If you've checked your credit score recently and discovered that it's rated "excellent," congratulations! It takes a great deal of consistency and diligence to reach that point. Your reward? The best of the best when it comes to credit card options.
What kind of options? Thinks approval for more credit cards. Think approval at lower interest rates than lower credit scores would play. And think more options for cards that reward you for your spending. That's a lot of benefits that you worked hard to achieve. And it will benefit your finances for years to come.
With all these options in front of you, it's more important than ever to pick the right one. Doing so could mean extra money in your pocket and extra special benefits in your life. So how do you choose?
With our help, of course! We've poured over data from hundreds of cards to select the best in the nation. Check 'em out to see which one might work best for your lifestyle.
1. The Best Card for Airfare and Hotel stays
Barclaycard Arrival Plus Offers Simple Travel Rewards
Are travel rewards your greatest desire? Then check out the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®. This is a top-notch card. With this card, you can cut the cost of your travel spending, especially for airfare and hotels. You can earn two miles per dollar spent on all purchases. Each mile can be redeemed for travel statement credit at a value of one mile per cent. You also get 5% miles back with every redemption.
The card has an $89 annual fee that's waived for the first year. If you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days, you'll earn an introductory bonus of 40,000 bonus miles. That's equal to a $400 statement credit.
Travel Rewards Credit Cards that Let You Book with Any Airline
Travel rewards credit cards are designed to help you earn money for your travels. The money you earn is most often given out in "miles." You can redeem your miles in different ways from different issuers. Some have their own travel rewards portal that you have to purchase your travel from. Others simply offer statement credits. Many also partner with hotels and airlines to give you even better deals and more ways to earn bonus rewards.
A major attraction of many travel rewards credit cards is the large sign-up bonus some offer. The bonus will vary but it often includes several hundred dollars worth of free travel. There is usually a required amount of spending that has to happen to get the bonus. Because of that, this is only useful if you think your normal spending will get you to that level.
Is the Annual Fee Worth Paying?
Many credit cards come with annual fees, especially rewards cards. When it comes to annual fees, your credit score doesn't make a difference. Some cards charge annual fees because of the additional benefits they bring you.
The good news is that many credit cards waive the annual fee for the first year. Plus, you can always negotiate to have the fee waived again in the years following. While this is helpful, it's important that you don't bank on it. Rather, take a few minutes to determine whether or not the annual fee is worth paying before you apply.
To do this, review the card’s features and benefits. What you're looking for is to see if your card usage will generate enough value to mitigate the fee. For example, you can use your average spending to see a projection of the rewards you would likely earn. Then quantify those rewards to see if the dollar amount exceeds the annual fee or not. Don't forget to look at extra card benefits as well. For example, airline credit cards sometimes offer perks like free checked bags and companion tickets. These types of benefits can quickly justify the annual fee.
Runner-up Best Travel Credit Cards
Want to see a few more travel rewards credit card options? You're in luck! Here are a few more that could help you achieve your travel goals.
2. The Best Cards for Paying Off Debt
Chase Slate® Helps You Pay Off Debt
A high credit score indicates positive financial behavior. But that doesn't mean someone with a high credit score doesn't have debt. If you have an excellent credit score but also have debt to pay off, then a balance transfer credit card can help.
Chase Slate® is the best balance transfer credit card to help you pay off credit card debt. With this card, you can get a free balance transfer if you do the transfer in the first 60 days. (After 60 days, a transfer comes with a 3% fee.) You also get a 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months. That gives you more than one year to either pay off the debt or make some serious progress on doing so.
How to Consolidate Debt through Balance Transfers
Balance transfer credit cards are an effective debt payoff method for many reasons. One is that they often come with little to no interest for the first few months or the first year of having the card. This extra time at no interest can help you make real progress towards paying off your debt. Another is that they give you an opportunity to consolidate several debt accounts in one.
Nothing is more effective for debt payoff than focus. Consolidating your debt to one place can give you the relief, the low interest rate, and the targeted focus you need to get rid of your debt once and for all.
The main thing is to find the right card for you. Some cards will charge you a balance transfer fee (usually 3% of the balance) while others won't. Some will give you no interest for six months while others may extend it up to 15 or even 24 months. Shop around so you can use this tool in the best way possible for you.
Avoid Interest Charges When Moving Debt
Your desired balance transfer credit card may come with a balance transfer fee. If possible, see if you can find a no fee balance transfer credit card instead. That way, more of your money will go straight to debt payoff instead of fees.
Runner-up Credit Cards for Paying Off Debt
Want to see more options to help you pay off debt? Here are a few more top cards that you can use to transfer your balance.
3. The Best Cards for Money Back on Shopping
Amex Blue Cash Preferred Provides the Most Cash Back on Groceries
Is travel not one of your main goals? Do you not have debt to pay off? Do you want to earn rewards, but you're not sure what you want to use them for yet? Then the American Express Blue Cash Preferred could be the way to go for you.
This card is an exceptional cash back credit card. It provides high amounts of cash back on common purchases including groceries and gas. You could earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 spent per year). You could earn 3% back at gas stations and select department stores. And you could earn 1% cash back on everything else.
This card has a $75 annual fee, which can be waived if you spend $1,250 per year at supermarkets.
How Cash Back Credit Cards Work
Cash back rewards are designed to help you earn money for the spending you already do on a regular basis. And, since the rewards are cash rather than miles or points, you can use them how you please.
In terms of redeeming your cash back, there are many ways it can happen. You could end up with direct deposit or a check in the mail. Or you could get a statement credit, which is basically a reduction in your card balance.
Surprising Ways to Earn More Money Back
When credit card companies issue cash back for your purchases, they look at the merchant’s category, not what you buy. Let's look at an example of this.
Say your card gives you cash back for groceries. In that case, any item checked out at the register of a supermarket counts. Even gift cards could work if you buy them at the supermarket.
Credit card purchases are categorized by something called the merchant category code (MCC). The merchant category code must match the rewards category specified by your credit card. That's the only way for purchases to qualify for the appropriate amount of cash back.
There are three ways you can check the MCC of a retailer:
- Use Visa’s online supplier locator tool. This is a public, searchable database that will reveal the MCC for each merchant by location. Note: Different locations of the same merchant company could have different MCCs.
- Test the merchant location by making a small purchase. The merchant's MCC can be found online by reviewing your credit card transaction details.
- Ask a store employee. Cashiers and store managers are most likely know a retailer’s MCC, so you can ask them.
After identifying the MCC for your retailer, you can use the right credit card to earn the most rewards on all future purchases there.
Credit cards may have limits on how much cash back you can earn within a certain period of time. These limits could even apply to certain purchase categories. Understanding these limits is essential. That's how you'll find out if you’ll get the most money back for your spending habits.
Runner-up Best Shopping Credit Cards
Don't stop at just the first cashback credit card you see when there are so many out there! Here are just a few more to examine before you decide which is the best cash back rewards card for you.
Don't Stop with an Excellent Credit Score
Having an excellent credit score is a sure sign that you're on the right path. (In the way you manage your credit accounts, that is.) You've worked hard to get to this point and you should reap the rewards now.
But don't stop there. Having your credit score in this range gives you an opportunity to earn even more. That's more benefits and rewards for your hard work! To not take advantage of that is to miss a great opportunity.
No matter what kind of card you're looking for, optimize for the card that will reward you for what you already do. Then discover how you can merge your habits with your desires. You can almost always find a credit card that rewards you for where you spend. (While paying out your rewards in the form that you want.)
It may seem like all credit cards are the same, but that couldn't be further from the truth. If you examine your finances, you'll be able to find a credit card that fits in with your lifestyle. It will be well worth it when you get those rewards!
Credit cards for excellent credit
|Credit cards for excellent credit||Notable Feature||Who It's Best For|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||Earn bonus miles on travel and dining. Points can be transferred to partnered airline and hotel programs. Redeem rewards travel at a discount through Chase Ultimate Rewards.||People who want to earn travel rewards that can be transferred to multiple airline and hotel programs while getting different travel protections.|
|Capital One Venture Rewards||Earn unlimited 1.25X miles per dollar on all purchases.||People who want to earn travel rewards, but don't want to pay any annual fee.|
|Barclaycard Arrival Plus||Earn double miles on all spending and redeem them towards past travel purchases.||Frequent travelers who aren't loyal to a specific airline and want to shop for the best travel deals on their own.|
|Chase Slate®||Introductory offer tends to include 0% APR on balance transfers for an extended period of time. Also, balance transfer fees are waived during the first 60 days||People who are trying to pay down their high-interest debt quickly through the use of debt consolidation.|
|Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum||An extremely low regular APR.||People want to minimize their interest charges and don't care about rewards.|
|Citi Diamond Preferred||Very long 0% intro period on purchases and balance transfers.||People who want to avoid interest on a large purchase or pay down debt faster.|
|Amex Blue Cash Preferred||Earn a very high cash back rate at U.S. supermarkets.||Members of the household who make most of grocery purchases.|
|Citi® Double Cash Card||Earn up to an effective 2% cash back on all spending.||People who want cash back, but don't have major spending in any specific categories.|
|U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature||Customize your 5% cash back categories||Shoppers who want to personalize their cash back program.|