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Choose the best Chase cards for cash back and travel rewards

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(CNN) —  

CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value. We may receive a commission through The Points Guy affiliate network if you apply and are approved for a card, but our reporting is always independent and objective.

If you’re looking for a way to increase your cash back, airline miles or hotel points, look no further than Chase credit cards. Chase is known for offering excellent rewards, lucrative sign-up bonuses and even money-saving benefits. Fortunately, Chase also offers a slew of popular credit cards, which means there’s a card for everyone.

The one major downside to keep in mind is that Chase’s credit cards fall under what is colloquially known as the “5/24” rule. This is an unpublished Chase rule, but it essentially means that if you’ve gotten five or more credit cards across all banks in the last 24 months, your applications for new cards from Chase will be automatically denied.

Most people don’t apply for credit cards that often, so you likely won’t have to worry too much about 5/24. But now that you know the rules, let’s take a look at our list of the best Chase credit cards in 2020.

The best Chase credit cards

Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for cash back
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Best sign-up bonus
Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best for travel perks
Chase Freedom Flex: Best for rotating categories
The World of Hyatt Credit Card: Best for hotel elite status
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: Best for companion flights
IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: Best for reward stays
United Explorer Card: Best for airline miles
Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Best for businesses

Why did we choose these as our best Chase credit cards? Let’s dive into the details of each card and see how they compare to one another.

Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for cash back

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card is by far the best Chase credit card for earning cash back. With 1.5% in cash back on every purchase, you can use the Freedom Unlimited anywhere and know you’ll earn at least 1.5% cash back on everything you buy.

But Chase recently added a trio of bonus categories to this card, making it even more valuable. Chase Freedom Unlimited card holders now also earn 5% on travel purchases made through Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining (including eligible food delivery services) and 3% at drugstores.

To top it all off, right now the Chase Freedom Unlimited comes with an extra feature for new card holders. New applicants can earn $200 in bonus cash back after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months after opening the account, plus 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. That’s one of the best returns for groceries that you’ll find on any credit card on the market today.

And this no-annual-fee card provides an opportunity to earn an even higher return if you prefer to trade in your cash back for travel rewards. That’s because if you pair the card with a more premium Chase Ultimate Rewards card — such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve — you can convert the cash back to flexible travel points at a 1-to-1 ratio.

Your converted points can then go even further by booking travel through the Chase travel portal or transferring them to one of Chase’s 13 airline and hotel travel partners, such as Hyatt or United. Thanks to this flexibility, CNN Underscored’s partner The Points Guy values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents apiece. So instead of earning just 1.5% cash back, you could effectively end up with a 3% return if you pair your Freedom Unlimited to the right Chase card and use your points for travel.

Other benefits of the Chase Freedom Unlimited include purchase protection and extended warranty protection, a complimentary three-month subscription to DashPass and 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022.

Now, the Freedom Unlimited’s 1.5% cash back rate isn’t quite as good as the 2% total return you’d earn with the Citi® Double Cash Card, which offers 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay your statement. But there are also bonus categories on the Chase Freedom Unlimited, and the opportunity to earn premium Ultimate Rewards points is worth extra to many people.

Sign-up bonus: Earn $200 in bonus cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening, plus earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

Learn more about the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

Chase Sapphire Preferred: Best sign-up bonus

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great first card for those interested in travel rewards.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great first card for those interested in travel rewards.
PHOTO: iStock

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the best starter credit cards for those looking to earn travel rewards. The card offers a relatively low $95 annual fee and provides a number of popular bonus categories and benefits. And for a limited time, it also comes with a fantastic sign-up bonus.

New customers who apply now for the Chase Sapphire Preferred can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months after opening the card. That’s by far the highest sign-up bonus you’ll find across all of Chase’s personal Ultimate Rewards credit cards.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’ll earn 2 points for every dollar you spend on travel and dining purchases, and 5 points per dollar on Lyft (from now through March 2022). Additionally, starting November 1, Sapphire Preferred card holders will earn 2 points for every dollar spent on grocery store purchases. The bonus points in this limited-time grocery category are capped at $1,000 in total purchases per month, and the promotion lasts through April 30, 2021.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, if you book travel with points through the Chase travel portal, or use the card’s new “Pay Yourself Back” tool to redeem points for purchases at grocery stores, dining establishments (including delivery and takeout) and home improvement stores, you’ll get 1.25 cents per point in value through at least April 31, 2021. That means the sign-up bonus alone is worth $1,000 toward travel or the “Pay Yourself Back” categories.

Related: New redemption options added to Chase Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred credit cards.

But since you can also transfer points to 13 different airline and hotel partners, you can potentially get even more value. When used this way, Ultimate Rewards points are worth as much as 2 cents apiece according to The Points Guy, which could bring the sign-up bonus value up to a whopping $1,600.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred also includes a much more expansive purchase and travel protection benefit than you’ll see with the Chase Freedom Unlimited. When you use your Sapphire Preferred card on eligible purchases, you’ll be covered against damage or theft for 120 days from the time of purchase, and receive an additional year of coverage with a manufacturer’s warranty of three years or less.

You’ll also get primary rental car coverage with the Sapphire Preferred, which can save you money since you can decline the collision insurance option on your next car rental. You’re also eligible to be reimbursed if your trip is canceled or delayed for a covered reason (though unfortunately a pandemic typically isn’t one of those reasons) or your baggage is delayed or lost.

Finally, as an added bonus, all Chase Sapphire Preferred card holders receive a complimentary DashPass membership through December 31, 2020.

Sign-up bonus: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.

Read CNN Underscored’s complete review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best for travel perks

The Ambassador Transit Lounge in Singapore
The Ambassador Transit Lounge in Singapore’s Terminal 2, accessible with the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s Priority Pass membership.
PHOTO: Priority Pass

Even if you’re staying away from the skies right now, it’s still a great time to earn points for future travel, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve is hard to beat for the premier traveler. Despite the card’s expensive $550 annual fee, you’ll find that the points add up quickly, and the benefits can easily outweigh the fee.

Normally, the card earns 3 points for every dollar you spend on travel and dining, 10 points per dollar spent on Lyft rides (through March 2022) and 1 point per dollar on everything else. But for a limited time starting November 1 through April 30, 2021, you’ll also earn 3 points for every dollar spent on grocery store purchases, up to $1,000 per month in combined purchases.

Related: Chase Sapphire credit cards earn bonus points on groceries for a limited time.

On the redemption side, points earned with the Chase Sapphire Reserve are worth slightly more than what you’ll get with the Sapphire Preferred. While you can transfer your points to the same 13 airline and hotel partners, your points are worth 1.5 cents apiece instead of 1.25 cents apiece when used for travel via the Chase travel portal or through the “Pay Yourself Back” categories through April 31, 2021.

To help offset the annual fee, the Sapphire Reserve also comes with a $300 annual travel credit (which you can also use for gas and grocery store purchases through June 30, 2021) and up to $60 in statement credits on DoorDash purchases in both 2020 and 2021. You’ll also receive a complimentary Priority Pass airport lounge membership and up to $100 in credits when you apply for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

The purchase and travel benefits on the Chase Sapphire Reserve are similar to those that you’ll find on the Sapphire Preferred, but with one slight difference: trip delay protection. While many Chase credit cards offer trip delay protection, the benefit generally doesn’t kick in until your flight is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay. With the Sapphire Reserve, however, you’ll have access to this benefit at the six-hour mark instead.

That’s quite a big difference, and one reason to use the card for all of your airline travel. Even if you book a flight with airline points or miles, as long as you pay for the taxes on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll get the same trip delay coverage.

Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.

Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Chase Freedom Flex: Best for rotating categories

The brand-new Chase Freedom Flex card requires a little more planning, but if you can maximize the card’s rotating bonus categories, you can use it to earn some great cash back or even travel rewards.

With the Freedom Flex, you’ll earn 5% cash back in bonus categories that rotate every three months, on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter. The current Freedom Flex bonus categories for October through December are Walmart and PayPal, which should make it easy to earn as much as $75 in bonus cash back during the upcoming holiday shopping season.

But the Chase Freedom Flex also features the same three permanent bonus categories as the Chase Freedom Unlimited: 5% on travel purchases made through Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining (including eligible food delivery services) and 3% at drugstores, plus 1% cash back on all other purchases. So even if you can’t take advantage of the rotating categories in a given quarter, you’ll still be earning extra cash back in other categories.

You’ll also receive 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022 and a complimentary three-month DashPass membership, which waives delivery fee on select DoorDash orders over $12. And new card applicants can get the same 5% cash back on grocery store purchases as the Chase Freedom Unlimited for the first 12 months they have the card, up to $12,000 in purchases.

The Chase Freedom Flex also comes with purchase protection and extended warranty protection, plus a 0% introductory APR on all purchases for 15 months from account opening (you’ll pay a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.74% after the intro period ends). So it can be helpful if you need to carry a balance for a while because you’ve recently lost your income.

And just like the Chase Freedom Unlimited, if you also have a premier Chase Ultimate Rewards credit card, you can convert any cash back earned from the Freedom Flex into Ultimate Rewards travel points, making your rewards worth potentially even more than if you just use them for cash back.

One thing to remember is that you must activate the rotating bonus categories each quarter, so this card does require you to be organized. And although the Chase Freedom Flex is a no-annual-fee card, it does come with a 3% foreign transaction fee, so it’s not the card to take with you on international trips once travel starts to open up again.

Sign-up bonus: Earn $200 in bonus cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening, plus earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

Learn more about the Chase Freedom Flex.

World of Hyatt Credit Card: Best for hotel elite status

Earn Hyatt elite status faster with the World of Hyatt Credit Card.
Earn Hyatt elite status faster with the World of Hyatt Credit Card.
PHOTO: Hyatt Hotels

Hyatt continues to feature one of the top hotel loyalty programs for many people. Despite the chain’s footprint not being as large as Marriott’s or Hilton’s, its reward points hold value and its benefits are top-notch. The program also allows World of Hyatt Credit Card holders to work their way up the ladder to money-saving benefits and other perks, which could truly garner the royal treatment during your stay.

With the World of Hyatt Credit Card, you’ll earn 2 elite qualifying nights for every $5,000 you spend on the card. Also, World of Hyatt Credit Card holders automatically receive 5 elite night credits annually, but new customers who are approved for the card by December 31 will receive 10 elite night credits in both 2020 and 2021.

Typically, you need to earn 60 qualifying nights per year to get top-tier Hyatt Globalist status, which means World of Hyatt card holders only need 55 qualifying nights, and new card holders who are approved by December 31 only need 50 nights in either 2020 or 2021.

Another benefit of the World of Hyatt Credit Card is that you’ll receive a complimentary reward night, valid at a category 1-4 property, every year starting at your card’s first anniversary. Despite a $95 annual fee for the card, the yearly certificate is potentially worth much more, and should easily outweigh that cost. You can even earn a second reward night certificate each year by spending $15,000 on your card within your card holder year.

Sign-up offer: Earn up to 50,000 bonus points — 25,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, and 25,000 additional bonus points after you spend $6,000 total within six months of account opening.

Learn more about the World of Hyatt Credit Card.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: Best for companion flights

Use the Southwest Premier card to help earn the Southwest Companion Pass.
Use the Southwest Premier card to help earn the Southwest Companion Pass.
PHOTO: iStock

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card might not earn the most points on your everyday purchases, but it’ll help you get one step closer to earning the coveted Southwest Companion Pass. With the Companion Pass, another individual can fly with you for free (plus taxes) on every single flight you take on Southwest from now through the end of 2021.

Normally, you need to earn 125,000 Southwest qualifying points in a calendar year to get the pass, but for 2020, Southwest is giving its frequent flyers a boost. For those members who already had a Southwest frequent flyer account open as of April 1, the airline deposited 25,000 qualifying points automatically. This means you only need to earn 100,000 qualifying points by the end of 2020 to earn the pass.

Related: Fly your companion for free through 2021 with these Southwest credit cards.

Best of all, points earned from the Southwest Premier card count for the Companion Pass. This includes not only points earned from everything you buy on the card but also the 40,000 bonus points new card members can earn after spending $1,000 in purchases within the first three months after they open the card. You can also couple this card with one of Southwest’s business credit cards and potentially earn the pass with just two credit card approvals.

Southwest is also helping its members earn A-List or A-List Preferred elite status this year. The airline is upping the number of Tier Qualifying Points you can earn with your credit card for the rest of 2020, and also won’t have a cap on earning them with a credit card this year.

Sign-up offer: Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.

Learn more about the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card.

IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: Best for reward stays

The IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is a card that should be in every traveler’s wallet, although it shouldn’t be pulled out too often. Right now the card is offering a 140,000-point bonus offer after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months. With IHG points worth about 0.5 cents apiece according to The Points Guy, that’s worth $700 toward IHG stays.

Although that’s not nearly as much value as some other Chase sign-up bonuses on our list, the card’s benefits will allow you to get even more from it. For instance, one of the best perks of the IHG Premier is the reward night certificate you’ll receive yearly, starting with your first card anniversary. You can redeem these certificates at any IHG hotel that normally costs up to 40,000 IHG Rewards points based on IHG’s rewards nights chart.

Some notable properties where this certificate can be redeemed include the InterContinental Hotel Lisbon, the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa, the Holiday Inn Resort Aruba and the Hotel Indigo San Diego Del Mar, just to name a few. Often, these certificates can even be used during peak times when hotels are quite pricey, making the card’s $89 annual fee well worth it.

Related: Earn 140,000 bonus points with the IHG Premier credit card.

Another highly rated benefit is the IHG Premier’s complimentary fourth night. All card holders who redeem points for their stay will get a fourth night for no additional points. This can be used at any IHG property, regardless of the number of points it costs. Combine this with the complimentary night award and you’ll ultimately be able to book a five-night stay for the cost of three, as long as you’re staying at a property that costs 40,000 points or less.

Other perks of the IHG Premier card include complimentary IHG Platinum status, a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit and cell phone protection. These benefits, along with the ones listed above, are some great reasons to make sure that this card makes its way into your wallet.

Sign-up offer: Earn 140,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.

Learn more about the IHG Club Premier Rewards Credit Card.

United Explorer Card: Best for airline miles

Get a free checked bag on United flights with the United Explorer Card.
Get a free checked bag on United flights with the United Explorer Card.
PHOTO: iStock

The biggest concern for many people when it comes to earning airline miles is that using them can be hard. The flights you want aren’t always available, and it takes some flexibility and planning to find an ideal trip.

Fortunately, having the United Explorer Card opens up more opportunities. When searching for award flights, card holders will see expanded award availability, which means you’ll have access to more flights at a lower mileage cost.

Aside from saving you miles, this card also comes with a number of other benefits. United Explorer Card holders save money by getting a first checked bag free for you and a companion on United flights, two United Club day passes per year, 25% back on in-flight United purchases and up to $100 as a statement credit when you apply for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

Related: The best credit cards for United flyers in 2020.

With the United Explorer Card, you’ll also earn 2 miles for every dollar you spend on all United purchases, as well as restaurant and hotel purchases. And right now, the card is offering a sign-up bonus offer of 40,000 miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases within the first three months you have the card, plus a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year (then $95 per year thereafter).

Sign-up offer: Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.

Learn more about the United Explorer Card.

Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Best for businesses

Businesses can earn 3 points per dollar in several popular categories with the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.
Businesses can earn 3 points per dollar in several popular categories with the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.
PHOTO: iStock

If you’re looking for a business credit card, you can’t go wrong with the Ink Business Preferred. The card earns 3 points for every dollar you spend on the first $150,000 in combined purchases each account year for some of the most popular business categories:

  • Travel
  • Shipping purchases
  • Internet, cable and phone services
  • Advertising purchases made through social media sites or search engines

You’ll also have access to a unique cell phone protection benefit that covers your phone against damage or theft when you pay your entire cell phone bill with your Ink Business Preferred card. You’re then covered starting with your second billing cycle and can submit up to three claims every 12 months, up to $600 per incident with a $100 deductible per claim. It even covers everyone listed on your cell phone bill, including employees or family members.

Plus, the Ink Business Preferred has a relatively robust set of travel and purchase protections, including trip insurance, trip delay protection, primary car rental insurance and purchase protection, which covers the items you buy with the card against damage or theft for 120 days after the purchase is made, up to $10,000 per claim, with a maximum of $50,000 per year.

But one of the best reasons to choose the Ink Business Preferred is its incredible sign-up bonus. Right now, you can earn 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months after you open the card. That’s a significant amount of money to spend in three months, but for many businesses, it’s not uncommon to have that much in regular monthly expenses.

Amazingly, the Ink Business Preferred only has a $95 annual fee, surprisingly low for a card with this many perks and points. And your points can be transferred to the same Ultimate Rewards travel partners as the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve, or used to book travel or even for cash back.

Sign-up offer: Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months after you open the card.

Which Chase credit card is best?

With so many highly rated Chase credit cards, it’s tough to choose a truly “best” card. They’re all strong in their own way, offering unique benefits that cater to different people.

If you’re looking for a card that’s simple and offers cash back, then the Chase Freedom Unlimited is the way to go. If you don’t mind paying slightly more attention to your purchases, then the Chase Freedom Flex will allow you to maximize the rewards you earn every quarter.

But if travel rewards are more to your liking, then you can’t go wrong with either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The leisure traveler will probably find the Sapphire Preferred suits them better, while those who spend a significant amount of money on travel and dining out and classify themselves as a road warrior will find value in the more expensive Sapphire Reserve.

If hotel benefits are a priority, the World of Hyatt Credit Card could potentially help you get treated like a VIP during your next hotel stay. And it’s tough to beat the annual night certificates that come each year with the IHG Rewards Premier.

Finally, if you’d prefer to focus on flying, look no further than the Southwest Premier card to help you secure the Southwest Companion Pass, or the United Explorer Card to provide you with some better award flight options. And of course if you’re a business, the Ink Business Preferred is an ideal choice.

Looking for the best overall credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as its best credit cards of 2020.

Get all the latest personal finance deals, news and advice at CNN Underscored Money.

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World

All the products we found to be the best during our testing this year

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(CNN) —  

Throughout the year, CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or headphones — to find the absolute best in each respective category.

Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.

So, as we enter peak gifting season, if you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift, we know you’ll find something on this list that they (or you!) will absolutely love.

Coffee

Best burr coffee grinder: Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder With Digital Timer Display ($249; amazon.com or walmart.com)

Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder
Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder

Beginner baristas and coffee connoisseurs alike will be pleased with the Baratza Virtuoso+, a conical burr grinder with 40 settings for grind size, from super fine (espresso) to super coarse (French press). The best coffee grinder we tested, this sleek look and simple, intuitive controls, including a digital timer, allow for a consistent grind every time — as well as optimal convenience.

Read more from our testing of coffee grinders here.

Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($79.95; amazon.com)

Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker
Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker

During our testing of drip coffee makers, we found the Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker made a consistently delicious, hot cup of coffee, brewed efficiently and cleanly, from sleek, relatively compact hardware that is turnkey to operate, and all for a reasonable price.

Read more from our testing of drip coffee makers here.

Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($165; originally $179.95; amazon.com)

Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus
Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus

Among all single-serve coffee makers we tested, the Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus, which uses pods that deliver both espresso and “regular” coffee, could simply not be beat for its convenience. Intuitive and a snap to use right out of the box, it looks sleek on the counter, contains a detached 60-ounce water reservoir so you don’t have to refill it with each use and delivers perfectly hot, delicious coffee with a simple tap of a lever and press of a button.

Read more from our testing of single-serve coffee makers here.

Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)

Blue Bottle coffee subscription
Blue Bottle coffee subscription

Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription won us over with its balance of variety, customizability and, most importantly, taste. We sampled both the single-origin and blend assortments and loved the flavor of nearly every single cup we made. The flavors are complex and bold but unmistakably delicious. Beyond its coffee, Blue Bottle’s subscription is simple and easy to use, with tons of options to tailor to your caffeine needs.

Read more from our testing of coffee subscriptions here.

Best cold brewer coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($25; amazon.com)

Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot
Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot

This sleek, sophisticated and streamlined carafe produces 1 liter (about 4 1/4 cups) of rich, robust brew in just eight hours. It was among the simplest to assemble, it executed an exemplary brew in about the shortest time span, and it looked snazzy doing it. Plus, it rang up as the second-most affordable of our inventory.

Read more from our testing of cold brew makers here.

Kitchen essentials

Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid ($39.97; amazon.com)

T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid
T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid

If you’re a minimalist and prefer to have just a single pan in your kitchen, you’d be set with the T-fal E76597. This pan’s depth gives it multipurpose functionality: It cooks standard frying-pan foods like eggs and meats, and its 2 1/2-inch sides are tall enough to prepare recipes you’d usually reserve for pots, like rices and stews. It’s a high-quality and affordable pan that outperformed some of the more expensive ones in our testing field.

Read more from our testing of nonstick pans here.

Best blender: Breville Super Q ($499.95; breville.com)

Breville Super Q
Breville Super Q

With 1,800 watts of motor power, the Breville Super Q features a slew of preset buttons, comes in multiple colors, includes key accessories and is touted for being quieter than other models. At $500, it does carry a steep price tag, but for those who can’t imagine a smoothie-less morning, what breaks down to about $1.30 a day over a year seems like a bargain.

Read more from our testing of blenders here.

Best knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($119.74; amazon.com)

Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set
Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set

The Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set sets you up to easily take on almost any cutting job and is a heck of a steal at just $119.97. Not only did the core knives included (chef’s, paring, utility and serrated) perform admirably, but the set included a bevy of extras, including a full set of steak knives. We were blown away by their solid construction and reliable execution for such an incredible value. The knives stayed sharp through our multitude of tests, and we were big fans of the cushion-grip handles that kept them from slipping, as well as the classic look of the chestnut-stained wood block. If you’re looking for a complete knife set you’ll be proud of at a price that won’t put a dent in your savings account, this is the clear winner.

Read more from our testing of knife sets here.

Audio

Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)

Apple AirPods Pro
Apple AirPods Pro

Apple’s AirPods Pro hit all the marks. They deliver a wide soundstage, thanks to on-the-fly equalizing tech that produces playback that seemingly brings you inside the studio with the artist. They have the best noise-canceling ability of all the earbuds we tested, which, aside from stiff-arming distractions, creates a truly immersive experience. To sum it up, you’re getting a comfortable design, a wide soundstage, easy connectivity and long battery life.

Read more from our testing of true wireless earbuds here.

Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278, originally $349.99; amazon.com)

Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4

Not only do the WH-1000XM4s boast class-leading sound, but phenomenal noise-canceling ability. So much so that they ousted our former top overall pick, the Beats Solo Pros, in terms of ANC quality, as the over-ear XM4s better seal the ear from outside noise. Whether it was a noise from a dryer, loud neighbors down the hall or high-pitched sirens, the XM4s proved impenetrable. This is a feat that other headphones, notably the Solo Pros, could not compete with — which is to be expected considering their $348 price tag.

Read more from our testing of noise-canceling headphones here.

Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($119.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)

Beats Solo 3
Beats Solo 3

The Beats Solo 3s are a phenomenal pair of on-ear headphones. Their sound quality was among the top of those we tested, pumping out particularly clear vocals and instrumentals alike. We enjoyed the control scheme too, taking the form of buttons in a circular configuration that blend seamlessly into the left ear cup design. They are also light, comfortable and are no slouch in the looks department — more than you’d expect given their reasonable $199.95 price tag.

Read more from our testing of on-ear headphones here.

Beauty

Best matte lipstick: Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick ($11, originally $22; amazon.com or $22; nordstrom.com and stilacosmetics.com)

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick
Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick

The Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick has thousands of 5-star ratings across the internet, and it’s easy to see why. True to its name, this product clings to your lips for hours upon hours, burritos and messy breakfast sandwiches be damned. It’s also surprisingly moisturizing for such a superior stay-put formula, a combo that’s rare to come by.

Read more from our testing of matte lipsticks here.

Best everyday liquid liner: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner ($22; stilacosmetics.com or macys.com)

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner
Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner

The Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is a longtime customer favorite — hence its nearly 7,500 5-star reviews on Sephora — and for good reason. We found it requires little to no effort to create a precise wing, the liner has superior staying power and it didn’t irritate those of us with sensitive skin after full days of wear. As an added bonus, it’s available in a whopping 12 shades.

Read more from our testing of liquid eyeliners here.

Work-from-home essentials

Best office chair: Steelcase Series 1 (starting at $381.60; amazon.com or $415, wayfair.com)

Steelcase Series 1
Steelcase Series 1

The Steelcase Series 1 scored among the highest overall, standing out as one of the most customizable, high-quality, comfortable office chairs on the market. At $415, the Steelcase Series 1 beat out most of its pricier competitors across testing categories, scoring less than a single point lower than our highest-rated chair, the $1,036 Steelcase Leap, easily making it the best bang for the buck and a clear winner for our best office chair overall.

Read more from our testing of office chairs here.

Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($129.99; logitech.com)

Logitech Ergo K860
Logitech Ergo K860

We found the Logitech Ergo K860 to be a phenomenally comfortable keyboard. Its build, featuring a split keyboard (meaning there’s a triangular gap down the middle) coupled with a wave-like curvature across the body, allows both your shoulders and hands to rest in a more natural position that eases the tension that can often accompany hours spent in front of a regular keyboard. Add the cozy palm rest along the bottom edge and you’ll find yourself sitting pretty comfortably.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic keyboards here.

Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)

Logitech MX Master 3
Logitech MX Master 3

The Logitech MX Master 3 is an unequivocally comfortable mouse. It’s shaped to perfection, with special attention to the fingers that do the clicking. Using it felt like our fingers were lounging — with a sculpted ergonomic groove for nearly every finger.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic mice here.

Best ring light: Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light ($25.99; amazon.com)

Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light
Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light

The Emart 10-Inch Standing Ring Light comes with a tripod that’s fully adjustable — from 19 inches to 50 inches — making it a great option whether you’re setting it atop your desk for video calls or need some overhead lighting so no weird shadows creep into your photos. Its three light modes (warm, cool and a nice mix of the two), along with 11 brightness levels (among the most settings on any of the lights we tested), ensure you’re always framed in the right light. And at a relatively cheap $35.40, this light combines usability and affordability better than any of the other options we tested.

Read more from our testing of ring lights here.

Home

Best linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)

Parachute Linen Sheets
Parachute Linen Sheets

Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), the linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury.

Read more from our testing of linen sheets here.

Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head (starting at $74.44; amazon.com)

Kohler Forte Shower Head
Kohler Forte Shower Head

Hands down, the Kohler Forte Shower Head provides the best overall shower experience, offering three distinct settings. Backstory: Lots of shower heads out there feature myriad “settings” that, when tested, are pretty much indecipherable. The Forte’s three sprays, however, are each incredibly different and equally successful. There’s the drenching, full-coverage rain shower, the pulsating massage and the “silk spray” setting that is basically a super-dense mist. The Forte manages to achieve all of this while using only 1.75 gallons per minute (GPM), making it a great option for those looking to conserve water.

Read more from our testing of shower heads here.

Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)

TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier
TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier

The TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier ramped up the humidity in a room in about an hour, which was quicker than most of the options we tested. More importantly, though, it sustained those humidity levels over the longest period of time — 24 hours, to be exact. The levels were easy to check with the built-in reader (and we cross-checked that reading with an external reader to confirm accuracy). We also loved how easy this humidifier was to clean, and the nighttime mode for the LED reader eliminated any bright lights in the bedroom.

Read more from our testing of humidifiers here.

Video

Best TV: TCL 6-Series (starting at $579.99; bestbuy.com)

TCL 6-Series
TCL 6-Series

With models starting at $599.99 for a 55-inch, the TCL 6-Series might give you reverse sticker shock considering everything you get for that relatively small price tag. But can a 4K smart TV with so many specification standards really deliver a good picture for $500? The short answer: a resounding yes. The TCL 6-Series produces a vibrant picture with flexible customization options and handles both HDR and Dolby Vision, optimization standards that improve the content you’re watching by adding depth to details and expanding the color spectrum.

Read more from our testing of TVs here.

Best streaming device: Roku Ultra ($99.99; amazon.com)

Roku Ultra
Roku Ultra

Roku recently updated its Ultra streaming box and the 2020 version is faster, thanks to a new quad-core processor. The newest Ultra retains all of the features we loved and enjoyed about the 2019 model, like almost zero lag time between waking it up and streaming content, leading to a hiccup-free streaming experience. On top of that, the Roku Ultra can upscale content to deliver the best picture possible on your TV — even on older-model TVs that don’t offer the latest and greatest picture quality — and supports everything from HD to 4K.

Read more from our testing of streaming devices here.

Travel

Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; away.com)

Away Carry-On
Away Carry-On

The Away Carry-On scored high marks across all our tests and has the best combination of features for the average traveler. Compared with higher-end brands like Rimowa, which retail for hundreds more, you’re getting the same durable materials, an excellent internal compression system and eye-catching style. Add in smart charging capabilities and a lifetime warranty, and this was the bag to beat.

Read more from our testing of carry-on luggage here.

Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 (starting at $31.99; amazon.com)

Anker PowerCore 13000
Anker PowerCore 13000

The Anker PowerCore 13000 shone most was in terms of charging capacity. It boasts 13,000 mAh (maH is a measure of how much power a device puts out over time), which is enough to fully charge an iPhone 11 two and a half times. Plus, it has two fast-charging USB Type-A ports so you can juice a pair of devices simultaneously. While not at the peak in terms of charging capacity, at just $31.99, it’s a serious bargain for so many mAhs.

Read more from our testing of portable chargers here.

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Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained

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Searches for changing one’s vote did not trend following the recent presidential debate, and just a few states appear to have processes for changing an early vote. But that didn’t stop President Trump from wrongly saying otherwise on Tuesday.

In early morning posts, the president falsely claimed on Twitter and Facebook that many people had Googled “Can I change my vote?” after the second presidential debate and said those searching wanted to change their vote over to him. Trump also wrongly claimed that most states have a mechanism for changing one’s vote. Actually, just a few states appear to have the ability, and it’s rarely used.

Twitter did not attach a label to Trump’s recent tweet.
Twitter

Trump’s claim about what was trending on Google after the debate doesn’t hold up. Searches for changing one’s vote were not among Google’s top trending searches for the day of the debate (October 22) or the day after. Searches for “Can I change my vote?” did increase slightly around the time of the debate, but there is no way to know whether the bump was related to the debate or whether the people searching were doing so in support of Trump.

It was only after Trump’s posts that searches about changing your vote spiked significantly. It’s worth noting that people were also searching for “Can I change my vote?” during a similar period before the 2016 presidential election.

Google declined to comment on the accuracy of Trump’s post.

Trump also claimed that these results indicate that most of the people who were searching for how to change their vote support him. But the Google Trends tool for the searches he mentioned does not provide that specific information.

Perhaps the most egregiously false claim in Trump’s recent posts is about “most states” having processes for changing your early vote. In fact, only a few states have such processes, and they can come with certain conditions. For instance, in Michigan, voters who vote absentee can ask for a new ballot by mail or in person until the day before the election.

The Center for Election Innovation’s David Becker told the Associated Press that changing one’s vote is “extremely rare.” Becker explained, “It’s hard enough to get people to vote once — it’s highly unlikely anybody will go through this process twice.”

Trump’s post on Facebook was accompanied by a link to Facebook’s Voting Information Center.
Facebook

At the time of publication, Trump’s false claims had drawn about 84,000 and 187,000 “Likes” on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. Trump’s posts accelerated searches about changing your vote in places like the swing state of Florida, where changing one’s vote after casting it is not possible. Those numbers are a reminder of the president’s capacity to spread misinformation quickly.

On Facebook, the president’s post came with a label directing people to Facebook’s Voting Information Center, but no fact-checking label. Twitter had no annotation on the president’s post. Neither company responded to a request for comment.

That Trump is willing to spread misinformation to benefit himself and his campaign isn’t a surprise. He does that a lot. Still, just days before a presidential election in which millions have already voted, this latest episode demonstrates that the president has no qualms about using false claims about voting to cause confusion and sow doubt in the electoral process.

Open Sourced is made possible by Omidyar Network. All Open Sourced content is editorially independent and produced by our journalists.


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Nearly 6,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan so far this year

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From January to September, 5,939 civilians – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded – were casualties of the fighting, the UN says.

Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations has said.

From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.

“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report said.

Civilian casualties were 30 percent lower than in the same period last year but UNAMA said violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month.

An injured girl receives treatment at a hospital after an attack in Khost province [Anwarullah/Reuters]

The Taliban was responsible for 45 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 percent, it said. United States-led international forces were responsible for two percent.

Most of the remainder occurred in crossfire, or were caused by ISIL (ISIS) or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements, according to the report.

Ground fighting caused the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops, the UN mission said.

Fighting has sharply increased in several parts of the country in recent weeks as government negotiators and the Taliban have failed to make progress in the peace talks.

At least 24 people , mostly teens, were killed in a suicide bomb attack at an education centre in Kabul [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.

Washington blamed the then-Taliban rulers for harbouring al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.

Calls for urgent reduction of violence

Meanwhile, the US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Tuesday that the level of violence in the country was still too high and the Kabul government and Taliban fighters must work harder towards forging a ceasefire at the Doha talks.

Khalilzad made the comments before heading to the Qatari capital to hold meetings with the two sides.

“I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said in a tweet.

There needs to be “an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”, added Khalilzad.

A deal in February between the US and the Taliban paved the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to sit with the Afghan government to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula.

But progress at the intra-Afghan talks has been slow since their start in mid-September and diplomats and officials have warned that rising violence back home is sapping trust.

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