You’re going to use a credit card — to shop online, pay for plane tickets or maybe even pay your monthly bills — so you might as well get rewarded for it. But with so many rewards credit cards available, it can be intimidating to try to decide on the right one for your spending habits and lifestyle. Fortunately, for its annual Best Credit Cards rankings, GOBankingRates has analyzed the options and rounded up the top choices that make up the Best Rewards Credit Cards.
Among the Best Credit Cards of 2019 are cards that offer points, cash back or miles in addition to a variety of perks and benefits. GOBankingRates extensively analyzed thousands of fees, rewards offerings, interest rates, spending requirements, bonus values and more to determine which cards would make the cut. To make it easier to choose the right option for yourself, check out GOBankingRates’ Best Rewards Credit Cards of 2019.
- Best Rewards Credit Cards
- Some of the Best Reward Card Offers of October 2019
- Learn More About Rewards Cards
The Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card pays cash back on everything, with bonus rewards in a category of your choosing.
Highlights: This rewards card pays 3% cash back on purchases made in your choice of category, whether it’s gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores or home improvement and furnishings. You also get 2% cash back on grocery purchases and at wholesale clubs, and 1% cash back on everything else. With no annual fee and a promotional annual percentage rate of 0%, this card allows the user to rack up rewards without penalty in the category of their choice, as long as payments are made on time.
Penalty APR: Up to 29.99%
Annual Fee: $0
Sign-Up Bonus: Get a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 within the first 90 days of account opening
Foreign Transaction Fee: 3% of the transaction amount
Cash Advance Fee: The greater of $10 or 3%-5% of the transaction amount, depending on the type of advance
The Fine Print: The bonus rewards at the 2% and 3% cash-back levels are limited to the first $2,500 in purchases per quarter; after that, you’ll earn 1%.
IHG is the parent company of Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, InterContinental and other hotel and resort properties. If you stay at these hotels frequently, the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card could be worthwhile to have.
Highlights: If you are a frequent guest at an IHG hotel or resort, you can really rack up the points by getting this card and joining the IHG Rewards Club. IHG Rewards Club members can earn up to 40 points per dollar spent at an IHG property during the first 12 months, then 25 points per dollar spent at an IHG property after that. You also get a free night every year on your card’s anniversary.
Penalty APR: None
Annual Fee: $89
Sign-Up Bonus: Earn 125,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 within the first three months of account opening
Foreign Transaction Fee: None
Cash Advance Fee: The greater of $10 or 5% of the transaction amount, whichever is greater
The Fine Print: There’s no introductory APR and the annual fee is high; you can redeem your points for hotel stays and for gift cards, but not for cash.
The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express pays a hefty bonus on groceries and gas. You can use your cash back to get a statement credit, redeem gift cards or shop for merchandise.
Highlights: This is a good card to use if you’re going to charge everyday purchases. You can earn up to 6% cash back on some purchases — for example, you get 6% cash back on the first $6,000 you charge at supermarkets each year, and 6% back on some streaming subscriptions. You get 3% back on gas and transit, and 1% back on everything else.
Penalty APR: 29.99%
Annual Fee: $95
Sign-Up Bonus: Earn $300 back after spending $1,000 within the first 90 days of account opening
Foreign Transaction Fee: 2.7%
Cash Advance Fee: The greater of $10 or 5% of the transaction amount, whichever is greater
The Fine Print: It takes a lot of cash back to make up for the $95 annual fee.
The Navy Federal More Rewards American Express Card has the lowest regular APR of any card on this list. You must be a member of Navy Federal Credit Union to apply, which means you or a family member must be a member of the armed forces, with the Department of Defense, or a veteran.
Following its recent refresh, the More Rewards card offers triple points at supermarkets, restaurants and gas stations and one point for all other purchases. Plus, it comes with a 30,000-point sign-up offer and a 0% APR on purchases for the first 12 months. Here’s what the card doesn’t have: an annual fee, a balance transfer fee, foreign transaction fees or cash advance fees.
Highlights: Earn bonus points on everyday purchases, like groceries and gas. The low APR will save you money every month if you carry a balance, and there’s no annual fee. And, there are no limits on rewards. You earn triple points on groceries, restaurant purchases and gas, no matter how much you spend.
Penalty APR: 18.00%
Annual Fee: $0
Sign-Up Bonus: Earn 30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 within 90 days of account opening
Foreign Transaction Fee: None
Cash Advance Fee: None
The Fine Print: The card isn’t available to everyone.
The Discover it Cash Back credit card offers big cash-back bonuses in rotating categories and doubles the cash back you earn in your first year.
Highlights: You can earn up to 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter: gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants and retailers such as Amazon.
Penalty APR: None
Annual Fee: $0
Sign-Up Bonus: Discover will automatically match all of the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year
Foreign Transaction Fee: None
Cash Advance Fee: The greater of $10 or 5% of the advance amount
The Fine Print: You have to opt in to the bonus cash-back categories each quarter in order to get the additional cash back, and there’s a maximum each quarter. It’s a lot to keep track of.
When searching for the best rewards credit card for your particular needs, there are a few factors you should consider. Would you be able to earn enough rewards to make up for a high annual fee? Will you carry a balance on your card and have to pay interest? Use this guide to compare the best rewards cards and determine which one is best for you.
|Best Rewards Credit Cards of 2019|
|Credit Card||Intro APR||Regular APR||Annual Fee||Rewards Rates|
|Bank of America Cash Rewards||0%||15.74%-25.74%||$0|
|IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card||N/A||17.99%-24.99%||$89|
|Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express||0%||14.74%-25.74%||$95|
|Navy Federal More Rewards American Express Card||0%||11.65%-18.00%||$0|
|Discover it Cash Back||0%||13.74%-24.74%||$0|
In addition to offering cash or points rewards, some rewards cards also offer hefty cash and points incentives to entice you to apply. In most cases, you’ll have to charge a certain dollar value of purchases to your card within the first two or three months after you open the account. But if you can do that without carrying a balance forward, it could be a good deal. Take a look at these best offers for October to see which ones might be worth it for you.
|Some of the Best Rewards Credit Card Offers of October 2019|
|Credit Card||Intro APR||Regular APR||Annual Fee||Sign-Up Bonus|
|Disney Premier Visa Card from Chase||0% for 6 months on select Disney vacation packages||17.99%||$49||Earn a $200 statement credit by spending $500 within the first 90 days of account opening|
|PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card||0% for 12 months||11.74%-17.99%||$0||Earn a $100 statement credit by spending $1,500 within the first 90 days of account opening|
|Chase Freedom||0% for 15 months||16.99%-25.74%||$0||Earn a $200 bonus by spending $500 within the first 90 days of account opening|
|Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card||N/A||16.24%-24.24%||$0||Earn a $50 Amazon gift card when credit card application is approved|
|Quicksilver from Capital One||0% for 15 months||15.74%-25.74%||$0||Earn a $150 statement credit by spending $500 within the first 90 days of account opening|
|Key2More Rewards from KeyBank||0% for 6 months||14.74%-23.74%||$0||Earn a 50,000-point welcome bonus by spending $500 within 60 days of account opening and having a KeyBank checking account in good standing|
|Cash Magnet Card from American Express||0% for 15 months||14.74%-25.74%||$0||Earn a $175 statement credit by spending $1,500 within 90 days of account opening|
As credit card rewards become more popular, card issuers continually try to improve their offerings to gain more customers. As a result, some rewards have become a bit complicated. Here’s an overview of how credit card rewards work.
Rewards are typically earned as a percentage of purchases. If you have a card that offers 1% cash back and you charge something on your credit card that costs $100, you earn $1 in cash back.
Some cards will pay higher amounts on certain types of purchases. For example, if your credit card pays 2% on gas and 3% on groceries, you’ll get $1 cash back on your $50 gas purchase, and $3 back once you’ve bought $100 worth of groceries.
Certain card issuers will change the categories of purchases on which they give bonus points throughout the year. So, you could earn 3% on groceries from January through March but then earn 3% on gas from April through June. In some cases, you need to go to the card issuer’s website and opt in to get the increased rewards. They might limit the amount of bonus rewards you can get; for example, the limit could be the first $2,500 of purchases in that category per quarter.
Rewards fall into three basic categories: cash back, points and miles. When you earn cash back, you can redeem the amount you’ve earned by requesting that it be applied to your account as a credit, which would reduce your balance, or you can ask the card issuer to send you a check. When you earn points, you can redeem them for cash or other things, such as gift cards, merchandise or travel. When you earn miles, which is common with airline or travel cards, you might be able to redeem them for cash or you may have to use them for future travel.
If you’ve been charging up a storm and have a big cache of rewards, it’s probably time to redeem them. Your card issuer’s website should have instructions on how to redeem your rewards. You should be able to select the option you want — such as a statement credit, check or gift card — and the number of points you want to redeem.
Maximize Your Rewards
Cash back and other rewards might seem a bit like spare change when you first start using them, but like that spare change, they add up. To make the most of your rewards, the first thing you want to do is to make sure you have the right rewards credit card. If you use your credit card to charge groceries, gas and the kids’ swim lessons, don’t get a travel card. In other words, get the card that gives rewards for the types of things you charge.
Next, stay on top of your rewards. If your card requires you to opt in to rewards each quarter, put a note in your calendar to go to the website every three months to opt in. And while you don’t have to log every purchase you make, keep an eye on your rewards balance to make sure you’re getting all the rewards you earn.
Redeem your rewards the right way. Cash is usually king — merchandise rewards may have you spending more than you would elsewhere for the same item.
Credit Card Churning Guide: How To Maximize Rewards
Different rewards can have different values, but the math generally works like this: You earn rewards at the rate of 1% to 5% on purchases. So, if you buy a $500 plane ticket on a card that gives 2% cash back on travel, you get $10 cash back.
Some cards give points, and they’ll offer, for example, two points per dollar spent on travel. So, that plane ticket will earn you 1,000 points. When you go to redeem your points for cash, you get $1 for every 100 points. So, those 1,000 points are worth $10.
Some cards, particularly hotel or airline cards, might use a different formula. Before you decide which card you’re going to apply for, understand the value of the points you’ll be earning.
Calculating the Value of Rewards
When you’re considering which card to apply for, you should calculate the value of the rewards offered. Here’s how to figure out the value of rewards from a credit card:
- Determine the number of points you earn per dollar. Some cards offer different amounts for different categories.
- Estimate the amount you will purchase on the card in a year, breaking it down by category if the points vary.
- Add in any bonus points offered.
- Divide the number of points by the redemption factor. This is usually 100, but check the fine print on the website to be sure.
Perks of Rewards Cards
“You can think of [a rewards card] as a rebate on your spending,” said Jason Steele, a credit card and travel expert. “It could be as little as 1% of the value of your spending or as high as several percent, or even more.”
In addition to points and rewards, you can get other perks with a rewards card. Here are some additional benefits that some rewards credit cards offer:
- Travel perks, such as travel insurance, when you use your card to purchase your tickets
- Purchase insurance, including protection for big-ticket items such as TVs and electronics
- Security features, such as fraud alerts
- Account enhancements, such as overdraft protection or mobile and online account management
Some rewards cards offer fewer fees, such as no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees if you’re traveling overseas.
If you’re just starting out, a rewards card can help you build your credit. You might have to start with a low credit line, but if you pay your bill promptly and don’t overspend, you might be eligible for credit line increases along the way.
Drawbacks to Rewards Cards
Rewards credit cards have become so commonplace, and there are so many different features that you have to look carefully for, in order to determine if the card you’re considering has drawbacks. Some things to look out for include:
- Higher interest rates than cards that don’t offer rewards. “So if you’re the kind of person who carries a balance on your cards, either sometimes or all the time, you’d be better off with a non-rewards card that offers a lower interest rate than a rewards card,” said Steele. “A non-rewards card will generally have no annual fee, whereas a premium rewards card will have an annual fee.”
- Rewards categories that you have to keep track of. For example, some rewards cards have rotating categories that can offer very large bonuses. But the “disadvantage is that you have to remember to activate that bonus category,” said Steele.
- A higher credit score required to qualify. “There are some rewards cards that are available to people with good or even kind of fair credit,” said Steele. “Generally speaking, though, you should expect less competitive rewards when you have a lower credit score.”
Perhaps the biggest drawback is that a rewards card might encourage a tendency to purchase things you don’t need in order to get rewards. Rewards are great, but they represent a small fraction of the purchase price of an item and should never be the reason you buy something.
You can find a rewards card for just about anything, from travel to business, retail, gas and more — the list goes on and on. And each card has its own perks. Here are some examples of the various rewards cards you can find:
- Disney: The Disney Visa Card offers a 0% promotional APR on select Disney vacation packages for the first six months you have the card.
- Uber: The Uber Visa Card offers 4% cash back on dining, including Uber Eats.
- Sports: The NHL Discover it card gives you a 10% discount on NHL gear and on an NHL.TV subscription.
- Restaurants: SavorOne from Capital One gives you 3% unlimited cash back on dining and entertainment.
- Hotels: The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card gives you 14 Hilton Honors Bonus Points per dollar on purchases at Hilton hotels and resorts and seven points per dollar on directly booked flights.
- Gas: For a limited time, Sunoco Rewards saves you 25 cents per gallon of Sunoco gas for 60 days, with no limits.
- Retail: The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card gives you 5% back on all purchases at Amazon.com and Whole Foods.
- Luxury: Chase Sapphire Reserve gives you an annual travel credit, triple points on travel and dining, and a whole lot of street cred.
- Cash Back: Citi Double Cash Back gives you cash back twice: 1% when you make a purchase, and another 1% when you pay for that purchase.
- Business: Spark Cash from Capital One gives you 2% cash back on everything.
- Credit Builder: The Platinum credit card from Capital One helps you build credit by starting you off with a low credit line and increasing it after you make five on-time payments.
The number of rewards cards can be overwhelming, and that makes it difficult to choose the right card for you. Here are some things to ask yourself to help narrow down your options:
- What will you purchase with the card? If you’ll be making travel purchases or shopping online, look for a card that features extra rewards in those categories. If you’ll be making everyday purchases, like groceries or gas, find a card that gives extra rewards for those.
- Will you pay in full every month or carry a balance? If you will carry a balance, even sometimes, look for a card with a low interest rate. If not, look for a card with no annual fee.
- Will you transfer a balance from another card? If so, find a card with an introductory balance transfer rate and either no fee or a low one.
- How will you use your rewards? If you want cash back, look for cards that offer that. If you travel frequently, a travel card might provide more lucrative rewards.
Once you’ve determined what’s important to you in a rewards credit card, you need to compare the various features of rewards cards.
Take the time to compare the rewards credit cards you’re interested in, and be on the lookout for any new offerings on the market.
“If you don’t have the latest credit card and you’re not getting all of the features and benefits that you need, you’re really not doing as well as you can,” said Steele. “When it comes to rewards, you could be leaving money on the table. In terms of interest rates and fees, you don’t want to pay more than you need to.”
When comparing cards, consider these factors:
- APR: Look at the introductory and regular interest rates, especially if you will carry a balance.
- Fees: Look at annual fees, foreign transaction fees, and fees for cash advances and balance transfers.
- Sign-Up Bonus: Consider how many points you’ll get for signing up and how much those points are worth.
- Rewards, Cash Back and Points: Compare how points are earned and how they are redeemed. Calculate what you would earn on a given transaction with each card you’re considering.
- Spending Categories: Make sure these align with your spending habits.
- Additional Benefits and Perks: Compare the ones you actually will use.
Remember that the credit card market is a “really, really vibrant market that changes frequently,” said Steele. “And by comparing the best cards out there, you can find the deal that’s right for you.”
Here are the answers to a few commonly asked questions about rewards cards.
What credit score do I need to get a rewards credit card?
To qualify for rewards cards with the best interest rates, you’ll want an exceptional score, which is at least 800 under the FICO score system. If your score is in the range of 740 to 799, which is considered very good, you are likely to qualify for cards with better than average rates. If your score falls in the range of 670 to 739, which is considered good, you’ll still have options when you’re on the lookout for a rewards card.
Which rewards card is the easiest to get approved for?
Some rewards cards are easier to qualify for than others. The QuicksilverOne card from Capital One is promoted as being a good choice for those with average credit, and your credit line can increase after five on-time payments.
Can you earn cash back with a rewards credit card?
Most rewards cards offer cash back as an option. The few that don’t include certain hotel cards, such as the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, which only lets you redeem your points for stays at Hilton properties.
Do rewards, points and cash back expire with a rewards credit card?
In most cases, rewards do not expire. Points on cards from issuers such as Capital One, Chase and Discover never expire as long as your account is open and in good standing. Points on some travel cards may expire. For example, points earned on IHG Rewards Club cards expire after 12 months of no account activity.
What happens to my rewards if I close my account?
If you close your account, you’ll lose your points, so use them up before you close the account.
Are there any rewards cards with no annual fee?
Yes. Bank of America Cash Rewards, Navy Federal More Rewards, Discover it Cash Back and many other cards have no annual fee.
Can I transfer my rewards to a friend or family member?
Most rewards cards will allow you to transfer your rewards points. Just go to the card website and look for the rewards section.
Will I lose my rewards if I miss a credit card payment?
No, but you cannot redeem your rewards if your account is not in good standing. If you miss a payment, your standing will not be good until you pay the minimum you owe.
Can I earn rewards by transferring my balance?
No, rewards cards don’t give rewards on balance transfers.
Can I earn rewards by adding an authorized user to my card?
Yes. Every eligible purchase, whether it’s made by you or another authorized user, earns rewards.
Can I use rewards to pay off my credit card?
Yes. You can use your rewards as a statement credit. You will still need to make your minimum payment if you have a balance.
Learn More About the Best Credit Cards of 2019
Karen Doyle is a personal finance writer and former financial advisor.
Daria Uhlig contributed to the reporting for this article. She has over 10 years of experience as a freelance writer specializing in personal finance and real estate. Her bylines appear on national sites, including USA Today, MSN and CNBC.
Erika Giovanetti contributed to the reporting for this article. She is a writer with experience covering a multitude of subjects, from personal finance to politics to the great outdoors.
Methodology: GOBankingRates analyzed dozens of rewards cards — including cash-back, travel and store credit cards — and identified the best rewards credit cards by analyzing the following factors: (1) annual fees; (2) regular APR for purchases; (3) promotional APR for purchases; (4) sign-up bonuses; (5) rewards and features. All fees and rates are subject to change at the credit card issuers’ discretion. Some bonus offers might no longer be available on the credit card issuers’ websites, depending on how you access the webpage. All data for the Best Rewards Credit Cards of 2019 was sourced from each financial institution’s website or promotional material and is accurate as of Sept. 18, 2019. Please verify terms and conditions — especially sign-up bonuses and other bonus offers — before opening an account. Every month, GOBankingRates’ research team updates data and details on each credit card in order to maintain accurate and relevant information for readers; however, credit card rankings remain the same as of the original date the research was conducted and rankings were established: June 12, 2019.
Editorial Disclosure: GOBankingRates is a personal finance and consumer interest rate website owned by ConsumerTrack Inc., an online marketing company serving top-tier banks, credit unions and other financial services organizations. Some companies mentioned in this article might be clients of ConsumerTrack Inc., which serves more than 100 national, local and online financial institutions. Rankings and roundups are completely objective, and no institution, client or otherwise, paid for inclusion or specific placement. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of GOBankingRates alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the companies included in the article. All fees and rates are subject to change at the issuers’ discretion. Some interest rates might be short-term or promotional offers only, and it is possible additional terms and conditions must be met in order to obtain the interest rates listed. Rates and availability might vary by region. Verify terms and conditions before opening an account.
GOBankingRates bases its assessment of “best” and “top” products on the above-stated parameters to create a baseline for comparison. This assessment is an approximation of “best” and “top” designed to help consumers find products that might be appropriate for them. There could be other options available as well. Consumers should consider various options appropriate for their personal circumstances.
Editorial Note: This content is not provided by American Express. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone and have not been endorsed by American Express.