when you make any type of purchase and another 1 percent when you pay, he explained. There are no specific category limits for the purchases. Nor is there a cap on the amount cardholders can earn. In addition, there's no annual fee. "While it doesn't offer the same travel benefits of the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, the Citi Double Cash Card offers benefits that aren't as situational," Misek said. "Everyone needs groceries and gas and getting cash back for those purchases is incredibly beneficial."
CAPITAL ONE VENTURE REWARDS
Do you travel a lot to see the grandkids or to explore the world? Dan Soschin, chief operating officer of the website CardGuru, says the best option for seniors who do a fair amount of traveling is the Capital One Venture Rewards card. "You'll accumulate ‘miles' on every purchase you make, which can be applied to airline travel with no blackout dates," Soschin said. The card is currently offering two-times the miles for every dollar spent. There's also a 50,000-mile sign-up bonus for those who spend $3,000 within the first three months. "That's roughly equal to $500 in travel," Soschin noted. "This card has plenty of perks including no foreign transaction fees and bonus mile opportunities such as 10x miles on hotel bookings."
CHASE FREEDOM UNLIMITED
Sometimes, it can be a good idea to keep things simple, suggests Soschin of CardGuru. The Chase Freedom Unlimited does not sacrifice perks for simplicity. "There's no worrying about bonus miles, points or limited time offers," Soschin said. "Instead, you receive 1.5 percent cash back on everything you purchase. It's that simple, which makes this a great card for seniors who spend a lot and don't want to worry about which credit card to use for various purchases." There is no minimum required for claiming cash-back rewards, and this card also offers a sign-up bonus of up to $150 when you spend $500 in the first three months. "We love this card for its simplicity, its extended warranty feature, and because it has no annual fee," Soschin said.
While older Americans may not be the target demographic for Uber rides, that doesn't mean Uber's credit card isn't a good fit for them. Michael Cetera, senior credit analyst for the website FitSmallBusiness, recommends the card for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is its 4 percent cash back on dining. "This is the best cash-back card for dining out that doesn't charge an annual fee," Cetera said. "Because food is such a big part of senior citizens' budgets, nearly 13 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, finding the right card to reward food spending should be a priority."
A card that is likely less well-known than the others on this list, the Simmons Visa is one of Beverly Herzog's top recommendations for seniors. A credit-card expert for U.S. News & World Report, she notes that it offers a low interest rate (10.5 percent vs. the typical 17 percent) and no annual fee. This card is ideal for seniors who need a basic card that's good for everyday purchases. It's not a great choice for those who are interested in scoring rewards.
FIDELITY REWARDS VISA SIGNATURE CARD
Fidelity's card offers a great choice for seniors wanting to add to their retirement accounts or help pay for children's education. In addition to offering unlimited 2 percent cash back on every eligible purchase and no annual fee, it allows cardholders to deposit rewards in up to several eligible Fidelity accounts, among them a retirement account or 529 college savings account.
WELLS FARGO PROPEL AMERICAN EXPRESS
While it may offer a slightly lower return than other cards at three times the points on restaurants and take-out, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express also offers three times points on a variety of other spending categories, such as gas stations, rideshares and transit, flights, hotels, car rentals and popular streaming services, says Cetera of FitSmallBusiness. "I'd recommend this card to senior citizens who spend heavily on both dining out and travel," said Cetera said. "What's more there's no annual fee, and you can earn 30,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 within the first three months."
Available as either a debit or credit card, the Target REDcard is a good choice for seniors because it will save an instant 5 percent at the checkout, says Cetera of FitSmallBusiness. "This is great for grocery shopping," Cetera said, adding that the card could save consumers hundreds of dollars annually. "Since you get the 5 percent off for all qualifying Target purchases, this can make all of your shopping at the giant retailer cheaper." Another bonus: There is no annual fee.
DISCOVER IT CASH BACK
The Discover it Cash Back card offers great value for seniors in its first year, says Cetera of FitSmallBusiness. "Discover pays 1 percent on all spending and 5 percent on rotating categories that switch each quarter," Cetera explained. During the first year of card ownership, Discover will also match all of the cash back you earn. That essentially makes this a 2 percent cash-back card on all spending and a 10 percent cash-back card on rotating categories during the first year. "That makes for a pretty great return on any spending a senior citizen might need to do."