When you’re looking for a new credit card, we know it can help to get a clear recommendation.
While there’s no substitute for the depth of a full credit card review, some readers prefer to start with the simplicity of a rating. To help with that process, Credit Karma’s editorial team rates cards on a five-star scale, with five being the best possible rating.
Our scoring system is not one-size-fits-all. It covers seven categories of consumer credit cards: secured, beginner, student, low interest, cash back, premium and travel cards. We rate each card relative to the other cards in its category, as different types of credit cards can have different intended uses. A five-star cash back card, for example, may not be the best option if you’re looking for a card with a low interest rate. And while we reviewed a number of consumer credit cards, we haven’t looked at every card on the market.
These ratings reflect what our editorial team considers most important for each type of card. We do our best to ensure that our rankings reflect the needs of a wide audience, but not every highly rated card will meet everyone’s individual needs.
Here’s what we considered when we defined each card category and an idea of how we assess value within each.
How we created our ratings system
Our ratings assess each card’s value in only one category, not across the board. We define each category based on certain card attributes and features, and most cards fall clearly into one category.
Sometimes a card has qualities of multiple categories (maybe it has both cash back and low-interest features). When that’s the case, we consider what we think are the card’s most-important features and use our best discretion to decide on one category. When you see one of these ratings, keep in mind that it might not fully address your intended use for the card.
Here’s how we define our categories.
- Secured cards require a security deposit to open and are usually marketed toward people who want to build their credit.
- Beginner cards are also geared toward people looking to build credit, but they don’t require a security deposit.
- Student cards are specially marketed to students and may feature more-valuable rewards programs than other beginner cards.
- Low-interest cards feature low introductory APR offers or low regular APRs (depending on your credit) for balance transfers and/or purchases.
- Cash back cards offer rewards that are either most valuable when redeemed as cash back or advertise cash back redemptions as one of their main features. Depending on the card, redemptions can take multiple forms, like statement credits, bank deposits or regular checks.
- Premium cards offer luxury perks or rewards-earning opportunities at an annual fee of $195 or more.
- Travel cards give consumers the ability to earn points or discounts that can be redeemed for airfare, hotel stays or other travel benefits. They advertise travel redemptions as a primary use for rewards points, and their annual fees are under $195.
After deciding on our categories, we identified the factors that we think are most important to determining the overall value of each type of card. We then set weightings for each of those factors.
Keep in mind, the factors we consider for each category may change if we think they no longer capture the range of options available to consumers.
How to use these ratings
A rating is only intended to serve as a high-level impression of a credit card. When considering which card is best for you, it’s crucial to read more about each card’s specifics from other sources as well, such as our editorial reviews, cardholder reviews and other information from promotional pages and official card agreements.