Best Credit Cards of August 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 17 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 17 best credit card offers from our partners. Explore our top picks and start getting rewarded.

Summary

Filter Cards by Category

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

Best sign-up bonus credit card

Best cash back credit card for flat-rate rewards

Best Cash Back Credit Card for Everyday Spending

Best travel rewards credit card

Best rewards credit card

Best 0% APR credit card

Best no annual fee credit card

Best balance transfer credit card

Best dining credit card

Best low interest credit card

Best no foreign transaction fee credit card

Best airline miles credit card

Best Business Credit Card

Best fair credit credit card

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.

best credit cards of 2018

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
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardSign-up Bonus$95 waived first year4.2 / 5
Capital One® Quicksilver® CardFlat-rate Rewards$03.5 / 5
Discover it® Cash BackEveryday Spending$04.1 / 5
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit CardTravel Rewards$95 waived first year4.4 / 5
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® CardRewards$03.7 / 5
Citi Simplicity® Card0% Intro APR$04.5 / 5
Chase Freedom Unlimited®No Annual Fee$03.4 / 5
Citi® Diamond Preferred® CardBalance Transfers$04.3 / 5
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit CardDining$95 waived first year4.6 / 5
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit cardGas$04.1 / 5
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum CardLow Interest$04.4 / 5
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit cardNo Foreign Transaction Fee$03.4 / 5
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®Airline Miles$99 waived first year4.3 / 5
Ink Business UnlimitedSM Credit CardBusiness$03.6 / 5
Capital One® Platinum Credit CardFair Credit$0N/A
Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit CardBad Credit$0-$99N/A
Discover it® Student Cash BackCollege Students$03.3 / 5

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 on the right travel card for you. 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 across several different categories. Along with our picks for the best credit cards available today, we go over a few things to know about the world of credit cards. Here, we look at:


Why you can trust us

At CreditCards.com, we've analyzed not hundreds, but thousands of credit card offers and narrowed them down to the cream of the crop. 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 ncessarily the card you should use to book airplane tickets. That's why we've determined the best credit cards for various use cases, and present the very best one from each category here. Our review process is heavily data-driven and favors cards that offer the most value, hence the large majority of our favorite cards have no annual fee.

With new credit cards constantly entering the market and offers frequently changing, it can be tough to wrap your head around the available options. We're all over it for you. Check this page regularly for the latest information on the best credit cards – we update it almost every day!

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

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Our winner for: Best Sign-up Bonus Credit Card

Notable features: 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 an additional 5,000 points for $62.50 in travel value when your first authorized user makes a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening.

Also consider: For a comparable card with tiered rewards, check out the Citi ThankYou Premier Card.

Capital One Quicksilver Card

Our winner for: Best Cash Back Credit Card for Flat-rate Rewards

Notable features: 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.

Also consider: The Citi Double Cash is a good alternative if you prefer its higher cash back rate in exchange for no sign-up bonus.

Discover it Cash Back

Our winner for: Best Cash Back Credit Card for Everyday Spending

Notable features: 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 up to the quarterly maximum of $1,500 in purchases.

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.

Also consider: For an alternative with constant rather than rotating categories, consider the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express.

Capital One Venture Rewards

Our winner for: Best Travel Rewards Credit Card

Notable features: 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.

Also consider: For a no annual fee alternative, consider the Capital One VentureOne.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card

Our winner for: Best Rewards Credit Card

Notable features: 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.

Also consider: The Capital One Venture is an alternative worth considering if you don't mind paying the annual fee that comes with its larger sign-up bonus.

Citi Simplicity Card

Our winner for: Best 0% APR Card

Notable features: This card offers a whopping 18 months 0% intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers, as well as no late fees and no penalty rate. After 18 months, its regular APR of 15.74% - 25.74% will take effect; while it's not the lowest interest available, it is serviceable and the long intro period makes up for it. Also, there's no annual fee.

Why we like it: With rising credit card APRs, a 0% offer this generous is something to be cherished.

Also consider: For an alternative that has even lower interest but requires excellent credit, consider the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Our winner for: Best No Annual Fee Credit Card

Notable features: 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.

Also consider: For a potentially more lucrative alternative that requires more legwork, also check out the Discover it Cash Back.

Citi Diamond Preferred Card

Our winner for: Best Card for Balance Transfers

Notable features: If there's anything better than an 18-month 0% intro APR offer on balance transfers, it's one for 21 months. After that, a reasonable variable APR of 14.74% - 24.74% will apply. Since its purchase offer is only 12 months, the Citi Simplicity is still the best all-around zero interest card, but the Diamond Preferred excels for balance transfers.

Why we like it: This card's 21-month 0% intro APR offer is hard to beat, even with no sign-up bonus or ongoing rewards.

Also consider: As an alternative, the Amex EveryDay Card has a shorter intro offer but no balance transfer fee.

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Our winner for: Best Credit Card for Dining

Notable features: The new and improved Savor card comes with a generous 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% back at grocery stores, and 1% back on all else. Additionally, it has one of the hottest sign-up bonuses right now: a $500 cash bonus for a required spend of only $3,000 in the first 3 months. The annual fee is waived in the first year, but it will be $95 after that.

Why we like it: It's a no-brainer for foodies, and even if you aren't someone who spends a lot at restaurants, the sign-up bonus could still be worth it.

Also consider: The similarly named SavorOne card is a no-annual-fee version of the Savor that comes with a lower 3% back on dining and a smaller sign-up bonus.

Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card

Our winner for: Best Gas Rewards Credit Card

Notable features: 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 $200 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.

Also consider: For an alternative that offers higher cash back but charges an annual fee, check out the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express.

U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card

Our winner for: Best Low Interest Credit Card

Notable features: It doesn't come with some of the bells and whistles you'd find on a rewards card, but you'd be hard-pressed to find any credit card that has a more balanced offer between a lengthy intro 0% APR period and a very low regular interest rate. This is doubly true when you look at credit cards with a $0 annual fee.

Why we like it: This card is hands down our best low interest card thanks to its extraodinary 0% intro APR of 20 billing cycles on both purchases and balance transfers, followed by a low regular APR of 11.74% - 23.74% variable.

Also consider: If you're looking for extra rewards alongside a low APR, consider the Discover it Balance Transfer.

Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card

Our winner for: Best No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Card

Notable features: 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 25,000 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.

Also consider: For a premium alternative with flexible redemption options, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Our winner for: Best Airline Miles Credit Card

Notable features: Earn 50,000 miles after a $2,500 spend within the first 3 months, as well as 2X miles back at gas stations, restaurants and every eligible American Airlines purchase. There's also a $100 American Airlines flight discount after you spend $20,000 in a year and renew your card.

Why we like it: Plenty of airline cards allow you to earn boosted points for airline purchases, but this one also offers increased points for everyday purchases. And the preferred boarding and free first checked bag just pile on superior travel benefits of the Platinum Select, making this our favorite airline card.

Also consider: The AAdvantage MileUp Card is a worthwhile alternative with no annual fee and a smaller, more attainable sign-up bonus.

Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card

Our winner for: Best Business Credit Card

Notable features: With 1.5% cash back on all purchases, this offer is among the best credit cards out there and can translate into huge savings for businesses that make substantial purchases. With no annual fee, the Ink Business Unlimited offers a compelling value for any business, but especially small businesses. That's not to mention the $500 sign-up bonus after only $3,000 in purchases made in the first 3 months.

Why we like it: The 1.5% unlimited cash back and large sign-up bonus means business owners can quickly rack up the dollars from using this card.

Also consider: The Capital One Spark Cash for Business is an alternative that offers even higher cash back of 2% on all purchases, but charges a $95 annual fee after the first year.

Capital One Platinum

Our winner for: Best Credit Card for Fair Credit

Notable features: The Capital One Platinum accepts you even if your 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.

Also consider: For an alternative with better rewards and a small annual fee, take a look at the Capital One QuicksilverOne.

Credit One Bank Visa Credit Card

Our winner for: Best Credit Card for Bad Credit

Notable features: 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 you if your score is under 670 on 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 if your credit isn't the best but you want to practice with a rewards card.

Also consider: For a secured card alternative, consider the Capital One Secured Mastercard.

Discover it Student Cash Back

Our winner for: Best Student Credit Card

Notable features: College students can benefit from this card's 5% back on rotating categories after you activate, up to the quarterly maximum. 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. The fact that Discover automatically matches all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year is a huge bonus.

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.

Also consider: Take a look at the Discover it Student chrome and decide which rewards structure suits you best.

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

Is a credit card right for you?

There is a right time and a wrong time to take out a credit card. We look at how to time it so that you can get the product that best suits your needs — here are some general guidelines to follow.

When your credit score is where it needs to be – This is a big one. Make sure your score is within the range of the card you are looking at. If you have a credit score of 550, there's no point in applying for a high-end travel card that requires a much higher score.

When you don't have any upcoming loans to take out – It's generally a bad idea to apply for a credit card if you are about to take out a loan for, say, a car or home. It can appear to lenders that you are desperate. Instead, time your applications so that you give each one a cushion of several months.

When you haven't applied recently for a loan or card – In the same way, you don't want to apply for a card immediately after you apply for another type of loan. Every time you apply for a lending product your score takes a small hit (although it's temporary, so don't despair).

How credit card rewards work

Now for the fun stuff. New credit cards are entering the market every day, rewarding 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.

There are basically 2 ways to earn rewards – with a sign-up bonus and with ongoing rewards. There can be other ways, such as signing up your first authorized user, but those are the most common ways to earn rewards.

With a sign-up bonus, you usually are required to spend a minimum in order to get the bonus, and it will have a deadline, usually 3 months, but sometimes longer. So you might be able to earn $150 back after a $500 spend within 3 months, as in the case of the Freedom Unlimited.

The ongoing rewards are trickier. You can be rewarded for loyalty to hotel and airline brands; certain types of shopping; and loyalty to the card. They can be cash back cards or travel cards, and there are different types of both, including rotating categories, tiered categories and flat rates.

Ways to redeem the rewards vary from issuing checks and statement credits to redemptions for travel and using loyalty miles for flights.

Benefits you can get with your credit cards

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 – a $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher 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 people who want to use it and forget it. This card is ideal if you 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 you if you have a large purchase coming up or are 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 17.02%.
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 carry 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.

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. One of the most common decisions you'll come across is whether to go for a card with an annual fee. 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

Remember to keep an open mind and carefully consider how much you could get out of an annual-fee card compared to no-annual-fee alternatives. The above example can be used as a guideline for conducting a basic cost-benefit analysis.


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.


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