By J.R. Duren • Last updated: October 18, 2018
The easiest way to find the best credit card is to decide what kind of card you need: cash back, travel, luxury or low APR. Then, read our Best Of guide for the type of credit card you want. Each guide compares APR, annual fees, up-front bonuses and card benefits to help you see which credit card is #1 for you.
It’s hard to find the best cash-back credit card because rewards percentages and cash bonuses can change depending on which credit card you choose. Our reviews walk you through the details and help make sense of which cards are best for you and which cards may not work out.
Low-APR (no interest) credit cards work best if you have a high-interest balance you want to transfer or you have big purchases to make. The no-interest deals they send you last around a year or more, but the trick is knowing how to pick the right one. Our reviews help you decide which credit card’s offer is right for you.
The best travel credit cards give you an all-around mix of benefits: lots of frequent flyer miles, good customer service and perks like upgrades and preferred treatment. Read our reviews to find out which credit card gives you the best mix of points/miles, fees, and benefits.
If you love a good hotel experience, finding the right hotel rewards credit card is the best way to do it. Our hotel card reviews help you sift through all benefits and perks to discover which card is the right fit for your travel style and budget.
Don’t let the high annual fees on these premium credit cards scare you. They’ve got amazing benefits, bonuses and tailored experiences that make you feel like a VIP. Our reviews will help you make the decision about which luxury card gives you the most value.
1. For airline cards, know your local airport.
Once you narrow down your list of the best airline cards, see which carriers fly out of your local airport. Tons of bonus miles won’t make a difference if the airline doesn’t fly out of your city, or if flights are limited.
2. Hotel rewards cards are all about availability.
Hotel rewards programs divide their properties into categories – the higher the category, the higher the points. If you’re looking to maximize your points with Category 1 (cheapest) stays, the best choice is the Hyatt Visa. If you want luxury stays, the best hotel card is the SPG AmEx.
3. Know the long-term value of your travel rewards card.
Inflated sign-up bonuses can trick you into thinking one travel rewards card is better than another. But, if you want the best travel card, look at how many miles/points you can get over three or four years.
4. Keep your credit scores up!
Want the best credit card offer you can find? Keep your credit scores above 750. Credit card companies will give you the most rewards and the lowest interest rates if you do.
5. Study categories on cash-back cards.
Discover it and Chase Freedom Unlimited offer 5% cash back on purchase categories (gas, restaurants, entertainment, groceries, etc.). Their websites have calendars that show you the year’s schedule for categories. If you want the best cash-back card for your spending habits, become an expert in these calendars.
6. Chase has a 5/24 rule.
Chase offers some of the best credit cards you can find (Sapphire Preferred, Freedom Unlimited, Southwest), but they’ll deny your application if you’ve applied for or are the primary payer on five new credit cards in the past two years.
7. Chase APRs will hurt you over time.
Chase credit cards usually have a low APR of 16.49%. On a balance of $4,000 paid off over 18 months at 16.49%, you’ll pay $543 in interest. At 13.49%, the low APR on the Capital One Venture card, you’ll pay $440 in interest over the same time period. The $103 difference equates to 10,000 rewards points/miles, which might make a card with lower bonus points/miles and lower APR the best choice.
8. Beware of travel bonuses on cash-back cards.
Cash-back credit cards will convince you their rewards cards are best because they give a 5x bonus on travel purchases. It sounds like a lot, but most Americans spend about 2% of their budget each year on travel ($1,000). Look for cash-back bonuses on categories you use every week, like gas or groceries.
9. Pay on time, in full.
The golden rule of credit cards is to pay the entire balance off every month; it’s how you get the best use of your card. You won’t be forced to pay for late fees or interest and your balances will stay low. Low balances mean higher credit scores and higher credit scores mean better credit card offers.
10. Read the fine print.
If you really want to get the best credit card, read through the fine print on the card’s website. You’ll find all kinds of interesting information: what counts and doesn’t count as a rewards purchase, what happens if you cancel your card before you use reward points/ cash/ miles, and what’s covered under the card’s insurance and warranty policies are a few things you’ll discover.
Getting the best rewards and perks out of credit cards is all about understanding how they work. From the fine print to the big bonuses, our expert tips will help you become the best credit-card expert you can be.