Editor's Choice Awards: Best Credit Cards of 2009, Part I
December 29, 2009
By: Curtis Arnold
Hundreds of new credit card products launch every year, taking their place alongside trusted veterans. Only a handful of cards made our list of the very best credit cards of 2009.
Best Cashback Credit Cards of 2009:
In a year when banks pulled out all the stops to preserve profit margins, cash back and reward cards took some of the hardest hits. However, we found two membership-based cards that still provide some of the best incentives to pay with plastic:
Schwab Bank Invest First® Visa® Credit Card
You'll need to be on a first name basis with Chuck to get one of the industry's best cash back credit cards. Open a Schwab One brokerage account and you may qualify for this Visa Signature card that offers a straight, 2% cash rebate on all purchases. With no limits and no restrictions, this card that targets folks with good credit provides real savings all year long.
TrueEarnings® Card from Costco and American Express
Costco members earn a dollar for spending $100 at most merchants who accept American Express. Cashback rewards grow 3% cash back on gasoline at U.S. stand-alone gas stations, including at Costco, for purchases up to $4,000 per year (1% thereafter);2% cash back at U.S. restaurants; 2% cash back on eligible travel purchases; 1% cash back on other purchases, including at Costco making this a great charge card for road warriors. You will receive your cash back in the form of an annual reward coupon and cash back is earned only on eligible purchases. No annual fee for Costco members. Terms and restriction apply.
Best Airline and Travel Credit Cards of 2009:
Our favorite travel reward programs can still help cardholders earn enough incentives to make free trips truly rewarding:
Citi Premier® Pass
This credit card travel rebate program awards roughly equivalent to 1% of purchases as credit toward future flights on partner airlines. Earn one point per dollar spent on the card and one point for every three miles flown. Expedia runs the reward redemption program, allowing customers to track low fares using points instead of dollars. Earn up to 100,000 points per calendar year with no annual fee.
PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card
Members of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union can qualify for this extraordinary travel rewards credit card, offering up to five points per dollar spent on airfare purchases. PenFed rewards its cardholders with special deals on hotel upgrades and discounted access to airport executive lounges worldwide. Enrollment in the National Military Family Association qualifies any American to join this credit union, not just veterans.
Best Low Interest Rate Credit Cards of 2009:
The Credit CARD Act spooked many lenders into hiking overall interest rates in 2009. We found two cards that kept finance charges reasonable:
Simmons Visa® Platinum
Simmons First attracted major attention in 2009 by attracting online customers from around the country. The bank, actually a collection of community banks in Arkansas, offers straightforward customer service along with some of the industry's lowest APRs.
Iberiabank Visa® Classic
Along with keeping interest rates low, Iberiabank was among the first credit card issuers in the industry to eliminate overlimit fees. It's no coincidence that low rate credit cards come from the same banks that uphold strong customer service standards.
Best Low Introductory Interest Rate Credit Cards of 2009:
New banking regulations may mean the end of "low introductory rate" credit cards in 2010. Fortunately, a handful of credit cards still reward new customers with special offers.
PenFed Gold Visa Card
Simple terms, no annual fee, and a low introductory promotional APR on balance transfers for 18 months make this Visa one of the strongest competitors on the market. PenFed also has a 3% balance transfer fee with a $10 minimum and $250 maximum.
Citi® Dividend Platinum Select® Visa® Card
Citibank keeps the 0% APR tradition alive, for at least a little while longer. New cardholders pay no interest for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, after that the variable APR will be 12.99%-22.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfer fee applies: either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Stay tuned for part two where we'll announce the winner for most innovative new program, best rewards points credit card, and more!
Related articles: Editor's Choice Awards: Best Credit Cards of 2009, Part 2