March 19, 2018 - From groceries to gas, get paid for everyday purchases on your credit card. Rewards cards give you incentives - typically in cash, points or miles - based on how much you spend. You can redeem your rewards for cash, shopping or travel. Check out our best rewards credit cards from our partners.
See the best rewards credit card offers from our partners below.
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Updated: March 19, 2018
Rewards cards have proliferated in recent years, with the best offers delivering cardholders hundreds, even thousands of dollars in rewards.
Cashback, points, miles – whichever method you choose, the results can be, well, rewarding. In fact, because it is accepted that merchants up their prices to accommodate their costs due to credit card fees, consumers who use cards for their purchases actually come out ahead by $240 a year, while consumers don't end up behind to the tune of $50, according to the Federal Reserve of Boston.
But rewards cards can be daunting to the newcomer. Which type do you choose? Which card is the best? Then there's the question of how to use one. Well, we can help. Here, we look at:
Whatever your goals, whichever type of card you choose, you'll need to know how to use a rewards card. Let us do the heavy lifting:
Lisa Gerstner, contributing editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance
Favorite rewards card: Chase Sapphire Reserve
“In many cases, I’d shy away from giving the crown to a card with a $450 annual fee, but the Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with such an attractive set of perks that you don’t have to be a jet setter to glean plenty of value from the card.”
Holly Johnson, personal finance expert and publisher of Club Thrifty
Favorite rewards card: Chase Sapphire Reserve
“In my opinion, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers the best bonus, the most generous perks, and a more well-rounded and flexible rewards program than any other card out there.”
Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com
Favorite rewards card: Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
“For the average American, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard is tough to beat. It is flexible. It comes with a strong sign-up bonus and a lower minimum spend needed to get it.”
Daniel Ray, editor-in-chief at CreditCards.com
Favorite rewards card: Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
“The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard offers a relatively low-cost, low-risk way to play the rewards game to your advantage. If you are the sort who isn’t a jet setter, but takes maybe one, maybe two international trips per year, this card is an outstanding companion.”
There are a number of different types of rewards credit cards, including cash back, hotel and airline loyalty cards, and even retail and gas. In fact, more than 60% of credit cards issued in the U.S. are tied to a rewards program, according to The Wall Street Journal. Here are different types of rewards cards:
Also called fuel cards, this product dates back to the 1920s when the primary purpose was convenience. With the advent of rewards cards that also reward you for groceries, wholesale clubs and restaurants, rewards cards have all but replaced the gas credit card. That said, gas cards can reward you generously for each gallon and sometimes only require fair credit. If you're on the road a lot, this might be a good choice.
Some travel cards reward you for most brands through a redemption portal that tracks your travel expenses. While the redemption rate may be lower than a loyalty travel card, you might want this card if you don't travel with a particular brand.
Frequent flier programs became popular in the 1980s. You can choose between a single loyalty card and a card with multiple airline partnerships. This is an option for the traveler who is loyal to a specific brand.
A version of the airline loyalty card, this type of card product is good for the consumer who has a favorite hotel brand. Because hotel partnerships are so large today, you can access hotels in the hundreds in dozens of countries with a single card.
Originating in 1986, Discover developed its products as a way to give money back at the end of the year based on the amount of charges. The cashback product has expanded to cards that give cash back in statement credits, checks and deposits in bank accounts. Cash back can be 1%-2% back for everything or for quarterly categories, which typically have a greater reward. If you want rewards without thinking about it, a general-purpose cashback card might be the right decision.
Sometimes called co-branded cards, this product is a type of loyalty card that is tied to department stores or other store brands. These cards can offer high percentages of cash back for first purchases and more.
If you travel often and don't particularly love it, luxury cards can be a good choice because you can get 24/7 concierge service, access to airport lounges and more.
Many card issuers offer varying types of rewards cards, frequently with greater rewards than consumer rewards cards. You can get cash back or points for business-related spending. If you often spend on business items, a business card might be an option.
Sometimes cards for fair credit and even secured cards offer rewards, typically 1% back on purchases.
|Rewards Category||What to Consider|
|General purpose travel||How often you travel; lower rewards|
|Airline, hotel||Rewards brand loyalty; annual fee|
|Cash back||Can avoid annual fee; may have quarterly categories|
|Business||Rewards for business-related expenses|
|Luxury||Higher annual fees; luxury benefits|
|Retail||Higher rewards for brand loyalty|
|Gas||Might accept fair credit; higher rewards for gas|
If you want to build credit, earn points or enjoy the convenience of carrying a card, then rewards credit cards are a good option. If you have trouble meeting your budget, or you tend to overspend, then they may not be so great for you.
Some disadvantages may actually be a blessing in disguise, such as annual fees, because they can be indicative of a card that offers superior rewards. But that's not always true. That's why you should thoroughly research your choices before applying.
Here are some pros and cons of rewards credit cards:
|Pros of Rewards Credit Cards||Cons of Rewards Credit Cards|
|Can help build credit||Can destroy credit with mismanagement|
|Can earn points or miles||May have annual fee|
|Excellent benefits||May have unneeded features|
|Can earn cash back||Ongoing balance could incur interest charges|
Balance transfer. Rewards. Building credit. These are just a few of the types of cards available today. Rewards lead the pack, with options ranging from cash back to airline and hotel brands. Credit bureau Experian conducted a poll to learn more about what's in consumers' wallets. Here's what they found:
Experian Poll, August 2017
Edelman Intelligence conducted a survey of more than 1,000 adult consumers for Experian to learn more about how we use our cards. The results were surprising, with using cards as cushions for emergencies leading the list. Here's how we use our credit cards:
Experian Poll, August 2017
Points, sometimes called miles, on a credit card are designed to reward you for using the card or for loyalty to a brand. You can earn points through different types of spending, including general spending, restaurants and world travel, or shopping with a hotel or airline brand.
Many rewards cards, particularly travel rewards cards, offer generous sign-up bonuses. Used correctly, cards' sign-up bonuses can reward in the thousands of dollars. For example, at one point in 2016, Chase Sapphire Reserve rewarded up to $1,500 worth of points through a 100,000-point sign-up bonus and use of the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.
Often, you can get boosted points for specific types of spending, 3X points and more. Points can be valued at below $0.01 and above $0.02 upon redemption, depending on the card. They can be redeemed for travel, shopping and more.
To take full advantage of your points, you need to look at the rewards card from all angles, including how much you'll spend and what you'll buy. Here's a quick guide on how to maximize your points:
Whether you are earning points, miles or cash back, card issuers offer numerous ways to redeem those rewards. You can redeem through statement credits, gift cards, even checks. Here are some ways:
Credit card rewards programs come in any number of flavors, and one of them is bound to work well for you.
There's Chase Ultimate Rewards, with generous rewards for your loyalty. And what about American Express Membership Rewards? Then, there are popular hotel rewards plans.
Here are some popular rewards programs and how they work.
Chase Ultimate Rewards is a travel portal that can pack points into your account if used correctly. There are 2 types of Ultimate Reward cards, a total of 6 cards:
Earn points through worldwide travel and dining, business categories, rotating categories such as gas and groceries, and more.
With the Ultimate Rewards portal, you can book all types of travel with partner brands, including air travel and cruises, or enjoy redemptions for such items as gift cards and merchandise.
Myriad Amex cards use the Membership Rewards program, including the Premier Rewards Gold and the Blue Business Plus.
You can earn Membership Rewards through airfare, hotel stays, car rentals, retail purchases and more. There are also opportunities with business purchases, including office supplies, wireless service, shipping, advertising and computer hardware/software/cloud computing.
Membership Rewards points can be used toward a shopping portal for such brands as Amazon.com and Staples. You can also use your points to cover card charges or for gift cards.
One of the most popular uses is as a travel portal. You can enjoy more value when you transfer the Membership Rewards points to miles and redeem them for international flights in business or first class. You can also experience bonus points for transfers with American Express' airline partners.
Here's how to use your Membership Rewards points toward travel:
Heads up that if you cancel your booking, points will be returned in the form of a statement credit.
Also, you have to use an Amex card that is enrolled in the Membership Rewards program and redeem at least 5,000 points.
With the Hilton portfolio, which includes such brands as Waldorf Astoria, Homewood Suites and Curio, you have access to 5,000 hotels and resorts around the world. Add to that, you can experience the benefits of the Hilton Honors program, which gives you access to these properties through the points you have collected with purchases.
In addition to earning points at member properties, earn points through partners for car rentals, cruises, even mobile roaming while abroad.
You can use the points as a gift by purchasing gift cards at Hilton locations or treat yourself with a weekend at a favorite spot. Also enjoy using the points toward flights and rail travel, vehicle upgrades and more.
The SPG program includes brands such as Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, Aloft and Westin Hotels & Resorts. In fact, there are almost 1,200 member properties in more than 110 countries.
With the Starwood Preferred Guest program, you can earn points through bonus sign-ups and ongoing purchases with a credit card partnering with the program, such as the Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express. Also, earn points or miles through purchases at Hilton properties or participating partners.
Points can be used toward stays at these properties or through partners, allowing you to use them toward air travel, ground transportation, and gift certificates to such brands as Starbucks and iTunes. They can also be donated to charity.
When you are trying to choose the right rewards card for your lifestyle, it can be overwhelming. But with a little homework, you will find the perfect card.
It's really just a matter of asking yourself a few questions, such as what you plan to use it for and what benefits does the card offer, then deciding if that card will work into your shopping and budgeting routine.
Typically, the better your credit (shoot for at least 740 on a scale of 300-850), the richer the rewards, although there are credit-builder cards with rewards. Better rewards cards can also have excellent benefits, such as annual travel credits, auto rental insurance and more.
|Card||Type of Card||Credit Range||Features|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||Travel||Excellent/Good||50,000-pt signup/$4,000 in 3 mths; 2X points/worldwide travel, dining|
|Discover it Cashback Match||Cash back||Excellent/Good||5% back on up to $1,500 on purchases in rotating categories throughout the year (enroll every quarter); cash back matched at first year-end|
|Capital One Venture Rewards||General-purpose travel||Excellent/Good||50,000-mile sign-up/$3,000 in 3 mths; 2X miles per dollar on all purchases|
|Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards||Build credit, earn rewards||Fair, average, limited||1.5% back on all purchases|
Not sure how to make your rewards card work well for you? It all starts with getting the right card for your lifestyle.
A rewards card not used correctly can mean lost money and even lost credit score points. Here's what you need to know:
|Card||Best For:||Welcome Bonus||Bonus Requirement||Rewards Rate|
|Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card||Hotel purchases||50,000 Miles||Spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening||Unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||Flexible travel rewards||50,000 Bonus Points||Spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening||2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases|
|Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card||No annual fee travel rewards||20,000 Miles||Spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening||Unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited®||Flat-rate cash back||$150 Bonus||Spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening||Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase|
|Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card||Gas purchases||$150 Bonus||Spend at least $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening||1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter|
|Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card||Cash back sign-up bonus||$200 Bonus||Spend at least $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening||Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on all purchases|
|Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express||Grocery purchases||$150 Bonus||Spend $1,00 on purchases within 3 months from account opening||3% cashback at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000), 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select department stores, 1% cash back on all other purchases|
|Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card||Average credit||$150||Spend at least $500 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening||Earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase|
|Discover it® Cashback Match™||Rotating bonus categories||Discover will match all the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically||Automatic||Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ Card||Airport lounge access||50,000 Bonus Points||Spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening||3X points for travel and dining and 1X points on all other purchases.|
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