The 6 Best Credit Cards for Buying a Car [2021]

Purchase car

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Purchasing a car is an important decision that most people will inevitably be faced with. If you’re in this boat, you’ve probably got a million things to worry about, like what car you’re purchasing, where you’re purchasing it from, and more.

But 1 thing you might be able to do is use a credit card to purchase a car! When it comes to a giant transaction like buying a car, using the right credit card could mean the difference between getting hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars back in the form of rewards.

So in this guide, we’ll show you the best credit cards for purchasing a car.

Why Would You Purchase a Car With a Credit Card?

Normally, the big reason why you’d want to purchase a car with a credit card is to take advantage of points, or more broadly, rewards.

In general, most people purchase their cars outright or take out a loan — since many dealerships offer 0% APR financing on loans, you might end up breaking even if you buy a car outright with a credit card.

Also, you might end up shooting yourself in the foot because most credit cards don’t offer a 0% introductory APR period for longer than 24 months.

Basically, the only real situation where it makes sense to consider purchasing a car with a credit card is to get a nice chunk of points. Plus, if you sign up for a new card with a welcome bonus, your car purchase would make it super easy to snag that bonus and meet minimum spending requirements.

How Do You Purchase a Car With a Credit Card?

If you like the idea of getting a solid return of 2% to 4% back on your car purchase in the form of rewards, then you’re in the right place!

We need to set some expectations up-front, though. Car dealers always want to make the most money from you, and these businesses must also pay for interchange and processing fees if they allow you to swipe your credit card.

Every car dealership has different rules and systems in place for selling cars, so they may or may not allow you to purchase a car outright. A common practice is that the dealer will let you charge only the down payment to a credit card.

Your mileage may vary, but you should always try to negotiate using a credit card as part of the purchase after you’ve fully negotiated the purchase price of the car.

Best Personal Credit Cards for Purchasing a Car

What are the characteristics of an ideal card to purchase a car on?

Well, to start off, you won’t be able to qualify for any special bonus categories solely for cars using any mainstream credit cards from major banks like American Express, Chase, and Capital One.

However, what you do need to optimize for are:

With the right cards, you can earn up to 2x points per dollar spent. You may also be able to make purchases of tens of thousands of dollars or even hundreds of thousands of dollars with a single swipe without getting your card declined or maxing out your credit line if you have the right card.

Assuming you aren’t purchasing a car for your business, this next section will walk you through the best personal cards to use for purchasing a car!

Hot Tip: See our helpful guides to the credit cards that offer a high credit limit or are perfect to reward high spending and large purchases

1. The Platinum Card® from American Express

Our absolute favorite personal card for buying a car is the Amex Platinum card.

The Amex Platinum card currently comes with a huge welcome bonus and the ability to earn up to 5x points per dollar spent on flights purchased directly with the airline or at Amex Travel and prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

And while your car purchase will earn 1x Membership Rewards points, the Amex Platinum card is one of the cards that are most likely to have a high enough spending limit to purchase a car.

Normal credit cards have credit limits that you can’t exceed, but the Amex Platinum card has no preset spending limit, meaning that Amex changes your spending limit on a regular basis if they believe you can pay back your bills in full.

Indeed, the Amex Platinum card has been made famous for being able to put huge purchases on the card, like yachts and paintings. But one of the biggest specialty perks you’ll enjoy as an Amex Platinum cardholder is access to the American Express Auto Purchasing Program.

This program allows you to get some additional information on the car you’re interested in, find dealers that will accept your card for at least $2,000 of your purchase, and get a Guaranteed Savings Certificate that will provide you with a fair price to cut through any negotiating nonsense.

In addition to these car purchase perks, you’ll be spoiled with luxury travel and shopping perks, including a $200 annual airline fee credit, up to $200 in annual Uber Cash, up to $100 in annual Saks Fifth Avenue credits, and a TSA PreCheck/Global Entry credit.

The Amex Platinum card offers the best airport lounge access of any card, and this includes the:

  • Airspace Lounges
  • Centurion Lounges
  • Delta Sky Clubs (when flying Delta the same day)
  • Escape Lounges
  • International American Express Lounges
  • Plaza Premium Lounges
  • Priority Pass lounges

You’ll also get complimentary Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status, access to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, a 12-month complimentary Uber Eats Pass subscription (enroll by December 31, 2021), and no foreign transaction fees.

Why We Like Earning Amex Membership Rewards Points

The points you’ll earn when making purchases on the Amex Platinum card are called Membership Rewards points. They are the most valuable points according to our valuations, which will maximize the value you get from purchasing a car.

Our favorite way to redeem Amex points is to transfer them to airline and hotel partners for luxury travel in business or first class or 5-star hotels.

You can also redeem Amex points for cash-back/statement credits, travel bookings through Amex Travel, gift cards, charity, and more, but the best way to achieve maximum value with your Amex points is to use transfer partners to book travel.

Bottom Line: The Amex Platinum card is an incredible ultra-premium card jam-packed with value. It doesn’t have a preset spending limit and it offers the unique American Express Auto Purchasing Program, which could go a long way in helping you buy a car, in addition to offering 1x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on car purchases.

2. Capital One® Venture® Rewards Card

The CapOne Venture card is Capital One’s flagship rewards credit card. Recommended for those looking for great rewards without worrying about bonus categories, this card is one of the most popular cards.

This is one of the most “all-around” credit cards you can have, boasting a low annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, and the ability to earn 2x miles on every purchase, every day.

You’ll also enjoy a fantastic welcome bonus, an application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, purchase protection, extended warranty protection, secondary rental car insurance, zero fraud liability protection, and a slew of travel insurance perks.

And since you aren’t limited in how many miles you can earn and many cardholders get hefty credit limits, this is a great card to put your car purchase on.

Why We Like Earning Capital One Miles

We like Capital One miles because you can redeem them for numerous things, like statement credits via the Purchase Eraser, gift cards, donations, PayPal, and our personal favorite, transferring miles to travel partners and redeeming them for business and first class travel.

If you put a $30,000 car purchase on the CapOne Venture card, you would earn 60,000 Capital One miles, which is worth around $810, according to our points and miles valuations.

3. Chase Freedom Unlimited® Card

The third-best personal credit card you should consider using to purchase a car is the Freedom Unlimited card, and it’s our only no-annual-fee personal card on this list.

The Freedom Unlimited card earns 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and drugstores, 1.5% cash-back on all other purchases, and a 0% intro APR perk!

In addition, the Freedom Unlimited card provides purchase protection, extended warranty coverage, zero liability protection, secondary rental car insurance, and fraud alerts.

Most importantly, if you have an Ultimate Rewards card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card, you’ll be able to convert your cash-back to Ultimate Rewards points at a ratio of 1% to 1x points.

Why We Like Earning Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

Chase Ultimate Rewards points are one of our absolute favorite types of currencies.

The best way to use Ultimate Rewards points is to transfer them to airline and hotel partners for incredible flights like Singapore Airlines First Class Suites!

You can also use your Ultimate Rewards points for cash-back, purchases at Amazon, gift cards, and travel booked through the Chase travel portal.

Without a doubt, the highest-value redemption (and the reason why we value Chase points so much) is because of the ability to transfer points to partners for luxury travel.

If you purchased a $30,000 car using the Freedom Unlimited card, you would have earned 45,000 Ultimate Rewards points, which is worth around $900, according to our valuations.

Best Business Credit Cards for Purchasing a Car

Car Dealership
Image Credit: Gustavo Fring via Pexels

If you’re purchasing a car for business purposes, you’ll want to make sure that the transaction is separated from your personal expenses.

That’s where business credit cards come in! Let’s take a look at our favorite business cards for purchasing a car.

1. The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

Our top business card to purchase a car is the Amex Business Platinum card — it’s similar to the Amex Platinum card but there’s 1 key benefit that actually makes this version the better card to purchase a car.

The Amex Business Platinum card comes with the oh-so-important earning of 1.5x points on eligible purchases in key business categories, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else (up to $2 million in purchases per calendar year).

Additionally, this card doesn’t have a preset spending limit, just like the Amex Platinum card, so you should have no problem getting a large transaction approved.

You’ll also earn 5x points on flights and prepaid hotels at Amex Travel. Remember, you’ll get access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, which includes:

You’ll also enjoy access to Fine Hotels & Resorts, a $200 annual airline fee credit, Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors Gold status upon enrollment, up to $400 in statement credits for Dell purchases in the U.S. every year, a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee statement credit, and more.

Other ancillary perks include purchase protection, extended warranty coverage, return protection, travel insurance, and QuickBooks integrations.

2. Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card

The Ink Business Unlimited card is essentially the “business version” of the Freedom Unlimited card. This card excels in offering unfussy rewards on all your purchases, including car purchases.

You’ll start off by earning a hefty welcome bonus when you sign up for the card and meet the spending requirements. Then, you’ll earn a flat 1.5% cash-back on all purchases with no caps.

This card offers an introductory 0% APR benefit, which can help you pay off your balances gradually without accruing interest – but of course make sure to pay off the full balance before that 0% interest period expires to avoid hefty interest rates.

If you have an Ultimate Rewards credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, 1.5% cash-back can be converted to 1.5x Chase Ultimate Rewards points, effectively doubling your return on spend.

Other important benefits of the Ink Business Unlimited card are employee cards for no additional fee, primary rental car insurance, zero liability fraud coverage, purchase protection, and extended warranty protection.

3. The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express

The Amex Blue Business Plus card is a fantastic business credit card to consider putting your car purchase on. Here’s why: you will earn a straightforward 2x Amex Membership Rewards points on the first $50,000 on everyday business purchases every year and 1x points after that. There’s no need to pay attention to bonus categories with this card.

This credit card comes with a 0% introductory APR benefit, as shown in the table above, that you can take advantage of to avoid interest payments.

Standard benefits like purchase protection, extended warranty coverage, and employee cards for no annual fee are available; you can even access Amex Offers with this card (see rates and fees)!

As long as your car purchase is $50,000 or less, you can easily maximize the 2x categories on the Amex Blue Business Plus card, netting you a return of around 4.4% back!

For example, if you spend $30,000 with this card, you’d earn 60,000 Amex Membership Rewards points, which is worth around $1,320, according to our valuations.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to buying a car, you’ll want to make sure that the card you have has a sufficient credit limit or spending limit (in the case of Amex charge cards).

In addition, the best rewards you’ll earn are those that offer the most valuable points (e.g. Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Capital One miles).

Lastly, you’ll want to make sure that you’re using a consumer card if you’re purchasing a car for personal use and a business card if you’re purchasing a car for business use.

You’re now equipped with the information you need to be educated on how to purchase a car with a credit card.

The information regarding the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Card, and Chase Freedom Unlimited® was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, click here.

Frequently asked questions

Can you buy a car with a credit card?

In many cases, you can buy a car with a credit card. It depends on the exact dealership, but in such a competitive environment, some car dealers offer the ability to pay with a credit card as a benefit.

At a minimum, you should be able to pay the down payment with a credit card, and in many cases, you can buy the car outright with a credit card.

Can you use a credit card for a car down payment?

Yes! Almost all dealerships allow you to pay for the down payment using a credit card. You can potentially even pay for the entire car with a credit card, but it varies from location to location.

Do car dealers accept credit cards?

In most situations, yes. You can definitely negotiate this into your car purchase, but remember to do it after you’ve totally finished negotiating on price.

Is it a good idea to buy a car on a credit card?

It is if you can pay it off in a timely manner. If you have the cash to pay off the bill immediately, then you can earn a pile of extra points by purchasing a car with a credit card.

What forms of payment do car dealerships accept?

In all situations, they should accept checks and loans. In most situations, they also accept credit cards for a portion of the purchase, including the down payment.

You might be able to pay with cash, but you’ll be asked to get a cashier’s check, most likely.

Stephen Au

About Stephen Au

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Stephen has been privileged to enjoy many premium cabin products and 5-star hotels. A petroleum engineer by trade, Stephen caught the travel bug in college when he traveled to Asia several times. After 2 years of continual promotions, Stephen quit his safe and secure career path in favor of entrepreneurship.

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