Finding the right credit card can be tough. This guide will help you choose the best credit card by category and credit score.

There are plenty of articles and guides offering advice on the best credit cards in different categories.

You might find one for the best credit cards for travelcash backbalance transfers, and other categories. You may also find articles listing the best credit cards for different credit levels.

But in this guide, we’re covering ALL of them.

We’ve listed what we believe to be the best credit cards in seven different categories, for each of four different credit profiles – excellent, good, fair/average, and poor.

For ease of use, we’ve got a great table for you here; be sure to scroll right to view the entire table!

Overview: Best credit cards of 2020

 
Travel
Cash Back
Balance Transfer
Sign-Up Bonus
General Rewards
Students
Business
Excellent
Chase Sapphire Preferred®
Discover It® Cash Back
BankAmericard®
Chase Sapphire Preferred®Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card
See Below For Alternatives
Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business
Good
Capital One® Venture® or Capital One® VentureOne®
Blue Cash Preferred® from Amex
Citi® Double Cash Card
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit CardWells Fargo Propel American Express®Citi Rewards+℠ Student CardSimplyCash® Plus Business from Amex
Fair/Average
Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®Capital One® QuicksilverOne®
See Below For AlternativesSee Below For AlternativesCapital One® QuicksilverOne®
Discover It® Student Cash BackCapital One® Spark® Classic for Business
Poor
See Below For Alternatives
Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back RewardsSee Below For AlternativesSee Below For Alternatives
Credit One® Unsecured
Capital One® Secured Mastercard®See Below For Alternatives

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply Now On the Secure Website

In A Nutshell

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card sets the standard for travel rewards by offering an excellent 2x points on all travel and dining at restaurant purchases that you then can transfer to airline and hotel partners. And points are worth 25% more when you redeem travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. That means that the killer 80,000 point sign-up bonus is worth $1,000 towards travel.

Read review
Credit score requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for. *Money Under 30 uses a [FICO 8] [Vantage 3.0] score, which is one of many different types of credit scores. *A creditor may use a different score when deciding whether to approve you for credit.
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What we like:

  • A monster of an up-front bonus. 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months

  • 2x points per dollar spent on all travel and dining at restaurants, worldwide

  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards

  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Annual Fee
$95
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Intro APR
Intro APR Purchases N/A , 0 months
Intro APR Balance Transfers N/A , 0 months

Apply Now >>

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Learn More On the Secure Website

In A Nutshell

The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®is a great student rewards credit card focused on making on-time payments. One benefit of paying on time is a boost from 1% cash back to 1.25% cash back another is that Capital One will automatically review your credit limit in as little as six months.

Read review
Credit score requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for. *Money Under 30 uses a [FICO 8] [Vantage 3.0] score, which is one of many different types of credit scores. *A creditor may use a different score when deciding whether to approve you for credit.
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What we like:

  • 1% cash back on all purchases and pay on time to get a boost to 1.25% cash back

  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months

  • No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees

Learn More >>

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Learn More On the Secure Website

In A Nutshell

If you don’t have the excellent credit needed to score some of the bonuses other Capital One credit cards offer, consider the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card. It’s a terrific card for average credit and you can still earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases with a modest $39 annual fee.

Read review
Credit score requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for. *Money Under 30 uses a [FICO 8] [Vantage 3.0] score, which is one of many different types of credit scores. *A creditor may use a different score when deciding whether to approve you for credit.
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What we like:

  • 1.5% cash back on all purchases

  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months

  • No foreign transaction fees and a modest $39 annual fee

Learn More >>

Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards

Apply Now On the Secure Website Rates & Fees

In A Nutshell

Designed for consumers with modest credit histories, The Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards offers 1% cash rewards on eligible purchases, zero fraud liability and no annual fee. Terms Apply.

Read review
Credit score requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for. *Money Under 30 uses a [FICO 8] [Vantage 3.0] score, which is one of many different types of credit scores. *A creditor may use a different score when deciding whether to approve you for credit.
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What we like:

  • 1% cash back on all eligible purchases

  • No annual fee. Terms Apply

  • No security deposit required; and your credit score is not affected when you pre-qualify

  • See if you Pre-Qualify in less than 60 seconds–without affecting your credit score. It's fast, easy, and secure.
  • Get 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchases including gas, groceries, and services such as mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV. Terms apply.
  • This is a fully functional, unsecured credit card–not a debit card, prepaid card, or secured credit card with deposit requirements.
  • Credit One Bank evaluates every account for credit line increase opportunities. We'll let you know as soon as you're eligible for a higher credit line.
  • Take advantage of free online access to your Experian credit score and credit report summary so you can track the key factors impacting your credit health. Terms apply.
  • Zero Fraud Liability protects you if your card is ever lost or stolen. Rest easy knowing you won't be held responsible for unauthorized charges.
  • Access your account easily from your computer, smartphone, or tablet at CreditOneBank.com or the Credit One Bank Mobile App. You can make payments, see recent transactions, and update your account preferences all at the click of a button.
  • Carry a card that makes you smile by choosing from over 20 unique card designs in Credit One Bank's card gallery. A fee may apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Annual Fee
$0 - $99
Regular APR
17.99% to 23.99% Variable
Intro APR
Intro APR Purchases N/A , 0 months
Intro APR Balance Transfers N/A , 0 months

Apply Now >>

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

Learn More On the Secure Website

In A Nutshell

Owning a secured credit card can be a necessary step in bring your credit profile out of the gutter and the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is one of the strongest secured credit cards on the market today. It’s rare to find one that doesn’t charge an annual fee and Capital One will automatically review your credit limit in as little as six months.

Read review
Credit score requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for. *Money Under 30 uses a [FICO 8] [Vantage 3.0] score, which is one of many different types of credit scores. *A creditor may use a different score when deciding whether to approve you for credit.
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What we like:

  • Start off with an initial credit line of $200 w/ a minimum deposit of $49, $99 or $200

  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months with no additional deposit needed

  • No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees

Learn More >>

In-Depth Look At The Best Credit Cards On The Market

If you want to get into the nitty gritty details of the credit cards we recommend, we get into it here:

Best credit cards for travel

Excellent credit

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card®

Apply Now

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of the top travel cards available.

Not only does it offer one of the best travel reward bonuses around ($1,000 towards Travel or $800 in cash after spending $4,000 in the first three months), but it also provides 2X points on travel and dining, and also has no foreign transaction fees.

Though it doesn’t offer a 0 percent introductory APR, it does provide a low rate for the first year, for both purchases and balance transfers.

  • Introductory APRN/A
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Regular APR15.99%-22.99% Variable on both purchases and balance transfers
  • Annual Fee$95
  • Credit Needed: Good/Excellent (750+)
  • Sign-up Bonus: 80,000 bonus points (worth $1,000 toward travel or $800 in cash) after spending $4,000 in the first three months
  • Rewards: 2X points on travel and dining, 1X points on all other purchases
  • Unique Features: No foreign transaction fees; get 10,000 bonus points for each referral

See card details/apply or read our full review.

Good Credit

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Disclaimer – The information about the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by MoneyUnder30.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Another one of the top travel credit cards, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card provides a generous bonus of 50,000 miles (equal to $500 in travel) after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.

Plus you can also earn 2X miles per dollar on every purchase – every single day.

  • Balance Transfer Fee$0
  • Regular APR17.24% - 24.49% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Credit Needed: Excellent (750+, No late payments over 60 days, no bankruptcy or loan defaults)
  • Sign-up Bonus: 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • Rewards: 2X points on every purchase
  • Unique Features: Receive up to a $100 credit on Global TSA Pre✓

See card details/apply or read our full review.

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Disclaimer – The information about the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by MoneyUnder30.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

A variant of the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card offers similar terms and benefits.

But the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card offers a sign-up bonus of 20,000 miles (equal to $200 in travel) after spending $1,000 on purchases the first three months from account opening.

  • Regular APR15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Credit Needed: Good/Excellent (700+, No late payments over 60 days, no bankruptcy or loan defaults)
  • Sign-up Bonus: 20,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • Rewards: Unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase
  • Unique Features: Use your Venture miles on hotels and flights and even transfer miles to 10+ travel partners.

See card details/apply or read our full review.

Fair Credit

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

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The Journey® Student Rewards Card from Capital One® is perfect for students and non-students alike.

You don’t need excellent credit, and you can even earn rewards. You’ll start with 1% back on all your purchases, but if you pay your bill on time, you’ll jump to 1.25% cash back.

You’ll also get travel benefits like 24-hour assistance in case of an emergency.

  • Introductory APR
  • Balance Transfer Fee$0
  • Regular APR26.99% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee: None
  • Credit Needed: Fair (640+)
  • Sign-up Bonus: N/A
  • Rewards: 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month
  • Unique Features: 24-hour assistance including emergency card replacement in case your credit card is lost or stolen while you’re traveling; for every month that you pay on time, you’ll receive an additional 0.25 percent in rewards for every dollar

See card details/apply or read our full review.

Travel cards for poor credit

The best travel cards by far are for those with excellent or at least good credit. These cards come with the most generous bonuses and rewards. But if you have poor credit, options are extremely limited.

One alternative is the Discover it® Secured card. This is basically a credit builder card, that will require a deposit to support your credit limit. But it will give you a credit card you can use for travel.

There is no annual fee, and you can earn 2% cash back on up to $1,000 in combined quarterly purchases at gas stations and restaurants, and 1% on all other purchases. Discover will also match all your cash back at the end of your first year.

It’s not a dedicated travel card, but it will provide you with cash back rewards, while helping to rebuild your credit.

Best credit cards for cash back

Excellent credit

Discover it® Cash Back

Discover it® Cash Back offers very generous cash back rewards, including 5% on select categories each quarter, like groceries, restaurants, and gas stations.  Activation is required and the max spend per quarter is $1,500.

They also offer 1% cash back on all other purchases. But rather than giving you an upfront bonus, instead they match 100 percent of your rewards within the first year.

They also provide a See Terms introductory APR on balance transfers for the first See Terms.

  • Introductory APRSee Terms introductory APR on balance transfers for the first See Terms
  • Balance Transfer Fee: See Terms
  • Regular APRSee Terms
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Credit Needed: Good to Excellent (700+)
  • Sign-up Bonus: Your cash back will be 100% matched at the end of the first year
  • Rewards: 5% cash back on quarterly merchants, like gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants; 1% cash back on all other purchases.  Max spend is $1,500 per quarter and activation is required
  • Unique Features: Redeem rewards for cash at any time; no late fee on your first late payment and paying late won’t raise your APR; no foreign transaction fee; free FICO credit score

Apply now or read our full review for the Discover it® Cash Back credit card.

Good credit

Blue Cash Preferred® from Amex

The Blue Cash Preferred® from Amex is an excellent card for cash back rewards. You start by earning $250 cash back after spending just $1,000 in the first three months. That’s like getting a 25 percent discount on everything you spend.

But then you get 6% back at supermarkets on purchases up to $6,000, worth $360. You also get 3% cash back at gas stations, and 1% on all other purchases.

  • Introductory APR: 0% on purchases and balance transfers in the first 12 months
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Higher of $5 or 3%
  • Regular APR: 15.24% to 26.24% variable
  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Credit Needed: Good (700+)
  • Sign-up Bonus: $250 cash back after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • Rewards: 6% cash back at US supermarkets, up to $6,000 per year, then 1%; 3% cash back at US gas stations; 1% cash back on other purchases
  • Unique Features: Cash back is received as Rewards Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit, or for gift cards or retail merchandise

See card details/apply.

Fair credit

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Learn More

The Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card is one of the very best for both cash back and general rewards. It provides unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, which can be redeemed for cash at any time.

It’s designed specifically for consumers with average credit, even if you’ve defaulted on a loan within the past few years. The weak spot on this card is the APR. The regular rate is high among credit cards, and there is no introductory APR offer.

  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Balance Transfer Fee: $0
  • Regular APR26.99% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee$39
  • Credit Needed: Average (640+; You have limited credit or you’ve defaulted on a loan in the past 5 years)
  • Sign-up Bonus: N/A
  • Rewards: Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
  • Unique Features: Redeem rewards for cash at any time

See card details/apply or read our full review.

Poor credit

Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards

Apply Now Rates & Fees

The Credit One® Unsecured Visa with Cash Back Rewards is a credit card designed for people with poor credit, but also offers cash back. In fact, you can get 1% cash back for eligible purchases, and even get automatic account reviews to have your credit line increased.

You also get access to your monthly Experian credit score and credit report summary.

The major negative with this card is that the annual fee will be charged immediately. If you’re given an initial credit limit of $300, a $75 annual fee will reduce it to $225.

However, this is typical with credit cards for poor credit. Also be aware that cash back rewards are limited to specific services, such as gas, groceries, dining, and certain communication services.

  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Balance Transfer Fee: N/A
  • Regular APR17.99% to 23.99% Variable
  • Annual Fee$0 - $99
  • Credit Needed: Poor (Less than 640)
  • Sign-up Bonus: None
  • Rewards: 1% cash back on eligible purchases
  • Unique Features: Automatic account reviews to have your credit line increased; access your monthly Experian credit score and credit report summary

See card details/apply or read our full review.

Best credit cards for balance transfers

Excellent credit

BankAmericard® credit card

BankAmericard® is a top credit card for balance transfers, but it requires excellent credit. It offers a very generous See Terms.

The downside to this card is the lack of either a sign up bonus or ongoing rewards. Its primary strength is as a balance transfer card.

  • Introductory APRSee Terms
  • Balance Transfer FeeEither $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
  • Regular APRSee Terms
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Credit Needed: Excellent (750+)
  • Sign-up Bonus: N/A
  • Rewards: N/A
  • Unique Features: Paying late won’t raise your APR; access to your monthly FICO score

See card details/apply or read our full review.

Good credit

Citi Double Cash®

The Citi Double Cash® is an outstanding card for balance transfers if your credit falls something short of the excellent category.

The card has a unique reward system. Instead of paying a flat percentage on purchases, they pay 1% on purchases, and 1% on the payments you make on the card.

So if you charge $1,000 on the card for the month, you’ll receive $10 cash back. But if you pay the balance in full, you’ll receive another $10. It’s a good incentive to get you to pay back what you purchase while intending to take advantage of the rewards.

But the bigger story with this card is they offer a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers for a full 18 months.

  • Introductory APR: 0% on balance transfers for 18 months
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Greater of $5 or 3%
  • Regular APR: 15.49% to 25.49% variable
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Credit Needed: Good (700+)
  • Sign-up Bonus: N/A
  • Rewards: 1% on purchases plus 1% on account payments
  • Unique Features: Rewards can be redeemed for statement credits or checks; no late fee on your first late payment; free monthly credit score

See card details/apply.

Balance transfer cards for average/fair/poor credit

There aren’t any obvious alternatives here, because balance transfers are primarily reserved for excellent and good credit profiles.

If you have average/fair credit, you can consider using a card specifically for that credit profile, such as the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card.

The card doesn’t offer a balance transfer option, but you can use each card to pay expenses, while dedicating income to paying off high interest credit cards.

Unfortunately, there really aren’t any options for lower credit profiles.

Best credit cards for sign-up bonus

Excellent credit

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply Now

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card hits our list of the top credit cards, again.

It offers what we believe is the top travel reward bonuses around ($1,000 towards Travel or $800 in cash after spending $4,000 in the first three months). Couple that with 2X points on travel and dining, and no foreign transaction fees.

  • Introductory APRN/A
  • Balance Transfer FeeEither $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Regular APR15.99%-22.99% Variable on both purchases and balance transfers
  • Annual Fee$95
  • Credit Needed: Good/Excellent (750+)
  • Sign-up Bonus: 80,000 bonus points (worth $1,000 toward travel or $800 in cash) after spending $4,000 in the first three months
  • Rewards: 2X points on travel and dining, 1X points on all other purchases
  • Unique Features: No foreign transaction fees; get 10,000 bonus points for each referral

See card details/apply or read our full review.

Good credit

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Disclaimer – The information about the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by MoneyUnder30.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Another amazing sign-up bonus credit card, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card provides a generous bonus of 50,000 miles (equal to $500 in travel) after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.

Plus you can also earn 2X miles per dollar on every purchase – every single day.

  • Balance Transfer Fee$0
  • Regular APR17.24% - 24.49% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Credit Needed: Excellent (750+, No late payments over 60 days, no bankruptcy or loan defaults)
  • Sign-up Bonus: 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • Rewards: 2X points on every purchase
  • Unique Features: Receive up to a $100 credit on Global TSA Pre✓

See card details/apply or read our full review.

Average/fair/poor credit

This is another category where options are few and far between. If you can qualify for the Discover it® Student Cash Back (included in this list), you can get a 100 percent cash back match at the end of the first year.

But that will require at least fair credit, and it’s the only option we’ve found in that credit range.

For poor credit, there are no sign-up bonus credit cards available. The best option will be to work to improve your credit, including using credit builder credit cards.

Best credit cards for general rewards

Excellent credit

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards card is one of the top rewards cards available. You’ll get an incredible bonus of $300 cash when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first three months,

You also get 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, which includes a diverse range of merchants, including cafes, bars, fast food chains and even bakeries.

Entertainment includes record stores and video rentals, dance clubs, pool halls, bowling alleys. Cash back rewards never expire and can be redeemed at any time.

  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Balance Transfer Fee$0
  • Regular APR15.99% - 24.99% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
  • Credit Needed: Excellent (750+; No late payments over 60 days, no bankruptcy or loan defaults)
  • Sign-up Bonus: $300 cash bonus once you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first three months
  • Rewards: Unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores, 1% on all other purchases
  • Unique Features: Redeem cash back for any amount; no foreign transaction fees

See card details/apply or read our full review.

Good credit

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card

Disclaimer – The information about the Wells Fargo Propel American Express card has been collected independently by MoneyUnder30.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card covers a host of different rewards.

It offers 3x rewards points on travel (including flights, hotels, car rentals, homestays), gas stations, rideshares and transit, eating out & ordering in, and popular streaming services. Plus you’ll get 1x rewards points on everything else.

But that’s not all, the sign-up bonus is hefty, at 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in the first three months. And the cherry on top of all these rewards is the no annual fee!

  • Introductory APR: 0% for 12 months on qualifying balance transfers
  • Balance Transfer Fee5%
  • Regular APR: 13.99%-25.99% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Credit Needed: Good (700+)
  • Sign-up Bonus: 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
  • Rewards: 3x rewards points on travel, gas station purchases, eating out, and popular streaming services; 1x on all other purchases
  • Unique Features: Wells Fargo offers cell phone protection up to $600 per claim (subject to a $25 deductible).

See card details/apply or read our full review.

Best credit cards for students

Student cards for excellent credit

This is the exact opposite of the situation with other card types and credit profiles in this section. If you’re a student looking for a credit card, and you have excellent credit, you may want to apply for any credit card that requires excellent credit.

The reason is those cards offer the most generous rewards and benefits. They’re not specifically designed for students, but the benefits they provide will do more than just get the job done.

For example, Discover it® Cash Back (from our list of cards above) has extremely generous rewards, starting with 5% cash back on quarterly categories, like grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants when you activate.  $1,500 max spend per quarter.

They also provide a 100 percent match on your cash back rewards in the first year. That can be a big plus in your freshman year of college.

Be aware however that even with excellent credit, the lender will be looking to determine that you have a stable income. You may qualify with just a part-time job, but you may need a cosigner if you have no income.

Good credit

Citi Rewards Student Card

The Citi Rewards Student Card is an excellent card for students with good (but not necessarily perfect) credit. It’s perfect for students because it has no annual fee, and can enable you to build up 2,500 points after spending just $500 in the first three months.

It then pays 2X points on supermarkets and gas stations, expenses you’re certainly likely to incur as a student. They also offer plenty of points enhancements to give you even greater benefit.

  • Introductory APR: 0% on purchases for the first 7 months
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Greater of $5 or 4%
  • Regular APR: 15.99% to 25.99%
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Credit Needed: Good (700+)
  • Sign-up Bonus: 2,500 points after spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Rewards: 2X points at supermarkets and gas stations for the first $6,000 per year, then 1X points thereafter; 1X points on all their purchases
  • Unique Features: Automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase, with no cap; 10% points back on the first 100,000 Thank You points you redeem each year (20,000 points redeemed gets you an additional 2,000 points); spend points at Amazon.com or BestBuy.com

See card details/apply.

Fair credit

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Discover it® Student Cash Back is designed for students, including those with fair credit. In fact, this card is perfect for students.

Not only does it provide generous rewards of up to 5% on select categories each quarter, but you’ll also get a $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher.

And also perfect for students, there’s no late fee on your first late payment, and paying late won’t raise your interest rate.

  • Introductory APRSee Terms for See Terms
  • Balance Transfer Fee: See Terms
  • Regular APRSee Terms
  • Annual Fee$0
  • Credit Needed: Fair (640+)
  • Sign-up Bonus: Your cash back will be 100% matched at the end of the first year
  • Rewards: 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping ($1,500 max spend per quarter, activation required).
  • Unique Features: Get a $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher; paying late won’t raise your APR, and there’s no late fee on your first late payment; no foreign transaction fee; free FICO credit score

See card details/apply or read our full review.

Poor credit

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

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The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® can be an option for students with either poor or no credit. If fact, it’s an option for anyone who has bad credit. It’s designed specifically to help you rebuild your credit.

You start with a $200 credit line. You’ll need to make a refundable security deposit of $49, $99 or $200, based on your creditworthiness.

You can then use the card just as you would any other, and Capital One will report your payment history to all three major credit bureaus—TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. And after you make your first six monthly payments on time, you’ll have access to a higher credit limit.

  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Balance Transfer Fee: $0
  • Regular APR26.99% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee: None
  • Credit Needed: Poor (Less than 640; “Rebuilding” you’ve defaulted on a loan more than once or you’ve been declined for a credit card in the last three months)
  • Sign-up Bonus: N/A
  • Rewards: N/A
  • Unique Features: Your payment history will be reported to all three major credit bureaus, helping you to rebuild your credit, or build it for the first time

See card details/apply or read our full review.

Best credit cards for business

Excellent credit

Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

The Capital One® Spark® Cash For Business card is designed specifically for businesses, and particularly those with excellent credit. It gives your business a dedicated business credit card, making it easier to separate your personal and business expenses.

You’ll start by getting a cash bonus of $500 after you spend $4,500 in the first three months.

What’s more, you can provide additional cards for your employees at no extra fee. Their charges will contribute to your rewards. Those rewards include unlimited 2% cash back, with no expiration date.

  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Balance Transfer FeeN/A
  • Regular APR18.49% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
  • Credit Needed: Excellent (750+; No late payments over 60 days, no bankruptcy or loan defaults)
  • Sign-up Bonus: One-time $500 cash bonus after spending $4,500 in the first three months.
  • Rewards: Unlimited 2% cash back, with no expiration date
  • Unique Features: Free employee cards also earning rewards; download purchase records into Quicken, Quickbooks and Excel; no foreign transaction fees

See card details/apply or read our full review.

Good credit

SimplyCash Plus®

The SimplyCash Plus® card is perfect for business but its credit guidelines are a little more relaxed than Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business.

It offers 5% cash back in rewards for office and business purchases. It also offers free employee credit cards and a connection with QuickBooks Online.

  • Introductory APR: 0% introductory APR on purchases for 9 months
  • Balance Transfer Fee: N/A
  • Regular APR: 14.49%, 19.49% or 21.49%, based on your creditworthiness
  • Annual Fee: None
  • Credit Needed: Good (700+)
  • Sign-up Bonus: N/A
  • Rewards: 5% at office supply stores and on wireless phone services; 3% on travel, gasoline, restaurants, advertising on select media, US purchases for shipping and computer purchases; 1% on other purchases
  • Unique Features: Add employee cards for higher rewards; Connect with QuickBooks Online

See card details/apply.

Fair credit

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

The Spark® Classic works similar to the Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business, except that it is designed for those with average credit.

It offers a simple reward structure: unlimited 1% back on all purchases. In addition, there’s no annual fee, making this card great for business owners with lower credit scores.

  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Balance Transfer FeeN/A
  • Regular APR:24.49% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee$0
  • Credit Needed: Average (640+; You’ve defaulted on a loan in the post five years, or you have limited credit history)
  • Sign-up Bonus: N/A
  • Rewards: Unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases for your business
  • Unique Features: No minimum to redeem cash back rewards; free employee cards also earning rewards; download purchase records into Quicken, Quickbooks and Excel; no foreign transaction fees

See card details/apply.

Business cards for average/fair/poor credit

Dedicated business cards are another type of credit card that’s very difficult to get when you have average or below average credit.

The alternative may be to use a credit builder card, such as the  Capital One® Secured Mastercard®, included on this list, as it’s tailor made for people trying to build up their  credit scores.

Comparison Summary of the best credit cards

Credit Card Credit Score Required Unique Features
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card750+ No foreign transaction fees; get 10,000 bonus points for each referral
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card750+ Receive up to a $100 credit on Global TSA Pre✓ and no foreign transaction fee
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card700+ Use your Venture miles on hotels and flights and even transfer miles to 10+ travel partners, and no foreign transaction fees
Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® 640+24-hour assistance including emergency card replacement in case your credit card is lost or stolen while you're traveling; for every month that you pay on time, you’ll receive an additional 0.25 percent in rewards for every dollar
Discover It® Cash Back 700+ Redeem rewards for cash at any time; no late fee on your first late payment and paying late won’t raise your APR; no foreign transaction fee; free FICO credit score
Blue Cash Preferred® from Amex 700+ Cash back is received as Rewards Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit, for gift cards or retail merchandise
Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card640+Redeem rewards for cash at any time
Credit One® Unsecured Less than 640 Automatic account reviews to have your credit line increased; access your monthly Experian credit score and credit report summary
BankAmericard® 750+ Paying late won’t raise your APR; access to your monthly FICO score
Citi Double Cash® Card 700+ Rewards can be redeemed for statement credits or checks; no late fee on your first late payment; free monthly credit score
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card750+ Redeem cash back for any amount; no foreign transaction fees
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card700+ You can get up to $600 in cell phone protection
Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card 700+ Automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase, with no cap; 10% points back on the first 100,000 Thank You points you redeem each year (20,000 points redeemed gets you an additional 2,000 points); spend points at Amazon.com or BestBuy.com
Discover It® Student Cash Back 640+ Get a $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher; paying late won't raise your APR, and there's no late fee on your first late payment; no foreign transaction fee; free FICO credit score
Capital One® Secured Mastercard® Not indicated, accepts poor credit Your payment history will be reported to all three major credit bureaus, helping you to rebuild your credit, or build it for the first time
Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business 750+ Free employee cards also earning rewards; download purchase records into Quicken, QuickBooks and Excel; no foreign transaction fees
SimplyCash Plus® Business from Amex 700+ Add employee cards for higher rewards; Connect with QuickBooks Online
Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business 640+ No minimum to redeem cash back rewards; free employee cards also earning rewards; download purchase records into Quicken, QuickBooks and Excel; no foreign transaction fees

How we came up with this list

When deciding on these credit cards we took in a number of factors, including:

  • Rewards offered
  • APR
  • Annual fee
  • Intro offers

We then divided the cards into categories and made a comparison by credit needed. Each factor above is weighed differently depending on your credit score.

For example, for the cards that you can get approved for with poor credit, APR and no annual fee are the big factors over rewards. That’s because most low score credit cards don’t offer rewards.

The opposite is true for credit cards that require excellent credit. Since those cards typically have low APRs and some have no annual fees, rewards are the biggest deciding factor.

Types of credit cards

All credit cards provide essentially the same service, which is to act as revolving lines of credit that you have immediate access to. But they’ve evolved to the point where there are specializations. Even though two credit cards may have similar features, each may have its own specialization.

The common credit card specializations include the following categories:

Travel

These are cards that have a specific orientation toward travel. They typically offer rewards in the form of either miles or points, rather than as cash back or statement credits.

Miles can be accumulated for airline travel, while points may be more specific to hotel stays.

They may also have extra perks that relate specifically to travel, such as the absence of foreign transaction fees, the ability to transfer miles or points to airlines or hotels, or a very specific limitation that requires you to redeem rewards specifically for travel.

Cash back

These are credit cards in which rewards benefits are more general in nature. For example, rather than providing rewards based on miles or points, which may be limited to redemption for travel related purchases, they’re more likely to be offered as actual cash back or the equivalent.

For example, a true cash back card will allow you to take rewards directly in cash. A credit card issued by a large bank may enable you to even withdraw your rewards balance through ATM machines. Some also make the rewards available in statement credits.

Balance transfer

Balance transfer credit cards act as something of a debt consolidation line. A typical offer will be a 0 percent APR for a limited period of time, which can be anywhere from six months to 18 months.

You can then transfer balances from high interest credit cards and even other loans to the balance transfer credit card.

Most credit cards making this offer will also impose an upfront balance transfer fee, ranging between three percent and five percent of the balance transferred. At the end of the 0 percent introductory offer term, any remaining balance will be subject to regular interest rates.

Students

These credit cards are designed specifically for students. For example, they may offer bonuses with lower qualifying thresholds, since college students typically aren’t able to rack up the kind of purchase activity that an employed person might.

A student credit card may also offer perks very specific to students. For example, they may offer bonuses or awards related to academic performance, or forgive the first late payment made. They may also have rewards specific to student related purchases, or redeemable through channels students are likely to frequent.

Business

These are cards designed specifically with small business owners in mind. Rewards may be tailored to business purchases, such as office supplies and communication services. They also frequently include employee cards, which the business owner can distribute at his or her discretion, and without requiring qualification by the employee.

They may also provide business specific reporting, such as year-end summaries, or the ability to export data to popular business software, like QuickBooks.

Sign-up bonus

There really aren’t any credit cards that are designed specifically as sign-up bonuses cards, given that it’s a temporary benefit. If there were, consumers would just be switching back and forth between cards within the category, to take advantage of the latest best offer.

Instead, most popular credit cards today do offer some type of sign-up bonus. But the cards that offer the most generous packages can be loosely thought of as sign-up bonus cards.

They may offer other common credit card perks, like a 0 percent introductory offer, but also provide an outsized bonus compared to competing cards.

How to choose the best credit card

Though there may be a specific credit card feature you’re most interested in, you’re more likely to select card based on the combination of features and benefits it offers.

Introductory APR

Most popular credit cards offer some type of 0 percent introductory APR benefit. It can be as long as 18 months, and it can apply to either balance transfers, purchases, or both.

It can be a major advantage if you already have high interest credit cards that you’re looking to consolidate and—hopefully—pay off before the 0 percent offer ends.

For example, if you have $10,000 outstanding on several credit cards with an average interest rate of 20 percent, by transferring to a card with a 0 percent APR, you can save $2,000 per year.

However, the better option is always to pay off the balance within the 0 percent period, otherwise it will be subject to whatever the regular interest rate is on the card, and you will only have gained temporary interest rate relief.

Balance transfer fee

Introductory 0 percent APRs are the good news on balance transfers. The not so good news is balance transfer fees. Most credit cards have them, even those with very generous introductory offers.

The fees typically range between three percent and five percent of the balance transferred. In most cases, this won’t offset the benefits of the 0 percent introductory APR, but it will reduce it.

If you plan to pay off balance transfers within a few months, a high balance transfer fee could cost you more money than you’re saving in interest.

Regular APR

No matter how attractive the introductory APR is, it’s important to remember it’s only temporary. The regular APR is the rate you’ll pay once the introductory term is over. If you expect to carry a balance beyond the 0 percent term, the regular APR will be a major factor.

Even if you plan to pay off high interest credit cards with a 0 percent introductory APR, if the regular APR on the new card is higher than it is on the old ones, you could be putting yourself in a worse position if you fail to pay off the balance in full by the end of the initial term.

Annual fee

The presence or absence of an annual fee isn’t necessarily a deal breaker. Though it can help you make a decision if you’re comparing two identical credit card offers, with the only difference being that one charges an annual fee and the other doesn’t, it’s actually just one piece of a larger puzzle.

If the card that charges an annual fee has better ongoing benefits than one that doesn’t, you may be better off accepting it. Except on premium cards, the annual fee is almost always less than $100, and some credit cards waive that for the first year.

Credit requirements

No matter how good a credit card offer is, it won’t matter if you don’t qualify for it. There’s no question, the most generous card offers are reserved for those with excellent credit. If you fall in the good credit range, you may get reduced benefits.

Unfortunately, when you fall into average or lower credit, credit card benefits drop substantially.

If you want to get credit cards with the very best rewards and features, it’ll be well worth your time and effort to work on improving your credit score. Scores of greater than 700, and especially 750, get the best credit card offers.

Sign-up bonus

There’s no doubt, some credit cards offer extremely generous sign-up bonuses. The better ones can be worth many hundreds of dollars.

But tread lightly in this category, since the benefit is only temporary. Once you’ve earned the sign-up bonus, you’ll be bound by all the other perks of the card. Carefully consider those against the competition, that may not have such generous sign-up bonuses.

You may find that a card with an inferior sign up bonus will have more generous ongoing rewards, that will more than offset a big upfront bonus.

Rewards

Since both introductory APRs and sign-up bonuses are temporary, ongoing rewards are generally the more important benefit provided by a credit card.

It’s not just the amount of the rewards either. You’ll want to apply for a credit card that offers the most generous rewards for the spending categories you’re most likely to use.

For example, if you spend a considerable amount of money each month on dining and entertainment, you should favor a card that provides enhanced rewards for these categories.

If you’re more frugal, you’ll want to favor a card that offers enhanced rewards for more ordinary purchases, such as groceries and gasoline.

Unique features

Most credit cards come with a variety of additional features. Since they’re not usually substantial in nature, they should seldom be considered as major factors in choosing a card. It mostly matters where you’re looking at two very similar cards.

Common unique features can include free access your credit score, late payment forgiveness, no foreign transaction fees, purchase protection, or cell phone protection.

Advantages of using a credit card

Credit cards get a bad rap in the personal finance universe. The general assumption is life is better without them, and you need to pay them off and get rid of them as soon as possible.

That’s certainly good advice if you’ve gotten in over your head with high interest credit card debt. But there are several reasons why credit cards can work to your advantage.

Build credit

If you have no credit or bad credit, you may have difficulty navigating the modern world. It may be close to impossible to rent an apartment, buy a car, or apply for a mortgage. Credit cards are one of the best ways to either build or improve your credit, since you can start small.

For example, if you can qualify for a credit card with a credit limit of $1,000, borrowing small amounts and making regular monthly payments, you’ll be building good credit. You’ll need that either to build a strong credit score, or improve a poor one.

Convenience

It’s difficult to navigate the modern world without a credit card. You’ll absolutely need one to make secure online purchases, to rent a car, and to travel freely. What’s more, the number of establishments that no longer accept cash or checks is growing rapidly.

Debit cards and prepaid cards can serve as credit card substitutes, but they’re not always as efficient, and don’t offer similar consumer protections. Even if you don’t like the idea of credit cards, having at least one has become a modern necessity.

Budgeting

Credit cards can actually function as budgeting tools. For example, you can have a credit card specifically dedicated for business or travel expenses, and one for personal expenses.

Specific benefits

If you have a lot of high interest credit card debt, a 0 percent introductory APR will be a way to get immediate control of the situation. It may not be the entire solution, but it can give you time to at least pay down your balance before regular interest rates apply.

Another example is rewards. If you’re a frequent traveler, particularly for business, a card that offers generous travel rewards can lower your travel expenses.

The most important things to know about credit cards

  • Look for the best combination of features, even if you’re mostly concerned with just one. We discussed this earlier, but it’s worth repeating. No matter how attractive a single credit card benefit is, look at the total package. A very attractive 0 percent introductory APR or an exceedingly generous sign up bonus are only temporary. Look carefully at the longer-term features, especially the regular APR and ongoing rewards.
  • Pay your balance in full each month to get the biggest benefit. Rewards are a definite advantage, but they have a darker side. They can cause you to spend more money than you would otherwise, and even build up large credit card balances. The best way to get the pure benefit from any credit card features is the pay your balance in full each month.
  • Even if you do a balance transfer, keep your old credit cards open. Even if you transfer high interest balances to a card with a 0 percent introductory APR, don’t close out the old cards. If you do, you could end up with one maxed-out credit card, and no open credit lines. That will hurt your credit score almost as much as chronic late payments. Instead of closing them out, just put the cards someplace out of reach where you’re not likely to use them again.
  • Payoff transferred balances within the 0 percent introductory offer term. It shouldn’t be viewed as a form of getting out of debt, but rather getting a reprieve from high interest rates. Even if you can’t pay off the entire balance before the 0 percent APR ends, pay off as much is you can. That will leave a smaller balance subject to the regular APR.

FAQs on Best Credit Cards

Am I better off taking a card that offers cash back or miles or points?

Generally speaking, most people will be better served with a cash back card, only because it’s unrestricted.But if you’re a  frequent traveler, you may be better off with points or miles. You may have to do some number crunching to figure out which will work best for you.

I notice a lot of cards offer the 0 percent introductory APR for either purchases or balance transfers; is one better than the other?

It depends on your personal circumstances. If you already have high interest credit cards, the balance transfer will be the better option.It will enable you to consolidate those debts into an interest-free line, making you better able to either pay off or pay down the balance.But if you have no balances to transfer, the purchase option will make more sense.

The credit cards for poor credit seem restrictive. Are they really worth having?

In a word, yes! If you already have poor credit, these cards can offer you a way to improve your situation.To improve your credit score, you’ll need to add new good credit. Even though the cards for poor credit are admittedly restrictive, they’ll give you a chance to do just that. The secret is to properly manage them.  As long as you make your payments on time each month, your credit score will gradually begin to improve.

I’d like to do a balance transfer to a 0 percent introductory APR card, but I don’t like the idea of paying a balance transfer fee. How can I get around paying it?

Most credit cards do charge a balance transfer fee of either three percent or five percent. Naturally, you’ll want to favor those that charge three percent, particularly if the balance transfer is substantial.

Apart from separating business expenses from personal ones, what other reasons are there to have a business credit card?

Image counts when you’re in business. If you have a credit card for your business, it looks more professional than if you use a personal card.Another benefit is to begin building credit specifically related to your business. Even though you will still be personally liable for a business credit card, the fact that you have a dedicated business card could make it easier to apply for a business loan in the name of your company only.

Summary

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this guide, including not only the various major credit card categories, but also offers available at the different credit levels for each.

Now it’s up to you to sift through the options, and find the card that best matches your preferences and credit profile.

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About the author

Total Articles: 353
David Weliver is the founder of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues he faced during his first two decades as an adult. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.

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