Best Credit Card Companies
Credit Cards Contributing Editor
Updated on 11/21/2017
Credit cards are a useful financial tool, but only if they are used responsibly. With a credit card, consumers can charge items and services that they need and then pay them off at a later date. Most credit card companies have an application process that requires the consumer to provide background information, such as personal information and income, before being approved for the card.
To make a decision, the credit card company also reviews the consumer’s credit report and credit score. Credit companies vary a little when it comes to applying for and using the credit card. If the consumer chooses wisely, a credit card can even be used to earn rewards or to rebuild or establish a credit history.
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Compare Reviews for Top Credit Card Companies
Read 1448 Reviews
Merrick Bank was originally founded in 1997 in South Jordan, Utah. The company is FDIC insured, and specializes in settling credit card transactions and clearing payments for consumers looking to improve their credit rating.
Read 4118 Reviews
Capital One offers customers a range of cards, including Travel Rewards, Cash Back and Building Credit Cards. As one of America's ten largest banks, the company offers a wide range of financial services to consumers.
|Credit One Bank|
Read 2271 Reviews
Credit One Bank is one of the leading issuers of VISA cards in America. They are located in Las Vegas, NV and focus on working with people who have been overlooked by other credit companies because of less-than-perfect credit.
|Synchrony Financial (formerly GE CareCredit)|
Read 599 Reviews
Synchrony was formerly known as GE CareCredit, and they have over 80 years of experience in the industry. They provide many different credit options for customers, and offer rewards programs for long-term clients.
|American Express Platinum Card (amex)|
Read 1148 Reviews
The American Express Platinum card provides multiple benefits for enrolled users, including several travel perks, a rewards program, exclusive services such as roadside assistance and car rentals.
Read 297 Reviews
Comenity has over 34 million customers around the world, and boasts an A+ Better Business Bureau rating. They manage credit programs for top retailers in the US, helping them create the best options for their customers.
|Capital One Venture|
Read 26 Reviews
This travel reward credit card helps you earn bonus airmiles. You get 2 miles for ever $1 you spend and $10 on every $1 you spend on hotels booked through hotels.com/venture. It requires an annual fee of $95.
|Bank of America Credit Cards|
Read 1661 Reviews
One of America's largest banking service companies, Bank of America offers customers a range of credit cards. These include cash rewards, travel, low interest rate, no annual fee, student and credit rebuilding cards.
Read 1217 Reviews
Citi offers four different cards, each of which has different benefits to fit the needs of the user, including extra cash back, no late fees or annual fee, low interest rates, 24-hour concierge service and bonus points.
|Chase Credit Cards|
Read 4876 Reviews
Chase Credit Cards is one of the world's leading financial services firms, ranked number 1 in customer satisfaction. Controlled by JPMorgan Chase, Chase Credit Cards offers consumers MasterCards and Visa Cards.
What to consider when choosing a credit card
It's important to consider the reputation of the credit card company and the ratings and reviews it has received.
- Company history: Credit card companies have very different histories. Some have been around for many years while others are relatively new and have fewer customers. If a company hasn’t been around long, review the credit card carefully and read reviews of the product.
- Established: It's a good idea to choose a company that has an established reputation. These companies tend to have better records of treating customers well and responding promptly to complaints. Do keep in mind that most major companies have complaints now and then.
- No past issues: It's best to work with a credit card company that doesn't have any outstanding past issues with customers. As mentioned already, many big companies have consumer complaints. But the question is whether or not they address those complaints and remedy the situation.
- Diverse offerings: Some companies offer only one type of credit card while others offer a variety. For example, a credit card company might offer unsecured credit cards as well as secured credit cards.
Type of card
Credit card companies either specialize in one type of card or offer a variety of credit cards to choose from. For example, a large credit card company might offer credit cards as well as debit cards and even prepaid cards.
- Credit cards: Credit cards allow people to use the card for purchases and then pay it back at a later date. The time between the purchase and the due date is called the “grace period.” If you pay within the grace period, you won’t have to pay interest on your purchase. Do this and keep a low balance during the month, too. This is the responsible way to use credit cards.
- Credit/debit cards: Debit cards are issued by financial institutions, and they are tied to one of your accounts. For instance, many debit cards are tied to checking accounts. When you use the debit card, the funds are taken from that account. You can not build credit by using a debit card because you are spending your own money.
- Prepaid cards: Prepaid cards require the money to be deposited to the account upfront and then spent at a later date. You cannot build credit by using a prepaid card because you are spending your own money. Some prepaid cards have many fees so it’s essential to read the fine print carefully.
Using credit cards (or any type of plastic) means that hackers can possibly gain access to sensitive and personal information. If this happens, the thief can use your credit card to make purchases. This is why it’s a good idea to frequently check your credit card account activity online and look for fraudulent purchases. If you see signs of credit card fraud, it’s essential that you notify your credit card company as soon as possible. Sometimes, a hacker isn’t involved. You simply lost your card and a thief took advantage of the situation. If you notice your card is missing, contact your credit card company immediately. Most companies will “freeze” your account until the card is found or a decision is made to change the account numbers. Today’s credit cards are chip-enabled, and this helps prevent some types of fraud, such as cloning. But chip cards don’t prevent online fraud. So while chip cards do add a layer of security, they aren’t fool-proof. Fraud can still happen, and checking your accounts often can help you catch fraud in its tracks.
- Full coverage: Most major credit card companies offer “zero liability” for any fraudulent charges made on an account. By federal law, the most you will owe for fraudulent purchases is $50.
- Fraudulent purchases: Most major credit card companies remove the fraudulent activities from your account when they are reported. It’s important to look at your monthly statements carefully so you don’t pay for items you didn’t buy. You can further protect yourself by checking your online accounts daily.
- Notification: Most major credit card companies monitor spending patterns of cardholders. In fact, the issuer might freeze the account before contacting you if they suspect fraudulent activity on your account. If you get an email or a call about a suspicious transaction, contact your issuer immediately.
APR stands for annual percentage rate. This is the amount of interest charged expressed as an annual rate. The APR includes fees and other costs of the card.
- Introductory rate: Some credit card companies offer a zero percent introductory interest rate, which might range from six months to a year or longer. The Credit CARD Act of 2009 requires that an introductory APR must be available for at least six months.
- Low interest rate on purchases: Some companies offer low-interest rate credit cards. These cards are usually targeted at consumers who have excellent credit.
- Negotiating for a lower APR: Some credit card companies lower the APR over time if a consumer consistently pays on time. But sometimes you have to be proactive. If you have excellent credit and you think your APR is too high, call your issuer and request a lower rate.
Most credit cards allow consumers to obtain cash advances on their credit cards. The amount withdrawn (plus the transaction fee) is added to the balance on your credit card statement. This method of obtaining cash can be very expensive.
- Cash advance limit: Companies generally set a limit on the amount of cash customers can withdraw on a card, so your card’s overall credit limit may be higher than your limit for a cash advance.
- Higher APR: Most cards have a much higher APR on cash advances than on purchases.
- Transaction fees: This is the fee for getting a cash advance. It’s usually 3 percent to 5 percent of the amount withdrawn.
- Repayment terms: The majority of credit cards do not offer a grace period with a cash advance. This means that interest starts accruing as soon as you make the withdrawal. The total you pay back is the amount of the cash advance plus the transaction fee. With a high APR and no grace period, a cash advance is costly and should not be used except in an emergency.
Credit card companies have their own approval processes when consumers apply for credit cards. They pay attention to credit scores and credit reports, but each issuer looks at additional factors when making a decision.
- Cards for bad credit: Some credit cards are geared toward consumers with bad credit. There are unsecured cards for those with bad credit, and these are often easy to get, but the fees can be high so be sure to review the terms and fees carefully. There are also secured credit cards, and these are helpful to those who are rebuilding or establishing credit.
- Cards for fair credit: Some credit card issuers offer credit cards that are targeted to those who have fair credit. These cards usually have lower credit limits and higher APRs. Only a few cards in this category offer rewards. But these cards can help consumers improve their credit scores so they can eventually qualify for cards with better terms.
- Student credit cards: Some issuers offer cards designed for college students who want to build credit. These cards are usually easier to get and many have rewards, but the issuer does confirm that the student is currently enrolled.
- Prepaid cards: There is no credit check, and approval is easy. A prepaid card might be a good choice for a consumer who can't get a checking account due to a history of writing bad checks. Whatever the reason, using a prepaid card can be a good short-term solution as long as you choose a card that doesn’t have a lot of fees.
Many credit cards offer a variety of rewards to cardholders. Usually, the more consumers spend, the more rewards they receive. But the best way to use rewards cards is to use them for purchases you have to make anyway. This way, you can actually earn a profit from your rewards cards. The key is to match your spending patterns to the right type of rewards. Note that APRs for rewards credit cards tend to be higher than for cards without rewards. So don’t start using rewards cards unless you plan to pay the balance in full by the due date every month. Annual fees range from zero to hundreds of dollars, so pay close to attention to the rates and fees as well as the rewards program details.
- Airline: Many credit card companies team up with airlines to offer rewards in the form of discounted flights or money applied toward flights. There’s a huge amount of variety when it comes to airline cards. Most rewards are earned as miles, though some cards use a point system. Redemption options will also vary by card.
- Cash back: This is a popular category because it allows consumers to save on everyday expenses. There are issuers who offer cards that give, for example, 1 percent cash back per dollar spent. Many of these cards then offer “bonus” categories. For instance, the card might offer 3 percent cash back on groceries, 2 percent on department stores or gas, and 1 percent on all else. There are also cards with rotating 5 percent bonus categories that change quarterly.
- Gas credits: Some credit card companies team up with gas companies to provide consumers with discounts at gas stations. There are often exclusions, so read the fine print carefully. Gas-station branded cards tend to have high APRs. You can often get a card offering good gas rewards from the major credit card companies. These cards are not branded by a gas station, so you have flexibility about where to buy gas.
- Store credits: Many retail stores, such as Amazon and Target, offer credit cards that provide rewards at that store for purchases made on the card. Note that store cards often have high APRs, so it’s especially important not to carry a balance.
Balance transfer credit cards are specifically designed for consumers who have balances on high-APR credit cards. The consumer can transfer the balance on the high-interest card to a balance transfer card that might offer a zero percent APR for a specified time period. This allows a consumer to pay off—or at least pay down—the debt without paying interest during the introductory period.
- Balance transfer APR: This type of credit card usually offers a zero percent APR on balance transfers. These offers are generally for those who have excellent credit. There are also balance transfer offers that have low APRs (but not zero), and this still might be a good option for those who have debt on a high-APR credit card but who do not have excellent credit.
- Transfer fee: The fee is usually 3 percent to 5 percent of the amount transferred. There are a few cards on the market that waive this fee, but most cards charge them. If you pay the fee, it is added to your transferred balance.
- Payment terms: Ideally, you want to pay off the balance before the interest kicks in. But at least make your minimum payments and pay more than that when possible. Do not add new purchases to this card, or it will be difficult to pay off the balance. Use this opportunity to get out of debt, not to get deeper into debt.
- Transfer limit: The balance transfer credit card usually has a limit for the amount of money a consumer can transfer to the card. The credit limit will be set based on the consumer’s application, credit report and credit score. With a high credit limit, it’s possible to transfer more than one balance from high-APR credit cards.
Types of credit card companies
With an unsecured credit card, a security deposit is not required. Unsecured credit cards are for consumers who have at least fair credit. However, it’s impossible to predict whether or not someone will get approved because issuers look beyond credit scores. The credit card issuer might make exceptions if the applicant has other items in their credit report that suggest creditworthiness. For instance, an issuer might take a chance on someone who has been at the same job for a long time because this suggests stability. Or perhaps the consumer suffered an accident and couldn’t work for awhile and this event caused a temporary state of bad credit. Different issuers also have different credit score requirements for their credit cards. For example, an issuer might have an elite card that requires excellent credit. The same issuer might also have a card that targets the fair-credit crowd.
Rewards cards are a feature offered by some unsecured (or even secured) credit cards. If the rewards card chosen is a good fit for your spending style, then you can earn a profit from your cards as long as you don’t carry a balance. Rewards vary greatly from card to card. Depending on the credit card, you might earn rewards in airline miles, points or cash back. Redemption options for your rewards will also differ by card issuer and even by card. Some major issuers, for example, might offer an airline miles card as well as a cash back card.
Balance transfer credit cards
Balance transfer credit cards can help consumers who have balances on high-APR credit cards. The balance (or more than one balance if the credit limit is high enough) on the high-interest card is transferred to a balance transfer card that offers a zero percent APR for a specified time period. This allows a consumer to make payments toward the debt without paying interest during the introductory period.
Student credit cards
Some issuers offer credit cards designed especially for college students. These cards are a little easier to get since the issuer expects the applicant to have limited credit. Rewards are also often offered with these cards.
Secured credit cards are a great option for people who need to build or rebuild their credit history. There’s a wide range of features and fees with secured cards so it’s important to read the terms and conditions for each card that’s being considered. Some issuers make the approval process very easy and accept almost everyone who applies. But there are some issuers who have tougher requirements for applicants. For example, some major card issuers won’t approve a consumer who has had a recent bankruptcy. As opposed to unsecured cards, secured cards require a deposit into a savings account to “secure” the card. The consumer receives a credit card that’s used the same way an unsecured card would be used. The deposit stays in the account, so the consumer is actually using credit, not their own money. If the issuer reports the payment history to all three major credit bureaus, the consumer builds or rebuilds their history. Of course, the card must be used responsibly to attain a good credit score and credit history.
With prepaid cards, consumers “load” the card with their own money. The card is used the same way you would use a debit card. The difference is that a debit card is linked to a bank account and there are often no fees. Read all the disclosure statements for a prepaid card before you make a choice. There are good choices on the market, but there also cards that should be avoided due to excessive fees.
Which credit card is right for you?
Consumers with good credit
For those with good or excellent credit, rewards cards can be used to save money on travel, reduce the cost of everyday expenses (such as groceries or gas) and to maintain a healthy FICO score. If consumers with good scores (a FICO score of 700 – 749) use credit cards responsibly, they can boost their scores into the excellent FICO score range (750+).
Consumers with bad credit
Many things can negatively affect a consumer's credit score, including paying bills late, too many credit inquiries, defaulting on payments, the amount of debt the consumer has and more. People with low credit scores can use credit cards to help rebuild their histories and improve their credit scores. If their scores are too low to get approved for an unsecured card, then using a secured credit card can be a path to rebuilding their credit histories.
Consumers with zero or limited credit
Those who are trying to establish a good credit history can use credit cards to build strong histories and improve their credit scores. Some issuers offer credit cards targeting those with fair credit. But if the consumer is turned down for unsecured cards, then using a secured credit card might be the answer.
Consumers with an immediate expense
Some consumers with an upcoming big expense might not be able to pay in cash. In these situations, a consumer might get a credit card to make the purchase immediately and then pay it off over time. Be aware that credit cards are not good options for short-term loans. Interest starts accruing after the grace period, and due to compound interest, you could end up paying much more than you intended to pay for your purchase. So in many cases, personal loans might offer better terms and rates for this kind of expense. However, one of the best options for paying for a big expense is to use a credit card that offers a zero percent introductory rate on purchases. These offers range from six months to 21 months. You do need excellent credit to qualify for the best deals. If you still have a balance at the end of the intro period, you will start paying interest on the balance.
For consumers who run a small business, there are many good business credit cards available that offer a variety of tools that help with money management, taxes and more. Many credit card companies offer business cards so you can separate your personal and business expenses. Once you decide to use a card for your business, do not use it for personal expenses. Unless you have established credit in your business’s name, your personal credit history is reviewed when you apply for a business card. If your goal is to build business credit, be sure you ask the issuer if they report payment history to the major consumer bureaus or to the specialized commercial credit bureaus. There are also corporate credit cards that can be issued, and these are a different type of business credit card. These accounts are based on the company’s credit history. It’s important to note that business credit cards—both small-business cards and corporate cards—are not covered by the Credit CARD Act of 2009, which protects consumers from sudden rate increases, universal default, retroactive rate increases on outstanding balances and much more. There are some exceptions when applying the CARD Act rules, but the point is that business cards don’t have any of these protections. So be sure to read any correspondence received from issuers in case there have been major changes to the terms and conditions of your credit card.
Balance transfer credit cards are another example of unsecured cards. If consumers are carrying debt on their credit cards, getting a balance transfer card offers a temporarily interest-free way to pay off (or at least pay down) debt. With this option, consumers who have balances on a high-APR credit card can transfer the balance to a balance transfer that offers a zero percent APR for a specified time period.
Credit card company expert reviews
Merrick Bank was founded in 1977 and is a top-20 U.S. issuer of Visa cards. Merrick Bank serves over 1,500,000 cardholders and specializes in credit programs that help consumers establish or rebuild their credit histories.
Chase is the U.S. consumer and commercial banking subsidiary of J.P. Morgan, which is a leading global financial services firm with assets worth $2.6 trillion. Chase has more than 5,300 branches and 15,500 ATMs. Cardholders can also bank online via mobile phones. The Chase brand is used for credit cards.
Capital One, a Fortune 500 company, is one of the most recognized brands in America. It is one of the nation's top 10 largest banks and has locations primarily in New York, New Jersey, Texas, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Bank of America is one of the largest financial institutions in the country. It’s a global leader in wealth management, corporate and investment banking and more. Bank of America is very convenient because it offers 4,700 financial centers and 16,000 ATMs. The bank has 32 million online banking users and 19 million mobile users. It has been working with customers for more than 200 years.
Operating in many American states, Eppicard states that it’s a “prepaid debit MasterCard” that can be used to receive child support or payroll deposits. The payments you are supposed to receive are electronically loaded to your Eppicard.
Discover is a leading direct bank and electronic payment services company. It’s one of the most trusted financial institutions in the country, and it has been operating since 1986, which is when it introduced the first cash rewards credit card. It provides international credit solutions and acquires 5,000 new customers every day.
Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed) is a large American financial institution that has been around since 1935. It serves all fifty states and some international military bases. Along with other financial services, PenFed offers several Visa and American Express credit cards to members.
Information in this guide is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal, health, investment or tax advice. ConsumerAffairs.com makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided and assumes no liability for any damages or loss arising from its use.
Compare Reviews for Top Credit Card Companies
Read 643 Reviews
Discover is a credit card company headquartered in Riverwoods, IL, that offers a selection of credit cards to consumers. Discover customers can choose from cards including Miles Rewards, Cash Back, and Students cards.
|Chase Sapphire Preferred|
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BarclayCard US is part of the BarclayCard family, which introduced the first credit card in Europe. They are partnered with over 60 best-in-class companies and brands, and have over 300 years of experience working with consumers.
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First Premier Bank has been in operation since 1989, and focuses on individuals with damaged credit histories to help them obtain credit. Credit lines are kept low in order to help customers improve their financial progress.
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This travel credit card is made for people who have a checking or savings account with Bank of America. You earn 1.5 travel points for every dollar you spend, but you can increase these earnings by 10 percent with an account.
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The Wells Fargo Credit Defense service offers unique customer benefits, including Benefit Payments during periods of disability or unemployment. The low monthly fee is well worth the many benefits this service provides.
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EPPIcard offers consumers state-issued electronic debit cards as a safe and convenient way to access their deposits. Consumers can use their EPPICards to receive things like child support, unemployment, or welfare payments.
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USAA is an association that was founded to help and protect members of the military and their families. Their credit cards are available to service members and their families, and offer low APRs and other benefits.
|Target Credit Card|
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|Old Navy Credit Card|
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Old Navy Credit Card customers earn rewards for purchases made at Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic and Athleta. Customers can participate in specific promotions, including 10% off on Tuesdays at their retailers.
|HSBC credit card|
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HSBC is a multinational company that provides a variety of credit card options. They have cards that offer clients a rich rewards program, and cards with competitive APRs. They also offer great incentives for long-term customers.
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The Sears credit card is offered through Citibank and offers rewards that can be redeemed at any Sears or Kmart store for things like home appliances, consumer electronics and lawn and garden supplies.
|Credit First National Association|
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Credit First National Assoc. offers credit cards for vehicle repairs and maintenance. Brands include popular names like Firestone, Bridgestone, Tires Plus and more. Customers can apply online for an instant approval decision.
|Pentagon Federal Credit Union Credit Cards|
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PenFed Credit Union offers Visa and Mastercard rewards and simple cards. Choose a card that fits your lifestyle, including travel rewards, flexible rewards and more. You can use PenFed’s credit cards with your digital wallet.
|GM Credit Card|
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GM Card is a Capital One credit card that is issued through General Motors. When consumers use it, every purchase compiles points toward a new Chevrolet, Buick, GMC or Cadillac car and offers 5% earnings on the first $5,000.
|Applied Card Bank|
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Applied Bank is headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware and has been in operation since 1996. They provide secured and unsecured Visa and MasterCard Credit Cards to people with little or no credit history.
|East West Bank Credit Cards|
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East West Bank operates in California, Nevada, Georgia, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, Washington and in China. They offer four Visa and two American Express credit cards, which each offer different features and rewards.
|Direct Merchants Bank|
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Merchants Bank have been helping customers with financial needs since 1875. They offer loans and deposit products like checking, commercial loans and credit cards, and have a home office in Minnesota.
|FIA Card Services|
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FIA Card Services is a credit card that provides an easy way to purchase items and make payments on the card online. They allow customers to use ShopSafe, a free service that protects the card number each time it is used online.
|American Express Travelers Cheques|
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American Express Travelers Cheques are basically the original prepaid credit card. They allow users to turn cash into checks that can be used all over the world, but provide the added insurance that cash doesn't give you.
|First National Bank of Marin|
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First National Bank of Marin has been in business for 25 years, offering customers many credit card options. Their cards offer perks such as flexible payment terms and ample credit limits for qualified customers.
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Aspire Card Services issued credit cards designed for those looking to build or rebuild their credit. Aspire ceased issuing new cards and began closing accounts in 2008. Customers with an existing balance can still make payments.
|Applied Bank (formerly Cross Country Bank)|
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Cross County Bank has five combined offices in Arkansas, and services residents of that area. They focus on providing personal customer service and care, and offer high-yield interest checking accounts with ATM privileges.
|American Express Black Card||Read 18 Reviews|
American Express Centurion Bank, based in Salt Lake City, provides prepaid cards and credit cards to individuals, businesses and corporations. It uses customer rewards programs and processes millions of daily transactions.
|Citigold||Read 9 Reviews|
CitiGold from Citibank is for premium account holders. CitiGold clients enjoy perks such as a dedicated service team, preferred rates, the option to earn interest on checking accounts and a higher reward level than other accounts.
|AARP Chase Visa|
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The AARP Chase VISA is a special VISA offered to AARP members. They focus on retired individuals 50 years of age and older, and offer cash back rewards on restaurant and gas station purchases as well as on travel purchases.
|Bremer Bank Credit Cards|
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Bremer Bank is a regional institution, serving Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota. The bank offers four different credit cards: two from Visa and two from American Express. All of their cards offer rewards.
|New Millennium Bank||Read 188 Reviews|
New Millennium Bank is located in Somerset and New Brunswick, New Jersey and have been banking since 1999. They feature commercial, mortgage and consumer loans, and can receive deposits from customers as well.