Best rewards credit cards

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Rewards credit card basics

Rewards credit card categories

Common rewards categories include groceries, gas, and dining. Some issuers rotate categories, giving higher reward percentages during different periods within a year. Others may even allow you to choose your own categories. This can be advantageous if you know you have a big purchase coming up, such as buying new furniture.

What to look for in a rewards credit card

With so many credit card choices available, finding the best credit card for you has become increasingly difficult. When selecting a rewards cards, maximizing rewards can be more than identifying where you like to spend most, such as whether you prefer discounts on merchandise, cash back, or a rewards system to help you save for a vacation. The terms and conditions should also be considered when qualifying for rewards. There could be a minimum number of transactions or amounts required, there could be sign-up bonuses, and there could be caps on qualifying purchases. There may also be other restrictions on how and when you can redeem rewards. Even the APR could be a factor, because you would want to avoid paying more in fees and charges than the reward amounts you receive.

Types of credit card rewards

Understanding the benefits of a rewards credit card can help you decide which is right for you. Generally, rewards credit cards are based on common spending habits.

  • Cash back rewards: For purchases made, cash back is a percentage of the purchase that is refunded back to you. Typically, it can range from 1 to 5 percent, and can vary depending on the category of purchase. For example, you could receive 3% on gas, 2% back on groceries, and 1% everywhere else. And, with some issuers, categories can also rotate over time, and qualifying purchases could also be capped at set amounts.
  • Travel rewards: Travel is one of the more popular categories where points are rewarded for qualifying purchases. Rewards can be redeemed for a set amount of points, and can be used to for flights, hotel rooms, discounts on dining, and rental car savings. Depending on the issuer, limitations could vary, such as which airline carriers points can be redeemed with.
  • Retail rewards: There are generally two types of retail reward cards. The first, also known as store credit cards are typically restricted to a specific retailer, where some may offer redeemable points, and some may offer discounts that are not available through other payment options. Other retail cards include those that are issued by a bank, where points can be earned from multiple brands, but typically with higher rewards for specific brands.
  • Gas rewards: Similar to retail rewards, gas rewards can be either brand specific or more general. The rewards are typically rebates on qualified purchases at gas stations or cash back for those purchases. Some brands will also offer discounts when purchasing from them.

1 Credit score calculated based on FICO® Score 8 model. Your lender or insurer may use a different FICO® Score than FICO® Score 8, or another type of credit score altogether. Learn More.