Have you ever wished that shopping was anything other than a chore? With credit cards, making your usual purchases can help you earn points to redeem for cash, travel, or other rewards. It’s an easy way to make your money work with you, rather than against you. Responsible credit card use can build your credit history and earn you great rewards, all while you go about your daily life. With that being said, the best credit cards ensure the highest rewards possible along with other benefits and reliable customer service.
Most Americans say purchasing with cash doesn’t go as far anymore, with many now crowning their credit cards as their go-to for everything from everyday groceries to fully loaded vacations. A survey of 2,000 Americans finds the average person has three credit cards to their name, but only a third (32%) pay their bills in full every month. Two in five respondents use their credit card as frequently as a few times per week, with more than half using it on large and everyday expenses (52%). Other popular credit uses include travel (47%), restaurant dining (45%), and vacations (43%).
Speaking of cash, it may even be a thing of the past for most Americans. A recent survey finds that a majority of Americans, especially younger adults, want to move to a cashless economy. Researchers find more and more people are carrying less paper money, due in part to the coronavirus pandemic. The 2021 poll of over 2,000 Americans reveals the average person is now twice as likely to buy goods with a debit or credit card than with cash. Just 16 percent of respondents say they always carry cash, while 37 percent say they only “sometimes” keep paper money in their wallets.
If you’re ready to make the most of your purchases, adding a credit card to your financial routine may be your next step. But with so many on the market, it can be confusing trying to find your perfect fit. The best credit card for you strikes the right balance between interest rates, approval odds, and reward offerings. Some cards are better for travel, while others offer better cash rewards. To help you navigate this decision, StudyFinds did the research for you to find the best credit cards according to expert reviews. This list includes the most frequently recommended cards, but be sure to let us know if you have a favorite we missed in the comments below!
The List: Best Credit Cards, Per Finance Experts
Has you been bit by the travel bug recently? If you have, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a great way to get your feet wet with earning travel rewards. “If you’re looking for a beginner travel card with great flexibility, you’ll find a ton of value in the Sapphire Preferred,” says Bankrate. “For a relatively low annual fee of $95, you’ll enjoy a solid rewards rate in several everyday spending categories, including dining, online grocery purchases and select streaming services, which should make it easy to rack up rewards. Plus, the points you earn carry some of the highest redemption values available on a travel rewards card.”
“The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers one of the best initial bonuses on the market, especially for people who like to travel and do not mind booking accommodations through Chase,” claims WalletHub. “New cardholders who spend $4,000 within 3 months of opening an account receive a bonus of 80,000 points, redeemable for either a $800 statement credit or $1,000 in travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Add 1 – 5 points per $1 spent on purchases, and you’ve got a card well worth the cost of ownership.”
Plenty of cards require a good bit of time and patience before you can reap the benefits. If that doesn’t sound so great, this card may be the right fit for you. “If you want to get a lot of value right out of the gate, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred,” says CNBC. “You can even potentially get more value if you transfer Chase points to Chase’s travel partners, like Hyatt hotels and United Airlines, and book business-class flights and luxury hotels.”
If you’re looking for a card to complement your day-to-day life, look no further. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express fits in nicely to reward typical purchases most Americans make on a daily and weekly basis. “The American Express Blue Cash Preferred card is one of the most rewarding everyday credit cards on the market at the moment,” notes WalletHub. “It’s best for people with good or excellent credit whose top expenses include U.S. streaming services, groceries at U.S. supermarkets, gas at U.S. gas stations, and transit purchases.”
“The popular Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express offers outstanding rewards rates on everyday expenses, including at U.S. supermarkets, at U.S. gas stations and on select U.S. streaming subscriptions,” adds Bankrate. “The average person should have little trouble justifying the annual fee: If you spend just $31 per week at U.S. supermarkets, you can earn back the card’s cost in rewards.”
This card comes particularly in handy when checking out at the grocery store. “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%),” explains CNBC. “The average American can earn $310 in cash back each year when they do their shopping at qualifying supermarkets.”
If you don’t want to spend too much time devising a strategy for racking up points, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card may be the right pick for you. You can still earn plenty of travel rewards for your next trip without putting in too much work. “When it comes to simplicity and strong rewards, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a solid choice for most travelers,” says The Points Guy. “You’ll earn earns 2 miles per dollar on every purchase with no bonus categories to memorize, making it an ideal card for those with busy lives.”
“New cardholders enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within three months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel,” adds Investopedia. “Although there is a $95 annual fee, the card has no foreign transaction fees and reimburses up to $100 in TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fees every four years.”
This card will also make it easier to actually book your trip with its member benefits. As Bankrate explains, “its flat-rate rewards and flexible travel redemption options help users get more mileage from their spending and exclusive portal features like AI-powered price tracking and price protection can help you save on bookings.”
If you consider yourself a “foodie,” this card will make for the perfect partner in crime. Celebrated by experts for its fantastic dining benefits, you’ll rack up points enjoying your favorite meals. “This isn’t just a card that’s nice to look at. It packs a real punch, offering 4 points per dollar on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets,” says The Points Guy. “There’s also an up to $120 annual dining credit at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar, and select Shake Shack locations. All this make it a very strong contender for all food purchases, which has become a popular spending category.”
“This card is a terrific fit for foodies of all stripes thanks to its high rewards rate at both restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets, two practical everyday categories that should make it easy to rack up travel rewards,” adds Bankrate. “Plus, Amex points are among the most valuable rewards out there, especially if you transfer to the right airline partner.”
But your benefits won’t be limited to dinnertime. As Money says, “other than these dining rewards, the American Express® Gold Card gives you 3x points on airline tickets booked through Amex Travel and 1x on any other purchase, along with classic American Express® benefits, such as baggage and rental car insurance, purchase protection* and access to pre-sales on select events and preferred seating when applicable.”
If you’re building (or rebuilding) credit, you may find it best to start out with a secured card. While most cards in this category don’t offer great benefits, the Discover it® Secured Credit Card stands out from the competition. “Discover it® Secured Credit Card is the best secured credit card out there, and one of the best credit cards for anyone looking to build credit, because it has a $0 annual fee and rewards cardholders with 1 – 2% cash back on purchases,” explains WalletHub. “Plus, all the rewards you earn the first year your account is open get doubled by Discover as an account anniversary gift.”
“This card carries one of the most generous rewards rates you can get on a secured card without paying an annual fee, offering cash back in two of the most popular everyday spending categories — restaurants and gas stations,” adds Bankrate. “Plus, it’s one of the only credit-building cards to carry a welcome offer.”
You won’t be stuck using a secured card forever, though. “This card requires a minimum $200 security deposit, which is fairly standard for secured credit cards,” says CNBC. “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 seven 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.”
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