Use Credit Card Category Bonuses to Maximize Your Points Earning

I receive compensation for many links on this blog. You don’t have to use these links, but I am grateful to you if you do. American Express, Citibank, Chase, Capital One and other banks are advertising partners of this site. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners. I do not write about all credit cards that are available -- instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same).

I don't have referral links for the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Ink Cash cards. Information about these products is neither provided nor reviewed by their issuer.

If you want to earn the most points for your spending — beyond just earning a big signup bonus — you need to pay attention to what you spend the most money on and which cards give you the best juice for that specific spending.

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.

Since I travel a lot it’s air, hotel, and dining. Some cards are great for multiple categories.

I’ve been a big fan and user of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card for many years which gives you double points for both travel and dining. It’s the best all-around card for people getting started seriously collecting miles and points with a $0 annual fee the first year (then $95), though the $450 annual fee Chase Sapphire Reserve Card earns triple points on travel and dining.

I’ve compiled a list of what I consider to be the best card for several spend:

  • Best for gas: Citi ThankYou Premier Card earns 3 ThankYou points per dollar on gas. Those points transfer to a variety of airline frequent flyer mileage programs.

  • Best for groceries: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express lets you ean 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). [Link no longer available]

  • Best for dining: Chase Sapphire Reserve Card 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar. .

  • Best for airline tickets: Platinum Card by American Express earns 5 points per dollar on airfare booked directly with airlines. Five.

  • Best for Car Rentals: Chase Sapphire Reserve Card 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar and the card offers primary collision when you rent with it.

  • Best for hotels: Citi Prestige Card 3 points per dollar and Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card 3 points per dollar.

  • Best for shipping: Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card 3 points per dollar.

  • Best for Social and Search Advertising: Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card 3 points per dollar on Facebook ads, Google advertising, etc.

  • Best for Office Supplies and for internet, telephone, and cable TV: If you have a Chase card whose points transfer to airline miles like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card — the best strategy is to get the Chase Ink Cash Card which offers 5 points per dollar (but whose points don’t transfer to miles), move those over to your Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, and from there to miles or points in your preferred program.

  • General purchases: The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express earns 2 points per dollar on all spend for your first $50,000 in purchases per year (1 point thereafter).

    Even though it’s a no annual fee card, the points still transfer to miles (it’s a full, real Membership Rewards-earning card). At two points per dollar on all spend this the best most rewarding card for otherwise-unbonused spend.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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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. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. Costco card is best for gas which you didn’t mention. It gives you 4% cashback.Is that because you don’t get referral bonus with Costco card?

  2. Good piece. But I’m always surprised how little attention Cap 1 and Barc Arrival Plus cards get. I use them regularly, along with Ink, Reserve, etc on spend to keep a good balance for various travel purposes. When my wife and I travel we like to stay in B&Bs or local inns, or will book inexpensive short flights, which are perfect uses for both of the cards since we simply write off the charges with points. Rarely do I see a site listing best card spend options include those cards. Too bad.

  3. David, is that 4% rate for gas purchases only at Costco? What %age does that card earn at Shell, Mobil, BP, etc.?

  4. What is the best card for tickets to shows and sporting events? Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige/Premier or what?

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