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The 4 Credit Cards Every Dad Should Have, According to a Dad and Personal Finance Editor

Dads know the importance of having the right tool for the job. This includes the tools you carry in your wallet.

Like many dads, my life (and the spending that comes with it) revolves around trips to the hardware store, the grocery store and Target — along with a rotating schedule of kids’ sports and other family activities.

Fortunately, I’ve got four credit cards that always get these dad jobs done (while minimizing fees and maximizing rewards): the Chase Freedom Unlimited*, Amazon Prime Visa, Lowe’s Advantage Card* and the Target RedCard* credit cards.

What I’ve learned about credit cards

As both my kids started their public school careers in recent years, I’ve also been a personal finance journalist, editing more than 100 credit card reviews and related articles on how to use credit cards. I’ve helped guide coverage of credit card points, and also how to get out of credit card debt. All the while, I’ve applied that growing knowledge to my own life. 

It’s important to note that, just like my beloved chainsaw, credit cards are powerful tools in their own way. With that comes great responsibility. A bunch of credit card debt could hold you back worse than a shed full of tools you can’t access because you lost the key to the lock on the door. 

The ground rules for smart credit card usage are simple: Aside from emergencies, charge only what you know you can pay off, and always pay your balance on time and in full. And planning ahead for when things do get hairy, try to save up for and maintain an emergency fund — like one of my favorite dad adages (dad-ages?) goes, it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. 

Stick to those ground rules, and the perks and points that come with these credit cards can lift you up as well as your family in a big way.

The 4 credit cards every dad needs

First things first: I’ve been a dad considerably longer than I’ve felt truly confident using credit cards. I carried at least $5,000 (and at times as much as $8,000) in credit card debt for 10 years, a balance that started the month I graduated from college and grew for nearly 10 years before I reversed the trend. So I know firsthand how difficult it can be to develop and maintain a healthy relationship with credit cards. 

It’s gotten easier as I’ve made more money over the years, but the real turning point came when I started covering personal finance as a journalist about 5 years ago. That’s given me the chance to think deeply about credit cards, debt, saving strategies and budgeting — and to work closely with smart people who I’ve been fortunate to learn from. And the timing could not have been better. As every parent knows, kids are expensive — and their share of the family budget grows just as quickly as they do. 

There are a ton of great credit cards out there, but these are the four that consistently meet my needs and help make the most of the points, discounts and other perks that come with them. If you’re a dad, these are the cards you should consider if you’re interested in elevating your credit card game.



CNET’S PICK


CNET Rating



CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards


Intro Offer


Earn a $200 bonus



Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.


Rewards Rate


1.5%
– 5%



Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service; 1.5% on all other purchases


Rec. Credit



Recommended Credit: A credit score is used to indicate an applicant’s credit worthiness and may provide guidance about account eligibility. It does not necessarily guarantee approval for any financial product.


670 – 850

Good – Excellent

APR


20.49% – 29.24% Variable

We all have a favorite tool — the daily workhorse you use on a weekly basis for a wide range of little jobs. Mine is my old ratchet-action screwdriver kit. I’ve used it for everything from furniture assembly to cheap toy battery compartments over the years, and I always keep it readily available. 

My wallet’s version of this tool is the Chase Freedom Unlimited. It’s one of CNET’s top cash-back cards, highly rated for its simple 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make. It’s also great for eating out and booking travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, with 3% cash back at restaurants and 5% cash back on flights and hotels through Chase. From the grocery store to kids’ sports sign-up fees, this card is the workhorse for the majority of the purchases my family makes. 

Learn more in our Chase Freedom Unlimited review.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months
Intro Purchase APR
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Regular APR
20.49% – 29.24% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

5%

Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more

3%

3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service

1.5%

1.5% on all other purchases



We all have a favorite tool — the daily workhorse you use on a weekly basis for a wide range of little jobs. Mine is my old ratchet-action screwdriver kit. I’ve used it for everything from furniture assembly to cheap toy battery compartments over the years, and I always keep it readily available. 

My wallet’s version of this tool is the Chase Freedom Unlimited. It’s one of CNET’s top cash-back cards, highly rated for its simple 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make. It’s also great for eating out and booking travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, with 3% cash back at restaurants and 5% cash back on flights and hotels through Chase. From the grocery store to kids’ sports sign-up fees, this card is the workhorse for the majority of the purchases my family makes. 

Learn more in our Chase Freedom Unlimited review.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months
Intro Purchase APR
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Regular APR
20.49% – 29.24% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

5%

Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more

3%

3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service

1.5%

1.5% on all other purchases


CNET Rating



CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards


Prime Visa

Intro Offer


Get a $100 (or more) Amazon Gift Card



Get a $100 (or more) Amazon Gift Card instantly upon approval exclusively for Prime members


Rewards Rate


1%
– 5%



Earn 5% back at Amazon.com, Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods Market and on Chase Travel purchases with an eligible Prime membership.; Earn 2% back at gas stations, restaurants and on local transit and commuting (including rideshare).; 1% back on all other purchases


Rec. Credit



Recommended Credit: A credit score is used to indicate an applicant’s credit worthiness and may provide guidance about account eligibility. It does not necessarily guarantee approval for any financial product.


670 – 850

Good – Excellent

APR


19.49% – 27.49% Variable

I buy a lot of stuff on Amazon — typical household things like dishwasher detergent, kids’ sports gear, dog stuff, batteries, etc. I also shop at Whole Foods on a fairly regular basis, for specialty things I can’t get at the regular grocery store more cheaply.

What’s great about the Prime Visa card is the 5% cash back I get on every one of these purchases. This card has decent cash-back rates on other purchases too (like 2% at restaurants and gas stations), though I use it exclusively for Amazon and Whole Foods purchases to make the most of the great 5% rewards rate.

There’s also a great $100 (or more) Amazon gift card bonus right now that you’ll get just for being approved — which could come in handy with Amazon’s October Prime Day event coming up Oct. 10-11.

The cash-back points from Amazon and Whole Foods purchases can be redeemed as a statement credit or cash back to a bank account, for gift cards and even for travel. But for my family, it’s much simpler: We use our Amazon points once a year around the holidays to put a nice dent in our gift-giving expenses.

We usually have about $300 in points, and we always use it as a statement credit rather than making actual purchases — that way we always get 5% back, which isn’t the case if you use points for the actual purchases. That still comes out to $150 or more toward gifts each year after accounting for the $139 annual Amazon Prime cost — which is best viewed as a de facto annual fee for this card. 

Learn more in our Prime Visa review.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
N/A
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
19.49% – 27.49% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

5%

Earn 5% back at Amazon.com, Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods Market and on Chase Travel purchases with an eligible Prime membership.

2%

Earn 2% back at gas stations, restaurants and on local transit and commuting (including rideshare).

1%

1% back on all other purchases



I buy a lot of stuff on Amazon — typical household things like dishwasher detergent, kids’ sports gear, dog stuff, batteries, etc. I also shop at Whole Foods on a fairly regular basis, for specialty things I can’t get at the regular grocery store more cheaply.

What’s great about the Prime Visa card is the 5% cash back I get on every one of these purchases. This card has decent cash-back rates on other purchases too (like 2% at restaurants and gas stations), though I use it exclusively for Amazon and Whole Foods purchases to make the most of the great 5% rewards rate.

There’s also a great $100 (or more) Amazon gift card bonus right now that you’ll get just for being approved — which could come in handy with Amazon’s October Prime Day event coming up Oct. 10-11.

The cash-back points from Amazon and Whole Foods purchases can be redeemed as a statement credit or cash back to a bank account, for gift cards and even for travel. But for my family, it’s much simpler: We use our Amazon points once a year around the holidays to put a nice dent in our gift-giving expenses.

We usually have about $300 in points, and we always use it as a statement credit rather than making actual purchases — that way we always get 5% back, which isn’t the case if you use points for the actual purchases. That still comes out to $150 or more toward gifts each year after accounting for the $139 annual Amazon Prime cost — which is best viewed as a de facto annual fee for this card. 

Learn more in our Prime Visa review.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
N/A
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
19.49% – 27.49% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

5%

Earn 5% back at Amazon.com, Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods Market and on Chase Travel purchases with an eligible Prime membership.

2%

Earn 2% back at gas stations, restaurants and on local transit and commuting (including rideshare).

1%

1% back on all other purchases


CNET Rating



CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards


Target RedCard™

Intro Offer


Save $40 on a future qualifying purchase



Save $40 on a future qualifying purchase over $40 when approved for a credit or debit RedCard. Offer is redeemable only through Target Circle™. Valid 9/3/23 – 10/14/23


Rewards Rate


1%
– 5%



Save 5% in store and online at Target; For each eligible purchase you make in gas or dining merchant categories, you earn rewards at a rate of 2% of the eligible purchase amount.; For each eligible purchase you make at a merchant that is not in a gas or dining category, you earn rewards at a rate of 1% of the eligible purchase amount.


Rec. Credit



Recommended Credit: A credit score is used to indicate an applicant’s credit worthiness and may provide guidance about account eligibility. It does not necessarily guarantee approval for any financial product.


670 – 739

Good

For basically every other purchase our family needs to make, there’s Target. Sometimes you need paper towels or a new coffee maker right away. Other times you just need to wander those Target aisles to forget about life’s problems and annoyances for a little bit. Whatever the need, the Target RedCard rounds out my credit card toolbox perfectly. Its main selling point is 5% off everything. 

Learn more in our Target RedCard review.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
N/A
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
28.15% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A

5%

Save 5% in store and online at Target

2%

For each eligible purchase you make in gas or dining merchant categories, you earn rewards at a rate of 2% of the eligible purchase amount.

1%

For each eligible purchase you make at a merchant that is not in a gas or dining category, you earn rewards at a rate of 1% of the eligible purchase amount.



For basically every other purchase our family needs to make, there’s Target. Sometimes you need paper towels or a new coffee maker right away. Other times you just need to wander those Target aisles to forget about life’s problems and annoyances for a little bit. Whatever the need, the Target RedCard rounds out my credit card toolbox perfectly. Its main selling point is 5% off everything. 

Learn more in our Target RedCard review.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
N/A
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
28.15% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A

5%

Save 5% in store and online at Target

2%

For each eligible purchase you make in gas or dining merchant categories, you earn rewards at a rate of 2% of the eligible purchase amount.

1%

For each eligible purchase you make at a merchant that is not in a gas or dining category, you earn rewards at a rate of 1% of the eligible purchase amount.


CNET Rating



CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards


Lowe's Advantage Card

Rewards Rate


N/A



This card doesn’t offer cash back, miles, or points


Rec. Credit



Recommended Credit: A credit score is used to indicate an applicant’s credit worthiness and may provide guidance about account eligibility. It does not necessarily guarantee approval for any financial product.


N/A


In case it isn’t already painfully clear, I live for a quick hardware store run. And luckily for me, there is a Lowe’s about 5 minutes from my house. I’ve used this card to buy $5 tools, $2,000 kitchen appliances and even a $15,000 full kitchen remodel. And I feel like I’m getting away with something every time. That’s because it has a blanket 5% off all eligible purchases — that came out to $750 on the new kitchen!

This card also comes with long-term financing options, which I’ve also used over the years. That’s a great way to spread out the cost of a big purchase over time — though it is essential to pay it off before the promotional period ends, because if you don’t, you could end up with a huge extra interest charge thanks to the way this card handles deferred interest on promotional rates.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
N/A
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
See Terms
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A



In case it isn’t already painfully clear, I live for a quick hardware store run. And luckily for me, there is a Lowe’s about 5 minutes from my house. I’ve used this card to buy $5 tools, $2,000 kitchen appliances and even a $15,000 full kitchen remodel. And I feel like I’m getting away with something every time. That’s because it has a blanket 5% off all eligible purchases — that came out to $750 on the new kitchen!

This card also comes with long-term financing options, which I’ve also used over the years. That’s a great way to spread out the cost of a big purchase over time — though it is essential to pay it off before the promotional period ends, because if you don’t, you could end up with a huge extra interest charge thanks to the way this card handles deferred interest on promotional rates.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
N/A
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
See Terms
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A

How to figure out the best credit cards for your family 

These are the credit cards that fit best for my life and spending, but they might not be the exact ones that make sense for you. But if you think you might be leaving points or perks on the table with your current cards, it could be worth giving them some thought. 

Start by looking at how you regularly spend money each month. I bet you’ll find several spending categories that account for a consistent share of your monthly budget. From there, consider what the available best credit cards might be that offer better points and perks than your current cards or payment methods offer. And whether you land on cash-back cards, travel cards or store cards, keep those credit card ground rules in mind. What’s important is you match your life and spending with cards that make sense for you.

After all, I’d never tell another dad what he should (or shouldn’t) have in his own toolbox.

*All information about the Chase Freedom Unlimited, Lowe’s Advantage Card, and the Target RedCard has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.