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The Best Credit Cards for Freelancers

One of our freelancers and contributing editors takes a look at how they've managed credit cards over the years and provide their recommendations how to be self-employed and use credit cards successfully.

By Steffani CameronUpdated on July 27, 2021

Editorial Note: Our editorial team’s content is not provided, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any financial institution or partner. The opinions, reviews or recommendations expressed in any article mention are solely those of our editorial team.

Years of glamorous stories about digital nomads and the freedom of freelance often lead to a jarring dose of reality for newcomers to the lifestyle. They soon discover that having emergency funds is critical to riding out the tough times that are inevitable – and low-interest credit cards or using no-interest balance transfers can be a life-saver.

Why You Need Multiple Cards

The most oft-repeated credit advice is “don’t buy stuff you can’t afford,” but freelance is tricky. Checks can be late, or projects can dominate your life while tying up your finances. Dry spells can last weeks, even months. It’s not unusual to be left hanging as clients take vacations or max out their annual budgets. Accessing credit can sustain you through the lean times, but the wrong card can make credit another financial burden to bear.

The shrewd move is to have two cards, at least. Make one a solid rewards card for cash back on routine purchases you’ll pay off when the statement comes. Groceries, gas, and other regular expenditures are ideal. You’ll get cash back or rewards while keeping your credit active – a plus for your credit score. Well Fargo’s new Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card card is a great new option for freelancers because it gives 2% cash rewards on purchases. Use it for daily expenses and get rewards on money you would’ve spent anyhow.

The other card should be low or no interest. No interest is obviously preferable, but it typically is only offered for introductory periods. After that, those rates jump considerably higher, a concern if you know you’ll be carrying a balance long-term. Still, that introductory period – which can sometimes last longer than a year – might just be the breathing room you need to pay that debt down.

A great card for that, then, is the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer. They pay 1% bonus when you spend money, then another 1% when you pay it. off But its 0% for 18 months on Balance Transfers will give you a whopping year and a half breathing room to pay down debt you may be carrying, before it jumps to the usual 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable).

More Credit is Pragmatic Planning

While you could cancel a “no interest” credit card when the interest jumps, canceling cards can negatively impact your credit score. “Credit utilization ratio” is a complicated phrase that basically talks about how much of your credit you’re actually using at any given time. Using 50% credit on two cards is better than using 100% credit on one. So, any time you reduce the number of cards you own, be sure all your remaining cards will carry under 50% debt.

Freelancers have to remember that there’s no control over when clients will have work available – or when they’ll pay their bills, if ever. From 60-day billing cycles to getting ghosted, there’s a lot you need to plan for. But that’s the price you pay for the freedom to work for whom you like, whenever you want.

Having abundant, affordable credit – and multiple sources thereof – is simply sound business planning. You need enough funds to cover six months of total living costs. This is true of beginning any business, and freelancing is a business too.

Find Cards for Your Lifestyle

There are other considerations in choosing cards too. If your work as a freelancer it means you travel more, look into travel cards that come with perks like trip cancelation insurance, travel and purchase insurance, and cash back on travel expenditures.

But tethered-to-the-desk work-at-home freelancers with a stable, situated life may find it more practical to earn cash back on daily expenses. Gas from running the kids around, routine grocery purchases, dining, and other day-to-day costs could bring you between 1% and 6% cash back, depending on your cards. The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi, for instance, could be great for business supplies but also travel and groceries, with up to 4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter, 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases, 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and, 1% cash back on all other purchases.

For new freelancers, business insurance is wise when it can protect the laptop you’ve forgotten in a café or cover the camera you’ve dropped just before a location shoot. But having purchase insurance on a credit card could help soften the blow when things go wrong.

With so many different cards out there, use some strategizing and creativity and you’ll find the combination of credit card promotions to help you live your best freelancing life.