Renovating your home is almost always a great idea. You’re likely boosting the value of your home, gaining valuable tax write-offs, and adding features you’ll enjoy. While planning for what you want the final product to look like is important, so is preparing for the financial aspect.
According to HomeAdvisor, the cost of the average home improvement project is $46,000. This bill may sound monstrous to some, but with the right strategy, any small or large home improvement expense can evolve into valuable credit card rewards. Those rewards are something you just can’t get with a home improvement loan.
Your home renovation project will likely be a ton of work, but the right financial strategy can drive down the associated costs. Here are the best credit cards to use for home renovations — and how to use them for maximum rewards.
How to choose the best credit card for home renovations
The first thing to ask yourself is this: Do you have the money to pay off your home improvement-related bills immediately? If you’re charging your project expenses to credit cards with high interest rates and not paying them off, the value of your rewards will be diminished by the interest you’ll have to pay. However, if you have the cash to pay these bills, you can earn valuable rewards without the expense of interest.
Next, ask yourself this: What are you looking for in a credit card? Are you looking to earn valuable travel rewards to take a vacation after your renovations are complete? Are you aiming to lower your bottom line through cash back? Or do you need a card with an extended intro 0% APR (annual percentage rate)?
Regardless of your aspirations, it’s vital to start with your desired end result and work backward to find a product that matches your needs. To help you sort through all the options, I’ve put together a list of the five best personal credit cards and two best business cards for your home improvement projects or office remodels. I’ll also explain the best strategy for using one or more of these cards to maximize your cashback or travel rewards.
The 5 best personal credit cards for home renovations
|Card||Welcome offer||Reward rate||Annual fee|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months||5X on Lyft rides, 2X points on eligible dining and travel, and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases||$95|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited
||Earn a $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months
||Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
|The Platinum Card from American Express||Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months||5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare and hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases||$550|
|Chase Freedom||$200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months||5% cash back in rotating bonus categories (up to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter) and 1% cash back on all other purchases||$0|
|Citi Double Cash Card||None||up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay||$0|
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is one of the best travel rewards credit cards. Known for its valuable rewards, robust perks, and low annual fee, this card is a slam dunk for anyone wanting to earn rewards with the goal of travel.
However, it’s important to be aware of Chase’s 5/24 rule, which excludes any aspiring Chase cardholders who have had more than five credit applications in the past 24 months. Given this, if you’re brand new to optimizing your use of credit cards, you'll want to open any new Chase cards first.
Chase Freedom Unlimited
The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a great card to drive down the bottom line of your project. Given that you can earn a $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months, you can quickly knock that amount off your budget. Not to mention you earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
Along with this, you’ll have a 0% intro APR on purchases for the first 15 months. So, if you anticipate carrying a balance for a bit due to the size of your home improvement project, this card may be a good fit for you.
The Platinum Card from American Express
The Platinum Card from American Express is a heavy-hitting card with a robust suite of travel benefits. This card is great for someone who travels moderately (i.e., more than five times a year). The card does come with a heavy annual fee of $550, but you can get back the vast majority of the value if you travel a decent amount.
Note that this card is a charge card, so your entire balance is due each month. This also isn’t the easiest card to qualify for. As such, this card is great for someone with a good-to-excellent credit score who has the financial means to pay off their home improvement expenses in full each month.
The Chase Freedom Card has quarterly rotating reward categories. Each quarter, you have the opportunity to earn 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories (up to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter) and 1% cash back on all other purchases. That $1,500 cap equates to $75 cash back. Along with this, you can earn a $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months.
You’ll also have a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases in case you need more time to pay your renovation expenses. This card is great for someone looking for payment flexibility when it comes to their home improvement project expenses.
Citi Double Cash Card
The Citi Double Cash Card is great for someone looking for no-fuss cashback results. You earn up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay. There are no categories to worry about and no annual fee, so your earnings will come easily as long as you pay your statement balances.
In addition, if you’re looking for a balance transfer card, this could be a great choice for you. There’s a 0% intro APR for 18 months. This can be an excellent way to consolidate your balances into one card with an extended period of no interest. So, if your home improvement expenses end up higher than you expect, this card could come in handy for helping you pay them off.
The 2 best business cards for office or home improvement
As a business owner, you have even more options for credit cards. If you’re interested in an office remodel, consider the cards below for your project:
|Card||Welcome offer||Reward rate||Annual fee|
|Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business||Earn a $500 cash bonus after spending $4,500 in the first 3 months||2% cash back on every purchase, every day||$95 (waived first year)|
|Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card||Earn 100,000 points after spending $15,000 in the first 3 months||5X points on Lyft rides; 3X points on the first $150,000 spent each year on travel, shipping, internet, cable, or phone services, and advertising purchases with social media and search engines; and 1X points per $1 on everything else||$95|
The Capital One Spark Cash for Business is a great choice for simply saving money. The generous early spend bonus means you could be scoring cash back quickly on your home improvement project. And after that, you’ll continue to enjoy 2% cash back on every purchase, every day.
The Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card is perfect for someone aspiring to travel after their renovation project is complete. Once you earn 100,000 points after spending $15,000 in the first 3 months, you’ll be well on your way to your next vacation. This card can also serve your business long after your office remodel is done, since you can earn 5X points on Lyft rides; 3X points on the first $150,000 spent each year on travel, shipping, internet, cable, or phone services, and advertising purchases with social media and search engines; and 1X points per $1 on everything else.
If you have a Lowe’s in your area, it offers its own credit card, which is worth mentioning. The Lowe’s Advantage Credit Card is a very simple option, giving you 5% off all Lowe’s purchases.
This card offers 0% interest for six months on orders above $299. But if the purchases aren’t paid in full by the end of the six months, you’ll be charged deferred interest. That means you’ll have to pay the full interest all the way back to the purchase date. Given this card’s high standard APR, that can be a costly mistake. If you decide to apply for the Lowe’s Advantage Card, it’s best to pay off all your purchases each statement period.
Why we chose these cards
Choosing a credit card for your expenses is very much a personal choice. You should select a card based on your priorities and goals. If your priority when it comes to your office or home improvement project is saving money, then a cashback card would suit you best. If travel is most important to you, a travel card would get you the rewards you need for a post-project holiday.
That said, there’s a method to our madness at FinanceBuzz. Here are the reasons we selected the cards mentioned above as the best credit cards for renovations:
- Each card has a valuable bonus or spending category (or both).
- Some of the cards come with an intro 0% APR that can be useful for those who don’t have the cash to pay up front for their project.
- There’s value to be extracted from each of these cards beyond the timeline of your home improvement project.
The bottom line on the best credit cards for home renovations
While all of these cards are valuable, you don’t have to limit yourself to just one. A multi-card strategy might earn you the most rewards. Consider laying out a game plan for all your expenses and pairing them with cards.
For example, the situation below is designed for maximized returns on a $15,000 project:
|Card||Welcome offer or reward rate||Allocated budget||Return|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred Card||Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months||$4,000||64,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards|
|The Platinum Card from American Express||Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months||$5,000||65,000 American Express Membership Rewards|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||
Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
|$6,000||$90 cash back|
If you were to follow the exact budget laid out above, you’d net $90 in cash back; 64,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards; and 65,000 American Express Membership Rewards. If you value those Chase and American Express rewards at a modest one cent per point, they’re worth an additional $1,290. In all, that’s $1,380 in welcome offers, which nets you a return of over 9% back in value.
To top it all off, this doesn’t include any of the perks or benefits of each card, such as TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee reimbursement, Priority Pass membership, or airline fee credits.
Earning valuable rewards through home improvement
With a large expense such as a home improvement project, there’s a ton of value to be earned from using credit cards to purchase labor and materials. However, credit cards aren’t right for everyone. You can always consider applying for a personal loan or home equity loan. These two options are very different, but each can help get you to the end result of a beautifully renovated home.
#1 Travel Rewards Card
- 60,000 point sign-up bonus
- 5X points on select streaming services (up to $1,500) from July 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020
- 3X points with Instacart (up to $3,000), and at gas stations (up to $1,500) from July 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020
- 2X points on eligible dining and travel purchases
- 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Premium travel protection benefits