There are an array of credit cards out there, and it can be hard to pick the best ones for your wallet. Thankfully, the team at TPG has done a lot of the research for you, compiling our top picks of the best credit cards available on the market today.
Here are some of the best credit card offers from our partners:
Why Trust Us?
At The Points Guy, our goal is to help you maximize your travel experiences while minimizing spending. Our travel and credit cards experts share their own experiences and give honest analyses to help you make decisions that benefit you the most. While we do receive compensation through our credit card application links, ads, and clearly indicated sponsored content, our editorial content, points valuations and card analysis are entirely our own.
- 10 Miles 10 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
- 5 Miles 5 Miles per dollar on flights booked through Capital One Travel
- 2 Miles 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
- 5X Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
- 5X Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
- 3X Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
- 1X Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases – with no limit to the amount you can earn
- 4X Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
- 4X Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
- 3X Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
- 5X Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
- 1.5X Earn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
- 1X 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
- 10% Earn 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats, plus complimentary Uber One membership statement credits through 11/14/2024
- 8% Earn 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment purchases
- 5% Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply
- 3% Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®).
- 1% Earn 1% on all other purchases.
- 6% 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%)
- 6% 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions
- 3% 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more
- 3% 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations
- 1% 1% Cash Back on other purchases
- 5x Unlimited 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
- 2X Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, everywhere, no limits or category restrictions, and miles won't expire for the life of the account.
- 5% Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply
- 1.5% Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
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|Card||Best for||Welcome Offer/Sign Up Bonus||Earning Rate||Annual Fee|
|Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card||Best for non-bonus spending||75,000 miles||
|Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card||Best for premium travel credit card||75,000 miles||
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||Best for luxury benefits||Earn 80,000 points||
|Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card||Best for business travelers||100,000 points||
|American Express® Gold Card||Best for dining at restaurants||Earn 60,000 points||
|The Business Platinum Card® from American Express||Best all around business card||Earn 120,000 points||
|Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card||Best for freelancers||$750||
|Citi Premier® Card||Best for Citi ThankYou Rewards||60,000 points||
|Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card||Best for entertainment||$200||
|Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express||Best for U.S supermarkets||Earn $250||
||$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.|
|American Express® Business Gold Card||Best for flexible business rewards||Earn 70,000 points||
|Capital One Spark Miles for Business||Best for everyday business spending||50,000 miles||
||$0 intro for first year; $95 after that|
|Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card||Best for simple cash back||$200||
|Citi Custom Cash℠ Card||Best for flexible cash back||$200||
|Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card||Best for travel rewards with no annual fee||20,000 miles||
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||Best for beginner travelers||60,000 bonus points||
There isn’t such a thing as “the best credit card.” Everyone and every situation is different, and that means the right card varies for each person. We all have different spending habits, changing financial goals and priorities, varying budgets and disparate levels of access to credit as a whole. What works for one person likely won’t work for the next — and there’s nothing wrong with that. Ultimately, the best credit card is subjective and largely based on your habits and priorities.
There are hundreds of credit cards available from many different credit card companies, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. For instance, you might find a card with a strong balance transfer offer but no rewards, while the best travel cards typically incur annual fees. Rather than focus on the best credit card company, the key is to understand your individual needs and what cards you can qualify for based on your credit profile. Once you know those, you can then pick the best credit card that meets those requirements.
If you’re just starting out, the easiest credit cards to get are beginner rewards cards and secured credit cards.
Once you’ve been approved for a new credit card, the time it takes to receive a new card from different issuers varies. Some issuers, such as Amex, may expedite the new credit card for you so you receive it within a couple of days after approval, especially if the card carries a high annual fee. With other issuers, it may take up to two weeks before your new card arrives.
Best credit card offers
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Why we love it: The Sapphire Preferred has a nearly perfect combination of lucrative earning rates and value-added perks at a comparatively low annual fee. With bonus earning on dining, travel, online grocery purchases and select streaming service purchases, you can quickly rack up a large balance of incredibly flexible points.
Who should use it: Beginner travelers, experienced travelers and everyone in between can get incredible value from the Sapphire Preferred. Whether you want to book travel directly with Chase or transfer points to one of the issuer’s valuable partners, it’s easy to get a ton of value with Ultimate Rewards.
Why it’s in my wallet: “The Chase Sapphire Preferred has remained a top card in my wallet for years. Between the consistently strong sign-up bonus, low annual fee and continual improvements that have been made over the years, it’s hard for any other mid-tier rewards card to compare.” — Madison Blancaflor, senior editor
Alternative card option: To add more luxury to your travel experience, consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Though it comes with a higher annual fee, you’ll also enjoy Priority Pass lounge access plus a $300 annual travel credit to help offset the fee.
Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred review
Official application link: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Why we love it: The Venture Rewards card offers a terrific combination of simplicity and value. You’ll earn at least 2 miles for every dollar you spend on the card, and those can be used to cover any travel purchase — or you can transfer those miles to one of Capital One’s lucrative transfer partners.
Who should use it: Anyone who wants a simple earning structure plus straightforward redemptions and value-added perks (like a statement credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership) could be a good candidate for the card.
Why it’s in my wallet: “The Capital One Venture is a great card that can add value to pretty much anyone’s wallet. I use it to earn 2 points per dollar on the purchases that fall outside of my other cards’ bonus categories. The annual fee is low, Capital One miles are easy to redeem and the card does come with a few nice perks — including TSA PreCheck/Global Entry application fee reimbursement.” — Madison Blancaflor, senior editor
Alternative card option: Even if you’re a casual traveler, consider this card’s sister product, the very popular Capital One Venture X. The card’s $300 annual credit for purchases made with Capital One Travel immediately covers the higher annual fee — and that’s not even considering the added perks you’ll enjoy.
Related: Capital One Venture Rewards review
Official application link: Capital One Venture Rewards
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
Why we love it: The Venture X packs a punch with a lucrative sign-up bonus, extensive lounge access and a yearly statement credit of up to $300 for bookings made through Capital One Travel. You can use your miles to cover any travel purchase charged to the card, or you can potentially unlock even more value by transferring them to travel partners.
Who should use it: This card is a great fit for someone who wants to dip their toes into the world of premium credit cards without paying over $400 a year in annual fees. It provides a healthy collection of perks and rewarding everyday earning rates.
Why it’s in my wallet: “The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card is the card that rewards me for every purchase I make with 2 miles per dollar spent that I can then use toward my travel goals. I also love how easy it is to earn and redeem my miles either through transferring to partners or covering travel purchases, big or small.” — Ashley Onadele, writer
Alternative card option: Those turned off by the Venture X’s annual fee could opt for the Capital One Venture Rewards Card, which has a $95 annual fee and similar earning rates and redemption options.
Related: Capital One Venture X review
Official application link: Capital One Venture X
American Express® Gold Card
Why we love it: Foodies will love the Amex Gold card, regardless of whether you’re eating out, ordering in or cooking at home. You’ll earn 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar on worldwide restaurant purchases, plus 4 points per dollar on up to $25,000 in purchases at U.S. supermarkets each year, then 1 point per dollar. There are a number of other perks that can easily cover most of the card’s $250 annual fee (see rates and fees).
Who should use it: Anyone with frequent restaurant and grocery purchases can get a ton of value from the Amex Gold, especially if you utilize the issuer’s array of lucrative transfer partners.
Why it’s in my wallet: “Groceries and dining at restaurants are two of my top spending categories, and I love that the Amex Gold rewards those purchases with 4 points per dollar. When you factor in the $10 dining credit and $10 in Uber Cash each month, the $250 annual fee is a net cost of $10.” — Senitra Horbrook, credit cards editor
Alternative card option: If you still want extra rewards at restaurants along with additional bonus categories and other valuable perks at a lower fee, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Related: Amex Gold review
Official application link: Amex Gold
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Why we love it: The Amex Platinum carries a high annual fee (see rates and fees), but you can easily recoup that fee with a high welcome bonus, along with the array of perks it offers. From extensive lounge access to numerous statement credits, your travels can easily be more comfortable and rewarding with the card in your wallet.
Who should use it: This card has long been a favorite of luxury travelers, but you don’t have to be a high spender to get value from it. Its assortment of travel and shopping credits plus automatic elite status with Hilton and Marriott makes it a great option for even leisure travelers looking to maximize their rewards.
Why it’s in my wallet: “The Amex Platinum includes a lucrative combination of luxury travel benefits along with non-travel perks that save me hundreds of dollars every single year. I love earning 5 points per dollar on airfare booked directly with an airline or via Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 in purchases per calendar year), and the airport lounge access is unparalleled in the world of premium cards.” — Nick Ewen, director of content
Alternative card option: The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card can be a great alternative to the Amex Platinum, with a notably lower annual fee, similar perks and a more rewarding earning rate on everyday purchases.
Related: Amex Platinum review
Official application link: Amex Platinum
Citi Premier® Card: Best for Citi ThankYou Rewards
Why we love it: No other card that earns transferable points has the extensive bonus categories of the Citi Premier, as you’ll earn 3 points per dollar on air travel, other hotels, gas, dining and grocery purchases. These points transfer to over a dozen travel partners or can be used directly on the Citi Travel portal.
Who should use it: If you want bonus rewards across a wide-ranging set of everyday purchases and can dig into Citi’s most valuable transfer partners, the Citi Premier could be a great fit.
Why it’s in my wallet: “The Citi Premier Card is a great way to earn Citi ThankYou Rewards points, especially while gas prices are high. I appreciate the card’s earning rate of 3 points per dollar spent at restaurants, gas stations and supermarkets, as well as on air travel and other hotels. Plus, I appreciate that I can transfer my Citi ThankYou points to a variety of airline and hotel loyalty programs, where I can then redeem my newly acquired points or miles for high value.” — Katie Genter, senior writer
Alternative card option: One main drawback of the Citi Premier is a lack of comprehensive travel protections when things go wrong. If you’re after peace of mind for your trips and still want lucrative bonus categories at a similar price point, the Chase Sapphire Preferred might be a better option.
Related: Citi Premier review
Official application link: Citi Premier
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Why we love it: This product is a great starter card for travelers, awarding 1.25 miles per dollar spent on all purchases. This is effectively 1.25% back when used for travel purchases, but it also includes the option to transfer those miles to Capital One’s various travel partners.
Who should use it: Anyone new to the world of travel rewards who wants a simple earning rate plus the potential for higher value could find this card to be a good fit.
Why it’s in my wallet: “I wanted a credit card that earns Capital One miles without an annual fee, and this is a winner. It doesn’t have the bells and whistles of some other cards, but I’m happy earning 1.25 miles per dollar on all purchases without paying a fee to keep this card year after year. I’ll never cancel this card.” — Ryan Smith, credit cards writer
Alternative card option: For a small annual fee, many travelers could benefit from the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. You’ll earn at least 2 miles per dollar on all purchases and receive a statement credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership every four years.
Related: Capital One VentureOne review
Official application link: Capital One VentureOne
Best business credit card offers
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
Why we love it: The Amex Business Platinum tends to come with a hefty welcome bonus and a lengthy list of perks, many of which appeal directly to small-business owners. From saving on U.S. wireless services to enjoying airport lounge access, the card can take your travels and lifestyle to the next level.
Who should use it: Small businesses looking for luxury travel perks and discounts on business-related services can benefit greatly from this card.
Why it’s in my wallet: “I find that the annual perks and credits vastly outweigh the large annual fee. By using the benefits with Priority Pass and Amex lounges, airline incidental credits, statement credits for Clear, our cellphone plan and restocking our printer with ink and paper from Dell, we are getting more value out of the card than it costs to keep it. Plus, it earns my favorite points — American Express Membership Rewards — and we earn 5 points per dollar on flights and hotels booked with Amex Travel.” — Ryan Smith, writer
Alternative card option: For less-frequent travelers, consider the American Express® Business Gold Card, which offers 4 points per dollar spent on your top two spending categories each month (up to $150,000 in combined purchases each year).
Related: Amex Business Platinum Review
Official application link: Amex Business Platinum
Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
Why we love it: For starters, what’s not to love about a huge sign-up bonus on a card with just a $95 annual fee? Beyond that, you’ll earn 3 points per dollar on an array of everyday business purchases, and these points can be used via Chase Travel or transferred to one of Chase’s valuable travel partners.
Who should use it: Any small business that wants a low-annual-fee card with a lucrative welcome offer and rewarding spending bonuses is a great fit for this card.
Why it’s in my wallet: “I originally signed up for the Ink Business Preferred primarily for its sign-up bonus. But, over the last year, I’ve found myself making it my go-to card when booking travel. After all, the Ink Business Preferred earns 3 points per dollar spent on travel and provides excellent travel protections, including trip delay protection and rental car insurance.” — Katie Genter, senior writer
Alternative card option: If you don’t want to worry about maximizing specific purchases and are looking for a lower spending requirement to earn a sign-up bonus, consider the Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card, which offers a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases and carries no annual fee.
Related: Ink Business Preferred review
Official application link: Ink Business Preferred
American Express® Business Gold Card
Why we love it: The Amex Business Gold includes the benefit of high earning rates without the work. You’ll earn 4 points per dollar spent in your top two spending categories every month (up to $150,000 in combined spending every year) — and this automatically adjusts to your spending habits. Add in the variety of valuable points redemptions and you have a potent combination of perks.
Who should use it: Small-business owners with varied purchases from month to month enjoy unparalleled flexibility in earning bonus rewards, making the card a great fit.
Why it’s in my wallet: “No other card provides the earning potential and adaptability this card has. Sure, its annual fee isn’t cheap, but I love the fact I don’t need to think about what purchases I put on this card. It will automatically adapt and provide 4 points per dollar in my top two spending categories monthly (on up to $150,000 of these purchases yearly).” — Ryan Smith, credit cards writer
Alternative card option: If your business doesn’t have enough spending to justify the high annual fee of the Gold, the Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express could be a solid option. It has no annual fee (see rates and fees) and earns 2 points per dollar spent on all purchases (on up to $50,000 in spending each year, then 1 point per dollar).
Related: Amex Business Gold review
Official application link: Amex Business Gold
Best cash-back credit card offers
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Why we love it: Most cash-back cards have limited earning potential, but this card is a notable exception. You’ll earn 6% back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 in purchases each year, then 1% back) and on select U.S. streaming services, plus 3% back on transit and U.S. gas station purchases.
Who should use it: If you don’t want to mess with travel redemptions and airline award charts, the Blue Cash Preferred is a fantastic option with lucrative cash-back rates and a $0 introductory annual fee in the first year, then $95 (see rates and fees). Just be sure you earn enough in rewards to justify the annual fee starting in the second year.
Why it’s in my wallet: “The Blue Cash Preferred Card is the card I recommended to my parents when they were looking for a new cash-back rewards card for their groceries. My parents prefer the simplicity of cash-back rewards and I knew they’d benefit from earning 6% cash back on up to $6,000 per year in purchases at U.S. supermarkets. Compared to the 1.5% cash back they were earning on these purchases, the elevated earnings easily justified adding the Blue Cash Preferred to their wallet.” — Katie Genter, senior writer
Alternative card option: If you aren’t a big spender, you may not be able to justify the annual fee on the card. In that case, opt for the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, which comes with slightly lower earning rates but also charges no annual fee (see rates and fees).
Related: Amex Blue Cash Preferred review
Official application link: Amex Blue Cash Preferred
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
Why we love it: Many cash-back cards have limited bonus categories or restrictive spending caps to earn said bonuses — but not this card. Earning 3% back on dining, groceries, entertainment and streaming services with no annual fee makes for a powerful combination.
Who should use it: This card is an appealing choice for anyone looking for cash-back rewards who also spends frequently in the applicable 3% categories. It’s particularly appealing for those traveling abroad thanks to waived foreign transaction fees.
Why it should be in your wallet: This is a solid card with no annual fee that is great for those who regularly spend on dining and entertainment.
Alternative card option: For an even higher rate of return, some may benefit from the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card. Just be sure the additional cash back more than covers the $95 annual fee.
The information for the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Related: Capital One SavorOne review
Official application link: Capital One SavorOne
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card: Best for introductory APR and balance transfers
Why we love it: This card offers 5% back on up to $500 in your top spending category every month — and it automatically changes based on your purchase habits. Add in the long introductory annual percentage rate period for purchases and balance transfers and decent sign-up bonus and you have a solid no-annual-fee card.
Who should use it: Those with variable spending habits are ideal candidates for the Custom Cash card (see rates & fees), as you don’t have to worry about rigid bonus categories. Spend away, and you’ll be automatically rewarded based on where you spend the most — even if it changes from one month to the next.
Why it should be in your wallet: This card helps you to maximize purchases that don’t fit into other traditional bonus categories, especially if you hold another Citi card.
Alternative card option: If you want to maximize rewards, consider the Chase Freedom Flex instead. You’ll earn 5% back on rotating quarterly bonus categories (on up to $1,500 in combined spending) after activation. More importantly, you can effectively convert these rewards into more valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points if you carry a higher-end Chase card as well.
Related: Citi Custom Cash Card review
Official application link: Citi Custom Cash
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for cash back
Why we love it: Simplicity meets affordability with this card. It offers a no-fuss earning rate of 1.5% cash back on all purchases, coupled with no annual fee and waived foreign transaction fees.
Who should use it: If you don’t want to worry about travel rewards and want to minimize the out-of-pocket cost of your card, this card can be a perfect fit.
Why it’s in my wallet: “This is my oldest credit card, but I’ve kept it open for more than just its history to aid my credit score. With no annual fee and a fair earning structure, it’s a good option for purchases that don’t fall into bonus categories on my other credit cards. I’m happy knowing I’ll never earn less than 1.5% back on spending.” — Ryan Smith, credit cards writer
Alternative card option: If you still want to avoid fees but increase your potential for cash back, consider the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card. It offers 3% back on dining, select streaming services, groceries and entertainment.
Related: Capital One Quicksilver review
Official application link: Capital One Quicksilver
Credit card basics
How do credit cards work?
The idea behind credit cards is simple — you’re borrowing money that you pay back later. If you take a while to pay it back, rather than pay it in full when your credit card statement comes, you’ll be charged interest. The amount is carried over to the next month, and you pay interest on the whole balance (unless you’re on a special 0% deal). The entire credit card industry exists on this basic premise.
Why not just borrow cash from a bank then? Well, one of the biggest perks of using a credit card is the potential rewards you can earn from this type of payment for something — and that’s where TPG comes in. We’re here to help you find the credit card and rewards program that are right for you.
How do credit card rewards work?
Many credit cards offer redeemable rewards on purchases as an incentive for using the card. These rewards differ from issuer to issuer and even card to card. Some earn cash back, while others offer points or miles that can be redeemed for travel, gift cards or other rewards.
Typically, the best credit cards charge an annual fee as a trade-off for the rewards, perks and other benefits cardholders receive. However, cardholders who earn rewards and take advantage of these perks will find it easy to offset the cost of any annual fee.
How does credit card interest work?
Credit card interest is the annual percentage rate you pay for holding a balance on your credit card. As a rule of thumb, the lower the APR, the less interest you’ll pay over time.
Before you apply for a credit card, all lenders have to tell you the APR, and it can help you make sure you’re getting the best deal if you are someone who typically holds a balance on a credit card.
APR can be a good way to compare different credit cards, but what you actually pay in interest depends on how and when you pay off your debt.
Generally, APR rates on credit cards range from 15% to 30%, with lower rates reserved for those with higher credit scores. A good credit score makes it a lot easier to get a favorable APR, so improving your credit score is a good first step toward a better APR.
It’s worth noting that your APR is usually based on rates for making new purchases (e.g., buying something online or in-store). Rates for other transactions, such as cash withdrawals or balance transfers, may be different.
Your credit card’s APR affects how much you pay, so it’s worth doing your research — some cards offer 0% APR for a promotional period on new purchases or balance transfers, but always check the terms and conditions carefully to make sure you’re aware of exactly what you’ll be paying.
And, of course, you can avoid interest entirely by paying your entire balance in full and on time every single month.
How to apply for a credit card
You can apply for a credit card online, by mail or by phone. The easiest option is to do it online. A credit card issuer will ask for some personal information, including your name, contact information, annual income, Social Security number and other financial details. You’ll be asked to read the terms and conditions of the card’s benefits, interest rates and applicable fees.
Once you apply, many issuers will give you a decision in just a few seconds, but you could end up having to wait for up to two weeks for an answer.
Credit card issuers and networks
Most credit cards have two or three different logos on them, representing the issuing bank, the card network and the cobranded partner (if there is one). What is the difference between them? It mostly boils down to a division of labor. Each party is responsible for different jobs that keep your credit card working.
Credit card issuer
Card issuers, such as Chase and Citi, do the following:
- Handle and evaluate credit card applications.
- Produce and distribute the physical cards.
- Create the terms and benefits of the account, including things like interest rate, annual fees and bonus categories.
- Pay merchants on behalf of the cardholder (i.e., paying the restaurant when you swipe your card).
- Collect payments from cardholders and provide account services.
Credit card networks
The primary functions of a card network, such as Visa or Mastercard, include setting the interchange fees (commonly known as swipe fees) and building out a payment infrastructure so more merchants can accept their cards. American Express and Discover are unique in that they are both issuers and networks, so they fulfill duties for both.
Cobranded credit cards
Cobranded credit cards earn rewards with a specific brand that has struck a marketing agreement with an issuer. These cards also tend to offer brand-specific perks, such as an anniversary free night or elite status with a hotel, free checked bags and priority boarding with an airline, or statement credits for shopping with the specific merchant.
Private label credit cards
Private label credit cards, commonly referred to as store credit cards, are limited to usage at one specific store. Typically, store credit cards aren’t a great idea and are unlikely to rank among TPG’s picks for the best credit cards. Their sign-up bonuses usually aren’t as good as our favorite cash-back or travel cards, the rewards aren’t flexible and their annual percentage rates are higher than average.
How many credit cards should I have?
There is no right or wrong answer. It all depends on your spending habits and financial goals. Some TPG staffers have more than 20 credit cards, while others only hold a few. Many beginners start with just a single credit card, but if you’re considering more, be sure you’re comfortable juggling them all — especially when it comes to making on-time payments.
A goal for many experts is to never earn just 1% on any given purchase. Generally, this means having cards that earn bonus rewards in the categories you spend the most in each month and at least one card that earns a decent rewards rate on non-bonus spending. Additionally, many keep cards for the perks they offer.
If a slim wallet of two or three cards helps you hit your goals, then that’s the number of cards you should have. If a wallet filled with 20 or more helps you maximize spending and travel plans, then that’s valid, too. It’s all about your specific needs, wants and spending habits.
Types of credit cards and their benefits
Credit card companies offer different kinds of cards to meet different consumer needs. Some people put a lot of money on their cards every month and then pay them off immediately — those people benefit from a card that returns a portion of their spending in the form of rewards. Others tend to carry a balance from month to month — they’re better served with a card that offers a low ongoing interest rate. Still, others are working to improve their credit — issuers have cards designed for those consumers, too.
Rewards credit cards
There are many credit cards that offer some type of rewards every time you use them for purchases. Here are some popular classifications.
Cash-back cards take a percentage of each purchase (usually somewhere between 1% and 5%) and offer it back to you as a reward. Those earnings are typically pooled into an online account, but the exact redemption method varies. On some cards, you redeem them as a statement credit against your outstanding balance, while others allow direct deposits into your bank account. Some even do this automatically for you.
Cash back offers a more straightforward way of earning and redeeming rewards compared to points and miles.
These cards earn points linked to a specific bank or issuer like Chase or American Express. The rewards you earn can then be used in a variety of ways, including for gift cards, travel purchases or even cash back. However, many popular travel cards also allow you to transfer your rewards to a selection of airlines and hotel programs, depending on the partnerships of each bank or issuer. This is where you have the potential for huge value.
If you’re loyal to one specific airline or hotel, it’s worth researching the transfer partners of cards before applying. This gives the ultimate freedom when deciding how you’d like to redeem your points, as your points don’t already belong to an airline or hotel brand.
Airline cobranded cards earn a specific type of airline miles. These cards also generally come with perks specific to that airline. For example, an airline card may offer free checked bags, a certain number of elite qualifying miles to help you reach status, priority boarding privileges, inflight discounts and more.
Related: Best airline credit cards
Hotel cobranded cards work like airline cards. You’ll earn rewards that are redeemable for a particular hotel program, such as Hilton Honors or Marriott Bonvoy. Hotel cards come with their own benefits, such as complimentary elite status or free award night stays. Additionally, hotel cards can help you stack your earnings on hotel stays with the hotel’s program.
Related: Best hotel credit cards
0% APR and balance transfer cards
While we recommend never carrying a balance on a credit card, there are times when a large purchase or emergency situation arises. Alternatively, you may have misunderstood how credit works in the past, and you have a large balance you’re working to pay off.
In either of these cases, having a 0% APR or balance transfer credit card can be a lifesaver. These cards offer a set introductory period of zero interest on new purchases, balance transfers or sometimes both. This can help finance one-time purchases, such as getting a new roof or remodeling the bathroom, or allow you to transfer a balance from a high-APR card with another bank and enjoy a year (or more) of no additional interest.
When using these types of cards, you’ll want to make sure to pay the balance off before the promotion expires in order to avoid paying any interest. You should also be careful not to use a 0% APR or balance transfer card as an excuse to spend beyond your means. Instead, you should treat this like one element of your emergency fund and only tap into it when necessary.
Low-interest credit cards
If you don’t qualify for a 0% APR credit card, consider a low-interest rate card instead. Though we advise against carrying a balance, if you need to pay down debt, a low-interest card can help you save money and pay down your balance faster.
Student credit cards
Building credit as a college student is an essential life step on the path to learning financial responsibility. For the most part, student credit cards work the same as other credit cards. You’re provided with a credit limit representing the maximum amount of money you can borrow on that specific card for that month. You’re then required to pay back the amount you borrowed by the due date on your credit card statement to avoid incurring interest.
Since you may have little-to-no income or credit history as a student, you likely won’t qualify for the top rewards credit cards. However, you can qualify for cards with no annual fees that are made exclusively for college students looking to start building credit.
Related: Best student credit cards
Business credit cards
A business credit card can help you maximize your purchases, separate your expenses and save money on interest each year. These business credit cards offer bonus rewards on categories popular with small businesses, such as office supplies, airfare, advertising and gas.
In fact, business-specific bonus categories are one of the main ways that business credit cards differ from personal credit cards, but you need to do your research before applying for a small-business credit card. While business cards often offer tailored bonus categories and additional benefits for business owners, they also have fewer consumer protections than personal credit cards.
Related: Best business credit cards
Credit building cards
Everyone is new to credit at some point in time. You won’t be able to get approved for the top rewards cards if you have a limited credit history — or have made some credit mistakes in the past and have a poor credit score. In those instances, you may want to use a secured credit card while you work to improve your credit.
A secured credit card is a card that requires a security deposit from the cardholder when the account is opened. This security deposit is usually refundable and determines your initial credit limit. A secured credit card is a stepping stone to an unsecured (or traditional) rewards credit card. Once you’ve increased your credit score, you can apply for traditional rewards credit cards.
Related: Best secured credit cards
How to choose the best credit card
When choosing a credit card, it’s important to decide which particular perks are the most important to you. For example, if a card with no annual fee is important to you, you might exclude cards with fees from your comparison, even if they fare better in the sign-up bonus category.
Here are some of the main points to consider when choosing a card:
Some cards have considerably higher sign-up bonuses than others. More often than not, the higher the sign-up bonus, the higher the annual fee on the card or spending limit to unlock that sign-up bonus.
Before applying, it’s worth making sure the annual fee of the credit card you’re considering wouldn’t leave your monthly budget short.
Certain cards offer more rewards for spending in specific categories, including popular merchants like grocery stories, restaurants and gas stations. If your spending is varied from month to month, then watch out for cards that rotate the bonus earning categories so you can maximize your rewards.
When deciding which card to go for, it’s worth doing a calculation to see where you spend the bulk of your money each month, if you don’t know that already. If you don’t want to worry about keeping track of these bonus categories, go with a simpler structure with a solid return on everyday spending.
How to maximize credit card rewards
To make sure you’re maximizing what a credit card can do for you, you should take time every 12 months to analyze your overall financial picture and determine if each of your current credit cards is serving your needs. Perhaps you aren’t racking up bonus earnings in the categories you spend in most often, or you don’t have the travel benefits you need. Maybe you’re paying a high annual fee but aren’t taking advantage of a card’s features.
If any of these are true, it may be time to get a new credit card that better fits your requirements.
Keep in mind that circumstances change over time, and a credit card that was previously right for you may no longer be a good fit. With so many options on the market, there’s no reason why you should have the wrong credit card in your purse or wallet.
Finding the best credit card for you can be a stressful and overwhelming process, especially for beginners. The TPG team has spent hours researching the best offers and compiling our top options — some from our partners and some not — to help you compare.
We looked at sign-up bonus offers, earning structures and bonus categories, annual fees, redemption options and more to pick the best credit card offers available to you.
For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred, click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Gold, click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus Amex, click here.