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By Taylor Tepper
September 23, 2015
Getty Images

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: Northwest FCU FirstCard

  • APR: 10%
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Balance transfer fee: $0
  • Why it’s a winner: Parents should love this card, designed to keep college students out of debt trouble. The modest $1,000 credit limit and a low fixed APR of 10% limit potential damage. Another plus: FirstCard has no annual, balance-transfer, or cash-advance fees.
  • Caveats: FirstCard pays no rewards. You will also need to make a one-time $10 donation to the Financial Awareness Network. And if you’re using this card to boost your FICO score, you’ll want to hold charges to about $200 a month.

Best for Cash Back: Discover It Chrome for Students

  • APR: 0% for first six months, then 13% to 22%
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Rewards:
    • 2% cash back on up to $1,000 each quarter spent at gas stations and restaurants
    • 1% on everything else
  • Why it’s a winner: As an entry-level rewards card, Discover It Chrome for Students mixes a modest rewards program with friendly benefits for new cardholders. You’ll earn $20 cash back each school year if you have a GPA of 3.0 or higher. There’s also no annual fee, no fee for the first late payment, no interest for the first six months, and no foreign-transaction fees for those studying (or even just traveling) abroad. You’ll also have access to other Discover features, including a free FICO score and the ability to freeze your account if your card is lost.
  • Caveat: This is really just a starter card; other cash-back cards offer greater benefits.
  • 2% cash back on up to $1,000 each quarter spent at gas stations and restaurants
  • 1% on everything else

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.

EDIT POST