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Here’s a selection of blog posts with more best picks by category.
There are many credit card offers out there, but which one is the best credit card for you? The answer depends on your needs and creditworthiness, which is based on your credit history and credit scores. Keep in mind you have more than one credit score!
If you’re considering a card for rewards, there’s a wide variety of options. This page shows you our top picks by category, but the best rewards card can vary depending on your situation.
Do you want a simple card that earns you a cash back percentage as a statement credit on all your credit card spending? In that case, a cash rewards credit card like the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer card or Chase Freedom Unlimited® can be a simple way to save some money. A cash back card may also come with an intro APR, which could let you earn rewards while paying for new purchases over time at a temporary low interest rate, before the regular APR kicks in.
Or are you looking for a travel rewards card that will earn points, like Chase Ultimate Rewards points or Amex Membership Rewards points, that you can transfer as airline miles, or to another rewards program? Cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card may let you transfer your points to other loyalty programs or redeem for airfare to get more value than you would with cash back rewards or when redeeming point for gift cards. Certain travel credit cards, like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, let you redeem for travel purchases without blackout dates.
Many rewards cards, like the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card or Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, earn more year-round on certain bonus categories, like gas stations, grocery stores, or wholesale clubs. Others offer a higher rewards rate on rotating categories, which change throughout the year, like the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Discover it® Cash Back. Choose wisely according to your spending habits.
Are you willing to pay an annual fee? Some cards have a high annual fee, but the value of benefits and rewards can more than make up for it. You may just want to keep things simple and only consider cards with no annual fee. Keep in mind some cards waive the annual fee for the first year, so you may be able to try a card to see if it’s right for you before you have to pay an annual fee.
Cards with annual fees, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, tend to have better perks, and may give cardholders an application fee credit for programs like TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. You may also be able to get a fee credit for checked bags.
Consider the sign-up bonus that many cards offer. Credit card issuers will often award you bonus points or a cash bonus when you spend a certain amount within the first few months of opening your new card. A welcome bonus can be extremely valuable as long as you meet the minimum spend within several months of account opening or a certain number of billing cycles. Sometimes, you’ll even get an extra rewards bonus at the end of your first year.
Maybe you’re a student with no credit, or someone else who has not established credit history with credit bureaus yet. You may be able to qualify for a student credit card even if you’re not a student. These cards may come with a lower credit limit, but can provide a starting point for building credit. You may want to find a card that will let you monitor one of your FICO scores and track your progress. Credit cards can be a great tool for building credit, as long as you use them responsibly, and cash back credit cards can give you a slight discount while you’re at it.
If you have bad credit, you still have options to get the benefits of credit cards, but you might have to pay an annual fee or get a secured card. A secured credit card requires a security deposit, and may have a lower credit line as a result, but could help you re-build your credit as long as you pay your bill on time and use the card responsibly. You may not even need a bank account to get some secured cards.
If you’re trying to pay off debt faster with a balance transfer, the best card for you would probably have no balance transfer fee and a long 0% intro balance transfer or introductory APR offer.
Make sure you’re also considering the additional benefits cards offer. Many travel cards come with benefits like car rental and travel insurance, while some go further, offering big travel credits and airport lounge access. If you travel outside the country often, consider whether a card has foreign transaction fees. Some issuers, like Capital One, do not have foreign transaction fees on any of their cards. You may also want to look for a Visa or Mastercard, from an issuer like Capital One, Chase, Bank of America, or Wells Fargo, since American Express and Discover cards may not be as widely accepted abroad.
If you’re a small business owner, there are lots of cards designed specifically for you. When applying, you’ll likely need to provide a personal guarantee and the issuer will probably check your personal credit, but these cards can be great for earning rewards on business purchases while keeping business and personal expenses separate.
Whichever card you choose, make sure you make your monthly payments on time and use the card responsibly to avoid late fees and expensive credit card interest charges. Most cards have a variable APR, and are an expensive way to borrow money. However, when you pay your statement balance in full, the purchase APR can be irrelevant, since you can avoid interest completely with most cards.
Or, if your credit scores could use some work and you need a card for bad credit or building credit, the Discover it® Secured (Review) or Secured Mastercard® from Capital One (Review) can help you get back on track.
For flat-rate cash back, check out the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer (Review). If you’re buying gas and groceries, it’s hard to beat the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express (Review).
If travel rewards are more your thing, look to The Platinum Card® from American Express (Review) for airline rewards and lounge access. Or, try the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review) for wide-ranging point opportunities and transfer partners.
One of the best cards with no annual fee is the Discover it® Cash Back (Review), a highly rewarding offer with 5% cash back categories you can activate every three months (you’ll get that rate for up to $1,500 in spending per quarter). Give the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer (Review) a shot if you’re not into bonus categories.
Need to pay off some debt? The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card (Review) gives you 20 billing cycles on purchases to pay off purchases or balance transfers, before the regular rate of 14.49% - 24.49%* Variable kicks in.
The best travel card depends on your needs, but you can see all our top travel card picks here. If a high-end luxury travel card is on your mind, take a look at The Platinum Card® from American Express or Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
You don’t have to be punished for having bad credit — if you need a card to help you build credit, the Discover it® Secured (Review) is a great offer that includes cash back rewards, plus the opportunity to upgrade to an unsecured card.
Some other issuers provide simpler, but still useful, options for improving your credit scores:
We recommend getting a credit card with no annual fee for your first card. You’ll be able to keep it open indefinitely at no cost, if you avoid interest and other fees, which can help boost your credit scores.
The better your credit scores, the more likely you are to qualify — but credit card approval relies on more than just credit scores. Other factors, like income, are taken into account too. So you may still be approved with relatively low scores, or denied with fairly high scores.
Credit cards come in a dizzying array of types, designed for different purposes and lifestyles. Some of the most popular types of credit cards are:
Answer by: Michael Bond, Adjunct Lecturer in Finance, The University of Arizona
Absolutely! They provide a convenience in purchasing, may generate significant discounts or credits, and timely payments by cardholders improves credit scores. Higher credit scores can lead to lower mortgage and auto financing rates.
Answer by: Nicholas Lash, Professor, PhD, Loyola University Chicago
That’s a personal choice. There are benefits and risks as there are in most financial matters. Certainly, Americans rely on credit cards to finance many of their expenditures.
Answer by: Michael Bond
As early as possible get a gas card, department store card, or whoever will give you a card. Use it and pay the balance off on time and in full. Good credit scores can lead to an economical credit card.
Answer by: Nicholas Lash
To apply for a credit card it’s necessary to provide personal information including financial data which includes income, bank accounts, and employment status. The major advice for someone applying for a credit card is to fully understand all the features including the amount of the credit line, annual fees, interest rates and fees for late payments. These features vary considerably among credit cards. New users should apply for cards without annual fees as they can be substantial.
Answer by: Michael Bond
Pretty much anybody can get one but the annual fees and interest rates can be high barriers of entry to those with no or bad credit.
Answer by: Michael Bond
Yes! Credit card companies are constantly working to make card use safer and protect consumer’s credit. There are sophisticated thieves out there so make sure to check credit card statements frequently.
Answer by: Nicholas Lash
Credit cards are safer than cash, because if lost or stolen, they can be quickly replaced at little or no cost. In case of fraud, if the credit card company is informed promptly, there is, at most, a $50 loss, and sometimes none at all.
Answer by: Michael Bond
If you plan on paying the balance every month the big thing is to find a card with a low annual fee that matches your planned credit card use. Please remember that the cheapest way to buy consumer goods and services is to pay cash. If you don’t have enough cash to make a purchase and are putting that purchase on a credit card, you’re buying something you can’t afford.
Answer by: Nicholas Lash
There is one major disadvantage of credit cards, but it can be very serious: they can encourage impulsive overspending that can have severe consequences. The interest rates on unpaid balances can be very steep. These rates are compounded and so the costs of not paying on time can quickly become unsustainable. This is why the charge-off rate on credit card debt is much higher than for most other loans and helps explain why the rates are so high.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, please click here.
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