Best Rewards Credit Cards

Want to get a jump on earning credit card rewards in 2020? Check out the best rewards cards available from our partners, then apply securely and start earning points, miles or cash back today.

Bankrate Picks - Best Rewards Credit Cards for July 2020:

Need more information?

Skip down to read our card profiles and expert advice.

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Best for rewards on small purchases

Citi Image

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent (740 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Citi's secure website

Citi Rewards+℠ Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases.
Welcome Offer:
Earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% intro for 15 months on Purchases
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% intro for 15 months on Balance Transfers
Regular APR:
13.49% - 23.49% (Variable)

Card Details

  • The Citi Rewards+℠ Card - the only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase - with no cap.
  • Earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.49% - 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfer fee — either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.49% - 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for points flexibility

Chase Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Chase's secure website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel. 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide. 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Welcome Offer:
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Annual Fee:
$95
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
15.99%-22.99% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for pairing with another rewards card

Chase Image

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent (740 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Chase's secure website

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Rewards Rate:
3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit 3X points on dining at restaurants 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Welcome Offer:
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Annual Fee:
$550
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
16.99%-23.99% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • One Year Complimentary Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value). Complimentary DashPass subscription from DoorDash after activating by 12/31/21.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for luxury rewards

American Express Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On American Express's secure website

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Rewards Rate:
5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
Welcome Offer:
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
Annual Fee:
$550
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
N/A

Card Details

  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Member only.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts® program at over 1,000 properties. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

Best for travel rewards on dining

American Express Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On American Express's secure website

American Express® Gold Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X). Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
Welcome Offer:
Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
Annual Fee:
$250
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
See Rates & Fees

Card Details

  • Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
Citi Image

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent (740 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Citi's secure website

Citi® Double Cash Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn cash back twice. Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
Welcome Offer:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% intro for 18 months on Balance Transfers
Regular APR:
13.99% - 23.99% (Variable)

Card Details

  • Earn cash back twice. Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.99% - 23.99% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for your first rewards credit card

Chase Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Chase's secure website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Rewards Rate:
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
Welcome Offer:
Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
14.99 - 23.74% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No annual fee
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Some of the offers on this page may have expired.

The information about the Capital One Cards has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

This page includes information about Discover products that are not currently available on bankrate.com and may be out of date.


Author: Barry Bridges | bbridges@bankrate.com


How to choose and use a rewards credit card

With a rewards credit card you can earn cash back, points or airline miles on the purchases you already make, usually at a set percentage of your spending. You can redeem your rewards for statement credits, cash back, airline tickets, hotel nights, gift cards and more.

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

  • What types of purchases you spend the most on – grocery stores, travel, dining out, etc.
  • What kind of rewards you’re interested in – travel, cash back, etc.
  • How much effort you’re willing to put into maximizing your earnings

Check out our guide to choosing and using the best rewards credit card for you, along with in-depth profiles of the top rewards cards available from our partners.

Bankrate’s picks for 2020’s best rewards credit cards

Card Name Rewards Highlights Bankrate Review Score
Citi Rewards+℠ Card   2x ThankYou Points at supermarkets and gas stations on up to $6,000 in combined purchases per year 4.6/5
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide 4.8/5
Chase Sapphire Reserve® 3X points on dining and travel worldwide and 1X points on everything else 5.0/5
The Platinum Card® from American Express 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (Annual Fee: $550) 4.8/5
American Express® Gold Card 4X Membership Rewards® points at restaurants worldwide (Annual Fee: $250) 4.4/5
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card (not currently available) 3X points on eating out and dining in, travel, transit, gas station purchases and popular streaming services 4.8/5
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card Unlimited 2X miles 4.7/5
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card  Unlimited 1.5% cash back 4.7/5
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express 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 at select U.S. department stores (Annual fee: $0) 4.5/5
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card  Unlimited 1.25X miles 4.4/5
Discover it® Cash Back (not currently available) 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories on up to $1,500 per quarter, then 1% (activation required) 4.7/5
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card Unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment. Unlimited 2% cash back at grocery stores 4.9/5
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card (not currently available) 3% cash back in choice category and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) 4.5/5
Chase Freedom Unlimited® Unlimited 1.5% cash back 4.6/5
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on 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 (Annual Fee: $95) 4.6/5

A closer look at our top-rated rewards credit cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Why we rate it best for flexible rewards points

The points you earn with your Chase Sapphire Preferred receive a 25% bump in value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through the Ultimate Rewards portal, and you also get the benefit of a 1-1 point transfer with travel partners (nine airlines and four hotel brands). Some rewards portals can be on the restrictive side, but Chase Ultimate Rewards offers a refreshing contrast.

Why it might not be for you

The $95 annual fee, although reasonable, puts some pressure on the cardholder to maximize points value to offset the cost.

Our final thought

The combination of the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal can bring lucrative travel rewards even for the casual traveler.

Read the full review and apply on Chase’s secure website.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Why we rate it best for pairing with another rewards card

Pairing the Chase Sapphire Reserve with another card that earns Ultimate Rewards points will allow you to maximize your rewards on everything you buy, not just travel and dining. Consolidating points across accounts is a cinch, and moving points to the Chase Sapphire Reserve can boost their value by as much as 50 percent when redeemed for travel through the Chase Portal.

Why it might not be for you

Though the card offers a slew of valuable perks that more than cover its annual fee, $550 per year may still be tough for frugal cardholders to swallow. That’s doubly true if you don’t place a priority on luxury travel benefits like airport lounge access.

Our final thought

Offering frequent travelers tremendous value and flexibility, the Chase Sapphire Reserve makes it easy to earn outsized rewards on travel and dining and to transfer or pool points to make the most of your rewards.

Read the full review and apply on Chase’s secure website.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Why we rate it best for luxury rewards

Few cards can compete with the Amex Platinum when it comes to luxury perks and travel benefits. The card gets you hundreds of dollars worth of credits for airline fees, expedited security screening, rideshares, high-end shopping and more. It’s also your ticket to all Priority Pass, Delta Sky Club and Airspace airport lounges, as well as Amex’s ultra-posh Centurion Lounges.

Why it might not be for you

If you don’t do a ton of traveling, the card’s bonus rewards categories are sure to disappoint. While you’ll earn an impressive 5X points on prepaid hotels and travel booked directly with airlines or through the American Express Travel portal, all other purchases earn just 1X points.

Our final thought

The Amex Platinum has long been a top choice for rewards-savvy travelers, and assuming you’ll take advantage of them, the card’s unparalleled credits and luxury perks should eclipse its $550 annual fee.

Read the full review and apply on the American Express secure website.

American Express® Gold Card

Why we rate it best for travel rewards on dining

Foodies who want to stockpile travel rewards can’t go wrong with the Amex Gold: You’ll earn 4X points per dollar at restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1X). Even if you don’t spend much on travel, you can quickly rack up Membership Rewards points and transfer them to one of Amex’s airline partners to potentially boost their value.

Why it might not be for you

Your points are most valuable when you transfer to an airline partner or book airfare through the American Express travel portal. Most other redemptions, like cash back or online shopping, will force you to sacrifice point value. If you’re not sure how you want to redeem your rewards, you may be better off with a more flexible rewards card.

Our final thought

If you want to earn travel rewards but don’t always spend a ton of money on travel, the Amex Gold could be a great fit. Home cooks and restaurant-goers alike will appreciate this card’s outsized rewards rate at restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets.

Read the full review and apply on the American Express secure website.

Citi Rewards+℠ Card

Why we rate it best for rewards on small purchases

This card has something that competitors currently don’t offer: the Round Up feature, which automatically rounds up rewards to the nearest 10 points on every purchase. A short trip to the supermarket, for example, is likely to result in more ThankYou points than you’d expect.

Why it might not be for you

ThankYou Points earned with this card are considered “basic” points. You’ll need to pair it with a Citi Premier℠ Card or Citi Prestige® Card to get maximum value for travel redemptions.

Our final thought

The Round Up feature boosts your earning potential even with small purchases. It’s a wrinkle that makes the Citi Rewards Card an intriguing option for people whose spending habits tend more toward “forage” than “splurge.”

Read the full review and apply on Citi’s secure website.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card (not currently available)

Why we rate it best for versatile rewards earning

Although it’s typically classified as a travel card, the Wells Fargo Propel also earns a generous 3X points in categories not directly related to travel: popular streaming services and eating out and dining in. If you’ve scaled back your travel recently, there’s more good news: You also have the option of redeeming points for cash back.

Why it might not be for you

You can’t transfer points to airline or hotel loyalty programs. The Wells Fargo Go Far® Rewards portal is your only option for redeeming points for travel, which some travelers could find restrictive.

Our final thought

Despite the limitations of the rewards portal, this card still offers an impressive array of categories where you can earn 3X points and a solid rewards rate, with no annual fee.

Read the full review and apply on Wells Fargo’s secure website.

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

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Why we rate it best for travel rewards

You’ll earn 2X miles per $1 on all purchases along with a 50,000 mile welcome bonus after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. You’ll also enjoy having the freedom to transfer miles to many travel loyalty programs, which makes the Capital One Venture even more useful and valuable.

Why it might not be for you

Look elsewhere if you can’t bear to travel without airport lounge access, a major perk offered by competitors including Chase, American Express and Mastercard.

Our final thought

The Capital One Venture is an exceptional rewards card with plenty of perks for the frequent traveler.

Read the full review and apply on Capital One’s secure website.

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Why we rate it best for flat-rate cash back rewards

Unlike some other flat-rate rewards cards, the Capital One Quicksilver doesn’t have an annual fee, a foreign transaction fee or complicated mechanisms that control how you earn your rewards.

Why it might not be for you

If the calendar influences your spending habits (big purchases during home improvement season, for example), you could earn more rewards with a bonus category card.

Our final thought

If you want a low-maintenance cash back card that makes earning rewards simple, the Capital One Quicksilver is well worth your consideration.

Read the full review and apply on Capital One’s secure website.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Why we rate it best for family rewards with no annual fee

You won’t find many cards that can earn this much cash back in family-friendly spending categories year-round, especially with no annual fee. The U.S. supermarkets category does have an annual spending limit before the cash back rate drops (3 percent to 1 percent), but that $6,000 cap still leaves plenty of room for substantial earnings.

Why it might not be for you

If you don’t devote a large chunk of your spending to this card’s family-oriented categories, you would probably see more benefit from a rewards card geared toward a different consumer profile.

Our final thought

With the Blue Cash Everyday Card, American Express offers the opportunity to earn exceptional cash back rewards without having to pay an annual fee. Budget-conscious families, take note.

Annual Fee: $0

Read the full review and apply on the American Express secure website.

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Why we rate it best travel card with no annual fee

An annual fee is sometimes the price you have to pay for generous travel rewards and benefits, but not in the case of the Capital One VentureOne. The rewards rate of 1.25x miles on every purchase might not be that exciting but the broad travel category definition and flexible redemption options sweeten the deal. Perks including 24-Hour Travel Assistance Services give the card’s value a nice boost.

Why it might not be for you

If you plan on using your miles to pay for travel booked outside of the Capital One website, the mileage credits have to be redeemed within 90 days of making your travel purchase.

Our final thought

You’d have to travel far and wide to find a rewards card that offers this kind of earning potential without charging an annual fee. The Capital One VentureOne is a solid choice among travel rewards cards.

Read the full review and apply on Capital One’s secure website.

Discover it® Cash Back (not currently available)

Why we rate it best for first-year cash back bonus

Discover Cashback Match™ automatically matches the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year. If you target your spending effectively in the rotating bonus categories, your earnings can add up quickly.

Why it might not be for you

The bonus categories process does require some effort on your part. If you forget to enroll every quarter or adjust your spending patterns, the 5% bonus on spending (up to the $1,500 quarterly maximum) becomes a missed opportunity.

Our final thought

The Discover it Cash Back is a desirable no annual fee rewards card, due in large part to its first-year bonus offer. If you take full advantage of the 5% bonus categories, the following years won’t be too shabby either.

Read the full review and apply on Discover’s secure website.

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Why we rate it best for dining and entertainment rewards

The 4% rewards rate on dining and entertainment makes the Capital One Savor a compelling choice for people who enjoy food and fun. Don’t mistake it for a two-trick pony, though, as it also offers 2% at grocery stores and 1% on everything else.

Why it might not be for you

If you prefer your kitchen and den to the restaurant and multiplex, consider an alternative like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. Its highlights include 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases per year (1% thereafter) and 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services.

Our final thought

If you’re frequently out on the town, you’ll find a lot of reasons to put the Savor Cash Rewards card in your wallet. Few cards offer this level of rewards for dining and entertainment.

Read the full review and apply on Capital One’s secure website.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card (not currently available)

Why we rate it best for cash back on seasonal shopping

With a typical rotating category card, the issuer determines which purchases earn more rewards each quarter. The Bank of America Cash Rewards card lets you choose your bonus category from one of six options, with the ability to change the category every calendar month. You could choose April home improvement and furnishings, June for travel, December for online shopping month, and so on.

Why it might not be for you

If there’s one downside to choosing your own bonus category, it puts the pressure on you to make choices that will earn the most rewards. Unless you have the discipline and planning skills to manage your category choices (and spending habits) effectively, you might find it difficult to maximize this card’s value.

Our final thought

The Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card offers an opportunity to earn generous rewards by adjusting the choice category to align with your seasonal spending. For best results, though, you’ll need to be a true card manager and not just a cardholder.

Read the full review and apply on Bank of America’s secure website.

The information about the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Why we rate it best as a first rewards credit card

Very few rewards cards make cash back this easy. You can just sit back and earn 1.5% cash back with every eligible purchase — no rotating categories or minimum requirement for redeeming cash back.

Why it might not be for you

A number of cards offer higher rewards rates. If you want a rewards rate with a larger scale on certain purchases, consider a card with rotating bonus categories.

Our final thought

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card is a great option for your first rewards card because it requires very little effort on your part to earn cash back and redemptions are easy. Overall, this card is a great no-hassle option with a lot of flexibility, all for no annual fee.

Read the full review and apply on Chase’s secure website.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Why we rate it best for everyday family purchases

The rewards rates in the U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations categories are particularly well-suited for busy families. The 6 percent cash back on select U.S. streaming services can also benefit households that have cut the cable cord. Don’t overlook the 3 percent earnings on transit, including rideshares, tolls and parking.

Why it might not be for you

If you don’t spend a lot of money in the high-rewards categories, you’ll probably have trouble getting maximum value and offsetting the $95 annual fee. If you buy a lot of your groceries at wholesale clubs, remember that most of those merchants won’t qualify in the U.S. supermarket category.

Our final thought

The Blue Cash Preferred Card offers exceptional cash back rewards for keeping your family fed and your vehicles fueled. It’s one of the best options on the market for on-the-go families.

Annual Fee: $95

Read the full review and apply on the American Express secure website.

Rewards cards: What they are and how they work

A rewards card can earn you points, miles or cash back for purchases made with the card. The card can be flat-rate — meaning it offers the same percentage back for every purchase — or offer rotating bonus categories —  meaning you’ll earn different percentages depending on the category in which your purchase falls.

Depending on the issuer, rewards cards offer distinct rewards programs and have specific rules concerning how you can redeem your rewards. Some issuers require you to redeem your rewards through the portal. There can also be restrictions on what you can redeem your rewards for, such as cash back, statement credit, gift cards, shopping, travel and more.

In some cases, redeeming through the portal adds value to your rewards. A prime example is using the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. When you use the portal to redeem points earned with this card for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises, the value increases 25%.

If you redeem 60,000 points for travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards, those points will be worth $750 instead of $600.

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, along with more detailed recommendations from our team on the best cards in each category.

Cash back

With a cash back card, you’ll be rewarded with a percentage of your purchases paid back to you. Your cash back will typically be applied as a statement credit toward your account, yet some cards can directly deposit the cash back into your checking or savings account. There are a few common cash back structures to decide between.

  • Flat-rate cash back cards offer a static percent back — usually between 1 and 3 percent – on all purchases. For those who prefer to set and forget, a flat-rate credit card is an excellent no-fuss option. The American Express Cash Magnet® Card, for example, earns 1.5 percent cash back on all eligible purchases.
  • Tiered cash back cards reward specific types of purchases at a higher rate. For instance, the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card earns 4 percent cash back on dining and entertainment purchases, 2 percent cash back at grocery stores and 1 percent on all other purchases. If you’re willing to spend strategically, you’ll likely find the most value in this option. Families, for example, may use the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express to earn 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1 percent, while using a different card for dining out.
  • Rotating category cash back cards like the Discover it Cash Back (not currently available) are similar to tiered cash back cards in that they reward certain purchases at a higher rate. The difference is that the spending categories change, usually each quarter. The categories will often align with seasonal trends. For example, you might earn 5 percent cash back on gas station purchases after activation (up to the quarterly spending limit and 1 percent after) in the summer months when people often take road trips.

Travel

With a travel rewards card, you can expect perks like discounted trips, seat upgrades, travel insurance benefits, statement credits and more. 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 will offer airline miles as rewards, while hotel credit cards usually offer reward points that can be redeemed for free nights and other perks. Co-branded credit cards are less flexible than general-purpose travel cards because 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 an airline or hotel brand. You’ll earn points on every purchase, which can be redeemed for flights, hotel stays and more through a variety of brands. When redeeming reward points for travel, you can use the card issuer’s travel portal. Some cards offer the flexibility of transferring your points to a favorite airline or hotel loyalty program. If you’re a brand loyalist, this can often yield the highest point value.

“I have [a lot of] credit cards and use each of them for specific reasons: free nights, free flights, upgraded hotel rooms, cash back, etc. Overall, though, the goal is to strategically earn rewards, perks, and cash back to allow my family of four to travel as much as we want for as little money as possible.”
— Lee Huffman, Travel & Lifestyle Writer at Bald Thoughts

Business

With a business rewards card, you can earn rewards for any business-related spending. The Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business, for example, will earn you an unlimited 2% cash back on every purchase for your business.

These cards may offer perks like free employee cards, travel and auto 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 card.

 

How much are rewards points worth?

It’s difficult to pin down exactly how much a travel rewards point is worth because it depends on how you choose to redeem them. That said, points are usually worth between 1 and 2 cents. You’ll get the most value of your rewards points by redeeming them for travel, rather than gift cards or statement credits. See The Points Guy’s monthly point valuations for estimated values of airline and hotel loyalty program points.

Learn more with Bankrate: Check out our guide to your first travel rewards card for tips on how to choose the right travel card option for you.

What is the highest-earning rewards card?

Of course, the card you can earn the most rewards with depends on your spending habits. Ideally, you should pick a credit card with a high rewards rate in a category that you spend a lot in. Here are some of the highest-earning rewards cards for various spending categories.

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Rewards rates

  • 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 annually, then 1 percent)
  • 6 percent cash back on select U.S. streaming services
  • 3 percent cash back on transit (including rideshares, tolls, taxis and buses)
  • 3 percent cash back at U.S. gas stations
  • 1 percent on everything else
  • Terms apply.

Limitations and potential drawbacks

  • 2.7 percent foreign transaction fee
  • $95 annual fee
  • 6 percent cash back applies to only the first $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets per year, then 1 percent
  • 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets does not include superstores (like Target), warehouse clubs (like Costco), specialty stores or convenience stores.

Read Bankrate’s review of the Blue Cash Preferred for full card benefits and information.

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card 

Rewards rates

  • 4 percent cash back on dining and entertainment purchases
  • 2 percent cash back at grocery stores
  • 1 percent on everything else

Limitations and potential drawbacks

  • 2 percent cash back at grocery stores does not include purchases made at superstores like Walmart or Target.

Read Bankrate’s review of the Capital One Savor for full card benefits and information.

Citi® Double Cash Card 

Rewards rates

  • Unlimited 2 percent cash back on all purchases: 1 percent as you buy, 1 percent as you make a payment

Limitations and potential drawbacks

  • 3 percent foreign transaction fee
  • 3 percent or $5 balance transfer fee, whichever is greater
  • No sign-up bonus

Read Bankrate’s full review of the Citi Double Cash Card for full card benefits and information.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Rewards rates

  • 10 points per dollar spent on Lyft purchases (through March 2022)
  • 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining (after earning your $300 travel credit)
  • 1 point per dollar on everything else

Limitations and potential drawbacks

  • Very high ($550) annual fee

Read Bankrate’s full review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® for full card benefits and information.

Redeeming your credit card rewards

A stash of rewards is only meaningful if you redeem them. Thankfully, many cards offer unlimited redemption and rewards that don’t expire, but it’s still important to consider all the ways rewards can be used prior to applying for a card.

  • Redemption options — Before redeeming, you should know what your particular card allows you to redeem for. Options generally include statement credit, cash back, gift cards, shopping, travel and charitable donations. If you plan on redeeming for travel, familiarize yourself with your particular card’s rules beforehand.
  • Rewards portals — Some rewards credit cards allow you to transfer your rewards to partner hotels and airlines, but more commonly, cards will require that travel be redeemed through their portal. Make sure to research which cards require this prior to applying, especially if you value flexibility.
  • Transferring rewards — If you’re interested in transferring your rewards from your card to an airline or hotel’s loyalty program, some cards allow you to do so and often for increased value. For example, many Chase cards allow you to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to other travel loyalty programs at a 1:1 value.

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 at every stage of your ownership.

Determine what your goals are

Before you apply for a card, decide what your goals are for using it. Would you like to do more traveling? Are you interested in saving money on everyday expenses like groceries and gas? Do you want to upgrade your airline or hotel status?

When you establish your long-term goals for your card use, you can then go on to develop a well-coordinated credit card strategy.

Take a look at your spending habits

The rewards card you choose should have a rewards structure centered around what you spend the most on. For example, if you manage a busy family of five, a rewards card that offers a high percentage of cash back on gas and groceries may be a good fit.

Should you already have one or more rewards cards, look for another that accomplishes a new goal or covers a segment of your budget not already accounted for.

Max out your spending categories

To get the most bang for your buck, you’re going to want to max out your card’s spending categories each quarter, should they have them. Cards with unlimited earning potential are an exception.

For example, if you owned the Discover it® Cash Back and spent $1,500 every three months on the 5% cash back rotating category, you’d have successfully maxed out the category at the 5% rewards rate (1% thereafter, activation required).

Double up on cards to earn more

To earn even more rewards, you can pair rewards cards that earn rewards for different types of spending.

Our most important piece of advice when it comes to pairing cards is to start slowly. Applying for multiple cards at once will only hurt your credit score — instead, start with the one that has the widest rewards net and slowly move onto others with more limited rewards categories.

If you’re interested in learning more about pairing cards, read our guide to the best credit card combinations.

Best credit card rewards programs

There’s a rewards program for everyone, from the brand loyalist to the thrifty traveler. When comparing rewards programs, it’s important to note that not all cards from an issuer are eligible. For example, not every American Express credit card will earn you American Express Membership Rewards points. If you like the sound of a rewards program, always check which credit cards are included before applying.

Overview of the best credit card rewards programs

Rewards Program Highlights
American Express Membership Rewards
  • Transfer your points to 19 airlines and three hotel partners
  • Use points to pay at checkout on Amazon.com, Paypal, Grubhub and more
Bank of America Preferred Rewards Earn boosted rewards based on the amount in your eligible Bank of America or Merrill account balances:

  • 25% rewards bonus for those with $20,000
  • 50% rewards bonus for those with $50,000
  • 75% rewards bonus for those with $100,000
Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Transfer points to 10 airline programs and three hotel programs at a 1:1 ratio
  • Book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal
  • Pay for Apple purchases through the Apple® Ultimate Rewards Store
Citi ThankYou
  • Transfer your points to 16 partner airlines
  • Use your points to make a payment on your student loan or mortgage
Hilton Honors
  • Tiered membership status allows you to earn up to 100% bonus points on purchases
  • Perks like digital check-in, free wifi and breakfast, executive lounge access and more
Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards
  • Earn 2X-10X points shopping on the online shopping portal
  • No option to transfer points

Survey points to millions of dollars in expired rewards

An estimated 29 percent of people who collect credit card rewards have let their rewards expire, according to a Bankrate.com survey. Those expired rewards translate to unknown amounts of money left on the table for thousands of consumers.

The survey also found that nearly half of travel loyalty program members have unintentionally forfeited valuable rewards by letting airline and hotel rewards expire.

In addition, the survey revealed a disconnect between the perceived value and the actual value of loyalty and credit card rewards, as well as a lack of awareness about the amount of rewards earned.

More than half of the people surveyed (53 percent) admitted that they didn’t know how much 10,000 rewards points/miles are worth. Generally, 10,000 points/miles are worth $100 to $199.

How to find important information in the fine print

If you’re new to rewards cards, it’s easy to assume that accumulating points is always as simple as just using your card.

However, racking up enough rewards for free travel or substantial cash back can be more complicated than it might seem. Checking out the fine print can help you avoid disappointing detours on your way to earning substantial rewards.

Bonus spending categories

The advantage of a rewards card’s rotating category bonuses is that they are usually the highest bonuses you can get, but there may be limits and loopholes. Here are a few to consider:

  • Spending definitions — Let’s say you have a rewards card that offers a bonus rate on grocery purchases. Some cards don’t include merchants such as Walmart or Target in their definition of grocery stores. Another example is gasoline purchases. If you buy gas at Costco, for example, remember that some bonus categories specify purchases at gas stations, not wholesale clubs.
  • Earning caps — Many cards put a limit on how much you can earn in a specific period of time. With the Chase Freedom and Discover it Cash Back, for instance, bonus earnings apply to just the first $1,500 spent each quarter.
  • Alternate payment methods — Third-party food apps, online gift cards and mobile wallet payment methods such as Apple Pay or Google Pay might not always count toward bonus spending.

Non-automatic perks

Some card benefits are automatically available when you sign up and use the card, such as earning cash back or getting consumer purchase protections, such as extended warranties. In other cases, you must be proactive. You’ll need to sign up or enroll.

Whether it’s elite status with a hotel or rental car chain, baggage fee credits for when you fly or concierge services, read your card’s fine print carefully to find out what you need to do to enroll. Usually it’s as easy as a one-time or yearly online registration.

Special redemption options

Once you’re comfortable with your credit card’s rewards program, you may be able to find some advanced strategies. One way to do that is to analyze your redemption options.

For example, points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred card are worth 1 cent each when redeemed for statement credits. But Chase offers cardholders 25 percent more value when they redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, boosting the point value to 1.25 cents.

Also, consider how your brand loyalty and affiliations could ramp up your points. Some banks reward card users for also having a checking account or retirement account with them.

Avoid costly assumptions

There’s a learning curve when it comes to getting the most out of your credit card rewards programs, especially when you make assumptions.

Foreign transaction fees

If you’re more of a domestic traveler, you might not be too concerned if your chosen rewards cards tack on fees of 3% or more for overseas purchases. However, what most people don’t realize is that online purchases from overseas merchants can incur foreign transaction fees.

Changes to rewards programs

Terms are subject to change at virtually any time. Make it a habit to skim your entire credit card statement (either online in PDF form, or the physical copy that arrives via mail) and any communication directly from the issuer to spot any upcoming program changes. You might come to realize that you’re not getting as much value from a card as you once did if it decides to drop or reduce a certain offer, for example.

“The main thing we look for [in a rewards credit card] is the rate at which the miles are accumulated and which spending habits the card will work best for. Since we rarely eat out having a card pay 2x points on restaurants is not beneficial to us compared to a card with 1.5x points on everyday purchases.” — Brittany and Kelan Kline, Co-Founders at The Savvy Couple

How we chose the list of top rewards credit cards

The selection is based on research by a team of Bankrate writers and editors with years of personal finance experience. Only the cards you see on this page made the cut.

Rewards value

The cards on our list feature some of the industry’s finest rewards programs, with generous earning rates and versatile redemption choices.

Low cost of ownership

Is the card a good deal? Do the benefits and rewards outweigh the fees or restrictions? The answer to both questions had to be an emphatic “yes” for the card to make our list.

A high review score from Bankrate

Cards that make our “best of” pages have some of the highest ratings from Bankrate’s scoring system, which rates each card on a 5-star scale.

Additional reading on rewards cards

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


Senior Editor Barry Bridges has been writing about credit cards, loans, mortgages and other personal finance products for Bankrate since 2018. His work has also appeared on websites including Nasdaq.com, Zillow.com and The Simple Dollar. He was previously an award-winning newspaper journalist in his native North Carolina. Send your questions about credit cards (and fantasy baseball) to bbridges@bankrate.com.

Have more questions for our credit cards editors? Feel free to send us an email, find us on Facebook, or Tweet us @Bankrate.

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Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, is accurate as of the publish date. All products or services are presented without warranty. Check the bank’s website for the most current information.