Best Visa Credit Card for 2018

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There are a lot of really great Visa cards out there. Banks, airlines, and major retailers all regularly hand out Visa cards to help you spend money and earn specific rewards. For this “best Visa” roundup, I’m going to focus on Visa cards distributed by major banks, and highlight eight different cards that are great for earning cash back, earning travel rewards, transferring a balance, and more.

I selected these cards after looking at a lot of Visas and comparing rewards, APRs, and other benefits. These aren’t the only great Visa cards — I don’t have enough space to list them all — but they’re all solid choices if you’re looking to start a new line of credit.

The Simple Dollar’s Top Picks for the Best Visa Credit Cards

Best for Travel Rewards

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®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • 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 travel 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

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a favorite at The Simple Dollar — in fact, it has named the card its all-time favorite rewards card. And those rewards are juicy: 2 points per dollar spent on dining and travel (which includes anything from Uber rides to hotel stays to airfare), and 1 point for all other purchases — plus 50,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening your account.

Once you earn those points, you’ll want to be sure to redeem them through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. If you use Chase Ultimate Rewards, your points are worth 25% more — those 50,000 bonus points, for example, are now worth $625 toward travel expenses (80 points per dollar). You can also transfer those points one-to-one with other big-name programs, like Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and Marriott.

The only downside to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is if you don’t travel (or dine out) a lot to begin with — while those two categories are broad, they don’t jive with everyone’s lifestyle, and they are the only way to get double points. It’s a travel card that rewards you the more you travel. 

Best for Earning Cash Back

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Chase Freedom® Highlights
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49-25.24%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee

If you prefer rewards in the form of cash as opposed to points, there are two Visa cards you’ll want to look at. First up is the Chase Freedom®. It gets you 5% cash back (!) on up to $1,500 in purchases within specific categories that change every quarter, and 1% cash back on everything else. Plus, there’s the chance to earn an extra $150 after spending $500 in the first three months of opening your account — and no, that $500 doesn’t have to be confined to a specific spending category.

For example, if you max out your Chase Freedom® rewards and spend $1,500 on that quarter’s chosen categories, you’ll get 5% back on that $1,500, or $75. Maybe you spend an additional $2,000 that quarter and get 1% cash back on every purchase, or $20, bringing your total cash back rewards to $95. (Check the Chase Freedom® 2018 Cash Back Calendar to see upcoming cash back categories. They’re all really broad, like “restaurants” or “gas.”)

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Chase Freedom Unlimited® Highlights
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49-25.24%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee

The other card is the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. This card gives you a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases, plus the same $150 after spending $500 in the first three months of opening your account.

To compare offers, let’s say you spent the same amount of money — $3,500 total — using your Chase Freedom Unlimited® card. You’d get a flat 1.5% cash back, or $52.50. That’s about half the cash you could earn with the Chase Freedom® card, but keep in mind that you can only max out those Chase Freedom® rewards if you commit to spending $1,500 on whatever categories get the 5% cash back bonus that quarter. You’ll have to figure out which cash back plan is best for you. My advice: Look through your spending history over the last year and do the math.

Looking to level up your rewards even more?

Consider bundling two cards together. A great combo is the Chase Freedom® and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. With those two, you always get double points for travel and dining, plus 5x points on whichever category is in play with Chase Freedom®. Even better, you can pool your points and redeem them through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.

Best to Transfer a Balance

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Chase Slate® Highlights
  • $0 Intro balance transfer fee for the first 60 days your account is open. After that, the fee for future transactions is 5% of the amount transferred with a minimum of $5.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After that, 16.49% - 25.24% variable APR.
  • See monthly updates to your FICO® Score and the reasons behind your score for free
  • No Penalty APR – Paying late won't raise your interest rate (APR). All other account pricing and terms apply
  • $0 Annual Fee

If you’re looking to transfer a balance and pay it off interest-free, Chase Slate® has what you need. You’ll get a 15-month 0% intro APR on both balance transfers and new purchases, giving you over a year to pay off an old balance interest-free (as well as any other purchases you make during that time).

Three of the other Chase rewards cards I’ve mentioned already also offer this 15-month 0% intro APR, but there’s one big reason why Chase Slate® stands out for balance transfers: You don’t pay balance transfer fees on anything transferred within the first 60 days of opening your account (after that, 5% with a minimum of $5). For comparison, Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited℠ both have steep 5% balance transfer fees — which is also what you’ll pay on balances transferred to Chase Slate® after the 60-day intro period.

Here’s how your Chase Slate® savings might work: If you’re transferring a $3,000 balance to one of the Chase cards that include a 5% balance transfer fee, you’ll pay $150 to make that transfer. If you’re transferring to Chase Slate® within the first 60 days, that transfer will be $0. It’s a great deal, and one of the only cards out there — Visa or otherwise — that gives you a fee-free period at all.

Best for Rebuilding Your Credit

Apply Now on U.S. Bank's secure website

U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card Highlights
  • You are not responsible for unauthorized transactions if your U.S. Bank Secured Visa card is ever lost or stolen.
  • detects and notifies you of any unusual card activity to help prevent fraud.
  • It's yours automatically - at no extra cost - when you charge your entire car rental on your U.S. Bank Secured Visa Card and decline the rental company's collision damage waiver option. Coverage on a 24-hour basis for damage due to collision or theft.
  • The easiest way to bank online! With this service you can view current statements, download account history, check your balance, make a payment from your U.S. Bank Checking or Savings account, get a cash advance and much more.
  • Take advantage of this easy way to pay bills online.
  • U.S. Bank offers this online tool that can help you avoid interest and late fees with automatic payments that put you in control. It can also help you pay down a balance faster. Learn more at usbank.com/flexcontrol.

If you want to rebuild your credit, consider the U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card. This secured Visa card requires a deposit to open up a line of credit and is designed to help you establish or rebuild your credit. The idea behind a secured card is this: Once you’ve proven you can manage credit responsibly and pay off your balances, you’ll upgrade to an unsecured card and get your deposit back. (The U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card lets you make a deposit of $300 to $5,000. Your credit line is equivalent to the deposit you make.)

On the other hand, the U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card lets you earn interest on your deposit. You aren’t going to earn a lot of interest on a $300 deposit, but if you’re thinking about depositing a few thousand dollars, it’s worth keeping in mind. (Also, I’d advise strongly against putting your entire savings or emergency fund into a secured credit card just to get a higher line of credit. You want to be able to pay off your balance no matter what happens — otherwise you could lose your deposit, not to mention all of that good credit you’re building up.)

Lowest APR

Full disclosure: If you’re looking for a Visa with low APR, the best place to start might be your local bank. I have a Commerce Bank Special Connections® Visa® with Rewards card that comes with a 10.49% – 20.49% variable APR and cash back rewards, but that’s because I used to live in Illinois and had a Commerce Bank checking account. (I actually called Commerce Bank to confirm that anyone could apply for this card — not just people with Commerce Bank accounts — and the company said it was available to everyone.) If you’ve got a small, local bank nearby, it’s worth looking into its credit card offerings.

Apply Now on USAA's secure website

USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Highlights
  • Earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase
  • There's no limit on the amount you can earn
  • Redeem your rewards anytime online or with the USAA Mobile App.
  • USAA membership is available to active and former military and their eligible family members

For another option, there’s the USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature®, which has a variable APR of 13.15% – 27.15% (Variable) and gives you 1.5% cash back on all purchases. It’s a great card — but is only available to people with a military affiliation (whether you’re in the military, joining the military, a military veteran, or have a parent or spouse in the military), so it won’t be applicable to everyone.

There’s also the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Credit Card. Its variable APR is 13.74%-25.74% (variable), and you’ll also get 1.5% cash back on every purchase (plus 1.8% cash back on purchases made via Android Pay™ or Apple Pay® during the first 12 months your account is open).

The Perks of Using a Visa

All of my Visa credit card recommendations are based on the perks that their issuers dictate — the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card’s great rewards, for example, are decided by Chase, not by Visa. But Visa does bake in some extras as well.

In the US, there are really only two types of Visa cards: Platinum and Signature. The Platinum card is pretty basic, featuring customer service, emergency card replacement, and rental car collision damage coverage. Visa Signature cards are more robust, including everything from roadside dispatch and a 24/7 concierge to deals on sporting events, emergency travel assistance and extended warranty coverage.

There’s also a new, elite Visa Infinite tier — so new that the US doesn’t even have a website for it yet. Only two cards are currently available at the Infinite tier (the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card and the Crystal Visa Infinite Credit Card), and it’s basically a souped-up version of the Signature with even more luxe perks, like $100 off round-trip domestic flights, VIP “welcome service,” and a portfolio of high-end hotels.  

Some cards have “Signature” included in right in their name, but often the only way to see what tier a card is available at (and that you quality for) is to apply.

The Bottom Line

Visa has way more credit card options than I can highlight in a single post, but these eight cards all offer excellent benefits or rewards. If you’re looking for a Visa credit card to help you transfer a balance, earn cash back or travel rewards, or rebuild your credit, start here.

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