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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Everyday spending is an important piece of the travel rewards puzzle. While it doesn’t offer the “get rich quick” feeling of a shiny 100,000-point sign-up bonus, it can help you top off your balance to get that next award or diversify your points into a different program you wouldn’t otherwise use much. So when Marriott announced that the new combined Marriott-SPG program would include a 33% reduction in the everyday earning rates of the SPG co-branded credit cards, many people started to consider whether it was time to look for a new “go to” everyday spend card.
The SPG cards were considered a no-brainer for everyday spending because of the high value of their points, but with the changes to those cards looming right around the corner in August, it’s time to take a look at which other credit cards offer the best return on everyday non-bonus spending.
There are many credit cards on the market today, but only a handful are worth considering when it comes to non-bonused everyday spend. Here are 6 of the top possibilities, plus the revised SPG card as a point of comparison, ranked by value in the first year and assuming $20,000 in non-bonus spend during that year:
|Welcome Bonus||Annual Fee||Points Earned Based on $20,000 in Non-Bonus Spend||Total Return in First Year (based on TPG valuations)|
|Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard||60,000 miles ($600)||$89||40,000 miles||$961|
|Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card||50,000 miles ($500)||$0 (waived first year)||40,000 miles||$900|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||$150||$0||30,000 points||$780|
|The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express
|Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card||15,000 Membership Rewards points ($285 based on TPG valuations)||$95||30,000 points (assuming 30 transactions per month)||$760|
|Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card||50,000 points ($500)||$95||30,000 points||$705|
|Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express||Up to $200||$0 (waived first year)||40,000 points (in new Marriott program)||$560|
|Citi Double Cash Card||None||$0||$400||$400|
And here are the same cards ranked by their effective return in the second year and beyond:
|Annual Fee||Earning on Everyday Spend||% Return (based on TPG valuations)|
|The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express
||$0||2x Membership Rewards||3.8%|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||$0||1.5x Ultimate Rewards||3.15%|
|Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card||$95||1x Membership Reward point, 50% bonus points after making 30 purchases in a billing statement. Terms apply.||2.85% (with 50% bonus)|
|Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard||$89||2x Arrival miles||2.05%|
|Capital One Venture Rewards||$95||2x Venture Rewards miles||2%|
|Citi Double Cash||$0||2% cash back (1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% when you pay for those purchases)||2%|
|Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express||$95||2x Marriott Rewards points (beginning in August). Terms apply.||1.8%|
|Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card||$95||1.5x points (with up to a 75% bonus depending on your status in the Preferred Rewards program)||1.5% to 2.625%|
Let’s break these options down one-by-one, taking a look at how these returns are calculated and which options might be right for you personally.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
After disappearing from the market for a few months, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard is back, and now with an impressive 60,000 mile sign-up bonus. There are no bonus categories on this card, but you’ll earn 2 miles per dollar for everything you pay for with the card. Arrival miles are only worth 1 cent each, so you won’t get oversized value for them, but you can apply them to any travel-related purchases made on your Arrival Plus card and receive a statement credit against that purchase, essentially wiping out the cost. You’ll also get a 5% rebate on all redeemed miles, making the effective ongoing return on this card 2.05% for everyday spend.
There are two caveats to note with this card. First, the minimum redemption amount is $100, so you’ll need to have 10,000 Arrival miles at any given time in order to use them, and you can only apply miles to purchases made in the previous 120 days. Second, the Arrival Plus is only one of two cards on this list that doesn’t waive its annual fee in the first year, so you won’t get a chance to try it out for free. But with the massive sign-up bonus, it’s probably worth giving the card a shot.
Capital One Venture Rewards Card
Most of the other cards on this list require some personal adaptation. For instance, you might value Ultimate Rewards more than Membership Rewards based on your personal travel patterns, so the Freedom Unlimited might be a better card for your personal needs than the Blue Business Plus. But the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card takes all the guesswork out of the equation, offering everyone the same 2% return on all purchases. The card earns 2 miles per dollar spent, and those miles can be redeemed at a fixed rate of 1 cent each as statement credits to “erase” travel purchases you’ve made in the last 90 days.
There are other fixed-value cards out there, but one huge advantage of the Venture Rewards is that there’s no minimum redemption amount. That means if you take advantage of an amazing deal — like when the Conrad Chicago was on sale for only $11 a night — you can erase the entire purchase with Venture Rewards points. And while the card comes with a $95 annual fee (waived the first year), you’ll also have access to one outstanding bonus category — 10x miles earned on all purchases made at Hotels.com with the Venture Rewards card when booked and paid through the special hotels.com/Venture link.
Chase Freedom Unlimited
The Chase Freedom Unlimited has been around for a while, and savvy users know that it pairs perfectly with Chase’s premium credit card offerings. The Freedom Unlimited is billed as a cash back card, currently offering a sign-up bonus of $150 after spending $500 in 3 months. But that cash back comes in the form of Ultimate Rewards points, which can get you much more than 1 cent of cash back with the right combination of cards. If you also hold a premium Chase card, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, you can transfer the points from your Freedom Unlimited to one of these cards and turn them into full fledged transferable Ultimate Rewards points, worth as much as 2.1 cents apiece based on TPG’s latest monthly valuations.
While the Freedom Unlimited is often easier to get approved for than most premium cards, it is subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule. This means that you’ll be automatically rejected if you’ve opened 5 or more new cards in the last 24 months. This is one of the many reasons I think the Freedom Unlimited is the perfect starter card, and a simple and easy introduction to the world of free travel.
Amex Blue Business Plus
The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express is a relatively new addition to the Amex portfolio, but boy, does it pack a punch. This no annual fee credit card earns 2x Membership Rewards per dollar spent on all purchases, up to $50,000 in a year; then 1x. TPG values Membership Rewards points at 1.9 cents each, meaning that this card gives an unparalleled 3.8% return on all spend. Maxing out this card would earn you 100,000 Membership Rewards points a year, which is enough to unlock some pretty impressive redemption options.
Small business owners will also appreciate that this card borrows some of the best elements of Amex charge cards. Specifically, you have the potential to be able to spend beyond your pre-approved credit limit as long as you pay off the balance in full during the next billing cycle. The only downside of this card is that it’s a business card, not a personal card, so not everyone will be able to apply for it (though you may be more eligible than you think).
Amex EveryDay Preferred Card
The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express can be a lucrative option if you’re willing to commit to it. In addition to 2x points at US gas stations and 3x at US supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year), you’ll earn a 50% point bonus after making 30 or more purchases in a billing cycle. If you’re able to do this, you’ll effectively be earning 1.5 Membership Rewards points on all your purchases, but if you only make it to 29 purchases, you’ll be stuck earning 1x on non-bonus spend.
You’ll have to take a look at your own spending history and see if you can consistently maximize this card, but even at its best, it still comes up somewhat short of the Blue Business Plus. The Everyday Preferred has a $95 annual fee while the Blue Business Plus has none, and obviously 1.5x is less than 2x. Still, it might be a good choice for those folks who can’t get a business card, or who might have more than $50,000 a year in credit card expenses.
Citi Double Cash
While earning points and miles toward free travel is the way to earn the most lucrative credit card rewards, some people prefer the simplicity of cash back. For them, the Citi Double Cash Card is probably a perfect choice. It comes with no annual fee and a total of 2% cash back on all purchases — 1% when you make a purchase, and an additional 1% when you pay for it on your statement.
This card is as easy as it gets — no bonus categories, no points to redeem and no award space to chase. The one quirk to be aware of is that this card doesn’t waive foreign transaction fees, so you’ll want to use a different card when you’re traveling internationally or making overseas purchases. You also won’t earn outsized returns with this card — there’s no maximizing your points with cash back. But for folks who just want a solid cash back card, this is a perfect choice.
Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card
This card becomes extra appealing for non-bonus spending if you have high standing in Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program. If you have more than $100,000 in assets with BoFA (including investment and retirement accounts), you could get a 75% bonus on all points earning — meaning the 1.5x points you earn on non-bonus purchases with the Premium Rewards Card would be boosted to 2.625x points.
If you don’t have the requisite $100,000-plus in assets to secure the 75% bonus that comes with the Platinum Honors tier of the Preferred Rewards program, note that there are two lower tiers: Gold ($20,000-$50,000 in assets), which gets a 25% points bonus, equal to 1.875x points on non-bonus spending, and Platinum ($50,000-$100,000), which gets a 50% points bonus, equal to 2.25x points on non-bonus spending.
Starwood Preferred Guest Card
Finally, beginning in August the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express isn’t going to be as strong as it once was, but while it won’t be my go-to card for everyday spending any more, it’ll still hold a spot in my wallet. Going solely off TPG’s valuations, this card (as well as the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card) will earn 2 Marriott points per dollar on everyday spending, which works out to a 1.8% return.
Even if the SPG card isn’t earning as much as it used to, you have to account for the flexibility of Marriott points. Not only can you earn free nights at the world’s largest hotel chain, but Marriott is the sole transfer partner for some unique and interesting airlines. Looking to fly first class to Asia? There’s no better redemption value than using 70,000 Alaska miles for a seat on Cathay Pacific or JAL. But unless you fly Alaska regularly or spend heavily on the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card, the only way to earn those miles is by transferring them from Marriott and SPG.
No matter what your shopping habits or travel goals are like, everyone should be able to find at least one card on this list that works for them. Just make sure that no matter where you go, on top of your regular bonus category credit cards, there’s also a card in your wallet that’s getting you the very best return on your everyday purchases.
Featured image by ozgurcankaya / Getty Images.
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