Best Credit Cards for April 2018 From Our Partners

Looking for the best credit cards? You’re in the right place. Whether you want cash back, rewards, miles, low interest or no annual fee, our experts have analyzed 3,476 credit cards and compiled the 15 best offers from our partners in one place. Check them out below and keep coming back - this list is updated monthly.

See offers from our partners below.

Top Travel Rewards Credit Card

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  APPLY ONLINE
Credit Needed
Excellent, Good
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • New! Earn 10 miles per dollar on hotels when you pay with your Venture card at hotels.com/venture; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
  • See additional Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card details
 APPLY NOW

at Capital One's
secure site

  • Purchases Intro APR
    N/A
    Balance Transfers Intro APR
    N/A
    Regular APR
    14.49% - 24.49% (Variable)
    Annual Fee
    $95.00*
    Credit Needed
    Excellent, Good

Top Rewards Credit Card

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  APPLY ONLINE
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel.
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • See additional Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card details
 APPLY NOW

at Chase's
secure site

  • Purchases Intro APR
    N/A
    Balance Transfers Intro APR
    N/A
    Regular APR
    17.49% - 24.49% Variable
    Annual Fee
    $95.00*
    Credit Needed
    Excellent/Good

Top Cash Back Credit Card for Everyday Spending

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  APPLY ONLINE
Credit Needed
Excellent, Good
  • $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%).
  • 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.49% to 25.49%.
  • Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See additional Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express details
 APPLY NOW

at American Express's
secure site

  • Purchases Intro APR
    0% on Purchases for 15 months
    Balance Transfers Intro APR
    0% on Balance Transfers for 15 months
    Regular APR
    14.49%-25.49% Variable
    Annual Fee
    $0*
    Credit Needed
    Excellent, Good

Top Cash Back Credit Card for Flat-Rate Reward

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  APPLY ONLINE
Credit Needed
Excellent, Good
  • One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 9 months; 14.49%-24.49% variable APR after that
  • Balance transfers also have a 0% intro APR for 9 months; 14.49%-24.49% variable APR after that; a 3% fee applies to each balance transferred
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
  • See additional Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card details
 APPLY NOW

at Capital One's
secure site

  • Purchases Intro APR
    0% intro on purchases for 9 months
    Balance Transfers Intro APR
    0% intro on balance transfers for 9 months
    Regular APR
    14.49% - 24.49% (Variable)
    Annual Fee
    $0*
    Credit Needed
    Excellent, Good

Top No Annual Fee Credit Card

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  APPLY ONLINE
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49-25.24%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee
  • See additional Chase Freedom® details
 APPLY NOW

at Chase's
secure site

  • Purchases Intro APR
    0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
    Balance Transfers Intro APR
    0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months
    Regular APR
    16.49% - 25.24% Variable
    Annual Fee
    $0*
    Credit Needed
    Excellent/Good

Top Balance Transfer Credit Card

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  APPLY ONLINE
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good
  • Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.49% to 25.49%.
  • $0 balance transfer fee. Balance transfers must be requested within 60 days from account opening.
  • 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x); 1x points on other purchases.
  • Use your Card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period and earn 20% more points on those purchases less returns and credits.
  • Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See additional The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express details
 APPLY NOW

at American Express's
secure site

  • Purchases Intro APR
    0% on purchases for 15 months
    Balance Transfers Intro APR
    0% on balance transfers for 15 months
    Regular APR
    14.49%-25.49% Variable
    Annual Fee
    $0*
    Credit Needed
    Excellent/Good

Top 0% APR Credit Card

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  APPLY ONLINE
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase — it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49-25.24%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee
  • See additional Chase Freedom Unlimited® details
 APPLY NOW

at Chase's
secure site

  • Purchases Intro APR
    0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
    Balance Transfers Intro APR
    0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months
    Regular APR
    16.49% - 25.24% Variable
    Annual Fee
    $0*
    Credit Needed
    Excellent/Good

Top Sign-Up Bonus Credit Card

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  APPLY ONLINE
Credit Needed
Excellent Credit
  • Earn 50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Named a ‘Best Travel Credit Card for 2017’ by MONEY® Magazine
  • 3X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Plus, no foreign transaction fees
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • See additional Chase Sapphire Reserve® details
 APPLY NOW

at Chase's
secure site

  • Purchases Intro APR
    N/A
    Balance Transfers Intro APR
    N/A
    Regular APR
    17.49% - 24.49% Variable
    Annual Fee
    $450.00*
    Credit Needed
    Excellent Credit

Top Low Interest Credit Card

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  APPLY ONLINE
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Intro Offer: Discover will match all the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • No annual fee.
  • See additional Discover it® Cashback Match™ details
 APPLY NOW

at Discover's
secure site

  • Purchases Intro APR
    0% for 14 months
    Balance Transfers Intro APR
    0% for 14 months
    Regular APR
    13.49% - 24.49% Variable
    Annual Fee
    $0*
    Credit Needed
    Excellent/Good

Top No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Card

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  APPLY ONLINE
Credit Needed
Excellent, Good
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day and pay no annual fee
  • New! Earn 10 miles per dollar on hotels when you pay with your VentureOne card at hotels.com/venture; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Enjoy a low intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 13.49%-23.49% variable APR after that
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • See additional Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card details
 APPLY NOW

at Capital One's
secure site

  • Purchases Intro APR
    0% intro on purchases for 12 months
    Balance Transfers Intro APR
    N/A
    Regular APR
    13.49% - 23.49% (Variable)
    Annual Fee
    $0*
    Credit Needed
    Excellent, Good

Top Airline Miles Credit Card

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  APPLY ONLINE
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good
  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation*
 APPLY NOW

at Citi's
secure site

  • Purchases Intro APR
    N/A
    Balance Transfers Intro APR
    N/A
    Regular APR
    17.49% - 25.49%* (Variable)
    Annual Fee
    $95.00*
    Credit Needed
    Excellent/Good

Top Business Credit Card

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  APPLY ONLINE
Credit Needed
Excellent Credit
  • Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Named "Best Rewards Card for Small Business Owners" by Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2017
  • Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year
  • Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other card purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • No Annual Fee
  • See additional Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card details
 APPLY NOW

at Chase's
secure site

  • Purchases Intro APR
    0% Intro APR on Purchases for 12 months
    Balance Transfers Intro APR
    0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 12 months
    Regular APR
    14.74% - 20.74% Variable
    Annual Fee
    $0*
    Credit Needed
    Excellent Credit

Top Fair Credit Credit Card

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  APPLY ONLINE
Credit Needed
Average, Fair, Limited
  • Pay no annual fee
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
  • See additional Capital One® Platinum Credit Card details
 APPLY NOW

at Capital One's
secure site

  • Purchases Intro APR
    N/A
    Balance Transfers Intro APR
    N/A
    Regular APR
    24.99% (Variable)
    Annual Fee
    $0*
    Credit Needed
    Average, Fair, Limited

Top Unsecured Credit Card for Bad Credit

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  • See if you Pre-Qualify in less than 60 seconds—without affecting your credit score. It's fast, easy, and secure.
  • Get 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchases including gas, groceries, and services such as mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV. Terms apply.
  • This is a fully functional, unsecured credit card—not a debit card, prepaid card, or secured credit card with deposit requirements.
  • Credit One Bank automatically monitors every account for credit line increase opportunities each month. We'll notify you as soon as you're eligible for a higher credit line. A fee may apply.
  • Take advantage of free online access to your Experian credit score and credit report summary so you can track the key factors impacting your credit health. Terms apply.
  • Zero Fraud Liability protects you if your card is ever lost or stolen. Rest easy knowing you won't be held responsible for unauthorized charges.
  • Make payments, see recent transactions, and update your account preferences all from the palm of your hand with the Credit One Bank mobile app
  • Carry a card that makes you smile by choosing from over 20 unique card designs in Credit One Bank's card gallery. A fee may apply.
  • See additional Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards details
 APPLY NOW

at Credit One Bank's
secure site

  • Purchases Intro APR
    N/A
    Balance Transfers Intro APR
    N/A
    Regular APR
    19.15% - 25.24% Variable
    Annual Fee
    $99.00*
    Credit Needed
    Bad Credit

Top Student Credit Card

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  APPLY ONLINE
Credit Needed
Average, Fair, Limited
  • Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month
  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Get a head start and build your credit with responsible use
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get customized alerts and manage your account with the Capital One mobile app
  • See additional Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® details
 APPLY NOW

at Capital One's
secure site

  • Purchases Intro APR
    N/A
    Balance Transfers Intro APR
    N/A
    Regular APR
    24.99% (Variable)
    Annual Fee
    $0*
    Credit Needed
    Average, Fair, Limited
Show More Results


Finding the Best Credit Cards for You

Updated: April 24, 2018

The card you choose for your financial life is as individual as the clothes you wear or the car you drive. You might be on the hunt for the perfect balance transfer card. Or you could have your eye on the right travel card for you. Whatever the reason, the best card for you awaits. At CreditCards.com, we researched and evaluated hundreds of offers to help you find the best credit cards across several different categories. Along with our picks for the best cards, we go over a few things to know about the world of credit cards. Here, we look at:

Whether you aren't sure how many cards you should own or you want to understand what factors to consider when choosing the best credit card, we can help.


Best credit cards of 2018 - rated by the experts at CreditCards.com

Credit Card Best For: CreditCards.com Rating Annual Fee
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card Travel Rewards 4.4 / 5 $95 waived first year
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Overall Rewards 4.2 / 5 $95 waived first year
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express Everyday Spending 3.3 / 5 $0
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card Flat-rate Rewards 3.5 / 5 $0
Chase Freedom® No Annual Fee 3.4 / 5 $0
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express Balance Transfers 3.7 / 5 $0
Chase Freedom Unlimited® 0% Intro APR 3.4 / 5 $0
Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card Sign-up Bonus 4.8 / 5 $450
Discover it® Cashback Match™ Low Interest 3.9 / 5 $0
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card No Foreign Transaction Fee 3.6 / 5 $0
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® Airline Miles 4.3 / 5 $95 waived first year
Ink Business CashSM Credit Card Business 3.4 / 5 $0
Capital One® Platinum Credit Card Fair Credit Applicants N/A $0
Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® Bad Credit Applicants N/A $0-$99
Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® Student Applicants 2.2 / 5 $0

Top Features of the Best Credit Cards: In a Nutshell

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Card

Straightforward rewards aimed at frequent travelers. With a generous sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles and a high rewards rate of two miles per dollar of spending, the Venture Card is a wise choice for simple travel rewards.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers a great sign-up bonus of 50,000 points and lets you combine points with those earned on other Chase cards. Experienced rewards-card users can find a ton of rewards in this card.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

A great cash back card for spending on gas and groceries. With no annual fee and an attractive 3% cash back rate on groceries and 2% on gas, the Blue Cash Everyday Card is an excellent choice for families and single spenders alike.

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

The Quicksilver card offers a flat 1.5% cash back reward on all purchases and ranks among the best rewards cards in terms of fees. Transfer fees are low, there’s no annual fee, and you’ll pay no foreign transaction fee.

Chase Freedom®

The Chase Freedom card gives 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories and 1% on everything else. Use this card in conjunction with other Chase cards (like the Sapphire Preferred) to maintain an impressive overall rewards program.

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

A flexible card that offers a wide variety of rewards—cash, travel, retail—and double points on purchases at grocery stores. If you want to rack up multi-use reward points through everyday spending, take a look at the Amex EveryDay card.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Love the benefits of the Freedom card but want consistent cash back on every purchase instead of rotating categories? Consider the Freedom Unlimited for 1.5% cash back on every purchase and complement with the Chase Sapphire Preferred for a robust rewards program.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

A high-rewards travel card for those looking to spend more and earn more. An annual $300 travel credit, 3x points on travel, and 50,000 point-sign-up bonus make the Sapphire Reserve a stellar travel companion.

Discover it® Cashback Match

Cash rewards that never expire and are matched in full at the end of the first year. Savvy rewards card users can use the Discover it Cashback Match card to earn cash back on rotating quarterly categories.

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

A solid choice for travel rewards that doesn’t carry blackout dates or an annual fee. Simplify your rewards calendar by collecting 1.25 miles on every purchase made on the Capital One VentureOne card.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®

The travel card that reaps rewards for American Airlines travelers—including an annual bonus of 10% of redeemed yearly miles, 50k sign-up bonus miles, and quarterly 7,500-mile discounts on select destinations.

Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card

For no annual fee, the Chase Ink Business Cash card offers substantial cash rewards, including 5% back on major expenses like internet, cable, phone, and office supplies. Consider the Ink Business Cash card to offset some of the overhead at your small business.

Capital One® Platinum Credit Card

Strengthen your credit while maintaining flexibility. With the Capital One Platinum card, you have the ability to choose the monthly due date that works for you. After five months of on-time payments, your credit line will increase.

Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards

Earn 1% cash back on everyday purchases like gas, groceries, and phone bills while building your credit score. Credit One Bank will revisit your eligibility for a credit line increase every month. You’ll also have the ability to track your credit online for free.

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

A student credit card designed to teach good spending habits and reward students with bonus points for on-time payments. You’ll also accumulate 1 point for every dollar on everyday purchases, redeemable for cash back.

Research methodology: how we got to the best cards

Credit cards analyzed: 3,476

Banks analyzed: 600

Common benefits (and number of cards we analyzed): Auto rental insurance (3,380), extended warranty program (1,995), travel accident insurance (1,445), purchase protection (1,353), price protection (903), lost luggage reimbursement (868), concierge service (852), roadside assistance (776), free credit score (579)
See other benefits below

Criteria used: Rates and fees, rewards rates, sign-up bonuses, redemption options, credit needed, miscellaneous benefits, customer service, security, ease of application, ability to improve credit line

Types of credit cards we considered in our research

Out of the 3,476 cards we analyzed to get to the top 15, here's how it broke down by category (certain credit cards overlap across several categories).

Type Number of Credit Cards
Unsecured 3,191
No annual fee 2,744
Rewards points 1,640
Excellent credit 1,526
Good credit 1,478
0% introductory APR 1,002
No foreign transaction fee 938
Low interest 869
Cash back 682
Gas 390
Business 368
Travel 300
Bad credit 269
No credit history 264
Secured 228
Fair credit 161
Airline 148
Student 109
Hotel 42
Luxury 35
Charge card 27

What factors to consider when choosing the best credit card

When you are ready for a new credit card, you'll first want to identify which type is right for you. With the right card, you can earn hundreds of dollars a year, build your credit or enjoy special travel benefits. Here are 8 questions to ask yourself in your endeavor to choose the best card.

Want to build credit? Most credit cards, including cards for authorized users, allow you to build credit. But check with the card issuer to make sure they'll report your credit habits to the 3 major credit bureaus.

Paying a lot of interest fees? A balance transfer card helps take away the sharp edges of credit card debt, although you still need to pay off the balance before the 0% intro APR offer ends.

Credit not its best? Cards for consumers with bad or thin credit can help with this.

Willing to strategize your spending? A couple of cards offer quarterly categories of 5% cash back – such categories as home improvement stores, wholesale clubs and Amazon.com. Load up on spending each quarter for rotating categories.

Specific categories you often use? Some cards, such as the Amex Blue Cash cards, offer improved rewards year-round on such categories as gas and groceries.

Want to use it and forget it? For those of us who don't want to think about our shopping rewards, some travel and cashback cards reward at a flat rate for all spending.

Travel your thing? If you plan to travel often (or even occasionally), some cards reward for worldwide travel and restaurants, such as the Chase Sapphire cards. Flat rate travel cards are also available.

Have a favorite brand? Express yourself with a card that delivers miles for using your hotel or airline brand of choice.

What is my credit score?

Your credit score is basically your financial report card. It's used by lenders to assess your creditworthiness to decide what lending products to grant you and the terms of those products. For example, if you have a FICO score of at least 740 on a scale of 300-850, you have a greater chance of getting the best interest rates on a car loan.

Here's how it works:

  1. Your credit habits are reported to the 3 major credit bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian, by your lenders.
  2. Those credit habits are used by credit score models FICO and VantageScore to assign you a score.
  3. Prospective lenders, landlords, insurance agencies and others look at that credit score to assess your creditworthiness.
  4. You are granted or denied lending products based in part on the score you've been assigned.

How to get a credit score

  1. Get your VantageScore for free through CreditCards.com. Vantage follows 6 criteria, including on-time payments and available credit. You can also get your TransUnion credit report through CreditCards.com.
  2. Enjoy getting your score for free. Many credit card issuers offer free access to your credit score as a benefit of holding one of their cards. If this is a deal-breaker, find out which cards you are looking at might offer credit scores. Many offer the score once a month.
  3. Access your FICO score. The dominant scoring model, FICO sells its scores for about $20 each. There are three scores available, one for each of the major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. There is no need to check all three simultaneously.

What makes up a credit score?

Payment history.

On-time payments, or payment history, figure heavily into the dominant scoring model, FICO, making up 35% of the score's criteria pie. Payment history is extremely influential in the VantageScore model.

Amounts owed.

How much you owe compared to how much credit you have available makes up 30% of the FICO pie. It's highly influential in the VantageScore, while available credit is less influential. Total balances or debt are considered moderately influential.

Length of credit history.

How long you have been building credit is a consideration to a lesser degree, making up 15% of the FICO scoring model. Age of accounts is highly influential with VantageScore.

New credit.

This metric makes up 10% of your FICO score, which means you'll want to avoid opening new accounts unnecessarily. VantageScore ranks this as less influential.

Credit mix.

Ten percent of your FICO score, you are encouraged to have a mix of credit types such as revolving (typically credit cards) and installment (such as mortgages and car loans). Credit mix is highly influential in VantageScore.

What are the credit score ranges?

FICO Category FICO Range VantageScore Category VantageScore Range
Exceptional 800-850 Excellent 750-850
Very Good 740-799 Good 700-749
Good 670-739 Fair 650-699
Fair 580-669 Poor 550-649
Poor 300-579 Very Poor 300-549

Different types of benefits you can get with your credit card

Credit cards offer a host of benefits, ranging from lost luggage reimbursement to access to the card issuer's travel portal, complete with boosted points.

Travel benefits

Whether you are on the road or traveling by plane, travel cards can provide unexpected benefits worthy of your attention. The result? Hassle-free travel and even saved dollars with such benefits as Chase Sapphire Reserve's $300 annual travel credit. Here are 8 top travel benefits:

  • Free checked bags
  • Access to airport lounges
  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Roadside dispatch
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance
  • Airline fee credit
  • Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck

Rewards benefits

Products such as travel cards, general-purpose rewards cards and cashback cards can provide superior savings with outstanding sign-up bonuses on most rewards cards, free breakfast at select hotel brands such as Hilton Honors, and even access to special events through such programs as Mastercard's World Elite program.

  • Signup bonus
  • Purchase rewards in miles, points or cash back
  • Points for travel, gift cards, merchandise or entertainment
  • Percentage boost for use of issuer's travel portal
  • Special benefits at member hotels, including early check-in and late check-out, as well as free breakfast
  • Access to special sporting, theater and dining events, as well as other experiences

Miscellaneous benefits

Cards on the market today have a multitude of features and advantages, from no foreign transaction fee to U.S.-based customer service. Look carefully at what the cards you are eyeing have to offer, because the possibilities may surprise you.

  • Zero liability protection
  • 24/7 concierge
  • 24/7 customer service
  • U.S.-based customer service
  • Shopping portal
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee
  • EMV chip technology
  • Cellphone insurance

Most popular types of credit cards

We asked cardholders what they love most about their favorite credit cards and why they chose them. Overwhelmingly, rewards ruled. In the poll, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates Jan. 19-22, 2017, 1,003 consumers were polled, with a subset of 670 cardholders.

Peoples' favorite credit card benefits

  • Rewards/cash back - 40%
  • Low interest - 21%
  • Accepted most places - 16%
  • Easy to get - 8%
  • Low fees - 5%
  • Customer service - 4%
  • Other - 3%

CreditCards.com poll

Reasons people choose their favorite credit cards

  • Rewards/cash back - 24%
  • Low interest rate - 18%
  • Easy to get - 14%
  • Accepted most places - 12%
  • Brand of card - 7%
  • Low fees - 5%
  • Customer service - 4%
  • Sign-up bonus - 2%
  • Other - 9%

CreditCards.com poll

How to make the most out of each type of card

How you use your card depends on the type of card you go with. For example, you'll want to use a secured card primarily for building credit, while a travel card is great for earning miles. Here are 8 types of cards and how best to use them.

Secured

Rather than using this card for convenience, focus on building your credit. Just make sure the card issuer will report your good credit habits to the 3 major credit bureaus.

Student

This is a good card to practice on. Take advantage of the rewards, but pay in full at the end of each payment period.

Fair

An excellent option for building credit while earning rewards. Make sure you pay on time and in full each month.

Balance transfer

Check out whether there is a balance transfer fee (some BT cards don't have one) and make sure you choose a card with terms you can live up to.

Cash back

Look at whether the card has an annual fee and if the categories are ones you'll actually use.

Travel

Study the sign-up bonus and make sure you can spend (and pay back) the minimum limit within the required timeframe. Also, see if the rewards are ones you will actually use and enjoy.

Business

This type of card can have nice travel rewards, although the annual fee can be steep. Check out the benefits, such as priority boarding and preferred seating, to see if they are experiences you will use.

Luxury

A great card for the traveler who doesn't love it. Superior benefits can include room upgrades, access to airport lounges, high-end gifts and 24/7 concierge service. The annual fee will likely be pricey.

Common rewards categories

If you look at the best credit cards on the market, you will be sure to find many rewards cards among them. There are several different ways to take advantage of these credit cards to maximize your earnings; below are some of the most popular categories and our research on the best credit cards in each one.

Typical fees and rates to watch out for

No matter how rewarding your card, it's crucial that you understand the rates and fees you could face depending on how you treat the card and how the card treats you. Don't let an annual fee sneak up on you or allow a late payment to slam you with a late fee. Here are 13 of the most common rates and fees.

  • Annual fee. This can go into the hundreds of dollars, but it's sometimes waived the first year.
  • Foreign transaction fee. Typically 3%, but sometimes there's no foreign transaction fee, so check.
  • Late fee. Can be up to $38 for failing to pay on time.
  • Balance transfer fee. Typically a fee of $5-$10 or 3%-5%, whichever is greater. Occasionally this fee is waived when you transfer a balance to a new card.
  • Returned payment. Can run $38.
  • Overlimit fee. This is often waived, but you can run the risk of having your limit lowered or the account even closed if you abuse the terms of the contract.
  • Cash advance. This can be $10 or 5% of the amount advanced, whichever is greater.
  • Processing fee. These can be charged by credit-builder cards.
  • Additional card fee. Credit-builder cards sometimes have added, unspecified fees, but they are required to post them clearly in the "Rates & Fees" link provided on the card's landing page.
  • Variable or fixed APR. Each month that you carry a balance, you face an interest charge.
  • Penalty APR. Can be applied if you make a late payment or a payment is returned.
  • Cash advance APR. Applied when you take out cash.
  • APR for balance transfers. This might be 0% for a limited time, up to 21 months, then it reverts to a higher rate.

Can I get my rates or fees waived?

Some rates or fees can be waived or lowered by simply picking up the phone and calling. In fact, we found that of those who asked, up to 89% of people asking for a credit limit increase got what they wanted. Our poll, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates, found that just asking can be rewarding:

Rate or Fee Requested the Waiver Granted to Those Who Asked
Late Fees 25% 87%
Annual Fees 11% 51%
Interest Rates 19% 69%
Credit Limit 28% 89%

When is it worth having a fee?

Some fees, such as late fees, should be avoided at all costs. But others may be worth your while, depending on the type.

For example, a card with an annual fee will frequently have more robust rewards, and the annual fee may be waived the first year:

Is an annual fee worth it?

Card Sign-up Bonus Ongoing Rewards Annual Fee End of First Year Total
Capital One Venture Rewards 50,000 miles/$3,000 spend in 3 mths 2X miles x $1,000/mth=24,000 $95 waived first yr $500+$240=$740
Capital One VentureOne Rewards 20,000 miles/$1,000 spend in 3 mths 1.25X miles x $1,000/mth=15,000 $0 $200+$150=$350

In the same way, the advantages of a balance transfer card may outweigh the expense of a balance transfer fee. For example, you might want to look at the intro period's length or whether there is an intro period for purchases:

Is a balance transfer fee worth it?

Card BT Fee 0% Intro APR Period Monthly Payment
Chase Slate $0/first 60 days 15 months $1,500/15 mths=$100/mth
Citi Double Cash $5 or 3% ($45 for $1,500) 18 months $1,500/18 mths=$83.33/mth

So you can see that even though you pay a $45 balance transfer fee with the Citi Double Cash, your monthly, interest-free payment for the limited-time offer is $83 compared to $100 for the Chase Slate. This makes it worth your while if you need more time to pay off your balance transfer.

Best way to use your credit card

  1. How will you spend on your card? Figure out if you are a big foodie, always going to new restaurants or buying groceries, or if you like to max out your points on rotating categories.
  2. How will you pay on your card? If you feel certain you can pay in full each month, a rewards card is a great choice, because you'll be saving on interest fees. If you need to get a handle on your debt and you are ready to pay down on your balance, look at a balance transfer card.
  3. How will you save on your card? Look at whether you will actually use the points or miles your card gives you. If you aren't loyal to a specific brand, a general purpose travel card is best. If you want statement credits, look at cashback cards.
  4. What's the worst thing you can do with your card? If you forget to pay your bill on time, it's a promise you'll set back your credit score, possibly to a lower tier.
  5. What's the best thing you can do with your card? If you pay in full and on time each month, putting at least a small charge on it, your credit score can get an incredible boost within a few short months.
  6. What's the best thing you can do with your card (Part II)? Spend as much as you can on your card (only what you were going to spend anyway and if you have the money to pay it back by the due date) to maximize your rewards earnings.

How many credit cards should I own?

FICO discovered a bit of a surprise in 2012 when it looked at what it calls "high achievers," or consumers with a score of greater than 785 out of a possible 850. These consumers:

  • Have an average of 7 cards, both closed and open.
  • They have an average of 4 cards or loans with balances.
  • Some 58% didn't open a new account in the last year.
  • Their most recent account is an average of 28 months.
  • The oldest account is an average of 25 years.

What does this mean? Simply that it isn't that the most successful consumers are debt-free, but that they are responsible with their debt. Also, fewer accounts aren't necessarily better; rather it's how you handle the account that matters.

How many are too many credit cards?

You can have one card, and it's too many, or 5 and it's just enough. It all has to do with how you manage your cards and what you are using them for.

A winning wallet

Card Features Used For
BankAmericard Rewards Oldest account Build credit
Gold Delta Skymiles from American Express 2X miles on eligible Delta purchases Earn Delta Skymiles
Capital One Platinum Free authorized users Let authorized users build credit

As you can see, each card has a purpose. But how do you keep up with payments and annual fees when you have this many cards?

How do I manage multiple credit cards?

Here's an example of a spreadsheet you can create to keep track of your credit card accounts. Below that, we've listed some tips to get you started with managing multiple credit cards.

Card Amount Owed Due Date When Paid
BankAmericard Rewards $500 Due 4/1/18 Pd in full 3/10/18
Gold Delta Skymiles from American Express $25 min. due/$225 balance Due 4/1/18 Need to pay
Capital One Platinum $0 Due date 4/2/18 $0 owed
  1. Identify what you need a card for. Are you building credit? Would you like to get cash back? If you plan to have multiple rewards cards, figure out how you will use each one.
  2. Put your card expenses on your budget. You can have a row on the left for card expenses, a row for types of expenses in the middle and a row for expenses you pay out of your checking account on the right.
  3. Line the due dates up so that they are around the same time each month. Many card issuers will allow you to do this.
  4. Create a spreadsheet. Include the card name, the amount owed, the due date, and when it was paid. Plan to check it the same time each week to make sure you aren't missing any bills and that you aren't going over budget.
  5. Pay them off several times a month. This ensures that you don't pay interest and it keeps your credit utilization ratio low, which is good for your credit.

To recap our top picks...

To recap, here are CreditCards.com's best credit cards of 2018