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Find the Best Credit Cards

When used responsibly, credit cards are a useful financial tool. Our research team vetted 40 credit card companies rated by more than 27,7842 customers. Use our guide to research and find the best credit card for your needs by comparing annual fees, rewards and cash back benefits.

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by Beverly Harzog Credit Cards Contributing Editor

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What credit card should I get?

Your current financial situation and credit history will likely determine which is the best credit card for you. There are even credit cards for those with bad credit. Most credit card companies have an application process that requires you to provide background information, such as personal information and income, before being approved for the card. The credit card company also reviews the consumer’s credit report and credit score. Credit companies vary a little when it comes to applying for and using their credit cards.

How to choose a credit card
1. Check your credit score

There are lots of ways to check your credit. Your FICO or credit score will help narrow down which credit cards you can qualify for, so it’s smart to know what your credit score is before you start comparing different rates and rewards. Credit is scored from 300–850, and a credit score of 700 is generally considered “good.” People with good scores who use credit cards responsibly can boost their scores into the excellent FICO score range (750+).

Cards available to those with fair credit usually have lower credit limits and higher APRs. Only a few cards in this category offer rewards. But these cards can help people improve their credit scores so they can eventually qualify for cards with better terms.

If your score is too low to get approved for an unsecured card, there are steps you can take to improve your credit score. Credit card issuers will also evaluate your income and already established credit accounts (if applicable) to determine if you are eligible for a credit card.

2. Compare the different types of credit cards

First, ask yourself why you want a credit card. For example, there are many good business credit cards available that offer a variety of tools that help with money management, taxes and more. For personal use, you can select from credit cards with cash back, travel and rewards programs or balance transfer options if you want to save on interest and pay down other debts.

There are three main types of credit cards:

  • Personal credit cards. If you have good or excellent credit, rewards credit cards can be used to save money on travel, reduce the cost of everyday expenses (such as groceries or gas) and to maintain a healthy FICO score. People with low credit scores can use credit cards to help rebuild their histories and improve their credit scores. Depending on if you will be paying the balance in full each month or if you intend to transfer old balances to the new card, you might consider a rewards credit card or balance transfer credit card.
  • Business credit cards. Many credit card companies offer business cards so you can separate your personal and business expenses. It’s important to note that business credit cards — both small business cards and corporate cards — are not covered by the Credit CARD Act of 2009, which protects people from sudden rate increases, universal default, retroactive rate increases on outstanding balances and much more. There are some exceptions when applying the CARD Act rules, but the point is that business cards don’t have any of these protections. Be sure to read any correspondence received from issuers in case there have been significant changes to the terms and conditions of your credit card.
  • Secured credit cards. If your score is too low to get approved for an unsecured personal credit card, then using a secured credit card can be a path to rebuilding your credit history. Secured cards require a deposit into a savings account to “secure” the card. Secured credit cards are popular among students but can be helpful to anyone who is rebuilding or establishing credit. Some issuers make the approval process very easy and accept almost everyone who applies.
3. Decide which credit card you need

To select the best credit card for your financial situation, consider the following factors for common credit card objectives.

  • To earn rewards: Travel, cash back and rewards credit cards
    The key is to match your spending patterns to the right kind of rewards since rewards cards are best to use for purchases you have to make anyway. This way, you can earn a profit from your rewards cards. Note that APRs for rewards credit cards tend to be higher than for cards without rewards. So don’t start using rewards cards unless you plan to pay the balance in full by the due date every month. Annual fees range from zero to hundreds of dollars, so pay close attention to the rates and fees as well as the rewards program details.
  • To manage business expenses: Business credit cards
    Comparing business credit cards is similar to comparing personal credit cards — entrepreneurs can earn rewards and make balance transfers, and business credit card issuers often offer a sign-up bonus if you spend a certain amount within a few months of opening the account. Pick a business card that gives higher rewards when you spend in categories relevant to your business. Some business credit cards also come with extra perks that make running your business easier.
  • To save on interest: Balance transfer credit cards
    Many credit card issuers offer balance transfer credit cards to save on interest while they are paying off debt. Some issuers will even assist you in setting up a debt repayment plan. The key differentiating factors across balance transfer credit cards are the length of the introductory period, balance transfer policies and rates for ongoing APR.
    • Introductory period. A longer introductory period will give you more time to pay off debts without interest. Note whether or not new purchases have the same APR.
    • Balance transfer policy. Credit card issuers charge a fee for transferring balances, but some are lower than others. Also, consider restrictions on amounts of types of balances transferred and if there is a specified amount of time you have to complete transfers. Late fees and penalty APR varies by card well. 
    • Ongoing APR. APR stands for annual percentage rate. The APR includes fees and other costs of the card. Some credit card companies lower the APR over time if the cardholder consistently pays on time. But sometimes you have to be proactive. If you have excellent credit and you think your APR is too high, call your issuer and request a lower rate.
  • To build credit: Secured credit cards
    If you’re getting a secured credit card to build your credit, be sure that the issuer reports to all three major consumer credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Secured credit cards require a deposit, but that amount will vary across issuers, and not all issuers charge interest on the deposit. Some, but not all, issuers will charge an annual fee. Find out if your credit limit will automatically increase as your credit score goes up, and try to pick a secured credit card issuer that can upgrade to your account with more competitive terms.
4. Apply for the credit card

Most credit card companies have an application process that requires the consumer to provide background information, such as personal information and income, before being approved for the card. The credit card company also reviews the consumer’s credit report and credit score. Credit companies vary a little when it comes to applying for and using the credit card. They pay attention to credit scores and credit reports, but each issuer looks at additional factors when making a decision. Approved applicants can expect to receive their new card within 7–10 days.

Find the right credit card for you

Balance transfer credit cards

Low-interest or 0% APR credit cards are a good option for people who already have balances on a credit card with high-interest APR. Balance transfer credit card holders can transfer the balance on the high-interest card to a balance transfer card that offers a 0% introductory APR period. This allows you to pay off — or at least pay down — the debt without paying interest during the introductory period, which is usually a year or more.

LabelCompany nameSummary
citi simplicity cardCiti Simplicity Card
  • 0% APR on balance transfers for 21 months
  • No annual fee
Logo
Chase Freedom UnlimitedChase Freedom Unlimited Card
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months
  • No annual fee

COMPARE BALANCE TRANSFER CARDS


Travel credit cards

Travel rewards credit cards earn points or miles when you use the card to make purchases and often come with perks like VIP access to airport lounges or free checked luggage. Some cards let you earn extra rewards for specific categories, like dining or entertainment, or come with a sign-up bonus. You can redeem miles or points for travel-related purchases like airfare, lodging, statement credits or other merchandise.

LabelCompany nameSummary
Chase Sapphire PreferredChase Sapphire Preferred Card
  • Earn 2X points on travel and dining purchases and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else
  • $95 annual fee
Logo
Capital One Venture RewardsCapital One Venture Rewards
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase plus 10X miles on eligible hotels
  • $95 annual fee waived first year

COMPARE TRAVEL CARDS


Cash back credit cards

With cash back credit cards, the more you spend, the more cash back you receive. Cash back credit cards let you earn cash rewards for everyday purchases. Some issuers offer cards that give, for example, 1% cash back per dollar spent. Many of these cards then provide “bonus” categories. For instance, the card might offer 3–5% cash back on groceries and 1% on everything else. Not all cash back credit cards charge an annual fee, but cards with highly desirable rewards programs usually cost about $100 or more annually.

LabelCompany nameSummary
capital one savor rewards credit cardCapital One Savor Cash Rewards
  • Get 4% back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases
  • $95 annual fee, waived the first year
Logo
blue cash preferred cardBlue Cash Preferred Card
  • Get 6% back at U.S. supermarkets, 3% back at gas stations and 1% back on everything else (terms apply)
  • $95 annual fee

COMPARE CASH BACK CARDS


Business credit cards

For those who run a small business, there are many good business credit cards available that offer a variety of tools that can help separate your personal and business expenses. If your goal is to build business credit, be sure you ask the issuer if they report payment history to the major consumer bureaus or specialized commercial credit bureaus. Unless you have established credit in your business’s name, your personal credit history is reviewed when you apply for a business card.

LabelCompany nameSummary
chase ink business cashChase Ink Business Cash Card
  • Earn 5% cash back on office supplies and internet, cable and phone bills, 1–2% back on everything else (terms apply)
  • No annual fee
Logo
capital one spark cash for businessCapital One Spark Cash
  • Earn unlimited 2% cash back on business purchases
  • $95 annual fee waived first year

COMPARE BUSINESS CARDS

Credit cards FAQ

Are credit cards good to have?
Credit cards are good to have as long as you can afford to pay them off. Credit cards:
  • Help you build a credit history
  • Provide purchase protections and insurance
  • Offer cash back and rewards opportunities
  • Help you track spending
  • Protect you against fraud
  • Work worldwide

However, high interest rates and late fees can quickly outweigh many of these benefits, so being able to handle your monthly balance is critical.

What is the best credit card to start with?
When looking for a first credit card, find one that has:

Each credit card company has a card for first-time credit card users or students, so look at those options initially and see which best fits your needs. If you’re having trouble qualifying for your first card, consider getting a secured credit card.

How do credit cards affect your credit rating?
Credit cards can affect your credit rating positively or negatively.
  • If you use your card without maxing out your credit limit or missing payments, your credit card should have a positive effect on your credit rating.
  • If you charge as much as possible and miss minimum payments, your credit card is likely to hurt your credit score.

Credit card companies report your activity to credit bureaus, which adjust your credit report accordingly.

What are credit scores used for?
Creditors use credit scores to determine the potential risk of lending money to someone. Your score can determine:
  • Whether or not you receive loans
  • Your interest rates
  • Your loan amount and credit limit

Banks and credit card companies are not the only ones that use credit scores. Mobile phone companies, insurance companies and landlords also use credit scores to make decisions when dealing with customers.

Which credit cards are most widely accepted?
Mastercard and Visa are both accepted in more than 200 countries and territories.
How do you keep your credit score high?
To keep your credit score high:
  • Pay your bills on time.
  • Maintain both revolving and installment accounts.
  • Avoid too many hard credit checks in a short period of time.
  • Don’t charge up to your credit limit.
  • Check your credit report often and contest any inaccuracies.

Not sure how to choose?

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    Compare Top Credit Card Companies

    Capital One
    Read 5,131 Reviews

    Offers credit cards with features like travel rewards, cashback rewards and credit-building perks. No starting balance requirements for new checking accounts. Also offers home and auto loans. Limited branch locations.

    Discover
    Read 989 Reviews

    Provides credit cards, banking services and loans. Get preapproved for credit cards on the website. Offers special credit cards for students and those who want travel benefits or cashback rewards.

    Credit One Bank
    Read 2,768 Reviews

    Line of credit provider that offers unsecured and secured credit cards. Works with less-than-perfect credit. Credit scores as low as 300 accepted. Cashback benefits available. Annual fees go up to $99.

    CitiCard
    Read 1,553 Reviews

    Offers a variety of credit card types with different benefits. Some low and 0% APR intro offers available. Offers balance transfer cards. Check your prequalification status on the website. Annual fees range from $0 to $495.

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    Merrick Bank
    Read 1,809 Reviews

    Specializes in credit building programs and loans. Invite-only credit card provider. Members receive complimentary FICO scores every month. Credit rehabilitation services for those with low credit scores.

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    Chase Credit Cards
    Read 5,138 Reviews

    Offers multiple types of credit cards including those for business and options with travel and cashback rewards. Annual fees range from $0 to $195. Rates vary but some cards have 0% introductory APRs.

    Target Credit Card
    Read 426 Reviews

    Credit and debit cards for Target shoppers. Save 5% on qualifying purchases. Free shipping and no annual fees. Add an extra 30 days for returns. Apply for the program online. Make payments online, in store or by phone or mail.

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    Synchrony Financial
    Read 1,157 Reviews

    Formerly known as GE CareCredit. Works with chains and local companies to provide retail credit cards. Free credit score monitoring. Use the monthly payment calculator to estimate costs. View partnering brands on the website.

    PayPal Credit
    Read 633 Reviews

    Formerly known as Bill Me Later. Credit card, digital lines of credit and installment products. Earn cashback rewards on qualifying purchases. Also offers debit cards and prepaid cards. Works anywhere MasterCard is accepted.

    American Express Platinum Card
    Read 1,337 Reviews

    Multiple benefits for enrolled users, including travel perks, a rewards program and exclusive services like roadside assistance and car rental. Annual fee is $550. Multiple payment options available.

    Applied Bank Credit Cards
    Read 338 Reviews

    Provides secured and unsecured Visa and MasterCard credit cards to people with little or no credit history. Apply for one of its programs online. Make monthly payments on the website. Also offers personal and business banking.

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    Bank of America Credit Cards
    Read 1,818 Reviews

    Variety of cards with features like cash rewards and no annual fees. Cards designed for travel, student life and credit rebuilding. Apply for credit card programs online. Some cards carry no annual fees.

    Wells Fargo Credit Cards
    Read 203 Reviews

    Offers customer benefits including Benefit Payments during periods of disability or unemployment. Find the right card for you by entering your needs on the website. Some cards carry no annual fees.

    Aspire Visa
    Read 502 Reviews

    Offer-only credit card company. Manage your account online. Check your balance and see transaction details. Apply for credit card programs on the website. Offers two types of credit cards.

    USAA Credit Card
    Read 168 Reviews

    Credit cards available to service members and their families. Offers low APRs and other benefits. Doesn’t charge annual fees on qualifying cards. Many travel and retail benefits. View rates and fees for cards on the website.

    Barclays Bank
    Read 797 Reviews

    Partners with several companies and brands to provide various benefits and rewards. Annual fees on credit cards range from $0 to $99. Compare cards and programs on the website to see which card is right for you.

    Eppicard
    Read 732 Reviews

    Offers state-issued electronic debit cards. Use your EPPICards to receive child support, unemployment or welfare payments. No monthly fees for managing your account. No lines of credit.

    Capital One Venture
    Read 58 Reviews

    Earn unlimited bonus air miles on qualifying purchases. Annual fee of $95. High sign-up bonus. Earn 2x miles on every purchase. Earn 10x miles on select hotel purchases. No limit on mile earnings.

    Premier Bankcard
    Read 862 Reviews

    Credit card provider that focuses on credit building. Offers secured and unsecured credit cards. Get free FICO credit score with membership. No credit history required to apply. Can help achieve a higher credit line.

    HSBC Credit Cards
    Read 312 Reviews

    Provides a variety of credit card options. Offers clients a rich rewards program and cards with competitive APRs. Prequalify to find out which cards you’re eligible for. Benefits for long-term customers.

    Old Navy Credit Card
    Read 114 Reviews

    Earn rewards for purchases made at Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic and Athleta. Issued by Synchrony Bank. No annual fees. Get 5 points for every dollar spent at one of its locations. Get access to special promotions.

    Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
    Read 55 Reviews

    Travel rewards card that lets you earn points for expenses on airfare, hotel stays and restaurant bills. One-for-one point transfer. No foreign transaction fees. $95 annual fee. High sign-up bonus.

    PenFed Credit Cards
    Read 37 Reviews

    Offers Visa rewards and simple cards. Choose a card that fits your lifestyle, including travel and flexible reward options. Compatible with digital wallets. Annual fees range from $0 to $95. Zero liability policy.

    Credit First National Association
    Read 110 Reviews

    Offers credit cards for vehicle repairs and maintenance. Brands include popular names like Firestone, Bridgestone and Tires Plus. Apply online for an instant approval decision. No annual fees.

    Chase Freedom Credit Card
    Read 8 Reviews

    Earn up to 5% back on select purchases. Unlimited 1% cashback and other sign-up offers. No annual fee. 0% intro APR for 15 months. Qualify for card benefits like travel insurance, car rental insurance and more.

    Sears Credit Card
    Read 336 Reviews

    Offers shopper cashback rewards. Redeem rewards at any Sears or Kmart store. Earn anywhere from 1% to 5% back on qualifying purchases. Issued by Citibank. Sign-up bonuses sometimes available.

    GM Credit Card
    Read 27 Reviews

    Capital One credit cards issued through General Motors. Offers 5% earnings on the first $5,000 and 2% unlimited earning on purchases after. Business credit card option available. Can combine some earnings with discounts.

    New Millennium Bank Read 189 Reviews

    Local bank operating in the New Jersey area. Offers commercial, mortgage and consumer loans, as well as credit card services. Some credit cards have no annual fees or introductory fees.

    American Express Travelers Cheques
    Read 40 Reviews

    Never expires. Easily deposit or exchange your checks. Redeemable with American Express. Refunds lost or stolen checks. Widely accepted. Exchange fees vary by country. Purchase at participating locations.

    AARP Chase Visa
    Read 39 Reviews

    Special Visa offered exclusively to AARP members. Provides cashback rewards on restaurant, gas station and other common travel purchases. Coverage in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

    American Express Black Card
    Read 19 Reviews

    Exclusive credit card membership. Invite-only. No application available online. High annual charge requirements. Must have an existing American Express card. Offers uncommon and largely undisclosed benefits.

    East West Bank Credit Cards
    Read 11 Reviews

    Offers some Visa and American Express credit cards with different features and rewards. Available in California, Nevada, Georgia, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, Washington and China.

    Citigold
    Read 10 Reviews

    Available only for premium Citibank account holders. Perks include a dedicated service team, preferred rates, the option to earn interest on checking accounts and a high reward-earning level.

    Bremer Bank Credit Cards
    Read 9 Reviews

    Regional banking institution that serves Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota. Offers personal and business credit card programs. Earn 2x the rewards on qualifying purchases. Also offers debit cards.

    Bank of America Travel Rewards Card
    Read 8 Reviews

    Travel credit card designed for Bank of America card users. Earn 1.5 travel points for every dollar you spend up to an unlimited amount of points. No annual fees. Can qualify for a low introductory APR.

    Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card Read Reviews

    Cashback credit card with unlimited 1.5% back on all purchases. Earn up to 5% off on purchases in qualifying categories. No annual fees. Benefits include 0% intro APR and free credit scores.

    CompareCards

    Provided by LendingTree. Browse different credit card options. Filter by category, type or credit quality. Comparison tool displays benefits and rates. Apply for various cards at no cost. Not a credit card provider.

    MagnifyMoney

    Service provided by LendingTree. Offers free resources related to credit cards, personal loans, student loans, auto loans and other personal finances. Side-by-side comparison tables. Over 15 financial calculators available.

    ValuePenguin

    Offers free comparison tools for purchasing decisions. Provides access to online educational resources and industry insights related to credit card issuers, insurance companies, mortgage lenders and more.

    FIA Card Services
    Read 206 Reviews
    Out Of Business

    Credit cards made for simple purchasing and online account payment. Offers customers access to ShopSafe, a free service that protects the card number each time you use your card online.

    by Beverly Harzog Credit Cards Contributing Editor

    Beverly Harzog is a nationally-recognized credit card expert, consumer advocate and author. She’s appeared on Fox News, CNN Newsource, NBC New York and more. Her advice has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Money Magazine, CNNMoney.com, The New York Times, Kiplinger, Real Simple, Time.com, Family Circle and much more.