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Best rewards credit cards

By Mitch Strohm ·
Thursday, January 26, 2017
Posted: 5 pm ET

Best cash back credit cards

The best rewards credit cards boast attractive cash-back percentages or travel rewards, appealing sign-up bonuses and simple redemption models.

Rewards credit cards can be divided into two general categories: travel and cash-back cards.

Travel rewards cards typically offer perks and bonuses for spending on items such as airline purchases, dining, restaurants and hotels. Cash back cards generally offer a percentage back for daily spending, cash back on specific categories and bonus cash for spending a specific amount within a certain time frame.

The card that's best for you depends on your lifestyle and financial goals.

Here are the best reward credit cards, according to the experts at

CARD SEARCH: Reward yourself with the best rewards credit cards today.

Best rewards credit cards
Card Category Why it's good
Chase Freedom Unlimited Top all-around rewards Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase
Citi Double Cash Top no annual fee card 1% cash back on all purchases; 1% cash back when you pay your bill on time
Blue Cash Preferred Top cash-back rewards 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, 3% at U.S. gas stations. Terms apply.
Chase Sapphire Reserve 3 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining Top travel and airline rewards
Chase Sapphire Preferred Top points rewards 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining

Chase Freedom Unlimited

This card ranks among the best cash-back credit cards available. It offers generous rewards and a decent sign-up bonus.


  • Earn 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase.
  • Earn a $150 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
  • Cardholders can redeem rewards for cash in any amount at any time. Rewards don't expire as long as your account remains open.

Who should get this card
This card is a good choice for anyone who wants a straightforward rewards program. It's also useful for anyone who already owns a Chase rewards card, since Chase Ultimate Rewards can be transferred between cards.

It comes with a 0 percent, 15-month introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers, making it a good option for someone trying to pay down high-interest debt. After the initial intro period, the card has a variable APR of 15.74 to 24.49 percent.

Its cash-back rate, while good, isn't the highest flat-rate available. This card also has no bonus categories, a downside if you spend frequently in one area where you want to maximize rewards.

Citi Double Cash

This card has a simple rewards structure with no categories to track, no cap on cash back and no annual fee.


  • Earn cash back twice: 1 percent on general purchases and 1 percent when you pay your bill on time. Two percent cash-back on everything makes this an industry-leading card for cash back on general purchases.
  • Pay no interest on balance transfers for 18 months.
  • Register your purchases online through the Citi Price Rewind program and the company will search for lower prices on those items and refund you the difference on better deals.

Who should get this card
This card is best for those seeking an affordable cash-back card with generous rewards on all purchases and an easy-to-use rewards structure. There's no chasing bonus categories, no rotating categories and no annual fee.

This card charges a variable APR of 14.24 to 24.24 percent.

If you typically carry a balance, or often fail to pay on time, this may not be the card for you. There's also no sign-up bonus, something you'll find on other competing cards.

CARD SEARCH: Cash or points? Find the best rewards card for you.

Blue Cash Preferred from American Express

Very generous rewards -- among the best available in some categories -- make this card stand out.


  • Everyday Cash Back: 6% at U.S.supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%); 3% at U.S. gas stations; 1% on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
  • Earn a $150 statement credit after spending $1,000 within the first three months.
  • Pay no interest on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months.

Who should get this card
This card is best for those who spend big on groceries, gas and department stores. If you're looking for a card that rewards you for more general spending, another cash-back card may be more beneficial.

Blue Cash Preferred carries a $95 annual fee, which is on the high side. But the generous rewards program, when used properly, can offset that fee.

The $6,000 annual spending cap on groceries means the most you could earn is $360 at 6 percent before the relatively low 1 percent rate kicks in. In addition, American Express isn't as widely accepted as Visa or MasterCard. That might make it necessary to use this card strategically with others.

After the introductory period, the APR will be 13.74 to 23.74 percent.

CARD SEARCH: Compare the top rewards credit cards.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Substantial bonus point opportunities, an annual travel credit and a top-notch rewards program puts the Chase Sapphire Reserve at the top of the list among travel and airline cards.


  • Earn three points per dollar spent on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, one point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Receive up to $300 in statement credits annually as a reimbursement for travel purchases.
  • Earn 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months after opening the account. That's $750 in travel rewards when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards program.

Who should get this card
If you spend big on travel and dining, the Chase Sapphire Reserve can be a good option.

It also offers top-of-the-line perks, as well, like access to more than 900 airport lounges worldwide and reimbursement for enrolling in TSA PreCheck.

While it has significant perks, this card's hefty $450 annual fee can certainly eat into rewards if you're not spending heavily on travel and dining out. It comes with a variable APR between 16.49 and 23.49 percent.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

This card's generous rewards, stellar sign-up bonus and low annual fee are hard to beat. It's a solid card for people scared off by the Sapphire Reserve's big annual fee.


  • Earn two points per dollar on travel and restaurants worldwide and one point per dollar on all other purchases.
  • Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 within the first three months of opening the account. That's $625 toward travel when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.
  • Earn 5,000 points when you add an authorized user within the first three months of opening an account and make a purchase.

Who should get this card
This card is ideal if you're looking for an everyday, low-fee travel card with great perks. It's especially useful if you're comfortable using the Chase Ultimate Rewards program -- when redeemed through the program, points are worth 25 percent more.

There's no introductory fee for the first year. After that, the fee is $95 per year. It has a variable APR from 16.74 to 23.74 percent.

Follow me on Twitter: @MitchStrohm

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