The Best Credit Cards of 2018

By Greg Go. Last updated 7 August 2019. 1 comment

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I spend a lot of time during the year reading credit card agreements and combing through the fine print. So when it's time to pick the top credit cards of the year, it isn't difficult to put together a list of candidates for each category.

Believe me, the really good ones stand out. But narrowing down the list and picking the winner isn't always easy. When I pick my favorite card for a category, I consider a lot of different things. Sure, I look at the interest rate, but I also consider the rewards, customer satisfaction, benefits, and more.

So after careful consideration, here's my list of the top credit cards for the year. As is usually the case, the top cards are reserved for those who have excellent credit. A lot of these "top credit card" lists don't include the cards that are available to those with bad credit. I think this is a terrible oversight because so many folks are still recovering from the recession and trashed credit scores.

So I decided to include winners for the "Best Card for Bad Credit" and the "Best Secured Credit Card." When you don't have terrific credit, it's really difficult to find a decent card. I hope my choices can help you rebuild your credit this year.

Okay, let's get to the winners. We'll start with the top dog, so pretend you hear a drum roll.

Credit Card of the Year: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

It's difficult to pick the credit card version of "Best in Show" because credit cards tend to fit into specific categories, such as travel or cash back. They aren't really designed to target every demographic out there.

But I think the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of those rare cards that really does do a good job of appealing to a wide population. This card has a great overall combination of rewards, bonus points, and features of all the cards I've reviewed this year.

Let's take a close look at this card, starting with the outstanding bonus offer. Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. You also get 25% off when you redeem points to book travel (airfare, hotel, car rentals, and more) via the Chase Ultimate Rewards booking tool (for example, a $400 flight requires 30,000 points instead of 40,000). But if you don't want to redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can transfer your points to partner travel programs at a 1:1 point rate. That's significant because transferring points on other cards usually result in some loss during the conversion.

There are no foreign transaction fees. The annual fee of $95 is a bit high, I know. Some credit card geeks scoff at all annual fees, but not me. I'll pay a fee if the rewards far outweigh the costs of the card. And in my opinion, this card is worth the fee if you do a decent amount of traveling.

Obviously, you can redeem points for travel and dining, but you can also redeem them for cash back, gift cards, merchandise, and even experiences, such as hot-air balloon rides. See what I mean? There's something for everyone. Really, this is a terrific credit card.

Click here to learn more and apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card today!

Military Benefits: USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card

For military service members and their family, USAA provides some of the best financial products available. The USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card comes with exclusive benefits specifically geared to military personnel. Earn 5% cash back on gas and military base purchases such as those made at commissaries, exchanges, and shopettes, up to a total of $3,000 in purchases each year. Plus, you can also earn 2% for grocery store purchases up to $3,000 in purchases per year, and 1% cash back for all other purchases. There is no foreign transaction fee or annual fee for this card.

Click here to learn more and apply for the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card today!

Airline Miles: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is one of the most popular cards out there. The witty "What's in Your Wallet?" commercials have made this card a household name. Often, products don't live up to the hype. But this really is one of those times when the card lives up to the marketing.

It doesn't pretend to be fancy. It just promises unlimited double miles per dollar, every day, and unlimited 10x miles on hotels through January 2020 when you pay with your Venture card at The rewards are simple and easy to redeem. There are no foreign transaction fees, and the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year.

Click here to learn more and apply for the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card today!

Balance Transfer: Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever

If you're in credit card debt, transferring your balance to a credit card with a zero percent intro offer can save you a lot of money. There are some good options on the market right now, but I like the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever from our partner Citi.

You get 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from the date of the first transfer. (Transfers must be completed in the first 4 months.) There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater, but most likely, you'll still come out way ahead because you'll save a ton on interest expense.

This card gives you 21 months to pay off your debt. Although this card does offer an intro rate for purchases, I suggest you focus on paying off the debt. Try to resist the urge to use this card for purchases and throw all your extra money at the debt.

After the intro period ends, you'll get a regular rate between 16.74% - 26.74%* variable. This card is also a bit forgiving if you make a late payment. There are no late fees or penalty fees.

Click here to learn more and apply for the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever today!

Secured: Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

This category has several good choices (see our full list of best secured credit cards), but my pick is the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®. Depending on your creditworthiness, if you make a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200, you will get an initial $200 credit line. Deposit more to increase your line. You can even pay your security deposit over the first 35 days of being approved. You may also get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time, with no additional deposit required. There is no annual fee.

Click here to learn more and apply for the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® today!

Airline-Branded: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Any credit card with a free flight gets my attention. With the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, you can earn a Companion Pass and 30,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. (Offer ends 2/11/19.) Okay, that's just plain awesome. Earn enough points and you also get a Companion Pass good for one whole year. Now, there are people who totally love Southwest, and there are those who don't because they don't like the boarding process or the lack of first-class seating. This is an individual thing. There's a $99 annual fee, but if you love Southwest, the rewards are worth the fee.

The information related to the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card has been collected by Wise Bread and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.

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Guest's picture

As always, excellent advice.