Today’s best credit cards in 11 categories

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Best credit card promotions for November 2016

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This editorial content is not provided or commissioned by any of the referenced financial institutions or companies. Opinions, analysis, reviews or recommendations expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any financial institutions or companies, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any such entity. All products or services are presented without warranty.

Today’s best credit cards feature outstanding rewards, big bonus offers, long 0 percent APR intro periods and low fees.

Whether you’re looking for a top rewards card or a card that can help you build credit, this list includes something for everyone.

CreditCards.com recently rounded up the best credit cards for January 2017 from its partners.

We’ve narrowed down its list to the top 11 in different categories: overall rewards; airline and travel rewards; everyday cash back; balance transfer; 0 percent intro APR; points rewards; flat-rate cash back; business; secured card for bad credit; unsecured card for bad credit; and student.

RATE SEARCH: Compare the best rewards credit cards.

Here are today’s best credit cards in 11 categories:

1. Top overall rewards card: Chase Freedom Unlimited

An outstanding cash-back program and a generous introductory statement credit earns the Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card a top spot on CreditCards.com’s January list.

Highlights: 

  • The Chase Freedom Unlimited card pays 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase.
  • Cardholders can earn a solid $150 bonus statement credit for spending $500 purchases within the first three months of opening an account.
  • This card allows you to redeem rewards for cash in any amount at any time. Those cash back rewards don’t expire as long as the account is open.

Who should get this card:  

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is ideal for the consumer who wants a straightforward card for everyday purchases and no annual fee. It offers a wide range of redemption options for rewards. And because of its 0 percent 15-month intro APR on purchases and balance transfers, this card can be a good option for those who would like to make a big purchase and slowly pay it off. After the initial intro period, the card has a variable APR of 15.49 percent to 24.24 percent.

This card is especially useful for those who already hold other high-end Chase cards (like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Ink Plus Business Card) since Chase Ultimate Rewards® can be transferred to other Chase cards.

But while the Chase Freedom Unlimited has its perks, it has its limitations as well. This card’s rate on cash back is good, but it’s not the highest flat-rate available — the Citi® Double Cash Card offers 1 percent cash back on every dollar spent plus an additional 1 percent on every dollar that’s paid off.  And there are no bonus categories with the Chase Freedom Unlimited. Those who spend frequently in one area may find that a card with bonus categories offers more value.

2. Top airline and travel card: Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite Mastercard®

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite Mastercard® earns high points in the travel category for its generous rewards, outstanding bonus and flexible redemption options.

Highlights:

  • The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite Mastercard® offers double miles on all purchases.
  • Cardholders have the chance to earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. That’s enough to redeem for a $500 travel statement credit.
  • Miles can be redeemed for travel purchases and you can get 5 percent 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.

Who should get this card:

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite Mastercard® is ideal for the frequent international traveler. It offers a high rewards rate and the flexibility to book with any airline, hotel or cruise line. Not only that, but it includes complimentary travel card concierge service in addition to travel accident and trip cancellation insurance.

But if you want to transfer miles to other loyalty programs, or you don’t travel often, this might not be the card for you.

This card has no foreign transaction fees and a variable APR of 16.49 percent, 20.49 percent or 23.49 percent, based on creditworthiness. The $89 annual fee is waived for the first year.

RATE SEARCH: Compare the best airline and travel credit cards.

3. Top everyday cash back card: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express gets high praise for its top-notch rewards on categories. Not only did it make CreditCards.com’s January list of top deals, but it tied for second place with the Chase Freedom Unlimited card in CreditCard.com’s recent cash back card competition.

Highlights:

  • The Blue Cash Preferred® offers 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets up to $6,000 per year. It offers 3 percent cash back at U.S. gas stations and select department stores. It pays 1 percent on all other purchases.
  • For the first six months, the Blue Cash Preferred® card offers 5 percent cash back on eligible travel purchases up to $200.
  • The Blue Cash Preferred® offers a $150 statement credit after spending $1,000 within the first three months of opening an account.

Who should get this card:

The Blue Cash Preferred® credit card is best for those who spend big in the card’s main categories: groceries, gas and department stores.

It’s important to note that this card has a spending cap. The $6,000 annual spending cap on groceries means the most you could earn is $360 at 6 percent before the relatively low 1 percent rate kicks in. American Express also isn’t as widely used as Visa, MasterCard and Discover. That might make it necessary to keep a backup card, or to use this card strategically with others.

In addition, the $95 annual fee is higher than other cash-back cards. It has a variable APR between 13.49 percent and 23.49 percent.

RATE SEARCH: Compare the cash back credit cards.

4. Best balance transfer card: The Chase Slate®

The Chase Slate® credit card gets takes the top spot in the balance transfer category for its generous intro period and stance on late payments.

Highlights:

  • The Chase Slate® gives cardholders a 15-month no-interest intro period on balance transfers.
  • There’s no balance transfer fee if you transfer a balance during the first 60 days the account is open. After that, the fee for future balance transfers is 5 percent of the amount transferred with a minimum of $5.

Who should get this card

The Chase Slate® is a good option if you’re looking for a straightforward balance transfer card with a moderate 0 percent intro period, a 0 percent balance transfer fee and flexibility on late payments.

This card has no annual fee and no penalty APR for late payments, offering cardholders flexibility. After the 15-month intro period, the rate for purchases and balance transfers on the Chase Slate® is a variable 15.49 percent to 24.24 percent.

While the Chase Slate® has a better-than-average zero percent APR intro period, it’s certainly not the longest intro period available. That honor goes to the Citi Simplicity® Card, with a 21-month 0 percent APR intro period. And with the Chase Slate®, your balance transfer can’t exceed $15,000 or your credit limit, whichever is lower. You also can’t transfer debt from another Chase account.

RATE SEARCH: Compare the best balance transfer cards.

5. Best 0 percent APR intro period card: Citi Simplicity® Card

The Citi Simplicity® Card takes the top spot as a 0 percent APR card for its outstanding promotional offer and lenient stance on late payments.

Highlights:

  • The Citi Simplicity® Card offers a zero percent intro APR for 21 months on purchases and balance transfers. That’s the longest interest-free intro period available.
  • There are no late fees with this card, giving borrowers the flexibility and help they need to pay off high-interest debt.
  • This card has no annual fee and no penalty rate, making it a great choice for consumers on a budget.

Who should get this card:

The Citi Simplicity® Card is ideal for the consumer that needs a long balance transfer period or wants to make a big purchase and pay it off slowly. And because of its generous stance on late fees (there are none), it’s also a solid option if you need flexibility with payments.

But unlike some of its competitors, the Citi Simplicity® Card doesn’t offer the ability to earn rewards for purchases. And though this card’s 3 percent balance transfer rate is on the low side, a 3 percent balance transfer on multiple cards with high balance can add up fast.

After the 21-month 0 percent intro period, this card has an ongoing variable APR of 13.49 percent to 23.49 percent.

6. Top points rewards card: Chase Sapphire Preferred® card

When it comes to points rewards, it’s hard to beat the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card’s generous rewards, stellar sign-up bonus and low annual fee. It made CreditCards.com’s list of January promos as well as the site’s list of best rewards credit cards for October 2016.

Highlights:

  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred® offers cardholders two points per dollar on travel and restaurants worldwide. All other purchases on this card earn one point per dollar.
  • Cardholders can earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within the first three months of opening the account. Notably, that’s $625 toward travel when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program.
  • For adding an authorized user within the first three months of opening an account, this card offers $5,000 bonus points.

Who should get this card:

If you’re looking for an everyday, low-fee travel card with great perks, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card is worth consideration. It’s especially useful if you’re comfortable using the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program — when redeemed through the program, points are worth 25 percent more. That means you’ll also enjoy this card if you frequently fly through Chase’s travel partners, like United, Virgin Atlantic or Southwest .

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card has no introductory fee for the first year. After that, the fee is $95 per year, or $355 less than the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. It has a variable APR from 16.49 percent to 23.49 percent.

7. Top flat-rate cash back card: Citi® Double Cash Credit Card

In addition to making the cut for CreditCards.com’s January promo list, the Citi® Double Cash Credit Card recently took first place in its cash back credit card competition. Its industry-leading cash back on everyday purchases and simple rewards structure make it a standout choice.

Highlights: 

  • The Citi® Double Cash card offers 1 percent cash back on general purchases and an additional 1 percent when you pay your bill on time.
  • There’s no limit on what you can earn in cash back with this card. You can start redeeming for as little as $25. Redemption options include a statement credit, a gift card or a check.
  • The Citi® Double Cash card has no annual fee, making it cheaper than some competing cards, such as the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express.

Who should get this card:

The Citi® Double Cash credit card is best for those who would like a flat-rate, everyday cash back card with no limits on rewards and an easy-to-use rewards structure. There’s no chasing bonus categories, no rotating categories and no annual fee.

It also comes with a 0 percent APR on balance transfers for 18 months. That makes it a good option for those interested in consolidating and paying down debt. After that, the variable APR is between 13.49 percent and 23.49 percent.

8. Best business card: Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

The Chase Ink Business Preferred credit card ranks high for its generous bonus and points on business-related spending.

Highlights:

  • The Chase Ink Preferred card offers three points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on select categories each account anniversary year. You can earn one point per $1 spent on all other purchases with no limit.
  • After spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening an account, the card offers 80,000 bonus points.
  • Points are worth 25 percent more when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program.

Who should get this card:  

The Chase Ink Preferred credit card is ideal for the business owner that spends heavily on the card’s bonus categories. It’s also a good option if you plan on spending at least $5,000 within the first three months to earn the bonus, which is equal to $1,000 toward travel when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program.

This card comes with an annual fee of $95 and a variable APR of 16.49 percent to 21.49 percent. If you spend enough to cancel out the $95 annual fee, and rarely carry a balance, this card is worth serious consideration.

9. Best secured credit card for bad credit: Capital One® Secured MasterCard®

No annual fee and the ability to easily build credit put the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® at the top of CreditCard.com’s list in the secured cards for bad credit category.

Highlights:

  • The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® offers a $200 credit line after depositing $49, $99 or $200, depending on creditworthiness. If additional money is deposited before the account opens, a higher credit line is available up to $3,000.
  • Regular reports are sent to the three major credit bureaus when this card is used.
  • After making the first five monthly payments on time (without having to make an additional deposit), you’ll get access to a higher credit line.

Who should get this card:

The ability to get a higher credit limit and easily build or rebuild credit make this card a solid option for anyone with a low credit score. And some competing cards have more fees and restrictions attached to them than the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®, making this option an attractive one.

But the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® card does carry a high variable APR (24.99 percent). If you typically maintain carry a balance, you can expect to pay quite a bit in interest.

10. Best unsecured credit card for bad credit: Credit One Bank® Unsecured Platinum Visa® Credit Card

The Credit One Bank® Unsecured Platinum Visa® Credit Card’s lack of a deposit requirement, cash back rewards, flexible payment policy and the ability to build or rebuild credit put it at the top of CreditCards.com’s list in the unsecured card category.

Best features:

  • When used, the Credit One Bank® Unsecured Platinum Visa® sends regular reports to the three major credit bureaus, helping to build your credit.
  • This card offers free online access to your credit score and credit report summary, which can help you track your progress.
  • Cardholders earn 1 percent cash back for gas or groceries purchases.

Who should get this card:

This card is ideal for the individual who wants to build credit while earning cash-back rewards for gas or grocery purchases. But if you often miss payments or typically carry a balance, the high fees on this card could quickly cancel out any rewards earned.

The Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® Credit Card includes an annual fee that ranges between $0 and $75 for the first year and between $0 and $99 for each following year. It has a variable APR that ranges between 15.65 percent and 24.15 percent.

RATE SEARCH: Compare the best credit cards for bad credit.

10. Best student credit card: Discover It® Chrome for Students

The Discover It® Chrome makes the list as a standout card for students. It offers the opportunity to earn cash back and build credit.

Highlights:

  • The Discover It® Chrome offers 2 percent cash back on gas and restaurant purchases with a limit of $1,000 in combined purchases per quarter. On other everyday purchases, the card pays 1 percent.
  • If you’re a student, maintaining a GPA of 3.0 or higher gets you an extra $20 cash back each school year for a maximum of five years.
  • During the first year, this card offers double the cash back on all purchases.

Who should get this card:

Students who spend big on restaurants and gas will benefit from the Discover It® Chrome. Not only does it offer students the opportunity to earn rewards and perks, they can learn about and build their credit score with Discover’s free Credit Scorecard.

But carrying a balance can eat up rewards with the Chrome card. It has a variable APR between 13.49 percent and 22.49 percent. There’s no annual fee, no penalty APR, note late fee on the first payment and no over-limit fee.

Today’s Best Credit Cards
Card Category APR
Chase Freedom Unlimited Overall rewards 15.49 percent to 24.24 percent variable
Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite Mastercard® Travel and airline rewards 16.49 percent, 20.49 percent or 23.49 percent variable
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express Everyday cash-back rewards 13.49 percent to 23.49 percent variable
Chase Slate® Balance transfer 15.49 percent to 24.24 percent variable
Citi Simplicity® 0 percent APR intro period 13.49 percent to 23.49 percent variable
Citi® Double Cash Flat-rate cash back 13.49 percent and 23.49 percent variable
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Points rewards 16.49 percent to 23.49 percent variable
Chase Ink Business Preferred Business card 16.49 percent to 21.49 percent variable
Capital One® Secured Mastercard® Secured card for bad credit 24.99 percent variable
Credit One Bank® Unsecured Platinum Visa® Unsecured card for bad credit 15.65 percent and 24.15 percent
Discover It® Chrome for Students Best student credit card 13.49 percent to 22.49 percent variable

Follow me on Twitter: @MitchStrohm

This editorial content is not provided or commissioned by any of the referenced financial institutions or companies. Opinions, analysis, reviews or recommendations expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any financial institutions or companies, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any such entity. All products or services are presented without warranty.

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