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The best credit card for you is the one that meets your needs and gives you the best benefits for your lifestyle. Whether you’re traveling abroad, starting a business, taking a road trip, or just looking to save on a big purchase, many cards comes with features that can increase your purchase power and make your life a little easier.
The financial, business, and travel experts at Reviewed evaluated credit cards—comparing benefits, yearly fees, rewards programs, and more—to find the best option for different scenarios. This is our best of the best list!
The best credit cards of 2021
Best travel credit card: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Best credit card to save money: Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
Best credit card with no foreign transaction fees: Chase Sapphire Reserve
Best gas credit card: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
Best business card: American Express® Business Gold Card
Best credit card for college students: Journey Student Rewards from Capital One
Things to know about credit cards
Many of the best cards come with an annual fee, but some cards offer perks each year that significantly defray (or even negate) the fee. The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is a good example of this.
APR rates and credit limits vary based on your individual credit. Credit limits and interest rates for each card are determined based on each cardholder's personal situation, so we did not take that information into account when evaluating these cards. One thing to remember is that if you pay your card off in full every month, you will not be charged interest.
Banks have the final say on who they accept for a credit card. These recommendations were put together with the assumption that applicants would have average credit or above. That being said, banks decide who they will issue credit cards to using criteria including, but not always limited to, an individual's credit score when evaluating each applicant.
Business credit cards work a bit differently. Nearly every business card requires a personal guarantee, which is an agreement between the business owner and the credit card issuer. It means the issuer can go after your personal assets to satisfy any balance owed if your business defaults on the card payments—even if you leave the company. That goes for expenses you or your employees charge to the credit card.
How we evaluated
Our experts have covered credit cards and studied card benefits for years, and have experience writing for outlets like the New York Times, Associated Press, Bankrate, and The Points Guy. We looked at credit cards from major banks as well as cobranded cards from issuers like retail stores, airlines, and hotels and evaluated our options to choose the best overall card in different situations.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Preferred was our Best Overall pick a number of times. It was our choice for best travel credit card as well as the best credit card for cruises and the best hotel credit card. The card comes with a $95 annual fee.
Points: The Sapphire Preferred card earns 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on all travel and dining purchases and 1 Ultimate Reward point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Ultimate Rewards points can then be used to book hotels, cruises, car rentals, vacation rentals, and more directly through Chase’s travel portal with a value of 1.25 cents per point ($0.0125). For additional flexibility, points can also be transferred to Ultimate Rewards partners including programs like Hyatt and United Airlines. If you just want the cash back, Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed for cash at a rate of 1 point for $0.01. So, those 10,000 points could cover a $125 night in a partner hotel, or could put a cool $100 back in your bank account.
Perks: The Chase Sapphire Preferred has many great benefits in addition to how flexible the points are. It offers primary car rental insurance coverage, so you can avoid paying extra for insurance with the car rental company. Primary means that if something happens to your rental car you won’t have to make a claim to your own insurance policy first. It also doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees for any trips you make abroad, which is key to saving up to 2% on your purchases when you travel internationally.
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards
If you have a big purchase on the horizon, the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards is our pick for the best credit card to help you save the most money. There’s no annual fee on this card, which also comes with a long-term 0% APR introductory period and solid cash back rewards programs.
Points: The Capital One Quicksilver awards 1.5% cash back on all your purchases, no matter the vendor or price. So, if you buy a $1,000 item, you’ll receive $15 in points. And, because there’s no cap to the awards limit, collecting points can pay big dividends in the long term.
Perks: If you spend $500 in the first three months of the card, you’ll get a $200 cash bonus—a pretty good reward for simply spending money. Add that to a $0% APR intro rate for purchases during the first 15 months, and that $1,000 item becomes fifteen $67 dollar monthly payments. Once the grace period expires, the APR hikes up based on your creditworthiness.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
If you travel abroad, you’ll save a lot on your trip if you have a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve is our top pick for this category. There is a $550 annual fee, however, the $300 annual travel credit, along with a few other perks, can make this card worth the cost.
Points: Chase created a proprietary reward system called Ultimate Reward points. The Sapphire Reserve card offers 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on all travel and dining purchases after you receive your $300 travel credit, and 1 Ultimate Reward point per dollar spent on everything else. The points can then be used to book hotels, cruises, car rentals, vacation rentals, and tourist activities directly through Chase’s travel portal at a rate of 1.5 cents per point ($0.015). For additional flexibility, points can also be transferred to partners like Hyatt and United Airlines.
Perks: The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers purchase protection (basically, insurance for your purchases) and extended warranty protection (to extend the manufacturer's warranty for items you purchase). It also offers primary car rental insurance coverage up to $75,000 in physical damages or theft, meaning you don’t have to pay extra for the car rental company’s insurance and if something happens to your rental car, you won’t have to make a claim to your own insurance policy first. You’ll also benefit from trip delay coverage, trip cancellation coverage, and lost and damaged baggage coverage. What’s more, the Sapphire Reserve also offers a $300 annual travel credit, where the first $300 in travel purchases (from taxi fares to hotels to flights) made on your card each year will be refunded via a statement credit, effectively reducing the annual fee to $250. You’ll also receive a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee credit (a $85 or $100 value) every four years, and a Priority Pass Select Membership, giving you access to over 1,000 airport lounges around the world.
Wells Fargo Propel American Express
Our choice for the best gas card is the Wells Fargo Propel. There’s no annual fee, so all of your rewards points fill up your bank account while you’re topping off at the pump.
Points: As far as earning points goes, you’ll get 3 points per dollar spent on gas, car rentals, eating out and ordering in, rideshares like Uber and Lyft, transit, flights, and hotels. That top rate also applies to more than a dozen popular streaming services, including Apple Music, Audible, Disney+, Headspace, Netflix and more. You’ll earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Each point is worth 1 cent ($0.01), so the card effectively earns 3% back on all of the bonus categories and 1% back on all other purchases.
Perks: Cardholders who spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months earn 20,000 bonus points. Beyond that, you won’t be charged foreign transaction fees when you travel abroad (though American Express isn’t always accepted in other countries). Additionally, if you pay your monthly cell phone bill with your Propel card, you benefit from up to $600 per claim in cell phone protection against damage and theft, subject to a $25 deductible.
American Express Business Gold
With a $295 annual fee, the American Express Business Gold Card can help you organize expenses and earn rewards for purchases you make to build your business.
Points: You’ll be earning points on any employee cards you set up, for a number of expenses including travel, computer equipment, shipping, and advertising, which could go a long way in helping you get your business off the ground.
Specifically, you’ll get 4X Membership Rewards points on up to $150,000 in combined purchases in two categories where your business spent the most each billing cycle—so if your business spends $150,000 on, say, software and online advertising, the primary account will receive 600,000 points to spend in the Membership Rewards portal, or cash out into your bank account. After that, you'll earn 1 point per dollar spent.
Additionally, if you book flights using points at American Express Travel, you'll get 25% of them back.
Perks: You can earn a welcome bonus of 70,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $10,000 within three months of account opening. As far as expense management goes, the card allows you to set up employee cards with customizable spending limits, transfer data from your American Express online statement directly into your QuickBooks account, and use a mobile app to add receipts and notes to transactions.
Journey Student Rewards from Capital One
The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One, our pick for the best credit card for college students, is a great way for student without a lot of credit history to started building credit. We think its combination of forgiving policies, credit score access, and basic point system it makes a great first credit card.
Points: This is a beginner’s card, and as such it has a beginner’s approach to points. For new cardholders hoping to build up credit, Journey Student card’s on-time payment incentive program—which kicks an extra 0.25% on top of the standard 1% cash-back rate any month you pay your balance on time—helps you develop good cardholder habits. Extra cash back for financial responsibility: a pretty good tradeoff if you’re worried about that first card.
Perks: Keep track of your credit score easily, and often, with Capital One’s online CreditWise platform—it gives you unlimited access to that all-important figure. That’s an essential for first-timers. You know what else is essential? Getting access to higher lines of credit. After 5 consecutive on time payments, those responsible financial habits bump up your credit line. (And, like every credit card, if you pay off your statement balance on time every month, you’ll avoid adding interest charges to your purchases.) As much as the Journey Student Credit Card rewards good habits, it punishes bad ones, with a high APR right off the bat.
Please note: The offers mentioned above are subject to change at any time and some may no longer be available.
Reviewed has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Reviewed and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.
Other top credit card options
This article originally appeared on Reviewed: The best credit cards of 2021: Reviewed