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Best credit cards of 2021

Finding the best credit card for your wallet doesn't have to be difficult. CardRatings editors break down the best cards in multiple categories and reveal how actual cardholders score their cards, too.
Brooklyn Lowery, CardRatings Senior Manager Last Updated, November 25, 2020

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 (terms apply) from our partners. How we make money.

Best credit cards of 2021
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.

Beginning with our 2020 list, we added cardholder scores to our assessments of the most popular cards on our site. That means that readers get the expert analysis they need as well as scores from actual cardholders. We expanded that survey this year to include scores from more than 1,700 cardholders across 77 individual cards. 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.

BEST CREDIT CARD FOR FLAT-RATE CASH-BACK REWARDS

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This card rewards you both for making a purchase AND for paying your credit card bill. What's not to like about a card that encourages financial responsibility with cold-hard cash back. Citi is a CardRatings advertiser.

The Bonus: There's no traditional rewards bonus, but this card does feature an introductory 18-month, 0% interest period for balance transfers (then, 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)). That "bonus" could save you a bunch of money if you're currently paying interest on a large balance carried on another card.

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fees: 3% of each transaction.

Rewards Rate: Earn 1% cash back on every $1 spent. Then, earn another 1% when you pay your bill, whether all at once or spread out over a few billing cycles (though, you will pay interest on those purchases if you don't pay them off in full each billing cycle, which will largely negate any rewards you'd earn). Still, you can effectively earn 2% cash back on every purchase.

Credit Needed: Excellent

PROS:

  • This card encourages responsible use and paying off your balance each month since you’ll earn 1% when you buy and another 1% cash back when you pay for your purchases.
  • Speaking of financial responsibility, if you do have a balance on another card that you’re working to pay off, you could save on interest with this cards intro 0% APR on balance transfers for the first 18 months (then, 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)).
  • Effectively earning 2% cash back (assuming you’re paying off the purchases you make) on a card that doesn’t card an annual fee is certainly a night rewards rate.

CONS:

  • While this card doesn’t charge an annual fee, a plus, it does charge foreign transaction fees and balance transfer fees – just something to be aware of if those things will impact you.
  • Earning up to 2% cash back on every purchase is a great rate for a flat-rate cash-back card, but if you are a willing to be more strategic with your credit card use and purchases, a rotating categories or tiered cash-back rewards card could stand to earn you more rewards.
  • There’s not a traditional signup bonus with this card, so you can’t look forward to a big chunk of cash back or a statement credit soon after getting the card.

Read our full Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer review.

2020 Scores 2019 Scores
Overall Score 88.2 88.3
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.7 8.9
Customer Service 8.9 8.6
Website/App Usability 8.7 8.5
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 9.4 9.2
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.7 8.9

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

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: A lengthy intro 0% APR period on purchases (after the intro, the rate goes to 15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)) combined with solid flat-rate cash back rewards opportunities and no foreign transaction fees make this a favorite for us.

The Bonus: Earn a $200 cash back bonus after you spend $500 in the first three months from account opening. As for the intro period, enjoy an introductory 15 months of no interest on purchases. After the intro period ends, your APR becomes 15.49% - 25.49% (Variable).

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Rewards Rate: Earn an easy-to-understand 1.5% cash back on every purchase – no caps or categories to worry about.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases is a solid offer for a card with no annual fee.
  • This card offers intro 0% APR for 15 months on new purchases. This is a great perk for anyone looking to make a large purchase. Once the intro period expires, a rate of 15.49% - 25.49% (Variable) will apply.
  • This is a great card to take along on international trips as there's no fee charged on foreign transactions. This is somewhat rare for cash-back cards, especially ones that don't charge an annual fee.

CONS

  • If a big chunk of your spending is in a particular category, you stand to earn more rewards with a card that offers bonus rewards in those categories. If that's you, you might want to consider a rotating or tiered category rewards credit card instead.
  • Paying no annual fee is great, but if you plan to use your card often, choosing an annual fee card that offers higher rewards might be worth it. With regular use, offsetting the fee shouldn't be too difficult.

Read our full review of the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card.

2020 Scores 2019 Scores
Overall Score 89 85
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.9 8.4
Customer Service 8.9 8.5
Website/App Usability 8.9 8.6
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 9.3 9.1
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.9 8.4

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

 

EDITOR'S NOTE

You might have noticed that we broke down the cash-back credit cards into rewards groups: tiered, flat-rate and rotating categories. Each type of cash-back rewards card has its pros and cons and which is right for you will depend largely on your goals for your credit card as well as your willingness to use different credit cards for different types of purchases. Take a look at the FAQ section in our Best Cash-Back Credit Cards article for more details on these card types as well as the type of credit card user we recommend consider each type of card.


BEST CREDIT CARD FOR TIERED CASH-BACK REWARDS

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: With up to 5% rewards earning in a number of everyday spending categories, 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.

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 grocery store purchases (excluding Target and Walmart) up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

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 a number of 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 (then, 14.99% - 23.74% 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®.

2020 Scores 2019 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.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This is the little brother of another card that made our best of list, but this one doesn't come with an annual fee making it ideal for people who spend in the bonus categories, but not necessarily enough to offset an annual fee. American Express is a CardRatings advertiser

The Welcome Offer: Earn 20% back on purchases at Amazon.com on the card in the first six months, up to $200 back. Plus, earn $100 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card within that same time frame.

Annual Fee: $0

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

Rewards Rate: Earn 3% cash back on purchases at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 spent each year, then 1%), earn 2% back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, and earn 1% back on everything else.

Credit Needed: Good, Excellent

PROS:

  • No annual fee and high ongoing rewards in popular spending categories (3% back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 spent annually, then 1%), 2% back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores and 1% back on other purchases) make this card an excellent option for many people.
  • A solid introductory 0% APR on purchases for 15 months (then, 13.99% - 23.99% Variable) could certainly save you some money.
  • Amazon is a handy place to make everyday purchases. Enjoy 20% back on those purchases when you make them with your Blue Cash Everyday® Card within six months of opening an account, up to $200 cash back.

CONS:

  • While the rewards categories are nice, they are specific. If you aren't a supermarket shopper or perhaps don't spend much on gas, there's likely a better card for you out there.
  • Earning 3% back at U.S. supermarkets could yield some hefty cash back, but if you spend much over the $6,000 annual threshold, you could be missing out on higher rewards with another card.
  • This is not a card you'll want to take with you when traveling abroad as it does charge foreign transaction fees.

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

2020 Scores 2019 Scores
Overall Score 86.3 Did not survey
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.5 n/a
Customer Service 8.8 n/a
Website/App Usability 8.6 n/a
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 9.3 n/a
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.6 n/a

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

BEST CREDIT CARD FOR ROTATING CATEGORIES CASH-BACK REWARDS

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: You can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in categories that rotate quarterly (activation required), plus Discover will MATCH all the cash back you earn during your first year as a cardholder, effectively meaning those 5% category purchases earn 10% back. What's more, Discover announces its full year of 5% bonus categories at the start of the year, so you can plan ahead.

  • 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. You could turn $150 to $300.
  • 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.
  • Redeem cash back in any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • No annual fee.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
See More

PROS:

  • Discover will MATCH all the cash back new cardholders earn during their first year as a member. That means that earning $200 in cash back will automatically become $400 at the end of your first year.
  • Who doesn't want to earn 5% cash back on purchases? This is an excellent no-annual-fee card for people who want to put a little thought into their purchases and maximize the 5% spending categories each quarter. Remember, you have to activate the bonus categories each quarter and you'll only earn 5% on the first $1,500 you spend in those categories.
  • You can also take advantage of an introductory 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 14 months (then, 11.99% - 22.99% Variable).

CONS:

  • This card requires a fair amount of planning in order to maximize the rewards. You'll need to keep up with the bonus categories as well as your spending in those categories so that you meet the spending threshold, but don't overdo it and miss out on rewards.
  • Remember that you'll only earn 1% cash back on non-bonus category spending, which isn't a high earn rate. If you aren't going to maximize the bonus categories, you'd be better off with another card that earns a higher ongoing rate.

Read our full Discover it® Cash Back review.

2020 Scores 2019 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.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This is, in fact, a cash-back rewards credit card; however, it also happens to work on the Chase Ultimate Rewards® system. That means that you can choose to redeem your rewards for cash back OR you can redeem them for travel or even transfer them to a number of airline and hotel loyalty programs making this cash-back card the ultimate in rewards flexibility. Furthermore, it pairs rotating categories with tiered rewards in a number of solid everyday spending categories to make this a powerhouse no-annual-fee credit card.

The Bonus: Earn a $200 bonus after you spend just $500 in the first three months. Also, rack up 5% cash back on up to $12,000 spent at grocery stores (excluding Target and Walmart) during your first year as a cardholder.

Annual Fee: $0

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

Rewards Rate: Earn 5% back on the first $1,500 spent in rotating quarterly categories each time you activate. You also earn 5% back on travel purchased through Chase, 3% back at restaurants, 3% back at drugstores and 1% back on your other purchases. Check out the current quarterly categories.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • A HUGE perk of this card is that your cash back accumulates as Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, which means your cash back can actually be redeemed as travel rewards or even combined with the Ultimate Rewards® points you earn with other Chase cards to make your rewards worth even more.
  • This could be a good option for you if you have a big purchase coming up since new cardholders can take advantage of an intro 0% APR on purchases for 15 months (then, 14.99% - 23.74% Variable).
  • The amount of rewards earning potential here is spectacular, but this also happens to be a no-annual-fee card, so you really can't go wrong having it in your wallet.

CONS:

  • Plan to have a different card in your wallet when you travel abroad; this one charges foreign transaction fees.
  • As with any rotating categories card, this one does require planning and a hands-on approach to maximize rewards. If you want a simple credit card, consider one of the flat-rate or even tiered options on this list.

Read our full Chase Freedom Flex℠ review.

2020 Scores 2019 Scores
Overall Score 84.2 Did not survey
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.4 n/a
Customer Service 8.6 n/a
Website/App Usability 8.3 n/a
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 9.0 n/a
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.1 n/a

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

 

EDITOR'S NOTE

Don't miss out on finding the perfect cash rewards card for you. Check out our expanded list of the best cards for cash-back rewards.


BEST CREDIT CARD FOR TRAVEL REWARDS

Winner

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)
5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: In a word: flexibility. Chase Ultimate Rewards® points can be redeemed through the Chase travel portal or transferred directly to a number of airline and hotel loyalty programs. Plus, an upgrade to the long-standing bonus offer solidified this card as our best travel rewards card pick for yet another year.

The information related to this credit card has been collected by CardRatings and has not been supplied or reviewed by the issuer of the card.

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 two points per $1 spent on travel and dining worldwide and one point per $1 on all your 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.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • Your points are worth 25% more when you redeem them for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Or they are transferable to a number of hotel and airline loyalty programs, which might make them worth even more.
  • 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. That's a stellar signup 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® or even business cards like Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card. Combine all your points into a single pot and, depending on which card group them under, they may be worth even more.

CONS:

  • This card's rewards earning works well for a certain type of spender, but not everyone. Remember you'll earn two points per $1 spent only on travel and dining out. If those aren't among your regular spending categories, you'd 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.

2020 Scores 2019 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.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This is an uncomplicated card with solid rewards-earning and redemption structures. You can fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime and not have to worry about blackout dates. Plus, you can transfer your miles to multiple leading travel loyalty programs. As if that weren't enough, cardholders can receive a reimbursement for their Global Entry or TSA Pre✓™; application fee, a perk worth up to $100.

The Bonus: Earn 100,000 bonus miles worth up to $1,000 in travel when you spend $20,000 in the first 12 months. Or, you can earn 50,000 bonus miles (worth up to $500 in travel) when you spend $3,000 in the first three months of card membership.

Annual Fee: $95

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Rewards Rate: Earn two miles per $1 spent on all your purchases, meaning you don't have to keep up with tiered categories or wonder whether you've pulled the right card out of your wallet when you go to pay.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • Talk about easy to use. Earning two miles per $1 on all your purchases just doesn't get any easier to understand. That's why we like this card for the travel rewards-seeker who wants to spend more time traveling than thinking about which credit card to use.
  • The Purchase Eraser option with your miles is still spectacular: just make your travel purchase then redeem your miles to "erase" that purchase from your statement. That said, Capital One has now introduced the ability to transfer your miles to one of several travel loyalty programs, which offers you even more options and value.
  • The miles you earn with the Venture card can be combined with miles you can earn with a Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business or Capital One® Spark® Miles Select for Business, so if you have a small business, you might consider having both this card and one of the Spark cards then combining your miles to help them add up faster.

CONS:

  • Don't overlook the annual fee. Make sure you'll spend enough to more than offset it.
  • While you can transfer miles to a number of airline and hotel loyalty programs, the ones currently in the program aren't, perhaps, the most common. Your best value might very well turn out to be the Purchase Eraser tool.
  • Earning two miles per $1 spent on all your purchases is a decent earning rate, but it's far from sky-high. If you're willing to use a couple of different cards strategically, you could likely earn more using different cards for different purchases.

Read our full Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card review.

2020 Scores 2019 Scores
Overall Score 81.6 84.4
Rewards Program Satisfaction 7.9 8.2
Customer Service 8.3 8.4
Website/App Usability 8.5 8.4
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.8 9.1
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.1 8.6

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

 

EDITOR'S NOTE

For even more travel rewards credit card options, explore our full list of best travel rewards credit cards.


BEST CREDIT CARD FOR FAMILIES

5
About Our Ratings

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 uses with some regularity: supermarkets.

The Welcome Offer: For a limited time earn a $300 statement credit bonus after you spend $3,000 in the first six months of card membership (offer expires 12/10/20).

Annual Fee: Limited time offer: $0 introductory annual fee for one year, then $95 (offer expires 12/10/20).

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

Rewards Rate: Earn 6% cash back for every $1 spent 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 all 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.
  • For a limited time, you can earn a healthy $300 statement credit bonus offer with a relatively low spending threshold for the time frame of just $3,000 in the first six months of card membership.
  • 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 every-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.

2020 Scores 2019 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.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: The card above focuses on cash back rewards, while this card offers families the opportunity to rack up, Membership Rewards® points, a valuable travel rewards currency, through high rewards rates in several everyday categories.

The Bonus: Receive a 60,000-point bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first six months of card membership.

Annual Fee: $250

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Rewards Rate: Earn 4x Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (upto $25,000 spent in a calendar year) and on restaurant purchases, included takeout and delivery, worldwide. Earn 3x points per $1 spent on flights booked directly with airlines or via amextravel.com.

Additional Info: Cardholders earn up to $120 annually in dining credits. Earn $10 montly in statement credit when you pay with your card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed and participating Shake Shack locations.

Credit Needed: Good, Excellent

PROS:

  • Membership Rewards® points are highly coveted in the travel rewards world and could open doors to more family vacations while paying less.
  • Those dining credits go a long way toward offsetting the annual fee, so be sure to take full advantage.
  • No foreign transaction fees means you can take a family trip abroad and not pay extra in fees when you use your card or you can shop with foreign merchants or websites without worrying about those fees.

CONS:

  • You can't ignore the annual fee here. That said, remember the dining credits can go a long way toward offsetting that and the strong everyday rewards categories should also help you work your way toward rewards that more than offset the fee.
  • While the card doesn't charge foreign transaction fees – a definite pro – it is an American Express card, and those aren't as widely accepted abroad as Visa and Mastercard. American Express is, however, always expanding its network.

Read our full review of the American Express® Gold Card.

2020 Scores 2019 Scores
Overall Score 88.9 84.6
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.8 8.3
Customer Service 9.1 8.7
Website/App Usability 8.9 8.2
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 9.2 8.8
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.7 8.4

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

BEST CREDIT CARD FOR GAS REWARDS

5
About Our Ratings

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, travel, restaurants, mega-sized ketchup and more make this card a winner.

The Bonus: There's no bonus with this card.

Annual Fee: $0; no annual fee with your paid Costco Membership.

Foreign Transaction Fees: 0%

Rewards Rate: Earn 4% back on the first $7,000 you spend at the pump annually; earn 3% back at restaurants and on travel; earn 2% on your Costco and Costco.com purchases; and earn 1% on all your other purchases.

Credit Needed: Excellent

PROS:

  • This card offers solid cash back in some popular categories (4% cash back on gas up to $7,000 spent annually!) and doesn't charge an annual fee.
  • The only earning rate with a spending cap is gas ($7,000 spent annually), but all the other categories feature unlimited earning at the higher earn rates: 3% on restaurants and travel, 2% on Costco and Costco.com purchases and 1% elsewhere.
  • Since Costco only accepts Visa credit cards, it's possible the other cards in your wallet won't even be accepted at the warehouse. If you're a Costco shopper, but don't carry a Visa rewards card, you could be missing out on a bunch of rewards.

CONS:

  • While the card doesn't charge an annual fee, you do have to be a Costco member and, hence, pay the annual club membership fee to be eligible for this card.
  • There isn't a traditional signup bonus with this card.
  • If your spending fits the rewards categories well, you stand to earn a lot of rewards; however, rewards are doled out once a year in the form of an annual credit card rewards certificate that you can redeem for cash or merchandise at U.S. Costco warehouses. This isn't the card for instant gratification, but that once-a-year certificate could be a nice annual surprise.

Read our full Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi review.

2020 Scores 2019 Scores
Overall Score 85.7 85.3
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.6 8.5
Customer Service 8.4 8.7
Website/App Usability 8.3 8.3
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 9.2 9.0
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.6 8.6

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

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Often travel rewards cards aren't the best bets for gas rewards, so we are intrigued by a card that offers solid gas rewards in the form of valuable travel rewards currency. Plus, the other rewards categories aren't too shabby either.

The Bonus: Earn 60,000 ThankYou® Points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.

Annual Fee: $95

Foreign Transaction Fees: 0%

Rewards Rate: Earn 3 points per $1 spent at gas stations, restaurants, supermarkets, hotels and on air travel. Earn 1 point per $1 on your other purchases.

Credit Needed: Excellent

Additional Details: Enjoy $100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) once per calendar year through thankyou.com.

PROS:

  • ThankYou® Points are a nice travel currency to have access to. This card offers that with a very reasonable annual fee.
  • There are a lot of everyday categories that earn top rewards; that isn't necessarily common with travel rewards cards, so this is a definite pro.
  • The hotel benefit of a $100 credit on a single stay of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees and booked through thankyou.com) is a nice perk to see on a card with this low of an annual fee.

CONS:

  • While ThankYou® Points are nice to have, they aren't the most popular travel currency out there and that's largely due to the travel partners being a bit far from the mainstream. Furthermore, there isn't extra value if you book through their portal.
  • The annual fee is reasonable, but it's still something to consider. If you're just looking for an everyday gas rewards card, but you don't travel all that often, a cash-back rewards option might be a better fit.

Read our full review of Citi Premier® Card.

2020 Scores 2019 Scores
Overall Score Did not survey Did not survey
Rewards Program Satisfaction n/a n/a
Customer Service n/a n/a
Website/App Usability n/a n/a
Likelihood of Continuing to Use n/a n/a
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague n/a n/a

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

 

EDITOR'S NOTE

Don't drive all over the internet looking for more options; just check out our Best gas rewards credit cards article for more.


BEST SMALL BUSINESS CREDIT CARD

5
About Our Ratings

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.

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.

2020 Scores 2019 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.

 

PRO TIP

Your rewards are doled out as Chase Ultimate Rewards® points and they're worth 25% more if you redeem them for travel. 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.


5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: There's opportunity here for healthy cash back without that pesky annual fee to eat into your rewards or categories to confuse your spending.

The Welcome Offer: There isn't a traditional bonus offer, but you can take advantage of an intro period of 12 months no interest on purchases (then, 13.24% - 19.24% Variable).

Annual Fee: No annual fee.

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

Rewards Rate: Earn a flat 2% cash back on all eligible purchases up to $50,000 spent in a calendar year, then earn 1%. Your cash back is automatically credited to your statement.

Credit Needed: Good, Excellent

PROS:

  • Earn 2% cash back on all eligible purchases on up to $50,000 per calendar year, then 1%. A $50,000 annual spend cap on bonus rewards is quite good for a card with no annual fee.
  • Your business needs are always changing, and therefore, your spending habits might often change too. This card offers Expanded Buying Power, which allows you to spend beyond your credit limit. Just remember, the amount you can spend above your credit limit is not unlimited. It adjusts with your use of the card, your payment history, and credit record.
  • Take advantage of 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months, then 13.24% - 19.24% Variable.

CONS:

  • The $50,000 annual spend cap on bonus rewards is quite high, but if you see yourself spending beyond this each year, a card with no spending cap might be a better fit. Even if it has an annual fee, if you're using the card often enough, offsetting the fee likely won't be too hard.
  • If you're looking for a good card to pack on your trip abroad, this might not be the best option for you as it charges a fee on all foreign transactions.

Read our full review of the American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card.

2020 Scores 2019 Scores
Overall Score 80.5 86.6
Rewards Program Satisfaction 7.9 8.6
Customer Service 8.0 8.7
Website/App Usability 8.2 8.5
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.6 9.0
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.2 8.7

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

 

EDITOR'S NOTE

We have more business credit card options for you to see. Explore your options in our Best Business Credit Cards article.


BEST BALANCE TRANSFER CREDIT CARD

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This is a solid card if you want to transfer existing debt thanks to a lengthy intro period – a year and a half – during which there's zero interest collecting on it.

Balance Transfer Details: Take advantage of an introductory 0% APR period of 18 months from date of your first transfer for balance transfers (all transfers must be completed within 4 months) and 18 months for purchases (then, 14.74% - 24.74% Variable).

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 no APR period on purchases and qualifying transfers, as a reward.

Balance Transfer Fees: 3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum

Credit Needed: Excellent

PROS:

  • This card has one of the longest intro 0% APR offers that we know of. Enjoy 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months (when made in the first four months) as well as purchases for 18 months, then 14.74% - 24.74% 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, such as our “Best Balance Transfer Credit Card” winner above.
  • Intro 0% APR for 18 months on balance transfers and purchases 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.

2020 Scores 2019 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.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: A combination of a strong introductory balance transfer offer along with the opportunity to earn solid rewards is always a winner in our book.

The Bonus: Earn 25,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 on eligible purchases within the first 90 days. Points can be redeemed for $250-worth of cash back, gift cards, travel and more.

Annual Fee: $0*

Rewards: 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 1 point per $1 on your other purchases.

Foreign Transaction Fees: n/a

Balance Transfer Details: You can take advantage of an intro period of 12 billing cycles no interest on balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening and on purchases. After the intro period, the APR goes to 14.99% - 23.99%* Variable).

Balance Transfer Fees: 3%

Credit Needed: Excellent

PROS:

  • This no annual fee card gives its users a lengthy 12 billing cycles to pay off balance transfers without the worry of interest charges.
  • Take advantage of an annual statement credit of $15 for streaming services 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 3%, but this is pretty common for balance transfer credit cards.

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

2020 Scores 2019 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.

 

EDITOR'S NOTE

Here are some other balance transfer credit card options for you.


BEST LUXURY CREDIT CARD

5
About Our Ratings

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. 

The Welcome Offer: Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership.

Annual Fee: $550

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 (starting Jan. 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 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 U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first six months of card membership; and one point per $1 spent 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 (offer expires in 2021) as well as either $100 or $85 in credit every five years to cover your Global Entry or Pre✓™; application fees, respectively. If you are someone who would have purchased an annual airport lounge membership, that alone probably 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.

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, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline; Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus in December; 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 75,000 bonus Membership Rewards® points once making $5,000 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.

CONS:

  • Like our winner above, the $550 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 want to look for a credit card as opposed to this charge card which requires the balance to be paid in full each billing cycle.
  • Terms apply.

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

2020 Scores 2019 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.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This card offers the perks and features you'd expect from a luxury card. Plus, it's a metal card, which is just really fun to have in your wallet.

The Bonus: Receive 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® bonus points – worth up to $750 in travel – after you spend $4,000 in the first three months.

Annual Fee: $550; an additional $75 for each authorized user.

Foreign Transaction Fees: $0

Rewards Rate: Earn three points per $1 spent on dining and on travel that isn't eligible for the annual $300 travel statement credit reimbursement and one point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Annual Fee Worth It?: In a word, yes. Beyond the excellent bonus, the everyday rewards earning and that 50% more value when redeeming your points for travel through Ultimate Rewards®, cardholders have complimentary access to more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide as well special benefits at the Luxury Hotel and Resort CollectionSM. You'll also be eligible for up to $300 in statement credit to cover travel purchases each account anniversary year and statement credit to cover your Global Entry or Pre✓™; application fees every four years. You'll also receive a complimentary Lyft Pink membership, a value of at least $199. The lounge access and the travel reimbursement alone should be enough to offset the annual fee and that's before you even take the rewards into consideration.

Editor's Note: Your Chase Ultimate Rewards® points are worth 50% more when you redeem them for travel and are transferable at a 1:1 rate to a number of airport and hotel loyalty programs. Also nice: This card was named "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine.

Credit Needed: Excellent

PROS:

  • This card offers so many outstanding benefits that it’s hard to even know where to start! Perhaps one of the best things about this card is that when redeeming points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, points are worth a whopping 50% more. That means that the signup bonus alone (50,000 points earned once spending $4,000 in the first three months) is worth $750 when redeemed for travel.
  • The travel rewards with this card are numerous. Some of the best include: a $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchase charged to your card each account anniversary year; 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs; access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select; no foreign transaction fees; and up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or Pre✓™;.
  • The ongoing rewards for this card are great, especially for anyone who likes to travel. Earn 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit, 3X points on dining at restaurants, and 1X point per dollar on everything else.

CONS:

  • This card offers a lot of bang for your buck, but there’s no ignoring its sizable $550annual fee. If you are not someone who travels or eats out often, it may hard to justify its high cost.
  • There’s also a $75 annual fee for each authorized user, so if you’re thinking about adding others to your account, you’ll want to take this into consideration first.
  • Again, there’s a lot of value to having this card, but if you don’t travel much and don’t think you’ll utilize the numerous travel perks that membership gains you, you might be offer with a less expensive card.

Read our full review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card.

2020 Scores 2019 Scores
Overall Score 79.6 85.6
Rewards Program Satisfaction 7.9 8.5
Customer Service 7.9 8.7
Website/App Usability 7.9 8.6
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.3 8.8
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.0 8.4

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

 

EDITOR'S NOTE

Need more luxury credit card options? We've got you covered with our Best luxury credit cards list.


BEST STUDENT CREDIT CARD

4
About Our Ratings

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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • 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.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • 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.
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 $200 in rewards, you’ll actually walk away with $400. 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 quarterly change 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.

2020 Scores 2019 Scores
Overall Score 82.4 83.0
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.2 8.3
Customer Service 8.2 8.1
Website/App Usability 8.3 8.2
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.8 8.8
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.1 8.3

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

Runner Up

Deserve EDU

4
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This card offers rewards, but it also offers a number of money-saving perks and features that students will appreciate.

The Bonus: It's not a traditional bonus, but this card does offer one year of Amazon Prime Student after you spend $500 on your card in the first three billing cycles. On an ongoing basis, you can refer a friend to the card and, upon that person's approval, both you and the friend will receive a $30 statement credit.

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Rewards Rate: Earn 1% cash back on every eligible purchase.

Also Worth Noting: This card offers cell phone protection up to $600.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good, Limited History, No Credit History

PROS:

  • International students do not need a Social Security number to apply, so this is a good option for those students.
  • You can see whether you pre-qualify without going through a credit check.
  • This card is an option if you have a semester abroad in your future or even just a fabulous spring break trip overseas as there are no foreign transaction fees to worry about.

CONS:

  • It's certainly a plus that this card offers cash-back rewards, but there are student cards out there with higher rewards. You might want to consider those others if rewards are important to you.
  • There isn't a traditional bonus to work toward; the Amazon Prime Student subscription is nice, but there are better bonuses out there for sure.

Read our full review of the Deserve EDU.

2020 Scores 2019 Scores
Overall Score 70.7 Did not survey
Rewards Program Satisfaction 7.0 n/a
Customer Service 7.2 n/a
Website/App Usability 7.0 n/a
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 7.8 n/a
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 6.8 n/a

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

 

EDITOR'S NOTE

Here's an expanded list of the best student credit cards, according to CardRatings.


BEST SECURED CREDIT CARD

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This is the rare secured 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 eight months, Discover will automatically begin reviewing your account to determine whether you can be upgraded to a non-secured card.

  • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
  • It's a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
  • Establish your credit line by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200 after being approved. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
  • Automatic reviews starting at 8 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.
See More

PROS:

  • This is a unique secured 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 $200 cash back in your first year, you’ll actually pocket $400 that year.
  • After eight 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 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 review.

2020 Scores 2019 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.

4
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: The security deposit to establish your initial $200 line of credit could be as low as $49 (more on this below), which is a key reason this one rises near the top for us.

The Bonus: There's not a traditional bonus with this card, but you will get the benefit of having your credit card use reported to the credit bureaus, which is what you need if you're working to rebuild your credit.

Annual Fee: $0. You will be required to make a security deposit of $49, $99 or $200 in order to establish your initial credit line of $200.

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Rewards Rate: There are no rewards offered with this card; however, Capital One will evaluate your account for a possible credit line increase in as little as six months with no additional deposit required.

PROS:

  • Unlike a prepaid card, this card builds credit when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the three major credit bureaus, making it an excellent option for anyone looking to improve their credit score.
  • The security deposit required to establish your initial line of credit could be as low as $49—plus get access to a higher line of credit after making your first five monthly payments on time, with no additional deposit needed.
  • Easily manage your account 24/7 with easy online access, by phone, or through a handy mobile app.

CONS:

  • Access to an authorized bank account is required to make your refundable security deposit.
  • The credit limit on this card caps out at $1,000, so if you anticipate wanting a high credit limit (creditworthiness depending, of course), you may want to consider applying for something else.
  • This card doesn’t have a points program so it won’t earn you any rewards. However, since this card is more about utility than perks, use it wisely to build your credit and then graduate to a rewards card when your credit history allows.

Read our full review of the Secured Mastercard® from Capital One.

2020 Scores 2019 Scores
Overall Score 81.7 81.4
Features Satisfaction 8.1 8.1
Customer Service 8.2 8.2
Website/App Usability 8.2 8.2
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.6 8.4
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.1 8.0

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

 

EDITOR'S NOTE

If these choices aren't quite right for you, head over to our list of best secured credit cards for additional options.


WHAT IS THE BEST CREDIT CARD?

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 top 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.

HOW TO CHOOSE A CREDIT CARD

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.

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: American Express® Gold Card (See Rates and Fees); Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express (See Rates and Fees); American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card (See Rates and Fees); The Platinum Card® from American Express (See Rates and Fees); Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express (See Rates and Fees)

Disclaimer: The information in this article is believed to be accurate as of the date it was written. Please keep in mind that credit card offers change frequently. Therefore, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information in this article. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. See the online credit card application for full terms and conditions on offers and rewards. Please verify all terms and conditions of any credit card prior to applying.

This content is not provided by any company mentioned in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed here are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any such company. CardRatings.com does not review every company or every offer available on the market.

Comments
9 Comments

  1. PB
    July 26, 2018 - 3:14 pm
    Ducks Unlimited 5% cash back on gas and sporting goods.
      Reply »  
    1. Brooklyn Lowery
      July 26, 2018 - 6:00 pm
      Thanks for pointing out this card. It certainly is a good choice if sporting goods stores and gas purchases are where you spend the bulk of your money. Do be aware the the APR is relatively high, so you'll definitely want to pay your balance off in full each billing cycle.
        Reply »  
  2. Sam
    September 09, 2015 - 2:57 pm
    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 »  
  3. Rick Wise
    July 04, 2015 - 1:31 am
    Yeah...what Amber and especially what LULU said...till you know each circumstance it is silly or worse to make a blanket statement.
      Reply »  
  4. PIERRE LABBE
    May 30, 2015 - 11:54 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 - 9:19 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 - 4:02 pm
      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 »  
  5. Andrea Listening Deer
    May 10, 2015 - 4:50 am
    How does Wells Fargo secured credit card rate
      Reply »  
    1. Amber Stubbs
      June 16, 2015 - 9:55 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 »