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Best Credit Cards of January 2021

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Credit Card Insider is an independent, advertising supported website. Credit Card Insider receives compensation from some credit card issuers as advertisers. Advertiser relationships do not affect card ratings or our Editor’s Best Card Picks. Credit Card Insider has not reviewed all available credit card offers in the marketplace. Content is not provided or commissioned by any credit card issuers. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information, though all credit card information is presented without warranty. When you click on any ‘Apply Now’ button, the most up-to-date terms and conditions, rates, and fee information will be presented by the issuer. Credit Card Insider has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Credit Card Insider and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. A list of these issuers can be found on our Editorial Guidelines.

Here’s a selection of blog posts with more best picks by category.

Metal & Heavy Cards

Building or Rebuilding Credit

Balance Transfers & Low APR

Travel Features

Choosing the Best Credit Card for You

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.

What Is the Best Credit Card?

If a cash back credit card is right for you, start your search with the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer (Review) and Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express (Review).

Need a travel rewards card to help fuel your next adventure? The Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review) and The Platinum Card® from American Express (Review) are two of the best.

If you want a 0% APR card for purchases or to pay down a balance transfer, try the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card (Review) or U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card.

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.

What Is the Best Credit Card for Rewards?

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.

What Is the Best Credit Card With No Annual Fee?

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 gives you 20 billing cycles on purchases to pay off purchases or balance transfers, before the regular rate of 13.99% - 23.99%* Variable kicks in.

If your credit isn’t in the best shape, the Discover it® Secured (Review) is designed for bad credit and an excellent way to improve your scores.

What Is the Best Travel Credit Card?

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®.

For occasional travel, we love the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.

Or if you’re looking for something less expensive, the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card and Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card have solid offers.

What Is the Best Credit Card for Bad Credit and Building Credit?

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:

What Is the Best First Credit Card to Get?

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.

Maybe a student credit card is right for you, or maybe you’re just new to credit. Either way, some of the best first credit cards include:

What Credit Scores Do You Need to Get a Top Credit Card?

The best credit cards for rewards, cash back, and travel might be more accessible than you think.

Having good or excellent credit scores will give you the best chance at approval. That means a FICO score of at least 740, or a VantageScore of at least 700 (read more about credit score ranges).

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.

See the easiest cards to get for every credit score here.

What Types of Credit Cards Are There?

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:

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.

Credit Card Insider receives compensation from advertisers whose products may be mentioned on this page. Advertiser relationships do not affect card evaluations. Advertising partners do not edit or endorse our editorial content. Content is accurate to the best of our knowledge when it's published. Learn more in our Editorial Guidelines.

The information related to Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card, Discover it® Cash Back, Discover it® Secured, Secured Mastercard® from Capital One, Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card, Discover it® Student Cash Back, and Journey Student Rewards from Capital One have been collected by Credit Card Insider and have not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of these products.

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