The Best Credit Cards - Top Offers & Reviews 2022

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There’s a whole world of credit cards out there, but Credit Cards knows you’re not trying to fit the world into your wallet. Our experts are dedicated to helping you make the right choice, with the best credit cards of 2022 available from our partners — rewards, cash back, travel, balance transfer, 0 percent intro APR and more. We do the research, so you don’t have to sift through hundreds of options to find the best credit card for you.

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U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card

Reward rate

5% cash back on your first $2,000 in eligible net purchases each quarter on the combined two categories you choose.


5% cash back on prepaid air, hotel and car reservations booked directly in the Rewards Travel Center.


1% cash back on all other eligible purchases.


1% cash back on all other eligible purchases.

Intro offer

$200 bonus

Annual fee


Regular APR

16.74% - 26.74% (Variable)

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

The U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card is packed full of bonus rewards categories. It will take more than a little effort to track them all, but people who don’t mind strategizing to earn high rewards for all their purchases will enjoy having this card in their collection.
  • Multiple rotating and fixed bonus categories, which can make it easier to earn rewards quickly
  • The $200 sign-up bonus (after spending $1,000 within the first 120 days of account opening) increases the card’s first-year value
  • The $2,000 combined spending cap each quarter for your chosen 5% categories limits your ability to rake in rewards
  • Having to track and enroll in rotating categories can be a hassle for some
  • New! $200 bonus after spending $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 120 days of account opening.
  • 5% cash back on your first $2,000 in combined eligible purchases each quarter on two categories you choose
  • 5% cash back on prepaid air, hotel and car reservations booked directly in the Rewards Travel Center
  • 2% cash back on one everyday category, like Gas Stations/EV Charging Stations, Grocery Stores or Restaurants
  • 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 billing cycles. After that, a variable APR currently 16.74% – 26.74%
  • No Annual Fee
  • Pay over time by splitting eligible purchases of $100+ into equal monthly payments with U.S. Bank ExtendPay™ Plan.
  • Terms and conditions apply.


Purchase intro APR
0% Intro APR on purchases for the first 15 billing cycles.

Balance transfer intro APR
0% Intro APR on balance transfers for the first 15 billing cycles.


Upgrade Cash Rewards Elite Visa®

Reward rate

Earn 2.2% unlimited cash back on card purchases every time you make a payment

Intro offer


Annual fee


Regular APR

8.99% - 29.99% (Variable)

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

If you value having an incentive for making your credit card payments, you will find a lot to love with this card option. You’ll earn a competitive rate of 2.2 percent cash back on your purchases each time you make a payment. The card is also fairly affordable, skipping the annual fee, foreign transaction fees and many other common maintenance fees.
  • You won’t need to use your reward earnings to offset any maintenance fees.
  • You’ll earn a bonus after you open a Rewards Checking account and make three purchases with the card in your first 60 days.
  • The high end APR range is well above average. That could prove costly if you don’t have the credit needed to qualify for the lower range and you end up carrying a balance.
  • You won’t get a break on interest if you carry a balance since there are no intro APR offers on purchases or balance transfers.
  • $200 bonus on your Upgrade Card after opening a Rewards Checking account and making 3 debit card transactions within 60 days.*
  • New Feature: Pay your balance in full early each month and avoid interest with EarlyPay.
  • Earn 2.2% unlimited cash back on card purchases every time you make a payment
  • See if you qualify in seconds with no impact to your credit score
  • No Fees – $0 annual fees, $0 activation fees, $0 maintenance fees
  • Combine the flexibility of a card with the low cost and predictability of a loan
  • Access to a virtual card, so you can start earning while you wait for your card to arrive in the mail.
  • Contactless payments with Apple Pay® and Google Pay™
  • Mobile app to access your account anytime, anywhere
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud liability
  • *To qualify for the $200 welcome bonus, you must open and fund a new Upgrade Rewards Checking Account and make 3 debit card transactions within 60 days of your Upgrade Card account opening. The bonus credit will be posted to your Upgrade Card as a rewards credit within 1-2 billing periods following the third debit transaction on your Rewards Checking account. Your Upgrade Card must be in good standing to receive the bonus.


Purchase intro APR

Balance transfer intro APR


Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Reward rate

6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%).


6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.


3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations


3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations


1% Cash Back on other purchases

Intro offer


Annual fee


Regular APR

16.24%-26.24% Variable

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

With generous rewards rates in family-friendly categories including purchases at U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations, on-the-go families will have a hard time finding a more rewarding credit card.
  • The base reward program is uber-lucrative, making this card a good choice for people looking for long-term value.
  • You don’t have to keep track of rotating spending categories or enrollment deadlines.
  • There is no intro APR offer on balance transfers.
  • You won’t earn the extra rewards for grocery shopping at major superstores and wholesale clubs, as those don’t count as U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn a $350 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
  • Buy Now, Pay Later: Enjoy $0 intro plan fees when you use Plan It® to split up large purchases into monthly installments. Pay $0 plan fees on plans created during the first 12 months after account opening. Plans created after that will have a fixed monthly plan fee up to 1.33% of each purchase amount moved into a plan based on the plan duration, the APR that would otherwise apply to the purchase, and other factors.
  • Low intro APR: 0% intro APR for 12 months on purchases from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, 16.24% to 26.24%.
  • 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%).
  • 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
  • 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more).
  • 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
  • Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
  • $95 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.


Purchase intro APR
0% on purchases for 12 months

Balance transfer intro APR


Discover it® Cash Back

Reward rate

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


Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

Intro offer

Cashback Match™

Annual fee


Regular APR

13.49% - 24.49% Variable

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

The Discover it Cash Back is a popular choice for cash back rewards because of the rotating bonus categories. It’s an exciting way to earn cash back quarter by quarter and all year-round without committing to a set rewards category.
  • Discover will match the cash back you earn at the end of the first year.
  • There are a few cash back redemption options, including credit to your account and donations.
  • You must enroll to take advantage of the bonus categories each quarter.
  • There is a spending limit on your highest cash back category each quarter ($1,500 in combined purchases per quarter).
  • 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.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • New! Discover helps remove your personal information from select people-search websites. Activate by mobile app for free.
  • Every $1 you earn in cash back is $1 you can redeem.
  • New Intro APR: Get a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases. Then 13.49% to 24.49% Standard Variable Purchase APR applies, based on credit worthiness.
  • No annual fee.


Purchase intro APR
0% for 15 months

Balance transfer intro APR
0% for 15 months


Citi® Double Cash Card

Reward rate

Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.

Intro offer

$200 Cash Back

Annual fee


Regular APR

16.24% - 26.24% (Variable)

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

If you make your payments on time each month, it’ll be tough to find a better cash back card than the Citi Double Cash Card. With healthy financial habits, this card effectively becomes a 2 percent flat-rate cash back card (1 percent when you make purchases and another 1 percent when you pay your bill), a rare find in the cash back market.
  • You can convert your cash back earnings to Citi ThankYou points when paired with a card like the Citi Premier® Card, which can be redeemed for travel, gift cards and more.
  • There are no spending category restrictions or rotating categories
  • Your rewards can expire with this card if you don’t use it for a year.
  • The sign-up bonus spending requirement is higher than you’ll find on many no-annual-fee cash back cards.
  • Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • For a limited time, earn $200 cash back after spending $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening.
  • Balance Transfer Only Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 16.24% – 26.24%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back. Intro APR does not apply to purchases.
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • There is an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer (minimum $5) completed within the first 4 months of account opening. After that, your fee will be 5% of each transfer (minimum $5).


Purchase intro APR

Balance transfer intro APR
0% intro for 18 months on Balance Transfers

A closer look at our top cash back cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Best starter travel card

  • What we love about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: You can enjoy valuable travel rewards, diverse bonus categories beyond travel, stellar travel protections and additional perks that easily justify the $95 annual fee. Plus, you can pool points across multiple Ultimate Rewards cards and redeem for 25 percent more value if you opt for travel through Chase, making this the perfect partner for a no-annual-fee Chase rewards card.
  • Who this card is good for: Occasional travelers who value flexibility and are looking for a low-cost way to earn travel rewards on everyday spending (especially foodies and fans of online grocery shopping).
  • Alternatives: If you’d rather avoid an annual fee — but still want a decent rewards rate and valuable miles — the Capital One VentureOne Rewards credit card is worth a look. The card carries a solid flat rewards rate (1.25X miles on all purchases), flexible redemption and even an intro APR on purchases that could help you chip away at expenses while saving on interest.

Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express: Best overall cash back for families

  • What we love about the Blue Cash Preferred: The rewards categories on this card are some of the most popular spending categories for most consumers so if you play your cards right (pun intended), you’ll have a nice stack of rewards in your cash back match in your first year.
  • Who this card is good for: On-the-go people who spend a fair amount of money at gas stations and restaurants. You can earn 2 percent in those categories on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, then 1 percent.
  • Alternatives: The Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards card outpaces the Discover it Chrome by a lot if your main squeeze is getting the most out of dining rewards.

Learn more: Is the Chase Sapphire Preferred worth it?
Read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred Card review or jump back to offer details.

Discover it Cash Back: Best for category variety

  • What we love about the Discover it Cash Back: One of Discover’s trademark features is its unique cash back match welcome offer. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year of card membership. Considering its high cash back rates and category variety, the card should also deliver plenty of value beyond the first year.
  • Who this card is good for: People who are willing to put in a little work to maximize their rewards. To make the most of the card’s rotating bonus categories, you’ll need to activate new categories each quarter and adjust your spending habits to match.
  • Alternatives: While the Discover it Cash Back card offers low fees and predictable rotating bonus categories (categories are announced the year prior), the Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers two additional, year-round 3 percent back categories and superior benefits, including fantastic travel insurance and World Elite Mastercard perks. However, you’ll need to be on your toes since Chase only announces rotating categories a quarter ahead of time.

Learn more: Is the Discover it Cash Back worth it?
Read our full Discover it Cash Back review or jump back to offer details.

Wells Fargo Active Cash Card: Best for 2% cash rewards

  • What we love about the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card: Most cards that earn 2 percent cash rewards come with spending caps or tiered categories. With this card, earnings are unlimited on everyday purchases. The Active Cash also shores up its competitive edge with Wells Fargo’s traditional cellphone protection perk if you pay your monthly bill with this card (limit of two up to $600 claims per year, minus a $25 deductible).
  • Who this card is good for: Someone who wants to earn unlimited cash rewards on purchases at twice the rate of the typical 1 percent.
  • Alternatives: While technically not a flat-rate cash back card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® carries a minimum of 1.5 percent back on all purchases as well as a variety of other unlimited bonus cash back categories, offering a significant boost to its average cash back rate if you spend heavily on dining, drugstores and travel through Chase.

Learn more: Wells Fargo Active Cash vs. Citi Double Cash
Read our full Wells Fargo Active Cash Card review or jump back to offer details.

Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for everyday purchases

  • What we love about the Chase Freedom Unlimited: This card offers exceptional value and flexibility. You’ll earn at least 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase and can redeem your rewards as a statement credit, to cover travel, for online shopping and more, without worrying about sacrificing point value. Plus, your points could be worth 25 to 50 percent more if you pair this card with an Ultimate Rewards travel card and redeem for travel with Chase.
  • Who this card is good for: Someone looking for a standalone rewards card that covers a few key spending categories and earns a better-than-average base rewards rate on all other purchases. It’s an especially good fit if you think you’ll get a premium Ultimate Rewards travel or business card in the future.
  • Alternatives: The Capital One SavorOne card is a terrific standalone alternative for everyday spending since it covers even more bonus categories. While you’ll only earn 1 percent on general purchases, you get 3 percent back on dining, grocery stores (excluding superstores), entertainment and select streaming services, plus 5 percent back on hotel and rental car bookings made through Capital One Travel. If you don’t have a dedicated grocery rewards card and would rather stick with a single card for most of your everyday purchases, the SavorOne is hard to beat.

Learn more: Chase Freedom Unlimited vs Chase Freedom Flex℠
Read our full Chase Freedom Unlimited review or jump back to offer details.

Capital One Spark Cash Plus: Best flat-rate business card

  • What we love about the Capital One Spark Cash Plus: Cardholders can earn unlimited 2 percent cash back on general purchases and 5 percent on hotels and rental cards through Capital One Travel. It also comes with no preset spending limit, making it ideal for business owners who need a lot of purchasing power.
  • Who this card is good for: A business owner with a lot of large expenses that cover many categories (office supplies, travel, etc.).
  • Alternatives: For smaller business owners who may not be able to justify the $150 annual fee, the Ink Business® Unlimited Credit Card may be a better fit. It earns 1.5 percent on all purchases and has a very competitive APR (14.74 percent to 20.74 percent, variable) while also having no annual fee.

Learn more: Is the Capital One Spark Cash Plus worth the $150 annual fee?
Read our full Capital One Spark Cash Plus review or jump back to offer details.

Ink Business Cash Credit Card: Best for business sign-up bonus

  • What we love about the Ink Business Cash Credit Card: Along with its stellar sign-up bonus and practical bonus categories, this card could offer terrific long-term value for frequent travelers: You can pair the Ink Business Cash card with one of the Chase Sapphire travel cards or the Ink Business Preferred card and squeeze 25 to 50 percent more value out of your points when you redeem for travel through Chase.
  • Who this card is good for: Small-business owners who spend heavily on office supplies and internet, cable and phone services — especially frequent travelers who plan to pair the Ink Business Cash with a higher-tier Ultimate Rewards card.
  • Alternatives: If you’d rather not juggle multiple cards to ensure you’re earning bonus rewards on all of your business spending, you may prefer the simplicity that comes with a flat-rate rewards card like the Ink Business Unlimited card. That card carries the same sign-up bonus and Ultimate Rewards potential as the Ink Business Cash, but earns a consistent 1.5 percent back on all your purchases, regardless of which category they fall into.

Learn more: Is the Ink Business Unlimited worth it?
Read our full Ink Business Cash Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best for flexible redemption options

  • What we love about the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: You get a lot of flexibility when it comes to redeeming your miles. Options that bring the highest value are booking travel through Capital One, redeeming miles as statement credits for past travel expenses and transferring miles to any of Capital One’s 15+ travel partners.
  • Who this card is good for: Frequent and occasional travelers who want an easy way to earn rewards and multiple options for using them.
  • Alternatives: If you opt for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, your points could be worth more than Capital One miles when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. You may also want to consider the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card instead of the Venture. Despite its $395 annual fee, it may be a better deal overall since you can offset its cost easily via its yearly perks, instead of relying on the rewards you’d earn via card spending.

Learn more: Capital One Venture Card benefits guide
Read our full Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.

Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card: Best for flat-rate travel rewards

  • What we love about the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card: You’ll earn rewards on every purchase you make with this card, so you don’t have to max out a travel-specific budget to get the most bang for your buck. The card’s redemption process is also very flexible, allowing you to use points to cover a broad range of travel and dining-related purchases made within the last 12 months.
  • Who this card is good for: Occasional-to-frequent travelers who want to earn flexible  rewards toward their trips, and Bank of America Preferred Rewards members who can cash in on boosted rewards values.
  • Alternatives: The Discover it® Miles has a similar rewards structure as well as no annual fee, but, depending on your spending habits, its welcome offer could be more lucrative at the end of your first year, with no limit to how many miles you can earn. However, note that Discover doesn’t have as wide of an acceptance rate abroad as other issuing networks like Visa and Mastercard.

Learn more: Guide to Bank of America Preferred Rewards
Read our full Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card review or jump back to offer details.

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Best for no-frills benefits

  • What we love about the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: This card sets the stage for a middle-ground option in the luxury travel space with its $395 annual fee and alluring travel benefits, including excellent airport lounge access and yearly travel credits and bonus miles.
  • Who this card is good for: Frequent travelers with a taste for premium perks without the highest of premium costs. The Venture X is built for cardholders who want better rewards and benefits than a $100-tier premium travel card carries, but can’t justify paying a $500-plus annual fee for an elite travel card stuffed with features they won’t use.
  • Alternatives: Occasional travelers that aren’t concerned with premium travel perks may get more value with Capital One’s former flagship card, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, which carries a much lower $95 annual fee.

Learn more: Is the Capital One Venture X Rewards card worth it?
Read our full Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.

Citi Diamond Preferred Card: Best for balance transfer with excellent credit

  • What we love about the Citi Diamond Preferred Card: The Citi Diamond Preferred Card’s introductory balance transfer offer is one of the longest available on the market.
  • Who this card is good for: Good credit owners looking for an exceptionally long balance transfer offer or lengthy introductory APR.
  • Alternatives: For more long-term value, it may be worth choosing the Citi Double Cash Card instead, since it earns an excellent cash back rate on top of its competitive 18-month 0 percent intro balance transfer APR (balance transfers must be within the first four months) and 16.24 percent to 26.24 percent (variable) regular APR. If you’d rather get a long intro APR period on purchases, the Wells Fargo Reflect® Card is a great option thanks to its up to 21 months* of 0 percent intro APR on both purchases and qualifying balance transfers from account opening (then 15.24 percent to 27.24 percent, variable).

*Intro APR extension of up to three months, for a total of up to 21 months, with on-time minimum payments during the intro and extension periods.

Learn more: Citi Diamond Preferred Card benefits guide
Read our full Citi Diamond Preferred Card review or jump back to offer details.

BankAmericard Credit Card: Best for balance transfer card with a sign-up bonus

  • What we love about the BankAmericard Credit Card: This card offers a sign-up bonus, which is rare for a balance transfer card. You’ll earn $100 in statement credit when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days.
  • Who this card is good for: Anyone who wants to focus on their balance transfer with minimal distractions. If your transferred balance is $3,333 or less, the BankAmericard’s sign-up bonus will cover the 3 percent ($10 minimum) balance transfer fee. Even if your balance is higher, the BankAmericard’s bonus cash and relatively low 3 percent balance transfer fee ($10 minimum) can potentially save you more than a longer intro APR would in some cases.
  • Alternatives: If a longer intro APR period is more important to your situation than a low ongoing APR and cash welcome bonus, compare the BankAmericard to the Citi Diamond Preferred Card. The latter offers a 0 percent intro APR on purchases for 12 months and on balance transfers for 21 months (transfers must be made within the first four months), along with a regular APR of 15.99 percent to 25.99 percent (variable).

Learn more: Why we love the BankAmericard
Read our full BankAmericard credit card review or jump back to offer details.

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for dining and entertainment

  • What we love about the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card: On top of its comprehensive (and rare) entertainment bonus category, the card also earns rewards on popular streaming services and VividSeats tickets. That’s not to mention its everyday bonus categories, which are among the most rewarding out there for a card with no annual fee and make the SavorOne one of the most versatile standalone rewards cards on the market.
  • Who this card is good for: Entertainment-seekers who want to turn their appreciation for food and fun into cash rewards.
  • Alternatives: Chase loyalists seeking a card with a $0 annual fee and great rewards will want to consider the Chase Freedom Unlimited instead, which combines 3 percent cash back on dining with 5 percent back on travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Learn more: Is the Capital One SavorOne Worth it?
Read our full Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best starter rewards card

  • What we love about the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card: Although its 1.5 percent flat-rate cash back doesn’t stand apart from the crowd, this card’s well-rounded redemption options (including the option to automatically redeem rewards) and streamlined perks make it a fantastic first rewards card if you prefer a card you won’t have to micromanage. However, its 5 percent cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel certainly gives it a leg up for travelers.
  • Who this card is good for: People who prefer simple cash back rewards: no special categories or earning limits, just 1.5 percent cash back on every eligible purchase. The Quicksilver’s automatic cash back redemption option makes it even better for cardholders who value simplicity.
  • Alternatives: The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a tough competitor of the Quicksilver with its additional bonus cash back categories on dining and drugstore purchases. However, if being able to earn rewards at the same rate on all purchases makes the Quicksilver especially appealing, consider potentially higher-earning flat-rate cards like the Wells Fargo Active Cash or Citi® Double Cash Card.

Learn more: Why we love the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards
Read our full Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.

Wells Fargo Reflect Card: Best for long intro APR

  • What we love about the Wells Fargo Reflect Card: Its chart-topping promotional interest offer (received by meeting the qualifying requirements) extends to both purchases and qualifying balance transfers. Even the 18-month base offer is lengthy for a zero-interest intro APR card (then 15.24 percent to 27.24 percent variable APR).
  • Who this card is good for: Someone looking for as much breathing room as possible as they pay off a transferred balance and new purchases.
  • Alternatives: Similar to the Reflect card, the BankAmericard credit card is primarily a balance transfer card with few ongoing perks and benefits, but it features a unique intro cash bonus that could help minimize the cost of your balance transfer and potentially offset the cost of your balance transfer fee entirely.

Learn more: Wells Fargo Reflect benefits guide
Read our full Wells Fargo Reflect Card review or jump back to offer details.

U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card: Best for low balance transfer fee

  • What we love about the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card: The intro APR periods on this card are some of the longest upfront offers on the market for both purchases and balance transfers. But what’s more, its low balance transfer fee (3 percent, $5 minimum) can save cardholders a fair bit on their transfer. This can be noticeable if you have a larger balance since some rival cards charge a 5 percent balance transfer fee.
  • Who this card is good for: Anyone looking to finance a large purchase without extra interest charges for a long period of time. This card has an intro APR offer of 20 billing cycles on both balance transfers and purchases (then 16.74 percent to 26.74 percent variable APR) and a relatively low balance transfer fee.
  • Alternatives: Individuals looking to perform a balance transfer and earn cash back rewards in the process will see much more long-term value from the Citi Double Cash Card compared to other cards that offer an 18-month intro balance transfer APR (then 16.24 percent to 26.24 percent, variable). However, cardholders purely focused on paying off their balance and future purchases will likely find the Wells Fargo Reflect a slightly stronger option thanks to its potentially longer intro APR period.

Learn more: Is the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card worth it?
Read our full U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card review or jump back to offer details.

Citi Custom Cash Card: Best second credit card

  • What we love about the Citi Custom Cash Card: The cash back program adjusts to your spending habits in the top eligible category each billing cycle so you’ll earn the highest rate where you’ve spent the most. The 10 potential bonus categories include expenses that are often overlooked — like fitness clubs or live entertainment — and the card carries some of the highest year-round rewards rates available in these categories without paying an annual fee.
  • Who this card is good for: Someone who wants the high rewards rate of a bonus cash back card without activating or choosing categories in advance. Those looking for a second rewards card to focus on particular expenses will love the Custom Cash as well, thanks to its especially flexible rewards program.
  • Alternatives: The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is an excellent alternative as it provides top-notch rewards earning potential and category diversity, as well as its ability to pool rewards with Chase’s premium cards and redeem them for a higher value toward travel purchases.

Learn more: Why your Citi Custom Cash card could be great for travel
Read our full Citi Custom Cash Card review or jump back to offer details.

Citi Premier Card: Best for travel rewards on everyday purchases

  • What we love about the Citi Premier Card: There are plenty of reward redemption options and bonus categories to suit both frequent and occasional travelers.
  • Who this card is good for: People who mainly use their card for everyday purchases instead of travel and want to redeem points on future trips (while having the option of redeeming for cash back at full value if they need to).
  • Alternatives: The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is one of the most valuable options at the $95-annual-fee price range for those who travel a bit more often, thanks to its impressive annual perks, stellar travel protections and boosted point value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Learn more: Who should get the Citi Premier Card?
Read our full Citi Premier Card review or jump back to offer details.

Capital One Platinum Credit Card: Best for upgrading

  • What we love about the Capital One Platinum Credit Card: This card does not charge an annual fee and it’s possible for people with a FICO credit score as low as 580 to be approved. However, the Capital One Platinum card’s selling point is its short automatic account review period. Starting after six months, Capital One will review your account for positive credit practices to potentially increase your credit limit — perhaps the shortest review period available.
  • Who this card is good for: People with fair credit looking for a card with no annual fee and no security deposit that will help them build credit with responsible use.
  • Alternatives: If you’re willing to pay a $39 annual fee, the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card is a similar card that offers a rewards program in the form of 1.5 percent cash back on purchases.

Learn more: Who should get the Capital One Platinum Card?
Read our full Capital One Platinum Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.

Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card: Best credit limit policy

  • What we love about the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card: Not many secured cards come with no annual fee and security deposit requirements as low as $49. Plus, Capital One will review your account for a potential credit limit increase after six months.
  • Who this card is good for: Those with fair credit or lower (a 669 FICO Score or below, or a 600 VantageScore or below) — or no credit history at all — who want to build their credit with few distractions.
  • Alternatives: For people with limited credit history who want to build their score while taking advantage of a few perks, the Discover it® Secured Credit Card earns rewards on purchases and offers the opportunity to qualify for an introductory rate on balance transfers for six months (24.49 percent variable APR thereafter).

Learn more: Is the Capital One Platinum Secured worth it?
Read our full Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.

Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa Credit Card: Best for credit-building with cash back

  • What we love about the Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa Credit Card: Cardholders have the opportunity to periodically increase their cash back rate to up to 1.5 percent back after making their first 12 monthly payments on time. There aren’t many opportunities to score an unsecured card with no annual fee and a rewards program, let alone with the Petal 2 card’s generous flat-rate cash back and potentially low APR.
  • Who this card is good for: Anyone with no credit history who wants to start building credit while enjoying modest rewards and an impressively low interest rate.
  • Alternatives: Students with no credit history have several excellent options with solid rewards value and low fees, like the Discover it Student Cash Back or Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card. However, non-students with limited credit history will find the best rewards and rates with secured credit cards like the Discover it Secured or Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card.

Learn more: Is the Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa Credit Card worth it?
Read our full Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.

Discover it Student Cash Back: Best for cash back with no credit history

  • What we love about the Discover it Student Cash Back: Most cash back cards with this earning potential require a good to excellent credit score, so it stands out as an especially lucrative student card. Discover’s top-tier customer service, Cashback Match welcome offer and generously low rates and fees grant students peace of mind and top-notch value.
  • Who this card is good for: College students interested in building a credit history and earning as they learn about rotating bonus categories.
  • Alternatives: Providing a more straightforward option for earning rewards, budget-conscious students will love the Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Card’s unlimited 3 percent cash back on student-centric categories (dining, entertainment and popular streaming services) and 8 percent back on Vivid Seats purchases if there’s an event in your future plans.

Learn more: Is the Discover It Student Cash Back card worth it?
Read our full Discover it Student Cash Back review or jump back to offer details.

How do credit cards work?

A credit card, usually a plastic or metal card, is a financial product similar to a personal line of credit that lets you make purchases now, but pay for them later. When you’re approved for a credit card, you get a credit limit that determines the maximum dollar amount you can charge to your card. As you make purchases, your available credit decreases. When you pay your bill, your available credit increases.

With a credit card, you can carry a balance from month to month, meaning you can make a partial or minimum payment rather than paying your balance in full. The downside to carrying a balance is facing potential interest charges determined by your credit card’s APR, or annual percentage rate. Your credit card’s APR is effectively the cost of borrowing money. Remember, credit card interest is relevant only if you carry credit card debt from month to month, and it’s best to pay your balance on time and in full whenever possible.

Important credit card terms

Your understanding of certain credit card terms is essential when choosing a credit card. The terms and phrases listed below should be top of mind when you begin shopping:

Interest rate: Interest is the fee a card issuer charges for extending a line of credit. Your interest rates will determine how much your card issuer charges you for carrying a credit card balance from month to month. Rates are influenced by your credit score.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): In the world of credit cards, your interest rate and your APR are interchangeable. Your credit card’s annual percentage rate is the interest you’re charged for carrying a balance on the credit card in a billing cycle.
Credit limit: This is your credit card’s spending limit and will vary based on your credit score. You’ll likely have different credit limits for different transactions. For example, your cash advance limit (if your credit card offers cash advances) will be lower than your credit limit for purchases.
Credit card balance: Your credit card’s statement balance is the amount owed at the end of a billing cycle. This amount will include all unpaid transactions made on your credit card and any unpaid fees.
Credit card issuer: Often confused with credit card networks — like Visa or Mastercard that facilitate transactions between merchants and card issuers — credit card issuers provide credit cards directly to consumers. Cardholders can receive credit cards from financial institutions like credit unions or banks.

Creditcard's Insight

The impact of the Federal Reserve’s action to hike rates will continue to impact credit card holders, and you should be prepared to see your variable card rates rise until inflation slows. As any increase can be unwelcome for borrowers with revolving debt, it’s important to look for opportunities to get out of the cycle, like finding a zero-interest balance transfer credit card.

How does credit card interest work?

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive into what makes many applicants reluctant to get a credit card: credit card interest. The main type of interest charge that can come with credit cards is typically referred to as your purchase APR.

Because you’re technically borrowing money each time you make a purchase with your card, your lender will charge you interest (your purchase APR) if you haven’t paid off your statement balance in full by the card’s payment due date.

The interest you owe on your current balance compounds daily, which is why it’s so important to pay off your balance in full and on time. Don’t be confused by the “minimum payment” you may see on your billing statement — that tells you how much you’ll need to pay to avoid a late payment fee, but it won’t help you avoid interest. The only way to avoid interest is to pay off your statement balance each billing cycle.

The APR you’ll be charged is usually variable, which means it can change based on a few factors. It’s determined based on the possible APR range in your card’s terms (15.99 percent to 26.99 percent, for example), your credit score (which determines the rate you’re assigned on approval), and the prime rate set by the Federal Reserve.

Credit card interest works by essentially charging a daily interest rate (your purchase APR divided by 365) to your unpaid balance and multiplying the result by each day of the billing cycle. For example, if you miss your payment due date for a 30-day billing cycle and revolve a $1,000 balance at 17.99 percent APR (approximately 0.00049 percent per day), you’ll owe about $14.70 in interest.

Fortunately, you can easily calculate what you’d owe based on your current payment plan with Bankrate’s Credit Card Payoff Calculator and what you should pay each month with our Credit Card Minimum Payment Calculator.

How do credit card rewards work?

Although they may seem intimidating at first glance, most credit card rewards programs are relatively simple. Credit cards typically earn one of three types of rewards on each purchase: cash back, travel miles or points.

Cash back is the simplest form of rewards: You earn cash back as a percentage of your purchase’s dollar amount. For example, if your card earns 3 percent cash back in a certain spending category, spending $100 in that category would net you $3 in cash back. You can typically redeem cash back as a statement credit (a credit to your account that lowers the amount you owe), deposit to your bank account or gift card.

Credit card points and miles largely work the same way, except when it comes to your redemption options. If a card earns 3X points or miles on a certain purchase, spending $100 would net you 300 points or miles. However, the value of your rewards will vary based on how you use them. Miles are generally best used to book travel (typically airfare) while points may offer more flexibility to redeem for different types of travel and cash back (Citi’s ThankYou Points and Chase’s Ultimate Rewards points, for instance).

Many issuers and cards earn their own type of points or miles with their respective restrictions, redemption options and rewards values. Be sure to carefully read how to redeem your points or miles so that you can maximize your rewards’ value since all redemption options aren’t created equal. For instance, American Express Membership Rewards points and other issuers’ rewards may lose value if you use them for anything other than airfare. Utilizing the right transfer travel partner through your issuer is a common way to stretch more value from your rewards, but this option might not be available if your card is designed for a specific hotel or airline brand.

It’s also important to be aware of your rewards’ fine print when it comes to whether they can expire or be pooled with other cards from the same issuer. Luckily, cash back, points and miles from general-purpose cards usually won’t expire for the life of your account. However, co-branded cards’ rewards are more likely to expire if you haven’t used your card for 12 to 24 months.

Many issuers also allow you to pool rewards across cards that earn the same type of rewards. This can lead to credit card pairing strategies that increase your rewards’ value. For instance, you can pool rewards across Chase’s Ultimate Rewards cards (including its no-annual-fee rewards cards) and redeem for Chase travel at a higher point value with a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Why use a credit card?

You should use your credit card as a payment method whenever it makes sense. Credit cards are safer to carry than cash and offer consumers several protections against theft and fraud. Using your credit card wisely means avoiding debt, so you shouldn’t spend more on your credit card than what you can afford to pay at the end of each billing cycle. Using your credit card only for what you can afford is a great way to establish and maintain good credit.

  • Building your credit. Using a credit card responsibly is one of the best ways to establish and improve your credit score. On-time payments made on your account are reported to the three credit bureaus and positive credit behavior will boost your credit score over time. If you don’t have a credit profile to get a traditional credit card, secured credit cards offer a great alternative.
  • To get credit card rewards and perks. Since merchants may increase their prices to account for credit card interchange fees — whether you pay with a card or cash — rewards card programs and perks like bonus statement credits can help you save money on some of your biggest expenses. For instance, using a travel rewards card on your usual purchases can eventually earn enough points or miles to cover a flight that could otherwise cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars.
  • Avoiding fraud liability. If your debit card is used without your permission, the money is deducted from your account right away and is usually very difficult to get back — if you can get it back at all. By contrast, if your credit card is used for fraudulent activity you’re liable for no more than $50 — $0 if your card was reported lost or stolen before any charges are made.
  • Resolving consumer issues. Paying with credit cards provides consumers protection when working with businesses. For example, if you hire a contractor to do renovations, but major issues in the final product arise after payment, you often have little recourse in getting a refund if you pay with a debit card or check. If you paid with a card, however, you can dispute the charges on your credit card and report the contractor to your issuer, which will withhold the funds.

Pros and cons of credit cards

Credit cards can be a great way to manage your money and make sure you pay your bills on time — but the problem is that they’re also very easy to use. Because of this, you should be aware of some of the benefits and drawbacks of owning a credit card.

  • You can have financial flexibility. With a credit card, you don’t have to carry around cash or worry about having enough money on hand for purchases. This can help make your daily purchases more affordable and even help pay for vacations or other big expenses later on down the road.
  • You can earn rewards points. Some credit cards offer rewards programs that allow you to earn points for every dollar you spend. Points can be redeemed for cash back, travel, merchandise and other perks.
  • You can build your credit score. Credit cards help build a positive payment history that may help you get approved for other loans or lines of credit in the future.
  • You could face high interest rates. Credit card interest rates are higher than other types of loans or credit accounts (such as mortgages). This means your payments will be higher if you don’t pay off your balance each month.
  • You could get into debt. If you don’t pay off your balance, then this will affect your credit score and may make it harder for you to get loans in the future (although this depends on whether your card provider reports your payment history to credit reference agencies).

Different types of credit cards

Credit card issuers offer different types of credit cards to meet a variety of consumer needs. For example, some cardholders don’t see the appeal of a premium travel card or won’t use the card enough to justify its annual fee, while others may primarily use their card while traveling abroad. The former type of cardholder would likely benefit from a no-annual-fee card, while the latter would benefit from a no-foreign-transaction-fee card.

But there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all credit card, and the sheer number of options can make it difficult to choose a credit card that’s best for your unique situation. That’s why it’s good to consider which card best matches your spending habits.

Here are the major credit card types and the ideal cardholder they’re suited for:

Rewards credit cards

Rewards credit cards typically fall into three categories: travel cards, cash back cards and general rewards cards. When you use a rewards card to make purchases, you’ll accumulate points or miles redeemable for travel purchases, merchandise or statement credits.

Cash back cards

You can earn cash back on everyday purchases and more with a cash back credit card. While some cards earn a fixed percentage back on every eligible purchase, others offer tiered categories with higher rates in specific spending categories like:

  • Groceries
  • Dining and entertainment
  • Gasoline, ridesharing and transit

Deal hunters and seasonal shoppers whose spending habits vary over the course of the year might benefit from a rotating category card. This type of card earns bonus cash back in many different categories, with your options typically changing every three months.

Cash back cards are a good fit for:

  • Household shoppers — Budget-minded spenders who spend mostly on groceries, gas, dining and other everyday categories may get the best value from cash back cards.
  • Simplicity seekers — If you prefer streamlined  redemption, minimal annual fees and just one or two cards you can use for all spending, then cash back cards are a good bet.
  • Staycation-ers and infrequent travelers — Cash back cards may offer the best rewards potential if you don’t plan on earning rewards toward future trips.

Travel cards

If you want to earn miles and points to help offset the cost of travel, a travel rewards card should probably be at the top of your list.

Along with earning rewards on your spending, travel credit cards also tend to feature perks and benefits specifically designed to make the journey easier and more affordable, including:

  • Access to private airport lounges
  • Free hotel upgrades
  • Travel credits toward expenses like airfare, hotel stays and airport screening services
  • Travel protections like trip cancellation and baggage delay insurance

Many general travel cards earn rewards on airfare, hotels and other expenses, no matter how you fly or where you stay, while co-branded cards are geared toward travelers who frequently book with particular airlines or hotel chains.

Travel cards are a good fit for:

  • Flexibility-focused travelers — If you care more about earning and redeeming rewards than traveling in style and want to choose whichever airline or hotel offers the best deal, you’ll likely prefer a general-purpose travel card.
  • Road warriors — Road trippers and weekend adventurers could save on accommodations and future trips thanks to several travel cards’ lodging, dining, entertainment and rental car rewards.
  • Savvy shoppers — Some travel card points are more valuable than cash back. Strategic spenders looking to maximize reward value on each dollar spent will likely find travel cards’ broad category coverage, pairing opportunities and transfer partners help them squeeze the most mileage from their rewards.

Airline cards

Frequent flyers will certainly find an airline credit card useful, especially if they’re looking for a smoother airport experience and in-flight savings. General travel cards may offer complimentary or discounted airport lounge access and credits toward expedited security services — like Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or CLEAR — but airline cards go a step further.

For example, airline cards typically provide a discount on in-flight purchases (like food, beverages and Wi-Fi), priority boarding and free checked baggage. Higher-tier airline cards may also provide an easier path to elite loyalty status or brand-specific lounge perks.

On the other hand, it’s important to consider how much an airline card would restrict your rewards and benefits to a certain brand. If you prioritize the destination over the journey and don’t mind which airline carrier gets you there, then a general travel card’s flexibility may be a better fit.

Airline cards are a good fit for:

  • Loyal jet-setters — Naturally, an airline card would be a rewarding pick if you prefer to fly with a specific carrier.
  • Travel card strategists — If you don’t mind holding multiple cards to maximize your travel rewards, a co-branded airline card may be worthwhile.

Hotel cards

You may benefit most from a hotel credit card if you’re a regular guest with a specific brand’s properties. Along with earning more points on reservations and other on-property purchases at the hotel, you can typically squeeze value from the card’s hotel-oriented perks — which sometimes deliver even more value than the card’s rewards.

These features can include complimentary free nights, annual credits for hotel purchases or stays, room upgrades, automatic elite status or privileges like flexible check-in and free Wi-Fi.

However, perks of this caliber mean that hotel cards often carry an annual fee. Because these co-branded cards’ reward redemptions and benefits are usually limited to certain hotel chains and don’t translate to other forms of travel like general-purpose travel cards’ features would, it’s important to weigh whether you stay with certain brands often enough to reap full value from a premium hotel card.

Hotel cards are a good fit for:

  • Loyal guests — Similar to airline cards, co-branded hotel cards could be especially valuable if you often stay with a particular chain.
  • Weekend warriors — Cardholders that regularly go on weekend trips and already have their stay in mind could benefit from a hotel card.

0% APR and balance transfer cards

Two types of credit card features specifically address debt and interest: balance transfers and introductory zero-interest offers on purchases.

You can use a balance transfer credit card to move debt from an existing credit account to the new card and, ideally, pay off the transferred debt at a lower interest rate. The best credit cards for balance transfers offer an introductory period of 0 percent APR that lets you temporarily avoid paying any interest. This makes it easier to pay off debt since more of your payment is going toward your principal balance, not interest charges.

Cards with zero-interest introductory periods on purchases also provide a temporary window of 0 percent APR, making them useful for large purchases that would be difficult to pay off in a single billing cycle. Once the intro period ends, however, the APR will change to the card’s regular variable range.

0% APR and balance transfer cards are a good fit for:

  • Debt-settlers — If you have a snowballing balance you can’t seem to shake, a balance transfer card may give you enough breathing room to finally pay off your revolving debt.
  • Balance managers — If you’re having a hard time tracking interest charges across multiple cards, you can use a zero-interest card to consolidate your balances onto one card while also avoiding interest.
  • Big purchase planners — If you have large expenses around the corner, you can use a card with a strong 0 percent intro APR on purchases to keep interest at bay as you chip away at the cost.

Low-interest cards

Another possible option is a low-interest credit card that has a lower-than-average ongoing APR. Cards with lower interest rates are helpful for cardholders who anticipate needing to carry a balance.

Keep in mind that interest rates are much higher than rewards rates, so any rewards you earn can be eclipsed by interest charges if you carry a balance. For instance, if you’ve worked all year to stockpile $100 worth of bonus points, carrying a $600 balance once on a card with a 17 percent APR will essentially eat through all of your hard-earned rewards.

Low-interest cards are a good fit for:

  • First-time cardholders — If you’re new to credit, a low-interest card is handy in case you miss a payment date while getting the hang of your credit card.
  • Emergency expense planners — If you think there’s a chance you may need to carry a balance once in a while, a low-interest card can minimize the impact.

Business cards

Business credit cards can benefit people who own or operate small businesses in a number of ways.

With a cash back card for business, you can earn a flat percentage on general purchases or a higher rate on specialty categories such as office supplies. A business travel card that earns miles or points can also help you reduce your costs for airfare, hotel stays and transit.

Like travel cards, many business rewards cards also offer specialized features and benefits, including higher credit limits than consumer cards, tools to help you manage expenses, free cards for employees and business-related rewards categories, such as shipping, advertising or office supply store purchases

Business cards are a good fit for:

  • Small-business owners — Naturally, small-business owners can take leverage a business card’s unique advantages, including additional employee cards, expense tracking and business-oriented bonus categories not found on personal cards. If you have a startup, a low-interest business card can also help you take on its costs and build your business’ credit score.
  • Side hustlers — Even if you have a small online store, dog walking or ridesharing side business, you can use a business card to earn rewards, access expense management tools and keep your business spending separate from your personal spending.
  • Business travelers — Many of the top-tier business cards hone in on travel perks and rewards, and frequent travelers can put these cards’ features to good use. These can include airport lounge access, expedited security screening service discounts and annual travel credits.

Student cards

A young adult can get a head-start on life’s financial journey with a student credit card, which is typically more desirable than other credit-building cards. The best credit cards for students are typically unsecured (no security deposit required) and offer better rewards rates, lower fees and features tailored to students’ financial needs, including:

  • Relaxed credit requirements — You might not need a good or excellent credit score (or even a credit history at all) to qualify for a student card. In fact, some cards for international students don’t even require a Social Security number.
  • Student-oriented benefits — Some student cards offer perks that are especially useful if you’re in college, like statement credits for Amazon Prime Student, streaming services or other common subscriptions.
  • More lenient fees — For students who don’t have a high income or much credit experience, a card with minimal fees can provide some peace of mind. Annual fees, foreign transaction fees and penalty APRs are less common among student cards, and some issuers even waive your first late payment fee.

Student cards are a good fit for:

  • Students — Unlike secured cards and other credit-building options for people with limited credit, student credit cards are only available to students. Student cards’ lenient rates and fees, $0 deposit requirement, student-oriented perks and rewards make them perhaps the best cards available if you want to build credit history.

Secured cards

A secured credit card is the most accessible credit card option available if you have a “bad” to “fair” credit score (typically a FICO score of 669 or lower, or a VantageScore of 660 or lower). If you don’t have a credit history, limited credit, or a bad credit score, then a secured card will probably provide you with the best rates and features.

In exchange for a refundable security deposit (typically starting at $200, which you’ll get back after you upgrade or close your card account), issuers provide you a matching credit limit that allows you to work on building credit. Since you can essentially set your own credit limit based on your security deposit, putting down a large deposit on a secured card can make it much easier to keep your credit utilization ratio — a key credit scoring factor — in check.

There are a few credit cards designed for limited credit that don’t require a security deposit, but non-students may find that secured cards generally offer stronger perks. In fact, several issuers provide secured cards with rewards rates identical to their full-fledged counterparts, such as the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card or Discover it® Secured Credit Card.

Secured cards are a good fit for:

  • Credit-builders with bad credit or no credit history — If you have money for a security deposit, a secured card could be the most cost-effective, rewarding and expedient card option to build or repair your credit.

Unsecured cards for fair credit or bad credit

If you don’t have the flexibility to tie up a large security deposit for several months, unsecured credit cards for bad credit are another means of building credit. The quality of these cards will be a bit higher if you can comfortably apply for a credit card with fair credit, but it’s important to carefully read each card’s terms and conditions.

That’s because unsecured credit-building cards tend to charge much higher’ rates and fees , with some of these cards’ terms being borderline predatory. Decent unsecured cards designed for subprime credit do exist, but a secured card may be a more cost-effective option in the long-run if you’re building credit.

Unsecured cards for bad or fair credit are a good fit for:

  • Credit-builders avoiding a security deposit — Unsecured cards available with limited credit are a bit harder to find, and the rates and fees may be steeper than rival secured cards’ terms, but they’re an option if you don’t have the liquidity for a security deposit.
  • Credit-builders with fair credit — Since you’ll be seen as a lower risk than someone with bad credit, having fair credit can get you access to unsecured credit-building cards that are a bit more rewarding than secured alternatives.

How to choose a credit card

Choosing the best credit card all comes down to which card is going to provide you with the most value. That answer will change based on your financial situation, spending habits and more. Think about these questions when a credit card offer catches your eye:

The better your credit score, the more likely you’ll qualify for a credit card with excellent perks and terms. You can review your credit report by requesting a free copy from and there are a variety of ways to check your credit scores for free. If your credit score isn’t where you’d like it to be, work on improving your credit.
If you’re in the habit of paying your balances in full, you’re positioned to take advantage of a rewards credit card. These cards tend to carry higher APRs but generally offer a return on spending, plus certain ancillary benefits and protections.

It’s best practice to pay your balance in full each month so you avoid paying interest. However, if you do expect to carry purchases from time to time, you’ll likely want to opt for a low interest credit card. Low interest credit cards tout APRs that are lower than the current industry average. As of Aug. 3, 2022, Bankrate estimates the average credit card interest rate to be 17.42 percent (variable).

If so, you’ll probably want to consider a 0 percent introductory APR credit card, which lets you avoid interest on purchases or balance transfers (or both) for a certain period of time (usually 12 to 21 months).

However, cards designed around the intro APR usually don’t earn rewards and lack long-term value. If you don’t need 18 months or more to pay off upcoming purchases or a transferred balance, you might want to look into a no annual fee rewards card. Several of these options carry a 0 percent intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers for up to 15 months and earn their keep the card long after your debt is settled.

If your spending is concentrated in a certain area, look for a card that offers solid rewards in that category. For instance, if you spend a lot on groceries, look for a credit card that offers bonus points or cash back at grocery stores. Alternatively, if you travel frequently, consider a card that offers miles. If you don’t spend a lot in one particular category, consider a flat-rate cash back credit card.

Many credit card offers involve a sign-up bonus for new cardholders, sometimes called a welcome offer. The typical sign-up bonus is an offer of cash back, rewards points or travel miles that you earn by spending a certain amount of money within the specified timeframe after opening the account, usually three months. If you can hit a card’s required spend without taking on debt, you should consider a card with a welcome offer.

How to apply for a credit card and get approved

  1. Know your score. Before you start filling out applications, or even shopping around, you should find out your current credit score. Knowing your credit score will give you a better idea of:
    • The cards you’re most likely to qualify for. On, each card offered by our partners has a Recommended Credit Score that you can use as a guideline.
    • The APR you might be offered. The higher your credit score, the more likely you are to get a lower APR. You can check your credit score through any of the major credit bureaus, the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) or possibly through your bank. Based on the FICO scoring model a good-to-excellent credit score will fall in the range of 670 to 850. If you find that your credit score isn’t where you’d like it to be, you can increase your credit score to improve your chances for qualification.
  2. Look for personalized or prequalified offers. With a prequalified credit card offer, you can get an idea of your chances for approval without submitting an application that will trigger a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries temporarily decrease your credit score and stay on your report for two years. Prequalification processes usually involve a soft credit check, so they could help you avoid minor, short-term dings to your credit score as you shop for the right card. One way to find and compare offers is by using tools like CardMatch™. The CardMatch feature is designed to show you personalized offers from our partners that match up with your credit profile. Based on your information, you may receive special offers and prequalified matches. Be aware that a prequalified match is still not a guarantee of approval.
  3. What to do if your application is denied. There are a variety of reasons an issuer may choose to reject an application, such as a low credit score or high debt-to-income ratio. Plus, a rejection is possible if you’ve applied for multiple cards in a short period — it’s likely interpreted as credit-risky behavior. Once you’ve received a denial explanation from the issuer, there are a few steps you can take to remedy the situation.
    • You can address any concerns on your credit report by contacting the issuer’s reconsideration line and pleading your case. While there’s no guarantee it will work, it’s worth a shot if you believe you’re a desirable applicant.
    • If you’ve been denied before, consider improving your score before applying again.

How to make the most of your credit card

Your credit card can be a major help or a hindrance to your financial health, depending on how you use it. Getting the most out of your card will require a bit of strategy and planning. To make the most of your credit card, follow a few guidelines:

  • Pay your bills on time: Generally speaking, the credit card payments you make are reported to the three credit bureaus. While late payments negatively impact your credit score, consistent on-time payments improve it. Making your credit card payments on time each month is one way to ensure you’re improving your credit score over time.
  • Pay your balance in full: Avoid charging more on your credit card than you can pay back at the end of your billing cycle. This will help you avoid interest charges. Paying your balance in full also helps keep your credit utilization ratio low, which is another credit score booster. If you’ve planned on using a credit card to make a large purchase and carry a balance over time, it’s best to do so on a 0 percent intro APR card.
  • Use your card’s perks: Do you know all the perks and benefits available to you through your credit card? Sign-up bonuses, cash back rewards, and airline miles are just a few of the perks that come with certain cards. It’s important to be well-versed in the specific benefits of your credit card, so you’re able to take advantage of them.
  • Know your credit card’s drawbacks: Understanding your credit card’s potential drawbacks can go a long way toward helping you avoid them. Be sure you’re aware of things like your card’s interest rates and fees upfront so you can plan on how you’ll deal with them if you need to.
  • Leverage your rewards: Make sure to study your rewards program’s terms so you can prioritize stores that fit your bonus categories and choose the most valuable redemption options for your needs. Learning your card’s merchant category codes (MCCs) and transfer partners (if you have a travel card) can also help rake in extra rewards value in situations you might not expect.

Avoiding credit card pitfalls

There are plenty of advantages to using a credit card. You can improve your credit score with proper use over time, earn lucrative rewards and protect yourself from fraud. There are also important drawbacks to be aware of when obtaining a credit card. Some potential pitfalls to avoid include:

  • Damaging your credit: Your credit card issuer reports your payments activity and credit card balances to the three credit bureaus each month. While keeping your credit utilization low and making on-time payments consistently can help improve your credit score over time, doing the opposite will certainly harm your credit score.
  • Incurring debt: If you spend more on your credit card than you can afford to pay before the end of each billing cycle, you will incur debt. Interest rates on credit cards can be expensive, and if you consistently carry large balances on your credit card interest payments can pile on fast. If you do happen to accrue credit card debt there are strategies you can use to get your debt under control.
  • Introductory bonuses: Some credit cards offer lucrative sign-up bonuses to new cardmembers in the form of points, miles or cash back when the new member meets a certain spending requirement in a specific period. While designed to encourage spending, it’s important to be wary that it may not be as valuable and could leave you with more debt.
  • Fees: Even the best credit cards often come with a variety of fees such as balance transfer fees, annual fees, late fees and more. You can avoid many of these fees with responsible and strategic credit card use. For example there are many cards that allow cardholders to skip annual fees.

How we chose our top American Express credit cards

Credit cards currently has expert reviews for more than 200 credit cards, which are rated using a 5-star scoring system. The most important factors we use to determine which cards appear on this page include:


Affordable interest rates are essential to great credit card offers. If you ever need to carry over part of your balance from one month to another, which we advise against if at all possible, a lower APR should reduce the amount of interest you're charged.

Rewards programs

Top programs for earning cash back, points or miles offer generous rewards rates and flexible redemption options. Some reward programs also include discounts and online shopping portals.

Introductory 0% APR offers

A zero-percent APR offer — essentially a temporary reprieve from interest — could make it much less expensive to pay off a big purchase or a balance transfer. The best offers last anywhere from 12 months to 21 months before the regular APR applies.


A low ownership cost is another key element of the best credit cards. The total burden of fees should be low. If a card does charge an annual fee, it should also offer rewards and benefits that can help offset that cost.

User-focused value

Benefits geared toward providing cardholders ongoing value like annual credits, auto-pay options, credit-building tools, fraud protection, insurance and more help make a credit card worth keeping in your wallet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Although no single card is best for everyone, there is certainly a card out there that best fits your needs. However, picking a card from the crowd can be a challenge. To make your decision a little easier, Bankrate curates a list of the top credit cards based on a range of cardholders’ biggest priorities — crowning the cream of the crop each year with a Bankrate Award.

Several of the 2022 Bankrate Awards winners are featured on our list of the best credit cards

  • Capital One Venture X: Best for jet-setters
  • Capital One SavorOne: Best for families
  • Discover it Student Cash Back: Best for students
  • BankAmericard: Best for debt consolidators + Best for large purchases
  • Blue Cash Preferred from American Express: Best for streaming services

Quality credit cards aren’t exclusive to people with excellent credit scores. Many credit cards for good credit are realistically within reach for someone with a 670 FICO Score, and the field isn’t limited to no-frills cards. Depending on your credit score, annual income and other factors, you could qualify for a cash back, travel or rewards credit card that offers solid value and benefits, plus the opportunity to build your credit and graduate to a higher-tier card.

Although Experian estimates that the average American has four cards, the number of credit cards you should have depends entirely on your unique situation. For example, you’ll probably want to carry multiple cards if you’re looking to maximize rewards on a broader range of expenses or wield perks specific to your favorite stores, airlines or hotels. However, you may want to stick to one card if you prioritize building credit or a streamlined rewards experience.

Having several cards is fine as long as they deliver benefits that you take full advantage of (miles, cash back, perks and so on). Just beware of burdening yourself with annual fees and temporarily bruising your credit score from multiple card applications in a short period.

A credit card application could have a negative (but temporary and relatively small) effect on your credit score. Getting approved for a credit card or other type of credit account requires some scrutiny of your track record as a borrower. The process can involve two types of credit checks:

  • A “hard” inquiry is when the lender pulls your credit report to make a decision about whether to lend to you.
  • A “soft” inquiry is when the lender checks your credit as part of a preliminary screening. Pre-qualified credit card offers involve soft credit inquiries, so keep an eye out for cards that offer pre-qualification.

A hard inquiry can subtract a few points from your credit score temporarily, while a soft inquiry usually has no effect. You’ll want to limit the number of hard inquiries on your credit report, so be as selective as possible about which credit cards you apply for and try to get preapproved first.

Generally, you must be at least 18 years old to be the primary cardholder of a credit card. However, there are considerably more strict requirements to hold a credit card at 18. You must be able to prove that you can independently pay your credit card bill or you can elect to have a cosigner, who is financially responsible for your bills if you cannot pay. There is also the option to become an authorized user on a parent or guardian’s credit card. With this option, you can have access to a credit line before the age of 18, though age restrictions will depend on the issuer.

Your potential credit card issuer will let you know what information they’ll require for your credit card application. A few things you definitely need to include are listed below:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Address
  • Social Security number

You should also be ready to provide additional information such as:

  • Annual income
  • Monthly rent or mortgage payments
  • Current bank accounts

Advertiser Disclosure is an independent, advertising-supported comparison service. The offers that appear on this site are from companies from which receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site, including, for example, the order in which they may appear within listing categories. Other factors, such as our own proprietary website rules and the likelihood of applicants’ credit approval also impact how and where products appear on this site. does not include the entire universe of available financial or credit offers.

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