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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. 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. We’ve reviewed some of our favorite rewards cards below.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
- Earn 25,000 Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
- Earn 2 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases spent at participating SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels. Earn 1 Starpoint for all other purchases.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on International purchases.
- Redeem Starpoints® at over 1,300 participating hotels and resorts in over 100 countries and for flights on more than 150 airlines with SPG flights, all with no blackout dates.
- $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
- Planning a road trip? Rent your car, fill up your tank, book your hotel, and pay for it with your American Express® Card.
- Terms Apply.
Card Details +
Benefits: The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card lets you redeem Starpoints® at a variety of hotels and resorts around the world. You can also use this card on to redeem points on over 150 airlines, with no blackout dates. You earn two points for every dollar spent at participating SPG® and Marriott hotels, and one point on all other purchases. This card also has a special offer when you sign up-25,000 bonus points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months. There are no foreign transaction fees, and there is a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95. The card has an APR of 16.24%-20.24% Variable.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Card Details +
Benefits: The Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers two times the points for travel and dining and one point per dollar spent on all other purchases. The card also has a sign-up offer-you can earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within three months of the account opening. That’s worth $625 toward travel when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Booking travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards gives you 25% more value on your points but you still get 1:1 point transfers on leading airline and hotel loyalty programs. If you add an authorized user, you also get 5,000 bonus points when they make a purchase in the first three months of the account opening. There are no blackout dates for travel and no foreign transaction fees. The card has an annual fee of $0 Intro for the first year, then $95 and an APR of 16.99% - 23.99% Variable.
Benefits: The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card lets you earn two points per dollar spent on all purchases. Points never expire and there is no limit to how many you can accumulate. The card offers a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of the account opening. This equals $500 in travel. There are no blackout dates and you can fly at any airline and stay at any hotel. Points can also be used toward other travel expenses such as limousines, time shares, travel agents, and rail passes. The card has no foreign transaction fees, but there is an annual fee of $0 intro for first year; $95 after that. The card has an APR of 13.99% - 23.99% (Variable).
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, Chase Sapphire Preferred, 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.
This article was last updated on September 26th, 2017.