NerdWallet’s Credit Card Best-Of Award Categories 2023: What’s Changed and Why
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A Nerd's work is never done, and preparation for our eighth annual awards was no exception.
For our 2023 Best-Of Awards, the credit card Nerds painstakingly considered nearly 300 credit cards — and the awards categories themselves. We want each new batch of award winners to reflect how our readers are using their credit cards, and we also want to make sure the categories are clear.
All told, we spent 115 hours debating and voting, which would be the equivalent to around 14 days of eight-hour video calls (though, thankfully, we spread those meetings apart a bit more).
Compared with 2022, we’ve made a few changes to our awards categories: Here’s what’s different for 2023.
Revamped travel rewards categories
Out: Best basic travel rewards credit card
In: Best all-purpose travel rewards credit card
Travel rewards credit cards don’t have to be ultra-expensive to come packed with useful perks that a wide array of people would enjoy. But who wants to be called basic? The contenders in this category, which all have annual fees under $100, are anything but. This year’s winner, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, offers a generous sign-up bonus, elevated ongoing rewards and other benefits. The annual fee is $95. Travelers who wouldn’t be able to use a significant portion of what a pricier premium card offers can get more value out of an all-purpose travel card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
Out: Best credit card for travel perks
In: Best premium travel credit card
We updated the name of this category to better represent the cards we consider — higher-end cards with fees north of $100. In exchange for a $550 annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® makes it easier to indulge in more luxurious travel, thanks to airport lounge access, an easy-to-use $300 annual travel credit and a statement credit toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years. You can also earn a big welcome bonus and even more rewards compared with some travel cards with lower fees.
More specific categories for 0% interest promotions
Out: Best 0% intro APR and balance transfer credit card
In: Separating that one category into two
In 2022, we combined cards with 0% interest offers on new purchases and balance transfer cards into one category. And for good reason: At the onset of the pandemic, balance transfer offers all but disappeared as banks tightened their belts amid uncertain economic conditions. But balance transfer offers have since come back in a big way. This year, we split this one category into two to better help people select cards that fit the specific task at hand. Of course, some cards, like the ones mentioned below, offer no-interest promotions for both new purchases and balance transfers.
There are two very different purposes for seeking out no-interest offers. If you have a major purchase coming up and want to spread out the cost over a longer period of time, 0% APR promotions for new purchases can give you ample time to make payments without the added cost of interest. With the $0-annual-fee Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card, you’ll pay 0% intro APR on Purchases for 18 billing cycles and 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days, and then the ongoing APR of 17.49%-27.49% Variable APR. You can earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice from a list of options (including gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores or home improvement and furnishings), plus 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 1% on everything else. There’s a $2,500 quarterly spending cap on the 3% and 2% categories, but you can still earn a respectable cash-back rate on big purchases, like a new sofa, and pay them back over time.
If you already have high-interest credit card debt, balance transfer cards provide a way to eliminate interest for a set time frame, potentially reducing your total interest payments by hundreds of dollars. The BankAmericard® credit card offers 0% intro APR on Purchases for 21 billing cycles and 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 21 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days, and then the ongoing APR of 15.49%-25.49% Variable APR. There’s no sign-up bonus, and your spending won’t earn rewards, so it’s less ideal for new purchases compared with the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card. But if debt payment is your main priority, the $0-annual-fee BankAmericard® credit card provides the gift of extra time.
The return of credit cards for gas
In years past, gas wasn’t as big a part of many household budgets as other spending. So for several years, we eliminated the gas category from our awards altogether because we found that for many people, the best credit card is one that rewards you well on other spending, too.
But with the spike in gas prices in 2022, more people started looking for ways to save at the pump. The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card earns 5% cash back on up to $500 in purchases in your highest eligible spend category each billing cycle, and then 1% cash back after you reach that limit (you’ll also earn 1% cash back on all other purchases). Gas is one of the eligible 5% categories, so if you exclusively use this card at the pump, it means you’ll always earn a high rewards rate when you top off the tank.
Should you ever go car-free, know that you can also earn 5% cash back at restaurants, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs and live entertainment. The card’s annual fee is $0.
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