Picking the right credit card 2021 may feel overwhelming. There are so many different options that it’s hard to know which is best for you.
To relieve some of the stress, we analyzed 111 popular rewards cards using an average American’s annual spending budget and digging into each card’s perks and drawbacks to find the best of the best based on your consumer habits. (See our methodology for more information on how we choose the best cards.)
You don’t have to be an aggressive points optimizer to enjoy the perks that come with a good rewards credit card. With the right card and good financial habits (paying your balance off on time and in full each month), you can earn $2,000 or more in rewards over five years (and that’s after the annual fee). That breaks down to roughly $400 to $500 a year (a little higher the first year if you take advantage of a welcome bonus), and it’s money you can use to buy more groceries, book airline travel or splurge on a new iPad.
Many of these cards also provide additional perks, such as discounts at select retailers, travel insurance, annual statement credits and more that make using a rewards card truly worthwhile.
Here are CNBC Select’s picks for the top rewards cards:
- Best Overall: American Express® Gold Card
- Runner-Up: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
- Best for Cash Back: Alliant Visa® Signature Credit Card
- Best for Luxury Travel: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Best for Groceries: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
- Best for No Annual Fee: Citi® Double Cash Card
- Best No Annual Fee Travel: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
- Best for Online Shopping: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card
- Best for Rotating Bonus Categories: Chase Freedom Flex℠
- How to choose a rewards credit card
- Types of rewards credit cards and how rewards work
- Making the most of your rewards card
- Who should apply for a rewards card?
Who’s this for? If you love food, the American Express® Gold Card could be the ideal rewards card for you. Whether you dine out or cook at home, this card earns a competitive 4X points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide and 4X points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X). Plus, travelers can benefit from the 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com.
The value of Membership Rewards® points varies depending on how cardholders redeem them. You can use them in a variety of ways, from paying with points at checkout at retailers like Amazon to redeeming for gift cards or a statement credit to booking travel. (See more on how the value of points is calculated.)
Cardholders also receive an annual dining credit of up to $120 ($10 a month) at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed and participating Shake Shack locations (activation required). There are also no foreign transaction fees.
This card does have a $250 annual fee, but it can be reduced to effectively $130 if you take advantage of the $120 dining credit each year. Then, the rewards you earn help further “pay” for the card.
Gold Card members can also participate in Amex Offers, where you can earn statement credits or bonus Membership Rewards® points at select retailers. For example, an offer for Wine.com states: “Spend $50 or more, get $10 back.” These limited-time offers are location-based and additional terms apply.
Who’s this for? The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers the best rewards rate on select hotel purchases: Earn 5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠ , which is a great flat rate. Plus earn 2X miles per dollar on every other purchase.
While Venture does come with a $95 annual fee, it’s low compared to some other rewards cards, with some annual fees up to $550.
In addition to rewards, every four years cardholders receive a credit for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application, up to $100. If you travel often, this is a great perk that can save you time and money…….Read More>>