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The CreditShout team meets regularly to to find the top credit card deals available, whether you are looking for cash back, travel rewards, balance transfer offers, or a recommendation to help you build up your credit profile. Below is a list of our editor's pick for the best credit cards for 2018.
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.
What do we look for when compiling our list of best credit cards?
- Generous rewards programs without hidden rewards caps, fees, or other fine print.
- Attractive sign up incentives such as bonus cash back or points that are easy to redeem.
- Simplicity - clear and concise terms and conditions and easy to use rewards programs. This includes no hidden fees or "gotchas".
Top Overall Card for 2018: Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
Generally, we prefer cash back credit cards because their offerings usually are the simplest to take advantage of and offer the most value.
This year, however, is different because we found that Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® provided not only more value than any other travel rewards card, it provided more value than any other credit card. (Click here to learn more about our analysis and to see other top travel rewards programs.)
The great advantage of this card is that it is simple to use: you get 2 miles for each dollar you spend, and a 5% bonus each time you redeem your miles for travel. This makes each $1 you spend worth up to $.021 (or a flat 2.1%).
Program Highlights Include:
- Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit
- Earn 2X miles on all purchases
- Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
- Miles don't expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
- No foreign transaction fees on purchases made while traveling abroad
- 0% introductory APR for 12 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness. There is a fee for balance transfer.
FYI, this card does come with an annual fee of $89 -- but it is waived for the first year. And the fee is a bargain for all the benefits you get.
New Card of the Year: Chase Sapphire Reserve
Annual Fee: $450
Credit Required: Excellent
Just launched in September, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is brand new.
It comes with a stellar sign up offer: the opportunity to earn a whopping 100,000 bonus points by spending $4,000 in your first 90 days with the card.
And it comes with some other great perks (highlighted below).
However, the $450 annual fee (which is not waived for the first year) and the fact that you earn only 1 point per $1 spent in most categories hold this card back.
In fact, these limitations are not enough to overcome the great welcome offer and the 50% bonus you get when redeeming your points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.
We suspect that the Sapphire Reserve will be a card you read about on the internet more than you see in person. And if you want to see how this card compares to the Amex Platinum Card, click here.
Program Highlights Include:*
- New! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,500 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases such as airfare and hotels charged to your card
- 3X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Plus, no foreign transaction fees
- Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 100,000 points are worth $1,500 toward travel
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Access to 900+ airport lounges worldwide with complimentary Priority Pass™ Select membership
- Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre√®
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
For Cash Back: Discover it® Cash Rewards Card
Thanks to Discover generously offering to double your cash back for the first year (if you are a new cardmember), Discover was able to retain its title as the King of Cash Back Credit Cards.
The pros for Discover are a generous rewards program, great cardholder perks, and top rates customer service.
However, this title is tenuous for the following reasons:
- It is based on a crazy generous sign up bonus.
- We still don't like that spending caps on the 5% bonus categories. Or that rotating rewards encourage spending.
- Many people will do better with simple 2% cash back cards or bonus rewards that do not rotate.
Before applying, you may also want to review our Guide to Cash Back Credit Cards to see our recommended cash back strategies and spending assumptions. As well as check out some great alternatives.
Best Card for Average Credit: Capital One® QuickSilverOne® Rewards Card
If you have average or limited credit, this is the card you want.
Not only does it offer a cash back rewards program, it has an introductory zero percent APR offer with no transfer fee during the first 60 days!
The QuickSilverOne offers a great rewards program, great rates, and a low annual fee. In fact, the only difference with the QuckSilver card is that QuickSilverOne has the $39 annual fee.
Cardholders also receive their complementary monthly credit scores on their statement or online.
- Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
- No rotating categories or sign ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back doesn't expire and there's no limit to how much you can earn
- 0% intro APR on purchases on purchases and balance transfers for 9 months - with no fee for transfers; 23.24% variable APR after that
- Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
- Fraud coverage if your card is ever lost or stolen
- Enjoy unlimited access to your credit score and tools to help you monitor your credit profile with CreditWise®.
Top Card for Poor Credit: Milestone® Gold Mastercard®
The Milestone® Gold Mastercard® is a new card for people with good or fair 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 those with below average credit is that this card is an actual Mastercard® -- not just a catalog card. This means it 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 online account access and reports to all three major credit bureaus. Making it a great card for those with limited credit history, poor credit, or a prior bankruptcy on their record.
Be advised that this card does come with an annual fee ranging from $35 - $99, depending on your creditworthiness.
The Milestone® Gold Mastercard® also has a version available for those with fair, average or good credit. It has the same specs as detailed above, and also allows for approval with prior bankruptcies. You can learn more about that version of the Milestone card by clicking here.
Most Versatile Credit Card: Costco Anywhere Visa
The Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi went live on June 20, 2016.
We already ranked it against all other cash back cards, and even compared its rewards program to other popular card to demonstrate how the Costco Anywhere Visa can help you save on common household items.
And, frankly, we think its generous rewards program may soon have it ranked among the tops of gas cards and travel rewards cards as well. The new Anywhere Visa is a nice improvement over the old True Earnings card. And not just the best new card of 2016, but one of our overall favorites.
Highlights of the New Costco Card:
- 4% cash back on gas for the first $7,000 per year, and then 1% thereafter (at Costco and stand-alone gas stations)
- 3% cash back on restaurants and travel
- 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com
- 1% cash back on all other purchases
- Rewards from your True Earnings card transferred automatically to your new card
Best Business Credit Card: Chase Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
The new Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card launched at the end of 2016, and promises to be one of the most popular business credit cards of 2017.
Well, it may be the whopping welcome offer of 80,000 boys points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months.
And the opportunity to earn 3 points per dollar on your travel, shipping, internet, phone and social media advertising spending. (Up to your first $150,000 in combines annual spending.)
The rewards you can earn with this business card more than make up for the $95 annual fee.
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in select categories each account anniversary year
- Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases–with no limit to the amount you can earn
- Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more – your points don't expire as long as your account is open
- No foreign transaction fees
- Employee cards at no additional cost
- $95 Annual Fee
Top Balance Transfer Credit Cards of 2017
If you are really in need of a 0% balance transfer offer, there are a ton out there right now.
Our favorite is the Chase Slate card (read our review) because you can get 0% APR for 15 months on your balance transfers and new purchases, with no balance transfer fee! Be advices, though, that the Chase Slate does not offer any rewards program.
If you do not have excellent credit, you may want to check out the Capital One Quicksilver One cash rewards card. (Read our review.) It is offering 0% APR financing on balance transfers and new purchases for 9 months, also with a $0 transfer fee.
It does come with a $39 annual fee. But you only need fair credit to qualify.
One last recommendation is the Citi Double Cash Card (read our review) - which offers 0% APR financing on balance transfers and new purchases. It does come with a 3% balance transfer fee. But you might like its excellent rewards program, which allows you to earn 1% cash back at the time of purchase and an additional 1% cash back as you pay for those purchases.*
Instead of a balance transfer, you may want to consider a low interest rate credit card refinance loan.
The Best Student Credit Cards
We love both the Discover it for Students card and the Capital One Journey card.
What's amazing about these cards are that they give college students (i.e., people with limited credit histories) access to the same rewards programs and perks traditionally reserved for people with good or excellent credit.
The advantage of the Discover card is that it offers the exact rewards program as the regular Discover it card (up to 5% cash back on purchases) making this our top card choice for students in 2016. Many student credit cards have watered down rewards program, and high interest rates.
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.
The advantage of the Journey Student Rewards card is its simple rewards program: Earn 1% cash back on all purchases, plus a 25% bonus on the cash back you earn each month you pay on time, for a total of 1.25% cash back. And there is no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn, and your rewards will not expire.
Plus, we have spoke to some students who maintain that it is far easier to qualify for the Capital One Journey card.
You can read our Guide to the Best Student Credit Cards to learn more.
Whether you are looking for a card type not listed here (such as a no annual fee travel rewards card or a secured credit card), guides to cards by issuers, or individual card reviews, you may want to check out our Credit Card page.
We recommend knowing your credit score before applying for a new card. It will give you a better of the type of offerings you can qualify for. If you do not know your credit score, you might want to check out our resources for free credit scores.
Lastly, you may want to check out CardMatch by CreditCards.com to see what kind of rewards cards are available for people like you. It is free to use, won't hurt your credit score, and - best of all - you can often find better rewards for the same cards just by using CardMatch. Read our review to learn more.