There's a lot to consider when deciding which credit card is best for you. After all, many cards offer a wide range of perks, from extra security features to cash back and rewards for your everyday spending.
We took a comprehensive look at the top offerings in the industry to see which are the best for everyday purchases, business expenses, luxury spending and beyond.
Here are Money’s picks for the best credit cards of 2022.
Our Top Picks for the Best Credit Cards
- The Platinum Card® by American Express – Best Rewards Card
- American Express Blue Cash Preferred® Card – Best Cash-Back
- Chase Sapphire Reserve® Credit Card – Best Travel Credit Card
- Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card – Best Business Credit Card
- Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card – Best Secured Credit Card
- American Express® Gold Card – Best for Dining
Best Credit Cards Reviews
- 100,000 intro bonus points
- 5x points on flights and hotels booked through AmexTravel
- $200 annual statement credits on Uber, hotels, airline fees and more
- Very high $695 annual fee
Why we chose it: The card’s long list of rewards and benefits is nearly unmatched, making its high annual fee a worthwhile investment for people who travel often and spend enough to get the most out of it.
American Express® has built quite a reputation for offering lots of rewards and luxury perks. In addition to giving one point per dollar on regular purchases and five points for every $1 spent on travel and hotels booked through their website, this metal card (yes, it’s actually made from metal) stands out for its wide array of statement credits and additional perks.
The Platinum Card® by American Express gives users an annual statement credit (meaning it’s deducted from the total you owe) of up to $200 for Uber use, up to $240 for subscriptions to Peacock, Audible, The New York Times and SiriusXM; the full cost of Walmart+ ($12.95 monthly) and Equinox ($25 monthly); and $100 and $300 credits for eligible purchases at Saks and SoulCycle, respectively. These credits alone are worth more than the card’s $695 annual fee (if you use these services).
This card comes with some nice travel perks as well. You get access to American Express® airport lounges worldwide, special access to dinner reservations in high-end restaurants and premium benefits with select rental car companies such as complimentary enrollment in Avis Preferred Club.
Purchases made with the card come with special protections. Users get benefits like cell-phone protection, extended warranties on any purchase with a manufacturer’s warranty to match, and insurance coverage for certain situations such as rental car accidents or even accidental loss of life.
- 6% back on groceries and streaming services
- 3% on gas and other transit-related expenses
- Rental car insurance, purchase protection and extended warranty
- $95 annual fee could outweigh benefits for some users
- 6% on groceries is only up to the first $6,000 spent per year
Why we chose it: The American Express Blue Cash Preferred® is an excellent option for families trying to get the most out of everyday spending, thanks to excellent cash-back rewards on food and transportation, along with American Express’ insurance coverage.
The American Express Blue Cash Preferred® Card gives back an unmatched 6% — more than double what most cards offer — on purchases at most U.S. supermarkets and most streaming services, including Netflix, Hulu and Disney+. In other words, that $95 annual fee will probably pay for itself after a couple of months.
The card also offers 3% cash back on gas purchases in the U.S. and other expenses in the transit category, such as tolls, parking, taxis, trains and more. Essentially, whatever your means of transportation, you’re going to earn rewards. On all other purchases, cardholders will get 1% cash back, as well as on groceries after spending the $6,000 annual limit for 6%.
Rental car insurance, purchase protection (in events such as theft or loss) and extended warranty on bought items are all available through the card as well.
While it does have an annual fee, the American Express Blue Cash Preferred® Card’s cash-back rate is high enough to make up for it. Of course, it’s important to make sure the $95 annual fee is worth it for your particular situation. For example, if you’re a single person who rarely buys groceries, then you probably won’t get as much value from this card as a prolific cook or a family of four.
- Outstanding 2.5% flat rate cash back for qualifying customers
- No annual or foreign transaction fee
- 2.5% cash back has strict requirements to qualify
- No introductory offers
Why we chose it: Alliant’s 2.5% cash back is one of the highest flat rates in the industry, which makes it one of the best all-around cards out there.
Alliant offers one of the highest cash-back rates around: 2.5% on every purchase up to the first $10,000 spent per billing cycle. After that, it’s 1.5%, which is still very good.
The catch, however, is that you must qualify as a Tier One customer to get the 2.5%. In order to qualify, cardholders must have an Alliant High-Rate Checking account, which implies signing up for eStatements and receiving at least one monthly electronic deposit. Users must also have a minimum daily balance of $1,000 in the account.
While this can seem like a lot of hoops to jump through, that 2.5% is high enough to make it worth the extra steps.
The card also includes some protective perks, such as travel accident and rental car collision insurance, extended warranties and reimbursement for identity theft recovery costs.
- $300 annual credit for travel purchases
- 10x points on hotels and rental cars through Chase
- 5x points on flights purchased through Chase
- 50% additional point redemption value when redeeming for travel on Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- High $550 annual fee
Why we chose it: The Chase Sapphire Reserve® gives you a high rate of rewards for most expenses you incur while traveling, and it goes a few steps further, providing comprehensive travel insurance with a lower annual fee than its main competitor.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® can make your travels much more comfortable and much less expensive. In addition to letting you earn 5x points on airfare through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, this card offers an outstanding 10x points on hotels and rental cars (when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually). You also get 3x points on all restaurants, so if you plan to dine out a lot on vacation, there’s an extra reward for you.
Another great benefit is that all those accrued points can be redeemed at a higher rate when buying your next plane tickets. When you use points to purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, your points are worth 1.5 times their original value. So if you’ve accrued 1,000 points (worth $10 in cash back), you actually have the equivalent of 1,500 points ($15) if you use them to buy flights through Chase.
Chase offers an annual $300 statement credit for purchases categorized as travel (this includes car rentals, hotels, tickets and more), and a credit worth $85 to $100 every four years for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fees. Cardholders also get PriorityPass membership, which grants access to airport lounges and exclusive restaurants, as well as discounts on hotels in the IHG group, such as Holiday Inn and InterContinental.
There are also a few limited-time memberships included for free with the card, with partners such as Lyft (12 months of Lyft Pink) and DoorDash (three months of DashPass).
There are many different types of cards that focus on travel rewards, including hotel- and airline-specific cards, so be sure to look at our picks for the best travel credit cards to see what makes sense for you.
- 3x points on business-related expenses like shipping services and online advertising
- 25% additional point value when redeeming on travel through Chase
- High intro bonus (currently 100,000 points)
- Low $95 annual fee
- No annual statement credits
- $150,000 spending limit on rewards is low for large businesses
Why we chose it: The Chase Ink Business Preferred® has a low annual fee but offers high rewards in business-related categories, making it a perfect choice for small businesses.
The Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card provides a great way for business owners to get something back for those operating expenses. It has a low annual fee of $95, yet it delivers a long list of bonus rewards.
Cardholders get 3x points for every dollar (up to the first $150,000 spent each anniversary year) on shipping services, online advertising, internet, phone bills and travel. Also, when redeemed on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, points are worth 1.25x, meaning 100 points are actually $1.25 instead of just $1.
Other than the rewards and redemption bonuses, the Ink Preferred offers many great travel perks. There are no foreign transaction fees, and it includes trip cancellation insurance and rental car collision insurance.
While this Chase card is not the most jam-packed with bonus rewards and perks, its straightforward points system and an annual fee that’s much lower than competitors make it an excellent choice for small business owners.
However, if your business incurs an extraordinary amount of expenses, consider The Business Platinum Card® by American Express. It has a wide variety of annual statement credits, luxury benefits and a much higher cap on rewards ($2 million versus Chase’s $150,000). However, its annual fee is a whopping $695, so be sure your business actually gets the most out of it.
- 3% cash back on the category of your choice
- 2% cash back on groceries and wholesale clubs like Sam's and Costco
- Users can deposit a large amount (up to $4,900) for initial credit line
- Special categories have a $2,500 spending limit (1% cash back thereon after)
- Foreign transaction fees
Why we chose it: The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card offers more rewards and a higher spending limit than top competing secured cards, and its Visa network makes it widely accepted as well.
This secured card by Bank of America® has been available for a long time, but only to those who were denied its unsecured version. Now, users can apply for the secured version, making an initial security deposit and avoiding the risk of rejection. It’s a great way to start building or repairing your credit with a card that offers plenty of rewards.
You can get the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card with a minimum security deposit of $300. Your credit limit is established based on the amount you deposit along with your income and credit score, if applicable.
If you want to ensure a higher credit line (and can afford it), you can deposit up to $4,900. Not all secured credit cards offer such flexibility, and competitors tend to keep the maximum deposit well below $3,000.
What truly makes this card stand out, however, are the rewards. Cardholders choose a category that earns you 3% back, and it can be changed monthly among categories like online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement/furnishings. For instance, if you plan on buying airplane tickets, you might want to choose 3% cash back on travel for that month. Then, the month that you’re set to depart, you could change it to dining to take advantage of all that restaurant-hopping you're bound to do.
You also get 2% back on groceries and purchases at wholesale clubs such as Sam’s or Costco, and 1% on everything else.
The downside is that both the 3% and 2% categories have a combined $2,500 spending limit per quarter. After that, you’ll get 1% cash back. This is still more than other secured card competitors, which have limits below $1,000.
- Low $200 deposit minimum
- Cash-back match doubles your first year rewards
- 2% back on gas and dining
- No foreign transaction fees
- Discover is accepted in fewer places than Visa or Mastercard, especially outside of the U.S.
- 2% category has a $1,000 spending limit per quarter (1% thereafter)
Why we chose it: The Discover it® Secured offers great rewards and is an excellent card to build credit. You can upgrade to a regular credit card in as little as seven months.
The Discover it® Secured is one of the most recommended starter cards out there, and with good reason. Not only is it available for a variety of credit scores, but it comes with rewards as well, so you get more for your money while building or re-building your credit.
It only requires a $200 deposit, a lower minimum than main competitors, for a $500 credit line. It also offers 2% on gas and dining, and 1% on all purchases. After the first year, there’s a cash-back match, which doubles your total rewards. That’s like having a 2% credit card with an extra 4% category.
As far as building credit goes, the Discover it® Secured has a bit of an advantage over other secured cards. After seven months, the issuer automatically reviews the cardholder’s account to upgrade to a regular, non-secured card. This is one of the main reasons this card is so popular — many other banks take longer or require users to request a review themselves.
- 4x points on dining and supermarkets
- 3x points on travel through Amex
- Additional $120 yearly statement credit on dining and Uber
- $250 annual fee
- Supermarkets don't include superstores or warehouses
Why we chose it: If you want to be rewarded for eating, this is the card. The American Express® Gold Card offers generous rewards on dining purchases in all categories, from restaurants to groceries and even Uber Eats.
When it comes to food, few cards cover all the bases. However, The American Express® Gold offers high rewards for purchases at restaurants, supermarkets and delivery services: whether you go out or stay in, you’ll get 4x points on just about every food-related purchase you make. (Do note that there's a $25,000 cap per year on supermarket purchases; after that, the reward rate drops to 1X.) Although the special rewards for delivery and takeout services are limited to the U.S., the benefit applies to sit-in restaurants worldwide.
You can also qualify for an annual $120 statement credit after dining at specific restaurants that partner with American Express, including Shake Shack and The Cheesecake Factory, as well as a $120 annual credit on Uber and UberEats.
Other than these dining rewards, the American Express® Gold Card gives you 3x points on airline tickets booked through Amex Travel and 1x on any other purchase, along with classic American Express® benefits, such as baggage and rental car insurance, purchase protection and access to pre-sales on select events and preferred seating if applicable.
American Express® also has some of the best introductory offers, and this card is no exception. As of June 2022, new cardholders could get 60,000 points after spending $4,000 within the first six months. That’s over $400 in statement credit value, covering almost two years of the card’s biggest drawback: the pesky $250 annual fee.
Best credit cards with no annual fee
Paying a credit card’s annual fee is worth it when the rewards offset the price. However, if you want to maximize rewards without paying a dime, there are many credit cards with great perks that don’t charge you for it. Check out some of the best no-annual-fee credit cards for the most popular categories.
Best cash-back card: Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card
Straightforward rewards can be a thing of beauty. This cash rewards credit card gives you a $200 introductory bonus if you spend $1,000 within three months of opening your account and 2% back on almost everything you buy or pay (only excluding things like money orders) — meaning if this is your go-to card for purchases, you essentially have a 2% discount on, well, life.
- 2% on nearly every purchase without any caps or category limits
- No special rewards
Best for dining: Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
While its 3% cash-back rewards on dining equals that of some competitors, the fact that this card also has 3% back on theaters, concerts and sporting events makes it the perfect card for a night out. Its generous intro offer gives it a slight edge over the competition too.
- 3% back on dining and entertainment, select streaming services and grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®)
- Receive $200 intro bonus if you spend $500 within 3 months from account opening
- Not available in Puerto Rico
Best for travel: Chase Freedom Flex℠ Credit Card
The Chase Freedom Flex℠ Credit Card offers a whopping 5% back on quarterly bonus categories (on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in those bonus categories each quarter you activate them). It also offers 5% on travel booked through Chase’s website, along with flight delay and cancellation insurance. In addition, it gives 3% back on dining while for those nights when you’re hitting the town.
This card doesn’t include rental car insurance, and it charges foreign transaction fees, but when it comes to booking flights and domestic travel, it truly is a standout choice.
- 5% back on rotating categories each quarter
- 5% on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 3% on dining and drugstores
- Trip delay or cancellation insurance
- Only 1% on regular purchases
- No rental car insurance
- 3% foreign transaction fee
Best for business: Chase Ink Business Cash® Credit Card
For small businesses, this card offers arguably the most value of any card out there. The Ink Business Cash has great rewards: 5% cash back on certain business-related expenses and 2% on restaurants and gas, along with a substantial intro bonus.
It also lets you earn a $750 bonus cash back if you spend $7,500 on purchases within the first three months of opening an account.
- High 5% cash back on office supplies and internet and phone services
- 2% on restaurants and gas stations
- $750 intro bonus after you spend $7,500 within 3 months of account opening
- Rewards cap of 5% and 2% categories is low at $25,000
- 3% foreign transaction fee
Other credit cards we considered
The Apple Card isn’t just cool and matches your iPhone, it actually has great rewards and an unmatched user experience on the Apple Wallet app. However, the Apple Card didn’t make the cut for our top picks because it doesn’t have intro offers and lacks insurance and purchase protection.
- 3% back on Apple, T-Mobile, Uber, Walgreens and payments through iTunes
- 2% back on all purchases using ApplePay
- Outstanding user interface and iPhone integration
- No purchase protection or insurance benefits
- No intro offers
The Citi® Double Cash Card is a legendary cash rewards credit card offering 2% flat rate cash back. Although now it works with points, the value is the same (one point is one cent), and it’s still recommended by experts, influencers and trusted financial publications. However, as of this writing, it lacks good intro offers, and those 2x points are divided in the process (one when you purchase, one when you pay back).
- 2x points on all purchases
- Points are separated, one when buying, one when paying back the card
- Intro offers are rare
While the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi has one of the most tempting cash back categories (4% on gas) and decent rewards and coverage on travel, its lack of intro offers or any outstanding benefits in Costco itself are big drawbacks.
- 4% cash back on gas
- 3% cash back on select travel, hotel and rental cars through Costco Travel
- 2% cash back at Costco
- Travel accident insurance
- Cash back only accessible at the end of the year
- No flight delay or cancellation insurance
The little sibling to the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Credit Card, this card has a similar rewards program but at a lower scale. While the rewards payoff is less generous with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Credit Card, it also has a much less expensive annual fee — $95 versus $550 for the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Credit Card. This one also excludes some valuable perks, like the TSA PreCheck credit offered by competitors such as the Capital One Venture.
- 5x points on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 3x points on dining, groceries and certain streaming services
- 2x points on travel bought elsewhere
- No rewards for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® Credit Card has a pretty high 1.5% cash back on all purchases, along with some of Chase’s universal perks like 3% on dining and drugstore and complimentary three months of DashPass. While it’s an excellent travel and dining companion, Chase’s other card, the Freedom Flex, does offer a bit more flexibility as its name suggests.
- 5% back on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 3% back on dining and drugstores
- Excellent intro offers
- Unlimited 1.5% back on all purchases
- 3% foreign transaction fee
Aspiration Zero is a good option for those who want to be as eco-friendly as possible, even when they’re shopping.
The company plants a tree for every purchase, and pledges to donate to charities 10% of the fees customers choose to pay. It also offers a 1% cash-back reward once the customer reaches "carbon zero" — that is, once a customer make at least 60 purchases, or 30 if they've enabled the "plant your change" feature. (The company calculated that planting 60 trees per month per customer would offset that individual's carbon footprint.)
However, the low rewards rate when compared to competitors, along with its short time in the market, kept it out of our main list.
- Plants a tree with every purchase
- $300 intro bonus after spending $3,000 within the first three months
- Donates 10% of fees to charities
- 0.5% cash-back (1% after 60 purchases) is lower than many competitors
Credit Cards Guide
Using credit cards wisely can help you better manage your finances, raise your credit score and even get you discounts and rewards on the things you buy. The flip side is that it’s easy to overspend with credit cards and wind up deep in debt.
How do credit cards work?
Credit cards are what’s known as revolving credit. With this kind of credit, a lender gives you access to a credit line. You can borrow from it up to a pre-set limit, and you are expected to pay it back monthly. As you pay down your balance, credit is once again available for purchases.
For most loans, lenders charge an annual percentage rate (APR), or interest rate, on the amount you owe. With credit cards, you can avoid paying interest charges if you pay the balance off in full every month.
However, if you don’t pay your balance in full, you’ll be hit with interest charges, and APRs for credit cards are fairly high. While rates on mortgage notes and personal loans can start around 3% or 4%, the lowest APR you can find on a credit card is around 10% — a rate that will only be available to those stellar credit. Most average between 12% to 26%.
The interest charges and annual fees many cards charge can pile up as debt over time, even if you use the card sparingly. If you can’t pay the monthly bill in full, you must at least pay the required minimum amount each month; otherwise, the bank can raise your APR, charge you late fees and/or report you to the credit bureaus.
However, there are advantages to paying with a credit card, especially when it comes to the added security they can provide. For instance, if you file a complaint about a fraudulent transaction, the card issuer will cancel the charge and there will be no money missing from your account while the issue is being fixed.
While you can dispute a fraudulent transaction involving your debit card with your bank, you’re responsible for those charges until the bank sorts the matter out. Because your debit card is linked to your checking account, this could significantly impact your day-to-day spending or any automatic payments set up to draw from that account.
The best credit cards can also offer so many rewards and perks that, when managed well, can actually save you money in the long run.
Types of credit cards
There are different types of credit cards, and different ways to categorize them depending on their terms, perks and how they’re used. Confusing things further, some debit cards and prepaid cards can act and look like credit cards, bear the Visa or Mastercard logos, but don’t offer the same protections and rewards that credit cards do. Here are some of the types of actual credit cards you’ll encounter:
- Regular cards. Many banks have plain credit cards without any special rewards or benefits. These are cards with a preset credit limit and a Visa, Mastercard, Discover or American Express® logo.
- Rewards cards. These credit cards provide rewards for spending. The rewards typically appear as a percentage back on the amount spent with the card, or through a system of points that can be redeemed for eligible purchases. These cards can also provide perks and discounts in restaurants, hotels, travel and other categories.
- Secured cards. Secured credit cards are typically aimed at people with low FICO scores and poor or no credit history. To be approved for this kind of card, you must make a cash security deposit — which “secures” the account. Users can get their deposit back after a period of time, so long as they’ve been consistently making payments on time.
- Business cards. Business credit cards generally have higher spending limits than other cards, and the benefits are tailored for businesses. These can include special rewards for advertising or shipping services. These cards can be used by company employees, not just owners or managers, so the rewards can really pile up.
- Charge cards. A charge card is a credit card without a pre-set spending limit. Though users can theoretically spend unlimited amounts with the card, each charge is approved individually. This kind of card is mostly used by high-net-worth individuals with excellent credit or large businesses, and most need to be paid in full each month.
How does credit card interest work?
First things first, it’s important to know that if you pay your credit card balance in full every month, you won’t have to pay any interest at all.
However, if you owe a balance, it will be calculated using your annual percentage rate (APR) divided by 365 and and multiplied by your average daily balance (not your full balance). The resulting amount is multiplied by the days in the cycle, and this final number is added to your balance on a monthly basis.
How does the formula work?
Interest on credit cards is calculated using your APR, the daily periodic rate and your monthly balance.
Let’s say your APR is 14.24%. To obtain the daily periodic rate, you divide that amount by 365, for a total of 0.039%.
That 0.039% is then multiplied by your average daily balance, which is your entire monthly balance divided by the number of days in the billing cycle.
For example, if you owe $1,000 in April, your average daily balance would be $33.33. You multiply that by the periodic rate of 0.039 and you get $1.30 (rounded up) of daily interest.
If you multiply that by 30, you’d get approximately $39. This is what will be tacked on to your total at the end of the next cycle.
How to use a credit card
There’s more to using a credit card than just swiping away at the mall. When used correctly, a credit card can help you build credit, protect you from fraud and even reward the spending you already do.
- Credit utilization. Credit utilization is how much of your available credit you’re using. This percentage is known as the credit utilization ratio, and it’s one of the most important factors in determining your credit score and overall creditworthiness.
- Payments. Credit card payments are usually expected at the end of a monthly cycle. If you fail to pay, credit card companies can charge you a late fee, raise your APR or, at a certain point, report you to a credit agency.
You can pay a minimum amount (which will depend on your balance) to avoid penalties, or you can pay the full amount to avoid interest.
- Best practices. If credit card debt is left unpaid, it can affect your credit and hurt your chance of getting approved for other cards or loans. If you have a large balance and don’t pay it off, it can accrue significant amounts of interest.
A good rule of thumb is to use credit cards as if it were your actual money; in other words, if you can’t actually afford it, don’t buy it. While having a high credit limit is tempting, credit cards have some of the highest interest rates of any type of loan, and financing purchases this way is a surefire way to wind up paying far more than you intended.
If you’re able to pay the balance off completely at the end of the month, it may be smart to use credit cards to pay most of your expenses, especially with cards that provide purchase protection, rewards points and extended warranty periods on high-value items.
What is a good credit utilization ratio?
Generally, experts recommend that you use less than 25% of your overall credit card limit, and that new cardholders with little credit history keep it as low as 10%, if possible. A low utilization rate can help improve your credit score enormously, and is especially important if other factors (length of credit history, number of open accounts and payment history) are somewhat rocky.
Also, while your overall credit utilization might be low, keep in mind that having a high balance on one card could hurt your chances of getting additional cards or loans, especially with the same credit card issuer.
How to choose a credit card
Choosing the right credit card should not be limited to the offers you constantly get in the mail. If you want to get the most out of your credit card, do your research and be deliberate about choosing and applying for the right one.
Approval odds. To lessen the risk of rejection (and of adding an unnecessary extra inquiry to your credit report, which can impact your score negatively), look at each card’s credit requirements before you apply.
While some banks specify the kind of credit they will accept (fair, good or excellent, for example), few banks will disclose the exact minimum credit score you need for approval. This is due to the fact that they take into account many factors other than just your FICO or Vantage Score in their underwriting process. They’ll also review things like your debt-to-income ratio, overall credit utilization, income and length of credit history before determining approval.
If you already have a credit history, banks will send you pre-approvals or pre-qualifications by mail. Sometimes you might receive an offer for a card you already wanted.
APR. Each card has an APR range of, say from 12.24% to 24.24%. You’ll be offered a number within that card’s range depending on your creditworthiness.
Unfortunately, picking a card with a very low minimum APR doesn’t guarantee that rate for you. But if the overall range is lower, it might be a better choice for you. For example, a card with a maximum APR of 21.99% will probably give you a better rate than one that goes as high as 25.99%.
If you have an excellent credit score and a high income, though, you are more likely to qualify for the lower end of a card’s APR range. Some cards offer APRs as low as 10%.
Fees. Many credit cards charge annual fees, ranging from $95 to $795. Some cards, however, do not charge one at all. Typically, credit cards that charge annual fees offer more generous rewards and better perks than those that don’t.
If you just want the occasional perk or discount, a card with a high annual fee might be counterproductive. If, however, you use your card heavily, or features like travel insurance or cash back in dining are essential to your job or lifestyle, an annual fee might be offset by cash back or other perks.
If you travel outside of the United States often, foreign transaction fees are also something to keep in mind. After all, you won’t be happy paying 3% extra on every purchase made during your trip. These fees aren’t clearly specified in most cards’ promotional materials (unless it’s a travel card), so you’ll have to look for the cards’ terms and agreements to make sure.
Many cards also charge a balance transfer fee (typically around 5%) when you transfer a balance from one card to another. While the best balance transfer credit cards offer introductory periods without interests on these transfers, the initial fee will still be charged.
There are also late payment fees, which vary from bank to bank, although some will just raise your APR if you miss the deadline to make a payment.
Cash back and points. Cash back rewards provide a percentage of each purchase back to the cardholder. It basically amounts to a discount every time you buy something with the credit card, though you generally must request to redeem the money as statement credits to your card or another account.
Different cards have different ways of giving cash back and points. Some offer a set reward percentage across all purchases, while others have bonus categories, such as 3% at restaurants or 5% at an affiliated store (Amazon, for example).
Some cards work with a points system proprietary to the issuer. These points can be redeemed for gift cards, statement credit or for purchases through the issuer’s program, such as American Express® or Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
These points can vary in value, depending on the issuer and how you use them. If you plan to pay back the card with points, it might reduce their value. If you want to trade them in to buy airline tickets through their platform, it will generally increase their value.
Rewards. Rewards come in many different forms. While people often use “cash back” and “rewards” interchangeably, they aren’t exactly the same thing. Many of the best rewards credit cards actually use a proprietary system of points and statement credits. Rewards can come in the form of gift cards, annual statement credits for using a specific service (such as a TSA PreCheck or Uber) and sometimes discounts with partner companies.
Depending on your lifestyle and spending habits, these rewards can sometimes be more tempting (and valuable) than points or simple cash back. Partner hotels, for example, offer free nights, and some airlines offer free companion tickets after you spend a certain amount. However, not everybody will spend enough to enjoy these perks, so be sure that the card you’re getting offers rewards for your level of spending.
Added benefits. In addition to cash back and freebies, some credit cards can offer other benefits. For example, some cards come with a wide array of insurance policies, such as travel accident insurance, flight delay and/or cancellation reimbursements, rental car insurance and even extended warranties for purchased items.
Of course, you can always purchase travel insurance separately (and you can check out our list of the best travel insurance if that’s what you’re looking for), but having it already included with your purchases is a great advantage.
There can also be perks such as complimentary subscriptions to DoorDash’s DashPass program, access to exclusive airport lounges and free checked bags on flights.
How to get a credit card
There are a few ways to get a credit card. If this is your first time applying for a credit card, you might have to start with a secured card, giving an initial security deposit to ensure the bank approves a credit line.
If you do have a lengthy credit history, make sure to get a copy of your credit report from all three bureaus, which will give you an idea of the types of cards you’ll be approved for and the APR rates you’ll be offered. People with high credit scores will be offered the best (e.g. the lowest) rates.
You can apply for a credit card in different places:
Online. The days of having to visit a brick-and-mortar bank branch in order to apply for a card or loan are long gone. You can apply for pretty much any credit card online by providing your personal information (including your Social Security number) and be either approved or denied in a matter of minutes.
Credit card offers. Sometimes, banks send offers directly to your mailbox. These offers can mention that you’re pre-selected or pre-approved for a certain card, and they often provide a code to apply online and get the points or benefits mentioned in the letter. Before taking advantage of these offers, make sure it’s really the best card for you by following the criteria above.
Your bank. Most banks offer some sort of credit card. While it’s not guaranteed, having an account with the bank generally increases your chances of getting approved for one of its credit cards, and perhaps even being given special offers.
Apply at a store. Many stores have branded credit cards with special benefits for purchases made with the retailer; however, they often have higher than average APR rates.
How to get a credit card with no credit (or bad credit)
If you have poor to fair credit, or no credit at all (not even a student loan), you might be wondering how to build credit. Here are some ways to do it.
Get added as an authorized user. A parent, family member or even a (very generous) friend can add you as an authorized user on a credit card. You can piggyback off their credit history to build your own and, depending on the agreement with the other person, even enjoy the card’s perks and rewards.
Just apply. While not the most recommended method, some issuers will just approve you if you have absolutely no credit history (having bad credit is a different story). This is more feasible for people who do have a steady income and the card you apply for has lenient credit requirements. Bear in mind though that applying for new credit involves a hard credit pull, which leaves a slight mark on your report.
Secured cards. Secured cards are credit cards for which you pay a security deposit upfront to ensure the bank doesn’t lose any money if you default. These tend to be the best credit cards for bad credit, and they’re normally used to build or rebuild credit by people who can’t qualify for unsecured credit cards. Depending on the issuer, the card’s credit line might be equal to the money you deposited, or it could be more if your credit score and income are high enough. After some time of making on-time payments, banks will typically upgrade you to a regular credit card and give you back your initial deposit.
Credit Cards FAQ
How many credit cards should you have?
What is a secured credit card?
How do you calculate credit card interest?
How do you get a business credit card?
How do you cancel a credit card?
In order to cancel a credit card, you can simply call the card issuer directly and ask to close the account. Some banks also offer easy cancellation online. Before closing the account, it's best to pay off any remaining balance to ensure no fees or damage to your credit. It's also a good idea to confirm the cancellation through a second method (online then calling, for example) to avoid any fees or payments.
However, keep in mind that canceling a credit card can lower your credit score. When you cancel a card, it lowers your credit limit (which in turn raises your utilization ratio) and reduces your number of open accounts.
How We Chose the Best Credit Cards
In order to find the best credit cards for each situation and lifestyle, we looked at over 70 cards across all issuers, and considered several factors:
- Transparency. Transparency is a big deal for us, so we value issuers that make documents easily accessible and communicate clearly about their rewards programs, interest rates and offers.
- Rewards. We looked at the rewards offered by each card — whether it be cash back, points or annual statement credits — and compared their value to their annual fees.
- Intro offers. Intro offers alone can sometimes be enough to offset a card’s annual fee, so we looked at issuers that offer high welcome bonuses and/or long-term 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers.
- Coverage. One of the main advantages of using a credit card is protecting your actual money. While all cards have methods of dealing with fraud, some have additional protections like extended warranties, rental car insurance and flight cancellation coverage, to name a few, that pushed certain cards to the top of our list.
Latest News on Credit Cards
- American Express® is now offering a rewards program as part of its new higher-yield checking account. Find out more in American Express’s New Checking Account Lets You Earn Rewards Points Just Like a Credit Card
- Asking for an ID when using a credit card is much less common these days. However, it’s not clear whether this actually helped prevent credit card fraud at all. See Does Writing ‘See ID’ on a Credit Card Actually Help Prevent Fraud? to learn more.
- In a huge win for consumers, three major credit bureaus will stop reporting some medical debt on credit reports. Check out the details in our article on why Medical Bills Won’t Haunt Your Credit Report Anymore
Summary of Money’s Best Credit Cards of 2022
- The Platinum Card® by American Express – Best Credit Card
- American Express Blue Cash Preferred® Card – Best Cash-Back
- Chase Sapphire Reserve® Credit Card – Best Travel Credit Card
- Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card – Best Business Credit Card
- Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card – Best Secured Credit Card
- American Express® Gold Card – Best for Dining