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Best Rewards Credit Cards for August 2022

Many or all of the products here are from our partners that pay us a commission. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation. Terms may apply to offers listed on this page.

With all the great offers available, a rewards card is practically a must-have. If you're trying to find one, read on -- we've sorted through hundreds of options to pick the best rewards credit cards. While we considered a few factors, the most important were the cards' rewards rates, bonus opportunities, and fees.

We're rewards card enthusiasts, so we've tried out many of our top picks firsthand. On our list, you'll find quality options for every situation, whether your priority is earning a huge welcome bonus, collecting cash back on everyday expenses, or scoring flexible travel points.

Great for: Unlimited cash back

Apply Now for Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

On Wells Fargo's Secure Website.

  • A standout cash back card with one of the highest unlimited rewards rates we've come across. The inclusion of a hefty sign-up bonus and versatile 0% intro APR offer are the cherries on top. Read Full Review

    • Unlimited 2% cash rewards
    • Long 0% intro APR offer
    • Generous cash rewards sign-up bonus
    • No annual fee
    • No bonus categories
    • Foreign transaction fees
    • Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months
    • Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases
    • 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, then a 17.24%, 22.24%, or 27.24% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee of 3% then a BT fee of up to 5%, min: $5
    • $0 annual fee
    • No categories to track or remember and cash rewards don't expire as long as your account remains open
    • Enjoy a premium collection of benefits at a selection of the world's most intriguing and prestigious hotel properties with Visa Signature Concierge
    • Get up to $600 of cell phone protection against damage or theft when you pay your monthly cell phone bill with your eligible Wells Fargo card. (subject to a $25 deductible).
    • Select “Apply Now” to learn more about the product features, terms and conditions

Great for: Travel sign up bonus

  • With a big sign-up bonus, the sky’s the limit for this top-rated travel rewards card. Plus, the premium points program for travel and dining make it a no brainer for travel enthusiasts everywhere. Read Full Review

    • Big sign-up bonus
    • Travel rewards
    • Dining rewards
    • Flexible travel points
    • Consumer and travel protections
    • Has an annual fee
    • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
    • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
    • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
    • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
    • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
    • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.

Great for: Bonus cash back

Apply Now for Chase Freedom Flex℠

On Chase's Secure Website.

  • Deserves to be top of wallet for many cardholders due to some of the highest cash back rates for essentials, a big sign-up bonus, and no annual fee. Read Full Review

    • Competitive cash back bonus
    • Lucrative cash back program
    • Travel rewards
    • Great intro APR
    • No annual fee
    • Foreign transaction fee
    • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
    • 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
    • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more
    • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
    • No minimum to redeem for cash back. You can choose to receive a statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open!
    • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49% - 25.24%.
    • No annual fee - You won't have to pay an annual fee for all the great features that come with your Freedom Flex℠ card
    • Keep tabs on your credit health - Chase Credit Journey helps you monitor your credit with free access to your latest score, real-time alerts, and more.

Great for: U.S. gas and U.S. supermarkets

Apply Now for Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

On American Express' Secure Website.

Terms apply

  • The U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations rewards are clear standouts, in addition to a big welcome offer and a nice 0% intro APR offer. Read Full Review

    • Big welcome offer
    • U.S. supermarkets rewards
    • U.S. gas stations rewards
    • Streaming subscription rewards
    • Annual fee
    • Foreign transaction fee
    • Earn a $350 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
    • Balance Transfer is back! Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months from the date of account opening. After that, your APR will be a variable APR of 16.24%-27.24%.
    • Buy Now, Pay Later: Enjoy $0 intro plan fees when you use Plan It® to split up large purchases into monthly installments. Pay $0 Plan It fees on plans created during the first 12 months from the date of account opening. Plans created after that will have a fixed monthly plan fee up to 1.33% of each purchase amount moved into a plan based on the plan duration, the APR that would otherwise apply to the purchase, and other factors.
    • 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%).
    • 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
    • 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more).
    • 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
    • Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
    • Thinking about getting The Disney Bundle which includes Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+? Your decision made easy with $7/month back in the form of a statement credit after you spend $13.99 or more each month on an eligible subscription with your Blue Cash Preferred Card. Enrollment required.
    • $95 Annual Fee.
    • Terms Apply.

Great for: Unlimited rewards in certain categories

Apply Now for Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

On Wells Fargo's Secure Website.

  • Just released, this card immediately moves to the top of our rankings for no annual fee rewards cards thanks to its excellent sign-up bonus offer, earn unlimited 3x points on a variety of categories, and cell phone protection. Read Full Review

    • Strong bonus offer for a no-annual-fee card
    • Earn Unlimited 3x points on useful categories
    • Cell phone protection
    • Other cards offer larger bonuses, though they usually come with annual fees
    • The 1x points baseline rewards rate on other purchases, though normal for this type of card, can be beat
    • Earn 30,000 bonus points when you spend $1,500 in purchases in the first 3 months - that's a $300 cash redemption value
    • Earn unlimited 3X points on the things that really add up - like restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans. Plus, earn 1X points on other purchases
    • $0 annual fee
    • 0% intro APR for 12 months from account opening on purchases. 17.24%, 22.24%, or 27.24% variable APR thereafter
    • Get up to $600 of cell phone protection against damage or theft when you pay your monthly cell phone bill with your eligible Wells Fargo card. (subject to a $25 deductible).
    • Redeem your rewards points for travel, gift cards, or statement credits. Or shop at millions of online stores and redeem your rewards when you check out with PayPal.
    • Enjoy a premium collection of benefits at a selection of the world's most intriguing and prestigious hotel properties with Visa Signature Concierge.
    • Select “Apply Now” to learn more about the product features, terms and conditions.

Great for: Dining and U.S. supermarkets

Apply Now for American Express® Gold Card

On American Express' Secure Website.

Terms apply

  • The welcome offer, lucrative rewards at restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and on travel more than justify the annual fee for most who spend in these categories. Read Full Review

    • Impressive welcome offer
    • Restaurants rewards
    • U.S. supermarket rewards
    • Travel and dining credits
    • High-value rewards points
    • Annual fee
    • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
    • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
    • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® Points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
    • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
    • Updated $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
    • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
    • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
    • Annual Fee is $250.
    • Terms Apply.

Great for: Travel card with no annual fee

  • No-annual-fee travel cards typically skimp on the sign-up bonus, but this card delivers with its intro bonus offer, unlimited rewards on purchases, and other wallet-friendly perks. Read Full Review

    • Big sign-up bonus
    • No annual fee
    • Competitive rewards rate on purchases
    • Great 0% intro APR offer
    • No bonus categories
    • Limited ways to use points
    • 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.
    • 25,000 online bonus points after 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 travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout.
    • 0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases. After the intro APR offer ends, 16.24% - 26.24% Variable APR will apply.
    • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means instead of earning an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1, you could earn 1.87-2.62 points for every $1 you spend on purchases.
    • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
    • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.

Great for: Premium travel rewards

  • This is a strong premium level travel card with a big sign-up bonus, robust rewards program, and rich travel credits. Read Full Review

    • Big travel rewards bonus
    • High rewards rate
    • Travel credits
    • Airport lounge access
    • Easy-to-use miles
    • Annual fee
    • Small selection of travel partners
    • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
    • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
    • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
    • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
    • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
    • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
    • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
    • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs

Great for: Dining rewards with no annual fee

  • Dining and grocery spending will earn premium rewards, but that's not the only showstopper. The sign-up bonus, no annual fee, and a 0% intro APR offer can add a ton of value. Read Full Review

    • Sign-up bonus
    • Dining rewards
    • Entertainment rewards
    • No annual fee
    • Great intro APR for purchases
    • Balance transfer fee
    • Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
    • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), plus 1% on all other purchases
    • Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply
    • Earn 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment purchases and tickets at Vivid Seats
    • 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 and balance transfers for 15 months; 16.49% - 26.49% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
    • No foreign transaction fee
    • No annual fee
  • A leading student credit card with a rewards program that goes toe-to-toe with some of the top rewards cards we've come across. Read Full Review

    • Rotating bonus categories
    • Great sign-up bonus offer
    • No annual fee
    • Credit score monitoring
    • No fixed bonus categories
    • No credit score required to apply.
    • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
    • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
    • NEW! Discover helps remove your personal information from select people-search websites. Activate by mobile app for free.
    • No annual fee and build your credit with responsible use.
    • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 14.49% - 23.49% applies.
    • Click "Apply Now" to see terms and conditions.

Great for: Bad/building credit

  • This card is a great place to start when building your credit history. It offers perks rarely found in secured cards, including cash back, no annual fee, and Discover's innovative sign-up bonus. Read Full Review

    • Cash back rewards
    • Great sign-up bonus offer
    • No annual fee
    • Can graduate to an unsecured card
    • Minimum deposit amount
    • No credit score required to apply.
    • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
    • Establish your credit line by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200. That means a $200 deposit for a $200 credit line. Or a $500 deposit for a $500 credit line. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit, and the security deposit equals your credit limit.
    • Automatic reviews starting at 7 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
    • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
    • NEW! Discover helps remove your personal information from select people-search websites. Activate by mobile app for free.
    • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
    • Click "Apply Now" to see terms and conditions.
  • With a huge sign up bonus and massive on going rewards rate of 3x points per $1 on business essentials this card is a home run for businesses that spend a lot and want to maximize their rewards. Read Full Review

    • Huge sign-up bonus
    • Advertising rewards
    • Shipping rewards
    • Cell phone protection
    • Flexible travel points
    • Annual fee
    • No intro APR offer
    • Spending minimum for sign-up bonus
    • Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 cash back or $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
    • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year. Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
    • With Fraud Protection your card transactions will be monitored for possible signs of fraudulent activity using real-time fraud monitoring.
    • With Zero Liability you won't be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card or account information.
    • Redeem points for cash back, gift cards, travel and more - your points don't expire as long as your account is open
    • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
    • Purchase Protection covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per account.
  • A solid contender to earn rewards for everyday purchases, such as gas, groceries, dining, and travel. Read Full Review

    • Robust rewards program
    • Sign up bonus
    • Travel credit
    • Annual fee
    • No 0% intro APR offer
    • Intro Offer: Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 120 days of account opening. That's a $500 value redeemable towards travel, gift cards, cash back, merchandise and more.
    • 5X points on prepaid hotels and car rentals booked directly in the Altitude Rewards Center.
    • 4X points on travel, gas stations, and EV charging stations.
    • 2X points on streaming services. Plus, a $30 credit for annual streaming purchases like Netflix, Hulu, Spotify®, Apple Music, Disney+, HBO Max and more!
    • 2X points at grocery stores, grocery delivery, and dining.
    • Receive up to $100 in statement credits for reimbursement toward your TSA PreCheck® or Global Entry® application fee once every four years.
    • 1X point on all other eligible purchases.
    • Points never expire.
    • Pay over time by splitting eligible purchases of $100+ into equal monthly payments with U.S. Bank ExtendPay™ Plan.
    • Terms and conditions apply.

What is a rewards credit card?

A rewards credit card earns cash back, points, miles, or some other type of reward for purchases. The amount you earn depends on the card and, in some cases, the spending category. For example, there are cards that offer a flat rate of 2% on purchases. Others offer higher rates in some categories, such as 3% on groceries.

Every eligible purchase adds to your reward balance. So, if you spend $100 on a card offering 2% cash back, you'd earn $2 in rewards. You can redeem rewards when you have enough to meet the redemption minimum, if there is one. Fortunately, many of the best rewards credit cards don't have a minimum, so you can redeem rewards anytime.

Types of rewards credit cards

There are three types of rewards cards: travel rewards credit cards, cash back credit cards, and store credit cards.

That's simple enough, but there is one confusing part we should mention before getting into each type of rewards card. Some rewards cards technically fall into multiple categories -- but there's usually a single category that best fits each card.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a popular example. It earns points you can use for travel, cash back, or store gift cards, so it could fit into any of the three types of rewards cards. However, its points are worth the most when you use them for travel, and it earns bonus rewards on travel purchases. For those reasons, we consider it a travel credit card.

Travel rewards credit cards

If traveling is one of your favorite things, travel credit cards are basically made for you. These cards earn rewards that you can use to cover travel purchases like airfare or hotel stays.

Travel cards are the most complicated type of rewards card. That's mainly because the way you can use travel rewards depends on the card. Here are a few examples:

  • Airline credit cards earn frequent flyer miles. You can redeem miles with the airline for free flights.
  • Hotel credit cards earn points in a hotel loyalty program. You can use points to book stays with that hotel chain.
  • Some travel cards, including most no annual fee travel cards, let you redeem rewards at a fixed cash rate, such as $0.01 per point, towards travel purchases.

There are also some cards in popular rewards programs that offer transferable rewards. That means you can transfer your rewards to any partners in the card issuer's rewards program. These programs also usually let you redeem rewards at a fixed rate. Here are the top travel rewards programs that give you these options:

COMPARE PICKS: Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Cash back credit cards

Cash back credit cards are as straightforward as it gets, and that's a big part of why they're so popular. When you use your card for a purchase, you get cash back. That could be 1%, 2%, or even 5% or more for purchases in a bonus category.

Wondering what you can do with this cash back? Almost all cash back cards let you put your rewards towards your credit card bill as a statement credit. With $100 in cash back, you could cut your credit card bill by $100. The one important thing to know here is that cash back typically isn't considered a substitute for your minimum payment. If there's a balance left, you still need to pay at least the minimum due.

Many cash back cards also let you deposit your cash into your bank account by direct deposit or request a check in the mail.

COMPARE PICKS: Best Cash Back Credit Cards

Store credit cards

Store credit cards are the one type of rewards card I don't recommend for most people. A cash back or travel card is usually a much better deal. But store cards are everywhere, and some have their uses if you shop at the store often, so it's worth knowing how they work.

Most store cards earn rewards you can redeem with that store for a gift card. There are exceptions, like the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi, which earns cash back. And some store cards offer a discount on purchases or zero-interest financing instead of rewards.

A store card can be "closed-loop" or "open-loop." Closed-loop store cards only work at that retailer and any related brands. Open-loop store cards can be used with other merchants. Some stores only offer one of the two, and others offer both options. When stores offer both, they generally approve customers with lower credit scores for closed-loop cards. Applicants with better credit can qualify for open-loop cards.

For example, let's say you apply for a T.J. Maxx credit card. Any of the following could happen:

  • You're approved for the TJX Rewards® Credit Card. This is a closed-loop card, meaning you can only use it at T.J. Maxx and its other brands.
  • You're approved for the TJX Rewards® Platinum Mastercard®. This is an open-loop card that can be used anywhere Mastercard is accepted.
  • You're not approved for any of the T.J. Maxx credit cards.

LEARN MORE: Best Store Credit Cards

TIP

How can I maximize my credit card rewards?

Use your rewards card for every eligible purchase: If you don't, you leave money on the table. Always pay by card so you earn rewards on your spending.

Stick to your budget: A common mistake is making unnecessary purchases, using rewards to justify it. Don't let credit card rewards convince you to overspend.

Pay off your credit card every month: Credit card interest almost always costs more than any rewards you earn. Avoid this by always paying your entire statement balance.

What is the best credit card for rewards?

For a lot of people, the best credit card for rewards is the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card. It earns an unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases and charges no annual fee. In addition, it offers a generous welcome bonus and a 0% intro APR.

The biggest reason we recommend this Wells Fargo card is its cash back rate. No matter what your spending habits are, you earn competitive cash back on all your payments. In fact, an unlimited 2% cash rewards rate is the best we've seen.

There's no single card that's the best rewards credit card for everyone. That's why we always suggest comparing your options to find the one that's best for you. Your best rewards card could be one with bonus categories that fit your spending to a T, or a travel card that helps you cover expensive airfare. With the right fit, you can maximize your credit card rewards.

Learn more on how to pick the best rewards credit card in the video below. If you're ready to get started, here's how to apply for a credit card.

What can you do with credit card rewards?

After earning credit card rewards, you can redeem them through the card's rewards program. The ways you can redeem them depend on the card. Here are the most common redemption options for credit card rewards:

  • Get cash back, as a statement credit on your credit card bill, a direct deposit to a bank account, or as a check.
  • Use them for travel through the card issuer's travel portal, as a statement credit toward previous travel purchases, or by transferring them to airline or hotel loyalty programs.
  • Redeem them for store gift cards.
  • Redeem them for products or services.

When you log in to your online account, there should be a clear option to redeem rewards. Choose this to see what your redemption options are and pick the one you want.

Check how much value you get with each redemption method. People sometimes assume they get the same value no matter how they use their rewards. This is a common mistake that can cost you money. The value often depends on how you use your rewards. For example, if your card earns travel points, you may also be able to redeem them for cash back, but at a much lower rate per point.

Should I get a rewards credit card?

You should get a rewards credit card if you have a good credit score and will pay the bill in full every month.

Rewards cards are usually a great choice. You're going to pay for purchases anyway. Why not use a rewards card to get something back on that money you're spending? There are only a couple of situations where a rewards credit card isn't the right fit:

  • You don't have a good credit score: Learn how to increase your credit score and work on that first. It usually takes a FICO® Score of at least 670 to get any of the best rewards credit cards. By improving your credit, you can qualify for rewards cards that offer much more value.
  • You won't pay in full every month: Every month you carry a balance, the card issuer can charge you credit card interest. The cost of interest almost always outweighs your rewards.

Here are the pros and cons of having a rewards credit card:

Pros

  • Earn rewards on purchases
  • Many offer welcome bonuses
  • Typically include complimentary shopping and travel protections
  • Can build your credit when you consistently pay your bill in full

Cons

  • Often have high APRs
  • Can encourage you to spend more money
  • May charge an annual fee
  • Top rewards cards are only available to consumers with good credit

Alternatives to rewards credit cards

Your financial situation may call for a different type of credit card. Here are a few common situations where a rewards credit card isn't the right choice, along with what type of card to pick instead.

If you won't be able to pay in full, get a credit card with a 0% intro APR on purchases. The credit card company won't charge you interest during your card's introductory period. On a card with a 15-month 0% intro APR, that means no interest charges for the first 15 months.

CHECK OUT THE LONGEST OFFERS: Best 0% APR Credit Cards

If you're working on your credit score, find a card aimed at people in your score range. First, learn about how to find out your credit score. Every credit score falls into a range, like "fair credit" or "bad credit." Once you know your score, you can pick a card you're likely to qualify for.

FIND THE RIGHT CARD FOR YOUR CREDIT SCORE:

If you're dealing with credit card debt, go with a balance transfer credit card. These cards have a 0% intro APR on balance transfers (balances you move over from other credit cards). Although a balance transfer fee applies, you can still save quite a bit on interest this way. If you're unfamiliar with this type of offer, our complete guide to balance transfers explains everything you need to know.

SAVE ON DEBT: Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards

LOVE REWARDS? Check out The Ascent's MyPoints Review, where you can learn about the rewards program from MyPoints.

The Picks
Card Rating Great For
Rating image, 5.00 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Unlimited cash back

Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Travel sign up bonus

Rating image, 5.00 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Bonus cash back

Rating image, 5.00 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

U.S. gas and U.S. supermarkets

Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Unlimited rewards in certain categories

Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Dining and U.S. supermarkets

Rating image, 5.00 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Travel card with no annual fee

Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Premium travel rewards

Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Dining rewards with no annual fee

Rating image, 5.00 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Students

Rating image, 5.00 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Bad/building credit

Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Small businesses

Rating image, 4.00 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Travel and gas

FAQs

  • A rewards credit card earns purchase rewards in the form of cash back, points, or miles. Every eligible purchase adds to your rewards balance, and you can then redeem your rewards with the credit card issuer.

  • To compare rewards credit cards, look at their rewards rates, bonus offers, annual fees, and any additional benefits they offer. These are the features that have the most impact on the value a card offers.

    You may also want to decide on one type of rewards card first, such as a travel card or a cash back card. If you know you want a specific type of card, then you can save time by only looking at cards in that category.

  • The best way to use credit card rewards is the redemption method that offers the most value. This can vary depending on which rewards credit card you have. For example, travel cards usually provide the most value when redeeming rewards for travel, whereas cash back cards are designed for cash back redemptions.

    When you have a rewards credit card, make sure you review the different redemption methods so you can choose the best one.

  • To make the most of a rewards credit card, use it for every purchase to earn as much back as you can. However, don't make unnecessary purchases just because your card earns rewards. Follow your usual spending habits. Last but not least, always pay the full statement balance on your credit card to avoid interest charges.

Ask the experts

Michael Shipman, CPA

Michael Shipman, CPA

Assistant Professor for Accounting, Mount Aloysius College

With high gas prices, should consumers consider using credit cards that provide rewards to pay for gas?

One should never get a credit card for a "non-credit reason." In the tax world, we have the saying, "The tax tail should never wag the economic dog." This means that a company should not do something solely for tax reasons, but rather, should have a good business reason for a course of action. The same can be said of credit cards. This said, if you are opening a new line of credit during a time of high gas prices (whether it be because you need a credit card or an additional credit card, or have to close one for a good reason and are now looking for another), getting and using a credit card that provides rewards to pay for gas could be better than the other usual reward opportunities!

What should consumers know when deciding between a general cash back credit card vs. a gas company credit card?

Consumers should know the details of each reward opportunity. For example, I would want to know what I can and cannot get cash back on, how often I can get cash back, at what rate I get cash back, if there is a limit on how much cash I can get back, and if there are any other restrictions on the card. This line of reasoning applies to gas company credit cards as well: Is it just the one company I can get my gas bill reduced at? How often can I use it? At what rate is my gas reduced? Is there a limit on how much my gas bill is reduced, and are there any other restrictions on the card? Lastly, remember, even though the gas company credit card sounds like a good idea now, it can only help with gas, as opposed to the general cash back credit card likely providing cash back for use at your discretion.

Are there any benefits or drawbacks to companies that advertise money back per gallon?

The obvious benefit is that you can reduce your gas bill. As far as I can tell, that is where the benefits end. One drawback is that you may get a gas company credit card for a company that routinely has more expensive gas than one of its competitors in your area. A similar drawback is that by getting this credit card, you are likely influencing yourself to buy most, if not all, of your gas from one company, which may or may not always be the best economic decision. This is similar to loyalty cards for gas chains (Sheetz, Wawa, etc.), with the difference that loyalty cards do not really have consequences. Credit cards do have consequences, and it is important to read the fine print on gas company credit card offers like any others, as you may find the gas company card has a lower interest rate (benefit), but you may also find (and this sounds more likely, in my opinion) a higher interest rate. Whatever you decide, always remember to monitor your credit card bills carefully, and if possible, pay off your balance every month!

Amit Sinha

Amit Sinha

Professor, Finance and Quantitative Methods at Bradley University

With high gas prices, should consumers consider using credit cards that provide rewards to pay for gas?

Using a rewards credit card to purchase gas is a good idea, especially if the card is used responsibly. Having a card that provides rewards only for gas may not be a great idea. Now, one has to carry an extra credit card around, and then remember to use it each time one has to pump gas. Having a card that provides rewards for all purchases, including gas, would suffice in my opinion. There is the added responsibility of managing payments for one more card now. And with more cards, the irresponsible use of any becomes likely, leading to consequences far greater than the rewards.

What should consumers know when deciding between a general cash back credit card vs. a gas company credit card?

First of all, one should look at all the issues regarding the cards. Things like, say, interest rates, credit limits, late fee penalty, and certainly the rewards. Gas company cards may provide rewards only for gas purposes at their company stations and nowhere else, making it useless, at least for rewards purposes, for gas purposes at other gas pumps. A general cash back credit card provides rewards for any purchases anywhere.

Are there any benefits or drawbacks to companies that advertise money back per gallon?

It is all in the details. Are the rewards based on gallons purchases, or dollars used. As it costs more than one dollar per gallon, it may make sense to have the money back be based on a per dollar basis. On the other hand, if per gallon rewards are to be more, then that is the card to have.

Joseph Stasio

Joseph Stasio

Associate Professor, Marketing, Merrimack College

With high gas prices, should consumers consider using credit cards that provide rewards to pay for gas?

It is important to understand that prices fluctuate given market conditions. Right now, gas prices along with many other consumer products are experiencing abnormally high prices. This is due to a number of factors including unusually high demand, labor shortages, and supply chain irregularities, all causing inflation. Decisions involving credit card usage tied to gas purchases should involve this understanding. So, using credit cards that reward gas purchases will be advantageous in the short run, but not so much when gas prices return to a more normal range. Of course, if consumers have different credit cards to use, then they can provide the best return on purchases after gas prices come down and they offer a better return on their buying behavior.

What should consumers know when deciding between a general cash back credit card vs. a gas company credit card?

The answer to this question is provided in question one. The key is to understand market conditions and their impact on prices. Generally speaking, consumers should have a few credit cards. For example, not all businesses accept either Discover Cards or Amex Cards. Depending on the amount of expenditures people experience each month and whether they carry a balance or pay off the total amount each month, consumers can decide which cards to use that will provide them the best return on their purchases. It is important for consumers to understand their own purchase behavior and judiciously use their credit cards. Gas company credit card decisions should be made in this context.

Are there any benefits or drawbacks to companies that advertise money back per gallon?

Companies that advertise money back per gallon are really speaking to heavy users of gasoline. They would include people who drive long distances to work each day or people who use their cars to conduct business that involves much travel. Salespeople, truck drivers, etc., fall into this category. If companies do not target their messages to these groups of people, then they are wasting their marketing/advertising dollars. With social media platforms and the use of digital marketing techniques, companies should learn how best to reach these people and get the most from their marketing dollars. Any other approach is generally not advisable because people who are not heavy users of gasoline will most probably not be interested in these advertisements.

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