Best Credit Cards of 2024: 3 New Champs Hop to the Top

Our list of the best credit cards of 2024 features three new winners in the categories of balance transfer, airline and student.
Jae Bratton
By Jae Bratton 
Edited by Erin Hurd

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With most things in life, what’s “best” is inherently subjective and depends on each person’s needs and perspective. It’s no different with credit cards. Even a card with tons of great perks won’t be the right fit for everyone.

When we pick the best credit cards each year, sometimes old winners are surpassed by new cards with superior benefits. In other instances, our picks reflect the new priorities of the people most likely to use the cards.

The three new winners in 2024 reflect both types of changes. Here are the cards that won and why they earned our votes this year.

Category: Best balance transfer credit card

Why the Citi Simplicity® Card won: Basic math tells the tale of the Citi Simplicity® Card’s triumph over last year’s winner, BankAmericard® credit card. The Citi Simplicity® Card gives cardholders 21 months without interest on balance transfers compared with 18 billing cycles on the BankAmericard® credit card.

The initial balance transfer fee on both cards is 3%, the industry standard. Note, however, that the transfer fee on the Citi Simplicity® Card increases to 5% if the balance transfer is made after the first four months of account opening. On the BankAmericard® credit card, the 3% transfer fee is good for 60 days from account opening, then rises to 4%.

As a bonus, the Citi Simplicity® Card doesn’t charge late fees. Other cards, including the BankAmericard® credit card, can charge as much as $40 for a single late payment.

Category: Best airline credit card

Why the United℠ Explorer Card won: The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card had a long run as our top pick for airline credit card, and for good reason. Its perk of a free checked bag for you and up to eight (eight!) traveling companions each time you fly Delta is unmatched. Terms apply. But this year we named the United℠ Explorer Card as the 2024 winner by virtue of its credits and lounge access.

Chase United Airlines Mileage Plus Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 

The United℠ Explorer Card offers up to a $100 credit every four years for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or NEXUS, a nice perk that gets you through airport security faster. You can get a $100 statement credit with the Delta Gold, too — but you’ll have to spend a lofty $10,000 to qualify, and it's only good toward a Delta flight.

United℠ Explorer Card holders also get two lounge passes a year, good for entry into any of the over 45 United Club lounges. For a mid-tier travel card, that’s a really luxurious benefit. By contrast, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card eliminated the ability to access the lounge for a $29 fee (and other Delta cards will restrict lounge access in the future).

Category: Best credit card for college students

Discover it® Student chrome
NerdWallet rating 

Why the Discover it® Student Chrome won: Yes, the Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card has a higher rewards rate in some eligible spending categories than the Discover it® Student Chrome. The Discover card earns 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter; 1% thereafter. The Capital One card earns 3% cash back on several popular spending categories, including dining and purchases at grocery stores, but it lacks some key benefits that appeal to many students. The Discover it® Student Chrome offers:

  • A waiver on the first late payment fee. 

  • A breather on interest for new purchases. The card has the following promotional APR: 0% intro APR on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months, and then the ongoing APR of 18.24%-27.24% Variable APR. A break from interest, even for just a semester, can be a big help in financing major purchases like textbooks.

  • A potentially big sign-up bonus. The Discover it® Student Chrome has the same welcome offer found in any one of Discover’s nonstudent cards: INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match for all new cardmembers – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 cash back into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match. Say you spent $300 a month on your Student Chrome. Assuming a 1% cash back rate, you would come away with $72 by your account anniversary. 

Travel Cards from Our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate


5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.


Intro offer


Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate


Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.


Intro offer


Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate


Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.


Intro offer


Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

See more travel cards

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