Short Review of Best Credit Cards for Rewards
|Name||Best for||Reward Rate||Intro Offer||Annual Fee||Apply|
Triple Cash Rewards Visa®
|3% Cash Back on Home, Auto and Health categories.1% Cash Back on everything else.||No current offer.||$0||Apply now|
On Upgrade‘s website
|1.5% Cash Back on payments.||No current offer.||$0||Apply now|
On Upgrade‘s website
Surge Secured Mastercard® from Celtic Bank
|1% Cash Back rewards for each $1 spent using your Surge Mastercard.||No current offer.||$69||Apply now|
On Celtic Bank‘s site
Deserve® EDU Mastercard from Celtic Bank
|Cash Back, Low Interest, Without SSN, Student||1% Cash Back on all purchases with your Deserve EDU Mastercard. Once approved, you'll automatically start earning Cash Back on all purchases.||No current offer.||$0||Apply now|
On Celtic Bank‘s site
Evolve℠ from Sallie Mae Bank
|2% Cash Back on your two highest-spending eligible categories per month.1.5% Cash Back on everything else.||$200 Earn a $200 cash back reward after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months.||$0||Apply now|
On Sallie Mae Bank‘s site
Venture Rewards from Capital One
|Travel, Daily use||2x Miles on all purchases.||60,000x Bonus miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.||$95||Learn more|
Double Cash from Citi
|Cash Back, No Annual Fee, Daily use||2% Cash Back on every purchase with unlimited 1% Cash Back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for purchases.||No current offer.||$0||Learn more|
Blue Cash Preferred® from American Express
|Gas, Groceries, Streaming services, Daily use||6% Cash Back on groceries, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases.6% Cash Back on streaming.3% Cash Back on transit. Transit includes taxis, rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses, and more.3% Cash Back on gas.1% Cash Back on other purchases.||20% Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership, up to $200 back.$200 Earn $200 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.||$95||Learn more|
Freedom Flex℠ from Chase
|Cash Back, 0 APR, No Annual Fee, Daily use||5% Cash Back on up to $1,500 on combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate.5% Cash Back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards.3% Cash Back on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services.3% Cash Back on drugstore purchases.1% Cash Back on all other purchases.||$200 Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.5% Cash Back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.||$0||Learn more|
Freedom Unlimited® from Chase
|Cash Back, 0 APR, No Annual Fee, Daily use||5% Cash Back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards.3% Cash back on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services.3% Cash Back on drugstore purchases.1.5% Cash Back on all other purchases.||$200 Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.5% Cash Back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.||$0||Learn more|
Gold Card from American Express
|Cash Back||4x Points on dining.4x Points on groceries.3x Points on flights.1x Points on other eligible purchases.||60,000x Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.||$250||Learn more|
Sapphire Preferred® from Chase
|Travel, Restaurants, Daily use||2x Points on dining and travel.||100,000x Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.||$95||Learn more|
Sapphire Reserve® from Chase
|Travel, Restaurants, Daily use||10x Points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually.10x Total points on Chase Dining purchases with Ultimate Rewards®.5x Total points on flights when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually.3x Points on other travel worldwide after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually.3x Points on other dining at restaurants, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out.1x Point per dollar spent on all other purchases.||60,000x Bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.||$550||Learn more|
Discover it® Cash Back from Discover Bank
|Cash Back, 0 APR, No Annual Fee, Young couples, Daily use||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.1% Cash Back on all other purchases.||2x New cardmembers get double Cash Back in the first year (awarded after the first year).||$0||Learn more|
Discover it® Secured from Discover Bank
|Cash Back, No Annual Fee, Young couples, For bad credit||2% Cash Back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in purchases each quarter.1% Cash Back on all other purchases.||2x Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.||$0||Learn more|
Blue Cash Everyday® from American Express
|Cash Back, Gas, 0 APR, No Annual Fee, Families, Shopping, Groceries||3% Cash Back on groceries, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases.2% Cash Back on gas.2% Cash Back at select department stores.1% Cash Back on other purchases.||20% Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership, up to $150 back.$100 Earn $100 back after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.||$0||Learn more|
QuicksilverOne from Capital One
|Fair credit||1.5% Cash Back on every purchase.||No current offer.||$39||Learn more|
Costco Anywhere Visa® from Citi
|Cash Back, Young couples||4% Cash Back on eligible gas, including gas at Costco for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter.3% Cash Back on restaurants and eligible travel purchase worldwide.2% Cash Back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com.1% Cash Back on all other purchases.||No current offer.||$0||Learn more|
Discover it® Student chrome from Discover Bank
|College||2% Cash Back at gas stations and restaurants.1% Cash Back on all other purchases like books, groceries and college staples with the student Discover® card designed for your lifestyle in college and beyond.||Unlimited Cashback Match:Match all Cash Back earned at the end of your first year.||$0||Learn more|
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ from American Express
|Hotel||6x Points on hotels. For eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.3x Points on dining. At restaurants, including takeout and delivery.3x Points on flights.2x Points on all other purchases.||75,000x Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.$200 Earn up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases made on your new Card at U.S. Restaurants within the first 6 months of Card Membership.||$450||Learn more|
Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® from WebBank
|Beginner, No history||1% - 1.5%:Cash Back after making 12 on-time monthly payments.2% - 10%:Cash Back from select merchants.||No current offer.||$0||Learn more|
World of Hyatt from Chase
|Hotel||9x Points for Hyatt stays.2x Points for dining out.2x Points for flights.2x Points for gym memberships.2x Points for getting around.1x Points on all other purchases.||30,000x Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.30,000x Bonus Points by earning 2 Bonus Points total per $1 spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 Bonus Point, on up to $15,000 spent.2x Points per $1 spent on purchases that earn 1 Bonus Point, up to $15,000 spent in the first 6 months of account opening.||$95||Learn more|
Capital One Venture Rewards
If you like to travel then you’ll like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. You earn 2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases and new cardholders can expect to get an attractive sign-up bonus. There’s no limit to the rewards you can earn and no minimum redemption amount. You’ll have several redemption options to choose from. One mile is worth 1 cent and it’s valid for any travel purchase. Also, you don’t have to commit to particular airlines or hotel brands. All of this comes with a $95 annual cost.
Read more about Capital One Venture Rewards
Citi Double Cash
The 2% cash back rate and the $0 annual fee make Citi Double Cash Card hard to top. You earn 1% cash back when you make a purchase and 1% when you pay for it. Although it lacks some standard rewards card benefits like an introductory 0% APR period or a sign-up bonus, we believe the generous cash back rate compensates for it. There is no cap to the cash back you can earn.
Read more about Citi Double Cash
American Express Blue Cash Preferred®
The outstanding 6% cash back rate on groceries and streaming services make Blue Cash Preferred® Card perfect for family people who often shop at traditional supermarkets. Commuters will appreciate the 3% rate on transit and gas purchases. During the first year, there is a 0% APR period and a $0 annual fee. Throw in the sign-up bonus and you have a card that stands out from the crowd. Still, there are some minor drawbacks like the $95 annual fee after the first year and the $6,000 cap on grocery rewards.
Read more about American Express Blue Cash Preferred®
Chase Freedom Flex℠
The Chase Freedom Flex℠ earns you a generous 5% cash back rate on rotating quarterly categories and travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards. There is also a 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases and 1% on all other purchases. It has a nice bonus offer and a 0% APR intro period. This is great, considering it’s a no-annual-fee card. However, if you go for this card, you’ll have to activate the bonus categories each period. This won’t be much of a stretch, as you’ll get an activation notification.
Read more about Chase Freedom Flex℠
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
If you want a card with no annual fee, but with worthwhile rewards, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a great choice. It will earn you a 5% cash back on travel purchases made through Chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases. A 0% APR intro period is part of the deal too and new cardholders can get a $200 bonus.
Read more about Chase Freedom Unlimited®
American Express Gold Card
The American Express Gold Card Card offers 4 points for every dollar spent at restaurants and supermarkets and 3 points per dollar on flights. Along with the $120 dining credit it can be of great value to foodies. However, it should only be considered by those, whose spending on dining and groceries is on the high end. This is because of the hefty $250 annual fee.
Read more about American Express Gold Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred®
With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you’ll earn 2x points on travel and dining purchases. You have several ways to redeem your rewards, but if you redeem them through Chase, they’ll be worth 25% more. There is also a dazzling welcome bonus. You can get all that for a relatively low $95 annual fee.
Read more about Chase Sapphire Preferred®
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is probably the best premium rewards card. That is because of the unmatched combination of the $300 annual travel credit, excellent additional benefits, and its 3X points on travel and dining, which are worth 50% more if redeemed through Chase. If you are a frequent traveler, outweighing the $550 annual fee will be an easy target.
Read more about Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Discover Bank Discover it® Cash Back
The Discover it® Cash Back is a great choice for those who want to earn top rewards without paying an annual fee. You’ll earn a 5% cash back rate on quarterly rotating categories, which have previously included grocery purchases, restaurants, gas stations, Amazon.com, PayPal, and Walmart.com. Maybe activating the categories each quarter sounds like a bother to you, but we’re sure the automatically matched cash back bonus will make up for it.
Read more about Discover Bank Discover it® Cash Back
Discover Bank Discover it® Secured
You don’t often find a secured card that offers decent rewards. The Discover it® Secured Credit Card targets those with bad credit and helps them build it while earning them cash back rewards. It has a 2% cash back rate on restaurants and gas station purchases. With responsible use, you can get your deposit back, then upgrade to an unsecured card. And have we mentioned that there is no annual fee?
Read more about Discover Bank Discover it® Secured
American Express Blue Cash Everyday®
The American Express Blue Cash Everyday® Card is Blue Cash Preferred® Card’s little brother. It offers a 3% rewards rate on the first $6,000 purchases at supermarkets, and 2% at gas stations and selected department stores. A great choice for the more modest spenders in those categories, who are not fans of annual fees.
Read more about American Express Blue Cash Everyday®
Capital One QuicksilverOne
The Capital One QuicksilverOne is for those with average credit who’d like a taste of excellent credit rewards. The 1.5% unlimited cash back on all purchases is rarely found on cards with this target group. So, it’s certainly worth the $39 annual fee.
Read more about Capital One QuicksilverOne
Citi Costco Anywhere Visa®
This is a card for Costco members and it offers them generous cash back rewards in several categories. These include 4% on gas (for the first $7,000 spend), 3% on restaurants and travel, 2% on Costco purchases, and 1% on everything else. There is no annual fee, but the Costco yearly membership costs $60 or $120, depending on the membership type. You get your rewards certificate once a year, in February, which can be redeemed only at Costco, in the same year, by December 31st.
Read more about Citi Costco Anywhere Visa®
Discover Bank Discover it® Student chrome
The Discover it® Student chrome is an excellent card for students as it offers them many worthy features. The 2% cash back rate applies to restaurants and gas purchases for up to $1,000 spent on both quarterly. The categories need no activation and Discover it® will match the cash back you earned, valid for the first year only. The good grades incentive and the fact that it lacks an annual fee make it even better.
Read more about Discover Bank Discover it® Student chrome
American Express Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™
The American Express Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ Card is for the elite who enjoy spending their time at the Marriott Bonvoy. This card offers many attractive perks, like a free night for every cardholder’s anniversary year and up to $300 annual statement credits for eligible Marriott purchases. The rewards include 6 points per dollar spent at Marriott and 3 points per dollar at restaurants. All these lux treats come at a $450 annual fee cost.
Read more about American Express Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™
WebBank Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa®
Yes, you’ve read it right. This card has absolutely no fees. It does earn you 1% cash back that you can gradually grow to 1.5% by regularly meeting your payments during a 12 months period. It’s a great choice for newbies to start building their credit. Another thing worth mentioning it’s that there is no security deposit too.
Read more about WebBank Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa®
Chase World of Hyatt
This is the card for those who frequent the Hyatt Hotels. They’ll love the many premium benefits, which go from an automatic elite status and free anniversary night to high earning rewards and welcome bonuses. These perks make the $95 annual fee negligible. However, in order to get them you’ll have to do all your bookings with the Hyatt.
Read more about Chase World of Hyatt
How do rewards credit cards work?
How does cash back work?
Simply put - with a cash back credit card you get some cash back from every purchase. The cash back rate is given in percentages, for example, if the cash back rate is 1.5%, you get $1.5 for every $100 you spend.
The most straightforward credit cards within this type are the ones with flat-rate cash back on every purchase. There are also cards with tiered rates for several spending categories, and some rotate different categories throughout the year. For example, during the first quarter of the year, you get a higher cash back rate on grocery purchases, during the second quarter it’s applied on entertainment purchases and so on.
As for the categories, they are usually defined according to the merchant category code, which is used to identify the type of business. This is important because it determines the cash back rate you’ll get if your credit card’s program has categories. So, if you buy milk at the gas station this purchase won’t be recognized as a grocery purchase, but as a gas station one. While some cards recognize only gas as a purchase at gas stations (for example PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card) - there is no common rule for this type of spendings so it’s always better to clarify it separately for each card while applying.
Another type of cash back rewards card is a store card. They usually offer an attractive rewards rate on purchases made at the store, although they might offer rewards for other purchases too. Rewards are typically redeemable at the same store. These cards are targeted for store’s loyalists who are most likely to benefit from them. A great store card is the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card , which besides a 2% cash back for Costco purchases, offers you 3% and 4% cash back in the travel, dining and gas categories.
See our top picks for cash back credit cards.
How do travel rewards work?
Most travel rewards function on a points-based system. Basically, you earn a point (or a mile) for each dollar spent. Depending on what credit card you have, you can also earn extra points on some purchases. You can then use those points or miles to rent a car, purchase flights, hotel stays, cruises, etc.
Travel rewards programs can be general or loyalty (co-branded). With general travel rewards programs, you usually have a wider range of options and a simple rewards system. They’re flexible because you don’t have to commit to a particular airline or a hotel brand.
If your card has a loyalty travel rewards program it means that you’ll earn your rewards by using it at the appropriate partner brands. So, you earn points at a specific airline or a hotel brand and that is where they are redeemable too.
Of course, not all points have the same value, they vary based on the credit card you have. If it’s stated that the card earns you 3x points on travel, that means you get 3 points for each dollar spent. Particular airlines or hotels value the points differently.
There are several ways to redeem your travel rewards. You can transfer your points to your selected airline or hotel. This is usually the case with general-purpose travel rewards. Although they offer you flexibility, in most cases the rewards are not a 1:1 transfer. Instead, if you have 15,000 miles, they might become 10,000 miles once you convert them to a particular airline. While with co-branded, loyalty credit cards you can expect to get the full value of your miles. It’s also simpler to redeem your points or miles, you just need to go to the airline or hotel website, as your credit card is already connected to your loyalty account.
Other redemption options include statement credit or using a travel shopping portal. If you wish to use statement credit just make your travel purchases and then apply your points to them. Some credit cards allow you to use your points by purchasing through their travel shopping portal.
See our top picks for travel rewards credit cards.
Which rewards type is better for you?
First, you need to think about the structure of your spendings (you can even create a spending chart). If you are someone who enjoys fine dining or entertainment, you should look into credit cards that offer higher rates for these categories. If you have a big family so your grocery bills are high and you drive your kids to school every day, a credit card that offers a higher rewards rate for everyday purchases would give you the highest value. While a travel rewards credit card is a good choice for a travel addict.
Finally, if you feel like you’ll benefit from different types of rewards cards – just get a bigger wallet to fit them all! Once you’re set on the type of rewards card that suits your needs best, you can start looking into the other features and benefits.
How many credit card rewards points can you earn?
Normally, there isn’t a limit on how many points you can earn with your credit card. However, some of them have a threshold limit for spending in a bonus category.
How to compare rewards credit cards?
The process of choosing the right card is very individual. As it was said before, the starting point is to examine your spending habits. Once you’ve narrowed your choice to a specific rewards category, it’s time to make a comparison of those credit cards based on their other perks. Here’s a guideline on things to take into account when comparing several credit cards:
- Annual fee – This is the cost that cardholders pay to keep their account open. Some credit cards with rewards have no annual fee, some might have a ridiculously high one. So, if a credit card has no annual fee you don’t have to worry whether you’ll earn enough rewards to justify it. If you have to pay an annual fee for a particular credit card, carefully analyze how much you spend yearly and in which categories. Check our top picks for credit cards with no annual fee to know more about them.
- Interest rates – You’ll find that many rewards cards have a promotional 0% APR period. However, after that, the interest rates can be quite high. This means if you’re not careful to pay off your balance on time, debt can quickly pile up and it will offset the rewards you’ve earned. In our blog you can learn how to calculate credit card interest.
- Sign-up bonus – Certain credit cards offer a sign-up bonus. Although some might sound like a sweet deal, make sure you check whether you can achieve the requirement for it, before you commit.
- Card benefits – You’ll encounter standard benefits, like no fraud liability, with almost all credit cards. While some of them have additional top perks, like a concierge service, travel insurance, or extended warranties. Some credit-building credit cards offer incentives for good spending habits. Look into their specific benefits and that’ll help you decide which one will be the most valuable for you.
What are the pros and cons of rewards credit cards?
Rewards cards sound like a great deal, but that doesn’t mean they’re a good fit for everyone. Let’s go through their pros and cons and see why.
- Rewards – pretty obvious, whether they come in cash back or points, rewards are the greatest benefit these cards offer. You go on with your regular daily spending, as usual, only now it earns you extra rewards that could be potentially worth hundreds of dollars.
- Bonus categories – you can easily find a credit card tailored for your specific needs.
- Additional perks – we’ve already mentioned some in the previous section. A variety of them are offered by different credit cards and they can make your shopping experience much more enjoyable.
- Introductory bonuses – no one would mind getting some extra cash with their new credit card. Still, remember to check the requirements, you don’t get it just by getting the card.
- Better lifestyle – with smart use and carefully following the most lucrative deals your card offers, you can get things that you cannot normally afford.
- Time-consuming – not everyone has that much time on their hand to research all the credit cards and always be on top with all the deals. To get the most out of a rewards credit card, you need to invest a considerable amount of time into it.
- Higher-than-average APRs – Watch out because rewards cards have a higher APR than other types of credit cards. It’s not a good idea to carry a balance on your rewards credit card.
- Higher credit score needed – rewards credit cards usually require a high credit score. Not that there aren’t some credit-building rewards cards targeted at those with poor credit. It’s just that they rarely pay off since they come with lower credit limits and higher annual fees.
Are rewards credit cards worth it?
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. When answering it, several factors like spending practices and annual fees, need to be taken into consideration. If you think you’ll likely carry a balance, it’s better to go for a low-interest, no-rewards credit card. Also, after getting it you need to continue to spend as you were before the rewards credit card. Be cautious not to overspend, and remember – it is still money gone.
Now, what about rewards cards with annual fees? Credit cards with the best rewards and benefits are also those with the highest annual fees. To answer this right away: they are worth it if the value of your rewards earnings plus any extra benefits is higher than the annual fee.
How to make the most of the rewards credit card?
There are several ways to maximize the rewards from your credit card. If you have a credit card with bonus categories, make certain you are taking advantage of them by following the rotating quarters or reaching the maximum limit. The sign-up bonuses usually have a deadline which is a few months after the account opening, so meet the threshold amount needed to get it.
Do not carry your balance on this card if it has a high APR. Use this one for your rewards and find another one with a lower interest for your debt. Unless your card offers an introductory 0% APR period, in which case it’s okay.
We’ll give you a list of a few more tips with examples on how to make the most out of your rewards credit card:
- Keep up with the offers by your credit card’s partners.
- Make your purchases on an online shopping portal.
- Use your rewards credit card(s) smart and anytime you can.
- Carefully go through all the benefits your card offers to not miss out on anything.
What credit score do you need to get a rewards credit card?
This varies from card to card, as each has its distinct requirements. Commonly a good credit score of at least 670 is required. However, those with a credit score above 740 will probably get the best deals. For top cards like the Chase Sapphire, an excellent credit score of above 720 is usually recommended.
We’d advise you to check out your credit score before applying and don’t apply for a credit card that is out of your reach. Getting denied won’t hurt your credit, but your application might result in a hard inquiry and that’s what will take away a few credit points.
What are other credit cards to consider?
Other rewards credit cards we’d recommend you consider are the U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card (great rewards rate on restaurants and grocery purchases for no annual fee), the Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card (easily obtainable sign-up bonus) and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card (great sign-up bonus and 3X points on dining and delivery for the first year).
Who should apply for a rewards card?
If you have a good credit score, meet all your payments when they are due and you’re okay with the terms and conditions of the card, we’d say – go for it! Rewards credit cards are a great way to earn extra cash with, basically, doing nothing. We’re not saying that those with lower credit scores shouldn’t apply, but they should definitely be more careful. They’ll need to take their time to decide which card would be worth it, considering their financial situation. If they decide to apply for a credit card, they should apply for those designed for people with bad credit, like the Discover it® Secured.
Do rewards credit cards build credit?
If you make all your payments on time and keep your balance low, rewards cards can help you improve your credit score.
Will applying for a rewards credit card affect my credit score?
It might have only a little effect on your credit score. Unless you apply for many credit cards, in which case many inquiries may be interpreted as financial struggles.