No single credit card is the best option for every family, every purchase or every budget.
Your credit history, the composition of your family, how much you spend and on what, your travel plans and goals and whether you are comfortable having multiple cards could all affect the best card for you.
In short, the best credit card for an affluent single who splurges on foreign travel and eating out may be different than the best for a cost-conscious family that goes camping for vacation and mostly shops.
Rather than simply selecting the “best credit card” and ranking the next nine options,’ we’ve attempted to highlight the best cards for a variety of situations.
This list contains only personal credit cards.
In order to determine the best credit cards for each category, we considered the costs and benefits of each credit card. Costs of each credit card include: the annual fee, foreign transaction fee and the required spending to qualify for the welcome offer. Benefits include the welcome offer, cash rewards or other rewards, bonus category offers, balance transfer offers, status benefits and other perks.
In addition, each category of credit card has its own criteria. For travel rewards cards we also considered how much value you can expect to get out of your points and miles when you redeem them.
For cards meant for those who are trying to build credit or improve their credit score, we focused on credit card offers that offer the most opportunities to improve your credit for the lowest net cost.
For balance transfer cards we looked at the length of 0% APR and the variable APR after the bonus period ended.
If you want a simple cash back card, the Citi® Double Cash Card is a great choice. You’ll earn a flat rate of cash back on each purchase with no limits or categories to keep track of. With this card it’s also possible to convert your rewards to ThankYou points, which can be transferred to airline miles if you also hold a Citi Premier® Card or Citi Prestige® Card*.
Rewards: Earn 2% cash back on all purchases—1% when you make the purchase and 1% when you pay your credit card bill.
Welcome Offer: None
Annual Fee: $0
Other Benefits and Drawbacks: The more you use the Double Cash, the more you earn. There are no limits, caps or restrictions on how much cash back you can earn. As long as you pay your card off every month and avoid fee-bearing activities like cash advances and balance transfers, you can use the Citi Double Cash card for your daily purchases and earn a generous amount of cash back without paying any fees or interest.
This Citi Double Cash gives new cardholders an introductory APR of 0% intro for 18 months on Balance Transfers completed within the first four months of opening a new account, and a variable APR after, based on your creditworthiness (currently 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)). Balance transfers are subject to a fee of $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
The Citi Double Cash does charge a foreign transaction fee so it’s not a great choice for international travel.
Read our Citi Double Cash review to learn more.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
If you’re wanting to get into the Chase ecosystem but the annual fee of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® scares you away, the Chase Sapphire Preferred may be a good place to start.
Rewards: Earn 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Welcome Offer: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn a $50 statement credit towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
Annual Fee: $95
Other Benefits and Drawbacks: Ultimate Rewards are both flexible and valuable, which is why the Sapphire Preferred Card makes our list if you can’t justify the Sapphire Reserve’s higher annual fee. You have the ability to transfer Ultimate Rewards to a variety of airline frequent flyer programs and hotel chains, such United Airlines and Hyatt.
An Ultimate Rewards point from your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is worth 1.25 cents per point when redeemed through the Chase travel portal or when using Pay Yourself Back, but if you are going to use the travel portal we would recommend considering the higher annual fee Chase Sapphire Reserve® instead because your points will be worth 1.5 cents each in the same instances (in addition to the ability to earn more points on travel and dining purchases). The Chase Sapphire Preferred also offers best-in-class travel protections, though they’re not quite as good as the Sapphire Reserve’s coverage.
The Chase Ultimate Reward cards are best taken as a family: partnering a Chase Sapphire Preferred with a Chase Freedom® Flex card and a Chase Ink business card allows you to earn Ultimate Rewards quickly. Rewards can also be combined between family members to really speed up the pace.
The Chase Freedom Flex℠, launched in late 2020, is a newcomer to the field—and it launched with a splash. When paired with a premium Chase Ultimate Rewards-earning card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve® or Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, it can earn powerful Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Even as a standalone cash back card, it’s tough to beat.
Rewards: Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in rotating categories each quarter that you activate, 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back at restaurants and drugstores and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Welcome Offer: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
Annual Fee: $0
Other Benefits and Drawbacks: The Chase Freedom Flex packs a huge punch for a card without an annual fee. The biggest downside to this card? You’ll have to remember to activate the quarterly bonus categories and track how much you’ve spent because the rotating categories have a $1,500 cap—at least if you’re planning to optimize your spending.
The Freedom Flex offers a three month complimentary membership to Door Dash’s DashPass—offering free delivery on orders over $12 and 50% off DashPass for the following nine months. You’ll also get 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022.
Finally, you can benefit from complimentary cell phone insurance protection when you pay your monthly cell phone bill with your card. Claims are limited to $800 per claim and $1,000 per year total.
This card does charge a 3% foreign transaction fee so it is not a good choice if you plan to travel abroad.
If you’re a foodie, look no further than the American Express® Gold Card. This card offers bonus Membership Rewards points on purchases at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets. This is good news for foodies looking to quickly add to their points balance.
Rewards: Earn 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at restaurants and on up to $25,000 in annual spending at U.S. supermarkets, 3 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with the airline or through Amextravel.com and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
Welcome Offer: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months
Annual Fee: $250 (rates & fees)
Other Benefits and Drawbacks: In addition to allowing you to earn points toward your next redemption quickly, the Amex Gold Card offers up to $120 in annual dining credits—$10 each month—with participating restaurants including Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, Boxed and delivery services Grubhub and Seamless.
Many trips have non-refundable elements that are tied to specific dates such as hotel or prepaid tour reservations. If you are interrupted or have to cancel your trip, you could be out a tremendous amount of money.
In addition to offering the ability to earn valuable points on purchases, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers trip cancellation and interruption insurance for covered situations, trip delay insurance, lost baggage and baggage delay insurance, primary rental car insurance and more. All of these best-in-class protections helped this card top the list for the best travel rewards credit card.
Rewards: Earn 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent at restaurants and on travel purchases (after earning the $300 travel credit) and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
Welcome Offer: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Annual Fee: $550
Other Benefits and Drawbacks: The high annual fee of this premium rewards card is partially offset by $300 in travel credits that are applied automatically when you make qualifying purchases.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits include Priority Pass airport lounge membership that includes airport restaurant locations, which the American Express versions of Priority Pass do not include. This means that when you fly, you’ll be able to eat and drink at over 1,200 airport lounge locations worldwide as long as you enroll, which could save your family a nice chunk of change.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are transferable to a large number of travel partners including United Airline MileagePlus and World of Hyatt. Points are redeemable on Chase’s travel portal or using the Pay Yourself Back feature where they’re worth 1.5 cents each.
If you’re after a luxury travel experience, especially if you want access to a variety of airport lounges, the Platinum Card from American Express is a good choice. It’s packed full of other benefits and perks, too.
Rewards: Earn 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on the first $500,000 spent on flights booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel. You’ll also earn an uncapped 5 points per dollar spent on prepaid hotels booked through Amextravel.com and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
Welcome Offer: Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new Card at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership. That’s an additional 9 points on top of the 1 point you earn for these purchases.
Annual Fee: $550 (rates & fees)
Other Benefits and Drawbacks: The Platinum Card from American Express is packed full of additional benefits. For starters, you’ll benefit from access to a number of different airline lounges: Amex Centurion Lounges, over 1,200 Priority Pass airport lounges (excluding restaurant locations), and Delta SkyClubs when flying Delta same-day.
Cardholders will also receive up to $200 in airline incidental credits with the pre-selected airline of their choosing, valid for purchases such as seat selection and checked bags. Additionally, cardholders will receive a credit to cover the TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee and up to $200 annually in Uber credits ($15 per month plus a $20 bonus in December). The Platinum Card also offers Gold status with both Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy.