You start out every new year with the best of intentions — this is the year you’re going to go to the gym more, start eating better and finally pay off your credit card debt. Sound familiar?
It’s great to aspire to these big changes, but sometimes lofty goals can be hard to keep. After all, even if your goal is to shed a couple pounds, who can turn down the friend who brings cookies right out of the oven?
We can’t quite help you fit into your skinny jeans, but what if we told you it’s possible to achieve the financial successes you’re hoping for in 2017 without feeling like it’s an uphill battle? You may not believe this, but a credit card, so long as it’s used responsibly, can help. These pieces of plastic can make it easier for you to stick to your goals — maybe even surpass them — all while spending the way you usually would.
Remember, part of qualifying for new plastic is your credit score. So the first step in your journey is to find out where your credit stands. You can do this by taking a look at two of your free credit scores on Credit.com. Once you know what types of cards you’re eligible for, you can take the next step in the process of achieving your goal.
1. If your goal is to save for a dream vacation: Chase Sapphire Reserve
This card really captured everyone’s attention when it was announced last fall, thanks to its 100,000-point signup bonus. While that offer is no longer available online (you have until March 12 to apply in person at a branch), new card members can earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. This equals $750 in travel rewards (like airfare or hotel rooms, for example) when booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Best of all, there’s a $300 annual travel credit each year. Cardholders earn 3x the points on travel and dining. Just make sure your budget can handle the card before you apply: There’s a $450 annual fee and a 16.49% to 23.49% variable annual percentage rate (APR), depending on your creditworthiness.
If that $450 annual fee is a bit much for your budget, you may want to consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card (find the full review here). You’ll get two times the points on travel and at restaurants but only get hit with a $95 annual fee (waved the first year).
2. If your goal is to put more money aside for retirement: Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card
Sure, you can put money in your company 401(k) plan (which is a really smart idea, especially if your company matches your contributions). But you can take it one step further and use the spending you’re doing now to benefit you down the road. With the Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature credit card, you’ll get 2% cash back on every net purchase deposited into your eligible Fidelity account. Best of all, there are no limits and no annual fee with this card. The variable APR for purchases is 14.49%.
3. If your goal is to pay off your credit card debt: Citi Simplicity
Wait — are we really suggesting you get another credit card when you’re already carrying credit card debt? Yes. Well, sort of. First, you have to make sure you look at your budget and have a plan in place if you’re going to use a balance transfer credit card, as these cards can be really effective but come with a time limit.
Here’s what we mean: When you transfer your credit card balance to the Citi Simplicity credit card (full review here), you will enjoy 21 months with no interest charges. That gives you almost two years to focus on paying down your balance without tacking on additional charges. (Note: After the introductory APR expires, the variable APR will be 13.49% to 23.49%, depending on creditworthiness.) You won’t be paying an annual fee with this card either.
Not sure how long it will take you to pay down your balance or how much you should be aiming to pay each month? Consider playing around with our credit card payoff calculator tool to see different possibilities.
4. If your goal is to develop better financial habits: Citi Double Cash
Do you have a habit of missing deadlines, one of which includes paying your bills on time? Hey, we get it — life gets busy and the statement that came in the mail gets buried under other things on your kitchen counter. But paying your bills on time not only helps you avoid late fees, but will also have a positive effect on your credit scores (payment history is the largest influencer of your scores).
Even with all that said, sometimes a little extra motivation can help. Enter the Citi Double Cash credit card. You’ll get 1% cash back on all your purchases, but there’s incentive to pay your statement off because, when you do, you earn another 1% cash back. That’s like being handed money for being responsible. These cash back rewards are unlimited, with no caps or category restrictions, and you can redeem them for statement credits, gift cards or checks. And if you do slip up again, you won’t get a late fee the first time it happens. There is no annual fee and your variable APR is 13.49% to 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness.
5. If your goal is to build up your emergency fund: Discover it Card
There are a lot of cash back cards on the market, all with different tiers and offerings. But one that is going to offer some of the biggest kickbacks is the Discover it credit card.
Each quarter, there are new reward categories that offer you 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases — through March this includes gas stations, ground transportation and wholesale clubs — and an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. Discover will match whatever cash back you’ve earned at the end of the first year. There’s no limit, no expiration date and no annual fees with this card, either. So as long as you’re paying on time so you don’t pay interest (there’s a variable 11.49% to 23.49% APR, after the 14-month 0% introductory rate expires) you’ll really be able to increase your rainy day savings.
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.
More from Credit.com
- How to Improve Your Credit Score
- Tips for Improving Your Credit: Your Amount of Debt
- Private Student Loans: What to Watch Out For
This article originally appeared on Credit.com.