Finder is committed to editorial independence. While we receive compensation when you click links to partners, they do not influence our opinions or reviews. Learn how we make money.

The 11+ types of credit cards you should know

There's a card out there for everyone, no matter your financial situation.

Updated

Fact checked
woman looking at a price tag of a ceiling light
different types of credit cards

Confused about which credit card to get? It’s time to clear the air with our guide to the different types of cards on the market.

Once you’ve finished reading, you’ll know which type of card is best for you. Then you can compare the best credit cards within categories, finally settling on one. With any luck (and the right credit score), you’ll soon receive a shiny, new card in the mail.

Guide

Types of credit cards at a glance

Card typeCard purposeExamplesFor…
Standard credit cardGeneral use for everyday spendingCards with no frills and reasonable ratesThe average spender
Rewards cardsEarn cash back and travel perksCards with signup bonuses, miles, and moreTravelers, families and higher credit scores
Credit repair cardsHelp build or rebuild your creditSecured credit cards and prepaid cardsPeople with bad credit or no credit
Specialty cardsVaries by cardBusiness credit cards, store credit cards, etc.Specific types of users

Our pick for credit card offers

CardMatch™ from creditcards.com

  • Find card offers you are more likely to qualify for without impacting your credit score.
  • Save time by comparing matched offers from multiple partner banks.
  • You may be matched to special offers based on your credit profile.
  • See your matched offers in less than 60 seconds.
  • Get matched to the card feature that's right for you. Find cards with low interest, cash back, balance transfers, and travel rewards.
  • Users may not be matched with all offers or banks. Matches are based on a user's credit profile. See the CardMatch terms and conditions for more details.
Read less
Read more
See Rates & Fees

Compare credit cards

Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
2% at US gas stations and select US department stores, 3% at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year, then 1% after that and on all other purchases
0% intro for the first 15 months (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable)
$0
Get 3% cash back on groceries on up to $6,000 annually (then 1%) with no annual fee. This is a simple and effective rewards card. Rates & fees
Chase Freedom Flex℠
5% back in rotating categories up to $1,500 combined each activated quarter (then 1%), 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases
0% intro for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 23.74% variable)
$0
Get up to 5% cashback in rotating and newly added everyday categories. The refreshed Freedom Flex card has lots of earning potential.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
15.99% to 22.99% variable
$95
Earn a huge signup bonus worth $1,000 with this popular travel card. Combine with other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards for even greater value.
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
N/A
0% intro for the first 18 months (then 14.74% to 24.74% variable)
$0
An impressive 18 months intro APR on balance transfers and purchases, as well as no annual fee make this one of the top 0% APR cards available.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
6% on select US streaming services, 3% on transit and US gas stations, 6% at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 annually, then 1% after that and on all other purchases
0% intro for the first 12 months (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable)
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Perfect for families: Get up to 6% on everyday purchases and a welcome offer worth $300. This heavy-hitter rewards card has uncontested value. Rates & fees
loading

Compare up to 4 providers

Standard credit cards

Standard credit cards are what you might imagine when you think of “normal” cards. They don’t come with the bells and whistles of rewards cards, but they tend to offer solid benefits like a long introductory APR.

Two popular kinds of standard credit cards

Low interest cards

A low-interest card may mean one of two things:

  1. You’ll get a low interest rate forever, like an 8% fixed-rate APR. (The average credit card APR hovers around 16%.)
  2. You’ll get a long intro APR period. For example, you could get a 0% purchase APR for 18 months. After 18 months, the APR might go up to 20% — at which point your card isn’t really a low-interest card anymore).

A low-interest card is useful if you like to pay your balances over long periods of time. It’s also a good choice if you’re making an expensive purchase soon and need time to pay it off.

What credit score is ideal?

The best interest rates generally go to those with the best credit. For low-interest cards, you’ll usually need a good to excellent credit score of 680 or higher.

Compare low interest credit cards

Balance transfer cards

A balance transfer card gives you a sweet incentive to move your debt to another card provider. Namely, it offers a low interest rate on balance transfers — often 0% — for a long time. Pick up a balance transfer card if you need to get away from high interest rates for a while.

For example, consider the Citi Simplicity® Card, which offers a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months. You could transfer all of your credit card debt to the Citi Simplicity® Card and pay no interest on it for almost two years. In the meantime, you can slowly pay off the debt over time.

What credit score is ideal?

Card providers only want to take on your debt if they’re reasonably certain you’ll pay it off. That said, you’ll typically need a good to excellent credit score of 680 or higher to get a balance transfer card.

Why do card providers offer long low-APR periods on balance transfers?

It’s an incentive for you to ditch your current provider and switch allegiances. When you transfer your balance, a card company scores big because it acquires you as a customer.

Additionally, there’s a chance you won’t pay off your debt before your intro APR expires. At that point, you’ll start paying interest on whatever you owe — and that’s when your card issuer really starts making money.

Rewards credit cards

For most people, rewards cards bring all the fun. You don’t just get the convenience of a credit card — you also get perks for spending money on certain categories, such as gas or restaurants.

For all rewards cards, you’ll typically need a good to excellent credit score of 680 or higher.

Two popular kinds of rewards cards

Cash back cards

Cash back cards return a percentage of your spending back to you. For example, if you spend $10,000 on your card and get 1% cash back, you’ll receive $100.

Typically, you’ll receive a check at the end of the year, or you can use your cash back as statement credit.

    When you use your credit card, you’ll eventually receive a bill for whatever you owe. If you have a statement credit, you can use this credit to pay your bill.

    Say your card bill is $500. If you’ve earned $200 in statement credit, you can use it to pay $200 toward your bill.

    Compare cash back credit cards

    Cash back credit cards guide

    Travel cards

    As you spend with a travel card, you’ll receive points or miles that you can later redeem for travel around the world.

    You’ll usually find three types of travel cards: general, hotel and airline cards.

    General travel cards offer rewards that you can spend on a variety of travel expenses. You can often redeem rewards for flights, hotels, cruises and even rental cars. Because these cards are flexible, they’re very popular among travelers.

    Travel-card points and miles can pack a punch.

    Some cards (like the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card) let you redeem points and miles for statement credit. Other cards (like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the American Express® Gold Card) have their own travel programs that you can spend points in.

    Chase Ultimate Rewards, for example, is a fan-favorite travel program. When you book travel through it using points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, your points are worth 25% more. And if you use points from the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, your points are worth 50% more. That’s a lot of extra points to play with!

    Compare travel credit cards

    What is a hotel card?

    A hotel card is cobranded with a hotel chain. You’ll receive more points when you spend money at the specified chain that you can redeem for free hotel stays. This type of card usually offers exclusive perks such as automatic status upgrades in a hotel’s loyalty program.

    Compare the best hotel cards

    What is an airline card?

    An airline card is cobranded with an airline. It gives you more miles when you spend with a specified airline that you can later redeem for free flights. This type of card typically offers benefits like priority boarding and free checked bags.
    Compare the best airline cards

    Credit repair cards

    If your credit score is too low to qualify for a rewards card, look for a credit repair card. This type of card is relatively easy to get. It won’t offer eye-popping rewards, but it’ll allow you to build your credit slowly.

    Three popular kinds of credit repair cards

    Secured cards

    A secured card is an excellent option if you have poor credit. You’ll need to put down a security deposit to open the card. However, you have a good chance of being approved for it, and you can get one even if you’ve had a bankruptcy. Best of all, you can use it to build your credit as long as your card provider reports your payments to the three major credit bureaus.

    What credit score do I need?

    Many secured-card providers will check your credit, but you’ll likely qualify even with poor credit. That said, there’s still a chance you’ll be denied if your credit score is too low. In that case, look for secured cards with no credit checks.

    How can I avoid putting down a security deposit?

    Look for an unsecured credit card, which doesn’t require putting down a security deposit. You simply charge purchases to your card and repay your provider later.

    Compare the best secured credit cards

    Subprime cards

    Subprime cards are aimed at customers who can’t get credit anywhere else. Unfortunately, they often come with expensive activation fees, high APRs and shady terms.

    Consider getting a secured card instead, or apply for a personal loan if you need funds quickly.

    What credit score do I need?

    Subprime cards are designed for those with severely damaged credit. Still, consider a card that allows you to prequalify — this way, you’ll get a good sense of whether you’ll be approved before you submit an application. Even better, skip subprime cards entirely and pick up a secured card.

    Compare the best subprime cards

    Prepaid cards

    The easiest way to understand a prepaid card is to think of it like a gift card. Before you can use one, you have to load it with funds. Then just swipe it like a normal credit card.

    Unlike a normal card, however, you don’t use a prepaid card to borrow money: You’re only allowed to spend the funds you’ve preloaded. Once you spend the money, you have to reload your card before you can use it again.

    What credit score do I need?

    You can get prepaid cards no matter what your credit looks like. However, they don’t help you rebuild your credit. Use these cards when cash is inconvenient — not to increase your credit score.

    Compare the best prepaid credit cards

    Specialty credit cards

    Four popular kinds of specialty credit cards

    Business credit cards

    A business credit card typically gives more points or miles on business-related expenses, such as office supplies, phone bills and dining. It may also offer additional business perks like free employee cards, higher credit limits and expense reports. This type of card is a good choice if you want to separate your business and personal expenses.

    What credit score do I need?
    Business credit cards usually require good to excellent credit scores of 680 or higher.

    Compare the best business credit cards

    Student credit cards

    As a college student, it’s an excellent idea to get a credit card. You can start building your credit well before you need it, and you can learn how to manage your money wisely.

    You might not have a credit history yet, which means it could be tough to be approved for most credit cards. That’s where a student credit card can help — it’s designed for someone new to credit.

    You won’t find amazing rewards with this type of card, but you can use it to build your credit.

    What credit score do I need?

    Usually, you can be approved for a student credit card with at least a fair credit score of 620 or higher. Keep in mind that you may still be denied for a card if your credit is too low. In that case, consider a secured card.[/fin_accordion][/fin_accordions]Compare the best student credit cards

    Store credit cards

    You can use a store credit card only at specified stores. For example, if you get the Hot Topic Guest List Credit Card, you can only use it only at Hot Topic.

    Beyond that restriction, you can use the card like a normal credit card, charging purchases to it and carrying a balance if you’d like. This type of card typically offers store-specific perks to keep you coming back, such as certificates for store credit.

    What credit score do I need?

    If you have at least a fair credit score of 620 or higher, you’ll probably qualify for a store credit card. Retailers want to encourage you to spend with them, so they can be lenient about extending credit.

    Will a store card help me build my credit score?

    It’s possible. With a fair credit score, you’ll probably qualify for a store card.

    As you make purchases with your store card and regularly pay off balances, you’ll steadily build your credit score. Then you can apply for the rewards cards you’ve wanted all along.

    Compare store credit cards

    Gas credit cards

    If you spend a lot on gas, consider a gas credit card. You’ll find general gas cards that offer rewards on gas spending no matter which brand you choose. (The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is an excellent pick.) You’ll also find brand-specific cards that reward you for pumping at specific gas stations.

    A general gas card often gives you cash back when you spend on fuel. For example, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express gives you 3% cash back at US gas stations. On the other hand, a brand-specific card will likely give you fuel credits or a discount on fuel — say, $0.05 off each gallon of fuel.

    Keep in mind that some gas cards are like store cards, limiting purchases to fuel at specific gas stations.

    What credit score do I need?

    It’s not as easy to get a gas card as it is to get a store card. You may still qualify if you have fair credit, but it’s much easier to be approved with a good credit score of 680 or higher.

    Compare gas credit cards

    Compare the best gas credit cards

    What is a charge card?

    When you think about credit cards, you’re probably thinking of cards that you can carry balances on. But there’s another lesser-known type of credit card: the charge card.

    With a charge card, you can’t carry a balance — you have to pay your card bill in full each month. Because of this, a charge card isn’t a good choice if you need flexibility in your repayment options.

    One reason you may be surprised to see charge cards is because they’re rarely offered anymore. The only major card provider that offers them is American Express — most notably with its The Platinum Card® from American Express card. Diner’s Club is another organization that offers charge cards.

    What’s the difference between credit cards and debit cards?

    With a credit card, you can pay for things by borrowing money from your card provider. With a debit card, you first deposit funds with your provider and then use the card to spend the money you’ve deposited.

    Each card comes with advantages and disadvantages:

    • You can’t get into debt with a debit card, because you’re only spending money you have. On the downside, you don’t get the protections offered by a credit card. And you can’t borrow money.
    • A credit card lets you pay off balances over time, builds your credit and offers great protection against fraud. But if you’re a compulsive spender, a credit card can easily send you deep into debt.

    Bottom line: Pick up a credit card if you spend responsibly and can pay your bills on time. Otherwise, stick to a debit card or pick a secured card with a low credit limit.
    How Debit Cards work

    Common questions about credit cards

    • What’s the best type of credit card to get? There’s no universally perfect card — it all depends on what you’re looking for. Consider factors like your credit score, what you spend money on and the types of rewards you want. A card that works for someone else may not work for you, so pick one based on your own needs and situation.
    • How do I use a credit card responsibly? The first thing to remember is to always pay your bill on time. Whether you choose to pay your balance in full or carry a balance over time, stay on top of your payments.
    • Many experts also recommend keeping your balance under 30% of your total credit limit. This keeps your credit utilization ratio low, which helps your credit score.
    • How do you avoid paying interest on a credit card? Most card providers offer a grace period of 21 days or more after issuing your card bill. If you pay your balance before the end of this period, you won’t accrue interest on your purchases. Not all providers offer a grace period, so make sure you understand your card’s terms and conditions before carrying a balance.
    [/fin_accordions]

    More guides on Finder

    Ask an Expert

    You are about to post a question on finder.com:

    • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
    • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
    • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
    • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

    Finder.com provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

    By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and finder.com Terms of Use.

    Questions and responses on finder.com are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.
    Go to site