The nerds have the top 10 credit cards for everyone – whether you’re a jetsetter or family (wo)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 Signup Bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Best Airline Miles Card: Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®
- Best 5% Rewards Card: US Bank Cash+
- Best No Annual Fee Rewards Card: Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card
- For Gas and Groceries: American Express Blue Cash
Best card for people who carry a balance:
Best for less-than-perfect credit:
Best Signup Bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardThe Chase Sapphire Preferred is a top-notch card, offering one of the best signup bonuses in the business: Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. That's a great way to start off, and the annual fee is reasonable for such a high-earning card: Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95. It gets even better on the redemption front since your points are worth 25% more if you redeem for travel booked through Chase's tool. If you know your way around frequent traveler programs, you may also want to transfer your points to one of the approved travel partners at a favorable 1:1 ratio. Travel partners include British Airways Executive Club, Korean Air SKYPASS, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Amtrak Guest Rewards, Hyatt Gold Passport, Marriott Rewards, IHG Rewards Club and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards.
As for ongoing rewards, the Sapphire Preferred gives 2 Ultimate Rewards Points per $1 spent on travel and restaurants, and 1 point per $1 spent elsewhere. Your effective rewards rate, then, can be as high as 1.25% base and 2.50% bonus at a valuation of one cent per point. The card has no foreign transaction fee and it comes with chip-and-signature technology, making it a great choice for a traveler looking to score some free flights.
Best Airline Miles Card: Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®
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+
on US Bank's
on US Bank's
Best No Annual Fee Rewards Card: Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card
on Capital One's
on Capital One's
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
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
Best Card for Average Credit: Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard - Average Credit
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
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
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.