The best rewards credit cards for 2020
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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 top rewards credit cards, you can add value, along with points and miles, to your wallet.
There are dozens of rewards credit cards to choose from, but I’ve narrowed them down to the top 10. Some of these are travel rewards cards that earn transferable points currencies, some are cash-back cards and a couple are cards that earn rewards for a specific loyalty program.
Best rewards credit cards of 2020
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Best for travel rewards
- Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card: Best for flat rewards
- Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card: Best for gas station rewards
- American Express® Gold Card: Best for U.S. supermarkets and worldwide dining rewards
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best for frequent travelers
- Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for cash back on entertainment
- Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Best for commuters
- Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for pairing with other Chase cards
- Chase Freedom: Best for rotating categories
- Citi® Double Cash Card: Best for everyday expenses
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Best for Marriott rewards
- Discover it® Cash Back: Best for college students
Comparing the best rewards credit cards
|Rewards credit card||Rewards type||Bonus value**||Earning rate||Annual fee|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred Card||Transferable points||$1,200||Earn 5x on Lyft, 2x on dining and travel, 1x on everything else||$95|
|Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card||Transferable points||$700||Earn 2x on every purchase||$95*|
|Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card||Fixed value||$200||Earn 3x on dining (eating out and ordering in), gas stations, transit, travel and select streaming services||$0|
|American Express Gold Card||Transferable points||$700||Earn 4x on restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, then 1x), 3x on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com, 1x on everything else||$250
(see rates & fees)
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||Transferable points||$1,000||Earn 10x on Lyft, 3x on travel (after using the $300 travel credit) and dining, 1x on everything else||$550|
|Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card||Cash back||$300||Earn 4% on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores, 1% on everything else||$95*|
|Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express||Cash back||$250||Earn 6% at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year) and select U.S. streaming services, 3% on transit and U.S. gas stations, 1% on everything else||$95 (see rates & fees)|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||Cash back||$150 ($300, if paired with an Ultimate Rewards card)||Earn an unlimited 1.5% on all purchases||$0|
|Chase Freedom||Cash back||$150 ($300, if paired with an Ultimate Rewards card)||Earn 5% cash back on purchases up to $1,500 spent on quarterly rotating categories (activation required)||$0|
|Citi Double Cash Card||Cash back||N/A||Earn 2% cash back on every purchase — 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay your bill||$0|
|Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card||Hotel||$800||Earn 6x on eligible Marriott Bonvoy purchases, 2x on everything else||$95|
|Discover it® Cash Back||Cash back||N/A||Enroll each quarter to earn 5% cash back on the first $1,500 spent on purchases in quarterly rotating categories||$0|
Best rewards credit cards
Chase Sapphire Preferred: Best for travel rewards
Welcome bonus: 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months
Rewards rate: Earn 5x on Lyft, 2x on travel and dining, 1x on all other purchases.
Annual fee: $95
Who should apply: The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the best beginner travel cards available — it was named the best travel rewards credit card at the 2019 TPG Awards and is all-around one of the best credit cards for points. You’re getting an excellent sign-up bonus worth $1,200, according to TPG valuations. Its rewards structure is simple, but 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 10 airline or three hotel partners. Plus, you’re only paying a $95 annual fee. For travelers who want a card with more firepower, the Sapphire Preferred has an older sibling, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which comes with a higher 3x rewards rate and perks like a $300 annual travel credit.
Official application link: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best for flat rewards
Welcome bonus: 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months
Rewards rate: Earn 2x miles on every purchase.
Annual fee: $95, waived the first year
Who should apply: The Venture has long been a crowd favorite for travel rewards because of its simplicity. You know you’re getting 2x 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 “erase” eligible travel purchases or they can be transferred to one of Capital One’s transfer partners. As an added perk, you’ll also get a statement credit of up to $100 for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee, which isn’t a benefit commonly found on low-fee cards. Plus Capital One has added new hotel transfer partners — Accor and Wyndham — to its existing 15 airline partners. 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, but experts can utilize it as a great card for non-bonus spending, which landed the Venture a spot on our TPG list of best credit cards.
Check out the full card review for the Capital One Venture.
Official application link: Capital One Venture Credit Card
Wells Fargo Propel American Express card: Best for gas station rewards
Welcome bonus: 20,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months
Rewards rate: Earn 3x on dining (eating out and ordering in), gas stations, transit, travel and popular streaming services; 1x on everything else
Annual fee: $0
Who should apply: The Wells Fargo Propel offers a low-cost way to earn fixed-value points on everyday spending categories. Earning 3x on such a wide array of categories is unique for a no-annual-fee card, which makes this a great option for beginners in the rewards game. If you also have the Wells Fargo Visa Signature® card (another no-annual-fee card), your points could be worth 1.5 cents each. Although this isn’t a great rewards card for travel experts because of its lack of transfer partners, beginners can get a lot out of the Propel.
The information for the Wells Fargo Visa Signature has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Official application link: Wells Fargo Propel American Express card
American Express Gold Card: Best for U.S. supermarkets and worldwide dining rewards
Welcome bonus: 35,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months (although you might be targeted for a higher offer through CardMatch; offer subject to change at any time).
Rewards rate: Earn 4x at restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 spent each year, then 1x); 3x on flights booked directly through airlines or on amextravel.com; 1x 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 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. You’re getting perks, such as a dining credit of up to $120 each year and an airline-fee credit of up to $100, plus a rewards structure that focuses on common spending categories besides just travel — all without the massive $550 annual fee (see rates and fees) 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 and groceries at U.S. supermarkets, this is definitely a card to consider. Again, the CardMatch tool may have a better offer for you.
The information for the Amex EveryDay credit 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.
Official application link: American Express Gold Card
Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best for frequent travelers
Welcome bonus: 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months
Rewards rate: Earn 10x points on Lyft; 3x points on travel (after using $300 travel credit) and dining; 1x on everything else
Annual fee: $550
Who should apply: The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is one of the top premium travel cards available. Although recent changes to the card have been met with mixed reactions, this card remains a favorite among many TPGers. You’re earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points on a wide range of travel and dining purchases (because Chase defines both categories quite broadly) while also getting access to luxury perks like an annual $300 travel credit, Priority Pass lounge access, TSA PreCheck/Global Entry application fee credit, $60 annual DoorDash credit (for 2020 and 2021), at least one free year of DashPass membership through DoorDash, a Lyft Pink membership and an impressive array of travel protections. When it comes time to redeem your rewards, you can transfer points at a 1:1 ratio to any of Chase’s transfer partners, or you can redeem them through Chase’s travel portal for 1.5 cents each (great when booking economy flights). 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.
Official application link: Chase Sapphire Reserve
Capital One Savor Card: Best for cash back on entertainment
Welcome bonus: $300 after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months
Rewards rate: Earn 4% cash back on dining and entertainment; 2% cash back at grocery stores; 1% on all other purchases.
Annual fee: $95, waived the first year
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 4% back for sit-down restaurants, take-out, coffee shops and bakeries, concert tickets, movies, sporting events and even tourist attractions. If you buy tickets through Vivid Seats, you’ll also get 8% back through May 2020. This is a great tiered earning structure for rewards-card beginners because you don’t have to pay attention to changing categories, but it can offer excellent value for veterans of the rewards game. With no foreign transaction fees, this is the perfect card to use on entertainment purchases while you’re traveling.
Official application link: Capital One Savor Card
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Best for commuters
Welcome bonus: A $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months
Rewards rate: Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 annually; then 1%) and select U.S. streaming services; 3% on transit and at U.S. gas stations; 1% on everything else.
Annual fee: $95 (see rates and fees)
Who should apply: The Blue Cash Preferred got a much-needed facelift in 2019, adding valuable bonus categories to 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 (which includes 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.
Official application link: Blue Cash Preferred Card
Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for pairing with other Chase cards
Welcome bonus: $150 cash back after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
Rewards rate: Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase.
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. The card is especially valuable for existing Chase Ultimate Rewards cardholders. If you also have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, you’re actually earning Ultimate Rewards points with the Freedom Unlimited that can be redeemed at an elevated rate through the Chase portal or transferred to travel partners. TPG values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each, which doubles the value of your rewards.
Official application link: Chase Freedom Unlimited
Chase Freedom: Best for rotating categories
Welcome bonus: $150 after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months
Rewards rate: Earn 5% cash back on the first $1,500 in purchases spent on quarterly rotating categories (activation required); 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 like the Chase Freedom. The categories are often easy to maximize. For example, the fourth-quarter 2019 categories were department stores, PayPal and Chase Pay — perfect for holiday shopping. If you maximize the bonus categories each quarter, you’ll earn $300 in bonus category rewards each year. Just like the Freedom Unlimited, you can also pair this card with a Chase Ultimate Rewards card 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 10% back on bonus category spending.
Official application link: Chase Freedom
Citi® Double Cash Card: Best for everyday expenses
Welcome 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: Two percent cash back on every purchase is a great offer for non-bonus spending. Although Citi did recently strip important purchase protections from this card, 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, it doesn’t get much better than the Citi Double Cash.
Official application link: Citi Double Cash Card
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card: Best for Marriott rewards
Welcome bonus: 100,000 Bonus Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
Rewards rate: Earn 6x points on eligible Marriott Bonvoy purchases; 2x points on everything else.
Annual fee: $95
Who should apply: The Boundless is a good option if you are loyal to the Marriott brand but don’t want to pay a high annual fee. Right now, the card comes with a 100,000-point sign-up bonus that is worth $800, according to TPG valuations. You’ll also get perks like an additional free-night award (up to 35,000 points) every year, complimentary Silver Elite status with a path to Gold, and more. Silver Elite status gets you a 10% point bonus on stays, which means you’re earning 17 points per dollar spent on eligible Bonvoy stays (10 base points + 1 bonus point + 6 card points). Those who aren’t loyal to Marriott may be better off with a more flexible rewards card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred (a Marriott Bonvoy transfer partner), but if you frequently stay at Marriott properties, this card is worth it.
Official application link: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card
Discover it® Cash Back: Best for college students
Welcome bonus: Discover will match the cash back you earn at the end of your first year of cardmembership. So, if you earn $300 in rewards in your first year, Discover will match that by giving you $300 in bonus rewards after your first account anniversary.
Rewards rate: Enroll each quarter to earn 5% cash back on the first $1,500 spent in quarterly rotating cash-back categories; 1% back on everything else. In the first quarter of 2020, the selected bonus categories are CVS, Walgreens and grocery stores.
Annual fee: $0
Who should apply: The Discover it® Cash Back is an excellent beginner credit card, especially for college students or young professionals who have yet to amass a lengthy credit history. In fact, the card offers a student version with the same card details. You’re earning straightforward cash back on your purchases and 5% back is a great return. Add the fact that Discover will match your cash back at the end of your first year and this card can produce amazing rewards for no annual fee. For example, if you maximize each quarterly bonus category, you’ll have earned a total of $600 in total cash back by the end of your first year (including the cash-back match bonus).
I looked at multiple factors when choosing our top 10 rewards cards — with welcome bonuses, rewards rates and annual fees topping the list. I also assessed the flexibility of each rewards card, the type of rewards each card earned, the simplicity of the redemption process and any perks that come with each card. Finally, for each card I chose, I named a competing card that could also appeal to that audience.
These are my top picks. 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.
How 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, but there are also incredible rewards structures available on top cash-back cards.
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.
Types of credit card rewards
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, a number of Chase cards earn Ultimate Rewards points, which can be redeemed for a number of different things through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal but can also be transferred to one of Chase’s 13 partners, including United or Marriott. Generally speaking, this type of rewards card is the most valuable because of its redemption flexibility.
Cash back — 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 — Hybrid cards have popped up in recent years. These are cards that 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 Card also recently joined the ranks of hybrid cash-back cards.
Loyalty program — 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.
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 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 recently stripped most of its travel and purchase protections across its cards, which devalues this program slightly.
Top cards that earn ThankYou Points:
- Citi Prestige® Card – full card review
- Citi Premier℠ Card – full card review
- Citi Rewards+℠ Card – full card review
The information for the Citi Prestige, Citi Premier cards 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 type of rewards point. 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 Venture Miles||1.4 cents|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2 cents|
|Citi ThankYou Points||1.7 cents|
|Wells Fargo GoFar Rewards||1 cent|
|Marriott Bonvoy Rewards||0.8 cents|
*TPG valuations are calculated by TPG and are not reviewed by the card issuer.
How to compare rewards credit cards
There is no one-size-fits-all credit card. Choosing the right card for you is all about your individual spending habits and financial goals.
First, pick a card that earns rewards in the categories you spend in most frequently. If you spend a lot on entertainment each month, get a card (like the Savor) that caters to that. If you fly the same airline multiple times a month, grab a cobranded airline card that earns bonus rewards and offers perks for those flights.
Also look at your goals for your rewards. Are you looking to save for airfare or hotel stays? A travel credit card that earns points and miles should be at the top of your list. Do you want to save money on everyday purchases? A cash-back credit card might be a better fit. Need to build credit before applying for a top-tier card? Look at flat-rate cards that are easy to get approved for.
At the end of the day, 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.
There isn’t one singular “best rewards card.” You can’t go wrong with any of the options on this list. Find the card (or cards) that make your life easier and your travel experiences better.
Related credit cards guides
- Best travel credit cards
- Best cash-back credit cards
- Best airline credit cards
- Best hotel credit cards
- Best gas credit cards
- Best credit cards for groceries
- Best credit cards for entertainment spending
- Best credit cards for everyday spending
- Best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees
WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
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.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.