The Best Credit Cards of 2017

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Selecting the best credit card is an individualized process - everyone's spending habits will make one card better than another. For the average person, either the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Citi Double Cash Card will generally be the best card. For consumers who want a card to fulfill a specific purpose, we organized the top offers by category below. In creating this list, we examined each card's value proposition by studying their rewards rates, APRs, annual fees, bonuses, perks, and more.

The Best Credit Cards for Every Type of Consumer

After examining over 300 credit cards, we cherry picked the ones that can save consumers the most money and provide the best rates. These are our editors' picks for the top credit cards in each category.

Best Credit Card for Rewards: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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 generous welcome bonus. Using this card to pay for dining and travel purchases leads to rewards rates as high as 2.5%, which is significantly higher than what other cards provide. Another thing that makes the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card a standout offer is the fact that it belongs to the Ultimate Rewards (UR) family of cards. These are great for flexibility, because you can transfer them to a variety of hotel and airline programs, including Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® and United MileagePlus®.

Summary

  • 1.25-2.5% Rewards Rate
  • $95 Annual Fee (Waived Year 1)
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • One Other Random Fact

Best Credit Card for Cash Back: Citi Double Cash Card

The Citi Double Cash Card is one of the best credit cards with cash back rewards around. It's a fantastic alternative to those who have either very varied spending habits or don't want to pay an annual fee. While many of the cards on this list specialize in a few shopping categories, the Citi Double Cash Card provides a stellar cash back rate on all purchases. That makes it a good choice for anyone who wants a simple card that doesn't require much management. One of the card's weaknesses is its lack of a sign-up bonus. If this is something that matters to you, there are many cash back credit cards that can give you as much as $100 or $150 as an early-spend bonus. However, in the long-run, earning 2% back on all purchases is likely to make-up for that deficit.

Summary

  • 2% rewards rate on all purchases
  • No annual fee
  • No sign-up bonus
  • 0% introductory APR on balance transfers

Best Credit Card for Airline Miles: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is one of the absolute best credit cards for earning airline miles due to a solid rewards rate and good bonuses. You currently get 40,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points after you hit the spending threshold of $1,000 in the first 3 months. We estimate this bonus to be worth around $680 in Southwest fares. Furthermore, every year, the card awards users an extra 6,000 Rapid Rewards points. We value a single Southwest mile at $0.017. That means the annual point bonus throws an extra $102 in your pocket. Very few credit cards, let alone airline co-branded cards, offer such a continuing bonus. Keep in mind that Southwest predominantly flies domestic routes. Therefore, if you want to earn miles that can take you to international destinations, you may want to consider other options.

Summary

  • 1.7% to 3.4% rewards rate
  • $99 annual fee
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • 40,000 Rapid Rewards points after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months

Best Credit Card with No Annual Fee: Chase Freedom®

The Chase Freedom® is an excellent credit card for those who don't want to pay an annual fee, but don't shy away from a card that requires a little optimization. The card gives users 5% back on certain categories throughout the year, and 1% back on everything else. The categories cover a wide range of everyday shopping needs, from groceries to gas stations. To get the most out of the card, you need to keep track of where you can get 5% in a particular quarter, and try to shop within those categories. So long as you manage to get just 25% of your annual purchases inside these bonus categories, the Chase Freedom® can even outperform the Citi Double Cash Card and other competitors.

Summary

  • 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter
  • No Annual Fee
  • Earns Ultimate Rewards points
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 14.24-23.24%

Best Credit Card for Paying Down Debt: Chase Slate®

The Chase Slate® is one of the top credit cards for trying to reign in your outstanding debt. What makes the Chase Slate® stand out from the rest of the pack is the $0 introductory balance transfer fee for transfers made during the first 60 days of account opening. Compared to other cards on the market that add 3% - 5% to your balance on each transfer, this card avoids the heavy fees and lets you immediately start paying down your debt. Overall, the Chase Slate® gives users 0% APR on balance transfers for the first 15 months an account is open.

Summary

  • $0 Introductory balance transfer fee for transfers made during the first 60 days of account opening
  • 0% APR on balance transfers for the first 15 months an account is open
  • No Annual Fee
  • Monthly FICO® Score and Credit Dashboard

Best Credit Card for Low Interest Rates: Citi® Simplicity® Card

The Citi® Simplicity® Card is our favorite credit card for those who need low interest. It offers its users one of the longest 0% introductory APR periods we've seen -- 21 months. 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. Know that this card is only good for deferring interest. It won't earn you any cash back or reward points like others on this list.

Summary

  • 21 months of 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • After that, your APR will be 13.24% to 23.24%, based on your creditworthiness (variable)
  • No Annual Fee
  • No late fees

Best Credit Card for Students: Discover it® for Students

What makes the Discover it® for Students one of the best credit cards is that it treats students like everyone else. Most banks tend to give their student cardholders lower results or charge higher fees than they would other customers. The Chase Freedom® bucks that trend and offers 5% off on different categories throughout the year, up to a quarterly maximum -- just like the Chase Freedom®. While the Discover it® for Students card doesn't have a traditional sign-up bonus, it makes up for that 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 - which ranks it above most cards, at least for that first year.

Summary

  • 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter like gas, restaurants, home improvement stores and more -up to the quarterly maximum
  • No Annual Fee
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 cash back each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years

Best Credit Card for Gas & Groceries: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is the most rewarding card for the average consumer who spends a lot on gas and groceries. The card awards 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up the first $6,000 in spending each year. We've yet to see a credit card with a cash back rate that matches that kind of reward. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express also provides 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, and select U.S. department stores. If most of your spending falls into these broad categories, you can get more out of this card than any other one on this list. One important thing to note: the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express comes with a $95 annual fee. Therefore, you need to make sure you're getting enough rewards out of it to justify that price tag. By our calculations, if you spend at least $200 per month at U.S. supermarkets, this card will be worth it.

Summary

  • 6% back at U.S. supermarkets, up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%)
  • 3% back at US gas stations and select US department stores
  • $95 Annual Fee
  • $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership

Best Credit Card for Small Business: Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

The Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business is currently one of our favorite small business credit cards because it can accommodate a wide range of company expenses, and provide a very solid rewards rate all around. Most business credit cards tend to provide high rewards rates on traditional office expenses, like discounts at stationary stores or internet services. However, many small businesses may have atypical expenses that don't conform to one particular category. That's where the Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business shines. The card awards 2% cash back anywhere you spend. The card has a $0 intro annual fee for the first year and charges $59 after that. While that may seem like a lot at first, most businesses with medium-to-heavy spending will be able to earn enough rewards to make up for that charge. It takes just $2,950 in purchases to break even.

Summary

  • 2% cash back on all purchases
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year and $59 after that
  • Free employee cards
  • $500 cash bonus once you spend $4,500 on purchases within the first 3 months

Best Credit Card for Luxury Travel: Chase Sapphire Reserve℠

The Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ is one of the all-around best credit cards for scoring premium perks for frequent travelers. While the $450 annual fee may seem high, the card does a lot to justify that price tag. Users can get up to $300 in travel credit each year. The card also provides free Priority Pass membership that grants users access to airport lounges. These can serve as an oasis to the frequent traveler who hates dealing with airports. All of this is added on top of a fantastic rewards rate and one of the highest welcome bonuses around. While other premium credit cards also provide similar lounge access, they often neglect category rewards, like the potential 4.5% rewards rate on dining and travel. The Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ provides its users with the best of both worlds.

Summary

  • 1.5-4.5% Rewards Rate
  • $450 Annual Fee
  • 100,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Priority Pass lounge membership

Best Credit Card for Rebuilding Credit: Discover it® Secured Credit Card

You should get the Discover it® Secured Credit Card if you have bad credit and want to build up your FICO score while earning cash back at the same time. Most issuers offer secured credit cards with high annual fees and no reward programs. The Discover it® Secured Credit Card treats its users just like it would its regular customers, which is what makes it one of the best options for people with bad credit. Cardholders can receive 2% cash back at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, and an unlimited 1% otherwise. This is a rare feature among credit cards of this type.

Summary

  • No Annual Fee
  • 2% cash back at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter
  • FICO® Credit Score for free
  • Minimum refundable deposit of $200 required

Best Credit Card for Average Credit: Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard®

The Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard® is an excellent credit card for those with fair credit. It gives a solid 2% back on gas, utility and grocery store purchases, and 1% back on everything else. We estimate that the average consumer could save as much as $338 annually by charging all their purchases to this card. One thing you should know about this card is that it has a very high APR -- 25.24%. Therefore, this isn't a card you want to carry a balance on.

Summary

  • 2% rewards rate n gas, utility, and grocery store purchases
  • No Annual Fee

Summary of 2017's Best Credit Cards

In case you want a quick look at our picks, here are ValuePenguin's best credit cards for 2017.

Best For...CardAnnual Fee
Best For... RewardsCard Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardAnnual Fee $0 Intro for the First Year. Then $95
Best For... Cash BackCard Citi Double Cash CardAnnual Fee None
Best For... Airline MilesCard Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit CardAnnual Fee $99
Best For... No Annual FeeCard Chase Freedom®Annual Fee $0
Best For... Low InterestCard Citi® Simplicity® CardAnnual Fee None
Best For... Paying Down DebtCard Chase Slate®Annual Fee $0
Best For... StudentsCard Discover it® for StudentsAnnual Fee $0
Best For... Small BusinessCard Capital One® Spark® Cash for BusinessAnnual Fee $59 (Waived Year 1)
Best For... Gas & GroceriesCard Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American ExpressAnnual Fee $95
Best For... Luxury TravelCard Chase Sapphire Reserve℠Annual Fee $450
Best For... Building CreditCard Discover it® Secured Credit CardAnnual Fee $0
Best For... Average CreditCard Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard®Annual Fee $0

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. Note that this tool compares rewards cards. If you want to compare low interest and balance transfer credit cards head over to our other comparison tool here.

Keep in mind that there is more to credit cards beyond their rewards. Use our tool to narrow down your choices, but follow it up with a but more research. Each card can have a surprising number of extra perks that aren't quantifiable. Something like that can end up being of great value to you, and bring you closer to finding your best card.

Monthly Spend: $1,430
General:
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Computing:
Card Annual Fee Net Rewards Rate

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.

The 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.

Bonus

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.

The 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.

Rewards Value

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.

The 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.

Chase Sapphire Reserve℠
Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ Image $450 3.56% $1,500 $1,280
Learn More Graph Card Read Review More Details
Annual Fee $450
APR

Card Details

  • 3X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • $0 foreign transaction fees on international purchases
  • 1:1 Point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Complimentary Airport Lounge Access to 900+ airport lounges worldwide
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre Fee Credit
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit automatically applied to your account for travel purchases charged to your card

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Dollars*
Spending Rewards 45,360 680
Bonuses
100,000 1,500
Less Annual Fees 900
Total 145,360 1,280
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card Image $99 3.24% $782 $1,167
Learn More Graph Card Read Review More Details
Annual Fee $99
APR 16.24% - 23.24% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • Chip-enabled cards with 24/7 fraud monitoring
  • Points Don't Expire as long as your card account is open, No Blackout Dates, Bags Fly Free®
  • 6,000 points after your cardmember anniversary every year
  • 2 points/$1 spent on Southwest® purchases and participating Hotel and Car Rental partners
  • 1 point/$1 spent on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Dollars*
Spending Rewards 34,320 583
Bonuses
40,000 680
6,000 102
Less Annual Fees 198
Total 80,320 1,167
Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®
Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® Image $89-Waived first year 3.21% $525 $1,157
Apply Now Graph Card Read Review More Details
Annual Fee $89-Waived first year
APR 16.49%, 20.49% or 23.49%* Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days - that's enough to redeem for a $500 travel statement credit
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • Redeem for travel or cash back statement credits, gift cards and merchandise. Redemption values vary
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • Miles don't expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • No foreign transaction fees on anything you buy while in another country
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 16.49%, 20.49% or 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Please note, there is a fee for balance transfers

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Dollars*
Spending Rewards 68,640 721
Bonuses
50,000 525
Less Annual Fees 89
Total 118,640 1,157
Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business
Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business Image $0 intro for first year; $59 after that 3.13% $500 $1,127
Apply Now Graph Card Read Review More Details
Annual Fee $0 intro for first year; $59 after that
APR 17.49% (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 of approval
  • Use Spark Cash across all your business spend, with no categories to limit your purchasing
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $59 after that
  • Rewards don't expire, and you can redeem your cash back for any amount, anytime
  • 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.

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Dollars*
Spending Rewards 686 686
Bonuses
0 500
Less Annual Fees 59
Total 686 1,127
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Image $0 Intro for the First Year. Then $95 2.86% $625 $1,028
Apply Now Graph Card Read Review More Details
Annual Fee $0 Intro for the First Year. Then $95
APR 16.49% - 23.49% 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®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 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
  • 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

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Dollars*
Spending Rewards 39,840 498
Bonuses
50,000 625
Less Annual Fees 95
Total 89,840 1,028
Citi Double Cash Card
Citi Double Cash Card Image No Annual Fee 1.91% $0 $686
Learn More Graph Card Read Review More Details
Annual Fee No Annual Fee
APR 12.99%, 17.99% or 22.99% Variable

Card Details

  • 1% cash back on purchases and another 1% cash back when you pay for those purchases

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Dollars*
Spending Rewards 686 686
Total 686 686
Chase Freedom®
Chase Freedom® Image $0 1.37% $150 $493
Apply Now Graph Card Read Review More Details
Annual Fee $0
APR 15.49%-24.24% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.49-24.24%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Dollars*
Spending Rewards 343 343
Bonuses
0 150
Total 343 493
Discover it® Secured Credit Card
Discover it® Secured Credit Card Image No Annual Fee 0.95% $0 $343
Learn More Graph Card Read Review More Details
Annual Fee No Annual Fee
APR 23.24%

Card Details

  • 1% cash back on every purchase
  • 2% cash back at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter
  • Reports to all 3 major credit bureaus
  • At the end of your first year, we'll add up ALL the cash back you've earned and DOUBLE it! So if you earn $25, we'll double it to $50
  • Get your FICO ® Credit Score for free on your monthly statement or when you log in to your account
  • No Annual Fee

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Dollars*
Spending Rewards 343 343
Total 343 343
Discover it® for Students
Discover it® for Students Image $0 0.95% $0 $343
Learn More Graph Card Read Review More Details
Annual Fee $0
APR 13.24% - 22.24% Variable*

Card Details

  • Discover matches all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year - automatically. Only for new cardmembers.*
  • 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter like gas, restaurants, home improvement stores and more -up to the quarterly maximum when you sign up.* 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 cash back each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.*
  • No annual fee.* No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. No late fee on first late payment & paying late won't raise your APR.*
  • Track your recent FICO® Credit Scores for free in one easy-to-read chart on monthly statements & online.*
  • Freeze ItSM on/off switch lets you prevent new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers on misplaced cards in seconds by mobile app & online.* Plus get 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • 0% intro APR* on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 13.24% - 22.24%.
  • Click "Apply Now". *See rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms & other information.

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Dollars*
Spending Rewards 343 343
Total 343 343
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express Image $95 2.21% $150 $795
Learn More Graph Card Read Review More Details

Terms and Limitations Apply

Annual Fee $95
APR 13.49%-23.49% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Everyday Cash Back: 6% at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%); 3% at U.S. gas stations; 1% other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
  • No rotating reward categories. No enrollment required.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit. You can only earn cash back on eligible purchases.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months, then a variable rate, currently 13.49% to 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.
  • Terms Apply.

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Dollars*
Spending Rewards 835 835
Bonuses
0 150
Less Annual Fees 190
Total 835 795

How Do The Best Credit Cards Compare to One Another?

We decided to pit our above picks against one another to see how the perform for different types of consumers. There are two major ways credit cards can differentiate from one another – spending rewards and interest. Check out these sections to see how these cards stack up in these two categories.

Comparing Rewards

A majority of the cards above earn users some rewards – whether it’s miles, points or cash back. To pit these cards against one another, we had to make some assumptions. We took a look at consumers with three different levels of spending – low, medium, and high. Low spenders charge $12,000 to their card annually. Medium spenders charge $24,000, while high spenders charge $35,000.

The other assumption we had to make was about how their spending breaks down. For this, we divided the major reward categories provided by cards, and based the percent of their budget for each category by examining data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Each year, the Bureau studies how consumers within the United States spend their money across different categories. Their findings provide us with a good proxy for our study.

If you don't want to figure out how a card performs on your budget, we suggest you use our tool above to approximate the rewards of each card listed here.

Comparing Interest Rates

The interest rate of a credit card should be the number one consideration for anyone who carries a balance month-to-month. There are two ways of looking at a card's interest rate -- promotional rates and ongoing rates. The promo period can be great for anyone who has to deal with a one-off big purchase or debt they have piled up. However, this is just one part of the equation. The ongoing APR should always be considered as well. That is the interest rate you will pay after the promotional period ends.

Generally, the top rewards credit cards will not offer you any promotional rates. The only exception are cash back cards, like the Chase Freedom® and the Citi Double Cash Card. If you're someone who is shopping around for a credit card with low interest, you should generally not settle for anything less than 12 months of 0% APR. Furthermore, the average APR for U.S. households stands at about 13.5%. Use this as a barometer to figure out whether an offer you're presented with is good or bad.

Keep in mind that your monthly payments are always applied in the order of descending APR, with a few exceptions around promotional periods. Therefore, if you carry out a balance transfer, it's best practice to not charge any new purchases to the card. Doing so will cause your payments to be applied towards the new purchase, instead of the balance you've been trying to get rid of.

How We Picked The Best Credit Cards and Why You Can Trust The Analysis

The ValuePenguin editorial team combed through over 300 credit card offers in search of the best ones. Our approach is based on the core concept that there is no one-size-fits-all credit card. You are likely to have very different spending habits or different financial situations than other people visiting this page. Our selection of the best credit cards reflects that understanding. We built models and ran simulations for a variety of profiles, and tested how the 300+ credit cards we examined performed under various stress tests. We considered things like rewards rates, sign-up bonuses, continuing bonuses, airport lounge access benefits, interest rates, transaction fees and more.

In the end, we used all these factors to break out the top performing cards into 12 broad categories that will encompass most of what our audience looks for. Recognizing the fact that we may still not provide the right answer for every single visitor, our comparison tool above can provide a more personalized answer to our visitors.

The ValuePenguin credit card experts have been covering the card industry for over three years. We closely follow new developments, deals, consumer complaints and major industry trends. In short, we live and breathe credit cards. When we put out a list of credit card picks, they have been thoroughly vetted, debated, and tested.

How To Find The Best Rewards Credit Card

Those people who want to consider more offers than the ones we've listed above, below you'll find the considerations you need to go through to find the best credit card. This guide provides a framework for evaluating credit cards and how to approach them with the same critical eye as any analyst.

Your financial profile matters

People shopping the "best credit card" often want a simple answer to their question. Unfortunately, no one can provide you with a quick and simple answer because what's considered "best" depends on a great number of factors. Having said that, we think typical consumers will find the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Citi Double Cash Card to yield the great rewards for optimizers and satisficers. Your personal spending habits are key. Do you spend a little or a lot? Do you want to use your new card to predominantly pay for gas and groceries or travel and dining out? There are a ton of possible needs someone is hoping to address with their card. All of these then have additional considerations, such as whether the person searching tends to carry a balance on their card, what their FICO score is and more. One answer can greatly influence the number of options available to you. To help narrow down your search, we broke down the most fundamental questions you need to ask yourself and why they matter.

Do You Keep A Balance On Your Credit Card? This is the very first thing anyone shopping for a credit card needs to consider. Even though rewards can be flashy and attractive, they may not matter in the face of high interest rates. Credit cards, more so than any other loan product, tend to come with high APRs. Therefore, you need to consider your likelihood to carry a balance on your card. If you are the type of person to always pay off their credit cards in full every month, then ignore APR completely. It shouldn't influence your decision. However, if you do carry a balance, it is virtually all you should be concerned with. Lowering your APR will almost always trump any rewards you can earn. It doesn't matter how much cash back you earn. If you end up paying 25% on your debt, you are almost always guaranteed to walk away with a net negative.

If shopping for a rewards card, consider the whole picture. When evaluating a credit card offer, you need to a holistic view. You may read something like "5 points per dollar on dining". This may, at first, sound very exciting. However, you need to consider a few things. What are those points worth? Just because one card awards 5 points while another gives 2, it’s not always an apples to apples comparison. Unless they are part of the same rewards program, the answer is almost certainly "no". Secondly, are you actually likely to use the reward points? Americans earn millions of frequent flyer and reward points every year. Few of those are actually redeemed. Make sure you are investing in a reward program you are likely to use.

Is there a minimum amount of points required to redeem your rewards? This one is especially important for low spenders. Some credit cards require you to rack up thousands of points before you can trade them in for a prize or cash back. If you are someone who rarely uses their credit card, this may mean you're unable to use your points for a long time. This kind of system is doubly problematic if the points/miles can expire. Make sure to carefully read through the terms and conditions looking for this point before you apply.

How much will I spend on my new card? Cards with the best rewards rates typically come with an annual fee. Does that mean you should disqualify them from consideration? No. The answer as to whether such a card is good for you will come down to how much you spend. Some people can spend so much that the difference in rewards rate actually makes up for the annual fee deficit. You need to figure out whether paying the extra fee each year justifies the bump in rewards.

Narrow your search by identifying the type of credit card you need

As you search through offers online, you will almost certainly always see them categorized in one of several ways -- low interest, cash back, miles, rewards, balance transfer, etc. Understanding what type of credit card is best for you can go a long way in helping your search. Therefore, narrowing the pool of cards you look at can greatly reduce the time you have to spend looking.

Take A Look At How The Rewards Work: The difference between cash back, miles and points often comes down to taste. While cash back cards tend to generally offer smaller returns, they are the most flexible to use. You don't have to worry about redeeming them with one particular brand. Airline miles are on the other end of the spectrum. You can typically only use them to book a flight. However, in return you are getting more value per dollar spent.

Rewards Rate: One easy way to compare the three reward card types to each other is to reduce their rewards down to what's called a "rewards rate". This is the percent value you get back for each dollar spent using the card. For example a card offering 2% cash back has a 2% rewards rate. If you have a card that gives you 1 mile per dollar spent anywhere, and those miles are worth $0.02 each, the card is also said to have a rewards rate of 2% (1 x $0.02 = $0.02). We preformed a study of credit card rewards available on the market. You can see a plot of min/max rewards rates across several card categories. Generally, you should aim to get no less than 1.5% to 2% back on each purchase.

This graph compares the amount of rewards rates consumers can earn on their credit card spending across each of the categories.

Low interest vs Balance Transfer: You should look for balance transfer credit cards only if you are looking to help pay down existing credit card debt. Low interest credit cards, on the other hand, are best for people who are planning to make big purchases in the future that which will need financing. Luckily, you can find plenty of credit cards that are hybrids, offering 0% introductory APR periods on both balance transfers and future purchases.

by Robert Harrow

* 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. 

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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