The credit card landscape is so competitive that you can now find a credit card type to match nearly any spending pattern. Whether you’re looking to save on interest costs, are opening a small business and want to track expenses, or just want to earn cash back, there’s a card out there for you. The question isn’t what is the best credit card to get; rather, you should be asking, “What’s the best credit card for me?” Read on to learn about the different types of credit cards and decide which credit card is best for you.
9 Types of Credit Cards to Consider
The best rewards card might be one that’s tailored to your personal travel habits, or it might be one that has a low ongoing interest rate. Each category has an example of the type of credit card offers you can expect from the best credit cards in that segment of the credit card market. So you can decide which one carries the best financial rewards for you, here’s a list of the main credit card types:
1. Travel Rewards Credit Cards
Travel rewards credit cards earn you points or miles that can prove more valuable than cash if you’re a frequent traveler and can put them to good use. Most travel rewards cards pay you bonus points or miles if you use the cards to spend in specific travel-related categories. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card offers triple points on airline bookings and dining, along with a host of ancillary travel benefits. But these cards often carry a high annual fee — at least $95, in many cases. Even the best travel credit card might not provide you with much value unless you’re a frequent traveler.
2. Cash-Back Credit Cards
Cash-back credit cards are the most straightforward card type, generally offering at least 1 percent cash back on everything you buy. A cash-back card sometimes has bonus categories that pay even more. For example, the Chase Freedom card offers 1 percent cash on all purchases but pays 5 percent cash back in rotating categories like gas stations or internet/cable services. A cash-back credit card might be the most appropriate for you if you’re just looking to get straight cash rewards on a wide variety of purchases.
3. Low-Interest Credit Cards
A low-interest credit card is best for consumers who carry a balance from month to month — high interest can eat up any rewards you’re getting. Many cards, including the Chase Slate, offer a promotional period during which you’ll pay a 0% APR on purchases; in the case of Chase Slate, that period is a generous 15 months. If you need more than 15 months to pay off your balances, consider a card like the Simmons Bank Visa Platinum Card, which currently offers a 9.50% APR.
4. Balance-Transfer Credit Cards
A typical balance transfer card offers interest-free financing for 12 months or longer, usually for a 3 to 5 percent balance transfer fee. Converting high-interest debt to no-interest debt can save you money, even after factoring in any transfer fee. But note the interest rate following the promotional period, as it can be high. The Citi Simplicity Card, for example, offers a 0 percent balance transfer rate for a full 21 months, along with no annual fee, no late fees and no penalty rates. But the rate jumps to as high as 25.24 percent after the grace period ends.
Learn More: How Credit Card Balance Transfers Work
5. Student Credit Cards
Student credit cards offer perks and help younger adults build credit. The Discover it Chrome Card for College Students, for example, gives 2 percent cash back on gas and restaurants and $20 cash back for every year that you keep a GPA of 3.0 or higher. The card has no annual fee, and you can use the rewards for cash back or for purchases on Amazon.com.
6. Business Credit Cards
Business credit cards can be used to keep business expenses separate from personal ones. You can also give employees cards for business purchases. Most business cards offer rewards for spending in various business-related categories. The Chase Ink Business Preferred card, for example, offers three points per $1 spent on shipping, internet, cable and phone services, travel and social media advertising and search engine optimization. This type of card can be a great way to rack up points while organizing your business expenses, but general credit card users might have better options.
7. General Rewards Credit Cards
Some rewards credit cards offer benefits on all purchases or allow their benefits to be used for multiple purposes. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard offers double miles on all purchases, plus a 40,000-point signup bonus for spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days. Those points can be used for travel, cash-back statement credits, gift cards and merchandise. The $89 annual fee is waived for the first year, as is often the case for rewards cards. General rewards cards like this one can be a good choice if you don’t have any specific shopping or travel loyalties and want benefits on all your purchases.
8. Secured Credit Cards
A secured credit card like the Wells Fargo secured credit card requires you to make a cash deposit as collateral for your credit line. Your credit activity using the card is reported to the major credit bureaus. After you make a certain number of on-time payments, you typically can convert a secured credit card to an unsecured card.
9. Store and Gas Rewards Credit Cards
A store or gas rewards credit card is usually only good at the retailer that issues it. Retailers offer generous perks like 20 percent off your first two days of Macy’s card purchases — up to $100 — plus 25 percent off coupons in the mail. Many gas cards offer cash back on gas purchases at their stations; the ExxonMobil Smart Card, for example, gives cardholders 6 cents off per gallon at all Exxon or Mobil stations. Although these cards typically carry no annual fee, their use is limited. But they have some merit for frequent visitors to a particular retailer or gas station.
What’s the Best Credit Card for Me?
The easiest way to find the best credit card is to analyze your own financial situation. Are you a student? Do you have a spotty credit history? Are you a world traveler? There are cards for each of these situations.
Once you’ve narrowed down the best category, compare current credit card offers for those specific types of cards. Factor in the costs, both in terms of interest expense and annual or balance-transfer fees, to narrow the list down to a few standout choices.