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SmartAsset’s Best Credit Cards of 2019

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by Chris Thompson | Updated Aug. 19, 2019

Overview of the SmartAsset’s Best Credit Cards of 2019

As with other consumer and financial products, there are credit cards designed specifically to meet a variety of needs. Those who need to rebuild their credit need a secured credit card, while those who have existing debt can benefit from a balance transfer card that offers 0% APR promotional financing. And if you're concerned about interest charges on your future purchases, you can apply for a card with a 0% APR financing on new purchases. Alternatively, you can use a reward card to earn travel rewards, or a small business card to earn rewards from your company's purchases. Here are the best cards for each of these categories. See More

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Best Travel Credit Card

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  • Earn 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 in your first 3 months with the card. When redeemed for travel through Chase that equals $750!
  • Earn 2 points on travel and dining purchases around the world and 1 point per dollar on everything else
  • When redeeming points for travel such as airfare, hotels, car rentals, and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards receive 25% more value

Annual Fee

$95

Purchase Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfer Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

18.24% - 25.24% Variable

Benefits

Whether you travel for business or pleasure, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card can help you do it cheaper. Any travel or dining purchases you make with this card will result in 2x points per dollar spent, while every other dollar you spend will earn 1 point.

Building up a large points base quickly is doable with this card as spending $4,000 during your first three months as a cardholder will earn you a 60,000-point bonus. And when you book your travel plans through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, you’ll get 25% more value for the points you’re redeeming. You can also transfer your points to partner travel programs typically at a 1:1 ratio. Partner airline programs include British Airways Executive Club, Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®, United MileagePlus® and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and partner hotel programs include IHG® Rewards Club, Marriott Bonovoy, and World of Hyatt.

Feel free to take your card with you when you’re traveling abroad, because you won’t be subject to a foreign transaction fee on purchases made outside of the U.S.

Things to Consider

For some, the $95 annual fee is a real drawback so you’ll have to decide if the card’s many benefits are worth it to you.

It’s also worth noting that there are no introductory APRs with this card, a perk that many other travel-centric cards offer. This means you’ll face a variable APR between 18.24% and 25.24% right off the bat.

Our Verdict

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers some of the best and most sustainable travel rewards benefits of any such card on the market. If you like to travel, and do it often, you’ll want to consider this option. You can chose to redeem points at a number of travel partners, so you don’t need to worry about being loyal to a single airline or hotel. Alternatively, you can book your travel directly through Chase Ultimate Rewards® and earn extra value for the points you’re redeeming.

Compare Similar Travel Offers

Best No Annual Fee Credit Card

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  • 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
  • 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. After the intro APR ends, 17.24% - 25.24% Variable APR will apply
  • If you’re a Preferred Rewards member, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75% more points on every purchase

Annual Fee

$0

Purchase Intro APR

0% Introductory APR on purchases for 12 billing cycles

Balance Transfer Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

17.24% - 25.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Benefits

If you’re in the market for a rewards card with no annual fee, Bank of America has your back with its Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card. Every purchase you make with this card (regardless of category or type) will earn you 1.5 points per dollar spent. There are no limits or expirations placed on your rewards total.

You can get a pretty simple 20,000-point boost by spending $1,000 during your first 90 days as a cardholder. Bank of America Preferred Rewards members are eligible for 25% - 75% bonus points, depending on their client level.

As is befitting a travel rewards card, this card has no foreign transaction fees meaning you can use it overseas without worrying about racking up additional charges.

In addition to the low fee structure and solid rewards program, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card also offers a 0% introductory APR on all purchases for 12 billing cycles.

Things to Consider

As we mentioned this credit card has a generous 12-billing cycle 0% APR on purchases, however this intro APR does not extend to balance transfers. So if you’d hoped to make a balance transfer, this is likely not the card you’d want to use.

In addition the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card has an up-to 29.99% variable penalty APR. This could become troublesome if you make a late payment or miss paying your minimum balance for two months or more.

Our Verdict

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card is a solid rewards card with no annual or foreign transaction fees, making it a great option for travelers and everyday credit card users alike. The 1.5% unlimited rewards rate makes it easy to earn points without having to keep track of rotating categories.

Best Bonus Cash Back Card

More Details

  • If you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening, earn a $150 bonus
  • Earn 5% cash back in selected categories that change each quarter, up to $1,500 in combined purchases. Categories must be opted into each quarter to earn the 5%.
  • Earn 1% cash back on everything else
  • Receive 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, then an ongoing variable APR of 17.24%-25.99%.
  • Intro balance transfer fee of 3% during the first 60 days of account opening, minimum of $5.
  • Pay no annual fee
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back, plus rewards don't expire as long as your account is open and in good standing
  • Receive a free credit score, updated every week from Credit Journey

Annual Fee

$0

Purchase Intro APR

0% for 15 months

Balance Transfer Intro APR

0% for 15 months

Regular APR

17.24% - 25.99% Variable

Benefits

If you’re someone who enjoys keeping track of rotating bonus rewards categories, the Chase Freedom card is likely the perfect fit for you. With this card, you’ll have the opportunity to earn 5% cash back in rotating categories – as long as you activate. This applies for up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter. You’ll earn 1% cash back on purchases in all other categories.

You can also earn $150 cash back if you spend $500 during your first three months with the card.

Cards with so much direct cash back potential often have higher maintenance costs to offset those rewards, but that isn’t the case here. Not only is there no annual membership fee, you’ll also receive a 0% introductory APR for 15 months on both purchases and balance transfers. After the intro period has ended, an ongoing APR of 17.24% - 25.99% Variable will apply.

Things to Consider

The 5% cash back rate is simply unmatched in most other cash back cards. However, because that rate only applies to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter, that earnings rate will cap at $6,000 each year. Plus, rotating categories must be opted into each quarter, or you will receive the base earnings rate of 1%.

Our Verdict

The Chase Freedom card offers cardholders a significant amount of bonus cash back on specific categories that change throughout the year. All other purchases earn 1% cash back. This is an impressive rewards system, especially given the fact that there’s no annual fee on this card.

Compare Similar Cash Back Bonus Offers

Best Everyday Rewards Credit Card

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  • No annual fee
  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 3% cash back on gas or your choice of one of five other popular categories, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and unlimited 1% on all other purchases (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases)
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 16.24% - 26.24% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to balance transfers
  • No expiration on rewards
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% - 75% more cash back on every purchase

Annual Fee

$0

Purchase Intro APR

0% Introductory APR on purchases for 12 billing cycles

Balance Transfer Intro APR

0% Intro APR for 12 billing cycles for balance transfers made in the first 60 days

Regular APR

16.24% - 26.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Benefits

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card gives you the opportunity to earn cash back on everyday buys. You’ll get 3% cash back in one choice category and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, though you can only earn these rates on up to $2,500 of combined grocery/wholesale club/choice category purchases each quarter. All other purchases earn 1% cash back.

You can kick off your cash back earnings by receiving $200 for spending $1,000 during your first 90 days as a cardholder. If you are a Preferred Rewards member, your bonus will increase to 25% - 75%.

With such a solid rewards program it’s a wonder that this card doesn’t come with high fees and APRs. Not only is there no annual fee, but you’ll also receive a 12-billing cycle 0% introductory APR on purchases and on balance transfers made within 60 days of your account’s opening.

Things to Consider

The most obvious rewards-based drawback of this card is the combined cash back spending limit of $2,500 in one choice category, grocery store, and wholesale club purchases each quarter. While it shouldn’t significantly weaken what you can earn, this cap will definitely affect some.

The penalty APR of up to 29.99% variable is also worth keeping an eye on. If you make a late payment or miss paying your minimum balance for 60 days or more, this penalty APR will apply on top of the regular APR.

Our Verdict

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card is an excellent option for those looking for a no annual fee credit card that rewards spending on everyday purchases.

Best Balance Transfer Credit Card

More Details

  • Intro balance transfer fee of $0 for the first 60 days. After that, the balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred with a minimum of $5.
  • Receive 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After that, an ongoing 17.24% - 25.99% variable APR.
  • Credit score free - updated every week with Credit Journey
  • Paying late won't raise your APR
  • No annual fee

Annual Fee

$0

Purchase Intro APR

0% for 15 months

Balance Transfer Intro APR

0% for 15 months

Regular APR

17.24% - 25.99% Variable

Benefits

Anyone in the market for a balance transfer credit card should consider the Chase Slate credit card. You won’t be charged a balance transfer fee on balances you transfer during the first 60 days you have the card. You’ll also receive a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months.

There’s no annual fee with the Chase Slate credit card and you’ll have unlimited, free access to your FICO® credit score free.

Things to Consider

The 15-month, 0% introductory purchase and balance transfer APR of the Chase Slate credit card begins at account opening. On the other hand, the $0 introductory balance transfer fee is only available during the first 60 days.

Unlike many of its competitors, this card doesn’t offer the opportunity to earn any rewards.

Our Verdict

In a hurry to make a balance transfer? The Chase Slate credit card could be right for you. With 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers and the added benefit of the first 60 days being free of a balance transfer fee, this card stands out in a crowded field.

Best Student Credit Card

More Details

  • 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 and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 15.24% - 24.24%.

Annual Fee

$0

Purchase Intro APR

0% for 6 Months

Balance Transfer Intro APR

10.99% for 6 Months

Regular APR

15.24% - 24.24% Variable

Benefits

Students and younger people in general typically have a harder time getting a solid credit card, as they usually haven’t had the chance to build up much credit history. However, the Discover it® for Students is beginning to shift that script.

First of all, there’s no annual fee with this card, which is a positive for students who may be on a tight budget. Second the card has a six-month 0% intro APR on purchases. While it’s always best to pay your credit card in full (and on time) every month, this is not always possible. This 0% intro APR gives students a little wiggle room at the beginning should they need it.

Each quarter, cardholders can earn 5% cash back in rotating categories that you activate up to a specified amount. Outside of those categories, cardholders earn 1% cash back. Then at the end of your first year with the card, Discover will match your overall earnings, doubling your cash back total. Keeping your grades high has a major incentive as well, as those with a GPA of 3.0 or higher will get a $20 statement credit each school year, for up to five years.

Things to Consider

There aren’t many negatives to this student-focused card, but its 15.24% to 24.24% variable APR range could afford some young cardholders with a possibly expensive interest rate. Discover will forgive your first late payment though.

Our Verdict

Students are usually forced to stick to debit cards or cash, but the Discover it® for Students is an excellent option for young people looking to start building credit and learn how to use credit wisely. The card has no annual fee and gives students the opportunity to earn some cold hard cash back for their spending.

Best Secured Credit Card

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  • With responsible card use, this card can help you build credit – all with no annual fee
  • Unlike prepaid or debit cards, this card regularly reports to the 3 major credit bureaus which helps build credit when used responsibly
  • Your security deposit of $49, $99, or $200 is determined based on your creditworthiness which will give you an initial credit line of $200
  • After you make your first 5 monthly payments on time, you can gain access to a higher credit line with no additional deposit
  • Manage your account 24 hours a day from anywhere – by phone, online or on the Capital One mobile app
  • The Capital One Secured Mastercard is accepted at millions of locations around the world

Annual Fee

$0

Purchase Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfer Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

26.99% Variable

Benefits

For those looking to build their credit from the ground up or repair their damaged credit, the Capital One Secured Mastercard offers a safe and beneficial way to do just that. You’ll start off by making a $49, $99 or $200 refundable security deposit to Capital One to cover your opening credit line of $200. You can deposit more money before your account opens to receive a higher credit line. Your security deposit amount will depend on your credit score and history.

If you make your first five monthly balance payments on time and without incident, you’ll be given the chance to raise your credit limit without having to lay any more money on the line. There’s no annual membership fee for cardholders, giving you a prime, low-cost opportunity to make sure you improve your credit.

Capital One also offers a helpful credit monitoring service called CreditWise, which cardholders get unlimited access to. You can use this whenever you’d like to see how your recent decisions are forming your credit’s future.

Things to Consider

The 26.99% variable APR that all cardholders receive is pretty solid in comparison to other secured credit cards, but it’s still considered a high interest rate.

This is likely the “missing piece” of any secured card, but it’s worth noting that the Capital One Secured Mastercard does not come with any rewards system.

Our Verdict

As far as secured credit cards go, the Capital One Secured Mastercard offers a simple credit-building program that affords plenty of benefit to cardholders who use it correctly.

Compare Similar Secure Offers

Best Credit Card for Small Businesses

More Details

  • Earn 80,000 points when spending $5,000 in purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. If you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards towards travel, this would be equal to $1,000!
  • Earn 3 points per dollar spent on the first $150K in combined purchases in select categories each anniversary year
  • All other purchases earn one point per dollar with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • Receive 25% more points when redeeming for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
  • Points can be redeemed for travel, cash back, gift cards and more - plus, your points don't expire as long as your account is open and in good standing
  • No foreign transaction fees if you need to travel overseas on business
  • Receive additional cards for your employees at no additional cost
  • A annual fee of $95 will apply

Annual Fee

$95

Purchase Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfer Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

18.24% - 23.24% Variable

Benefits

As a small business owner, you’re likely looking for ways to save money or get a return on your many investments, and the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card will allow you to do just that. Every dollar you spend up to a combined $150,000 on travel, shipping, internet/phone services and advertising on social media and search engines will earn your 3 points with this card. All other purchases will yield 1 point per dollar.

If you charge $5,000 or more to your card during your first three months as a cardholder, you can quickly boost that total by 80,000 points. Then, redeem your earnings through Chase Ultimate Rewards® to cover any travel costs you might have, and receive 25% more value on your point total.

If you’d like to have connected cards given to your managers or other employees, there’s no extra fee to do so. And if you or your employees’ trips are ever abroad, you can bring your Ink Business Preferred Credit Card with you as there are no foreign transaction fees to fret about.

Things to Consider

There is a $95 annual fee for this card. That’s not a particularly high fee for a business card but it’s still one you should be aware of.

You’ll also want to make sure that you stay on top of your payments as there is an up to 29.99% variable penalty APR if you miss making a minimum payment or your payment is returned.

Our Verdict

If traveling is an overbearing expense for you and your small business, the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card can help significantly ease that strain by giving you rewards points that will eventually lower your overall cost.

Compare Similar Small Business Offers

Methodology SmartAsset has developed a quantitative and independent system for evaluating the relative value of a credit card offer versus other offers in the marketplace. Our system evaluates cards based exclusively on their features, such as their rewards earning rate (if applicable), fees, perks, and rewards program redemption options. The annual rewards values on this page are calculated using annual spending assumptions in various categories such as, but not limited to, gas, restaurants, airfare, and US supermarkets. These spending assumptions are built on research that SmartAsset has conducted on existing 0% APR credit cardholders. Our promise with our credit card recommendations is that we will always strive to have the most comprehensive, accurate, and objective method of evaluating credit card offers. Any recommendations are solely determined by the result of this research and model, and is never influenced by any fees, commissions, or other forms of compensation that SmartAsset may receive from credit card issuers for leads generated on our website.

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Best Places to Apply for a Credit Card

SmartAsset’s interactive map highlights the places in the country where people have the lowest credit risk and are most likely to be approved for their next card. Click between states and the national map to see the best places to apply for a credit card.

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Rank City Credit Score Credit Utilization Late Payments Rate

Methodology Our study aims to find the best places to apply for a new credit card. To do this, we analyzed three factors: credit score, credit utilization and late payments rate. These are three of the factors used by credit card issuers to determine whether an applicant is approved or denied for a new credit card.

To calculate our rankings, we indexed each factor and calculated an overall index by taking a weighted average of each of these indices. We weighted credit score as 40%, credit utilization as 30% and late payments rate as 30%.

The top-ranking cities and states had a high credit score, low credit utilization and a low late payments rate. This means people there are a low credit risk and more likely to be approved when applying for a credit card.

Sources: Experian