Best rewards credit cards of 2017

Rewards cards are great for consumers who don't carry a balance month-to-month as these cards tend to have higher interest rates.

These cards offer an array of benefits, allowing consumers to earn airline miles, hotel or loyalty points and even cash back in exchange for spending. One thing to note: issuers will generally require that you have a good to excellent credit rating to be approved.
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Best Rewards Credit Card for:

5% Bonus Categories

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13 Reviews
Card Details +
Intro APR Promotions

APR

Balance Transfer

Annual Fee

Full Details

Best Rewards Credit Card for:

5% Bonus Categories

Credit Range**
  • Excellent
  • Good
  • Fair
  • Poor
  • Bad
  • No Credit
Why we like it
  • Cash back match offer for new cardholders
  • Flexible rewards
  • No annual fee
Highlights

You’ll get a sweet 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in revolving quarterly bonus categories, plus 1% cash back everywhere else — and then, to cap it all off, Discover will automatically match on all the cash back you earn in your first year at the end of it. Cash back never expires and there are no limits on redemption. Beyond that, it’s a pretty low-cost rewards card: There’s no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, no penalty APR, no over-the-limit fee and Discover even waives the late fee on a first missed payment (though that’s something you’ll still want to avoid.)

Drawbacks

Revolving bonus categories require a little bit of leg work — you’ve got to enroll each quarter to earn the cash back. Plus, you’ll have to think before you swipe if you’re trying maximize rewards across multiple cards, so people who prefer a low-maintenance card might want to look into flat-rate plastic.

Final Word

Between its base rewards program, low fee structure and introductory APR offer (0% on balance transfers and purchases for the first 14-months; variable 11.74% to 23.74% after that), Discover’s flagship card makes for a pretty solid addition to a rewards seeker’s wallet.

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Best Rewards Credit Card for:

Straight Cash Back

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6 Reviews
Card Details +
Intro APR Promotions

APR

Balance Transfer

Annual Fee

Full Details

Best Rewards Credit Card for:

Straight Cash Back

Credit Range**
  • Excellent
  • Good
  • Fair
  • Poor
  • Bad
  • No Credit
Why we like it
  • Potential to earn 2% back on every dollar you charge
  • Reward incentive to pay back debt
  • No annual fee
Highlights

Give Citi double points (see what we did there?) for innovation: You’ll earn 1% cash back when you buy and 1% back when you pay off the purchase. That means you can earn a very generous 2% back on everything you charge — no reward caps in sight. No annual fee and an 18-month 0% introductory APR on balance transfers (variable 14.24% to 24.24%, after that) sweeten the deal. Balance transfers don’t earn cash back, though, so no use trying to game the system.

Drawbacks

There’s no signup bonus and no big bonus rewards categories, so while 2% back on all purchases is pretty tops for flat-rate cash back credit cards, savvy shoppers could conceivably earn more rewards (at least in their first year) with a different rewards credit card.

Final Word

Two percent back is pretty stellar, no matter how you slice it. But, given the card rewards you for paying off your debts, the Citi Double Cash Card is a particularly good option if you’re worried the lure of cash back will entice you to overspend.

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Best Rewards Credit Card for:

Travel

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2 Reviews
Card Details +
Intro APR Promotions

APR

Balance Transfer

Annual Fee

Full Details

Best Rewards Credit Card for:

Travel

Credit Range**
  • Excellent
  • Good
  • Fair
  • Poor
  • Bad
  • No Credit
Why we like it
  • Lucrative signup bonus
  • Unlimited 2 miles per dollar spent
  • Flexible rewards
Highlights

Let’s start with the signup bonus, which awards you 40,000 miles if you spend $3,000 in your first 3 months. That’s equal to $400, making it a pretty sweet deal. Beyond that, this card offers travelers plenty of flexibility: You’ll earn 2 miles back on every dollar you spend and those miles can be redeemed for any travel purchase you make with no expiration dates, caps or blackout dates to worry about. Plus, there’s no foreign transaction fees.

Drawbacks

The card carries a $59 annual fee after the first year, so you’ll want to be sure you spend enough to justify the charge. And if you’re airline-loyal, you may be able to rack up more miles and receive extra perks (like a free checked bag) with that carrier’s credit card.

Final Word

If you’re not hotel- or airline-brand-loyal, but fly frequently, you really can’t the beat 2 miles per dollar — and the flexibility — that Capital One’s popular Venture Rewards travel credit card offers.

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Best Rewards Credit Card for:

Household Spending

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2 Reviews
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APR

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Best Rewards Credit Card for:

Household Spending

Credit Range**
  • Excellent
  • Good
  • Fair
  • Poor
  • Bad
  • No Credit
Why we like it
  • Lucrative signup bonus
  • Big bonus categories
  • Cash back on household spending
Highlights

The Blue Cash Preferred from American Express lets you earn a whopping 6% cash back on up to $6,000 in U.S. supermarket purchases per year (then 1%), an also nice 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores and 1% cash back on other purchases. Plus, the Blue Cash Preferred is known to carry a competitive signup bonus to help you maximize rewards — and an introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers to help you minimize the interest (standard purchase and balance transfer APRs are a variable 13.99% - 24.99% after one year; signup bonuses are subject to change).

Drawbacks

There is a steep-ish $95 annual fee, so you’ll need to do some number-crunching to be sure you’ll recoup that charge.

Final Word

Cap aside, you don’t see very many 6% bonus categories, let alone on such a common spending category, like U.S. supermarkets. That 3% on gas is also a very competitive return, so if you’re doing a lot of household spending, consider the Blue Cash Preferred a No.1 contender.

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Best Rewards Credit Card for:

Flexible Rewards

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4 Reviews
Card Details +
Intro APR Promotions

APR

Balance Transfer

Annual Fee

Full Details

Best Rewards Credit Card for:

Flexible Rewards

Credit Range**
  • Excellent
  • Good
  • Fair
  • Poor
  • Bad
  • No Credit
Why we like it
  • Lucrative signup bonus
  • Uber-flexible rewards program
  • No annual fee
Highlights

The Chase Freedom Unlimited isn’t the only card out there to offer 1.5% cash back on all purchases, but its signup bonuses (yes, there are technically two) help it stand out among the pack. You can earn $150 cash back after spending just $500 in your first three months, plus $25 cash back if you add an authorized user within the same timeframe. There’s no cash back caps or expiration dates. Plus, Chase allows its cardholders to transfer rewards to other cards they have, so you’ll have uber-flexibility. Added bonus? The card comes with a 0% 15-month introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers (variable 15.74% to 24.49% after that) and no annual fee.

Drawbacks

There’s no revolving bonus categories, so if you spend a lot in one particular category, other rewards credit cards might be a better fit for your wallet.

Final Word

If you’re looking for a low-maintenance rewards credit card (and hoping to score a signup bonus), the Freedom Unlimited will hit the spot.

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Summary
Best Rewards Credit Card Best for
5% Bonus Categories
Straight Cash Back
Travel
Household Spending
Flexible Rewards
Methodology

This list represents our favorite cards from Credit.com’s marketplace. In other words, all of the cards listed below are offered by our advertisers and we’ll make money if you click on a link and get one. However, specific recommendations and opinions expressed remain those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by our partner or influenced by compensation.

Partner cards were selected by their overall value. The assessments and use of the word “best” are based on an analysis of that product’s major terms and conditions, including the annual fee, annual percentage rates, base rewards, signup bonus, balance transfer offer and more. Please visit our advertiser disclosure for a full explainer on how we operate.

What To Look For When Applying

As a reward credit card user, you should look for the most valuable rewards from these products, much like investors look for the highest rate of return, including both the sign-up bonus and the rewards for spending. While 1% cash back was once considered to be standard, there are enough cards offering more valuable rewards that 1% is no longer a competitive rate of return. In addition, you can also look for non-spending benefits, such as travel insurance, purchase protection, and perks with travel providers. For example, most airline credit cards now offer travelers some form of priority service or checked baggage fee waivers, and hotel credit cards might offer room upgrades. Finally, you will also want to consider the annual fees charged by most reward cards.

When Is The Best Time To Apply?

Reward credit cards offer the ability to earn valuable points, miles and cash back based on your purchases. In addition, many of these cards feature generous rewards just for opening a new account. Since these sign-up bonuses can vary throughout the year, the savviest reward credit card users will wait until the most competitive offers become available. At the same time, reward credit card users should avoid applying for new credit cards before applying for a large loan such as a home mortgage. Having recent credit card applications can raise concerns to lenders, and applying for credit can cause a small drop in your credit score.