Best Rewards Credit Cards of 2020

From groceries to gas, rewards cards help you earn cash, points or miles from your everyday purchases. You can redeem your rewards for cash, shopping or travel. We analyzed 1,640 different rewards cards to give you the best recommendations – check out the best rewards credit cards from our partners below.

From groceries to gas, rewards cards help you earn cash, points or miles from your everyday purchases. You can redeem your rewards for cash, shopping or travel. We analyzed 1,640 different rewards cards to give you the best recommendations – check out the best rewards credit cards from our partners below.

Summary

Best Rewards Credit Cards

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

3X
Earn 3X points on eating out and ordering in
3X
Earn 3X points on travel including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals
3X
Earn 3X points on gas stations, rideshares and transit
3X
Earn 3X points on popular streaming services
1X
Earn 1X points on other purchases

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
20,000 points
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
13.99% - 25.99% variable

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

5%
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
1%
Earn 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
Cashback Match™
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
11.99% - 22.99% variable
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

Learn More

Rewards Rate

6%
6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%)
6%
6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions
3%
3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more
3%
3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations
1%
1% Cash Back on other purchases

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
$250
Annual Fee
$95
Regular APR
12.99% - 23.99% variable

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

2X
2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases.
1X
1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
40,000 points
Annual Fee
$69
Regular APR
15.99% - 22.99% variable

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

3X
Earn 3X Bonvoy points per $1 spent at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy™.
2X
2X Bonvoy points for every $1 spent on other travel purchases (from airfare to taxis and trains).
1X
1X point for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
30,000 Points
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
15.99% - 22.99% variable

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Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by CreditCards.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank's website for the most current information.


All information about Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card, Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card, Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card, Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card, Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card have been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

Comparing Rewards Credit Card Offers

Updated: April 9, 2020

Rewards credit cards have proliferated in recent years, with the best offers delivering cardholders hundreds, even thousands of dollars in rewards. It is not surprising that rewards cards claim several spots on our list of the overall best credit cards.

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 who don’t end up behind to the tune of $50, according to the Federal Reserve of Boston.

But rewards credit cards can be daunting to the newcomer. Which type do you choose? Which card is the best? How do you use one? At CreditCards.com, we crunched the numbers on over 1,600 different credit card offers using the criteria outlined below to pick the best rewards cards out there. Along with our top picks, we’ve also included some takes from other experts and supplemental information to help you with your decision. Here, we look at:


best rewards credit cards of 2020

Best Rewards Credit Cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Why it’s the best rewards credit card for sign-up bonus

Earn 60,000 points after a $4,000 spend within the first 3 months of card membership, worth $750 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Pros

In preparation for your upcoming travel, take a look at this card, with its partnerships with major airlines and hotel brands and the 2X points for spending on travel and restaurants. Given the current restrictions on travel, this might be a good card for planning in the long term when travel frees up. For example, you might want to earn rewards now that you can use later in the year for travel.

Cons

There’s so much to love about this card that it’s hard to find a downside. However, one potential setback is the $95 annual fee.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card

Why it’s the best rewards credit card for no annual fee

Few rewards cards offer such a competitive rewards rate and such comprehensive travel protections without charging an annual fee. Even better, there is no spend cap on the card’s 3X bonus categories, including popular streaming services.

Pros

With no annual fee and no limits on rewards, this card’s got what it takes to turn your head and race your heart. There’s also the 20,000 points after a $1,000 spend within the first 3 months – that’s a $200 cash redemption value.

Cons

You’ll have to look hard for something not to like about this card, although there are no boosted rewards for such categories as Amazon.com, wholesale clubs and home improvement stores.

Discover it® Cash Back

Why its the best rewards credit card for rotating cash back categories

Check out Discover’s 2020 cash back calendar and you’ll see that the card offers a great mix of bonus spending categories, ranging from grocery stores and gas stations to restaurants and online shopping. And not only will you earn 5% cash back in these rotating categories (upon enrollment, on your first $1,500 in combined quarterly spending), Discover will also match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year.

Pros

You can earn rewards while you finance a larger purchase or pay down debt thanks to the Discover it Cash Back’s 0% introductory APR on both new purchases and balance transfers for the first 14 months (11.99% - 22.99% Variable after that). The card also charges no foreign transaction fee.

Cons

It can be a bit of a hassle, since you must enroll in a bonus category each quarter to earn 5% cash back (on your first $1,500 in combined quarterly spending, then 1%). Additionally, Discover credit cards are not accepted as widely as Visa or Mastercard credit cards. This is especially worth keeping in mind if you plan to travel internationally.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Why it’s the best rewards credit card for balance transfer

The Blue Cash Preferred is a premier rewards card for balance transfers – get 0% intro APR on balance transfers as well as purchases for 12 months. It’s 12.99%-23.99% Variable after that.

Pros

This card’s cash back categories of U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations are a mainstay, and now the Blue Cash Preferred offers excellent rewards on all manner of transit as well as select U.S. streaming subscriptions.

Cons

Unlike other rewards cards with an annual fee, the Blue Cash Preferred’s annual fee of $95 isn’t waived the first year. If that’s a deal breaker, you might consider the Blue Cash Everyday, which has similar categories but with no annual fee.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

Why it’s the best rewards credit card for airline rewards

The card comes with a solid sign-up bonus of 40,000 points when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months. You’ll also enjoy an annual bonus of 3,000 points each year on your account anniversary.

Pros

Thinking in the long term, possibly later in the year, you’ll earn 2 points per dollar on purchases made with Southwest and its hotel and car rental partners, plus 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Combine this ongoing rate with the card’s annual bonus and you should be able to make up the $69 annual fee. If you’re a heavy spender, you may even earn enough points to qualify for the coveted Companion Pass.

Cons

The card’s travel perks aren’t particularly impressive: You won’t get any credits for an expedited airport security program or even a discount on in-flight purchases. Additionally, Southwest doesn’t have any airline transfer partners or much international reach.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Why it’s the best rewards credit card for travel rewards

The Venture Rewards offers a terrific flat rate of 2X miles on every purchase, beating out most travel rewards cards and allowing you to rack up miles without worrying about tracking spending categories.

Pros

With 50,000 miles after a $3,000 spend within the first 3 months and 2X miles on all purchases, this card offers a host of travel rewards and features. Venture Rewards currently has more than fifteen travel partners where you can transfer your miles. The Venture Rewards Credit Card is a fine choice for both domestic and foreign travel because of its versatility. Fly any airline and stay at any hotel – there are no blackout dates.

Cons

Although your annual fee is waived the first year, you will eventually have to face the music by paying $95 each subsequent year.

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Why it’s the best rewards credit card for cash rewards

This is a great card for the shopper who doesn’t want to think about which card to pull out every time she’s at the cash register. That’s because the Quicksilver offers 1.5% back on all purchases.

Pros

In addition to strong ongoing rewards, the Quicksilver’s sign-up bonus offers a nice little boost of $150 after a $500 spend within the first 3 months. Also, this card has no foreign transaction fees.

Cons

You can find a better flat rate with the Citi Double Cash, although that card doesn’t have a sign-up bonus.

Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Why it’s the best rewards credit card for dining and entertainment

The SavorOne’s rewards on dining and entertainment are supremely competitive, at 3% cash back for those categories. We suggest that you consider using this card for takeout and drive-through for now and eat at a nearby park, as many regions are shutting down dine-in services.

Pros

In addition to the rewards on dining and entertainment, this card offers unlimited 2% cash back at grocery stores. Given the rewards this card offers, it’s rather remarkable that there is no annual fee.

Cons

While this is a strong no-annual-fee cash back card, the rewards for categories other than dining, entertainment and grocery stores are only 1% cash back.

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Why it’s the best rewards credit card for low interest

Not only is this card’s low-end APR very reasonable given the array of other features included, it offers a 0% intro APR for the first 12 months in case you need to finance a larger purchase and then 14.49% - 24.49% (Variable) thereafter.

Pros

In addition to a great flat rate of 1.25X miles on every purchase, this has more than fifteen travel partners, which could allow you to transfer and stretch your miles even further.

Cons

The sign-up bonus and the ongoing rewards are serviceable for an occasional traveler, but they both can be beaten by other cards, particularly ones with an annual fee.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

*All information about Bank of America Cards has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. Bank of America Cards are no longer available through CreditCards.com.

Why its the best rewards credit card for customizable rewards

It’s perfect if your spending habits vary from month to month. You’ll earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, plus 3% cash back in a bonus category of your choice (on the first $2,500 you spend each quarter in 2% and 3% categories). Plus, you can switch your 3% bonus category once each calendar month – choose from gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores and home improvements and furnishings.

Pros

You’ll earn $200 in online cash rewards if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days. Given this card’s practical everyday bonus spending categories, meeting that requirement should be no sweat. The card also comes with a 0% introductory APR for 15 billing cycles on both balance transfers and new purchases (15.49% - 25.49% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers after that), making it a solid option if you need to finance a large purchase or chip away at existing debt.

Cons

The 2% and 3% cash back categories are capped at $2,500 in combined spend each quarter, so there are limits on how much cash back you can earn with this card.

Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card

The information for the Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Why it’s the best rewards credit card for business cash back

It’s perfect for small-business owners who want to keep things simple. You’ll earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase, no matter where, when or what you buy. Redemption is a breeze, too: As long as your account remains open, your points never expire and you can redeem them for statement credits, direct deposits, travel rewards, gift cards and more.

Pros

Along with a sign-up bonus of $500 when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months, you’ll enjoy a 0% introductory APR on new purchases for the first 12 months (14.74% - 20.74% Variable after that). This could be a lifesaver if you need to finance a large business purchase or free up cash flow.

Cons

While 1.5% cash back is a solid rate for a card with no annual fee, other business cards can offer a higher rewards rate on general purchases or in specific spending categories. Even if these cards come with an annual fee, the rewards you’ll earn will usually be enough to make up for it.

Summary of the Best Credit Cards for Rewards

Credit Card Best For: Rewards Rate Annual Fee Creditcards.com Review
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Sign-up bonus 2X points on travel and dining, 1 point per dollar on everything else $95 3.9 / 5
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card No annual fee 3X points for: Eating out, ordering in, gas stations, rideshares, transit, flights, hotels, homestays, and car rentals. 1X points on other purchases $0 3.5 / 5
Discover it® Cash Back Rotating category rewards 5% cash back in rotating categories^ $0 4.5 / 5
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express Balance transfers 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%),6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more,3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations,1% Cash Back on other purchases $95 4.3 / 5
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card Airline rewards 2X points on Southwest purchases $69 3.7 / 5
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card Travel rewards 2X miles on every purchase $0 intro for first year; $95 after that 4.2 / 5
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card Cash rewards Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase $0 3.4 / 5
Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card Dining and entertainment 3% cash back on dining and entertainment $0 3.7 / 5
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card Low interest 1.25X miles on every purchase $0 3.5 / 5
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card Customizable rewards 3% cash back on a category of choice, 2% cash back on groceries and wholesale club purchases ($2,500 combined limit on 2% and 3% categories each quarter ), 1% cash back on other purchases $0 3.4 / 5
Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card Business cash back 1.5% cash back on every purchase $0 3.5 / 5

* Up to $6,000 in spend per year, then 1%
^ up to $1,500 in purchases quarterly and unlimited 1% cash back on everything else. Activation required.

Research methodology

We analyzed over 1,600 rewards credit cards and looked at 9 main factors to identify the best cards for your lifestyle – these factors and more inform our decisions in which cards can work the hardest for you.

Criteria used: Credit needed, rates & fees, transfer partners, travel benefits, point values, redemption options and flexibility, customer service, sign-up bonus, rewards rate.

What are rewards credit cards?

A rewards credit card is a lending product that gives you points, miles or cash back for your spending. You might get rewards for specific categories, or you might get a flat rate for all expenditures.

In our April 2019 poll of what’s on consumers’ credit card wish lists, we found that consumers’ favorite card features were by far that of cash back – in fact, consumers wanted 3% back on all purchases, something that might have once been considered extremely unlikely. Sign-up bonuses, a common feature of rewards cards, were also in the top 5. In another recent study, we found that rewards are the favorite use for consumers’ most used cards, at 40%.

When you are shopping for a rewards card, you see that they vary widely in whether they have an annual fee, a sign-up bonus and what kinds of ongoing rewards they have. So, while most cash back cards have no annual fee, many travel cards do. And while you will be hard pressed to find a cash back card with extensive travel benefits, travel cards will likely have them in abundance.

When earning rewards, whether it’s cash back or points or miles, you’ll want to make sure the card you choose reflects how you shop. For instance, if you do a fair amount of shopping at Walmart, the Capital One® Walmart Rewards Mastercard* is likely a good choice.

When it comes time to redeem, you might choose a statement credit, a gift card or merchandise, or travel. Just know that certain cards favor certain types of redemptions – for example, in some cases, it may be more to your advantage to redeem for travel than to use the rewards for a gift card.

What are the different types of reward cards?

There are a number of different types of rewards credit cards, the two primary being cash back and travel cards. Both of these rewards cards, when used responsibly and correctly, can help you gain rewards through the everyday purchases you make or the flights you’re already booking. Although this sounds simple enough, it can be confusing when trying to find the right card for you because there are so many to choose from. 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. So to make it a little easier for you, we’ve gone into detail about the different types of rewards credit cards and what they can offer you:

Cash back

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. Since then, the cash back product has expanded to cards that give cash back in statement credits, checks and deposits in bank accounts. This can be a great way to earn money for the purchases you make everyday, and with the right card, the rewards won’t expire for the life of the account – so the rewards that you earn will always be yours. With the right rewards card for cash back, the earning opportunities can be endless.

For example, you could get up to 2% back for everything with certain cards, such as the Citi® Double Cash Card with 1% when you buy plus additional 1% as you pay for your purchases. Or if you’re up for keeping track of quarterly categories, which typically have a greater reward, a card like the Discover it® Cash Back may be a card worth considering; however, if you want rewards without thinking about it, a flat-rate cash back card might be the right decision..

Travel (points or miles)

There are basically 3 types of travel cards: general purpose, airline and hotel, and they offer you points or miles rather than cash back rewards. You can redeem these to book travel, and with some travel rewards cards, you’ll gain access to luxurious perks like airport lounge access. There are also travel cards that reward you with an extra boost in your points through a redemption portal, such as the Chase Sapphire Preffered® Card.

For example, if you redeem your points to book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, you’ll get a 25% bonus with the Sapphire Preferred. Not only is this a great way to maximize your rewards, but this is also a good choice if you don’t travel with a particular brand. Or you can even choose a more specific travel card – like an airline or hotel card, which partners with specific brands, such as the Delta Skymiles® Blue American Express Card.

Other rewards cards

  • Gas: 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.
  • Retail: 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.
  • Business: 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, such as the Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card. If you often spend on business items, a business card might be an option.
  • Credit builder: Sometimes cards for fair credit and even secured cards offer rewards, typically 1% back on purchases, such as the Credit One Bank® Visa® Credit Card.

Are credit card rewards worth it?

Credit card rewards can be a way to earn lucrative cash back bonuses and benefits. And depending on your rewards card, you can also earn cash back for things that you’re buying everyday, like gas and groceries.

In order to truly maximize your rewards, you’ll need to stay on top of your points, miles, or cash back earned. This upkeep has the potential to be quite the hassle, especially if you carry more than one rewards card, but once we are able to move about more freely, this hassle could mean flights or hotel stays booked with points, or meals out with the cash back that you earn. Credit card rewards are most certainly worth it, especially if you practice responsible card use, don’t tend to carry a balance from month to month, and you have a good credit score.

Evaluating rewards card offers

Looking for a rewards credit card? Here are some things you should consider before applying:

  • Your credit score: Many rewards cards will require good to excellent credit (670-850) in order to get approved; however, it really does just depend on the issuer, their specific requirements, and the card that you’re applying for. Checking the issuer information will be the best way to know if you are in the credit range to get approved or not for that particular rewards card.
  • Sign-up bonuses: Rewards cards that have great sign-up bonuses that can add tremendous value to your earnings. For example, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend 3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. This is a great bonus for the frequent flyer, but may not be as lucrative for someone looking to earn cash back on everyday purchases.
  • Rewards rate: In order to maximize your potential earnings with a rewards card, you may need to do an assessment of your personal finances and your spending habits. The rewards rates vary per card, with some higher than others, and you may need to ask yourself, does the rewards rate fit my personal spending capabilities?
  • Redemption Flexibility: It’s also important to consider the redemption flexibility – earning points, miles, or cash back are great perks, but can become difficult to manage if the card you hold has restrictions on how you can redeem them. Or a travel card may give you less value for a non-travel redemption. Popular redemption options include cash back, gift cards, statement credits, shopping, and travel. The value in a rewards card can come from the flexibility in how you redeem your rewards – that way, you’re in control of how you spend your hard-earned rewards.

Pros and cons of rewards credit cards

We got a bit of a surprise when our October 2018 poll by YouGov PLC showed that about a quarter of those polled did not hold a credit card. With all the great rewards cards out there, that’s money left on the table.

How many “active” credit cards do you currently hold?…

  • 1 card
  •  17%
  • 2 cards
  •  15%
  • 3 or more cards
  •  33%
  • I don’t hold this type of card
  •  26%
  • Source: CreditCards.com rewards card survey

Rewards cards can deliver great benefits, waived fees, and of course, points, miles or cash back. However, 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, we look at the pros and cons of rewards credit cards to help you decide if they are right for you.

Pros

  1. Accrue points, miles or cash: Earn hundreds of dollars a year in points, miles or cash back. It doesn’t get better than this.
  2. Travel and shopping perks: Rewards cards can offer extended warranties, rental car insurance and other travel and shopping benefits.
  3. Build credit: As with most credit cards, this is a great way to build your credit, provided you pay on time each month.
  4. Fees waived: In the case of the best travel credit cards, many have no foreign transaction fees and may even waive the annual fee the first year. With some cash back cards, you may not pay an annual fee at all. Here’s what consumers report about the cards they have:

Consumers with at least 1 rewards card that has…

  • No annual fee
  •  72%
  • An annual fee of up to $75
  •  25%
  • An annual fee between $76-$150
  •  15%
  • An annual fee of at least $151
  •  10%
  • Unsure
  •  15%
  • Source: CreditCards.com rewards card survey

Cons

  1. Higher credit score required: While there are credit-builder cards that have rewards, the cards with richer offers tend to require higher credit scores Make sure you check the required score of a card before applying.
  2. They can cost you time: Many rewards cards can require you to spend some time maximizing points or cash. For example, if it’s a card with rotating categories, you need to sign up for categories, then make sure you maximize spend without going over budget. And some travel cards have blackout dates and limit your choice in travel partners. However, there are rewards cards with flat rates if you don’t want to invest time on your rewards.
  3. Damage credit/budget: While you can improve your score with each month of on-time payments, you can destroy it with high balances. Also, you can blow your budget it you don’t pay attention to your spending, as well as undo any earnings you’ve made through rewards.
  4. Higher interest rates: Interest rates on rewards cards tend to be higher, particularly travel cards. But if you plan to pay in full each month, that shouldn’t be a problem. In our survey of 698 American adults, we found that 64% of consumers planned to pay off their rewards card each month, compared to 23% who did not.

How do you maximize credit card rewards?

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:

  1. Calculate: Calculate how much you’ll spend, making sure you will at least recoup the annual fee.
  2. Take advantage of the sign-up bonus: Make sure that you will be able to spend the required amount within the required time for the sign-up bonus, but avoid the temptation of making extra purchases just for the sake of reaching the required spend. Stick to sign-up bonuses that you know are attainable from your regular or pre-planned purchases.
  3. Make it your go-to card: See if you can pay your rent, insurance and utilities with it, but make sure there are no convenience fees. Buy your groceries with it, and pull it out at restaurants.
  4. Pay in full and pay on time: If you can’t pay it off in full each month, there’s no point in acquiring it. The interest fees will overshadow any cash back or points you’ve earned. Never go over the limit or pay late; these are wasted dollars.
  5. Use shopping portals: Frequently check for deals. Just make sure you are fully rewarded for using points or miles. Some cards don’t reward you for the full amount with their shopping portals or gift cards.
  6. Take full advantage of the benefits: Make full use of the benefits, such as price protection and auto rental insurance.
  7. Consider multiple cards: Having multiple credit cards can be a great way to maximize your hard-earned rewards, especially if you have a hotel or an airline card. Since cards such as these two are used primarily for booking rooms or flights, it may be useful to have a cash back card or a luxury rewards card as well to bolster your earnings. For example, partnering the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card could boost your earnings through expanding your rewards categories.

Creditcards.com’s analysis: How much can you earn in rewards?

In some cases, there is no cap on how many points or cash back you can earn with a rewards credit card. In other cases, you are limited to how much you can earn with specific categories.

When we looked at our 20 most popular rewards credit cards, we found that there were no caps on spending for specific categories on 9 cards, with the highest at 5X points – The Platinum Card® from American Express offers 5X points on amextravel.com and airfare purchased directly from airlines, while the Chase Sapphire Preferred currently offers 5X points with Lyft through March 2022.

When looking at unlimited categories and unlimited spending, that number went down to only 7 – 3 are travel cards and 4 are cash back cards. Of the cash back cards, Citi® Double Cash pays out 2% on all qualifying purchases – 1% cash back when you purchase and 1% cash back when you pay for the purchase.

In terms of your welcome offer, we found that rewards cards with points or miles ranged from 15,000 points (Citi Rewards+℠ Card, after a $1,000 spend within the first 3 months) to 60,000 points (Chase Sapphire Preferred, after a $4,000 spend within the first 3 months; and Platinum from Amex, after a $5,000 spend within the first 3 months).

When looking at cash back cards, we discovered that Savor was the highest, with $300 cash back after a $3,000 spend within the first 3 months.

Comparing the top rewards cards by category

Rewards Category Top Offer Highest Average Lowest
Welcome bonus
Points
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Preferred
60,000 points 40,625 points 15,000 points
Unlimited cash back
All spending categories
Citi Double Cash
Citi Double Cash
2% 1.625% 1.5%
Welcome bonus
Cash back
Capital One Savor Cash Rewards $300 $183.33 $150
Unlimited points or miles
All spending categories
Capital One Venture Rewards 2X miles 1.58X points or miles 1.25X miles

Popular credit card rewards programs

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

All information about Ink Business Preferred, Ink Business Cash Card, Chase Freedom, Chase Freedom Unlimited and Ink Business Cash Card have been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer.
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:

  • Cards with annual fees – Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve and Ink Business Preferred boost your Ultimate Rewards redemption value by 25% or 50%, depending on the card, when you use the points toward travel in the portal.
  • Cards without annual fees – You can use the Chase Freedom, the Freedom Unlimited and the Ink Business Cash to collect points to be used on the Ultimate Reward portal. One benefit: You can transfer the points on these cards to the cards with annual fees and enjoy the boosted bonus of the superior card.

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.

American Express Membership Rewards

Myriad Amex cards use the Membership Rewards program, including the American Express® Gold Card and the Blue Business Plus.

You can earn Membership Rewards through eligible airfare, hotel stays, car rentals, retail purchases and more. There are also opportunities with eligible business purchases in the U.S., such as 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.

Hilton Honors

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.

Citi ThankYou Points

The Citi ThankYou program, Citi’s points earning and redemption program, is offered through a handful of Citi cards, with options to redeem through merchandise, travel, gift cards, electronics and more, depending on the card.

Depending on the product, you might earn 1.25X points for booking travel in the same way that some Chase cards are structured. The program includes about 15 airline partners, which compares well to the Chase and American Express partnerships.

Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards

There are basically 2 ways to earn Go Far Rewards – by spending on your Wells Fargo credit card or by shopping on the Earn More Mall site.

Unlike Chase and American Express, Go Far Rewards can’t be transferred to an airline partner. However, redemptions can come in a number of ways, such as cash back, statement credits, travel, gift cards, merchandise, digital downloads and even as a gift. There’s a Go Far Rewards online auction that you can use to bid on merchandise using your points.

Bank of America Preferred Rewards

The Bank of America Preferred Rewards program works a little differently from the other bank card issuer programs in that it rewards you for how much you keep in your Bank of America bank accounts. This includes funds in Merrill.

The card rewards benefits can be considerable – if you keep at least $20,000 in your accounts, you’ll earn a 25% bonus on qualified card rewards, and that goes up to 75% when you have at least $100,000 in your accounts. There are other bank-related benefits as well, such as money market savings interest rate boosters and auto loan interest rate discounts.

How to redeem your credit card rewards

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:

  • A portal for travel purchases. With some cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve, a travel portal can be used to make purchases using points, with additional rewards for using the portal.
  • A portal for redemption. With general-purpose travel cards, you can redeem your miles for all manner of travel through a portal that monitors your rewards and travel spending.
  • Redeeming for specific brands. With hotel- and airline-branded cards, you can redeem for those specific brands and sometimes their partners.
  • Online shopping. Redeem your points through a shopping portal for such items as clothing, health and beauty aids, gift cards, and more.
  • Get a check. A few card issuers will issue a check for your cash rewards.
  • Deposit into bank account. This is a great option for Bank of America Preferred Rewards clients.
  • Statement credit. A favorite among cashback cards, you can earn your redemption through a credit that is placed on your card statement.

* All information about Capital One® Walmart Rewards Mastercard has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. Capital One® Walmart Rewards Mastercard is currently unavailable through CreditCards.com.


Laura is an editor and writer at CreditCards.com. She has written extensively on all things credit cards and works to bring you the most up-to-date analysis and advice. Laura’s work has been cited in such publications as the New York Times and Associated Press. You can reach her by e-mail at laura.mohammad@creditcards.com and on Twitter @creditcards_lm.


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