This article has been just updated: March 27, 2020
A credit card can be your best friend or your worst enemy depending on how well you choose and how responsibly you use it. The best credit cards available in December 2019 offer a plethora of perks, such as discounts and travel insurance, and we’ve done the necessary research for you, narrowing down the overwhelming number of available credit cards to just seven.
How to Choose the Right Credit Card in 5 Steps
When choosing a credit card, keep in mind that you’re entering into a long-term relationship. A CreditCards.com survey revealed that 25 million credit card users in the United States have been using the same credit card for at least 10 years, and another 20 million have never changed their preferred card.
By making the right choice at the very beginning, you can save yourself a lot of headaches and hassle down the road.
Step 1: Check Your Credit Score
The best credit cards are available only to people with excellent credit. It’s always better to check your credit score at the very start of the selection process and avoid unpleasant surprises later.
Remember that your credit score is calculated based on your payment history, amounts owned, length of credit history, new credit and recently opened accounts, and types of credit in use.
If your credit isn’t top-notch, it’s always one of these five factors that’s dragging it down. Each of the three major credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—provides one free credit report per year, so you can get up to three free credit reports per year.
Step 2: Evaluate Your Financial Needs and Habits
You won’t be able to find the best credit card for you unless you understand your financial needs and spending habits. For example, if you don’t intend to carry a balance, there’s no reason to worry about interest rates too much. Instead, you should look for a credit card with no annual fee.
If you already have a credit card that you use for day to day purchases and would like an additional credit card for emergencies, minimal fees and a low-interest rate should be very high on your list of priorities. Some credit cards can even help you improved damaged credit, which can be extremely helpful if you’re considering applying for a mortgage.
Step 3: Research Available Credit Cards
This is where the fun begins. Now that you understand your financial needs and spending habits, you can start researching available credit cards, including travel credit cards, balance transfer credit cards, business credit cards, cash back credit cards, secured credit cards, and premium credit cards, just to name some available options.
Because we’ve done all the research for you, you can just skip to the next part of this article and read our list of the top 7 best credit cards in December 2019.
Step 4: Narrow Down Your Options
There are several questions you should answer to narrow down your options to a more manageable number. To start with, find out how much it costs to open and maintain an account. If you would like to transfer an existing balance, look up the card’s balance transfer policy and associated fees.
Ask yourself which rewards would fit your current lifestyle the most. If you travel a lot, you should consider a credit card that rewards you in travel mileage and hotel stays. If you want a credit card for day to day shopping, a credit card that lets you earn rewards on every purchase anywhere you shop is a great choice.
Step 5: Apply for a Credit Card
After you have picked the card that’s best for you, it’s time to apply for it online. These days, a typical credit card application process takes just a few minutes, especially if your credit history is spotless.
Top 7 Best Credit Cards in December 2019
After evaluating over 100 different credit cards, we were able to create this list of the top 7 best credit cards in December 2019. All that’s left for you to do is pick the one that suits your lifestyle the most and apply for it online.
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is our favorite credit card in December 2019 because it offers unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase and 50,000 bonus miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. There’s no fee for the first year, but expect to pay $95 a year after that. APR is variable (17.49% – 24.74%) on purchases and balance transfers, and there are no foreign transaction fees to worry about when relaxing on a sunny beach in an exotic country. Should you ever lose your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, you can get an emergency replacement card and a cash advance thanks to Capital One’s 24-hour travel assistance services.
The Citi Double Cash Card is a no-fee credit card that allows you to get 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases. All you have to do to earn cash back rewards is to pay at least the minimum due on time. What separates it from many other cash back credit cards is the fact that there are no restricting categories to keep track of or enroll in. As with most other credit cards from Citi, you get to enjoy 24-hour fraud protection, Citi Identity Theft Solutions, the Lost Wallet service, and the Citi Entertainment package, which includes presale tickets to thousands of events annually.
The Petal Visa Credit Card is widely considered to be one of the best credit cards for building credit, and for a good reason: Petal reports to all three major bureaus–TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. In addition to building your credit, the card can offer a 1% cash back on purchases, support for over 14,000 financial institutions, a freeze card feature that allows members to temporarily freeze their accounts at any time, and higher limits tailored to your finances to keep your utilization low. There are no fees to surprise you at the worst possible moment, meaning no annual fees, no late payment fees, and no foreign transaction fees.
The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card is perfect for people who drive a lot because it rewards 5X points on gas. However, it also rewards 3X points on groceries and 1X points on all other purchases, so it’s not like drivers are the only group of users that benefits. If you spend $1,500 within 90 days from getting the credit card, PenFed will reward you with $100. The only downside is that it takes some extra steps to get the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card because you have to be a PenFed member to qualify for it. That said, applying for a PenFed membership is a small hurdle to overcome considering how much you can get.
As a student, you want a credit card with great rewards on the things you actually buy, low or non-existing fees, and protecting against unauthorized purchases so you can rest assured that one night of partying and one lost wallet won’t ruin your credit. The Discover it Student Cash Back offers all this plus a statement credit of $20 for each school year when you manage to achieve a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Depending on where you spend your money, you can earn cash back rewards up to 5%.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card offers exceptional travel rewards and benefits, allowing its holders to earn 3X Points on travel and dining from airfare and hotels to fine dining and cafés. If you manage to spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, you’ll be rewarded with 50,000 bonus points, which translates into $750 toward airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards. The biggest downside is its $450 annual fee, which makes this credit card suitable only for avid travelers.
The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card is a fantastic credit card for avid Amazon shoppers that offers a 5% cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market, a 2% cash back at restaurants gas stations, and drugstores, and a 1% cash back on all other purchases. The credit card is available exclusively for customers with an eligible Prime membership. There is no fee for purchases made outside the United States, and all Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card holders are eligible to receive accidental death or dismemberment coverage of up to $500,000.