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: March 7, 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

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • $0 Introductory balance transfer fee for transfers made during the first 60 days of account opening
  • Chase Slate named "Best Credit Card for Balance Transfers" four years in a row by Money Magazine
  • 0% Introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers
  • Monthly FICO® Score and Credit Dashboard for free
  • No Penalty APR - Paying late won't raise your interest rate (APR). All other account pricing and terms apply
  • $0 Annual Fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
15.74% - 24.49% Variable
$0
Excellent/Good

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
  • 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 15.74-24.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
15.74% - 24.49% Variable
$0
Excellent/Good
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card Review

at Wells Fargo'ssecure website

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • New! Earn 20,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • Earn 3X points at U.S. gas stations, 2X points at U.S. restaurants, 1X point on other purchases
  • Redeem points for travel, gift cards, cash redemption options or merchandise through Go Far™ Rewards
  • Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
  • Earn an annual relationship bonus of 10% on non-bonus rewards points if you maintain a qualifying Wells Fargo account
  • 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a 13.99%-25.99% variable APR; balance transfer fees apply
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
0% for 12 months
13.99%-25.99% (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
  • Our Take: "One of our favorite cards, with long 0% intro APRs, low ongoing APRs, awesome cash back rewards, and lots more.
  • 5% cash back in categories that rotate quarterly, up to $1,500 per quarter when you sign up for the quarterly bonus
  • 1% cash back on all your other purchases
  • With Cashback Match you could turn $200 into $400, as the card matches the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year (only for new cardmembers)
  • No limit to the amount of cash back that can be matched"
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
11.74% – 23.74% Variable
$0
Excellent, Good

+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

4.8/5.0
  • 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®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 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
16.74% - 23.74% Variable
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Excellent Credit

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $400 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • 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
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
13.74% - 23.74% (Variable)
$0 intro for first year; $59 after that
Excellent, Good

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 on every purchase, every day
  • Plus, a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account, and there are no categories to limit where or what you buy
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $59 after that
  • There's no limit to the amount of miles you can earn
  • Redeem miles for travel, cash back, gift cards and more
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.74% (Variable)
$0 intro for first year; $59 after that
Excellent, Good

+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.