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2019's Best Capital One® Credit Cards

Below are our staff ratings of 2019's best Capital One® credit cards. As one of the nation's leading issuers, Capital One® offers credit cards for virtually every use and credit history. Our reviews follow strict editorial guidelines and are updated regularly.

Behind the Issuer: Capital One

Adam West
By: Adam West
Behind the Issuer: Capital One
CardRates.com Guide: Capital One®

You might know Capital One as the innovative credit card company whose creative commercials featured barbarians asking, “What’s in your wallet?” The fact is Capital One Financial Corporation is working hard to make sure it’s their credit card you’re carrying around in your wallet – and they’ve been pretty successful at it.

Since its founding in 1995, Capital One has grown into one of the 10 largest banking institutions in the country, with over 750 bank branches nationwide. They also have business divisions for commercial lending, home loans, car loans, and traditional banking, in addition to their credit card business.

But the history of Capital One actually goes back further than 1995, when it was spun off from Signet Financial Corporation. The foundation for this highly successful business began in the mid-1980s.

Building a Better Credit Card

Prior to 1985, credit cards were issued almost exclusively by the big banks. When Sears introduced the Discover Card, with its annual cash-back bonus, it began changing the way consumers saw credit cards. Soon other non-banking companies began issuing cards with lower-than-standard interest rates and other perks.

In 1988, Richard Fairbank and Nigel Morris recognized the potential opportunities in the evolving credit card industry. They approached Virginia-based Signet Bank with the idea of creating a more technological approach to issuing credit cards. They suggested different types of cards with variable pricing and rate structures based on things like individual customer risk. It was a complete overhaul of Signet’s credit card business.

An Industry Revolution

In 1991, the concept of balance transfers and introductory rates brought in a steady stream of new customers to Signet’s credit card business. The technology focus Fairbank and Morris introduced allowed them to target their lowest-risk customers and offer them better incentives than the other banks. It soon paid off. By 1994, the credit card operation was Signet’s most profitable business, but they recognized it was diverging from their regional banking business.

They decided to spin off the credit card business and form Capital One Financial Corporation in 1995. From day one, the new company was already one of the 10 largest credit card issuers in the country.

Continued Growth

With Richard Fairbank as CEO, Capital One continued to expand throughout the late 1990s, branching into new areas of growth. They began marketing cobranded and affinity cards, as well as cards with no annual fee. They also started issuing secured credit cards to gain access to a new set of customers. Building on their success, Capital One purchased Summit Acceptance in 1998, entering into the car loan business.

Fairbanks realized remaining a “monoline” financial company would eventually lead to an acquisition or drive them out of business. To prevent this, the company expanded into traditional retail banking in the early 2000s by buying several regional banks. In 2011 and 2012, Capital One completed two transactions that allowed it to further expand its credit card business and enter into the insurance business.

HSBC sold its credit card business to Capital One in 2011 and the U.S. operations of Dutch insurance company ING Direct were acquired in 2012. The insurance business was renamed Capital One 360.

photo credits: Flickr.com

While the company may have made some changes over the years, one thing has remained consistent: its diverse offering of credit cards. Whether you like cash back or travel rewards, are building a business or simply building your credit profile, Capital One has a card designed to help you reach your credit goals.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

The information on this page was reviewed for accuracy on .

About the Author

Adam West Adam West

As Managing Editor for CardRates, Adam oversees content and regularly interviews some of the payments industry's biggest influencers and decision-makers so our site can bring high-quality and engaging stories to our audience and keep readers informed on the latest trends and technology in the space.

Adam West

Advertiser Disclosure: The credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which CardRates.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. See the credit card issuer's website for specific terms and conditions of each card.