Editor’s Note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
A common question we get here at TPG is, “What is the best credit card?”
And you might be here searching for an answer to that same question. If that’s the case, we can help by telling you: no one card is the “best.” Hear us out.
The good news is that this relieves the pressure to find the single best credit card among the myriad options available. Another plus is that you essentially get a customizable experience when choosing a credit card because you can select one based on your specific needs and spending habits. The bad news is that if you were hoping to simplify the search for the elusive best credit card overall, we can’t provide you with a straightforward answer because, well, a singular ‘best’ card doesn’t really exist.
Factors for consideration when finding the best credit card for your specific needs are your financial goals and priorities and your budget. Because of this, we recommend credit cards with varying annual fees, earning structures and benefits.
The cards on this list are great thanks to the different perks and ways to earn cash back, miles and other rewards that they offer, but there isn’t a blanket card that stands alone as the perfect choice for everyone. Here’s how to decide which card is just right for you.
Different cards for different habits
It’s easy to get caught up in this idea that a select number of cards (typically high-fee cards such as The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Chase Sapphire Reserve) are better than their lower-annual-fee counterparts such as the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (see rates and fees) or the Citi® Double Cash Card (see rates and fees). In reality, however, that’s not the case.
Ultimately, “the best credit card” for you depends on your current habits, priorities and needs.
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But that same person may have reached more for their Blue Cash Preferred® from American Express during the pandemic when they prioritized saving money on groceries (at U.S. supermarkets) and earning cash back on select streaming services in the U.S.
Even those with similar hobbies and habits may be divided on which card is the best. One frequent traveler may argue that the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (see rates and fees) is the best because of its lounge access and flat earning rate, while another will argue that the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is the best because they prefer its transfer partners and much lower annual fee.
Find the ‘right’ card, not the ‘best’ card
Instead of looking for the best credit card, focus on finding the right credit card for you. You can start by asking yourself some simple questions:
What’s your credit score?
This is a good base question because it will help establish what cards you’ll most likely be approved for. If you’re focused on building your credit, you’ll want to start with a card that’s good for beginners.
But if you have established credit and excellent credit score, you’re more likely to be approved for some top rewards cards.
What are your spending habits?
Your spending habits will inform which bonus categories you look for in your credit cards.
Do you spend a lot on groceries and dining at restaurants? If yes, then a card like the American Express® Gold Card, which earns 4 points per dollar on dining at restaurants and on the first $25,000 spent each calendar year at U.S. supermarkets (then 1 point per dollar spent after), could be the right card for you.
Similarly, if you spend a lot of your budget on items that don’t fall into most card bonus categories, you’ll do better with a card that has a solid flat earning rate, like the Capital One Venture Rewards Card or Chase Freedom Unlimited.
What are you looking to get out of your card?
Do you want to earn rewards like free flights, seat upgrades and hotel stays? If so, a card that earns transferable points is a great starting point. Alternatively, if you’re loyal to a hotel chain, a cobranded card with that hotel can unlock perks like elite status and free nights that you’ll appreciate.
Once you’ve gone through these baseline questions, you can start digging into things like which rewards program is best suited to your travel goals, what your annual fee budget is, which sign-up bonuses you want to hit and more.
There’s no one “best” credit card for everyone. To determine which card is the best fit for you, consider factors such as your credit score, financial priorities and goals and the types of credit card perks you. No matter your credit card goals and preferences, we’re to help you make a great choice.
Additional reporting by Matt Moffitt.