BEST OF

Best Mastercard Credit Cards of May 2021

NerdWalletMay 3, 2021
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ALSO SEE: Best credit cards of 2021 || Visa || Mastercard || American Express || Discover || Bank of America® || Capital One || Chase || Citi || US Bank || Wells FargoMastercard credit cards are accepted widely both in the U.S. and internationally. If you’re in the market for a new Mastercard, options abound — and there’s no such thing as a single “best” Mastercard card for everybody. To decide which card is best for you, consider your spending, debt and rewards preferences.

NerdWallet's Best Mastercard Credit Cards of May 2021

Best Mastercard Credit Cards From Our Partners

Our pick for

Cash back

Citi® Double Cash Card

on Citibank's application

5.0

NerdWallet rating 

on Citibank's application

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months

Recommended Credit Score

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is one of the best rewards cards on the market, partly because it’s so simple: You get straight cash back — there are no points or bonus categories to keep track of. Cardholders can shop as they normally would and get a high rewards rate on every purchase.

Pros

  • The card offers a 2% cash-back rate on all purchases: You get 1% back on every dollar you spend and another 1% back when you pay off your purchases, for an annual fee of $0.

Cons

  • This offer does not include a sign-up bonus or a 0% intro APR period on purchases, nor does the card have any bonus categories. Higher cash-back percentages can be had on different cards for specific categories. There’s a minimum cash-back redemption of $25.

  • Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.

Our pick for

Travel rewards

Citibank ThankYou Premier Credit Card

on Citibank's application

4.6

NerdWallet rating 

on Citibank's application

Annual Fee

$95

Regular APR

15.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

While we’re not crazy about a card at this rewards level having an annual fee, triple points on travel is a nice feature, especially because the category includes gas.

Pros

  • By paying 3 points per dollar on travel, the Citi Premier® Card has an edge on competitors that offer only 2 points per dollar in that category. Citi’s definition of “travel” is broad and includes gas station purchases. Citi ThankYou points are worth 1.25 cents per point when you redeem for airfare booked through Citi.

Cons

  • An annual fee of $95 and lackluster point-transfer options to U.S. travel partners are clear downsides.

  • Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 60,000 Points are redeemable for $600 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases

Our pick for

Fair/average credit

Capital One QuicksilverOne Credit Card

on Capital One's website

4.4

NerdWallet rating 

on Capital One's website

Annual Fee

$39

Regular APR

26.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card offers those with average credit a chance to earn rewards and gain access to a higher credit line.

Pros

  • The card offers a solid ongoing rewards rate with no need to track bonus categories. You simply earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Plus, you can be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as six months.

Cons

  • The card charges an annual fee of $39. You would need to spend $2,600 per year on the card to make that back. And unlike some other cash-back cards, it doesn’t allow you to boost your rewards earnings with bonus categories.

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Earn cash rewards without signing up for rotating categories
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No limit to how much cash back you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
  • Get customized alerts and manage your account with the Capital One mobile app

Our pick for

Small business

Bank of America® Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard® credit card

on Bank of America's website

4.6

NerdWallet rating 

on Bank of America's website

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

12.24% - 22.24% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 9 billing cycles

Recommended Credit Score

The Bank of America® Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard® credit card is just right for business owners who want a travel card with robust ongoing rewards but no fee.

Pros

  • This card with an annual fee of $0 offers generous rewards of 1.5 points for every dollar spent, and 3 points per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases booked through Bank of America®. It also comes with a plum sign-up bonus for a no-fee card: Earn 30,000 bonus points when you make at least $3,000 in net purchases within 90 days of your account opening which can be redeemed for a $300 statement credit towards travel or dining-related purchases. It charges no foreign transaction fees.

Cons

  • Higher reward rates are available on other no-fee small business cards. Other cards — especially cards with annual fees — also offer larger sign-up bonuses.

  • Earn 30,000 bonus points when you make at least $3,000 in net purchases within 90 days of your account opening which can be redeemed for a $300 statement credit towards travel or dining-related purchases.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all purchases everywhere, every time-no matter how much you spend. Points don't expire.
  • Earn 3 points per every dollar spent on travel purchases (car, hotel, airline) booked through the Bank of America® Travel Center.
  • No annual fee and no international transaction fees.
  • 0% Introductory APR on purchases for your first 9 billing cycles.
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to offset travel and dining-related purchases, travel with no blackout dates at the Bank of America Travel Center, cash back or gift cards.
  • Get 75% more points on every purchase, if you have a business checking account with Bank of America and qualify for our highest Preferred Rewards for Business tier. That means you could earn up to an unlimited 2.62 points per $1 spent on all purchases and 5.25 points per $1 spent at the Bank of America Travel Center.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.

Our pick for

College students

Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students

on Deserve's website

4.6

NerdWallet rating 

on Deserve's website

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

18.74% Variable

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students is an excellent option for students who can’t qualify for a credit card because they lack a U.S. credit history, a Social Security number or both.

Pros

  • The card is ideal for students who can't get approved for other cards because they lack a credit history. International students who don't have a Social Security number may be able to qualify. That's because the issuer uses its own underwriting process to evaluate applications based on alternative criteria. Cardholders get unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases and a statement credit for a 12-month Amazon Prime Student subscription (up to $59) after spending $500 in the first three billing cycles.

Cons

  • Rewards are redeemable only for statement credit, and you’ll have to wait until you have $25 in rewards (equal to $2,500 in spending) before you can redeem. Other cards offer higher rewards rates, if you can qualify for them.

  • Receive one year of Amazon Prime Student on Deserve after spending $500 in the first three billing cycles with your EDU card (Lifetime Value of $59).
  • Earn 1% Cash Back on all purchases with your Deserve EDU Mastercard. Once approved, you'll automatically start earning cash back on all purchases.
  • Feel secure with cell phone protection up to $600.
  • No deposit required. No annual fees.
  • No international transaction fees on purchases abroad so you can travel with confidence.
  • No Social Security Number required for international students to apply.
  • Refer A Friend Program: Refer anyone to Deserve using your personal referral code. Upon approval, card activation and use, you'll receive $30 and so will your referral. Referral bonuses are unlimited!
  • Manage and track your spending, set automatic payments and securely freeze your card all through one easy to use app.
  • See if you prequalify with no impact to your credit score in minutes.
  • Deserve Mastercards are issued by Celtic Bank, Member FDIC.
  • Enjoy Mastercard Platinum Benefits intended to make your life easier like Mastercard ID Theft Prevention™ and Master Rental®.

FULL LIST OF EDITORIAL PICKS: BEST MASTERCARD CREDIT CARDS

Click the card name to read our review. Before applying, confirm details on the issuer’s website.

Our pick for: Cash back 

Year after year, the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has been our choice for the best flat-rate cash-back card. You earn 2% cash back on every purchase — 1% when you buy something and 1% when you pay it off. There's no 0% intro period for purchases and no sign-up bonus, but the high rewards rate more than makes up for the lack of bells and whistles. Read our review.

Our pick for: Bonus category travel rewards

The Citi Premier® Card earns bonus points on airfare, hotels, supermarkets, dining and gas stations. There's a solid sign-up bonus as well. Read our review.

Our pick for: Balance transfers 

The Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever has one of the longest available introductory 0% APR periods for balance transfers, and a decent one for purchases as well. It doesn't charge an annual fee, late fees or penalty APRs either. Read our review.

Our pick for: Fair/average credit 

This card for people with fair or "average" credit pays the same cash-back rate as the regular Quicksilver card, which targets people with excellent credit. The key difference is that this version charges an annual fee while the regular one does not. Read our review.

Our pick for: Small business

This is the business version of the issuer's excellent no-annual-fee travel card. The Bank of America® Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard® credit card pays solid rewards on every purchase and gives you wide flexibility in redeeming your points for any travel purchase, without the restrictions of branded airline and hotel cards. Read our review.

Our pick for: College students

The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students doesn’t require applicants to have a co-signer or security deposit, and international students don't need a Social Security number. That makes it a little easier to get approved — even for students with limited credit histories. Plus, it comes with a solid 1% back on all purchases. Read our review.

Our pick for: Dining and entertainment

If a night out is more than a once-in-a-while proposition for you, consider the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card. You get a best-in-class cash-back rate on dining and entertainment, plus bonus rewards at grocery stores. The sign-up bonus is one of the best you can get on a cash-back card. Read our review.

Last updated on May 3, 2021

Methodology

NerdWallet's credit cards team selects the best cards in each category based on overall consumer value. Factors in our evaluation include fees, promotional and ongoing APRs, and sign-up bonuses; for rewards cards, we consider earning and redemption rates, redemption options and redemption difficulty. A single card is eligible to be chosen in multiple categories.