Best Rewards Credit Cards of May [2024]

CREDIT CARDS - CREDIT CARD REWARDS
The best rewards credit cards offer valuable points, miles, and cash back. Which is the right one for your wallet?
Updated May 16, 2024
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With so many rewards credit card options on the market, finding the right card for you can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, we’re here to help. We’ve done the legwork and identified the best rewards credit cards, depending on your habits and goals.

Here are 13 of the most valuable rewards cards and who they’re right for.

In this article

The best rewards credit cards

  • Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
  • Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
  • Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card
  • U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card
  • Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card
  • U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card
  • Citi Strata Premier ℠ Card
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • Citi Double Cash® Card
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited®
  • Ink Business Cash® Credit Card
  • Chase Freedom Flex℠

Lucrative, Flat-Rate Cash Rewards

5.0

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

Current Offer

$200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

Earn 2% cash rewards on purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Easy-to-Earn Unlimited Rewards

4.1

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Annual Fee

$0

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Awesome Rewards Rates + Intro APR

4.7

Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

Current Offer

Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months - that's a $200 cash redemption value

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

Earn unlimited 3X points on restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans; plus earn 1X points on other purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Cash Back in Categories You Choose!

U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card
4.5

U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card

Current Offer

Earn a $200 bonus after spending $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 120 days of account opening

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

5% cash back on two categories you choose (up to $2,000 in combined eligible purchases each quarter) and on prepaid air, hotel and car reservations booked directly in the Rewards Center; 2% cash back on one everyday category, like gas stations/EV charging stations, grocery stores, or restaurants; and 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Unlimited 1.5% Cash Back on All Purchases

4.5

Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card

Annual Fee

$0

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Impressive Rewards on Food Delivery & Dining

U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card
4.2

U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card

Current Offer

Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 90 days of account opening

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

4X points on dining, takeout, and restaurant delivery; 2X points on streaming services, grocery stores, and gas stations/EV charging stations (discount stores/supercenters and wholesale clubs excluded effective September 9, 2024); and 1X points on all other eligible purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Earn Valuable Travel Points Even Faster

4.9

Citi Strata Premier ℠ Card

Current Offer

Earn 70,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening, redeemable for $700 in gift cards or travel rewards at thankyou.com

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

10X points on hotels, car rentals, and attractions booked on CitiTravel.com; 3X points on air travel and other hotel purchases, at restaurants, supermarkets, gas and EV charging stations; and 1X points on all other purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Great for Flexible Travel Rewards

4.9

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Current Offer

Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

5X points on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠; 3X points on dining, select streaming services, and online groceries; 2X points on all other travel purchases, and 1X points on all other purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Earn Cash Back Twice

4.8

Citi Double Cash® Card

Current Offer

Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases; plus, for a limited time, earn 5% total cash back on hotel, car rentals and attractions booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through 12/31/24

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Unlimited Cash Back

4.7

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Current Offer

Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) — worth up to $300 cash back. That's 6.5% on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 4.5% on dining and drugstores, and 3% on all other purchases.

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Up to 5% Cash Back

4.8

Ink Business Cash® Credit Card

Current Offer

Earn $350 when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months and an additional $400 when you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first six months after account opening

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year; 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year; and 1% cash back on all other purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Seriously Powerful Cashback Card

Chase Freedom Flex℠
4.7

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Current Offer

Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories you activate (on up to $1,500 spent) and travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal; 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery service); and 1% cash back on all other purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Methodology: How we chose these cards

The rewards credit cards listed were chosen based on a combination of factors. These criteria included whether a welcome bonus was offered, the minimum spend required to earn the bonus, and the value of the offer.

Prospective long-term rewards were also a key factor. We looked at bonus rewards categories, earning caps on rewards, and if flexible redemption options were available. The cost to carry the card (e.g., the annual fee) and other limitations were also compared against the value of its benefits and rewards.

The 3 types of rewards credit cards

Although the best rewards cards listed are bucketed together, the type of rewards you earn will vary based on the credit card issuer and type of card you choose. Here are three types of rewards credit cards and how they add value in different ways. The best card for you will be the one that best suits your needs.

Cash back rewards cards

Cash back credit cards let you earn a certain percentage of cash back based on your purchases. Certain cards may offer flat-rate cash back, and others may offer bonus rewards in rotating categories. When you’re ready to redeem your cashback rewards, you can typically do so in the form of statement credit on your account, a direct deposit or check, or a gift card or donation. We recommend you pick from among the best cash back credit cards.

Travel rewards cards

Some of the best travel credit cards are issued by financial institutions and may be co-branded with an airline or hotel. These rewards credit cards typically have travel benefits and perks that help you save money and enjoy a better travel experience. They might also have credit card travel insurance benefits, such as travel accident, travel interruption, or lost luggage insurance.

Some travel rewards offer the biggest value when you redeem them for airfare or hotel stays, but many also offer flexible redemption options that let you transfer rewards to your preferred airline or hotel.

Store rewards cards

You can also find rewards credit cards for your favorite retail stores. These cards offer store-specific rewards that can help you save on future online or in-store purchases. Some store cards also offer tiered status, depending on how much you spend with the brand. In exchange for a higher spend, the store might offer a bigger percentage off of your next purchase or other perks.

How to maximize credit card rewards

Consider these five tips to help maximize how you earn and redeem credit card rewards.

1. Get a rewards credit card

The first step in maximizing credit card rewards is making sure you have a rewards credit card. Not every credit card earns rewards, and not all rewards are the same. For beginners to rewards credit cards, it’s often easy to start with a credit card that earns flexible rewards.

These types of rewards, which include Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, and Capital One miles, can be used for a wide variety of travel redemptions. For example, you can redeem Capital One miles through the Capital One Travel portal for flights, hotel stays, and rental cars. This makes it easier to get used to rewards cards since you have multiple redemption options.

2. Use your credit card

A basic rule of thumb for rewards cards is to use them as much as you can and you’ll earn more rewards. This doesn’t mean buying as much stuff as possible, but using your credit card on anything you were already planning on purchasing.

Groceries, gas, internet, phone bills, online shopping, eating out, and plenty of other everyday expenses can typically be put on a credit card. As long as you plan on making on-time and full credit card payments each billing cycle, there’s often no downside to using rewards cards to make common purchases.

3. Align spending habits with bonus categories

Many rewards credit cards have different bonus categories where you earn more rewards than the base rewards rate. For example, the base rewards rate might be 1% cash back for most purchases, but on dining purchases, you might earn 3% cash back.

You can maximize your earning potential if you know the categories where you spend the most money. So if you spend a lot on dining and groceries, it makes sense to apply for a credit card with dining and grocery bonus categories. In some cases, you might want a separate credit card for each bonus category, so one card for dining and another card for groceries. This type of strategy could help you maximize your earning potential with bonus miles, points, or cash back.

4. Take advantage of bonus offers

Welcome bonuses are an easy way for you, as a new cardholder, to earn loads of rewards soon after qualifying for a new credit card. 

For example, you might be able to earn 60,000 or more points for spending $4,000 in the first three months. Compare that to everyday earning potential, where you might spend $4,000 and you could earn between 4,000 to 20,000 points depending on your cards’ earning rates.

Sign-up bonuses are typically much more valuable than simply earning rewards from buying groceries or dining out. But you might have to time earning a welcome bonus with an upcoming large purchase to meet the spending requirement of the bonus. 

Remember that terms apply to bonus offers. Specifically, you typically have to meet a spending requirement for the one-time bonus within a few months of card membership.

5. Make valuable redemptions

Rewards credit cards can have loads of different redemption options, but they might not all provide the same value.

For example, 10,000 points might be worth $100 if redeemed for a flight, but only worth $80 if used for online purchases. In this case, you get more value by redeeming rewards for flights rather than online purchases.

It’s common for different redemption options to have different redemption values, so it’s important to see what those values are before you use your rewards. You might also place your own values on redemptions depending on the situation.

This could be the case if you have no need for travel redemptions. So the best cash-related redemption option on your card could be your top choice even if it technically might have a lower redemption value compared to something else.

How to choose a rewards card

Which rewards credit card is right for you? Consider these five factors to help narrow down your choices.

1. Welcome offers

Most rewards cards provide a welcome offer or sign-up bonus to new cardmembers. The terms of each bonus can vary, but the format is often the same. Spend a specific amount on your new credit card within a certain number of months and earn a bunch of rewards.

This can be an easy way to earn loads of cash back, miles, or points soon after opening a new rewards card. And as you compare cards, you might discover that an elevated or limited-time welcome offer might make one card more appealing than another.

2. Rewards types

Rewards cards typically earn points, miles, or cash back. Points and miles are often associated with travel rewards credit cards and can generally be used for travel-related redemptions, such as flights and hotel stays.

Cash back credit cards earn cash back, and the redemptions can vary. But statement credits and deposits into bank accounts are common cashback redemption options.

On a basic level, earning points and miles makes sense if you want to redeem rewards for travel. But if you’re not big into travel, cashback rewards are typically the way to go.

3. Earning potential

Rewards cards earn rewards as you make eligible purchases. But how many rewards you earn depends on your card’s rewards rate.

For example, a card might earn 2X miles on every eligible purchase you make. Or it could earn higher rewards in certain categories, such as on dining, gas, or travel. In some cases, you might be able to earn more rewards on purchases from specific retailers. For example, the Chase Freedom Flex offers elevated rewards in rotating categories, which has included Target, Amazon, and Walmart.

It’s important to choose rewards cards that align with your spending habits so you can earn the most rewards possible.

4. Perks and benefits

If a credit card has benefits, will they be valuable to you? This is something you have to consider as you read over the perks on any rewards credit card, including small business credit cards. It’s often easy to know if you’ll use an annual credit for travel, but how often do you visit airport lounges? And will you use a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry credit?

Would something like cell phone protection or saving money on food delivery services be useful to you? Keep in mind that World Mastercard and World Elite Mastercards, as well as Visa Signature and Visa Infinite credit cards, tend to have an above-average number of benefits. These could include different travel perks, purchase protection, and extended warranty coverage.

Note that some card perks have an activation requirement, which means enrollment might be required before you can use a benefit. As you compare credit cards, read over their lists of benefits thoroughly to make sure they're clear and align with your preferences and goals.

5. Fees and interest rates

In general, credit cards tend to have fees and high interest rates. It’s likely not worth it to use a credit card at all if you plan to carry a balance and then have to pay interest charges.

But some credit card offers provide introductory APR offers on balance transfers and/or purchases. This could be useful if you’re trying to pay down debt without having to worry about interest. It might also be helpful if you have an upcoming large purchase. But be sure to keep an eye on balance transfer fees.

Additionally, many credit cards have no annual fees. A $0-annual-fee credit card means less stress about paying an annual cost, but these types of credit cards also tend to have fewer benefits compared to cards with annual fees.

For frequent travelers, a card that doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee makes sense if you plan on traveling abroad.

Making the most of your rewards card

Make purchases on everything that makes sense

One of the primary benefits of a rewards card is being able to earn valuable cash back, points, or miles on all eligible purchases. This means you should use your card as much as it makes sense if you want to earn as many rewards as possible.

For example, you can put all your everyday purchases on your rewards card. This can include grocery store purchases, gas, food, entertainment, utilities, and more.

Keep in mind that it typically doesn’t make sense to spend more than you normally would just to earn credit card rewards. In most cases, your spending should be on things you were planning to buy anyway.

Increase your earning potential with multiple cards

Some rewards cards have bonus categories, which means you’ll earn more rewards on certain purchases. For example, a 3X bonus category on dining means you get 3X points for dining purchases. But the same credit card might only earn 1X at U.S. gas stations or grocery stores.

Depending on your spending habits, you might consider using multiple rewards cards to earn more rewards in multiple categories. This could mean having a card for travel, a card for dining, a card for groceries, and so on. In some cases, one rewards card might be enough for multiple categories at the same time.

Note that if you don’t want the potential headache of juggling multiple cards and keeping track of which card to use for what purchase, consider a flat-rate rewards card instead. This is a type of card that earns an elevated base rate on all eligible purchases. For example, 2% cash back on all purchases.

Use your perks and benefits

Rewards credit cards often provide different types of perks and benefits. This could include car rental benefits, airline credits or upgrades, streaming subscription credits, and more.

It makes sense to take advantage of any available card benefits if you want to get the most value out of your rewards card. For instance, a frequent traveler might use their airport lounge access to get free food and drinks and save money by not having to pay for overpriced airport food.

Maximize your redemption value

Rewards credit cards typically provide many different types of redemptions. This could include statement credits, travel, gift cards, and other options.

Make sure you check your card’s rewards program details to see whether all the redemptions provide the same value. For example, you might get one redemption rate for receiving a statement credit and a different rate for receiving a gift card. If you want to stretch your rewards, it makes sense to use redemptions that provide the most value.

In general, travel credit cards get more value from travel-related redemptions. Similarly, cash back credit cards often receive more value from cash-related redemptions.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Chase Ultimate Rewards is the rewards program for Chase’s suite of rewards credit cards.

You can redeem Ultimate Rewards points in a number of ways, which makes this program very flexible. For example, points can be redeemed for cash back or a statement credit, gift cards, merchandise, or toward Amazon or Apple purchases. When you redeem points for travel through Chase Travel℠, they are worth 25% more.

Chase also partners with many airlines and hotels. Rewards transfers are typically offered at a 1:1 ratio, which ensures your points don’t lose their value.

Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners include:

  • Aer Lingus AerClub
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Air France KLM
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Iberia Plus
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • World of Hyatt

American Express Membership Rewards

The American Express Membership Rewards program lets you use earned points that can be redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, or merchandise. You can also use them to book on Amex Travel — which typically provides the most value — or donate to charity.

When shopping on store websites that partner with American Express Membership Rewards, you can easily redeem points at checkout. Some popular retailers that participate are Best Buy, Amazon, and Walmart.

Like Chase Ultimate Rewards, travelers can also transfer points to Amex partners. Amex travel partners include:

  • Aer Lingus AerClub
  • AeroMexico Club Premier
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Air France KLM
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Choice Privileges
  • Delta Air Lines SkyMiles
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Etihad Guest
  • Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
  • Hilton Honors
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines, KrisFlyer
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Capital One Venture Rewards

Depending on the kind of Capital One card you have, you can choose to participate in the Capital One Venture Rewards loyalty program to earn points or miles. Your Capital One Venture rewards never expire as long as the account is active.

You can redeem your rewards as cash back, for travel, on Amazon, and more. Capital One transfer partners include:

  • Accor Live Limitless
  • AeroMexico Club Premier
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Air France KLM
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Choice Privileges
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Etihad Guest
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
  • Finnair Plus
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • TAP Air Portugal
  • Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles
  • Virgin Red
  • Wyndham Rewards

Are rewards credit cards worth it?

Though you'll likely need a good or excellent credit score to get approved for a rewards card, they can offer incredible value on purchases you would have otherwise made with cash or conventional credit cards. There are many scenarios in which a rewards card can be useful, whether you opt for a cashback card or a travel card.

For example, if you’re planning a wedding and already have savings set aside for expenses, like the venue or catering. Instead of paying vendors with cash, opt to use one of the best credit cards for weddings, and repay the credit card statement in full using the savings you’ve set aside. By doing so, you’ll accumulate rewards from the wedding expenses that you can use to offset the cost of a honeymoon.

Using a rewards card is also valuable if your timing is strategic. If you need a new laptop, for example, and are planning to purchase one soon, you might try to find a rewards card that offers a lucrative welcome offer. When you make the purchase within the welcome promotion window and hit the minimum spend, you can earn rewards to offset the cost of the laptop. Just make sure you have enough saved to repay the charge.

When used responsibly, rewards credit cards can help you save. Many also offer valuable perks that can help make your travel experiences more enjoyable.

FAQs

Are rewards credit cards worth it?

Rewards credit cards typically offer rewards for every purchase you make, which increases their value over using cash or most debit cards. These rewards could come in the form of cash back, points, or miles. In addition, many rewards cards provide helpful benefits, such as earning bonus rewards in common spending categories, like groceries or gas.

How do I maximize my credit card points?

One of the best ways to maximize earning credit card points is to use rewards credit cards for every purchase you make as long as you’re not paying fees to use that credit card. This includes using your card to buy groceries, do online shopping, fill up your gas tank, and more.

To be more efficient, consider using different rewards cards for different types of purchases. If one credit card earns bonus rewards on dining, make sure that’s the card you use when going to restaurants or ordering takeout. Then follow the same strategy with each credit card you have and their bonus categories. It may take a little organization, but it could earn you a lot more rewards.

Which credit card pays the most cash back?

Cash back credit cards like the Citi Double Cash and Chase Freedom Unlimited offer some of the best cashback rates available for everyday spending. But many of the best cash back credit cards also offer higher cashback rates in specific categories. For example, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express offers a high 6% cashback rate on purchases from U.S. supermarkets (for first $6,000 per year, after that 1%) and on select U.S. streaming services.

How much are credit card rewards points worth?

The value of your credit card rewards depends on which credit cards you’re using, though each point being worth 1 cent is a good rule of thumb. For example, 10,000 Membership Rewards points on the Amex Platinum would be worth $100 toward qualifying flights.

On the Chase Freedom Unlimited, 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points would also be worth $100 toward travel redemptions. But on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, 10,000 points would be worth $150 toward travel redemptions made through Chase Travel℠. Be sure to check your credit card’s rewards program to see how much your rewards are worth for different types of redemptions.

What credit score do I need to get a rewards credit card?

Credit card issuers will check your credit history before they approve you for a new account. Many rewards credit cards typically require good credit or even excellent credit scores to qualify because of their increased earning potential and benefits. A good credit score starts at 670 according to the FICO scoring model.

You can use a tool like Chase Credit Journey to check your credit score and credit health for free, even if you don't have a Chase credit card. Chase Credit Journey helps you track your credit-building progress with free features and updates.

Bottom line

If you’re in the market for a new card, chances are you’ll find a rewards card that aligns with your needs and personal finances. Whether you’ve just figured out how to start a business or are making a large purchase, the best rewards credit card can earn you extra savings on the purchases you’re already making.

Lucrative, Flat-Rate Cash Rewards

5.0

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

Current Offer

$200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

Earn 2% cash rewards on purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Author Details

Jennifer Calonia Jennifer Calonia is a native Los Angeles-based writer and editor with eight years of experience in personal finance. She's passionate about helping others pay off debt, navigate family finance, and use rewards credit cards, responsibly. She's been featured on Forbes, The Huffington Post, Business Insider, Credit Karma, Nerdwallet, and more. To find more information about her work, visit JenniferCalonia.com.

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