Not all credit cards are created equal — many of them have minimal benefits and basic coverages, but some of them are set far above the others. If you are looking to open a credit card, it only makes sense to choose one that works for you and provides a ton of value.
Credit cards can be risky when not used properly due to high interest rates and lots of fees. But if you use them properly, pay off your balance in full every month, and keep your spending in check, you could earn a ton of cash back or cover the cost of your travel expenses.
If you are looking to open a new credit card, you will want to identify what kind of card you want, what your typical monthly expenses are, and what kinds of perks matter to you. Once you have figured this out, you can narrow down the list of options to your top picks. Just be aware that the best credit cards generally require at least a good credit score.
If you don’t have great credit, be sure to only apply to credit cards that give you a good chance of approval. If you do have very good credit though (and a steady income), you should have a good chance of being approved for most credit cards.
If you are a business owner, you will definitely want a solid credit card for your business expenses as well. By doing this you will keep your personal and business finances separate, but still continue to earn rewards and points for all of your business expenses.
If you want a head start on finding some of the best credit cards, take a look at our top picks for the best credit cards available today.
Our Best Credit Card Recommendations
Best Credit Card for Travel – The Platinum Card from American Express
American Express is known for having top-of-the-line credit cards that feature a laundry list of benefits. The Platinum Card from American Express is no exception, as it is their most premium credit card product, including a number of different travel perks and benefits.
First things first, the annual fee is quite large and may seem like it is not worth it. At $550, it is one of the most expensive credit cards to have in your wallet, but for good reason. The many perks, benefits, and credits you receive with the card easily offset the fee by how much value you receive.
The sign-up bonus on this card is next to none. You can earn 75,000 Membership Rewards points after spending just $5,000 on the card within the first 6 months. You will also earn ten points per dollar on purchases at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets for the first 6 months (up to $15,000 in combined purchases), which is the highest earning in these categories on any card. The combination of a traditional sign-up bonus and an elevated earning intro offer alone make getting this card worth it.
The normal earning rates on this card are very generous for a travel credit card. You will earn five points per dollar when you book flights directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. You will also get 5X points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com. All other purchases earn one point per dollar. The points are worth $.01 each if you use them on amextravel.com to book travel, but they can be worth much more if you transfer them to one of the many hotel and airline transfer partners of the Membership Rewards program.
As a travel credit card, this card comes with many travel related perks and benefits. You will get $15 in Uber Cash (for rides or food orders) every month plus an additional $20 Uber Cash in December — a $200 value that anybody can use easily. You get access to the Global Lounge Collection, which covers over 1,300 airport lounges throughout the world. You also get a fee statement credit if you pay for TSA Pre-check or Global Entry with the card as well. You will get a $200 incidental credit to the airline of your choice every year that you have the card (for things like baggage and seat upgrades).
For hotel perks, you get additional benefits like free breakfast and late checkout when you book a stay with the Fine Hotels & Resorts Program. On stays of two nights or more at The Hotel Collection properties you receive a $100 credit for qualifying activities (like dining or spa treatments). If you tend to stay at one of the major hotel brands, you’re also in luck — you get complimentary gold elite status with both the Marriott and Hilton Honors loyalty programs.
Like all good travel credit cards, it also doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, has trip delay and cancellation insurance, and provides car rental loss and damage insurance. You also get elite status in premium car rental programs.
The card also comes with many other benefits for shopping and various purchases. You get purchase protection, return protection, and extended warranty. If you like to shop, you will also get a $50 statement credit twice a year for purchases made at Saks Fifth Avenue.
As you can see, there is a lot you will get with The Platinum Card from American Express. Although it carries a big annual fee, the card offers so much more in value every single year you have the card. This is easily our top recommendation for a premium travel credit card.
Best Business Credit Card – Chase Ink Business Preferred
If you are a business owner, you can’t go wrong with the Cash Ink Business Preferred credit card. This has long held a spot in the competition for the best business credit card for very good reason.
The card comes with a $95 annual fee, which is very reasonable considering the value you can get from this card. The sign-up bonus on this card is 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $15,000 in purchases on the card within the first 3 months. This is worth a minimum of $1,250, but possibly much more thanks to the flexibility in redemption for the points.
The bonus earning categories on this card are definitely catered towards business owners. You will earn three points per dollar (up to $150,000 in combined expenses each account anniversary year) on travel, shipping purchases, cable and phone services, internet, and on advertising on social media and search engines. All other purchases will earn one point per dollar. If you have a large business or one that has high expenses, maxing out the bonus could cover at least $5,625 in travel expenses for you.
The great thing about Chase Ultimate Rewards points is that they are a flexible point system — you can redeem them for cash (which equates to $.01 per point), travel through Chase, or transfer them to a number of different hotel and airline loyalty programs at a 1:1 ratio. You can find even more value by transferring your points to another travel loyalty program; you can sometimes find as much as 2x value per point.
The card also comes with a number of benefits for your travels. You won’t ever pay any foreign transaction fees, you get trip cancellation and interruption insurance, and you also get an auto rental collision damage waiver. On top of all of this, you get extended warranty protection, purchase protection, and cell phone protection (for you and employees listed on the monthly bill) on purchases made on the card. Employee cards for the account also won’t cost you extra.
The Chase Ink Business Preferred credit card is by far one of the best business credit cards available and probably the best among business cards with an annual fee below $100. This should be a top pick for anybody with a business.
Best Credit Card for Cash Back – Chase Freedom Unlimited
The Chase Freedom Unlimited has been one of the absolute best cash back credit cards on the market for a long time running. It recently went through a revamp that has made the card even better. You will be astounded at how much value this card offers, especially considering it has no annual fee.
First off, the card has no annual fee, which is the first positive feature. It also comes with a really great sign-up bonus that includes a cash bonus plus an elevated rewards rate. If you spend $500 on the card within the first 3 months, you will earn a $200 sign-up bonus. On top of the traditional sign-up bonus, you will also earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases during the first year, up to $12,000 in total grocery expenses. If you were to max out the grocery purchases, that could be an additional $600 in the first year.
Previously, the card strictly earned a solid 1.5% cash back on everything, but the recent changes to the card made additions without any subtractions. You can now earn 5% cash back on travel purchases made in the Chase Ultimate Rewards booking portal, 3% cash back on dining (including takeout and delivery) and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cash back on everything else. For a card with no annual fee, the earning potential of this card is almost unheard of.
The card also comes with a lengthy 0% intro APR period on purchases. You won’t pay any interest on purchases made for the first 15 months of card membership. We don’t recommend carrying over a balance from month to month generally (due to high interest rates on credit cards) but the interest free credit can be useful in very certain circumstances.
The card also comes with a number of other features and protections. You will get purchase protection for 120 days on purchases made with the card ($500 per claim and $50,000 per account), extended warranty protection, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver, and a free credit score. You will also get complimentary DashPass from DoorDash for 3 months and then 50% off the subscription for 9 more months. You will also get 5% cash back on Lyft rides when using the card.
One additional item to mention is that your cash back rewards can actually be redeemed for greater value if you have one of Chase’s Sapphire credit card products (Sapphire Reserve or Preferred) or the Chase Ink Business Preferred card (one of the other cards on our best credit card list). You can get 25%-50% more value if you convert your cash back rewards to Chase Ultimate Rewards points and redeem them for travel on Chase’s booking portal. You can also transfer the points to one of the many hotel and airline loyalty program partners and get even more value from your rewards. We highly recommend having one of these cards at the same time to truly maximize your earning potential.
As you can see, the Chase Freedom Unlimited really does give you (almost) unlimited benefits and cash back. Just be aware that because it is such a great card, it will require a good credit score for approval. If you open the Freedom Unlimited, you will not regret it.
The Value of a Really Great Credit Card
Depending on who you talk to, there might be strong opinions about credit cards. Some people refuse to have a credit card while some might like them a bit too much. Whether you fall into one of these camps or somewhere in the middle, you should understand that, when used responsibly, a credit card can be a very powerful financial tool.
No matter what credit card you choose or how many you choose to have, credit cards can be the most effective way to help build or rebuild your credit so long as you use them properly. If you make your payments on time and use 30% or less of your available credit each month, your credit score will almost certainly start increasing.
If you pay them off in full each month, you also won’t ever pay a single dime in interest. Having a great credit score can be worth a lot of money as it can give you better interest rates and terms for any long term debt you take on, like personal loans, a mortgage, or a car loan. This alone is the primary reason you should have at least one credit card in your wallet.
Many of the credit cards on the market also give you cash back, airline miles, or other rewards for making purchases with your card. If you choose to use a debit card or cash when you could just as easily use a credit card, you will lose out on a ton of value. Debit cards and cash won’t give you anything in return for your purchases and they don’t provide the same protections that credit cards do.
If you have a hard time keeping your spending in check and know that a credit card would not be healthy for you, then you should definitely stay away as they can pile up debt quickly. But if you are somebody that has their finances under control and isn’t prone to overspending, you should really have at least one credit card at your disposal.