Best Credit Cards of October 2021: World Reviews, Rewards & Offers

Best Credits Cards

Table of Contents

No single credit card is the best option for every family, every purchase or every budget. For this reason, Forbes Advisor has chosen the best credit cards in a way designed to be the most helpful to the widest variety of readers. Rather than selecting the “best credit card” and ranking the next nine options,’ we highlighted the best cards for a variety of situations.

BEST FLAT-RATE CASH BACK CARD

Citi® Double Cash Card

Citi® Double Cash Card

Up to 2% Reward Rate

First, you earn 1% unlimited cash back on every purchase you make. Then, as you pay for those purchases, you

Welcome Bonus

None

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)

Credit Score

Excellent, Good (700 – 749)

Why We Picked It
Pros & Cons
Card Details

BEST ENTRY-LEVEL TRAVEL CARD

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Up to 5X Reward Rate

Earn 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other

Welcome Bonus

60,000 points

Annual Fee

$95

Regular APR

15.99%-22.99% Variable

Credit Score

Excellent/Good (700 – 749)

Why We Picked It
Pros & Cons
Card Details

BEST CASH BACK CARD

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Up to 5% Reward Rate

Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate, 5% on

Welcome Bonus

$200

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

14.99 – 23.74% Variable

Credit Score

Excellent, Good (700 – 749)

Why We Picked It
Pros & Cons
Card Details

BEST CARD FOR DINING

American Express® Gold Card

American Express® Gold Card

Up to 4X Reward Rate

Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at restaurants, including takeout and delivery; Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at US supermarkets on

Welcome Bonus

60,000 Membership Rewards® Points

Annual Fee

$250

Regular APR

See Pay Over Time APR

Credit Score

Excellent/Good (700 – 749)

Why We Picked It
Pros & Cons
Card Details

BEST FLEXIBLE TRAVEL REWARDS CARD

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Up to 10X Reward Rate

5X total points on air travel and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through

Welcome Bonus

50,000 points

Annual Fee

$550

Regular APR

16.99%-23.99% Variable

Credit Score

Excellent (750 – 850)

Why We Picked It
Pros & Cons
Card Details

BEST FOR LUXURY TRAVEL BENEFITS

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

5X Reward Rate

Earn 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel; earn 5 Membership Rewards per

Welcome Bonus

100,000 Membership Rewards® Points

Annual Fee

$695

Regular APR

See Pay Over Time APR

Credit Score

Excellent/Good (700 – 749)

Why We Picked It
Pros & Cons
Card Details

BEST AIRLINE CREDIT CARD

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

Up to 3X Reward Rate

Welcome Bonus

80,000 Bonus Miles

Annual Fee

$550

Regular APR

15.74%-24.74% Variable

Credit Score

Excellent/Good (700 – 749)

Why We Picked It
Pros & Cons
Card Details

BEST UNITED CARD

United Club℠ Infinite Card

United Club℠ Infinite Card

Up to 4X Reward Rate

Earn 4 miles per $1 spent on United purchases, 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel and dining

Welcome Bonus

Earn 75,000 Bonus Miles

Annual Fee

$525

Regular APR

16.49% – 23.49% Variable

Credit Score

Excellent (750 – 850)

Why We Picked It
Pros & Cons
Card Details

BEST MID-TIER HOTEL CREDIT CARD

World of Hyatt Credit Card *

World of Hyatt Credit Card

Click Here To Learn More
5.0

Up to 4 points

4 points per dollar spent at Hyatt hotels and 2 points per dollar spent at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased

Welcome Bonus

Up to 60,000 points

Annual Fee

$95

Regular APR

15.99% – 22.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Credit Score

Good/Excellent (700 – 749)

Why We Picked It
Pros & Cons
Card Details

BEST HOTEL CREDIT CARD

Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express *

Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express

Up to 14X Reward Rate

Earn 14X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on eligible purchases at participating hotels or resorts within the Hilton portfolio; Earn 7X

Welcome Bonus

150,000 points

Annual Fee

$450

Regular APR

15.74% – 24.74% Variable APR on purchases

Credit Score

Good/Excellent (700 – 749)

Why We Picked It
Pros & Cons
Card Details

BEST ENTRY-LEVEL REWARDS CARD

Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card *

Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card
5.0

Up to 3X Reward Rate

Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1X); Earn 2X

Welcome Bonus

15,000 points

Annual Fee

$95

Regular APR

12.99% – 22.99% Variable APR on purchases

Credit Score

Good/Excellent (700 – 749)

Why We Picked It
Pros & Cons
Card Details

CREDIT CARD FOR AMAZON

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card *

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

Up to 5% Reward Rate

Earn 5% Back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market; Earn 2% Back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores; Earn 1%

Welcome Bonus

$100 Amazon.com Gift Card

Annual Fee

$0 with Prime Membership

Regular APR

14.24% – 22.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Credit Score

Good/Excellent (700 – 749)

Why We Picked It
Pros & Cons
Card Details

BEST SECURED CREDIT CARD

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Up to 2% Reward Rate

Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn

Welcome Bonus

Cashback Match™

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

22.99% Variable

Credit Score

New/Rebuilding Credit

Why We Picked It
Pros & Cons
Card Details

BEST FOR STUDENTS

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for Students *

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for Students

1.5X Reward Rate

Earn unlimited 1.5X points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time and no expiration on points

Welcome Bonus

25,000 points

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.99% – 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Credit Score

Good/Excellent (700 – 749)

Why We Picked It
Pros & Cons
Card Details

BEST FOR FLAT-RATE TRAVEL REWARDS

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Unlimited 2X Miles

Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day

Welcome Bonus

60,000 miles

Annual Fee

$95

Regular APR

15.99% – 23.99% (Variable)

Credit Score

Excellent, Good (700 – 749)

Why We Picked It
Pros & Cons
Card Details

Here’s a summary of the best credit cards of 2021

CREDIT CARD
BEST FOR

CREDIT SCORE

ANNUAL FEE
WELCOME BONUS
Best Flat-Rate Cash Back Card
Excellent, Good
$0
None
Best Entry-Level Travel Card
Excellent/Good
$95
60,000 points
Best Cash Back Card
Excellent, Good
$0
$200
Best Card for Dining
Excellent/Good
$250
60,000 Membership Rewards® Points
Best Flexible Travel Rewards Card
Excellent
$550
50,000 points
Best for Luxury Travel Benefits
Excellent/Good
$695
100,000 Membership Rewards® Points
Best Airline Credit Card
Excellent/Good
$550
80,000 Bonus Miles
Best United Card
Excellent
$525
Earn 75,000 Bonus Miles
Best Mid-Tier Hotel Credit Card
Good/Excellent
$95
Up to 60,000 points
Best Hotel Credit Card
Good/Excellent
$450
150,000 points
Best Entry-Level Rewards Card
Good/Excellent
$95
15,000 points
Credit Card For Amazon
Good/Excellent
$0 with Prime Membership
$100 Amazon.com Gift Card
Best Secured Credit Card
New/Rebuilding Credit
$0
Cashback Match™
Best for Students
Good/Excellent
$0
25,000 points
Best for Flat-Rate Travel Rewards
Excellent, Good
$95
60,000 miles

Methodology

In order to determine the best credit cards for each category, we considered the costs and benefits of each credit card. Costs of each credit card include: the annual fee, foreign transaction fee and the required spending to qualify for the welcome offer. Benefits include the welcome offer, cash rewards or other rewards, bonus category offers, balance transfer offers, status benefits and other perks.

In addition, each category of credit card has its own criteria. For travel rewards cards we also considered how much value you can expect to get out of your points and miles when you redeem them.
For cards meant for those who are trying to build credit or improve their credit score, we focused on credit card offers that offer the most opportunities to improve your credit for the lowest net cost.

For balance transfer cards we looked at the length of 0% APR and the variable APR after the bonus period ended.


The Best Credit Cards of 2021

Citi® Double Cash Card

If you want a simple cash back card, the Citi® Double Cash Card is a great choice. You’ll earn a flat rate of cash back on each purchase with no limits or categories to keep track of. With this card it’s also possible to convert your rewards to ThankYou points, which can be transferred to airline miles if you also hold a Citi Premier® Card or Citi Prestige® Card*.

Rewards: Earn 2% cash back on all purchases—1% when you make the purchase and 1% when you pay your credit card bill.

Welcome Offer: None

Annual Fee: $0

Other Benefits and Drawbacks: The more you use the Double Cash, the more you earn. There are no limits, caps or restrictions on how much cash back you can earn. As long as you pay your card off every month and avoid fee-bearing activities like cash advances and balance transfers, you can use the Citi Double Cash card for your daily purchases and earn a generous amount of cash back without paying any fees or interest.

This Citi Double Cash gives new cardholders an introductory APR of 0% intro for 18 months on Balance Transfers completed within the first four months of opening a new account, and a variable APR after, based on your creditworthiness (currently 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)). Balance transfers are subject to a fee of $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

The Citi Double Cash does charge a foreign transaction fee so it’s not a great choice for international travel.

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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

If you’re wanting to get into the Chase ecosystem but the annual fee of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® scares you away, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card may be a good place to start.

Rewards: Cardholders will earn 5 points per dollar on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3 points per dollar on dining and 2 points per dollar on all other travel purchases and one point per dollar on all other eligible purchases. Plus, through March 2022 you’ll earn a total of 5 points per dollar on Lyft rides.

Welcome Offer: New cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Annual Fee: $95

Other Benefits and Drawbacks: Ultimate Rewards are both flexible and valuable, which is why the Sapphire Preferred Card makes our list if you can’t justify the Sapphire Reserve’s higher annual fee. You have the ability to transfer Ultimate Rewards to a variety of airline frequent flyer programs and hotel chains, such United Airlines and Hyatt.

An Ultimate Rewards point from your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is worth 1.25 cents per point when redeemed through the Chase travel portal or when using Pay Yourself Back, but if you are going to use the travel portal we would recommend considering the higher annual fee Chase Sapphire Reserve® instead because your points will be worth 1.5 cents each in the same instances. The Chase Sapphire Preferred also offers best-in-class travel protections, though they’re not quite as good as the Sapphire Reserve’s coverage.

The Chase Ultimate Reward cards are best taken as a family: partnering a Chase Sapphire Preferred with a Chase Freedom Flex℠ and a Chase Ink business card allows you to earn Ultimate Rewards quickly. Rewards can also be combined between family members to really speed up the pace.

Chase Freedom Flex℠

The Chase Freedom Flex℠, launched in late 2020, is a newcomer to the field—and it launched with a splash. When paired with a premium Chase Ultimate Rewards-earning card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve® or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, it can earn powerful Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Even as a standalone cash back card, it’s tough to beat.

Rewards: Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in rotating categories each quarter that you activate, 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back at restaurants and drugstores and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Welcome Offer: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. And earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

Annual Fee: $0

Other Benefits and Drawbacks: The Chase Freedom Flex packs a huge punch for a card without an annual fee. The biggest downside to this card? You’ll have to remember to activate the quarterly bonus categories and track how much you’ve spent because the rotating categories have a $1,500 cap—at least if you’re planning to optimize your spending.

The Freedom Flex offers a three month complimentary membership to Door Dash’s DashPass—offering free delivery on orders over $12 and 50% off DashPass for the following nine months. You’ll also get 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022.

Finally, you can benefit from complimentary cell phone insurance protection when you pay your monthly cell phone bill with your card. Claims are limited to $800 per claim and $1,000 per year total.

This card does charge a 3% foreign transaction fee so it is not a good choice if you plan to travel abroad.

American Express® Gold Card

If you’re a foodie, look no further than the American Express® Gold Card. This card offers bonus Membership Rewards points on purchases at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets. This is good news for foodies looking to quickly add to their points balance.

Rewards: Earn 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at restaurants and on up to $25,000 in annual spending at U.S. supermarkets, 3 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with the airline or through Amextravel.com and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

Welcome Offer: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months

Annual Fee: $250

(Terms apply. See rates & fees.)

Other Benefits and Drawbacks: In addition to allowing you to earn points toward your next redemption quickly, the Amex Gold Card offers up to $120 in annual dining credits—$10 each month—with participating restaurants including Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, Boxed and delivery services Grubhub and Seamless.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Many trips have non-refundable elements that are tied to specific dates such as hotel or prepaid tour reservations. If you are interrupted or have to cancel your trip, you could be out a tremendous amount of money.

In addition to offering the ability to earn valuable points on purchases, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers trip cancellation and interruption insurance for covered situations, trip delay insurance, lost baggage and baggage delay insurance, primary rental car insurance and more. All of these best-in-class protections helped this card top the list for the best travel rewards credit card.

Rewards: Cardholders earn 5 points per dollar on air travel and 10 points per dollar on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3 points per dollar on other travel and dining and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Welcome Offer: New cardholders can earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Annual Fee: $550

Other Benefits and Drawbacks: The high annual fee of this premium rewards card is partially offset by $300 in travel credits that are applied automatically when you make qualifying purchases.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits include Priority Pass airport lounge membership that includes airport restaurant locations, which the American Express versions of Priority Pass do not include. This means that when you fly, you’ll be able to eat and drink at over 1,200 airport lounge locations worldwide as long as you enroll, which could save your family a nice chunk of change.

Chase Ultimate Rewards points are transferable to a large number of travel partners including United Airline MileagePlus and World of Hyatt. Points are redeemable on Chase’s travel portal or using the Pay Yourself Back feature where they’re worth 1.5 cents each.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

If you’re after a luxury travel experience, especially if you want access to a variety of airport lounges, the The Platinum Card® from American Express is a good choice. It’s packed full of other benefits and perks, too.

Rewards: 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel on up to $500,000 per calendar year, 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel and 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases

Welcome Offer: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.

Annual Fee: $695

Other Benefits and Drawbacks: The Platinum Card from American Express is packed full of additional benefits. For starters, you’ll benefit from access to a number of different airline lounges: Amex Centurion Lounges, over 1,200 Priority Pass airport lounges (excluding restaurant locations, enrollment required), and Delta SkyClubs when flying Delta same-day.

Cardholders will also receive up to $200 in airline incidental credits with the eligible airline they select each year (enrollment required), valid for purchases such as seat selection and checked bags. Additionally, cardholders will receive a credit to cover the TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee and up to $200 annually in Uber credits ($15 per month plus a $20 bonus in December when your eligible card is linked to your Uber account, good for U.S. Uber Eats and rides). The Platinum Card also offers Gold status with both Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy with enrollment.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

While the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card may not be the best option for booking all flights, it is the best overall airline credit card due to the welcome bonus and its full package of additional benefits.

Rewards: 3 miles per dollar on Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar on all other eligible purchases.

Welcome Offer: 80,000 bonus miles and 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $5,000 in purchases in the first 3 months as a cardholder. This offer expires 11/10/2021.

Annual Fee: $550

Other Benefits and Drawbacks: The most notable benefit to the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card is complimentary access to Delta SkyClub lounges and American Express Centurion lounges when you are flying Delta same-day and use your card to book your flight. Cardholders will receive two one-time guest passes to use at SkyClub lounges each year as well.

Cardholders can also make up for a chunk of the annual fee by way of an annual companion flight ticket that is valid for flights in the contiguous U.S. in Main Cabin, Delta Comfort+ or First Class. You will need to pay for the taxes and fees for the companion flight.

Additionally cardholders have the ability to earn Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help qualify for status, a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck enrollment fee credit, savings of 20% on in-flight Delta purchases, a first bag checked free when flying with Delta, Main Cabin 1 boarding and more.

United Club℠ Infinite Card

If you’re a regular United flyer, especially if you value having access to United Club lounges, the United Club℠ Infinite Card could be your go-to. Even if you value none of the card’s other benefits, this card is a smart way to gain access to United Club lounges.

Rewards: Earn 4 MileagePlus miles per dollar spent on purchases with United, 2 miles per dollar spent on all other travel purchases, 2 miles per dollar spent at restaurants and eligible delivery services (GrubHub, Caviar, Seamless and Doordash) and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Welcome Offer: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

Annual Fee: $525

Other Benefits and Drawbacks: The show stopping benefit on the Chase United Club Infinite Card is a full United Club lounge membership. This lounge membership also includes access to Star Alliance lounges when you are flying a Star Alliance member airline same-day. You can bring in up to two guests. Getting access to a United Club lounge membership through this credit card is less expensive than buying just a lounge membership directly.

Additionally, you’ll benefit from Premier Access which includes priority check in and boarding, your first and second checked bags for free when flying United, a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee credit and Hertz President’s Circle status.

This card also comes with travel and purchase protections including trip delay and cancellation insurance, lost and damaged baggage insurance, delayed baggage insurance, primary rental car insurance coverage, purchase protection, extended warranty and more.

World of Hyatt Credit Card *

If you’re looking for some increased benefits at hotels but aren’t ready to shell out the big bucks for the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express*, the World of Hyatt Credit Card is a good place to look. This card doesn’t have a high annual fee and still offers a free night certificate each year for a category 1-4 hotel and a base level of status with Hyatt.

Rewards: 4 points per dollar spent at Hyatt hotels and 2 points per dollar spent at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from the airlines, on local transit and commuting and on fitness club and gym memberships. All other eligible purchases earn 1 point per dollar

Welcome Offer: 30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 more bonus points by earning 2 bonus points total per dollar spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 bonus point, on up to $15,000 spent

Annual Fee: $95

Other Benefits and Drawbacks: Each year when you renew your card, you’ll get a free night valid at Category 1 to 4 Hyatt properties. This benefit alone can easily offset the annual fee of the card. A second Category 1 to 4 free night certificate can be earned after spending $15,000 or more on the card each year.

This card comes with base-level Hyatt Discoverist status and will give you five nights of credit toward earning higher tiers of credit. You can earn two nights of elite credit for every $5,000 you spend on the card each year. It’s possible to earn top-tier Hyatt Globalist status through spending alone, but the majority of users will not spend the hefty sum required to do so.

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Additionally, you’ll receive some purchase protections and basic travel protections.

Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express *

The Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express* offers top tier elite status in the Hilton program. The Aspire Card comes with complimentary Hilton Diamond status, which offers upgrades, breakfast at participating hotels, late checkout and other benefits.

Rewards: Earn 14 Hilton Honors Bonus Points per dollar spent on card purchases at participating Hilton hotels and resorts, 7 Hilton Honors points per dollar on eligible purchases for flights booked directly with American Express Travel, U.S. restaurants and car rentals through select rental companies, and 3 Hilton Honors points per dollar on all other purchases.

Welcome Offer: Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership

Annual Fee: $450

Other Benefits and Drawbacks: The hefty annual fee can be worth it for those who make use of the $250 Hilton resort credit and the $250 airline incidental credit for an eligible airline you choose each year. Cardholders will also receive a free weekend night certificate each year when they renew the card.

The Aspire confers automatic top-tier status, which makes it worth holding for that reason alone if you stay at Hilton hotels often but not enough to earn status.

You’ll also receive a Priority Pass Select membership with access to over 1,200 airport lounges worldwide after you enroll in the program, however your membership will not include access to Priority Pass restaurant locations.

This card also has some travel and purchase protections including baggage insurance for lost, damage or stolen baggage and return protection.

Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card *

The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card* offers good bonus categories, especially if you use your card at least 30 times per month, or “EveryDay”, and is a good option if you want to dip your feet into the Membership Rewards ecosystem without committing to a high annual fee.

Rewards: Earn 3 Membership Rewards points per dollar on up to $6,000 spent annually at U.S. supermarkets, 2 points per dollar spent at U.S. gas stations and flights or prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. If you use your card for at least 30 purchases per month, you’ll earn a 50% bonus on all points earned for that month working out to 4.5 points per dollar, 3 points per dollar and 1.5 points per dollar in the categories mentioned above.

Welcome Offer: Earn 15,000 Membership Rewards® Points, after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months

Annual Fee: $95

Other Benefits and Drawbacks: The biggest benefit and drawback to this card is that you need to make 30 purchases per month to truly unlock the value of the card. If you do, this card is a great option. However, 30 purchases on this card may not make sense for everyone.

This card also offers secondary rental car insurance coverage and return protection, but it does charge foreign transaction fees so it is not a good choice for international travel.

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card *

The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card* has always been a good card. The recent increase in our reliance on Amazon for daily needs makes it a great one. If you’re spending most of your shopping budget with Amazon, you might as well get rewarded for it.

Rewards: 5% in rewards at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market with an eligible Prime membership, 2% at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores and 1% on all other purchases

Welcome Offer: $100 Amazon.com Gift Card upon approval

Annual Fee: $0 with Prime Membership

Other Benefits and Drawbacks: If you’re not a regular Amazon or Whole Foods shopper, this card probably doesn’t make sense for you. The $119 cost of Prime membership effectively acts as an annual fee. If you’re already spending it, then the card has no additional cost to carry.

You can redeem rewards as an Amazon credit with no minimum. However, you can also redeem your cash back as a statement credit or direct deposit to a checking or savings account once your rewards balance reaches $20 or more.

The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card has a number of benefits making it great for travel including no foreign transaction fees, travel accident insurance and baggage delay insurance. It also has perks like Visa Signature’s Luxury Hotel Collection and Concierge Service.

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

If you’re new to credit or have made credit mistakes in the past, you may need a secured card to help build or rebuild your credit. In exchange for a security deposit, Discover will provide you with an equal credit line if you are approved. Most secured credit cards do this, but the Discover it Secured adds rewards to the mix.

Rewards: Earn 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in spending per quarter and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Welcome Offer: Intro Offer: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.

Annual Fee: $0

Other Benefits and Drawbacks: The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is one of only a few secured cards that earn cash back on purchases, so it’s a great option to build credit and earn rewards. You can have a maximum of a $2,500 credit limit by putting down a $2,500 deposit. Discover will review your account for graduation to an unsecured card and the refund of your security deposit starting at eight months.

Like any good secured card, the Discover it Secured reports to all three credit bureaus.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for Students *

If you’re a student looking to apply for your first credit card, Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for Students* is a good place to start. It offers solid rewards and a welcome offer but won’t require you to pay an annual fee.

Rewards: Earn 1.5 points for every dollar you spend.

Welcome Offer: 25,000 bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening – which can be redeemed for a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases

Annual Fee: $0

Other Benefits and Drawbacks: Earning 1.5 points per dollar spent is equivalent to earning 1.5% cash back when you
redeem these points for travel. The Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students offers the highest flat-rate return on your spending, as long as you can use your rewards for travel. Additionally, this card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees which is ideal if you want to study abroad.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

If you want to earn travel rewards without worrying about tracking spending categories and you want rewards that are simple to redeem, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a good choice. Additionally, Venture Miles can be transferred to partners, so it’s a good card to grow with you if you want to learn about the more valuable redemptions that can be out there.

Rewards: Earn an unlimited 2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases.

Welcome Offer: Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel

Annual Fee: $95

Other Benefits and Drawbacks: Capital One Venture miles are easy to redeem to cover travel purchases from your credit card statement. They are worth one cent each when used this way.

Capital One miles can also be transferred to a number of travel partners, but the transfer rate varies by partner which can make calculating value difficult. Before you redeem Venture miles, it’s always best to compare cash prices to the number of miles you would need if you transfer to a partner and see which redemption requires the fewest miles.


How Does a Credit Card Work?

A credit card can be used to make a purchase of goods or services in-person or online. When you apply for and are approved for a credit card, you’re given a line of credit based on your credit score. The better your score, the higher the amount of credit you’ll typically be granted.

A potential advantage to using a credit card over paying cash or a debit card is that a credit card can function like a short-term loan. By using a credit card, you’ll have until the end of the credit card billing period to pay back from your bank account what you charged to the card. You can also earn rewards like cash back or travel rewards with some types of cards, along with extras like purchase and travel protections. The downside is that if you don’t pay the entire amount that you charged to your card, you’ll accrue interest on your purchases which can be expensive over time.

How Do Credit Card Rewards Work?

When you make a purchase on a rewards credit card, you’ll earn a percentage back on your spending as either cash back, points or miles depending on the type of card and what type of rewards it’s offering. Airline credit cards, for example, will typically earn miles, cash back cards will earn you cash back and general purpose rewards cards may earn points that can be used for things like a statement credit or to redeem for travel, merchandise or other options.

Some rewards credit cards will earn the same flat rate back on all spending, like a card that earns 2% back on every purchase. Others will have tiered rewards where a certain type of purchase, like gas or groceries, may earn at a higher reward rate then other types of purchases. Before choosing a rewards card it’s important to consider your spending habits and the type of rewards you think you’ll get the most benefit from and then compare that to the various options available to you.


How Does Credit Card Interest Work?

Most credit cards calculate interest using the average daily balance method, which means your interest is compounded and accumulates every day, based on your daily rate of interest. In other words, every day your finance charges are based on the balance from the day before.

The daily rate of interest is determined by dividing your card’s APR by 365 to find the daily rate of interest and then multiplying that number by your balance. For example, to determine the average daily balance on a card with a $10,000 balance on the first day of the billing cycle and an APR of 17%, you’d divide 17 by 365, which equals a daily rate of 0.0466%. This means the next day, your card would have a balance of $10,004.66, which is what you get when you multiply the balance of $10,000 by 0.000466.

Since the average daily balance is compounded, every day the calculation is based on the day before.

APR vs. APY vs. Interest

APR is a card’s annual percentage rate over the course of a year. A balance of $10,000 with an APR of 17% would accumulate $1,700 in interest. But since most credit cards use an average daily balance method to calculate interest, it can be misleading to look at a card’s APR and try to estimate how much you’d pay in interest.

APY is not a term typically applied to credit cards as it refers to the amount of interest you’d earn over the course of a year on things like deposit accounts such as savings accounts and certificates of deposit (CDs).

In other words, APR refers to the amount of interest you’d pay on a credit card balance or other line of credit and APY refers to the amount of interest you can earn on a deposit account.


How to Improve Your Credit Score

There are several steps you can take to try to improve your credit score. First, check your credit report to make sure there aren’t any errors that could be having an adverse effect. Paying your bills on time, every time will have the single biggest impact on your score. After payment history, the next biggest factor in your credit score is the amount of debt you have. Since credit reporting agencies don’t have your income information, they use something called “credit utilization” instead of a debt-to-income ratio.

Credit utilization is the amount of debt you owe relative to the amount of credit you have. So if you have a balance of $3,000 on a card with a $10,000 limit, you’re using 30% of your credit. Total credit utilization is based on the aggregate amount across all your lines of credit, both what you owe and how much you have available. It’s typically suggested that utilization of 30% or below should be the goal.

Credit Cards for Good Credit

What is considered a good credit score can vary among lenders, and you typically aren’t told what a particular lender’s exact cutoff point is between a good credit score and a bad one. However FICO, the most widely known credit scoring model, shares some helpful information you can use as a guide. The most common FICO scores feature a scale of 300 to 850. On that scale, a credit score between 670 and 739 is generally considered “good.”

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You can check out Forbes Advisor’s list of best cards for good credit to see what might work for your particular circumstances.

Credit Cards for Fair Credit

The definition of a fair credit score varies among lenders, and you typically aren’t told what a particular lender’s exact cutoff point is between a good credit score and a fair one. However FICO, the most widely known credit scoring model, shares some helpful information you can use as a guide. The most common FICO scores feature a scale of 300 to 850. On that scale, a credit score between 580 and 669 is generally considered fair.

You can check out Forbes Advisor’s list of best cards for fair credit to see what might be a fit for your particular circumstances

Credit Cards for Bad Credit

While there’s no exact number that counts as the threshold between “bad” and “good” credit, generally a FICO score below 580 is considered very poor and between 580 and 669 is generally considered fair.

The lower your credit score, the more limited your options when it comes to credit cards. Someone with bad credit will typically only be able to get approved for a secured card or a card with higher-than-average interest rates and other additional fees. See Forbes Advisor’s list of best credit cards for bad credit to see what some of the options are if your credit isn’t stellar.

What Are the Three Credit Bureaus?

There are three credit reporting agencies in the U.S.:

  • Experian
  • Equifax
  • TransUnion

Each of these agencies may use a slightly different method of reporting your credit behavior so it’s not uncommon to have a slightly different credit score with each agency. All three companies serve the same function: to analyze your credit behavior to generate a three-digit credit score used to determine your creditworthiness and in turn, the rates you’ll be offered on loans like a credit card or a mortgage.


Types of Credit Cards

Although all credit cards can be used to make purchases, there are several different types of credit cards, each designed for a different goal.

Rewards Credit Cards

A rewards credit card is one that earns a percentage back on your spending, in the form of cash back, points or miles. The exact amount you’ll earn back can vary greatly by card with some earning the same flat rate back on all of your spending and others offering tiered rewards with certain purchase categories earning elevated rates over other categories.

Balance Transfer Credit Cards

A balance transfer card is one that offers a low or 0% APR for transfers made to the card for an introductory period of time. After that introductory period, the card’s standard variable APR will typically apply. There may be a balance transfer fee to shift debt to a balance transfer card, usually 3% to 5% of the amount being transferred.

Low Interest Credit Cards

A low interest credit card is one that has a low ongoing interest rate, typically far lower than the industry average APR on other cards. For those who typically carry a balance on their cards, this may be a more beneficial option since over time, the interest charges will be less than on a card with a higher interest rate. This is different from a card with a 0% APR in that a low interest card’s rate is ongoing and doesn’t expire after a promotional period.

0% APR Credit Cards

A 0% APR credit card is one that offers an introductory 0% interest period on either purchases, balance transfers or both. Think of a 0% APR offer like an interest-free loan with an expiration date. If used responsibly, it can give you a cushion of time to pay off what you owe, without accumulating additional finance charges. But also be aware that the zero-interest period of time doesn’t last forever and when it expires your balance will accrue interest at the card’s standard variable rate.

Student Credit Cards

College student credit cards aren’t actually different from other credit cards, they’re just marketed towards college students or others with thin credit files who may otherwise have a challenging time being approved for a credit card.

A student credit card, which is a first credit card for many, will typically have more forgiving underwriting standards than a card designed for those with good credit. This means you’re likely to qualify with a lower credit score than the standard version of the card would require. Some college credit cards even offer some perks like rewards and cash bonuses for good grades.

Business Credit Cards

A business credit card can be a great way to separate your personal expenses from your work ones, even if it’s just a part-time gig. When you apply for a business credit card, your approval will be based on your personal credit score. It also means you’ll be personally liable for any debts accrued on the card even if they’re from your business and that business fails. The issuer will also take other factors into consideration when reviewing your application, including your business income and credit history.

Credit Cards to Build Credit

When you’re just starting out with credit or you’re seeking to move past credit missteps, there are credit cards aimed at helping you prove responsible payment behavior, and in turn boost your credit profile. The best starter credit card for you will provide a balance between benefits, such as reporting to the credit bureaus and helping to raise your credit score, and costs to carry, including annual fees or any other maintenance costs.


How to Choose a Credit Card

Choosing the right credit card for your particular circumstances should be based on a combination of factors including your credit score, your tolerance for annual fees, what perks you might be seeking and how any rewards fit with your spending habits.

Annual Fee

Not all credit cards charge an annual fee but many of those that do will offer rich rewards and other perks in return.

Other Fees

Depending on your goals in acquiring a new credit card, be aware of any other fees associated with owning a particular card. For example, if you’re looking for a card to shift a balance to, be sure to factor in any balance transfer fees. Those with not-so-great credit may find that some options available to them charge account opening fees or credit limit request fees in addition to any annual fees. Steer clear of those, if possible.

Interest Rates

For those who think they might carry a balance, even if it’s just occasionally, be aware of the APR on any card you’re considering. Carrying a balance for any length of time on a credit card is expensive and you don’t want to be socked with a ballooning balance over time.

Rewards

If a card offers rewards on your spending, make sure that the areas where it offers the best rewards are a match for your spending habits. Someone without a car is unlikely to benefit from high rewards on gas, for example. While those who rarely dine out or get take-out will likely fare better with a card that offers elevated rewards on groceries rather than dining.

Perks

Many credit cards offer perks and benefits beyond the ability to earn rewards. Premium travel cards may offer exclusive airport lounge access, free checked baggage and airline incidental credits. Many cards on the market offer other perks like extended warranty protections and other travel protections and insurances. Even cards without an annual fee may offer several money-saving benefits.

Credit-Building Help

Cards aimed at helping you shore up your credit profile, like secured cards, work by reporting your on-time payment behavior to the credit bureaus so that over time, your score can improve with a record of positive payment history. There are many cards on the market aimed at those seeking to boost their profile. The best ones charge little to no annual fee and don’t carry account opening or other unnecessary fees. There are some unsecured cards available too, although these tend to be unavailable to those with a recent bankruptcy.

Credit Card Application

In general, there are several steps to applying for a credit card: First, check your credit score through a credit card issuer or by ordering it from one of the three main credit agencies. Once you know where you stand with your credit score, decide which type of card will be the best for you based on what you’re planning to use it for. Credit cards typically fall into one of three categories: rewards, low APR or credit-building.

Next, check to see if you’re pre-qualified. Many issuers, including American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citibank, Deserve and Discover will let you check to see if you’re pre-qualified for any of their cards. Keep in mind that pre-qualification doesn’t ensure approval.

Choosing the right card may be difficult, but applying for the card you’ve chosen is easy. Most cards can be applied for online, although you can go to the issuing bank and apply in person or call them on the phone. If you’re approved, the next step is to make sure you understand the card’s terms and conditions, listed in the fine print of the cardmember agreement.


How Many Credit Cards Should I Have?

There’s no one right number of credit cards to have. That’s because everyone’s financial profile and goals are unique to their particular circumstances. Having multiple credit cards can either be a boon or a bust depending on how you acquire and use the cards.

Advantages to Having Multiple Credit Cards

Having more than one or two credit cards can be a good fit for most people as a credit card allows you to establish credit history. A good credit history over time will save you money as it can help you qualify for lower rates on other types of loans, like mortgages, auto loans or student loans. Since many rewards cards offer tiered rewards in different areas of spending, for someone with a careful strategy of pairing rewards cards, it can be more beneficial than just one card.

Disadvantages to Having Multiple Credit Cards

Too many credit cards can entice you to overspend and take on more debt than you can handle. And if you’re considering adding more credit cards to your portfolio, keep in mind that every time you apply for a credit card, the issuer will run a credit check to determine whether or not to approve you. This can ding your score. And, some issuers will turn you down if you apply for too many cards in too short a period of time.

But for someone who can pay their bills in full and on time, and doesn’t mind the effort of juggling multiple cards, owning several cards can be part of a plan that works for them.

Credit Card Companies

Credit Card Issuer

A credit card issuer is the bank that issues, or approves you for, the card you’re applying for. Some credit cards have the issuing bank as part of their name, like Chase or Citibank. Others work behind the scenes as the issuing bank for credit cards that may not be part of a traditional financial institution, like Chime or Upgrade.

Credit Card Networks

Card networks process the payments between the buyer and the merchant. There are four major credit card networks: Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Discover. American Express and Discover are unique in that they are also card issuing companies in addition to owning a card network.

Co-branded Credit Cards

A credit card that’s co-branded is one that’s issued in partnership with a certain retailer or service provider. Popular brands like JetBlue, Hyatt and Disney have all partnered with credit card companies to offer cards that earn rewards in their loyalty programs and offer brand specific perks. Typically a co-branded credit card will offer rewards and or other perks within the brand.

Visa vs. Mastercard

Both Visa and Mastercard are payment processing networks and it shouldn’t matter to you as a consumer which one your card is on when it comes to making a payment. But both cards offer perks and benefits specific to their brand and type of card within the brand. For example, a traditional Visa or Visa Platinum card may offer roadside dispatch services and lost card replacement assistance. A Visa Signature card may offer these benefits plus travel insurances and protections. Each individual Visa card will come with different benefits based on the type of Visa and the perks selected by the issuing bank to include.

The same holds true for Mastercard: There are different types of Mastercards with varying perks and benefits depending on the type of Mastercard. The most notable feature some Mastercards offer that some Visas don’t is cell phone coverage. You shouldn’t choose a card based on the issuing network however. Instead think of any extras offered by the payment networks as a bonus, with the focus on the main features of the card itself.

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