Best Credit Cards of 2017

Not sure which type of credit card you need? We

From rewards cards to cash back, travel, and balance transfers, there are a ton of credit card options to choose from. To find the best fit, you’ll need to take a look at your spending habits and financial goals. Does your spending fall in certain categories, like travel, groceries, or restaurants? Do you need 0% APR for a large purchase or balance transfer? Or is earning free travel your #1 priority?

The best credit cards offer some combination of low interest rates, high-rate rewards, large signup bonuses, and other perks. The card that works well for one person or household won’t necessarily work for another. But a select number cards are versatile enough to make our list of the best credit cards of 2017. These cards offer a combination of features that align well with common spending patterns and goals.

Apply Now on Chase.com’s secure website

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is our top pick for most people. That’s because it offers high-rate rewards on travel and dining at restaurants — plus access to one of the largest, most flexible rewards programs out there. Chase Ultimate Rewards® points transfer 1:1 to many frequent travel programs, so you can use them how you like, with few restrictions. And speaking of travel, this card offers a huge signup bonus worth $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®!

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

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Highlights
  • 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

Special offer: earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening.

For best-in-class travel rewards and super-flexible redemption, look no further than the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. It’s The Simple Dollar’s best travel credit card of 2017 for many reasons. First off, there’s the huge signup bonus, worth $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. That’ll go a long way toward your next vacation!

The rewards you’ll earn with this card are extremely flexible. You’ll earn 2X points per dollar on travel and dining at restaurants (and 1X points on other purchases) — and you’ll have plenty of options when it’s time to redeem them. In addition to travel, you can choose to redeem points for statement credits, gift cards, and eDeposit to your bank. Plus, points transfer 1:1 to popular travel loyalty programs like Marriott Rewards® and United MileagePlus®. For the best value, we recommend redeeming points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® for a 25% redemption bonus.

In addition to its stellar rewards program, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers an impressive array of premium travel benefits. These include Trip Delay Reimbursement, a $100 Airline Fee Credit, Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance, and more. All are included, just for being a cardmember — and any one of them could make a big difference on your next trip!

How To Use It

Best Use

The Fine Print

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Our Verdict

Our Verdict

  • Spend $4,000 in your first 3 months to earn the signup bonus.
  • Use for travel booking or dining out to earn 2X points.
  • Redeem points/book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® for a 25% redemption bonus.
  • Transfer points to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs.
This card has a $95 fee, which could eat into your rewards if you don’t spend much on travel or restaurants. But the fee is waived for the first year, and the signup bonus is worth $625 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Even disregarding any rewards points you earn, that free $625 in travel covers the $95 fee more than 6x over.
If you travel often and want to earn free trips, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® is pretty much a no-brainer. In addition to the 25% redemption bonus, you’ll enjoy a massive signup bonus, 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs, and travel booking without blackout dates or restrictions. Your vacation, your way.

Best for Everyday Cash Back

Apply Now on American Express's secure website

Blue Cash Everyday® from American Express Highlights
  • Limited Time Offer: Apply by 5/3/17 - Earn 10% cash back on purchases at U.S. Restaurants in the first 6 months, up to $200 back.
  • Plus, earn $100 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • Everyday Cash Back: 3% at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%); 2% at U.S. gas stations; 1% on 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.
  • No annual fee. Plus, 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months, then a variable rate, currently 13.74% to 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

Limited Time Offer: Apply by 5/3/17 – Earn 10% cash back on purchases at U.S. Restaurants in the first 6 months, up to $200 back.

The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is a popular option for hassle-free cash back. With this card, you’ll earn high-rate cash back at U.S. supermarkets and gas stations, plus a flat 1% on all other purchases. This type of rewards structure is more convenient than cash back programs with rotating categories, which require quarterly enrollment and category tracking to make the most of your rewards.

The rewards categories line up with common expenses in the average household budget. For example, a “moderate-cost meal plan” costs $800/month for a family of four (as of March 2017). With the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, such a family would earn $216 per year on groceries alone — not bad for a card with no annual fee! We recommend this card for the frugal spender who doesn’t travel frequently or spend significantly at restaurants. Use it at the grocery store and at the pump to earn effortless, high-rate rewards.

How To Use It

Best Use

The Fine Print

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Our Verdict

Our Verdict

  • Use this card at U.S. supermarkets and gas stations to maximize rewards.
  • Pay off balance transfers or large purchases during the intro APR period.
3% cash back is respectable for a flat-rate rewards card with no annual fee — but if you’re willing to pay an annual fee, you could earn more with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. It offers a whopping 6% at U.S. supermarkets and 3% at U.S. gas stations. If you consistently spend a lot on groceries and gas, the greater earnings may justify the fee.
The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express offers a straightforward, convenient approach to cash back. Its categories align with most people’s monthly spending. And because there are no rotating categories to watch or sign up for, earning rewards is as simple as using the card.

Best for Balance Transfers

Apply Now on Discover's secure website

Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer Highlights
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.

Transferring a balance from a high-APR card to a card with 0% intro APR can mean big savings over time — and help you pay off your balance faster. If your financial goals include a balance transfer, we recommend the Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer, our top balance transfer credit card of 2017. With 5% cash back in rotating categories (and 1% on other purchases), it offers unusually high-rate cash back for a balance transfer card. That’s ideal for earning rewards while you’re paying off existing debt.

This card is also one of few balance transfer cards that offers a first-year rewards bonus. At the end of your first year, Discover will match any cash back you’ve earned dollar-for-dollar, automatically. That means any rewards you earn in your first year will effectively double. And with Discover, cash back is redeemable as a statement credit, eDeposit, charitable donation, or Amazon.com purchase for lots of flexibility. (Pro tip: redeem your rewards for a statement credit to pay down what you owe even faster!)

Striving to raise your credit score? Paying off your transferred balance will help. Meanwhile, be sure to take advantage of credit monitoring tools through your Discover account. With the Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer, cardmembers get access to free FICO® Credit Scores on their monthly statements and online.

How To Use It

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The Fine Print

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Our Verdict

Our Verdict

  • Transfer balances from high-APR cards to this card to stop interest payments. Then pay them off during the 0% intro APR period.
  • If you make any large purchases on the card, pay them off during your first 6 months to avoid interest payments.
  • Keep an eye on Discover’s rotating bonus categories to earn 5% cash back. (Enrollment required quarterly. Sign up ASAP after categories change to earn as much as possible.)
  • Monitor your FICO® Credit Score for free through your online account.
There’s a 3% fee for each balance transfer, so if you have multiple balances or an extra large one, the fee-free Chase Slate® may be a better fit (though it doesn’t include a rewards program). Also, note the 0% intro APR terms: it’s 18 months on balance transfers but 6 months on purchases. If you’re looking for longer intro APR on purchases, check out the Discover it® Cashback Match™.
The Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer strikes a good balance between cash back and balance transfer cards, with few compromises. It offers both extended intro APR and a generous rewards program. Get this card to pay down your debt—and earn rewards while you’re at it.

Best Hotel Credit Card

Apply Now on American Express's secure website

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express Highlights
  • 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

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is a popular choice for business and leisure travelers alike. (It’s also our top hotel credit card of 2017.) It offers up to 5X points per dollar on eligible purchases at SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels — so if you travel frequently and often stay at a Marriott property, your Starpoints® will add up quickly.

Among hotel-specific credit cards, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express boasts an unusually flexible rewards program. Of course, you can redeem your Starpoints® at 1,300+ hotels and resorts worldwide — but you can also redeem Starpoints® for flights on 150+ airlines via SPG Flights. Points are also transferrable to partner airlines. This flexibility will allow you to shop the sales with your favorite airlines to make the most of your points.

Better yet, if you’re also a Delta SkyMiles member, take advantage of the Crossover Rewards™ to earn both SkyMiles and Starpoints® faster. The program allows members of both programs to earn Skymiles for eligible Starwood stays — and Starpoints® on eligible Delta flights. Join both loyalty programs to make the most of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express.

Related: The Simple Dollar’s Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express review

How To Use It

Best Use

The Fine Print

Fine Print

Our Verdict

Our Verdict

  • Use this card when you stay at SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels to earn 2X Starpoints® per dollar.
  • Spend $3,000 in your first 3 months to earn the signup bonus.
  • Redeem Starpoints® at participating hotels and resorts, or for flights via SPG Flights.
This card has a $95 fee after the first year. If you’re considering a points transfer to an airline partner, note: transfer rate may vary by airline. While points transfer 1:1 to many airlines, Starpoints® may be worth less than 1 point with some airlines. If you don’t travel very often, consider a more general rewards card. For more flexible travel redemption, check out our top pick, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is a great option for the traveler with a preference for the properties within the SPG®/Marriott Rewards® umbrella. Redeem your rewards at over 1,300 participating hotels and resorts in 100 countries—and flights on more than 150 airlines—with no blackout dates. And use this card when you travel abroad; it has no foreign transaction fees.

First-Year Rewards Matching

Apply Now on Discover's secure website

Discover it® Cashback Match™ Highlights
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.

The Discover it® Cashback Match™ offers many of the same benefits as the Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer we mentioned before, with one key difference. While the balance transfer offer gives you extra-long 0% intro APR for balance transfers, the Discover it® Cashback Match™ offers extended 0% intro APR for purchases. This card is a good choice for 1) earning high-rate (5%!) cash back in rotating categories and 2) scoring 0% intro APR for a large purchase. If you’re planning to purchase a big-ticket item, do so soon after opening your account — and pay off your balance in the first 14 months to avoid interest payments.

Discover’s 5% cash back categories change every three months. You’ll need to sign up each time the category changes over to earn the 5%. We recommend marking your calendar to ensure you don’t miss out on potential rewards! Maximize your spending in the 5% categories to make the most of your Cashback Match™ at the end of your first year.

How To Use It

Best Use

The Fine Print

Fine Print

Our Verdict

Our Verdict

  • 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!)
  • Budget to pay off balance transfers and large purchases during the 0% intro APR period.
  • Log in to monitor your FICO® Credit Score for free online.
Rotating categories change every three months, and you’ll need to enroll to score the extra cash back. (Note: bonus cash back rates apply only after enrollment. If you forget to enroll, you’ll earn cash back at the usual 1%.) Enroll as soon as the rotating categories change to make the most of the cashback match!
This card works a lot like the Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer: great cash back rates in rotating categories; free FICO® Credit Score; award-winning customer service; no annual fee. Here’s the difference: the Discover it® Cashback Match™ offers longer 0% intro APR for purchases, while the balance transfer offer offers longer intro APR for balance transfers. Both are solid cash back cards if your spending falls in line with Discover’s rotating categories.

Best Cash Back Redemption Bonus

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Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard® Highlights
  • 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, 15.74%, 20.74% or 25.74%, based on your creditworthiness
  • Please note, there is a fee for balance transfers
  • No annual fee

The Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard® is a solid cash back card with a twist. Its rewards structure is very straightforward: earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, with no rotating categories or enrollment required. The kicker is, you’ll get a 5% cash rewards redemption bonus toward your next redemption each time you redeem your cash back. Redemption options include eDeposit, statement credit, and gift cards.

Is there a large purchase in your near future? The Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard® offers 15 months of 0% intro APR on purchases. Make them on this card (and pay them off during the intro APR period) to earn cash back and skip the interest payments, too.

Related: The Simple Dollar’s Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard®

How To Use It

Best Use

The Fine Print

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Our Verdict

Our Verdict

  • Spend $500 in your first 90 days after account opening to earn the signup bonus.
  • Earn 1.5% cash rewards on every purchase you make on the card.
  • Pay off balance transfers during the 0% APR intro period.
  • Redeem cash rewards for statement credits, bank deposits, or gift cards for a 5% bonus toward your next redemption.
The redemption bonus on cash rewards is good toward your next redemption. Additionally, if your spending follows certain patterns, you could earn rewards faster with a card that offers a higher cash back percentage. We recommend the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express for cash back on gas and groceries. Also, check out the Discover it® Cashback Match™ for 5% cash back in rotating categories.
The Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard® gives you unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on every purchase you make. You won’t have to track or sign up for rotating bonus categories to earn your rewards. For straightforward cash back and a card that’s accepted almost everywhere, this card is a worthy choice.

Best Airline Credit Card

Apply Now on American Express's secure website

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express Highlights
  • Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you make $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within 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 per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile for every dollar spent on all other eligible 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 in sooner with Priority Boarding.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms and Conditions apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

Last but not least, the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express is a favorite among airline credit cards. While we recommend a more general travel rewards card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for most people, this airline offering from American Express definitely has its advantages if you travel frequently, like 2X points per dollar on purchases made directly with Delta. (Points are redeemable with Delta and 15+ travel partners.) Other perks include a free checked back on every Delta flight and free Priority Boarding.

But it gets better thanks to a little program called Crossover Rewards™. Via Crossover Rewards™, you can take advantage of a partnership between the Delta SkyMiles and Starwood Preferred Guest® programs to earn rewards for both even faster. Register to earn Delta miles on eligible Starwood stays and Starpoints® on eligible flights with Delta.

Related: The Simple Dollar’s Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express review

How To Use It

Best Use

The Fine Print

Fine Print

Our Verdict

Our Verdict

  • Use this card when you travel with Delta to earn 2X miles.
  • At the airport, enjoy priority boarding and get your first bag checked for free.
  • Use this card abroad—there are no foreign transaction fees.
This card has a $95 annual fee after the first year. Also, miles are redeemable with Delta and Delta travel partners only. If you’d prefer more flexible redemption, we recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
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.

Additional Credit Card Research

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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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