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If you’re ready for a new credit card, you may be overwhelmed by the choices available. But by defining your personal financial goals, you can hone in on which credit card may help you take steps toward achieving them.
Choosing the best credit card means evaluating your spending habits, your existing debt and your credit score to find a card that will offer what you need. Whether you want a card that will help you pay down your debt or reward you for the spending you already do, there are plenty of choices available.
Picking the right credit card starts with your credit score
It helps to know your credit score, so you know which cards you’re most likely to get approved for. You can get your TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax reports free once a year from AnnualCreditReport.com and find out your FICO score at the same time for just a small fee.
If your score is good to excellent, you may qualify for a top-tier rewards card that will earn you points to spend on travel, gift cards or special experiences like access to sporting events. Of course, you can also opt for a cash-back credit card to earn money for every dollar you spend.
But even if your score is less-than-stellar, or if you have no credit history, you may still qualify for a card that can help you build your credit.
The cash back credit card
Sometimes viewed as the ultimate in rewards credit cards, cash back cards are coveted for their flexibility. After all, who wouldn’t want to earn cash back every time they spend money using their credit card?
Some cash back rewards cards carry an annual fee, so make sure you’ll use the card enough to make it worthwhile. Better yet, choose one of these cash back rewards credit cards with no annual fee to maximize your earnings. You’ll need a credit score of 670+ to qualify.
Discover it® Cash Back
A great card for everyday spending, the Discover it® Cash Back card gives customers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter made in accordance with Discover’s 2018 Cashback Calendar each time your activate (then 1% after that). You’ll also earn 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases. At the end of the first year, you’ll get a cashback bonus equal to the rewards you earned all year.
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Don’t want to think about spending categories? Consider the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card, which pays a solid 1.5% cash back on every purchase. If you’re a fan of fast cash, you will also like the one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 with the card in the first three months of account opening.
The travel rewards card
Many people choose a travel rewards credit card that they use exclusively to book flights, hotels, and rental cars. If you favor a specific airline, you may want to try one of the credit cards connected to a frequent flyer program, like the Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express or the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card cards issued by Chase.
If you want more flexibility in your travel spending – and ways to cash in your rewards points – several other travel rewards cards offer plenty of points or miles no matter how you fly or where you stay when you travel.
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Rated as the number one travel rewards card by CNBC in 2018, Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card boasts 10x miles when booked through hotels.com and paid with the Venture card, and 2x miles on all other Venture card purchases. Miles are easy to redeem, with no blackout dates on flights or hotels. You’ll pay a $95 annual fee, which is waived for the first year. If something comes up and you can’t pay off the card at the end of the month, Venture has a relatively low APR of 14.74% variable (up to 24.74% variable) for qualified applicants.
The 0% APR credit card
If you’re planning a big purchase that you want to pay off over time, consider applying for a new 0% APR credit card. Before you pick the best 0% APR credit card, figure out your budget. How many months will it take to pay off your purchase? 0% APR cards typically offer the introductory rate for 12 to 24 months. If you don’t pay off the full amount by that time, you’ll be charged interest dating back to the purchase date.
Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card
The Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® has a 0% introductory APR for up to 18 months (13.49%-26.99% variable after, fees apply) three months longer than most cards in this category. With no annual fee and complementary tools to help you manage your budget, this card is great for shoppers who need a good credit card for emergencies but are making it a priority to keep their spending under control.
Chase Freedom Unlimited
Planning a purchase of $500 or more and want time to pay it off? In addition to the 0% APR for 15 months (from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.99-25.74%), Chase Freedom Unlimited will give you a $150 bonus if you spend $500 or more in the first three months. You’ll want to keep this card even after the introductory offer expires because it pays 1.5% cash back on every purchase.
Balance transfer credit cards
Sometimes, you find it’s just not possible to pay off that big purchase before your 0% introductory APR runs out. Or maybe you have existing debt at higher interest rates and you want to finally start making a dent in that balance.
Balance transfer credit cards offer a 0% or low introductory APR on balance transfers. Make sure to factor in the balance transfer fees before you make your decision and use our balance transfer calculator to see how quickly you can pay off your debt.
Citi Simplicity® Card
Citi Simplicity® gives you more time to pay off your debt, with 0% APR on balance transfers for up to 21 months from the date of first transfer (15.99% – 25.99% variable, based on your creditworthiness). All balance transfers must be completed within the first four months of opening the card. The Citi Simplicity card has no annual fee, no late fees, and no penalty rate. Be prepared to pay a balance transfer fee of $5 or 5%, whichever is greater.
Credit cards for people building or re-building their credit
If you don’t qualify for one of the best cashback rewards, travel rewards, or 0% APR cards, there is still a credit card for you. Whether you have no credit history or have struggled with credit in the past, there are cards available for consumers with credit scores of 670 or lower.
These cards often have low credit limits and high interest rates, so it’s important to pay off the card at the end of every month. This will also help you build your credit.
Capital One offers two great cards for people with a low credit score or limited credit history.
Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
You might not believe you can qualify for a cash rewards credit card with poor-to-average credit, but the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® could be the card for you. You can earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day, with no limit, while building your credit. You’ll need to spend $2,600 annually to offset the $39 annual fee.
Capital One® Platinum Credit Card
If you’d prefer to build your credit without an annual fee, the Capital One Platinum card is a good choice for an unsecured credit card. Capital One will increase your credit limit past the initial $300 limit after five months of on-time payments.
Picking the right credit card isn’t hard with so many choices available. Just keep your goals in mind, and know that it’s okay to carry a few cards in your wallet that you use for different reasons.
Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank’s website for the most current information.