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Editor's Choice Awards: Best Credit Cards for 2018

By Brooklyn Lowery, CardRatings contributor
Updated, November 21, 2017

Our credit card articles, reviews and ratings maintain strict editorial integrity; however we may be compensated when you click on or are approved for offers from our partners. How we make money.

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Editor's Choice Best Credit Cards of 2018

It's time. Make 2018 the year you have the best credit card for your lifestyle in your wallet. Whether you're looking for an excellent 0 percent APR period, hoping to rack up cash-back rewards on your everyday purchases or dreaming of cashing in miles for that dream vacation, CardRatings editors have the card for you.

We've narrowed the credit card landscape down to the top credit cards of 2018 in a variety of categories that address a variety of needs. Finding the right card can be a tall order, but we're here to help with our annual list.

Each year, CardRatings editors comb through hundreds of credit card offers and anoint our favorites with an Editor's Choice accolade. We know that the average consumer doesn't have the time to sort through all the details of each credit card offer, so we're doing it for you. Whether you're on the hunt for a balance transfer card to help you tackle debt or you want to make this the year that you really cash in with a cash-back rewards credit card, we have you covered. 

In this slideshow you'll find some of our most popular categories, but if you're looking for something more specific, be sure to check out our full "Best Credit Cards of 2018" list.

clerk taking credit card

Earning cash back on your purchases is always a nice feature and there are lots of reward structures to help you do that. The flat-rate cash-back card is the simplest with its single earn rate across all categories, every day.

*Check out our full "Best of 2018 list" for our picks for tiered and rotating categories cash-back cards.

Winner: Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

(Citi is a CardRatings advertiser) This flat-rate cash-back card offers you 1 percent back when you use your card to make your purchase and then another 1 percent when you pay for the purchase by paying your credit card statement. That effectively means you earn 2 percent back on all your purchases and that makes the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer among the highest earning flat-rate cards on the market. There's no annual fee for this card and you can also take advantage of 18 months of zero interest on balance transfers.

Runner Up: HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card

This card offers members 1.5 percent back on all your purchases everyday BUT it also rewards your loyalty with a 10 percent bonus on the rewards your earn each anniversary year. Plus, you can earn 2 percent back on all your purchases for the first six months as a cardholder.

Editor's Note: This article is kept accurate as of the date it was written in order to correctly reflect award winning offers. Some of the offers in this article might have expired. Please check our database for the latest terms and conditions.

woman reading on beach

A reasonable annual fee can help you bring in top-of-the-line travel rewards, so if you travel even a few times a year, our pick for best travel rewards credit card may very well pay off for you.

*For our top travel rewards credit card without an annual fee, as well as cards specifically for airline and hotel rewards, check out our full "Best of 2018" list."

Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred®

We love the flexibility and ease of use with Chase Ultimate Rewards® points. Those points can be transferred to a number of airline and hotel partners at a 1:1 rate and they're worth 25 percent more when you redeem them for travel directly through Chase. That redemption bonus means that the 50,000-point signup bonus (you'll earn it after spending $4,000 on your card within three months) is actually worth $625 in travel. Keep the earning going with two points per $1 on dining and travel purchases and one point $1 on all your other purchases.

Runner Up: Capital One® Venture Rewards® Credit Card

When it comes to travel rewards flexibility, it’s hard to beat the Capital One® Venture Rewards® Credit Card. You earn two miles per dollar on every purchase and, on top of that, you can also earn a 50,000-mile bonus after spending $3,000 within the first three months of account opening – that’s worth $500 in travel. That intro bonus alone will more than make up for the $95 annual fee (waived for the first year). When it comes to redeeming your rewards, you don’t have to worry about blackout or expiration dates, which is another plus for this easy-to-carry card.

Editor’s Note: This article is kept accurate as of the date it was written in order to correctly reflect award winning offers. Some of the offers in this article might have expired. Please check our database for the latest terms and conditions.

balance transfer hacksBalance transfer credit cards offer a helpful path to paying down balances quickly thanks to the zero-interest periods – often from 12-18 months. During that period, every penny of every payment goes toward reducing the principal owed, and that's a good thing. Here are our picks for top balance transfer credit cards.

Winner: Chase Slate®

There are a number of cards that offer introductory balance transfer periods, but there are very few that offer you that zero-interest period along with no balance transfer fee. Chase Slate® is one of those cards. You can take advantage of 15 billing cycles of zero interest on balance transfers AND purchases, and you won't pay a balance transfer fee for transfers made within the first 60 days (after that period, you'll pay a 5 percent fee with a $5 minimum). You can take advantage of this excellent offer without paying an annual fee.

Runner Up: Discover it® – 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer

If you need longer than 15 months to pay off a balance, you might consider the Discover it® – 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer, which offers 18 months interest free on balance transfers and six months of zero interest on purchases. You will pay a 3 percent fee, but you still stand to save some money if that transfer means not paying higher interest for the months you need to pay off the balance. Plus, this card rewards you with 5 percent cash back on purchases made in categories that rotate each quarter (up to $1,500 spent quarterly and you must activate each quarter to take advantage). You'll also earn 1 percent back on your other purchases and once you hit that quarterly spending cap.

Editor's Note:  This article is kept accurate as of the date it was written in order to correctly reflect award winning offers.  Some of the offers in this article might have expired.  Please check our database for the latest terms and conditions.

CardRatings.com Monthly Newsletter February 2008Small business owners, entrepreneurs and freelancers can benefit from small business credit cards, but your bottom line may not be in a position to handle an annual fee for that card. Good thing there are some great options for no-annual-fee business cards that still meet the needs of many business owners.

*Sometimes a very small annual fee can mean a big jump in rewards and perks. If your business can support an annual fee, check out our pick for Best Small Business Credit Card in our full "Best of 2018" list.

Winner: SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express:

Every business has different needs, which is why we like the option to select a bonus earning category with this card. SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express cardholders (American Express is a CardRatings advertiser) earn 5 percent back at office supply stores and on wireless phone services, but you also get to choose from a list of categories in which you'll earn 3 percent back. The category choices include airfare, hotels, shipping and more, so you can tailor the card to your needs. You earn the 5 percent and 3 percent on up to $50,000 in combined spending annually, then 1 percent, and you earn 1 percent on all your other purchases every day. Start-up business owners take note: this card offers nine months of zero interest on purchases, so if you have so initial costs to get your business off the ground this could be a great option.

Runner Up: Ink Business CashSM Credit Card

We like a card that offers excellent cash-back opportunities without an annual fee and the Ink Business CashSM Credit Card does just that. You can earn up to 5 percent back on the first $25,000 spent annually in combined purchases at office supply stores, as well as on cellular, landline, internet and cable television services. Then earn 2 percent back on the first $25,000 spent at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year and 1 percent back on your other purchases.

Editor's Note: This article is kept accurate as of the date it was written in order to correctly reflect award winning offers. Some of the offers in this article might have expired. Please check our database for the latest terms and conditions.

credit card expiration date

Sometimes you just need a little extra time to pay off a large purchases or perhaps you’re looking for a way to pay less on a balance you already have. Zero percent introductory APR credit cards could be excellent options for you.

Winner: Citi Simplicity® – No Late Fees Ever

(Citi is a CardRatings advertiser) With 21 months of zero interest on purchases and balance transfers, the Citi Simplicity® – No Late Fees Ever card is a regular pick for top low intro APR card. You won't be earning rewards with this card, but it does allow you the option of paying off a large balance interest-free over time, so you could consider that your reward. Plus, there's no annual fee. You also won’t be dinged with a late fee if you happen to miss a payment. There is a balance transfer fee of a $5 or 3, whichever is greater, but you won’t pay an annual fee.

Runner Up: Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card

This card offers a shorter 0 percent period at 18 months, but comes with a couple of additional perks and features that helped it make our list. Namely, Wells Fargo cardholders receive mobile phone protection when the cellular bill is paid on the card – that's a unique and potentially money-saving perk, especially for a card that doesn't charge an annual fee.

Editor’s Note:  This article is kept accurate as of the date it was written in order to correctly reflect award winning offers.  Some of the offers in this article might have expired.  Please check our database for the latest terms and conditions.

The 5 Best Low Interest Credit Cards - 2010 EditionSure a nice introductory APR offer is nice if you already have a balance you're trying to pay down or know you'll be making a big purchase in the near future, but an ongoing low-interest credit card is the one you'll want to reach for when an unexpected major purchase comes your way. Take a look at our top pick.

Winner: Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum

With an exceptionally low variable APR, the Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum is one that could save a lot of money if you have an unexpected purchase come up and no 0-interest introductory offer available to you. What's more, if you already have a balance on another card, you can transfer that balance to this card – and take advantage of that low APR – without paying a balance transfer fee, which is typically 3-5 percent with other cards.

Runner Up: PenFed Gold Visa® Card:

Another low ongoing interest option is the PenFed Gold Visa® Card. It features a slightly lower variable APR, but you must qualify to be a member of Penfed in order to apply for this card, hence it is our runner up (learn more about qualifying to be a Penfed member here). As with the Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum card, you won't pay an annual fee to carry this card.

Editor's Note: This article is kept accurate as of the date it was written in order to correctly reflect award winning offers. Some of the offers in this article might have expired. Please check our database for the latest terms and conditions.

credit cardsSometimes you just need some time and an opportunity to build or rebuild your credit. While the top-tier credit cards aren't available to you, there are solid credit card options that, if used responsibly, could help you take a major step forward in improving your credit score and, down the road, qualifying for credit cards with flashier perks and features.

Winner: Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee

It's a rare secured card that offers the opportunity to earn cash back, but the Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee gives you that perk. You'll establish your line of credit with a security deposit of at least $200, but there's no annual fee beyond that. Then, you'll earn 2 percent back on the first $1,000 you spend each quarter at restaurants and gas stations and 1 percent back on your other purchases.

Runner Up: Capital One® Secured MasterCard®:

Another no annual fee option is the Capital One® Secured MasterCard®, which requires a security deposit of $49, $99 or $200, depending on creditworthiness, to establish your initial credit line of $200. A helpful feature with this card is the ability to select your monthly due date to fit into your paycheck schedule or otherwise fit your financial needs.

Editor's Note: This article is kept accurate as of the date it was written in order to correctly reflect award winning offers.  Some of the offers in this article might have expired. Please check our database for the latest terms and conditions.

velvet rope red carpet

Credit cards with high annual fees certainly aren't for everyone, but sometimes those high annual fees give you access to such impressive perks and rewards that, depending on your lifestyle, the annual fee might be more than worth it. This year we've added this "Editor's Choice" category to help you determine whether paying a few hundred dollars to carry a particular credit card just might open up a world of rewards and perks to you that make your life just a bit more comfortable. 

*If a high annual fee isn't your thing, don't fret. Our "Best of 2018" list also features our picks for best no-annual-fee cards.

Winner: The Platinum Card® from American Express

A $550 annual fee card that offers lovely luxury perks, The Platinum Card® from American Express (American Express is a CardRatings advertiser) comes with complimentary airport lounge access, 24/7 concierge service and an annual airline fee reimbursement (with a pre-selected airline) of $200. New cardholders can also qualify for 60,000 bonus Membership Rewards® points after spending $5,000 in the first three months. One key difference here is that this card is a charge card, which means the balance must be paid off each billing cycle. You don't rack up interest charges with charge cards, but you also don't have the option of carrying over a balance if you need to.

Runner Up: Chase Sapphire ReserveSM

Chase Sapphire ReserveSM set the credit card industry buzzing in summer 2016 when it launched. The sign-up bonus alone is enough to make the $450 annual fee worth it for the first year: earn 50,000 points, worth up to $750 in travel, after spending $4,000 in three months. Beyond the annual fee, cardholders are also eligible for up to $300 in statement credit each account anniversary year as reimbursement for travel charges and enjoy complimentary access to more than 900 airport lounges around the world.

When it comes to rewards, you earn three points per $1 on travel and dining and one point on all other purchases and redeeming your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® makes those points worth 50 percent more (hence, the 50,000 intro bonus is worth up to $750).

Luxury credit cards with high annual fees aren't for everyone, but if you have the credit score to qualify and the funds to cover the annual fee, you could find that you quickly offset that fee with all the perks and features the card offers.

Editor's Note: This article is kept accurate as of the date it was written in order to correctly reflect award winning offers. Some of the offers in this article might have expired. Please check our database for the latest terms and conditions.

Methodology: CardRatings editors have been rating and reviewing credit cards for nearly 20 years. We bring that two decades of experience to our review process as we consider the rewards, rates, fees, perks and features of each card and how those things relate to each award category. Sometimes the categories and their criteria are straightforward as in, for example, the “Best 0 percent APR credit card.” In others we consider such features as the ease/flexibility of the rewards redemption process in addition to the earning of the rewards themselves. We’re constantly reviewing our list as credit card terms change often – if there’s a better card that rises to the top, we update our lists to reflect that change. Our goal is ensuring the consumer has the most up-to-date information so he/she can make the best possible credit card decision for their lifestyle and needs.

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