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Bankrate’s guide to Mastercard credit cards
As one of the world’s largest payment networks, Mastercard has the connections to offer some of the top credit cards on the market. Thanks to partnerships with financial institutions like Capital One and Citibank, you can find the Mastercard logo on cards for cash back, credit building, students and more.
Bankrate has the essential information on Mastercard and the benefits of having a card connected to its global payment network.
In this guide:
Best Mastercard credit cards for 2021
||Bankrate Review Score
|Citi Rewards+® Card
||Getting more value from small purchases
|Citi® Double Cash Card
||Flat-rate cash back card
|Sam’s Club® Mastercard®
||Wholesale club card
|Capital One Platinum Credit Card
||People building credit
|Citi® Simplicity Card
||Best intro APR period for purchases
|Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
|Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card
||Dining and entertainment
|Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students
|Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
||Good intro APR on purchases and flat-rate cash back
A closer look at our top Mastercard credit cards
Citi Rewards+® Card
Best for getting more value from small purchases
- This card is best for: Shoppers who make lots of everyday purchases, especially at gas stations and supermarkets, without necessarily spending a lot of money on each transaction..
- This card is not a great choice for: People with larger gas station and supermarket budgets have other options that earn higher rewards rates.
- What makes this card unique? This no-annual-fee card’s round-up feature will take your rewards-earning to another level. Every purchase made will be rounded up to the nearest 10 points, so a $3 coffee is worth 10 points, an $11 lunch will net you 20 points, etc.
- Is the Citi Rewards+ Card worth it? This card is outshined by competitors in terms of rewards rates and perks, but it’s worthwhile for small-budget shoppers.
Read our full Citi Rewards+ Card review.
Citi® Double Cash Card
Best flat-rate cash back card
- This card is best for: Someone who wants more incentive, and more cash back, for consistently paying their credit card bill on time and in full.
- This card is not a great choice for: Anyone who wants a simple way to maximize value if they choose to redeem cash back for travel. To make the Points you earn with this card potentially worth more than 1 cent for travel, you would have to pool them with Points from a premium Citi travel card.
- What makes this card unique? The earn-as-you-go cash back program: 1 percent when you make eligible purchases plus another 1 percent when you pay for them on your credit card bill.
- Is the Citi Double Cash Card worth it? This no-annual-fee card can provide consistent cash back returns with responsible payment habits on your part.
Read our full Citi Double Cash Card review.
Sam’s Club® Mastercard®
Best wholesale club card
- This card is best for: Sam’s Club shoppers and people searching for cash back rewards at the pump and on dining.
- This card is not a great choice for: People looking for a card that’s not as restrictive on how you can redeem your cash back rewards.
- What makes this card unique? As wholesale club cards go, the cash back rates and range of rewards-eligible purchases make it stand out.
- Is the Sam’s Club Mastercard worth it? For Sam’s Club members, absolutely. The generous gas and dining cash back rates make it a worthwhile option.
Read our full Sam’s Club Mastercard review.
Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card
Best for dining and entertainment
- This card is best for: Those who put activities like dining and entertainment at the top of their agenda after a long season of lockdown.
- This card is not a great choice for: Frequent flyers and online shoppers, who may be better off with a card that rewards things like Amazon purchases and travel bookings.
- What makes this card unique? The rewards rates on dining, entertainment and other lifestyle-oriented purchase categories are exceptional.
- Is the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card worth it? Yes, for anyone who has a food-and-fun lifestyle.
Read our full Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card review.
What is Mastercard?
Mastercard, much like Visa, isn’t a true issuer of credit cards but rather a payment network partnering with well-known banks and credit unions to provide credit card options. It offers products in areas including consumer credit, debit, prepaid and commercial payment systems.
Mastercard also partners with merchants all over the world. Its global presence helped Mastercard earn over $15 billion in revenue in 2020. On their way to this figure, Mastercard was able to process over $6 trillion total dollars in transactions. A multitude of connections allows the network to process transactions in more than 150 currencies and 210 countries worldwide.
What sets Mastercard apart?
Many of Mastercard’s products offer benefits and rewards typical to the credit card business, but there are a few areas where the company distinguishes itself from competitors.
For starters, Mastercard operates on a multi-rail payment network, meaning it may take more time to completely process a payment (typically 1 to 3 days) but the network exchanges data with efficiency and facilitates secure transactions.
In addition to how transactions work, Mastercard stands out with their tiers of credit card benefits and exclusive features. When opening a Mastercard credit card, you have the ability to qualify as a World or World Elite member, bringing you a variety of high-end features. Some of the perks below can be found only with Mastercard:
Mastercard World and World Elite benefits
- The Priceless Cities travel experience program, an offer unique to Mastercard
- Identity theft protection
- Room upgrades, if available
- Vacation packages
- Airport concierge service — something not provided at the Visa Signature or Infinite levels
Includes all World benefits, plus:
- Trip cancellation insurance
- 24-hour concierge
- Exclusive Mastercard discounts on a variety of airlines, travel expenses, entertainment brands and more
Other Mastercard features
- SecureCode: A private code made for your Mastercard account, SecureCode helps protect your card in over 122 countries worldwide.
- True Name™ Cards: To take a stand for inclusion and the LGBTQIA+ community, Mastercard worked with other financial institutions to introduce True Name cards in 2020. These cards allow applicants to choose their desired name without proof of a legal name change.
- Masterpass: Mastercard’s digital wallet, Masterpass, is designed for online, in-app and in-person shopping. Your card information and address can be stored electronically. Masterpass purchases are a secure way to shop and are also protected by Zero Liability for any unauthorized purchases.
Who are Mastercard credit cards good for?
Mastercard’s credit card options have a selection of different features that you can focus on to find the best option for you.
Rewards for on-the-go families
The Citi Rewards+® Card earns 2x ThankYou Points at supermarkets and gas stations on up to $6,000 in combined purchases each year, plus 1x ThankYou Points on all other purchases.
Incentive to earn cash back responsibly
The Citi® Double Cash Card has a two-part system for earning cash back: 1 percent when you make eligible purchases and another 1 percent when you pay for them on your monthly statement.
Making fair credit into better credit
With the Capital One Platinum Credit Card, you’ll be automatically considered for a higher credit limit after 6 months of on-time monthly payments. The card doesn’t charge an annual fee, a foreign transaction fee or penalty APR.
Building credit while learning credit
Credit-building can be uncharted territory for students and other young adults, but cards like the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students can help show the way. You can apply with little or no credit history and even earn 1 percent cash back on all purchases.
Food, fun and more
The Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card earns unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), plus 1% on all other purchases. Plus, earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through January 2023 The lack of foreign transaction fees makes it a useful item to pack for your next overseas trip.
How we chose our top-rated Mastercard cards
Bankrate’s personal finance experts have evaluated the top Mastercard credit cards according to our 5-star rating system. The list of criteria for rating credit cards includes:
Whether the card offers cash back, travel points/miles or multi-purpose rewards for eligible purchases and the potential returns based on rewards rate (1 percent cash back per $1 spent, 1 mile per $1 spent, and so on).
Perks and benefits
Whether the card offers extras such as retail discounts, extended warranties on purchases, travel insurance and financial management tools.
Whether the card charges an annual fee and if so, how much the card’s overall value and benefits might offset the fee.
Whether the card has a sign-up bonus, a zero-interest welcome offer or similar sign-up incentive and how much it adds to the card’s overall value.
How the card’s annual percentage rate (APR) compares with current averages as an indicator of cost and value.
Foreign transaction fee
Whether the card charges a foreign transaction fee for international purchases and how the fee affects the card’s overall value.
Learn more about Mastercard credit cards
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