The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Friday, December 2, 2022

12 Best Credit Card Offers (2022) – Expert Reviews

Best Credit Card Offers

credit card advice

Lauren Keys

Written by: Lauren Keys

Lauren Keys

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 »

Reviewed by: Ashley Dull

Ashley Dull

With more than a decade of experience as a content manager and marketer, Ashley has specialized in finance coverage since 2015. She has worked closely with the world’s largest banks and financial institutions, up-and-coming fintech companies, and press and news outlets to curate comprehensive content and media campaigns. Her credit card commentary is featured on national media outlets that include CNBC, MarketWatch, Investopedia, and Reader's Digest, among others.

See full bio »
Advertiser Disclosure

I still have my first credit card, despite it not currently residing in my wallet. While I began my credit card journey with a mere $300 limit, over the years, my little Capital One card has undergone several credit limit increases and upgrades to better iterations.

But I don’t use it. Instead, I prefer to stay up with the latest cards to reap their benefits.

There are so many credit card offers that tear me from my typical brand loyalty — between large cash-back percentages, signing bonuses, and other rewards, it hardly makes sense to limit yourself to a single issuer, brand, or type of credit card.

Here we’ve rounded up the best available credit card offers and organized them into specific categories to help you find the next piece of plastic to reside in your wallet. Use the navigation below to skip ahead to the credit card offer that best suits your needs.

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.9

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

+ See more air miles offers

2. Best “0% Balance Transfer” Offer

Generally speaking, balance transfer offers are only extended to individuals with good to excellent credit. These types of credit cards are awesome for helping you pay off debt because they allow you to move a balance from a higher interest card to a lower or 0% interest card. This way, you can pay off the balance without paying extra in interest during the promotional period.

However, be aware that most cards charge balance transfer fees, which are typically charged as a small percentage (usually 3% to 5%) of the balance being transferred. Just be sure to read the small print to know what the offer entails, including the interest-free time period and the transfer fee. A card like this one offers a superb introductory period, while keeping fees to a minimum:

Discover it® Balance Transfer Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING

★★★★★
5.0

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! 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, and gas stations, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • 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
15.74% - 26.74% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good

+See more balance transfer offers

3. Best “0% Intro APR” Offer

An introductory offer of 0% APR is a great option for big purchases (though it is also limited to individuals with good to excellent credit). For example, if you are moving into a new place and need to purchase furniture, a 0% intro APR offer would be a great way to cover the costs of a new living room set without paying interest.

Similar to balance transfer cards, the introductory 0% APR is for a limited period of time, so be sure to read the offer fully to know when to pay the balance off before interest hits. Below is our favorite 0% introductory APR offer:

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • Start off strong with 0% Intro APR for 18 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers. A variable APR of 17.99% - 26.74% on balance transfers and purchases after the introductory period ends.
  • Lower your interest rate by 2% each year. Automatically be considered for an APR reduction when you pay on time, and spend at least $1000 on your card by your next account anniversary.
  • Raise your credit limit. Get an automatic, one-time review for a higher credit limit when you pay on time, and spend $500 in your first six months.
  • All for no annual fee - You won't have to pay an annual fee for all the great features that come with your Slate Edge℠ card
  • Keep tabs on your credit health - Chase Credit Journey helps you monitor your credit with free access to your latest score, real-time alerts, and more
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 18 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 18 months
17.99% - 26.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

+ See more 0% intro APR offers

4. Best “Cash Back” Offer

The offers I always find myself gravitating toward more than any other are whichever the best cash back credit cards happen to be at the time. Most programs have purchasing categories such as gas stations, grocery stores, and specific retailers that earn a higher cash-back percentage on purchases, while offering a standard percentage for all other purchases.

It’s important to note that higher percentage cash-back earnings can get capped, so read the offer completely before committing. Only you will know what the best cash back credit card for your spending style is.

Luckily, many issuers have made redeeming cash back so easy that you can do it right online where you view your account activity. However, you may have to rack up a certain amount before you can redeem it. I generally just take my cash back as a statement credit, which is standard, but some issuers will send you a check for your cash-back earnings.

Be sure to pay attention to the interest rates for cash back offers as they tend to be rather high (it’s how the credit card company hopes to make its money back). Below is our best cash back credit card offer:

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
5.0

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 17.99% - 26.74%.
  • 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
17.99% - 26.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

+ See more cash back offers

5. Best “Points & Rewards” Offer

While I tend to favor cash back rewards, often points-based rewards programs offer hefty benefits, including signing bonuses that end up equating to a few hundred bucks toward travel or merchandise. These types of rewards cards give you a specific amount of points per purchase, but be sure to know the rate at which the points accumulate because some programs are more rewarding than others.

Redeeming points for rewards can be done online or over the phone, though you’ll want to be aware of any travel blackout dates or other redemption restrictions. Because of the headache this used to cause for consumers, many cards have eased up on rewards limitations. The card below offers an amazing program for earning points rewards:

POINTS & GIFTS 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 $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 flights 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
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
20.74% - 27.74% Variable
$550
Good/Excellent

+ See more points & rewards offers

6. Best “Business” Offer

Business credit cards offer tempting benefits from larger credit limits to more rewards points when purchases are made for the business. While some issuers are more lenient as to what constitutes a business (for example, a self-employed entrepreneur can often use their Social Security number on a business credit card application rather than the business’s Federal Tax ID number), others have strict rules governing who can apply.

It’s important to read thoroughly all the business card’s terms and conditions, which can vary among issuers as business cards are not protected under the Credit CARD Act of 2009. Our favorite business card offer includes many sought-after business benefits:

BUSINESS CARD RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

  • BEST OFFER EVER: Earn $900 bonus cash back after you spend $6,000 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
16.24% - 22.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

+ See more business credit card offers

7. Best “Student” Offer

Student credit cards are for those currently enrolled in a higher education institution and some offer additional perks for maintaining good grades. Because the best student credit cards know their applicant demographic, they are willing to accept the limited credit history of most college students.

Most student cards don’t charge annual fees, but their benefits vary, so you’ll want to shop around for the best APR available given your credit rating. The application process for our favorite student credit card is pretty painless:

Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

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, and gas stations, 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.
  • 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 16.74% - 25.74% applies.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
10.99% Intro APR for 6 months
16.74% - 25.74% Variable APR
$0
Fair/New to Credit

+ See more credit card offers for students

8. Best “Secured” Offer

Consider a secured credit card if your credit prohibits you from being approved for other credit card offers. A secured card is similar to a prepaid credit card — you give the credit card company a deposit upfront and they issue you a line of credit for that amount, the key difference being that a secured card is still a line of credit rather than requiring you to reload it. If you consistently make payments you can often get your deposit refunded to you.

Plus, almost all secured cards report to the credit bureaus. Just read the terms and conditions of any offer to confirm reporting before you apply because if the issuer doesn’t report your activity, it can’t help build your credit. Here is the offer we suggest to those looking for a secured credit card that reports to all three major credit bureaus:

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

+ See more secured credit card offers

9. Best Offer for “Good Credit”

With a good credit score of 700+, you have access to some of the best credit card offers out there, including those that have handsome rewards and cash back programs as well as those offering a hefty signing bonus.

To ensure your rating remains in tact, be sure to keep your credit utilization ratio below 30% even as you apply for and open new credit accounts. This is our card of choice to reward those with good credit with good perks:

Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

GOOD CREDIT 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, and gas stations, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • 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 15.74% to 26.74% 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
15.74% - 26.74% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good

+ See more credit card offers for good credit

10. Best Offer for “Fair Credit”

Fair credit, defined as a FICO score between 580 and 670, may seem limiting, but there are still many options for fair credit borrowers. Because lower scores typically represent a more risky applicant to the credit card company, some cards will have a higher APR or even charge an annual fee, so you’ll want to compare your options apples-to-apples.

However, many of the choices still come with nice rewards programs like cash back. Our highest-rated credit card offer for fair credit is below:

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • No annual or hidden fees. See if you're approved in seconds
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • Help build your credit through responsible use of a card like this
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Monitor your credit score with CreditWise from Capital One. It's free for everyone
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with online banking from your desktop or smartphone, with Capital One's mobile app
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
28.49% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

+ See more credit card offers for fair credit

11. Best Offer for “Bad Credit”

Credit cards for people with bad credit are specifically geared toward helping you qualify, even with a credit score below 600. You can use these credit cards to help build credit, but there will likely be higher fees and APRs if you are late or miss making a payment. Payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO credit score, so if you aren’t sure you can pay the bill on time, you might want to look into a prepaid card instead.

If you decide to go with an unsecured card, this card is a great option for you. It’s our top choice for those with bad credit, and it does not require you to secure the credit line with a large deposit:

PREMIER Bankcard® Mastercard® Credit Card Review

at PREMIER Bankcard®'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

  • Don’t let a low FICO score stop you from applying – we approve applications others may not.
  • You don’t need good credit to apply.
  • Just complete the short application and find out in 60 seconds if you’re approved.
  • When you need assistance our award-winning US-based Customer Service agents are there to help.
  • FICO scores are used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any PREMIER Bankcard® product.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
See Provider Website
See Provider Website
Fair/Poor

+ See more credit card offers for bad credit

12. Best Offer for “No Credit History”

Building your credit history can be done easily with a credit card for limited credit. Qualifying for no credit credit cards may require a little more information from you than a typical credit card application because there isn’t as much data in your credit report.

There will likely be higher fees and APRs, but as long as you stay on top of your payments and keep your credit utilization low, an unsecured credit card for limited credit can help you build your history so you may qualify for better cards in the future. We recommend the following offer to help you build your credit:

NO/LIMITED CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), with 1% on all other purchases
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn $100 when you spend $100 in the first three months
  • Earn 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats, plus complimentary Uber One membership statement credits through 11/14/2024
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Enjoy no annual fee, foreign transaction fees, or hidden fees
  • Lock your card in the Capital One Mobile app if it's misplaced, lost or stolen
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.99% - 27.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

+ See more credit card offers for limited credit

Pros and Cons of Different Credit Card Offers

We’ve listed a dozen different credit card offers, but the reasons for choosing a particular credit card considerably exceed that number. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of each offer can help you decide which to pursue. 

Air Miles

You can redeem air miles for flights and/or seat upgrades. Depending on the type of credit card, you can use the miles on any carrier, or you may have to settle for the co-branded airline. For example, the miles you earn with a Delta credit card can only be used with Delta and its partners.

The cards offering general miles are the most versatile, as you can use them on any flight. You know their dollar value in advance, which you apply directly to the flight’s cost (or seat upgrade). You can also redeem your miles for cash and other rewards. 

While flexible, these cards may not be as valuable as the frequent flyer miles you earn from credit cards offered by specific airlines. Cards co-branded with airlines provide miles directly tied to airline loyalty programs. This may give you more bang for the buck, but it depends on how many miles the carrier requires for your flight or upgrade, which varies from one airline to the next, and can change at any time with no advance notice. 

Owning a co-branded rewards card makes sense if you regularly fly that airline. But you can’t transfer the miles to non-affiliated airlines, nor can you redeem the miles for cash.

Some cards offer extra value when you book flights or redeem miles through the issuer’s travel portal. Look for cards that also provide bonus rewards for hotel stays, car rentals, and cruises, among other perks. 

When choosing the best rewards credit card for air miles, consider the benefits that may appeal to you, including airport lounge access, travel insurance, and expense reimbursement. 

Cards with the most benefits tend to charge the highest annual fees. But high-fee cards may offer enough value to make them worthwhile, so don’t automatically dismiss them.

Cash Back

Everyone loves cash back. It’s so versatile! Issuers offer it in three ways that can beef up your savings account:

  • Flat rate: These cards offer 1% to 2% cash back on all eligible purchases. No muss, no fuss.
  • Tiered rates: These cards pay different rates, usually 2% to 5%, for different merchant types (e.g., restaurants, gas stations, office stores, etc.), while all other purchases earn 1%.
  • Rotating categories: The card names new merchant categories each quarter that will receive the top earnings rate, usually 5%. You must enroll each quarter to receive these rewards. These cards often include tiered rates for other purchases and the standard 1% back on everything else.

Many cash back cards allow you to redeem your rewards for gift cards, statement credits, travel purchases, or at checkout with retailers like Amazon, among other options.

On the downside, many cash back cards limit your earnings in the quarter (or the year). For example, a card may pay you 5% cash back on the first $1,500 of grocery spending per quarter and 1% after that. 

Points

Points are almost as versatile as cash. You can redeem them for statement credits, gift cards, travel purchases, and more. You may also be able to transfer your points to airline or hotel loyalty programs.

The cards quote the point reward rates with an X rather than a %. For example, a 5X rate means you earn five points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases. 

A few credit cards increase the value of points when you redeem them through the issuer’s online travel agency. The Ultimate Rewards points from Chase Sapphire cards are an example. They inflate point values by 25% (Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card) or 50% (Chase Sapphire Reserve®). If you own a Sapphire card and another Chase Bank credit card, you can transfer points to the Sapphire card in your online account to get the higher point values.

As with cash back, be alert to any limitations on the bonus reward rates for point cards. The points on a few cards may expire if you don’t redeem them by a set time.

0% Intro APR

Card issuers recruit new cardholders with special signup deals, such as a 0% intro APR. This promotion allows you to stretch payments on purchases interest-free for at least six months. The best of these deals lasts for 18 to 21 months. 

You can get this special rate upon opening a new account, or the issuer may send existing customers in good standing a promotional rate for a shorter duration. Card issuers may withhold the promotion if you previously owned the card or if you are upgrading from another one of its cards.

The promotion is especially valuable if you plan to finance big-ticket purchases like appliances or a fancy vacation. It can also come in handy for financing an upcoming wedding or bar mitzvah. 

The only downside occurs when the promotional period ends. Any existing balance will now be subject to the card’s regular interest rates if not repaid by the next due date. It’s an excellent time to evaluate whether to keep the card or find another with a signup promotion. A switch may be tempting if the card’s other benefits and rewards are less attractive than those of the competition or if you are planning more large purchases.

0% Balance Transfers

This is another signup promotion geared toward consumers who want to consolidate their credit card debt. You can transfer the balances from other credit cards and pay no interest for a set period (typically six to 21 months). The idea is to pay off all your old credit card debt before the promotion expires. 

As with the 0% intro APR offer, this one is available only to new cardholders (and existing cardholders in good standing, at the issuer’s discretion), and a late payment can cause its cancellation. Each transfer triggers a fee, typically 3% to 5%. 

Example Balance Transfer Savings

The usefulness of this promotion depends on the card’s credit limit versus how much you owe to other credit cards. If the card doesn’t cover all your other balances, you’ll have to pay multiple cards each month, defeating some of the benefits of debt consolidation.

Watch out for tricky conditions on 0% balance transfer promotions. For example, the card may advertise a 15-month period, but only for balances you transfer during the first 60 or 90 days after account opening.

Signup Bonuses

Many cards offer signup bonuses to new cardmembers who spend the required amount on purchases during a set period (typically three months) after account opening. These cards sometimes combine signup bonuses with 0% intro APRs and rewards, making them an excellent choice for consumers about to go on a spending spree. 

Discover credit cards offer a Cashback Match to new cardmembers instead of the typical signup bonus. This is a one-time bonus equal to all the cash back posted during the first 12 months of card membership, and there is no limit to the amount you can earn. Accordingly, the Discover it® Cash Back card is always in the running for the best cash back credit card. 

The only downside to signup bonuses is that they encourage you to spend more to receive the bonus, and you should never spend more on a credit card than you can afford to repay due to their high interest rates.

Business

Business credit cards can help small business owners separate their personal and business expenses, which can help them prepare their tax returns. The cards frequently offer bonus rewards for business-related purchases, such as supplies and furniture from an office supply store or internet, phone, and wifi expenses. 

Business cards usually allow you to add employees as authorized users for free. You can limit each user’s spending while collecting the user’s rewards on purchases. 

The cardmember agreements for business credit cards usually require cardowners to guarantee their personal wealth to pay card balances. This requirement may disqualify applicants with poor credit.

Student

Student credit cards may offer the best deals in the industry. Undergraduates can get them if they attend an eligible school at least half time, even if they have no previous credit history.

The cards usually offer bonus cash back or point rewards on the types of purchases students are likely to make, such as groceries, gas, subscriptions, and dining. Typically, there are no annual fees, APRs are modest, and a few cards provide credits for academic achievement.

On the downside, these cards have low credit limits, and the issuer may close or transfer the account when you stop attending school.

Secured

Secured credit cards are available to consumers with no, limited, or bad credit who would have difficulty getting an unsecured card. They require you to deposit cash collateral equal to the card’s credit limit, which can vary widely (i.e., from $300 to $10,000). 

The deposit is refundable, and the issuer will only use it if you miss a payment.

Unsecured vs. Secured Cards

Most secured card issuers promote creditworthy cardmembers to an unsecured card within a year. The best secured cards offer rewards and benefits, charge low fees, and have reasonable interest rates. Secured cards typically report your payments to all three credit bureaus, helping you rebuild your credit when you pay on time each month.

Good Credit

Cards for consumers with good to excellent credit offer the best rewards and benefits. Most travel credit cards are available only to consumers with good credit. These cards, such as American Express, Visa Signature cards, and Mastercard World Elite cards, will likely offer signup promotions, large credit limits, and luxurious perks. 

While many cards for good credit are available with annual fees below $100, several of the best charge about $400 to $700 or more each year. In return, these expensive cards usually have the best perks, including airport lounge access and annual travel credits, that more than make up for the annual fee. 

Fair Credit

Cards for fair credit (i.e., FICO scores between 580 and 669) provide limited benefits. Some offer relatively modest rewards. Look for higher fees and interest rates than those available from better credit cards, although several of these cards charge no annual fee. Typical credit limits are low to moderate. 

Cards in this category frequently serve as a way station for consumers rebuilding poor credit. While not particularly exciting, the best cards for fair credit, including the Capital One Platinum Card, offer a decent tradeoff between costs and benefits.

Bad Credit

As mentioned, secured cards are an excellent choice for consumers with bad credit. Unsecured cards in this group are not nearly as attractive. Their best feature is easy approval — they may approve applicants with poor, limited, or no credit.

Bad credit unsecured cards charge high fees and APRs. Many issuers impose extra costs, such as fees for signup and monthly maintenance. Virtually no unsecured cards for bad credit offer rewards, their credit limits are low, and their benefits are meager. 

You may be stuck with a card of this type if your credit score is below 580 and you don’t want to make a security deposit.

No Credit History

If you have no credit history and are a student, then a student credit card is your best bet. Otherwise, there are options for credit newbies that don’t charge annual fees or the highest APRs. Don’t settle for unsecured cards for bad credit — you can do better.

A secured card is also a great option because your security deposit is refundable and your APR will be lower than that of unsecured cards, a particularly nice feature if you know you’ll carry revolving debt.

In all cases, make sure the card reports your payments to all three credit bureaus so you can build a credit history.

How to Apply For a Credit Card

Many credit cards allow you to prequalify online without a hard credit check. The results will indicate whether the issuer can approve your card application, although prequalification does not guarantee final approval.

The online procedure to apply is basically the same for card prequalification. You submit your name, address, citizenship, income, housing costs, employment data, and other personal information. You should get an immediate verdict and receive the credit card in about a week to 10 days if approved. Some banks can expedite shipping, possibly for a fee.

How Your Credit Score Affects Your Card Offers

The higher your credit score, the better your chances of getting good credit card offers. Almost all credit card issuers look at your credit score and credit history when you apply for a card. 

Your FICO and VantageScore credit scores used for card approvals range from 300 to 850, as depicted in this pie chart:

FICO vs. VantageScore Ranges

If you want access to the best credit card offers, you must build and maintain good credit. You can do so by paying your bills on time, keeping your credit utilization ratio (i.e., credit spent compared with credit available) below 30%, and disputing mistakes from your credit reports.

Typical Credit Card Fees

Credit cards charge interest and fees. APRs range from about 15% to 36% and generally vary for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances. Annual fees can range from $0 to $1,000 or more. 

Cards usually charge 3% to 5% for cash advances and balance transfer transactions and may impose fees on foreign transactions (typically 3%) and late payments (up to $41).

Cards for bad credit may also tack on extra fees. Some charge up to $150 to sign up, and many impose a monthly maintenance fee of up to $10 starting in Year Two of card ownership. Miscellaneous fees can include those for expedited card shipping, duplicate cards, and custom designs.

Is It Worth Paying an Annual Fee?

You can often get a good-quality card without paying an annual fee. Most cards charge less than $100/year, but you can get many good perks for free. Be on the lookout for credit cards that delay the annual fee until the second year. 

Premium cards with triple-digit annual fees usually offer extraordinary benefits that make these cards worthwhile for well-heeled consumers. Prudence dictates that you carefully evaluate the costs and benefits of a card before applying.

Which Type of Reward (Points, Miles, or Cash Back) Is Best?

Cash and points are the most versatile. They are about equally valuable to most consumers since you can readily cash in points. 

Card Rewards Comparison Chart

Points and miles are best for frequent travelers. They are the ideal way to save money on flights and seat upgrades. General-purpose miles are similar to points, and you can use them on any airline. 

But you can use the miles from co-branded cards only on the associated carrier and its partners. Moreover, you can’t cash in these frequent flyer miles unless you sell them in the secondary market. Also, be careful to use your miles before they expire.

Which Cards Offer Signup Bonuses?

Signup bonuses are available only from cards for good to excellent credit. As described earlier, these bonuses allow new cardmembers to earn extra rewards when they spend a set amount on purchases during the first few months after account opening.

You can find signup bonuses on cash back, points, and miles cards. The dollar value can vary from about $200 to more than $2,000. Cards with signup bonuses frequently offer $0 intro APR promotions as well. This pair of incentives can be beneficial when making expensive purchases.

How Many Credit Cards Are Too Many?

Many folks get by on one credit card, though the average American has four credit cards. But that doesn’t mean owning five (or 25) is too many. The most important consideration is how much you’ll pay in annual fees and minimum monthly payments. 

One of the benefits of owning many credit cards is that you can enjoy a very low credit utilization ratio, but only if you don’t let your balances build up. A low CUR will help boost your credit scores. 

Another benefit is the ability to get the best rewards on all types of purchases. But too many cards may dilute the value of your rewards since you can’t combine them across different issuers. And they can cause a whole mess of trouble if they entice you to overspend. In the end, only you know how many credit cards are right for you.

So Which is the Right Offer for You?

When I was searching for my first “starter” line of credit as a college student, I didn’t have such a comprehensive list to refer to, nor was I able to receive any offers by mail. Instead, I had to do all of my own research separately on what I could qualify for with my limited credit history. But lucky for you, we’ve done all the research for you — and we’ll keep this guide updated regularly.

These days, there is no shortage of credit cards to apply for, no matter if you’re just starting your credit journey, rebuilding credit, or you’re credit score is fantastic — there’s something for just about everybody.

So opt out of those old-school junk-mail offers and check back with us anytime you’re looking for a new credit card. And don’t be discouraged if you’re starting out with a poor or limited credit history — once you’re responsibly using your new card, you may find, as I did, that in just a few years, you’ll be able to move up from a secured or student card and qualify for one of the best credit card offers out there!

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