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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 Sapphire Reserve Card earns triple points on travel and dining. (Sapphire Reserve can be tough to get approved for so getting Chase Sapphire Preferred, waiting a year, and then product changing may be the best strategy to get it.)
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. I value that like a 4.8% rebate. PenFed’s Platinum Reward Visa Signature earns 5x on gas. It’s close but I think even better than both of those the American Express Business Gold Rewards Card (offer expired) lets you choose gas as a 3 points per dollar earning category and valuing Amex points at 1.8 cents apiece that’s like a 5.4% rebate.
- Best for groceries: The new American Express® Gold Card earns 4 points per dollar on groceries (up to $25,000 per year) and I value that as a 7.2% rebate! If you prefer cash and don’t need the big spending cap for this category Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express lets you earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%).
- Best for dining: American Express® Gold Card earns 4 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants.
- 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: Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve 3 points per dollar. Although individual hotel cards may be better, for instance Chase points transfer 1:1 to Hyatt but the World Of Hyatt Credit Card earns 4 points per dollar on Hyatt spend.
- 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.