If you have decent credit, chances are you've received a rewards credit card offer in the mail or you've at least come across a rewards credit card option or two while researching credit cards on the Internet.
Some of the most popular credit cards out there thanks to their enticing welcome bonuses and getting something for what you spend anyway, most simply put, a rewards credit card is a type of credit card that earns you points each time you use your card. Points, cash back, miles, etc. earned with rewards credit cards can be redeemed for credit statements, cash back, gift cards, airline tickets, hotel stays, car rentals and more.
When it comes to rewards credit cards, there are two primary types of rewards credit cards to consider: rewards cards that earn you cash back and rewards cards that earn you points or miles to redeem toward purchases or travel.
Let's start by looking at cash-back credit cards, usually the most straightforward and easiest type of rewards credit cards to use. First, it's important to understand that cash back credit cards are NOT the type of credit cards that give you cash back at the the grocery store register or at an ATM. Retrieving cash back in this manner is considered a "cash advance" and you will be charged a fee if you use your cash back credit card in this way.
Instead, cash-back rewards credit cards are a type of credit card that encourages cardholders to frequently use their card in exchange for cash rewards such as statement credits, cash deposits or gift cards. With cash-back credit cards, rewards are accumulated with each $1 you spend, usually at a rate anywhere between 1 to 6 percent. For example, if you make a $1,000 purchase with a card with a 2 percent cash-back rewards offer, you'll earn 2,000 points on that transaction, or $20 cash back. It's important to note that some cash-back cards accumulate rewards as points that can be redeemed for merchandise or other rewards, but many simply accumulate as a percentage amount that you can then redeem for the dollar value.
Other rewards credit cards, such as travel rewards cards or airline-branded and hotel-branded credit cards, earn you points or miles each time you make a purchase, but instead of redeeming these miles or points for cash back, you can use your rewards for things like airline tickets, hotel stays, gas cards, gift cards, and more. With some of these cards you can even redeem points for cash back, however, if it's cash back you want, you're better off sticking with a cash back credit card as the redemption value will likely be better. That said, there are a number of travel rewards cards that allow you to redeem your rewards for statement credit to cover travel expenses.
In general, using a rewards credit card is very simple. Since credit card transactions automatically accumulate rewards on your behalf, there's little you have to do beyond using your credit card and then later deciding how you want to redeem your rewards. With this said though, it's important that you make sure to pay off your card every billing cycle, otherwise, interest charges could quickly cancel out any rewards you've accumulated.
When deciding which credit card is best for you, it's important to consider your lifestyle and spending habits to determine which type of card you will benefit from the most. There's no such thing as a "one-size-fits-all" credit card, so to speak.
Read on to learn more about the best rewards credit cards of 2019 to help determine which card is best for your wallet.
Why We Like It: Rewards credit cards can certainly be great thanks to all of the high perks that they offer, but one of their biggest downfalls is that they sometimes come with a hefty fee. While you can sometimes find a rewards credit card that offers a free introductory offer, most often, after your first year of card membership is up, you'll be responsible for paying an annual fee each year your account is open. This card, however, is a no-annual-fee option not just for your first year as a cardholder, but every year after that as well. Plus, cardholders can earn what amounts to an unlimited 2 percent cash back on every purchase made – 1 percent when you make a purchase, and then an additional 1 percent when you pay for those purchases in full or over time. Since this credit card is free to hold, as long as you're paying off your balance each month, you'll essentially be getting paid to use it, making this a great everyday go-to card. (Citi is a CardRatings advertiser)
The Bonus: 0 percent intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months (then, 15.49% - 25.49%* Variable)
The Rewards: Earn 1 percent cash back on all purchases made, plus another 1 percent when you pay for your purchases. That means you'll essentially earn 2 percent cash back on every purchase. Read our full review of the Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer.
Annual Fee: $0*
Foreign Transaction Fees: 3%
Why We Like It: You already spend money every week on groceries, and if you have a car, chances are you're spending at the gas pump on a weekly basis as well. Why not get cash back for the purchases you have to make? (American Express is a CardRatings advertiser. Terms apply. See Rates and Fees)
The Bonus: Earn a $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 with your card in your first three months of card membership. New card holders will also enjoy 0 percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months (then, 14.99% - 25.99% Variable).
The Rewards: Earn 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets, up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1 percent after that. That's at least $120 cash back just on groceries alone (based on $6,000 in grocery store purchases a year); 3 percent cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores; and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases. Read our full Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express review.
Annual Fee: $95
Foreign Transaction Fees: 2.7% of each transaction after conversion to US dollars.
Why We Like It: Dining out is already fun on its own, but it's a whole lot more exciting when you know you're earning cash back while doing so! This card earns cardholders generous unlimited cash back on all dining out and entertainment purchases, making a night out on the town so much more fun. What's more, if your idea of a good time involves cooking up some new dish at home, you'll be pleased to know that you also earn bonus rewards on your grocery store purchases. And, if your love of food needs a global escape, you'll appreciate that this card won't charge you foreign transaction fees when you use it while abroad.
The Bonus: Earn $500 cash back once you spend $3,000 on purchases within your first three months of account membership.
The Rewards: Earn an unlimited 4 percent cash back on dining and entertainment purchases, 2 percent at grocery stores and 1 percent on all your other purchases. Read our full Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card review.
Annual Fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Foreign Transaction Fees: None
Why We Like It: If you're constantly on the road, thanks to the high price of gas you're probably spending a fortune every year at the pump. With this card you could help to offset this cost with a whopping five points earned on every $1 you spend on gas, as well as three points for your supermarket purchases and one point on everything else. Penfed rewards can then be redeemed for gift cards, travel, and shopping purchases, making the high cost of gas a little less painful.
The Bonus: Earn a $100 statement credit once you spend $1,500 with your card in your 90 days of account membership.
The Rewards: Earn five points for gas purchases at the pump, three points for supermarket purchases and one point per $1 spent for all other purchases. New cardholders will also enjoy 0 percent intro APR on balance transfers for 12 months (then, 11.49% to 17.99% when you open your account, based on your credit worthiness.* Your APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate.). Read our full review of the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card.
Annual Fee: $0
Foreign Transaction Fees: None
(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)
Why We Like It: As with any airline-branded card, this card is only as good for you as your level of loyalty to the brand. However, this card does go a step further in that you earn bonus rewards for a number of your everyday purchases, so earning rewards can happen more quickly than with many branded credit cards.
The Bonus: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $2,500 on the card in the first three months of account membership. One of the best things about this card is the welcome offer, which if redeemed for an American Airlines MileSAAver flight, is worth a lot! A domestic, main cabin round trip MileSAAver flight, for example, can be redeemed for as low as 15,000 points; an international flight as low as 30,000 points. Cardholders will also earn a $100 American Airlines Flight Discount after spending $20,000 or more in a membership year and renewing your card.
The Rewards: Earn two points on every $1 spent at restaurants, gas stations and on eligible American Airlines purchases. Cardholders also receive a free checked back on domestic American Airlines itineraries and preferred boarding on American Airlines flights. If you're loyal to the American Airlines brand, this could be a smart card to hold in your wallet thanks to its two point rewards offer on American Airlines purchases, as well as restaurant and gas purchases. Read our full Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® review.
Annual Fee: $99, waived for first 12 months*
Foreign Transaction Fees: 0%
Why We Like It: Twelve points per $1 spent is an almost unheard of earning rate with rewards credit cards, but that's exactly what you'll get with this card when you use is to book a hotel stay at any participating hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio. What's more, cardholders will also receive a generous rewards for purchases at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations as well as on all other purchases. Also, this card generously offers cardholders 10 complimentary airport lounge access visits per year after a one-time signup with Priority Pass™ Select – that's a truly unique perk for a card with this low of an annual fee. Terms apply. See Rates and Fees.
The Bonus: Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 or more in purchases on the card within the first three months of card membership. Additionally, cardholders will earn a free weekend night reward stay after you spend $15,000 on your card in a calendar year and if you spend $40,000 on your card in a calendar year you'll be upgraded to Hilton Honors Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year.
The Rewards: Earn 12 Hilton Honors bonus points per $1 on hotel bookings made at participating Hilton Portfolio hotels or resorts; six points on each $1 spent at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations; and three points on all other eligible purchases.
Hilton Honors bonus points can be redeemed for almost anything, from hotel stays, to shopping, to dining out, but just to put things into perspective and give you an idea of how far your points can get you, the number of points required for a rewards stay starts as low as 5,000 points a night. The number of points required to book a free night's stay varies by hotel, room, booking and stay date, but if planned right, you can get a lot of free nights just from the welcome offer alone. Read our full Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card review.
Annual Fee: $95
Foreign Transaction Fees: None
Why We Like It: Because there is no annual fee, this card practically pays people for using it, instead of the other way around (as long as you pay off your balance on time). We like the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card because it's simple. All you have to do is use it for what you'd regularly be paying for anyway, make sure to pay off your monthly balance on time, and then enjoy a little extra cash flow for things like bills or maybe something a little more exciting like employee appreciation gifts or company parties.
The Bonus: Earn a $500 cash back bonus after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. New cardholders will also enjoy a introductory 0 percent APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months (then, 14.99% - 20.99% Variable).
The Rewards: Earn 5 percent cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on Internet, cable, and phone services annually; 2 percent back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each year; and an unlimited 1 back on everything else. Read our full review of the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card.
Annual Fee: $0
Foreign Transaction Fees: 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars
Why We Like It: With the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, users will have the opportunity to rack up a bunch of rewards under a high spending cap. Because the spending cap is so high, this card could work well for medium sized businesses. Additionally, redeeming your points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program means they will be worth 25 percent more; that makes the welcome offer worth as much as $1,000 in travel.
The Bonus: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. That's $1,000 towards travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, but those points are also transferable to a number of hotel and airline loyalty programs, which means you might be able to make them go even further.
The Rewards: Earn three points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases in travel; shipping; Internet, cable and phone services; and on advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year. Earn one point per $1 on all other purchases.
Say you spend $150,000 each year on travel; shipping and advertising purchases; and Internet, cable, and phone services – that's 450,000 rewards points alone right there. Add those accumulated points to the 80,000 bonus points that are offered to new cardholders who spend at least $5,000 with the card within the first three months of account membership, and your points the first year alone are worth more $6,600 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. When you look at things that way, the modest annual fee almost seems like nothing. Read our full review of the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card.
Annual Fee: $95
Foreign Transaction Fees: $0
Now that you know a bit more about the best rewards credit cards of 2019, we'll leave you with a few of our best spending practice and reward redemption tips to help you make the most out of your rewards credit card:
Consider carrying more than one card. Depending on your spending habits, it might make good sense for you to utilize more than one credit card so you can maximize the rewards. Say you spend a lot on gas each year, for example, but you also fly and eat out a lot. To make the most of your rewards, it might be practical for you to have a great gas rewards card in your wallet as well as a top rewards card for dining out.
Keep your card utilization low. Just because you have a high spending limit doesn't mean you should use it all, even if doing so means you could accumulate some extra rewards. Keeping your credit card utilization low can help your credit score, and also keeps space available in case you have a large emergency purchase that you need to put on your card.
Use your rewards. This one probably seems like a no-brainer, but far too often people accumulate rewards and forget to use them. Usually, your rewards will stay in your account as long as your account is active, but it's good to have a timeline and goals in mind for when and how you'll use your rewards. Either work toward a specific goal, such as accumulating enough points to pay for a plane ticket to Europe, or redeem your rewards as they become available. Most often with cash-back credit cards taking the cash as soon as it's available, whether in the form of a statement credit or a check or deposit, is a fine idea. Keep in mind there often a minimum redemption value. What happens to your rewards when and if you close your account and knowing whether your card has a minimum redemption amount (most cash back cards do) are two important things you'll want to find out before applying for a new credit card.
Pay your monthly balance on time. We've said it before, and we will say it again: Pay your monthly balance on time! (and in full whenever possible) Rewards cards can be great for all of the enticing perks that they offer, but if you don't pay your bill on time, late fees can quickly cancel out any points that you've accumulated. If you carry a balance, that accumulating interest will absolutely eat into any rewards you earn.
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