One of the more unusual rewards cards on the market, Citi Double Cash offers a generous rewards rate and a unique incentive for paying your bill. To earn the card's highest rewards rate – 2 percent cash back – you have to completely pay off the purchase. Otherwise, you'll earn 1 percent cash back until you can afford to do so.
"It's just a simple set-it-and-forget it card that fits into most anyone's busy lifestyle," says CreditCards.com senior industry analyst Matt Schulz. "There's no minimum spending threshold to meet, no rotating categories to chase. It's just 2 percent on anything you buy, anywhere and anytime you buy it. That's a tough combination to beat."
Citi Double Cash also won points from judges for its consumer-friendly terms and lengthy promotions. It charges a 0 percent annual percentage rate for the first 18 months on balance transfers with a transfer fee of just 3 percent, making it one of the better options on the market. Additional perks include Citi Price Rewind, which refunds the difference if the price drops after you buy something, as well as travel accident insurance and trip cancellation and interruption coverage.
The Discover it Miles card earned second place thanks to its hassle-free rewards program and lucrative first-year promotion. It returns a flat 1.5 points for every dollar you spend and then doubles your earnings after 12 months, so it's essentially a 3 percent return in that initial year (redeemable for cash back or travel purchases). Discover also waives the first late payment fee and doesn't charge a penalty rate, making the Discover it Miles card a safer choice for cardholders who may occasionally miss a payment.
If you spend a lot of time staying in hotels but don't want to fork over an annual fee, the third-place winner (the Hilton Honors card from American Express) is one of the best you can get. It offers exceptional rewards on everyday items, including five points for every dollar you spend on gas, groceries and restaurant meals and three points per dollar on everything else (except Hilton spending, which is seven points per dollar). Hilton points aren't worth nearly as much as the average credit card rewards point, so the rewards rate is somewhat inflated. But it's still a good value for hotel guests who want to earn free stays.
CreditCards.com evaluated some of the top-rated no-annual fee credit cards and asked a panel of judges to rate the CreditCards.com staff's top three picks. The judges were personal finance expert Holly Johnson (clubthrifty.com), personal finance blogger Jonathan Ping (mymoneyblog.com), personal finance journalist Lisa Gerstner, CreditCards.com editor-in-chief Daniel P. Ray and CreditCards.com senior industry analyst Matt Schulz.
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