7 Credit Cards That Offer Great Points and Rewards, Recommended by Finance Experts
Think about the last time you went out to a group dinner. As everyone threw their credit cards in, was it a stack of Sapphires? A mix of Amex and Capital One? There are countless options for credit cards, each with their own menu of points per dollar, bonus points, and more.
If you’ve ever looked at pages of credit card fine print trying to decipher when you’re earning points for travel or cash back and wondered how you even begin to redeem one or the other, don’t worry. I asked credit card and personal finance experts for the details on their favorite cards and exactly what each offers — explained in layperson’s terms.
Here are their top seven credit card recommendations that offer great points and rewards, as well as insight on who should consider each card according to specific spending and redeeming habits.
For Entry-Level Credit Users: Capital One VentureOne Rewards
Andrew Bryant of Credit Weld, a website dedicated to improving credit, recommends the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card as an excellent entry-level card. “This card offers a variety of benefits including 1.25 miles per dollar spent on all purchases, no foreign transaction fees, and a $0 intro annual fee,” he says. Additionally, for those looking to make a big purchase or take a splurge-worthy trip overseas, this card offers a zero percent intro APR on purchases for the first 12 months.
For Travel Earning Newbies: Chase Freedom Unlimited
“The Chase Freedom Unlimited is my top recommendation for those new to earning points and credit card rewards,” says Phil Dengler of travel and points website The Vacationer. With no annual fee, 3 percent on dining and at drugstores and 1.5 percent on everything else, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card is a great everyday option that comes with the added benefit of earning 5 percent cash back on travel booked through Chase. Plus, you’ll get purchase protection, travel insurance, and rental car insurance.
Dengler explains, “I regularly use my Chase Freedom Unlimited on drugstore purchases and on other purchases where I do not earn more than 1.5 percent cash back with another card. I then transfer all of the points to my Chase Sapphire Reserve card to redeem for 50 percent more value. I have gotten hundreds of dollars in additional value over the past few years by doing that!”
Ready to start swiping? Once you have the Chase Freedom Unlimited in hand, you’ll earn bonuses including $200 after spending $500 in the first three months and 5 percent cash back on gas station purchases for up to $6,000 spent in the first year.
For Avid Travelers: Chase Sapphire Reserve
Meanwhile, for those who are eyeing their next points-fueled Caribbean vacay, Dengler says, “The Chase Sapphire Reserve is currently my favorite travel rewards credit card, and it isn’t even close.” The card earns up to 10 times the points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards, and all other travel and dining purchases earn triple the points per dollar spent.
It does have a $550 annual fee, but Dengler points out that the $300 automatic travel credit essentially makes it a $250 annual fee.
Plus, for those who like to travel with perks, Chase Sapphire Reserve grants Priority Pass Lounge Access. The card also offers travel insurance, primary rental car insurance, and 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months.
Ben Walker, the in-house credit card expert at FinanceBuzz, notes that if your travel plans align with the Chase Pay Yourself Back categories, you can get up to a 50 percent bonus on redemptions. He says, “I booked about four months’ worth of Airbnb stays for an upcoming trip abroad, primarily using Pay Yourself Back redemptions on my Chase Sapphire Reserve.”
For Cash Back Fans: Discover it Cash Back Credit Card
Annie Hanson, financial coach and owner of Mindfully Money, doesn’t recommend paying annual fees, particularly if you’re not getting the most out of your card. That’s why she recommends the Discover it Cash Back Credit Card. This card offers 1 percent back on all purchases plus 5 percent back on select purchases from different retailers each quarter.
“I always advise people to get a card with no annual fee and cash back rewards that can be used to pay off the balance each month,” Hanson explains.
For Grocery Shoppers: Blue Cash Preferred from American Express
One or 2 percent cash back is great, but if you know that you spend more in certain areas, then it’s worth looking into the specific cards that will reward you for those purchases. Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate, recommends the Blue Cash Preferred from American Express, explaining, “This card gives 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in annual spending.”
For someone who makes frequent Whole Foods trips or can’t stay away from Trader Joe’s impulse buys, this card can add up to hundreds of dollars in cash back over the course of a year. Rossman adds, “The Blue Cash Preferred card also gives 6 percent cash back on select streaming services and 3 percent cash back on gas.” Why not get cash back if you’re going to pay for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Spotify anyway?
Plus, he says, “American Express has a top-notch reputation for customer service.”
For Sustainable Consumers: FutureCard Visa® card
A newcomer to the field and slightly different because it’s a charge card rather than a credit card (meaning you have to pay off the balance in full each month), the FutureCard Visa card rewards consumers for green spending with 5 percent cash back on actions such as taking public transport, electric charging, using bikes and scooters, shopping for second hand goods, and buying plant-based food.
Jean-Louis Warnholz, founder of Future, says, “Future is on a mission to make climate-smart living rewarding and accessible. That’s why we offer 5 percent cashback with FutureCard when you charge your car, take the metro, or buy secondhand fashion.”
For Big Spenders: American Express Platinum Card
The American Express Platinum Card has a steep annual fee at $695, but, as Matt Bundrick, co-founder of BankBonus.com, explains, “you immediately see value in the first year with a 100,000 point signup bonus worth at least $1,000.” With perks including hotel status and credits, rental car status, airport lounge access, airline fee credits, Uber cash, and Saks Fifth Avenue credits, this is a card that rewards you for spending on travel and other lifestyle purchases.
Bundrick says, “They’ve also recently added credits for Walmart Plus, Equinox, and SoulCycle. It’s not a great everyday spending card, as it only has elevated earnings on airline and some hotel purchases, but if you’re looking for a great ‘lifestyle enhancement’ credit card, this would be it!” This is the card that brings to mind the luxury branding often associated with swiping an Amex — and it could be worth it if that’s how you spend.