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Choosing the Best Rewards Credit Card
The lists below identify the best cash back, gas, airline, and travel rewards credit cards, and will help cardholders select a card that rewards them for the purchases they make the most.
The 5 Best Cash Back Credit Cards
The most important feature to focus on when looking for the best cash back credit card is obviously the cash back reward incentives. If getting a cash rebate is the number one priority, there are several solid choices that offer significant cash back and 0% APR financing up to a year and beyond. Comparing the best cash back credit cards can be difficult because many of the cards offer large cash back rewards on rotating categories.
The 5 Best Airline Credit Cards
The problem with selecting the best airline credit card is that the benefits of the card are often limited to a specific airline. Accumulating air miles or bonus miles on airline credit cards might come at the expense of personal convenience. However, some of the air miles rewards offered by the best airline credit cards are so high that they offset the cost of sticking to one airline. Additionally, some airlines have deals with partners, which means card users won't be limited with their flight choice.
The 4 Best Gas Credit Cards
Selecting the best gas credit card can be challenging because the majority of the top gas rewards credit cards offer a percentage of cash back based on annual purchases as well as point-based systems. Although the cash back rate for gas credit cards vs. the top cash back credit cards is similar, annual spending is generally capped at different limits. In addition, the manner in which cash back rewards are distributed can vary, with some cards crediting the cardholder account, and others issuing an annual coupon.
The 5 Best Travel Credit Cards
Selecting the best travel credit card ultimately comes down to the type of rewards each person values. Rewards for travel credit cards can come in the form of air miles, points, or a mixture of both. Many of the top travel credit cards are associated with a specific hotel chain, while others are more general. The rewards for hotel credit cards are often greater, but there is the clear disadvantage of only being able to earn a high number of points on purchases with that hotel.
What Rewards Credit Card Features Matter and Why?
Rewards is, of course, the highlight category of any rewards card because it focuses on the earnings of the cardholder. This category is important mostly because it measures how well each credit card gives back to its cardholder. Beyond the amount of bonus points, bonus miles, cash back, and other rewards earned, features also touch on point expiration and blackout dates. The best rewards credit cards will allow cardholders to accumulate unlimited rewards with no expiration or blackout dates and will offer additional bonus points for making dining, travel, gas, and other common purchases with the card.
- 2:1 Rewards or More - The credit card offers 2 Points, 2% Cash Back, or 2 Miles or more for every dollar spent.
- Additional 2:1 Rewards Categories - The credit card offers 2:1 rewards or more for at least one additional purchase category - like dining, travel, gas, groceries, shopping, or other.
- Bonus Points Offered - The credit card offers bonus points you can earn throughout the year.
- No Blackout Dates - There are no blackout travel dates for your points, miles, or cash back rewards.
- No Expiration - Your rewards points, miles, or cash back rewards will never expire.
- Offers Companion Reward - The airline credit card offers a companion airfare reward.
- Sign-Up Bonus - The credit card offers a sign-up bonus reward.
- Unlimited Rewards - You can accumulate an unlimited amount of points, miles, or cash back rewards with your credit card.
Benefits encompasses the additional advantageous features associated with ownership of the rewards card. Many rewards credit cards will offer benefits like roadside assistance, travel insurance, fraud liability, 24/7 live support, and access to exclusive events. The best rewards credit cards will also include purchase security and emergency support. Benefits is not the most important feature category, but it is valuable to know what additional perks come with card ownership.
- 24/7 Live Service - You can speak with a live representative at any time of day about your credit card.
- Early Boarding - You receive priority boarding benefits as an owner of the credit card.
- Emergency Support - The credit card offers emergency support.
- Exclusive Events - You have access to exclusive events with the credit card.
- First Bag Free - Your first checked bag is free.
- Fraud Liability - The credit card offers fraud liability protection.
- In-Flight Spending Bonus - You receive a discount or additional bonus points on all in-flight expenditures.
- Partner Point Transfer - You can exchange your points for equal value with participating partners of the credit card, like hotels or airlines.
- Price Protection - You will be reimbursed the difference of any purchase made within a certain time period if you find a lower advertised price.
- Purchase Security - You will receive a refund for any item that a retailer doesn't accept as a return within a certain time period.
Reward Redemption is made up of everything that involves redeeming credit card rewards. This category not only includes the various types of things a cardholder can redeem for, but also the method of redeeming as well as a few specialized features. Reward Redemption is important because earning rewards means nothing if they are difficult to redeem. Most of the time, people sign up for credit cards for the rewards program so being able to actually receive rewards is of very high importance. The best rewards credit cards will offer a variety of ways for points to be redeemed and will include additional redemption options like electronics or special events.
- Book in Someone Else's Name - You can use your airline rewards to book a trip in someone else's name.
- Redeem for Airline Travel - Rewards can be redeemed for airline travel.
- Redeem for Car Rental - Rewards can be redeemed for car rental.
- Redeem for Cash Back - Rewards can be redeemed as cash back or statement credit.
- Redeem for Gift Cards - Rewards can be redeemed for gift cards.
- Redeem for Hotel - Rewards can be redeemed for hotel stays.
- Redeem for Merchandise - Rewards can be redeemed for merchandise.
- Redeem for Other - Rewards can be redeemed for other categories, such as magazine subscriptions or charity donations.
- Redeem Online - You can redeem your points, miles, or cash back rewards online.
- Redeem on Other Airlines - Rewards can be redeemed for airline travel on other airlines.
Application refers to the different ways a potential cardholder can apply for the rewards credit card and whether potential cardholders can receive instant approval. Applying for the credit card online and by phone are the most common application methods. Rewards cards associated with banks will also facilitate in-person applications.
- Apply By Phone - You can complete the credit card application process via phone.
- Apply In Person - You can apply for the credit card live in person.
- Apply Online - You can complete the entire credit card application process online.
- Instant Approval - You can get instant approval for the credit card.
Balance Transfers identifies features associated with a new cardholder's ability to transfer funds onto the new rewards card. The ability to transfer balances is not available with every rewards card, and for those that do offer the feature, the introductory and standard interest rates and associated fees can vary. Balance Transfers can be an important feature category for cardholders with existing credit balances interested in transferring these balances, but it's not a category that makes or breaks a top credit card.
- Introductory Balance Transfer Rate (APR) - The credit card offers an introductory balance transfer rate (APR).
- No Introductory Balance Transfer Fee - The credit card doesn't charge a percentage fee on the new balance transferred to the card.
- Transfer from Credit Cards - You can transfer a balance from another credit card.
- Transfer from Loans - You can transfer a balance from a loan to the credit card.
Insurance Coverage is a category that includes the additional protection benefits associated with owning the credit card. Some of the features that are common among credit cards are lost luggage insurance, car rental insurance, and travel insurance. Insurance Coverage is not one of the more important categories when looking at the best credit cards because it's more of an added bonus for the cardholder's peace of mind.
- Car Rental Insurance - The credit card offers car rental insurance.
- Extended Warranty - The credit card offers an extended warranty on purchases.
- Flight Insurance - The credit card offers flight insurance.
- Lost Luggage Insurance - The credit card offers lost luggage insurance.
- Roadside Assistance - The credit card offers roadside assistance.
- Travel Insurance - The credit card offers travel insurance.