Best Rewards Credit Cards of 2017

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.

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • $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 One

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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.

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • $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.

Pros
  • 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®
Cons
  • 3% foreign transaction fee
  • 5% fee or $5 (whichever is greater) on balance transfers

Best rewards with 0% APR balance transfer: Citi Double Cash Card

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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.

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • 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.

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Pros
  • 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
  • No late fee on your first late payment
  • No overlimit fee
  • Reward points never expire
  • APR doesn’t increase if you are late on payments
Cons
  • 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 an 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.

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.

CardRegular APR 
13.49% – 23.49%Apply
13.49% – 23.49%Apply
11.24% – 23.24%Apply
11.24% – 23.24%Apply
14.49% – 22.49%Apply