Credit cards are more than just a financial tool. We've found that some of the best credit cards carry benefits that are worth hundreds of dollars for new cardholders who can take advantage of their cardholder-friendly terms. Below, we'll compare card offers and chart the comparisons in each major category.

Cash back rewards cards

Two cash back credit cards offer high-earning potential plus the opportunity for qualifying cardholders to collect a new cardholder bonus that puts them in the fast lane to earning large rewards.

Credit card

New cardholder bonus

Rewards program

Bank of America® Cash Rewards

$150

3% cash back on gas, 2% on groceries and wholesale clubs, 1% on everything else

Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard®

$200

1.5% cash back on everything

Source: Card issuers

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards card is especially appealing for people who spend heavily on gas and groceries, which earn rewards at 3% and 2%, respectively, subject to a combined quarterly spending cap of $2,500. All other purchases earn at a standard rate of 1%. The card offers qualifying cardholders a $150 new cardholder cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in the first 90 days after account opening. Cardholders who have active Bank of America® accounts can qualify for additional bonuses when points are redeemed, multiplying the card's standard cash back earnings potential.

Those who prefer a flat cash back rate may prefer Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard®, which doles out cash back rewards equal to 1.5% on all spending. Importantly, the card delivers with a best-in-class new cardholder bonus of $200 for qualifying cardholders who spend at least $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days after account opening. This card rewards cardholders at the time of redemption with a 5% bonus on redemptions, bringing its effective cash back rate up to 1.575% on all purchases.

We rank both of these cards highly in our list of the best cash back credit cards at Fool.com.

Travel rewards cards

Cardholders who travel frequently can usually extract more value from a travel rewards card than a cash back card by using their redemptions to score cheap travel deals. For this reason, if you travel frequently, a travel card may be a better choice than a cash back card.

Credit card

New cardholder bonus

Rewards program

Chase Sapphire Preferred®

50,000 points ($625 of travel value)

2x points per $1 of spending on restaurants and travel, 1 point per $1 on everything else.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards

20,000 bonus points ($200 of travel value)

Unlimited 1.5x points per $1 of spending

Source: card issuers.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® is unmatched when it comes to upfront value. The new cardholder bonus of 50,000 points equates to $625 of travel value for qualifying cardholders who redeem their points through its travel portal. Qualifying cardholders receive the bonus for spending $4,000 in the first 90 days after account opening. Importantly, this card carries a $95 annual fee, which may make it less attractive for those with lower spending habits. Frequent rental car users will like its collision-damage waiver protection, which steps in before your own car insurance in the event a rental car is returned with damage (a benefit worth $15 or more per day when renting a car). In addition, points can be transferred to one of the card's many travel partners, thus allowing for redemptions that value the points at a higher rate than through the bank's travel portal. (Each point is worth $0.0125 through Chase's portal.)

In contrast, Bank of America® Travel Rewards is a better fit for people who have lower spending habits or who prefer to redeem their rewards for statement credits. This card offers a 20,000 point new cardholder bonus to qualifying cardholders who spend at least $1,000 in the first 90 days after account opening. Best of all, it doesn't carry an annual fee, and people who have active Bank of America® accounts can qualify for additional bonuses when points are redeemed, multiplying the value of every point earned.

Woman selecting from a handful of credit cards

Comparing cards side by side is a great way to find deals that are best fit for your spending needs. Image source: Getty Images.

Score 0% promo APRs

Introductory APRs can be beneficial to people who want to pay down credit card debt or finance new purchases on terms that include 0% APRs for new cardholders. These two deals are some of the best we've seen, offering more than a year of 0% intro APRs on purchases and balance transfers alike.

Credit card

Intro APR on purchases

Intro APR on balance transfers

Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard®

0% for 15 billing cycles

0% for 15 billing cycles on transfers made in the first 45 days after account opening

Discover it®-Cashback Match™

0% for 14 billing cycles

0% for 14 billing cycles (after the first transfer)

Source: Card issuers.

Among balance transfer credit cards, the Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® offers tremendous value for its lengthy 15-billing-cycle 0% promo APR for qualifying cardholders who transfer balances in the first 45 days after account opening. As an added benefit, cardholders enjoy the ability to transfer balances without paying a fee, saving as much as $150 to $250 on a $5,000 transfer compared to competing cards that carry fees of 3-5% on amounts transferred. After the promotional period, the card defaults to one of the lowest standard APRs we've found among card issuers.

The Discover it®-Cashback Match® is a good choice for people who want lengthy 0% introductory APR periods for purchases and balance transfers, but be mindful that balance transfers carry a fee of 3% of the amounts transferred. Given the balance transfer fee, this card is best suited for people who want a 0% promo APR on new purchases plus the opportunity to earn cash back rewards. Cardholders earn a base cash back rate of 1% on purchases, with 5% bonus cash back on the first $1,500 of spending in categories you activate that rotate quarterly. As an additional benefit, qualifying cardholders have all of their cash back earnings (including bonus 5% cash back) doubled in the first year, which only adds to this card's roster of impressive perks.

It pays to shop around

Card offers can change frequently, so we're working on creating a comprehensive collection of the best credit card offers here at Fool.com. Each card detailed in the article above was selected for having one of the best offers in its respective category, with terms that reward people who make responsible credit choices. 

Now more than ever, credit cards are beefing up their benefits to attract new customers, making it a very advantageous time to open a new credit card account.

 

Jordan Wathen has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Barclays. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.