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NerdWallet’s Best Rewards Credit Cards, 2015

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Best Rewards Credit Cards

Whether you’re looking for killer rewards rates, a signup bonus that will make your head spin, free flights or hotel nights, or simply rewards on the purchases you make every day, we’ve got you covered. No matter where you spend or how you want to redeem, we’ll help you find the best rewards cards for the season.

Best travel credit card: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
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on Chase's
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The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is another top-notch card, offering one of the best signup bonuses in the business. To start things off, you get a signup bonus: earn 40,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening And it gets better: Your points are worth 25% more if you redeem for travel booked through Chase’s tool. That’s a pretty amazing signup bonus! As for ongoing rewards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card gives 2 Ultimate Rewards Points per $1 spent on travel and restaurants, and 1 point per $1 spent elsewhere. Your effective rewards rate, then, can be as high as 1.25% base and 2.50% bonus. Keep in mind that there’s an Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95 But it has no foreign transaction fee, making it a great choice for a traveler looking to score some free flights.

Best flat-rate travel rewards card: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
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on Capital One's
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One of the most flexible travel cards out there, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card gives 2 No Hassle Miles on all purchases. That means bonus rewards on everything and No Hassle Miles are great in the ways you can redeem them! They can be used as a credit against travel expenses like tickets or hotel rooms booked through your favorite site, and the miles don’t expire as long as your account is active. This flexible rewards program allow you to book through discount sites like Kayak and to fly on the airline of your choice, rather than limiting you to just one carrier. If you fly on a number of different airlines or prefer bargain-hunting, there’s no better airline card.

Like all Capital One credit cards, it has no foreign transaction fee which will save you a pretty penny when you travel abroad. Also, the there’s the low annual fee: $0 intro for first year; $59 after that. Enjoy a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, equal to $400 in travel.

Best 5% rewards cash back card: Chase Freedom®

Chase Freedom Credit Card
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on Chase's
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Want one of the best rewards rates out there without the commitment of fees and hassle of annoying rewards programs? Enter the Chase Freedom®, which earns 5% cash back on bonus categories that change every quarter, such as gas, groceries, restaurants and Amazon.com, up to $1,500 spent per quarter. You’ll earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. Plus, the card comes with a great signup bonus: get a $100 bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening Among our most popular cards, its high rewards rate and ease of use make it a favorite among NerdWallet staff and readers alike.

Here’s the bonus category list for 2015:

  • Q1 (January 1 – March 31): Grocery stores, movie theaters and Starbucks stores
  • Q2 (April 1 – June 30): Restaurants
  • Q3 (July 1 – September 30): Gas stations
  • Q4 (October 1 – December 31): Amazon.com

Our favorite for grocery and gas rewards: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

American Express Blue Cash Preferred Credit Card
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on American Express's
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The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is our favorite deal for families and people who spend on gas and grocery rather than travel. It offers an impressive rewards rate – 6% cash back on groceries, up to $6,000 spent annually, as well as an unlimited 3% rewards on gas and department stores. Plus, you can take advantage of the gift card trick to up your rewards rate on virtually any spending to 6%: Just buy gift cards to Starbucks, the Gap, Home Depot, etc. at the grocery store checkout line, so you’ll get the full rewards rate anywhere that offers gift cards. The $75 annual fee is countered by a good signup bonus: Get $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive $150 back in the form of a statement credit.

The no annual fee version, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, is an option for those uncomfortable with the idea of annual fees, but it’s generally an inferior card. Looking only at grocery rewards, if you spend $2,500 on groceries annually (that’s about $50 a week) you’re better off with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. And that doesn’t even account for gas and department store rewards, or the better signup bonus. If you spend on family rather than travel, and the bulk of your income goes to food and gas, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is the perfect card.

Best flat rate cash back card: Citi®Double Cash Card

Citibank Citi® Double Cash Card Credit Card
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on Citibank's
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The Citi®Double Cash Card provides no annual fee, no hassle and high rewards. You’ll earn 1% cash back on every purchase you make, then an additional 1% cash back when you pay them off. Plus, there’s no limit to the cash back you can earn. When it comes time to redeem, you can cash in your rewards for a statement credit, a gift card or a check in the mail. In addition the great rewards, this card offers 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 12.99% - 22.99% (Variable). This is one of the Nerds’ favorite cash back cards on the market today, and hopefully it’s easy to see why!

Best Online Shopping Cash Back Card: Discover it®

Discover It Credit Card
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on Discover's
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The Discover it® has it all (get it? It?): 5% cash back on categories that change quarterly, up to $1,500 spent each quarter. These categories are nice and broad, including restaurants, online shopping and gas. The Discover it® also comes with Discover Deals where you can earn extra cash back. You’ll get high-end perks like purchase, warranty and return protection; and no annual or foreign transaction fee as well as a waived first late payment fee. It also comes with a great intro APR: 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 14 months, and then the ongoing APR of 10.99% - 22.99% Variable.