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What Are The Best Rewards Credit Cards of 2018?

Our team of analysts combed through the earning potential and fees for 218 candidates to find the best rewards credit cards available. We’ve identified the 6 credit cards that offer maximal rewards based on different types of spending and needs. For the the typical consumer, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card will be the most rewarding choice. We’ve also listed our top recommendations for readers who have more specific needs.

Recommended Cards

Best ForCredit NeededAnnual Fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardBest for Most PeopleExcellent$95 ($0 first year)
Discover it® Cash BackCash BackGood/Excellent$0
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit CardAirline RewardsGood$75
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit CardHotel RewardsExcellent/Good$89
Capital One® Spark® Cash for BusinessSmall BusinessGood/Excellent$95 ($0 first year)
Discover it® Student Cash BackStudentsFair$0

Recommended Cards

Best ForAnnual Fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardBest for Most People$95 ($0 first year)
Discover it® Cash BackCash Back$0
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit CardAirline Rewards$75
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit CardHotel Rewards$89
Capital One® Spark® Cash for BusinessSmall Business$95 ($0 first year)
Discover it® Student Cash BackStudents$0

If you’d like to understand more about how each rewards card works best for you, click on the categories below to read our evaluation, rationale and methodology. Our team also created the only tool available that calculates which card earns you the most rewards based on your credit card expenses.

Table of Contents

In-Depth Reviews of The Best Rewards Credit Cards

We’ll show below how each credit card we’ve picked gets you superior rewards for their category, and how you can maximize value from that card. Our picks offer rewards rates of 2% or higher – compared to the average of 1 to 2% across all cards. We’ve also included close second picks in case you want to consider more options.

Best Overall Choice: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Annual Fee
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
Purchase APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Credit Needed Excellent Credit
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®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 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 travel 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

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the overall best travel rewards credit card when we compare it to the 200+ other offers. That's because the card gives a fantastic 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel, while most other cards won't give more than a 2% rate. Another reason this card is our top pick is because it's part of the best credit card rewards program, Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR). You can optimize miles or hotel points by combining UR points with your other rewards programs from partners such as United, Southwest and Marriott Hotels. Even if you don’t want to maneuver between reward options, we’d still recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card because its points can be great for redeeming for free flights and hotel stays through the Chase Travel Portal on your next journey. Very few credit card programs provide users with multiple great redemption options.

Those who are comfortable paying for upgraded rewards will likely find that the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is a more valuable luxury version of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Just be aware that in order for the Chase Sapphire Reserve®'s $450 annual fee to make sense, you'll have to meet the card's $300 annual travel credit every year and use the perks frequently. Regardless of which of the two you choose, you'll have access to a great rewards program.

Top Cash Back Rewards Card (No Annual Fee): Discover it® Cash Back

Annual Fee
$0
Purchase APR
13.74% - 24.74% Variable
Credit Needed Excellent, Good
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.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.

The Discover it® Cash Back is the leading rewards card for cash back on the market, when it comes to purchases that aren't related to travel. You’ll get 5% cash back in seasonal rewards, up to $1,500 in spending each quarter. Again, the standard among the top cards is 2-3%, which is why the 5% rewards rate is outstanding. We recommend you get this card if you want the highest cash back rewards on everyday categories, like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants or Amazon. It should be noted that this is also one of our favorite no annual fee credit cards.

What pushed this card from good to great, though, is that no other card on our list could top its unbeatable cash back rewards in the first 12 months. At the end of your first year, Discover matches the sum of all the cash back you earned. For the first 12 months, you'll earn a minimum of 2% cash back, and 10% in those specialized categories.

Runner-Up: Citi® Double Cash Card

Citi® Double Cash Card
This card is not available through ValuePenguin.
Annual Fee
No Annual Fee
Purchase APR
15.24% - 25.24% Variable
Credit Needed Excellent
Details
  • Earn cash back twice on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% Intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers
  • after that the variable APR will be 15.24% - 25.24% based on creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater. Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening.

Our favorite credit card for everyday cash back rewards is the Citi® Double Cash Card. It's the best offer for people who want a simple but high cash-back rate on all spending - no restrictions on where to shop or redeem. You get 1% cash back when you make a purchase, followed by another 1% back when that purchase is paid off—for an effective total of 2% cash back. That allows you to earn rewards on common household spending whether you're getting groceries or paying for gas at the pump. To top it all off, the card has no annual fee, meaning it's all profit so long as you don't carry a balance month-to-month. Other cards that offer cash back make you sign up for a checking, savings or investment account, or remember to activate and use your card at specific times.

Note: If you spend over $25,000 each year on your credit cards, you'll come out ahead with the Barclays Arrival® Premier World Elite Mastercard®. That's another excellent 2% rewards rate credit card. The only difference is that if you spend over $25k annually, you'll receive a loyalty bonus each year that puts that card over the edge.

Best Airline Rewards Credit Card: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card

Annual Fee
$75
Purchase APR
16.74% - 24.74% Variable
Credit Needed Good
Details
  • First Checked Bag Free for you and up to 6 companions booked on your reservation
  • Coach Companion Fare from $121 ($99 base fare plus taxes and fees from $22)

We're naming the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card as the most valuable credit card for airline rewards. No other airline card provides as high of a rewards rate on general everyday purchases (1.8%), or as valuable of a reward as its companion fare. As an airline card, the Alaska Visa Signature has everything you could ask for: a $121 companion fare, free checked bags and no foreign transaction fees. That companion fare alone could be worth hundreds of dollars each year. Say you book two tickets from New York to Los Angeles. Such a flight would end up costing you around $452 per person. After you take out the $121 fee you'd have to cover, that's still a huge rewards savings of $330. The savings would be even greater on international flights. Very few cards can compete with this level of airline rewards.

Other thoughtful rewards on this card include free checked bags and the option to redeem Alaska miles for reward flights on other airlines, like American Airlines and British Airways.

Best Hotel Rewards: IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

Annual Fee
$89
Purchase APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Credit Needed Excellent/Good
Details
  • Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add your first authorized user and make your first purchase in the first three months from account opening
  • Enjoy a Free Night after each account anniversary year at eligible IHG hotels worldwide. Plus, enjoy a free reward night when you redeem points for any stay of 4 or more nights
  • Earn 10 points per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Platinum Elite status as long as you remain a Premier card member
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit of up to $100 every 4 years as reimbursement for the application fee charged to your card
  • IHG Rewards Club Bonus points are redeemable at hotels such as InterContinental®, Crowne Plaza®, Kimpton®, EVEN® Hotels, Indigo® Hotels & Holiday Inn®

The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is the best rewards credit cards for earning free nights at hotels. Cardholders receive a valuable free night certificate with each account anniversary year and a signup bonus that can be worth hundreds of dollars at eligible IHG hotels. This certificate comes with fewer restrictions and limitations on how you can use it than most other hotel credit cards we've examined. If you're someone who stays at one of the 5,300 IHG properties (e.g. Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza) at least once per year, this bonus makes the card a must-have.

Additionally, the IHG card has a really competitive signup bonus of 100,000 points that can get you multiple free nights. The value of the sign-up bonus can also cover the annual fee of $89 many times over. To get the bonus, you’ll have to spend $3,000 in purchases in the first three months.

Most Rewarding Credit Card for Students: Discover it® Student Cash Back

Annual Fee
$0
Purchase APR
14.74% - 23.74% Variable
Credit Needed Fair
Details
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants or Amazon.com up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 14.74% - 23.74%.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.

We've recommended the Discover it® Student Cash Back as the top student rewards card every year since 2015, and it makes our list again this year. While its peers have gotten better over the years, very few have matched how rewarding this Discover card has been for students with its generous cash back rewards and bonuses. Users get 5% rewards rates across different merchants each quarter, up to a maximum of $1,500 per quarter. This can include categories like Amazon.com, allowing you to earn rewards on school supplies as an example. Just keep in mind that the card requires you to stay on top of these categories and activate them online every 3 months. If you're too busy during your school semester to remember this, the card won't be very rewarding.

There's also a unique deal that might help students stay a little more motivated during finals week. In every school year in which your GPA is 3.0 or higher, Discover will award you a $20 statement credit, up to five consecutive years from the date your account is opened. While this isn't a huge bonus, it's still a nice perk that’s absent from other student cards we've seen.

Best Business Rewards Credit Card: Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

Annual Fee
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Purchase APR
18.74% (Variable)
Credit Needed Excellent, Good
Details
  • Earning unlimited 2% cash back could mean thousands of dollars each year going back into your business
  • Plus, a one-time $500 cash bonus once you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Use Spark Cash across all your business spend, with no categories to limit your purchasing
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
  • Rewards won't expire for the life of the account, and you can redeem your cash back for any amount
  • Get employee cards at no additional cost, and earn rewards from their business spend
Note: The information in this box was provided by Capital One and is not part of our independent analysis.

The Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business is a must-have rewards credit card for businesses and startups. The card awards 2% cash back on all purchases, allowing you to get good rewards on all types of company expenses. Most of the business credit cards we review tend to shine in a few select categories — most often on purchases made only at office supply stores or travel. However, many small businesses today have spending so diverse that such specialized reward structures aren’t the best option. The Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business caters to all manner of enterprises by providing above-average rewards for buying anything and everything.

What makes this card stand out above the rest for many is the simplicity and time savings it can provide. Entrepreneurs are often busy juggling multiple responsibilities, and a credit card shouldn't have to be an extra hassle. Most business credit cards on the market have different categories and spending caps you need to keep track of. The Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business keeps things simple, while still providing your company great cash back rewards.

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. The calculator allows you to compare multiple reward credit card offers at once. By changing your spending patterns you can see which cards earn you the most rewards.

Assumptions Based On Monthly Spend of: $1,430 Edit
General:
U.S. Gas Stations:
U.S. Supermarkets:
Airlines:
Hotel:
U.S. Restaurants:
Office:
Utilities:
Computing:
Card Annual Fee 2-yr Net Rewards Rate

The Net Rewards Rate is equal to the Rewards Value over two years divided by the total spending. The total spending is equal to the values entered into the tool and multiplied by 24 months. See the rewards Value note to see details on how it is calculated.

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. All estimates are based on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

Bonus Value

The bonus field shows our estimate for the value of the card’s welcome bonus. If the bonus is point or mile based, we multiply the total bonus points/miles by our estimate for their value to arrive at a dollar equivalent. We display $0 if there is no bonus or if the user doesn’t qualify for the bonus based on the current spending entered into the tool. All estimates are based on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

2-yr Rewards Value

The Rewards value is calculated by adding together the rewards earned from charging purchases to the card over two years and any welcome bonuses (if applicable). They are then multiplied by our estimated point/mile value, with any annual fees (if applicable) subtracted. All values are based on our own estimates for the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using a card and on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
$99 3.40%
$782
Get 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account
$1,167
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.017 = $583
Bonuses
40,000 x $0.017 = $680
6,000 x $0.017 = $102
Less Annual Fees -$198
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 1,167

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $99
APR 17.74% - 24.74% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 6,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Earn unlimited points that don't expire as long as your card account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions, Bags fly free® and no change fees
  • Redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, access to events and more
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95 3.00%
$625
50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
$1,028
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 39,840 x $0.013 = $498
Bonuses
50,000 x $0.013 = $625
Less Annual Fees -$95
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 1,028

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
APR 17.74% - 24.74% Variable

Card 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®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 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 travel 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
Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that 1.72%
$0
Earn a $500 bonus once you spend $4,500 on purchases in the first 3 months
$591
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 686 x $1 = $686
Less Annual Fees -$95
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 591

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0 intro for first year; $95 after that
APR 18.74% (Variable)

Card Details

  • Earning unlimited 2% cash back could mean thousands of dollars each year going back into your business
  • Plus, a one-time $500 cash bonus once you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Use Spark Cash across all your business spend, with no categories to limit your purchasing
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
  • Rewards won't expire for the life of the account, and you can redeem your cash back for any amount
  • Get employee cards at no additional cost, and earn rewards from their business spend

Note: The information in this box was provided by Capital One® and is not part of our independent analysis.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card
$75 2.94%
$540
Get 30,000 bonus miles after qualifying purchases
$1,008
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.018 = $618
Bonuses
30,000 x $0.018 = $540
Less Annual Fees -$150
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 1,008

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $75
APR 16.74% - 24.74% Variable

Card Details

  • First Checked Bag Free for you and up to 6 companions booked on your reservation
  • Coach Companion Fare from $121 ($99 base fare plus taxes and fees from $22)
Uber Visa Card
No Annual Fee 1.77%
$100
$609
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 50,880 x $0.01 = $509
Bonuses
0 x $0.01 = $100
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 609

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee No Annual Fee
APR 16.74%, 22.49% or 25.49% Variable

Card Details

  • 4% back on dining at restaurants, takeout, bars and UberEats
  • 3% back on hotel and airfare
  • 2% back for online purchases, including Uber, online shopping, video and music streaming services
  • 1% back on everything else
  • $100 cash back when you spend at least $500 on purchases within the first 90 days
  • Up to a $50 credit for online subscription services after you spend $5,000 or more on your card per year
  • Up to $600 for mobile phone damage or theft when you pay your mobile phone bill with your card
  • Receive invites to exclusive events and offers in select U.S. cities
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Redeem points for Uber credits, gift cards, or cash back
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
$89 2.33%
$640
Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
$798
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 52,560 x $0.006 = $336
Bonuses
100,000 x $0.006 = $640
Less Annual Fees -$178
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 798

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $89
APR 17.74% - 24.74% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add your first authorized user and make your first purchase in the first three months from account opening
  • Enjoy a Free Night after each account anniversary year at eligible IHG hotels worldwide. Plus, enjoy a free reward night when you redeem points for any stay of 4 or more nights
  • Earn 10 points per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Platinum Elite status as long as you remain a Premier card member
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit of up to $100 every 4 years as reimbursement for the application fee charged to your card
  • IHG Rewards Club Bonus points are redeemable at hotels such as InterContinental®, Crowne Plaza®, Kimpton®, EVEN® Hotels, Indigo® Hotels & Holiday Inn®
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
$450 1.55%
$750
50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
$530
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 45,360 x $0.015 = $680
Bonuses
50,000 x $0.015 = $750
Less Annual Fees -$900
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 530

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $450
APR 17.74% - 24.74% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Named a ‘Best Travel Credit Card for 2017’ by MONEY® Magazine
  • 3X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Plus, no foreign transaction fees
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
Barclays Arrival® Premier World Elite Mastercard®
$150 (waived first year) 1.56%
$0
$536
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 68,640 x $0.01 = $686
Less Annual Fees -$150
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 536

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $150 (waived first year)
APR 17.74%, 21.74% or 24.74% variable based on your creditworthiness

Card Details

  • 75,000 miles each year if you spend $25,000 on purchases
  • After that, keep earning unlimited 2X miles on every purchase
  • Global Entry – $100 automatic statement credit for the cost of one Global Entry application fee every five years
  • Book the best travel deal, no airline, seat or hotel restrictions, and redeem your miles for travel statement credits
  • Access to over 850 lounges worldwide with Mastercard® Airport Experience provided by LoungeKey, fees apply
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • International Chip and PIN for use at self-service chip terminals around the world
  • See Rates & Fees
Discover it® Cash Back
$0 1.50%
$171
INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There’s no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
$514
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 343 x $1 = $343
Bonuses
171 x $1 = $171
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 514

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0
APR 13.74% - 24.74% Variable

Card 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.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
Discover it® Student Cash Back
$0 1.50%
$171
INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There’s no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
$514
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 343 x $1 = $343
Bonuses
171 x $1 = $171
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 514

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0
APR 14.74% - 23.74% Variable

Card Details

  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants or Amazon.com up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
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How We Arrived at Our Top Rewards Picks

Our team analyzed 218 options to arrive at the top eight credit cards with the best rewards through a filter of typical consumers and various budgets. We prioritized cards that would yield some of the highest earnings, are great permanent additions to your wallet, extend the most flexibility and have outstanding perks. Each person has a unique set of circumstances and priorities, so we’ve also included a comparison tool above and a framework below to help you find the rewards card that suits you most.

To make sure we considered as many options as possible, we examined the recommendations of other online review sites, online message boards and comments our users left us over the years. We exhaustively collected the details for all the reward credit cards offered by America's largest credit card issuers, as well as some from large credit unions and regional banks.

We spoke with customer service representatives and online chat-support to figure out the different redemption options for each of the credit cards we examined. For airline and hotel credit cards, we collected 24 varied itineraries for each brand and their respective cost in dollars as well as reward points/miles. This allowed us to determine the best rewards programs, based on their point/mile value.

Finally, we also analyzed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's complaint database to identify whether any of the institutions on our list had abnormal amounts of customer issues.

The Selection Criteria

Rewards rate greater than 2% The top priority was finding cards that could earn an above average of 2% or more for our typical consumer. Most of the cards we considered offered a basic 1% cash back, so we eliminated those to arrive at the cream of the crop. We assumed a reasonable consumer seeking the most rewards would meet certain conditions or eligibility requirements, which expanded our list for some cards with great perks. That left us with cards with great rewards rates ranging from 2 - 5%, with the potential for more if cardholders are willing to put in the work.

Longer term utility We favored overall longer term usefulness, so we factored in cards with and without bonuses. We allowed in some cards with otherwise high annual fees, because they were more accessible to the average consumer when offset by some of the best signup bonuses ($500 - $750). One pick for best cash back rewards was included despite appearing less attractive immediately; its steady and strong rewards overcome the lack of incentive in the long run.

Excellent flexibility The strongest options should offer consumers excellent flexibility in getting extra points, miles or cash back, and multiple ways to enjoy those earnings. This gives consumers willing to put in some extra work an opportunity to earn outsized rewards (above 5% in some cases), or give them multiple avenues of meeting a rewards goal. This led us to exclude certain cards with smaller transfer partner networks, or co-branded cards whose rewards were limited. Our top pick for travel rewards, for example, allows cardholders to combine points across airline and hotel partners with minimal to no points lost. One of the cash back contenders has rotating categories that earn additional cash back, boosting rewards rates five-fold.

Flexibility can also mean not being restricted, which we prioritized for our best-in-class cash back and business rewards cards. We highlighted options that allowed busy entrepreneurs and consumers to have their earnings applied automatically and without having to worry about losing value.

Outstanding perks The evaluation process also accounted for cards with fantastic and useful perks. We selected cards with premium benefits that were rare, such as immediate status in hotel loyalty programs, a cash reward for students maintaining excellent grades, expedited passage through airport security, membership to exclusive lounges, as well as access to white glove concierge services. While these not be significant for everyone, these unique benefits helped to tip the scale between among cards that were otherwise extremely similar.

Availability. We excluded cards that were only available to residents of certain states. The cards we highlight above needed to be available to anyone in the United States, so we gave strong preference to cards you could apply for no matter where you live. While there were some credit cards available to residents of certain zip codes that could match the rewards cards we named "best", their limited access kept them off our list.

Fees. Any cards with excessive fees were immediately cut from our list. Interest fees, annual fees and foreign transaction fees are all acceptable among rewards cards. However, consumers shouldn't stand for other types of fees, especially among cards that we'd consider market leaders. For example, you should never have to pay application fees, monthly membership fees or statement fees.

Top Rated Credit Cards that Did Not Make the Cut

There were several strong contenders that did not make it onto our editorial team's list. They're listed below along with our reasons why we excluded them from our best-in-class rewards cards.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®: This is a strong runner-up when it comes to rewards for travel. In fact, for frequent travellers and road warriors, it will be the better rewards card. That's because this card can net you a high 4.5% rewards rate on travel and dining purchases. However, we opted to recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card because the card's lower annual fee is more accessible to a broader group of people. However, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is still an excellent overall rewards credit card, especially if you plan to make use of the card's $300 annual travel credit.

Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card: The Fidelity credit card offers a similar 2% cash back to the Citi Double Cash, so why did this not make our rankings for the best rewards? We decided against the Fidelity because rewards have to be deposited into a Fidelity Investment account. It's fantastic if that's what you want your rewards for, but the Citi card gives you the option of effectively applying your cash back anywhere.

Uber Visa Card: The Uber credit card offers unbeatable cash back rates on dining at restaurants (4%), while still providing decent rewards in other categories (3% on airfare and hotel stays, 2% back on online purchases). The reason we kept it off our list is that unless your spending happens to align exactly with those categories, this card isn't very useful. Still, if you just need a great rewards card to pay the tab at restaurants or to save on online shopping, this is a good option to go with.

How to Choose the Best Credit Card with Rewards for You

For starters, people who carry balances on their credit cards should not be considering rewards credit cards. You're far better off getting a great balance transfer card that minimizes your fees and interest. You'd otherwise be earning a 1-5% rewards rate while paying a 15% interest rate.

If you have a credit history that's less than 2 years old and a credit score below 680, rewards credit cards are also not for you. Most of the top rewards cards are unfortunately targeted at consumers who fit that profile. If you have bad credit or no credit at all check out our recommendations in this guide.

You shouldn't get a credit card with an annual fee if you charge less than $1,000 on your card every month. Otherwise, you will likely end up with a card that charges you more in fees than you get back in rewards.

The simplest and easiest option for most people interested in credit card rewards will be a cash back card with no annual fee. You shouldn't settle for anything that gives you less than 1.5%-2% cash back on the types of purchases you make most frequently. The simplest among these are cards that grant 2% cash back on everyday purchases, that automatically deposit rewards into your account. There are several cash back options that can give you up to 5% on shopping categories that rotate every three months -- these can range from something broad like 'groceries' or be as specific as 'Uber'. While these types of cards provide the highest cash back rates, you should only get them if you're comfortable staying on top of the ever-changing shopping categories and putting up with other restrictions (such as your rewards being capped on the first $1,500 in purchases each quarter).

For consumers who do spend over $1,000 on their card each month, we recommend getting a travel rewards card. This is a popular option because it allows you to subsidize vacations and not have to be tied down to any one specific airline or hotel brand. The top travel rewards contenders have 2%+ rewards rates and big sign-up bonuses worth at least $500. The best travel rewards credit cards don't charge foreign transaction fees, meaning you can use it on your vacations abroad without incurring extra charges.

Airline and hotel rewards credit cards are the best choice only for people who only fly with a specific airline or those who are a dedicated customer of one hotel brand. These so-called 'co-branded cards' should always give you something extra for your continued loyalty. The best airline rewards cards should come with priority boarding, free checked bags and discounts for people who buy two or more tickets. Hotel rewards cards ought to give you free anniversary night benefits, late check-out and and elite status.

Robert Harrow

Robert is a Product Manager at ValuePenguin, covering credit cards and credit card processing. He graduated from Hunter College with a B.A. in Physics and a minor in Mathematics.

Comments and Questions

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Info about the following cards: American Express® Gold Card, Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, Hilton Honors Surpass® Credit Card, American Express® Blue Sky, American Express® Green Card, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, The Plenti® Credit Card from Amex, Blue from American Express®, Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz, Bluebird, Centurion® Card from American Express, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, and Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card has been collected independently by ValuePenguin. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

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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.

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