Best Rewards Credit Cards of 2023

Written by Glen Luke Flanagan / January 24, 2023
Reviewed by Robin Saks Frankel

Picking the best rewards credit card is a very personal decision—if you long to see the world, a premium travel card that lets you transfer rewards to airline and hotel partners can help make your dreams a reality. If you’re more interested in maximizing rewards earned on more everyday spending such as pet food and furniture, a cash-back card that lets you pick your categories might be best.

A few of the factors that make a rewards credit card stand out from the pack include elevated earning rates in certain categories, earning categories not commonly found on other cards and flexible redemption options. Some cards charge an annual fee while others do not. Whether an annual fee is worth it for you will depend how much you spend in the card’s rewards categories. 

We analyzed a broad swath of credit cards in this category, from a variety of issuers, to curate a list of the very best. Here are our selections.

Inside this article

  1. Best rewards credit cards of 2023
  2. Best overall rewards credit card: Chase Freedom Flex℠
  3. Best for renters: Bilt World Elite Mastercard®
  4. Best for travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
  5. Best for households: U.S. Bank Shopper Cash Rewards™ Visa Signature® Card
  6. Best for Amazon shopping: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
  7. Best for travel rewards on a budget: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  8. Best companion rewards card: Citi Custom Cash℠ Card
  9. Best for groceries and streaming: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
  10. Best credit union rewards card: Navy Federal Credit Union Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Card
  11. Best for Costco shopping and gas: Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
  12. Compare the best credit cards for rewards
  13. Should you get a rewards credit card?
  14. Guide to rewards credit cards
  15. Methodology
  16. Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Best rewards credit cards of 2023

  • Best overall rewards credit card: Chase Freedom Flex℠

  • Best for renters: Bilt World Elite Mastercard®

  • Best for travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • Best for households: U.S. Bank Shopper Cash Rewards™ Visa Signature® Card

  • Best for Amazon shopping: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

  • Best for travel rewards on a budget: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Best companion rewards card: Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

  • Best for groceries and streaming: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

  • Best credit union rewards card: Navy Federal Credit Union Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Card

  • Best for Costco shopping and gas: Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

Best overall rewards credit card: Chase Freedom Flex℠

Why it’s the best

The Chase Freedom Flex charges no annual fee, earns cash back in a wide variety of categories and offers a generous welcome bonus. It also comes with low intro APR periods on purchases and balance transfers. Last, but not least, Chase lets you redeem rewards in a variety of ways—including transferring them to a premium Ultimate Rewards®-earning card and enjoying 25% to 50% more value for travel bookings via Chase’s portal.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • Generous cash-back potential if you maximize rotating categories.

  • Can pool rewards with a premium Ultimate Rewards®-earning card.

  • Low intro APR periods on purchases and balance transfers.

Cons:

  • Rotating categories must be activated quarterly.

  • Not all rotating categories will be a good fit for every cardholder.

  • Takes work to track the various rewards categories.

More details

  • Annual fee: $0

  • Rewards: 5% back on travel purchased through Chase, 5% back on up to $1,500 spent per quarter in rotating quarterly categories like gas stations and grocery stores when you activate, 3% back on dining and at drugstores, 1% back on all other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus: Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Plus, earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (excluding Target and Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

  • APR: 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After, a 18.74% - 27.49% variable APR applies. Intro balance transfer fee of 3% ($5 minimum) on balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After, 5% ($5 minimum). 

  • Perks and benefits: Cell phone protection of up to $800 per claim with a $50 deductible, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver, travel and emergency services, purchase protection and extended warranty.

Best for renters: Bilt World Elite Mastercard®

Why it’s the best

It’s almost unheard of for a credit card to offer specific rewards for paying rent, but the Bilt Mastercard does. Not only that, but the issuer also allows you to avoid the convenience fee charges most landlords tack on for paying rent by credit card. The no-annual-fee card also earns elevated rewards rates on dining and travel, lets you transfer points 1:1 to airline and hotel partners and provides primary rental car coverage, too.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • Earns rewards on rent payments.

  • No additional fees for paying rent by credit card.

  • No annual fee or foreign transaction fees.

Cons:

  • You must make 5 transactions per billing period to earn rewards.

  • No welcome bonus or intro APR period.

  • Restrictive definition of what counts as a travel purchase.

More details

  • Annual fee: $0

  • Rewards: 1 point per dollar on rent payments (up to 50,000 points each year), 3 points per dollar on dining, 2 points per dollar on travel, 1 point per dollar on other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus: None

  • APR: 20.49%, 23.49% or 28.49% variable.

  • foreign transaction fees: None

  • Perks and benefits: Cell phone protection of up to $800 with a $25 deductible, primary rental car coverage, trip cancellation and interruption reimbursement, trip delay protection, purchase protection and the World Elite Mastercard Concierge.

Best for travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Why it’s the best

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers rewards on everything from booking airfare to ordering takeout. The card can easily provide the right cardholder with enough value to cover the annual fee, but may not be as great a fit for anyone who doesn't plan to redeem rewards for travel using the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • High rewards potential on travel and dining purchases.

  • Increased redemption value for Chase Ultimate Rewards travel bookings, plus a list of popular travel transfer partners.

  • Up to $300 travel credit, elite travel protections and lounge access.

Cons:

  • High $550 annual fee and $75 per authorized user.

  • Low reward potential for spending outside of bonus categories.

  • Requires an excellent credit score.

More details

  • Annual fee: $550, plus $75 per authorized user.

  • Rewards:  5 points per dollar spent on flights purchased through Chase, 10 points per dollar spent on hotels and car rentals purchased through Chase, 3 points per dollar on all other travel purchases after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually, 3 points per dollar spent on dining, 10 points per dollar on Chase dining, 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases and 10 points per dollar on Lyft purchases.

  • Welcome bonus:  60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, which equates to $900 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

  • foreign transaction fees: None.

  • Perks and benefits: $300 annual travel credit, 50% more value per point on travel redemptions using Chase’s portal, Priority Pass Select membership with enrollment, Global Entry or TSA Precheck or NEXUS fee credit, Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, DoorDash DashPass Subscription.

Best for households: U.S. Bank Shopper Cash Rewards™ Visa Signature® Card

Why it’s the best

With an industry-leading 6% cash-back rate (up to the quarterly maximum), the U.S. Bank Shopper Cash Rewards Card is a powerhouse. You can choose two retailers from a long list of popular names to earn those big rewards, including companies like Amazon.com, Chewy.com and Walmart.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • 6% cash back often beats the rewards on many co-branded credit cards

  • Wide selection of merchants to choose from for the 6% categories.

  • Annual fee is waived your first year with the card.

Cons:

  • After the first year, $95 annual fee.

  • Quarterly caps on 6% and 3% cash-back earnings.

  • No intro APR period.

More details

  • Annual fee: $0 intro for the first year, $95 per year thereafter.

  • Rewards: 6% cash back each quarter on combined eligible purchases from two retailers of choice ($1,500 limit), 5.5% cash back on prepaid car and hotel reservations booked through the Rewards Center, 3% cash back each quarter in one everyday category of choice ($1,500 limit) and 1.5% cash back on everything else.

  • Welcome bonus: $250 after spending $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 120 days of account opening.

  • APR: 18.74% - 28.74% variable.

  • Foreign transaction fees: 3% of each transaction.

  • Perks and benefits: Visa Signature Concierge, purchase security, return protection and extended warranty.

Best for Amazon shopping: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

Why it’s the best

If packages from Amazon.com flow to your door faster than the Amazon River itself moves, this might be the right rewards credit card for you. Charging no annual fee—aside from the cost of the Amazon Prime membership required to be eligible for the card—and earning a generous 5% back on all Amazon purchases, adding the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa to your wallet just makes sense.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • Generous rewards rate on Amazon purchases.

  • No minimum redemption for cash back.

  • Doesn’t charge an annual fee or foreign transaction fees.

Cons:

  • Requires an Amazon Prime membership.

  • Rewards are just OK for purchases outside Amazon and Whole Foods.

  • Welcome bonus is low compared to some competing cards.

More details

  • Annual fee: $0 with a Prime membership.

  • Rewards: 5% cash back in rewards at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market with an eligible Prime membership, 2% cash back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores and 1% on all other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus: $100 Amazon gift card upon approval.

  • APR: 18.49% to 26.49% variable.

  • foreign transaction fees: None

  • Perks and benefits: Visa Signature Concierge, extended warranty, purchase protection, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, travel accident insurance and the option for promotional financing (without rewards) on purchases of $50 or more.

Best for travel rewards on a budget: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Why it’s the best

As the little sibling to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with a much lower annual fee of $95. Plus, it earns rewards at generous rates on travel purchased through Chase and on dining, and offers the same lineup of transfer partners as the more expensive Sapphire Reserve. While you don’t get all the same bells and whistles as you do on the ultra-premium card, the Preferred still provides a robust selection of travel protections. 

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • Flexible points that can be transferred to 14 travel partners or redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards at 1.25 cents each.

  • $50 annual statement credit towards hotel bookings.

  • Valuable travel protections.

Cons:

  • $95 annual fee.

  • Category bonuses are limited and not competitive against other travel cards.

  • Transfer partner list is limited compared to programs like Amex Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou.

More details

  • Annual fee: $95

  • Rewards: Earn 5 points per dollar on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3 points per dollar on dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases (excluding Walmart, Target and wholesale clubs), 2 points per dollar on all other travel purchases and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within three months of account opening.

  • foreign transaction fees: None

  • Perks and benefits: $50 annual Ultimate Rewards hotel credit, trip cancellation/interruption coverage of up to $10,000 per person/$20,000 per trip, primary auto rental collision damage waiver, baggage delay insurance of up to $100 per day for five days, trip delay reimbursement of $500 per ticket for lodging and meals on delays over 12 hours, travel and emergency assistance services, purchase protection and extended warranty protection.

Best companion rewards card: Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

Why it’s the best

The Citi Custom Cash Card is an ideal choice for those who spend a lot in at least one or more of the bonus spending categories offered on the card, which includes restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs and live entertainment.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • No annual fees.

  • Easy-to-redeem cash-back rewards.

  • Introductory APR period.

Cons:

  • 3% foreign transaction fees.

  • $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater, balance transfer fee.

  • Limited cash-back reward categories.

More details

  • Annual fee: $0

  • Rewards: 5% cash back on your highest eligible spend category (up to $500 spent) and 1% cash back thereafter and on all other purchases. 

  • Welcome bonus: $200 cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. 

  • Intro APR: 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then a variable rate of 18.24% to 28.24%. 

  • APR: 18.24% to 28.24% variable.

  • Balance transfer fee: $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater. 

  • foreign transaction fees: 3%

  • Perks and benefits: Automatic account alerts, choose your payment due date, Citi Mobile App, Mastercard ID theft protection, $0 liability on unauthorized charges, free access to FICO score, fraud early warning, Citi quick lock, 24/7 customer service, access to Citi Entertainment program, digital wallets, tap your card with contactless pay.

Best for groceries and streaming: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Why it’s the best

The Blue Cash Preferred Card offers one of the highest rewards rates for groceries you’ll find. You’ll earn 6% back on your first $6,000 in spending at U.S. supermarkets, then 1%. It also offers an unlimited 6% on streaming. As a bonus, you can earn a solid 3% back on your gas and other transit purchases. All other spending earns 1%.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • Earns generous cash back in numerous categories.

  • Intro APR periods on purchases and balance transfers.

  • The annual fee is waived for your first year.

Cons:

  • After the first year, $95 annual fee.

  • Annual spending cap on 6% back at U.S. supermarkets.

  • Redemptions are only in the form of statement credits.

More details

  • Annual fee: $0 intro, $95 per year thereafter.

  • Rewards: 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more) and 1% cash back on other eligible purchases. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.

  • Welcome bonus: $300 statement credit after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first six months.

  • APR: 0% intro APR for 12 months on purchases and on balance transfers requested within 60 days of account opening. After, a 18.24% - 29.24% variable APR applies. There’s a balance transfer of 3% ($5 minimum). 

  • Foreign transaction fees: 2.7% of each transaction after conversion to U.S. dollars.

  • Perks and benefits: Up to $84 in credits for a Disney Bundle streaming subscription (enrollment required), up to $120 back in credits for Equinox+ (enrollment required), car rental loss and damage insurance, Global Assist Hotline and return protection.

Best credit union rewards card: Navy Federal Credit Union Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Card

Why it’s the best

For a relatively low $49 annual fee, the Navy Federal Flagship Rewards Card earns 3 points per dollar spent on travel and 2 points per dollar on everything else. Plus, it comes with a credit of up to $100 every four years to reimburse the application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • Broad definition of travel for 3 points per dollar.

  • Strong base earning rate of 2 points per dollar on other purchases.

  • Low annual fee compared to many other travel cards.

Cons:

  • Navy Federal Credit Union membership required to apply.

  • Lacks some of the protections one might want in a travel card.

  • $50 minimum redemption requirement for cash back.

More details

  • Annual fee: $49

  • Rewards: 3 points per dollar on travel and 2 points per dollar on everything else.

  • Welcome bonus: 30,000 points (a $300 value) after spending $3,000 within 90 days of account opening, and a free year of Amazon Prime (a $139 value).

  • APR: Intro APR of 1.99% on purchases for nine months. After, a 13.74% - 18% variable APR applies.

  • Foreign transaction fees: None

  • Perks and benefits: Lost luggage reimbursement, collision damage waiver,  travel and emergency assistance, worldwide automatic travel accident insurance, purchase security and no foreign transaction fees.

Best for Costco shopping and gas: Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

Why it’s the best

If you already pay for an annual Costco membership, the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi is practically essential for households who love a good deal, especially since there’s no annual fee. Plus, the card offers an impressive 4% cash-back rate on gas purchases worldwide—even at most non-Costco gas stations.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • No annual fee.

  • Good rewards rates on Costco purchases, gas, restaurants and travel..

  • No foreign transaction fees.

Cons:

  • You must keep your Costco membership open.

  • Rewards can expire.

  • 4% cash-back rate on gas has an annual cap.

More details

  • Annual fee: $0

  • Rewards: 4% cash back on eligible gas and EV charging purchases for the first $7,000 spent per year, then 1% thereafter, 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases, 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus: None

  • APR: 19.49% variable

  • Foreign transaction fees: None

  • Perks and benefits: Damage and theft purchase protection, access to concerts, sporting events and more with Citi Entertainment.

Compare the best credit cards for rewards

Welcome bonus Rewards Annual fee APR Benefits
Chase Freedom Flex℠ Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Plus, earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (excluding Target and Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year 5% back on travel purchased through Chase, 5% back on up to $1,500 spent per quarter in rotating quarterly categories like gas stations and grocery stores when you activate, 3% back on dining and at drugstores, 1% back on all other purchases $0 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After, a 18.74% - 27.49% variable APR applies Cell phone protection, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver, travel and emergency services, purchase protection, extended warranty
Bilt World Elite Mastercard®None 1 point per dollar on rent payments (up to 50,000 points each year), 3 points per dollar on dining, 2 points per dollar on travel, 1 point per dollar on other purchases$020.49%, 23.49% or 28.49% variable Cell phone protection, primary rental car coverage, trip cancellation and interruption reimbursement, trip delay protection, purchase protection, World Elite Mastercard Concierge
Chase Sapphire Reserve® 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening 5 points per dollar on flights and 10 points per dollar on hotels and car rentals when purchasing travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3 points per dollar on other travel and dining and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases $550 plus $75 per authorized user20.74% - 27.74% variable Visa Infinite Concierge, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, lost luggage reimbursement, emergency evacuation and transportation, primary rental car coverage, purchase protection, return protection, extended warranty, no foreign transaction fees, credit for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or NEXUS
U.S. Bank Shopper Cash Rewards™ Visa Signature® Card $250 after spending $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 120 days of account opening Earn 6% cash back each quarter on combined eligible purchases from two retailers of choice ($1,500 limit), 5.5% cash back on prepaid car and hotel reservations booked through the Rewards Center, 3% cash back each quarter in one everyday category of choice ($1,500 limit) and 1.5% cash back on everything else $0 intro for the first year, $95 per year thereafter 18.74% - 28.74% variable Visa Signature Concierge, purchase security, return protection, extended warranty
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card $100 Amazon gift card upon approval 5% cash back in rewards at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market with an eligible Prime membership, 2% cash back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores and 1% on all other purchases $018.49% to 26.49% variable Visa Signature Concierge, extended warranty, purchase protection, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, travel accident insurance
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening 5 points per dollar on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3 points per dollar on dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases (excluding Walmart, Target and wholesale clubs), 2 points per dollar on all other travel purchases and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases $95 19.74% - 26.74% variable Visa Signature Concierge, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, baggage delay insurance, travel and emergency assistance, primary rental car coverage, purchase protection, extended warranty, no foreign transaction fees
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card$200 in cash back after spending $1,500 on purchases in the first six months of account opening 5% cash back on purchases in a top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 in spending each month and 1% cash back on all other purchases $0 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After, a 18.24% - 28.24% variable APR applies Access to concerts, sporting events and more via Citi Entertainment, free FICO Score, Citi Quick Lock, Mastercard ID Theft Protection
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express $300 statement credit after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first six months 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more) and 1% cash back on other eligible purchases. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit $0 intro, $95 per year thereafter 0% intro APR for 12 months on purchases and on balance transfers requested within 60 days of account opening. After, 18.24% - 29.24% variable Disney Bundle credit (enrollment required), Equinox+ credit (enrollment required), car rental loss and damage insurance, Global Assist Hotline, return protection
Navy Federal Credit Union Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Card 30,000 points (a $300 value) after spending $3,000 within 90 days of account opening, and a free year of Amazon Prime (a $139 value)3 points per dollar on travel and 2 points per dollar on everything else $49 Intro APR of 1.99% on purchases for nine months. After, a 13.74% - 18% variable APR applies Lost luggage reimbursement, collision damage waiver, travel and emergency assistance, worldwide automatic travel accident insurance, purchase security, no foreign transaction fees, credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi None4% cash back on eligible gas and EV charging purchases for the first $7,000 spent per year, then 1% thereafter, 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases, 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com and 1% cash back on all other purchases $019.49% variable Damage and theft purchase protection, access to concerts, sporting events and more with Citi Entertainment

Best overall: Chase Freedom Flex℠

Card highlights

It takes a bit of work to maximize the Freedom Flex’s rotating quarterly categories, but as long as you’re willing to do that, this card has generous cash-back potential. Add in 0% intro APR periods and a valuable welcome offer and this no-annual-fee card is hard to beat.

  • Annual fee: $0

  • Rewards: 5% back on travel purchased through Chase, 5% back on up to $1,500 spent per quarter in rotating quarterly categories like gas stations and grocery stores when you activate, 3% back on dining and at drugstores, 1% back on all other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus: Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Plus, earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (excluding Target and Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

  • foreign transaction fees: 3%

  • Other benefits and drawbacks: Points earned on this card can be pooled with points earned on a premium Ultimate Rewards credit card and redeemed for potentially greater value. There’s a low intro APR period on purchases and balance transfers. Rotating categories must be activated each quarter or you won’t earn 5% cash back on purchases in those categories.

Best for renters: Bilt World Elite Mastercard®

Card highlights

Paying rent by credit card typically involves a convenience fee. But what if you could pay rent by credit card without that fee, earn rewards for doing so and get access to a stellar list of airline and hotel transfer partners too? With the Bilt Card, you can. Getting this card is a no-brainer for anyone who rents and wants to earn points that can be redeemed for award travel.

  • Annual fee: $0

  • Rewards: 1 point per dollar on rent payments (up to 50,000 points each year), 3 points per dollar on dining, 2 points per dollar on travel, 1 point per dollar on other purchases

  • Welcome bonus: None

  • foreign transaction fees: $0

  • Other benefits and drawbacks: Points transfer 1:1 to popular airline and hotel partners. But beware that you must make five transactions per billing period in order to earn rewards.

Best for travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Card highlights


The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the most premium travel credit cards available. It charges a hefty annual fee, but in exchange comes with an up to $300 annual travel credit, a top-notch list of travel partners you can transfer points to, a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership (enrollment required) and a long list of travel benefits and protections.

  • Annual fee: $550 plus $75 per authorized user

  • Rewards: 5 points per dollar on flights and 10 points per dollar on hotels and car rentals when purchasing travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3 points per dollar on other travel and dining and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus: 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening

  • foreign transaction fees: $0

  • Other benefits and drawbacks: Points can be redeemed for 50% more value for travel bookings through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal or transferred 1:1 to travel partners. The card also comes with a powerful lineup of travel benefits such as Priority Pass airport lounge access (enrollment required) and trip cancellation and interruption insurance.

Best for households: U.S. Bank Shopper Cash Rewards™ Visa Signature® Card

Card highlights

The U.S. Bank Shopper Rewards Visa does something almost unheard of—it offers the opportunity to earn cash back at a higher rate at various popular merchants than you’d earn when using the merchant’s store card. For someone looking to maximize their cash-back rewards, that’s a pretty powerful value proposition. It’s true the card charges an annual fee after the first year, but you can recoup that with $1,585 in spending on purchases earning 6% back.

  • Annual fee: $0 intro for the first year, $95 per year thereafter.

  • Rewards: Earn 6% cash back each quarter on combined eligible purchases from two retailers of choice ($1,500 limit), 5.5% cash back on prepaid car and hotel reservations booked through the Rewards Center, 3% cash back each quarter in one everyday category of choice ($1,500 limit) and 1.5% cash back on everything else.

  • Welcome bonus: $250 after spending $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 120 days of account opening.

  • foreign transaction fees: 3%

  • Other benefits and drawbacks: You must make three enrollments per quarter—two for your 6% retailers and one for your 3% category—or your spending will earn just 1.5% cash back.

Best for Amazon shopping: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

Card highlights

If you’re a devoted Amazon Prime member who uses the online giant for everything from streaming to groceries to books—yes, they still sell those—why not earn rewards at the generous rate of 5% cash back per dollar spent? Getting the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa just makes sense, especially with no annual fee other than the required Prime membership.

  • Annual fee: $0

  • Rewards: 5% cash back in rewards at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market with an eligible Prime membership, 2% cash back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores and 1% on all other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus: $100 Amazon gift card upon approval.

  • foreign transaction fees: $0

  • Other benefits and drawbacks: While the $100 gift card upon approval for this credit card is nice in that it doesn’t have a spending requirement, it’s somewhat low compared to welcome bonuses that can be found on some other rewards cards—which can be worth $200 or more. Also, know that you must have a Prime membership to be eligible for this card. There’s also a non-Prime Amazon credit card issued by Chase, but it earns at a lower cash-back rate.

Best for travel rewards on a budget: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Card highlights

Chase Ultimate Rewards® points are a valuable rewards currency for anyone interested in award travel. However, not everyone wants to pay $550 a year to carry the Chase Sapphire Reserve. That’s where the Chase Sapphire Preferred comes in. In some ways, it might seem like a slimmed-down version of the Reserve—but for a much easier-to-stomach $95 annual fee, the Preferred still manages to pack a lot of value into its offerings.

  • Annual fee: $95

  • Rewards: 5 points per dollar on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3 points per dollar on dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases (excluding Walmart, Target and wholesale clubs), 2 points per dollar on all other travel purchases and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus: 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

  • foreign transaction fees: $0

  • Other benefits and drawbacks: Points can be redeemed for 25% more value toward travel booked via the Chase portal or transferred 1:1 to the same lineup of partners as the Sapphire Reserve offers. The card also offers a $50 annual hotel credit for stays booked through Chase’s portal and travel protections such as trip cancellation and interruption insurance.

Best companion rewards card: Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

Card highlights

The Citi Custom Cash comes with a unique rewards program—the card will automatically detect where you spend the most from a list of eligible categories, and will earn 5% cash back in that category for the month, up to the monthly spending cap. Other purchases earn just 1% back, so it doesn’t make sense for the Custom Cash to be the card you put the bulk of your spending on. 

But if you use another card as your daily driver and keep the Custom Cash on hand for one of the categories eligible for 5% back, that’s where this no-annual-fee rewards card will truly shine. 

  • Annual fee: $0

  • Rewards: 5% cash back on purchases in a top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 in spending each month and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Categories eligible for 5% back are as follows—restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs and live entertainment.

  • Welcome bonus: $200 in cash back after spending $1,500 on purchases in the first six months of account opening.

  • foreign transaction fees: 3%

  • Other benefits and drawbacks: This card offers intro APR periods on both purchases and balance transfers. Also, if you use both the Citi Custom Cash and the Citi Double Cash, you can combine the rewards earned with both cards into one pool for easier redemptions.

Best for groceries and streaming: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Card highlights

For a reasonable annual fee, the Amex Blue Cash Preferred earns a generous cash-back rate of 6% at U.S. supermarkets (up to the annual spending cap) and on select streaming services. Plus, the 3% back you’ll earn at gas stations and on transit is the icing on the cake. 

  • Annual fee: $0 intro, $95 per year thereafter.

  • Rewards: 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more) and 1% cash back on other eligible purchases. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.

  • Welcome bonus: $300 statement credit after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first six months.

  • foreign transaction fees: 2.7%

  • Other benefits and drawbacks: This card comes with intro APR periods on purchases and balance transfers.

Best credit union rewards card: Navy Federal Credit Union Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Card

Card highlights

Many travel rewards credit cards charge annual fees of $95 or more. By contrast, the Navy Federal Flagship Rewards Card is much more accessible for just $49 a year. If you’re eligible to join Navy Federal Credit Union, and you travel even occasionally, this card is worth considering.

  • Annual fee: $49

  • Rewards: 3 points per dollar on travel and 2 points per dollar on everything else

  • Welcome bonus: 30,000 points (a $300 value) after spending $3,000 within 90 days of account opening, and a free year of Amazon Prime (a $139 value).

  • foreign transaction fees: $0

  • Other benefits and drawbacks: You must have a military connection to join Navy Federal Credit Union. NFCU membership is open to active and retired military service members and veterans, family members and U.S. Department of Defense civilian personnel. 

Best for Costco shopping and gas: Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

Card highlights

Does your perfect shopping trip look like making a run to Costco for bulk groceries and toiletries, picking up one of the famous Costco rotisserie chickens for dinner and hitting the gas station on your way home to fill up the tank? If so, the Costco Visa from Citi just might be the rewards credit card you need. You’ll earn 4% back on gas and EV charging (up to the annual cap) and 2% back at Costco, and there’s no annual fee—other than the required Costco membership.

  • Annual fee: $0

  • Rewards: 4% cash back on eligible gas and EV charging purchases for the first $7,000 spent per year, then 1% thereafter, 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases, 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus: None 

  • foreign transaction fees: $0

  • Other benefits and drawbacks: Cash back is only disbursed once per year—after your February billing statement closes—in the form of a reward certificate that you can redeem for cash or merchandise at Costco warehouses in the United States.

Should you get a rewards credit card?

“There is no shortage of great rewards cards, which can make choosing a single card a little overwhelming. Cash rewards are always a great option because we all understand the value of a dollar. And, whatever you do, make sure you don't choose a card that does not have a rewards program. You are going to want to get something back from the card issuer for your use of their card,” says John Ulzheimer, consumer credit expert and founder of CreditExpertWitness.com

If you can treat plastic like it’s cash, only spending what you can pay in full each month, a rewards credit card offers an opportunity to offset your costs a little bit. The right cash-back card could earn you anywhere from 1% to 6% back on purchases, while a travel card could help you swing flights or make hotel stays much more affordable than you previously thought possible.

However, if you tend to roll over a balance from month to month, a rewards card is likely not for you. They tend to have high APRs, meaning you’ll incur expensive interest charges for carrying a balance, and any value you’d get from the rewards will be erased by what you pay in interest.

We don’t recommend carrying a balance on your credit card, but if you do, a card with a lengthy 0% introductory APR period can sometimes help alleviate the pain of interest charges. These cards are meant for people with good-to-excellent credit, and charge no interest for introductory periods that may be as short as six months or can be up to 21 months.

Guide to rewards credit cards

What is a rewards credit card?

At its most basic, a credit card is a piece of plastic or metal you use to make a payment via credit—it’s not your money being spent, but that of the issuing bank or credit union, and you’ll have to repay them at a date in the future. Some credit cards earn rewards when you make a purchase, such as 2% or 5% of the purchase amount redeemable as cash back, for instance.

While some cards allow you to redeem rewards for any amount, others may require a minimum redemption, or certain redemption increments. For example, you may have to redeem at least $25 worth of rewards, or may only be able to redeem rewards in increments of $25.

The thing to keep in mind about all credit cards is that if you can’t pay off what you charge to them in full every month, you’ll incur interest charges, unless you’re currently in a 0% intro APR period. These interest charges can be quite expensive and will typically wipe out any value you get from rewards. This means if you want to earn credit card rewards, you should make a point to never carry a balance from month to month. Instead, pay in full and avoid interest charges.

What types of rewards can you earn with a credit card?

Some rewards credit cards earn cash back, while others earn points or miles. What the rewards are called is not as important as the ways the issuer allows you to redeem the rewards.

A common way to redeem credit card rewards is as a statement credit, reducing the balance you owe. Note that this typically doesn’t count as your minimum monthly payment due. 

Some issuers will allow you to redeem your rewards for cash back as a deposit into a bank account. It’s also common to be able to redeem rewards for gift cards from a variety of retailers.

With airline credit cards, you can redeem rewards to book or upgrade flights on the airline whose card you’re using, and typically on that airline’s alliance partners as well. 

The best travel rewards credit cards will let you transfer rewards to airline and hotel loyalty partners. Someone who is dedicated to getting the most value out of their rewards, and who travels frequently, is likely to prefer this redemption method to maximize rewards potential.

How much are credit card rewards worth?

This varies from card to card and depends on what redemption method you choose. A good rule of thumb is to only use redemption options where you’re getting a value of at least 1 cent per point.

For example, Chase Ultimate Rewards are worth 1 cent each when redeemed for cash back. So, when the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card advertises 50% more value per point for travel bookings made in the Ultimate Rewards portal, you know you can get 1.5 cents per point.

How do you pick the best rewards credit card?

There are two crucial considerations when picking a rewards card. First, what categories do you spend most heavily in? It won’t make sense to get a card that rewards gas station spending if you’re hardly ever on the road, or one that rewards dining if you don’t eat out, for instance.

Second, how do you want to be able to use your rewards? If you’re looking to transfer points and are willing to seek out the best deals on award travel with a variety of airline and hotel loyalty programs, perhaps you need a card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Bilt Card.

But if you would rather get cold, hard cash in your checking account, a cash-back card such as the Citi Custom Cash is likely to be a better fit for your lifestyle and financial needs.

How many rewards credit cards should you have?

If you want to keep things simple and don’t want to keep up with multiple payment dates, sticking with one rewards card is just fine. There’s no rule that you have to have more.

However, if you’re looking to maximize rewards, it can make sense to have two or more credit cards in your lineup. For example, someone who spends a lot on groceries and also makes a lot of Amazon purchases each month might do well to put the supermarket spending on the Amex Blue Cash Preferred and pay for the online shopping with the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa.

Methodology

Our credit cards team has spent hours analyzing hundreds of credit cards. We took a deep dive into the details of each product and that analysis, combined with our years of experience covering credit cards, informed us as we developed these credit card rankings. We rated each rewards card based on mutiple factors including annual fees, rewards rates, value of rewards, ease and flexibility of reward redemptions as well as other perks and benefits that may come with each card.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What credit score is needed for a rewards credit card?

Rewards credit cards are typically aimed at consumers with good or better credit, usually meaning a FICO Score between 670 and 850. If your score is poor or fair, consider working to improve your credit with a secured card—you’ll have to provide the issuer a security deposit in the amount of your desired credit limit. After demonstrating responsible spending and payment behavior with the secured card, you may eventually qualify for an unsecured rewards card.

Is there a limit to the rewards I can earn?
Will my credit card rewards eventually expire?

About the Authors

Glen Luke Flanagan

Glen Luke Flanagan

Glen Luke Flanagan is a deputy editor on the credit cards team at Sound Dollar. Prior to joining Sound Dollar, he covered credit cards, credit scoring and related topics as a deputy editor at Forbes Advisor and a senior writer at LendingTree. He’s passionate about helping people understand personal finance so they can make the best decisions possible for their wallet.

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Robin Saks Frankel

Robin Saks Frankel

Robin Saks Frankel is a credit cards and personal finance writer and editor for Sound Dollar. Previously, she covered credit cards and related content at other national web publications including Forbes Advisor, NerdWallet, Bankrate and HerMoney. She's been featured as a personal finance expert in outlets including CNBC, Business Insider, CBS Marketplace, and has appeared on or contributed to The New York Times, Fox News, CBS Radio, ABC Radio, NPR, International Business Times and NBC, ABC and CBS TV affiliates nationwide.

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