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Hear from our editors: The best credit cards of May 2021

Updated April 30, 2021

This date may not reflect recent changes in individual terms.

Editorial note: Credit Vana receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted.

Written by: Tim Devaney

Whether you’re looking to build credit, get out of debt or earn rewards, we’ve compiled a list of the best credit cards on the market to help you find the right one for your wallet.



Best no-annual-fee credit cards

The best credit cards with no annual fee give people a chance to earn rewards and build credit without breaking the bank.

Best cash back credit cards

The best cash back credit cards offer reward categories that fit your spending habits.

Best travel credit cards

The best travel credit cards could help you save up for a future vacation.

Best rewards credit cards

The best rewards credit cards reward you for everyday purchases.

Best premium rewards credit cards

The best premium rewards credit cards offer valuable rewards and perks to help offset their hefty annual fees.

  • American Express® Gold Card: This card rewards you handsomely for eating at restaurants, ordering out and grocery shopping, all at a lower $250 annual fee. Take a look at our American Express® Gold Card review to learn more.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®: “The Michael Jordan of credit cards” offers a powerful slate of travel rewards, along with several statement credits to help offset the $550 annual fee. Find out more in our review of Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
  • Platinum Card® from American Express: From world-class airport lounges to hotel elite status, this card provides a luxurious experience to match the $550 annual fee. Check out our Platinum Card® from American Express review to learn more.

Best airline credit cards

The best airline credit cards reward you for your loyalty to a carrier.

Best hotel credit cards

The best hotel credit cards could make your stay more comfortable with perks like free nights, room upgrades and late checkouts.

Best low interest credit cards

These best credit cards with 0% intro APR offers are good for people who run into unexpected expenses or need to finance a major purchase.

Best balance transfer credit cards

The best balance transfer cards offer options and flexibility to people trying to pay off credit card debt.

Best credit cards for building credit

The best credit cards for building credit give people with limited credit histories the opportunity to raise their scores.

Best secured credit cards

The best secured credit cards give people access to credit when they might not be able to qualify for other cards.

Best student credit cards

The best student credit cards give students a head start on building credit.

Best business credit cards

The best business credit cards are good for small-business owners who want to turn their business expenses into travel rewards and cash back, or who need help financing their businesses.

How to pick the best credit card for you

Picking the best credit card depends on where you are in your credit journey. Take a look at each of these scenarios to see which type of card suits your needs best.

Do you want to build credit?

If you’re new to credit or you’re trying to bounce back from previous financial mishaps, your top priority should probably be to build credit. Unfortunately, the credit cards with the most rewards and lowest interest rates might not be available to you just yet.

But you can still find and apply for cards that you may be more likely to get approved for. That can help give you a better chance of avoiding the hard credit inquiry that comes with applying for a card and then being rejected.

Consider a secured card or an unsecured card meant to build credit. These options can help you build credit as long as you pay off your statement balance in full by the due date. Just make sure the card issuer reports your payments to the three major consumer credit bureaus.

Do you want to finance a big purchase or pay off debt?

If you think you might need to carry a balance or finance a major purchase, you might want to look for a card with a low purchase APR. A card with an introductory 0% APR offer on purchases could be a good way to save money on interest.

If you already have credit card debt, one option for paying it down is a balance transfer card.  These cards let you move your balance to a new card that might start with an intro 0% APR offer.

If you’re considering a balance transfer, it’s a good idea to estimate how much you could save before you apply for a card — our balance transfer calculator can help you weigh your options.

Do you want cash back or travel rewards?

If you don’t need to build your credit and don’t plan to carry or transfer a balance, you can prioritize finding the right rewards program or valuable perks.

Cash back cards can help you earn money back for your daily purchases. These cards might offer a flat rate on all purchases or bonus rates in certain categories. Consider a card that lines up with your spending to maximize your rewards opportunities.

If you prefer travel rewards, there are a variety of ways to get points and perks with different credit cards. Some programs even let you transfer your points to other reward systems to get an even better value.

When you consider a rewards card, take a look at the value you can get relative to the annual fee. Some of our favorite cards on the market come with annual fees of several hundred dollars, but those options can be worth it for regular travelers and people who are willing to work a little to get the most out of their rewards.

How we picked the best credit cards

It’s impossible to pick the absolute “best” credit card — there’s no single card that’s right for everyone.

For example, a premium rewards card might be great for big spenders who can make use of the perks, but it’s not worth much to someone with a limited credit history who’s unlikely to qualify.

To meet the needs of different groups, we organized our picks into categories that fit different situations. When possible, we also tried to choose cards that could appeal to varying experiences within each category.

If you don’t see a card on our list that fits your needs, we recommend diving into the pages for each specific category on Credit Vana. Our editorial reviews and explanations can help guide you through the options available to you.


About the author: Tim Devaney is a personal finance writer and credit card expert at Credit Vana. He’s a longtime journalist who prides himself on being a good storyteller who can explain complex information in an easily digestible wa… Read more.
Why get a credit card?
Credit cards can be a useful tool. Cards can be helpful for building credit because they can report your usage to the three main credit bureaus, which is why it’s so important to use your card responsibly (like paying your card in full and on time every month). Your credit can affect whether you’re approved for a loan and how much the loan will cost you. It can even affect your ability to get an apartment.
On top of that, many cards offer rewards like cash back or points that you can redeem all sorts of ways. But rewards could tempt you into spending more than you would otherwise, and there’s no guarantee they’ll provide more value than the cost of maintaining the card.
Credit cards can also give you some wiggle-room in emergency situations when you don’t have cash on hand. You have to be careful, though, because interest rates (the amount you pay for borrowing money) on credit cards can be expensive and land you in debt.
Why get a credit card?
Credit cards can be a useful tool. Cards can be helpful for building credit because they can report your usage to the three main credit bureaus, which is why it’s so important to use your card responsibly (like paying your card in full and on time every month). Your credit can affect whether you’re approved for a loan and how much the loan will cost you. It can even affect your ability to get an apartment.
On top of that, many cards offer rewards like cash back or points that you can redeem all sorts of ways. But rewards could tempt you into spending more than you would otherwise, and there’s no guarantee they’ll provide more value than the cost of maintaining the card.
Credit cards can also give you some wiggle-room in emergency situations when you don’t have cash on hand. You have to be careful, though, because interest rates (the amount you pay for borrowing money) on credit cards can be expensive and land you in debt.
Why get a credit card?
Credit cards can be a useful tool. Cards can be helpful for building credit because they can report your usage to the three main credit bureaus, which is why it’s so important to use your card responsibly (like paying your card in full and on time every month). Your credit can affect whether you’re approved for a loan and how much the loan will cost you. It can even affect your ability to get an apartment.
On top of that, many cards offer rewards like cash back or points that you can redeem all sorts of ways. But rewards could tempt you into spending more than you would otherwise, and there’s no guarantee they’ll provide more value than the cost of maintaining the card.
Credit cards can also give you some wiggle-room in emergency situations when you don’t have cash on hand. You have to be careful, though, because interest rates (the amount you pay for borrowing money) on credit cards can be expensive and land you in debt.