A number of readers have asked me to come up with a list of the top 10 best credit cards to have. However I’ve held off on doing this because to be honest, the top ten will vary by person. What’s best for one person may not be for another. This is why I recommend comparing cards by category (see list on right side of page).
With that said, I totally understand that not everyone wants to sort through dozens and dozens of different credit cards. So if you don’t have time for that, here’s my list of the top 10 credit cards in 2013. I have cherry picked these from across the various categories. To keep this current, I will constantly be updating it each month as needed.
#1. Blue Cash from American Express
Category: Cash Back
If you have great credit and want high cash back, I feel this card is a must have for every wallet and purse. A couple years ago AmEx improved the program and restructured the tiers. The result? A great choice for both low and big spenders alike.
It comes in 2 versions – the “Everyday” has no annual fee and the “Preferred” runs $75/year. Both have great programs but the one that really impresses me is the Preferred because it gives a full 6% at US stand-alone supermarkets for the first $6k spent each year, 3% on gas at US stand-alone gas stations and select major department stores, plus 1% on everything else you buy. Go here to compare AmEx Blue Cash Preferred vs. Everyday.
#2. Starwood Credit Card
Category: Hotel + Travel
Even if you don’t stay at Starwood hotels you need to hear about this card. Why? Well you can spend your reward points at Starwood properties (obviously) but that’s not all… you also can switch them to miles on dozens of different airlines and its usually a 1 for 1 conversion.
So as funny as it may sound, this card for hotels is also probably the best for airlines, too. Check out this Starwood credit card review to learn more.
#3. Chase Freedom
Category: Cash Back
Even though I personally like the AmEx Blue Cash better, the Chase Freedom is actually ranked at #1 on the top 10 cards for cash back list for 2013. Why? Because right now Chase is offering an extremely enticing signup promotion for it on CreditCardForum.
The bonus aside, this card does offer a very straightforward and generous rewards program, especially considering that is has no annual fee. You get 1% on normal spending and 5% on categories. Learn more about the Chase Freedom promotion and rewards program.
#4. Citi Simplicity
Category: Balance Transfers
Do you currently have a balance? If so the new Simplicity from Citi is perhaps the top credit card for you. Why? Because there are no late fees (nor any rate hikes if you do pay late).
On one hand, I suppose those benefits might be bad if they encourage you to be lazy with paying your bill on time. But for most people, I think this is a great choice. Check out the Citi Simplicity card review to find out more.
#5. Chase United Airlines Credit Card
As you are well aware, just about every airline these days has their own card. However there are some distinct advantages that set the United Airlines credit cards apart from the competition.
For of all, thanks to their recent merger with Continental they are now the world’s largest airline (meaning you will have tons of flight options). Secondly, your first bag flies free. Third, you get great benefits. Check out the review of the United Airlines credit card offer to see for yourself.
#6. American Express Gold (Premier Rewards Version)
This is a newer card from AmEx and chances are, you’ve probably seen a commercial or two for it. The annual fee is $175 which is definitely not for everyone. However if you are a moderate traveler and spend, say $2.5k or more, per month on average… then the generous benefits and rewards you get will almost certainly outweigh the costs.
Another significant advantage the Premier Rewards Gold Card offers is that your annual fee is waived for the first year… this gives you a chance to try it out without having to pay. Secondly, the current bonus offer CreditCardForum is running for it is quite generous. To learn more check out this American Express Gold review.
#7. Discover More
This is the most popular card from Discover. It’s no annual fee and gives 5% on categories along with 0.25% to 1.00% on other spending. For a long time this was numero uno among the top 10 credit card deals, but given that the signup bonus isn’t that exciting right now and the rewards drawback (less than 1% on the first $3k in regular purchases each year) it has fallen back several places.
However despite those drawbacks, what you need to realize about this card it has the best rewards program for online spending, without a shadow of a doubt. The Shop Discover program gives higher rewards, on average, than all the other similar programs out there. For that reason, the Discover More is a card everyone should at least consider.
#8. Chase Ink
If you have a small business then you need to take a look at the Chase Ink. I actually use this card myself and have been very pleased with it. That’s why it is currently ranked #1 on the top 10 credit cards for small businesses. The nice thing about Chase (vs. many other biz card issuers) is that they report your account to the business credit bureau, assuming you provide them with your business tax ID number. Most issuers won’t do this.
Of course, the rewards and benefits aren’t too shabby either. There are a few versions available, ranging from no annual fee to $95. To see them all, compare the Chase Ink rewards programs.
#9. Citi Forward
Do you eat out a lot? If so this card will give you the most bang for your buck. It gives 5x points on restaurants/fast food as well as a few entertainment-related categories. Other spending nets you 1x points. There is no annual fee.
If you don’t mind juggling multiple cards, I recommend this to people even if they don’t use it as their main one. Because you won’t find another credit card that gives you this high of rewards for these categories of spending. Read this review of the Citi Forward rewards program to learn more.
#10. Capital One Secured MasterCard
Category: Rebuilding Credit
For most of the cards we’ve discussed so far, you need good credit to qualify. Not you? Well I want to make sure I include something on this top 10 list for you, too!
This is a MasterCard which is available in a secured version. The fees are quite reasonable and the minimum security deposit is low. At the end of the day, this is probably the top credit card for bad credit. Learn more about it in the secured credit card reviews.