If you’re looking for a new rewards credit card, there are countless options to choose from. As a result, it can be tough to figure out which card is best for you.
While there’s no single credit card out there that’s objectively better than the rest, there are some important features to look for in a card that can help you compare different offers.
And depending on the type of card you’re looking for, our list of the top 10 best rewards credit cards may help you narrow down your selection.
Just want to see the best rewards card? Click here and get started >>
Note: The credit card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which The College Investor receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The College Investor does not include all credit card companies or all credit card offers available in the marketplace.
Our Picks For The Best Rewards Credit Cards
There are a lot of different types of credit card rewards, and some features appeal more to some credit card users than others.
With that in mind, we researched some of the most important features in a rewards card — including rewards rates, sign-up bonus, annual fees, perks and more — and picked credit cards that stand out of the crowd. Here are our recommendations.
Best For Groceries and Gas: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
If you spend a lot on these two everyday spending categories, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express should earn a spot in your wallet.
The card offers a whopping 6% cash back on the first $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1%), plus 6% back on select U.S. streaming services, 3% back on transit and at U.S. gas stations, and 1% back on everything else. It also offers 20% back on Amazon.com purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership, up to $200 back as a statement credit. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
In addition to those lucrative rewards rates, you can earn a welcome bonus of up to $350. You'll earn the first $150 after you spend $3,000 within your first 6 months of card membership. And you'll also earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases during the first 6 months with the card, up to an additional $200 back.
Just keep in mind that the card’s valuable rewards program is offset by its $95 annual fee (see rates and fees), but you do get a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year. Also, you can only redeem your rewards in the form of a statement credit or gift cards. Many other cash-back credit cards allow you to get your rewards in the form of a direct deposit or even a paper check.
Best For Dining: American Express® Gold Card
Despite its $250 annual fee (see rates and fees), the American Express® Gold Card’s dining rewards and perks make it tough to beat.
For starters, you’ll earn unlimited 4 points per dollar at restaurants (including takeout and delivery), as well as on the first $25,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1 point after that). You’ll also receive 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com and then 1 point per dollar on everything else. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
In addition to the high rewards rate on dining, the card also offers up to $120 in dining credits each year. You can qualify for a total of $10 in monthly credits when you use your card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
The card just introduced Uber Eats credits, which match the Amex Platinum. Cardholders will receive $10 per month in Uber Cash (up to a total of $120 per year), which can be used for both rides and Eats. You can also get up to 12 complimentary months of an Uber Eats Pass subscription when you enroll with your Gold Card by 12/31/21.
As a new cardholder, you’ll get a welcome offer of 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.
One thing to watch out for with this one is that it’s a charge card, which means that your balance is due in full each month — carrying a balance is only available for eligible purchases.
Best For an Introductory 0% APR Promotion: Chase Freedom Unlimited®
If you need to make a large purchase and pay it off over time, the Chase Freedom Unlimited may be worth considering.
What’s more, you’ll earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. The card has no annual fee, which helps maximize your savings and overall value.
Best For a Big Sign-Up Bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
If you have a trip coming up and need help paying for it, look no further than the Chase Sapphire Preferred. The card offers 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months.
That’s worth $750 in travel booked through Chase or potentially even more if you transfer your rewards to one of the bank’s airline or hotel partners.
The card also offers 2 points per dollar on travel and dining, 1 point per dollar on all other purchases and various trip protections. While it doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee, you’ll pay a $95 annual fee.
Best For Flat Travel Rewards: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
If you prefer simplicity but want travel rewards instead of cash back, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card fits the bill. You’ll also receive 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months.
You can redeem your miles for travel directly through Capital One or book travel on your own and use your rewards to get a statement credit. Alternatively, you can transfer your miles to one of the bank’s airline partners.
The card also offers an application fee credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, which can cost up to $100. There is a $95 annual fee, but it’s waived the first year to give you some time to decide if it’s right for you. There’s no foreign transaction fee.
Best For Flexible Travel Points: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a steep $550 annual fee, but even a casual traveler can get enough value to make up for it.
The card offers 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. You’ll also receive 3 points per dollar on travel after using the full travel credit and dining worldwide and 1 point per dollar on everything else.
You can redeem those points for cash back or gift cards at 1 cent per point, travel through Chase at 1.5 cents per point, or you can transfer them to an airline or hotel partner for potentially even more value.
Other perks include:
- A $300 annual travel credit
- An application fee credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry
- Complimentary airport lounge access through the Priority Pass network
- Special hotel benefits with select hotel brands
- Premium rental car benefits
- No foreign transaction fee
If you want a perfect mix of rewards and credit card perks, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something better.
Best For Premium Travel Perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
If you regularly travel and prefer perks over rewards, The Platinum Card from American Express is about as good as it gets. The card offers a suite of luxury benefits, including:
- A $200 annual airline fee credit (enrollment required)
- Up to $200 in annual Uber Cash and Uber VIP status
- An application fee credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry
- Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®
- Get up to $20 in statement credits each month when you pay for eligible digital entertainment, like Sirius or Audible. Enrollment required.
- $300 Equinox Credit: Get up to $25 back each month on select Equinox memberships (Enrollment required)
- Use your Card and get up to $179 back per year on your CLEAR® membership
- Complimentary airport lounge access with multiple lounge networks
- Elite status with Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors (enrollment required)
- Complimentary membership in premium car rental programs
- Complimentary benefits with select hotel brands
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
You’ll also earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Plus 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel (up to $500,000 per year), 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel and 1 point per dollar on everything else.
Just keep in mind that the card charges a $695 annual fee (see rates and fees), though frequent travelers should get enough value to make up for that cost.
Best For Travel With No Annual Fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
If you want to earn travel rewards without an annual fee, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card is tough to beat. The card offers 3 points per dollar on:
- Eating out and ordering in
- Gas, rideshares and transit
- Flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals
- Popular streaming services
You’ll earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases, plus 30,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. You can redeem your points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more.
Best For Small Business Owners: Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
If you’re running a small business, you can use any credit card you want for your expenses. But if you want great rewards on business-specific categories, consider the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.
The card offers 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months. You’ll earn 1 point per dollar on non-bonus spending, but 3 points per dollar on the first $150,000 on:
- Shipping purchases
- Internet, cable and phone services
- Advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines
Points are worth 25% more if you use them to redeem travel through Chase, or potentially even more if you transfer them to an airline or hotel partner.
Best For Flat Cash Back: Citi® Double Cash Card
The information about the Citi® Double Cash Card has been collected independently by The College Investor. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.
If your top priority is getting a card that’s as simple as possible without giving up value, the Citi Double Cash Card should be on your radar. It offers a flat 2% cash back on every purchase you make — that’s 1% cash back when you make a purchase then another 1% back when you pay it off.
The card also has no annual fee, so you don’t have to worry about needing to spend a certain amount just to break even.
The only drawbacks are that it doesn’t offer a sign-up bonus, and there’s no 0% APR promotion on purchases. But if you use the card long enough, the higher rewards rate can make up for those omissions.
Frequently Asked Rewards Credit Card Questions
What Is the Best Rewards Credit Card?
There’s no one rewards card that’s better than all the others, so it’s important to know which card is the best fit for you. To do this, consider your spending habits and general preferences for card features.
Also, make sure you know your credit score. Most rewards cards require good or excellent credit, so your options may be limited if your score needs some work.
How Much Are Credit Card Points Worth?
Every rewards program has its own criteria for determining the value of a point or mile. While some general travel rewards credit cards may assign a set value based on how you redeem your rewards, hotel and airline credit cards can have a more dynamic value system.
While that makes things more complicated, it also makes it possible to get more value with certain redemptions.
Are Credit Cards With Rewards Worth it?
Rewards credit cards can provide a lot of value for regular credit card users. However, they only make sense if you can pay your balance in full each month. Overspending and paying interest will reduce the net value you get from a rewards credit card or neutralize it entirely.
Is it Better to Get Miles or Cash Back?
There’s no simple answer to this question because it depends on your preference. While cash back offers more flexibility with how you can use your rewards, cash-back credit cards generally don’t offer as much total value as travel rewards credit cards.
On the other hand, travel rewards credit cards often have more complicated rewards programs, and many of them charge annual fees. As you compare our top 10 best rewards credit cards and other options, make a note of which features are most important to you and pick a card based on those preferences.
How Many Credit Cards Should You Have?
There’s no right number of credit cards to own. For people who want simplicity, having just one rewards card may be enough. However, it is possible to get more value by using multiple credit cards and taking advantage of the different bonus rewards and perks they offer.
If you’re considering using more than one credit card, have a plan to keep your accounts organized to avoid missing monthly payments.
Are Cards With Annual Fees Worth it?
Annual fees aren’t inherently bad, but they do affect the value you can get from a credit card. Before applying for a new rewards card, compare the cost of its fee with the value you gain from its rewards program and benefits. Then do the same for other cards, so you can compare.
If you can get more value based on your spending habits and preferences with a card that has no annual fee, go for it. But if an annual-fee card makes more sense, you could get more value despite its yearly cost.
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.