Best Rewards Cards
Whether they help you earn cash back on groceries or collect points to travel to your dream destination, rewards credit cards can enable you to do more with your money than you thought possible. Yet with so many rewards cards on the market, it’s important to choose one that helps you best leverage your spending. Here’s how to determine which rewards credit card is best for you.
- Overview of the best rewards cards
- Best rewards cards summary
- The bottom line
Overview of the best rewards cards
|Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards||Enjoying a night out|
|Discover it Miles||Miles matching in first year|
|American Express Blue Cash Preferred||Cash back rewards at grocery stores|
|Bank of America Premium Rewards||Introductory bonus points|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||Luxury travel|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||Cash back at drugstores|
|Chase Freedom Flex||Cash back in rotating bonus categories|
|Citi Rewards+||Balance transfers|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||Travel rewards|
|Capital One VentureOne Rewards||No travel blackout dates|
|American Express Gold Rewards||Dining credit|
Our top rewards credit card picks
Capital One SavorOne
Looking for tiered rewards that fit your daily habits? The Capital One SavorOne card might be just what you need. It rewards different types of spending with different amounts of cash back. For dining and entertainment, you get 3% cash back, while you get 2% cash back on grocery purchases and 1% on all other spending. There’s no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn, and it never expires.
- No annual fee
- No limit to how much cash back you can earn
- Cash back percentage not as high as some other cards, particularly for grocery purchases
- APR after the introductory period is higher than many other cards
- 15 month 0% APR is shorter than comparable cards
What to remember: For a card without an annual fee, the tiered cash back options are particularly enticing. So too is the sign up bonus of $200 cash after you spend $500 in the first three months. The 0% APR is valid for 15 months, which is a shorter time frame than some competitors, and the variable APR after the introductory period is on the high side compared to similar cards.
Discover it Miles
Looking to double your miles? With this card, Discover will double all the miles you’ve earned at the end of the year. There’s no minimum spend required and no maximum amount for this reward. You can also convert your miles to cash or use them for statement credit for travel purchases.
- Double your miles
- Miles never expire
- No annual fee
- No foreign transaction fee
- Introductory 0% APR lasts for 14 months— relatively short
- Balance transfer APR is 10.99% for 14 months— possible to find better deals elsewhere
What to remember: While some of the travel rewards associated with this card are among the best deals when it comes to rewards cards, the introductory 0% APR only lasts for 14 months, which isn’t as long as some competitors. That said, the variable APR after the introductory rate ends is among the lowest on this list.
American Express Blue Cash Preferred
Need a robust rewards program for everyday purchases? If you’re looking for a way to get the most out of your grocery shopping or transportation expenses, the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card could be the best bet. If you’re going to spend money on groceries anyway, might as well get cash back, right? You can get up to 6% cash back on grocery purchases — up to a limit of $6,000.
- Great cash back rewards
- Cash back on everyday purchases like grocery stores and transit
- $250 statement credit after spending $1,000 in first three months
- Annual fee
- American Express might not be accepted by all merchants
- Introductory APR of 0% only good for 12 months
What to remember: This card rewards you for purchases you’re probably going to make in your everyday life anyway. You get excellent cash back at grocery stores, but that’s not where it ends. You can also get cash back on streaming services and transit — yes, that includes ride shares. The introductory APR of 0% is good for 12 months, which is definitely on the short side compared to other cards. It’s important to remember that after this rate expires the interest will jump to a variable rate between 13.99% and 23.99%.
Bank of America Premium Rewards
If you spend $1,000 a month, you’ll see the benefits of this card within the first three months as it has an introductory bonus of 50,000 points, equivalent to $500, after spending $3,000 in 90 days. You can redeem these points for cash back that can be deposited directly into your Bank of America account, or as gift cards, statement credit or travel purchases.
- No limit to points you can earn
- Points never expire
- Earn two points for every $1 on travel and dining purchases
- $95 Annual fee
- No introductory APR offer
What to remember: If you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member this card will be extra valuable to you, as you can 25% to 75% more points on every purchase. The introductory bonus points should balance out the annual fee in the first year, but after that it’s worth auditing your savings to determine if you’re getting enough use out of this card to justify the annual fee. That said, you can get up to $100 in airline incidental credits each year. If you fly a lot and spend money on costs such as WiFi on the plane, this could be enough to justify the annual fee.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Luxury travelers, this one’s for you. This card is created to meet the needs of luxury travellers or frequent fliers. It offers features such as flexible travel rewards points, priority lounge passes and $300 in travel credits annually. Plus, there’s a “cool factor” to this card, especially among other travelers.
- Annual travel credit offsets much of the annual fee
- Earn triple the points on dining
- Earn 50,000 bonus points (or $750 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Rewards) after spending $4,000 in the first three months of opening the card.
- High annual fee of $550
- No introductory rate APR
What to remember: Despite the flashy benefits, there’s no getting around the high annual fee for this card. The annual travel credit can offset a large portion of the fee, but doesn’t account for all of it. This card is likely only worth it if you’re a frequent flier. In that case, it could transform your travel. Aside from the travel credits, the Priority Pass gives you access to over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide. You can also get a $100 application fee credit for TSA Precheck or Global Entry.
Chase Freedom Unlimited
Many cards offer cash back on travel, at grocery stores or on entertainment expenses like dining — but what about drugstores? This is a bit of a unique category and the Chase Freedom Unlimited card leads it, offering 3% cash back at drugstores. There are more standard rewards categories too — you can earn 5% cash back at grocery stores. Plus, there’s no annual fee.
- No annual fee
- Sign up bonus of $200 after spending $500 in the first three months
- Many cash back spending categories
- No limit on cash back or expiration date for rewards
- No 0% APR introductory rate for balance transfers
What to remember: With a decent sign up bonus and rewards rate, this card is a handy, multi-purposes tool for everyday purchases, especially if you want to build your Chase Ultimate Rewards balance. However, without an introductory rate for balance transfers, it’s likely not the best card to use for that purpose.
Chase Freedom Flex
The Chase Freedom Flex has decent cash back rewards all around, but what really sets it apart from other cards in the same category are its bonus rotating categories. You earn 5% cash back on grocery purchases and travel purchased through Chase in addition to 5% back in new categories each quarter. The flexibility is something few cards offer. Rewards categories rotate every quarter, so there is always a new area to earn cash back in.
- No annual fee
- Cash back at grocery stores
- Rotating cash back categories
- 0% introductory APR only lasts 15 months
- No introductory APR offer for balance transfer
What to remember: Keep in mind that there is a limit to the cash back you can earn at grocery stores with this card. You can cash back on up to $12,000 spent at grocery stores in your first year. If you shop for a large family, you might exceed this limit before the year is over.
If you want a rewards card that also functions as a balance transfer card, the Citi Rewards+ is a contender. They offer a 0% APR rate for balance transfers that lasts 15 months. With no annual fee and double rewards points for spending at grocery stores and gas stations, this card offers a balance transfer option with the bonus of some added rewards.
- No annual fee
- Automatically rounds your points up to the nearest 10 on every purchase
- Earn 15,000 in points if you spend $1,000 in the first three months
- 0% APR introductory rate for balance transfers
- Rewards points might be hard to redeem, no option for cash back on purchases
What to remember: If you do use this card for balance transfer remember that any funds not repaid at the end of the 15 months introductory period will incur interest. The variable APR for this card is between 13.49% and 23.49%.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Want a travel rewards card but don’t like the annual fee of the Chase Sapphire Reserve? Maybe the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is right for you. It’s annual fee is $95 and still comes with many travel benefits. Earn double the points on travel and dining worldwide, plus get free delivery from DoorDash
- 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 90 days
- No foreign transaction fees
- Trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance
- $95 annual fee
- No access to luxury travel deals
- Bonus points might not be useful to everyone
What to remember: The Preferred offers practical benefits for travelers who don’t necessarily want or need luxury rewards. You can travel with peace of mind knowing you have benefits like baggage delay insurance, roadside assistance and lost luggage reimbursement. These can be a huge help if hiccups should happen during your travels.
Capital One VentureOne Rewards
Have you run into trouble in the past when trying to use your rewards points only to discover many black out dates for travel? With the Capital One Venture Rewards card you’ll never have that problem — it has no blackout dates. That said, there are other travel rewards cards on the market that might have better rewards benefits, despite black out dates. If having no black out dates is important to you, then consider this card, but if you can have a flexible schedule you might find better deals elsewhere.
- No annual fee
- No blackout dates
- 0% intro APR offer
- No foreign transaction fee
- Not a competitive rewards rate
What to remember: This card isn’t necessarily a bad deal, and the flexibility of booking any hotel at any time is going to make it the right card for some travelers. However, the rewards rate of 1.25X miles on every purchase isn’t incredibly compelling compared to other cards on this list.
American Express Gold Rewards
Not only is the American Express Gold card a great choice for cash back at American supermarkets, but it also shines when it comes to rewards for dining. That’s because one of the standout perks with this card is an annual dining credit which gives you up to $10 in statement credit each month for dining. Think of that as $120 a year for a nice meal. You can use the dining credit for delivery from Grubhub or at the following restaurants: Boxed, Shake Shack, The Cheesecake Factory, and Ruth’s Chris.
- No foreign transaction fee
- $120 in Uber cash each year
- $100 hotel credit
- 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first four months
- Annual fee
- You can only redeem your travel rewards through American Express
What to remember: Keep in mind that American Express has what they call a “pay over time APR” which can work out to be higher than some other travel rewards cards. If you’re going to use the American Express Gold Rewards card to collect travel points, make sure you’re not carrying a balance that would offset any potential bonuses.
Best rewards cards summary
Not sure which rewards card is the best option for your specific circumstances? Here’s how each card looks when you compare them against each other.
|Issuer||Annual Fee||Intro APR||Regular APR||Special Rewards|
|Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards||$0||0% for 15 months||15.49% to 25.49%||$200 cash bonus after spending $500 in three months, 3% cash back on dining, 2% on grocery stores|
|Discover it Miles||$0||0% for 14 months||11.99% to 22.99%||Matching miles bonus at end of first year, earn 1.5x the miles on every purchase|
|American Express Blue Cash Preferred||$95||0% for 12 months||13.99% to 23.99%||6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, 3% cash back on gas and transit|
|Bank of America Premium Rewards||$95||No offer||15.99% to 22.99%||Earn 2 points for every $1 on travel and dining, $100 in airline incidental credits every year, $500 in introductory bonus points for spending $3,000 in 3 months|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||$550||No offer||16.99% to 23.99%||Luxury travel rewards like a $300 travel credit, plus gain access to over 1,000 airport lounges|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||$0||0% for 15 months||14.99% to 23.74%||Earn 5% cash back at grocery stores and travel purchased through Chase|
|Chase Freedom Flex||$0||0% for 15 months||14.99% to 23.74%||$200 bonus after spending $500 in first three months, 5% cash back on grocery store purchases, 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories, 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase|
|Citi Rewards+||$0||0% for 15 months||13.49% to 23.49%||Rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase, 0% APR on balance transfers for 15 months|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||$95||No offer||15.99% to 22.99%||Travel protections such as trip cancellation insurance and lost baggage insurance|
|Capital One VentureOne Rewards||$0||0% for 12 months||15.49% to 25.49%||$200 in travel rewards when you spend $500 in first three months, earn 1.25x the miles on every purchase, no travel blackout dates|
|American Express Gold Rewards||$250||No offer||Pay over time APR||Earn four times membership rewards at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets, $120 dining credit|
Learning the ins and outs of maximizing rewards cards can get complicated. Here are answers to the questions people commonly ask when it comes to using rewards cards.
Which stores have rewards cards?
Many big box retailers such as Macy’s, Target, JCPenney, Nordstrom’s and even Walgreens have their own rewards cards. Its worth comparing the rewards from these stores to see if they’re more beneficial in specific circumstances than the top rewards cards covered above.
Which credit card is best for rewards?
This list of the best rewards cards covers top cards for every type of reward you could be interested in, including travel rewards, cash back rewards and rewards for dining or entertainment.
Are rewards cards worth it?
Tallying up the monetary value of your rewards points or membership rewards can be confusing. A good rule of thumb is that rewards cards are worth it if you’re not spending more to use them, and if you’re paying them off completely each month. Remember, you can always reward yourself by purchasing the rewards you want with cash — which could end up cheaper in the long run, especially if you end up paying interest on purchases made with your credit card.
Is cash back better than points?
Many people prefer cash back to points because it’s simple to redeem, whereas points often have many rules, blackout dates or stipulations. However, sometimes points equate to a higher reward value than cash back.
Why you should (or shouldn’t) use rewards cards
Still not sure if you want to jump into the waters of rewards cards? Here are the advantages and disadvantages to incorporating rewards cards into your personal finance strategy.
Use rewards cards if…
There are some cases where rewards cards can provide a nice boost to your finances. Here’s when you should consider using rewards cards.
- You’re not paying extra: Stick to rewards cards with no annual fees, or annual fees that balance out with statement credits or rewards you will actually use.
- You’re not changing your shopping habits just to get rewards: Rewards cards should complement your current spending, not entice you to buy things you don’t need. This is why many people prefer rewards that focus on cash back at grocery stores or for transportation.
- You’re not carrying a balance: If you carry a balance on your card each month you’re likely paying more in interest than you’re earning in rewards.
Don’t use rewards cards if…
Not everyone is ready to jump into the world of rewards cards. Sometimes, simplicity is the best policy when it comes to your finances. Here’s when you should stay away from rewards cards.
- You struggle with overspending: If you have a history of overspending, it might be best to stay away from credit cards altogether, or to use a very simple credit card that doesn’t encourage you to spend more to “get the reward.”
- You want to transfer a balance: Some rewards cards are good for balance transfer, but not all. If you’re aiming to do a balance transfer make sure you prioritize cards that charge the lowest fee for balance transfer. Also, look for cards that have a 0% introductory APR.
The bottom line
Rewards cards can bring benefits that boost your personal finances and help you attain some fun freebies like travel or entertainment benefits. However, it’s important to remember that these benefits are only worth it if you’re not carrying a balance on your card from month to month, otherwise they could easily become more costly than you anticipate. Remember to take your time comparing the best rewards cards to determine which card meets your needs.