Best Cash Back Credit Cards

Our objective rating of the best cash back cards in the market

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We've spent thousands of hours analyzing cash back credit cards in order to identify the best cash back cards for a range of needs and objectives. The best cash back credit cards allow you to leverage your everyday spending to earn the most basic, most flexible reward currency: cash, usually in the form of a mailed check or a statement credit.

The list below represents our top-rated cashback cards across a number of categories, all driven by our rating methodology, comprehensive card database, and proprietary points valuation models. We focus on highlighting the best cards possible and do not give any preference to cards from which we receive compensation. These are the cards we'd recommend to our family and friends, and they're the same ones we're recommending to you.

Best Cash Back Credit Cards for April 2021

Best Overall : Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

Rating as a Cash Back Card
5.0
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
Current Offer

Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.

Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 15.49% - 25.49% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day.
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 15 Months
Balance Transfer Fee 3% of the amount of each transferred balance that posts to your account at a promotional APR that we may offer you. None for balances transferred at the Transfer APR.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose This Card
  • Pros & Cons
  • Highlights:
Why We Chose This Card

The Capital One Quicksilver Credit Card is our best card for cash back because it has the best combination of low fees, low interest, high rewards earning rate and one-time bonus. While this card doesn't offer quite as high an earning rate as the Citi Double Cash, the absence of a foreign-transaction fee and the one-time bonus make this a better overall cash back card.

The fact that this card rates so well across the board makes a compelling case that, if you're only going to carry one card in your wallet, this should be it.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Simple rewards program with a solid return

  • Decent introductory offers on purchases

  • No annual or foreign transaction fees

  • No penalty APR

Cons
  • No bonus rewards rates

  • One-time bonus is relatively modest

  • APR can be comparatively high

Highlights:
  • Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.
  • Every purchase earns 1.5% cash back, and the total cash back you can earn is unlimited.
  • Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Read the full Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card Review

Best for Business Cash Back : Capital One Spark Cash for Business

Rating as a Cash Back Card
4.7
Capital One Spark Cash for Business
Current Offer

Earn $500 when you spend $4,500 in the first 3 months of account opening.

Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 20.99% variable
Annual Fee $0 for the first year, then $95
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 2% cash back for your business on every purchase, everywhere.
Balance Transfer Fee There is no standard balance transfer fee for this card.
Cash Advance APR (%) 26.99%
Cash Advance Fee Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each cash advance, whichever is greater.
  • Why We Chose This Card
  • Pros & Cons
  • Highlights
Why We Chose This Card

The Capital One Spark Cash for Business is our pick for the best cashback option available to small business owners as it pays an impressive and unlimited 2% cashback earnings rate on all business purchases. This represents the highest fixed cashback rate available for business or consumer cards and can provide significant savings to business owners while avoiding the need to monitor spending categories or spending caps.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Decent bonus, albeit for commensurate spending

  • Simple rewards program

Cons
  • Your personal credit history could be affected

Highlights
  • Earn a one-time $500 bonus when you spend $4,500 in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Get unlimited 2% cash rewards.
  • Add employee cards for free and earn all the rewards from their purchases.
  • Get a custom, itemized spending report to simplify planning, budgeting, and taxes.
  • Make purchases outside of the U.S. with zero transaction fees.

Read the full Capital One Spark Cash for Business Review

Best for Dining : Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Rating as a Cash Back Card
4.8
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
Current Offer

Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.

Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 15.49% - 25.49% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 3% cash back on dining, 3% on entertainment, 2% at grocery stores, and 1% on all other purchases.
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 15 Months
Balance Transfer Fee 3% of the amount of each transferred balance that posts to your account at a promotional APR that we may offer you. None for balances transferred at the Transfer APR.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose This Card
  • Pros & Cons
  • Highlights
Why We Chose This Card

The Capital One SavorOne Rewards is our best cashback card for dining because it offers unlimited 3% cashback rewards on dining and entertainment, with no annual fee. The card also gives 2% cashback on grocery store purchases. Its 1% cashback rewards on all other purchases is lower than the 1.5% you can get from our top pick so this may not make for the best primary card for you to use.

But as an option to use exclusively for dining out, this is your best option in a cashback card. Since there is no annual fee with SavorOne it can be a good card to pair with another cashback or rewards card that offers a better earnings rate for non-dining purchases.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Generous cash rewards on dining and entertainment

  • Doesn’t impose some frequent fees

Cons
  • 0% APR introductory offer is less generous than most

  • Small introductory cash bonus

  • Excellent credit recommended

Highlights
  • Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores, and 1% on all other purchases.
  • Rewards don't expire for the life of the account, and you can redeem cash back for any amount.
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 15 months.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Read the full Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card Review

Best One-Time Bonus : Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Rating as a Cash Back Card
4.7
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Current Offer

$200 cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year, offer ends 1/13.

Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 14.99% - 23.74% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 5% back on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 15 Months
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 3%
  • Why We Chose This Card
  • Pros & Cons
  • Highlights
Why We Chose This Card

The Chase Freedom Unlimited has one of the best one-time bonuses, offering $200 after spending only $500 in the first 3 months of the account, making it our top pick for this category. The card's earning structure was recently enhanced allowing cardmembers to earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining including takeout and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.

Freedom Unlimited pairs well with other Chase rewards cards like Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve, as it allows you to earn a higher return in spending categories those cards don't favor and then to pool and transfer Ultimate Rewards points.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Flat rewards at a decent rate

  • Decent introductory APR offer

  • Flexible redemption options

Cons
  • No opportunity to earn bonus rewards

  • Other cards offer higher flat rewards rates

Highlights
  • $200 cash back 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.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase.
  • Earn 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022.

Read the full Chase Freedom Unlimited® Review

Best for High Earning Rate : Citi® Double Cash Card

Rating as a Cash Back Card
4.5
Citi® Double Cash Card
Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 13.99% - 23.99% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 2% unlimited cash back on every purchase you make: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay.
INTRO BALANCE TRANSFER APR 0% for 18 Months
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 3%
  • Why We Chose This Card
  • Pros & Cons
  • Highlights
Why We Chose This Card

The Citi Double Cash is our best cashback card for a high earning rate because it offers a compelling and somewhat unique cashback rewards proposition: you earn 1% in cash back on purchases when you use the card, then an additional 1% when you make payment.

There’s no one-time bonus, but this card’s high universal rewards and flexible redemption options make it a potentially lucrative option nonetheless, whether as a standalone card or one to be paired with another rewards card that offers higher rewards on certain spending categories.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Ability to earn an outstanding 2% cash-back rewards on unlimited purchases

  • Generous introductory APR on balance transfers

Cons
  • No one-time bonus

  • $25 minimum for cash back redemption

Highlights
  • Earn cash back twice. Earn an unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, with an additional 1% when you pay for those purchases.
  • No spending categories, rewards caps, or annual fee.
  • Enjoy a 0% introductory APR for 18 months on balance transfers. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99% based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening, and a balance transfer fee of $5 or 3% of each transfer (whichever is greater) will apply.

Read the full Citi® Double Cash Card Review

Best for Bad Credit Cash Back : Discover it® Secured

Rating as a Cash Back Card
3.8
Discover it® Secured
Current Offer

Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.

Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Poor - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 22.99% variable
Annual Fee $0
Minimum Deposit to Activate $200
Pay deposit in installments No
Allows upgrade to unsecured card Yes
INTRO BALANCE TRANSFER APR 10.99% for 6 Months
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Why We Chose This Card
  • Pros & Cons
  • Highlights
Why We Chose This Card

Most cards for bad credit have no rewards component, an annual fee and numerous other fees. We chose the Discover it Secured card because it offers real value to those with less than perfect credit in the form of bonus cash back rewards of 2% at gas stations and restaurants and 1% cash back on all other spending—all with no annual fee. A security deposit is required but Discover automatically reviews customer accounts for an upgrade consideration to an unsecured account after eight months of responsible use.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Outstanding rewards for a secured credit card

  • Cash-back is matched at the end of the first year

  • Discover reviews your account after a period of responsible usage to determine eligibility for transition to an unsecured card

  • No annual or foreign transaction fees

Cons
  • Discover cards not as widely accepted outside the U.S. as Visa and Mastercard

Highlights
  • No annual fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
  • It's a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
  • Automatic reviews starting at 8 months to see if Discover can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
  • Get 100% U.S.-based customer service and get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO Credit Score.

Read the full Discover it® Secured Review

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Cash Back Credit Cards Work?

Cashback credit cards work like other types of rewards cards except their owners earn cash back rather than points or miles for each dollar of spending (A few cashback cards do, however, convert cash back into points). Cash back is calculated as a percentage of each dollar you spend. Your cumulative cash back earnings are then tallied monthly by your card issuer and included on your billing statement for future redemption.

As with the various other types of credit card reward programs, cashback cards come in many stripes and have these positive and negative aspects.

Pros
  • Many have a one-time bonus with a low spending requirement.

  • Dollar rewards are simple.

  • Many cards have no annual fee.

Cons
  • Options to redeem rewards can be somewhat limited.

  • Some require keeping track of tiered rates or registering for rotating bonus categories.

  • Redeeming rewards generally not automatic.

Pros Explained

  • Many have a one-time bonus with a low spending requirement. Compared to other types of rewards credit cards, cashback cards more often have an introductory one-time bonus with a spending requirement that’s fairly easy to meet. For example, a cashback card might offer a $150 bonus after spending only $500 in the first several months of opening the account. A travel card, by contrast, is likely to both offer more and require higher spending—for instance, have a $500 bonus if you spend $3,000.
  • Dollar rewards are simple. Whatever the specific earnings rate of any particular cashback card, the rewards you earn will be refreshingly easy to understand. Generally speaking, a dollar charged to a cashback card will earn you one-, one-and-a-half-, or two cents, with those rewards listed on your statements. By contrast, the value of rewards earned in points or miles is less immediately evident. The payback often varies by the redemption option you choose and your expertise in maximizing your return on each rewards unit you earn.
  • Many cards have no annual fee. With cashback cards, unlike most other card types, annual fees are the exception rather than the rule. That makes these cards a reassuring option for consumers averse to paying annual charges due to the possibility you may not earn enough in rewards to fully justify the fee. Cashback cards that do charge an annual fee tend to provide higher earnings or other valuable benefits.

Cons Explained

  • Limited options to redeem rewards. For all the simplicity of cash back credit cards, they offer little opportunity to optimize rewards, for those prepared to work to do so. There’s less flexibility in how rewards are redeemed than with cards that use points or miles-based rewards. With those cards, for example, you may be able to boost rewards by using them at bonus rates for purchases made directly with the card issuer or transferring points or miles to other travel partners.
  • Some complicate matters by varying rewards rates by spending category. Variations in rewards can make cashback card rewards more lucrative but also more complicated. Most rewarding, and also most challenging, are cards that offer an eye-popping 5% cash back on certain categories. However, with those you must remember—and take time—to register to receive those high rewards every quarter.
  • Redeeming rewards is not automatic. In the early days of cashback cards, issuers tended to automatically award statement credits or dispatch checks for any cash back earned each month or quarter. Now, cardholders must take the initiative to request redemption, and often can do so only once they’ve hit a minimum cashback threshold required to claim rewards.

What Are the Varieties of Cash Back Cards?

  • Fixed-earnings-rate cash back cards. The most straight-forward variety, these cards offer either 1%, 1.5%, or 2% in cash back on every dollar of spending.
  • Tiered cash back cards. These eschew a single cash back rate in favor of earnings that vary by tiers, according to what’s being bought. They tend to offer a high earnings tier on a narrow category of spending, such as 3% rewards on gasoline purchases. Then there are slightly lower returns on a broader range of transactions, such as 2% rewards on groceries and dining. Finally, there’s a default tier for all purchases outside those categories, typically of 1% on all other spending. 
  • Rotating category cash back cards. This type of cash back card offers a much higher rate—often 5%—on select categories of spending that rotate every three months with all other spending typically earning 1% cash back. There are catches, though. The first is that you often must often register each quarter on the issuer’s website to take advantage of these rotating categories. The second is that the quarterly spending eligible for this high rate is usually capped at a certain dollar amount, like $1,500. 

Is a Cash Back Card a Good Fit for You?

Here are questions and steps to help you decide how well a cash back credit card might suit you and your finances: 

How much might you charge to the card? The first step to determining your cashback earning potential is to look at your total average monthly spending. Review a number of months of spending for the purchases you might charge to a new card.

Does your spending suit a cashback card? Next, consider the implications of your spending on the card type that works best for you. If your spending is low, you may be hard-pressed to earn the more demanding one-time bonuses of other card types. Similarly, your spending may not be sufficient to earn the rewards you need to offset the annual fee of such a card. Those realities make a cashback card without a fee a wise choice if you don’t spend a lot each month on credit cards, or who don’t yet know what you might spend on a new card. 

Are you ready for a more complex rewards structure? Cash—and cash back—could hardly be simpler. By contrast, as we’ve noted, the value of rewards earned in points or miles is less immediately evident. It often varies by the redemption option you choose and your expertise in maximizing the return on every point or mile. Favor a cashback card if you have little interest in mastering the intricacies of maximizing rewards.

How Can You Choose the Best Cash Back Credit Card?

Knowing a cash back card will meet your needs, you now face the task to select one that best meets them. Here are some questions to help you navigate the selection process:  

How much are you spending, and on what? Since rewards among cash back cards vary by category, it’s important to know as precisely as possible the amounts you typically spend in which categories every month. Budgeting/tracking tools such as Mint can help with this task, since they automatically assign expenses to such spending categories as groceries, dining, and gasoline. 

What might you earn in cash back? Armed with your spending record, you’re ready to assess how much you might earn each month or year on the cards you’re considering. That requires running the math. 

For example, let’s say you spend $2,000 a month, and of that $500 is for groceries, $200 for dining, and $100 for gasoline. Let’s further say you’re comparing a fixed-rate card that pays 1.5% on all spending with one that has rotating rewards, of 5% on gas in one quarter, on groceries in another quarter, and on restaurants for yet another quarter, plus 1% on all other spending.

Under this scenario, the fixed-rate card would earn you $360 (based on $2,000 in monthly spending x 1.5% = $30 each month x 12 months = $360 per year.) The rotating-rewards card would earn $240 (based on $500 in groceries x 5% x 3 months, totaling $75 + $200 in dining x 5% x 3 months, totalling $30 + $100 in gasoline x 5% x 3 months, for $15 = $120. Then, outside the rotating rewards, there’s $1,200 x 1% x 12 months = $144. Grand total $120 + $144 = $264.) As you can see, in this comparison the card that offered a flat rate fared much better.

How much work are you prepared to do, for how much return? If a card with tiered or rotating rewards emerges as a strong contender for you, you now need to consider the extra attention they demand—and the effort you’re prepared to exert for additional rewards. You might decide that keeping track of tiered rewards is worthwhile, if there are only two tiers on the card. But cards with multiple tiers, or rotating rewards for which you must register, may be more work than their higher rewards justify. 

Are you comfortable with the expense of paying an annual fee? While many cashback cards have no annual fee, don’t necessarily rule out those that do carry one. For-fee cards generally offer the highest cashback earnings. If the earnings rate of a cashback card with an annual fee looks enticing, simply calculate the yearly earnings, using your predicted spending, and then subtract the cost of the fee from the total. Then compare how the earnings figure (less the fee) stacks up against other cards that don’t charge an annual fee.

Might the cashback card complement another card in your wallet? Your new cashback card needn’t—and likely won’t—be the only card you own. For many people, it makes sense to pair a cashback credit card with at least one other card, likely one that offers points rewards. Some issuers even provide incentives for such pairing by allowing rewards from the two cards to be pooled. That way, earned cash back can be converted and transferred to the rewards account for the points card. You’re then free to use cash back rewards to capitalize on earnings opportunities provided by rewards programs and the transfer of miles or points.

What are additional considerations when selecting a cash back credit card?

  • The quality of credit that’s recommended to apply, and whether you meet that level. 
  • Can you realistically meet any spending requirements involved with introductory bonuses?
  • Are there any fees that might affect you (for instance, balance transfer or foreign transaction fees).
  • Does the card offer useful benefits not present on other cards you already own, such as various types of travel insurance? 
  • Is there a 0% APR introductory offer? Does it cover both purchases and balance transfers, or only one or the other of those? If you contemplate transferring a balance to the card, is a transfer fee imposed for doing so?  

How can you optimize cashback earnings? Earning the most cash back you can on a card entails taking advantage of all tiered or bonus spending categories, at least up to the quarterly or annual maximum, if those are capped. It also requires planning spending so as to earn any one-time introductory bonus, if offered. A warning, however: Don’t overspend, and so carry a balance, in order to reach the spending requirement for a one-time bonus, or otherwise simply to earn rewards. Unless you’re currently benefiting from a 0% APR offer, the interest you will pay on outstanding balances almost always negates any rewards earnings.

What Are Cashback Redemption Methods?

Cashback rewards are easier to understand than points or miles but they can entail several types of redemption options: 

  • Check. Many people find this direct payment type to be the most rewarding way to receive their cash back, even if it requires taking a check to a bank or ATM. Checks must be requested online or by phone from the issuer often after minimum redemption thresholds have been met.
  • Direct deposit. Some cards offer the option to regularly transfer cash back you earn to a bank or brokerage account without a redemption threshold.
  • Statement credit. It can be less gratifying, some people find, to have rewards reduce what is owed rather than show up as a positive charge. But it’s still popular to receive rewards as deductions from your balance, not least because issuers promote it, since processing or postage is required to deliver a check. Here’s how it works: once a minimum level of cashback earnings is reached, credits are applied (whether manually or automatically, once the arrangement is set up) to the next billing statement. 
  • Gift cards. Among its other attributes, this option allows you to readily use rewards as gifts. While simply a plastic form of cash, gift cards may not seem the same as a check but remain a relatively popular option among those with cashback credit cards. Any time you are converting cash back to something else like a gift card, always check to make sure you are getting the same value as you would with a check.

About Our List of Best Cash Back Credit Cards

For this list of the best cashback credit cards we considered cards with three different types of cashback rewards structures: flat cash back, tiered cash back, and cash back with rotating categories that offer higher cashback percentages for short periods (typically three months).

Also, as part of our selection criteria we evaluated which cashback credit cards were best among certain subcategories such as one-time bonus, gasoline, grocery, and restaurant spending. As part of our ongoing rating process we will re-score and publish updates of this list every month going forward.  

Methodology

Information Gathering

In order to track and assess the U.S. domestic credit card market, we gather scores of data points on more than 300 cards. This data is collected manually from both card-issuer websites and publicly available sources.

To ensure our information is as up-to-date as possible, we deploy automated tools that monitor changes in such key data as annual percentage rates, introductory rates, introductory periods, bonus offers, rewards earnings rates, fees, and card benefits. We then rapidly make any needed updates to our card listings, reviews, and recommendations to ensure that readers have the most reliable information and advice. 

Initial Scoring

Once we collect credit card data we organize it in our database according to features, which roll up into feature sets (such as rewards, interest, fees, benefits, and Security/Customer Service). Each individual card feature is assigned a star rating score on a 1 to 5 scale using a formula. For instance, for a one-time bonus score we would use a formula like (if bonus is $500 or greater, then assign a score of 5; if $300-$499 then 4, and so forth). Weighting of scores. Once all of each card’s features have received a score we apply a weighting factor to each feature to arrive at a weighted average score for each card (according to the general category in which it resides, such as travel rewards). 

This weighting process allows us to assign significantly more emphasis to the attributes important to a particular category, and downplay those that are less relevant to it. That allows us to objectively identify cards that stand out in their category, and why they do. For example, we apply significantly higher weight to such travel-specific features as airport lounge access or primary rental car insurance than we do to attributes such as interest rates or fees that might be more strongly considered for other categories, such as balance-transfer cards.

Earnings Rates

Another critical factor we consider when rating and ranking travel cards and other types of rewards cards are the cards’ effective earnings rates. We first calculate the average value of points or miles for all the rewards cards in our database, a painstaking process that entails collecting all airline fare data by carrier across scores of popular domestic and international city-pairs along with per-night hotel charges at all major hotel brands. 

The required points and miles for air travel or hotel stays from the various reward programs are then used to calculate an effective earnings rate for each card. That allows our readers to make the most informed choices. By putting a card’s large one-time bonus or earnings rates into context across many dimensions and card features, they can more readily weigh the card’s benefits relative to its costs. Uncovering the true but often opaque redemption value of rewards points or miles is, we feel, the only reliable way to make cogent choices among competing value-based cards.  

Card Features We Score

As mentioned in our methodology explanation, we place significant weight on certain travel-related features in determining our ratings for each card. Specifically, we place over 50% of our overall assessment score on the combination of the following factors: 

  • Maximum value of any one-time bonus, whether in points or miles.
  • Initial card spending required to earn any bonus.
  • Redemption value of the bonus miles or points.
  • Global card acceptance, as detailed by the four card networks (Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover).
  • Options to redeem points or miles with travel partners, both airline and hotel.

Another consideration are the cards’ coverage, if any, in these travel-related areas: 

  • Car-rental collision insurance, whether primary or secondary.
  • Travel accident insurance.
  • Lost or delayed luggage insurance.
  • Insurance for trip cancellation, interruption, or delay.
  • Cell phone loss or damage.
  • Roadside assistance and towing.
  • Emergency travel medical/dental benefits.

General, non-travel related features that we consider and score include:

  • Interest rates, including both introductory and regular APRs for purchases and balance transfers.
  • Fees, including those for annual membership, late payments, cash advances, and foreign transactions.
  • Security/customer service features.
  • Other non-travel benefits, such as free credit scores, ID theft protection, and contactless payment capability.

How We Reach Our Final Assessments

We rely mostly on the objective scores created by our rating algorithms to determine which card is chosen as the best travel rewards credit card, as well as the ones deemed best for one-time bonuses and as co-branded airline and hotel choices. 

However, we may make some adjustments from time to time, to both features and weightings that could affect rankings, which can be influenced by subjective input from our credit card experts. Any potential modifications will be consistent with Investopedia’s belief that consumers are best served by travel cards that:

  • Provide superior value in earning awards travel.
  • Charge reasonable interest rates in the event that balances are carried month to month.
  • Charge fewer or more reasonable fees.
  • Provide solid customer service, based on the number and quality of customer service features
  • Have helpful and protective security features.