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Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card
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Great for those with fair or average credit plus, no fees
Chase Sapphire Preferred®
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60,000 bonus points – worth up to $750 in travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Identity Guard
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Individual and Family plans with up to $1 million identity theft insurance
American Express® Gold Card
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60,000 point welcome offer - most points ever offered for this card
Blue Cash Preferred® Card
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$250 welcome offer and save big on groceries at U.S. supermarkets
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Credit Cards

Best credit cards for excellent credit in 2021

CNBC Select analyzed the most popular credit cards offered by the biggest banks, financial companies, and credit unions that we determined have excellent credit score requirements to find the best card for your needs.

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An excellent credit score (800 to 850) allows you to qualify for the very best credit card offers. Most of the top cards require good or excellent credit if you want to earn lucrative rewards, benefit from 0% APR periods and enjoy a bunch of luxury perks. The higher your credit score, the better chances you have at qualifying for these offers.

Excellent credit also gives you access to better terms on other financial products, such as auto loans and mortgages. It's in your best interest to work toward excellent credit so you can benefit from lower interest rates and more generous loan terms.

Don't know your credit score? Check your credit score for free now.

If you don't fall within the excellent credit range, check out our roundup of the best cards for bad credit (scores below 580), fair/average credit (580 to 669) or good credit (670 to 739).

CNBC Select breaks down the best credit cards for people with excellent credit, so you can choose a card that fits your needs.

Best credit cards for excellent credit

Best for Travel

American Express® Gold Card

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    4X Membership Rewards® points on restaurants (including takeout and delivery) and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 6 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $250

  • Intro APR

    Not applicable

  • Regular APR

    See Pay Over Time APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    See rates and fees

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees and our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Strong rewards program with 4X points earned on dining worldwide and 3X points earned on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com
  • Up to $120 in dining credits at participating partners and up to $100 hotel credit
  • Baggage insurance plan covers up to $1,250 for carry-on baggage and up to $500 for checked baggage that is damaged, lost or stolen
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.

Cons

  • No introductory APR period
  • $250 annual fee

Who's this for? The American Express® Gold Card is a smart choice for consumers who love travel and dining out. While the card comes with a $250 annual fee, it offers a number of luxury rewards that help offset the cost.

One big perk travelers can take advantage of is the annual statement credits. Cardholders get $120 to cover restaurant charges ($10 per month at Seamless, Grubhub and other participating restaurants) and $100 in hotel credits when you book rooms through The Hotel Collection with American Express Travel.

When using the American Express Gold Card, users earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, 4X Membership Rewards® points on dining worldwide and purchases made at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, then 1X) and 1X Membership Rewards® points earned on everything else.

There are also special travel perks, such as room upgrades at specific hotels, as well as special travel discounts and amenities for those who enroll with The Travel Collection by Travel Leaders Group at no extra cost.

Check out CNBC Select's best travel credit cards.

Best for Cash Back

Citi® Double Cash Card

On Citi's secure site
  • Rewards

    2% cash back: 1% on all purchases and an additional 1% after you pay your credit card bill

  • Welcome bonus

    No current offer

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 18 months on balance transfers; N/A for purchases

  • Regular APR

    13.99% - 23.99% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    3%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • 2% cash back on all purchases
  • Simple cash-back program that doesn't require activation or spending caps
  • One of the longest intro periods for balance transfers at 18 months

Cons

  • No welcome bonus, so you can’t maximize rewards during the first few months of card opening
  • Minimum cash-back redemption of $25
  • 3% fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.

Who's this for? The Citi® Double Cash Card is a straightforward rewards card that offers one of the best flat-rate cash-back programs. Cardholders earn 2% cash back on all purchases — 1% when you make a purchase and an additional 1% when you pay your credit card bill.

There is no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn, and you don't have to worry about activating bonus categories. Cash back can be redeemed for a statement credit or direct deposit.

This card is also a good choice for debt consolidation: There's a 0% APR for the first 18 months on balance transfers (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable APR). Just make sure you transfer balances within four months from account opening. There is a 3% balance transfer fee (minimum $5), which can be outweighed by the amount you save on interest if you make a plan to pay off the balance transfer during the intro period.

Check out CNBC Select's best cash-back credit cards.

Best Welcome Bonus

Chase Sapphire Preferred®

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022, 2X points on travel and dining worldwide, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening — worth up to $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    15.99% to 22.99% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Transfer points to leading frequent travel programs at a 1:1 rate, including: IHG® Rewards Club, Marriott Bonvoy™ and World of Hyatt®
  • Free DashPass subscription for a minimum of a year when you activate by December 31, 2021
  • Travel protections include: auto rental collision damage waiver, baggage delay insurance and trip delay reimbursement
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • No hotel-specific perks or credits
  • No introductory 0% APR

Who's this for? The Chase Sapphire Preferred® is one of the best travel cards available with a competitive rewards program and generous welcome bonus. Cardholders earn 2X points on travel and dining worldwide and 1X points on all other purchases. Plus earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022.

New cardholders earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

This card stands out from the pack thanks to the strong rewards rate when you redeem points for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Points are worth 25% more, so 60,000 points are worth $750 towards travel. This is a great way to maximize the value of points and the welcome bonus.

Beyond rewards, cardholders can benefit from helpful travel perks, such as no foreign transaction fees, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver, travel and emergency assistance services, baggage delay insurance and trip delay reimbursement.

Check out CNBC Select's best credit card welcome bonuses.

Best 0% APR Period

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever

Information about the Citi Simplicity® Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    None

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 18 months on purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    14.74% to 24.74% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Balances can be transferred within 4 months from account opening
  • One of the longest intro periods for balance transfers at 18 months

Cons

  • 3% foreign transaction fee
  • No rewards program

Who's this for? The Citi Simplicity® Card offers one of the longest balance transfer intro period at 0% for the first 18 months (then 14.74% to 24.74% variable APR). This is a year and a half to pay off debt, which can be helpful if you have a large balance or if your cash flow doesn't allow you to pay off debt within the 6-, 12-, 15-month time periods of other balance transfer cards.

This card has no annual fee, but it does come with one of the steeper balance transfer fees: 5% (minimum $5). But this can be worthwhile if you're paying high interest charges.

New cardholders have four months to complete their balance transfer (longer than the typical 60 to 90 days). While you have more time to complete a transfer, the intro APR period starts at account opening — so try to make the transfer as soon as possible to get the most benefit of the interest-free period.

This card also offers 0% APR for the first 18 months on purchases (then 14.74% to 24.74% variable APR) and never charges late fees (though we always recommend you pay your balance on time and in full). There isn't a welcome bonus or a rewards program.

Check out CNBC Select's best 0% APR credit cards.

Best for Luxury Perks

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    10X points on Lyft rides through March 2022, 3X points on travel worldwide (immediately after earning your $300 annual travel credit), 3X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out, 1X point per $1 on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening — worth up to $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

  • Annual fee

    $550

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    16.99% to 23.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit for travel purchases
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit up to $100 every four years
  • Priority Pass™ Select lounge access at 1,000+ VIP lounges in over 500 cities worldwide
  • Special benefits at The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection
  • Free DashPass subscription for a minimum of a year when you activate by December 31, 2021
  • $60 DoorDash credit in 2020 and 2021
  • Complimentary year of Lyft Pink membership

Cons

  • High $550 annual fee, but it can be offset by taking advantage of all the card’s perks
  • No introductory APR
  • Relatively high balance transfer fee

Who's this for? Chase Sapphire Reserve® is enormously popular among travelers for its luxe perks and strong rewards program. In addition to offering 10X points on Lyft rides through March 2022 and 3X points on dining and travel purchases, cardholders get a $300 annual statement credit to apply to qualifying travel expenses.

But it's the perks that really make this card stand out for globetrotters. You can get a statement credit of up to $100 (every four years) to help cover Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees as well as enroll in Priority Pass Select, which gives you access to more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide with free amenities, such as Wi-Fi, snacks, beverages and more.

The Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal has everything you need to plan a vacation from booking rental cars to cruises. You can also use the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection to book rooms and take advantage of upgrades upon arrival, complimentary meals, flexible check-in times, extra amenities and special discounts.

The value of points increases 50% when you redeem for travel on Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruise reservations when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. This is a great way to maximize the value of your rewards and makes this card stand out from the pack.

While this card does come with a substantial annual fee of $550, the many statement credits help to offset the costs. Cardmembers traveling internationally also don't need to worry about foreign transaction fees.

Chase Sapphire Reserve increases annual fee to $550—is the card still worth the cost?

Best credit cards for excellent credit

Category Travel Cash back Welcome bonus 0% APR Luxury Perks
Credit Card
American Express® Gold Card
Citi® Double Cash Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred®
Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
See below for our methodology Learn MoreOn the American Express secure siteLearn MoreOn Citi's secure siteLearn MoreOn Chase's secure siteLearn MoreInformation about the Citi Simplicity® Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.Learn MoreOn Chase's secure site

Our methodology

To determine which credit cards offer the best value, CNBC Select analyzed 234 of the most popular credit cards available in the U.S. We compared each card on a range of features, including rewards, welcome bonus, introductory and standard APR, balance transfer fee and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available. We also considered additional perks, the application process and how easy it is for the consumer to redeem points.

CNBC Select teamed up with location intelligence firm Esri. The company's data development team provided the most up-to-date and comprehensive consumer spending data based on the 2018 Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can read more about their methodology here.

Esri's data team created a sample annual budget of approximately $22,126 in retail spending. The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). General purchases include items such as housekeeping supplies, clothing, personal care products, prescription drugs, vitamins and other vehicle expenses.

CNBC Select used this budget to estimate how much the average consumer would save over the course of a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee.

While the five-year estimates we've included are derived from a budget similar to the average American's spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your shopping habits.

Information about the Citi Simplicity® Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.