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

“How Do I Get a Credit Card?” Answered in 3 Easy Steps

How Do I Get A Credit Card

credit card advice

Ashley Dull

Written 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.

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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

Despite the fact that there are literally hundreds of millions of credit cards in the world, some cards still stand out from the rest. These ultra-exclusive credit cards are for high rollers with high limits — and they want you to know it. Plastic is for plebeians; instead, these puppies are made of precious metals like titanium, palladium, and gold. Sadly, obtaining many of these metallurgic masterpieces requires hitting a six-digit monthly spending requirement — or even receiving a personal invitation directly from the issuer.

So, you may be asking, “How do I get a credit card?” Although diamond-studded decadence isn’t attainable for most of us, today’s credit card market still has plenty to offer the discerning credit consumer, including a few metal-manufactured options realistically attainable for the masses. Indeed, the typical credit card doesn’t require reaching lofty limits. You really only need to complete three simple steps. In the article that follows, we’ll explore those three steps in detail and look at a number of card offers that may suit your needs.

1. Find | 2. Apply | 3. Activate

1. Find the Right Card

For many people, the first step to getting a credit card will likely be the most difficult: finding the right card. If you think ordering a coffee comes with too many decisions, just wait until you try to pick the perfect credit card from the crowd. Simply looking at the top 10 issuers will reveal literally dozens of credit card options, and that’s not including the credit cards offered by local banks and community credit unions.

So, how do you narrow it down and actually make a choice? By figuring out exactly what you want — and need — out of your credit card. If you simply need a way to safely and conveniently make purchases, a basic cash back rewards card may be the right fit. For jet-setters (or those who would like to be) looking to earn free flights or hotel stays, a quality travel rewards card will likely fit the bill.

Balance Transfers | Cash Back | Rewards Points | Travel Rewards | Students | Businesses

Best “Balance Transfer” Credit Cards

Although you can’t technically pay one credit card with another, a balance transfer can be the next best thing. The goal of a successful balance transfer is to move your credit card debt from a card with a higher APR to one with a lower APR, thus saving you money each month on interest fees and making it easier (and faster) to pay down your debt.

The best credit cards for balance transfers will be those that offer the lowest APRs for transferred balances. While this may mean a low ongoing APR, those with good to excellent credit can find quality introductory balance transfer offers that provide a 0% APR on qualifying balances for the length of the promotional period. Our top-rated offers provide a 0% APR on balance transfers for up to 18 months.

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, 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
14.99% - 25.99% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good
0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
  • 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 16.74% - 26.74%, 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
  • Get free access to your FICO® Score online.
  • With Citi Entertainment®, get special access to purchase tickets to thousands of events, including concerts, sporting events, dining experiences and more.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% 12 months on Purchases
0% 21 months on Balance Transfers
16.74% - 26.74% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

Additional Disclosure: Citi is a CardRates advertiser.

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING
★★★★★
4.9
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.

+See More Cards for Balance Transfers

Best “Cash Back” Credit Cards

Cash back rewards are the most straightforward of credit card rewards, providing simple redemption options that typically include a statement credit or a deposit into a qualifying bank account. Most cash back rewards are earned as a percentage of your purchases, with some programs offering higher cash back rates for purchases in specified bonus categories.

Choosing the right cash back card for you will come down to determining the areas in which you spend the most money, then finding the card that rewards you at the highest rate for those purchases. For example, if your family spends a lot of money on groceries each month, a card that offers bonus cash back on grocery purchases may be most lucrative. Our favorite cash back cards also have valuable signup bonuses.

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 17.24% - 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
CASH BACK RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
  • 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.

CASH BACK 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

+See More Cards for Cash Back

Best “Points” Credit Cards

Rewards points are often the most versatile type of credit card rewards, as the redemption options often include cash back, travel expenses, merchandise, and gift cards. Some points programs also allow you to transfer rewards points to partner airline and hotel loyalty programs where they can be combined with your existing frequent flyer or hotel rewards points.

Selecting the best points credit card will come down to how you earn the points — and how you spend them. While you’ll want to choose a card that offers higher earnings rates for the purchases you make most often, you should also make sure the available redemption options are things you’ll really use. Our list of points rewards credit cards include several that provide bonus points for everyday purchases like gas and dining.

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 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
POINTS & GIFTS RATING
★★★★★
4.8
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
POINTS & GIFTS RATING
★★★★★
4.8
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

+See More Rewards Points Credit Cards

Best “Travel Rewards” Credit Cards

Although travel rewards credit cards are obviously most appealing to consumers who travel frequently, these points and miles cards can also be a great way for more grounded cardholders to make that dream vacation an affordable reality. Not only do most travel cards allow you to earn unlimited points or miles for every purchase, many also offer bonus rewards for purchases in certain categories.

Picking a travel rewards card will require looking at more than just how many points or miles you can earn per dollar spent. You’ll also want to determine at which airlines or hotels you can use those rewards, as some cards will have limited partners. If you plan to travel abroad, also look for cards without foreign transaction fees, like many of our expert-rated travel rewards cards.

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
Discover it® Miles Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

AIR MILES RATING
★★★★★
4.9
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 14.99% to 25.99% 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
14.99% - 25.99% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good
AIR MILES RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.7/5.0
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
19.99% - 26.99% (Variable)
$395
Excellent

+See More Cards for Travel Rewards

Best “Student” Credit Cards

While students under the age of 21 will need a qualified cosigner or independent income to obtain a credit card, simply meeting the age, cosigner, or income requirements won’t guarantee you a card. If, like most students, you have a limited credit history, you’ll likely have the best chances of getting a credit card if you choose a student credit card from an understanding issuer.

Of course, student credit cards provide more perks than merely being easier to obtain with a limited credit history. You can find a number of quality student cards with a low (or no) annual fee, as well as those that offer solid purchase rewards. Some cards even offer bonus rewards for maintaining a good GPA. Plus, all of our favorite student credit cards will let you check for pre-qualification offers before you apply.

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, 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 15.99% - 24.99% applies.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
10.99% Intro APR for 6 months
15.99% - 24.99% Variable APR
$0
Fair/New to Credit
STUDENT RATING
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
4.6/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn $100 when you spend $100 in the first three months
  • 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
  • Earn up to $500 a year by referring friends and family when they're approved for a Capital One credit card
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.99% - 27.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited
STUDENT 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
  • 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
  • Earn up to $500 a year by referring friends and family when they're approved for a Capital One credit card
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 Cards for Students

Best “Business” Credit Cards

Whoever coined the phrase, “The best things in life are free,” has obviously never tried to run a business. As any business owner can likely tell you, every business is just plain lousy with expenses — even the “best” ones. And that extends into every aspect of the company, including its financing.

While many good business credit cards can be had without an annual fee, the best business cards typically aren’t free (not after the first year, at least). But don’t be discouraged by a little fee; select the business credit card that best fits your company’s spending habits, and that fee may pay for itself in purchase rewards. See options for cash back or travel rewards on our list of expert-rated business cards.

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
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
BUSINESS CARD RATING
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
4.7/5.0
  • 0% Intro APR for the first 12 months; 18.99% - 26.99% variable APR after that
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back for your business on every purchase, everywhere — with no limits or category restrictions
  • No annual fee
  • Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • Rewards won't expire for the life of the account
  • Redeem your cash back rewards for any amount
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
N/A
18.99% - 26.99% (Variable)
$0
Good

+See More Cards for Businesses

2. Fill Out the Application

Once you’ve decided on the card you’d like to pursue, it’s time to fill out the application. In the era of online applications, this process can be ridiculously simple — and remarkably quick. Typically asking no more than a couple dozen questions about your personal details, income, and employment, most credit card applications can be completed in less than five minutes.

Thanks to the proficiency of the online application algorithms used by most issuers, you’ll likely receive a response to your online application within minutes of submitting it, particularly if you’re approved. In some situations, however, the algorithm doesn’t have the necessary information to make a decision, such as when one or more aspects of your application may be on the borderline of acceptable.

If you get a “pending” response to your application, you’ll typically receive a final decision in the mail within a few weeks. You should also receive correspondence if your application is rejected that will explain the reason(s) you were not approved. In most cases, your credit score is likely the culprit, as it plays the largest role in credit card approvals.

Depending on the reason your application was rejected, you may have some success with credit card reconsideration, which involves calling the issuer and having a human re-evaluate your application. Most often, however, you are probably better off to choose a different card that better suits the credit score range into which you fall, improving your chances of approval.

Good Credit | Fair Credit | Bad Credit | No/Limited Credit

Best Cards for “Good” Credit

With good credit, the chances of being turned down simply due to your credit score are generally low, unless you’re applying for a particularly picky card or have a credit history less than two years old. Being denied for too many recent credit applications, however, is a frequent issue faced by cardholders regardless of their credit, such as victims of Chase’s infamous “5/24 Rule.”

For many consumers, the best way around these types of denials is to simply choose a card from a different issuer, perhaps one with less stringent requirements. Happily, good-credit applicants are always in demand, and you can choose from a huge variety of benefit-rich credit card options. Many of our top cards for good credit not only offer solid rewards, they do so with low annual fees and competitive APRs.

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, 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 14.99% to 25.99% 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
14.99% - 25.99% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good
Discover it® Balance Transfer 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, 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
14.99% - 25.99% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good
GOOD CREDIT 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

+See More Cards for Good Credit

Best Cards for “Fair” Credit

Located somewhere in credit card limbo between those who easily qualify for prime credit cards, and those who are relegated to the subprime credit card market, fair-credit consumers are fairly likely to be rejected due to a troubled — or very limited — credit history. This can be especially true when applying for the most lucrative rewards cards, as they typically prefer good-credit applicants.

One of the easiest ways to improve your approval chances when you have fair credit is to choose a card specifically designed for credit-builders. While they may have higher annual fees or lower (or nonexistent) rewards rates, these “starter” cards can be a great way to build your credit score, making those premium cards a less-distant reality. Start comparing fair-credit card options with our top-rated picks.

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
FAIR CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
4.5/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories or limits to how much you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account. It's that simple
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
  • 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
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
28.49% (Variable)
$39
Average, Fair, Limited
Fortiva® Mastercard® Credit Card Review

at Fortiva'ssecure website

FAIR CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.6
OVERALL RATING
  • With the Fortiva® Mastercard® Credit Card, you earn up to a 3% cash back reward
  • Make contactless payments through Mobile Wallet
  • Periodic Credit Increase Reviews
  • Free access to your Vantage 3.0 score from Equifax†
  • † Your credit score will be available in your online account 60 days after your account is opened. (Registration required) The free VantageScore 3.0 credit score provided by Equifax is for educational purposes only and may not be used by The Bank of Missouri (the issuer of this card) or other creditors to make credit decisions.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
29.99% OR 36% (V)
As low as $85
Fair

+See More Cards for Fair Credit

Best Cards for “Bad” Credit

Those with bad credit are the most likely to be turned down for a big-bank prime credit card solely due to their potential credit risk. In general, having a bad credit score automatically narrows the options down to the subprime unsecured credit card market or a secured credit card that will require an initial deposit.

Generally, secured credit cards tend to have lower fees and often offer higher rewards rates, but the initial deposit requirement can make potential applicants think twice. When weighing your options, keep in mind that secured credit card deposits are fully refundable, while unsecured credit cards fees are not. Our list of cards for bad credit include both card types so you can see the differences.

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
PREMIER Bankcard® Grey Credit Card Review

at PREMIER Bankcard®'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
  • You don’t need good credit to apply.
  • We help people with bad credit, every day.
  • Just complete the short application and find out in 60 seconds if you’re approved.
  • You can build* or rebuild your credit: apply for a PREMIER Bankcard credit card, keep your balance low, and pay all your monthly bills on time.
  • Don’t let a low FICO score stop you from applying – we approve applications others may not.
  • 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.
  • *Build credit by keeping your balance low and paying all your bills on time every month.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
See Provider Website
See Provider Website
Fair/Poor
Surge Mastercard® Review

at Celtic Bank'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.6
OVERALL RATING
  • Up to $1,000 credit limit doubles up to $2,000! (Simply make your first 6 monthly minimum payments on time)
  • All credit types welcome to apply!
  • Free access to your Vantage 3.0 score From Experian* (When you sign up for e-statements)
  • Initial Credit Limit of $300 – $1,000* (subject to available credit)
  • Monthly reporting to the three major credit bureaus
  • See if you’re Pre-Qualified without impacting your credit score
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
See website for Details
See website for Details
24.99% – 29.99% (Variable)
See website for Details
See website for Details*

+See More Cards for Bad Credit

Best Cards for “No/Limited” Credit

While those with poor credit will generally have the most difficult time getting approved for a credit card, getting a card with no or limited credit won’t exactly be a piece of cake. In the absence of an established credit history to prove you can repay your debts, many issuers will simply assume you can’t and reject you accordingly.

The key to finding credit card approval with a limited credit history is to select a card that’s actually intended to be used to build credit. A variety of major card issuers offer starter cards that can be obtained even without a long credit history, some of which even let you earn rewards on your purchases. Start your search with our expert-rated options below.

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
  • 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
  • Earn up to $500 a year by referring friends and family when they're approved for a Capital One credit card
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.99% - 27.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited
NO/LIMITED 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
NO/LIMITED CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
4.6/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn $100 when you spend $100 in the first three months
  • 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
  • Earn up to $500 a year by referring friends and family when they're approved for a Capital One credit card
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 Cards for No/Limited Credit

3. Activate & Start Using Your Card

After you’ve been approved for a new credit card, you’ll need to wait several days — and sometimes several weeks — for your card to arrive in the mail. Before you can start swiping (or chipping, as the case may be), the card will need to be activated. This can typically be done online or through the automated phone number provided on your new card.

Congratulations, you’re a fully fledged credit cardholder. Time to get spending, right? Well, not necessarily. Some aspects of credit card usage may need to be addressed shortly after you get your new card, including paying any annual fees, setting up a cash advance PIN, and meeting the requirements for any available signup bonuses.

Annual Fees | Cash Advances | Signup Bonuses

Pay Your Annual Fee Right Away

Often charged by credit card issuers to help cover the cost of a card’s perks and rewards, annual fees can range from a reasonable $25 up to a staggering $2,000. And unless your card has a deal that waives the first-year’s fee, you’ll be charged that first annual fee as soon as you open your account, decreasing your initial available credit before you even activate.

In some cases, these annual fees can be worth paying — such as when the rewards will pay for the fee — but they’re hardly necessary for everyone. Given the glut of credit card options in the current marketplace, many quality cards are available sans-annual-fee, including a wide range of rewards cards like those on our list below.

Chase Freedom Flex℠ Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • 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
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1% 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!
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 17.24% - 25.99%.
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
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 14.99% to 25.99% 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
14.99% - 25.99% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good
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

+See More Cards with No Annual Fee

Set Up Your Cash Advance PIN

Another thing you’ll want to consider after activating your card is whether you’ll be likely to need a credit card cash advance, which allows you to use your credit card to withdraw cash from an ATM or bank. If you think you may want to use your card for a cash advance at some point, you’ll need to set up a cash advance PIN with your issuer. This can typically be done over the phone.

Credit card cash advances should only be used if absolutely necessary, as they can be quite expensive. They are typically charged a higher APR than other types of transactions — and there’s no interest-free grace period, so that interest starts accumulating right away. Plus, most cards charge a cash advance fee ranging from 3% to 5% of the advance amount. The cards below have some of the lower cash advance fees or APRs available from big banks.

Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

EXPERT'S 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 14.99% to 25.99% 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
14.99% - 25.99% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good
EXPERT'S 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

Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards 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

+See More Cards for Cash Advances

Earning the Signup Bonus

While credit card signup bonuses aren’t something you need to necessarily address right after you activate your new card, signup bonuses do typically come with a time limit that expires within a few months (often 90 days) of opening your account. Once that time limit passes, you’ll no longer be eligible to earn that particular signup bonus.

So, depending on the size of the spending requirement — and the amount you normally purchase with your card — you may need to start using the card right away to meet the requirement before the offer expires. Since these bonuses can easily be worth hundreds of dollars, they’re often the driving (and deciding) factor for many cardholders. Check out some of the sweet signup bonuses offered by our picks below.

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 14.99% to 25.99% 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
14.99% - 25.99% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good
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
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

Getting a Credit Card is Only Half the Battle

People like luxury. That’s evident in the abundance of vehicles with six-figure price tags zooming along the roads — and the gem-studded credit cards in the drivers’ pockets. And just like you’ll need to work hard to get that barely-street-legal sports car, you’ll need to jump through plenty of hoops to get your hands on a gold-plated payment card.

Lucky for the rest of us, you can still get a well-appointed, bells-and-whistles vehicle without taking on a second mortgage — and you can also get a hefty half-ounce metal credit card without needing an invitation. In fact, getting the credit card is often the easy part for many consumers; it’s using that card wisely that can be a challenge.

Once you have your shiny new card (whatever it’s made of), you need to follow the two basic rules of responsible credit card use. The first — and most important — is to always make at least your minimum required payment before the due date each billing cycle. Late payments can kill credit scores.

Secondly, try to avoid carrying a balance on your credit card from month to month. Unless you have some sort of 0% APR offer active on your account, you will be charged interest fees on any balance that remains on your card after the end of the grace period (the time between when you make the charge and when the bill for that charge is due). One of the great things about credit cards is that they allow us to make large purchases without having to lay out the full cash amount up front. But, if you carry the balance of a large purchase over months or even years, you can end up paying massive sums in interest.

And third, never max out a credit card unless you can pay it back before the end of the billing cycle (or shortly thereafter). Not only does carrying a large balance from month to month often mean interest fees, it also results in a high utilization rate being reported to the credit agencies. (Your utilization rate is the ratio of how much debt you’re carrying over how much credit is available.)

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CardRates.com is a free online resource that offers valuable content and comparison services to users. To keep this resource 100% free, we receive compensation for referrals for many of the offers listed on the site. Along with key review factors, this compensation may impact how and where products appear across CardRates.com (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include the entire universe of available offers. Editorial opinions expressed on the site are strictly our own and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by advertisers.