Best Apple Card alternatives: 5 existing credit cards that outdo the new kid

You’ll find better interest rates and higher cash back if you venture beyond the Apple Card.

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Your financial situation should dictate which credit card is right for you. And the Apple Card—even with its tidy package of features—might not be it.

Sure, as a starter card, it’s hard to beat. People mastering the basics of paying statement balances on time each month get a more generous deal than with a big bank: bigger rewards, a break on foreign transactions fees, and more leeway if they forget to pay on time.

But perhaps you’re only concerned about cash back, low interest rates, or a specific combination of benefits that the Apple Card just doesn’t nail. You can do better, and I’ve sifted through multiple cards with no annual fees to find those best alternatives to the Apple Card—be it for the whole set of features or a specific perk.

The recommendations here do not take into account incidentals like complimentary travel and car rental insurance, nor cards with annual fees or introductory zero-interest interest rates. Those are for people who play deep in the credit card game, and the strategies are too different for the typical person considering an Apple Card.

Best Apple Card alternative

citi double cash info page Citibank

The Citi Double Cash pays 2 percent on all purchases, unlike the Apple Card.

You can’t find a rival card that goes up against the Apple Card in a precise 1 to 1 fashion, but competition with a similar spirit exists. Decent cash back rewards, Apple Pay compatibility, spending reports, and few fees are not Apple exclusives.

The Citi Double Cash hits the major point most closely. You earn 2 percent cash back on all purchases with no cap and pay no annual fee. Citibank also supports Apple Pay, provides color-coded and categorized spending reports with customizable time periods, and offers real-time fraud alerts and the option for custom alerts.

The card’s main downside compared to the Apple Card is a 3 percent foreign transaction fee when you buy items or services from a foreign merchant. The higher annual percentage rate (APR) for interest is also arguably a downside, but you should never carry a balance on a credit card if you want to stay financially healthy. This is especially true for rewards cards, as they have higher APRs.

For more information on this card (and other top Apple Card competitors), our in-depth overview spells out the differences in fees, interest rates, and cashback percentages.

Runner-up: Capital One QuickSilver

The Capital One QuickSilver is similar to Citibank’s Double Cash, but with a 1.5 percent cash-back rate on all purchases and no foreign transaction fees. It’s generally a better card for people who buy items or services from foreign businesses—be it a Chinese seller on eBay or a restaurant while you’re actually in China—but we recommend doing some calculations to see which option will pay off best.

The QuickSilver also currently offers a $150 sign-up bonus if you spend $500 within the first 90 days of having the card. Note that items or services purchased and then returned or refunded don’t count toward meeting the bonus requirements.

Best Apple Card alternative for cash back

cash back credit card collage Citibank / Capital One / Wells Fargo

A handful of cash-back reward card options.

Choosing a single card as this category’s winner would be an incomplete recommendation because spending patterns can differ dramatically.

The simplest choice is the Citi Double Cash card, which pays an unlimited 2 percent cash back on all purchases—no Apple Pay required. If you never make purchases in a foreign currency, or do it so infrequently that you’re losing very little in the long run, you’ll only see a gain over time.

You may spend more money on certain kinds of goods or services, though—like gasoline or streaming video providers. Or perhaps you already know you travel enough that a foreign transaction fee will hurt, or that you’re going to spend enough money in a 90-day period to qualify for a sign-up bonus. That opens up a wide door to further possibilities.

If you like the simplicity of Citibank’s Double Cash card, you can opt instead for the Capital One QuickSilver (1.5 percent cash back, but no foreign transaction fee and a $150 sign-up bonus) or the Chase Freedom Unlimited (3 percent cash back on the first $20,000 of purchases in your first year; 1.5 percent afterward).

If you spend a lot of money on dining, gas, travel, and rideshares, look into options like the Discover it Cash Back, Wells Fargo Propel American Express, and Uber Visa. (Costco members can also consider the Citi Costco Anywhere Visa.) Like the Apple Card, each of these cards have tiers for cash-back rewards, but they’re far more generous in their percentage back (e.g., the Discover it Cash Back’s 5 percent on rotating categories, and the Uber Visa’s 4 percent on dining). At minimum, they match the Apple Card, like the Wells Fargo Propel’s 3 percent back on rideshares, or offer a sign-up bonus that outstrips what most people would earn on Apple hardware.

Tip: To maximize your rewards, estimate what your spending is in your top five categories, and then plug those into an online rewards calculator or a spreadsheet you’ve created for this purpose. Hard numbers make everything much clearer.

Best Apple Card alternative for low interest rates

lmcu prime platinum visa prime platinum 2017 06 27 16 43 40 024280 1600x574 Lake Michigan Credit Union

If you carry a balance on a credit card, skip the rewards cards from Apple and the big banks and find a low-interest card issued by a credit union instead.

Rewards cards from a big bank or even Apple make sense only if you pay your statement balance every month. If you must contend with a balance, your finances will be better off with a credit card from a credit union. Typically these are plain, non-rewards options, but a few offer cash back. The best interest rates on such cards range between 7 and 9 percent, versus 13 and 15 percent on a big-bank rewards cards. 

Credit unions require membership to access their services, but some have more permissive eligibility rules. The easiest option is Lake Michigan Credit Union and its Prime Platinum Visa, which has an annual percentage rate (APR) as low as 8.5 percent. (As with any credit card, the APR is determined by your creditworthiness, so not everyone will get a rate of 8.5 percent.)

Lake Michigan Credit Union membership is open to certain residents in Michigan and Florida, as well as relatives of existing members. All other U.S. residents can join after making a one-time donation of $5 to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Foundation.

If you have more time, it can pay to research credit unions closer to you. In San Francisco (where the Macworld office is located), several credit unions offer credit cards with interest rates under 9 percent. One of those cards even has an APR as low as 7.24 percent plus 1 percent cash back and no annual, balance transfer, or foreign transaction fees. (Note: The Apple Card does not currently support balance transfers or cash advances.)

Tip: Credit unions often allow relatives of existing members to join, regardless of location. If you have family spread across the country, the pool of choices open to you may be broader than you think.

Best Apple Card alternative for a metal card

wells fargo propel info page Wells Fargo

Like the Apple Card, Wells Fargo Propel American Express card is made of metal and has cash-back rewards.

Generally speaking, you shouldn’t choose a credit card purely for its looks and physical heft.

But if you do care about this particular feature, one card stands out: the Wells Fargo Propel American Express card. It has no annual or foreign transaction fees, and rewards accrue at a rate of 3 percent on restaurants, select travel-related purchases (including rideshare services like Uber), and select streaming services, and 1 percent on everything else. You can also earn $300 as a sign-up bonus if you meet the spending requirement for its sign-up bonus ($3,000 in 90 days).

Runner-up: Amazon Prime Visa Signature

Like the Wells Fargo Propel, the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature has no annual fee, no foreign transaction fee, and a tiered system of point accrual (5 percent on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases; 2 percent at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores; 1 percent on everything else). The catch, of course, is that you must be an Amazon Prime member to have access to this card, which costs $13 per month or $120 per year.

Best Apple Card alternative for no fees

penfed promise visa PenFed

PenFed’s Promise Visa truly has zero fees.

For this particular criterion, you may actually want to consider the Apple Card first—so long as you can pay off your statement balance in full each month. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a no-fee card that also gives you the same amount of cash back and style of spending reports.

But if the Apple Card isn’t an option—because you have a balance to pay off on a card you already have or for some other reason—credit unions again come to the rescue.

For a card with absolutely no fees, try Pentagon Federal Credit Union’s Promise Visa card. As with all credit unions, you can’t apply for the card unless you’re a member, but anyone employed by the U.S. armed forces (plus some federal employees) qualify for free. Non-military can qualify for membership by making a donation to one of PenFed’s approved military charities (the amount ranges from $15 to $20).

We also recommend researching local credit unions in your area, particularly if you already carry a credit card balance. They may be better bets for no-fee cards with low interest rates and free membership. In our area, we found several organizations with free membership that bundle together no fees or very minimal fees, low-interest rates, and light cash-back rewards in a single credit card. (Standout examples include San Francisco Federal Credit Union’s Visa Platinum and SF Fire Credit Union’s Platinum Visa cards.)

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