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The best credit cards of June 2021

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The best credit cards available now:

Category

Best credit card

Best for balance transfers:

Citi Simplicity® Card

Best for intro APR offer:

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Best for cash back:

Citi® Double Cash Card

Best for travel rewards:

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Best for bad credit:

Discover it® Secured

Best for average credit:

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best business credit card:

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Best for students:

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Given the wide range of benefits, rewards, and annual fees available, it’s impossible to name one single best credit card. But if you’re looking to find the best credit card for you, breaking it down by category is a good way to approach your search.

Related Product Module: Cash Back Credit Cards

For example, if you’re just getting started with credit, a student credit card or a card that doesn’t require a high credit score is an ideal pick. If you’re looking to earn travel rewards, on the other hand, you’ll want to look at cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

The best credit cards in 2021

Best for balance transfers: Citi Simplicity® Card

Citi Simplicity® Card

Pros: Long introductory APR period on balance transfers, 18-month intro APR period for purchases

Cons: No rewards

If you’re looking to transfer your existing credit card balance to a new card that offers a long introductory APR period, you can’t do better than the Citi Simplicity® Card. It offers 0% APR on balance transfers for 18 months from the date of your first transfer. (You must complete your balance transfers in the first four months from your account-opening date.) After the 18-month intro APR period on balance transfers ends, there’s a 14.74% – 24.74% (Variable) rate. There’s a balance transfer fee of 3%, with a minimum charge of $5.

Read more: Citi Simplicity credit card review

To get the full benefit out of the Citi Simplicity® Card, you’ll want to make sure you pay off your balance before the 18-month introductory period is over. The key to using credit cards responsibly is to avoid carrying any debt, so the Citi Simplicity® Card can be a useful tool in your strategy to get back on track with good financial habits.

In addition to the stellar introductory offer for balance transfers, the Citi Simplicity® Card offers 0% intro APR on purchases for 18 months from your account opening date. After that, it will be a 14.74% – 24.74% (Variable) APR

Read more:

Best for intro APR offer: Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Pros: Long introductory APR period, earns 1.5% cash back on most purchases, pairs well with other Chase cards

Cons: You can get more cash back on bonus categories with other cards

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers a long introductory 0% APR period of 15 months on purchases, after which there’s a 14.99%-23.74% variable APR.

Not only does this card help you pay down credit card debt with a generous introductory APR period, but it also offers solid ongoing rewards. You’ll earn 5% cash back (5x points) on travel purchases made through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, 3% back (3x points) on drugstores and dining, and 1.5% back (1.5x points) on everything else with no cap.

Read more: Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card review

If you have a Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you can combine your rewards balances and gain the option to redeem your rewards in more ways, including transferring points to Chase’s airline and hotel partners.

Read more about the Chase Freedom Unlimited:

Best for cash back: Citi® Double Cash Card

Citi® Double Cash Card

Pros: Strong cash-back rate, solid intro APR offer, pairs well with other Citi cards

Cons: Some cards with bonus categories can get you more cash back on select purchases

Not only does the Citi® Double Cash Card offer one of the longest introductory APR periods, but it’s also a great option for earning cash back. In fact, it’s one of our top picks for the best cash-back cards thanks to its straightforward earning structure – you get 1% cash back when you make a purchase, and 1% back when you pay your bill.

Read more: I redeemed over $600 in cash back from the Citi Double Cash this year, and I think it’s a great ‘gateway’ card if you’re new to credit card rewards

As a new cardholder, you get the first 18 months with 0% APR on balance transfers from the date of the first transfer (which must be completed in the first four months from account opening). After that, there’s a 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable) APR.

While the Citi® Double Cash Card is a cash-back card, if you also have a premium Citi card like the Citi Premier® Card or the Citi Prestige® Card, you can combine your cash-back rewards with one of those accounts for the opportunity to redeem them as ThankYou points toward travel.

Read more about the Citi Double Cash Card:

Best for travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Pros: High sign-up bonus, strong rewards, good travel protections

Cons: Some other travel rewards cards offer more bonus points and added benefits

If you want to earn travel rewards, you’ll find that Chase Ultimate Rewards points are the most user-friendly of the various bank currencies, which are also referred to as transferable points because you can transfer them over to various airline and hotel partners. In the case of Chase points, you can redeem them with partners like British Airways, Hyatt, United Airlines, and Singapore Airlines, or you can book travel directly through Chase. If you choose the latter, your points are worth 1.25 cents apiece – a 25% bonus.

Read more: Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card review

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card starts you off with a sign-up bonus of 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. Those points are worth $750 in travel booked through Chase, or potentially even more if you decide to redeem with the program’s transfer partners.

You’ll earn 2 points per dollar on all travel and dining purchases, and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Beyond the rewards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers some valuable coverage benefits, including primary car rental insurance, trip delay insurance, and baggage delay insurance.

Read more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred card:

Best for bad credit: Discover it® Secured

Discover it® Secured

Pros: It’s an attainable option even if you have bad credit, and it earns rewards – which is rare for a secured card

Cons: Some secured cards have lower minimum deposit requirements

If you have a very limited credit history or are looking to repair bad credit, many of the cards on this list won’t be available to you. Most of the top rewards cards require credit scores in the 600s or higher – if that’s not where your credit is, you may need to consider a secured card to repair your credit.

Secured credit cards are easy to get approved for because they require a cash deposit upfront, which minimizes the issuer’s risk. Your credit limit is equal to the cash deposit you put down.

Read more: Discover it Secured credit card review

If a secured card seems like the right option for you, the Discover it® Secured is an especially good option, because it’s the rare secured card to offer rewards. You’ll Discover it® Secured, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Plus, Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of the first year. With this card, automatic reviews start at eight months to see if Discover can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.

Best for fair credit: Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Pros: Earns 1.5% cash back on every purchase, no foreign transaction fees

Cons: Other cards offer better rewards

Read more: The best credit cards for fair or average credit in 2021

If you have a credit score in the “fair” range (580-669, according to FICO), you have a good chance of being approved for this card. It offers a respectable 1.5% cash back on all purchases, and there are no foreign transaction fees.

The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card also offers 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases (then a 15.49% – 25.49% variable APR).

Best business credit card: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Pros: Big welcome bonus, great bonus categories for small businesses, benefits like cell phone protection

Cons: Large spending requirement to earn the bonus, bonus category spending is capped

Read more: Ink Business Preferred Credit Card review

There are lots of great small-business credit cards, and if you travel constantly, it could be worth paying the high annual fee for a more premium option like The Business Platinum® Card from American Express. But if you just want a card that maximizes your returns in popular business spending categories, the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card is a great choice.

You’ll earn 3 points per dollar on the first $150,000 you spend each cardmember year in select categories, including travel, shipping, internet/cable/phone, and advertising on social media sites or with search engines, such as Google Ads. Purchases after you reach $150,000, or in any other category, earn 1 point per dollar.

Read more about the Chase Ink Business Preferred card:

Best for students: Discover it® Student Cash Back

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Pros: Cash-back reward for good grades, earns up to 5% cash back, no foreign transaction fee

Cons: Other cards offer a higher cash-back rate on non-bonus spending

The Discover it® Student Cash Back is a pretty rewarding card, with a neat Good Grades Reward benefit targeted to those in school. Each year your GPA is 3.0 or higher (up to 5 years), you’ll get up to a $20 statement credit.

Read more: The best credit cards for students in 2021

Beyond that, the card offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 of purchases in rotating bonus categories each quarter when you activate, and 1% back on everything else Discover It Cashback rotation. Discover will even match your cash-back earnings after your first cardmember year. Overall, this card is a great entry point into the world of cash-back rewards.

Other cards that we considered that just missed the cut

  • Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card: You get a lot of perks, and solid rewards, in exchange for a Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card annual fee, but your options for redeeming miles for travel aren’t the most competitive due to confusing transfer ratios and only one US airline partner.
  • Platinum Card® from American Express: While this premium card has a long list of travel benefits like airport lounge access, Uber credits, and complimentary hotel elite status that can cancel out the $550 annual fee (See Rates) if you put them to use, not everyone will be able to justify that cost.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®: The higher-end sibling of the Chase Sapphire Preferred is another card that offers some great high-end travel perks – like up to $300 in statement credits each year – but with a Chase Sapphire Reserve® annual fee it’s not the best travel card for everyone.
  • Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card– It earns 4% cash back on dining, entertainment, and streaming services, plus 3% at grocery stores and 1% back on everything else, but many people prefer earning a higher rate of cash back on all their purchases without any bonus categories.
  • Chase Freedom Flex℠ – This card can help you earn 5% cash back/5x points on rotating quarterly bonus categories (on up to $1,500 each quarter when you activate), but again not everyone wants to keep track of bonus categories, especially when they change several times throughout the year.
  • Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express – It earns 6% back on select US streaming subscriptions and 6% back on up to $6,000 spent at US supermarkets each year (then 1%), so it’s another solid option for those who want maximum cash back on select purchases rather than a higher rate of cash back on all purchases (cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars).
  • Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business – It earns miles instead of cash back, but if you prefer travel rewards this card is a great option.
  • Amex Business Platinum Card – With a The Business Platinum Card® from American Express annual fee (See Review), it has lots of travel benefits that could be worth it if you’re constantly on the road.

Other Insider credit card guides

This guide highlights the best credit card option for several different types of users. If you want a to-the-point recommendation for maximizing your spending and enjoying benefits like an intro APR period, this guide will help you find a quick answer. However, if you want to go deeper, check out our in-depth credit card guides for the following categories:

Methodology: How we chose the best credit cards for 2021

Our list of the best credit cards is the result of an in-depth comparison between credit cards in each sub-category. We looked at America’s largest credit card issuers, as well as cards frequently recommended by blogs, forums, and travel communities.

The values we prioritized when coming up with this list were:

  • Simplicity – not everyone wants to invest lots of time and energy into maximizing their credit cards, so we focused on cards that make things as straightforward as possible
  • Affordability – while there’s a case to be made for paying a high annual fee when you’re getting high value in return, most credit card users aren’t looking for a card that costs $450 or more
  • Value – whether we’re talking about a credit card with or without an annual fee, it’s important that the benefits and features are worth it

Credit card frequently asked questions

Why should I get a credit card?

Credit cards can be powerful tools for improving your credit score and earning rewards – if you use them responsibly. It’s important to only spend what you can afford to pay off each month so you don’t end up in debt and start amassing steep interest fees.

Read more: Using a credit card is as easy as swiping or tapping, but understanding how payments and interest work is key to staying out of debt

Provided you’re in a position to pay off your credit card statements and spend within your means, there are several reasons opening a credit card could be a good idea. For one, credit cards offer better fraud protection than debit cards or cash – if an unauthorized purchase is made with your card, you won’t be on the hook.

Using a credit card responsibly can also help you build and repair your credit, since your on-time payments will be reported to the credit bureaus. Finally, a credit card can help you maximize every dollar you spend, by earning you cash back, points, or miles.

What is the best credit card?

It’s impossible to name just one best credit card, because there are so many options for so many different types of users. A credit card that earns travel rewards could be the best option for one person, but if you’re looking to earn cash back, you’ll be better served by another pick.

How do I choose a credit card?

Focus on your priorities, and be realistic about what cards you’re able to get approved for. Most of the top rewards cards require credit scores in the high 600s at a bare minimum, so if your credit score isn’t there yet, you’ll want to look at options for bad to fair credit scores so you can focus on building your credit back up.

Read more: The best rewards credit card is different for everyone, and the best choice for you depends on 2 things

Beyond that, decide what annual fee you’re comfortable paying. Some people avoid paying credit card annual fees completely, and there are several great cards in the no-annual-fee category, but it could be worth paying a modest annual fee of $95 to $99 for a travel or cash-back card that earns you higher rewards. Also, decide whether you want to earn cash back or travel rewards. Keep in mind that redeeming rewards for travel is more work than simply getting cash back in your account – the payoff can be big, but focus on what is the best option for you.

How do I build credit with a credit card?

Your credit card use is a huge factor in determining your credit score – every on-time payment you make is reported to the credit bureaus and shows potential lenders that you’re able to use credit responsibly. The key to building credit with a credit card is to only spend what you can afford to pay off each month.

How many credit cards should I have?

There’s no one answer to this question – it’s possible to have more than 20 cards and maintain an excellent credit score, but this would probably entail several annual fees. Go slowly, space out your applications, and never bite off more than you can chew. Make sure you’re able to pay off your balances in full each month, because earning rewards is never worth going into debt.

Sarah Silbert is the senior reviews editor at Personal Finance Insider. She’s covered personal finance and credit card rewards for six years, and she’s a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF).

Read the original article on Business Insider

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