Best Credit Cards of 2022: Why These Repeat Winners Keep Winning

Some features, rewards and perks set certain credit cards apart from the competition year after year.
Apr 6, 2022

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The credit card industry is ultra-competitive, forcing issuers to introduce new and better offers as they try to attract customers.

Yet over the years, some credit cards remain perennial favorites with consumers. That’s why these few cards continually win accolades in NerdWallet’s list of top credit cards of the year.

Here’s a look at repeat winners among NerdWallet’s Best Credit Cards of 2022 and why they keep coming out on top.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Best credit card for groceries

Card details

American Express Blue Cash Preferred Credit Card
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Annual fee: $95.

Sign-up bonus: Earn a $350 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months. Terms Apply.

Rewards:

  • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 a year in spending (then 1%.)

  • 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.

  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including such things as taxis, rideshares, parking, tolls, trains and buses.)

  • 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Terms apply; see rates and fees.

Why it keeps winning

This is a no-brainer because for years it’s been the only mass-market credit card to offer such a high rewards rate at U.S. supermarkets and grocery-delivery services, a huge category of spending for most American households. You need to average only $31 per week at U.S. supermarkets alone to offset the annual fee. Adding to its allure are big rewards on the growing category of streaming services and the popular category of gas stations. Competitors apparently don’t feel they can offer a rewards rate of 6% or more for groceries. Until they do, this card is likely to remain a winner.

Chase Freedom Flex℠: Best credit card for bonus cash back

Card details

Chase Freedom Flex
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Annual fee: $0.

Sign-up bonus: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

Rewards:

  • 5% cash back in quarterly bonus categories on up to $1,500 in combined spending each quarter. Activation of bonus categories is required.

  • 5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 3% back on dining, including takeout and delivery services.

  • 3% back on drugstore purchases.

  • For all cardholders, through March 31, 2025, 5% back on qualifying Lyft services purchased through the Lyft app.

  • 1% on all other purchases.

Why it keeps winning

Sometimes cards continue to win because they continue to evolve, especially in such a highly competitive category. This card won NerdWallet “Best of” awards even before its revamp in 2020, when it added “Flex” to its name and added permanent bonus categories to quarterly revolving ones. What the card lacks in simplicity it makes up for in earning power for those who will capitalize on its point-earning prowess and flexible redemptions.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best basic travel rewards credit card

Card details

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
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Annual fee: $95.

Sign-up bonus: 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.

Rewards:

  • 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases.

  • 5 miles per $1 spent on hotels and car rentals booked through Capital One Travel.

Why it keeps winning

Travel credit cards and simplicity usually don’t go together. But this card offers easy-to-understand high flat-rate rewards on most purchases and flexible redemption to erase any travel purchase, making it a joy to use for the more casual traveler — the one who spends time planning exciting travel rather than burying themselves in spreadsheets to track points and miles.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Best credit card for travel perks

Card details

Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card
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Annual fee: $550.

Sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Rewards:

  • 10 points per dollar spent on Chase Dining purchases through Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 10 points per dollar spent on hotel stays and car rentals purchased through Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 5 points per dollar spent on air travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining not booked with Chase.

  • 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

  • Through March 2025: 10 points per $1 spent on Lyft (7 points per dollar spent on Lyft plus 3 points per dollar spent on travel).

Why it keeps winning

This card piles on the points and perks, making it a hit with travel-card optimizers despite its annual fee. The crown jewel for this card isn’t a sapphire but a $300 annual travel credit that is easier to use than most of the competition. That remains a major reason this card wins year in and year out as a premium travel credit card, despite stiff competition.

Discover it® Student chrome: Best credit card for college students

Card details

Discover it® Student chrome
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Annual fee: $0.

Sign-up bonus: 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.

Rewards:

  • Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.

  • Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Why it keeps winning

For years, we’ve thought Discover college-student credit cards are class acts. This card has won for the past three years because of its simplicity. It edged out its sibling card, the Discover it® Student Cash Back, which is also great and won in previous years for its lucrative quarterly rotating bonus categories. This two-horse race from the Discover stable comes down to whether a student will remember the quarterly categories — and to activate them. If not, we like this one, the Discover it® Student chrome, which doesn’t require that diligence of a young adult concentrating on their academic — and social — life.

Discover it® Secured Credit Card: Best credit card for building credit

Card details

Discover it® Secured Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 
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Annual fee: $0.

Sign-up bonus: 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! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.

APR: 10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months, and then the ongoing APR of 24.49% Variable APR.

Rewards:

  • 2% cash back at gas stations and at restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.

  • 1% on everything else.

Why it keeps winning

Secured cards have a different purpose than general credit cards: strengthening your credit. This card boasts a combination of features that are on-point for that purpose: Annual fee of $0 and an upgrade path to an unsecured card. Add to that solid ongoing rewards and the ability to double them in year No. 1? That’s hard to beat.

Top cards with staying power

We think these 2022 repeat winners have the chops to be tops in the future, too.

To view rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, see this page. To view rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, see this page.

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