Anyone living in today’s world has at least a rudimentary familiarity with credit cards. You’re also likely somewhat familiar with the different types of credit cards out there.
I’m probably more familiar with the various credit card options than the average American, but even so I hadn’t heard the term vanilla card used until recently.
This got me thinking, if I, a seasoned credit card churner, didn’t know what a vanilla card was, then there’s probably a lot of others that don’t either.
So today I’m setting out to tell you everything you need to know about vanilla cards, including what they are, their pros and cons, some of the best options, and why a vanilla card might just be right for you.
What is a Vanilla Card?
Vanilla financial products are the most basic form of a product or service that can be offered. They are simple and likely easier for the average consumer to understand.
Like other vanilla products, a vanilla card is a basic credit card that offers no perks but also doesn’t charge any monthly/annual or penalty fees (although they still charge interest). The terms are simple and clear, and easy for both the user and financial institution to manage.
Vanilla cards also often have lower credit requirements, making them a basic but ideal option for those with poor credit or those looking to build credit and their credit score.
There are a lot of positives that come with a vanilla card.
As already mentioned, they are simple, and the terms are easy to understand. Statements are also easier to understand without having to decipher rewards earned. Additionally, there are typically no annual or penalty fees charged (other than interest owed), making them less expensive than many other card options. Furthermore, vanilla cards don’t have any of the activity minimums that some of the premium cards do, meaning you can use them as much or as little as you choose.
Because vanilla cards don’t offer special perks (and thus doesn’t have to pay for rewards), they tend to have better terms and are more accessible to a wider range of potential users. This may include a lower interest rate, which will also save you money if you tend to carry a balance or occasionally are not able to pay off your balances.
Plus, we already mentioned that individuals with poor or little credit are more likely to be approved for a vanilla card offer than other credit cards. Thus, those with poor or little credit could use a vanilla card product to help improve their credit score.
Financial institutions also like vanilla cards for these reasons, as they are continually on the lookout for new potential customers. With a vanilla card, they can offer a product to potential users with poor/little credit without taking huge risks.
The main disadvantage of vanilla cards is that they don’t offer rewards or other perks.
The vast majority of credit cards now offer some sort of rewards program or other perk to the card holder. In fact, you can find many good rewards card options that don’t charge an annual fee or fees other than interest.
Thus, while a vanilla card will be simple and won’t cost you more in fees, the potential to earn rewards with other cards may outweigh the benefits. This is especially true if you have good credit and are eligible for higher-profile rewards cards.
Another disadvantage is that vanilla cards are becoming increasingly difficult to find. Many of the major financial institutions have discontinued their vanilla card offerings, and so in most cases your best bet to find vanilla card offerings is to look at your local bank or credit union.
Best Vanilla Cards
Although vanilla cards have all but disappeared from the major financial institutions, there are a few options still available from names you’re familiar with. They include:
Navy Federal Credit Union Platinum Card: No balance transfer, cash advance, foreign transaction, or annual fees with an interest rate between 5.99 and 18%.
Capital One Platinum Master Card: For people with fair credit with no annual fee.
USAA Rate Advantage Visa Platinum Card: No foreign or annual fees with a variable interest rate between 6.9 and 23.9%.
American Airlines Credit Union Visa Platinum Card: No annual or balance-transfer fees with as low as a 7% interest rate.
Along with these options, check out your local bank or credit union to see what they have to offer. Often, smaller financial institutions with more of a focus on members will have better options.
Is a Vanilla Card Right for You?
Now that you know what a vanilla card is, is one right for you?
That depends on a number of factors, including your current financial position, your goals, and your preferences.
However, there are some things that will make a vanilla card more attractive and characteristics of someone who might benefit from one.
First, those looking for a simple credit card are good candidates for a vanilla card. A vanilla card might also be a good option for you if you don’t care about earning rewards, don’t want to worry about extra fees, if you’re new to credit, trying to build credit, or have bad or fair credit.
You might also look into opening a vanilla card if you use a credit card infrequently or want one just in case.
Simply holding onto a credit card you don’t use, or use very infrequently, can also help you build credit by lengthening your credit history, and vanilla cards would be perfect for this purpose.
Moral of the Story
There are a multitude of different credit cards out there, all with different purposes, terms, and benefits.
One type of card that doesn’t get as much attention is the vanilla card, or plain vanilla card, which is the most basic form of credit card available. Vanilla cards typically don’t charge any fees, but also don’t offer any perks.
Despite their simplistic nature, vanilla cards often charge lower interest rates and are more accessible to people with poor or no credit, making them a good option for improving your credit score.
Vanilla cards are also a good option for those who use their credit cards infrequently, but if you have good credit there are likely better options available.
Now that you know what a vanilla card is, will you be adding one to your credit card palate?
Talk about Money Learned.