NerdWallet’s Top 10 Credit Card Deals of 2014

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The nerds have the top 10 credit cards for everyone – whether you’re a jetsetter or family man, student or average Joe, you’ll find rewards and savings. There’s no one-size-fits all credit card. Instead, the best credit card for you depends on how debt you have, how you spend, and your travel habits. It can get a little confusing, but never fear: the nerds have crunched the numbers to find the right cards for any lifestyle!

Best rewards cards:

Best card for people who carry a balance:

Best for less-than-perfect credit:

For businesses:

For students:

Best Signup Bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
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on Chase's
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The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is an amazing travel card, with a stellar signup bonus of Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. Those points can be used for airline miles on United, Southwest, British Airways and more – or even better, your points are worth an additional 25% when you book travel directly through Chase. And the rewards keep on coming. You receive 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining and 1 per $1 elsewhere. This means that your rewards rate can be as high as 2.50% on travel and dining and 1.25% everywhere else – really high compared to the competition. It’s a Visa Signature, which means you get perks like free wine tasting and discounted car rentals; and it has no foreign transaction fee, key for overseas.

Best Airline Miles Card: Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

Barclays Arrival Credit Card
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One of our favorite travel cards ever, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus earns a full 2.2 miles on every $1 that you spend – that’s pretty much the best rewards rate in the business. It works like this: You earn 2 miles on every $1 that you spend, and if you redeem as a statement credit against any travel expense – that’s gas, airfare, hotels, whatever – you get 10% of those miles back. Your rewards rate, then, is 2.2% on every single purchase. The $89 annual fee is waived the first year, and the card comes with a great bonus. Earn 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 or more on purchases in the first 90 days from account opening. Finally, there’s no foreign transaction fee, making the Arrival Plus ideal for any traveler.

Best 5% Rewards Card: US Bank Cash+

US Bank Cash+(TM) Visa Signature(R) Card Credit Card
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The US Bank Cash+ is rare among cash back cards in that it lets you choose your own bonus categories. You earn 5% cash on a category that you choose from a slate that changes quarterly, up to $2,000 per quarter; an unlimited 2% back on gas, groceries or drugstores (your choice); and an unlimited 1% cash back elsewhere. Moreover, if you earn $100 worth of cash back, you can redeem for an extra $25 back once a year.

The only downside of the Cash+ is that it doesn’t have a signup bonus, which sets it back for people looking to hold the card for less than two years. If you’re just looking for quick cash, the Capital One Quicksilver might better serve your needs.

Best No Annual Fee Rewards Card: Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Cash Credit Card Credit Card
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on Capital One's
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The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card earns a full 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make – that means no bonus categories or enrollment to contend with, and no grappling with unwieldy rewards programs. Instead, you get paid out in cold, hard cash. The card also comes with a sign-up bonus: One-time $100 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months. That’s one of the best out there for no annual fee cards. If you’re looking for simplicity and solid rewards, look no further.

For Gas and Groceries: American Express Blue Cash

If you buy groceries and drive a car, look no further – the Amex Blue Cash Preferred gives one of the highest rewards rates in both of those categories. You earn a full 6% cash back on groceries (up to $6,000 spent annually), 3% at department stores and gas stations, and 1% elsewhere. The card also comes with a signup bonus: Get 100 Reward Dollars, redeemable for a $100 statement credit, after you make $1,000 in purchases with your new Card in the first three months. Plus, get one year of Amazon Prime after you sign up for a new membership with your Card and meet the spending requirement in the same time period.

The no annual fee version is the Blue Cash Everyday, which gives only 3% on groceries (up to $6,000 annually) and 2% on gas/department stores, and has a smaller signup bonus. Get 50 Reward Dollars, redeemable for a $50 statement credit, after you make $1,000 in purchases with your new Card in the first three months. Plus, get one year of Amazon Prime after you sign up for a new membership with your Card and meet the spending requirement in the same time period. If you spend $50 on groceries per week, the higher rewards rate on the Preferred on groceries alone will outweigh the annual fee, relative to the Everyday. If you can’t make the $50 a week grocery threshold, you might prefer the Everyday.

Best Card for Debt Relief: Chase Slate

Chase Slate Elite Credit Card
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on Chase's
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The Chase Slate offers a one-two punch of no balance transfer fee if you transfer a balance within the first 60 days your account is open and 0% interest on purchases and transfers for 15 months. It’s pretty much the only card out there with that combination – most others charge 3-5% of the total amount you transfer over. This makes the Slate a great deal for pretty much anyone who wants to get debt-free without paying an extra fee. A variable APR of 12.99%, 17.99%, or 22.99% kicks in after the introductory period ends. It’s worth noting that the Citi Simplicity has a longer 0% APR period (18 months on purchases and transfers) as well as no late fees or penalty APR. If you think you’ll miss a payment or really need those extra three months, go with the Simplicity. However, most people will find that the Slate’s waived balance transfer fee will save them more money than the Simplicity’s longer intro period.

Best Card for 0% APR Plus Rewards: Discover it

Discover It Credit Card
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The Discover it offers the best of both worlds: 0% interest on balance transfers for 18 months and on purchases for 6, as well as a solid cash back rewards program. The card gives 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories, up to $1,500 spent per quarter. The bonus categories are typically seasonal, such as home improvement during the spring and online shopping during the holidays. 5% is a pretty good rewards rate, especially if you’re a fan of the bonus categories. the Discover it offers a great way to earn rewards while paying off your debts interest-free.

Best Card for Average Credit: Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard - Average Credit

Barclays Rewards MasterCard - Average Credit Credit Card
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If your credit falls in that in-between space of neither poor nor good, the Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard - Average Credit could help you out. Not only does it have no annual fee, but it gives decent rewards: 2% cash back per $1 on gas, groceries and utilities, and 1% back elsewhere. It’s rare to find average-credit cards with no annual fee.

Best Business Credit Card: Chase Ink Plus

Chase Ink Plus with Ultimate Rewards Credit Card
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The Chase Ink Plus is pretty much the best business rewards card out there. It earns a full 5 Ultimate Rewards Points per $1 spent on office supplies, cable and telecom services, up to $50,000 spent annually; and 2 points per $1 on gas and hotels, also up to $50k spent annually. You’ll earn an unlimited 1 point per $1 on all purchases. The kicker is the signup bonus: None, worth 25% more when you redeem for travel booked through Chase. Moreover, there’s no foreign transaction fee, and you get 2 free Lounge Club passes a year, making the card ideal for business travelers. There is a $95 annual fee, but it’s waived the first year, and the killer signup bonus more than makes up for it.

Best Student Credit Card: Sallie Mae MasterCard

Barclays Sallie Mae MasterCard Credit Card
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on Barclays's
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The Sallie Mae MasterCard offers great rewards for students – or anyone really – who spends on gas and grocery. It earns 5% cash back on bookstores, up to $750 spent per month; 5% on gas up to $250 a month; and 5% on grocery, also up to $250 a month. There’s no annual fee, and it comes with a $25 Cash Bonus - after first purchase, made within 90 days of account opening signup bonus. It’s worth noting that while you can use your rewards to pay off your Sallie Mae student loan, you don’t need to have a student loan at all to get the card. You can also use those rewards as a statement credit against any expense.

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  • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

    Sounds about right. I’d also add, though, that the card gives an unlimited 3% cash back on gas and department stores, so that also works to offset the annual fee.