The right rewards credit card offers great perks and bonuses for spending the money you were already going to spend anyway. Here’s a look at five of the best rewards cards out there.
Earlier this week we asked you to share which rewards credit card was the best, and we’ve rounded up the five most popular answers here.
Since each rewards credit card program has different purchasing criteria and benefits, it pays to compare and evaluate them against your household spending.
Also, as mentioned previously, rewards credit cards benefit you the most if you use the credit wisely — by paying off the balance each month. You don’t want to end up spending more on fees or interest charges than benefiting from the rewards.
None of the five cards below charge an annual fee (the Costco Amex requires a paid Costco membership, however). It’s also interesting to note that the cards most voted for all offer rewards as a per cent cash back (rather than miles) and don’t limit the amount of cash back you can earn.
Many people with financial smarts are Costco members; they shop there to get more value for their money. It's no surprise, then, that the Costco American Express card--which offers cash back for virtually every purchase--comes highly recommended for people who want to get more benefits from their credit card. Costco members, specifically, benefit from this program: there's no annual fee for Costco members, you get cash back (1%) on your Costco purchases, and the single card serves as both an American Express card and your Costco membership card. You'll also get higher cash back for spending in specific categories: 2% for travel, 3% for restaurants, and 3% for gas purchases. All other spending earns 1% cash back. The reward comes in the form of an annual cash rebate coupon, redeemable at Costco for cash or merchandise.
Though not as widely accepted as the other major credit cards, Discover (specifically the Discover More Card) offers one of the most generous cash back rates: 5% on categories that change every month or few months and 1% on all other purchases. You'll have to check the 5% bonus calendar to see which are the highest cash back categories, and there are sometimes spending caps, as reader l337_7r4d3r mentioned, Discover sometimes offers great unique promotions/rewards. Also, you don't have to wait a year to redeem your rewards -- you can redeem for cash or credit starting at $50 or for merchandise, gift cards, and other options starting at $20. (Tip: Discover sometimes offers a 0% lifetime APR for balance transfers; if that offer ever comes your way and if you're carrying debt elsewhere, you can save thousands in interest charges with Discover.)
Like the Discover More card, the American Express Blue Cash credit card offers up to 5% cash back on specific categories. The categories don't change, though -- you earn up to 5% back on gas, grocery, and drug store (or 'everyday purchases') specifically, and a relatively generous 1.25% cash back on all other purchases. But before you can reach these cash back rates, you'll need to charge at least $6,500 on your Blue Cash card each year (the Blue Cash year starts on your card issue date); until you do so you'll get 1% for everyday purchases and 0.5% for everything else. The reward comes in the form of a credit on your statement the month after your Card anniversary date. (Tip: Play with the Blue Cash calculator to see your cash back potential with Amex Blue Cash and compare with other options.)
The Chase Freedom Card also offers up to 5% cash back on spending, depending on your types of purchases. Chase offers both a Visa or MasterCard Freedom option, which makes it more universally accepted than all of the other cards here (besides the Amazon.com Rewards Visa below). The 5% cash back categories change quarterly and require you to enroll -- which really only requires clicking on a couple of links -- to get the high cash back bonus; all other purchases earn 1% cash back. Rewards are earned as points and can be redeemed for a check, gift card, or merchandise as soon as you have enough points (2,000 points for $20, for example). If you're a Chase banking customer, you can also earn additional points more quickly.
Another Chase rewards credit card, the Amazon.com Rewards Visa, as you can imagine, rewards users for buying things from Amazon. You've probably already seen the $30 sign-up savings offer when checking out at Amazon. Every dollar you spend on eligible Amazon purchases gives you 3 points (i.e., 3% cash back in the 100 points = 1% cash back scheme). Pay for your gas, restaurant dining, or drugstore purchases with the card and you'll get 2 points. Everywhere else, you'll earn 1 point. You can redeem your points for cash back once you have 2,500 points (if you only use your card for Amazon purchases, that's $833.33).
An honorable mention goes to the Fidelity Rewards American Express Card, which has a more straightforward 2% reward on all purchases that can be transferred to your Fidelity investment account (IRA, 529, etc.) or redeemed for cash.
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