Best rewards credit cards for July 2021

Written by: Tracy Stewart | Edited by: Jeanine Skowronski | Reviewed by: Brady Porche
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July 20, 2021

Our editorial team provides an unbiased analysis of the products we feature. Our comparison service is compensated by our partners, and may influence where or how products are featured on the site. Learn more about our partners and how we make money. Please note: The star-rating system on this page is based on our independent card scoring methodology and is not influenced by advertisers or card issuers.

Rewards credit cards are one of the few payment methods that let you earn some bang for your buck, generally in the form of points, miles or cash back. They’re a good fit for people who pay their balances in full each month; otherwise, you’ll lose the rewards to interest. Some rewards credit cards carry annual fees, though there are ways to determine whether that price tag is worthwhile.

The best rewards credit card varies, based on someone’s spending habits and financial goals. (Here, we cover how to compare rewards credit cards.) Having said that, some of our current favorites include the new Citi Custom Cash℠ Card, a no annual fee cash back card that offers 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, then 1%, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, a travel rewards credit card that currently touts one of the highest sign-up bonuses on the market. Below you’ll find the top offers from our partners, followed by a full list of editor picks.

Why trust us? Our in-house team of experienced experts uses a one-to-five star scoring system to rate credit cards and identify the top offers on the market. We evaluate reward credit cards based on rewards value, redemption and flexibility, perks and benefits and customer experience. All of our cards are assessed independently by our editors based on their research, opinion and other factors.

Rewards credit cards are one of the few payment methods that let you earn some bang for your buck, generally in the form of points, miles or cash back. They’re a good fit for people who pay their balances in full each month; otherwise, you’ll lose the rewards to interest. Some rewards credit cards carry annual fees, though there are ways to determine whether that price tag is worthwhile.

The best rewards credit card varies, based on someone’s spending habits and financial goals. (Here, we cover how to compare rewards credit cards.) Having said that, some of our current favorites include the new Citi Custom Cash℠ Card, a no annual fee cash back card that offers 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, then 1%, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, a travel rewards credit card that currently touts one of the highest sign-up bonuses on the market. Below you’ll find the top offers from our partners, followed by a full list of editor picks.

Why trust us? Our in-house team of experienced experts uses a one-to-five star scoring system to rate credit cards and identify the top offers on the market. We evaluate reward credit cards based on rewards value, redemption and flexibility, perks and benefits and customer experience. All of our cards are assessed independently by our editors based on their research, opinion and other factors.

Best Rewards Credit Cards

BEST FOR 2% CASH REWARDS
Unlimited 2% Cash Rewards
Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card
Our rating:3.6 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.

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.

Rewards rate

2%
Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases

At A Glance

Intro bonus
$200 cash rewards New! Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
14.99% - 24.99% variable
BEST FOR SIGN-UP BONUS
Chase Sapphire Preferred® 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.

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.

Rewards rate

2X
2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel.
1X
1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro bonus
100,000 points Our best offer ever! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
15.99% - 22.99% variable
BEST FOR FLAT-RATE CASH BACK + SIGN-UP BONUS
Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card
Our rating:3.3 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.

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.

Rewards rate

1.5%
Earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every time.

At A Glance

Intro bonus
$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
13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
BEST FOR REWARDS FOR TRAVEL AND EVERYDAY SPENDING
Citi Premier® Card
Our rating:4.3 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.

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.

Rewards rate

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

At A Glance

Intro bonus
80,000 points Earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
15.99% - 23.99% variable
BEST FOR U.S. SUPERMARKETS
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
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.
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.

Rewards rate

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

At A Glance

Intro bonus
Up to $350 Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership, up to $200 back. Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership. You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits.
Annual fee
$95, waived first year
Regular APR
13.99% - 23.99% variable
BEST FOR TRAVEL REWARDS
Capital One Venture 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.

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.

Rewards rate

2X
Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.

At A Glance

Intro bonus
60,000 miles Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
17.24% - 24.49% variable
BEST FOR RESTAURANTS
American Express® Gold 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.
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.

Rewards rate

4X
Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, including takeout and delivery.
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 bonus
60,000 points Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.
Annual fee
$250
Regular APR
See Pay Over Time APR
BEST FOR SIMPLICITY SEEKERS
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
Our rating:3.0 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.

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.

Rewards rate

1.5%
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day

At A Glance

Intro bonus
$200 One-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
15.49% - 25.49% variable
BEST FOR LUXURY TRAVEL BENEFITS
The Platinum Card® from American Express
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.
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.

Rewards rate

10X
Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.
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 bonus
100,000 points Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
Annual fee
$695
Regular APR
See Pay Over Time APR
BEST FOR CASH BACK AT DRUG STORES
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
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.

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.

Rewards rate

5%
Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
5%
Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®.
3%
Earn 3% on dining and drugstores.
1.5%
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro bonus
$200 Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
14.99% - 23.74% variable
BEST FOR CHOOSING YOUR OWN BONUS CATEGORY
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit 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.

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.

Rewards rate

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

At A Glance

Intro bonus
$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
13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
BEST FOR ROTATING CASH BACK CATEGORIES
Discover it® Cash Back
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.

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.

Rewards rate

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

At A Glance

Intro bonus
Cashback Match™ Intro Offer: Unlimited Cashback Match - 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
11.99% - 22.99% variable
BEST FOR FUN LOVERS
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
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.

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.

Rewards rate

8%
Earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through January 2023.
3%
Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®).
1%
Earn 1% on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro bonus
$200 Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
15.49% - 25.49% variable
BEST FOR FAMILIES ON A BUDGET
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Our rating:3.9 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.
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.

Rewards rate

3%
3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%).
2%
2% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores.
1%
1% Cash Back on other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro bonus
Up to $250 Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the Card in the first 6 months of Card membership, up to $150 back. Plus, earn $100 back after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months of card membership. You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits.
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
13.99% - 23.99% variable
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Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by CreditCards.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank's website for the most current information.

All information about Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card, the Citi Prestige Card, the Amazon Prime Visa Signature card, the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card, and the USAlliance Visa Signature card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer.


A guide to rewards credit cards

Rewards credit cards rank highly among the best credit cards on the market as they let you earn points, miles or cash back on your purchases. Many rewards credit cards also tout lucrative benefits, like travel statement credits, airport lounge access, purchase protection, welcome bonuses and more. The best rewards credit cards offer a competitive return rate on your spending, generous welcome bonuses, extra perks and favorable fee structures, at least relative to their benefits. To help you better understand and maximize rewards cards, here, we look at:

Comparing the best rewards credit cards

Credit CardBest forRewards rateAnnual feeCreditcards.com review
Citi Custom Cash℠ CardAutomatically maximizing rewards5% 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 $04.1 / 5
Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card2% cash rewards2% unlimited on eligible purchases$03.6 / 5
Chase Sapphire Preferred CardSign-up bonus2X points on dining and travel 1X points on all other purchases $954.1 / 5
Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit cardFlat-rate cash back and sign-up bonus1.5% cash back on all purchases$03.3 / 5
Citi Premier® CardRewards for travel & everyday spending3X points per $1 spent at Restaurants, Supermarkets, Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases $954.1 / 5
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American ExpressU.S supermarkets6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit, 1% cash back on general purchases $95 (waived for the first year)4.0 / 5
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit CardTravel rewards2X miles on every purchase$954.1 / 5
American Express® Gold CardRestaurants4X Membership Rewards® at Restaurants, U.S. Supermarkets, and on Uber Eats purchases 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 $2504.5 / 5
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit CardSimplicity seekers1.5% cash back on every purchase$03.0 / 5
The Platinum Card® from American ExpressLuxury travel benefits5X 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 $6954.4 / 5
Chase Freedom Unlimited®Cash back at drugstores5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards 3% cash back on dining at restaurants and drugstores. 1.5% back on all other purchases $04.5 / 5
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit cardChoosing your own bonus category3% 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 $04.2 / 5
Discover it® Cash BackRotating cash back 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. $04.5 / 5
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit CardFun lovers3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores 1% cash back on other purchases $04.0 / 5
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American ExpressFamilies on a budget3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%), 2% cash back on U.S. gas stations, 1% cash back on other purchases $03.9 / 5

best rewards credit cards of 2021

Editor’s picks: Rewards credit card details

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card: Best for automatically maximizing rewards

Why we picked it: This brand new Citi card lets you earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent (after that, 1% cash back), no enrollment or tracking required. Eligible categories include restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs and live entertainment.

Pros: The card offers a lucrative sign-up bonus: Earn $200 in ThankYou points, which you can redeem for cash back, if you spend $750 in the first three months of account opening. There’s also a 15-month 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers (then variable 13.99% to 23.99%).

Cons: You’ll pay a pricey 5% balance transfer fee (or $5, whichever is greater) if you take Citi up on its balance transfer offer. (Many cards charge a 3% balance transfer fee and a few skip the charge entirely.) The $500-per-billing-cycle cap eats into the card’s value.

Who should apply? Anyone looking to take the guesswork out of maximizing rewards will likely appreciate this card’s automatic adjustments on earnings. This card is also a good option for someone looking to take advantage of an introductory APR on purchases in the short-term, but earn rewards in the long-term.

Read our Citi Custom Cash Card review.

Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card: Best for 2% cash rewards

Why we picked it:For those averse to spending categories and required enrollments, the Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card offers a much more 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. There’s also the possibility to snag a $200 cash rewards introductory bonus after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first three months of opening your account. Members also enjoy an extra long 0% introductory APR period of 15 months (from account opening) on qualifying balance transfers and eligible purchases, then 14.99% to 24.99% variable APR.

Pros: The card includes Visa Signature Concierge benefits at hotel properties around the world as well as cellphone protection, and cash rewards never expire so long as your account is active. There is no annual fee for this card.

Cons: Benefits can seem limited compared to similar cards. Qualifying balance transfers must be made within the first 120 days as a cardholder to receive the special intro rate. There’s also a balance transfer fee of 3% if you transfer the balance within 120 days; 5% if you don’t (with a $5 minimum). While the intro APR period is generous, the Citi® Double Cash Card offers an  introductory APR term on balance transfers as well as an unlimited 2% cash back (1% when you buy and 1% as you pay).

Who should apply? Moderate spenders hoping to earn rewards on eligible purchases will find a lot of value in the Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card’s unlimited 2% cash rewards rate.

Read our Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card review.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Best for sign-up bonus

Why we picked it: This solid travel rewards credit card recently launched its best ever sign-up bonus: Cardholders earn a whopping 100,000 points after spending $4,000 in their first three months. Those points are worth $1,250 when redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, making the bonus one of the most lucrative offers currently on the market.

Pros: Part of the reason the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s sign-up bonus is so valuable is because cardholders receive a 25% bonus when booking travel through Ultimate Rewards. The card offers 2X points on dining and travel, and 1X points on general purchases.

Cons: There’s a $95 annual fee that might price this card out of a less frequent traveler’s budget. Conversely, big spenders might be able to reap more rewards with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which offers a bevy of benefits in exchange for a steep $550 annual fee. (Learn how to decide between the Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. the Chase Sapphire Reserve.)

Who should apply? This card provides a ton of value to frequent travelers. It also makes a great companion to an Ultimate Rewards card with bonuses in different categories of spending, given you can pool rewards across cards in Chase’s line-up.

Read our Chase Sapphire Preferred Card review.

Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card: Best for flat-rate cash back + sign-up bonus

Why we picked it: This new card from Bank of America features all the hallmarks of a solid flat-rate cash back credit card, including 1.5% cash back on all purchases and a lucrative sign-up bonus ($200 online cash rewards after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening).

Pros: Bank of America Preferred Rewards members earn 25% to 75% more cash back on every purchase made with this card, depending on how much money they have in their Bank of America accounts. That boost means you could potentially earn up to 2.62% cash back on all purchases, an earnings rate that bests many flat-rate cash back credit cards currently on the market.

Cons: Absent the Bank of America Preferred Rewards boost, this card is very similar to existing flat-rate cash back credit cards on the market — and, in fact, you could conceivably earn more with a few of them, like the Chase Freedom Unlimited, which features select bonus categories in addition to a flat 1.5% on all purchases and the Citi® Double Cash Card, which offers 2% cash back on all purchases (1% as you spend; 1% as you pay your purchases back).

Who should apply? Bank of America customers with money in the bank are likely best-served by picking this card over its flat-rate cash back competitors, given the boost they can earn through Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program.

Read our Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card review.

Citi Premier® Card: Best for rewards for travel and everyday spending

Why we picked it: The Citi Premier card offers 3X points on popular travel expenses, including air travel, hotels, and restaurants, and common everyday spending categories, like supermarkets and gas stations, for a relatively low $95 annual fee.

Pros: You get 1X points on general purchases, along with a decent sign-up bonus: Cardholders earn 80,000 points for spending $4,000 in their first three months, which can be redeemed for $800 in gift cards at thankyou.com.

Cons: The card’s biggest drawback is that you’ll have 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.)

Who should apply? People trying to decide between a travel credit card and a credit card that rewards everyday spending can meet both needs with the Citi Premier card.

Read our full Citi Premier Card review.

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

Why we picked it: A top American Express card, the Blue Cash Preferred offers a whopping 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%). It also offers a best-in-class 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services.

Pros: The card also offers 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit, and 1% cash back on general purchases. Cardholders earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of card membership and can earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the card within the first 6 months, up to $200 back. There’s also a 12-month 0% introductory APR on new purchases (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable).

Cons: There’s a $95 annual fee, waived the first year, though big gas and supermarket shoppers should find that relatively easy to recoup. (We estimate you need to spend around $3,200 a year at U.S. supermarkets to come out ahead, as illustrated by our comparison between the Blue Cash Preferred and the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express.)

Who should apply? The well-rounded Blue Cash Preferred is a great option for families or heads of household, given its high cash back at U.S. gas stations and supermarkets, particularly if you can earn the welcome bonus or leverage the promotional APR on purchases.

Read our full Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express review.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best for travel rewards

Why we picked it: 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 and up to a $100 credit to put toward the application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

Pros: The current sign-up bonus is quite lucrative: Cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus miles when they spend $3,000 in their first 3 months.

Cons: Rewards maximizers might find their redemption options a little too straightforward, given the miles you earn on your Venture card are largely worth 1 cent per mile and the exchange rate is low for most transfer partners. (Learn more about the Capital One rewards program.) There’s a $95 annual fee, though it is relatively easy to recoup.

Who should apply? We estimate you need to spend around $396 or more a month to justify the card’s annual fee (considering you earn 2x miles per dollar and each mile is valued at 1 cent), so moderate spenders looking for a simple travel rewards card will find this one fits the bill.

Read our full Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card review.

American Express® Gold Card: Best for restaurants

Why we picked it: The American Express Gold Card offers an industry-leading 4X points at restaurants, along with a competitive 4X points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1X points). Plus, the card touts up to $120 per year in dining credits at select eateries, including Ruth’s Chris Steak House, The Cheesecake Factory and participating Shake Shack locations (up to $10 statement credits per month, enrollment required).

Pros: In addition to the food perks, cardholders earn 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com and 1X on other purchases. There’s also a stellar welcome offer: New cardholders earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points if they spend $4,000 in the first six months, which we estimate to be worth around $600 when you book through AmexTravel.com. (See how we value Amex points.)

Cons: You’ll pay a price for all those benefits — namely, a $250 annual fee, not waived the first year. 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 flat-rate rewards card is likely a better fit.

Who should apply? Gastronomes will be hard-pressed to find a card that offers a better return on their food purchases, so if your restaurant and U.S. supermarket spending will recoup the annual fee beyond the first year (where you’ll benefit from the welcome offer), put this card on your consideration list.

Read our full American Express Gold Card review.

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for simplicity seekers

Why we picked it: This flat-rate cash back card is decidedly low maintenance, offering 1.5% cash back on all purchases for no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees and a (relatively) easy-to-earn sign-up bonus ($200 for spending $500 in your first three months, one of the lowest spending requirements on the market, matching the Chase Freedom Unlimited and the Chase Freedom Flex cards.)

Pros: Capital One makes it uber-easy to redeem cash back: There’s no minimums and you have plenty of redemption options, including gift cards, checks and more.

Cons: You can earn more with other cash back cards, depending on your spending habits, and, even among flat-rate 1.5% cash back cards, the Quicksilver lags a bit. You can conceivably earn more with the Chase Freedom Unlimited or the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card. For more specifics, check out our guide on how to determine which 1.5% cash back card is right for you.

Who should apply? If you’re looking for a decent return rate and don’t want to think too long or hard about earning and redeeming cash back, the Quicksilver fits the bill.

Read our full Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card review.

The Platinum Card® from American Express: Best for luxury travel benefits

Why we picked it: This premium American Express card comes fully-loaded with luxury travel benefits, including, but by no means limited to, airport lounge access, a $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA Precheck statement credit, up to $200 in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card, automatic gold elite status with Hilton Honors (enrollment required), and no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees).

Pros: Cardholders earn 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year) and 5X points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel. You get 1X points on other purchases. There’s also a very generous welcome offer: 100,000 points if you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first six months, which we estimate to be worth around $1,000 when you book through American Express Travel, given those points are worth 1-cent each. New cardholders also receive 10X points on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S. (on up to $25,000 in combined purchases) in their first six months of card membership.

Cons: It’s $695 annual fee makes it one of the most expensive cards on the market, and, 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. If you’re looking for a premium travel card that’s a little more flexible, consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Who should apply? Very frequent flyers who love to travel in comfort and style will enjoy the Platinum’s bevy of benefits.

Read our full Platinum Card from American Express review.

Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for cash back at drug stores

Why we picked it: Originally a solid flat-rate cash back credit card, the Freedom Unlimited recently revamped its rewards program to include bonus categories, adding an industry-leading 3% cash back on drugstore purchases. The revamp also introduced 5% cash back on Lyft purchases (through March 2022); 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards and 3% on drugstore and dining purchases.

Pros: You still get unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Plus, the Freedom Unlimited’s stellar sign-up bonus has one of the lowest spend requirements on the market: New cardholders receive $200 cash back after they spend $500 in their first three months. (See more of the best credit card sign up bonus offers.)

Cons: Though the bonus categories certainly add appeal, the Chase Freedom Unlimited doesn’t have the highest flat rate for cash back on the market right now. That honor goes to the Citi® Double Cash Card, which offers 2% cash back on all purchases (1% when you buy; 1% as pay off your purchases).

Who should apply? Big drugstore spenders, frequent Lyft riders or cash back sign-up bonus seekers will find a lot to like about the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

Read our full Chase Freedom Unlimited review.

Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card: Best for choosing your own bonus category

Why we picked: Unlike most credit cards, the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards lets you choose your bonus category. Cardholders earn a generous 3% cash back on a category of choice (gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvements and furnishings), along with a competitive 2% cash back on grocery store and wholesale purchases. That bonus cash back is limited, however, to $2,500 in combined 2% and 3% category purchases each quarter. You’ll earn 1% cash back on other purchases.

Pros: The base rewards are good for a no annual fee credit card and the sign-up bonus is quite generous ($200 online cash rewards for spending $1,000 in your first 90 days). There’s also a top-notch promotional APR on purchases and balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening: 0% intro APR for 15 billing cycles, then 13.99% to 23.99% variable. (See more top balance transfer credit cards.)

Cons: The cap on bonus categories puts a definite damper on this otherwise solid no-annual-fee cash back credit card – with one important caveat, outlined below.

Who should apply? This card is a great option for Bank of America and Merrill checking and savings account holders, because they’ll receive a rewards boost between 25% and 75% through the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program.

Read our full Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card review.

Discover it® Cash Back: Best for rotating cash back categories

Why we picked it: Savvy spenders can really rack up rewards with this classic cash back credit card that offers a whopping 5% back on up to $1,500 in purchases in rotating bonus categories per quarter (then 1%, enrollment required) and matches all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year.

Pros: This card fires on a lot of cylinders, offering competitive cash back for no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, an ultra-generous sign-up bonus and a lengthy promotional APR on balance transfers and purchases (0% intro APR for 14 months, then 11.99% to 22.99% variable). See more of the best zero interest credit cards.

Cons: You have a little bit of legwork to do to earn your bonus cashback – 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. See the 2021 Discover it Cash Back calendar.

Who should apply? If you’re looking for a card with a little bit of everything and don’t mind some friction when it comes to earning rewards (i.e. enrolling in bonus categories), this consumer-friendly card is a top choice.

Read our full Discover it Cash Back review.

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for fun lovers

Why we picked it: The SavorOne offers a competitive 3% cash back on dining, entertainment (think concerts or movie tickets), popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®) for no annual fee, a great value for frequent foodies.

Pros: Cardholders earn 1% cash back on other purchases. There’s also a solid sign-up bonus: $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening, which represents one of the lowest spending requirements on the market.

Cons: If your spending isn’t concentrated on dining, entertainment or at 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. On the flip side, if you spend a lot on dining, you might be better served by the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card, which offers 4% cash back on dining and entertainment for a relatively affordable $95 annual fee, or the Citi Prestige® Card, which offers an industry-leading 5X points on restaurants and air travel, albeit for a $495 annual price tag. Our guide to popular dining rewards cards can help you determine which one is right for you.

Who should apply? Foodies looking for a no annual fee card that touts a sweet sign-up bonus they can earn after a few nights out should consider the SavorOne.

Read our full Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card review.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express: Best for families on a budget

Why we picked it: The card offers competitive cash back on everyday expenses, including 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%), 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, and 1% cash back on other purchases – for no annual fee.

Pros: In addition to good base rewards, the card features a solid welcome offer: Cardholders receive a $100 statement credit after you spend $2,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of card membership and earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the card in the first 6 months, up to $150 back. They’ll also enjoy one of the longer promotional APRs on purchases on the market: 0% intro APR for the first 15 months, then 13.99% to 23.99% variable.

Cons: As we mentioned earlier, you’ll only need to spend around $3,200 a year at U.S. supermarkets to recoup the Blue Cash Preferred’s annual fee – and its base rewards and welcome bonus are much higher, so carefully consider which version of the Blue Cash is right for you. (We do some further comparison down the page that could prove helpful.)

Who should apply? If you like the bonus categories associated with Amex’s Blue Cash Preferred card, but find yourself balking at its annual fee, the Blue Cash Everyday Card is a great alternative. (See more of the best no annual fee credit cards.)

Read our full Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express 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 gas or groceries, 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. (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?

As you make purchases with a rewards credit card, you’ll get a little something in return, usually cash back, points or airline miles. Depending on the type of rewards card you have, you can redeem your earnings for money deposited into your bank account, free or discounted flights, hotel stays, gift cards and more. What you can do with your rewards depends on what type of card you have.

Are rewards credit cards worth it?

In a best-case scenario, using a rewards credit card can be a great way to earn cash back or discounted travel at no cost to you. In that case, a rewards credit card is worth having. However, several criteria must be true if you want your rewards credit card to be worth it:

  1. You spend responsibly and within your means. Adopting a “buy now, pay sometime in the future” mentality may make it easy to overspend. It’s important to think of credit card charges in the same way as debit charges – once you swipe, that money is gone.
  2. You pay your balance in full. If you aren’t able to do this, you probably shouldn’t use a rewards credit card. The interest charges you’ll accrue will likely be greater than any rewards earnings. If you’re going to carry a balance, it’s better to get a low interest credit card.
  3. You only get a card with an annual fee if the rewards and benefits make up for it. There are plenty of lucrative rewards cards that don’t charge an annual fee, with which you’ll never have to worry about recouping that yearly expense. If you’ve got your eye on a card with an annual fee, break down your monthly budget and estimate how much you’ll earn in rewards annually. We break down how to do so in the next section.

Are rewards cards with annual fees worth it?

As you do your research, you may start to notice that the cards with the best rewards earnings and benefits usually charge an annual fee, especially travel rewards cards. Is paying the annual fee worth it? In short, a credit card with an annual fee is worth it if the value of your annual rewards earnings plus any additional perks is greater than the cost of the fee. But how do you estimate a card’s value before applying? For cash back cards, it can be as simple as doing a quick calculation using some estimates.

For this example, we’ll assess the value of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express for someone who spends $2,400 each year on gas and $4,800 each year on groceries.

Credit cardOngoing annual feeRewards rateAnnual earnings breakdownWorth it?
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express$95*6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%). 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations($4,800 x .06) + ($2,400 x .03) = $360Yes. After subtracting the $95 annual fee, this person’s rewards earnings would be $265.

*Note: The annual fee is waived for the first year on the Blue Cash Preferred, $95 thereafter.

With travel cards, it may be a bit more difficult to calculate value, since rewards come in the form of points or miles, rather than cash back. We cover how much certain points are worth in many of our specific card reviews, but, as an example, let’s try calculating the value of a popular travel rewards card, the American Express® Gold Card. In this scenario, we’re calculating the earnings of someone who annually spends $4,800 at U.S. supermarkets, $1,500 at restaurants, and $1,000 on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com. American Express Membership Rewards points are valued at 2 cents apiece, according to The Points Guy.

Credit cardAnnual feeRewards rateAnnual earnings breakdownWorth it?
American Express® Gold Card$2504X points on restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per year, then 1X). 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.($4,800 x 4) + ($1,500 x 4) + ($1,000 x 3) = 28,200 points = $564Yes. After subtracting the $250 annual fee, this person’s rewards earnings would be $314.

You’ll also want to consider other factors aside from rewards earnings. Maybe you determine that you’ll just break even between rewards earnings and the annual fee. Consider the additional perks the card offers. Maybe the benefit of airport lounge access, free checked bags or a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry credit is where you find the most value.

Whether the annual fee will be worth it depends on your spending habits, so it’s important to be honest with yourself and choose a card that matches how you already spend or plan to spend. If you aren’t sure, many issuers allow the option to upgrade a card in the future, so you can always start with the no annual fee version and trade up later.

Types of rewards cards

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

Cash back cards

With a cash back credit card, a percentage of each qualifying purchase will be paid back to you. For example, a card with a 2% cash back rate would reward you with $2 for every $100 spent. This can be a great way to earn money for the purchases you make every day. With the right card, the rewards won’t expire for the life of the account – so the cash back that you earn will always be yours. There are several types of cash back credit cards.

  • Flat-rate cash back cards. These are the simplest type of rewards cards, offering the same rate of cash back on all purchases, usually between 1% and 2%. Flat-rate cash back cards are a great choice for someone who has a wide variety of expenses or doesn’t want to have to remember bonus categories. A flat-rate card can also be a good choice if you only want one credit card to use for everything. A great option: the Citi® Double Cash Card, which essentially offers an industry-leading 2% cash back on all purchases excluding gift cards, (1% as you buy, 1% as you pay off your purchases).
  • Tiered cash back cards. Tiered bonus category cards reward specific spending categories, such as dining or gas, at a higher rate, while all other purchases will typically earn 1% cash back. They are a great choice for those who have recurring, significant expenses in certain categories. A great option: the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card, which offers 4% cash back on dining, entertainment, and popular streaming services, 3% cash back at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases.
  • Rotating category cash back cards. Similar to tiered cards, rotating category cards offer boosted rewards rates in certain categories. However, the bonus categories change, usually each quarter, and are often seasonally relevant. Those who want to capitalize on seasonal expenses, such as online shopping during the holidays or travel during the summer, might consider a rotating category card. A great option: the Discover it® Cash Back card, which is offering 5% cash back at gas stations, wholesale clubs and select streaming services through June 2021 on up to $1,500 in purchases quarterly after activating (then 1%), right on time for holiday gift purchases. Quarterly sign-up required.

Cash back gives you the most flexibility with your rewards. Since you’ll typically get cash back as a statement credit or direct deposit, you can use your rewards like cash to buy anything you want. Learn how to redeem cash back.

Travel rewards credit 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. There are three main types of travel credit cards.

  • General-purpose travel cards. With a general-purpose travel card, you’ll earn points, sometimes on all purchases, which can be redeemed for flights or hotel stays. General-purpose cards are the most flexible type of travel credit card because they allow you to redeem with a variety of partner brands, so you’re not tied to one airline or hotel chain. Also, many general-purpose travel credit cards reward you with extra points if you redeem through the issuer-specific redemption portal, rather than transferring your points to an airline or hotel loyalty program. A great option: the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which rewards cardholders with 2X points on travel and at restaurants.
  • Airline credit cards. Airline credit cards reward cardholders with miles for a specific airline. You earn those miles at a boosted rate through spending on flights or other categories, such as gas stations or dining. If you’re loyal to one brand, you’ll likely find your best redemption value with an airline card instead of a general-purpose card. A great option: the Delta Skymiles® Gold American Express Card, which offers 2X miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Hotel credit cards. Hotel credit cards, like airline cards, are co-branded and encourage loyalty to a single brand. As rewards stack up, you can earn free nights and become eligible for room upgrades, free breakfast and status boosts. A great option: the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card.

If you’re new to earning points — or just feeling overwhelmed by all the available options out there — our travel credit cards roundup for beginners can point you in the right direction.

Other types of rewards cards

  • Gas: Gas cards reward you generously for each gallon you buy and sometimes only require fair credit. You can get a credit card that rewards purchases at any gas station, or one that rewards purchases at a specific gas station chain. A great option: the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
  • Retail: Sometimes called a co-branded card, retail credit cards are 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, though the rewards are generally limited to the specific retailer and the APRs on these cards can be quite high. A great option: the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card, which offers rewards on Amazon Prime and Whole Foods purchases.
  • Business: Business credit cards are designed for business owners and generally offer cash back or points on business-related spending, like office supplies or internet services, as well as money-saving perks and flexible financing benefits. A great option: the Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card, which rewards cardholders with 1.5% cash back on all purchases for your business.

Credit score requirements for rewards credit cards

Most rewards cards require at least good credit, which is a FICO® score of 670 or greater. With very good or excellent credit, you’ll likely have access to the best rewards credit cards. Don’t fall into either of these two categories? There are some reward credit cards specifically for people who are building credit or have bad to fair credit, though the reward rates are modest compared to what you’d receive otherwise.

One potential fit for those with a credit score of 300 to 670 is the Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit which offers 1% cash back on eligible gas, grocery purchases, and mobile phone service, internet, cable and satellite TV services. Some secured credit cards also offer rewards. The Discover it® Secured Credit Card offers 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases per quarter, then 1%, as well as 1% cash back on all other purchases. Approval odds for the Discover it® Secured Credit Card are high for those with limited or poor credit, and accounts can be secured with as little as a $200 deposit.

It’s always wise to have a sense of your approval odds before applying in order to avoid a temporary hit to your credit. Our CardMatch tool can show you what rewards credit cards you may qualify for without hurting your credit score.

How to compare rewards cards

We’ve highlighted some of the best rewards credit cards on the market, but, as we mentioned earlier, 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 such media 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.

  • Annual fee. There are plenty of solid rewards cards, often cash back cards, that charge no annual fee. On the other hand, 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. (See below for a few examples of how to determine if an annual fee credit card is worth it.)
  • 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.

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

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 22 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 13 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 6,100 properties in 119+ 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 7,000+ properties in 130+ countries.
Marriott Bonvoy rewards program review
Wells Fargo Go Far® 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 Go Far Rewards program review

How to maximize credit card rewards

Getting the right card is just the first step toward maximizing credit card rewards. There are ways to boost points, miles and cash back and to stretch their value. Here is how to best leverage your rewards credit card.

Snag a sign-up/welcome bonus

“When signing up for a new card, look for one that offers a cash bonus so you get something extra for the purchases you’re planning to make anyway,” Woroch says. “Just make sure that it’s feasible to reach the cash sign-up bonus and that you aren’t chasing the reward by making extra, unnecessary purchases. If a card requires you to spend $3,000 in the first 3 months and you don’t have any big-ticket planned purchases, then you’re less likely to reach that amount and you may spend more unnecessarily for the rewards.”

Shop or redeem through shopping portals

Rewards tend to have more value when you book travel, purchase select gift cards or, even, make purchases through an issuer shopping portal, like Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amextravel.com. Frequent flyer or hotel loyalty programs, including United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards and Delta SkyMiles, let members earn extra points or miles by shopping at their favorite retailers through similar platforms, too.

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. In order to really get ahead here, however, you’ll need to …

Know your rewards program

Rewards programs vary by issuer to issuer or from card to card. To find the best ways to maximize points, miles or cash back, you’ll need to read the fine print, Fortunately, we have highlights, along with links to reviews, of popular credit card rewards programs to help you familiarize yourself with their current terms and conditions.

Pay your bills in full

Otherwise, you’ll just lose your points, miles or cash back to interest – and rather quickly, given rewards credit cards tend to carry slightly higher interest rates than some of their counterparts. In order to earn rewards while minimizing the odds of overspending, consider paying your bills every week, instead of the end of every month.

Learn more ways to maximize credit card rewards.

In the news: Issuers are beefing up their credit card rewards offers

As life starts to resemble pre-pandemic times, a number of issuers and networks have announced enhancements to the programs, welcome offers, benefits or promotions associated with their popular rewards credit cards in recent weeks.

  • Capital One Savor cards. Capital One just gave both of its popular Savor cards a major makeover. Starting May 18, Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card holders will earn 4% cash back on eligible streaming services, and 3% cash back at grocery stores, up from 2% cash back the card has previously offered. The Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card, meanwhile, will now offer 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, eligible streaming services and at grocery stores. Formerly, the card offered 2% cash back at grocery stores. Both cards offer 1% cash back on general purchases. They also tout an offer that gives cardholders 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through January 2023.
  • World or World Elite Mastercards. These non-standard Mastercard credit cards now offer DoorDash and HelloFresh perks — namely, World or World Elite Mastercard holders are eligible for up to $10 in monthly DoorDash credits and a 5% rebate on each HelloFresh purchase. (Learn more about the best Mastercard credit cards.)
  • USAlliance Visa Signature card. As part of a recent promotion, this cash back card is offering 3X points on all purchases through at least the end of 2021. That’s an increase from the 2X points on all purchases the card previously offered. That cash back rate is top-notch, though credit union USAlliance Financial has yet to commit to extending the offer beyond this year.
  • American Express Blue Cash cards. Amex recently boosted the welcome offers associated with these popular cash back credit cards. Blue Cash Preferred members can now earn a $150 statement credit when they spend $3,000 in the first six months of card membership and get 20% back on Amazon purchases within the same period, for up to $200 in cash back. Blue Cash Everyday® members, meanwhile, can earn a $100 statement credit when they spend $2,000 in the first six months and receive 20% back on Amazon.com purchases in the first six months, for up to $150 back.

Curious about the Blue Cash cards? Learn how CreditCards.com expert Brady Porche is leveraging his recent Blue Cash Preferred upgrade to earn more cash back.

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 in which cards can work the hardest 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.

Additional information on rewards cards

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