Best Credit Cards of July 2018

The best credit cards will pay you cash back, offer luxury perks, provide travel rewards, and help you quickly pay off existing balances. Our experts analyzed 3,476 credit cards to find the 16 best credit card offers from our partners. Explore our top picks and start getting rewarded.

The best credit cards will pay you cash back, offer luxury perks, provide travel rewards, and help you quickly pay off existing balances. Our experts analyzed 3,476 credit cards to find the 16 best credit card offers from our partners. Explore our top picks and start getting rewarded.

Summary

Here are the best credit cards offers in each category

Updated: July 20, 2018

Filter Cards by Category

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

Best Rewards Credit Card

Best Travel Rewards Credit Card

Best Cash Back Credit Card for Everyday Spending

Best Cash Back Credit Card for Flat-Rate Rewards

Best No Annual Fee Credit Card

Best Sign-up Bonus Credit Card

Best Balance Transfer Credit Card

Best 0% APR Credit Card

Best Low Interest Credit Card

Best No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Card

Best Airline Miles Credit Card

Best Business Credit Card

Best Credit Card for Fair Credit

Best Credit Card for Bad Credit

Best Student Credit Card

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 warrant 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 8 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.

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.

Credit not its best?

Cards for consumers with bad or thin credit can help with this.

Willing to strategize your spending?

A couple of cards offer quarterly categories of 5% cash back – such categories as home improvement stores, wholesale clubs and Amazon.com. Load up on spending each quarter for rotating categories.

Specific categories you often use?

Some cards, such as the Amex Blue Cash cards, 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.

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.

Here is a summary of our top picks in an easy to read table! If you have any questions, feel free to email us at editors@creditcards.com.

Best credit cards comparison:

Credit CardCategoryAnnual FeeReview Score
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® CardRewards$03.7 / 5
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit CardTravel Rewards$95 waived first year4.4 / 5
Discover it® Cash BackEveryday Spending$04.1 / 5
Capital One® Quicksilver® CardFlat-rate Rewards$03.5 / 5
Chase Freedom Unlimited®No Annual Fee$03.4 / 5
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardSign-up Bonus$95 waived first year4.2 / 5
Discover it® Balance TransferBalance Transfers$04.3 / 5
Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card0% Intro APR$0N/A
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit CardGas$03.7 / 5
Chase Freedom®Low Interest$03.4 / 5
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit CardNo Foreign Transaction Fee$03.4 / 5
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American ExpressAirline Miles$95 waived first year3.2 / 5
Capital One® Spark® Cash for BusinessBusiness$95 waived first year4.4 / 5
Capital One® Platinum Credit CardFair Credit$0N/A
Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit CardBad Credit$0-$99N/A
Discover it® Student chromeCollege Students$03.9 / 5

A Guide to Finding the Perfect Credit Card for You


The card you choose for your financial life is as individual as the clothes you wear or the car you drive. You might be on the hunt for the perfect balance transfer card. Or you could have your eye on the right travel card for you. Whatever the reason, the best card for you awaits. At CreditCards.com, we researched and evaluated hundreds of offers to help you find the best credit cards across several different categories. Along with our picks for the best cards, we go over a few things to know about the world of credit cards. Here, we look at:

Whether you aren't sure how many cards you should own or you want to understand what factors to consider when choosing the best credit card, we can help.


How do credit cards work?

Credit cards provide you with a line of credit that can be used anywhere credit cards are accepted. Credit is essentially borrowed money from the card issuer, usually capped at a dollar amount (known as your credit limit). All credit cards carry an Annual Percentage Rate (APR), also known as the card’s interest rate. You’re not obligated to pay your entire credit card bill in full every month, but if you carry a balance, you’ll accumulate interest based on your APR.

Credit cards do have varying monthly minimum payments, which you need to pay every month. Failure to make minimum payments can raise your APR and potentially incur fees.

By paying bills on time and using credit wisely, you can improve your credit score, which indicates creditworthiness. A higher credit score can also help you get approved (and get lower rates) when buying a home, car, or taking out a loan.

Editor's thoughts on the best credit cards

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

Best Rewards Credit Card. The revamped Propel card is already making a big splash in the rewards scene. It has everything a rewards aficionado looks for: a stalwart sign-up bonus of 30K points for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months, along with generous rewards of 3x points on travel, dining, and popular streaming services. Most impressively, it does all this without charging an annual fee. This easily makes it one of the top offers of any credit card this summer.

Why we like it: The Propel punches way above its weight class with the magnitude of its intro bonus and rewards – these are exceptional for a credit card with no annual fee.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards

Best Travel Rewards Credit Card. The Venture Rewards' sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles after a $3,000 spend within 3 months competes nicely with similar cards, and its $95 annual fee is waived the first year. There's no foreign transaction fee, miles don't expire while your account is active and there's no limit to how much you can earn.

Why we like it: With a bodacious flat rate of 2X miles on all purchases and the excellent 10X miles for hotels through hotels.com/Venture, this card is hands down the best travel rewards card, in our opinion.

Discover it® Cash Back

Best Cash Back Credit Card for Everyday Spending. Discover's hallmark feature of matching all cash back earned in the first year remains one of the most valuable offers in credit cards. Activate each quarter to take advantage of its 5% cash back on an eclectic mix of rotating categories.

Why we like it: The return from its first-year cashback match feature can outshine the sign-up bonuses offered by competing cards, especially for heavy spenders.

Capital One® Quicksilver®

Best Cash Back Credit Card for Flat-rate Rewards. The Quicksilver offers a $150 bonus after a $500 spend within 3 months of card membership, which is a lower spend than the Blue Cash Everyday. Also, it features a flat rate on all purchases of 1.5% back.

Why we like it: Because it offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases and has the bonus feature of no annual fee, this card lands squarely in the category of best cash back card for flat-rate spending. If you want to shop without worrying about where you are or what you're buying, this card is for you.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Best No Annual Fee Credit Card. The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers a competitive 1.5% back on all purchases and $150 after a $500 spend within 3 months of card membership.

Why we like it: For those of us who don't want to get bogged down by an annual fee, this card is the one to choose. Its flat rate cash back is competitive, as is its sign-up bonus, and it has the added feature of allowing you to sync it with a Sapphire card to take advantage of those cards' bonuses on travel redemptions through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Chase Sapphire Preferred®

Best Sign-up Bonus Credit Card. The Sapphire Preferred allows you to earn 2X points on worldwide travel and restaurants and 1X point on all other purchases. It also has a 50,000-point sign-up bonus that kicks in once you spend $4,000 within your first 3 months of card membership.

Why we like it: All sign-up bonuses are not created equal – with the Sapphire Preferred, the 50,000-point bonus is actually worth $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Also, you can earn another $62.50 in travel value when you earn 5,000 points for the first purchase your first authorized user makes.

Discover it® Balance Transfer

Best Balance Transfer Credit Card. This card has an exceptionally long 0% intro APR period of 18 months on balance transfers, after which a reasonable regular APR of 13.74% - 24.74% variable kicks in. For no annual fee, it is a fantastic value on balance transfers with robust rewards as an added bonus.

Why we like it: The combination of its long intro APR offer and lower than average regular APR makes the Discover it Balance Transfer the frontrunner of balance transfer credit cards.

Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card

Best Intro 0% APR Credit Card. The Wells Fargo Platinum Visa's lengthy 18-month intro 0% APR is complemented by a regular APR of 16.90% - 26.74% variable. Although the card lacks some of the bells and whistles of other credit cards, it stands out as a zero interest option due to the sheer length of its introductory offer.

Why we like it: The Wells Fargo Platinum Visa offers a nice and long 18 months of 0% APR on both purchases and balance transfers.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best Gas Rewards Credit Card. Cash back on everyday purchases is the hallmark of the Bank of America Cash Rewards, which earns you 3% on gas and 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs up to $2,500 a quarter combined. It's 1% back on all other purchases. Also, you earn $150 back after a $500 spend within 90 days of card membership.

Why we like it: This card's focus on gas purchases gives it the oomph you'll need for road trips, grocery trips and more. For that reason, we call this our best gas card.

Chase Freedom®

Best Low Interest Credit Card. Chase Freedom offers 5% back on rotating categories, similar to the Discover it Cash Back, with one difference – it offers a sign-up bonus of $150 after a $500 spend within the first 3 months, rather than double cash back after the first year. The advantage? You get your bonus back sooner.

Why we like it: We call this card our best low interest card because it's ideal for the occasional balance and it has a strong 0% intro APR of 15 months on both purchases and balance transfers (then 16.74% - 25.49% variable).

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card

Best No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Card. The BofA Travel Rewards card is a straightforward card that comes with handsome rewards. It earns a consistent and unlimited 1.5X points per dollar on every purchase, and provides a 20,000 point sign-up bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days.

Why we like it: With no foreign transaction fee and no annual fee, it's easy to use this card to earn rewards on international trips.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Best Airline Miles Credit Card. Earn 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months, as well as 2X miles back on eligible direct purchases with Delta. The card also comes with perks like Priority Boarding and the ability to check your first bag for free on Delta flights.

Why we like it: You get a healthy amount of bonus miles right off the bat and the priority boarding and free first checked bag just pile on superior travel benefits, making this our favorite airline card.

Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

Best Business Credit Card. 2% cash back on all purchases is among the best value out there and can translate into huge savings for businesses that make substantial purchases. With the $95 annual fee waived for the first year, the Spark Cash is offers a compelling value for any business, small or large. That's not to mention the $500 sign-up bonus after $4,500 in purchases made in the first 3 months.

Why we like it: The 2% unlimited cash back of the Spark Cash means business owners can quickly rack up the dollars from using this card.

Capital One® Platinum

Best Credit Card for Fair Credit. The Capital One Platinum accepts consumers with credit that's not the best, as low as a 580 credit score, making it ideal for credit building. If you pay it off in full and on time each month, you have a good shot at getting a higher credit line after your first 5 months of on-time payments.

Why we like it: This card doesn't have the hidden fees that you'll sometimes find with a card that accepts fair or bad credit. And with no annual fee, the Capital One Platinum is our favorite among the fair credit cards.

Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card

Best Credit Card for Bad Credit. Earn 1% back on select everyday purchases such as gas, groceries, and services such as cellphone, internet, cable and satellite TV. This card is perfect for the consumer with a score that's under 670 out of a scale of 300-850, and Credit One automatically monitors you to see if you qualify for a higher credit line.

Why we like it: This card is great training for a consumer whose credit isn't the best but wants to practice with a rewards card.

Discover it® Student chrome

Best Student Credit Card. College students can benefit from the chrome card's 2% back at restaurants and gas stations, up to the quarterly cap of $1,000 in combined purchases. Backed by one of the leading credit card networks, this is a great option for students looking to build credit without having to worry about an annual fee.

Why we like it: This card is truly tailored for students. In addition to its generous cash back, it also gives students a $20 statement credit for each 3.0+ GPA school year for up to 5 years.

Credit cards we considered in our research

Out of the 3,476 cards we analyzed to get to the top 16, here's how it broke down by category (certain credit cards overlap across several categories).

TypeNumber of Credit Cards
Unsecured3,191
No annual fee2,744
Rewards points1,640
Excellent credit1,526
Good credit1,478
0% introductory APR1,002
No foreign transaction fee938
Low interest869
Cash back682
Gas390
Business368
Travel300
Bad credit269
No credit history264
Secured228
Fair credit161
Airline148
Student109
Hotel42
Luxury35
Charge card27

What is my credit score?

Your credit score is basically your financial report card. It's used by lenders to assess your creditworthiness to decide what lending products to grant you and the terms of those products. For example, if you have a FICO score of at least 740 on a scale of 300-850, you have a greater chance of getting the best interest rates on a car loan.

Here's how it works:

  1. Your credit habits are reported to the 3 major credit bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian, by your lenders.
  2. Those credit habits are used by credit score models FICO and VantageScore to assign you a score.
  3. Prospective lenders, landlords, insurance agencies and others look at that credit score to assess your creditworthiness.
  4. You are granted or denied lending products based in part on the score you've been assigned.

How to get a credit score

  1. Get your VantageScore for free through CreditCards.com. Vantage follows 6 criteria, including on-time payments and available credit. You can also get your TransUnion credit report through CreditCards.com.
  2. Enjoy getting your score for free. Many credit card issuers offer free access to your credit score as a benefit of holding one of their cards. If this is a deal-breaker, find out which cards you are looking at might offer credit scores. Many offer the score once a month.
  3. Access your FICO score. The dominant scoring model, FICO sells its scores for about $20 each. There are three scores available, one for each of the major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. There is no need to check all three simultaneously.

What makes up a credit score?

Payment history
On-time payments, or payment history, figure heavily into the dominant scoring model, FICO, making up 35% of the score's criteria pie. Payment history is extremely influential in the VantageScore model.

Amounts owed
How much you owe compared to how much credit you have available makes up 30% of the FICO pie. It's highly influential in the VantageScore, while available credit is less influential. Total balances or debt are considered moderately influential.

Length of credit history
How long you have been building credit is a consideration to a lesser degree, making up 15% of the FICO scoring model. Age of accounts is highly influential with VantageScore.

New credit
This metric makes up 10% of your FICO score, which means you'll want to avoid opening new accounts unnecessarily. VantageScore ranks this as less influential.

Credit mix
Ten percent of your FICO score, you are encouraged to have a mix of credit types such as revolving (typically credit cards) and installment (such as mortgages and car loans). Credit mix is highly influential in VantageScore.

What are the credit score ranges?

FICO CategoryFICO RangeVantageScore CategoryVantageScore Range
Exceptional800-850Excellent750-850
Very Good740-799Good700-749
Good670-739Fair650-699
Fair580-669Poor550-649
Poor300-579Very Poor300-549

Most popular types of credit cards

We asked cardholders what they love most about their favorite credit cards and why they chose them. Overwhelmingly, rewards ruled. In the poll, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates Jan. 19-22, 2017, 1,003 consumers were polled, with a subset of 670 cardholders.

Peoples' favorite credit card benefits


  • Rewards/cash back - 40%

  • Low interest - 21%

  • Accepted most places - 16%

  • Easy to get - 8%

  • Low fees - 5%

  • Customer service - 4%

  • Other - 3%

CreditCards.com poll

Reasons people choose their favorite credit cards


  • Rewards/cash back - 24%

  • Low interest rate - 18%

  • Easy to get - 14%

  • Accepted most places - 12%

  • Brand of card - 7%

  • Low fees - 5%

  • Customer service - 4%

  • Sign-up bonus - 2%

  • Other - 9%

CreditCards.com poll

More of our top picks

Want to do more research? Check out our findings for more specific types of credit card rewards like travel, cash back, and sign-up bonuses.

Benefits you can get with your credit card

Credit cards offer a host of benefits, ranging from lost luggage reimbursement to access to the card issuer's travel portal, complete with boosted points.

Travel benefits

Whether you are on the road or traveling by plane, travel cards can provide unexpected benefits worthy of your attention. The result? Hassle-free travel and even saved dollars with such benefits as Chase Sapphire Reserve's $300 annual travel credit. Here are 8 top travel benefits:

  • Free checked bags
  • Access to airport lounges
  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Roadside dispatch
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance
  • Airline fee credit
  • Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck

Rewards benefits

Products such as travel cards, general-purpose rewards cards and cashback cards can provide superior savings with outstanding sign-up bonuses on most rewards cards, free breakfast at select hotel brands such as Hilton Honors, and even access to special events through such programs as Mastercard's World Elite program.

  • Signup bonus
  • Purchase rewards in miles, points or cash back
  • Points for travel, gift cards, merchandise or entertainment
  • Percentage boost for use of issuer's travel portal
  • Special benefits at member hotels, including early check-in and late check-out, as well as free breakfast
  • Access to special sporting, theater and dining events, as well as other experiences

Miscellaneous benefits

Cards on the market today have a multitude of features and advantages, from no foreign transaction fee to U.S.-based customer service. Look carefully at what the cards you are eyeing have to offer, because the possibilities may surprise you.

  • Zero liability protection
  • 24/7 concierge
  • 24/7 customer service
  • U.S.-based customer service
  • Shopping portal
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee
  • EMV chip technology
  • Cellphone insurance

How to use your credit card effectively

  1. How will you spend on your card? Figure out if you are a big foodie, always going to new restaurants or buying groceries, or if you like to max out your points on rotating categories.
  2. How will you pay on your card? If you feel certain you can pay in full each month, a rewards card is a great choice, because you'll be saving on interest fees. If you need to get a handle on your debt and you are ready to pay down on your balance, look at a balance transfer card.
  3. How will you save on your card? Look at whether you will actually use the points or miles your card gives you. If you aren't loyal to a specific brand, a general purpose travel card is best. If you want statement credits, look at cashback cards.
  4. What's the worst thing you can do with your card? If you forget to pay your bill on time, it's a promise you'll set back your credit score, possibly to a lower tier.
  5. What's the best thing you can do with your card? If you pay in full and on time each month, putting at least a small charge on it, your credit score can get an incredible boost within a few short months.
  6. What's the best thing you can do with your card (Part II)? Spend as much as you can on your card (only what you were going to spend anyway and if you have the money to pay it back by the due date) to maximize your rewards earnings.

How to make the most out of each type of card

How you use your card depends on the type of card you go with. For example, you'll want to use a secured card primarily for building credit, while a travel card is great for earning miles. Here are 14 types of cards and how best to use them.

Secured

What it is – With this card, you put down a refundable deposit that you use as collateral for your credit limit. So, if you put down $200, you would likely have a credit limit of $200. The deposit is returned to you when you close the account or you are upgraded to an unsecured card, minus any balance you have.
How to use it – Rather than using this card for convenience, focus on building your credit. Just make sure the card issuer will report your good credit habits to the 3 major credit bureaus, and be sure to pay in full and on time each month.
Who it's for – If you have no credit, limited credit, or bad to poor credit, a secured card is a good way to improve your standing with lenders.

Student

What it is – Student cards typically accept limited or fair credit, but in terms of how they work, they are actually quite similar to other cards. For example, the Discover it® Student Cash Back offers the same 5% back on up to $1,500 in purchases made in rotating categories when you enroll each quarter and matched cash back at the end of your first year as the Discover it Cash Back. In fact, the only difference between the two is that the Student Cash Back has a good grades reward – $20 earned for 3.0 or better for up to the next 5 years.
How to use it – This is a good card to practice on. Take advantage of the rewards, but pay in full at the end of each payment period.
Who it's for – Just starting out? This kind of card is a good option for you, although if you are under 21, you will need to have independent income to get any credit card.

Fair

What it is – This type of card accepts credit typically between 580-670 on a scale of 300-850, with 850 as the best. While the options are more limited for someone who has fair credit, there are still some decent cards out there, such as the Credit One Bank Platinum Visa with Cash Back Rewards, which offers 1% back on eligible purchases.
How to use it – This is an excellent option for building credit while earning rewards. Make sure you pay on time and in full each month.
Who it's for – Sometimes, life gets in the way. Maybe you are trying to jump start your credit, or you made a late payment and your credit score crashed down around you. This kind of card helps you repair the damage within as little as a few months.

Balance transfer

What it is – With a balance transfer card, you can pay off a balance from an older card at an intro rate of 0% APR or a rate lower than the regular rate of the card. Rate periods from major cards can range from 6 months to 21 months.
How to use it – Check out whether there is a balance transfer fee (some BT cards don't have one) to avoid charges of up to 3%, and make sure you choose a card with terms you can live up to. Have a plan to pay the balance off by the end of the intro offer, and if you'll need to go beyond the end of the intro's term, make sure you pay more than the minimum.
Who it's for – If you are carrying a balance on one or more credit cards, and you have the self-control to pay off more than the minimum each month, a balance transfer card might be a good choice. However, avoid transferring the balance as each BT offer ends – issuers may take notice, and your debt will only build up.

Cash back

What it is – A cash back card is a product that allows you to earn cash in relation to how much you spend on the card. They can often come with a sign-up bonus, in which you pay a minimum spend within a set amount of time, as well as a percentage you earn either for specific types of purchases or all purchases, as in the case of a flat rate card.
How to use it – The most important thing you can do with a cash back card is to pay in full and on time each month, so you aren't paying interest charges, which would negate any savings you would otherwise have. Another trick: Charge everything that you can on the card, but make sure there are no convenience fees and that you can afford the charges.
Who it's for – This type of card is good for someone who wants to try out rewards, but may not have much experience with them. A good beginning cash back card is the Chase Freedom Unlimited, because it offers a flat rate on all purchases, unlike tiered cards, such as the Blue Cash Everyday or cards with rotating categories, such as the Discover it Cash Back.

Travel

What it is – A travel card allows you to earn points or miles for certain types of spending that you can redeem for types of travel. Sometimes called hotel or airline cards, travel cards can reward you for loyalty to specific airlines or hotels, or they can be general purpose, allowing you to earn rewards for all manner of spending.
How to use it – Study the sign-up bonus and make sure you can spend (and pay back) the minimum limit within the required timeframe. Also, see if the rewards are ones you will actually use and enjoy. There's no point in getting a loyalty card, for example, if you don't frequent that hotel or airline.
Who it's for – A travel card requires a fair amount of organization, although there are cards for the consumer who wants to use it and forget it. This card is ideal for the consumer who will pay it off on time and in full each month, and will redeem enough to balance out the annual fee, which most of these cards have.

Business

What it is – A business card can be a credit card or a charge card, and will frequently offer rewards for business-focused categories, such as advertising, office supplies or utilities such as cellphone and internet bills.
How to use it – Because business cards will sometimes have a high annual fee, you'll want to check the ongoing rewards, sign-up bonus and benefits to see which card will benefit you most.
Who it's for – Check out the benefits, such as priority boarding and preferred seating, to see if they are experiences you will use. Also, if you have types of business expenses that fall in line with a card's rewards plan, that card may be a good choice. For example, the Ink Business Cash allows you to earn 5% back on such categories as office supply stores or utilities.

Luxury

What it is – A luxury card is usually a rewards card with a higher annual fee and more exclusive benefits. Superior benefits can include room upgrades, access to airport lounges, high-end gifts and 24/7 concierge service.
How to use it – The annual fee will likely be pricey, so you want to make sure you'll use it before you commit. Thoroughly research what the card offers in the way of rewards and benefits.
Who it's for – This is a great card for the traveler who doesn't love to travel. If you relish the idea of relaxing in an airport lounge rather than jostling with other travelers or enjoying room upgrades, this is a good card for you.

0% APR

What it is – A 0% APR card can offer 0% intro APR for purchases, balance transfers or both. Some favor purchases, such as the Capital One business cards; some only offer balance transfers, such as the Citi Double Cash; and others offer both, such as our favorite, the Discover it Cash Back.
How to use it – Whether you are using this card for purchases or balance transfers, read the fine print carefully, so you don't violate the terms. For example, there may be a 60-day deadline for making a balance transfer and avoiding a balance transfer fee. Also, plan to pay off the balance before the offer period ends.
Who it's for – This kind of card is good for the consumer who has a large purchase coming up or is trying to get ahead of a balance on another card.

Rewards

What it is – This is the catch-all term for cards with some form of rewards, whether miles, points or cash back. Surprisingly, you can find rewards among secured cards, cards with fair credit and even balance transfer products.
How to use it – No matter what type of rewards card you get, you'll want to pay in full and on time each month, partly to build or maintain your credit and partly to avoid interest charges.
Who it's for – A rewards card is perfect for someone who plans to actually use it for its intended purpose. Some, such as the Discover products, have no annual fee, but if the card you think you'll love has an annual fee, you want to make sure you will earn more rewards than the cost of the fee so that the card is worth your while.

No annual fee

What it is – A no annual fee card may not have the rewards or benefits of a card with an annual fee, but you might be surprised. For example, our favorite no annual fee card, Chase Freedom Unlimited, offers a flat 1.5% back on all purchase and a sign-up bonus of $150 after a $500 spend within 3 months.
How to use it – Just because a card has no annual fee, that doesn't mean there aren't other fees that can get in the way of your fun. Particularly with secured cards and bad and fair credit cards, you'll want to check for any surprises in the rates and fees section of the application.
Who it's for – If you don't plan to use the card much for rewards or you are using the card primarily to build credit, this is a good choice. That said, there are plenty of cards without an annual fee that are worth your while if you want to chase rewards, so check out what's available.

Gas

What it is – A gas card can offer rewards for everyday purchases, with boosted rewards for gas, or it can be a card that rewards loyalty for specific brands.
How to use it – Ideally, you want a card that has the rewards you'll most likely use. For example, with the Bank of America Cash Rewards card, you can earn 3% back on gas, 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, with a combined maximum of $2,500 each quarter.
Who it's for – Gas loyalty cards can require a lower credit score, so a gas card can be advantageous for someone looking to build credit. Also, if you spend a fair amount of time shuttling the kids to school and soccer practice, a card like the Bank of America Cash Rewards may be a good option.

Low interest

What it is – Some cards carry low interest, or at least lower than the national average, such as the Capital One VentureOne Rewards card, with a variable regular APR of 13.74%-23.74%. By comparison, the national average on cards is 16.96%.
How to use it – The best way to use a low interest card is to make sure it's a card you'll use for the original purpose, such as a balance transfer card. Low interest cards are good for balances, but you still want to pay more than the minimum each month.
Who it's for – If you find that you are a consumer who carries a balance, a card with low interest may be a good choice.

No foreign transaction fee

What it is – Cards without foreign transaction fees are common among travel rewards cards – you are more likely to find these fees among cash back cards. Because a foreign transaction fee can be 3% of the purchase, the savings can be sizeable.
How to use it – Foreign transaction fees apply to merchants that use foreign banks, so it can affect foreign travel or an online purchase. If there's no fee, then you simply do nothing except make the purchase.
Who it's for – These cards are a good choice for anyone who plans to travel overseas or shop online with merchants that use foreign banks.

How many credit cards should I own?

FICO discovered a bit of a surprise in 2012 when it looked at what it calls "high achievers," or consumers with a score of greater than 785 out of a possible 850. These consumers:

  • Have an average of 7 cards, both closed and open.
  • They have an average of 4 cards or loans with balances.
  • Some 58% didn't open a new account in the last year.
  • Their most recent account is an average of 28 months.
  • The oldest account is an average of 25 years.

What does this mean? Simply that it isn't that the most successful consumers are debt-free, but that they are responsible with their debt. Also, fewer accounts aren't necessarily better; rather it's how you handle the account that matters.

Example of a winning wallet

CardFeaturesUsed For
Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit CardOldest accountBuild credit
Gold Delta Skymiles from American Express2X miles on eligible Delta purchasesEarn Delta Skymiles
Capital One PlatinumFree authorized usersLet authorized users build credit

As you can see, each card has a purpose. But how do you keep up with payments and annual fees when you have this many cards?

How do I manage multiple credit cards?

Here's an example of a spreadsheet you can create to keep track of your credit card accounts. Below that, we've listed some tips to get you started with managing multiple credit cards.

CardAmount OwedDue DateWhen Paid
Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card$500Due 4/1/18Pd in full 3/10/18
Gold Delta Skymiles from American Express$25 min. due/$225 balanceDue 4/1/18Need to pay
Capital One Platinum$0Due date 4/2/18$0 owed
  1. Identify what you need a card for. Are you building credit? Would you like to get cash back? If you plan to have multiple rewards cards, figure out how you will use each one.
  2. Put your card expenses on your budget. You can have a row on the left for card expenses, a row for types of expenses in the middle and a row for expenses you pay out of your checking account on the right.
  3. Line the due dates up so that they are around the same time each month. Many card issuers will allow you to do this.
  4. Create a spreadsheet. Include the card name, the amount owed, the due date, and when it was paid. Plan to check it the same time each week to make sure you aren't missing any bills and that you aren't going over budget.
  5. Pay them off several times a month. This ensures that you don't pay interest and it keeps your credit utilization ratio low, which is good for your credit.

Typical fees and rates to watch out for

No matter how rewarding your card, it's crucial that you understand the rates and fees you could face depending on how you treat the card and how the card treats you. Don't let an annual fee sneak up on you or allow a late payment to slam you with a late fee. Here are 13 of the most common rates and fees.

Annual fee - Often your tradeoff for convenience or excellent rewards, especially prevalent in high-end rewards cards and credit-builder cards. However, there are plenty of cards without annual fees. This fee can go into the hundreds of dollars, but it's sometimes waived the first year.

Foreign transaction fee - Charged when you make a purchase that goes through a foreign bank, either online or while traveling. Typically 3%-5%, but products with no foreign transaction fee are becoming increasingly common.

Late fee - Charged to a borrower who misses their minimum payment by the payment deadline. Some cards waive the first late fee, but in many cases it can be costly.

Balance transfer fee - Charged by a credit card company to transfer a balance from one account to another. Typically a fee of $5-$10 or 3%-5%, whichever is greater. Occasionally this fee is waived when you transfer a balance to a new card.

Returned payment fee - Charged by a credit card issuer if you pay your bill with a check that bounces; can run as high as $38.

Over-limit fee - Charged when your balance goes over your credit limit. This is often waived, but you can run the risk of having your limit lowered or the account closed if you abuse the terms of the contract.

Cash advance fee - Charged for accessing an account's cash credit line. This can be $10 or 5% of the amount advanced, whichever is greater.

Convenience fee - The rules vary by card processing company, but in general, a convenience fee is allowed when payment by credit card is an alternative form of payment not ordinarily accepted by a merchant or service provider. For example, you might pay a 2%-4% convenience fee for using your card to pay income taxes.

Additional card fee
Credit-builder cards sometimes have added unspecified fees, which will be in the rates & fees section of the card's landing page. They can be a monthly charge for having the card, an expedited telephone convenience fee, a billing statement copy fee, and more. They will typically be in the body of the rates & fees copy, rather than in the Schumer Box at the top, where the more common fees are mentioned.

Purchase rate - The interest rate charged on regular purchases put on a credit card. Each month that you carry a balance, you face an interest charge. They are typically variable, and can be under 10% or over 25%.

Penalty rate - Also called the default rate, it's the very high interest rate charged by the credit card issuer, as much as 29.99%, when a borrower violates the card's terms and conditions.

APR for balance transfers - This might be 0% for a limited time, up to 21 months, then it reverts to a higher rate, called the go-to rate, which is usually the variable purchase rate. The national average APR is currently 16.96%.

Can I get my rates or fees waived?

Some rates or fees can be waived or lowered by simply picking up the phone and calling. In fact, we found that of those who asked, 85% received a higher credit limit simply by asking. Our poll, conducted by YouGov, found that just asking can be rewarding:

Of consumers who asked about rates and fees...

  •  85%
  • Received a higher credit limit
  •  84%
  • Got a late fee waived
  •  70%
  • Had an annual fee waived or lowered
  •  56%
  • Got a lower interest rate (APR)
  • Creditcards.com survey

When are fees worth it?

Some fees, such as late fees, should be avoided at all costs. But others may be worth your while, depending on the type.

For example, a card with an annual fee will frequently have more robust rewards, and the annual fee may be waived the first year:

Is an annual fee worth it?

CardSign-up BonusOngoing RewardsAnnual FeeEnd of First Year Total
Capital One Venture Rewards50,000 miles/$3,000 spend in 3 mths2X miles x $1,000/mth=24,000$95 waived first yr$500+$240=$740
Capital One VentureOne Rewards20,000 miles/$1,000 spend in 3 mths1.25X miles x $1,000/mth=15,000$0$200+$150=$350

In the same way, the advantages of a balance transfer card may outweigh the expense of a balance transfer fee. For example, you might want to look at the intro period's length or whether there is an intro period for purchases:

Is a balance transfer fee worth it?

CardBT Fee0% Intro APR PeriodRegular APRMonthly Payment
Amex EveryDay$0/first 60 days15 months14.74% - 25.74% (Variable)$1,500/15 mths=$100/mth
Citi Double Cash$5 or 3% ($45 for $1,500)18 months15.24% - 25.24% (Variable)$1,500/18 mths=$83.33/mth

So you can see that even though you pay a $45 balance transfer fee with the Citi Double Cash, your monthly, interest-free payment for the limited-time offer is $83 compared to $100 for the Amex EveryDay. This makes it worth your while if you need more time to pay off your balance transfer.