The Ultimate Guide To The Best Credit Cards Of 2014

June 3, 2014, Written By John H. Oldshue
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If you are interested getting a credit card, you’ll want to have all of the facts before you make a critical decision. Getting a credit card is a big step for most consumers, and too many people make that choice without knowing all of their options.

There are a plethora of credit cards available, and if you search thoroughly enough, you can find one with features that match up with your individual lifestyle. The last thing that you want to have to do is change your spending habits because of your credit card. You don’t want to start eating out or buying airline tickets more than you used to just because you get bonus points on those purchases. You want to find a card whose benefits are organic–where you get rewarded for doing things that you already do. If you are a big department store buyer and your credit card will give you cash back or rewards for those purchases, then you might be on your way to finding a match. You’ll also want to keep a close eye on the negatives–and there can be a long list of negatives for credit cards. There are hidden fees, high APRs and a variety of other issues that you want to avoid as a consumer. You’ll want to read the fine print so you won’t have to worry about those issues when it comes time for you to pay your bill.

You can check out a variety of the best credit cards of 2014 below and figure out what works best for you! We cover it all from bad credit to good credit, travel to cash back, low interest to balance transfer.  


Top Low Interest Card: The Discover it® card

discover-it-cardIf you are looking for a strong low interest credit card, then the Discover it® card should definitely be one of the first credit cards you examine. The card comes with a 0% introductory rate that lasts for 14 months, in addition to offering a potentially low APR after the end of the introductory period: between 10.99% and 22.99% for purchases. The card also comes with a number of perks, including a rewards program that allows you to get up to 5% cash back on purchases. But make no mistake, the real coup here is the 14 month introductory period. A number of credit card companies only offer half that long for an introductory period. Learn more about the Discover it® card or click here to view all low interest credit cards sorted by our editor’s opinion.


Top Low Intro Rate Card: The Citi Simplicity® Visa Card

citi-simplicity-visa-cardThe Citi Simplicity® Visa Card is a strong low intro rate card, and you can get 0% APR for an astounding 18 months. It’s nearly impossible to find a better introductory rate, however, you’ll need to have excellent credit in order to be approved. The card’s APR can be relatively low afterwards as well, with an ongoing APR between 12.99% and 21.99%. The card’s other perks are limited as there is no rewards program, but the card does not have an annual fee. The card is designed for those with great credit, so if you don’t have a strong credit score, you’ll likely find yourself out of luck. If you are looking to make a big purchase and pay it off in a year or so, this could be the card for you.  Learn more about The Citi Simplicity® Visa Card or click here to view all low intro rate cards sorted by our editor’s opinion.


Top Balance Transfer Card: The Chase Slate® card

Slate-from-chaseThe Chase Slate® card is a great credit card for those looking to make balance transfers. The card charges no balance transfer fee if the transfer is made during the first 60 days of card ownership. That, along with the 0% introductory rate for a cool 15 months, makes the Chase Slate® card a must have for many consumers. The card does not have any perks, and you aren’t going to get any bonus points for making purchases. But if you’d like to transfer a balance and be able to pay it off without worrying about excess interest, then you have found the right card.  Learn more about The Chase Slate® card or click here to view all balance transfer cards sorted by our editor’s opinion.


Top Airline Card: The Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard® 

Citi® Platinum Select® AAdvantage® World MasterCard®The Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard® is a very strong airline card, particularly for those who are flying via American Airlines. If you are a regular American Airlines customer, then you’ll find plenty of appealing perks and benefits here—such as the 30,000 bonus in AAdvantage miles that you’ll get after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first three months of card ownership. You’ll also get other perks, such as 25% savings on in-flight purchases and a $100 American Airlines flight discount each year you spend $30,000 on eligible purchases. If you are regularly going on trips, then you’ll also enjoy the various travel benefits of the card, such as lost luggage insurance and trip cancellation insurance. Learn more about The Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard® or click here to view all airline cards sorted by our editor’s opinion.


Top Cash Back Card: The Chase Freedom® card

chase-freedom-cardIf you are looking for a strong cash back card, then take a look at The Chase Freedom® card. The Chase Freedom® card offers you a great way to take advantage of your purchases, by getting cash back on many of the purchases that you already make. The The Chase Freedom® card comes with a 0% APR for 15 months, which applies to balance transfers as well as purchases. You’ll get a $100 bonus after you purchase $500 in the first three months of card ownership. You’ll also get a $25 bonus when you sign up another authorized user for your account in the same time period. While the card’s perks are attractive, it is difficult to get—you’ll need excellent credit to get your hands on the card.  Learn more about The Chase Freedom® card or click here to view all cash back cards sorted by our editor’s opinion.


Top Gas Card: The Chase Freedom® card

chase-freedom-cardIf you are looking for a strong gas card, then the Chase Freedom® card is probably your choice. This card was just mentioned, we know—but it’s versatile! It has a number of uses, and for those who are regularly traveling on the road, it has a number of perks, especially early on. Earning 1% cash back on all purchases will help a lot when buying gas, and the introductory bonus of $100 for $500 spent in the first three months of card ownership is just icing on the cake. For certain revolving categories, you’ll get as much as 5% back when making purchases. Learn more about  The Chase Freedom® card or click here to view all gas credit cards sorted by our editor’s opinion. 


Top Hotel/Travel Card: The Chase Sapphire Preferred®

chase-sapphire-preferredIf you are a regular traveler or stay in hotels fairly often, then you are probably interested in The Chase Sapphire Preferred® card, especially if you plan to travel within a few months of opening the account. The card has a long list of perks, and you’ll earn 40,000 in bonus points if you spend $4,000 in the first three months of owning the card. In addition, you’ll get 1:1 point transfers with participating frequent travel programs, and you’ll earn 2x the bonus points on travel and when dining out. In addition, there are no foreign transaction fees—so if you are traveling overseas, feel free to use the card without fear of extra charges!  Learn more about The Chase Sapphire Preferred® card or click here to view all hotel and travel cards sorted by our editor’s opinion. 


Top Points Card: The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

citi-thankyou-premier-cardThe Citi ThankYou® Premier Card is a very good card for those who are looking to earn bonus points on their purchases. If you choose this card, you’ll earn up to 50,000 bonus ThankYou® points, and up to 3x points on restaurants and entertainment, in addition to 2x points on travel and airfare. You can redeem those points for up to $500 in gift cards or up to $625 in rewards. Purchasing $2,000 within your first three months of card ownership will net you 20,000 bonus points, and purchasing $3,000 within the same period will earn you 30,000 bonus points. The great rewards program and easy reward redemption makes this card a favorite of  those who are looking to earn money back on their purchases.  Learn more about The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card or click here to view all point cards sorted by our editor’s opinion. 


Top Retail Card: The Barnes & Noble MasterCard®

Barnes & Noble MasterCardThe Barnes & Noble MasterCard® is a solid retail card you can use when you are spending money out on the town. The Barnes & Noble MasterCard® will give you a $25 gift card after your first purchase, and you’ll also get 5% back when you make purchases at Barnes & Noble. In fact, every time that you reach 2,500 bonus points, you’ll get a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card. It’s a solid option for those who are looking to shop around town—but especially those who are regular readers at Barnes & Noble. The card’s APR is a reasonable 13.99 to 24.99%. However, there is no introductory rate.  Learn more about The Barnes & Noble Mastercard® or click here to view all retail cards sorted by our editor’s opinion.  


Top Business Card: The Ink Cash® Business Card

ink-cash-business-cardThe Ink Cash® Business Card is a strong business card that allows companies and employees to earn relatively large amounts of cash back. The card is especially popular with small businesses. Those using the card can get as much as $300 back after spending $3,000 within the first three months of card ownership. The card has a very good introductory period of 12 months at 0% APR, which is solid for individuals but great for businesses. The card has no annual fee and allows you to issue cards linked to the account at will. That way, small business owners can give their employees credit cards for business trips and in town purchases.  Learn more about The Ink Cash® Business Card or click here to view all business cards sorted by our editor’s opinion.  


Top Student Card: The Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students

Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students - Earn 2,500 Bonus PointsThe Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students is a great option for those who are still in college and have to make payments for tuition, books, rent and food. The card is a very good option if you have to make a large payment relatively early on, such as a rent payment, since you’ll get 2,500 bonus points if you spend $500 within the first three months of card ownership. The Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students is designed for those with good credit—which might actually make it difficult for college students to obtain, since many don’t have credit histories yet. The card also has a relatively high APR for college students: 13.99%-23.99%. Learn more about The Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students or click here to view all student cards sorted by our editor’s opinion. 


Top Prepaid & Debit Card: The ACE Elite Visa® Prepaid Debit Card

ACE Elite™ Visa(R) Prepaid Debit CardFor those who can’t get access to a credit card, a good prepaid card or a debit card can be a very solid option. The ACE Elite Visa® Prepaid Debit Card fits the bill. The card does not require holders to have a minimum balance, and it also has no confusing hidden fees that often trap those with little access to credit. Though it is easy to obtain, it does not come with the bells and whistles that card holders have become accustomed to. There is no rewards program and you won’t earn any bonus points for making purchases.  Learn more about The ACE Elite Visa® Prepaid Debit Card or click here to view all prepaid/debit cards sorted by our editor’s opinion.  


Top No Annual Fee Card: Citi Simplicity ® MasterCard

citi-simplicity-mastercardThe Citi Simplicity ® MasterCard is a great option for those who are looking for a no annual fee card. The card has no late fees, and no penalty rate either. If you are looking for a credit card that you can feel comfortable using, then the Citi Simplicity ® MasterCard is for you. You’ll be able to rest easy knowing that you won’t get hit with hidden charges, and the 18 month introductory period at 0% APR is pretty stellar as well. Since the card is virtually stripped of fees, you won’t get any rewards or benefits programs from this one.  Learn more about The Citi Simplicity ® MasterCard or click here to view all no annual fee cards sorted by our editor’s opinion.  


Top EMV Compatible Card: Chase Sapphire Preferred®

chase-sapphire-preferredMaking its second appearance on this list, The Chase Sapphire Preferred® is an EMV compatible card, making it more secure than a regular magnetic stripe card. And you can rest assured that this card is going to be accepted everywhere you go. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® card will allow you to earn 40,000 in bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of card ownership. You’ll also get a 1:1 point transfer with participating frequent travel programs, which is attractive for those traveling often.  Learn more about The Chase Sapphire Preferred® card or click here to view all EMV compatible cards sorted by our editor’s opinion.  


Top Canadian Card: Alaska Airlines MasterCard®

Alaska Airlines MasterCard®For consumers living in, traveling to, and making purchases in Canada, or for those who would just prefer a Canadian card, the top card available is the Alaska Airlines MasterCard®. With the Alaska Airlines MasterCard®, you’ll be able to earn a variety of perks based on making purchases with Alaska Airlines. Once you get approved for the card, you’ll get 25,000 bonus miles. Every year you own the card, you’ll get a coach companion fare, which gives you access to lower rates. The rewards program gives you three miles for every $1 spent on Alaska Airlines tickets and other purchases at Alaska Airlines, such as vacation packages or cargo purchases. Other eligible purchases give you one mile for each $1 spent. The card comes with significant drawbacks however—there is a $75 annual fee, no introductory rate, and the APR is a very high 18.99%.  Learn more about the  Alaska Airlines MasterCard® or click here to view all Canadian cards sorted by our editor’s opinion.  

There is a wide variety of credit cards available for you to choose from, and if you are looking to apply for a new card, then you need to weigh your options. Make sure you don’t enter into a relationship with a credit card company too quickly—you want to find the right fit for you.

Most people associate comparison shopping with consumer goods, but you should absolutely comparison shop for your credit card. Ask questions and research whether people who have the card are still excited about it. Or are they drowning in hidden fees? You should understand that as a credit card customer, you are going to pay interest if you carry a balance from one month to the next, and you’ll have to make on time payments to avoid penalties and other fees. But sometimes, credit card companies can hide the true amount that you’ll be paying for their services—and it isn’t always pretty.

Never take a bigger bite than you can chew. You’ll want to pick out a card that has a reasonable APR, so that if things do hit a sour note financially, you’ll be able to weather the storm without your credit card debt spiraling out of control with a high interest rate.



The information contained within this article was accurate as of June 3, 2014. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.