This article reviews our picks of the best rewards credit cards. We may get compensation if you visit partner links on our site. We may not cover every available offer. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more. Our relationship with advertisers may impact how an offer is presented on our website. However, our selection of products is made independently of our relationship with advertisers.
Rates and welcome offers updated as of December 1, 2023.
If you’ve had the same rewards credit card in your wallet for a while, it’s time to see whether you could get a better payback on your spending by switching to a new card. According to a survey from Bankrate.com, 43% of credit card holders have either never changed their primary card or haven’t swapped out their card in more than a decade.
In a hurry? Here's a few of the very best cards on our list, along with quick links that let you jump down the page to read more information on each card we feature.
BEST FLAT-RATE CASH BACK
Apply for: Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
This card is a no-fuss way of reaping 2% cash on every purchase, with no annual fee. Plus new cardholders earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first three months. The card also offers a 0% APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. Since the card has a foreign transaction fee, it's best to use a different card for international purchases. Read more below>
BEST NO-FEE TRAVEL
Get 5% back on travel that you book through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal, plus 3% on restaurant and drugstore purchases and a strong 1.5% back on other spending. Plus, the card offers 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months. You'll also enjoy a number of nice travel perks, like trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance. Read more below>
BEST DINING CARD
Apply for: American Express® Gold
Amex Gold has a hefty annual fee of $250, but it comes with a helping of side benefits for those who dine out frequently. Plus, new cardholders can earn 60,000 points after spending $6,000 in the first six months, worth about $600. Earn four Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at restaurants or on take-out and delivery in the U.S. See rates and fees. Terms apply. Read more below>
Credit card issuers regularly update their card offerings and rewards programs. “Many changes over the last few years have brought more value to regular, everyday spending,” says Cyndie Martini, CEO and founder of card-processing platform Member Access Processing. And cards often provide an extra heap of cash back, points and/or miles to new cardmembers who make certain purchases in the first few months or meet other requirements. Depending on your spending patterns, you could rack up hundreds of dollars per year in rewards.
Rewards cards aren’t for everyone, especially as interest rates rise. You won’t be able to maximize rewards if you incur interest charges because you don’t pay off your balance each month. “If you have credit card debt, it doesn’t make sense to pay 20% in interest — which is roughly the national average — to get 1%, 2% or even 5% in cash back or airline miles,” says Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate.com.
But for disciplined spenders, a rewards card can be a lucrative tool. We’ve rounded up our top picks among cards in 13 categories, three of which are covered here: cards for flat-rate cash back, no-fee travel, and dining.
To see all of our favorite cards, check out the best travel rewards cards and best cash back cards, or go to the full list at the end of this article. Are you struggling with credit card debt from high-interest payments? Then our article on the best balance transfer credit card is for you. We've also covered the best cards for students and for small-business owners. For each card, we’ve included the annual fee, if it charges one, and the sign-up bonus if one is offered. Except where noted, rewards do not have expiration dates or caps, and the travel cards do not charge foreign transaction fees. Fees, rewards and other terms are subject to change, so before you apply for a card, check its current terms with the issuer.
Kiplinger's Review Methodology
For each card, we have calculated a typical annual reward based on spending patterns in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey and assuming $25,000 spent on the card annually (unless otherwise noted). For cards that do not waive their annual fee the first year, we’ve subtracted the annual fee from the cash value of the annual reward. We have also considered factors such as ease and flexibility of earning and redeeming rewards and whether you must be a member of a club or financial institution to apply for a card. Except where noted, rewards do not have expiration dates or caps, and the travel-oriented cards do not charge foreign transaction fees.
Interest rates, fees, rewards and other terms listed in this article are subject to change. Before you apply for a credit card, check its current terms and conditions with the issuer.
Best Flat-Rate Cash Back
These cards provide simple and strong cash back rewards on all spending. They are best for consumers that do not concentrate their spending on just a few areas. Check out our best cash back credit cards to see all of the winners in this category.
Cardholders get 2% cash back on purchases. Redemption options include statement credits on purchases, a credit to other qualifying Wells Fargo accounts (including a checking account or mortgage) and gift cards.
Three benefits sweeten this card deal. New cardholders earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months, the card offers a 0% APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months, and there is no annual fee.
Skip this card if you are planning significant travel outside the U.S., as there is a 3% foreign transaction fee.
- Interest rate: 0% on purchases and qualifying balance transfers from account opening for 15 months, then 20.24%, 25.24% or 29.99% variable APR. Balance transfers made within 120 days from account opening qualify for the intro rate and fee.
- Annual fee: None.
- Top rewards rate: 2% cash rewards on purchases.
- Other benefits: up to $600 per claim of protection for your cell phone against damage or theft if you pay your monthly wireless bill with the card. Pay a $25 deductible, and get up to two paid claims per 12 months.
- Redemption: statement credit, cash at the ATM with a Wells Fargo debit/ATM card (in $20 increments), gift cards ($25 increments), or a credit to a qualifying Wells Fargo credit card, checking account or mortgage.
- Sign-up bonus: $200 cash reward if you spend $500 in the first three months.
Earn a whopping 3% cash back on all spending the first year you have this card. After that, you get 2.5% back — a strong rate that makes the annual fee worthwhile for those who spend enough to justify it. The amount of spending that exceeds $10,000 each month does not earn rewards, which are given as points that you can trade at a rate of a penny each for cash back.
How can the card provide such stellar cash back rates? Most cards are issued by large, publicly-traded banking institutions that must deliver gains to stockholders. But as a credit union, Farmers Insurance is member-owned, with the express mission of returning profits to members. The downside of this approach is that the card application process is more lengthy than that of commercial competitors.
- Interest rate: 0% for six months, then 12.99% to 18%.
- Annual fee: $99, waived the first year.
- Top rewards rate: 3% back on every purchase the first year, and 2.5% back on all spending from the second year on; the amount of spending that exceeds $10,000 each month does not earn rewards.
- Redemption: You collect rewards in the form of points, and they’re worth a penny each for a bank account deposit or statement credit ($50 minimum redemption).
- Membership: Anyone can become a member of Farmers Insurance FCU by joining the American Consumer Council and depositing $5 into a savings account.
- Sign-up bonus: $100 back if you spend $5,000 in the first three months.
Get a total 2% cash back on everything you buy: 1% when you make a purchase and an additional 1% when you pay the bill. Rewards are tracked as Citi ThankYou® points, which you can exchange at a rate of 1 cent apiece for a statement credit, direct deposit into your bank account or check.
The card recently added two incentives. First, a $200 welcome bonus for new customers who spend $1,500 in the first six months. And second, 5% cash back when booking hotel or car rentals through Citi's travel portal.
This card's strength is its simplicity; there's no need to track rotating rewards categories, and the standard cash back rate of 2% is higher than that of most competing cards with no annual fee. The card provides a generous 15 months of 0% APR on balance transfers (but not on purchases).
- APR: 0% intro APR only on balance transfers for 18 months, then 19.24% to 29.24% variable APR, based on your creditworthiness; 19.24% to 29.24% variable on all purchases. If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
- Annual fee: None.
- Promotion rewards rate: Earn 5% total cash back on hotel and car rentals booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through 12/31/24.
- Standard rewards rates: A total 2% back on all spending - 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% when you pay. There is no limit to the points you can earn.
- Redemption: Rewards come in the form of Citi ThankYou® points, which can be redeemed for a statement credit, check or direct deposit into a bank account; or exchange points for gift cards, travel and other options through the ThankYou program, but point values vary for those redemptions.
- Sign-up bonus: Citi recently added a bonus; earn $200 cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first six months of your Citi Double Cash® card account opening.
See Kiplinger's guide to the best cash back credit cards
Best no fee travel cards
With these cards, you reap points or miles without paying an annual fee. You will still need to consider foreign transaction fees if you plan to do a lot of international travel. To see more Kiplinger picks in the travel category, read our guide to the best travel rewards credit cards.
Get 5% back on travel that you book through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal, plus 3% on restaurant and drugstore purchases and a strong 1.5% back on other spending. Points that you earn are redeemable at a rate of 1 cent each for cash, gift cards and travel bookings.
Plus, earn 5% cash back on combined gas station and grocery store purchases (excluding Target and Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. And the card offers 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months.
The card provides a number of nice travel perks, like trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance. However, the card is best used for domestic travel as it charges a 3% foreign-transaction fee.
- Interest rate: Enjoy 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 20.49% to 29.24%.
- Annual fee: None.
- Foreign transaction fee: 3%.
- Top rewards rate: Earn 5% on travel reservations made through Chase Ultimate Rewards. You can also earn 5% total cash back on qualifying Lyft rides through March 2025.
- Other benefits:
- Earn 3% at restaurants and drugstores.
- Earn 1.5% on all other purchases.
- Get three months of free membership to DashPass (usually $10 a month), which waives the delivery fee and reduces service fees on eligible orders through food-delivery service DoorDash. After three months, you’re automatically enrolled for nine months of DashPass membership at a rate of 50% off (you can cancel membership anytime).
- Cardholders also get three free months of Instacart+ membership, which comes with no delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders through the Instacart grocery-delivery service ($99 a year) after three months, you’ll be automatically enrolled in an annual membership unless you cancel. Through July 2024, cardholders who are enrolled with Instacart+ get up to $10 in quarterly statement credits for eligible Instacart purchases.
- Redemption: Redeem points at a rate of a penny each for cash back, gift cards or travel.
- Sign-up bonus: $200 back if you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Plus, earn 5% cash back on combined gas station and grocery store purchases (excluding Target and Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
- Member FDIC
All purchases earn 1.5 miles per dollar, and the redemption options are flexible. You can exchange miles at a rate of a penny each for statement credits on travel purchases, cash back, account credits to pay your card bill, and purchases with Amazon and PayPal. Best of all, you can use your
The card offers a generous sign-on bonus, doubling your miles earned after the first year. Other nice-to-have perks include free access to your FICO score and online privacy protection. The card does not provide free travel insurance, access to airport lounges or similar travel perks.
- Interest rate: 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then 17.24% to 28.24% variable APR.
- Intro balance transfer offer: 0% for 15 months from the date of the first transfer, for transfers under this offer that post to your account by 3/10/2024; then the standard purchase APR applies. The transfer fee is 3%.
- Annual fee: None.
- Foreign transaction fee: None.
- Rewards: 1.5 miles per dollar spent on purchases.
- Sign-up bonus: A match of miles earned after one year, doubling your rewards.
- Redemption: Unlike a co-branded credit card, the miles earned on the card can be used to cover travel purchases made at any airline, car rental or hotel over the past 180 days; miles may also be redeemed for statement credit to pay your bill.
This card offers a solid three points per dollar spent on a range of travel-related purchases, and one point per dollar for all other purchases. Points may be redeemed for travel bookings or cash, or may be used to pay for select purchases on a Paypal account.
Travel perks include a car rental damage waiver and emergency assistance while traveling. New cardholders will receive 30,000 bonus points (valued at $300) after spending $1,500 in the first three months.
- Interest rate: 0% introductory APR for purchases for the first 12 months, then 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% variable APR.
- Annual fee: None.
- Foreign transaction fee: None.
- Rewards: Earn three points per dollar spent on a range of travel-related purchases, including travel bookings, restaurant spending, gas and transit (such as parking, tolls and ride-sharing services). You also get three points per dollar on wireless and landline phone plans and eligible streaming services. All other purchases earn one point per dollar.
- Sign-up bonus: 30,000 points if you spend $1,500 in the first three months, a $300 value.
- Redemption: Redemption options include travel bookings and cash back, with a value of one cent per point redeemed.
Best dining rewards cards
Frequent diners can enjoy cash back and other perks using these cards. For other everyday expenses like gas and groceries, see our guide to the best cash back credit cards.
Amex Gold has a hefty annual fee of $250, but it comes with a helping of side benefits for those who dine out frequently. Plus, new cardholders can get 60,000 points (worth about $600) after spending $6,000 in the first six months.
This is a great card for foodies who like to travel. The card has no foreign transaction fee and a host of perks like travel protections, up to $120 in Uber cash and dining credits and three points for flights booked through the American Express travel portal.
If travel rewards are your main objective, however, we recommend a card with more flexible travel booking options. It's also important to know that the card doesn’t provide lounge access or trip cancellation insurance. See rates and fees. To learn more about this and other Amex cards, read American Express Credit Cards: The Best Pick for You.
- Interest rate: Pay over time APR: 21.24% to 29.24%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors as determined at the time of account opening.
- Annual fee: $250
- Foreign transaction fee: None
- Earn four Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at restaurants or on take-out and delivery in the U.S.
- Earn four points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets up to a maximum of $25,000 spent in a calendar year, then supermarket purchases earn one point per dollar.
- Earn three points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or Amex Travel.
- Earn two points per dollar on other eligible Amex Travel purchases; and one point per dollar on other spending
- Experience credit: American Express Experiences include access to music, theater, sports, dining and fashion events, some of which are exclusive or early access for cardholders.
- Additional rewards: get up to $10 in monthly statement credits for purchases with certain restaurants and delivery services, including The Cheesecake Factory, Grubhub, Goldbelly and select Shake Shack locations, plus $10 in monthly Uber Cash that you can put toward Uber Eats purchases or Uber rides
- Intro bonus: 60,000 points (worth about $600) if you spend $6,000 in the first six months
- Redemption: Points are redeemable at a rate of 1 cent each for flights booked through Amex and certain gift cards (points are worth less for most other redemption options)
- Terms apply
This card pays you 3% cash back when you dine out, as well as when you spend money on entertainment and streaming services and at grocery stores. Prefer to dine-in? The card offers a 10% discount on Uber & Uber Eats and a complimentary Uber One membership through November 14, 2024.
Plus, the card has a low spending requirement to earn a welcome bonus; new cardholders get a one-time $200 cash bonus after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from opening the account.
- Interest rate: 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers; then 19.99%, 25.99% or 29.99% variable APR.
- Annual fee: None.
- Foreign transaction fee: None.
- Rewards: You get 3% cash back when you dine out, as well as when you spend money on entertainment and streaming services and at grocery stores.
- Additional rewards: You get 5% back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel; 8% back on purchases through the Capital One Entertainment ticketing platform; and, until November 14, 2024, 10% back on Uber and Uber Eats purchases; all other purchases get 1% back.
- Sign-up bonus: $200 back if you spend $500 in the first three months.
- Redemption: Cash back is redeemable as a statement credit or check or for travel reservations through Capital One; cardholders also get complimentary Uber One membership statement credits, which provide discounts on Uber Eats orders and Uber rides until November 14, 2024, and Capital One Dining benefits, such as special events with chefs.
Restaurant purchases earn four points per dollar spent, equaling a 4% payback — an impressive rate for dining purchases on a no-fee card.
You also get two points per dollar on qualifying streaming services and at grocery stores and gas stations, and one point per dollar on other spending. Plus, new cardholders get 20,000 points (worth $200) after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days.
- Interest rate: Get 0% on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 billing cycles; then 18.24% to 29.24% variable APR.
- Annual fee: None.
- Foreign transaction fee: None.
- Rewards: Restaurant purchases earn four points per dollar spent, equaling a 4% payback.
- Additional rewards: You also get two points per dollar on qualifying streaming services and at grocery stores and gas stations, and one point per dollar on other spending.
- Sign-up bonus: 20,000 points if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days.
- Redemption: Redeem points at a rate of a penny each for cash back, gift cards or travel, among other options; cardholders also get a $15 yearly credit after 11 consecutive months of eligible streaming subscription purchases.
Types of reward credit cards
A rewards credit card offers cash back, points or miles on your everyday spending. Some cards may also offer other features, such as an intro 0% APR promotion, insurance protections, travel perks and more. Here's a quick breakdown of the different types of credit card rewards you can earn.
Cash back credit cards typically offer straight cash back on your purchases, making it easy to know how much value you're getting with each purchase. These cards used to offer only one percent back for each dollar spent, but that reward level has ticked up to 1.5% to 2% recently. According to Ted Rossman of creditcards.com, “Two percent cash back is kind of like the gold standard for keeping it simple.”
Note, however, that although some credit cards are marketed as cash back cards, they may offer points that you can redeem for cash back and in other ways.
Points credit cards offer a fixed number of points for each dollar you spend, with some cards offering more points on certain purchases.
One example of a points program is Chase Ultimate Rewards, which allows you to use your rewards to get cash back, buy gift cards, book travel, shop online and more. Another example is a hotel loyalty program, which limits your redemptions to award stays and related options. Even some airlines use the term "points" for their currency.
Historically, miles have been primarily associated with frequent flyer programs, but some general travel rewards credit cards use the term "miles" for their currency.
General miles programs, such as Capital One’s, may allow you to redeem your rewards for a variety of travel purchases, including through their travel portal or on your own. With airline programs, however, your options are generally limited to award flights, upgrades and related redemptions.
How to earn credit card rewards
Many rewards credit cards offer welcome bonuses to new cardholders when you meet a minimum spending requirement. For example, you may earn $200 after you spend $500 in three months or 60,000 points when you spend $3,000 in three months.
You can also earn cash back, points or miles when you use your card to make purchases. There are three different ways a rewards program can be structured.
With this type of rewards card, you'll earn the same rewards rate — say, 1.5% back or two miles per dollar — on every purchase. If you want a simple approach to rewards, this option may be appealing.
A tiered rewards credit card offers different rewards rates on different spending categories. For instance, you may earn three points per dollar on travel and dining, two points per dollar on gas and one point per dollar on all other purchases.
These cards can be a great way to earn a lot of cash back, points or miles on some of your top budget categories.
Some cash back credit cards offer bonus rewards on spending categories that change every few months, allowing you to maximize rewards on a wide variety of purchases throughout the year.
For example, you may earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent on groceries and department stores one quarter, then at Target and Amazon.com the next.
What are points or miles worth?
With cash back rewards, the value you're getting is straightforward. If you have a 2% rewards rate and spend $100, you'll earn $2 in rewards.
With points and miles, however, valuations vary depending on the program and even the card. General rewards programs, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards, offer a specific value for each redemption option. For example, you may get one cent per point on travel redemptions but only 0.7 cents per point for online shopping.
With airline and hotel rewards programs, the value of your points or miles depends on several variables, including the travel dates, destination, fare class, hotel category and more.
Who should consider a rewards card?
A rewards credit card could be a good fit for you if you meet the following criteria:
- You pay your bill in full each month: Paying your credit card bill in full each month will help you avoid interest charges on your purchases. If you carry a balance, the interest you pay can neutralize some or all of the value you get from your card's rewards.
- You have decent credit: The best rewards credit cards require good or excellent credit, typically a FICO credit score of 670 or higher. Some rewards cards are accessible to people with fair or even poor credit, but research and compare several options to limit fees and other less favorable features. If you don’t know your score, here are some ways to see free credit scores from FICO.
- You like to use your credit card for everything: The more you use your rewards credit card, the more you'll earn. If you prefer to use cash or a debit card, a rewards card might not add enough value to be worth it.
On the other hand, it might make sense to avoid rewards credit cards if:
- You struggle with overspending: The prospect of a welcome bonus or rewards on your purchase can make it more tempting to spend more than you can afford to pay back each month.
- You prefer to maximize other benefits: Some credit cards specialize in other features, such as an extra-long 0% APR promotion on purchases or balance transfers, and don't offer rewards. But depending on your situation, the benefit of interest savings might be more valuable to you than a rewards program. Additionally, if you're looking to build or rebuild your credit, that objective may be more important than earning cash back, points or miles.
Can you get a rewards card with bad credit?
Yes, it's possible to get a rewards credit card with bad credit. However, there may be some caveats to consider. For example, a card may require a security deposit equal to your desired credit limit, which you may not get back until you close the account.
Some bad-credit rewards credit cards may also charge an annual fee or a high interest rate, which can impact the value you get from the rewards program.
If you use a good rewards credit card for bad credit, you can enjoy the benefits of rewards while building a positive credit profile. However, prioritizing your credit-building efforts will make it easier for you to get the rewards card you want in the future.
How to pick a rewards credit card
There are a few different factors to consider to determine which rewards credit card is the right fit for you.
Again, if you want good approval odds for the best rewards credit cards, you'll want good or excellent credit. Check your credit score before you apply for a card to gauge your approval odds. You may also consider getting pre-approved, if possible.
American Express, for instance, tells applicants whether or not they're approved with no hard credit inquiry. You'll undergo a hard credit check only if you accept the card.
Review your budget to see whether it makes sense to get a rewards credit card that offers bonus cash back, points or miles on some of your biggest monthly expenses. If you spend a lot on gas and groceries, for instance, prioritize cards that offer bonus rewards on those categories.
Also, if you're looking for a credit card with a welcome bonus, make sure you can meet the spending requirement to earn the bonus without overspending.
Review the different features credit cards come with to determine what's most important to you. For example, do you need a 0% APR promotion for a large purchase or a balance transfer? Or do you prefer a travel credit card with a lot of perks and trip protections?
If you're looking at travel credit cards, consider how flexible you want your rewards to be. For example, if a card has transferable points or miles, make sure the partner airline or hotel programs include those you are likely to use or where already have an account. Also, consider whether you want to pay an annual fee or what it would take in terms of card benefits for you to agree to an annual fee.
Take your time to shop around and compare several credit cards to ensure you find the right one for you.
You may earn additional rewards or welcome bonuses by applying for cards offered by the same company where you bank. For example, Bank of America offers an extra 25 to 75 percent back on cash back rewards for its Preferred Rewards customers.
Some credit card companies allow more than one adult family member to earn welcome bonuses. If you sign up for a new card that offers a $500 welcome bonus, for example, your spouse may also be able to earn the same bonus. Make sure you read card terms carefully to understand any limitations to bonus offers.
As an independent publication dedicated to helping you make the most of your money, the article above is our view of the best deals and is not the opinion of any entity mentioned such as a card issuer, hotel, airline etc. Similarly, the content has not been reviewed or endorsed by any of those entities.
Other best buy credit cards
- Kiplinger's guide to the best cash back credit cards
- Kiplinger's guide to the best travel credit cards
- Kiplinger's guide to the best student credit cards
- Kiplinger's guide to the best balance transfer credit cards
- Kiplinger's guide to the best business credit cards
- Kiplinger's guide to the best 0% APR credit cards
Lisa has been the editor of Kiplinger Personal Finance since June 2023. Previously, she spent more than a decade reporting and writing for the magazine on a variety of topics, including credit, banking and retirement. She has shared her expertise as a guest on the Today Show, CNN, Fox, NPR, Cheddar and many other media outlets around the nation. Lisa graduated from Ball State University and received the school’s “Graduate of the Last Decade” award in 2014. A military spouse, she has moved around the U.S. and currently lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two sons.
- Ellen KennedyPersonal Finance Editor, Kiplinger.com
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