NerdWallet’s Top 10 Credit Card Deals of 2014
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
- Best Airline Miles Card: Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®
- Best 5% Rewards Card: Chase Freedom®
- Best No Annual Fee Card: Citi® Double Cash Card
- For Gas and Groceries: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
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.
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®
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. 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
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®
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®
Best Card for Average Credit: Barclaycard® Rewards MasterCard®
Best Business Credit Card: Ink Plus® Business Card
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: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. 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 $0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year, then $95. annual fee, 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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