Consumer Reports Picks Top Credit Cards for Your Needs

By Meg Favreau. Last updated 19 June 2018. 1 comment

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Figuring out which credit card works best for your lifestyle and spending habits can feel like a financial Where's Waldo, leaving you scanning over a sea of card offers, hoping that the one you're looking for will pop up in your vision.

Consumer Reports — the non-profit organization that rates everything from airlines to air conditioners — put their Money Lab to task on the credit card problem, evaluating 53 cards to come up with the top options in three categories: cash back rewards, travel rewards, and balance transfer / low-rate cards. We've featured the highlights of their findings below, along with some commentary and additional information.

Please note that the rates and rewards for these cards are based on creditworthy users. If your credit is poor or you can't pay off your card entirely every month, there is nothing wrong with not using credit cards. It's always much better to avoid debt than to start carrying a balance, trying to chase rewards. (Although if you do have an existing balance, it might be worth it to check out the balance transfer / low rate category below.)

Best Balance Transfer / Low Rate Cards

According to Consumer Reports, these cards are great for consumers who want to transfer a balance of $10,000.

Top Cards for Balance Transfers
Costs columns assume $10,000 balance remains constant over the 1/2/3 years.
Transfer Fees & Interest Costs After
1 Year 2 Years 3 Years
Chase Slate® (Editor's note: this offer is currently unavailable.)
APR: 0% intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months; 16.49% - 25.24% variable after

Key Features: Save with a $0 introductory balance transfer fee on transfers made during the first 60 days of account opening and get 0% introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and $0 annual fee. Plus, receive your monthly FICO Score for free.
$0 $910 $2,110
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card - 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer from our partner Citi
APR: 0% Intro APR on balance transfers 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from date of first transfer. All transfers must be completed in first 4 months. After that the variable APR will be 14.74% - 24.74*. 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that the variable APR will be 14.74% - 24.74%*.

Key Features: 21 month 0% introductory rate on balance transfers is longest in industry. $5 or 5% balance transfer fee, whichever is greater.
$300 $910 $2,110

Key Features About Balance Transfer Cards

If you're trying to pay down credit card debt, the only card you should consider getting is a balance-transfer card. You have two options here:

Balance-transfer cards are a great option if you can pay your debt off within the introductory rate period (usually a year to a year-and-a-half). After paying the transfer fee of 3%-5% required by most cards, you'll enjoy a 0% rate for that introductory period. After that, the rate jumps up.

Low-rate cards, Consumer Reports points out, are better for those with longer-term debt — instead of possibly jumping up to a rate over 20%, these will stay at a lower-than normal rate for a longer period.

Best Cash Rewards Cards

These picks from Consumer Reports are based on a family spending $400 a month on gas, $600 on groceries, and $1,000 elsewhere.

Top Cash Rewards Credit Cards Rewards Earned After
1 Year 2 Years 3 Years
Fidelity Rewards® Visa Signature® Card

Key Features: 2% cash back on all purchases is highest available rate; must be linked to at least one Fidelity account.
$480 $960 $1,440
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Key Features: 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases. Terms apply. See rates and fees.
$636 $1,272 $1,908

Key Features About Cash Back Cards

Cash back cards are a good option for many people. If you are thinking about getting a cash-back card, take some time first to look at your budget and financial goals. Since many cards do offer different levels of cash back on different categories, there is no one-size-fits-all best cash-back card; what works best for a person who commutes two hours each way to work might not work best for someone who spends more at the grocery store.

Best Travel Rewards Cards

Again, these picks from Consumer Reports are based on a family spending $400 a month on gas, $600 on groceries, and $1,000 elsewhere:

Top Travel Rewards Credit Cards
Best cards for frequent travellers.
Rewards Earned After
1 Year 2 Years 3 Years
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Key Features: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
$850 $1,200 $1,560
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Key Features: 50,000 one-time bonus points ($500 value) after spending $3,000 within 3 months from account opening. Earn unlimited 2x miles per dollar on every purchase and unlimited 10x miles on hotels when you pay with your Venture card at; miles don't expire for the life of the account. $95 annual fee; waived first year. No foreign transaction fee.
$980 $1,100 $1,520

Key Features About Travel Rewards Cards

Consumer Reports points out that travel rewards cards often offer big sign-up bonuses for new customers — sometimes enough to get one or more round-trip tickets. These cards do often have annual fees, but perks like free checked baggage, travel insurance, and lounge access more than make up for the fee. These fancy freebies used to be only available to business travelers, but thanks to the competitiveness of the market they are now offered to regular consumers as well.

We're proud to note that our credit card experts independently came up with pretty much the exact same list of cards. Consumer Reports' top choice for each category has been recommended by Wise Bread for months!

Check out our credit card guides for the best:


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Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Will Chen's picture

I guess great minds think alike! Congratulations to our credit card writers for independently coming up with the same recommendations as the venerable Consumer Reports.