Bankrate's Cards Madness Round 1
Pen Cristobal/Bankrate

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Do top-dollar rewards justify top-dollar annual fees? Do welcome offers outlast rotating bonus categories? There’s plenty of competition to go around as we seek to answer these questions and more in Round 1 of Bankrate Cards Madness.

Each of the contending cards in the field boasts a winning record of benefits good enough to hold their own against the very best, regardless of category. In the opening round, we’ll find out if some of the bigger names are worth their weight.

Go to live action

Business Region:

(#1) Capital One Spark Cash for Business vs. (#8) American Express(R) Business Gold Card

 

Reards Rate 2% cash back on all purchases 4X Membership Rewards points on 2 select categories (on the first $150,000 in combined purchases annually). 1 point per dollar on other purchases
Intro Bonus $500 after spending $4,500 in the first 3 months of account opening None
Annual Fee $95, waived the first year $295
Regular APR 19.24% variable 16.49% – 24.49% variable
Regular Season Title Best for cash back with no annual fee during the first year Best for flexible rewards

1st Half

At the tip-off, the top-seeded Capital One Spark Cash for Business establishes itself in the paint early with a $500 welcome offer after spending $4,500 in the first 3 months. Coming in with a strong gameplan of 2% cash back on all purchases and no annual fee during the first year, it immediately has the American Express Business Gold back on its heels.

After a quick timeout, American Express(R) Business Gold Card establishes itself with a rollout of flexible travel benefits that temporarily confuses the Capital One cash back attack. Amex’s 4 points per dollar in 2 select categories where your business spent the most each month allows them to bridge the gap on the scoreboard, and end the half with some momentum.

2nd Half

Amex comes out to the locker room strong with 25% points back for eligible air travel redemptions and a nifty pay your balance over time option. But Capital One isn’t fazed – countering with a methodical employee cards at no cost benefit, no redemption threshold and regular itemized reports for management. The Amex Business Gold just doesn’t have the legs to fight back, as it’s weighed down by its hefty annual fee and no intro bonus. The Spark Cash cruises to victory.

Moving on:

Capital One Spark Cash for Business

(#3) The Business Platinum(R) Card from American Express vs. (#6) CitiBusiness/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard

Rewards Rate 5X Membership Rewards points on flights and prepaid hotels through amextravel.com. 1.5 points per dollar on eligible purchases of $5,000 or more (up to 1 million additional points annually). 2 AAdvantage miles per dollar on qualifying American Airlines purchases. 2 AAdvantage miles on telecommunications, car rentals, cable and satellite providers and gas stations. 1 AAdvantage mile per dollar spent on other purchases
Intro Bonus 50,000 points after $10,000 spent in first 3 months. 25,000 extra points for spending $10,000 additional dollars in first 3 months. 50,000 bonus miles after $3,000 in purchases during first 3 months. 10,000 bonus miles after $10,000 in purchases during first 12 months.
Annual Fee $595 $99, waived the first year
Regular APR N/A 17.99% – 25.99% variable
Regular Season Title Best for luxury travel Best for business travelers who fly American

1st Half

The Business Platinum(R) Card from American Express comes in with a starting lineup of 50,000 bonus points after $10,000 spent in the first three months of account opening. The bench is also deep, with 25,000 extra points for an additional $10,000 spent in the same period. Coming in hot with 5X points for flights and prepaid hotels redeemed through the Amex travel portal, this card has no trouble scoring early.

The sixth-seeded CitiBusiness/ Aadvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard isn’t shrinking away though, with 2 miles per dollar on eligible American Airlines flights as well as a number of bonus categories. With a display of really good film prep, it rolls out a 50,000-mile bonus of its own for $3,000 spent in the first three months. It also has a quick-footed player that shoots 10,000 bonus miles after $10,000 is spent in the opening 12 months. We have a tight and exciting first half between these two business travel cards.

2nd Half

The second half opens with three lob dunks by the Amex Platinum Business: no point expiration, no blackout dates and a 35% point bonus with your selected qualifying airline. Its size advantage over the CitiBusiness looks formidable. The Citi card responds with speed in a flurry of fast breaks — no cost employee cards, quarterly expense tracking and 30% awards discounts. The Amex misses two critical free throws due to its huge $595 annual fee. In the waning seconds, Citi gets the rebound, scores a $95 annual fee layup and hits a free throw worth a $0 annual fee in the first year. Citi pulls off the first round upset with a scrappy effort.

Moving on:

CitiBusiness/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard

(#2) Bank of America(R) Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard(R) credit card vs. (#7) The Blue Business(SM) Plus Credit Card from American Express

Rewards Rate 3% cash back at . gas stations and office supply stores (up to $250,000 in purchases per year, 1% thereafter). 2% cash back at restaurants. 1% cash back on other purchases. 2X Membership Rewards points per dollar on every purchase up to $50,000 per year. 1x points thereafter.
Intro Bonus $200 statement credit for spending $500 in the first 60 days. None
Annual Fee $0 $0
Regular APR 13.49% – 23.49% variable 13.49% – 21.49% variable
Regular Season Title Best cash back for Bank of America customers Best for balance transfers

1st Half

Bank of America® Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card enters the tournament with a strong record going against The Blue Business Plus,sup>SM Credit Card from American Express. Though riding its best regular season finish to date, Blue Business has an uphill battle coming in with no intro bonus offer to offset its opponent. The Business Advantage, true to form, opens things up with a fundamentally sound 3-2-1 cash back attack on purchases. But the Blue Business Plus has a nice 2X per dollar jump shot with a lower spending cap that keeps the game in reach early.

Neither card gives any ground as the regular APR for both is surprisingly neck and neck. And no annual fee on both cards is evidence of great coaching on both sides. The first half ends with both cards trading shots.

2nd Half

The Blue Business Plus comes out in the second half featuring its strong freshman class of employee cards with no fees, a mobile expense management app and a flexible frequent flyer point transfer program. It’s clearly trying to set an aggressive tone. But Business Advantage’s $200 bonus for spending $500 in the first 60 days turns the momentum. The offensive attack of no cost employee cards and no cash expiration rings up the scoreboard. In a valiant last-second effort, the Blue Business Plus steals the ball and heaves a half-court shot worth redemptions for gift cards, shopping, travel, entertainment and merchandise. But the ball rims out and Business Advantage advances.

Moving on:

Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard

(#4) SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express vs. (5) Capital One Spark Miles for Business

Rewards Rate 5% cash back on the first $50,000 spent at wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. office supply stores, 3% cash back on the first $50,000 spent in the category of your choice from a list of eight, 1% cash back on other purchases. 2 miles per dollar on every purchase.
Intro Bonus None $95, waived the first year
Annual Fee $0 $0
Regular APR 14.49% – 21.49% variable 19.24% variable
Regular Season Title Best cash back for office supply purchases Best for simple business travel rewards

1st Half

The SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express got somewhat of a surprise bid to the tournament. Normally underestimated due to its predominantly office supply style of play, it wasn’t expected to reach the postseason. As for the Capital One Spark Miles for Business – it remains in the shadow of its top-ranked conference rival, the Capital One Spark Cash, but it’s still expected to make a little noise in the field.

The SimplyCash Plus looks a little out of sync early, starting the game with no intro bonus. The 50,000 mile bonus after spending $4,500 on purchases in the first 3 months on the Spark Miles easily puts it out ahead. And the consistent 2-miles-per dollar scoring gets a cheer from the student section. The SimplyCash Plus does have a big starting 5% cash back after meeting wireless telephone purchase requirements from U.S. providers. The size difference forces the Spark Miles for Business to have to regroup for the second half.

2nd Half

The SimplyCash Plus comes out with a head of steam from its $0 annual fee. It starts the second half with an unexpected defense of car rental insurance, roadside assistance, business expense tracking and more. The Spark Miles for Business adjusts offensively with no cost employee cards, business purchase discounts and lost luggage reimbursement. Though the SimplyCash Plus was able to stretch the game into overtime, it ran out of gas with its inability to redeem points for travel rewards or transfer to hotel or airline partners. A disappointing end to an strong season.

Moving on:

Capital One Spark Miles for Business
Back to table of contents

Travel Region:

(#4) Chase Sapphire Preferred Card vs. (#5) Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

These are commonly considered the top credit cards on the market for beginner travelers. Looking at each card’s stats, it’s a pretty even match up of excellent travel benefits — in addition to their comparable sign-up bonus offers and annual fee.

 

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Rewards Rate Unlimited 2x points on dining and travel; 1x points on all other purchases Unlimited 2x miles on all purchases, plus 10x miles on hotel.com/venture purchases (through January 2020)
Intro Bonus 50,000 points after spending $4,000 within the first three months 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 within the first three months
Annual Fee $95, waived the first year $95, waived the first year
Regular APR 18.24% – 25.24% variable 17.99% – 25.24% variable
Regular Season Title Best for pairing Best for flat-rate rewards

1st Half

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card has a more comprehensive game plan, offering 2x miles on every purchase compared to Chase Sapphire Preferred Card’s 2x points on only dining and travel purchases. Even so, Chase takes the ball at tip-off.

While the Venture scores with a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit, Chase still pulls ahead at the end of the second quarter, with one of the most valuable credit card rewards programs in the market, Chase Ultimate Rewards.

2nd Half

The Venture Card bounces back in the second half by relying on the simplicity of their redemption process and the strength of their flat-rate rewards structure. This matchup goes well into overtime, but Chase ultimately pulls off the W. Cardholders can pair multiple Chase cards, pooling points for maximum earning potential across multiple spending categories.

Capital One has a strong rewards program, but it doesn’t offer the same kind of redemption flexibility and overall value.

Moving on:

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

(#1) Citi Prestige® Credit Card vs. (#8) Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card

The Citi Prestige and Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card are a little lesser known in the travel space, but that doesn’t mean these cards can’t shoot from the three point line.

Rewards Rate 5x ThankYou Points on air travel and restaurants, 3x on cruise lines and hotels, 1x on all other purchases 2x points on dining and travel; 1.5x points on all other purchases
Intro Bonus 50,000 Points after spending $4,000 within the first three months 50,000 points after spending $3,000 within the first 90 days
Annual Fee $495 $95
Regular APR 17.99% – 25.99% variable 18.24% – 25.24% variable
Regular Season Title Best overall rewards structure Best for Bank of America customers

1st Half

Citi Prestige immediately takes the opening tip. While the two cards are evenly matched in sign-up bonuses, the Prestige’s rewards structure immediately sets the pace for the entire match-up. It continues to take charge throughout the entire first half with perks like a $250 travel credit, Priority Pass Select membership, Citi Concierge services, Complimentary 4th Night, TSA PreCheck®/Global Entry application credit and more.

Bank of America Premium Rewards also offers a TSA PreCheck®/Global Entry application credit, but it struggles to match the other perks that the Prestige brings to the table.

2nd Half

The Citi Prestige comes out sluggish due to its hefty annual fee. Bank of America takes advantage and gains ground on the scoreboard. It gets more of an offensive boost with its Bank of America Preferred Rewards, which can increase the card’s earning potential by up to 75 percent.

But despite a valiant effort, the lower annual fee and Preferred Rewards perks can’t quite catch the incredible benefits that the Citi Prestige offers to cardholders. This is one example where “you get what you pay for” actually rings true. The Prestige wins a barn-burner.

Moving on:

Citi Prestige®

(#6) Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card vs. (#3) Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express

Marriott and Hilton have been battling it out for hotel loyalty program dominance lately. These two cards certainly have the heaviest rivalry among all of our first round travel matchups.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
Rewards Rate 6x points on eligible Marriott Bonvoy purchases; 3x points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines; 2x points on all other eligible purchases 14x points on eligible Hilton purchases; 7x points at U.S. restaurants, eligible rental car purchases and eligible flights; 3x points on all other eligible purchases
Intro Bonus 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months (Offer expires 4/24/2019) 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $4,000 within 3 months
Annual Fee $450 $450
Regular APR 17.99% – 26.99% variable 17.99% – 26.99% variable
Regular Season Title Best for Marriott loyalists Best for Hilton loyalists

1st Half

Right from the start, Hilton takes the lead with its impressive rewards structure and generous welcome offer. That lead continues throughout the first quarter — the Hilton Honors Aspire’s welcome offer makes you eligible for Diamond Status, their top-tier elite status. Marriott, on the other hand, offers Gold Elite status with a path to Platinum after making $75,000 in eligible purchases in a calendar year.

Each card comes with multiple travel credits, but the Hilton Aspire continues to shine with a $250 credit for eligible Hilton Honors purchases, a $100 on-property credit and a $250 airline incidentals credit. Hilton also offers two Weekend Night Rewards when you meet certain requirements.

2nd Half

Marriott ramps up the pace. With the SPG-Marriott-Ritz Carlon merger, Marriott Bonvoy now includes more than 6,700 properties. Marriott points are also worth more than Hilton Honors points, which helps them creep back up on the scoreboard.

While Marriott’s overall loyalty program is (in my opinion) more valuable, that doesn’t overshadow the specific perks that this Hilton co-branded card offers. In the end, Marriott just can’t come back after the Hilton Honors Aspire dominated in the first half.

Moving on:

Hilton Honors Aspire

The information for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card and Hilton Honors Aspire Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

(#2) Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. (#7) The Platinum Card® from American Express

As two of the most coveted luxury travel cards on the market, this will be an extremely close matchup. If you think you know who will come out on top, think again!

Rewards Rate 3x points on travel (after earning your $300 travel credit) and dining; 1x points on everything else 5x points on eligible travel purchases; 1x points on all other purchases
Intro Bonus 50,000 points after spending $4,000 within the first three months 60,000 points after spending $5,000 within the first three months
Annual Fee $450 $550
Regular APR 19.24% – 26.24%variable N/A
Regular Season Title Best for flexible luxury rewards Best for lounge access

1st Half

Looking at the stats, it’s easy to assume that The Platinum Card® from American Express would immediately pull ahead, but the Chase Sapphire Reserve has a few tricks hidden up its sleeve. Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.5 cents per dollar, which makes the welcome offer for each card worth $150 more in travel redemptions. As the half goes on, the Reserve and Platinum trade shot for shot.

Both offer a statement credit of up to $100 for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® application fee. The Platinum goes hard in the paint with access to Amex’s Global Lounge Collection. The Reserve hits multiple threes with stellar trip insurance coverages.

2nd Half

For much of the second half, the two cards are caught in a stalemate. The Reserve comes with a larger travel credit, but the Platinum card offers up to $200 in Uber credits each year. But the CSR eventually pulls forward. Travel rewards with the Chase are more flexible, and the Platinum won’t let you carry a balance. Plus, the lower annual fee makes a difference when comparing two cards so equally matched.

While the Platinum Card from American Express showed why it had the flashier regular season, the Chase Sapphire Reserve pulls out the overtime win with sheer flexibility for consumers.

Moving on:

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Cash Back Region:

(#1) Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card vs. (#8) Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Rewards Rate 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% cash back at grocery stores, 1% cash back on all other purchases. 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%), 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores.
Intro Bonus $500 after you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
Annual Fee $95, waived the first year $0
Regular APR 16.74% – 25.74% variable 15.24% – 26.24% variable
Regular Season Title Best cash back intro bonus Best for gas

The top tiered cash back card in its class, Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card packs a serious punch in nearly every facet of the game. Blue Cash Everyday® from American Express, a respectable mainstay in the cash back category, has consistently enjoyed a place at the table — and here’s the tip:

1st Half

Savor gets off to a hot start, thanks to its bonus categories and rewards rates. Although some have accused Savor of showboating, there’s no denying that its blue-chip rewards rates and “flashy” bonus categories make it 2019’s favorite to win it all.

Blue Cash Everyday comes out swinging and finds a hole in Savor’s game, strategically beating out Savor in the U.S. supermarkets bonus category. You may also capture Blue Cash Everyday’s introductory $150 statement credit sooner since you only need to spend $1,000 in the first 3 months to capture it. Blue Cash Everyday surprises the crowd by hanging tough in the first half thanks to its intro bonus and rewards rates. As we go into the half, Blue Cash Everyday holds a slim lead.

2nd Half

As the two cards return to play, the crowd’s shock is palpable — might this unlikely underdog take out the tournament’s top seed?

Roused by a fiery halftime speech, Savor turns up the heat and shows everyone why it’s been ranked #1 all season long. Savor turns the tide with an historic $500 intro bonus (after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months) and cash rewards in the dining category that are really starting to pile up.

As we near the end of the game, Blue Cash Everyday’s cap on rewards in its 3% cash back category kicks in ($6,000 in purchases annually). Rewards drop to 1% for Blue Cash Everyday just as Savor’s rewards find their footing. Savor’s unlimited rewards give it a big lead and just as fans begin to walk out of the stadium, Savor waives its annual fee for the first year — a move that simultaneously guarantees Savor victory and elicits boos from Blue Cash Everyday fans.

Moving on:

Capital One Savor

(#2) Discover it® Cash Back vs. (#7) U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

Rewards Rate 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases — automatically. 5% cash back on your first $2,000 in eligible net purchases each quarter on the combined two categories you choose, 2% cash back on your choice of one everyday category, like gas stations or grocery stores, 1% cash back on all other eligible net purchases.
Intro Bonus Cashback Match™ — Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There’s no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched. $150 after you spend $500 in eligible net purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
Annual Fee $0 $0
Regular APR 14.24% – 25.24% variable 16.24% – 25.74% variable
Regular Season Title Best for everyday spending Best for rotating bonus categories

Discover has enjoyed continued success in the cash back category thanks to its ample rewards rates and one-of-a-kind intro bonus. A lesser-known opponent with an interesting player profile, the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature earned its way into the tournament on the strength of its innovative rewards structure.

1st Half

Right from the opening tip-off, it’s clear that these cards have a similar playing style. Discover it® Cash Back offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter in rotating bonus categories upon enrollment. The U.S. Bank card offers 5% cash back on up to $2,000 in purchases per quarter on the combined two categories of your choice; you’ll also earn 2% cash back in one everyday category of your choosing like gas stations or grocery stores.

As halftime nears, the U.S. Bank card pulls away from the Discover it, in part because of the 2% bonus category and in part because of the $150 intro bonus earned after spending $500 on purchases in the first 90 days.

2nd Half

It appears that U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature has no intention of backing down as its lead grows when play resumes in the second half. As the bonus categories on Discover it Cash Back rotate throughout the year, you may find that not all bonus categories align with your spending. As a result, you may not always be able to put that 5% rewards rate to use, and earn the standard 1% cash back on other purchases .

At this point in the game, U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature has a significant lead. It’s not until Discover’s Cashback Match™ kicks in that we have a competitive game. As the final seconds of the game tick off the clock, Discover’s bonus cap ($1,500 quarterly) becomes a factor — the rewards rate drops to 1%. Thanks to its flexible bonus categories, higher cap on bonus earning, and supplementary 2% bonus category, the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature delivers our first big upset in the cash back region.

Moving on:

U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature

(#3) Chase Freedom Unlimited® vs. (#6) Chase Freedom®

Rewards Rate Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase — it’s automatic! 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate; enjoy new categories each quarter, unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases — it’s automatic!
Intro Bonus Earn a $150 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Earn a $150 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
Annual Fee $0 $0
Regular APR 17.24% – 25.99% variable 17.24% – 25.99% variable
Regular Season Title Best for flat-rate earning Best cash back Chase card

It’s fairly uncommon but not unheard of — two talented siblings become highly-touted high school recruits who end up attending different colleges. Flash forward to their first time meeting as opponents and you’ll undoubtedly see their parents in the stands sporting a homemade jersey stitched together of two parts: one half for each team. This is that matchup.

1st Half

After a friendly fist-bump at center court, Chase Freedom wastes no time in grabbing a quick lead. A higher 5% cash back rate on rotating categories adds up much more quickly than the Unlimited’s 1.5% flat-rate.

Freedom holds a significant lead over Freedom Unlimited, even after both intro bonuses come into play. Although Freedom only offers 1% cash back on non-bonus spending, the 0.5% advantage that Freedom Unlimited holds is negligible at this point. Going into halftime, Freedom is up by double digits.

2nd Half

Being a good sport, Freedom lets up on Freedom Unlimited. When the $1,500 cap on purchases per quarter is reached, rewards drop to 1%. Freedom Unlimited continues to earn 1.5%, which briefly allows it to make up some ground.

Since these two cards are from the same issuer and occupy similar places in the cash back category, APRs and additional card benefits are the same. The only key differentiator here is the earning rate, which guarantees Freedom the victory.

Moving on:

Chase Freedom

(#4) Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card vs. (#5) Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

Rewards Rate Earn 3% cash back in your choice category (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases), earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases), earn unlimited 1% on all other purchases. Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day.
Intro Bonus $150 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. $150 after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.
Annual Fee $0 $0
Regular APR 16.24% – 26.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers 16.24% – 26.24% variable
Regular Season Title Best for personalized rewards Best for low interest

Bank of America updated its Cash Rewards credit card recently and it’s turning the heads of people who had never before considered applying for a Bank of America card. On the other end of the floor, Capital One walks in with Quicksilver, the card heralded by Sam Jackson and lovers of flat-rate cards everywhere.

1st Half

Quicksilver starts off slow, earning 1.5% cash back on every purchase. Bank of America Cash Rewards comes out firing with 3% cash back in your choice category (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases), 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (drops to 1% after cap), and 1% on all other purchases. Much like we saw in the matchup of the two Chase cards, the flat-rate Quicksilver in this matchup is simply outgunned.

2nd Half

Down by a significant margin, Quicksilver shows some of its versatility by offering a 15-month-long intro APR period on purchases and balance transfers (then 16.24% – 26.24% variable). Bank of America Cash Rewards also offers an intro APR period on purchases and balance transfers, but it’s only for 12 billing cycles (then 16.24% – 26.24% variable). Quicksilver shrinks the lead ever so slightly, but continues to struggle keeping up with Bank of America Cash Rewards.

The intro bonus didn’t help Quicksilver today as Bank of America Cash Rewards features the same $150 bonus for spending $500 in the first 90 days. With little variance in regular APR or special benefits, Quicksilver’s fate is sealed.

Moving on:

Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card

No-Annual-Fee Region:

(#1) Citi Rewards+℠ Card vs. (#8) Chase Freedom Unlimited

Rewards Rate 2x points at gas stations and supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases annually, then 1x) Plus, all earned points are rounded to the nearest 10 1.5% cash back on everything
Intro Bonus 15,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 within first 3 months of account opening $150 after spending $500 within first 3 months of account opening
Annual Fee $0 $0
Regular APR 15.74% – 25.74% variable 17.24% – 25.99% variable
Regular Season Title Best new arrival Best balance transfer offer

1st Half

A perennial favorite, the Citi Rewards+ Card jumps out to an early lead with 2x points on all supermarket and gas station purchases, falling back to a 1x redemption rate only after spending $6,000 in those respective categories on the year. Its signup bonus keeps the ball rolling, boasting a hefty 15,000 point bonus after $1,000 worth of purchases within the first three months of ownership—easy money for even the most frugal fans.

2nd Half

Coming out of the locker room, the Chase Freedom Unlimited catches a lifeline with unlimited 1.5% cash back on every single purchase. Riding the momentum, the card parlays a respectable $150 signup bonus after a $500 spend within the first 3 months and an extended 15-month 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers (then 17.24% – 25.99% variable) to bring the game back in reach. Ultimately, the Citi Rewards+ secures a comfortable victory with its unique round-up feature, automatically bumping all rewards up to the nearest 10 points.

Moving on:

Citi Rewards+

(#2) Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card vs. (#7) Discover it® Cash Back.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card
Rewards Rate 3X rewards points on dining, travel and gas station purchases 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter (up to $1,500 in purchases) after activation
Intro Bonus 30,000 points after spending $3,000 within first 3 months of ownership Cash back match at the end of first year of ownership
Annual Fee $0 $0
Regular APR 14.74%-27.24% variable 14.24% – 25.24% variable
Regular Season Title Best for people on the go Best first year cash back rewards

1st Half

The Discover it Cash Back strikes first, showing off its unprecedented 5% cash back redemption rate for select purchases each quarter (up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate). The Wells Fargo Propel American Express counters with its bread and butter – 3X rewards in areas of strength. The two cards are neck and neck until the break.

2nd Half

Both cards come out and lock horns with special introductory APRs. Discover it Cash Back swishes from deep with a cash back match at the end of twelve months. Wells Fargo Propel hits back just hard enough with a 30k point bonus after spending $3,000 within the first three months. That proves to be enough to eke out the win in a matchup much closer than the pundits expected.

Moving on:

Wells Fargo Propel American Express®

*The information related to Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.

(#3) Citi® Double Cash Card vs. (#6) Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Rewards Rate 2% cash back on everything (1% at purchase, 1% at payment) 1.5% cash back on everything
Intro Bonus None $150 bonus after spending $500 within first three months of ownership
Annual Fee $0 $0
Regular APR 15.74% – 25.74% variable 16.24% – 26.24% variable
Regular Season Title Best low maintenance card with generous rewards Best for a first rewards card

1st Half

The Quicksilver states its case for a spot in the next round by rolling out 1.5% cash back on everything, as well as 0% intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months (then 16.24% – 26.24% variable). The Citi Double Cash trails close behind, brandishing a straightforward rewards structure with no caps on cash back and 18 months intro APR on balance transfers (then 15.74% -25.74% variable).

2nd Half

It’ late, but the Double Cash starts to live up to its reputation with its uniquely positioned 2% cash back offer. The methodical 1% on every purchase as you make it, and another 1% when you pay it off is just enough to separate it from the Quicksilver as the clock runs out. The Double Cash punches its ticket to the next round.

Moving on:

Citi® Double Cash

(#4) Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express vs. (#5) Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Rewards Rate 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 annually, then 1%), 2% back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores 10x miles at eligible hotels purchased through hotels.com/venture through January 2020, 1.25x miles on every purchase
Intro Bonus $150 statement credit after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months of account opening 20,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months of account opening
Annual Fee $0 $0
Regular APR 15.24% – 26.24% variable 14.24% – 24.24% variable
Regular Season Title Best for everyday cash back Best for all around travel rewards

1st Half

The tightly matched Blue Cash Everyday(R) Card from American Express and Capital One® VentureOne Rewards carry special features and perks that make them both potential bracket-busters. The VentureOne Rewards slams home its offer of 10x miles at select hotel purchases at hotels.com/venture and 1.25x miles on every purchase. But the Blue Cash Everyday tightens its defensive scheme of 3% cash back (up to $6,000 per year, then 1%) at U.S. supermarkets, 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, plus 1% back on all other purchases. As expected, these two are deadlocked, heading into the break.

2nd Half

In the words of the inimitable Dick Vitale, this has been a diaper dandy. The Blue Cash Everyday caps off a gallant effort by deploying its $150 statement credit after $1,000 spent within the first three months of ownership. But with a great offensive adjustment, the VentureOne Rewards pumps out an extra 20,000 miles after $1,000 spent within three months. It’s too much for the Blue Cash Everyday to handle. The travel card masquerading as a no-annual-fee card moves onto the next round in a mid-major showdown to remember.

Moving on:

Capital One VentureOne Rewards

These were our winners. What were yours?

Did the first round turn out the way you thought it would? Do you want to make a case for any of the cards that made an early exit from the tournament? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Stay tuned for Round 2 on Friday, March 15!


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