What is the best rewards credit card for me?
The best rewards credit cards aren’t one-size-fits-all. To find the right one for you, start by analyzing how you spend your money. As you investigate your budget (and if you don’t have one, here’s a great jumping off point), you should consider how much money you spend in the most common categories that earn rewards: travel (anything from airfare to rental cars), restaurants and dining, groceries, and gas. Once you have a good idea how you’re going to earn points and miles, you can decide which is the best rewards credit card for you.
What are credit card rewards points?
Most cards have unique names for their rewards currency. For example, Delta calls its rewards ‘Delta Skymiles’ and American Express calls them ‘Membership Rewards.’ But regardless of what they’re called, rewards are generally redeemed for two things: travel or cash back.
With travel, we’re talking about anything from points that can be redeemed for a wide range of options around the world, to miles that can only be redeemed for airfare at a handful of airlines. Cash back options are also pretty varied. Some cards earn cash back and gift cards that you can spend at certain online retailers. There are even cards for those who want the best of both worlds.
The golden rule: Don’t carry a monthly balance on your credit card.
If you can commit to paying your balance off in full every month, the only two things you have to worry about are the signup bonus and redemption options. Take standard APR, for example. If you don’t carry a monthly balance on your card, what does it matter that your APR is 18%?
Redeeming points is just as important as earning them.
One of the key benefits of a great rewards card is being able to redeem points the way you want to. Your points don’t do you any good if you can’t use them. This applies across the board for different types of cards. Some airline cards and hotel credit cards are able to offer you a higher earning potential for purchases with their brand.
How to save more money by maximizing points and miles
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all card that delivers superior points or miles on every conceivable spending category and has the most flexible point redemption options.
Owning two or three cards is the right number to get the most points or miles and still keep the cards active (assuming you’re paying off the balances). You’ll be able to take advantage of the bonuses and ongoing rewards without major limitations.
What credit card is the best for first-time users?
If you don’t have any experience in credit whatsoever, a secured credit card is one of the best ways to start building your credit history. They’re less risky for lenders, and therefore don’t require a good credit score to qualify.
Secured cards, like the USAA Secured Card® Platinum Visa® and , are different than regular credit cards in that they require an upfront deposit to open the account. That deposit then becomes your credit limit. So if you deposit $300, then your limit is roughly $300, minus the fees.
What’s the best credit card for a student?
If you’re a student, there are two routes you can go. Secured credit cards are best if you have zero credit history because they don’t require an excellent credit score to apply. So if you haven’t opened any credit under your name in the past ten years, secured cards are your best shot at qualifying.
If you do have some experience managing credit, student credit cards are a great alternative. Their credit score requirement isn’t quite as low, but you’ll get the benefit of a higher credit limit and a rewards program.
How can I get a credit card with bad credit?
Credit cards are a great way to build and improve your credit score. It takes time, but if you use your card regularly, and pay your bill in full every month, you’ll see a significant improvement in your credit history. Read our guide to building credit for more tips on safely improving your credit score.
What are the best travel rewards credit cards?
Here are some of Money360’s best travel rewards cards:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card — Best overall
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card’s flexible reward structure and generous signup bonus (worth $625 toward travel booked via Chase Ultimate Rewards®) make it the most flexible travel card on the market. With this card, you’ll earn 2X points on travel and restaurants worldwide, and you won’t have to worry about any foreign transaction fees either.
- Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card — Great for flexible travel rewards
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is great for frugal spenders who love to travel because it earns unlimited 2X points on all purchases. And since you can redeem your miles for a travel statement credit, you can book travel through any service you want and still get reimbursed.
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express — Best hotel card
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is an excellent choice if you frequent Starwood hotels and resorts (that includes Westin and Sheraton properties, among others). There aren’t any foreign transaction fees, and you’ll earn 25,000 Starpoints when you make $3,000 in purchases during the first three months. Terms Apply.
- Discover it® Miles — Best no annual fee travel card
The Discover it® Miles is one of the few travel cards without an annual fee. It’s also great for international trips because, like other premium travel cards, it doesn’t have any foreign transaction fees or blackout dates. Plus, you’ll get a mile-for-mile match of your first-year earnings.
Here are the best rewards credit cards
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Most versatile
- Discover it® - Cashback Match™: Best cash back bonus
- Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card: Best no intro fee rewards card
- Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Best for families
- Chase Freedom®: High-reward bonus categories
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®: Best fixed-value rewards
- Discover it® Miles: Great first-year bonus
- Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card: Best BoA card
- Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express: Best perks
- Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card: Honorable mention