The Best Credit Card for Each Type of Spender

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While some rewards and travel credit cards rank as perennial favorites, the truth is that best credit card for your family really depends on how you spend and your ultimate credit goals.

If you just want to earn rewards, choosing a card that lets you maximize your points is probably your best bet. But if you want to build credit or get out of debt, a different type of card will likely leave you better off. And if you don’t put a lot of your purchases on credit, paying an annual fee won’t be worth it, no matter how good the rewards are.

With that in mind, here are some of the best credit cards out there for people with different spending styles and habits:

Best credit card for people who spend a lot on travel: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is consistently named the top travel credit card on the market, and for good reason. With this card, you’ll earn double points on travel and dining, plus one point per dollar spent on all other purchases. The points you’ll earn are part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, which means you can use them to book travel directly through Chase for 25% more value, or transfer them at a one-to-one rate to popular loyalty programs like Southwest Airlines, United MileagePlus Explorer, Marriott Rewards, and Hyatt Gold Passport.

You can read our full review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to get all the details on each transfer partner, but suffice it to say that being able to transfer points into these programs can be extremely useful if you travel often and know how to maximize them.

In short, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the best card for people who spend a lot on travel since it offers double points on all travel and restaurant spending. Meanwhile, it’s also considered the top travel credit card on the redemption side as well. With plenty of transfer partners and some of the most valuable points out there, it’s a smart choice if you use it enough (and earn enough rewards) to justify paying the annual fee.

Best credit card for people who can maximize 5% categories: Chase Freedom®

The Chase Freedom® card has received numerous mentions for its rewards program, including a nod as the “Best 5% Credit Card” from Money Magazine. What makes this card stand out is the fact that it offers 5% cash back on your first $1,500 spent in bonus categories that rotate every quarter. Other cards offer similar perks, but the Chase Freedom® tends to use categories that are slightly more appealing and mainstream than the competition — making it easier to take advantage of the bonus rewards.

Another feature that helps this card stand out is the fact that you can pair it with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, combine your points, and use them for travel.

Plus, the Chase Freedom® card lets you redeem your points in several ways on its own – for gift cards, cash back, or purchases made through Amazon.com. Best of all, you’ll never pay an annual fee, so it doesn’t matter if you only use it for the bonus categories or simply don’t use it that often.

Best credit card for people who spend on groceries and gas: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

If you mostly whip out your credit card to pay for groceries and other essentials, it makes sense to get a card that really helps you maximize these categories. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express really stands out in this respect due to its generous bonus categories. Once you sign up, you’ll earn a whopping 6% cash back on your first $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1%), 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit, and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

This card does charge a $95 annual fee (See Rates & Fees), but it offers a welcome bonus good for twice that amount. And since the bonus categories are so lucrative for people who spend a lot on gas and groceries, we’ll call that a wash at worst.

At the end of the day, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers the best rewards for people who spend a lot on these essentials. If you maximize the U.S. supermarket benefit each year, that’s $360 in cash back alone. It’s hard to beat that with any other cash-back card on the market.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

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Apply Now on American Express's secure website

Highlights
  • Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%).
  • 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
  • 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more). 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, currently 13.99% to 23.99%.
  • Plan It® gives the option to select purchases of $100 or more to split up into monthly payments with a fixed fee and no interest.
  • Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
  • $95 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

Best credit card for students who don’t spend a lot: Discover it® Student Cash Back

Because students are generally trying to build their credit and have less discretionary income, card issuers have come up with specific products just for them. The best student credit cards usually come with lower spending limits but make it easier for young people with limited credit histories to qualify.

The Discover it® Student Cash Back is usually considered the best student credit card for a few reasons. First, it allows cardholders to see their FICO® credit score for free on statements and online, which is a huge perk for young people trying to build credit from scratch.

Best credit card for cautious spenders building credit: Discover it® Secured

When someone can’t get approved for a traditional, unsecured credit card, signing up for a secured credit card can make a lot of sense. With a secured credit card, you’ll have to put down a cash deposit as collateral, which usually acts as your credit limit. However, using your secured card judiciously and cautiously and always paying the bill on time can help your credit score surge over time.

The best secured credit card for people who are actively using credit in an effort to improve their credit score is the Discover it® Secured, and it’s not even close.

Best credit card for a large purchase or balance transfer: Chase Slate®

If you don’t want to use credit regularly and are only getting a new credit card to fund a large purchase, it makes sense to get a card with 0% introductory APR. On the flip side, if you have credit card debt at a high interest rate and want to pay it all off, a balance transfer credit card can be a really smart choice.

No matter which category you fall in, the Chase Slate® card should be at the top of your list. With this card, you’ll get 0% APR on balance transfers and purchases for the first 15 months — plus no balance transfer fees for the first 60 days of account opening. After that, the fee for future transactions is 5% of the amount transferred with a minimum of $5.

That combination of perks makes this card perfect for people who have a big purchase they want to pay off over time or need to transfer high-interest balances from other cards. And like many of the other top credit cards for different types of spenders, the Chase Slate® card doesn’t charge an annual fee at all.

Please note: The Chase Slate® offer is currently unavailable through this site.

The Bottom Line

The right credit card for each type of spender can vary quite a bit. If you truly want to find the perfect card for your needs, it’s crucial to look beyond the cards on this page and do a little research on your own. The credit card directory below can help you research the different cards available and compare them side by side.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, please click here.

Please Note: Information about the Discover it® Student Cash Back, Chase Freedom® and Discover it® Secured have been collected independently by TheSimpleDollar.com. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Editorial Note: Compensation does not influence our recommendations. However, we may earn a commission on sales from the companies featured in this post. To view a list of partners, click here. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by our advertisers. Reasonable efforts are made to present accurate info, however all information is presented without warranty. Consult our advertiser's page for terms & conditions.

Holly Johnson
Contributing Writer

Holly Johnson is a frugality expert and award-winning writer who is obsessed with personal finance and getting the most out of life. A lifelong resident of Indiana, she enjoys gardening, reading, and traveling the world with her husband and two children. In addition to The Simple Dollar, Holly writes for well-known publications such as U.S. News & World Report Travel, PolicyGenius, Travel Pulse, and Frugal Travel Guy. Holly also owns Club Thrifty.