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The Best Credit Cards of August 2022: Rewards, Top Offers & Reviews

Written by: Jeanine Skowronski | Edited by: Tracy Stewart | Reviewed by: Jason Steele
|

August 16, 2022

Best Credit Cards of August 2022

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  • Cash Back Match
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Best rewards credit card
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
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.
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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
$350 Earn a $350 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
16.24% - 26.24% variable
BEST FOR EVERYDAY CASH REWARDS
Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
Our rating:4.1 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.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

2%
Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases

At A Glance

Intro offer
$200 cash rewards Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
17.24%, 22.24%, or 27.24% Variable APR
Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
High-value spend categories
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
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.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Rewards rate

5%
Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more;
3%
3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service
1.5%
1.5% on all other purchases

At A Glance

Intro offer
Earn an Additional 1.5% Cash Back Intro Offer: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
16.49% - 25.24% variable
Best credit card for foodies
American Express® Gold Card
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

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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 points Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
Annual fee
$250
Regular APR
18.24%-25.24% Variable
Best for low-maintenance bonus rewards
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.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

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 $750 on purchases in the first 3 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
16.24% - 26.24% variable
Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST FOR UNLIMITED MILES ON PURCHASES
Capital One Venture X 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.

Recommended credit

740-850 (Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

10X
Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X
5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X
Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases

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
18.49% - 25.49% variable
Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
Best for frugal families
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Our rating:4.4 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

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Rewards rate

3%
3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%.
3%
New! 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
$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
16.24% - 27.24% variable
BEST FOR BALANCE TRANSFERS + HIGH-VALUE REWARDS CATEGORIES
Discover it® Balance Transfer
Our rating:3.6 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.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Rewards rate

5%
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
1%
Earn 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

At A Glance

Intro offer
Cashback Match™ Intro Offer: Unlimited Cashback Match - 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
13.49% - 24.49% variable
Best first-time rewards credit 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.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves 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
16.49% - 26.49% variable
Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST TRAVEL CREDIT CARD
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
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.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

5X
Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
2X
Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.

At A Glance

Intro offer
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
17.49% - 25.49% variable
Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST FOR LONG 0% INTRO APR
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum 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.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

This card doesn't offer cash back, miles, or points

At A Glance

Intro offer
No current offer
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
16.74% - 26.74% variable
Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST FOR UNLIMITED + EVERYDAY REWARDS IN POPULAR CATEGORIES
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.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

8%
Earn 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment purchases and tickets at Vivid Seats
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
3%
Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®).
1%
Earn 1% 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
16.49% - 26.49% variable
Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST SIGN-UP BONUS
Chase Sapphire Preferred® 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.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Rewards rate

5x
5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
3x
3x on dining.
2x
2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.

At A Glance

Intro offer
60,000 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 Ultimate Rewards®.
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
17.49% - 24.49% variable
BEST BUSINESS CREDIT CARD
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

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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 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
15.49% - 23.49% variable
BEST STUDENT CREDIT CARD
Discover it® Student Cash Back
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.

Recommended credit

(No Credit History) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Rewards rate

5%
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, 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 - 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 into $200. There's no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
14.49% - 23.49% 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.

Recommended credit

(No Credit History) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

This card doesn't offer cash back, miles, or points

At A Glance

Annual fee
$0
Balance transfer intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
26.99% variable
Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

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.

All information about the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

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.


Comparing the best credit cards

Credit cardBest forAnnual feeCreditCards.com Rating
Discover it® Cash BackCash back match$04.6 / 5
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American ExpressRewards$954.5 / 5
Wells Fargo Active Cash® CardEveryday cash rewards$04.1 / 5
Chase Freedom Unlimited®High-value spend categories$05.0 / 5
American Express® Gold CardFoodies$2504.8 / 5
Citi Custom Cash℠ CardAutomatically maximizing rewards$04.5 / 5
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit CardUnlimited miles on purchases$3954.4 / 5
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American ExpressFrugal families$04.5 / 5
Discover it® Balance TransferBalance transfers + high-value rewards categories$04.5 / 5
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit CardFlexible rewards for first-timers$03.7 / 5
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit CardTravel$954.6 / 5
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum CardLong 0% intro APR$04.2 / 5
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit CardUnlimited + everyday rewards in popular categories$04.9 / 5
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardGenerous sign-up bonus$954.9 / 5
American Express Blue Business Cash™ CardBusiness$04.3 / 5
Discover it® Student Cash BackStudents$04.3 / 5
Capital One Platinum Secured Credit CardSecured$04.2 / 5

best credit cards 2022

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

Best for cash back match: Discover it® Cash Back

  • Best features: At the end of your first year of card membership, Discover will match the cash back you’ve earned, which can be incredibly valuable even for those who tend to spend conservatively. Rewards rates are high on bonus categories and the intro APR on balance transfers is ideal for tackling existing card debt.
  • Biggest drawbacks: Enrollment is required for bonus categories. If you’re not up for planning in advance, you may miss out on the potential value of the card.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Related: Discover it Cash Back rewards and benefits guide

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

Best rewards credit card: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

  • Best features: The Blue Cash Preferred packs a lot of everyday value, offering high rewards in far more household categories than the typical cash back rewards card. This includes one of the highest cash back rates around for U.S. supermarkets and select U.S. streaming services. This versatile card also comes with an intro APR offer on purchases, a generous welcome offer and a number of lesser-known perks like a free ShopRunner membership (enrollment required) and a number of shopping protections.
  • 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: Families who spend less than $3,200 at U.S. supermarkets annually might be better served by the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express, which offers lower rewards on similar bonus categories for no annual fee.
  • Bottom line: Families who spend $3,200 or more at U.S. supermarkets yearly will recoup the $95 annual fee, plus some – and likely come out ahead in the long term, given the card’s additional rewards categories.

Related: What credit score is needed for the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card?

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

Best for everyday 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 sign-up 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).
  • Biggest drawbacks: A credit card with high bonus categories that fit your spending habits could help you earn maximum rewards faster. And while the additional perks are nice, the Active Cash card doesn’t offer the longest intro APR period or the highest cellphone protection compared to other rewards cards.
  • Alternatives: The Chase Freedom Unlimited has a slightly lower flat rate compared to the Active Cash Card but comes with bonus categories that could easily make up the difference if you spend more on travel and dining.
  • 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 Wells Fargo Active Cash Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for high-value spend categories: Chase Freedom Unlimited®

  • Best features: The Freedom Unlimited’s travel and dining bonus categories are great but not the only standout features. The card also offers a higher flat rate for general purchases compared to other cash back cards with bonus categories and comes with a welcome offer worth an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year).
  • Biggest drawbacks: The card’s sign-up bonus is worth up to $300 in cash back your first year, but you’ll have to spend $20,000 to take maximum advantage of the offer. This is far more work compared to the sign-up bonuses found with other cash back cards.
  • Alternatives: If you’re looking to earn high rewards for food and travel, you have some solid options to consider. The Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card doesn’t cover as much travel as the Freedom Unlimited but is a great no-annual-fee option that rewards your spending in a number of popular areas, including dining, grocery store purchases and popular streaming services. Or, for a $95 annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Preferred comes packed with all the best features found with the Freedom Unlimited and SavorOne, plus additional perks to help offset the annual fee.
  • Bottom line: Anyone seeking a general-purpose cash back card with a sign-up bonus will be well-served by the Chase Freedom Unlimited. It’s also a good companion card to people who have other Chase credit cards, given the issuer lets you transfer points between certain accounts.

Related: Is the Chase Freedom Unlimited worth it?

Read our full Chase Freedom Unlimited review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best credit card for foodies: American Express® Gold Card

  • Best features: On top of earning generous rewards for airfare and purchases made at U.S. supermarkets, this card has one of the highest cash back rates for dining, including takeout and delivery. But there’s more to the Amex Gold card besides rewards. The impressive welcome offer, credits, multiple travel insurance benefits and numerous other perks help make this one of the top travel-and-dining rewards cards.
  • 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 is only good at select establishments like Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory and Shake Shack. 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: People looking for a best-in-class card for food purchases will find themselves richly rewarded by the Amex Gold.

Related: What credit score is needed for the American Express Gold card?

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

Best for low-maintenance bonus rewards: Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

  • Best features: Few cards adapt to your spending habits like the Custom Cash card, which automatically earns 5% cash back in your top eligible spending category (on up to $500 in spending each billing cycle). Eligible categories include a number of options that don’t typically earn such a high rate of cash back all year long with other cash back cards, like restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores and home improvement stores.
  • 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: Even though it comes with a $95 annual fee, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express lets you earn hefty 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 the annual fee and still rake in plenty of cash back.
  • Bottom line: This 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.

Related: Is the Citi Custom Cash Card worth it?

Read our Citi Custom Cash Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for unlimited miles on purchases: 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 features like complimentary lounge access. On top of a high sign-up bonus, annual credit and bonus anniversary miles, the card also has an impressive flat rate of 2X miles on all general purchases and bonus categories that earn high rewards when you book travel through the Capital One Travel portal.
  • Biggest drawbacks: You’ll have to spend $4,000 within three months of account opening to earn the 75,000 bonus miles. This could be a big ask for anyone who doesn’t have any big trips planned or people who don’t use their credit card regularly.
  • Alternatives: If you’re not deterred by the $695 annual fee, frequent travelers may prefer The Platinum Card® from American Express, which offers broader airport lounge access as well as a larger network of transfer partners.
  • Bottom line: The Venture X is a great option for anyone looking to experience the perks of premier travel rewards cards. Frequent travelers who use their credit card often will be able to take advantage of the card’s generous and unlimited earning potential, which will help offset the annual fee.

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

Best for frugal families: Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

  • Best features: One of the best fixed-bonus category credit cards, this Blue Cash Preferred alternative lets you skip the annual fee while you earn bonus rewards on purchases made at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and at U.S.-based online retailers.
  • 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). Plus, if you’re a fan of bargain shopping, this card isn’t a great fit, as it excludes purchases made at superstores and warehouse clubs from earning bonus rewards. (Learn more about the American Express Membership Rewards program.)
  • Alternatives: If your family spends approximately $270 or more each month on groceries, the Blue Cash Preferred rakes in enough cash back on U.S. supermarket purchases to offset the annual fee and leave plenty of room for more cash back thanks to a slew of bonus categories that cover common household categories.
  • Bottom line: Families with a smaller grocery budget can enjoy the Blue Cash Everyday’s rewards without worrying about recouping an annual fee.

Related: Is the American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card worth it?

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

Best for balance transfers & high-value rewards categories: Discover it® Balance Transfer

  • Best features: This card has great short- and long-term value. Most balance transfer credit cards that offer a long intro APR for balance transfers don’t have much value beyond a lengthy introductory period. But this card stands out from the crowd, thanks to its impressive Cashback Match welcome offer that automatically matches all the cash back you earn in your first year, as well as the card’s rotating bonus category rewards program.
  • 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. The Wells Fargo Active Cash 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.

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

Best flexible rewards credit card for first-timers: 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, sign-up bonus with a low spending threshold and additional benefits like free credit monitoring and 24/7 concierge service, which help increase the card’s value.
  • Biggest drawbacks: The 1.5% cash back rate on all purchases isn’t the best rate on the market for flat-rate cash back credit cards.
  • 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 if you’re in the market for your very first rewards credit card.

Related: Guide to Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards benefits

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

Best travel credit card: 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. The overly generous sign-up bonus and multiple travel benefits pair up nicely with a rewards program that offers a flat rate and bonus travel category. For many travelers, the $95 annual fee will be well worth the cost.
  • Biggest drawbacks: For the sign-up bonus, you only have three months to meet the high spend requirement, which means you’ll need to spend, on average, over $1,300 each month. This isn’t unusual for travel rewards cards, though a number of American Express travel cards ease the burden by giving you six months to earn your welcome offer.
  • Alternatives: The Chase Sapphire Preferred is another mid-level travel rewards card that focuses on earning high rewards. It doesn’t offer a top-of-the-line flat rate, but instead makes it easy to rack up bonus rewards in common purchase categories like dining, online grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart and Target), and select streaming services. Or, if you prefer complimentary luxury benefits like complimentary lounge access and travel credits, consider upgrading to a card with a higher annual fee, like the Capital one Venture X rewards card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
  • Bottom line: Frequent travelers looking to avoid the pricey annual fees associated with other standout travel cards can consider the Venture Rewards a great option.

Related: Is the Capital One Venture Rewards card worth it?

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

Best for long 0% intro APR: U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

  • Best features: The lengthy APR promotion that comes with this card makes it a top choice for anyone who needs time to pay off a large expense or previous debt. In addition to being a no-annual-fee credit card, there’s also one of the longest intro 0% APR offers on purchases and balance transfers for 20 billing cycles (then 16.74% to 26.74%, variable APR).
  • Biggest drawbacks: Beyond the impressive intro APR period, this card doesn’t come with many other perks to help give it long-term value.
  • Alternatives: This card isn’t for you if you want a credit card with a sign-up bonus or long-term benefits like cash back rewards. For that, the Discover it Cash Back may be more your speed.
  • Bottom line: When life throws unexpected expenses or high-interest debt at you, the intro APR that comes with the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card gives you the much-needed time to get your finances in order.

Read our U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for unlimited + everyday rewards in popular categories: 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, 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.
  • Biggest drawbacks: The SavorOne doesn’t earn maximum rewards in its popular categories. If you’re looking to save as much as possible on groceries or dining, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
  • Alternatives: If your monthly spending doesn’t align with the combined SavorOne’s food-and-entertainment spending categories, check out the U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card. This cash back card lets you choose how you earn bonus rewards in three, customizable bonus categories that cover a number of popular areas.
  • Bottom line: From the on-the-go millennial to families on a budget, you’ll all enjoy the value this no-annual-fee card brings with its unlimited 3% rewards in popular spending categories. And if you have a card that gives you higher rewards but comes with spending caps, you’ll be glad you have the SavorOne and its unlimited earnings as backup in your wallet.

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

Best for generous sign-up bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

  • Best features: Travelers will find a lot to love about Chase’s mid-tier travel card. On top of a generous sign-up bonus and high-earning bonus rewards for travel and everyday categories, cardholders always enjoy a 25% boost on Chase Ultimate Rewards travel.
  • Biggest drawbacks: Like other top travel rewards cards, you’ll have to spend a lot in a short period of time to earn the sign-up bonus.
  • Alternatives: If you want premium perks like annual travel credits and complimentary lounge access, consider upgrading to the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Capital One Venture X rewards card.
  • 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.

Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred benefits guide

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

Best business credit card: 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: If you routinely spend over $50,000 a year, you could come out ahead with a different business credit card, like the Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card, which offers 1.5% on every purchase for no annual fee, along with a $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases within three months of account opening.
  • 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.

Read our full 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 credit card that will help you build credit and show off good financial habits, you also get the same sign-up bonus and chance to earn a high rate of cash back as the regular Discover it cash back credit 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 Cash Rewards Credit Card keeps it simple by offering a flat rate for all of your purchases.
  • 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.

Related: Is the Discover it Student Cash Back card worth it?

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 a rare secured credit card with a number of flexible options to help credit builders with bad credit. Unlike cards that require a high initial security deposit, you can put down a small deposit of $49 or $99 to get a credit limit of $200. You can make installment payments before your account is opened and deposit more than the required initial deposit to get a higher credit limit. Plus, you can choose your due date based on your budget, which can help you make your payments on time and avoid late fees.
  • Biggest drawbacks: You’ll need to pay your balance in full each billing cycle to avoid the card’s high 26.99% variable APR. And like many cards that focus on credit building, there are no rewards or other perks like an intro APR offer.
  • Alternatives: If you tend to carry a credit card balance, a low-interest credit card like the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card may be a better fit. Or, if you’d like to avoid interest altogether, the Chime Credit Builder Secured Visa® Credit Card can help you build credit while avoiding interest charges, security deposit, credit checks, and a number of other common credit card fees.
  • Bottom line: This card is a top option for people with bad credit who aren’t likely to qualify for a non-secured credit card.

Related: Capital One Platinum Secured credit card benefits guide

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


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. There are ways to mitigate those charges, which we’ll get into in a bit.

Credit cards are designed for short-term borrowing. If you plan on borrowing long term, a personal loan would be a better fit. With a credit card, you are destined to pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars in interest charges, particularly if you only pay the minimum each month. (Learn how credit card APRs work.) There are ways to avoid paying any interest, however, and ways to make credit cards benefit your whole financial picture.

How do credit card rewards work?

Credit card rewards and their programs come in many forms but generally fall into one of three categories: cash back, points and miles. Cash back is often the most straightforward to use and allows you to earn and redeem cash, frequently in the form of statement credits, gift cards, checks or direct deposits into your bank account.

The amount of points you’ll earn is based on your spending habits and whether your credit card offers a boosted rewards rate on your preferred spending categories. When you’re ready to redeem, your issuer may offer gift cards, cash, travel or other discounts in exchange. Travel rewards cards offer miles to be used towards discounted travel purchases and offer other helpful perks like free checked baggage and lounge access. The amount of miles you’ll earn are determined by your credit card and while programs may allow for miles to be converted, you may lose some in the process.

How do credit scores work?

When being considered for a credit card, the issuer will review 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 such as 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 take into account your apartment 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 lender operates under the assumption that those with a higher credit score pose less risk.

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?

Your issuer charges interest on the money you borrow. There are a number of factors that determine the amount of interest you owe. Interest rates are based on the going prime rate which is tied to the federal funds rate determined by the Federal Reserve. This amount fluctuates, meaning your APR can increase or decrease with time. Creditworthiness can be another factor that shapes the amount of interest you pay. Someone with a spotless credit history will generally receive a lower APR and be charged less interest than someone who has limited or poor credit.

You can avoid interest charges by paying your monthly credit card balance in full and on time. This is because credit card purchases generally have a grace period of around 21 days from the end of your statement cycle and your payment due date. Another way to avoid interest charges, at least temporarily, is to try and take advantage of 0% introductory APR deals offered by many credit cards. With these, you have a set period (usually 15 to 18 months) of 0% interest on purchases and/or balance transfers, though there is often a balance transfer fee of around 3%.

Benefits of having a credit card

When used responsibly, a credit card has endless advantages, such as the ability to earn rewards, handle emergencies and build credit. The four most useful benefits of using a credit card are:

  • Credit building. Because debit card use doesn’t appear on your credit record, these cards cannot help you build or improve your credit score. Using a credit card responsibly can help you build credit since your card issuer will report your transaction activity to the three credit bureaus. This is especially helpful if you have no credit history or wish to improve your credit score. A deposit may be required to obtain a secured credit card, however, this can help you build credit history and qualify for an unsecured card in the future. You can also improve your credit score by maintaining a track record of on-time payments and minimal credit use.
  • Access to card membership perks. Certain credit cards come with a variety of discounts, cash back or rewards (depending on your purchases). Plus, your credit card may offer benefits that can save you money the next time you travel. If you use rental cars frequently, the auto collision damage waiver coverage that comes with some cards may come in handy. There are travel credit cards that offer perks like access to airport lounges and others even provide travel statement credits to offset airline surcharges. Additional benefits could include baggage delay insurance, trip cancellation or interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, free checked baggage and other travel perks.
  • 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, which means that 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.
  • The convenience of paying off purchases over time. When shopping online, credit cards can be a much more convenient and safe payment choice than debit cards, which are linked to your bank account and more susceptible to fraud. Credit cards also allow you to make a purchase and repay the balance at a later date. Your credit card provider issues you a statement detailing exactly how much you spent on each transaction made with your card, and most issuers also offer a grace period during which you will not be charged interest. However, keep in mind that credit card balances past due, regardless of how small, are almost always subject to interest charges, unless you’re taking advantage of a 0% intro APR offer on a credit card.

Types of credit cards

There are thousands 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 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.
  • Are you a transactor? That means you charge most purchases to a credit card, but pay them off in full each month. If so, a rewards credit card is the best way to get a return on your spending.
  • 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. They tend to carry the most lucrative benefits and big transactors are likely to recoup the charge. (Learn when a credit card annual fee is worth it.)
  • 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.
  • 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 90 days). See the best credit card sign-up bonuses.
  • 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. And, in fact, rewards maximizers tend to pair flat-rate cards with bonus category or travel-specific credit cards to get even more bang from their buck. If you’re a disciplined spender, consider this strategy. Here are some other tips for how to maximize credit card rewards.

How to compare credit card features

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all credit card. Each cardholder will have their own unique set of wants and 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. For further comparison, check out our compare credit cards tool to see what card is best for you.

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:

  • Fees: While it’s unlikely that you can avoid paying credit card fees altogether, you could keep them to a minimum with certain cards, but it may mean losing out on extra perks and benefits. For example, if you’re looking to skip annual fees, there are $0 annual fee credit cards to choose from, but cards with annual fees (ranging from $35 to as much as $699) typically offer better perks and consumer protections. Whether annual fees are worth it or not depends on how much use you’ll get out of your card’s benefits, which is why it’s important to find a card that matches your lifestyle.
  • Interest rates: Interest rates are one of the most critical aspects of choosing a card. This is the rate your card issuer will charge you for borrowing from your line of credit, and that rate can vary quite a bit. Issuers will typically offer a lower introductory interest rate when you first join, lasting anywhere from six to 21months. After this time, the regular interest rate kicks in. This regular rate depends on your credit and other factors. If you tend to carry a balance month-to-month, a high interest rate can be financially risky.
  • Benefits and rewards: Credit cards often come loaded with handy benefits for cardmembers, such as extended purchase warranties, airport lounge access, travel insurance and discounts on services or at retailers. Generally, the higher your annual fees the more premium your benefits will be. Premium cards also offer a better rewards rate on purchases. When looking at a card’s rewards program, you’ll want to consider not only the reward rate per dollar but also the value of those rewards and ease of redemption.
  • Introductory bonus: Credit cards offer hefty introductory bonuses, also known as welcome or sign-up bonuses, to new cardholders. These bonuses are often given in the form of points or cash after the new cardholder spends a certain dollar amount within a given period of time in order to entice them to spend. Such offers can be extremely lucrative depending on the card, but bigger isn’t always better. In the event of inflated points, a 100,000-point bonus may not get you as much as you think when it comes time to redeem. For some, spending to meet the bonus threshold could leave them with a debt that is difficult to repay, especially when the regular APR period begins.

How to apply for a credit card

  1. 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.
  2. 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, will you carry a balance month to month? 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?

As many Americans continue to struggle financially as a result of the pandemic and inflation, card issuers have been quick to tighten requirements for approval, resulting 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, while 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

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