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The Best Credit Cards of April 2024: Rewards, Top Offers & Reviews

Written by: Garrett Yarbrough | Edited by: Tracy Stewart | Reviewed by: Jason Steele
|

April 1, 2024

Best Credit Cards of April 2024

Additional Options:

  • Citi Custom Cash® Card – Best second rewards card

Filter Cards by Category

  • All Categories
  • Everyday Cash Rewards
  • Cash Back Match
  • Unlimited cash back
  • Unlimited miles
  • Best for luxury travel
  • Dining Rewards
  • More
  • Sign-Up Bonus
  • Automatically Maximizing Cash Back
  • Rewards
  • Travel
  • Starter Credit Card
  • No Annual Fee
  • Balance Transfer
  • Business
  • Student
  • No Credit
Best for category variety
Discover it® Cash Back
Our rating:4.6 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Rewards rate

5%
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
1%
Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

At A Glance

Intro offer
Cashback Match Intro Offer: Unlimited Cashback Match for all new cardmembers – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
17.24% - 28.24% variable
BEST FOR FOOD AND ENTERTAINMENT
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
Our rating:4.9 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.
Clicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

8%
8% Cash Back on Capital One Entertainment purchases
5%
5% Cash Back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel (terms apply)
3%
3% Cash Back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®)
1%
1% Cash Back on all other purchases

At A Glance

Intro offer
$200 Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
19.99% - 29.99% variable
Your approval oddsClicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST FOR TRAVEL PERKS
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
Our rating:5.0 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.
Clicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

10 Miles
10 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5 Miles
5 Miles per dollar on flights booked through Capital One Travel
2 Miles
2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

At A Glance

Intro offer
75,000 miles Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
Annual fee
$395
Regular APR
19.99% - 29.99% variable
Your approval oddsClicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
Best for luxury travel
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Our rating:4.8 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
Clicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

5X
Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
5X
Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

At A Glance

Intro offer
Earn 80,000 points Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $8,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
Annual fee
$695
Regular APR
See Pay Over Time APR
Your approval oddsClicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
Best for foodies
American Express® Gold Card
Our rating:5.0 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
Clicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

4X
Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4X
Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3X
Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

At A Glance

Intro offer
60,000 Membership Rewards® Points Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
Annual fee
$250
Regular APR
See Pay Over Time APR
Your approval oddsClicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
Best for travel value
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Our rating:4.9 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.
Clicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

5x
5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠.
3x
3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries.
2x
2x on all other travel purchases.
1x
1x on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro offer
60,000 bonus points Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
21.49% - 28.49% variable
Your approval oddsClicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
Best second rewards card
Citi Custom Cash® Card
Our rating:4.5 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Rewards rate

5%
Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, 1% cash back thereafter.
1%
Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro offer
$200 Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $1500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
19.24% - 29.24% variable
Best for groceries
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Our rating:4.6 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
Clicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

6%
6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%).
6%
6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
3%
3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more.
3%
3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations
1%
1% Cash Back on other purchases

At A Glance

Intro offer
Earn $250 Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
Annual fee
$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.
Regular APR
19.24% - 29.99% variable
Your approval oddsClicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST FOR FLAT-RATE TRAVEL
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Our rating:4.9 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.
Clicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

5 Miles
5 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
2 Miles
2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

At A Glance

Intro offer
Earn 75,000 miles New Venture cardholders can earn 75,000 miles once they spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
19.99% - 29.99% variable
Your approval oddsClicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
Best starter rewards card
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
Our rating:3.7 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.
Clicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

5%
Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply
1.5%
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day

At A Glance

Annual fee
$0
Balance transfer intro APR
0% intro on balance transfers for 15 months
Regular APR
19.99% - 29.99% variable
Your approval oddsClicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
Best for household shopping
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Our rating:4.8 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
Clicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

3%
3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%.
3%
3% Cash Back on U.S. online retail purchases, on up to $6,000 per year, then 1%.
3%
3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations, on up to $6,000 per year, then 1%.
1%
1% Cash Back on other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro offer
Earn $200 Earn a $200 statement credit after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
19.24% - 29.99% variable
Your approval oddsClicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST FOR BALANCE TRANSFERS
Discover it® Balance Transfer
Our rating:4.9 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Rewards rate

5%
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
1%
Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases-automatically.

At A Glance

Intro offer
Cashback Match Intro Offer: Unlimited Cashback Match for all new cardmembers – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
17.24% - 28.24% variable
BEST BUSINESS CREDIT CARD
The American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card
Our rating:4.3 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply

Rewards rate

2%
Earn 2% cash back on all eligible purchases on up to $50,000 per calendar year, then 1%.
1%
1% cash back on all eligible purchases after spending $50,000 per calendar year.

At A Glance

Intro offer
$250 statement credit Earn a $250 statement credit after you make $3,000 in purchases on your Card in your first 3 months.
Annual fee
No annual fee
Regular APR
18.49% - 26.49% variable
BEST STUDENT CREDIT CARD
Discover it® Student Cash Back
Our rating:5.0 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Rewards rate

5%
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
1%
Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

At A Glance

Intro offer
Cashback Match Intro Offer: Unlimited Cashback Match for all new cardmembers – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 cash back into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
18.24% - 27.24% variable
BEST SECURED CREDIT CARD

Editor's Pick

Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card
Our rating:4.2 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Rewards rate

Card without rewards
This card doesn't offer cash back, miles, or points

At A Glance

Annual fee
$0
Balance transfer intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
30.74% variable

Our methodology and research

3,476Credit Cards Analyzed
600Banks Analyzed

Criteria Used

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

Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.

For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply.


Comparing the best credit cards

Credit cardBest forCard highlightsAnnual feeCreditCards.com Rating
Wells Fargo Active Cash® CardFlat-rate cash rewardsEarn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases$04.1 / 5
Discover it® Cash BackCategory variety5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories (activation required) on up to $1,500 per quarter, then 1%

Cashback Match™: All rewards earned in the first year are matched at the end of your first year

$04.6 / 5
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit CardFood and entertainmentUnlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, select streaming services and grocery store purchases (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®).

Plus, 10% cash back on Uber and Uber Eats purchases (through Nov. 14, 2024), and 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment purchases

$0
(See Rates and Fees)
4.9 / 5
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit CardTravel perks10X miles on hotel and rental car bookings through Capital One Travel, 5X miles on flights through Capital One Travel and 2X miles on all other purchases

$300 annual statement credit for bookings through Capital One Travel, 10,000 account anniversary bonus miles, along with excellent travel insurance and airport lounge access

$395
(See Rates and Fees)
5 / 5
The Platinum Card® from American ExpressLuxury travel5X points on directly-booked airfare, and on flights and prepaid hotels through American Express Travel (up to $500,000 per calendar year, then 1X points)

Up to more than $2,000 of perks per year, including airline fee credits, comprehensive airport lounge access, hotel privileges and more

$695
4.8 / 5
American Express® Gold CardFoodies4X Membership Rewards points at restaurants, including Uber Eats and other eligible U.S. takeout and delivery, and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per year, then 1X points)

Up to $240 in annual dining-related credits (issued as monthly statement credits)

$250 5 / 5
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardTravel value5X points on Chase Travel and Lyft rides (Lyft offer through March 31, 2025), 3X points on several popular non-travel categories and 2X points on general travel

25% increased redemption value toward travel through Chase Travel, high-caliber travel insurance along with annual hotel credits and account anniversary points

$954.9 / 5
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American ExpressGroceries6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) and on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back on transit and at U.S. gas stations$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.4.6 / 5
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit CardFlat-rate travel5X miles on hotels and rental cars through Capital One Travel and 2X miles on all other purchases

Miles redeemable for statement credits toward eligible travel purchases within the last 90 days

$95
(See Rates and Fees)
4.9 / 5
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit CardStarter rewards cardUnlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, and 5% cash back on hotels and rental cards through Capital One Travel

Cash back can be redeemed automatically at a set amount or date

$0
(See Rates and Fees)
3.7 / 5
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American ExpressHousehold shopping3% cash back on U.S. supermarket, U.S. gas station and U.S. online retail purchases (up to $6,000 in combined purchases per year, then 1%)$04.8 / 5
Discover it® Balance TransferBalance transfers0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months, and a 0% intro APR on purchases for six months (then 17.24% - 28.24% Variable APR)

5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories (activation required) on up to $1,500 per quarter, then 1%

Cashback Match™: All rewards earned in the first year are matched at the end of your first year

$05 / 5
The American Express Blue Business Cash™ CardBusiness2% cash back on all eligible purchases (up to $50,000 per year, then 1%)

Expanded Buying Power allows spending beyond the credit limit, based on creditworthiness

No annual fee3.8 / 5
Discover it® Student Cash BackStudents5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories (activation required) on up to $1,500 per quarter, then 1%

Cashback Match™: All rewards earned in the first year are matched at the end of your first year

$04.3 / 5
Capital One Platinum Secured Credit CardSecuredMinimum $200 credit limit with a security deposit as low as $49 ($49, $99 or $200, depending on creditworthiness)

Potential credit limit increase review starting after six months

$0
(See Rates and Fees)
4.2 / 5
Citi Custom Cash® CardA second rewards card5% cash back (on up to $500 each billing cycle, then 1%) on your top spending category each billing cycle$04.5 / 5

Editor’s picks: A closer look at top-rated credit cards

Best for flat-rate cash rewards: Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

  • Best features: The Active Cash card goes further than other flat-rate credit cards that earn a high 2% cash rewards on purchases, offering a welcome bonus and additional perks like concierge service, hotel benefits at Visa Signature Hotel collection properties worldwide and up to $600 in cellphone protection ($25 deductible applies) when you pay with your eligible Wells Fargo card.
  • Biggest drawbacks: A credit card that earns rewards at a higher rate in your biggest spending categories could prove more valuable overall. You also can’t pool rewards across multiple Wells Fargo cards the way you can with other issuers’ cards, limiting your redemption options and value.
  • Alternatives: The Chase Freedom Unlimited® has a slightly lower base cash back rewards rate than the Active Cash Card (just 1.5% back on general purchases), but it comes with additional bonus categories that could easily make up the difference if you spend more on travel and dining. The Citi Double Cash® Card is also a solid alternative to the Active Cash if you want a slightly longer balance transfer offer or the ability to transfer your points (in this case, to the Citi Premier card).
  • Bottom line: This is one of the best credit cards for anyone looking for a straightforward way to earn cash rewards on purchases.

Read our full Wells Fargo Active Cash Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for category variety: Discover it® Cash Back

  • Best features: Most cards earn rewards in only a handful of fixed categories, but this card earns a stellar cash back rate on a wide variety of popular rotating categories – often ten or more categories per year. Discover’s rotating rewards program is especially valuable for new cardholders since the issuer matches all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.
  • Biggest drawbacks: Enrollment is required for bonus categories so you’ll need to keep an eye on Discover’s quarterly category schedule. If you’re not up for planning in advance, you may miss out on the potential value of the card. Discover also lacks a dedicated rewards program similar to Amex or Chase, so you won’t have the opportunity to transfer your rewards to travel partners.
  • Alternatives: If bonus categories aren’t your bag, the Citi Double Cash Card is an excellent flat-rate cash back card that charges no annual fee. The Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card may also be more lucrative since it earns rewards year-round on staples like groceries, dining and entertainment.
  • Bottom line: This card’s high rewards rate is sure to please anyone willing to plot out rotating categories in advance, and big spenders will certainly get the most out of this card’s opportunity to have all your earnings matched at the end of your first year.

Read our full Discover it® Cash Back review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for food and entertainment: Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • Best features: Few cards cover the combination of food and entertainment like the SavorOne. You’ll have an easy time earning an unlimited 3% cash back when grocery shopping (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), eating in or out, binge watching your favorite shows via popular streaming services or visiting popular destinations like zoos, concerts, sporting events and movie theaters. Plus, it’s hard to beat the 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment purchases and 10% back on Uber rides and Uber Eats orders (Uber offer through Nov. 14, 2024).
  • Biggest drawbacks: The SavorOne doesn’t provide the highest rewards rates for groceries or dining, or annual credits for food or entertainment. Other cards may be a better fit if you’re looking for rich bonus features and best-in-class rewards rates on those purchases.
  • Alternatives: If you spend heavily on groceries, you may reap more value from the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express since it boasts a much higher cash back rate on U.S. supermarket purchases. Meanwhile, the American Express® Gold Card may be a better fit for foodies thanks to its dining-centric categories and perks.
  • Bottom line: Almost any cardholder can benefit from this no-annual-fee (See Rates and Fees) card’s unlimited 3% rewards in popular spending categories. However, entertainment fans will find the SavorOne card’s comprehensive category coverage and 8% back on Capital One Entertainment purchases provide a unique value.

Read our full Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for travel perks: Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

  • Best features: This premium card has one of the lowest annual fees for a top-of-the-line rewards card with luxury benefits like complimentary lounge access. On top of valuable annual credits and bonus anniversary miles that easily justify the annual fee, the card also offers an impressive flat rate of 2X miles and a stellar sign-up bonus.
  • Biggest drawbacks: Other luxury travel cards offer more perks and privileges with partner brands, including rideshare credits and complimentary hotel elite status. Competing cards may also earn more rewards on general travel, dining and other travel-related purchases, so you’ll want to review your travel and spending habits to understand whether the Venture X is worth it.
  • Alternatives: If you’re not deterred by the $695 annual fee (see rates and fees), you may prefer The Platinum Card® from American Express, which offers broader airport lounge access, more luxury travel benefits and a larger network of transfer partners. If you’d rather avoid a high annual fee, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which offers stellar value for just a $95 annual fee.
  • Bottom line: The Venture X is a great option for anyone looking for a taste of luxury perks without paying over $500 for an annual fee (See Rates and Fees). Frequent travelers will be able to easily offset the card’s annual fee with the card’s practical features, including annual travel credits, yearly bonus miles and generous reward opportunities.

Read our full Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for luxury travel: The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • Best features: The Amex Platinum card’s benefits include perhaps the most generous airport lounge access available, as well as credits for expedited security screening, Uber, airline fees and more – all of which could add up to more than $2,000 of value each year. Plus, your points could be extremely valuable if you take advantage of Amex’s airline and hotel transfer partners.
  • Biggest drawbacks: The card carries an extremely high annual fee, many of its perks may be impractical for the average cardholder, and the card’s ongoing rewards rate on non-travel spending is low. If you only travel occasionally or aren’t sure you’ll use the card’s perks, the Amex Platinum probably isn’t the best fit.
  • Alternatives: The Capital One Venture X offers a much more practical set of travel perks at a lower cost, making it a better option if you’re a frequent traveler but don’t plan on using many of the Platinum Card’s niche features.
  • Bottom line: This card could be either more than worth the cost or a money pit, depending on how frequently you travel and how appealing you find its sometimes niche perks.

Read our full Amex Platinum review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for foodies: American Express® Gold Card

  • Best features: On top of earning generous Amex Membership Rewards points for airfare and purchases made at U.S. supermarkets, this card boasts one of the highest rewards rates out there for dining, including eligible takeout and delivery services like Uber Eats. It also carries an impressive welcome offer, dining credits and other perks that make it one of the top rewards cards for dining and travel.
  • Biggest drawbacks: The credits are doled out on a monthly basis, in $10 increments, which may feel limiting if you were hoping for a larger payout. Plus, the dining credit only covers a small list of options: Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. These limitations may decrease the card’s value and make it harder to offset the $250 annual fee.
  • Alternatives: At $95 a year, the Citi Premier® Card has a much lower annual fee. But you could end up earning more rewards if your spending habits line up with the card’s multiple 3X bonus categories, which cover restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel, and hotels.
  • Bottom line: The Amex Gold can easily be worth the annual fee if you’re looking for a best-in-class travel card for dining, U.S. supermarket and airfare purchases.

Read our full American Express Gold Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for travel value: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Best features: The Sapphire Preferred card’s travel perks, transfer partners and rewards are exceptional for its relatively low annual fee. Along with high rewards rates on travel and everyday purchases, you’ll get a 25% boost in point value when you redeem for travel with Chase. This makes the card a terrific pairing option with no-annual-fee Chase rewards cards.
  • Biggest drawbacks: You’ll get the best value from this card if you redeem rewards for travel and take advantage of its perks. If you only travel occasionally, the card’s annual fee may be harder to justify.
  • Alternatives: If you want premium perks like annual travel credits and complimentary lounge access, consider upgrading to the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card or Capital One Venture X.
  • Bottom line: Frequent travelers who aren’t loyal to one airline or hotel brand can get a lot of value out of this general-purpose travel card. It offers stellar rewards value, flexibility, perks and card combination opportunities for a low annual fee making it a worthy choice for most wallets.

Read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for groceries: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

  • Best features: This card packs a lot of everyday value, offering substantial rewards in far more household categories than the typical cash back card. In fact, it includes one of the highest rewards rates for U.S. supermarkets and select U.S. streaming services. It also comes with an intro APR offer on purchases and balance transfers, annual streaming credits and outstanding rewards on transit and U.S. gas station purchases.
  • Biggest drawbacks: There are a few caveats attached to the bonus rewards – namely the $6,000 cap on U.S. supermarket purchases per year (then 1%) and the fact that the 3% and 6% rewards are only available stateside.
  • Alternatives: If you spend less than $3,200 on groceries each year, you might squeeze more value out of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. It earns rewards at a slightly lower rate but charges no annual fee and includes a lucrative U.S. online retail category.
  • Bottom line: If you spend at least $3,200 per year at U.S. supermarkets, this will be one of the most lucrative grocery rewards cards out there, despite its ongoing annual fee.

Read our full Blue Cash Preferred Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

  • Best features: This is one of the best general-purpose travel cards for people who want a straightforward travel rewards card with flexible redemption options. A decent sign-up bonus, travel benefits, flat-rate rewards and boosted miles on eligible Capital One Travel bookings combine to make this an especially well-rounded travel card. For many travelers, the $95 annual fee (See Rates and Fees) will be well worth the cost.
  • Biggest drawbacks: The Venture card doesn’t carry any perks with a clear monetary value other than the up to $100 fee credit for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application you can receive every four years. That means you’ll have to rely on your rewards to make up for the $95 annual fee instead of the annual credits and perks competing cards provide.
  • Alternatives: Though they carry the same annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Preferred could be more lucrative than the Venture card thanks to its remarkable travel benefits and mix of bonus categories. Alternatively, you may want to upgrade to the Venture X card since its travel credits and other perks may deliver more value for its annual fee.
  • Bottom line: Frequent travelers looking for a streamlined travel rewards card without complicated redemption options or fluff features may enjoy the Capital One Venture.

Read our full Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best starter rewards card: Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • Best features: This popular Capital One credit card has all the features you should look for in a first rewards credit card: no annual fee (See Rates and Fees), a sign-up bonus with a low spending threshold and additional benefits like free credit monitoring and 24/7 concierge service, and a simplicity which makes it easy to maximize your card value. You can also choose to redeem cash back automatically if you want to streamline the rewards process.
  • Biggest drawbacks: A 1.5% cash back rate isn’t the best you can find on a flat-rate cash back card. In fact, some flat-rate cards offer the same cash back rate without requiring a good credit score.
  • Alternatives: You can earn more with the Wells Fargo Active Cash card, which offers a full 2% cash rewards on purchases. Or, if you have average credit, you might have to settle for the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card, which lacks the sign-up bonus and comes with an annual fee, but earns 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • Bottom line: The Quicksilver is an excellent choice for your first rewards credit card thanks to its low cost and the ease with which you can earn and redeem rewards.

Read our full Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for household shopping: Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

  • Best features: This no-annual-fee card carries solid cash back rates on everyday spending at U.S. supermarkets and gas stations, and its comprehensive online shopping category can fill in the gaps for the rest of your shopping staples.
  • Biggest drawbacks: The bonus rewards are less generous than the Blue Cash Preferred but have the same spending cap on U.S. supermarket spending (along with a cap on the other bonus categories). Similarly, this card isn’t a great fit if you’re a fan of bargain shopping since its supermarket category excludes superstores and warehouse clubs (though you may earn rewards by shopping online at these stores).
  • Alternatives: If you spend $270 or more each month on groceries, the Blue Cash Preferred should rake in enough cash back on U.S. supermarket purchases to make it the more rewarding card, even with its annual fee. Plus, you’ll also enjoy a slew of other bonus categories that cover common expenses. The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card is also excellent for groceries, and it offers a similar choice category for online shopping.
  • Bottom line: Families with a smaller grocery budget can enjoy the Blue Cash Everyday’s rewards without worrying about recouping an annual fee. But whether the card is worth it depends on where you prefer to buy your groceries.

Read our full Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for balance transfers: Discover it® Balance Transfer

  • Best features: Few balance transfer credit cards offer additional value beyond their lengthy introductory APRs. However, this card’s short-term and long-term value stand out even among rewards cards with intro APRs, thanks to impressive features like rotating bonus categories and a Cashback Match™ welcome offer.
  • Biggest drawbacks: The card’s intro APR offer for purchases is far shorter than the typical 12 to 15 months you’ll find with other rewards cards.
  • Alternatives: If you don’t like the hassle of enrolling in quarterly categories to earn the card’s maximum rewards value, try a flat-rate cash back credit card. For example, the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card comes with a welcome bonus, straightforward cash rewards and a generous intro APR offer on both qualifying balance transfers and purchases.
  • Bottom line: If you have high-interest debt, this credit card could give you the time you need to come out ahead. And unlike most balance transfer cards, this card carries high rewards rates that can offer worthy value long after your balance is settled.

Read our full Discover it® Balance Transfer review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

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

  • Best features: This is a great card for business owners who want an easy-to-use business card packed with features that can help you manage operations. Along with a nice flat rate on all eligible purchases, you also get plenty of expense management tools like free employee cards and access to business software to help you track your spending. Plus, the card comes with Expanded Buying Power, which can offer some peace of mind if you get stuck with unforeseen expenses.
  • Biggest drawbacks: You won’t earn maximum rewards for your business with a flat-rate credit card. And you’ll need to be careful not to exceed the spending cap: If you spend more than $50,000 per year, your flat rate drops to 1% for all purchases.
  • Alternatives: Big spenders may get more value out of a card that offers unlimited flat-rate rewards. Consider the Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card, which offers unlimited 1.5% back on all purchases for no annual fee. The Capital One Spark Cash Plus is another great option: It carries no preset credit limit, earns a flat 2% cash back and includes a $150 cash bonus every year you charge $150,000 or more to the card.
  • Bottom line: Business owners looking for cash flow solutions, along with business owners who spend less than $50,000 each year, should consider this card a top option for their wallet.

Read our full The American Express Blue Business Cash Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best student credit card: Discover it® Student Cash Back

  • Best features: Students will be hard-pressed to find a starter credit card that offers more value than the Discover it® Student Cash Back. Not only do you get an unsecured card to help build credit, but you’ll also get the same first-year welcome offer and high rewards rate as the full-fledged Discover it® Cash Back card.
  • Biggest drawbacks: You’ll have to keep track and enroll in quarterly rotating bonus categories, which might be more maintenance than you’re looking for.
  • Alternatives: If you don’t want to deal with rotating bonus categories that require enrollment, the Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card keeps it simple by earning cash back on all your purchases. But if you spend more on staples like food and entertainment, then the Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card could be more consistently rewarding.
  • Bottom line: Students who want to earn rewards and enjoy beginner-friendly benefits are a great match for this well-rounded cash back credit card.

Read our full Discover it® Student Cash Back review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best secured credit card: Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card

  • Best features: This is perhaps the most accessible secured card available. You can put down a deposit of just $49 or $99 (if you qualify) and still get a minimum $200 credit limit. Capital One may also refund your security deposit after only six months of responsible card use — the shortest automatic account review period you’ll find.
  • Biggest drawbacks: You’ll need to pay your balance in full each billing cycle to avoid the card’s high variable APR. It also doesn’t earn rewards or offer a clear path to a higher credit limit like some competing secured cards. The $1,000 maximum security deposit may make it harder to improve your credit score since keeping your credit utilization ratio low could be challenging.
  • Alternatives: The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is another leading secured card thanks to its cash rewards, low fees and similar review process for an unsecured credit line. Although you’ll need a $200 minimum security deposit, its higher $2,500 maximum credit limit could make it easier to keep your credit utilization ratio low.
  • Bottom line: This card is a top option for people with bad credit who aren’t likely to qualify for an unsecured credit card. Just take care to review the card’s benefits guide to make sure you avoid fees and other financial missteps.

Read our full Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best second rewards card: Citi Custom Cash® Card

  • Best features: Few cards adapt to your spending habits like the Custom Cash card, since it automatically earns 5% cash back in your top eligible spending category (on up to $500 in spending each billing cycle). The card’s eligible categories also include a number of options that don’t typically earn such a high cash back rate like gas stations, transit and home improvement stores. This makes the Custom Cash an excellent secondary rewards card if your primary card covers your largest expenses.
  • Biggest drawbacks: Since you only earn bonus cash back in one eligible spend category and all other purchases earn 1% cash back, you could lose out on a lot of cash back rewards if you put all of your spending on this card.
  • Alternatives: Though it comes with an annual fee after the first year, the Blue Cash Preferred card earns more rewards in multiple everyday categories, including purchases made at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets. If you take full advantage of the card’s rewards earning potential, you could offset that fee and still rake in plenty of cash back.
  • Bottom line: The Custom Cash card is a good option for anyone looking for a well-rounded, no-annual-fee rewards card, given it also includes a sign-up bonus and promotional APR on balance transfers and purchases. To make sure you’re getting the best value, pair it with a flat-rate card or another bonus-category rewards card.

Read our full Citi Custom Cash Card review.

Picking the right credit card

There are numerous types of credit cards available to consumers, ranging from straightforward, no-frills cards, to options that are packed full of features. You’ll need to compare credit cards based on your spending habits, credit history and any desired benefits. To help you narrow it all down, we’ll detail a few credit card types and their top features.

How do credit cards work?

In simple terms, credit cards are financial products that allow you to borrow money (usually) without collateral. Essentially, this is how credit cards work:

  • When you want to make a purchase, you present your credit card or account number to the merchant who will then run the transaction.
  • You’ll receive a bill each month, by email or online, for all of your purchase charges and any interest charges.
  • If you don’t carry a balance month to month, then you don’t pay interest. Carry a balance, and the interest starts accumulating.

Credit cards are for short-term borrowing. If you plan on borrowing long term, a personal loan would be a better fit. A credit card APR is much steeper and may lead to hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars in interest charges if you carry a balance long term, especially if you only pay the minimum each month. However, there are ways to avoid paying any interest and ways to make credit cards benefit your whole financial picture.

How do credit card rewards work?

Credit card rewards come in many forms but generally fall into one of three categories: cash back, points or miles. Cash back is the most straightforward since you earn a percentage of your total spending back based on your card’s rewards rate. For example, a card that earns 5% cash back on groceries would earn $5 back on $100 in grocery purchases. You’ll typically be able to redeem cash rewards as statement credits, direct deposits, mailed checks or gift cards.

Points and miles usually work the same way, but your redemption options and the value of your rewards may differ depending on the rewards program. For example, if a card offers 5X points on dining, you’ll earn 500 points or miles on a $100 purchase, but you may get the best value for your points when you redeem them in a specific way, such as for travel (a card may earn points worth 1.5 cents per dollar when you redeem for travel, but only 0.5 cents per point when you opt for cash back).

Although every rewards program works differently, you should generally choose a card that earns:

  • Cash back to keep things simple and save on your everyday expenses.
  • Travel miles if you fly or stay in hotels frequently.
  • Reward points for flexibility to redeem rewards as either cash back or travel.

How do credit scores work?

Issuers will evaluate your credit application by reviewing your credit score to determine your creditworthiness and assess risk based on your previous credit history. Your credit score is shaped by a wide range of factors. These factors include your on-time payment history, credit utilization ratio, the age of your oldest line of credit and number of open accounts. More recently, some credit scores even factor in your rental payment history, which can be a huge boon to your overall credit profile.

The most commonly used credit score is the FICO score. This three-digit number is based on your credit history and ranges from 300 to 850. VantageScore, created by Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, is another widely used indicator of creditworthiness and uses a similar range to FICO. In both cases, the credit issuer operates under the assumption that those with a higher credit score pose less risk.

FICO and VantageScore group credit scores within the following ranges:

FICO Score rangesVantageScore ranges
800 to 850
Exceptional
781 to 850
Excellent
740 to 799
Very good
661 to 780
Good
670 to 739
Good
601 to 660
Fair
580 to 669
Fair
500 to 600
Poor
300 to 579
Very poor
300 to 499
Very poor

Naturally, a ”good” credit score or higher will net you the best credit card approval odds, interest rates and credit limit.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you can request your credit score for free once every year. It’s a good idea to know your score and review your credit report to look for mistakes, which happen more than you might think. An error on your credit report can drag down your score and prevent you from being approved for credit cards, loans, apartments and more. If you do find a mistake, you can dispute it and possibly have the error removed from your credit report.

How does credit card interest work?

Credit card interest is the fee financial institutions charge you to borrow money. It’s listed as an annual percentage rate (APR) on your credit card statement or in your card’s terms and conditions. There are various credit card interest charges, such as purchase APR, cash advance or penalty APR, but it’s purchase APR you typically encounter the most.

  • Your issuer determines your interest rate. You will often see a range of interest rates listed with a credit card based on the prime rate, which is set by the Federal Reserve, but your exact rate is determined by the card issuer. Your creditworthiness is the main determining factor, and if you fall into a good or excellent credit rating, you will qualify for a lower interest rate compared to people with fair or bad credit.
  • Interest is added to any unpaid balance. Interest is calculated by what you owe at the end of your billing cycle, including your unpaid balance from the previous cycle. Issuers typically calculate the credit card interest owed using a daily periodic rate, which is multiplied by your average daily balance and the number of days in your billing period.
  • You can avoid paying interest. There are two ways to avoid racking up interest if you can’t pay off your balance before your payment due date. The first is to take advantage of the grace period found with most credit cards. These periods give you a certain amount of time (typically at least 21 days) to make purchases with your card and pay them off without dealing with interest charges. Another way to avoid paying interest is to take advantage of cards offering a 0% introductory APR on purchases or balance transfers.

Pros and cons of credit cards

When used responsibly, a credit card gives you substantial advantages, such as the ability to earn rewards, handle emergencies and build credit. Here are some of the most useful benefits of using a credit card, as well as some potential drawbacks of having a credit card.

Pros

  • Credit building. Using a credit card responsibly can help you build credit since your card issuer will report your transaction activity to the three credit bureaus.
  • Earning rewards. You can earn cash back, points or miles for your spending, potentially earning hundreds of dollars on purchases you would have made anyway.
  • Access to card membership perks. Certain credit cards come with discounts, purchase protections, complimentary services or memberships. Plus, your credit card may provide more peace of mind next time you travel with benefits such as baggage delay insurance, rental car collision coverage or trip cancellation and interruption insurance.
  • Protection against fraud. Credit cards are far more secure than debit cards since they are not tied to your bank account. Many credit cards include some form of fraud protection, so if your card is stolen and someone makes large transactions with it, you will not be held liable. Cardholders are covered under the Fair Credit Building Act (FCBA) in the case of fraudulent credit card transactions, so if you fear your card has been lost or stolen, or if you notice strange charges, your credit card issuer will most likely cancel your card and cover the fraudulent charges.
  • Pay off purchases over time. Credit cards also allow you to make a purchase and repay the balance at a later date, which could come in handy if you have any unexpected expenses arise. However, it’s wise to pay off your purchases before the end of your billing cycle since accruing interest can snowball into a costly problem.

Cons

  • Damaging your credit. Although properly using a credit card is one of the best ways to improve your credit score, you can seriously hurt your score with missteps like missing credit card payments and keeping a balance over 30% of your credit limit.
  • Taking on credit card debt. Being able to make purchases you don’t have to pay off immediately may tempt you to spend more than you can manage.
  • Paying fees. Depending on what you want out of a credit card, paying fees may be an unavoidable part of the cardholder experience. Luxury travel cards and high-caliber rewards cards typically pose annual fees. Luckily, they usually also come with more than enough reward opportunities and valuable perks to make up for the fee. However, make sure you’ve read your card terms carefully to dodge late and returned payment fees, foreign transaction fees, cash advance fees and other avoidable costs.

How to choose a credit card

Finding your ideal card isn’t always an easy process. Your choice of credit card should be one that fits not only your credit score but also your spending habits and financial goals.

As you narrow down your choices, we recommend asking yourself the following questions:

  • What’s your credit score? Card issuers primarily look at your credit score and income to determine approvals, so a big first step in choosing a credit card involves checking your credit. Typically, the higher the score, the better the benefits and rewards.
  • Do you tend to carry a balance? If so, a low-interest or non-rewards zero interest credit card is a better choice than a rewards credit card, given you’re likely to lose any points, miles or cash back you earn to interest.
  • Are you currently carrying high-interest credit card debt? If so, opt for a balance transfer credit card with a long 0% introductory APR window or a waived balance transfer fee.
  • Can you recoup an annual fee? If you charge a lot (and pay your balances in full each month), don’t necessarily forego a card with an annual fee. A premium card may be worth it since these cards tend to carry the most lucrative benefits. Big spenders are more likely to offset the cost of the annual fee with these perks and potentially pocket more value than a no-annual-fee rewards card may offer.
  • Are you looking to earn cash back or miles? Travel credit cards offering points or miles can be quite lucrative, but cash back cards are generally very easy to leverage, particularly when it comes time to redeem.
  • Do you favor a certain airline, hotel or retailer? Co-branded cards tend to carry a good return on those specific purchases, plus extra perks that make them a worthwhile addition to your wallet. However, store credit cards usually aren’t the best option for your primary credit card due to their limited flexibility.
  • Are you looking for a sign-up bonus? These offers let you earn bonus rewards in your first year if you spend a certain amount of money in a set time frame (usually within your first three months, but six-month time frames are somewhat common). The best credit card sign-up bonuses have a spending requirement that you can reasonably reach based on your normal spending habits.
  • Do you already have a credit card? It’s common to carry more than one credit card, given your financial profile and goals change over time. In fact, a common way to maximize your credit card rewards is by pairing a flat-rate card with bonus-category or travel-specific credit cards in order to cover a wide range of spending. That way, you’ll earn the most rewards possible.

How to compare credit card features

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all credit card. Each cardholder will have a unique set of needs, and it’s unlikely that one credit card will tick off every box. When determining which credit card offers the best set of features to fit your must-haves, compromise is the name of the game. If you’re hoping to land a card that comes loaded with premium frills but doesn’t charge an annual fee, you may have to choose one or the other.

When narrowing down the type of card that’s right for you, ask yourself which of the following features you hope to avoid and which you absolutely can’t do without:

How to apply for a credit card

Check your credit score

Before you apply for a credit card, you need to know where your credit stands and which credit cards you qualify for. A quick glance over your credit report will also help you spot any errors or potential hurdles and give you an opportunity to correct them before you apply.

You can access your credit for free at AnnualCreditReport.com, or visit the FICO® Score website for more info on where to view your score.

Find a credit card that matches your needs

Once you have a sense of the type of cards available to you based on your credit score, it becomes easier to narrow down the search. The card you choose should match your spending habits, budget, and financial goals. For example, is there a chance you may need to carry a balance from time to time? Will you use rewards primarily for travel or would a more flexible rewards card suit you best?

Once you’ve determined exactly what it is you’re looking for in a credit card, it’s time to apply.

Apply

There are a number of ways to apply for a credit card. The application process is fairly standard, as you can apply by mail or online directly through the issuer’s site. You can also apply through your financial institution if you like the card’s offerings. Chances are you’ll receive more favorable terms as an existing client. Assuming your account history has remained relatively unblemished, your bank may be willing to approve you for cards you may not be able to get elsewhere.

When applying, you’ll be asked to provide basic personal information such as name, address, SSN and annual income as well as a list of current financial obligations such as your monthly housing costs or auto loan payments. When calculating your income, you may include money earned outside of work such as any government benefits or passive income.

Receive a decision

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

What happens if your credit card application is denied?

Card issuers raised the bar for credit card approval during the pandemic and have kept the approval requirements tight as many Americans continue to struggle financially due to inflation. This has resulted in a decline in overall credit card ownership. If your credit card application has been rejected, the issuer must provide you with an explanation for its decision, which is usually sent by email or sometimes snail mail.

There are a number of reasons why an issuer might choose to reject an application, here are a few:

  • Your credit score is too low. Credit cards come with an estimated minimum credit score. If your credit score falls below the required minimum, then it’s likely that you will be denied. You can sometimes check if you’re pre-approved for certain cards on the issuer’s website or you can use Creditcards.com’s CardMatch™ tool which helps match you with personalized card offers based on your credit profile.
  • Unreliable proof of income. If you fail to report stable or regular income in your application, the credit card issuer may ask for proof of income or deny your application. You can get a credit card without a job, but issuers will look to see that you have a reliable way to pay back the money you borrow.
  • You have errors on your credit report. Errors on your credit report, like unauthorized accounts, duplicate accounts, incorrect balances or the wrong personal information like an address or misspelling can hurt your chances of approval.
  • You’re carrying too much debt. If you already hold a credit card that you carry a balance on month-to-month or have loan accounts open which you have not made frequent payments on, then you may be denied when you apply for a new credit card because of excessive debt. Issuers will approve applications from potential borrowers who they are confident will pay their credit card bill on time.
  • Multiple credit applications. If you have applied for several credit cards in a short period of time then an issuer will likely deny your application because they view this as risky behavior.

If a rejection takes you by surprise, you can appeal the decision by calling the issuer’s reconsideration line. There you can make your case to an agent and address any concerns they may have about your credit profile. There’s no guarantee that they’ll reverse the decision but it’s worth a shot for those who feel they are a good candidate for the card. If you do plan to reach out to the issuer, it’s best to call within a few days of the rejection and have a copy of your credit report handy for quick reference.

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

How we picked the best credit cards

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

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

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

More information on credit cards

Check out our expert guides below for more information to help you find the best credit credit cards for your needs. Plus, we’ve included a few extra CreditCards.com resources so you can effectively evaluate your options and make the most informed choice.

Credit card guides

Credit card resources


Frequently asked questions

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