Best Credit Cards for 2018

We've vetted hundreds of credit cards to bring you the select few that we think are leaders in their categories. Check out our shortlists to find which credit card is suited to your needs. 


Hands down, we think the following credit cards are among the best of the popular offers we’ve vetted. So take a moment to review our short list of the best credit cards for travel, cash-back, balance-transfers, and more.

Best for: Travel sign-up bonus and transfer partners Chase Sapphire Preferred®

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On Chase's Secure Website

Our Bottom Line

It's one of the most popular travel cards for a reason. This offer is practically a must-have for travelers seeking a big sign-up bonus and if you spend enough on credit to justify paying a small annual fee.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Review
Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent
Highlights

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

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Best for: Bonus cash back Discover it® Cash Back

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On Discover's Secure Website

Our Bottom Line

A clear cash-back leader with a laundry list of perks, including double cash back in the first year and other essential wallet-friendly features like no annual fee.

Discover it® Cash Back Review
Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent
Highlights
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.
Terms and Conditions
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Best for: Cash rewards program Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

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4.5 stars Info icon We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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On Bank of America's Secure Website

Our Bottom Line

The new intro bonus offer leads the pack with a low spending hurdle. The cash back versatility makes it even more enticing.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card Review
Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent
Highlights
  • No annual fee
  • NEW OFFER: $200 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter
  • No changing categories and no expiration on rewards
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases AND for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days, then, 14.99% - 24.99% Variable APR. 3% fee (min $10) applies to balance transfers
  • Get a 10% customer bonus every time you redeem your cash back into a Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%
  • Easily add your Mastercard® credit card to any digital wallet for a simple, secure, and convenient way to pay online, in-app, and in-store
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Best for: Balance transfers and bonus cash back Discover it® Balance Transfer

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On Discover's Secure Website

Our Bottom Line

Few cards can top this offer. The balance transfer offer and cash rewards program, alone, are best in class, but you get both in one card without having to pay an annual fee.

Discover it® Balance Transfer Review
Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent
Highlights
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.
Terms and Conditions
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Best for: Big travel sign-up bonus and hotels Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

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On Capital One's Secure Website

Our Bottom Line

Few travel cards can go toe-to-toe with this offer's lineup, including the sign-up bonus, unlimited rewards, and best-in-class hotel rewards program.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card Review
Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent
Highlights
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
Terms and Conditions
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Best for: Restaurants and travel Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

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On Well Fargo's Secure Website

Our Bottom Line

Few cards can match the sheer numbers of categories that earn unlimited 3x points at such high rates. Add in the other valuable perks and that explains our high ratings for the offer.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card Review
Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent
Highlights

  • New! Earn 30K bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – that’s a $300 cash redemption value
  • Earn 3X points for eating out and ordering in
  • Earn 3X points for gas stations, rideshares and transit
  • Earn 3X points for travel including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals
  • Earn 1X points on other purchases
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers (fees apply), then a 14.24%-26.74% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rates and fees
  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms, and conditions

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Best for: Travel card with no annual fee Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

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On Bank of America's Secure Website

Our Bottom Line

No-annual-fee travel cards typically skimp on the sign-up bonus, but this card delivers with its market-leading intro bonus offer (low spending hurdle to qualify), unlimited rewards on spending, and other wallet-friendly perks.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card Review
Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent
Highlights
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
  • NEW OFFER: 25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want – you’re not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
  • Comes with chip technology for enhanced security and protection at chip-enabled terminals
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases, then 16.74% - 24.74% Variable APR
  • Get an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • If you’re a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%
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Best for: Balance transfer and cash back Citi® Double Cash Card

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Citi® Double Cash Card
Our Bottom Line

We like that this card incentivizes keeping balances low by earning a total of 2% cash back, 1% when making purchases and another 1% when paying off balances.

Citi® Double Cash Card Review
Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent
Highlights

  • Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back
  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.24% - 25.24% based on your creditworthiness
  • Click 'Apply Now' to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases
  • No categories to track, no caps on cash back, no annual fee

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Best for: Intro balance transfer fee Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

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Amex EveryDay® Credit Card
Our Bottom Line

This is one of the few remaining balance-transfer cards that includes a $0 balance transfer fee (for transfers made within 60 days). Add in the premium rewards and sign-up bonus, and it's hard to ignore.

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card Review
Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent
Highlights

  • Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.74% to 25.74%.
  • $0 balance transfer fee. Balance transfers must be requested within 60 days from account opening.
  • 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x); 1x points on other purchases.
  • Use your Card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period and earn 20% more points on those purchases less returns and credits.
  • Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

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Get our latest tips and uncover more of our top picks to help you conquer your money goals

A credit card can be a great way to build credit, earn rewards on every purchase, and even finance your purchases at APRs as low as 0%. But with thousands of cards to choose from, many people fall into a state of “paralysis by analysis,” unable to make a decision because there are simply too many choices and too many variables on which to compare one credit card to another. Here at The Ascent, we’re working to make selecting a credit card as easy as buying a new pair of socks. Below, we’ll explain the ins and outs of the credit card market, and show you how to pick a card that works best for your spending needs.

How we picked the 2018 winners

We at The Ascent want to help you climb to the top and conquer your money goals. Which is why our top picks have a few features in common that can help your money work harder for you, cut out-of-pockets costs, or help you get out of debt faster. The most important factors in our ratings methodology are as follows:

  • No to low annual fees to cut-out-of pockets costs
  • Big sign-up bonuses to make your money work harder for you
  • High rewards rates in everyday spending categories
  • Inclusion of 0% intro APR offers to help you get out of debt faster or defray the cost of a large purchase
  • Competitive ongoing APRs to ensure debt balances are manageable

Why you can trust us

As credit card enthusiasts, we don’t review or pick cards based on conjecture. We’ve used many of the top credit cards on the market to score 0% intro APRs, earn cash back rewards, and build up miles to go on the vacations of our dreams. Together, we’ve analyzed hundreds of card offers on more than 6,000 data points, reading through the fine print to find the very best credit cards the market has to offer.

Types of credit cards

Though there are many different credit cards out there, virtually all card offers can be divided into five different categories based on their features and rewards programs. The first thing you should do when shopping for a credit card is to narrow the list of possible matches by picking a certain feature or functionality that is particularly important to you.

The five types of credit cards are as follows:

  • 0% APR cards -- These cards offer 0% intro APRs on purchases and/or balance transfers for periods as long as 21 months, allowing you to carry a balance without paying double-digit interest rates during the promo period. These credit cards are best for people who will carry a balance, since a 0% intro APR card can potentially save you hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars in interest. 
  • Cash-back cards -- These are the most common types of credit cards out there. Cash-back credit cards give cardholders rewards equal to a percentage of their spending, typically ranging from as low as 1% all the way up to 10% for spending in certain bonus categories. The beauty of cash back credit cards is that you can redeem your rewards for cash to use however you’d like. Many people redeem their rewards for statement credits, which reduces the card’s balance. You can think of a 1.5% cash back rewards card as a card that effectively gives you a 1.5% discount on everything you buy. 
  • Travel cards -- These cards typically accrue rewards in terms of miles or points for every $1 you spend, and can be redeemed for flights, hotels, rental cars, and more. Travel cards also tend to have other perks (such as no foreign transaction fees when used overseas) that 0% APR cards and cash-back cards are less likely to have. Frequent travelers, especially international travelers, would be wise to have a travel credit card, if only for the benefit of avoiding foreign transaction fees. The best credit card offers for new cardholders are typically travel cards for people who have high incomes and excellent credit histories, due to their lucrative sign-up bonuses.
  • Secured cards -- These are designed for people who have no credit history, or bad credit. A secured credit card acts just like an ordinary unsecured card, but it requires applicants to put up collateral to open the account. These cards report to the big three credit bureaus just like any other credit card, making them a great entry way into the world of credit. They’re also useful for rebuilding from a bad credit score.
  • Business cards -- Designed for business owners and managers, these cards typically offer higher credit limits and rewards programs that pay out bonuses on company expenses like online advertising, cable or phone bills, internet and utilities, office supply stores, and others. Business cards are great for small business owners who want to separate their personal expenses from their business expenses, while building a relationship with a bank that will help their business qualify for other types of financing later.

Why you should use credit cards

Credit cards are about more than just borrowing money. A credit card is a useful payment option that offers more convenience and fraud protection, while helping you build the credit necessary to qualify for other loans at the lowest possible interest rate.

Here are a few reasons why it makes sense to use a credit card for your ordinary daily purchases:

  • Building credit -- A credit card is a great way to help you build credit so that you can later qualify for financing to buy a car, home, or another large purchase. Most credit cards report to all three credit bureaus, so having an open credit card account is one of the best ways to start building up your credit report and credit score. (Did you know that your credit report can also affect whether you get a job, or the rates you pay on insurance? Having good credit is much more important than you might think.)
  • Rebuilding credit -- Late payments or collections accounts can haunt your credit report for seven years, dragging down your credit score the whole time. But having an open credit card account in good standing can help you rebuild your credit by “diluting” the importance of the bad accounts. It also shows that you’re current on your newest obligations, which can help you show lenders that you’re managing your finances better today than you did in the past. 
  • Fraud protection -- It’s a simple fact that credit cards offer more fraud protection than debit cards. At the very worst, cardholders are only liable for up to $50 of losses if their credit card is used fraudulently, though most credit card companies simply eat the $50 loss rather than pass it on to their customers. In comparison, the worst case for debit card fraud is that you ultimately lose everything in your checking account (and potentially more if the account is overdrawn or linked to other accounts). 
  • Rewards -- When used responsibly, a credit card is simply a better way to pay than debit or cash. Think of rewards as an effective discount -- if you use a 1.5% cash back card to make purchases, it’s like getting a 1.5% discount on everything you buy. Over time, even small percentages really add up! 
  • Extra perks -- Many cards offer perks including free rental car insurance, extended warranties on the things you buy, and price protection, which can reimburse you if something you purchase is advertised at a lower price later. These little-known card perks can easily create hundreds of dollars of value for their cardholders. (You won’t find these perks on the average debit card.)

Which credit card is best for you?

One thing we want to make very clear is that picking the best credit card is a personal decision that should be guided by your financial needs. Though there is a perfect credit card out there for you, there isn’t a single credit card that is perfect for every single person.

Which credit cards are the best depends on the features and functionality you want from your new card. Below, we constructed a table showing you the types of credit cards to pick based on why you want a credit card in the first place.
You want to use a credit card to… You should apply for…
Finance an upcoming purchase A card with a 0% intro APR on purchases
Refinance existing credit card debt A card with 0% intro APRs on balance transfers. We give bonus points to cards that waive balance transfer fees, too.
Earn rewards on all of your spending A flat cash back card that offers 1-2% cash back on every purchase.
Travel overseas and redeem rewards for travel A travel card that offers travel rewards and no foreign transaction fees.
Finance purchases for my business A business card that has features designed for business owners in mind.
Build credit Any credit card can help you here, but cards that offer free FICO® scores are a good pick.
Minimize the risk you get denied for a credit card A secured card, which offers the highest approval rate (nearly 100%).

How to compare credit cards

With so many choices, doing a proper credit card comparison can be overwhelming. But the truth is that only a few things really matter when making the decision between one card and another card. Here are some things to think about as you compare one credit card to another.

Cash or travel?

Rewards cards generally reward cardholders with points or miles that can be redeemed for cash or travel. If you don’t travel much, a cash back card is likely a better choice, since it is more flexible. Frequent travelers, however, may be better off with a travel card, which can offer higher rewards rates than cash back cards, as well as no foreign transaction fees on international spending. (Many cards charge a foreign transaction fee equal to 3% of amounts spent overseas, which can add up to $60 of unnecessary fees on $2,000 of international spend.)

Consider Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, a card that offers 2x miles per $1 spent. Each mile is worth $0.01 each when redeemed for travel. However, if miles are redeemed for cash, miles are only worth half as much, or $0.005 each. So, while this card ranks consistently as a top travel credit card, it isn’t a good card if you will redeem your rewards for cash. A cash back credit card would be a better choice.

We aren’t picking on Capital One here. Virtually all travel cards from all card issuers have some kind of “penalty” for redeeming your rewards for cash rather than travel. Unless you know with certainty you will use your rewards for travel, a cash-back credit card almost always offers more value than a travel card.

Should you pay an annual credit card fee?

Cards that carry annual fees typically earn rewards at a faster clip than cards that do not carry annual fees. For example, Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card - 25,000 Bonus Points Offer does not have an annual fee. It offers a rewards yield of $0.015 in travel value for every $1 spent. Alternatively, Capital One® Venture® Rewards has a rewards yield of $0.02 of travel value per $1, but it carries an annual fee of $95.

By dividing the difference in annual fees ($95) by the difference in rewards yields ($0.005 per $1), we can arrive at a breakeven point of $19,000. Cardholders who spend less than $19,000 per year would be better off with Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, while cardholders who spend more would be better off with Capital One® Venture® Rewards.

We tend to think that cards with annual fees are only a good choice if you spend heavily, and will put the vast majority of your spending on just one card. It rarely makes sense to carry multiple cards with annual fees.

Secured cards are easy to compare

We tend to think that the only thing that really matters with secured cards is that you find one that doesn’t charge an annual or monthly maintenance fee just for having an account. This may seem like a simple test for picking a good secured card, but you’d be surprised at just how many secured cards are loaded with fees, some in excess of $200 per year.

The best secured credit cards don’t any annual fees at all, offer free access to your FICO® scores, and one even offers a rewards program! Given these two cards exist, it doesn’t make sense to apply for a card with annual fees.

Business cards are all about your credit

We haven’t found that many major differences between the top business cards, other than their credit score criteria. Some cards are designed for people who have merely “good” credit, which we’d generally categorize as a FICO score higher than 680. Others are only offered to people who have excellent credit, which for business cards can be a FICO score of 750 or better. Of course, other factors come into play for approval -- your income can be just as important as your credit score when you apply for a new card.

Is a credit card right for you?

Though more than 70% of American adults have a credit card, they aren’t for everyone. On one hand, they can offer excellent benefits that include rewards on every swipe, big sign-up bonuses, free access to a FICO® score, and 0% intro APRs for new cardholders. But used to spend beyond your means, a credit card can put you into costly credit card debt that will take months, if not years, to pay off.

  • You won’t use it irresponsibly -- Credit cards are not free money. If used responsibly, you’ll never pay a dime in interest or fees by using a credit card. That means making sure that you always pay your balance in full each month by paying the “statement balance” reported on your statement.  Carrying a balance is a really good way to get into financial trouble, since balances are assessed interest at rates in the double digits.
  • You can manage another due date -- Failing to make payments on time and in full can result in paying late fees and interest charges. If a payment is more than 30 days late, it can negatively impact your credit score, too, doing more harm than good. Don’t use a credit card if you’re an especially forgetful person.
  • You have predictable, recurring income -- Credit card companies require that your household have some kind of income in order to approve you for a card, but having income is also important for avoiding credit card debt. Unstable or unpredictable income is one of the biggest reasons people fall into debt.  
  • You won’t need to get a big loan in the near future -- If you’re thinking about applying for a mortgage in the next six months, you might want to reconsider applying for a credit card now. People who have thin credit files will see their scores drop after applying for more credit, and may run into trouble explaining their recent credit inquiries. The best time to start building credit is, unfortunately, when you’re least likely to need a good credit score in the next few months.

To recap, here are the best credit cards for 2018

Card Rating Best For…
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Graphic of Chase Sapphire Preferred®
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4.5 stars Info icon We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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Best For:

Travel sign-up bonus and transfer partners

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4.5 stars Info icon We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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Best For:

Bonus cash back

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Best For:

Cash rewards program

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Best For:

Balance transfers and bonus cash back

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Best For:

Big travel sign-up bonus and hotels

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card Graphic of Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
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4.5 stars Info icon We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Excellent
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Good
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Fair
Star Review Icon = Poor
Best For:

Restaurants and travel

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card Graphic of Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
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4.5 stars Info icon We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Best
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Excellent
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Good
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Fair
Star Review Icon = Poor
Best For:

Travel card with no annual fee

Citi® Double Cash Card Graphic of Citi® Double Cash Card
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4.0 stars Info icon We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Best
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Excellent
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Good
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Fair
Star Review Icon = Poor
Best For:

Balance transfer and cash back

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card Graphic of Amex EveryDay® Credit Card
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4.5 stars Info icon We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Best
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Excellent
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Good
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Fair
Star Review Icon = Poor
Best For:

Intro balance transfer fee