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“Wellness” is a broad concept: It encompasses physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and social well-being. A big portion of the typical household budget has a direct tie to wellness, since our spending is influenced by what we choose to eat, how we manage our health and how we spend our free time.
If you use the right credit cards for such spending, your finances might experience a little wellness, too, in the form of rewards on purchases or a break on interest with larger expenses.
Not surprisingly, though — given just how expansive of an idea wellness is — you’re not going to find a single card that offers, say, “5% cash back on wellness spending.” The best credit card for wellness depends on how wellness manifests itself in your daily life. Start by identifying that, and you can narrow down your choices.
Wellness categories for credit cards
Every rewards credit card doles out cash back or points in its own way. Some give you the same rewards rate on every purchase — say, 1.5% cash back or 2 points per dollar. Others give you elevated rewards in specific bonus categories.
Common credit card bonus categories that relate to wellness include:
Health. The exact parameters of this category, when offered, will vary by card, but it can include medical expenses, as well as fold in some of the other categories on this list.
Drugstores. Medicine, supplements, personal care items and more.
Fitness clubs and gyms. This typically includes memberships; depending on the card, it may also cover classes and purchases.
Sporting goods stores. Fitness equipment, shoes, clothing and the like.
Grocery stores. For those who cook their own healthful meals.
Restaurants. For those times you want someone else to cook those healthful meals.
Entertainment. Nourish your spirit as well with activities that bring you joy.
Streaming services. Online platforms can offer fitness instruction, wellness tutorials, inspirational content, meditations, music, calming soundtracks and other material. Different cards cover different services.
Travel. Consider the restorative value of getting away from it all.
If you can’t find a card with a compelling combination of wellness categories, consider a flat-rate card that gives you, say, 2% cash back on everything you buy.
Top credit cards for wellness:
After our top cards for wellness, we also have some pointers about whether and when to use a credit card for major medical expenses.
Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa®
Best for: Medical and lifestyle spending
Why it’s good for wellness: The Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa® is about as close as you’re going to come to an all-encompassing wellness card. It earns an unlimited 3% cash back on purchases it classifies as “health” spending. This is a remarkably broad category that covers both medical and lifestyle aspects of wellness. The long list of qualifying merchants includes doctors, dentists, chiropractors, hospitals, nursing facilities, counseling services, drugstores, fitness clubs, sporting goods stores — even dance studios, golf courses and bicycle repair shops.
With the Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa®, if you don’t pay your statement balance in full, the remainder is converted to a fixed-rate loan with a set repayment schedule. This can save money compared with traditional credit cards, which require only a minimum payment that can keep you in the red for years without making a lot of progress toward eliminating your debt. Carrying medical debt on any credit card isn’t ideal — see below for more on this topic — but doing so on this card could be a less-bad option.
Other benefits: You also earn 3% cash back in the “auto” and “home” categories. Like the health category, each of these includes a broad array of expenses. Other purchases earn 1%.
Drawbacks to consider: This card’s distinctive categories set it apart, but most of your day-to-day spending will likely earn only 1%. (Gas stations, for example, are notably absent from the auto category, and the health category does not include food purchases.) Plus, rewards for a purchase are credited to your account only after the purchase is paid off.
Read our review of the Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa®
U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card
Best for: 5% cash back in lifestyle categories
Why it’s good for wellness: The U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card earns 5% cash back on the first $2,000 in spending per quarter in two categories you choose from a list of 12. The 5% categories include a host of lifestyle options — among them gyms and fitness centers; sporting goods stores; internet, TV and streaming; department stores; electronics stores; movie theaters; and select clothing stores.
Admittedly, you’d be hard-pressed to max out your rewards in some of these categories. (Who’s going to spend that much on gym memberships in a single quarter?) But one thing you can do is consolidate spending. If possible, consider paying a year’s gym membership in advance. Make gyms a 5% category one quarter, pay for a year, then switch categories for the next quarter. Do the same with streaming subscription plans. Eyeing a piece of exercise equipment? Choose sporting goods stores for one quarter.
Other benefits: You also earn 2% cash back in one “everyday” category you choose; options include grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations and electric vehicle charging stations. All other purchases earn 1% cash back. There’s also a bonus offer for new cardholders.
Drawbacks to consider: You have to select and activate your 5% and 2% categories every quarter, meaning this card requires some maintenance. Solution: Set calendar reminders.
Read our review of the U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card
Best for: Automatic, customized 5% rewards
Why it’s good for wellness: The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card automatically earns 5% cash back in the one eligible category where you spend the most money each billing cycle, on up to $500 per cycle in spending. The 10 categories on the 5% list include common big-spending options — like grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants — but also wellness-oriented categories, like fitness clubs, streaming services, drugstores and select live entertainment.
As with the U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card, you can max out your bonus rewards by consolidating spending and being strategic with what you buy, and when. However, unlike that card, you don’t have to choose your category: The card identifies your top spending category after the fact and rewards you accordingly.
Other benefits: All other spending with this card — including spending above $500 per cycle in your top category — earns 1% cash back. This card also comes with a solid bonus offer for new cardholders.
Drawbacks to consider: The $500 monthly cap on spending eligible for 5% cash back is fairly low. Comparable cards have a higher cap that applies on a quarterly or annual basis. The bonus categories also have some gaps that may exclude some of your wellness spending. For example, virtual services for fitness equipment (like Peloton classes) aren’t included in either fitness clubs or streaming services.
Read our review of the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card
Best for: Rewards for physical activity
Why it’s good for wellness: The Paceline Card pays 2.5% cash back on qualifying “health and wellness purchases,” a category that includes groceries, drugstores, sporting goods, gyms, fitness equipment, athletic apparel and more. That rate doubles to 5% cash back when you achieve a “Paceline Streak,” by elevating your heart rate for at least 150 minutes in a week, as measured by a device compatible with Paceline’s app (certain iPhones, Apple Watches, Fitbit wearables and Garmin watches).
Other benefits: All other purchases with the card earn 1.5% cash back, which doubles to 3% when you achieve a Paceline Streak. There’s another incentive for hitting a Paceline Streak consistently: By doing so, cardholders can earn up to $429 in statement credits over 12 months toward reimbursement for the purchase of an Apple Watch.
Drawbacks to consider: The card has an annual fee of $60.
Read our review of the Paceline Card.
Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
Best for: Simplicity — a great rate on everything
Why it’s good for wellness: Stressed out about which card to use where? This card makes it easy: You earn 2% cash back on every purchase, regardless of where you make it or what you buy. A flat-rate card like Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card is especially good for those whose spending is all over the map rather than concentrated in a select few categories.
Other benefits: This card comes with a good bonus offer for new cardholders. It also includes cell phone protection if you pay your monthly wireless bill with the card.
Drawbacks to consider: The upside of a flat-rate card is that you earn the same rate on everything. The downside? You earn the same rate on everything. If you’re regularly spending a lot in specific categories, it may be worth your while to add a card with higher rewards in those areas. (Some folks even make a hobby out of optimizing their credit card rewards, and hobbies can be an element of wellness.)
» MORE: Best cash-back credit cards
Read our review of the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Best for: Home cooks
Why it’s good for wellness: If you spend a lot of money on groceries to make healthful meals at home, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express should fit neatly into your wallet. It earns an industry-leading 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 a year in spending (1% afterward). It also earns 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, so it can reward you for watching cooking tutorials (and everything else) ad-free on YouTube Premium. Terms apply.
Other benefits: You earn 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit, as well as 1% cash back on other purchases. There’s a good welcome offer for new cardholders, too.
Drawbacks to consider: This card comes at a cost: $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95. However, if you spend just $31 a week at U.S. supermarkets, the card pays for itself.
Read our review of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
» MORE: Best credit cards for groceries
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
Best for: Food lovers — at home or on the town
Why it’s good for wellness: Some cards pay high rewards on groceries, and some pay high rewards at restaurants. The Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card is the rare card that covers both kinds of food spending. It earns 3% cash back on purchases at grocery stores and at restaurants, as well as on entertainment spending and eligible streaming services. It’s the ideal dinner-and-a-movie card.
Other benefits: All other spending earns 1% cash back. There’s a good bonus offer, and it has a $0 annual fee.
Drawbacks to consider: If your food spending leans more heavily toward either grocery stores or restaurants, rather than splitting between them, you may be better off with a card that offers higher rewards on one or the other.
Read our review of the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
AARP® Essential Rewards Mastercard® from Barclays
Best for: Varied medical expenses
Why it’s good for wellness: This is one of the rare credit cards that has medical expenses as a bonus category. You earn unlimited 2% cash back with doctors, dentists, hospitals, ambulance services and other providers, as well as with merchants that sell eyeglasses, hearing aids, prosthetics and more. The card also earns 3% cash back at drugstores and gas stations.
Note: you don't have to be an AARP member to qualify for the card. However, if you are a fan of the organization — which advocates for the interests of people age 50 and older — getting the card can give AARP's work a boost. Barclays donates $10 for each new account to the AARP foundation "in support of efforts to increase social connection." There's another wellness angle right there.
Other benefits: All other purchases earn 1% cash back. There’s a modest bonus offer for new cardholders. You don’t need to be an AARP member to qualify for the card.
Drawbacks to consider: The 2% rewards rate on medical spending is nice, but it’s the same rate that several credit cards offer on all purchases. Those cards would earn the same rewards on medical spending as the AARP® Essential Rewards Mastercard® from Barclays, plus give you 2% on everything else.
Read our review of the AARP® Essential Rewards Mastercard® from Barclays
Should you use a credit card to pay big medical bills?
The high interest rates typically charged by credit cards mean they might not be the best way to pay for major medical expenses. A rule of thumb: If you’re going to need more than a year to pay off a medical bill, your best move may be to work with the health provider’s billing department on a payment plan that avoids the crushing interest that credit cards can charge. On the other hand, for health care costs you can afford to pay upfront or that you will need a year or less to pay off, a credit card might be ideal.
Your health comes first! If carrying debt on a credit card is what you need to do to obtain the medical care you require, you shouldn’t feel bad about it. A credit card isn’t an ideal emergency fund, but it can provide a safety net.
For costs you can pay upfront: A rewards card
If you can afford to pay a medical bill out of pocket, why not put it on a rewards credit card and earn a little something back? You could use one of the cards above that offer bonus cash back on medical spending. Or, if those cards don't seem like a good fit for your overall spending patterns, use a flat-rate card that pays good rewards on everything.
Good flat-rate options include:
Note that putting spending on a card in order to earn rewards makes sense only if you pay your balance in full every month. If you carry debt from month to month, you’ll be charged interest, and that can easily eat up the value of any rewards you earn.
For costs you could pay off within a year: A 0% card
If you have good credit, you may be able to qualify for a card with an introductory 0% APR period on purchases for a year or more. The best offer being close to two years at 0%. If you don’t need that long, multiple rewards cards have 0% periods of 12 to 15 months, meaning you could earn rewards (or even a sign-up bonus) with your spending and have ample breathing room to pay it off.
Good cards with a long 0% period:
BankAmericard® credit card. 0% intro APR on Purchases for 21 billing cycles and 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 21 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days, and then the ongoing APR of 16.24%-26.24% Variable APR.
Wells Fargo Reflect® Card. 0% intro APR on Purchases for up to 21 months and 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers up to 21 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 17.24%-29.24% Variable APR.
Rewards cards with a good 0% intro APR period:
Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card. 0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 months and 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 19.24%, 24.24%, or 29.24% Variable APR. This card would earn 2% cash back on medical expenses, plus it has a bonus offer.
Chase Freedom Unlimited®. 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 19.24%-27.99% Variable APR . This card would earn 1.5% cash back on medical expenses. It has a bonus offer, too.
» MORE: Best 0% APR credit cards