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The More You Spend the More You Earn: Rewards Cards to Fit Your Needs

Learn the basics about rewards cards, then see our Nerds’ standout picks of 2023.

Dreaming of more cash in your pocket or a big vacation?

A rewards card could help you reach those goals. Rewards cards come in two main varieties:

  • 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.

To determine whether a rewards card is right for you, you’ll need to consider:

  • Your credit score: The best rewards credit cards require good to excellent credit — usually a credit score of 690 or above — but there are options for fair or even bad credit out there. Keep in mind, however, that this list is geared toward those in the good to excellent range.
  • Your monthly balance carryover: A rewards card only makes sense if you pay your bill in full every month. If you carry a balance, the interest will wipe out the value of your rewards and you may want to look into a low-interest credit card or a balance-transfer credit card.
  • Lifestyle and goals: You'll also want to make sure your card rewards you for the kind of spending you do and gives benefits you can actually use. 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.
At the end of the day, 'best' really is a personal matter.

Wells Fargo Active Cash Card

on Wells Fargo's website

5.0

NerdWallet rating 

on Wells Fargo's website

Annual fee

$0

Rewards rate

2%

Cashback

Intro offer

$200

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • High rewards rate
  • No annual fee
  • Intro APR period

Cons

  • No bonus categories
  • Select “Apply Now” to take advantage of this specific offer and learn more about product features, terms and conditions.
  • Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases.
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers. 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable APR thereafter; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee of 3% then a BT fee of up to 5%, min: $5.
  • $0 annual fee.
  • No categories to track or remember and cash rewards don’t expire as long as your account remains open.
  • Find tickets to top sports and entertainment events, book travel, make dinner reservations and more with your complimentary 24/7 Visa Signature® Concierge.
  • Up to $600 of cell phone protection against damage or theft. Subject to a $25 deductible.
Annual fee

$0

Rewards rate

2%

Cashback

Intro offer

$200

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • High rewards rate
  • No annual fee
  • Intro APR period

Cons

  • No bonus categories
  • Select “Apply Now” to take advantage of this specific offer and learn more about product features, terms and conditions.
  • Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases.
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers. 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable APR thereafter; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee of 3% then a BT fee of up to 5%, min: $5.
  • $0 annual fee.
  • No categories to track or remember and cash rewards don’t expire as long as your account remains open.
  • Find tickets to top sports and entertainment events, book travel, make dinner reservations and more with your complimentary 24/7 Visa Signature® Concierge.
  • Up to $600 of cell phone protection against damage or theft. Subject to a $25 deductible.
Why we like it?

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

Excellent for: high flat rate cash back and incentives. Not many cash-back credit cards earn 2% back on all purchases, but the $0-annual-fee Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card offers that and much more, including: a sign-up bonus and an intro APR period on new purchases and balance transfers.

Taken together, that's a value proposition that's difficult to find on other cards in its class. It makes the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card an ideal match for those who prefer the ease of using one card whenever they shop.

True, other cards offer higher rewards rates in specific popular spending categories like grocery stores and restaurants. But if you’re willing to manage multiple cards at once, the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card pairs well with a variety of others.



Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

4.7

NerdWallet rating 

on Capital One's website

Annual fee

$95

Rewards rate

2x-5x

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Miles

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • High rewards rate
  • Flexible rewards redemption

Cons

  • Has annual fee
  • Requires good/excellent credit
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
  • Enrich every hotel stay from the Lifestyle Collection with a suite of cardholder benefits, like a $50 experience credit, room upgrades, and more
  • Transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
Annual fee

$95

Rewards rate

2x-5x

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Miles

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • High rewards rate
  • Flexible rewards redemption

Cons

  • Has annual fee
  • Requires good/excellent credit
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
  • Enrich every hotel stay from the Lifestyle Collection with a suite of cardholder benefits, like a $50 experience credit, room upgrades, and more
  • Transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
WHY WE LIKE IT?

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Excellent for: high flat rate travel rewards. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is one of the most popular credit cards on the market — and not just because it's one of the most heavily advertised. Unlike the airline-branded cards it was designed to compete against, it pays a high rewards rate on every purchase (not just on travel spending), and you can use its rewards to pay for any travel expense, without any restrictions on when you travel, which airline you fly or which hotel you stay at. Throw in a big bonus for new cardholders, and it's no wonder this card is a favorite of so many people.

If you want travel rewards that are easy to earn, easy to understand and nearly effortless to redeem, you aren't going to find many travel credit cards better than this one.



Capital One® SavorOneSM Cash Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

5.0

NerdWallet rating 

on Capital One's website

Annual fee

$0

Rewards rate

1%-10%

Cashback

Intro offer

$200

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Intro APR period
  • Bonus categories
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • Requires good/excellent credit
  • Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), plus 1% on all other purchases
  • Earn 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats, plus complimentary Uber One membership statement credits through 11/14/2024
  • Earn 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment purchases
  • Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months; 19.99% - 29.99% variable APR after that; balance transfer fee applies
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee
Annual fee

$0

Rewards rate

1%-10%

Cashback

Intro offer

$200

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Intro APR period
  • Bonus categories
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • Requires good/excellent credit
  • Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), plus 1% on all other purchases
  • Earn 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats, plus complimentary Uber One membership statement credits through 11/14/2024
  • Earn 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment purchases
  • Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months; 19.99% - 29.99% variable APR after that; balance transfer fee applies
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee
Why we like it?

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Excellent for: 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, and grocery. If your recycling bin runneth over with takeout containers or grocery bags, the $0-annual-fee Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card is an excellent choice. It offers an unlimited 3% cash back on dining and at grocery stores, as well as on entertainment and eligible streaming services. You'll get 1% back on everything else.

The potential to earn such a rich rate on both eating out and eating in helps separate this card from many of its competitors, which tend to focus on one category or the other. Higher rates certainly exist, but typically not on one card, and rarely without an annual fee.



Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

5.0

NerdWallet rating 

on Chase's website

Annual fee

$0

Rewards rate

1.5%-5%

Cashback

Intro offer

Up to $300

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Intro APR period
  • High rewards rate
  • No minimum redemption amount

Cons

  • Requires good/excellent credit
  • INTRO OFFER: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!
  • Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year).
  • After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. You can choose to receive a statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open!
  • Enjoy 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 20.49% - 29.24%.
  • No annual fee – You won't have to pay an annual fee for all the great features that come with your Freedom Unlimited® card
  • Keep tabs on your credit health, Chase Credit Journey helps you monitor your credit with free access to your latest score, alerts, and more.
  • Member FDIC
Annual fee

$0

Rewards rate

1.5%-5%

Cashback

Intro offer

Up to $300

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Intro APR period
  • High rewards rate
  • No minimum redemption amount

Cons

  • Requires good/excellent credit
  • INTRO OFFER: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!
  • Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year).
  • After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. You can choose to receive a statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open!
  • Enjoy 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 20.49% - 29.24%.
  • No annual fee – You won't have to pay an annual fee for all the great features that come with your Freedom Unlimited® card
  • Keep tabs on your credit health, Chase Credit Journey helps you monitor your credit with free access to your latest score, alerts, and more.
  • Member FDIC
Why we like it?

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Excellent for: cash back pairing with Chase Sapphire Preferred®. The Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers a compelling combination of valuable rewards, flexible redemption options, a lengthy 0% introductory APR period and a sign-up bonus that’s worth more than most cash-back cards offer — all for an annual fee of $0.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® earns 3% cash back on restaurants and drugstore purchases, 5% back on travel booked through Chase and 1.5% back on other purchases. Put that together and you have a card that can really pile up the cash back. And if you carry other credit cards that also earn Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, it packs even more value.

While different rewards rates make the card more complicated than competitors that offer a simpler 1.5% back on everything, if you make it your default card you’ll be sure to score those bonus rewards without having to think much about it.

It’s why this card makes a strong case to be a one-card solution among cash-back credit cards.



Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

5.0

NerdWallet rating 

on Chase's website

Annual fee

$95

Rewards rate

1x-5x

Points

Intro offer

75,000

Points

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • New cardholder bonus offer
  • Bonus categories
  • Primary rental car coverage
  • Flexible rewards redemption
  • Transfer partners

Cons

  • Has annual fee
  • Requires good/excellent credit
  • Complicated rewards
  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's over $900 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases, $50 Annual Chase Travel Hotel Credit, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Travel℠. For example, 75,000 points are worth $937.50 toward travel.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
  • Member FDIC
Annual fee

$95

Rewards rate

1x-5x

Points

Intro offer

75,000

Points

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • New cardholder bonus offer
  • Bonus categories
  • Primary rental car coverage
  • Flexible rewards redemption
  • Transfer partners

Cons

  • Has annual fee
  • Requires good/excellent credit
  • Complicated rewards
  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's over $900 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases, $50 Annual Chase Travel Hotel Credit, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Travel℠. For example, 75,000 points are worth $937.50 toward travel.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
  • Member FDIC
Why we like it?

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Excellent for: travel rewards and bonus categories. For travelers, the $95-annual-fee Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card stands out as a versatile and valuable choice.

With this card, you can earn rewards — known as Ultimate Rewards® points — in a variety of ways and redeem them strategically for travel, like transferring those points to loyalty programs like United Airlines and Hyatt. And it dovetails nicely with some other Chase cards that also earn Ultimate Rewards® points.

Overall, it can be a little bit of a difficult card to use optimally — a Swiss Army knife compared with the butter knife that simpler cards are. But it’s a go-to card for travelers who delight in finding ways to reap big value from their rewards.




Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Credit Card

on Wells Fargo's website

4.5

NerdWallet rating 

on Wells Fargo's website

Annual fee

$0

Rewards rate

1x-3x

Points

Intro offer

20,000

Points

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Bonus categories
  • No reward caps
  • Cell phone insurance
  • New cardholder bonus offer

Cons

  • No free checked bags
  • No free anniversary night
  • No luxury perks
  • Requires good/excellent credit
  • Select “Apply Now” to take advantage of this specific offer and learn more about product features, terms and conditions.
  • Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months - that's a $200 cash redemption value.
  • Earn unlimited 3X points on the things that really add up - like restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans. Plus, earn 1X points on other purchases.
  • $0 annual fee.
  • 0% intro APR for 12 months from account opening on purchases. 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% variable APR thereafter.
  • Up to $600 of cell phone protection against damage or theft. Subject to a $25 deductible.
  • Redeem your rewards points for travel, gift cards, or statement credits. Or shop at millions of online stores and redeem your rewards when you check out with PayPal.
  • Find tickets to top sports and entertainment events, book travel, make dinner reservations and more with your complimentary 24/7 Visa Signature® Concierge.
Annual fee

$0

Rewards rate

1x-3x

Points

Intro offer

20,000

Points

Recommended Credit Score

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Bonus categories
  • No reward caps
  • Cell phone insurance
  • New cardholder bonus offer

Cons

  • No free checked bags
  • No free anniversary night
  • No luxury perks
  • Requires good/excellent credit
  • Select “Apply Now” to take advantage of this specific offer and learn more about product features, terms and conditions.
  • Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months - that's a $200 cash redemption value.
  • Earn unlimited 3X points on the things that really add up - like restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans. Plus, earn 1X points on other purchases.
  • $0 annual fee.
  • 0% intro APR for 12 months from account opening on purchases. 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% variable APR thereafter.
  • Up to $600 of cell phone protection against damage or theft. Subject to a $25 deductible.
  • Redeem your rewards points for travel, gift cards, or statement credits. Or shop at millions of online stores and redeem your rewards when you check out with PayPal.
  • Find tickets to top sports and entertainment events, book travel, make dinner reservations and more with your complimentary 24/7 Visa Signature® Concierge.
Why we like it?

Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

Excellent for: no cash back reward caps. If you'd love to earn valuable rewards on your travel credit card but hate annual fees, consider the Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card The card is primarily positioned in the market as a travel credit card because of its triple points on travel spending. But its other bonus-reward categories are highly useful too. They include 3 points per dollar spent at restaurants and gas stations, as well as on transit, streaming services and phone plans. That makes this card a candidate to be a primary credit card to carry with you, as well as one you can “set and forget” for recurring streaming and phone payments. Plus, rewards are unlimited, which is a big deal for big spenders.

You won’t get brand-specific perks like free checked bags that airline credit cards offer, but a healthy sign-up bonus and nice-to-have cell phone insurance add to its allure as a top pick.




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