Editorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone.

A credit card ranking is a rating, preferably done by an unbiased source, that determines the best credit card(s) for consumers. Credit of any sort is not a “one size fits all” business as customers have multiple needs and reasons for securing a credit card.

One way a credit card ranking is determined is by category or need. The categories are innumerable and include those dealing with credit scores and history, fees, interest rates, balance transfers, rewards, business, students, and secured vs. unsecured cards.

Researching which credit card is right for you begins with two main factors: your credit standing (which will determine which options are viable for you) and your specific need for the credit card.

Credit Card Ranking: Where to Start

credit card ranking

The first factor to be aware of when looking into any credit card ranking list is your own credit. The better your credit score, the more opportunities you will have to easily secure a credit card and to have lower interest rates and a higher credit card limit.

If you have a mediocre credit card history and credit score, you will have fewer options so you can benefit from searching for cards that may have other benefits or rewards for consumers. Finding a credit card ranking specific to your financial situation can help you find a card that meets your needs and can help you build your credit.

For those with bad credit, the opportunities are fewer, but still possible. Often, secured credit cards are an option for those with poor or no credit. This means putting money down upfront but is a way to start building and improving credit.

Where to Find Credit Card Ranking Based on Credit

Many websites provide detailed information on where to find the best credit card based on what you are looking for. For those with strong credit looking for high credit limits, cardrates.com provides information for both personal and business borrowers. If you are a small business owner, your business and personal accounts are not mutually exclusive as your personal credit information will help determine your business options.

One place to check for various credit card ranking categories is the U.S. News & World Report, including for those with fair/mediocre credit. The list is further broken down by specifics, whether it is credit cards for students, reward cards, cards with deposits, and even cards whose benefits improve as you make regular payments.

There are also credit cards that you can apply for even with bad credit, all of which can help you rebuild your credit. Nerdwallet.com ranks cards based on different needs for those with bad credit. Whether it is a secured card, which has a direct focus on improving credit, or unsecured cards, there are still variables that give consumers choices.

Balance Transfer Credit Cards

With the widespread use of credit cards and borrowing in the U.S., many consumers are looking to consolidate their debts through balance transfers. A number of cards have balance transfer offers with different perks, most of which include a 0% Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for an introductory period.

CreditCards.com is an online resource that has a credit card ranking of the top credit cards for balance transfers that is regularly updated. The information for each card includes the introductory APR, the introductory period, and the range of what the interest rate will be once that period is over. 

There are numerous reasons why consumers seek to balance transfers, one of them being to have multiple debts consolidated into one place. A major benefit that attracts consumers is the amount of money they will save in the long run. The CreditCards.com credit card ranking also includes an estimated balance transfer savings for each rated card.

Finding Credit Cards Based on Interest Rates

There are several factors to investigate when planning to apply for a credit card based on interest rates. Your credit score and history will play a large role in determining what kind of interest rate you can get, but there remain options for those whose credit is less than stellar.

There are two major APR’s to look into. One is the introductory rate. Just as with balance transfer cards, many credit card issuers will offer 0% interest for a predetermined period of time to attract customers. That would be ideal, but two factors related to that will make the most difference. How long is the introductory rate (many are more than 12 months, but infrequently more than 18 months) and what will the interest rate be when the introductory rate period is over?

The interest rate will vary, meaning that it can change over time. However, the consumer must be made aware of changes in the credit rate. The span of the variable means the lowest the interest rate you are charged will be and the highest. The higher your credit score, the lower the span is. However, no issuer can change the APR without enough notice that the consumer doesn’t have the opportunity to pay off the remaining balance.

As the consumer, you can seek to have as much control as possible over your APR. By continuing to pay off your credit card in full, if possible, or at least making minimum payments on time, you build your credit rating and payment history. As your score rises, you have more options in trying to get a lower rate from your current credit card issuer or transferring your balance to a credit card with more favorable interest rates.

Finding Credit Cards Based on Rewards

Regardless of your credit standing, you may be interested in rewards when you sign up for a credit card. In addition to department stores and airlines offering reward cards, many issuers offer cash-back rewards programs.

Credit cards tied to a specific store or airline can be useful if you do a lot of shopping at the store or flying on that airline, but they are not transferable to other stores and airlines. Cash-back credit cards have a lot more flexibility in their use. Generally, you receive between 1% and 5% back on what you spend with the card.

Be sure to check for whether the rate is the same for all purchases or different for certain types of purchases (tiered). The money you earn back can be used for whatever purchases you would ordinarily be able to use the credit card for.

The caveat with cash-back cards, even those with a high credit card ranking, is that it benefits you most if you are a consumer who pays the whole balance each month and is disciplined about making purchases. If you are spending on things you may not have otherwise just to gain the cash-back reward, you will lose money in the long run if you end up in debt, paying much higher interest when you can’t pay the monthly bill in full.

Credit Card Options For Students

Many students enter college without having built any credit and with little to no experience with credit cards. The bad news is that students have no credit history for card issuers to rely on. But unlike older consumers without that history, creditors find students to be much less of a risk.

There are clear incentives for card issuers to bring students on board early. They want to build future customers, hopefully for a lifetime. The risk is lower because students have earning potential and the expectation (by them and their parents!) of financial independence after getting a degree.

Even the smallest amount of income, whether from a summer job, work on the side, or a work-study position at school, can be advantageous to a student seeking their first credit card. By making the minimum payment each month, or ideally paying the bill off regularly, the student can set themselves up for the future with a strong credit score and payment history.

The fact that these cards often come with low credit limits can benefit the student as well, making it harder for them to get way behind quickly, which can set them on a bad path with their credit score. Most of the student cards do not charge fees, which would be less likely for older consumers with little or no credit history. 

Credit Card Ranking Sources: What to Watch For

The internet is ripe with different websites about credit cards and recommendations for consumers. There are important factors to consider when searching online, starting with whether the information is coming from a reliable source.

If a site is directing you only to one specific card or one card issuer, it is likely a promotional site or page. Even if it is not, there are plenty of sites that provide a wide array of choices so that you can make the most educated decision based on your financial goals. 

If a site offers a variety of options, it may still be supported by a financial institution. This is not necessarily a disqualifier for good and fair information so you can make that judgment yourself as you view the site or specific page. Check the “About Us” (or similarly named) section to find out more about any site as it is required to include information about its partners.If you have concerns about even the slightest arrangement that a website has with any credit card issuer, you can find plenty of financial recommendations from websites that are not connected to, or supported by, Consumer Reports, a well-known site (and magazine) that publishes unbiased credit card ranking information among its many reviews.


Advertiser Disclosure: Many of the listings that appear on this website are from companies which we receive compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The site does not review or include all companies or all available products.

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