Lots of articles steer you to the best credit card by categories – one if you want airline miles, another if you need to transfer a balance and a third if you are looking for the lowest interest rates.  This is not one of those articles.  The millionaire mindset does not want airline miles and doesn’t carry a balance.  And the sooner you start thinking like a millionaire, the sooner you will become one.

Principle number 1: The credit card company’s job is to make as much money as possible, and your job is to keep as much money as possible .  They are very good at their job.

Principle number 2: The defaults should all be in your favor.  Avoid any credit card that requires you to work against them.  They will win, and you will forget to do some important piece of work.

Putting these principles into practice, here are the five key features to look for in a credit card.

No annual fee.  No amount of rewards and bonuses can make up for an annual fee.  If you start $75 in the hole, you have to spend $7,500 and get 1% cash back just to break even.  No annual fee for the first year isn’t enough for whatever rewards are offered.

As much cash back as possible on everything you purchase.  Forget every other system of rewards.  With immediate cash back, you are definitely getting something valuable.  And you don’t have to decide to use the rewards; they are simply deposited in your account.  In the best of all scenarios, they are deposited into a savings or brokerage account.  An immediate 1% cash back on every purchase is the minimum you should settle for.  The best we have seen is if you can get 2% on everything.

Purchase protection, free extended warranty and return protection.  If you’ve had a store that has not given you a fair deal and then gave you a hard time, having made the purchase with a credit card can often help.  If the original U.S.  warranty is 5 years or less, some cards increase the warranty by up to a year.  And credit cards often allow you to return anything purchased in the United States within 90 days from the date you bought it regardless of a store’s policies.

In addition to these features, making purchases with a credit card can save you a tremendous hassle because a process is in place for disputes.

The dispute process is a powerful tool of leverage for the consumer, when you are in a back-and-forth with a merchant.  Merchants get knocked by their merchant providers for customers disputing them, so use it with caution — but it’s definitely a process which puts you in the driver’s seat.

Onetime-use credit card numbers.  This feature, called “ShopSafe” by Bank of America, allows you to create a unique temporary credit card number every time you make an online purchase.  This number acts exactly like your real credit card number except it has a lower limit and a quick expiration date.  For example, if you are purchasing a $35 item, you can create a temporary number with a $40 credit limit that expires in two months.

Merchants won’t know the difference, but if their lack of security compromises the number you use, the thieves will find themselves with $5 more credit on a card that may already be expired.

Easily downloadable information.  Entering every transaction into a budget by hand is a great way to create good spending habits.  But once those have become routine, it is still wise to know what you have spent without all that manual labor.  Many credit cards allow you to download a file and import it directly into QuickBooks or other budgeting software.  Purchases from your usual vendors are automatically coded into their proper budgeting categories.  Only new vendors need to be assigned a category.