The Best Credit Cards of June 2021

Written by: Jeanine Skowronski | Edited by: Tracy Stewart | Reviewed by: Ted Rossman

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June 22, 2021

Our editorial team provides an unbiased analysis of the products we feature. Our comparison service is compensated by our partners, and may influence where or how products are featured on the site. Learn more about our partners and how we make money. Please note: The star-rating system on this page is based on our independent card scoring methodology and is not influenced by advertisers or card issuers.

The best credit cards offer some combination of lucrative rewards, lengthy promotional APRs on purchases or balance transfers, generous welcome offers and generally favorable terms and conditions. Our team of in-house experts at CreditCards.com have searched through our database to identify the top current credit card offers available today. From the best zero interest credit cards to the best rewards credit cards and the best credit cards for credit-building, we can help you compare these top credit cards from our partners to find the one that’s right for you.

The best credit cards offer some combination of lucrative rewards, lengthy promotional APRs on purchases or balance transfers, generous welcome offers and generally favorable terms and conditions. Our team of in-house experts at CreditCards.com have searched through our database to identify the top current credit card offers available today. From the best zero interest credit cards to the best rewards credit cards and the best credit cards for credit-building, we can help you compare these top credit cards from our partners to find the one that’s right for you.

Best Credit Cards of June 2021

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Our methodology and research

3,476Credit Cards Analyzed
600Banks Analyzed

Criteria Used

Rates and fees, rewards rates, sign-up bonuses, redemption options, credit needed, miscellaneous benefits, customer service, security, ease of application.

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by CreditCards.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank's website for the most current information.

All information about the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer.


A guide to the best credit cards

The best credit cards on the market help you achieve important financial goals or bolster your financial well-being. A good rewards credit card, for instance, can help you earn points, miles or cash back on your purchases, while standout balance transfer credit cards can save you hundreds to thousands of dollars in interest. The best credit card for you, of course, depends on your specific aim and spending habits. Here, we highlight our favorite credit cards across all popular categories, including business, low-interest and travel credit cards, and provide more guidance on how to choose the right one for you.


best credit cards 2021

Editor’s picks: Best credit card details

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card: Best for automatically maximizing cash back

Why we picked it: This new addition from Citi makes maximizing rewards a bit easier: Cardholders earn 5% cash back on purchases in their top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent (after that, 1% cash back), along with 1% cash back on all other purchases. You don’t have to worry about enrolling or guessing your top spending category; earnings automatically adjust each billing cycle. Eligible categories include restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs and live entertainment.

Pros: There’s no annual fee, but you can earn a sign-up bonus: $200 if you spend $750 in the first three months of account opening, paid out in ThankYou points, which can be redeemed for cash back. You’ll also enjoy a lengthy 15-month 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers (after that, 13.99% to 23.99% variable).

Cons: The cap on cash back makes this a competitive, though not entirely best-in-class cash back card. (Earnings are comparable to popular rotating bonus category cash back cards, like the Discover it Cash Back or the Chase Freedom Flex, which cap at 5% on $1,500 in purchases in select categories each quarter, then 1%, activation required.) The balance transfer fee is steep: 5% of the transferred balance or $5, whichever is greater.

Who should apply? This card is a good option for anyone looking for a well-rounded no annual fee rewards card, given it also includes a sign-up bonus and promotional APR on balance transfers and purchases. Would-be maximizers who don’t want to think too long or hard about bonus categories might also appreciate the automatic earning adjustments.

Who should skip? Big spenders who pay their balance off in full each month might want to opt for a rewards credit card without a cap (or at least a higher one) on bonus category earnings.

Read our Citi Custom Cash Card review.

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best first-time rewards credit card

Why we picked it: This popular Capital One credit card has all the features you should look for in a first rewards credit card: no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, a straightforward but competitive rewards program, a generous cash back sign-up bonus with a low spending threshold ($200 when you spend $500 in your first three months) and CreditWise, a free credit monitoring service.

Pros: You earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases. More notably, those rewards are quite easy to redeem: Capital One doesn’t impose redemption minimums and you have a bevy of options to choose from, including gift cards, checks and statement credits.

Cons: That 1.5% cash back on all purchases is good, but not exactly best-in-class for flat-rate cash back credit cards. You can earn more with the Citi® Double Cash Card, which offers a full 2% cash back on purchases (1% as you spend; 1% as you pay those charges back).

Who should apply? The straightforward rewards program, minimal fees and free credit monitoring make the Quicksilver an excellent choice if you’re in the market for your very first rewards credit card.

Who should skip? As we intimated, rewards card maximizers can certainly earn more cash back with other cards. If you have fair credit, you will likely have a hard time qualifying for the Quicksilver. You can, however, consider the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card, which touts similar features, albeit for a $39 annual fee and likely a lower credit limit.

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

American Express® Gold Card: Best credit card for foodies

Why we picked it: If you’re looking for the credit card that offers the most rewards for food purchases, well, look no further: The Amex Gold Card offers 4X points at restaurants and on Uber Eats purchases and 4X points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1X points). Cardholders also receive 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, and 1X points on general purchases.

Pros: The card currently carries its highest welcome offer to date: Cardholders receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points if they spend $4,000 in their first six months. We estimate the welcome offer is worth around $600 when you book through Amextravel.com. There are also a number of generous credits that can help you recoup the card’s steep $250 annual fee, including up to $10 per month in statement credits at participating restaurant partners, including Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory and participating Shake Shack locations.

Cons: While you can recoup the $250 through the card’s ancillary benefits, many of the credits come with a number of caveats that can make them a bit tricky to keep track of. For instance, you can get a $100 hotel credit to spend on qualifying dining, spa and resort activities when you book a two-night stay through The Hotel Collection.

Who should apply? People looking for a best-in-class card for food purchases will find themselves richly rewarded by the Amex Gold.

Who should skip? In addition to determining whether or not your spending justifies the high annual fee, you’ll need good to excellent credit to qualify for this card.

Read our full American Express Gold Card review.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Best rewards credit card

Why we picked it: This top American Express credit card is our favorite card for families, offering a lucrative 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%) and best-in-class 6% cash back on select streaming services. You’ll also get 3% cash back on U.S. gas stations and transit, and 1% cash back on general purchases.

Pros: In addition to the solid base rewards, the Blue Cash Preferred touts a long(ish) 12-month 0% introductory APR on new purchases (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable), and a generous welcome offer (a $150 statement credit after spending $3,000 in the first six months and 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the card in the first six months, up to $200 back), making it a great option for families about to make a big purchase. Lesser known perks include a free ShopRunner membership (enrollment required), access to AmexOffers (enrollment required) and a number of shopping protections, like an extended warranty (on eligible warranties of five years or less, you can add two years to the original manufacturer’s warranty).

Cons: There are a few caveats attached to the bonus rewards – namely the $6,000 cap on U.S. supermarket purchases and the fact that the 3% and 6% rewards are only available stateside. The $95 annual fee, though waived the first year, might turn off some applicants.

Who should apply? Families who spend $3,200 or more at U.S. supermarkets will recoup the $95 annual fee, plus some – and likely come out ahead in the long term, given the card’s additional rewards categories.

Who should skip? Families who spend less than $3,200 at U.S. supermarkets might be better served by the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express, which offers lower rewards on similar bonus categories for no annual fee. Plus, you’ll need good credit (a score of 670 or higher) to qualify.

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

Discover it® Cash Back: Best rotating category cash back credit card

Why we picked it: This industry staple essentially set the rules for rotating cash back credit cards: Cardholders receive 5% cash back on rotating categories up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter (enrollment required), then 1% cash back on all purchases.

Pros: In addition to the solid rotating cash back rewards program, the Discover it touts a competitive 14-month 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers (then 11.99% to 22.99% variable). It also offers a number of consumer-friendly benefits, including a free FICO score, no foreign transaction fees and no fee for a first missed payment (up to $40 for any missed payment after that). As a welcome offer, Discover will also match all the cash back you earned at the end of your first year.

Cons: The 5% cash back is subject to that quarterly cap ($1,500 in combined purchases, then 1%) and you’ll have to enroll in the rotating cash back categories each quarter to get the bonus cash back. See the Discover it Cash Back 2021 calendar for a look at featured categories.

Who should apply? Anyone who doesn’t mind tracking rotating cash back categories will get a lot of value from the Discover it Cash Back, particularly if they’re looking for a card with a strong bonus their first year. Rewards maximizers can also consider adding this card to their plastic arsenal. (Get tips for maximizing the Discover it Cash Back’s benefits.)

Who should skip? The rotating categories change from year to year, so if you’re looking to earn extra cash back on a particular type of purchase, you’re better off going with a more targeted rewards card. And, if you’re looking for a rewards card that’s a bit more low maintenance, consider a flat-rate cash back credit card.

Read our full Discover it Cash Back review.

Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card: Best for customized bonus categories

Why we picked it: This no annual fee Bank of America card lets you pick your own 3% cash back bonus category. Cardholders can choose between gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvements and furnishing. They also get a competitive 2% cash back on grocery store and wholesale club purchases. The 3% and 2% bonus cash back is limited, however, to $2,500 in combined purchases per quarter.

Pros: The card also touts a competitive sign-up bonus, particularly for a no annual fee card: Cardholders earn $200 in online cash rewards when they spend $1,000 in their first 90 days. (That’s one of the highest traditional cash back offers on the market, though a few other cards, like the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, have a lower $500 spend threshold in the same time frame.) Plus, there’s a lengthy 0% introductory APR on new purchases: 15 billing cycles, then 13.99% to 23.99% variable. (Learn how to maximize your Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card.)

Cons: The bonus 3% and 2% cash back is subject to that $2,500 combined purchase cap each quarter. Your rewards redemption options are limited to cash back options, like statement credits, checks or direct deposit into a Bank of America checking or savings account.

Who should apply? Inconsistent spenders can benefit from the ability to customize that bonus category, especially since you can change your selection each calendar month. And existing Bank of America checking account holders should give some extra weight to this cash back card, since they can earn a 25% to 75% rewards boost if they have $20,000 or more in savings through the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program.

Who should skip? Big spenders and non-Bank of America account holders could earn more with other cash back cards that skip a cap on bonus categories.

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

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express: Best for frugal families

Why we picked it: One of the best fixed bonus category credit cards, this Blue Cash Preferred alternative lets you earn generous rewards on common everyday expenses while skipping an annual fee. Cardholders earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%), 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, and 1% cash back on general purchases.

Pros: The card touts a decent welcome offer (a $100 statement credit when you spend $2,000 in your first six months and 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the card in the first six months, up to $150 back), and a competitive 15-month 0% introductory APR on purchases (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable).

Cons: The bonus rewards are less generous than the Blue Cash Preferred’s, though subject to similar caveats: The 3% cash back caps at $6,000 per year (then 1%) and the bonus categories only kick in stateside. You’ll need to accrue at least $25 in cash back to redeem your rewards. (Learn more about the American Express Membership Rewards program.)

Who should apply? Families who spend less than $3,200 a year at U.S. supermarkets can enjoy the Blue Cash Everyday’s rewards without having to worry about recouping an annual fee.

Who should skip? Conversely, families who spend more than $3,200 a year are probably better off springing for the Blue Cash Preferred.

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

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card: Best balance transfer credit card

Why we picked it: This no annual fee credit card from Citi touts one of the longest 0% introductory APRs on balance transfers currently available: 0% for 18 months, then 14.74% to 24.74% variable. Balance transfers must be completed within the first four months of account opening.

Pros: The 18-month 0% introductory APR also extends to purchases (then 14.74% to 24.74% variable). While the card doesn’t offer a traditional rewards program, you will enjoy some popular Citi benefits, including Citi Easy Deals, Citi EntertainmentSM and Citi Flex Plan. Learn more about the best Citi credit cards.

Cons: You’ll pay a balance transfer fee of 3% of your balance or $5, whichever is higher, though, admittedly, no balance transfer fees are exceedingly rare on cards with a 0% introductory APR and the 3% fee bests the Citi Diamond Preferred’s previous offer (5% of the transferred balance).

Who should apply? Someone looking to pay down existing high-interest credit card debt can make a big dent with this standout balance transfer credit card offer. And the card is a great option for people actively avoiding rewards, lest they are tempted to overspend while they are trying to get out of the red.

Who should skip? On the flip, the card’s lack of a traditional rewards program might make it less of a fit for someone looking for longer-term value.

Read our full Citi Diamond Preferred Card review.

Citi® Double Cash Card: Best flat-rate cash back credit card

Why we picked it: The Citi Double Cash offers 2% cash back on all purchases (1% as you spend; 1% as you pay purchases down), making it the top flat-rate, no annual fee cash back credit card on the market. (Most flat-rate, no annual fee cash back cards offer around 1.5% back on all purchases.)

Pros: The card also touts an uber-competitive balance transfer offer in the form of an 18-month 0% introductory APR on transferred balances (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable). There are a bevy of easy redemption options with the Citi Double Cash, including statement credits, direct deposit into a checking or savings account, mailed checks or gift cards.

Cons: The Citi Double Cash’s biggest drawback is its lack of sign-up bonus – which many 1.5% flat-rate cash back cards, like the Capital One Quicksilver or Chase Freedom Unlimited, do offer – so you’ll sacrifice a short-term boost for longer-term value when you apply. (See how the current 1.5% cash back credit cards compare.)

Who should apply? If you’re looking to transfer a balance, but want a card that ultimately earns rewards, the Citi Double Cash is right for you. Its unique rewards structure, which lets you earn an extra 1% cash back when you pay off purchases, serves as an added bonus for people who want to earn rewards in a way that encourages responsible use.

Who should skip? Anyone in the market for a sign-up bonus will want to look elsewhere.

Read our full Citi Double Cash Card review.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Best for flat-rate and bonus cash back

Why we picked it: Chase recently revamped its popular no annual fee Freedom Unlimited card to include lucrative bonus categories. In addition to a flat 1.5% cash back on general purchases, cardholders now earn 5% cash back on Lyft purchases (through March 2022), 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back on dining and 3% cash back on drug store purchases.

Pros: The Freedom Unlimited also features a sign-up bonus with one of the lowest spend thresholds on the market: Cardholders earn $200 cash back after spending $500 in their first three months. It also touts a 15-month 0% introductory APR on purchases (then 14.99% to 23.74% variable).

Cons: Depending on your spending habits and your level of commitment, you could conceivably earn more with a rotating bonus category cash back card, like the Chase Freedom Flex. (Learn more about the Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. the Chase Freedom Flex.) You also could potentially earn more, at least in the long term, with the Citi Double Cash Card, which, as we previously mentioned, offers a full 2% cash back on all purchases (1% when you spend; 1% as you pay that spend down).

Who should apply? Anyone seeking a general purpose cash back card with a sign-up bonus will be well-served by the Chase Freedom Unlimited. It’s also a good companion card to people who have other Chase credit cards, given the issuer lets you transfer points between accounts.

Who should skip? This no annual fee rewards credit card requires good credit (scores of 670 or higher), so people with no, fair or bad credit should consider other options. If you’re a student, you can potentially qualify for the Chase Freedom Student credit card, which offers 1% cash back on all purchases, a $50 sign-up bonus if you make a first purchase within three months of account opening and a $20 good standing reward on your account anniversary every year for the first five years.

Read our full Chase Freedom Unlimited review.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best travel credit card

Why we picked it: Offering 2X miles on all purchases for a $95 annual fee, this Capital One card offers a ton of value to average spenders looking for a travel rewards credit card.

Pros: The Venture Rewards credit card currently touts a sweet sign-up bonus. Cardholders can earn up to 100,000 bonus miles if they spend $20,000 in their first 12 months. That works out to around $1,667 a month, but if that feels like a tall order, don’t pass on the card just yet; you can still earn 50,000 bonus miles if you spend $3,000 in the first three months. The card also touts a number of ancillary travel benefits, including no foreign transaction fees, an up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck, travel accident insurance and car rental insurance.

Cons: The biggest drawback is Capital One’s relatively thin list of transfer partners, which, most notably, doesn’t include a major U.S. airline.

Who should apply? Frequent travelers looking to avoid the pricey $150 to $550 annual fees associated with other standout cards in the travel category can consider the Venture Rewards a great match.

Who should skip? Strategic spenders and luxury travelers are likely better served by a premium travel credit card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or The Platinum Card® from American Express. If your credit is fair, your Venture approval odds are low, but you can consider the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, which offers lower rewards (1.25X miles per purchase), but has a lower barrier to entry.

Read our full Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card review.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Best for sign-up bonus

Why we picked it: This already-stellar travel credit card from Chase recently got a little sweeter by introducing its best-ever sign-up bonus: Cardholders earn a whopping 100,000 points if they spend $4,000 in their first three months, an offer worth $1,250 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Pros: Cardholders always enjoy a 25% boost on Chase Ultimate Rewards travel. As base rewards, they earn 2X points on restaurant and travel purchases, and 1X points on general purchases. The card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. It also touts a number of ancillary travel benefits, including trip cancellation/interruption insurance, which reimburses you up to $10,000 per person ($20,000 per trip) for prepaid, nonrefundable travel expenses if you need to cut a trip short or cancel because of an illness or severe weather.

Cons: There’s a $95 annual fee, not waived the first year, that frugal travelers might want to avoid. Conversely, big-time spenders might want to opt for the premium Chase Sapphire Reserve, which offers more base rewards in exchange for a steep $550 annual fee. (Here’s how to decide between the Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. the Chase Sapphire Reserve.)

Who should apply? Frequent travelers who don’t patronize the same airline or stay at the same hotels during their trips will be hard-pressed to find a more lucrative general-purpose travel rewards credit card.

Who should skip? Small spenders might want to skip the card’s $95 annual fee (not waived the first year) and the $4,000 required spend in the first three months required to bank that big sign-up bonus.

Read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred Card review.

American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card: Best business credit card

Why we picked it: The Amex Blue Business Cash Card is arguably the best business credit card on the market: It offers a generous 2% cash back on your first $50,000 in eligible purchases each calendar year (1% cash back thereafter) – for no annual fee.

Pros: The card also offers a number of cash-flow solutions. Cardholders enjoy a 0% introductory APR on new purchases for their first 12 months of card membership (then 13.24% to 19.24% variable). They also get access to Expanded Buying Power, an Amex feature that lets you spend beyond your credit limit based on certain factors (and earn rewards on that spending), along with Working Capital Terms, which helps with vendor payment management, after six months of card membership (terms apply).

Cons: As we mentioned, there’s that $50,000-in-purchases cap on the 2% cash back rate (then 1%) and there’s no welcome offer. As such, you can conceivably earn more, at least in the short term, with the Capital One Spark Cash for Business, which offers 2% cash back on all purchases (with no cap) and a generous sign-up bonus ($500 after spending $4,500 in your first three months), albeit for a $95 annual fee, waived the first year.

Who should apply? Business owners looking for cash flow solutions, along with business owners who spend less than $50,000 each year, should consider this card a top option.

Who should skip? If you routinely spend over $50,000 a year or are in the market for a welcome bonus, you could come out ahead with a different business credit card, like the aforementioned Capital One Spark Cash for Business or the Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card, which offers 1.5% on every purchase for no annual fee, along with a $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases within three months of account opening.

Read our full American Express Blue Business Cash Card review.

Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card: Best premium travel credit card

Why we picked it: This premium Chase credit card comes loaded with luxury travel benefits, including lounge access, a $300 annual credit for travel purchases (plus gas and grocery purchases through Dec. 31, 2021), an up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and 3X points earned on travel (after earning your annual travel credit) and restaurants.

Pros: The card’s $300 travel credit is uber-easy to redeem. When you make a qualifying purchase, you will be automatically awarded a statement credit until you’ve reached that $300 limit. (Learn more about how the Chase Sapphire Reserve travel credit works.) The card currently touts its highest sign-up bonus since launching in 2017: 60,000 points for spending $4,000 in the first three months, which is worth about $900 when you book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Cons: You’ll pay a $550 annual fee for all those benefits, which isn’t so easily recouped if you don’t travel frequently.

Who should apply? Even moderate spenders can reap a lot of value from the Chase Sapphire Reserve if they spend at least $300 on travel purchases each year, as the main travel credit goes a long way toward justifying the card’s $550 annual fee.

Who should skip? The Chase Sapphire Reserve is designed for people with excellent credit (scores 740 or higher), so if your score falls below that threshold, hold off on applying. Also, if the card’s annual fee has you seeing stars, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card instead, which features some of the same benefits, including a generous sign-up bonus and flexible redemption options for a $95 annual fee.

Read our full Chase Sapphire Reserve Card review.

Secured Mastercard® from Capital One: Best secured credit card

Why we picked it: The Secured Mastercard from Capital One is one of the best secured credit cards on the market, given its low security deposit requirements ($49 to $200), reasonable fees and a feature that lets cardholders be considered for a higher credit limit with responsible use by making their first six monthly payments on time.

Pros: This card is decidedly low fee, even for non-secured credit cards. Cardholders pay no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, no balance transfer fee and no returned payment fee. Plus, Capital One doesn’t impose a penalty APR if you don’t pay a bill on-time.

Cons: The card’s 26.99% APR is one the higher side for this category, though you can avoid it by paying your balances off in full. There are no rewards, though you may consider that a boon if you want to focus solely on improving your credit or you feel rewards might encourage overspending. There are secured credit cards out there that offer higher maximum credit limits to qualified applicants at the onset.

Who should apply? Secured credit cards are designed specifically to help people with bad, fair or no credit to build or rebuild a credit history. This card is a top option for people with bad credit who aren’t likely to qualify for a non-secured credit card.

Who should skip? If your credit score is already in good shape, you can likely qualify for an unsecured (no security deposit required) credit card with better terms and conditions. Credit newbies, students or even people with fair credit can also conceivably qualify for a non-secured credit card. The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card, for instance, is marketed to people with fair credit. It requires no security deposit, offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases and charges a $39 annual fee.

Read our full Secured Mastercard from Capital One review.

Discover it® Student Cash Back: Best student credit card

Why we picked it: Students will be hard-pressed to find a starter credit card that offers more rewards than the Discover it Student Cash Back. They’ll enjoy 5% cash back on rotating quarterly bonus categories, up to $1,500 per quarter, then 1% (enrollment required), along with a cash back match at the end of their first year.

Pros: The card touts a number of student-friendly benefits, including a $20 statement credit every year you earn a 3.0 GPA or higher for up to five years, a skipped late fee the first time you miss a payment (up to $40 late payment fee thereafter), and a free FICO score so you can track your progress building credit. There’s also a 6-month 0% introductory APR on purchases (then 12.99% to 21.99% variable).

Cons: You’ll have to keep track and enroll in quarterly rotating bonus categories, which might be more maintenance than a first-time rewards cardholder is looking for.

Who should apply? Students who want to earn rewards and enjoy beginner-friendly benefits are a great match for this well-rounded cash back credit card.

Who should skip? Rewards credit cards aren’t for everyone. If you suspect you’ll overspend in an attempt to earn cash back, you might want to opt for a non-rewards entry-level credit card, like the Capital One Platinum Credit Card.

Read our full Discover it Student Cash Back review.

Comparing the best credit cards

Credit cardBest forAnnual feeCreditCards.com Rating
Citi Custom Cash℠ CardAutomatically maximizing cash back$04.1 / 5
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit CardFirst-time rewards$03.2 / 5
American Express® Gold CardFoodies$2504.5 / 5
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American ExpressRewards$95, waived the first year4.0 / 5
Discover it® Cash BackRotating cash back$04.5 / 5
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit cardCustomized bonus categories$04.2 / 5
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American ExpressFrugal families$03.9 / 5
Citi® Diamond Preferred® CardBalance transfer$04.0 / 5
Citi® Double Cash CardFlat-rate cash back$03.6 / 5
Chase Freedom Unlimited®Flat-rate & bonus cash back$04.5 / 5
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit CardTravel$954.4 / 5
Chase Sapphire Preferred CardSign-up bonus$954.1 / 5
American Express Blue Business Cash™ CardBusiness$03.6 / 5
Chase Sapphire Reserve® CardPremium travel$5504.5 / 5
Secured Mastercard® from Capital OneSecured$03.7 / 5
Discover it® Student Cash BackStudents$04.1 / 5

How credit cards work

In simple terms, credit cards are financial products that allow you to borrow money (usually) without collateral. Here’s how credit cards work: You present your card or account number to a merchant when you want to make a purchase. You get a bill each month, by email or online, for all of your purchase charges and any interest charges. If you don’t carry a balance month to month, then you don’t pay interest. Carry a balance, and the interest starts accumulating. There are ways to mitigate those charges, which we’ll get into in a bit.

Credit cards are designed for short-term borrowing. If you plan on borrowing long term with a credit card, you are destined to pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars in interest charges, particularly if you only pay the minimum each month. What you pay in interest depends on the amount you borrow, how long you borrow and the interest rate you are assigned. (Learn how credit card APRs work.) There are ways to avoid paying any interest, however, and ways to make credit cards benefit your whole financial picture.

Types of credit cards

Different credit cards are designed with different financial goals in mind. Continue reading for expert information on the types of credit cards currently on the market to help you select the best one for you.

Low interest credit cards

Low interest credit cards feature APRs that are lower than the current industry average. (Per our Weekly Credit Card Rate Report, the average credit card interest rate is around 16.13%.) Low interest credit cards are a great option for revolvers – that is, people who are prone to carrying a balance from time to time. Beyond standard low interest credit cards, some cards carry promotional APR offers that let you pay low or, even, zero percent interest for a set period of time on purchases or balance transfers.

Balance transfer credit cards

As of late 2020, the average American carried a credit card balance of $5,897. That sort of debt can quickly become difficult to manage depending on your interest rate. A balance transfer credit card can help. Balance transfer credit cards let you transfer an existing balance over to a new credit card that carries a 0% introductory APR for a set period of time, typically between six to 18 months before the regular variable APR kicks in. There is usually a fee (between 3% to 5% of the balance) to make the transfer. However, a few cards do charge no balance transfer fee. Balance transfer credit cards are a good option for people currently carrying high-interest debt on another credit card as they can save you significantly on interest.

Learn more about the best balance transfer credit cards.

Zero interest credit cards

Some zero interest credit cards don’t offer a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers. Instead, they offer a 0% introductory APR on purchases. (A few cards offer 0% introductory APRs on both.) A zero interest credit card offering a 0% introductory APR on purchases is a good option if you’re looking for some short-term liquidity – that is, you need to make a large purchase that you’ll need a few months to pay off. (Think new fridges or emergency car repairs.) Zero percent intro APR cards typically offer that rate for 6 months to 18 months before the regular variable APR applies.

Learn more about the best zero interest credit cards.

Who are low interest credit cards best for?

  • Revolvers: People prone to carrying a balance month to month stand to save themselves the most money by opting for a credit card with an interest rate on the low end of the spectrum.
  • One-time shoppers: Cards with low promotional APRs on purchases are a good choice if you don’t tend to carry a balance, but need to make a big one-time charge that’ll take some time to pay off.
  • Debt managers: If you’re currently carrying high-interest credit card debt, a balance transfer credit card can save you money and help you pay those balances back faster.

Rewards credit cards

A rewards credit card is one of the few payment methods that net you a return, usually in the form of points, miles or cash back, on your spending. The best rewards credit cards also offer ancillary benefits, like price protection, extended warranties, airport lounge access or certain travel insurance. Many rewards credit cards tout lucrative sign-up bonuses, which allow new cardholders to earn extra points, miles or cash back for spending a certain amount in a set time period, usually the first three months. Some of these benefits come at the expense of an annual fee, though there are quite a few rewards credit cards that don’t charge one. There are a few different types of rewards credit cards to choose from.

Cash back credit cards

Cash back credits let you earn and redeem cash, usually in the form of statement credits, gift cards, checks or, even, direct deposits into your bank account. They generally fall into three categories:

  • Flat-rate cash back cards: These cards offer a competitive rate of return (usually between 1% and 2% cash back) on general purchases. They’re best-suited to people who don’t want to think too long or hard about maximizing rewards since you earn the same amount of rewards with each swipe. Suggested card: Citi Double Cash Card, which offers a best-in-class 2% cash back on all purchases (1% when you spend; 1% as you pay those purchases back)
  • Tiered bonus category cash back cards: These cards offer a competitive rate of return (usually between 2% and 6% cash back) in a specific spending category or a few specific spending categories, like dining, gas or groceries. They’re best-suited to people who spend a lot in their particular bonus category or as a supplement to a flat-rate cash back card. Suggested card: Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, which offers a competitive rate of cash back in three popular bonus categories, including 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%)
  • Rotating bonus category cash back cards: The cards offer a higher rate of return (usually 2% to 5% cash back) on rotating quarterly spending categories up to a set amount (usually $1,000 to $1,500). They’re generally a bit more high maintenance than flat-rate or tired bonus category cash back cards, given you need to enroll in the bonus categories each quarter, but they are a good fit for rewards maximizers, particularly those that carry more than one card in their wallet. Suggested card: Discover it Cash Back, one of the original rotating bonus category cash back cards, which offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter in various categories throughout the year (then 1%, enrollment required) along with 1% cash back on general purchases

Learn more about the best cash back credit cards.

Travel credit cards

Travel credit cards let you earn points, miles or rewards that you can use, at least primarily, to book future trips. They often tout additional travel benefits, like no foreign transaction fees, airline or hotel upgrades, travel-centric statement credits and supplemental travel insurance. As with cash back cards, there are several types of travel rewards credit cards.

  • General purpose travel credit cards: These cards let you earn points or miles on general purchases (usually at a rate of 1X to 2X rewards), which can be redeemed for a variety of travel purchases, including airfare, hotel stays or, even, car rentals. They’re best-suited to the traveler who craves flexibility or doesn’t tend to frequent a particular travel service provider. Suggested card: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, which offers a generous 2X miles on every purchases for a $95 annual fee
  • Airline travel credit cards: These cards let you earn miles and special perks at a specific carrier. These perks can include a free checked bag, priority boarding, lounge access and seat upgrades. Airline credit cards are a good fit for people who frequently fly the same carrier, at least several times a year. Suggested card: United℠ Explorer Card, which offers a bevy of United benefits, including free first checked bag (when you purchase your ticket using the card), priority boarding privileges with two one-time passes to the United Club℠ each year for your anniversary
  • Hotel travel credit cards: These cards let you earn points and special perks at a specific hotel brand. These perks can include free nights, free amenities (like in-room Wi-Fi) and room upgrades. Hotel credit cards are a good fit for people who frequently travel and stay at the same hotel chain several times a year. Suggested card: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, which offers, among other things, a Weekend Night Reward from Hilton Honors after you spend $15,000 on purchases on your Card in a calendar year.

Learn more about the best travel credit cards.

Who are rewards credit cards best for?

  • Transactors: People who pay their balance in full each month should take advantage of the opportunity to earn points, miles or cash back on their purchases.
  • Frequent travelers: A travel, airline or hotel credit card can help you rack up points or miles, earn elite status and save money on common travel expenses, like baggage fees or hotel Wi-Fi. Not to mention, the best travel credit cards often offer sign-up bonuses equivalent to a free flight or hotel stay.
  • Savvy shoppers: Cash back credit cards, in particular, can net you a return – and, by extension, help you save – on everyday expenses, like gas or groceries.
  • Top credit scorers: Rewards credit cards require good-to-excellent credit (think a FICO score of 670 or higher). If your credit is fair, bad or thin, try to improve your standing before applying.

Credit-building credit cards

You may have heard that getting a credit card is one of the best ways to start building or rebuilding your credit. That’s because there are credit cards designed specifically to help people with no, fair or, even, bad credit do just that.

Secured credit cards

Secured credit cards require applicants to put down an upfront refundable deposit (typically between $200 to $1,000), which serves as the card’s credit limit. They’re reserved for people with bad credit or no credit who can’t qualify for a traditional, unsecured credit card. The best secured credit cards feature low deposit minimums, reasonable fees (relative to this category) and opportunities to transition to an unsecured credit card and increase your credit limit after a short period of time (generally six to eight months of responsible use). They might also provide access to credit monitoring or financial literacy services.

Learn more about the best secured credit cards.

Student credit cards

Student credit cards are geared toward students and recent graduates. They feature a low barrier to entry for that target demographic, meaning their credit requirements are less stringent than a starter credit card geared toward a general audience, and they come with low credit limits, rewards tied to responsible use or good academic performance and credit monitoring or financial literacy resources.

Learn more about the best student credit cards.

Starter credit cards

The term “starter credit card” is a catch-all for products that are beginner-friendly. The type of starter credit card you can qualify will vary, depending on your personal profile and credit history.

Learn more about starter credit cards.

Who are credit-building credit cards best for?

  • Credit card newbies: Prospective first-time credit cardholders, including students, might not have the credit history to qualify for a top-tier credit card. Instead, they can apply for an entry-level credit card, establish responsible use and upgrade as their credit score increases.
  • Rebuilders: Similarly, if you’ve got some (or many) blemishes on your credit report, you’ll likely have a hard time qualifying for a traditional credit card. People with bad credit may have to opt for a secured credit card to rebuild their scores.

Other types of credit cards

Business credit cards

Business credit cards are designed for entrepreneurs, business owners, gig workers and freelancers. They broadly feature rewards for common business needs, like office supplies or internet services, higher credit limits and flexible financing offers, like promotional APRs. Keep in mind, business cards aren’t required to offer the legal protections of consumer cards. That said, the features of a business card may outweigh those considerations.

Best for: Entrepreneurs looking specifically to earn rewards on specialty categories, like office supplies or internet purchases, will get more bang for their buck with the right business credit card.

Learn more about the best business credit cards.

Credit cards without certain fees

While all credit cards carry certain costs (most notably, the interest you’re required to pay if you do carry a balance), some cards appeal to a general audience by foregoing common fees. These include:

  • No annual fee credit cards: These cards skip the annual charge common among luxury travel credit cards or premium rewards credit cards. No annual fee credit cards are a good fit for anyone who wants to earn rewards or take advantage of an introductory interest offer without incurring a charge, particularly in the long term. Suggested card: Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express, a no annual fee rewards credit card which offers 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%), 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores and 1% cash back on general purchases
  • No foreign transaction fee credit cards: These cards don’t charge fees when you make a purchase overseas or through a foreign merchant. Foreign transaction fees typically cost between 1% and 3% of each transaction. Many of the best travel credit cards skip foreign transaction fees, but there are general purpose no foreign transaction fee credit cards. For instance, all Capital One and Discover credit cards waive foreign transaction fees. That’s why some of their cards are a great fit for credit card newbies who want to ensure they don’t incur charges they might not be familiar with. Suggested card: Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, which also carries no annual fee and offers 1.5% cash back on general purchases

Best for: Budget-conscious shoppers might want to opt for a no annual fee credit card, while frequent travelers should look for a credit card that lets them skip foreign transaction fees.

How to choose a credit card

You now understand how credit cards work and why they are important, but how do you choose one? We recommend asking these questions as you narrow your search.

  • What’s your credit score? Card issuers primarily look at your credit score and income to determine approvals, so a big first step in choosing a credit card involves checking your credit. Typically, the higher the score, the better the benefits and rewards.
  • Do you tend to carry a balance? If so, a low interest or non-rewards zero interest credit card is a better choice than a rewards credit card, given you’re likely to lose any points, miles or cash back you earn to interest.
  • Are you currently carrying high-interest credit card debt? If so, opt for a balance transfer credit card with a long 0% introductory APR window or a waived balance transfer fee.
  • Are you a transactor? That means you charge most purchases to a credit card, but pay them off in full each month. If so, a rewards credit card is the best way to get a return on your spending.
  • Can you recoup an annual fee? If you charge a lot (and pay your balances in full each month), don’t necessarily forego a card with an annual fee. They tend to carry the most lucrative benefits and big transactors are likely to recoup the charge. (Learn when a credit card annual fee is worth it.)
  • Are you looking to earn cash back or miles? Travel credit cards offering points or miles can be quite lucrative, but cash back cards are generally very easy to leverage, particularly when it comes time to redeem.
  • Do you favor a certain airline, hotel or retailer? Co-branded cards tend to carry a good return on those specific purchases, plus extra perks that make them a worthwhile addition to your wallet.
  • Are you looking for a sign-up bonus? These offers let you earn bonus rewards in your first year if you spend a certain amount of money in a set time frame (usually within your first 90 days). See the best credit card sign-up bonuses.
  • Do you already have a credit card? It’s common to carry more than one credit card, given your financial profile and goals change over time. And, in fact, rewards maximizers tend to pair flat-rate cards with bonus category or travel-specific credit cards to get even more bang from their buck. If you’re a disciplined spender, consider this strategy. Here are some other tips for how to maximize credit card rewards.

Is now a good time to get a credit card?

The economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic initially led many credit card issuers to pare back offers and impose more stringent lending requirements. But now as vaccination rates rise and COVID restrictions lift, credit card companies are moving to beef up their rewards programs, balance transfer offers and welcome bonuses. Capital One, for instance, recently enhanced the rewards program associated with its popular Savor cards, while American Express boosted the welcome bonuses on its Blue Cash cards. (See our “In the news” section below for more information on the current best credit card offers and promotions.)

Many Americans are well-positioned to take advantage of these offers, given the pandemic has seemingly slimmed credit card balances. According to recent data from the Federal Reserve, card balances dipped below the $1 trillion mark in May 2020, for the first time since September 2017.

So, yes, now is a good time to get a credit card, but whether or not you should get a new credit card depends on your personal goals and overall financial health. For instance, if you don’t have good credit, you likely won’t qualify for the best credit card deals currently on the market. You’d likely be better served by improving your credit before applying for them. Similarly, if you belong to the over half (51%) of U.S. adults who added to their credit card debt during the pandemic, you might not want to risk adding to your credit card balances. Alternatively, you might want to look into a balance transfer credit card to help pay down existing debt.

It’s a good idea to have a sense of your approval odds before you apply. Our CardMatch tool may help direct you to credit card offers that best align with your credit profile without impacting your credit score.

How to apply for a credit card

Once you’ve determined exactly what it is you’re looking for in a credit card, it’s time to apply. There are a number of ways to go about this. You might choose to apply by mail or you can apply online directly through the issuer’s site. Another possibility: if you like its card offerings, you could decide to apply through your financial institution, either online or in-person at a branch. Chances are you’ll receive more favorable terms as an existing client. For applicants with so-so credit, your bank may be willing to approve you for cards you might not qualify for elsewhere, assuming you’ve maintained a relatively unblemished account history.

Whichever route you choose to go, the credit card application process is fairly standard. You’ll be asked to provide basic personal information. This usually includes:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Telephone number
  • Social Security number
  • Employment status
  • Annual income
  • List of financial obligations, including monthly housing or auto loan payments

In many cases, your online application is processed right then and there, giving you an answer in a matter of seconds. Once approved, your new card will typically be mailed out to you within a week or two. Other times, the process may take a bit longer and you may receive a later decision by email, snail mail, or telephone.

What happens if your credit card application is denied?

As many Americans continue to struggle financially as a result of the pandemic, card issuers have been quick to tighten requirements for approval, resulting in a decline in overall credit card ownership. If your credit card application has been rejected, the issuer must provide you with an explanation for its decision, which is usually sent by email or sometimes snail mail.

There are a number of reasons why an issuer might choose to reject an application. If your credit report includes derogatory marks and shows multiple accounts in collection, excessive debt and insufficient income, an issuer will most likely deny your application. Likewise, if you’ve applied for multiple cards in a short span of time, the issuer will view this as risky behavior.

Applying for a credit card results in what is known as a hard pull on your credit, which temporarily dings your score each time. For that reason, you don’t want to apply for another card immediately after you’ve been denied. Issuers will interpret this as risky behavior.

In the news: The best credit card offers and promos for June 2021

A generous welcome bonus offering travel miles, loyalty points or cash back can provide a strong incentive to apply for a credit card. So can special promotions that become available as issuers respond to consumer preferences and economic trends. Fortunately, CreditCards.com experts Emily Sherman and Ana Staples spend time each month rounding up these credit card offers so you don’t have to. Here are some of the best credit card promos for June 2021.

  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred is currently offering the highest sign-up bonus in its 12-year history. New cardholders can earn a whopping 100,000 points if they spend $4,000 in their first three months of card ownership. We estimate that Chase Sapphire Preferred mega-bonus, announced in early June, to be worth $1,250 when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is also offering its best ever sign-up bonus. New cardholders can earn 150,000 bonus points if they spend $3,000 in purchases in their first three months. IHG bonus points are a bit inflated; we estimate they’re worth around 0.55 a piece. However, that bonus is still worth around $825 when redeemed for a hotel stay.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards: Chase recently updated the sign-up bonuses offered by their co-branded Southwest credit cards. New Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card cardholders can now earn 65,000 points if they spend $2,000 in their first three months. The frequently-updated Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card bonuses usually teeter between 40,000 and 70,000 points.

Remember, make sure the card fits your spending habits and makes sense as a long-term financial commitment. A big sign-up bonus or limited time offer coupled with a big annual fee could mean diminishing returns over the long haul.

How we picked the best credit cards

Different types of credit cards are designed to help you achieve different financial goals. As a result, comparing cards across categories can be difficult. The best rewards credit card, for instance, will be characterized by a solid base rewards program, generous sign-up bonus and ancillary benefits, while the best balance transfer credit card would depend on the length of its balance transfer offer, its balance transfer fee and what its APR might be once the balance transfer expires. Having said that, we picked the best credit cards in our database by considering the following criteria.

  • Standout terms in the card’s category: We assessed whether a card’s terms and conditions were competitive when stacked against other cards in its respective category. For instance, for a rewards card, we looked at its rate of return on spending and evaluated whether that return was competitive, compared to other cards in the rewards category.
  • Reasonable costs: We looked at the major costs associated with most credit cards (purchase APR, balance transfer APR, penalty APR, annual fee, foreign transaction fees, etc.) to determine if a card’s offer was competitive in its category.
  • Overall value: If a card does carry certain fees, could those fees be justified by its other benefits? For instance, could you recoup an annual fee via the card’s rewards program? Could you still save on a balance transfer offer paying the balance transfer fee if you paid your balance off in the introductory 0% interest period?

Remember, the right credit card for you will vary, depending on your spending profile and financial goals.

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