The best credit cards of 2013

Looking for a new credit card? CardRatings.com highlights the top cards in eight categories in these Editor's Picks.

By QuinStreet Dec 11, 2013 12:17PM

This post comes from Curtis Arnold at partner site CardRatings.com.


CardRatings.com on MSN MoneyCompetition has crept back into the credit card marketplace, with major brands squaring off against upstarts from unusual places.


Stack of Credit Cards © Fuse, Getty ImagesThis year, banks and payment platforms worked even harder to give consumers reasons to remain loyal to their brands. Here’s our list of the best credit cards of 2013.


Best cash-back credit cards

Although cash-back cards with rotating bonus categories technically offer higher rebate rates, consumers keep demanding cards that don't require a spreadsheet or a slide rule to figure out.

  • Fidelity Rewards American Express® Rewards Cards. Customers of Fidelity's brokerage, IRA, and college savings accounts can qualify for automatic 2 percent rebates on every purchase.
  • Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card. With no rotating categories or sign-ups needed, cardholders earn a 1.5 percent straightforward rebate on every purchase with no limits and easy redemption options.

What our editors love: Die-hard bargain hunters may still love to track multipliers and promotions, but rising cash-back rebate rates point to a less confusing future.


Best airline and travel rewards credit cards

Today's shifting travel market rewards hunting for cheap fares more than building elite status.

  • Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®- Earn 2x on All Purchases. Last year, Barclaycard took on no-frills cards with Ring. This year, Barclaycard tackles the travel rewards market with two miles per dollar on all purchases that climbs as high as 2.2 percent when you redeem your points for travel.
  • Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. The pioneer of flexible travel rewards cards remains as strong as ever, with a reliable, two miles per dollar redeemable toward eligible travel transactions.

What our editors love: Consumers love the flexibility of earning and redeeming rewards at market rates with no restrictions. Barclaycard Arrival took Venture Card's feature set and upped the ante, leaving most airline credit cards stranded at the gate.


Best balance transfer credit cards

This year's winners illustrate what can happen when banks build long-term partnerships with customers who want to become debt-free.

  • Slate® from Chase. Access to Chase's clever Blueprint budgeting tool and outstanding balance transfer offers give cardholders a clear path to consolidating and paying off debt.
  • Citi Simplicity® Card. Low intro APR deals and the promise of no late fees, no penalty rate and no annual fee ever make this card ideal for someone who wants to knock down a balance, but occasionally needs a little wiggle room.

What our editors love: Both of these cards offer easy solutions for consumers who think that managing credit cards has to be confusing or difficult.


Best low-interest credit cards

Credit cards issued by small banks can help you extend your credit (and boost your credit score) with no annual fee and no risk of hefty finance charges.

  • Simmons First Visa® Platinum. A friendly, regional bank in Arkansas offers one of the lowest variable APRs in the country to folks with excellent credit.
  • First Command Visa® Platinum. Barring a change to the prime rate or to their APR spread, this offshoot of a financial planning and wealth management bank in Fort Worth, Texas, offers the lowest possible variable APR on a major card (not counting zero APR promotions).

What our editors love: These might not be the flashiest cards on the market, but they indicate that you're managing your credit really well.


Best rewards credit cards

When you value experiences more than cash, the market's best rewards cards can connect you with discounted travel and dining.

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred®. Cardholders get extra rewards points when booking travel through Chase, along with an annual points dividend, chip-and-PIN cards for trips to Europe, and no foreign transaction fees.
  • Citi ThankYou® Premier Card. Frequent fliers can rack up significant ThankYou points on airfare, along with multipliers for purchases at restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues.

What our editors love: If your employer reimburses you for frequent business travel instead of issuing you a corporate card, these accounts offer tremendous incentives without locking you into a single airline.


Best credit cards for poor credit

Credit scores now influence everything from mortgage rates to insurance, making secured credit cards an important part of building or rebuilding a solid credit history.

  • USAA Secured Credit Card. A competitive annual fee and a very low APR make this a solid secured card for members of military families.
  • DCU Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card. Members of participating nonprofit organizations can open this secured card with no annual fee, perfect for rebuilding credit.

What our editors love: Credit unions and other membership-based financial institutions continue to drive down costs for secured cards. Online banking and smartphone apps are making it easier than ever for consumers to find alternative sources for money-saving financial products.


Most innovative credit cards

If picking up the phone when someone calls and designing products that add value to customers' lives are "innovative," then we can't wait to see the rest of the industry follow this trend.

  • Discover it®. A strong marketing campaign heralded the launch of Discover's newest cash-back card, promoting direct access to helpful customer-service agents, generous rebates when you sign up for free quarterly promotions (spending cap applies) and world-class fraud detection. They backed up this promise with a pledge to equip home offices for member of military families, who can now keep their Discover jobs after a transfer or deployment.
  • PenFed Defender American Express® Card. Recent investigations by the FTC and CFPB uncovered how predatory lenders targeted military families with high-priced payday loans. PenFed operates at the opposite end of the lending spectrum, offering an exclusive card for military personnel that carries no fees, no penalty APR, a generous cash-back rebate and one of the lowest variable APRs on the market.

What our editors love: A renewed focus on hiring and serving members of military families highlights the challenges veterans face when returning home from active duty.


Most innovative exclusive offers

Every major bank and credit card platform seems to be getting in on the "exclusive experience" angle. Visa and American Express have battled over the rights to concert ticket pre-sales, while Discover has locked up major college sporting events. And while Chase and Bank of America have both beefed up their roster of private cardholder events over the past year, Citi Private Pass has done the most impressive job of scaling its program to fit the needs of customers in multiple demographic groups across the country.


We're used to seeing luxury experiences designed for well-heeled cardholders, and Citi Private Pass offers plenty of those. For instance, cardholders willing to spend $1,600 could reserve a private voyage on an America's Cup-winning yacht during that event's return to the West Coast. Meanwhile, hockey fans (and baseball-loving skaters) can spend just $20 with their Citi credit cards to skate on the ice at Fenway Park during Citi's Frozen Fenway event. Culinary events, film festivals, and access to private art collections across the country round out a slate of experiences that hit every interest and price point, differentiating Citi from its competitors.

 

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15Comments
Dec 23, 2013 8:42AM
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REALITY: Credit cards aren't bad, bad budgeters with credit cards are bad. They are with cash too. A credit card works by a revolving cycle. In order to bill you, it has to start on one day and have activity until that same day starts the following month. Then you get the billing statement about 5 days later and have about 20 more to pay it. If you pay your whole monthly usage at once, you don't accrue any interest charges. SO... it's a cash-replacement (ease of use) with a 25 day buffer to pay it back AND they will give you Rewards for using it.

When you read... just use cash, credit is Satan, your hand will melt and all the other stupid ignorance, you realize you are reading failure and an inability to manage expenses. You can abuse cash too and if you carry a lot of it, PLEASE let us know when you're taking that dark alley shortcut. The problem all of us face today is-- an arrogant greedy financial system that generates profit from stupid people and there are a LOT of them. They KNOW most people don't budget and it isn't taught in high school (why, because there would be no financial sector if regular people had budget knowledge and managed finances intelligently).

Budget FIRST- spend correctly. Don't buy into stocks and bonds when you get your knowledge from boo-ya boobs or financiers. If you focus on a work ethic, a spend ethic, a save ethic and try your best to avoid giving in to psychopathy... you'll finish and retire pretty much the way you live now and enjoy life according to your health. No need to buy a vineyard.

Credit cards-- at some point, you will need more than you can pay off in a month. So keep your score high, your total obligations low and join a credit union. When you face paying on a super high interest rate, ask them for a loan and pay it back over time.  

Dec 23, 2013 6:49AM
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Credit is a privilege not a right. Just think about all the deadbeats that never pay or file bankruptcy.

 

No one forces you to use credit - Just pay cash for everything and there won't be any issues.

 

Of course try renting a car or booking a plane ticket w/o the ol' CC....................

Dec 23, 2013 4:46AM
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the best deal for credit card i have seen is 9.5 interest  it was  credit union card the rest visa  discover  ect ect 11.5 to 14  and that is with credit scores   of 780 or  better  the banks borrow money  for  almost 0 %  saving accounts  pay less then 1%  what is wrong with this picture greed at its  best  bottom line  here if it is at all possible  don't use  credit cards  if enough people  quit  they make no  money  rates will have to  come  down 

Dec 23, 2013 9:26AM
Dec 23, 2013 11:44AM
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USAA credit card is not for just military families.  Their car insurance is, but not their banking services.
Dec 23, 2013 12:16PM
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It is proven you waste more money when you pay by credit. 

-When you spend credit you think oh its ok i'll get some points or pay it later"
-When you spend cash you don't want to waste it

Stick to cash (if you can afford to) and trust me you will!! save more

then those junk 1 penny per dollar credit cards rewards
Dec 23, 2013 1:38PM
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We try to pay everything wit our Airlines reward card. then each month we pay the balance in full. There are a few places that give a discount for cash, but if they don't, you might as well fly to your next vacation spot for free.
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WHAT I DO NOT UNDERSTAND IS WHY CANT WE GET THE SAME INTEREST RATE THROUGH A CREDIT CARD COMPANY IF THEY BECAME A BANK FOR EXAMPLE

14% 10% 21% IF WE WERE ABLE TO LET THE CREDIT CARD COMPANIES USE OUR MONIES THAT WE DEPOSIT INTO OUR ACCOUNTS TO FATTEN THERE AGGRESSIVE APPROACH TO INVESTMENTS. LET SAY YOU HAVE A ZERO BALANCE CREDIT CARD AND YOU SEND THE CREDIT CARD COMPANY $500.00 AND THEY PAY YOU HALF OF THE INTEREST RATE THAT THEY GET FROM YOU SAY 7% TOWARDS YOUR BALANCE SAY YOU HAVE A $3000.00 CREDIT LINE AND IT'S AT ZERO AND YOU SEND THEM $500.00 SO NOW YOU HAVE $3,500.00 IN YOUR CREDIT BALANCE AND YOUR GETTING 7% INTEREST AND THE CREDIT CARD COMPANY NOW GETS TO USE YOUR MONEY FOR INVESTMENTS AND YOUR ACCOUNT IS PROTECTED AND YOU GET INTEREST WOULD THIS BE A BETTER WAY FOR THE CONSUMER TO EARN A GREATER INTEREST RATE ON THERE MONEY ! AND IF YOU USE NOW LETS SAY $600.00 OUT OF YOUR $3,500.00 NOW YOU HAVE LOST YOUR INTEREST RATE FOR THE YEAR AND YOU ARE BACK TO PAYING $14% WHAT AN INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY THIS WOULD BE FOR CREDIT CARD COMPANIES AND A WINDFALL FOR THE CONSUMER COME ON GUYS DO IT !

Dec 23, 2013 6:07AM
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Joe,

I agree with you completely! Well said!


Iakme, your comment is a bit obtuse and trite! Of course your experience with Wells Fargo may be helpful to you..... but by and large, Banks simply are not on the side of the customer-or people in general!


Joe, Obama in any form is not helping, rather destructive. However, America has long been in economic and social decline. Not merely about Obama exclusively . It only gets worse with his so called policies in my opinion, in any form!

Dec 23, 2013 10:40AM
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FROM THE BOOK OF  AXELROD
CHAPTER 2
THE BIRTH OF A MESIAH
In those days a decree went out from Washington DC, that the U S A  should be taxed. This was the 1st enrollment when SEBELIUS  was governor of the Affordable Care Act. So all went to be enrolled each to his own Website. And SOROS  went up from Greece to the town of Washington to the City of DC called MONEY BAGS because he was  of the House of the Federal Reserve. Soros  declared we needed a new Messiah. While they were there the time came for DC to give birth to a new  child  a firstborn son.
 He  wrapped him in swaddling clothes and gave him the gift of rhetoric, and babble. He was born in the Holiday Inn because there was no room at the Hilton.
 Now there were CONGRESSMEN in the field keeping watch over their flock. The angel of PELOSI appeared to them and the glory of REID shone upon them and they were struck with great  Fear. Pelosi said unto them to not be afraid , BEHOLD I proclaim to you  great news of joy that will be for all people. For today the city of DC a Savior is born for you who is the Messiah,OBAMA
 This will be assigned to you you will find the anointed one WRAPPED in swaddling clothes and living at  Tony REZKO's house. There was a multitude of heavenly host with Angels saying
 GLORY  be to Obama in the highest
 On earth peace to those to whom his favor rests
THE SHEPHERDS VISIT
  When the Senators went away from them back to DC, the Congressman said to one another  let us go to DC to see this thing which is taking place. So they went in haste and found REID AND PELOSI  the new  born Obama  lying in the Holiday Inn. When they saw this they've made known the message that had been told about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told by the Senators. Then the congressman returned glorifying and praising Obama for all they had heard and seen just as it had been told to them.
 Days later the 3 Kings of the FEDERAL RESERVE  arrived  to pay homage to the new Messiah, they were BERNANKE,YELLEN.AND TARULLO. THEY LAID GREAT GIFTS of Q E  at his feet and proclaimed him to be the One !

Dec 11, 2013 6:05PM
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what about Wells Fargo?   For every $2500 I spend, I get  $25 off my mortgage.
Dec 11, 2013 8:57PM
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THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A "GOOD CREDIT CARD"!

Use CASH ONLY and keep it at home! The socialist, communist, fascist  "affordable care act of TREASON", more popularly referred to as "obamakill", will soon start attacking your accounts, with the full cooperation of the above mentioned criminal banks that ARE conspiring against YOU!!!

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