BEST OF

Best Credit Cards of October

May 19, 2022

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

NerdWallet's Best Credit Cards of October

Best Credit Cards of October From Our Partners

Our picks for

Best Offers for October

Apply now

on Wells Fargo's website

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Wells Fargo's website

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 months and 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers

Regular APR

15.74%, 20.74%, or 25.74% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • High rewards rate

  • No annual fee

  • Intro APR period

Cons

  • No bonus categories

  • Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months

  • Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases

  • 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, then a 15.74%, 20.74%, or 25.74% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee of 3% then a BT fee of up to 5%, min: $5

  • $0 annual fee

  • No categories to track or remember and cash rewards don't expire as long as your account remains open

  • Enjoy a premium collection of benefits at a selection of the world's most intriguing and prestigious hotel properties with Visa Signature Concierge

  • Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms and conditions

  • View Rates & Fees
Read full review
Apply now

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Chase's website

Annual fee

$95

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

16.24%-23.24% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • New cardholder bonus offer

  • Bonus categories

  • Primary rental car coverage

  • Flexible rewards redemption

  • Transfer partners

Cons

  • Has annual fee

  • Requires good/excellent credit

  • Complicated rewards

  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.

  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.

  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.

  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.

  • See if you qualify for a better offer with Chase:

    Get Pre-Qualified
Read full review
Apply now

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Chase's website

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

Regular APR

15.24%-23.99% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • Intro APR period

  • High rewards rate

  • No minimum redemption amount

Cons

  • Requires good/excellent credit

  • INTRO OFFER: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

  • Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year).

  • After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. You can choose to receive a statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open!

  • Enjoy 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.24% - 23.99%.

  • No annual fee - You won't have to pay an annual fee for all the great features that come with your Freedom Unlimited® card

  • Keep tabs on your credit health, Chase Credit Journey helps you monitor your credit with free access to your latest score, real-time alerts, and more.

  • See if you qualify for a better offer with Chase:

    Get Pre-Qualified
Read full review
Apply now

on Citibank's application

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

4.7

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Citibank's application

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months

Regular APR

14.74%-24.74% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • 5% bonus categories

  • Intro APR Period

Cons

  • Low rate outside bonus categories

  • Requires good/excellent credit

  • Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $750 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.

  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness.

  • Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, 1% cash back thereafter. Also, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

  • No rotating bonus categories to sign up for – as your spending changes each billing cycle, your earn adjusts automatically when you spend in any of the eligible categories.

  • No Annual Fee

  • Citi will only issue one Citi Custom Cash℠ Card account per person.

Read full review
Apply now

on Citibank's application

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

4.6

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Citibank's application

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months

Regular APR

14.74%-24.74% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • High rewards rate

  • Intro balance transfer fee

Cons

  • Requires good/excellent credit

  • No bonus offer

  • No bonus categories

  • 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 Only Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.74% – 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness.

  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back. Intro APR does not apply to purchases.

  • 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 an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer (minimum $5) completed within the first 4 months of account opening. After that, your fee will be 5% of each transfer (minimum $5).

  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.

Read full review

Our picks for

Rewards

Apply now

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Chase's website

Annual fee

$95

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

16.24%-23.24% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • New cardholder bonus offer

  • Bonus categories

  • Primary rental car coverage

  • Flexible rewards redemption

  • Transfer partners

Cons

  • Has annual fee

  • Requires good/excellent credit

  • Complicated rewards

  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.

  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.

  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.

  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.

  • See if you qualify for a better offer with Chase:

    Get Pre-Qualified
Read full review
Apply now

on Wells Fargo's website

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Wells Fargo's website

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 months and 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers

Regular APR

15.74%, 20.74%, or 25.74% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • High rewards rate

  • No annual fee

  • Intro APR period

Cons

  • No bonus categories

  • Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months

  • Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases

  • 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, then a 15.74%, 20.74%, or 25.74% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee of 3% then a BT fee of up to 5%, min: $5

  • $0 annual fee

  • No categories to track or remember and cash rewards don't expire as long as your account remains open

  • Enjoy a premium collection of benefits at a selection of the world's most intriguing and prestigious hotel properties with Visa Signature Concierge

  • Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms and conditions

  • View Rates & Fees
Read full review
Apply now

on Citibank's application

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

4.7

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Citibank's application

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months

Regular APR

14.74%-24.74% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • 5% bonus categories

  • Intro APR Period

Cons

  • Low rate outside bonus categories

  • Requires good/excellent credit

  • Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $750 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.

  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness.

  • Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, 1% cash back thereafter. Also, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

  • No rotating bonus categories to sign up for – as your spending changes each billing cycle, your earn adjusts automatically when you spend in any of the eligible categories.

  • No Annual Fee

  • Citi will only issue one Citi Custom Cash℠ Card account per person.

Read full review
Apply now

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Chase's website

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

Regular APR

15.24%-23.99% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • Intro APR period

  • High rewards rate

  • No minimum redemption amount

Cons

  • Requires good/excellent credit

  • INTRO OFFER: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

  • Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year).

  • After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. You can choose to receive a statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open!

  • Enjoy 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.24% - 23.99%.

  • No annual fee - You won't have to pay an annual fee for all the great features that come with your Freedom Unlimited® card

  • Keep tabs on your credit health, Chase Credit Journey helps you monitor your credit with free access to your latest score, real-time alerts, and more.

  • See if you qualify for a better offer with Chase:

    Get Pre-Qualified
Read full review
Apply now

on Citibank's application

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

4.6

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Citibank's application

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months

Regular APR

14.74%-24.74% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • High rewards rate

  • Intro balance transfer fee

Cons

  • Requires good/excellent credit

  • No bonus offer

  • No bonus categories

  • 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 Only Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.74% – 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness.

  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back. Intro APR does not apply to purchases.

  • 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 an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer (minimum $5) completed within the first 4 months of account opening. After that, your fee will be 5% of each transfer (minimum $5).

  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.

Read full review

Our picks for

Balance Transfer

Apply now

on Citibank's application

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

4.6

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Citibank's application

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months

Regular APR

14.74%-24.74% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • High rewards rate

  • Intro balance transfer fee

Cons

  • Requires good/excellent credit

  • No bonus offer

  • No bonus categories

  • 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 Only Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.74% – 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness.

  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back. Intro APR does not apply to purchases.

  • 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 an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer (minimum $5) completed within the first 4 months of account opening. After that, your fee will be 5% of each transfer (minimum $5).

  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.

Read full review
Apply now

on Bank of America's website, or call 800-322-7707

BankAmericard® credit card

4.7

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Bank of America's website, or call 800-322-7707

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

0% intro APR for 18 billing cycles on purchases, and on any balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening

Regular APR

13.24%-23.24% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • Intro APR period

  • New cardholder bonus offer

Cons

  • Requires good/excellent credit

  • No ongoing rewards

  • $100 statement credit online bonus after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

  • 0% Introductory APR for 18 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 13.24% - 23.24% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers.

  • No annual fee.

  • No penalty APR. Paying late won't automatically raise your interest rate (APR). Other account pricing and terms apply.

  • Access your FICO® Score for free within Online Banking or your Mobile Banking app.

  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.

  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.

Read full review
Apply now

on Citibank's application

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

4.4

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Citibank's application

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

0% Intro APR for 21 months on Balance Transfers and 12 months on Purchases

Regular APR

14.49%-24.49% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • Intro APR period

  • Intro balance transfer fee

Cons

  • Requires good/excellent credit

  • No rewards

  • 0% Intro APR for 21 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer and 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases from date of account opening. After that the variable APR will be 14.49% - 24.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening.

  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

  • Get free access to your FICO® Score online.

  • With Citi Entertainment®, get special access to purchase tickets to thousands of events, including concerts, sporting events, dining experiences and more.

  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 14.49% - 24.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.

Read full review
Apply now

on Wells Fargo's website

Wells Fargo Reflect℠ Card

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Wells Fargo's website

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

0% intro APR for up to 21 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers

Regular APR

13.74%-25.74% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • Intro APR period

Cons

  • No rewards

  • 0% intro APR for 18 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers. Intro APR extension of up to 3 months with on-time minimum payments during the intro and extension periods. 13.74% to 25.74% variable APR thereafter; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee of 3% then a BT fee of up to 5%, min $5

  • $0 Annual Fee

  • Get up to $600 of cell phone protection when you pay your monthly cell phone bill with your eligible Wells Fargo card (subject to a $25 deductible).

  • Through My Wells Fargo Deals, you can earn cash back in the form of a statement credit while you shop, dine, or enjoy an experience simply by using your eligible Wells Fargo Credit Card

  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms and conditions

  • View Rates & Fees
Read full review
Apply now

on Discover's website

Discover it® Balance Transfer

4.9

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Discover's website

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 6 months and 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months

Regular APR

12.24%-23.24% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • Intro APR period

  • Bonus categories

  • Cash rewards

Cons

  • Complicated rewards

  • Spending caps on bonus rewards

  • Lower acceptance abroad

  • 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. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.

  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.

  • No annual fee.

  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.

  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.

  • View Rates & Fees
Read full review
Apply now

on Citibank's application

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

4.4

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Citibank's application

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

0% Intro APR for 21 months on Balance Transfers and 12 months on Purchases

Regular APR

14.49%-24.49% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • Intro APR period

  • Intro balance transfer fee

Cons

  • Requires good/excellent credit

  • No rewards

  • 0% Intro APR for 21 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer and 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases from date of account opening. After that the variable APR will be 14.49% - 24.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening.

  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

  • Get free access to your FICO® Score online.

  • With Citi Entertainment®, get special access to purchase tickets to thousands of events, including concerts, sporting events, dining experiences and more.

  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 14.49% - 24.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.

Read full review

Our picks for

Student

Apply now

on Discover's website, or call 800-347-0264

Discover it® Student Cash Back

4.6

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Discover's website, or call 800-347-0264

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months

Regular APR

13.24%-22.24% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • Qualify with limited/bad credit

  • Bonus categories

  • Intro APR period

  • Reports to the three major credit bureaus

Cons

  • Complicated rewards

  • No credit score required to apply.*

  • 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.

  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

  • No annual fee and build your credit with responsible use.

  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 13.24% - 22.24% applies.

  • Refer-a-Friend: Once you become a Discover it® Student cardmember, you can earn a statement credit each time you refer a friend and they’re approved. Over half a million students got Discover Cards from their friends' recommendations.

  • Get your free Credit Scorecard that includes your FICO® Credit Score and important details that help make up your score.

  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.

  • View Rates & Fees
Read full review
Apply now

on Discover's website, or call 800-347-0264

Discover it® Student chrome

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Discover's website, or call 800-347-0264

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months

Regular APR

13.24%-22.24% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • Intro APR period

  • Qualify with average credit

  • Bonus categories

Cons

  • Complicated rewards

  • No credit score required to apply.*

  • 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.

  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

  • No annual fee and build your credit with responsible use.

  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 13.24% - 22.24% applies.

  • Refer-a-Friend: Once you become a Discover it® Student cardmember, you can earn a statement credit each time you refer a friend and they’re approved. Over half a million students got Discover Cards from their friends' recommendations.

  • Get your free Credit Scorecard that includes your FICO® Credit Score and important details that help make up your score.

  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.

  • View Rates & Fees
Read full review
Apply now

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom® Student credit card

4.6

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Chase's website

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

15.24% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • Earns rewards

  • New cardholder bonus offer

Cons

  • No bonus categories

  • $50 Bonus after first purchase made within the first 3 months from account opening

  • Earn 1% cash back on all purchases

  • No annual Fee

  • $20 Good Standing Rewards after each account anniversary for up to 5 years

  • Earn a credit limit increase after making 5 monthly payments on time within 10 months from account opening when meeting credit criteria

  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open

  • Free credit score with Chase Credit Journey

Read full review
Apply now

on Deserve's website

Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Deserve's website

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

19.49% Variable

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • Qualify with limited/bad credit

  • Reports to the three major credit bureaus

  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • High APR

  • 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®.

Read full review
Apply now

on Discover's website, or call 800-347-0264

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Discover's website, or call 800-347-0264

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months

Regular APR

23.24% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • Reports to the three major credit bureaus

  • Qualify with limited/bad credit

  • Earns rewards

  • New cardholder bonus offer

Cons

  • Requires minimum deposit

  • High APR

  • No credit score required to apply.*

  • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.

  • Using your secured credit card helps build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, prepaid and debit cards can’t do that.

  • Establish your credit line with your tax return by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200. That means a $200 deposit for a $200 credit line. Or a $500 deposit for a $500 credit line. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit, and the security deposit equals your credit limit.

  • Automatic reviews starting at 7 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.*

  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.

  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.

  • View Rates & Fees
Read full review

Our picks for

Building Credit

Apply now

on Discover's website, or call 800-347-0264

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Discover's website, or call 800-347-0264

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months

Regular APR

23.24% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • Reports to the three major credit bureaus

  • Qualify with limited/bad credit

  • Earns rewards

  • New cardholder bonus offer

Cons

  • Requires minimum deposit

  • High APR

  • No credit score required to apply.*

  • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.

  • Using your secured credit card helps build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, prepaid and debit cards can’t do that.

  • Establish your credit line with your tax return by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200. That means a $200 deposit for a $200 credit line. Or a $500 deposit for a $500 credit line. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit, and the security deposit equals your credit limit.

  • Automatic reviews starting at 7 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.*

  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.

  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.

  • View Rates & Fees
Read full review
Apply now

on Capital One's website

Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card

4.8

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Capital One's website

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

26.99% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • Qualify with limited/bad credit

  • No foreign transaction fees

  • Report to three major credit bureaus

Cons

  • Requires minimum deposit

  • No rewards

  • High APR

  • No annual or hidden fees. See if you're approved in seconds

  • Building your credit? Using the Capital One Platinum Secured card responsibly could help

  • Put down a refundable security deposit starting at $49 to get a $200 initial credit line

  • You could earn back your security deposit as a statement credit when you use your card responsibly, like making payments on time

  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months with no additional deposit needed

  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges

  • Monitor your credit score with CreditWise from Capital One. It's free for everyone

  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with online banking to access your account from your desktop or smartphone, with our mobile app

Read full review
Apply now

on Capital Bank's website

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Capital Bank's website

Annual fee

$35

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

17.64% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • Qualify with limited/bad credit

Cons

  • Has annual fee

  • Requires minimum deposit

  • No rewards

  • No credit check to apply and find out instantly if you are approved.

  • OpenSky gives everyone an opportunity to improve their credit with an 85% average approval rate for the past 5 years.

  • Get considered for a credit line increase after 6 months, with no additional deposit required.

  • You could be eligible for the OpenSky Gold Unsecured Card after as few as 6 months.

  • Reports to all 3 major credit bureaus monthly, unlike a prepaid or debit card.

  • Nearly half of OpenSky cardholders who make on-time payments improve their FICO score 30+ points in the first 3 months.

  • Your refundable* deposit, as low as $200, becomes your OpenSky Visa credit limit.

  • Easy application, apply in less than 5 minutes right from your mobile device.

  • Offer flexible payment due dates which allow you to choose any available due date that fits your payment schedule.

  • *View our Cardholder Agreement located at the bottom of the application page for details of the card

Read full review

Our picks for

Business

Apply now

on American Express's website

American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on American Express's website

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening

Regular APR

13.99%-21.99% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • High rewards rate

  • Intro APR period

  • Cash rewards

Cons

  • Spending caps on bonus rewards

  • Requires good/excellent credit

  • Earn a $250 statement credit after you make $3,000 in purchases on your Card in your first 3 months.

  • Earn 2% cash back on all eligible purchases on up to $50,000 per calendar year, then 1% cash back earned is automatically credited to your statement.

  • From workflow to inventory to floor plans, your business is constantly changing. That’s why you’ve got the power to spend beyond your credit limit with Expanded Buying Power.

  • Just remember, the amount you can spend above your credit limit is not unlimited. It adjusts with your use of the Card, your payment history, credit record, financial resources known to American Express and other factors.

  • 0.0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, 13.99% - 21.99%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors as determined at the time of account opening.

  • No Annual Fee

  • Terms Apply

  • View Rates & Fees
Read full review
Apply now

on American Express's website

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express

4.8

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on American Express's website

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening

Regular APR

13.99%-21.99% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • High rewards rate

  • Intro APR period

  • Transfer partners

Cons

  • Spending caps on bonus rewards

  • Requires good/excellent credit

  • Earn 15,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership.

  • Earn 2X Membership Rewards® points on everyday business purchases such as office supplies or client dinners. 2X applies to the first $50,000 in purchases per year, 1 point per dollar thereafter.

  • You’ve got the power to use your Card beyond its credit limit* with Expanded Buying Power.

  • *The amount you can spend above your credit limit is not unlimited. It adjusts with your use of the Card, your payment history, credit record, financial resources known to American Express, and other factors.

  • 0.0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, 13.99% - 21.99%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors at account opening.

  • No Annual Fee

  • Terms Apply

  • View Rates & Fees
Read full review
Apply now

on Chase's website

Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Chase's website

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 12 months

Regular APR

13.49%-19.49% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • Intro APR period

  • No reward caps

  • New cardholder bonus offer

Cons

  • No bonus categories

  • Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase made for your business

  • No Annual Fee

  • Redeem rewards for cash back, gift cards, travel and more through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • Earn rewards faster with employee cards at no additional cost. Set individual spending limits for greater control.

  • With Fraud Protection your card transactions will be monitored for possible signs of fraudulent activity using real-time fraud monitoring.

  • With Zero Liability you won't be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card or account information.

  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases

Read full review
Apply now

on Chase's website

Ink Business Cash® Credit Card

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Chase's website

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 12 months

Regular APR

13.49%-19.49% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • Intro APR period

  • New cardholder bonus offer

Cons

  • Requires good/excellent credit

  • Low rate outside bonus categories

  • Spending caps on bonus rewards

  • Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

  • Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year

  • Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year. Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases

  • With Fraud Protection your card transactions will be monitored for possible signs of fraudulent activity using real-time fraud monitoring.

  • With Zero Liability you won't be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card or account information.

  • No Annual Fee

  • Redeem rewards for cash back, gift cards, travel and more through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases

Read full review

Our picks for

Average Credit

Apply now

on Capital One's website

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

4.7

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Capital One's website

Annual fee

$39

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

26.99% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • Qualify with average credit

  • High rewards rate

  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • Has annual fee

  • High APR

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day

  • No rotating categories or limits to how much you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account. It's that simple

  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months

  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges

  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use

  • Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply

  • Monitor your credit score with CreditWise from Capital One. It's free for everyone

  • Check out quickly and securely with a contactless card, without touching a terminal or handing your card to a cashier. Just hover your card over a contactless reader, wait for the confirmation, and you're all set

Read full review
Apply now

on Upgrade's website

Upgrade Visa® Card with Cash Rewards

4.7

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Upgrade's website

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

8.99%-29.99% APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • No foreign transaction fee

  • Qualify with average credit

  • High rewards rate

  • Reports to the three major credit bureaus

Cons

  • No bonus offer

  • Limited availability

  • Earn 1.5% unlimited cash back on card purchases every time you make a payment.

  • Combine the flexibility of a card with the low cost and predictability of a loan.

  • $0 fees - $0 annual fee, $0 activation fees, $0 maintenance fees.

  • No touch payments with contactless technology built in.

  • See if you qualify in minutes without hurting your credit score.

  • Access to a virtual card while you wait for your card to arrive in the mail.

  • Great for large purchases with predictable payments you can budget for.

  • Mobile app to access your account anytime, anywhere.

  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud liability.

Read full review
Apply now

on Capital One's website

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

3.5

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Capital One's website

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

26.99% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • Qualify with average credit

  • No annual fee

  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • High APR

  • No rewards

  • No annual or hidden fees. See if you're approved in seconds

  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months

  • Help build your credit through responsible use of a card like this

  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges

  • Monitor your credit score with CreditWise from Capital One. It's free for everyone

  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with online banking from your desktop or smartphone, with our mobile app

  • Check out quickly and securely with a contactless card, without touching a terminal or handing your card to a cashier. Just hover your card over a contactless reader, wait for the confirmation, and you're all set

  • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you

Read full review
Apply now

on Capital One's website

Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

4.7

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Capital One's website

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

26.99% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • Qualify with average credit

  • Reports to the three major credit bureaus

  • No foreign transaction fees

  • Earns rewards

Cons

  • High APR

  • Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month

  • Earn $5 per month for 12 months on Select Streaming Subscriptions when you pay on time. *Exclusions Apply

  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees

  • You can help build your credit with responsible use of a card like this

  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months

  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen

  • Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply

  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you

Read full review

MORE ABOUT THE SELECTIONS ABOVE

Top cash back credit cards

Top balance transfer credit cards

Top rewards credit cards

Top travel credit cards

Top 0% or low interest credit cards

Top small business credit cards

Top credit cards for average credit

Top credit cards for building credit

Top college student credit cards

• • • • • A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO CREDIT CARDS

How credit cards work

The idea behind credit cards is simple: When you use a credit card, you are borrowing money to pay for something. Later on, you must repay what your borrowed. If you take time to pay it back (rather than pay it in full when your credit card statement comes), you'll be charged interest. The whole credit cards industry rests on this basic premise.

A basic credit card transaction works like this:

  1. You use your card. When it comes time to pay for something, you use your card at the cash register by running it through a card reader (or, if you're online, you enter your card information on the checkout page).

  2. The purchase is authorized. The card reader contacts your credit card company to make sure the card is valid for the purchase amount. Assuming everything is OK, the transaction is authorized.

  3. The merchant gets paid. The bank that issued your credit card sends money for the purchase to the merchant where the transaction took place.

  4. You pay. The transaction shows up on your credit card statement, and you repay the bank for the purchase.

How credit card rewards work

Types of rewards

Many of the best credit cards give you rewards for your spending. Rewards come in two basic flavors:

  • Cash back. You can use cash back to directly reduce your balance. In some cases, you can have your cash back deposited in a bank account or sent to you as a check.

  • Points or miles. Points and miles can be redeemed for travel, gift cards, merchandise or other things. You may also have the option of redeeming points for credit on your statement, just like cash back.

The card issuer sets the rewards rate that applies on your card. There are two basic kinds of rewards structures:

  • Flat rate. You get the same rewards rate on all spending done with the card, regardless of what you spend money on. You might get 2 points per dollar on all purchases, or 1.5% cash back on everything.

  • Bonus rewards. You earn a base rate on all spending (typically 1 point per dollar or 1% cash back) and then higher rates in certain categories — 5% cash back at gas stations, for example, or 3 points per dollar spent on travel. Bonus rewards are awarded based on where you buy something, not what you buy. Every merchant is assigned a category code; if your card pays bonus rewards at grocery stores, for instance, you'll earn those rewards any time you pay at a merchant with a category code that identifies it as a supermarket or grocery store.

Many credit card users carry multiple cards with bonus rewards in different categories, plus a flat-rate card for purchases that fall outside those categories.

Tracking your rewards

The rewards you earn on your card are stored in a rewards account that you can access when you log into your card account online or, often, from the issuer's mobile app. Some issuers credit your rewards account for a purchase almost immediately. In other cases, your rewards account will update when your billing cycle closes and the issuer prepares your credit card statement, so it can take several weeks for rewards from any particular purchase to show up in your account.

The rewards process

The rewards process works like this:

  1. You make a purchase with your credit card.

  2. The issuer calculates your rewards. If you have a card that earns bonus rewards, the issuer looks at the category code of the merchant where you made your purchase and then applies bonus rewards as necessary. Otherwise, the issuer just calculates your rewards based on the flat rate.

  3. The issuer credits your rewards to your account. As mentioned, it could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for the rewards to show up.

  4. You redeem rewards by logging into your account online. Cash-back redemptions are pretty straightforward. Redeeming points or miles might involve booking travel through an online tool similar to Orbitz or Expedia. Every card is different.

How credit card interest works

When you borrow money from a bank, you usually have to pay interest, which is the cost to you of using the bank's money. Credit cards are unusual in that there is a way to avoid interest entirely. Most cards offer a "grace period": If you pay your balance in full on each statement — meaning you don't roll over any debt from one month to the next — you won't be charged interest. If you carry debt, though, you'll be charged interest. Interest works like this:

  1. Your card issuer sets your interest rate. In general, the better your credit, the more likely you are to qualify for lower rates, but credit card interest rates tend to be significantly higher than rates on other consumer debt.

  2. Your interest rate is listed on your credit card statement. It's expressed as an annual rate, but in most cases it is charged on a daily basis. So if your interest rate is 17.5% a year, it's actually charged at about 0.048% per day.

  3. When your billing cycle ends, your issuer calculates how much interest you owe. Your interest charge is based on your daily balances and your daily rate.

  4. The interest charge is included in your next month's minimum payment. Credit card interest generally does not compound — meaning, it does not get added into your balance. You have to pay your full interest cost each month. Read more about minimum payments.

» MORE: How credit card interest is calculated DIFFERENT TYPES OF CREDIT CARDS Credit card companies offer different kinds of cards to meet different consumer needs. Some people put a lot of money on their cards every month and then pay them off immediately; those people benefit from a card that returns a portion of their spending in the form of rewards. Others tend to carry a balance from month to month; they're better served with a card that offers a low ongoing interest rate. Still others are working to improve their credit; issuers have cards designed for those people, too.

Here are the major types of credit cards.

Rewards credit cards

These cards "pay you back" for a portion of your spending by giving you cash, points or miles. See our roundup of the best rewards credit cards of 2021 for a range of options for different types of users. Or look into specific types of rewards cards:

  • Cash-back credit cards give you, well, cash, which you can use to reduce your balance or, in some cases, have deposited in a bank account or sent to you as a check. See our best cash-back credit cards of 2021.

  • General travel credit cards give you points that you can use to pay for travel. Unlike cards tied to specific airline or hotel loyalty programs, these cards offer a great deal of flexibility. You can use their rewards on airlines, hotels and other expenses. See our best travel credit cards of 2021.

  •  Airline credit cards carry the name of a specific airline. When you use them, you earn miles that you can redeem for free flights or upgrades on that airline. These cards don't offer a lot of flexibility in terms of how you can use your rewards, but they really pack in value with exclusive perks — free checked bags, priority boarding, airport lounge access and more. See our best airline credit cards of 2021.

  • Hotel credit cards carry the name of a specific hotel group, and they earn points that you can redeem for hotel stays. As with airline cards, the perks can be fantastic — a free night every year, automatic upgrades, elite status and so on. See our best hotel credit cards of 2021.

Balance transfer credit cards

These allow you to move debt from a high-interest card onto a new card and then give you a year or more at 0% interest to pay that debt off. You'll often pay a fee for the transfer, but the interest savings can be substantial. See our best balance transfer credit cards of 2021.

Low-interest and 0% credit cards

These cards are best for those who expect to carry debt from month to month. Zero-percent cards offer new cardholders a year or more of 0% interest on purchases, making them suitable for a big expense. Low-interest cards might not offer a 0% period, but they have a low ongoing rate that makes them a good long-term option. See our best low-interest and 0% credit cards of 2021.

College student credit cards

These cards are designed specifically for college students who are just getting started with credit. The application process takes into account the fact that young people are unlikely to have a long credit history or a high-paying job. Be aware, though, that simply being a college student is not enough on its own to qualify. See our best college student credit cards of 2021.

Small business credit cards

These cards are designed for entrepreneurs and small-business owners. Their rewards and perks are tailored toward businesses, and they offer perks like free cards for employees and tools to track expenses. They're a step below corporate cards, though; when you apply, the issuer takes your personal credit history into account. See our best small business credit cards of 2021.

Credit cards for building credit

The credit cards with the richest rewards, plushest perks, lowest interest rates and longest 0% periods are available only to those with good to excellent credit. If you're still building your credit (or rebuilding it after a misstep), you'll want to hold off on applying for these cards until your score improves. However, banks have designed cards specifically for people working to improve their credit. Getting one of these cards and using it responsibly can go a long way toward your goals:

  • Credit cards for fair credit are intended for those with credit scores roughly in the range of 630-689, sometimes also referred to as "average" credit. See our best credit cards for fair credit of 2021.

  • Credit cards for bad credit are intended for people with scores of less than 630. The best credit cards for bad credit are secured cards, which require you to put down a cash deposit (which is refunded to you if you upgrade or close the card in good standing). There are "unsecured" cards for bad credit that don't require a deposit, but they tend to charge high fees. See our best credit cards for bad credit of 2021.

  • Secured credit cards, as mentioned above, require a refundable security deposit, which is usually equal to your credit limit. (The more you deposit, the higher your credit limit.) The deposit protects the issuer in case the cardholder doesn't pay their bill, so these cards are usually easier for people with lower credit scores to qualify for. Be aware that some secured cards are available to people with no credit or a thin credit history but not to people with damaged credit. See our best secured credit cards of 2021.

  • "Alternative" credit cards are a fairly recent innovation designed for people who have no credit or only a "thin" credit file. Rather than rely solely on credit scores and other traditional methods of determining creditworthiness, the companies behind these cards may look at the applicant's income, assets, even their educational background and job category. See the best alternative cards for no credit for 2021.

CHOOSING A CREDIT CARD If you're a beginner to credit cards, see our step-by-step guide to choosing a credit card. It starts by helping you figure out what cards you can qualify for, then walks you through deciding what kind of card best fits your needs. The process in short:

  1. Check your credit. The higher your credit score, the more likely you are to qualify for the best cards. NerdWallet offers free access to credit scores.

  2. Decide on a broad card type. If your credit score needs work, get a card designed for building or mending credit. Otherwise, choose between a card that will give you rewards for your spending or one that will save you money on interest.

  3. Narrow your choices. If you want a rewards card, do you prefer cash back or points, and how much effort are you willing to put into managing your rewards? If you're looking to save money on interest, do you need a 0% introductory period, or a low ongoing rate? Do you need to do a balance transfer? Are you a student or a business owner who could benefit from a specialized card?

  4. Apply for a card that gives you the best overall value. 

Comparing credit card features

Every credit card delivers value in its own way, through its own unique combination of features.