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These offers are no longer available on our site: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card, Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Hear from our editors: The best rewards credit cards of May 2021

Updated April 30, 2021

This date may not reflect recent changes in individual terms.

Editorial note: Credit Vana receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted.

Written by: Ben Luthi

Finding the right rewards credit card can make it easier to maximize your points, miles or cash back. But the best rewards credit card can help you make the most of your everyday purchases. Here’s our take on the best rewards credit cards to help you narrow down your options.

Best cash back credit card: Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Here’s why: The card offers a high base rewards rate of 1.5%.

Cardholders will also earn …

  • 5% back on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® platform
  • 3% cash back on dining, including takeout and eligible delivery services
  • 3% cash back at drugstores

After getting the card, you’ll earn a $200 bonus when you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

And the card doesn’t charge an annual fee.

Check out our review of the Chase Freedom Unlimited® for more information.

Best travel rewards credit card: Venture® Rewards from Capital One®

Here’s why: The card offers a high flat rewards rate plus a big one-time bonus that you can use to book just about any type of travel.

You’ll earn a flat two miles per $1 spent on every purchase you make. Also, when you first get the card, you can earn up to 100,000 bonus miles: 50,000 when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus another 50,000 if you spend a total of $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months after your account opens (for a limited time).

When you’re ready to redeem your rewards, you can book travel through Capital One, book travel elsewhere and use your points to get a statement credit, or transfer your miles to one of the bank’s airline and hotel partners.

As a benefit, the card offers an application fee credit of up to $100 for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, which can help you get through airport security and customs faster. Just keep in mind that the card charges a $95 annual fee.

Learn more about the Venture® Rewards from Capital One®.

Best for bonus rewards: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card

Here’s why: The card offers triple points on purchases in a host of categories, including restaurants, gas stations, rideshares, transit, flights, hotels, homestays, car rentals and popular streaming services.

While there are plenty of other excellent card options on our list, this one has the most bonus categories, giving you more ways to rack up a lot of points. The card also offers 20,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open — that’s worth $200 in cash.

All spending outside the triple points categories will net you just one point per $1. When it’s time to redeem your points, you can choose to redeem for travel, cash, gift cards and more.

And there’s no annual fee.

Read our review of the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card to find out if it’s right for you.

Best for rotating categories: Chase Freedom FlexSM

Here’s why: The Chase Freedom FlexSM offers a super high cash back rate on rotating everyday spending categories each quarter you activate, plus bonus rewards on travel, dining and drugstores.

Similar to the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, this card offers 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3% back at drugstores; and 3% on dining, including takeout and eligible delivery services. The Chase Freedom FlexSM offers just 1% back on all other purchases.

But what makes the card stand out is its 5% rotating bonus. Each quarter you activate, you’ll earn that rate on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories. In the past, those categories have included gas stations, select streaming services, major retailers like and Walmart, and more.

You’ll also earn a $200 bonus when you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. The card has no annual fee. Read member reviews about the Chase Freedom FlexSM to learn more.

Best for dining: Savor® Rewards from Capital One®

Here’s why: You’ll earn a whopping 4% cash back on dining and entertainment as well as 2% back at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Target and Walmart).

All other purchases will net you just 1% back. But when you first sign up for the card, you’ll earn a $300 cash bonus after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening.

Just keep in mind that the card comes with a $95 annual fee, so you’ll have to spend a fair amount in the bonus categories to get value.

Read our Savor® Rewards from Capital One review for more details.

Best for grocery shopping: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Here’s why: You’ll be hard-pressed to find a higher cash back rate on purchases made at U.S. supermarkets.

The card offers 6% back on up to $6,000 spent each year at U.S. supermarkets (then 1%), 6% back on select U.S. streaming services, 3% back on transit and at U.S. gas stations, and 1% back on everything else.

The card also has a $150 welcome bonus (which you’ll receive as a statement credit) when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 6 months after opening your account. Also during the first six months you have the card, you can earn 20% back (up to $200) on purchases.

The card has a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95. Though an annual fee is uncommon for a cash back card, you could easily make up for that cost if you spend about $1,600 a year on groceries.

Check out our review of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express to learn more.

Best for flat-rate cash back rewards: Citi® Double Cash Card

Here’s why: You’ll earn a solid 2% cash back on every purchase — 1% back when you make a purchase and another 1% back as you pay it off.

Beyond that, the card doesn’t offer a ton of benefits. There’s no sign-up bonus to help boost your rewards. But if you’re looking for a great rewards card for the long haul, there aren’t many that can beat 2% back on everything, with a $0 annual fee.

Keep reading about the Citi® Double Cash Card to learn more.

Best for bad credit: Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Here’s why: It’s one of the few secured credit cards on the market that offers rewards.

You’ll earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, then 1%) and 1% back on everything else. What’s more, the Discover it Cashback Match means Discover will match all the cash back that new cardmembers earn after their first year with the card.

You’ll have to make a security deposit of at least $200. Starting at eight months, Discover will review your account to determine if you can get your deposit back. The card doesn’t charge an annual fee, which is another huge plus for someone hoping to build credit.

Get more information about Discover it® Secured Credit Card in our editorial review.

Best for college students: Deserve® EDU Mastercard

Here’s why: The card offers a flat 1% cash back on every purchase, plus an Amazon Prime Student membership for a year after you’ve spent $500 on purchases in the first three billing cycles.

Where the card really shines, though, is with international students. You may need a Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number to get a credit card in the U.S. With this credit card, though, no Social Security number is required, paving the way for international students to build credit.

In addition to the Amazon Prime Student benefit, cardholders will also get up to $600 worth of cellphone protection when they use their card to pay their phone bill. The card’s annual fee is $0.

Read more about the Deserve® EDU Mastercard.

How do rewards cards work?

Credit card rewards allow you to get some form of value back on every purchase you make with your cards. When you buy something, you’ll receive a certain amount of rewards based on the card’s rewards program and the type of purchase you made.

Depending on the card, you may have a number of redemption options. Also, some cards require you to have a certain amount of cash back, points or miles before you can redeem, but that’s not the case with all of them.

As a result, it’s crucial that you take the time to find the card that’s best suited for your spending habits and other preferences. Then use the card as often as possible — with the goals to avoid overspending and to pay your bill on time and in full every month — to make sure you’re not leaving value on the table.

How we picked these cards

We considered a lot of factors to determine the best rewards credit cards. First, we looked at the cards that offer the chance to earn a lot of cash back, points or miles. Second, we considered that most rewards credit cards require good or excellent credit, which can make things tough for someone trying to build a credit history. So we made sure to add a couple of options for folks with less-than-stellar credit.

Finally, we understand that readers may prefer cash back, travel rewards or general points, including some with or without annual fees, so we added a mix of each to make it easier for you to find the right card for your needs.

About the author: Ben Luthi is a personal finance freelance writer and credit cards expert. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business management and finance from Brigham Young University. In addition to Cr… Read more.

FAQ: Editors’ answers

Editorial Note: Credit Vana receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted. Read our Editorial Guidelines to learn more about our team.

Are credit card rewards worth it?

Credit card rewards can be worth it if you get enough value from them to outweigh an annual fee, interest charges or any other cost associated with maintaining your account. That extra value could come from a variety of sources, such as a welcome bonus, cash back earned on purchases or travel rewards points you then redeem to help cover the cost of airfare. In each case, the most important thing to remember is that rewards on their own aren’t worth much — you have to be able to use and redeem them to get value out of the card.

Is it better to get cash back or travel rewards?
Neither cash back nor travel rewards points are always better than the other — it all depends on what best fits your habits and what you want out of a card. For instance, a travel rewards card with plenty of bonus categories and a high standard earning rate could offer more potential value than a cash back card that earns 1.5% back on all purchases, but the cash back card might still be better for you if you’re only likely to travel once every year or two. Similarly, someone who travels often and doesn’t mind searching for the best deals might want to go for a travel rewards card because they’re more likely to be able to stretch their points.
Ultimately, it comes down to how easily you’re able take advantage of your card’s rewards program when it comes to both earning and redeeming.
How do you redeem credit card rewards?
Your options for redeeming your credit card rewards will depend on your particular card and rewards program. In general, though, rewards cards will allow you to redeem for things like travel (like airfare and hotel stays), cash back, gift cards or merchandise. But how these redemptions are applied get even more specific. For example, travel redemptions may be applied as statement credits, or maybe you could use your points and miles directly for bookings. And the quality of a cash back card can even depend on how you’re able to receive that cash back, especially if there are limits on how often you can redeem or how many steps you have to take to get it.
If you’re not sure how you might want to redeem your rewards, try to choose a card that provides the best mix of flexibility and simplicity
Do credit card rewards expire?
There’s a decent chance your credit card rewards have the potential to expire, although the exact rules depend on the card and the rewards program. Some rewards will expire on a specific timeline, like a certain number of months after they’re earned or after a long period of card inactivity. But others may only expire after your account falls out of good standing, like if you miss a payment or have your account closed. On the other hand, some rewards programs will actually allow you to keep and use your rewards for a set period of time after you close the credit card you used to earn them.
This means it’s probably a good idea to check your expiration rules even if a card is advertised as earning rewards that never expire. In some cases, the terms and conditions for these cards explain that you’ll lose your rewards if your account falls out of good standing.
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†† The opinions you read here come from our editorial team. Credit Vana receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when it’s posted.