Best credit cards of 2016

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Best credit cards of 2016


Looking for a new credit card? There are two important steps you'll want to take before you apply.

First off, check your credit score to better understand which credit card offers you may qualify for -- rewards, cash-back and balance transfer cards may require good or excellent credit to be approved.

Secondly, with so many credit cards available, it's important to comparison shop. Cards can come with a wide range of APRs, fees and benefits, so try to do your research before you apply. Here, we've outlined some notable features for 11 different credit cards.

Best rewards credit cards for excellent credit

1. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is currently offering new cardholders 50,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 within the first three months of opening an account, which is worth up to $625 when redeemed toward airfare or hotel stays. This bonus is one of the most generous credit card sign-up offers currently available this year.

The card is a favorite among frequent travelers, as it offers cardholders the opportunity to earn double points on travel and restaurant purchases, along with travel benefits such as auto rental collision damage coverage and trip cancellation/interruption insurance. Additionally, 1:1 point transfers to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs provide further value and versatility for your rewards.

2. The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express is a great rewards card for everyday purchases, offering double points on purchases made at eligible supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then one point). Additionally, if you make 20 or more purchases with the card in a billing period, you'll earn 20 percent more points on those purchases less returns and credits. The card currently offers 10,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases within the first three months of card ownership, which can be redeemed for a $100 gift card.

3. Looking for a straightforward rewards card? The BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card could interest you. Points earned on this card can be redeemed for travel purchases at any airline, hotel, cruise or rental car company. The credit card earns unlimited points on all purchases, and points never expire.

For every $1 spent using the card, you earn at least 1.5 points, with the potential to earn as much as 75 percent more rewards if you're an eligible member of the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program. The card currently offers 20,000 online bonus points -- worth a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases -- for spending $1,000 in your first three months as a cardholder.

Best cash back credit cards for excellent credit

1. One of the most generous cash back cards this year is Discover it®, which is currently matching all the cash back earned at the end of the first year for new cardholders. The card offers 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 of combined purchases spent in bonus categories that you can enroll in each quarter, such as home improvement, restaurants and gas station purchases. You'll also earn an automatic 1 percent cash back on all other purchases.

2. We also like the Citi® Double Cash Card because it is the only cash back card that can reward you twice for your purchases. You earn 1 percent cash back on all of your purchases and a second 1 percent cash back when you make your payment on time each month. This means that you can earn double cash back on your purchases!

3. Chase Freedom® is another popular cash back card this year. It recently increased its sign up bonus to $150 cash back, which can be earned after spending $500 within your first three months as a cardholder. The card offers 5 percent cash back in bonus categories that change each quarter, on up to $1,500 in combined purchases, after you activate the categories. Bonus categories include gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants and even holiday shopping. The card also provides unlimited 1 percent cash back on all other purchases.

Best balance transfer credit cards for excellent credit

1. The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express offers a 0 percent introductory APR on balance transfers for 12 months (13.24-23.24 percent variable rate after that). Additionally, after you pay down your transferred balances, this is a card you'll likely want to continue using, as it offers 3 percent cash back at supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, 1 percent cash back after that), 2 percent cash back at gas stations and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases.

2. Most balance transfer cards charge a balance transfer fee, but not Chase Slate®, which currently has a $0 fee if you transfer your balances to this card within the first 60 days of opening an account. Other balance transfer cards often charge a 3 to 5 percent fee. This card offers a 0 percent introductory APR on balance transfers for 15 months, and a 13.24, 18.24 or 23.24 percent variable rate after that.

3. By selecting a balance transfer offer with a longer 0 percent balance transfer APR introductory period, you could give yourself more time to pay off your balance in full. This means you may be able to pay your debt down faster with the money you save on interest. If this sounds exciting to you, consider the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card, which has a long introductory period of 21 months. After that, a variable rate of 12.24-22.24 percent will apply.

Best rewards credit cards for fair credit

1. If you're looking to be rewarded for your everyday purchases, the Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard® offers unlimited double points on gas, groceries (excluding Target® and Walmart®) and even household utilities. This is one of the few credit cards that provides a bonus for utilities, which means you could earn statement credits or gift cards that much sooner.

2. While the best rewards and cash back credit cards often require good or excellent credit, having fair credit doesn't necessarily mean you can't earn cash back. The Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers an unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases, and cash back doesn't expire. This credit card could also help you improve your credit health over time, as a higher credit limit may be available once you make your first five monthly payments on time.

Bottom line

Regardless of which credit card you decide on, it's important to maintain good habits to keep your credit healthy. Once you have your card, do your best to pay it on time and in full each month. Interest and late fees are hardly ever worth it, no matter how great a credit card's rewards or benefits may be.

About the author: Korrena Bailie is Credit Karma's Managing Editor. She's been writing and editing personal finance content since 2012. When she's not scanning personal finance-related Google Alerts, she's climbing, traveling to countries where it rains all the time (ahem, Ireland) or talking to her cats as if they're people.

Editorial Note: The opinions you read here come from our editorial team. While compensation may affect which companies we write about and products we review, our marketing partners don't review, approve or endorse our editorial content. Our content is accurate (to the best of our knowledge) when we initially post it, but we don't guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information provided. You can visit the company's website to get complete details about a product. See an error in an article? Use this form to report it to our editorial team. For questions about your Credit Karma account, please submit a help request to our support team.

Advertiser Disclosure: We think it's important for you to understand how we make money. It's pretty simple, actually. The offers for financial products you see on our platform come from companies who pay us. The money we make helps us give you access to free credit scores and reports and helps us create our other great tools and educational materials.

Compensation may factor into how and where products appear on our platform (and in what order). But since we generally make money when you find an offer you like and get, we try to show you offers we think are a good match for you. That's why we provide features like your Approval Odds and savings estimates.

Of course, the offers on our platform don't represent all financial products out there, but our goal is to show you as many great options as we can.

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Helpful to 2 out of 2 people

I look at articles like this one from time to time and I am baffled be the way people go for bells and whistles like miles and cash back. I carry a card that charges no annual fee. Interest on purchases is 7.5% and cash advance 11.5%. You can believe I will stay loyal to the bank that allows me this luxury on a non-secured debt.     If my card can do it, others can. I wouldnt be heard calling most other credit cards greedy, but if the accusation fits?

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Helpful to 1 out of 3 people

I want see my credit score and see my score when up to 700?

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Helpful to 1 out of 2 people

This is an unfair response, everyone has different wants. These article are based on where you fall in the credit scoring system and what you are looking to gain from a credit card. CK is educating  consumers on what's new to the market. If low interest rates area important to you then you  are in good hands with your current company, but don't make such accusations for those who seek something different.

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Helpful to 3 out of 3 people

I'd rather have rewards than a low interest rate, especially since (if you're doing it right) you shouldn't be paying any interest whatsoever anyways

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I think you are spot on with your perspective and others (below) that suggest the response is 'unfair' or 'CK is educating' are missing the fundamental point.  Yes, there are a wide variety of credit cards with a multitude of options and yes everyone is different.

BUT where everyone is the same is when an unexpected event happens (medical emergency, unemployment, etc.) and the only means you have to survive is using your credit card THEN the interest rate better be low or you may not financially recover for a very long time.  All the other features won't matter.

If you imainge Luke as someone who's simply applying for a credit card and Yoda as a fiancial advisor warning him to stay away from high interest cards and Luke sayins he's not worried, then this clip of Yoda's response is perfect:

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I agree with poster above. I chose the American Express card for miles rewards on Delta. I get 1 mile for every dollar I spend and haven't paid one dollar on interest since I pay the balance in full every month. To me, it doesn't matter what the interest rate is on any card because I don't carry a balance from month to month.

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