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Best Rewards Credit Cards for February 2024

Written by: Ryan Noonan | Edited by: Robert Thorpe | Reviewed by: Jason Steele
|

February 13, 2024

Best Rewards Credit Cards

Additional Options:

  • My GM Rewards® Mastercard®: Best for GM payments & leases
  • American Express® Green Card: Best for starter travel perks
  • U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card: Best for dining + no annual fee
Best for flexible travel
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Our rating:4.9 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.
Clicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

5 Miles
5 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
2 Miles
2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

At A Glance

Intro offer
Earn 75,000 miles New Venture cardholders can earn 75,000 miles once they spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
19.99% - 29.99% variable
Your approval oddsClicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
Best for flat-rate cash rewards
Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
Our rating:4.1 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.
Clicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

2%
Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases

At A Glance

Intro offer
$200 cash rewards Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable APR
Your approval oddsClicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
Best for gas stations
Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card
Our rating:4.2 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Rewards rate

3X
Earn unlimited 3X points on restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services and phone plans.
1X
Earn 1X points on other purchases

At A Glance

Intro offer
20,000 bonus points Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months - that's a $200 cash redemption value.
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable APR
Best for luxury perks
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Our rating:4.8 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
Clicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

5X
Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
5X
Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

At A Glance

Intro offer
Earn 80,000 points Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $8,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
Annual fee
$695
Regular APR
See Pay Over Time APR
Your approval oddsClicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
Best for everyday spending
Citi Premier® Card
Our rating:4.7 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.
Clicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

3X
Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Other Hotels
3X
Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
1X
Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

At A Glance

Intro offer
60,000 points Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
21.24% - 29.24% variable
Your approval oddsClicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST FOR U.S. SUPERMARKETS
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Our rating:4.6 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
Clicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

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 offer
Earn $250 Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
Annual fee
$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.
Regular APR
19.24% - 29.99% variable
Your approval oddsClicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST FOR SIGN-UP BONUS
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Our rating:4.9 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.
Clicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

5x
5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3x
3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries.
2x
2x on all other travel purchases.
1x
1x on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro offer
60,000 bonus points Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
21.49% - 28.49% variable
Your approval oddsClicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
Best for annual credits
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
Our rating:5.0 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.
Clicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

10 Miles
10 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5 Miles
5 Miles per dollar on flights booked through Capital One Travel
2 Miles
2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

At A Glance

Intro offer
75,000 miles Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
Annual fee
$395
Regular APR
19.99% - 29.99% variable
Your approval oddsClicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
Best for rotating bonus categories
Discover it® Cash Back
Our rating:4.6 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Rewards rate

5%
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
1%
Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

At A Glance

Intro offer
Cashback Match Intro Offer: Unlimited Cashback Match for all new cardmembers – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
17.24% - 28.24% variable
Best for financing travel
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Our rating:4.1 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Rewards rate

5 Miles
5 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
1.25 Miles
1.25 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

At A Glance

Intro offer
20,000 miles Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
19.99% - 29.99% variable
Best second credit card
Citi Custom Cash® Card
Our rating:4.5 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Rewards rate

5%
Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, 1% cash back thereafter.
1%
Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro offer
$200 Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $1500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
19.24% - 29.24% variable
Best for renters
Bilt Mastercard®
Our rating:4.0 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Rewards rate

3X Points
3x points on dining
2X Points
2x points on travel
1X Points
1x points on other purchases
1X Points
Earn up to 1x points on rent payments without the transaction fee, up to 100,000 points each calendar year. When you make at least 5 posted transactions in a statement period using your Bilt Mastercard, you'll earn points on rent and qualifying net purchases.

At A Glance

Intro offer
No current offer
Annual fee
None
Regular APR
See Terms
Best for customizable bonus categories
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card
Our rating:4.4 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Rewards rate

3%
3% cash back in the category of your choice
2%
Earn 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases)
1%
1% cash back on all other purchases

At A Glance

Intro offer
$200 $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
18.24% - 28.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
BEST FOR RESTAURANTS
American Express® Gold Card
Our rating:5.0 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
Clicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

4X
Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4X
Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3X
Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

At A Glance

Intro offer
60,000 Membership Rewards® Points Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
Annual fee
$250
Regular APR
See Pay Over Time APR
Your approval oddsClicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST FOR AMAZON & WHOLE FOODS
Prime Visa

Rewards rate

5%
Earn unlimited 5% back at Amazon.com, Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods Market, and on Chase Travel purchases with an eligible Prime membership
2%
Earn unlimited 2% back at gas stations, restaurants, and on local transit and commuting (including rideshare)
1%
Earn unlimited 1% back on all other purchases

At A Glance

Intro offer
Get a $100 Amazon Gift Card Get a $100 Amazon Gift Card instantly upon approval exclusively for Prime members
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
19.49% - 27.49% variable
BEST FOR ONLINE SHOPPING
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Our rating:4.8 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
Clicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

3%
3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%.
3%
3% Cash Back on U.S. online retail purchases, on up to $6,000 per year, then 1%.
3%
3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations, on up to $6,000 per year, then 1%.
1%
1% Cash Back on other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro offer
Earn $200 Earn a $200 statement credit after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
19.24% - 29.99% variable
Your approval oddsClicking “See your approval odds” will authorize us to run a soft credit pull, which we’ll need to estimate your approval odds. Approval Odds serve as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST FOR STUDENTS
Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card
Our rating:4.6 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Rewards rate

8%
8% Cash Back on Capital One Entertainment purchases
5%
5% Cash Back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel (terms apply)
3%
3% Cash Back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®)
1%
1% Cash Back on all other purchases

At A Glance

Intro offer
$50 Early Spend Bonus: Earn $50 when you spend $100 in the first three months
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
19.99% - 29.99% variable
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All information about the American Express® Green Card, My GM Rewards Mastercard and the Chase Freedom Flex has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply.


Comparing the best rewards credit cards of 2024

Credit CardBest forRewards rateAnnual feeCreditcards.com review
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit CardEntertainment8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment purchases, 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel (terms apply), 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores 1% cash back on other purchases $0

(See Rates and Fees)

4.9 / 5
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit CardFlexible travel5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 2X miles on every purchase$95

(See Rates and Fees)

4.9 / 5
Wells Fargo Active Cash® CardFlat-rate cash rewards2% cash rewards on purchases$04.1 / 5
Wells Fargo Autograph℠ CardGas stations3X points at restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans. 1X points on other purchases$04.2 / 5
The Platinum Card® from American ExpressLuxury perks5X points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel, 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel On up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year $6954.8 / 5
Citi Premier® CardEveryday spending3X points at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels. Plus, for a limited time, earn a total of 10X points per $1 spent on hotel, car rentals, and attractions (excluding air travel) booked on the Citi Travel portal through June 30, 2024. 1X points on all other purchases $954.7 / 5
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American ExpressU.S supermarkets6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets
  • 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
$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.4.6 / 5
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardSign-up bonus5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3X points on dining, select streaming services, online groceries and 2X points on other travel purchases 1X points on other purchases $954.9 / 5
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit CardAnnual credits10X miles on hotels and rental cars, 5X miles on flights (all when booked through Capital one Travel) and 2X miles on all other purchases$395
(See Rates and Fees)
5.0 / 5
Discover it® Cash BackRotating bonus categories5% cash back in rotating categories Up to $1,500 in purchases quarterly, then 1%, and unlimited 1% cash back on everything else. Activation required. $04.6 / 5
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit CardFinancing travel5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 1.25 miles per dollar on every other purchase, every day.$0

(See Rates and Fees)

4.1/ 5
Citi Custom Cash® CardSecond credit card5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, then 1% 1% cash back on all other purchases $04.5 / 5
Bilt Mastercard®Renters3X points on dining, 2X points on travel, 1X points on rent payments (up to a maximum 100,000 points per calendar year) and other purchases earn points when you make 5 transactions that post each statement periodNone4.0 / 5
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit cardCustomizable bonus categories3% cash back on a category of choice 2% cash back on grocery stores and wholesale club purchases ($2,500 combined limit on 2% and 3% categories each quarter), 1% cash back on other purchases $04.4 / 5
American Express® Gold CardRestaurants4X Membership Rewards® at Restaurants, U.S. Supermarkets Up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases at U.S. Supermarkets, then 1X. Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines on amextravel.com $250 5.0 / 5
Prime VisaAmazon & Whole Foods5% back at Amazon.com, Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods Market and on Chase Travel purchases with an eligible Prime membership
2% back at gas stations, restaurants and on local transit and commuting
$04.2 / 5
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American ExpressOnline shopping3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and on U.S. online retail purchases (on up to $6,000 in purchases per category, per year in purchases, then 1%)
Terms apply
$04.8 / 5
Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit CardStudent8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment purchases, 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel (terms apply) and unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®) 1% cash back on other purchases $0

(See Rates and Fees)

4.6 / 5
American Express® Green CardStarter travel perks3 points per dollar on travel, transit and eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide$1504.4 / 5
U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® CardDining + no annual fee4X points on dining (including food delivery), 2X points on grocery, gas, EV charging stations and streaming service purchases, 1X point on all other purchases$04.3 / 5
My GM Rewards® Mastercard®GM payments & leases7X points on eligible purchases at GM, 4X points on all other purchases$03.9 / 5

Editor’s picks: A closer look at our top-rated rewards credit cards

Best for entertainment: Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • Best features: The SavorOne offers competitive cash back on popular food and entertainment categories, including dining, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart and Target) and an even higher cash back rate on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. That’s a great value for a no-annual-fee rewards card (See Rates and Fees). Plus, the card comes with a nice sign-up bonus, if you meet the low minimum spending requirement within the first three months from account opening.
  • Biggest drawbacks: If you prefer to earn rewards for essential purchases, other rewards cards earn higher rewards for grocery purchases and also offer bonus rewards in other everyday categories like gas. Plus, the exclusion of superstores decreases the card’s value for shoppers shop frequently at places like Walmart and Target.
  • Alternatives: If your spending isn’t concentrated on dining, entertainment or grocery stores (or at all), you can probably earn more with a no-annual-fee, flat-rate cash back card, like the Citi Double Cash® Card.
  • Bottom line: Casual spenders who can take advantage of as many of the food-and-entertainment rewards categories will get the most value out of the SavorOne card.

Related: Capital One SavorOne benefits guide

Read our full Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for flexible travel: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

  • Best features: This easy-to-use travel card stands apart from many other travel rewards cards that come with complicated rewards programs. Plus, the big sign-up bonus, high-earning rewards and flexible redemption options add to the appeal.
  • Biggest drawbacks: It doesn’t offer bonus rewards on everyday purchases. So you could be missing out on the chance to quickly rack up rewards, especially if you spend a lot in areas like groceries, gas or dining.
  • Alternatives: For maximum travel rewards in a card with a modest annual fee, try the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. The annual fee is the same as the Venture card, but you can earn bonus rewards in more areas, and your points have 25% more value when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • Bottom line: This popular Capital One credit card checks all the boxes in terms of what people should look for in a travel rewards card: a competitive 2X miles back on all purchases, a generous sign-up bonus, no foreign transaction fees (See Rates and Fees) and up to a $100 credit to put toward the application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

Related: How to maximize your Venture rewards card

Read our full Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for flat-rate cash rewards: Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

  • Best features: The Active Cash Card tops the list of flat-rate rewards cards thanks to its high 2% cash rewards on purchases and its welcome bonus, which isn’t easy to find with other no-annual-fee cards that offer a 2% flat rate.
  • Biggest drawbacks: People who spend a lot of money in specific areas like groceries and gas may be able to earn more cash back faster with rewards cards that have bonus categories. Or, if you need more time to take advantage of an intro APR offer on purchases and balance transfers, other cards come with longer offers.
  • Alternatives: If you’re willing to put a little bit more effort into maximizing your rewards, the Citi Custom Cash® Card could be a great alternative to the Active Cash card in one category each billing cycle. If you spend modestly overall but find that either restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores or one of the Custom Cash card’s other eligible categories makes up a large portion of your budget each month, it could offer a more rewarding balance of consistency and flexibility in one of those categories.
  • Bottom line: For those averse to spending categories and required enrollments, the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card offers a simplified way to rack up rewards with its unlimited 2% cash rewards on eligible day-to-day purchases. Depending on how much you spend, this could quickly add up.

Read our Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for gas stations: Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

  • Best features: This card’s broad range of practical bonus categories – all of which earn points year-round at the same generous rate – give it terrific potential as a standalone rewards card, especially for everyday travel. And since it earns bonus rewards in nearly every major spending category other than groceries, it could pair very well with a dedicated grocery rewards card.
  • Biggest drawbacks: Even though it earns travel rewards, the Autograph Card makes a better cash back rewards card than it does a travel card. Redemption options are not as versatile when it comes to travel, and your rewards can’t be transferred to an airline loyalty program. This puts it at a disadvantage to many of the best travel cards.
  • Alternatives: You might have to upgrade to a card with an annual fee to match the autograph’s value as a gas and transit card. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express comes with a $95 annual fee after an introductory $0 annual fee in the first year, but in return, you get exceptional value. On top of bonus rewards for your gas and transit purchases, you also get one of the highest rates around on U.S. supermarket purchases.
  • Bottom line: The Autograph Card is a fantastic option for households looking to earn rewards on everyday essentials while avoiding an annual fee.

Read our Wells Fargo Autograph Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • Best features: The Platinum Card from American Express comes fully-loaded with travel benefits and credits, making it easy for cardholders looking for luxury benefits to recoup the card’s hefty annual fee. These perks include airport lounge access, multiple travel and consumer credits and automatic elite status with Hilton Honors (enrollment required) and Marriott Bonvoy. The card also offers one of the biggest welcome bonuses in the rewards industry.
  • Biggest drawbacks: Its $695 annual fee makes it one of the most expensive cards on the market. While the perks are plentiful, they’re not exactly straightforward. Bonus categories are subject to a cap, for instance, redemption options are a bit rigid and some of the credits come with caveats you’ll have to familiarize yourself with. Case in point: The card comes with up to $200 in Uber Cash annually, which you receive in $15 monthly increments (U.S. rides and eats) in your Uber app, along with a $20 bonus in December.
  • Alternatives: The Venture X card is one of our most popular luxury travel cards, thanks to a smaller annual fee of $395 (See Rates and Fees), its generous sign-up bonus, anniversary credit and bonus miles, free cards for additional cardholders (the Platinum Card charges $195 for additional authorized users) and a flexible $300 annual travel credit which can be applied to any travel purchase booked through Capital One Travel. Like the Platinum card, the Venture X offers Priority Pass lounge access and a statement credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck.
  • Bottom line: If you can take advantage of all it has to offer, the Platinum Card is worth its weighty annual fee.

Related: Is The Platinum Card® from American Express worth the annual fee?

Read our full Platinum Card from American Express review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for everyday spending: Citi Premier® Card

  • Best features: The chance to earn 3 points per dollar in a number of travel and everyday areas, as well as a large sign-up bonus (earn 60,000 points for spending $4,000 in their first three months) make this card worth considering.
  • Biggest drawbacks: There are limited transfer options for people traveling stateside. Most of Citi’s big transfer partners are international carriers, like Qantas, Virgin Atlantic, and Qatar Airways. (Learn more about the best Citi credit cards.)
  • Alternatives: Travelers may prefer the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. It has a lot in common with the Citi Premier card, but for the same $95 annual fee, you get a higher sign-up bonus value (60,000 points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months) worth $750 when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal compared to the Premier’s sign-up bonus value worth $600 and the chance to earn bonus rewards in more travel categories beyond air travel and hotels. It also has better redemption options since points are worth 25% more when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and the card comes with more domestic transfer partners.
  • Bottom line: The Citi Premier card is a good alternative to other cards that earn at a similar rewards rate with the same annual fee, but is held back by limited transfer options and relatively lower rewards categories.

Related: Citi Premier vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred

Read our full Citi Premier Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for U.S. supermarkets: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

  • Best features: This card’s high-earning tiered rewards categories provide exceptional value for households looking for ways to save on everyday essentials, including a stellar cash back incentive at U.S. supermarkets. Add in a generous welcome offer, an introductory APR on new purchases and balance transfers and a number of purchase and travel protections, and you have a great all-around card for households.
  • Biggest drawbacks: There’s a $95 annual fee ($0 intro annual fee for the first year). We estimate you need to spend around $3,200 a year at U.S. supermarkets to come out ahead after year one, as illustrated by our comparison between the Blue Cash Preferred and the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express.
  • Alternatives: If you’re focused solely on grocery rewards, the Citi Custom Cash® Card could be a better fit for modest shoppers. It earns generous cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle (up to the first $500 spent each billing cycle) and doesn’t charge an annual fee.
  • Bottom line: The Blue Cash Preferred is a top American Express card. With its rewards rates and intro APR, this card is great for household shoppers who have a few big purchases coming up.

Related: Who should get the American Express Blue Cash Preferred?

Read our full Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for sign-up bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

  • Best features: The Sapphire Preferred packs in plenty of features to justify its moderate $95 annual fee for many travelers on a budget. Tiered bonus rewards cover travel, dining and most online grocery purchases, which make it a quick rewards earner for home shoppers or those on the go. Chase also offers a 25% bonus to point redemptions when booking travel through its Ultimate Rewards Portal. This makes the sign-up bonus (60,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months) worth up to $750 when redeemed for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal. Because of this boost to rewards redemption, the Sapphire Preferred could provide a lot more value compared to other travel cards.
  • Biggest drawbacks: Like most travel cards, you’ll need to pay attention to which redemption options earn more or less than 1 cent per point. Redemptions other than travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal are worth up to 1 cent per point, meaning you can get a decent value for your points, but to truly make the most of your card, you’ll need to funnel redemptions through the issuer’s portal.
  • Alternatives: Few cards can match the value of the Sapphire Preferred’s sign-up bonus, but the Citi Premier® Card has a similar offer: 60,000 bonus ThankYou Points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. This is worth $600 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com.
  • Bottom line: If you’re willing to put in the work needed to get the most value, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great option for people looking for a low-cost, versatile travel rewards credit card.

Related: Why the CSP is a great first travel card

Read our Chase Sapphire Preferred Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for annual credits: Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

  • Best features: The Venture X gives travelers a taste of luxury at a lower cost compared to other premium travel cards. On top of complimentary lounge access, annual credits, bonus miles and a competitive rewards program, Capital One is offering 75,000 bonus miles as the card’s sign-up bonus when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel. This is substantial enough to help offset the card’s annual fee of $395 (See Rates and Fees) in the first year and give you enough excess to make travel redemptions.
  • Biggest drawbacks: Since this is a general-purpose travel card, you won’t get specific perks found with premium co-branded airline or hotel cards, like priority boarding, free first checked bag or a free hotel night at your favorite destination.
  • Alternatives: If you’re on the fence about whether you’re willing to commit to the Venture X card’s steep annual fee, the original Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is well worth a look, especially if you want to earn travel rewards but don’t typically spend much on travel.
  • Bottom line: The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card is a great travel card for those who want a premium card without the large annual fees found with other cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

Related: Is the Venture X worth it?

Read our Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for rotating bonus categories: Discover it® Cash Back

  • Best features: For no annual fee, this card offers competitive cash back, an unlimited cash-back match at the end of your first year and a lengthy promotional APR on balance transfers and purchases. Although you’ll need to manage the rotating categories by enrolling quarterly, the rewards potential on this card outpaces a number of other options. See more of the best zero interest credit cards.
  • Biggest drawbacks: You have a little bit of legwork to do to earn your bonus cash back – namely, enrolling for the rotating categories each quarter and shifting your spending habits to maximize your earnings. Plus, the bonus categories aren’t always the same year-to-year, so you may find it harder to maximize cash back in some years versus others.
  • Alternatives: Similar to the Discover it® Cash Back, the Chase Freedom Flex offers generous cash back in rotating bonus categories that you must activate each quarter. On top of that, the card offers high cash back on Ultimate Rewards travel, dining and drugstore purchases.
  • Bottom line: Savvy spenders who can adjust their spending quarterly can really rack up rewards with this classic cash back credit card that offers tremendous potential to earn cash back on purchases in rotating bonus categories per quarter and matches all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year.

Read our full Discover it Cash Back review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for financing travel: Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

  • Best features: This entry-level travel card makes it easy to earn unlimited miles without worrying about an annual fee (See Rates and Fees). It’s also one of the only travel cards that comes with an intro APR on purchases, making it a great option if you want to chip away at the cost of a trip over time.
  • Biggest drawbacks: The rewards rate is not the best out there. Travelers can find other cards that come with no annual fee and a rewards rate that’s higher than 1.25 miles per dollar.
  • Alternatives: The Bilt Mastercard has similar features but goes further, offering rewards for rent purchases without the transaction fees, bonus rewards in multiple categories, and a chance to earn double points on all non-rent purchases on the first of every month.
  • Bottom line: The VentureOne will bring some value to the wallets of occasional travelers who want to earn travel rewards for everyday purchases without having to pay an annual fee. Cardmembers earn 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rentals booked through Capital One Travel and 1.25 miles per dollar on every other purchase.

Read our Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best second credit card: Citi Custom Cash® Card

  • Best features: This no-annual-fee card keeps things simple by automatically earning a top-of-the-line cash back rate in one eligible spending category each billing cycle (subject to a cap each billing cycle). That long-term flexibility pairs nicely with other features of the card that provide great short-term value. Citi is also offering an attractive sign-up bonus and introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers.
  • Biggest drawbacks: You’ll pay a pricey 5% balance transfer fee (or $5, whichever is greater) if you take Citi up on its balance transfer offer. This is on the high end because many cards charge a 3% balance transfer fee and a few skip the charge entirely. Additionally, the $500-per-billing-cycle cap eats into the card’s value if you spend more than that each month.
  • Alternatives: With one of the best flat cash back rates available, the Citi Double Cash® Card is a great no-frills, all-purpose rewards card. You earn a flat cash back rate on  purchases with no spending caps, unlike the Citi Custom Cash Card.
  • Bottom line: The Citi card’s eligible spend categories cover a wide range of options, including travel, groceries and home improvement stores, making it a great option that’s versatile enough to fit into any card strategy.

Related: Is the Citi Custom Cash worth it?

Read our Citi Custom Cash Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for renters: Bilt Mastercard

  • Best features: No other cards help you avoid fees on rent payments or offer such flexible and valuable travel rewards without charging an annual fee. Thanks to its long​​ list of airline and hotel partners and the high redemption value of its points, this card should be an almost perfect fit for long-term renters who want to score free trips.
  • Biggest drawbacks: You can only redeem rewards toward rent payments, a future home down payment or — if you want the best value — for travel. And though earning rewards and avoiding transaction fees on rent payments is a terrific feature, the rewards rate on that spending is low, limiting this card’s standalone value.
  • Alternatives: This is your best option if you want to earn rewards and avoid fees on rent payments, but other cards may offer better short-term value. The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card also offers transferable points but lets you take advantage of a generous intro APR offer and has a sign-up bonus.
  • Bottom line: If you see yourself renting long term and don’t mind redeeming rewards toward living expenses or travel, this card should offer a ton of value.

Jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for customizable bonus categories: Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card

  • Best features: Unlike most credit cards, the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card lets you choose your bonus rewards category. The base rewards are good for a no-annual-fee credit card and include wholesale clubs, which is a rare find for a general-purpose rewards card.
  • Biggest drawbacks: There is a spending cap combined among the card’s  bonus categories, which puts a definite damper on this rewards card. While spending caps on boosted rewards are common, combining that cap between multiple categories stunts rewards across more than one area of your spending.
  • Alternatives: If you’re looking for a low-maintenance alternative to the Customized Cash Rewards card, the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card could be a better fit. The unlimited flat rate of 2% cash rewards gives most people more chances to earn bonus rewards, and there is no spending cap to worry about.
  • Bottom line: This card’s flexibility makes it worth a look even if you’re not a regular Bank of America customer. The customizable features, along with a chance to earn rewards at wholesale clubs, pair up nicely with short-term perks, including a sign-up bonus and intro APR offer on purchases and balance transfers.

Related: Is the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card worth it?

Read our full Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for restaurants: American Express® Gold Card

  • Best features: If you love food and travel, you’ll have a hard time finding another card that packs in such high rewards for dining, U.S. supermarkets and flights. On top of impressive rewards rates, the card also has a great welcome offer: New cardholders earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points if they spend $6,000 in the first six months. (See how we value Amex points.)
  • Biggest drawbacks: You’ll pay the price for all those benefits – namely, a $250 annual fee. Getting the most bang for your buck requires a little legwork. For instance, to maximize travel points, your best bet is to transfer them to one of Amex’s partners. So, if you’re looking for simplicity, a different travel rewards card is likely a better fit.
  • Alternatives: The Citi Premier® Card is an often-overlooked travel rewards credit card comparable to the Amex Gold Card. But with a lower annual fee ($95 compared to $250), an annual hotel savings credit, and a generous rewards rate at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels. The Citi Premier Card could offer more rewards at a wider range of places depending on your spending habits.
  • Bottom line: The rewards program and annual credits found with the American Express Gold Card will make it easy for a lot of people to recoup the card’s annual fee.

Related: Who should get the American Express Gold card?

Read our full American Express Gold Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for Amazon & Whole Foods: Prime Visa

  • Best features: This card’s rewards rate not only covers a wide array of online purchases, but also several key everyday spending categories. This makes it a terrific standalone rewards option for Amazon Prime members. You’ll also unlock exclusive pay-over-time financing options (terms apply) and Prime member deals, saving you even more.
  • Biggest drawbacks: The card’s top rewards rate only applies to purchases with Amazon and affiliated brands, so it may not be the best fit if you like to shop around for the best deal. It’s also missing a traditional intro APR offer, so it won’t be very helpful if you need to pay off non-Amazon purchases over time.
  • Alternatives: The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is a terrific alternative if you’re looking for a bit more flexibility. You can earn rewards on eligible U.S. online retail purchases (not just Amazon purchases) and at most U.S. supermarkets (not just Whole Foods).
  • Bottom line: Amazon Prime members really can’t  go wrong with this card, but occasional Amazon shoppers may be better off with a more flexible option.

Read our full Prime Visa review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for online shopping: Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

  • Best features: This card stands out for its mix of lucrative and practical rewards categories. It not only covers staples like groceries and gas,  but also purchases with select U.S. online retailers — and you aren’t limited to just one or two websites. Those three categories should cover much of the average person’s everyday spending.
  • Biggest drawbacks: While the card offers terrific flexibility with its online shopping category, its U.S. supermarket category doesn’t cover wholesale clubs like Costco or superstores like Walmart. You can also only redeem rewards as a statement credit.
  • Alternatives: The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card may give you a bit more flexibility. You can not only choose your own eligible bonus category each month (online shopping is just one option), but also earn bonus cash back year round at both grocery stores and wholesale clubs.
  • Bottom line: If you’re looking for a low-cost card that earns cash back on everyday and online purchases, this is a terrific pick.

Read our full Amex Blue Cash Everyday card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for students: Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • Best features: The SavorOne Student card earns unlimited cash back and even has bonus categories that cover student-friendly spending areas like dining, popular streaming services and grocery stores. It’s also one of the few student cards to offer a sign-up bonus, which could come in handy for students preparing to head back to school in the fall.
  • Biggest drawbacks: This card won’t be much help if you need to pay off a large purchase over time because it lacks an introductory APR offer. Plus, if you already have good credit or better, you may be better off applying for the non-student version of the card to benefit from its intro APR offer and sign-up bonus.
  • Alternatives: Though the SavorOne Student card offers several lucrative cash back categories, it’s hard to match the level of variety you’ll get with the Discover it® Student Cash Back card’s rotating bonus categories. Plus, Discover will match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year, which could make for an impressive cash rewards payday.
  • Bottom line: The Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card is worth a look if you’re a student looking for a chance to build credit with responsible use while enjoying terrific cash back variety.

Read our full Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card Review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for starter travel perks American Express® Green Card

  • Best features: If you’re looking for a taste of luxury travel without paying a huge annual fee, this card could strike a nice balance. Along with earning valuable, flexible Amex points, you’ll enjoy credits for Loungebuddy lounge access and expedited security screening that can offset the card’s cost on their own.
  • Biggest drawbacks: The annual fee may be hard to offset if you only travel occasionally or can’t take advantage of the card’s travel perks. Frequent travelers may also be disappointed by the limited lounge access privileges: Loungebuddy isn’t accepted at all airports and the credit may only cover a few lounge visits.
  • Alternatives: If lounge access isn’t a big priority for you, you may get more value out of the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. The Venture card only charges a $95 annual fee (See Rates and Fees), still offers a credit for expedited security screening and carries a flat rewards rate that makes it easier to earn bonus miles wherever you spend.
  • Bottom line: This card carries a reasonable annual fee and solid mid-level perks, so it could be a great fit for occasional travelers interested in earning Amex points.

Read our Amex Green Card review.

Best for dining + no annual fee: U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card

  • Best features: For food lovers on a budget, it won’t be easy to beat a no-annual-fee credit card that offers 4X points for your dining purchases. The card also comes with additional benefits like a welcome bonus for new cardholders and a decent annual credit for streaming services.
  • Biggest drawbacks: The dining rewards are this card’s top feature. But for your other everyday purchases, including gas and grocery stores, you’ll get greater value pairing this with another no-annual-fee card or even one that charges a modest annual fee.
  • Alternative: The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express charges an annual fee after the first year, but is loaded with value. Cardmembers earn substantial cash back at U.S. supermarkets, which makes it a great choice for cardholders who eat at home more often than at restaurants.
  • Bottom line: Anyone who eats out or orders food delivery should take advantage of the U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card.

Read our U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card.

Best for GM payments and leases: My GM Rewards® Mastercard®

  • Best features: The high rewards rate you earn on all of your purchases outshine the rate you’ll find on many other rewards cards and will go a long way to helping you save money at the GM dealership.
  • Biggest drawbacks: This card is only a good fit for loyal GM car drivers who want to rack up points to help bring down the cost of eligible GM-related products and services.
  • Alternatives: A general-purpose cash back card with rewards in high-earning bonus categories that fit your spending habits. Try the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express if you want to earn an impressive amount of rewards on everyday spending.
  • Bottom line: This card could be a nice addition to the wallets of GM loyalists.

Read our My GM Rewards® Mastercard® review.

What is a rewards credit card?

A rewards credit card is a credit card that lets you earn points, miles or cash back on your spending. You might get rewards for specific types of purchases, like buying fuel at gas stations or groceries at supermarkets, or you might get a flat rate for all charges. Typically, you’ll need at least good credit to get a rewards credit card, though there are exceptions. If you’re interested in exploring some card options, our CardMatch tool can show you what rewards credit cards you may qualify for without hurting your credit score.

How do rewards credit cards work?

Rewards credit cards create an exciting opportunity to earn something in exchange for using this type of credit card. What you may not realize is there are multiple ways of earning and redeeming those rewards. Different rewards cards offer different types of rewards you can earn and a few different redemption options. The two most common are travel points and miles or cash back.


Types of rewards cards

Travel credit cards reward cardholders with points or miles instead of cash. You can redeem points or miles to book travel, and with some travel rewards cards, you’ll gain access to luxurious perks like airport lounge access. Among the best travel credit cards, you’ll also find perks like free companion passes, free checked bags, TSA PreCheck credits and more. If you’re new to all of this, check out our beginner’s guide to points and miles before reading about the three main types of travel credit cards.

Pros and cons of rewards cards

Offers of discounted travel, complimentary hotel stays, rewards and other frills can be hard to pass up, but rewards cards aren’t a good fit for everyone. As you search for a card that best aligns with your budget and lifestyle, consider both the pros and cons of rewards credit cards.

Pros

  • Rewards for your everyday purchases: Rewards cards offer the chance to earn cash back, points or miles on purchases you would likely make anyways. These rewards can be redeemed for future travel, to pay off past expenses and more.
  • Peace of mind: Rewards credit cards often include complimentary purchase and travel protections. Extended warranty, travel insurance and cellphone insurance coverage are a few examples of included services that provide you with both greater peace of mind and additional valuable protections while shopping or traveling.
  • Sign-up bonus: A sign-up bonus offers great short-term value and quick incentive — sometimes worth hundreds of dollars — simply for using your card for a specified amount of purchases during a short time period. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card offers a 60,000 point reward, which is worth $900 in travel through Chase, if you spend $4,000 in purchases the first three months.

Cons

  • High APRs: Credit card interest rates tend to be high because issuers try to lessen the risk associated with lending unsecured debt to borrowers.
  • High annual fees: You may have to pay an annual fee, especially for cards loaded with perks and benefits. Make sure those benefits are worth the cost.
  • There may be strings attached: Rewards may have restrictions that make it harder for you to use points and miles on your terms. Restrictions may include travel blackout dates, seat restrictions or limits on what stores you can use for purchases to earn rewards.
  • Requires more work to maximize: Getting the most out of your rewards card will require some strategizing, unless you opt for a flat-rate rewards card that earns a uniform rate on all purchases. Rewards cards with bonus categories could be more lucrative, but may require tracking enrollment dates and shifting categories.

 

Who should get a rewards credit card?

Choosing the right rewards card depends on a number of factors, but they’re not for everyone. Before applying, make sure a rewards credit card is a good fit for you.

Who should get a rewards credit card

  • Travelers. Though you might have to pay an annual fee, the right travel card comes with plenty of perks, which may include airport lounge access, complimentary checked baggage and travel insurance.
  • Responsible credit users. To get the most out of your rewards card, it helps to pay your balance on time and in full each month to avoid costly interest charges and fees that eat away at the rewards you earn
  • Everyday shoppers. Your everyday purchases could earn high rewards that  you can use to pay off past purchases or save for future travel.

Who should skip a rewards credit card

  • People who consistently carry a balance. If you’re going to carry a balance, it might be a better idea to get a low interest credit card, which could help cut down on interest charges.
  • People who want to simplify their finances. Rewards credit cards come with their own set of hassles, which could include complicated rewards programs, higher APRs, and the need to track spending caps and rewards expiration dates. For some people, these disadvantages may outweigh the advantages.
  • People who skip the fine print. You’ll need to pay attention to the terms and conditions of your rewards card. That’s where you’ll find important information, like penalty APRs, limitations, blackout date policies and spending caps.

How to compare rewards cards

The right rewards card for you will vary depending on your financial goals and habits. So before you start comparing cards, carefully consider how you tend to spend your money.

“Credit card companies offer all types of reward options these days, from points to miles to cash back, and each card provides incentives based on certain purchases or stores/retailers, so it’s important to find the card that rewards you for the purchases you make the most,” says money-saving expert Andrea Woroch, whose advice has been featured in media such as Time’s Next Advisor, Huffington Post and The New York Times.

For example, a rewards rate of 3X points on travel purchases is great – but only if you regularly spend a significant amount of money on travel. The best rewards card for you will match the way you already spend. Once you know what you want – say, a card that earns travel rewards on every purchase – you’ll be able to compare rewards cards in that category. Start by considering these card features or visiting our compare credit cards tool.

  • Annual fee. There are plenty of solid rewards cards, often cash back cards, that charge no annual fee. But travel rewards cards and cards with exceptionally high rewards rates or sign-up bonuses typically do charge an annual fee. If the card you’re eyeing comes with an annual fee, you should do some quick math to make sure that your yearly rewards earnings will be greater than the cost of the fee.
  • Foreign transaction fees. Many travel credit cards let you skip this charge, which is otherwise imposed when you use the card overseas. Standard foreign transaction fees run between 2% and 3% of each purchase. See the best credit cards for no foreign transaction fees.
  • Additional benefits. Rewards cards often offer perks just for having the card. For example, many travel cards offer benefits like credits for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, airport lounge access and free checked bags. If you’re torn between two cards or on the fence about whether an annual fee is worth it, perks like these can tip the scale in one direction.
  • Sign-up/welcome bonus. Most rewards cards offer some kind of incentive to new cardholders who spend a certain amount on their card within a specified time frame. You might get a few hundred dollars in cash back or a chunk of points you can redeem for a free flight. Though valuable, a sign-up bonus is a one-time perk. Make sure the long-term value checks out, too.
  • Ongoing APR. If you’ll be carrying a balance from month to month, you’re probably better off forgoing rewards and getting a low-interest credit card. That said, accidents and emergencies happen, even to those who usually pay their balance in full. Choosing a rewards card with a lower interest rate can save you money if you need to carry a balance someday. If you’re curious about how your card’s APR might affect your bottom line, read our guide to credit card interest.
  • Introductory APR. Some rewards cards offer new cardholders an introductory 0% interest rate on purchases or balance transfers for a certain number of months. These offers can be a boon, particularly if you’re planning on making a one-time large purchase or have an existing high-interest balance you’re trying to pay down. Just be sure to pay off your purchase or your balances before you focus on racking up rewards.
  • First-year vs. ongoing value. Rewards credit cards with annual fees and sign-up bonuses may carry more value in the first year than in the following years as a result of welcome offers or other one-off perks. When comparing cards, consider the weight of each card’s first-year value and ongoing value. Depending on rewards rates, a card that carries a sign-up bonus in the first year may not sustain as high of a value for you as an alternative card might.

Still stuck? Check out our step-by-step guide to choosing the right credit card.

How to choose the best rewards credit card

The best rewards card depends on your specific needs. Choosing the best rewards card will come down to considering a few key questions and using the answers to lead you to the best card for you. As you look at various rewards cards, consider the following;

What type of rewards do you want?

The first step in choosing a rewards credit card is deciding what type of rewards you want most. Not all rewards cards earn in the same categories or at the same rates, and some may be more valuable than others depending on your lifestyle. For example, you shouldn’t pick a travel rewards card co-branded with an airline you never fly with, since you often won’t get the highest return on your spending. Whether you value the flexibility of cash back or want to stack up points and miles toward a trip, note the type of rewards you want most and start from there.

What are your spending habits?

Knowing where you spend the majority of your money can be helpful when choosing a rewards credit card. To get the most out of a card, you should spend highly in the categories the card rewards most generously. Take time to track your spending and get a pulse on where the money in your budget goes. Doing so will help you narrow down what rewards categories are most valuable to you, and then you can pick a rewards card that’s especially lucrative in those categories.

What are you willing to pay for?

Oftentimes, the most premier rewards cards with the best perks and benefits will charge an annual fee. You’ll need to decide how much you’re willing to pay, if anything, to hold one of these cards. Something that could help you in deciding if an annual fee is worth it is to calculate if the rewards you’d earn would easily offset the annual fee. You can find plenty of generous rewards cards that don’t charge annual fees, so this extra charge doesn’t have to push a good card out of reach.

How to maximize your rewards credit card

Once you’ve picked the best card for you, here are some strategies you can use to unlock your card’s full potential and maximize the value of your rewards.

  • Match your spending patterns with your rewards strategy. Doing so is one of the best ways to ensure you earn the most with your rewards card. For example, if you spend a lot on dining out, you’ll likely get more out of a cash back rewards card that earns highly on dining purchases than with a travel card that only earns on hotel stays or rental cars. To supercharge your earnings even more, designate your rewards card to only purchases that earn in your highest spending category. This way, you’ll ensure you’re getting maximum rewards every time.
  • Snag a sign-up/welcome bonus. A sign-up bonus is an ideal way to supercharge rewards, and numerous credit cards offer this incentive if you reach a certain spending threshold during the early stages of card ownership. The key is to choose one where the required spend and time frame fit within your budget. “Make sure that it’s feasible to reach the cash sign-up bonus” says Woroch, “and that you aren’t chasing the reward by making extra, unnecessary purchases.”
  • Know your rewards program. It pays to read the terms and conditions of the rewards program, which could save you from missing out on rewards opportunities. For example, the rewards program may spell out how to enroll in a quarterly bonus category or may detail the spending limit within certain categories, both of which could impact how much you are earning in rewards.
  • Pool points. Some issuers let you combine rewards across multiple credit cards, while others allow you to share points with family members or even friends. These options usually come with a few caveats, but they can help you reach redemption thresholds or earn big rewards, like first-class airfare, more quickly.
  • Take advantage of as many additional benefits as possible. Your rewards card may offer additional benefits beyond cash back and miles. Some cards offer valuable consumer protections, such as additional cellphone insurance and expanded purchase protection. Travel reward cards might include complimentary lounge access or free checked bags. Taking advantage of as many benefits as possible could save you money or make traveling easier.
  • Redeem for maximum value. When it’s time to redeem rewards, make sure to compare your card’s redemption options to ensure you get the best value. Credit cards typically offer several choices for redeeming rewards, but not all rewards are equal in value. For example, a reward may have a higher value when redeemed for a statement credit versus a gift card or the travel reward may be worth more if you book it through a transfer partner. Reviewing all your options before you redeem will help you select the most valuable redemption option.
  • Pay your bills in full. If you don’t, you’ll lose your points, miles or cash back to interest – and rather quickly, given that rewards credit cards tend to carry slightly higher interest rates than some of their counterparts. To earn rewards while minimizing the odds of overspending, consider paying your bills every week, instead of the end of every month.

The best rewards credit card programs

You can compare individual credit cards, but knowing a little bit about each issuer’s rewards program can help you narrow your search. Credit card rewards programs come in any number of flavors, and one of them is bound to work well for you. Just remember that not every credit card from an issuer will qualify for their rewards program. Here is an overview of some popular rewards programs and how they work. You can learn more about each one by reading our full reviews.

Rewards programHighlightsOur review
American Express Membership Rewards
  • Transfer points to 20 airline and hotel partners
  • Accumulate rewards from multiple American Express cards in one account
American Express Membership Rewards program review
Bank of America Preferred Rewards
  • Must have a minimum of $20,000 across Bank or America and/or Merrill accounts to qualify
  • Can receive a 25%-75% boost on credit card rewards, depending on qualifying account balances
Bank of America Preferred Rewards program review
Capital One rewards program
  • Transfer points to more than 15 travel partners
  • Redeem any number of miles at any time
Capital One rewards program review
Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Transfer points at a 1:1 rate to one of Chase’s 14 airline and hotel partners
  • Several redemption options, including travel, statement credits, direct deposits and gift cards.
Chase Ultimate Rewards program review
Citi ThankYou rewards program
  • Redeem points for cash back, travel, statement credits, gift cards and more.
  • Transfer points to one of their 16 airline partners at a value of 1 cent apiece.
Citi ThankYou rewards program review
Hilton Honors rewards program
  • Redeem points for hotel nights, car rentals, cruise certificates and more.
  • Hotel coverage includes 7,000 properties in 122+ countries.
Hilton Honors rewards program review
Marriott Bonvoy rewards program
  • Redeem for hotel nights, room upgrades, travel packages, cruises, car rentals, charity and more
  • Hotel coverage includes 8,000+ properties in 130+ countries.
Marriott Bonvoy rewards program review
Wells Fargo Rewards
  • Earn points by using your credit card or shopping on the Earn More Mall® site.
  • No option to transfer points to airlines or hotels, but you can redeem them in a variety of ways, including cash back, travel, gift cards, statement credits and merchandise.
Wells Fargo Rewards program review

What are points and miles worth?

The value of your points and miles can vary, depending on the card and how you redeem them. If you like to redeem your points for statement credits or gift cards, a card where your points are worth at least 1 cent is a safe bet. When redeeming for travel, your points could swing lower, but they can also go a lot higher, especially if you’re using a card with transferable points.

Transferable points gives you the flexibility to move your points over to a transfer partner’s loyalty program. This can give you more options when booking travel and give you a chance to redeem your points or miles for greater value. In some cases, the right transfer partner could bump the value of your points or miles to over 2 cents.

For example, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, your points are worth 1.25 cents when you redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. But with the right high-value transfer partner, we estimate your points could be worth an average of 2 cents.

Here are some of the best credit card rewards programs that offer travel cards with transferable points:

  • American Express transfer partners
  • Capital One transfer partners
  • Chase transfer partners
  • Citi transfer partners

Before you apply for a new card, check to see if your points or miles can be transferred and that you’re able to transfer your rewards to your favorite airline or hotel. And to make sure you’re getting the best value, make sure you know how to do the math to see how much your rewards are worth.

How to calculate the value of your travel points or miles

When booking travel with airlines or hotels, you can see how much it will cost if you were to pay in cash or use your rewards. To find the value of your points or miles, divide the cash cost of a flight or hotel stay by the cost in points or miles. This will give you the cash value of your points or miles.

You can then take a look at Bankrate’s latest points and miles valuations, where you’ll find an estimate of what your points or miles should be worth. If the value you calculated matches or is greater than our valuation, you’ve found a good deal. But if your calculated value is less than what we estimate your points or miles should be worth, you may want to pay in cash or look for a better deal.

For example, if you’re planning travel, and you see that the cost of a business class seat on a Southwest Airlines flight is $333 in cash or 23,888 points, your miles are worth 1.4 cents ($333 / 23,888 = $0.014). That’s close to our estimated value of 1.5 cents, but you may be able to do better.

If you find a Southwest Wanna Get Away Plus fare for $104 or 5,743 points, your points for that flight would be worth an impressive 1.81 cents ($104 / 5,743 = $0.018). That beats our estimate and gives you some peace of mind that you’re getting a great deal on your flight.

Alternatives to getting a rewards card

Rewards credit cards are a great way to earn free travel, cash back and more, but if you don’t have any credit history or don’t meet the requirements for most rewards cards, there are other options for you.

  • If you qualify, get a student credit card. Student cards are specifically designed for college students, although some may allow anyone under 21 to apply (typically with no minimum income). Student credit cards tend to offer better terms and higher limits than typical starter cards (such as secured cards), so they can be helpful for building credit history early on. The Discover it® Student Cash Back Card is a great option to start with.
  • Try for a secured credit card. These cards require a security deposit, which can be as low as $200 in some cases. The amount of the deposit is usually equal to your credit limit. In exchange for the deposit, you get an account that reports positive payment history to major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). If you want to earn rewards on everyday purchases, the Capital One Quicksilver Secured Cash Rewards Credit Card is ideal.
  • Consider a retail credit card. You can get store-branded cards from major retailers like Target and Walmart. These cards offer rewards on all purchases made at the issuing store. If they are used responsibly, they can be a convenient way to build or rebuild credit.
  • Apply for an alternative credit card. Cards like the Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card are also a good option if you don’t have any previous credit history, as they are designed for people who don’t qualify for traditional credit cards or those who may not have access to mainstream banking products.

How we picked the best rewards credit cards

We analyzed over 300 credit cards to identify the best rewards credit cards currently on the market. These factors and more inform our decisions on which cards can work the best for you.

  • Rewards rate: We took into account rewards categories and rates, earning caps and other fine print that may affect total earnings potential.
  • Interest rate: Though you shouldn’t have to worry about interest rates if you’re paying your bill in full each month, we excluded rewards cards with exorbitant interest rates.
  • Fees: We compared each card’s fees to its rewards rate and sign-up bonus to determine whether the average consumer could earn enough rewards to justify the annual fee within the first year and years to come.
  • Travel benefits: For the travel cards, we’ve assessed point values and transfer partners to help you weigh your options based on your lifestyle and goals.

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

 

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