These are the best credit cards for everyday spending

Mar 12, 2021

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It can be easy to focus only on credit cards that offer outsized bonus categories, such as 5x on travel or 4x on dining. But for most people, many of the purchases they make don’t fit neatly into any bonus category. Whether you’re indulging in some online shopping, buying a bottle of wine, or picking up a snack at a convenience store, it’s crucial to have a card that rewards you for these everyday, non-bonus expenses.

What’s the best card to use for everyday purchases — including seasonal gifts — when you’re not trying to meet minimum spending requirements on a top travel credit card to unlock a generous sign-up bonus? From a straightforward cash-back card that earns 2% on all expenses to valuable travel rewards cards, here’s a list of the cards that offer the best return on everyday non-bonus spending.

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Best credit cards for everyday spending in 2021

The information for the Amex EveryDay Preferred has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Here’s a rundown on the best cards, assuming $10,000 in non-bonus spend in the first year in addition to the value of the sign-up bonus:

In This Post

Comparing the best cards for everyday spending

Credit Card Sign-up Bonus/Welcome Offer Annual Fee Points Earned Based on $10,000 in Non-Bonus Spend Total Return in First Year (based on TPG valuations)
Chase Freedom Unlimited $200 bonus after spending $500 on purchases within your first three months of account opening. $0 15,000 points

(assuming no spending on bonus categories of Chase Travel, dining or drugstores)

$700 minimum (assuming you also have a full-fledged Chase Ultimate Rewards card)
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card 100,000 miles (worth $1,400, based on TPG valuations) when you spend $20,000 on purchases within your first 12  months of account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. $95 20,000 miles up to $1,680
Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express 15,000 Membership Rewards points (worth $300, based on TPG valuations) after you spend $1,000 in qualifying purchases on the card within your first three months of card membership $95 30,000 points (assuming 30 transactions per month) $900
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express
None $0 (see rates and fees) 20,000 points $400
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card 50,000 points ($500) after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening $95 15,000 points $650
Citi® Double Cash Card None $0 $200 cash back $200 minimum (up to $340 when converting your cash back to ThankYou points)
Ink Business Unlimited $750 cash back (or 75,000 points)
after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first three months after account opening
 $0 $150 cash back (15,000 points) $1,800 (assuming you also have a full-fledged Chase Ultimate Rewards card)
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 6 months of card membership. $95, waived the first year (see rates & fees) $100 $450

 

Chase Freedom Unlimited

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Not to be confused with the Chase Freedom Flex that offers 5% cash back (5x points) on rotating quarterly bonus categories on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter you activate, the Chase Freedom Unlimited earns at least 1.5% cash back (1.5x points per dollar) spent on everything. Plus, last year, Chase added three higher-earning categories, giving cardholders an opportunity to boost their rewards on the following:

  • 5% back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% back on dining
  • 3% back on drugstore purchases

Points earned from the Chase Freedom Unlimited can be converted into Ultimate Rewards points if you have a premium Chase credit card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. If not, you can redeem your cash back as a statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts, or in the Ultimate Rewards portal for travel, for shopping at Amazon.com or buying gift cards.

TPG values Ultimate Rewards points conservatively at 2 cents each, making the Chase Freedom Unlimited welcome offer of $200 worth at least $300 or 30,000 points when transferring to one of Chase’s full-fledged Ultimate Rewards cards.

The Freedom Unlimited is a perfect starter card and an ideal pairing with one of Chase’s premium cards but it is subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule — which means that you’ll be automatically denied if you’ve opened five or more new cards in the previous 24 months.

Read our Chase Freedom Unlimited full card review for more information.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

(Photo by Wyatt Smith / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith / The Points Guy)

Long before the Capital One Venture began adding hotel and airline transfer partners, the card was a fan favorite (and THE Points Guy Brian Kelly’s favorite), thanks to a strong earning rate of 2 miles per dollar on all purchases. While you can still redeem miles at a fixed rate of 1 cent each to erase eligible purchases made in the last 90 days, you also have the option to transfer them to some truly exceptional frequent flyer programs — including Avianca LifeMiles, Air Canada Aeroplan, Flying Blue and more — to unlock outsized value.

Read our review of the Capital One Venture card for more details.

Amex EveryDay Preferred Card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

The Amex EveryDay Preferred card is a lucrative option if you can commit to 30 making transactions monthly. That’s because, in addition to earning valuable Membership Rewards points on popular everyday bonus categories (1 point per dollar spent on non-bonus spending), you’ll earn 50% more points in each billing cycle if you make 30 or more purchases.

Related: How to redeem American Express Membership Rewards for maximum value

If this is your only credit card or one of only a few you use for everyday purchases, you should be able to earn 50% bonus points every month for the life of the card. You’ll effectively be earning 1.5x Membership Rewards points per dollar on everyday non-bonus spending.

Despite the $95 annual fee, you can earn even more points, thanks to the card’s popular bonus categories such as 3x points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1x point per dollar spent) and 2x points per dollar spent at U.S. gas stations, making it a solid choice for an everyday card. Remember that the 50% bonus makes those bonus categories even more valuable.

Read our review of the Amex EveryDay Preferred for more details.

The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express

The Blue Business Plus card is a favorite among Membership Rewards enthusiasts because it’s one of the only no-annual-fee cards (see rates and fees) to earn full-fledged transferable points. The credit card earns 2x points per dollar spent on all purchases, up to $50,000 in a year, then 1x point per dollar spent. TPG values Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each, meaning this card provides a 4% return on all spending.

Potentially, you could net 100,000 Membership Rewards points a year by spending $50,000, which TPG values at $2,000. There are many ways to redeem Membership Rewards points for maximum value.

The only downside of this card is that it’s a business card, not a personal card, so not everyone can apply for it (though you may be more eligible than you think).

Read the Blue Business Plus card review for more details.

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

As the lone Bank of America card on our list, the Bank of America Premium Rewards card packs a punch, with a sign-up bonus worth 50,000 points ($500). It also includes an up to $100 annual airline incidental fee statement credit, meaning you come out ahead every year you keep the card open after paying the $95 annual fee.

Points can be redeemed for travel, cash back or even a cash deposit into a linked Bank of America or Merrill account. The card earns 1.5x points on non-bonus spending and 2x points on travel and dining, which means this is a decent but not exceptional card for everyday purchases. However, the card becomes more attractive when combined with Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program.

To significantly increase the value of your spending return, you’ll need an eligible Bank of America checking account with an average daily balance of at least $20,000. The largest bonus is available to customers with a balance of $100,000 or more — at that level, you’ll earn 3.5x points per dollar spent on dining and travel, and an impressive 2.62x points per dollar spent on non-bonus spending.

Read the Bank of America Premium Rewards review for more details.

Citi® Double Cash Card

(Photo by Josh Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Josh Gribben for The Points Guy)

The Citi Double Cash card comes with a competitive 2% cash back on everything — 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay it off. With no annual fee to worry about, you can keep it forever. The card increased in value when Citi allowed the cash back earned on the Double Cash card to convert into Citi ThankYou Points.

The card has substantial stand-alone value but paired with Citi’s more premium cards, such as the Citi Premier® Card or Citi Prestige® Card, you could extract incredible value for travel. That’s because Citi allows you to transfer points to their airline partners and book flight awards. With the added flexibility, the Citi Double Cash is a great option for everyday expenses.

The information for the Citi Prestige 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.

Read the Citi Double Cash card review for more details.

Chase Ink Business Unlimited

(Photo by The Points Guy)
(Photo by The Points Guy)

The Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card earns 1.5% cash back on every purchase. The card is an excellent addition to the Chase small-business lineup and currently offers a generous sign-up bonus of $750 (after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first three months), that is unusually large for a cash-back card with no annual fee.

You can qualify for a business credit card, whether you sell stuff online or work as a sole proprietor. Many freelance jobs or side hustles are considered businesses and eligible for a business credit card.

What makes the Ink Business Unlimited a phenomenal everyday card is that beyond earning 1.5x points on all purchases, you can also combine your rewards with Chase Ultimate Rewards credit cards (Chase Sapphire PreferredChase Sapphire Reserve and Ink Business Preferred). This gives you the ability to transfer points to travel partners or receive between 1.25-1.5 cents (depending on whether you have the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve) when you redeem points toward travel reservations made through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

This card is very similar to the popular Chase Freedom Unlimited, except it offers a higher sign-up bonus. The only drawback is that you may have a tougher time getting approved for the Ink as a business card than for the personal Chase Freedom Unlimited.

Related: Ink Business Unlimited card review 

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

This card only earns 1% cash back on everyday expenses. However, the real reason the Blue Cash Preferred is a top everyday spending card is for its incredibly lucrative bonus categories that hit home with many people.

The categories are as follows:

  • 6% back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions (Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, etc.)
  • 6% back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per calendar year) then 1% after that
  • 3% back on transit (parking, tolls, ride-share, subway, etc.)
  • 3% back at U.S. gas stations
  • 1% everywhere else
  • Terms apply

See the Blue Cash Preferred card review for more details.

Bottom line

There is no single best card for everyday spending — just the best one for your situation.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a wonderful starter card to begin accruing treasured Ultimate Rewards points. The Blue Business Plus offers an impressive 4% return on general spending (based on TPG valuations) with a limit of $50,000 each calendar year to earn 2x points (then 1x thereafter). In comparison, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers a valuable sign-up bonus paired with more than a 2% return on everyday spending long-term.

The Citi Double Cash card earns 2% cash back (1% when you buy, plus 1% as you pay), which can be converted to ThankYou Points via a linked ThankYou account. And the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card is a superb option if you have a high-balance relationship in Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program.

Ultimately, all cards on this list are valuable for everyday spending. Which one you choose will be determined by your spending habits and goals.

Related credit card guides

Additional reporting by Benji Stawski and Chris Dong. 

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus card, please click here.

Featured photo by LeoPatrizi/Getty Images

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
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Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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