Best Rewards Credit Cards: Double miles, 5% cash, and more – December 2017




Looking for a rewards credit card to earn cash or travel from the spending you’re already doing? There are hundreds of rewards cards out there, and we’ve combed through our database to hand pick the very best rewards credit cards, most with no annual fee.
If you’re just looking for one card to earn cash rewards, your best bet is to use our calculator to get a personalized recommendation based on your spending habits. Otherwise, read on for our top picks. This guide will help you understand whether you are ready to earn rewards, and whether earning cash back or miles for travel rewards is your best bet.


Best Cash Back Rewards
The 2x base for every wallet

Citi® Double Cash Card (1% + 1% cash back)
Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature (2.5% cash back)

Up to 5% rewards with a little effort

Chase Freedom®
Discover it®-Cashback Match™
NUSENDA Platinum Cash Rewards

If your credit’s not great

Discover it® Secured Card – No Annual Fee (up to 2%)

Unlimited dining cash back

Uber Visa Card (4% back)

Maximize your grocery shopping

[card.bt.695.card_name]

Learn More
Should you earn rewards?

A warning before you get started



Best Travel Rewards
Real airline miles

[card.bt.913.card_name]
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (professional grade rewards)

Cash for travel rewards

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card (2x on everything)
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card (up to 2.625x for big savers)

Learn More
Cash back or miles for travel?

Pros and cons: Cash Rewards
Pros and cons: Airline Miles
Pros and cons: Convertible Points

 
Questions & Answers


1. Cash back rewards credit cards

Start here: No annual fee, 2x cash


The most important recommendation we can make is to start with either the Citi® Double Cash Card or Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature in your wallet .
Both earn double cash on everything you purchase and pay off with no limits, and no annual fee.
If you prefer MasterCard or have less than perfect credit, go with the Double Cash. If you prefer Visa or plan to use the card abroad, go with the Fidelity (it has a low 1% foreign transaction fee).
If your credit is fair or you have no credit history, then consider one of these options with a slightly lower cash back rate.
Once you have one of these base cards, you can look at our other favorite cards to earn 3%, or even 5% on some of your other spending. You can scroll down this page to see our top picks, or go to our full directory of dozens of cards that earn 3% or better cash back in many categories .
 








Easy double cash rewards
Citi® Double Cash Card



The Citi® Double Cash Card  offers easy double cash rewards with no annual fee.
You get 1% cash back when you make a purchase, and another 1% when you pay your bill, so it’s easy to earn double cash on everything you buy with the card.
And since there’s no annual fee, you don’t have to miss out on the seductive 5% cash back you sometimes see on other cards. Just keep the Citi® Double Cash Card in your wallet for most of your spending, and if you have a card that earns 5% in special categories, just use it for that spending, so you can really rack up the cash rewards.







Transparency Score

Earning cash back is simple – there are no special categories or limits
There is a fee on foreign transactions, so only use this card for purchases in the U.S.





Tip: You need to earn or use rewards at least once every 12 months, or else your rewards will expire.

APPLY NOW  Secured on Citibank’s secure website









2.5% cash back with an annual fee
Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card



If you’re willing to pay a $59 annual fee, this card offers a big 2.5% unlimited cash back on everything you spend. Alliant is a credit union anyone can join online and you don’t need to be a member to apply. There’s also a special 3% cash back rate for your first year, with no annual fee either. If you travel abroad there are no foreign transaction fees to worry about. So is the fee worth it? Basically, if you spend more than $1,000 a month on the card, you’ll earn more than the annual fee in cash back compared to the Citi® Double Cash Card.







Transparency Score

Good disclosure: they tell you what they need to know
Simple introductory bonus
Impossible to know your interest rate until you apply





Tip: Be aware this card is only for people who are eligible for high credit limits, so it’s harder to get than the Citi® Double Cash Card. You’ll need excellent credit and a good income to qualify.

APPLY NOW  Secured on Alliant CU’s secure website



Up to 5% rewards with a little effort


Once you have a double cash rewards card in your wallet, you’re ready to start considering cards that earn 5% cash back in special categories. If you’re really serious about earning the most cash from your spending, you can get all of these rotating category cards and leverage the fact they earn 5% in different categories. Then, use your base double cash rewards card for everything else.
All of these cards have a limit on how much cash back you can earn at 5%, so you’ll want to pay attention to that, and some of them require you to enroll each quarter to activate your 5% cash back, so if you miss the deadline you’ll earn just 1%.








Our pick for small spenders & travelers
Chase Freedom®



With Chase Freedom® you can e arn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
If you spend the full $1,500 in bonus categories each quarter all year long, you could earn $300 cash back a year from your bonus category spending.
A good introductory bonus for small spenders. Earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. That’s like earning 30% cash back on your first $500 in purchases with the card and gets you off to a fast start.
Boost your travel rewards. If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for travel rewards, you can combine your points with those from the Chase Freedom®, letting you turn your Chase Freedom® points into real airline miles with Ultimate Rewards partners like United MileagePlus and Southwest Rapid Rewards, which can make your points worth even more.







Transparency Score

There’s a nice, simple sign on bonus
You have to enroll every quarter to earn 5% in bonus categories
There are late payment and cash advance fees.





Tip: You generally have about 2 and a half months during the quarter to activate your 5%. For example, for January – March 2016, you can activate by March 14, and still get the 5% in your bonus category spending for the whole quarter, even if you made purchases in the category before you activated.

APPLY NOW  Secured on Chase’s secure website









Best 5% cash for bigger spenders
Discover it® - Cashback Match™



The Discover it® and Chase Freedom® are pretty similar when it comes to rewards, but if you spend more than about $1,000 a month, the Discover it® is your better bet if you’re looking to choose just one.
Double cash back better for big spenders. As an intro offer for new cardmembers, [DiscoverCashbackCompliance]Discover will match ALL the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically.[/DiscoverCashbackCompliance]So big spenders get more out of this than the introductory offer on the Chase Freedom®.
Plenty of 5% categories. [DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus]Earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like gas stations, Amazon.com, restaurants, wholesale clubs and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. All other purchases get 1% cash back[/DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus].
[DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus]From October until December of 2017, the bonus categories are Amazon.com and Target[/DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus].
[DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus]If you spend the full $1,500 in bonus categories each quarter all year long, you could earn $300 cash back a year from your bonus category spending[/DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus].
 







Transparency Score

[DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus]There’s a nice, simple sign on bonus
You have to enroll every quarter to earn 5% in bonus categories[/DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus]
[DiscoverCashbackLateFee]There are late payment[/DiscoverCashbackLateFee] and [DiscoverCashbackCashAdvanceFee]cash advance fees[/DiscoverCashbackCashAdvanceFee].





Tip: One gotcha about the Discover it® is that you only get the [DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus]5% in bonus categories for spending you do after you activate your bonus each quarter. For example, for the January – March 5% categories, if you activate on February 15, only spending from February 15 to the end of March will qualify, even if you made purchases in a 5% category before then[/DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus].

APPLY NOW  Secured on Discover’s secure website









Best 5% with no enrollment hassle
Platinum Rewards Card By Nusenda CU



If you want 5% in rotating categories each quarter without having to enroll each quarter, consider the NUSENDA Credit Union’s Platinum Cash Rewards card.
Automatic 5% categories. You’re automatically eligible for 5% cash rewards each quarter, up to $1,500 worth of spending across the categories each quarter. Currently that’s typically a $1,500 per quarter maximum, like the Chase Freedom®. But the categories where you can earn 5% are a bit broader.
For 2017 the 5% cashback bonus categories include:

January – March: Groceries and Gas
April – June: Restaurants, Movies, and Home Improvement
July – September: Gas and Education
October – December: Restaurants, Hotels, Airfare

The introductory bonus is the weakest of the bunch, and offers 2% on all your purchases for the first 90 days. You’d have to spend $15,000 in 90 days to beat the Chase Freedom®’s $150 offer.
 







Transparency Score

No need to enroll every quarter to earn 5% in bonus categories
You need to join a credit union, though anyone can join NUSENDA





Tip: When you apply, you’ll be asked where you live or work to determine your eligibility to join NUSENDA Credit Union. If you don’t live in one of the New Mexico counties listed on the application, just enter the company you work for, and they’ll call you to offer you a non profit organization you can join for a small one time fee to be eligible.

APPLY NOW  Secured on Nusenda ’s secure website



Cash back for frequent diners


What’s better than 2% cash rewards? 3%.
While you can get 5% cash back on dining some quarters with the 5% foursome cards above, to get consistently good cash back on dining all the time, read on.
You can also check out our full list of the best cards for dining cash back .








Best unlimited dining cashback rewards
Uber Visa Card



There is no annual fee with this card. The Uber Visa Card offers 4% back on dining purchases, including UberEATS. Then there’s 3% back on hotel and airfare, including vacation home rentals; 2% back for online purchases that run the gamut from Uber and web shopping to video and music streaming services; and 1% on everything else.
This rate is great for people who dine out, whether it’s through a restaurant, a bar, a takeout joint on the corner or UberEATS.
There is a great sign-up bonus: Spend $500 within 90 days from account opening to earn $100 in Uber credits. Also, you can earn up to a $50 credit for online subscription services after you spend $5,000 or more on your card per year.







Transparency Score

Good disclosure: they tell you what you need to know
Simple introductory bonus
Impossible to know your interest rate until you apply





Tip: Use this card for all dining, hotel and airfare purchases to maximize your rewards at the higher percentage rate.

LEARN MORE 




Grocery cash rewards


Groceries are one of the most popular spending categories, and you can check out our full list of the best cards for grocery cash back .
But if you’re out to earn the most possible cash back from your grocery shopping, here is our pick:








Best grocery cash back for heavy shoppers
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express



The  [card.bt.695.card_name] is the card that can earn the most cash from U.S. supermarket purchases, at 6%, but there are two big hoops to deal with.

There’s a cap of $6,000 a year in supermarket spending that earns 6% , so you can get a maximum of $360 a year in rewards at the 6% rate.
There’s a $[card.bt.695.card_annual_fee_for_firstyear] annual fee. So, this is really offering 4.4% cash back on supermarket spending if you spend the full $6,000 a year at U.S. supermarkets and take the annual fee out of your rewards.

So the rule is this: if you spend about $300 – $800 a month at supermarkets, consider this card. Otherwise, get 3% back at supermarkets with no annual fee with the [card.bt.695.card_name]  or Consumers Credit Union Visa Signature Cash Rebate Card (anyone can join their credit union).







TRANSPARENCY SCORE

The biggest supermarket cash back rate.
There is a $[card.bt.695.card_annual_fee_for_firstyear] annual fee and a cap on the supermarket cash rewards you can earn at 6%.





Tip: If you shop at big box stores like Walmart or Target, those aren’t considered supermarkets, even when you’re buying groceries, and spending there won’t earn the grocery cash back bonus.

APPLY NOW  Secured on American Express’s secure website Terms Apply

Rates & Fees





Cash rewards for less than perfect credit


If you’re credit’s not perfect, but you’re now able to pay your cards in full each month, you won’t yet qualify for the very best cash rewards, but you can do well with no annual fee.








Best cash rewards for rebuilding credit
[DiscoverSecured] Discover it® Secured Card – No Annual Fee[/DiscoverSecured]



If you have little or no credit history, or are rebuilding credit, [DiscoverSecured] the Discover it® Secured Card [/DiscoverSecured] is the best way to do it while earning rewards.
You can [DiscoverSecuredCategoryBonus]earn 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations (on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter). Plus, get 1% cash back on all your other purchases[/DiscoverSecuredCategoryBonus]. [DiscoverSecuredAnnualFee]There is no annual fee[/DiscoverSecuredAnnualFee]. A security deposit of $200 or more will establish your credit line (up to the amount that Discover can approve). There are automatic monthly reviews starting at 8 months to see if you can be transitioned to an account with no security deposit.







TRANSPARENCY SCORE

[DiscoverSecuredAnnualFee]No annual fee[/DiscoverSecuredAnnualFee].
The Regular [DiscoverSecuredAPR]APR is 23.99% variable[/DiscoverSecuredAPR].





Tip: You will get your official FICO credit score for free with this card. Watch it closely, because the goal of a secured card is to graduate to an unsecured card as quickly as possible.

APPLY NOW  Secured on Discover’s secure website


2. Travel Rewards Cards

Real airline miles


If you’re serious about travel, you want points that give you the option to turn them into real airline miles. Yes, there are ‘no hassle’ cards out there that promise to avoid the rules and traps of airline miles, but you’ll often pay more in points if you use those cards, especially if you’re flying on expensive international flights.

 







Best real airline miles with no annual fee
Credit Card from American Express



[card.bt.913.card_name] earns Amex Membership Rewards® Points.
With Membership Rewards® Points, you can turn your points into real airline miles with several frequent flier programs, including Delta SkyMiles, JetBlue True Blue, Virgin America Elevate, and British Airways Avios.
If you fly Delta and use SkyMiles this is a no brainer way to build on the SkyMiles you already have without a fee. Real airline miles are the best way to get expensive international flights and you can check here to see if focusing on convertible points that can turn into real airline miles is a good plan for you .
Even better, if you don’t want to deal with airline miles, you have the flexibility to use your points for travel on almost any airline. Just book your flight via the American Express website and pay for it with points.
 







TRANSPARENCY SCORE

No annual fee.
There are late fees and a wide range of APRs you may be charged depending on your credit profile.
You get 2x points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000), and a 20% bonus on all of your spending each statement period when you use your card to make 20 or more purchase in any category.





Tip: Some people find the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card we mention below (which has an annual fee) has more useful travel partners, because it lets you transfer points to both United MileagePlus and Southwest Rapid Rewards.

APPLY NOW  Secured on American Express’s secure website Terms Apply

Rates & Fees










Best for serious travel rewards
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card



The information related to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.
Serious travel rewards are all about being able to earn points you can transfer into real airline miles or hotel points with several travel partners, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card’s roster of partners is one of the most useful round. It’s why so many travel enthusiasts love this card.
Transfer to real airline miles and hotel points. You can transfer your points into you accounts with United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Hyatt Gold Passport, and more anytime you want. Between United and Southwest you’re covered for getting around in the U.S. or just about anywhere in the world at attractive point prices. And as you learn more about travel rewards you can take advantage of other partners like Singapore KrisFlyer and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
A fallback for when mile seats aren’t available. You always have the option to book flights directly via Chase on most airlines without the restrictions of frequent flier programs. Every 10,000 points is worth $125 in flights, hotels, or rental cars booked via the Chase website.
A big introductory bonus. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card comes with a big introductory bonus offer that can earn you award travel fast.
2x points on dining and travel. You get double points on all dining and travel purchases you make, even cab rides, fast food, and subway tickets.
Check to see if trying to convertible points that can turn into real airline miles makes sense for your habits , but if it does, this is a great card to get started earning big travel value fast.







TRANSPARENCY SCORE

There are no foreign transaction fees.
There is a $95 annual fee, after a $0 introductory fee the first year.





Tip: For a real powerhouse combo, pair this up with a no annual fee Chase Freedom®. The points you earn from the Chase Freedom® can be added to those from your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, letting you take advantage of the fact the Freedom earns 5x points in special bonus categories.
And if you really want to turbocharge rewards, but can deal with a higher annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 3x points on travel and dining.

READ MORE 



Points that work like cash for travel


If you don’t want to put in the work to get the extra value real airline miles can offer, but like rewards for travel, consider a card that earns points that work like cash. With these cards you just pay for your flight or hotel with the card, and then use points to get statement credit.

 








Best for not messing with miles
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card



If you’re a big traveler, the action is with real airline miles. But if you don’t want to keep track of rules, and still want great rewards for travel, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is one of the biggest earners available.
Pay for travel, get it reimbursed. Instead of using an airline mile program, with the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card you just pay for travel with your card, then use your Venture® miles to get it reimbursed on your statement. 10,000 miles is worth $100 toward any travel.
2x miles on everything. Everything you buy with the card earns 2x miles, so you can earn up to twice as fast as many airline cards.
A big introductory bonus. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card comes with a big introductory bonus offer that can save you hundreds on your next trip.
 







TRANSPARENCY SCORE

There are no foreign transaction fees.
There is a $95 annual fee, after a $0 introductory fee the first year.





Tip: You can’t mix and match Venture® miles with any regular airline miles you already have. Venture® miles are simply like cash you can use to pay for travel charged to your card.

APPLY NOW  Secured on Capital One’s secure website









Best for savers with no fee
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card



This card has a pretty basic 1.5x points per dollar on everything you spend, and you can use those points to cover any travel purchase. There is no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee.
$50,000+ in Bank of America accounts = big earning. Where it gets interesting is if you have $50,000 or more in retirement, savings, checking, or other account balances with Bank of America. That qualifies you for the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program which lets you earn 2.25x – 2.6x points per dollar with no limits.
That’s because Platinum and Platinum Honors level members of Preferred Rewards get a 50% – 75% bonus on all the points earned with many Bank of America credit cards, including the Travel Rewards card.
You can rollover any of your 401k or IRA accounts to a Merrill Edge account with no maintenance fees, so you don’t need a huge checking or savings account balance to get this benefit.
No other card offers so much straight cash for travel earning potential off your spending across any category.







TRANSPARENCY SCORE

There are no foreign transaction fees.
You need a big balance in Bank of America accounts to get the most out of the card.





Tip: Bank of America cards have the option to request a PIN that you can use for foreign purchases at places that don’t accept a signature.

APPLY NOW  Secured on Bank Of America’s secure website




3. Learn more


Are you ready to earn rewards with a credit card?



Rewards credit cards can be great, and earn you hundreds of dollars a year in savings, but they are still credit cards, with all the dangers that come with them.
Answer these questions
If you answer yes to any of these questions, you’re not ready for a rewards credit card.










Are you unsure if you’ll be able to pay your balance in full every single month?
Do you plan to do a balance transfer to your card?
Do you sometimes make late payments?
Do you tend to max out your current credit limit, even if you pay it off?

 
Even if you can safely say ‘no’ to the questions, be aware that the lure of rewards can cause you to spend more than you otherwise would.
 
Credit card companies make money every time you spend on the card, so they want you to spend more. And the more you spend, the greater the chance you spend more than you can afford, which makes them even more money in interest payments.
Cash back or miles for travel?






We don’t think most people should be messing with travel rewards.
Cash rewards cards are more generous than ever and choosing our favorite cash rewards cards will earn you 2% or better on your spending, which is hard to beat even with travel rewards.
You’ll get rewards you can use anywhere – to pay down bills, give a gift, or whatever you want – all with the same good value.
Travel rewards require extra effort, and they tend to penalize you if you use your rewards for something besides travel.
If you already travel twice a year or more, then travel rewards can sometimes offer you more rewards than straight cash back and you should read on.
We’ll cover cash back for travel, real airline miles, and a newer development, convertible points that can turn into real airline miles, but give you more flexibility.





Cash back for travel

Cards with cash rewards let you book travel with any airline or hotel, any time.
You don’t have to think about award rules or restrictions, but you get less value for your points if you try to use them for rewards that don’t involve travel, but you’re usually better off just earning straight cash rewards via a card like the Citi® Double Cash Card.
Best for: People who want to keep it simple (but a regular cash rewards card Is usually better)
Pros
You can use the rewards for any travel. You can pay for travel with your card and use points to get credit back. No worrying about airline award seats or
There are lots of special category bonuses. If you’re really into maximizing things, cash rewards have the biggest array of extra points you can earn from special categories like grocery, gas, or dining spending. We keep a full list of them here.
Usually no annual fee. Cash rewards cards mostly have no annual fee to worry about.
Cons
They don’t have the biggest intro bonuses. The very biggest introductory offers are typically reserved for cards that earn airline miles or other travel rewards.
Expensive tickets aren’t as good a deal. If you spend a lot and can earn a lot of airline miles, you can save a lot on tickets that are expensive in cash, like big international trips or first class tickets.





 




Real airline miles

These are cards that earn miles directly into your account with one airline, like a Delta SkyMiles American Express. They’re usually not the fastest way to earn miles, but they often come with other benefits like a free checked bag.
Our rule of thumb is you should only consider airline miles if you typically spend $2,000 or more in a month on a credit card, so you can earn enough miles for an award in a reasonable amount of time. Otherwise, stick with a cash back rewards card.
But spending $2,000 a month isn’t the only factor. You should also be able to answer YES to at least one of these three questions:

Do you have 5,000 or more existing airline miles?


Are you planning to fly in business or first class?


Do you want to go to expensive destinations like Asia, Europe, Africa, South America, or Australia?

If you can answer YES to one of them, then airline miles are a good choice for getting the most out of your card spending.
Pros
They can get you luxurious flights. If you’re really flexible with dates and times, a good chunk of real airline miles can get you flights that would otherwise cost thousands of dollars in cash.
You can build on miles you earn from flying.
If you fly more than a few times a year, this can be really lucrative since the miles you earn from your credit card get to build on the ones you already have, getting you to an award ticket a lot faster than spending on a card that just earns regular cash rewards.
They have big intro bonuses
Often, the most generous deals that offer you a bonus to open a new account are on cards that offer travel rewards, rather than regular cash rewards. That’s because travel rewards are more restricted, and not appealing to everyone.
Cons
If you don’t have a big balance, they can be hard to use. To get the most out of airline miles, you really need to pay attention to things like what airline partners you can use with which miles, where to search for award seats, and how many miles is a ‘good’ price to pay.
They can expire. Many airline miles expire after a year or so if you leave your account dormant. It’s easy to avoid it by earning or spending just one mile, but a lot of people forget and end up losing their miles, so unless you’re willing to make them a habit, stay away from regular airline miles.
You need a lot of them to get a good value award. Here’s how much you can expect to pay for flights with miles:

25,000 – 50,000 miles: domestic roundtrip ticket in Economy class (typical value: $300 – $1,000)
50,000 – 100,000 miles: domestic roundtrip ticket in First Class (typical value: $500 – $1,500)
60,000 – 100,000 miles: international roundtrip ticket in Economy Class (typical value: $800 – $1,500)
100