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‘Which credit card is best’ is going to vary based on what you spend money on because different card products reward different kinds of spending differently.
It’s been more than four months since I’ve looked at credit card spending category earning. It will be review for some readers, and at the same time the number of unique visitors reading this blog has about doubled year-over-year so for many it will be new.
As you read this post, consider what you spend the most on? If you drive a ton you want a card that maximizes gas spend. If you eat out a lot, there are cards that bonus restaurant spend. Some cards are great for multiple categories.
If you’re a business traveler for whom spend means travel and dining, it’s hard to go wrong with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card which gives you double points for both.
I’ve compiled a list of what I consider to be the best card for several spend:
- Best for gas: Amex Everyday Preferred you earn 2 points per dollar on gas, but if you make 30 purchases a month on the card then you get a 50% bonus — which translates to 3 points per dollar on gas. Starting April 19, Citi ThankYou Premier will earn 3 points per dollar on gas.
- Best for groceries: Amex Everyday Preferred 3 Membership Rewards points per dollar on your first $6000 spend in a year, plus each month you make 30 swipes on the card you earn a 50% bonus so the yield is actually 4.5 points per dollar.
- Best for dining: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar. The first Friday of each month it earns 3 points per dollar.
- Best for airline tickets: American Express Premier Rewards Gold 3 Membership Rewards points per dollar, although for purchases from non-US airlines use Chase Sapphire Preferred® because it avoids foreign currency conversion fees and still earns 2 points per dollar. Starting April 19, Citi ThankYou Premier will earn 3 points per dollar on travel.
- Best for Car Rentals: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar and the card now also offers primary collision when you rent with it.
- Best for hotels: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar, although domestic Starwood properties the Starwood Amex makes most sense and for domestic Hyatts, American Express OPEN gives a 5% rebate plus points, so either the Starwood Business Amex or Business Gold Rewards is best. Starting April 19, Citi ThankYou Premier will earn 3 points per dollar on hotels. Outside the U.S. Sapphire Preferred is best for the waived foreign transaction fees.
- Best credit card for foreign transactions: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
- General purchases:
Amex Everyday Preferred
- The card offers 1.5 points per dollar on all spending if you use it 30 times in a billing cycle. Amex Membership Rewards points are one of the three most valuable currencies, transferring to a variety of frequent flyer programs.
- You get an effective rebate towards travel of 2.2% since you earn 2 points per dollar on all spend (each worth a penny towards travel) and you get a 10% rebate on points used when redeeming for travel. This is the best card if you value paid domestic coach travel that earns miles and where you face no blackout dates or capacity restrictions.
Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express.
In the recommendations above I’m focused on airline and hotel points programs, or points that can be transferred to airlines and hotels. That said, PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Visa Card has a ‘Plus’ version which earns 5% back on gas paid at the pump.
Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either.
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