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By Jason Steele
December 6, 2021
credit Card Wearing A Crown
Money; Getty Images

When you avoid interest charges by paying your balance in full every month, it makes sense to use your credit cards to earn the most valuable rewards possible. These rewards can be in the form of points, miles or cash back.

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Best for Flexible Points
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best for Flexible Travel Credits
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred®: Best Travel sign-up Bonus
  • Wells Fargo Active Cash: Best for no annual fee.
  • Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card: Best for Flexible Rewards for Business
  • Capital One Spark Cash Plus: Best for Big Business Spenders
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Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Best for Flexible Points

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a premium card that lets you make the most of the Ultimate Rewards points you earn.

Pros:

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on new purchases within three months of account opening.
  • Receive a $300 annual travel credit.
  • Earn 3x points on travel and dining worldwide.
  • Redeem points for 1.5 cents each toward travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards or transfer rewards to airline miles or hotel points.
  • Priority Pass Select lounge access.

Cons:

  • $550 annual fee

The Chase Sapphire Reserve has been a leader in the market for cards that offer flexible points. This card offers 3x Chase Ultimate Rewards points for travel and dining purchases worldwide, including eligible takeout and delivery. Points can be redeemed for 1.5 cents each towards travel booked through Chase, or transferred to more than a dozen travel partners including United, Southwest, Singapore, British Airways and Hyatt.

This card does have a $550 annual fee (+$75 per authorized user), but that cost is justified by its extensive benefits. First, there's a $300 annual travel credit in the form of a statement credit that's automatically applied to any qualifying travel purchases. Then there's a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership that offers unlimited visits for yourself and up to two guests. Add in numerous travel insurance and purchase protection benefits, and it's easy to see the value.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best for Flexible Travel Credit

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers you double miles on all purchases, which are worth one cent each as statement credits towards any travel purchase.

Pros:

  • Earn up to 60,000 bonus miles after making $3,000 in purchases within 12 months of account opening
  • Receive 2x miles per dollar spent on all purchases, with no limits
  • Miles are worth one cent each as travel statement credits or can be transferred to airline miles or hotel points, most at a 1:1 ratio.
  • Receive up to $100 in credit towards a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee

Cons:

  • $95 annual fee

The Venture Rewards card is great for those who want to make travel reservations the same way they always have, but pay for them with rewards. You’ll earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

Points can be redeemed for statement credits towards travel reservations at a rate of one cent per point, or you can use your rewards for shopping when you check out with PayPal. This card also lets you transfer miles to participating airline partners like British Airways, Air France, JetBlue and Wyndham hotels. You'll enjoy a $100 credit toward Global Entry or TSA Precheck, and there is a $95 annual fee for this card.

Chase Sapphire Preferred®: Best for Flexible Points

The Chase Sapphire Preferred allows you to earn Ultimate Rewards points which can be transferred to airline and hotel programs or used to book a broad variety of travel reservations directly through Chase.

Pros:

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points (worth $1,250 when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®) after spending $4,000 in purchases within three months of account opening
  • Earn 2x points per dollar spent on on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out, and travel
  • Transfer rewards to airline or hotel points, or receive 1.25 cents per point on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Receive exclusive benefits from DoorDash, Peloton and Lyft

Cons:

  • $95 annual fee

Sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred to earn 60,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 within first three months of account opening (worth $750 towards travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards). You’ll also earn 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases. You can redeem rewards for gift cards, statement credits, experiences, or travel. Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. You can also transfer points at a 1:1 ratio to participating Chase airline and hotel partners. This card has a $95 annual fee, but there are no foreign transaction fees.

Wells Fargo Active Cash Card: Best for No Annual Fee

The Wells Fargo Active Cash Card helps you maximize the cash back you earn by offering unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases, a $200 new account bonus and 15 months of 0% APR financnig

Pros:

  • Earn unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases.
  • 15 months of 0% intro APR financing on both new purchases and balance transfers (then a standard rate of 14.99%, 19.99% or 24.99% variable)
  • $200 new account bonus after spending $1,000 on the card within three months of account opening.
  • No annual fee

Cons:

  • Few travel insurance and purchase protection benefits
  • 3% foreign currency conversion fee

The Wells Fargo Active Cash card simply offers you 2% cash back on all purchases, with no limits. Yet it also offers you a $200 bonus when you use it to spend $1,000 on the card within three months of account opening. It even gives you 15 months of 0% intro APR financing on both new purchases and balance transfers. There's no annual fee for this card, but there is a 3% foreign currency conversion fee.

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card: Best for Flexible Rewards for Business

This popular small business rewards card offers Ultimate Rewards points and a very generous new account bonus.

Pros:

  • Earn a 100,000 point bonus (worth $1,000 in cash back) after spending $15,000 on purchases within three months of account opening
  • Earn 3X points on shipping and other select business categories
  • Points are earned in the Chase Ultimate Rewards program which allows transfers to participating airlines and hotels
  • Points are worth 25% more when booking travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards

Cons:

  • High minimum spending requirement to earn the new account bonus
  • $95 annual fee

If you’re looking for an excellent credit card deal for your business, look no further than the Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. This card offers 100,000 welcome bonus points when you spend $15,000 within first three months of account opening. These points are worth $1,250 towards travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards or $1,000 in cash back. You’ll also earn 3x points on travel, shipping, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines, and internet, cable, and phone services (up to $150,00 annually), plus 1x points on other purchases.

A $95 annual fee applies with this card, but you won’t pay foreign transaction fees on purchases. Note that all the Chase Ultimate Rewards redemption opportunities are possible on this card, including 25% more when redeemed for travel to book airfare, hotels, car rentals, and more through Chase Ultimate Rewards. You can also transfer points 1:1 to participating airline and hotel partners or redeem for statement credits, gift cards, and Apple® Ultimate Rewards Store purchases.

Capital One Spark Cash Plus: Best for Big Business Spenders

The Spark Cash Plus is a charge card that offers small business owners a very easy way to earn a high rate of cash back on all purchases. But as a charge card, you must pay your statement balance in full, each month.

Pros:

  • Unlimited 2% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Earn a $500 cash bonus once you spend $5,000 within the first three months of account opening, and another $500 once you spend $50,000 within the first six months, for a total of up to $1,000.
  • $200 bonus each year you spend $200,000 on your card

Cons:

  • Few premium card benefits
  • $150 annual fee

If you use your credit card for a large amount of small business spending, and really want to maximize your rewards, consider signing up for the new Capital One Spark Cash Plus. This card offers a welcome bonus worth $500 when you use your card to make $5,000 in purchases within three months of account opening, and another $500 when you spend a total of $50,000 within the first six months. On top of the bonus cash back, you’ll get 2% cash back on everything you buy with the card.

The Spark Cash Card offers numerous service and protection benefits such as Card Lock, extended warranty and protection, security alerts, and customized spending limits on employee card. Also note that this card is charge card, not a credit card, so you are expected to always pay your entire statement balance. There's a $150 annual fee for this card, it comes with free employee cards and has no foreign transaction fees.

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Frequently asked questions about the best rewards credit cards

Q. Will using a rewards credit card hurt my credit score? Rewards credit cards do not affect your credit any differently than other cards. If you use your rewards card responsibly by avoiding debt and making your payments on-time, you will add positive information to your credit report and improve your credit score.

Q. Do reward credit cards have higher interest rates? Yes, you can expect to pay a higher interest rate with a rewards credit card than you would with a similar card that doesn't offer rewards. That's why reward cards are best used by those who avoid always interest charges by paying their balance in full.

Q. Can I get a rewards credit card just for the benefits? Certainly. There are rewards credit cards that have very valuable travel and shopping benefits, some of which you can use even when you don't use your card often. For example, the Sapphire Reserve offers a airport business lounge membership that's extremely valuable.

Q. Should I get a rewards card for the new account bonus and then cancel it? No, this is not a good idea. These generous welcome bonuses give you an incentive to try a new card, and there's no reason not to keep it for a year before deciding if it's right for you.

Q. How many rewards cards can I have? There are no limits to the number of credit cards you can have, but some card issuers have limits to the number of accounts you can have open with them. That said, you should never have more cards than you can comfortably manage, including paying the bills on-time and avoiding debt.

How We Found the Best Rewards Cards of 2021

You can earn valuable rewards with many kinds of credit cards these days, but that doesn’t mean they’re all the best. Some may offer rewards that are difficult to redeem while others fail to provide the benefits that justify its annual fee. Here’s everything we considered to come up with our list of the best credit card deals available today.

Generous Bonus Rewards

One of the first things you should look for before applying for a credit card is the number of rewards offered and how much they're worth. With that in mind, we looked for credit card deals that could be worth several hundred dollars or more, giving precedence to offers that let you earn even more rewards over time.

Flexible Points

We also looked for credit cards that let you redeem rewards in more ways than one, or at the very least, could be redeemed for statement credits to cover purchases. Keep in mind there are a lot of excellent airline and hotel credit cards available too, which you should consider if you prefer to earn points in a specific loyalty program.

Valuable benefits

Credit cards with substantial annual fees should offer valuable cardholder benefits for travel and shopping. The higher the annual fee, the more you should expect from your card.

Understandable Annual Fees

Finally, we took a close look at annual fees and what cardholders could expect in return in terms of benefits and perks. Most of the best reward cards charge an annual fee, so we didn’t count them out. Instead, we made sure the annual fees made sense in terms of the value you could receive in return.

Callout: One factor we didn’t consider in this ranking is each credit card’s annual percentage rate, or APR. Since rewards credit cards that offer bonus deals charge high interest rates, you shouldn’t pursue rewards or bonus deals if you plan to carry a balance. The credit card deals explained on this page only make sense to pursue if you have a plan to pay your credit card bill in full each month.

Summary: Best Credit Card Deals of 2021

Best Credit Card Deals of 2020 Best For
Chase Sapphire Reserve® Flexible Points
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Flexible Travel Credit
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Best Travel sign-up Bonus
Citi Double Cash No Annual Fee
Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card Flexible Rewards for Business
Capital One Spark Cash Big Business Spenders

More From Money:

Best Rewards Credit Cards of 2021

Why I'm Keeping My Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, Even Though It Costs $550 a Year and I Can't Use Travel Rewards Right Now

Best Cash Back Credit Cards of 2021