The Best Credit Cards - Top Offers & Reviews 2021

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 available from our partners — rewards, cash back, travel, balance transfer, 0% intro APR and more. We do the research so you don’t have to sift through hundreds of options to find the best card for you.

What we do and how we do it: Bankrate puts the personal in personal finance. Our editorial mission is to help people make good decisions with their money — in this case, deciding on the best credit card to take you where you need to go. We use a 5-star scoring system to rate more than 200 of today’s top credit cards, with independence and transparency, so that you’ll have an easier time making an informed decision.

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Best Cash Back Cards

Best for 2% cash rewards

Wells Fargo Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Wells Fargo's secure website

Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases
Welcome Offer:
New! Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Regular APR:
14.99%-24.99% (Variable)
Purchase Intro APR:
0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% intro APR for 15 months on qualifying balance transfers
Annual Fee:
$0

Card Details

  • New! Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, then a 14.99% to 24.99% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee of 3% then a BT fee of up to 5%, min: $5
  • $0 annual fee
  • No category restrictions or sign ups and cash rewards don't expire as long as your account remains open
  • Enjoy a premium collection of benefits at a selection of the world's most intriguing and prestigious hotel properties with Visa Signature Concierge
  • Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card
  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms and conditions

Best for automatic bonus category

Citi Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Citi's secure website

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

Rewards Rate:
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. Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Welcome Offer:
Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $750 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.
Regular APR:
13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)
Purchase Intro APR:
0% for 15 months on purchases
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% for 15 months on balance transfers
Annual Fee:
$0

Card Details

  • Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $750 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • 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. Also, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • No rotating bonus categories to sign up for – as your spending changes each billing cycle, your earn adjusts automatically when you spend in any of the eligible categories.
  • No Annual Fee
  • Citi will only issue one Citi Custom Cash℠ Card account per person.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for 1.5% cash back

Capital One Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Capital One's secure website

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
Welcome Offer:
One-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Regular APR:
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
Purchase Intro APR:
0% intro on purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$0

Card Details

  • One-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 15.49%-25.49% variable APR after that
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for everyday family purchases

American Express Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On American Express's secure website

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Rewards Rate:
6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%). 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions. 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more. 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations 1% Cash Back on other purchases
Welcome Offer:
Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership, up to $200 back. Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership. You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits.
Regular APR:
13.99%-23.99% Variable
Purchase Intro APR:
0% on purchases for 12 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Card Details

  • Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership, up to $200 back.
  • Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership. You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits.
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%).
  • 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
  • 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more).
  • 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, 13.99% to 23.99%
  • Plan It® gives the option to select purchases of $100 or more to split up into monthly payments with a fixed fee.
  • Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
  • Terms Apply.

Best 0% Intro APR Cards

Best for up to 2% cash back

Citi Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Citi's secure website

Citi® Double Cash Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
Welcome Offer:
N/A
Regular APR:
13.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% intro for 18 months on Balance Transfers
Annual Fee:
$0

Card Details

  • Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.99% - 23.99% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for sign-up bonus

Chase Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Chase's secure website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Rewards Rate:
Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®. Earn 3% on dining and drugstores. Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
Welcome Offer:
Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
Regular APR:
14.99 - 23.74% Variable
Purchase Intro APR:
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$0

Card Details

  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best Balance Transfer Cards

18 months 0% intro APR | Good credit

Wells Fargo Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Wells Fargo's secure website

Wells Fargo Platinum card

Rewards Rate:
N/A
Welcome Offer:
N/A
Regular APR:
16.49%-24.49% (Variable)
Purchase Intro APR:
0% intro APR for 18 months from account opening
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% intro APR for 18 months on qualifying balance transfers
Annual Fee:
$0

Card Details

  • 0% intro APR for 18 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, then a 16.49% to 24.49% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Platinum card
  • Easy access to your FICO® Credit Score with Wells Fargo Online®
  • Monitor your spending, purchases and any suspicious activity with text and email alerts and notifications
  • Convenient tools to help create a budget and manage your spending with My Money Map
  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms and conditions

18 months 0% intro APR | Excellent credit

Citi Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Citi's secure website

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

Rewards Rate:
N/A
Welcome Offer:
N/A
Regular APR:
13.74% - 23.74% (Variable)
Purchase Intro APR:
0% for 18 months on Purchases
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% for 18 months on Balance Transfers
Annual Fee:
$0

Card Details

  • 0% Intro APR for 18 months on purchases from date of account opening and 0% Intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer. After that the variable APR will be 13.74% - 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • Get free access to your FICO® Score online.
  • With Citi Entertainment®, get special access to purchase tickets to thousands of events, including concerts, sporting events, dining experiences and more.
  • Shop with confidence knowing that you have dependable protection benefits, including $0 Liability on Unauthorized Purchases and Citi® Identity Theft Solutions.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.74% - 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for your first travel card

Chase Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Chase's secure website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Rewards Rate:
2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Welcome Offer:
Our best offer ever! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Regular APR:
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$95

Card Details

  • Our best offer ever! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 100,000 points are worth $1,250 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for flexible redemption options

Capital One Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Capital One's secure website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.
Welcome Offer:
Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel
Regular APR:
17.24% - 24.49% (Variable)
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$95

Card Details

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Redeem on travel—including flights, vacation rentals, car rentals and more. Plus transfer your miles to over 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • No foreign transaction fees
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best No Annual Fee Cards

Best for maximizing rotating categories

Discover Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Discover's secure website

Discover it® Cash Back

Rewards Rate:
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Welcome Offer:
Intro Offer: Unlimited Cashback Match - only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year! There's no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
Regular APR:
11.99% - 22.99% Variable
Purchase Intro APR:
0% for 14 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% for 14 months
Annual Fee:
$0

Card Details

  • Intro Offer: Unlimited Cashback Match - only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year! There's no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Redeem cash back in any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • #1 Most Trusted Credit Card according to Investor's Business Daily.
  • No annual fee.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.

Best for credit-building with cash back

WebBank Image

Recommended Credit Score

No Credit History

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On WebBank's secure website

Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card

Rewards Rate:
Up to 1.5% cash back after making 12 on-time monthly payments. 1% cash back on eligible purchases right away.
Welcome Offer:
N/A
Regular APR:
12.99% - 26.99% (Variable)
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$0

Card Details

  • No fees whatsoever. No late fee, international fee, annual fee, or any-other-kind-of-fee, fee.
  • Up to 1.5% cash back after making 12 on-time monthly payments
  • 1% cash back on eligible purchases right away
  • 2% - 10% cash back from select merchants
  • $500-$10,000 credit limits
  • Variable APRs 12.99%-26.99%
  • Build credit alongside tens of thousands of Petal Card members
  • Cash flow technology may help applicants without credit history get approved
  • Petal's mobile app makes it easy to manage your money, track your spending, and automate payments
  • See if you're pre-approved within minutes without impacting your credit score
  • Petal reports to all 3 major credit bureaus
  • No deposits required
  • Card issued by WebBank, Member FDIC
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for earning cash back with no credit history

Discover Image

Recommended Credit Score

No Credit History

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Discover's secure website

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Rewards Rate:
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
Welcome Offer:
Intro Offer: Unlimited Cashback Match - only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There's no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
Regular APR:
12.99% - 21.99% Variable
Purchase Intro APR:
0% for 6 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
10.99% for 6 months
Annual Fee:
$0

Card Details

  • Intro Offer: Unlimited Cashback Match - only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There's no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • Earn rewards while building your credit history that can help you after graduation. And, get your free Credit Scorecard that includes your FICO® Credit Score and important details that help make up your score.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Refer-a-Friend: Once you become a Discover it® Student cardmember, you can earn a statement credit each time you refer a friend and they're approved. Over half a million students got Discover Cards from their friends' recommendations.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 12.99% - 21.99% applies.

Best Cards for Excellent Credit

Best for dining and entertainment

Capital One Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Capital One's secure website

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through January 2023. Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®). Earn 1% on all other purchases.
Welcome Offer:
Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
Regular APR:
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
Purchase Intro APR:
0% intro on purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$0

Card Details

  • Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 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
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 15.49% - 25.49% variable APR after that
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best Cards for Good Credit

Best for gas and groceries with no annual fee

American Express Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On American Express's secure website

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Rewards Rate:
3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). 2% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores. 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
Welcome Offer:
Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the Card in the first 6 months of Card membership, up to $150 back. Plus, earn $100 back after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months of card membership. You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits.
Regular APR:
13.99%-23.99% Variable
Purchase Intro APR:
0% on purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$0

Card Details

  • Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the Card in the first 6 months of Card membership, up to $150 back.
  • Plus, earn $100 back after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months of card membership. You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits.
  • 3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%).
  • 2% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores.
  • 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, 13.99% to 23.99%.
  • Plan It® gives the option to select purchases of $100 or more to split up into monthly payments with a fixed fee.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

Best Cards for Fair Credit

Best for cash back referral bonus

Jasper Image

Recommended Credit Score

Fair to Good (580 - 740)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Jasper's secure website

Jasper Cash Back Mastercard®

Rewards Rate:
Your cash back rate will be increased by 1% for 12 months for each referred applicant that activates their card, up to a limit of 6% total cash back.
Welcome Offer:
N/A
Regular APR:
15.49% - 24.99% (Variable)
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$0

Card Details

  • Up to 6% cash back by referring friends!
  • Start with 1% and get an extra 1% for a full year for every friend you bring on board
  • Cash back not limited to certain categories, earn on almost all everyday purchases
  • No annual fee, no security deposit, no foreign transaction fees
  • Simple, intuitive app to manage your account
  • Unique auto payment options that help you build and maintain your credit score
  • Receive cash back automatically every month as a statement credit after three on time payments
  • Earn cash back as long as your account is in good standing
  • Your cash back maximum varies based on your credit limit.
  • See Jasper's terms and fees
  • Issued by WebBank, Member FDIC

Page 1 Created with Sketch. Best Cards for Poor Credit

Best unsecured credit card with rewards

Credit One Bank Image

Recommended Credit Score

Bad to Fair (300 - 670)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Credit One Bank's secure website

Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit

Rewards Rate:
Earn 1% cash back rewards on eligible gas, grocery purchases and mobile phone service, internet, cable and satellite TV services, terms apply
Welcome Offer:
N/A
Regular APR:
23.99% Variable
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$75 first year, then $99 annually

Card Details

  • See if you Pre-Qualify without harming your credit score
  • Earn 1% cash back rewards on eligible gas, grocery purchases and mobile phone service, internet, cable and satellite TV services, terms apply
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Automatic reviews for credit line increase opportunities
  • Looking to rebuild credit? We report to the major credit bureaus monthly
  • View your free online access to your Experian credit score, terms apply
  • This unsecured card requires no deposit and can help build your credit
  • Choose your monthly payment due date for added convenience, terms apply
  • Never miss an account update with customizable text and email alerts
  • Manage your account on-the-go with the Credit One Bank mobile app
  • Show off your personality by selecting from a variety of card designs, a fee may apply
  • See Rates & Fees

Best Cards for No Credit History

Best for students with no credit history

Deserve Image

Recommended Credit Score

No Credit History

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Deserve's secure website

Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

Rewards Rate:
Earn 1% Cash Back on all purchases with your Deserve EDU Mastercard
Welcome Offer:
N/A
Regular APR:
18.74% Variable
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$0

Card Details

  • Receive one year of Amazon Prime Student on Deserve after spending $500 in the first three billing cycles with your EDU card (Lifetime Value of $59).
  • Earn 1% Cash Back on all purchases with your Deserve EDU Mastercard. Once approved, you'll automatically start earning cash back on all purchases.
  • Feel secure with cell phone protection up to $600.
  • No deposit required. No annual fees.
  • No international transaction fees on purchases abroad so you can travel with confidence.
  • No Social Security Number required for international students to apply.
  • Refer A Friend Program: Refer anyone to Deserve using your personal referral code. Upon approval, card activation and use, you'll receive $30 and so will your referral. Referral bonuses are unlimited!
  • Manage and track your spending, set automatic payments and securely freeze your card all through one easy to use app.
  • See if you prequalify with no impact to your credit score in minutes.
  • Deserve Mastercards are issued by Celtic Bank, Member FDIC.
  • Enjoy Mastercard Platinum Benefits intended to make your life easier like Mastercard ID Theft Prevention™ and Master Rental®.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

In the News Today: Average Credit Card Debt in America

A recent Bankrate study revealed that average credit card debt varies by state, with Alaskans and those on either coast generally carrying more debt than those living in the midwest. To read more of the findings, check out the full article by industry analyst Constance Sommer.


A complete guide to choosing and using credit cards

The right credit card can play an important role in helping you achieve your financial goals responsibly. But how do you choose among the hundreds of credit card offers available on today’s market? Bankrate is here to help.

Do you want to earn cash back on everyday purchases? Upgrade your travel experience? Manage different kinds of consumer debt? Build or repair your credit? Whatever your objective might be, our expert analysis of leading offers from our credit card partners can guide you in the right direction.

We evaluate top contenders for today’s best credit cards in all the major categories and narrow down the list to a select few. We also offer expert advice on how to best utilize a credit card as part of your overall personal financial profile.

The more you know...
Credit card issuers have tweaked existing rewards programs within the last year to boost rewards for essentials like groceries, takeout and gas. However, according to a recent Bankrate study, 31% of cardholders didn’t redeem any rewards in 2020.

In this guide:


Compare the best credit cards of 2021

Card Name Our pick for Bankrate Score
Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card 2% cash rewards 3.7 / 5
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card Automatic bonus category 4.3 / 5
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card Best for 1.5% cash back 3.2 / 5
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express Everyday family purchases 4.0 / 5
Citi® Double Cash Card Best for up to 2% cash back 3.6 / 5
Chase Freedom Unlimited® Sign-up bonus 4.6 / 5
Wells Fargo Platinum card Balance transfer with good credit 4.0 / 5
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card Balance transfer with excellent credit 3.7 / 5
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Your first travel card 4.1 / 5
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Flexible redemption options 4.3 / 5
Discover it® Cash Back Maximizing rotating categories 4.2 / 5
Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card Credit-building with cash back 4.0 / 5
Discover it® Student Cash Back Earning cash back with no credit history 4.1 / 5
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card Dining and entertainment 4.5 / 5
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express Gas and groceries with no annual fee 3.9 / 5
Jasper Cash Back Mastercard® Cash back referral bonus 3.5 / 5
Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit Unsecured credit card with rewards 2.6 / 5
Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students Students with no credit history 2.6 / 5

A closer look at Bankrate’s best credit cards

Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card

Best for 2% cash rewards

  • This card is best for: Those who want to earn unlimited cash rewards on purchases at twice the rate of the typical 1%.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Anyone who’s opened another Wells Fargo credit card in the last six months. You’ll have to wait until six months have passed to apply for the Active Cash card.
  • What makes this card unique? Most cards that earn 2% cash rewards or more reserve that rate for particular purchase categories and have a limit on how much you can earn in a quarter before the rate drops to 1%. With this card, earnings are unlimited on eligible purchases.
  • Is the Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card worth it? If you’re looking for generous rewards without categories or caps or an annual fee, this card could be a game-changer.

Read our full Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card review.

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

Best for automatic bonus category

  • This card is best for: Those who want the high rewards rate of a bonus cash back card without having to activate or choose categories in advance.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Strategic shoppers who prefer plotting out their cash back strategy each quarter before they start spending.
  • What makes this card unique? The cash back program adjusts to your spending habits in the top eligible category each billing cycle so that you’ll earn the highest rate where you’ve spent the most.
  • Is the Citi Custom Cash Card worth it? The automatic bonus category might be an unfamiliar feature in the cash back landscape, but there’s still potential to earn big returns.

Read our full Citi Custom Cash℠ Card review.

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best for 1.5% cash back

  • This card is best for: People who prefer their cash back rewards simple: no special categories or earning limits, just 1.5 percent cash back on every eligible purchase.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Big spenders in certain purchase categories (groceries, gas, online shopping and so on) who could earn more with a card that has tiered or rotating bonus categories.
  • What makes this card unique? Unlike some rewards programs, Capital One provides full value when you redeem cash rewards through Amazon Shop with Points ($1 in cash rewards is worth $1 in redemption value).
  • Is the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card worth it? Earning flat-rate cash back might not be rocket science, but the Quicksilver is one of the most valuable “fire it and forget it” choices you’ll find.

Read our full Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card review.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Best for everyday family purchases

  • This card is best for: Modern, on-the-go families who spend a lot on groceries, gas, transit and streaming subscriptions.
  • This card is not a great choice for: People who prefer the simplicity of a flat-rate card that doesn’t involve doing the mental mathematics of calculating rewards rates for special purchase categories.
  • What makes this card unique? You’ll have a hard time finding a card with high-value rewards categories as family-focused as this one’s. The categories don’t rotate, so you won’t have to change your spending habits according to the calendar.
  • Is the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express worth it? The $95 annual fee is one of the few potential turn-offs, but Amex offers a $0 intro annual fee your first year. Even when the annual fee does take effect, the rewards earnings and benefits are likely to counteract the cost.

Read our full Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express review.

Citi® Double Cash Card

Best for up to 2% cash back

  • This card is best for: Anyone who likes the idea of turning good credit habits into additional cash back (1 percent when you make eligible purchases, another 1 percent when you pay your credit card bill).
  • This card is not a great choice for: People who spend large amounts in special areas (gas, groceries, superstores, etc.) and might get higher returns with a rotating category card.
  • What makes this card unique? The two-part cash back system provides extra incentive to make timely payments — not just for the sake of your credit score but also to earn the additional 1 percent.
  • Is the Citi® Double Cash Card worth it? It might not be the flashiest cash back card, but it offers a practical and potentially lucrative way to earn as you go.

Read our full Citi® Double Cash Card review.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Best for sign-up bonus

  • This card is best for: Those who want a cash back card with multiple categories and a sign-up bonus that you can easily earn without overspending ($200 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening).
  • This card is not a great choice for: Infrequent travelers. Travel purchased through Chase is the highest-earning category at 5 percent per $1 spent, so people who don’t take many vacations or business trips won’t get the full benefit.
  • What makes this card unique? Both the Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Freedom Flex℠ are part of the Pay Yourself Back program. Through 12/31/21, you can use Pay Yourself Back with these cards to redeem donations made to eligible charities for a 25 percent boost in your points value.
  • Is the Chase Freedom Unlimited worth it? Travelers and shoppers who maximize the eligible purchase categories can earn considerable cash back rewards. The sign-up bonus offers solid value in relation to the low spending requirement.

Read our full Chase Freedom Unlimited® review.

Wells Fargo Platinum card

Best balance transfer card for good credit

  • This card is best for: Anyone with good credit looking for one of the longer introductory balance transfer offers available (18 months from account opening 0% intro APR, 16.49% – 24.49% variable APR after).
  • This card is not a great choice for: Anyone who wants a balance transfer card that they can transition to an everyday rewards card once the transfer is paid off (no rewards program).
  • What makes this card unique? The My Money Map spending and budgeting tools are designed to help you better manage your personal finances — a plus for credit-conscious consumers.
  • Is the Wells Fargo Platinum card worth it? The intro offers on balance transfers and purchases compare well with similar cards, but the regular APR and the fee for late or returned payments (up to $40 each) could make mismanaging your balance quite costly.

Read our full Wells Fargo Platinum card review.

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

Best balance transfer card for excellent credit

  • This card is best for: Someone with good credit looking for an exceptionally long balance transfer offer.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Someone looking for long-term value. The 18-month 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers can save you a lot of money, but after that, the variable APR is 13.74% – 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Without a rewards system, the card loses its luster after the intro APR period ends.
  • What makes this card unique? The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card’s introductory balance transfer offer is one of the longest available on the credit card market.
  • Is the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card worth it? If your goal is to maximize the time you have to pay down a balance without racking up interest charges, the Citi Diamond Preferred has a top-tier offer.

Read our full Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card review.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Best for your first travel card

  • This card is best for: Anyone who wants to explore the ins and outs of travel credit cards, with rewards and benefits that also make it a practical experience.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Those who want premium travel perks such as airport lounge access or free checked bags.
  • What makes this card unique? You have the option of redeeming your points for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories without losing value. In fact, you could get 25 percent more during the current offer.
  • Is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card worth it? The rewards program makes it fairly easy to get your money’s worth with this card (plus 25 percent points value when you redeem for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards online portal).

Read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card review.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Best for flexible redemption options

  • This card is best for: Frequent travelers who want an easy way to earn rewards and multiple options for how they can use them.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Brand loyalists. A co-branded card could have higher rewards rates and offer perks unique to a particular airline or hotel chain.
  • What makes this card unique? 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 15+ travel loyalty programs.
  • Is the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card worth it? The $95 annual fee is comparable to similar cards. If you put a premium on flexibility, the array of options for redeeming miles should have a value all its own.

Read our full Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card review.

Discover it® Cash Back

Best for maximizing rotating categories

  • This card is best for: People who are willing to put in the work. When the categories rotate, remember to activate — and then direct your spending toward the bonus categories to earn the 5 percent rate on up to $1,500 each quarter, followed by 1 percent.
  • This card is not a great choice for: People who want to earn cash back but prefer a low-maintenance way to do it. If that sounds like you, consider a flat-rate card that earns on all eligible purchases.
  • What makes this card unique? One of Discover’s trademark features is the first-year cash back match. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.
  • Is the Discover it® Cash Back worth it? Considering the earning potential and the lack of an annual fee, it can be a considerably valuable card. Activating the categories and adjusting your spending does require some effort on your part, though.

Read our full Discover it® Cash Back review.

Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card

Credit-building with cash back

  • This card is best for: People with no credit history, particularly students, who want to build their credit profile responsibly while also earning cash back rewards.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Experienced credit users. If your credit history is already solid, finding a card that offers higher cash back rates and better perks shouldn’t be difficult.
  • What makes this card unique? It has an incentive-driven rewards program that rewards responsible credit habits. Make 12 on-time monthly payments and you could see your cash back rate increase from 1 percent to 1.5 percent.
  • Is the Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa Credit Card card worth it? New credit users are sure to appreciate the lack of an annual fee, part of the card’s “no-fees-whatsoever” appeal. If you’re just starting this part of your financial journey, the Petal 2 could serve as a useful teaching tool.

Read our full Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card review.

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Best for earning cash back with no credit history

  • This card is best for: College students interested in the chance to build a credit history and earn as they learn about rotating bonus categories.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Anyone who feels like their schedule is already full of reminders and boxes to check. You have to enroll in the bonus categories every quarter to earn 5 percent (on up to $1,500 in combined purchases, then 1 percent).
  • What makes this card unique? Most cash back cards, much less cards with this kind of earning potential, require not just a credit history but a good or excellent credit score.
  • Is the Discover it® Student Cash Back worth it? If you put in the effort to enroll in the bonus categories and target your spending — responsibly, of course — your cash back earnings could really make the grade.

Read our full Discover it® Student Cash Back review.

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best for dining and entertainment

  • This card is best for: People who want to turn their appreciation for food and fun into plus-rate cash rewards (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).
  • This card is not a great choice for: Grocery shoppers who are exclusive to superstores and wholesale clubs. The complexities of merchant category codes mean that grocery purchases at establishments like Target or Sam’s Club aren’t likely to qualify for the SavorOne’s 3 percent rate.
  • What makes this card unique? Capital One provides access to presale tickets, discounts and more with dining, entertainment and sports experiences.
  • Is the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card worth it? Pair the dining and entertainment rewards with the lack of an annual fee and the SavorOne provides a lot of bang for the buck.

Read our full Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card review.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Best for gas and groceries with no annual fee

  • This card is best for: Families with lots of places to go and meals to prepare. The rewards rates on purchases at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores are exceptional.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Those who do their grocery shopping at superstores and wholesale clubs. Purchases that don’t fit the American Express definition of U.S. supermarkets earn just 1 percent.
  • What makes this card unique? Complimentary ShopRunner membership offers free two-day shipping and free returns at more than 100 online stores (enrollment required).
  • Is the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express worth it? The card’s high-rate categories match up well in areas where busy families are likely to make a lot of purchases, and you won’t have to pay an annual fee.

Read our full Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express review.

Jasper Cash Back Mastercard®

Best for cash back referral bonus

  • This card is best for: People whose network of friends is more extensive than their credit history. Start with 1% and get an extra 1% for a full year for every friend you bring on board (Up to 6% cash back by referring friends)
  • This card is not a great choice for: Experienced credit users, who can afford to be more selective. A good or better credit score should open the door to cash back cards that offer higher rates for less effort.
  • What makes this card unique? Credit card referral bonuses are nothing new, but the Jasper Mastercard offers higher cash back rates instead of the usual statement credits or points.
  • Is the Jasper Cash Back Mastercard® worth it? Even without the novelty of the referral program, the Jasper’s features and relaxed approach to fees (no annual fee or foreign transaction fees) help make it an interesting option for people with fair credit.

Read our full Jasper Cash Back Mastercard® review.

Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit

Best unsecured credit card with rewards

  • This card is best for: People with bad credit scores (300 to 670 FICO) who want a chance to right the ship while earning modest cash back on eligible purchases.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Anyone with a credit score deep in the bad range (below 500). You will have to pay an annual fee of Annual Fee: $75 first year, then $99 annually.
  • What makes this card unique? Not many unsecured cards for bad credit offer cash back programs, making this one a rare exception.
  • Is the Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit worth it? You’ll still need to focus on responsible habits (like paying your bill on time and not carrying a balance) and look at earning cash back as a benefit, not a goal.

Read our full Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit review.

Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

Best for students with no credit history

  • This card is best for: Students who might have trouble getting approved for a credit card because they don’t have a credit history. In particular, international students don’t need a Social Security Number to apply.
  • This card is not a great choice for: People who have enough of a credit history (such as paying off a car loan or maintaining a utility account) that they don’t need the relaxed application requirements.
  • What makes this card unique? Unlike many cards for people with no credit history, the Deserve EDU Mastercard earns cash back (1 percent per $1 spent on eligible purchases.
  • Is the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students worth it? The cash back program and benefits like the Amazon Student Prime membership reimbursement after spending $500 in the first three months of card membership (lifetime value worth $59) add to the card’s value. However, the main attraction is how the application process removes some of the barriers that might be standing between you and your first credit card.

Read our full Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students review.


How do credit cards work?

A credit card is a payment method that serves as a line of credit and lets you make purchases now while paying for them later. Unlike cash, you don’t pay upfront. Unlike checks or debit cards, you don’t pay with money that you’ve already deposited into an account. Credit cards are typically issued by banks and other financial services companies.

Paying by credit card

Physically, credit cards are flat, thin pieces of plastic or sometimes metal that can be scanned by electronic readers. You can also use them for no-contact digital transactions through online portals or by linking them to a smartphone or other mobile device.

Credit limits

When you’re approved for a credit card, you get a credit limit that determines the maximum dollar amount you can borrow on your card. As you make purchases, your available credit decreases. When you pay your bill, your available credit increases. For example, if you spent $500 on your credit card with a $2,000 limit, your available credit would become $1,500. Then, when you pay off that $500, your available credit would return to $2,000.

Paying your credit card balance

With a credit card, you have the option to carry a balance from month to month. You can make a partial or minimum payment rather than paying your balance in full. The downside is that you could face interest charges determined by your credit card’s APR, or annual percentage rate, if your balance remains unpaid past the grace period. It’s best to pay your balance on time and in full whenever possible.

Bankrate Insights
Paying your bills on time, including your credit card bill, is one of the best things you can do for your credit. Payment history accounts for 35 percent of your credit score.

Should I get a credit card?

If you’re wondering whether you should get a credit card, the answer depends on your financial goals and your financial situation. Here are three things to keep in mind:

  1. Your credit score. As many credit card issuers tightened their approval standards in 2020, the quality of credit scores took on added importance. If you have a FICO Score below 670, work on improving your credit score before opening any new credit accounts.
  2. How much debt you owe. Federal statistics show that credit card balances went down by a combined $49 billion nationwide in the first quarter of 2021, although balances on mortgages, auto loans and student loans all increased. If you’re dealing with a lot of high-interest debt, on a credit card or any other type of credit account, do as much as you can to pay it down.
  3. Finding a card that matches your goals. Do you want to earn rewards that will help you maximize the value of your spending? Do you need to build up your credit profile or manage debt with a balance transfer? And if you have clear goals in mind, do you practice the kind of financial habits that make you a responsible user of credit?

Benefits of using credit cards

When credit cards are used responsibly and to their full potential, they provide convenience and value that you don’t get with other payment methods, in ways that include:

  • Chip readers, online payment portals and digital wallets that make transactions easy and virtually instantaneous.
  • Rewards programs that earn cash back, travel miles and multi-purpose rewards.
  • Security features that reduce your vulnerability to fraudulent charges.
  • Tools designed to help you build or repair your credit and manage your budget.

To reap these benefits, you’ll first need to choose the right card and then use it the right way — staying within your credit limit and making full payments on time each month.

What’s the best credit card for you?

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. Fortunately, you can cut through the clutter by using one of two methods:

  1. Choosing a credit card by category
  2. Choosing the best credit card offer

The category method is well-suited for people who have a certain goal in mind: earning cash back, collecting points or miles to reduce the cost of travel and so on. Choosing by best offer usually involves taking your search one step further, whether it’s a sign-up bonus or an introductory zero-interest offer that provides a specific incentive for new cardholders.

Choosing a credit card by category

If you’re choosing a card by category, you’re probably interested in a card that matches your spending habits. Today’s credit cards cover a lot of territory for different types of consumers, including:

The budget-minded shopper

You can earn cash back on everyday purchases, and more, with a cash back credit card. While some cards earn a fixed percentage on every eligible purchase, others offer tiered categories with higher rates tailored to specialty areas such as:

Seasonal shoppers whose spending habits change with the calendar might benefit from a rotating category card. This type of card earns bonus cash back rates on certain types of purchases at three-month intervals throughout the year.

The frequent traveler

If you want to earn miles and points to help offset the cost of travel, a travel rewards card should probably be at the top of your list.

Travel credit cards feature perks and benefits specifically designed to make the journey easier and more affordable, including:

  • Access to private airport lounges
  • Free hotel stays
  • TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee credits
  • Trip cancellation insurance

Many travel cards earn rewards on airfare, hotels and other expenses, no matter how you fly or where you stay. However, your options also include co-branded cards geared toward travelers loyal to particular airlines or hotel chains.

Bankrate Insights
In response to travel restrictions and lifestyle changes throughout the pandemic, many credit card issuers updated their rewards programs — think added bonus categories and short-term perks. As travel returns, be on the lookout for new opportunities that can increase your rewards value.

The small business owner

Business credit cards can benefit people who own or operate small businesses in a number of ways.

With a cash back card for business, you can earn a flat percentage on general purchases or a higher rate on specialty categories such as office supplies. A business travel card that earns miles or points can help you reduce your costs for airfare, hotel stays and transit.

Like travel cards, many business rewards cards also offer specialized features and benefits such as:

  • Higher credit limits than consumer cards
  • Tools to help you manage expenses
  • Free additional cards for employees

The debt manager

Two types of credit card features specifically address debt and interest: balance transfers and introductory zero-interest offers on purchases.

You can use a balance transfer credit card to move debt from an existing credit account to the new card and, ideally, pay off the transferred debt at a lower interest rate. The best credit cards for balance transfers offer an introductory period of 0% APR that lets you temporarily avoid paying any interest.

Cards with zero-interest offers on purchases also provide a temporary window of 0% APR, making them useful for large purchases that would be difficult to pay off in a single billing cycle. Once the intro period ends, however, the APR will change to the card’s regular variable range.

Another possible option is a low-interest credit card that has a regular APR range a few points below average.

The credit-builder

Used responsibly, the right cards can help you establish a credit history and improve your credit score — all while providing a convenient and secure method of payment for all kinds of expenses. Many issuers offer credit cards for people who have less than perfect credit scores or no credit history at all. Categories for credit-builders include:

You’ll find some overlap between the no-credit-history category and the student category, since many students lack a true credit history before getting their first card. A number of student cards don’t require a credit history or a good credit score to apply.

The categories of bad credit and secured cards also overlap to an extent. A secured card requires an upfront deposit, which will then serve as your credit limit. Deposits are refundable over time as long as you’ve established a good record of on-time payments. By providing the deposit, a consumer with bad credit is essentially putting up collateral so that the issuer faces less risk in issuing the secured card.

The student

A young adult can get a head-start on life’s financial journey with a student credit card. The best credit cards for students have features tailored to this specific type of consumer, including:

  • Relaxed credit requirements. You might not need a good or excellent credit score (or even a credit history at all) to qualify.
  • Features designed for you. To cite just one example, how about an annual statement credit that rewards you for maintaining a high GPA?
  • Less emphasis on annual fees. For someone who doesn’t yet have a career or annual income, a card that doesn’t charge an annual fee makes a lot of sense.

Choosing the best credit card offer

A credit card offer is an incentive to get a new card, or in some cases for current cardholders to stay loyal. Many credit card offers involve a sign-up bonus for new cardholders, sometimes called a welcome offer. The typical sign-up bonus is an offer of cash back, rewards points or travel miles that you earn by spending a certain amount of money within the specified timeframe after opening the account, usually 3 months. Other types of credit card offers include:

  • Introductory 0% APR on purchases or balance transfers
  • Earning a bonus rewards rate during your first year as a cardholder
  • Discounts or statement credits on purchases from specific merchants
  • A waiver of the card’s annual fee for the first year

Although sign-up bonuses are exclusive to new cardholders, credit card issuers sometimes add benefits that current cardholders are eligible for. Issuers occasionally make changes to their welcome offers and rewards programs, sometimes as part of seasonal updates and other times in response to market trends.

Sign-up bonuses and welcome offers

Here are some of the criteria you should use when considering credit card sign-up bonuses:

  • Does the bonus match up well with your spending habits and your goal for getting the card in the first place? For example, choosing a card with a large travel miles bonus doesn’t make much sense unless you’re a frequent traveler or you have a specific plan to use the bonus for a long-anticipated trip.
  • Do you really need a new card, considering the impact that the application will have on your credit score?
  • Is the bonus proportional to the spending requirement? In other words, think about how much benefit the bonus offers relative to how much you’ll have to spend to earn it.

0% intro APR offers

When it comes to introductory interest rate offers, the first step in your selection process is focusing on the specific type of offer you’re interested in: one on new purchases or one on balance transfers. Then you can compare offers by:

  • Length of introductory offer. The longer the introductory rate, the more time you have to temporarily avoid interest charges.
  • Balance transfer fees, if applicable. Most credit cards charge a certain percentage of the amount being transferred, usually 3% to 5%. Although not necessarily a deal-breaker, a balance transfer fee is a cost you should take into account.
  • Regular APR. The standard APR that takes effect once the intro offer expires is an important consideration. You might even think of it as extra incentive to pay off your purchases or balance transfer in a timely manner.
Bankrate Insights
Although sign-up bonuses can be lucrative, signing up for multiple credit cards only to cancel after you’ve earned the bonus is problematic and should be avoided. Every hard pull from a credit card application temporarily lowers your credit score. Also, some credit card issuers have tightened up their rules on applications to discourage the practice.

CardSmart: What is a recommended credit score?

Expert advice on choosing and using credit cards from BankrateCredit cards available through Bankrate.com and other websites typically have a range of credit scores suggested by the card issuer. On Bankrate, a Recommended Credit Score appears with each card review and on the “best of” category pages.

Keep in mind that your credit score alone doesn’t determine whether you’ll qualify for a particular card. Your annual income, overall credit history and other factors also play a part. Although the recommended credit score can give you a better idea of your chances for qualifying, every situation (like every applicant) is unique.

If you see a card you’re interested in, make sure that your credit score falls within the range listed in the card’s recommended credit score before applying. While you can’t know your exact odds of being approved for any credit card, your chances are obviously higher with a higher credit score.

A majority of U.S. consumers have good credit scores, with the average FICO Score at 710 and the average VantageScore at 688.

What are the credit score ranges? How many consumers are in them?
300 – 579 – Poor 16%
580 – 669 – Fair 17%
670 – 799 – Good 46%
800 – 850 – Excellent 21%

Source: Experian

Taking time to check that your score matches the card’s recommended score will help ensure that you have an easier time finding the right card for you.

Learn more with Bankrate

How to apply for a credit card and get approved

Although online applications are increasingly common, you might find yourself replying to an offer you receive in the mail or in person at your bank. Whether you apply in person or online, you’ll need to remember a few tips for how to apply for a credit card.

Check your credit score

Before you start filling out applications, or even shopping around, you should find out your current credit score.

Knowing your credit score will give you a better idea of:

  • Which cards you’re most likely to qualify for. On Bankrate.com, for example, each card offered by our partners has a Recommended Credit Score that you can use as a guideline.
  • 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.

Have your information ready

The obvious blanks you’ll need to fill include:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Address
  • Social Security number

You should also be ready to provide additional information such as:

  • Annual income
  • Monthly rent or mortgage payments
  • Current bank accounts

Look for personalized or pre-qualified offers

With a pre-qualified credit card offer, you can get an idea of your chances for approval without submitting an application that will trigger a hard credit inquiry.

This kind of offer has two benefits. One is the convenience of finding out how likely you are to be approved for the card, and the other is the lack of a hard credit check. Each hard credit check will temporarily knock your credit score down a few points. The pre-qualification process involves a soft credit check, so pre-qualified offers 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™. The CardMatch feature is designed to show you personalized offers from our partners that match up with your credit profile. Based on your information, you may receive special offers and pre-qualified matches. Be aware that a pre-qualified match is still not a guarantee of approval.

How long does it take to get a credit card?

The time it takes to go from application to approval to delivery can vary greatly. The response time to your application will depend on several factors, including:

  • With online applications, it could take as little as a few minutes or as long as several business days to find out (business days normally being Monday through Friday)
  • If you apply by mail, the issuer’s mailed response could take a week or more
  • The process will take longer if you incorrectly fill out your application form or the issuer needs more information

The worst-case scenario is 30 days. Federal regulations require that once your application is complete, the issuer has 30 days to notify you of approval or denial.

Is society cashing out? Plastic-digital shift surges in COVID era

Although the notion of a cashless society hasn’t yet become a reality, the coronavirus pandemic has further shown that “yet” is still the operative word.

Bankrate.com industry analyst Ted Rossman says that health concerns and lockdown conditions spurred by COVID-19 have accelerated the movement away from in-person cash transactions. Rossman notes that this trend existed pre-pandemic, so consumer demand remains the underlying factor.

“What’s really going to drive the movement away from cash is more consumer demand for — and access to — cards, bank accounts, financial apps and other digital alternatives,” he writes in his Bankrate column “Is COVID killing cash?”

While the pandemic didn’t ignite the fire, it certainly provided more oxygen for at least one type of non-cash transaction: contactless payments. Rossman cites data from credit card issuers and payment networks comparing the popularity of contactless credit cards before and after COVID-19 emerged on the global stage:

  • Between March 2019 and July 2020, the use of contactless payments grew 150 percent in the United States (Visa)
  • 58 percent of Americans who have used contactless payments are more likely to use them now than before COVID-19 (American Express)
  • 79 percent of consumers worldwide are now using contactless cards, with cleanliness and safety being their main concerns (Mastercard)

All in all, Rossman expects that payments for purchases both small and large will continue trending away from in-person cash transactions.

“Going cashless isn’t about switching from dipping a card to tapping a phone,” he writes. “It’s taking a transaction that used to be made with cash and making it digital.”

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:

APR

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 20 months before the regular APR applies.

Fees

A low cost of ownership 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

Auto-pay options, credit-building tools, fraud protection, insurance … these and other benefits help make a credit card useful, valuable and worth having.

Essential reading for credit card users

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:


The information about the Centurion® Card from American Express and J.P. Morgan Reserve Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.


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

Although no single card is best for everyone, there's a strong case to be made for the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. An exceptional rewards program, generous perks and overall value helped this card earn a 4.5/5 rating from Bankrate's scoring system, even with a $550 annual fee.

In addition to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, other highly rated cards include:

In the exclusive and elusive category, you'll find some credit cards not widely available to the general public. They include the Centurion® Card from American Express (also known as the Amex Black Card) and the J.P. Morgan Reserve Credit Card. These and other high-profile cards are typically reserved for very big spenders (think six figures annually) and private clients, sometimes by invitation only.

Quality credit cards aren't exclusive to people with excellent credit scores. Many credit cards for good credit are realistically within reach for someone with a 670 FICO Score, and the field isn't limited to no-frills cards. Depending on your credit score, annual income and other factors, you could qualify for a cash back, travel or rewards credit card that offers solid value and benefits.

When shopping for a credit card, look for each card's recommended credit score. You can also check for pre-qualified credit card offers to judge your odds of approval without the short-term dip in your credit score that accompanies a hard credit inquiry.

Most consumers probably have a “go-to” card that they use for everyday purchases, and for some of them that single card might be enough. However, you might benefit from an additional card if you:

  • Travel frequently. A general-purpose travel miles card or a co-branded hotel or airline card can partially offset the costs of airfare, lodging and other travel expenses.
  • Own a small business. Business credit cards have targeted rewards programs, business-specific benefits and higher credit limits than consumer cards.
  • Have the potential to earn cash back in specific categories. One example is a parent who could use a “designated supermarket card” that earns elevated cash back rates on grocery store purchases.
  • Want a card upgrade. You might find a new card that’s a step up from your current go-to card. In that case, you could keep the old card active and use it for a small, recurring expense (auto-paying for cloud storage or a streaming subscription, for example).

Although Experian estimates that the average American has four cards, the number of credit cards you should have depends entirely on your unique situation.

Having multiple cards is fine as long as it conclusively delivers benefits that you can use (miles, cash back, perks and so on). Just beware of burdening yourself with annual fees and hurting your credit score with excessive applications.

Points, miles and cash back are all forms of credit card rewards. Cash back is the simplest and most flexible type of rewards. Each eligible purchase you make earns a set rate of "cash," which can often be redeemed as a bank account deposit, statement credit or check. Points are usually earned by travel rewards cards and can then be redeemed for flights, hotel stays and more. Credit card miles can be redeemed for flights with a particular airline.

Read our full comparison of cash back, points and miles for an in-depth analysis.

The more creditworthy you are, the better your chances of meeting an issuer’s requirements. Issuers determine which credit cards you qualify for based on your creditworthiness — primarily your credit score. Top-tier credit cards generally require credit scores in the Good to Excellent range, measured by the FICO scoring model as 670-850.

Substantially improving your credit is a task months or years in the making. If your credit score falls short of the 670-850 FICO range, don’t wait to start building it up. Here are two steps you can take immediately:

  1. Pay your bills on time. It’s not just about avoiding late fees and interest charges. A good record of paying what you owe makes you look more responsible in the eyes of a lender.
  2. Keep your credit utilization on the low side. Think of credit utilization as the relationship between two numbers: the amount of credit you have available and how much of it you’re using. Try to keep the second number at 30 percent or less of the first, since good credit utilization shows lenders that you know how to avoid getting over-extended.

If you start improving a subpar credit score today, you could increase your chances of qualifying for a top credit card substantially.

A credit card application could have a negative (but temporary and relatively small) effect on your credit score. Getting approved for a credit card or other type of credit account requires some scrutiny of your track record as a borrower. The process can involve two types of credit checks:

  • A “hard” inquiry, when the lender pulls your credit report to make a decision about whether to lend to you.
  • A “soft” inquiry, when the lender checks your credit as part of a preliminary screening. Pre-qualified credit card offers involve soft credit inquiries, so keep an eye out for cards that offer pre-qualification.

A hard inquiry can subtract a few points from your credit score temporarily, while a soft inquiry usually has no effect. You’ll want to limit the number of hard inquiries on your credit report, so be as selective as possible about which credit cards you apply for.

So-called starter credit cards usually fall into one of two categories. The first is people with no credit history, usually young adults or college students. The second is for those who have developed a credit history without using credit cards, possibly through repaying a loan or keeping up with utility bills.

For the no-credit-history group, a card such as the Discover it® Secured Credit Card or OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card might be a good option. You'll need to put down a deposit with any secured card, but it's typically refundable after you've established a record of paying your monthly statement on time and in full.

The choices for first-timers who have established good or fair credit scores are broader. They include unsecured cards such as the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card and Journey Student Rewards from Capital One.

Choosing the right credit card is essential, whether it's your first or your 14th. For your first card, make sure to pick a card that matches up with your credit history but also your spending habits and goals (credit-building and convenience vs. earning rewards, and so on).


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. Send your questions about credit cards (and fantasy baseball) to bbridges@bankrate.com.

This editorial content is not provided or commissioned by any of the referenced financial institutions or companies. Opinions, analysis, reviews or recommendations expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any financial institutions or companies, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any such entity. All products or services are presented without warranty. Bankrate.com is an independent, advertising-supported publisher and comparison service. This post contains references to our partners, and Bankrate may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or your clicking on certain links posted on this website.

* 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.