ADVERTISER DISCLOSURE

NerdWallet’s Top 10 Credit Card Deals of 2014

by

This post may contain references to products from our partners. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of how we make money, please visit this page.

The results are in! After staying up late to crunch the numbers, 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 with the cards below. We know there’s no one-size-fits-all credit card; instead, the best credit card for you depends on how much debt you have, how you spend, and your travel habits. It can get a little confusing, but never fear: We can make a card recommendation for any lifestyle. Let’s dig in:

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
Apply Now

on Chase's
secure website

The 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.

But the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card isn’t the only game in town when it comes to travel cards – take a look at our other top pick below!

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

Barclays Arrival Plus Credit Card
Apply Now

on Barclays's
secure website

One of our favorite travel cards ever, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® 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 annual fee is $89 - Waived first year. Plus, it comes with a great signup 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 Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® ideal for any traveler.

Best 5% Rewards Card: Chase Freedom® 

Chase Freedom - $100 Cash Back Credit Card
Apply Now

on Chase's
secure website

The Chase Freedom® is one of the Nerds’ favorite cards. It provides 5% cash back in annual rotating bonus categories (up to $1,500 spent per quarter) and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. In 2014, featured 5% categories include popular retailers like Starbucks, Amazon, and Zappos. Plus, the card charges no annual fee and gets you started with a nice signup bonus: Get a $100 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. If you like cards that provide the opportunity to earn 5% back, the Chase Freedom® is just the ticket!

Best No Annual Fee: Citi® Double Cash Card

Citibank Citi® Double Cash Card Credit Card
Apply Now

on Citibank's
secure website

The Citi® Double Cash Card is a rare gem among rewards cards. With it, you’ll earn 1% cash back on all your purchases, then an additional 1% cash back when you pay them off. This is a sky-high rewards rate that comes at no annual fee, and you won’t have to worry about dealing with rotating bonus categories. Plus, there’s no limit to the rewards you can earn. And when it comes time to redeem, you can receive your cash back as a statement credit, a gift card or a check. What’s not to love?

For Gas and Groceries: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

If you buy groceries and drive a car, look no further — the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express 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. Its annual fee is $75.

The no annual fee version is the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express 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 or more on groceries per week, the higher rewards rate on the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express on groceries alone will outweigh the annual fee, relative to the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. If you don’t usually make it to the $50-a-week grocery threshold, you might be better of with the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express.

Best Card for Debt Relief: Chase Slate®

Chase Slate Elite Credit Card
Apply Now

on Chase's
secure website

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 Chase 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 ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students 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 Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students. However, most people will find that the waived balance transfer fee of the Chase Slate® will save them more money than the longer 0% period of the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students.

Best Card for 0% APR Plus Rewards: Discover it®

Discover It Credit Card
Apply Now

on Discover's
secure website

The Discover it® offers the best of two worlds: 0% interest on balance transfers for 18 months and on purchases for 6 months, 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 on new purchases while paying off your debts interest-free.

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

Barclays Rewards MasterCard - Average Credit Credit Card
Apply Now

on Barclays's
secure website

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: Ink Plus® Business Card

Chase Ink Plus with Ultimate Rewards Credit Card
Apply Now

on Chase's
secure website

The Ink Plus® Business Card 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: Limited Time Bonus Offer: Earn 70,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $875 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Remember, your points are worth 25% more when you book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. So that signup bonus could be worth as much as $625! 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: Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students

Citibank ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students Credit Card
Apply Now

on Citibank's
secure website

The Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students is a great choice for college kids looking to start building their credit early. With it, you’ll earn 2 ThankYou points per dollar spent on dining and entertainment and 1 ThankYou point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Since college life is full of concerts, sporting events and late-night pizza deliveries, the Nerds think most students will get good value from this card. Plus, it’ll get you started with a nice signup bonus: Earn 2,500 bonus ThankYou® Points after spending $500 within the first 3 months of cardmembership. To get the most bang per ThankYou point, be sure to use them for gift cards or cash equivalents (like bill payments or charitable donations).

2014 image via Shutterstock

We want to hear from you and encourage a lively discussion among our users. Please help us keep our site clean and safe by following our posting guidelines, and avoid disclosing personal or sensitive information such as bank account or phone numbers. Any comments posted under NerdWallet's official account are not reviewed or endorsed by representatives of financial institutions affiliated with the reviewed products, unless explicitly stated otherwise.
  • 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.