Best rewards for everyday spend

UPDATE 3/23/2015: This page is no longer up to date. For updated information, please see the new page of the same name: Best rewards for everyday spend.


 

In other posts, I’ve listed the credit cards with the best signup bonuses, the best category bonuses, the best big spend bonuses, and the best opportunities for earning miles and elite status.  All of these can be found under the “Credit Cards” menu on any page of the Frequent Miler site.  Today’s post is essentially the “all other” category.  What cards are worth using when you are not working towards a big signup bonus, you’re not angling for a big spend bonus, and you have no good category bonus options?

For cards that earn points instead of cash back, I’ve listed the “X” which is the number of points per dollar earned for everyday spend.  For example, “2X” means that the card earns 2 points per dollar for everyday spend.  I then used my Fair Trading Prices point valuations to estimate the rebate value as a percentage.  For example, if a card earns 5X on all spend and the Fair Trading Price of those points is .4 cents each, then the card earns an estimated 2% rebate on all spend.  This does not mean that you will get only 2% in value from your points, you may get much more (see “Fair trading prices explained“).

Card

Annual Fee

Estimated Rebate

Notes

JCB’s Marukai card for Hawaii and California residents $25 ~2.7% (assumes total of $10K spent annually) This card offers 1% cash back on your first $1K of purchases, 2% cash back on the next $1K of purchases, and 3% cash back thereafter each year.  Earn an addition $50 bonus when you spend $5K or more yearly.
Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard – $89 Annual Fee Card $89 2X (2.2%) Points are worth 1 cent each, but you get 10% back when you redeem points for travel.
BOA BankAmericard Privileges with Travel Rewards $75 2.2X (2.2%) Redeem your miles for any travel expense. Base earning is 2X, but you will get an additional 10% annual bonus if you have a qualifying BOA account.
Citi Double Cash No Fee 2% 1% for purchase + 1% when paying your bill
Fidelity Investment Rewards Amex No Fee 2X (2%) Card earns 2% back when points are deposited to an eligible Fidelity investment account.
Capital One Spark Business Card $59 2% Straight up cash back
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card $59 2X (2%) Redeem your miles for any travel expense.
Discover Escape $60 2X (2%) Redeem your miles for any travel expense.
Chase United MileagePlus Club Card $395 1.96% By redeeming miles for otherwise expensive flights on United or Star Alliance partners, it’s possible to get far more than 1.96% value.
Amex SPG (personal or business) $65 1.95% Use points for free nights at SPG properties or transfer to many airline programs at a favorable ratio. Depending on how you use these points it is possible to get much more than 1.95% value.
Amex Blue for Business (temporarily expired offer) No Fee 1.3X (1.7%) Card earns 1X + 30% annual bonus
Fidelity Investment Rewards Visa No Fee 1.5% to 2% Earns 1.5X on first $15K spend per year, then 2X (2%)
Capital One QuickSilver Rewards No Fee 1.5%
Navy FCU Cash Rewards No Fee 1.5%
BOA BankAmericard Travel Rewards No Fee 1.5X (1.5%) Redeem your points for any travel expense.
Chase British Airways Visa $95 1.25X (1.61%) It’s possible to get far more value than is reflected in the fair trading price by redeeming for short non-stop flights on partner airlines.
US Bank Club Carlson Premier Rewards (or Business Rewards) $75
(or $60)
5X (1.25%) Despite the low Fair Trading Price, it’s possible to get far more value than this (see Club Carlson rocks our world… Again).

 

Reader suggestions

Did I leave out any good ones?  Keep in mind that category bonuses (e.g. 2X for travel, 5X for office supplies, etc. are covered in a separate post.  Same goes for big spend bonuses (e.g. Earn 10K miles after $25K spend).

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

Pingbacks

Comments

  1. Not sure it’s all that great, but the Amex Blue Sky earns 1X/$ and can 7500pts can be redeemed for $100 towards travel which makes it a fixed value of 1.33.

    • Ben: Thanks for the Blue Sky suggestion. I think it is just below the threshold where I’d add it to the table.
      Nick @ PFDigest: Thanks for the extra card suggestions. Since there are several 2% cards that don’t have the limitations you listed, I think I’ll leave the new ones off.

  2. How about the BOA cards – they have one called BankAmericard Travel Rewards – No Fee, 1.5% back on all purchases. They also have one called BankAmericard Privileges Travel Rewards – they don’t advertise it on their site but apps are available in branches. I got mine from there – First year fee waived, $75 after that. 2% Cash back on all purchases!

    • romsdeals: Amex Blue Cash Preferred is a great card for category bonuses and for a decent signup bonus (so you’ll find it on those relevant pages), but it’s not great for everyday spend (1%).

  3. What about the United Explorer card? Spend $25k in a calendar year and you get a 10,000 mile bonus netting you 1.4 miles/$ on spend. Not too shabby!

    • Jl100: Southwest points are worth 1.67 cents on wanna getaway fares. The best way to earn Southwest points through everyday spend is by accumulating Ultimate Rewards points (which transfer one to one) with the Freedom (1.1X) or Sapphire Preferred (1.07X) cards.

  4. I recall a Capital One card that provides a net earning of 1.5% cash (not travel rewards) — by !& back and then a 50% bonus on earnings year end. But I don’t remember anything more.

  5. I’d put a caveat on comparing the Barclay Arrival card to the Fidelity Amex card. Yes the former offers 2.2% for travel redemptions vs 2% across the board for the latter. However the latter has no annual fee. To offset the annual fee, you’d have to spend more than $44,500 per year on the Arrival card to come out ahead of the Fidelity Amex card and offset the fee of $89. I think for most people the Fidelity Amex card is better after the first year, especially considering the only other real perk of the Arrival card is no forex fees but most people have another card offering that.

  6. @FM, two suggested correction:
    United Club: I think 1.8cent per UA miles is more fair number than your current, 1.3cent per mile. In that case, 1.5 UA miles/dollar=2.7% cashback. Of course, the downside is te hefty annual fee

    Fidelity Investment Rewards Amex: Not as the name suggested, you can transfer the rewards anywhere. By default, the rewards is FIA world point. For those that don’t know, even if it goes to Fidelity investment account, you can withdraw without any penalty. So this is the best credit card I recommend to everyone.

    FM, I would say that, because of the existence of FIA AMEX, you can safely dump any no-more-than-2% cards when focusing on cashback. if you consider annual fee as well, you can dump all the other cards :).

    • Frugal Guy,
      United Club: Please see my posts about Fair Trading Prices. 1.31 is not an estimate of redemption value, but rather of the usual amount paid for these points.
      Fidelity Amex: Don’t forget that many places do not accept Amex cards so it is not necessarily the best solution for an “all other” card (but I agree that it’s a very good option).

  7. The Cap One Venture Rewards card is useful for bonus categories you can sign up for. I have been receiving an extra 5X at my favorite grocery, Trader Joe’s, for total of 7X towards travel expenses.

  8. @Jetsfan, can you clarify what you mean by bonus categories you can sign up for? I couldn’t find any information on bonus categories for that CapOne card. Thanks!

  9. Here’s my strategy, which is focused on cash back vs points.
    -Chase Amazon Visa (no annual fee), giving me 3 points for all Amazon purchases (I use Amazon quite a bit), 2 points for gas, restaurants and drug stores. I use the points earned to help with my purchases, (thus acting like cash back).
    – Chase Freedom (no annual fee) (5% back for quarterly bonus categories). I also have Chase checking account so I earn an additional 10% yearly bonus.
    – Capital One cash back on most other purchases (1.5% back), including Costco Cash Cards via Costco.com (instead of using the Costco Amex card for in-store purchases).
    – UAL Mileage Plus ($95/year fee) when flying UAL (free bags) and Premium Car Rental Insurance. Card pays for itself.
    – Wife, who does most of the grocery shopping, uses the Amex Blue Cash Everyday/Preferred card ($75/year fee) to earn 6% back, plus 3% back for gasoline. Card pays for itself.

    By doing the above, we avoid the hassle of trying to get airline tickets with all the restrictions they seem to place on people, and it avoids any future mile devaluations.

  10. How do you get the 1.95% on the SPG Amex. It is 1% plus a potential bonus on airline xfers, right? That is 1.25%. What am I missing?

    • Mark D: 1.95 cents per dollar is my estimated Fair Trading Price for SPG points. The concept behind Fair Trading Prices is unfortunately too complicated for me to cover in the blog comments.

  11. @JS, the Cap1 Venture card has its own portal known as “Perk Central.” This is similar to the Ultimate Rewards portal that earns you extra points for shopping online. The Perk Central portal also has in-store bonus opportunities that change every three months. Trader Joe’s along with TGI Fridays, Starbucks, Pier One Imports, and Petsmart are some of the current offers. The Trader Joe’s offer earns you an extra 5X on orders of $60 or more, giving you a total of 7% back on travel if you pay with the card.

    Just so you know, Cap1 also offers weekly deals that can be activated on their smartphone or tablet app. These bonus offers in addition to the 2% make the $59 annual fee worth my while.

  12. FM, I suggest you conduct an reader poll and see which is indeed the most popular credit card for “everything else”. I predict FIA AMEX has an overwhleming win over any other card you list. Also, it is a hassle to have many cards in the wallet and remember which card to be used where. So unless you do a manufactured spending, I would say FIA AMEX is the no-brainer’s best card. What if FIA AMEX is not accepted? Just go and buy some large denomination Visa/MC cards with FIA AMEX!

  13. suggestion for a lab research posting that I am too lazy to figure out myself… when using a travel expense credit card like Capitol One, Discover Escape or Barclay Arrival (or technically using “pay with points” for Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards), which of these sites have the lowest prices on their travel portals for booking?

    The reason I ask is this… in the past when using ThankYou points when it booked through Expedia, the prices were right inline (when converting the typical $1 to 100 point ratio) as the regular Expedia site as well as other top travel sites like Orbitz, Travelocity, Hotels.com, etc. Recently I booked with Thankyou points on their new portal, and prices were virtually 20% more. Ultimate Rewards uses the same looking portal as well, and although you need 20% less points, the 20% was pretty much a break even from paying the equvilent cash price. I have noticed that a pure points per dollar that Capital One is still the cheapest. I have not used the Barclays card yet (haven’t added it) and its been a while since I used Membership Rewards pay-with-points… but while earning the most points possible with these cards is appealing, if it the “rebate value” is close, there could still be significant devaluing of similar points based on redemption.

  14. Some comments:

    -Hilton Reserve Visa from Citi gets 3 HHonors all general spending. That’s roughly 1.5% back. Moreover, you get a free room when you spend $10k. So, if you use the card for $10k, the return is better than 1.5%. How much depends on how you value the free room. If anything, it more than offsets the annual fee.

    -Annual Fees matter. An issue that often pops up with the “all other stuff” card is that many people have so much bonus spending earmarked with a variety of specialized bonus category cards that the catch-all card can get surprisingly little action….especially on pricier items. An annual fee needs to be calculated into the rewards….especially if general spend doesn’t get you enough points.

    -SPG @ 1.95%? That’s kinda cynical…even with the recent devaluation.

    • John V: My estimated Fair Trading Price for Hilton points is .4 cents per point so 3X spend would be like a 1.2% rebate. As to the free room for $10K spend, I have that listed as a benefit in the Big spend bonuses page. Yes, annual fees definitely matter. I included them in the list so that people can draw their own conclusions about whether they are worth it. SPG: 1.95% is the fair trading price estimate, not an estimate of redemption value.

      • FrequentMiler,

        OK. .4 cents may be the more accurate estimate. I always look for redemptions that are better than .5 cents so my perspective might be a bit skewed. I usually look for .6 or .7 at higher end places in expensive cities.

        As for annual fees, I was doing the math comparing the Fidelity Amex vs. the Barclay Arrival or BoA travel privileges…both with 2.2%. When you account for the AF, you need to spend around $37,000 to $38,000 per year on those 2 Annual Fee cards to beat the Fidelity Amex @ 2%, which has no AF. That’s a lot. Considering this is general spend minus bonus stuff, it’s even more

  15. The JCB card also has an additional $10 Marukai Membership Fee after the first year. This brings the total annual fee to $25 after the first year.

  16. I just checked a sample of three Southwest fares and the points were worth 1.8, 1.88 and 1.9 cents compared to fare amounts. Perhaps 1.67 is a minimum? Also, as you know, earning through Chase and then transferring does not count towards the companion pass. Hard to beat Barclays Arrival though, could buy the Southwest tickets, earn points, get reimbursed and have credit left over.

    • JL100: You’re right! I just did a search and found 1.95 cents value. That’s very weird because Southwest supposedly has a fixed value for their points. I’ll have to investigate more! Regardless, it doesn’t change the Fair Trading Price which is based on the cost of acquiring miles, not the value of redeeming them. Yes, the Southwest credit cards are better if you are chasing a companion pass. Agreed!

      • JL100: After doing some investigation I found that when you pay with points for a Southwest flight, you don’t get charged segment fees ($3.90 per segment) or passenger facility charges (seems to be $4.50 for non-stop flights or $9 for multi-stops). So, you are right that the points are worth more than 1.67 cents each towards Wanna Getaway fares.

  17. One very important point about CashBack vs Travel redemptions for those who use the cards for business.
    Any cash back in the form of statement credit becomes business income (via revenue or lower expenses), and is therefore taxed as such.
    Therefore, for those of us in higher tax brackets, a 2% cash back becomes 1%.
    Even if the cash back is deposited into a different account (like Fidelity) and is not declared as income, it can be questioned and reclassified if audited.
    But with CapOne, miles earned on business card can be transferred to personal card account and redeemed there.
    For business owners, probably the best option is Fidelity Retirement Awards Amex. With cash back in the form of IRA contributions, I doubt it can be detected and considered income. But, again, in higher tax brackets, unfortunately not an option.

  18. Thanks for the list.. learned something new about the JCB marukai card. went to appply but you have to send a paper application. It is definitely ripe for abuse. Given current state of miles and points, it is best to earn cashback and buy paid tickets (I have no problem with coach)

  19. Very interesting on the SW Rapid Reward points. I checked 5 fares and the points were worth 1.8 – 2.0 cents each.

  20. Marukai USA sold to Don Quijote (via Pan Pacific Int’l)

    Possible changes to JCB Marukai Premium card ahead? Considering Don Quijote offers branded CC in Japan (Cedyna (SMFG) Club Donpen V/MC/JCB card (pre 2010: DC (MUFG) MC / GE Visa/JCB)), there shouldn’t be any drastic changes in the near term. FYI: Yaohan USA => Mitsuwa Yaohan => Mitsuwa Marketplace conversion did take a year or two.

    If not already, those that have JCB Marukai Premium card should work on getting the $5k yearly spend for the extra $50 cash back.

    All 11 Marukai Stores to Be Sold — Don Quijote to take over management on Sept. 30.
    Sep 4 2013 Takashi Ishihara (as translated by J.K. Yamamoto)
    http://www.rafu.com/2013/09/all-11-marukai-stores-to-be-sold/

    Buyout intent by Don Quijote (Jul 26 2013)
    http://www.donki.com/shared/pdf/ir/ir_kaiji_shiryou/165/130726_marukai_e_TxESo.pdf

  21. There are 3 cards that are basically equivalent or better than the CapitalOne Quicksilver:

    Navy FCU Cash Reward VISA. 1.5%

    Fidelity Visa. 1.5% increases to 2% after $15000 spend.

    New York Life Visa Signature. 1.5% plus free Experian Fico 8 Bankcard score. The non-Signature version is only 1%

    *******************

    This card is almost as good as a Fidelity Amex, but its a VISA:

    NASA FCU Platinum Cash Rewards.
    1% on first $1000
    1.25% on $1001 – $2000
    2% on $2001 and over.

    That boils down to: if you spend more than $2000 on the card each year, its a 2% Visa cash back card minus $17.50

    Of course, at low spend, nothing beats a Bank of America Better Balance Rewards card. And you can obtain multiples of that card.

  22. On March 19, 2014, you explained in detail why the new Amex EveryDay Preferred Card blows away every other card for the average person. I totally agree and it is the primary card I use.

    You don’t value points, but 1.9 cents is a reasonable estimate of Membership Rewards from one of the other popular sites. If you’re using this card for everyday spending (which, given the title of this sections, seems reasonable), then you’re going to get 1.5 miles for every dollar of non-bonus spending. That means this card is worth 1.5 x 1.9 = 2.85% for NON-BONUS spending. I know the comment section references your excellent March 19, 2014 analysis, showing that a typical person will earn 2.33 miles per dollar spent because of the gas and groceries bonus (and that means 4.43% in value!), but don’t you think you should add the card to your chart, given that the average newbie isn’t going to click on every comment link and see why there is a card that is better than every other choice you’ve listed?

    2.85% for non-bonus spending is number 1, I have you to thank for steering me toward it with your earlier blog post, and I think everybody should take a close look at the Amex EveryDay Preferred (or Amex EveryDay if they don’t want to pay an annual fee).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *