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Credit Cards

The best credit cards of 2021

We rounded up the best credit cards of 2021 that can help you build credit, save on interest charges and earn you over $2,000 in five years.

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There are so many credit cards available to consumers that it can be hard to choose the best card. There's no "one size fits all" credit card, but instead options for different types of people — whether you're a foodie, road warrior, traveler or someone looking to build credit. A little research can help you find a card that's specifically designed for your lifestyle.

To determine which cards offer the best value, Select analyzed 234 credit cards available in the U.S. that anyone can apply for. When comparing rewards cards, we used a sample budget based on the latest spending data available from the location intelligence firm Esri to break down how much money each card could net you over the course of five years. (See our methodology for more information on how we choose the best cards.)

The cards we selected also provide numerous additional benefits, such as annual statement credits, discounts at select retailers, insurance and more that make using a credit card truly worthwhile. These cards can be a great way to save money, especially since the average American spending budget is around $22,126 a year, according to the latest spending data available from Esri.

In order to get the most benefit from your card, you want to make sure you practice responsible credit behavior, such as paying off your balance on time and in full each month and avoiding overspending and falling into debt.

Below, Select rounded up the best credit cards of 2021 that can help you build credit, save on interest charges and earn you over $2,000 in cash back over five years.

Here are the best credit cards of 2021:

Best cash-back credit card

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year, 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining (including takeout) and drugstores and 1.5% on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    $200 cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 15 months on purchases

  • Regular APR

    14.99% to 23.74% 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

    3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Long intro 0% APR period for purchases
  • Rewards can be transferred to a Chase Ultimate Rewards card
  • Generous welcome bonus

Cons

  • Below average 1.5% cash back on non-bonus category purchases
  • 3% fee charged on foreign transactions
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $847
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,709

Rewards totals incorporate the cash back earned from the welcome bonus

Who's this for? Consumers who want a robust rewards card with no annual fee should consider the Chase Freedom Unlimited® Card. Cardholders earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on drugstores and dining (including takeout) and 1.5% on all other purchases.

If you're looking to maximize your rewards, there's also a generous welcome bonus with a low spending requirement: Earn $200 cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.

This card has no annual fee, and you can benefit from a 0% APR for the first 15 months on purchases (then 14.99% to 23.74% variable APR).

This card also offers 5% cash back on Lyft purchases through March 2022 and complimentary three months of DashPass with 50% off for the next nine months. Simply activate by December 31, 2021.

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

Best rewards and travel card

American Express® Gold Card

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    4X Membership Rewards® points on restaurants (including takeout and delivery, plus, Uber Eats purchases) 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

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees and our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Up to $120 dining credit annually ($10 a month) for purchases made with Grubhub, Seamless and eligible restaurants (after a one-time enrollment)
  • Up to $120 Uber Cash annually ($10 a month) for U.S. Uber Eats orders and U.S. Uber rides (card must be added to Uber app to receive the Uber Cash benefit)
  • Strong rewards program with 4X points earned at restaurants and 3X points earned on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com
  • 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
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $1,074
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,969

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus

Who's this for? If you love food and travel, the American Express® Gold Card could be the ideal rewards card for you. Whether you dine out or cook at home, this card earns a competitive 4X points per dollar spent at restaurants and 4X points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X). Plus, travelers can benefit from the 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

The value of Membership Rewards® points varies depending on how cardholders redeem them. You can use them in a variety of ways, from paying with points at checkout at sites like Amazon to redeeming for gift cards or a statement credit to booking travel. See more on how points are calculated.

Cardholders also receive an annual dining credit of up to $120 ($10 a month) at participating partners, including Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed and participating Shake Shack locations. There are also no foreign transaction fees.

This card does have a $250 annual fee, but it can be reduced to effectively $130 if you take advantage of the $120 dining credit each year. Then, the rewards you earn help further "pay" for the card.

Gold Card members can also participate in Amex Offers, where you can earn statement credits or bonus Membership Rewards® points at select retailers. For example, a recent offer for Wine.com states: "Spend $50 or more, get $10 back." These limited-time offers are location-based and additional terms apply.

Check out Select's best rewards credit cards and best travel credit cards.

Best no annual fee credit card

Citi® Double Cash Card

On Citi's secure site
  • Rewards

    2% cash back: 1% on all eligible 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

    Good/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.
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $443
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,213

Who's this for? The Citi® Double Cash Card is a straightforward rewards card that continues to offer one of the best flat-rate cash-back programs since it launched in 2014. 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. (See more on how to make the most of a balance transfer.)

Check out Select's best no annual fee credit cards.

Best no annual fee travel credit card

Discover it® Miles

On Discover's secure site
  • Rewards

    Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase - with no annual fee.

  • Welcome bonus

    Discover will match all the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year.

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% Intro APR for14 months on purchases and 10.99% Intro APR for 14 months on balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    11.99% - 22.99% Variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Good / Excellent

Pros

  • Miles program
  • Generous welcome bonus
  • No blackout dates
  • No limit to the amount of miles you can earn and miles never expire

Cons

  • No Global Entry or TSA PreCheck statement credit offerings
  • Travel spending does not receive additional rewards
  • No airport lounge access
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $664
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $1,991

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus

Who's this for? The Discover it® Miles card comes with a generous rewards program — all for zero annual fee — that makes it a standout among travel cards.

The Discover it Miles card offers users unlimited 1.5X miles for every dollar spent on all purchases. But for higher spenders, Discover offers a welcome bonus that's hard to beat: It will do a mile-for-mile match of all miles earned the first year (for new card members in their first year only). If you rack up 35,000 miles within the first 12 months, Discover will match you with 35,000 miles. That's a total of 70,000 miles or $700 toward travel. (Based on our calculations, the average card user will earn around 32,777 miles in the first year.)

With this card, there are no blackout dates when you pay for travel purchases using your card. And, you can easily redeem miles as a statement credit for travel, restaurant or gas station purchases, as well as a deposit to your bank account. The best part is, miles earned never expire even if your account is closed.

Check out Select's best no annual fee travel credit cards.

Best balance transfer credit card

Citi Simplicity® Card

On Citi's secure site
  • Rewards

    None

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 18 months on purchases and balance transfers (balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening)

  • 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 periods at 0% for the first 18 months (then 14.74% to 24.74% variable APR). Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening. This is nearly two years 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: 3% (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 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 Select's best balance transfer credit cards.

Best low interest credit card

Titanium Rewards Visa® Signature Card from Andrews Federal Credit Union

Information about the Titanium Rewards Visa® Signature Card from Andrews Federal Credit Union has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    3X points on gas and grocery purchases and 1.5X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 10,000 points when you spend $1,500 within the first 90 days

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    N/A for purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    9.49% to 16.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    1.50%, $50 minimum

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    N/A

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Low 9.49% to 16.49% variable APR
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.

Cons

  • Credit union membership required, though it’s free
  • No special financing on purchases or balance transfers
  • Balance transfer fee of 1.5%, or $50, whichever is greater.
  • Estimated return after 1 year: $543
  • Estimated return after 5 years: $2,314

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus

Who's this for? The Titanium Rewards Visa® Signature Card from Andrews Federal Credit Union tops our list thanks to the low interest rates, strong rewards program and no foreign transaction fees — all at no annual fee.

This card offers a variable APR of 9.49% to 16.49%. If you carry a balance, you can benefit from low interest charges compared to other cards that have high interest rates. Balance transfers do incur a 1.50% fee per transfer, with a $50 minimum.

Beyond interest rates, the Visa® Titanium Signature Rewards Card offers a generous rewards program: Earn 3X points on gas and grocery purchases and 1.5X points on all other purchases. Plus, there's a welcome bonus of 10,000 points after you spend $1,500 within the first 90 days.

In order to open this card, you need to join Andrews Federal Credit Union, but anyone can join. If you don't meet the qualification requirements, you can opt to join the American Consumer Council (ACC) for free with the promo code "Andrews."

Check out Select's best low interest credit cards.

Best secured credit card

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

On Discover's secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

  • Welcome bonus

    Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    N/A on purchases

  • Regular APR

    22.99% Variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    New / Rebuilding

Pros

  • Cash-back program
  • Generous welcome bonus
  • Discover automatically reviews your credit card account starting at eight months to see if they can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit

Cons

  • Cash-back program limits earnings: 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, then 1%
  • Low credit line prevents cardholders from charging high-cost items or many expenses

Who's this for? The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is a well-rounded secured card that offers many benefits that are typically found with unsecured cards. Cardholders can earn cash back, receive a generous welcome bonus, use the card overseas without incurring added fees and more — all for no annual fee.

Cardholders earn a competitive 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, then 1%. Plus, you can earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases automatically. The welcome bonus is also unique: For new card members in the first year only, Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year. So, if you earn $50 cash back at the end of the first year, Discover will give you an additional $50.

This card requires a minimum $200 security deposit, which is fairly standard for secured credit cards. It stands out from the crowd because it gives users a clear path to upgrading to an unsecured card (and getting their deposit back). Starting at eight months from account opening, Discover will automatically review your credit card account to see if they can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit. This takes the guesswork out of wondering when you'll qualify for an unsecured credit card.

Check out Select's best secured credit cards.

Best for building credit and average credit

Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card

On Petal's secure site
  • Rewards

    1% cash back on eligible purchases right away and up to 1.5% cash back on eligible purchases after making 12 on-time monthly payments; 2% to 10% cash back at select merchants

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    12.99% - 26.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    None

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Fair, Good, No Credit

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • No credit history required (if you do have a credit history, that does factor into the credit decision)
  • No fees whatsoever
  • 1% cash back on eligible purchases right away and up to 1.5% cash back on eligible purchases after making 12 on-time monthly payments; 2% to 10% cash back at select merchants
  • Credit limits range from $500 to $10,000

Cons

  • Card isn't for rebuilding credit, but it's good for building credit
  • No special financing offers
  • No welcome bonus
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $249
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $1,577

Who's this for? The Petal 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa Credit Card, issued by WebBank Member FDIC, is a unique card that takes a different approach to the credit card application process. Instead of judging your creditworthiness solely based on credit history, Petal may ask you to link bank accounts during the application process. Then, WebBank uses Petal's technology to analyze your bank statements and other data, such as bill payments and earnings, to determine your eligibility.

This is especially beneficial for applicants who may not have any credit history. However, if you do have a credit history, that does factor into the credit decision.

The Petal 2 Visa Credit Card is one of the few cards that charge zero fees*: no annual fee, no late payment fee and no foreign transaction fees. And it stands out for consumers trying to build credit because there's no security deposit required.

It also offers a rewards program with 1% cash back on eligible purchases right away, which can increase up to 1.5% cash back after you make 12 on-time monthly payments. This is not only a nice perk, but a great way to encourage responsible behavior. Cardholders also earn 2% to 10% cash back from select merchants.

Check out Select's best credit cards for building credit and best credit cards for average and fair credit.

Best for college students

Discover it® Student Cash Back

On Discover's secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

  • Welcome bonus

    Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for 6 months on purchases

  • Regular APR

    12.99% - 21.99% Variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Fair / New to Credit

Pros

  • Cash-back program
  • Generous welcome bonus
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years

Cons

  • Cash-back categories must be activated each quarter
  • Cash-back program limits earnings: Enroll every quarter to earn 5% cash back in various categories on up to $1,500 in quarterly purchases, then 1%
  • You must be a U.S. citizen and college student to apply for this card

Who's this for? The Discover it® Student Cash Back is a well-rounded card that offers college students enrolled in a two- or four-year college the chance to build credit, while earning rewards and receiving student-centric benefits. You must be over 18 and a U.S. citizen to apply.

Upon activation, cardholders can earn 5% cash back on rotating categories (such as Amazon.com, gas stations or restaurants), up to a $1,500 maximum each quarter (then 1%). All other purchases earn unlimited 1% cash back automatically.

This card encourages you to maintain good grades by offering an annual $20 Good Grades Reward statement credit each school year when you maintain a 3.0 or higher GPA (valid for up to five consecutive years).

There is also an introductory 0% APR for six months on new purchases — perfect for financing dorm room essentials or textbooks. After the intro period, there's a 12.99% to 21.99% variable APR.

Check out Select's best credit cards for college students.

Best dining rewards credit card

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 5X total points on air travel and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases plus, 10X points on Lyft rides through March 2022

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

  • 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
  • Points are worth 50% more when redeemed for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 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 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
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $1,469
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $3,346

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus

Who's this for? The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is geared toward foodies and frequent travelers who are looking for luxurious perks, such as free airport lounge access and complimentary hotel room upgrades. Cardholders earn a competitive 3X points on dining and travel worldwide. Based on Select's calculations, we found the average American using this card could earn an estimated $165 per year in rewards for dining purchases alone (assuming you redeem rewards for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards®, receiving 50% more value).

The value of Chase rewards points varies depending on how you use them. If you redeem points for cash and gift cards, each point is worth $.01, which means that 100 points equals $1 in redemption value. (See more on how the value of points is calculated.)

This card has a unique benefit where all points are worth 50% more when redeemed for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 redeemed toward airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. This perk is a great way to get the most value for your rewards.

While this card has a robust rewards program, it also comes with a steep $550 annual fee. All the card's added credits and benefits provided by Chase can help offset the annual cost. The $300 annual travel credit effectively reduces the annual fee to $150. Cardholders can take advantage of a Priority Pass™ Select membership that has a value of about $429. They also get a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit of up to $100 every four years.

Check out Select's best credit cards for restaurants and dining out.

Best gas rewards credit card

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

On PenFed's secure site
  • Rewards

    5X points on gas purchases at the pump and electrical vehicle charging stations, 3X points on supermarket purchases, 1X point on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    15,000 points when you spend $1,500 in the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Promo APR

    0% promotional balance transfer rate for 12 months on transfers made from now until September 30, 2021*

  • Regular APR

    13.49% to 17.99% variable on purchases; 17.99% non-variable on balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    3%

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Good/Excellent

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • High 5X points on gas at the pump and 3X on supermarket purchases
  • No bonus category activations
  • Good special financing offer on balance transfers

Cons

  • 3% balance transfer fee
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $513
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,167

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus.

*After the promotional balance transfer period, the APR for the unpaid balance and any new balance transfers will be 17.99%. A 3% balance transfer fee applies to each transfer. This transaction is subject to credit approval. If you take advantage of this balance transfer, you will immediately be charged interest on all purchases made with your credit card unless you pay the entire account balance, including balance transfers, in full each month by the payment due date.

Who's this for? Among the cards we analyzed, the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card currently offers the highest rewards rate at gas stations with 5X points per dollar spent for gas purchases at the pump.

This card has no annual fee, so road warriors can maximize their savings. In addition to earning high rewards at gas stations, cardholders also benefit from unlimited 3X points for supermarket purchases.

PenFed is a credit union, so membership is required to open the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card. Anyone can join by completing a few extra steps: You need to apply, open a savings account with a $5 deposit and maintain a $5 account balance.

Check out Select's best credit cards for gas.

Best grocery rewards credit card

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 3% cash back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more and 1% cash back on other purchases. Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the card within the first six months of membership, up to $200 back. Plus, earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first six months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 12 months on purchases, N/A for balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    13.99% to 23.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2.7%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Pros

  • High 6% cash back at U.S. supermarket spending (up to $6,000 a year, then 1%)
  • Unlimited 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions
  • Unlimited 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit

Cons

  • 2.7% fee on purchases made abroad
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $679
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,397

Rewards totals incorporate the cash back earned from the welcome bonus

Who's this for? Frequent grocery shoppers will be happy to learn the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers the highest cash-back rate at U.S. supermarkets at 6% (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). The average American can earn $310 in cash back each year when they do their shopping at qualifying supermarkets.

If you want to maximize cash back on groceries, this card is for you. In addition to high grocery rewards, there's an unlimited 6% cash back on select streaming subscriptions, unlimited 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, unlimited 3% cash back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Cardmembers can also take advantage of Amex Offers, where users earn a statement credit or additional cash back at select retailers. For example, a recent offer gave you $25 back each month (up to three times), if you spent $70 or more a month on Sun Basket meal kit delivery. These limited-time offers are location-based and additional terms apply.

This card has a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95, but it can be offset by the cash back you earn and discounts you can get through the Amex Offers.

Check out Select's best credit cards for grocery shopping.

Best entertainment rewards credit card

Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card

Information about the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 4% on eligible streaming services, 3% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn a one-time $300 cash bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 12 months on purchases; N/A on balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    15.99% to 24.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% for promotional APR offers; none for balances transferred at regular APR

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Unlimited 4% cash back on entertainment purchases
  • 8% cash back on all Vivid Seats ticket purchases through January 2022
  • Ability to redeem rewards at any amount, unlike some other cards with $25 minimums
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Cable, digital streaming and membership services are excluded from the 4% cash-back rate
  • No introductory 0% financing offers for purchases or balance transfers
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $588
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $1,741

Rewards totals incorporate the cash back earned from the welcome bonus

Who's this for? Sports fans, movie buffs and adventure seekers will all find a common reason to like the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card: unlimited 4% cash back on entertainment purchases. Compared to other rewards cards, this is the highest unlimited rewards rate on entertainment spending, whether you're buying movie tickets, taking a family trip to the zoo or spending the evening bowling with friends.

Through January 2022, cardholders who buy tickets through Vivid Seats, a ticket resale site, can take advantage of 8% cash back.

Cardholders can also benefit from exclusive access to entertainment events, such as the iHeartRadio Music Festival and the Capital One JamFest.

Beyond entertainment perks, there's also 4% cash back on dining, 3% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases. Plus, you can enjoy foodie-centric perks, such as exclusive access to premium reservations with OpenTable.

This card does come with a $95 annual fee, but it's waived during the first year from account opening and can be offset by the cash back you earn.

Check out Select's best credit cards for entertainment spending.

Best credit card for Global Entry and/or TSA PreCheck credit

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Information about the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠, 2X miles per dollar on every other purchase

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 bonus miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    N/A for purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    17.24% to 24.49% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% for promotional APR offers; none for balances transferred at regular APR

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • 5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit up to $100 every 4 years

Cons

  • No introductory APR
  • There’s a $95 annual fee
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $1,466
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,931

Rewards totals incorporate the miles earned from the welcome bonus

Who's this for? The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers the best rewards rate on select hotel purchases: Earn 5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠ and 2X miles per dollar spent on all other spending, which is a great flat rate. While Venture does come with a $95 annual fee, that's low compared to some other rewards cards, with some annual fees up to $550.

In addition to rewards, every four years cardholders receive a credit for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application, up to $100. If you travel often, this is a great perk that can save you time and money.

This card has no foreign transaction fees and comes with a bunch of additional travel perks, such as travel accident insurance, 24-hour travel assistance services and an auto rental collision damage waiver.

Check out Select's best credit cards for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

What to consider before choosing the best credit card

Having a credit card is an important piece of your financial profile, but with so many options available, it can be hard to find the best one for your needs. Here are some common questions to ask yourself so you can decide what's the best credit card for you.

Do you want to earn rewards?

There are hundreds of rewards credit cards out there, where you can earn cash back, points or miles on every purchase you make.

And if you want to earn rewards, what specific categories are most important to you?

Rewards credit cards come in all shapes and sizes. If you want to maximize rewards in specific categories, check out cards offering bonus rewards on gas, groceries, restaurants, entertainment, travel and more. Or keep it simple and opt for a flat-rate cash-back card.

Learn more: Are credit card points taxable? Here's when you may have to pay taxes on your rewards

Are you looking to get out of debt?

If you're carrying a balance on a high interest credit card, consider transferring it to a balance transfer credit card offering no interest for up to 21 months. There are even cards with no balance transfer fees.

Do you want to build credit?

Experts agree the sooner you build credit, the better. Credit cards are a great way to do that. Check out secured cards for credit newbies or other cards for building or rebuilding credit.

Do you travel abroad?

A credit card with no foreign transaction fees is essential to save you the typical 3% fee per purchase made outside the U.S. Also, it can be a good idea to consider cards that waive Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees.

Best credit cards of 2021

Best for... Cash-back Rewards Travel No annual fee Balance transfer Low interest Secured Building credit College students Dining rewards Gas rewards Grocery rewards Entertainment rewards Average credit Global entry and/or TSA PreCheck credit
Credit Card
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
American Express® Gold Card
American Express® Gold Card
Citi® Double Cash Card
Citi Simplicity® Card
Titanium Rewards Visa® Signature Card from Andrews Federal Credit Union
Discover it® Secured Credit Card
Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card
Discover it® Student Cash Back
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card
Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
See below for our methodology Learn MoreOn Chase's secure siteLearn MoreOn the American Express secure siteLearn MoreOn the American Express secure siteLearn MoreOn Citi's secure siteLearn MoreOn Citi's secure siteLearn MoreInformation about the Titanium Rewards Visa® Signature Card from Andrews Federal Credit Union has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.Learn MoreOn Discover's secure siteLearn MoreOn Petal's secure siteLearn MoreOn Discover's secure siteLearn MoreOn Chase's secure siteLearn MoreOn PenFed's secure siteLearn MoreOn the American Express secure siteLearn MoreInformation about the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.Learn MoreOn Petal's secure siteLearn MoreInformation about the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Our methodology

To determine which cards offer the best value, 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.

We also estimated 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. Our final picks are weighted heavily toward the highest five-year returns, since it's generally wise to hold onto a credit card for years. This method also avoids giving an unfair advantage to cards with large welcome bonuses.

For balance transfer cards, we used a Bankrate calculator to tally the interest rates and fees you could incur if you transferred $6,028, the average balance Americans carry on their credit cards in 2019, according to Experian.

If the average consumer with a $6,028 balance on their credit card pays $200 each month, they will spend $1,911 in additional interest, assuming the average 17.7% APR. And it will take them 40 months — more than three years — to pay off that debt.

With four of the five cards featured on this list, if you take full advantage of the intro APR period and pay $200 per month, you'll pay less than $450 in interest and cut your repayment time in half to 20 months. That's a significant savings.

For the cards that offered a rewards program, we also estimated how much cash back you might earn over a five year period. 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 2019 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 and vitamins, and other vehicle expenses.

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.

It's important to note the value of a point or mile varies from card to card and based on how you redeem them. When we calculated the estimated returns, we assumed that cardholders are redeeming points/miles for a typical maximum value of 1 cent per point or mile. (Extreme optimizers might be able to achieve more value.)

When choosing the best balance transfer card, we focused on the card that provides consumers with the cheapest way to pay off their debt rather than the number of rewards they could potentially earn. When you're in credit card debt, your primary focus should be repayment. Earning rewards should be seen as a bonus, and you don't want to spend beyond your means in order to earn points.

The five-year rewards total and the interest rate and fees estimates are derived from a budget similar to the average American's spending and debt. You may earn a higher or lower return depending on your spending habits.

For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, click here.

For rates and fees of the Discover it® Secured Credit Card, click here.

For rates and fees of the Discover it® Student Cash Back, click here.

Petal 2 Visa Credit Card issued by WebBank, Member FDIC.

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