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When a car mechanic gives you a terrible shock, you know you need to prepare yourself for an expensive car repair.
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Unfortunately, car maintenance is not cheap. In 2020, the average cost of vehicle maintenance and repairs for a family was $825, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey. That’s no different from the previous year, and more consistent, when the median home price was $822.
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Bills may be easier to cover if you have an emergency fund to cover expenses, but you can also reduce your spending burden with the right credit card. If fixing your car isn’t important and you have time to apply for a credit card, try one of these options to save on interest charges or get more value.
The rating of the review is determined by our editors. The evaluation process takes into account the type of card being evaluated (such as cashback, travel or balance transfer) and the card’s fees, charges, rewards and other features.
Sign Up Bonus: Get a $200 cash bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first three months.
APR: 0% intro APR for purchases for 15 months and 0% intro APR on balance transfers 15 months from account opening on balance transfers, then active APR 19.49%, 24.49% or 29.49% variable APR.
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Why we love the Wells Fargo Active Cash® card can help you finance your car repairs and earn rewards in the process. You save on interest costs in the long run with the card’s prime APR offer. And once accepted, the registration bonus can offset some of the repair costs. The ongoing rewards rate is also decent and the rewards are easy to earn.
Why we love The Visa® Triple Cash Rewards Upgrade is friendly to those with average credit (FICO scores from 630 to 689), and is one of the few credit cards that offer rewards for car repairs. You get 3x cashback on car purchases, including car parts, car dealer purchases, car washes, car repairs and towing services. If you have a balance to spare, it automatically turns into an installment loan with a fixed interest rate and predictable monthly payments. And if you need a personal loan, you can have the funds (up to the available credit limit) sent to your bank account. The loan is also paid in installments over time with a fixed interest rate and a 5% cash advance fee.
APR: 0% intro APR on purchases for 21 months and 0% intro APR on balance transfers up to 21 months from account opening on balance transfers, and then active APR 17.49%-29.49% variable APR.
Why we love the Wells Fargo Reflect® Card is designed to finance more expensive repairs that take a while to pay off. A long-term break in interest payments can offer a much-needed break. The card doesn’t offer any other incentives, but the timing of the benefit beats most cards in the class.
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Sign Up Bonus: Get a $30 credit when you open a new account and get $30 in Sam’s Club purchases within 30 days.
Why We Love You As a Sam’s Club Plus, Sam’s Club® Mastercard® member you can earn 3% cash back on tires and battery service at Sam’s Club locations and up to 5% on dealer purchases, such as tires and oil. . Regardless of your membership level, you’ll still earn an ongoing rate of rewards for filling up your gas or electric vehicle.
Why We Love You If you’re a Costco member, the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card from Citi can give you 2% cash back on transactions made at Costco locations. At participating service centers, you can earn 1% cash back and combine it with a 15% Costco member discount on parts, labor and accessories (up to $500 per visit). The card also earns you a high rate of rewards for fuel purchases when your car is running again.
You may have special credit cards or deferred interest offers that can help with car repair costs. However, these options may not offer the same value or ease of redemption as the options mentioned above.
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Branded credit cards are issued by banks in cooperation with retailers. The card may have two logos, one for the credit card issuer and the other for the retailer. You may be able to use a branded credit card only with retailers or wherever the network (Visa, Mastercard, AmEx or Discover) is accepted, depending on the card.
Some branded credit cards offer more flexibility than others, allowing you to earn rewards for everyday purchases or redeem them for past selections at the car dealership. For example, Toyota Rewards Visa® and Lexus Pursuits Visa®. This option allows you to earn 5 points per dollar spent at the retailer; 2 points on gas, dining and entertainment; and 1 point for everything else. Points are redeemed for bank statements, travel, eligible goods or services or a new car. Rules apply.
Some branded credit cards offer redemptions that can only be used with that brand. For example, My GM Rewards Card™ only allows rewards to be redeemed for the purchase or lease of an eligible vehicle – or to use points up to $250 per calendar year on non-vehicle GM purchases, including auto parts and accessories purchases at GM dealers. Rules apply.
Also note that while there are multiple redemption options on premium credit cards, issuers sometimes reduce the rewards amount when you redeem for premium options.
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When you’re paying for repairs, you may come across deferred interest offers that often advertise “no interest if paid in full” by a certain date. With the offer, interest rose in the background and was suspended until the end of the campaign period. If you do not pay the balance in full, you will be charged interest back to the original purchase date.
Although deferred interest offers are a risky option, they are still beneficial. If the options are slim, even a short break in interest rates can be welcome and useful offers if you manage to pay off in the promotional window.
Fixed-rate credit cards typically don’t offer rewards or incentives. After the promotional period ends, interest rates still tend to be high. For example, the Synchrony Car Care Credit Card offers promotional interest-free financing on auto-related purchases of $199 or more. But after the window closes, the interest rate is 29.99% (in July 2022). So if you haven’t paid off your card in full, you’ll have to pay 30% interest on the entire balance retroactively.
It is a game that can create debt. While you can expect to pay, you can’t predict emergencies or setbacks.
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The suspended interest offer is not the same as the true 0% APR offer that starts charging when the promotional period ends. Suppose you spend $2,000 on a purchase made with a deferred interest offer that advertises “no interest if paid in full within 12 months.” If you still have a $50 balance after 13 months, you’ll pay $2,000 in interest charges with the deferred interest offer. With a 0% APR offer advertised as “0% intro APR for 12 months,” you’ll pay just $50 in interest after the promotional window ends.
About the author: Melissa Lambarena is a credit card writer at His work has been featured in The Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today. read more
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