The Best Credit Cards, January 2013

As the new year begins, it's a good opportunity to review the best credit card offers available and see which - if any - make sense for you. The best credit cards of 2013 offer a combination of sign-up bonuses, reward programs, low-APR promotional periods, and other benefits that can be used to your advantage if you pay attention.

When used properly, credit cards can be an effective tool for managing your finances, earning rewards on everyday spending, building a solid credit history, and maintaining your cash flow, but these tools can be also used incorrectly, damaging your finances in the process.

Consider the following offers if you plan to open a new credit card or if you're looking to make the most out of your everyday spending. But if you are a “Type A” credit card user - if you use credit cards to spend more than you can afford and have difficulty making payments - consider improving your finances and getting out of debt before applying for a new credit card.

The best card for balance transfers

Slate® from Chase. Right now, the best credit card offer for balance transfers is Slate from Chase. Open a card with an offer like this when you have a balance on a card with a high interest rate that you'd like to pay off without owing additional interest. For example, if you have a $15,000 balance on a card with an ongoing APR of 15%, you could save $2,250 by moving that balance to Slate from Chase and paying the remainder of the $15,000 before the introductory period ends.

The introductory period is fifteen months, during which time you'll be able to pay your transferred balances off without any interest. While Slate from Chase and other cards generally charge a balance transfer fee, in the 60 days after being approved for Slate from Chase, you'll be able to transfer your balance without a fee. After those 60 days have passed, the balance transfer fee is $5 or 3% of the transfer, whichever is greater.