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Best Rewards Credit Cards of 2019 - Top 10 Fall Picks

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer.

What is a Rewards Credit Card?

Pros

  • It provides you with rewards when you make regular purchases.
  • Miles and points you earn with a card can be redeemed for free trips.
  • Cash back rewards can be applied to any purchase.

Cons

  • Some rewards credit cards have annual fees.
  • You may incur high interest fees if you don't pay your credit card bills on time.

The first thing you should know about rewards credit cards is that they come in two categories:

  1. Cash Back Credit Cards: Awards you cash for every purchase you make using the card.
  2. Travel Credit Cards: Awards you with points or miles for every purchase.

Neither is better than the other, as it all comes down to what you're looking to get out of a rewards credit card as a user.

If you travel several times per year, then it likely makes more sense to apply for a travel credit card over a cash back credit card, since it'll award you larger rewards in most cases. On the contrary, if you're someone who doesn't really travel, then we would advise you go after a cash back credit card to help you earn rewards on your everyday purchases.

Both types of cards have advantages over other forms of payment, like cash or a debit card. For starters most credit cards have built-in protection against fraud. Additionally, many will provide you the ability to initiate a chargeback should there be a dispute between you and a merchant.


Best Rewards Credit Cards

1. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • On Chase's Secure Website
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Credit Card Details

  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Regular APR: 17.74% - 24.74% Variable
  • Sign-Up Bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • Credit Needed: Excellent Credit

Why we like it: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card allows users to earn two points on dining and travel and one point on all other purchases. The points you earn with the card are Chase Ultimate Reward points. The rewards program allows you to combine the points you earn with 13 travel rewards programs, including United, Southwest and Marriott Hotels. This extreme flexibility is why the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is among our favorite rewards credit cards.

It's worth noting that the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is offering an unusually high sign-up bonus, provided you meet the spending requirements. Therefore, if you're considering applying for this card, it may be a great time to do so.

Things to watch out for: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card requires excellent credit, meaning it can be a bit tough to qualify for. Additionally, the card packs an annual fee, so you'll want to make sure you'll be able to earn enough rewards to justify paying that cost. Regardless, if you're able to qualify, this can be one of the best cards available on the market.

rewards rates for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card
rewards rates for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card

2. Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

  • On Capital One's Secure Website
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Credit Card Details

  • Annual Fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that
  • Regular APR: 17.49% - 24.74% (Variable)
  • Sign-Up Bonus: 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within three months from account opening.
  • Credit Needed: Good or Excellent Credit

Why we like it: The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers an above average two miles on every purchase. The miles you earn on this card can be transferred to over 12 travel loyalty programs, making them very flexible. Additionally, this is one of the only cards to provide users with Global Entry or TSA PreCheck at this price point. Most other cards that have this feature will have annual fees of $450 or more.

If you're someone who frequently uses hotels.com for travel purchases, then this card may be worth looking into, as it will earn you 10 miles per dollar when you book travel at hotels.com/venture. It's worth noting that the promotion will be running through January 2020. Ten miles per dollar is among the highest rewards rate we've ever seen offered by any credit card.

Additionally, Capital One announced on May 1 that JetBlue is the newest transfer partner available to Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card cardholders. This provides great value for consumers who fly JetBlue out of the Northeast.

Things to watch out for: The main drawback of the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is that your rewards will be half the value when you use them for cash, as opposed to travel. Therefore, we only recommend applying for this card if you're planning to utilize the miles for travel as opposed to earning cash rewards. If you're interested in earning cash back rewards, we recommend you read about our top picks of 2019 for this category.

rewards rates for the Capital One Venture credit card
rewards rates for the Capital One Venture credit card

3. Discover it® Cash Back

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Credit Card Details

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 13.49% - 24.49% Variable
  • Sign-Up Bonus: Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Credit Needed: Good or Excellent Credit

Why we like it: The Discover it® Cash Back offers cardholders 5% cash back in seasonal rewards that apply on up to $1,500 in spending each quarter (activation is required). All other spending earns users 1% cash back, meaning you'll be able to earn rewards regardless of what you purchase. We've outlined the 5% rotating bonus calendar for 2019 below.

Since Discover will offer you up to 5% cash back and will double your rewards in your first year, this means that you'll have the opportunity to earn up to 10% cash back on certain categories. That is an incredible value proposition when compared to other cash back credit cards.

Things to watch out for: The main drawback of the Discover it® Cash Back is that it requires you to activate the 5% categories every quarter. This isn't a major hassle, but it isn't ideal for people who want something a bit simpler. If you don't activate the categories every quarter, the card will only yield 1% cash back, which isn't terrible, but users can certainly do better. Of course, the 5% cash back is only useful if your spending aligns with those categories, so make sure to glance at the categories below before you apply.

Update: The Discover it® Cash Back recently added Target and Walmart.com as 5% cashback bonus categories for the 4th quarter of the year. This is excellent news as both stores offer a dizzying array of products online at competitive prices. Consider signing up for this card prior to Q4 to maximize your cash back potential.

5% Cash Back Bonus Schedule


January-March

  • Grocery stores

April-June

  • Gas stations
  • Uber & Lyft

July-September

  • Restaurants
  • PayPal

October-December

  • Amazon.com
  • Target & Walmart.com


4. Citi® Double Cash Card

  • On Citi's Secure Website
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Credit Card Details

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
  • Sign-Up Bonus: None
  • Credit Needed: Good or Excellent Credit

Why we like it: The Citi® Double Cash Card is one of our favorite cards, because it's so simple to use. It offers 2% cash back rewards with no categories to keep track of and no activation required. Cardholders can earn 2% cash back on purchases 1% when you buy and 1% as you make payments for those purchases. The card also comes with a balance transfer offer that may make it an attractive choice for certain users.

Things to watch out for: The Citi® Double Cash Card doesn't currently offer a sign-up bonus. Other competing cards will typically reward users with anywhere from $150 to $200 for achieving a certain spend within three months. Regardless, in the long term the Citi® Double Cash Card will provide users with excellent value. While sign-up bonuses are great, we typically don't recommend users base their credit card of choice off of a promotional offer, as the long-term usage of the card has the potential to outweigh the value that can be achieved from any sign-up bonus.


5. Chase Freedom®

  • On Chase's Secure Website
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Credit Card Details

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 16.74% - 25.49% Variable
  • Sign-Up Bonus: Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.
  • Credit Needed: Good or Excellent Credit

Why we like it: The Chase Freedom® provides an extremely good 5% cash back rate on the first $1,500 in purchases in categories that change every quarter.

Things to watch out for: The main drawback of the Chase Freedom® is that it requires you to keep track of rotating categories. Provided you'll activate and utilize the categories every quarter, then you should go ahead and apply for the card. If you're forgetful or just want something a bit simpler, we recommend opting for a card like the Citi® Double Cash Card.

5% Cash Back Bonus Schedule


January-March

  • Gas Stations
  • Tolls
  • Drugstores

April-June

  • Grocery Stores
  • Home Improvement Stores

July-September

  • Gas Stations
  • Select Streaming Services

October-December

  • Coming Soon

6. Chase Freedom Unlimited®

  • On Chase's Secure Website
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Credit Card Details

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 16.74% - 25.49% Variable
  • Sign-Up Bonus: None
  • Credit Needed: Good or Excellent Credit

Why we like it: The Chase Freedom Unlimited® recently underwent a makeover that we believe works in prospective applicants’ favor. The card used to offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases. You'll also be able to earn a $200 sign-up bonus after spending $500 within three months of account opening.

What makes the card even better is that if you happen to have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you'll be able to transform your cash back to Chase Ultimate Rewards points. As previously mentioned, this is one of the best rewards programs, and pooling points together can save you a lot of money when you use the travel portal.

Things to watch out for: As we mentioned, this card lacks a sign-up bonus. Regardless, we think the card offers enough value to make up for that fact. Another thing to be aware of is that Chase has what's called a 5/24 rule, meaning that if you were approved for five credit cards within the last 24 months, you will be instantly denied for any new applications with the issuer. However, we believe this will only impact a small number of credit card applicants.


7. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

  • On Chase's Secure Website
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Credit Card Details

  • Annual Fee: $99
  • Regular APR: 17.74% - 24.74% Variable
  • Sign-Up Bonus: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • Credit Needed: Good or Excellent Credit

Why we like it: The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card offers two points for every dollar you spend on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases. If you use the card for any purchases outside of those categories, you'll earn one point per dollar. While the rewards structure is solid, the main draw of this card is the potential to earn a companion ticket.

Many people sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card as a means of earning the airline's Companion Pass. Currently, cardholders can earn 40,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months.

Things to watch out for: Since you're earning Southwest points with this card, it doesn't quite make sense for anyone that doesn't travel with the airline frequently. Before applying for this card you'll want to make sure that Southwest has a major hub near your home and that the airline flies to whatever destinations you frequent. After all, an airline rewards credit card is only as good as the airline itself.

rewards rates for the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card
rewards rates for the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card

8. Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • On Capital One's Secure Website
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Credit Card Details

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 15.74% - 25.74% (Variable)
  • Sign-Up Bonus: Earn a one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
  • Credit Needed: Good or Excellent Credit

Why we like it: 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, although that card charges an annual fee of $95, after its $0 intro annual fee for the first year.

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.

Things to watch out for: This is a really strong credit card offer with not many things to watch out for. If we had to nitpick, we'd say that the sign-up bonus could be a bit more enticing. However, even then, the card's rewards structure is more than enough to make up for that fact.

rewards rates for the CapitolOne Save One credit card
rewards rates for the CapitolOne Save One credit card

9. Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

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Credit Card Details

  • Annual Fee: $95 (See Rates & Fees)
  • Regular APR: 14.49%-25.49% Variable
  • Welcome Offer: Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • Credit Needed: Good or Excellent Credit

Why we like it: The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express provides some of the best rewards at gas stations and supermarkets. Cardholders will earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%. The average family spends around $4,000 per year at supermarkets, so the $6,000 annual cap shouldn't be a problem. Besides that, you also get an above-average 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations. The card also offers 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions and 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more.

Things to watch out for: This is one of the few cash back credit cards on our list with an annual fee. Still, provided your spending falls within the bonus cash back categories, you'll likely earn enough cash back rewards to offset the card's annual fee. Overall, this is a solid card, especially for families or anyone who frequently spends money at U.S. supermarkets.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, please click here.


10. Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • On Chase's Secure Website
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Credit Card Details

  • Annual Fee: $450
  • Regular APR: 18.74% - 25.74% Variable
  • Sign-Up Bonus: 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.
  • Credit Needed: Excellent Credit

Why we like it: The Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers a ton of perks and a great rewards structure. The card offers three points on travel and dining purchases (the three points on travel are available immediately after using the $300 annual travel credit) and one point on all other purchases. In terms of perks, you'll get access to Priority Pass airport lounges and get a TSA PreCheck/Global Entry application fee waiver. This is one of the best cards to have in your wallet if you're simply looking to maximize your rewards. As we've stated, the Chase Ultimate Rewards program is among the best for flexibility when booking travel.

Things to watch out for: The $450 annual fee associated with this card is considerable. However, tt's worth noting that if you use the $300 annual travel credit, the card's annual fee is effectively $150. Still, we're assuming there will be some consumers who will be uncomfortable forking over $450 every year. That said, the card provides incredible value for high spenders.


Summary of the Best Rewards Credit Cards

Honorable Mentions

Uber Visa Card

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Credit Card Details

  • Annual Fee: No Annual Fee
  • Regular APR: 16.74%, 22.49% or 25.49% Variable
  • Sign-Up Bonus: 10,000 bonus points after spending $500 on net purchases within the first 90 days from the account open date.
  • Credit Needed: Excellent Credit

Why we like it: The Uber Visa Card offers some of the best cash back rewards rates available. Users get 4% back on dining, which includes restaurants, takeout, UberEats, and bars, 3% on hotel and airfare, 2% for online purchases and 1% back on everything else. Not only is that a generous amount of bonus cash back categories, but the actual cash back percentages are also highly competitive.

Why it missed our list: The Uber Visa Card is a great credit card, but it falls short when it comes to offering rewards on Uber spending. If that's your main interest in the card, you may be better off with a different cash back credit card. Additionally, the card doesn't offer a 0% intro APR period.

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red Mastercard®

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red Mastercard®
This product is not available through ValuePenguin.
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Credit Card Details

  • Annual Fee: $99
  • Regular APR: 18.24%, 22.24% or 27.24% Variable
  • Sign-Up Bonus: Earn 50,000 miles after making a purchase within 90 days and paying the annual fee.
  • Credit Needed: Good to Excellent Credit

Why we like it: If you're looking to accrue a high number of airline miles easily, there isn't a much better option. While most cards require you to spend a few thousand dollars to earn a sign-up bonus, the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red Mastercard® is much simpler. All you have to do is pay the card's annual fee and make a purchase within 90 days and you'll get the 50,000 mile sign-up bonus. That should be enough for a domestic round-trip flight, of course your exact mileage will vary, but 50,000 miles is quite a hefty amount of miles.

Why it missed our list: The card has a decent benefits structure, but it could be improved upon. Users are able to earn 2 miles on every dollar spent on American Airlines purchases and 1 mile on all other purchases. This isn't bad by any means, but there are a ton of cards with similar earning structures. Therefore, we really only recommend signing up for this card if you're someone who's searching for a large sign-up bonus and want to earn it rather quickly.

Questions to ask before applying for a card

Before applying for any credit card, we always recommend our users execute their due diligence and ask themselves a few key questions:

1. What do I want out of a rewards credit card?

Understanding what you want out of a rewards credit card, whether it be free flights or cash back in your pocket, will help align your card choice with your ultimate financial goals.

2. What kind of card can I qualify for?

It simply doesn't make sense to apply for a card that requires excellent credit if you have poor or even just fair credit. Understanding your credit score will help you narrow down your choice of rewards credit cards. If you're interested in comparing credit cards by credit score, read our helpful guides below:

Best Credit Cards For

3. Is the rewards credit card worth it for me?

Ultimately, you'll want to ensure that you're able to extract enough value from the credit card you choose in order to make up for any annual fee. For example, if you wanted to opt for a $100 annual fee cash back card, you'll want to make sure you're earning more than $100 in cash back rewards on an annual basis. An easy way to go about this is to use our credit card comparison tool.

FAQs about rewards credit cards

Here are some common question about rewards credit cards.

How do you redeem credit card rewards?

While this varies depending on which card you choose, most credit card rewards can be redeemed through a bank's online portal. Usually, this entails logging into your account and selecting a redemption method, whether it's getting cashback transferred to your bank account, using your points to book a flight, or transferring your points to a travel partner.

What is the best rewards credit card?

The best rewards credit card depends on your budget, spending habits and lifestyle. If you're a low spender, go for a no-fee cashback card like the Citi® Double Cash Card. If you're a big spender and heavy traveler, consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Joe Resendiz

Joe Resendiz is a former investment banking analyst for Goldman Sachs, where he covered public sector and infrastructure financing. During his time on Wall Street, Joe worked closely with the debt capital markets team, which allowed him to gain unique insights into the credit market. Joe is currently a research analyst who covers credit cards and the payments industry. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, where he majored in finance.

Comments and Questions

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.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). ValuePenguin does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).