October 11, 2021
Check out The Ascent's 2020 awards winners to find out which credit cards secured a top podium position. These hand-picked offers pack in big bonuses, robust rewards programs, long 0% intro APRs, and more.
This card comes with one of the highest cash back rates out there without charging an annual fee. The real kicker is Discover's Cashback Match -- Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year for new cardholders. It's worth hundreds of dollars if you simply max out the quarterly bonus categories. Plus, unlike most popular cash back cards, the Discover it® Cash Back makes it easy to redeem your rewards as there's no minimum redemption requirement.
The unlimited 2% cash back on this valuable Citi credit card is among the highest flat rates we've come across. True to its name, the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer separates cash back into two payments. You earn 1% when a purchase is made, and then receive an additional 1% when you pay your credit card bill by the due date. There's no annual fee, and somehow it packs in a long balance transfer offer.
The Discover it® Cash Back credit card beat out the competition with its generous Cashback Match incentive. On top of the 5% cash back cardholders get up to the quarterly maximum in rotating quarterly categories you activate each quarter and 1% back on other eligible purchases, Discover will match all cash back earned in the first year for new cardholders. The card also has a generous 0% intro APR period (the go-to variable rate applies after the 0% intro APR expires.), and with no annual fee, it's a no-brainer. Other cards in this category did well on cash back, but it's the Cashback Match bonus that makes it reign supreme.
There aren't many credit cards that can claim even one 5% cash back bonus category. The no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Flex℠ is unprecedented with a robust cash back program. One of those is a rotating 5% bonus category you activate each quarter (on up to $1,500 in combined quarterly purchases), so you'll have new bonus opportunities every three months.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card rivals the rewards of cards with hefty annual fees, but at just $95, it's excellent value. Cardholders get 3x points dining, 2x points on travel, and 1x points on other purchases, and a bonus of 25% more value when you book travel through Chase's portal. But it's the card's generous sign-up bonus that pushes it ahead of the competition: 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within three months. That's worth $750 for travel when redeemed through Chase's portal. Lyft rides also earn a generous 5 points per $1 spent through March 2022. Other cards in this category offered generous travel points and bonuses, too, but ultimately, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card's low annual fee, impressive sign-up bonus, and portal bonus gave it the edge.
With 3x points on dining and 2x points on travel and an excellent sign-up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card was already a great value for its $95 annual fee. But the clincher? The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has gone the extra mile during the pandemic. This rewards travel credit card stood out in a year of travel restrictions.
For an affordable annual fee of $95, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ credit card packs considerable value. It includes a free night award every account anniversary year, which can easily be worth hundreds of dollars, and you'll collect a big sign up bonus
The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card leads the pack with the longest 0% intro APR we've come across . It charges a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfer for the first 20 billing cycles and has no annual fee. That would give you more than a year and a half to pay off a big purchase or emergency expense without incurring any interest charges. That's a savings of hundreds and potentially even thousands of dollars.
If you're refinancing credit card debt, there's no better choice than the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card. Its 0% intro APR on balance transfers lasts for 20 billing cycles, longer than you'll find with any other balance transfer card.
Building your credit can feel like an uphill slog, so it's exciting to see a credit card that turbocharges that journey. Those with limited credit histories can use Petal's mobile app to track their credit and plan their budgets. And the higher cash-back rate for on-time payments encourages healthy habits. Indeed, few credit-building cards give any rewards, never mind between 1% and 1.5% cash back. All that with no annual fees, no security deposit, and no late payment fees.
The Discover it® Secured has everything you need to improve your credit without paying unnecessary costs. There's free FICO® Score monitoring, no annual fee, and you can get your security deposit refunded in as little as eight months. This is also one of the only secured credit cards with a rewards program, offering cash back on purchases and even matching all the rewards you earn in your first year for new cardholders.
College is expensive, and a good student credit card needs to reward ordinary student spending without encouraging cardholders to take on unnecessary debt. With 5% back up to the quarterly maximum in rotating quarterly bonus categories you activate, the Discover it® Student Cash Back fits the bill. Plus, Discover's Cashback Match means everything you earn in your first year is matched for new cardholders. This no-annual-fee card helps students build their credit with a free monthly FICO® Score. The cherry on top is that it gives a $20 statement credit for good grades.
The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card lets you pick a bonus category where you'll earn 3% cash back, and gas is one of the options. Grocery stores and wholesale club purchases are also worth 2% back each, up to a spending cap of $2,500 in combined bonus category purchases per quarter. That's a lot of chances to earn bonus cash back from a no-annual-fee credit card.
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express shines here. It offers 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, up to a spending cap of $6,000 in purchases per calendar year (terms apply). If you max out that bonus, you'll collect $360 in cash back from your grocery spending alone. You'll also earn bonus cash back at U.S. gas stations, with select streaming services, and on transit. The $95 annual fee is also waived in the first year (see rates and fees).
The Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card will get you big rewards when you go out, with its unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment spending. That dining category doesn't just cover restaurant meals, either. It also includes drinks at the bar and even a quick bite at a fast-food chain or a latte from a cafe. If you dine out regularly, you'll quickly get value beyond the annual fee.
Chase's premier business card offers massive rewards with a big sign-up bonus. It also earns 3 points per $1 on your first $150,000 spent each account year across a diverse range of bonus categories, including travel, advertising with search engines and social media, and shipping. Together with the bonus, you should easily get value from the justifiable annual fee.
Chase's Freedom line of credit cards were already a fan favorite, and the new Chase Freedom Flex℠ packs more value than ever before. The elevated sign-up bonus and generous rotating cash back rate can net even casual spenders hundreds of dollars during their first year of use. Plus, the introduction of additional bonus categories boosts this card's earning potential, making it an excellent everyday card. With no annual fee, the 0% intro APR on purchases is just the icing on the cake.
The United℠ Explorer Card covers all the bases with two yearly passes to United Club lounges, a free checked bag, and a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit. The card also offers a big bonus and robust rewards program, Plus, its $95 annual fee will be waived for the first year.
The Simmons Visa® has one of the lowest credit card APRs we've come across-- so low, in fact, that it could even be a better deal than taking out a personal loan. This makes it a great option for folks who need to charge more than they can pay off in a month and don't want to end up drowning in interest charges. The 0% intro APR on balance transfers is also a nice perk if you're paying off medical debt. Not only is it a much better deal than most popular medical credit cards, but you can use it anywhere that accepts Visa. As there's no annual fee, it's worth keeping in your wallet even after your balance is paid off.
The Chase Ultimate Rewards program is unmatched because it offers so many valuable ways to redeem points. Ultimate Rewards points are transferable to the loyalty programs of over a dozen popular airlines and hotels, including United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Marriott, and Hyatt. If there's a trip you can't book by transferring points, you can redeem points for cash travel purchases through the Ultimate Rewards site. Depending on the Chase card you have, you'll get either $0.0125 or $0.015 per point, some of the highest rates offered by any rewards program.
Citi® Double Cash Card's contactless capabilities are a nice feature that fills out an already deep bench of perks. The card is one of a select few offers on the market that's perfect for a one-card wallet. That's because it offers one of the highest cash-back rate for purchases we've come across and a long 0% intro APR for balance transfers, all somehow without charging an annual fee.
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For rates and fees for the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, click here
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