There’s no one best credit card out there for everyone, but if you know your spending habits and what kind of rewards you want, you should be able to narrow down your top choices to a few.
To help you, we’ve put together a list of the best rewards credit cards on the market. Specifically, we’ll cover the best cards that offer cash back and travel rewards, and we’ll also share a couple of options if your credit isn’t quite good enough to get the best.
The best cash-back credit cards
The best credit card rewards programs offer flexibility, and that’s what cash-back cards do. After all, you can do whatever you want with cash. Here are the best cash-back credit cards for your wallet:
If you can’t be bothered by credit cards that have multiple rewards rates or require that you memorize rotating bonus categories, the Citi Double Cash Card should be in your wheelhouse.
The card offers a flat 1% cash back on every purchase you make, then another 1% cash back when you pay them off, for an effective 2% cash-back rate. There are very few credit cards that can beat that rate on a consistent basis.
The Citi Double Cash is also a great option if you need to transfer a balance from a high-interest credit card. You’ll get a 0% APR promotion that lasts more than a year. It’s not available for new purchases, though. So, if you need a card that you can use to finance a big-ticket item, this one isn’t for you.
The biggest drawback to the card is that it doesn’t offer a sign-up bonus. Otherwise, it’s a great top-of-wallet card that you can use for just about anything.
2) Discover it
There’s a lot of debate over which card is better: The Discover it or the Chase Freedom. They both offer 5% cash back on categories that rotate each month, up to a certain amount spent. They also both offer 1% cash back on all other purchases.
What really sets the Discover it apart is its sign-up bonus, if you can call it that. Instead of offering a specific cash bonus after you spend a certain amount, Discover simply matches all of the cash back you earn during your first year.
So, instead of getting 5% cash back on bonus categories and 1% back on everything else, you’re effectively earning 10% bonus cash back and 2% back on everything else. That’s tough to beat, especially if you’re a big spender and can max out those rotating categories each quarter.
The card also offers a 0% APR promotion on both purchases and balance transfers. The card’s biggest drawback is that it’s not widely accepted overseas. But otherwise, it’s a no-brainer, at least as a secondary card to take advantage of the bonus categories.
If you spend a lot on gas and groceries, this card has a lucrative proposition. For starters, you’ll earn a $200 cash bonus after you spend $1,000 in the first three months.
Then, you’ll get a whopping 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets up to $6,000 spent each year (1% after that), 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select department stores, and 1% cash back on everything else. The card also offers a 0% APR promotion for both new purchases and balance transfers.
But if you’re fee-averse, this card might not be a good fit. It charges a $95 annual fee and doesn’t waive it the first year. Of course, if you max out the grocery bonus, you’d earn $360 from that alone, more than making up for the annual fee.
If your credit is in the fair or average range, it’s likely that you won’t get approved for most of the cards on this list. The good news is that the QuicksilverOne is a perfect card to use while you’re building your credit.
The card offers 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make. You’ll also qualify for a higher credit limit once you make your first five payments on time. And if you apply for the card early in 2018, you’ll get to take advantage of the card’s Spotify promotion —
you’ll get 50% back on a Spotify Premium membership.
Unfortunately, all of these perks come at a cost. The QuicksilverOne charges a $39 annual fee. That’s not terrible, though, considering what you’re getting in return.
In most situations, getting a secured card is the pits. Not only do you have to put up money as a security deposit to get the card, but you’re typically stuck with no rewards and an annual fee. Plus, you won’t get your deposit back until after you close down the account, whenever that happens.
With the Discover it Secured, however, you don’t have to worry about any of these things. First off, there is no annual fee. Secondly, the card offers 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, plus 1% cash back elsewhere. And just like the Discover it card, this card doubles all of the cash back you earn during the first year.
Discover also automatically reviews your account, starting at eight months, to see if it can return your security deposit, effectively turning it into an unsecured credit card. If you have bad or no credit, there’s no card out there that will beat what this one offers.
The best credit cards for travel rewards
Getting cash back is nice, but it can also be boring. Some of the best credit cards offer special perks that can not only help you get free travel but also travel in comfort.
If you like the idea of getting free travel, but still want something simple, the Venture from Capital One is a perfect choice. It offers 2X miles on all purchases, plus a 50,000-mile sign-up bonus after you spend $3,000 in the first three months — that’s worth $500 in free travel.
You can use your miles to pay for just about any travel — you don’t have to worry about blackout dates or other restrictions. The card also has no foreign transaction fees, so it’s a perfect travel companion if you’re headed overseas.
The card does charge an annual fee of $95, but it waives it the first year.
If you want special airline perks, this card offers perks you won’t get with the competition. The card offers 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. You’ll also earn 2X miles on a United purchase and 1X miles on everything else.
That’s not what sets this card apart, though. The card also offers two free passes to the United Club, the airline’s airport lounge. That’s worth just a little more than the card’s $95 annual fee (waived the first year).
You’ll also get primary rental car insurance, which means you don’t have to tap your personal car insurance company first if something happens to your rental car. The majority of credit cards offer secondary rental car insurance.
This card also offers other airline perks, including priority boarding, a free checked bag for you and one other person on your itinerary, no foreign transaction fees, and upgrades for MileagePlus Premier members.
If you don’t mind a steep annual fee, the Platinum Card just might be worth it. You’ll earn a sign-up bonus worth 60,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months. But compared with the other perks the card offers, the rewards program surprisingly isn’t all that important.
For example, you’ll get:
- Free access to a collection of more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide.
- A $200 annual credit to use against incidental airline fees like checked bags.
- $200 worth of free Uber rides each year.
- A credit for your application fee for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, worth up to $100.
- Elite status at select hotels and car rental companies.
- No foreign transaction fees.
Depending on how you use the card, you could get a lot more value than what you’re paying for the card’s $550 annual fee.
This Bank of America card has no annual fee, but it can still pack a punch despite first impressions. For most, you’ll earn just 1.5 points per dollar spent, and get a 20,000-point sign-up bonus after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days.
But if you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member — you have to meet certain deposit or investment minimums — your rewards rate could go up to 2.625 points per dollar.
You’ll also get a 0% APR promotion on purchases and balance transfers, and no foreign transaction fees.
Which card should you choose?
There’s no one right credit card out there for everyone. To find out which one is best for you, do your due diligence.
Check out SuperMoney’s credit card review page to get an idea of what offers are out there. Then compare each one to consider what you want the most.
Also, make sure your credit is good enough to get approved. “Being aware of your financial standing before applying for a credit card is key to avoid any denials,” says Natasha Rachel Smith, a personal finance expert at Topcashback.
These are the best rewards credit cards of 2018. Do you know how they compare to the best credit cards of 2017? Some of them didn’t make it to this year’s list but are still great additions to your wallet. Read on to see last year’s winners.
Best Rewards Credit Cards of 2017
“Minimize the impact of a hard inquiry by checking your credit score before applying for anything. Review your credit score and if your credit score is subpar, take some time to boost it up by repaying debt.”
As you take the time to make the best choice for your needs, you can avoid applying for too many credit cards as you’re trying to find “the right one.” You’ll also be in a better position to start racking up rewards that are meaningful to you.
Do you like to travel a lot? Or maybe you want cash back to spend on whatever you want. Depending on your preferences, there’s a rewards credit card that’s best for you. It takes some research, but by learning about a card’s reward perks, you can figure out the best strategies to reap its full benefits and save you money.
For instance, you can get a travel credit card that offers 50,000 points if you spend $4,000 in the first three months. Toss in double points on certain types of purchases, and depending on the earning and redemption rates, you’ll soon earn a fair amount of points to put toward airfare or hotel for this year’s dream getaway destination.
But with so many cards out there, it’s hard to figure which card is best for you. SuperMoney has done the research for you and audited dozens of rewards credit cards and ranked the top offers available in 2017. The best card for you will depend on its earning and redemption rates, bonus offers, flexibility and other rewards-related perks.
Here are our picks for the best rewards credit cards in 2017 for personal and business travel, cash back, 0% annual percentage rate (APR) balance transfer, and for students.
Best personal travel rewards card: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Preferred offers a large 50,000-point signup bonus if you spend $4,000 in your first three months. If you use the points through Ultimate Rewards®, that’s the equivalent of $625 you can use toward travel. Its benefits are quite generous, with flexible redemption policies and partners that include British Airways Executive Club, United MileagePlus and Marriott Rewards. There is a 1:1 cash-back equivalency on Amazon and you can transfer points to other reward programs. Those who meet its stringent credit requirements will enjoy its perks.
- 50,000 point bonus if you spend $4,000 in your first three months of opening your card, and the points are used through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- 5,000 point bonus if you add an authorized user within three months of opening your account, and that user makes a purchase.
- Double points on dining and travel expenses
- One point per dollar on all other purchases
- Get 25% more value when you redeem on travel-related expenses, such as hotels, cruises, airfare and car rental through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 1:1 point transfer
- No foreign transaction fees
- $95 annual fee (waived the first year)
- 5% balance transfer fee ($5 minimum)
- 5% cash advance fee ($10 minimum)
Best business travel rewards: Spark Miles from Capital OneApply Here
The Spark Miles from Capital One card is great for business owners who travel frequently and want to earn the most points for travel. The rewards are quite generous: You earn two points for every dollar you spend on all purchases. Plus there’s a signup bonus of 50,000 points, which is the equivalent of $500, if you spend $4,500 within the first three months. The points never expire and there are no blackout dates. You can redeem earned points for travel, gift cards or cash back.
The beauty of this card is you can use your points the airline or hotel of your choice, with no restrictions. When you’re ready to redeem your points for travel, you make the purchase with your Spark Miles card, then simply request a statement of credit from Capital One. Keep in mind there’s a 1:1 cent to mile ratio. For instance, a $300 room in a hotel will cost you 30,000 points.
- 50,000 point signup bonus if you spend $4,500 in the first three months
- Two points for every dollar ratio
- Can use points for travel, cash back or gift cards
- No blackout dates or seat restrictions
- No restrictions on airlines or hotels
- Travel and emergency assistance
- $59 annual fee (waived the first year)
- 3% cash advance fee ($10 minimum)
- $39 late fee
Best cash-back rewards: Chase Freedom Unlimited
Chase Freedom Unlimited is for people who are looking for a straightforward cash-back card with no caps, no annual fee and a decent sign-up bonus. You earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Plus you can earn a $150 bonus after you spend $500 within three months of opening an account.
Besides redeeming points for cash back, you can transfer your points to other Chase cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards®, or toward travel or gift cards. While the rewards may be viewed as barebones to those who are used to high-end rewards, the flexibility of the perks makes the points easy to redeem.
Another noteworthy card by Chase is the Chase Freedom card, which has a lower minimum credit score requirement and no annual fee. With the Chase Freedom card, you get 5% cash back on spending categories that rotate every quarter and 1% cash back on everything else.
To boost your earnings, consider making purchases on the Chase Freedom, which offers the 5% cash back, and your other purchases on the Chase Freedom Unlimited.
- No annual fee
- No minimum redemption requirement
- Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
- $150 bonus if you spend $500 within the first three months of opening your account
- $25 bonus if you add an authorized user within the first three months of opening your account
- 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months
- Can convert cash back to Ultimate Rewards®
- 3% foreign transaction fee
- 5% fee or $5 (whichever is greater) on balance transfers
Best rewards with 0% APR balance transfer: Citi Double Cash CardApply Here
As the name implies, the Citi Double Cash card has a unique method for earning rewards: You rake in 1% cash back when you make a purchase, then another 1% when you pay it off.
So not only do you earn 2% cash back on each swipe of the card, it also offers you an incentive to pay back that card quickly.
There’s also a generous 18-month, 0% introductory APR on balance transfers, but be aware it does have a 3% balance transfer fee. And because there’s no rotating cash-back bonus categories, you don’t have to worry about keeping tabs on your purchases.
- 2% cash back across the board
- 18-month 0% introductory APR on balance transfers
- No annual fee
- No cap on how much you can earn
- You don’t have to keep tabs on rotating bonus categories
- No signup bonus
- 3% foreign transaction fee
- 3% balance transfer fee
- Late and returned payments incur a $35 fee (waived the first time)
Best Rewards Card for Students: Discover It® Chrome
If you’re a student and a foodie and/or put in a lot of miles in your car, you should consider the Discover it® Chrome card. You get 2% cash back on restaurant and gas station purchases, which is capped at $1,000 each quarter, and 1% cash back on everything else. Plus, at the end of your first year, Discover matches every cent of your cash-back earnings.Apply Here
- 2% cash back on restaurants and gas stations (capped at $1,000 each quarter)
- 1% cash back on all other purchases
- At the end of the first year, Discover will match 100% of your cash-back earnings
- $20 cash back each school year if you GPA is 3.0 or higher (for the first five years)
- Cash back can be redeemed anytime, or used toward a gift card or on Amazon.com
- No foreign transaction fees
- There are no late fees on your first late payment
- No overlimit fee
- Reward points never expire
- APR doesn’t increase if you are late on payments
- No regular signup bonus
- 3% balance transfer fee
- 5% fee (or $10, whichever is greater) on cash advances
While shopping around for the best rewards credit card, here are some things to keep in mind to help you pick the best one for you:
Figure out how you’ll be using the rewards points first. To find the best rewards credit card for you, think about how you will be using the points. Consider a card in each of the major categories: travel reward credit cards, cash-back credit cards and general rewards credit cards. Even if you are maximizing your rewards on a card, it’s all for naught if you’re not able to take full advantage of your points.
For instance, if you recently started a new job with a longer commute, you might want to consider overall rewards or cash-back card versus a travel card. Or if there’s a new addition to your family and you won’t be able to travel much in your near future, you might get the most from a cash-back rewards card.
Credit card usage tips
Look at the transfer ratio. If you’re considering transferring your reward points to a transfer partner or eligible loyalty program, check the transfer ratio beforehand. You’ll also want to look at what the terms, conditions, and limitations are, and whether the reward points have an expiration date. Most rewards points expire three years from when they were accrued. Some cards don’t have expiration dates as long as you use your card in the last 12 months.
Consider splitting your spending into several cards. This can boost your reward earnings, especially if there is an equal transfer ratio. This is more likely the case for cards offered by the same company.
Avoid paying the annual fee by switching cards. If a particular card has an annual fee that is waived the first year, consider switching to another card after 12 months. For example, for the Spark Miles from Capital One, you can switch to the Spark Miles Select, which has no annual fee. The tradeoff is that you get 1.5 points for every dollar, whereas you net two points for every dollar with the Spark Miles card.
Be sure to check whether there’s a balance transfer fee, and what the reward rates, APR, and fees are on the new card before making the switch.
Avoid carrying a balance. While the rewards offered by a credit card are exciting, it’s best not to get caught up in reaping the rewards to the point you are paying lots in interest by carrying a high balance. You’ll want to make sure you maintain a solid credit score by making your payments on time and pay your balance in full each month.