Best Rewards Credit Cards
We've vetted hundreds of card offers and analyzed thousands of data points to bring you a shortlist of our top rewards cards.
Best for: Sign-up bonus and airline miles Chase Sapphire Preferred®
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Best for: Bonus cash with no annual fee Discover it® Cash Back
- INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
- Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
- Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
- Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
- Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
- Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
- No annual fee.
Best for: Cash rewards program Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card
- No annual fee
- NEW OFFER: $200 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
- Earn 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter
- No changing categories and no expiration on rewards
- 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases AND for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days, then, 14.99% - 24.99% Variable APR. 3% fee (min $10) applies to balance transfers
- Get a 10% customer bonus every time you redeem your cash back into a Bank of America® checking or savings account
- If you're a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%
- Easily add your Mastercard® credit card to any digital wallet for a simple, secure, and convenient way to pay online, in-app, and in-store
Best for: Flat-rate travel rewards Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
- Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
- Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels; learn more at hotels.com/venture
- Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
- Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
- Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates
- Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
- No foreign transaction fees
- $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
Best for: Big sign-up bonus Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card
- Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
- Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases
- Enjoy 1.8% cash rewards on qualified mobile wallet purchases, like Apple Pay® or Google Pay™, during the first 12 months from account opening
- No category restrictions or sign ups and cash rewards don’t expire as long as your account remains open
- Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card
- 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers (fees apply), then a 15.74%-26.74% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rates and fees
- $0 Annual Fee
- Select “Apply Now” to learn more about the product features, terms, and conditions
Best for: Bonus cash back Chase Freedom®
- 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
- Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
- Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
- Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter
- Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
- Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
- Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
- No annual fee
Best for: Flexible cash-back rewards Capital One® Quicksilver® Card - 0% Intro APR for 15 Months
- One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
- Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
- No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
- 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 14.74%-24.74% variable APR after that
- 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 14.74%-24.74% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
- Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
Best for: Travel card with no annual fee Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
- Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
- NEW OFFER: 25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
- Use your card to book your trip how and where you want – you’re not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
- Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
- Comes with chip technology for enhanced security and protection at chip-enabled terminals
- 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases, then 16.74% - 24.74% Variable APR
- Get an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account
- If you’re a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%
Best for: Gas and groceries Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Credit Rating Requirement:
- $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
- 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) - that means spending $60 a week at U.S. supermarkets could earn over $180 back per year.
- 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
- Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.74% to 25.74%.
- Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
- Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
- $95 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
Get our latest tips and uncover more of our top picks to help you conquer your money goals
With each passing year, it seems as though credit card rewards only get better. The best credit card rewards programs now offer extremely lucrative sign-up bonuses for new cardholders, plus high rewards yields on every dollar charged to the card. The most rewarding card on our list offers as much as $750 in travel value in the form of a new cardholder bonus, and a rewards yield as high as 4.5% in travel value for spending on restaurants and travel purchases, which showcases the value offered by the top rewards cards.
- Jump to
- How we picked the winners
- Why you can trust us
- What are credit card rewards?
- What are the different types of credit card rewards?
- How credit cards with travel rewards work
- How credit cards with cash back rewards work
- Credit cards with rotating rewards categories
- Credit cards with grocery and gas rewards
- Credit cards with rewards and no annual fee
- Which credit card has the best rewards program?
- The ground rules for rewards cards
- 11 ways to accumulate credit card rewards faster
How we picked the winners
Selecting from hundreds of rewards cards on the market wasn’t easy, but having so many cards to choose from allowed us to be picky about which cards should make our list of the very best. We looked for a handful of attributes that we think are important for any rewards card, including:
Simple rewards programs -- In our experience, complexity often works in the favor of the card issuer rather than the cardholder. We like programs with clear rules for earning and redeeming rewards that don’t make you jump through hoops to get the most value.
High reward yields -- It should go without saying that a high rewards yield per $1 of spending is one of the most important criteria for making our list of the best cards. We like cards that offer a high rewards rate on categories that make up a majority of a cardholder’s monthly budget.
Low minimum redemptions -- Rewards aren’t worth anything until they can be redeemed. We prefer cards that have a no- or low-minimum redemption threshold. We think cards that have redemption minimums of $25 or less are best, since cardholders will be able to redeem their rewards frequently.
- Annual fees that make sense -- Not all of the cards on this list carry annual fees, but we wanted to make sure that when they do, it’s because they offer something more (higher rewards yields or other perks) that can help make up for the cost.
- Sign-up bonus potential -- Many of our favorite cards offer a sign-up bonus valued from $150 up to $750. While they aren’t necessary to make the cut, we like offers that give cardholders an opportunity to get a jumpstart to earning rewards with new cardholder bonuses.
Why you can trust us
We’re always looking for the best deals because we use them personally. Together, we have decades of experience using credit cards to take advantage of big sign-up bonuses and high rewards rates on our spending.
Starting with a list of hundreds of cards, we boiled down the list to only the very best rewards cards. But the proof is really in the numbers -- the cards on this list offer thousands of dollars in sign-up bonus value on top of high on-going rewards rates per $1 spent.
What are credit card rewards?
Credit card rewards are benefits you receive for every $1 you charge to a credit card. These programs date back all the way to the 1980s, when card companies started offering cash back and airline miles for making purchases on credit. Later, other companies rolled out credit cards that earned free long-distance minutes, or cash towards the purchase of an automobile.
Cardholders can expect to earn at least 1% in cash back or travel value on every purchase, and the best cards can offer rewards that rise as high as 5% on certain types of spending. Travel cards also boast features like free checked bags on flights, extended checkouts at hotels, and other perks that would have been unthinkable when the programs first began.
What are the different types of credit card rewards?
Credit card rewards generally come in two types: Some cards offer cash back, while others offer travel rewards that can be redeemed for flights, hotels, rental cars, and other travel-related purchases.
Cash-back credit cards
These rewards programs are simple to use, which is why they remain the most popular type of rewards cards today. Cash-back credit cards offer a certain percentage of cash back, typically paying an amount ranging from 1% to 2% of your spending. Some cards also offer bonuses for spending in certain categories, like gas or grocery purchases, where each $1 of spend can earn up to 5% back.
Travel credit cards
These cards are becoming more popular for cardholders who have good or excellent credit scores. Travel credit cards typically earn 1 to 2 “miles” or “points” for every $1 of spending, with each point or mile commonly redeemable for $0.01 of travel value. Some travel cards also offer category bonuses for spending on travel or swiping your card to pay a bar tab or restaurant bill. The best credit cards rewards are often found on travel cards, but because many carry annual fees, and rewards are meant for travel redemptions only, they aren’t necessarily the best cards for everyone.
How credit cards with travel rewards work
Travel rewards come in two flavors. Some cards offer a travel portal through which points or miles you earn can be redeemed for travel. Others offer statement credit redemptions, which allow you to redeem rewards against travel purchases you make. Both types of travel rewards have their unique pros and cons.
Travel portal rewards cards -- Chase Sapphire Preferred® and Chase Sapphire Reserve® are two of our favorite cards for travel portal rewards. These cards offer an extra perk in that the points you earn can be transferred to travel partners, making them more valuable for people who want to redeem points through hotel and airline loyalty programs.
Statement credit rewards cards -- These rewards cards are excellent for people who like to shop around for travel deals and want flexibility in how they book travel purchases. Many people prefer statement credit rewards cards because the rewards can be redeemed any time you can make a travel purchase, and aren’t subject to limitations like blackout dates. The no-annual-fee Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card and its sister card, Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card are examples of statement credit redemption travel cards.
People who are good at bargain shopping for travel deals may come out ahead with statement credit rewards cards. That’s because the rewards you earn can be redeemed for statement credits against a travel purchase made through an online travel agency (Priceline or Expedia, for example), as well as purchases made directly with a hotel or airline. If you’re the type to use discounts and coupon codes and search high and low for a bargain, statement credit travel cards may offer more value to you.
How credit cards with cash back rewards work
Cash back cards are really simple. When you swipe your card to make a purchase, you earn rewards based on how much you spend, and what you buy. Like travel cards, cash back cards also come in two different types:
Unlimited, flat cash back on all spending -- These cards usually offer rewards equal to 1% to 2% on every $1 you spend. Since all types of spending earn at the same rate, you won’t have to bother thinking about which card to use for certain purchases to get the most value. These cards are great for people who simply want to earn a reasonable rewards rate on all types of spending, and don’t want to bother carrying several cards in their wallets.
Category bonus cards -- These cards offer large bonuses for spending in certain categories. Most programs use a rotating bonus category program, wherein certain types of spending (department stores, home improvement stores, gas purchases, restaurants, etc.) earn at higher rates for three months out of the year. The downside with these cards is that the base rewards rate is usually pretty low (1% or less). If you spend heavily in a certain category, though, these cards can offer a lot of bonus value.
Credit cards with rotating rewards categories
To illustrate the utility of rotating category bonuses, we’ll use one of our favorite cards, Discover it® Cash Back, as an example. One thing we like about this card is that it offers visibility into its rotating categories by publishing its rotating rewards categories before they take effect. Its bonus categories in 2018 are shown in the table below.
|5% bonus category||Time period|
|Gas stations and wholesale clubs||January through March 2018|
|Grocery stores||April through June 2018|
|Restaurants||July through September 2018|
|Amazon.com and wholesale clubs||October through December 2018|
Notice how Discover it® Cash Back offers bonus rewards in categories that are seasonally relevant. Its fourth-quarter bonus category can be especially lucrative during the holiday shopping season in which cardholders can earn up to $75 in bonus cash back by maxing out the 5% bonus on up to $1,500 of spending.
New cardholders really haul in the rewards with this particular card. That’s because Discover it® Cash Back matches all the cashback earned in the first year. Therefore, if you max out all four bonus categories and earn $300 in rewards in the first year, you’ll earn $300 in matching rewards after the 12th consecutive billing period of having the card. We think of it as offering a 10% rewards yield on bonus categories in the first year, which makes it a top choice in the rotating bonus category.
Category cards are most valuable when paired with another card that offers a high rewards yield on all types of spending. Using an unlimited 1.5% cash back card in tandem with a card that offers 5% or more in rewards on bonus categories can help you maximize the rewards yield on every swipe.
Credit cards with grocery and gas rewards
Families who have large grocery and gasoline budgets may be best suited for cards that offer bonus cash back on groceries and gasoline throughout the year.
One of our favorite cards, Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card provides 3% cash back on gas, 2% on grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 1% on all other types of spending. The category bonuses are limited to the first $2,500 in combined spending per quarter, which is one of the highest caps in the category bonus category.
We like this card because it also offers loyalty bonuses for being a Bank of America customer. When rewards are simply redeemed into a Bank of America checking or savings account, cardholders earn a 10% bonus, thus increasing its effective rewards rates to 3.3% on gas, 2.2% on groceries and wholesale clubs, and 1.1% on all other types of spending.Those who are a Preferred Rewards client with Bank of America can earn bonuses that rise as high as 75%, thus bringing its effective rewards rates to 5.75% on gas, 3.5% on groceries and wholesale clubs, and 1.75% on all other kinds of spending. If you meet the requirements for being a Preferred Rewards customer, this card could easily be the best rewards credit card for you.
Credit cards with rewards and no annual fee
If you have lower spending needs or use multiple credit cards, you’re likely a good candidate for cards that do not have an annual fee. Though the credit cards with the best rewards typically have annual fees, it rarely makes sense to pay an annual fee unless you can put tens of thousands of dollars of spending on one card each year.
Most cash back credit cards do not have an annual fee, whereas many travel cards do. Note that only one no-annual-fee travel card makes our list of the best rewards cards.
|Credit card||Rewards program||Limit on bonus rewards spending|
|Discover it® Cash Back||5% cash back in rotating categories, and 1% cash back on everything else||$1,500 per calendar quarter|
|Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card||3% on gas, 2% at groceries and wholesale clubs, 1% on everything else||$2,500 per calendar quarter|
|Capital One® Quicksilver® Card||Unlimited 1.5% cash back||N/A|
|Chase Freedom®||5% cash back in rotating categories, and 1% cash back on everything else||$1,500 per calendar quarter|
|Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card||Unlimited 1.5x miles per $1 (redeemed for travel at $0.01 per mile)||N/A|
One of the best things about using no-annual-fee credit cards is that you don’t limit yourself to any one card, nor will you have to choose between keeping a card open or closing it in order to save on an annual fee.
We think it’s a benefit to have credit cards that you can keep open for life. That’s because as much as 15% of your credit score is determined by the length of your credit history. For this reason, we think it’s smart to have at least one no-annual-fee credit card that you keep open for the long haul, helping you build more credit history with each passing month.
Which credit card has the best rewards program?
Though it may sound like a cop out, there isn’t any one card that offers a rewards program that is obviously better for all people than any other credit card. We’d encourage you to compare credit card rewards based on the types of spending that make up the majority of your budget, since category bonus cards may be a better option for people who spend heavily in one particular corner of their monthly budget.
|If you want…||Then you might consider…|
|Unlimited rewards on all spending||Capital One® Quicksilver® Card or Chase Freedom Unlimited®|
|High rewards on gas and groceries||Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card or Blue Cash Preferred® from American Express|
|Quarterly bonus rewards||Discover it® Cash Back|
|Premium travel benefits and rewards||Chase Sapphire Preferred® or Chase Sapphire Reserve®|
The ground rules for rewards cards
Before applying for a rewards card, there are three ground rules you should know:
Don’t redeem travel rewards for cash -- One of the most important decisions to make is whether you want cash back or travel rewards. Travel rewards, though lucrative, usually convert into a lesser amount of cash than travel. Unless you know you will have travel expenses, a cash back card is usually a better choice.
It doesn’t make sense to carry balances -- While spending more means earning more rewards, it doesn’t make sense to spend more money, or carry balances, in order to earn more in rewards. Just one or two months of carrying a balance can result in interest charges that vastly exceed the rewards you earn on your card. If you have credit card debt, a balance transfer card would be a smarter choice than a reward card.
Be smart about annual fees -- We think it only makes sense to pay an annual fee when it pays for itself. With so many no-annual-fee credit cards offering rewards yields of 1.5% in cash or travel, we think it’s smart to use this as the baseline to compare to an annual fee card.
If you follow the advice above, you’ll be well on your way to earning high rewards on all of your spending, whether it’s in the form of cash back or travel value.
11 ways to accumulate credit card rewards faster
There are plenty of ways to collect extra points, miles, and cash back without spending any extra money. Follow these simple credit card tricks, and you could be adding a zero or two to your points balance in no time.
1. Couple up your credit cards
Maybe your credit card offers extra points on travel spending, and the issuer has another card that offers extra points on groceries and gas. Consider getting a second card and switching them up depending on what you’re purchasing in order to maximize rewards.
2. Transfer unused points
If you’ve got a few thousand points sitting around in a rewards account you no longer use, you might be able to transfer those points to the rewards account you’re currently using. Check your rewards program’s point transfer policies and partnerships.
3. Put home improvements on the card
Planning on renovating the kitchen or adding a spare bedroom? Put those expenses on your rewards credit card, as long as you aren’t charged a fee to do so.
4. Add an authorized user
This one requires a judgment call on your part. Adding someone as an authorized user makes you responsible for any debt they accumulate and fail to repay. It also means that any mistakes you make, such as a late payment, will show up on their credit report, affecting their credit score. However, if you’re sure you can trust each other, many credit card offers give you extra bonus points -- usually around 5,000 -- for adding an authorized user who makes a purchase in the first few months. Plus, if that authorized user adds additional expenses to your card, the points they accumulate are added to your account.
5. Pay your mortgage or rent with a credit card
Services like RadPad and Plastiq let you pay your rent with a credit card. Your landlord doesn’t even have to sign up; these websites send a rent check to your landlord on your behalf. Unless you find a promotion, it will cost you a 2%-3% transaction fee. This means you’re paying 2 to 3 cents per $1, so you need to be getting back more than 2%-3% in rewards to profit. If you’re trying to hit a minimum spend requirement to get the sign-up bonus on a credit card offer, the 2%-3% fee is almost always worth it.
6. Pay tuition with a credit card
If you’re covering tuition for your kid, you might as well get a reward for all the money you’re spending. Most colleges now allow you to pay tuition with a credit card, although many charge a fee. If you’re lucky and the college you pay doesn’t charge a fee for credit card transactions, charge away. Just make sure you have the funds to pay off your credit card immediately.
7. Pay your taxes with a credit card
As of 2018, the fee for paying any taxes you owe the federal government is 1.87% to 2%. That means this option is only worth it if you’re getting more than 2% back, which can be in the form of high value points or a good cash-back credit card. If you’re trying to meet a minimum spend requirement for a sign-up bonus, this option has lower fees than paying your rent online.
8. File a complaint
Did you recently experience an inconvenience with the airline or hotel chain you’re trying to earn points for? Whether your flight was seriously delayed or your room was overbooked, complaining to the company will often result in them depositing a generous amount of miles or points into your account in exchange for your forgiveness.
9. Buy gift cards
Buying gift cards for places you know you’ll shop at is an effective way to hit a minimum spend requirement. This can also be a good way to get extra cash back. For example, if your credit card offers 5% cash back on groceries, buying restaurant or department stores gift cards at your local grocery store may let you get 5% cash back on purchases that aren’t part of your bonus category.
10. Close your credit card… and then re-apply
Some credit cards only allow you to get a sign-up bonus once in a lifetime. However, other offers simply state that you cannot earn the sign-up bonus if you’ve already earned it once within the past 24 months. So, if you’ve had your rewards credit card for more than 2 years, you might be eligible to get the sign-up bonus again by closing it and re-applying. Just read the terms of the sign-up bonus carefully to make sure that you qualify.
11. Redeem your rewards wisely
Accumulating points quickly is only half of the process. In order to get the most out of your rewards, you have to redeem them wisely as well.
To choose what you want to redeem your points for, calculate how much you’d typically spend on your award redemption and divide that by the amount of points it costs -- that’s the value of each point, and you should aim for at least 1.5 cents. Redeeming points for products on a marketplace or cash typically offer the lowest value, while redeeming them for travel rewards like flights and hotels tend to offer higher value.
Remember to weigh the costs of these methods with your potential rewards. After all, it’s never worth it to spend more than you earn. It’s also not worth charging more than you can afford to multiply your rewards, as credit card interest rates will surely cancel out any benefit. Whatever you do to earn points faster, don’t let it get you into debt.
To recap, here are the best rewards credit cards
|Card||Best Reward||Best For…|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred®||
$625 sign up bonus for travel
Sign-up bonus and airline miles
|Discover it® Cash Back||
Double cash back in the first year
Bonus cash with no annual fee
|Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card||
$200 intro bonus
Cash rewards program
|Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card||
2 miles per $1
Flat-rate travel rewards
|Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card||
Big sign-up bonus
Bonus cash back
|Capital One® Quicksilver® Card - 0% Intro APR for 15 Months||
Flexible cash-back rewards
|Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card||
25,000 bonus points
Travel card with no annual fee
|Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express||
6% at U.S. supermarkets
Gas and groceries