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Best Rewards Credit Cards

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by Sam Lipscomb | Updated Jun. 30, 2020

Overview of the Best Rewards Credit Cards

To choose the best reward credit card, it’s important to first examine your needs. There are plenty of options when it comes to choosing a rewards card. You can opt for simpler cash back cards, flat rate travel cards, or travel cards that allow you to transfer your points or miles to partner airlines and hotel chains. Of all the different types of rewards credit cards on the market, here are our picks for the best overall cards in 12 different categories. You’ll also find our number one overall pick at the top. See More



Best Overall Rewards Card

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  • Earn 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. When you redeem your points for travel through Chase that equals $750!
  • Receive a $300 travel credit each anniversary year to reimburse you for travel purchases charged to your card. After you earn your $300 travel credit, you will earn 3 points on travel purchases.
  • Earn 10 points on Lyft rides (7 points in addition to the 3 points you already earn on travel) through March 2022. When you dine at restaurants worldwide earn 3 points, and earn 1 point per dollar spent on everything else.
  • Points are worth 50% more when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards for Travel. One to one point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs. There are no foreign transaction fees when traveling abroad
  • Receive complimentary Priority Pass™ Select Membership to 1,000+ airport lounges after an easy one-time enrollment
  • Receive an application fee credit of up to $100 for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Receive one year of complimentary Lyft Pink when you or your authorized user activates by 3/1/2022 with your card. This is a minimum of $199 value and includes benefits like 15% off car rides and priority airport pickups.
  • You and your authorized users will receive at least 12 months of complimentary DashPass from DoorDash when the subscription is activated with your card by 12/31/21. Plus, earn up to $120 in statement credits on qualifying DoorDash purchases - $60 through 2020 and another $60 through 2021.

Annual Fee

$550

Purchase Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfer Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

16.99% - 23.99% Variable

Details

With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, users will earn 3x points on travel purchases after earning the card’s $300 annual travel credit and 3x points on all dining purchases. These categories are broad and typically apply to a range of purchases in both categories. You’ll earn 1x points on all other purchases. If you spend your points on travel using Chase’s travel portal, you’ll receive a 50% bonus, making one point worth 1.5 cents.

This card comes with a lofty $550 annual fee, but also a $300 annual travel credit, taking the effective annual fee down to $250 once you spend at least $300 per year on travel. You’ll also be able to take advantage of up to $100 in statement credits for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® every four years, and you’ll receive $60 in DoorDash credits each year for the next two years (through 2021). The card also now gives users a free Lyft Pink membership for a year, a $199 minimum value, and you’ll earn 10x total points on Lyft purchases through March 2022. You can earn a 50,000 point early spend bonus after spending $4,000 in your first three months. This bonus is worth $750 if you spend the points on the Chase travel portal. This card carries no foreign transaction fees.

Why We Like It

The Chase Sapphire Reserve might have a high annual fee, but it’s one of the best all-around travel cards on the market, especially when it comes to redeeming points. You’ll earn a solid early spend bonus to get you started and you’ll earn 3x points on an incredibly wide variety of travel and dining purchases.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve’s $300 annual travel credit is a huge plus for a card with such a high annual fee. The card also gives cardholders access to trip delay and cancellation protections and purchase protections that you might not get from another rewards card.

When it comes to redeeming your points, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the best cards out there, since Chase Ultimate Rewards points are incredibly versatile. You can transfer them (usually at a 1:1 ratio) to a wide variety of airline and hotel partners, or you can redeem them through the Chase travel portal. Those that choose to redeem points through the Chase travel portal will receive a 50% bonus on each point, making each point worth 1.5 points. So instead of a $300 ticket costing 30,000 points (at a value of one cent per point), you only have to redeem 20,000 points for the same ticket. This versatility and value is what makes the Chase Sapphire Reserve one of the best all-around rewards cards out there.

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Best Flat Rate Travel Rewards Credit Card

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  • Receive a one-time early spend bonus of 50,000 miles when you spend $3,000 in purchases during your first 3 months of card membership. When redeemed for travel, this is equal to $500!
  • On every purchase, you will earn 2 miles per dollar
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for either Global Entry or TSA Precheck when you use your Venture® Card
  • Redeem your miles without blackout dates. You can fly any airline and stay at any hotel; anytime. Transfer your miles to over twelve loyalty travel programs for additional flexibility
  • There's no limit to the number of miles you can earn and your miles won't expire as long as your account is in good standing
  • CNBC dubbed the Venture® Rewards ‘The Best Travel Card’ in 2018
  • No foreign transaction fees when you travel abroad
  • There is an introductory annual fee of $0 for your first year. Your annual fee is $95 after that

Annual Fee

$0 for the first year, $95 after that

Purchase Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfer Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

17.24% - 24.49% Variable

Details

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card earns unlimited 2x miles on all purchases, all for an annual fee of just $95 (which is waived the first year). Miles are transferable to a variety of airline and hotel transfer partners and are also redeemable as a statement credit for travel expenses, making this a great travel rewards card. You’ll receive up to a $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck® statement credit every four years and you can receive a 50,000 mile early spend bonus after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. The card has decent perks, such as travel accident insurance and roadside assistance and there are no foreign transaction fees.

Why We Like It

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is one of the simplest travel rewards cards on the market, making it an attractive option for those seeking value and simplicity. While other cards may make you keep track of bonus categories, the Venture Card simply earns 2x miles on all purchases. What’s more is that these miles are quite versatile and are redeemable to cover the cost of any travel purchase; you can either use them to buy travel directly through Capital One Travel or redeem the miles as a statement credit for recent travel purchases. You can also transfer the miles to a variety of hotel and airline transfer partners. The transfer rates are typically 2 Capital One miles for 1.5 partner miles, so there’s some devaluation when you transfer and it’s important to make sure you’re getting adequate value before transferring. Still, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is great for anyone who wants to try to keep things simple when it comes to redeeming and getting value out of their rewards.

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Best Credit Card for Airfare and Hotel Rewards

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  • If you make $5,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of card membership, you will receive a welcome bonus equal to 60,000 Membership Rewards points
  • Receive Uber VIP status, including free rides in the U.S. – up to $15 each month, with a bonus $20 in the month of December. Annually, this can total up to $200 in Uber savings
  • Earn 5 points for flights booked with American Express Travel or directly with airlines
  • Earn 5 points for eligible hotel rooms booked and paid for online through amextravel.com
  • Receive access to the Global Lounge Collection which includes access to airport lounge locations around the world
  • Receive complimentary benefits with Fine Hotels & Resorts, with an average value of $550
  • Receive up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year with one qualifying airline to cover incidental fees such as baggage fees and in-flight refreshments
  • If you make purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card, you can get up to $100 in statement credits annually – enrollment required
  • Annual fee of $550
  • Terms Apply

Annual Fee

$550

Purchase Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfer Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

N/A

Details

Holders of The Platinum Card from American Express will earn 5x points on airfare booked directly with the airline or with American Express Travel. You’ll also earn 5x points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com. All other purchases earn 1x points. This card is typically best for users who spend a lot on airline and hotel travel purchases.

This rewards card has an annual fee of $550, but there are a number of ways to partially offset it. All cardholders receive $200 worth of airline fee credits on a qualified airline of choice each year. This credit is available for fees such as picking a seat and checking bags, but not for tickets themselves. Cardholders receive Uber VIP status and $15 Uber credits every month with a bonus $20 in credits in December (only available in the U.S.). There is a $100 statement credit for Global Entry available every four years or an $85 credit for TSA Precheck® available every four and a half years. You can also receive $50 in Saks credits every six months upon enrollment. There are no foreign transaction fees.

Other cardholder benefits include free access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, gold status with Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy, memberships with Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, Avis Preferred and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive and full access to American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts. You can earn a 60,000 point welcome bonus after making $5,000 in purchases in the first three months.

Why We Like It

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card is a great rewards option for anyone who spends a lot on airfare and hotels. Between the generous welcome bonus and earning 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, those points can add up rather quickly. It’s also great for anyone who finds themselves paying a lot of airline fees and using Uber enough to take advantage of the credits.

The Platinum Card from American Express also has several different perks that go beyond points and credits. Even for those who aren’t frequent travelers, having elite status with hotel chains and car rental companies could save you hundreds of dollars and help offset the card’s annual fee. And for anyone that really values lounge access at airports, this card could be worth well more than the annual fee.

The Platinum Card from American Express earns valuable Membership Rewards points. You can transfer your points to an even wider range of transfer partners than you can with Chase, almost all at 1:1 or a more favorable ratio. Doing this can allow you to get added value out of each point. Redeeming points directly with Amex is also an option, and while the value usually stays closer to just one cent per point, you’ll regularly find deals that can increase the value of your award redemptions. This card is a great rewards card option for frequent travelers and high spenders alike.

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Best Flat Rate Cash Back Rewards Credit Card

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  • Receive 2% cash back on all purchases. This breaks down to earning 1% when you buy and another 1% as you pay for those purchases
  • To be eligible to earn cash back you must pay the minimum due on your account, without paying late
  • 0% Intro APR for the first 18 months on Balance Transfers. Afterward, the ongoing variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99% based on your creditworthiness
  • If you choose to transfer a balance, a fee of either $5 or 3% of each transfer, whichever is greater will apply
  • Certain transactions do not earn cash back i.e., balance transfers, cash advances, items returned for credit, lottery tickets, and more
  • Standard APR when taking part in the Citi Flex Plan is a variable 13.99% - 23.99% depending on creditworthiness

Annual Fee

$0

Purchase Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfer Intro APR

0% for 18 Months (for balance transfers completed within first 4 months)

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99% Variable

Details

The Citi Double Cash Card earns 2% cash back on all purchases. You’ll earn 1% back as you spend and another 1% back when you pay your bill. This card does not come with a sign-up bonus, but it also doesn’t have an annual fee. There is a 3% foreign transaction fee on all purchases made outside of the U.S.

Why We Like It

The Citi Double Cash Card is a personal credit card that pays you 2% cash back with no annual fee. While it’s always important to pay your bill in full and on time, it’s especially important with this one, as you only get the full 2% cash back advertised upon paying your statement. If you don’t think you’re likely to consistently pay your bill in full, you’re probably better off getting one of the many no-annual-fee cards that pay 1.5% with no strings attached. Another alternative is the American Express Blue Business Cash Card, which pays 2% on your first $50,000 in eligible purchases every year. However, The Citi Double Cash Card’s 2% cash back makes it a great option for those looking for a flat-rate rewards credit card.

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Best Credit Card with Rotating Bonus Categories

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  • In your first year, earn up to $550 cash back
  • If you spend $500 in eligible net purchases in the first 90 days from account opening, you will earn $150
  • Earn 5% cash back on the first $2,000 in combined eligible net purchases ($100 each quarter) in 2 categories you choose. That means you can earn up to $400 in cash back!
  • Earn 2% cash back in your choice of 1 everyday category, like grocery stores or gas stations. Category options are subject to change quarterly.
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other eligible net purchases, automatically
  • There is no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn
  • 0% Intro APR balance transfers for the first 12 billing cycles. Afterwards, a variable APR currently 13.99% - 23.99% depending on creditworthiness
  • There is no annual fee

Annual Fee

$0

Purchase Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfer Intro APR

0% for 12 billing cycles

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99% Variable

Details

The U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card earns cardholders a $150 early spend bonus after spending $500 in qualified purchases in the first 90 days. But the card’s real spending rewards can be found in the variety of bonus categories. You’ll be able to choose two categories in which you’ll earn 5% cash back on up to $2,000 in eligible net purchases between the two categories every quarter of the year. You can also choose one category for which you’ll earn unlimited 2% cash back. Plus, you’ll earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. This rewards card has no annual fee, but beware when using it abroad: It does have a 2% to 3% foreign transaction fee.

Why We Like It

It’s smart to consider any card on the market that offers 5% cash back, and the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card is especially attractive due to the fact that you can choose your own 5% categories. You have a large selection of 5% categories to choose from, including movies, utilities and specific types of stores. While the 2% category has fewer options to choose from, they tend to be broader and more inclusive, typically including groceries and restaurants. If you spend in the places where you’ve chosen bonus rates, this card has the potential to be extremely lucrative. And with no annual fee, there aren’t many downsides to having the card.

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Best Rewards Credit Card for Dining and Entertainment

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  • Receive a one-time early spend bonus of $300 after making $3,000 worth of purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn an unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment purchases, 2% at grocery stores, and 1% on everything else. If you purchase tickets at Vivid Seats now through May 2020, you will earn 8% cash back.
  • No need to opt into categories every month, rewards are automatic. There is no limit to the cash back you can earn and cash back won't expire as long as your account is in good standing
  • Pay no foreign transaction fees when traveling abroad
  • Cardholders receive access to next level culinary experiences, some of the biggest concerts, and big-time sporting events
  • Introductory annual fee of $0 for your first year, after that pay $95

Annual Fee

$0 for the first year, $95 after that

Purchase Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfer Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

15.99% - 24.99% Variable

Details

The Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card earns cardholders 4% cash back on dining and entertainment purchases, 2% cash back at grocery stores and 1% cash back on all other purchases. There’s a $300 early spend bonus that you can earn by spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening the account. There’s an annual fee of $95, but it’s waived the first year. There are no foreign transaction fees.

Why We Like It

The Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card can be a great rewards card option for anyone who spends a lot on dining and entertainment, despite a $95 annual fee. The early spend bonus is more than enough to cover three years of the card’s annual fee, though. Plus, it’s rare to find a solid rewards card that gives 4% cash back on dining purchases; those that do usually carry much higher annual fees. When it comes to rewards cards, the Savor card can provide users with a lot of value in cash back for anyone who spends a lot on dining and entertainment.

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Rewards Credit Card With the Best Signup Bonus

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  • When you spend $4,000 in your first three months with the card, earn 60,000 bonus points. When redeemed for travel through Chase that equals $750!
  • Earn 2 points on dining and travel purchases around the globe and earn 1 point per dollar on everything else.
  • If you choose to redeem your points through Chase Ultimate Rewards for travel (airfare, hotels, car rentals, and cruises), your points are worth 25% more.
  • Receive complimentary DashPass from DoorDash - you and your authorized users will receive at least 12 months of complimentary DashPass when the subscription is activated with your card by 12/31/21. Get unlimited deliveries on orders over $12, with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees.
  • Earn 3 additional points to the 2 points you already earn on travel for rides through Lyft. That means you will now receive a total of 5 points on Lyft rides. This added benefit is good through March 2022.

Annual Fee

$95

Purchase Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfer Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

15.99% - 22.99% Variable

Details

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card earns 2x points on travel and dining, and these categories are broadly defined to include public transit as well as restaurants. You’ll also earn 5x total points on Lyft rides through March 2022. This card only has a $95 annual fee and doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. Plus, you can earn a solid 60,000 point early spend bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months of card membership.

Why We Like It

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a great option for those who want a versatile travel card without paying an sky high annual fee. The card has a generous early spend bonus that can be worth $750 when redeemed through the Chase travel portal, as each point is worth 1.25x when spent there. The Chase Ultimate Rewards points that you’ll earn with this card can be redeemed in other ways too, including for cash back, as gift cards or by being transferred to a variety of hotel and airline transfer partners. While the card doesn’t offer much when it comes to statement credits, you’ll have access to a variety of purchase and travel protections when you use your card to pay. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great option for those looking for a valuable rewards card with a solid early spend bonus to get your adventures with your rewards started.

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Best Rewards Card with No Annual Fee

More Details

  • Earn a one-time cash bonus of $150 when you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months with your new card
  • Earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase, with no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn
  • Receive 0% APR for the first 15 months on purchases, then an ongoing variable APR of 14.99% - 23.74%
  • Pay no annual fee
  • No minimum amount required to redeem your cash back, redeem anytime
  • Your cash back rewards will not expire as long as your account is open and in good standing

Annual Fee

$0

Purchase Intro APR

0% for 15 months

Balance Transfer Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

14.99% - 23.74% Variable

Details

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a simple rewards card to use. You’ll earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases as well as a $150 bonus after spending $500 in the first three months of card membership. These rewards come in the form of points and can be redeemed for a variety of uses, from cash back to travel.

Why We Like It

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is one of the top flat-rate cash back rewards credit cards on the market. It has no annual fee, so it’s a great card to have in your wallet for spending on everyday items. It’s also a very versatile card: It’s a Visa card, which is widely accepted, and it earns you Chase points, which are easy to redeem for a variety of purposes. You’re going to have plenty of options to earn and use the rewards you get from this card.

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Best Rewards Card for Low Spenders

More Details

  • Points round up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase automatically
  • Earn a welcome bonus of 15,000 points when you spend $1,000 in purchases during the first 3 months with your card
  • 0% introductory APR for the first 15 months on both balance transfers and purchases. Afterward, your ongoing variable APR will be 13.49% - 23.49% based on your creditworthiness
  • If you choose to transfer a balance, a fee of either $5 or 3% of each transfer will apply, whichever is greater
  • Earn 2x points at gas stations and supermarkets for the first $6,000 you spend each calendar year. After that you will earn 1x point on those purchases
  • Earn 1x point on all other eligible purchases
  • Standard APR when taking part in the Citi Flex Plan is a variable 13.49% - 23.49% depending on creditworthiness

Annual Fee

$0

Purchase Intro APR

0% for 15 months

Balance Transfer Intro APR

0% for 15 Months (for balance transfers completed within first 4 months)

Regular APR

13.49% - 23.49% Variable

Details

The Citi Rewards+ Card earns cardholders 2x points at supermarkets and gas stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1x thereafter. But all purchases are rounded up to the nearest 10 points. That means that if you spend $36.20 on groceries, you’ll receive 370 points instead of just 362. And if you spend just $1 on a pack of gum, you’ll receive 10 points for that purchase - the equivalent of getting 10% cash back! You can redeem points for gift cards and to offset online purchases. You’ll also get 10% points back for the first 100,000 points you redeem per year. Cardholders will earn 15,000 Bonus Points after spending $1,000 in purchases within 3 months of account opening. This card has no annual fee and a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Why We Like It

While the earnings rate on the Citi Rewards+ Card is nothing special at first glance, the roundup feature will help you multiply your cash back points faster than with other basic starter cards. If you’re typically making small purchases on your credit card, your cash back rate will, on average, likely be far above just 1x points. While 2x points only apply to the first $6,000 in supermarket and gas station purchases each year, the lack of an annual fee makes this rewards card a solid option for anyone who primarily makes small purchases on their card and who may not have ample experience using credit cards.

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Best Student Rewards Credit Card

More Details

  • Earn 1% cash back on every purchase - plus, you can increase that to 1.25% just by paying on time for the month
  • No foreign transaction fees when you travel abroad and there is no annual fee
  • With responsible card use the Journey® Student Rewards card can help build your credit
  • Receive assistance from Eno®, your Capital One® assistant, to manage your account and to help keep you safer online
  • Have the freedom to pick the monthly due date that works best for your payment schedule
  • With Credit Steps you are able to gain access to a higher credit line if you are responsible and make your first 5 payments on time
  • Zero fraud liability coverage if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • Get access to CreditWise® and monitor your credit score and credit report for free

Annual Fee

$0

Purchase Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfer Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

26.99% Variable

Details

The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® is a great student cash back card. You’ll earn 1% cash back on all purchases with the opportunity to earn an additional 0.25% cash back when you pay your statement on time. People with limited income or limited credit history may find it easier to get approved for this card than for other comparable rewards cards. Plus, you won’t pay any annual fee or foreign transaction fees, so responsible cardholders won’t be on the hook for any additional fees.

Why We Like It

The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® is a great way for students to familiarize themselves with using a credit card and redeeming rewards. The bonus cash back incentivizes users who might not be entirely familiar with credit cards to pay their bills on time, and there are no annual or foreign transaction fees to eat into your cash back. Responsible users who make their first five monthly payments on time can also get a credit line increase. This card is easily accessible for those who have never used credit cards before, making it a great student option and one that could be well worth keeping in your wallet if you’re in school and unable to qualify for other cash back cards.

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Best Card for Those With Fair or Average Credit

More Details

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back - no matter the purchase
  • No need to sign up or opt-in to rotating cash back categories each quarter - earn cash back automatically
  • With Credit Steps you are able to gain access to a higher credit line if you are responsible and make your first 5 payments on time
  • Get access to the CreditWise® app and monitor your credit score and credit report for free
  • Zero fraud liability coverage if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • There is no limit to the cash back you can earn and cash back won't expire as long as your account is in good standing
  • With responsible card use the QuicksilverOne® card can help strengthen your credit
  • With the Capital One mobile app, you can set up personalized text or email reminders to help you stay current on your account

Annual Fee

$39

Purchase Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfer Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

26.99% Variable

Details

The Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card earns cardholders unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Unlike the card’s big brother, the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card, this rewards card doesn’t have an early spend bonus. However, after making just 5 monthly payments on time, you can gain access to a higher credit limit. There are no foreign transaction fees on this card.

Why We Like It

While the $39 annual fee and lack of a signup bonus aren’t ideal, there’s still plenty of value to be found in the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card. The flat rate of unlimited 1.5% cash back is rare for a card that’s available to users with average or limited credit. Plus, you’ll only need to spend $2,600 every year to cover the annual fee. With no foreign transaction fee, this is a great rewards card for anyone with limited credit history or an average credit score.

Compare Cards for Fair Credit

Best Rewards Credit Card for Businesses

More Details

  • Earn a one-time early spend bonus of $500 when you spend $4,500 on purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Earn unlimited 2% cash back - no matter the purchase
  • Introductory annual fee of $0 for your first year, after that pay $95
  • Add card for your employees for free and earn cash back from their purchases
  • Zero fraud liability coverage if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • Redeem cash back at any amount, plus cash back won't expire as long as your account is in good standing
  • There are no foreign transaction fees when you travel abroad

Annual Fee

$0 for the first year, $95 after that

Purchase Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfer Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

18.49% Variable

Details

The Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business earns unlimited 2% on all purchases and you can also earn a $500 early spend bonus after spending $4,500 in the first 3 months of opening your account. The card has a $95 annual fee, but it’s waived for the first year of card membership. You also won’t pay any foreign transaction fees when you use this card abroad, making it a solid low-fee rewards card for business owners.

Why We Like It

The Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business stands out first and foremost because of its stellar earnings rate of 2% cash back on all purchases. Some other business cards offer 2% cash back, but these can be capped at a certain amount every year. The Spark Cash card offers unlimited cash back, so you don’t have to keep track of any limits on cash back. While the card carries a $95 annual fee, the early spend bonus is more than enough to cover five years’ worth of annual fees.

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Methodology

SmartAsset has developed a quantitative and independent system for evaluating the relative value of a credit card offer versus other offers in the marketplace. Our system evaluates cards based exclusively on their features, such as their rewards earning rate (if applicable), fees, perks, and rewards program redemption options. The annual rewards values on this page are calculated using annual spending assumptions in various categories such as, but not limited to, gas, restaurants, airfare, and US supermarkets. These spending assumptions are built on research that SmartAsset has conducted on existing cash back credit cardholders. Our promise with our credit card recommendations is that we will always strive to have the most comprehensive, accurate, and objective method of evaluating credit card offers. Any recommendations are solely determined by the result of this research and model, and is never influenced by any fees, commissions, or other forms of compensation that SmartAsset may receive from credit card issuers for leads generated on our website.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which SmartAsset.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). SmartAsset.com does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.



Rewards Credit Cards: The Basics


Standard credit cards leave you with nothing but a bill that you’ll need to pay off. But rewards credit cards offer various perks just for paying with plastic. Some rewards credit cards come with a sign-up bonus that consumers can earn after spending a certain amount of money within a specific time frame. But generally, all rewards credit cards provide incentives to cardholders who make certain purchases or shop at certain retailers.

Rewards credit cards come in many different flavors. But the types of rewards that you can earn fall into three main buckets: points, travel miles and cash back. What’s the difference between the three types of credit card rewards? We’ll explain.


Using Rewards Credit Cards to Earn Points


If you have a credit card that allows you to earn points, you’ll rack up rewards over time that you can later redeem in a variety of ways. Your rewards card program may allow you to exchange your points for gift cards and special services. You may also be able to swap your points for merchandise through an online shopping mall.

Instead of signing up for a general rewards program that lets you apply your points almost anywhere, you could get a travel rewards credit card. Travel rewards cards are typically based on a system that gives you the chance to earn points that you can redeem for hotel stays, rental cars and flights.

The way a rewards program is set up may vary depending on the credit card issuer that manages it. But generally, when you have the opportunity to accumulate points, you’ll earn a point for spending a certain amount of money. For example, you may earn one point for every dollar you spend.

A single rewards program may structure the way it awards points differently based on the kinds of purchases that an individual makes. In other words, you may be able to earn two points for every dollar you spend at the gas station but three points for every dollar you spend at the grocery store. Or, you may earn a certain number of points dollar for dollar regardless of where you’re spending money.

Some of the best rewards credit cards let consumers earn transferable points. This means that if you earn points, you may be able to convert them to travel miles. Those kinds of programs give you a lot more flexibility when it comes to redeeming your rewards. You might also have the chance to redeem your rewards points as cash back.


Using Rewards Credit Cards to Earn Cash Back


Instead of points, some credit card issuers offer rewards in the form of cash back. When you purchase certain items, a percentage of what you spend may be given back to you as a cash reward. If you’re part of a cash back rewards program, you may be able to earn between 1% and 5% of what you spend on everyday purchases (but in most cases, you’ll only earn around 1% cash back). You may qualify for a higher percentage of cash back when you shop at certain places like gas stations and restaurants. Some rewards programs offer as much as 20% cash back.

Cash rewards can be deposited into a bank account or dispersed in the form of a check. Sometimes, you can withdraw your cash rewards whenever you want. But there are credit card issuers who only hand out cash rewards once per year. To find out how a specific rewards program works, you’ll need to review a credit card’s terms and conditions.

Sometimes the phrase “cash back” can be misleading. In fact, some cash back programs don’t give out cash at all. In these circumstances, cardholders with cash back cards receive points (rather than cash) that they can trade in for statement credits. Never heard of a statement credit before? It’s simply money that a credit card company or retailer can post to someone’s account, much like it would post a credit card charge or a refund. With statement credits, you don’t have the freedom to use your rewards during an emergency or whenever you need extra cash. But you can use a statement credit to pay off outstanding balances within your credit card account.


Using Rewards Credit Cards to Earn Miles


Airline miles are a third type of credit card reward. Certain credit cardholders can earn miles that they can eventually exchange for plane tickets.

Redeeming airline miles is similar to redeeming points. If you accumulate enough miles, you may qualify for a free trip or a flight that costs next to nothing. You may also be able to use your miles to pay for other travel expenses and get access to various benefits like buddy passes and complimentary upgrades to first class.

Usually, there are a few ways to earn miles. Airline miles might accumulate whenever you use your credit card to make everyday purchases. With some types of cards, for example, you’ll earn one mile for every dollar you spend using your credit card. You may be able to earn extra miles by finding a card with a sign-up bonus (that gives you additional miles for spending a certain amount of money within a few months of opening your account).

Miles can also add up whenever you book a flight. This means that the more you travel, the more miles you’ll have. But some of the savviest frequent flyers earn the majority of their airline miles without setting foot on an airplane. In some cases, you can earn miles by filling out a survey or opening a new bank account or investment account. You can also earn miles through special rewards programs such as airline dining programs.

Another way to get airline miles is to transfer your credit card points to miles. But if you’re interested in doing that, you’ll need to pay attention to the conversion rate. One point is often equal to one mile. But you may be able to earn bonus miles for transferring a certain number of points.


Types of Reward Credit Cards Available to Consumers


There are many different kinds of rewards credit cards. Besides credit cards that offer points and cash back credit cards, there are co-branded credit cards that give you extra points and other perks for purchasing products offered by the retailer, airline or the hotel that sponsors your credit card. You can also apply for a gas credit card.

With a gas credit card, you’ll earn rewards every time you pay at the pump or whenever you buy gas from a particular company. Many of those cards are cash back or rebate cards. Best of all, they may allow you to earn cash back every time you use your card. So you may earn 1% cash back on standard, daily purchases and as much as 10% cash back (perhaps during a short introductory period) when you stop by the gas station.

Two other types of rewards credit cards are general travel rewards credit cards and airline miles credit cards. With a general travel rewards card, you’ll be able to earn miles or points that you can redeem through multiple airlines or trade in for gift cards and merchandise. You may also be able to exchange your miles for statement credits that cover the cost of just about any travel expense, including hotel stays, cruises and car rentals. In contrast, an airline credit card will limit your ability to earn and redeem rewards. Generally, these kinds of rewards cards are tied to frequent flyer programs and the only way to rack up rewards is to spend money with a particular airline.


The Benefits of Rewards Credit Cards


Rewards credit card offer all sorts of perks. With an airline credit card, for example, you can take advantage of things like priority boarding, seat upgrades and companion passes for your friends and family members. Some airline credit cards make it possible to get to the elite status level more quickly. With elite status, travelers get exclusive rewards such as lounge access and same-day flight changes.

Some of the best rewards credit cards let consumers redeem their points for tickets to concerts and sporting events and discounted admission to theme parks and spas. In the process of earning rewards, you can save money on gifts and day-to-day expenses. Through some programs, you can also donate your rewards to your favorite charity.

Cardholders can invest their credit card rewards, too. Certain programs will allow you to take the rewards you earn and put them in an investment account.


How a Rewards Credit Card Could Save You Money


A rewards credit card can save you money in many different ways. Instead of using all of your hard-earned dollars to pay your monthly bills, you could use the cash back you earn to make your student loan, car loan and mortgage payments. The earnings you would’ve put toward your debt payments can then be used for other purposes. You could also invest your cash rewards and potentially earn more money. As you can see, a cash back credit card can essentially serve as an additional source of income.

Travel fees and costs can quickly add up. But you may be able to use an airline credit card to avoid paying baggage fees and score discounts on the flights you purchase with your miles. With just one or two rewards cards, you could earn thousands of points that you could redeem for cheap tickets to distant lands. That’s not something you can do when you pay with cash. Even the best debit card rewards programs are no match for the rewards programs tied to credit cards.

But you don’t have to travel in order to make the most of a rewards credit card. You can use a rewards credit card to cut costs on a daily basis. Different credit cards offer deals on dining, entertainment, gasoline and health-related expenses.


The Drawbacks of Rewards Credit Cards


A rewards credit card may sound perfect for anyone who’s trying to save on travel or earn cash that they can use to pay off debt. But there’s often a catch. A free flight that you trade in for your airline miles won’t be completely fee since you’ll probably have to pay fees and taxes.

In exchange for using a rewards credit card, you may have to pay extra fees (like an annual fee). You may also get stuck with a high annual percentage rate. This often happens with rewards cards that offer cash back. That’s because cash rewards can be a major expense for credit card issuers.

If you’re applying for a credit card with points, miles or cash back, note that your rewards program could change at any moment. That’s why reading your credit card statements and terms carefully is important.

What’s more, rewards can expire or disappear if you fail to use your credit card in a responsible manner. If you don’t use all of your points within a set time period, you may have to forfeit the rewards you worked so hard to earn. If you can’t keep up with your monthly credit card payments, you may have to kiss your credit card rewards goodbye. And if you close your credit card account before redeeming all of your rewards, you may lose access to them.

You can also come across issues when you’re trying to redeem your rewards. For instance, your ability to exchange your airline miles for plane tickets may be restricted by blackout dates (or days when you’re not allowed to redeem your rewards). These dates normally fall around busy travel periods like major holidays. If you’re a frequent flyer, there may be a limited number of plane seats available to you on any given day.

With so many rules and regulations attached to credit card rewards programs, it’s easy to make mistakes. For example, you may not realize that a statement credit cannot be used to cover a minimum credit card payment (in most cases) until you’re hit with a late payment fee. Furthermore, you may decide to stop using a cash back credit card altogether only to realize later that in order to redeem your statement credits, you must continue making purchases with your card.

In an attempt to earn as many rewards as possible, you could fall into a debt spiral. Credit card churning (or applying for rewards credit cards just to get a sign-up bonus) can be addictive. But in the end, you could destroy your credit score and end up with more debt than you can pay off.


How Rewards Credit Cards Can Affect Your Credit Score


Anytime you apply for new credit – whether it’s a student loan, a mortgage or a rewards credit card – your credit score will fall. But this change won’t be permanent. In no time, you should be able to raise your credit score by paying your credit card bills on time and keeping your credit utilization ratio low, among other things.

Your credit utilization ratio (or your debt-to-credit ratio) is the amount of credit you’ve used relative to the total amount of credit that’s available to you. Generally, experts say that it’s best to keep your debt-to-credit ratio below 30%. Most lenders refer to FICO credit scores. That scoring model says that 30% of your credit score will depend on your credit utilization ratio and the amount of debt you haven’t paid off.

Just having a rewards credit card won’t help or hurt your credit score in any way. What happens to your credit ultimately depends on how you use your credit card. If you’re juggling multiple rewards card accounts at one time, keeping track of your payment due dates and how much you owe on each card can be tricky. If you can’t stay organized and you miss a payment deadline, your credit score could drop. After all, your payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO credit score.

Credit card churning can potentially hurt your credit score in several different ways. New credit inquiries only account for 10% of your credit score. But multiple inquiries within a short period of time can raise a red flag with credit card issuers. Closing just one credit card account after you’ve earned a sign-up bonus (or reaped whatever rewards you want) can damage your credit score as well. For starters, it’ll affect your credit utilization ratio.

Perhaps you have a total credit line of $10,000 across three of your credit cards and a total balance of $2,800. Your credit utilization ratio is 28% ($2,800/$10,000). If you close a rewards credit card with a $3,000 balance, your credit utilization ratio will climb to 40% ($2,800/$7,000). If that happens, you’ll need to be prepared for your credit score to dip.


Who Should Apply for a Rewards Credit Card?


Want one of the best rewards credit cards? You’ll need to have a good credit score. That means your score should be around 700. But if you have bad credit, you may not be eligible for a rewards credit card. After all, if you’re a risky borrower with a higher chance of defaulting on your credit card debt, it doesn’t make sense to give you access to rewards in the first place.

Rewards credit cards are also best for folks who normally refrain from carrying a balance from month to month (meaning that you usually pay your credit card bill in full). That’s because rewards credit cards typically have extra fees and/or high interest rates. The easiest way to make the most of your rewards is to ensure that you’re not spending a ton of money on interest. If you can avoid paying interest altogether, you can save money and use your credit card rewards to cover the cost of other bills and debts.

Detail-oriented folks are also good candidates for rewards credit cards. In addition to credit card payment due dates, you’ll have to keep up with minimum spending requirements and credit limits. You’ll need to be well-versed on the rules related to the redemption of your rewards, too.


How to Evaluate Rewards Credit Card Offers


If you’re looking for the best rewards credit card, you’ll need to shop around and review the terms and conditions that apply to different cards. You’ll need to find out as much as possible about the way a credit card rewards program is structured before signing up.

Will you be able to redeem the rewards from your cash back credit card as cash or statement credits? Can you earn more rewards by using a certain credit card at a particular store or retailer? Will the rewards expire? Asking these kinds of questions is important if you’re trying to find a rewards credit card that meets your needs.

Something else to focus on is the cost of signing up for a particular credit card. We’re talking about fees. If you don’t want to pay a premium for having a rewards credit card, it’s best to look for a credit card without an annual fee and an annual percentage rate that’s on the lower end of the spectrum. As of April 2017, the average APR for a rewards credit card is 15.79%. Annual percentage rates for cash back and airline miles credit cards are around 15.76% and 15.73%, respectively.

In some situations, signing up for a rewards card with a high annual fee may be worth it. High annual fees are normally an indication of an opportunity to earn more rewards. But if you can’t afford to spend enough money (and earn enough rewards) to compensate for the higher fees, you’re probably better off with a low-fee rewards credit card.

As you’re comparing rewards cards, don’t forget to consider your approval odds. Your credit score is one factor that affects your chances of qualifying for a particular credit card. If your credit score is significantly lower than the recommended range for credit card applicants, you may want to look at a different set of rewards cards.

The process for evaluating credit card offers will differ depending on whether your rewards credit card offers cash back, miles or points. For instance, if you’re comparing rewards cards that allow you to earn airline miles, it might be helpful to find out how many miles you’ll need in order to be eligible for a free flight. And if you’re looking for a cash back credit card, it’s best to pick one that offers as much money as possible and rewards you with cash rather than a statement credit.

An additional factor to consider is whether a rewards credit card offers other benefits (besides the cash back, miles or points) that appeal to you. For example, baggage fee waivers may be helpful to frequent travelers looking for ways to cut back on their expenses.


What Matters Most When Applying for a Rewards Credit Card


Your spending habits should play a big role in determining which rewards credit card is best for you. Calculating how much you spend on groceries, travel, gasoline and goods from certain retailers is a great step to take before choosing a rewards credit card. If you spend a large portion of your income on groceries, getting a credit card that rewards you for shopping at the supermarket might make sense. And if you tend to spend a lot of money at a single retailer, getting a co-branded credit card that rewards you for shopping could be a good idea.

How easily you’ll be able to earn and redeem rewards and the value of those rewards also matters. The best rewards credit cards make it easy to double dip and earn twice as many rewards at one time. If you’re strategic, you may be able to use your credit card to earn three or four times as many rewards. On the other hand, if accruing and redeeming rewards is going to be a hassle or you’ll only be able to use them within a short period of time, putting effort into earning those rewards could be a waste of time.

Fees and interest rates are two other key factors for consumers. In order for a rewards credit card to be valuable, your rewards must exceed your borrowing costs. The best rewards credit cards have no annual fees and an introductory 0% APR on balance transfers and regular purchases.

Finally, your ability to get approved for a rewards card should matter if you’re trying to decide whether you should apply for one. Even if you have a high credit score, your request for new credit could be denied if you’ve recently applied for multiple loans or lines of credit.


Should You Choose Points, Miles or Cash Back?


If you’re torn between choosing a rewards credit card that offers miles versus one that provides cash back or points, you’ll need to think about your interests, goals and priorities. For example, a card that offers cash back could be a good fit for anyone looking for a simple and straightforward way to earn rewards. Unlike a travel credit card, a cash back credit card may give you the chance to apply your rewards to all kinds of purchases (like groceries, rent payments and trips to the gas station), not just travel-related transactions.

Of course, a travel rewards credit card can give you more bang for your buck, especially if you travel on a regular basis for work or you take multiple vacations throughout the year. If you don’t care which airline you use (because you simply want the cheapest flights you can find), you may want to sign up for a general travel rewards credit card. But if you mainly book flights with a specific airline, you may want to consider applying for an airline credit card and joining a frequent flyer program.

You’ll also need to keep in mind that accumulating and redeeming airline miles and points will require more leg work than earning and using cash rewards. If you’re not interested in figuring out the best way to apply your points and miles, you may want to get a cash back rewards card instead.

What’s more, travel rewards cards aren’t ideal for every traveler. Travel rewards won’t be very valuable for individuals who don’t have flexible schedules, those who tend to travel in large groups and those who only fly during peak travel times. If you have a tough time redeeming your miles or points for travel, you might not be able to use them at all.


Assessing the Value of Credit Card Rewards


Knowing how much credit card rewards are actually worth is important, particularly when you’re trying to pick the best rewards credit card. Using a simple formula, you can calculate the value of each credit card reward and determine the best way to redeem them. All you need to do is look at the number of points or miles needed to earn a certain reward and divide that amount by its value (in dollars).

Let’s look at an example. Let’s say that in order to get $5 cash back you need 500 points. This means that one point is worth $0.01 ($5/500). The greater the value of your rewards, the better. You can use the same formula to determine the value of all of your credit card rewards. While you’re at it, you might want to try and estimate the value of the other perks associated with a credit card (like rental insurance) based on how much money they could help you save.

Of course, figuring out how much your rewards are worth can be tricky. In terms of points, the true value of your rewards can vary depending on how you redeem them. Theoretically, your hotel points could be worth about three cents if you were to redeem 24,000 points for an $800 hotel room ($800/24,000). But if you’re only spending $200 on a hotel room and using just 10,000 points, each point would only be worth two cents ($200/10,000).

To calculate the value of your airline miles, you would have to consider your redemption options, the kinds of seats available (if you’re redeeming your miles for plane tickets) and where you’re traveling. Often, the seats that you can claim with the fewest number of miles are hard to come by and have the lowest real value.

The value of cash rewards tends to remain fairly stable over time. With miles and points, however, the value of those rewards can decrease over time as credit card issuers make adjustments to their redemption policies. But cash rewards may be worth less than miles and points. A single reward is typically worth 1 cent. Points and miles, however (particularly when redeemed as travel rewards), can be worth 3 to 5 cents per reward.

But the value of rewards can vary. Outside of earning points for travel, cash rewards can be worth just as much as points redeemed for merchandise.

As you’re comparing credit card offers, it’s important to pay attention to whether points and miles are worth a flat rate or have tiered reward rates. With a flat reward rate, you’ll earn a specific number of rewards for every dollar you spend. But if your credit card has a tiered rewards system, you’ll earn more rewards with certain purchases or after spending a certain amount of money. For example, you might earn 2% cash back once you spend $3,000. Until then, you may only earn 1.5% cash back.


What to Do After Choosing a Rewards Credit Card


Once you’ve picked a rewards credit card that you like, you’ll need to apply for it. You may be instantly approved for a card within minutes. Or you may have to wait a couple of weeks to find out whether you’re approved (particularly if you mailed in a credit card application). Receiving your rewards credit card in the mail could take between seven and 10 business days.

As soon as your rewards credit card appears in your mailbox, it’s a good idea to activate it and thoroughly read over the fine print. If you have any questions about earning or redeeming rewards, you can contact a representative from the company that manages your credit card account.

If applying for another rewards card leaves you with too many credit cards, you may be tempted to close one of your old accounts (especially if the new card offers better rewards). But you’ll need to think about how that’ll impact your credit score. Getting rid of an account could raise your overall credit utilization ratio and make it look like you’re using a high percentage of your total credit line. Since your credit utilization ratio accounts for 30% of your FICO credit score, your score could plummet.

But what if you need to close a credit card account because you’re tired of wasting money on a card with a high annual percentage rate or high fees? You might want to close one of your newer credit card accounts. That’ll have less of an effect on the average age of your credit history (which accounts for 15% of your FICO credit score). If you’ve decided to go ahead and close an account, you’ll need to pay that balance in full and redeem all of your credit card rewards (or run the risk of losing them).


How to Earn as Many Rewards as Possible


To earn as many rewards as you possible can, you’ll need to have a firm understanding of how your rewards program works. If you have a gas credit card, for instance, your strategy for earning plenty of cash rewards may involve using your credit card every time you make a trip to the gas station. If you applied for a credit card with a sign-up bonus, you’ll probably have around 90 days to spend enough money to get the bonus.

Meeting a minimum spending requirement is easier than you think it is. You can qualify for a sign-up bonus by purchasing gift cards and getting a head start on your holiday shopping. Just make sure you do most of your shopping through your card’s online portal. With your credit card’s bonus mall, you can earn extra rewards and work toward hitting your spending goal at the same time. Using your credit card to make charitable donations and paying bills with your credit card are a couple of additional tactics that can help you work toward earning a sign-up bonus and additional rewards.

If you want to earn as many rewards as possible, you’ll need to figure out whether you can double, triple or quadruple dip. Can you earn twice as many rewards by earning points for using your credit card and getting extra points for dining at a particular restaurant? Can you earn three times as many points by booking a flight, purchasing your ticket through a website that offers its own rewards program (like Expedia) and using a credit card that awards points to people who book through Expedia?

Crunching some numbers should help you determine the value of your rewards and the best way to redeem them. And it doesn’t hurt to read up on how other people with your credit card have earned rewards in the past.


Redeeming Your Credit Card Rewards


The process of redeeming credit card rewards can be complicated. Cardholders often have to abide by various rules when they want to cash in on the benefits they’ve earned. For example, consumers with cash back rewards cards can normally only redeem certain amounts of rewards at one time. And under some programs, you have to spend a certain amount of money before you can redeem your cash rewards.

Many rewards credit cards have online bonus malls. Through these portals, you can use points to buy products. You can also use your credit card to purchase merchandise and gain cash back and/or additional points. In many cases, you can use the points you’ve earned to pay for part of a good or service and use your rewards card to pay for the rest. Cardholders can access their credit card bonus malls by logging into their accounts.

Loyalty programs make it easy to redeem rewards for gift cards, travel and other items. If you’re a member of program that has a partnership with another company, you’ll have multiple ways to earn and redeem your miles and points.

Consumers who want to redeem their airline miles for plane tickets may have to do so by calling a travel agent or airline directly. Or you can apply your miles to a flight online through an airline’s website using your account number. As you’re going through the process of redeeming your miles, you’ll need to pay close attention to the awards chart that shows you the number of miles you need for a trip. Some of the best ways to use travel rewards involves using them to book expensive flights to foreign countries and stays at high-end hotels.


Frequently Asked Questions:


1. Which kinds of consumers could benefit from applying for one of the best rewards credit cards?

Rewards credit cards are ideal for responsible borrowers who tend to pay their credit card bills in full every month. Since they never have to worry about paying interest, they’re in the best position to maximize their credit card rewards. The higher your credit score, the better your chances of getting approved for a rewards card. Rewards credit cards could also be perfect for consumers who are looking to save money on a regular basis for making credit card purchases.

If you usually carry a balance or you tend to make late credit card payments, applying for a rewards credit card might not be a good idea. Having a rewards credit card simply doesn’t make sense if the costs of having that card (through fees and interest payments) exceed the benefits.

2. Which type of rewards credit card should I apply for?

In order to choose a rewards credit card, you’ll need to think about your lifestyle and your spending habits. If you’d prefer to put very little effort into earning rewards - and you want to be able to use them to cover the cost of all kinds of expenses - you may want to apply for a cash back credit card.

But if you don’t mind doing your research and developing strategies that’ll help you get the most value out of your rewards, you may benefit from a rewards card that offers points. If you travel often and you take long trips abroad (and you have to purchase a pricey plane ticket at the last minute from time to time), you may want to apply for a card that lets you earn miles or travel points.

3. How can I increase my chances of getting approved for a rewards credit card?

It’s best to whip your credit into shape before applying for a rewards credit card. These cards are usually reserved for the folks with good or excellent credit.

If you’ve recently applied for a credit card, a loan or a line of credit, you may want to wait awhile before filling out an application for a rewards credit card. That way, an issuer can’t turn you down for having too many new credit inquiries.

4. Do all rewards credit cards charge an annual fee?

Not all rewards credit cards require cardholders to pay an excessive amount of fees. In fact, some of the best rewards credit cards don’t charge an annual fee.

No one likes paying fees. But sometimes the cards that charge a high annual fee offer more rewards than low-fee rewards cards. However, paying an annual fee only makes sense if you plan to spend enough money and earn enough rewards to exceed the cost of paying an extra fee.

5. Do you have to pay your credit card balance in full in order to earn rewards?

Paying your credit card balance on time and in full every month will make it easier to get the most bang out of your credit card rewards. But paying off your entire balance isn’t mandatory. As long as you pay the minimum balance every month and your account is in good standing, you should be able to earn credit card rewards.

6. How can consumers use their credit cards to earn cash back, miles or points?

There are many ways to earn rewards. With a cash back rewards card, you’ll earn rewards in the form of cash or a statement credit just by using your credit card to make qualifying purchases.

Depending on the way a rewards program is structured, you may be able to earn points by using your credit card to book flights and pay for other travel expenses, shopping through your card’s online bonus mall and making purchases at certain retailers, hotels and restaurants. With a standard travel rewards card or an airline rewards card, you may be able to earn miles by purchasing plane tickets and using your credit card to make everyday purchases.

Some rewards programs allow you to convert points to miles or cash back. And some credit cards offer a sign-up bonus that gives you extra rewards for meeting a minimum spending requirement within the first three months of opening a credit card account. With some of the best rewards cards, you can easily double or triple the amount of rewards you earn by applying certain strategies.

7. What is a statement credit?

A statement credit is an amount of money that a credit card company can add directly to a cardholder’s account. Some cash back rewards cards offer statement credits instead of cash rewards. Unlike a cash reward, a statement credit can’t be applied to anything but the balance within a credit card account.

8. Do credit card rewards expire?

Some credit card rewards expire after a set amount of time. Others are available for as long as your account is open. This means that you can lose your rewards by closing your credit card account. To find out whether your miles, points or cash back have an expiration date, you’ll need to refer to your credit card’s terms and conditions or call customer service.

9. Are there types of credit card transactions that won’t help cardholders earn rewards?

Different rules apply to different kinds of credit card accounts. But generally, you can’t earn rewards through cash advances, refunds, fraudulent transactions, balance transfers and interest payments.

10. Is there a limit to the number of rewards I can earn?

Credit cardholders can usually earn an unlimited amount of rewards, as long as their accounts are current. You may also be able to redeem an unlimited number of rewards, depending on the way a card’s rewards program is set up.


Final Thoughts


Rewards credit cards give consumers the chance to earn miles, points or cash back that they can trade in for gift cards, merchandise and other perks. Whether you’re trying to score a free flight to Maui or ditch your mortgage debt, credit card rewards can make it easier to reach your personal and financial goals.

Before applying for one of the best rewards credit cards, it’s best to consider whether you can afford to take on more credit card debt. You may want to avoid getting another credit card if you’re struggling to keep up with bills and you have no room in your budget for additional fees and charges.

Photo credits: ©iStock.com/andresr, ©iStock.com/andresr

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Places Leaving the Most Credit Card Rewards on the Table

SmartAsset's interactive map highlights the places in the country where people could be earning more in credit card rewards by changing payment methods. Click between states and the national map to see where people are leaving the most credit card rewards on the table.

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Rank City Current Credit Card Spending Possible Credit Card Spending Annual Rewards Missed

Methodology Our study aims to find the places where people are leaving credit card rewards on the table. We wanted to find locations where people could be earning more credit card rewards by responsibly increasing credit card use on existing discretionary spending. This can be a way to earn money on the purchases you are already making.

First, we found the median income for every city. We then subtracted housing costs from that median income for each city. Next we wanted to estimate typical expenditures the average person in each city would make with their remaining salary. To do so, we considered all non-housing expenses from the Bureau of Labor Studies Consumer Expenditure Survey excluding medical and vehicle costs.

We compared this typical expenditure number to the amount the average person spends on a credit card in each city. Data on credit card usage comes from the 2016 US Consumer Payment Study. The difference between the two numbers represents the lost opportunity. That is money that could be earning rewards if it were spent using a credit card.

Finally, we applied a 2% rewards rate to that discretionary spending not currently being done on a credit card. This shows the rewards in dollars that are being left on the table by the average consumer in each city. We indexed this number to compare cities in each state and nationally.

Sources: US Census Bureau American Community Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Study, 2016 US Consumer Payments Study