MONEY and NerdWallet have picked the best credit cards in five different categories: cash back, borrowing, travel rewards, student, and small business cards. Most of our picks assume you are using cards strategically to maximize rewards, and paying off your bill each month to avoid fees and finance charges. MONEY also went one step further this year to add an "easy choice"—the best no-muss, no-fuss, no-annual-fee option.
Easy Choice: Citi Double Cash Card
- APR: 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months; 13% to 23% after that, depending on creditworthiness
- Annual fee: $0
- Rewards: 2% cash back on all purchases, with no limit
- Why its a winner: Double Cash offers a top rewards rate for a flat-rate card, with no strings attached; you simply get 2% back on everything you buy. That adds up: If you spend $2,000 a month, you'd earn nearly $1,000 in two years. Other bonuses: The card offers a 15-month 0% introductory APR and a waived late fee on your first missed payment. You also get your credit score (from Equifax) on each statement or your online account.
- Caveat: You don't get the cash back all at once. You get 1% when you swipe and the other 1% after you pay your bill.
Best for Online Shopping: Discover It
- APR: 0% on purchases and transfers for the first 12 months, then 11% to 23%
- Annual fee: $0
- 5% cash back in categories that change every quarter, online and off, up to $1,500 per quarter
- 1% back on all other purchases
- Extra cash back on purchases made via Discover's online portal
Best for Maximizers: American Express Blue Cash Preferred
- APR: 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months; 13% to 22% thereafter
- Annual fee: $75
- Sign-up bonus: $150 after spending $1,000 in 90 days
- 6% cash back on up to $6,000 spent at supermarkets annually; 1% cash back after that
- 3% at gas stations and certain department stores
- 1% everywhere else
See all of MONEY's picks: