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For the fifth straight year, NerdWallet teamed with Money magazine to choose the best credit cards currently available. In making our selections, we leaned on NerdWallet’s database of 1,200 credit cards, looking at fees, rewards, ease of redemption and perks. Here are the NerdWallet/Money picks for 2017:
Best cash back
Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer
The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer pays 1% cash back when you make a purchase and 1% back when you pay it off. There are no categories to keep track of, no limit on the amount of cash you can earn, and the annual fee is $0. What could be easier?
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® has a sizable annual fee — $450 — but frequent travelers will get their money’s worth in perks and rewards. The card offers $300 a year in credit for travel expenses, up to $100 in credit every five years for the application fee for Global Entry or TSA Precheck, and access to more than 900 airport lounges around the world. You earn 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining and 1 point on all other spending. When used to book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, points are worth 1.5 cents apiece. And the card offers a generous sign-up bonus: Earn 50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards® .
Best for balance transfer
BankAmericard® credit card
The best balance transfer cards give you a long 0% introductory APR period and don’t charge a transfer fee. The BankAmericard® credit card gives you an introductory APR of 0% on Purchases for 15 billing cycles and 0% on Balance Transfers for 15 billing cycles for balance transfers made in the first 60 days, and then the ongoing APR of 14.74% - 24.74% Variable APR. Plus, it doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee for the first 60 days your account is open. (After that, the fee is 3% or $10, whichever is greater.) To apply for this $0-annual-fee card, you’ll need good credit.
Honorable mention: Barclaycard Ring® Mastercard®
0% on Balance Transfers for 12 months on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening, and then the ongoing APR of 13.74% Variable APR for the Barclaycard Ring® Mastercard® and it has a $0 annual fee. And it doesn’t charge balance transfer fees ever. However, it’s available only to those with excellent credit.
Best for low interest
Lake Michigan Credit Prime Platinum Card
For low ongoing interest rates, the Lake Michigan Credit Prime Platinum Card is hard to beat. Its APR is the prime rate plus just 3%. There is no balance transfer fee, and the annual fee is $0. The downside is that the card doesn’t offer an introductory 0% interest period. You must be a member of the credit union to get this card, but anyone can join by making a $5 donation to the ALS Association.
Best for small business
Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business
Small-business owners want to manage their money in the most efficient way possible. Getting cash back on all of your spending helps that cause. The Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business offers 1.5% cash back on all spending, with no limit to the amount you can earn and no expiration date on rewards. Plus, the annual fee is $0.
Best for students
Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®
Students looking to get a first credit card should consider the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®. You can qualify with average credit, there’s no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee — a must if you’re going to be studying abroad. Best of all, you earn 1% cash back for all purchases with no limit on how much you can earn. And if you pay on time — a habit you should develop — you’ll get bumped up to 1.25% cash back for that month.
Honorable mention: Discover it® Student Cash Back
The Discover it® Student Cash Back has an annual fee of $0 and charges no foreign transaction fee. This card earns 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories, on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. To get the 5% rewards, you have to remember to activate the bonus category each quarter.
Best for consumers with bad credit
Capital One® Secured Mastercard®
Whether you’re new to credit or rebuilding after some mistakes, the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® may help you get on the right track. We chose this card over other secured cards for several reasons: You can secure the credit line of $200 with a deposit of $49, $99 or $200, depending on your credit. If you make your first five payments on time, you may get access to a higher credit line without any additional deposit. And the fees are low: the annual fee is $0, and there’s no foreign transaction fee.
Best store card
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature
Amazon has several credit cards to choose from, but the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature is our pick for Prime members. You get 5% cash back on Amazon purchases, 2% back at gas stations, restaurants and drugstores, and 1% back on all other purchases. The card has no annual fee, but you must be an Amazon Prime member, which costs $99 annually. Rewards show up in your Amazon account as credit that you can apply to purchases, with no minimum redemption amount.
Best hotel card
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Travelers who want to be treated as a VIP at high-end hotels should consider the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. You start with a break on the annual fee: $0 for the first year, then $95. Then you get an introductory bonus: Earn 75,000 Bonus Points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms Apply. Preferred Guests who reach certain point levels can get free Wi-Fi, welcome gifts, late checkout and upgrades during their stays. Combining the card with SPG membership, you can earn up to 5 Starpoints per dollar spent at participating SPG properties, 2 points per dollar at Marriott properties and 1 point on all other purchases. You can redeem points for free nights at hotels or transfer them to many airline partners, including American, Delta and United, as well as international carriers such as British Airways.
Best airline mileage cards
If you generally fly the same airline and do so frequently, a co-branded airline card is a great choice. Such cards typically offer bonus points for spending with the airline, and because they usually give you free checked bags, these cards can pay for themselves with a couple of trips a year. Here are the best co-branded cards:
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
- United℠ Explorer Card
- Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
- Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card
Information related to the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.