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NerdWallet’s Best Mastercard Credit Cards

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Accepted worldwide, Mastercard credit cards are a mainstay in hundreds of millions of wallets, and there’s bound to be one that’s the right fit for yours. To decide which card is best for you, consider your spending habits, debt status and rewards preferences. Here are our top picks.

NerdWallet’s best Mastercard credit cards

Best for … Card
Cash back Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer
Travel rewards Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
Balance transfers Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever
Bad credit Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

Best for cash back

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Apply Now on Citibank's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 690
    850
    Good - Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • High rewards rate
    • No annual fee
    • 0% APR period on balance transfers

    Cons

    • No sign-up bonus
    • No 0% APR for purchases
    • $25 minimum redemption

    Annual Fees

    $0

    APR

    • APR: 14.49% - 24.49% Variable APR
    • Penalty APR: Up to 29.99%, Variable
    • Cash Advance APR: 26.24%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    None

    Intro APR

    • 0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months
  • Additional Information
    • Earn cash back twice on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
    • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back
    • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.49% - 24.49% based on your creditworthiness
    • Click 'Apply Now' to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases.
    • No categories to track, no caps on cash back, no annual fee*

Cash back is the most popular type of rewards credit card, according to a number of industry surveys, and the Nerds consider the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer the best of the best.

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer rewards you both now and later: You earn 1% cash back on every purchase and another 1% cash back on every dollar you pay off. There’s no limit to how much you can earn — and the unique rewards structure gives you an incentive to pay down your credit card balance as quickly as possible. There aren’t any bonus categories that earn a higher cash-back rate — but that also means you don’t have to keep track of categories, and you’re already getting one of the highest flat cash-back rates available. (However, unlike with many cash-back cards, there’s no sign-up bonus.) How you get your cash is simple, too. You can redeem starting at $25 for a check, statement credit or gift card.

The annual fee is $0, and the introductory 0% APR offer makes this a card worth considering for balance transfers, too: 0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.49% - 24.49% Variable APR.

Citi credit cards offer a built-in comparison shopper called Citi Price Rewind. You register a purchase, and if you or Citi finds the item at a lower price within 60 days, it’ll refund the difference up to $500 per item and $2,500 per year.

Best for travel rewards

Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

Apply Now on Barclaycard's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 720
    850
    Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • High rewards rate on all purchases, not just bonus categories
    • Sign-up bonus
    • No foreign transaction fee
    • Annual fee waived in first year

    Cons

    • Has annual fee
    • Requires excellent credit
    • No luxury perks

    Annual Fees

    $0 for the first year, then $89

    APR

    • APR: 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99% Variable APR
    • Cash Advance APR: 26.24%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    Enjoy 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase

    Intro APR

    • 0% on Balance Transfers for 12 months (on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening)
  • Additional Information
    • Enjoy 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase
    • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
    • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
    • Miles don't expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
    • No foreign transaction fees on purchases made while traveling abroad
    • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness. There is a fee for balance transfers.

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® makes earning and redeeming travel rewards exceedingly simple. You earn an unlimited 2 miles for every $1 spent on anything. Miles can be redeemed for a statement credit against travel expenses, at a rate of 1 cent a mile. That means you can book travel your way — fly on any airline or stay at any hotel — and then use your miles to offset the cost, with no restrictions or blackout dates. In addition, you get 5% of your miles back every time you redeem, which boosts your effective rewards rate to 2.1%.

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® comes with a great sign-up bonus: Enjoy 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase. Its annual fee is $0 for the first year, then $89, and like any good travel card, it has no foreign transaction fees.

Best for balance transfers

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever

Apply Now on Citibank's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 690
    850
    Good - Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • No late fee
    • No annual fee
    • 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 21 months

    Cons

    • No rewards

    Annual Fees

    $0

    APR

    • APR: 14.99% - 24.99% Variable APR

    Bonus Offers

    None

    Intro APR

    • 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 21 months
  • Additional Information
    • The ONLY card with No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and No Annual Fee…EVER
    • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers and Purchases for 21 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.99% - 24.99% based on your creditworthiness*
    • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
    • The same great rate for all balances, after the introductory period
    • Save time when you call with fast, personal help, 24 hours a day – just say “representative”
    • Enjoy the convenience of setting up your own bill payment schedule on any available due date throughout the month

The Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever doesn’t offer rewards; instead, it gives you a reprieve from credit card interest. It gives you an introductory APR of 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 21 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.99% - 24.99% Variable APR— one of the longest zero-interest periods available. The annual fee is $0. Though you should always pay your bills on time — and can hurt your credit if you don’t — this card is more forgiving than most, as it charges no late fees or penalty APRs.

Because the 0% APR applies to purchases as well as balance transfers, it’s a good option both for someone looking to finance a large purchase and for someone looking to stop the interest clock while they pay down debt. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll have to pay a balance transfer fee of 3% of the amount transferred or $5, whichever is greater.

Best for bad credit

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

Apply Now on Capital One's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 350
    629
    Poor
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • Qualify with limited / bad credit
    • No annual fee
    • No foreign transaction fee

    Cons

    • No rewards
    • High APR

    Annual Fees

    $0

    APR

    • APR: 24.99% Variable APR
    • Cash Advance APR: 24.99%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    None

    Intro APR

    • N/A
  • Additional Information
    • No annual fee, and all the credit building benefits with responsible card use
    • Unlike a prepaid card, it builds credit when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
    • You will get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200, determined based on your creditworthiness
    • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time with no additional deposit needed
    • Easily manage your account 24/7 with online access, by phone or using our mobile app
    • It's a credit card accepted at millions of locations worldwide

If your credit score leaves something to be desired, the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is one of the best credit-building tools around. As with all secured cards, you have to put down a security deposit when you open your account. The amount of your deposit usually equals your credit line, but the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is one of the few that allows for the possibility of a lower deposit. Depending on your creditworthiness, you can deposit either $49, $99 or $200 to get a $200 credit limit. To get a higher credit limit, you can deposit more than $200 before you activate the card. The max credit line is $3,000. Make your first five payments on time, and you can get access to a higher credit limit without depositing more money.

The annual fee is $0, which is as good as you can get — and unusual for a secured card. The ongoing APR is 24.99% Variable APR, which is high compared with regular unsecured cards, but remember that this is a card to use to build credit, not to carry balances. Pay your bill in full every month, and interest won’t be a concern.

Last updated Oct. 3, 2016.