CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value. We may receive a commission through The Points Guy affiliate network if you apply and are approved for a card, but our reporting is always independent and objective.
If you’re having trouble making ends meet during the pandemic, it may seem counterintuitive to think about credit cards. But a new credit card could help you through the economic downturn, perhaps by letting you finance the things you need to buy at 0% interest for several months, or consolidating debt at a lower interest rate. Or perhaps you just want to make sure you’re earning the most in rewards when you’re ordering online or having food delivered to your home.
Our comprehensive methodology compares every aspect of each credit card to our “benchmark credit card” to determine which cards can potentially help you the most. So give yourself a few minutes to take a look at our list of the best credit cards for the month of September and see if one might be useful to you right now.
Citi® Double Cash Card: Best for flat-rate cash back
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Best sign-up bonus
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express: Best for U.S. supermarkets
Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for food delivery
Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for flexible rewards
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card: Best for balance transfers
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card: Best introductory rate on purchases
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card: Best for easy travel redemptions
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express: Best for small businesses
Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business: Best for larger businesses
Why did we select these cards as our best credit cards for 2020? Dive into the details of each card with us, and see how they stack up.
Best for flat-rate cash back
Why it’s great in one sentence: The Citi Double Cash Card is both simple and lucrative, offering a market-leading 2% cash back on every purchase — 1% when you buy, 1% when you pay your statement — for no annual fee.
This card is right for: People who want a card that will work for them but don’t have the time, patience or interest to chase bonus categories or figure out complicated travel loyalty programs.
- Earn 2% cash back on all purchases with no limit.
- 0% interest for 18 months on balance transfers made in the first four months after you open the card (13.99%-23.99% variable afterward).
- Cash back can be converted to Citi ThankYou travel points at a ratio of 1 cent per point when combined with the Citi Prestige® Card or Citi Premier℠ Card.
- No annual fee.
Sign-up bonus: None.
What we like about the Citi Double Cash: Life is complicated enough right now — not everyone wants to make their credit cards complicated as well. If you don’t want to deal with bonus categories, transfer partners or spending caps, you can’t get much simpler than the Citi Double Cash.
But “simple” doesn’t have to mean “weak.” In fact, you’ll get 2% cash back on practically everything you buy with this card, which is the best ongoing flat-rate return you’ll find on any no-annual-fee credit card out there.
Yes, if you want to put in extra effort to maximize bonus categories or if you’re willing to pay an annual fee, you can absolutely get more in overall rewards or perks. But if you don’t want to make your credit card another thing in your life to worry about, you can put the Citi Double Cash in your purse or wallet, and set it and forget it.
What could be better: The Citi Double Cash is a no-frills credit card, so you won’t find any fancy travel or dining perks on it, nor are there any significant travel or purchase protections. You also won’t want to use this card for overseas purchases, as the 3% foreign transaction fee will offset the rewards you earn.
Having the option to convert the card’s cash back to Citi ThankYou points when you have certain other Citi cards is an impressive recent addition, but the ThankYou program’s airline transfer partners can be challenging to leverage.
The balance transfer offer does come with a 3% fee, though that’s comparable to other credit cards with similar balance transfer features. And the Citi Double Cash doesn’t offer a sign-up bonus, which means other cards might be more rewarding right out of the gate, though the Double Cash will catch up with long-term use.
Why it’s our “benchmark” credit card: The ease of use and straightforward top-of-market cash-back earning rate of the Citi Double Cash are why CNN Underscored currently uses the Double Cash as our “benchmark” credit card to compare the features of other credit cards and determine if they’re better or worse overall.
Learn more about the Citi Double Cash Card.
Best sign-up bonus
Why it’s great in one sentence: The Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with a sign-up bonus of 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months after you open the account, and the points can be redeemed for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards, or in other eligible categories using the card’s “Pay Yourself Back tool for 1.25 cents per point through September 30.
This card is right for: People with larger than average travel and/or dining expenses who want to use a basic transferable points program to redeem their credit card rewards for travel.
- Earn 2 points for every dollar spent on travel and dining purchases.
- Earn 5 points per dollar on Lyft rides through March 2022.
- For a limited time from now through Sept. 30, earn 3 points per dollar on up to $3,000 in Instacart orders.
- For a limited time from now through Sept. 30, earn 5 points per dollar on select streaming services and 3 points per dollar at gas stations, up to $1,500 in purchases in each category.
- Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
- Points can be redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal at a rate of 1.25 cents per point.
- Now through Sept. 30, points can also be redeemed for purchases at grocery stores, dining establishments and home improvement stores at a rate of 1.25 cents per point.
- Points can also be transferred to any of Chase’s 13 airline and hotel partners.
- No foreign transaction fees.
- $95 annual fee.
Sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
WIth classic travel and dining bonus categories, 5 points per dollar on Lyft rides through March 2022, and a 60,000-point sign-up bonus, you should be able to score plenty of points even if you can’t fly anywhere at the moment, since Chase defines “travel” very broadly to include purchases like mass transit, tolls, parking and even ride-shares.
Also, for a limited time, the Chase Sapphire Preferred earns bonus points in three additional categories. From now through Sept. 30, you’ll earn 5 points per dollar on up to $1,500 spent in select streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix, 3 points per dollar at gas stations for up to $1,500 in purchases, and 3 points per dollar on up to $3,000 in Instacart orders. Plus, you’ll get $50 in statement credits for an Instacart Express membership, enough to cover either three months of a monthly membership, or up to half off an annual membership.
But the real power of the CSP is in its redemptions. You’ll get 1.25 cents per point when redeeming points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, and can get potentially even more value when transferring points to one of Chase’s 13 travel partners. In fact, the Ultimate Rewards program still features some of the best transfer partners around, including United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Hyatt Hotels, and all Chase partners transfer at a 1-to-1 ratio.
Chase also recently added new redemption options to the Sapphire Preferred. The issuer’s new “Pay Yourself Back” feature allows you to redeem points on purchases beyond just travel. The current eligible categories are grocery stores, dining establishments (including delivery and takeout) and home improvement stores, and through Sept. 30, you’ll get 1.25 cents per point when redeeming this way.
To top it off, when international flights resume, you can safely use the Chase Sapphire Preferred overseas, since it has no foreign transaction fees on international purchases. It even provides primary car rental insurance, so you don’t have to look to your own auto policy first if you have an accident with your rental car.
What could be better: The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a classic, but in some ways, it’s starting to get long in the tooth. Other credit cards now offer bonus points or cash back in those same travel and dining categories, and in some cases at higher rates (though usually accompanied by higher annual fees).
Even our benchmark Citi Double Cash card earns 2% cash back -— 1% when you make a purchase, and 1% when you pay it off — on everything you buy, not just travel and dining, though you can get more value when redeeming your Sapphire Preferred points than you can with simple cash back.
You also no longer get the first year’s $95 annual fee waived with the CSP, so you’re paying for the card right out of the gate. And for many people, the Sapphire Preferred isn’t as flashy as its big brother, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which comes with travel perks, higher bonus rates and a $300 annual travel credit (but also a significantly higher annual fee).
But if you don’t need or won’t use all those extra perks (especially in the next several months), you may be better off with this significantly less expensive version.
Where it beats our benchmark card: Travel and dining bonus categories, excellent travel protections, solid airline and hotel partners, sign-up bonus.
Where our benchmark card is better: The Citi Double Cash has no annual fee, an introductory rate on balance transfers and easy cash back.
Best for U.S. supermarkets
Why it’s great in one sentence: The Blue Cash Everyday card earns 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 annually, then 1%) and 2% back at U.S. gas stations, while also offering a generous introductory interest rate on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, all with no annual fee.
This card is right for: People who are spending a significant amount of money at U.S. supermarkets but don’t want to pay an annual fee for a credit card.
- Earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%).
- Earn 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores.
- Earn 1% cash back on everything else.
- 0% interest on all purchases for the first 15 months (12.99% to 23.99% variable afterward).
- 0% interest for 15 months on balance transfers made in the first 60 days after you open the card (12.99% to 23.99% variable afterward).
- Car rental loss and damage insurance included.
- No annual fee.
- Terms apply.
Welcome bonus: Earn $150 back as a statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months.
What we like most about the Blue Cash Everyday: For many Americans, a significant portion of the monthly family budget is currently going to supermarket expenses. The Blue Cash Everyday card dials up the bonus cash back on that category, along with gas stations as well, creating a go-to in your wallet for two routine purchases.
The card also pairs its bonus categories with an introductory 0% interest rate on purchases for the first 15 months, making it a solid choice. But you’ll want to make sure your debt is paid off by the end of the intro period, as the interest rate jumps to a variable 12.99% to 23.99% afterward.
You’ll also find a similar introductory offer for balance transfers on the Blue Cash Everyday, and a welcome bonus of $150 cash back after you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first three months, which tops off a fairly complete package.
What could be better: Bonus cash back isn’t earned on purchases outside of the U.S. with the Blue Cash Everyday, and there’s a 3% foreign transaction fee on top of that. Plus, there’s no way to convert your cash back to American Express Membership Rewards points, which are potentially more useful for those who may want maximum flexibility in redeeming credit card rewards for travel down the line.
You can also find cards that earn even more cash back at supermarkets, either for a limited time or if you’re willing to pay an annual fee. The Chase Freedom Unlimited is currently offering new applicants 5% cash back at grocery stores for the first 12 months you have the card, up to $12,000 in purchases.
So if you’re looking to maximize your supermarket spending solely for the next year, you might consider the Freedom Unlimited as an alternative, though the Blue Cash Everyday card offers cash back at U.S. supermarkets full time, not just for the first 12 months you have the card.
Also, the more expensive version of the Blue Cash Everyday is the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, and it earns 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets — double the Blue Cash Everyday — up to $6,000 in purchases each year (1% thereafter).
There’s also 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions on the Blue Cash Preferred, as well as 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit. But in exchange for those higher bonus rates, you’ll pay a $95 annual fee each year, so the Blue Cash Everyday with no annual fee could be a better choice overall.
Where it beats our benchmark card: Welcome bonus, an introductory interest rate on purchases, a longer period of 15 months on introductory balance transfers, car rental damage coverage.
Where our benchmark card is better: The Citi Double Cash has a longer four-month period to complete any introductory balance transfers, and its cash back can be converted to Citi ThankYou travel points when combined with the Citi Prestige Card or Citi Premier Card.
Learn more about the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express.
Best for food delivery
Why it’s great in one sentence: The no-annual-fee Capital One SavorOne card offers an excellent 3% cash back on entertainment and dining — which includes most food delivery services — and features an introductory interest rate on purchases for the first 15 months you have the card.
This card is right for: People who are currently spending a large portion of their budget on food delivery services but don’t want to pay an annual fee.
- Earn 3% cash back on entertainment and dining (including most food delivery services).
- Earn 2% cash back at grocery stores.
- For a limited time now through Sept. 30, earn 4% cash back on popular streaming services.
- 0% interest on all purchases for the first 15 months (15.49% to 25.49% variable afterward).
- Extended warranty protection.
- No foreign transaction fee.
- No annual fee.
Sign-up bonus: Earn $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
What we like most about the Capital One SavorOne: Given the current worldwide situation, having a card that earns 3% back on most food delivery services is incredibly valuable. The Capital One SavorOne codes services like Grubhub and Seamless as “dining,” meaning in most cases, you should get the same 3% cash back that you would if you were physically dining at the restaurant.
Also, for a limited time now through Sept. 30, you ‘ll earn 4% cash back with the SavorOne card on eligible music and video streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Disney+. That’s an especially nice perk if you’re heavily relying on in-home entertainment right now.
In addition, the Capital One SavorOne has a 0% introductory interest rate on all purchases for the first 15 months, though it jumps to a variable 15.49% to 25.49% after those 15 months are over. Still, that’s a significant amount of time you could use to carry a balance if you’re trying to make ends meet.
What could be better: There’s no cell phone insurance on the Capital One SavorOne card, which is becoming a common feature even on some no-annual-fee credit cards. You can also find cards with somewhat longer introductory periods if you need extra time to carry debt.
You may also want to consider the SavorOne’s bigger brother, the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card, which offers an even more impressive 4% cash back on dining and entertainment purchases, and the same 2% at grocery stores. But unlike the SavorOne card, the Savor card carries a $95 annual fee, which is no longer waived for the first year.
Where it beats our benchmark card: Sign-up bonus, introductory rate on purchases for 15 months, no foreign transaction fee.
Where our benchmark card is better: The Citi Double Cash has an introductory interest rate period of 18 months on balance transfers.
Learn more about the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card.
Best for flexible rewards
Why it’s great in one sentence: If you’re on the fence about whether you’d prefer to rack up cash back or travel points, the Chase Freedom Unlimited allows you to do both when paired with the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
This card is right for: People who want maximum flexibility in a no-annual-fee credit card.
- 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
- Starting September 15, the card also earns 5% cash back on travel purchases made through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and 3% at drug stores.
- Expert users can convert the cash back to flexible travel points when pairing the Freedom Unlimited with a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve card.
- 15-month 0% introductory rate on purchases (14.99%-23.74% variable afterward).
- No annual fee.
Sign-up bonus: Earn $200 bonus cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months after opening the account, plus earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or WalMart) for the first 12 months you have the card, up to $12,000 in purchases.
What we like about the Chase Freedom Unlimited: If you prefer cash back now but think that a dose of adventure is in your future once travel returns to normal, the Chase Freedom Unlimited can give you the best of both worlds.
When you pair the Chase Freedom Unlimited with a premium Ultimate Rewards card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can convert your cash back to travel points at a rate of 1 cent per point. Then you’re able to redeem those points for travel at an increased value of 1.25 to 1.5 cents apiece via the Chase travel portal.
Even better, once you’ve converted the cash back to points, you can transfer them to any of Chase’s 13 airline and hotel loyalty partners. This amazing flexibility is why CNN Underscored’s partner The Points Guy values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents apiece. At that rate, since you’re earning 1.5% cash back on the Freedom Unlimited, you could effectively end up with a 3% return on your purchases.
On top of all that, Chase recently announced that for the first time, the Chase Freedom Unlimited will also have three permanent bonus categories in addition to earning 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Starting September 15, both new and existing card holders will earn 5% cash back on travel purchases made via Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back on dining — including takeout and delivery — and 3% cash back at drug stores. Those changes add a ton of value to an already very solid offering.
Other benefits of the Chase Freedom Unlimited include purchase protection, extended warranty protection, and a three-month complimentary subscription to DashPass. And right now, new card applicants can get an amazing 5% cash back on grocery store purchases for the first 12 months you have the card, up to $12,000 in total purchases.