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Credit

J.D. Power recently issued its annual study of the best credit cards. Not surprisingly, cash back cards are still the most popular.

American Express, Discover, and Capital One topped the charts for customer satisfaction. Yet J.D. Power also found that customer satisfaction varied based on the cardholder’s age.

While these surveys are helpful, nothing beats a detailed analysis of the best credit card offers available today. So we’ve conducted our own research, the results of which are below. We’ve included a brief explanation as to why each credit card made the list.

Cash Back Credit Cards

Discover it® Card-Cashback MatchTM

Discover It® CardThe Discover it® Card-Cashback MatchTM credit card offers up to 5% cash back on categories that change every three months. In addition, Discover will double your cash back the first year, making this card one of the most rewarding available today.

In addition to the cash back rewards, Discover provides its members with free access to their FICO score and the new New Freeze It® on/off switch. With Freeze It, you can effectively turn off your card should you have misplaced it or suspect that it was stolen.

  • Cash Back: 5% on categories that change each quarter, up to $1,500 in purchases. All other purchases earn 1% cash back.
  • Sign up bonus: Discover will double your cash back rewards at the end of your first year.
  • Annual Fee: None.
  • Introductory APR: 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 14 months.
  • Other Benefits: Discover gives you free access to your FICO score.

Find out how to apply for the card here.

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Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is best known for its 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets. What many don’t know is that it also pays 3% on gas and department stores. Add to that a $150 cash bonus when you spend $1,000 on the card in the first three months, and this card tops our list. Here are the cash back details:

  • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases
  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations
  • 3% cash back at select U.S. department stores
  • 1% cash back on other purchases

Find out how to apply for this card here.

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Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

As a final cash back card to make the list, the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card pays 1.5% on all purchases. There are no rotating categories or sign ups required. Capital One also pays a $150 cash bonus if you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months. There is no annual fee.

  • Cash Back: 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • Sign up bonus: Get a $150 bonus when you spend $500 on the card in the first three months.
  • Annual Fee: None.
  • Introductory APR: 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 9 months.
  • Other Benefits: Every 10th Uber ride is free up to $15 when you pay with your Quicksilver card through March 31, 2017

Find out how to apply for this card here.

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Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Discover it® Miles

Discover it Miles

The Discover it® Miles card takes the famous Discover cash back features and turns it into a travel card. You’ll earn 1.5 miles for every dollar spent. On top of that, Discover will double your miles the first year. And there is no annual fee.

  • Travel Rewards: 1.5x Miles on every dollar spent on purchases
  • Sign up Bonus: Discover automatically matches all Miles earned at the end of your first year. You could turn 50,000 miles into 100,000
  • Annual Fee: None

Find out how to apply for this card here.

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Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit CardThe Capital One Venture card is effectively a 2% card. You’ll earn 2 miles on every purchase. When you use those miles to pay for travel, they are worth 1 cent each. Thus, $50,000 in purchases will earn 100,000 miles. These miles are worth $1,000 when used to pay for travel expenses. On top of that, you can earn a 40,000 mile bonus when you spend $3,000 on the card in the first three months.

  • Travel Rewards: 2 miles for every $1 in purchases
  • Sign up Bonus: Enjoy a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months of approval, equal to $400 in travel
  • Annual Fee: $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $59 after that

Find out how you can apply for this card here.

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Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Starwood Preferred Guest American ExpressArguably the best hotel rewards card, the Starwood offers 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Starpoints can not only be used for hotel stays at Starwood properties, but they can also be transferred to many airlines and other travel partners.

  • Travel Rewards: Get up to 5 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating SPG® hotels – that’s 2 Starpoints for which you may be eligible as a Card Member in addition to the 2 or 3 Starpoints for which you may be eligible as an SPG member. Get 1 Starpoint for all other purchases.
  • Sign up Bonus: Get 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Annual Fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Find out how you can apply for this card here.

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Balance Transfers Cards

Discover it® – 18 Month Balance Transfer

Discover it 18 MonthDiscover offers a version of its Discover it®- 18 Month Balance Transfer card that comes with a 0% balance transfer feature for 18 months. The card also comes with all of the same cash back rewards of the standard Discover it card, charges no annual fee and still offers free access to your FICO score.

  • 0% on Balance Transfers: 18 months
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3% of amount transferred
  • 0% on Purchases: 6 months
  • Annual Fee: None.

Find out how you can apply for this card here.

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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.

Comparing and Using the Best Credit Cards

Even the best credit cards won’t fulfill their potential if used incorrectly. With that in mind, consider the following tips when comparing and using a credit card:

Pay off the balance in full each month: 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.

Consider your spending habits: Many of the above cards pay increased rewards for certain categories of spending. Therefore, consider how you’ll use the card before selecting the best option for your spending patterns.

Consider how you’ll redeem your rewards: Earning credit card rewards is just half the battle. Once earned, you should consider how you will use them. Many cards offer increased rewards when you use points or miles for travel. If you don’t travel frequently, a cash back card is probably best.

Enjoy the signup bonus: Signup bonuses are a great way to increase miles or points quickly. In some cases, they put cold hard cash in your pocket. But make sure you will meet the spending requirements to earn the bonus. And keep in mind that bonuses are just one feature to consider.

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.

 

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Credit card debt doesn’t have to crush your budget. Take the proper steps and you can get out of credit card debt once and for all. Here’s how how to pay off your credit card debt.

How to pay off credit card debt

Credit card debt is a national epidemic. According to one survey, the average U.S. household with credit card debt owes $16,425. Just the interest on this debt can easily exceed $1,000 a year.

Credit card debt won’t vanish overnight. However, it can vanish if you take some small steps. Here are five ways to pay off your credit card debt.

Audit Your Charging Habits

Does your credit card balance mystify you at the end of every month? Tracking your spending could help with that. There are many online tools and budgeting apps that allow you to break down your spending. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Personal Capital: This free online tool will automatically track and categorize your spending. It also tracks all of your investments.
  • Mint.com: This free tool is similar to Personal Capital and is a popular option.
  • YNAB: This is our favorite budgeting app.

You’ll find a complete list of the best budgeting apps here.

Your credit card company may all provide a free spending app. Discover, for example, has an excellent tool that tracks your spending on the card by category.

Squeeze Extra Cash From Your Budget

It’s probably going to take a little pain to get out of credit card debt for good. Do your best to find extra cash hiding somewhere in your budget. Here are the steps to get there:

  • Create a list of all of your monthly bills
  • Look for unnecessary costs you can eliminate
  • Look for auto-pay billing errors from businesses or services you no longer use
  • Scrutinize bills that could potentially be reduced through negotiating, switching providers or bundling services
  • Look into refinancing your mortgage if you own a home

How can you lower or eliminate bills that just aren’t working for your debt-reduction plan? Ask everyone from landlords to cable providers if they can lower your rates or offer you better deals. Also, make sure the cancellation fees for getting rid of a phone plan or shutting off cable won’t be counterproductive.

Reduce Your Interest Rate

You could reduce payments by reducing your interest rate. How do you do this? There are two ways.

The easiest way is to ask. Most credit card companies are willing to lower rates if cardholders call and request a reduction. According to one survey, 84 percent of those who asked for a rate reduction or other concession received it.

Second, you transfer your balances to 0% credit cards. With these cards, you can receive 0% for up to 21 months. There is typically a balance transfer fee of about 3%. But this is far less than the interest rates charged by credit card companies. You can find a list of the best balance transfer credit cards here.

Note: Obtaining a new 0% credit card won’t be worth the benefits if you make new charges to the old card.  If necessary, cut up the old card so you won’t use it.

Take Things One Card at a Time

Focus on the card with the lowest balance if paying off at least one card quickly is your goal. If your goal is to try to rescue your credit score, focus on the card with the highest utilization rate. This can be found by dividing your balance by a card’s limit. Don’t forget to make the minimum payments on all other cards while you’re targeting your priority card.

Resource: Use this Debt Snowball Calculator to compare the best way to pay off your debt.

Stop Using Credit Cards for a While

A serious problem sometimes requires a drastic solution. You’re unlikely to get out of the debt cycle unless you stop using your credit card to make purchases. Cut up your cards, have a friend lock them away in a drawer or simply remove them from your wallet to avoid the temptation to fall back into old habits. Just make sure to have an alternative method for making emergency payments in the event that you become stuck or stranded somewhere without cash.

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When adding somebody to an account, a common question is whether to add them as an authorized user or joint account holder. Here’s the difference.

authorized user or joint account holder

Are you looking into the options for sharing a credit card with another person? There are actually two main options to consider when making the decision to share a credit card. You can either choose to make one person an authorized user or open a joint account. Take a look at the benefits and risks of both options before you decide what your next move should be.

Authorized User

An authorized user is someone who piggybacks on an existing credit card. They can’t control the card and are not financially accountable for paying off the card. They can’t seek a credit limit increase or close the account. However, they can use the card.

This option is often used when a person is trying to improve their credit score. The credit card company issues a card to the authorized user. The new user is able to make purchases with the card as if it belongs to them.

The authorized user, however, won’t be financially responsible for paying the credit card bill or any fees associated with the account. Here are some situations where adding an authorized user to an account might be a good choice:

  • A person needs to establish or rebuild credit
  • A family member only needs to carry a credit card for potential emergency situations
  • A family member needs some accountability regarding spending habits and bill-paying habits

You can add a person to your card regardless of their credit score or credit history. Adding an authorized user to an account can put the cardholder at risk because the full responsibility for paying the bill falls on the shoulders of the cardholder. This is one of the reasons why this type of arrangement should really only be done among parents, spouses and other close family members.

Of course, it’s always wise to set up card alerts for purchases if you’re allowing another person to have access to your account. The cardholder is permitted to remove an authorized user from an account instantly for any reason.

Joint Account

Opening a joint account is different from adding an authorized user. With a joint account, both people will have equal ownership of the card and equal responsibility regarding payments. Here are some situations where opening a joint account might be a good idea:

  • A couple wants to build credit together and make it easier to pay bills
  • A parent wants to help a teen or young adult open a first credit card
  • Business partners want a shared way to charge and pay off business expenses

While adding an authorized user to your account can be done at any time, joint accounts must be opened by both account holders from the start. Both account holders must meet an institution’s requirements for credit and income before a card is issued.

The application for a card can be denied if one of the applicants doesn’t meet those requirements. While an authorized user can be removed from a credit card at any moment, removing a joint user from an account isn’t so simple. The only way to dissolve this type of financial partnership is to transfer or pay off the balance before closing the account for good.

What Is the Better Choice?

Is it better to add an authorized user to an account or opening a joint account? Both options offer specific pros and cons. Becoming an authorized user on a credit card is one of the most popular methods for building credit.

This option, however,  probably isn’t necessary or beneficial if two people with good credit would like to share a credit card. Opening a joint account with a partner or family member is a better way to spread accountability across both cardholders than simply making one person an authorized user.

Authorized User Pros and Cons

  • You can add a child or family member regardless of their credit history
  • An authorized user can improve their credit score
  • It’s a simple and quick process
  • The cardholder can remove the authorized user at any time
  • The cardholder is responsible for all charges made by the authorized user

Joint Account Pros and Cons

  • Both account holders are responsible for paying the bill
  • Both account holders and improve (or hurt) their credit score
  • Account holders must each meet the credit card issuer’s underwriting standards

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Cash back credit cards can help consumers practice responsible spending while earning a little extra for their efforts when used properly. The days of earning 5 percent cash back on all credit card purchases may be just a memory, but the smart use of credit cards can still be profitable for diligent consumers. You may be able to find some credit cards offering a high level of cash back in certain spending categories, but these are often subject to maximums.

Most of today’s better cash back credit cards offer 1 percent to 2 percent cash back on purchases. However, if you look hard enough, you’ll find a number of credit cards with higher cash rebates. Keep in mind that in order to make credit card with rewards programs worthwhile, you must pay your bill on time and in full every single month to avoid interest charges and late fees.

This ever-changing list reflects the best cash back credit cards currently available.

Best Cash Back Credit Cards

1. Discover it® Cashback Match™

Discover It® CardThe Discover it® Cashback Match™has a tempting offer for anyone considering a new cash-back card— they’ll double all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year automatically on this card. This offer is only intended for new cardmembers and is only available for a limited time. That applies to the 5 percent cash back in quarterly categories as well as the 1 percent cash back on all other purchases.

With the new New Freeze It® on/off switch, you can prevent new purchases, cash advances and balance transfers on misplaced cards in seconds by mobile app and online. You can also get your free FICO® Credit Score on statements, online and by mobile app, and will pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees.

  • Cash Back: 5% on categories that change each quarter, up to $1,500 in purchases. All other purchases earn 1% cash back.
  • Sign up bonus: Discover will double your cash back rewards at the end of your first year.
  • Annual Fee: None.
  • Introductory APR: 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months.
  • Other Benefits: Discover gives you free access to your FICO score.

Find out how to apply for the card here.

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2. Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

I recommend the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express as the one whose bonus categories are most likely to overlap the spending habits of parents. Cash back is earned only on eligible purchases as follows:

  • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases
  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations
  • 3% cash back at select U.S. department stores
  • 1% cash back on other purchases

There are no rotating reward categories. No enrollment is required. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit. You can also earn $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months. You will receive the $150 back in the form of statement credits. There is a $95 annual fee.

Find out how to apply for this card here.

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3. Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Blue Cash EverydayIf you prefer a no annual fee version of the card, consider the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. While you save on the fee, the rewards are a step down. You’ll earn $100 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months. The cash back percentages are a bit lower, but still very good:

  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases
  • 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations
  • 2% cash back at select U.S. department stores
  • 1% cash back on other purchases

Find out how to apply for this card here.

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4. Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

With the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card, you earn 1.5% on all purchases. There are no categories to remember or quarterly signups to worry about. In addition, you can earn a one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months. It also offers a unique perk–Every 10th Uber ride is free up to $15 when you pay with your Quicksilver® card through March 31, 2017. There is no annual fee.

  • Cash Back: 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • Sign up bonus: Get a $150 bonus when you spend $500 on the card in the first three months.
  • Annual Fee: None.
  • Introductory APR: 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 9 months.
  • Other Benefits: Every 10th Uber ride is free up to $15 when you pay with your Quicksilver card through March 31, 2017

Find out how to apply for this card here.

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5. Discover it® Chrome

With Discover it® Chrome, you can earn 1% cash back on every purchase, but Discover® offers an opportunity to earn double cash back on certain categories. The double cash back is limited to $1,000 in combined purchases, though, which adds up to only $100 extra. Still, that’s $100 you wouldn’t have otherwise.

The categories for double cash back with Discover it® Chrome are gas stations and restaurants. In order to make using the cash back points even easier, Discover® allows you to pay for items on Amazon.com using points instead of dollars. That could come in handy during the holiday seasons.

  • Cash Back: 2% cash back on all purchases at gas stations and restaurants, up to$1,000 in combined purchases every quarter—no sign-ups needed. 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Sign up bonus: Discover matches all your cash back earned the first year.
  • Annual Fee: None.
  • Introductory APR: 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months.
  • Other Benefits: Free access to your FICO score.

Find out how to apply for this card here.

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6. Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard®

One of my favorite cash back cards, the Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard® jumps right at you with a $200 bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days.  This credit card offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases plus a 5% cash bonus on every redemption.  For example, if you redeem $100 worth of cash back, they’ll tack on another 5%!  This means the card really is a 1.575% cash back credit card.  Rewards never expire and redemptions start at $50.

If you need some time to pay interest free, Barclaycard will allow it.  The Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard® has a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months.  This card carries no annual fee.

  • Cash Back: 1.5% cash back on all purchases.  Plus a 5% bonus on every cash redemption
  • Sign up bonus: $200 bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
  • Annual Fee: None.
  • Introductory APR: 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months
  • Other Benefits: Barclaycard gives you free access to your FICO score.

Find out how to apply for the card here.

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7. Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card

The Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card is regularly cited as a Consumerism Commentary readers’ favorite. You’ll earn a solid 2% cash back on every purchase.  There is no limit to the amount of rewards you can earn and the rewards never expire. On top of that, there is no annual fee.

This card requires a linked account at Fidelity, but these accounts are free and can be good choices for savers and investors. A few years ago, I chose to rollover a former company’s 401(k) into a Fidelity IRA, and I use Fidelity as the servicing company for my charitable gift fund. Their index mutual funds are some of the lowest cost in the business, but for most of my own investing, I prefer Vanguard. Vanguard, however, does not offer a similar credit card offer.

If you’re holding on to a cash back credit card that you feel deserves to make this list, let me know by leaving your thoughts in the comments below. If the offer is good, I’ll add it to this best cash back credit cards list.

  • Cash Back: 2% cash back on all purchases. Cash back rewards are deposited into your Fidelity account.
  • Sign up bonus: Get $100 after you spend $1000 in the first 90 days.
  • Annual Fee: None.
  • Introductory APR: None.
  • Other Benefits: None.

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8. The Santander® Ultimate Cash Back credit card

One of the newest issuers to enter the cash back credit card space is Santander.  They’ve launched the The Santander® Ultimate Cash Back credit card which includes a $100 cash bonus after making $500 in purchases the first 90 days.  This credit card offers an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no tier levels or spend thresholds to meet.  The cash back never expires, so feel free taking your time to use it.

A 3% intro APR balance transfers is also included for the first 12 months (no intro APR on purchases).  There are no balance transfer fees, no foreign transaction fees, no cash advance fees, no returned payment fees and most importantly, NO annual fee.

  • Cash Back: 1.5% unlimited cash back on all purchases
  • Sign up bonus: $100 cash bonus after spending $500 in the first 90 days
  • Annual Fee: None.
  • Introductory APR: None
  • Other Benefits: Mobile check deposit, Apple pay availability

Find out how to apply for the card here.

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How to Finally Get Out of Debt

by Luke Landes
Climbing Out of debt

Getting out of debt is key to financial freedom. Being debt free gives you great financial flexibility. Paying off those debts, however, can be a struggle. Here we provide a comprehensive guide on how to get out of debt for good. Along with losing weight, getting out of debt is probably the most popular goal […]

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Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card Review

by Aaron Pinkston

Are you looking for a credit card that will reward you whether you’re purchasing a pack of gum or buying a diamond ring? The Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card may be just that card with its 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase. The card also provides an impressive signup bonus that will leave you […]

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How is the Country REALLY Doing With Its Credit Card Debt?

by Abby Hayes

National averages for credit card and other consumer debt can be a good barometer of consumers’ financial capacity and goals. For instance, when debt decreases, Americans, as a whole, may be spending less and saving more. Of course, that’s a good thing. So, when SmartAsset released its average credit card debt study recently, we took […]

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Are Credit Card Annual Fees Worthwhile?

by Luke Landes

The best credit card deals are often spoiled by an annual fee. Annual fees can range from about $50 to $2,500, with the high end reserved for the super-select American Express Centurion Card (the “black card”). In return for this fee, credit card issuers provide a range of benefits beyond what typical no-fee cards offer. […]

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How to Best Handle Old Credit Card Accounts

by Stephanie Colestock

One of the best things you can do to build awareness of your financial condition is to view your credit report. Your financial condition — as perceived by potential lenders — can cost or save you thousands of extra dollars throughout your credit repayments, such as the life of a mortgage, for instance. You can […]

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Blue Cash Preferred Card® from American Express Review – 6% Cash Back on Groceries

by Michael Pruser

When the Credit Card Act was passed years ago, many thought it would be the end of credit card rewards programs. Despite increased costs of operations, credit card issuers continue to beef up their attempts to attract new customers, with bonuses for signing up and growing perks. The best cards you’ll find today seem to […]

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