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Choose the Right Credit Card with Rewards

Want a better charge, cash-back or rewards card? These websites will help you make the right choice -- and save big bucks.
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When Americans do something, we do it big. Just look at our love of plastic. U.S. consumers carry around some 1.4 billion credit cards—stack them up, and they'd stretch as high as 13 Mount Everests. So it only makes sense to pick not just any card, but one with lower interest rates, better rewards and minimal fees. Problem is, there are so many choices out there it can be hard finding the right card for your budget, spending patterns and lifestyle. That's where a handful of info-packed, user-friendly websites come in. We spoke with several personal-finance experts to get the inside scoop on the top online contenders. All of these sites will help you winnow the field, avoid tempting offers that could lock you into a bad deal, and get you some nifty perks to boot.

With more than 1,700 cards in its database, this site offers consumers the widest array of choices, from large multinational banks to community credit unions. That's because in addition to "sponsored" cards—those whose issuers pay websites each time someone applies online—NerdWallet includes non-sponsored cards as well. The vast selection also makes it easier to find cards with higher-than-average rewards programs and lower-than-average interest rates. "If you're looking for a site that's uncluttered and a snap to use, this is the place," says Carmen Wong Ulrich, CNBC's personal finance expert and author of The Real Cost of Living (Perigee). "NerdWallet asks you simple lifestyle questions—whether the card is for personal use or for business, if you'll pay in full each month, what kind of rewards you want. It does a quick search and presents you with a list of options." But if you don't feel like answering questions about yourself, click on "Our Best Picks," which will take you to a short list of a dozen or so cards, along with a summary explaining why they stand out.

People who tend to be overwhelmed by too many choices will love this site, which focuses on a smaller universe of about 100 sponsored-only cards from major issuers, including American Express, Discover and Capital One. You can customize your search by selecting the specific features you want (no annual fee, cash back, airline miles), or look for cards according to your credit rating (excellent, good, fair, poor or bad). The description of each card includes an expert review and an overall rating of one to five stars. "I like because it gives you an approximation of your credit score for free," says Jean Chatzky, the Today show's financial editor and author of books like Money 911: Your Most Pressing Money Questions Answered, Your Money Emergencies Solved (Harper). "All you have to do is answer six questions and you get an instant calculation. That's the kind of information you need to factor in to make a smart choice."