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What Are The Best Credit Cards of 2018?

Find the Best Credit Card for You

What kind of card do you want?

What's your credit score?

Our team sorted through 401 credit cards to identify the top ones available today. For the 4th straight year, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card ranks as the number one choice for most consumers due to its industry-leading rewards and terms. For readers who have more specific needs, like dealing with outstanding debt or limited credit score, we've also included our recommendations for more niche card categories.

Recommended Cards

Best ForCredit NeededAnnual Fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardBest for Most PeopleExcellent$95 ($0 first year)
Discover it® Cash BackCash BackGood/Excellent$0
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit CardAirline MilesGood$75
Chase Slate®Balance TransfersGood/Excellent$0
Discover it® Student Cash BackStudentsFair$0
Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit CardFair & Average CreditFair$39
Discover it® SecuredBad or No CreditPoor$0

Recommended Cards

Best ForAnnual Fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardBest for Most People$95 ($0 first year)
Discover it® Cash BackCash Back$0
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit CardAirline Miles$75
Chase Slate®Balance Transfers$0
Discover it® Student Cash BackStudents$0
Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit CardFair & Average Credit$39
Discover it® SecuredBad or No Credit$0

Click on the categories below to learn more about our rationale for picking these as the top cards, and to better understand how these cards can serve your personal goals. We also build a one of its kind credit card comparison tool that calculates the value of each card based on how you use it.

Table of Contents

In-Depth Reviews of The Best Credit Cards

Here we'll show you why each card is the best-in-class for each consumer category. Our analysts constructed models and read through hundreds of card agreements, so we could identify cards that provided superior value, either in earning rewards or cutting down interest payments. Because your credit score limits what offers are available to you, we made sure to make recommendations for all credit brackets (poor, average, good and excellent).

Best Credit Card for Most People

On Chase's Secure Website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

50,000 Ultimate Rewards when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Annual Fee
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Credit Needed
Excellent Credit

Our Thoughts

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the best credit card available for frequent travelers collecting rewards and points due to its amazing ability to yield up to a 2.5% rewards rate on travel purchases. To really appreciate how high of a rewards rate that is you'll have to know that most travel cards' rewards rate will hover around the 2% mark. What makes the card even better is that the points you earn offer unparalleled convenience since they can be transferred to hotel and airline loyalty programs on a 1:1 basis. Some of those programs include major brands like British Airways, Marriott Rewards, and World of Hyatt. This flexibility makes Chase Ultimate Rewards the best credit card points program on the market.

The card has many features that make it the ultimate card for travelers. For instance, your points are worth 25% more when you redeem them for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. This essentially means you'll always get a minimum rewards rate of 1.25% as long as you're redeeming your points for travel through the program. This added boost to point values is something that's quite uncommon. It's worth noting that the Chase Sapphire Reserve® can be just as good, if not better than the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for travelers frequently on the road. However, the card carries a hefty $450 annual fee because it's equipped with extra premium features. Therefore, for most people the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card will likely make the most sense.

Top Credit Card for Cash Back (No Annual Fee)

On Discover's Secure Website

Discover it® Cash Back

Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
Annual Fee
$0
APR
13.99% - 24.99% Variable
Credit Needed
Excellent, Good

Our Thoughts

Among cards without an annual fee, the Discover it® Cash Back offers the highest cash rewards, making it our top choice in this category. The card awards cardholders an amazing 5% cash back in different categories throughout the year, up to $1,500 in spending. Other leading cash back cards merely offer 2% cash back, albeit across all spending. If your spending aligns with the card's limited-time categories, which in the past have included gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants, you'll be best off with the Discover it® Cash Back.

What takes this card to the next level among its competitors is Discover's cash back match, which offers a value nearly no other card can match. At the end of your first year, Discover will match all the cash back you've earned. So, if you earned $250 in cash back rewards, Discover would award you an additional $250. This benefit essentially ensures that for your first year, you'll receive an outstanding cash back rate ranging from 2% to 10%. That's better than any credit card can offer.

Best Co-Branded Airline Credit Card

On Bank of America's Secure Website

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card

  • First Checked Bag Free for you and up to 6 companions booked on your reservation
  • Coach Companion Fare from $121 ($99 base fare plus taxes and fees from $22)
  • Earn 3 miles for every $1 spent directly on Alaska Airlines purchases.
  • Earn 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees, plus chip-enabled for enhanced security when used at chip-enabled terminals.
  • No mileage cap.
  • Miles won't expire on your active account.
  • Low Annual fee of $75
  • First Checked Bag Free for you and up to 6 companions booked on your reservation
  • Coach Companion Fare from $121 ($99 base fare plus taxes and fees from $22)
  • Earn 3 miles for every $1 spent directly on Alaska Airlines purchases.
  • Earn 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees, plus chip-enabled for enhanced security when used at chip-enabled terminals.
  • No mileage cap.
  • Miles won't expire on your active account.
  • Low Annual fee of $75
Annual Fee
$75
APR
16.74% - 24.74% Variable
Credit Needed
Good

Our Thoughts

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card offers competitive rewards when you use it for purchases, but its the card's highly valuable travel savings makes it the best co-branded airline card. For every year that you have the card you'll be awarded a Companion Fare certificate, which is one of the most lucrative airline perks on any card. Let's say you booked a $461 trip from Miami to Seattle, you'd only have to pay $99 (plus taxes and fees) for the ability to bring an extra passenger along. In this scenario, the certificate would provide over $300 in value—which is great by any standard.

Similar to other airline cards the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card comes with an annual fee in the amount of $75. However, the card makes it extremely easy to make back that annual fee when you take advantage of its many benefits. For instance, overpackers can save $25 every time they fly since the card allows you to check a bag for free. Use this feature just three times and you're breaking even. The miles you earn with the card can be used to fly with Alaska Airlines, or with one of its partners which include Korean Air, Aer Lingus, Japan Airlines and Emirates. When compared to what other airline cards offer, this is quite a diverse set of airline partners.

Best Credit Card for Balance Transfers

Chase Slate®
This card is not available through ValuePenguin.

Chase Slate®

  • Transfer balances with an introductory fee of $0 during the first 60 days your account is open. After that, the fee is 5% of the amount transferred with a minimum of $5
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers and after that 16.74%-25.49% variable APR
  • FICO score for free
  • No annual fee and no penalty APR
  • Transfer balances with an introductory fee of $0 during the first 60 days your account is open. After that, the fee is 5% of the amount transferred with a minimum of $5
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers and after that 16.74%-25.49% variable APR
  • FICO score for free
  • No annual fee and no penalty APR
Annual Fee
No Annual Fee
APR
16.74% - 25.49% Variable
Credit Needed
Good

Our Thoughts

The Chase Slate® is the best resource for someone who has credit card debt and needs interest payment relief. That's because you'll get a longer than average intro period to save hundreds, if not thousands, on interest expense. Even among most balance transfer cards, 15 months of no interest is quite long. While most balance-transfer credit cards charge a 3% to 5% fee for each transfer, the Chase Slate® gives you some breathing room with no balance-transfer fees if you move the debt during the first 60 days your account is open.

Keep in mind that balance transfer cards offer very little value beyond their 0% intro APR period. In other words, most don't offer rewards and have very few worthwhile perks and benefits. While there are some credit cards that offer rewards and a 0% intro APR period, they'll typically come with a costly balance transfer fee.

Best Credit Card for Students

On Discover's Secure Website

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants or Amazon.com up to the quarterly maximum each time 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.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 14.99% - 23.99%.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants or Amazon.com up to the quarterly maximum each time 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.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 14.99% - 23.99%.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
Annual Fee
$0
APR
14.99% - 23.99% Variable
Credit Needed
Fair

Our Thoughts

We’ve picked the Discover it® Student Cash Back as the best credit card option for students for its above-average rewards—even when we compare it to ordinary non-student credit cards. The Discover it® Student Cash Back offers 5% cash back on different categories throughout the year, up to a quarterly maximum—just like its older brother, the Discover it® Cash Back. This high of a rewards rate is a far cry from the typical meager rates offered by most cards targeted towards students.

Another reason this is our top student pick is the promo offer to double rewards rates, which is the most lucrative bonus available on a student credit card. New cardmembers will have their total cash back rewards doubled at the end of their first year, which means you'll earn an effective rewards rate anywhere from 2% to 10% for that first year. That represents one of the highest rewards rate available across all cards (both student and non-student).

Best Credit Card for Small Businesses

On Capital One's Secure Website

Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

Earn a $500 bonus once you spend $4,500 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • Earning unlimited 2% cash back could mean thousands of dollars each year going back into your business
  • Plus, a one-time $500 cash bonus once you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Use Spark Cash across all your business spend, with no categories to limit your purchasing
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
  • Rewards won't expire for the life of the account, and you can redeem your cash back for any amount
  • Get employee cards at no additional cost, and earn rewards from their business spend

Note: The information in this box was provided by Capital One and is not part of our independent analysis.

  • Earning unlimited 2% cash back could mean thousands of dollars each year going back into your business
  • Plus, a one-time $500 cash bonus once you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Use Spark Cash across all your business spend, with no categories to limit your purchasing
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
  • Rewards won't expire for the life of the account, and you can redeem your cash back for any amount
  • Get employee cards at no additional cost, and earn rewards from their business spend
Annual Fee
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
APR
18.74% (Variable)
Credit Needed
Excellent, Good

Our Thoughts

The Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business offers the best mix of high rewards and versatility among the business credit cards we surveyed. That's because the card offers a high cash back 2% rate on every single purchase. Most other business cards target high rewards rates in specific types of expense, such as travel or office supplies. But most small business owners face expenditures that don't always fit a particular mold. Therefore, business owners who don't want to fidget with their spending to match categories would be better suited by a card that offers a flat, but great cash back rate on all purchases, like the Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business.

Keep in mind that the card has a $95 annual fee, which is waived for the first year. Therefore, this card is only worth applying for if your business spends more than $19,000 per year. If you spend any less than that, you should consider opting for the Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business. The Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business offers a lower, but still decent cash back rate of 1.5%. More importantly for companies with low expenses, the card doesn't charge an annual fee.

Best Credit Card for Bad Credit

On Discover's Secure Website

Discover it® Secured

INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There’s no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • No Annual Fee, cash back on every purchase, and helps you build your credit with responsible use.
  • Your Secured Credit Card requires a refundable security deposit up to the amount we can approve of at least $200 which will establish your credit line. You will need to provide your bank information when submitting your security deposit.
  • We will automatically begin reviewing your account starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit.
  • Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
  • No Annual Fee, cash back on every purchase, and helps you build your credit with responsible use.
  • Your Secured Credit Card requires a refundable security deposit up to the amount we can approve of at least $200 which will establish your credit line. You will need to provide your bank information when submitting your security deposit.
  • We will automatically begin reviewing your account starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit.
  • Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
Annual Fee
$0
APR
24.99% Variable
Credit Needed
Please refer to issuer's website

Our Thoughts

The Discover it® Secured offers the highest rewards among secured credit cards, making it our top winner for people with poor credit (FICO below 600). Cardholders can receive 2% cash back on up to $1,000 of dining or gas expenses each quarter. That's an extremely lucrative offer when you consider that most secured credit cards usually don't offer rewards. As with all secured credit cards, the Discover it® Secured requires a security deposit of at least $200, which is well within the normal range of $200 to $500.

Another reason why the Discover it® Secured earns our recommendation, is that it's one of the few credit cards for bad credit to have no annual fee. It's common for cards in this category to charge users $25 or more, per year, on top of the security deposit.

Best Credit Card for Average Credit

On Capital One's Secure Website

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Earn cash rewards without signing up for rotating categories
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No limit to how much cash back you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
  • Get customized alerts and manage your account with the Capital One mobile app

Note: The information in this box was provided by Capital One and is not part of our independent analysis.

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Earn cash rewards without signing up for rotating categories
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No limit to how much cash back you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
  • Get customized alerts and manage your account with the Capital One mobile app
Annual Fee
$39
APR
24.99% (Variable)
Credit Needed
Average, Fair, Limited

Our Thoughts

The Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card is one of the few great cards for people with credit scores in the 620 to 670 range. We rank it well because it offers a decent 1.5% cash back on all purchases, when most competitors typically provide meager cash back rates and charge extremely high fees.

Don't confuse this card with the significantly better Capital One® Quicksilver® Card. The two have similar names, but the Capital One® Quicksilver® Card is only available to those with excellent credit. If your credit score improves with the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card, we suggest you upgrade your card to take advantage of the lower interest rates, sizable cash back bonus and no annual fee.

Credit Card Comparison Tool

Use our tool below to find out which credit card is best for your spending habits. Enter your estimated monthly spending per category, and we'll calculate which credit cards will yield you the highest returns. This tool compares rewards cards, so if you want to compare low-interest and balance-transfer credit cards, head to our other comparison tool here.

Assumptions Based On Monthly Spend of: $1,430 Edit
General:
U.S. Gas Stations:
U.S. Supermarkets:
Airlines:
Hotel:
U.S. Restaurants:
Office:
Utilities:
Computing:
Card Annual Fee 2-yr Net Rewards Rate

The Net Rewards Rate is equal to the Rewards Value over two years divided by the total spending. The total spending is equal to the values entered into the tool and multiplied by 24 months. See the rewards Value note to see details on how it is calculated.

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. All estimates are based on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

Bonus Value

The bonus field shows our estimate for the value of the card’s welcome bonus. If the bonus is point or mile based, we multiply the total bonus points/miles by our estimate for their value to arrive at a dollar equivalent. We display $0 if there is no bonus or if the user doesn’t qualify for the bonus based on the current spending entered into the tool. All estimates are based on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

2-yr Rewards Value

The Rewards value is calculated by adding together the rewards earned from charging purchases to the card over two years and any welcome bonuses (if applicable). They are then multiplied by our estimated point/mile value, with any annual fees (if applicable) subtracted. All values are based on our own estimates for the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using a card and on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®
$450 3.29%
$1,350
$300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year; 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem for travel.
$1,130
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 45,360 x $0.015 = $680
Bonuses
0 x $0.015 = $600
50,000 x $0.015 = $750
Less Annual Fees -$900
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 1,130

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $450
APR 17.74% - 24.74% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Named a ‘Best Travel Credit Card for 2017’ by MONEY® Magazine
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
$99 3.70%
$884
6,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary; Get 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account
$1,269
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.017 = $583
Bonuses
6,000 x $0.017 = $102
40,000 x $0.017 = $680
6,000 x $0.017 = $102
Less Annual Fees -$198
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 1,269

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $99
APR 17.74% - 24.74% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 6,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Earn unlimited points that don't expire as long as your card account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions, Bags fly free® and no change fees
  • Redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, access to events and more
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95 3.00%
$625
50,000 Ultimate Rewards when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
$1,028
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 39,840 x $0.013 = $498
Bonuses
50,000 x $0.013 = $625
Less Annual Fees -$95
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 1,028

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
APR 17.74% - 24.74% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that 1.72%
$0
Earn a $500 bonus once you spend $4,500 on purchases in the first 3 months
$591
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 686 x $1 = $686
Less Annual Fees -$95
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 591

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0 intro for first year; $95 after that
APR 18.74% (Variable)

Card Details

  • Earning unlimited 2% cash back could mean thousands of dollars each year going back into your business
  • Plus, a one-time $500 cash bonus once you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Use Spark Cash across all your business spend, with no categories to limit your purchasing
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
  • Rewards won't expire for the life of the account, and you can redeem your cash back for any amount
  • Get employee cards at no additional cost, and earn rewards from their business spend

Note: The information in this box was provided by Capital One® and is not part of our independent analysis.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card
$75 2.94%
$540
Get 30,000 bonus miles after qualifying purchases
$1,008
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.018 = $618
Bonuses
30,000 x $0.018 = $540
Less Annual Fees -$150
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 1,008

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $75
APR 16.74% - 24.74% Variable

Card Details

  • First Checked Bag Free for you and up to 6 companions booked on your reservation
  • Coach Companion Fare from $121 ($99 base fare plus taxes and fees from $22)
  • Earn 3 miles for every $1 spent directly on Alaska Airlines purchases.
  • Earn 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees, plus chip-enabled for enhanced security when used at chip-enabled terminals.
  • No mileage cap.
  • Miles won't expire on your active account.
  • Low Annual fee of $75
Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business
$0 2.08%
$200
One time bonus of $200 once you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
$715
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 515 x $1 = $515
Bonuses
0 x $1 = $200
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 715

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0
APR 14.74% - 22.74% (Variable)

Card Details

  • Earning unlimited 1.5% cash back could mean thousands of dollars each year going back into your business
  • Plus, a one-time $200 cash bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Save on interest with 0% intro APR on purchases for 9 months; 14.74% - 22.74% variable APR after that
  • No annual fee
  • Use Spark Cash Select across all your business spend, with no categories to limit your purchasing
  • Rewards won't expire for the life of the account, and you can redeem your cash back for any amount
  • Get employee cards at no additional cost, and earn rewards from their business spend

Note: The information in this box was provided by Capital One® and is not part of our independent analysis.

Citi® Double Cash Card
$0* 2.00%
$0
$686
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 686 x $1 = $686
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 686

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0*
APR 15.49% - 25.49%* (Variable)

Card Details

  • Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back
  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.49% - 25.49% based on your creditworthiness*
  • Click 'Apply Now' to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases
  • No categories to track, no caps on cash back, no annual fee*
Capital One® Quicksilver® Card
$0 1.94%
$150
Get $150 bonus after spending $500 within the first 3 months
$665
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 515 x $1 = $515
Bonuses
0 x $1 = $150
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 665

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0
APR 14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)

Card Details

  • One-time $150 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; 14.74%-24.74% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 14.74%-24.74% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees

Note: The information in this box was provided by Capital One® and is not part of our independent analysis.

Discover it® Cash Back
$0 1.50%
$171
Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
$514
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 343 x $1 = $343
Bonuses
171 x $1 = $171
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 514

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0
APR 13.99% - 24.99% Variable

Card Details

  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
Discover it® Student Cash Back
$0 1.50%
$171
Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
$514
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 343 x $1 = $343
Bonuses
171 x $1 = $171
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 514

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0
APR 14.99% - 23.99% Variable

Card Details

  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants or Amazon.com up to the quarterly maximum each time 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.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 14.99% - 23.99%.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
Discover it® Secured
$0 1.50%
$171
INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There’s no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
$514
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 343 x $1 = $343
Bonuses
171 x $1 = $171
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 514

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0
APR 24.99% Variable

Card Details

  • No Annual Fee, cash back on every purchase, and helps you build your credit with responsible use.
  • Your Secured Credit Card requires a refundable security deposit up to the amount we can approve of at least $200 which will establish your credit line. You will need to provide your bank information when submitting your security deposit.
  • We will automatically begin reviewing your account starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit.
  • Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
$39 1.27%
$0
$437
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 515 x $1 = $515
Less Annual Fees -$78
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 437

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $39
APR 24.99% (Variable)

Card Details

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Earn cash rewards without signing up for rotating categories
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No limit to how much cash back you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
  • Get customized alerts and manage your account with the Capital One mobile app

Note: The information in this box was provided by Capital One® and is not part of our independent analysis.

How to Choose the Best Credit Card

Your credit score is the biggest determining factor in what credit card you can get, so that should be the first place you start. If you have a FICO score above 720+ and a credit history longer than 2 years, you'll likely qualify for most offers. If you have a worse credit score, make sure to look above for our card recommendations that cater to a specific credit score; no credit (student), bad credit (FICO below 620), or average credit (FICO between 620 and 680).

Second, if you carry a balance on your credit card from month to month, you should get a low interest credit card (such as a balance transfer card). Prioritize this over rewards. No amount of rewards you earn can make up for a credit card's high interest rates. For most people, the Chase Slate® will be the best option.

If you never carry a balance, you should get a rewards credit card. The average consumer that spends $1,000 or less on their card each month will get the best results with a cash back credit card. These typically have no annual fees, are extremely simple to use, and put the most money back in your pocket on everyday purchases like gas, groceries and restaurant dining.

Individuals spending over $1,000 should consider a travel credit card. While these charge annual fees, at that level of spending travel cards typically produce the best net returns. They have significantly bigger bonuses (worth hundreds of dollars) that can offset the cost of the annual fee for up to 5 years. Anyone spending over $1,000 monthly will have no trouble qualifying for these bonuses.

You should only get a co-branded airline or hotel credit card if you are a loyal customer of that particular brand. These cards have the richest rewards of any credit card on the market. However, they also come with the most restrictions, which are usually a deal breaker for a casual consumer that just wants to occasionally get cash back or pay for a flight with points/miles. Co-branded cards are worth it if you're looking to enhance your relationship with a brand you already support.

How We Arrived at Our Picks

In an effort to provide readers with the most comprehensive list of best-in-class credit cards, our research team started with a database of 401 credit cards. We've been collecting data on credit cards for the last five years, meticulously cataloging interest rates, rewards, bonuses, features and fees. Our credit card database contains products from America's top 10 largest banks and credit unions. We also include the most popular credit cards from smaller, regional banks and financial institutions. Lastly, we're also always on a lookout for stellar cards that are under the radar, which we find by going through online message boards, blogs and review sites.

Once we had a comprehensive list of cards, we began to narrow down the list by identifying cards that were worse than the industry average in specific categories, like fees and rewards. We did this for each of the popular consumer categories (like airline, travel, rewards, cash back, balance transfer, etc.). Once we identified the top 5% in each group, we modeled and pitted the cards in 1v1 comparisons to each other to see which ones win out on both quantitative and qualitative features.

For 2018, we're using a new grading system that allowed us to judge cards within each category based on rigorous criteria. The new methodology gave us a better, more well rounded look at each card and what it offered.

Selection Criteria

Rewards rates above 2%. Among the most outstanding credit cards, consumers should be able to get above a 2% return on their most important shopping categories. For example, if most of your monthly expenses go towards gas and groceries, the best credit card you can get in this category should give you 2% back or more on every one of these types of purchases. Anything lower will not be the best credit card for you.

Net 2-year rewards and 2-year savings. We considered average consumer spending and average credit card debt, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Federal Reserve. For each, we modeled the returns consumers can expect from cards over a 2-year period. We’ve calculated that consumers should be walking away with no less than $700 in net rewards with the best card options. A balance transfer credit card ought to translate to a savings of around $300 over two years.

Fees. Our team evaluated the merit of each card’s fees (foreign transaction, annual membership, etc.). We considered whether these fees were reasonable given the specific category a card was in, relative to what consumers were getting out of it. For example, it may be appropriate for a good credit card to charge a $450 annual fee given that it provides a $300 travel credit, and a extremely high rewards compared to other cards.

Interest Rates and Promotions. Interest rates and promotions were used when evaluating balance transfer credit credit cards. The average interest rate among all credit cards is 15%, but so long as a card charges less than 20% it still falls within the normal parameters. Interest rates are less important when it comes to rewards credit cards, because any rewards card user should never carry a balance on their credit card.

Point Transferability and Flexibility. We believe the strongest credit cards should not restrict its users unduly. Our analysts looked through each card rewards programs’ redemption flexibility. For example, we'd give strong preference to a card that allows users to use its points to book airfare with 10 different airlines as opposed to a card that only allows you to book flights with one.

Credit Cards that Missed the Cut

Citi® Double Cash Card: The Citi® Double Cash Card is one of the better cards for earning cash back rewards as it awards 1% cash back on purchases and then another 1% back as you pay for those purchases. However, the card suffers from its lack of sign-up bonus, which is a feature that's present in most cash back cards. Even cards that don't offer a sign-up bonus have some way to compensate, such as a first-year match. Ultimately, we felt the Discover it® Cash Back offered more value to most consumers since it wouldn't take much spending it its rotating categories to outearn the cash back offered by the Citi® Double Cash Card.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®: This is an excellent travel card, but unfortunately, its high annual fee means that this card won't be worthwhile for everybody. Yes, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers greater rewards than the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, but the $450 annual fee means users will have to spend a lot of money on the card and use the $300 annual travel every year to break even on the fee. Both cards are some of the best when it comes to travel rewards and points, but if we were forced to pick one, we'd prefer the lower annual fee option.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card: The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card card offers one of the top sign-up bonuses and excellent rewards on travel, but only for Southwest frequent flyers. Unfortunately, the card comes with a few restrictions that hold it back. The points you earn can't be transferred to other airlines, so it’s usefulness is limited. Since Southwest doesn't have a wide selection of international destinations, it limits the card's utility to domestic travelers.

Robert Harrow

Robert is the head of the Credit Card vertical at ValuePenguin and has been covering the card industry since 2014. His work has been featured in Reuters, Marketwatch, the New York Times and more.

Comments and Questions

Opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the issuer. We may be compensated through the issuer's Affiliate Program. For a full list of our advertisers see our disclosure page

* 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.

Info about the following cards: Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, Hilton Honors Surpass® Credit Card, American Express® Blue Sky, American Express® Green Card, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express, The Plenti® Credit Card from Amex, Blue from American Express®, Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz, Bluebird, Centurion® Card from American Express, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, and Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card has been collected independently by ValuePenguin. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

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.

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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.

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