Best Credit Cards For 2018

The credit market is like a rotating carousel of choices. Different cards come and go, but an array of choices remains. Every year, companies offer new and updated options, with benefits ranging from the traditional frequent flier miles to discounts for specific purchases. The availability of many options can be a hindrance rather than a help, as there are simply too many choices.

How do you sift through all your options to find the best choice for you? That depends. A card with frequent flier miles might be perfect for one person (such as a frequent air-traveler) while having zero benefits for someone who never flies. 1-2 percent back on gas purchases might be the right move if you have regular, long commutes. However, this benefit makes no sense for someone who walks or takes the train to work. While there are no guarantees of an overall “best” option for everyone, there might be a best one for you. The trick is in finding it.

If you're interested in signing up for a credit card this year, you'll need to consider a few things first.

Know your credit score. Companies offer better rates and higher limits for those with good scores, with those benefits decreasing as your score goes down. If your score is too low, they won't issue you a card at all.

Consider whether the benefits fit your spending habits. Cards are designed to encourage you to use them. Companies will offer benefits, such as discounts and cash back, for spending in certain locations or types of stores. Try to find a benefits program that rewards purchases you already make, ones that fit your lifestyle and spending habits. For example, if you don't do a lot of air travel, frequent flier miles won't help you at all. You might be better off with a card that rewards grocery purchases instead. There's a good chance you can find a product that matches your spending habits.

Know your limits. The key to using a credit card wisely is paying off the full amount owed each month, and not allowing anything to carry over to the next pay period. You build good credit by using the card regularly, but not by maxing it out, which will hurt your score. It's best to avoid having a card with a credit limit that's higher than you would be able to pay back at the end of the month. This limit will vary from person to person, so there’s no general rule. Just consider your ability to pay off your debt the end of the month, and be guided by that.

Best All-Around: Chase Freedom®
The Chase Freedom® is a great pick for anyone who can meet the strict credit requirements. If you have a good credit score and you're looking for a top all-around option, this is one to consider. You'll get a 0% Annual Percentage Rate for 15 months and a variable 16.74% - 25.49% afterward. There's a 5% flat fee for balance transfers, but 0% APR on balance transfers for 15 months. You get 5% cash back on up to $1,500 worth of purchases in bonus categories every quarter, with 1% cash back on other purchases, which is one of the best cash back deals on the market. You’ll also get a $150 bonus for spending $500 within the first three months after account opening and a $25 bonus for adding an authorized user within that period.

The Catch: You'll need a stable rating to get this one, and the significant transfer fee may be difficult for anyone unloading debt from another account.

For Those Who Need Low Interest
The Chase Freedom® card above is a solid pick in the low-interest category, but if a low APR is your top priority, you'll want to look at the Citi Simplicity®. This card offers a 0% APR for a whopping 18 months, considerably longer than the average 0% promotion period! After the promotion ends, you're looking at a variable APR of 15.74% - 25.74%. There's no annual fee and no late fees. If you have a solid score and are looking for the lowest possible APR and the longest possible 0% window, look no further.

The catch: There's a 3% transfer fee. However, the real issue is the lack of a rewards program. Of course, that's connected to the low-interest rate, but if rewards are important to you, this won't be your pick.

For Building Credit
The Capital One Secured MasterCard® is a solid choice for anyone looking to build up their score. Like most secured cards, it requires a deposit, and the limit is modest. Unlike most secured cards, however, the limit is not determined by your deposit: you can get a $200 credit line with a deposit as low as $49! Your limit will go up after five months of on-time payment. There's a 24.99% fixed APR. If your score needs rebuilding, this is a great place to start. Bad credit scores are accepted, and if you keep your balance well below your limit and pay on time every month, your score will go up.

The Catch: Don't expect rewards or incentives. This one is all about building up your credit score, not about frills and benefits.

The Discover it® Secured Card is another excellent choice for rebuilding bad credit. In this case, your limit will be the same as your (refundable) deposit: a $200 deposit gets you a $200 credit line, nothing more. There's no annual fee, no fee for late payments, and you get free credit score reports. The APR is a fixed 24.74%. You'll also get a reward package: 1% cashback on purchases, 2% at gas stations and restaurants, up to $1,000 per quarter. Discover will match your cash back at the end of the year, so if you need to rebuild your credit and spend a lot of money on gas and restaurants, you'll want to consider this one.

The Catch: You’ll need to pay the deposit from a bank account, not cash or other methods.