What’s the Best Credit Card?

Your preference of plastic depends on your priorities.
Credit Cards

Cash back? Frequent flyer miles? low interest rate? no annual fee? The factors that are most important to you should determine which credit card(s) you have in your wallet. Here we present top choices in seven categories with guidance from Nick Clements, co-founder of magnifymoney.com and author of the e-book Secrets from an Ex-Banker: How to Crush Credit Card Debt.

You refuse to pay an annual fee.

Chase Freedom has no annual fee and gives you 5% back (capped at $1,500) in categories that change quarterly; introductory annual percentage rate (apr) is 0% for 15 months.

Discover it–Double Cash Back charges no annual fee and gives you 5% back (capped at $1,500) in categories that change quarterly; introductory APR is 0% for 12 months; no foreign transaction fees.

You carry a balance and need a low fixed-interest rate.

Preferred Visa Platinum Card from Whitney Bank has a 6.25% APR with no fees, transparent terms and 0% for seven months of purchases.

Visa Gold Card by educators offers a 6.25% APR with no fees and very transparent terms.

You want to transfer large balances to take advantage of a low APR for a limited time.

Chase Slate has no balance transfer fees and a 0% rate good for 15 months. after the introductory period, the apr can range from 12.99% to 22.99%.

Santander Sphere Visa Signature Card is offering a 0% rate for two years, but there’s lots of fine print and a 4% balance transfer fee. After the introductory period, the APR could be 12.99% to 22.99%.

Beware: If you miss the payoff date, a high interest rate will kick in. And some cards will charge you retroactively from the first day of the transfer. If you don’t think you can pay the balance off on time, find a card whose higher interest rate will kick in only on the time accrued after the payoff date.

You want cash back, and you want it to be easy.

Citi Double Cash Card offers a straightforward 2% return on all purchases, plus no annual fee or limits on how much you can get back. It pays to pay your balance each month: the variable APR ranges from 14.99% to 22.99%.

Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express also offers 2% back and no annual fee or limits, but earnings must go into a Fidelity account, which you can put toward retirement (IRA) or college (529) savings. The variable APR is currently 13.99%.

You want to maximize your frequent flyer miles.

The good news here is that bonus miles are often available as introductory promotions. But with perks come high APRs, so be sure to pay your balance off or keep it low.

Capital One Venture Rewards has no annual fee for the first year and gives you two miles per dollar on every purchase; there’s also a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles if you qualify. Your rewards don’t expire, there are no blackout dates and you can use your miles for any flight or hotel stay, as well as car rentals, cruises and more. The APR varies: 12.9% to 22.9%.

Chase Sapphire Preferred has no annual fee for the first year and gives you two miles per dollar on dining and travel, one point on other purchases. There’s a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles if you qualify, and there are no foreign transaction fees. Redeem your miles through chase ultimate Rewards and there are no blackouts or restrictions, and trip cancellation / interruption insurance and other travel perks are included. Variable APR is currently 15.99%.

If you’re a frequent domestic flyer, you might also consider these airline credit cards, which offer generous points for flights taken:

Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard has no annual fee for the first year and gives you two miles per dollar on purchased airline tickets. There’s a 30,000-mile sign-up bonus; avoid using it for overseas travel as there’s a foreign transaction fee. Variable APR is currently 15.24%.

United MileagePlus Explorer Card has no annual fee for the first year and gives you two miles per dollar on united ticket purchases and one mile per dollar on everything else. No foreign transaction fee if you travel and spend outside the u.s. Variable APR is currently 15.99%.

You’re a frequent international traveler.

Priority one: make sure your card has no foreign transaction fees; these are fees tacked onto your credit card bill for purchases you make overseas.

British Airways Visa Signature Card offers 50,000 bonus points for signing up when you qualify, with three points per dollar on BA purchases and one point per dollar on everything else. There are no foreign transaction fees and no annual fee the first year. You can redeem your points on American Airlines and other Oneworld partners, but beware of a lack of choices in domestic flights. on the downside, the annual fee after the first year is $95; variable APR is currently 15.99%.

Capital One Venture Rewards (details at left) and Discover it – Double Cash Back (details on page 128) also have no foreign transaction fees.

You’re the parent of a college student.

Discover it for Students has no annual fee and gives 1.35% cash back—up to 5% on rotating categories—but read the fine print. The APR ranges from 12.99% to 21.99%.

Journey Student Rewards Card by capital one has no annual fee, gives 1% cash back and has very transparent terms. There’s fraud coverage, but a high APR (variable 19.8%).


Note: Credit card offerings and rates change frequently, so check with the lenders for the most up-to-date information. Our descriptions are not endorsements, nor is this intended to be a comprehensive listing of lender offerings.

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