Best credit cards for 2021

All credit cards are not created equally.

Some are made for business travelers, while others are made for students, people who are paying down debt, and so on. (And that’s all before a deadly global pandemic upended the nation’s spending habits.)

Consumers have an ever-growing deck of credit cards to choose from, so the good folks over at U.S. News & World Report compared them all for their 2021 Best Credit Cards Awards.

“The pandemic has forced many Americans to make lifestyle changes this year — most significantly impacting how they spend money,” said Beverly Harzog, a credit card expert and consumer finance analyst at U.S. News. “That’s why it’s a great time to evaluate whether they are getting value out of the rewards and features their credit cards offer them.”

While their categories reflect the different ways these financial tools are used, there were some standouts.

Two awards went to the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (Best Rewards Credit Card and Best Travel Rewards Credit Card).

“There’s a lot of travel flexibility,” Harzog said. “You can redeem your miles for any airline, any hotel, any rental car agency, and it’s so simple.”

Another two-award winner is the Citi Diamond Preferred Card (Best 0% APR Credit Card and Best Balance Transfer Credit Card).

“It is our best balance transfer card,” she said, “because you get a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months, and that’s pretty significant.”

And because this year has changed how we spend our money, U.S. News added a special category: Best Credit Card for the New Normal (Editor’s Choice) went to the Chase Freedom Flex, which also won Best Cash Back Credit Card. Harzog said the card “rises to the occasion” during the pandemic, with rewards for groceries and even for food takeout and delivery.

It’s that card’s cash-back feature, she said, that consumers will probably find most attractive.

“Cash back is always king,” Harzog said. “That is always people’s favorite.”

U.S. News evaluated APRs, balance-transfer fees, rewards rates and more on a monthly basis to find the standouts.

The full list of winners:

  • Best 0% APR Credit Card: Citi Diamond Preferred Card
  • Best Airline Credit Card: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
  • Best Balance Transfer Credit Card: Citi Diamond Preferred Card
  • Best Business Credit Card: Ink Business Cash Credit Card
  • Best Cash Back Credit Card: Chase Freedom Flex
  • Best Rewards Credit Card: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
  • Best Student Credit Card: Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students
  • Best Travel Rewards Credit Card: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
  • Best Credit Card for the New Normal (editor’s choice): Chase Freedom Flex

Learn more about these winning cards — and what separates them from the rest — on the U.S. News’ website.

WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this report.

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