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Best credit cards of December 2021

CardRatings' best credit card list showcases the top offers for cash back, travel rewards, balance transfer, small business and more card categories from among our database of hundreds of cards.
Best cash-back credit cards of 2021
authorBrooklyn Lowery
20+ years
finding the best card for you
1,500+ cards
in our database
3,500+ cardholders
polled about their cards
243 reviews
from our experts
Learn about our methodology  

List of Winners

CardRatings has analyzed and reviewed credit cards for more than 20 years and, for more than 10 years, we've brought you a curated list of the Best Credit Cards of the Year based on our analysis of the fine print, the fees, the perks and comparisons to similar cards. In many cases, the winners are cards that partner with CardRatings, but in some cases, they are not, and you won't be able to apply for the card directly from this site.

We surveyed more than 1,700 cardholders across 77 individual cards to obtain customer feedback on the most popular cards on our site – a tradition we started for our 2020 editor’s picks. That means that readers get the expert analysis they need as well as scores from actual cardholders. Wondering about the customer service offered with a particular card? Check out the Customer Service score under the "User Scores" tabs below. What about real-world satisfaction with the rewards program? Take a look at the "Rewards Satisfaction" score under that tab. 

Don't settle for a credit card that isn't right for you or for the one that you've always had! Find the best credit card for your current lifestyle, credit card rewards dreams and spending habits. We, and more than 1,700 cardholders like you, can help you do it! Read our methodology.

 
 
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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Winner

5
 
None $550
Why We Like It:
Lucrative signup bonus, excellent ongoing rewards and flexibility with redemptions make for an excellent card. Chase Ultimate Rewards® points can be redeemed through the Chase travel portal or transferred directly to a number of popular airline and hotel loyalty programs. This is a perennial "starter" card recommendation for people who want to start racking up travel rewards.
Excellent, Good
Welcome Bonus
60,000 points Earn 60,000 points – worth $750 in travel through the Chase portal – after spending $4,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee
$95
Regular APR
15.99% - 22.99% Variable
Credit Score
Excellent, Good

The Bonus: 60,000 bonus points (worth up to $750 in travel) when you spend $4,000 in the first three months of card membership. You can transfer Ultimate Rewards® points to multiple airline and hotel loyalty programs, so you might find that bonus to be worth a lot more when converted to rewards under one of your existing loyalty accounts.

Annual Fee: $95

Foreign Transaction Fees: $0

Rewards Rate: Earn five points per $1 for travel purchased through the Ultimate Rewards® portal; three points per $1 on dining (including eligible takeout and delivery), online grocery store purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs) and select streaming services; two points per $1 on travel; and one point per $1 on other purchases. Plus earn five points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's three points in addition to the two points you already earn on travel. Your points are worth 25% more when you redeem them for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal, so each point is worth 1.25 cents in that case.

Additionally, each year receive a points bonus equal to 10% of your total purchases from the previous year.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • Save with an annual $50 hotel credit for a stay booked through the Ultimate Rewards® portal.
  • That bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months is worth $750 when you redeem your points for travel through the Ultimate Rewards® portal. It's a solid bonus, especially for a card with a modest annual fee.
  • This card is an excellent complement to other Ultimate Rewards®-earning cards, such as Chase Freedom Unlimited® or even business cards like Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card. Combine all your points into a single pot and, depending on which card you group them under, they may be worth even more. Learn more in our Guide to Chase Ultimate Rewards® points

CONS:

  • This card's rewards earning works well for a certain type of spender, but not everyone. Remember you'll only earn bonus rewards in select categories. If these categories aren't among your regular spending categories, you'd likely be better off with a different card.
  • There is the $95 annual fee to consider, so make sure you'll earn (and redeem!) enough rewards to more than offset the fee.
  • There isn't an introductory 0% APR offer with this card.

Read our full review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 82.3 84.4
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.3 8.3
Customer Service 8.4 8.7
Website/App Usability 8.2 8.1
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.7 9.0
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 7.8 8.4

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card Winner

None $550
Why We Like It:
With excellent (and simple!) rewards earning, a solid intro 0% APR offer (details below), additional benefits and perks as well as no-annual-fee and a nice welcome offer, this recently introduced card tops our list of flat-rate cash-back cards.
Excellent, Good
Welcome Bonus
$200 cash rewards $200 cash rewards bonus after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
14.99%-24.99% Variable APR
Credit Score
Excellent, Good

The Bonus: Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months.

Intro APR Offer: Take advantage of a 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers (transfers must be made in the first 120 days to qualify).

Balance Transfer Fee: 3% for 120 days from account opening, then up to 5%; min: $5

Ongoing APR: 14.99%-24.99% Variable APR

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fees: 3%

Rewards Rate: Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • Often cards with excellent intro 0% APR offers (15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, then 14.99%-24.99% Variable APR) don't offer much in the way of rewards, but this one bucks that trend with unlimited 2% cash rewards on eligible purchases.
  • The welcome bonus opportunity is generous for a minimal spend.
  • Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible and terms) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular bill with your card.

CONS:

  • If you regularly travel internationally this might not be the best card to travel with as it charges a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Read our full review of the Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card.

We have not polled this card yet, but would love to hear your thoughts on it if you are a cardholder. Comment below or email us at editor@cardratings.com to share more about your experience.

Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card Winner

5
 
None $550
Why We Like It:
Cardholders have the power here. You choose where you can earn the most cash back from among a list of six popular categories: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement/furnishings. That makes this an incredibly flexible (and possibly lucrative!) card for a wide range of card users.
Excellent/Good
Welcome Bonus
$200 online cash rewards $200 online cash rewards bonus after spending at least $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good

The Bonus: Earn a $200 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $1,000 on purchases on your new card within the first 90 days of account opening.

Intro APR Offer: 0% intro APR for 15 billing cycles from account opening on qualifying balance transfers (transfers must be made in the first 60 days to qualify) as well as on purchases.

Balance Transfer Fee: Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.

Ongoing APR: 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fees: 3%

Rewards Rate: Earn 3% cash back in a category of your choosing from a list of six: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement/furnishings. Earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs. The 2% and 3% earning is capped at $2,500 in combined spending in your choice category and at grocery stores and wholesale clubs each quarter. You can earn 1% back on all your other purchases as well as on purchases in the bonus categories after you reach the quarterly cap.

Credit Needed: Excellent/Good

PROS:

  • The freedom to choose the category in which to earn the highest rewards makes this customizable card an excellent option for many people's spending habits.
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards client, you can earn even more: 25%-75% more cash back on every purchase.
  • Take advantage of an intro 0% APR for 15 billing cycles on balance transfers made within the first 60 days and on purchases (then, 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers).

CONS:

  • The cash-back opportunities are good, but they're great for Bank of America Preferred Rewards clients. If that's not you, you might want to look elsewhere for higher cash-back earning.
  • Be aware that this card charges foreign transaction fees, so you'll want to carry another option along when you travel abroad or when you shop in foreign currency from home.
  • You can only adjust your 3% cash-back earning category once per calendar month. If an unexpected expense arises in a different category after you've already made your choice, you're out of luck for the 3% on that purchase until the following month rolls around.

Read our full review of the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 88.1 84.1
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.9 8.5
Customer Service 8.9 8.4
Website/App Usability 8.8 8.4
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 9.2 8.8
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.5 8.2

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

Chase Freedom Unlimited® Winner

5
 
None $550
Why We Like It:
With a base rewards earning rate of 1.5% and the opportunity to earn more on certain purchases, a solid signup bonus opportunity and rewards that accumulate as sought-after Ultimate Rewards® points, Chase Freedom Unlimited® could very well deserve a spot in your wallet.
Excellent, Good
Welcome Bonus
$200 Earn $200 cash back after you spend $500 within the first three months
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
14.99% - 24.74% Variable
Credit Score
Excellent, Good

The Bonus: New cardholders can earn $200 cash back after spending $500 within three months of opening an account. Plus, earn 5% cash back on up to $12,000 spent on grocery store purchases during your first year (excludes Target and Walmart purchases).

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fees: 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars

Rewards Rate: On an ongoing basis, earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through the Ultimate Rewards® portal, 3% back at restaurants (including takeout and delivery), 3% back at drugstores and 1.5% cash back on your other purchases.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • Earning at least 1.5% cash back on every purchase is hard to beat, but when you throw in the opportunity to earn up to 5% cash back on other categories of purchases, well, this card just gets even more impressive.
  • While this card is marketed as a cash-back card, your cash back technically accumulates as Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, a powerful travel rewards currency. You can combine the points you earn with this card with the points you earn using one of Chase’s other cards, such as Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card and possibly make those points worth even more.
  • You can take advantage of an introductory 0% APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers (then, 14.99% - 24.74% Variable).

CONS:

  • There's a lot of rewards categories to keep up with here. It's potentially quite a lucrative set up, but it's going to require you to put some thought into where you use your card.
  • This isn’t the best card for you to take along on a trip abroad; it charges foreign transaction fees.

Read our full review of Chase Freedom Unlimited®.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 82.8 86.2
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.2 8.6
Customer Service 8.5 8.7
Website/App Usability 8.2 8.6
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 9.0 9.0
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 7.9 8.4

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card Winner

None $550
Why We Like It:
Top-flight rewards for dining purchases as well as a helpful introductory 0% APR and a nice welcome bonus make this card a favorite if dining out is a regular pleasure of yours.
Good, Excellent
Welcome Bonus
20,000 bonus points Earn 20,000 bonus points – worth $200 – after you spend $1,000 within 90 days of account opening
Annual Fee
$0*
Regular APR
14.99% - 23.99%* Variable
Credit Score
Good, Excellent

The Bonus: Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 on eligible purchases within the first 90 days. Points can be redeemed for $200-worth of cash back, gift cards, travel and more.

Intro APR Offer: 0% intro APR for 12 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers (transfers must be made in the first 60 days to qualify).

Balance Transfer Fee: Either 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater

Ongoing APR: 14.99% - 23.99%* Variable

Annual Fee: $0*

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Rewards Rate: Earn 4x points on takeout, food delivery and dining as well as 2x the points at grocery stores (including grocery delivery), gas stations and on streaming services. Earn one point per $1 on your other eligible purchases.

Credit Needed: Good, Excellent

PROS:

  • This no-annual-fee card gives its users a lengthy 12 billing cycles to pay off balance transfers (made within the first 60 days) as well as your purchases without the worry of interest charges (ongoing APR of 14.99% - 23.99%* Variable applies after the intro period).
  • Take advantage of an annual statement credit of $15 for streaming service purchases like Netflix and Spotify.
  • With no foreign transaction fees, you can take this card abroad and save.

CONS:

  • The top rewards go to cardholders who dine out – if that isn't you, take a look at a different card with rewards that better fit your spending habits.
  • Redeeming rewards has some restrictions, particularly when it comes to cash back. In that case, there's a minimum redemption requirement of $25 (that's 2,500 points) and you can only redeem for true cash back if you do so into a U.S. Bank checking or savings account. Otherwise, cash back is going to be in the form of a statement credit.
  • There is a balance transfer fee to consider, but this is a common fee to most credit cards.

Read our full review of the U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 84.7 n/a
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.4 n/a
Customer Service 8.6 n/a
Website/App Usability 8.5 n/a
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.9 n/a
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.3 n/a

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express Winner

Why We Like It:
This is the only card we know of that offers 6% back (up to $6,000 spent annually) in a category that just about every family spends in with some regularity: supermarkets.
Good, Excellent
Welcome Bonus
$300 Earn $300 in statement credit after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first six months
Annual Fee
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
Regular APR
13.99% - 23.99% Variable
Credit Score
Good, Excellent

The Welcome Offer: Earn $300 in statement credit after you spend $3,000 within the first six months.

Intro APR Offer: Take advantage of an introductory 0% APR on purchases for 12 months from account opening.

Ongoing APR: 13.99% - 23.99% Variable

Annual Fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Foreign Transaction Fees: 2.7% of each transaction after conversion to US dollars.

Rewards Rate: Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 spent annually, then 1%) and on select U.S. streaming subscriptions; earn 3% back at U.S. gas stations and on transit like parking, tolls, taxis, bus fares and more; and earn 1% back on your other purchases.

Credit Needed: Good, Excellent

PROS:

  • This is among the highest reward rates out there for U.S. supermarket purchases, meaning it could be a very lucrative card for someone who regularly spends there.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases from the date of account opening, then 13.99% - 23.99% Variable.
  • We love this card for families since it rewards purchases with U.S. supermarkets (6% cash back up to $6,000 spent in a year, then 1%), on select U.S. streaming subscriptions (6% cash back), at U.S. gas stations (3% cash back), and on transit (3% cash back), all categories that many families find themselves spending in with some frequency.

CONS:

  • As an American Express card, it isn't as widely accepted as cards issued by Visa or Mastercard, but the American Express network is ever-expanding both in the U.S. and abroad.
  • Speaking of using this card while abroad, that's not the best idea as it charges foreign transaction fees, something you can avoid with many cards.
  • There's also the annual fee to consider; you'll want to go through your budget carefully to determine whether you'll earn enough rewards to more than offset the annual fee.

Read our full Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express review.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 87.0 86.0
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.6 8.3
Customer Service 8.7 8.9
Website/App Usability 8.8 8.7
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.9 9.0
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.8 8.6

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card Winner

5
 
None $550
Why We Like It:
Great gas rewards are nice, but it's also good to find a high gas rewards rate in a card that offers useful other rewards as well. In this case, electric car charging, restaurants, grocery shopping and more make this card a winner.
Excellent
Gas Rewards
5X points Earn 5X points on purchases at the pump and at electric vehicle charging stations
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
13.49% to 17.99% Variable APR on purchases; 17.99% Fixed APR on balance transfers
Credit Score
Excellent

Bonus: 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,500 in the first three months of card opening.

Intro APR Offer: 0% intro APR for 12 months on balance transfers made between now and March 31, 2022.

Balance Transfer Fee: 3% per transaction

Ongoing APR: 13.49% to 17.99% Variable APR on purchases; 17.99% Fixed APR on balance transfers

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Rewards Rate: Earn 5X points on purchases at the pump and at electric vehicle charging stations as well as 3X points on supermarket, restaurant/dining and cable/satellite and other television/radio/streaming service purchases. Earn one point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Credit Needed: Excellent

PROS:

  • This card offers solid rewards in some popular everyday categories (5X points at the pump and at electric vehicle charging stations; 2X points at supermarkets, on dining/restaurants, and on purchases of cable, satellite and other TV/radio/streaming services; and one point per $1 on your other purchases.
  • With no foreign transaction fees, this card is a helpful companion for trips or assignments abroad.
  • Not that we recommend carrying a balance, but if you do, be aware that for people with spectacular credit this card's interest rate starts below what many cards charge.

CONS:

  • An intro bonus opportunity is always nice, but this one isn't especially generous.
  • This card certainly targets people who drive quite a lot. The rewards are just OK for other purchases. If you're not a road warrior, there are likely better options out there for you.

Read our full PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card review.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 80.5 84.9
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.0 8.6
Customer Service 8.0 8.6
Website/App Usability 8.3 8.6
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.5 8.8
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.0 8.0

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card Winner

5
 
None $550
Why We Like It:
The categories in which you can earn the highest amounts of cash back run the gamut from fairly typical to pretty unusual and the spending cap is high enough to make this a reasonable card choice for many small businesses. Plus, mobile phone protection is a nice added perk that could save just about any business some money.
Excellent, Good
Welcome Offer
100,000 points Earn 100,000 bonus points – worth $1,250 in travel – when you spent $15,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee
$95
Regular APR
15.99%-20.99% Variable
Credit Score
Excellent, Good

The Bonus: Earn 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards® points – worth $1,250 in travel – after you spend $15,000 within the first three months.

Annual Fee: $95

Foreign Transaction Fees: $0

Rewards Rate: Receive three points per $1 spent on up to $150,000 combined spending annually on travel expenses; shipping costs; Internet, cable, and phone services; and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines. You'll earn one point per $1 in those categories once you reach the spending cap and on all your other purchases.

Additional Perks: Pay your mobile phone bill on your card and you'll enjoy protection for the primary phone on the account as well as all the other phones on the account (yes, that includes employee phones) for covered damage and theft.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • This is the highest signup bonus of any Ultimate Rewards®-earning card – 100,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 on purchases within the first three months. That bonus is worth $1,250 when redeemed for travel through the Ultimate Rewards® portal.
  • The spending cap in the bonus categories is high at $150,000, so it can meet the needs of a just-getting-started business as well as an already-on-the-move business.
  • Pay your cellular bill on your card and you'll receive cellular phone insurance for the primary line as well as other phones on the account.

CONS:

  • There is an annual fee to consider, so make sure the rewards categories truly fit your businesses needs or else the fee might not be worth it.
  • Remember that there is a spending cap in the bonus categories, so if you spend well above a combined $150,000 a year on travel and the other select business categories, you'll only earn 1% back on the additional spending.
  • This is designed as a travel rewards card, so if that isn't a big part of your business' spending, look elsewhere for your small business credit card.

Read our full Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card review.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 83.4 81.7
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.4 8.3
Customer Service 8.5 8.2
Website/App Usability 8.2 8.0
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.4 8.4
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.1 7.9

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR

Your rewards are doled out as Chase Ultimate Rewards® points and they're worth 25% more if you redeem them for travel through the Chase portal. Furthermore, you can transfer the points to a number of airline and hotel loyalty partners. One more thing, this card is complemented by Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card, a no-annual-fee card that allows business owners to earn a flat 1.5% cash back on every purchase. A smart strategy would be to use your Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card for all your purchases that don't earn at a higher rate with the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card.

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card Winner

5
 
None $550
Why We Like It:
This is a solid card if you want to transfer existing debt thanks to a lengthy intro period – nearly two years – during which you can pay down the debt without paying interest.
Excellent, Good
Balance Transfer Intro APR
21 months 0% intro APR for 21 on balance transfers made within the first four months (after the intro period, a 13.74% - 23.74% Variable APR applies)
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
13.74% - 23.74% Variable
Credit Score
Excellent, Good

Intro 0% Offer Details: Take advantage of an introductory 0% APR period of 21 months from date of your first transfer for balance transfers (all transfers must be completed within 4 months) and 12 months for purchases (then, 13.74% - 23.74% Variable).

Balance Transfer Fees: Balance transfer fee applies with this offer 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fees: 3%

Rewards Rate: There are no traditional rewards offered with this card, however, you could easily consider the extra money you'll save on interest charges thanks to that introductory 0% APR period on purchases and qualifying transfers, as a reward.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • This card has one of the longest intro 0% APR offers that we know of. Enjoy 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months (when made in the first four months) and on purchases for 12 months, then 13.74% - 23.74% Variable.
  • This card keeps membership fun with Citi Entertainment®, which gives cardholders special access to purchase tickets to thousands of events, including concerts, sporting events, dining experiences and more.
  • Keep track of your credit with free access to your FICO® score online.

CONS:

  • This card isn’t a rewards card so if you want a lengthy 0% intro offer AND rewards you might want to consider another option
  • Intro 0% APR for 21 months on balance transfers is one of the longest on the market, but don’t be blindsided by the APR after the intro offer. Depending on your creditworthiness the APR can shoot up significantly.
  • If you’re looking for a good credit card to take overseas with you, this card probably isn’t it as it charges foreign transaction fees.

Read our full review of the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 80.5 Did not survey
Features Satisfaction 7.9 n/a
Customer Service 8.4 n/a
Website/App Usability 8.4 n/a
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.8 n/a
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 7.5 n/a

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

The Platinum Card® from American Express Winner

Why We Like It:
If you're paying this much of an annual fee, it better be worth it. And, trust us, this card is worth it in perks alone – and that's before you even talk about the rewards.
Good, Excellent
Welcome Bonus
100,000 points Earn 100,000 bonus Membership Rewards® points after spending $6,000 on purchases within the first six months
Annual Fee
$695
Regular APR
See Pay Over Time APR
Credit Score
Good, Excellent

The Welcome Offer: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership.

Annual Fee: $695

Foreign Transaction Fees: None 

Rewards Rate: Earn 5X Membership Rewards® points for every $1 spent on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel (up to $500,000 spent on these purchases per calendar year); 5X points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com; 10x points on eligible purchases on your new card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S. on up to $25,000 in combined purchases during your first six months of card membership; and one point per $1 spent on eligible purchases elsewhere.

Is The Platinum Card® from American Express Annual Fee Worth It? Again, the short answer is yes... for the right person. Cardholders receive complimentary access to the Global Lounge Collection® of airport lounges and are eligible for up $200 annually in statement credit to cover incidental airline charges like baggage fees or in-flight refreshments on one qualifying pre-selected airline, as well as either $100 or $85 in credit to cover your Global Entry or Pre✓® application fees, respectively. In fact, the benefits in the first year of card membership are worth more than $1,400. If you are someone who would have purchased an annual airport lounge membership, that alone largely offsets the annual fee. Plus, the perks just mentioned are in addition to numerous other perks and features you'd want to see with a luxury card. Enrollment required for select benefits. 

Credit Needed: Good, Excellent

PROS:

  • As a luxury card, this is another good travel option packed with useful benefits. Some of our favorites include: a $200 airline fee credit (with one pre-selected airline); Uber VIP status and up to $15 each month, plus a bonus in December, in Uber Cash for your rides and Uber Eats orders in the U.S.; a credit of $100 or $85 for your Global Entry or Pre✓®, respectively, application fee; access to the Global Lounge Collection®, including Centurion Lounge® locations around the world; no foreign transaction fees; and car rental loss and damage insurance.
  • This card also offers a hefty welcome bonus to get card membership started off on the right foot. New cardholders can earn 100,000 bonus Membership Rewards® points once making $6,000 in purchase in the first six months of card membership.
  • With 5X Membership Rewards® points earned on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express travel, this card makes it easy to rack up rewards quickly.
  • Terms apply. Enrollment required for select benefits.

CONS:

  • The $695 annual fee this card charges can’t be overlooked. It is a luxury card, however, and there are plenty of beneficial perks to help offset this cost.
  • With that said, many of the perks of this card are travel related; if you don’t travel often, you’ll likely have trouble offsetting the annual fee and making the most of the card’s rewards.
  • If you anticipate needing to carry a balance you’ll likely want to consider another option. Unlike typical credit cards, this card allows you to carry a balance for certain charges, but not all.

Read our full review of The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 87.8 88.1
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.7 8.8
Customer Service 8.8 9.1
Website/App Usability 8.5 8.2
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 9.0 8.8
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 9.1 8.8

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

Discover it® Student Cash Back Winner

None $550
Why We Like It:
This level of rewards-earning opportunity is rare with a student card. Plus, because of the need to enroll in the bonus category earning each quarter and track whether you've hit the spending cap, you'll need to actually pay attention to your account, which is a good lesson to learn.
Fair, New to Credit
Welcome Bonus
Cashback Match Discover will match all the cash back a cardholder earns during their first year
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR
Credit Score
Fair, New to Credit
  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match - only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There's no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Earn rewards while building your credit history that can help you after graduation. And, get your free Credit Scorecard that includes your FICO® Credit Score and important details that help make up your score.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Refer-a-Friend: Once you become a Discover it® Student cardmember, you can earn a statement credit each time you refer a friend and they're approved. Over half a million students got Discover Cards from their friends' recommendations.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 12.99% - 21.99% applies.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
See More

PROS:

  • This card offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in categories that rotate each quarter (activation required), which is a great offer for a student credit card – especially one with no annual fee.
  • Thanks to Discover’s match offer, in a sense, you’ll actually earn 10% instead of 5% on bonus category purchases during your first year as a cardholder. Discover will match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year, so if you rack up $100 in rewards, you’ll actually walk away with $200. This offer is hard to beat, especially for a student credit card!
  • Headed to an international destination for spring break? Thinking about brushing up on your French with a semester abroad? Don’t forget to pack this credit card! It charges no foreign transaction fees, meaning you can continue earning rewards no matter where you are, without worrying about fees.

CONS:

  • To maximize your cash-back rewards you’ll need to keep track of the rotating categories, which change quarterly and require enrollment. If you aren’t good keeping up with schedules, you could miss out on opportunities to maximize your rewards.
  • As is the case with all student credit cards, getting this card is not as easy as it used to be. Discover no longer allows co-signers, so you are on your own with the application. And the federal government has tightened its regulations on marketing and issuing cards, particularly to students.

Read our full Discover it® Student Cash Back review.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 87.7 88.7
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.8 8.8
Customer Service 8.8 8.9
Website/App Usability 8.6 8.7
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 9.2 9.3
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.6 8.8

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

Discover it® Secured Credit Card Winner

None $550
Why We Like It:
This is the rare secured credit card that offers cardholders the chance to earn rewards. Racking up some cash back while you rebuild your credit is a nice option to have, though it shouldn't be the primary goal if you're looking at secured credit cards; that should be building your credit score and a positive credit history. After seven months, Discover will automatically begin reviewing your account to determine whether you can be transitioned to a non-secured card.
New, Rebuilding
Welcome Offer
Cashback Match Discover will match all the cash back a cardholder earns during their first year
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
22.99% Variable APR
Credit Score
New, Rebuilding
  • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
  • Using your secured credit card helps build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, prepaid and debit cards can't do that.
  • Establish your credit line with your tax return by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
  • Automatic reviews starting at 7 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.*
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score.
  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match - only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year! There's no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
See More

PROS:

  • This is a unique secured credit card in that it offers cash-back rewards. Earn 2% back on the first $1,000 spent each quarter at gas stations and restaurants (then 1%) and 1% on all other purchases.
  • Not only is this a secured credit card that offers ongoing rewards, but it also offers a nice welcome bonus – another unique feature to secured credit cards. Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year as a cardholder. So say you earn $100 cash back in your first year, you’ll actually pocket $200 that year.
  • After seven months of responsible use, Discover will automatically review your account monthly to determine whether you’re eligible to be transitioned to an unsecured credit card.

CONS:

  • Though there’s no annual fee, the minimum security deposit amount could be a stretch for some people at $200. If you can’t see yourself coming up with that deposit, there are other secured credit cards with lower security deposit requirements.
  • Although the cash-back rewards associated with this card may entice potential users, the downside is that not every applicant will be approved. Approval depends on credit history and other financial variables. If you’re uncertain that you will be approved and don’t want a hard credit inquiry on your report, a different secured credit card might be a better fit for you.

Read our full Discover it® Secured Credit Card review.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 83.3 82.3
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.3 8.2
Customer Service 8.4 8.2
Website/App Usability 8.5 8.1
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.7 8.6
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.2 8.3

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

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FAQ

Credit cards work like loans in that there is a limit on how much you can spend in total, it must be paid back in full and, if you don't pay it back before the due date, there will be interest charges added to the amount you owe. In other words, credit cards are incremental loans that you, the cardholder, take from the issuing bank each time you use your card. 

Upon approval of the card, you'll usually be given a credit limit, which is the total amount the bank is willing to "loan" you via your credit card. In most cases, you cannot spend above that limit on the card and, if you do, you may be charged a penalty fee. The credit limit for purchases is likely different (and higher) than your credit limit for cash advances, a kind of transaction through which you can withdrawal cash using your credit card.

Credit cards are a form of "revolving debt," meaning the amount you owe rises and falls with your purchases and payments up to a total debt amount. This is different than a car loan or mortgage with which there is an amount of money borrowed and you cannot borrow more against that amount even as you pay it off. 

For example, let's assume you have a credit card with a $3,000 credit limit:

  • One billing cycle you put $1,800-worth of purchases on your card, meaning your amount of available credit drops to $1,200 ($3,000 credit limit - $1,800 in purchases = $1,200)
  • You pay $1,000 toward those purchases, so you now have $2,200 of available credit ($3,000 credit limit - $1,800 in purchases + $1,000 payment = $2,200)

Each time you make a purchase with your card, the payment goes through the following process:

  1. You use your card to make a purchase at the point-of-sale with a retailer
  2. That retailer sends your credit card information to its bank for approval
  3. The retailer's bank gets authorization for the purchase from the bank that issued your card
  4. If the purchase is authorized, the amount will be deducted from the available credit on your card and the retailer sends the transaction to its bank in a batch with other purchases made that day.

Whenever you make a purchase, the purchase amount is added to your credit card statement along with all the other purchases you made for that billing cycle, which can be 27 to 30 days of activity. All purchases added together, minus any returns that have processed or payments you've made against the balance mid-cycle, will be the statement balance come the end of the billing cycle. From there you have a couple of options:

  1. You can choose to pay the balance off in full by the due date, which allows you to avoid paying interest on those purchases
  2. You can choose to pay at least the minimum amount due by the due date. That will keep you in good standing with the bank since you paid your bill on time, but it will likely also result in interest charges since you didn't pay the bill in full. Those interest charges will reduce your available credit along with any purchases that you make.

If you don't pay your full credit card balance by the due date on your monthly statement, you are charged interest on that balance. There are sometimes 0% APR offers on a credit card that allow you to carry a balance without paying interest, but that is certainly a limited time feature and isn't something you should count on.

Credit card interest, also referred to as your annual percentage rate (APR), is the percentage you agree to pay for borrowing money from the bank that issued the card and it is charged on a daily basis. In order to determine how much those daily charges are, divide the annual percentage rate by 365 days and multiply that number by your average daily balance.

For example, let's say Bob has the following credit card situation:

Credit card APR = 16%

Daily rate = .044% (16% / 365 days = .044%)

Bob wasn't able to pay off his balance in full by the due date, so on Day 1 after that date, he has a card balance of $750. Interest on that balance comes to $.33 ($750 balance x .044% daily rate = $.33 interest); therefore, on Day 2, his balance is $750.33. Interest on the Day 2 balance is another $.33, bringing his total balance to $750.66. By the end of a 30-day billing cycle, assuming Bob didn't add any other charges to the card, his new balance would be $759.90 and he'll be on the hook for $9.90 in interest. 

To fully understand how credit card interest works, it's important to know the different types of interest rates credit card companies may charge:

  • Fixed interest rate: These are interest rates that do not change. They are common with personal loans and mortgages, but rare with credit cards.
  • Variable interest rate: Variable interest rates can go up or down based upon a benchmark, usually the national prime rate which is tied to the Federal Reserve rate. Your credit card APR is likely the prime rate plus an amount the bank adds on top of that prime rate. If the prime rate goes up, so does your APR. 
  • Introductory APR: These are the interest rates you may be charged as a perk for signing up for a specific credit card. Sometimes cardholders are offered a 0% introductory APR for a set number of months or billing cycles. Banks will sometimes offer their existing cardholders a 0% period as a perk for being an ongoing customer.
  • Purchase APR: This is the amount of interest cardholders are charged for making purchases on their card.
  • Balance transfer APR: Credit card companies may charge an APR specifically for transferring a balance from another card, which is a different rate than the purchase APR.
  • Cash advance APR: This is the amount a bank charges if you withdrawal cash from an ATM or via a bank teller using your credit card. It's usually higher than your purchase or balance transfer APR and, importantly, it often kicks in immediately rather than after your statement closes. 

As mentioned above, rewards credit cards offer you a kind of rebate in the form of cash back, points or miles when you make a purchase using the card. Credit card rewards generally come in three forms:

  • Cash Back: These cards allow you to earn a certain percentage back on the amount you spend on your card. Some cards will offer a flat percentage of cash back for all purchases, while other cards may provide higher percentages in certain categories like groceries, office supplies, or gas. Spending caps for categories cards are common, meaning you'll only earn the top rewards amount up to a certain amount spent in that category during a specific time frame.
  • Miles: These cards are often co-branded airline cards and offer you a certain number of miles within that airline's loyalty program for every purchase you make. There are a few non co-brand cards, such as the Capital One Venture Rewards Card, that call their rewards "miles" even though they aren't associated with a specific airline.
  • Points: Points cards allow you to earn a certain number of points on how much money you spend on the card. There may be limits on how many points you can earn, and the points may only accrue on certain types of purchases. You can redeem points for cash back, statement credit, airline tickets, hotel stays, purchases at the point of sale and more depending on the card.

The rewards you earn with a card are typically viewed as a kind of rebate and, therefore, credit card rewards are not taxable as income (there are exceptions, so consult your tax professional if in doubt).

In some cases, the rewards can expire under certain conditions and, in nearly every case, you will lose your rewards if you close your credit card or fail to pay your statement. The exception to that is with co-branded cards through which you earn points/miles into a hotel or airline loyalty program. In that case, your points aren't tied specifically to your credit card, so closing the card will not affect the miles or points you've accumulated in the loyalty program. You can learn more about rewards credit cards in our Rewards Credit Cards FAQ.

The difference between points, cash back and miles could be huge or it could all just be in a name. Each credit card issuer chooses what to call its rewards, but just because a card calls its rewards "points" doesn't mean that you can't redeem them for cash back or flights. A great example of that is Chase Ultimate Rewards points and American Express Membership Rewards points, both of which can be redeemed for a variety of travel merchandise or, yes, even cash back or statement credit

Similarly, the Capital One Venture Rewards card calls its rewards "miles," but one of the top redemption option is officially statement credit to cover travel purchases.

Even credit cards marketed as "cash-back cards" often offer that cash back in the form of points that can then be redeemed for travel (see, Chase Freedom Unlimited as an example).

In other words, look beyond what a rewards currency is called and instead pay attention to how those rewards can be redeemed to get the best idea of what those rewards offer and how much they'll be worth to you.

Here are the general steps when applying for a credit card:

  1. Determine your credit profile and needs. What is your credit score and history like? What is your budget and where do you spend your money? Why do you want a credit card? Can you afford an annual fee? Do you need a 0% introductory period? These are the questions you want to ask before you even begin researching the card to apply for.
  2. Research your options. Based on your answers to the questions above, start using tools and resources like CardRatings to determine which card could be right for you. Don't accept the first offer that arrives in the mail and don't let a flashy celebrity endorsement draw you in. Match your existing budget, lifestyle, needs and goals to the card rather than trying to adjust your life to fit the card. Of course, also take a look at the card's welcome offer, rewards structure, fee structure and more before making your decision. 
  3. Gather your information. You'll need to supply personal information when applying for a card including:
    - Name and contact information
    - Social security number (or EIN if you're applying for a small business card)
    - Income info, including your source of income and annual income amount (if you're over the age of 21, you can include your spouse or partners income that you reasonably expect to have access to)
  4. Apply for the card. Fill out the application materials honestly and submit your application.

The bank will use the information you provide to assess your creditworthiness. First and foremost, companies look at your credit history, which includes your credit score and information such as the number of delinquent accounts you may have had. They will also look for other signs of being a high risk, such as having multiple hard inquiries, which indicates that you have applied for a lot of credit cards or loans; how much of your available credit you're already using (that's your credit utilization); and your income in comparison to your debt load.

You must be at least 18 years old to get a credit card and, if you're under 21 with a thin credit history, you may still be required to show proof of income as part of your application.

Applying for a credit card will likely cause your credit score to drop a few points, at least in the short term. That's because the number of hard credit checks on your credit profile is a factor that directly impacts your score. Avoiding too many credit checks is one of the best reasons to do your research before applying for any card and to only apply for cards you truly want and for which your credit profile is likely to earn you an approval. You don't want a series of hard credit checks to show on your credit profile as that will definitely take a toll on your score.

The good news is that, assuming you are approved for the card for which you applied, that new line of credit also should improve your credit utilization ratio – that is the amount of credit available to you compared to the amount you're actually using. Opening a new card means you have more credit available to you and a lower credit utilization ratio positively affects your credit score.

Credit scores are a long game; they will rise and fall a few points as you make moves with your finances. The goal is to maintain a solid mix of credit, aim for a perfect payment history and otherwise handle your finances responsibly.

Gone are the days of credit cards existing only as a simple way to pay for your dinner out without laying out cash. Today, credit cards are truly tools in a financial portfolio, with features, perks, offers and, of course, rewards, that can contribute to your personal or business bottom line. If you're still shopping for, "Just any credit card is fine," you're likely missing out.

These days, credit cards still fulfill that simple role of reducing the need to carry large amounts of cash on your person in order to make everyday or even large purchases, but we often categorize them these days by the primary feature or factor that they offer. Here is a broad list of some popular credit card types:

Rewards credit cards - Using your card to make a purchase earns you, the cardholder, some form of reward as a percentage of your purchase price. Rewards cards come in two main varieties: cash-back rewards and points/miles rewards, which may also be known as travel rewards. We get more specific about all of this in the how rewards cards work section.

Using your card to make a purchase earns you, the cardholder, some form of reward as a percentage of your purchase price. Rewards cards come in a two main varieties: cash-back rewards and points/miles rewards, which are also known as travel rewards.

  • Cash-back rewards - A good cash-back rewards card can find a place in just about anyone's wallet. As the name implies, you earn cash back on all the purchases you make. You can generally redeem your cash-back rewards as a statement credit, check in the mail or a deposit directly to a linked account. There are several forms of cash-back rewards cards (as you may have noted from our award winners above), so you'll want to spend some time learning their ins and outs before choosing one. 
  • Travel rewards - These are the darlings of the credit card rewards industry. As with cash-back rewards cards, cardholders earn rewards for their purchases, but these rewards are often in the form of airline miles or hotel loyalty points (if we're talking about a credit card linked to a particular brand of airline or hotel) or they are a form of points, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards® points or American Express Membership Rewards® points, that can be redeemed for forms of travel or travel experiences. Sometimes those points can even be transferred to airline and hotel loyalty programs for additional value. If you want to learn more about travel rewards credit cards, you can check out our Frequently Asked Questions about travel rewards cards.

Many credit cards offer cardholders the option to transfer a balance from one card to another card, which is a worthwhile option to consider if you're paying higher interest on some outstanding debt on that first card; however, when people refer to "balance transfer credit cards" they are generally referring to a card that offers you an introductory 0% APR for a certain period of time when you apply for and are approved for that new card. Obviously, going from paying 16.99% interest (for instance) on an existing balance to paying 0% interest can save you a ton of money and allow you to take a little extra time paying off that debt interest-free. Keep in mind, these cards usually charge an initial fee to make the transfer (often 3% or 5% of the transfer amount), but you'll likely still save in the long term if you have a significant debt you need months to pay off. Here's where you can learn more about balance transfer credit cards.

These cards are often offered to you at the point-of-sale when you're shopping. They frequently come with a pitch that goes something like, "Would you like to save 10% on your purchase today by opening a [insert store brand here] credit card." Many, many retail brands offer a store credit card that you can use only when making a purchase at that store or within that store's brand. Be careful not to confuse these cards with branded credit cards, like the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi mentioned above. The Costco card is what's known as a co-branded card, so the rewards you earn are directly tied to the brand of the card BUT you can use the card anywhere that a credit card is normally accepted as opposed to only at Costco. Airline and hotel rewards credit cards are also co-brand cards, so you can use them anywhere, but you accumulate rewards within the branded loyalty program.

A secured credit card requires the cardholder to put down a security deposit, often anywhere from about $50 up to a few hundred dollars, in order to secure the line of credit on the card. These cards help people with limited/no/bad credit history qualify for a credit card, which can, with responsible use, help you build a better credit history. Some offer rewards and other features, but all require that initial deposit in order to establish your line of credit. Once your credit improves and you can qualify for a non-secured or traditional credit card or you decide to clse the account, the security deposit is fully refundable as long as your account is fully paid up. We have a FAQ about secured credit cards if you want to learn more.

Non-rewards cards - Yes, these still exist and they really are intended to simply offer someone a means of making purchases without cash or check. If you've been carrying the same card for 30 years, this is probably what you have. There's nothing inherently wrong with a non-rewards credit card, but if you're using a card at all, doesn't it make sense to earn some rewards?

It should be noted that some of the categories above overlap. For instance, a retail/store card often offers some form of rewards, so you could consider it a "rewards card." There are also instances in which a bank markets a card as a "cash-back rewards card," but that cash back accumulates as points that can be redeemed for cash back or as travel rewards. Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a good example of this in that you earn "cash back" according to the marketing materials, but the rewards accumulate as Chase Ultimate Rewards® points that can be redeemed for travel (or any number of other purchases and merchandise, actually).

The cards listed here are our top picks in their respective categories, which means that we believe they are the top picks for a credit card customer who is looking for a card in that particular category, but how do you even go about choosing the best credit card for you? Well, there are a handful of questions you can ask yourself that should help you reach a decision:

How is your credit history and what is your credit score?

Yes, this is technically two questions, but they're deeply connected. More importantly, they should be the first things you think about when considering a new credit card. That's because it's among the first things banks will look at when they are determining whether to grant you that new credit card.

In general, rewards cards are available to people with good to excellent credit; however, someone with a lower credit score who has a solid history of regular, consistent income is likely more attractive to an issuer than someone with a higher score who can't show regular income.

What kind of credit card user are you?

This is all about determining how much effort you want to put into using a credit card. Are you someone who just wants to have a card around for traveling abroad or emergencies? Or are you someone who wants to use a credit card (or even multiple credit cards strategically) for nearly every purchase and rack up the rewards that go along with it?

About those rewards – what kind will you use? Consider the difference between cash-back rewards and travel rewards and points. What will you get the most use out of? This boils down to a question of lifestyle.

Can you offset an annual fee?

Many rewards cards charge an annual fee, but you can possibly offset that with the rewards you earn or the other perks/features offered by the card. Make sure you won't be paying more than you'll be earning.

Is there a bonus offer and can you meet the spending threshold right now to earn it? The signup/welcome bonuses offered by many of the best credit cards are generous, but you have to meet a certain spending level in order to earn them. If you're in the middle of a season when you're trying to not spend much money, maybe now isn't the time to apply for a card. On the other hand, if you're headed into a season when you will be spending a fair amount of money, you may have no problem earning that signup/welcome bonus.

Is there an introductory APR period? This is particularly important if you are headed into a season when you plan to spend a lot of money. The best idea is always to pay off your card balance in full each billing cycle (no amount of rewards is worth paying interest on a credit card), but many cards offer introductory 0% APR periods on purchases and/or balance transfers. If you do need a little extra time to pay off a big purchase or existing credit card debt, a 0% intro period could be a lucrative offer.

Interested in a visual of the process for how to choose a credit card? We're here to please:

Choosing the right credit card for you is a matter of researching what experts have to say about various cards and taking an honest look at your unique financial situation in order to compare the card offers. Don't take the decision lightly, but do get excited about the rewards, security, features and more that the best credit cards have to offer.

How many credit cards you should have depends on individual factors, but on average Americans have three. Experts suggest that people have at least two cards from different networks, such as Visa, Mastercard, Discover or American Express. There are several benefits to having multiple cards, such as the ability to maximize the rewards you receive and increase your credit score.

On the other hand, multiple credit cards may not be a good choice for you if you are concerned that you'll be tempted to overspend. Also, having multiple cards means that you could be paying multiple annual fees, so it's important to regularly assess your credit cards to determine which are still meeting your needs and more than offsetting any annual fees with the rewards and perks.

The best credit card is the one that fits comfortably into your lifestyle, budget, credit history and rewards goals. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all credit card, so the best card for you will be the one that works best for your circumstances.

That said, if we have to pick a single best credit card that is likely a good fit for just about anyone, it's going to be one of the cash-back credit cards discussed on this page. Why? Because not everyone travels or needs a 0% intro APR period, but everyone spends money and has expenses, so earning cash back can fit into just about anyone's personal budget.

If you're just beginning to build a credit history, a cash-back card might not be an option for you (though, there are a few rewards options for people with no/limited credit). In that case, you just want to find the card that charges the fewest fees for the greatest amount of perks. Work on using that card responsibly and building your credit and you could be on your way to a traditional rewards card in no time.

Survey Methodology: CardRatings commissioned Op4G in September and October 2020 to conduct surveys among 1,746 cardholders nationwide. CardRatings website analytics from Jan. 1, 2020-Aug. 31, 2020 were used to determine a selection of the most popular cards and additional cards were added to add survey breadth. Responses to each of nine questions were given on a scale of 1-10 and respondents' scores were then averaged under broad topics. To determine the overall score, responses from questions 1-8 were summed and the answer to "How likely are you to recommend this card to a friend, coworker or family member?" was double weighted.

Ranking Methodology: CardRatings experts review the fine print, details, perks, rewards and features of hundreds of cards and compare them side-by-side with similar cards. A card that makes an excellent balance transfer card may not make a great cash-back rewards card even though it offers those rewards. While the Best of the Year list is announced annually, that list – and all other “best of” lists on CardRatings – are regularly reviewed and updated as issuers change the terms and features of each card often.

For rates and fees for American Express cards mentioned in this post, please see the following links: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express (See Rates and Fees; terms apply); The Platinum Card® from American Express (See Rates and Fees; terms apply)

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