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Featured Credit Card Rewards Programs

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Best credit card rewards programsI’ll start this off by stating that not everyone should carry a credit card. If you can’t pay the charge in full each month or don’t have the discipline to control your spending, then carrying a credit card is a bad idea. But if you are the kind of person who pays of your credit card each month and you carry a credit card for the cash back or rewards points, consumer and fraud protection, convenience, or other benefits, then you should maximize your credit card rewards, and this article is for you.

Defining the Best Credit Cards

There is a credit card for just about everyone out there, but it is impossible to list each of them on this site. The cards on this page are for people who are responsible credit cards users and are looking to take advantage of rewards points and cash back bonuses. Depending on your credit card usage, you may benefit most from a cash back card, a points rewards card, or a travel rewards credit card. This article will help you find the best credit card for your situation.

How to Find the Best Credit Cards

The best credit cards can be difficult to find if you don’t know what to look for. The first thing you want to look at when comparing credit card offers is to look at all the associated interest rates, fees, and other applicable charges. These should be spelled out clearly in the Schumer Box (example below), which is required to be disclosed by all credit card companies. Example:

schumer-box

Look beyond the Schumer Box. The Schumer Box only displays fees, but it does not disclose rewards programs and other benefits. For this you will need to search through the terms and conditions. In addition to the rewards, you want to consider other factors such as low introductory interest rates, 0% balance transfers, 0% interest credit cards, credit card sign up bonuses, and benefits.

Featured Cash Rewards Credit Cards

Only a year or two ago credit card companies were throwing cash at people to obtain their business. Excellent rewards programs and sign up bonuses were easy to find. Unfortunately, the credit card industry was hit hard by the current financial crisis and credit card companies have scaled back their rewards and bonus programs.

The good news is that there are still some excellent credit card rewards programs, particularly if you are willing to open an account with a bank or brokerage firm to obtain their rewards credit card. Two prime examples include the 2% cash back card from Charles Schwab and Fidelity. The only downside is you have to open a brokerage account with these companies and the rewards must be deposited into your brokerage account. You may be able to find similar offers through your bank, credit union, or a group or club to which you belong. If that sounds like too much of a hassle, then check out the following cash rewards credit cards that are widely available and don’t require a membership or account with a separate financial institution.

The best cash rewards credit card programs

Credit Card Cash Back
Rewards
Notes
Chase Freedom® Visa – $100 Bonus Cash Back 5% cash back in quarterly bonus categories like gas, home improvement and department stores, subject to quarterly maximum. Unlimited 1% Cash Back on all other purchases Earn $100 Bonus Cash Back after you make $500 in purchases in your first 3 months from account opening; No annual fee and rewards never expire

Click on the link in the table for more information about the card, rewards programs, terms and conditions, or to fill out an application.

Featured Points Rewards Credit Cards

Points rewards programs are another popular credit card rewards program. Points programs sometimes offer more generous rewards programs than cash back cards, but they may also come with more restrictions regarding how you can redeem your points. In my opinion, the best points rewards credit cards offer the cardholder the opportunity to exchange their points for cash. Other popular options include shopping through the credit card shopping site to redeem points for purchases, often for a nice discount.

The best points rewards credit card programs:

Credit Card Rewards Type Notes
Citi Forward® Card Point Rewards Earn ThankYou points for every purchase. No annual fee.
Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students – Earn 2,500 Bonus Points Point Rewards Earn 2,500 bonus ThankYou® Points after spending $500 within the first 3 months of cardmembership. No annual fee.

Click on the link in the table for more information about the card, rewards programs, terms and conditions, or to fill out an application.

Best Travel, Airline and Hotel Rewards Credit Cards

If you travel often, then a travel rewards credit card may net you the best benefits.  You may come out ahead with a points credit card vs. cash rewards, depending on the credit card company, the rewards program, and how you choose to redeem your rewards. Be aware that there may be annual fees on some of the travel cards, but depending on your usage, they may be worth the cost. Many credit card companies also offer to waive fees for the first year, so it doesn’t hurt to ask. These are some of the better travel rewards programs currently on the market.

Other Credit Card Rewards Programs

There are other credit card rewards programs in addition to the cards listed above. Some of the best credit card offers aren’t heavily publicized and may be run through individual banks, credit unions, etc. It can be difficult to track down each offer, so check with your bank or credit union about their offers. Some of these offers may include a rewards system that works toward reducing your mortgage, saving money for college, such as a credit card sponsored by Upromise, or balance transfer credit cards to help you reduce your debt more quickly.

My Thoughts on Rewards Credit Cards

Credit cards aren’t for everyone; you should only use them if you will pay them in full each month and avoid interest charges. That said, there are many benefits to using credit cards. If you are responsible with credit cards, then you may as well receive rewards benefits for doing something you would have done anyway.

*Note: Credit card terms and conditions change frequently. These terms were correct as of the date of publication and we do our best to keep them current. Please read the application thoroughly before you apply for a credit card.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.

Advertising Disclosure: This page contains advertisements. This page does not include all available credit card offers from all advertisers (that would be literally hundreds, if not thousands of credit cards). This credit card review was not reviewed by, endorsed, or approved by Citi or any other credit card issuer. All opinions, reviews, and recommendations reflect the author’s honest opinions, beliefs, and experiences.


Published or updated August 18, 2014.
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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Don@MoneyReasons

I have the Schwab credit card, and I think it’s great! Any little bit added to my brokerage account works for me! :D

With my Schwab brokerage account, if I want the money in cash, I can just write myself a check from it. I also have my Schwab account linked to another bank (Amtrust), and I wire the money to my other bank sometimes (for free). As far as I know, you can link any bank.

Great post (as always)!

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2 Ryan

Glad to hear you have had good experiences with that card, Don. I actually use the Chase Freedom® MasterCard and my wife has the Discover More, but I have thought about switching to the Schwab or Fidelity to get a straight 2% instead of 1% in most categories, and 3% in others. I’ll check it out. :)

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3 Don@MoneyReasons

Thanks, many years ago, I had a GM Card (5% on all purchases), and ended up using the money from that card for buying a new malibu (this will be my last new car!). GM changed the card properties so that it’s not as good of a deal as it use to be. I also tried other cards like: Sony, Upromise (was a citi card, but now it’s Bank of America), American Express, Discover, etc…

I mainly use my Citi Diamond Preferred rewards card (initially, I got the Schwab card just in case Citibank does some funny things with their fee policy). I trust the Schwab card, they have a great brand name (plus I’ve had a brokerage account with them for over 15 years). Really, it’s my wife that primarily uses the Schwab card for herself and the kids. Hehe, she spends and I reap the benefits (it’s attached to my schwab account).

Shhh, Don’t tell ;)

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4 Abigail

I love our United Airlines card. There is an annual fee, but that may be increasingly common anyway when the reforms kick in.

The reason I love the card is that you don’t have to earn a whole ticket’s worth of miles before using it. You can also apply your current total toward a bill. So if I have 20,000 miles and have to go to a wedding, I can apply the 20,000 miles which will take off $200.00. The points are also good at some retailers and a few hotel chains, but I prefer to save them for flying. (You can also apply your points toward the annual fee, if you decide to, which is a nice perk!)

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5 Ryan

I like that – being able to apply points toward partial credit. That makes it much easier for cardholders to redeem points. :-)

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6 Matthew

As of now I am trying to get a credit card, I am 20 years old and it will be my first one. I have been looking around at some with the rewards and found a great one that gives me points to spend on thing online or in a grocery. I have been banking with Precedent’s Choice Financial the for three years, they have the same thing on their debit card but you get way more point if your using their credit. Just waiting to hear if i have been accepted or not. :)

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7 Financial Samurai

Hey Ryan! Guess we’re on a similar topic, just with a different spin! :)

Nice comprehensive list of names you got there! Can you believe there are over 1.5 billion cards in the US alone? Crazy!

I’m only going for one that has the color black, and is exclusive. j/k.

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8 basicmoneytips

I am not a big fan of airline miles cards, too hard to use these days. The rewards cards or cash back seem a better option.

I do not have a Schwab account or card, but it seems like a good card based on comments.

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9 Ryan

I use cash rewards only, but for people who travel frequently, travel rewards may come out better.

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10 sun

I’ve been using my BofA AmEx Accelerated Rewards card for several years now:

1.25% actual cash back ($50 increments) on purchases. You can use it to either to pay off part of your credit card balance or transfer the reward to your checking account.

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