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Cashback vs. points vs. miles: What type of rewards card is best for me?
Learn how rewards cards differ — and how to choose the right one.
You’ve likely encountered a range of ways providers reward you for spending, whether it be with cash back, rewards or miles. While these are all similar rewards options, they differ in how much value you get from the categories you’re spending in and even how you redeem them.
How do I choose between a cashback, miles or points credit card?
When choosing whether to go with cashback, points or miles, consider the following:
|Intro APR on balance transfers|
|Intro APR on purchases|
|Foreign transaction fee|
|APR||Reward cards tend to have higher interest rates of up to 26% variable, depending on your creditworthiness.|
Why choose a rewards card?
If you have a good credit score or higher, getting a rewards card is definitely worth considering. You get access to premium credit cards that reward your spending in a variety of categories, including groceries, gas, dining or travel.
Compared to non-reward credit cards, you also get:
- Bigger signup bonuses. Depending on what kind of card you get, you can earn a signup bonus worth $150 for most cashback cards to more than $1,000 for airline and travel cards.
- Intro APR period. Intro APR period on purchases and balance transfers is a common perk for cashback cards. But you can also find some points cards with an intro APR period. Travel cards with an intro APR period are rare.
- Brand-specific perks. Get free checked bags on an airline, lounge access, priority boarding, or get free reward nights at a hotel brand or reach an elite status tier by being a cardmember.
Compare top rewards credit cards
If you have narrowed your options to cash back or points, consider these cards and earn accelerated rewards on your purchases.
Tips to maximize your rewards
Getting a rewards credit card can boost your card’s value just by using it. Here are some tips to get even higher value from your card:
- Use multiple cards. More than one card can help you optimize your reward earnings. For example, when dining, use the card that earns the highest cash back or points at restaurants. When flying, use the card with the strongest miles rewards.
- Combine points. Some credit card programs, like the Delta suite of cards or Chase cards with Ultimate Rewards, offer the highest value if you combine cards within the program. For example, only one Delta card offers 2x miles on dining. Use this card at restaurants, and use another Delta card on flights for perks such as free checked bags, priority boarding and more.
- Keep an eye on the cap. If you opt for a cashback card, make sure you know any limits on your earnings. If you reach the cap, use another card for higher rewards, if you have one.
- Pay your balance on time. If you don’t, you could end up paying late fees, taking on penalty interest rates and potentially losing your rewards altogether.
Rewards credit cards can help you earn cash, miles or points on your everyday spending or within specific categories that match your lifestyle.
Cashback cards can be a better choice for rewards on everyday spending at grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants or department stores. Points cards often focus on dining, travel or entertainment purchases. And miles cards typically revolve around travel — airlines, hotels and more.
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