Best Credit Cards of February 2020

Our Credit Card Picks and Advice on How to Choose the Best Card for You

Disclosure: We are committed to recommending the best products for our readers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to products, but this never affects our reviews or recommendations.

At The Balance, we name the best credit cards based on the features we think are the most valuable for different sets of needs. Whether you’re looking for travel rewards, cash back on everyday purchases, a way to build credit, or a better way to pay down costly debt, we’ve done the research and crunched numbers to find the very best option for you. These are the best credit cards you can get right now, and we highly recommend giving each offer a second look:

Best Credit Cards of 2020

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best Overall

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Best for Cash Back

Our Rating Among Overall Cards
4.8
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 15.49% - 25.49% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day.
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 15 Months
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%

Why We Chose This Card
This well-rounded card deserves our top honor and a place in your wallet. Earning cash back is super simple, since there are no categories or limitations to worry about. You’ll get a respectable 1.5% cash back on every dollar you spend, everyday, plus a $150 bonus if you charge $500 in your first three months with the card. If you have a big purchase to make or are carrying high-interest debt on another card, you’ll get 15 months interest-free on balance transfers and new purchases too, thanks to introductory offers. All this makes for an excellent card without an annual fee.

Discover it® Miles

Runner Up

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Overall

Our Rating Among Overall Cards
4.8
Discover it® Miles
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 13.49% - 24.49% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn unlimited 1.5 miles for every dollar spent
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 14 Months
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%

Why We Chose This Card
Despite its branding, Discover it Miles essentially functions as a cash-back card with superb flexibility. You’ll earn 1.5 miles for every dollar you spend and can redeem those miles for statement credits on prior travel purchases or as cash back directly deposited in your bank account. (Miles are always worth 1 cent each.) You can even use them right at checkout on Amazon.com. What’s more, this card offers 0% APR on purchases for 14 months, and Discover will match all rewards earned your first year as a cardholder. This bonus is worth about $365, based on average U.S. household spending.

Wells Fargo Cash Back College℠

Best for Students

Our Rating Among Overall Cards
4.4
Wells Fargo Cash Back College℠
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Poor - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 12.65% - 22.65% variable
Annual Fee $0
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 6 Months
Rewards Earning Rate 3% cash rewards earned for up to $2,500 spent on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first 6 months. 1% cash rewards for each $1 spent on virtually all other purchases with your card.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 3%

Why We Chose This Card
Busy students need a card that makes using credit worthwhile and educational, and that’s why this one shines. For your first six months with the card, you’ll earn 3% cash back on as much as $2,500 that you spend on gas, groceries and drugstore items. During that introductory period, you’ll also pay no interest on purchases. Access to resources like free FICO credit scores and Wells Fargo’s credit education hub make this a valuable learning tool as well. Just note that you need to be an existing Wells Fargo customer to apply.

Discover it® Secured

Best Secured Card

Our Rating Among Overall Cards
4.4
Discover it® Secured
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Poor - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 24.49% variable
Annual Fee $0
Minimum Deposit to Activate $200
Allows upgrade to unsecured card Yes

Why We Chose This Card
If you’re a first-time borrower or rebuilding a bad credit profile, finding a top-notch secured card can be tough. Thankfully, this is it. You’ll earn some decent cash back on routine purchases, and at the end of your first year, your earnings will be doubled. You won’t pay an annual fee (many secured cards charge one), and Discover will even waive your first late fee. Plus, after eight months, Discover will begin reviewing your account for a possible upgrade to an unsecured card.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Best for Travelers

Our Rating Among Overall Cards
3.8
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) N/A
Annual Fee $550
Rewards Earning Rate 5X Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%

Why We Chose This Card
The luxe travel benefits and generous rewards offered by this card are tough to beat. You’ll earn 5 Membership Rewards points on each $1 spent on flights booked directly with an airline or on amextravel.com. Prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com also earn those extra points. There’s a premium annual fee, but you’ll get a lot for it: an incidental fee credit on a qualifying airline, monthly Uber credits, select airport lounge access, gold status with Hilton and Marriott, and points that may be transferred to many major partner airline and hotel loyalty programs, often at a one-to-one rate.

United℠ Explorer Card

Best for Airline Flights

Our Rating Among Overall Cards
3.3
United℠ Explorer Card
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 17.99% - 24.99% variable
Annual Fee $0 for the first year, then $95
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, on hotel stays and on purchases from United. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%

Why We Chose This Card
We found United miles to be the most valuable of those offered by a major U.S. airline rewards program, which makes this card our top pick for frequent flyers. Not only are they worth an average 2.16 cents each, according to our research, but you’ll get 60,000 extra miles if you spend $3,000 within your first three months with the card. It’s a bonus that we value at $1,296. What’s more, restaurant, hotel, and United charges all earn 2 miles per $1 spent. It doesn’t hurt that the annual fee is waived for the first year, either.

Citi Simplicity®

Best for Balance Transfers

Our Rating Among Overall Cards
3.2
Citi Simplicity®
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 16.24% - 26.74% variable
Annual Fee $0
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
INTRO BALANCE TRANSFER APR 0% for 21 Months
Intro Balance Transfer Fee This card does not offer an introductory balance transfer fee.

Why We Chose This Card
This card gives you 21 months to pay off balance transfers interest-free, which is the longest 0% balance transfer APR offer on the market right now. Long 0% APR periods spread out the financial burden of debt repayment while cutting interest costs. Plus, you’ll have four months after opening an account to take advantage of the balance transfer promotion, which is longer than some similar cards offer. That gives you time to strategize your debt repayment plan.

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

Best for Small Business Owners

Our Rating Among Overall Cards
2.9
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 17.49% - 26.49% variable
Annual Fee $0 for the first year, then $99
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 2 miles per $1 on eligible American Airlines, telecommunication, cable and satellite providers, car rentals and gas station purchases. Earn 1 mile per $1 on other purchases.
Cash Advance APR (%) 26.74%
Cash Advance Fee Either $10 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

Why We Chose This Card
If American Airlines can be your go-to airline when you travel for business, this card is for you. Frequent flyers will earn valuable miles (they are worth an average of 2.10 cents each, based on our data) on not just flights, but business expenses such as telephone and cable services, car rentals and gas bills. They'll also get travel perks like preferred boarding and free checked bags. What's more, the 65,000-mile bonus for new cardholders—earned after spending $4,000 within four months of opening an account—is worth $1,365, according to our estimates.

Find Your Credit Card Match We believe it's most important to consider annual fee, interest rate, and rewards when you choose a credit card for everyday use, but we know you might have different priorities. See what suits you best.
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How Do Credit Cards Work?

Credit cards allow you to make purchases without having to immediately pay for them with cash or money from your checking account. Essentially, you’re using the credit card company’s money, and then you pay it back. 

The credit card company (also called a credit card issuer) will send you a bill about once a month telling you how much you owe and when to send your payment by. If you can’t cover the whole bill, the issuer adds interest charges to your account. Those are the basics, but this explainer on how credit cards work will help you understand everything you need to know about the cost of carrying a credit card balance.

How Do You Choose the Best Credit?

Choosing a credit card requires you to take an honest look at your habits and needs, and see how those line up with the products out there. To get started, here are six tips for matching your needs to the right type of credit card. 

To help you further understand the credit card selection process, we put together this guide to picking a credit card and an overview specifically for first-time card applicants.

Is a Credit Card Right for You?

Before you can make a decision about opening any credit card, you need to understand the value and drawbacks of credit cards as a whole.

What We Like
  • Allow you to build credit

  • Offer rewards

  • Enable you to make large purchases

What We Don't Like
  • Could lead to debt

  • Charge costly fees

  • Are difficult to fully understand

For a more detailed explanation, check out our guide to the pros and cons of credit cards.

What Credit Score Do You Need?

The better your credit score, the more credit card options you have. And if you want a credit card with the highest rewards earning rate and best perks, you’ll likely need to have a very good credit score. Many of our credit card reviews tell you what kind of credit score (fair, good, very good, etc.) you need to qualify for that card. 

If you don’t know your credit score, read our article on how to check your credit score. These days, there are many options that will cost you nothing. Once you know your score, you can figure out what category it tends to fall into. There are a couple of different credit score models (FICO and VantageScore) and each has its own range. This is all explained in detail in our guide to credit scores. But for a quick overview, here are the ranges of scores for the two different scoring models: 

FICO Score Ranges
Exceptional 800+
Very Good 740-799
Good 670-739
Fair 580-669
Poor Under 580
VantageScore Ranges
Excellent 750-850
Good 700-749
Fair 650-699
Poor 550-649
Very Poor Under 550

Note

Credit score isn’t the only factor credit card issuers look at when evaluating your application, but issuers aren’t transparent about what those factors are.

While credit card companies don’t clearly state what you need to do to get approved, you’ll improve your chances by having a job, a reliable source of income, and a bank account. We describe these best practices in detail in this article on how to qualify for a credit card.

Can You Get a Credit Card With Bad Credit?

You often can get a credit card with bad credit. Secured credit cards are usually available for people with poor credit because you have to put down a deposit that’s typically equal to your credit limit. If you use the card responsibly, over time you’ll build your credit and can apply for a better card.

How Do Credit Card Rewards Work?

Most credit card rewards programs follow the same basic structure: For every dollar you spend on your credit card, you earn a percentage of that purchase in cash back, points, or miles. You can then redeem cash, points, or miles for a variety of things. 

Every credit card rewards program is different, so it’s best to read individual credit card reviews to understand their programs. This overview of rewards cards basics will help you learn about the different rewards programs out there and, most important, whether or not it’s worth signing up for a rewards card.

What Are Some Common Credit Card Benefits?

You know all that fine print you see when you go to a credit card’s website? It includes a lot of details about card benefits you might not realize you have access to. We have a full rundown of credit card perks you should know about, but here’s a quick list of common benefits.

Common Perks on Many Kinds of Credit Cards

  • Car rental insurance
  • Zero fraud liability
  • Roadside assistance hotline

Common Rewards Card Perks

  • Insurance for stolen or damaged purchases
  • Lowest advertised price match
  • Extended warranties on purchases
  • Refund when merchant won’t accept returned item

Common Travel Rewards Card Perks

  • Insurance coverage for lost or delayed luggage
  • Insurance coverage for trip cancellation, interruption, or delay
  • Travel accident insurance

How Do You Apply For a Credit Card?

Follow these steps to apply for a credit card:

  • Check your credit score.
  • Choose which kind of card you want to apply for.
  • Research a few different cards from different companies.
  • Decide on one to apply for.
  • Visit the card application webpage.
  • Enter your personal information, including your Social Security number and annual income. 
  • Be patient. It can take a couple of weeks to receive a final decision. 

This guide will walk you through all the steps of getting ready and actually applying for a credit card.

Methodology

We collect data on hundreds of cards and score more than 55 features that affect your finances. We do this because it's our mission to give you unbiased, comprehensive credit card reviews.

Our reviews are always impartial. No one can influence which cards we review, the way we present them to you, or the ratings they receive.

About This List

We reviewed more than 200 credit cards to identify the one with the best combination of low fees, good rewards, and relatively low interest rates—that's what people say is most important to them when choosing a new credit card.

The top card on this list is the outright winner, based on the dozens of card attributes we evaluate in our scoring process. The other cards on this list have the top scores in specific categories, and each category has its own methodology.

Important

While annual fee is a top driver in determining the best credit card overall, it's not as important in our list of the best travel cards. That's because our research and analysis shows that travel cards with no annual fee tend to have little value. To understand how we scored cards in each round-up (i.e., Best Credit Cards for Travel), see the methodology at the bottom of each page.

What We Score

The most important components of a credit card's overall score are the fees, rewards, and interest rates.

Fees

We look at the average cost of a card's annual fee over three years, to account for credit cards that waive the annual fee the first year. The lower the average annual fee, the better the score it receives. The total number of fees a card has also has a significant bearing on a credit card's score, including whether or not the card has foreign transaction fees or waives the first late-payment fee.

Rewards

First, we look at the value of a card's rewards. We determine reward value by researching options for redeeming a credit card's rewards, as well as Americans' travel and spending habits.

Next, we evaluate the rate at which you can earn rewards. If a card has multiple rewards-earning rates (aka tiers), we determine the score based on the highest rate. But we also look at how many rewards tiers the card has, and a card with fewer tiers receives a higher score. We also look at if there are limits on rewards earning, how many options you have for redeeming rewards, whether there's a minimum amount of rewards you must have to redeem them, and if rewards expire. Rewards-earning limits, few redemption options, minimum redemption thresholds, and rewards expiration lead to low scores.

Interest

People don't often start using a credit card with the intention of going into debt, but it happens. That's why it's important to consider a card's annual percentage rate (APR), not only on all purchases but also for balance transfers and cash advances. (The higher the APR, the lower the score.) And if a card offers 0% APR periods on purchases or balance transfers, we consider that a good thing.

Other Things We Consider

While fees, rewards, and interest rates make up the vast majority of our scores, we also consider the overall experience of using a card. Our scoring model favors features like a mobile app, a free credit score, and 24/7 customer service, to name a few. For more information about how The Balance evaluates credit cards, see our full credit card review methodology