Looking for a new credit card to suit your needs? There are hundreds of options out there, so how do you pick just one? Well, you can start with our list of the best credit cards of 2019, right here!
Finding a single “best” credit card really depends on your situation and goals. Are you a traveler looking for a miles credit card? Are you new to credit or have poor credit history? Or do you just want to keep things simple with a cashback card? In any case, you can find the perfect credit card for you in the guide below – broken down into specific categories.
Related Content: Walmart Card Reviews and Definitive Guide
This guide is intended to provide the information, tips and tools you need to make an informed decision. Beyond our picks for top credit cards, you’ll also find a list of FAQs and other helpful information!
Best Cashback Rewards Credit Cards
If you’re looking for a card to reward you for every purchase, with a simple cash-back rewards program, these are our top recommendations. For more options, see our guide to the best cashback credit cards.
Flat 2% Rewards Card: Citi DoubleCash
At a Glance: Simple and straightforward – 2% cashback on every purchase, with no limits or restricted categories
Annual Fee: None
Perks: Easy to understand rewards structure; good intro APR offers; no annual fee
APR: Standard APR 15.74% – 25.74% depending on credit. Comes with 18-mo 0% intro APR offer
Rewards: 2% cashback, split into 1% on every purchase, and 1% when you pay off the bill (2% total).
Signup bonus: None (18-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers)
The Citi Double Cash is one of the best credit cards of 2019, particularly for those who like to keep things simple. This card has no annual fee to worry about, and offers a competitive and straightforward reward rate of 2% cashback. You won’t need to learn any complex points or miles systems, as the card earns simple cashback. Keep in mind that the card technically earns 1% on all purchases, and 1% when you pay the bill. This adds up to 2% cashback on every purchase; but you won’t earn the second half until you actually pay the bill.
You’ll need fairly good credit to be approved for this card. If you are approved, you may be able to take advantage of the 0% APR transfer offer. If you have debt on other cards that you’re paying interest on, transferring those debts to your new Double Cash can help you save on interest. There is no signup bonus on this card – however, the 0% intro APR could easily save you a fair amount of money.
Check out our full Citi Double Cash review to learn more about this card!
Tiered Rewards Card: Uber Visa
At a Glance: Generous perks, a $100 signup bonus, and up to 4% cashback!
Rewards: 4% for restaurants and bars; 3% back for airfare and hotels; 2% back for all online purchases; 1% for any other purchases
Annual Fee: None
Signup bonus: $100 cash signup bonus after you spend $500 in the first 90 days
The Uber Visa card is a surprisingly good credit card, that offers a juicy reward structure and some solid perks. It’s a bit more complex than something like the Citi Double Cash, but for those who want to squeeze more value out of their credit cards, this is a great choice.
The big value of this card is in the tiered cashback structure, which will reward you with a different rate depending on what you’re purchasing. The Uber Visa earns rewards as follows:
- 4% on bars, restaurants and fast food
- 3% on certain travel expenses, including AirBNB, hotels and airfare
- 2% on online purchases (including Uber)
- 1% on everything else
The 4% rate makes this one of the best credit cards for dining out, and probably the best that doesn’t have an annual fee. The other rates are solid as well. Depending on your spending habits, this card could be more lucrative than the Double Cash in terms of rewards.
The Uber Visa has no annual fee, and some surprising benefits: a $50 credit for subscriptions like Spotify or Netflix (you must spend $5k on the card per year to qualify), a $100 signup bonus, and even cell phone insurance if you pay your phone bill with the card! Cardmembers also enjoy access to exclusive events in select cities, no foreign transaction fees, and more!
Read through our Uber credit card review to learn more!
Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit
Looking for a credit card that you can be approved for with less-than-stellar credit? We’ve got you covered. You have two choices when looking at low credit options – either get a secured card, which requires a deposit, or an unsecured card, which won’t require a deposit but will likely have more fees.
In our opinion, the best credit cards to build credit are almost always secured cards like the Discover it Secured. In general the unsecured cards simply have too high of fees – and too low of credit limits – to be worthwhile. So, we recommend sticking with secured cards until you build up your credit profile. Find our top picks below – or check our best credit cards for poor credit guide for more options.
For No-Annual-Fee: Discover it Secured
At a Glance: A great option for those with poor credit. Requires a security deposit, but earns rewards and has no annual fee.
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 25.24% variable
Perks: No annual fee; earns rewards (most similar cards do not); easy to be approved for
Rewards: 1% cashback on everything; 2% cashback on gas stations and restaurants (2x rate is limited to $1,000 in purchases each quarter).
Signup Bonus: None
The Discover it Secured is our top recommendation for a card for poor credit. The reason we picked this card as the best credit card for low credit is because it has no annual fee, earns a solid reward rate on purchases, and is quite easy to be approved for compared to many cards.
Keep in mind that this is a secured credit card, which means you’ll need to make a deposit into a locked account in order to get the card. This helps banks to extend credit to folks who they wouldn’t otherwise be able to approve. This card has a minimum deposit of $200, so if you sign up and are approved you will need to deposit $200 (this money is still yours – but you won’t be able to access it until you close the card, or until Discover decides your credit is sufficient to convert you to an unsecured option). This article explains more about how secured credit cards work.
This is a good credit card for building credit because Discover reports to all the major credit bureaus. This contributes to your credit history and will improve your score if you pay on time. If you use the card responsibly, Discover will convert it to an unsecured credit card (and refund your security deposit) in as little as 8 months.
If you have poor credit or just a limited credit history, this card is a great choice!
For a Signup Bonus: Amazon Credit Builder Secured
At a Glance: A secured credit card from a trusted company. Offers a small signup bonus, no annual fee, and some perks for Amazon shoppers.
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 28.24% variable
Perks: A secured card that actually earns rewards; perks for Prime members
Rewards: 5% cashback on select Amazon Prime purchases
Signup Bonus: $40 Amazon.com gift card
The Amazon Credit Builder Credit Card offers another good option for folks with low credit scores or a lack of credit history. It’s a secured card, so you will be required to make a security deposit. However, there is no annual fee, and the card even comes with a signup bonus of a $40 Amazon.com credit card. This is one of the only low credit credit cards that comes with a signup bonus. Even better, the card earns 5% back on select Amazon Prime purchases!
This credit card just launched recently, and is Amazon’s latest move into financial services. If cardholders of the Credit Builder card improve their credit over time, they will be able to convert the card into the Amazon Store Card, an unsecured standard credit card.
You can learn more in our Amazon Credit Builder review.
Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit
What if your credit is just “okay”? Fair credit is generally considered to be a FICO score between 580 to 670, although there are many factors. If you are in this middle-ground, you’re unlikely to get approved for high-end cards, but you can also skip the low-credit options. The two picks below are great choices – and you can find more in our best credit cards for fair credit article!
For No-Annual-Fee: Capital One Platinum
At a Glance: A simple, no-frills credit card with no annual fee, and the opportunity for automatic credit line increases.
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 26.99% variable
Perks: Automatic credit line increases possible; no annual fee; free access to credit monitoring service; no foreign transaction fee
Signup Bonus: None
The Capital One Platinum is good option for folks who have decent credit and want a simple card with no annual fee. It’s issued by a trustworthy bank, and is fairly easy to get approved for. The card is simple, but it does have a few perks – such as no foreign transaction fee, car rental damage waivers, and extended warranty coverage.
The Platinum does not earn any sort of rewards, so that’s a noteworthy downside. Then again, it doesn’t have an annual fee, while most similar products do. The card is fairly easy to get approved for, but your initial credit limit will likely be low. Once you’ve made 5+ on-time payments, Capital One will consider you for a credit line increase.
Overall, the Capital One Platinum is not a particularly exciting card – but it’s a solid option for folks with decent credit who want a simple credit card.
For Rewards: Capital One QuicksilverOne
At a Glance: 1.5% cashback on all purchases, and a low annual fee – built for average credit
Annual Fee: $39
APR: 26.99% variable
Perks: Cashback on every purchase; extended warranty coverage; no foreign transaction fees; auto rental damage waiver
Rewards: 1.5% cashback on all purchases
Signup Bonus: None
The QuicksilverOne card is a good option for folks with average credit who still want to earn rewards. It offers a flat 1.5% cashback on all purchases, so a $100 purchase would net you $1.50 in cashback.
On the other hand, keep in mind that this card does have an annual fee – $39 per year. This compares to the Capital One Platinum (above), which has no fee but doesn’t earn rewards. You’ll want to do the math to see which one makes more sense for you. If you spend more than $220 a month on your credit card, then you’ll come out ahead with the QuicksilverOne, as you’ll earn at least $39 in cashback to cover the annual fee. If you typically spend less than that, you should go with the no-fee Platinum.
Best Rewards Cards for Travelers
Like to travel? Then you’ll definitely want to pick up a travel rewards credit card to help you save money on your adventures. There are several types of travel card – airline cards, hotel cards, and flexible cards. We outline one from each category below. For other options, our best travel credit cards roundup has lots more!
For Simplicity & Flexibility: Capital One Venture
At a Glance: Flexible rewards points make it easy to redeem points for any sort of travel charge – and the card earns a generous 2% back on every purchase.
Annual Fee: $0 for the first year; $95 after that
APR: 17.99% to 25.25% depending on credit worthiness
Perks: Simple reward structure; no foreign transaction fee; travel insurance;
Rewards: 2 miles per $1 spent on all purchases; 10 miles per $1 spent on Hotels.com. Miles are worth 1 cent each towards travel
Signup Bonus: 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months
The Capital One Venture is a excellent choice for travelers. It offers a simple and straightforward rewards program. The card earns “miles”, which can be used towards any travel purchase at the rate of $0.01 per mile. So, this card essentially earns 2% cashback on all purchases, and 10% back on Hotels.com purchases.
Miles can be redeemed for any travel expense. Simply put a travel charge on your card, and you’ll be able to redeem miles to “erase” the charge. This provides a ton of flexibility. For even more flexibility, you can now transfer Venture miles to select travel partners.
This card also has lots of perks for frequent travelers that are well worth the annual fee. However, if you’d rather not pay a fee, there is a no-annual-fee version of the card called the VentureOne.
For Premium/Frequent Travel: Chase Sapphire Reserve
At a Glance: A high-end, premium credit card ideal for frequent travelers. Offers incredible perks, but with a very high annual fee.
Annual Fee: $450
APR: 19.24%–26.24% variable
Perks: $300 annual travel credit; rental car damage insurance; excellent rewards rates on travel and dining; Priority Pass membership for airport lounges; much more
Rewards: 3x points on travel and dining; 1x points on everything else (points worth $0.01-$0.015+ each)
Signup Bonus: 50,000 points (worth $750 towards travel) after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
The Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card is definitely not for everyone – the $450 annual fee will certainly scare a lot of people off. However, for frequent travelers, the card is well worth the fee, surprisingly! The fee is largely offset by a $300 annual travel credit, that “erases” the first $300 of travel charges you make every year. This includes any type of travel, from plane tickets to subway passes and even Uber/Airbnb and more.
So, assuming you spend at least $300 on travel a year, the annual fee is really more like $150 – still significant, but not as jaw-dropping! The CSR comes with a plethora of perks, though, including:
- Rental car damage waiver (so you can decline the expensive rental car insurance)
- Priority Pass Select membership which gives you and 1 guest free access to hundreds of airport lounges worldwide
- No foreign transaction fees
- Trip cancellation/delay insurance
- Emergency medical evacuation insurance
- Reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA Pre+ fees
- Much, much more
The signup bonus and ongoing rewards earning rates are also quite juicy. You’ll earn 3 points per $1 spent on travel and restaurants worldwide, and the signup bonus is 50,000 points! Points can be used for plane tickets and hotel rooms at 1.5c per point, redeemed for cash/giftcards, or transferred to travel partners. If you use your points for plane tickets, that means you’re effectively earning 4.5% back on every travel and dining purchase!
Best Student Credit Cards
Are you a student? In general, students should look for credit cards with no annual fee, perks for students and cards that are relatively easy to get approved for. Many students won’t necessarily have a good credit history built up, so they should stick to credit cards designed for students and those with limited credit history. Our top picks are listed below!
Brushing up on your finances as a student? You might also consider checking out student loan refinancing options!
For Rewards & Good Grade Perks: Discover it Student
At a Glance: A no-annual-fee card that rewards you for every purchase, and even throws in a bonus for having good grades!
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 0% APR on purchases for the first 6 months; then 15.24% to 24.24% variable
Perks: $20 bonus each year your GPA is over 3.0; all cashback earned is doubled in the first year; free credit score access; free identity theft alerts
Rewards: 5% cashback on a rotating category (changes every 3 months); 1% cashback on everything else
Signup Bonus: None, but all the cashback you earn in the first year is doubled
The Discover it Student credit card is a great option for any student. It offers a lot of perks, while having no annual fee and a competitive APR rate. The rewards rate is stellar – 5% cashback on a rotating category, which changes every 3 months. For example, in Q1 of the year you may earn 5% on restaurants, and Q2 5% on gas stations and Uber/Lyft. If a purchase doesn’t fall into one of these 5% categories, you’ll still earn 1% cashback.
In addition to this, all cashback you earn in the first year will be doubled! So if you end up earning $150 in cashback over the year, you’ll get a $150 bonus for a total of $300. This card also rewards good grades, with a $20 bonus each year that your GPA is above 3.0!
The Discover it Student also gives you access to a free credit score monitoring program, as well as identity theft monitoring. This is easily the best student credit card – and all these perks come without an annual fee!
Best for Student Travelers: Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students
At a Glance: A juicy 25,000 point signup bonus and good ongoing rewards help students save for travel – all with no annual fee.
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 0% APR on purchases for the first 12 months; 17.24% – 25.24% variable after that
Perks: Large signup bonus; no foreign transaction fee; redeem points for any travel charge; free access to FICO score
Rewards: 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases. Redeem points for any travel charge
Signup Bonus: 25,000 points (worth $250 towards travel expenses) after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
The Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students is a great option for students who like to travel. With it you’ll earn a big signup bonus that will essentially erase up to $250 worth of travel charges. And every purchase will also earn you 1.5% rewards, which can further reduce your travel expenses!
The points you earn are easy to redeem – just make a travel purchase with your card, and then redeem points to “erase” the charge. This card also has various perks for travel, such as no foreign transaction fee (which is around 3% on many cards).
If you’re a student who likes to travel, this card’s signup bonus and travel perks make it well worth it. And it has no annual fee!
Best Credit Cards for Balance Transfers
If you have credit card debt, it may be worthwhile to look into a balance transfer to another card with a lower interest rate. Many cards offer 0% introductory APRs for balance transfers, which can save you a bundle if you’re currently paying interest. Just be aware of any balance transfer fee the new card may charge, as this can offset savings in interest payments. The balance transfer process is explained well in this guide – and for now, see our best balance transfer credit card picks below.
Lowest Fees: Chase Slate
At a Glance: One of very few cards to offer 0% APR AND no balance transfer fees – our top pick for balance transfers.
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 0% for the first 15 months (purchases & balance transfers), 17.24%–25.99% after that
Perks: No balance transfer fee; 15 months of 0% APR, no penalty APR, no annual fee
Signup Bonus: None (intro APR offer)
The Chase Slate is easily the best credit card for balance transfers for one simple reason: It does not charge a balance transfer fee for your first 60 days. That means you can transfer in all your other existing debts for the first 2 months, without paying a fee (which would typically be 3-5% of the amount transferred). In addition to this, the balances you transfer (and additional purchases you make) will get a 0% APR rate for the first 15 months!
Additionally, the Chase Slate has no annual fee, no penalty APR, and includes access to a free credit monitoring program. See our full review of this card for more information.
This card can easily save you a ton of money – let’s check out an example.
Let’s say you currently have $10,000 of credit card debt, and you’re paying 24% APR. That means you’re currently spending $200 a month, or $2400 a year, on interest charges. If you transfer that debt to the Chase Slate, and continue making payments, you’ll pay 0% APR for the first 15 months – saving you $3,000 in interest charges! In addition, you’ll also save $300-$500 that most other cards would charge you as a balance transfer fee. Not a bad deal!
Longest Intro APR Period: Citi Simplicity
At a Glance: A 21-month 0% APR on balance transfers may save you more; although this is offset by a 5% balance transfer fee.
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 0% APR for 12 months on purchases & 21 months on balance transfers; after that, 16.99% – 26.99% variable
Perks: Longer 0% APR period; no annual fee
Signup Bonus: None (intro APR offer)
The Citi Simplicity card is best for transferring larger balances, because it offers a longer 0% intro APR period. For balance transfers, you’ll get a full 21 months of 0% APR, and for purchases you’ll get 12 months of 0% APR.
However, the Simplicity does have a high balance transfer fee of 5% – so you’ll want to do the math and compare it to the Chase Slate. The longer 0% APR period must be compared to the 5% fee – and the math depends on the amount you transfer.
Using the same example from above, if you transfer a $10,000 debt, you’ll be saving about $200/month on interest charges. Since the Simplicity offers 6 months more of 0% APR than the Slate, you’ll save an additional $1,200 – but you’ll be charged $500 (5% of $10,000) for the initial balance transfer fee. This still works out to a savings of $700 over the Chase Slate.
On the other hand, for smaller balances, or people who plan to pay balances off quickly, the Chase Slate might make more sense. We recommend doing the math for your specific situation before choosing a balance transfer card for you!
Frequently Asked Questions
How do credit cards work?
When you use a credit card to make purchases, you are borrowing money from the issuing bank. If you pay off your balance in full at the end of the billing cycle, you will not pay any interest. However, if you carry a balance on the credit card, you are agreeing to pay the interest set out in the card’s terms. Credit card APRs (annual percentage rate) are usually quite high – often in the range of 25%. This means a $1000 balance would accumulate $250 in interest over the course of a year (and it would actually be slightly higher, because the interest builds on itself).
Because of the high interest, credit cards must be used responsibly. Ideally you should always pay off your balance in full every month. If you do this, a credit card can help improve your credit score while earning you rewards at no cost to you. But irresponsible use can easily spiral into a lot of debt and huge interest payments! See this guide to responsible credit use for more info.
How does credit card interest work? What is an APR?
Credit cards charge interest if you carry a balance on the card. The interest you are charged is based on your APR, or annual percentage rate. This APR is largely based on your credit history, while also taking into account the current prime rate. Generally speaking, the better your credit is the lower your APR will be.
Credit card APRs are usually quite high – around 18% to 26% or more, depending on your credit. Credit card interest is calculated daily, and interest charges will be added to your balance. Interest charges can accumulate rapidly, so be cautious using more credit than you can afford!
However, one important thing to understand is that you will not pay interest if you pay your card off in full every month. If you make purchases and pay your bill in full, you won’t pay a cent of interest!
How can I check my credit score?
Before you apply for a credit card, it’s recommended to check your credit score. This will give you a good idea of your odds of getting approved for a particular card, and help you monitor the health of your credit overall. Many factors influence your credit score, from the number of accounts you have to your payment history to your current credit card utilization.
There are several ways to check your score for free. You can order a full credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com once per year. Or you can sign up for a service like Credit Sesame or Credit Karma for free that will help you monitor and analyze your scores. We like these services because they actually explain why your score is what it is. The two services are pretty similar, but we generally prefer Credit Sesame. Lastly, some banks will provide credit info for free – for instance, Chase has it’s Chase Credit Journey feature for some people.
How should I go about choosing a credit card?
With so many options, it can feel overwhelming. How do you pick a good credit card? Start with the basics, taking note of:
- The annual fee, if any
- The rewards earning rate
- How complex the rewards are (cashback is usually simple, miles/points a bit more complex)
- The signup bonus, if any
- The issuing bank and their reputation
- The APR range (if you plan to carry a balance)
- Any hidden fees
- The features and perks of the card
Take these factors into consideration, and then consider closely your needs and wants for the credit card. Why are you getting a credit card in the first place? If it’s to pay for expenses that you can’t afford right now, you may want to look for a card with a low APR or even an intro 0% APR. If it’s to earn rewards for an upcoming trip, you’ll probably want an option with a big signup bonus.
What is the best type of credit card?
As you can see from the guide above, there are a variety of different styles and categories of credit cards. There are cards designed specifically for travelers, for students, and for folks just starting out building credit. With so many different categories, how do you choose? The answer will depend on your needs, but here are some things to keep in mind.
Travel credit cards generally offer good perks for travelers, such as no foreign transaction fees, points/miles for free travel, rental car insurance, etc. However, most travel cards have annual fees, so you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons. We recommend travel cards for folks with good credit and those who like to travel often.
Cashback credit cards give you a percentage of every purchase back, in the form of cash or statement credits. They are generally the simplest options, as there’s no complex point system to learn. There are many good options with no annual fee – however you can often squeeze more value out of travel cards. We recommend cashback cards to folks who like to keep things simple.
Cards for low/fair credit offer opportunities for people with less than stellar credit to still get credit cards. Their primary purpose is to help build credit. If you have a limited or negative credit history, these are really your only option. If you have better credit, there are better options.
Secured credit cards are made for people with very low/no credit. To get a secured card, you’ll have to put down a security deposit. You will usually get a credit limit that is the same amount as the security deposit. The only purpose of these cards is to help build credit. With that said, they’re often the best option for those with very limited credit history. See the section below for more details.
How can I get a credit card with no credit history?
If you have no credit history or a limited one, it will be more difficult for you to get a credit card – but that doesn’t mean you can’t get one at all! Usually the best option is to get a secured credit card, which will require a security deposit. For example, you might get approved for a secure credit card with a $300 limit – and you’d then be required to deposit $300 into a locked account. That money would stay in the account until the card is converted to unsecured, or until you close the card.
This is one of the best ways to build credit, because good secured cards don’t usually have annual fees. Using a secured card responsibly for a year or so can help you build up a good enough score to get a new standard card, or to convert your secured card into a normal credit card.
What do I need to apply for a credit card?
When you apply for a credit card, you will be asked to supply certain personal information. This includes your full name, legal address, social security number, and household income. Income is used to determine your credit limit, so be sure to report it as accurately as possible (although you can use household income, not just your own income). You may also have to answer certain verification methods.
What does a “pre-approval” for a credit card mean?
If you’ve ever received an advertisement in the mail for a certain credit card, you’ve probably noticed that they often use the term “pre-approved”. But what does being pre-approved for a credit card actually mean?
Essentially, the term means that the credit card issuer has already looked at your credit history and determined that you may be a good candidate for their card. It does NOT mean that you will automatically be approved – you will still need to apply for the card and can be approved or denied depending on your credit and income information.
How old do you need to be to get a credit card?
Generally, the minimum age for a credit card is 18 in the United States. For people under 18, the only way to get a credit card is to be added as an authorized user to a parent’s credit card.
Should I keep old credit cards open if I don’t use them?
If you have a few older credit cards sitting around that you don’t use, you’re probably wondering if you should close them or just keep them. In general we recommend keeping cards open, to help improve your credit score. However, if the card has an annual fee that’s a different story. See our guide on what to do with old credit cards for some examples.
Have a question of your own? Let us know in the comments and we’ll get back to you!