Updated on Sep 21, 2017

Best Rewards Credit Cards for 2017

Maximize your rewards with the right rewards card.
Andy Bowen
By
Advertiser Disclosure

This page includes analysis of our favorite cards from The Simple Dollar’s advertisers and the marketplace. Visit our advertiser disclosure to learn more.

Everyone spends money. Why not earn rewards in the process? Regardless of what flavor you like the best (cash back, travel, etc.), there’s a rewards credit card out there that helps you make the most of your purchases without changing your spending habits — you just have to find it. We found this year’s most valuable offers in all the top categories. Take a look at our picks to find the right one and apply online in minutes.

The best rewards credit cards for 2017

Most versatile

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Rewards Summary 2X points on travel and restaurants worldwide; 1X points on other purchases
Redeem for... Travel, gift cards, statement credits, eDeposit

Signup bonus 50,000 points
Annual Fee $95 (waived first year)
Special offer:

Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening.

Perks include
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • 25% more value when you book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions
Highlights Provided by Chase Show Highlights
  • 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 & 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. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Issuer: Chase
  • Rewards Details: 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide
  • Sign Up Bonus: 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®
  • Annual Fee: Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.99% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: $0
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 16.99% - 23.99% Variable
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

If you buy airfare and lodging on the regular, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is an excellent choice because it earns unlimited rewards on travel and dining worldwide. On top of that, it has some of the most flexible redemption options out there, including a 1:1 points transfer (that’s a great rate) to 11 popular travel loyalty programs.

How to use it
  • Focus your spending on dining and travel purchases across the globe to earn 2X points per dollar — the earnings are unlimited, and there’s no foreign transaction fee. Use it for everything else to earn 1X point per dollar.
  • Get 50,000 bonus points (worth $625 toward travel when you redeem via Chase Ultimate Rewards®) once you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first three months of opening your account.
  • Transfer your points to 11 different top travel loyalty programs at a 1:1 ratio.
Consider this

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a well-rounded mid-range card with a relatively low fee ($95 a year, and the first year is waived). If you’re looking for a more luxurious travel rewards experience, the The Platinum Card® from American Express is a solid alternative because it earns exceptionally high rewards on flights that can be redeemed for all sorts of travel. It might have a hefty $550 annual fee, but if you travel regularly, the perks could well be worth it — we’re talking about Centurion Lounge access, a $200 annual airline fee credit, and more.

Why you'll love it

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is our pick for the most versatile rewards card because it earns rewards on a wide range of travel options that aren’t usually included with travel cards (like parking meters, garages, and rental cars) and it has some of the most flexible redemption options available. You’ll also love the signup bonus: 50,000 bonus points (worth $625 toward travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards®) if you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months.

Start your application now

Best for families

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
See Rates & Fees
Rewards Summary 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.
Redeem for... Reward Dollars (redeemed as a statement credit)

Signup bonus $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
Annual Fee $95
Highlights Provided by American Express Show Highlights
  • $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 13.99% to 24.99%.
  • 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.
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Issuer: American Express
  • Rewards Details: 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.
  • Annual Fee: $95 See Details
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: 26.24% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 2.7% of each transaction after conversion to US dollars.
  • Introductory APR: 0%
  • Introductory APR Period: 12 months
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: 0%
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: 12 months
  • Ongoing APR: 13.99% - 24.99% Variable
  • Penalty APR: 29.99% Variable

Our two cents

Who should get it

Not interested in travel rewards? Consider the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express to maximize rewards on common purchases like groceries and gasoline. With this card, you’ll earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (for the first $6,000, then 1%) and 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores. That means $360 back on groceries alone!

How to use it
  • Use at U.S. supermarkets and earn 6% cash back on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%.
  • Earn 3% cash back at U.S gas stations and select U.S. department stores, then 1% on everything else.
  • Redeem Rewards Dollars for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
  • Spend $1,000 in purchases within the first three months to get the $200 statement credit that can be applied toward your balance.
Consider this

There is a $95 annual fee for this card. If you’d prefer a card with no annual fee indefinitely, compare with the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. It has a $0 annual fee — though the rewards rates for groceries and gas are more modest.

Why you'll love it

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express makes a lot of sense if you’d prefer to focus your rewards potential on everyday purchases. It boasts a high rewards rate on categories that are popular with frugal spenders and families — plus unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Start your application now

Best cash back program

Chase Freedom®
Rewards Summary 5% cash back in bonus categories (up to $1,500 in combined purchases); unlimited 1% cash back on other purchases (Terms apply)
Redeem for... Cash back

Signup bonus $150
Annual Fee $0
Perks include
  • 0% intro APR on purchases & balance transfers for 15 months
  • Extended warranty & purchase protection
Highlights Provided by Chase Show Highlights
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter like gas stations, restaurants and drugstores
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.99-24.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee
  • Issuer: Chase
  • Rewards Details: Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Sign Up Bonus: Earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.99% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars
  • Introductory APR: 0%
  • Introductory APR Period: 15 months
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: 0%
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: 15 Months
  • Ongoing APR: 15.99% - 24.74% Variable
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

The Chase Freedom® is an excellent choice for all types of shoppers because it earns high cash-back rewards on everyday spending in rotating categories. It also has one of the most easy-to-earn signup bonuses on the market: spend $500 within the first three months to get a $150 bonus. Holders of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card can benefit by pairing their card with the Chase Freedom® too, because points are transferrable between cards.

How to use it
  • Earn 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories on up to $1,500, plus unlimited 1% cash back on everything else. (Previous bonus categories have included gas stations, restaurants, local commuter transportation, and drugstores.)
  • Spend over $500 on purchases within the first three months of opening your account to snag a 15,000 bonus points that can be redeemed for $150 cash back.
  • Pay attention to the bonus categories — you’ll need to activate them each month in order to earn 5% cash back.
  • Get an extra $25 bonus after adding your first authorized user and making your first purchase within the first three months.
Consider this

The Chase Freedom®’s high rewards are great, but remember that you’ll need to adjust your spending to match the high-reward bonus categories that change each quarter. If you prefer a simpler cash back solution, the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card is a better choice. Its signup bonus is the exact same ($150 bonus after you spend $500 in purchases within the first three months), and it earns an unlimited 1.5X points per dollar spent on any purchase you make.

Why you'll love it

For a cash back card with no annual fee, the Chase Freedom® earns exceptional rewards on rotating, everyday categories (past categories have included gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants). It’s also one of the only cash back cards in its price range that offers a 15-month 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers.

Start your application now

Best no intro fee rewards card

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Rewards Summary Unlimited 2X miles per dollar
Redeem for... Travel statement credit; travel booked through CapitalOne.com; gift cards; and more

Signup bonus 40,000 miles
Annual Fee $0 intro for first year; $59 after that
Perks include
  • Complimentary concierge service
  • $0 foreign transaction fees
  • Extended warranty protection for purchases
Highlights Provided by Capital One Show Highlights
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $400 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • 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; $59 after that
  • Get a metal Venture Card when you apply today
  • Issuer: Capital One
  • Rewards Details: 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day. 40000 Miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.
  • Annual Fee: $0 intro for first year; $59 after that
  • Balance Transfer Fee: $0
  • Cash Advance APR: 23.99% (Variable)
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 13.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is a great choice if your goal is to earn a free or low-cost trip for yourself or your family. Every single purchase you make earns an unlimited 2X miles per dollar that you can use to book all sorts of travel and vacation packages through CapitalOne.com.

How to use it
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on all purchases.
  • Spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months to get 40,000 bonus miles.
  • Redeem your miles via the Capital One Rewards Center for travel, account credits, gift cards, and more.
Consider this

This card has a relatively low annual fee, but if you don’t want a fee at all, consider the Discover it® Miles. It has a slightly lower rewards rate (1.5X miles per dollar), but otherwise it’s a comparable travel card: unlimited rewards on all purchases, no foreign transaction fees, and flexible redemption options. You also get a mile-for-mile match of the rewards you’ve earned at the end of your first year.

Why you'll love it

No matter how you use your Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, you’ll earn unlimited miles that you can redeem for a variety of travel rewards. And no matter where you go, you won’t be hit with a foreign transaction fee. Plus, it has a lower-than average annual fee ($59) that’s waived for year one — a small price to pay for unlimited 2X miles and flexible redemption.

Start your application now

Best fixed-value rewards

Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
Rewards Summary 2X miles on all purchases
Redeem for... Travel or cash back statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise

Signup bonus 40,000 miles
Annual Fee $89 - Waived first year
Perks include
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 12 months (made within 45 days of account opening)
  • 5% miles back upon redemption
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Access to the World Elite Mastercard platform
Highlights Provided by Barclaycard Show Highlights
  • 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
  • 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. After that, a variable APR will apply, 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • There is a fee for balance transfers.
  • Issuer: Barclaycard
  • Rewards Details: Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • Annual Fee: $89 - Waived first year
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: 26.24% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 0% of each transaction in U.S. dollars
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: 0%
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: 12 months (on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening)
  • Ongoing APR: 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99% Variable

Our two cents

Who should get it

Consider the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® if you’re looking for a simple, flat-rate travel card. Plus, you get a 5% miles back redemption every time you redeem. It’s also a great pick if you have an outstanding balance on another card thanks to its 12-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening.

How to use it
  • Earn a flat, unlimited 2X miles per dollar on all purchases.
  • Spend $3,000 in the first 90 days to get 40,000 bonus miles.
  • Redeem your miles for travel statement credits that cover a fantastic variety of travel expenses, including airfare, hotels, timeshares, and purchases with discount travel sites. (You can also redeem miles for cash back statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.)
  • Take advantage of high-end benefits on the World Elite Mastercard platform, including upgrades and discounts on certain airlines and complimentary concierge services.
Consider this

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® offers a 40,000-mile signup bonus (if you spend $3,000 in on purchases in the first three months) that’s redeemable for a $400 travel statement credit. If you want a beefier, more flexible signup bonus, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. As long as you can afford spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months, you’ll get 50,000 bonus points that are worth $625 toward travel purchases when redeemed via Chase Ultimate Rewards® — or you can opt for $500 cash back.

Why you'll love it

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® offers cardholders a super-simple approach to rewards: 2X miles on every purchase, every day. (No rotating categories to track or sign up for.) Plus, each time you redeem your points, you’ll get 5% miles back toward your next redemption. With redemption options from travel to gift cards, you can use your points as you like. Rewards programs don’t get much simpler than that!

Start your application now

Great first-year bonus

Discover it® Miles
Rewards Summary Unlimited 1.5x miles on every purchase
Redeem for... Statement credits towards travel purchases

Signup bonus Get a mile-for-mile match of all the rewards you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
Annual Fee $0
Perks include
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 14 months
  • Free FICO® Credit Scores on monthly statements and online
Highlights Provided by Discover Show Highlights
Card Highlights Provided by Discover:
  • New! Free Social Security Number alerts, we’ll monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.*
  • Match Mile For Mile: We’ll match all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 30,000 Miles, you get 60,000 Miles.
  • Unlimited 1.5x Miles per dollar on all purchases, every day, with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates - fly any airline, stay at any hotel.
  • Redeem your Miles as a statement credit towards travel purchases.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your FICO® Credit Score for free on monthly statements, on mobile and online.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Discover Match® details & other information.
  • Issuer: Discover
  • Rewards Details: 1.5 Miles per dollar on all purchases.
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3%
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.99% Variable
  • Introductory APR: 0%
  • Introductory APR Period: 14 months
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: 10.99%
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: 14 months
  • Ongoing APR: 11.99% – 23.99% Variable

Our two cents

Who should get it

The Discover it® Miles makes sense if you want to earn rewards that you can redeem for statement credits towards travel purchases, all with no annual fee. This card also makes sense if you’re about to make a large purchase, thanks to its mile-for-mile rewards match at the end of your first year.

How to use it
  • This is a great all-purpose card because it earns unlimited 1.5X miles per dollar on every purchase.
  • Discover will match your first-year earnings mile-for-mile, so use this card as much as possible to maximize your reward — and there’s no limit to how much you can earn.
  • You can redeem your miles as a statement credit to cover travel purchases such as airline tickets, hotel rooms, and car rentals.
  • Keep tabs on your FICO® credit score online for free with your Discover account.
Consider this

The flat rewards structure makes it simple to earn unlimited miles on every purchase you make. But if your spending follows certain patterns, you could earn more rewards faster with a card that offers more than 1.5X miles per dollar. We recommend the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express for 3X points on travel — or the Chase Freedom® for 5% cash back in bonus categories up to $1,500 in combined purchases.

Why you'll love it

The Discover it® Miles earns a flat, unlimited 1.5X miles on everyday purchases — all with no annual fee, foreign transaction fees, or blackout dates when booking travel. You can go where you want, whenever you want. Or you can redeem your rewards for statement credit. The choice is yours.

Start your application now

Best BoA card

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card
Rewards Summary Unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases
Redeem for... Travel statement credit

Signup bonus 20,000 points
Annual Fee $0
Perks include
  • Intro APR on purchases
  • 10% points bonus for Bank of America® customers
  • 25% – 75% points bonus for Preferred Rewards clients
Highlights Provided by Bank of America Show Highlights
  • 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 - 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 15.99% - 23.99% 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%
  • Issuer: Bank of America
  • Rewards Details: 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account. 1.5 points on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire.
  • Annual Fee: $0.00
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3% of the amount of each transaction or $10, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: See Terms
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Introductory APR: 0% Introductory APR on purchases
  • Introductory APR Period: 12 billing cycles
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 15.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • Penalty APR: up to 29.99% APR

Our two cents

Who should get it

Consider the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card if flexible travel redemption is a priority, and/or you’re a current Bank of America® customer. With this card, you’ll earn unlimited 1.5X points on every purchase. And since points are redeemable for a travel statement credit, you can book how and where you like — even on discount travel sites, which can make your points stretch even further.

How to use it
  • Use this card for everything — you’ll earn unlimited 1.5X points per dollar on all purchases.
  • Spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days to qualify for a 20,000-point bonus that’s worth a $200 statement credit toward travel.
  • Active BoA account holders also get a 10% customer points bonus on every purchase. Bank of America® Preferred Rewards clients can increase their customer points bonuses 25% to 75%. (For example, if a Gold Preferred Rewards client redeems $100 of cash back into a BoA checkings or savings account, the total cash back would increase to $125.)
  • Redeem your points for statement credits that cover a variety of travel expenses you don’t normally see on travel cards, including zoos, theme parks, and aquariums.
Consider this

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is a great alternative for travelers who want to earn rewards at a higher rate: It earns 2X miles per dollar spent on purchases compared to the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card’s 1.5X points per dollar on all purchases. Despite the difference in rewards rates, though, the doesn’t charge an annual fee while the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card has a $59 annual fee, waived for the first year.

Why you'll love it

Why the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card? There’s no annual fee. If you’re a Bank of America® customer or a Preferred Rewards client, you’ll get a customer points bonus to earn rewards even faster. And because points are redeemable as travel statement credits, you have lots of flexibility, with no blackout dates or restrictions at booking. For straightforward rewards and flexible redemption, this card has a lot to offer.

Start your application now

Best cash back bonus

Discover it® - Cashback Match™
Rewards Summary 5% cash back in rotating categories; 1% on all other purchases
Redeem for... Statement credits, eDeposits, gift cards, charitable donations

Signup bonus First year Cashback Match™
Annual Fee $0
Perks include
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 14 months
  • Dollar-for-dollar Cashback Match™ at the end of your first year
  • Free FICO® Credit Score
Highlights Provided by Discover Show Highlights
Card Highlights Provided by Discover:
  • New! Free Social Security Number alerts, we’ll monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.*
  • You could turn $150 into $300 with Cashback Match™. Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like gas stations, Amazon.com, restaurants, wholesale clubs and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Redeem your cash back for any amount, any time. Cash rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • Get your FICO® Credit Score for free on monthly statements, on mobile and online.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
  • Issuer: Discover
  • Rewards Details: 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like gas stations, Amazon.com, restaurants, wholesale clubs and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3%
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.99% Variable
  • Introductory APR: 0%
  • Introductory APR Period: 14 months
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: 0%
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: 14 months
  • Ongoing APR: 11.99% – 23.99% Variable

Our two cents

Who should get it

Looking for a card with no annual fee and an impressive first-year bonus? With the Discover it® Cashback Match™, you’ll get automatic match of all the cash back you earn in your first year, effectively doubling your rewards potential.

How to use it
  • Earn 5% cash back in bonus categories on up to $1,500 per quarter, plus unlimited 1% cash back on everything else. (The bonus categories change every quarter, and you need to activate them to get 5% cash back rewards.)
  • Redeem your cash back for statement credits, eDeposits, gift cards, and charitable donations.
  • Use your card as often as possible to maximize your first-year bonus: Discover will match your cash back earnings dollar-for-dollar at the end of your first year.
Consider this

Discover it® Cashback Match™ has a great rewards bonus for new customers, but you’ll have to wait all year to get it. If you want a faster payout, and don’t mind a travel-focused card, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® has a slightly lower rewards rate (2X miles on all purchases) but you can score its 50,000-point signup bonus after the first three months.

Why you'll love it

If Discover’s rotating bonus categories fit with your spending habits, you can earn a lot of cash back quickly with the Discover it® Cashback Match™. As the name suggests, Discover will match any cash back earned at the end of your first year for double the rewards, automatically. Another cool perk: you can use your cash back for part or all of Amazon.com purchases (redeem instantly at checkout). To recap, that’s Cashback Match™, 5% cash back in rotating categories, and 1% on everything else — all with no annual fee.

Start your application now

Best perks

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
See Rates & Fees
Rewards Summary 3X points for flights; 2X points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations & U.S. supermarkets; 1X points on other purchases (Terms apply)
Redeem for... Travel, gift cards, merchandise, or entertainment

Signup bonus 25,000 points
Annual Fee $195 (Waived first year)
Perks include
  • $100 airline fee credit
  • $75 credit on qualifying hotel charges
  • Point transfer to select frequent traveler programs
Highlights Provided by American Express Show Highlights
  • Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines. 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and at US supermarkets. 1X points on other purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit. Up to $100 a calendar year for baggage fees at one airline.
  • Get a $75 hotel credit on qualifying charges, plus a room upgrade upon arrival, when available with The Hotel Collection at americanexpress.com/hc. Terms apply.
  • $0 Intro Annual Fee for the 1st year, then $195.
  • Expanding merchant acceptance: Over 1 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in the last year.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Issuer: American Express
  • Rewards Details: 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines. 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and at US supermarkets. 1X points on other purchases.
  • Sign Up Bonus: Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Annual Fee: See Details
  • Balance Transfer Fee: N/A*
  • Cash Advance APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR: See Details
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A*
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A*
  • Ongoing APR: N/A
  • Penalty APR: N/A

Our two cents

Who should get it

The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express is ideal for anyone who travels often — usually in the U.S. — and wants a card with serious travel perks. With this card, you’ll earn high-rate rewards on flights, plus on everyday purchases at U.S. restaurants and U.S. supermarkets.

How to use it
  • Use this card to buy airfare directly from airlines (3X points per dollar) and at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, and U.S. supermarkets (2X points per dollar) to earn unlimited high-rate rewards. All other purchases earn 1 Membership Rewards® point per dollar.
  • Spend $2,000 within the first three months to earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points. (That’s a relatively low spending requirement for a luxury travel card.)
  • Book nights through The Hotel Collection with this card and, when available, you’ll get a complimentary room upgrade when you arrive.
  • Enjoy double Membership Rewards® points on eligible properties in The Hotel Collection. Book two consecutive nights and you’ll get a $75 credit to spend on qualifying dining, spa, and resort activities.
Consider this

Note that you’ll only earn 2X points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, and U.S. supermarkets. (Often travel internationally? Check out our next pick, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.) There’s also a $195 annual fee after your first year, but the yearly credits ($100 for airline fees and $75 for qualifying hotel purchases) will almost cover the annual fee — if you travel often enough to use them. If you don’t, we recommend a flexible cash back card like the Chase Freedom®.

Why you'll love it

The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express is popular with frequent travelers for a reason. With 3X points on flights and 2X points on U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, and U.S. supermarkets, your rewards should stack up quickly, whether you’re at home or abroad. But it’s really the outstanding travel perks that set this card apart. Whether you’re traveling for business or leisure, this card will be a first-class companion.

Start your application now

Honorable mention

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
Rewards Summary Unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase
Redeem for... Travel, gift cards, and more

Signup bonus 20,000 miles
Annual Fee $0
Perks include
  • Complimentary concierge service
  • $0 foreign transaction fees
  • Extended warranty protection for purchases
Highlights Provided by Capital One Show Highlights
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day and pay no annual fee
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Enjoy a low intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 12.99%-22.99% variable APR after that
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Issuer: Capital One
  • Rewards Details: 1.25 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day. 20000 Miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: $0
  • Cash Advance APR: 23.99% (Variable)
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Introductory APR: 0% intro on purchases
  • Introductory APR Period: For 12 Months
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 12.99% - 22.99% (Variable)
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card is a great fit if you want to earn unlimited miles (1.25X miles per dollar) on all purchases without an annual fee. It’s also great for casual card users who want a variety of travel redemption options, including travel statement credits (which allow you to cover certain travel expenditures that other cards won’t, like ferries and auto rentals).

How to use it
  • Use this card for all types of purchases to earn unlimited 1.25X miles per dollar, which is pretty flexible for a travel card with no annual fee.
  • Earn 20,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 in the first three months.
  • Take advantage of the 12-month 0% intro APR and pay off larger purchases without racking up any interest.
  • Redeem your miles for travel through the Capital One Rewards Center.
Consider this

If you’re willing to pay a small annual fee, you could earn higher-rate rewards with another card. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is very similar to this card, with the exception of a higher rewards rate (unlimited 2X miles per dollar) and a signup bonus that’s worth twice as much. Its annual fee is just $59 after your first year. If you take its larger signup bonus into account ($400 vs. $200), the extra bonus miles will cover your annual fee for three years.

Why you'll love it

For no-fuss rewards on everything you buy, the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card is a sensible, affordable choice. Unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar offer decent rewards potential, with plenty of flexibility at redemption. Since you can redeem miles for a travel statement credit, you can fly any airline and stay at any hotel, anytime, without taking blackout dates into account.

Start your application now

Best rewards credit cards for 2017: summed up

Choosing the right rewards card

Rewards cards aren’t one-size-fits-all. With the proper consideration, you can score a card that will help you achieve your financial goals and earn some cool rewards in the process.

Step 1: Analyze your spending.

Since rewards cards work based upon where and how you spend your money, the first thing that you should do is review your spending habits. Travel, dining, and gas are three super common rewards categories, so focus on those first. Ask yourself questions like: Do I frequently spend money on hotels or airfare? Do I eat out often, or do I prefer to stock up on groceries and cook at home instead? Am I am member of a travel loyalty program like Delta Skymiles or SPG®?

Great budgets make this part really easy. If you use personal finance tracking software, your spending history will be a great jumping off point. If you don’t, you needn’t worry — this doesn’t have to be an exact science. Napkin calculations are just fine. Just remember that it’s important to get a roundabout average of your monthly expenses in common categories so you can evaluate which card has the rewards that will benefit you the most.

Further reading: Our list of the best personal finance software.

If your spending doesn’t really align with any category, there’s still an option for you: flat-rate rewards cards. These cards earn rewards at a set percentage that never changes, no matter what you purchase.

Note: Travel is a huge earner for many rewards cards, but it isn’t just limited to airfare and hotels. Commuters should pay extra attention to this category too, because some cards earn rewards on alternative forms of travel, like buses, parking garages, and Uber fares.

In sum, each card has its own unique categories that earn rewards, but they generally fall into one of four common buckets:

  • Travel (general travel, loyalty programs, airline cards, hotel cards, etc)
  • Dining
  • Gas
  • Groceries (supermarkets)
  • Retail (online and brick and mortar)
  • Flat-rate

Step 2: Choose your rewards type.

Once you have a good idea how you’re going to earn rewards, it’s time to consider how you want to spend them.

Rewards generally come in two main flavors: travel and cash back. With travel, we’re talking about anything from points that can be redeemed for a wide range of options around the world to miles that can only be redeemed for airfare at a handful of airlines.

Cash back options are also pretty varied. Some cards, like the Discover it® Cashback Match™, earn cash back and gift cards that you can spend at certain online retailers. Others earn statement credits that can be applied toward anything you purchase.

There are even cards for those who want the best of both worlds. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the frontrunner in the flexible redemption options camp because cardholders can redeem points for cash back or travel, or transfer them to one of several travel partners.

When you’ve decided what type of rewards you prefer, work backwards and focus your research on cards that offer your favorite rewards and align with your spending habits. Then all that’s left is to start earning rewards!

The truth about rewards credit cards

As you read through lines and lines of rewards card information, you’re going to be bombarded with a bunch of features — and that can make choosing one particularly difficult. Here are the six features that you’ll probably run into the most:

  • Introductory APR
  • Standard APR
  • Sign-up bonus
  • Rewards rate
  • Additional bonus rewards
  • Introductory balance transfer rate
  • Standard balance transfer rate

Here’s the kicker: If you use your credit card correctly (paying it off in full every month), many of those features will carry less weight, which makes your choice much simpler.

The golden rule: Don’t carry a monthly balance on your credit card.

If you can commit to paying your balance off in full every month, the only two things you have to worry about are the signup bonus and redemption options. Take standard APR, for example. If you don’t carry a monthly balance on your card, what does it matter that your APR is 18%? The introductory balance transfer rate is also less important if you don’t plan on transferring an existing balance from a high-APR card.

Pro tip

If you think you might wind up carrying a monthly balance, a rewards card may not be the best fit. Your interest payments could cancel out your point accumulation and cost you too much money, time, and headaches. If you already have a balance on a card, and you’re paying interest, consider a balance transfer card to get you back on track. These specialized cards offer extra-long 0% intro APR, so you can spread out your payments, interest-free. Check out our shortlist of the best balance transfer cards for 2017.

Annual fees are an investment to earn more rewards

Most people cringe at the thought of paying for the privilege of using a rewards card, but when the card is used correctly, it’s almost always worth it. Even if you don’t earn as many rewards as you could, most of the best rewards cards waive the fee for the first year anyway — not to mention they usually come with massive signup bonuses.

Like most everything in life, you get out what you put in. If you spend $20,000 per year and get 1X points per dollar spent with a no annual fee card, you’ll receive $200 worth of points. If you spend the same amount with a rewards card that earns 2x per dollar but has a $95 annual fee, you’ll get $305 worth of points ($400 minus $95). That’s a 52.5% increase! Your annual fee investment is $95, and your increase is $105. This amounts to a “return on investment” (ROI) of $105/$95, or 110.5%. No investor on Wall Street can match that return year in and year out.

Redeeming points is just as important as earning them.

One of the key benefits of a great rewards card is being able to redeem points the way you want to. Your points don’t do you any good if you can’t use them. This applies across the board for different types of rewards cards. We talk a lot about general rewards, but some of the airline cards and hotel credit cards are able to offer you a higher rewards earning potential for purchases with their brand.

The two premier rewards platforms that give you the most flexibility when redeeming points are Chase Ultimate Rewards® and American Express Membership Points. You can’t go wrong with either of these platforms when redeeming points for travel, entertainment, gift cards, or cash back.

If you carry more than one rewards credit card like I do, it can really pay off to have them on the same rewards platform. That way, you can combine points and take advantage of special point dividends, bonuses, or deals. Always think about how you’ll redeem points before signing up for a rewards card.

How to save more money by maximizing rewards

I’ve talked at length about the benefits of using a rewards credit card. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all card that delivers superior rewards on every conceivable spending category AND has the most flexible point redemption options.

Given the limitations, many people will want to employ some strategies to get the most out of their rewards. My recommendation is to use at least two rewards credit cards. Using more can help, but the added annual fees may eat away at the benefits of carrying an additional card if you don’t spend enough.

Pro tip

Experts recommend that you should keep your credit utilization ratio under 30%. Otherwise, it’s difficult to maintain an above-average credit score. The best way to keep your credit utilization low is to pay your balance in full each month — and save up before making big-ticket purchases.

Let’s assume you want to completely max out your rewards earning potential without owning an excessive amount of cards. Owning two or three cards is the right number to get the most rewards and still keep the cards active (assuming you’re paying off the balances). You’ll be able to take advantage of the bonuses and ongoing rewards without major limitations. There are many strategies to maximizing your rewards cards while keeping the number of credit cards you own down to a minimum. Here are a few examples:

  • Overlap categories on the same rewards platform (like Chase Ultimate Rewards®).
  • Combine business and personal rewards credit cards.
  • Use a consistent rewards card and a cash back card.
  • Overlap two types of travel rewards cards

Case study #1: Overlap categories on the same rewards platform

The goal of this strategy is to take two or more rewards cards that earn bonus points in different categories and combine them to earn more than you would by just earning 1% on all other purchases. The ideal situation is to keep both cards on the same rewards platform so you can easily combine the points from each card when you want to redeem them.

My favorite way to do this right now is to use the Chase Ultimate Rewards® platform. If you used the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to earn 2x points on travel and dining, you could add the Chase Freedom® to take care of rotating bonus categories like groceries, gas, and department stores.

There are a couple added benefits to using these two cards. First, the Chase Freedom® card does not have an annual fee, so you can employ this strategy for just $95 per year (the annual fee on Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card). Second, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card points are worth 20% more when redeemed for travel on the Ultimate Rewards platform. The Chase Freedom® points are not eligible for this benefit as a standalone card.

Here’s the good news: Chase Ultimate Rewards® lets you combine card points, so you can transfer your Chase Freedom® points to your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, and those additional points will be worth 20% more when redeemed for travel!

The power of the platform

Let’s say you accumulate 50,000 points on your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and 20,000 points on a second card on a different rewards platform. You then decide to take that Caribbean vacation you’ve always wanted and use Chase Ultimate Rewards® to book your trip. You see that two flights cost a combined $750. Your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card points when redeemed for travel will cover $625 of the cost, but you have to pay out of pocket for the remaining $125 because you can’t combine your points.

Now, let’s say you’re in the same scenario except your “other card” is the Chase Freedom®. You decide to combine your points with your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card points, so you now have 70,000 points to use. On most other rewards platforms, 70,000 points equal $700. However, with the 20% bump you get with Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, your combined 70,000 points now are worth $875 — enough to cover your airfare for your vacation!

Case study #2: Combine business and personal rewards cards

If you run a small business or are self-employed in some way, you can use one of the best business credit cards as your secondary card. Business cards often have better rewards in different categories that can be overlapped. My colleague uses the Chase Ink® business cards for his business and combines points with his personal credit cards on the Chase Ultimate Rewards® platform to get maximum value.

For example, he puts all of his gas and hotel stays on his Chase Ink Bold® for 2x points. He also charges his cell phone bill, Internet service, and landline to that card to earn 5x points. Then, he books any travel or dining on his Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to earn 2x points.

Redeeming is easy because both cards will get you 20% more when redeemed for travel through Chase. All he has to do is combine the points and book his tickets.

Case study #3: Consistent rewards + cash back

When you want a simple strategy for rewards and you’re not as concerned with your cards being on the same platform, you can split up your cards. Your goal here is to earn a straight 2% back on all purchases while giving yourself a boost of 2% in certain spending categories.

One way to do this is to sign up for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® to earn 2x miles on all purchases. From here, you have several options to add a cash back card that earns high rewards in rotating categories.

This selection will largely be situational depending on what you spend your money on. My favorite cash back card is the Chase Freedom®, just for the variety alone. You have more choices here because you can open your options to cards on different rewards platforms.

You most likely will not use your cash back card as much as your Barclaycard, so I would use those cash back points either as statement credits, spending money, or to redeem for gift cards. Then, use all of your Barclaycard points for travel-related or larger purchases. You can’t maximize your rewards by only owning a cash back card. Even the best cash back card must be used in combination with another rewards credit card to ensure you earn greater than 1% back on every purchase you make.

Remember, you won’t be able to combine points in this scenario, so make sure you have options for redeeming each set of points. Since you’ll be using your cash back card in limited situations, it might not make sense to pay an additional annual fee, which is why I recommend the Chase Freedom®.

Case study #4: Overlap two travel rewards cards

If you travel often, you may want a little extra juice in your rewards program. Here, you need to take into consideration frequent flyer programs, preferred airlines or hotels, and point transfer partners so you can use your points in the most efficient way possible.

What I recommend is pairing a solid, general rewards card with an airline or hotel card.

What’s important to remember:

  • Most airline and hotel cards don’t earn higher than 1x points away from their own brands.
  • The best general rewards cards have frequent flyer transfer partners.
  • Your rewards are attached to the airline or hotel rewards program and changes do happen.
  • Most rewards cards and airline cards carry annual fees, so don’t sign up for all of them!

Keeping those points in mind, there are many ways to execute this strategy. Below is an example to illustrate how you could maximize your rewards points.

Travel card + airline or hotel card = max travel rewards

Sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to get a great sign-up bonus and solid rewards on travel and dining, plus capitalize on the 20% bonus point redemption. This is your starting point for earning travel rewards.

Next, choose your preferred airline or hotel. This is much more difficult since it depends on your preferences and geography. One way to choose is to look at your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card point transfer partners. With this program, you can transfer your points to partners such as United, British Airways, Southwest, Hyatt, and Marriott. Points transfer on a 1:1 basis, so you should first consider any of these specialty cards.

If you fly one airline a lot you can double dip on points and miles, then transfer credit card points to airline miles. Adding the United MileagePlus® Explorer card won’t net you any immediate points difference since both cards earn 2x on United purchases. However, you might travel United enough to take advantage of mileage deals by transferring Ultimate Rewards points from your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Finally, with these two cards, you’ll be paying two annual fees. Consider adding a no annual fee cash back card to boost your points on rotating categories that aren’t covered by Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. You might need gas or groceries while traveling, and cash back cards can cover you in these categories.

Research the 92 best rewards credit cards for 2017

The rewards credit cards directory shown below is a comprehensive listing of every rewards credit card worth considering. It started as a list of nearly 1,630 cards. I created this directory and used it as a starting point for all of my research so that I could review all cards on the same criteria and reduce the list to a more manageable number. It’s updated weekly and reflects any new changes to the credit cards as well as new card additions and removals.

Using both the information shown in the directory and other features, I took a data-driven approach to select the top rewards credit cards. Multiple factors were taken into account, as I wasn’t looking for just the highest rewards alone. I wanted to find the card that has the best combination of the elements that are most important to the majority of people seeking a rewards card.

Rewards credit cards directory

The directory also includes all the various types of rewards credit cards. You can use the rewards credit card directory to sort and filter by the components that are most important to you. To rank the cards, I rated each rewards credit card feature in order of importance based on my research.

When evaluating rewards credit cards in general, you’ll see that so many categories have an impact on rating each card. I took nearly 14 different components into account. Based on all of the features and data collected, I developed a Rewards Credit Card Rating, which is essentially a summary of how a card performs as a rewards card. The Overall Rating is a measure of the card compared to every single type of card.

Sort, filter, or search for what matters most to find the best rewards credit card for you.

 
Sort By
Card Name
Rewards Type
Sign up Bonus Tier Level
Common Filters
Great Signup Bonus
No Annual Fee
No APR for 12+ Months
Search
Credit Card
Rewards Type
Annual Fee
Sign up Bonus Tier Level
Apply Online
Credit Card
Rewards Type
Annual Fee
Sign up Bonus Tier Level
Apply Online
Travel
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Excellent
* (?)
Travel
$89 - Waived first year
Excellent
Cash Back
$0
Below Average
* (?)
Travel
$0 intro for first year; $59 after that
Average
Travel
$0
Excellent
Hotel
$0 for the first year, then $95 See Details
Average
* (?)

Rating methodology

To better describe the data and overall rating, I’ll explain each valuable component below. These aren’t the only factors that went into rating each card, but these are some of the most valuable and the features that you’ll want to understand before getting any rewards card.

Rewards rate

Rewards Rate refers to the actual rate at which you can earn rewards using the rewards credit card. Most of the consistent rewards credit cards will offer 2x points, miles, or cash back on common purchases without any limits. These cards are very versatile and are the best credit cards to own as your primary card.

Cash back credit cards offer higher rewards rates in specific categories, but have limits on the amount you can earn. The rotating category cash back credit cards enable you to earn 5% cash back every quarter on something different, but once you hit the $1,500 limit each quarter your rewards rate drops down to 1%. This is why owning a consistent 2x rewards card is important — to pick up the slack and continue earning double the points.

Then, there are rewards credit cards that are tied to one brand. Again, Rewards Rate as a whole measures the rewards you can earn, plus the places where you can earn those extra rewards. An airline credit card, hotel credit card, or brand loyalty (affinity) credit card will enable you to earn high rewards with that specific brand.

However, if you make purchases away from the brand, it’s likely that you’ll only earn at a 1% or 1x points rate, which means you’re missing out. This is generally why I only recommend these cards in special circumstances or if you’re looking to add a third, fourth, or fifth credit card and you spend a lot of money.

Perks

There are many benefits to owning a rewards card beyond what’s advertised. First off, many of the top cards have travel insurance benefits, car rental insurance, and purchase protection insurance. Beyond that, premium cards offer you special VIP services, access to exclusive events, and use of airport lounges.

Airline credit cards are probably near the top when it comes perks for a rewards credit card. Since the cards only offer rewards for purchases made on the airline (in most cases), they compensate by offering priority boarding, free checked bags, companion fares, and other travel benefits on the airline. These can be great perks for people that travel often, especially the companion fare.

Signup bonus

The consistent all-around rewards credit cards tend to offer some of the largest sign-up bonuses in the industry. Often, you’ll have to spend a certain amount of money to get these bonuses dropped into your account. Usually, it’s anywhere between $1,000 and $3,000 spent in the 90 days. The top cards offer sign-up bonuses of up to $400, while others go up to $200. The key here is to make sure you capitalize on your sign-up bonus!

Airline credit cards also have large bonuses in the form of air miles. Essentially, it’s the same monetary value as, say, a $400 statement credit bonus. However, in my experience, it’s much less straightforward booking a flight with air miles than it is to get $400 to show up on your statement as a credit.

Cash back credit cards have some of the smallest bonuses in the industry, likely because the rewards rate on purchases is so high (even though there’s a limit to the amount you can earn). Still, the bonuses on these cards are nice and tend to be around $50 to $100, although I’ve seen special offers as high as $200.

Intro APR

Introductory APR isn’t too important as it relates to earning rewards, but it gives you the flexibility and freedom to make purchases without having to worry about carrying a balance as a new cardholder. For example, some of the best introductory offers in the industry can go as high as 0% APR for 18 months. That means you don’t have to make a payment for 18 months. Of course, you still need to pay attention and keep up with your payments so you aren’t left with a massive balance a year and a half after signing up for the card!

An Intro APR can be a dangerous tool or a wise tool depending on how you look at it. If you know you need to make a major purchase in the next few months and you can pay it off without hesitation in the next year, it’s fine to take advantage of these offers. However, if you’re signing up for a card and spending way more than you should because you don’t have to pay interest, you might get into trouble.

I advise you to tread cautiously and carry the least amount of balance possible if you plan on taking advantage of a 0% intro APR deal.

Ongoing APR

I included ongoing APR because it’s important to think about. You shouldn’t sign up for a rewards credit card if you plan on carrying a balance. Any way you look at it, the amount you’ll earn in rewards won’t be able to offset the high costs of paying off a balance that’s accumulating interest each month.

Sometimes, things happen and you might get into a situation where you have to carry a balance. In that case, cash back cards generally have the lowest ongoing APRs. Again, you really want to avoid this at all costs. A credit card is a great financial tool if used the right way. You can be paid back for making purchases in the form of rewards and build your credit.

If used the wrong way, your credit can be destroyed. You’ll be stuck making high interest payments and you’ll trigger a financial downward spiral. Make sure you pay off your balance each month or cut back on your spending. (Side note: I’ll probably hammer this point home at least one more time as you continue reading.)

Editorial Note: Compensation does not influence our rankings and recommendations. However, we may earn a commission on sales from the companies featured in this post. To view a list of partners, click here. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by our advertisers. Reasonable efforts are made to present accurate info, however all information is presented without warranty. Consult our advertiser's page for terms & conditions.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.