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Methodology for rating credit cards

How we compare and rank credit cards in the US.

Finder has reviewed more than 300 credit cards to help you choose the best card for your financial needs and this number is constantly growing. To help us properly assess each card’s value, we use a distinct methodology for each card type to isolate their distinct strengths and weaknesses.

We’ve broken down how we examine each card by type to give you some insight in how our ratings are created and what makes for a great credit card.

Our ratings

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

★★★★★ — Excellent

★★★★★ — Good

★★★★★ — Average

★★★★★ — Subpar

★★★★★ — Poor

How we rank credit cards

Here’s a breakdown of the major card features we look at when assessing each type of credit card, along with a quick explanation. Following our breakdown, you’ll find an example of a highly ranked credit card in that category, along with a small breakdown of the card features.

Travel credit cards

Review factorDetails
RewardsThe ease of earning rewards and the value of those points or miles on travel are a cornerstone of travel cards. The easier to earn and more they’re worth, the better.
FeaturesCard travel features play the second largest role in our travel card assessment. Cards that offer an assortment of valuable perks for a low annual fee are rated high.
Welcome offer or signup bonusLarge, easily attainable welcome offers are heavily weighted in our reviews as they can earn you a vacation or travel.
FeesTravel cards with fees that make it hard to use the card in the intended manner, such as foreign transaction fees, can adversely affect our card rating.
Example of a top-ranked travel credit card

Based on our criteria, the American Express® Gold Card card is among our top-ranked in its category. Check out some of this card’s details to see why.

American Express® Gold Card

  • Spend $6,000 on eligible purchases within the first 6 months you own the card and earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points.
  • Use your card at restaurants including delivery and takeout in the U.S. to earn 4X the Membership Rewards® points, plus earn 4X the points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 each calendar year, then 1X the points thereafter.
  • Book flights directly with airlines or at to earn 3X the Membership Rewards® points.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Automatically get $10 monthly, up to $120 total per year, in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S. when you add your Gold Card to your Uber account. To receive this benefit, you must have downloaded the latest version of the Uber App and your eligible American Express Gold Card must be a method of payment in your Uber account. The Amex Benefit may only be used in the United States.
  • The Hotel Collection through American Express Travel credit: $100 experience credit with a minimum two-night stay. Credit varies by property.
  • Pay for purchases at Grubhub, the Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly,, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations and earn up to $10 monthly in statement credits for a total dining credit of up to $120 annually. Enrollment is required.
  • Terms apply, see rates & fees

Cashback cards

Review factorDetails
RewardsHigh cashback rates and a large number of available cash back categories play an important role in a positive card rating.
Signup bonusSimilar to travel cards, a generous and easily obtainable signup bonus is a nice freebie for simply spending on everyday purchases using your card.
APRAn intro APR on either purchases or balance transfers helps boost the value of the card beyond cash back. This will also boost the rating of the card.
FeesUnusual or high fees can negatively affect the value of the card, particularly if you’re not always careful with your money.
Example of a top-ranked cashback credit card

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® card is a great example of a top-ranked cashback card. It offers a great cashback rate on several categories and comes with a nice signup bonus to boot.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

  • Unlimited Cash Back: After using your card during the first year, Chase will match the cash back earned for every dollar you have spent, and there is no limit to how much you can earn.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back, 3% cash back on dining at restaurants including takeout and eligible delivery service, on drugstore purchases, as well as 5% cash back on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® where you can redeem rewards for travel, gift cards and more.
  • Redeem for cash back with no minimum. Choose to receive direct deposit into most US checking and savings accounts or a statement credit. Cash Back rewards remain valid as long as your account is open.
  • Once you open your account, you'll get a 0% intro APR on all purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, switching to a variable APR of 20.49% to 29.24% thereafter.
  • Pay no annual fee to own the card.
  • Maintain your creditworthiness with Chase Credit Journey to get free credit score access, real-time alerts and more.
  • Member FDIC

Rewards cards

Review factorDetails
RewardsA high rewards rate, multiple earning categories, and strong rewards point value all contribute to a high card rating.
Signup bonusLike travel cards, a large signup bonus value that is easily obtained can give you some big value on early card use.
APRAn intro APR is always appreciated, though not necessary, on a rewards card. Rewards cards that have it often have an edge over cards that don’t in terms of potential value.
FeesAside from the traditional card fees that can negatively affect a card rating, such as missed payment fees, we also examine any fees that might come attached to the rewards program.
Example of a top-ranked rewards credit card

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express card is an example of a top-ranked rewards card. It offers the highest rewards rate at U.S. supermarkets and on select U.S. streaming services. Check out some of the card’s details to learn more.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

  • Spend $3,000 in eligible purchases on your new card in the first 6 months of card ownership and earn a $250 statement credit.
  • Pay $0 for the intro annual fee for the first year, then $95 each year thereafter.
  • Buy Now, Pay Later: When you use Plan It® to separate large purchases into monthly payments, you'll enjoy $0 intro plan fees. You'll also pay $0 intro plan fees on for plans opened within the first year of your new card account. Plans opened afterward will have a monthly plan fee up to 1.33% of each eligible purchase amount transferred into a plan based on the plan's duration, the APR that otherwise applies to the purchase, plus other factors.
  • Get a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months from the date you open your account, then a variable rate of 19.24% to 29.99% thereafter.
  • Earn Cash Back in the form of Reward Dollars, which is redeemed as statement credit or at checkout.
  • $84 Disney Bundle Credit: Sign up for this package that includes Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu and receive $7 back as a statement credit monthly after you spend a minimum $9.99 for an eligible subscription using your Blue Cash Preferred Card. Only valid at Disney, or in the U.S.
  • Terms apply, see rates & fees

Balance transfer cards

Review factorDetails
Balance transfer periodWhen it comes to a balance transfer offer, the longer you have to pay off your transferred debt, the better. A long period results in a greater card rating.
Balance transfer feesNot all balance transfer cards omit balance transfer fees. Those that do earn additional points from Finder thanks to the extra money saving potential of a waived fee.
Revert APRA low revert APR after the initial balance transfer offer is appreciated, as it means you can carry a balance on a card afterwards without incurring much interest. It’s also helpful if you can’t pay off your full debt within the allotted intro period.
FeesAnnual fees in particular are a bad mark on balance transfer cards, as the ultimate goal of a balance transfer card is saving money. An annual fee gets in the way of that goal.
Example of a balance transfer credit card

Based on our criteria, the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card card is among our top-ranked balance transfer card picks. It offers a long 0% APR intro period on balance transfers, and it offers other useful perks as well.

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

  • Get a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from the first transfer date, plus a 0% intro APR 12 months on purchases from the time you open the account. After the intro periods, your APR for each will revert to a variable 18.24% to 28.99% based on your credit score. You must make balance transfers within 4 months of owning the card.
  • You'll be charged a balance transfer fee of $5 or 5% of the transfer amount, whichever is greater.
  • Access your FICO® Score online at no cost.
  • Citi Entertainment® gives you special access to purchase tickets to thousands events, including concerts, dining experiences, sporting events and more.

Credit-building cards and secured cards

Review factorDetails
Reports to all 3 major credit bureausA secured card that doesn’t report to all three credit bureaus simply doesn’t do its job as well as cards that do.
Minimum depositWe generally rate cards with low minimum deposits higher as this makes them more accessible to a broader swath of cardholders. Still, there are some cards that are rated highly for their ability to hold a very large minimum deposit.
APRThough best practices dictate you pay your balance in full each month, those building credit may not have the best credit habits built yet. For this reason, cards with low APRs receive higher marks than those that do.
Additional credit building featuresIf a secured card offers additional features or perks for helping build credit, like not requiring a credit check or allowing you to graduate with good use, these cards receive higher marks.
Example of a credit-building and secured credit card

Among our top-rated credit-building and secured cards is the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card card. The card’s details fit our criteria nicely for what makes a strong product in this category.

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

  • New feature! Earn up to 10% cash back* on everyday purchases
  • No credit check to apply. Zero credit risk to apply!
  • Looking to build or rebuild your credit? 2 out of 3 OpenSky cardholders increase their credit score by an average of 41 points in just 3 months
  • Get free monthly access to your FICO score in our mobile application
  • Build your credit history across 3 major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion
  • Add to your mobile wallet and make purchases using Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay
  • Fund your card with a low $200 refundable security deposit to get a $200 credit line
  • Apply in less than 5 minutes with our mobile first application
  • Choose the due date that fits your schedule with flexible payment dates
  • Fund your security deposit over 60 days with the option to make partial payments
  • Over 1.4 Million Cardholders Have Used OpenSky Secured Credit Card To Improve Their Credit
  • *See Rewards Terms and Conditions for more information

Business cards

Review factorDetails
RewardsBusiness cards are treated much like standard rewards cards in this category. However, we do give additional points to cards with a wide range of business-specific perks.
Additional featuresThese features can range from travel perks such as travel insurance, to business perks such as integration with financial software. If the number of perks offered outweighs the annual fee of the card, that plays a factor in the card’s rating.
Intro APRIntro purchase APRs are particularly valuable for business credit cards, as businesses may find the interest-free investment opportunity helpful. The larger the welcome offer period, the better.
FeesFees play a fairly standard role in our assessment of business cards, though are weighed less heavily than other cards like secured cards or student cards.
Example of a business credit card

The Ink Business Cash® Credit Card card is among our top-ranked business cards. Check out some of this card’s details to see why.

Ink Business Cash® Credit Card

  • Once you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first 3 months you have the card, you'll earn $750 bonus cash back.
  • On the first $25,000 you spend on combined purchases at office supply stores and on cable, internet and phone services each account anniversary year, you earn 5% cash back.
  • When you spend the first $25,000 in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants, you earn 2% cash back after each account anniversary year. All other purchases earn you 1% cash back.
  • Any card transactions you make will be monitored for possible signs of fraudulent activity using real-time fraud monitoring with Fraud Protection.
  • Zero Liability means you won't be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card or account information.
  • Pay no annual fee.
  • Redeem rewards through Chase Ultimate Rewards® for cash back, gift cards, travel and more.
  • Member FDIC

Student cards

Review factorDetails
RewardsRewards on a student card are relatively rare, so the presence of rewards gives a student card a sizable boost in rating.
Additional featuresLike secured cards, student cards may come with handy additional features, such as the ability to graduate to a standard card or mobile account monitoring.
Intro APRIntro purchase APRs and a low revert APR are both important features for a student card, where consumers may be using a credit card for the first time and need some leniency.
FeesStudent cards without heavy fees are rated highly since students are just starting off in learning good credit habits.
Example of a student credit card

We chose the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards for Students card in our list of top-ranked student cards. Its cashback rate, welcome offer, APR intro offer and other benefits fit our criteria for what makes a great card in this category.

Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards for Students

  • Earn 3% cash back on a category you choose — online shopping, dining, gas, drug stores, travel or home improvements — and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs. Your cash back is capped at $2,500 each quarter on combined purchases at the 3% and 2% categories. Once reaching the cap, you earn 1% cash back, which is the same rate you earn on all other purchases.
  • Earn a $200 online cash rewards bonus once you spend $1,000 in your first 90 days of account opening.
  • New longer intro period! 0% Introductory APR for 18 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 17.99% to 27.99% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers.
  • Every time you use your card online at foreign merchants or abroad, you’ll pay a 3% fee of the amount.
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Written by


Megan Horner is editorial director at USA TODAY Blueprint and former head of publishing at Finder, where she lead a team focused on publishing personal finance guides and reviews that help readers make informed financial decisions. She's passionate about helping you find the best financial accounts to meet your needs — whether that's earning great rewards or improving your credit score.  Megan's expertise has been featured on Lifehacker,, American Banker and news broadcasts across the country. She has a longstanding background in surfacing the best deals and helping people make decisions, including a start as a writer at a comparison website and editing credit card and credit score content at Credit Karma. She earned a degree in English and editing from Brigham Young University. See full bio

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