The Best Credit Cards Have Three Things in Common

The best credit cards help you tackle your goals and priorities, they meet you where you are in life and they deliver value on your top expenses.
Kenley YoungOct 20, 2021

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There's no such thing as the single "best" credit card; there's only the best credit card "for you." But in terms of finding that best fit, all of the best credit cards on the market share a few common traits.

When evaluating any credit card, consider how it fits with the following:

1. The best credit cards fit your goals

Before you can find the best credit card for you, ask yourself what it is you'd like to accomplish with one. There are basically three main kinds — credit-building cards, interest-saving cards and rewards cards — but within those categories are various subsets.

Some possible goals include:

If you have no credit history, or very little, consider cards designed for thin credit profiles. Some options:

If you have poor credit (FICO scores of 629 or lower), you still have options. They include some of the secured cards listed above, but also:

If you're aiming to chip away at existing debt, then transferring that balance to a card with a lower APR can help. Consider:

The following cards earn the most flexible reward of all — cold hard cash:

If you're loyal to a specific retailer or brand, you might benefit from a card that rewards that loyalty, or one that protects those purchases:

2. The best credit cards fit your lifestyle

The best credit cards meet you where you (and your credit scores) are in life. If you know what your credit scores are, you'll have a great idea of the kinds of cards you can reasonably expect to qualify for. The higher your scores, the better your credit card options.

But the best credit cards for you also tend to change over the course of your life, as your needs and circumstances also change. Here are some of the best cards for specific life stages:

Merely being a student isn't enough to qualify for a student credit card; you'll need to be at least 18, and even then, if you're younger than 21, you'll have to show proof of independent income to get your own credit card. If you meet those standards, check out these cards:

Your options may still be limited depending on your credit history, but there are still plenty of beginner-friendly options:

Several credit cards can save you money on interest and fees during your service:

Maybe you've recently moved in with a significant other — or maybe you've popped the question and are planning a wedding. Here are some helpful credit card options:

About to have your first child? Or already a parent many times over? Don't worry, there are credit cards that can work well for you:

These credit cards are good picks for all kinds of business owners — from those with large office spaces and multiple employees, to those who work for themselves, to those who merely have a side hustle:

If you've stepped away from the workforce, there are some cards that could be right for you:

3. The best credit cards fit your spending

The best credit cards deliver consistent value for your everyday expenses, in the form of rewards, perks, discounts and more.

Whatever the largest line item is in your budget, there's likely a card to match it, including cards for:

If you're looking to rake in restaurant rewards, here are the credit cards to consider:

On the other hand, if you mostly cook at home, you may want to look into these cards:

If you're a road warrior, perhaps the pump is where you drop the majority of your cash:

Maybe instead of driving, you rely on mass transit or ridesharing:

Amusement can take many forms: a night out, a live concert or play, a football game and more. If you frequently paint the town red, here are some cards that can help you wield that brush:

If your idea of a fun evening is cozying up on the couch with "Stranger Things" or the latest Marvel superhero flick, then look for a card that rewards you on eligible streaming services:

Got a fur baby to spoil? These credit cards can help with that:

Whether you're a spectator or a participant on the field yourself, or even just a gym rat, these credit cards may be right up your alley:

Bottom line

These are not comprehensive lists of possible credit card goals or lifestyles or spending habits, but the best credit cards for you will offer value in those areas. You may even find they offer secondary perks and benefits that come in handy, like insurance, purchase protection, zero-liability fraud policies, budgeting tools and more.

Plus, responsible use of credit cards — meaning paying them back on time and, ideally, in full every month — will help strengthen your credit profile, which can open doors to better rates on other financial products, like mortgages and auto loans.

To compare your options, see NerdWallet's list of best credit cards.

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