Best Credit Cards and Top Offers of November 2022

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There’s a whole world of credit cards out there, but Bankrate knows you’re not trying to fit the world into your wallet. Our experts are dedicated to helping you make the right choice, with the best credit cards of 2022 available from our partners — rewards, cash back, travel, balance transfer, 0 percent intro APR and more. We do the research, so you don’t have to sift through hundreds of options to find the best credit card for you.

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Best Cash Back Cards

Best for 2% cash rewards

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

Apply now
On Wells Fargo's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 2% Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases
Intro offer
$200 cash rewards 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
18.74%, 23.74%, or 28.74% Variable APR
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best for category variety

Discover it® Cash Back

Apply now
On Discover's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 5% Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • 1% Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Intro offer
Cashback Match™ 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
14.99% - 25.99% Variable
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best for everyday purchases

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Apply now
On Chase's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 5% Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more;
  • 3% 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service
  • 1.5% 1.5% on all other purchases
Intro offer
Earn an Additional 1.5% Cash Back 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
17.99% - 26.74% Variable
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best Rewards Credit Cards

Best for dining and entertainment

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Apply now
On Capital One's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 10% Earn 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats, plus complimentary Uber One membership statement credits through 11/14/2024
  • 8% Earn 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment purchases
  • 5% Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply
  • 3% Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®).
  • 1% Earn 1% on all other purchases.
Intro offer
$200 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
17.99% - 27.99% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best starter travel card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply now
On Chase's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 5x 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3x 3x on dining.
  • 2x 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
Intro offer
60,000 points 
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
18.99% - 25.99% Variable
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best Balance Transfer Cards

Best for long intro APR

Wells Fargo Reflect® Card

Apply now
On Wells Fargo's secure site
Balance transfer intro APR
18 months 0% intro APR for up to 21 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers
Intro offer
N/A
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
16.74% - 28.74% Variable APR
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

BEST FOR BALANCE TRANSFERS AND CASH BACK

Discover it® Balance Transfer

Apply now
On Discover's secure site
Balance transfer intro APR
18 months 0% for 18 months
Intro offer
Cashback Match™ 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
14.99% - 25.99% Variable
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best 0% Intro APR Cards

Best for balance transfers with excellent credit

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

Apply now
On Citi's secure site
Purchase intro APR
12 months 0% for 12 months on Purchases
Intro offer
$150 Statement Credit 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
16.74% - 27.49% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)
Apply now
On American Express's secure site
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply
See if you're pre‐approved for this card with CardMatch™
Purchase intro APR
12 months 0% on purchases for 12 months
Intro offer
$250 
Annual fee
$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.
Regular APR
17.74%-28.74% Variable
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best No Annual Fee Cards

Apply now
On Capital One's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 5% Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply
  • 1.5% Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
Intro offer
$200 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
17.99% - 27.99% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

BEST FOR GAS AND TRANSIT

Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

Apply now
On Wells Fargo's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 3X Earn unlimited 3X points on restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services and phone plans. Plus earn 1X points on other purchases
  • 1X Earn 1X points on other purchases
Intro offer
30,000 Points 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
18.74%, 23.74%, or 28.74% Variable APR
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)
Apply now
On Capital One's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 10X Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • 5X 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
  • 2X Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
Intro offer
75,000 miles 
Annual fee
$395
Regular APR
19.99% - 26.99% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Excellent (740 - 850)

Best for flexible redemption options

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Apply now
On Capital One's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 5X Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • 2X Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.
Intro offer
75,000 miles 
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
18.99% - 26.99% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best Business Credit Cards

Apply now
On Chase's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 5% Unlimited 5% total cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 2.5% Unlimited 2.5% total cash back on purchases of $5,000 or more
  • 2% Unlimited 2% cash back on all other business purchases.
Intro offer
$1,000 Cash Back 
Annual fee
$195
Regular APR
Flex for Business Variable APR: 17.24% - 25.24%
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

BEST BUSINESS SIGN-UP BONUS

Ink Business Cash® Credit Card

Apply now
On Chase's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 5% Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year
  • 2% Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year
  • 1% Earn 1% cash back on all other card purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn
Intro offer
$900 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
16.24% - 22.24% Variable
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best Card for Excellent Credit

Best second credit card

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

Apply now
On Citi's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 5% Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, 1% cash back thereafter.
  • 1% Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Intro offer
$200 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
17.74% - 27.74% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best Card for Good Credit

Best for travel rewards on everyday purchases

Citi Premier® Card

Apply now
On Citi's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 3X Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • 3X Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • 1X Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Intro offer
80,000 points 
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
19.74% - 27.74% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best Card for Fair Credit

Apply now
On Capital One's secure site
Rewards rate

N/A

Intro offer
N/A
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
28.49% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Fair to Good (580 - 740)

Best Card for No Credit History

BEST FOR CREDIT-BUILDING WITH CASH BACK

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Apply now
On Discover's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 2% Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.
  • 1% Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Intro offer
Cashback Match™ 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
25.99% Variable
Recommended credit
No Credit History 

Best for cash back with no credit history

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Apply now
On Discover's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 5% Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • 1% Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
Intro offer
Cashback Match™ 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
15.99% - 24.99% Variable
Recommended credit
No Credit History 

Best Card for Poor Credit

Apply now
On Capital One's secure site
Rewards rate

N/A

Intro offer
N/A
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
28.49% (Variable)
Recommended credit
No Credit History 

Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.

How we choose Bankrate's best credit cards

Bankrate currently has expert reviews for more than 200 credit cards, which are rated using a 5-star scoring system. The most important factors we use to determine which cards appear on this page include:

APRs

Affordable interest rates are essential to great credit card offers. If you ever need to carry over part of your balance from one month to another, which we advise against if at all possible, a lower APR should reduce the amount of interest you're charged.

Rewards programs

Top programs for earning cash back, points or miles offer generous rewards rates and flexible redemption options. Some reward programs also include discounts and online shopping portals.

Introductory 0% APR offers

A zero-percent APR offer — essentially a temporary reprieve from interest — could make it much less expensive to pay off a big purchase or a balance transfer. The best offers last anywhere from 12 months to 21 months before the regular APR applies.

Fees

A low ownership cost is another key element of the best credit cards. The total burden of fees should be low. If a card does charge an annual fee, it should also offer rewards and benefits that can help offset that cost.

User-focused value

Benefits geared toward providing cardholders ongoing value like annual credits, auto-pay options, credit-building tools, fraud protection, insurance and more help make a credit card worth keeping in your wallet.


Compare Bankrate’s best credit cards of 2022

Card name Our pick for Card highlights Bankrate Score
Wells Fargo Active Cash Card 2% cash rewards Unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases
Up to two $600 cellphone protection claims per year for eligible theft or damage (minus a $25 deductible)
4.3 / 5
(Read full card review)
Discover it Cash Back Category variety 5% cash back on activated rotating categories each quarter (on up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1%)
Automatic Cashback Match™ for all rewards earned in the first year
4.4 / 5
(Read full card review)
Chase Freedom Unlimited Everyday purchases 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases
1.5% cash back on all other purchases
5.0 / 5
(Read full card review)
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card Dining and entertainment 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment purchases
5% cash back on hotels and rental cars through Capital One Travel
3% cash back on dining, entertainment, select streaming services and grocery store purchases (excluding superstores like Walmart and Target)
No annual fee
4.9 / 5
(Read full card review)
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Starter travel card 3X points on online grocery purchases (excluding Walmart, Target and wholesale clubs), dining (including eligible delivery services) and select streaming services
5X points on Chase Ultimate Rewards travel and Lyft Rides (Lyft offer through March 31, 2025)
2X points on other travel
25% point value boost toward Chase Ultimate Rewards travel redemption
5.0 / 5
(Read full card review)
Wells Fargo Reflect Card Long intro APR 18-month 0% intro APR on qualifying balance transfers (up to 21 months with on-time payments during the intro period)
18-month 0% intro APR on purchases (up to 21 months with on-time payments during the intro period)
16.74% to 28.74% variable APR afterward
4.7 / 5
(Read full card review)
Discover it® Balance Transfer Best for balance transfers and cash back 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months (intro 3%, balance transfer fee applies, up to 5% fee on future transfers)

5 percent cash back after activation on rotating categories each quarter (up to $1,500 in quarterly purchases, then 1 percent), 1 percent for all other purchases

4.7 / 5
(Read full card review)
Citi Diamond Preferred Card Balance transfers with excellent credit 21-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers (must be completed within four months of account opening)
12-month 0% intro APR on purchases
16.74% to 27.49% variable APR afterward
4.0 / 5
(Read full card review)
Blue Cash Preferred from American Express Long-term value 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%)
6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions
3% cash back on transit and at U.S. gas stations
Up to $84 in streaming service statement credits each year in the form of monthly $7 credits after at least a $13.99 Disney Bundle subscription payment
4.4 / 5
(Read full card review)
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card Starter rewards card Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
Cash back can be automatically redeemed at set time period or cash value
3.8 / 5
(Read full card review)
Wells Fargo Autograph Card Gas and transit 3X points on restaurant, travel, gas station, transit, popular streaming service and phone plan purchases
1X points on other purchases
4.0 / 5
(Read full card review)
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card No-frills benefits 10X miles on hotel and rental car bookings through Capital One Travel
5X miles on flights through Capital One Travel
2X miles on all other purchases
$300 in annual statement credits for Capital One Travel purchases and 10,000 account anniversary bonus miles can offset the $395 annual fee
5 / 5
(Read full card review)
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Flexible redemption options 5X miles on hotels and rental cars through Capital One Travel
2X miles on all other purchases
Flexible miles can be redeemed for statement credits toward eligible travel purchases within the last 90 days
4.9 / 5
(Read full card review)
Ink Business Premier℠ Credit Card Large business expenses 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 2.5% cash back on purchases over $5,000, 2% cash back on all other business purchases 3.7 / 5
(Read full card review)
Ink Business Cash® Credit Card Business sign-up bonus $900 cash back after spending $6,000 on purchases in the first three months.
5% cash back at office supply stores, internet, cable and phone services (on the first $25,000 in combined purchases each year, then 1%)
2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (on the first $25,000 in combined purchases each year, then 1%)
4.6 / 5
(Read full card review)
Citi Custom Cash Card Second credit card 5% cash back on the top spending category each billing cycle (on up to $500, then 1%) 4.4 / 5
(Read full card review)
Citi Premier Card Travel rewards on everyday purchases 3X points on restaurant, supermarket, gas station hotel and air travel purchases
Annual $100 hotel savings credit for a single hotel stay of at least $500 (excluding taxes and fees)
4.7 / 5
(Read full card review)
Capital One Platinum Credit Card Upgrading No annual fee
Could be available with fair credit without a security deposit
Considered for a credit limit increase after an account review starting after six months
4.3 / 5
(Read full card review)
Discover it Secured Credit Card Credit-building with cash back 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants  (on up to $1,000 in combined purchases per quarter, then 1%)
Automatic Cashback Match™ for all rewards earned in the first year
Low rates and fees for first-time cardholders, including no annual fee, foreign transaction fees, penalty APR or late fee on the first late payment (up to $41 after that)
5 / 5
(Read full card review)
Discover it Student Cash Back Cash back with no credit history 5% cash back on activated rotating categories each quarter (on up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1%)
Automatic Cashback Match™ for all rewards earned in the first year
Low rates and fees for first-time cardholders, including no annual fee, foreign transaction fees, penalty APR or late fee on the first late payment (up to $41 after that)
4.3 / 5
(Read full card review)
Capital One Platinum Secured Card Credit limit policy A security deposit as low as $49 ($49, $99 or $200, based on creditworthiness) that provides at least a $200 credit limit
Considered for a credit limit increase after an account review starting after six months
No annual fee
4.2 / 5
(Read full card review)

A closer look at Bankrate’s best credit card offers

Wells Fargo Active Cash Card: Best for 2% cash rewards

  • What we love about the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card: Most cards that earn 2 percent cash rewards come with spending caps, tiered categories or redemption restrictions. The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card offers unlimited cash back on purchases, and shores up its competitive edge with Wells Fargo’s traditional cellphone protection perk — as long as you pay your monthly cellphone bill with this card (limit of two up to $600 claims per year, minus a $25 deductible).
  • Who this card is good for: Someone who wants a simple rewards card that allows them to earn high-caliber cash rewards on their purchases without worrying about spending caps or redemption constraints.
  • Alternatives: While technically not a flat-rate cash back card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® carries a minimum of 1.5 percent back on all purchases as well as a variety of other unlimited bonus cash back categories, offering a significant boost to its average cash back rate if you spend heavily on dining, drugstores and travel through Chase.

Learn more: Wells Fargo Active Cash vs. Citi® Double Cash Card
Read our full Wells Fargo Active Cash Card review or jump back to offer details.

Discover it Cash Back: Best for category variety

  • What we love about the Discover it Cash Back: One of Discover’s trademark features is its unique cash back match welcome offer. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year of card membership. Considering its high cash back rates on a variety of popular, rotating categories, this card should deliver plenty of value beyond the first year as well.
  • Who this card is good for: People who are willing to put in a little work to maximize their rewards. To make the most of the card’s rotating bonus categories, you’ll need to activate new categories each quarter and adjust your spending habits to match.
  • Alternatives: While the Discover it® Cash Back card offers low fees and predictable rotating bonus categories (categories are announced the year prior), the Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers two additional, year-round 3 percent back categories and superior benefits, including fantastic travel insurance and World Elite Mastercard perks. However, you’ll need to be on your toes since Chase only announces rotating categories a quarter ahead of time.

Learn more: Is the Discover it Cash Back worth it?
Read our full Discover it Cash Back review or jump back to offer details.

Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for everyday purchases

  • What we love about the Chase Freedom Unlimited: This card offers exceptional value and flexibility. You’ll earn at least 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase — like a traditional flat-rate cash back card — in addition to an impressive 3 percent back on dining and drugstore purchases. Plus, your points could be worth 25 to 50 percent more if you pair this card with an Ultimate Rewards travel card and redeem for travel with Chase.
  • Who this card is good for: Someone looking for a standalone rewards card that covers a few key spending categories and earns a better-than-average base rewards rate on all other purchases. It’s an especially good fit if you think you’ll get a premium Ultimate Rewards travel or business card in the future.
  • Alternatives: The Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card is a terrific standalone alternative for everyday spending since it covers even more bonus categories. While you’ll only earn 1 percent on general purchases, you get 3 percent back on dining, grocery stores (excluding superstores), entertainment and select streaming services, plus 5 percent back on hotel and rental car bookings made through Capital One Travel. If you don’t have a dedicated grocery rewards card and would rather stick with a single card for most of your everyday purchases, the SavorOne is hard to beat.

Learn more: Why expert Jacqueline DeMarco loves the Chase Freedom Unlimited card.
Read our full Chase Freedom Unlimited review or jump back to offer details.

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for dining and entertainment

  • What we love about the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card: On top of its comprehensive (and rare) entertainment bonus category, the card also earns rewards on popular streaming services. That’s not to mention its everyday bonus categories, which are among the most rewarding out there for a card with no annual fee and make the SavorOne one of the most versatile standalone rewards cards on the market.
  • Who this card is good for: Entertainment-seekers who want to turn their appreciation for food and fun into cash rewards.
  • Alternatives: If you’re a foodie seeking a standalone rewards card, you might want to consider the Chase Freedom Unlimited instead, especially if you already have a Chase travel card to pool rewards with. The Freedom Unlimited not only offers 3 percent back on dining, but also earns at least 1.5 percent cash back on all other purchases, making it a great option for everyday spending.

Learn more: Is the Capital One SavorOne Worth it?
Read our full Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Best starter travel card

  • What we love about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: You can enjoy valuable travel rewards, diverse bonus categories beyond travel, stellar travel protections and additional perks that easily justify the $95 annual fee. Plus, you can pool points across multiple Ultimate Rewards cards and redeem for 25 percent more value if you opt for travel through Chase, making this the perfect partner for a no-annual-fee Chase rewards card.
  • Who this card is good for: Occasional travelers who value flexibility and are looking for a low-cost way to earn travel rewards on everyday spending (especially foodies and fans of online grocery shopping).
  • Alternatives: If you’d rather avoid an annual fee — but still want a decent rewards rate and valuable miles — the Capital One VentureOne Rewards credit card is worth a look. The card carries a solid flat rewards rate (1.25X miles on all purchases), flexible redemption and even an intro APR on purchases that could help you chip away at expenses while saving on interest.

Learn more: Why expert Jordan Bishop loves the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred Card review or jump back to offer details.

Wells Fargo Reflect Card: Best for long intro APR

  • What we love about the Wells Fargo Reflect Card: Its chart-topping promotional interest offer (received by meeting the qualifying requirements) extends to both purchases and qualifying balance transfers. Even the 18-month base offer is lengthy for a zero-interest intro APR card (then 16.74 percent to 28.74 percent variable APR).
  • Who this card is good for: Someone looking for as much breathing room as possible as they pay off a transferred balance and new purchases.
  • Alternatives: Like the Wells Fargo Reflect Card, the BankAmericard® credit card is a no-frills zero-interest card. However, the BankAmericard is more streamlined since its 0 percent intro APR on purchases and eligible balance transfers lasts for 21 billing cycles upfront — with no extra steps required to receive the full offer (followed by a 14.99 percent to 24.99 percent variable APR).

Learn more: Wells Fargo Reflect benefits guide
Read our full Wells Fargo Reflect Card review or jump back to offer details.

Discover it® Balance Transfer: Best for balance transfers and cash back

  • What we love about the Discover it Balance Transfer: The versatility. This card can be an effective tool for repaying debt and a top rewards card that offers high rewards in rotating bonus categories.
  • Who this card is good for: This is a solid option if you need a generous amount of time to pay off debt as long as you can avoid racking up new debt. After the short intro-APR period on purchases, any purchases you make will accrue interest unless you pay your balance in full before the end of the next cycle. This includes your balance transfer debt.
  • Alternatives: The BankAmericard doesn’t offer rewards, but it has a longer intro APR offer for balance transfers and purchases, making it a better option if you need more time to pay off debt or upcoming purchases.

Learn more: Is the Discover it Balance Transfer card worth it?
Read our full Discover it® Balance Transfer review or jump back to offer details.

Citi Diamond Preferred Card: Best for balance transfers with excellent credit

  • What we love about the Citi Diamond Preferred Card: This card’s introductory balance transfer offer is one of the longest available on the market, and it’s a better time than ever to consider this card: This is one of the only balance transfer cards to offer a sign-up bonus. For a limited-time, you can earn a $150 statement credit if you spend $500 in the first three months. This bonus could help offset a significant part of the Diamond Preferred card’s relatively high 5 percent balance transfer fee ($5 minimum).
  • Who this card is good for: Good credit owners looking for an exceptionally long balance transfer offer or lengthy introductory APR.
  • Alternatives: If you’re looking for a card that will offer value even after your intro APR period ends, it may be worth choosing the Citi Double Cash Card instead, since it earns an excellent cash back rate on top of its competitive 18-month 0 percent intro balance transfer APR and 17.74 percent to 27.74 percent (variable) regular APR (balance transfers must be made within the first four months). If you’d rather get a longer intro APR period on purchases, the Wells Fargo Reflect card is a great option thanks to its up to 21 months* of 0 percent intro APR on both purchases and qualifying balance transfers from account opening (then 16.74 percent to 28.74 percent, variable).

*Intro APR extension for three months, for a total of up to 21 months, with on-time minimum payments during the intro period.

Learn more: Why expert Andy Shuman loves the Citi Diamond Preferred card.
Read our full Citi Diamond Preferred Card review or jump back to offer details.

Blue Cash Preferred from American Express: Best for long-term value

  • What we love about the Blue Cash Preferred from American Express: If you’re looking for a card that will earn its keep long after its intro APR period comes to an end, it’s hard to go wrong with the Blue Cash Preferred thanks to its best-in-class rewards rate at U.S. supermarkets. Since groceries make up a huge portion of the average person’s budget, this card’s stellar cash back is easily worth the annual fee. Spending just $132 per month at U.S. supermarkets will earn you enough rewards to offset the ongoing $95 annual fee ($0 intro annual fee for the first year).
  • Who this card is good for: Families, home cooks and anyone who lists groceries as one of their biggest monthly expenses is sure to squeeze a ton of value out of the Blue Cash Preferred.
  • Alternatives: If you spend a lot on groceries but would rather avoid an annual fee, the Capital One SavorOne is a solid alternative to the Blue Cash Preferred. It charges no annual fee and carries a still-impressive rewards rate in an even wider range of everyday spending categories than the Blue Cash Preferred, including 3 percent back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and grocery store purchases (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®).

Learn more: Why expert Ted Rossman loves the Blue Cash Preferred
Read our full Blue Cash Preferred Card review or jump back to offer details.

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best starter rewards card

  • What we love about the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card: Although its 1.5 percent flat-rate cash back doesn’t stand apart from the crowd, this card’s well-rounded redemption options (including the option to automatically redeem rewards) and streamlined perks make it a fantastic first rewards card if you prefer a card you won’t have to micromanage. However, its 5 percent cash back rate on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel gives the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card a leg up for travelers.
  • Who this card is good for: People who prefer simple cash back rewards: no special categories or earning limits, just 1.5 percent cash back on every eligible purchase. The Quicksilver’s automatic cash back redemption option makes it even better for cardholders who value simplicity.
  • Alternatives: The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a tough competitor of the Quicksilver with its additional bonus cash back categories on dining and drugstore purchases. However, if being able to earn rewards at the same rate on all purchases makes the Quicksilver especially appealing, consider potentially higher-earning flat-rate cards like the Wells Fargo Active Cash or Citi® Double Cash Card.

Learn more: Why expert Nicole Dieker loves the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards.
Read our full Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.

Wells Fargo Autograph Card: Best for gas and transit

  • What we love about the Wells Fargo Autograph Card: Few travel-centric cards offer such a lucrative range of bonus categories while charging no annual fee. You’ll earn rewards in nearly all major everyday spending categories, including gas stations, transit, restaurants, general travel and more.
  • Who this card is good for: Commuters, families on the go and anyone looking for a solid no-annual-fee travel card should get great value out of the Wells Fargo Autograph Card thanks to its high rewards rate in several everyday travel categories.
  • Alternatives: While the Autograph card covers a ton of popular spending categories, it’s missing arguably the most important everyday bonus category: groceries. If you spend more on staples like groceries and gas than extras like dining out and air travel, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express Card is a solid alternative. It also charges no annual fee and earns 3 percent back at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and U.S. online retail purchases on your first $6,000 in spending per calendar year in each category (then 1 percent).

Learn More: Is the Wells Fargo Autograph worth it?
Read our full Wells Fargo Autograph card review or jump back to offer details.

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Best for no-frills benefits

  • What we love about the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: This card sets the stage for a middle-ground option in the luxury travel space with its $395 annual fee and alluring travel benefits, including excellent airport lounge access and yearly travel credits and bonus miles.
  • Who this card is good for: Frequent travelers with a taste for premium perks without the highest of premium costs. The Venture X is built for cardholders who want better rewards and benefits than a $100-tier premium travel card carries, but can’t justify paying a $500-plus annual fee for an elite travel card stuffed with features they won’t use.
  • Alternatives: Occasional travelers that aren’t concerned with premium travel perks may get more value with the Capital One Venture card, which carries a much lower $95 annual fee.

Learn more: Why expert Ana Staples loves the Capital One Venture X.
Read our full Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best for flexible redemption options

  • What we love about the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: You get a lot of flexibility when it comes to redeeming your miles. Options that bring the highest value are booking travel through Capital One, redeeming miles as statement credits for past travel expenses and transferring miles to any of Capital One’s 15+ travel partners.
  • Who this card is good for: Frequent and occasional travelers who want an easy way to earn rewards and multiple options for using them.
  • Alternatives: If you opt for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, your points could be worth more than Capital One miles when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. You may also want to consider the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card instead of the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. Despite its $395 annual fee, it may be a better deal overall since you can offset its cost easily via its yearly perks, instead of relying on the rewards you’d earn via card spending.

Learn more: Why expert Jacqueline DeMarco loves the Capital One Venture Rewards Card.
Read our full Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.

Ink Business Premier℠ Credit Card: Best for large business expenses

  • What we love about the Ink Business Premier card: The card’s 2.5 percent cash back on purchases of $5,000 or more is one of the highest flat rates you’ll find on any type of rewards card. Small-business owners with a variety of travel expenses can also take advantage of the broad mix of travel options that earn high bonus rewards when purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • Who this card is good for: Small businesses that can take advantage of the card’s boosted rate for purchases of $5,000 or more.
  • Alternatives: The Capital One Spark Cash Plus has a smaller annual fee and also offers a nice flat rate on all purchases, without spending caps. Plus, the annual $200 bonus each year after spending $200,000 could be a better fit for small businesses with large budgets but no expenses of $5,000 or more.

Learn more: Is the Chase Ink Business Premier worth it?
Read our full Ink Business Premier℠ Credit Card review or jump back to to offer details.

Ink Business Cash Credit Card: Best business sign-up bonus

  • What we love about the Ink Business Cash Credit Card: Along with its stellar sign-up bonus and practical bonus categories, this card could offer terrific long-term value for frequent travelers: You can pair the Ink Business Cash card with one of the Chase Sapphire travel cards or the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card and squeeze 25 to 50 percent more value out of your points when you redeem for travel through Chase.
  • Who this card is good for: Small-business owners who spend heavily on office supplies and internet, cable and phone services — especially frequent travelers who plan to pair the Ink Business Cash with a higher-tier Ultimate Rewards card.
  • Alternatives: If you’d rather not juggle multiple cards to ensure you’re earning bonus rewards on all of your business spending, you may prefer the simplicity that comes with a flat-rate rewards card like the Ink Business Unlimited card. That card carries the same sign-up bonus and Ultimate Rewards potential as the Ink Business Cash, but earns a consistent 1.5 percent back on all your purchases, regardless of which category they fall into.

Learn more: Ink Business Cash Benefits Guide
Read our full Ink Business Cash Credit Card review or jump back to to offer details.

Citi Custom Cash Card: Best second credit card

  • What we love about the Citi Custom Cash Card: The cash back program adjusts to your spending habits in the top eligible category each billing cycle so you’ll earn the highest rate where you’ve spent the most. The 10 potential bonus categories include expenses that are often overlooked — like fitness clubs or live entertainment — and the card carries some of the highest year-round rewards rates available in these categories without paying an annual fee.
  • Who this card is good for: Someone who wants the high rewards rate of a bonus cash back card without activating or choosing categories in advance. Those looking for a second rewards card to focus on particular expenses will love the Custom Cash as well, thanks to its especially flexible rewards program.
  • Alternatives: The Chase Freedom Flex is an excellent alternative as it provides top-notch rewards earning potential and category diversity, as well as its ability to pool rewards with Chase’s premium cards and redeem them for a higher value toward travel purchases.

Learn more: Why your Citi Custom Cash card could be great for travel
Read our full Citi Custom Cash Card review or jump back to offer details.

Citi Premier Card: Best for travel rewards on everyday purchases

  • What we love about the Citi Premier Card: There are plenty of reward redemption options and bonus categories to suit both frequent and occasional travelers. Even occasional hotel guests can offset the card’s annual fee with its yearly $100 hotel savings benefit (on a hotel stay of $500 or more).
  • Who this card is good for: People who mainly use their card for everyday purchases instead of travel and want to redeem points on future trips (while having the option of redeeming for cash back at full value if they need to).
  • Alternatives: The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is one of the most valuable options at the $95-annual-fee price range for those who travel a bit more often, thanks to its impressive annual perks, stellar travel protections and boosted point value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Learn more: Who should get the Citi Premier Card?
Read our full Citi Premier Card review or jump back to offer details.

Capital One Platinum Credit Card: Best for upgrading

  • What we love about the Capital One Platinum Credit Card: This card does not charge an annual fee and it’s possible for people with a FICO credit score as low as 580 to be approved. Another selling point of the Capital One Platinum is its short automatic account review period. Starting after six months, Capital One will review your account for positive credit practices to potentially increase your credit limit — perhaps the shortest review period available.
  • Who this card is good for: People with fair credit looking for a card with no annual fee and no security deposit that will help them build credit with responsible use.
  • Alternatives: If you’re willing to pay a $39 annual fee, the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card is a similar card that offers a rewards program in the form of 1.5 percent cash back on purchases.

Learn more: Who should get the Capital One Platinum Card?
Read our full Capital One Platinum Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.

Discover it Secured Credit Card: Best for credit-building with cash back

  • What we love about the Discover it Secured Credit Card: Most secured cards offer next to nothing in terms of rewards and perks, but this card comes with a generous cash back program, a unique and valuable welcome offer and more forgiving terms than the typical credit-building card. This makes it a great starting point for credit newbies of all stripes.
  • Who this card is good for: Anyone looking for a chance to build positive credit history through responsible card use can benefit from this card, but credit-builders who spend frequently on dining and gas or want to upgrade to an unsecured Discover rewards card one day will be the perfect fit.
  • Alternatives: If you’re willing to give up rewards in exchange for a lower starting deposit requirement, the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card is a great alternative. You’ll only need to put down $49 as a deposit, but you’ll still get access to a $200 minimum credit limit. This card also gives you a chance to increase your credit limit after just six months of responsible use and you may be able to upgrade to an unsecured Capital One card down the line.

Learn more: Discover it Secured Credit Card benefits guide
Read our full Discover it Secured card review or jump back to offer details.

Discover it Student Cash Back: Best for cash back with no credit history

  • What we love about the Discover it Student Cash Back: Most cash back cards with this earning potential require a good to excellent credit score, so it stands out as an especially lucrative student card. Discover’s top-tier customer service, Cashback Match welcome offer and generously low rates and fees grant students peace of mind and top-notch value.
  • Who this card is good for: College students interested in building a credit history and earning as they learn about rotating bonus categories.
  • Alternatives: Budget-conscious students will love the Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Card’s unlimited 3 percent cash back on student-centric categories (dining, entertainment and popular streaming services) and more straightforward rewards program. Fans of concerts and live entertainment can also rake in rewards with this card’s 8 percent back on Capital One Entertainment.

Learn more: Is the Discover It Student Cash Back card worth it?
Read our full Discover it Student Cash Back review or jump back to offer details.

Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card: Best credit limit policy

  • What we love about the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card: Not many secured cards come with no annual fee and security deposit requirements as low as $49. Plus, Capital One will review your account for a potential credit limit increase after six months.
  • Who this card is good for: People with fair credit or lower (a 669 FICO Score or below, or a 600 VantageScore or below) — or no credit history at all — who would rather put down a small security deposit and work on their credit with few distractions.
  • Alternatives: The Discover it® Secured Credit Card may be a better option for some credit-builders looking for perks since it earns rewards on purchases and offers the opportunity to qualify for an introductory rate on balance transfers for six months (25.99 percent variable APR thereafter).

Learn more: Is the Capital One Platinum Secured worth it?
Read our full Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.


How do credit cards work?

A credit card, usually a plastic or metal card, is a financial product similar to a personal line of credit that lets you make purchases now, but pay for them later. When you’re approved for a credit card, you get a credit limit that determines the maximum dollar amount you can charge to your card. As you make purchases, your available credit decreases. When you pay your bill, your available credit increases.

With a credit card, you can carry a balance from month to month, meaning you can make a partial or minimum payment rather than paying your balance in full. The downside to carrying a balance is facing potential interest charges determined by your credit card’s APR, or annual percentage rate. Your credit card’s APR is effectively the cost of borrowing money. Remember, credit card interest is relevant only if you carry credit card debt from month to month, and it’s best to pay your balance on time and in full whenever possible.

Important credit card terms

Your understanding of certain credit card terms is essential when choosing a credit card. The terms and phrases listed below should be top of mind when you begin shopping:

  • Interest rate: Interest is the fee a card issuer charges for extending a line of credit. Your interest rates will determine how much your card issuer charges you for carrying a credit card balance from month to month. Rates are influenced by your credit score.
  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR): In the world of credit cards, your interest rate and your APR are interchangeable. Your credit card’s annual percentage rate is the interest you’re charged for carrying a balance on the credit card in a billing cycle.
  • Credit limit: This is your credit card’s spending limit and will vary based on your credit score. You’ll likely have different credit limits for different transactions. For example, your cash advance limit (if your credit card offers cash advances) will be lower than your credit limit for purchases.
  • Credit card balance: Your credit card’s statement balance is the amount owed at the end of a billing cycle. This amount will include all unpaid transactions made on your credit card and any unpaid fees.
  • Credit card issuer: Often confused with credit card networks — like Visa or Mastercard that facilitate transactions between merchants and card issuers — credit card issuers provide credit cards directly to consumers. Cardholders can receive credit cards from financial institutions like credit unions or banks.
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Bankrate insight
The impact of the Federal Reserve’s action to hike rates will continue to impact credit card holders, and you should be prepared to see your variable card rates rise until inflation slows. As any increase can be unwelcome for borrowers with revolving debt, it’s important to look for opportunities to get out of the cycle, like finding a zero-interest balance transfer credit card.

How does credit card interest work?

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive into what makes many applicants reluctant to get a credit card: credit card interest. The main type of interest charge that can come with credit cards is typically referred to as your purchase APR.

Because you’re technically borrowing money each time you make a purchase with your card, your lender will charge you interest (your purchase APR) if you haven’t paid off your statement balance in full by the card’s payment due date.

The interest you owe on your current balance compounds daily, which is why it’s so important to pay off your balance in full and on time. Don’t be confused by the “minimum payment” you may see on your billing statement — that tells you how much you’ll need to pay to avoid a late payment fee, but it won’t help you avoid interest. The only way to avoid interest is to pay off your statement balance each billing cycle.

Breaking down credit card interest

The APR you’ll be charged is usually variable, which means it can change based on a few factors. It’s determined based on the possible APR range in your card’s terms (15.99 percent to 26.99 percent, for example), your credit score (which determines the rate you’re assigned on approval), and the prime rate set by the Federal Reserve.

Credit card interest works by essentially charging a daily interest rate (your purchase APR divided by 365) to your unpaid balance and multiplying the result by each day of the billing cycle. For example, if you miss your payment due date for a 30-day billing cycle and revolve a $1,000 balance at 17.99 percent APR (approximately 0.00049 percent per day), you’ll owe about $14.70 in interest.

Fortunately, you can easily calculate what you’d owe based on your current payment plan with Bankrate’s Credit Card Payoff Calculator and what you should pay each month with our Credit Card Minimum Payment Calculator.

How do credit card rewards work?

Although they may seem intimidating at first glance, most credit card rewards programs are relatively simple. Credit cards typically earn one of three types of rewards on each purchase: cash back, travel miles or points.

Cash back is the simplest form of rewards: You earn cash back as a percentage of your purchase’s dollar amount. For example, if your card earns 3 percent cash back in a certain spending category, spending $100 in that category would net you $3 in cash back. You can typically redeem cash back as a statement credit (a credit to your account that lowers the amount you owe), deposit to your bank account or gift card.

Credit card points and miles largely work the same way, except when it comes to your redemption options. If a card earns 3X points or miles on a certain purchase, spending $100 would net you 300 points or miles. However, the value of your rewards will vary based on how you use them. Miles are generally best used to book travel (typically airfare) while points may offer more flexibility to redeem for different types of travel and cash back (Citi’s ThankYou Points and Chase’s Ultimate Rewards points, for instance).

Breaking down credit card points and miles

Many issuers and cards earn their own type of points or miles with their respective restrictions, redemption options and rewards values. Be sure to carefully read how to redeem your points or miles so that you can maximize your rewards’ value since all redemption options aren’t created equal. For instance, American Express Membership Rewards points and other issuers’ rewards may lose value if you use them for anything other than airfare. Utilizing the right transfer travel partner through your issuer is a common way to stretch more value from your rewards, but this option might not be available if your card is designed for a specific hotel or airline brand.

It’s also important to be aware of your rewards’ fine print when it comes to whether they can expire or be pooled with other cards from the same issuer. Luckily, cash back, points and miles from general-purpose cards usually won’t expire for the life of your account. However, co-branded cards’ rewards are more likely to expire if you haven’t used your card for 12 to 24 months.

Many issuers also allow you to pool rewards across cards that earn the same type of rewards. This can lead to credit card pairing strategies that increase your rewards’ value. For instance, you can pool rewards across Chase’s Ultimate Rewards cards (including its no-annual-fee rewards cards) and redeem for Chase travel at a higher point value with a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Pros and cons of credit cards

Credit cards can be a great way to manage your money and make sure you pay your bills on time — but the problem is that they’re also very easy to use. Because of this, you should be aware of some of the benefits and drawbacks of owning a credit card.

Pros

  • You can earn rewards and get perks. Rewards card programs and perks like bonus statement credits can help you save money on travel, dining and other big expenses.
  • You can build your credit score. Using a credit card responsibly is one of the best ways to establish and improve your credit score. Issuers report your payments and card use to the three credit bureaus, so paying on time and keeping balances low can boost your credit score over time.
  • You can have financial flexibility. With a credit card, you don’t have to carry around cash or worry about having enough money on hand for purchases. This can help make your daily purchases more affordable and even help pay for vacations or other big expenses later on down the road.

Cons

  • You could face high interest rates. Credit card interest rates are higher than other types of loans or credit accounts (such as mortgages). This means your payments will be higher if you don’t pay off your balance each month.
  • You could get into debt. If you don’t pay off your balance, then this will affect your credit score and may make it harder for you to get loans in the future (although this depends on whether your card provider reports your payment history to credit reference agencies).
  • Your credit score can drop with irresponsible use. If you’re not confident you’ll spend within your means or routinely pay your credit card bills on time and in full, consider whether credit cards are worth the risk. Improper card use could damage your credit profile and lead to higher loan interest rates and insurance premiums or trouble getting a job or finding housing.

Why use a credit card?

A credit card can be safer and more rewarding than a debit card or cash if you manage it wisely. Along with building credit and earning rewards, you can use a credit card to:

  • Avoid fraud liability. If your debit card is used without your permission, the money is deducted from your account right away and can be difficult to get back. By contrast, if your credit card is used for fraudulent activity you’re liable for no more than $50 — $0 if your card is reported lost or stolen before any charges are made.
  • Resolve consumer issues. Credit cards offer protection when you pay for goods or services. For example, if you hire a contractor to do renovations, but major issues in the final product arise after you’ve paid, you can dispute the charges on your credit card and your issuer can withhold the funds. You often have little recourse in these situations if you pay with a debit card, cash or check. Many cards also protect your purchases and travel spending with features like purchase protection, extended warranty coverage, cellphone protection and travel insurance.
  • Consolidate debt and pause interest. Many credit cards offer a 0 percent intro APR on purchases and/or balance transfers, which can be helpful if you need a break from accumulating interest for 12 to 21 months. A card with an intro APR on balance transfers can give you time to pay off a balance you’ve consolidated from other cards or personal loans (depending on the issuer). Meanwhile, a card with an intro APR on purchases would be handy if you need time to pay off upcoming purchases.
  • Help others establish credit. If you have a good credit score and have children or loved ones who need help building or rebuilding their credit score, you can add them as authorized users on your credit card. Not only will they be able to build credit without going through the hassle of a secured card or student card, but their spending may also earn you rewards. However, it’s important to consider that irresponsible authorized users can affect your credit, and some issuers charge an additional fee for these users.

Different types of credit cards

Credit card issuers offer different types of credit cards to meet a variety of consumer needs. For example, some cardholders don’t see the appeal of a premium travel card or won’t use the card enough to justify its annual fee, while others may primarily use their card while traveling abroad. The former type of cardholder would likely benefit from a no-annual-fee card, while the latter would benefit from a no-foreign-transaction-fee card.

But there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all credit card, and the sheer number of options can make it difficult to choose a credit card that’s best for your unique situation. That’s why it’s good to consider which card best matches your spending habits.

Here are the major credit card types and the ideal cardholder they’re suited for:

Still unsure which credit card is right for you? Check out our Credit Card Spender Type Tool, which offers personalized credit card recommendations based on your credit score and spending habits.

How to choose a credit card

Choosing the best credit card all comes down to which card is going to provide you with the most value. That answer will change based on your financial situation, spending habits and more. Think about these questions when a credit card offer catches your eye:

What’s your credit score?

The better your credit score, the better your chance of qualifying for a credit card with excellent perks and terms. You can review your credit report by requesting a free copy from AnnualCreditReport.com and check your credit scores for free through your issuer or a credit bureau. If your credit score isn’t where you’d like it to be, work on improving your credit.

Do you plan to carry a balance?

It’s best to pay your balance in full each month so you avoid paying interest, but a low-interest credit card may be wise if you expect to carry a balance from time to time. Low-interest cards tout APRs that are lower than the average credit card interest rate, which is currently around 19 percent.

Are you looking to pay off debt or a large purchase?

If so, you’ll probably want to consider a 0 percent introductory APR credit card, which can help you avoid interest on purchases and/or balance transfers, typically for 12 to 21 months. However, cards with long intro APR periods often lack rewards and long-term value. Depending on how much time you need to pay off your balance, a no-annual-fee rewards card with a shorter intro APR may be a better choice long term.

What are your spending habits?

If your spending is concentrated in a certain area, look for a card that earns rewards at a high rate in that category. For example, if you spend a lot on groceries, look for a credit card that offers bonus points or cash back at grocery stores. Alternatively, consider a card that offers miles if you travel frequently. If you don’t spend a lot in one particular category, consider a card that earns rewards at a flat rate on all purchases.

Can you earn a sign-up bonus?

Many credit cards carry a sign-up bonus for new cardholders. The typical sign-up bonus offers cash back, points or miles after you spend a certain amount of money within a specified timeframe, usually within your first three months as a cardholder.

Still unsure which credit card is right for you? Check out our Credit Card Spender Type Tool, which offers personalized credit card recommendations based on your credit score and spending habits.

How to get a credit card in 4 steps

Once you’ve decided which credit card is best suited for your needs, it’s finally time to apply for your new card. You’ll have the best approval odds if you pursue a card that welcomes applicants with your credit score or if you’ve received a prequalified card offer.

Although it’s straightforward on paper, here’s a bit more information to guide you through how to apply for a credit card and get approved:

1. Know your credit score

Before you start filling out applications, find out your current credit score. Knowing your credit score will give you a better idea of:

  • The cards you’re most likely to qualify for. On Bankrate, each card offered by our partners lists a recommended credit score you can use as a guide.
  • The APR you might be offered. The higher your credit score, the more likely you are to get a lower APR.

You can check your credit score through any of the major credit bureaus, the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) or possibly through your bank. Based on the FICO scoring model, a good-to-excellent credit score will fall in the range of 670 to 850 (or 661 to 850 on the VantageScore model). If you find that your credit score isn’t where you’d like it to be, you can work to increase your credit score and improve your chances for qualification.

2. Look for personalized or prequalified offers

With a prequalified credit card offer, you can get an idea of your approval odds without submitting an application that will trigger a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries temporarily decrease your credit score and stay on your report for two years. Prequalification processes usually involve a soft credit check, so they could help you avoid minor, short-term dings to your credit score as you shop for the right card.

One way to find and compare offers is by using tools like CardMatch™. CardMatch only requires a soft credit pull and lists cards that match your credit profile. Based on your information, you may also receive special offers and prequalified matches. However, it’s important to be aware that a prequalified match is still not a guarantee of approval.

3. Fill out your application

You can apply for a card online via the issuer’s website, in person at an issuer branch, over the phone or by mail.

Before you begin filling out the application, you’ll need to have the following information on hand:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Address
  • Income
  • Social Security number

The issuer may also ask follow-up questions about your employment, housing situation or any additional assets and income.

4. Wait for a response from the credit card issuer

Your application can take as little as one minute to process, but you won’t always know whether your application was approved immediately. Getting a decision can take a few days or weeks, but issuers are required to inform you whether your application was approved or denied within 30 days of your application.

If you’ve been approved, you’ll typically get your card in the mail within 10 business days. Some issuers also provide a virtual credit card number upon approval that you can use before your physical card arrives.

How to make the most of your credit card

Your credit card can be a major help or a hindrance to your financial health, depending on how you use it. Getting the most out of your card will require a bit of strategy and planning. To make the most of your credit card, follow a few guidelines:

  • Pay your bills on time: Late payments have a very negative impact on your credit score and making your card payments on time each month is one of the most important things you can do to build your credit score over time.
  • Pay your balance in full: Avoid charging more on your credit card than you can pay back at the end of your billing cycle. This will help you avoid interest charges and can help you boost your credit score by keeping your credit utilization ratio low.
  • Leverage your rewards: Study your rewards program’s terms so you can prioritize stores that fit your bonus categories and the most valuable redemption options. Learning your card’s merchant category codes (MCCs) and transfer partners (if you have a travel card) can also help you rake in extra rewards value from unexpected places.
  • Use your card’s perks: To get the most value out of your card, be sure to take advantage of your card’s benefits — especially if your card has an annual fee.
  • Know your credit card’s drawbacks: Understanding your card’s disadvantages — such as foreign transaction fees or limits on earning and redeeming rewards — can help you tweak your spending habits and card strategy to avoid losing rewards value.

Avoiding credit card pitfalls

There are plenty of advantages to using a credit card. You can improve your credit score with proper use over time, earn lucrative rewards and protect yourself from fraud. There are also important drawbacks to be aware of when obtaining a credit card. Some potential pitfalls to avoid include:

  • Damaging your credit: Your credit card issuer reports your payments activity and credit card balances to the three credit bureaus each month. While keeping your credit utilization low and making on-time payments consistently can help improve your credit score over time, doing the opposite will certainly harm your credit score.
  • Incurring debt: If you spend more on your credit card than you can afford to pay before the end of each billing cycle, you will incur debt. Interest rates on credit cards can be expensive, and if you consistently carry large balances on your credit card interest payments can pile on fast. If you do happen to accrue credit card debt there are strategies you can use to get your debt under control.
  • Introductory bonuses: Some credit cards offer lucrative sign-up bonuses to new cardmembers in the form of points, miles or cash back when the new member meets a certain spending requirement in a specific period. While designed to encourage spending, it’s important to be wary that it may not be as valuable and could leave you with more debt.
  • Fees: Even the best credit cards often come with a variety of fees such as balance transfer fees, annual fees, late fees and more. You can avoid many of these fees with responsible and strategic credit card use. For example there are many cards that allow cardholders to skip annual fees.

Credit card companies: Credit card issuers and credit card networks

When you’re searching for the perfect credit card, the laundry list of credit card companies can be intimidating to sort through. When every credit card network and issuer has its own advantages and disadvantages, it’s important to understand the differences between each brand.

Credit card issuers

Credit card companies can be distinguished as either “credit card issuers” or “credit card networks.” Credit card issuers — such as Chase and Capital One — are the companies that give you your line of credit, accept credit card bill payments and determine card features like reward programs, sign-up bonuses and annual fees. When you apply for a credit card, you’re applying to the credit card issuer.

Credit card network

Meanwhile, credit card networks — such as Visa and Mastercard — facilitate transactions between merchants and issuers. In other words, your credit card network determines where your card is accepted as payment. Card networks may also provide their own perks separate from the issuer’s perks. For example, Visa and Mastercard offer different classes of perks, ranging from staples like purchase protection to extras like discounted food delivery service subscriptions.

Issuers can use different card networks, so you may see a Chase or Capital One credit card also branded as a Mastercard or Visa credit card (Discover and American Express use their own card networks).

Private label credit cards

Alternatively, some credit cards may not be branded with a network at all. These are known as “private label” cards and include many store-branded credit cards and gas station credit cards. Since they aren’t part of a credit card network, these cards can only be used with a specific retailer, gas station or other merchant.

Latest credit card news updates

The credit card landscape has been changing in recent months, driven by factors such as interest rate hikes. Some current credit card trends to be aware of include:

Learn more about types of credit cards

If you’re looking for more information on how credit cards can help you reach your financial goals, check out some of our top resource articles:


Have more questions for our credit cards editors? Feel free to send us an email, find us on Facebook, or Tweet us @Bankrate.

Frequently Asked Questions

about the author
Former Senior Editor Barry Bridges has been writing about credit cards, personal loans, mortgages and other personal finance products since 2017. Before joining Bankrate, he was an award-winning newspaper journalist in his native North Carolina.
about the editor
Tracy Stewart is a personal finance writer specializing in credit card loyalty programs, travel benefits, and consumer protections.

* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, is accurate as of the publish date. All products or services are presented without warranty. Check the bank’s website for the most current information.