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The 10 Highest-Rated Credit Cards of 2015

By Allison Franceour
Updated: Dec 16th 2015

After reviewing more than 100 credit cards, we were able to identify 10 cards that are truly the best in their respective categories. From extremely long 0% intro APR periods on balance transfers or purchases to high cash and miles rewards rates to massive introductory cash and miles bonuses, each of these cards is a head turner. Whether you're looking to save a bundle by transferring your balance, or you're looking to make a bundle by getting all sorts of rewards and incentives, you'll find the card that does it best in the list below.  

 

Transfer Your Balance Without Paying A Transfer Fee

The Chase Slate® is tied as our highest-rated balance transfer card, and for good reason. It charges no fee for transferring your balance to it in the first two months, no annual fee, and no interest on balances transferred for a full 15-month 0% intro APR period. This makes it a phenomenal tool to gain control of your credit card debt, as you can make a costless balance transfer, then use the 15-month interest grace period to pay down your balance.

The Verdict: If you don't need the entire 18 months offered by the BankAmericard, this can be efficient since it doesn't have a balance transfer fee. No transfer fee and no annual fee, combined with the 0% intro APR means that this is really free money for the 15 month term, no catches.

Most Appropriate For: Those who want a no-fee way to stop paying interest, and possibly pay off the cards during that breather. Those with good rather than excellent credit.

Least Appropriate For: Those who pay off their balances every month would be better served getting a card paying high rewards. Note that the 0% transfer fee is an introductory offer, so be sure to transfer your balance in the first 60 days, or there will be a fee.

Recommended credit:  Just Good. The Chase card has the most lenient credit requirements of our top balance transfer cards.

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The Ultra-Long 0% Card

The BankAmericard® Credit Card is tied as our highest rated balance transfer card, featuring an unbelievable 18 billing cycles (months) 0% APR intro period. This means that if you were to roll your balance over onto the card today, you wouldn't have to pay interest until well into 2018. The card does charge a 3% balance transfer fee (or $10, whichever is greater), but if you’re looking to avoid paying any interest on your credit card balances for as long as possible, the BankAmericard could be your card.

The Verdict: Getting a loan this cheaply for this long is pretty amazing. If you're carrying a balance, and realistically you know you will have to carry that balance for a while, this card becomes a no-brainer. As an example, assume you have a $10,000 balance on your current cards at a 18% rate. Over the 18 billing cycle (month) term, you would have paid $3,098 in interest.* Switching to this card would cost $300 in fees, but then nothing the rest of the way, for a net savings of $2,798. Not bad, you could do a lot with that extra cash.

Most Appropriate For: Those who have large balances and want as much interest-free time as possible to pay the principle down.

Least Appropriate For: Those who pay off their balances every month or every few months.

Credit Required: Good to Excellent

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The Cards Which Not Only Don't Charge, But Actually PAY you.

Pros: Capital One's Quicksilver card makes things simple: you earn 1.5% cash back on all your purchases, with no limit and no category restrictions or games. We included the card in our balance transfer list because it offers 0% intro APR 9 months  on all balances transferred.

Cons: Does charge a 3% balance transfer fee. Requires good credit to get in.

The Verdict: If you're looking to transfer a balance and make some purchases, you can use this card to avoid paying interest during the intro period AND earn cash rewards.

Most Appropriate For: Anyone who might make some large purchases in the near future, or regularly charges a lot on their cards. Making the charges on the Quicksilver  would earn cash back but not require any interest during the intro period.

Credit Required: Good to Excellent

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Pros: Chase's new Freedom Unlimited card is essentially an improved version of the old Freedom. They bumped the base cash back rate all the way up to an industry leading 1.5%, and pay that full 1.5% on all spend, with no limit or spend category restrictions. Unlike most other high paying cash back cards, you don't have to worry about categories or have to activate anything. You'll receive the full 1.5% back as you make your spend, on all spend, automatically. In addition, Chase  is temporarily offering a cash bonus to new card-members. If you charge $500 on it in the first 3 months, you'll earn a $150 cash bonus. Finally, Chase is also offering new card-members 15 months of 0% Intro APR on Purchases interest for the first 15 months of using the card to make new purchases. So during that period, you can use the card without paying any interest on balances you tally, while still earning cash back. The card requires good, not excellent credit, making it easier to get in.

Cons: Charges a 5% balance transfer fee. This is on the high side, so we recommend looking at the Slate or BankAmericard if your goal is to transfer a balance. The Freedom Unlimited should be viewed as a cash back card.

The Verdict: One of the strongest cards available to those with good (but not perfect) credit. The card combines industry leading cash back rates (1.5% on everything) with a strong 15 months of 0% Intro APR on Purchases interest on new purchases combined with a $150 cash bonus when you use the card to make $500 in spend in the first 3 months.

Most Appropriate For: Those with good credit seeking a daily-use card offering great cash back rewards and 0% Intro APR on Purchases intro APR. Best for new charges.

Least Appropriate For: Balance transfers, as it charges the 5% fee while offering no more free term than the Slate (which has no transfer fee).

Credit Required: Good to Excellent

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The Cash Rewards Card For Families

Pros: We call this card the "Family Cash Rewards Card" since it pays the highest constant cash rewards rate in the two most common spend categories for families: 3% on gas and 2% on grocery stores and wholesale clubs for the first $2,500 in combined gas/grocery purchases each quarter. It also pays a constant 1% on all other spend. We really like the idea of having both the Freedom and the BankAmericard, since between the 2 cards we can almost always earn 2% to 5% on just about any purchase we make. The two combined become a sort of cash rewards "super card."

The Verdict: A great cash rewards card for those who spend significant money on gas and groceries.

Most Appropriate For: Anyone who spends a lot of money either on gas or on groceries.

Least Appropriate For: Balance transfers, as it charges the 3% fee while offering only 12 "cycles" (months) interest free.

Credit Required: Good to Excellent

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The Best Travel Cards

Pros: Best-in-class miles rewards rate of 2 miles per dollar of spend. Huge introductory ($400 value) bonus offer for activating and using the card to make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. That's basically a free trip just for signing up and using the card for 3 months. No blackout dates, total flexibility on where you can use your miles: any airline, any hotel, any time. Rewards are redeemable for cash value. No foreign transaction fees when you use your card abroad.

The Verdict: We recommend this card to anyone who will spend more than $1,500/month, as that is when it really becomes worth it to pay the fee in exchange for the higher miles per dollar earned by the card. Because there is no annual fee in the first year, it's a great move to test the card out, earn the 40k mile bonus while in the no-fee first year, and then have the full year to decide if you spend enough per month to justify keeping the card for a second year. Bottom line, for those who spend more than $1,500 a month, the large bonus and high ongoing miles reward rate makes the Venture Rewards a tough card to beat, and our highest-rated card in the travel category.

Most Appropriate For: Those of us who are looking for the most rewards, a massive intro bonus and the lowest fee of any of the truly high paying rewards cards.

Least Appropriate For: Those who either carry a balance (in which case we recommend saving through a balance transfer to one of the 0% APR cards in this list

Credit Required: Good to Excellent

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Pros: Discover is offering to match your miles at the end of the first year for new card members instead of charging an annual fee. The respectable 1.5 miles for every dollar spent on purchases is unlimited with no blackout dates on any airline, anytime. In addition, the Discover it® Miles has a 0% intro APR* on purchases for 12 months.

The Verdict: If you plan on spending more than $1,500 per month on your card, the Discover it® Miles would be a good choice because of the matched miles offer at the end of the first year. If you maintain at least a 1,500 spend per month, that will net you at least 54,000 bonus miles (a $540 value) with end of the year with your matched miles reward. There are no blackout dates on any airline anytime, and there is an unlimited 1.5 mile per dollar travel reward. The 0% intro APR for purchases for 12 months and no annual fee are also good perks.

Most Appropriate For: Those who like to see their rewards take the form of miles, and who wish to avoid annual fees.

Least Appropriate For: Those who either carry a balance (in which case we recommend saving through a balance transfer to one of the 0% APR cards in this list) or those who spend less than $1,500 a month on average.

Credit Required: Good to Excellent

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The Citi Simplicity has reset the balance transfer market by offering a staggering 21 months of 0% intro APR. That means by transferring your balance to the Simplicity, you get nearly 2 full years during which you won't have to pay a dime in interest. You can use this time to pay down the balance or to focus on other financial needs. The card does charge a 3% balance transfer fee, but even factoring that into the calculation, the Simplicity is an incredibly powerful debt management tool.

The Verdict: If you're looking to transfer your balance and not too concerned about high paying rewards, this card has the longest possible 0% intro APR period.

Most Appropriate For: Those who have large balances and and want as much interest-free time as possible to pay the principle down.

Least Appropriate For: Those who pay off their balances every month or every few months.

Credit Required: Good to Excellent

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Summary

With so many issuers competing to offer such great promotional incentives to those with good credit, it seems smart to make use of them in the right way! We hope our reviews of these cards was helpful, and if you have any comments, please don't hesitate to let us at the LendingTree Credit Card Review Team know!

*Savings calculation: Credit Card Balance * (1+18%/365)^456 days – Balance Transfer Fee - Average Household Credit Card Balance