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We researched over 500 credit cards to find the best credit cards for rewards. With so many cards offering points, miles and other perks to choose from comparing cards can be very difficult. The best credit cards reward program will also depend upon your personal or business spending habits. To help you out we've compiled our list of the best rewards cards of 2015 as well as some tips and tools to help you compare all your rewards credit card options.
Compare The Best Rewards Credit Cards
If you'd like to see how the credit cards we've discussed perform for you, use our embedded tool to see what you can earn from rewards. By changing your spending patterns you can see how each card performs for you.
Graph by Card:
The total value of the card at the end of the period by card. The card value accounts for the dollar value of the rewards as well as any fees associated with the card.
The dollar value of rewards as a percentage of total spending by card.
The minimum APR for each card.
The annual fee for each card.
The dollar value of signing and continuing bonuses by card.
Graph by Month:
The dollar value of each card by month
The value of each card as a percentage of total spending by month…
2 AAdvantage miles for every $1 spent on American Airlines
1 mile for every $1 spent otherwise
30,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
First Checked Bag Free for you and up to 4 companions
Admirals Club Membership
Receive 25% savings on eligible in-flight purchases
Our Top Rewards Credit Cards
We focused on credit cards with rewards that would be best for everyday use. If you could have only one rewards card these are the cards we think you should choose from. Our picks account for bonuses that you'll earn with the cards as well as spending rewards. If you don't care about bonuses then consider one of the cash back cards which typically have smaller bonuses than the travel cards but can be very competitive otherwise.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus: Best All Around Travel Rewards
For rewards credit cards that you can use everyday, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard is hands down the best. If you travel just once a year, or even once every two years, the lucrative yet simple rewards from this credit card are too good to pass up. The standout feature of the card is the 2.2% rewards rate you'll receive on all your spending, when used as a statement credit on any travel expense. With many other cards you could only come close to these rewards if you spent on specific categories, or used the awards at a single chain of airlines or hotels. With the Arrival, you can spend your money anywhere and redeem the rewards for any travel purchase.
Putting the card over the top is also one of the largest signing bonuses available. At 40,000 miles, worth $400 dollars, new cardholders are offered a fantastic promotion for getting the Barclaycard. When Barclaycard rebranded the Arrival Plus earlier this year, they expanded the categories of expenses that fall under travel. This added Taxis, Buses, Limousines, Tourist Attractions, Timeshares and Campgrounds to the mix. This vastly increases the number of day to day expenses that the miles could be used for.
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus is our best rewards card for someone that spends more than $1000 a month, and has sufficient travel expenses each year. This will allow you to satisfy all the spending requirements necessary to qualify for the signing bonus, as well as make the cards rewards more worthwhile when compared to a no annual fee option. It also ensures that you have actual uses for the miles earned with the card.
Starwood Preferred Guest American Express: Best Hotel Rewards
When it comes to the best hotel credit cards, consumers should really consider the Starwood Preferred Guest first. With both the personal and business versions of this American Express offering, cardholders can enjoy one of the highest average dollar per point values of any loyalty program. Starpoints from the SPG program are worth an astounding 2.3 cents per point. On general spending alone the card rewards you with 2.3% on your spending, double that if it is used at a Starwood affiliated resort or hotel. With over 1100 properties worldwide, including familiar brands such as the Westin, Sheraton and W hotels, travelers can find a redemption option in nearly every corner of the world.
As an additional benefit, Starpoints earned through the credit card and the SPG loyalty program can be exchanged for loyalty rewards at most major airlines. With most airlines accepting these transfers at a 1:1 ratio, you can use Starpoints to top off an awards travel booking, adding just a little more flexibility in your rewards use. New cardholders also qualify for a 25,000 point signing bonus, worth nearly 500 dollars in hotel stays.
One of the highest dollar value per reward of all credit cards we surveyed.
Rewards are usable at nearly 1000 properties and 32 airlines through the points transfer program.
Signing Bonus: 30,000 point bonus worth at as much as $600 for new card members
Rewards Rate: 2.2%
Citi Double Cash Card: Best Flat Rate Cash Back Rewards
The Citi Double Cash is the new entrant in flat rate cash back rewards and it bests just about everything we've seen offered thus far. With an effective 2% cash back on all your spending, it's one of the best rewards offerings we've seen in a long time. The lack of a bonus makes it less worthwhile than some of the other cards in the short term, since those hundreds of dollars of extra rewards can be pretty valuable right now. With no annual fee and 1% cash back immediately when you make a purchase and another 1% back when you pay off your bill the Double Cash Card is otherwise quite hard to beat. Citi is also currently offering an introductory purchase and balance transfer APR. It's just begging you to make the switch.
Rewards Rate: 2% Cash back on all spending
No annual fee
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards: Best Cash Back with Bonus
The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card offers a little more flexibility at the cost of some overall value. All else being equal cash back is our favorite rewards mechanism, and that's just want the Quicksilver gives you. With 1.5% cash back on all spending, the Quicksilver offers a relatively good return without many hoops to jump through. Best of all, with no annual fee it is a rewards card with nearly no financial burdens. New card members qualify for a one time $100 bonus if they spend $500 dollars on purchases within the first 3 months. The signing promo is one of the smaller bonuses available, but also among the easiest to achieve in the cards we've surveyed.
The previously mentioned travel rewards cards are more generous overall, so if you travel at all it's a better financial decision to go with one of those. If however you're for a no hassle rewards card for your primary credit card, there is no substitute for the Quicksilver. While other rewards cards, including some other cash back cards can offer you a higher rate, it will usually come at the cost of increased hassle. This may include higher percentages only if you make purchases in specific categories, or through featured categories that rotate every 3 months. If you want just one card to depend on, go with Capital One's offering.
Rewards Rate: 1.5% Cash Back on all spending
Signing Bonus: $100 bonus after you spend $500 in the first 3 months
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is best suited for cardholders that are willing to go the extra mile to get more out of their spending. If you're the type of person that enjoys figuring out how to get the most bang for your buck, the Sapphire Preferred is one of your best options. While the cards we've already mentioned will have better overall rate on general spending categories, the Chase Sapphire Preferred performs much better if you tie yourself to their Ultimate Rewards program. In doing so you can earn as much as 3.75% of your total spending in rewards. An additional benefit of the Sapphire Preferred over some of the generic travel cards is the ability to use Ultimate Rewards points as cash back at a penny a piece. Most generic rewards cards like those in the American Express or Citi ThankYou programs force you to take a significant discount when using points for cash back rewards.
Rewards Rate: 1.25 - 3.75%+
Signing Bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus points worth 400-500 dollars on travel or cash back when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Double on travel and dining.
Points can be transferred directly to a number of hotel and airline partners at a 1:1 ratio for use in their loyalty programs
Rewards are usable as cash back as well as statement credits
Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard: Best No Fee Travel Rewards
If you're looking for to choose among the best rewards credit cards for travel but don't want an annual fee, begin with the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard. It has nearly all the travel rewards benefits of its premium counterpart the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, but without the annual membership cost. With double miles on travel expenses and dining and the miles accrued still work 1 cent each, it still offers top tier results for travel expenses. Where it's a little weaker is in only providing 1 mile per dollar spent on all other expenses. So if you're looking for a hassle free travel miles card with no fee to concern yourself with, this card is our pick.
Double rewards on travel expenses and dining
No Annual Fee
25,000 mile signing bonus if you spend $1000 in the first 3 months
How To Find The Best Rewards Credit Card
If you want to look at more options than the ones we've listed, here are some considerations we think you should make in your quest to find the best rewards card. Use this guide as a framework for evaluating any credit card offers you come across to help you compare how each card might fit into your personal spending decisions.
Take a look at your spending habits
Consumers shopping for a rewards credit card often just want a single answer to "What is the best rewards card?" Unfortunately the answer is "It depends." Which rewards card will be the best for you will depend entirely on your personal spending, travel and credit habits. Before researching cards take a moment to consider your personal preferences, it will go a long way in helping you find the best rewards card.
Do You Keep A Balance On Your Credit Card? In exchange for giving you bonuses and rewards, rewards credit cards will generally have a significantly higher interest rate. If you're unable to pay off the entirety of your monthly charges, you'll easily pay more in additional interest than you could earn from rewards. Rewards card are only a good option for consumers that keep very low to no credit card debt on a monthly basis. If you are having difficulty zeroing out your balance, consider a low interest credit card first. You're much better off reducing your interest payments than trying to get a percentage point or two in rewards.
Be Honest To Yourself About How You Use Rewards: Cards that give you a large amount of rewards are great, if you use them. Americans rack up millions of dollars of frequent flyer miles, hotel loyalty points and credit card rewards that are never used. For those consumers these rewards might as well be worth 0. Take inventory of how much you travel or how much you spend in different categories since it will make a large impact in what rewards can make sense.
You might also consider whether you're the type to save up towards one big redemption or want to be able to benefit from rewards as frequently as possible. Many loyalty program affiliated cards can require you to rack up thousands in points and miles before you can actually use them. Lastly, think about how much do you value flexibility. Aggressive consumers can get a much better dollar value out of their rewards, but it will usually limit their choices for rewards redemption.
How Much Are You Going To Spend On A New Card: Cards with the highest rewards rates often come with an annual fee. With many no-fee rewards credit card options available, the decision to pay an annual fee will depend on the amount you will spend on the card. As a rule of thumb, you should plan to spend at least $1,000 a month for a fee-based rewards card to be viable.
Understand how different cards work
In examining the different rewards credit cards we looked at different factors that come into play when choosing the best. Understanding all these different aspects can help you figure out just how good a card really is.
Take A Look At How The Rewards Work: While most cards use the same set of terms (points, miles, cash back), the ways these rewards work will vary tremendously. Look to see if rewards can be applied as statement credits, cash back or solely through an award redemption. Statement credits and cash back are our favorite options when available. Some cards allow you to transfer your rewards to other loyalty programs giving you another way to use what you've earned.
Rewards Rate: If your rewards card is going to be your primary card then the rewards rate for general spending is very important. For everyday spending you can expect to earn to 2.5% of what you spend as rewards. The more flexible the type of reward you get from the card, the lower the rewards rate you can expect. Travel rewards cards will generally have among the highest rewards rates.
Signing Bonuses Matter: The promotions offered to new card holders are a major portion of the value you can get from a new rewards card. Earning these bonuses will require you to either make a purchase on the card or spend a certain amount within a set time limit. With the value of signing bonuses ranging from $50 - $500 making sure you can fulfill the qualifications can change the value of a card tremendously. Be sure to make sure you are eligible. You may not qualify for the signing bonus if you already have a similar credit card with the same issuer.
* See the online credit card application for details about terms and conditions. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. When you click on the "Apply Now" button, you can review the credit card terms and conditions on the issuer's website.
Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.
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How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.