A Guide to Finding the Perfect Credit Card 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 card. Or you could have your eye out for the right travel card offer. Whatever the reason, the best card for you awaits. At CreditCards.com, we've compiled thousands of hours of research to help you find the best credit cards of 2019 across the most popular categories.
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. With new credit cards constantly entering the market and offers frequently changing, it can be tough to wrap your head around all of the available options. We're all over it for you. 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 of August 2019
There is a myriad of cards 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.
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.
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.
The regular APR starts out high at 18.24%-25.24% variable, and the $95 annual fee isn't waived the first year.
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.
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.
There is no sign-up bonus with this card, and the travel and purchases benefits are non-existent.
Capital One Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Why this is the best credit card for travel rewards: If you are looking for an all-purpose travel card that doesn't put a lot of limits on your travel redemptions, the Capital One Venture Rewards is a fine choice.
This card's travel features include lucrative partnerships with more than a dozen airlines, as well as hotels.com/venture through January 2020. The $95 annual fee is also waived the first year.
Although you can earn 2X miles on all spending with the Venture Rewards card, those miles don't get a boost like that of the Sapphire Preferred.
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Why this is the best credit card for rewards: Although the Wells Fargo Propel American Express doesn't have a flat rate for all spending, its category choices are numerous enough to make it a keeper for everyday rewards.
This card offers quirky little rewards surprises for such categories as popular streaming services, homestays and rideshares, in addition to all sorts of travel, transportation and dining. Also, the sign-up bonus is crazy high for a no-annual-fee card.
The 12-month 0% intro APR on purchases and qualifying balance transfers (then 15.99% - 27.99% variable) doesn't compare well to other comparable cash rewards cards, unfortunately.
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Why this is the best credit card for flat-rate cash back: If you are looking for a no frills, easy-to-manage cash back card, the Capital One Quicksilver is the perfect option.
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.
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® 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 14.24%-25.24% variable.
This card's 18-month 0% intro APR balance transfer offer takes you into 2021, and carries the same great rewards as the Discover it Cash Back, making it a low interest card with longevity.
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: The ability to earn 10x points on hotel stays purchased through hotels.com/venture without paying an annual fee makes the Capital One VentureOne Rewards a standout.
This little brother of the Venture Rewards offers the same great rewards through January 2020 with hotels.com/venture, as well as a nice little sign-up bonus and ongoing rewards.
If you are looking to maximize your travel spending and earnings, there are better cards out there, provided you have the patience to work a little for your dinner.
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, which includes entertainment. If you find yourself often eating out, consider this card.
With this card, you can earn boosted rewards at grocery stores and the sign-up bonus is superior for a cash back card. Another feature: Receive a monthly statement credit for a Postmates Unlimited monthly membership through December 2019.
The downside is that there is an annual fee of $95 (waived the first year), although there are no foreign transaction fees.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Why this is the best credit card for gas rewards: The Blue Cash Preferred is not only strong in the category of U.S. supermarkets and transportation, but also at U.S. gas stations. If you do a fair amount of shuttling your family around or driving a daily commute, this is a good card for you.
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 balance transfers (it's 14.99% - 25.99% variable after that), ideal for moderately sizeable purchases or balances.
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.
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 16.74% - 26.74% variable after that.
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 16.74% - 26.74% variable) if you have a bigger purchase to make.
This card is thin on rewards, including no sign-up bonus, which can impact whether this is a good card for you in the long run. Also, the balance transfer fee is on the high end, at 5% or $5, whichever is greater.
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 17.49% - 26.99% variable).
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.
Like the Citi Simplicity, this card has no sign-up bonus and no ongoing rewards, which might impact your decision-making.
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Why this is the best credit card for no foreign transaction fee: Planning overseas travel at some point soon? The Bank of America Travel Rewards card works hard for you as a well-rounded travel card with no foreign transaction fees.
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.
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.
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
Why this is the best credit card for airline miles: The Gold Delta SkyMiles Card rewards mightily for purchases made directly through Delta Airlines, making it a first stop among airline cards if you are a Delta loyalist.
Enjoy free first checked bag for you and up to eight companions with this card. You can also get priority boarding. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year.
As a general-purpose rewards card, this product doesn't perform so well. If your spending leans more toward everyday spending, you might consider a general-purpose travel card or even a cash back card.
Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card
Why this is the best credit card for small business: The Ink Business Unlimited's 1.5% cash back on all spending makes it convenient and lucrative for the small-business owner.
The Ink Business Unlimited's sign-up bonus is more than generous, at $500 after a $3,000 spend within the first 3 months.
If you are looking for a card that has a 0% intro APR offer on balance transfers, you might want to look at consumer cards, because business cards typically don't have BT offers. That said, this card does offer a modest purchase offer.
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.
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.
This card offers a crazy high regular APR of 26.96% variable, so you don't even want to think about carrying a balance, and there is no sign-up bonus or ongoing rewards.
Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card
Why this is the best credit card for bad credit: The Credit One Bank Visa is a fun little first card that gives you a number of design options and custom email and text alerts that can keep you on track with your credit goals.
This is one of the rare cards that accepts bad credit and offers ongoing rewards at the same time.
There's no sign-up bonus with this card, and you can expect an annual fee of up to $99, which can eat into your budget.
Discover it® Student Cash Back
Why this is the best credit card for students: The Discover it Student Cash Back is one of the few cards with a feature especially for students – earn $20 each year for up to the next 5 years by earning at least a 3.0 GPA.
This is a great first card for the beginning consumer because no credit is required. Add to that, this card has the same great ongoing rewards as the signature Discover it Cash Back.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or leave us a comment below.
|Credit Card||Category||Annual Fee||Review Score|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||Sign-up Bonus||$95||3.9 / 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|
|Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card||Flat-rate Cash Back||$0||3.4 / 5|
|Discover it® Balance Transfer||Low Interest||$0||4.5 / 5|
|Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card||No Annual Fee||$0||3.5 / 5|
|Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card||Dining Rewards||$95 waived first year||4.8 / 5|
|Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express||Gas Rewards||$95||4.3 / 5|
|Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever||Balance Transfer||$0||3.7 / 5|
|Wells Fargo Platinum card||0% Intro APR||$0||4.4 / 5|
|Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card||No Foreign Transaction Fee||$0||3.4 / 5|
|Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express||Airline Miles||$95 waived first year||3.6 / 5|
|Ink Business UnlimitedSM Credit Card||Small Business||$0||3.5 / 5|
|Capital One® Platinum Credit Card||Fair Credit||$0||3.7 / 5|
|Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card||Bad Credit||$0-$99||2.2 / 5|
|Discover it® Student Cash Back||Students||$0||4.2 / 5|
How to choose the best credit card 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:
Our September 2018 survey by YouGov of 1,218 American adults on rewards cards found that 57% of U.S. consumers have at least one rewards card, whether travel, cash back or co-branded, so it's no surprise that new credit cards are entering the market every day. They might reward you for dining out, shopping at department stores, even making purchases at office supply stores. Used correctly, you can earn hundreds of dollars a year with them. Rewards cards range from cash back to travel, and can include luxury cards as well as credit-builder products. Typically, the higher your credit score, the more generous the rewards. See a full list of the Best Credit Cards for Rewards.
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 Credit Cards for Sign-up Bonuses.
There are basically 2 types of travel cards: co-branded, such as hotel and airline cards, and general-purpose cards. Which you choose depends on how often and where you travel, as well as whether you have brands you frequent. See a full list of the Best Credit Cards for Travel.
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. See a full list of the Best Credit Cards for Airlines.
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 Credit Cards for Gas.
0% APR Cards
0% intro APR offers 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. See a full list of the Best Credit Cards for 0% APR.
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. See a full list of the Best Credit Cards for Balance Transfers.
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 14.69%, 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 Credit Cards for Low Interest.
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 Credit Cards for Cash Back
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 Credit Cards for No Annual Fee.
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 Credit Cards for Business.
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 why pay an annual fee for a cash back card if you have excellent credit? Here are what the different credit score categories mean for you.
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.
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.
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.
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. See a full list of the Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit.
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 often offer the same features as their brethren, although they can have special opportunities for the young consumer. Note that the Credit CARD Act of 2009 requires consumers under 21 years old to have their own source of income. See a full list of the Best Credit Cards for Students.
What to know before applying for a credit card
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 cash back 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.
Using a credit card correctly
When you take out a credit card, it's critical to treat it right, because your credit is in the balance (no pun intended). Basic rule of thumb? Pay on time and in full each and every month. That comes out to 65% of your good credit habits. If you want to push your score up a bit more, vary your credit products by getting an installment loan as well, such as a mortgage or car loan. Also, be choosy about when you apply for new credit, and time your applications so that you aren't making multiple requests in a short amount of time. The exception to this is when you apply for installment loans – in that case, the scoring models allow you to apply up to 3 times in a short amount of time, typically about a month.
Some card issuers have been cutting back on benefits such as travel and purchase protections and insurance, but there are still some good opportunities in the marketplace. For example, Chase Sapphire Preferred sets itself apart from the others by offering primary auto insurance, which means it kicks in even before your personal auto insurance. You can compare these offers in our Reviews section.
One thing to watch out for when choosing a credit card are the fees. The best known are annual fees, which are not necessarily a bad thing because they can be your gateway to a richer offer. For example, luxury cards' annual fees can run in the hundreds of dollars a year, but in exchange you can earn annual travel credits, access to airport lounges and more.
Here is a comparison of 2 cards in the first year of card membership, one with an annual fee and one without:
|Card||Sign-up Bonus||Ongoing Rewards||Annual Fee||End of First Year Net Value|
|Capital One Venture Rewards||50,000 miles / $3,000 spend in 3 mths||2X miles x $1,000/mth = 24,000 miles||$95 waived first yr||$500 + $240 = $740|
|Capital One VentureOne Rewards||20,000 miles / $1,000 spend in 3 mths||1.25X miles x $1,000/mth = 15,000 miles||$0||$200 + $150 = $350|
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.
Some of the top card issuers include Chase, Bank of America, Capital One and Citi. They make the call on whether you are a low enough credit risk to qualify for the card you want. The issuers vary widely in their benefits and quality, so it's always prudent to research your choices. Here is what JD Power says about consumers' feedback on issuers:
America's favorite credit cards:
- 5 out of 5
- 4 out of 5
- American Express
- 4 out of 5
- Capital One
- 3 out of 5
- 3 out of 5
- Bank of America
- 3 out of 5
- Wells Fargo
- 3 out of 5
JD Power 2019 credit card satisfaction survey
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 email@example.com and on Twitter @creditcards_lm.
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