Best Credit Cards

Our objective rating of the best credit cards in the market

We publish unbiased product reviews; our opinions are our own and are not influenced by payment we receive from advertisers. Learn more about our review process and read our advertiser disclosure for how we make money.

We've spent thousands of hours analyzing the credit card market in order to identify the best credit cards for a wide range of needs and objectives. This list represents our top rated cards across a number of categories, all driven by our rating methodology, comprehensive card database and proprietary points valuation models. We focus on highlighting the best cards possible and do not give any preference to cards from which we may receive compensation. These are the cards we'd recommend to our family and friends, and they're the same ones we're recommending to you.

Under normal circumstances, this list would be ordered by overall star rating but that would result in featuring hotel and travel cards near the top of our list. We still think those cards may be the best long-term fit for people and have kept them on our list. But given the novel coronavirus pandemic and its impact to the global economy we've elected to highlight cards that may be more suited to immediate needs.

Best Credit Cards for June 2020

  • Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards: Best Overall, Best for Cash Back
  • United Explorer: Best Airline Card
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best for Travel
  • Bank of America Travel Rewards for Students: Best for Students
  • World of Hyatt Credit Card: Best for Hotels
  • Citi Simplicity: Best for Balance Transfer
  • Capital One Secured: Best Secured Card

Best Overall, Best for Cash Back

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Overall Rating
4.8
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Full Review
Apply Now
On Capital One's Website

Current Offer:

Earn a one-time $150 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.

Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 15.49% - 25.49% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day.
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 15 Months
Balance Transfer Fee There is no standard balance transfer fee for this card.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • WHY WE CHOSE THIS CARD

    The Capital One Quicksilver Credit Card is our best overall credit card and best for cash back because of its combination of low fees, low interest and high rewards earning rate. With no annual fee you don't need to worry about making sure you're extracting maximum value from the card every year to make it worth it. The absence of a foreign-transaction fee makes this a rare cash-back credit card that’s worth bringing on a trip abroad once travel is no longer a public health concern and helps to make a compelling case that if you're only going to carry one card that this should be it.

  • PROS & CONS

    Pros

    • Simple rewards program with a solid return
    • Decent introductory offers on purchases
    • No annual or foreign transaction fees
    • No penalty APR

    Cons

    • No bonus rewards rates
    • One-time bonus is relatively modest
    • APR can be comparatively high
  • HIGHLIGHTS
    • Earn a $150 cash bonus after spending $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.
    • Every purchase earns 1.5% cash back, and the total cash back you can earn is unlimited.
    • Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months.
    • No foreign transaction fees.

Best Airline

United℠ Explorer Card

Overall Rating
4.5
United℠ Explorer Card
Full Review
Apply Now
On Chase's Website

Current Offer:

Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 16.49% - 23.49% variable
Annual Fee $0 for the first year, then $95
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, on hotel stays and on purchases from United. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • WHY WE CHOSE THIS CARD

    Based on our analysis, the United Explorer offers the highest value per mile earned of any airline credit card, and miles can be redeemed in multiple ways, including for flights on member participating airlines in its Star Alliance, one of the largest global airline partnerships. As with our best hotel card, you'd need to be committed to United as the airline you'll primarily fly with in order to extract the maximum benefit from the card. The compelling introductory bonus of the card really adds to the value of the card because of the high value placed on redeeming those points with United. The $95 annual fee is in line with its competitors and is waived the first year. The card does not charge foreign-transaction fees which helps make it a good choice for international travel.

  • PROS & CONS

    Pros

    • Valuable rewards program
    • Special benefits every time you fly United
    • Several travel benefits and protections

    Cons

    • Fewer free checked bags than some competing airline cards
  • HIGHLIGHTS
    • Earn 40,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months your account is open.
    • Get 2 United Club one-time passes each anniversary year.
    • Save up to $120 per roundtrip with a free checked bag for you and a travel companion on the same reservation.
    • Get 25% back as a statement credit on inflight United purchases.

Best for Travel

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Overall Rating
4.3
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Full Review
Apply Now
On Chase's Website

Current Offer:

50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Excellent
Regular APR (%) 16.99% - 23.99% variable
Annual Fee $550
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 3x points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit, 3X points on dining at restaurants, and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • WHY WE CHOSE THIS CARD

    The Chase Sapphire Reserve is our best credit card for travel because of it's competitive one-time point bonus, annual travel credit, high rewards earning rate, the fact that points are worth 50% more if you redeem them for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, and the ability to transfer points on a 1:1 basis to eligible hotel and airline partners. While the annual fee is high, if you're an avid traveler the annual travel credit can help justify it and it has numerous other travel-related benefits that make this the best card for travel if you're not ready to commit yourself to a single airline or hotel.

  • PROS & CONS

    Pros

    • Excellent points rewards rate for travel and dining
    • Large bonus for new cardholders
    • Premium travel features
    • Points are worth 50% more for travel bought through Chase Ultimate Rewards

    Cons

    • $550 annual fee
    • Limited high-rewards categories
    • Strong credit is recommended
  • HIGHLIGHTS
    • Receive 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months from account opening.
    • Get an annual $300 travel credit for eligible purchases charged to your card each anniversary year.
    • Earn 3 points on travel (excluding purchases eligible for the travel credit), restaurants, and dining. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on other purchases.
    • Points are worth 50% more when you redeem them for travel through Chase's Ultimate Rewards portal.
    • Transfer points 1:1 to eligible Ultimate Rewards airline and hotel partner programs.

Best Student Credit Card

Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students

Overall Rating
4.3
Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students
Full Review
Apply Now
On Bank of America's Website

Current Offer:

25,000 bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening - which can be redeemed for a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.

Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 14.99% - 22.99% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere.
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 12 Billing Cycles
Balance Transfer Fee Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • WHY WE CHOSE THIS CARD

    The Bank of America Travel Rewards for Students is our pick for the best student credit card because of the high earning rate on its rewards program that you can then redeem all sorts of travel expenses. It also has a long introductory APR on purchases and no annual fee which add to the card's strong rating. Plus, the lack of foreign-transaction fees makes this an ideal card for student travel outside the U.S. Bank of America Travel Rewards for Students also offers excellent credit education and monitoring services.

  • PROS & CONS

    Pros

    • Decent (1.5 points per dollar spent) travel-rewards earnings, and no tiers to manage
    • Pay off purchases for 12 months with no interest
    • Friendly to foreign travel

    Cons

    • Rewards aren't transferable
    • No 0% APR balance transfer offer
    • Relatively high spending ($1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening) required for 25,000-point introductory one-time bonus
  • HIGHLIGHTS
    • Earn 25,000 points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening.
    • Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time and no expiration on points.
    • Preferred Rewards members earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase That means you could earn up to 2.62 points for every $1 you spend, everywhere, every time.

Best for Hotels

World of Hyatt Credit Card

Overall Rating
4.1
World of Hyatt Credit Card
Full Review
Apply Now
On Chase's Website

Current Offer:

Earn 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend $6,000 total on purchases within the first 6 months of account opening.

Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 15.99% - 22.99% variable
Annual Fee $95
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 4X points for Hyatt stays, 2x for eligible transit, restaurants, gym memberships, and airfare purchased directly from the airline. 1x on other purchases.
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • WHY WE CHOSE THIS CARD

    The World of Hyatt Credit Card is our best for hotels because it consistently offers the highest point redemption value of any hotel program we have analyzed, though the points tend to be more challenging to accumulate compared to other hotel programs. The World of Hyatt Credit Card also offers a competitive one-time bonus, a complimentary night at a category 1-4 Hyatt hotel on each cardmember anniversary, and a very high earning rate on spend at Hyatt hotels. These benefits could quickly justify the card’s annual fee.

  • PROS & CONS

    Pros

    • Competitive one-time offer
    • Earn up to two award nights per year
    • High reward earning rate at Hyatt

    Cons

    • Small brand footprint
    • Annual fee isn’t waived the first year
  • HIGHLIGHTS
    • Earn 25,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Earn an additional 25,000 points after spending $6,000 total within 6 months of account opening.
    • Earn a free night certificate valid at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel or resort each year on your cardmember anniversary.
    • Receive automatic Elite status as long as your account is open.

Best for Balance Transfer

Citi Simplicity®

Overall Rating
3.3
Citi Simplicity®
Full Review
Apply Now
On Citi's Website
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 14.74% - 24.74% variable
Annual Fee $0
INTRO BALANCE TRANSFER APR 0% for 21 Months
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 12 Months
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Rewards Earning Rate This card does not offer a rewards program.
  • WHY WE CHOSE THIS CARD

    We chose the Citi Simplicity Card as the best balance transfer card in the market primarily due to its exceptionally long 21 month 0% APR introductory period along with consumer-friendly terms like no annual fee, no late fees or penalty rates. While Simplicity offers no rewards we don't consider that a negative in the case of a balance transfer card, as rewards can tempt counterproductive additional spending when trying to dig out from debt. Citi does charge a relatively high 5% balance transfer fee but the length of the introductory period justifies extra cost in terms of savings potential.

  • PROS & CONS

    Pros

    • Outstanding 0% APR offer for 21 months from account opening on balance transfers
    • 0% introductory APR offer on new purchases for 12 months from account opening
    • No late fees, penalty rates, or annual fees

    Cons

    • High balance-transfer fee
    • 3% foreign transaction fee
    • No rewards program or one-time bonus offer
  • HIGHLIGHTS
    • No late fees.
    • No penalty rate.
    • No annual fee.
    • Plus, get a low intro APR for 21 months on balance transfers and for 12 months on purchases.

Best Secured Credit Card

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

Overall Rating
2.7
Capital One® Secured Mastercard®
Full Review
Apply Now
On Capital One's Website
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Poor - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 26.99% variable
Annual Fee $0
Minimum Deposit to Activate $49
Pay deposit in installments Yes
Allows upgrade to unsecured card Yes
Rewards Earning Rate This card does not offer a rewards program.
  • WHY WE CHOSE THIS CARD

    The Capital One Secured Mastercard is Investopedia's choice for Best Secured Card due to its lack of an annual fee and its security deposit flexibility, allowing customers to make installment deposits over time rather than all up front. Capital One also provides automatic credit line increases over time with responsible card use and offers an array of non-secured card options that customers can consider once they have built up their credit scores. No annual fee makes the Capital One Secured Mastercard an affordable on-ramp to establishing a positive credit history.

  • PROS & CONS

    Pros

    • Credit limits can be larger than the required security deposit
    • Security deposit can be paid in installments
    • No annual or foreign transaction fees

    Cons

    • Requires a bank account
    • Relatively low initial credit limits
    • No bonus offers or rewards program
  • HIGHLIGHTS
    • $49, $99 or $200 refundable minimum security deposit. Access to an authorized bank account is required to make your security deposit.
    • Make the minimum required security deposit and you'll get an initial credit line of $200. Plus, deposit more money before your account opens to get a higher credit line.
    • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months.
    • Pick your own monthly due date and payment method—check, online or at a local branch.

What is the Best Credit Card?

While we considered a wide range of factors, we chose the best overall credit cards based mostly on their combination of low fees; low, or at least competitive, interest rate; promotional introductory APR, if any, on purchases and balance transfers; and compelling rewards. However, we also selected the best cards in select categories based on how well they addressed specific consumer needs or priorities.

The best credit card may not, however, be the best one you can actually get. People with low credit scores may be able only to qualify for cards that carry higher interest rates and fewer rewards.

Those with excellent credit can generally have their choice of travel and other rewards credit cards that provide lucrative one-time bonuses and significant ongoing rewards in the form of cash back, points, or frequent flyer miles.

Deciding which type of card is best for you is based on your personal credit situation, lifestyle and preferences. Below are some tips on how to navigate the selection process.

What Credit Card is Best for Me?

Finding the best credit card entails both self-consideration and research. You must document your creditworthiness and spending habits, along with reflecting on how you may use the card, whether to build credit, temporarily borrow, or simply employ as a purchasing convenience and a way to earn rewards.

If you are new to credit or have impaired credit, a secured credit card can be a great option. This type of card requires a security deposit but has the advantage that activity with the card is reported to all three credit bureaus, which helps the cardholder build credit over time. Many secured cards offer an option to graduate to a non-secured card after a period of on-time payments.

For those who are carrying a card balance should consider shifting the debt to a balance-transfer card with much lower interest, or even no interest rate at all for a period. These cards provide relief in the form of an extended period of a 0% APR on the transfer, which allows you to pay down the balance more easily. While some balance-transfer cards offer rewards as well, it’s best to not add to your balance on the card (or, preferably, any other card) until you have paid off the amount you’ve transferred.

If you frequently carry a credit card balance, you should avoid cards with high fees and interest regardless of attractive rewards and one-time bonuses. Your priority should be paying down your debt and avoiding accumulating more, not trying to earn rewards.

People who tend to pay their card balance off each month should consider getting a rewards card that offers cash-back or points rewards. These cards allow you to leverage your everyday spending to earn hundreds of dollars worth of rewards, usually with no annual fee.

For frequent travelers, a general travel card or one issued in partnership with airlines or hotels can make the most sense. These allow you to leverage spending on travel and in other categories to earn rewards that can be used to obtain further travel.

Entrepreneurs and small-business owners can choose among a host of business credit cards designed for their needs. These cards may reward business spending both in certain categories, like shipping, or with specific business-related merchants, such as office-supply stores).

College students generally don’t have a credit history, but they do represent a good long term customer for card issuers. Cards designed for students can provide online resources to instruct new cardmembers on the responsible use of credit and other tips to guide personal finances.

What Credit Scores are Required?

The higher your credit score, the more credit cards you potentially have available to you, and the better those cards tend to be in terms of interest rates, credit lines, and reward programs. To understand your card choices, it’s important, then, to know the broad range into which your credit score fits. Card issuers classify scores as “Excellent”, “Very Good”, “Good”, “Fair” or “Poor.” It’s best to only apply for cards that best match the credit recommended by the issuer.(Our card reviews list the recommended credit range for the particular card, as provided by the card issuer.

If you don’t know your current credit score, it’s available in a number of ways, and at no cost. There are two main credit score types, FICO and VantageScore, both of which have their own distinct scoring algorithms and score ranges that are used by various lenders.

Other factors beyond credit score are considered by card issuers in evaluating creditworthiness, including employment status, income, and other credit and deposit accounts you own.

Is it Possible to Qualify for a Credit Card With Bad Credit?

There are credit cards designed for those whose credit is fair, poor, and even very poor or bad credit. In particular, a secured credit card allows those with bad credit or no credit history to build or rebuild their score. Until they’ve completed that process, they must retain the use of the card through a security deposit that usually serves as the maximum credit line for the account. 

What Types of Rewards Do Credit Cards Offer?

Credit card rewards come in a variety of forms, allowing cardholders to earn cash back, points or miles for each dollar of spending. The earnings rates for rewards often vary by purchase type, with higher rewards available for certain categories of purchases.

Cash-back rewards are the most straightforward type, and usually rebate a percentage of spending in the form of a check or statement credit. Rewards based on points or miles offer greater flexibility in how they are redeemed, whether as travel, gift cards, merchandise, or more. 

Travel-rewards credit cards may be general in type, earning points that can be redeemed for travel on any airline or hotel, or partner-specific, and thus co-branded with a particular airline or hotel. Co-branded cards provide less flexibility in redeeming rewards but potentially more value from them, provided you’re comfortable favoring a particular brand of airline or hotel chain.

What Are Common Credit Card Benefits?

While issuers may prominently tout certain features of their cards, other benefits tend to be buried in cards’ fine print—including some you might not realize the card even offers. Here’s a quick list of benefits that are commonly offered with a range of card types:

  • $0 fraud liability
  • Secondary auto-rental collision damage waiver coverage
  • Roadside assistance hotline

Common Rewards Card Benefits

  • Price match
  • Purchase coverage if items are stolen or damaged 
  • Extended warranties 
  • Refunds in cases of merchant dispute

Common Travel Rewards Card Benefits

  • Trip cancellation/interruption/delay coverage
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Lost/delayed luggage coverage

Premium Card Benefits

  • Airport lounge access
  • TSA precheck/Global Reentry Fee Reimbursement every 4 years
  • Cell-phone insurance coverage
  • Concierge service

Methodology

Information Gathering

In order to track and assess the U.S. domestic credit card market, we gather scores of data points on more than 300 cards. This data is collected manually from both card-issuer websites and publicly available sources. 

To ensure our information is as up-to-date as possible, we deploy automated tools that monitor changes in such key data as annual percentage rates, introductory rates, introductory periods, bonus offers, rewards earnings rates, fees and card benefits. We then rapidly make any needed updates to our card listings, reviews, and recommendations to ensure that readers have the most reliable information and advice. 

Initial Scoring

Once we collect credit card data we organize it in our database according to features, which roll up into feature sets (such as rewards, interest, fees, benefits and Security/Customer Service). Each individual card feature is assigned a star rating score on a 1 to 5 scale using a formula. For instance, for a one-time bonus score we would use a formula like (if bonus is $500 or greater, then assign a score of 5; if $300-$499 then 4, and so forth). Weighting of scores. Once all of each card’s features have received a score we apply a weighting factor to each feature to arrive at a weighted average score for each card (according to the general category in which it resides, such as travel rewards). 

This weighting process allows us to assign significantly more emphasis to the attributes important to a particular category, and downplay those that are less relevant to it. That allows us to objectively identify cards that stand out in their category, and why they do. For example, we apply significantly higher weight to such travel-specific features as airport lounge access or primary rental car insurance than we do to attributes such as interest rates or fees that might be more strongly considered for other categories, such as balance-transfer cards.

Earnings rates

Another critical factor we consider when rating and ranking travel cards and other types of rewards cards are the cards’ effective earnings rates. We first calculate the average value of points or miles for all the rewards cards in our database, a painstaking process that entails collecting all airline fare data by carrier across scores of popular domestic and international city-pairs along with per-night hotel charges at all major hotel brands. 

The required points and miles for air travel or hotel stays from the various reward programs is then used to calculate an effective earnings rate for each card. That allows our readers to make the most informed choices. By putting a card’s large one-time bonus or earnings rates into context across many dimensions and card features, they can more readily weigh the card’s benefits relative to its costs. Uncovering the true but often opaque redemption value of rewards points or miles is, we feel, the only reliable way to make cogent choices among competing value-based cards.  

Card Features We Score

As mentioned in our methodology explanation, we place significant weight on certain travel-related features in determining our ratings for each card. Specifically, we place over 50% of our overall assessment score on the combination of the following factors:  

  • Maximum value of any one-time bonus, whether in points or miles.
  • Initial card spending required to earn any bonus.
  • Redemption value of the bonus miles or points.
  • Global card acceptance, as detailed by the four card networks (Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover).
  • Options to redeem points or miles with travel partners, both airline and hotel.

Another consideration are the cards’ coverage, if any, in these travel-related areas: 

  • Car-rental collision insurance, whether primary or secondary.
  • Travel accident insurance.
  • Lost or delayed luggage insurance.
  • Insurance for trip cancellation, interruption, or delay.
  • Cell phone loss or damage.
  • Roadside assistance and towing.
  • Emergency travel medical/dental benefits.

General, non-travel related features that we consider and score include:

  • Interest rates, including both introductory and regular APRs for purchases and balance transfers.
  • Fees, including those for annual membership, late payments, cash advances and foreign transactions.
  • Security/customer service features.
  • Other non-travel benefits, such as free credit scores, ID theft protection and contactless payment capability.

How We Reach Our Final Assessments

We rely mostly on the objective scores created by our rating algorithms to determine which card is chosen as the best travel rewards credit card, as well as the ones deemed best for one-time bonuses and as co-branded airline and hotel choices. 

However, we may make some adjustments from time to time, to both features and weightings that could affect rankings, which can be influenced by subjective input from our credit card experts. Any potential modifications will be consistent with Investopedia’s belief that consumers are best served by travel cards that:

  • Provide superior value in earning awards travel.
  • Charge reasonable interest rates in the event that balances are carried month to month.
  • Charge fewer and/or more reasonable fees.
  • Provide solid customer service, based on the number and quality of customer service features
  • Have helpful and protective security features.