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Best Credit Cards of 2016
Selecting the best credit card is a highly individualized process - everyone's spending habits will make one card better than another. In creating the following list, we examined each card's value proposition by studying their rewards rates, APRs, annual fees, bonuses, perks, and more. A true comparison is best made between cards that fit into their individual. As a result, the list below is organized into groups that provide the highest value to individuals seeking the best:
Rewards: for those who want the highest rewards for each dollar spent
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of the best rewards credit cards to keep in your wallet, due to its fantastic rewards program, high rewards rates, and fantastic welcome bonus. Using this card to pay for dining and travel purchases leads to rewards rates as high as 2.5%. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® is part of the Ultimate Rewards (UR) family of cards. Every dollar you spend using it earns you UR points which carry a value of approximately $0.0125 each. Additionally, you can transfer your UR points to a number of partner programs, including Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® and United MileagePlus®.
The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card offers great travel rewards redeemable for free stays at Starwood properties. You can also transfer your rewards points to one of 150 airline loyalty programs, to be redeemed for free flights! The Starwood Preferred Guest card is also the only hotel credit card whose rewards rate surpasses the Barclaycard Arrival Plus on general spending. We also like the card’s 30,000 bonus Starpoints® offer, which has a value of $660 or more. After the recent Starwood-Marriott merger, however, we do not know how much longer this credit card will stick around. More details about this card's fate are sure to surface in late 2016.
The Citi Double Cash is one of the best cash back credit cards, earning users a 2% rewards rate on all purchases. To get the full benefit of the card, you must pay your balance off in full each month, but that’s a practice we encourage all credit card users to follow. The card was released over 2 years ago, and there is still no other offer that beats its flat rate rewards. The Citi Double Cash Card is best for long-term savings, since having no sign-up bonus makes it bad for short-term gains. Be aware that until you spend $20,000 on your Citi Double Cash, the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card actually provides better value you get through the $100 cash bonus.
The Chase Ink Plus Business card is great for businesses big and small who find themselves flying at least once per year. With this card you will earn Ultimate Rewards points at fantastic rates on business expenditures (such as purchases at office supply stores and hotel accommodations). The rewards earned can be redeemed for travel arrangements through Chase’s UR portal at a value of $0.0125 per point. The Chase Ink Plus Business also offers one of the top bonuses out of all business credit cards – 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points, worth up to $750 when used for travel bookings through Ultimate Rewards.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card
$0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year then $95
2.2%+ Rewards Rate
All spending you do with this card can be redeemed back for free flights and free hotel stays – depending on how your spending is distributed, rewards rates can range between 2.2% and 4.4%. On top of this, the card offers a fantastic signup bonus worth up to $660, provided you spend at least $5,000 within the first 3 months of opening the account. Unlike other cards on this list, the SPG Business credit card will provide decent rewards across all of your business’ spending needs – if your business doesn't have only “classic” small business expenses (such as office supplies).
Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business
No Annual Fee
1.5% cash back on all business purchases
The Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business is made for businesses looking for pure Cash Back on all spending their. Not every business spends on hotel, travel, pens and paper. For those who have a variety of expenses, and want a card that simply gives them cash back, the Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business is the way to go. With this card you receive 1.5% back on every purchase, plus a $100 bonus if you spend at least $3,000 within the first 3 months of your account opening. This card also comes with no annual fee, making it ideal for businesses that don’t spend more than $12,000 a month.
Introductory offer of no fees on balances transferred within first 60 days; after that $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
The thing that separates the Chase Slate® from the rest of the pack is the 0% balance transfer fee, making it well suited for moving over large balances. While other cards on the market charge 3% for every balance transfer, with the Chase Slate you can save yourself the extra cash and use it to pay down your outstanding balance even faster. The Chase Slate® Credit Card gives users 0% APR on balance transfers for the first 15 months an account is open. Plus, this card has recently started offering free credit score reports, giving you ideal tools to build up your FICO score.
The Citi Simplicity card offers users 21 months of 0% APR on balance transfers – that’s the longest time available of any credit card on the market. If you opt for this card you have up to 4 months to transfer a balance over. The 18 month period begins after you make your first transfer. The card also forgives users on the first late payment they make, making it perfect for anyone who might have trouble paying a balance when it’s due.
If you find that your business needs to transfer a balance in order to avoid interest payments, the Ink Cash® Business Credit Card is one of the best credit cards for you. It offers 0% intro APR on balance transfers for the first 12 billing cycles, and a 3% fee on all balances transferred. Additionally, what makes this the best credit card for businesses in need of balance transfers is the fact that it has no annual fee. If you are carrying a balance and worrying about saving costs, you don’t want your credit card to become an additional expense. Plus, once your balance is paid off, you’re left with a great cash back credit card for your business, which can give you up to 5% off certain purchases.
The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® is great for students for a number of reasons - including decent rewards, and great credit tools. The card offers a flat 1.25% rewards rate on all purchases, as long as you remember to pay your bills on time (if you're late, you earn just 1% back). The Journey® credit card also gives students access to their FICO score, through the Capital One® Credit Tracker. This tool allows cardholders to monitor their credit, see what factors are impacting it, as well as run simulations to see how an action might affect their score. This is particularly valuable to students who are just now beginning to learn about credit histories.
Discover it® for Students gives 5% off on certain categories of spending that change throughout the year, up to a quarterly maximum. We recommend checking out the card's bonus category calendar to see if the categories match up with your spending patterns. If you are not making purchases in the bonus categories, this card only offers 1% back - which is not a good value. While the Discover it® for Students card doesn't have a traditional signup bonus, it makes up for it in two ways. Firstly, the card offers cash back incentives for students with good grades ($20 each year your GPA is a 3.0 or higher, for up to 5 years). Secondly, new cardmembers will have their total cash back rewards doubled at the end of their first year - this puts the Discover it® for Students above most cards, at least for that first year you hold onto it.
The Citi ThankYou Preferred card is great for college students looking to earn rewards points they can later redeem for flights and gift cards though the latter offers the worst value. Cardholders have more redemption options, such as cash back and Amazon.com purchases – we recommend staying away from these options as they give your points sub-par value (<$0.01). You can also get 2,500 bonus ThankYou points after spending $500 within the first 3 months of card membership – a $20 value.
As one of the top rewards cards overall, the SPG credit card gives you some of the best value on hotel stays, for an annual fee of $95 (waived the first year). On top of giving fantastic rewards for spending at hotels, the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card also has decent general spending rewards (2.2%), making it a good all-around credit card. As long as you don't mind staying loyal to the Starwood brand, this card offers some of the highest savings on hotels, of any credit card on the market.
A lot of hotel-specific cards only provide good value as long as your spending skews towards their specific brand. With the Barclaycard Arrival Plus all your spending is rewarded equally well (a 2.1% rewards rate on travel expenses). One of the best things about the Barclaycard Arrival plus is the freedom it affords you. All the spending rewards miles you earn can be redeemed as statement credit on all travel related expenses – with this card you are never tied to a single hotel chain or brand.
Other than being rewarded for Hyatt purchases, this credit card gives 2 points for every $1 spent at restaurants, airline tickets purchased directly from the airline and at car rental agencies – expenses many travelers will face. The card’s biggest value-proposition is the signing bonus – 2 free night stays at a Hyatt property. That’s a potential $1,000 value if you book the right rooms using your bonus. Additionally, each year after that you will receive one free night at any category 1-4 hotel. This can easily cover the card’s $75 annual fee, and then some!
The Citi Double Cash offers unlimited 2% back on all purchases. This is the highest rewards rate you can get for a cash back card, without rotating categories. If you are interested in a simple to use credit card, and not want to worry about redeeming points then this is your best option. Note that to get the full 2% cash back, you must pay off your credit card balance in full each month - otherwise you will only get 1% back. Since there are no bonuses offered by the card, it will take $20,000 of spending before this card eclipses the next card on our list.
The best immediate cash back savings, for individuals who can spend $500 in the first 3 months their account is open. If you meet the aforementioned spending requirement you will receive $100 worth of cash back credit. Outside of this, the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers 1.5% cash back on all other purchases, which is nothing to sneeze at. There is no other credit card that offers this kind of sign-up bonus, accompanied by a fixed cash back rate as high as the Quicksilver®'s. Be sure not to confused this card with the Capital One QuicksilverOne Credit Card. The latter offers the same benefits, but comes with an annual fee.
The Chase Freedom card gives users 5% back on certain categories throughout the year, and 1% back on everything else. If you were to take advantage of the 5% offer, the Chase Freedom gives unparalleled savings – though it is capped at $75 per quarter, or $300 per year. The Chase Freedom credit card has some of the most unique partnerships of any rotating category card. For Q2 2015, for instance, cardholders received 5% back on purchases at H&M – this was one of the only discounts available for the chain, outside of in-store sales.
If you’re traveling overseas, and find yourself having to use your credit card you will be glad to have the Barclaycard Arrival Plus with you, as many places will not accept ordinary magnetic strip credit cards. Very few cards issued in the U.S. offer chip & pin EMV technology, which is used widely across Europe and the rest of the world. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus is one of the few cards that supports this tech. On top of being accepted everywhere, the card will not cost you anything extra for using it abroad. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus has no foreign exchange fee, whereas most U.S. credit cards will charge users 3% whenever using their card abroad.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is an all-around great card, earning you points to one of the highest valued rewards programs around. As an added benefit, the card comes with no foreign exchange fees, and an EMV chip installed (though it of the chip & signature variety). Using this card for dining and travel expenses is a great way to earn free flights. You will get the best possible value if you book all your flights using Chase's UR portal.
The BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card is one of the few 'no annual fee' credit cards to also not charge a foreign transaction fee. If a consumer’s spending is on the lower side of things, and they don’t feel like paying upwards of $95 for a travel rewards credit card, the Bank Americard Travel Rewards will provide the best value – especially when used abroad. As the other cards on this list, this card also sports an EMV chip (chip & signature).
Finding The Best Credit Card Specifically For You
In order to find out which credit card is truly best for the way in which you spend, you should make use of our tool below. Enter your estimated monthly spending per category, and we will do all the math for you - calculating which credit cards will yield you the highest returns.
Savings Through (Through 24 Months)
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Named a 'Best Credit Card' for Travel Rewards by MONEY Magazine
2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
$0 foreign transaction fees, plus chip-enabled for enhanced security and wider acceptance when used at a chip card reader
1:1 point transfer to leading frequent travel programs at full value - that means 1,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points equal 1,000 partner miles/points
Travel and shop with confidence with premium Travel and Purchase Protection Benefits, including Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Purchase Protection and more
24/7 direct access to dedicated customer service specialists
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
3X miles for every dollar spent on eligible US Airways and American Airlines purchases. Earn 2X miles for every dollar spent on eligible hotels and car rentals. 1x mile for every 1 dollar spent on all other purchases.
Apply for Global Entry with TSA Pre_™ and, upon approval, experience expedited, more efficient security screenings, moving you smoothly through U.S. customs when returning from traveling abroad.
Pay for the $100 Global Entry application fee with your card and you’ll automatically receive a $100 statement credit 2-3 weeks after your transaction.
* See the online credit card application for details about terms and conditions. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. When you click on the "Apply Now" button, you can review the credit card terms and conditions on the issuer's website.
Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.
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How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.