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We’re going to tell this to you straight: Credit cards can be super confusing. They can be great money tools, but they can make a disaster of your finances, too. On top of that, there are dozens of cards (and credit card offers) to choose from. How do you know which ones are the best credit cards? And is it possible to be sure you’re making the right decision when you apply for one?
There are lots of ways to answer those questions, depending on what you’re looking for in a credit card and what your individual financial situation looks like. To narrow the field a bit, let’s talk about top credit cards that offer good deals to cardholders — that is, these credit cards are good deals because consumers can reap their benefits without paying extra for them.
How to Get a Credit Card
Most Americans (77%) have at least one credit card, according to a 2015 survey from the Federal Reserve. In that same report, 26% of people who applied for credit in the previous 12 months were denied, with 35% of those applications for credit cards.
To increase your odds of a creditor approving your credit card application, it’s a good idea to see where your credit scores stand. With that information, you can research cards designed for people with credit like yours. (You can get a free snapshot of your credit report, including two credit scores, on Credit.com.)
Credit Cards With Great Deals
Once you have an idea where your credit stands, you’ll want to start thinking about what kind of credit card you’d like. With that in mind, here are a few of the best credit cards of 2018.
If You Need to Build Credit: Discover it® Secured
Discover it® SecuredIntro Apr:N/A
Ongoing Apr:24.74% Variable on purchases & balance transfers
Balance Transfer:Intro: 10.99% for 6 months
- No Annual Fee, cash back on every purchase, and helps you build your credit with responsible use.
- Your Secured Credit Card requires a refundable security deposit up to the amount we can approve of at least $200 which will establish your credit line. You will need to provide your bank information when submitting your security deposit.
- We will automatically begin reviewing your account starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit.
- Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
- Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
- Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
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Why We Picked It: The secured version of Discover it has no annual fee, which can be hard to come by when you’re looking into secured credit cards, which are designed for people with little, no or bad credit.
Additional Details: The Discover it Secured card requires a minimum $200 deposit — your deposit serves as your credit line — and if you fail to make your credit card payments, Discover can take your deposit to cover those expenses. The card also allows you to earn 2% cash back up to $1,000 per quarter at restaurants and gas stations, and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
If You Need to Pay Down Debt: Chase Slate
Why We Picked It: Many balance transfer cards attach a fee to the transaction, generally about 3% to 5% of the balance you’re transferring. Chase Slate is one of the few no-fee balance transfer credit cards out there. As long as you make the balance transfer within 60 days of the account opening, you will not have to pay a fee.
If You Need to Finance a Large Purchase: Citi Simplicity® Card – No Late Fees Ever
Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees EverIntro Apr:0% for 18 months on purchases and balance transfers
Ongoing Apr:15.74% - 25.74%* (Variable)
Balance Transfer:Intro: 0%* for 18 months on Balance Transfers
- The ONLY card with No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and No Annual Fee…EVER
- 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers and Purchases for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.74% - 25.74% based on your creditworthiness*
- There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
- The same great rate for all balances, after the introductory period
- Save time when you call with fast, personal help, 24 hours a day – just say “representative”
- Enjoy the convenience of setting up your own bill payment schedule on any available due date throughout the month
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Why We Picked It: Citi Simplicity has the longest 0% introductory offer for balance transfers, however, there is a $5 or 5% balance transfer fee, whichever is greater. This fee is still lower than most credit cards, who usually charge a 5% fee for balance transfers. This also means that you won’t be charged interest for almost two years when you transfer balances to pay off a purchase. Another bonus? Cardholders get to pick their payment due date, so card payments will never occur at an inconvenient time.
Additional Details: The card touts a no-fee trifecta: no late fees, no penalty APR and a $0* annual fee.
If You Want to Earn Cash Rewards: Chase Freedom
Chase Freedom®Intro Apr:0% for 15 months on purchases
Ongoing Apr:16.74% - 25.49% Variable
Balance Transfer:Intro: 0% for 15 months
- Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
- Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
- Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter
- Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – it's automatic
- 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
- Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
- Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
- No annual fee
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Why We Picked It: Chase Freedom’s 5% cash back in rotating categories makes it a very popular choice for people who use their credit cards for everyday expenses. The rewards categories change every quarter.
Additional Details: New cardholders can earn a $150 signup bonus for spending $500 in the first three months.
At publishing time, the Discover it Secured, Chase Slate, Citi Simplicity, and Chase Freedom cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.
This article last updated September 12th, 2017. It was originally published Nov. 7, 2016.