Best Credit Cards of 2017

Not sure which type of credit card you need? We're here to help.

Finding the right credit card is about much more than a low APR. There are all sorts of options to choose from — from rewards, to cash back, to travel — each with its own rewards rates, signup bonuses, and perks to consider. To help you find the right tool for the job, we’ve built a list of the eight best credit cards of 2017 across categories. No matter your spending habits, there’s a card on our shortlist to help you maximize your earning potential and achieve your financial goals.

Apply Now on Chase.com’s secure website

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a great place to start, because it’s one of the most flexible cards on the market. It offers an extremely high rewards rate on travel and dining — two things pretty much everyone is bound to do. There’s also no annual fee for the first year. Plus, you can earn a signup bonus worth $625 toward travel when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Speaking of Chase Ultimate Rewards®, it’s one of the most extensive and versatile rewards programs in the entire industry. For starters, you get a 25% points bonus when you redeem points for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards®. (That bumps your point value up to 1.25 cents per point.) Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card owners also have the option to transfer points to one of 11 common travel partners, including United and Marriott, at a 1:1 ratio.

Not sure the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is right for you? Whatever type of card you’re looking for, we’re out to make finding it quick and simple. Check out our shortlist of the best cards across categories. If you find one you like, applying online is quick and easy.

The Simple Dollar’s top picks for 2017

Best travel credit card:

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

If you’re an avid traveler, it’s hard to beat the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, because it earns points at virtually every phase of your trip. Not only do you get 2X points per dollar spent on airfare and hotels; but you’ll also earn 2X points for several other types of transportation you don’t usually see on travel cards, including auto rentals, railways, and even parking meters. Casual and fine dining worldwide earn double points too, while all other purchases earn unlimited 1X points per dollar.

This card has some of the most flexible redemption options out there. You can redeem points for cash back or gift cards at a value of cent per point. (3,000 points would get you $30.) Or you can transfer those points, at a 1:1 value, to one of Chase’s eleven airline and hotel partners, including United, Hyatt, and Marriott. Remember: If you redeem those points through Chase Ultimate Rewards® (Chase’s travel booking hub that’s similar Expedia or Kayak), you’ll get a 25% points bonus on your purchase. That means your point value goes up to 1.25 cents.

If you spend $4,000 or more within the first three months of opening your account, you’ll earn 50,000 bonus points. And if you redeem those points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® instead of getting cash back, or redeeming them for statement credits to apply to travel booked elsewhere, those points are worth $625 — one of the most generous signup bonuses out there.

Here’s another reason Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is our favorite travel card: It works exceptionally well paired with the Chase Freedom®, which earns 5% cash back on rotating categories. And since Chase Ultimate Rewards® points are transferrable between the two cards, the combo helps you earn rewards that much faster.

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  • 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
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 within three months of opening your account.
  • Book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® to maximize your point redemption value.
  • Combine with the Chase Freedom® to maximize your Chase Ultimate Rewards® earning potential.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the most well-rounded travel card available, but after the first year, it comes with a $95 annual fee. (The fee is waived for year one.) Not willing to pay an annual fee? A great alternative is the Discover it® Miles, which has no annual fee or foreign transaction fee, and earns unlimited 1.5X miles per dollar spent on all purchases. Remember: the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card only earns double points on travel and dining. If hoarding points for the annual trip to Disney is more your style, the Discover it® Miles could offer a greater value.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a wonderfully flexible travel card for casual vacationers and exotic adventurers alike. Not only will you earn double points for basically all types of travel, eating out racks them up too — all of which you can redeem with a 25% points bonus for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Best for everyday cash back:

Blue Cash Everyday® from American Express

Apply Now on American Express's secure website

Commuters and large families have a lot to gain from the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. This card offers unlimited 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores. If you drive a 30-mile round trip to work (the national average), it’ll be easy to earn $350 or more a year on your commute alone. Purchases at U.S. supermarkets earn 3% cash back (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%), and all other purchases score 1%. You won’t have to keep up with any rotating categories or enrollments, and there’s no annual fee — it’s one of the more straightforward cash back cards on the market.

This card also shines when it comes to interest rates. First off, you’ll get a 0% intro APR for the first twelve months, which is helpful if you don’t pay your balance in full right away. After that, your ongoing variable APR can be as low as 13.99% depending upon your credit score. That’s pretty good, considering many comparable cards start off around 18%.

The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express comes with a signup bonus too: after spending at least $1,000 in purchases within the first three months, you’ll get a $100 statement credit — most competing cash back cards don’t offer any type of bonus at all.

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  • $100 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • No annual fee.
  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%).
  • 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 13.99% to 24.99%.
  • Expanding merchant acceptance: Over 1 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in the last year.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Earn a whopping 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, unlimited 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and U.S. department stores, and 1% cash back on everything else.
  • Use the 0% intro APR period to pay off large purchases while avoiding interest.
  • Spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months to get a $100 statement credit.
The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express offers significant reward potential for everyday purchases. But for some customers, the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card may be a bit simpler to use. There aren’t any categories or caps on how much you can earn; it’s a straightforward 1.5% unlimited cash back on all purchases. Travelers will also enjoy World Elite Mastercard® benefits like complimentary travel upgrades and savings at Mastercard’s portfolio of Luxury Hotels & Resorts, plus travel insurance that covers non-refundable trips that are cancelled due to sickness or injury.
Supermarket mavens and long-haul commuters can earn serious cash back with the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express without even trying. And it comes with a few perks too: 0% intro APR for the first 12 months and a signup bonus, which most cash back cards don’t have.

Best for balance transfers:

Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer

Apply Now on Discover's secure website

The Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer stands out as our top balance transfer credit card of 2017 for two reasons: long-lasting 0% intro APR and great cash back rewards rates. Cardholders get a whopping 18 months of 0% intro APR on balance transfers. (Most balance transfer cards max out between 12 to 15 months.) Here’s another unique feature: you’ll also get six months of 0% intro APR on purchases. So you’re guaranteed not to pay any interest with this card for the first six months, regardless of what you use it for. And, there’s no annual fee.

This card also earns you 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories, plus 1% cash back on all other purchases, which is one of the highest rewards rates of any card out there. (Remember: you have to active the categories every quarter to take advantage of them.) If you’re working to pay off existing debt, this is the ideal card, because you’ll earn rewards while you do it. Not to mention, you get an extra three to six interest-free months to do so compared to the rest of the competition.

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Card Highlights Provided by Discover:
  • You could turn $200 into $400 with Cashback Match™. Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like gas stations, Amazon.com, restaurants, wholesale clubs and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Redeem your cash back for any amount, any time. Cash rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • Get your FICO® Credit Score for free on monthly statements, on mobile and online.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
  • Earn cash back while you’re paying off your balance from a high-APR card.
  • Monitor your FICO® Credit Score for free on monthly statements.
  • Transfer balances from high-APR cards and avoid paying interest for 18 months.
  • Misplaced your card? Freeze your account remotely to prevent fraud with the mobile app and website.
If you’re trying to transfer a large balance, you should note that the Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer has a 3% balance transfer fee per transfer. Use The Simple Dollar’s Debt Payoff Calculator to determine whether the fee will exceed the amount of interest you’re already paying. If not, the Barclaycard Ring™ MasterCard® is a great alternative, because it offers no balance transfer fee for transfers made within your first 45 days.
If one of your financial goals is paying down an existing balance, the Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer is the one-two punch you’re looking for. It offers a whopping 18 month 0% intro APR on balance transfers and up to 5% cash back in rotating categories. Oh, and you’ll also get a six-month 0% intro APR for all other purchases. There isn’t another combo that can compete.

Best for everyday travel rewards:

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Apply Now on Capital One's secure website

Strong rewards potential on everyday purchases makes the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card ideal for frugal spenders looking to earn rewards toward their next vacation. With 2X miles on every purchase, every day, there’s no need to track your spending in particular categories. And since miles are redeemable for a travel statement credit, you can stretch your miles even further by booking through a discount travel site or during a sale. Eligible purchases like airfare and hotels are covered, no matter how you book.

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  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $400 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $59 after that
  • Get a metal Venture Card when you apply today
  • Spend $3,000 on purchases in your first three months to earn 40,000 bonus miles.
  • Make the most of your miles by redeeming for travel statement credit or for travel booked through CapitalOne.com. Eligible purchases include airfare, hotels, rental cars, and more.
  • Traveling abroad? Use this card while you’re traveling to avoid foreign transaction fees.
  • Take advantage of complimentary, 24-hour concierge service through Visa Signature Concierge.
There’s a $59 annual fee after your first year. Additionally, redemption rates for gift cards, checks, and vary; you’ll get the best value for your miles when you redeem for travel statement credit or book through CapitalOne.com. If you’d prefer cash back to travel rewards, we recommend the Discover it® Cashback Match™. It offers 5% cash back on rotating categories, plus a bonus that doubles the rewards you’ve earned at the end of your first year.
With unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase and a 40,000 mile signup bonus, you’ll be on your way to a free vacation in no time. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card makes it easy to earn flexible travel rewards on the types of purchases you’re making anyway. There are no bonus categories to keep track of — just consistent, high-rate rewards toward your next trip.

Best hotel credit card:

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Apply Now on American Express's secure website

If you frequent Marriott Rewards® properties, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express offers one of the most advantageous reward rates available. You’ll get up to 2X Starpoints® for every dollar spent on eligible purchases, plus up to three extra points per dollar via the Starwood Preferred Guest Program if you have Starwood Preferred Guest® Elite status — that’s a maximum of 5X points per dollar. All other purchases earn 1X Starpoints® per dollar.

Frequent flyers also have a reason to love the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. Starpoints® can be redeemed at over 150 airlines through SPG® Flights, or they can be transferred to a variety of partners at a 1:1 exchange rate, including Delta, American Airlines, and United. Note: if you wait until you have 20,000 points or more before you transfer your points to a loyalty program like Delta SkyMiles, you will be awarded an additional 5,000 Starpoints®.

If you spend at least $3,000 within three months of opening your account, you’ll get 25,000 Starpoints®. That’s enough for two free nights at one of 423 SPG® category 4 hotels around the world.

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  • Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases spent on the Card at participating SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels. Earn 1 Starpoint for all other purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on International purchases.
  • Redeem Starpoints® at over 1,300 participating hotels and resorts in over 100 countries and for flights on more than 150 airlines with SPG flights, all with no blackout dates.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Spend $3,000 in your first 3 months to earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints®.
  • Earn up to 5X points per dollar at eligible SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels.
  • Work toward Starwood Preferred Guest® Gold and Elite status for major perks like late checkout, upgrades, and up to a 50% boost in Startpoints® value.
  • Take advantage of unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi at more than 1,000,000 locations worldwide.
If you’re more concerned with travel costs than finding the perfect luxury suite, the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card might be a better option. It features 5,200 hotels worldwide across 12 brands, including few more budget-minded options like Holiday Inn and Candlewood Suites.
All in all, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is one of the best options for business travelers — especially for those who frequent Marriott properties. Between its flexible rewards and plethora of airline partners, it’s the hotel credit card to beat. And it has a great signup bonus too: two free nights at a category 4 hotel after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months.

First-year rewards matching:

Discover it® Cashback Match™

Apply Now on Discover's secure website

Not to be confused with its sibling, the Discover it® – 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer, the Discover it® Cashback Match™ is a great entry level card that packs a couple of top-shelf features. For starters, you’ll earn an attractive 5% cash back in rotating categories — one of the highest reward rates available for any type of card. What’s even better is that Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned during year one. If you earn 5% on the quarterly maximums, that translates into $400 in your pocket. All with no annual fee.

If you’re currently paying down your balance on a high-APR card, consider the Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer. Its 18-month 0% intro APR makes it a perfect selection for balance transfers, allowing you to focus on paying off your card as quickly as possible without setbacks from interest.

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Card Highlights Provided by Discover:
  • You could turn $200 into $400 with Cashback Match™. Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like gas stations, Amazon.com, restaurants, wholesale clubs and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Redeem your cash back for any amount, any time. Cash rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • Get your FICO® Credit Score for free on monthly statements, on mobile and online.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
  • Enroll in Discover’s rotating bonus categories each quarter to earn 5% cash back. (Maximize rewards in bonus categories as much as you can. Discover will match all cash back you earn at the end of your first year!)
  • Take advantage of 0% intro APR for purchases for 14 months.
  • Log in to monitor your FICO® Credit Score for free online.
Want to accumulate rewards even faster? The Chase Freedom® doesn’t match your cash back earnings for year one, but it does pair incredibly well with our overall favorite, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. This combo allows you to earn rewards via Chase Ultimate Rewards® that much faster because the points are transferrable between cards. And since points are worth 25% when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, this is the ideal card pairing for frequent travelers.
The Discover it® Cashback Match™ works well for cash back mavens and casual card users alike. As long as you maximize spending within the rotating categories, it will be easy to earn your max potential and cash in on the $400 bonus at the end of your first year. (There’s also no annual fee to worry about!)

Best cash back redemption bonus:

Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard®

Apply Now on Barclaycard's secure website

The Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard® is our favorite cash back redemption bonus card, but it also has another trick up its sleeve: a 15-month 0% intro APR. No rotating categories. No enrollments to remember. You’d be hardpressed to find a card with a more generous no-interest period, but on top of that, you’ll earn cash back on every purchase. That makes it ideal for large purchases like a new washing machine or 4K TV. Use this card to buy what you need, and take more than a year to pay off the balance before you incur any interest.

The reward structure is simple: you earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. And the best part is, there aren’t any rotating categories to keep up with. You’ll also earn 5% cash rewards bonus toward your next redemption every time you redeem your points. So if you redeem $600 in rewards, you’ll get a $30 boost toward your next redemption.

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  • Get a $200 cash rewards bonus after you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days after account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on every purchase
  • Every time you redeem, get a 5% cash rewards redemption bonus to use toward your next redemption
  • Redeem your cash rewards for a deposit into a U.S. checking or savings account, a statement credit or gift cards. Redemptions start at $50
  • Cash rewards do not expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • Enjoy a 0% introductory APR for 15 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 15.99%, 20.99% or 25.99%, based on your creditworthiness
  • Please note, there is a fee for balance transfers
  • No annual fee
  • Earn 1.5% cash rewards on all purchases.
  • Use it for larger purchases and pay off your balance during the intro APR period to avoid paying interest.
  • Get a $200 cash rewards bonus after you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days after opening the account.
The Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard® offers 1.5% cash back, which is pretty good. But if you want a higher rewards rate, check out the Discover it® Cashback Match™. With that card, you’ll earn 5% cash back — as long as you’re willing to keep up with rotating categories. And, it’ll match your earnings dollar-for-dollar at the end of your first year, doubling your rewards potential.
The Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard® is about as straightforward as they come: no annual fee, no rotating categories, no enrollment periods that you have to remember each quarter. Just unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases and a 15-month 0% intro APR that makes it perfect for larger purchases. Plus, you’ll get a 5% bonus toward your next redemption every time you redeem your points.

Best airline credit card:

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Apply Now on American Express's secure website

If you’re a member of Delta’s SkyMiles frequent flyer program, the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express offers some of the most competitive earnings of any airline credit card on the market. You’ll get 2X miles per dollar spent directly with Delta (and 1X miles per dollar for everything else), plus up to 6 extra miles per dollar just for being a member, depending upon your status in the program. The perks continue with a free checked bag for up to nine people per Delta reservation (including yourself) and priority boarding so you can skip the line.

Starwood Preferred Guest® Platinum and Gold members can also use the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express to earn Starpoints® via the Crossover Rewards™ program. After linking your accounts (done by signing into your SPG account and adding your SkyMiles number), you’ll earn one Starpoints® for every dollar spent on a direct-booked Delta flight and 2X miles per dollar.

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  • Earn 30,000 Bonus Miles after spending $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 miles on every dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
  • Check your first bag free on every Delta flight - that's a savings of up to $200 per round trip for a family of four.
  • Settle into your seat sooner with Priority Boarding.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Earn 2X miles per dollar spent on direct-booked Delta flights, and 1X miles per dollar on all other purchases.
  • Skip the line with priority boarding on Delta flights.
  • Save on free checked bags for up to nine people per Delta reservation.
If you’re a Delta loyalist, it doesn’t get any better than the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express. But if your travel habits are more unpredictable, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card will give you even more flexible redemption options — and it earns 2X points for all travel (and dining) worldwide, not just on Delta.
The Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express has a lot to offer a frequent flyer. There’s the generous signup bonus. And perks like free priority boarding and $0 foreign transaction fees that will be super-convenient each time you travel. Oh yeah—and that free checked back offers a savings of $200 per round trip for a family of four! (If you travel alone with one checked bag, the savings on baggage fees will cover the cost of your annual fee in just two flights.) Altogether, if you’re a Delta fan, this card is a great travel companion.

The Simple Dollar’s top picks for 2017: summed up

How should I choose the right credit card?

While the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the clear winner for my family, that doesn’t mean it’s the best card for yours. In reality, the best card for your needs depends on your spending style and personal credit goals. Below are a few scenarios to help you narrow down the right card for you.

“I want free travel and perks.”

Travel credit cards are notorious for their amazing perks and travel-related benefits. Not only can you earn points or miles good for free travel, but also many travel credit cards let you earn special status with a hotel or airline, and also let you transfer your points to numerous hotel and airline loyalty programs.

What to look for: If travel is your number one goal, you’ll want a credit card that earns at least 2x points on travel and has tons of flexibility, including allowing you to transfer points to hotel and airline loyalty programs. Also, many of the best travel credit cards offer additional travel benefits like trip cancellation coverage, primary and secondary auto rental coverage, and emergency travel assistance.

Beware: Most travel cards have annual fees, which are well worth the price if you earn enough points each year to justify the fee. You will also need excellent credit for most top travel cards.

“I’m looking for the best sign-up bonus right now.”

While it’s smart to think about the ongoing rewards you can earn, scoring a huge sign-up bonus doesn’t hurt, either. Fortunately, a ton of credit cards offer huge bonuses to people who are able to meet a minimum spending requirement within the first few months. While these sign-up bonuses can come in the form of cash back, you can also earn gift cards, airline miles, free hotel stays, and hotel points as well.

What to look for: Credit card sign-up bonuses are often cyclical with a peak season generally in the summer months, although some top travel cards offer healthy bonuses all year round. Sign-up bonuses are highest on rewards cards and travel cards, but make sure the one-time bonus is worth it. Often the largest point bonuses are on hotel cards, which offer little long-term value unless you travel frequently or only stay at one hotel chain. If you only travel one to two times per year, you will probably not earn enough points to justify the annual fee.

Beware: Since most cards with big bonuses come with a minimum spending requirement, you’ll need to make sure you can hit that requirement without hurting your finances. Also, make sure the “bonus” you earn is something you can actually use. For example, a sign-up bonus made up of airline miles will only be useful if you plan to travel and can actually fly that airline.

“I want to earn cash back on my spending.”

Cash back credit cards let you earn cash back, statement credits, or gift cards for every purchase you make. The best credit cards allow you to accumulate two or more points per dollar or more. Cash back cards are great second credit cards to own and work best when paired with a more general 2x points per purchase rewards card. And since many cash back credit cards are also considered “beginner credit cards,” they offer a great opportunity to build credit while you earn rewards.

What to look for: A cash back card is ideal when used as either your first credit card, or a complement to a higher-earning rewards card. Use cash back cards to maximize rewards on groceries, gas, and other categories where your rewards card might not earn bonus points. I use the Blue Cash Preferred Card® by American Express to earn 6% back on groceries at U.S. supermarkets for my family — up to $6,000 per year, for example. You also, generally do not need excellent credit like with a rewards card, but this can vary by issuer.

Beware: Cash back cards often rotate their bonus categories on a quarterly schedule. This means that you might earn 5% back on gas for the first three months of the year, and then groceries in the second quarter. Also, despite the allure of high earnings, cash back cards often cap the points you can earn in a given quarter.

“I need to reduce my interest rate.”

One way to avoid high-interest credit card payments is to transfer your balance to a new credit card. When you do this, make sure it’s a credit card that will either accept your balance without charging a fee or offers a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers for over a year. This gives you time to pay off your large balance.

What to look for: If you’re carrying credit card debt at a high interest rate, look for a card with a low interest rate or 0% introductory APR for anywhere between 12 to 21 months. Depending on how much you owe and your current rate, the interest you save could add up quick. And when you’re not paying huge interest payments every month, you may be able to get out of debt faster.

Beware: Most 0% introductory APR cards carry a fee for transferring your balance to the new card. This fee is usually between 3% and 5% of your total balance. The Chase Slate® card waives this fee if the balance is transferred within 60 days from a non-Chase credit card.

“I need to build credit.”

Building credit is an important step in your financial journey, and using a credit card responsibly is the quickest way to build credit. However, when you do not have credit history, it can be difficult to obtain a card. There are two types of credit cards for building credit: unsecured and secured. Most credit cards are unsecured and do not require a cash deposit to use. A secured credit card is needed in more extreme circumstances where you need to “secure” your line of credit by depositing a cash amount equal to what you want to borrow.

What to look for: If your goal is building credit, rewards should take a back seat for the time being. Instead of looking for the top rewards credit cards, you should home in on cards geared to people with poor or evolving credit. If you can, you’ll want to get an unsecured credit card that doesn’t require a deposit.

Beware: You might have to apply for a secured credit card if your credit score is extremely low or if your credit history is limited. With a secured credit card, you would need to deposit $200-$500 with the credit card company in order to receive a $200-$500 line of credit. This sounds like a big barrier, but with a few months of on-time payments, you can reasonably expect to have the deposit requirement lifted.

Read our reviews for Best Credit Cards for Average Credit, Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit, and Best Student Credit Cards to find one that’s right for you.

“I don’t know what I need.”

If you’re still unsure which type of card would benefit you the most, browsing them all can help you compare and contrast. Take a look at our credit card database below.

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If you’re looking for any easy way to compare cards, check out our search tool below:

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How to Make The Right Credit Card Work For You

When used correctly, credit cards are powerful tools to help manage cash flow, and “earn” on your everyday spending. However, used improperly, credit cards can wreak havoc on your finances. Below are a few tips to make sure you get the most out of your credit card.

Research your rewards program

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people complain about having trouble redeeming airline miles. The thing is, with a bit of research ahead of time, they would already know that airline miles are incredibly difficult to redeem, especially during peak travel times and within a few months of departure. This is where it pays to educate yourself. If you plan to sign up for a card that is tied to a specific program, such as an airline or hotel chain, you should first have an idea of what you would want to redeem your points for — and if it’s even possible. If you don’t want to be tied down to a specific rewards currency, you can also opt for a cash back card or one that offers flexible rewards. One good option is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Don’t Be Afraid to Get Multiple Cards

A huge misconception in the world of credit cards is that it is bad for your credit to have more than one or two cards. Because a large percentage of your credit score is based on your balance-to-limit ratio, having a large credit limit spread over several cards and a zero balance can actually be better for your credit score than just having a few cards. Meanwhile, carrying more than one card can also help you leverage the different benefits and perks that different types of rewards cards have to offer. For example, you could get a hotel card for free hotel stays and a cash-back card to help you pay for the gas to get to your destination.

Always treat your credit card like cash

In order to maximize rewards without getting in trouble, you need to treat your credit card like cash. This means only spending amounts you have incoming each month and not a penny more. The quickest way to enter the credit card downward spiral is to use a credit card to make a large purchase you cannot afford. If you don’t have the cash to pay for something, don’t use credit as an excuse to justify the purchase. Only charge what you can afford to pay off each month — period.

Cash In on Hidden Benefits

Although the best credit cards offer a slew of obvious benefits including cash back and travel rewards, many offer a handful of hidden perks that aren’t always advertised. You might have to dig deeper to find them, but these “extras” can truly come in handy. If used correctly, they can even help you save money, travel safer, and protect yourself from undue risk. Here are a few credit card benefits not everyone knows about, and some information on how each one works:

Benefit #1: Zero Liability

Although consumer liability for fraudulent purchases made on credit is limited to $50, the best cards take that protection a step further and offer zero liability for transactions you didn’t make. If your card is lost or stolen, or if a random charge appears on your bill, you won’t be liable if you report it immediately.

Benefit #2: No Foreign Transaction Fees

Many of the best credit cards on the market charge a foreign transaction fee equal to 3% of your purchase for charges made overseas. However, some waive this fee altogether — a feature that can help you save when you travel out of the country.

Benefit #3: Rental Car Coverage

If you rent cars frequently, you have probably already checked to make sure your personal auto policy provides this type of coverage. However, it’s also important to check with your credit card as well. While some cards only offer a secondary Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), others offer expensive primary auto rental coverage as a free perk to cardholders.

Benefit #4: A Free FICO Score

Although you can pay to get your FICO score at any time, several of the top rewards cards offer a free FICO score on your monthly statement or bill. This can save you the expense of paying to see your credit score, while also helping you monitor fluctuations in your score over time.

Benefit #5: Emergency Travel Assistance

If you find yourself in a bind, it is possible your card issuer could help. That’s because many of the best rewards cards offer emergency travel assistance for individuals traveling at least 100 miles from home. Perks include helping find lost luggage to booking alternative travel plans.

Benefit #6: Free Travel Insurance

Although benefits vary, several of the top rewards cards offer trip delay or trip cancellation insurance that will reimburse you if your itinerary is changed due to issues beyond your control. This type of insurance is most often used when a trip is canceled due to the unexpected death of a family member, an accident occurs, or a natural disaster puts travel plans on the back burner.

Benefit #7: Extended Warranties

Many of the top cards offer extended warranties that kick in if something goes wrong outside of a qualified item’s traditional one-year manufacturer’s warranty. Depending on the circumstances, this type of coverage usually reimburses you or sends you a replacement.

Benefit #8: Price Protection

Some cards offer price protection, which will pay you the difference on a large-ticket item if it goes on sale shortly after you purchase it. The most popular program is Citi’s Price Rewind. With Citi’s service, you will be automatically reimbursed for the price difference if any large item you buy and register is found at a lower price within 60 days.

Benefit #9: Roadside Assistance

If you have a credit card that offers roadside assistance and you experience a breakdown, all you need to do is call the number on the back of your card. You’ll be charged a flat fee depending on what type of service you require, but at least you won’t be left at the mercy of your local tow truck company.

Benefit #10 Access to Cash

While not common, some credit cards give you access to cash at the register similar to your debit card. For example, with Discover’s Cash Over program, you can request cash back at the register and avoid a trip to the ATM — and without paying any fees. This benefit is only available at participating stores.

The Bottom Line

The very best credit card for you depends on your circumstances, spending habits, and personal financial goals. While credit cards have gotten a bad rap over the years, their myriad benefits make them worth considering if you’re able to avoid the allure of overspending. If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve learned how to select a great card from thousands of possibilities. You have also learned some basics for using credit cards, seen some pitfalls to avoid, and have been exposed to many hidden benefits credit card pros have been exploiting for years. Now it’s up to you to use your card responsibly and make sure your card is another tool in your financial tool belt.

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