Best Credit Cards of February 2020

What is the best credit card? In truth, there is no one-size-fits-all card; the best credit card for you depends on your goals and lifestyle. That’s why the experts at CreditCards.com have compiled a list of the best cards in each major category, from cash back and travel rewards to balance transfers and more. Explore our top picks from our partners and find the best credit card for you.

What is the best credit card? In truth, there is no one-size-fits-all card; the best credit card for you depends on your goals and lifestyle. That’s why the experts at CreditCards.com have compiled a list of the best cards in each major category, from cash back and travel rewards to balance transfers and more. Explore our top picks from our partners and find the best credit card for you.

Summary

Best Credit Cards of 2020

Filter Cards by Category

  • All Categories
  • Flat-rate rewards
  • Rotating Cash Back
  • Travel Rewards
  • Rewards
  • Sign-up Bonuses
  • Low Interest
  • More
  • No Annual Fee
  • Balance Transfer
  • Small Business
  • 0% APR
  • Gas Rewards
  • Student
  • Dining Rewards
  • Fair Credit
  • No Foreign Transaction Fee
  • Bad Credit
  • Airline Miles

Our methodology and research

3,476 Credit Cards Analyzed
600 Banks Analyzed

Criteria Used

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

Common Benefits:

  • Auto rental Insurance
  • Extended warranty program
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Purchase protection
  • Price protection
  • Lost Luggage reimbursement
  • Concierge service
  • Roadside assistance
  • Free credit score

What factors to consider when choosing the best credit card

When you are ready for a new credit card, you'll first want to identify which type is right for you. With the right card, you can earn hundreds of dollars a year, build your credit or enjoy special travel benefits. Here are 7 questions to ask yourself in your endeavor to choose the best card.

Want to build credit?

Most credit cards, including cards for authorized users, allow you to build credit. But check with the card issuer to make sure they'll report your credit habits to the 3 major credit bureaus. Cards for consumers with bad or thin credit can help with this.

Paying a lot of interest and fees?

A balance transfer card helps take away the sharp edges of credit card debt, although you still need to pay off the balance before the 0% intro APR offer ends.

Willing to strategize your spending?

With new credit cards being offered or revamped every month, it's worthwhile to take a look at what's in the marketplace and how you can maximize your rewards. Four in 10 Americans told us in our 2018 favorite cards survey they have never changed their favorite card, and that's a terrible idea. Instead, by updating your wallet, you can use the best card for the best situation and max out your rewards.

Specific categories you often use?

Some cards, such as the Amex Blue Cash Preferred, offer improved rewards year-round on such categories as gas and groceries.

Want to use it and forget it?

For those of us who don't want to think about our shopping rewards, some travel and cashback cards reward at a flat rate for all spending.

Travel your thing?

If you plan to travel often (or even occasionally), some cards reward for worldwide travel and restaurants, such as the Chase Sapphire cards. Flat rate travel cards are also available.

Have a favorite brand?

Express yourself with a card that delivers miles for using your hotel or airline brand of choice.

Enjoy convenience

Even if you have great credit, a credit card is a great financial choice for the consumer on the go. Imagine just grabbing your keys, driver license and credit card on the way out the door. Nothing easier, right?

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.


A Guide to Finding the Best Credit Card Offer for You

The credit cards in your wallet are some of the most important financial tools in your life. You might be on the hunt for the perfect balance transfer offer to help you pay off your holiday spending. Or you could have your eye out for the right travel card offer in preparation for that ski trip in the Wasatch Mountains.

Remarkably, we found in our August 2019 survey that 55% of U.S. consumers either don’t know the last time they shopped for a new credit card or that it’s been more than 3 years. “You have to know yourself, and if you value simplicity, that’s fine too. Just make sure to re-evaluate your strategy often because the best deals are always changing,” says Ted Rossman, CreditCards.com industry analyst.

With offers frequently changing, it can be tough to wrap your head around all of the available options. We’re all over it for you. At CreditCards.com, we’ve compiled thousands of hours of research to help you find the best credit cards of 2020 across the most popular categories. Check this page regularly for the latest information on the best credit cards and how they compare to the field – we update it almost every day!


best credit cards 2020

Best Credit Cards

There are myriad credit card offers for all sorts of purposes, from rewards to credit building. Here, we look at 17 of the top card categories that could serve you well, depending on your goals, credit score and what features interest you most.

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Why this is the best credit card for flat-rate cash back

You’ll earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase, no matter where, when or what you buy. No need to track bonus categories or deal with complicated redemptions – redeem cash back in any amount, any time.

Pros

With a serviceable sign-up bonus and a flat rate for spending, this card competes well in the cash back landscape. Unlike the Freedom cards, this card offers no foreign transaction fee.

Cons

If you like the idea of timing your spending to get higher rewards, this is not a good choice for you. Instead, look at the Discover it Cash Back or the Chase Freedom.

Discover it® Cash Back

Why this is the best credit card for rotating cash back

Not only can you enroll quarterly to enjoy 5% back on rotating categories (up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1%) with the Discover it Cash Back, you can also earn double back at the end of your first year, a unique feature.

Pros

Categories include such items as everyday spending like restaurants and gas stations, as well as big ticket purchases at Amazon.com and home improvement stores. In addition, you can redeem at Amazon.com checkout.

Cons

While the card’s cash back match could be very lucrative, you’ll have to wait a full year after opening your account to enjoy it. You’ll also have to track and activate bonus categories each quarter, and they may not always line up with your spending habits.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Why this is the best credit card for travel rewards

Unlike the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which only rewards bonus miles in select categories, the Venture Rewards card rewards all spending with 2X miles, making it a great choice if you want to rack up miles with an all-purpose travel card.

Pros

Along with a solid sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months, the card offers a few terrific perks for frequent travelers, including a credit of up to $100 to cover the application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

Cons

The card’s list of airline transfer partners leaves a bit to be desired, missing popular options like United, Delta and British Airways.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card

Why this is the best credit card for rewards

The card offers terrific flexibility in how you can earn and redeem rewards. You’ll get 3X points on dining, travel and transit, gas station purchases and select streaming services, and you can redeem points for travel, gift cards and cash back without sacrificing point value.

Pros

The card offers a 20,000-point bonus if you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months. That’s worth $200 when redeemed for cash back and is solid for a card with no annual fee. You’ll also enjoy a 0% introductory APR for 12 months on both new purchases and balance transfers (15.49%-27.49% variable after that), which could help you finance a large purchase or pay off outstanding debt.

Cons

You can’t transfer points to a frequent flyer or other outside rewards program, which could be a deal-breaker if you’re loyal to a particular airline or hotel. There are also longer 0% intro APR offers on the market, and the card’s high-end APR is very high indeed.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Why this is the best credit card for sign-up bonus

Chase Sapphire Preferred’s 60,000 points after a $4,000 spend within the first 3 months is actually worth an incredible $750 when you redeem for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

Pros

This card’s ongoing rewards for worldwide travel and dining are tough to match. Also, you can transfer rewards from the Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited to redeem more travel rewards through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

Cons

The regular APR starts out high at 17.49%-24.49% variable, and the $95 annual fee isn’t waived the first year. Also, the Chase Sapphire Preferred doesn’t have boosted rewards for spending other than worldwide travel and restaurants (although the 1X point offer on all other spending becomes 1.25X points when booking travel through Ultimate Rewards).

Discover it® Balance Transfer

Why this is the best credit card for low interest

Unlike other 0% intro APR cards, the Discover it Balance Transfer has a regular APR that starts out quite low at 13.49%-24.49% variable.

Pros

This card’s 18-month 0% intro APR balance transfer offer takes you into 2021 (after that it’s 13.49%-24.49% variable), and carries the same great rewards as the Discover it Cash Back, making it a low interest card with longevity.

Cons

Unfortunately, the 0% intro APR offer on purchases is the shortest available on the market at just 6 months, making it not a good choice when you plan to carry a balance on new purchases over a long period of time.

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Why this is the best credit card for no annual fee

It’s a great fit for someone who loves to travel, but can’t always find the time. Instead of paying a huge annual fee for travel perks you’re unlikely to use, opt for the VentureOne and you’ll snag a generous sign-up bonus and earn consistent rewards on every purchase.

Pros

Since you’ll earn miles at a flat rate on every purchase, you won’t have to juggle multiple cards or worry about tracking bonus category spending. The VentureOne also carries no foreign transaction fee, making it a smart choice if you plan to travel abroad.

Cons

Some other cards – even those with no annual fee – offer a higher rewards rate in popular spending categories and allow you to boost the value of your points or miles when you redeem for travel.

Citi Simplicity® Card – No Late Fees Ever

Why this is the best credit card for balance transfer

Nobody comes close to the Citi Simplicity in the balance transfer offer – 0% intro APR for 21 months, long enough to take you well into 2021. It’s 16.24%-26.24% variable after that.

Pros

This card has many great “no’s” – no late fees, no penalty rate and no annual fee. Also, there’s a moderate 0% intro APR offer on purchases for 12 months (then 16.24%-26.24% variable) if you have a bigger purchase to make.

Cons

The card offers no sign-up bonus and next to nothing in the way of rewards, which severely limits its long-term value. And while its long intro APR period on balance transfers is attractive, the card’s balance transfer fee is on the high end (5% or $5, whichever is greater). You’ll have to do the math to see if you should prioritize a long intro APR or lower balance transfer fee.

Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card

Why this is the best credit card for small business

The card’s unlimited 1.5% cash back rate on all purchases makes it a convenient and lucrative option for small-business owners. You won’t have to track bonus categories and can redeem your earnings as cash back, direct deposit, travel rewards, gift cards and more.

Pros

The card’s 0% intro APR for 12 months on new purchases (14.74%-20.74% variable after that) is generous for a business card and could help you finance major expenses and free up cash flow. You’ll also pay no annual fee and can get employee cards at no additional cost.

Cons

Like most business cards, the Ink Business Unlimited does not come with a 0% intro APR offer on balance transfers. It also carries a foreign transaction fee of 3% per transaction, making it a poor choice if you want a single card you can use both at home and abroad.

Wells Fargo Platinum card

Why this is the best credit card for 0% interest

The Wells Fargo Platinum is a fine option as a well-balanced 0% intro APR card for both purchases and qualifying balance transfers for 18 months (then 16.99%-26.49% variable).

Pros

This card offers up to $600 protection on your cellphone (with a $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your card. Also, you can get your free FICO score with this card.

Cons

Like the Citi Simplicity, the Wells Fargo Platinum has no sign-up bonus and no ongoing rewards, which might impact your decision-making, if you are looking for a card that offers rewards in the long run.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Why this is the best credit card for gas rewards

It’s a great fit for families on the go. Not only will you get unlimited 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit, you’ll also enjoy 6% back at U.S. supermarkets on your first $6,000 in purchases per year (then 1%). With bonuses in such practical everyday spending categories, it should be easy to make up the card’s annual fee.

Pros

A top cash back product for tiered categories, this card offers a new opportunity with 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services, one of the first cards to offer this reward. Also, it has a 0% intro APR offer for 12 months on both purchases and qualifying balance transfers (it’s 14.49%-25.49% variable after that), ideal for moderately sizeable purchases or balances

Cons

The introductory bonus isn’t as robust as that of the Capital One Savor, although its required spend is lower. Also, the $95 annual fee isn’t waived the first year.

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Why this is the best credit card for students

The card is designed for those new to credit, so it gives the inexperienced some wiggle room: You won’t be charged a late fee the first time you miss a payment deadline and you’ll never face a penalty APR. Plus, it’s one of the few cards that rewards good grades, offering students who earn at least a 3.0 GPA $20 each year for up to the next 5 years.

Pros

You can reap cash back rewards even with no credit history. You’ll earn 5% back in an array of rotating quarterly bonus categories upon enrollment (on up to $1,500 per quarter) and 1% on other purchases. Discover will also match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year.

Cons

Unfortunately, you may have trouble getting this card if you don’t have independent income, because of federal rules in place to protect consumers under 21 years old.

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Why this is the best credit card for dining rewards

The Savor Cash Rewards is unbeatable in this category. You’ll earn unlimited 4% back on dining as well as entertainment.

Pros

With this card, you can earn boosted rewards at grocery stores, and the sign-up bonus is superior for a cashback card. Also, earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through May 2020.

Cons

The downside is that there is an annual fee of $95 (waived the first year), although there are no foreign transaction fees.

Capital One® Platinum Credit Card

Why this is the best credit card for fair credit

The Capital One Platinum Credit Card is the rare card that both accepts fair credit and has no annual fee, allowing you to focus on building your credit.

Pros

In addition to accepting fair credit, this card allows you access to a higher credit limit after 5 months of on-time payments, making it a strong first card.

Cons

This card offers a crazy high regular APR of 26.99% variable, so you don’t even want to think about carrying a balance, and there is no sign-up bonus or ongoing rewards.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card

Why this is the best credit card for no foreign transaction fee

While many cards charge a foreign transaction fee of 3% per transaction on purchases made abroad, the Bank of America Travel Rewards Visa charges absolutely none. You can even add a PIN for international travel, which could come in handy if you’re visiting an area that sees fewer U.S. tourists.

Pros

This card offers variety and flexibility in how you can redeem your points, including statement credits for flights, hotel stays, rental cars, cruises, vacation packages or baggage fees.

Cons

For a travel card with no annual fee, this card’s sign-up bonus is competitive, but among all travel cards, not so much. The same is true of the ongoing rewards.

Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card

Why this is the best credit card for bad credit

The card has great approval odds and you can check if you prequalify online without affecting your credit score. It also offers access to your Experian Credit Score and the ability to set up custom email and text alerts, which should help you avoid late fees and keep your credit-building efforts on track.

Pros

The Credit One Bank Visa is one of the rare cards that accepts bad credit and offers ongoing rewards at the same time. This makes it a good card in the long term if you are looking for something in your wallet beyond credit-building.

Cons

There’s no sign-up bonus with the Credit One Bank Visa, and you can expect an annual fee of up to $99, which can eat into your budget. Always check the fees before choosing a credit-builder card.

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Why this is the best credit card for airline miles

You’ll earn a nice chunk of miles when you apply – up to 70,000 bonus miles. Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles after your first anniversary of card membership; this offer expires 4/1/2020.

Pros

Along with mini-bonuses like discounted access to Delta Sky Club lounges, you’ll enjoy travel perks like priority boarding, no foreign transaction fee (see rates and fees) and a free first checked bag for you and up to eight companions. Even better, the card’s annual fee ($99) is waived for the first year.

Cons

The card offers just 1X miles on non-Delta purchases. If you want to maximize your mileage earnings on everyday spending, you’ll be better off with a general-purpose travel card.

Compare CreditCards.com’s best credit card offers

Here is a summary of our top picks in an easy-to-read table, with our choice for the best credit card in each major category. If you have any questions, feel free to email us at editors@creditcards.com or leave us a comment below.

Credit Card Category Annual Fee Review Score
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card Flat-rate Cash Back $0 3.4 / 5
Discover it® Cash Back Rotating Cash Back $0 4.3 / 5
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card Travel $95 waived first year 4.2 / 5
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card Rewards $0 3.5 / 5
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Sign-up Bonus $95 3.9 / 5
Discover it® Balance Transfer Low Interest $0 4.5 / 5
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card No Annual Fee $0 3.5 / 5
Citi Simplicity® Card – No Late Fees Ever Balance Transfer $0 3.7 / 5
Ink Business UnlimitedSM Credit Card Small Business $0 3.5 / 5
Wells Fargo Platinum card 0% Intro APR $0 4.4 / 5
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express Gas Rewards $95 4.3 / 5
Discover it® Student Cash Back Students $0 4.2 / 5
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card Dining Rewards $95 waived first year 4.8 / 5
Capital One® Platinum Credit Card Fair Credit $0 3.7 / 5
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card No Foreign Transaction Fee $0 3.4 / 5
Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card Bad Credit $0-$99 2.2 / 5
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card Airline Miles $99 waived first year 3.6 / 5

How to choose the best credit card offer for you

Credit cards offer a convenient way to pay for purchases while building credit and earning rewards. There are hundreds of credit cards available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. You might find a card with a strong balance transfer offer but no rewards or a great travel card that has an annual fee. The trick is to understand your individual needs and what you can qualify for due to your credit score.

Here we’ve broken down the most popular card categories for you to consider:

Rewards Cards

Our July 2019 poll on rewards cards found that 49% of U.S. consumers have at least one cash back rewards card. Gas, retail, airline, hotel, general travel and business cards were also popular, so it’s no surprise that new credit cards are entering the market every day. Used correctly, such rewards cards can earn you hundreds of dollars a year. Rewards cards can include luxury cards as well as credit-builder products, though typically the higher your credit score, the more generous the rewards. See a full list of the Best Rewards Credit Cards.

Travel Rewards

General-purpose travel cards are valuable for the consumer who likes flexibility. This is a good card for the family who prefers convenience in maxing out on redemptions, such as when traveling this winter to New York to see the shows. See a full list of the Best Travel Credit Cards.

Increasingly, credit cards offer no foreign transaction fees, which can save you a sizeable chunk of change. Most travel cards offer this feature. Foreign transaction fees, typically about 3%, can be charged when a purchase is transacted through a foreign bank, such as overseas travel or some online purchases. See a full list of the Best No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Cards.

Airline Rewards

If you find yourself turning to a specific airline for your travel needs, an airline credit card might be a good option for you. These cards reward your loyalty through both purchases and redemptions, as well as benefits such as free checked bags. (In some cases, you can save hundreds on checked bags for you and up to 8 travel companions, ideal for that Caribbean beach trip this winter.) See a full list of the Best Airline Credit Cards.

Hotel Rewards

Like airline cards, hotel cards reward for loyalty to a specific brand and are co-branded with a bank. For that loyalty, you can potentially get complimentary breakfast, early check-in, late check-out and more. Add to that, you might get free nights either with your points or by reaching a certain number of nights purchased within a specific amount of time, as well as gaining premium status levels. See a full list of the Best Hotel Credit Cards.

Gas Rewards

Cards that offer gas as a category can put a little extra cash in your pocket for something you are going to buy anyway. Gas cards can offer rewards for brand loyalty or they can be general-purpose cards that offer gas as just one type of category. See a full list of the Best Gas Credit Cards.

Sign-up Bonus

Many of the best credit cards come with a sign-up bonus, which are typically awarded after a minimum spend is met within the first 3 months of card membership. Often, a sign-up bonus can be a deciding factor when comparing two credit cards – provided you meet the minimum and it’s a reward you’ll use. See a full list of the Best Sign-up Bonus Credit Cards.

0% APR Cards

A 0% intro APR offer can refer to purchases or balance transfers. Some cards, such as most business cards, only offer purchase offers, while some cards lean into their balance transfer offers, sometimes up to 21 months. Zero intro APR cards can be used to pay off a balance incurred for holiday decorations or entertaining, for example. See a full list of the Best 0% APR Credit Cards.

Balance Transfer Cards

Sometimes life takes us for a loop and we end up with card debt that seems to be never-ending with the monthly interest charges. That’s when a balance transfer card comes in, with its 0% intro APR offer for a minimum of 6 months and up to 21 months. If you’ve overspent on holiday gifts, for example, a BT card can ease the pain. See a full list of the Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards.

Low Interest Cards

After a 0% interest period expires, the ongoing interest rate is your next consideration. Interest charges can be prohibitive if you carry a balance over a long period of time, and for that reason, you should stay mindful of your card’s rates. The average rate on low interest credit cards is currently hovering around 14%, so you’ll want to shoot for that or below if possible if you think you might carry a balance without the option of a 0% intro APR. See a full list of the Best Low Interest Credit Cards.

Cash Back Cards

Cash back cards come in a variety of flavors, including rotating categories, tiered categories, flat-rate cards and a mix. See a full list of the Best Cash Back Credit Cards.

Rotating Cash Back

Rotating category credit cards offer a higher than normal cash back rate, usually 5%, on specific categories that change quarterly. Chase and Discover are two prominent issuers that offer this type of card. Having a card that offers such a large cash back percentage allows cardholders to maximize their rewards strategy – as long as you stay aware of what the bonus category is and sign up for the category when necessary.

Flat-rate Cash Back

Flat-rate cash back cards reward the same for all spending, typically 1.5%, but it can go to 2%. This is a good card for the shopper who doesn’t want to have to think about which card to pull out at the counter.

Tiered Cash Back

A few cards offer year-round elevated cash back amounts, as much as 6%, sometimes with an annual spending limit on one or more of those categories. Some allow you to choose the category from a selection for the elevated cash back amount.

No Annual Fee Cards

While annual fees aren’t necessarily something to avoid, it’s definitely worth your while to stay mindful of them when shopping for a card. Many cards with annual fees waive them the first year, and some have a sister card that offers no annual fee, albeit with lesser rewards. See a full list of the Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards.

Small-Business Cards

Business cards – which we found in our July 2019 survey to have more than doubled in popularity among consumers compared to last year – can reward the business owner (or even solopreneur) for such categories as office supply stores, advertising and travel. Heads up that they may not have the protections of consumer cards under the Credit CARD Act of 2009. See a full list of the Best Business Credit Cards.

Credit History

Your first stop when choosing a credit card is checking your score, because there’s no point in hankering for a travel card when your credit is in the fair category or below. And if you have good credit or better, your choices in cash back cards will be excellent. Here are what the different credit score categories mean for you.

Excellent Credit

A few credit cards only accept excellent credit, and these are typically cards that offer superior benefits or rewards. See a full list of the Best Credit Cards for Excellent Credit.

Good Credit

Most rewards and 0% credit cards require at least good credit. Having a score in this range opens up your options considerably, including balance transfer and 0% cards, as well as travel and cash back products. See a full list of the Best Credit Cards for Good Credit.

Fair Credit

The cards you qualify for tighten considerably when your FICO credit score goes below 670, but there’s hope. Cards that require fair credit are a good choice when you are trying to build your credit, and some have no annual fee. See a full list of the Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit.

Bad Credit

Cards that accept bad credit can be a good way to build credit, but make sure the card issuer sends your credit habits to the 3 credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, or your credit score won’t benefit. Also, if you get a super low credit limit, it can make it harder to keep your credit utilization ratio low, a necessity for building credit. See a full list of the Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit.

Secured Cards

Secured credit cards are a great way to build your credit when there are no other options. Simply, you will put down a refundable deposit in exchange for your credit limit. While many secured cards may have a variety of fees, some have almost none, including no annual fee. See a full list of the Best Secured Credit Cards.

Student Cards

Student cards often offer the same features as their brethren, although they can have special opportunities for the young consumer, such as an annual reward for good grades. See a full list of the Best Student Credit Cards.

When is it time to get a new credit card?

You may be tempted to hang on to the same card year after year, and there may be something said for that. For example, holding a card for a long time can help your credit. But with new products hitting the market every year, it’s a good idea to look for the best credit card you can find for your purposes.

We also recognize that there is not one single best card for all occasions; different people have different needs at different times, and the card you use at the grocery store is not necessarily the card you should use to book airline tickets. Here, we look at how many credit cards you should consider holiding and when a new credit card may be a good choice for you:

You want to earn a sign-up bonus

Sign-up bonuses are a great way to get a large amount of cash back or points for spending a minimum amount within a set amount of time, typically 3 months. Once the sign-up rewards land in your account, you are free to use them for travel, as a statement credit and more.

A great card with a sign-up bonus: The sign-up bonus for the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards is super high for a cash back card at $300 cash back after a $3,000 spend within the first 3 months.

You want a card for travel

An increasingly favorite type of card is the travel rewards credit card. While a new travel card doesn’t often appear on the market, a special welcome offer may be featured.

A great credit card for travel: In addition to excellent ongoing rewards and the Chase Ultimate Rewards’ famous travel boost, the Chase Sapphire Preferred‘s sign-up bonus was increased several months ago to 60,000 points after a $4,000 spend within the first 3 months.

The card offers new rewards

One of the best reasons for keeping your eye on what’s on the market is that new rewards cards are released frequently. A new product might offer a boost in rewards or a new category altogether, so it behooves you to check them out periodically.

A great credit card for rewards: Sometimes, an old card is updated, such as the Bank of America Cash Rewards, and offers a change in how ongoing rewards are offered.

The card offers a 0% intro offer

If you already hold a credit card and it has a balance, a balance transfer card may be a good option. Also, with a major purchase coming up, a 0% intro offer on purchases might be a good choice.

A great credit card for 0% intro APR: Some cards offer both options, as in the case of the Wells Fargo Platinum, which offers 0% intro APR on purchases and qualifying balance transfers for 18 months (then a regular APR of 16.99% – 26.49% variable will apply)

You want to transfer a credit card balance

Balance transfers are a straightforward way to pay back your debt while avoiding or putting off high interest rates.

A great card for balance transfers: The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card offers 21 months at 0% intro APR on balance transfers (then it’s 15.24%-25.24% variable APR). All transfers must be completed within the first 4 months.

You want to build credit

The easiest way to build credit is with a credit card. That’s because the scoring models reward heavily for elements of responsibly holding a card. When you use your card at least once a month, pay in full and on time each month, as well as build longevity with an account, you are hitting key aspects of building credit.

A great credit card for building credit: With a card for credit-building, you can enjoy access to free credit scores and setting up a payment date that suits you, as in the case of the Credit One Bank Visa.

How many credit cards should you have?

While there’s no hard-and-fast rule as to how many credit cards you should have, it’s a good idea to hold onto at least two cards – each from a different card issuer and each offering a different type of rewards (cash back, travel rewards, etc.). This should make it easier to tailor your earning to your spending patterns and enjoy greater variety and flexibility in how you redeem rewards.

In some cases, you can also “stack” cards from a single issuer to get even more value out of your rewards. For example, you could pair the Chase Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card (which earns 1.5% cash back on every purchase) with a premium Chase card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (which gets you 2 points per dollar on travel and restaurant purchases). This would allow you to could convert the cash back from your Ink Business Unlimited card to Ultimate Rewards points and enjoy a 25% boost in point value when you redeem them for travel through the Chase travel portal.

Of course, if you’re still new to credit cards, you should stick to just one or two until you get used to using them, and if tracking your spending from quarter to quarter or swapping out cards between the gas station and grocery store sounds like more of a headache than it’s worth, a card that offers travel rewards or cash back at a flat rate on every purchase may be a better fit.

What to know before applying for a credit card

Interest rates

While in theory you shouldn’t be paying interest charges for a balance each month (right?), sometimes we get ourselves into an unfortunate situation. That’s why you need to pay attention to your cards’ interest rates, either to avoid with a 0% intro APR offer or by making a big purchase on your card with the lowest rate.

Your credit score

As you know, your credit score helps inform which card you can get. Travel cards, for example, typically require at least good credit, while you might be able to find a cashback card that accepts fair and even no credit. Don’t apply for multiple cards at once because it can look to card issuers like you are desperate and because each time you apply, it can temporarily impact your score by about 5 points.

Fees

There are a number of common fees you could face, which are typically in a chart called the Schumer Box that will be at the top of the rates and fees document of the card. They include:

  • Balance transfer fee: When you make a balance transfer, most cards will charge this fee, typically $5-$10 or 3%-5%, whichever is greater. A few cards don’t charge this fee.
  • Cash advance fee: This is a charge you’ll face when you take out cash up front, and it’s usually a nominal fee such as $5-$10, or 3%-5%, whichever is greater and sometimes depending on the manner of the withdrawal (direct deposit vs. ATM).
  • Late fee: It is what it is. Some issuers don’t charge this the first time as in the case of Discover, or at all as in the case of the Citi Simplicity.
  • Returned payment fee: When a payment or check is returned, this charge usually runs up to $40, but it can be waived.

Here is a comparison of 2 cards in the first year of card membership, one with an annual fee and one without:

Card: Capital One Venture Rewards
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Capital One VentureOne Rewards
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
Sign-up Bonus Spend $3,000 in 3 mths,
50,000 miles
Spend $1,000 in 3 mths,
20,000 miles
Ongoing Rewards 2X miles X $1,000/mth =
24,000 miles
1.25X miles x $1,000/mth =
15,000 miles
Annual Fee $95, waived first yr $0
First Year Net Value $500 + $240 =
$740
$200 + $150 =
$350

As you can see, Venture Rewards leads the way the first year. However, in the second year, when the Venture Rewards’ annual fee kicks in, you’ll notice that if you’re an occasional spender, the VentureOne is a better choice.

Other fees can be the payoff for access to a credit-builder card. In addition to the usual charges, such as late fees and balance transfer fees, credit-builder cards might have weird little charges such as for getting a new card or duplication services, so it’s important to pay attention.

We looked at 100 sample cards recently to understand what these fees can look like. We found that in 2018, 47 cards have such fees as “overdraft protection/overdraft protection cash advance” (20 cards) and “returned check” (14 cards). Then there are the weird ones, like “account re-opening” (9 cards) and documentation fee (2 cards).

Top unusual fees we found…

Fee category Number of cards Fees
Overdraft protection/overdraft protection cash advance 20 $10-$12 or 3%-5%, whichever is greater
Returned check 14 Up to $37-$38
Expedited gift card or credit card 10 $8-$20
Account re-opening 9 $25

“The good news is that all credit card fees can be avoided,” says CreditCards.com industry analyst Ted Rossman. “Make sure to match your lifestyle with the right cards. For example, sometimes an annual fee is worth it if you take advantage of the extra perks such as airport lounge access and a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee waiver. Other fees are more punitive and can be averted with good habits like paying your bills on time and making sure not to overdraw your accounts.”

Details on the best credit card issuers

Some of the top card issuers include Discover, American Express, Capital One and Chase. They make the call on whether you are a low enough credit risk to qualify for the card you want.

While issuers are pretty much the same in terms of your relationship with them, they can vary widely according to what they offer the cardholder. Here are special offerings from some of the top card issuers:

Discover: This issuer has among the best security features, including Social Security number alerts, which tell you if your SSN is found on a Dark Web site. Also, Discover can alert you if a new lending product has shown up on your Experian credit report.

American Express: Increasingly card issuers are eschewing travel and purchase benefits for financial reasons and lack of popularity. Not so with American Express, which continues to offer such benefits for eligible cards as price protection, extended warranty, baggage insurance and travel accident insurance.

Capital One: Capital One has led the pack in offering no foreign transaction fees for all of their cards, something that may only be available through certain cards offered by other issuers, such as travel cards.

Chase: Chase cut back on various benefits a little over a year ago, although the ones that remain are among the best out there, such as primary auto insurance on select cards, which means it’s the first collision insurance used, even above your personal auto insurance.

Bank of America: BofA offers a unique feature for some of their cards in that you can earn a boost of 25%-75% more rewards on every purchase when you have a qualifying Bank of America Preferred Rewards account.

The issuers vary widely in their benefits and quality, so it’s always prudent to research your choices. One factor should be what other consumers say about the company. Here is what J.D. Power says about consumers’ feedback on issuers:

America’s favorite credit card issuers…

  • Discover
  • 842 out of 1,000
  • American Express
  • 838 out of 1,000
  • Capital One
  • 807 out of 1,000
  • Chase
  • 807 out of 1,000

J.D. Power 2019 credit card satisfaction survey


CreditCards.com Analysis: Seattle, L.A. and D.C. lead in spending on groceries, gas, dining out and transit

New York may be The Big Apple, but it doesn’t take enough of a bite out of key spending categories to rule over other U.S. cities, our analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data found.

For example, while New York was a leader in public/other transportation at 121.88% above the national average, it was actually the lowest among cities for gas (28.21% below the national average), according to our recent analysis. These figures represent annual household averages in each metropolitan area.
Instead, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles topped the four categories we studied:

Top spending by category

  • Food at home – Seattle
  • 38.78%
  • Food away from home – Washington, D.C.
  • 62.73%
  • Gas – Los Angeles
  • 28.31%
  • Public/other transportation – Washington, D.C.
  • 156.60%
  • (Percentages are compared to the national average

CreditCards.com 2020 City-by-City Spending Survey, with BLS data

While cities such as Tampa and Miami are unsurprisingly low in a number of the categories, there is that one big surprise – New York. Cities at the bottom of those surveyed for our selected categories include:

  • Atlanta – at $3,779 spent on food at home, this city is 15.34% below the national average of $4,464.
  • Miami – at $2,761 spent on food away from home, this city is 20.18% below the national average of $3,459.
  • New York – at $1,514 spent on gas, this city is 28.21% below the national average of $2,109.
  • Tampa – at only $459 spent on public/other transportation, this city is 43.89% below the national average of $818.

Best credit cards by city and category

With this data, residents can target the best card to use for their city. Here, we identify which cards will give the greatest returns based on your spending.
“The best credit card for you depends on your particular spending habits. Figure out where you spend the most money and then pick cards that emphasize those categories,” advises CreditCards.com industry analyst Ted Rossman.

Seattle’s best credit card

Seattle spent $6,195 in 2018 on food at home, by far the highest among cities surveyed. For that reason, the Blue Cash Preferred from American Express is the best choice for Seattle, with its 6% cash back on U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 spend a year, then 1%). That means a Seattleite can earn $360 back each year if they spend $6,000. The Blue Cash Preferred is also a good choice for:

  • Honolulu
  • Anchorage
  • San Diego

Washington’s best credit card

The leading city for dining away from home was Washington, D.C. ($5,629 spent), and for that reason, the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards is the best for that city, with 4% back on restaurants and entertainment, which comes to $225 back on restaurants for Washingtonians. Want to avoid the $95 annual fee? The Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers 3% back at restaurants and on entertainment.
Residents in these cities would also benefit from the Savor or SavorOne because their cities lead the pack in this category:

  • San Francisco
  • San Diego
  • Honolulu

Los Angeles’ best credit card

Los Angeles leads other cities in spending on gas/fuel, spending $2,706. For that reason, the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card’s 3% back on gas is the best option (there are other options for 3% back rewards to choose from each month). That comes to $81 earned for Angelenos on gas. You can also earn 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 spending each quarter for combined categories).
Other cities that would benefit from this card:

  • Atlanta
  • Houston
  • San Diego

Best credit card for public/other transportation

Washington, D.C., tops other cities in spending on public/other transportation, spending $2,099. For that purpose, the best card in this category is the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, which rewards you with 3% back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more. That comes to $63 earned for residents from Washington. Residents of these cities can also benefit from using the Blue Cash Preferred for this category:

  • New York
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco

San Diego’s best credit card

San Diego is a leader in all 4 categories, meaning that you might want to opt for a card with rotating categories if you live there. The Discover it Cash Back offers 5% back up to $1,500 spend each quarter you activate on rotating categories like restaurants, gas stations and grocery stores, all of which San Diego is a leader in spending. After reaching the $1,500 spend cap quarterly, all other purchases earn 1%. In addition, you can receive double your cash back at the end of your first year, meaning you can earn up to $600 your first year with the 5% offer. Other cities that would benefit from the Discover it Cash Back include:

  • Seattle
  • Boston
  • Honolulu

“While credit card sign-up bonuses are still attractive, they’re not as generous as they were a few years ago,” says Rossman. “We’ve seen a shift from a big initial bang to more sustainable ongoing value. That’s more desirable for card issuers, because they want long-term relationships with their customers, and it can work well for cardholders as long as they pick the right cards for their lifestyles. In a bid to achieve top-of-wallet status, we’re seeing card issuers offering better rewards on habitual categories such as dining, transportation and streaming services.”

Methodology: The local spending information came from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ September 2019 Consumer Expenditure Survey. CreditCards.com grouped this data into key credit card rewards categories and added its own recommendations of the best rewards credit cards for each metro area, given local spending habits.


Laura is an editor and writer at CreditCards.com. She has written extensively on all things credit cards and works to bring you the most up-to-date analysis and advice. Laura’s work has been cited in such publications as the New York Times and Associated Press. You can reach her by e-mail at laura.mohammad@creditcards.com and on Twitter @creditcards_lm.


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