Find the Best Credit Cards in America August 2020

How To Choose The Best Credit Card?

Just to put it out there, no single credit card is the absolute best. The best credit card for you depends very much on several factors such as your credit score, spending habits, lifestyle needs and financial goals.

The best card for you may very well be different than the one that's meant for your favorite co-worker or friend. It's important that you ask yourself some important questions (and answer them truthfully) before deciding which credit card is the best for you.

Question #1: What is your credit score?

As much as the truth hurts, the higher your credit score, the more credit card options you have. What's more, the top-tier credit cards that offer the most rewards and perks are reserved for people with excellent/good credit.

If your credit score is below expectations right now, try to improve your credit score over time by changing your spending habits, making sure you pay all your bills punctually (including cell phone payments, utility payments, etc.), avoid carrying any balance on your credit card, or if need be, disputing any inaccuracies on your credit reports. There is no quick fix to raising your credit score overnight - give yourself time to build up your credit.

Question #2: Which type of credit card do you need?

First of all, you need to know what you're looking for. Are you trying to earn rewards on every dollar you spend? Are you trying to improve your credit score because it's currently poor or non-existent? Are you looking for a credit card to help you cut down on interest payments?

These are the three general types of credit cards available on the market. To reiterate, the best credit card for you should be one that accommodates your lifestyle needs seamlessly.

There are many types of rewards credit cards you can choose from, including cash back credit cards, travel credit cards, airline credit cards, hotel credit cards and bonus credit cards. Depending on the specific credit card you go for, you may earn rewards points, cash back or miles. The actual things you can redeem your rewards for also depend on the card you hold, although most rewards credit cards are rather flexible in that respect. Many let you redeem rewards for statement credit, gift cards, travel, merchandise, etc. Some issuers have specific sites that give you more value for your rewards when you redeem them there.

Student credit cards and secured credit cards are the ones you should keep a lookout for if your aim is to build or rebuild credit. Student credit cards are designed for college students to start building their credit. Secured credit cards are available to those with bad or no credit. These cards are not the same as prepaid debit cards.

If you want to save on interest payments, low-interest credit cards, balance transfer credit cards, as well as 0% introductory APR credit cards that offer a low ongoing APR are the types of cards you can focus on. If you want to transfer a balance, look for a card with a long 0% APR intro period on balance transfers and be wary of balance transfer fees - some cards have intro periods with no balance transfer fees or waive them permanently. Each card is different so make sure to read the fine print.

Narrowing down your credit card choices

You can check out's top credit card picks, read our unbiased reviews and use our credit card comparison tool to see which card is the best fit for you. As you go through the list of our top credit card picks according to the type of credit card you are interested in, be sure to make some notes - they will come in handy later on.

Interested in rewards credit cards? If you already know which types of purchases you'll spend the most on each month (e.g: gas, groceries, dining, etc.), it may be more rewarding to use a credit card that offers higher rewards on categories you routinely spend the most on. Some rewards credit cards offer a fixed amount of rewards across every spending category while others offer more rewards per dollar spent on purchases in certain categories. Other cards have rotating categories that change each quarter. It's important to consider your spending habits before deciding on the right type of rewards card for you.

If you want to get even more bang for your buck, look for rewards credit cards that have an intro bonus offer. Some rewards credit cards come with extremely enticing sign-up bonuses that you can get bag once you spend the required amount within the stipulated time-frame.

As a general rule it's usually a better idea to get a credit card with no annual fee, but if you are a big spender, you may want to consider one with high earning potential and an annual fee. Why? Cards with annual fees typically offer more perks and benefits and if you spend enough to earn enough rewards to offset the annual fee, you may be able to save money with the extra benefits. You can use our credit card calculator tool above to check if the potential rewards you can milk out of your card can offset the annual fee.

If you travel overseas frequently, getting a card that comes with no foreign transaction fees can go a long way in helping you save money on your spending abroad by avoiding hefty fees. Adding on to that, be sure to opt for a card that comes with the EMV chip-and-pin feature - this helps cut down on fraudulent transactions and is widely accepted worldwide.

Lots of rewards credit cards offer rewards that do not expire, but there are some that do come with expiration dates. Similarly, some cards let you earn unlimited rewards while others may cap the amount of rewards you can earn. It's usually better to get a card that lets you earn unlimited rewards that don't expire so that you have enough time to earn and accumulate enough points, cash back or miles to redeem them for something big like a plane ticket.

Interested in student or secured credit cards? Aim for a credit card that helps build or rebuild your credit (i.e: one that reports your credit card payments to the 3 main credit bureaus in the United States). Keep in mind that secured credit cards require you to make a security deposit, some cards also come with an annual fee.

To make the most out of the credit-building card you get, always make it a point to pay your credit card bills in full and on time before your due date. While you may start off with quite a restrictive credit limit, take heart that some cards actually raise your limit after you make on-time payments consecutively and maintain a promising credit history. With a better credit score, you will have an easier time upgrading to better and more rewarding credit cards in the future.

Interested in 0% introductory APR credit cards? Check how long the 0% introductory APR period is as well as the ongoing APR that will apply when the intro period ends. Some credit cards offer a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers and purchases while others offer intro periods of one or the other.

If you're looking for a balance transfer credit card, keep in mind that most cards will charge balance transfer fees (but some offer no balance transfer fees or a $0 intro fee offer) and there could be a limit to the amount you can actually transfer to a card offering lower interest. Pay attention to the card's balance transfer policy if you are thinking of doing a balance transfer to cut down on interest payments.

A credit card that offers a 0% introductory APR on purchases is useful if you have plans to make big ticket purchases and want to pay them off over time.

It is important that you get a card that gives you enough time to pay off your debt interest free. The longer the 0% introductory APR period, the better. If you cannot pay off your entire balance within that period of time, the ongoing APR will apply to the balances you carry. Nonetheless, to get out of debt, it is necessary that you be disciplined and keep up with making payments punctually.

The Difference Between Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express are payment networks. Visa and Mastercard work with banks to issue credit cards. Banks are the ones extending credit to credit card holders, not Visa or Mastercard. Visa and Mastercard process said payments charged to customers' cards. On the contrary, Discover and American Express are both payment networks and card issuers. Simply put, Discover and American Express generally do not partner with banks to issue credit cards. This is why Discover and American Express have much fewer credit cards for customers to choose from compared to Visa and Mastercard.

Depending on the credit card you hold, your card's payment network will determine whether or not you are able to use your card when making payments.

To cut to the chase, Visa and Mastercard have the biggest global networks, including the United States. So you are unlikely to face any issues using a Visa or Mastercard to make payments in the country and abroad. Although American Express has a much smaller network compared to Visa and Mastercard, they are, in general, still quite widely accepted in the United States. American Express' offerings are considered high-end in the industry and are usually perceived as being more exclusive.

Discover cards are widely accepted in the United States as well, in fact, more widely accepted than American Express cards. Internationally, Discover has collaborated with other major card networks to expand its reach and acceptance globally. As of right now, 190 countries and territories accept Discover cards. Stores that accept Diners Club cards, JCB cards, UnionPay cards, BCcard cards, and more will also accept a Discover-branded card.

In addition, each payment network has its own set of fringe benefits for cardholders. American Express offers it own set of perks; Visa Signature cards offer more benefits than regular Visa cards; World Mastercard offers more perks than regular Mastercard cards. Discover also has its own unique collection of benefits for its cardholders to enjoy, such as free credit score access and no annual fees.

Frequently Asked Questions About Credit Cards
Which types of credit cards exist and which one is best?
What kind of fees do credit cards charge?
Is it worth it to get a top-tier credit card with an annual fee?
Are credit cards a good idea or can I get into debt?
Is there a time limit to pay off my credit card balance?
What does APR mean and how does it work?
Will getting a new credit card hurt my credit score?
How do balance transfers work and which cards are best?
Can I get free flights with my travel credit card?
What are some of the main perks travel credit cards offer?
How do cash back credit cards work?
What do I need to do to apply for a credit card?

Question: Which types of credit cards exist and which one is best?

Answer: Rewards credit cards (including air miles credit cards, travel credit cards, hotel credit cards, bonus credit cards and cash back credit cards) are great if you want to earn rewards on your spending. Depending on the specific card you use, your rewards credit card will let you earn rewards points, cash back or miles.

If your goal is to cut down on interest payments, definitely pay attention to low-interest credit cards, balance transfer credit cards and cards that offer a 0% introductory APR on purchases and/or balance transfers. Ideally, the latter should offer as low an ongoing APR thereafter as possible.

Business owners can check out business credit cards; college students looking to build their credit can opt for student credit cards; and those with bad or no credit can take a look at secured credit cards.

As you may have noticed, no credit card can be considered the very ‘best'. The best credit card for you is one that you qualify for with your existing credit score, one that suits your lifestyle needs and one that helps you attain your financial goal.

What kind of fees do credit cards charge?

Common credit card fees include annual fees; foreign transaction fees; balance transfer fees; cash advance fees, late payment fees; returned payment fees; and overlimit fees.

Some credit cards have no annual fees perpetually while others come with an annual fee that kicks in after one or two years (usually due to a fee waiver offer). Foreign transaction fees apply when you use your card overseas or when you use the card to shop online in a foreign currency. That said, there are many cards that offer the money-saving $0 foreign transaction fee perk.

Balance transfer fees are typically charged when you use your card to make a balance transfer (some cards waive this fee for a stipulated time frame). Cash advance fees apply when you get cash out of the ATM (practically every credit card has this fee so make sure to use a debit card to get cash out, instead). Late payment fees may apply if you pay your balance late; returned payment fees may apply when your payment is returned; and overlimit fees may apply if you use your credit card past your credit limit.

Each credit card is different and your card may or may not charge all or some of the fees mentioned above. To have a really clear idea on what credit card fees your card charges, scrutinize the fine print.

Is it worth it to get a top-tier credit card with an annual fee?

This really depends on what you aim to get out of the top-tier credit card. For example, a top-tier travel credit card may offer specific perks like free travel insurance, free car rental insurance, purchase protection, concierge service (and more) in addition to letting you earn rewards when you spend on travel and practically anything under the sun.

To take things up a notch, the top-tier travel credit card could also offer unlimited VIP airport lounge access, $0 foreign transaction fees, along with a generous sign-up bonus offer - say, $500 - that is yours to keep once you spend a certain amount of money within the stated period after account opening. For someone who travels very frequently, the unlimited lounge access benefit and free travel insurance perk may make the annual fee worth paying for as these charges can easily add up in no time.

Whether or not it is worth it for you to get a top-tier credit card with an annual fee really depends on yourself. Do your homework, compare credit cards, pay attention to how much the annual fee costs and see if the potential for all your rewards and benefits to outweigh the annual fee exists.

One important general note: To make sure all your rewards equal pure savings, make sure you pay your credit card bills in full punctually every month to avoid carrying any balance and incurring interest charges.

Nonetheless, there are pros to having credit cards that come without annual fees. Many of these cards also let you earn rewards when you make purchases and some even go a step further to offer sign-up bonus offers. Some credit cards with no annual fees also let you get a balance transfer or enjoy low interest.

Getting a no annual fee credit card can even help in building your credit score since you can keep your account open even if you don't really use the card on the regular. How so? By keeping your account open, it increases your account age while decreasing your debt-to-credit-limit ratio at the same time.

Are credit cards a good idea or can I get into debt?

Credit cards can be incredibly rewarding if you use them right and responsibly. After all, credit cards are the reason why Grace and Pedro, the founders of managed to redeem $54,000 worth of free flights! However, if you aren't disciplined when it comes to spending and repaying your monthly bills, it is also easy for you to get mired in nasty credit card debt.

Credit cards let you spend on borrowed money, however, you will not have to pay any interest if you pay your credit card bill off in full, within the grace period given by your credit card company. As long as you keep up with payments and avoid carrying any balance month after month, you do not have to worry about getting into debt.

On the other hand, be wary about getting into debt if you do not pay your entire balance before your due date rolls around. This is extremely dangerous as credit card debt has a tendency to snowball very quickly. Like it or not, any balance that you carry will incur interest charges sooner or later. The amount of interest you incur on the balance you carry depends on your card's APR. But normally cards have a range of purchase APRs, so you will pay one or the other depending on several factors but usually, the better your creditworthiness, the lower your APR will be. If you make a late payment, there could be penalties like late payment fees and penalty APR, too.

Is there a time limit to pay off my credit card balance?

Yes, your due date is usually 20-odd days after the close of each billing cycle. As a matter of fact, it is always a good idea to pay your entire credit card balance before the due date each month to avoid getting slapped with interest charges on your purchases.

If your card offers a 0% introductory APR on purchases and/or balance transfers for a certain number of months from account opening, you will not incur interest on your purchases and/or balance transfers made within the said number of months as long as you keep up with your minimum monthly payments before their due date. Cash advances usually start accruing interest on the transaction date.

What does APR mean and how does it work?

APR is short for Annual Percentage Rate. It is the interest rate that is applied to purchases, cash advances and balance transfers you make with your credit card. Your card will most likely also have a penalty APR. Your APR is decided by your credit card company. In general, the higher your credit score, the lower your APR on purchases and balance transfers will be.

You will not have to pay interest on your purchases if you pay your credit card balance in full before the due date or during a 0% introductory APR on purchases (as long as you pay off the minimum amount on time).

Some credit cards offer a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers for a specific period of time. This intro period can help you cut down on interest payments as you strive to pay off your entire balance.

More often than not, balance transfers and cash advances will begin to accrue interest on the transaction date, so keep that in mind if you intend to do a balance transfer or get cash out of the ATM. It is common for cards to charge balance transfer fees and cash advance fees, in addition to the APRs.

One more thing, some credit cards come with a penalty APR that will apply if you make late payments or returned payments.

Will getting a new credit card hurt my credit score?

There is a possibility that your credit score could get hurt when you get a new credit card, especially if you have recently applied for credit (including a credit card, auto loan or mortgage) prior to applying for a new credit card. This is because the very act of applying for credit inevitably creates a hard inquiry on your credit report. It is best not to have too many hard inquiries created within a short span of time if you do not want to temporarily affect your credit score negatively.

Credit card applications don't affect everyone's credit score in the same way. For example, if you have a low credit score and a short credit history you will be more affected than someone with a high credit score and an established credit history. So if you have a low or limited credit score you should be careful not to apply for too many cards at once and choose the card you want to apply for carefully to see if you meet the necessary requirements to be approved.

One of the most important things to know is that it doesn't make any difference whatsoever to your credit score whether your application gets approved or rejected. For this reason you need to make sure you have a really good chance to qualify for a card before applying. Why? Because you don't want to lose points on your credit score and not get the credit you need.

The points you lose due to credit applications usually return to your credit score in around 6 months. Knowing this can help you plan your loans (and credit card applications) accordingly. Try to space out your loan applications in at least 6-month brackets to recover your lost credit score points before applying for another loan (remember that credit cards are essentially loans since you're spending on borrowed money).

The bottom line is this: try not to apply for too many cards at once and make sure you fulfil card requirements before applying. If you have a long credit history and an excellent credit score you will be less affected by applications than if you have a low credit score and limited credit history, so keep this in mind before applying for credit cards.

How do balance transfers work and which cards are best?

Balance transfers work by letting you buy extra time in paying off your balance while helping you cut down on interest payments. There is usually a balance transfer fee that accompanies each balance transfer transaction, although some cards do offer a $0 introductory balance transfer fee.

Basically, you transfer your existing balance to a credit card with a lower interest rate than the one on which you're currently carrying a balance. The best case scenario is if you can transfer your existing balance to a card offering a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers for a long period of time. Try to look for a balance transfer card with a long enough 0% introductory APR period on balance transfers so you have sufficient time to clear your debt without incurring any interest.

After you have transferred your balance to a suitable card, you just have to work on paying off your balance as quickly and consistently as possible. Be disciplined and make your monthly payments before the due date! While you are at it, resist the urge to make purchases with your credit card(s). Your goal is to clear your existing debt as quickly as possible while minimizing interest charges - not to rack up even more debt.

Remember that even though the balance transfer card you get may have a long 0% intro APR period on balance transfers, it's only interest-free if you make your minimum payments before the due date. Also keep in mind that even if you make the minimum payments on time, it may not be enough to pay off your balance in full before the intro period ends, so try to pay off as much as possible each month to get closer to your goal of becoming debt free.

Can I get free flights with my travel credit card?

As you spend using your travel credit card, you can earn and accumulate rewards such as miles or rewards points. You can then transfer them to your credit card's participating airline loyalty program of your choice, such as JetBlue TrueBlue, Delta SkyMiles, American Airlines Aadvantage, United MileagePlus, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, Air Canada Aeroplan, Qantas Frequent Flyer, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Emirates Skywards, Etihad Airways Etihad Guest, etc. The loyalty programs you can redeem your rewards with depends on the credit card you hold.

Once your rewards have been converted into actual air miles sitting in your frequent flyer program, their validity will be governed by the rules of your frequent flyer program. This means they could expire if you don't redeem them before a certain time period.

If you hold a co-branded airline credit card, your rewards are usually automatically transferred at the end of your billing cycle to the airline's frequent flyer program you are enrolled in.

Take a look at flight award charts, check where your miles can take you, learn how your frequent flyer program works, educate yourself on the award flight redemption process. Every airline frequent flyer program is different, so it's important to do your homework.

If your airline is part of an airline alliance (Star Alliance, Oneworld or SkyTeam) or if it has partnerships with other airlines, you may also redeem your miles for flights operated by its airline or alliance partners. An important thing to keep in mind is that award flights do not include taxes and fees, so you have to pay for these using your own money.

For example, if you have Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you can book travel via the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel center and use your rewards points to pay for your airfare, hotel stays, rental cars, experiences and more. Your rewards points give you more value when you book for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel center than if you just redeem them for cash back or gift cards. If you want, you can also transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to the participating airline partners' frequent flyer programs at a 1:1 ratio.

Here, you can learn what's Grace and Pedro did with their 1 million air miles earned from credit card rewards.

What are some of the main perks travel credit cards offer?

Depending on the travel credit card you hold, the specific benefits and perks you get to enjoy can vary.

These are the main perks that travel credit cards offer:

  • Rewards (points or miles) that you can later redeem for travel or other things.
  • Fraud protection
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Free travel accident insurance
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Trip delay reimbursement
  • Travel and emergency assistance services
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver

Some of the higher-end travel credit cards also offer fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application, VIP airport lounge access and some even have a concierge service.

Hotel credit cards usually let you enjoy complimentary elite status and hotel perks while airline credit cards usually let you enjoy perks like priority boarding, free first checked bag, etc.

How do cash back credit cards work?

Cash back credit cards work by letting you earn rewards on your spending. While this may not be very intuitive, some cards that are marketed as cash back credit cards actually let you earn rewards in the form of rewards points that you can later redeem for cash, statement credit, bank deposits, checks, gift cards, merchandise, and other rewards depending on your credit card issuer's rewards program.

Some cash back credit cards let you earn flat rate cash back on every purchase automatically while some let you earn more cash back on certain categories. Some cash back credit cards even have rotating categories.

Some cards may limit how much cash rewards you can earn whereas others let you earn unlimited rewards. Also, read the fine print properly - some cards offer rewards that expire after a certain period of time (or if you don't spend on your card for some time) while others let you earn rewards that remain valid for the life of your account.

What do I need to do to apply for a credit card?

Check your credit score, ask yourself what your financial goals are and figure out the type of credit card you need. Are you trying to cut down on interest payments and get out of debt, maximize rewards or (re)build your credit? Are there any errors on your credit report? Do you need to dispute these errors?

Don't rush into applying for a card - it pays off to read the fine print! Compare credit cards on to see which ones are more suitable for your lifestyle needs and attainable with your current credit score. The more rewarding credit cards on the market are reserved for people with excellent or good credit.

Once you have picked out the credit card that you would like to apply for on, you can click on the apply now button to be redirected to the credit card issuer's secure site to apply for the card online. You will need to fill out the application form with your personal information, such as your full name; name you would like to appear on the card; email address; phone number; home address; date of birth; social security number; employment status; total annual income; non-taxable annual income; income source; citizenship; financial assets, etc.

Be sure to fill out the application form accurately and truthfully. Keep in mind that the information that you are required to supply can vary from issuer to issuer.

After applying, all you have to do is sit back and wait to find out if your credit card application has been approved. If your application is successful, you should receive your credit card by mail in approximately 7-14 business days. Bear in mind that approval may take longer if the credit card issuer needs more time to review your application before giving the green light.

If your application is not successful, you may be given a notice that instructs you on how you can obtain the main reasons why you weren't approved within a certain time frame. The credit card issuer is responsible for letting you know why you weren't approved.

How We Rate Credit Cards

At we compare credit cards and rate them objectively based on the credit card's features, interest rates and fees.

Cards are rated by our team based primarily on the basis of value for money to the cardholder. The team rates each card based on its annual fee, rewards, benefits, bonus, introductory APR, ongoing APR, flexibility (in how its benefits can be used and how rewards are earned and redeemed), and other card features.

Editorial Disclosure: Any personal views and opinions expressed by the author in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the companies mentioned, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Disclaimer: As there are different types of credit scores and issuers could use any of them, cannot ensure you will be approved for the offers based on your credit score.