According to Statistic Brain, approximately 78% of all Americans have at least one credit card in their household. But do they have the best credit card for their needs? Given that there are literally hundreds of credit cards to choose from, it’s not easy to find the perfect piece of plastic for your wallet.
To help simplify this process, we listed the best credit cards of 2018 based on three important categories: cash-back, travel, and bad or no credit history. We also included the best all-around credit card of 2018 below.
Best All-Around Credit Card
Without a doubt, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is the best travel credit card of 2018. After you’re approved, not only will you get up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®, but you’ll also get a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months.
Early spend bonus: 50,000 Miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. Terms apply. Learn More
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards offers serious benefits, especially if you travel frequently or want to accumulate valuable airline miles that you can use on any airline, anytime. What we like most about the Venture card is that you don’t have to worry about the categories you’re spending your money on to earn rewards. You’ll earn a flat 2 miles for every $1 that you spend. Moreover, since Capital One has partnered with Hotels.Com, when you book a hotel on their website, you’ll earn 10x miles. Simply put, it’s hard to go wrong with the Venture card. It’s rewards are valuable, simple, and last a lifetime, because they never expire.
Best Cash-Back Credit Card
If you want to get the most bang for your buck, the Blue Cash Preferred® is the card to use for all everyday essential purchases, like grocery stores and gas stations. Plus, new approved applicants will get a $200 statement credit rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first three months of having the card. This bonus more than offsets the $95 annual fee.
Welcome Bonus: $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months. Terms apply. Learn More
When you spend money on your credit card, “Cash-Back” cards literally return a percentage of what you spend every month in the form of cash credited to your account. Cash-back cards are great if you simply want to get something for spending money, but don’t necessarily want to use your rewards for travel, like many airline miles cards. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is our top pick for a cash-back card in 2018.
Best Travel Credit Card
The Premiere Rewards Gold Card from Amex is often compared with the The Platinum Card® from Amex. Although the Gold Card isn’t made of metal like the Platinum Card®, it does have a gold color, which is pretty cool. For those who know they’re going to be spending more than $3,000 per year on travel, it’s tough to find a move valuable travel rewards credit card. Every time you book a flight with the Amex Gold Card, you’ll get 3x the price of the ticket in Amex points, which never expire and can be redeemed for cash, travel, or gift cards.
Welcome bonus: Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms apply. Learn More
If you’re looking to collect valuable rewards points redeemable for airline flights, hotel stays, or cruises, you’ll need a travel-specific credit card. The American Express Premiere Rewards Gold Credit Card offers the best value for travelers, without a high annual fee. When compared with the American Express Platinum Card®, which has an annual fee of $550 that isn’t waived for the first year, the Gold card is a bargain. There is definitely an aesthetic appeal with the card’s color, but the real appeal is 3x on flights and 2x on food and gas without a high annual fee.
Best Card For Bad or No Credit
The Capital One® Secured MasterCard® is an excellent first credit card for those with no credit history, and it is also a solid choice for those with a history of poor credit. There is no annual fee and, if you pay your bill on time and in-full, using a card like this will actually improve your overall credit health. On the contrary, if you use a debit or prepaid card, your credit will not improve at all. Learn More
If you’re applying for your first credit card, or if you have a poor credit history, you might have an easier time being approved for the Capital One® Secured MasterCard®. In the world of credit lending, unfortunately, those with no credit are lumped into the same category as those with poor credit. The good news is that it’s always possible to improve your credit score through responsible credit card use, i.e. paying your monthly balance in full and on time. Don’t be fooled by the low requirements, this is still a solid card for earning rewards, and it’s a great choice for first-time credit card applicants.
Finding the Right Credit Card for You
With so many credit card options to choose from, it’s difficult to find one card to suit all of your needs. Although we think the One® Venture® Rewards Card does a pretty good job at this, there’s no problem with having multiple credit cards for multiple purposes.
For example, if one card has a higher cash-back percentage for gas, and another card has a higher points multiple for airline tickets, it’s common sense to use each card for the respective category that will deliver the most value to you.
Remember, if you’re responsible and can pay your bills on time and keep track of your spending:
- Debit cards are for ATM withdrawals
- Credit cards are for purchases
At the end of the day, you can always rest assured knowing that, regardless of which credit card your choose, as long as you’re earning some points or airline miles when you spend money, you’re on the right track. It may seem obvious, but when you use a debit card for purchases, you get absolutely nothing for it. On the contrary, when you use a credit card for purchases, you’ll physically come out monetarily ahead via rewards points or cash-back if you pay off your bill in full and on time.
Specific Credit Cards for Students?
If you’re a student, chances are you have a limited credit history, which is deemed risky to creditors. Luckily, there are specific credit cards designed for students. A great starter student card is the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®.
The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® is a flexible card that is great for those with limited credit history. Specifically, the Journey® Student Rewards card lets you choose monthly payment due date that works for you, and protects you fully from unauthorized fraudulent purchased, all without an annual fee or foreign transaction fees, incase you study abroad. Learn More
Generally speaking, one of the biggest hurdles students face when applying for a credit card is their lack of credit history. As a student, you’ve physically had less time to build up years of good credit, and credit card companies understand this. The Journey® Student Rewards card from Capital One® doesn’t have any annual fees, .
Other Popular Credit Cards
With an annual fee of $95 that is waived for the first year, the Sapphire Preferred is an awesome entry-level travel/all-around card that gives 2x points on travel and dining.
Learn More about the Sapphire Preferred
With an annual fee of $450 that is NOT waived for the first year, the Sapphire Reserve comes with a hefty price tag, but 3x points for every $1 spent on dining and travel offset the annual fee along with a $300/year travel credit.
Learn More about the Sapphire Reserve
Best Credit Cards Summary
|Credit Card||Best For|
|Capital One® Venture® Rewards||Best all-around credit card|
|American Express Blue Cash Preferred®||Cash-back on essential purchases|
|American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card||Domestic ands foreign travel|
|Capital One® Secured MasterCard®||Bad or no credit history|
|Capital One® Journey® Student Rewards||Students|
Do I need a Credit Card?
If you plan on using services like Uber, Amazon, or Netflix, it really behooves you to use a credit card as opposed to a debit card. For starters, if you pay your bill on time and in full, meaning you don’t just pay the minimum requirement, you’ll earn valuable airline miles, rewards points, or cash-back, depending on the credit card you choose.
When you make a purchase for an online service that doesn’t accept cash with a debit card, you won’t get any points, and you typically don’t get any fraud protection. Nowadays, almost every credit card issuer provides fraud protection against unauthorized purchases, where you won’t have to pay for unauthorized purchases until everything is sorted out.
The bottom line is, when used responsibly, credit cards are empowering financial tools that provide awesome perks and monetary benefits.
Check out the more of the best credit cards here.
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Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.