What’s the Best Rewards Credit Card for 2018?

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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 2018.

1. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

ChaseSapphirePreferredAnnual Fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then the ongoing annual fee is $95

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

In our opinion Chase offers some of the best new Cardmember bonuses around and currently qualifying new Cardmembers earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases 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, when you go this route, you get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotel, car rentals through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, for example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel.

The next option is to transfer your points on a 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs. Travel participating programs may change and are currently Aer Lingus AerClub, British Airways Executive Club, Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM, Iberia Plus, JetBlue TrueBlue, 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 be also be redeemed for any available reward options, including cash, gift cards, products or services made available through the rewards program or directly from participating third party merchants, as well as redeemed for travel. Redemption values for reward options vary.

We should note that in terms of credit for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card you need good to excellent credit to help you snag this card. Keep in mind the card issuers look at a variety of factors, and use a variety of different types of credit scores to help determine if you qualify for one of their cards. Just know that having a credit score at a certain level does not guarantee you will be approved for a credit card.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then the ongoing annual fee is $95.

Terms apply.

2. Chase Freedom®

Annual Fee: $0

We think 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 Cardmembers who qualify earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

The Chase Freedom® card has no annual fee, there is a foreign transaction fee of 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars.

Terms apply.

3. Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Annual Fee: $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that

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 earn 2X miles per dollar on every purchase. New Cardmembers who qualify enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 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, anytime; no blackout dates.

This card does not offer an introductory 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. There are no foreign transaction fees, which can be a money saver on purchases made abroad for individuals who travel outside the United States on a regular basis. There is a $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that.

Terms apply.

4. Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

Annual Fee: $89 (waived first year)

With the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase. For qualifying new cardmembers there is a Limited Time Offer of 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.

Miles don’t expire as long as the account remains open, active and in good standing. Redemption options vary, you may redeem your miles for travel or cash back statement credits, gift cards and merchandise. Redeeming miles for travel statement credits offers the best value. Travel statement credit redemption starts at 10,000 miles for $100 toward a qualifying travel purchase of $100 or more made within the last 120 days. Every time you redeem get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption.

This card does not charge foreign transaction fees on international purchases. The annual fee is $89, which is waived the first year of cardmembership.

Terms apply.

5. Discover it® Cash Back

Annual Fee: $0

With Discover it® Cash Back earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. For purchases over the quarterly spending limit or any purchases outside the rotating category, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

There is an intro offer: Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically, for new cardmembers only. There’s no signing up and no limit to how much is matched. This can potentially add up to a generous bonus for heavy spenders.

This card has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

Terms apply.

Card Name:Rewards Structure:Bonus Offer:Annual Fee:
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide
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®$0 intro annual fee for the first year; then ongoing annual fee of $95
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 each quarter. 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 ongoing annual fee
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit CardEarn 2X miles per dollar on every purchase.
Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels; learn more at hotels.com/venture
A one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel$0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase; get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeemLimited Time Offer: Enjoy 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days$89 annual fee (waived first year)
Discover it® Cash BackEarn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.For an intro offer: Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically - for new cardmembers only. There's no signing up and no limit to how much is matched.$0 annual fee
Terms apply

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. The points and miles you earn can go a long way toward future travel plans, airfare, hotel expenses and rental car fees. Some cards 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.

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.

Getting a credit card is a personal decision so look for a card that best matches your needs, your preferences and your spending habits.


Disclaimer: All the information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is reviewed independently by CreditSesame.com and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuers of this card. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is not available through CreditSesame.com.

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Published March 14, 2016
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