The Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates when it meets next week to 1.50 percent and experts expect that 2018 will bring another three rate hikes, under incoming Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. The higher interest rates reflect the strengthening economy and the expectation of continued improvement. For consumers, that means higher borrowing rates are on the way – so now is a good time to evaluate your credit card terms and lock down the most favorable interest rates.
Of course, it's always best to avoid interest payments altogether and pay your balance in full every month, especially if you want to get the most value from any extra perks your credit card company offers. However, that's not always possible – and if you have balances on higher-interest cards, transferring them now to a lower-interest card may make good financial sense. (See also: Credit vs. Debit Cards: Which Is Better?)
Perks and interest rates aren't the only things to consider. Some of the best credit cards right now have no annual fee, at least for a year, which is a definite plus. Here's our list for the best credit card bets this year – are they in your wallet, or is it time to make a switch?
1. Best Rewards Card: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Hands down, this credit card from JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) takes the top spot for generous rewards and pleasant perks. If you do a lot of traveling and dining out with the card, you can earn rewards rates as high as 2.5%. The bonus rewards are attractive, too – earn 50,000 points if you charge $4,000 within the first three months of opening your account and 5,000 more if you add an authorized user who makes a purchase within three months.
The card belongs to the Ultimate Rewards family, which means you can transfer your points to many hotel and airline programs. Points can be redeemed at a rate of $0.01 per point, but if you book travel through the Chase portal, you get a 20% discount. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year, and the variable interest rate is currently 16.49% to 23.49%. However, you’ll need to charge at least $10,000 per year to get any benefit after the annual fee kicks in. (See also: How to Make Credit Card Rewards Worth It.)
2. Best Credit Card for Families: American Express Blue Cash Preferred
If you spend a lot on gas and groceries, this card from American Express Company (AXP) is for you. With a whopping 6% cash back up to $6,000 per year at the grocery store and 3% at the gas station and many department stores, Blue Cash Preferred is head and shoulders above the competition. After you hit the $6,000 cap on groceries, you still can earn rewards of 1%. There is no cap on how much you spend on gas and at department stores.
Other bonus rewards include an extra $150 cash back if you spend $1,000 within the first three months. There's an introductory 0% APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers – after that, the variable rate is 13.49% to 23.49%. One drawback is the card's $95 annual fee, but if you spend just $31 per week at the grocery store, your fee is covered. Additionally, the 6% cash back is only applied to supermarkets, which American Express defines as big chains and not wholesale clubs like Costco and Sam's Club, superstores like Wal-Mart or Target, or smaller, specialty food shops. (See also: How to Effectively Compare Credit Card Rewards.)
3. Best Low Interest and Fees Card: Citi Simplicity Card
If you're looking for no annual fees (for as long as your account is open) and 21 months of 0% interest, even on balance transfers, this offering from Citigroup Inc. (C) could be the credit card for you. And if you've been known to miss a payment on occasion, you'll never be charged a late fee or penalty interest rate with this card. The interest rate is based on your creditworthiness and ranges from 14.99% to 24.99%. The cost of balance transfers, after the introductory period, is either $5 or 3% of the amount being transferred, whichever is more. (See also: 6 Major Credit Card Mistakes.)
4. Best Small Business Credit Card: Capital One Spark Cash for Business
Lots of small business cards offer generous cash back on select categories of purchases, but the Spark Card from Capital One Financial Corporation (COF) doesn't make distinctions – you get 2% cash back on all your purchases, with no restrictions. Plus, you can earn an additional $500 cash back if you spend $4,500 on the card within the first three months.
There's no annual fee the first year and a $95 annual fee thereafter, but you break even after spending $4,750. Employee cards are free. The interest rate is 17.49%, and there is no free for balance transfers. (For related reading, see "Find the Best Credit Cards for Teens")