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What Are The Best Rewards Credit Cards of 2018?

Find the Best Credit Card for You

What kind of card do you want?

What's your credit score?

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.

Recommended Cards

Best ForCredit NeededAnnual Fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardTravelExcellent$95 ($0 first year)
Discover it® Cash BackCash BackGood/Excellent$0
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® CardNo Annual FeeExcellent$0
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit CardAirline MilesGood$75
Capital One® SavorOne℠ Cash Rewards Credit CardDining OutGood/Excellent$0
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American ExpressFamiliesGood/Excellent$95
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit CardHotel PointsExcellent/Good$95 ($0 first year)
Capital One® Spark® Cash for BusinessSmall BusinessGood/Excellent$95 ($0 first year)
Discover it® Student Cash BackStudentsFair$0

If you’d like to understand more about how each rewards card works best for you see 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.

Best Rewards Credit Card for Travel

On Chase's Secure Website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

50,000 Ultimate Rewards when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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
Annual Fee
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Credit Needed
Excellent Credit

Great travel rewards value and bonus

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is our best overall rewards credit card because cardholders will earn a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel, while most other cards won't give more than a 2% on your spending.

New cardholders will also be eligible to earn 50,000 bonus points if you spend at least $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. These points are worth as much as $625 when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. Cardholders that spend at least $1,000 a month on the card will find it more than worth its annual fee.

Flexible use of points

Cardholders will also benefit from the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, which allows you to combine the points you earn with 13 travel rewards programs including United, Southwest and Marriott Hotels. Lastly, points earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card can also be redeemed for flights, hotels and car rentals through the Chase Travel Portal at a 25% increase in value.

Travel Rewards Runner-Up

On Barclays' Secure Website

Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard®

60,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days (a $600 value)
  • Enjoy 60,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase
  • Book travel your way—no airline, seat or hotel restrictions—and redeem your miles for travel statement credits
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • International Chip and PIN for use at self-service chip terminals around the world
  • Miles don't expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Enjoy 60,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase
  • Book travel your way—no airline, seat or hotel restrictions—and redeem your miles for travel statement credits
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • International Chip and PIN for use at self-service chip terminals around the world
  • Miles don't expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • See Rates & Fees
Annual Fee
$89 (waived first year)
APR
17.99%, 21.99% or 24.99% variable based on your creditworthiness
Credit Needed
Good/Excellent

Best fixed-rate rewards on all purchases

The Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard® is a good alternative to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for people that want an easy-to-use travel rewards card. With the Arrival Plus you'll get a solid 2.1% rewards rate on anything you buy, compared to other cards with high rewards on specific travel or dining and average rewards on general expenses.

Readers who are after a big signup bonus also won't be disappointed. New cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days. The estimated value of this bonus is around $600, which is much higher than other cards. The downside is the steep spending requirement, since most cards require at most $3,000 to award a bonus.

Easy to use around the globe

The Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard® is one of the only chip and pin credit cards in the United States. Most credit cards use a different chip and signature system, which might not work in certain countries. Therefore, the Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard® is a rewards credit card that will be accepted in the most countries.

Travel Rewards Runner-Up #2

On Capital One's Secure Website

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Receive 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that

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

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
Annual Fee
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
APR
14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)
Credit Needed
Excellent, Good

2x miles on every purchase

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is another extremely popular travel card. It offers an above-average 2% rewards rate on all your purchases. This is one of the only cards to provide users with Global Entry or TSA Pre® Credit at this price point. Most cards will have annual fees of $450 or more.

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card has all the bells and whistles you'd want in a travel card -- a big bonus, no foreign transaction fees, and a relatively low annual fee.

10x miles at hotels.com/Venture

Currently, you can use the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card to earn a 10% rewards rate whenever you use it to book hotel stays through hotels.com/Venture. That's the highest rewards rate we've seen on any credit card to-date. Just note that this is a temporary promotion, and will be running through January 31, 2020.

Best Rewards Credit Card With No Annual Fee

On Wells Fargo's Secure Website

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

30K bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months
  • New! Earn 30K bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – that's a $300 cash redemption value
  • Earn 3X points for eating out and ordering in
  • Earn 3X points for gas stations, rideshares and transit
  • Earn 3X points for travel including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals
  • Earn 1X points on other purchases
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers (fees apply), then a 14.49%-26.99% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rates and fees
  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms, and conditions
  • New! Earn 30K bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – that's a $300 cash redemption value
  • Earn 3X points for eating out and ordering in
  • Earn 3X points for gas stations, rideshares and transit
  • Earn 3X points for travel including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals
  • Earn 1X points on other purchases
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers (fees apply), then a 14.49%-26.99% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rates and fees
  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms, and conditions
Annual Fee
$0
APR
14.49%-26.99% (Variable)
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good

3% Rewards Rate Across Popular Categories

The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card offers the richest ongoing rewards of any no annual fee card that we've seen. Users get a 3% rate when eating out, buying gas, rideshares, transit tickets, flights, hotels, homestays, car rentals and certain streaming services (like Netflix and Spotify). That's a long list of categories for a card that doesn't charge an annual fee.

One thing we want to call out is the card issuer: Wells Fargo. The bank has come under a lot of scrutiny in recent years because of a series of scandals. Wells Fargo admitted to creating up to 3.5 million fake accounts and charging unnecessary mortgage fees. While this does not impact the quality of this credit card, it's something everyone should be aware of before applying.

A huge signing bonus

Another highlight is the card's 30,000-point bonus. To earn it, you must spend at least $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. When redeemed for cash, the bonus is worth $300.

Top Cash Back Rewards Card

On Discover's Secure Website

Discover it® Cash Back

Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, 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.
  • 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.
Annual Fee
$0
APR
13.99% - 24.99% Variable
Credit Needed
Excellent, Good

High cash back with no annual fee attached

The Discover it® Cash Back offers cardholders 5% cash back in seasonal rewards that apply on up to $1,500 in spending each quarter. Compared to the 2% rewards rate benchmark, this figure is outstanding for a card with no annual fee attached. On all other spending cardholders will earn 1% cash back as well.

The 5% cash back calendar includes many everyday spending categories including gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants or purchases on Amazon.com allowing cardholders to actually leverage these rewards.

Double up on the first year

For new card holders, Discover will match the sum of all cash back you earn in the first 12 months. This means that you'll earn a minimum of 2% cash back, and up to 10% cash back in the seasonal categories.

Cash Back Runner-Up

On Citi's Secure Website

Citi® Double Cash Card

  • Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back
  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.49% - 25.49% based on your creditworthiness*
  • Click 'Apply Now' to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases
  • No categories to track, no caps on cash back, no annual fee*
  • Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back
  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.49% - 25.49% based on your creditworthiness*
  • Click 'Apply Now' to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases
  • No categories to track, no caps on cash back, no annual fee*
Annual Fee
$0*
APR
15.49% - 25.49%* (Variable)
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good

Easiest to manage cash back rewards

For ease of use, our favorite cash back rewards card is the Citi® Double Cash Card with no annual fee and a flat rewards rate applicable to all spending. With this card you get 1% cash back when you make a purchase, followed by another 1% back as you pay—for an effective total of 2% cash back. This combination of features makes it the card most suitable for consumers seeking easy-to-earn spending rewards.

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 $25,000 annually, you'll receive a loyalty bonus each year that puts that card over the edge.

Cash Back Runner-Up #2

On Chase's Secure Website

Chase Freedom®

Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • 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
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • 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
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee
Annual Fee
$0
APR
16.74% - 25.49% Variable
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good

Up to 5% cash back in rotating categories

The Chase Freedom® is very similar to the Discover it® Cash Back. It also provides an extremely good 5% cash back rate on the first $1,500 in purchases in categories that change every quarter. If you don't know which of the cards to pick, we recommend looking at each card's bonus calendar and going with whatever fits your lifestyle better. Here are this years' bonus categories for the Chase Freedom®:

  • January - March: Gas Stations, internet/cable/phone services, Chase Pay, Google Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay
  • April - June: Grocery Stores, Pay Pal, Chase Pay
  • July - September: Gas Stations, Lyft, Walgreens
  • October - December: Department Stores, Wholesale Clubs, Chase Pay

Another added benefit to the Chase Freedom® is its card network. Visa will be welcomed at far more merchants than Discover.

Best Airline Rewards Credit Card

On Bank of America's Secure Website

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card

  • 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)
  • Earn 3 miles for every $1 spent directly on Alaska Airlines purchases.
  • Earn 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees, plus chip-enabled for enhanced security when used at chip-enabled terminals.
  • No mileage cap.
  • Miles won't expire on your active account.
  • Low Annual fee of $75
  • 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)
  • Earn 3 miles for every $1 spent directly on Alaska Airlines purchases.
  • Earn 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees, plus chip-enabled for enhanced security when used at chip-enabled terminals.
  • No mileage cap.
  • Miles won't expire on your active account.
  • Low Annual fee of $75
Annual Fee
$75
APR
16.74% - 24.74% Variable
Credit Needed
Good

Combining great spending rewards and other travel perks

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%) and up to 5.4% when used for Alaska Airlines purchases.

Companion Fare ticket worth up to hundreds annually

Outside of the spending rewards, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card's best benefit is the companion fare discount. Each year you'll be eligible for booking an additional companion ticket for the flat rate of $121. Using the companion fare on a round trip ticket from New York to Los Angeles that costs on average $452 per person would save you $330.

Other benefits with this card include no foreign transaction fees, free checked bags and the option to redeem Alaska miles for reward flights on other airlines, like American Airlines and British Airways.

Airline Rewards Runner-Up

On Chase's Secure Website

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Get 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account
  • 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
  • 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
Annual Fee
$99
APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good

The best airline rewards for domestic travel

If you mostly want rewards for travelling around the United States, we recommend getting the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. The card has a rich ongoing bonus and a great rewards program. The major limiting factor is the card's airline. Southwest only operates in the U.S. and a few select routes in Central America. You can see a full list of destinations here.

A lucrative companion ticket if you earn 110,000 points

Most people sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card as a means of earning the airline's companion pass. Anyone who accumulates 110,000 miles within a calendar year will earn one. The benefit allows you to select one other person who will fly with you for free on any Southwest flight (essentially acting as an unlimited buy-one-get-one-free promotion). The companion pass lasts from the date you earn it through the rest of the calendar year plus the following year. No other airline offers anything that comes close to this.

Best Dining Rewards Credit Card

On Capital One's Secure Website

Capital One® SavorOne℠ Cash Rewards Credit Card

A $150 bonus after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
  • Earn a one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 14.74% - 24.74% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 14.74% - 24.74% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee

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

  • Earn a one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 14.74% - 24.74% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 14.74% - 24.74% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee
Annual Fee
$0
APR
14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)
Credit Needed
Excellent, Good

The highest cash back on dining and entertainment for no annual fee

The Capital One® SavorOne℠ Cash Rewards Credit Card provides cardholders 3% back on dining and entertainment purchases. By contrast, most normal cards will struggle to give you more than 2% in these sorts of categories -- that includes cards with an annual fee. The only way you can get better rates is with this card's older brother, the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card. That card gives 4% back on dining and entertainment, but charges a $95 annual fee (waived year 1). For most people, however, the Capital One® SavorOne℠ Cash Rewards Credit Card is the better option.

The small details make this card an overall great experience

Capital One clearly considered every small detail when designing this card, which is something we appreciate. The card's bright color will make it easier to see in the places you're likely using it the most -- dimly lit restaurants, bars and clubs. Like all Capital One cards, the Capital One® SavorOne℠ Cash Rewards Credit Card also has no foreign transaction fees meaning you don't have to think twice about using it when you travel abroad.

Best Rewards Credit Card for Families

On American Express' Secure Website

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Get $200 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive $200 back in the form of a statement credit.
  • $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) - that means spending $60 a week at U.S. supermarkets could earn over $180 back per year.
  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.99% to 25.99%.
  • Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
  • $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) - that means spending $60 a week at U.S. supermarkets could earn over $180 back per year.
  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.99% to 25.99%.
  • Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Annual Fee
$95
*Rates and Fees
APR
14.99%-25.99% Variable
Credit Needed
Excellent, Good

High cash back rates on essentials

Out of the 218 cards we surveyed, we found the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express provided the best rewards on gas and groceries. Cardholders will earn 6% cash back at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%). The average family spends around $4,000 per year on groceries so the $6,000 annual cap shouldn't be a problem. Besides that, you also get an above-average 3% cash back at US gas stations and select US department stores.

High annual fee, but well worth it

The card charges a $95 annual fee, but this shouldn't be considered a con. The average person will come out well ahead thanks to the card's generous rewards. Based on our estimates, a person can expect to earn a net $845 in rewards with this card over two years. That's accounting for the annual fee.

Best Hotel Rewards

On American Express' Secure Website

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

75,000 Bonus Points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 75,000 Bonus Points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 6 points for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels and 2 points on all other eligible purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on International purchases.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 points) at a participating hotel. Select hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide. Enrollment required.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Earn 75,000 Bonus Points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 6 points for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels and 2 points on all other eligible purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on International purchases.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 points) at a participating hotel. Select hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide. Enrollment required.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Annual Fee
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
*Rates and Fees
APR
17.74%-26.74% Variable
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good

Take advantage of annual free nights

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is the best credit card for earning hotel points and free nights. Cardholders earn one free night award every year after their account anniversary that can be redeemed across 29 different hotel brands, including the Westin, the W and the Marriott. Given how much a night costs at participating hotels, we estimate the value of a free night to be worth hundreds of dollars. While other competing cards offer free hotel nights, there are generally fewer participating properties available to book through.

Valuable sign up bonus and flexible spending rewards

New Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express card holders that spend $3,000 on the card in the first three months will earn 75,000 bonus points, with an estimated value of $675.

The card also offers a competitive ongoing rewards rate of 1.8% to 5.4%, depending on where you spend. The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express comes with built in versatility since points earned can also be redeemed for flights on several airlines. Frequent travelers often use the points earned with this card to top off their accounts for awards travel.

Most Rewarding Credit Card for Students

On Discover's Secure Website

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, 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.
  • 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 14.99% - 23.99%.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
  • 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 14.99% - 23.99%.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
Annual Fee
$0
APR
14.99% - 23.99% Variable
Credit Needed
Fair

Our Thoughts

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

On Capital One's Secure Website

Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

Earn a $500 bonus once you spend $4,500 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 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.

  • 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
Annual Fee
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
APR
18.74% (Variable)
Credit Needed
Excellent, Good

An easy-to-use and rewarding business card

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.

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{"cardCategory":"rewards","cardIds":"196,195,163,1093,65,251,35,1012,203,1650,8,167,66,41","initialResultsLimit":14,"endpoint":"https:\/\/creditcards.valuepenguin.com\/api\/creditcards\/models\/rewards","onCurrent":"true"}

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 (3 points on travel after you earn the $300 travel credit). 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 the head of the Credit Card vertical at ValuePenguin and has been covering the card industry since 2014. His work has been featured in Reuters, Marketwatch, the New York Times and more.

Comments and Questions

Opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the issuer. We may be compensated through the issuer's Affiliate Program. For a full list of our advertisers see our disclosure page

* 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.

Info about the following cards: Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, Platinum Delta SkyMiles® 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 Amex EveryDay® 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.

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.

These responses 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.

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.