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What's in your wallet? The best credit cards

Top/Best/Most

The best credit cards

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The best credit cards

The best credit cards
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 Does anybody ever pay with cash anymore? Bankrate found that 4 out of 5 people carry less than $50 in their wallets at any given moment. Everything can be purchased via credit or debit. Trees are slaughtered regularly to provide the paper used for solicitations by mail from credit card companies. (What would the post office do without credit card offers to deliver?)

Which cards, however, are best? Depends on what you're looking for.

Most popular

According to Wallaby, the most popular credit card is the Chase Freedom card, based on asking 30,000 Wallaby users what’s in their wallets. Chase was followed by the Discover Cash Back Bonus Card. In the top 10, there are three branded credit cards: TrueEarnings from Costco and American Express, the Amazon Rewards Visa and the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card from American Express.

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Best cash back

For the best bang-for-your-plastic-buck with no fee, Nerdwallet suggests the Discover It card. This card gives you 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 spent every quarter on categories of products that change regularly. There's no interest for six months on purchases, and there's also 18 months of no interest on balances transferred from other cards, though there is a fee for transferring the balance. This card also offers bonuses like return protection, no foreign transactions fees, and the fee on the first late payment is waived. Geez, they're practically giving you money...which is why you need excellent credit to qualify for this card.

For poor credit

For people with not so great credit, or no credit at all, CreditCardChaser.com recommends the First Progress Platinum Elite MasterCard Secured credit card (say that three times fast). The average credit score for people with this card is 563, and you can get approval without any credit history. It also reports to all three credit bureaus so you can work on building your credit back up.

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Best travel card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is the favorite in this category according to Nerdwallet. You earn an extra 40,000 bonus points if you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days, which you can turn into 50,000 points if you book travel through Chase. The first year's $95 fee is waived, there are no foreign transaction fees, and you receive seven percent "points bonus" at the end of the year.

Best grocery/gas rewards

The American Express Blue Cash Preferred card is the one to use for shopping, according to Nerdwallet. It gives you 6 percent cash back on up to $6,000 of groceries a year, plus unlimited 3 percent cash back on gasoline and many department store purchases. So here's what you do: You buy GIFT CARDS for gasoline and department stores in the grocery store and get 6 percent back instead of three! KA-CHING! There's also a $75 annual fee, but that's more than offset in the first year if you use the card to sign up for Amazon Prime and get $100 credit. 

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Best college student card

Capitol One has a Journey Student Rewards card that Nerdwallet and Creditcards.com say will let college students earn 1 percent cash back on every purchase with no annual fee. You can increase that cash back amount to 1.25 percent if you pay your bill each month on time, and if you make your first five months of payments in a timely manner, you can access a higher credit line. It's all meant to encourage responsible credit management. There's no limit to how much cash you can earn back, and your rewards never expire.

Top credit card partner

CreditCardChaser.com praises the Upromise World MasterCard as the best partner card "for everything," a card that allows people to earn cash back to help save for college. Cardholders can earn up to 10 percent cash back on eligible purchases from Upromise.com, 4 percent back if it’s used at thousands of participating restaurants, 3 percent cash back on gas bought at Exxon or Mobil stations, 2 percent back from eligible movie theaters...and 1 percent cash back on everything else. Gosh, you almost MAKE money using this card! (Uh, not really, but that’s a lot of cash back.)

Low interest rate

Finally, interest rates on your savings account may be near zero, but that’s not the case for most credit cards. Nerdwallet highlights the Citi Simplicity Card as one that could provide you relief for a longer period of time than rivals. This card charges zero interest on balance transfers from other accounts for 18 months (though there is a fee per account transferred of either $5 or three percent, whichever is larger). But while many credit cards encourage you to say "yes"--spend, spend, spend!--this card may be more famous for all the ways it says "no." No late fees, ever. No penalty rate, ever. No annual fee, ever.

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