Best of

Best Rewards Credit Cards of October 2020

NerdWalletSeptember 20, 2020

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Rewards credit cards come in two main varieties: cash-back cards and travel cards. Cash-back cards pay you back a percentage of the amount of each transaction. Travel rewards credit cards give you points or miles for each dollar you spend; you redeem those rewards for free flights, hotel stays and more. No single rewards card is right for everyone. It's all about how you spend money and what kind of rewards you value.

Some of our selections for the best rewards credit cards can be applied for through NerdWallet, and some cannot. Below, you'll find application links for the credit cards from our partners that are available through NerdWallet, followed by the full list of our picks.

NerdWallet's Best Rewards Credit Cards of October 2020

Best Rewards Credit Cards From Our Partners

Our pick for

Cash back — families (groceries, gas, commuting, streaming)

on American Express's website

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

1%-6%

Cashback

Intro offer

$250

Recommended Credit Score

If groceries, gas and/or commuting are among your most common expenses, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is a winner.

Pros

This card offers industry-leading rewards at U.S. supermarkets — 6% cash back on up to $6,000 in spending per year (then 1%) — supplemented by 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including such things as taxis, rideshares, buses, trains, tolls and parking). You also get 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions. All other purchases earn 1% back. A welcome bonus adds to the appeal.

Cons

This card has a high annual fee, although if you spend at least $31 a week at U.S. supermarkets, the cash back will offset it. Because it’s from American Express, you might have trouble using it in some places.

  • Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%).
  • 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
  • 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more). 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, currently 13.99% to 23.99%.
  • Plan It® gives the option to select purchases of $100 or more to split up into monthly payments with a fixed fee and no interest.
  • Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
  • $95 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • View Rates and Fees

Our pick for

Cash back — high flat rate

on Citibank's application

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

1%-2%

Cashback

Intro offer

$0

Recommended Credit Score

With the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer, earning cash back is simple and lucrative. If you're looking for a low-hassle cash back card to use daily, this is it.

Pros

The value in this card is pretty much all in its stellar rewards rate: 2% cash back on purchases — 1% when you buy something, and 1% when you pay it off.

Cons

Other cards offer higher cash back percentages in specific categories. And this offer does not include a sign-up bonus.

  • Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • 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.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.

Our pick for

Travel rewards — bonus categories

on Chase's website

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

1x-5x

Points

Intro offer

80,000

Points

Recommended Credit Score

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card provides outstanding value and flexibility — including the option of transferring your rewards to popular airline and hotel loyalty programs — for a reasonable annual fee.

Pros

You earn 2 points per dollar spent on dining and travel and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Points are worth 1.25 cents apiece when you redeem them for travel booked through Chase, or you can transfer them to several other loyalty programs, including United, Southwest, Marriott and Hyatt. Further, Ultimate Rewards® points transferred to this card from other Chase cards can be redeemed the same way. The card also comes with a superb sign-up bonus.

Cons

The rewards you earn on your spending are valuable in themselves, but if it's perks you're looking for — for example, free checked bags on flights, free hotel upgrades or automatic travel credits — look to a branded airline or hotel card or this card's premium sibling, the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
  • See if you qualify for a better offer with Chase:

Our pick for

Cash back — up to 5% in multiple categories + cash bonus

on Chase's website

on Chase's website

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

1%-5%

Cashback

Intro offer

$200

Recommended Credit Score

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers rewards as high as 5% in specific categories (some that change quarterly and some that don't), plus generous bonus opportunities for new cardholders. If you're willing to put in a little work, it's one rich card.

Pros

This card earns 5% cash back in bonus categories that change every three months (on up to $1,500 per quarter in spending, then 1%); 5% on travel booked through Chase; 3% cash back at restaurants and drugstores; and 1% on other purchases. New cardholders also get 5% back on up to $12,000 in grocery store purchases in the first year (not including Target or Walmart) and can snag this sign-up bonus: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Finally, if you have one of Chase's Sapphire cards, you can transfer your rewards to it for greater value and flexibility.

Cons

Activating and tracking the bonus categories can be a hassle. For an option that does away with the 5% categories in exchange for a higher ongoing rate on "everything else," check the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. And it charges a foreign transaction fee, so it's not the best choice for international travel.

  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.
  • See if you qualify for a better offer with Chase:

Our pick for

Cash back — bonus categories + high ongoing rate

on Chase's website

on Chase's website

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

1.5%-5%

Cashback

Intro offer

$200

Recommended Credit Score

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® was already a fine card when it offered 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Now it's even better, with bonus rewards on travel booked through Chase, as well as at restaurants and drugstores. New cardholders get great bonus opportunities, too.

Pros

This card earns 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase; 3% cash back at restaurants and drugstores; and 1.5% on other purchases. New cardholders also get 5% back on up to $12,000 in grocery store purchases in the first year (not including Target or Walmart) and can snag this sign-up bonus: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. If you're a maximizer, you can transfer your rewards to one of Chase's Sapphire cards to boost their value by 25% or 50%.

Cons

If groceries are a major line item in your budget, you may be better off with a card that offers high ongoing rewards at the supermarket, rather than just in the first year. And while you can earn big rewards on travel bookings with this card, it also charges a 3% foreign transaction fee, so it's not a good companion abroad.

  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.
  • See if you qualify for a better offer with Chase:

Our pick for

Cash back — bonus categories + cash-back match

on Discover's website, or call (800) 347-0264

Rates & Fees

on Discover's website, or call (800) 347-0264

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

1%-5%

Cashback

Intro offer

Cashback Match

Recommended Credit Score

The bonus categories, $0 annual fee and new-cardmember bonus make the 0% intro APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR.

Pros

This card has broad bonus categories that you activate each quarter, allowing you to earn 5% cash back at such places as restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations. (The 5% rewards are capped at $1,500 in spending per quarter; after that, you get 1%. There’s also a distinctive sign-up bonus: INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.

Cons

Keeping track of the changing bonus categories, and remembering to opt in to them every three months, can be a hassle.

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back in any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • No annual fee.
  • View Rates and Fees

Our pick for

Airline credit card

on Chase's website

on Chase's website

Annual Fee

$0 intro for the first year, then $95

Rewards Rate

1x-2x

Miles

Intro offer

60,000

Miles

Recommended Credit Score

The United℠ Explorer Card is everything you'd want in a basic airline card, with rewards and perks that more than make up for the annual fee.

Pros

Earn 2 miles per dollar on United purchases, at restaurants and on hotel stays purchased directly from the hotel. Other spending earns 1 mile per dollar. You get a free checked bag for you and a companion, priority boarding, two one-time lounge passes each year and reimbursement for the application fee for TSA Precheck or Global Entry. Start with a solid sign-up bonus, too.

Cons

As with any airline card with an annual fee, it's a good deal only if you fly the airline enough to use the perks you're paying for.

  • Earn 60,000 Bonus Miles
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel stays
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck™ Fee Credit
  • 25% back on United inflight purchases
  • Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $140 per roundtrip) when you use your Card to purchase your ticket
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases from United, and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and eligible delivery services including GrubHub, Caviar, Seamless and DoorDash

Our pick for

Hotel credit card

on Chase's website

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

1x-9x

Points

Intro offer

25,000

Points

Recommended Credit Score

Although Hyatt isn't as big as its competitors, the outstanding value delivered by The World Of Hyatt Credit Card makes it worth considering for anyone who spends a lot of time in hotels.

Pros

You earn 4 points per dollar spent with Hyatt, 2 points per dollar on an array of common spending categories (see the product details tab), and 1 point per dollar on other spending. Hyatt points are also worth significantly more than most other hotel points. You get a free night each anniversary year and can earn another with $15,000 a year in spending. There's a decent sign-up bonus, automatic elite status and more.

Cons

Hyatt's relatively small footprint — about 850 properties compared with 5,000 or more for other chains — means you won't have as many locations to choose from as you'd get with other hotel cards.

  • Earn 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend $6,000 total within 6 months of account opening.
  • Free nights start at 5,000 points
  • Receive 1 free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel or resort after your Cardmember anniversary
  • Earn an extra free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel if you spend $15,000 during your cardmember anniversary year
  • Get automatic World of Hyatt Elite status and 5 qualifying night credits every year as long as your account is open
  • Earn 2 qualifying night credits towards tier status everytime you spend $5,000 on your card
  • Earn 9 points total for Hyatt stays - 4 Bonus Points per $1 spent at Hyatt hotels & 5 Base Points per $1 you can earn as a World of Hyatt member
  • Earn 2 Bonus Points per $1 spent at restaurants, on airlines tickets purchased directly from the airlines, on local transit and commuting and on fitness club and gym memberships

Our pick for

Flexible foodie rewards + no annual fee

on US Bank's website

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$0*

Rewards Rate

1x-4x

Points

Intro offer

25,000

Points

Recommended Credit Score

The U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card gives you hard-to-beat rewards at restaurants and pretty-good rewards at grocery stores and gas stations for an unbeatable $0* annual fee. Other cards rival its rate at restaurants, but they have annual fees of $95 to nearly $500.

Pros

Earn 4 points per $1 spent on dining purchases, which includes takeout and delivery; 2X points at grocery stores (including grocery delivery), gas stations and streaming services; and 1X points on other eligible purchases. There's also a bonus, an intro APR period and an annual credit on eligible streaming services. Plus, points are worth 1 cent apiece regardless of how you redeem them, even for cash back.

Cons

Unlike some other dining cards, there are no bonus rewards for "entertainment" spending like movies, sporting events, live music, theme parks, etc. Also, you cannot pool this card's rewards with other U.S. Bank Altitude cards.

  • Earn 25,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 90 days of account opening. That's a $250 value redeemable towards merchandise, gift cards, cash back, travel and more
  • Earn 4X points on takeout, food delivery and dining
  • Earn 2X points at grocery stores, grocery delivery, gas stations and on streaming services
  • $15 credit for annual streaming service purchases such as Netflix and Spotify
  • No annual fee*
  • 1X point per $1 on all other eligible purchases
  • Low Introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • Points never expire
  • View Rates and Fees

Our pick for

Small business — travel rewards

Small-business credit cards aren't just for people with storefronts or offices. If you're a freelancer, have a "side hustle" or do gig work, you may a good candidate for a small-business credit card, too. Having a dedicated card for your money-making enterprise helps you keep business and personal finances separate.

on Chase's website

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

1x-3x

Points

Intro offer

100,000

Points

Recommended Credit Score

The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card offers one of the richest sign-up bonuses available on any credit card, anywhere, and it pays handsome rewards in a variety of categories.

Pros

The sign-up bonus is worth $1,250 if you redeem the points for travel booked through Chase. (You can also transfer points to a dozen or so airline and hotel programs, including United, Southwest, Marriott and Hyatt.) You'll earn 3 points per dollar on up to $150,000 a year in spending on travel, telecommunications (internet, phone and cable), shipping, and advertising on social media and search engines; all other spending earns 1 point per dollar.

Cons

This card's bonus categories aren't a good fit for all business owners. There's an annual fee of $95. After the first year, you’d have to spend at least $2,534 before the rewards make up for the annual fee. This might not matter as much to you, though, if you deduct the fee as a business expense on your taxes.

  • New Offer! Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases - with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more - your points don't expire as long as your account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • $95 Annual Fee

Our pick for

Small business — cash back + no annual fee

on Chase's website

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

1.5%

Cashback

Intro offer

$500

Recommended Credit Score

If your business expenses don't fall neatly into the bonus categories on other cards, you'd benefit from a flat-rate cash back card like the Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card. You get a solid 1.5% cash back rate on everything, plus a bonus offer that's outstanding for a card with a $0 annual fee.

Pros

With no categories or spending caps to worry about and no annual fee to pay, the Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card is ideal for entrepreneurs who want no-fuss credit card rewards. There's a 0% intro APR period on purchases, too, in case you have a big expense coming up.

Cons

Higher-spending businesses might net more rewards with a card that pays a higher rate but charges an annual fee.

  • Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase made for your business
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • No Annual Fee

Our pick for

College students

on Discover's website, or call (800) 347-0264

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

1%-2%

Cashback

Intro offer

Cashback Match

Recommended Credit Score

Discover offers two fine cards for college students. The Discover it® Student chrome shines with its no-maintenance rewards structure and student-friendly bonus categories. You also get a free FICO score, low fees, and forgiveness for your first late payment. Plus, Discover says there's no FICO history requirement for this card.

Pros

You earn 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations, on up to $1,000 in combined purchases per quarter, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. (Unlike with Discover's other student card, you don't have to "activate" your bonus rewards.) The annual fee is $0. Students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher can earn a $20 statement credit each year for up to five years. There's also Discover's signature bonus for new cardholders.

Cons

Although there's no foreign transaction fee, Discover isn’t as widely accepted abroad as other cards. If you plan to travel internationally, make sure you have a backup plan.

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 12.99% - 21.99% applies.
  • View Rates and Fees

Our pick for

Bad credit

on Discover's website, or call (800) 347-0264

Rates & Fees

on Discover's website, or call (800) 347-0264

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

1%-2%

Cashback

Intro offer

Cashback Match

Recommended Credit Score

The rewards and other features on the Discover it® Secured are better than those on many unsecured cards for good credit.

Pros

Rewards probably aren't top of mind (nor should they be) when you're building credit, but this card makes a great offer: 2% cash back on up to $1,000 worth of spending per quarter on restaurants and gas, and 1% on all other spending. Handle your account responsibly, and you might be able to move up to an unsecured card: Discover begins reviewing your account for a possible upgrade after eight months.

Cons

Like all secured cards, this card requires a security deposit, which will determine your credit line. The minimum is $200 — and with a credit line that low, the cash back you get will be minimal. There's a $2,500 maximum deposit, though, which allows for greater rewards.

  • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
  • It's a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
  • Establish your credit line by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200 after being approved. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
  • Automatic reviews starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score
  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • View Rates and Fees

Credit CardBest ForRewards RateIntro OfferAnnual FeeLearn More
American Express Blue Cash Preferred Credit Card

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

on American Express's website

Cash back — families (groceries, gas, commuting, streaming)

1%-6%

Cashback

$250

$95

on American Express's website

Citi® Double Cash Card

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

on Citibank's application

Cash back — high flat rate

1%-2%

Cashback

$0

$0

on Citibank's application

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

on Chase's website

Travel rewards — bonus categories

1x-5x

Points

80,000

Points

$95

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Flex

Chase Freedom Flex℠

on Chase's website

Cash back — up to 5% in multiple categories + cash bonus

1%-5%

Cashback

$200

$0

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

on Chase's website

Cash back — bonus categories + high ongoing rate

1.5%-5%

Cashback

$200

$0

on Chase's website

Discover it® Cash Back

Discover it® Cash Back

on Discover's website, or call (800) 347-0264

Cash back — bonus categories + cash-back match

1%-5%

Cashback

Cashback Match

$0

on Discover's website, or call (800) 347-0264

Chase United Airlines Mileage Plus Credit Card

United℠ Explorer Card

on Chase's website

Airline credit card

1x-2x

Miles

60,000

Miles

$0 intro for the first year, then $95

on Chase's website

The World Of Hyatt Credit Card

The World Of Hyatt Credit Card

on Chase's website

Hotel credit card

1x-9x

Points

25,000

Points

$95

on Chase's website

U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card

U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card

on US Bank's website

Flexible foodie rewards + no annual fee

1x-4x

Points

25,000

Points

$0*

on US Bank's website

Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

on Chase's website

Small business — travel rewards

1x-3x

Points

100,000

Points

$95

on Chase's website

Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card

Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card

on Chase's website

Small business — cash back + no annual fee

1.5%

Cashback

$500

$0

on Chase's website

Discover it® Student chrome

Discover it® Student chrome

on Discover's website, or call (800) 347-0264

College students

1%-2%

Cashback

Cashback Match

$0

on Discover's website, or call (800) 347-0264

Discover it® Secured

Discover it® Secured

on Discover's website, or call (800) 347-0264

Bad credit

1%-2%

Cashback

Cashback Match

$0

on Discover's website, or call (800) 347-0264

FULL LIST OF EDITORIAL PICKS: BEST REWARDS CREDIT CARDS

Click the card name to read our review. Before applying, confirm details on the issuer’s website.

Our pick for: Cash back — high flat rate

Year after year, the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has been our choice for the best flat-rate cash-back card. You earn 2% cash back on every purchase — 1% when you buy something and 1% when you pay it off. There's no 0% intro period for purchases and no sign-up bonus, but the high rewards rate more than makes up for the lack of bells and whistles. Read our review.

Our pick for: Cash back — up to 5% in multiple categories + cash bonus

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers bonus cash back in quarterly categories that you activate, as well as on travel booked through Chase, at restaurants and at drugstores. Category activation can be a hassle, but if your spending matches the categories — and for a lot of people, it will — you can rack up hundreds of dollars a year. There's a fantastic bonus offer for new cardholders and a 0% intro APR period, too. Read our review.

Our pick for: Cash back — bonus categories + cashback match

The Discover it® Cash Back earns bonus cash back in quarterly categories that you activate. In past years, those categories have included common spending areas like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and Amazon.com. Category activation can be a hassle, but if your spending aligns with those categories (and for most households, it probably will), you can rake in serious rewards. You also get the issuer's signature "cash-back match" bonus in your first year. Read our review.

Our pick for: Cash back — bonus categories + high ongoing rate

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® was already a fine card when it offered 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Now it's even better, with bonus rewards on travel booked through Chase, as well as at restaurants and drugstores. On top of all that, new cardholders get a 0% introductory APR period, bonus rewards at grocery stores and the opportunity to earn a sweet cash bonus. Read our review.

Our pick for: Cash back — families (groceries, gas, commuting, streaming)

If your household spends a lot on groceries, gas, transit and streaming services, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is for you. The rewards it pays in those categories — particularly at U.S. supermarkets and on select streaming services — are among the richest of any card. There's a nice bonus offer for new cardholders and an introductory 0% APR period, too. The generous benefits come at a cost, though: Unlike most cash-back cards, this one charges an annual fee. Read our review.

Our pick for: Cash back — dining and entertainment

If a night out is more than a once-in-a-while proposition for you, consider the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card. You get a best-in-class cash-back rate on dining and entertainment, plus bonus rewards at grocery stores. The sign-up bonus is one of the best you can get on a cash-back card. Read our review.

Our pick for: Cash back — customizable rewards

If you don't mind putting some work into your rewards, check out the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card. It might be the most customizable cash back card available. You pick which categories earn the most cash back — you get two 5% categories and a 2% category — and you can change those options every quarter. There's a good bonus offer for new cardholders, too. Read our review.

Our pick for: Flexible food rewards + no annual fee

The U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card is perhaps the most cost-effective restaurant card on the market, earning a whopping 4 points per dollar on dining purchases including takeout and delivery. You can find higher rates on dining, but not on cards with no annual fee. Read our review. 

Our pick for: Travel rewards — flat-rate rewards

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is probably the best-known general-purpose travel credit card, thanks to its ubiquitous advertising. You earn 2 miles per dollar on all purchases, and miles can be redeemed at a value of 1 cent apiece for any travel purchase, without the blackout dates and other restrictions of branded hotel and airline cards. The card offers a great sign-up bonus and other worthwhile perks. Read our review.

Our pick for: Travel rewards — bonus categories

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns 2X points on travel and dining for a reasonable annual fee. Points are worth 25% more when you redeem them for travel booked through Chase, or you could transfer them to about a dozen airline and hotel partners. The sign-up bonus is stellar, too. Read our review. 

Our pick for: Travel rewards — no annual fee

The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card offers so much value, it's hard to believe there's no annual fee. Start with a great bonus offer, then earn extra rewards in a host of common spending categories — restaurants, gas stations, transit, travel, streaming and more. Read our review.

Our pick for: College students

Simplicity makes the Discover it® Student chrome a standout for students searching for their first credit card. You'll earn bonus cash back at restaurants and gas stations with no activation required and no rotating categories to keep track of. Read our review.

Our pick for: Fair/average credit

This card for people with fair or "average" credit pays the same cash-back rate as the regular Quicksilver card, which targets people with excellent credit. The key difference is that this version charges an annual fee while the regular one does not. Read our review.

Our pick for: Bad credit 

Like other secured credit cards for people building or rebuilding credit, the Discover it® Secured requires a cash security deposit. Unlike most others, it offers rewards. But what really makes it stand out from the competition is its upgrade possibilities. The issuer has a process in place for automatically reviewing accounts for possible transition to an unsecured card. Read our review. 

Our pick for: Airline credit card

The United℠ Explorer Card earns bonus rewards not only on spending with United Airlines but also at restaurants and on eligible hotel stays. And the perks are outstanding for a basic airline card — a free checked bag, priority boarding, lounge passes and more. Read our review.

Not a United flyer? See our best airline cards for other options.

Our pick for: Hotel credit card

Hyatt isn't as big as its competitors, but The World Of Hyatt Credit Card is worth a look for anyone who spends a lot of time on the road. You can earn a lot of points even on non-Hyatt spending, and those points have a high value compared with rival programs. There's a great sign-up bonus, free nights, automatic elite status and more. Read our review.

Not a Hyatt customer? See our best hotel cards for other options.

Our pick for: Small business — travel rewards

The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card starts you off with one of the biggest sign-up bonuses of any credit card anywhere (assuming you spend enough to earn it), then gives you bonus rewards in common business spending categories. Points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel booked through Chase, or you can transfer them to about a dozen airline and hotel partners. Read our review.

Our pick for: Small business — cash back

The Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business is an excellent option for business operators whose expenses are all over the map and don't fall into the bonus categories on other business credit cards. You get a high, flat rewards rate on every purchase, with no limit to how much you can earn. There's a great sign-up bonus offer, too. Read our review.

Our pick for: Small business — cash back + no annual fee

The Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card earns a simple, flat cash-back rate on every purchase, with no limit on how much you can earn. The sign-up bonus is outstanding for a cash-back card, particularly one with no annual fee, and there's an introductory 0% APR period for purchases. Read our review. 

UNDERSTANDING CASH-BACK REWARDS CARDS

How cash-back rewards work

With a cash-back credit card, you earn rewards equal to a percentage of the amount you spend. Cash-back rates range from 1% to 6% — that is, 1 cent to 6 cents per dollar spent — depending on the card you use and where you use it. Your monthly statement will show you the rewards you've earned to date; you can also track your rewards online.

Cash-back cards come in three main varieties: flat-rate, tiered and bonus-category.

FLAT-RATE CARDS

The simplest cash back cards earn the same percentage on every purchase, no matter where you use your card. Examples include:

TIERED CARDS

These cards pay a higher rate in certain categories and 1% back on everything else. Every card has its own structure, designed to appeal to a specific type of consumer. For example:

  • The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is a good card for families. It earns 6% back on up to $6,000 in spending per year at U.S. supermarkets (1% after that); 6% back on select U.S. streaming services; 3% back at U.S. gas stations and on transit expenses like taxis, tolls, trains and buses; and 1% everywhere else (terms apply).

  • The Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card is a nice option for people who like a night out. It pays 3% on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases

CARDS WITH ROTATING OR CHOOSE-YOUR-OWN BONUS CATEGORIES

Cards with bonus categories that change from time to time require more effort from you. You have to have to "opt in" or "activate" the bonus categories online. Some cards even let you (or make you, depending on your perspective) choose your own categories. Once you've opted in, spending in the bonus categories earns a higher rate, although the amount of spending eligible for the bonus rate is typically capped. Examples:

  • The Chase Freedom® pays 5% cash back in bonus categories that change every three months, on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter. All other spending earns 1%. Common quarterly categories include supermarkets, gas stations and restaurants.

  • The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card lets you customize your categories. You earn 5% back on up to $2,000 in combined quarterly spending on two categories you choose from a pretty extensive list, plus 2% back in one “everyday” category you choose, such as gas stations or grocery stores. All other purchases earn 1% back. Category options are subject to change, and you must make your choices each quarter.

What determines your bonus rewards?

When a card pays bonus cash back in specific categories, you earn those higher rewards based on where you use your card, not what you buy. If the category is "grocery stores," for example, then anything you buy at a supermarket will count — not just groceries. Conversely, groceries bought somewhere else, such as at a drugstore, wouldn't qualify for grocery store rewards.

Each merchant that accepts credit cards is assigned a category code by credit card networks like Visa. The code identifies the type of merchant it is, and these codes are what trigger your bonus rewards.

How to redeem cash-back rewards

Despite the term "cash back," most people don't actually take their cash-back rewards in the form of, well, cash back. The easiest and most common thing to do is to apply your rewards to your account as a statement credit. This directly reduces the amount you owe. (If your balance is $80, for example, and you redeem $30 in cash back, your balance becomes $50.) You're not getting literal cash back from the issuer, but less cash will be coming out of your pocket to pay the bill, so the effect is the same.

Depending on the card, you could also get your rewards deposited directly into your bank account or receive them as a check in the mail. Some cards set a minimum amount to redeem, usually $20 or $25. Other cards have no minimum for redemption.

» MORE: For cash-back options beyond those featured on this page, see our best cash-back credit cards.

UNDERSTANDING TRAVEL REWARDS CARDS

How travel rewards work

By Sam Kemmis, NerdWallet point and miles expert

With a travel rewards credit card, you earn points or miles every time you use the card, but you can often earn more points per dollar in select categories. For example, some travel rewards cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, offer bonus points on any travel spending, while others grant bonus points only when you use the card with a specific airline or hotel chain.

Not all points and miles earned on travel credit cards are the same:

What is a credit card point or mile worth?

How do we value points and miles? With the rewards earned on general travel cards, it's simple: They have a fixed value, usually between 1 and 1.5 cents per point, and you can spend them like cash. With airline miles and hotel points, finding the true value is more difficult. How much value you get depends on how you redeem them.

To better understand what miles are worth, NerdWallet researched the cash prices and reward-redemption values for hundreds of flights. Our results:

AIRLINE MILE VALUES

Program

Mile value

0.9 cent

1 cent

1.1 cents

0.6 cent

0.9 cent

1.3 cents

1.4 cents

0.8 cent

HOTEL POINT VALUES

Program

Point value

0.7 cent

0.5 cent

1.9 cents

0.8 cent

1 cent

0.5 cent

0.9 cent

For details about our methodology, see our valuations page.

Our valuations are different from many others you may find. That’s because we looked at the average value of a point based on reasonable price searches that anyone can perform, not a maximized value that only travel rewards experts can expect to reach.

You should therefore use these values as a baseline for your own redemptions. If you can redeem your points for the values listed on our valuations page, you are doing well. Of course, if you are able to get higher value out of your miles, that’s even better.

How to redeem travel rewards

How you go about cashing in your travel rewards depends on the type of card you earned them on and what you want to do with them. In most cases, you'll be redeeming either through your card issuer or through the loyalty program tied to the card.

REDEEMING REWARDS ON GENERAL TRAVEL CARDS

With a general-purpose travel card, you can usually use your points to pay for travel ahead of time by going through your card issuer's booking portal, which operates much like Orbitz or Expedia. Many cards also allow you to turn your points into statement credit for travel expenses already incurred. With this option, you use your card to book travel however you want, and then wipe out the cost on your statement by applying your points to your balance. You'll also go through your issuer's rewards portal to transfer points to airline or hotel programs.

You might have other options for using your points on general travel cards, such as for cash back or gift cards, but be careful with these options. You'll often get a lower value per point for non-travel redemptions.

REDEEMING AIRLINE OR HOTEL REWARDS

When your rewards are airline miles or hotel points, you typically redeem them for free flights or stays by signing in to your account in the associated loyalty program, such as Delta SkyMiles, American AAdvantage, Marriott Bonvoy or Hilton Honors. Enter your desired booking dates, then choose to see the price expressed in miles or points. Depending on the program, there may be limits and restrictions. An airline may have "blackout dates" when you can't get a free flight, for example, or a hotel may make only a certain number of rooms available for reward redemptions on a first-come, first-served basis.

DETERMINING THE RIGHT TYPE OF REWARDS CARD FOR YOU

There are so many options among rewards credit cards that picking the right one for you can be daunting. Make the process easier by approaching it systematically.

Rewards cards aren't for everyone

The first step is determining whether a rewards card is right for you at all. The best rewards credit cards require good to excellent credit — generally defined as a credit score of 690 or above — although there are a handful of options for fair or even bad credit.

A rewards card makes sense if you pay your bill in full every month. If you carry a balance from month to month, the interest you'll pay can quickly wipe out the value of your rewards; you'd be better off with a low-interest credit card, or a balance-transfer credit card that would allow you to pay down your debt over a defined period of time with 0% interest.

Look at both 'earn' and 'burn'

You'll want a rewards credit card that makes sense on both the "earn" side and the "burn" side. That means a card that rewards you for the kind of spending you do (earn) and that gives you rewards you can use (burn). For example, earning 5% cash back on home improvement stores might not do much for someone who lives in a small studio apartment. And if you never travel, airline miles are pretty much worthless.

The right choice also will depend on how much effort you’re willing to put into learning a rewards program and understanding a card’s built-in perks. Annual fees and sign-up bonuses can also sway your decision.

'Best' is a personal matter

Because of those factors, there’s no single “best” rewards card for everybody. Best might be a simple, flat-rate cash-back card, a premium travel card laden with benefits, or something in between. If you’re having trouble deciding on a type of rewards card, give special consideration to cash back. A NerdWallet study has shown cash-back credit cards are better for most people than travel cards.

HOW TO COMPARE REWARDS CARDS

We've discussed how to evaluate a credit card's rewards structure. But rewards rates aren't the only factor to consider when choosing a rewards credit card.

Annual fee

The credit cards with the richest rewards often charge annual fees. This is especially the case with travel credit cards. Typical annual fees range from around $90 to more than $500. Although some people are dead-set against paying them, annual fees can be worth it (or even a bargain) if the rewards and perks you earn outweigh the cost, and some cards waive the annual fee for the first year.

Most cash-back cards don't charge an annual fee. You can find good travel cards without an annual fee, although their rewards rates and sign-up bonuses tend to be small than those offered by their full-fee siblings.

Sign-up bonus

Also known as welcome offers, sign-up bonuses can give you a nice wad of cash or hundreds or thousands of points or miles for spending a certain amount in the first few months you have the card. But don't just look at the windfall you stand to receive. Pay attention also to the spending requirement. In general, the bigger the bonus, the more you'll have to spend to earn it. Avoid overspending to get a bonus.

0% intro APR period

You don’t normally want to carry a balance from month to month with rewards cards, but some of them offer 0% introductory APR periods on new purchases, balance transfers or both. A 0% period can be helpful if you have a big purchase coming up that you'd like a little time to pay off (which could also help you earn the sign-up bonus).

Foreign transaction fees

If you travel abroad, or plan to, look for a card that doesn't slap a surcharge on purchases made outside the U.S. Foreign transaction fees typically run about 3% of the purchase amount. A good travel card won't charge these fees, but many cash-back cards do.

Perks

Rewards are what you get for using a credit card. Perks are what you get simply for carrying the card — and depending on the card, perks can deliver even more value than rewards. Travel cards, in particular, are known for their perks. Examples include:

  • Automatic credit for travel expenses. Several general travel cards will reimburse hundreds of dollars a year in travel expenses. This might apply to any travel purchase, or to specific expenses such as airline fees or Uber rides. Learn more about travel credits.

  • Reimbursement for TSA Precheck and Global Entry. More and more cards are paying you back for the application fee for these trusted traveler programs, which help you get through airport security and customs more quickly. Learn more about trusted traveler programs, and see which cards offer reimbursement.

  • Airport lounge access. The biggest airlines (American, Delta, United) all offer high-end, high-annual-fee credit cards that get you into their airport lounges when you travel, and some lower-fee airline cards offer discounted or limited access. Several general travel cards get you into lounges in worldwide networks such as Priority Pass. American Express even has its own lounge network. Learn more about cards with lounge access.

  • Free checked bags and priority boarding. Exclusive to airline cards, these perks make travel a lot easier because you don't have to stuff everything into a carry-on to avoid a bag fee, and you don't have to fight for overhead-bin space because you're among the first to board the plane. The checked-bag perk alone can easily pay the annual fee on some cards. Learn more about free checked bags.

  • Free nights and other amenities. Credit cards issued by hotel chains offer perks that general travel cards can't match. Some of them give you one free night a year, which can make up the cost of the card immediately. Other benefits include free breakfast, free internet and early check-in or late check-out.

PROS AND CONS OF REWARDS CARDS

Pros

  • Rewards cards make purchases work harder for you. Earning rewards on every dollar you spend is like finding change in your couch cushions every day. Save up that change, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.

  • They allow you to travel more often, or more luxuriously, at a discount. Travel rewards credit cards can make it possible to sit in first class, upgrade to a suite or skip the long security line. Even if you don’t cash in points to travel like an Instagram influencer, they can help you travel for less money.

  • They can help protect you if your vacation falls apart. Many travel cards will compensate you if your bags get lost, your flight gets significantly delayed or canceled, or you have to cut your trip short because of a family emergency or illness. Many also offer coverage for your rental car. This all comes at no additional cost to you.

Cons

  • Rewards cards typically have higher APRs. That means credit card debt will cost you more over time. For a major purchase you’d like to pay back over time, look into a card with a 0% introductory APR offer. In general, use a rewards card only for purchases you’ll be able to pay in full when your statement comes.

  • Annual fees add up, especially if you carry multiple rewards cards.

  • They require a fair amount of mental energy. Some people relish the challenge of maximizing every purchase and piecing together a complicated, yet heavily subsidized, vacation itinerary. Others have zero interest in memorizing which card to use at gas stations, which to use at grocery stores, and which to use at restaurants. If you want rewards with little effort, a flat-rate cash back card or a travel card with a straightforward rewards program (no fancy transfers to airline partners or complicated redemptions) will make jumping into the pool of rewards cards warm and inviting.

MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR REWARDS CARD

Use the card for the bulk of your spending

Put all your ordinary expenses on the card, including monthly bills, to rack up rewards more quickly. That’s the power of a rewards card: getting extra value from your regular spending. Before applying for a card, make sure you’ll be able to meet the spending minimum required to earn the sign-up bonus. Be careful to never overspend just for rewards.

Pair cards to earn even more

Consider using complementary cards to extract maximum rewards for your spending. For example, one card might offer high rewards for restaurant spending, while an airline card gives you free checked bags and a third card gives you a nice rate on all other spending. If you have a card with a sign-up bonus, consolidate spending on that card until you earn that bonus.

Redeem rewards thoughtfully

Redeem your rewards in the way that delivers maximum value. With travel cards, you usually get a better redemption rate when you redeem for travel expenses than you would if you opted for cash back. Cash-back cards, meanwhile, may give you the highest redemption rate for statement credit, but a lower rate if you redeem points for gift cards. Some rewards can be transferred to travel partners, such as airlines and hotels, at a valuable rate. Learn what the options are and what your rewards are worth.

Use the freebies

A free checked bag can save you $60 on a roundtrip domestic flight. Access to airport lounges means free snacks and a more relaxing space in which to wait for your flight. Global Entry reimbursement is worth $100, and you’ll be spared having to remove your shoes to go through a metal detector at the airport. Take advantage of all the perks you’re offered, especially if you’re paying an annual fee.

OTHER CARDS TO CONSIDER

Rewards cards come in a variety of flavors to fit different consumer preferences and spending patterns. This roundup highlights the best cards in each particular category, but there may be a better card for you. Find other great cards in our specialized roundups:

To view rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, please visit this page.

Last updated on September 20, 2020

Methodology

NerdWallet's Credit Cards team selects the best rewards credit cards based on overall consumer value, as evidenced by star ratings, as well as their suitability for specific kinds of consumers, including both those seeking cash-back rewards and those interested in travel rewards. Factors in our evaluation include annual and other fees, rewards rates, the earning structure (for example, flat-rate rewards versus bonus categories), redemption options, bonus offers for new cardholders, introductory and ongoing APRs, and other noteworthy features such as airline or hotel perks or the ability to transfer points.

Frequently asked questions