The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Friday, September 30, 2022

2022‘s Best Credit Card Deals

Best Credit Card Deal

credit card advice

Brittney Mayer

Written by: Brittney Mayer

Brittney Mayer

Brittney is a Credit Strategist and Finance Expert who has spent years honing her knowledge of the credit industry both personally and professionally. Brittney applies her more than a decade of research experience to crafting in-depth consumer guides designed to help CardRates readers make better, more informed financial decisions.

Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian brings more than 30 years of editing and journalism experience. She has written and edited for major news organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, and she previously served as an adjunct instructor at the University of Florida. Today, she edits all CardRates content for clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

See full bio »
Advertiser Disclosure

Finding a great deal feels good — and not just for your pocketbook. Knowing you scored sweet savings can also have a physiological response that just plain makes you happy.

Even something as seemingly banal as finding an awesome credit card deal can get the dopamine flowing. Which is good news because there’s no end to the deals that can be had in the modern credit card marketplace.

Indeed, whether you want a lucrative signup bonus or a year without interest fees, you can find a credit card deal designed to satiate your appetite for savings. Of course, as ever, don’t let a good deal derail you — make sure you know the potential impacts of opening new cards before you start applying.

Overall | Cash Bonus | Points/Miles Bonus | 0% Purchases | 0% Balance Transfers | Travel | Airline | Hotel | Student | Secured | Business

Top Overall Card Deals

Finding the right credit card is a very individualized, subjective process that depends on your needs, wants, and qualifications. The best card for you will likely vary from what is the best card for your neighbor.

Similarly, any one credit card deal — or even three deals — won’t be the best deal for every consumer. That said, our top picks for the overall best credit card deals include cards with remarkable signup bonuses, great purchase rewards, and low or no fees to eat into your earnings.

  • Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • For a limited time, earn $200 cash back after spending $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening.
  • Balance Transfer Only Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 16.99% - 26.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back. Intro APR does not apply to purchases.
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • There is an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer (minimum $5) completed within the first 4 months of account opening. After that, your fee will be 5% of each transfer (minimum $5).
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% Intro APR Period 18 months on Balance Transfers
16.99% - 26.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

Additional Disclosure: Citi is a CardRates advertiser.

This card is one of the best deals on the market for cash back lovers. Though there’s no signup bonus, you’ll enjoy the highest flat-rate cash back return — 1% when you buy and another 1% when you pay — for a whopping 2% on everything. No rotating categories or spending caps to worry about.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!
  • Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year).
  • After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. You can choose to receive a statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open!
  • Enjoy 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 17.24% - 25.99%.
  • No annual fee - You won't have to pay an annual fee for all the great features that come with your Freedom Unlimited® card
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
17.24% - 25.99% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

With this zero annual fee card, cardholders will receive unlimited cash back on each and every purchase made. Cash back rewards do not expire as long as the account is open, and there is no minimum to redeem. New cardholders will also enjoy an intro-APR offer on purchases as well as a signup bonus if the requirements are met.

Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • NEW! Discover helps remove your personal information from select people-search websites. Activate by mobile app for free.
  • Every $1 you earn in cash back is $1 you can redeem.
  • Get a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases. Then 14.24% to 25.24% Standard Variable Purchase APR applies, based on credit worthiness.
  • No annual fee.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 months
0% Intro APR for 15 months
14.24% - 25.24% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good

While this card’s Unlimited Cashback Match can be quite valuable, it’s the ongoing cash back rewards that help make the card a great deal. Simply activate your bonus category from a rotating set of options each quarter to earn the higher rewards rate — all other purchases earn 1% back. Keep in mind bonus category rewards are subject to a quarterly purchase limit.

Top Card Deals for a Cash Back Signup Bonus

Often, when people talk about a great credit card deal, they’re referring to the signup bonus. This makes sense, of course — who doesn’t love a big pile of cash back?

Happily, the cash back market is packed full of solid signup bonus offers that can put hundreds of dollars in your (metaphorical) pocket. And, because they’re cash back, you know that redeeming the rewards from your awesome deal can be as simple as point, click, statement credit.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • One-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • 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
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months; 17.99%-27.99% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
17.99% - 27.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

The signup bonus for this card simply screams “Deal!” Not only do you get a big lump sum of cash back for meeting the spending requirement in the first 90 days, but you won’t be charged an annual fee.

Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • NEW! Discover helps remove your personal information from select people-search websites. Activate by mobile app for free.
  • Every $1 you earn in cash back is $1 you can redeem.
  • Get a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases. Then 14.24% to 25.24% Standard Variable Purchase APR applies, based on credit worthiness.
  • No annual fee.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 months
0% Intro APR for 15 months
14.24% - 25.24% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good

Discover has a relatively unique signup bonus. Rather than offering a quick flat-rate sum, Discover offers cardholders a one-time bonus at the end of the first year that is top in the industry. This card is an excellent choice for those seeking cash back rewards. With a low APR and friendly introductory terms, it’s geared to those who want the benefits of a robust rewards program without breaking the bank on interest payments and fees.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), plus 1% on all other purchases
  • 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
  • Earn 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment purchases and tickets at Vivid Seats
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months; 17.99% - 27.99% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
17.99% - 27.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

This card has an attainable cash signup bonus when you meet the minimum spending requirement. You’ll also earn lucrative rewards on dining and entertainment purchases, among other popular spending categories.

Top Card Deals for a Points or Miles Signup Bonus

Points and miles credit cards are the go-to of many serious rewards aficionados thanks to their flexibility — and, of course, the ability to travel for free with the right rewards. And while it may take a little more work to get top value out of points or miles than it does to redeem your cash back, cardholders looking for a deal know it can be well worth the time.

Most of the best points and miles signup bonuses will come from the pricier cards, but you don’t need a $500 Platinum card to score a sweet signup bonus credit card deal. Our picks not only have good signup bonus offers, but they also provide value beyond their bonus.

Discover it® Miles Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • UNLIMITED BONUS: Only Discover gives you an unlimited match of all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles.  There’s no signing up, no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a Miles-for-Miles match.
  • Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase - with no annual fee.
  • Redeem Miles to pay any part of your monthly bill, including your minimum payment.
  • Turn Miles into cash in any amount, any time. Or redeem as a statement credit for travel purchases like airfare, hotels, rideshares, gas stations, restaurants and more with no blackout dates. However you redeem, Miles keep the same value. And Miles never expire.
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases. Then 14.24% to 25.24% Standard Variable Purchase APR will apply.
  • NEW! Discover helps remove your personal information from select people-search websites. Activate by mobile app for free.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 months
0% Intro APR for 15 months
14.24% - 25.24% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good

New cardholders will enjoy friendly introductory terms as well as robust travel rewards and an unlimited match of all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. This card will earn you miles for every dollar spent on all purchases. Spend wisely, and you could save up enough rewards to pay for your next dream vacation.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

The signup bonus with this card has a lot of potential value, especially given how easy it is to get outsized value from Ultimate Rewards® points. The annual hotel credit and various perks pay for the annual fee of this top-recommended card.

American Express® Gold Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on purchases on your new card in your first 6 months of card membership
  • Earn 4X Points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases. Also earn 4X Points at restaurants, including takeout and delivery, and 3X points on flights when booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com. All other eligible purchases earn 1X point.
  • 0% Intro APR on eligible charges for 6 months from the date of account opening on purchases eligible for Pay Over Time, then a 18.99% to 25.99% variable APR .
  • Earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, Boxed and other participating partners. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
  • Delight your senses when you book The Hotel Collection with American Express Travel. Get a $100 experience credit to use during your stay. A minimum 2-night stay is required.
  • $250 Annual Fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 6 Months
N/A
18.99% - 25.99% Pay Over Time
$250
Excellent

Right off the bat, this card helps pay for its pricey annual fee with an easy-to-get signup bonus. It’s also a high-rate rewards card, offering up to 4X points per dollar spent.

Cardholders can even enjoy an annual airline fee credit and a dining credit good at select restaurants. (Note that Amex bonuses tend to vary a lot by link, so if you don’t see the right signup bonus, try an incognito browser window.)

Top Card Deals with 0% Intro-APR on New Purchases

An important part of making any big purchase is figuring out how you’re going to pay for it — especially if you don’t happen to have the cash on hand already. Credit cards can be a good way to make a big purchase for many reasons, including the convenience, security, and purchase rewards, but the high interest rates make them less desirable for anything that needs to be paid off over time.

Or do they? If you have good credit, a card with an introductory 0% APR deal can be a boon for any big buy. With some of the top 0% APR deals, you can enjoy zero-interest purchases for well over a year, giving you plenty of time to pay off your balance without being buried under interest fees.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • One-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • 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
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months; 17.99%-27.99% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
17.99% - 27.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

Cash back and more than a year of interest-free purchases? Yes, please! With the rewards you’ll earn from this card, Capital One is literally paying you to use this card. But be sure to have your balance paid off before the interest-free period ends.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!
  • Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year).
  • After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. You can choose to receive a statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open!
  • Enjoy 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 17.24% - 25.99%.
  • No annual fee - You won't have to pay an annual fee for all the great features that come with your Freedom Unlimited® card
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
17.24% - 25.99% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

For some, a great 0% APR deal on new purchases doesn’t stop at a long promotional period; this card not only has a competitive 0% APR term, but it also offers cash back on every purchase — rewards that you can earn while still enjoying 0% APR on those purchases. Even better, the card has no annual fee to weigh down your savings.

Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • NEW! Discover helps remove your personal information from select people-search websites. Activate by mobile app for free.
  • Every $1 you earn in cash back is $1 you can redeem.
  • Get a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases. Then 14.24% to 25.24% Standard Variable Purchase APR applies, based on credit worthiness.
  • No annual fee.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 months
0% Intro APR for 15 months
14.24% - 25.24% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good

This card is a deal on nearly every front, providing a long introductory APR offer on new purchases, cash back on every purchase, and bonus cash back in categories that rotate each activated quarter subject to a purchase limit.

Top Card Deals with 0% Intro-APR on Balance Transfers

With a little planning and some smart credit card use, you can leverage 0% APR deals on new purchases to avoid paying interest on your big buys. But, what about the credit card debt you’ve already got — and the high interest fees it’s likely accruing? That’s where balance transfer deals come in.

A good balance transfer interest rate deal will offer more than a year of 0% on your transferred balances, as well as providing a low or even a waived balance transfer fee and no annual cardholder fee. It doesn’t hurt if the card also offers a little something extra — like purchase rewards — to give it some long-term value.

Discover it® Balance Transfer Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • NEW! Discover helps remove your personal information from select people-search websites. Activate by mobile app for free.
  • Every $1 you earn in cash back is $1 you can redeem.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "Apply Now" to see terms and conditions.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
0% Intro APR for 18 months
14.24% - 25.24% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good

As far as balance transfer deals go, this card is a solid contender, offering a lengthy introductory APR term on your transferred balances (transfer fee applies). You’ll also earn cash back rewards on your purchases — but not your transferred balances.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

  • No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and No Annual Fee... Ever
  • 0% Intro APR for 21 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer and 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases from date of account opening. After that the variable APR will be 17.74% - 27.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Stay protected with Citi® Quick Lock and $0 liability on unauthorized charges
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR Period 12 months on Purchases
0% Intro APR Period 21 months on Balance Transfers
17.74% - 27.74% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good Credit

Additional Disclosure: Citi is a CardRates advertiser.

This Citi card has one of the longest 0% periods available, though a balance transfer fee does apply to each transfer you make. This card is a solid contender for anyone who needs to pay off some high-interest debt.

15. BankAmericard® credit card

This card is currently not available.

Bank of America® Rating

★★★★★
N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

Only a few cards from major banks pair a balance transfer fee deal with a substantial 0% APR deal on new purchases — but this is one of them. The no-annual-fee card offers a lengthy 0% APR for transfers made within the first 60 days, a deal that likely makes up for the lack of purchase rewards or other perks.

Top Deals for Travel Cards

If you’ve ever heard or read a story of a savvy cardholder using credit card deals to score free flights and hotel stays, then you’re likely thinking, “How can I do that, too?” The answer is actually pretty simple: get the right card deal and start spending.

The main trick to getting a good deal with a travel rewards card is to make sure you know where you’re going before you pick a card. Each travel rewards program will have its own sweet spots, so know the ins and outs of your points or miles program before you start accruing its rewards.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on air travel and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $900 toward travel
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 50% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
19.24% - 26.24% Variable
$550
Good/Excellent

Perched atop many a list of best travel rewards cards, this pick has a lot more going for it than just a valuable signup bonus — though it does have that, too. What makes this card such a good deal for travel (beyond that bonus) is its high-rate rewards on travel and dining purchases, the $300 annual travel credit, and the cardholder perks like airport lounge access and primary rental car insurance.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Enjoy two complimentary visits per year to Capital One Lounges or to 100+ Plaza Premium Lounges through our Partner Lounge Network
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
18.99% - 26.99% (Variable)
$95
Excellent, Good

This card’s signup bonus alone makes it a pretty solid deal, but the unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase and affordable annual fee really seal the, well, deal. This card allows you to use the miles you earn to erase previous travel purchases at a flat rate, but you can also get more value by transferring your miles to a partner loyalty program to redeem for branded travel.

Discover it® Miles Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • UNLIMITED BONUS: Only Discover gives you an unlimited match of all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles.  There’s no signing up, no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a Miles-for-Miles match.
  • Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase - with no annual fee.
  • Redeem Miles to pay any part of your monthly bill, including your minimum payment.
  • Turn Miles into cash in any amount, any time. Or redeem as a statement credit for travel purchases like airfare, hotels, rideshares, gas stations, restaurants and more with no blackout dates. However you redeem, Miles keep the same value. And Miles never expire.
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases. Then 14.24% to 25.24% Standard Variable Purchase APR will apply.
  • NEW! Discover helps remove your personal information from select people-search websites. Activate by mobile app for free.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 months
0% Intro APR for 15 months
14.24% - 25.24% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good

If you have visions of big signup bonuses when you think about travel credit card deals, then this card could be your winner. What’s more, this card will earn you miles for every dollar spent on all purchases. Another plus to this card is there are no blackout dates — fly any airline, stay at any hotel.

Top Deals for Co-Branded Airline Cards

Whether it’s the great service, snazzy uniforms, or limited selection of your home airport, many of us have that one airline that we prefer above all others. If you have a specific airline that you call your own, then an airline co-branded credit card can represent an amazing deal.

While flexible points and miles cards offer more versatility, co-branded airline cards often come with unique perks like free checked bags or preferred boarding. And, of course, the signup bonuses from our favorite cards can get you flying for free in no time.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 75,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $3,500 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations and restaurants
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Earn a $125 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your cardmembership year and renew your card
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.49% - 26.49% (Variable)
$99, waived for first 12 months
Excellent, Good

Additional Disclosure: (The information related to Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® has been collected by CardRates.com and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.)

This card comes with a good-sized signup bonus that is more than enough to get you flying for free as soon as it hits your account. The card also earns double miles on American Airlines purchases, as well as double miles at U.S. restaurants and gas stations.

Cardholders also get a free checked bag on domestic American Airlines itineraries, preferred boarding at the gate, and discounts on in-flight purchases when they use their card.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★
4.0

OVERALL RATING

  • Buy one ticket, get one for just the taxes and fees + 40,000 bonus miles offer. To qualify, make $3,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.
  • Get Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from just $22) after you make $3,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of your account opening. There are no blackout dates.
  • Earn unlimited 3 miles for every $1 spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases and unlimited 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases. Miles don't expire on active accounts.
  • Enjoy 20% back on all Alaska Airlines inflight purchases and 50% off day passes at the Alaska Lounge when you pay with your new card.
  • Free checked bag for you and up to 6 guests on the same reservation – that's a savings of $60 per person roundtrip!
  • $75 Annual Fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.49% - 25.49% Variable
$75
Good/Excellent

This card not only comes with an easily obtained signup bonus — albeit somewhat small — it also comes with an Alaska Airlines Companion Fare, which allows you to buy one ticket and get the second for just taxes and fees.

Cardholders also get a new Companion Fare each year after their anniversary, as well as useful perks like a free check bag on Alaska flights and triple miles on Alaska Airlines purchases. Even if you don’t fly Alaska regularly, its miles can often be used toward flights with any of the airline’s partners.

JetBlue Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★

4.3

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days
  • Earn 3X points on eligible JetBlue purchases, 2X points at restaurants and grocery stores, and 1X points on all other purchases
  • Enjoy 50% inflight savings on cocktails and food purchases
  • 0% introductory APR for the first 12 billing cycles following each balance transfer that posts to your account within 45 days of account opening (transfer fee applies), then a variable APR applies
  • No foreign transaction fees, no blackout dates, and points never expire
  • $0 Annual Fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% for 12 billing cycles
17.49%, 21.49%, or 26.49%, based on credit
$0
Good

This card offers a signup bonus, no blackout dates, 50% in-flight savings, and no foreign transaction fees. This card makes for a great travel companion.

Top Deals for Co-Branded Hotel Cards

In a world that seems to place little value on customer loyalty, many major hotel brands are still doing it right with comprehensive loyalty programs that make staying with your favorite brand a real treat. If you have a hotel brand that you look for whenever you travel, you can unlock a great deal by getting a hotel co-branded credit card.

The value of a co-branded card starts with the signup bonus — often enough for several free nights — but it doesn’t end there. Our top hotel card deals offer great extras like elite hotel status, free upgrades, and in-room perks that can make your stay that much more enjoyable.

22. Hilton Honors Ascend Card

The Hilton Honors Ascend Card has a huge signup bonus that can be turned into at least a few nights at most Hilton properties, as well as offering one of the highest earnings rate on branded buys with 12X points per dollar for Hilton purchases.

Hilton Honors Ascend Card

      • Earn 12X Hilton Honors™ points per dollar for Hilton purchases
      • Earn 6X points for purchases at US restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations
      • Pay $95 annual fee

Carrying this card unlocks complimentary Gold status with Hilton — a tier that includes free breakfast at many properties — and spending $15,000 on the card in a calendar year grants users a free Weekend Night Rewards from Hilton. This card also makes getting to the hotel a little nicer with 10 free Priority Pass lounge visits each year once enrolled.

23. IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card has a fairly large signup bonus easily worth a couple of free nights, and the card earns a solid 10X points per dollar on IHG purchases, making it great for brand loyalists.

IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

      • Earn 10X points per $1 on IHG® hotel purchases made directly with IHG®
      • Earn 2X points per $1 on gas, groceries, and dining
      • Pay $89 annual fee

Although users have to pay an annual fee, cardholders do receive a yearly free night award after their account anniversary. Cardholders also get complimentary Platinum Elite status and a fourth night free on rewards stays of at least four nights.

(Non-Monetized. The information related to IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card was collected by CardRates.com and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this product. Product details may vary. Please see issuer website for current information. Product details may vary. Please see issuer website for current information. CardRates.com does not receive commission for this product/card.)

24. Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card is a solid hotel card for Marriott fans, offering a competitive signup bonus and an annual free night award worth up to 35,000 points that can pay for the annual fee when used wisely.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card

      • Earn 6X Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar spent at eligible Marriott Bonvoy properties
      • Earn 2X on all other purchases
      • Pay $95 annual fee

Cardholders receive automatic Silver Elite Status with Marriott Bonvoy and can earn Gold Status by spending $35,000 on purchases each account year. Users can also enjoy free premium in-room wifi and an annual free night award after the account anniversary.

(Non-Monetized. The information related to Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card was collected by CardRates.com and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this product. Product details may vary. Please see issuer website for current information. Product details may vary. Please see issuer website for current information. CardRates.com does not receive commission for this product/card.)

Top Deals for Student Cards

Although college students may be somewhat notorious for being broke and bad with money, your college years are actually a good time to start learning about and building credit. And this is in no small part due to the fact that college attendees can be eligible for student credit cards, which offer some of the best deals for first-time cardholders and credit users.

The best student credit card deals will include the trifecta: a solid signup bonus, no annual fee, and competitive purchase rewards. Just remember that purchase rewards won’t make up for interest fees, so be sure to pay your new card in full every month.

Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • No credit score required to apply.
  • NEW! Discover helps remove your personal information from select people-search websites. Activate by mobile app for free.
  • No annual fee and build your credit with responsible use.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 15.24% - 24.24% applies.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
10.99% Intro APR for 6 months
15.24% - 24.24% Variable APR
$0
Fair/New to Credit

This card has all the bells and whistles you could ask for in a student card, including a great signup bonus deal and cash back rewards. Moreover, this card also has a few extras perfect for credit builders, including a friendly introductory APR on new purchases and free FICO credit scores each month.

Discover it® Student chrome Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★
4.0

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • No credit score required to apply.
  • NEW! Discover helps remove your personal information from select people-search websites. Activate by mobile app for free.
  • No annual fee and build your credit with responsible use.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 15.24% - 24.24% applies.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
10.99% Intro APR for 6 months
15.24% - 24.24% Variable APR
$0
Fair/New to Credit

This card is a solid option for students who like to eat out and/or have a lengthy drive to class. This card has a low APR, no annual fee, no late fee for your first late payment, and other generous perks for those new to building credit.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings, and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then earn 1%
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • 0% Introductory APR on new purchases and balance transfers for 18 billing cycles (balance transfer fee applies), then a variable APR applies
  • Optional overdraft protection option helps prevent declined purchases, returned checks, or other overdrafts when you link your eligible Bank of America® checking account to your credit card. Transfer fees may apply.
  • $0 Annual Fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 18 billing cycles
0% for 18 billing cycles
16.24% - 26.24% Variable
$0
None/Limited

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards for Students lets users choose their own 3% cash back bonus category, as well as providing 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs.

Users can select a new bonus category each month or let their chosen category continue unchanged. Earnings on bonus rewards purchases are capped at $2,500 in combined category purchases each quarter.

Top Deals for Secured Cards

When you’re a consumer with poor credit, credit card deals are few and far between. This is especially true if all you’re looking at are unsecured credit cards, as few major issuers are fighting for subprime business. However, you’re not out of options for a decent credit card deal even if you have bad credit — at least, not so long as you’re willing to make a deposit.

Secured credit cards can be a phenomenal way to build credit without breaking the bank with piles of fees. Our top secured credit card deals have no or low annual fee, reasonable minimum deposit requirements, and may even offer purchase rewards or a partially secured credit line.

SECURED RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • No annual or hidden fees, and you can earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day. See if you're approved in seconds
  • Put down a refundable $200 security deposit to get a $200 initial credit line
  • Building your credit? Using a card like this responsibly could help
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • You could earn back your security deposit as a statement credit when you use your card responsibly, like making payments on time
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months with no additional deposit needed
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
28.49% (Variable)
$0
Limited, Bad

This is a newer offering from Capital One that offers cash back rewards, even for those who are rebuilding their credit. There’s no annual fee and you’ll be considered for a higher credit line after six months of responsible credit usage.

SECURED RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • No annual or hidden fees. See if you're approved in seconds
  • Building your credit? Using the Capital One Platinum Secured card responsibly could help
  • Put down a refundable security deposit starting at $49 to get a $200 initial credit line
  • You could earn back your security deposit as a statement credit when you use your card responsibly, like making payments on time
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months with no additional deposit needed
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
28.49% (Variable)
$0
Limited, Bad

If you’re interested in a secured credit card but aren’t so sure about a giant deposit, this card might be a good deal. Qualified applicants can put down as little as $49 for a $200 credit line, and making the first six payments on time can unlock a higher limit. Plus, Capital One will periodically review the account to see if you qualify for an upgrade to an unsecured account.

Discover it® Secured Credit Card Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

SECURED RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

  • No credit score required to apply.
  • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
  • Establish your credit line by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200. That means a $200 deposit for a $200 credit line. Or a $500 deposit for a $500 credit line. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit, and the security deposit equals your credit limit.
  • Automatic reviews starting at 7 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • NEW! Discover helps remove your personal information from select people-search websites. Activate by mobile app for free.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
10.99% Intro APR for 6 months
25.24% Variable APR
$0
New/Rebuilding

This secured card is a great deal for users who can meet the reasonable minimum deposit amount, as it offers highly competitive purchase rewards for a card that’s open to poor-credit consumers. Discover will periodically check your account for upgrade eligibility to an unsecured card.

Top Deals for Business Cards

The world of business credit cards gets bigger every year as more and more issuers jump into the game. That growth is great for business owners who can reap the benefits of increased competition — including some pretty remarkable deals for new cardholders.

Most of the major banks these days have a smattering of business card options, so business owners have a lot of variety from which to choose. That said, many of the best business card deals come from a handful of banks that also happen to offer some of the best consumer credit card deals.

BUSINESS CARD RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase made for your business
  • No Annual Fee
  • Redeem rewards for cash back, gift cards, travel and more through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn rewards faster with employee cards at no additional cost. Set individual spending limits for greater control.
  • With Fraud Protection your card transactions will be monitored for possible signs of fraudulent activity using real-time fraud monitoring.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 12 months
N/A 12 months
15.49% - 21.49% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

This card earns flat-rate cash back on every purchase, but it also comes with a sizeable signup bonus for business owners who can meet the minimum spending requirement. There’s no annual fee and a low APR for those who qualify.

BUSINESS CARD RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • Earn a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles – equal to $500 in travel – once you spend $4,500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • 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
  • Transfer your miles to 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Redeem your miles instantly for any travel-related purchases, from flights and hotels to ride-sharing services
  • Fly through security with one statement credit for either the $85 TSA PreCheck® application fee or the $100 Global Entry application fee
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
23.99% (Variable)
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Excellent, Good

This Capital One card is for the business traveler who doesn’t want to deal with spending categories or travel restrictions. This card makes it easy to earn and redeem rewards, and you can transfer miles to 15+ loyalty programs for even more potential value.

BUSINESS CARD RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 cash back or $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year. Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
  • With Fraud Protection your card transactions will be monitored for possible signs of fraudulent activity using real-time fraud monitoring
  • With Zero Liability you won't be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card or account information
  • Redeem points for cash back, gift cards, travel and more - your points don't expire as long as your account is open
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
18.24% - 23.24% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

Nearly everything about this card is a deal — excepting the annual fee, but even that isn’t too bad considering the high rate at which you can earn rewards. The signup bonus alone is worth quite a hefty sum if you can meet the spending requirement (which is high but not outside the realm of reasonable). Plus, employee cards are free and have customizable spending limits.

How Do You Pick the Best Credit Card Deal?

When looking for a new credit card, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options — and it seems like they all have sort of deal or gimmick. But, how to select the best deal?

Is a 30,000-point bonus better than $250 in cash back? Should you get the card with the higher bonus, or should you go for the card with the waived annual fee? And how much should the signup bonus influence your choice — aren’t the purchase rewards important, too?

In the end, the best deal will be the one that actually fits your needs, not necessarily the deal that offers the most valuable bonus. That’s because a deal is only a deal if you actually use it to its full extent. For example, it doesn’t matter how many miles you could earn with that co-branded card’s signup bonus if you never fly that airline.

Before you start looking for a new credit card, you need a clear idea of what you really want out of that card. Are you looking for a way to earn rewards on your most common purchases, or something in particular? Do you need a 0% APR offer for an upcoming purchase, or do you simply want to churn a big signup bonus?

Once you know what the card should do, you can put together a short list of options that suit your main purpose before you start looking at anything else. From there, you’ll have to crunch the numbers to figure out which deal offers the best value.

In some cases, a larger signup bonus may make up for a higher annual fee — but, other times, the reverse may be true. Think about how you’ll realistically use the card to get an idea of what kind of rewards and benefits you’ll earn along the way.

Required Spend to Make Up Annual Fee with 1% Rate Differential

For example, cards with the highest rewards rates tend to charge annual fees, but you can often find a similar card with no fee and a slightly lower earnings rate. The amount you need to spend to make up a 1% difference in earnings may be enough to turn a good deal into a poor investment.

Similarly, if it’s likely you won’t spend enough for the big signup bonus, then you may be better off with a card that has a smaller bonus but also a spending requirement you can actually meet. On the other hand, if you know you have a large purchase coming up that could easily meet the spending requirement, you may want to consider a card with a larger signup bonus even if it has an annual fee.

Do Credit Card Deals Change?

Simultaneously a pro and a con of credit card deals is the fact that they tend to change — and they typically change often. Many card issuers change up the signup bonuses and introductory offers of their credit cards at least a few times a year, with some cards seeing near monthly rotations in the bonuses that are available.

But the changes don’t stop with the new cardholder deals. Issuers are not shy about changing, updating, overhauling, or outright eliminating entire credit card products, often with only a few months’ notice.

These changes can be positive — the revamped Amex Gold Card was met with enthusiasm by many credit card rewards enthusiasts — but they can also be negative (like the massive devaluation of the Starwood Preferred Guest Amex card after the Marriott and Starwood merger).

That’s not to say that you need to sign up for a certain credit card as soon as you stumble upon a deal. Getting a new credit card is a financial decision, and it should engender the full consideration that such a decision is due. However, it does mean that you shouldn’t dawdle too long if you spot a deal that seems like it may not last.

How Do You Earn a Signup Bonus?

Although maximizing purchase rewards is certainly the key to getting long-term value out of your credit cards — well, that and paying in full and on time every month, of course — it often takes a lucrative signup bonus to feel like you got a really stellar deal on your new card.

And that’s perfectly understandable when you know that a good signup bonus can easily be worth $500 or more — much more, in fact, when you make smart redemptions with a giant pile of transferable points and miles. But, signup bonuses aren’t all roses and sunshine for everyone, especially cardholders who bite off more of a spending requirement than their budgets can chew.

How to Earn a Signup Bonus

Basically, the typical signup bonus is earned by meeting a set spending requirement within a certain period of time. The standard signup bonus will give you 90 days to meet the spending requirement, though some bonuses will give you six months, and others (mostly from Barclays) only require making a single purchase.

For most deals, only net new purchases count toward the requirement, so making a return can impact your eligibility — even after you earn the bonus. Similarly, the only transactions that usually count will be purchases; balance transfers and cash advances won’t contribute to the spending requirement.

A more recent change in how some signup bonus offers is the growing use of tiered bonuses. Instead of earning a flat bonus amount for reaching a set spending level, tiered bonuses have multiple bonus rates for different levels of spend.

For example, a tiered signup bonus might require you to spend $3,000 in the first 90 days to earn 20,000 points, then require you to spend additional $3,000 in the first six months to earn another 10,000 points. Tiered bonuses are designed to thwart bonus churners and encourage cardholders to continue using a card after the initial payoff.

Given that an average signup bonus can have a minimum spending requirement in the thousands of dollars — or in the tens of thousands, for some top-tier cards — it’s easy to get caught up in the need to spend, spend, spend so you can earn the bonus.

Unfortunately, that rush to meet the requirement can get you into trouble if you don’t have the funds to pay for those purchases. And if you wind up with a balance you can’t pay in full, interest fees are soon to follow. While a really high-value signup bonus can make up for a little bit of interest, few bonuses will be worth accumulating debt you can’t repay.

How Do Introductory 0% APR Deals Work?

When evaluating credit card deals, it’s easy to see the immediate value in a typical signup bonus; a big pile of cash back, points, or miles has an obvious monetary equivalent in our minds. However, for those cardholders who need to carry a balance on their credit card, an introductory 0% APR deal can actually hold as much — if not more — value than a rewards-based bonus.

That’s because most credit cards come with two-digit interest rates that can turn even modest balances into money hogs. Quality introductory 0% APR deals can offer more than a year of interest-free financing, making it much more affordable to take your time paying down your debt.

For example, consider Exemplar Edmund, who has an upcoming $2,000 purchase that will take him one year to pay off. If Edmund puts the purchase on a credit card with a 21% APR, he’ll wind up paying more than $230 in interest fees during the year it takes to pay off his purchase. If Edmund instead uses a card with an introductory 0% APR deal, he’ll save that $230 and can put it toward his balance.

Along those same lines, intro-APR deals for balance transfers can save someone with a large balance a significant amount of money — even when you include the typical 3% to 5% balance transfer fee.

Repayment of $5,000 Credit Card Balance w/ 21% APR

To see the math, let’s look at Edmund again. Say Edmund racked up a $5,000 balance on his 21% APR credit card. Assuming Edmund pays off the balance in 18 months, he’ll have paid over $870 in interest fees.

If Edmund instead transferred that balance to a card with a 0% APR deal with a 3% balance transfer fee, he’ll save more than $720 dollars (the $870 in interest minus the $150 transfer fee). Better yet, if Edmund puts that $720 toward his debt, he’ll pay off his balance in just 16 months — two months sooner than if he were paying high interest fees on his balance.

Repayment of $5,000 Credit Card Balance w/ 0% APR Offer

Of course, it’s important to remember that having a 0% interest rate isn’t the same thing as having a $0 monthly payment. Even with an introductory 0% APR deal, you’ll still need to make at least the minimum required payment before your due date each month to avoid late fees and potential credit damage.

Ideally, however, you’ll use the interest fee savings to make more than the minimum payment, thus paying down your debt faster. This not only gets you debt-free quicker — freeing up your debt payments for other uses — but it also helps ensure you don’t have a balance remaining when your promotional interest rate expires.

Be Sure to Read the Fine Print of Any Deal

The thrill of a good deal can turn an everyday event into something much more satisfying. Even a mundane credit card application can be exciting when you know you’re going to score a sweet signup bonus or valuable interest rate offer.

But don’t let the hope of a deal override your common sense. Read the fine print of any credit card deal — before you apply — so you know where any pitfalls may lie.

And don’t forget to crunch the numbers; what may seem like a good deal on the surface may not actually be a good deal for you. Few signup bonuses or other credit card deals will be worth taking on debt you can’t easily repay. Similarly, accumulating credit cards with annual fees can get expensive quickly, so take all of the costs into consideration when looking for a new card.

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