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By Taylor Tepper
September 23, 2015
Bradley Wells—Getty Images/Flickr

Money and NerdWallet have picked the best credit cards in five different categories: cash back, borrowing, travel rewards, student, and small business cards. Most of our picks assume you are using cards strategically to maximize rewards, and paying off your bill each month to avoid fees and finance charges. Money also went one step further this year to add an “easy choice”—the best no-muss, no-fuss, no-annual-fee option.

Easy Choice: Digital Credit Union Visa Platinum

  • APR: 8.5% to 18%
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Balance transfer fee: $0
  • Why it’s a winner: For those who carry a balance, the DCU Visa Platinum minimizes the pain of revolving credit by offering a borrowing rate as low as 8.5%, compared with the average 18%. You’ll also be able to transfer the debt from an old card without paying a penalty.
  • Caveats: To gain membership, you’ll need to open a savings account with a minimum $5 deposit and become a member of an affiliated nonprofit; the cheapest way is via a $10 donation to Reach Out for Schools. Also note: The card offers few other bells and whistles—it’s really just good if you carry a balance.

Best for Balance Transfers: Chase Slate

  • APR: 0% on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months; 13% to 23% thereafter
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Balance transfer fee: $0 if done in the first two months of signing up
  • Why it’s a winner: If you’ve got a game plan to pay off a big credit card burden, this card is the best destination for your old debt. The two most important perks: There’s no balance transfer fee if you transfer a balance within two months of opening your account (the industry average is 2%), and you’ll have 15 months (slightly above average) to pay off the debt before interest kicks in. There’s also no annual fee and no “penalty APR”—a higher rate that would apply if you miss a payment. Plus this is the only Chase card offering a free FICO score.
  • Caveat: Make sure you pay off your debt by the end of the introductory period, when the APR could rise to an unsavory 23%.

Best for Large Purchases: Citi Simplicity

  • APR: 0% for purchases and transfers for 21 months; 13% to 23% thereafter
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Why it’s a winner: Simplicity is ideal for someone looking to finance a large purchase. The introductory period with no finance charges is the best in the industry. Bonus: You won’t be charged a fee or penalized with a higher rate if you’re late with a payment.
  • Caveat: Simplicity charges a 3% fee for balance transfers (or $5, whichever is greater), so the card doesn’t make sense for that purpose.

See all of Money’s picks:

Advertiser Disclosure

The purpose of this disclosure is to explain how we make money without charging you for our content.

Our mission is to help people at any stage of life make smart financial decisions through research, reporting, reviews, recommendations, and tools.

Earning your trust is essential to our success, and we believe transparency is critical to creating that trust. To that end, you should know that many or all of the companies featured here are partners who advertise with us.

Our content is free because our partners pay us a referral fee if you click on links or call any of the phone numbers on our site. If you choose to interact with the content on our site, we will likely receive compensation. If you don't, we will not be compensated. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Opinions are our own and our editors and staff writers are instructed to maintain editorial integrity, but compensation along with in-depth research will determine where, how, and in what order they appear on the page.

To find out more about our editorial process and how we make money, click here.

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