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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 reviewed the top credit card rewards programs and ranked them into categories to help you choose a program that best suits individual needs. When ranking these programs, we assessed several functions and features on offer, including how simple it is to earn and redeem rewards, the number of travel partners available, additional perks, and credit cards available.
Whether you’re looking to earn travel rewards, points, cash back or something else, there’s likely something out there for you.
You might be surprised at the value a rewards program can deliver — especially if you transfer your points or miles and do your research to get the best redemptions. However, here’s a general ranking of the major programs, from most valuable to least.
Why it shines
1. Amex Membership Rewards
More transfer partners than Chase Ultimate Rewards. Lets you transfer points to airline and hotel programs. The Platinum Card® from American Express offers stellar rewards on eligible flights.
2. Chase Ultimate Rewards
Excellent redemption value on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards with a Chase Sapphire® card. Lets you transfer points to airline and hotel programs.
3. Citi ThankYou Rewards
Solid roster of transfer partners. Points from the Citi Premier® Card are worth 1.25x when redeemed for airfare through the ThankYou Travel Center.
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. Starting January 1, 2021, however, your 5x points on flights will be capped at $500,000 annually, reverting to 1x points after that.
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.
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. You can also earn 5% on travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, 5% on Lyft rides through March 2022, 3% at restaurants, which includes takeout and delivery, and 3% for drugstore 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.
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
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
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%.
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 you value flexibility? Credit card loyalty programs typically offer varying levels of flexibility in how you redeem your points. Some may carry unusual or rare options, such as the ability to donate or receive miles with another account.
Do you have a favored airline or hotel? If you travel often and prefer the services of a particular airline or hotel, you might get the most value out of the benefits and perks of their specific loyalty program.
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.
Compare rewards credit cards
Want a better look at all of your rewards card options? Select up to 4 credit cards and click “Compare” to see how they stack up side-by-side.
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, you can check out the best hotel loyalty programs and best airline loyalty programs to see if one better suits your needs — or would make for a great addition to your existing loyalty membership.
Frequently asked questions
Most credit cards offer one of three types of rewards: cash back, points and travel miles.
The best credit card to use for points is whichever credit card lets you earn a high rate in a category you often spend in.
Steven Dashiell is a credit cards writer at Finder. He's worked on 250 Finder articles and counting, helping readers embrace and maximize credit cards. Backed by nearly a decade of research and reporting experience, Steve's work can be seen on Debt.com, CreditCards.com and Lifehacker.
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