Best Rewards Credit Cards of 2021

Rewards credit cards can help you make the most of your everyday expenses. If you’re able to spend responsibly and pay your balance in full each month, why not earn rewards on the purchases you’re already making?

When deciding what type of rewards credit card to apply for, you need to ask yourself two questions. First, what are your spending habits? Do you tend to spend a lot in one or two categories or does it vary? Second, what type of rewards would be most valuable to you – cash back, travel points or airline miles?

With so many options, choosing a rewards credit card can be daunting. Our team of experts analyzed 1,640 rewards credit cards to give you our top picks. Check out the best rewards credit cards from our partners below.

Rewards credit cards can help you make the most of your everyday expenses. If you’re able to spend responsibly and pay your balance in full each month, why not earn rewards on the purchases you’re already making?

When deciding what type of rewards credit card to apply for, you need to ask yourself two questions. First, what are your spending habits? Do you tend to spend a lot in one or two categories or does it vary? Second, what type of rewards would be most valuable to you – cash back, travel points or airline miles?

With so many options, choosing a rewards credit card can be daunting. Our team of experts analyzed 1,640 rewards credit cards to give you our top picks. Check out the best rewards credit cards from our partners below.

Editor: Laura Mohammad | Writer: Mariah Ackary

|

December 28, 2020

Best Rewards Credit Cards

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

hfyhpf120.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

1.5%
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
$200

One-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
15.49% - 25.49% variable
Discover it® Cash Back
See Rates & Fees

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

hfyhpf120.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

5%
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.
1%
Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
Cashback Match™

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! There's no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
11.99% - 22.99% variable
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

hfyhpf120.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

2X
Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
60,000 miles

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel

Annual Fee
$95
Regular APR
17.24% - 24.49% variable
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Best Blue Cash Everyday Offer

See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

hfyhpf120.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

3%
3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%).
2%
2% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores.
1%
1% Cash Back on other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
Up to $300

Earn 20% back on purchases at Amazon.com on the Card in the first 6 months, up to $200 back. Plus, earn $100 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
13.99% - 23.99% variable
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

hfyhpf120.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

3%
Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment
2%
Earn 2% at grocery stores
1%
Earn 1% on all other purchases

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
$200

Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
15.49% - 25.49% variable
American Express® Gold Card

New Welcome Offer

See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

hfyhpf120.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

4X
Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery.
4X
Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3X
Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
60,000 points

Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.

Annual Fee
$250
Regular APR
See Pay Over Time APR
Citi Premier® Card

Excellent

Credit Recommended (740-850)

hfyhpf120.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

3X
New! Earn 3 Points at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3X
Earn 3 Points at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1X
Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
60,000 points

Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee
$95
Regular APR
15.99% - 23.99% variable
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

hfyhpf120.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

3%
Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases)
2%
Earn automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases)
1%
Earn unlimited 1% on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
$200

$200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

hfyhpf120.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

5%
Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
5%
Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase.
3%
Earn 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores
1.5
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
$200

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

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
14.99% - 23.74% variable
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

hfyhpf120.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

1.25X
Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
20,000 miles

Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
15.49% - 25.49% variable
Chase Freedom Flex℠

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

hfyhpf120.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

5%
Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
5%
Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
5%
Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase.
3%
Earn 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores.
1%
Earn 1% on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
$200

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

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
14.99% - 23.74% variable
Alliant Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

hfyhpf120.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

2X
Earn two reward points for every dollar spent

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
5,000 Points

Earn 5,000 bonus Alliant Rewards points after spending $500 or more in qualifying purchases during the first 90 days the account is opened.

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
13.24% - 23.24% variable
The Platinum Card® from American Express
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

hfyhpf120.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

10X
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.
5X
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
5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
75,000 points

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.

Annual Fee
$550
Regular APR
See Pay Over Time APR

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by hfyhpf120.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank's website for the most current information.

All information about Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card, Chase Sapphire Preferred®, and Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card has been collected independently by hfyhpf120.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer.


Comparing Rewards Credit Card Offers

Rewards credit cards have proliferated in recent years, with the best offers delivering cardholders hundreds, even thousands of dollars in rewards. It is not surprising that rewards cards claim several spots on our list of the overall best credit cards.

Cash back, points, miles – whichever method you choose, the results can be, well, rewarding. But rewards credit cards can be daunting to the newcomer. Which type do you choose? Which card is the best? How do you use one? At hfyhpf120.com, we crunched the numbers on over 1,600 credit card offers using the criteria outlined below to pick the best rewards cards out there. Along with our top picks, we’ve also included some takes from other experts and supplemental information to help you with your decision. Here, we look at:


best rewards credit cards of 2021

Best rewards credit cards

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Our pick for U.S. supermarkets

This card’s 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%) and 3% back at U.S. gas stations and transit will benefit nearly every consumer. Plus, it isn’t difficult to achieve the introductory bonus – $250 after spending $1,000 within the first 3 months. However, the annual fee of $95 may give you pause. You can also check out its little sister card, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. If you’re not sure which card makes the most sense for you, check out our side-by-side comparison of the Blue Cash Everyday and Blue Cash Preferred.
Read the full review.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Our pick for flexible cash back categories

This cash back card offers something truly unique: you get to pick and change your bonus cash back category as often as once per calendar month. You can choose from gas, dining, travel, online shopping, drug stores and 数字货币交易软件_数字货币手机app下载home improvement/furnishings. With this freedom, you’re able to maximize your rewards by selecting your categories according to the purchases that are on your horizon. In addition to 3% cash back in your category of choice, you’ll also earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (you’ll earn 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter. After that it’s 1%).

Read the full review.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Our pick for low interest

In most cases, you should only get a rewards credit card if you know you’re able to pay off your bill in full each month. But even if you’re pretty sure that’s the case, it’s good to have a card that charges a reasonable interest rate just in case that you do end up carrying a balance. The Blue Cash Everyday offers just that, with an APR of 13.99% – 23.99% variable. There’s plenty to love about the rewards system, too. Cardholders earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) and 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores.
Read the full review.

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

Our pick for intro APR period on purchases

With the Quicksilver, you can get 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases (then it’s 15.49%-25.49% variable). That means if you have a pending renovation or major appliance purchase, the Quicksilver can help you pay strategically. However, you should remember that this only applies to purchases made with the card; there is no 0% intro APR offer for balance transfers. Your first few months are made even more valuable by the welcome bonus, $200 after you spend just $500 within the first 3 months. Aside from the new cardholder benefits, the ongoing value is good, too. You’ll earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases – no need to keep track of bonus categories.
Read the full review.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Our pick for cash back at drugstores

If you’re looking for a card that rewards everyday expenses, you’ll see several cards that offer rewards for grocery store and gas station purchases. But the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is unique because it offers 3% cash back on drugstore purchases, a somewhat rare category. It doesn’t end there; there are ample opportunities to earn rewards. In addition to the rewards you’ll earn at drugstores, you also have the opportunity to earn 3% cash back on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services, and 5% cash back on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. All other purchases earn 1.5% cash back. With so many rewards categories, it’s pretty amazing that there’s no annual fee.
Read the full review.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Our pick for travel rewards

There’s a reason the Venture card is revered by travel enthusiasts; with an excellent rate of 2X miles on every purchase, the Venture Rewards Card allows you to rack up miles without worrying about spending categories. Additionally, the sign-up bonus is one of the best: 60,000 miles after a $3,000 spend within the first 3 months. Lastly, but certainly not to be overlooked, is the Venture’s redemption flexibility. In addition to the wealth of transfer partners, there are no blackout dates.
Read the full review.

Alliant Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card

Our pick for good credit

If you have good credit and are looking for a flat-rate credit card with generous ongoing rewards, the Alliant Visa Platinum Rewards Credit Card offers 2X points on all purchases. You can also earn 5,000 points with a qualifying spend of $500 in the first 90 days, and there’s no annual fee. There is also the option to earn 0% intro APR the first 12 months of card membership on purchases and balance transfers, then it’s 13.24%-23.24% variable. The balance transfer fee is 2% of the amount transferred, with a minimum of $5.

Discover it® Cash Back

Our pick for rotating cash back categories

This card offers a great mix of bonus spending categories, which you can find on Discover’s 2020 cash back calendar. You’ll earn 5% cash back in these rotating categories (upon enrollment, on your first $1,500 in combined quarterly spending, then 1%). While that rate is lucrative enough to stand on its own, Discover sweetens the deal by matching all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year. One potential drawback for those who prefer to set and forget: You must remember to enroll each quarter when the bonus category changes if you want to earn the boosted cash back rate.
Read the full review.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Our pick for luxury travel benefits

The first thing you might notice about this card is the startling $550 annual fee. But for frequent travelers, especially those who like to travel in style, the long list of rewards, benefits and credits can easily make up that value. To start, flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel earn 5X points. The same rate applies to hotels booked on amextravel.com. Starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on flights per calendar year.

Cardholders also have access to a wealth of annual credits: up to $200 in Uber credit, up to $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit (enrollment required) and up to a $100 hotel credit. Every four years, cardholders get a $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA PreCheck® credit.

Read the full review.

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Our pick for combining rotating cash back and flat-rate spending

Indecisive? The Chase Freedom Flex gives you the best of both worlds when it comes to cash back. Earn 5% cash back on quarterly categories for up to a combined $1,500, then earn a flat rate of 5% on travel purchases made through Chase and 3% cash back at restaurants and drug stores. There are also a few first-year bonuses with this card. First, you earn 5% cash back at grocery stores (except Walmart® and Target®) up to $12,000 spent in your first year. The Freedom Flex also offers $200 to those who spend $500 within the first 3 months.
Read the full review.

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Our pick for dining and entertainment

The SavorOne’s 3% cash back on dining and entertainment is highly competitive, especially for a no annual fee card. You’ll also earn 2% cash back at grocery stores, a nice touch of practicality to complement the dining and entertainment categories. While this is a strong no-annual-fee cash back card, it may not make sense for the ultra-frugal consumer. If you’re trying to cut back on eating out, as many people do when budgeting, you miss out on the card’s most lucrative rewards category. If you’d like to earn rewards for cooking meals at 数字货币交易软件_数字货币手机app下载home, you can find higher rewards rates with the Blue Cash Everyday.
Read the full review.

Citi Rewards+℠ Card

Our pick for everyday purchases

If you’re looking for a practical card that rewards everyday purchases, the Citi Rewards+ Card is a great choice. Cardholders enjoy 2X points at supermarkets and gas stations on the first $6,000 each year (then 1X points). This is also a good card for someone with a large purchase on the horizon or someone who wants to pay down existing debt, offering 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers (then 13.49%-23.49% variable). With all of that and no annual fee, this card is certainly worth a second look.
Read the full review.

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Our pick for travel rewards with no annual fee

The VentureOne is a fine choice for the occasional traveler, in large part because you’ll earn travel rewards at a great rate while paying no annual fee. Plus, you’ll get the same 10+ travel partners as you would with the Capital One Venture Rewards Card. Options include Etihad Airways and Air France/KLM. If you travel often, you’ll likely find more value in an annual fee card, but this is a solid option for those who aren’t interested in annual fees.
Read the full review.

Discover it® Miles

Our pick for starter travel card

For starters, this card makes earning miles simple, rewarding all purchases with 1.5 miles per dollar spent. There are no blackout dates, and you can pay for all manner of travel (and more) with your card. There’s a unique twist to this and some other Discover cards – your miles earned are matched at the end of your first year. That means if you earn 35,000 miles, that becomes 70,000 miles at the end of your first year. While this is a great bonus, some people won’t like waiting until the end of the first year for the Discover Match reward. One final consideration is that Discover cards may not be the best option for overseas travel because they aren’t widely accepted abroad.
Read the full review.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Our pick for sign-up bonus

New cardholders earn an enviable 60,000 points after a $4,000 spend within the first 3 months of card membership, which is worth $750 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. In terms of ongoing value, it’s hard to beat 2X points for spending on travel and restaurants plus partnerships with major airlines and hotel brands. One potential setback is the $95 annual fee. However, if you use this card often and redeem your reward points, you can easily make up the cost of the annual fee.
Read the full review.

Summary of the Best Credit Cards for Rewards

Credit CardBest For:Rewards RateAnnual Feehfyhpf120.com Review
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American ExpressEveryday purchases6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit, 1% cash back on general purchases $954.3 / 5
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit cardCustomizable rewards3% cash back on a category of choice 2% cash back on groceries and wholesale club purchases ($2,500 combined limit on 2% and 3% categories each quarter ), 1% cash back on other purchases $03.4 / 5
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American ExpressEveryday purchases3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%), 2% cash back on U.S. gas stations, 1% cash back on other purchases $03.3 / 5
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit CardCash rewards1.5% cash back on every purchase$03.4 / 5
Chase Freedom Unlimited®Cash back at drugstores5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards$04.7 / 5
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit CardTravel rewards2X miles on every purchase$954.2 / 5
Alliant Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit CardGood creditEarn 2 reward points for every dollar spent$04.5 / 5
Discover it® Cash BackRotating category rewards5% cash back in rotating categories Up to $1,500 in purchases quarterly and unlimited 1% cash back on everything else. Activation required. $04.5 / 5
The Platinum Card® from American ExpressLuxury travel benefits5x on 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 $5504.5 / 5
Chase Freedom Flex℠Rotating categories & flat-rate combo5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards$03.9 / 5
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit CardDining and entertainment3% cash back on dining and entertainment 2% cash back at grocery stores, 1% cash back on other purchases $03.7 / 5
Citi Rewards+℠ CardEveryday purchases2 ThankYou points per dollar at supermarkets and gas stations Up to $6,000 per year in purchases, 1 ThankYou point per dollar on all other purchases $03.0 / 5
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit CardFlat rate rewards1.25X miles on every purchase$03.5 / 5
Discover it® MilesStarter card for travel rewards1.5 miles per dollar on general purchases$04.0 / 5
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardSign-up bonus2X points on travel and dining 1 point per dollar on everything else $95Visa’s supplier locator tool. Unfortunately, Mastercard and American Express do not offer similar tools.

What are the different types of rewards cards?

The two main types of rewards cards are The Points Guy’s monthly point valuations take some of the heavy lifting out of this research so that you can compare loyalty programs apples-to-apples.

Let’s try calculating the value of a popular travel rewards card, the American Express® Gold Card. In this scenario, we’re calculating the earnings of someone who annually spends $4,800 at U.S. supermarkets, $1,500 at restaurants worldwide, and $1,000 on flights. American Express Membership Rewards points are valued at 2 cents apiece.

Credit cardAnnual feeRewards rateAnnual earnings breakdownWorth it?
American Express® Gold Card$2504X points on dining and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per year, then 1X). 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.($4,800 x 4) + ($1,500 x 4) + ($1,000 x 3) = 28,200 points = $564Yes. After subtracting the $250 annual fee, this person’s rewards earnings would be $314.

 

You’ll also want to consider other factors aside from rewards earnings. Maybe you determine that you’ll just break even between rewards earnings and the annual fee. Consider the additional perks the card offers. Maybe the benefit of airport lounge access, free checked bags or a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry credit is where you find the most value.

Whether the annual fee will be worth it depends on your spending habits, so it’s important to be honest with yourself and choose a card that matches how you already spend or plan to spend. If you aren’t sure, many issuers allow the option to upgrade a card in the future, so you can always start with the no annual fee version and trade up later.

How do you maximize credit card rewards?

To take full advantage of your points, you need to look at the rewards card from all angles, including how much you’ll spend and what you’ll buy. Here’s a quick guide on how to maximize your points:

  1. Calculate: Calculate how much you’ll spend, making sure you will at least recoup the annual fee.
  2. Take advantage of the sign-up bonus: Make sure that you will be able to spend the required amount within the required time for the sign-up bonus, but avoid the temptation of making extra purchases just for the sake of reaching the required spend. Stick to sign-up bonuses that you know are attainable from your regular or pre-planned purchases.
  3. Make it your go-to card: See if you can pay your rent, insurance and utilities with it, but make sure there are no convenience fees. Buy your groceries with it, and pull it out at restaurants.
  4. Pay in full and pay on time: If you can’t pay it off in full each month, there’s no point in acquiring it. The interest fees will overshadow any cash back or points you’ve earned. Never go over the limit or pay late; these are wasted dollars.
  5. Use shopping portals: Frequently check for deals. Just make sure you are fully rewarded for using points or miles. Some cards don’t reward you for the full amount with their shopping portals or gift cards.
  6. Take full advantage of the benefits: Make full use of the benefits, such as price protection and auto rental insurance.
  7. Consider multiple cards: Having multiple credit cards can be a great way to maximize your hard-earned rewards, especially if you have a hotel or an airline card. Since cards such as these two are used primarily for booking rooms or flights, it may be useful to have a cash back card or a luxury rewards card as well to bolster your earnings. For example, partnering the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card could boost your earnings through expanding your rewards categories.

Our analysis: How much can you earn in rewards?

In some cases, there is no cap on how many points or cash back you can earn with a rewards credit card. In other cases, you are limited to how much you can earn with specific categories.

When we looked at our 20 most popular rewards credit cards, we found that there were no caps on spending for specific categories on 9 cards, with the highest at 5X points – The Platinum Card® from American Express offers 5X points on amextravel.com and airfare purchased directly from airlines, while the Chase Sapphire Preferred currently offers 5X points with Lyft through March 2022. However, beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Platinum Card’s offer will be capped at $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.

When looking at unlimited categories and unlimited spending, that number went down to only 7 – 3 are travel cards and 4 are cash back cards. Of the cash back cards, Citi® Double Cash pays out 2% on all qualifying purchases – 1% cash back when you purchase and 1% cash back when you pay for the purchase.

In terms of your welcome offer, we found that rewards cards with points or miles ranged from 15,000 points (Citi Rewards+℠ Card, after a $1,000 spend within the first 3 months) to 60,000 points (Chase Sapphire Preferred, after a $4,000 spend within the first 3 months).

When looking at cash back cards, we discovered that Savor was the highest, with $300 cash back after a $3,000 spend within the first 3 months.

Comparing the top rewards cards by category

Rewards CategoryTop OfferHighestAverageLowest
Welcome bonus
Points
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Preferred
60,000 points40,625 points15,000 points
Unlimited cash back
All spending categories
Citi Double Cash
Citi Double Cash
2%1.625%1.5%
Welcome bonus
Cash back
Capital One Savor Cash Rewards$300$183.33$150
Unlimited points or miles
All spending categories
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The best credit card rewards programs

Credit card rewards programs come in any number of flavors, and one of them is bound to work well for you.

There’s Chase Ultimate Rewards, with generous rewards for your loyalty. And what about American Express Membership Rewards? Then, there are popular hotel rewards plans.

Here are some popular rewards programs and how they work.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

access to 5,000 hotels and resorts around the world. Add to that, you can experience the benefits of the Hilton Honors program, which gives you access to these properties through the points you have collected with purchases.

In addition to earning points at member properties, earn points through partners for car rentals, cruises, even mobile roaming while abroad. You can use the points as a gift by purchasing gift cards at Hilton locations or treat yourself with a weekend at a favorite spot. Also enjoy using the points toward flights and rail travel, vehicle upgrades and more.

Citi ThankYou Points

The Citi ThankYou program, Citi’s points earning and redemption program, is offered through a handful of Citi cards, with options to redeem through merchandise, travel, gift cards, electronics and more, depending on the card.

Depending on the product, you might earn 1.25X points for booking travel in the same way that some Chase cards are structured. The program includes about 15 airline partners, which compares well to the Chase and American Express partnerships.

Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards

There are basically 2 ways to earn Go Far Rewards – by spending on your Wells Fargo credit card or by shopping on the Earn More Mall site.

Unlike Chase and American Express, Go Far Rewards can’t be transferred to an airline partner. However, redemptions can come in a number of ways, such as cash back, statement credits, travel, gift cards, merchandise, digital downloads and even as a gift. There’s a Go Far Rewards online auction that you can use to bid on merchandise using your points.

Bank of America Preferred Rewards

The Bank of America Preferred Rewards program works a little differently from the other bank card issuer programs in that it rewards you for how much you keep in your Bank of America bank accounts. This includes funds in Merrill.

The card rewards benefits can be considerable – if you keep at least $20,000 in your accounts, you’ll earn a 25% bonus on qualified card rewards, and that goes up to 75% when you have at least $100,000 in your accounts. There are other bank-related benefits as well, such as money market savings interest rate boosters and auto loan interest rate discounts.

How to redeem your credit card rewards

Whether you are earning points, miles or cash back, card issuers offer numerous ways to redeem those rewards. You can redeem through statement credits, gift cards, even checks. Here are some ways:

  • A portal for travel purchases. With some cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve, a travel portal can be used to make purchases using points, with additional rewards for using the portal.
  • A portal for redemption. With general-purpose travel cards, you can redeem your miles for all manner of travel through a portal that monitors your rewards and travel spending.
  • Redeeming for specific brands. With hotel- and airline-branded cards, you can redeem for those specific brands and sometimes their partners.
  • Online shopping. Redeem your points through a shopping portal for such items as clothing, health and beauty aids, gift cards, and more.
  • Get a check. A few card issuers will issue a check for your cash rewards.
  • Deposit into bank account. This is a great option for Bank of America Preferred Rewards clients.
  • Statement credit. A favorite among cashback cards, you can earn your redemption through a credit that is placed on your card statement.

Rewards card ownership statistics

How many “active” credit cards do you currently hold?…

  • 1 card
  • 17%
  • 2 cards
  • 15%
  • 3 or more cards
  • 33%
  • I don’t hold this type of card
  • 26%
  • Source: hfyhpf120.com 2018 rewards card survey

Consumers with at least 1 rewards card that has…

  • No annual fee
  • 72%
  • An annual fee of up to $75
  • 25%
  • An annual fee between $76-$150
  • 15%
  • An annual fee of at least $151
  • 10%
  • Unsure
  • 15%
  • Source: hfyhpf120.com 2018 rewards card survey