Advertiser Disclosure

No one credit card can meet every consumer’s needs. Depending on how much debt you have, how you spend and your travel habits, you can choose from among several solid options. To save you some time researching, the Nerds have reviewed dozens of credit cards and come up with the top 10 to help you make the best choice.

NerdWallet’s Top 10 Credit Card Deals

Best for … Card
Flat-rate travel rewards Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Flat-rate cash back Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer
Bonus category cash back Chase Freedom®
Everyday spending Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Balance transfers Chase Slate®
Longest 0% APR period Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever
Fair/average credit Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
College students Discover it® for Students
Small business Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

Best for flat-rate travel rewards

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $400 in travel. Earn 2X miles on all purchases. No foreign transaction fees. Annual fee is $0 for the first year, then $59.

Benefits of the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card:

  • Ultimate redemption flexibility. You can use the Purchase Eraser® tool to redeem your miles for a statement credit against recent travel purchases or book travel through Capital One’s travel site.
  • High ongoing rewards rate for all purchases, not just travel.
  • No minimum redemption requirement if you’re using your miles to book through Capital One or for a full statement credit against a travel purchase. Partial redemptions require a minimum of 2,500 miles.

Drawbacks of the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card:

  • It has an annual fee, though it’s much lower than the norm for high-earning travel cards.

Bottom line:

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card makes it easy to travel because it doesn’t restrict you. Capital One also makes it easy to book by providing a travel tool for you for a seamless redemption process. If you’re not a big spender, however, consider the similar Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card. It offers a lower sign-up bonus and lower rewards rate, but it also comes with a $0 annual fee.

Best for bonus travel rewards

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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

    • A large bonus
    • No foreign transaction fee
    • Cool factor - metal card
    • Earn more points on travel and dining at restaurants
    • Premium travel protection benefits

    Cons

    • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, after that $95 per year

    Annual Fees

    $0 for the first year, then $95

    APR

    • APR: 16.99% - 23.99% Variable APR
    • Cash Advance APR: 25.99%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    Intro APR

    • N/A
  • Additional Information
    • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
    • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
    • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
    • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
    • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Earn 2 points per $1 spent on dining out and travel and 1 point per $1 spent elsewhere. Get a 20% discount on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Authorized user bonus. No foreign transaction fees. $0 for the first year, then $95.

Benefits of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card:

  • Great for redemption. You can use your points to book travel through Chase to get a 20% discount (giving your points a value of 1.25 cents apiece) or transfer them to one of the card’s 11 airline and hotel partners at a ratio of 1:1.
  • You’ll get an extra 5,000 points for adding an authorized user and making a purchase in the first three months.
  • Travel perks include no foreign transaction fees, primary rental-car insurance and access to special travel opportunities and exclusive events.

Drawbacks of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card:

  • Redemption is more flexible than with co-branded airline and hotel cards, but you’re still restricted to the Ultimate Rewards travel tool and the card’s transfer partners. For ultimate flexibility, a flat-rate travel rewards card may be better for you.
  • If you’re not a big spender, you likely won’t earn enough rewards to cover the annual fee and have enough left for a trip.

Bottom line:

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a top-notch card, offering one of the best sign-up bonuses in the business. It gets even better on the redemption front because your points are worth 25% more if you redeem for travel booked through Chase’s tool. If you’re not a big spender or you travel infrequently, however, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card may not be best for you.

Best for flat-rate 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*

Earn 1% cash back on every purchase and another 1% back when you pay it off. Introductory APR of 0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.49% - 24.49% Variable APR. $0 annual fee.

Benefits of the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer:

  • It’s one of the only cards that pays you when you spend and when you pay off your balance.
  • It has a solid 0% APR promotion to give you time to pay off a balance you’ve transferred from a high-interest credit card.

Drawbacks of the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer:

  • Unlike most other top cash-back cards, it doesn’t offer a sign-up bonus.
  • No opportunity to earn bonus rewards.

Bottom line:

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is a rare gem among rewards cards. Its ongoing rewards rate is the highest among cash-back cards, and there’s no limit to what you can earn. Even if you’re an optimizer and prefer a card that offers bonus categories, the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is a solid backup for purchases that don’t earn extra rewards on another card.

Best for bonus category cash back

Chase Freedom®

Chase Freedom®

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

    • No annual fee
    • 5% rewards on rotating categories
    • Access to Chase’s Ultimate Rewards site to earn more cash back

    Cons

    • If you value simplicity, a flat rate cash back card may be better
    • A foreign transaction fee

    Annual Fees

    $0

    APR

    • APR: 15.99% - 24.74% Variable APR
    • Cash Advance APR: 25.99%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

    Intro APR

    • 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months
  • Additional Information
    • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
    • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
    • Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter like gas stations, restaurants and drugstores
    • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
    • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.99-24.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
    • No minimum to redeem for cash back
    • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
    • No annual fee

Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter, and 1% back elsewhere. Introductory APR of 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 15.99% - 24.74% Variable APR. $0 annual fee.

Benefits of the Chase Freedom®:

  • Get big rewards on everyday spending. Rotating categories have in recent years included gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants and holiday shopping.
  • Earn a decent sign-up bonus.

Drawbacks of the Chase Freedom®:

  • The rotating categories can be a hassle. You have to opt in every quarter and potentially change your spending habits to maximize your bonus rewards.

Bottom line: 

The Chase Freedom® is one of the Nerds’ favorite cards. The card’s rotating categories are generally reasonable, and it has a $0 annual fee so you don’t have to worry about losing money if you don’t use it often. It may not be a great choice, however, if your typical spending doesn’t fall in line with the card’s bonus categories.

Best for everyday spending

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

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

    • Leading cash-back rewards at U.S. supermarkets
    • Sign-up bonus

    Cons

    • Has annual fee — but if you spend more than $31 per week at U.S. supermarkets, the rewards offset the fee
    • American Express isn’t accepted at as many merchants as Visa or Mastercard
    • No 0% APR period
    • $25 minimum redemption

    Annual Fees

    $95

    APR

    • APR: 13.99% - 24.99% Variable APR
    • Penalty APR: 29.99%, Variable
    • Cash Advance APR: 26.24%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.

    Intro APR

    • 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 12 months
  • Additional Information
    • $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
    • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) – that means spending $60 a week at U.S. supermarkets could earn over $180 back per year.
    • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
    • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 13.99% to 24.99%.
    • Expanding merchant acceptance: Over 1 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in the last year.
    • $95 annual fee.
    • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
    • Terms Apply.

$200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply. Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 in purchases per year (then 1%), 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. $95 annual fee.

Benefits of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express:

  • You’ll earn a whopping 6% back on up to $6,000 in purchases per year (then 1%) at a U.S. supermarket, including gift cards to your favorite restaurant, coffee shop or movie theater.

Drawbacks of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express:

  • It has an annual fee. You can get a $0 annual fee version in the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, however. It offers 3% cash back on U.S. supermarket purchases up to $6,000 spent per year (then 1%) and 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores. The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is generally better if you spend less than $61 a week at the supermarket.

Bottom line:

If you shop at supermarkets and fill your car’s tank at traditional gas stations, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express gives one of the highest rewards rates in both of those categories. But if you can’t get past the annual fee or you don’t spend a lot in those categories, consider the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express.

Best for balance transfers:
Chase Slate®

0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 15.99% - 24.74% Variable APR. $0 balance transfer fee for transfers made during the first 60 days. Free access to your FICO score. No penalty APR. $0 annual fee. 

Benefits of the Chase Slate®:

  • Transfer one or more balances for free the first 60 days and get a long 0% APR period to pay off the new balance.
  • Review your FICO score and get access to Chase’s credit dashboard to learn what goes into your score and how you can improve it.

Drawbacks of the Chase Slate®

  • It doesn’t offer rewards.
  • You can’t transfer a balance from another Chase card.
  • The total amount of your balance transfers, including fees and interest charges, cannot exceed your available credit or $15,000, whichever is lower.

Bottom line:

The Chase Slate® offers a one-two punch with its introductory offer of a 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers and $0 balance transfer fee. Most other cards charge a balance transfer fee of 3% to 5% of the total amount you transfer. This makes it a great deal for pretty much anyone who wants to pay off debt interest- and fee-free.

Longest 0% APR period

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

Introductory APR of 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 21 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.99% - 24.99% Variable APR. No late fees or penalty rate. Free access to your FICO score. $0 annual fee.

Benefits of the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever:

  • The card offers the longest 0% APR period in the business.
  • It won’t punish you for being late on your payments with late fees and a penalty APR.

Drawbacks of the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever:

  • It doesn’t offer rewards.
  • It charges a balance transfer fee of 3% of the balance or $5, whichever is greater.

Bottom line:

If you’re looking to make a large purchase and need some time to pay it off interest free, the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever is your best option. Its lack of late fees and a penalty APR also make it a good choice if you forget to make a payment every once in a while. Just keep in mind that late payments can harm your credit. If you’re looking to do a balance transfer, make sure you calculate how much the balance transfer fee will cost you before applying.

Best for fair/average credit

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Apply Now on Capital One's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 350
    689
    Poor - Average
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • Qualify with limited / bad credit
    • High rewards rate
    • No foreign transaction fee

    Cons

    • Has annual fee
    • High APR

    Annual Fees

    $39

    APR

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

    Bonus Offers

    None

    Intro APR

    • N/A
  • Additional Information
    • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
    • Use your QuicksilverOne card and get 50% back as a statement credit on your monthly Spotify Premium subscription, now through April 2018
    • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
    • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
    • Fraud coverage if your card is ever lost or stolen
    • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
    • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use

Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase. The ongoing APR is 24.99% Variable APR. Annual fee of $39. 

Benefits of the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • The 1.5% rewards rate is generous for a card for average credit, and it matches that on the regular Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card.
  • Make your first five monthly payments on time, and you may get access to a higher credit line.

Drawbacks of the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • The annual fee of $39 isn’t huge, considering the rewards rate, but you’ll have to spend $2,600 a year on the card to break even.
  • Ongoing APR is high.

Bottom line

Average credit doesn’t have to keep you from earning rewards. If you don’t charge more than you can afford to pay off each month, and if you pay your bill on time and in full, the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card is a great tool for strengthening your credit and qualifying for better offers down the road.

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Best for college students

Discover it® for Students

Discover it® for Students

Apply Now on Discover's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 630
    689
    Average
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • Earn 5% Cash Back in rotating categories each quarter up to the quarterly maximum when you activate
    • Qualify with average credit
    • Bonus cash back categories
    • No annual fee
    • 0% on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months
    • No foreign transaction fee

    Annual Fees

    $0

    APR

    • APR: 13.99% - 22.99% Variable APR
    • Cash Advance APR: 25.99%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.

    Intro APR

    • 0% on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months
  • Additional Information
    • Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
    • Earn 5% cash back at Amazon.com and Target now through December 2017, on up to $1,500 in purchases when you activate. Plus, 1% cash back on all other purchases.
    • Good Grades Rewards: $20 cash back each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
    • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
    • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
    • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
    • New! Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
    • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 13.99% - 22.99%.
    • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.

Earn 5% cash back in rotating categories (after you activate them) on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter, and 1% back on everything else. Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. Earn a $20 good grades bonus for each year your GPA is 3.0 or higher, up to five years. Introductory APR of 0% on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.99% - 22.99% Variable APR. $0 annual fee.

Benefits of the Discover it® for Students

  • The rewards and new cardmember bonus are the same as those offered by Discover’s regular cash-back card. Those offers are good by any measure, but they’re outstanding for a college student card.
  • Applicants can qualify with average credit, and you get free access to your FICO score.

Drawbacks of the Discover it® for Students

  • As with any student credit card, simply being a student is not enough to qualify for this card. Students under 21 will need to show significant income. Read more about student card requirements.
  • Not a good card for studying abroad. There are no foreign transaction fees, but Discover’s acceptance overseas is limited.

Bottom line 

With rewards, bonuses, perks and even an introductory 0% APR on purchases, the Discover it® for Students is far and away the most attractive card for college students.

Best for small business

Earn unlimited 2% cash back on every purchase, with no category restrictions or spending caps. Plus, a one-time $500 cash bonus once you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. Annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $59. Employee cards at no additional cost. No foreign transaction fees. 

Benefits of the Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

  • High flat-rate cash rewards are good for any business — but especially those whose spending doesn’t fit into the bonus categories of other small business cards.
  • Excellent cash sign-up bonus.

Drawbacks of the Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business 

  • No bonus cash-back categories. If your business spends a lot of money on office supplies, wireless service or travel, for instance, you might be better off with a card that pays a higher rate in those categories and a lower rate on everything else.
  • Although the annual fee is fairly low, you can find other cash-back business cards with a $0 fee.

Bottom line

The Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business gives your business 2% cash back on every purchase — no matter where you use it. One of the most frequent complaints we hear about small-business credit cards is that their rewards structures don’t match many entrepreneurs’ spending patterns. That’s not an issue with the Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business.

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.

Last updated Dec. 31, 2016.

NerdWallet writer Ben Luthi contributed to this article. Paul Soucy is an editor at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: paul@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @paulsoucy.