Best credit card rewards program – 2019

From travel rewards to cash back, you can find a program that works for you.

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Nearly every credit card provider offers some form of rewards program. To help you decide which one is worth your time and energy, we’ve assessed the top rewards programs across a range of categories. Whether you’re looking to earn travel rewards, points, cash back or something else, there’s likely something out there for you.

Best credit card program for travel partners: American Express Membership Rewards

The Amex Membership Rewards program earned its reputation as a heavy-hitter rewards program by providing great point value and strong credit card options.

Amex possesses the highest number of transfer partners available in a credit card rewards program, clocking in at 21 partners. By comparison, Chase offers only 12 partners.

How to earn Amex Membership Rewards points

Here are a few of the primary ways you can earn Membership Rewards points. Check out our full earning guide for more information.

  • Spend in eligible earning categories
  • Refer a friend
  • Book hotels through rocket miles

What you can redeem Membership Rewards points for

Here are a few of your primary redemption options for Membership Rewards points. Check out our full redemption guide for more information.

  • Cash back or gift cards
  • Booking travel
  • Purchase merchandise
  • Transfer points to travel partners

Use The Platinum Card® from American Express to earn more miles

Frequent travelers will find lots of value out of this card. You’ll earn 5x points on flights booked directly through the airline or Amex travel portal. This point value extends to hotels as well, provided you book through Amex’s portal.

Compare Amex Membership rewards cards

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
60,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months
5x points on directly-booked flights or on flights and hotels on Amex Travel. 1x points on all other purchases
$550
Get 5x Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and 5x points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com. Rates & fees
35,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
3x points on directly-booked flights; 4x at restaurants; 4x at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 annually (then 1x points)
$250
35,000 bonus Membership Rewards® Points when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months. Rates & fees
50,000 points after spending $10,000 and 50,000 points after spending an additional $15,000 in the first 3 months
5x points on flights and prepaid hotels through Amex Travel, 1.5x points if you spend $5,000 on a single eligible purchase on up to 1 million additional points per year and 1x points on all other purchases
$595
Earn 50,000 points after spending $10,000 and an extra 50,000 points after spending an additional $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Rates & fees
Up to $500 back on FedEx shipments within the first 3 months, offer ends November 6, 2019
4x points on two categories on up to $150,000 combined annually, then 1x points after that and on all other purchases
$295
Up to $500 back in the form of statement credits by purchasing qualifying services with FedEx using your American Express® Business Gold Card within the first 3 months, offer ends November 6, 2019. Rates & fees
N/A
2x points on everyday business purchases on up to $50,000 annually, then 1x points
$0
Earn 2x Membership Rewards® points on everyday business purchases on up to $50,000 with no category restrictions. Rates & fees
N/A
3x points at U.S. restaurants and direct hotel and airfare purchases on up to $50,000 (then 1x), 2x points on purchases through Amex Travel and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
Earn 3x points at U.S. restaurants and direct hotel and airfare purchases on up to $50,000 (then 1x), 2x points on purchases through Amex Travel and 1x points on all other purchases. Rates & fees
15,000 points after spending $1,000 in your first 3 months
2x points at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year then 1x points after that and on all other purchases
$0
Earn 15,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
25,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
2x points at amextravel.com and 1x points on all other purchases
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 2x Membership Rewards® points at amextravel.com and 1x points for all eligible purchases.
15,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
3x points at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 annually (then 1x), 2x points at US gas stations and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
Earn 15,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account.
N/A
2x points on Amex Travel and x points on all other purchases.
$0
Earn 2x points on Amex Travel and x points on all other purchases.

Compare up to 4 providers

Best credit card rewards program for booking travel: Chase Ultimate Rewards

Where the Chase Ultimate Rewards program lacks in sheer transfer opportunities, it makes up for with a terrific travel redemption perk: Your points will be worth 25% or 50% more when redeemed on the Chase travel portal using the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, respectively.

This is a great offer if you can take advantage of it. Plus, you won’t have to worry about having to make a points transfer or wading through blackout dates when booking through the Chase portal.

How to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points

Here are just a few ways you can earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Check out our full Chase Ultimate Rewards earning guide for more information.

  • Spend in eligible categories
  • Refer a friend
  • Complete welcome offers
  • Shop through Chase’s online portal

What you can redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards for

Here are a few of your primary redemption options for Membership Rewards points. Check out our full redemption guide for more information.

  • Redeem for cash back or gift cards
  • Merchandise through the Chase portal
  • Book travel
  • Transfer your points to a travel partner

Use the Chase Freedom® to earn more miles

This is an incredibly versatile card for earning Chase Ultimate Reward points. You can earn 5% back in rotating categories each quarter, up to $1,500. After that, you’ll earn a fixed 1% back on all other purchases.

Best credit card program to supplement your rewards: Citi ThankYou rewards program

The Citi ThankYou rewards program doesn’t quite offer the sheer number of transfer partners or a bevy of card options as its competitors. That said, this card can be a great supplement to an existing reward program.

For one, the Citi ThankYou rewards program shares several transfer partners with both Chase and Amex. This means you can double up on points earnings from both cards to transfer to your favorite airline — provided they’re shared by both rewards programs.

At the time of this writing, the Citi Premier℠ Card also provides a sizable welcome offer. If you find yourself bumping up against the Chase 24/7 rule or Amex’s similar limitations on welcome offers, Citi makes a great alternative when you’re on the hunt for points to transfer.

Finally, the Citi Prestige® Credit Card offers a perk unmatched by any of the other big hitters: You’ll get a complimentary fourth night stay at eligible hotels. While you’re limited to two uses of this perk per year effective September 1st, 2019, this is still a great way to pick up some additional value during travel.

How to earn Citi ThankYou points

Here are a few of the ways you can earn Citi ThankYou points. Check out our full Citi ThankYou earning guide for more information.

  • Complete welcome offers
  • Spend in eligible categories
  • Book travel through the Citi travel center
  • Purchase Citi points

What you can redeem Citi ThankYou points for

Here are a few of your redemption options when it comes to spending your ThankYou points. Check out our Citi ThankYou redemption guide to find out which options offer the best value.

  • Transfer to travel partners
  • Book travel through the Citi travel portal
  • Purchase gift cards
  • Redeem statements toward school loans or mortgage

Use the Citi Prestige® Credit Card credit card to earn more points

As the name suggests, the Citi Prestige® Credit Card is one of Citi’s big luxury cards, costing a cool $495 in annual fees. However, the price of that annual fee nets you a sizable 5x points on air travel and restaurants, 3x points on hotels and cruises and 1x points on all other purchases.

Best credit card program for simplicity: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One has a relatively simple rewards program, with only the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card allowing you to earn rewards miles.

A unique draw of this program is the “purchase eraser.” Rather than redeeming your miles ahead of time on travel, you can make purchases on a travel-related purchase and then redeem your miles to “erase” the purchase after the fact.

This feature applies to a number of travel expenses, including rideshare purchases, You can even choose to redeem just a portion of your miles on a purchase.

These are some great features if you’re looking for a straightforward rewards program — and even then, you still have the option to transfer your points to travel partners, albeit at a 2:1.5 ratio.

How to earn Capital One Venture miles

Here are a few ways to start earning Capital One Venture miles.

  • Fulfill welcome offer requirements
  • Spend in eligible categories
  • Book stays through Hotels.com

What you can redeem Capital One Venture miles for

Here are just a few of the ways you can redeem your Capital One Venture miles.

  • “Erase” travel purchases
  • Transfer miles to transfer partners
  • Book travel through Capital One’s travel portal
  • Purchase gift cards
  • Redeem for cash back

Use the Capital One Capital One® Venture® card to earn more miles

Capital One’s Capital One® Venture® card has the biggest earning potential. It offers a competitive flat earning rate of 2%, and you can earn 10x miles when you book through Hotels.com until January 31, 2020.

Compare rewards credit cards

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
20,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
1.25x miles on all purchases and 10x miles at hotels.com/venture
$0
Earn 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
N/A
1x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare and 1.5% for cash back
$495
Receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
75,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
7x points on Hilton Honors purchases, 5x at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations, 3x on all other purchases
$0
Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees
$150 cash back after spending $500 in the first 3 months
1.5% cash back on all purchases
$0
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day.
$150 after spending $500 in the first 90 days
5% on up to $2,000 each activated quarter on two categories combined (1% after), 2% on one everyday category and 1% on all other purchases
$0
When you spend $500 on your card within the first 90 days, you’ll receive a $150 cash back bonus. Rates & Fees

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How to choose the best credit cards rewards program for you

You can get value out of most any rewards program if you make use of it. Consider these factors to help you determine the program you’ll benefit from most.

Do you have a preferred credit card issuer?

If you’re already satisfied with one of your existing credit cards, check out that brand’s reward card options first.

What are your preferred rewards?

Your preferred reward of choice might be worth more or less per point depending on the program, so make sure to do your research. For example, certain cards under the Chase Ultimate Rewards program offer additional value on travel when you book through the Chase travel portal.

Do you plan on transferring your points?

Point transfers are one of the best ways to make the most of your points. Though not all point transfer opportunities are the same across credit card rewards programs. Review each program’s transfer partners to make sure you have a viable option or two when it comes to traveling.

Do the credit cards fit your spending needs?
Above all else, look for a credit card that fits your financial habits and needs. If the terms aren’t great or you can’t swallow the annual fee, it’s best to consider other options.

Bottom line

So long as you pick a credit card that fits your financial habits and redeem on purchases that you value, you’ll find that most credit card rewards programs have something valuable to offer. And if you’re looking for a program that is more specialized, consider one of our picks above. Just make sure to manage your various credit cards responsibly.

Compare rewards credit cards to find one that suits your needs and to start earning toward your next big reward.

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