One of the questions I’m asked the most is, “What credit card should I get?” The answer: It depends on what you’re looking for in a card. Here’s how to decide.
The Bank of America content was last updated on January 3, 2023.
One of the questions I’m asked the most is, “Which credit card should I get?”
There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer, but here’s how to narrow it down:
Which credit card to choose if you carry a balance
If you’re in credit card debt, then you need to prioritize your interest rate over rewards. The average credit card interest rate currently sits at about 16.50%. It doesn’t make sense to pay interest just to earn 1%, 2% or 3% in cash back or travel points.
If you have credit card debt, forget about rewards for now. You can avoid interest for up to 21 months with the right balance transfer card. And some card issuers (especially credit unions) charge ongoing (non-promotional) rates as low as 6% to 9%. Don’t chase rewards if you’re revolving a balance.
If you have credit card debt, I recommend these cards:
- Citi Simplicity® Card: 21-month 0% intro APR balance transfer offer (transfers must be completed in the first four months), intro 3% balance transfer fee ($5 minimum) on transfers completed within the first four months, then 5% of each transfer ($5 minimum) applies if completed after four months of account opening, 0% introductory purchase APR for 12 months and regular variable APR of 18.24% to 28.99%
- Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card*: 0% intro balance transfer offer on qualifying balance transfers for 15 months from account opening (must complete the transfer within 60 days of opening the account), intro balance transfer fee of 3% or $5 (whichever is greater, 0% intro purchase APR for 15 months from account opening, regular variable APR of 14.49% to 24.99%, regular balance transfer fee of up to 5% or $5 (whichever is greater)
- BankAmericard® credit card: 21-billing-cycle 0% intro APR balance transfer offer (must complete the transfer within 60 days of opening the account), 3% or $10 transfer fee (whichever is greater), introductory 0% purchase APR for 21 billing cycles, regular variable APR of 16.24% to 26.24% on purchases and balance transfers
Which card to pick if you don’t have any credit card debt
Now we’re on to the fun stuff! The key questions at this juncture focus on how much effort you want to put in, how you spend your money and what you want to get out of your rewards.
Some people treat credit card rewards like a game. It’s fun for them, and they spend time looking for the best deals and juggling multiple cards. And some credit card holders prefer simplicity and would rather use the same card or two as widely as possible.
You won’t get the best rewards with that approach, but you can still do pretty well. Here are my favorite flat-rate cash back cards:
- Alliant Visa Signature Card*: 2.5% cash back on every purchase (maximum of $250 cash back per billing cycle) with no annual fee
- Citi® Double Cash Card: Essentially 2% cash back on everything (you get 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay it off), no annual fee
Which card to pick if you’re willing to put in a little work to earn better rewards
Dividing your spending among multiple cards is the best way to maximize your rewards. At this stage, you need to consider how you spend your money. Different cards incentivize different types of spending (e.g., travel, restaurants, groceries, entertainment).
You also need to think about how you want to redeem your rewards. Cash back has the broadest appeal (after all, who couldn’t use a little more cash?), although travel rewards are usually the most valuable.
You can generally get top value from general-purpose travel cards with transferable points programs (for example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, the American Express® Gold Card, the Citi Premier® Card and the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card).
Each of these issuers has more than a dozen airline and hotel transfer partners, plus you can book an even wider variety of flights and hotels directly through the card companies. These programs provide tons of flexibility, and in terms of cents per point, they generally offer higher returns than cash back cards.
As you can see, picking the best credit card for you is an individual decision. I’ll leave you with two more thoughts:
You’re doing well if you’re avoiding credit card debt and redeeming rewards for something that’s valuable to you.
Not everyone wants to fly to the Maldives in first-class and stay in an overwater bungalow. Even if it yields fewer cents per point, a free flight to grandma’s house or cash back on everyday purchases could make more sense for your situation.
You should absolutely consider sign-up bonuses when evaluating credit cards, but don’t lose sight of the fact that your credit card strategy should be a long-term pursuit. Especially if you’re new to credit, focus on ongoing value rather than card churning.
*All information about the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa card and Alliant Visa Signature Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuers did not provide the details, nor are they responsible for their accuracy.