How to Choose the Perfect Credit Card | ModMoney

How to Choose the Perfect Credit Card

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Choosing the right credit card can be overwhelming, to say the least. With a Cheesecake Factory-length menu of options, the hardest part is just knowing where to start. So first things first, where do you spend most of your money? Understanding your spending persona will narrow the universe of card choices and lead you to one that fits your lifestyle. Whether you're a traveler or a student, a credit card novice or an online shopper, there's a card tailored to fit your needs. So consider this post your go-to resource for a curated collection of the best. Here are my featured card picks for every spender.

The Best Credit Cards for the Traveler

The Best Credit Cards for the Traveler

Whether you’re a luxury jet-setter or a budget commuter, these cards reward you with high returns on hotels, airfare and ride-sharing. Plus, all the creature comforts you need to make your trips enjoyable.

Chase Sapphire Reserve | The Best Credit Cards for Travelers

Chase Sapphire Reserve

If you ask me, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the best travel rewards card on the market. The annual fee is a hefty $450, but don't let that deter you. You'll make it back quickly with these benefits:

  • 50,000 point sign-up bonus after spending $4,000 in 3 months. Worth $750 if used to book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal but can be worth $1,000+ if transferred to partners like Southwest, United, British Airways, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz Carlton, and more.

  • 3x points on travel and dining.
  • $300 reimbursed for travel spending each year.
  • $100 fee credit for TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry.
  • Access to Priority Pass airport lounges.
American Express Platinum Card | The Best Credit Cards for Travelers

American Express Platinum

When Chris and I vacationed in Mexico, our AmEx Platinum benefits served us well. The annual fee on this puppy is $550, but before you angrily exit the page, take a spin through the highlights:

  • 60,000 point sign-up bonus after you spend $5,000 in 3 months. Worth up to $1,200 if transferred to travel partners like Delta, Hilton, British Airways, Emirates, Jet Blue, Hawaiian, and more.
  • 5x points on flights or hotels booked through AmEx Travel.
  • $200 in Uber credits per year.
  • $200 reimbursed for airline incidental fees each year.
  • $100 credit for TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry.
  • Access to Fine Hotels & Resorts, a luxury hotel network with benefits like free breakfast, room upgrades, late check-out, Wi-Fi, spa or food credit, and more.
  • Access to AmEx Centurion Lounges and Priority Pass lounges.
  • Automatic Gold Status for Starwood and Hilton.
The Best Credit Cards for the Beginner

The Best Credit Cards for the Beginner

If you're a credit card newbie or just starting to build your credit score, don't dive into a complex, high-fee card right away. Instead, build your credit slowly and responsibly. These two no-fee cards with lucrative cash-back opportunities are perfect for this approach. I use both of them for plenty of my everyday purchases.

Chase Freedom | The Best Credit Card for Beginners

Chase Freedom

The Chase Freedom was the first credit card I ever owned, and I still use it weekly. I love it for its simplicity and for its generous cash back features:

  • $150 cash bonus after spending $500 in 3 months.
  • 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in rotating quarterly bonus categories.
  • 0% APR for 12 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers.
  • No annual fee.

The reason to apply for a Chase Freedom card is its rotating 5% cash-back feature. The categories are always relevant and rotate between gas stations, Internet services, mobile wallets, grocery stores, wholesale clubs, restaurants, department stores and more.

Chase Freedom Unlimited | The Best Credit Cards for Beginners

Chase Freedom Unlimited

If I'm not spending on travel, dining, or a Chase Freedom category, I'm likely using my Chase Freedom Unlimited card. This is a newer introduction to the Chase card portfolio and offers 1.5% back on every purchase, no matter what. It's so simple and perfect for someone who doesn't want to think about which card to use.

  • $150 bonus after spending $500 in 3 months.
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, automatically.
  • 0% APR for 12 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers.
  • No annual fee.
The Best Credit Card for the Student

The Best Credit Card for the Student

A healthy credit score is critical to your financial well-being. The average age of your credit accounts impacts your credit score, so it's helpful to start early. The Chase Freedom and the Chase Freedom Unlimited are both great options for students, but I also want to share one specifically tailored for those still in school.

Discover it Card for College Students | The Best Credit Card for Students

Discover it Card for College Students

  • $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher.
  • 5% cash back on quarterly rotating categories such as gas stations, groceries, restaurants, Amazon or wholesale clubs.
  • Discover will match all the cash back you earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • No annual fee.

You may notice that both the Discover it and the Chase Freedom offer rotating 5% cash-back categories. In choosing between the two, I prefer the Chase Freedom because it offers broader redemption options. With Chase, I can redeem points for cash, gift cards, merchandise, experiences or travel. Plus, if you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can transfer Freedom points to the Reserve card and redeem at a higher rate per point.

The Best Credit Card for the Online Shopper

The Best Credit Card for the Online Shopper

It's no secret that Amazon has completely changed consumer purchasing behavior. If you're on board with the online shopping trend, consider adding this card to your wallet.

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Credit Card.jpg

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

If you're already an Amazon Prime member, there's a high probability that this card is a good decision for you. (If you're not an Amazon Prime member, just try it free for 30 days. Trust me.) Here's what this card gets you:

  • $70 Amazon gift card upon approval.
  • 5% back at Amazon and Whole Foods Market.
  • 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores.
  • Redeem rewards to pay for your Amazon purchase at checkout. 100 points =$1.00.
  • No annual fee, but you have to be an Amazon Prime member to get these benefits, which is $99 per year.

If you're not an Amazon Prime member but still an Amazon lover, you're in luck! The Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card gets you 3% back at Amazon and Whole Foods instead of 5%. But the remaining benefits are largely the same.

The Best Credit Card for the Philanthropist

The Best Credit Card for the Philanthropist

Whether you’re involved in a nonprofit or just passionate about giving back, there is one socially conscious credit card to add to your mix.

Charity Charge.png

Charity Charge World MasterCard

I'm an advocate for earning points and cash-back on everyday purchases. But 31% of cardholders allow their rewards to expire, meaning $16 billion worth of credit card points become worthless every year. Charity Charge has stepped in to offer a socially conscious way to ensure these points don't go to waste. Here's what the Charity Charge card gets you:

  • 1% cash donations to any nonprofit of your choice including K-12 schools, colleges, and religious organizations. Plus, Charity Charge underwrites all donation processing fees. You can fund up to three nonprofits at a time and choose new ones whenever you'd like.
  • Donations are tax-deductible.
  • Free access to your FICO score.
  • No annual fee.

The Bottom Line

Choosing the perfect credit card is just a matter of pinpointing your spending persona. Are you a restaurant diner? An Amazon shopper? A luxury traveler? A social entrepreneur? Some combination of the above? In other words, if the cards in your wallet are a reflection of who you are, then you're golden. Now, just practice these credit card habits to raise your credit score and give your finances a fresh boost.

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