2022’s Best Credit Cards

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There are many credit card offers out there. But which one is the best credit card for you? The answer depends on your needs and creditworthiness, which is your credit history and credit scores. Keep in mind that you have more than one credit score!

If you’re considering a card for rewards, there’s a wide variety of options. Keep in mind, the best rewards card can vary depending on your situation.

Choosing the Best Credit Card for You

Do you want a simple card that earns you a cash back percentage as a statement credit on all your credit card spending? A cash-back card may also come with an intro APR (annual percentage rate), which could let you earn rewards while paying for new purchases over time at a temporary low interest rate before the regular APR kicks in.

Or are you looking for a travel rewards card, like Chase Ultimate Rewards® points or Amex Membership Rewards® points, that will earn points you can transfer as airline miles or to another rewards program? Cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card may let you transfer your points to other loyalty programs or redeem them for airfare. You’ll get more value than you would get with cash-back rewards or gift cards. Certain travel credit cards, like the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card, let you redeem points for travel purchases without blackout dates.

Many rewards cards, like the Blue Cash Preferred® card from American Express, earn more year-round on bonus categories like gas stations, grocery stores and wholesale clubs. Others offer a higher rewards rate on categories that change throughout the year, like the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Discover it® Cash Back cards. Choose wisely according to your spending habits.

Whichever card you choose, make sure you make your monthly payments on time and use the card responsibly to avoid late fees and expensive credit card interest. Most cards have a variable APR and are an expensive way to borrow money. However, when you pay your statement balance in full, the purchase APR becomes irrelevant because you managed to avoid interest charges.

Which Is the Best Credit Card?

If a cash-back credit card is right for you, start your search with the Blue Cash Preferred® card from American Express.

Need a travel rewards card to fuel your next adventure? The Chase Sapphire Reserve® and The Platinum Card® from American Express are two of the best.

If you want a 0% APR card for purchases or to pay down a balance transfer, try the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card.

If your credit scores could use some work and you need a card for bad credit or building credit, the Discover it® Secured or Capital One Platinum Secured credit card can help you get back on track.

Which Is the Best Credit Card for Rewards?

If you’re buying gas and groceries, it’s hard to beat the Blue Cash Preferred® card from American Express.

If travel rewards are more your thing, look to The Platinum Card® from American Express for airline rewards and lounge access. Or try the Chase Sapphire Reserve® for wide-ranging point opportunities and transfer partners.

Which Is the Best Credit Card With No Annual Fee?

One of the best cards with no annual fee is the Discover it® Cash Back, a highly rewarding offer with 5% cash-back categories you can activate every 3 months. You’ll maintain that rate for up to $1,500 in spending per quarter.

Need to pay off some debt? The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum card gives you 20 billing cycles to pay off purchases or balance transfers before the average variable rate of 14.49% – 24.49% kicks in.

If your credit isn’t in the best shape, the Discover it® Secured card is designed for customers with bad credit and is an excellent way to improve your scores.

Which Is the Best Travel Credit Card?

The best travel card depends on your needs. If a high-end luxury travel card is on your mind, take a look at The Platinum Card® from American Express or Chase Sapphire Reserve® card.

For occasional travel, we love the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card and Capital One Venture Rewards credit card.

If you’re looking for something less expensive, the Capital One VentureOne Rewards credit card and Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card have solid offers.

Which Is the Best Credit Card for Bad Credit and Building Credit?

Bad credit doesn’t have to be forever. If you need a card to help you build credit, Discover it® Secured is a great card that offers cash-back rewards and the opportunity to upgrade to an unsecured card.

Other issuers provide simpler, useful options to improve your credit scores:

  • Capital One Platinum Secured credit card
  • BankAmericard® Secured credit card

Which Is the Best First Credit Card To Get?

We recommend getting a credit card with no annual fee for your first card. If you can avoid interest and other fees, you’ll be able to keep it open indefinitely at no cost, which can help boost your credit scores.

Maybe a student credit card is right for you, or you’re just new to credit. Either way, some of the best first credit cards include:

  • Capital One QuicksilverOne Rewards credit card
  • Discover it® Student Cash Back
  • Journey Student Rewards from Capital One
  • Discover it® Secured

What Credit Scores Do You Need To Get a Top Credit Card?

The best credit cards for rewards, cash back and travel might be more accessible than you think.

Good or excellent credit scores will offer the best chance of approval. That’s a FICO® Score of at least 740 or a VantageScore® of at least 700.

The better your credit scores are, the more likely you are to qualify – but credit card approval relies on more than just credit scores. Your income will be taken into account, too. You could be approved with relatively low scores or denied with fairly high scores.

Expert Q&A

1. Should everyone have at least one credit card?

Siamak Javadi, Ph.D., University of Texas Rio Grande Valley:

I believe so. Credit cards are not inherently bad or evil. They can be wonderful if used responsibly. They can help with unexpected expenses. They can also boost one’s credit score as the balance on the card is paid down. Most credit cards offer some sort of incentive programs like cash back, mileage, etc. Furthermore, unlike debit cards, credit cards are much safer since you won’t be held liable for unauthorized transactions. So they are a much safer option for online transactions. A credit card is like any other technology that has an upside and a downside. It really depends on how they are used.

James Barth, Lowder Eminent Scholar, Department of Finance, Auburn University:

Everyone who qualifies should have at least one credit card or debit card in this day and age. It is far more convenient and safer to pay with a credit card than cash or a check.’

Clifford Smith, Professor of Finance and Economics, Simon Business School, University of Rochester:

It’s basically the same answer as, ‘Should everyone have a spare tire in the trunk?’ Even if you don’t plan on using it, it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

2. What advice do you have for someone applying for a credit card?

Siamak Javadi, Ph.D., University of Texas Rio Grande Valley:

First, know your credit scores before applying. Every time you apply for a loan, mortgage or a credit card (more generally whenever you want to borrow money), a credit inquiry is pulled which can negatively impact your credit scores. They call these hard credit inquiries. So, you don’t want to apply for credit cards too many times in a short period of time. In addition and more importantly, knowing your credit score helps you determine the type of credit card that is more suitable for you. For instance, you cannot and should not apply for the Centurion® Card from American Express if your credit score is 650. It’s pointless. You’ll be rejected and your credit score will be negatively affected. If you’re just getting started and don’t have a good credit score, try a secured credit card and build your credit history. There are several ways to easily monitor your credit scores for free.

Second, after knowing your credit score and determining the cards that are more suitable for your credit history, try to pick a card with a lower Annual Percentage Rate. Of course, given your credit score, the chances are the cards that are more suitable for you will have very similar APRs but always check that.

Third, pick a card with zero (or minimum) annual fee. If a card has an annual fee, think really hard about whether the benefits of the card outweigh the annual cost. In my experience, that’s usually not the case.

Fourth, pick a card that matches your needs more closely. Are you traveling a lot? Pick a card that gives good mileage on your purchases with less frequent blind days. Study their incentives and their cash-back programs. Take these incentives and cash back programs seriously because they can add up.

James Barth, Lowder Eminent Scholar, Department of Finance, Auburn University:

One should apply for a credit card that offers the best terms and is widely accepted.

Clifford Smith, Professor of Finance and Economics, Simon Business School, University of Rochester:

Especially for a younger person just out of school, a credit card, even one with a low credit limit, provides a good way to begin to build a credit history. Use it sparingly and pay it off each month.

3. Are there any requirements to qualify for a credit card?

Siamak Javadi, Ph.D., University of Texas Rio Grande Valley:

There are criteria, but the issue is that credit card companies’ models used for accepting or rejecting applicants are proprietary. So we don’t know what exactly the inputs are to those models. However, very broadly speaking, you should be creditworthy. This is generally a function of your income, any outstanding debt, assets and liabilities. It is also a function of the card as well. An individual with a given income and expenses may qualify for a certain card and not for another type. Carrying lower debts overall is always a powerful, positive signal.

James Barth, Lowder Eminent Scholar, Department of Finance, Auburn University:

Yes, a credit card issuer typically will check on one’s credit score.

Clifford Smith, Professor of Finance and Economics, Simon Business School, University of Rochester:

Of course! But the requirements depend on the card. They are lowest for prepaid cards. And they are mind-boggling for an American Express Black card (now Centurion® card).

4. Are credit cards safe?

Siamak Javadi, Ph.D., University of Texas Rio Grande Valley:

Yes. They are safe. As I mentioned earlier, they are a much safer option for online transactions compared to debit cards. If there is a breach or an unauthorized transaction, almost all credit card companies will take care of the issue and replace the card fairly quickly. And you wouldn’t be held responsible for that unauthorized transaction. It’s far more complicated with a debit card. Once the money is withdrawn from the account linked to the debit card, it can be very difficult to get it back.

James Barth, Lowder Eminent Scholar, Department of Finance, Auburn University:

Yes, because the owner can refuse to pay the charges on credit cards used illegally.

Clifford Smith, Professor of Finance and Economics, Simon Business School, University of Rochester:

They are safer than walking around with a wad of cash. If it’s lost and reported immediately, you are generally not liable for charges made after the report. Some cards offer more protections.

5. Are there common mistakes consumers make when picking a credit card?

Siamak Javadi, Ph.D., University of Texas Rio Grande Valley:

Like most other things, certain credit cards become trendy, and people just try to get them without really thinking if that card is suitable for their needs or whether they qualify for that card. Picking a credit card is an economic decision that needs to be done based on data and evidence. 

James Barth, Lowder Eminent Scholar, Department of Finance, Auburn University:

Consumers picking a credit card should always compare and contrast the different terms and fees on several cards.

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