Whether you’re looking for an everyday cash back card or luxury travel rewards, Mastercard® partners with lots of issuers so you’re sure to find a card that suits your needs.
A guide to Mastercard credit cards
Mastercard, one of the world’s dominant payment systems, teams up with giants like Bank of America and Citi to bring you all manner of cards, from credit-builder cards to exclusive travel credit cards. This brand and its reputation also offers its own benefits, including security features, international acceptance and its proprietary Priceless Cities program.
Best Mastercard credit cards compared
|Credit Card||Best For:||Annual Fee||Review Score|
|Citi Rewards+® Card||Everyday use||$0||3.2 / 5|
|Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®||American Airlines flyers||$450||3.9 / 5|
|IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card||IHG hotel points||$89 (waived first year)||4.3 / 5|
|Brex 30 Card||Businesses building credit||$0||4.3 / 5|
|Capital One Spark Miles for Business||Frequent international travelers||$95 (waived first year)||3.9 / 5|
|First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard® Secured Credit Card||Low APR||$49||N / A|
|First Progress Platinum Select Mastercard® Secured Credit Card||Beginners||$39||N / A|
|First Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard® Secured Credit Card||Low annual fee||$29||N / A|
|Citi® Secured Mastercard®||No annual fee for beginners||$0||3.1 / 5|
|Sam’s Club® Mastercard®||Gas rewards||$0||2.9 / 5|
|Mastercard® Black Card™||Big spenders||$495||2.5 / 5|
Editor’s picks: Mastercard credit card details
Citi Rewards+® Card: Best for everyday use
Why we picked it: This card is packed with rewards. Earn 2X points at supermarkets and gas stations (up to $6,000 per year then 1X), plus 1X points on all other purchases. The best part – this card rounds up your rewards to the nearest 10 on every purchase, meaning even a $1.29 pack of mints will earn 10 points.
Pros: This card’s 20,000-point sign-up bonus is similar to that of the Chase Freedom Unlimited or the Chase Freedom Flex. For a limited time, you can earn 20,000 bonus points after spending $1,500 within the first three months of account opening, worth $200 in gift cards when redeemed at Thankyou.com. There’s also a 15 month 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers (then 13.49% to 23.49% variable), all for no annual fee.
Cons: Your earning in the 2X categories is limited to $6,000 annually – any further spending will earn the 1X rate. Also, the points-earning rewards structure can make it hard to gauge your earnings ahead of time.
Who should apply? With a unique and generous rewards structure and several useful features, anyone committed to using their credit card on even the smallest of purchases can benefit from the Citi Rewards+ card.
Who should skip? Shoppers who want savings but don’t have a high grocery store budget would benefit more from another rewards card.
Read more about the Citi Rewards+ Card or jump back to this card’s offer details.
Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®: Best for American Airlines flyers
Why we picked it: This card comes with a huge sign-up bonus of 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in the first three months (worth around $700 in travel according to The Points Guy’s AAdvantage mile valuation). And to regularly earn miles, you’ll get 2X miles on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar elsewhere.
Pros: You’ll gain access to a luxury travel experience; enjoy elite perks like free lounge access (with American Airlines reciprocal lounges), free Admirals Club membership with lounge access (a value of up to $650), and credits for expedited security screening. Also, your miles are unlimited and won’t expire as long as you keep the card active every 18 months.
Cons: Though it has the rewards to back it up, there’s a $450 annual fee. Also, there’s blackout dates on some rewards and other restrictions when it comes to redeeming travel.
Who should apply? Loyal American Airlines flyers who want a more high-end experience can squeeze a lot of value out of this card, but it’s not a great fit for homebodies or those who like options when booking their travel.
Who should skip? If you don’t often fly with American, this card’s $450 annual fee is enough reason to reroute to other travel credit card options.
Read more about the Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard or jump back to this card’s offer details.
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: Best for IHG hotel points
Why we picked it: IHG Rewards Club members can earn up to 25 points per dollar on their IHG hotel stays – 10 points for being a cardholder and 15 as a club member with Platinum Elite Status. On top of that, cardholders get 2X points at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants, plus 1X points on all other purchases.
Pros: This card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 150,000 points if you spend $3,000 in the first three months, and it also comes with an annual bonus of 10,000 points each year you spend $20,000 and make one additional purchase. You’ll also enjoy an array of travel and consumer perks like a free rewards night each card anniversary, credit of up to $100 for Global Entry / TSA PreCheck every four years and cell phone protection.
Cons: The card comes with an $89 annual fee, which is fortunately waived in the first year. Also, the card is limited in its rewards redemption – hotel stays are the only worthwhile options.
Who should apply? Frequent IHG guests and travelers in the market for a hotel rewards card could check-in to a rewarding experience here. If you’re a traveler who likes to keep their options open however, a card like the Citi Premier® Card or Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card might be a better fit.
Who should skip? Those who often check-in somewhere other than an IHG property should shop through other hotel credit cards or more general travel cards.
Read more about the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card or jump back to this card’s offer details.
Brex 30 Card: Best for businesses building credit
Why we picked it: Spend $9,000 in the first 30 days of membership and earn 50,000 Brex Rewards points. Plus, Brex offers a whole slew of discounts on services like Slack, Zoom, Google Ads, Amazon Web Services, and other perks that small business owners and start-ups would certainly find useful.
Pros: The streamlined application process requires no personal credit checks. Credit lines are higher than many business cards. Members can redeem points on travel with an extensive range of airline partners at a ratio of 1:1.
Cons: Businesses can add up to five employee cards at no charge, though any additional employee card incurs a $5 monthly charge which could add up for larger teams. Most cards, including the American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card, allow you to add extra employees for free. Another potential downside: most of the discounts on business services expire after the first year.
Who should apply? This card is a great match for start-ups and small businesses with a minimum of $100,000 in a corporate account (or $50,000 if professionally managed) but limited credit history.
Who should skip? Established, high-budget businesses might be better off with a card that allows for a large number of additional cards at no extra cost. A flat-rate business credit card might also be better suited for some small business owner’s expenses.
Read more about the Brex 30 card or jump back to this card’s offer details.
Capital One Spark Miles for Business: Best for frequent international business travelers
Why we picked it: With an unlimited rewards rate of 2X miles on all purchases, plus a generous 50,000 mile welcome bonus (after spending $4,500 within the first three months of membership) this is an excellent flat-rate rewards card for business travelers on the go.
Pros: There are no minimum requirements on mile redemptions, no expiration dates and no blackouts. Miles can be transferred to over 15 airline partners worldwide.
Cons: While the network of airline partners is impressive, it includes only one domestic carrier.
Who should apply? Small business owners who regularly travel abroad will find a lot to love about this flat rate business card.
Who should skip? If your business isn’t often on-the-go or you don’t travel for leisure, there are plenty of business credit cards that can provide more value for small business owners.
Read more about the Capital One Spark Miles for Business or jump back to this card’s offer details.
First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard® Secured Credit Card: Best low APR secured card
Why we picked it: With monthly reporting to all three major credit bureaus and a reasonable 9.99% APR (variable), the First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard Secured Credit Card helps build credit through responsible card use.
Pros: Secured deposits are fully refundable and range from $200 to $2,000, depending on what you’re comfortable putting down at the time of application. There’s no minimum score or credit check required in order to be approved.
Cons: There is no possibility of being upgraded to an unsecured card or having your credit line extended after you’ve proven your creditworthiness. Some applicants may be put off by the $49 annual fee.
Who should apply? The quick and hassle-free application process will appeal to anyone looking for a simple way to establish good credit.
Who should skip? There are secured credit cards that come without an annual fee, so shop around if the $49 yearly charge isn’t all that appealing.
Read more about the First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard Secured Credit Card or jump back to this card’s offer details.
First Progress Platinum Select Mastercard® Secured Credit Card: Best for beginners
Why we picked it: Like the First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard Secured Credit Card, the First Progress Platinum Select Mastercard Secured Credit Card also reports monthly to all major credit bureaus and gives cardmembers build good credit through responsible use. With an annual fee of $39 and a 13.99% APR (variable), this secured card provides a nice middleground for those who are still figuring out their individual spending habits.
Pros: Secured deposits are fully refundable and range from $200 to $2,000, depending on what you’re comfortable putting down at the time of application. There’s no minimum score or credit history required in order to be approved, and your application won’t impact your credit score.
Cons: There is an annual fee of $39. Responsible use doesn’t result in an upgrade to an unsecured card or credit extension.
Who should apply? This secured card is a good match for those taking steps to improve or build credit.
Who should skip? Someone who wants a secured card that comes with the possibility of upgrading to a traditional credit card.
Read more about the First Progress Platinum Select Mastercard® Secured Credit Card or jump back to this card’s offer details.
First Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard® Secured Credit Card: Best low-annual-fee secured card
Why we picked it: Compared to many secured cards, the First Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard charges a fairly low annual fee of $29. There’s no minimum credit score or credit history requirements. Security deposits range from $200 to $2,000 and can be refunded at any time, provided you’ve paid off your balance in full.
Pros: The application process is straightforward and won’t negatively impact your credit score.
Cons: The 19.99% APR (variable) could be a tad steep for those who will carry a balance, especially when trying to build good credit.
Who should apply? This secured card is a good match for anyone trying to improve their credit without spending a lot in annual fees.
Who should skip? A credit beginner who thinks they’ll more than likely have to carry a balance from month-to-month should look to another introductory card. The 19.99% variable APR here could get pricey.
Read more about the First Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard® Secured Credit Card or jump back to this card’s offer details.
Citi® Secured Mastercard®: Best no-annual-fee card for beginners
Why we picked it: A rarity among most secured cards, this option comes with no annual fee. This makes it possible to pay down your balance in full every month and build your credit score, all while avoiding the extra cost.
Pros: Your initial credit limit will be equal to your security deposit ($200 to $2,500) as you open your account, so you essentially get to choose your own credit limit. If you can afford it, you can add more to your limit and help yourself through your credit utilization – which makes up 30% of your credit score.
Cons: There’s no ongoing rewards here and the ongoing APR is 22.49% (variable) if you were to ever have to carry a balance.
Who should apply? Credit-builders who want to have the long-term alternative of graduating to an unsecured card while avoiding an annual fee.
Who should skip? New cardholders who want to get acclimated with a more traditional card or hesitate at the idea of a sizable deposit should check out student credit cards or other cards for bad credit.
Read our Citi Secured Mastercard review or jump back to this card’s offer details.
Sam’s Club® Mastercard®: Best for gas rewards
Why we picked it: With this store-member card, you can get 5% cash back on gas purchases (up to the first $6,000 per year). That applies anywhere, not just when you fill up at the wholesale club. Cardholders also can take advantage of 3% cash back on dining and 1% cash back on other eligible purchases, with a maximum of $5,000 cash back per year.
Pros: You’ll get a $30 statement credit if you spend $30 in Sam’s Club purchases within 30 days of account opening. As you spend, your cash back is automatically added to your Sam’s Club membership account and you can take out as much as $100 cash at any Sam’s Club register or Samsclub.com. Plus, there’s no annual fee, though a $45 Sam’s Club membership is required. Also, there are no foreign transaction fees, a rare perk among store-branded credit cards.
Cons: The rewards redemption program isn’t as flexible as we’d hope. You can only put rewards toward Sam’s Club expenses or statement credits, unless you redeem for cash back at the wholesale retailer. Also, you can only receive your rewards in February and those rewards expire if you don’t redeem them by December 31 of that same year. You’ll also lose rewards if your Sam’s Club membership lapses before February.
Who should apply? Sam’s Club shoppers who spend a lot of time on the road or someone driving a gas guzzler who might be interested in a wholesale club membership should check out this card.
Who should skip? Homebodies and shoppers whose spending typically doesn’t include trips to the gas station should look elsewhere.
Read our Sam’s Club Mastercard review or jump back to this card’s offer details.
Mastercard® Black Card™: Best for big spenders
Why we picked it: This card comes with unlimited 1X points-earning on every purchase you make, plus a little extra as you redeem. You’ll get a 1.5% bonus when you exchange points for cash back and a 2% bonus when it’s for airfare.
Pros: You’ll get an airline statement credit for up to $100 annually, plus up to $100 towards Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit every four years. Another way to help the luxury traveler, you’ll get access to over 1,300 airport lounges worldwide by enrolling in Priority Pass Select. There’s also no foreign transaction fees, exclusive events and experiences, and numerous travel protections and insurances.
Cons: The card comes with a steep $495 annual fee. Although many travel cards and heavy rewards cards can justify these price tags, the Black Card’s lack of sign-up bonus and low rewards rate are areas where it falls short when competing with top rewards cards.
Who should apply? Those who like the appeal of a metal card and want access to an exclusive travel experience.
Who should skip? Rewards-hunters who want a high annual fee card to cash in on a plethora of bonuses and lucrative earnings.
Read our Mastercard Black Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.
What is Mastercard?
As a network, Mastercard doesn’t issue cards directly – rather, it partners with massive banks such as Bank of America, as well as your local bank or credit union, which provide cards that carry the Mastercard logo. Then, Mastercard also partners with millions of merchants around the world, which accept cards with their logo while paying a processing fee. Products can be debit, prepaid, charge or credit cards.
Mastercard is one of the dominant card networks, which also include Visa, Discover and American Express. Accepted throughout the world, it is one of the go-to networks for worldwide travel. A well-respected reputation and international presence helps Mastercard offer a variety of credit card benefits.
There are a number of unique advantages to using a Mastercard, including worldwide acceptance. In fact, Mastercard’s growth in recent years has been stronger outside the U.S. than within the states. Despite the recent trend of a growing international presence, in some ways Mastercard’s expansion slowed in 2020:
Mastercard purchase transaction growth in 2020…
- Mastercard credit and charge, less U.S.: -0.2%
- Mastercard credit and charge, U.S.: -7.3%
- Mastercard credit and charge, worldwide: -1.7%
- Mastercard debit and prepaid, less U.S.: 12.4%
- Mastercard debit and prepaid, U.S.: 3.8%
- Mastercard debit and prepaid, worldwide: 9.5%
Source: Mastercard Supplemental Operational Performance Data
Unique Mastercard programs
With their multitude of connections and long-standing reputation, Mastercard has been able to put together a suite of special offers and exclusive programs. These features can take your travel experiences to a whole new level, add convenience and security to your card, and take your card over the top with a slew of benefits.
Mastercard offers unique programs and benefits such as their World and World Elite categories, the Priceless series, SecureCode, and Masterpass.
World and World Elite categories
There are 2 exclusive tiers you can achieve as a cardholder within the Mastercard suite. The World and World Elite each come with some excellent perks when using your card. If your card qualifies as one of these tiers, you can expect a little extra when it comes to benefits.
- Free shipping with more than 140 online stores
- Free ShopRunner membership (enrollment required)
- Home sharing – choose from more than 10,000 rentals in cities worldwide
- Priceless Cities and Golf
- Identity theft protection
- Room upgrades
- Car, air, cruise and vacation packages
- Professional travel services
- Airport concierge
- Free shipping
- Free ShopRunner membership (enrollment required)
- Home sharing
- 24/7 concierge
- Priceless Cities and Golf
- Identity theft protection
- Trip cancellation insurance
- Room upgrades
- Car, air, cruise and vacation packages
- Professional travel services
- Airport concierge
- Monthly Lyft credits
- 5% cash back on Boxed orders
- Entertainment discounts
- Cell phone protection
With Priceless Cities and Priceless Golf, cardholders can get access to once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. The Cities package can give rewards tailored to your interests, with in-person and digital experiences for all types of people. You can head to priceless.com to see your variety of options in entertainment, arts and culture, sports, culinary experiences, travel and shopping.
Golfers both casual and experienced might take a little extra time with their approach of whether to get a Mastercard thanks to Priceless Golf. Players and fans of the sport can get access to exclusive golf offers, discounts and experiences with the PGA Tour.
Mastercard SecureCode is a private code for your Mastercard account that only you and your financial institution see, meaning merchants can’t see it. The added layer of security can protect you from identity theft and fraudulent charges. You can use SecureCode in 122 countries at more than a million online merchants. To activate:
- Enter your card number. Click the SIGN UP button, find your bank’s website and create your private code.
- Verify your identity. To enroll, you will be asked to confirm your identity by providing answers to security questions.
- Create your SecureCode. Once you have answered the security questions, you will be asked to create your secure code.
- Registration is complete. Once you have created your SecureCode, your enrollment is complete and you are ready to begin shopping online.
A digital wallet, Masterpass works online, in apps and in stores and on any device. You can store your cards and shipping information electronically, allowing you to shop from one account. You just register on masterpass.com or through your bank and load your Mastercard credit or debit card.
You can use Masterpass at thousands of online merchants and at more than a million store locations. You get multi-tiered security and Zero Fraud Liability protects you from unauthorized purchases.
Who are Mastercard credit cards good for?
If you’re concerned with whether or not there’s a Mastercard right for you, you’ve come to the right place. Start by thinking about the type of shopper you are and where you stand financially. Consider your credit score along with where you spend the most and what your typical monthly budget is. These factors are essential when trying to find the right card.
After evaluating your needs when it comes to a new credit card, take a look here to see if your lifestyle is covered by one of Mastercard options:
- Travelers: Mastercard provides solid choices for frequent flyers, hotel guests and anyone routinely booking trips for work. Those loyal to American Airlines have a serious opportunity thanks to the rewards and sign-up bonus that come along with the Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard. If you’re someone who often checks into IHG hotels, the IHG Rewards Club Premier card is a no-brainer to upgrade your stays and earn extra rewards. Business travelers looking for a more general rewards card have a great route to take as well, with the 2X miles on all purchases and flexible redemption options featured by the Capital One Spark Miles for Business.
- Credit builders: Credit newcomers and people trying to establish their score have several Mastercards to sort through. Likely the top option here, the Citi Secured Mastercard lets cardholders open a card account without an annual fee as an affordable way to get your credit score headed in the right direction. Alternatively, inexperienced credit builders could start their journey with one of Mastercard’s secured First Progress options: the Prestige, Select or Elite. These do come with a bit of an annual fee, but are still a worthwhile path to take as you look to build a credit score.
- Everyday use: Someone looking for a general rewards card has a clear-cut choice here: the Citi Rewards+ Card. You don’t have to worry about whether your purchases will get substantial rewards; every buy you make with this card will be rounded up to the nearest 10 rewards points, rewarding you a little extra on even the smallest purchases.
- Savings on the road: If your vehicle isn’t so fuel-efficient, you might be able to make up for some of the costs at the pump by getting a card that offers maximum savings on gas. You’ll have to pay a $45 membership to Sam’s Club to carry the card, but the Sam’s Club Mastercard can help roadtrippers with 5% cash back on gas at any gas station on up to $6,000 per year.
- Small business needs: On-the-go small business owners should see if the Capital One Spark Miles for Business fits their budget. Its 2X miles-earning may lead to major discounts on upcoming business trips and an upgraded travel experience in general. Startup owners might be more drawn to the Brex 30 Card, which comes without an annual fee, features high-end rewards rates across a variety of categories and has a substantial sign-up bonus.
How we picked the best Mastercard credit cards
Research Methodology: We analyzed a multitude of Mastercard credit cards to identify their best offers currently on the market. The major factors we considered were:
- Base rewards program: Are there worthwhile rewards available with the card? Many of Mastercard’s options provide great cash back rewards and points-earning structures, so we honed in on their top offers.
- Introductory APR offers: Several of Mastercard’s top choices welcome you with extended periods of time with intro 0% interest on purchases, balance transfers, or both. We searched for the best offers to help with credit card debt and interest charges.
- Extra features: With cards for all kinds of consumers, Mastercard’s options provide a wide range of perks. We tried to find the card with the best benefits, whether they’re geared towards credit builders or luxury travelers.
- Other rates and fees: We looked at whether the card comes with an annual fee, how reasonable the APR is and if there’s any extraneous costs. If a credit card listed here comes at a price, it surely has the rewards and features to back it up.