NerdWallet’s Best Credit Cards for Retirees

Definitions of 'retirement' vary, but here are some of our favorite cards to use for things like travel, home improvement and more.

Robin Saks FrankelOctober 8, 2020
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Retirement can mean different things to different people. Once you've left working life behind, the possibilities can be unlimited.

Whether your new priorities include travel, dining out daily, tinkering around the house, or just taking time to stop and smell the roses, here are some of our favorite credit cards to fit your new lifestyle.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Our pick for: Travel

card details

Rewards: 2X miles on every purchase.

Sign-up bonus: Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months..

Annual fee: $95.

APR: The ongoing APR is 17.24% - 24.49% Variable APR.

Why we like it

Retirement can be a great time to explore. If you plan on doing a lot of globetrotting or even just checking out other parts of the U.S., the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers easy-to-earn and easy-to-use travel rewards that can help cut down on the cost of your adventures. You'll snag double miles on everything you buy without having to keep track of varying bonus categories or juggling multiple cards. You can take your earnings as a statement credit to "erase" a travel purchase, or transfer your miles to one of many travel partners. There's also a rich sign-up bonus to get you started. The card has no foreign transaction fees, making it an excellent travel companion, plus you'll also have access to protections like rental car insurance, travel accident insurance and 24-hour travel assistance services.

Drawbacks

There's an annual fee: $95. Redeeming rewards for options other than travel yields a poor value.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Our pick for: Home improvement

CARD DETAILS

Rewards:

  • 3% back on a category of your choice and 2% back on grocery stores and wholesale clubs on the first $2,500 spent per quarter in these categories combined (1% after).

  • 1% back on all other purchases.

Sign-up bonus: $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

Annual fee: $0.

APR: 0% APR for 15 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 15.49% - 25.49% Variable APR.

WHY WE LIKE IT

Now that you don't have to do the 9-to-5 routine, you have more time on your hands to tackle that big project, putter around your garden, or both. With the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card, you get to choose a "3% back" category from a list of six, including "home improvement and furnishings." Bank of America®'s list of what qualifies for this category is quite lengthy and varied — everything from Ace Hardware to Williams-Sonoma (for do-it-yourselfers), and from architectural services and electricians to landscapers and roofing contractors (if you're paying someone else to do the work for you). Got a green thumb? Lawn and garden supply stores also count, as do florist suppliers. You have the freedom to change your 3% category up to once a month, plus you'll earn 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, on up to $2,500 in combined spend across 3% and 2% categories each quarter. If you're an existing Bank of America® customer, you might also be eligible for even higher rewards rates through Bank of America® Preferred Rewards.

DRAWBACKS

That's a lot of potential bonus categories to keep track of, and the $2,500 quarterly spending cap applies across all of them combined, meaning the card may not be ideal for super expensive projects. You might fare better with a simpler card like the Lowe's Advantage Card. It doesn't earn traditional rewards, but it offers 5% off every eligible Lowe's purchase.

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

Our pick for: Bulk and prescription savings

Citibank Costco-Anywhere Visa Card Credit Card
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card details

Rewards: 

  • 4% cash back on gas purchases (both at Costco and other gas stations) on up to $7,000 in spending a year, then 1% back.

  • 3% back on restaurants and most travel purchases.

  • 2% back at Costco and Costco.com

  • 1% back on all other purchases.

Sign-up bonus: None.

Annual fee: None, but a Costco membership is required to apply. (Memberships start at $60 per year.)

Intro APR: The ongoing APR is 15.24% Variable APR.

why we like it

Full-time retirement means you'll no longer get a full-time paycheck. If you're being more mindful of your spending and you live near a Costco, consider the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi. Although the card itself does not cost anything to carry, you do have to have a Costco membership, which isn't free. But in exchange, you'll get economy-size savings on just about everything you buy. Retirees who spend a lot on prescriptions will also find that Costco's pharmacy prices are among the lowest around, and you'll earn 2% back on Costco pharmacy spending with the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi. That can help you stretch your savings even further.

drawbacks

Actual Costco purchases earn a relatively low rewards rate. You'll get your earnings only once a year, and you'll have to go in person to a Costco customer service counter to receive them. If you spend a lot of money on prescriptions, you might find the aforementioned Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card is a better pick, as drugstores are among its 3% bonus category options.

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

Our pick for: Ditching debt or financing a big buy

card details

Rewards: None.

Sign-up bonus: None.

Annual fee: $0*.

APR: 0% intro APR for 20 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR.

why we like it

Maybe you have some big bills you're trying to pay off, or you're planning a celebratory retirement splurge. In either scenario, it can be a boon to have some extra breathing room on a hefty expense. Consider what the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card can do for you. It's got an annual fee of $0* and comes with a hard-to-top introductory offer: 0% intro APR for 20 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR. Plus, if you pay your monthly cell phone bill every month with this card, you'll get coverage for up to $600, with a $25 deductible, for up to two claims for a total of $1,200 per 12-month period. That can shave a few bucks off your cellular statement if you've been paying for this coverage out of pocket.

Drawbacks

Beyond the introductory 0% period, you won't get any rewards or other ongoing benefits with this card aside from the cell phone insurance. Other cards offer ongoing rewards and more robust perks. If you're transferring a balance to this card, you'll also have to pay a balance transfer fee of 3%, which can eat into the savings benefit.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Our pick for: Everyday spending

American Express Blue Cash Preferred Credit Card
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To view rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, please visit this page.

card details

Rewards:

  • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 a year in spending, then 1%.

  • 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services.

  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and transit, including taxis, rideshares, trains, buses, parking and tolls.

  • 1% cash back on other spending.

  • Terms apply.

Welcome offer: Limited Time Offer: Earn a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months. Offer Expires 12/10/2020. Terms Apply.

Annual fee: $0 intro for the first year, then $95.

APR: 0% intro APR on Purchases for 12 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR.

why we like it

If you want to be rewarded for purchases on household staples like groceries, gas and getting around, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express may be for you. You'll also get rewards for binge-watching your favorite shows, something you'll probably have more time to indulge in now that work isn't getting in the way. There's also a rich welcome bonus that you can likely put to good use: Get a Limited Time Offer: Earn a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months. Offer Expires 12/10/2020. Terms Apply.

drawbacks

Unlike many other cash-back credit cards, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express has a sizable annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $95, although you'll earn that back if you spend at least $31 a week on groceries. But if you do most of your household shopping at discounters or warehouse clubs, those purchases won't be eligible for the elevated earnings rate.

AARP® Credit Card from Chase

Our pick for: Driving and dining

Chase AARP Rewards Platinum Visa Credit Card
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card details

Rewards:

  • 3% cash back on restaurants, from fine dining to fast food.

  • 3% cash back on gas station purchases.

  • 1% cash back on all other spending.

Sign-up bonus: $100 Bonus Cash Back after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening*.

Annual fee: $0.

APR: The ongoing APR is 16.24% - 22.99% Variable APR.

why we like it

Although you don't have to have an AARP membership to get the $0-annual-fee AARP® Credit Card from Chase, it does pair nicely with one. That's because you can use the earnings from the card to pay for or renew your AARP membership, which starts at $12 a year. You can also take those unlimited rewards right to the bank by having them directly deposited into a checking or savings account, or using them for a statement credit. You can also redeem them for travel or gift cards. If letting someone else do the cooking is part of your retirement plan, it's nice to know that in addition to the unlimited 3% you'll earn on eating out, the AARP® Credit Card from Chase will make a donation of 10 cents for every restaurant purchase made with the card in support of the Drive to End Hunger campaign, up to a cap of $1 million.

Drawbacks

Earning 3% cash back on dining and gas stations is a respectable rewards rate, especially for a $0-annual-fee card. But other cards on the market offer that and also 3% in other categories too. And even though this card is issued by Chase, it doesn't earn Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, so you can't combine them with points from other Chase cards.

To view rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, please visit this page.

Information related to the AARP® Credit Card from Chase has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

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