[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are reviewed below.]
While rewards credit cards let you earn back a portion of the money you’re already spending in the way of cash back, miles or points, some cards place severe limitations on how you can redeem those rewards. Some cards, though, offer more flexibility in where, when, and how you can use your rewards.
How to Find a Flexible Rewards Credit Card
If you want a really flexible rewards card, you need one that allows you to rack up rewards in more than one store or when buying just one thing. For example, retail store credit cards and gas cards can be great for saving money at a particular store or on your monthly fuel costs, but you’re limited in two areas: You can typically only earn points for purchases at those locations, and you can only redeem points for purchases at those stores or gas stations.
How do you spend? In order to earn some serious rewards, it pays to find a card that fits the way you shop. Consider where you typically spend money, as well as what big-ticket purchases you anticipate making in the near future. Buy a lot of groceries? You may want a card that maximizes your cash back for your weekly shopping. Do a lot of traveling for work? You may want a card that doubles or even triples your rewards for things like airline tickets and hotel stays.
What are your rewards goals? Once you’ve figured out how you spend, it’s a good idea to consider your rewards goals. If you’re remodeling your home, you might want to redeem rewards for purchases made online, whereas if you travel regularly you’ll probably want hotel or airline rewards to offset expenses and even get upgrades.
What’s the best fit? Once you’ve got these things figured out, it’s time to start comparing cards that fit your spending habits and rewards goals. You can start by screening credit card offers by the transfer options they give you. The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express, for example, allows you to choose over 30 airlines mostly for 1:1 rewards transfer. Chase Sapphire Preferred offers both airline and hotel transfer options. More flexible cards, like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, allow you to redeem rewards on any travel purchase, including subway passes, bus fare, and plane tickets.
Before you actually apply for any rewards card, though, it’s important to review the offer details. Some cards come with an annual fee, while others don’t. You’ll also want to compare the APR, or annual percentage rates of the cards you’re considering. If you tend to carry a balance, you’ll want a card with a lower APR, but keep in mind that rewards cards typically come with higher APRs to begin with, so carrying a balance at all can really cut into the rewards you’re earning.
What Credit Score Do You Need For the Best Rewards Credit Cards?
While it’s possible to get a credit card with poor credit, they rarely come with rewards. The higher your credit scores, the better your chances for securing a truly top-rate rewards card. That’s because most of these cards require very good or excellent credit.
If you want to boost your credit scores, you can start by checking where you currently stand using our free credit report snapshot tool. It helps you create an action plan to help pay down debt and get matched with credit cards that offer the best rates and rewards for your credit score. Remember, checking your own credit scores does not affect your score in any way, and there’s no credit card required to sign up for these tools.
At publishing time, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and Capital One Venture Rewards cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.