New List of Best Rewards Cards for Each Kind of Spending

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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:

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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  1. You should include the Amazon card for best to use on Amazon and Whole Foods. Obvious but worth pointing out.

  2. I wish ‘best’ was broken out by with and without annual fee. Also a lot more ‘bests’ for hotel spend.

  3. I think as long as one travels the Chase Freedom Unlimited coupled with the Chase Sapphire Reserve gives you the most for general spending and beats the Amex Blue Business Plus. You get 1.5 UR points with the Freedom Unlimited and when you transfer the points to the Sapphire Reserve and redeem them for travel you get an additional 1.5 points. Isn’t it better than the 2 MR points you get with the Amex Blue Business Plus card?

  4. Amex Everyday Preferred product earns 4.5 points with 50% bonus, for supermarket spend, up to 6K, exceeds the other Amex products.

  5. Best for IHG spend, their new credit card ears 10 points, even valued at c. .06 equates to better than the CSR.

  6. Liz,

    Only if you use the Chase Travel Portal. If you exclusively use points to transfer to hotel or airline partners, BBP is better than the Chase Freedom and UR combination.

    For me, all “general spending” goes on cards that help earn status or hotel nights (Delta Amex Platinum, Hilton Ascend, etc).

  7. Citi Costco card 4% cash back on any gas station.

    CSR Silvercar (through Visa Infinite) 30% discount

  8. Amazon Prime May give you 5% back at Whole Foods but the 4 MR points are valued at 6.8 cents. It comes down to whether you want MR or cash at that exchange rate. On Amazon itself the Amazon cars is a no brainer

  9. US Bank Altitude Reserve is effectively 4.5% back on any mobile wallet payment, which with a Samsung phone Samsung Pay means basically 4.5% ANYWHERE with a payment terminal where you’d otherwise insert/swipe your card. That opens up absolutely enormous “general spend” areas like: dentists, optometrist, car repairs, tires, Walmart, Target, Costco, Home Depot, basically any retail store and then some.

    Then the Citi AT&T access more gives 3x on online retail purchases.

    It’s tough these days for me to get LESS than 4% back on almost any purchase.

  10. As others have pointed out using the CSR at Silvercar (through Visa Infinite code) 30% discount on rental cars. Also some credit cars offer elite status at various rental car agencies even if not the best card to use.
    The new Amex Gold does offer 4x on groceries but that doesn’t include Target, Walmart, etc. groceries sadly.

  11. You should join & work for TPG. Typical product-pusher.

    Left out numerous cards with far greater benefits, cash back and rewards etc. Perhaps because they don’t pay you.

    Sam’s Club Mastercard: 5% gas, 3% dining & travel

    Citi Costco Visa: 4% gas, 3% dining & travel

    Barclay Uber Visa: 4% dining, 3% travel/hotels/Airbnb, 2% online purchase

    Citi Double Cash MasterCard: 2% unlimited

    PenFed Power Cash Visa: 2% unlimited

    PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa: 5% gas, 3% supermarkets (can be used at Walmart as long as use check out lanes on grocery side).

    Navy Flagship Rewards Visa: 3% travel/commutes/entertainment, 2% for the rest

    RBFCU Visa: 2% unlimited.

    US Bank Cash+ Visa: 5% ( select 2 categories); 2% (select 1 category).

    I can go on and on. But again you are just another TPG (probably THE most hate person/blogger).

  12. @DJ you’re just wrong that these cards are better. 3% dining and travel doesn’t come close to earning 3 and 4 points per dollar where those points are worth more than a penny apiece. Similarly a 2% cash back card isn’t as good as earning 2 Membership Rewards points, again worth more than a penny apiece. And if you think it’s because I somehow benefit more, I have a referral link for Citi Double Cash as well.

    We can disagree on valuations and best advice. That’s what the comments are for — to hash these things out — but there’s no reason to suggest I’m less than genuine in my advice just because it differs from what you think.

  13. I disagree about the Amazon card being a “no brainer” – The best deal on Amazon is using a Chase Ink card that gives 5 x UR points at stationery stores (at least two cards do that). Use the card to buy Amazon gift cards (the same is true for EBay gift cards and all other gift cards) Five times UR points are worth are least $.08/$

  14. @Chucks +1 US Bank Altitude for mobile pay with a Samsung phone works wonders at places where all other card options do not have a bonus…but for the hassle of hearing the cashier say, “We don’t take ApplePay” all the time before the transaction goes through.

  15. @Gary – I know there are a gazillion cards and bonus categories, but here are two that are particularly valuable for me:

    Entertainment (including sports, concerts, movies, Broadway, Amusement Parks, etc.) – 2x with Citi ThankYou Premier

    Health Clubs – 2x with Chase World of Hyatt

    @DJ – I would prefer that we have these exchanges without personal attacks. In general those kind of comments simply make the world a worse place to live, and specifically, I’ve occasionally disagreed with Gary, but I’ve never doubted his integrity.

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