8 Best Rewards Credit Cards

8 Best Rewards Credit Cards

Best Travel Rewards Card
#1
Chase Sapphire Preferred®
  • Ability to transfer rewards to airline miles or hotel points.
  • Earn double points on all travel and dining expenses.
  • Earn $625 towards travel (50,000) points when you spend $4,000 within 3 months.
Best for Easy Travel Redemption
#2
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
  • Points are easy to understand and easy to redeem
  • Travelers love that miles don't expire, with no blackout dates or foreign transaction fees
  • Get rewarded for your existing spending with a 40,000 miles bonus offer
Best Hotel Rewards
#3
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card by AmEx
  • Earn rewards for your love of a comfortable hotel stay
  • Rack up points quick: 5x at participating Starwood hotels, and 2x at Marriott Hotels
  • Flexible redemption options for flights and hotel stays, with no foreign transaction fees
Best Fixed Value Travel Rewards Card
#4
Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
  • Earn more with 2x the points for every $1 spent!
  • Get rewards for using your rewards with a 5% miles redemption bonus
  • Use rewards to cover travel expenses like AirBnB stays or award ticket fees

After 20 hours of research evaluating 65 products, we picked Chase Sapphire Preferred® as our top choice.

Best Travel Rewards Card

Best for Card
Best Dining Rewards
Chase AARP Visa
Best Online Shopping/Cash Back Match Card
Discover It Cashback Match
Best for Everyday Spending
American Express Blue Cash Preferred
Best Rewards Credit Card Without Annual Fee
BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card
Best Fixed Value Travel Rewards Card
Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
Best Hotel Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card by AmEx
Best for Easy Travel Redemption
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Best Travel Rewards Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred®

Much like cash back credit cards, our best rewards credit card will give you some nice incentives for every purchase you make. It’s certainly a compelling idea - earning free travel in exchange for the purchases you’re already making.

The caveat? Earning rewards for spending money makes it more tempting to flash that plastic wherever you go.

Don’t be fooled by Tina Fey in those American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card commercials, treating everyone around her to various purchases because of the points she'll get in exchange.

We're gonna go ahead and make the assumption that you don’t have the millions she has to frivolously spend. However, if you choose one of the best credit cards for rewards wisely, the payoff can be nice.

SO:

When it comes to choosing the best rewards credit card to add to your wallet, you'll need to first learn the art of restraint. But know that using a reward credit card for your everyday purchases will benefit you over the long run.

After 20 hours of research evaluating 65 products, our top pick for best rewards credit card has plenty of advantages if you use the card wisely.

WHAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE?

In order to help you make the best one based on your lifestyle, we've compiled a list of the best rewards credit cards around.

Whether you're big on traveling, dining, or shopping, there is a perfect rewards credit card suited for you In fact, rewards vary from best cashback credit cards to best credit card for travel, so you can earn free airline trips and hotel stays. Who wouldn't be excited about that?

Here’s a list of the best rewards credit cards, which have been chosen through extensive research, based on a number of factors that include: signup bonus, ongoing rewards rate, redemption options, and annual fees.

Let's go!

Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.


Editorial staff

Quick Look: 8 Best Rewards Credit Cards
Chase AARP Visa
  • Frequent diner? This credit card rewards your foodie lifestyle.
  • Earn 3% cash back on restaurant and gas station spending (with up to 1% cash back on everything else you charge).
  • Give a little bit back with every swipe. Chase donates $0.10 for every purchase at a restaurant to help end world hunger.
Check on Aarpcreditcard
Discover It Cashback Match
  • Earn cash back dollar for dollar with an impressive first-year bonus.
  • Category-specific bonuses earn up to 5% in cash back.
  • Cash back redemption is extremely flexible and includes gift cards, statement credits, and even charitable donations.
Check on Discover
American Express Blue Cash Preferred
  • Reward perks you don't need to be a traveler to benefit from
  • Get rewarded for feeding and transporting your family—this card earns 6% cash back on groceries, and 3% on gas purchases!
  • Signup bonus of $250 in statement credits when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months
Check on Americanexpress
BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card
  • Bank of America customer? Earn bonus points on top of your bonus points!
  • No annual fees
  • Introductory bonus worth $200 towards travel
Check on Bankofamerica
Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
  • Earn more with 2x the points for every $1 spent!
  • Get rewards for using your rewards with a 5% miles redemption bonus
  • Use rewards to cover travel expenses like AirBnB stays or award ticket fees
Check on Home.barclaycardus
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card by AmEx
  • Earn rewards for your love of a comfortable hotel stay
  • Rack up points quick: 5x at participating Starwood hotels, and 2x at Marriott Hotels
  • Flexible redemption options for flights and hotel stays, with no foreign transaction fees
Check on Americanexpress
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
  • Points are easy to understand and easy to redeem
  • Travelers love that miles don't expire, with no blackout dates or foreign transaction fees
  • Get rewarded for your existing spending with a 40,000 miles bonus offer
Check on Creditcards
Chase Sapphire Preferred®
  • Ability to transfer rewards to airline miles or hotel points.
  • Earn double points on all travel and dining expenses.
  • Earn $625 towards travel (50,000) points when you spend $4,000 within 3 months.
Check on Creditcards.chase
8 Best Rewards Credit Cards

8 Best Rewards Credit Cards

Read Video Infographic Tips

After 20 hours of research evaluating 65 products, we picked Chase Sapphire Preferred® as our top choice.

Best Travel Rewards Card

Best for Card
Best Dining Rewards
Chase AARP Visa
Best Online Shopping/Cash Back Match Card
Discover It Cashback Match
Best for Everyday Spending
American Express Blue Cash Preferred
Best Rewards Credit Card Without Annual Fee
BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card
Best Fixed Value Travel Rewards Card
Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
Best Hotel Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card by AmEx
Best for Easy Travel Redemption
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Best Travel Rewards Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred®

Much like cash back credit cards, our best rewards credit card will give you some nice incentives for every purchase you make. It’s certainly a compelling idea - earning free travel in exchange for the purchases you’re already making.

The caveat? Earning rewards for spending money makes it more tempting to flash that plastic wherever you go.

Don’t be fooled by Tina Fey in those American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card commercials, treating everyone around her to various purchases because of the points she'll get in exchange.

We're gonna go ahead and make the assumption that you don’t have the millions she has to frivolously spend. However, if you choose one of the best credit cards for rewards wisely, the payoff can be nice.

SO:

When it comes to choosing the best rewards credit card to add to your wallet, you'll need to first learn the art of restraint. But know that using a reward credit card for your everyday purchases will benefit you over the long run.

After 20 hours of research evaluating 65 products, our top pick for best rewards credit card has plenty of advantages if you use the card wisely.

WHAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE?

In order to help you make the best one based on your lifestyle, we've compiled a list of the best rewards credit cards around.

Whether you're big on traveling, dining, or shopping, there is a perfect rewards credit card suited for you In fact, rewards vary from best cashback credit cards to best credit card for travel, so you can earn free airline trips and hotel stays. Who wouldn't be excited about that?

Here’s a list of the best rewards credit cards, which have been chosen through extensive research, based on a number of factors that include: signup bonus, ongoing rewards rate, redemption options, and annual fees.

Let's go!

Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.


Editorial staff

Quick Look: 8 Best Rewards Credit Cards
Chase AARP Visa
  • Frequent diner? This credit card rewards your foodie lifestyle.
  • Earn 3% cash back on restaurant and gas station spending (with up to 1% cash back on everything else you charge).
  • Give a little bit back with every swipe. Chase donates $0.10 for every purchase at a restaurant to help end world hunger.
Check on Aarpcreditcard
Discover It Cashback Match
  • Earn cash back dollar for dollar with an impressive first-year bonus.
  • Category-specific bonuses earn up to 5% in cash back.
  • Cash back redemption is extremely flexible and includes gift cards, statement credits, and even charitable donations.
Check on Discover
American Express Blue Cash Preferred
  • Reward perks you don't need to be a traveler to benefit from
  • Get rewarded for feeding and transporting your family—this card earns 6% cash back on groceries, and 3% on gas purchases!
  • Signup bonus of $250 in statement credits when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months
Check on Americanexpress
BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card
  • Bank of America customer? Earn bonus points on top of your bonus points!
  • No annual fees
  • Introductory bonus worth $200 towards travel
Check on Bankofamerica
Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
  • Earn more with 2x the points for every $1 spent!
  • Get rewards for using your rewards with a 5% miles redemption bonus
  • Use rewards to cover travel expenses like AirBnB stays or award ticket fees
Check on Home.barclaycardus
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card by AmEx
  • Earn rewards for your love of a comfortable hotel stay
  • Rack up points quick: 5x at participating Starwood hotels, and 2x at Marriott Hotels
  • Flexible redemption options for flights and hotel stays, with no foreign transaction fees
Check on Americanexpress
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
  • Points are easy to understand and easy to redeem
  • Travelers love that miles don't expire, with no blackout dates or foreign transaction fees
  • Get rewarded for your existing spending with a 40,000 miles bonus offer
Check on Creditcards
Chase Sapphire Preferred®
  • Ability to transfer rewards to airline miles or hotel points.
  • Earn double points on all travel and dining expenses.
  • Earn $625 towards travel (50,000) points when you spend $4,000 within 3 months.
Check on Creditcards.chase

Best Dining Rewards

Best Dining Rewards: Chase AARP Visa
Apply Now
On Card Issuer’s Secure Website
  • Variable APR
    17.24% to 23.99%
  • Cash Advance APR
    25.99%
  • Rewards Rate
    3.0% cash back at restaurants and gas stations; 1% cash back on other qualifying purchases
  • Annual Fee
    n/a
  • Intro APR
    n/a
  • Bonus Offers
    Earn 20,000 bonus points (up to $200 cash back) when you use your credit card to pay for purchases up to $500 within the first 3 months of opening a Chase AARP Visa.

Pros

  • Frequent diner? This credit card rewards your foodie lifestyle.
  • Earn 3% cash back on restaurant and gas station spending (with up to 1% cash back on everything else you charge).
  • Give a little bit back with every swipe. Chase donates $0.10 for every purchase at a restaurant to help end world hunger.

Cons

If you prefer staying in to dining out, this probably isn't the credit card for you. There are plenty of other rewards credit cards that will give you more bang for your buck. Some might even go as far to say that other than being able to donate to end world hunger, the card is only good for dining and gas expenses and subpar at everything else.

Details

  • 3% cash back at restaurants and gas stations
  • 1% cash back everywhere else
  • No Annual Fee
  • 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers

Application Process: Online, through Chase.

Fees: There's absolutely no annual fee, so let the rewards pile up!

Cardholders dole out a foreign transaction fee of 3% for each purchase, and cash advances have a fee of 5% or $10, whichever is greater. There's a balance transfer fee of 3% or $5, whichever is more.

There are zero fees for going over your credit limit or bouncing a check, but having another payment method returned results in a $35 fee. Late payments have one of the lowest fees we've seen if you carry a low balance - you'll pay just $15 for a balance below $750. Balances above $750 have a $35 late fee.

APR: There's a variable APR of 17.24% to 23.99%. Cash advances have a variable APR of 25.99%. 

Rewards: There are a number of options when it comes to earning and redeeming rewards points:

  • A direct deposit into your checking or savings account
  • A credit on your AARP Credit Card statement
  • Gift cards from brands like Amazon and Starbucks
  • Travel: including flights, hotels, cruises and car rentals

You earn 3% cash back at participating restaurants and gas stations. Other qualifying purchases result in 1% cash back.

Bonus Offers: You can earn 20,000 bonus points (up to $200 cash back) when you use your credit card to pay for purchases up to $500 within the first 3 months of opening a Chase AARP Visa.

Best Online Shopping/Cash Back Match Card

Best Online Shopping/Cash Back Match Card: Discover It Cashback Match
Apply Now
On Card Issuer’s Secure Website
  • Variable APR
    13.24% - 24.24%
  • Cash Advance APR
    26.24%
  • Rewards Rate
    1.0%
  • Annual Fee
    n/a
  • Intro APR
    0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 14 months
  • Bonus Offers
    Discover will match ALL the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically.

Pros

  • Earn cash back dollar for dollar with an impressive first-year bonus.
  • Category-specific bonuses earn up to 5% in cash back.
  • Cash back redemption is extremely flexible and includes gift cards, statement credits, and even charitable donations.

Cons

The Discover It Cashback Match is, unfortunately, one of those credit cards that requires you to remember your bonus category for the month in addition to remembering to opt in to get your 5% cash back. If you have high attention to detail in most aspects of your life, then this may be tolerable. If not, better to opt for another option on our list of the best rewards credit cards.

Details

  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • No annual fee.

Application Process: Online, and it just takes a few minutes to apply.

Fees: There's no annual fee of which to speak! Aside from that, you'll shell out 3% of any balance amount you transfer from another card, plus 5% or $10 (whichever is greater) of cash advance totals.

Your first late fee is waived - woo hoo! After that, you must pay $37 for each late payment. There's also a $37 fee for returned payments.

APR: The purchase APR has a variable rate between 11.99% to 23.99%. Cash advances have a variable APR of 25.99%

Rewards: Redemption options are flexible. Cash back can be exchanged for charity donations, statement credit, gift cards, eDeposits.

Remember, cash back categories rotate on a quarterly basis. You always earn 1% cash back on qualifying purchases, but products/services from promotional categories rack up an impressive 5% cash back.

Rewards never expire, and there's no minimum redemption requirement.

Bonus Offers: Cash back you've earned the first year is matched dollar-for-dollar. Additionally, you can refer a friend and get $50 as an additional cash back reward after their account has been approved.

Best for Everyday Spending

Best for Everyday Spending: American Express Blue Cash Preferred
Apply Now
On Card Issuer’s Secure Website
  • Variable APR
    14.24% - 25.24%
  • Cash Advance APR
    26.49%
  • Rewards Rate
    1.0%
  • Annual Fee
    $95
  • Intro APR
    0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 12 months
  • Bonus Offers
    $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.

Pros

  • Reward perks you don't need to be a traveler to benefit from
  • Get rewarded for feeding and transporting your family—this card earns 6% cash back on groceries, and 3% on gas purchases!
  • Signup bonus of $250 in statement credits when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months

Cons

There's always a caveat, isn't there? The American Express Blue Cash Preferred has a fairly limited definition of “supermarket” and gas stations. Specifically, it does not include Walmart and Costco, as well as alcohol retailers.

"Gas stations" refers to stand-alone gas stations, not superclubs that sell gas, so you have to take note when using your card. Additionally, redemption options aren't quite as flexible as many others on this list.

Details

  • $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) - that means spending $60 a week at U.S. supermarkets could earn over $180 back per year.
  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.49% to 25.49%.
  • Expanding merchant acceptance: Over 1 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in the last year.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
  • Terms Apply.

Application Process: Online, with a nice card comparison feature. Get a decision in as little as 30 seconds.

Fees: There is an annual fee, and it's not cheap. Prepare to shell out $95/year for use of this card. However, if you don't want to pay annual fees, the Blue Cash Everyday card from American Express is a more limited (but still great) option. 

If you travel frequently, you might prefer a card with zero foreign finance fees. The American Express Blue Cash Preferred card charges a 2.7% fee for foreign transactions.

There's a balance transfer fee of $5 or 3% of the amount to be transferred (whichever is higher), and the same rate applies for cash advances. Late payments and returned payments will set you back up to $38 per incident.

APR: 0% for the first 12 months (including balance transfers!). After 12 months, you'll be assessed a variable APR between 13.99% to 24.99%. In Student Loan Hero's review of this credit card, they specifically mention that the APR is competitive, even after the introductory rate expires.

RewardsRewards are redeemable as statement credits, with a minimum redemption value of $25 that only comes in $25 increments. Other rewards, such as gift cards and merchandise, come in variable amounts.

Cardholders collect a whopping 6% cash back on qualifying grocery purchases until they hit the $6000 reward limit. After that, you earn 1% cash back on approved grocery purchases. Purchases from participating gas stations and U.S. department stores qualify for 3% cash back.

Bonus Offers: Earn a $250 statement credit for a minimum spend of $1,000 within the first 3 months of card opening. Also included, American Express' return protection policy which refunds you up to $300 per item and $1,000 per year should you attempt to return an item and the merchant does not receive it.

Best Rewards Credit Card Without Annual Fee

Best Rewards Credit Card Without Annual Fee: BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card
Apply Now
On Card Issuer’s Secure Website
  • Variable APR
    16.24% - 24.24%
  • Cash Advance APR
    See terms.
  • Rewards Rate
    1.5 points per dollar
  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Intro APR
    0% on Purchases for 12 billing cycles
  • Bonus Offers
    20,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases.

Pros

  • Bank of America customer? Earn bonus points on top of your bonus points!
  • No annual fees
  • Introductory bonus worth $200 towards travel

Cons

BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card is not the best card for those that fly a lot. On that note, there are a number of other cards (on this list and otherwise) that cater to frequent fliers.

Details

  • 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
  • 20,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want – you’re not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
  • Comes with chip technology for enhanced security and protection at chip-enabled terminals
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases, then 16.49% - 24.49% Variable APR
  • Get an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • If you’re a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%

Application Process: Apply online or call their toll-free number if you prefer.

Fees: No annual fee or foreign transaction fee! It's a beautiful thing.

Balance transfers, wire transfers, and cash advances all have a fee of $10 or 3%, whichever is greater. There's a $38 late fee and a $27 returned payment fee.

APR: Unlike many of the best rewards credit cards on this list, the BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card has a 0% introductory APR for the first 12 months, then a variable APR between 15.99% to 23.99%. Cash advances have a slightly higher APR that ranges from 18.99% to 25.99%.

RewardsPoints can be redeemed for travel statement credit that can be used on flights, hotels, rentals, and more. There are no blackout dates, which is a feature that numerous other travel rewards cards lack. However, it's important to remember that this card utilizes a retroactive rewards program; you use points to pay for past trips, not future travels.

Cardholders can earn unlimited points (1.5 points for every buck you spend), so this is a great everyday card.

Bonus OffersReceive 20,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 within the first 3 months, equivalent to $200 of travel credit. This is one of the lowest thresholds for gaining a bonus of any of the best rewards credit cards on this list.

If you have an active Bank of America checking or savings account, you'll also get an additional 10% bonus customer points on every purchase. Preferred Rewards clients can get up to 25-75% bonus points.

Best Fixed Value Travel Rewards Card

Best Fixed Value Travel Rewards Card: Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
Apply Now
On Card Issuer’s Secure Website
  • Variable APR
    17.24%, 21.24% or 24.24%
  • Cash Advance APR
    26.49%
  • Rewards Rate
    2 miles per dollar
  • Annual Fee
    $0 for the first year, then $89
  • Intro APR
    0% on Balance Transfers for 12 months (on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening)
  • Bonus Offers
    Enjoy 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase.

Pros

  • Earn more with 2x the points for every $1 spent!
  • Get rewards for using your rewards with a 5% miles redemption bonus
  • Use rewards to cover travel expenses like AirBnB stays or award ticket fees

Cons

For all its great features, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard has some issues. First of all, points can't be transferred from the card. Then there's the fact that there are some others on this list of the best rewards credit cards that have more or less the same perks, but at a lower annual fee.

Details

  • Signup bonus: 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • Miles don't expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases made while traveling abroad
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening. There is a fee for balance transfers.
  • Regular purchase and balance transfer APR of 17.24%, 21.24% or 24.24% Variable

Application Process: Online, with an instant response!

Fees: Unfortunately, there is an annual fee. It's $89, which is waived the first year.

There's a balance transfer fee of 3% or $5, whichever is greater, of your transfer total. Foreign transaction fees don't apply, so enjoy your travels!

A late payment will set you back up to $37, as will a returned payment. 

APR: No introductory offers for APR, so you're looking at a variable rate between 16.99% to 23.99%. That said, you might appreciate the 0% rate on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening, for 12 months.

RewardsRewards include flexible travel rewards that can be booked through the credit card website. Points can also be exchanged for statement credit, gift cards, or merchandise. Though, to get the most bang for your buck, we recommend you stick with the travel rewards. 

You get 2x miles for all qualifying purchases, and there's a 5% miles-back redemption bonus each time you cash in your rewards. You must redeem at least $100 in rewards at a time, which is a significant increase from the card's original $25 minimum. Each reward mile is worth approximately $0.01, but post-redemption rewards are worth roughly 1.05 cents.

Bonus OffersEarn 50,000 miles when you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months. This is equivalent to a $500 travel credit.

Best Hotel Rewards

Best Hotel Rewards: Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card by AmEx
Apply Now
On Card Issuer’s Secure Website
  • Variable APR
    16.49% - 20.49%
  • Cash Advance APR
    26.49%
  • Rewards Rate
    1.0%
  • Annual Fee
    $0 for the first year, then $95
  • Intro APR
    n/a
  • Bonus Offers
    Earn 25,000 Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.

Pros

  • Earn rewards for your love of a comfortable hotel stay
  • Rack up points quick: 5x at participating Starwood hotels, and 2x at Marriott Hotels
  • Flexible redemption options for flights and hotel stays, with no foreign transaction fees

Cons

If you want to nitpick (and we certainly do), the signup bonus is simply not as generous as many of the others on this list of the best rewards credit cards. Because it's a Starwood card, you're limited to redeeming hotel rewards within this chain.

Details

  • Earn 25,000 Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases spent at participating SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels. Earn 1 Starpoint for all other purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on International purchases.
  • Redeem Starpoints® at over 1,300 participating hotels and resorts in over 100 countries and for flights on more than 150 airlines with SPG flights, all with no blackout dates.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Planning a road trip? Rent your car, fill up your tank, book your hotel, and pay for it with your American Express® Card.
  • Terms Apply.

Application Process: Online, with a decision in as little as 30 seconds. That's 30 whole seconds faster than most of the other online credit card applications on this list!

Fees: There's a $95 annual fee, which is graciously waived the first year. The Points Guy recommends holding on to the card, even after you have to start paying for it.

There's no foreign transaction fee - sweet! You also don't have to pay an overlimit fee if you go over your credit line (but please try not to!). 

Late payments and returned checks/ACH withdrawals each have a fee of up to $38.     

APR: No introductory offers. Expect a variable APR between 16.24% to 20.24% depending on your credit history.

RewardsPoints earned through the credit card and SPG loyalty program can also be exchanged for loyalty rewards at most airlines in addition to free hotel room stays. There are no blackout dates for qualifying standard hotel rooms, but you may get hit with blackouts if you try to book high-end rooms or airline seats during peak periods.

Starwood stays are ideal if you want to rack up points; you get 5 Starpoints for every dollar you spend on an approved Starwood stay. A reservation at a participating Marriott Rewards hotel scores you 2 Starpoints per dollar spent. All other qualifying purchases have a reward rate of 1 Starpoint for every dollar spent.

Starpoints typically have a cash value that falls between $0.03 and $0.05 when you redeem them for qualifying rewards.

Bonus Offers: Receive 30,000 bonus points when you use your credit card to spend $3,000 within the first 3 months of account opening. If you don't see your bonus points right away, don't panic - it takes up to 12 weeks for them to appear on your statement.

Best for Easy Travel Redemption

Best for Easy Travel Redemption: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Apply Now
On Card Issuer’s Secure Website
  • Variable APR
    14.24% - 24.24%
  • Cash Advance APR
    24.24%
  • Rewards Rate
    2 miles per dollar
  • Annual Fee
    $0 for the first year, then $95
  • Intro APR
    n/a
  • Bonus Offers
    Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel

Pros

  • Points are easy to understand and easy to redeem
  • Travelers love that miles don't expire, with no blackout dates or foreign transaction fees
  • Get rewarded for your existing spending with a 40,000 miles bonus offer

Cons

Though one of the best rewards credit cards, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is not for everyone. In fact, if you're new to building credit, you probably won't be eligible for this card.

This is also not a great card for general use, as it provides poor cash back rewards. For best results, use it for travel-related purchases and perks. Keep in mind that there are no airline-specific perks if you're partial to an airline company.

Details

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • New! Earn 10 miles per dollar on hotels when you pay with your Venture card at hotels.com/venture; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that

Application Process: An easy online form. Check out their slider to see how many miles you could be earning with your current level of credit card spending.

Fees: No one likes an annual fee, but the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is relatively low as far as annual fees go. It's free to use for the first year, then $59 each year after. There are no foreign transaction fees, which makes this card a hit with frequent travelers.

Can't pay your bill on time? Watch out for a penalty fee of up to $35.

APR: No special rates for new cardholders. What results is a variable APR between 13.99% to 23.99%. The cash advance APR is 23.99%.

RewardsThere are two ways to claim rewards:

  • Use Capital One's platform to find hotel, flight & rental car deals.
  • Use Capital One’s Purchase Eraser to get statement credit for your flight or hotel. What makes the Purchase Eraser different from some competitors' portals is that there is no minimum for full travel statement credit options, just a 2,500 mile minimum for partial travel credit redemptions. This means that you can redeem at least $25 to help offset costs for more expensive tickets.

Rewars don't expire as long as your account remains active, so you have plenty of time to stash points for your dream destination.

Bonus OffersSign up for the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and receive a one time bonus of 40,000 miles for every $3,000 spent, which is equal to $400 in rewards.

Best Travel Rewards Card

Best Travel Rewards Card: Chase Sapphire Preferred®
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On Card Issuer’s Secure Website
  • Variable APR
    17.24% - 24.24%
  • Cash Advance APR
    26.24%
  • Rewards Rate
    1 point per dollar
  • Annual Fee
    $0 for the first year, then $95
  • Intro APR
    n/a
  • Bonus Offers
    Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Pros

  • Ability to transfer rewards to airline miles or hotel points.
  • Earn double points on all travel and dining expenses.
  • Earn $625 towards travel (50,000) points when you spend $4,000 within 3 months.

Cons

Unfortunately, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card comes with an annual fee of $95. To offset this fee, you'd need to use the card to spend between $3,800-$7,600 during the year. So it's not a great choice for those who know their credit card spending will be way less than $10,000 per year.

Details

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards. 
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions. As long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

Application Process: An easy peasy online application. While browsing the finer details, you'll be able to compare this card's features with its closest competitor: The American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card.

Fees: $0 for the first year, with a $95 fee to use the card each year after. Luckily, because it's a travel credit card, there are no foreign transaction fees!

APR: No introductory offers: The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card starts with a variable APR between 17.24% to 24.24%.

Rewards: Redemption options are flexible. When you redeem them through Chase Ultimate Rewards, points are worth 25% more, meaning each point will actually be worth $1.25.

When redeeming travel rewards, you'll do so through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel center, where you can book your flights or hotels. You'll also be able to transfer your points to different airlines and hotels at a 1:1 ratio, meaning that you won't lose points in the process. Partner airlines include major airlines like Air France/KLM, British Airways, Korean Air, United, and Virgin Atlantic - and major hotel chains like Marriott, Hyatt, and Ritz-Carlton.

Statement credits and cash back can also be redeemed, but at a 1 cent to 1 point ratio.

Bonus Offers: Earn 50,000 rewards points for every $4,000 spent within the first three months of account opening. These points translate to $625 towards travel when redeemed using the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.

But that's not all! If you add an authorized user who makes a purchase within the first 3 months, you’ll earn an additional 5,000 points. Note: In order to redeem this deal, you can't have received a bonus from this Chase card or another Chase card over the past 24 months.

With so many different credit card options available, it’s difficult to navigate the financial world and choose the card that’s right for you. That’s why we’ve compiled an extensive list of frequently asked questions about rewards credit cards to help you make an educated decision. Call us out in the comments section below if we forgot anything!

General Questions About Rewards Credit Cards

What is a rewards credit card?

A rewards credit card is a credit card that lets cardholders rack up rewards for qualifying purchases. There are different types of rewards credit cards, including cash-back rewards cards, airline rewards cards, and hotel rewards cards.

Is a rewards credit card the same as a customer loyalty card?

Nope, but people often confuse the two. Both card types generally let customers earn rewards, but there are some notable differences:

  • Customer loyalty cards do not offer a line of credit
  • Rewards credit cards report payment history to the credit bureaus
  • Rewards credit cards are often accepted by numerous retailers, but customer loyalty cards are only good at a specific store or chain
  • Customer loyalty cards do not require a credit check
  • You typically have to be at least 18 to get a rewards credit card, but loyalty cards are often available for shoppers as young as 13 (sometimes even younger!)

The good news is that you might not have to choose between a customer loyalty card and a rewards credit card. Your favorite retailer might accept both, and you might even be able to pair them with paper coupons and digital rebates.

Can I use a rewards credit card with a regular rewards card?

Unless the store forbids it, you can combine a rewards credit card with a customer loyalty card. Some gas stations and retailers encourage shoppers to pay with cash when they use their loyalty cards, so that might be a roadblock for you.

Rules may vary by location, so don’t get discouraged if one manager says no. You can try your cards at a different location or contact the corporate office to learn more about the policies regarding customer loyalty cards.

Do I need good credit to get a rewards credit card?

Usually, yes. Think of it like this: Good behavior gets rewarded in the financial world.

If you pay your bills on time, you get cards with low APRs and generous rewards. If your credit sucks, you get stuck with high interest rates and few, if any, reward options.

We’ve seen a couple cash-back credit cards (Credit One Cash Back Visa is a popular one) that don’t require good credit, but there simply aren’t many traditional rewards credit cards that approve folks with bad credit.

What is the best rewards credit card?

We’ve got 8 favorites! You can find them in the review above, but we’ll also list the cards here:

  • Chase AARP Visa
  • Discover it Cashback Credit Card
  • American Express Blue Cash Preferred
  • BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card
  • Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card by American Express
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

The American Express Blue Cash Preferred is ideal for everyday purchases, while the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card, Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, and BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card are excellent options for frequent travelers.

We encourage you to read our detailed review of each card above so you can figure out which one is best for your lifestyle.

Applying for Rewards Credit Cards

How do I apply for a rewards credit card?

All you need is a smartphone or a laptop! Just input some basic info about yourself, and you’ll have a decision in less than a minute if your application doesn’t require manual review.

Some credit card companies also let you apply over the phone, at a bank, or at a hotel or airline. It’s only necessary to submit one application, so don’t apply in person if you’ve already applied online.  

How can I increase my chances of getting approved for a rewards credit card?

Clean up your credit report! Rewards credit cards typically require you to have good or excellent credit, but you might be able to squeak by with fair credit if your debts are all fairly old.

Also, make sure you don’t job hop or home hop. Credit card companies like stability!

When can I reapply if I get rejected for a credit card?

Whenever you want, but we recommend waiting a minimum of 6 months, preferably much longer. Many financial experts suggest waiting at least 12 to 18 months.

The length of time you should wait depends on the reason(s) you were rejected for a rewards credit card. Have you fixed the issues that caused your rejection? Has your FICO score significantly increased since your rejection?

If the answer is no to either of those questions, you aren’t ready to reapply. A credit card company needs to see a considerable change in circumstances - in a good way, not a bad way - before they’ll consider approving your card.  

If you think you were unfairly rejected, contact the credit card company ASAP and ask for the reconsideration line. All of the major credit card companies have one, and speaking with a customer service agent who specializes in reconsideration might just help you score the card you want. If your phone skills aren’t the best, mail a detailed letter describing why you feel you’re a good candidate for the card you want.

Why does the company need 7 to 10 days to review my application?

There are lots of reasons this happens, but it basically boils down to this: The computer that evaluates applications can’t figure out what to do with yours. There might be a typo that’s throwing off the computer when it compares your app to your credit report, or you might have inputted data that set off a red flag.

When a credit card company requests additional time to evaluate an application, it simply means they’re handing it over to a human for processing.

Can I apply for more than one rewards credit card?

Yes, you can apply for an unlimited number of cards (but we don’t recommend it). Consider your credit history and your current financial situation before you apply, and make sure you only choose cards that you’ll use often.

Some rewards cards offer very specific rewards, plus they have annual fees. It might be tricky to justify the annual fee if you’re spreading out purchases across multiple credit cards.

Credit Card Reward Types and Redemption Options

What are the different types of credit card rewards?

There are several different types of credit card rewards, including:

  • Cash-back rewards
  • Hotel rewards
  • Airline rewards
  • Gas rewards
  • Retail rewards
  • General rewards

Apply for a cash-back credit card if you like getting rewarded for everyday purchases and/or if you don’t travel often. Cards that offer hotel rewards and airline rewards are great for frequent travelers, and so are cards with gas rewards.

Some cards offer more than one reward type. If you’re not sure which type of rewards you like best, consider test-driving a card that waives the annual fee for one year.

How do I earn credit card rewards?

It depends on the card, but you usually earn rewards simply by using your card to pay for qualifying goods or services. You can do this online or in a store.

Some cards, including the Discover it Credit Card, have rotating rewards. Make sure you’re shopping in the right category if you want to maximize your rewards.

How do I redeem credit card rewards?

Some credit card rewards are automatically disbursed in the form of an account credit. Other times, you have to wait until you earn a specific amount to cash out your rewards. You can also apply some rewards to purchases, like if you’re buying airline tickets online with a travel rewards card.

Cash rewards are often distributed via direct deposit or paper checks, but sometimes you can convert them to gift cards or travel-related rewards.

Do credit card rewards expire?

Sometimes, but it depends on the card. We’ve seen many cards that let you rack up rewards with no expiration date.

If you have an expiration date, expect your rewards to last at least a year or two. Credit card companies generally give you plenty of time to redeem your rewards.

Can I earn unlimited credit card rewards?

Yes, if you choose a card that offers unlimited cash back. The Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card offers unlimited cash-back rewards.

Some cards put a cap on rewards, but the company should clearly outline restrictions in your cardholder agreement.

Can I transfer credit card rewards?

Possibly. Some credit card companies let you transfer rewards from card to card. You might also have the option to transfer your credit card rewards to a different rewards program, such as a hotel or airline loyalty program.

Keep in mind that transfers aren’t always point-for-point or dollar-for-dollar transfers. In other words, you might lose some of your rewards during the transfer.

Rates and Fees

How is my APR determined?

Your credit history determines your APR, so clean up your credit as much as possible before you apply for a new card. The higher your FICO score, the lower your APR will probably be for the card.

It’s important to remember that APR ranges drastically. Someone with excellent credit might pay as low as 10% or 12% interest, while someone with bad credit might pay anywhere from 24% to 30% interest.

Do I have to pay an annual fee for my rewards card?

You might have to, but it depends on which card you choose. As a general rule, a high annual fee equals excellent rewards. The exception is if you have bad credit and get a card geared toward people with unfavorable credit histories.

Not a fan of fees? Look for a card that offers an introductory period for new cardholders. You’ll typically get to try the card for 12 months without paying a fee, and you might even enjoy a 0% APR and no balance transfer fees during your promotional period.

What if I can’t afford to pay my annual fee?

Forgive us for being blunt, but don’t get a card that charges an annual fee if you can’t afford to pay it. You should never get a credit card that you can’t afford.

Also, it’s difficult to bail out on the annual fee since every card we know of adds it directly to your statement. Try to avoid maxing out your card so you don’t end up over your credit limit when the annual fee hits. You may want to mark down the date in your planner so you can prepare for it; many companies don’t warn you that it’s almost time to pay your yearly fee.

Can I pay my annual fee with cash-back credit card rewards?

Possibly. You can’t call the company and specifically request to pay your fee with rewards, but you can use cash-back rewards to pay your credit card bill. You can use cash-back rewards to pay for anything you want (as long as your purchase doesn’t break the law) if you’re getting paid via direct deposit or check.

Is my APR for my rewards card always the same?

Not necessarily. Many cards charge a higher APR for cash advances than they do for goods and services. You’ll probably also pay a higher APR on cash advances from an ATM.

If you’re a new cardholder, you might have a promotional APR (usually 0%) for anywhere from a few months to 1.5 years. After the promotional period ends, you’ll get charged the regular rate for all of your purchases.

After establishing a lengthy history of paying your credit card bill on time, you can contact the company and request that they lower your APR. If they deny your request, you can transfer your balance to a new credit card with a lower interest rate.

Issues and Concerns Related to Rewards Credit Cards

Can a credit card company freeze my rewards?

Yes, so make sure you play by the rules! Follow all of the requirements in your credit card agreement, and make sure you always pay your bill on time. Here are a few reasons why a company might freeze your rewards:

  • Delinquency on multiple payments
  • Prohibited use, such as using your card to purchase illegal items
  • Excessive spending that puts you over your credit card limit (even if you’re current on payments)

A credit card company might also freeze your rewards to protect you, like if your card is lost or stolen. This is just a temporary freeze that should be lifted shortly after the issue that caused the freeze gets addressed.

Can a credit card company refuse to honor my rewards?

Yes, but this generally only happens if you break the rules. When you receive a new card, it generally comes with a cardholder agreement. This agreement specifies exactly what you can buy with your card, and you won’t be rewarded for purchases that violate it.

For example, you might be prohibited from buying firearms or gambling at a casino with your credit card. If you ignore these guidelines and use the card anyway, the credit card company does not have to honor your rewards.

A company might also refuse to honor your rewards if you’re behind in payments or if you are currently going through a bankruptcy.

What if I have an emergency situation that prevents me from using rewards before they expire?

Talk to your credit card company as soon as you can. They may extend your redemption deadline if you explain what’s going on, especially if you can provide proof of your situation. Here are some emergency situations that may qualify:

  • An extended hospital stay
  • Military commitments
  • Natural disasters that cause significant damage

This is not a full list of potential emergencies. If you think you’ve got a valid excuse for not redeeming your rewards in time, talk to your credit card company.

What if I forget to pay my credit card bill on time?

Uh oh! Make a payment as soon as possible so that you don’t damage your credit. Many credit card companies don’t report delinquent payments until you are at least 30 days late, so you should be okay if you’re only a day or two behind.

If you know your bill is going to be late, call the company and give them a heads up about your situation. Some cards offer an extension, especially if you have a good payment history. You may also be able to get late fees waived.

Why did my credit score drop after I got a rewards credit card?

This is a common complaint from cardholders, so we totally get your frustration. There are several reasons why your credit score might drop when you add a new card, so it’s difficult to give you a specific answer without knowing much about your credit history.

Here are a few reasons why your credit score might drop when you get a new card:

  • The company performed a hard pull rather than a soft pull (a soft pull doesn’t affect your credit score, but a hard pull does)
  • You used your credit card right away, so you already had a balance by the time the company reported your new account
  • Your score dropped for reasons unrelated to your new account that happened to occur around the same time you got a new card (examples are having an account sent to collections or increasing your overall card utilization ratio)

Pay the bill for your new card (and other bills!) on time for at least 3 to 6 months, and your score should slowly increase.

Maddy Osman creates engaging content with SEO best practices for marketing thought leaders and agencies that have their hands full with clients and projects. Learn more about her process and experience on her website, www.The-Blogsmith.com and read her latest articles on Twitter: @MaddyOsman.

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