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The 6 best rewards credit cards: Big spenders need big rewards

What is the best rewards credit card? The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is ZDNet's top choice because the points you earn are valuable and transferable. But there are others worth considering, so we did the research. Analyzing rewards, limits, APR, fees and more, we found the best rewards credit cards for you.
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Written by Lena Borrelli, Contributing Writer on

Do you have excellent/good credit? With the exception being the Discover it Secured Card that doesn't require a FICO score, the recommended credit score for our top picks ranges from 670 - 850. If you're in that range, the following information is suited for you. 

When it comes to the top credit cards, rewards cards are arguably the best option for your spending. All you have to do is use your card for purchases, and you can earn anything from cash back to travel benefits and even rental car coverage.

We regularly review hundreds of credit cards to keep up with the changing introductory offers and rewards programs. Based on our exhaustive research, these are the best rewards credit cards available today:

Card Highlights
Intro BonusEarn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
APR16.74% - 23.74% Variable
Recommended CreditExcellent/Good
Reward Rates
  • 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3x on dining.
  • 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
Annual Fee$95
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Additional Details
Rewards & Redemption Details

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is generous from the start, offering an introductory offer of 60,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 within your first three months of having the card. It is the equivalent of $750 in travel benefits when you book via Chase Ultimate Rewards. 

You receive other travel benefits, too, like 5x the points on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, plus 3x the points on dining and groceries to round out your trip. All other travel purchases earn 2x the points. There are everyday benefits as well, such as 3x the points on some streaming services and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

There is also an extra bonus in the form of a $50 Annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit.

Pros

  • Introductory bonus offer
  • Several transfer partners
  • Rental car coverage

Cons

  • Benefits have limitations
  • Annual fee
  • Limited travel
Card Highlights
Intro BonusEarn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
APR17.49%-24.49% Variable
Recommended CreditExcellent/Good
Reward Rates
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
Annual Fee$250
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Rewards & Redemption Details

The American Express Gold Card offers generous rewards with 4x the points on your restaurant purchases, whether you're dining out, grabbing takeout, or ordering delivery. You also earn on, then 1x. It's no surprise that we featured this card on our list of the best credit cards for restaurants and dining out

Other benefits include 3x the points on flights that you book through AmexTravel.com or directly from an airline. All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar. 

There is also an introductory offer that gives you 60,000 Membership Rewards Points once you spend $4,000 in purchases within your first six months of having the card. Amex also gifts you $120 in Uber Cash with an additional $120 dining credit. 

Pros

  • Multiple options for travel
  • No foreign transaction fee 
  • Up to 5 complimentary authorized users

Cons

  • Annual fee applies
  • Higher APR for Pay Over Time
  • No access to travel lounges
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
Card Highlights
Intro BonusEarn a $350 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
APR15.49%-25.49% Variable
Recommended CreditExcellent/Good
Reward Rates
  • 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 on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more
  • 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations
  • 1% Cash Back on other purchases
Annual Fee$95
Intro Purchase APR0% on purchases for 12 months
Additional Details
Rewards & Redemption Details

If you frequently shop for groceries, this could be the card for you. With the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, you can earn 6% back on purchases made at US supermarkets. American Express also gives you 3% cash back on transit, like taxis, buses, and ride-sharing services. It is also a great card for gas station purchases with 3% back, making it also one of 2022's best gas cards for business. Finally, you can get 6% cash back on your streaming services and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Enjoy a welcome bonus of $350 back when you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first six months. There is also a 0% introductory APR lasting for your first year. 

Pros

  • First-year 0% APR
  • Generous rewards
  • Bonus rewards categories

Cons

  • Spending caps apply
  • Annual fee 
  • Good credit required
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
Card Highlights
Intro BonusEnjoy 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
APR16.24% - 24.24% (Variable)
Recommended CreditExcellent, Good
Reward Rates
  • 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
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.
Annual Fee$95
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Additional Details
Rewards & Redemption Details

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card makes travel simple with all sorts of travel-related bonuses. There is a rewards system of 5 miles per dollar spent on rental cars and hotels when you book through Capital One Travel. Plus, you receive an unlimited two miles for each dollar you spend. Your benefits also include a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Credit of up to $120.

The generous introductory offer gets you started on the right foot, with 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 within your first three months of having the card. It is a major reason why it is also voted the best credit card bonus offer for 2022

Pros

  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Travel credits
  • Attractive introductory offer

Cons

  • Excellent credit required
  • Annual fee
  • Reward restrictions
Card Highlights
Intro BonusIntro 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.
APR23.74% Variable
Recommended CreditNew/Rebuilding Credit
Reward Rates
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Additional Details
Rewards & Redemption Details

When you have poor or no credit, the Discover it Secured Card can give you a real credit card without the credit score that is required of most other cards. You are required to pay a security deposit of at least $200, but it is refundable.  

As you make timely payments, they are reported to all three credit bureaus to help you build and improve your credit. After you have the card for seven months, Discover begins to regularly review your account to monitor your payments and any improvement in credit. Once your credit builds, you may be able to switch over to a traditional, unsecured credit card. 

The benefits include 2% cash back on gas and dining, up to $1,000 per quarter. All other purchases earn you 1% cash back, plus you receive 2x the points at the end of the first year with Cashback Match. There is no annual fee, either, to help save you money.

Pros

  • Great for poor credit
  • No annual fee
  • Excellent for credit-building

Cons

  • Requires deposit

  • High APR

Card Highlights
Intro BonusEarn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months
APR16.49%, 21.49%, or 26.49% Variable APR
Recommended CreditExcellent, Good
Reward Rates
  • Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APR0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening
Additional Details
Rewards & Redemption Details

The Wells Fargo Active Cash Card demands good credit, but it could be worth it if you are looking for consistent bonuses. When you spend just $1,000 within the first three months, Wells Fargo rewards you with a $200 cash rewards bonus that you can spend however you like. The 0% introductory APR lasts for 15 months before moving to one of three APRs. You will also receive unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases. There is no annual fee, either, to cut into your finances. 

Wells Fargo also gives you bonus cell phone protection that gives you up to $600 against damage and theft. 

Pros

  • 0% intro APR
  • Unlimited cash rewards
  • No annual fee

Cons

  • Foreign transaction fee
  • Purchase minimums apply
  • No bonus categories

What's the best rewards credit card?

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is our top choice, but one size doesn't fit all. There are many rewards credit cards that each excel in different areas, including picks from American Express, Capital One, Chase, Discover, and Wells Fargo. There are so many different options for the best rewards credit card, so it is always important to do your research and compare credit cards before choosing the right one for you. 

Which credit card is the right one for you?

It can be overwhelming trying to sort through many different credit cards, so start with our recommendations to help you find the right rewards credit card:

Choose this card...

If you want...

American Express Gold Card

Rewards for dining out

Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express 

Cash back on everyday expenses

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Rewards for air travel

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

New to rewards and want travel perks

Discover it Secured Credit Card

When you have bad or poor credit

Wells Fargo Active Cash Card

When you want regular cash back rewards

What is a rewards credit card?

A rewards credit card is one that offers bonuses in return for your spending. This can be in the form of extra points, cash back, or travel miles, depending on the card you choose. You accumulate rewards as you spend, and you can cash them in when you hit a certain threshold.

Can I get a rewards credit card with bad credit?

Just as some cards are designed for good credit, other cards may be designed to work with bad credit. Every credit card has different requirements for each applicant, so be sure to consider which terms are most favorable for your situation.

How did we choose these cards?

There are many factors to consider when choosing the best rewards credit card. When building our list, we analyze several specific factors:

  • Rewards: Whether it is cash back or special perks and bonuses, you may earn extra rewards when you use your credit card to regularly make purchases.  

  • Card limits: Credit card providers may limit the amount of credit you have on your card. While some cards may limit your spending to $500, others could extend a line of credit for $1,000 or more, depending on which one you choose.

  • APR: The annual percentage rate, or APR, determines how much interest you will pay on each purchase. The lower your APR, the less you can spend on interest.  

  • Fees: There are multiple fees that you may see on your credit card statement, such as a charge for late payments or foreign transaction fees when you use your card out of the country.  

What's the best travel credit card for beginners?

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is ZDNet's top choice. For a low annual fee, you're provided with an incredible sign-up bonus. Not to mention the points you earn are highly valuable and transferable.

Want more details? We compiled your best options here

Are there alternative credit cards worth considering?

In our search for the best rewards credit cards, we found many options that could also be a fit for you. These are some of the other rewards credit cards that may be worth your consideration:

  • Alliant Visa® Signature Credit Card: Best for cash back
  • Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card: Best for travel
  • Chase Freedom Flex Card: Best for rotating reward categories 
  • Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for food and entertainment
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve Card: Best for high-class travel
  • Discover it Cash Back Card: Best for having no annual fees

While you are searching for a new credit card, consider these expert picks for the best credit cards with no annual feebest credit cards for good credit, and the best credit cards for your small business


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