How Bankrate credit card reviews are scored

At Bankrate, each credit card score is determined by our team of writers, editors and industry analysts. Cards are assigned a score between 0 and 5 to measure their overall quality.

  • 4.5 or higher: Outstanding
  • 3.5 to 4.5: Excellent
  • 3 to 3.5: Good
  • 3 and under: Average

Each card’s score is based on the following features: rewards profile, perks, annual fee, introductory offers, variable APR and foreign transaction fee.

We score each card within the context of the primary category they are assigned (Rewards, Travel, Balance Transfer, and so on). Each card is measured against similar cards in the same category. Depending on the category, some features are more important than others. This is why 0% intro APR offers matter more in the balance transfer category than they do in the cash back category, as an example.

How we calculate scores in different categories

Balance transfer: Reviewers consider the length of the introductory 0 percent interest period relative to other cards in this category, as well as any balance transfer fee. Standard and penalty APRs are factors in balance transfer card scoring, as well. The best cards in this category have the longest introductory periods and lowest fees, offering consumers the most potential savings.

Airline, travel, hotel cards: Cards in this category are judged primarily for the value of their sign-up bonus/welcome offer and ongoing travel rewards. Reviewers weigh the bonus and rewards against those of other cards in this category and factor in elements important to travel rewards cardholders such as annual fees and additional perks (like flight upgrades, free checked baggage and travel insurance) and foreign transaction fees..

Cash-back: For cash back cards, the value and complexity of the rewards program receive the most scrutiny. Our experts tend to favor simple, flat-rate cash back programs but measure the potentially high returns of more complex programs with rotating categories or spending caps. Reviewers also take into account sign-up bonuses/welcome offers and annual fees relative to the value of rewards.

Low-interest: Introductory 0% APR offer and the ongoing APR receive the most weight in this category. Much like with a balance transfer card, reviewers favor cards with the longest intro periods, fewest fees and best rewards profile.

Business: Rewards value and standard APR are the dominant variables for this category. Reviewers are mindful that business owners may use this type of card for two very different purposes: to earn maximum rewards on business expenses or to effectively manage cash flow. We also consider sign-up bonuses/welcome offers in determining a final score.

Bad-Fair Credit: When rating this category, our experts focus on credit score requirements and the cards’ cost of ownership (including annual fees). We also heavily weigh the card’s APR and credit-building features, such as regular reporting to credit bureaus, that can help cardholders improve their credit scores.