The 11+ types of credit cards you should know

different types of credit cards

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

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 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

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Rates last updated November 20th, 2017
Name Product APR for Purchases ( Purchase Rate ) Intro APR for Balance Transfer Annual fee Product Description
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99% variable
0% Intro APR for 12 months (with whichever is greater: $5 or 3% balance transfer fee)
$0 annual fee for the first year ($89 thereafter)
Enjoy 40000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase.
HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard®
13.99%, 17.99% or 23.99% variable
0%% Intro APR for first 15 months from account opening (with whichever is greater: $10 or 4% balance transfer fee)
$0
Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases made within 6 months of account opening, then 1.5% thereafter.
Luxury Card Mastercard® Titanium Card™
15.99% variable
0% Intro APR for for the first 15 billing cycles (with whichever is greater: $5 or 3% balance transfer fee)
$195 ($95 for each Authorized User added to the account)
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
HSBC Gold Mastercard®
11.99%, 15.99% or 19.99% variable
0%% Intro APR for first 18 months from account opening (with whichever is greater: $10 or 4% balance transfer fee)
$0
0% Intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 18 months from Account opening. Then a variable APR of 11.99%, 15.99% or 19.99% will apply.
Indigo® Platinum Mastercard®
23.9% variable
$75 annual fee for the first year ($0 to $99 thereafter)
With this card you get a 23.9% variable APR.
Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa®
16.99% to 24.99% variable
$0 to $75 first year annual fee for the first year ($0 to $99 thereafter)
Good credit not necessary. Rebuild and grow your score with this card.
Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® for Rebuilding Credit
16.99% to 24.99% variable
$0 to $75 first year annual fee for the first year ($0 to $99 thereafter)
A tool for rebuilding your credit.
First Access Visa Card
29.99% variable
$75.00 for first year. After that, $48.00 annually.
The First Access Card is a true VISA® credit card that does not require perfect credit for approval. Complete our easy online application now and get a response in as little as 60 seconds!
Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum
9.25% variable
$0
The Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum Card offers multiple perks, including one of the lowest available APRs on the market.
Credit One Bank® Cash Back Credit Card
16.99% to 24.99% variable
$0 to $75 first year annual fee for the first year ($0 to $99 thereafter)
Reward spending while boosting your credit score and earn 1% cash back on all eligible purchases.
Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum Rewards
11.25% variable
$0
Excellent Credit Required - Applicants that do not have excellent credit will not be approved

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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.

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.
Low interest credit cards guide

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, which offers a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months. You could transfer all of your credit card debt to the Citi Simplicity and pay no interest on it for almost two years. In the meantime, you can slowly pay off the debt over time.

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.
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.

Compare the best balance transfer cards

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.

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.

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 Barclaycard Arrival Plus) let you redeem points and miles for statement credit. Other cards (like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Premier Rewards 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, 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!

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

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.

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.
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.
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.

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.
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.

Gas credit cards

f 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 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 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.

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 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 typically pay off your purchases over time.

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 Gold, Premier Rewards Gold and Platinum cards. 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

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.

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.

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.

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US Credit Card Offers

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Luxury Card Mastercard® Gold Card™
Luxury Card Mastercard® Gold Card™

APR

15.99
variable

Annual fee

0 For the first year
More info
First Access Visa Card
First Access Visa Card

APR

29.99
variable

Annual fee

75 For the first year
More info
Indigo® Platinum Mastercard®
Indigo® Platinum Mastercard®

APR

23.9
variable

Annual fee

75 For the first year
More info
Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard®
Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard®

APR

13.99
variable

Annual fee

0 For the first year
More info