Best Credit Cards for Rewards

How to choose the right rewards credit card

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Rewards credit cards offer enticing incentives like cash back, travel points, and other rewards when you spend money on the card. But with so many attractive choices, how do you pick one? Depending on your spending habits, the best rewards credit card may be a no-fee card with steady points for everyday purchases or one that charges a fee in exchange for higher rewards in specific categories.

The best rewards credit cards make getting your reward easy. They offer great initial bonuses and give you the opportunity to earn more when spending in your most common categories. Here are our picks for the top rewards credit cards so can pick one that's right for you.

Best Rewards Credit Cards for August 2021: Find the Right Card for You

Best Credit Cards for Rewards
Best Credit Cards for Rewards

Best Overall : Chase Sapphire Reserve®


Rating as a Rewards Card
4.8
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Current Offer

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 total travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

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
Excellent
Regular APR (%) 16.99% - 23.99% variable
Annual Fee $550
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 3x points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit, 3X points on dining at restaurants, and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose It
  • Pros & Cons
Why We Chose It

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a competitive one-time point bonus, annual travel credit, and high rewards earning rate. Points are worth 50% more if you redeem them for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, and can be transferred on a 1:1 basis to eligible hotel and airline partners. Frequent travelers also get numerous other travel-related benefits and aren't restricted to a single airline or hotel.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Excellent points rewards rate for travel and dining

  • Large bonus for new cardholders

  • Premium travel features

  • Points are worth 50% more for travel bought through Chase Ultimate Rewards

Cons
  • $550 annual fee

  • Limited high-rewards categories

  • Strong credit is recommended

Best for Airlines : United℠ Explorer Card


Rating as a Rewards Card
4.6
United℠ Explorer Card
Current Offer

Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in the first 6 months.

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 (%) 16.49% - 23.49% variable
Annual Fee $0 for the first year, then $95
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, eligible delivery services, on hotel stays, and on United purchases. Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United ClubSM with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary.
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose It
  • Pros & Cons
Why We Chose It

The United Explorer offers the highest value per mile earned of any airline credit card, and miles can be redeemed in multiple ways, including for flights with participating member airlines in its Star Alliance, one of the largest global airline partnerships. The compelling introductory bonus of the card really adds to the value of the card because of the high value placed on redeeming those points with United. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year and the card does not charge foreign-transaction fees, making it great for international travel.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Valuable rewards program

  • Special benefits every time you fly United

  • Several travel benefits and protections

Cons
  • Fewer free checked bags than some competing airline cards

Best for No Annual Fee Travel : Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card


Rating as a Rewards Card
4.6
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Current Offer

Earn 20,000 miles 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 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase.
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 12 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 It
  • Pros & Cons
Why We Chose It

The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card only offers 1.25 miles for every dollar spent, but cardholders pay no annual fee. Foreign transaction fees are still waived, and cardholders can still transfer miles to any of 10 loyalty programs.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • 1.25 miles per dollar

  • No annual fee

  • No foreign transaction fees

  • Transfer to over 10 travel loyalty programs

Cons
  • No airline status earning ability

Best for Cash Back : Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card


Rating as a Rewards Card
4.8
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 It
  • Pros & Cons
Why We Chose It

The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Credit Card has a low interest rate and high rewards on all spending, plus no annual fee. The absence of a foreign-transaction fee makes this a rare cash-back credit card that’s worth bringing on a trip abroad.

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 high comparatively

Best for Gas and Groceries : PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card


Rating as a Rewards Card
4.6
PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card
Current Offer

Earn 15,000 bonus points when you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days.

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
Excellent
Regular APR (%) 13.49% - 17.99% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 5x back at gas stations, 3x back on groceries, and 1x back on all other purchases.
INTRO BALANCE TRANSFER APR 0% for 12 Months
Balance Transfer Fee A 3% balance transfer fee applies to each transfer.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose It
  • Pros & Cons
Why We Chose It

The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card is a must-have for commuters and families, offering five points per dollar at gas stations and three points per dollar at grocery stores. The card’s low ongoing APR provides a safety net if you need a bit more time to pay off your balance.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Excellent rewards on gas and grocery purchases

  • Low ongoing APR

Cons
  • PenFed membership is required

  • Restrictive redemption program

  • Unexceptional one-time offer

Best for General Travel Rewards : Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card


Rating as a Rewards Card
4.5
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Current Offer

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel.

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 (%) 17.24% - 24.49% variable
Annual Fee $95
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 2 miles per dollar on every purchase. Redeem on travel-from vacation rentals to car rentals and more. Plus transfer your miles to over 10+ travel loyalty programs.
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 It
  • Pros & Cons
Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers two miles for every dollar spent, and miles can be conveniently transferred to any of 10 different travel loyalty programs. The card does have an annual fee of $95 and lacks airline loyalty status for cardholders, but does not charge foreign transaction fees.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • 2 miles per dollar spent

  • Transfer to over 10 travel loyalty programs

  • Reasonable annual fee: $95

  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons
  • No airline loyalty status

Best for Dining Rewards : Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card


Rating as a Rewards Card
4.9
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 unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores, plus 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 It
  • Pros & Cons
Why We Chose It

The Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card offers one of the longest 0% introductory periods available—15 months. The card has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees; and cardholders earn 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, streaming services and groceries, and 1% on all other purchases.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • 3% cash back on dining and entertainment

  • 0% APR on new purchases for 15 months

  • No annual fee

  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons
  • None

Best for Welcome Bonus Points : Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card


Rating as a Rewards Card
4.5
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Current Offer

Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

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 (%) 15.99% - 22.99% variable
Annual Fee $95
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 2X points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose It
  • Pros & Cons
Why We Chose It

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card’s generous welcome bonus totals 100,000 points if you spend at least $4,000 in the first three months, worth $1,250 if redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Keep making the most of your travel and dining purchases by earning two points for every dollar spent in these categories.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Generous rewards for travel and dining, with ways to further boost their buying power

  • Outstanding one time bonus for new cardholders

  • 25% point bonus on travel booked through Chase

Cons
  • $95 annual fee

  • No introductory 0% APR offer

  • Fewer travel credits than some competing cards

Best Cash Back with 0% APR : U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card


Rating as a Rewards Card
4.7
U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card
Current Offer

Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 90 days of account opening That's a $200 value redeemable towards merchandise, gift cards, cash back, travel and more.

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% - 23.99% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 4x points on takeout, food delivery and dining, earn 2x points at grocery stores, grocery delivery, streaming services and gas stations. Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 12 Billing Cycles
INTRO BALANCE TRANSFER APR 0% for 12 Billing Cycles
Balance Transfer Fee Either 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose It
  • Pros & Cons
Why We Chose It

The U.S. Bank Altitude Go Visa Signature Card has a great rewards program for those who want to rack up points. Cardholders earn one point for every dollar they spent with the card, with rewards being doubled for spending on groceries, gas, or streaming services, and quadrupled on spending for dining and takeout. Cardholders also pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Standout rewards on dining

  • Annual bonus for streaming services

  • No annual fee

  • 0% introductory APR

Cons
  • Low base rewards rate

  • Less value than some annual-fee cards

Best Rewards for Bank of America : Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card


Rating as a Rewards Card
4.4
Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card
Current Offer

25,000 bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening - which can be redeemed for a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.

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 unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere.
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 12 Statement Closing Dates
Balance Transfer Fee Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose It
  • Pros & Cons
Why We Chose It

The Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card offers exceptional value if you’re an existing Bank of America or Merrill customer with at least $20,000 in your accounts. Qualifying cardholders get a 25% boost on their already unlimited 1.5 points per dollar spent on all purchases. The best part: It all comes at no annual fee.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Points on every purchase, with no spending caps

  • No annual or foreign transaction fees

  • High-net-worth Bank of America and Merrill customers receive points bonuses

Cons
  • Rewards rates are relatively modest

  • Reward points can't be transferred

  • Premium travel benefits aren't included

Best for Student Travel : Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students


Rating as a Rewards Card
4.4
Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students
Current Offer

25,000 bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening - which can be redeemed for a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.

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 unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere.
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 12 Billing Cycles
Balance Transfer Fee Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose It
  • Pros & Cons
Why We Chose It

The Bank of America Travel Rewards for Students card is great for young adults planning to study abroad or backpack around the world. The fee-free card charges no foreign transaction fees and offers a return of 1.5 points per dollar spent on every single purchase. Plus, using the card responsibly is a great way to start building credit.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Decent travel rewards earnings, and no tiers to manage

  • Pay off purchases for 12 months with no interest

  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons
  • Rewards aren't transferable

  • No introductory 0% APR balance transfer offer

  • Relatively high spending required for 25,000-point introductory one-time bonus

Best for Travel Points Earning : PenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® Card


PenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® Card
Current Offer

Earn 15,000 bonus points when you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days.

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 (%) 13.49% - 17.99% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate 4x points on all travel categories for PenFed Honors Advantage Members, 3x points on all travel categories, and 1.5x points on all other purchases
INTRO BALANCE TRANSFER APR 0% for 12 Months
Balance Transfer Fee 3% per transaction
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose It
  • Pros & Cons
Why We Chose It

The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards Visa Signature Card lets anyone earn three points for every dollar spent on travel, although PenFed members earn rewards even faster at four points per dollar. There's no annual fee on this card, and you'll get a $100 annual statement credit for travel and a $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA Pre-Check statement credit.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Rich points earning on travel purchases

  • Low annual fee

Cons
  • Requires PenFed Credit Union membership to apply

  • Must be an Honors Advantage member for higher tier rewards

Best for Premium Travel Rewards : The Platinum Card® From American Express


Rating as a Rewards Card
4.1
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Current Offer

Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards(R) Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.

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 (%) 15.99% - 22.99% variable
Annual Fee $695
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 5X Membership Rewards(R) Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year. Earn 5X Membership Rewards(R) Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%

See rates and fees

  • Why We Chose It
  • Pros & Cons
Why We Chose It

The Platinum Card® from American Express is best for frequent flyers and Amex loyalists who can easily earn back the $695 annual fee with five points per dollar on certain travel expenditures. Additional benefits include $200 in statement credits towards airline fees, a $15 monthly credit for Uber rides, and access to 1,300 airport lounges. Terms apply.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Outstanding rewards on flights and hotel stays

  • Generous one-time offer for new cardholders

  • Exceptional luxury travel benefits

Cons
  • $695 annual fee

  • Restrictive options for booking airlines and hotels

  • No non-travel high-rewards categories

Best Rewards for Business : Capital One Spark Cash for Business


Rating as a Rewards Card
4.4
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 It
  • Pros & Cons
Why We Chose It

The Capital One Spark Cash for Business card is our choice for the best rewards for business because it earns an unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases. Business owners can add free employee cards to earn cash back on their spending as well. Capital One offers customizable reports that itemize spending on all cards to simplify planning, budgeting, and taxes for your business. When you sign up, you can earn a one-time bonus of $500 after spending $4,500 within three months. Although there is a $95 annual fee after the first year, there are no foreign transaction fees on international purchases.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Decent bonus, but tied to spending

  • Simple rewards program

Cons
  • Personal credit history could be affected

Best Hotel Rewards : Marriott Bonvoy Boundless


Rating as a Rewards Card
4.0
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card
Current Offer

Earn 3 Free Nights (up to 50,000 points each) after you spend $3,000 in 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 (%) 15.99% - 22.99% variable
Annual Fee $95
Rewards Earning Rate Earn up to 17X total Bonvoy points per $1 spent at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy™.
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose It
  • Pros & Cons
Why We Chose It

Our choice for the best hotel rewards card is the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless because it includes automatic Silver Elite status, 15 Elite Night Credits per year, and includes one free night award each year on your account anniversary. Silver Elite status includes free WiFi, late checkout, and a 10% bonus on points earned at Marriott hotels. Plus, you're fast-tracked to earning higher levels of elite status each year with the 15 Elite Night Credits from the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless. The free night award can be booked for a one-night hotel stay at any Marriott Bonvoy property valued up to 35,000 points. New cardholders can earn five free hotel nights after spending at least $5,000 during the first three months after opening their account.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Outstanding introductory rewards bonus

  • Solid rewards rate for Marriott hotel stays

  • Automatic Silver Elite Status in the Marriott Bonvoy program

Cons
  • $35,000 spending per year to upgrade to Gold Status

  • Bonvoy hotel rewards account (though not the Bonvoy credit card) must stay active to avoid points expiration

  • $95 annual fee may be off-putting to the fee-averse

Best No Annual Fee Airline Rewards : United Gateway℠ Card


Rating as a Rewards Card
4.2
United Gateway℠ Card
Current Offer

Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

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 (%) 16.49% - 23.49% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 2 miles for each $1 spent on purchases from United, including tickets, Economy Plus®, inflight food, beverages and Wi-Fi, baggage service charges and other United fees. Earn 2 miles for each $1 spent at gas stations. Earn 2 miles for each $1 spent on local transit and commuting, including ride share services, taxicabs, train tickets, tolls, and mass transit. Earn 1 mile for each $1 spent on all other purchases. Earn 3 miles per $1 spent on grocery store purchases up to $1,500 per month through 9/30/2021.
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose It
  • Pros & Cons
Why We Chose It

The United Gateway Card provides the most generous benefits among no-fee rewards credit cards, crediting cardholders two points per dollar on a range of travel expenses such as United flights, public transit, taxi fares, and more. Until the end of September 2021, United is also offering a limited-time reward of three points per dollar on up to $1,500 in groceries per month.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Great rewards on United purchases (and groceries through Q3 2021)

  • Decent bonus offer

  • No annual fee

Cons
  • No free checked bag credits

  • No elite status on United

Final Verdict

Rewards credit cards are a great way to earn cash back, miles, merchandise, or gift cards just by using your card to make purchases. While there’s a different rewards card for everyone, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is our top choice overall due to its attractive offer of three points per dollar on travel and dining expenses. If cash back is what you value, the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card has no annual fee with 1.5% cash back on every purchase. Hoping to leverage your family’s monthly gas and grocery expenditures? Try the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card for five points per dollar at gas stations and three points at the supermarket.

Compare the Best Rewards Credit Cards

Credit Card Rewards Earning Rate Annual Fee
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Best Overall
Earn 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit, 3X points on dining at restaurants, and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $550
United SM Explorer Card
Best for Airlines
Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, on hotel stays, and on United purchases. $0 for the first year, then $95
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Best for No Annual Fee Travel
Earn 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase. $0
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
Best for Cash Back
Earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day. $0
PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card
Best for Gas and Groceries
Earn 5X points on gas purchases, 3X points on groceries, and 1X points on all other purchases. $0
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Best for General Travel Rewards
Earn 2 miles per dollar on every purchase. $95
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
Best for Dining Rewards
Earn 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, streaming services and grocery store purchases, and 1% on all other purchases. $0
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Best for Welcome Bonus Points
Earn 2X points on dining and travel and 1X point per dollar spent on all other purchases. $95
U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card
Best Cash Back with 0% APR
Earn 4X points per dollar on takeout, food delivery, and dining; 2X points per dollar on groceries, gas, and streaming services; and 1X points per dollar on all other purchases. $0
Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card
Best Rewards for Bank of America
Earn unlimited 1.5X points per dollar on all purchases everywhere. $0
Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students
Best for Student Travel
Earn unlimited 1.5X points per dollar on all purchases everywhere. $0
PenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® Card
Best for Travel Points Earning
Earn 3X points on travel purchases (4X points for PenFed Honors Advantages members) and 1.5X points on all other purchases. $0
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Best for Premium Travel Rewards
Earn 5X points per dollar spent on flights and hotels booked directly through American Express. Earn 1X point per dollar on all other purchases. $695
Capital One Spark Cash for Business
Best Rewards for Business
Unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases $95 (waived first year)
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless
Best Hotel Rewards
6x points per $1 at Marriott Bonvoy properties. 2x points per $1 on all other purchases $95
United Gateway SM Card
Best No Annual Fee Airline Rewards
Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on eligible United purchases, gas, and local transit. Earn 3 miles per dollar on up to $1,500 in groceries per month through 9/30/2021 and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases. $0

Editorial Picks for Best Rewards Credit Cards

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Best Overall

Value meets flexibility with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, our top-ranked rewards credit card. With three points to the dollar on dining and travel and a host of travel credits and perks, it’s not hard to get your money’s worth out of the $550 annual fee.

Read the full Chase Sapphire Reserve Review.

United℠ Explorer Card

Best for Airlines

Fly farther when you sign up for the United Explorer Card, the credit card rewards program that gets you the most per mile. Points can be used to purchase flights with any participating Star Alliance member airline.

Read the full United℠ Explorer Card Review.

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Best for No Annual Fee Travel

Juggling rewards categories and calculating annual card benefits isn’t for everyone. The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card is the no-nonsense, no-fee card that gives steady travel rewards without a hassle.

Read the full Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card Review.

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best for Cash Back

Sometimes the best credit card reward is plain old cash. Get 1.5% back on every purchase you make with the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, plus a $150 signup bonus when you spend $500 in the first three months.

Read the full Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card Review.

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Best for Gas and Groceries

Joining PenFed is worth it just to take advantage of the Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card, which earns you five points per dollar on gas purchases and three points per dollar on groceries.

Read the full PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card Review.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Best for General Travel Rewards

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card lets you decide how to spend your travel rewards points with flexible options like direct statement credits and transfers to partner programs. You’ll earn two miles for every dollar you spend–anywhere, anytime.

Read the full Capital One Venture Rewards Card Review.

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best for Dining Rewards

Foodies, rejoice: The Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card offers a generous 3% cash back on dining and entertainment without asking for an annual fee.

Read the full Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card Review.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Best for Welcome Bonus Points

If you play your cards right, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card’s welcome bonus could be enough to send you on a free vacation. Spend $4,000 in the first three months to earn 80,000 points for free, worth $1,000 in travel when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Read the full Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Review.

U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card

Best Cash Back with 0% APR

The U.S. Bank Altitude Go Visa Signature Card offers great rewards on dining and streaming, but that’s not even the best part about this card. The issuer offers an introductory 0% APR on purchases and balances for the first 12 months.

Read the full U.S. Bank Altitude Go Visa Signature® Card Review.

Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card

Best Rewards for Bank of America

Bank of America and Merrill customers with some money in the bank (at least $20,000) should seriously consider the Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card for extra points on every purchase.

Read the full Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card Review.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students

Best for Student Travel

From spring break to study abroad, build credit while earning 1.5 points per dollar on every purchase you make at home and internationally.

Read the full Bank of America Travel Rewards for Students Review.

PenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Best for Travel Points Earning

The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards Visa Signature Card is built for jet setters. Benefits include three or four points for every dollar spent on travel and statement credits for travel expenses and Global Entry fees.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Best for Premium Travel Rewards

If relaxing in luxury airport lounges is your travel style, the Platinum Card from American Express may be for you. Cardholders get complimentary access to 1,300 airport lounges around the world on top of other benefits–although it all comes at a steep price of $695 per year.

Read the full The Platinum Card from American Express Review.

Capital One Spark Cash for Business

Best Rewards for Business

Small business owners earn an unlimited 2% cash back on every purchase without registering their card or remembering bonus categories. It includes a generous $500 one-time bonus after spending $4,500 within three months.

Read the Full Capital One Spark Cash for Business Review.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless

Best Hotel Rewards

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless offers elite status benefits and a free hotel night every year. New cardholders can earn five free nights for a future vacation when they spend $5,000 within the first three months after opening their account.

Read the Full Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Review.

United Gateway℠ Card

Best No Annual Fee Airline Rewards

The United Gateway Card Card already provides excellent value for a no-fee card with two miles earned per dollar spent on United purchases and transportation costs. A new bonus incentive of three points for every dollar spent at grocery stores just sweetens the deal.

Read the full United Gateway Card Review.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Rewards Credit Cards Work?

Rewards credit cards offer perks like cash back, points, and/or miles for each dollar spent. Most offer a base rate that applies to all purchases, which may be supplemented by higher bonus rewards for certain spending categories. Depending on the card, rewards can typically be redeemed as a statement credit and/or by exchanging them for gift cards, travel, or merchandise through the issuer’s online rewards portal. Total earned rewards can be viewed on your credit card billing statement or on the card issuer’s website when you log into your account.

The bottom line is that rewards credit card programs vary widely. Overall, though, they share these positive and negative aspects:

Pros
  • Introductory one-time bonuses

  • Opportunities to earn bonus rewards

  • Flexible redemption options

Cons
  • Cash-back in the most rewarding categories may be capped

  • Effort and expertise required to maximize the value of points/miles

  • Redemption values vary significantly

  • The most lucrative cards have annual fees

What Are the Types of Rewards Credit Cards?

Business credit cards can earn miles, points, and cash back just like their consumer counterparts. These cards earn rewards on their everyday spending and, in some cases, on bonus categories at select merchants. Most business rewards credit cards fall into one of these categories:

  • Business airline credit cards. Airline credit cards typically offer enhanced benefits when flying on the card's airline partner. Benefits vary by credit card, but they can include free checked bags, priority boarding, airport lounge access, and expedited elite status. Additionally, cardmembers often earn additional miles when spending with the airline and related categories.
  • Business hotel credit cards. Hotel credit cards usually include hotel elite status, a free night each year, and bonus points when paying for hotel reservations. Some hotel credit cards also provide elite night credits just for having the card or faster elite status based on your spending.
  • Business general travel credit cards. General travel credit cards earn flexible points that can be used at any airline or hotel without having to commit to one loyalty program. These points can often be redeemed for travel, transferred to airline or hotel partners, or used to cover travel purchases.
  • Business cash back credit cards. Cash back credit cards have the greatest flexibility because you can spend your cash back rewards on anything you choose or save it for future purchases. Some cash back credit cards offer a standard rewards rate on all purchases, while others provide bonus cash back on specific spending categories.

Is a Rewards Card Right for Me?

If you’re confident that you understand the benefits and limitations of a particular card and will profit from its rewards structure, it’s probably a good option. However, read the fine print carefully to examine for hidden restrictions. For example, some big-box retailers such as Walmart may be excluded from eligibility for grocery rewards, and paying with your card via a mobile app like Apple Pay could reduce the number of points you earn.   

How To Choose a Rewards Credit Card?

  • Credit score: Most issuers have a minimum credit score requirement that applicants must meet in order to qualify. Check your credit score before applying for any card and avoid submitting applications for cards you aren’t likely to be approved for.
  • Spending habits: Since rewards among points cards vary by category, it’s important to know the precise 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.
  • Annual fee: While many rewards cards have no annual fee, don't necessarily rule out those that do carry one. For-fee cards generally offer the highest earnings. If the earnings rate of a rewards 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. Compare how these potential net earnings stack up against other cards that don’t charge an annual fee.
  • Sign-up bonus: Rewards credit cards frequently draw customers in with large bonus packages if you spend a certain amount within the first few months after you open the card. Make sure you can realistically spend enough to qualify for introductory bonuses before signing up for a card with this purpose.
  • Foreign transaction fee: Most rewards cards (particularly those with travel rewards) offer a 0% fee when making purchases abroad, allowing you to use your card anywhere in the world. However, check this before signing up for a card. Some issuers may charge 1% to 3% of every purchase you make outside of the United States, which can add up quickly.
  • Perks: Rewards credit cards offer perks outside the scope of cash back and bonus points. These might include complimentary insurance, statement credits towards specific expenses, or access to travel lounges, just to name a few.
  • Flexibility of redemption: Some rewards cards make it easier to spend your points than others. If you always fly with a particular airline, for example, make sure your travel rewards card allows you to redeem your points with that carrier. Certain card issuers have exclusive partnerships with specific travel providers, which can narrow your options.
  • Transfer options: If a rewards credit card advertises a 0% introductory APR, find out whether it applies to balance transfers or just purchases. Most balance transfers will incur a fee between 3% and 5% of the transfer amount.

How Do I Maximize a Rewards Credit Card?

To make the most out of your rewards credit card, make sure you’re taking advantage of all tiered or bonus spending categories, preferably up to the quarterly or annual cash-back maximum if those are capped. If your card came with a one-time introductory bonus, make sure you meet the minimum spend amount to receive your bonus points before the deadline, usually around three months after opening the account.

Since APRs for rewards cards tend to be on the high side, avoid carrying a balance and instead find a card with lower interest on which to carry over purchases. There’s one exception: Some rewards cards come with an introductory 0% APR period of around 12 months during which you won’t have to pay interest.

Finally, make sure you’re taking advantage of your card issuer’s rewards marketplace (if available) to get the most out of your points. Even if you’re earning only one point per dollar on your card, the issuer may give you a discounted rate on items like travel and gift cards when you exchange your points directly through their platform.

Are Credit Card Rewards Taxable?

Luckily, the IRS rules (as of March 2021) do not consider credit card rewards as taxable and the value of which does not need to be claimed on tax forms each April 15th. It’s likely this is because the rewards are earned by spending after-tax dollars on credit cards and are offered as an incentive by the card issuer. However, we can’t rule out the possibility that the IRS could change its mind at some point in the future and begin taxing the value of rewards.

Are Rewards Credit Cards Worth It?

Rewards earned from rewards credit cards—whether in the form of cash back, miles or points—can be well worth the effort, with one big caveat. They really only make sense for consumers who pay their balance in full each month. That’s because the interest charges incurred when carrying a balance more than wipe out any benefit from any rewards that might be earned from incremental purchases. But, for those that do pay their balance in full, rewards are a way of leveraging their everyday spending to earn something back with every purchase to put toward travel, merchandise, gift cards, or as a statement credit against their balance.

Another consideration in determining if a rewards card is worthwhile concerns the amount of an annual fee. Many rewards cards come with no annual fee but for those that do, it can be important to consider the value of any rewards that might be earned over the course of the year in order to determine if the fee is justified. For those who spend a lot on credit cards, the rewards can be considerable. For low spenders, the rewards can still be worth it, but a no-annual-fee rewards card is probably a better fit.

Methodology

Our credit card methodology is comprehensive. We constantly monitor data on more than 300 credit cards and assign each a star rating in categories like rewards, interest rates, fees, benefits, security, and customer service. To choose the best rewards credit cards, we identified the cards in our database with the top scores for various types of rewards including cash back, travel, and balance transfers.

We pride ourselves on informing our readers with the most accurate information thanks to automated tools that notify us anytime a card issuer makes an important change. This allows us to rapidly update our credit card listings, reviews, and recommendations with the latest rates, introductory offers, fees, and card benefits.

Meet Our Credit Cards Expert

Ben Woolsey is Investopedia's Senior Editor for Credit Cards. He has more than 30 years of experience in the financial services industry, including marketing for banking and financial institutions such as Associates First Capital and Bank One. Prior to Investopedia, he managed credit card content for CreditCards.com and Bankrate.com.

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