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Best credit cards for rewards in 2020

Take advantage of miles, points and perks with a card that best fits your lifestyle.

Updated . What changed?

Fact checked

Our pick for a rewards credit card: Chase Freedom Flex℠

Chase Freedom Flex℠ logo

Up to 5%

Cash back

  • Huge signup bonus for a no-annual-fee card
  • 5% back in rotating categories on up to $1,500 quarterly, then 1%
  • New rewards on travel, dining and drugstores
Apply now

A rewards card can offer savings with cash back, miles and points. Top rewards cards offer features like high rewards earning rates, common spending categories and no fees. Or Compare cards chosen for you based on your credit score.

Best rewards credit cards

Quick look: Top rewards credit cards

Best for flat-rate cash back

Citi® Double Cash Card

Citi® Double Cash Card logo
Finder Rating: 3.8 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (740-850)
Apply now
on Citi's secure site
740
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
Up to 2%
Cash back
n/a
Welcome offer
The Citi® Double Cash Card lets you earn a better cashback rate on all of your purchases than you'll find with other no-annual-fee, cashback cards. Plus you get a long intro APR period on balance transfers.
  • Earn cash back. Earn cash back twice on everything you buy — 1% when you make the purchase and 1% when you pay your balance. Similar cards let you earn 1.5% back. That's up to a $100 difference if you spend $20,000 a year with your card.
  • Intro APR on balance transfers. Enjoy 18 months of a 0% intro APR period for balance transfers. Compared to similar cards, this is one of the longest intro periods you can get. After that, a variable APR of 13.99% to 23.99% applies.
  • Citi Entertainment℠. Get special access when buying presale tickets or VIP packages for concerts, sports events, dining and more.
  • Foreign transaction fee. All purchases made abroad or online with foreign merchants cost 3% of the amount.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 13.99% to 23.99% variable
Balance transfer APR 0% intro for the first 18 months (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable)
Welcome offer N/A
Rewards Up to 2% cash back on purchases (1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay)

Best for sign up bonus

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card logo
Finder Rating: 4.3 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (670-850)
Apply now
on Chase's secure site
Rates & fees

670
Min. credit score
$95
Annual fee
Up to 5x
Points
80,000
Points welcome offer
With a signup bonus worth up to $1,000 in redemption value, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is worth considering. Also, you get to earn accelerated points on travel and dining purchases.
  • Signup bonus. Earn 80,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in your first 3 months when you open your account. That's $1,000 in value when redeemed for travel purchases via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
  • Earn rewards points. Every time you use your card toward travel and dining purchases, you earn 2x points. All other purchases earn 1x points.
  • Point transfer. You can transfer your points in 1:1 ratio with Chase's hotel and airline partners, including British Airways, Air France KLM, Korean Air, Singapore Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, IHG, Marriott and World of Hyatt.
  • Annual fee. The card comes with a $95 annual fee.
Annual Fee $95
Purchase APR 15.99% to 22.99% variable
Balance transfer APR 15.99% to 22.99% variable
Welcome offer 80,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, a value of up to $1,000 through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Rewards 5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases

Best for travel

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve® logo
Finder Rating: 4.6 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (740-850)
Apply now
on Chase's secure site
Rates & fees

740
Min. credit score
$550
Annual fee
Up to 10x
Points
50,000
Points welcome offer
This is an excellent card worth considering if you travel often. You get to earn a generous welcome offer, accelerated points on travel and dining, a $300 travel credit each year and more.
  • Signup bonus. Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in your first 3 months of card membership. This is worth $750 if you redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.
  • Earn rewards points. Earn 3x points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide and 1x points on all other purchases. The 3x points can be worth 4.5% back if redeemed on travel purchases through the Chase Ultimate Rewards. You also earn 10x points on Lyft purchases until March 2022. This can be worth up to 15% back in travel purchases via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
  • Annual travel credit. Get $300 in statement credit as reimbursement for your travel purchases every year on your card account anniversary.
  • Annual fee. Awesome perks come with a high annual fee. You'll pay $550 annual fee for the card.
Annual Fee $550
Purchase APR 16.99% to 23.99% variable
Balance transfer APR 16.99% to 23.99% variable
Welcome offer 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
Rewards 10x points on Lyft rides, 3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit and 1x points on all other purchases

Best for gas

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi logo
Finder Rating: 3.6 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (740-850)
Apply now
on Citi's secure site
740
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
Up to 4%
Cash back
n/a
Welcome offer
If you're often on the road, the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi could be an excellent addition to your wallet. You'll earn accelerated points on gas, travel and dining purchases.
  • You won't pay an annual fee to own the card.
  • Earn 4% cash back on gas for the first $7,000 spent annually, 1% after that.
  • Earn 3% cash back on restaurants and travel, 2% cash back on purchases from Costco and Costco.com.
  • Earn 1% cash back on everything else.
  • Use your Costco credit card to enter Costco.
  • You need to have Costco membership to apply for the card.
  • You can only redeem your Costco rewards once a year.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 15.24% variable
Balance transfer APR 15.24% variable
Welcome offer N/A
Rewards 4% at gas stations on up to $7,000 annually (then 1%), 3% at restaurants and on travel, 2% at Costco and 1% on all other purchases

Best for small purchases

Citi Rewards+℠ Card

Citi Rewards+℠ Card logo
Finder Rating: 4.1 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (740-850)
Apply now
on Citi's secure site
740
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
Up to 2x
Points
15,000
Points welcome offer
This card is ideal for anyone looking to maximize rewards on small purchases. With its round-up feature, you can earn up to 5% cash back on a $2 coffee, for example.
  • Rewards points. Earn 2x points at supermarkets and gas stations on up to $6,000 in combined purchases each year. Once you reach the cap and on all other purchases, you earn 1x points.
  • Round up points. A rewards rate of 2x and 1x points may not seem like its worth earning a spot as one of the best rewards credit cards. But with the rounding up feature, your rewards rate is actually higher. Say you buy a $2 coffee. Your rewards points will round up at 10x points, thus earning a 5% reward.
  • Bonus points. The card comes with 15,000 bonus points once you spend $1,000 in your first 3 months when you open your credit card account. Also, you get additional 10% bonus points for the first 100,000 points you redeem annually.
  • Foreign transaction fees. Using the card abroad or online with foreign merchants will cost 3% of the amount.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 0% intro for the first 15 months (then 13.49% to 23.49% variable)
Balance transfer APR 0% intro for the first 15 months (then 13.49% to 23.49% variable)
Welcome offer Earn 15,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
Rewards Earn 2x points at supermarkets and gas stations on up to $6,000 annually, then 1x points after that and on all other purchases

Best hotel credit card

IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card logo
Finder Rating: 4.6 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (670-850)
See offer
on Creditcards.com's secure site
Rates & fees

670
Min. credit score
$89
Annual fee
Up to 25x
Points
125,000
Points welcome offer
This is by far the most rewarding hotel credit card where you get to earn a generous signup bonus and a massive rewards rate at IHG hotels. In addition, you get an anniversary free night and a fourth rewards night free.
  • Signup bonus. Earn 125,000 bonus points once you spend $3,000 in your first 3 months of account opening. Most credit cards that offer such generous signup bonuses usually require a higher spend of around $4,000 in the first three months.
  • Earn points. Earn 25x points on IHG stays, 2x points at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants and 1x points on everything else you buy.
  • Fourth rewards night free. Redeem your points for four or more rewards nights and get an additional rewards night.
  • Annual fee. To use the card and its perks, you'll pay $89 each year.
Annual Fee $89
Purchase APR 15.99% to 22.99% variable
Balance transfer APR 15.99% to 22.99% variable
Welcome offer 125,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
Rewards 25x points at IHG hotels, 2x on gas, groceries and dining and 1x on all other purchases

Best for earning airline rewards

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express logo
Finder Rating: 4.4 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (670-850)
Read review
Rates & fees

670
Min. credit score
$550
Annual fee
Up to 5x
Points
60,000
Points welcome offer
This card lets you earn one of the highest rewards rate on airfare, plus you get an annual airline fee credit and access to more than 1,200 airport lounges worldwide.
  • Membership rewards points. Earn 5x points on flights and prepaid hotels booked directly through Amex Travel. You can use your points toward gift cards, travel rewards, statement credit and more. If you redeem these points for the highest valued rewards, you'll get 5% back. On all other eligible purchases, you'll earn 1x points.
  • Welcome offer. Get 60,000 membership rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of card membership. That's up to $1,200 worth of rewards when transferred to travel partners.
  • Airline fee credit. Select a qualifying airline and receive a $200 airline fee credit each year to cover incidental charges, such as checked bags or in-flight purchases.
  • Annual fee. Expect to pay $550 for the card. This may seem like a lot, but if you travel often, you can easily offset the fee.
Annual Fee $550
Purchase APR
Balance transfer APR
Welcome offer 60,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months
Rewards 5x points on directly-booked flights or on flights and hotels on Amex Travel. 1x points on all other purchases

Best for dining and entertainment

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card logo
Finder Rating: 4.4 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (670-850)
Read review
Rates & fees

670
Min. credit score
$95 ongoing
Annual fee
Up to 8%
Cash back
$300
Welcome offer
With this card, you get to earn one of the highest rewards rates on dining and entertainment purchases without paying a high annual fee.
  • Cash back. Earn 4% back on dining and entertainment, and 2% back at grocery stores. Purchases made on sporting tickets at Vivid Seats earn 8% cash back until May 2020. All other purchases earn 1% cash back.
  • Signup bonus. Earn $300 bonus cash once you spend $3,000 in your first 3 months when you opened your account.
  • High minimum credit line. Your credit line depends on multiple factors, but with this card you won't get a lower credit line than $5,000.
  • Annual fee. For the first year, you won't pay an annual fee. But starting from the second year, expect to pay $95 annually to own the card.
Annual Fee $0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Purchase APR 15.99% or 24.99% variable
Balance transfer APR 15.99% or 24.99% variable
Welcome offer $300 after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
Rewards 8% cash back with Vivid Seats, 5% on Uber Eats, 4% on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases

Best for groceries and streaming services

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express logo
Finder Rating: 4.3 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (670-850)
Apply now
on American Express's secure site
Rates & fees

670
Min. credit score
$95
Annual fee
Up to 6%
Cash back
$250
Welcome offer
This card comes with one of the highest rewards rates on groceries and streaming services. You also get to earn accelerated rewards at US gas stations and on transit purchases.
  • Earn cash back. Earn 6% cash back at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year. After that, you'll earn 1% back. You'll also earn 6% on select US streaming services and 3% on transit purchases. At US gas stations you'll earn 3% back. For everything else you buy, you'll get 1% back.
  • Welcome offer. Get $250 in statement credit after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of card membership.
  • Intro APR period. Enjoy a 0% intro APR period on purchases for the first 12 months of account opening. After that, a variable APR of 13.99% to 23.99% applies.
  • Annual fee. You'll pay $95 annually to enjoy the card and its perks.
Annual Fee $95
Purchase APR 0% intro for the first 12 months (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable)
Balance transfer APR N/A
Welcome offer $250 after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
Rewards 6% on select US streaming services, 3% on transit and US gas stations, 6% at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 annually, then 1% after that and on all other purchases

Best for rotating categories

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Chase Freedom Flex℠ logo
Finder Rating: 4.7 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (670-850)
Apply now
on Chase's secure site
Rates & fees

670
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
Up to 5%
Cash back
$200
Welcome offer
The new Chase Freedom Flex℠ replaces the old Chase Freedom and brings with it several flat accelerated categories to complement the traditional rotating categories. This greatly increases the flexibility and earning potential of the card and handily earns it a spot on this list.
  • Cash back. Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter on rotating categories, then 1%. Earn 5% cash back on purchases made through the Chase Travel Portal, 3% back on dining purchases including delivery and takeout, and 3% back on drugstore purchases.
  • Signup bonus. Earn a $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 in your first 3 months when you open your account.
  • Intro APR on purchases. Get a 0% intro APR period on purchases when you open your account. After that, a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.74% variable applies.
  • No intro balance transfer offer. This card only comes with an intro APR on purchases, not on balance transfers.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 0% intro for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 23.74% variable)
Balance transfer APR 14.99% to 23.74% variable
Welcome offer $200 after spending $500 in the first 3 months, plus 5% cash back at grocery stores on up to $12,000 in the first year
Rewards 5% back in rotating categories up to $1,500 combined each activated quarter (then 1%), 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases

Best for low credit

Discover it® Secured

Discover it® Secured logo
Finder Rating: 4.4 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (300-669)
Read review
300
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
Up to 2%
Cash back
Other
Welcome offer
The Discover it® Secured is definitely worth considering because not only do you get to build credit, but you also get to earn cash back without paying an annual fee.
  • Build credit. Discover reports to all three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. With responsible card use, you'll build your credit in no time.
  • Cash back. Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on the first $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. After reaching the cap and on all other purchases you earn 1% cash back.
  • Cashback match. At the end of your first year, Discover will match the entire cash back you earned without limits.
  • Security deposit. To use the card, you must make a $200 secured deposit that will act as your credit limit.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 22.99% variable
Balance transfer APR 10.99% intro for the first 6 months (then 22.99% variable)
Welcome offer Discover will match cash back earned at the end of your first card year
Rewards 2% back on gas and dining up to $1,000 combined each activated quarter, then 1% after that and on all other purchases

How we selected our top cards

We compared several features among available rewards cards, including rewards categories, points earned per dollar spent, the average value of points upon redemption, welcome offer value, annual fees, introductory APRs and other perks or benefits a consumer might weigh when looking for a rewards card. The cards that stood out above the rest in one or more of these categories earned a spot on our list.

What’s changed in 2020

We removed the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card because you can no longer apply for it. Another change this year is the addition of the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, which got a boost on its signup bonus. Combined with its rewards rate, this is undoubtedly the most rewarding hotel credit card.

We also removed the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, which previously held the spot for ongoing rewards after a balance transfer. The reason is simple: At the time of this writing, Amex removed the card’s intro APR for transfers.

  • Why trust us? Finder’s credit card experts close to 400 hours each week steeped in the heart of credit card news and practices. With so much experience on deck, we know when a rewards card is a must have, or when a card is a better fit for just a few types of consumers. We share this knowledge to help consumers find a card that not only offers value, but best fits their financial needs. To help us accomplish this, we follow editorial guidelines that keep our content up-to-date, accurate and without bias.
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Summary of best credit cards for rewards

Card nameBest for…Finder ratingRewards
Citi® Double Cash CardBest for flat-rate cash back
★★★★★
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
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit CardBest hotel credit card
★★★★★
25x points at IHG hotels, 2x on gas, groceries and dining and 1x on all other purchases
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardBest for sign up bonus
★★★★★
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
Citi Rewards+℠ CardBest for small purchases
★★★★★
Earn 2x points at supermarkets and gas stations on up to $6,000 annually, then 1x points after that and on all other purchases
Chase Sapphire Reserve®Best for travel
★★★★★
10x points on Lyft rides, 3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit and 1x points on all other purchases
The Platinum Card® from American ExpressBest for earning airline rewards
★★★★★
5x points on directly-booked flights or on flights and hotels on Amex Travel. 1x points on all other purchases
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit CardBest for dining and entertainment
★★★★★
8% cash back with Vivid Seats, 5% on Uber Eats, 4% on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American ExpressBest for groceries and streaming services
★★★★★
6% on select US streaming services, 3% on transit and US gas stations, 6% at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 annually, then 1% after that and on all other purchases
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by CitiBest for gas
★★★★★
4% at gas stations on up to $7,000 annually (then 1%), 3% at restaurants and on travel, 2% at Costco and 1% on all other purchases
U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® CardBest for rotating categories
★★★★★
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
Discover it® SecuredBest for low credit
★★★★★
2% back on gas and dining up to $1,000 combined each activated quarter, then 1% after that and on all other purchases

Citi® Double Cash Card

Why it’s the best for flat-rate cash back. The standard flat-rate most similar cards offer is 1.5%. The Citi® Double Cash Card offers 2% (1% when you buy plus 1% when you pay), which gives the card higher long-term value. But this card also beats competitor 2% cashback cards because of its long intro APR period on balance transfers, a perk that none of the other cards offer.

IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

Why it’s the best hotel credit card. The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card beats competitor cards with its high rewards rate, signup bonus and rewards nights. With an $18,000 annual spending and maxing out rewards nights, you can get more than 20 rewards nights each year. And if you clear the signup bonus, you can get more than 30 rewards nights within your first year.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Why it’s the best for sign up bonus. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card‘s signup bonus comes on top when compared to other cards because it’s worth $1,000 when redeemed for travel purchases via the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. To earn a similar bonus or higher with other cards, you typically need to pay a much higher annual fee.

Citi Rewards+℠ Card

Why it’s the best for small purchases. The Citi Rewards+℠ Card leading perk is the round-up feature where every purchase is rounded up to the nearest 10. This makes purchases of $1 and $2 earn 10% and 5% respectively back in points. No other card comes even close to rewarding small purchases like this one does.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Why it’s the best for travel. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® rewards your travel and dining purchases worldwide. Plus, it offers a host of travel perks like Priority Pass lounge access and $300 annual travel credit, both useful for frequent travelers. And this card is widely accepted worldwide since it’s a Visa card.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Why it’s the best for earning airline rewards. With The Platinum Card® from American Express you earn 5x points on flights booked directly through Amex Travel. This gives you flexibility to earn points on a variety of airlines as opposed to cobranded airline cards where you only earn accelerated points on the main airline and some of its partners.

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Why it’s the best for dining and entertainment. It’s rare to find a card like the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card where you earn 4% cash back on dining and entertainment purchases. What’s more, it’s the only such card with an 8% cash back on Vivid Seats ticket purchases.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Why it’s the best for groceries and streaming services. No other card offers what the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express does — the highest rewards rate on groceries and streaming services. What’s more, these two are not the only categories where you earn accelerated cash back. Gas purchases at US gas stations as well as taxis, rideshares, parking, tolls, trains and bus rides are also highly rewarding.

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

Why it’s the best for gas. Other gas cards typically offer a lower rewards rate than the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi. Some cards that have a higher rewards rate often have a lower annual cap. For pure gas rewards, the Costco card is unmatched. Plus, you get to earn accelerated cash back on travel and purchases made at restaurants and Costco.

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

Why it’s the best for rotating categories. The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card is the only cashback card with rotating categories that lets you choose the categories. It also has a higher cashback limit than competitor cards, meaning you can earn up to $100 more on the rotating categories.

Discover it® Secured

Why it’s the best for rotating categories. The Discover it® Secured card is an excellent card because not only do you get to build credit, but you also get to earn cash back without paying an annual fee. What’s more, Discover will match the entire cash back you earn during your first year without limits. No other secured card does that.

Compare rewards credit cards

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Chase Freedom Flex℠
$200 after spending $500 in the first 3 months, plus 5% cash back at grocery stores on up to $12,000 in the first year
5% back in rotating categories up to $1,500 combined each activated quarter (then 1%), 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases
$0
Get up to 5% cashback in rotating and newly added everyday categories. The refreshed Freedom Flex card has lots of earning potential.
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
$150 after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
2% at US gas stations and select US department stores, 3% at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year, then 1% after that and on all other purchases
$0
Get 3% cash back on groceries on up to $6,000 annually (then 1%) with no annual fee. This is a simple and effective rewards card. Rates & fees
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
$250 after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
6% on select US streaming services, 3% on transit and US gas stations, 6% at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 annually, then 1% after that and on all other purchases
$95
Perfect for families: Get up to 6% on everyday purchases and a welcome offer worth $250. This heavy-hitter rewards card has uncontested value. Rates & fees
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
80,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, a value of up to $1,000 through Chase Ultimate Rewards
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
Earn a huge signup bonus worth $$1,000 with this popular travel card. Combine with other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards for even greater value.
Citi® Double Cash Card
N/A
Up to 2% cash back on purchases (1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay)
$0
Earn up to 2% on every purchase with no annual fee. This is the highest flat-rate cashback card on the market.
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Compare Rewards cards by spending type

To maximize your rewards, get a rewards card that offers more points in the category you spend most.

How have credit card rewards changed because of Covid-19?

During the coronavirus pandemic, cardholders are traveling less, spending less on gas, hotels and flights. Credit card issuers have noticed and made some changes to their rewards programs. Here’s what’s changed so far:

  • Welcome offer extension. Because many cardholders are staying home and feel more uncertain about the future, they’re limiting their spending and focusing on savings. As a result, credit card providers like American Express, Bank of America and Chase have extended the period needed to clear the signup bonus by an additional three months.
  • Rewards program changes. During the lockdown, people are spending less on gas and travel, and instead are buying more streaming services and ordering takeout. Some card providers, including Citi, Chase and Bank of America, have adapted their rewards programs to let you earn more points on the new categories.
  • Extended travel perks. With travel bans and lockdown in place, cardholders couldn’t use travel perks like elite status, companion pass or free hotel nights. The expiry date for these perks has been extended by most airlines and hotels.

Types of rewards credit cards

Here are a few types of rewards credit cards that you might encounter.

Type of rewards credit card

Benefits and features

Guide

CashbackRewards earned with these cards are given as cash back.
You can redeem this cash back as a statement credit or deposit into your bank account.
See guide
PointsThese cards earn points on certain purchases, such as restaurants, gas or streaming services.
You can then redeem these points in a variety of ways, such as travel, gift cards or cash back.
See cards
TravelThese cards earn points or miles on travel purchases, such as flights, cruises or hotel nights.
These cards aren’t typically tied to a specific travel brand, letting you earn rewards
regardless of how you travel.
See guide
AirlineEarn bonus miles when you spend on flights and other eligible categories.
You can redeem these miles on additional flights and other rewards.
These cards often come with additional airline benefits.
See guide
HotelEarn points when you spend on hotel stays and other eligible categories.
Redeem these points on rewards nights and other rewards.
Like airline cards, hotel cards often come with additional hotel perks.
See guide
RetailOffer benefits and rewards tied to a particular retailer.
Often, you can only use these cards with the affiliated company.
See guide

How do rewards credit cards work?

With a rewards credit card, you get a percentage back of what you spend, typically in the form of cash back, points or miles. You can redeem this earned currency through your card provider’s rewards portal. These points and miles represent a certain value in cash which can range depending on the rewards program.

For cashback cards, rewards are usually expressed as a percentage. If a card offers 2% cash back on all purchases, for example, you’ll receive $2 back for every $100 you spend.

For other cards, rewards are usually expressed as a point or mile multiple. A card might offer 2x points on all purchases, for example, which means you’ll receive 2 points for every dollar you spend.

1. Compare and apply for a card

Find a card that best suits your credit score, finances, spending and rewards preferences.

2. Earn rewards

Purchases you make with your rewards card are automatically posted as points or cashback to your account. Depending on the type of rewards card, you might earn more rewards for spending in a certain category.

3. Redeem rewards

Earn enough points and you can redeem them on products, gift cards and more. Depending on your card, you might be able to simply redeem your points as a statement credit.

How to compare rewards cards

In addition to the card’s APR, here are a few big items to review when comparing rewards cards:

Signup bonus

Many rewards cards offer bonus points to new customers to help you kick start your rewards cache.

Earning categories

Does the card earn points on all purchases or just some purchases? And do some categories offer more points than others?

Transfer opportunities

Big name rewards cards allow you to transfer your points to travel rewards programs. This flexibility is highly valuable when used correctly.

Perks

Rewards cards can come with a terrific selection of additional benefits. These can prove valuable provided they suit your needs.

Annual fee

Many cards offer decent rewards for no annual fee. Expect to pay a bit more, however, if you’re looking to get the highest rewards rate, the most generous welcome offer or a host of premium perks.

Intro APR

Save money on interest when you use this card for large purchases, but make sure you can pay it off within the 0% intro period. Or, choose to transfer debt to a 0% transfer card to save on interest while paying off your debt.

Pros and cons of using a rewards credit card

Pros

  • Rewards. Choose a card that fits your lifestyle and earn rewards on purchases you would have made anyway.
  • Redeeming rewards. Redemption options vary from card to card. You could earn cash back, travel benefits, merchandise, gift cards and more.
  • Global acceptance. Most rewards cards are affiliated with Visa or Mastercard, accepted in over 200 countries and territories worldwide. While American Express and Discover credit cards aren’t as widely accepted internationally, they’re accepted in many locations around the world.
  • Extra perks. Many rewards cards offer extra perks, such as complimentary travel and rental car insurance. Compare your options to see which features work best with your lifestyle and spending habits.

Cons

  • Cost. You may have to pay an ongoing annual fee, or your card may have a higher APR than your basic, no-frills product.
  • Limitations. Your card provider might not let you earn more than a certain number of points in a calendar year, and your points may expire after a set time.
  • Temptation to spend. Rewards are always enticing. But if you aren’t careful, you could find yourself in snowballing debt. If you consistently carry a balance on your card, the interest could offset any rewards you earn.

When is a rewards credit card worth it?

Even the simplest of rewards credit cards can offer value if you use it properly. To make a rewards card worthwhile, consider where you spend the most and get a card that offers more points in those areas.

A rewards card’s annual fee is the primary concern when you’re evaluating whether the card is worth it. Some of the more luxurious rewards cards come with steep annual fees, so you’ll need to use enough perks and earn enough rewards to overcome that.

Case study: Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve® worth it?

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® sports an annual fee of $550. To make this card worth it, you’d have to take advantage of enough of the card’s perks and features to outweigh this $550 fee in value. Here are a few ways to create that value.

PerksValue
Annual travel statement credit$300
Two Priority Pass stays$160
TSA PreCheck and Global Entry credit (every 4 years)$100
One year of Lyft Pink membership (one time)$240
Total$800

Here you can see you can get $800 of value out of the card perks in one year before you even factor in the rewards you can earn with the card on your everyday spending. This outweighs the cost of the annual fee, so the rewards card is worth it if you take advantage of the perks.

You asked, we listened: Top five common questions

With so many airline credit cards to choose from, it’s only natural to have some questions. Here are the 5 most common questions we receive on the subject.

  1. How much are credit card rewards points worth? The most common value of a rewards point is 1 cent per 1 point. However, this can vary greatly depending on the specific loyalty program and how you redeem your points.
  2. Can I redeem my rewards points for cash back? In many cases, yes. Many rewards cards offer cash back statements as a redemption option for points.
  3. What types of rewards cards are there? There are three kinds of rewards cards: cards that earn cashback, miles or points. Cashback cards are typically the easiest type of card to use, but cards that earn miles or points give you the opportunity to redeem for higher value.
  4. Which type of rewards card should I get? This depends on how you use your card, and we have a full guide on how to pick a rewards card type. In general, pick a card that rewards you for your regular everyday spending.
  5. How many rewards cards should I have? Many consumers find it useful to have a few rewards cards, usually one with strong earnings for each type of major purchase category.

Common credit card rewards programs

Most credit card providers offer a rewards program of some kind. To choose the best rewards program for your needs, consider whether you want a simple rewards structure like cash back or whether you want rewards redemption flexibility.

Rewards programHighlightsProgram guide
Amex Membership Rewards
  • Points worth 1 cent on average
  • Pay eligible charges on your credit card statement with points
  • Pay with points on Amazon, PayPal, Grubhub and more
  • Redeem for gift cards
  • Book hotel stays, flights, car rentals and cruises
  • Shop with points
  • Transfer points to 22 partner airlines and hotels, including Delta, British Airways, Hawaiian
    Airlines, JetBlue, Virgin Atlantic, Hilton and Marriott
Amex rewards program guide
Bank of America Rewards
  • You can earn cash with cashback cards and points with travel cards
  • Points are worth 1 cent apiece for travel statement credit redemption
  • Gift cards and cash back have a lower redemption value for points
  • Cashback rewards can only be redeemed for cash with equal value
  • Preferred Bank of America members can earn 25%, 50% or 75% more rewards on purchases
Bank of America rewards program guide
Capital One rewards
  • You can earn cash with cashback cards and miles with travel cards
  • Travel miles are typically worth 1 cent apiece when redeemed for travel purchases
  • Redeem miles for gift cards and cash with a lower redemption value
  • Transfer miles to partner airlines, including JetBlue, Air Canada and
    Air Mexico
Capital One rewards program guide
Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • All Chase Freedom, Sapphire and Ink Business cards earn points
  • Combine points between multiple cards
  • Points worth 1 cent on average
  • Book hotel stays, airfare, car rentals and cruises via the program
  • Points are worth 25% more when redeemed at the portal with a Sapphire Preferred card
  • Points are worth 50% more when redeemed at the portal with a Sapphire Reserve card
  • Redeem for cash as a statement credit or gift cards
  • Buy merchandise
  • Shop with points on Amazon.com
  • Transfer points to 12 partner airlines and hotels, including JetBlue, Southwest Airlines,
    United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, IHG, World of Hyatt and Marriott
    Chase Ultimate Rewards guide
    Citi ThankYou Rewards
    • Points are worth 1 cent on average for travel purchases
    • Redeem for cash as a statement credit or gift cards
    • Shop with points on Amazon.com
    • Pay with points to cover statement credit purchases
    • Use points toward your student loan or mortgage
    • Transfer points to partner airlines including JetBlue, Virgin Atlantic, Turkish Airlines and
      Aeromexico
    • Donate points
    Citi ThankYou rewards program guide
    Discover rewards
    • Travel card earns miles
    • Cashback card earns cash
    • Miles are worth 1 cent apiece
    • Redeem miles for a statement credit toward travel purchases or cash as a direct deposit
    • You can’t transfer miles to airlines or hotels
    Discover rewards guide

    How to make the most of your rewards

    With a good or excellent credit score getting a rewards credit card is easy. But to make the most of your rewards, and to stay out of debt, you’ll need to do some work.

    How to earn points

    Spending is the best way to earn points points. But some cards offer more points for certain categories, like gas, groceries, department stores, dining and travel. While other cards offer a flat reward for all purchases. Review your spending habits to find the right reards card for you.

    How to maximize points

    Maximizing your credit card rewards takes dedication.You need multiple credit cards that each earn accelerated rewards on a particular category. Then use each card where it earns the most. Some of the best credit card combinations are the Chase trifecta and the Amex trifecta.

    Another way of maximizing points is by earning the signup bonus and redeeming your points with the highest redemption value. In some cases — as with the Chase credit cards — you can transfer your points from one card to another and get up to 50% higher redemption value.

    How to redeem points for the best value

    To get the highest points redemption value you need to use your points for the right reward. For example, travel credit cards often have a 1 cent value per point, but only if you redeem it toward travel purchases. This means, avoid gift cards, cash and merchandise and focus only on travel redemption.

    Some credit cards let you transfer points to partner airlines and hotels. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get better points value. To be sure you get the most for your points, compare the redemption value in points on your credit card and travel partners by dividing the cash price with the points price.

    Example

    A hotel stay costs $200 when paid with cash, 30,000 with credit card points and 40,000 points with partner hotel rewards program.

    $200 divided by 30,000 points = 0.006
    $200 divided by 40,000 points = 0.005

    This means you get a 0.6 cents per point value with your credit card points and 0.5 cents per point value with the partner hotel. The higher the number, the higher the redemption value. In this case, it makes more sense to redeem your points with your credit card program than to transfer them to the partner hotel rewards program.

    Read more about rewards credit cards

    Steven Dashiell

    Steven Dashiell
    Credit Cards Writer

    Hi, Steve here! Before I decided on the Chase Freedom, I had a ton of questions about how Chase Ultimate Rewards worked, whether this card could transfer points and just how this card differed from other issuers’ rewards cards. Here are some of the articles that answered my questions and helped me make my decision.

    Ask the experts

    Mark D. Groza
    Lee Huffman
    Eliot Buchanan
    Audrey Guskey
    Yuliya Strizhakova
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    Bottom line

    There’s no shortage of rewards credit cards to choose from. Think about what rewards you want and how you typically spend, then compare a few cards before settling on the winner.

    If you’re not sure you want a rewards card yet, consider other options like 0% APR cards.

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