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Our pick for

Easy travel redemption


This card has long been the champion of flexible travel rewards and has set the standard for a slew of similar cards. Its relatively low annual fee and high flat-rate rewards keep it at the top. It earns 2 miles per $1 spent on all purchases, and miles can be redeemed for 1 cent each as a credit against most travel expenses — including hotel stays and airfare booked through any travel site, as well as timeshares, cab fares and cruises. You can also book travel directly through Capital One. Compared with other travel cards that offer 2%, this one offers the lowest annual fee. It also comes with a generous sign-up bonus.

Sign-up bonus aside, you’d have to spend at least $4,750 a year to come out ahead on this deal. Capital One’s definition of travel also doesn’t include amusement parks, tourist attractions and RV rentals.
For easy miles earning and redemption, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is a winner. A sign-up bonus makes the offer even sweeter.

Our pick for

Sign-up bonus


What really sets this card apart is its enormous sign-up bonus and rewards transfer options. The bonus: 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® When using the card, you’ll earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining, and 1 point per $1 everywhere else. Points are generally worth 1 cent, but they’re worth 25% more when used to book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. They can also be transferred at 1:1 rate to several loyalty programs, including Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and Hyatt hotels. Finally, we should mention that fans of this card love the high-end impression it makes when they pull it out — it’s made of metal, not plastic.

Sign-up bonus aside, you’ll have to spend at least $4,750 annually to come out ahead on this deal. A big chunk of this card’s value rests in its sign-up bonus; other travel cards have better long-term rewards. Also, this card doesn’t offer the perks — free checked bags, priority boarding — of airline-specific cards.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the best in class for travelers looking for an outsize sign-up bonus and opportunities to transfer those points to leading loyalty programs.

Our pick for

Cash back


The best cash back cards make rewards easy to redeem, and this card does that better than most: There’s no minimum redemption for cash back. That’s music to a frugal traveler’s ears. This card also comes with an excellent 0% APR period and a fair cash back sign-up bonus: One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. You can get your cash back rewards as a check or statement credit. Among cash back cards with no foreign transaction fees, it offers the best rewards and benefits and is widely accepted overseas.

Unlike with some travel rewards cards, where you can stretch the value by redeeming points or miles selectively, this card doesn’t offer the same possibilities. You can’t get more than 1.5 cents back per dollar spent.
If you’re a frugal spender, the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card is a simple way to earn more on every dollar spent, at home and abroad.

Our pick for

No annual fee


This card gives you many of the perks of a travel card without the price tag: It has an annual fee of $0. It also happens to have one of the broadest definitions of “travel” in the industry. You’ll get 1.5 points per $1 spent on anything. You can redeem travel credit at 1 cent per point to cover travel expenses — not just flights, hotels and other routine expenses, but also the cost of visiting an amusement park, an aquarium or a fortuneteller. The sign-up offer adds 20,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases. Bank of America® customers with an active checking or savings account can earn 10% more points, and if you maintain high balances in affiliated accounts, you can earn 25% to 75% more through the Preferred Rewards program.

If you don’t have a Bank of America® account, you might be able to earn a higher rewards rate with other offers.
For travelers on a budget, this credit card offers excellent value. For those with large balances in affiliated Bank of America® savings and investment accounts, it’s even better.

Our pick for

Average credit


This card pays an outstanding 1.5% cash back on all purchases, making it one of the most valuable cards available for those with average credit. Like other Capital One cards, it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees or impose redemption minimums. You can redeem cash back in any amount.

Unlike its $0-annual-fee sibling card, the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card has an annual fee: $39. To earn enough rewards to make up for the fee, you’d have to spend over $2,600 a year. For some, that’s a tall order. The card also lacks a sign-up bonus. The ongoing APR is 24.74% Variable APR, so it’s not a good pick for carrying a balance.


If you don’t carry a balance and your credit is “meh,” the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card may be your best bet for rewards with no foreign transaction fee.

Our pick for



The Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students doesn’t require cardholders to have a co-signer, security deposit or Social Security number. That makes it a little easier to get approved — even for students with limited credit histories. Plus, it comes with a solid 1% back on all purchases and a one-time reimbursement for Amazon Student Prime. The annual fee is $0.

The ongoing APR is 19.99%, so carrying a balance on it could get expensive in a hurry. You also must be currently enrolled at a U.S. college or university to get approved.


Studying abroad? Adding this student credit card to your wallet before the big trip could help you save on fees.

Top credit card issuers’ foreign transaction fees

Here’s a look at the standard foreign transaction fees charged by major U.S. credit card issuers. It’s important to note that many issuers waive the foreign transaction fee on certain cards, including the ones listed above. Some major issuers don’t charge foreign transaction fees on any of their cards.

American Express 2.7%
Bank of America® 3%
Barclaycard 3%
Capital One 0%
Chase 3%
Citi 3%
Discover 0%
U.S. Bank 3% (2% for transactions in U.S. dollars)
Wells Fargo 3%

Our methodology

NerdWallet’s credit cards team selects 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 win in multiple categories.

Last updated Feb. 8, 2018

Claire Tsosie is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter: @ideclaire7.