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The 5 best credit cards you can (and should) keep forever

Over a lifetime, a credit card can be a valuable tool if used regularly and wisely. Here are our top five picks that you should keep forever.
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Written by Holly Johnson on
Reviewed by Evan Zimmer

If you're trying to build a strong credit history that will last a lifetime, a credit card can be a valuable tool. Used regularly and wisely, credit cards can help you establish your credit profile, raise your credit score, and earn rewards in the process.

It's important, however, to note how your FICO credit score may change over time. Your credit score can fluctuate based on the number of cards you sign up for and how long you keep them. Here are the major factors that determine your FICO credit score:

  • Payment history: 35%
  • Amounts owed: 30%
  • Length of credit history: 15%
  • Credit mix: 10%
  • New credit: 10%

As you can see, the number of new accounts and the length of your credit history play a role in the health of your credit score. If you sign up for too many new accounts during a short period of time, your score can take a hit. Likewise, canceling your oldest cards will shorten your credit history and decrease your score.

Because of the way your FICO score is calculated, one of the best moves you can make is to get a credit card you can keep for the long haul -- maybe even forever. While you may want to get other credit cards throughout the years, this one "forever card" can serve as an anchor for your credit history.

A card like this should come without an annual fee but with enough perks to make it worth holding onto. Here are five cards that could definitely be the "forever card" in your wallet:

Card Highlights
Intro BonusEarn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
APR15.74% - 24.49% Variable
Recommended CreditExcellent, Good
Reward Rates
  • 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APR0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Additional Details
Rewards & Redemption Details

The Chase Freedom Flex card is consistently named one of the top no-fee rewards cards on the market, and with good reason. Not only do you earn 3% cashback for static bonus categories, but you also earn 5% cashback (up to $1,500 on combined purchases each quarter) in categories that rotate quarterly.

Since this card comes without an annual fee, you can use it as frequently or infrequently as you want without worrying about ongoing costs. You can even convert your Freedom Flex rewards into Ultimate Rewards points if you also have a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve card.

Card Highlights
Intro BonusIntro Offer: Unlimited Cashback Match - only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year. There's no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
APR12.74% - 23.74% Variable
Recommended CreditAverage/Good/Excellent
Reward Rates
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • Earn 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APR0% for 15 months
Additional Details
Rewards & Redemption Details

Because it doesn't charge an annual fee, the Discover it® Cash Back card could also be a permanent fixture in your wallet. Like the Freedom Flex, it offers 5% cashback (up to $1,500 spent annually, then 1%) in bonus categories that rotate quarterly. This card also lets you track your recent FICO credit score for free, and you'll never pay an over-the-limit fee or foreign transactions fee for overseas purchases.

Card Highlights
Intro Bonus$200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
APR14.74% - 24.74% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Recommended CreditExcellent/Good
Reward Rates
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases)
  • Earn automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases)
  • Earn unlimited 1% on all other purchases.
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APR0% for 15 billing cycles
Additional Details
Rewards & Redemption Details

The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card gives cardholders more control over their rewards than most cards, allowing you to choose one 3% cash back category to earn in, as well as earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (rewards are limited to the first $2,500 in combined purchases each quarter for the 3% and 2% categories).

This credit card is perfect for the long haul because it never charges an annual fee and offers quite a bit in terms of earning potential. You can earn unlimited rewards all year long if you want, or simply keep this card for emergencies. But you'll never pay a penny for the privilege and your reward will never expire.

Card Highlights
Intro BonusEarn a $200 statement credit after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
APR15.49%-25.49% Variable
Recommended CreditExcellent/Good
Reward Rates
  • 3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%)
  • 2% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations.
  • 1% Cash Back on other purchases
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APR0% on Purchases for 15 months
Additional Details
Rewards & Redemption Details

The Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express is perfect for moderate spenders who want a "forever card" that helps them earn rewards. With this card, you'll earn 3% back on your first $6,000 in US supermarkets spending each year (then 1%), plus 2% at US gas stations and select US department stores, and 1% cashback on all other purchases.

What makes this offer good for the long haul is that this card comes without an annual fee and rewards cardholders for purchases they'll be making for years to come. 

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
Card Highlights
Intro BonusOne-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
APR15.24% - 25.24% (Variable)
Recommended CreditExcellent, Good
Reward Rates
  • Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APR0% intro on purchases for 15 months
Additional Details
Rewards & Redemption Details

The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card offers an unlimited 1.5% cashback for every dollar you spend. Your cashback will never expire ,and you can redeem it in any increment of your choosing as often as you like. It's a simple, rewarding card that doesn't come with an annual fee. If you're looking for an uncomplicated yet rewarding card experience, you've found it.

[This article was first published on The Simple Dollar in 2020. It was updated in March 2022.]

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