Editor's Choice Awards: Best Credit Cards of 2010, Part 2

The second half of this year's Editor's Choice awards continues to spotlight credit cards and banks that bucked a trend toward fewer rewards and higher fees while offering enticing added value for cardholders.

Best Reward Point Credit Cards

Chase Sapphire Card

Unless you never watch television and you didn't go to the movies in 2010, you've probably seen ads for the Chase Sapphire credit card. The couple in those black-and-white commercials must do plenty of spending to earn all those vacations and cocktail dresses. But even if you're an average consumer, Chase's entry-level Sapphire card makes it easy to earn enough reward points to treat yourself to travel, gadgets or even a statement credit.

After you spend your first $500 on the Chase Sapphire card in your first three months as a cardholder, you'll earn enough bonus reward points to enjoy $100 cash back or even more in merchandise or travel credit. Double points for qualifying travel booking makes this card even more attractive for business travelers or for cardholders planning major vacations. And, just as the ads promise, you'll get a live human being on the phone whenever you call for customer service.

Zync from American Express

If you're a company that built its reputation on serving the needs of veteran business travelers, how do you attract a new generation of cardholders? American Express answered that question by reinventing its classic charge card. Zync combines American Express' investment in travel and entertainment with new technology that customizes each cardholder's account and experiences.

Instead of settling for a cookie-cutter rewards program, Zync cardmembers can choose from an ever-expanding selection of reward "packs." Most packs add between $10 and $40 to a cardholder's annual fee in exchange for exclusive cardmember experiences and bonus points in the American Express Membership Rewards program. However, Zync offers several no-cost packs including, the Eco Pack, Personal Finance Pack, Give Back Pack, and Family Travel Pack.

Reward points credit card predictions for 2011: We didn’t see a big ramp up for general reward points cards in 2010, but I expect we will see new and innovative rewards points programs and card offers in the upcoming year. I predict more robust rewards and signup bonus offers before the end of the year.

Best Credit Cards for Poor or Bad Credit

Citi Secured Card

You wouldn't have blamed Citi if it had scaled back its involvement with the subprime credit card market in 2010. The company sold off large portions of its lending portfolio to comply with regulators' recapitalization requests. At the same time, it backed away from the retail financing market that often helps Americans with bad credit begin the recovery process.

That's why we're happy to recognize Citi's "back to basics" approach to customer service through its revamped secured credit card program. Citi's secured MasterCard offers credit limits up to $5,000 based on linked savings account deposits, one of the highest limits available for secured credit cards. While some banks still use secured credit cards as fee generators, Citi's affordable annual fee of $29 allows consumers to rebuild their credit without surrendering too much cash.

Orchard Bank Classic MasterCard

The best card for the worst credit.  Under the Orchard Bank brand, HSBC offers an olive branch that's pricey but fair for customers committed to building better credit histories. While many other "bad credit" credit cards have started charging fees for everything from applications to statement delivery, Orchard uses a simplified annual fee that's still less than a quarter of the card's credit limit.

Because this MasterCard is geared towards people with less-than-perfect credit, don't expect a very high credit limit or lots of perks. In fact, don't expect any perks at all. And don't plan on making any mistakes with this card: Orchard may take risks by staying in the subprime credit card business, but it has developed a reputation for taking swift action against cardholders who miss payments or overextend themselves financially.

Credit cards for bad or poor credit predictions for 2011: Subprime offers have changed quite a bit due to the CARD Act. I think many people thought the new legislation would mean the end of the subprime market, but I believe subprime issuers will continue to restructure their products to be both profitable and attract new customers who need to build or rebuild credit.

Most Innovative Credit Cards

Plum Card from American Express

The Plum Card frames up company purchases around "trade terms," rewarding cardmembers for frequent business-to-business buying. By offering immediate cash rebates of up to 2 percent on large purchases. Additionally, the card offers an extended grace period of up to two months when cardholders pay at least 10 percent of the current amount due and any previously deferred balance.

MySpace Forward Card

In the same year that the Kardashian sisters faced a media firestorm for targeting an expensive prepaid debit card at young adults, this clever partnership between Citi and MySpace went largely unnoticed. That's too bad, since it offers one of the best feature sets for credit cards aimed at younger consumers.

Instead of attracting new customers on college campuses, Citi leveraged the social networking website for both reward ideas and interactivity. Along with offering no annual fee and a lengthy 0 percent APR teaser period, the MySpace version of the Citi Forward Visa empowered cardholders to take action with 12 resolutions around responsible spending and community involvement.

Most Innovative Program

Capital One Charitable Giving Site

Nonprofit organizations rely on credit card donations more than ever, but often surrender 3 percent or more of their receipts as merchant fees. Capital One took an innovative approach to solving this dilemma by passing fee-free transactions from its cardholders directly to any of over 1.2 million eligible charities.

Through a partnership with Network for Good, Capital One's giving site also connects charities to free and discounted online services that can minimize the cost of accepting credit cards and managing e-mail appeals. Not only can you use a Capital One credit card to avoid foreign transaction fees, you can help your favorite charity put more of its donations toward its mission.

By Curtis Arnold, Founder CardRatings

Original Article: Editor's Choice Awards: Best Credit Cards of 2010, Part 2

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