Credit card award categories for 2021 included the best airline, balance transfer, business, cash back, rewards, student, travel and 0% introductory annual percentage rate credit cards.
In addition, a new “editor’s choice award” has been introduced for 2021. The latest honor is call “The Best Credit Card for the New Normal,” recognizing an affordable card with no annual fee and a 0% introductory APR offer, plus versatile rewards for every day at-home purchases.
The winning cards were determined based on a comprehensive, data-driven methodology that includes factors such as rewards rates, sign-up bonuses, annual, foreign transaction and balance transfer fees and introductory and ongoing APRs.
To determine which card is best in each category, U.S. News compiled the scores that top cards have received each month to calculate annual scores. U.S. News Best Credit Cards Awards winners earned the highest average scores in their respective categories the previous year.
A card must be active in the U.S. News credit card database and available nationwide from a major U.S. credit card issuer to qualify for a U.S. News Best Credit Cards rating.
Below are the 2021 winners for each category:
The 2021 winner for Best Credit Card for the New Normal and Best Cash Back Credit Card is the Chase Freedom Flex.
New cardholders earn a modest sign-up bonus with a low minimum spending requirement and can earn a $200 cash bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months from the opening of an account.
Chase Freedom Flex card rewards include 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in bonus categories activated quarterly, 5% back on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, 5% back on up to $12,000 in eligible grocery store purchases for the first year, 5% back on Lyft rides through March 2022, 3% back on dining, including takeout and eligible delivery services, plus drugstore purchases and 1% back on all other eligible purchases.
The card offers a 15-month 0% annual percentage rate for purchases, after which the APR is 14.99 to 23.74% variable. The card charges no annual fee but 5%, or a $5 minimum fee, on balance transfers.
The 2021 winner for Best Rewards Card and Best Travel Rewards Card is the Capital One Ventures Reward Card.
New cardholders can earn 100,000 bonus miles when they spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months after opening an account, or still earn 50,000 miles if they spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months. In addition, cardholders earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. The miles won’t for the life of the account and there’s no limit to how many you can earn.
Cardholders can also receive an up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre-check and can redeem rewards on travel, from vacation rentals to car rentals and more. Miles can be transferred to more than 10 travel loyalty programs.
The card has an annual fee of $95 but has no foreign transaction fee. It also has a variable APR of 17.24% to 24.49%.
The 2021 winner for Best Balance Transfer Credit Card and Best 0% APR Credit Card is the Citi Diamond Preferred Card.
The Citi Diamond Preferred Card offers 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 18 months from the date of the account opening and the date of first transfer. After that, the variable APR will be 14.74% to 24.74%, based on creditworthiness. Balance transfers must be completed within four months of account opening. The card has a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
In addition, the card offers free online access to a user’s FICO score and special access through Citi Entertainment to purchases tickets to thousands of events, including concerts, sporting events, dining experiences and more.
Cardholders also receive protection benefits, including $0 Liability on Unauthorized Purchases and Citi® Identity Theft Solutions, account alerts to send reminders about your balance level, when a payment is due or when you go over your credit limit, and contactless payment options.
The 2021 winner for Best Airline Credit Card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
New cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after opening an account, offering $750 toward travel when credit card users redeem points through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
In addition, the card offers 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. The card also offers a Pay Yourself Back offer, where points are worth 25% more when users redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card also offers a $0 delivery fee on unlimited deliveries and reduced services fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash’s subscription service. Cardholders can also earn 2x total points on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases per month from November 1, 2020, to April 30, 2021, including eligible pick-up and delivery services.
The card has an annual fee of $95 but has no foreign transaction fee. It also has a variable APR of 15.99% to 22.99%.
The 2021 winner for Best Business Credit Card is the Ink Business Cash Credit Card.
New cardholders will earn a $750 cash bonus after spending $7,500 on purchases in the first three months of an account opening, 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year, 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year, and 1% cash back on everything else.
The card also offers an introductory 0% APR promotion for 12 months on purchases. After that, the APR can range from 13.24% to 19.24% variable, depending on creditworthiness. If you want to do a balance transfer, the fee is 5% of the transfer amount with a $5 minimum. The card does not charge an annual fee.
The winner for Best student Credit Card for 2021 is the Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students.
New cardholders receive a $200 cash rewards bonus after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening, 3% cash back in a category of your choice, including gas, online shopping, travel, dining, drug stores, and home improvement and furnishings, 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1% cash back on all other purchases. The 3% and 2% cash back earnings are eligible on up to $2,500 in combined choice category, grocery store and wholesale club purchases each quarter and do not expire.
There is also a 3% balance transfer fee with a minimum of $10 and a $2,500 quarterly spending limit on your choice category and the bonus reward categories of grocery stores and wholesale clubs.
Cardholders are also given access to their monthly FICO credit score for free. After opting in to the credit score program, a card user’s FICO score is updated every month. In addition, users are given tips and advice on maximizing their credit score.
The Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students has no annual fee and offers 0% introductory APR for 12 billing cycles on purchases and any balance transfers made within 60 days of opening an account. After that, there is a variable APR of 13.99% to 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.