The Best Credit Cards

Our favorite cards to suit every lifestyle ​
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Philip Palermo

By Philip Palermo Lead Senior Editor – For the Home

Philip Palermo leads the For the Home category at Reviews.com, including smart home and home security services. Since November 2015, he’s worn a number of hats at Reviews.com, but these days, Philip helps manage the day-to-day editorial content workflow. He’s worked at Engadget, The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Big Think, and several local/regional newspapers. Philip’s also been known to use a lot of spreadsheets to gauge how much value he’s getting out of his various services and subscriptions.

The Best Credit Cards

With more than 1,500 credit cards available to consumers, offering everything from airline miles to double cash back on NASCAR purchases, choosing a credit card can be overwhelming. Dan Crimmins, financial coach with Crimmins Wealth Management and author of award-winning financial blog Roots of Wealth, suggests “reviewing your spending habits, then getting the best card for your lifestyle.” However, everyone has different spending habits and, with that in mind, we looked at more than 100 cards; each with their own perks, rates, fees, and offers. In addition to that, we consulted consumer studies, experts, and compared rewards and fees to bring you seven solid credit card options for a variety of spending habits and preferences.

The 7 Best Credit Cards for 2019

The Best Credit Cards: Summed Up

Annual Fee
APR
Welcome Offer
Foreign Transaction Fee
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Best for Cash Back
$95
0% intro for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then 14.49% to 25.49% variable
$300 statement credit after spending $1,000 or more in the first three months
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Best for Travel
$0 for the first year, $95 after that
17.24% to 24.49% variable
50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months
Discover it® Cash Back
Best First Credit Card
$0
0% intro for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers, then 13.49% – 24.49% variable
Dollar-for-dollar match on cash-back earned the first year
Chase Slate®
Best for Balance Transfers
$0
0% for the first 15 months, then 16.99%-25.74%
N/A
Discover it® Secured
Best for Bad Credit
$0
24.49% variable
Dollar-for-dollar match on cash-back earned the first year
Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Best for Fair Credit
$39
26.74% variable
N/A
Discover it® Student Cash Back
Best for Students
$0
0% intro APR for first 6 months on purchases, then 19.49% variable
Dollar-for-dollar match on cash-back earned the first year

Best for Cash Back
American Express
American Express


Availability can vary, and our quote tool may not include all providers in your area.

Pros

  • Cash back rewards
    Added benefits and services

Cons

  • Acceptance rate
    Added fees, fewer ways to redeem

Why we chose it

Cash back rewards

When most people think “best credit card,” they think rewards. When it comes to getting the most rewards possible, especially if you have a large family to feed or practically live on the road, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is hard to beat. You’ll get 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets for up to $6,000 per year (then 1% thereafter), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit expenses (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more), and 1% cash back on everything else. What’s more, you’ll also get a $300 statement credit after spending $1,000 within the first three months of opening your account.

Travel and shopping benefits

Gas and groceries aside, American Express lets you feel secure when using the card for travel and online purchases (the company won’t hold you accountable for fraudulent charges). In fact, assistance with medical, legal, or financial services when you’re miles away from home is only a phone call away with American Express’ Global Assist® Hotline. The travel perks don’t stop there, though, as Amex provides travel accident and car rental loss and damage insurance to make sure you’re covered.

Points to consider

Acceptance rate

You might want to think about carrying backup payment methods with you if this Amex credit card sounds appealing. Although 3 million more merchants started accepting American Express in 2017 and 2018, it’s still not accepted at all stores. American Express actually has one of the lowest merchant acceptance rates across the U.S.

Added fees, fewer ways to redeem

The stronger the rewards, the higher the annual fees — that’s usually the way it goes. American Express charges you for its impressive 6% cash back with a $95 annual fee. Think about it this way: You need to make $1,584 in supermarket purchases before your 6% cash back equals the card’s $95 annual fee. You could also wipe out the cost of that annual fee with the card’s $300 bonus after putting $1,000 on your Blue Cash Preferred® Card within the first three months of opening your account. The bottom line is to make sure you could actually spend the maximum amount at the supermarket and use your Amex card when filling up your gas tank — otherwise, you might not be getting the most out of your rewards program.

You can only redeem your cash back via statement credits with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card. This means you’ll only be able to use these earnings to pay off purchases you’ve already made on your card. So if you want to have the option to turn this cash into a gift card or deposit, this isn’t the credit card for you.

Best for Travel
Capital One
Capital One


Availability can vary, and our quote tool may not include all providers in your area.

Pros

  • Mile earning potential
    Sign-up bonus
    Noteworthy travel perks

Cons

  • Travel insurance shortcomings

Why we chose it

Mile earning potential

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is our pick for the best travel credit card, mainly because of its high earning potential in terms of rewards. You get an unlimited 2x the miles on every purchase (one mile is equal to one cent, roughly), so this card gives you more opportunities to earn redeemable miles toward travel expenses like airfare and hotel bookings. In fact, you can earn 10x miles when you pay for any of the thousands of participating hotels through Hotels.com/venture.

Sign-up bonus

Capital One makes it easier than the competition to obtain the sign-up bonus on this card. You only have to spend $3,000 within the first three months of opening your account to earn a hefty 50,000 bonus miles (a $500 value). To compare, one of our other travel card contenders requires you to spend $4,000 within the same amount of time to receive the same amount of points.

Travel perks

While this isn’t a co-branded card that offers perks specific to a certain airline, it does offer universal benefits that can be applied to various forms of travel. With the Venture Rewards card, you’ll get Visa Signature® Benefits, and this includes shopping discounts, extended warranty coverage, auto rental collision coverage, a 24/7 concierge service, and complimentary upgrades and savings with hotel, resort, and spa bookings. Whether you want to use your miles as soon as you can or save them for a dream vacation, Capital One has you covered. Better still, all of the miles you earn won’t expire for the life of your account, and there’s no limit on how many you can earn.

In June of 2018, Capital One included another travel perk to help ease the airport entry process for frequent flyers — if you use your Venture card to pay for the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees, Capital One will give you a rebate.

Points to consider

Travel insurance shortcomings

While the Visa Signature® Benefits are designed to make traveling easier, its insurance falls short. Capital One does offer standard protection for travel accidents, but unfortunately, you’re out of luck when it comes to trip cancellation reimbursement. If you lose your luggage, Capital One will reimburse you up to $3,000 per trip, but there’s a laundry list of items that are not covered (read: contact lenses, glasses, animals, sporting equipment, cameras, “business items,” cell phones, art objects, and more). We like knowing that our hard-earned miles — and personal belongings — are fully protected.

Best First Credit Card
Discover
Discover


Availability can vary, and our quote tool may not include all providers in your area.

Pros

  • Good for starters
    Variety of spending categories, perks

Cons

  • Quarterly maximum
    Interest rate

Why we chose it

Good for starters

The Discover it® Cash Back card is a solid choice if you’ve never had a credit card or are still learning how things work — it actually holds your hand on a few things. There’s no annual fee, and you won’t be penalized for your first late fee — Discover won’t raise your APR, and it won’t charge you. You can also track your FICO score and learn what factors affect your credit score, which is helpful in setting the stage for healthy spending habits, especially for new cardholders.

This card does require a good credit score, so the best way to start building credit is to become an authorized user on someone else’s account and make payments on time.

Variety of spending categories, perks

Discover offers 5% cash back on participating companies every quarter, and the categories include gas stations, wholesale clubs, grocery stores, restaurants, and even Amazon.com. Discover also gives you 1% cash back on all other purchases made. Its standout feature, though, is the dollar-for-dollar match on all the cash back earnings you receive within your first year of opening the account. For those who plan on hitting the quarterly maximum every time, this perk could bring in substantial savings.

Points to consider

Quarterly maximum

With some rotating cash back credit cards, you know what to expect in terms of a quarterly maximum, or how much you can spend before the company stops giving you the rewards rate. For example, the Chase Freedom® credit card has a set limit of $1,500 every quarter. Discover will fully disclose its limit, too, but it might change from quarter to quarter. This is one more thing we’d rather not have to keep track of.

Interest rate

While the card’s 13.49%-24.49% variable range is competitive for the type of card, there is a possibility you could pay a high interest rate — especially for new cardholders or those with lower credit scores. If you are new and forget to make a few payments on time, a potentially high interest rate only hurts your wallet (and your credit score) more.

Best for Balance Transfers
Chase
Chase


Availability can vary, and our quote tool may not include all providers in your area.

Pros

  • Pay off debt interest-free (for a limited time) Low fees

Cons

  • No spending rewards Good credit score

Why we chose it

Pay off debt interest-free (for a limited time)

If you’re carrying credit card debt, it’s time to transfer that balance to a card that’ll let you pay it off without paying interest. With Chase Slate®, you get fee-free balance transfers for the first 60 days of opening your account. This is significant due to the fact that most cards charge a 3% or 5% balance transfer fee, which means that you’ll pay $30 to $50 in fees for every $1,000 you transfer. It is important to note, though, that after the 60 days, Chase Slate® charges a 5% balance transfer fee.

Low fees

Another key factor in the Chase Slate® appeal is its 15-month 0% APR on both purchases and balance transfers — with this, you can knock out a significant chunk of your debt without paying any interest or worrying about an annual fee. Plus, you’ll get monthly access to your FICO score as well as tools to help you understand, as Chase puts it, “the five main attributes that drive your credit health.” Note: If your outstanding credit card balance is on a Chase card, you won’t be able to transfer it to the Chase Slate®.

Points to consider

No spending rewards

If you’re looking for a card that will earn you points, miles, or cash back from spending money on frequent purchases, this is not the card for you. While the low fees and no penalty APR feature are great for those prone to making late payments, those who want to spend to earn should look elsewhere.

Good credit score

Another caveat is that you have to have a good (or average-to-excellent) credit score to obtain this card. If this card appeals to you for its low fees and no penalty APR, it might be worthwhile to consider if you’re someone who forgets a payment every now and then — and if you are, build your credit score by making payments on time and in full before considering this card.

Best for Bad Credit
Discover
Discover


Availability can vary, and our quote tool may not include all providers in your area.

Pros

  • Rewards and introductory bonus
    Cash back redemption options
    Credit-building incentives

Cons

  • Spending restrictions

Why we chose it

Rewards and introductory bonus

The Discover it® Secured card offers 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants for up to $1,000 each quarter and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Plus, Discover will match your earnings dollar-for-dollar at the end of your first year.

Cash back redemption options

To redeem your cash back, Discover lets you do this in the form of a credit to your account, an electronic deposit into your bank account, via CashBack Bonus at Amazon, or a charitable donation. With the card’s strong rewards and straightforward redemption processes, you can focus more on what matters — like actually building your credit score — rather than worrying whether you’re getting the maximum value out of your card.

Credit-building incentives

Forewarning: This card does possess a high interest rate, but we didn’t consider this a bad thing, especially for those trying to improve their credit score. Paying interest is avoidable, and the best way to evade the 24.49% variable rate is to make payments on time and in full. Although using this as a pro seems contradictory for someone who is trying to build credit, it actually urges spenders to pay their bills.

Plus, Discover also practices forgiveness by waiving the first late fee — your interest rate won’t rise after making a late payment, either.

Points to consider

Spending restrictions

To bolster your trustworthiness in the eyes of Discover, you have to make at least a $200 security deposit to open your account — your security deposit will equal your line of credit. Because of this, your line of credit is determined on your income and ability to pay and maxes out at a low $2,500. While this may put a cap on your spending potential, it isn’t completely negative. In fact, this limit will keep you from holding a large balance that could eventually hurt your credit score.

Never fear — you won’t be stuck here with a low limit and hand-holding restrictions. After eight months, Discover will monitor your account to see if you’re eligible for an upgrade.

Best for Fair Credit
Capital One
Capital One


Availability can vary, and our quote tool may not include all providers in your area.

Pros

  • Cash back rewards and other benefits
    Good for building credit

Cons

  • Interest rate

Why we chose it

Cash back rewards and other benefits

The Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card gives you unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, and it carries a pretty reasonable $39 annual fee. You’ll also get Platinum Mastercard® Benefits, which include extended warranty coverage, auto rental and travel accident insurance, 24/7 assistance programs, and price protection. So if you’re someone with an average credit level looking for a blend of solid rewards, benefits, and manageable fees, this is the card for you.

Good for building credit

The real purpose of the QuicksilverOne® is to help you improve your credit so you become eligible for one of those high-rewards cards. Use Capital One’s free CreditWise® app, which gives you unlimited access to your TransUnion VantageScore 3.0 credit score and helps you plan strategies to improve your rating. See how quickly you can take it from fair to good.

Points to consider

Interest rate

This card holds a high interest rate of 26.74% variable — that’s higher than any of our other contenders. While this may incentivize paying off your credit card on time and in full, this card offers little forgiveness in terms of interest if you forget to make a payment or two.

Best for Students
Discover
Discover


Availability can vary, and our quote tool may not include all providers in your area.

Pros

  • Offers the same benefits as Discover it® Cash Back
    Good Grades Rewards

Cons

  • Rewards categories
    Fees

Why we chose it

Offers the same benefits as Discover it® Cash Back

If you’re a college student and like what our other Discover cash back card offers, you’ll be even more attracted to this one. Both cards offer the same core benefits and cash back percentages, except this one is tailored to students.

Good Grades Rewards

Your parents and distant relatives are no longer the only parties giving you money for making good grades. With this student card, Discover helps you out through the entirety of your college career by giving you an extra $20 for completing a school year with a 3.0 GPA or above, for up to five years.

Points to consider

Rewards categories

It’s important to consider whether you would actually shop at the stores participating in the 5% cash back bonus program during a particular quarter. For example, if you are a student and don’t own a car or aren’t able to keep your vehicle with you on campus, would you really be able to maximize rewards earnings if Discover offered 5% cash back on gas during a quarter that coincided with a semester? This is something only you can decide. We suggest looking at Discover’s benefits calendar first to see if you can truly maximize earnings with its offers.

Fees

While the fees associated with this card are similar to our other picks for newer cardholders or those who are trying to build credit, it is important to remember that they exist — especially as a busy college student. If you’re short on cash and want to draw from your credit limit, Discover charges you either 10% or 5% of the amount of each cash advance (whichever is greater). And if you do forget to make a payment, your first time is penalty-free, but any other time after that will cost you $39.

How We Chose the Best Credit Cards

Credit cards for most spenders

According to the 2018 U.S. Consumer Payment Study, most people prefer using their credit cards for online shopping, while a significant, albeit lower, portion reported using credit cards at gas stations and supermarkets (23%-30%). Debit still reigned as the supreme payment method over those everyday purchases as well as bill or personal payments.

So what did these trends tell us? That most people use their credit cards to make pricier purchases for reasons possibly including not being ready to pay, added security (like protection against fraudulent charges, especially when online shopping), and wanting to maximize the card’s rewards program offerings (the more money spent, the more rewards earned). This is why we wanted to cast a wide net to find cards that will both satisfy the needs of most cardholders and help cover the basics with those everyday purchases. We spent over four months researching 100-plus credit cards and determined seven categories we think will appeal to the most people. Then we selected the standout cards in each of those categories.

Strong rewards and benefits

Most people like being rewarded for spending: In fact, according to the 2018 U.S. Consumer Payment Study, the most attractive feature reported among cardholders was a rewards program. In terms of hard numbers, 79 percent of people cited rewards as a determining factor in choosing one credit card over another, and 80 percent of cardholders want cash rebates. We took this to mean that most people look for credit cards that will reward them on all of the purchases they make — not just those made in niche categories like travel and dining.

We do realize that what’s best for most might not be right for the individual — while most people do want cash back, we didn’t overlook the other categories with valuable perks. Some of our picks don’t even offer a rewards program — instead, they might offer lower fees or a 0% interest rate for a certain amount of time. Needless to say, our vetting process included finding the best credit cards for all types of spenders with different levels of credit and spending habits.

Rates and fees comparisons

We dissected pricing details and offers to look for sneaky fees that could potentially counteract any rewards earnings. We found a few with monthly “servicing fees” and other credit cards that charged fees to receive paper statements by mail. If you’re paying extra fees (including a high annual fee) and aren’t even scratching the surface of a rewards maximum, you’re not getting the best value (and the credit card you’re using probably isn’t right for you, either). We looked for cards with reasonable fee-to-rewards ratios — but, usually, the greater the rewards, the higher the fees. The key is to know what kind of shopper you are and whether you’ll take full advantage of those rewards offered — we’re just here to get you started.

How to find the best credit cards for you

Conduct your own credit cards comparison

Once you’ve decided what type of shopper you are and whether you need a card that will reward you for frequent travel, help build your credit score, or reflect your shopaholic tendencies, it’s best to then see how much you spend and where you spend it within a certain amount of time. From there, see how the cards you like stack up to your projected spending habits. What kind of credit line do you need? What do the fees look like, and will they negate any potential rewards? We suggest reading the terms and conditions of each card before signing anything.

Check your credit score

Get to know your credit score and how to improve it. If one of our top picks isn’t under “best for bad credit” or “best for fair credit,” assume the card requires a good or excellent score. Before you apply for any credit cards, look up your own credit score and figure out where you fall.

The Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) uses this scoring method:

Exceptional: 800+

Very good: 740 – 799

Good: 670 – 739

Fair: 580 – 669

Poor: <580

Look at the interest rates

If you make your payments on time and don’t keep a balance, you won’t have to worry about paying interest. When you get a credit card, your annual percentage rate (APR) will be based on your credit score — the higher your credit score, the less you’ll have to pay in interest. Be sure to check the cards’ APR ranges and gauge where you might fall before becoming too invested in one particular card.

Remember, it might not be possible to pay off your balance in full and on time every time. Because of this, it’s definitely worthwhile to do the math and make sure any potential interest fees won’t negate your rewards earnings.

Research mobile banking app ratings

More lenders are transitioning to offering mobile services more now than ever, as over 80% of cardholders use their phones to manage transactions. This could be a deal breaker, especially if a lender’s mobile app is known for glitches. If you need to report a lost or stolen card or manage a fraudulent charge, the last thing you need to get in your way is an unresponsive or buggy app. We suggest reading the app’s ratings and seeing what other people like and dislike about the interface and services.

Credit cards FAQ

Our Other Credit Card Reviews

Are you a seasoned cardholder looking for more in-depth information? Are you looking to build your credit score or find your very first credit card? Regardless of where you are in your credit card journey, we’re here to help. Check out our other credit card reviews for more details.

Editorial disclosure: The views and opinions expressed within this page belong solely to Reviews.com and have not been reviewed or approved by any affiliate or bank. The information provided is accurate as of the date of the review.