It's no secret that the beginning and end of each year inevitably illicit a variety of different "Best" and "Worst" lists. Some -- like the Cutest Pets of 2012 -- are purely for entertainment purposes, while others validate a lifetime of work with a decidedly more serious tone, as is the case with the Academy Awards. Few, however, hold much practical value for you and me. That's not the case with the Best Credit Cards for 2013, though.
We at Card Hub compared more than 1,000 credit card offers in order to determine which will save consumers the most money in 2013. What we discovered is that the right credit card can literally save you hundreds (or even more than $1,000) over the course of a year. So, without further ado, the winners are...
Category: Initial Bonus
Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Rationale: The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers 40,000 bonus points to new cardholders who spend at least $3,000 during the first three months their accounts are open. That bounty is redeemable for $500 in travel booked through Chase Rewards or a $400 statement credit.
Category: Ongoing Rewards
Winner: Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express
Rationale: While there are a number of really attractive rewards credit cards on the market, the Blue Cash Preferred Amex got the nod because it offers incomparable earning rates in major expense categories. In return for a $75 annual fee, cardholders get 6 percent cash back at supermarkets, 3 percent at department stores and gas stations, and 1 percent everywhere else as well as a $150 initial bonus for spending $1,000 during the first three months.
Category: 0 percent Financing
Winner: Slate Card from Chase
Rationale: The Slate Card offers 0 percent on both balance transfers and new purchases for 15 months and charges neither an annual fee nor a balance transfer fee. It can therefore serve as a free ticket to no interest and save the average household -- which has roughly $6,747 in credit card debt -- more than $1,000 in finance charges and fees while expediting debt freedom. You can use a credit card calculator to more accurately gauge potential savings in terms of your specific financial situation.
Category: Student Card
Winner: Capital One Journey Student Rewards Card
Rationale: Capital One has long been one of the major issuers that most actively targets offers to people with little or no credit standing. The Journey Student Rewards Card just adds to that legacy, helping students fulfill their primary objective at this stage in the credit career -- low-cost credit building -- while also stretching limited funds as far as possible and promoting good habits. The card does not charge an annual fee, you see, and offers 1 percent cash back across all purchases as well as a monthly 25 percent rewards bonus for paying your bill on time.
Category: Credit Building
Winner: Harley Davidson Secured Card
Rationale: Secured credit cards are tailored to credit building because the security deposit cardholders are required to submit protects issuers from risk and thereby lowers underwriting standards somewhat while eliminating the need for high fees. The Harley Davidson Card is the only secured card issued by a major bank (U.S. Bank) that does not charge an annual fee at all. It also offers some modest rewards, which is extremely rare in this card segment.
Hopefully, these picks will be less controversial than this year's Oscar nominations, but feel free to let us know what you think either way.
One other thing that's important to note before the music starts playing and I'm whisked off the proverbial stage is that the aforementioned credit card offers are only truly great when used by the right type of consumer. For starters, the Sapphire Preferred, Blue Cash Preferred, and Slate all require excellent credit for approval, so you might need to boost your score before submitting an application. Luckily, secured credit cards are excellent for credit building. Finally, while consumers have an infatuation with rewards, low rates are actually more worthwhile for people who don't pay their bills in full every month.
With that being said, go forth and improve your finances this year with an award winner in your wallet!
Odysseas Papadimitriou is the chief executive of Card Hub, a leading credit card comparison website, and Wallet Hub, a new personal finance social network where you can read and write reviews on financial products, professionals, and companies.