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.

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.

Best for simple 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
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% intro on purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)

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 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.
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% for 14 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% for 14 months
Regular APR:
11.99% - 22.99% Variable

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 overall versatility

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% on travel purchased through Chase. Earn 3% on dining at restaurants 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.
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
14.99 - 23.74% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants 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

15 billing cycles of intro APR | Choice of cash back category

Bank of America 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 Bank of America's secure website

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases). Earn automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases). Earn unlimited 1% on all other purchases.
Welcome Offer:
$200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any BTs made in the first 60 days. A 3% fee (min. $10) applies.
Regular APR:
13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Card Details

  • No annual fee
  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases
  • 0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers
  • No expiration on rewards
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% - 75% more cash back on every purchase
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best Cash Back Cards

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 a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
Annual Fee:
$0 introductory annual fee for one year, then $95.
Purchase Intro APR:
0% on purchases for 12 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
13.99%-23.99% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for one 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.
  • 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 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 unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment Earn 2% at grocery stores 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
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% intro on purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)

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 and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases
  • 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 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
Annual Fee:
$0
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
Regular APR:
16.49%-24.49% (Variable)

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

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:
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
Annual Fee:
$95
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
15.99%-22.99% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • 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, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 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:
Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Annual Fee:
$95
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
17.24% - 24.49% (Variable)

Card Details

  • Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 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—from vacation rentals to car rentals and more. Plus transfer your miles to over 10+ travel loyalty programs
  • No foreign transaction fees
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best No Annual Fee 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
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
12.99% - 26.99% (Variable)

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.
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% for 6 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
10.99% for 6 months
Regular APR:
12.99% - 21.99% Variable

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 simple 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
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% intro on purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)

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 Cards for Good Credit

Best for low interest and low cost

Upgrade 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 Upgrade's secure website

Upgrade Visa® Card with Cash Rewards

Rewards Rate:
Earn 1.5% unlimited cash back on card purchases every time you make a payment
Welcome Offer:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
8.99% - 29.99% APR

Card Details

  • Earn 1.5% unlimited cash back on card purchases every time you make a payment
  • Combine the flexibility of a card with the low cost and predictability of a loan
  • $0 fees - $0 annual fee, $0 activation fees, $0 maintenance fees
  • No touch payments with contactless technology built in
  • See if you qualify in minutes without hurting your credit score
  • Access to a virtual card while you wait for your card to arrive in the mail
  • Great for large purchases with predictable payments you can budget for
  • Mobile app to access your account anytime, anywhere
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud liability

Best Cards for Fair Credit

Best for building up your credit line

Capital One 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 Capital One's secure website

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

Rewards Rate:
N/A
Welcome Offer:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
26.99% (Variable)

Card Details

  • Pay no annual fee
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • Check out quickly and securely with a contactless card, without touching a terminal or handing your card to a cashier. Just hover your card over a contactless reader, wait for the confirmation, and you're all set
  • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Help build your credit through responsible use of a card like this
Terms and Restrictions Apply

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® Visa® for Rebuilding Credit

Rewards Rate:
Get 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchases including gas, groceries, and services such as mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV, terms apply.
Welcome Offer:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$0 - $99
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
17.99% to 23.99% Variable

Card Details

  • Looking to rebuild credit? We report to the major credit bureaus monthly
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Automatic reviews for credit line increase opportunities
  • Take advantage of free online access to your Experian credit score and credit report summary so you can track the key factors impacting your credit health. Terms apply.
  • Get 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchases including gas, groceries, and services such as mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV, 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
  • 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
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
18.74% Variable

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: Best hotel perks you can get with a credit card

Hotel rewards credit card holders can get access to room upgrades, late checkout, free breakfast, lounge access, free nights and complimentary elite status at many properties. Learn more about these perks and which credit cards offer them in the full article by industry expert, Stephanie Zito.


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.

In this guide:

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.

When you’re approved for a credit card, you get a credit limit, which is the maximum dollar amount you can borrow on your card. As you make purchases, your available credit decreases. Then, 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.

With a credit card, you have the option to carry a balance from month to month. That is, you can make the minimum payment, rather than paying your balance in full. Carrying a balance allows the freedom of spreading out payments over time, but you will incur interest charges.

Physically, credit cards are flat, thin pieces of plastic or metal that can be scanned by electronic readers. You can also use them for digital transactions by entering your account number and other identifying information into an online portal.

Credit cards are typically issued by banks and financial services companies. According to the American Bankers Association, the number of open credit card accounts in the United States has reached an estimated 370 million.

Is now a good time to get a credit card?

Economic uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic caused some significant developments in credit cards last year. Many issuers even began offering assistance programs that included payment relief and deferred interest charges.

Given the economic volatility of the past year, you have good reason to wonder if now is a good time to get a credit card. Although credit card predictions for 2021 paint a somewhat optimistic picture, here are three things to keep in mind:

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, you might have trouble qualifying for some credit cards. Work on improving your credit score before opening any new credit accounts.

Your debt situation

Although credit card balances went down by a combined $76 billion nationwide in the second quarter of 2020, balances on other types of debt — such as auto loans and student loans — showed increases. 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.

Finding a card that matches your spending habits

A number of credit card issuers have updated their rewards programs with more opportunities to earn cash back, miles or points on everyday purchases such as gas and groceries. These changes potentially increase the value you could get out of a card even if your current lifestyle is more smart-shopping homebody than big-spending world traveler.

The matter of whether now is a good time to get a credit card ultimately comes down to your personal financial situation and the choice of cards available to you. Before you start shopping for a new card, take the time to evaluate your credit score and current debt. If your finances are in good shape, then you can try to find a card that matches up with your spending habits and goals.

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.

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 for your credit card, do you practice the kind of financial habits that make you a responsible user of credit?

When credit cards are used responsibly and to their full potential, they can 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 easier 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 a credit card by credit score

If you want to take your search one level deeper, you can also factor in comparing the best credit card offers.

Generally speaking, the category method is well-suited for people with a solid credit history and a specific goal in mind: earning cash back, collecting points or miles to reduce the cost of travel and so on.

The credit score might work well for two types of people: one, those who are focused on building their credit history or improving their credit score; and two, those who already have a good or excellent credit score and would like to upgrade from their current card and possibly qualify for a lower annual percentage rate (annual percentage rate).

Choosing a credit card by category

If you’re choosing a card according to category, you’re probably interested in a card with a rewards program 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
  • TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee credits
  • Baggage 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.

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.

Read more: Should you carry a balance on a 0% APR credit card?

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 a credit card by credit score

Your credit score helps determine your qualifications for credit cards and other types of loans. Although scores can vary by credit bureau, credit card issuers and online marketplaces commonly use recommended credit scores to help consumers get an idea of which cards they might qualify for.

For example, each credit card available through Bankrate.com has a recommended credit score, with the range of scores defined as:

A fifth category, No Credit History, covers credit cards for students and others who have little or no experience in using credit.

Check your score before you begin

Checking your credit score can be surprisingly easy, and it might not even cost you anything. Your options include:

  • The three major U.S. credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion
  • The Fair Isaac Corporation, creator of the FICO score
  • Your bank or credit union
  • Credit card issuers, through the FICO Score Open Access program

Knowing your score will give you a better idea of which cards are within your reach, credit-wise.

Focus on your goals as a user of credit

If you choose a card according to your credit score, it’s helpful to keep some objectives in mind.

  • No credit history — To establish your credit profile
  • Bad credit or fair credit — To improve your credit score
  • Good credit or excellent credit — To take advantage of rewards programs and lower APRs as you responsibly maintain your credit score

Even if you already have good credit, achieving an excellent credit score is a worthwhile pursuit. The higher your credit score, the more likely you are to receive favorable terms on any kind of credit application — from cards to car loans to mortgages.

Learn more: How to get an 800 credit score

How to choose 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:

  • 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, issuers sometimes add benefits that current cardholders are eligible for. When parts of the country began facing travel restrictions, several issuers updated their rewards programs to reflect the fact that many travelers had become homebodies.

Choosing a credit card by the best offer is similar to choosing a card by the type of consumer you are. You’ll need to determine whether the sign-up bonus, discounts or other incentives 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.

A look at some of today’s best credit card offers

Credit card 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. The best offers announced in recent months include:

Rewards

Consumers who apply for the American Express® Gold Card or The Platinum Card® from American Express on Resy.com are eligible for new welcome offers.

The Gold card offer is 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 6 months. The welcome offer for the Platinum card is 75,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first 6 months. New owners of the Platinum card also earn 10X Membership Rewards points at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets on the first $15,000 in combined spending during their first 6 months of Card Membership.

Cash back

New cardholders of the Chase Freedom Flex℠, launched in late 2020, and Chase Freedom Unlimited® are eligible for a sign-up bonus of $200 after spending $500 in the first three months from account opening. The bonus was previously $150.

The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express has a new welcome offer: Earn $200 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 3 months.

Travel

New cardholders of the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card can earn 100,000 bonus miles when they spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if they spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you’ll now earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, plus a statement credit of up to $50 toward grocery store purchases (one-time statement credit: available for 12 months from account opening).

Chase has also added grocery store purchases as a limited-time rewards category for new and existing Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders. The offer ends September 30, 2021.

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. 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 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 pre-qualified offers is by using tools like CardMatch™. The CardMatch feature is designed to show you the best credit card offers from our partners that you’re pre-qualified for. Results of your CardMatch search provide a summary of individual card offers and links to apply on the issuer’s secure website.

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.

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.

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 5-star 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.