The selection of credit cards available to American consumers is mind-boggling. In 2015, there were approximately two thousand credit card types in circulation: starting with Alaska Airlines Visa Platinum Plus all the way to Zions Bank Visa Credit Card.
Needless to say, culling so many credit cards to a manageable list of the best credit cards of 2015 is a challenge. It’s not just the scope of credit cards available that makes it difficult. Which credit cards are best is largely dependent on your preferences, your credit and your spending habits. It’s a little like trying to collate a list of the best cars, watches, knives or shoes. It’s impossible, as well as pointless, unless you specify a type, a budget and how you plan to use them.
For this reason we have divided our list of the best credit cards of 2015 into nine categories:
–Best Credit Card for Bad Credit
–Best Credit Cards for Fair or Average Credit
–Best Credit Cards for Good Credit
–Best Credit Card for Travel Rewards
–Best Credit Card for Students
–Best Credit Card with a Low APR
–Best Credit Card for Balance Transfers
–Best Credit Card for Cashback
–Best Credit Card for Businesses
Each category has a winner and a runner up. Although this post will briefly describe why each card made the list, you can find more detailed reviews on the rates, fees and benefits of each card by reading its SuperMoney’s in-depth review.
Best Credit Card for Bad Credit
Credit One Visa Platinum
Credit One Visa Platinum is our pick for the best credit card for people with bad credit because it offers automatic credit line increase reviews, updates all three credit bureaus and includes free monthly credit score tracking. In addition, it allows you to get pre-qualified for the card without affecting your credit score. Each one of those features has the potential to help people improve their credit rating, which is a priority for anyone with bad credit.
Your credit utilization rate, which is result of dividing outstanding balance by credit limit, accounts for 30 percent of your FICO score. Credit One Visa Platinum will automatically review your credit limit as soon as you’re eligible, as a reward for using your credit responsibly. Paying your bills on time accounts for 35 percent of your score, but it doesn’t mean squat if the credit card doesn’t report your exemplary payment history to the credit reporting agencies. Tracking your credit score not only provides a powerful incentive to continue spending responsibly, it could provide early warning that you’ve been the victim of identity theft.
Credit One Visa Platinum also emails or texts reminders when a payment is due and lets cardholders pick the payment due date that best fits your schedule. The interest rates for this card range from 17.9% to 23.9% APR, not bad for an offer to people with bad credit. The only catch is the annual fee, which could cost you anything from $35 to $99, depending on just how bad your credit its.
Capital One Secured MasterCard
Capital One’s Secured MasterCard is a great option for people trying to rebuild their credit. It doesn’t have an annual fee, includes free access to your credit score, and has a credit line of up to $3,000. The only catch is it’s a secured credit card, which means you have to be willing to place a $49, $99 or $200 deposit depending on how bad your credit is. The other issue is the 24.9% APR. Needless to say this is a credit card you don’t want to carry a balance with, but it’s a great tool to for improving your credit score.
Best Credit Cards for Fair or Average Credit
Capital One’s QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards MasterCard
Finding a decent rewards credit card for people with average or fair credit is not easy, but that’s exactly what Capital One’s QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards MasterCard is.
Cardholders earn 1.5% cashback on every purchase, every day, without having to worry about pesky rotating categories. The simplicity of this card doesn’t stop there. You can redeem points at any time, for any amount, they never expire and there’s no limit on how many you can earn.
Users also get a 0% APR introductory rate for balance transfers and purchases until January 2016, plus free access to their credit score. The regular interest rates range from 12.9% to 22.9%, depending on creditworthiness. The one caveat of this card is that it has a $39 annual fee that isn’t waived for the first year.
Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard
Having the Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard as a runner up and not the all-out winner was a close call. It offers double cash back rewards on purchases for gas, groceries and utilities; and 1 point on all other purchases. There are no quarterly sign-ups to worry about, there’s no limit to the amount of cashback points you can earn, and they never expire. However, the minimum amount you can redeem is 1,000 cashback points, for $10.
The card also includes complimentary access to your FICO credit score and cardholders can qualify for a credit line increase after five consecutive on-time payments. All of this with no annual fee. The only issues we have with this card are its high interest rate: 24.99%, and its 3% foreign transaction fee.
Best Credit Cards for Good Credit
Chase’s Freedom Credit Card
Once your credit score falls between 640 and 720, you gain access to a wide selection of credit cards. Our favorite is Chase’s Freedom because it is a well-rounded credit card that combines reasonable interest rates, a generous cashback program and a decent signup bonus, but doesn’t have an annual fee. It also manages to pack a 0% APR introductory rate on balance transfers.
The interest rates range from 13.99 to 22.99% depending on creditworthiness. The cashback program gives 5% on up to $1,500 for dining and purchases at select department stores plus an additional category that changes every three months, and unlimited 1% cashback on all other purchases. If you spend $500 within the first three months, you receive a $100 cash bonus.
The only things to look out for with this card is its 3% fee on foreign transactions and balance transfers, and the 29.99% penalty rate that kicks in when you’re late on a payment or exceed your credit limit.
BankAmericard Travel Rewards
The BankAmericard Travel Rewards gives 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on purchases and allows you to redeem them for any travel expenses. No need to worry about blackout dates or which airline you use. Just buy your tickets and redeem your points for a statement credit. The card doesn’t have an annual fee or charge foreign transaction fees. Yet, its interest rates range from 14.99% to 22.99%, it has a 0% intro rate on balance transfers for the first 12 months, and a 10,000 sign up bonus if you spend $500 within the first three months.
The BankAmerciand Travel Rewards card is also part of Bank of America’s “Museum on Us” program, which gives you free weekend passes to 150 museums throughout the United States.
Best Credit Card for Travel Rewards
Barclaycard Arrival Plus
Arguably the best travel card of 2015 is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus. Its main features are double points/miles on all purchases; a signup bonus of 40,000 miles (if you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days); an introductory APR of 0% for the first 12 months on balance transfers and monthly access to your FICO credit score.
Arrival cardholders also get 10 percent of the miles they spend back to redeem later. The miles never expire and there are no foreign transaction fees. The only catch of this card is you need excellent credit to qualify and there’s an $89 annual fee. However, the fee is waived the first year and it more than pays for itself in travel rewards.
This category is so competitive we just had to include two cards in the runner up section.
Capital One’s Venture Rewards
Like the Arrival Plus, Capital One’s Venture Rewards has a 40,000 miles signup bonus, if you spend $3,000 in the first three months. It also allows cardholders to earn double points on all purchases and redeem them easily with travel expense credits. However, it has a lower annual fee, $59, and the first year’s fee is waived. It doesn’t have an introductory APR for balance transfers, but it doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee either, which Barclaycard’s does.
Chase’s Sapphire Preferred
Another close contender is Chase’s Sapphire Preferred. This card offers a 40,000 points signup bonus, if you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months; plus an extra 5,000 bonus points if you add an authorized user. That is worth more than $550 toward airfare and hotels when you redeem through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards platform. Sapphire Preferred gives double points on travel and dining and one point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Best Credit Card for Students
College students are in a funny spot when it comes to credit cards. They generally don’t have the credit history required to qualify for prime cards, but credit card companies are attracted to their future earning potential and are willing to sweeten the deal to get their business.
Discover it for Students
Discover it for Students gives 5% and 2% cash back on select categories, such as dining and entertainment purchases, and 1% on all other purchases. There are no limits on how many points cardholders can earn and they can redeem their cash rewards at any time and for any amount. Discover it even has a special deal with Amazon.com which allows you to use cashback points at the website’s checkout. Interest rates vary from 12.99 to 21.99%, which is low for a card for people with fair to no credit.
There are no annual, over-limit or foreign transaction fees to worry about, and even the first late payment fee is automatically waived. Students even get a $20 cash bonus when they make their first purchase and free access to their FICO credit score every month.
Citi ThankYou Preferred for College Students
Citi ThankYou Preferred for College Students has a points reward program that gives 2 points for every dollar spent on dining and entertainment and 1 point on all other purchases. There is a 2,500 points signup bonus for cardholders that spend $500 within the first three months of opening an account. Points can be redeemed for gift cards, travel getaways, Amazon purchases, and merchandise from the ThankYou catalog. The Citi ThankYou Preferred for College Students has no annual fee but it does charge a 3% foreign transaction fee and a 5% cash advance fee.
Best Credit Card with a Low APR
Barclaycard Ring MasterCard
The Barclaycard Ring MasterCard has one of the lowest interest rates available, just 8% on balance transfers, purchases and cash advances. There are no balance transfer fees to pay, so you don’t need to get your calculator out to work out whether the interest rate drop is worth the transfer. However, the Ring MasterCard does not have a 0% APR introductory rate; so if you already carry a balance, you may be better off applying for a credit card with a 0% intro rate and no balance transfer fee first.
The Ring MasterCard has no annual fees or foreign transaction fees either, and cardholders receive free access to their FICO score. A new feature only Barclaycard offers is the Giveback program, a profit sharing program that distributes a portion of the profits back to the cardholders.
BankAmericard Visa Card
BankAmericard combines a low APR ranging from 10.99% to 20.99% with a 0% APR intro rate for the first 15 months on balance transfers and no annual fee. However, the BankAmericard Visa does have a 3% balance transfer fee, so cardholders should first check whether the credit inquiry and time invested in applying for the card is worth the savings they’ll receive.
Best Credit Card for Balance Transfers
There are many cards that offer a 0% intro rate on balance transfers, but most charge a 3-5% fee to process the transaction and don’t include new purchases in the offer. Chase’s Slate credit card, on the other hand, has a 0% APR intro rate for the first 15 months on balance transfer and purchases and there is no balance transfer fee to worry about. The regular rate then climbs to 12.99 to 22.99% APR. There are no annual fees and cardholders receive their FICO credit score for free every month and additional insurance coverage on new purchases.
Discover it has one of the longest 0% APR intro rates on balance transfers: 18 months. However, there is a 3% balance transfer fee to consider. The intro deal also includes 0% APR on new purchases for the first six months. Once the intro periods expire, the interest rates climb up to 10.99% to 22.99%.
There are no annual fees, over limit fees or foreign transaction fees, and the first late payment is waived. In addition, cardholders get access to their FICO score every month. The card also comes with a new Freeze It feature that allows users to freeze and unfreeze their accounts either online or over the phone if they happen to misplace their card.
Best Credit Card for Cashback
American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card
The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express has a 6% cashback rate on supermarkets located in the US, 3% at gas stations and participating department stores and 1% on all other purchases. There’s no need to enroll or keep track of revolving categories. The Blue Cash also includes a $150 signup bonus, if you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months and an introductory 0% APR for the first 15 months on balance transfers.
There is a $75 annual fee, but the $150 signup bonus covers that for two years. In any case, the generous travel and purchase protection perks included with the card are worth it.
U.S. Bank Cash+
The U.S. Bank Cash+ credit card has a cash back rate of 5% on your first $2,000 in purchases for two categories of your choice, 2% cash back on a third category and 1% on all other purchases. Categories include gas, groceries, dining and travel. There is no limit on the total cashback you can earn or a minimum redemption amount. U.S. Bank Cash+ also includes a 9-month 0% APR introductory rate. All with no annual fee and a $100 cashback signup bonus for cardholders that spend $500 in purchases during the first three months.
Best Credit Card for Businesses
Chase’s Ink Plus Business Credit Card
The Ink Plus Business credit card has, hands down, the best rewards and signup bonus available for small and medium-sized businesses. The signup bonus is a spectacular 60,000 points, although you do have to spend $5,000 within the first three months to qualify. If you use those points to book travel through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards platform, it is the equivalent of $750 to spend on travel. The rewards program gives 5 points for every $1 cardholders spend on office supplies, telephone, internet and cable TV services; and double points for every $1 on the first $50,000 spent at gas stations and hotels. All other purchases receive 1 point for every $1 spent.
The card has no foreign transaction fees and offers free additional cards for employees. The only caveat is that it has a $95 annual fee, but even small businesses can justify that cost when you consider the rewards this card packs.
American Express’ SimplyCash Business Card
The SimplyCash Business Card is the best no-annual fee business card available in 2015. It has a $250 cashback signup bonus for customers who spend $5,000 within the first 6 months. The rewards program offers 5% cashback on every $1 spent at U.S. office supply stores and wireless telephone services; 3% on a category of your choice, such as travel or gas, and 1% on all other purchases. It also includes a 0% APR on purchases for the first 9 months. After that, interest rates range from 12.24% to $19.24%, depending on creditworthiness.
This selection includes some of the best credit cards you can get this year. However, it only represents a small selection of the thousands of credit cards available to consumers. SuperMoney’s credit cards search tool can help you filter credit card offers by credit requirements, reward programs, fees, benefits, cost and more, so you can find the best credit card for your personal circumstances and goals.