Wednesday, September 29

The best rewards credit cards of July 2021


Personal Finance Insider writes about products, strategies, and tips to help you make smart decisions with your money. We may receive a small commission from our partners, like American Express, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

The best credit cards for rewards of July 2021:

Featured cash back credit cards from our partners

Featured Reward

2% cash back on all purchases

Credit Needed

Good to Excellent

Featured Reward

$200 after spending $500 in the first three months from account opening

Credit Needed

Good to Excellent

Featured Reward

$200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

Credit Needed

Good to Excellent

Rewards credit cards give you something back for every dollar you spend — whether that’s points or miles for travel, or cash back that lowers your monthly bill. 

On top of that, many cards offer high sign-up bonuses to new cardholders who meet a spending requirement in the first few months after opening a card, and some include benefits like travel and purchase protection. If you’re able to use credit cards responsibly — by not spending more than you can afford to pay off every month — using a credit card that offers rewards and other benefits is a great idea.

Here are the top rewards credit cards currently available, based on welcome bonuses, rewards earned on everyday spending, benefits, and overall value.

Regular APR

13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)

2% cash back on all purchases

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% – 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.

Balance Transfer Fee

Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

Chevron iconIt indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Details

  • Pros
    • No annual fee
    • Simple earning structure without confusing bonus categories
    Cons
    • Some cards earn higher rates of cash back on rotating categories
    • No sign-up bonus
    • If you don’t have any account activity for 12 months, unredeemed rewards can expire
    • While it offers a 0% introductory APR for 18 months, that’s only on balance transfers, not purchases, so you can’t use it to fund a major expense without interest. After those 18 months, it’s a 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable) APR.
    • Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
    • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
    • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% – 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
    • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
    • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
    • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
    • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.99% – 23.99% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi’s discretion.

    Read Our Review
    Read Our ReviewA looong arrow, pointing right

    If you prefer to earn cash back, you can’t beat the Citi® Double Cash Card for value or simplicity. The card has no annual fee, and it earns 2% cash back on every purchase (1% back when you buy, and 1% back when you pay your bill).

    Read more: The best Citi credit cards of 2021

    While the Citi Double Cash is a cash-back card, if you also have another Citi card like the Citi Premier® Card or the Citi Prestige® Card
    , you can combine your rewards between cards and redeem for travel. But if you’re interested in using rewards for travel, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is generally a better entry point. It’s also a no-annual-fee cash-back card that you can pair with another card to redeem rewards for travel, and Chase Ultimate Rewards are our favorite travel points.

    But again, if you’re simply after the best cash-back card, the Citi Double Cash is an excellent choice.

    What the experts love: Great cash-back rate on all purchases, no annual fee

    What the experts don’t love: Other cards with bonus categories can offer more cash back on select purchases (like on groceries and dining).

    Read more about the Citi Double Cash card:

    Regular APR

    15.99%-22.99% Variable

    Chevron iconIt indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Details

  • Pros
    • High sign-up bonus starts you off with lots of points
    • Strong travel coverage
    Cons
    • Doesn’t offer a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit
    • Best offer ever! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
    • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
    • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 100,000 points are worth $1,250 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.
    • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash’s subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
    • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
    • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.

    Read Our Review
    Read Our ReviewA looong arrow, pointing right

    Now that the Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $550 annual fee, it’s harder to recommend it as the best travel rewards card overall. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, on the other hand, has a broader appeal with a number of similar features and a substantially higher sign-up bonus, all for a lower annual fee.

    The Sapphire Preferred earns 2x Ultimate Rewards points instead of the Reserve’s 3x points on dining and travel, 5x points on Lyft, and 1 point per dollar on everything else.

    Read more: Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card review

    Points are worth 1.25 cents apiece on travel booked through Chase or through Pay Yourself Back, and you can transfer them to airline and hotel partner loyalty programs. There’s no annual travel credit, but there’s still car rental primary coverage, as well as trip delay coverage and purchase protection.

    If you don’t think you’ll be able to use the Sapphire Reserve’s new benefits that accompanied the increased annual fee — like DoorDash statement credits and Lyft Pink membership — the Sapphire Preferred could be a better choice. If you eventually decide that the Sapphire Preferred is worth it, you can ask to upgrade your card.

    What the experts love: Excellent sign-up bonus, some of the benefits of the Sapphire Reserve at a lower price, travel perks like primary rental

    car insurance
    .

    What the experts don’t love: No annual travel credit, earns points more slowly than the Sapphire Reserve, no Global Entry or airport lounge access, which some other cards with a similar annual fee offer.

    Read more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred:

    Regular APR

    16.99%-23.99% Variable

    Chevron iconIt indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Details

  • Pros
    • Annual travel credit can effectively shave $300 off the annual fee if you use it
    • Strong travel insurance
    • Strong bonus rewards on travel and dining
    Cons
    • Very high annual fee
    • The new DoorDash statement credits may not be useful for everyone, which can make the recently increased annual fee harder to justify
    • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
    • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year. Through December 31, 2021, gas station & grocery store purchases will also count towards earning your Travel Credit
    • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
    • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $900 toward travel
    • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 50% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
    • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
    • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
    • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more

    Read Our Review
    Read Our ReviewA looong arrow, pointing right

    With 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on dining and any travel (after earning the travel credit) and 1 point per dollar on everything else, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® makes it easy to maximize your everyday spending, and it comes with a slew of perks. It used to be our top travel rewards card pick, but now that it has a $550 annual fee (up from $450), it’s harder to recommend to everyone.

    The Sapphire Reserve’s annual fee is offset by a travel credit of up to $300 each year, good for things like taxis, subway fare, parking, tolls, and flights. This effectively decreases the annual fee to $250, so you’ll have to decide whether the card’s other benefits are worth it for you.

    Read more: How to earn, redeem, and maximize Chase Ultimate Rewards points

    You now get up to $60 in credits with DoorDash in 2021, 10x points on Lyft rides, and a year of complimentary Lyft Pink membership (which gets you discounted rides and more). If you frequently travel with Lyft and use DoorDash to order food delivery, these benefits could easily justify the higher annual fee — but that’s not the case for everyone.

    Check out our guide to the best travel rewards credit cards for more options like the Sapphire Reserve’s.

    What the experts love: Points are worth 1.5 cents each when you redeem them for travel through Chase and Pay Yourself Back, 3x points on two very broad bonus categories (travel and dining) 

    What the experts don’t love: The high annual fee. “Unless you can fully use all the other perks this card offers, it will become expensive to carry this card for a long time,” says NerdWallet’s travel and credit cards expert, Sara Rathner. The Chase Sapphire Preferred could be a better option if you were already on the fence.

    Read more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve:

    Regular APR

    See Pay Over Time APR

    Featured Reward

    75,000 points after you spend at least $5,000 in your first 6 months of card membership

    Chevron iconIt indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Details

  • Pros
    • Long list of travel benefits, including airport lounge access and complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott (enrollment required)
    • Annual statement credits with Saks and Uber
    Cons
    • Bonus categories leave something to be desired
    • One of the highest annual fees among premium travel cards
    • Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
    • Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new Card at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership. That’s an additional 9 points on top of the 1 point you earn for these purchases.
    • Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member and Additional Centurion Cards only.
    • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
    • 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
    • Enjoy complimentary access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
    • Receive complimentary benefits through American Express Travel with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts® program at over 1,100 properties. Learn More.
    • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
    • $550 annual fee.
    • Terms Apply.

    Read Our Review
    Read Our ReviewA looong arrow, pointing right

    The Platinum Card® from American Express has a high $550 annual fee (See Rates), but also a longer list of benefits. The Platinum Card is also one of the best options for paying for flights, because you’ll earn 5x Membership Rewards points on airfare purchased directly with airlines and with Amex Travel (starting January 1, 2021, earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year). (Note: New Platinum Card® cardmembers can earn 10x points on eligible purchases at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during the first 6 months of card membership).

    Like Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you can use American Express Membership Rewards points to purchase travel, gift cards, or products directly from the issuer, or transfer points to partner airline and hotel loyalty programs. The best value comes from that latter use. If you redeem points by using them to book flights through Amex, you’ll get a value of 1 cent per point.

    Read more: American Express Platinum card review

    The The Platinum Card® from American Express includes access to the same airport lounges as the Sapphire Reserve, plus Delta Sky Clubs when you fly Delta, and the proprietary American Express Centurion Lounges. Platinum Card members also get exclusive access to major events and experiences, including once-in-a-lifetime “By Invitation Only” events.

    Of course, $550 is a lot to pay out each year. Up to $200 in annual airline fee credits** and up to $200 in annual Uber Cash credits (including Uber Eats)** certainly help, but the airline credit can be difficult to use if you aren’t checking bags or buying drinks on flights. 

    What the experts love: Airport lounge access (especially to Amex Centurion Lounges — “They’re pretty high end as far as airport lounges go!,” says Rathner), access to high-end hotel benefits through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, 5x points on flights

    What the experts don’t love: High annual fee, some annual statement credits have significant limitations. “You have to choose one airline to apply the annual $200 statement to, which limits your flexibility,” says Rathner. 

    Read more about the Amex Platinum:

    Regular APR

    15.99% – 23.99% Variable

    Credit Score

    Good to Excellent

    Featured Reward

    60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening

    Chevron iconIt indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Details

  • Pros
    • Strong welcome bonus
    • Generous bonus categories
    Cons
    • Doesn’t offer much in the way of statement credits or other perks
    • Citi ThankYou Rewards may not be as convenient as other points for US-based travelers
    • Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
    • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
    • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
    • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
    • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
    • 60,000 Points are redeemable for $600 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
    • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
    • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases

    The Citi Premier® Card is our top pick for best Citi credit card, in part because of the card’s generous welcome offer of 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. The Citi Premier® Card earns Citi ThankYou points, which you can redeem for gift cards, merchandise, travel, and more through the Citi portal. You can potentially get even more from your points by transferring them to Citi’s airline partners. 

    Read more: 6 reasons the Citi Premier should be your go-to card for the pandemic — and beyond

    This is also a good pick whether you’re staying close to home right now or traveling again. It earns bonus points in pandemic-friendly categories: 3x points at supermarkets, restaurants, gas stations, and on air travel and hotels, and 1x on everything else. Plus, with so many ways to redeem your Citi ThankYou points, you’ve got options even if you’re not ready to travel just yet.

    What the experts love: Great bonus, useful bonus categories, redemption flexibility

    What the experts don’t love: Citi ThankYou’s list of airline partners isn’t as robust as other programs’

    Read more about the Citi Premier card:

    Regular APR

    14.99%–23.74% variable APR

    Credit Score

    Good to Excellent

    Featured Reward

    $200 after spending $500 in the first three months from account opening

    Chevron iconIt indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Details

  • Pros
    • Solid flat cash-back rate
    • You can combine cash-back rewards with Ultimate Rewards points if you have an eligible card
    • No annual fee
    Cons
    • Some other cards offer a higher rate of cash back on certain types of purchases
    • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
    • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
    • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
    • No annual fee
    • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 – 23.74%.
    • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open

    Read Our Review
    Read Our ReviewA looong arrow, pointing right

    If you already have the Sapphire Reserve or Preferred and are saving your points for a specific trip, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® can give your balance a nice boost. While Chase markets the card as “cash back,” it actually earns Ultimate Rewards points that you can redeem for cash (1 point = 1 cent).

    Read more: 3 reasons you should double up on credit cards from the same loyalty program — from earning rewards in more categories to unlocking better benefits

    When you have a premium card like the Sapphire Reserve, Preferred, or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, you can pool your points from the two cards. The Freedom Unlimited earns at least 1.5 points per dollar spent, so paired with a Sapphire Reserve, it’s a great card to use for purchases that aren’t made on travel expenses or dining (the Chase Freedom Unlimited® earns 5% back (5x points) on travel purchases made through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, 3% back (3x points) on drugstores and dining, and 1.5% back (1.5x points) on everything else with no cap). Best of all, the card has no annual fee.

    The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a fantastic all-around card. However, to get the most value when it’s time to spend your points, you need the Sapphire Reserve or Preferred card, too, so you can pool your points. Otherwise, points are only worth 1 cent each no matter how you use them and they can’t be transferred to airline or hotel partners.

    What the experts love: Flat cash-back rate makes it easy to earn rewards without tracking lots of bonus categories, you can transfer your points to another Chase card to redeem them for travel at a higher rate, no annual fee

    What the experts don’t love: One point only equals 1 cent for cash back, to get a better value you’ll need to pair it with a Sapphire card. “The 1.5% cash-back rate is the standard at this point, but other cards like the Citi Double Cash earn 2% on every purchase. If you’re looking for a flat-rate card, earn the highest rate you can,” says Rathner.

    Read more about the Chase Freedom Unlimited:

    Regular APR

    17.24% to 24.49% variable

    Credit Score

    Good to Excellent

    Featured Reward

    Earn 100,000 bonus miles once you spend $20,000 on purchases within the first 12 months from account opening (or 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months)

    Chevron iconIt indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Details

  • Pros
    • No bonus categories to keep track of
    • Includes up to a $100 statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
    Cons
    • Other credit cards offer higher rewards in certain categories of spending
    • Annual Fee: $95
    • Welcome Bonus: 100,000 bonus miles once you spend $20,000 on purchases within the first 12 months from account opening (or 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months)

    Read Our Review
    Read Our ReviewA looong arrow, pointing right

    Capital One’s travel rewards program isn’t necessarily as lucrative as what other banks offer. However, Capital One has expanded the card’s benefits, adding airline transfer partners, and launching transfer bonuses. While the transfer value isn’t quite as good as with Chase or Amex, the flip side is that Capital One miles are easy to earn and easy to use.

    Read more: The best Capital One credit cards of 2021

    The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card earns 2 miles per dollar on all purchases. You can redeem miles at a fixed rate toward a statement credit to “erase” travel purchases. For example, if you buy a $500 plane ticket, you can apply 50,000 miles to cancel out that charge. 

    What the experts love: Low annual fee, redemption flexibility with the Purchase Eraser function

    Cons: Some transfer partners have a lower ratio than 1:1, and transfer partners aren’t quite as strong as Chase’s — as Rathner notes, “the only US carrier available is JetBlue.”

    Read more about the Capital One Venture:

    Regular APR

    See Pay Over Time APR

    Featured Reward

    60,000 points after you spend at least $4,000 in your first 6 months of account opening

    Chevron iconIt indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Details

  • Pros
    • Great rewards for dining and for shopping at US supermarkets
    • Monthly statement credit for eligible dining purchases recoups some of the annual fee
    Cons
    • Underwhelming welcome bonus
    • Rose Gold is back. You can now choose between Gold or Rose Gold.
    • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.
    • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, including takeout and delivery, 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.
    • $120 Dining Credit: Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
    • Get up to 12 complimentary months of an Uber Eats Pass subscription when you enroll with your Gold Card by 12/31/21.
    • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
    • Annual Fee is $250.
    • Terms Apply.

    Read Our Review
    Read Our ReviewA looong arrow, pointing right

    The American Express® Gold Card earns a massive 4x points at restaurants and on up to $25,000 per calendar year at U.S. supermarkets (and 1x points after that), 3x points on flights booked directly through the airline, and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Based on the fact that you can easily redeem Membership Rewards points for more than 1 cent of value each when you transfer them to airline and hotel partners, this is one of the highest-earning available cards for everything food-related.

    Read more: The best credit cards to use at restaurants — whether you’re dining in, ordering takeout, or having your food delivered

    The American Express® Gold Card offers up to $120 in dining credits per year (after enrollment), broken into chunks of $10 each month. Credits are good for purchases through food delivery services Seamless and GrubHub, and at Boxed, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, or participating Shake Shack locations. Cardholders also receive $120 per year in Uber Cash (this is only applicable to U.S. Eats orders and Rides, and the Gold Card needs to be added to the Uber app to receive the Uber Cash benefit).

    These credits can offset most of the card’s $250 annual fee (See Rates) even before factoring in the value of the rewards you’ll earn.

    What the experts love: Fantastic rewards on dining and groceries at U.S. supermarkets, statement credits, and benefits to offset the annual fee

    Cons: Smaller welcome bonus, only 1 cent per point of value unless you transfer points to an airline. Rathner adds, “The $120 dining credit sounds like a lot, but it’s actually up to $10 a month at select restaurants and food delivery apps. If you don’t live near any of these restaurants or live in a city not served by those apps, this benefit is useless to you.”

    Read more about the Amex Gold card:

    Annual Fee

    $95 (waived the first year)

    Regular APR

    13.99% to 23.99% variable APR

    Featured Reward

    20% back on Amazon.com purchases (up to $200 back) in your first 6 months of Card Membership, plus $150 back as a statement credit after you spend $3,000 on the Card within the first 6 months

    Intro APR

    0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from account opening

    Chevron iconIt indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Details

  • Pros
    • Generous bonus rewards, especially at U.S. supermarkets
    • One of a small handful of credit cards that offer bonus rewards on select streaming services
    • Intro APR offer
    Cons
    • Unlike many other cash-back cards, it charges an annual fee
    • If you spend more than $6,000 at US supermarkets each year, you’ll want to use another card once you reach that cap
    • Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership, up to $200 back.
    • Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership. You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits.
    • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.
    • 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.
    • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, 13.99% to 23.99%
    • Plan It® gives the option to select purchases of $100 or more to split up into monthly payments with a fixed fee.
    • Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
    • Terms Apply.

    Read Our Review
    Read Our ReviewA looong arrow, pointing right

    If you’re less excited about earning rewards points — which can be valuable, but also tricky to redeem — and want to stick with cash back, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is the best option, despite its $95 (waived the first year) annual fee (See rates).

    Read more: Blue Cash Preferred versus Blue Cash Everyday: We compare two of the best Amex cards for cash back

    The card earns 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services and 3% back on all transit. That’s in addition to 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases per calendar year (and 1% after that), 3% back at U.S. gas stations, and 1% cash back on everything else.

    The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express comes with a handful of travel and purchase protections as well. Cash back comes in the form of a statement credit, so effectively you can use it to “erase” purchases.

    If you want to earn cash back instead of points and miles, make sure to check out our guide to the best cash-back credit cards for more options.

    What the experts love: Bonus cash back on useful categories, easy to earn enough cash back to offset the annual fee

    What the experts don’t love: The card has an annual fee, which Personal Finance Insider’s senior reviews editor Sarah Silbert notes is relatively rare for cash-back cards, and there’s a cap on earning 6% back at U.S. supermarkets each year. Rathner recommends switching to a different card for groceries once you hit the $6,000 mark. Summer Hull of The Points Guy sums it up this way: “Cash is good, points are better.”

    Read more about the Blue Cash Preferred card:

    Other top credit cards that just missed the cut

    Our list of the top rewards credit cards includes seven cards, but there are dozens of other great options out there. We limited our recommendations in this guide to our most recommended cards, but there were several others on our shortlist that didn’t make the final cut. Here’s a look at those cards and why we elected to leave them out:

    Comparing the top rewards credit cards

    * 1% cash back when you make a purchase, and another 1% cash back when you pay your bill

    **4x points on the first $25,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each calendar year, then 1 point per dollar

    *** 6% cash back on up to $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each calendar year, then 1% cash back

    Our expert panel for this guide

    We consulted top credit card, finance, and travel experts to inform these picks and provide their advice on finding the best rewards card for your needs. You’ll find the full text of our interviews with them at the bottom of this post.

    Best Rewards Cards_Our Panel of Experts



    Business Insider


    How our list compares to other publications

    While we draw on the advice of experts with years of experience covering credit cards, Personal Finance Insider isn’t the only authority in this space. We know that research is an important part of the hunt for your next credit card, and with that in mind, we’ve compared our top rewards credit card recommendations with the lists from other publications.

    Keep in mind that websites categorize their credit card recommendations in various ways; while Personal Finance Insider, NerdWallet, and several other publications have multiple “best of” lists for categories like cash back and travel, other sites have one main list. We included a checkmark under each publication name if it recommended a given card in any of its top credit card lists.

    Frequently asked questions

    How did we choose the best rewards credit cards?

    You’ll notice that this page doesn’t include every rewards credit card currently available to new applicants. That’s on purpose — we evaluated the options on the market, utilizing the expertise of our Personal Finance Insider staff and the input of credit card, points and miles, and financial experts to narrow down the list to the very best options.

    We define “very best options” as those that offer concrete value through benefits like annual statement credits and airport lounge access and through rewards such as bonus points on your everyday spending.

    This list doesn’t include our top picks for airline and hotel cards. You can learn more about those cards here:

    And see our guide to the best travel rewards credit cards if you’re specifically interested in earning travel rewards rather than cash back.

    What credit card offers the best rewards?

    If you don’t want to overthink it, the Chase Sapphire Reserve (or the Chase Sapphire Preferred if you want a lower annual fee) is a safe bet. However, there is no easy answer if you want to optimize all of your spending, because all the types of points and miles have different values. 

    What are the different types of rewards credit cards?

    There are a few main types of rewards cards:

    • “Flexible” travel rewards cards —Most of the picks in this article fall under this category. These cards earn bank points, also called “flexible points,” that you can redeem for travel, either directly through the issuing bank’s travel portal (like Amex Travel) or with travel partners. This type of rewards card is usually the most valuable because you have the most options for using your rewards. For example, Amex has more than 20 travel partners you can transfer points to, and Chase has 13. Examples of this type of card include the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the American Express® Gold Card, and the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.
    • Cash-back credit cards — Examples include the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. These cards don’t earn points or miles; they earn you cash back on all your purchases. If you don’t travel or your priority is to get money back, these are the cards for you.
    • Hotel or airline travel rewards credit cards — Examples include the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
      and Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®
      . These are travel-focused credit cards that earn rewards with a specific hotel or airline loyalty program and offer benefits like credit toward elite status. For that reason, they make the most sense for travelers who are loyal to the given travel brand. 

    Should I earn cash back or points?

    It depends on what you want to do with your rewards. If you want to put money back in your bank account, a cash-back credit card will help you accomplish just that — and you usually won’t have to pay a very high annual fee, if you have to pay one at all.

    On the other hand, if you’re hoping to earn rewards that you can redeem for travel, a card that earns points is more up your alley. Our picks for best points-earning rewards cards earn either Amex Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou points, or Capital One miles. You can transfer all three of these currencies to travel partners and redeem them for rewards like free flights. (Note that while Capital One calls its rewards currency “miles,” they aren’t miles with a given airline program.)

    Read more: Amex and Chase points are the two most valuable types of credit card rewards — here are their biggest differences

    If you’re willing to juggle multiple credit card accounts, there’s value in having both cash-back and points-earning cards. If you prefer a single-card strategy, evaluate your goals and consider how much you’re willing to pay in annual fees to make the best decision for your situation.

    What is a credit card point or mile worth?

    Unlike cash back, which has a value that will never change, points and miles have different monetary values depending on which loyalty program they belong to and how you use them. 

    For example, Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1 to 1.5 cents apiece, depending on what card you have, when you use them to book travel through Chase’s site. If you transfer Chase points to its travel partners such as Hyatt and Southwest, on the other hand, your points’ value will depend on what you book. If you used 5,000 points to book a $200 hotel stay, for example, your points would be worth 4 cents apiece — which would be considered a very solid value.

    The experts’ advice on choosing the best rewards card for you

    We interviewed a certified financial planner along with top experts on credit cards and travel rewards about what makes a good rewards card and how to choose the best options for you.

    Here’s what they had to say when we interviewed them about finding the best card for you. (Some text may be lightly edited for clarity. Special thanks to Insider’s Tanza Loudenback for interviewing the experts.)

    Generally, what features make a rewards credit card good?

    Sara Rathner, travel and credit cards expert at NerdWallet:

    I look for three things when I consider a rewards card:

    • Does it earn more points or miles where I spend the most?
    • Can those points or miles be applied to rewards I’d actually want? (Like airlines I typically fly, hotels I want to stay at, etc.)
    • Is it easy to redeem points, or will I get lost in a maze of draconian rules, restrictions, and blackout dates?

    I also weigh the annual fee, but a sign-up bonus and other perks tend to offset the fee for me.

    Luis Rosa, certified financial planner

    Generally, cards that offer a variety of reward options are best because they offer the cardholder flexibility. Whether it’s points, miles, or discounted offers with a particular airline or hotel brand, the more options available the better in order to help the cardholder take full advantage of the rewards offered.

    Summer Hull, travel director at The Points Guy:

    Solid earning structure, built-in benefits that are useful and not duplicated on many other cards, annual fee that is easy to justify relative to the perks, and some unique offerings that would be hard to get elsewhere.

    Sarah Silbert, senior reviews editor at Personal Finance Insider:

    A good rewards credit card earns points that are flexible, meaning you have lots of options for using them, as you do with Amex and Chase points. It also has bonus categories that give you the opportunity to earn rewards quickly, as well as (hopefully) a generous sign-up offer for new cardholders.

    Beyond that, a good rewards card should offer you benefits that make it worth the annual fee (if there is one), such as statement credits that cover travel purchases and travel coverages like trip delay insurance.

    How can someone identify whether a rewards credit card is good for them?

    Sara Rathner, NerdWallet:

    Look for a card that rewards you where you spend the most, with terms you can live with. A card that’s trendy won’t necessarily be the right card for you. It’s a highly personal decision, and it’s worth it to not overlook a less flashy card that may suit your needs really well.

    Luis Rosa, CFP: 

    To best identify if a rewards credit card is good for you, consider your lifestyle and spending habits. For example, do you have a preferred hotel brand or airline? Do you often travel abroad? Knowing the answer to these types of questions will help you narrow down your choices in order to best help you identify if a rewards credit card is good for you.

    Summer Hull, The Points Guy:

    It’s really 99% math. If you can place value on the rewards you earn and the perks included, it gets easy to see if a particular card is a good match for your spending habits and rewards desires.

    Sarah Silbert, Personal Finance Insider:

    Look at the card’s bonus categories and see if they align with where you spend your money. Also, remember to check if a card has a foreign transaction fee before you take it abroad — many cash-back cards do charge this fee, so don’t assume.

    What should someone consider when selecting a rewards credit card?

    Sara Rathner, NerdWallet:

    Travel rewards cards are popular, but they’re a better bet for consumers who travel often, especially if they travel internationally. If you stay close to home, a cash-back card may actually be more rewarding.

    Also, consumers who currently have credit card debt should make paying that debt down their number-one priority, before looking for a rewards card. The interest you’d pay on your debt would wipe out the value of any rewards you’d earn. Consider a balance transfer card, which gives you a year or more to pay down your debt at 0% interest.

    Luis Rosa, CFP:

    Consider annual fees and foreign transaction fees. Some annual fees can be in the hundreds of dollars, so you want to make sure that the rewards you’ll accumulate will offset the cost of having the card. Another thing to consider is whether or not you carry a balance. If you do carry a balance, you should also consider the interest that you’ll be paying on that balance in order to ensure that it’s not eating away at your rewards.

    Summer Hull, The Points Guy:

    Is the sign-up bonus juicy? Let’s be real, big bonuses are better than small ones, so pounce when the bonus is big. But then look beyond at the earning rate, the annual perks, and benefits such as statement credits and elite status.

    Sarah Silbert, Personal Finance Insider:

    Make sure you’re doing your homework so you don’t miss out on a higher sign-up bonus (do some searching online to see if higher offers are available). Many cards offer limited-time welcome offers that can score you thousands of extra bonus rewards compared to the standard offers.

    Always make sure that you’ll be able to use the rewards card responsibly, by paying off your statement each month and avoiding spending beyond your means.

    So you know you want a rewards credit card, but not sure which one?

    Our list of the best rewards credit cards can help narrow down your choices if you already know what you want. But what if you’re not sure which type of credit card is best suited to your spending habits. 

    If you’re looking to maximize rewards on your everyday spending, look no further than the following credit cards. We’ll break it down by spending category — from dining to gas to groceries.

    Dining (valuations based on Insider’s point-value estimates)

    With the average American spending $3,424 on dining between 2017 and 2018, this is a category most people will want to maximize. Luckily, lots of cards offer generous rewards for dining.

    The Citi Prestige® Card offers the highest return on dining spending, with 5x points on these purchases. You may notice that some cards, like the Hilton cards below, offer more than 5x points — but keep in mind that the points multiplier is only half of the equation.

    You also need to know how much each point is worth. We recommend using Insider’s points and miles valuations to get a sense of how many cents you’ll get in value with different loyalty currencies. These valuations are based on all the different ways you can use a given type of points or miles, from redeeming them as statement credits to transferring them to a travel partner to book a flight.

    Below, we’ll rank the best credit cards for dining in order of highest to lowest return based on how many rewards you earn per dollar spent, and the value of those rewards based on Insider’s estimations.

    • Citi Prestige: 5 points per dollar spent (points worth 1.6 cents apiece; 8% return on spending)
    • American Express® Gold Card: 4 points per dollar at restaurants (points worth 1.8 cents apiece; 7.2% return on spending)
    • Chase Sapphire Reserve: 3 points per dollar spent on dining (points worth 1.8 cents apiece; 5.4% return on spending)
    • Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
      : 7 points per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants (points worth 0.5 cents apiece; 3.5% return on spending)
    • Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card: 4% cash back on dining (4% return on spending)
    • Uber Visa Credit Card: 4% back on restaurants, takeout, and bars, including Uber Eats (4% return on spending)
    • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: 6 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants (3% return on spending)
    • Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi: 3% back on restaurants (3% return on spending)

    Based on the numbers, the Citi Prestige is the most rewarding card for dining purchases. But the American Express® Gold Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve® could be a better option for you if you prefer to earn Amex or Chase points. You can transfer Citi ThankYou points to over a dozen airline transfer partners including Cathay Pacific, JetBlue, and Virgin Atlantic, but Amex and Chase’s loyalty programs partner with airlines and hotels that are arguably more useful for many US-based travelers, such as British Airways, Delta, and Marriott with Amex and Hyatt, United, and Southwest with Chase. In fact, Insider values Citi points (1.6 cents per point) a bit lower than Amex and Chase points (1.8 cents each)

    Gas (valuations based on Insider’s point-value estimates)

    If you have a car, gas is a big spending category — and it’s one that many cash-back cards pay out big rewards on.

    • American Express® Business Gold Card
      : 4 points per dollar spent at the two categories where you spend the most each month, including U.S. gas stations, on up to $150,000 per calendar year, then 1 point per dollar (7.2% return on spending)
    • Citi Premier® Card: 3 points per dollar spent on restaurants, supermarkets, air travel, hotels, and gas stations (4.8% return on spending)
    • Costco Anywhere Visa card: 4% back on eligible gas purchases on the first $7,000 spent per year, then 1% (4% return on spending)
    • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: 6 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at U.S. gas stations (3% return on spending)

    Again, not all points are created equal, and whether 6 Hilton points are equivalent (or higher than) 4% cash back or 4 Membership Rewards points depends on how you redeem your rewards. Most people will be best off going with the American Express® Business Gold Card for gas rewards.

    Thanks to a vast list of hotel and airline transfer partners, you can redeem Membership Rewards points for some incredible travel experiences. If you have a business-class trip to Europe in mind, Membership Rewards transfer partner All Nippon Airways (ANA) offers one of the best deals out there at 88,000 miles round-trip.

    However, if you’re saving up your Hilton points for a high-end resort in the Maldives, it could be worth channeling gas spending toward the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card.

    Groceries (valuations based on Insider’s point-value estimates)

    With 4x points on the first $25,000 spent each year at U.S. supermarkets, the American Express® Gold Card offers the most generous payout on grocery spending. Considering the average U.S. household spends $4,445 on groceries per year, these limits shouldn’t be problematic for most consumers.

    Earning 6% cash back on the first $6,000 spent, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is a good option if you prefer cash back to rewards points. When maxed out, the 6% back equates to $360 cash back, which is enough for most people to book at least a couple of hotel nights or a round-trip transcontinental flight.

    Flights and other travel (valuations based on Insider’s point-value estimates)

    • The Platinum Card® from American Express: 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or with Amex Travel (starting January 1, 2021, earn 5x points in these categories on up to $500,000 in spending per year), 5 Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on Amex Travel (9% return on spending)
    • Chase Sapphire Reserve: 3 points per dollar spent on travel (5.4% return on spending)
    • American Express® Gold Card: 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com (5.4% return on spending)
    • Citi Prestige: 5 points on air travel, 3 points on hotels and cruise lines (4.8%-8% return on spending)
    • Citi Premier® Card: 3 points on air travel and gas stations (4.8% return on spending)
    • Uber Visa card: 3% cash back back on airfare, hotels and vacation home rentals
    • Costco Anywhere Visa: 3% cash back on eligible travel purchases

    If you’re looking for lots of rewards for flights, The Platinum Card® from American Express is a great choice. The card earns 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines and through Amex Travel. Prepaid hotel bookings made with American Express also earn 5 points (starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year). One reason I’d recommend this card over the Citi Prestige is that the Amex Platinum now offers trip delay insurance, while Citi has mostly done away with these on its cards. 

    While the American Express Platinum is a great option, not everyone will get enough value out of the 5x bonus categories to justify the $550 annual fee. The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a great alternative. While it earns a lower 3 points per dollar spent, this bonus applies to all travel purchases, not just flights. Plus, the card’s annual fee is partially offset by the $300 travel credit. Unlike American Express, Chase doesn’t restrict its travel credit to a specific airline. The credit automatically applies to any purchases coded as travel. That’s why the Chase Sapphire Reserve is such a popular card for earning and redeeming travel rewards.

    All other spending (valuations based on Insider’s point-value estimates)

    • Chase Freedom Unlimited: 1.5% cash back on most things, bonus cash back on eligible travel, grocery, and drugstore purchases, can be combined with Chase Ultimate Rewards cards to boost your value 
    • Chase Freedom Flex℠: 1% cash back, bonus cash back on eligible travel, grocery, and drugstore purchases, 5% rotating quarterly category bonuses for up to $1,500 in combined spending (requires activation), can be combined with Chase Ultimate Rewards cards to boost your value (1.5%-3%) (1%-9% return on spending)
    • Discover it® Miles: 1.5 miles per dollar spent, and Discover will match all your cash back at the end of the first cardmember year (3% return on spending)
    • Discover it® Cash Back: 1% cash back, with 5% in rotating quarterly categories on the first $1,500 in purchases each quarter you activate; then 1% cash back (1-5% return on spending)
    • Citi® Double Cash Card: 1% when you make purchases, 1% as you pay (2% return on spending)
    • Uber Visa card: 2% back on online purchases (1-2% return on spending)

    Lots of cash-back credit cards offer at least 1.5% cash back on everything, which is a great benchmark to keep in mind on purchases that aren’t eligible for bonus points. The Discover it® Miles is a great option for those looking for a no-annual-fee card with accelerated earning power. Cardholders earn 1.5 miles per dollar spent, which is equivalent to 1.5% cash back. Discover will match all the rewards you earn at the end of yout first year and can be redeemed for statement credits toward travel purchases or transferred to your bank account.

    For those looking to maximize long-term earnings, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is another great option. It earns 1.5% cash back on most things, with bonus cash back on eligible travel, grocery, and drugstore purchases. If you have a Chase travel credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Cardor the Sapphire Reserve, you can convert your Freedom Unlimited rewards to fully-transferable Ultimate Rewards points. Essentially, you could earn 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on everything outside of the bonus travel, grocery, and drugstore categories, which equals a very solid return on every dollar you spend.

    Read more: The Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom 5% bonus categories for Q3 2021 are grocery stores and select streaming services

    If you want the flexibility of earning occasional category bonuses, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Discover it® Cash Back are worth considering. Both cards earn 1% cash back along with 5% on select category bonuses. Bonus categories rotate every quarter and cardholders can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 worth of spending when they activate the bonus each quarter. Be sure to check the cash-back bonus calendar for both Discover and Chase for a better idea of where you can expect to earn more points.

    For a more straightforward option, the Citi® Double Cash Card is solid. Cardholders earn 1% cash back on purchases and another 1% when they pay them off. Because you can convert your cash back to ThankYou points, the Citi® Double Cash Card is great way to earn 2 ThankYou points on every dollar spent.

    This post was reviewed and updated on June 30, 2021.

    Sarah Silbert is the senior reviews editor at Personal Finance Insider. She’s covered personal finance and credit card rewards for six years, and she’s a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF).



    www.businessinsider.com