3 Do’s & Don’ts — “Can You Buy a Car with a Credit Card?” (New & Used)

3 Do’s & Don’ts — “Can You Buy a Car with a Credit Card?” (New & Used)

credit card advice

Brittney Mayer
By: Brittney Mayer
Posted: June 28, 2017
Opinions expressed here are ours alone, and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by any issuer. Site may be compensated through the issuer affiliate programs.

Though credit cards have been around for decades, they have, as things do, changed and evolved during that time. So, it’s only natural that some of the most common questions people ask when it comes to credit cards revolve around what, exactly, can be purchased with one. For example, one popular question is whether you can buy a car with a credit card.

At the end of the day, the answer to that question is (un)simply: maybe. The ability to purchase a new or used car with a credit card will actually depend on a number of factors. These can include the rules of the particular dealer or seller, as well as the price of the vehicle. Which leads us directly into tip number one…

1. Do Research Ahead of Time

Before ever venturing into the dealership with your plastic, do some research. You should research the vehicle you are interested in to determine the price you will likely pay, checking to ensure the price will be below the credit limit of the card you want to use. You will also need to contact the dealership you plan to use to determine how much of the purchase, if any, you will be able to charge.

Whenever you make a purchase with your credit card, the merchant must pay the issuer and/or bank a processing fee to receive the funds. Because those processing fees can be as much as 1% to 4% of the purchase price of the car, they can quickly eat into profit margins that may only be less than 5% to begin with. Therefore, many dealers will not allow you to use a credit card to buy a vehicle or will limit the portion of the purchase price that can be charged.

Amount of Purchase Price ChargedCredit Card Issuer Processing FeeDealer Cost to Accept Credit Card Payment
$10,0001%$100
$10,0002%$200
$10,0003%$300
$10,0004%$400

Even if you are using an auto loan to purchase your vehicle and only wish to use a credit card for the down payment, you may run into limitations on the portion of the down payment that can be charged. Avoid wasting time at the dealership by doing your research ahead of time.

2. Don’t Get Stuck Paying High Interest Rates

When it comes to any large purchase, automobiles included, your best bet is always going to be to save up the cash before buying. If you have the money on hand (or, rather, in the bank) before making the purchase, it won’t matter which method you use — you won’t ever get stuck paying absurd interest rates because you’ll be able to pay the bill before you get charged interest.

That said, if you are confident you can quickly gather the funds to pay off your new car and are determined to use a credit card, there is another way to avoid high interest payments, at least for a while. Many credit card issuers have at least one card that comes with an introductory 0% APR on purchases made within a certain time after opening a new credit account. Using one of these offers, you could potentially go 12 or even 15 months before needing to pay a penny of interest.

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49-25.24%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months
16.49% - 25.24% Variable
$0
Excellent/Good

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase — it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49-25.24%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months
16.49% - 25.24% Variable
$0
Excellent/Good
Discover it® - Cashback Match™ Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • No annual fee.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
13.49% - 24.49% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

+See More 0% APR Offers

Of course, the important thing to note is that the 0% APR offers are introductory; once you hit the end of the offer term, you will be charged interest. And, often, the new interest rate will be well into the double digits, which can get expensive fast; plan to pay off your balance before the terms expire.

3. Do Capitalize on Available Credit Card Rewards

Let’s say you’ve diligently saved your money and have the cash on hand to buy a new (or new-to-you) vehicle. You’ve checked that the dealer you wish to use accepts credit cards and you know exactly which car you want to buy. Now, all that’s left is deciding which card to use — no easy task, given all the options.

The key to making the most of any large credit card purchase is to take advantage of the giant signup bonuses being offered by many issuers these days. For some of the best signup bonus deals, look at cards offering travel rewards. Whether you get points or miles, these hefty rewards packages can be worth hundreds, especially when redeemed for airline or hotel purchases.

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • New! Earn 10 miles per dollar on hotels when you pay with your Venture card at hotels.com/venture; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
14.49% - 24.49% (Variable)
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Excellent, Good

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.49% - 24.49% Variable
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
Excellent Credit
Discover it® Miles Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • We'll match all the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 30,000 Miles, you get 60,000 Miles.
  • Unlimited 1.5x Miles per dollar on all purchases, every day, with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates - fly any airline, stay at any hotel.
  • Redeem your Miles as a statement credit towards travel purchases.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
10.99% for 14 months
13.49% - 24.49% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

+See More Travel Rewards Cards

Most signup bonuses require hitting a certain spending limit in a given time period, so choose a card with a spending requirement less than the amount you intend to charge when purchasing your vehicle.

Always Use Credit Cards Responsibly

While credit cards may have evolved a lot in the decades they’ve been around, one thing about them has never changed: they need to be used responsibly. You shouldn’t charge more than you can afford to pay back in a timely manner and you should never make purchases you can’t cover just to meet a spending requirement. Interest charges can quickly negate any bonus earnings and make your purchase significantly more expensive than it would have been otherwise.