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Each credit card rewards program has a unique way of rewarding its members, along with unique redemption options and qualification requirements. With so many variations among the programs, it may be challenging to find the best credit card rewards program for your particular needs. Below, we’ll take a closer look at the top rewards programs and who might benefit the most from each one.
The top credit card rewards programs in 2022
American Express Membership Rewards: Best for flexible redemption options
- Why we picked it: The American Express Membership Rewards program has an impressive variety of redemption options available. Options include travel, statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, American Express experiences or transferring points to hotel and airline partners.
- Rewards program perks: Points are worth about 2.1 cents each when transferred to a high-value American Express travel partner.
- How to earn and redeem: Earn rewards points by using an eligible American Express credit card for purchases. Look for an American Express card that offers more points per dollar for the categories you spend the most in.
- Credit cards to consider: The American Express® Gold Card, Hilton Honors American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card all include impressive welcome offers.
Bank of America travel rewards: Best for simplicity
- Why we picked it: The Bank of America travel rewards program offers a simplistic approach to rewards, along with no rotating categories or promotions to keep track of.
- Rewards program perks: With this program, you’ll get access to the Bank of America Travel Center. Some cards also feature Visa Signature benefits, which offer perks such as extended warranty protection, baggage delay insurance, trip cancellation insurance and concierge services.
- How to earn and redeem: You can earn rewards points for every dollar spent with eligible cards. Most cards feature additional rewards for dining and travel-related purchases. Plus, if you’re a member of the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program, you can increase the value of your travel rewards by 25 to 75 percent.
- Credit cards to consider: The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, which comes with no annual fee, and the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card, which has a $95 annual fee, both include decent sign-up offers and travel perks.
Capital One miles: Best for frequent travelers
- Why we picked it: The Capital One miles program offers serious earning potential, plus travel rewards and points that never expire.
- Rewards program perks: You can generally redeem your points for hotels, flights, car rentals, vacation packages and even qualifying travel purchases you made with your card within the last 90 days.
- How to earn and redeem: You can earn miles for each dollar spent with eligible cards, and many cards feature boosted rewards categories, such as travel and dining. You may also receive a generous sign-up bonus offer. Typically, you can redeem your miles for travel-related purchases, gift cards, PayPal and Amazon shopping, and concert tickets.
- Credit cards to consider: The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card comes with no annual fee. Otherwise, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, which has a $95 annual fee, includes an up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. It also has a substantial 75,000-mile sign-up bonus that you can earn if you spend $4,000 within the first three months, which is worth about $750 in travel rewards.
Chase Ultimate Rewards: Best for multiple earning and redeeming options
- Why we picked it: Chase Ultimate Rewards offers a long list of ways to earn and redeem rewards, and some redemption options even come with a higher value.
- Rewards program perks: You can boost your earning potential early on (and throughout the year) by earning any welcome bonuses and spending in bonus categories.
- How to earn and redeem: You can earn rewards on eligible cards. Some cards feature bonus categories with higher earning potential, such as travel, dining or groceries. You can typically redeem rewards for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, gift cards, cash back or merchandise.
- Credit cards to consider: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which comes with a $95 annual fee, includes a robust rewards structure great for both travel and everyday spending. If you’re interested in earning luxury travel perks, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® would be the better choice. In exchange for a $550 annual fee, you’ll get numerous travel credits and perks.
Citi ThankYou Points: Best for combining multiple rewards cards
- Why we picked it: The Citi ThankYou Points program stands out because you can increase your earning potential substantially by using more than one Citi credit card, such as one for travel purchases and one for groceries.
- Rewards program perks: You can increase the value of your Citi rewards by choosing a Citi card that allows you to transfer points to Citi travel partners.
- How to earn and redeem: You can earn points for every dollar spent with eligible Citi cards, or by earning a welcome bonus. Redeem ThankYou points for cash back, travel rewards, gift cards or merchandise. You can also donate or share points.
- Credit cards to consider: If you’re looking for a credit card for travel rewards, consider the Citi Premier® Card. For those who need a card for everyday spending, consider the Citi Rewards+® Card.
Discover Miles: Best for Discover it Miles cardholders
- Why we picked it: The Discover Miles program is a user-friendly travel rewards program.
- Rewards program perks: You can book travel through a travel retailer of your choice — no need to go through a specific portal. Travel purchases include airfare, hotel stays, car rentals, travel agents, commuter transit and gas stations.
- How to earn and redeem: You can only earn Discover Miles if you are a Discover it® Miles cardholder. You earn an unlimited 1.5X miles on all purchases, and Discover will match all the rewards you earn during the first 12 months at the end of the year. You can redeem rewards for cash back (at a 1:1 rate), travel purchases or statement credits.
- Credit cards to consider: The only eligible card for this program is the Discover it Miles credit card, which features no annual fee.
My GM Rewards: Best for GM vehicle owners
- Why we picked it: The My GM Rewards program offers the chance to earn rewards on eligible GM products and services.
- Rewards program perks: Rewards can be redeemed for credit toward GM purchases or gift cards.
- How to earn and redeem: You can earn rewards points on eligible purchases or through a welcome offer.
- Credit cards to consider: The My GM Rewards Card™ earns 7X points on eligible GM products and services, along with 4X points on all other purchases. Plus, there is no annual fee and you can earn a $100 statement credit each year you spend $1,500 on fuel at eligible gas stations (after activation).
How to choose a credit card rewards program
With such a variety of rewards programs available, it may seem a little overwhelming to choose the right one for your own financial needs. The first step to choosing the right rewards program is to understand how you spend your money each month. Then, see which rewards program best matches your spending habits so you’ll be rewarded for spending you’re already planning.
Once you find a credit card loyalty program that aligns with your spending habits, see if the program has the following:
- Rewards you’re interested in earning
- Hotel and airline partners you’re interested in
- High-value redemption options or flexible redemption options
- Additional perks like dining programs or access to exclusive experiences
How to maximize your value
There are a number of ways to maximize the value of your points or miles. Make sure to:
- Get a credit card that rewards your existing spending habits. If you spend a lot on gas, groceries or business expenses, get a card that rewards you for these purchases.
- Activate program offers and rotating categories (if applicable). Some offers need to be activated before you can earn the reward. This includes cards that offer rotating categories that change each quarter.
- Take advantage of a welcome offer or sign-up bonus. You earn additional miles or points for meeting a specific spending threshold within a time period (typically three to six months).
- Redeem rewards with transfer partners when possible. You’ll often find the most value for your points or miles when you transfer them to eligible rewards program partners.
The bottom line
Credit cards can be a fantastic tool for earning rewards on purchases you are likely to make anyway. The key is to use a credit card responsibly, which includes paying the balance in full each month to avoid interest charges and only borrowing what you can afford. With responsible behavior and a great credit card rewards program, you can get the most value from your credit card.