[UPDATE: Some offers mentioned below have expired and/or are no longer available on our site. You can view the current offers from our partners in our credit card marketplace. DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]
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 2016.
If You Need to Build Credit: Discover it Secured
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.
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 23.99% Variable on purchases & balance transfers
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. Your transferred balance has a 0% APR for the first 15 months the account is open.
Additional Details: Balances transferred after 60 days will have a $5 or 5% fee tacked onto the balance (whichever is greater). There’s also an introductory 0% APR on new purchases for the first 15 months you have the account.
Annual Fee: None
APR:Variable 15.99% to 24.74% on balance transfers and purchases after the end of the promotional period.
If You Need to Finance a Large Purchase: Citi Simplicity
Why We Picked It: Citi Simplicity allows cardholders to pay 0%* for 21 months on purchases* and balance transfers* when they open an account.
Additional Details: Balance transfers also have a Intro: 0%* for 21 months on Balance Transfers*, but there’s a $5 or 3% balance transfer fee (whichever is greater). The card also touts a no-fee trifecta: no late fees, no penalty APR and $0* annual fee.
Annual Fee: $0*
APR: 14.99% - 24.99% (Variable) (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)
If You Want to Earn Cash Rewards: Chase Freedom
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. There’s a 0% for 15 months on purchases the account is open, as well as for balance transfers (but the balance transfer fee is 5% or $5, whichever is greater). After that, the standard APR applies.
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 15.99% - 24.74% Variable.
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.