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Best credit cards for 2016

By , Site Editor
Best Credit Cards

And just like that, the first quarter of 2016 is behind us. How are those New Year's resolutions holding up? What about your financial plans for the year? Even if you haven't been able to stick to that "Spend 90 minutes in the gym every day" plan, there's still plenty of time to take advantage of some of the fantastic rewards credit cards can contribute to your financial plans and goals for the year.

Our editorial team has been busy reviewing the latest credit card deals from across the country. Are you still dreaming of a stellar vacation? On the lookout for a bit of extra cash to set aside for a rainy day? Just want to feel like your credit card is working FOR you? We highlight a handful of offers from each category that we think provide the best value for your money. We want to help you avoid high fees, reap maximum rewards and - most importantly - find the card with the rewards you'll actually use.

Unlike many credit card-comparison sites, we evaluate both advertiser and non-advertiser cards, including regional banks and credit unions. Only our editor's favorite cards make the cut - no exceptions.

Balance Transfer:  Chase Slate®

Chase Slate®About Our Ratings
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Our editor's take:
Quick action with your new Chase Slate ® could help you knock down debt - no balance-transfer fee for the first 60 days and a 0 percent intro APR for 15 months.

Card Details
Credit Needed Excellent/Good
Balance Transfer Intro APR 0% Intro APR
Balance Transfer Intro Period for 15 Months
Balance Transfer Fee $0 Intro fee on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that: Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

If you're looking to transfer a balance, and can pay it off in 15 months or less, Chase Slate® is hard to beat. It is the only card in our database that has a long 0 percent introductory offer with no balance-transfer fee. New cardholders enjoy a 0 percent introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers with no annual fee.

Chase recently launched a free credit score product that allows Chase Slate® cardholders to access their FICO scores. Many other cards provide access to credit scores, but Chase has taken it a step further and included insight into why your score is what it is, summary information from your credit report and tips for managing your credit with Credit Dashboard. In addition, with the Chase Slate® card there is no penalty APR as paying late won't raise your interest rate. All other account pricing and terms apply.

You might also like: If you really need a longer introductory period, the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card is currently offering a zero-percent introductory APR on balance transfers and purchases for 21 months. After that, the APR will be 11.99-21.99 percent based upon your creditworthiness. However, there is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3 percent of the amount of each transfer. Citi is a CardRatings.com advertiser.

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Travel:  Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit CardAbout Our Ratings
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Our editor's take:
Capital One raised the bar with a flexible travel rewards card that doesn't lock you into a particular airline or hotel chain. Capital One was also the first to do away with foreign transaction fees, a must for the international traveler. This card comes with a low annual fee compared to other airline cards - $0 for the first year, $59 after that.

Card Details
Credit Needed Excellent, Good
Bonus Offer Enjoy a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles
once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, equal to $400 in travel
Points or Miles 2X miles/$1
Annual Fee $0 intro for first year; $59 after that

The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card has been a favorite of our editors since its launch. We love the flexibility and ease of the rewards program on top of the high earn rate. Earn two times the miles per dollar on every purchase and redeem points for virtually any type of travel with no blackout dates. Topping it off, miles don't expire. There is a one-time bonus, which currently allows you to earn 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening, equal to $400 in travel. That's a nice jumpstart on your next vacation.

As with all Capital One cards, there are no foreign transaction fees, which makes this card a good choice for globetrotters who aren't brand loyal. The annual fee is $0 for the first year and $59 after that.

You might also like: For light credit card users who still want some travel rewards, the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card or the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card both offer excellent flexibility and travel reward opportunities without annual fees, so you won't have to spend enough on the card annually to break even. On the other hand, if you do spend enough to offset an annual fee, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® has a lot to offer, including 5 percent back when you redeem your points for travel. Lastly, if you have a particular loyalty to Starwood properties, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express  could be a great option for you, allowing you to earn points on your stays at Starwood hotels and resorts and then redeem those points on a variety of purchases including flights and free nights at Starwood properties.

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Cash Back: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American ExpressAbout Our Ratings
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Our editor's take:
This card is designed to help users maximize their rewards in everyday categories, so it's a winner for most individuals who spend a fair amount of money on their credit cards.

Card Details
Credit Needed Excellent
Cash Back Groceries 6% at U.S. supermarkets up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%)
Cash Back Gas 3% U.S. gas stations
Cash Back Other 1% other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
Annual fee $75

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers an excellent cash-back set-up for relatively heavy credit card users who spend a lot at grocery stores and gas stations. Cardholders receive a whopping 6 percent back on their purchases at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 annually) as well as 3 percent back at gas stations and some department stores. All other purchases bring in 1 percent cash back. If you like earning cash back, but don't necessarily spend enough to offset the annual fee of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, you might consider the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, which offers slightly lower reward rates, but doesn't come with an annual fee.

You might also like: Citi® Double Cash Card is another great cash-back card, this one without an annual fee. It offers 1 percent back at the time of your purchases plus 1 percent back when you pay for those purchases. Our picks for those who do prefer to strategize spending are Chase Freedom® and Discover it®- Cashback Match™ with No Annual Fee - 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer.

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Low Introductory:  Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees EverAbout Our Ratings
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Our editor's take:
This user-friendly card lives up to its name, and an impressive 21-month, zero-percent intro APR for purchases and balance transfers makes it one you won't want to forget

Card Details
Credit Needed Excellent/Good
Purchase Intro APR 0%*
Purchase Intro Period 21 months
Purchase APR 13.24% - 23.24% (variable)

Citi, a CardRatings.com advertiser, offers both the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever and Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card which have the longest zero-percent introductory offers on the market at 21 months. Our editors favor the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever because of its consumer-friendly terms. With this card you will never pay late fees, penalty rates or annual fees. Additionally, cardholders have quick access to live customer service representatives.

New cardholders can take advantage of a zero-percent intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 21 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.24 - 23.24 percent based on your creditworthiness.

You might also like: The BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card offers a shorter 0 percent introductory period - 12 months as opposed to the 21 months offered by the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever - No late fees ever - but it also offers the opportunity to earn cash rewards on your purchases. Looking for another card with a low introductory purchase APR plus the potential to earn rewards? Consider The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express.

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Low Interest:  Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum

Simmons Bank Visa® PlatinumAbout Our Ratings
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Our editor's take:
If you have a high credit score and are looking for a low APR, you are not going to beat this card. While not a well-known bank, Simmons has been the best at this for more than a decade. No annual fee or balance-transfer fees are added bonuses.

Card Details
Credit Needed Excellent
Purchase APR 7.50% (Variable)
Balance Transfer APR 7.50% (Variable)
Balance Transfer Fee No balance transfer fee

Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum has had one of the lowest rates in the country for more than a decade. The standard variable APR for purchases and balance transfers is currently 7.25 percent. There is no penalty APR, no annual fee and no balance transfer fee. Although there is no introductory APR offer, those who need to transfer a balance can benefit long-term from the low ongoing interest rate and lack of balance transfer fee.

If you plan to carry a balance this is a tough offer to beat; however, you will need to have flawless credit to be approved for this card.

You might also like: Depending on your creditworthiness, you could secure a single-digit APR with the Barclaycard Ring™ MasterCard® (8 percent variable purchase APR) or the PenFed Promise Visa® Card (7.99-16.99 percent variable APR).

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Gas:  PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card About Our Ratings
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Our editor's take:
The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card is another card in the Penfed family that offers solid rewards and benefits for members of the military, U.S. government employees and other qualifying individuals. Its 5 points per dollar spent at gas stations makes it a no-brainer for a top gas rewards card.

Card Details
Credit Needed Excellent
Cash Back Gas N/A
Cash Back Groceries N/A
Cash Back Other N/A
Annual Fee $0

The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card offers a slate of benefits, but, in particular, this card is best for individuals with big grocery bills and lots of personal driving.

The five-points-per-dollar-spent-at-the-pump reward level is among the best in the industry and, to sweeten the rewards pot even more, cardholders also earn three points per dollar on purchases at supermarkets.

And when the time comes to redeem your points, you can head to PenFed's online rewards redemption center where your points can be used to purchase electronics or household goods or simply redeem them for Visa prepaid reward cards or e-certificates to a number of retailers.

You might also like: If you aren't eligible for the Penfed card, the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card is another option where you'll earn nice rewards at gas stations and supermarkets - 3 percent and 2 percent, respectively.

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Bad Credit:  DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card

DCU Visa Platinum Secured Credit CardAbout Our Ratings
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Our editor's take:
Rarely do you find a secured card with no annual fee - that's what sets the DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card apart.

Card Details
Credit Needed Limited
Purchase APR 11.75% (variable)
Annual Fee None

If you're ready to build or rebuild credit, credit cards can be a valuable tool. However, many cards geared toward those with poor, bad or no credit history come with a ton of fees and astronomical rates.  DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card is a noteworthy exception. It has no annual fee and a variable APR as low as 11.50 percent for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances. The 25-day grace period on purchases allows users to avoid interest charges by paying in full each month.

You might also like: The SDFCU EMV Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card offers one of the lowest APRs - 6.99 percent - available among secured credit cards and doesn't have any foreign transaction fees, an unusual feature of secured credit cards. If you really need a balance transfer option, the Arvest Flex Rewards Secured Card offers an introductory APR of 4.9 percent for the first six months for balance transfers, purchases and cash advances. Lastly, the Capital One® Secured MasterCard® is another secured card that you can carry without an annual fee.

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Student:  Discover it® Chrome for Students

Discover it® Chrome for Students About Our Ratings
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Our editor's take:
The Discover it® Chrome for Students card is an ideal first card for students with its lack of an annual fee and the ability to earn cash back on your purchases.

Card Details
Credit Needed Fair
Cash Back Gas 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter--no sign-ups needed.
Cash Back Groceries 1%
Cash Back Other 1%
Purchase APR 13.24% - 22.24% Variable
Annual Fee $0

Many credit cards for individuals with limited credit are considered "no frills." Some even come with annual fees. The Discover it® Chrome for Students is different - it offers a few frills and no annual fee.

With this card, users can earn 2 percent cash back on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter at restaurants and gas stations. There's no need to keep track of rotating categories and all other purchases earn 1 percent cash back.

The Discover it® Chrome for Students card also offers an introductory 0 percent APR on purchases for six months after account opening.

You might also like: When you've established good spending patterns with your first card and want to start earning more rewards, take a look at the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® card and the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students.

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Business:  Ink Cash® Business Credit Card

Ink Cash® Business Credit CardAbout Our Ratings
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Our editor's take:
Earn higher cash-back rates in popular business spending categories on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases, 1 percent on other card purchases, get free employee cards and pay no annual fee.

Card Details
Credit Needed Excellent
Cash Back Gas 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year
Cash Back Other 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year. 1% cash back on all other card purchases.
Annual Fee $0

Business: Ink Cash® Business Credit Card is our top pick for new business owners. Cardholders can earn 5 percent cash back on the first $25,000 of combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year; 2 percent cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year; and 1 percent cash back on all other card purchases. Plus, with no annual fee, this is a great option for small business owners.

You might also like: Business owners interested in earning rewards without paying an annual fee should also take a look at U.S. Bank Business Edge™ Cash Rewards World Elite™ MasterCard® and The Blue for Business® Credit Card from American Express.

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7 Comments

  1. Sam September 09, 2015 at 7:57 am
    Mr. Labe, life happens. I had to urgently leave the US when my mom passed away and my disabled father was left by himself. I wasn't able to pay of about $450 in CC balances. I had over $15 000 available but didn't spend a dime in Europe, knowing that without a job I will not be able to pay my monthly payments. It was hard for 3 years. Then, my father died and about 4 weeks later I was back in US. I cannot tell you how horrified I was when I found that my previous landlord placed me on collection, plus public record because it was stated that I was evicted from my apartment. None of that was true. While I did leave in a day notice, I wasn't under long contract with my landlord, I was paying "month-by-month", with a little higher cost than without contract. I moved out on March 7th 2007 in the morning, giving keys to the apartment to leasing agent with the explanation. That whole month was already paid for. But I didn't give them the 60-day notice, since I did not plan on leaving suddenly. So, they had it right about "no-notice" charge. But, I have no idea why and what they were trying to do, they sued me, "evicted" me and I was faced with $4800 (?) in charges and a public record of civil judgement against me. I couldn't rent the apartment even when I tried to put 2-3 rents in deposit...

    Eventually, in my travel bag, I found old, rarely used Capital One CC which had $750 limit when it was active. I called Capital One (also I had $8000 PayPal CC but they wouldn't give anything after they closed it, I owed them nothing). Capital One immediately reinstated my previous limit to $750.

    Everything started from there. They approved me for another card and in about 6 months raised my limit on first card to $2750. I was spending and paying of my CC like before and offers started to come in regularly. Public record was off my report and now I am at 786 FICO. All thanks to capital One readiness to give me a second chance. So, please, try to understand that behind a lot of bankruptcies there is a story that you don't know about and that those people didn't stand a chance against a set of circumstances that put them in position where they became no longer able to pay anything...
      Reply »  
  2. Rick Wise July 03, 2015 at 6:31 pm
    Yeah...what Amber and especially what LULU said...till you know each circumstance it is silly or worse to make a blanket statement.
      Reply »  
  3. PIERRE LABBE May 30, 2015 at 4:54 pm
    WHY DO YOU EVEN HAVE A CARD RECOMENDATION FOR PEOPLE WITH BAD CREDIT? ITS LIKE THE CAR SALES -HUCKSTERS THAT PRACTICALY GUARANTEE A CAR LOAN TO PEOPLE WITH BAD CREDIT.HAVENT WE HAD ENOUGH PROBLEMS WITH PEOPLE WHO CAN'T PAY THEIR MORTGAGES ? NO CREDIT IS ONE THING BUT BAD CREDIT IS NOT SOMETHING WE SHOULD TRY TO HELP BY ENCOURAGING CREDIT CARD USAGE.
      Reply »  
    1. Amber Stubbs June 16, 2015 at 2:19 pm
      I respectfully disagree. I rebuilt my credit with the help of a secured card and it was well worth the nominal annual fee. Although there are still cards out there with too many fees and other "gotchas" (e.g. no grace period on purchases), it's pretty easy to find a card that will only cost you a small annual fee as long as you pay in full each month. Credit cards can be a valuable, cost-effective tool for building or rebuilding credit and definitely can't be compared to a car loan for someone with poor credit which is likely to cost thousands in interest even if you are able to pay the car off early.
        Reply »  
    2. lulu June 15, 2015 at 9:02 am
      Obviously you missed the point that some of these people are working hard to rebuild their credit and this is an important way to do it. Poor credit can be caused by many circumstances some of which are not due to being irresponsible ( job loss,illness with loss of income, huge medical bills, divorce with a spouse who does not help with mortgage)Although I have not had to go through these hardships, as a landlord I have been able to hear their stories and see that some of them are working hard to get back on track. You shouldn't be passing judgment and having such a superior attitude if you haven't walked in their shoes.
        Reply »  
  4. Andrea Listening Deer May 09, 2015 at 9:50 pm
    How does Wells Fargo secured credit card rate
      Reply »  
    1. Amber Stubbs June 16, 2015 at 2:55 pm
      The interest rate on purchases is about average for a secured card, but you can definitely find lower. The annual fee is fairly low ($25 as of today, but always check terms before applying). Overall it's a good secured card, but not the best.
        Reply »  

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