The credit card rewards game is getting more and more enticing for U.S. consumers. Whether you are looking for a huge signup bonus, free travel, shopping and dining vouchers, or eye-watering cash rewards, we've made sure there's a card that suits your lifestyle needs. Earn rewards as you shop with the best rewards cards for this quarter.
You could turn $200 into $400 with Cashback Match™. We'll automatically match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year. New cardmembers only.
Discover it® Cashback Match™ with No annual fee is one of the most popular cash back cards in America because it lets you earn 5% cash back in quarterly changing bonus categories up to $1,500 for purchases in combined categories each quarter. You earn an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. Cash back rewards never expire. The card has a cool signup bonus for new cardmembers: Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year -Automatically. That offer is only for new cardmembers. Discover it® Cashback Match™ with No annual fee offers a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months. After that, there's a 11.24% - 23.24% variable APR on both balance transfers and purchases. No annual fee. Here's our Discover it® Cashback Match™ with No annual fee review.
0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers
5% bonus categories for 2016 are:
Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
13.24% - 23.24% (Variable)
$0 intro for first year; $59 after that
0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases
15.24% - 23.24% Variable APR on purchases. and balance transfers
0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases AND for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days
13.24% - 23.24% Variable APR on purchases. 13.24% - 23.24% Variable APR on balance transfers
No annual fee
0% on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months
11.24% - 23.24% Variable
0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months
13.24% - 23.24%* (Variable)
0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers
13.49% - 19.49% Variable
0% intro APR for the first 12 months on purchases and 0% introductory APR for the first 12 months on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening.
15.24%, 19.24% or 23.24%* Variable
0% on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months
0% Intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening
14.24%, 20.24% or 23.24% Variable
Some credit cards let you earn rewards like miles, points or cash back when you make certain types of purchases with your card. These type of cards are known as rewards credit cards.
When you make a purchase at a store or other merchant and pay using your credit card, the store pays the credit card company a merchant fee. Because the credit card company makes money every time you use your credit card to pay, it’s always on the lookout for ways to get you to use your card to pay more.
Letting you earn rewards every time you make a purchase with your card is a good way to encourage you to use your card more. You save by earning rewards, the bank or credit card company makes money off merchant fees, and the merchant makes a sale that they might not have made if they required cash.
A payment card rewards program is a scheme that lets you earn rewards when you make certain purchases using your card, and then redeem those rewards for something you want.
Earning points on all your spending is great. But the way you can redeem those points makes a big difference in how much you are really getting for your money. When you pick a rewards credit card, it’s important to have some understanding of the rewards program that powers it.
Some rewards programs are pretty simple, because you always earn rewards when you make certain purchases (at your favorite shop, for example) or because the rewards you earn can only be redeemed for one thing. For example, a rewards program may only let you redeem rewards for gift cards, or for meals at a certain restaurant.
Other rewards programs are more complicated because they give you more flexibility. Some programs let you earn rewards on many different kinds of purchases, or let you redeem rewards for many different things like travel, cash, merchandise, and much more.
Rewards programs are not all equal, and the points (or miles) you get in one program may get you a lot more (or less) than the points you earn using a card with a different program.
Here’s a quick summary of the major rewards programs in the US:
This solid rewards program from Chase is used by popular rewards cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and provides a lot of flexibility in how you earn and redeem your rewards. You can earn rewards when you make purchases using an eligible credit card from Chase, as well when you shop on Shop through Chase SM at more than 200 popular retailers online.
When it comes to redeeming rewards, you have several options. You can redeem for merchandise, unique experiences (concerts, sporting events and more), and even redeem for cash back at the rate of $.01 for 1 point into your Chase checking or savings account.
But the real power of this rewards program is reserved for travelers. You can redeem points for flights, hotel accommodations, car rentals, cruises and activities.Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card gives you 1:1 point transfer to leading frequent travel programs at full value, so your points offer much more travel value than the points you earn with many other programs.
When you redeem points for travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, you get 20% savings. For example, you can get a $625 flight for just 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points (worth $500 if redeemed in other ways) if you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. When redeeming points for travel, you can also combine points with cash to make up the difference.
You can move points from another Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards, as long as those cards belong to you or your spouse (or domestic partner). All things considered, this is a flexible rewards program with a lot of travel perks.
Points can be redeemed towards online bill payment, merchandise or travel bookings. You can also redeem points as donations to charitable causes. One nice perk is that you can redeem points as a statement credit to cover purchases you make with an eligible Citi credit card that fall under the gas, dining, entertainment, utility bills, drug store and grocery categories.
You can also give your points to other ThankYou® members. If you like to redeem rewards as cash, you can redeem Thankyou points for cash in $50 or $100 denominations. A great benefit for travelers that hold a Citi Prestige® Card is that you can convert points to select frequent flyer programs, often at a very beneficial rate.
For example, you can redeem 1,000 ThankYou® Rewards points for 1,500 HHonors Bonus Points (Hilton Group) or get 1,000 Flying Blue Award Miles (Air France/KLM) for 1,000 ThankYou® Rewards points.
Other frequent flyer programs that benefit from the 1,000:1,000 points conversion rate are Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Qatar Airways Privilege Club, Qantas Frequent Flyer, Malaysia Airlines Enrich, Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer, Etihad Guest, EVA Air Infinity MileageLands and Asia Miles. On the whole, Citi ThankYou® Rewards is a very flexible and rewarding program.
This is a pretty simple and straightforward program. Unlike other rewards programs that use points which can then be redeemed for various things, this program lets you earn either cash back or miles, depending on which Capital One® credit card you use. Miles cards like Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card earn travel rewards, while cash back cards like Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card and Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card earn cash back.
The miles you earn are really more like cash back rather than frequent flyer miles. They can be redeemed as a statement credit towards travel purchases you make at a rate of 100 miles to $1 in travel purchases. That means you have a lot of flexibility in the way you redeem miles for travel, as you can pretty much just book travel the way you want, and then redeem miles for a statement credit to cover the purchase.
You can earn unlimited rewards with this program. Cash back can be redeemed for a check, statement credit, or gift card, so you do have some options. A nice perk is that you can redeem any amount of cash back, anytime. Most other programs only let you redeem rewards for cash back in certain denominations.
This is a very comprehensive rewards program from American Express that may appeal to you if you prefer redeeming your points for more exclusive rewards. You can book travel including flights, cruises, vacation packages and hotel accommodation using your points, or a combination of points and cash at amextravel.com.
You can also redeem points for rental car certificates (Avis, Hertz, Enterprise), Express Rewards prepaid gas cards, or even towards a Mercedes Benz service, lease or purchase. One of the strong points of this program is that you can redeem points towards purchases on site at certain American Express partners.
For example, you can redeem points towards a McDonald's purchase right at the counter. You can also shop with points on Amazon.com or transfer your Membership Rewards® to the Plenti® rewards program (500 Membership Rewards® points for 400 Plenti points. You can redeem your points for merchandise.
This program also offers a long list of events and experiences that you can redeem points for. If you prefer gift cards, you will have a lot of different gift cards to choose from when it comes time to redeem your points. Points can also be redeemed towards Ticketmaster (event tickets) and Telecharge (Broadway and off-Broadway events) purchases.
You can also redeem your points towards Uber services right in the Uber app (100 Membership Rewards® points = $1 charged by Uber). If you have at least 1,000 points in your account, you can redeem points toward eligible charges (retail, dining, groceries and more) made with your eligible American Express card. That gives you a lot of flexibility as you can redeem points towards the cost of certain purchases you make.
This rewards program is used by Discover cards. You earn rewards as a Cashback Bonus that you can redeem in different ways. This program works very well if you like redeeming rewards for cash. You can redeem for cash anytime, starting at just 1 penny.
Most other programs only let you redeem for cash in set denominations, so you may have to save enough points for $50 or $100 before you can redeem. But that is not the case with this program, as you can redeem any amount of points you want and get cash.
You can also use Cashback Bonus points to pay at the counter when you shop at certain retailers. The Pay with Cashback Bonus lets you use your cash back to pay at online stores, including Amazon.com.
You also get very good value by redeeming your Cashback Bonus points for gift cards (starting at $20), as you can redeem your Cashback Bonus for higher value gift cards from many Discover partners. You can also donate your rewards to charitable organizations.
Thanks to this program from American Express, you don’t have to carry around separate customer loyalty cards when you make purchases at merchants including Macy's, AT&T, Exxon, Mobil, Rite Aid, Nationwide, Direct Energy, Hulu, Alamo Rent A Car, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental.
You earn Plenti rewards when you make purchases at any of these Plenti partners and you can redeem your Plenti points towards purchases at AT&T company-owned stores, Macy's and more! Terms and limitations apply.
If you use The Plenti® Credit Card from Amex, you earn 1 Plenti® point for per $1 you spend on eligible purchases with your Credit Card. That way you can earn Plenti® points just by using this card for regular purchases. Terms and limitations apply. You get 5,000 Plenti® points after you spend $250 on purchases using your The Plenti® Credit Card from Amex within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms and restrictions apply.
If you want to earn rewards that you can redeem towards education, then you will probably find this rewards program interesting. The program works through a huge network of partner merchants.
You can earn 5% (or more) cash back when you make eligible online purchases at over 850 popular retailers (Groupon, Sears.com, Macys.com, Staples.com, and more) when you shop through Upromise.
You also earn 5% cash back at thousands of Upromise partner restaurants. Another way to earn up to 5% cash back for college is to book travel with Travelocity, Expedia, Budget and other travel merchants through Upromise. You can use any Visa or MasterCard credit card to shop through Upromise, but you will have to link your card to your Upromise account.
This rewards program from U.S. Bank lets you earn FlexPoints that can be redeemed for travel, gift cards, statement credit and merchandise (including Apple®, Sony®, Bose®, North Face® and more). This program is exceptionally rewarding when you redeem for travel.
You can redeem for hotel accommodation, car rentals and cruise lines. But you get exceptional value when you redeem your FlexPoints for airline travel because FlexPerks works with a tier system.
For example, 20,000 points can get you up to $400 in airline ticket travel, because the first tier (20,000 points) can be redeemed for flights that cost up to $400.
The second tier (30,000 points) can be redeemed for up to $600. That means you can basically double the value of your points when redeeming this way.
There are 14 different tiers so you get a lot of flexibility. Of course a $450 flight will already fall under the second tier, because it’s over $400. But you can pay part of your flight with points and charge the difference to your card, so you always get the best value.
Some credit card companies have more than one rewards program, and the rewards you earn will depend on which card you have. For example, American Express runs three rewards programs: Membership Rewards® (a points rewards program), Reward Dollars (a cash back rewards program), and Plenti℠ (a merchant-specific rewards program).
updated May 23, 2016
Daniel Dreier is a staff writer at GET.com, a lifestyle and personal finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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