Best rewards credit card for suburbanites
The newly released American Express Blue Cash Preferred (signup bonus: $100 cash back) tops our list as the best rewards card for people who spend on food, gas and clothing – the typical purchases for a family. It earns 6% back on groceries, 3% back on gas and department stores, and 1% back elsewhere. We like this new Blue Cash because unlike the old version, there’s no spending threshold, so you earn the same rewards on the first dollar as you do on the ten thousandth. It also pays out in, well, cash, so you can redeem in $25 increments rather than saving 10,000 rewards points or waiting for your once-a-year payout.
Highlights: easy earning and redemption, high rewards rate on family purchases
Downsides: $75 annual fee, fewer heavy-hitting rewards categories
Best rewards credit card for travelers
The Capital One Venture Rewards (signup bonus: 10,000 No Hassle Miles) is one of the best travel credit cards around, since it gives a flat 2% rewards rate on all purchases and pays out in a statement credit to offset a travel expense rather than miles tied to a specific airline. This means that you can use your miles for anything travel-related: gas, rental car insurance, pillow mints at a hotel, or an inflight movie. Capital One even suggests on your statement where your travel miles can go. Plus, there’s no foreign transaction fee, so you don’t have to pay 3% of whatever you spend overseas.
Highlights: high base rewards rate, no F/X fee, easy redemption
Downsides: $59 annual fee – waived the first year, no bonus categories
Best credit card for socialites
The Citi Forward® Card (signup bonus: 1,000 ThankYou Points when you make $650 in purchases) is a great card for city dwellers. Though its signup bonus is nothing to write home about, it makes the list because of its high overall rewards rate. It privileges entertainment spending, giving 5 ThankYou Points per $1 spent on dining, books, movies and music (it also counts Amazon.com as a bookstore, no matter what you buy) and 1 point elsewhere. The Forward also rewards good behavior, giving an APR reduction of up to 2% when you stay under your credit limit and pay on time for three straight billing cycles. Plus, there’s no annual fee. However, overall rewards are capped at 75,000 a year. Redemption is easy – 1,000 ThankYou points gets you a $10 gift card.
Highlights: high rewards in common spending categories, no annual fee
Downsides: rewards cap
Best cash back credit card
Those epic bonuses make their splashiest appearance with the Chase Freedom(signup bonus: $200 cash back. No miles. No flights. Just cold, hard, cash, available if you spend $500 in the first 3 months). Beyond that, you earn 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories that change quarterly, up to $1,500 in quarterly spending, and an unlimited 1% back on everything else. Finally, there’s no annual fee, so the Chase Freedom is a good card to have around. If you ever stop using it, you can keep the account open and raise your credit score without bleeding annual fees.
Highlights: $200 cash back bonus, no annual fee, concierge service
Downsides: $1,500 quarterly rewards cap on bonus categories
Best airline credit card
For the encore of the Chase signup bonus extravaganza, we present to you the Southwest Airlines credit card (signup bonus: 25,000 Southwest miles, worth more than one free roundtrip domestic flight). You earn 1 mile per $1 spent, and double miles on Southwest purchases. What’s more, you get an anniversary bonus of 3,000 miles every year. That’s worth $50 of economy (Wanna Get Away) fare, and cancels out the $69 annual fee by itself.
Highlights: killer signup bonus, anniversary bonus
Downsides: no annual fee, no airline-specific perks like priority boarding
Best hotel credit card
The Starwood American Express is a much better card than it looks at first glance. The rewards rate initially seems unimpressive: 1 Starpoint on all purchases, and up to 5 when you spend at SPG hotels (2 for the card + 2 for being a preferred guest + 1 for elite status). But we value Starpoints at anywhere from 1 cent to a whopping 5 cents, and 2.3 cents on average. That means you get 2.3% rewards on all purchases, and the bonus is worth $690 on its own. You also get nice perks like accelerated elite status, late checkout, and room upgrades.
Highlights: high rewards rate, perks
Downsides: points lose value if not redeemed for Starwood or affiliates
Best business rewards credit card
The Chase Ink (yep, another Chase signup bonus) tops our list for the best business credit cards largely because of its $250 cash back signup bonus ($150 cash back after your first purchase, plus 10,000 points for spending $5k in the first 3 months, redeemable for $100). In addition, you earn 5% cash back on office supplies, cable and telecom services (up to $25k in purchases), 2% back on gas and dining (up to $25k) and an unlimited 1% back on everything else. Plus, rewards don’t expire, and there’s no annual fee.
Highlights: no annual fee, signup bonus, 5% cash back on business purchases
Downsides: rewards cap on bonus categories