All information about Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer.
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 shopping. Or you could have your eye out for the right cash back credit card offer in preparation for spring renovations. Take a look at our favorite credit cards, as well as our advice on how to choose the right one for you.
How do 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, and if it’s a rewards card, the card issuer credits you with cash back, points or miles. You get a monthly bill, by email or online, with the 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.
Heads up that they are designed for short-term borrowing. Plan on borrowing for years to come with a credit card and 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.
There are ways to avoid that pothole, though, and ways to make credit cards benefit your whole financial picture. Continue reading for expert information on credit cards so that you can be prepared to make the best decision for your financial goals.
Why should I trust getting and using a credit card?
First off, you may have heard from your boss, grandma or doorman that credit cards are evil and to be avoided. Well, we’ll be as clear as possible: Smart credit card use can be a powerful part of your overall financial health.
Here’s why: Credit cards are the easiest and most direct way to improve your credit score. Every time you use your card and pay it off in full and on time each month, that gives your score a boost.
Now, you may be skittish because of past spending habits, and that’s understandable. But credit cards aren’t an all-or-nothing proposition. If you have a spending problem, simply use the card for a single, small purchase each month, and pay it off by the due date.
If the problem is that you have a bad habit of not paying your bills on time, that is another matter, although it’s fixable. Just put reminders on your calendar for your bills. Once you have been regularly paying your bills, you should be ready to apply for a credit card. Check at least one of your credit reports for errors, and check your credit score before applying. You don’t want to apply for a card that doesn’t accept your credit score.
When is the best time to apply for a credit card?
If you go strictly by the calendar, more people prefer to apply for new credit cards late in the year when holiday shopping gears up and juicy sign-up bonuses appear. Equifax data from 2008 to 2017 shows that credit card applications were 15% higher from October through December than January through March.
But what if your circumstances aren’t tied to the calendar and you have other reasons for getting a new card? Figuring out when to apply for a credit card depends on several factors, some that are within your control and others that are entirely external.
Questions to consider before applying for a credit card
What’s your current credit status?
Have you applied for any other lines of credit recently (mortgage, car loan, etc.) and do you expect to seek them out in the near future? Credit applications that trigger hard inquiries on your credit report will temporarily lower your credit score.
A credit card that offers pre-qualification without a hard inquiry can help you gauge your chances of approval, but the actual application would still affect your credit in the short term. The best time to apply for a credit card might be when you have no immediate plans for taking out other credit lines.
What kinds of offers are available?
A generous sign-up 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.
Just make sure the card fits your spending habits and makes sense as a long-term financial commitment. A big sign-up bonus coupled with a big annual fee could mean diminishing returns over the long haul.
How to choose a credit card
You understand now how cards work and why they are important, but how do you choose one? When you’re trying to select a credit card, there are a number of moving parts, including rewards, fees, 0% intro APR offers, and of course, your credit score. Here, we jump into the factors to consider and types of cards that are the best for your goals.
Choose a card that accepts your credit score
Card issuers primarily look at your credit score and income to decide whether you should be granted the card you want, so this is your first stop. Typically, the higher the score, the better the benefits and rewards, although good credit will get you access to the bulk of cards. If you are new to cards or are trying to improve your credit, there are also cards for you.
Types of cards to help with credit building
- No credit – This is a good choice if you have no credit history. Some of these cards offer rewards, but watch out for fees and the regular APR can be high. Suggested card: Discover it® Secured Credit Card
- Bad credit – You can find a card that accepts bad credit with no annual fee, but many of these cards have weird, little one-off fees that you need to watch out for. The regular APR will almost certainly be high, although some offer rewards. Suggested card: Indigo® Platinum Mastercard®
- Fair credit – If you are trying to improve your credit into the good or excellent category, a card that accepts fair or average credit is a good choice. There may be an annual fee, regular APR may be higher, and a 0% intro APR is unlikely. Suggested card: Credit One Bank® Platinum Rewards Visa
Bottom line: Pick a card that has a high likelihood of accepting your credit score. Your opportunity to get that amazing cash back card or airline card might need to come another day.
Are you looking for rewards?
Prime reasons for getting a credit card today are to earn rewards and benefits. Whether you are looking to travel in 2021 or you would like to earn some cash back for your spending, there are myriad types of cards to choose from. Benefits such as different kinds of insurance, travel credits and airport lounge access are also often available. There are also sign-up bonuses to consider, which can make your new card well worth it.
Types of cards for earning rewards
- Travel – General purpose travel cards are great for the traveler who craves flexibility. A few come with no annual fee, although the sign-up bonus on those can be lower. Benefits can include cancellation insurance and other features. Suggested card: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
- Co-branded – Co-branded cards can include joint ventures between card issuers and airlines, hotel brands, stores and even Amazon.com. You often earn boosted rewards when you shop with the brand. Suggested card: United℠ Explorer Card
- Cash back – There is a broad range of cash back cards, including flat-rate cards, rotating category cards and tiered category cash back cards, each with their own advantages. For example, the consumer who wants to earn rewards without thinking about which card to use would enjoy a flat-rate card, while the cardholder who is looking to maximize rewards might consider a tiered or rotating category card. Suggested card: Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
Bottom line: Do the math and make sure your choice of card will be used to its fullest potential. For example, if you aren’t loyal to a specific airline, why are you choosing an airline card?
Pay attention to fees and penalties
When choosing a credit card, be mindful of such charges as annual fees and foreign transaction fees. There can also be penalty APRs and late fees to worry about.
Cards without certain fees
- No annual fee – If you are an occasional card user or just don’t treasure the idea of paying a fee each year for the honor of holding the card, take a look at cards with no annual fee. Keep in mind that some annual fee cards waive the fee the first year. Suggested card: Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
- No foreign transaction fee – Increasingly, travel cards waive these fees, and Discover and Capital One have long offered all of their products without a foreign transaction fee. These cards are ideal for overseas travel and making purchases that run through a foreign bank. Suggested card: Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
- Other fees – Some cards offer no late fee the first time and no penalty APR, such as the Discover cards, so check the card’s Schumer Box for these goodies. Suggested card: Discover it® chrome
Bottom line: Not all fees should necessarily be avoided at all costs (and you probably can’t, anyway). For example, if you are willing to pay an annual fee, you may get better benefits and rewards and actually come out ahead financially.
Do you have credit card debt?
Whether you have a large purchase coming up, a balance on an older card or you just have a habit of carrying your balance over to the next month, 0% intro APR cards and low interest products can be good options. The 0% intro APR cards typically offer that rate for 6 months to 18 months, while the low interest offers are usually ongoing.
0% intro APR and low interest cards
- Purchases – These are excellent cards for when you face a large, upcoming purchase and you want to avoid paying interest for a period of time. Suggested card: American Express Cash Magnet® Card
- Balance transfers – These are ideal when you have debt on older cards and you want to pay them down while not paying interest for a period of time. Suggested card: Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
- Low interest – Low interest cards usually offer a range that is variable, but if you are a low risk, rock-bottom rates can be yours. For example, the Discover it cards’ rates are typically among the lowest of national brands. Suggested card: Discover it® Cash Back
Bottom line: Most cards’ regular interest rates are variable, and even if the card’s rate starts on the low end, you may be granted a higher rate for a number of reasons, including if you show yourself to be a credit risk.
Are you in the market for a specialty card?
There are other types of cards to choose from, such as cards that offer special features for the college student and cards that offer rewards specific to the consumer in business.
Business and student cards
- Student cards – These often offer competitive rewards, although a sign-up bonus is rare. Annual fees are a rarity, but credit limits are typically low, depending on your income. Suggested card: Discover it® Student Cash Back
- Business credit cards – These aren’t just for the owner of a business – the solopreneur or gig worker can also benefit. These cards are good for sorting out your personal from your business expenses, and there’s a strong likelihood of rewards offered. Suggested card: American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card
Bottom line: Heads up that business cards aren’t required to offer the legal protections of consumer cards, and student cards are basically the same as their mainstream counterparts, but without the sign-up bonus or credit limit. That said, the features of a business card or student card may outweigh those considerations.
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 network and each offering a different type of rewards (cash back, travel rewards, etc.). This should make it easier to tailor your earnings to your spending patterns and enjoy greater variety and flexibility in how you redeem rewards. Having two cards with different networks also increases the likelihood that you will have a card that will be accepted by a merchant.
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 allows you to 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 them. 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.
Expert takes: what to watch out for with credit cards
We checked in with experts about surprising aspects of cards. Here’s what they had to say:
Choose rewards wisely
“It’s really easy to get wowed by a reward card’s earning rate – our brains like to equate ‘bigger number’ with ‘more cash back’ or ‘better card.’ But in truth, you want to choose a rewards card that best aligns with where you spend most, not necessarily one with the highest earning rate. A card with a 5% earning rate on travel isn’t going to do much for you if you don’t travel very often! A card that offers 3% back on groceries, on the other hand, could end up creating much more value over your average year.”
Editor’s pick: Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Annual fee vs. perks
“One surprising thing to think about when choosing a credit card is the annual cost. Some of the higher-end credit cards that offer perks will have an annual fee. If you want one of these cards, calculate how much money you’ll save by using the perks vs. the cost you’re paying for the card.”
Editor’s pick: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
What’s the difference between a credit report and a credit score?
We mentioned that your credit score directly impacts whether you can get a card. But what is it, and how does it differ from a credit report?
Credit reports: These reports are generated by the 3 major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. They collect credit-related data from lenders, who send your payment habits to the credit bureaus. You can get your free credit reports once a year from AnnualCreditReport.com.
Credit scores:There are 2 primary scoring models – the primary one, FICO, and the newer one, VantageScore. Both provide the credit bureaus with models for how your credit habits are weighted, and the bureaus in turn generate your score. Score ranges are 300-850, with the higher the number the better. You can get your FICO score from a number of sources, including for free from many credit card issuers and from FICO itself, which charges a fee.
What are the most popular credit cards?
The reasons why you choose a credit card can vary widely. But whether you want a cash back card or travel perks, we all want a quality product. Well, J.D. Power comes through every year with its J.D. Power U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Survey, designed to tell us where each of the national credit card issuers stand with customers.
This year, American Express led the national credit card issuers, with Discover as a close second. At the bottom were U.S. Bank and Credit One Bank, with scores of 786 and 739 respectively. Here are the top 7:
|Credit Card Issuer||Satisfaction Score|
|Bank of America||812|
Source: J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Survey
Comparing the best credit cards
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card: Best for low interest
The Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card has a low regular APR of 13.99%-23.99%, but it also offers 0% intro APR for 12 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers made within the first 60 days. The cash rewards are quite good, with a competitive sign-up bonus of $200 online cash rewards after a $1,000 spend within the first 90 days, as well as tiered rewards of 3% cash back on your choice of category and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs. If you’re a big spender in these categories, you may want to look at another card, because there’s a $2,500 spend limit on combined 3% and 2% categories. It’s 1% after that. Ideal for: the spender who wants it all.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Best for rewards
Cardholders earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%) and 3% back at U.S. gas stations and on transit. For those who aren’t sure whether they spend enough on groceries to justify this card’s $95 annual fee, the Blue Cash Preferred has a little sister, the Blue Cash Everyday. Ideal for: the frugal parent.
Discover it® Cash Back: Best for rotating category cash back
The flagship of the Discover it cards, the Discover it Cash Back rewards you with 5% cash back on rotating categories such as restaurants and gas stations up to $1,500 a quarter (quarterly sign-up required; 1% after maximum spend). That’s $75 earned a quarter if you hit the maximum spend, or $300 for the year. With this no annual fee card, Discover will match your cash back at the end of your first year, making that $300 into $600 back for the first year. Also, get 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 14 months. Then it’s 11.99%-22.99% variable, which is a super low starting rate. Ideal for: the shopping optimizer.
Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Best for dining
There’s a reason this card is a staple in the cash back market. Great rewards rates, an achievable sign-up bonus and its lack of an annual fee make it a solid pick for anyone, from credit card first-timers to rewards maximizers. Cardholders earn cash back on every purchase: 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on drugstores and dining at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery), and 1.5% on everything else. Plus, if you spend $500 within the first 3 months of opening an account, you’ll receive a $200 bonus. Ideal for: the everyday cash back seeker
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express: Best for no annual fee
While there are plenty of no annual fee cards on the market, this one also offers high rewards rates on everyday purchases. You’ll earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 in purchases each year, then 1%) and 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores. However, its ongoing rewards don’t match that of the Blue Cash Preferred. Ideal for: occasional shoppers.
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for starter credit card
If you’re new to the world of credit, you’ll probably want a card that’s both lucrative and easy to manage. The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card fits that bill, and it offers a nice bonus for new cardmembers. However, if you’re looking for a flat-rate cash back card, you can find rates higher than 1.5%. Ideal for: the new cardholder.
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card: Best for balance transfers
Get 0% intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers completed within the first 4 months, which is one of the longest offers in the industry (it’s 14.74%-24.74% variable after that). In addition, get 0% intro APR on new purchases for 18 months (it’s 14.74%-24.74% variable after that). Sadly, the Citi Diamond Preferred doesn’t offer cash back, points or miles, including no sign-up bonus. That limits your options once the 0% intro APR offers end. Ideal for: the consumer paying down debt.
Citi® Double Cash Card: Best for flat-rate cash back
This card possesses one of the best flat-rate cash back offers. Earn 1% back when you purchase, then earn another 1% back when you pay for the item. That’s a better rate than many other cash back cards with no annual fee. The Citi Double Cash offers a generous 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months (then it’s 13.99%-23.99% variable). There’s no 0% intro APR on purchases, however. Ideal for: the shopper who wants options.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best for travel
Receive up to $100 credit on Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, and earn 60,000 bonus miles after a $3,000 spend in the first 3 months, which is worth $600 in travel. The annual fee of $95 is not waived the first year. Ideal for: the traveler looking for options.
American Express® Gold Card: Best for no blackout dates
With no blackout dates and no expiration on points, the American Express Gold Card is a card with tremendous flexibility. But it has more, with excellent rewards and a number of annual credits. The annual fee of $250 may not be what you were hoping for, but you’ll want to weigh the advantages, such as an $100 activity credit on vacations over $3,000 booked through American Express Travel, an up to $120 dining credit and Hotel Collection benefits with a $100 hotel credit for on-site charges. Ideal for: the flexible traveler.
Secured Mastercard® from Capital One: Best for no credit history
The problem with many starter credit cards is a combination of high fees and low credit limits. That’s why the Secured Mastercard from Capital One is a great choice – there’s no annual fee and the credit limit will be anywhere between $200 and $1,000, depending on how much you provide as a security deposit. Ideal for: the credit builder.
Discover it® Student Cash Back: Best for students
In addition to unusually strong rewards, the Discover it Student Cash Back offers a $20 statement credit for up to the next 5 years when you get at least a 3.0 GPA. This card is also light on fees, including no annual fee. Like the Discover it® Cash Back, this card gives you 5% cash back on rotating categories for up to $1,500 spend each quarter (quarterly sign-up required; 1% after maximum spend). In addition, Discover will match your cash back at the end of your first year. Ideal for: the consumer looking for college-related perks.
American Express® Business Gold Card: Best for introductory bonus
The current introductory bonus is double what it previously was: For a limited time, earn a whopping 70,000 Membership Rewards after you spend $10,000 in eligible purchases with your card in the first three months of card ownership. You can redeem those points in a variety of ways, including booking travel on the American Express website or transferring your points to one of American Express’s many airline transfer partners. On the other hand, the $295 annual fee is more expensive than most. Be sure that the card’s bonus categories match your expenses well enough to make up that cost each year.
Delta Skymiles® Gold American Express Card: Best for airline miles
Cardholders earn 2x miles on Delta purchases, but you don’t have to be a frequent traveler to rack up airline miles. Also earn 2 miles on every dollar spent at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery, as well as at U.S. supermarkets. Plus, Delta Skymiles are more valuable than the average airline mile – we estimate Delta Skymiles are worth 1.2 cents per mile. Complementing the far-reaching rewards structure is a long list of perks and benefits including priority boarding, purchase protection and your first checked bag for free on Delta flights. The introductory bonus is strong for the required spend – 35,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months. There’s a $99 annual fee, although it’s waived the first year. Ideal for: the globe-trotter.
Credit One Bank® Visa® for Rebuilding Credit: Best for bad credit
The process of rebuilding credit can be daunting. However, this card’s features like the ability to choose your own payment date and set custom credit limit alerts make it a bit easier to stick to your goals. You’ll also have free online access to your Experian credit score, making it easier to track your progress. Eligible essentials like gas, groceries, and phone and cable bills earn 1% cash back. Ideal for: the consumer looking to rebuild credit.
Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card: Best for sign-up bonus
Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening an account. The plethora of perks, credits and rewards that come with the Chase Sapphire Reserve are sure to please the luxury traveler. A $300 annual travel credit, access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to a $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® credit are just a few of the added perks cardholders can enjoy. The $550 annual fee is steep, although those who often travel and like to do so in style will get that value and more. Ideal for: the big spender – and rewards seeker.
American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card: Best for business
Earn 2% cash back on all eligible purchases up to $50,000 each calendar year, then it’s 1% cash back. The cash back you earn is automatically credited to your statement. You also have the opportunity to spend beyond your credit limit with Expanded Buying Power. The American Express Blue Business Cash Card offers 0% intro APR for 12 months on purchases, then it’s 13.24%-19.24% variable, which is quite low for a regular APR rate. Also, this card has no annual fee. Like most other business credit cards, this card doesn’t have a 0% intro APR offer on balance transfers. Ideal for: the solopreneur.
What is the best credit card in March 2021?
With more time spent at home during the pandemic, two things are happening:
- We are saving money.
- We see the cracks in the walls.
If you are considering doing some renovating, you aren’t alone. In an ongoing study by The Farnsworth Group, 65% of American do-it-yourselfers said in January 2021 that they will probably or definitely do projects around the house in the coming weeks.
There’s a credit card for that: the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card. This card offers 3% cash back on a category you can change each month, and yes, home improvements is one of the 6 categories to choose from. It also offers 2% on grocery store and wholesale club purchases (up to $2,500 spent on 2% and 3% categories each quarter, then it’s 1%). There’s also a sign-up bonus of $200 after a $1,000 spend within the first 90 days.
If you have some residual debt from the holidays, the Cash Rewards card can also help with that. Get 0% intro APR for 12 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers made within the first 60 days, then it’s 13.99%-23.99% variable.
Of course, just because we love the Bank of America Cash Rewards, that doesn’t mean it’s the best card for you. Simply put, the best credit cards are the products that best suit your needs. Below we talk about other great cards that could work for you.
What’s next: Applying for a credit card
Now that you have an idea of which card you’d like to pursue, it’s time to apply. Here’s how that works:
- Look for the card’s category at the top navigation bar of our site. (Hint: If you know the card issuer, you can just direct your attention to that page.) Alternatively, you can call the issuer.
- Click the bright blue button on the right of where your card is presented. This will direct you to the issuer’s site.
- Fill out the online application. You may be asked for your Social Security number, your residency status, citizenship and other personal details.
- You may be approved right then and there – yay! Or you may be told that a decision is coming. If you are rejected, you will get an answer to why in the mail in about 7-10 business days.
- Don’t apply for cards in quick succession, because it can harm your credit score for a period of time. Instead, be deliberate about your choice, and if you were rejected, understand why the first issuer made that decision. Then, look at cards that you have a greater chance of getting.