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It’s hard to stand out in a competitive credit card market. That’s why many issuers offer unique benefits that can make their cards distinctive from the rest of the pack.
Here are the most unique features of each of NerdWallet’s 2022 Best Credit Card winners.
Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card: Our Pick for Simple Cash Back
Competitive features overall
What makes this card a winner in the flat-rate cash-back field is what it offers as a whole. You’ll get a high flat rate of 2% on every purchase, as well as a sign-up bonus and introductory APR offer, all for an annual fee of $0. Plus, the card tacks on cell phone protection — a feature that's increasingly being offered, but that can still make a card a distinctive option among others on the market.
Chase Freedom Flex℠: Our Pick for Bonus Cash Back
Dynamic rewards categories
The fact that the card offers both fixed and rotating bonus categories makes it a standout option, particularly for rewards maximizers. In addition to earning ongoing rewards in everyday spending categories that don’t change, you’ll get 5% back in quarterly bonus categories, on up to $1,500 in combined spending each quarter. You’ll have to activate bonus categories each quarter to earn the elevated rate.
Ability to transfer points for greater value
The Chase Freedom Flex℠ earns Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, which means holders can use the unique "trifecta" strategy to maximize their rewards. Because you can transfer points between cards that earn Ultimate Rewards® points, this technique allows you to pair multiple eligible Chase cards and strategically pool your points for greater rewards value.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Our Pick for Basic Travel Rewards
Reward and redemption simplicity
While some cards stand out for their intricate rewards systems and categories, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card’s secret sauce is simply ... its simplicity. Cardholders earn a flat, unlimited 2 miles per dollar spent on purchases. Plus, those rewards are just as easy to redeem as they are to earn: Points can be redeemed for statement credit to "erase" a travel purchase charged on the card. They can also be used to book flights, hotels, rental cars and vacation packages through Capital One’s travel portal, or they can be transferred to a variety of travel partners.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Our Pick for Travel Perks
Easy-to-use travel credit
This card comes with a yearly travel statement credit of up to $300 — which is automatically applied to your account immediately after purchase and can be used for travel-related purchases like taxi and train fares, parking lot and garage fees, and more. This makes the card’s credit more flexible than credits offered through other travel cards, which are typically awarded under more restrictive conditions and only for limited types of travel purchases.
Primary rental car insurance
Many cards on the market come with secondary rental car insurance, but it’s rare to find one that offers primary coverage like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® does. This means that when you pay for a rental car with your card, if an accident happens, the card’s coverage will apply before your own personal auto insurance.
Wells Fargo Reflect℠ Card: Our Pick for 0% Intro APR and Balance Transfer
A (nearly) 2-year break from interest if you meet the terms
The best 0% APR cards offer introductory periods of at least 15 months. But the Wells Fargo Reflect℠ Card stands out from the competition by offering the ability to snag up to 21 months of no interest. New cardholders get 0% intro APR on Purchases for up to 21 months and 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers up to 21 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 13.74%-25.74% Variable APR
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card: Our Pick for Airline Card
A free checked bags for up to 9 people
The card comes with a number of attractive travel benefits, like priority boarding and the potential to earn Delta credit. But one standout benefit is the fact that it offers one free checked bag for you and up to eight additional people in your reservations. (Yes, we said eight!) This is one of the most generous free-bag offers among airline travel cards that come with this benefit. Terms apply (see rates and fees).
World of Hyatt Credit Card: Our Pick for Hotel Card
Ability to earn an extra free night
It’s common for the best hotel credit cards to offer one free anniversary night, but the World of Hyatt Credit Card goes beyond that. In addition to automatically receiving one free night at a Category 1 to Category 4 Hyatt hotel or resort (after your card anniversary), you can also earn another free night of the same category at a Hyatt hotel or resort when you spend $15,000 in an anniversary year.
Discover it® Student chrome: Our Pick for College Students
No FICO credit history requirement
Student credit cards are aimed at helping first-time cardholders establish credit. But many of these cards often require some form of credit to apply — which many student applicants might not have. The Discover it® Student chrome removes this hurdle. This means that your score, or lack thereof, won’t necessarily disqualify you.
The Discover it® Student chrome earns 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations, on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, and 1% back on all other purchases. Those are two useful bonus categories for students, and unlike some other cards, they're fixed. Bonus categories don't rotate each quarter, nor is there any need to remember to "opt in" or "activate" those categories every three months. What busy college student has time for that?
Plus, as with many Discover cards, this one comes with a unique bonus, which the issuer phrases this way: "INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – 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 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match." Note that this cash back match is only for the first year for new cardholders.
A bonus with no minimum spending threshold is another good fit for students: one less thing to have to track.
Discover it® Secured Credit Card: Our Pick for Building Credit
A winning combination of benefits
This card stands out for its overall features. Cardholders can earn rewards — 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, and 1% back on all other purchases — which not many secured cards offer. Additionally, Discover will automatically review your account, starting at seven months, to see if you qualify for an unsecured credit card. This automatic upgrade path paired with the card’s lucrative rewards and $0 annual fee make it a standout option among secured cards. While many such cards feature one or two of these benefits, it’s rare to find one that offers all of them.
Cash-back match in your first year
Like the aforementioned Discover it® Student chrome, this card features a similar unique bonus in Year One. And bonuses, again, are rare among secured cards.
American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card: Our Pick for Small Business
Rewards at no yearly cost
Among the top business credit cards out there, the American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card is one of the few that offers rich flat-rate cash back without charging an annual fee. You’ll earn 2% back on all purchases on up to $50,000 per calendar year, then 1% after that. Most such cards will charge you a yearly sum to earn high rewards rates while others won’t earn you actual cash back. Terms apply (see rates and fees).
You can spend over your credit limit
With the card’s Expanded Buying Power feature, cardholders have the ability to spend above their credit limit when they need to. The amount that you can spend over your limit will be determined by your payment and credit history, how you use your card and other financial factors. Terms apply.
U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card: Our Pick for Dining
Best-in-class rewards rate
For a $0-annual-fee card, the U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card’s 4x back on dining is one of the most competitive in the field. Few no-annual-fee cards come close to the card’s rate, which makes it a distinct winner.
Annual streaming credit
There are a number of cards on the market that will reward you for streaming-related spending, but this card adds an annual streaming credit as well — which sets it apart. You’ll earn 2 points per dollar on eligible streaming services, as well as a $15 annual credit on eligible streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. The credit alone is enough cash to cover a standard Netflix subscription for one month, for example.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Our Pick for Groceries
An industry-leading cash-back rate at supermarkets
When it comes to cards that earn cash back at U.S. supermarkets, you're not likely to find one that out-earns the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. Among other rewards, cardholders will earn an eye-popping 6% cash back on purchases made at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 a year in spending. After that the rate drops down to 1%. Terms apply (see rates and fees).
Rich rewards for streaming
It's also a frontrunner among cards that offer rewards and perks for streaming-related spending. It pays an uncapped 6% cash back on eligible U.S. streaming services, including Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and more. Terms apply.
Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card: Our Pick for Entertainment
Ability to convert your cash back into Capital One miles
In addition to having great rewards-earning power, this card offers a unique redemption option, allowing holders to transfer cash back, at a 1:1 ratio, to a miles-earning Capital One card.
This means that if you have the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card — or any other cash-back card from the issuer — you can combine your cash-back rewards with miles earned from a Venture or Spark Miles card. Your cards must be linked to share your rewards. This gives Capital One cash-back cardholders more valuable redemption options, particularly the ability to transfer points to the issuer’s more than 15 partner airline and hotel programs.