This Guide was last updated on March 14, 2015. A new update is coming soon.
To keep this list up to date, the CreditShout team meets every month to go over the best credit cards on the market. For every good deal available, there may be 20 not-so-good deals. This makes it important to do your research before applying. We have literally spent hundreds of hours sifting through new cards and researching this stuff so you don’t have to.
Below is a list of our current top picks from each category, including the overall best cards.
What do we look for when compiling our list of best credit cards?
1. Generous rewards programs without hidden rewards caps, fees, or other fine print.
2. Attractive sign up incentives such as bonus cash back or points that are easy to redeem.
For Cash Back: Discover it® – 14 Month Balance Transfer
The Discover it card is a relatively new cash back card that allows you to earn 5% cash back in popular spending categories (like gas, groceries, entertainment) that rotate throughout the year. In addition you can earn up to 1% cash back on all other purchases that you make with this card.
We also love this card because of the online shopping perks. Discover it allows you to redeem the cash back you earn directly on Amazon.com or iTunes to pay for purchases. There is no waiting period to redeem your rewards, you choose what you want to buy and select the “pay with cashback” option during checkout.
If you shop through Discover’s ShopDiscover online mall you can earn up to an additional 20% cash back on purchases (on top of the 1 – 5% cash back you normally earn). This is really useful when you are making big purchases. If you are planning on buying a new Macbook for example, by purchasing with Apple through ShopDiscover you would earn an additional 5% cash back which could save you between $50 and $150!
However, Discover it takes the top spot on our list because of it’s transparency and lack of fine print. This is why Discover it is truly revolutionary. Unlike many rewards cards, there is no annual fee with this card. You also won’t be charged a fee the first time you pay late, and your interest rate won’t be increased.
For Building Credit: Milestone Gold MasterCard®
The Milestone Gold MasterCard® is a new card for people who are looking to improve their credit. The Milestone card allows you to see if you’re pre-qualified online before you apply for the card without impacting your credit score.
What we really like about this card is that unlike most cards for building credit – this is an actual MasterCard not just a catalog card and can be used at over 35 million locations worldwide.
This is also one of the few cards that you can apply for with a previous bankruptcy or other past credit issues. The Milestone Gold MasterCard® also comes with zero liability protection and online account access.
Travel Rewards: Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® which is a relative newcomer to the travel credit cards arena, has a phenomenal rewards program that rivals even the most popular travel cards by Capital One and American Express.
With this card you earn 2x miles on all purchases and in addition you also earn 10% of your miles back when you redeem for travel. The generous structure of the rewards program gives the Arrival card a significant advantage over any other travel rewards card currently on the market.
With the 2x miles version of this card you can also earn 40,000 bonus miles after making $3,000 in purchases during your first 90 days – this is equivalent to receiving $400 in free travel!
Travel Rewards (No Annual Fee): Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®
The no annual fee version of the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard gives you 2x miles on travel and dining purchases. This is equivalent to the Chase Sapphire Preferred card which has a $95 annual fee!
You then also receive 1x miles on all other purchases you make with the card, as there are no caps or foreign transaction fees. With this card you also receive 10% of your miles back if you choose to redeem them for travel.
The no annual fee version of the Arrival card is offering a 20,000 mile sign up bonus (equivalent to $200 in travel rewards) if you make $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of cardmembership.
Average Credit: Barclaycard® Rewards MasterCard®
The Barclaycard® Rewards MasterCard® is an excellent card for people with average credit who are looking to earn rewards. With this card you’ll receive 2 points per $1 spent on gas, grocery, and utility purchases and 1 point per $1 everywhere else. There are no limits to the rewards you can earn, and no blackout dates when redeeming points for travel. This card also has no annual fee and the rewards system overall is very simple and easy to understand. Cardholders also receive their complementary monthly FICO scores on their statement or online through the Barclaycard website.
For Students: Discover it® for Students
Discover it for Students has a rewards program that is identical to the regular Discover it card (up to 5% cash back on purchases) making this our top card choice for students in 2013. Many student credit cards have watered down rewards program, and high interest rates.
What’s amazing about this card is it gives college students access to the same rewards program and perks traditionally reserved for people with excellent credit.
This means that you can earn up to 5% cash back on purchases in popular spending categories that rotate throughout the year, and 1% cash back on all other purchases you make.
As with the standard Discover it Card, what really sets this card apart from is the lack of hidden fees and fine print. Discover it for Students has no annual fee, no over-the-limit fee, no fee the first time you pay late and your APR won’t in increased in that situation either.