10 Best Rewards Credit Cards of 2014

rewards credit card

If you’re thinking about getting your hands on a rewards credit card in 2015, you’ll find no two are identical. There are so many different varieties on the market today that run the rewards gamut, from cash back, airline miles and redeemable hospitality to retail points (just to name a few); picking the right card can be a challenge when taking into account the best interest rate, lowest fees and highest earning potential.

Before going blind into the world of credit, we took these factors into account and compiled a list of the 10 best rewards credit cards, so you can see which one suits your spending habits best.

>>Read our 5 credit card hacks that help you save money on everything. 

What Makes a Good Rewards Credit Card?

Finding the right balance is key when selecting the right rewards credit card.

“A good rewards credit card should offer a few things,” said Christine Linder of CompareCards.com. “At least 1.5% cash back on all purchases because the majority of rewards cards already offer 1% cash back on all purchases. This is especially true for cards that don’t offer additional rewards for certain bonus categories; rewards shouldn’t expire or have a cap on how much you can earn; and redeeming rewards should be pretty for the cardholder.”

Related: Hilton vs. Marriott: Which Has the Best Rewards Credit Card?

10 Best Rewards Credit Cards

1. PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card

CardHub awarded Pentagon Federal Credit Union‘s top credit card its best “Road Trip Rewards” card, since you can earn five points per every gas purchase at the pump, with built-in emergency roadside service. Points are abundant on PenFed’s Platinum plastic: up to three on supermarket buys and at least one point on every other retail charge. Credit union members considering this card will find other incentives, including no fees annually or for foreign transactions.

2. Chase Sapphire Preferred

It’s touted as one of the best travel credit cards the world over. If you’re in the air or checking into hotels across the country, either for business or for pleasure, look into Chase Bank’s Sapphire Preferred credit card. The card allows you to transfer earned points to any participating frequent travel programs and earn two times the points on travel and dining expenses; in addition, customers will earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months after opening the card.

3. CapitalOne Venture Rewards Credit Card

You can earn two miles per dollar on every purchase, every day, without expiring. The card also comes with all the benefits offered to Visa Signature cardholders; CapitalOne’s Purchase Eraser even allows you to redeem rewards for past travel.

4. Blue Cash Everyday from American Express

“If you have a family, then this is the rewards card for you,” suggested Matthew Coan, founder of finance website Casavvy.com. The Blue Cash Everyday Card was, as the name implies, made for everyday purchases. Get 3 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets up to $6,000 per year, 2 percent cash back at U.S. gas stations and select department stores, and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases.

5. U.S. Bank Cash + Visa Signature Card

The U.S. Bank Cash + Visa Signature Card is one of the most unique rewards cards we’ve come across. Cardholders get to choose which category of purchases will earn the most rewards, which is perfect for those who hate being limited to the category chosen by the card issuer. You can pick two categories that will earn 5 percent cash back each quarter and one category that will earn 2 percent cash back; all other purchases still earn 1 percent cash back. The only catch is that you must remember to choose your categories each quarter, and the 5 percent category has a quarterly $2,000 cap on purchases.

6. Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards Secured Credit Card

For those with low credit or limited credit history who want to build their score, a secured card can be a great tool. Most don’t come equipped with rewards, though. Navy Federal Credit Union‘s, on the other hand, does — one of the only secured credit cards on the market to do so. Like any secured card can do, it can reward you with a better credit standing and score, but also gives the added bonus of earning one point per every dollar spent (point redemption starts when 1,000 are accrued). Unlike other secured lines of credit, it comes with a surprisingly low APR — 8.99% — and doesn’t have an annual fee.

7. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard

f is one of the best all around travel rewards cards available, allowing spenders to earn two miles for every $1 that they spend. You can use your miles as statement credits toward past travel expenses — and if you do this, Barclaycard will give you a 10 percent bonus back. You’ll also receive 40,000 bonus miles if you make $3,000 in purchases within the first 90 days. The only drawback is an $89 annual fee, but it is waived for the first year.

Read: Maximize Credit Card Rewards With One of These 4 Mobile Apps

8. The Discover It Card

“The Discover It Card is a cash back rewards credit card that offers 5 percent cash back on purchases made in certain categories that rotate each quarter throughout the year,” Coan said. Shop online with the It Card through shopDiscover.com and earn anywhere from 5 to 20 percent cash back at over 200 online retailers. The It Card is the one to choose for making frequent balance transfers, with 0% interest for 14 months, making this card the best option for anyone looking to top off their balance transfers with some rewards.

9. CapitalOne QuickSilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

Cardholders can earn up to 1.5 percent cash back on every dollar spent, with no rotating bonus categories, and zero cash back caps. In addition, the QuickSilver Cash card has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees for anyone traveling overseas.

10. The Chase Freedom

Want one of the best rewards rates out there without the commitment of fees and hassle of annoying rewards programs? Enter the Chase Freedom, which earns 5 percent cash back on bonus categories that change every quarter, such as gas, groceries, restaurants and Amazon.com, up to $1,500 spent per quarter. You’ll earn 1 percent cash back on all other purchases. Plus, the card comes with a great sign-up bonus: Earn a $200 bonus after you make $500 in purchases in your first three months after account opening.

Watch Out for These Rewards Credit Card Red Flags

Don’t let low rates or high cash-back/points rewards be the only things to consider before applying for a rewards card. Navy Federal’s Randy Hopper suggests proceeding with caution. When picking the right card, consider these points:

  • Understand the value of your rewards. What can you buy with your points?
  • Can you redeem your rewards the way you want to?
  • Beware of rewards programs with complex, tiered point-accrual structures that change frequently.
  • Are there lengthy, drawn-out point redemption waiting periods?
  • Does your rewards program cap the amount of points you can earn/redeem? If so, move on to one that doesn’t.

“Some things to watch for with rewards cards are enrollment or sign up requirements, expiration restrictions and reward caps,” says Kari Luckett of CompareCards.com. “A good rewards card should be convenient and non-limiting.”

Luckett advised consumers to read the fine print before applying or signing up. “Some rewards programs require you to register before you can start earning rewards, which is really unfortunate for those who don’t check their terms and conditions and end up making purchases without accruing anything,” she said. “Other reward cards may have redemption restrictions where you may not be able to redeem your rewards until the end of the card’s anniversary year.”

Photo credit: Robert Scroble 

  • FraserSt

    Yeah, that is a fantastic list of cards with some of the lesser-known ones that are my personal faves.

    You might also want to check out the reward calculator at CreditCardTuneUp. com to see which cards will pay you the most for your expenses. It also calculates good combinations of cards for your expenses, so you know which would be good complementary cards for your main card, etc.

  • jthitch

    I have a PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card and have a very different opinion of it. The value of rewards in their point based system has proven to be unreliable.

    For years I had the PenFed Cash Rewards card which gave 5% on gas and 1% on everything else – in cash, monthly, on your statement. Simple. Transparent. Perfect. In early 2012 I was pushed into the new points based Platinum Rewards Card. Five points per dollar spent on gas and one point on everything else. Points were worth 1 cent and redeemable for prepaid VISA cards. It sounded the same as the Cash Rewards Card except for the added hassle of redemption. I called PenFed customer service and they said that it is the same. But, like Bill Clinton said, it depends on what the meaning of “is” is.

    In July 2014 I had enough points for two $500 prepaid VISA cards and tried to redeem them, but points had
    been devalued and I could get only $800 worth. Turns out the redemption value was reduced in August 2013, just a year after the card was introduced, in the dark of night, with no advance notice. They took me for $200.

    I started an email exchange with the Chairman of the Board of PenFed, retired Army Colonel Jim Quinn. Good on him for responding at least. He said they changed to a point system because the “economics” are different. And now I know what that means. He quoted the terms and conditions for the card which state that PenFed may “withdraw, limit, modify or cancel any reward, decrease the amount of points earned per purchase, or increase the number of points required for any reward, even though such changes may affect the accrual or values of Points or Rewards.” So, he claimed, they did nothing wrong. The difference in economics comes from being
    able changing point values with no notice and I think that was their plan all along.

    Buyer Beware.

  • guest

    LOL at PenFed ranked #1. Its rewards program is a joke – earned points are devalued at PenFed’s whim, and can no longer be redeemed at 100:1 rate like one would’ve expected.