What’s the Best Rewards Credit Card for 2016?

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When you need to find the best rewards credit cards, you may not have time to sift through dozens of card offers. Trying to make sense of how different rewards programs are structured and what the rates and fees are is daunting!

Fortunately, we’ve done the hard work of comparing the top credit card rewards programs to pinpoint those cards that offer spenders the most bang for their buck. If you need a new rewards credit card, here are the ones we think are the best for 2016.

We updated these offers for 2017.

1. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

ChaseSapphirePreferredIf you’re looking for a travel credit card that offers premium rewards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card fits the bill and then some. The rewards program offers Members 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Chase offers some of the best new Card Member bonuses around and currently qualifying new Card Members may earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.  You can earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening.

You’ve got several ways to redeem the points you earn with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. First, you can use them to book flights, hotels, car rentals or cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards® and when you go this route, you can get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards, for example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel. There is an introductory annual fee & duration of $0 intro for the first year, then the ongoing annual fee is $95. We should note that in terms of credit for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card you’ll need excellent/good credit rating to help you snag this card.

The next option is to transfer your points on a 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs.

Travel participating programs are British Airways Executive Club, Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM, Korean Air SKYPASS, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®, United MileagePlus®, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, IHG® Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards®, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® and World of Hyatt. Points can also be redeemed for cash, merchandise and services, all through the Ultimate Rewards® portal.

If you are interested in this offer be sure to review the rates, rewards and other information on Chase’s website.

2. Chase Freedom®

The Chase Freedom® card is a great choice if you prefer earning cash back to points or miles. Chase Freedom® rewards can be broken down into bonus and non-bonus categories for purchases. Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

New Card Members who qualify can get a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

The Chase Freedom® card has no annual fee, although there is a foreign transaction fee of 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars. New Card Members can take advantage of a 0% introductory Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of then a variable APR of 15.99% – 24.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum.

If you are interested in this offer be sure to review the rates, rewards and other information on Chase’s website.

3. Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Frequent travelers will appreciate the no-muss, no-fuss approach the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers for earning travel rewards. With this card you can earn 2X miles per dollar on every eligible purchase, every day. Eligible new Card Members who spend $3,000 on eligible purchases within 3 months of account opening may qualify for a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles. that’s equal to $400 in travel.

Your Capital One® Venture® miles are applied as travel credit against your statement so you can fly any airline, stay at any hotel, travel when you want with no blackout dates.

There is a $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $59 after that. So you’d have to spend at least $3,000 annually to earn enough miles to cover the cost of the annual fee. There’s no foreign transaction fee, which can be a money saver on purchases made abroad for individuals who travel outside the U.S. on a regular basis. This card does not offer a promotional rate for balance transfers or purchases, so it may not appeal to those individuals looking for a 0% introductory Annual Percentage Rate (APR) deal.

If you are interested in this offer be sure to review the rates, rewards and other information on Capital One’s website.

4. Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® is on par with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. You earn 2X miles on all purchases, with no bonus categories to keep track of. Qualifying new Card Members can earn a limited time offer of 50,000 bonus miles after spending at least $3,000 on purchases within the first 90 days which is enough to redeem for a $500 travel statement credit.

Miles never expire as long as the account remains open, active and in good standing. Redemption options vary. For example, travel statement credit redemptions start at 10,000 miles for $100 toward a qualifying travel purchase of $100 or more made within the last 120 days. If you prefer cash back or a gift card, you’ll get $25 for every 5,000 miles you redeem. Merchandise redemption values vary based on what you are redeeming for. As a bonus, get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem.

The annual fee is $89 (waived for the first year). This card does not charge a foreign transaction fee on anything you buy while in another country.

If you are interested in this offer be sure to review the rates, rewards, benefits and other information on Barclaycard’s website.

5. Discover it® – Cashback Match™

The Discover it® – Cashback Match™ Card Members earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like gas stations, Amazon.com, restaurants, wholesale clubs and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, you can earn 1% cash back on all your other purchases, so for purchases over the quarterly spending limit or any purchases outside the rotating category, you can earn 1% cash back.

Discover it® – Cashback Match™ new Card Members can get a nice bonus – you can get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically, only for new Card Members. That can potentially add up to a generous bonus for heavy spenders.

You won’t pay an annual fee for the Discover it® – Cashback Match™ card and if you take advantage of the 0% introductory APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers you can also sidestep any interest payments on your qualifying purchase and balance transfer transactions for 14 months. After the 0% introductory APR period ends a Standard Variable Purchase APR applies for purchases and balance transfers, currently 11.99% -23.99% Variable. A balance transfer fee of 3% of the amount of each transfer applies to each transferred balance.

If you are interested in this offer be sure to review the rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details and other information on Discover’s website.

Honorable mentions

Wells Fargo Rewards® Card

With the Wells Fargo Rewards® Card, you get 5 reward points for every dollar spent on gas, drugstore and grocery store net purchases for the first six months. For virtually all other net purchases earn 1 point per dollar. Wells Fargo offers a variety of options for redeeming your Points, such as for cash, gift cards, travel, merchandise or charitable donations through Go FarTM Rewards.

This card has no annual fee and the 0% introductory APR for balance transfers and purchases is good for 12 months. After that, the variable APR will be 18.15% to 26.99%, based on your creditworthiness. There is an introductory balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each balance transfer, whichever is greater, for 12 months. After that, the balance transfer fee will be up to 5% for each balance transfer, with a minimum of $5. This card comes with a variety of built-in safety features, including Verified by Visa®, Rapid Alert® and Wells Fargo® Credit Defense Platinum Service®, check out the Wells Fargo website for more information on these features.

If you are interested in this offer be sure to review the rates, rewards, additional features and other information on Wells Fargo’s website.

Getting a credit card is a personal decision so look for a card that best matches your needs and spending patterns. Keep in mind that your credit score by itself does not guarantee or imply approval for any credit card offer, or that you will be approved for the terms you applied for. Credit card companies use a variety of different types of credit scores as well as other criteria to make credit decisions.

Card NameRewards StructureNew Customer BonusInterest RatesAnnual Fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwideEarn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®Ongoing purchase and ongoing balance transfer APR 16.99% - 23.99% Variable$0 intro annual fee for first year; after that $95 ongoing annual fee
Chase Freedom®Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.Earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.99% - 24.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum. $0 Annual Fee
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit CardEarn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every dayEnjoy a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $400 in travelPurchase and balance transfer variable APR - 13.99% to 23.99%$0 intro annual fee for the first year; $59 after that
Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®Earn 2x miles on all purchases; get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption every time you redeemEarn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 daysPurchase and balance transfer APR - 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99% Variable Annual Fee is $89, waived the first year
Discover it® - Cashback Match™
Earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus 1% cash back on all your other purchases.With Cashback Match™ you can get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year - only for new cardmembers0% Introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 14 months; then a Standard Variable Purchase APR applies, currently 11.99% -23.99%. A 3% fee applies to each transferred balance.$0 Annual Fee

How to Choose the Right Rewards Card

To say “pick a card, any card” when it comes to rewards credit cards is to do yourself and your finances a disservice. Finding the right rewards card isn’t so much about learning more about the cards at your disposal, but knowing your financial tastes, spending habits and preferences. Ask yourself some of these questions:

Do you want to travel? Find a credit card that’s got an airline or hotel co-branding, or a card that emphasizes travel perks over other benefits like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. The points and miles you’ll earn can go a long way toward great deals on future travel plans, airfare, hotel expenses and rental car fees. Some cards (like the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card) even offer other nifty perks and bonuses, like hotel stays on card anniversary dates.

Do you want to earn maximum cash back? Compare cards to see which provider offers the most cash back – but also keep an eye out for bonus spending categories or rotating categories where you frequently shop. Consider using the two best cards tailored to your spending habits to maximize the rewards you receive.

Do you want flexibility in rewards? If your shopping pursuits find you swiping your card for just about everything, look for a rewards card that gives better rewards (2%, two points or more instead of 1% or one point) for everyday spending in a wide variety of categories.

What are your normal spending habits? Where do you like to shop and what do you like to buy? The rewards card in your wallet may be the key to saving money instead of wasting it. If you’re devoted to any particular brand, find a co-branded card that favors that brand. Rewards cards with quarterly changing spending categories can also cater to your purchasing habits by offering rewards, points and cash back during certain times of the year.

Do you have an outstanding balance on one or more credit cards? Are you prone to carrying a balance on your cards? If so, we can’t stress enough the importance of paying down your amount owed, since high interest rates can keep you stuck in a cycle of debt. Furthermore, the interest you pay will always exceed the rewards you earn (unless you’ve snagged a zero percent introductory APR offer). A rewards card with a 0% introductory APR for balance transfers – like several on our list above – with responsible use by you can help you make headway faster in paying down your credit card debt. Plus, you still can earn rewards on new purchases.


The information related to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Wells Fargo Rewards® Card has been collected by creditsesame.com and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of these cards

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Published March 14, 2016
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