Best credit cards

Get a better deal from your plastic with these top 15 credit card picks for rewards junkies, balance carriers, frequent travelers, college students, and small business owners. What's the best card for you? MONEY and NerdWallet teamed up to find it.

Borrowing

best credit cards borrowing

It's more expensive to carry a balance, with annual percentage rates on new cards averaging 15.31%, up from 14.30% in 2010, according to Bankrate. On the plus side, 0% intro periods have gotten longer, going from eight to 11 months on average over the same time, NerdWallet reports.

You can save hundreds -- even thousands -- by transferring a debt and paying it off within the interest-free window. Or you can take advantage of the 0% trend to pay for a big-ticket purchase over time, at no cost.

BEST FOR BALANCE TRANSFERS

Chase Slate (chase.com)
APR: 13% to 23%
Intro APR: 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months
Annual fee: $0
Balance transfer fee: $0 if you transfer in the first two months, 3% after that

Why it's a winner: Longest 0% period among balance-transfer cards that also have no annual fee and, more important, no balance-transfer fee (a charge that can undercut the benefits of changing cards).

The caveats: You have to act fast to move the balance or you'll pay a fee of 3% on the amount you shift over. Also, while Slate offers 0% on new purchases as well, you can get a longer term with Citi Simplicity (below).

LOWEST ANNUAL PERCENTAGE RATE

Lake Michigan Credit Union Prime Platinum Visa (lmcu.org)
APR: 6.25% and up
Annual fee: $0

Why it's a winner: Ideal for those who regularly carry a balance, since it offers the lowest possible APR among no-fee cards (6.25% for applicants with FICO scores of 760-plus).

The caveats: You have to be a member of the credit union, but you can join with a $5 donation. Not for those who pay in full, since this is a no-frills card.

BEST 0% DEAL ON NEW PURCHASES

Citi Simplicity (citi.com)
Intro APR: 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 18 months
Regular APR: 13% to 22%
Annual fee: $0

Why it's a winner: Longest 0% introductory period on new purchases among cards that have no annual fee -- so it can be a great way to finance, say, your new kitchen appliances. Plus, it has no late fees and no penalty rates, ever.

The caveat: Not a great deal for balance transfers. Though it offers 0% for 18 months, you'll foot a 3% fee.

Related: Chatting about credit cards with NerdWallet

Methodology: MONEY decided upon the criteria to consider -- which included intro and regular APRs, sign-up bonuses, annual fees, rewards, and other fees -- then set parameters for what would make the best cards in each category (for example, lowest rates and no annual fee for someone who carries a balance). NerdWallet plugged the terms into its database and made several suggestions for each category, noting the issuers from which it receives compensation when people apply through the site. MONEY made the final decisions and independently fact-checked the picks.

Note: APRs are rounded to the nearest percentage point and are variable except where noted. Rates are based on creditworthiness (largely FICO score) when a range is listed. Many of the winners require excellent (750+) credit.
  @Money - Last updated September 25 2013 12:45 PM ET
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