The rewards available from credit cards go well beyond just points and miles. With the right credit card, you can save on shopping, get a jump-start on your vacation fund, and more. With TPG’s best rewards credit cards from our partners, you can add value, along with points and miles, to your wallet. Be sure to check out our best travel credit cards and our best credit cards for all of the current offers.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card — Best for beginner travelers
- Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express — Best for select U.S. streaming rewards
- The Platinum Card® from American Express — New Platinum exclusive offer
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card — Best for airline rewards
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card — Best new premium travel credit card
- American Express® Gold Card — Best for dining rewards at restaurants
- Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card — Best for freelancers
- Chase Freedom Unlimited® — Best for flexible rewards
- Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card — Best for entertainment rewards
- Citi Custom Cash℠ Card — Best for monthly rotating categories
- Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card — Best for cash back
- Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card — Best for first travel card
- Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express — Best for cash back beginners
- Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card — Best for business travelers
- Aeroplan® Credit Card — Best flexible airline credit card
- 5x 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 3x 3x on dining.
- 2x 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
Why we chose it
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of the most popular travel rewards credit cards on the market. Offering an excellent return on travel and dining purchases, the card packs a ton of value that easily offsets its $95 annual fee. Cardholders can redeem points at 1.25 cents each for travel booked through Chase or transfer points to one of Chase’s 14 valuable airline and hotel partners. Read our full review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
- 6% 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%)
- 6% 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions
- 3% 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more
- 3% 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations
- 1% 1% Cash Back on other purchases
Why we chose it
The Blue Cash Preferred Card is one of the best cash-back credit cards on the market. You’ll get a great return across a wide range of bonus categories, a solid welcome bonus and a low annual fee. Read our full review of the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express.
- 5X Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
- 5X Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
Why we chose it
The Amex Platinum is unmatched when it comes to travel perks and benefits. If lounge access, hotel elite status and annual statement credits are important to you, this card is well worth the high annual fee. Read our full review of the Platinum Card from American Express.
- 5X Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
- 2X Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.
Why we chose it
When it comes to simplicity and strong rewards, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a solid choice for most travelers. You’ll earn earns 2x miles on every purchase with no bonus categories to memorize, making it an ideal card for those with busy lives. Read our full review of the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.
- 10X Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
- 2X Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
Why we chose it
If you can maximize the up to $300 statement credit toward Capital One Travel, the Venture X’s annual fee effectively comes down to $95, the same annual fee pegged to the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. Add in a 10,000-mile bonus every account anniversary (worth $185, according to TPG valuations) and lounge access, and the card may become the strongest option out there for a lot of travelers. Read our full review of the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card.
- 4X Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, including takeout and delivery.
- 4X Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
- 3X Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
Why we chose it
This isn’t just a card that’s nice to look at. It packs a real punch, offering 4 points per dollar on global dining and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1 point per dollar). There’s also an up to $120 annual dining statement credit at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations, plus it added an up to $120 annually ($10 per month) in Uber Cash, which can be used on Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S. All this make it a very strong contender for all food purchases, which has become a popular spending category. Enrollment required for select benefits. Read our full review of the American Express Gold Card.
- 1.5% Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase made for your business
Why we chose it
The Ink Business Unlimited’ sign-up gives you a generous $750 cash back spending $7,500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening plus unlimited 1.5% cash back on every business purchase. It fills in rewards gaps not covered by the Ink Business Cash Credit Card and the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. You can maximize this card by pairing it with cards including the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Ink Business Preferred. Read our full review of the Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card.
- 5% Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more;
- 3% 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service
- 1.5% 1.5% on all other purchases
Why we chose it
The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a surprisingly powerful card that earns at least 1.5% back on everything. However, it becomes a standout card if you pair it with a card that earns transferable Ultimate Rewards points, doubling their potential value. Read our full review on the Chase Freedom Unlimited.
- 8% Earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through January 2023.
- 3% Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®).
- 1% Earn 1% on all other purchases.
Why we chose it
The Capital One SavorOne is a great cash back credit card for beginners looking for a solid rewards structure and no annual fee. Dining, entertainment and groceries are high-value bonus categories, and it’s rare for a card to hit all three. Read our full review of the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card.
- 5% Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, 1% cash back thereafter.
- 1% Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Why we chose it
The Citi Custom Cash is the most flexible cash-back card on the market, allowing you to earn 5% back on your top eligible spend category on up to $500 spent each billing cycle. Read our full review on the Citi Custom Cash Card.
- 1.5% Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
Why we chose it
The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card is a decent option for those in need of a straightforward cash back card. However, there are other options that offer more flexibility to redeem your rewards. Read our full review of the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card.
- 1.5X Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire.
Why we chose it
The Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card is a breath of fresh air. With no annual fee, 1.5x on all purchases and the ability to redeem your points for travel purchases on your statement credit, this card is a terrific first travel credit card. Read our full review on the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card.
- 3% 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%).
- 2% 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores.
- 1% 1% Cash Back on other purchases
Why we chose it
The Blue Cash Everyday card is a good option for people who want a simple cash back structure with no annual fee. You’ll earn bonus cash back rewards on popular bonus categories, including U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations. Read our full review of the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express.
- 3X Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
- 1X Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases – with no limit to the amount you can earn
Why we chose it
The Ink Business Preferred Credit Card’s sign-up bonus is among the highest we’ve seen from Chase. Plus earn points across the four bonus categories (travel, shipping, advertising and telecommunication providers) that are most popular with businesses. The card comes with travel protections, shopping protections and will also have primary coverage when renting a car for business purposes for you and your employees. Read our full review of the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.
- 3X Earn 3x points for each dollar spent on grocery stores, dining at restaurants, and Air Canada directly.
- 1X Earn 1x points for each dollar spent on all other purchases.
Why we chose it
The Chase Aeroplan Credit Card is the first to offer automatic elite status, a suite of airline-specific benefits and valuable Aeroplan miles that can help you book through Air Canada’s airline partners and Star Alliance carriers.
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
|Card||Best for||Welcome Offer/Sign Up Bonus||Earning Rate||Annual Fee|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||Best for beginner travelers||60,000 points||
|Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express||Best for select U.S. streaming rewards||$300||
||$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.|
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||New Platinum exclusive offer||100,000 points||
|Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card||Best for new premium travel credit card||100,000 miles||
|Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card||Best for airline rewards||60,000 miles||
|American Express® Gold Card||Best for dining rewards at restaurants||60,000 points||
|Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card||Best for freelancers||$750||
|Chase Freedom Unlimited®||Best for flexible rewards||Earn an Additional 1.5% Cash Back||
|Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card||Best for entertainment rewards||$200||
|Citi Custom Cash℠ Card||Best for monthly rotating categories||$200||
|Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card||Best for cash back||$200||
|Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card||Best for first travel card||25,000 points||
|Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express||Best for cash back beginners||$200||
|Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card||Best for business travelers||100,000 points||
|Aeroplan® Credit Card||Best flexible airline credit card||Up to 100,000 total points||
TPG’s picks for the best rewards credit cards
American Express Platinum Card: New Platinum exclusive offer
Welcome offer: You’ll earn a whopping 100,000 points after you spend $6,000 in the first six months. Not to mention that some cardholders are targeted for a 125k- or 150k-point welcome bonus through CardMatch (offers subject to change at any time).
Rewards rate: Earn 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year) and prepaid hotel bookings and through Amex Travel . Earn 1 point per dollar on other purchases.
Annual fee: $695 (see rates and fees)
Who should apply: Although Amex has raised the annual fee, you’re getting more than $1,400 in value from the annual statement credits alone, built with both a lifestyle and travel focus. You can access the American Express Global Lounge Collection, which includes Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass, Escape and Airspace lounges, plus Delta Sky Clubs on same-day Delta flights. Also, get up to a $100 fee statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years. The new and old statement credits include up to $200 in annual prepaid hotel statement credits for Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with Amex Travel, up to $200 in annual airline fee statement credits, up to $179 in Clear membership statement credits each year, up to $300 in annual Equinox credits and up to $240 in annual digital entertainment statement credits and more. Enrollment required for select benefits.
Check out the full card review for the Amex Platinum.
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Best for airline rewards
Sign-up bonus: Earn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 on purchases within the first six months of account opening. For a limited time, get up to $200 back in statement credits for vacation rental purchases charged to the card within your first year.
Rewards rate: 10 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 5 miles per dollar on flights booked through Capital One Travel and 2 miles per dollar on every purchase.
Annual fee: $395
Who should apply: If you’re looking for a premium rewards credit card with a manageable annual fee, the Venture X is a fantastic pick for you. Cardholders will enjoy up to a $300 travel statement credit every year for bookings through Capital One Travel and a 10,000-anniversary mile bonus. While there’s only one Capital One lounge at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) currently, you get unlimited access to Capital One’s full network of lounges and Priority Pass lounges — for you and up to two guests.
Check out the full card review for the Capital One Venture X.
American Express Gold Card: Best for dining rewards at restaurants
Welcome offer: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first six months, although you may be targeted for up to 75,000 bonus points through the CardMatch tool (offer subject to change at any time).
Rewards rate: Earn 4 points per dollar on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 spent each calendar year, then 1 point per dollar); 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly through airlines or on Amex Travel; 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
Annual fee: $250 (see rates and fees)
Who should apply: With the Amex Gold, you’re getting a great 8% return on restaurant and U.S. supermarket spending and a solid 6% return on airfare. The Amex Gold is a nice middle ground between the top-tier The Platinum Card® from American Express and a lower-value beginner card, such as The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express. The information for the Amex EveryDay card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
You’re getting perks, such as a dining statement credit and up to $120 in Uber Cash annually ($10 monthly credits) in the U.S. each calendar year (must add card to Uber app to receive this benefit), plus a rewards structure that focuses on common spending categories besides just travel — all without the massive $695 annual fee that comes with the Amex Platinum card. If you want an Amex card that makes it easy to earn Membership Rewards on everyday expenses such as dining at restaurants and groceries at U.S. supermarkets, this is definitely a card to consider. Enrollment required for select benefits.
Check out the full card review for the Amex Gold.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best for airline rewards
Sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
Rewards rate: 2 miles per dollar on every purchase.
Annual fee: $95
Who should apply: The Venture has long been a crowd favorite for travel rewards because of its simplicity. You know you’re getting 2 miles per dollar on every purchase, which takes a lot of the guessing game out of earning rewards. The miles earned can then be used as a statement credit to “pay” for eligible travel (and temporarily some non-travel) purchases or they can be transferred to one of Capital One’s 14 airline and three hotel transfer partners. As an added perk, you’ll also get a statement credit of up to $100 every four years for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee, which isn’t a benefit commonly found on low-fee cards.
This card is often marketed as a beginner card, but anyone can take advantage of the card’s rewards structure and benefits. Beginners will enjoy the simplicity of using the Venture, while experts can use it for non-bonus spending. All of this landed the Venture a spot on our TPG list of best credit cards — and a special place in The Points Guy Brian Kelly’s wallet.
Check out the full card review for the Capital One Venture.
Citi® Double Cash Card: Best for cash back rewards
Sign-up bonus: N/A
Rewards rate: 2% on every purchase — 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay your bill
Annual fee: $0
Who should apply: 2% cash back on every purchase is a great offer for non-bonus spending. Although Citi did strip important purchase protections from this card in 2019, the issuer also added the ability to convert your Double Cash rewards to ThankYou points via a linked ThankYou account. ThankYou points are valued at 1.7 cents each at TPG, in part because of Citi’s solid list of transfer partners. The ability to convert points means you’re getting a 3.4% return on every purchase for no annual fee. If you’re in the market for a simple card that earns flexible rewards, then the Citi Double Cash is the best cash back credit card with no annual fee, therefore also making it one of the best no annual fee credit cards.
Check out the full card review for the Citi Double Cash.
Chase Sapphire Preferred: Best for beginner travelers
Sign-up bonus: 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.
- 5 points per dollar on Lyft (until March 2022)
- 5 points per dollar on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 3 points per dollar on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out
- 3 points per dollar on select streaming services
- 3 points per dollar on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs)
- 2 points per dollar on all other travel
- 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
Annual fee: $95
Who should apply: The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the best beginner travel cards available. You’re getting an excellent sign-up bonus worth $1,200, according to TPG valuations. Its rewards structure is broad enough to earn points on a large number of purchases.
The points currency you’re earning is among the highest-value transferable currencies out there. You can redeem points for 1.25 cents each through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal or you can transfer points to one of Chase’s airline and hotel partners. Plus, you’re only paying a $95 annual fee.
Check out the full card review for the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best for frequent travelers
Sign-up bonus: 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months from account opening.
- 10 points per dollar total on hotels and car rentals booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards*
- 10 points per dollar total on Chase Dining purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards*
- 5 points per dollar total on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 3 points per dollar on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out
- 3 points per dollar on all other travel
- 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
*After the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually
Annual fee: $550
Who should apply: The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is one of the top premium travel cards available. You’re earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points on a wide range of travel and dining purchases, while also getting access to luxury perks such as an annual $300 travel credit, Priority Pass lounge access, TSA PreCheck/Global Entry application fee credit.
You’ll get at least one year of DashPass membership through DoorDash (must activate by 3/31/2022), a Lyft Pink membership and an impressive array of travel protections. The Chase Sapphire Reserve also dropped a few new perks to help maximize benefits during the pandemic.
When it comes time to redeem your rewards, you can transfer points at a 1:1 ratio to any of Chase’s 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners, or you can redeem them for certain travel (and now also non-travel) purchases at 1.5 cents each. If you’re a regular traveler who can take advantage of all of the card’s perks, this is an excellent rewards card to have in your wallet.
Check out the Chase Sapphire Reserve Review.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Best for U.S. streaming rewards
Welcome offer: Earn a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first six months of card membership.
Rewards rate: Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1%) and select U.S. streaming services; 3% on transit and at U.S. gas stations; 1% on other eligible purchases. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed for statement credits.
Annual fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95 (see rates and fees)
Who should apply: The Blue Cash Preferred offers valuable bonus categories that keep up with changing consumer habits. With a new streaming service being launched every other day, earning 6% on streaming is a great bonus category that only a few cards recognize.
This card is also a commuter’s dream, with unlimited 3% cash back on gas and transit (including taxis, ride-shares, tolls, trains, buses and more). Although the card does not earn Membership Rewards points, it remains a simple way to earn rewards on common everyday spending categories.
Check out the full card review for the Blue Cash Preferred.
Chase Freedom Flex: Best for rotating rewards
Sign-up bonus: $200 after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
Rewards rate: Earn 5% cash back on the first $1,500 in purchases spent on quarterly rotating categories (activation required); 5% on travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal; 3% on dining and drugstores; 1% on everything else.
Annual fee: $0
Who should apply: If you’re willing to keep up with spending categories that change every three months, you can get a lot out of a rewards card such as the Chase Freedom Flex. The categories are often easy to maximize. For example, the first quarter 2022 categories are eBay and grocery store purchases. If you maximize the bonus categories each quarter, you’ll earn $300 in bonus category rewards each year. This new card also comes with cell phone protection.
You can also pair this card with any of the best Chase credit cards that can earn Chase Ultimate Rewards and earn valuable Chase points rather than just cash back. With TPG’s valuation of Chase points at 2 cents each, you’ll be earning up to 10% back on bonus category spending.
Check out more details on the Chase Freedom Flex.
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for entertainment rewards
Sign-up bonus: $200 after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening
Rewards rate: Earn 3% cash back on dining, entertainment purchases, popular streaming services and grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart and Target) and 1% on other purchases.
Annual fee: $0.
Who should apply: Anyone who spends a lot on dining and entertainment should consider this card. Capital One defines both of those categories broadly, meaning you’ll earn 3% back for sit-down restaurants, take-out, coffee shops and bakeries, concert tickets, movies, sporting events and even tourist attractions.
This is a great tiered earning structure for rewards-card beginners because you don’t have to pay attention to changing categories. Plus, it offers excellent value for veterans of the rewards game. With no foreign transaction fees and no annual fee, this is the perfect card to use on entertainment purchases, both at home and when traveling.
Check out the full card review for the Capital One SavorOne.
Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for flexible rewards
Sign-up bonus: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) – worth up to $300 cash back!
Rewards rate: Earn 5% on travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal; 3% on dining and drugstores; unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
Annual fee: $0
Who should apply: Everyone needs a card that earns rewards on those purchases that don’t fall under any other bonus categories. That’s where a card like the Chase Freedom Unlimited shines — especially for existing Chase Ultimate Rewards cardholders.
If you also have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, you can transfer your cash back rewards from the Chase Freedom Unlimited to your Ultimate Rewards account. You can then redeem those points at an elevated rate through the Chase portal or transfer them to travel partners. TPG values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each, which doubles the value of your rewards.
Check out the full card review for the Chase Freedom Unlimited.
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express: Best for U.S. department store rewards
Welcome offer: Earn a $200 statement credit after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card within the first six months of card membership.
Rewards rate: Earn 3% back on the first $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets per calendar year (then 1%), 2% at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, 1% on other eligible purchases. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed for statement credits.
Annual fee: $0 (see rates and fees)
Who should apply: If you’re looking for a no-annual-fee credit card to start your cash back earning with, the Amex Blue Cash Everyday is a potential option for you. You’ll be earning a solid 3% back on U.S. supermarkets, as well as 2% at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department store purchases. While supermarkets and gas stations aren’t uncommon categories, department stores is a rare bonus category to find on rewards credit cards. Having a card that earns 2% at select U.S. department stores such as Macy’s could be a game changer for shoppers.
Cardholders also get 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months from the account opening date (see rates and fees) (variable APR of 13.99% to 23.99% based on your creditworthiness and other factors after — see rates and fees). If you’re looking for a way to finance an upcoming large purchase, 15 months without interest is one way to spread out your payments. Just make sure you’re able to pay off the balance by the time the intro APR period ends.
Check out the full card review for the Blue Cash Everyday Card.
What types of credit card rewards can you get?
All of these cards earn some type of rewards, but the kind of rewards differs from card to card:
Transferable points — These are the issuers’ currencies that can be transferred to certain partners to maximize value. For example, several Chase cards earn Ultimate Rewards points, which can be redeemed for several different things through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal but can also be transferred to one of Chase’s partners, including United or Marriott. Generally speaking, this type of rewards card is the most valuable because of its redemption flexibility.
Cash back rewards — This is the most straightforward type of reward. You’re earning a percentage of each purchase that you can redeem for cash at a later date. Although cash back is always redeemed at a fixed value, it can be highly useful for both beginners and seasoned travelers. Points and miles are best redeemed for airfare or hotel bookings, but cash back has more flexibility without compromising its value. You can use cash back to save up for the day-to-day expenses of your travel or you can simply use it to save money on your statements each month.
Hybrid rewards — Hybrid cards have popped up in recent years. These cards earn cash back on their own but can be paired with other cards to convert that cash to more valuable points currencies. A prime example of this type of card is the Chase Freedom Unlimited. You’re earning cash back on purchases, but those rewards can be converted to Ultimate Rewards points when you pair the Unlimited with another eligible Chase card. The Citi Double Cash also recently joined the ranks of hybrid cash-back cards with no annual fee.
Rewards with loyalty programs — These are cards that earn points or miles for a specific loyalty program, typically for an airline or hotel. Most of the time, these cards also come with brand-specific benefits like complimentary elite status (for hotel cards) or priority boarding (for airline cards). These currencies aren’t as flexible as transferable currencies but they can still be highly valuable.
How do travel rewards credit cards work?
Travel rewards cards don’t just mean airmiles. They bring a whole host of travel perks into your life that you’ll wonder how you previously lived without like lounge access, seat upgrades, comprehensive travel insurance, statement credits and more.
Similar to cash back cards, there are also different types of travel rewards cards which offer slightly different benefits.
Cobranded rewards cards
The purpose of these cards is increased rewards on purchases with specific airlines or hotel brands. The cards are less flexible than general purpose travel cards as the points earned are specific to the airline or hotel and are only redeemable with the same hotel chain or airline and sometimes within airline alliances. One example of this is Southwest, who offer a number of credit cards which would suit different travelers depending on their needs.
General purpose travel cards
These cards earn points linked to a specific bank or issuer like Chase or American Express. The points earned are then transferable to a selection of airlines, hotel, car hire and other brands depending on the partnerships of each bank or issuer. If you’re loyal to one specific airline or hotel, it’s worth researching the transfer partners of cards before applying. This gives the ultimate freedom when deciding how you’d like to redeem your points, as your points don’t already belong to an airline or hotel brand.
What are the best ways to use reward cards in 2022?
There are many ways you can still make the most of your rewards credit cards and add to your pot of points and miles at the same time, even if you’re not traveling as much as you used to.
You’ve been likely spending more on groceries throughout the pandemic. This is great news if you have the American Express Gold Card which earns 4x on groceries at U.S. supermarkets (up to a maximum spend of $25,000 per calendar year; then 1x).
These are all great ways of continuing to earn points and miles that will be ready to use on incredible redemptions when travel returns in all its glory.
What are the pros and cons of rewards credit cards?
While rewards credit cards are an excellent tool to help you save money and hit financial goals, they aren’t a great fit for everyone.
- You’ll earn rewards on expenses you make every day. If you’re going to spend that money anyway, why not earn rewards while you’re at it?
- They can help you hit financial goals. Whether you want to pad your savings or travel more luxuriously on a budget, rewards credit cards can help you do so when used responsibly.
- Rewards credit cards can offer peace of mind. Many cards come with travel protections or purchase protections covering worst-case-scenarios while abroad or shopping for large-ticket items.
- Rewards credit cards have higher APRs than other types of credit cards. If you aren’t paying off your bills in full each month, the interest you’ll rack up will actually end up costing you money — even if you’re earning rewards.
- They aren’t accessible to everyone. Credit card issuers are choosy when it comes to approving rewards credit cards, which means you typically have to have good credit to get one. Those who are new to building credit or who have a less-than-stellar score may not be able to get the best rewards credit cards.
Related: What is a good credit score?
Which are the most popular credit card rewards programs?
There are more than a dozen credit card rewards programs out there, from airline and hotel loyalty programs to issuer programs. Each month, TPG publishes our monthly rewards valuations that outline how much each point or mile currency is worth in our eyes, but each program has its advantages and disadvantages. The three largest (and most valuable) issuer rewards programs offer flexible points, a wide range of credit card options to earn points and a solid list of transfer partners.
Chase Ultimate Rewards is one of the top rewards programs for a good reason. TPG values points at 2 cents each, and you can redeem points through Chase’s portal (with a redemption bonus depending on which Chase cards you hold) and transfer points to partners like United and Hyatt.
Top cards that earn Ultimate Rewards:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve – full card review
- Chase Sapphire Preferred – full card review
- Ink Business Preferred – full card review
The other top rewards program is Amex Membership Rewards, where points are also valued at 2 cents each. Amex has the most extensive network of airline and hotel transfer partners — 22 — of the top issuer programs, and you can often find transfer bonuses. Of course, you can also redeem points through Amex’s travel portal.
Top cards that earn Membership Rewards:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express – full card review
- American Express® Gold Card – full card review
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express – full card review
Citi ThankYou Points aren’t quite as valuable in the eyes of TPG (we value the points at 1.7 cents each), but there is still a lot to like about this program. There are some great transfer partners available through Citi ThankYou Points, including Avianca LifeMiles, Etihad Guest and Virgin Atlantic. Just keep in mind that Citi stripped most of its travel and purchase protections across its cards in 2019, which devalues this program slightly.
Top cards that earn ThankYou Points:
Capital One has vastly improved its transfer program — especially in the past year. TPG has raised its valuations of Capital One miles from 1.7 to 1.85 cents. There are 15-plus airline and hotel programs, including high-value options like Air Canada Aeroplan, Avianca LifeMiles and Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles.The issuer has also simplified its transfer ratios so that most programs now transfer at a 1:1 tier, though there are a couple of exceptions (2:1 and 2:1.5 transfer rates).
Top cards that earn Capital One miles:
- Capital One Venture X – full card review
- Capital One Venture – full card review
- Capital One VentureOne – full card review
- Capital One Spark Miles for Business – full card review
- Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business – full card review
The information for the Capital One Spark Miles Select has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
How TPG values Amex, Chase and Citi rewards points
At TPG, we publish our own point valuations that evaluate the cash value of each reward currency. These valuations are updated regularly and based on a wide range of factors (such as the average value you can get from a point, how flexible the redemption options are and more) to give our readers a picture of how much dollar value you’ll get on average from a specific rewards currency. Here is a quick breakdown of the current TPG valuations of each of the points currencies (not including cash-back rewards cards) included on our list of top rewards credit cards.
|Point currency:||TPG valuation*:|
|Amex Membership Rewards||2 cents|
|Capital One Miles||1.85 cents|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2 cents|
|Citi ThankYou Points||1.7 cents|
*TPG valuations are calculated by TPG and are not reviewed by the card issuer.
What is a credit card point or mile worth?
Rewards credit cards have the potential to open up a lot of earning opportunities when you pick the right card for your specific spending habits. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average U.S. household spent $4,643 on groceries, $3,526 on dining, $2,094 on gas and $3,050 on entertainment in 2019. Using those figures, let’s compare how much you could earn with three popular rewards credit cards:
|Card||Chase Sapphire Preferred||Capital One Venture||Blue Cash Preferred|
|Groceries||13,929 Ultimate Rewards points||9,286 Capital One miles||$278.58 cash back|
|Dining||7,052 Ultimate Rewards points||7,052 Capital One miles||$70.52 cash back|
|Gas||2,094 Ultimate Rewards points||4,188 Capital One miles||$62.82 cash back|
|Entertainment||3,050 Ultimate Rewards points||6,100 Capital One miles||$30.50 cash back|
|Total earning||26,125 Ultimate Rewards points ($522.50 in value)||26,626 Capital One miles ($492.58 in value)||$442.42 cash back|
Regardless which card you choose from that list, the earning potential is solid — especially since all three cards charge only $95 in annual fees. And this doesn’t include any earnings you could get from travel expenses (which the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t have as a definitive expense category. You could earn even more once you factor in those purchases, as well as any miscellaneous spending that fit into other bonus categories (such as transit, which earns 3% on the Blue Cash Preferred).
Bottom line? Rewards credit cards are well worth the annual fees that come with them when you utilize bonus categories and avoid interest payments by paying your bill in full each month.
When choosing one of the best rewards credit cards, I looked at multiple factors — with sign-up bonuses/welcome offers, rewards rates, and annual fees topping the list. I also assessed each rewards card’s flexibility, the type of rewards each card earned, the simplicity of the redemption process, and any perks that come with each card.
These are my top picks, but that doesn’t mean every card on this list is the perfect choice for everyone. At the end of the day, the cards that fill your wallet should allow you to earn more than 1% or 1x points on every purchase you make. Hopefully, this guide will help take care of the bulk of researching and comparing your card options, but make sure you’re choosing a card that will work for you in both the short and long term.
Frequently asked questions
How do rewards credit cards work?
Rewards credit cards offer cardholders redeemable rewards on everyday purchases as an incentive for using the card. These rewards differ from issuer to issuer and even card to card. Some earn cash back while others offer points or miles that can be redeemed for travel. At TPG, we are partial to travel credit cards that offer additional perks and benefits to enhance our travel experiences. There are also incredible rewards structures available on top cash-back cards.
In fact, based on results from a TPG survey commissioned last year in 2020, the number one goal of most cardholders when they choose a credit card is earning cash back.
Typically, top rewards credit cards charge an annual fee as the tradeoff for the rewards, perks and other benefits cardholders receive. However, cardholders who take advantage of what their cards have to offer in rewards or other benefits will find it easy to offset the cost of any annual fee.
How can I redeem credit card rewards?
Redeeming those hard-earned and well-deserved rewards is the fun part, and it’s simpler than you might have imagined.
As a reminder, we advise taking into consideration the way a card passes its rewards on to make sure you personally would get value from such a method.
Redeeming cash back
Statement credit for cash back credit cards is the most common way of getting your rewards. This takes zero effort from you, the consumer, as the value of the cash back you’ve earned will just appear on your statement, lowering your overall monthly balance. For example, if you’d earned a total of $50 cash back and had a $200 statement that month, this would automatically reduce to $150.
Not all cash back cards give back rewards in this way. Alternative methods include; a check, actual cash, bank account deposit, charitable donations, gift cards, travel and more.
Redeeming travel rewards
The type of rewards card you have will determine the way in which the rewards can be redeemed for travel.
While it’s not necessarily more complicated to redeem for travel rewards, it can require a bit of extra thought when planning your redemption, especially if your card has more than one way of redeeming.
Broadly speaking, there are four ways you can redeem rewards. These are; booking directly with the airline or hotel that your co-branded card belongs to, transferring your issuer’s reward points to a different hotel or airline loyalty program, converting rewards to a credit statement or booking through the card issuers travel portal.
How can I maximize credit card rewards?
Pay it all off
Rule number one, pay your card off in full and on time. Getting into bad habits with overspending and accruing interest will write off any cash back or points that you have earned. If you’re unable to do this, don’t take out the card.
Do the math
Look back through your finances over the last year or more to make sure you can afford the annual fee and see if your spending will earn it back in cash back or rewards.
Earn the sign-up bonus
Sign-up bonuses can be up to six figures and are key to maximizing your points and miles game. If you’re regular monthly spending won’t be enough to hit the threshold, then don’t get the card. Spending more than you can afford just to hit a sign up bonus should be avoided.
Use it however and wherever
Pay with it at the supermarket. Pay with it at dinner with family or friends. Better still, if your friends or family are paying cash or don’t use points and miles cards, why not suggest paying for the whole check and have them leave you cash or Venmo you their share. Some cards will even allow you to pay your rent and utility bills, and even some insurances with it so it’s always worth checking out, especially if no convenience fees would be charged.
Make it a habit to check your credit card or airline shopping portals before each and every purchase that you make online. That way you’ll be sure to never miss out on those extra bonus points and miles.
Make the most of every benefit
From comprehensive travel insurance to hotel room upgrades, most cards have a ton of benefits just waiting for you to use. Make sure you know everything that your card has to offer so you don’t miss out on a single benefit.
Consider several cards
Having more than one reward credit card will boost your earning potential across the board. For example, taking out an airline cobranded card like the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, as well as a cash back card like the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card will have you reaping both airline and travel benefits while getting cash back on your dining and take out.
What credit score do I need to get a rewards credit card?
There is no specific one-rule-fits all regarding credit score requirements. Each rewards card has its own specific requirement but issuers usually look to accept those who have good-high credit scores (670+).
For example, if you’re considering one of the most premium cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or The Platinum Card® from American Express you’ll need an excellent credit score of around 760 or more. That’s because these cards come with the most luxury perks and benefits.
If you have low credit, not all is lost. Even if your score is lower than 700, there are cards out there that will consider you like The Chase Freedom Unlimited or The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express.
How do I choose a rewards credit card?
There’s no right and wrong answer for what is the ‘best’ credit card. Options should be considered on a case-by-case basis depending on each individual’s unique circumstances.
You should be looking at the rewards rate, annual fee and benefits to decide which cards will give you the most long-term value. From there, you can choose which card within those parameters offers the best welcome bonus to strategize which card is best for you to apply for right now.
Here are some important factors we feel are most important to consider when you’re doing your research.
Rewards cards aren’t for everyone
Before taking out a credit card, the most important thing to consider is your credit. In most cases, only those with credit scores of 690 or above will have application accepted for credit cards.
This is not a hard and fast rule, however, as there are a few options for those considered to have bad credit.
Once you’ve figured that out, you should consider if you’ll be able to limit your spending on the card so that you are able to pay it off in full each month. If so, then a rewards credit card makes sense.
If not, the interest accrued is likely to write off any value you’ll have earned in points or rewards from the card. In this case you might be better off considering a low-interest, or a balance-transfer credit card instead that has a 0% interest period so you don’t get swamped with debt.
What do you spend your money on?
This is a really important factor to consider as cards will often have higher earning points earning or cash back potential with specific categories of spending. There are cards for those who spend lots on groceries, others that are geared towards those who travel often and also some for those who love to wine, dine and entertain themselves. If you fall into the latter category, then the Capital One SavorOne would cater to that.
Goals for your rewards?
What type of rewards would make the most sense to you? If you could do with some extra cash each month, then a cash-back credit card is likely to be your best bet.
Or, if you travel often with the same airline and want to raise your airmiles earning game, then a cobranded airline credit card that earns bonus rewards and offers perks for those flights would be best for you.
How do I compare rewards credit cards?
When comparing rewards credit cards, it’s important to to first of all decide which particular perk is the most important to you. For example, if a card with no fee is important to you, you might exclude cards with fees from your comparison, even if they fare better in the sign-up bonus category.
Here are some of the main points to consider when doing your comparison.
Sign up bonus
Some cards have a lot higher sign up bonuses than others. More often than not, the higher the sign up bonus, the higher the annual fee on the card or spending limit to unlock that sign bonus.
Try not to be swayed by the lure of an amazing sign up bonus if the annual fee or spending limit would be difficult to achieve with your budget.
Speaking of the annual fee, this can be from a comfortable $0 per year, to an eye-watering $550. While at first that might not seem a lot when spread over the course of 12-months, oftentimes annual fees are due in full on your first credit card statement.
Before applying, it’s worth making sure the annual fee of the reward card you’re considering wouldn’t leave your monthly budget short.
Certain cards offer more rewards for spending in specific categories. Some reward spending on groceries, some on eating out. Whereas others are primarily focused on rewarding for spending on travel and leisure. If your spending is varied month to month, then watch out for cards which rotate the bonus earning categories so you can maximize your rewards.
When deciding which card to go for, it’s worth doing a calculation to see which category the bulk of your monthly spending is in, if you don’t know that already.
Point currency value
TPG gives point currencies like Citi ThankYou Points and American Express Membership Rewards values based on a host of different factors. Values range from 1.4 to 2 cents per point. This is also something to consider when deciding which card is best for you.
Additional reporting by Daniel Ross and Stella Shon.
Featured image by Getty Images
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday, click here.