When it comes to earning maximum rewards through credit card spending, category bonuses are key. After all, why earn one point per dollar spent on your largest purchases when you can earn two or more?
This is especially important since the number of points you earn on your biggest spending categories can help you justify a credit card’s annual fee. To truly maximize your point earnings, you need to be strategic with your cards and keep track of which one to use for specific purchases.
Understandably, not everyone enjoys this process. Some people prefer a simple yet rewarding credit card strategy. If you’re one of these consumers who doesn’t want to deal with category bonuses, then you may want to opt for a card that earns a flat rate above one point per dollar spent. Here’s a line-up of the best options:
Discover it Miles Card
The Discover it® Miles card flies mostly under the radar but happens to be one of the best cards if you want to earn generous rewards without tracking category bonuses. The card has no annual fee and offers 1.5 miles per $1 on all purchases. While this may not sound very appealing, it’s worth noting that Discover will match all of the miles you earn at the end of your first year via Discover Match®.
At the end of the year, you’ll get a nice bonus equal to the number of miles you already earned. This can be quite lucrative since there is no limit to the number of miles that Discover will match.
Granted, the Discover It Miles Card has no annual fee, but earning the equivalent of 3 miles on all credit card spending is an exceptional value proposition (Discover will match all of the miles you earn at the end of your first year via Discover Match®). Even beyond this first-year bonus, the card’s easy earning and redemption structure, along with a $0 annual fee, makes it an excellent option for those who want a credit card with a simplified reward system.
Amex Blue Business Plus Card
American Express has quite an extensive line-up of cards that earn Membership Rewards points. However, many of these cards have high annual fees that are hard to justify for folks who don’t travel enough to take advantage of their perks.
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express is unique because it has no annual fee and earns 2 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on the first $50,000 spent per year, 1X points after that.
This is incredibly generous, considering the many great uses for Amex Membership Rewards. For example, American Express is a transfer partner of ANA Mileage Club, which happens to offer some of the lowest award flights to Europe: 55,000 miles round-trip in economy and 88,000 in business class. With many other frequent flyer programs charging close to the same number of miles one-way, Amex Membership Rewards is a great program to earn points with.
As an added perk, you’ll be eligible for Amex Offers, which get you access to discounts and bonus points at popular retailers. Over the last year, I’ve saved almost $200 thanks to Amex Offers on my Blue Business Plus Card. Since this card has no annual fee, keeping it in my wallet has paid off—quite literally!
If you want to earn lots of Membership Rewards without dealing with category bonuses and high annual fees, the Blue Business Plus Card is a great option.
Chase Freedom Unlimited
If you want a no-annual-fee card that earns valuable points on all spending, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is an excellent option. The card earns at least 1.5 percent cash back on all spending. However, if you have an Ultimate Rewards-earning Chase card, you can convert these cash back rewards into Ultimate Rewards points.
Chase’s transfer partners include more than a dozen airlines and hotels, making Ultimate Rewards one of the most valuable currencies out there. You can redeem your cash back at a fixed value towards travel purchases or transfer them at a 1:1 ratio to valuable partners like World of Hyatt, United MileagePlus and Southwest Rapid Rewards, to name a few.
It’s a great companion to a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card since it allows you to earn more than 1 point per $1 spent on bonus categories offered by the Sapphire Preferred.
Since the Chase Freedom Unlimited has no annual fee, you can keep this card in your wallet long-term, strengthening your credit history without having to justify a recurring cost.
Citi Double Cash Card
Similar to the Chase Freedom Unlimited, the Citi® Double Cash Card is most valuable when it’s paired with a point-earning credit card. The card normally earns up to 2 percent cash back on all spending (Unlimited 1 percent as you buy, 1 percent as you pay for your purchases). However, if you have a credit card that earns Citi ThankYou® points, like the *Citi Prestige® Card or Citi Premier® Card, you can convert your cash back earnings into ThankYou points.
The Citi ThankYou program offers one of the most valuable rewards currencies, with access to 18 airline and hotel partners. While the Citi Prestige and Premier cards both offer generous category bonuses, adding the Citi Double Cash Card to the mix ensures that you earn an elevated bonus on all spending, regardless of category.
This can be quite beneficial if you’re channeling quite a bit of spending towards purchases that don’t qualify for category bonuses. It can also be an excellent option for those who don’t want to think too hard about leveraging category bonuses on every purchase.
Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard
Due to hefty fuel surcharges on some award flights, the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club program doesn’t receive much fanfare. However, the program offers plenty of sweet spots (10,000-point flights between New York and London, anyone?). The *Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard® is a great way to stock up on Flying Club miles – especially if you want a simplified earning structure.
The card earns 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases and 3 points per $1 on direct purchases made with Virgin Atlantic. At $90, the card’s annual fee is on the lower end of the spectrum for airline credit cards. Plus, you get the added benefit of earning airline elite status via credit card spending: You’ll receive 25 tier points for every $2,500 spent, rewarding you for your spending in more ways than one.
The bottom line
Earning lots of rewards and maximizing every dollar spent doesn’t have to be complicated. By adding one of these credit cards to your wallet, you can earn more than the standard one mile per dollar spent without having to remember category bonus amounts. Simplicity is key and it doesn’t get simpler than these cards.
*All information about the name Citi Prestige® Card and Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard here has been collected independently by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.