Best Rewards Credit Cards

Our objective rating of the best rewards cards in the market

We publish unbiased product reviews; our opinions are our own and are not influenced by payment we receive from advertisers. Learn more about our review process and read our advertiser disclosure for how we make money.

We've spent thousands of hours analyzing rewards credit cards in order to identify the best cards for a range of needs and objectives. A rewards credit card allows you to leverage your spending to earn a range of rewards currencies such as cash back, points, miles, or merchandise and gift cards. This list represents our top rated rewards 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.

With the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic on the global economy and travel, we expect that consumers may find themselves leaning more towards cash back cards than travel rewards. However, we've elected to keep a travel card at the top of our list because in the long term it could still provide the most rewards value.

Best Rewards Credit Cards for May 2020

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best Overall, Best for Travel
  • Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards: Best for Cash Back, Best No Annual Fee
  • Wells Fargo Propel: Best for Bonus Points
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express: Best for Hotels
  • United Explorer: Best for Airlines

Best Overall, Best for Travel

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Rating as a Rewards Card
4.8
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Full Review
Apply Now
On Chase's Website

Current Offer

50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases 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
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 THIS CARD

    The Chase Sapphire Reserve is our best overall rewards credit card and best for travel because of its competitive one-time point bonus, annual travel credit, high rewards earning rate, the fact that points are worth 50% more if you redeem them for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, and the ability to transfer points on a 1:1 basis to eligible hotel and airline partners. While the annual fee is high, if you're an avid traveler the annual travel credit can help justify it and it has numerous other travel-related benefits that make this the best card for travel if you're not ready to commit yourself to a single airline or hotel. In the short term if you didn't want to save your points for travel, you could use them towards a statement credit.

  • 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
  • HIGHLIGHTS
    • Receive 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months from account opening.
    • Get an annual $300 travel credit for eligible purchases charged to your card each anniversary year.
    • Earn 3 points on travel (excluding purchases eligible for the travel credit), restaurants, and dining. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on other purchases.
    • Points are worth 50% more when you redeem them for travel through Chase's Ultimate Rewards portal.
    • Transfer points 1:1 to eligible Ultimate Rewards airline and hotel partner programs.

Best for Cash Back, Best No Annual Fee

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Rating as a Rewards Card
4.5
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Full Review
Apply Now
On Capital One's Website

Current Offer

Earn a one-time $150 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 There is no standard balance transfer fee for this card.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • WHY WE CHOSE THIS CARD

    The Capital One Quicksilver Credit Card is our best for cash back and no-annual-fee because of its combination of waived fees, low interest and high rewards earning rate on all spending. With no annual fee you don't need to worry about making sure you're extracting maximum value from the card every year to make it worth it. The absence of a foreign-transaction fee makes this a rare cash-back credit card that’s worth bringing on a trip abroad once travel is no longer a public health concern and helps to make a compelling case that if you're only going to carry one rewards card that 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 $150 cash bonus after spending $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.

Best for Bonus Points

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

Rating as a Rewards Card
4.5
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
Full Review
Apply Now
On Wells Fargo's Website

Current Offer

Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months ($200 cash redemption value)

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 (%) 14.49% - 24.99% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 3X points for eating out and ordering in, gas stations, rideshares, transit, for travel including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals, as well as popular streaming services. Earn 1X points on other purchases.
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 12 Months
INTRO BALANCE TRANSFER APR 0% for 12 Months
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 3% (for 120 days, then 5%) of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • WHY WE CHOSE THIS CARD

    The Wells Fargo Propel is our pick for best bonus points because it offers 3X bonus points across more popular spending categories than other cards on our list, even ones with high annual fees. With a strong bonus offer, no annual fee and competitive intro purchase and balance transfer offers it's a solid all-around rewards card. As an added bonus it offers cell phone protection which is a unique feature for a card with no annual fee.

  • PROS & CONS

    Pros

    • High points earning rates in a variety of popular spending categories
    • Decent bonus for a no-annual fee card
    • Introductory 0% APR offer
    • Cell phone protection

    Cons

    • Wells-Fargo customer satisfaction for credit cards is below average
    • Rewards have minimum redemption thresholds
  • HIGHLIGHTS
    • 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – a $200 cash redemption value.
    • Earn 3x points on the following: eating out/ordering in, gas, rideshares, transit, flights, hotels, homestays, car rentals, and popular streaming services.
    • $0 annual fee.
    • No limit to points you can earn , and points don't expire as long as your account remains open.
    • Cell phone protectionoffers insurance against your cell phone from damage or theft.

Best for Hotels

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

Rating as a Rewards Card
4.2
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
Full Review
Apply Now
On American Express' Website

Current Offer

Earn 75,000 bonus points with the Marriott Bonvoy after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 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
Excellent
Regular APR (%) 15.74% - 24.74% variable
Annual Fee $450
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 6X points for every $1 spent at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 3X points at U.S. restaurants and flights booked directly with airlines, and 2X points everywhere else.
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • WHY WE CHOSE THIS CARD

    The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant is our best for hotels primarily because of its large one-time bonus coupled with a rewards earning and redemption value rate that is best in class. Although it has a high annual fee, you can partially justify it through the annual credit of $300 for Marriott purchases and an anniversary night. If you're going to pick this card, you definitely need to be ready to commit to Marriott being the hotel chain that will get your business so that you can extract the maximum value from the card. The complimentary Gold Elite Status with Marriott that comes with the card is a nice added benefit.

  • PROS & CONS

    Pros

    • Good all-around for travel, but most rewarding on Marriott purchases
    • Annual credits for Marriott purchases and Marriott Bonvoy property credits
    • Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status
    • No foreign transaction fees

    Cons

    • No introductory APR offer for purchases or balance transfers
    • Annual fee is at the higher end of what many travel cards charge
    • Only 2 points per dollar in rewards at hotels other than Marriotts'
  • HIGHLIGHTS
    • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
    • $300 annual Marriott Bonvoy statement credit for eligible purchases.
    • $100 Marriott Bonvoy property credit on eligible stays.
    • Card Members can enroll in Priority Pass Select, which offers unlimited visits to over 1,200 lounges in over 130 countries.

Best for Airlines

United℠ Explorer Card

Rating as a Rewards Card
4.4
United℠ Explorer Card
Full Review
Apply Now
On Chase's Website

Current Offer

Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 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 for the first year, then $95
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, on hotel stays and on purchases from United. 1 mile 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 THIS CARD

    Based on our analysis, 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. As with our best hotel card, you'd need to be committed to United as the airline you'll primarily fly with in order to extract the maximum benefit from the card. 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 in line with its competitors and is waived the first year. The card does not charge foreign-transaction fees which helps make it a good choice 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
  • HIGHLIGHTS
    • Earn 40,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months your account is open.
    • Get 2 United Club one-time passes each anniversary year.
    • Save up to $120 per roundtrip with a free checked bag for you and a travel companion on the same reservation.
    • Get 25% back as a statement credit on inflight United purchases.

How Do Rewards Credit Cards Work?

Rewards credit cards provide cash back, points, or miles for each dollar of spending. There’s typically a base rate that applies to all purchases, sometimes supplemented by higher bonus rewards for certain spending categories. Rewards are customarily redeemed for travel expenses, cash back, gift cards or merchandise through the credit card 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. 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

Pros Explained

  • Introductory One-Time Bonuses. Many cards in this category provide a bonus incentive for those who spend a certain amount in the first 3-4 months of the account being open. These bonuses are typically worth hundreds of dollars.
  • Opportunities to Earn Bonus Rewards. Many cards offer higher rewards in certain categories of spending. These enhancements can easily double or triple what you earn on those purchases.
  • Flexible Redemption Options. Cash-back rewards have maximum flexibility, of course, since cash can be used for any purpose. But depending on the card, rewards miles or points can be redeemed in multiple different ways, from acquiring flights to offsetting purchases on your card statement to exchanging points for gift cards or merchandise. The points “price” of the various redemption options is usually listed in the issuers’ rewards portal.  

Cons Explained

  • Cash-Back in the Most Rewarding Categories May Be Capped. Some cards put limits on how much spending in categories with high rewards is eligible to earn those optimal rates. Those caps are often quarterly, with any amount that’s unspent in a certain quarter then disappearing. 
  • Effort and Expertise Required to Maximize the Value of Points/Miles. Simply receiving points can require cardholders to be proactive to initiate the process of redeeming rewards. And to get the most from points or miles, you must take time to understand the card’s rewards structure.
  • Redemption Values Can Range Significantly. Even after grasping the card’s rewards structure, making the most of your points or miles can require mastering and monitoring the value of the flights, hotel stays, or other perks you get for them. These values can vary dramatically, both between options and (sometimes) over time. As a rule, you should aim to get at least one cent in value per point or mile. But plenty of redemption options, such as gift cards, routinely fall well below this level—so beware.
  • The Most Lucrative Cards Carry Annual Fees. While there are plenty of rewards cards that lack fees, few of those offer the best rewards or bonuses. Instead, cards with large one-time offers and rewards of 2 or more points per dollar, or 2% and up in cash back, almost invariably come with an annual fee. While that cost may be a worthwhile investment for at least some cardholders, its presence creates the need to estimate if you’ll be able to justify it, and perhaps to worry that you won’t do so. 

Is a Rewards Credit Card a Good Fit?

A rewards card that provides points or miles can be lucrative, often more so than the other major variety of rewards card - those that provide rewards as plain cash-back. 

That said, a rewards credit card isn’t for everyone. As noted, carrying one requires grasping a rewards structure more complex than simply receiving a percentage of your spending back. In addition, more so than even with cash-back cards, the best points cards have annual fees. For example, several of our rewards-card picks above carry a fee, at least after the initial year. If you don’t spend a lot each month on credit cards, it’s advisable to avoid getting one that carries an annual fee, because of the likelihood that you won’t be able to justify the cost through earned rewards.However, points cards needn’t be the only type you carry in your wallet. For many people, pairing a rewards points or miles credit card with one that provides cash back facilitates maximizing rewards on all their spending. Where a single card may have gaps in rewards coverage, carrying multiple cards of varying types increases the opportunities to cover all spending categories with lucrative rewards. Some issuers even provide incentives to do this by letting you pool or transfer rewards points from different cards, and allowing cash back to be converted to points or miles and transferred into their rewards program. 

What are the Types of Rewards Cards?

  • Fixed Cash Back, Points and Miles-Earning Cards. Cards with this type of rewards earnings structure are very straight-forward and only offer one rate—typically a point or mile per dollar or percentage cash back on all spending.
  • Tiered Cash Back, Points and Miles-Earning Cards. Tiered rewards-earning cards have rewards that offer bonus rewards for select categories rather than a simple flat number of points or miles or percentage of cash back for all purchases. So, for example, a card with tiered points earnings might offer 3 points per dollar spent on restaurants and 2 points on gasoline purchases, where all other spending would earn only a single point. 

What Should You Consider to Find the Best Rewards Credit Card?

Knowing a points 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 points 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 from credit card rewards?

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 points per dollar on all spending with one that offers 3 points on restaurants, 2 points on groceries and gasoline purchases, and 1 point on all other purchases. In both cases, the points are worth one cent each.Under this scenario, the fixed-rate card would earn you $240 a year (based on $2,000 in monthly spending x 1 point per dollar x 1 cent per point = $20 each month x 12 months = $240.) The variable-rewards card would earn $360 (based on $600 a month for groceries and gasoline x 2 points per dollar spent x 1 cent per point = $12 each month x 12 months = $144. Plus $200 a month on dining x 3 points per dollar spent x 1 cent per point = $6 a month x 12 = $72 a year. Finally, there’s $1,200 a month on miscellaneous spending x 1 point per dollar spent x 1 cent per point = $12 each month x 12 months = $144.) As you can see, in this comparison the card that offered variable rates yielded rewards worth 50% more.

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 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. Then compare how the earnings figure (less the fee) stacks up against other cards that don’t charge an annual fee.

Additional considerations when selecting a rewards credit card:

  • The quality of credit that’s needed to qualify, 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 Rewards Earnings?

Earning the most in rewards on a card entails taking advantage of all tiered or bonus spending categories, preferably up to the quarterly or annual cash-back maximum, if those are capped. It also requires planning spending so as to earn any one-time introductory bonus, if offered.

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 offsets, and more, any rewards earnings.

Since APRs for rewards cards tend to be on the high side, balance carriers are best advised to find a card with lower interest on which to carry over purchases—which usually means favoring non-rewards cards.

Also, consider taking advantage of shopping rewards apps that have their own rewards. Using one of those can allow you to double dip and amplify your rewards when shopping online. Even if you’re earning only one point per dollar on your card, the app allows you to get an extra value beyond that for the same spending. Also, it’s important to “point” out that if you anticipate carrying a balance on your points rewards credit card it can be suboptimal in terms of the overall rewards earnings, as interest paid on outstanding balances almost always negates any rewards earnings, if not more.  

What Are Rewards Redemption Methods?

Credit card rewards are generally simple on the earnings side with cash-back, points or miles but can be more complicated in terms of redemption and the related points or miles values involved. Cash back is much more straightforward in terms of value. Below are some common redemption methods: 

  • Check—Surprisingly, most points can be converted to “cash back” since getting a check or a gift card is a common redemption option.
  • Statement Credit—Cash back rewards can be redeemed as a credit against any charges on your monthly billing statement. Points and miles can sometimes also be converted to statement credits - typically at a rate of one cent per point or mile.
  • Merchandise—Most point-redemption platforms allow points to be spent on name-brand merchandise. While this can be a tempting option, it is often the least advantageous in terms of value. Before going this route, then, it’s especially advisable to do the math, using the retail price of the item online, to determine the value you’re receiving for your rewards points. 
  • Gift cards—Whether it is to a national retailer or restaurant or in the form of a Visa gift card this is a popular redemption option. However, not all reward redemptions offer good value. Make sure you’re getting proper value (that is, at least one cent per point or mile) before choosing this option.
  • Travel—Some reward programs allow points to be redeemed for airline tickets or hotel nights, which can provide superior points value.

Are Credit Card Rewards Taxable?

Luckily, the current IRS rules do not currently consider credit card rewards as taxable and the value of which do 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, it is possible that the IRS may change their 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 each month, rewards are a way of leveraging their everyday spending to earn something back with every purchase to put toward travel, merchandise, gift card, or as a statement credit against their balance. 

Another consideration in determining if a rewards card is worth it concerns the presence and 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 or not. For those that 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.

About Our List of Points Rewards Credit Cards

For this list of the best rewards credit cards, we considered a range of card types, from cash-back cards to those affiliated with airlines and hotels to general travel cards in which the carrier issues their own points. 

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 is 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 and/or more reasonable fees.
  • Provide solid customer service, based on the number and quality of customer service features
  • Have helpful and protective security features.