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Methodology for rating credit cards

With so many credit cards on the market, it can be overwhelming to search for a new one. Because of that, we’ve created a ranking system to help you compare credit cards and see which ones shine.

Our editors objectively compare credit cards and rank them on several benefits and features to give you an overall rating of how useful each card might be.

Our ratings

We rate credit cards using a system of one to five stars.

★★★★★ — Excellent

★★★★★ — Good

★★★★★ — Average

★★★★★ — Subpar

★★★★★ — Poor

Keep in mind, however, that our “top” picks may not always be best for you. Based on your situation, you may find certain features to be more or less important, so compare your options before you apply. While we looked at a range of cards available to us for our “top” picks, we did not compare all the products available in the market.

How we rank credit cards

We compare each card to other cards of its type — travel, cash back, business and so on — and rank them on distinct factors that are most important to that card type.

Travel credit cards

We compare travel credit cards based on their rewards rates — or how much you can earn — along with the flexibility of where you can redeem your rewards. We also consider the signup bonus for each card, weighing the bonus amount against the spending required to get it. We factor in fees and APRs, heavily considering annual fees. Of course, we also look at the additional travel perks and features each card offers such as complimentary travel insurance coverage, airport lounge access and car rental perks.

Cash back cards

When ranking cash back cards, we look at each card’s rewards rate and how useful each bonus category might be to the average cardholder. We also compare fees and APRs. Finally, we rank the signup bonus of each card and take a look at how much cash back you need to earn before you can receive it.

Rewards cards

We look at each card’s rewards rate, as well as how useful bonus categories might be for the average cardholder. We consider signup bonuses, looking at both the bonus amount and the spending required to earn it. We also compare APRs and fees, as well as additional perks offered.

Balance transfer cards

The most important aspects of a quality balance transfer card are the length of the balance transfer intro period, the introductory APR and the cost of any balance transfer fees. We also consider the balance transfer rate once the intro rate ends. We compare these factors, alongside the APRs and fees of each card.

Low rate cards

When considering low interest rate cards, we take a look at purchase APRs, cash advance APRs and balance transfer APRs. We consider any cards to be low rate that have a purchase APR of 12.99% or lower. We also look at annual fees and other features, such as complimentary insurance coverage and rewards such as cash back, miles or points.

No annual fee cards

When ranking cards that come with no annual fee, we rank each card’s APRs and rewards, looking at any cash back, miles or rewards point offerings. In addition, we look at other features offered such as complimentary travel insurance coverage coverage. We also ensure the cards have no annual fee.

Credit-building cards and secured cards

To compare cards for building credit, we consider the required minimum deposit and APRs. We factor in fees, focusing on annual fees. And we look at credit-building features, like whether the card allows for credit limit increases, upgrades to unsecured cards with responsible spending or access to credit building tools and resources.

Business cards

We rank business cards on characteristics that tend to be important to business owners. Specifically, we rank each card’s rewards rate and bonus categories. We look at fees, with a focus on annual fees and supplementary card fees. We also take into consideration any additional perks such as balance transfer offers, access to business tools and any complimentary insurance coverage.

Student cards

When considering cards designed for students, we rank each card’s rewards, fees and APRs. We analyze and compare features such as access to a higher credit line or student discounts. We also look at fees — most importantly, the annual fee of the card.

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Emma Balmforth is a producer at Finder. She is passionate about helping people make financial decisions that will benefit them now and in the future. She has written for a variety of publications including World Nomads, Trek Effect and Uncharted. Emma has a degree in Business and Psychology from the University of Waterloo. She enjoys backpacking, reading and taking long hikes and road trips with her adventurous dog. See full bio

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