Editor’s Note: Thank you for your interest, these offers have expired and are no longer available.
As the new year begins, it’s a good opportunity to review the best credit card offers available and see which — if any — make sense for you. The best credit cards of 2015 offer a combination of sign-up bonuses, reward programs, low-APR promotional periods, and other benefits that can be used to your advantage if you pay attention.
When used properly, credit cards can be an effective tool for managing your finances, earning rewards on everyday spending, building a solid credit history, and maintaining your cash flow, but these tools can be also used incorrectly, damaging your finances in the process.
Consider the following offers if you plan to open a new credit card or if you’re looking to make the most out of your everyday spending. But if you are a “Type A” credit card user — if you use credit cards to spend more than you can afford and have difficulty making payments — consider improving your finances and getting out of debt before applying for a new credit card.
The best card for balance transfers
Chase Slate®. Arguably the best credit card offer for balance transfers right now is Chase Slate®, and here’s why:
With a Chase Slate® balance transfer credit card, you can save with a:
- $0 introductory balance transfer fee
- 0% introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers
- $0 annual fee
Plus, receive your monthly FICO® score for free.
Open a card with an offer like this when you have a balance on a card that has a high interest rate that you’d like to pay off without owing additional interest. For example, if you have a $15,000 balance on a card with an ongoing APR of 15%, you could save $2,250 by moving that balance to Slate® from Chase and paying the remainder of the $15,000 before the 15-month introductory period ends.
Other cards generally charge a balance transfer fee; but with the Slate® from Chase balance transfer credit card, there is a $0 introductory fee on transfers made within 60 days of account-opening. After those 60 days have passed, the balance transfer fee is $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
After the introductory period, a variable APR of between 13.24% – 23.24% is applied to your purchases and balance transfers. You will need good to excellent credit to qualify for this offer (and many of Chase’s offers).
It’s always important to read the issuer’s terms, but the 0% introductory APR that applies to purchases and balance transfers would be a good option for buying a larger item. If you’ve saved up to purchase some furniture, for example, you can use an introductory purchase APR of 0% to use the credit card issuer’s money to improve your cash flow — however, this leverage technique is risky. If you end up using the credit card for an emergency, you can make it more difficult to repay your balance before the introductory period is complete. On the other hand, it could leave you with more cash in your bank account.
The best credit card for airline miles
Most often, the best way to make the most out of your credit card spending for your travel needs is to use the credit card that is tied directly to the airline you travel most frequently. For better or worse, United Airlines flies the routes I generally travel for the best prices, so I use a credit card where I earn rewards in the form of United MileagePlus points. There are cards that are more flexible for travelers who use multiple airlines or don’t have one such frequently-traveled route.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is arguable the best option for earning flexible travel rewards. You will earn one point for every dollar spent on purchases with the card. Your travel expenses as well as your restaurant dining expenses earn double.
Chase is encouraging its cardholders to book travel through their own online agency. When you do, your points are worth 20% more. For example, a $500 flight normally requires 50,000 points; booking through Chase Ultimate Rewards reduces that requirement to 40,000 points. If you’d rather book directly with your airline, you can transfer your points to leading frequent travel programs on a one-to-one basis.
New cardholders can earn 40,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases by the end of the first three months from account opening. That’s enough for $500 in travel rewards when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards, or you can transfer your points to a participating frequent flyer program. Another benefit for travelers is no foreign transaction fee.
There is a downside to owning this card. Chase charges a $95 annual fee, however the first year there is an introductory annual fee of $0, after that the annual fee is $95. If you make heavy use of travel rewards, it might be worth the $95. If the benefits outweigh the cost, consider applying for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.
The best credit card sign-up bonus
Ink Cash® Business Credit Card. Although it’s a card for business owners, I like the bonus Chase is offering. For new cardholders that spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of owning the card, the Ink Cash® Business Credit Card offers a $200 cash back bonus.
The card also offers a generous rewards program. In addition to the standard unlimited 1% cash back on purchases, cardholders can earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases with office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable television services each account anniversary year. Equipment purchases aren’t included in that category, unfortunately. Cardholders can also earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and dining at restaurants each account anniversary year. Take note that introductory offers and APRs change often, so be sure to review the application and the terms and conditions carefully when you apply for the Ink Cash® Business Credit Card.
Other cards worth noting
Fidelity Investment Rewards Visa Signature Card. Consistently a reader favorite, the Fidelity Investment Rewards Visa Signature Card offers a unique reward program. Earn 1.5 points for each $1 spent on the first $15,000 in purchases per year, and if you spend more than $15,000 annually that reward is increased to 2 points per $1 in purchases. When you reach 5,000 points they can be converted into deposits into your eligible Fidelity investment account. The card also participates in the WorldPoints program, so if you do not want cash back in your Fidelity account or if you don’t have an investment account, you can redeem for travel on major U.S. airlines with no blackout dates or for purchases from a selection of available merchandise.
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is as straightforward as it gets, as evidenced by the current offering (updated on 7-27-16):
- Enjoy a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, equal to $400 in travel
- Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
- Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
- Travel when you want with no blackout dates
Plus, miles don’t expire and there’s no limit to how many you can earn. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card also has:
- No foreign transaction fees
- $0 introductory annual fee for the first year; $59 after that
From our perspective, not being charged the typical 1% to 3% foreign transaction fee can be a great benefit all on its own if you spend money on purchases outside the U.S.!
BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card. For the latest BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ credit card offers check directly with Bank of America.
Simmons Bank Visa Platinum Rewards. The Simmons Bank Visa Platinum Rewards Card made the list because of its low standard purchase APR. At 9.25% variable, the only card with a lower standard purchase APR we could find was the Simmons Bank Visa card but that card didn’t have a rewards program. With the Simmons Bank Visa Platinum Rewards Card, you earn one point for every net dollar you spend, and the card carries no annual fee. If you’re planning to make a balance transfer onto this card, you’ll be happy to know there is no balance transfer fee either.
Note: If you use credit cards as a tool for convenience, pay your bills in full every month, and are otherwise financially self-aware, consider some of these credit cards. If you use credit cards to pay for things you can’t afford, paying interest every month, then start thinking about paying off debt.
The information in this article is believed to be accurate as of the date it was written. Please keep in mind that credit card offers change frequently. Therefore, we can not guarantee the accuracy of the information in this article. Please verify all terms and conditions of any credit card prior to applying. This content is not provided by any company mentioned in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed here are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any such company. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.
Updated July 28, 2016 and originally published December 28, 2012. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.