What Credit Card Has the Best Rewards?

September 2, 2009 No Comments »
What Credit Card Has the Best Rewards?

Here’s a bit of a subjective question: “What credit card has the best rewards?”

The answer to this question is easy. Drum roll please…

The best credit card is…the one that provides you with the most benefits. That’s it. We’re done. See you later. You can stop reading this now.

Okay, I’m being dramatic, but honestly, there isn’t a single “best credit card” out there.  You see, like many other things in the world, the “best” of something is often subjective, meaning it depends on who’s asking and who it’s for.

For me, the best credit card is one that provides me with the most cash back. Why? Because I want cash back above all else. I don’t care about travel rewards or any other specialty rewards, though the Chase Ink sign-up bonus and redemption options are pretty stellar (and I’ve taken advantage of them).

I also don’t need a 0% APR credit card because I pay my credit card balance in full each and every month. So the credit card APR has no bearing on my decision.

Additionally, I have an excellent credit score, so I can apply for whatever credit card I want and actually get approved!  Also, because I have good credit and don’t need a specialty rewards card, I don’t need to pay an annual fee.

My Personal Favorite Rewards Credit Card

Without thinking for more than a second, I can tell you that the original Blue Cash card from American Express has the best ongoing rewards (in my opinion). And that’s the kicker.  It has the best rewards for me.  And perhaps you, but it all depends on what you’re looking for.

You see what I’m getting at? I found a credit card that was tailored for my needs, with my best interests in mind.  I didn’t just Google “best credit card” and make my decision based on some top 10 list or what someone else said.

When deciding for yourself, first determine what you need most out of your credit card. Is it cash back, customer service, a low interest rate, a specific rewards program, a balance transfer credit card? What is it!

Once you’ve got that narrowed down, you can begin your credit card search.  The second step should be determining what credit card you’re actually eligible for. In other words, what is your credit score and is it high enough to successfully apply for the credit card you’ve got your eye on?

It is recommended that you check your credit scores before applying for a credit card to determine your chances (It won’t hurt your credit score).

After all, if your FICO score is sub-600 and the credit card in question calls for “good credit,” there’s not much reason to apply.

You’ll simply be adding a credit inquiry to your credit report, which will likely push your credit score even lower, at least short term.  So see where you stand, determine what you need, and keep narrowing it down.

It Has No Annual and Offers 5% Cash Back All Year Long

Most importantly, the Amex Blue Cash is a cash back credit card with no annual fee, so you don’t have to pay to get those so-called rewards that you may never earn or use.

Secondly, you get cash back, so your rewards are guaranteed not to go to waste; if you opted for an airline miles rewards card, such as the Capital One Venture Card, or a basic rewards credit card, the related rewards could expire or you could be forced to use them for something you’re really not interested in.

Additionally, the cash back card from American Express can be used to offset your credit card balance, meaning redemption is hassle-free. Every year I convert my points to statement credits and enjoy a really cheap monthly credit card payment.

Other rewards programs require you to redeem your points for merchandise or travel, and may have blackout or expiration dates; you’re usually also paying for those rewards annually, so whether they make sense financially is questionable as well.

Aside from the benefits of the automated system, the Blue Cash card comes with the best cash back rates to boot; 5% cash back on groceries, 5% cash back on gas, 5% at drugstores, and 1% cash back everywhere else.

There’s also no limit on the amount of money you can earn, so the savings can be pretty substantial if you’re a big spender.

One final thing I’ll note on this subject is that while I feel the Blue Cash Everyday Card has the best rewards, a combination of credit cards could prove more beneficial.

Do You Need More Than One Rewards Credit Card?

For example, certain credit cards offer higher cash back rewards in certain categories, such as travel, gas, groceries, entertainment, and so forth.

The Costco American Express card gives you 3% back on gas and 2% cash back at restaurants, so it may be wise to have that as well if you’re a Costco member and you eat out often (there’s no annual fee.)

By carefully choosing which credit card to use in specific situations, you may actually be able to maximize your rewards; this of course, takes a bit more legwork.

Remember, the credit card with the best rewards may be unique based on your own situation, so consider what you want/need personally before making a choice. What works for one person may be not work for another based on personal spending habits.

After all, a gas rewards credit card is useless for someone without a car.  And travel rewards won’t do anything for someone who hates to travel.  So find a credit card that matches up with you!

Upfront Bonuses May Trump Standard Rewards

Lastly, an upfront bonus may outweigh the longer term benefits of a certain rewards credit card.  Case in point, the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, which comes with $400 cash back after you spend $3,000 in the first three months of card membership. Or $500 towards travel if you use it for such. Some tailored offers even come with 75,000 bonus points upfront, which is worth as much as $900!

Most rewards credit cards would require you to spend somewhere in the ballpark of $25,000 to $90,000 to earn that much cash back.  For most people, that’s probably much more than their budget allows, and not a wise spending plan to earn a little cash back.

There’s also the Chase Freedom $300 cash back offer, which you can earn after spending just $500.  That’s a great deal, especially because there’s no annual fee.

So be sure to look all available credit card offers to see which is the best fit.  You may find that the combination of an upfront bonus, along with two other credit cards for specific rewards may be better than just one all-purpose rewards credit card.

All that said, there isn’t just one single credit card that offers the best rewards. It’s kind of like when you order a hamburger or a pizza and all your favorite toppings are spread among three different options, forcing you to add the items you want for an additional charge or miss out entirely.  Usually I add bacon.

Fortunately, you can hold several credit cards at once and take advantage of the many rewards programs that exist.  Just be sure to manage your cards properly so you don’t miss a payment.

Read more: Check out what I think about all the major credit card companies.

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