Rewards Credit Cards

July 16, 2018 - From groceries to gas to gadgets, 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 10 best rewards credit cards from our partners below.

July 16, 2018 - See the best rewards credit card offers from our partners below and start earning on your everyday purchases, large and small.

Summary

Best rewards credit cards of 2018 from top card issuers

Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card

Citi ThankYou<sup>&#174;</sup> Preferred Card
Excellent Credit Recommended (740-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Citi's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
No current offer
Annual Fee
$0*
Regular APR
15.24% - 25.24% variable

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Highlights

  • Enjoy 0% Intro APR on purchases for 15 months from date of account opening and 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months from date of first transfer; after that, the variable APR will be 15.24% - 25.24% based upon your creditworthiness*
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater*
  • Earn 2X Points on Dining Out & Entertainment
  • Earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases
  • Points are redeemable for gift cards to popular retailers, restaurants, and department and home stores. 2,500 ThankYou® Points can be redeemed for a $25 gift card at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No annual fee*

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0*
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 15 months on Purchases*
Regular APR
15.24% - 25.24%* (Variable)
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% for 15 months on Balance Transfers*

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Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Capital One's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
$150
?

$150 after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
16.24% - 24.99% variable

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Highlights

  • Earn a one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, 2% on groceries and 1% on all other purchases
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 16.24%-24.99% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 16.24%-24.99% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% intro on purchases for 15 months
Regular APR
16.24% - 24.99% (Variable)
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% intro on balance transfers for 15 months

View All Card Details

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The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express

The Blue Business&#8480; Plus Credit Card from American Express

See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply

Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at American Express's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
No current offer
Annual Fee
No annual fee
Regular APR
12.99% - 20.99% variable

See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply

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Highlights

  • Get rewarded for business as usual. Earn 2X points on everyday business purchases such as office supplies or client dinners.
  • 2X applies to the first $50,000 in purchases per year, 1 point per dollar thereafter.
  • Enjoy the flexibility to put more purchases on the Card and earn rewards when you buy above your credit limit*.
  • More buying power for your business* means more opportunities to earn points. That's everyday business with the new Blue Business Plus Card.
  • *The amount you can spend above your credit limit is not unlimited. It adjusts with your use of the Card, your payment history, credit record, financial resources known to us, and other factors.
  • 0.0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then a variable rate, currently 12.99%, 16.99% or 20.99%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors as determined at the time of account opening.
  • No Annual Fee
  • Terms Apply

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
No annual fee
Intro Purchase APR
0% on Purchases for 15 months
Regular APR
12.99% - 20.99% Variable
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% on Balance Transfers for 15 months

View All Card Details

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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards&#174; Plus Credit Card

1,523 Reviews

Excellent Credit Recommended (740-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Chase's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
40,000 points
?

Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Annual Fee
$69
Regular APR
17.74% - 24.74% variable

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Highlights

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 3,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Earn unlimited points that don't expire as long as your card account is open
  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions
  • Bags fly free® and no change fees
  • Redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, access to events and more

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$69
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Intro Balance Transfers APR
N/A

View All Card Details

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United℠ Explorer Card

United&#8480; Explorer Card
Excellent Credit Recommended (740-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Chase's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
40,000 miles
?

40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open plus $100 statement credit after your first purchase.

Annual Fee
$95, waived first year
Regular APR
17.74% - 24.74% variable

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Highlights

  • Extended for a Limited Time - Offer ends 8/15/18. 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open plus $100 statement credit after your first purchase.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • New! Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel stays
  • New! Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit
  • New! 25% back on United inflight purchases
  • Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $100 per roundtrip) when you use your Card to purchase your ticket
  • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club℠ with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases from United, and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0 Intro for First Year, then $95
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Intro Balance Transfers APR
N/A

View All Card Details

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Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Fair to Good Credit Recommended (580-740) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Capital One's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
No current offer
Annual Fee
$39
Regular APR
24.99% variable

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Highlights

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Earn cash rewards without signing up for rotating categories
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No limit to how much cash back you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
  • Get customized alerts and manage your account with the Capital One mobile app

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$39
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
24.99% (Variable)
Intro Balance Transfers APR
N/A

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Discover it® chrome

Discover it&#174; chrome

1,041 Reviews

See Rates & Fees

Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Discover's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
Cashback Match
?

Discover will match all the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically.

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
13.74% - 24.74% variable

See Rates & Fees

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Highlights

  • Intro Offer: Discover will match all the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Redeem your cash back for any amount, any time. Cash rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Receive Free Social Security number alerts— Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 14 months
Regular APR
13.74% - 24.74% Variable
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% for 14 months

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Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Blue Delta SkyMiles&#174; Credit Card from American Express

See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply

Excellent Credit Recommended (740-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at American Express's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
10,000 miles
?

Earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
17.49% - 26.49% variable

See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply

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Highlights

  • Earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar at US restaurants.
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile on every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
  • Receive a 20% In-Flight Savings in the form of a statement credit after you use your Card on eligible Delta in-flight purchases of food, beverages, and audio headsets.
  • Terms Apply.

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
17.49%-26.49% Variable
Intro Balance Transfers APR
N/A

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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards&#174; Premier Credit Card

2,937 Reviews

Excellent Credit Recommended (740-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Chase's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
40,000 points
?

Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Annual Fee
$99
Regular APR
17.74% - 24.74% variable

Show Less

Highlights

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 6,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Earn unlimited points that don't expire as long as your card account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions, Bags fly free® and no change fees
  • Redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, access to events and more

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$99
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Intro Balance Transfers APR
N/A

View All Card Details

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Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

Starwood Preferred Guest&#174; Business Credit Card from American Express

See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply

Excellent Credit Recommended (740-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at American Express's Secure Site

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
Up To $200
?

Earn a $100 statement credit after you make $1,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn an additional $100 statement credit after your first purchase on the Card at a participating SPG® or Marriott Rewards® hotel within your first 6 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee
$95, waived first year
Regular APR
16.99% - 20.99% variable

See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply

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Highlights

  • Earn a $100 statement credit after you make $1,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Plus, earn an additional $100 statement credit after your first purchase on the Card at a participating SPG® or Marriott Rewards® hotel within your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • From now through July 31, 2018: Earn 2 Starpoints® for every dollar of eligible purchases on the Card at participating SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels. Earn 1 Starpoint for all other eligible purchases.
  • Note: On August 1, 2018, SPG will convert every one Starpoint in a loyalty member account to three points. In general, corresponding redemption changes will occur. Visit members.marriott.com for details.
  • Effective August 1, 2018: Earn 6 points for every dollar of eligible purchases on the Card at participating SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels.
  • Earn 4 points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers, and on U.S. purchases for shipping. Earn 2 points for all other eligible purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on international purchases and $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
16.99% - 20.99% Variable
Intro Balance Transfers APR
N/A

View All Card Details

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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.


Comparing Rewards Credit Card Offers

Updated: July 16, 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. 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:

If you are a big rewards fanatic, then you've come to the right place to find the latest and greatest offers and tips to further your goals. If you are a newcomer, our guide will fill you in and help you get started. 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:


What are rewards cards and how do they work?

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.

You probably have a points chaser in your life, whether it's your office mate or roommate. This person loves to build rewards to be redeemed on trips across the country or around the world. Now, you're wondering: "How do I get in on this?"

You're not alone. Actually, in a recent study, we found that when consumers switch to a new favorite card, it's invariably a rewards card.

Reasons why consumers signed up for a new card...

  •  27%
  • Rewards
  •  12%
  • Low interest rate
  •  9%
  • Easy to get
  •  8%
  • Card brand
  • Creditcards.com study

We also discovered that women, older consumers and people with a higher income treasure their rewards:

Consumers who love their rewards...

  •  41%
  • Overall
  •  46%
  • 55+
  •  49%
  • 4-year college degree
  •  50%
  • Earn $80,000 or more a year
  •  45%
  • Women
  •  38%
  • Men
  • Creditcards.com study

So, we've established that rewards cards are pretty awesome. What do you need to know before you get started?

First off, understand that rewards cards aren't just cards that partner with airlines or hotel brands. They can also be relatively simple cash back cards, travel cards that welcome all types of travel expenses, or pretty much anything in between.

For example, you might be eyeing a cash back card that offers improved rewards on everyday spending, such as the Blue Cash Everyday or Blue Cash Preferred. Or you might want to look at a good general-purpose travel card, such as the Capital One Venture Rewards or VentureOne Rewards card.

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. So, if you aren't a big restaurant frequenter, then the Savor from Capital One may not be your best choice. But if you do a fair amount of shuttling the family in the family van, the Bank of America Cash Rewards' 3% back on gas could be right for you.

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.

Bottom line? Take your time, shop around and use our excellent tools to pick the right card for you. Remember, if you don't choose a card that plays to your spending strengths, you are just leaving money on the table.

Best Rewards Credit Cards of 2018 - Our Ratings

While many credit cards offer some form of rewards, we've limited our list to the best current offers. For example, our top selections include the Chase Sapphire Preferred card which offers flexibility and value in travel rewards with its sizeable 50,000 point sign-up bonus.

Credit CardBest For:Staff ReviewAnnual FeeTop Spending Categories
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardFlexible rewards redemption4.2 / 5$0 first year, then $95Travel and dining
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® CardGenerous travel rewards3.9 / 5$0Travel, dining, streaming
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit CardHotel purchases4.4 / 5$0 first year, then $95Everything, especially hotels
Chase Freedom Unlimited®Flat-rate rewards3.3 / 5$0Everything
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit CardNo foreign transaction fee3.6 / 5$0Everything
Discover it® Cash BackRotating rewards3.7 / 5$0Changes each quarter, full list here
Capital One® Quicksilver® CardNo annual feeN/A$0Everything
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit CardRedeeming for trips3.5 / 5$0
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® CardSign-up bonus3.3 / 5$0Everything
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit CardGas rewards3.6 / 5$0Grocery stores, wholesale clubs, gas stations

Research methodology

Rewards credit cards analyzed: 1,640

Criteria used: Rewards rates, sign-up bonuses, redemption options, redemption flexibility, point values, travel benefits, transfer partners, extra features, rates and fees, customer service, security, credit needed

We've looked at 12 factors to identify the best cards for your lifestyle, doing the heavy lifting for you – these factors and more inform our decisions in which cards can work the hardest for you.

Criteria used

Rewards rates – When studying cards, you might see rewards as points, miles or cash back. We look at not only the type of rewards, but also how they are doled out, whether as cash back on select categories, such as Discover it Cash Back or multiplied points on every purchase, as in the case of Capital One Venture Rewards.

Sign-up bonuses – These can also come as points, miles and cash back. We study how much the bonus is, as well as the required spend and the time limit. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 within 3 months.

Customer service – Some card issuers stand out for their customer service, such as Discover's U.S.-based customer service 24/7. We look at that as well.

Redemption options – Card issuers vary in how you can redeem rewards. For example, Bank of America allows you to receive cash back by check and if you deposit your credit into a Bank of America checking or savings account, you can receive a 10% bonus each time you redeem. Issuers typically allow you to receive a statement credit, redeem for gift cards or merchandise, and in the case of the Chase Sapphire cards, earn bonuses when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Redemption flexibility – We also study minimum required redemptions and expirations. In some cases, such as the Capital One Venture Rewards, miles don't expire for the life of the card and there's no limit to how much you can earn.

Point values – Point valuations on rewards cards can vary widely, from under 1 cent to over 2 cents per point or mile. Also, you can get a bonus when redeeming for travel in some cases, such as the Ink Business Preferred.

Travel benefits – Many travel and other rewards cards offer travel and purchase benefits in addition to points, miles or cash back. These are helpful when you are on a trip and you need extra support, such as lost luggage reimbursement and travel accident insurance with the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card.

Security – Issuers typically take their security seriously, including a number that offer a free credit score each month. Discover offers free Social Security number alerts, for example.

Transfer partners – Even if you hold a loyalty card, such as an airline or hotel card, there may be partners that you can transfer your points or miles to. We look at which and how many partners cards have and the value of the transfers, because some partners have a lower valuation than if you use the points with the original hotel or airline.

Extra features – Rewards credit cards can have additional features, such as free first checked bag and no foreign transaction fees with the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express. We study those little pluses that bring added value.

Rates & fees – These range from the annual fee, if there is one, to the regular APR, which can go from less than 10% to more than 25%, depending on the card and issuer. Some issuers offer no late fee, which we study when we ascertain a rewards card's value.

Credit needed – No matter how much you love a card, the issuer will want to make sure you are a good risk and check your credit before you are granted the product. We note whether each rewards card requires credit from bad to excellent or no credit.

Details on our picks for the best rewards credit cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred®

Like the Venture Rewards, the Sapphire Preferred has a 50,000-point sign-up bonus, although the required spend is higher, at $4,000 in 3 months (Venture has a $3,000 required minimum spend in 3 months). But the Sapphire Preferred stands out because there's a 25% bonus on points when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. That means your 50,000-point bonus becomes $625 toward travel.

There's also a 5,000-point bonus when you add your first authorized user and a purchase is made on that card, an unusual feature among travel cards. Also, as with many travel cards, there's no foreign transaction fee.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

Recently relaunched with much strengthened rewards, the Propel truly stands in a unique class that's a cut above the competition. In terms of its rewards, there is a great amount of variety in categories that many consumers can take advantage of: travel (including gas stations), dining, and streaming services. In that way, the Propel is very balanced - you can take great advantage of it on special occasions like trips abroad, but also benefit from it on everyday expenses like your Netflix or Spotify subscription.

On top of that, you can get a 30K point bonus for spending $3,000 in purchases within your first 3 months. In terms of bonus amounts, this far surpasses the bar that has thus far been set by credit cards that have no annual fee.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards

This card has a feature not available elsewhere – earn an amazing 10X miles on thousands of hotels through hotels.com/venture. The only other major card with this reward is the Venture Rewards' sister card, VentureOne Rewards.

The Venture Rewards also offers a 50,000-mile sign-up bonus after a $3,000 spend within 3 months of card membership and 2X miles on all purchases. That compares in some fashion to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, with a couple of notable differences. While both have a $95 annual fee, waived the first year, the Venture Rewards' 2X miles are on all purchases, yet the Sapphire Preferred's 2X points are for worldwide travel and restaurants. But the Sapphire Preferred has one big advantage, which we'll get into in a minute.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Like the Capital One Quicksilver, the Freedom Unlimited offers a $150 sign-up bonus after a $500 spend within 3 months and 1.5% back on all purchases. But the Freedom Unlimited has an unusual feature in that you can match it up with a Chase Sapphire card to get those cards' bonuses with travel redemptions through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

With a flat rate card, such as the Quicksilver or the Freedom Unlimited, there's no hassling with required quarterly sign-ups or rotating categories, although the cash back is lower.

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards

The VentureOne Rewards is the little sister to the Venture Rewards, with a 20,000-mile sign-up bonus after a $1,000 spend within 3 months, compared to the Venture Rewards' 50,000-mile bonus after a $3,000 spend within 3 months. The VentureOne Rewards offers a flat rate of 1.25X miles on all purchases, also less than the Venture Rewards, although the VentureOne Rewards has no annual fee, unlike the Venture Rewards.

The recent rewards feature of 10X miles on hotels rivals that of its big sister, a rare reward for a general-purpose rewards card. Also, the flat rate is a great set-it-and-forget-it advantage for the traveler who doesn't want to think about where he shops.

Discover it® Cash Back

The Discover it Cash Back comes with an incredible 5% back in rotating categories like Amazon.com, restaurants, gas stations and more each time you activate. Similar to the Chase Freedom, it has a cap of $1,500 a quarter, then it's 1% after that.

But the rewards on the Cash Back make it a special treat, because instead of a sign-up bonus, Discover matches your cash back at the end of your first year. So, if you spend $500 a month on the quarterly categories, that comes to $25 back each month or $300 for the year, plus another $300 at year-end, bringing the total to $600.

Capital One® Quicksilver®

As with the Chase Freedom Unlimited, there's a $150 sign-up bonus after a $500 spend within 3 months and 1.5% back on all purchases. But what makes the Quicksilver stand out is that it not only has no annual fee, but also no foreign transaction fees, which is handy when you travel overseas or make purchases online with merchants that use foreign banks. In contrast, the Freedom Unlimited charges a 3% foreign transaction fee, as do many cash back cards.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card

The Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card is a well-rounded rewards card that offers attractive features in all the areas that you would look for in a rewards card. It has a sizeable sign-up bonus of 20,000 points for a reasonable $1,000 spend required in the first 90 days. The rewards rate is reliable at 1.5 points per dollar on all purchases. Redeeming for travel is easy, with no blackout dates. And finally, it has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee. Preferred Rewards clients at BofA can enjoy additional bonuses as well.

Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa®

While the Cash Wise is similar to the Freedom Unlimited and the Quicksilver with 1.5% cash back on all purchases, it has a unique rewards feature in that you can earn 1.8% back on qualified mobile wallet purchases for the first 12 months from opening your account. Also, there's a richer cash back sign-up bonus of $200 after a $1,000 spend within the first 3 months. Its 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers stands at 12 months; regular APR for Cash Wise is 14.74% - 26.74% variable.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

This card has a bit of a twist, with 3% back for gas; 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs; and 1% on all other purchases. The tiered categories can be up to $2,500 a quarter. Also, like the Freedom cards, there's a $150 cash back after a $500 spend within 90 days.

Pros and cons of rewards credit cards

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 CardsCons of Rewards Credit Cards
Can help build creditCan destroy credit with mismanagement
Can earn points or milesMay have annual fee
Excellent benefitsMay have unneeded features
Can earn cash backOngoing balance could incur interest charges

Different types of reward cards

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:

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.

General purpose travel

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.

Airline miles

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.

Hotel

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.

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. 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.

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.

Luxury

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.

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. 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.

What should I consider when choosing a rewards card?

Rewards CategoryWhat to Consider
General purpose travelHow often you travel; lower rewards
Airline, hotelRewards brand loyalty; annual fee
Cash backCan avoid annual fee; may have quarterly categories
BusinessRewards for business-related expenses
LuxuryHigher annual fees; luxury benefits
RetailHigher rewards for brand loyalty
GasMight accept fair credit; higher rewards for gas

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

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 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 and 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

Earn points through worldwide travel and dining, business categories, rotating categories such as gas and groceries, and more.

Redeem

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 Premier Rewards Gold and the Blue Business Plus.

Earn

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.

Redeem

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:

  1. Choose your flight, prepaid hotel, vacation package or cruise.
  2. When you arrive at checkout, select the option to "Use all or some Membership Rewards points."
  3. Choose the amount of points you would like to redeem and select "Apply."

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.

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.

Earn

In addition to earning points at member properties, earn points through partners for car rentals, cruises, even mobile roaming while abroad.

Redeem

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.

Starwood Preferred Guest

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.

Earn

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.

Redeem

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.

How to choose your rewards card

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.

  1. Do you have the right card? Before doing anything else, make sure you have the right card for your habits. If you travel often with a favorite airline, a branded card might be a good option. If you are an occasional traveler, a general-purpose card might be best.
  2. What are you using it for? Use your card for everything you were going to buy anyway. With it, pay for insurance, your cellphone, groceries – pretty much anything that won't charge a convenience fee.
  3. What are the benefits? Rewards cards often have benefits beyond points that make using your card worthwhile, including access to airport lounges and rental car insurance.
  4. Will you shop? Often, cards will have shopping portals in which you can use your points or miles.
  5. Are you overreaching? Don't put anything on your card that you don't already have the money for. Remember, credit cards aren't designed to be long-term loans.
  6. Are you paying in full? Each and every month, pay in full to avoid those interest charges you pay when you carry over a balance to the next month, charges that basically undo the rewards you've received.
  7. Are you paying on time? Paying late can mean not only late charges, it can put your account and credit in jeopardy.

What credit is needed for a rewards card?

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. Here are some popular cards with their rewards rates and required credit ranges. As you can see, having better credit typically gives you a higher chance to get approved for a card with better rewards.

CardType of CardCredit RangeFeatures
Chase Sapphire PreferredTravelExcellent/Good50,000-pt signup/$4,000 in 3 mths; 2X points/worldwide travel, dining
Discover it Cash BackCash backExcellent/Good5% 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 RewardsGeneral-purpose travelExcellent/Good50,000-mile sign-up/$3,000 in 3 mths; 2X miles per dollar on all purchases
Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash RewardsBuild credit, earn rewardsFair, average, limited1.5% back on all purchases

How to maximize your 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. Check your credit. Before you apply, make sure you know your credit score and that you have a high likelihood of getting the card you want before you apply.
  2. Choose carefully. To use a rewards card successfully – and the points or miles – you'll need to find the right card for your lifestyle. For example, if you travel frequently, then focus on travel rewards cards; if you buy a lot of groceries, then get a card that earns high rewards on groceries.
  3. Calculate. Calculate how much you'll spend, making sure you will at least recoup the annual fee.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Take full advantage of the benefits. Make full use of the benefits, such as price protection and auto rental insurance.

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. Bank of America actually rewards you for depositing cash back into your BofA account.
  • Statement credit. A favorite among cashback cards, you can earn your redemption through a credit that is placed on your card statement.

Related Rewards Card Categories:

For specific types of rewards, see our curated list of 2018's best credit cards in each category:

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