This article was updated May 23rd, 2017*

Credit cards can be really rewarding, creating as much as $240 in annual value for the average household who uses them, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. People who have excellent credit scores can do even better than that. 

Banks are generally eager to spend more on perks designed to attract people with excellent credit, hoping to find customers who will spend heavily and pay on time -- an ideal customer. And the rewards can be beefy, as new cardholder bonuses of $500 or more and rewards rates of 2% or higher are common throughout the card industry.

The three cards below have some of the best perks for cardholders with excellent credit. Below, we'll explore each card in depth, and explain why each one earns a spot on the list.

Card name

New cardholder bonus

Annual fee

Minimum redemption

Chase Sapphire Preferred

50,000 points ($625 in travel)

$95, waived in the first year

None

BankAmericard Travel Rewards®

20,000 points ($200 in travel)

None

2,500 points

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard

50,000 miles ($500 in travel)

$89, waived in the first year

10,000 miles for travel ($100 of travel)

Sources: Card issuers.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a leader when it comes to beefy new cardholder bonuses and on-going rewards. Qualifying new cardholders receive 50,000 points for spending $4,000 in the first three months after approval, which converts into $625 of travel value.

Cardholders earn 2 points per dollar spent on travel and restaurant purchases, and 1 point per dollar for all other purchases. Importantly, there are no caps on bonus travel and restaurant categories, making it a top pick for those who spend heavily in the bonus categories.

What makes this card great is that it features some of the highest conversions for travel and cash redemptions. Points can be redeemed for travel at a rate of $0.0125 per point, or for cash at a rate of $0.01 per point. The only downside is the card's annual fee of $95, which is waived in the first year. Learn more from our complete Chase Sapphire Preferred review.

Woman standing on dock with suitcase

People with excellent credit can rake in thousands of dollars of travel benefits from credit cards. Image source: Getty Images.

BankAmericard Travel Rewards®

The BankAmericard Travel Rewards® card is perhaps the best choice in no-annual-fee credit cards. The new cardholder bonus delivers 20,000 bonus points to qualifying cardholders who spend at least $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days after approval. These points convert to $200 of value when redeemed for travel.

Cardholders earn a flat rate of 1.5 points on every dollar spent. Bank of America clients can receive bonuses on top of the standard rewards rate, which adds 10% to 75% on top of the standard rewards rate. Bonus rewards aren't necessarily difficult to earn, as the 10% bonus can be earned by simply having an active Bank of America® checking or savings account.

Importantly, the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® card has one of the most flexible redemption options of any travel card. Cardholders can redeem for statement credits, which effectively erase purchases of hotel stays, flights, or other qualifying travel that are charged to the card.

Statement credits can be especially rewarding for bargain shoppers. Travelers who are good at finding low-priced deals by shopping around are likely to get more value out of statement credit redemptions than a rewards program that is limited to a bank's specific travel portal. Learn more from our complete BankAmericard Travel Rewards® review.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard is an excellent pick in travel rewards cards for its lofty new cardholder bonus and on-going rewards rates. Qualifying new cardholders receive 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days after account opening, which equates to $525 of travel value when its 5% redemption bonus is included.

The card earns at a flat rate of 2 miles per dollar spent. When miles are redeemed, 5% of the miles are added back to the cardholder's rewards balance. Thus, the card effectively earns 2.1 miles per dollar spent when the 5% redemption bonus is included. Like the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® card, it also features flexible statement credit redemptions.

The card does have some disadvantages compared to others on the list, primarily its $89 annual fee (which is waived in the first year), and its minimum redemption level for travel (10,000 miles). That said, it offers a simple rewards program with a high rewards rate on every dollar spent, thus making it a good card for someone who doesn't want to juggle several different cards for the best possible rewards rate. Learn more from our complete Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard review.

How to win the credit card game

When used wisely, credit cards feature better fraud protection than debit cards and generous rewards programs that could pay for your next vacation. But they should be used just as you would use cash or a debit card, and shouldn't be used to finance expenses that you can't pay for today. Just one month of interest charges can wipe away all of a card's rewards benefits, so it's important to always pay the balance in full.

Winning the credit card game is as easy as minding this simple rule: Always pay in full.

 

*Jordan Wathen has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Barclays. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article was updated to more accurately reflect BankAmericard Travel Rewards® receive a 10% bonus for having an active Bank of America checking or savings account.