The Best Rewards Credit Cards of 2020

  • Amex added a statement credit for select streaming services and wireless telephone purchases. We’ve updated this review with the details.

If you’re going to spend money, it’s delightful to get a little extra out of it. The best rewards credit cards can earn you everything from hotel stays to airplane seat upgrades to plain (but satisfying) cash back.

See the best credit cards for...

Our top credit card picks

  • Best overall travel card

    American Express® Gold Card
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    American Express® Gold Card

    Use our favorite all-around rewards card on your biggest money pits—groceries, restaurants, and airfare—to earn a ton of points that can make traveling a lot easier and cheaper.

    Apply Now
    Apply now for this Partner Offer on American Express’s secure website.
  • Our pick for best everyday use

    Citi® Double Cash Card
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    Citi® Double Cash Card

    The Double Cash is a convenient day-to-day companion you’ll reach for regularly: It has a high cash-back rate, earning and redeeming your cash is easy, and you get big-bank conveniences. Plus, you enjoy a long 0% APR period on balance transfers.

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  • Our favorite card for US supermarkets

    Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

    6% is the highest cash back rate on any grocery card we reviewed.

    Apply Now
    Apply now for this Partner Offer on American Express’s secure website.

For this guide, we’ve picked the top rewards credit cards out there, breaking them down by popular spending categories: travel, cash back, groceries, airlines, dining, and gas.

And we don’t care only about the specs. We reviewed the experience of using each card—accounting for factors such as the ease of making payments, the card’s website and app experience, and the ability to redeem rewards—to ensure that you select a card that you actually use rather than shove in the back of your sock drawer.

The best travel credit cards

Travel rewards credit cards can earn you a great rate (sometimes as much as 10¢ for every dollar you spend, if you go by The Points Guy’s calculations). And the best travel cards often reward not only airline and hotel spending but also many other travel-related purchases, such as car rentals, parking fees, and theme-park tickets. Some may even offer bonus rewards at other places where you spend a lot of money, like grocery stores and restaurants.

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  • Best overall travel card

    American Express® Gold Card
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    American Express® Gold Card

    Annual Fee$250
    Intro Bonus35,000 points
    Regular APRSee rates & fees

    What we love

    No competitor delivers as many rewards in as many powerful spending categories (along with excellent customer service) as the Amex Gold.

    What we don’t love

    Getting the absolute most out of this card requires time, energy, and planning—and you may even have to go out of your way.

    See product details
    Apply Now
    Apply now for this Partner Offer on American Express’s secure website.
  • Easy-to-understand rewards with luxurious travel touches

    Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

    Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

    Annual Fee$95
    Intro Bonus50,000 miles
    Regular APR17.24% - 24.49% variable

    What we love

    Simplicity: 2x miles on everything you buy turns non-travel spending into fuel for future vacations.

    What we don’t love

    The Venture is what it is: a solid (but not truly outstanding) credit card.

    See product details
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    Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 4/22/2020. Learn More.
  • Our pick for frequent flyers

    The Platinum Card® from American Express
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    The Platinum Card® from American Express

    Annual Fee$550
    Intro Bonus60,000 points
    Regular APRN/A

    What we love

    This card rounds off the sharp edges of living life 30,000 feet in the air.

    What we don’t love

    We wish the Platinum would make its rewards and benefits easier to use.

    See product details
    Apply Now
    Apply now for this Partner Offer on American Express’s secure website.
  • Best travel rewards card for average credit

    Discover it® Miles
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    Discover it® Miles

    Annual Fee$0
    Intro BonusCashback Match™
    Regular APR11.99% - 22.99% variable

    What we love

    A simple and easy-to-use rewards structure that’s actually very valuable in your first year, without the annual fee.

    What we don’t love

    Although the rewards are dependable, they’re not as generous as our top pick’s.

    See product details
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The best cash back credit cards

Many flashy rewards cards offer luxury perks such as hotel room nights or airline seat upgrades. But sometimes the easiest reward to use is straight cash back. It may not be as sexy, but it sure is convenient.

Slide 1 of 3
  • Our pick

    Citi® Double Cash Card
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    Citi® Double Cash Card

    Annual Fee$0
    Intro BonusN/A
    Regular APR13.99% - 23.99% variable

    What we love

    No other card offers the combination of excellent cash back rewards and 18 months of 0% APR (then 13.99% - 23.99%, variable) on balance transfers made within four months of opening your account.

    What we don’t love

    Though 2% cash back on everything you buy is one of the best ongoing rates available, other cards deliver better rewards on specific categories, such as groceries and dining.

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  • The best cash back rate we found

    Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card

    Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card

    Annual Fee$95
    Intro Bonus50,000 bonus points
    Regular APR15.99% - 22.99% variable

    What we love

    This card has a particularly generous cash back rate and also offers satisfactory travel rewards.

    What we don’t love

    You need to have a lot invested with Bank of America ($100,000) to qualify for the highest cash back rate.

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  • Our pick for building credit

    QuicksilverOne® from Capital One®
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    QuicksilverOne® from Capital One®

    Annual Fee$39
    Intro BonusN/A
    Regular APR26.99% variable

    What we love

    You can get a decent rewards card with fair credit (on the FICO scale, this is a score of 580 to 669).

    What we don’t love

    It can be easy to get into trouble if you’re not diligent with your debt.

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The best credit cards for groceries

Grocery credit cards can earn you rewards for purchases you probably have to make anyway. Depending on where you shop, our top picks offer as much as 6% back.

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  • Our pick

    Citi® Double Cash Card
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    Citi® Double Cash Card

    Annual Fee$0
    Intro BonusN/A
    Regular APR13.99% - 23.99% variable

    What we love

    No other card offers the combination of excellent cash back rewards and 18 months of 0% APR (then 13.99% - 23.99%, variable) on balance transfers made within four months of opening your account.

    What we don’t love

    Though 2% cash back on everything you buy is one of the best ongoing rates available, other cards deliver better rewards on specific categories, such as groceries and dining.

    See product details
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    Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 3/20/2020. Learn More.
  • The best grocery card (if you spend at least $100 a week at US supermarkets)

    Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

    Annual Fee$95
    Intro Bonus$250
    Regular APR12.99% to 23.99% variable

    What we love

    If you spend $100 or more at US supermarkets each week, you’ll easily earn cash back rewards from purchases you would have probably made anyway.

    What we don’t love

    There are some limitations on how many rewards you can earn.

    See product details
    Apply Now
    Apply now for this Partner Offer on American Express’s secure website.
  • Our pick if you shop at Whole Foods or Amazon

    Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

    Annual Fee$0 with Prime Membership
    Intro Bonus$70
    Regular APR14.24% - 22.24% variable

    What we love

    With no spending caps and a tremendous array of items for purchase beyond groceries, you have the potential to rack up tons of cash back.

    What we don’t love

    You have to be a Prime member and primarily shop at Whole Foods or Amazon to make this card worth it.

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  • Our pick if you shop at Target

    Target RedCard™ Credit Card
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    Target RedCard™ Credit Card

    Annual Fee$0
    Intro BonusN/A
    Regular APR22.90% variable

    What we love

    Instant 5% off at the cash register makes it easy to earn discounts on not just groceries but also anything else you buy at Target.

    What we don’t love

    You can’t use this card anywhere beyond Target. Plus, the high interest rate on purchases means any interest charged on an unpaid balance could quickly negate the value of rewards.

    See product details
    Apply Now
    Apply now for this Partner Offer on Target’s secure website.

 

The best airline credit cards

Airline credit cards are best for frequent flyers who like bells and whistles such as waived baggage fees and airport lounge access.

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  • Best airline card

    The Platinum Card® from American Express
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    The Platinum Card® from American Express

    Annual Fee$550
    Intro Bonus60,000 points
    Regular APRN/A

    What we love

    This card rounds off the sharp edges of living life 30,000 feet in the air.

    What we don’t love

    We wish the Platinum would make its rewards and benefits easier to use.

    See product details
    Apply Now
    Apply now for this Partner Offer on American Express’s secure website.
  • Best if you fly Southwest Airlines

    Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

    Annual Fee$149
    Intro Bonus40,000 points
    Regular APR15.99% - 22.99% variable

    What we love

    The intro bonus puts you well on the way to getting the heralded Southwest Companion Pass, which lets a pal fly for free (minus taxes and fees) for a year.

    What we don’t love

    You may be able to earn more points from your Southwest flights with non-Southwest cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Amex Platinum.

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  • Best if you fly Alaska Airlines

    Alaska Airlines Visa® Credit Card

    Alaska Airlines Visa® Credit Card

    Annual Fee$75
    Intro Bonus40,000 bonus miles + Companion Fare™
    Regular APR15.99% - 23.99% variable

    What we love

    The Alaska Airlines card delivers pretty much everything you could hope for from an airline card: the famed companion ticket, great rewards on your Alaska Airlines spending, and plenty of partner airlines for your points.

    What we don’t love

    The delightful perks come at a price—a $75 annual fee. Also, Alaska Airlines has a strong presence on the West Coast, but if you live on the East Coast or in the Midwest, it might not be one of your airport's top airlines.

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  • Best if you fly JetBlue Airlines

    JetBlue Plus Card
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    JetBlue Plus Card

    Annual Fee$99
    Intro Bonus40,000 bonus points
    Regular APR15.99% - 24.99% variable

    What we love

    You have the opportunity to earn a lot of points on your JetBlue spending, which you can then redeem on JetBlue flights.

    What we don’t love

    The JetBlue Plus card doesn't offer the kinds of glitzier perks you might expect from a card with an annual fee.

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  • The best Delta card if you fly with a companion

    Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

    Annual Fee$250
    Intro Bonus40,000 bonus miles
    Regular APR15.74% - 24.74% variable

    What we love

    This card’s unique blend of rewards and perks can potentially make it the most bountiful Delta offering.

    What we don’t love

    Although we love the card’s potential, we don’t think most Delta flyers would benefit.

    See product details
    Apply Now
    Apply now for this Partner Offer on American Express’s secure website.
  • Best for Hawaii residents or frequent visitors

    Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®

    Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®

    Annual Fee$0 annual fee for the first year, then $99
    Intro Bonus60,000 bonus miles
    Regular APR15.99% - 24.99% variable

    What we love

    This card has enough unique perks and rewards to entice and satisfy Hawaiian Airlines flyers for the long haul.

    What we don’t love

    Despite easing your trip to paradise, the card lacks some benefits that rival cards offer.

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The best credit cards for restaurants and dining

Whether your definition of dining out means hitting the drive-through, ordering takeout, picking up a coffee before work, or savoring a five-course meal, you should be rewarded for your restaurant spending.

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  • Best dining card with no annual fee

    SavorOne® Rewards from Capital One®
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    SavorOne® Rewards from Capital One®

    Annual Fee$0
    Intro Bonus$150
    Regular APR15.49% - 25.49% variable

    What we love

    You get 3% on dining and entertainment expenses, including bowling alleys, theme parks, movies, and concerts.

    What we don’t love

    Although we like the SavorOne’s long-term value, the sibling card, the Savor, provides a better return in year one.

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  • Great for flexible travel rewards

    Chase Sapphire Reserve®
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    Chase Sapphire Reserve®

    Annual Fee$550
    Intro Bonus50,000 bonus points
    Regular APR16.99% - 23.99% variable

    What we love

    This inimitable travel card offers diners, flyers, Lyft riders, and commuters a healthy mix of benefits, including flexible rewards, Global Entry or TSA Pre✓, lounge access, Lyft and DoorDash membership, and travel insurance.

    What we don’t love

    You have to pay $550 every year, a fee that recently increased from $450 (and we already felt like $450 was a lot).

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  • A no-brainer for Uber super-users

    Uber Credit Card
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    Uber Credit Card

    Annual Fee$0
    Intro Bonus$100
    Regular APR15.74% - 26.49% variable

    What we love

    Big rewards on not just Uber rides, but other categories where young people tend to spend money: restaurants, bars, and travel.

    What we don’t love

    Uber recently axed some of its best perks, including 4% on dining and an annual $50 streaming credit—and your rewards can be used on Uber purchases only.

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  • Best if you’re a Costco member

    Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

    Annual Fee$0
    Intro BonusN/A
    Regular APR15.24% variable

    What we love

    This card is good for dining, but we also love it for travel and gas.

    What we don’t love

    Rewards are easiest to redeem on Costco purchases, yet the rewards rate on Costco purchases isn’t that impressive.

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The best credit cards for gas

Most people don’t drive enough to need a gas-focused rewards credit card. But tons of great credit cards reward you well for gas purchases plus other categories where you may spend a lot throughout the year.

Slide 1 of 4
  • Our pick

    Citi® Double Cash Card
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    Citi® Double Cash Card

    Annual Fee$0
    Intro BonusN/A
    Regular APR13.99% - 23.99% variable

    What we love

    No other card offers the combination of excellent cash back rewards and 18 months of 0% APR (then 13.99% - 23.99%, variable) on balance transfers made within four months of opening your account.

    What we don’t love

    Though 2% cash back on everything you buy is one of the best ongoing rates available, other cards deliver better rewards on specific categories, such as groceries and dining.

    See product details
    Learn More
    We don't earn a commission on this offer.
    Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 3/20/2020. Learn More.
  • Our favorite card for US supermarkets

    Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

    Annual Fee$95
    Intro Bonus$250
    Regular APR12.99% to 23.99% variable

    What we love

    If you spend $100 or more at US supermarkets each week, you’ll easily earn cash back rewards from purchases you would have probably made anyway.

    What we don’t love

    There are some limitations on how many rewards you can earn.

    See product details
    Apply Now
    Apply now for this Partner Offer on American Express’s secure website.
  • Best cash back card if you’re a Bank of America customer

    Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

    Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

    Annual Fee$0
    Intro Bonus$200
    Regular APR13.99% - 23.99% variable

    What we love

    3% cash back on a category of your choice (either gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings) is great, but it can get even better. Once your account balance hits $20,000 or more, you’ll be eligible to get bonus rewards through BofA’s Preferred Rewards program.

    What we don’t love

    In order to get bonus rewards, you need to have at least $20,000 saved with Bank of America. To qualify for the highest 5.25% rate, you need to park a whopping $100,000.

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  • Best if you’re a Costco member

    Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

    Annual Fee$0
    Intro BonusN/A
    Regular APR15.24% variable

    What we love

    This card is good for dining, but we also love it for travel and gas.

    What we don’t love

    Rewards are easiest to redeem on Costco purchases, yet the rewards rate on Costco purchases isn’t that impressive.

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The research

 

Best overall travel card

American Express® Gold Card

Use our favorite all-around rewards card on your biggest money pits—groceries, restaurants, and airfare—to earn a ton of points that can make traveling a lot easier and cheaper.

What we love

No competitor delivers as many rewards in as many powerful spending categories (along with excellent customer service) as the Amex Gold.

  • 4x Membership Rewards (MR) points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide
  • 4x MR points at US supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in annual spending)
  • 3x MR points on flights booked directly with an eligible airline or through American Express Travel
  • An unusually wide variety of credits to use for dining and travel
  • No. 2 in J.D. Power’s 2019 Credit Card Satisfaction Study

What we don’t love

Getting the absolute most out of this card requires time, energy, and planning—and you may even have to go out of your way.

  • The airline-fee credit is limited to just one airline, while the dining credit applies to only a handful of popular merchants
  • The $10-per-month dining credit applies to only a handful of popular merchants
  • The $250 annual fee is lower than that of many competitors, but still not exactly cheap
American Express® Gold Card
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Apply Now
Apply now for this Partner Offer on American Express’s secure website.

Annual Fee

$250

Regular APR

See rates & fees

Intro Bonus

35,000 points

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

The American Express Gold is our top pick for travelers because it metes out the highest rewards for the kind of spending you do most—groceries and dining—and then lets you redeem those points for travel. You can book your vacation through Amex Travel, where your Membership Rewards points are worth a penny a pop, or you can transfer them to a partner airline (like Delta) or hotel (like Hilton) and book an award ticket or stay. In those situations, a point can be worth more than a penny.

There’s also an annual $100 airline-fee credit and a monthly dining credit of up to $10 at participating restaurants and outlets. If you use all of these credits, they almost cover the card’s annual fee ($250). Toss in Amex’s top-class customer service, and we think the Gold is the best travel card for most.

 

Easy-to-understand rewards with luxurious travel touches

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

While not the most powerful credit card out there, you’ll earn good rewards on everything you buy with the Venture Rewards card, without taking on an insane annual fee.

What we love

Simplicity: 2x miles on everything you buy turns non-travel spending into fuel for future vacations.

  • You can transfer your miles to partner airlines and book award flights directly with the carriers
  • TSA Pre✓ or Global Entry application-fee credit

What we don’t love

The Venture is what it is: a solid (but not truly outstanding) credit card.

  • You can earn more with a premium rewards card, even when you account for the higher annual fee
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
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Annual Fee

$95

Regular APR

17.24% - 24.49% variable

Intro Bonus

50,000 miles

Recommended Credit

Excellent

The Venture Rewards from Capital One is a high-earning yet understandable rewards card that charges a manageable annual fee. While our top pick is likely to net you more rewards, maximizing the Venture requires less effort and time.

You earn 2x miles on everything you buy, in addition to a big 50,000-mile intro bonus when you spend $3,000 within three months of opening your account.

You’ll most likely redeem your miles against travel spending (50,000 covers a $500 flight, for instance), but you could also transfer them to a partner airline (like JetBlue.) The card credits your TSA Pre✓ or Global Entry application fee, too, a rarity for a card that charges a $95 annual fee.

 

Best airline card

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum is key to a glitzier life. You can earn outstanding rewards on airfare and hotel purchases, receive top-rated customer service, and enjoy sterling perks, including access to Amex’s famed Centurion Lounge network.

What we love

This card rounds off the sharp edges of living life 30,000 feet in the air.

  • 5x Membership Rewards (MR) points per dollar spent on eligible flights and hotel stays
  • Best airport-lounge access (includes Priority Pass and Centurion Lounges)
  • Up to $200 in Uber credits annually
  • $200 annual airline-fee credit on one qualifying airline of your choice
  • From May through December 2020, get a credit of up to $20/month (for a maximum of $40) on both select streaming and wireless phone services purchased directly from US providers

What we don’t love

We wish the Platinum would make its rewards and benefits easier to use.

  • You have to spend a very high $5,000 in three months to earn the 60,000 Membership Rewards points intro bonus
  • Travel credits require time, effort, and thought to use
  • The Platinum is the best travel card for earning rewards on airline spending—but it won’t get you airline-specific perks like priority boarding
The Platinum Card® from American Express
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Apply Now
Apply now for this Partner Offer on American Express’s secure website.

Annual Fee

$550

Regular APR

N/A

Intro Bonus

60,000 points

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

There are premium cards with lower annual fees and superior spending rewards than the American Express Platinum, but no option is better for those travelers looking for a touch of luxury. You gain entry into a bevy of airport lounges, including Centurion lounges that are a cut above the more hit-or-miss Priority Pass Select options (which you can also enter gratis).

You receive Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels, access to travel counselors, and hundreds of dollars in credits that can help nullify the $550 annual fee. And you still earn a bunch of rewards on flights purchased directly from airlines (or with American Express Travel) and prepaid hotel stays (also on American Express Travel).

 

Best travel rewards card for average credit

Discover it® Miles

Though it lacks true bells and whistles, Miles cardholders can embrace a no annual fee card with solid reward earnings that doesn’t require a degree in calculus to understand, as well as excellent customer service.

What we love

A simple and easy-to-use rewards structure that’s actually very valuable in your first year, without the annual fee.

  • No annual or foreign transaction fees
  • Spending rewards are doubled in your first year, potentially giving you an unmatched intro bonus among no annual fee cards
  • Stellar customer service: No. 1 in J.D. Power’s 2019 Credit Card Satisfaction Study

What we don’t love

Although the rewards are dependable, they’re not as generous as our top pick’s.

  • No annual travel credits
  • Discover isn’t as widely accepted abroad as Visa or Mastercard
Discover it® Miles
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Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

11.99% - 22.99% variable

Intro Bonus

Cashback Match™

Recommended Credit

Average

The Discover it Miles doesn’t scream big rewards, but it can be a valuable option for a travel card, especially if you don’t want to pay an annual fee. You receive 1.5x miles per dollar spent, and you can redeem those miles for a penny apiece as either a statement credit against travel spending or a direct deposit into your checking account. There’s no welcome bonus, but your rewards are doubled the first year, which can be extraordinarily lucrative. Discover also offers the highest-rated customer service, per J.D. Power. This card can help cautious, curious borrowers dip their toe into the rewards game.

Our travel rewards credit card picks, side by side

Annual feeHighest
spending
rewards
J.D. Power
U.S. Credit
Card
Satisfaction
Study score
Airport
lounge
access
Annual creditsForeign
transaction
fee
American
Express
Gold Card
$2504x points at restaurants; 4x points at US supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in annual spending, then 1x point)5-starNone$100 for incidental fees at one eligible airline of your choosing; up to $10/month at select restaurants and outletsNone
Capital One
Venture Rewards
Credit Card
$952x miles on everything3-starNoneNoneNone
American
Express
Platinum Card
$5505x points on flights booked directly with airlines (or through Amex Travel) and prepaid hotel stays (also through Amex Travel)5-starAmerican Express
Global Lounge
Collection, including
Centurion Lounges,
Delta Sky Club
(on Delta flights),
and Priority Pass
Select lounges
$200 for incidental fees at one eligible airline of your choosing; up to $200 in Uber creditsNone
Discover it
Miles
$01.5x miles on everything5-starNoneNoneNone

 

Our pick for best everyday use

Citi® Double Cash Card

The Double Cash is a convenient day-to-day companion you’ll reach for regularly: It has a high cash-back rate, earning and redeeming your cash is easy, and you get big-bank conveniences. Plus, you enjoy a long 0% APR period on balance transfers.

What we love

No other card offers the combination of excellent cash back rewards and 18 months of 0% APR (then 13.99% - 23.99%, variable) on balance transfers made within four months of opening your account.

  • High 2% cash back rate (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay it off)
  • Quickly deposit your cash back directly into your bank account
  • $0 annual fee

What we don’t love

Though 2% cash back on everything you buy is one of the best ongoing rates available, other cards deliver better rewards on specific categories, such as groceries and dining.

  • 3% balance transfer fee
  • No 0% APR period on purchases
  • 3% foreign transaction fee
Citi® Double Cash Card
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Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99% variable

Intro Bonus

N/A

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

The Citi Double Cash is a workhorse in your wallet, netting 2% back on everything you buy (1% when you make the purchase and 1% when you pay it off). There are no rotating spending-rewards categories to keep track of, and when it’s time to claim, you can get cash back (the most straightforward, headache-free option) or you can convert your cash rewards to ThankYou Points.

For people who don’t like navigating complicated redemption portals, the best way to claim your rewards is as a direct deposit into a linked checking or savings account or as a check.

But if you relish the game of finding the best possible rewards redemption rate, beginning Sept. 22, you can also opt to convert your cash rewards to ThankYou Points at a 1:1 ratio (that means $1 earned as cash back would be worth 100 ThankYou points).

A screenshot showing how much money can be saved using the cash back points.
In the ThankYou Points portal, a $25 L.L. Bean giftcard costs 3,500 points, which would have been worth $35 if you’d chosen cash back instead. Photo: Korrena Bailie

This is notable mostly for Citi Prestige or Citi Premier cardholders. Those cardholders will be able to transfer their points to Citi’s travel loyalty program partners, where one point could be worth as much as 1.7 cents (according to The Points Guy’s September 2019 valuations).

But ThankYou point redemptions aren’t always the most lucrative and you may just want to stick to cash back. In the ThankYou rewards portal, we spotted $25 gift cards going for 3,500 points which is a lousy deal; had you stuck to cash back, your rewards would have been worth $35.

 

The best cash back rate we found

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card

The card offers 2 points per dollar spent on travel and dining and 1.5 points on all other spending—but the real value comes for Bank of America savings and investment clients. A $20,000 deposit in a BofA savings or investment account earns you a 25% rewards bonus on all spending. $100,000 gives you a 75% bonus, the highest of any cash-back card we found.

What we love

This card has a particularly generous cash back rate and also offers satisfactory travel rewards.

  • 2.625% cash back (the highest rate we found) if you have $100,000 or more invested with Bank of America or Merrill
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $100 airline credit you can use for incidentals like baggage fees and in-flight drinks

What we don’t love

You need to have a lot invested with Bank of America ($100,000) to qualify for the highest cash back rate.

  • $95 annual fee
  • Reward rates are distinctly average if they’re not supercharged by your enrollment in the Preferred Rewards program
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card
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Annual Fee

$95

Regular APR

15.99% - 22.99% variable

Intro Bonus

50,000 bonus points

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

If you can maintain a three-month average combined balance in your qualifying Bank of America and/or Merrill accounts of $100,000, the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card could earn you the highest cash back rate we found: 2.63%.

Even if your account balance isn’t that high, you may still benefit from this card if you have an eligible Bank of America/Merrill account. You can enroll in Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program, which essentially acts as a booster for any rewards you earn in return for being a Bank of America account holder.

It’s a tiered program, so if you have at least $20,000 in a qualifying account, that boosts your reward rate by 25%; if you earn 1.5% cash back on your purchases, for example, a 25% boost means you earn 1.875% cash back on those purchases instead. These bonus boosts can increase as your account increases, up to a maximum 75% boost.

The card offers some travel perks too, including a $100 statement credit to reimburse your TSA Pre✓ or Global Entry application fee every four years, a 50,000-point intro bonus (worth $500) if you make $3,000 in purchases within your first 90 days as a cardholder, and a $100 annual travel credit for travel incidentals (such as baggage fees or lounge fees).

 

Our pick for building credit

QuicksilverOne® from Capital One®

The QuicksilverOne is one of the few cards around that give you an opportunity to earn decent cash back rewards if you have average credit.

What we love

You can get a decent rewards card with fair credit (on the FICO scale, this is a score of 580 to 669).

  • Decent cash back for average credit
  • No foreign transaction fee

What we don’t love

It can be easy to get into trouble if you’re not diligent with your debt.

  • $39 annual fee
  • The minimum credit limit you could be assigned is a meager $300
  • Very high APR on purchases
QuicksilverOne® from Capital One®
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Annual Fee

$39

Regular APR

26.99% variable

Intro Bonus

N/A

Recommended Credit

Fair

Most cash back cards require that customers have a credit score of at least 700. If you’re not there yet but you still want to earn rewards, you may be able to qualify for the QuicksilverOne. With this card you earn 1.5% back on all your purchases.

It charges a $39 annual fee, so you need to spend $2,600 annually just to break even. If you don’t spend that much, sacrifice the rewards and stick with a card that has no annual fee.

Our cash back credit card picks, side by side

Annual feeCash back rate Recommended creditForeign transaction
fees
Citi® Double Cash Card$02% (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay it off)Very good (740+)3%
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card$952.62% on most purchases and 3.5% on travel and dining (if in the Platinum Honors Preferred Rewards program)Very good (740+)None
QuicksilverOne® from Capital One®$391.5%Fair (580–669)None

 

 

Our pick for best everyday use

Citi® Double Cash Card

The Double Cash is a convenient day-to-day companion you’ll reach for regularly: It has a high cash-back rate, earning and redeeming your cash is easy, and you get big-bank conveniences. Plus, you enjoy a long 0% APR period on balance transfers.

What we love

No other card offers the combination of excellent cash back rewards and 18 months of 0% APR (then 13.99% - 23.99%, variable) on balance transfers made within four months of opening your account.

  • High 2% cash back rate (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay it off)
  • Quickly deposit your cash back directly into your bank account
  • $0 annual fee

What we don’t love

Though 2% cash back on everything you buy is one of the best ongoing rates available, other cards deliver better rewards on specific categories, such as groceries and dining.

  • 3% balance transfer fee
  • No 0% APR period on purchases
  • 3% foreign transaction fee
Citi® Double Cash Card
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Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99% variable

Intro Bonus

N/A

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

The Citi Double Cash card is a jack-of-all-trades card. It isn’t the best for groceries, but it is the best for all your purchases overall, offering 2% back (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay it off) on everything you buy.

If you had the American Express Blue Cash Preferred® Card instead, you’d have to worry about whether your grocery store qualified as a US supermarket and was eligible for the 6% rate, or if you’d have to settle for a paltry 1% back.

 

Our favorite card for US supermarkets

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

6% is the highest cash back rate on any grocery card we reviewed.

What we love

If you spend $100 or more at US supermarkets each week, you’ll easily earn cash back rewards from purchases you would have probably made anyway.

  • $250 bonus after you spend $1,000 in purchases in your first three months
  • 3% cash back at US gas stations makes it useful at the pump
  • User-friendly mobile app is rated No. 2 in J.D. Power’s 2019 U.S. Credit Card Mobile App Satisfaction Study

What we don’t love

There are some limitations on how many rewards you can earn.

  • Once you hit $6,000 in US supermarket purchases in a calendar year, you’ll earn only 1% on grocery shopping after that
  • 6% rate applies only to US supermarkets, not at Costco, your local cheese shop, or the corner store
  • The Blue Cash Preferred charges a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, so don’t bring it overseas or use it to purchase things in a foreign currency
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
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Apply now for this Partner Offer on American Express’s secure website.

Annual Fee

$95

Regular APR

12.99% to 23.99% variable

Intro Bonus

$250

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Despite its annual fee, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is attractive because it offers an eye-popping 6% on the first $6,000 in purchases per calendar year made at US supermarkets (and 1% back on purchases after you reach that limit). If you spend about $100 a week on groceries, you break even on the annual fee and earn an additional $270 in cash back.

You also earn a $250 welcome bonus after you spend $1,000 on your new card in your first three months, which is a relatively easy-to-reach spending requirement.

Watch where you buy your groceries with this card, though. Amex gives you 6% back only on purchases at US supermarkets like Albertsons, Publix, or Safeway. You don’t earn the bonus rate at specialty retailers like fish markets or cheese shops, superstores like Target, or warehouse clubs like Costco.

This card is also a great pick if you drive because you earn 3% back at US gas stations, no caps. If you don’t drive and rely more on Uber and Lyft to get around, you earn 3% back on those purchases, as well as a generous 6% back on eligible US streaming services such as Hulu, Netflix, and Spotify.

 

Our pick if you shop at Whole Foods or Amazon

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

Earn cash back on groceries from Amazon and Whole Foods, and on almost everything you buy on Amazon.

What we love

With no spending caps and a tremendous array of items for purchase beyond groceries, you have the potential to rack up tons of cash back.

  • No spending cap means huge potential to rack up cash back rewards if you mostly shop at Amazon
  • Receive a $70 Amazon.com gift card instantly upon approval

What we don’t love

You have to be a Prime member and primarily shop at Whole Foods or Amazon to make this card worth it.

  • 5% cash back rate applies only to Amazon and Whole Foods, so don’t expect to use this at other supermarkets
  • 5% rate also excludes purchases made through international Amazon sites like Amazon.co.uk and some Amazon-owned sites such as Audible
  • You need Amazon Prime membership to apply (which can cost $119 annually)
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
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Annual Fee

$0 with Prime Membership

Regular APR

14.24% - 22.24% variable

Intro Bonus

$70

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Whole Foods might be saddled with the derisory nickname “Whole Paycheck,” but checking out with your Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card can lessen the blow.

You get 5% back on all eligible purchases at both Whole Foods and Amazon.com. Even if you don’t frequent Whole Foods, you could still benefit tremendously from this card if you buy big-ticket items from Amazon. Although you don’t have to pay an annual fee on this card, you do need to have an Amazon Prime account, which typically costs $119 a year.

 

Our pick if you shop at Target

Target RedCard™ Credit Card

Save 5% on groceries from Target (and nearly everything else you buy there).

What we love

Instant 5% off at the cash register makes it easy to earn discounts on not just groceries but also anything else you buy at Target.

  • For qualifying purchases, there’s no cap on the 5% discount
  • Cardholders get free shipping and an extra 30 days (past the standard 90 days) to make returns

What we don’t love

You can’t use this card anywhere beyond Target. Plus, the high interest rate on purchases means any interest charged on an unpaid balance could quickly negate the value of rewards.

  • Card works only at Target
  • High APR on purchases
Target RedCard™ Credit Card
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Apply Now
Apply now for this Partner Offer on Target’s secure website.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

22.90% variable

Intro Bonus

N/A

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

The Target RedCard Credit Card has one of the best, simplest redemption structures you can find: an instant 5% off at checkout when you shop at Target. No annual fee, no membership requirement, no caps.

Plus, cardholders can take advantage of a few other perks including free two-day shipping on most items sold at Target, as well as an extra 30 days to make returns beyond Target’s standard 90-day return policy.

This card works only at Target, so it isn’t likely to be the only credit card you keep in your wallet.

Our grocery rewards credit card picks, side by side

Annual feeRewards rate on groceriesHow much you earn in rewards
if you spend $125 per week
($6,500 annually) on groceries
Citi® Double Cash Card$02% (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay it off)$130
American Express Blue Cash Preferred® Card$956% on up to $6,000 per year on purchases at US supermarkets, then 1%$270
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card$0 with Prime Membership (but you need Amazon Prime membership to apply)5% (limited to purchases at Whole Foods and on Amazon)$325
Target RedCard™ Credit Card$05% (limited to purchases at Target)$325

Our cash back calculations factor in all annual fees; on the Blue Cash Preferred, we also assume $6,000 annual spending at a 6% rate plus $500 at a 1% rate.

 

Best airline card

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum is key to a glitzier life. You can earn outstanding rewards on airfare and hotel purchases, receive top-rated customer service, and enjoy sterling perks, including access to Amex’s famed Centurion Lounge network.

What we love

This card rounds off the sharp edges of living life 30,000 feet in the air.

  • 5x Membership Rewards (MR) points per dollar spent on eligible flights and hotel stays
  • Best airport-lounge access (includes Priority Pass and Centurion Lounges)
  • Up to $200 in Uber credits annually
  • $200 annual airline-fee credit on one qualifying airline of your choice
  • From May through December 2020, get a credit of up to $20/month (for a maximum of $40) on both select streaming and wireless phone services purchased directly from US providers

What we don’t love

We wish the Platinum would make its rewards and benefits easier to use.

  • You have to spend a very high $5,000 in three months to earn the 60,000 Membership Rewards points intro bonus
  • Travel credits require time, effort, and thought to use
  • The Platinum is the best travel card for earning rewards on airline spending—but it won’t get you airline-specific perks like priority boarding
The Platinum Card® from American Express
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Apply Now
Apply now for this Partner Offer on American Express’s secure website.

Annual Fee

$550

Regular APR

N/A

Intro Bonus

60,000 points

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

If you frequently fly American, Delta, or United, we recommend the Platinum Card from American Express over those airlines’ branded cards. Points you earn on the Platinum card are worth a good deal more than a mile you earn on any of the legacy carriers’ cards: You receive five points for every dollar you spend on a flight purchased directly from the airline or through American Express Travel, worth 10¢ according to The Points Guy’s calculations.

You also earn tons of credits, including a $200 airline-fee credit to use on incidentals such as bag fees on one qualifying airline of your choice and up to $200 in annual Uber credits. In addition, you get access to a swath of luxury airline lounges, so you can live a first-class lifestyle before takeoff even if you’re not flying first class.

And to help offset the lack of travel as a result of the global pandemic you can receive up to $20 per month in credits on both select streaming services and wireless telephone services purchased directly through U.S. service providers from May to December 2020.

 

Best if you fly Southwest Airlines

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Dedicated Southwest flyers looking to keep life simple by booking their flights with a Southwest credit card should strongly consider this one, even if it’s pricier than the alternatives. It can make traveling with a partner, and even your experience on the plane, less expensive and more joyful.

What we love

The intro bonus puts you well on the way to getting the heralded Southwest Companion Pass, which lets a pal fly for free (minus taxes and fees) for a year.

  • A $75 annual credit plus a 7,500-point anniversary bonus (worth about $110) make it easy to justify the annual fee
  • Extra goodies include upgraded boardings so you can be one of the first to pick your seat, even if you forgot to check in early
  • Through May and June 2020, you’ll earn 3x points per dollar spent (up to a maximum of $1,500 per month) on eligible grocery and grocery-delivery purchases

What we don’t love

You may be able to earn more points from your Southwest flights with non-Southwest cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Amex Platinum.

  • The annual fee is lower than those of many other airline credit cards, but it still stings
  • The rewards miles you earn on all purchases, including those on Southwest, aren’t spectacular
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
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Annual Fee

$149

Regular APR

15.99% - 22.99% variable

Intro Bonus

40,000 points

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card gets you lots of goodies, well beyond the two miles you earn per dollar spent on Southwest. You receive a 7,500-point bonus on your card anniversary (worth an estimated $113 in value) as well as a $75 annual travel credit that you can use on most Southwest purchases including tickets (though it does not apply to upgraded boardings or in-flight purchases), more than enough to offset the card’s $149 annual fee.

If you love being the first person on the plane so you can pick the best seat, you’re also in luck: With this card you’re entitled to reimbursement for four upgrades (when available) each year, which moves you into the first boarding group.

And then there’s the highly coveted Southwest Companion Pass, which lets a buddy fly with you for free (aside from taxes and fees). You can earn the pass either by amassing 125,000 qualifying points or by flying 100 qualifying, one-way flights. Unless you take a flight nearly once every three days, you’ll need help to earn the pass.

Although this card doesn’t give you the pass outright, it does put you well on your way by awarding you a 40,000-point one-time intro bonus after you spend $1,000 in the first three months.

 

Best if you fly Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines Visa® Credit Card

Think of this as the tasting menu of airline cards — and everything is toothsome. You receive an annual companion ticket, excellent earnings rate on airline spending, and the ability to book flights on partner airlines (including American Airlines) with your miles. Yum.

What we love

The Alaska Airlines card delivers pretty much everything you could hope for from an airline card: the famed companion ticket, great rewards on your Alaska Airlines spending, and plenty of partner airlines for your points.

  • Annual Companion Fare ticket, costing as little as $121, is a huge perk
  • Good earnings on airline miles and a reasonable annual fee

What we don’t love

The delightful perks come at a price—a $75 annual fee. Also, Alaska Airlines has a strong presence on the West Coast, but if you live on the East Coast or in the Midwest, it might not be one of your airport's top airlines.

  • Limited utility for flyers on the East Coast and Midwest
  • The annual fee—it's not the highest out there, but paying one is still a pain
Alaska Airlines Visa® Credit Card
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Annual Fee

$75

Regular APR

15.99% - 23.99% variable

Intro Bonus

40,000 bonus miles + Companion Fare™

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

For an annual fee of $75, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card offers you three miles per dollar spent on all Alaska purchases. Those three miles are worth about 5.4¢ on every airline dollar you spend, according to The Points Guy’s valuations.

We love the card’s 40,000-mile welcome bonus, which you get if you spend $2,000 within 90 days of opening the account.

Another attractive benefit is the Companion Fare offer (not to be confused with a Companion Pass): If you meet the $2,000 spending requirement, you receive a code from Alaska Airlines for a companion-ticket voucher that allows you to purchase one coach companion fare on the Alaska Airlines website from $121 ($99 base fare plus applicable taxes and fees from $22 depending on your flight itinerary) if you book it on the same itinerary as another guest on a paid coach airfare.

Each year after, you receive another voucher for a coach companion ticket on the anniversary of your account opening. You have to buy both tickets at the same time and use the voucher code within 12 months. The value of that ticket varies on how you use it, but it could prove especially lucrative if you book a more expensive flight, such as across the country or to Hawaii.

 

Best if you fly JetBlue Airlines

JetBlue Plus Card

Although there’s no buddy ticket comparable to that of Alaska or Southwest, the two-decade-old carrier offers cardholders a sizable chunk of points per dollar spent on JetBlue purchases, half off in-flight purchases, and a hearty anniversary bonus.

What we love

You have the opportunity to earn a lot of points on your JetBlue spending, which you can then redeem on JetBlue flights.

  • Lots of rewards on JetBlue purchases
  • Decent anniversary bonus

What we don’t love

The JetBlue Plus card doesn't offer the kinds of glitzier perks you might expect from a card with an annual fee.

  • Lackluster travel credits
  • No companion ticket
JetBlue Plus Card
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Annual Fee

$99

Regular APR

15.99% - 24.99% variable

Intro Bonus

40,000 bonus points

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

The JetBlue Plus Card delivers value not just on airline purchases (as is the case with most airline-branded credit cards) but also on everyday spending. You earn six points for every dollar you spend on JetBlue (worth about 7.8¢, according to The Points Guy’s valuations) as well as two points at grocery stores and restaurants.

It’s also a great pick if you spend money on airline incidentals such as in-flight snacks or baggage fees. All cardholders get their first checked bag free. If you spend $50,000 on the card in one year, you earn two free checked bags, complimentary booze, and higher earnings on JetBlue flights.

Our airline rewards credit card picks, side by side

Annual feeAirline rewards rateForeign transaction
fee
Airport lounge accessWaived bag fees
Platinum Card from American Express®$5505 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express TravelNoneAmerican Express Global Lounge Collection, including The Centurion Lounge, Delta Sky Club, and Priority Pass Select lounges$200 annual airline-fee credit for incidentals (including checked baggage) on one qualifying airline
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card$1492 points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines flights, hotel and car rental partners (each mile is valued at 1.5¢, netting a value of about 3¢ on every airline dollar you spend)NoneNoneNone beyond standard waived bag fees for two checked pieces of baggage per ticketed customer (available to all customers, not just cardholders)
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card$753 miles per $1 spent on Alaska Airlines (each mile is valued at 1.8¢, netting a value of about 5.4¢ on every airline dollar you spend)NoneAlaska Lounge day passes are available for purchase at a discounted rate of $25 (typically $50)First checked bag free
JetBlue Plus Card$996 points per $1 spent on JetBlue (which is worth about 7.8¢ on every airline dollar you spend)NoneNoneFirst checked bag free

Rewards rate valuations are based on The Points Guy calculations and are current as of April 2019.

You should get a dining rewards credit card if you want to get more than 2% back on every dollar that you spend at restaurants. The best dining rewards card has no annual fee, but there are worthy annual fee cards that offer great dining benefits plus rewards on travel, groceries, or entertainment.

Slide 1 of 2
  • Best overall dining card

    SavorOne® Rewards from Capital One®
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    SavorOne® Rewards from Capital One®

    Annual Fee$0
    Intro Bonus$150
    Regular APR15.49% - 25.49% variable

    What we love

    You get 3% on dining and entertainment expenses, including bowling alleys, theme parks, movies, and concerts.

    What we don’t love

    Although we like the SavorOne’s long-term value, the sibling card, the Savor, provides a better return in year one.

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  • Best if you shop through Boxed

    American Express® Gold Card
    See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.

    American Express® Gold Card

    Annual Fee$250
    Intro Bonus35,000 points
    Regular APRSee rates & fees

    What we love

    No competitor delivers as many rewards in as many powerful spending categories (along with excellent customer service) as the Amex Gold.

    What we don’t love

    Getting the absolute most out of this card requires time, energy, and planning—and you may even have to go out of your way.

    See product details
    Apply Now
    Apply now for this Partner Offer on American Express’s secure website.

The best overall dining card: SavorOne Rewards from Capital One

Why we like it: If you love the idea of dinner and a movie, this card offers 3% back on not only dining and movie tickets but also at a variety of other entertainment outlets, including concerts, sporting events, theme parks, zoos, and bowling alleys. The best part is that this card has no annual fee, so you don’t need to feel pressured to get maximum value out of your spending.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: We found a number of reports from cardholders with 700-plus credit scores who said they received SavorOne credit lines of just $1,000, which can be disappointing for applicants with very good or excellent credit.

If you want the highest possible rewards rate: American Express Gold Card

Why we like it: Whether you dine out, take out, or cook at home, the Gold is a foodie card, offering a superior rewards rate at restaurants and US supermarkets. You get 4x points per dollar spent at restaurants, as well as 4x points at US supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in annual purchases, then 1x point).

Let’s say you had 40,000 points (that’s what you’d earn after a year of spending just under $200 a week at restaurants and US supermarkets). Here’s what you could get with 40,000 Membership Rewards points:

  • $280 at Amazon.com
  • a $240 statement credit
  • $400 toward flights booked through American Express Travel
  • 40,000 Delta miles

Transferring your points to one of Amex’s partner airlines, like Delta, could potentially get you massive value. We found a number of round-trip main-cabin flights between Los Angeles and South Korea’s Incheon International Airport in April for just 40,000 Delta miles (plus $51.55 in taxes and fees). If you paid for the same flight in cash (based on the numbers we found in early February), you’d shell out a costly $943.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: The card’s $250 annual fee can be tough to stomach. And while a redemption like that Delta flight is an excellent use of your points, it’ll take effort and good fortune to find similar deals. If you prefer the ease of skipping points portals in favor of covering charges on your card, your rewards rate on dining becomes just 2.4% (which is worse than the no annual fee SavorOne).

 

Our pick for best everyday use

Citi® Double Cash Card

The Double Cash is a convenient day-to-day companion you’ll reach for regularly: It has a high cash-back rate, earning and redeeming your cash is easy, and you get big-bank conveniences. Plus, you enjoy a long 0% APR period on balance transfers.

What we love

No other card offers the combination of excellent cash back rewards and 18 months of 0% APR (then 13.99% - 23.99%, variable) on balance transfers made within four months of opening your account.

  • High 2% cash back rate (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay it off)
  • Quickly deposit your cash back directly into your bank account
  • $0 annual fee

What we don’t love

Though 2% cash back on everything you buy is one of the best ongoing rates available, other cards deliver better rewards on specific categories, such as groceries and dining.

  • 3% balance transfer fee
  • No 0% APR period on purchases
  • 3% foreign transaction fee
Citi® Double Cash Card
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Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99% variable

Intro Bonus

N/A

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Although this card doesn’t exactly offer eye-popping rewards on gas, we love it anyway, and here’s why: It’s a no-annual-fee, flat-rate card that guarantees 2% back on all purchases (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay it off). Using it is easy and effortless, and you can enjoy a solid return on everything you buy rather than jockeying multiple cards in your wallet to find one that gets the absolute best rate.

Our favorite card for US supermarkets

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

6% is the highest cash back rate on any grocery card we reviewed.

What we love

If you spend $100 or more at US supermarkets each week, you’ll easily earn cash back rewards from purchases you would have probably made anyway.

  • $250 bonus after you spend $1,000 in purchases in your first three months
  • 3% cash back at US gas stations makes it useful at the pump
  • User-friendly mobile app is rated No. 2 in J.D. Power’s 2019 U.S. Credit Card Mobile App Satisfaction Study

What we don’t love

There are some limitations on how many rewards you can earn.

  • Once you hit $6,000 in US supermarket purchases in a calendar year, you’ll earn only 1% on grocery shopping after that
  • 6% rate applies only to US supermarkets, not at Costco, your local cheese shop, or the corner store
  • The Blue Cash Preferred charges a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, so don’t bring it overseas or use it to purchase things in a foreign currency
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
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Apply now for this Partner Offer on American Express’s secure website.

Annual Fee

$95

Regular APR

12.99% to 23.99% variable

Intro Bonus

$250

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

If you frequently spend money not just on gas but on groceries too, you could benefit from the American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card. You earn 3% back at US gas stations, but where this card really shines is at the supermarket: On your first $6,000 in US supermarket purchases per year, you earn 6% back (you earn 1% after that).

The card does have a $95 annual fee, however, so we recommend getting this card only if your weekly supermarket bill averages at least $85 per week and your gas spending aligns with that of the average American household (just under $40 per week).

Best cash back card if you’re a Bank of America customer

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

0% APR for 15 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers made in the first 60 days (then a variable APR of 13.99% - 23.99%). Plus, the bonus rewards will keep this card at the top of your wallet for years to come.

What we love

3% cash back on a category of your choice (either gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings) is great, but it can get even better. Once your account balance hits $20,000 or more, you’ll be eligible to get bonus rewards through BofA’s Preferred Rewards program.

  • $200 bonus after you spend $1,000 on purchases in your first 90 days
  • You earn 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (or 3.5% for the highest tier of BofA’s Preferred Rewards program customers)

What we don’t love

In order to get bonus rewards, you need to have at least $20,000 saved with Bank of America. To qualify for the highest 5.25% rate, you need to park a whopping $100,000.

  • You receive 3% and 2% bonus rewards only on the first $2,500 in combined purchases every quarter, then 1%
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card
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Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99% variable

Intro Bonus

$200

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

If you already bank (or are thinking about banking) with Bank of America, the Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card may offer you the highest gas rewards rate of any card we found.

If your three-month average combined Bank of America/Merrill account balance is at least $20,000, you earn 3.75% cash back on gas. If it’s at least $100,000, you can qualify for the maximum rate of 5.25%.


Best if you’re a Costco member

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

3% cash back on restaurants is above-average, though not the best rate. But this card also functions as a great gas rewards card and a $0 annual fee travel card.

What we love

This card is good for dining, but we also love it for travel and gas.

  • Cardholders also get 3% back on eligible travel and 4% back on eligible gas
  • No foreign transaction fees makes this a good card to bring internationally if you don’t have a dedicated travel rewards card
  • The undernoted but delightful extended warranty perk

What we don’t love

Rewards are easiest to redeem on Costco purchases, yet the rewards rate on Costco purchases isn’t that impressive.

  • The 2% cash back rate on Costco purchases is disappointing, considering 2% is the standard for good cash back cards anyway
  • Rewards aren’t instant; you receive them as an annual certificate redeemable only at US Costco warehouses
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
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Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 3/20/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

15.24% variable

Intro Bonus

N/A

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Whether you buy gas at Costco or any other gas station (except at other warehouse clubs, namely Costco’s competitors), you earn 4% on gas for your first $7,000 per year in purchases with this card. And if you do buy your gas at Costco, you’re not only getting 4% back on gas but also paying for some of the cheapest gas you can buy, according to a March 2017 survey from oil-price tracker OPIS.

Our gas rewards credit card picks, side by side

Annual feeRewards rate on gasRewards rate on
non-bonus spending
Estimated earnings
on $2,000 annual
gas spending
Citi Double Cash Card$02% (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay it off)2% (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay it off)$40
American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card $953%1%$60
Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card$03.75% (if at Preferred Rewards Gold status)1.25% (if at Preferred Rewards Gold status)$73.80
Costco Anywhere Visa Card$0 (but you need Costco membership to apply)4%1%$80

Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit cardholders must have a three-month average combined balance of $20,000 or more in qualifying Bank of America and/or Merrill accounts to attain Gold status.

The Platinum Card from American Express® rates and fees
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express rates and fees
American Express® Gold Card rates and fees

Rewards credit cards have an easy selling point. You’re going to buy something anyway, so why not use a rewards card and get cash back, points, or miles? It seems like a win-win, especially if you can redeem rewards for money back in your pocket or free travel.

The actual results can be a mixed bag for people who don’t have plenty of savings and good cash flow. And we’ve previously discussed how the entire credit card rewards infrastructure may be unethical.

In general, using a credit card might lead you to spend more than you would when carrying cash. Add in the allure of earning rewards, and you might find yourself justifying extra or bigger purchases. (We think the best way to use a credit card is to treat it like cash, but that’s easier said than done.)

Credit card companies are out to make money. They offer rewards in part to attract new cardholders, but also to make their card “top of wallet” (meaning the first card you reach for when making a purchase).

Card issuers earn money (payable by the merchant) every time you buy something with their card. They also collect fees from cardholders, such as annual fees or late-payment fees, in addition to charging them interest on revolving credit card balances.

And the rewards you receive come at a price: Rewards credit cards that offer the most perks and best rewards rates tend to have higher annual fees and APRs.

If you can resist the temptation to overspend—and if you have savings or a low interest credit card for emergencies—a rewards card could be a great option that truly offers you a win-win. The next step is figuring out which rewards card you should put at the top of your wallet.

Many rewards cards fall into two buckets:

  • Cash back credit cards offer cash back rewards.
  • Travel credit cards offer points or miles that you can redeem for travel.

Cash back rewards cards are fairly simple to use and compare, as it’s easier to understand the value of the rewards you earn. Usually, you get at least 1¢ back on every dollar you spend. Still, rewards rates, fees, and redemption rules can vary widely, and you’ll want to compare options before you apply.

Travel rewards cards can be more complex, as the value of a mile or a point depends on how you use it. There are different types of travel rewards cards, too, and you may be able to redeem rewards for non-travel purchases if you want—but travel is often the best option.

If your primary goal is to save money on travel or take luxurious trips, a travel rewards card could be your best option. There are two types of travel rewards cards:

  • general-purpose travel credit cards, which you can use to earn points or miles in the card issuer’s rewards program
  • co-branded hotel and airline credit cards, both of which are associated with a particular airline or hotel that has its own loyalty program

A general-purpose travel rewards card will give you the most flexibility, while a co-branded card can offer you exclusive perks or benefits. In either case, you’ll earn points or miles whenever you use the card for eligible purchases, and new cardholders can often receive a large intro bonus after meeting initial spending requirements.

General-purpose travel rewards cards

With a general travel rewards card, you’ll earn points or miles in the credit card company’s rewards program. Examples include the American Express Gold Card (with which you earn Amex Membership Rewards points), the Chase Sapphire Reserve (with which you earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points), and the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (with which you earn Venture miles).

Once you’ve earned those points or miles, you can choose how you want to redeem them. Each rewards program has different options—some also let you transfer points to partner loyalty programs—but typically, you can use your rewards to:

  • book travel (most big banks use an Expedia-like booking site for their rewards portals)
  • offset previous travel purchases (in the form of a statement credit)
  • get cash back
  • buy gift cards
  • purchase merchandise in a card issuer’s shopping portal
  • shop with partner retailers

These cards are often called travel rewards cards because redeeming your points for flights, hotel stays, and other travel-related spending (or transferring them to a travel partner) is often the most valuable way to use them. Some cards also offer bonus rewards for your travel spending.

For example, in the Amex Membership Rewards program, points are worth 0.6¢ each when redeemed for cash back, but their value jumps to 1¢ apiece when redeemed for travel.

Co-branded travel rewards cards

Some banks team up with travel companies to offer co-branded rewards cards, such as those linked to a particular hotel chain or airline. These can be limiting, though, as such rewards currencies can typically be redeemed only with the hotel or airline named on the card.

Sticking to one or two loyalty programs isn’t necessarily a bad thing, particularly if you live near a major hub or have a favorite airline or hotel chain. Co-branded cards can also offer perks that you don’t usually find with general-purpose travel cards.

For example, three Delta credit cards offer a free checked bag for the cardholder and up to seven additional passengers on the same reservation, a potentially significant money-saver for large families. Meanwhile, the Alaska Airlines Visa Credit Card is known for its Companion Fare ticket: When you book a flight with the airline, you can use the Companion Fare to get a second ticket for as little as $121 (inclusive of taxes and fees). The companion ticket is valid for round-trip airfare, too.

On the hotel front, the World of Hyatt Credit Card offers cardholders automatic status in the hotel’s loyalty program, plus an annual voucher for a free night at any Category 1–4 Hyatt hotel.

What are credit card points and miles worth?

One of the most difficult parts of comparing travel cards is figuring out how much your rewards might be worth. There’s no clear answer, as the value of a point depends on how you use it and the card you earned it with.

For example, you can redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for 1¢ apiece if you choose cash back. However, Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders can redeem rewards for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal at a rate of 1.25¢ per point. And with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, each point is worth 1.5¢ when used to book travel in Chase’s online portal.

Websites like The Points Guy, NerdWallet, and Credit Karma publish valuation guides that provide estimates of what a point or mile may be worth in various travel loyalty programs. You might find that a Chase Ultimate Rewards point is “worth” more than 1.5¢. That’s because you can sometimes get better value by transferring Ultimate Rewards points to a frequent-flyer or hotel loyalty program and using them to book awards flights or hotel stays.

You can determine the value of an airline mile or hotel point by dividing the cash price of the flight or stay (minus any taxes and fees) by the number of miles or points required to book it.

Prices are always in flux, and what your miles or points may be worth depends on your particular travel plans as well as the ranges listed in the brand’s award chart. For example, a standard hotel room might require 5,000 points in one loyalty program and 20,000 in another.

Don’t forget the cardholder perks and benefits

The number of points or miles you earn with a travel rewards card can be important in determining which card is best for you. Beyond that, look for benefits that can save you money, make traveling more enjoyable, or come in handy during a travel emergency. Examples include:

Some of these benefits may also be available on cash back credit cards.

Cash back credit cards have an easy-to-understand value proposition: Use the card to pay for stuff, and the credit card company pays you back a percentage of the purchase amount. (In addition, many cash back cards don’t have annual fees.)

It’s easier to compare cash back cards than travel rewards cards because, all else being equal, 2% cash back is clearly better than 1.5% cash back. Of course, the fine print means all else often isn’t equal, and you’ll want to compare the fees, cash back rates, and redemption rules before you apply.

How to redeem your cash back rewards

Depending on the card, you may need to accumulate a certain amount of cash back before you can redeem. Generally, your redemption options include:

  • direct deposit to an eligible bank account
  • paper check
  • statement credit
  • gift cards

Direct deposits may be limited to transfers into eligible checking, savings, or investment accounts that you have with the same bank that issued your card. And a statement credit can be the least rewarding option, as sometimes you earn rewards based on the amount of your purchases minus statement credits.

Card issuerMinimum balance needed
to redeem cash back
Redeem as a
statement credit
Redeem as a
paper check
Transfer to
associated bank
account
Transfer to any
bank account
Redeem for
gift cards
American Express$25xx
Bank of American/axxxx
Capital Onen/axxx
Chasen/axxxxx
Citi$25xxxx
Discovern/axxxx
U.S. Bank$0 to $20xxx
Wells Fargo$20 to $25xxx

What to consider when choosing a cash back credit card

In addition to reimbursing you a percentage of every purchase you make, cash back credit cards may offer other benefits, such as travel insurance or purchase protections like extended warranties. Some of the benefits may come from the card network (for example, Visa or Mastercard) rather than the issuing bank.

Many credit card companies offer no annual fee cards that you can use to earn anywhere from 1.5% to 2% cash back on your spending.

Also, look into cards offered by your current bank to see if you qualify for any special promotions. For example, Bank of America account holders who qualify for the bank’s Preferred Rewards program can earn cash back bonuses based on how much money they have in eligible BofA/Merrill savings or investment accounts.

The bonus makes the Bank of America Premium Rewards Credit Card the best cash back card we’ve found. The card offers 2% cash back per dollar spent on dining and travel purchases and 1.5% cash back on all else. Your rewards come in the form of points, and each point is worth 1¢ when redeemed for cash back (other redemption options are available).

But if you have a three-month average combined balance of at least $100,000 in an eligible BofA or Merrill account, you get a 75% bonus, which means your cash back rate on dining and travel spending jumps to 3.5%, while everything else goes to 2.625%.

If both travel and cash back credit cards sound appealing, you may be able to whittle down your options by asking yourself a few questions:

  • Do I want to spend time learning how to best use my rewards? If not, a cash back card can be a good choice.
  • Do I already travel a lot? The benefits from a general-purpose travel rewards card could make it a better pick, even if you decide to redeem your points for cash back.
  • Do I have a specific goal in mind? A cash back card could help you save money, but a travel rewards card is going to be the best way to take an international first-class flight without spending an arm and a leg.
  • Do I generally pay my credit card bill in full? Rewards cards tend to have higher interest rates, and the interest that accrues on revolving balances can easily cancel out the rewards you earn. If you typically carry a balance, you might want to opt for a low interest credit card, or even stick to a debit card and focus on getting your budget in order for now.

Compare how you earn rewards with different cards

Additionally, both travel and cash back cards allow you to earn spending rewards in different ways. The two most common earnings structures are:

  • flat-rate rewards, which means you earn the same rate on every purchase you make
  • tiered rewards, which means you earn bonus rewards in specific spending categories

If you don’t want to think about which rewards rate you’re getting for which purchase, a flat-rate card might be your best option. Cards with tiered rewards systems may offer bonus rewards for certain types of purchases (such as restaurants, gas, groceries, or travel) and a lower rate (often 1%) on non-bonus-category purchases.

Consider the basic rates and terms

Once you decide which kind of rewards card you want, you’ll want to compare your options within that category. The main points to consider are:

  • the annual fee
  • the rewards rate(s) on purchases
  • other fees, such as those for late payments, balance transfers, and foreign transactions
  • promotional and ongoing interest rates
  • intro bonuses, if offered
  • other perks and benefits, such as travel credits or purchase protections

Pros

  • Earn rewards on purchases you already make.
  • Receive potentially large intro bonuses when you open a new card and meet any spending requirements.
  • Some cards offer extra cardholder perks, such as elite status in loyalty programs.
  • You may be eligible for travel and purchase protections, such as trip delay insurance or extended warranty benefits.
  • Co-branded rewards cards may offer unique perks or savings opportunities from the airline or hotel partner.

Cons

  • The best rewards cards usually require very good or excellent credit.
  • Many rewards cards charge annual fees.
  • You may feel tempted to spend more or live beyond your means.
  • High interest rates can negate your rewards if you tend to revolve a balance.

Once you’re approved for a rewards credit card, here are a few steps you can take to ensure you’re making the most of it:

Align your spending with bonus categories

If you chose a flat-rate rewards card, you don’t need to worry about this step. But if you have a tiered-rewards card, you’ll want to make sure you use that credit card for purchases that qualify for bonus rewards.

Some people use a tiered-rewards card for bonus-category purchases and a flat-rate rewards card for everything else.

For example, the Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card earns 1.5x points on everything you buy, while the Chase Sapphire Reserve gets 3x points on travel and dining purchases (and 1x point on all else). If you have both cards, you can use the Reserve when booking flights and eating at restaurants and the Unlimited for all other spending. (On the other hand, if you used the Reserve everywhere, you’d be stuck getting just 1% back at your local grocery store.)

And because the cash back you earn with the Unlimited comes in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you can transfer them to your Reserve to increase their value. With the Reserve, you can redeem your points for travel through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal at a rate of 1.5¢ per point. This means your Freedom Unlimited’s 1.5x points per dollar could be worth 2.25x points per dollar.

Learning the travel points game

Whether you choose a co-branded or general-purpose travel rewards card, you’ll want to learn about the different ways you can use your rewards.

Your options can sometimes get confusing if you go beyond basic redemption options. That’s also where “the points game” comes into play, as cardholders discover the sweet spots where their miles and points can be worth much more than 1¢ or 2¢ each.

Booking international business- and first-class flights often give you the best value for your points, as tickets can cost thousands of dollars.

You can sometimes find great deals by using miles in one frequent-flyer program to book a rewards flight with a partner airline. For example, a NerdWallet writer found that he could book a flight from Los Angeles to Paris on Air Tahiti Nui, one of Delta’s partner airlines, for 75,000 Delta SkyMiles. He would have needed at least 110,000 SkyMiles to book the same flight directly with Delta.

The option to transfer points to a partner loyalty program can be one of the best benefits of a general-purpose rewards card. For example, if you have an Amex card that earns Membership Rewards points, you can transfer those points to one of 19 airline partners and three hotel partners, including Delta, JetBlue, and Hilton. And you can use that flexibility to search for the best redemption options before you transfer your points.

Fortunately, you don’t have to become a points guru and memorize everything—you can search for “sweet spot” redemptions on many travel blogs and forums.

Understand all of your card’s benefits

Many credit card issuers and networks offer valuable cardholder benefits. Take a few minutes to read about your card’s benefits—and remember to use them. Buy your new phone with the right credit card, and you may be able to get reimbursed if it’s damaged or stolen.

Some perks, such as a complimentary Priority Pass membership (which gets you into select airport lounges), require separate activation. If you wait until you’re at the airport and try to get into the lounge using only your credit card, it’ll be too late.

Reassess what’s in your wallet

As your circumstances and spending habits change, a different rewards card may become a better fit later. Growing families might get more value from free checked bags, or you could decide that you want to focus on earning cash back rather than airline miles.

You can sign up for Wirecutter’s five-day credit card checkup to get step-by-step guidance in evaluating your current cards and figuring out what might be best for you.

What is a rewards credit card?

A rewards credit card is a type of credit card that offers you rewards for your spending. Those rewards typically come in the form of cash back, points, or miles. Depending on the program, you can redeem your rewards for cash, travel, gift cards, experiences, and more.

What is the best cash back credit card?

Our top cash back card for most people is the Citi Double Cash Card, which earns a flat cash back rate of 2% (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay it off), charges no annual fee, and offers easy redemption.

However, the best cash back card for you depends on how you spend your money. If you tend to frequent a variety of stores and don’t use a credit card often, a flat-rate cash back card with no annual fee (like the Citi Double Cash) may be best. Bigger spenders, though, might want to pay an annual fee and net a better return on their money, or choose a card that offers bonus rewards on the types of purchases they make most.

What is the best travel rewards credit card?

Our top travel card for most people is the American Express Gold Card, as it generously rewards travel spending as well as everyday purchases made at restaurants and US supermarkets.

But the best travel rewards credit card for you will depend on where you live, where you want to travel, and how you want to get there. If you frequently fly with the same airline or stay at the same hotel, a co-branded card may be a good choice. But if you want more options for redeeming rewards, a general-purpose travel card might be a better fit. While a few travel cards have high annual fees, many offer elite status and perks that can make your travel more luxurious—and make the annual fee worth paying.

What is the best credit card for rewards?

We have top picks for cash back, travel, and airline rewards credit cards.

To help narrow down your choices, think about your current spending habits, lifestyle, and goals. The best rewards credit card for you will help you save money or take trips you wouldn’t be able to enjoy otherwise, as well as offer rewards and perks whose value exceeds their annual fees (if applicable). Consider earnings rates, fees, and benefits—along with your personal situation—to figure out which card(s) best meet your needs.

How do credit card rewards work?

Each credit card company has its own rules for how you earn and redeem rewards. Generally, you earn points, miles, or cash back when you use a card to make purchases (you won’t earn rewards on other types of transactions, such as cash advances). You then redeem your rewards for things like cash back, statement credits, gift cards, and travel, depending on the card issuer. Some, but not all, rewards cards charge annual fees, and you’ll also be charged interest if you don’t pay your credit card bill in full each month.

How can you maximize credit card rewards?

Maximizing your credit card rewards starts with finding the right card. Whether earned with a cash back card or a travel card, the best credit card rewards are those that fit with your lifestyle. Once you have a card, use it for every purchase to maximize your earnings—but be sure to track your spending, and try to resist the urge to spend beyond your means just because you’re earning rewards. Also, research the rewards program to determine the best redemption options and get the most value out of each point or mile you earn.

Rates and fees:
American Express® Gold Card
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

About your guides

Sally French

Sally French

Staff Writer

Sally French is a staff writer at Wirecutter, covering personal finance. Previously she spent five years writing for MarketWatch, where she reported on everything from comparing meal kit costs to detailing her own personal experience buying a home in San Francisco. Her personal finance stories have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and many other publications. You can find her on LinkedIn.

Louis DeNicola

Louis DeNicola

Louis DeNicola is a freelance personal finance writer based in Oakland, California. For over seven years, he has helped people save money, pay down debt, and understand their credit. In addition to Wirecutter, Louis works with a variety of financial services firms, credit bureaus, and educational websites. You can see his work on the sites of Credit Karma, Experian, Discover, and Nova Credit, to name just a few. Find Louis on LinkedIn.

Editorial note: The evaluations of financial products in this article are independently determined by Wirecutter and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

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