NerdWallet’s Top 10 Credit Card Deals of 2015
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 Signup Bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- For Gas and Groceries: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
- Best 5% Rewards Card: Chase Freedom®
- Best No Annual Fee Card: Citi®Double Cash Card
- Best Airline Miles Card: Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®
Best card for people who carry a balance:
- Best Card for Debt Relief: Chase Slate®
- Best Card for 0% APR plus rewards: Discover it®-Double cash back your first year
Best for less-than-perfect credit:
Best Signup Bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a top-notch card, offering one of the best signup bonuses in the business: Earn 40,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s a great way to start off, and the annual fee is reasonable for such a high-earning card. You’ll pay an 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 picks below!
For Gas and Groceries: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
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If that’s too rich for your blood, consider the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. It provides only 3% on groceries (up to $6,000 annually) and 2% on gas/select department stores, and has a smaller signup bonus: Get $100 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive $100 back in the form of a statement credit. But, its annual fee is $0. 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 5% Rewards Card: Chase Freedom®
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. Historically, featured 5% categories have included popular retailers like Starbucks, Amazon, and Zappos. Plus, the card has a $0 annual fee and gets you started with a nice signup bonus: Earn a $100 Bonus after you spend $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
Best Airline Miles Card: Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®
One of our favorite travel cards ever, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® earns an effective 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 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% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 12.99% - 22.99% Variable. 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.
Best Card for 0% APR Plus Rewards: Discover it®-Double cash back your first year
Best Card for Average Credit: Barclaycard® Rewards MasterCard®
Best Business Credit Card: Ink Plus® Business Credit Card
The Ink Plus® Business Credit 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 $50,000 spent annually. You’ll earn an unlimited 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. The kicker is the signup bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Moreover, there’s no foreign transaction fee, making the card ideal for business travelers. There’s a $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95, but the killer signup bonus more than makes up for it.
Best Student Credit Card: Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students
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