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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.



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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