Apply now
On American Express's secure site
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply
See if you're pre‐approved for this card with CardMatch™
Rewards rate
  • 6% 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%).
  • 6% 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
  • 3% 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more.
  • 3% 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations
  • 1% 1% Cash Back on other purchases
Intro offer
$300 
Annual fee
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
Regular APR
14.74% - 24.74% Variable
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best for flat-rate cash rewards

Apply now
On Wells Fargo's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 2% Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases
Intro offer
$200 cash rewards 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
15.74%, 20.74%, or 25.74% Variable APR
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best for rotating category rewards

Apply now
On Discover's secure site
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.
Intro offer
Cashback Match™ 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
12.24% - 23.24% Variable
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best for automatic bonus category

Apply now
On Citi's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 5% Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, 1% cash back thereafter.
  • 1% Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Intro offer
$200 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best for for flexible travel redemption

Apply now
On Capital One's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 5X Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • 2X Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.
Intro offer
75,000 miles 
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
16.24% - 24.24% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)
Apply now
On Capital One's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 5% Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply
  • 1.5% Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
Intro offer
$200 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
15.24% - 25.24% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best for travel rewards on dining

Apply now
On American Express's secure site
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply
See if you're pre‐approved for this card with CardMatch™
Rewards rate
  • 4X Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
  • 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.
Intro offer
60,000 points 
Annual fee
$250
Regular APR
See Pay Over Time APR
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best for dining and entertainment with no annual fee

Apply now
On Capital One's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 8% Earn 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment purchases and tickets at Vivid Seats
  • 5% Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply
  • 3% Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®).
  • 1% Earn 1% on all other purchases.
Intro offer
$200 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
15.24% - 25.24% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best for travel rewards on everyday purchases

Apply now
On Citi's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 3X Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • 3X Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • 1X Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Intro offer
60,000 points 
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
16.74% - 24.74% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

BEST FOR FLAT-RATE TRAVEL REWARDS

Apply now
On Capital One's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 10X Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • 5X 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
  • 2X Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
Intro offer
75,000 miles 
Annual fee
$395
Regular APR
17.24% - 24.24% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Excellent (740 - 850)

Best travel card for beginners

Apply now
On Chase's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 5x 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3x 3x on dining.
  • 2x 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
Intro offer
80,000 points 
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
16.24% - 23.24% Variable
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best travel card with no annual fee

Apply now
On Capital One's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 5X Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • 1.25X Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day.
Intro offer
20,000 miles 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
15.24% - 25.24% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)
Apply now
On American Express's secure site
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply
See if you're pre‐approved for this card with CardMatch™
Rewards rate
  • 5X Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
  • 5X Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
Intro offer
Earn 100,000 points 
Annual fee
$695
Regular APR
See Pay Over Time APR
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best for frequent travelers

Apply now
On Chase's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 10x Earn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 5x Earn 5x total points on air travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 3x Earn 3x points on other travel and dining.
  • 1x Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Intro offer
50,000 points 
Annual fee
$550
Regular APR
17.24% - 24.24% Variable
Recommended credit
Excellent (740 - 850)

BEST BANK OF AMERICA TRAVEL CARD

Apply now
On Bank of America's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 2X Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases
  • 1.5X Unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases
Intro offer
50,000 points 
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
16.24% - 23.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Compare Bankrate’s top rewards credit cards

Card name Rewards highlights Welcome offer Annual fee Bankrate review score
Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%)
6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions
3% cash back on transit
3% cash back at U.S. gas stations
$300 statement credit after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first six months $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95 4.0 / 5
(Read full card review)
Wells Fargo Active Cash Card Unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first three months $0 3.8 / 5
(Read full card review)
Discover it Cash Back 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories (on up to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter, then 1%. Activation required) Automatic Cashback Match for the first year (all cash back earned in the first 12 months will be matched) $0 4.0 / 5
(Read full card review)
Citi Custom Cash Card 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, 1% cash back thereafter. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. 20,000 points (worth $200 in cash back) after spending $750 on purchases within the first three months $0 4.4 / 5
(Read full card review)
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Unlimited 2X miles on every purchase 75,000 miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months $95 4.1 / 5
(Read full card review)
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card Unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases $200 cash bonus after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months $0 3.2 / 5
(Read full card review)
American Express Gold Card 4X Membership Rewards® points per dollar at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (supermarket rate on up to $25,000 of purchases per year, then 1X points) 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first six months $250 4.3 / 5
(Read full card review)
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and grocery store purchases (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®) plus 1% cash back on all other purchases $200 cash bonus after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months $0 4.4 / 5
(Read full card review)
Citi Premier Card Unlimited 3% points on restaurant, supermarket, gas station, hotel and air travel purchases 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months $95 4.0 / 5
(Read full card review)
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card Unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel; 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel, and unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases 75,000 miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months $395 4.4 / 5
(Read full card review)
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more 80,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months $95 4.6 / 5
(Read full card review)
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card Unlimited 1.25X miles per dollar 20,000 miles after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months $0 3.8 / 5
(Read full card review)
The Platinum Card from American Express 5X points on directly-booked airfare and flights and prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 spent per calendar year)
2X points on prepaid car rentals through American Express Travel
1X points on all other purchases
100,000 points after spending $6,000 on purchases within the first six months $695 4.4 / 5
(Read full card review)
Chase Sapphire Reserve 5X points on air travel and 10X points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. 3X points on other travel and dining, 1x points on all other purchases 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months $550 4.4 / 5
(Read full card review)
Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card Unlimited 2X points on travel and dining, plus 1.5X points on all other purchases—which, if you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, can be boosted up to 3.5X points on travel and dining, and 2.62X points on all other purchases 50,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 90 days $95 4.0 / 5
(Read full card review)

A closer look at our top-rated rewards credit cards

Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

Best for everyday purchases

  • This card is a good fit for: Families and households with large grocery and gas station bills.
  • This card is not a great choice for: People who shop for groceries at superstores (like Target and Walmart) or wholesale clubs (like Costco or Sam’s Club), which don’t count toward the U.S. supermarkets rewards category.
  • What makes this card unique? Anyone who wants to cash in on their weekly trips to the grocery store will have a hard time finding a more rewarding card. Sure, you can find other cards that reward you for grocery purchases, but the elevated rate at U.S. supermarkets puts this card on a level of its own.
  • Is the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express worth it? Yes, even with the $95 annual fee ($0 introductory annual fee for the first 12 months), the cash back rate with the Blue Cash Preferred makes it extremely worth it.

Learn more: How to maximize the Amex Blue Cash Preferred.
Read our full Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express review or jump back to offer details.

Wells Fargo Active Cash Card

Best for flat-rate cash back

  • This card is a good fit for: Cash rewards seekers who prefer a simple, valuable earning structure.
  • This card is not a great choice for: International travelers looking for a card to use abroad. Each purchase outside of the U.S. will come with a 3 percent foreign currency conversion fee.
  • What makes this card unique? The generous rewards rate isn’t the only noteworthy feature. Cardholders who pay their monthly cellphone bill with the Active Cash card will get up to $600 of protection against covered damage or theft (subject to $25 deductible).
  • Is the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card worth it? It’s hard to go wrong with unlimited 2 percent cash rewards, especially since there’s no annual fee. If you’re looking for a combination of simplicity and value, the Active Cash is worthwhile.

Learn more: Is the Wells Fargo Active Cash worth it?
Read our Wells Fargo Active Cash Card review or jump back to offer details.

Discover it Cash Back

Best for rotating category rewards

  • This card is a good fit for: People who like the excitement of changing bonus categories.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Someone with fixed spending habits or a preference for a simple rewards structure.
  • What makes this card unique? Most rewards cards feature static rewards categories. The Discover it Cash Back keeps it exciting with rotating bonus categories. Each quarter you activate, you earn 5 percent cash back in a different set of bonus categories (on up to $1,500, then 1 percent).
  • Is the Discover it Cash Back worth it? Discover’s cash back categories are always changing, and so is the card’s value. The categories are usually pretty useful, and Discover released its 2022 cash back calendar so you can plan ahead on your spending.

Learn more: Is the Discover it Cash Back worth it?
Read our full Discover it Cash Back card review or jump back to offer details.

Citi Custom Cash Card

Best for automatic bonus category

  • This card is a good fit for: Someone with varied spending habits. Since the 5 percent cash back category (on up to $500 spent per billing cycle, then 1 percent) retroactively shifts to match the eligible category in which you spend the most each billing cycle, you won’t have to worry about maximizing your spending in a particular category.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Someone who wants to earn cash back in multiple categories. So if you’re looking for a card that rewards spending in several categories at once, this isn’t it.
  • What makes this card unique? Very few rewards cards offer a bonus category that automatically shifts to match your spending.
  • Is the Citi Custom Cash Card worth it? Yes, since the card automatically adjusts to your spending, it’s a hands-off rewards credit card that makes a great addition to your wallet.

Learn more: Citi Custom Cash Card takes cash back to a new high.
Read our full Citi Custom Cash Card review or jump back to offer details.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Best for flexible travel redemption

  • This card is a best for: People who want to earn a respectable rate of travel miles on purchases that aren’t travel-related.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Anyone looking to finance a purchase with their credit card, as there are no intro APR offers with this one.
  • What makes this card unique? The flat-rate 2X miles on purchases allows you to earn travel miles without traveling, a great perk for anyone who travels infrequently or spends more on non-travel related expenses.
  • Is the Capital One Venture Rewards worth it? This travel card’s rewards structure allows for solid travel rewards earnings on a range of purchases. If you’re looking for more luxury travel benefits and can handle a higher annual fee, there are other cards on the market that may fit better.

Learn more: Read our experts take on the Capital One Venture Rewards Card.
Read our full Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best for streamlined rewards

  • This card is a best for: Anyone who wants solid flat-rate rewards while avoiding the hassle of chasing specific bonus categories and enrollment dates.
  • This card is not a great choice for: People who want even higher rewards rates for specific spending categories.
  • What makes this card unique? Capital One rewards maintain their value no matter how you decide to redeem, which is a rare perk of this kind of rewards card.
  • Is the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards worth it? If you want a no-hassle rewards card with solid protections and decent intro APR offers on purchases and balance transfers, the Capital One Quicksilver is a good choice. However, if most of your spending lands in popular bonus categories, you may consider choosing a card that rewards that kind of spending at a higher rate.

Learn more: Read our experts take on the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card.
Read our Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.

American Express Gold Card

Best for travel rewards on dining purchases

  • This card is a good fit for: Foodies who want to stockpile travel rewards.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Travelers who want luxury benefits like airport lounge access.
  • What makes this card unique? When deciding on a rewards card, you sometimes have to pick a favorite: dining at restaurants or cooking at home. The ability to earn the same great rate on dining and at U.S. supermarkets is rare.
  • Is the American Express Gold Card worth it? Possibly, since savvy spenders can quickly rack up Membership Rewards points on everyday purchases and transfer them to one of Amex’s airline partners to potentially boost their value.

Learn more: Why the Amex Gold is worth the $250 annual fee.
Read our full American Express Gold Card review or jump back to offer details.

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best for dining and entertainment with no annual fee

  • This card is a good fit for: On-the-go foodies and thrill-seekers.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Shoppers searching for a go-to card for the everyday essentials.
  • What makes this card unique? If you’re looking for another card that rewards entertainment purchases at a boosted rate, you’ll have to look pretty hard. Tickets to sporting events, aquariums and zoos, movies, concerts and dance clubs are all on Capital One’s list of eligible entertainment purchases.
  • Is the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card worth it? The answer is a resounding yes—but only for people who regularly dine out or attend events. If you’re a homebody that spends in non-entertainment categories, other cards will serve you better.

Learn more: Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card Benefits Guide.
Read our full Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.

Citi Premier Card

Best for travel rewards on everyday purchases

  • This card is best for: Occasional travelers who can rake in more rewards from everyday expenses like food and gas.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Travelers looking for extensive travel perks, protections and reward redemption options. This card doesn’t carry as many travel features as competitors and Citi ThankYou points aren’t the most valuable rewards available.
  • What makes this card unique? The Citi Premier is a handy catch-all travel card for travelers that spend a bit more time at home and on the road than abroad. Not only does its valuable spread of bonus categories and hotel benefits more than make up for the $95 annual fee, but it also pairs incredibly well with other Citi rewards cards.
  • Is the Citi Premier card worth it? Although its travel features may seem weak for its price tag, this card’s all-around value is plenty satisfying compared to others in its class. You can easily recoup its annual fee by spending just $267 across your 3X categories each month or by taking advantage of the yearly $100 annual hotel discount on a stay of $500 or more.

Learn more: Who should get the Citi Premier Card?
Read our full Citi Premier Card review or jump back to offer details.

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Best for flat-rate travel rewards

  • This card is a good fit for: Non-brand loyalists.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Credit users on a budget; this card charges a $395 annual fee, though that charge is relatively reasonable, given its benefits and the higher annual fees associated with other premium credit cards.
  • What makes this card unique? The anniversary bonus (10,000 bonus miles, equal to $100 towards travel, every year, starting on your first anniversary) is a nice boon—and a rarity among general purpose premium travel credit cards.
  • Is the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card worth it? Definitely. The $395 annual fee is steep on the surface, but savvy spenders could recoup it by cashing in all their annual statement credits, racking up rewards and leveraging the ancillary benefits.

Learn more: Is the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card worth it?
Read our full Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Best travel card for beginners

  • This card is a good fit for: Occasional to frequent travelers who want great value without the annual fee of a luxury travel card.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Travelers who value luxury perks like airport lounge access.
  • What makes this card unique? Chase’s airline and hotel transfer partner list is top-notch, so the fact that you can transfer your points at a 1:1 ratio makes this card even more valuable.
  • Is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card worth it? Absolutely. As long as you redeem travel and rewards through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, you can reap an extra 25 percent value on your cash back, making it a worthwhile card.

Learn more: Read our experts take on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred Card review or jump back to offer details.

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Best no annual fee travel card

  • This card is a good fit for: Beginner travelers.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Frequent travelers who want to capitalize on their travel purchases.
  • What makes this card unique? Instead of having to book your rewards travel through the issuer’s site, you can redeem your miles as a statement credit to cover travel purchases made on your card within the last 90 days. This allows you to truly hunt around for the best deal, whether that’s through Capital One or another merchant.
  • Is the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card worth it? It can be worth it for beginner travelers, if you’re patient while earning miles since the 1.25X miles rate is a little low. However, if you book hotels and rental cars through Capital One’s travel portal, you’ll earn 5X miles.

Learn more: Capital One VentureOne Card Benefits Guide.
Read our full Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.

The Platinum Card from American Express

Best for luxury travelers

  • This card is a good fit for: Luxury-minded travelers who can leverage the card’s deep roster of yearly credits, airport lounge access, shopping perks and airline and hotel privileges.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Casual travelers who care more about the sights than how comfortable their trip is. The Amex Platinum’s luxury perks  provide much of the card’s value, so the $695 annual fee can be a deal-breaker if you’re more focused on everyday value.
  • What makes this card unique? The wealth of travel and shopping protections, assorted credits and airport and hotel perks included can offer thousands of dollars in value.
  • Is the American Express Platinum card worth it? Cardholders who fly often, hop hotels and value the peace of airport lounges will probably find the Amex Platinum well worth it. But if your card strategy could use a dose of everyday value and you doubt you’ll take full advantage of the card’s annual credits, then it likely won’t be worth the cost.

Learn more: Is the Amex Platinum worth the yearly fee?
Read our full Platinum Card from American Express review or jump back to offer details.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Best for frequent travelers

  • This card is a good fit for: Frequent travelers who want to earn rewards on travel and dining.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Occasional travelers or fee-averse consumers.
  • What makes this card unique? Among other credits, this card comes with a $300 annual travel credit, which is automatically applied to your account when you make a travel purchase. The Platinum Card® from American Express offers a similar credit, but it’s much harder to use since it only covers incidental purchases with one airline each year.
  • Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve worth it? Travel rewards beginners and occasional travelers might find it tough to get more than $550 of value out of this card each year. But if you make use of the credits and additional perks, the Sapphire Reserve is easily worth it.

Learn more: Chase Sapphire Reserve Benefits Guide.
Read our full Chase Sapphire Reserve card review or jump back to offer details.

Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card

Best Bank of America travel card

  • This card is a good fit for: Bank of America account holders with above-average savings account balances—or at least travelers that enjoy in-flight commodities.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Cardholders who don’t maintain at least a $50,000 average savings account balance with Bank of America. Without at least Platinum Preferred Rewards status, other cards can earn more all-around value for the same annual fee.
  • What makes this card unique? Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program can boost your rewards rates by 25 percent to 75 percent, bestowing possibly the best flat rewards rate available. What’s more, infrequent flyers can use their points for cash back without losing value.
  • Is the Bank of America Premium Rewards card worth it? It’s not hard to offset the card’s annual fee with the up to $100 in annual airline incidentals credits included or via rewards on travel and dining (you’ll only need to spend about $396 per month to cover the fee). However, the card’s value will vary heavily based on your Preferred Rewards tier.

Learn more: Our experts take on the Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card.
Read our full Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card review or jump back offer details.


What is a rewards credit card?

Rewards credit cards accumulate points, miles or cash back for purchases. As the name implies, for every dollar spent, issuers credit your account with rewards. These rewards can be earned at a flat rate—like unlimited 1 percent cash back on all purchases—or offer a higher rate for certain categories, like earning 5 points for every dollar spent on travel-related purchases.

Depending on the issuer, some of the best credit cards for rewards offer distinct rewards programs and have specific rules concerning how you can redeem your rewards. However, understanding the issuer’s credit card rewards program can help you take advantage of all the perks and benefits it offers.

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The more you know…
Our in-house expert Ana Staples obtained more than $3,000 in value from her credit cards in 2021. Learn more about her success and how you can maximize your credit card value.

What are the best ways to use reward cards in 2022?

As you navigate the post-pandemic world, your rewards strategy may need to shift with your spending habits to squeeze the most value out of your credit cards.

  • If you’re ready to get back to traveling, you may want to consider a travel credit card. But if you’re still apprehensive about traveling or plan to scale back your travel spending, a flexible card that lets you redeem rewards for more than just travel—including for cash back at the same rewards value—may be a great pick. This includes cards like the Bank of America Premium Rewards card and the Discover it® Miles.
  • A card that rewards gas purchases or transit may be a good idea if you’re back to commuting to work or school. Then again, if you’re working remotely or on a hybrid schedule, you may not need to rely on a card for commuting as much and may be better off with a flat-rate card that covers a wide variety of everyday expenses. A customizable bonus category card like the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card could also be a great fit, as these offer extra versatility by letting you shift your bonus categories to fit your monthly spending habits.
  • If you’ve gotten tired of cooking at home, a restaurant rewards card may be more valuable than a credit card that will help you earn rewards on groceries. The Capital One SavorOne strikes a great balance between both categories, but a travel card that rewards dining like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Amex Gold may be even more lucrative if you’re eager to pack your bags and travel this summer.

Types of rewards credit cards

Navigating all the rewards card options available to you can be difficult. That’s why we broke out some of the most common types of rewards credit cards, along with more detailed recommendations from our team on the best cards in each category.

Cash back cards

With a cash back card, you’ll be rewarded with a percentage of your purchases paid back to you. Cash back works by applying that percentage as a statement credit toward your account, but some cards can directly deposit the cash back into your checking or savings account. Here are the three main types of cash back.

  • Flat-rate cash back cards offer a fixed percent back—usually between 1 and 3 percent—on all purchases. For people who prefer to set and forget, a flat-rate credit card is an excellent, no-fuss option. The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, for example, earns 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases.
  • Tiered cash back cards reward specific types of purchases at a higher rate. These cards then reward other purchase categories at varying rates until it reaches the base rate for all other purchases. For example, the Blue Cash Preferred earns different cash back percentages in different categories, offering its highest rate with U.S. supermarkets and select U.S. streaming services.
  • Dynamic bonus category cards are similar to tiered cash back cards in that they reward certain purchases at a higher rate. The difference is that the bonus categories change. Depending on the card, the issuer may assign new categories quarterly to align with seasonal trends, or you may be able to change the category at your discretion. For example, one of the most popular dynamic bonus category cards is the Discover it Cash Back, which offers 5 percent cash back on purchases in a different category each quarter you enroll (on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter, then 1 percent). Discover’s Q2 2022 cash back categories cover purchases at gas stations and Target.

Travel rewards cards

With a travel rewards card, you can expect perks like discounted trips, seat upgrades, travel insurance benefits, statement credits and more on top of your rewards. There are two main types of travel rewards credit cards: co-branded and general-purpose. The way you earn and redeem rewards depends on which type you have:

  • A co-branded travel card will offer boosted rewards on purchases with a particular airline or hotel. Airline cards typically earn airline miles as rewards, while hotel credit cards usually offer points that can be redeemed for award nights and other perks. Co-branded credit cards are typically less flexible than general-purpose travel cards because in most cases you can only redeem your rewards through the specific airline or hotel associated with your card.
  • General-purpose travel cards will only be tied to a card issuer like Chase, rather than a single airline or hotel brand. You’ll earn points on every purchase, which can be redeemed in the issuer’s travel portal for flights, hotel stays and more through a variety of brands. Some cards let you transfer points to a favorite airline or hotel loyalty program. If you’re a brand loyalist, this can often yield the highest rewards value.

Whether your card earns points or miles doesn’t matter much—what’s more important is the value of the rewards you earn. For example, although many co-branded hotel cards carry higher rewards rates or sign-up bonuses on paper than general-purpose travel cards, the points they earn often aren’t as valuable when redeemed. Consider the Marriott Bonvoy program: Marriott points are only worth about 0.8 cents each—less than half the average value of Amex Membership Rewards points (worth up to 2 cents apiece according to The Points Guy).

This potential value range is what gives points and miles a leg up over cash back for some cardholders. While cash back rewards are simply a percentage of your spending, points and miles can offer outsized value based on how you redeem them. For example, while Membership Rewards points are worth just 1 cent per point if you redeem them through American Express Travel, they can be worth up to 2 cents per point if you transfer to the right Amex travel partner. On the other hand, that value can drop to just 0.6 cents per point if you opt for a statement credit redemption. This means you may have to put more effort into planning your redemptions to maximize the value of your rewards. If you’re not keen on the elbow grease involved, or you don’t travel as much and want the option to trade rewards in for travel, cash back and more at a consistent value, then a cash back or general rewards card might be a better choice than a travel card.

Want to learn more? Read our guide to credit card travel rewards.

Business rewards cards

Most small-business credit cards are also rewards cards, falling under the umbrella of cash back or travel rewards. But unlike rewards cards meant for consumers, you’ll need to show proof that you operate a business in order to be approved. Also, the card should only be used for business expenses.

With a business rewards card, you can earn rewards for your most common business expenses—like copier ink, advertising services or flights. For example, with the Ink Business Cash® Credit Card, you can earn 5 percent cash back at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services and 2 percent cash back at gas stations and restaurant purchases (on up to the first $25,000 in combined purchases each account anniversary year, then 1 percent).

These cards may offer perks like free employee cards, travel and car rental insurance, travel statement credits and more. If you’re interested in applying for a business credit card, read our tips on how to choose the right business credit card.

Want to learn more? Full guide to business credit card rewards.

Pros and cons of rewards credit cards

A rewards card can be a great way to earn lucrative points, miles or cash back for the purchases you’re already making. However, there are some downsides to be aware of before applying. If you’re wondering whether rewards credit cards are worth it, here are a few pros and cons to keep in mind when shopping for your next rewards card:

Pros

  • Rewards: We know it’s a given, but the main pro of these cards is the value of getting rewards on your everyday purchases.
  • Sign-up bonuses: Rewards cards can come with generous sign-on bonuses (extra points or miles for spending a certain amount of money in a set time period, usually your first three months), especially when compared to other types of credit cards.
  • Additional benefits: Depending on the card and issuer, you could gain access to additional bonuses and benefits, like airport lounge access, hotel upgrades, and certain travel or shopping protections.

Cons

  • Rewards caps: Some travel cards carry earning caps, which limit the amount of points or miles you can earn. This factor can reduce the value of the card, especially if there’s an annual fee.
  • Higher APRs: Rewards credit cards tend to carry higher interest rates, especially compared to low-interest cards. As such, they’re not a great fit for people who tend to carry a balance from time to time.
  • Higher annual fees: The more generous the rewards system, the higher the annual fee. Unless you maximize your rewards earnings, it can be hard to outweigh the cost of the annual fee.

Who should get a rewards credit card?

The world of rewards credit cards can be confusing to newcomers. If you’re deciding when to take the plunge and acquire a rewards card, aligning your new card with some of your goals is a great way to determine if the card is right for you. Here are a few people who can benefit the most from rewards credit cards:

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Bankrate insight
If you’re trying to maximize your rewards earnings, it makes sense to use a combination of credit cards. Ideally, you would have a card that rewards your most frequent purchase categories at a high rate, as well as a good flat-rate card. Just be sure you’re ready to manage several accounts, especially if they come with annual fees.

Who should skip a rewards credit card?

A rewards credit card isn’t right for everyone. If you’re trying to rebuild your credit, establish credit or are just trying to stick to your first household budget, using a rewards credit card could do more harm than good.

Using a starter credit card or credit card for bad credit should be your first stop before graduating into the realm of rewards credit cards.

How to choose the best credit card for rewards

When choosing a rewards card, it pays to do some research and reflection. In general, you should ask yourself:

  • What types of purchases do you spend the most on? Whether it’s groceries, travel, dining out or something else, it’s important to select a card that fits with your highest spending categories. If your budget isn’t focused on one specific category, consider applying for a flat-rate card that rewards all eligible purchases. If you spend primarily in specific categories, a card that earns higher rewards in specific categories or in rotating categories can help maximize your rewards potential.
  • What kind of rewards are you interested in? Deciding between cash back or points and miles ultimately comes down to your personal preference on the type of rewards you want. If you’re a frequent traveler and want to enhance your air travel experience by earning rewards towards flights and hotel room upgrades, a travel credit card that earns points or miles would be a good fit. If you’d rather earn straightforward rewards on everyday purchases, a cash back credit card may be better.
  • How much effort are you willing to put into maximizing your earnings? Many cash back rewards cards are relatively low-effort, as they generally earn rewards on everyday purchases without requiring extra effort to maximize your redemption value. In fact, some issuers even allow you to automatically redeem cash back for an easier experience. But if you don’t mind putting a bit of effort into deciding how best to use your rewards, a travel-centric rewards card may be more lucrative, as you can be strategic about how you redeem your points or miles to maximize their value. This may mean booking or redeeming through an issuer’s travel portal, transferring points or miles to a higher-value travel partner with a favorable transfer ratio or taking advantage of limited-time transfer bonuses or promotions. While this effort can easily pay off, it may not be worth the headache for everyone.
  • What fees are associated with the card? You’ll need to decide whether a card’s rewards and perks outweigh the cost of its fees. There’s no single right answer, though—it all depends on your personal circumstances and goals. For example, a card that charges a modest annual fee but no foreign transaction fees may actually be a better deal for frequent international travelers than a card that charges no annual fee but comes with a 3 percent foreign transaction fee. However, the most important factor is whether the card’s benefits and the rewards you’ll earn on your spending will justify the annual fee. For instance, the Blue Cash Preferred has a $95 annual fee after the first year, but you can make up that cost in cash back by spending around $132 per month at U.S. supermarkets. On the other hand, if you do most of your shopping at a superstores not eligible for more than 1 percent back (like Target or Walmart), the card’s annual fee will be much harder to justify. The same goes for pricier options, like luxury travel cards: Will you use perks like airport lounge access, dining credits or hotel elite status enough to justify hundreds of dollars in fees?
  • Which rewards program best fits your spending and offers maximum value? Just as important as deciding how much effort you’ll put into redeeming your rewards, figuring out how a rewards program will complement your goals and spending habits determines whether a cash back, points or miles program is best for you. Although not all cash back programs are as straightforward as a flat-rate card’s, cash back is generally a better fit if you prefer a brass-tacks approach—earning consistent, easy-to-redeem rewards on everyday expenses. Bonus mile reward programs are best if you want to travel and your biggest expenses are in popular categories like travel, dining, hotels, groceries and gas. Meanwhile, point-based rewards programs tend to offer more flexible redemption options for cardholders that may want to redeem for more than just travel (including for cash back, merchandise and more). While bonus points are often worth more toward travel—meaning you may still need to take advantage of certain issuer portal redemption options and transfer travel partners to maximize your rewards’ value (such as for American Express Membership Rewards points)—some point programs (like Chase Ultimate Rewards) provide 1:1 value toward cash back and a bit more value for travel bookings in case you’re not a devout traveler.
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Bankrate insight
Nearly 1 in 3 rewards credit cardholders didn’t redeem any rewards in 2020, a Bankrate survey found. While 69 percent of cardholders did redeem cash back, points or miles, 55 percent of those did so for less than $300 in value.

Still unsure if a rewards credit card is right for you? Check out our Credit Card Spender Type Tool where you can get personalized credit card recommendations based on your credit score, spending habits and daily needs.

How to calculate the value of credit card rewards points

To find out if a rewards card is worth it for you, you’ll need to do some quick math. The easiest way to calculate the value of your rewards points is to divide the cash value of what you’re redeeming your points for by the number of points required to redeem it. For example if you redeem your points for a plane ticket that would normally cost $700 and you need 70,000 points, your credit card rewards are worth 1 cent apiece.

$700 (cost of ticket) / 70,000 (points needed) = 1 cent (value of reward point)

With some rewards credit cards, the value of your points change based on what you redeem them for. For instance, some points redeemed for cash back are worth less than if you redeemed them for travel.

How to maximize your rewards

Developing a thorough credit card strategy doesn’t happen overnight. Here are a few ways you can maximize your rewards:

  • Target your spending categories: If your card has special categories that earn higher rewards rates, concentrate your spending in those areas.
  • Earn your sign-up bonus: Understand how long you have to meet the spending requirement associated with the offer, but avoid overspending to meet the threshold in time. Then, redeem your bonus through the optimal redemption method (such as transfer partners, the issuer travel portal, etc.).
  • Leverage your extra benefits: Be sure you know how and when to cash in statement credits, protections and special access to squeeze the most value out of your card and offset any annual fees, without relying on your rewards earned via spending.
  • Double up on cards to earn more: To earn even more rewards, you can combine credit cards that earn rewards for different types of spending. Combining cards that earn bonus rewards in your highest spending categories with a supporting flat-rate rewards card is an excellent way to ensure you earn rewards on all of your key purchases, including those that fall outside of typical credit card bonus categories.
  • Redeem through the issuer’s portal: In some cases, redeeming through the issuer’s portal can boost the value of your rewards (such as with Chase Ultimate Rewards cards). This isn’t always the case, however, so be sure to pick the redemption option that offers the most value.]
  • Understand merchant category codes (MCCs): These four-digit codes classify where purchases fall into your card’s bonus categories. Knowing your card network’s MCCs allows you to see whether you need to change your shopping habits, which card is better for which expense and how you may be able to snag unexpected rewards.
  • Track your spending: If you have a card with rotating or tiered bonus categories, you may need to activate or enroll to earn those rewards each period. Similarly, you’ll want to track your spending and make sure you aren’t spending beyond your card’s rewards cap if another card could be earning more on the extra spending.
  • Make sure to offset the annual fee: Look at the value of the rewards you typically earn for your spending to be sure you’re earning enough rewards to more than cover the cost of the annual fee. If your rewards value falls short of the annual fee or barely covers it, you may want to consider downgrading to a no annual fee card that may offer more potential value. On the other hand, you may want to upgrade to annual fee card if you’ll earn more rewards and valuable perks.
  • Don’t carry a balance: Carrying a balance leads to interest charges, which can quickly eat through any rewards you’ve earned.

How we chose the best rewards credit cards

Bankrate uses a 5-star system to assign scores to credit cards available from our partners. With rewards credit cards, we focus on factors including:

Rewards value

The cards on our list feature some of the industry’s finest rewards programs, with generous earning rates and consistently high value of points or miles.

Low cost of ownership

Is the card a good deal, money-wise? Do the benefits and rewards outweigh annual fees and other costs? With the best rewards credit cards, the answer to both questions needs to be yes.

Redemption options

The best rewards cards make it easy for you to redeem your cash back, travel miles or rewards points. Top cards that earn travel miles offer flexible options for using them, including transfers to travel partners.

Benefits and perks

Benefits such as discounts, purchase protection and travel insurance add value to your credit card even when you're not using it to earn rewards.

More information on rewards credit cards

For more information on all things rewards cards, continue reading content from our credit card experts:


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Frequently asked questions about rewards credit cards

about the author
Mariah Ackary is a personal finance writer who specializes in small businesses and credit. Mariah is a lifelong writer, but joined the Bankrate team in 2019, excited by the opportunity to help people make good financial decisions. Send your questions to mackary@bankrate.com
about the editor
Former Senior Editor Barry Bridges has been writing about credit cards, personal loans, mortgages and other personal finance products since 2017. Before joining Bankrate, he was an award-winning newspaper journalist in his native North Carolina.

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