The Very Best Mastercard Credit Cards

Mastercard was launched in the 1960s as a direct response to the BankAmericard, issued by the Bank of America, a card that eventually became the Visa. It is one of the two biggest credit card providers in the world and the Mastercard name has featured on countless credit and debit cards over the years. 

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In this guide, we’ll look at the best ones on the market right now, helping you to choose a cash rewards credit card, low-interest card or travel card that suits your needs.

Best Unsecured Mastercard Credit Cards

Unsecured credit cards can vary greatly in terms of rewards, benefits, interest rates, and fees. Your income and credit score will dictate what kind of interest rate you get and how big your initial credit line is, while the type of card you choose will impact what kind of cash back rewards, travel rewards, and other benefits you receive.

Citi Simplicity Card

The Citi Simplicity card is simple by name, but not by nature. It has one of the longest balance transfer offers around, allowing you to secure 0% APR for 21 months, and you can also get 0% on all new purchases for 12 months. 

There is no rewards program to speak of, but with a standard variable APR that drops to less than 17% for excellent credit borrowers, and the aforementioned transfer and purchase rates, it’s easily one of the best Mastercard credit cards around.

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Intro APR: 0% APR for 21 months on balance transfers; 12 months on purchases
  • Regular APR: 16.24% to 26.24% variable APR
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 5%
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%
  • Cash Back Rewards: N/A
  • Sign-up Bonus: N/A

Bank of America Cash Rewards

The Bank of America Cash Rewards card offers you 3% cash back in a category of your choice, including gas stations, grocery stores, and more. Just calculate where you spend more of your money and choose that as your category, unlocking an impressive rate of return.

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 15.49% to 25.49% variable APR
  • Intro APR: 0% on purchases for 15 months
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3%
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%
  • Rewards Program: Up to 3% cash back in choice category
  • Sign-up Bonus: $200 when you spend $1,000 within 3 months of account opening

Citi Double Cash Card

You can get 2% cash back on all purchases with the Citi Double Cash Card; 1% when you purchase an item and 1% when you pay for it. The APR is very respectable, providing your credit score is high enough and because it’s linked to Citi, there is a mobile app, easy online access, and a host of other top features.

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 15.49% to 25.49% variable APR
  • Intro APR: N/A
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3%
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%
  • Rewards Program: Up to 2% cash back
  • Sign-up Bonus: No welcome bonus currently available

Indigo Mastercard

The Indigo Mastercard has been a little hit and miss. It hasn’t had the best reviews and this has scared a few potential customers away. However, when used properly and sensibly, this is a great credit card and shouldn’t give you any issues.

It doesn’t have an intro purchase APR and the regular APR is a little on the high side, but the Indigo Mastercard is not aimed at high-credit individuals who have the luxury of choice. It’s an unsecured card with a low credit requirement, making it an ideal choice for anyone with poor credit.

  • Annual Fee: $0 to $99
  • Regular APR: 24.9%
  • Intro APR: N/A
  • Balance Transfer Fee: N/A
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 1%
  • Rewards Program: N/A
  • Sign-up Bonus: N/A

Best Secured Mastercard Credit Cards

Secured credit cards require a refundable security deposit, which automatically becomes your credit limit. These cards work like prepaid cards, in the sense that you can only spend what you deposit onto the card. 

This may seem pointless, because by removing the extensive line of credit it somewhat defeats the purpose of owning a credit card. However, all activity, including balances and successful payments, is reported to the three major credit bureaus, which means these cards can help you to build credit.

Secured credit cards are typically available even if you have no credit or bad credit and while they don’t have extensive credit limits, they do offer the same level of security and convenience. What’s more, secured cards have something known as “automatic reviews”, whereby the credit card issuer will occasionally check your account and credit history to see if you qualify for an upgrade.

You won’t find a generous rewards program or endless perks and benefits, but if you have bad credit then simply being offered a credit card is reward enough. 

Citi Secured Mastercard

One of our personal favorite secured cards, the Citi Secured offers a fast way to rebuild your credit. With careful and responsible card use, you could improve your credit substantially within the first year and then upgrade to an unsecured card. It’s secured, so creditworthiness doesn’t really come into it, and you can set a limit as high as $2,500.

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  • Type: Secured Card
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Security Deposit: $200 to $2,500
  • Intro APR: N/A
  • Regular APR: 23.99% Variable APR

Capital One Secured Mastercard

The Capital One Secured is all about improving your credit score. The credit limits don’t go above $200, but they do drop to as little as $49, which makes this one of the most accessible secured credit cards. 

Just deposit $49 and take each of those billing cycles as they come. The low limit means the risk of overspending is also low and even if you max-out the card you should be able to clear the balance at the end of the month.

  • Type: Secured Card
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Security Deposit: $49, $99 or $200
  • Intro APR: N/A
  • Regular APR: 26.99% Variable APR

Benefits of Using a Mastercard

​Many of the benefits you get by using Mastercard are also provided by other credit cards. Mastercard and Visa, for instance, are very closely related and that’s why they stand head and shoulders above the rest and why they have led the way for so many decades.

However, these two providers are not as interchangeable as you might think and there are some key benefits to using a Mastercard that you don’t necessarily get from Visa, including:

Complete Fraud Protection

By law, all providers are required to ensure that consumers lose no more than $50 when they are the victim of fraud. However, many providers, Mastercard included, go above and beyond the call of duty and guarantee zero loss. 

This complete fraud protection ensures you’re covered in the event that your card is used without your permission, such as in cases of identity theft.

Known as unauthorized charges, these fraudulent payments can occur when your details are stolen and cloned, which is becoming increasingly common. The onus is on you, the cardholder, to notice when such transactions take place and to contact your provider, but there are also systems in place that will flag your account and send you a warning when there is suspicious activity.

Travel Protection

When it comes to travel rewards and benefits, American Express is probably the first provider that comes to mind. But Mastercard credit cards have some benefits as well, providing you use your Mastercard to make the relevant purchases. These benefits include:

  • Baggage Insurance: You will be reimbursed if your luggage is delayed or damaged. They will cover you for some of the expenses incurred following such an issue, including the cost of replacing or mending a broken suitcase.
  • Travel Accidents: Mastercard will cover you and your family in the event of serious accidents or death on vacation.
  • Trip Cancelation: If your trip is canceled and you can’t recover costs, Mastercard may reimburse you. For instance, if a flight is canceled through no fault of your own, and this causes you to lose money spent on accommodation, your card may help, providing you used it to book those tickets in the first place.

Buyer Protection

If you use your credit card to purchase a product that is not delivered or a service that is not provided, you can claim your money back. In such cases, you will need to file a claim with your provider and they will then contact Mastercard directly.

This is one of the better benefits of using a credit card and while it’s a service that’s generally offered by all providers, Mastercard tends to be more willing to side with the consumer. It is similar to the chargeback feature offered by PayPal; one you may have encountered if you have ever used the online payment service or have bought/sold on

However, unlike the PayPal chargeback facility, Mastercard will not simply accept any claim and then file in favor of the claimant. You need to have a genuine reason to claim and this will be followed up. 

Cell Phone Protection and Other Perks

In addition to all the standard features mentioned above, cardholders may be offered additional benefits and perks such as cell phone protection, travel insurance, rental car insurance, and more. However, these aren’t always available and will depend on the card you use. Make sure you read those credit card offers carefully to see what you are entitled to.

World Mastercard and World Elite Mastercard

The Mastercard network has several tiers of perks, including Regular, World, and World Elite. These provide many of the benefits outlined above, with the later levels offering additional protection and perks. However, while you will get many of the standard security and protection features on all Mastercard credit cards, you won’t necessarily get all of these additional benefits.

The issuer can choose which perks to offer, so all World Mastercards are not the same and some are more comprehensive than others. These perks can include VIP hotel access, travel rewards, $200,000+ in insurance and protection, dining rewards, car rental offers, and more, and these exist for the life of the account, renewing every month, quarter or year.

Some of the best Mastercard credit cards that carry these great perks include airline credit cards like those offered by American Airlines, Lufthansa, Spirit Airlines, and Frontier Airlines, but therein lies another problem. If you’re going to benefit from using these cards, you really need to be a frequent flyer who makes regular purchases, and if that’s the case, you may be better off with a general airmiles credit card.

These cards offer you more bonus points on account opening, better introductory APR rates, and greater cash bonus rewards. They also allow you to save on all airfare and travel purchases, and not just those tied to specific airlines.

Mastercard Credit Limits

Mastercard credit cards are provided by banks and credit unions and are not issued directly by Mastercard. As a result, they are not the ones who set your credit limits. Generally, your limit will be based on your income, credit score, credit history, and previous experience with the provider. You can request a smaller or greater limit if you want, and this is something you can discuss with your issuer.

Many first-time credit card users request a lower limit and are scared away when quoted high amounts. They worry about the ramifications of being responsible for such larger amounts of money and believe that it may be stolen or spent during an impulsive binge. 

You’re the only one who knows whether you can be trusted with a high credit limit or not, but you don’t need to worry about anything else and, in most cases, a higher credit limit is better.

Security is not an issue. If the money gets stolen, it will be repaid by the provider, as required by law. Everyone has heard stories of people who had their details stolen and weren’t refunded the money that was taken from them, but 9 times out of 10 this is the result of phishing scams in which the victim unwittingly sends money to the scammer. Other times, it’s because they used a debit card.

Where debit cards and bank transfers are concerned, the protection is minimal, and you have no guarantees. But it’s a different story with credit cards and you don’t need to worry. 

The higher your credit limit is, the better your credit utilization ratio will be and the less likely you are to max out your card. Both of these things can help you to build your FICO score, which will put you in good stead when applying for cards and loans in the future.

Bottom Line: Compare, Choose, be Careful

Mastercard credit cards come in all shapes and sizes and offer a wealth of features. Choosing the right one for you is about carefully weighing up the pros and the cons, comparing the cost of late fees, penalty APRs, interest rates, and anything else that might be relevant, from a balance transfer offer to rewards and cash back.

What’s ideal for you isn’t necessarily ideal for everyone else.
The type of user you are will dictate what card works best for you:

  • Big Spender Who Always Pays Their Balance: Look for a premium rewards card if you spend more than $4,000 a month and always clear your balance. Mastercard doesn’t have the best options in this department, however, and you may be better off with American Express cards, such as the Amex Gold and Amex Platinum.
  • Responsible User Who Clears Balance in Full: If you always pay your balance, then reward cards are not ideal. These cards give you cash back and points every time you make purchases, with some of them offering boosts for purchases made at wholesale clubs, grocery stores, gas stations, supermarkets, and more. These can often be redeemed for gift cards, statement credit or travel rewards.
  • At-Risk User: Whenever there is a chance you will not pay off your balance in full, even if it’s just a one-time thing, you should focus on low-interest credit cards, preferably ones that have a 0% intro period and a low regular rate once this intro APR offer ends. If you instead focus on a rewards card with a high APR, you’ll end up paying more in interest than you make in rewards.
  • Heavily Indebted User: If you have a lot of credit card debt, focus on balance transfer credit cards. Pay the applicable balance transfer fee, take advantage of the extended offer, and try to clear your balance in full before this offer ends. Providing you meet your monthly payments on time and are not hit with high fees or a penalty rate, this card could save you thousands of dollars.

User with Bad Credit: When you have bad credit, your options are limited, and your main goal should be to rebuild that credit. That’s where secured cards come in. Use these cards wisely and you could unlock a higher credit line in the future. You can also make an additional deposit to extend your current line.