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Are Consumer Reports “Best Credit Cards” Really the Best?

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In the upcoming issue of Consumer Reports magazine, they name their picks for best credit cards of 2012 in three categories: cash back, travel rewards, and balance transfers. The cards were selected from 53 mass-market consumer credit cards and tested by Consumer Reports Money Lab using criteria based on total money spent, fees, and rewards earned.

Are the Consumer Reports choices really the best? Here’s what Credit-Land.com editors thought of the chosen cards.

Consumer Reports Best Credit Cards of 2012

This card is one of the best values out there for families looking for cash back rewards, hands down. With six percent cash back on groceries, three percent back on gas, and one percent back on all other purchases, it easily earns back its $75 annual fee.

Credit-Land.com take: This really is the highest-value cash rewards card on the market today; however, customers have to have extremely good credit to be approved, making it an inaccessible choice for many customers. The Discover More gives five percent cash back in rotating categories, has no annual fee, and is a credit card that a much higher percentage of customers can be approved for.

  • Best travel rewards credit card: Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card benefits from being part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, which lets cardholders use their rewards points toward flights on virtually any airline, as well as at hotels, car rental agencies and on cruises or trains. With a $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year, it’s easy to see why Consumer Reports named this card the best in travel.

Credit-Land.com take: The flexibility of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program really is fantastic, but the transferability of Ultimate Reward points is a fairly recent perk that Chase adopted in order to compete with the American Express Membership Rewards program. If people are looking for a good no-annual fee, high-value travel rewards card, they should check out the American Express Blue Sky card.

  • Best balance transfer credit card: Chase Slate

Consumer Reports is a fan of this card because it has no balance transfer fee – something that used to be relatively easy to find, but is now very rare among balance transfer credit cards. With a 15-month zero percent APR introductory period on balance transfers, there’s no doubt that the Chase Slate is a good option for customers looking to transfer a balance, but is it the best?

Credit-Land.com take: Customers who apply for a Chase Slate card should be aware of two things: first, they have to transfer their balance within the first 60 days of opening the account, or else a three percent balance transfer fee kicks in, and second, they should be prepared to pay off their balance within 15 months, before the APR goes up to between 11.99 and 21.99 percent. The second-choice card, Citi Diamond Preferred, gives an 18-month zero percent APR period, so you have a little more time to pay off your balance without accruing interest – although it does have a three percent balance transfer fee right off the bat.

Finding the right card for you

Readers shouldn’t rely on “best-of” lists alone, which can be a good jumping-off point when searching for a credit card, but may not reflect their particular circumstances and needs. A tool like Credit-Land.com’s Credit Card Navigator lets credit card shoppers enter their credit score (or general credit history, from poor to excellent) and desired rewards, along with how they intend to use their new credit card, and get personalized recommendations.

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