Best Credit Cards For 2013: MoneyWatch Breaks Them Down

1:44 PM, Jan 15, 2013   |    comments
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(CBS MoneyWatch)-- Credit card offers, already rich by historic standards, just keep getting better.

The value of initial rewards bonuses is on the rise, with the average offer about 15 percent richer than it was a year ago, says Odysseas Papadimitriou, chief executive of CardHub.com. Meanwhile, no-interest introductory periods have stabilized at an average of 10 months, with some cards offering as much as 18 months with no interest or fees, he says.

That said, Papadimitriou thinks the offers are peaking, so it may now be time to jump if you want to save money on your credit card debt in 2013.

What are the best credit card offers? For those with high credit scores, Papadimitriou's considers these seven the best of the 1,000 offers CardHub analyzed in its latest ranking. The cards are not listed in order because they're not directly comparable. Some made the list because of unusually lucrative bonus rewards; others because of the low interest rates or attractive balance transfer offers.

Here's the skinny on the seven cards CardHub ranks as 2013's best:

Chase Sapphire Preferred landed on the top listing largely as the result of its rich bonus reward, which provides 40,000 points to anyone who spends at least $3,000 in the first three months of owning the card. Those points can be redeemed for a $400 statement credit. In addition, the card offers a 7 percent bonus for all new points earned during the year, even if the points have been redeemed.

The bad news is that the card charges a $95 annual fee after the first year. The interest rate is 15.24 percent, but can vary.

Blue Cash Preferred by American Express offers a $150 reward after the first $1,000 in purchases, but the card charges a $75 annual fee. Blue Cash has a tiered point structure that gives up to 6 points per dollar spent at supermarkets; 3 points per dollar at gas stations and 1 point per dollar everywhere else.

Capital One Venture Rewards offers 10,000 bonus miles -- the equivalent of $100 -- for those who spend at least $1,000 on the card in the first three months. The card also has an attractively simple reward formula that provides 2 points per $1 in purchases -- no matter what you're buying. Redeeming rewards is also simple -- you can use rewards points to get a statement credit for any travel-related purchase you've made in the past three months or to pay for new travel. The card has a $59 annual fee, but the charge is waived for the first year.

PenFed's Premium Travel Rewards offers a 20,000 point -- roughly $200 -- bonus for those who spend $2,500 within the first three months of opening the account. The card, issued by Pentagon Federal Credit Union (which anyone can join), offers 5 points per dollar spent on gasoline; 3 points per dollar on supermarket purchases and 1 point per dollar on all other spending. It also has a 10 percent interest rate and no annual fee. Rewards can be redeemed for travel.

PenFed's Platinum Rewards card has the same reward structure as its travel rewards card, but does not offer the bonus points. It makes the list thanks to the fact that it has no annual fee and an attractive 10 percent interest rate. Papadimitriou thinks is a particularly good card for anyone who spends a lot of money at the gas station.

Slate from Chase is the best card to get if you need to transfer a balance. Not only does the card have no balance transfer fee -- an extremely rare feature -- it offers zero interest for the first 15 months on both transferred balances and new purchase, a great deal for anyone carrying a credit card balance. The card has no annual fee. Once the introductory period ends, cardholders pay interest based on their credit history ranging from a low of 12 percent to a high of 22 percent.

Citi Diamond Preferred is the best card for those planning a major credit card purchase, which they know can't be immediately repaid. The card offers 18 months of zero interest financing. However, if you transfer a balance to this card, you'll pay a 3 percent balance transfer fee.

Source: Kathy Kristof, CBS MoneyWatch

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