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If you have a big purchase coming up, getting a new credit card can be a savvy money strategy. But people might have very different goals for matching a new card to a big expenditure. Typically, they are:
A huge sign-up bonus. If you have to spend money on a big purchase anyway, you may as well charge it to a rewards credit card and earn a pile of cash or points from a sign-up bonus, which typically requires spending several thousand dollars in a few months.
0% interest. Others might prefer a promotional 0% interest period to stretch out the amount of time they have to make payments for free. The best 0% intro APR cards offer no interest on purchases for more than a year.
Each of these scenarios is available primarily to new cardholders. They usually don’t apply to your existing credit cards.
Whether your big expense stems from a wedding, new furnace, major car repair or something else, below are some credit card suggestions based on what you care about in a new card. Even if you don’t take a specific card recommendation, the categories can be a useful road map for the types of cards to look for.
These strategies work best for people with credit scores that are high enough to get the credit card limit they need for the big purchase.
For a 0% interest promotion
Long 0% intro period but no rewards
If you care most about avoiding interest charges on a new purchase for as long as you can and aren’t looking for a rewards credit card to use every day:
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
Introductory APR: 0% APR for 20 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR
Get a long 0% intro APR period on purchases (and balance transfers). The card offers no rewards for spending and requires excellent credit. The annual fee is $0.
Other good choices:
Nerd tip: A side benefit of using a credit card for large purchases is that you have a number of consumer protections, including the ability to dispute charges. And many cards offer extended warranties, lengthening a manufacturer warranty.
0% period + cash-back rewards
If you can accept fewer months of 0% interest on purchases and prefer your rewards in cash, you have a number of choices that offer rewards and a sign-up bonus. This is an example with flat-rate cash rewards.
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Introductory APR: 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 15.49% - 25.49% Variable APR
Earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase. The annual fee is $0.
Other good choices:
0% intro period + travel rewards
Travel credit cards aren’t known for their 0% terms, but if you don’t need a super-long interest-free period, you can get a high-quality travel card with a sign-up bonus.
Discover it® Miles
Earn an unlimited 1.5 miles for every dollar spent on all purchases, and redeem miles as a statement credit toward travel purchases. The annual fee is $0.
Other good choices:
Nerd tip: As always with credit cards, you want to avoid interest charges for carrying a balance outside a promotional 0% period. And if you use a huge portion of your credit limit, it could ding your credit scores until you pay down the balance.
For a sign-up bonus
The strategy here is for when you already have the money to pay in full but you want to earn a pile of cash back or points from a new rewards credit card. You do that in two ways: hitting the required minimum spending to get the sign-up bonus and racking up rewards for spending money on the card. The largest sign-up bonuses come on cards with an annual fee.
Cash back sign-up bonus
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Sign-up bonus: Earn a one-time $300 cash bonus after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
Earn unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases. Annual fee: $95.
Other good choice with annual fee of $0:
Travel rewards sign-up bonus
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Double points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Annual fee: $95.
Nerd tip: Some rewards credit cards offer additional perks or rewards for hitting specific spending tiers -- like spending $25,000 in a year. If you have one of those cards, using it could be another way to strategically benefit from a big purchase without applying for a new card.
Premium travel rewards sign-up bonus
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Earn triple points on travel and on dining at restaurants; 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. Annual fee: $550.
Other good choice:
If you already made a big purchase on a credit card but can’t pay it off right away, you could transfer a balance to a 0% card. See NerdWallet's picks for best balance transfer credit cards. Just note the balance transfer fee, often 3% to 5%.
Looking for a small-business credit card for making a large purchase? See our roundup of best credit cards for small business, and look for similar 0% periods and sign-up bonuses to the cards above.