With a new year upon us, it’s always a good idea to whip out the wallet and see if there are any cards which should be added (or subtracted) from it. Credit card companies are always changing – either for the better or for the worst – and here are my thoughts on who the 10 best currently are.
Chase has always been a good company, but they’ve really improved their performance the past 3-4 years. Several new product launches AND major improvements to their rewards/benefits. Here are the top 3 reasons I am placing them at the top of my list right now.
- Caters to the most people. Cash back? Travel rewards? Balance transfers? They do it all.
- Large selection of cards. Between all them (both their own and co-branded) they have over two dozen. During the past year their most popular have been (1) Freedom (2) Sapphire Preferred (3) Slate.
- Rich travel rewards. AmEx used to dominate this space, but with Chase’s latest improvements to the Sapphire Preferred and airline cards, they’re now tied with AmEx.
- Excellent customer service. In the mid ‘00s they were only average, but now they stand out from the crowd. I have several of their cards and during the past couple years whenever I’ve called, I’ve gotten a well-trained and helpful US-based customer service reps.
Based on their purchase volume (amount spent by their cardholders) Chase rose to be ranked as the #1 largest issuer in the US, with a 17% market share at mid-year 2015 according to The Nilson Report.
2. American Express
AmEx isn’t for everyone. All of their cards require excellent credit and they don’t do balance transfer deals, making them less attractive to anyone who carries a balance. But if you’re after cash back and travel perks, consider one (or a couple, like I currently have).
- Best for travel benefits. Depending on which airlines you fly, sometimes the travel rewards from Chase will be better. But when it comes to travel benefits, it’s hard to beat what AmEx gives you.
- Purchase protection and extended warranty. This benefit (with different names) is found on AmEx as well as other credit cards. However, I find that AmEx has the most consumer-friendly policies for these.
- Lucrative rewards on most cards. Not all of their cards are a home run, but ones like the Blue Cash Preferred and Gold Delta SkyMiles are just too good to pass up.
- Legendary customer service. Not much to say here, their reputation speaks for itself.
Because their customers tend to be more affluent, did you know that American Express has the highest marketshare (based on purchase volume) among US credit card companies? 25% of the money spent on credit cards is spent with AmEx cards.
They’ve come a long ways in a short time. Here’s why I have one and think you should to:
- Now over a 90% acceptance rate. This isn’t the Discover of the past. Now they are accepted by over 90% of US merchants who take credit cards.
- Up to 5% cash back. The rewards on non-category spending is 1%, but for the categories you can earn 5% cash back!
- 100% US-based customer service. Their credit cards only use US call centers.
4. Capital One
Capital One has made huge strides over the last several years:
- Lucrative rewards. Their Venture is one of the most popular on CreditCardForum.
- Different types of cards. From secured to travel rewards, they have ‘em.
- Wide acceptance. Since they issue Visa and MasterCards, they have better acceptance than Discover and AmEx.
Their marketshare is just just over 9%.
Citi recently came out with its Double Cash card, which earns them an honorable mention on this year’s list. If they keep this product around they may even climb higher, but Citi’s been known to dilute their reward programs after the fact when things seem to good to be true.
- 0% offers. In this category, Citi consistently ranks well for having good deals.
Citi’s marketshare is around 12%.
6. US Bank
This is the second time I’ve them on my top 10 list. Why? Because they finally gotten competitive with their rewards and have continued to enhance their offerings.
- Issues one of the best cashback cards. The recently launched US Bank Cash+ was one of most talked about cash back programs on CreditCardForum last year.
- Their travel card is competitive. For the right type of spender, the FlexPerks Travel Rewards is the best in class.
Their marketshare is listed at 4%.
If you’re not familiar with USAA, they are a financial services company that caters to those in the military (as well as their families).
- Low standard APRs. Some of their rewards are a disappointment, but the standard (non-promotional) interest rates found on their credit cards are among the lowest you out there.
- Military benefits. A couple of their cards give you special perks while you are deployed (1) reduced interest rates for up to a year, (2) no foreign transaction fees while deployed, (3) some finance charges during deployment will be rebated.
USAA has a market share of only 1.5%.
Barclays is a European company, but they issue several credit cards in the US.
- Niche airline cards. Barclays manages the cards for a few specialty carriers like Virgin America and Frontier.
- Low or no annual fees. This is unusual for airline cards, but that’s the way they do it.
Their market share is around 2%.
9. First National Bank of Omaha (FNBO)
Don’t be fooled, they’re not just for people who live in Nebraska. FNBO cards available from coast to coast.
- Competitive rewards. Two of their cards offer above-average rewards.
- Good customer service. When I wrote a review about them and called customer service to ask questions, the rep was helpful and US based.
They’re among the top 15 largest US issuers, however their exact market share hasn’t been published recently. But by my calculations, it’s probably around 1.5%.
10. Bank of America
They’re among the 5 largest credit card companies on this list.
- Rewards are a mixed bag. Some of their cards use WorldPoints and as you can read about here, they’re redemption value can be low. However some of BofA’s cash back cards are respectable.
- Decent 0% offers. Are they the longest on the market? Definitely not. But they’re not the worst I’ve seen either.
BofA’s market share is around 14%.
Why aren’t Visa and MasterCard on the list?
You may be surprised to learn that Visa and MasterCard are not credit card issuers.
They are only payment networks which are used to process transactions. This is why they are not listed, because they don’t issue cards. You can get Visa/MCs thru most banks, including many on the above list.
Written or last updated May 18, 2016