Best rewards for everyday spend

Elsewhere, I’ve listed credit cards with the best signup bonuses, the Best Card Category Bonuses, and the best big spend bonuses.  All of these can be found on the Frequent Miler Resources pageThis page 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 used my Reasonable Redemption Values (RRVs) to estimate the rebate value as a cash back percentage.  For example, if a card earns 5X on all spend and the Reasonable Redemption Value 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… or less.  Reasonable Redemption Values are intended to be an estimate of a reasonable value that you can expect to get from your points.  In real life, the value you get from your points depends entirely upon how you use them.

To account for annual fees, I assumed a total of $30,000 spent per year and subtracted the annual fee from the total rebate value before calculating the overall percent rebate offered by each card.  Mostly only cards offering rebates above 2% are shown here, but I did include two popular no-fee 2% cash back cards to anchor the list.

 Card Annual Fee Estimated Rebate % Notes
Discover It Miles (Year 1) $0 3% The Discover It Miles card offers 1.5% for all spend, plus they will double all points earned in the first year.  Points are worth 1 cent each.  So, in year 1 this card offers 3% returns.
Marukai
Premium JCB Card
 $15 2.98% This card offers 1% cash back on your first $1K of purchases, 2% cash back on the next $2K of purchases, and 3% cash back thereafter each year. Earn an addition $50 bonus when you spend $5K or more yearly.  Only available to residents of California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon or Washington.
Amtrak Guest Rewards Platinum Mastercard $0 2.9% This card earns 2X for Amtrak spend, and 1X elsewhere. Points are worth up to 2.9% each towards Amtrak travel.  Obviously this is a good choice only for those who intend to travel Amtrak frequently.  See: Amtrak Guest Rewards credit card review.
Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard $79 2.64% This card earns 3X for Amtrak spend, 2X for qualifying travel, and 1X elsewhere. Points are worth up to 2.9% each towards Amtrak travel.  Obviously this is a good choice only for those who intend to travel Amtrak frequently.  See: Amtrak Guest Rewards credit card review.
BankAmericard Travel Rewards with Platinum Honors Preferred Rewards $0 2.63% Redeem your miles for any travel expense. Base earning is 1.5X, but you will get an additional bonus through the BOA Preferred Rewards program. Platinum Honors status (75% bonus) requires $100K or more invested in BOA and Merrill Edge / Merrill Lynch.
USAA Limitless Cashback Rewards $0 2.5% Combine with a free USAA Bank checking account and direct deposit in order to earn 2.5% cash back on all spend!  Unfortunately, you do need to be a member of USAA to get this card (which means you or a family member needs to be active or retired military).  Also, this card is currently available only in select states.
Chase Freedom Unlimited paired with $95 premium card $95 2.41% This card earns 1.5 points per dollar for all spend.  Pair with a premium card such as the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Business Preferred, or Sapphire Reserve in order to unlock the ability to transfer points to airline and hotel programs.
The Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card from American Express (requires 30+ uses per billing cycle) $95 2.41% This card earns 3x points at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x); 2x points at US gas stations; and 1x points on other purchases.  Key feature: Use your Card 30 or more times on purchases in a billing period and get 50% more points on those purchases less returns and credits.  This means that the card earns at least 1.5 points per dollar on all spend as long as you use the card 30 or more times per billing cycle.  Transfer points to airline miles for best value.  Amex Business Platinum cardholders can get 2 cents per point value when using points to pay for flights within preferred airline (or for a premium ticket).
The Blue for Business Credit Card from American Express $0 2.37% Card earns 1 point per dollar, but also gets an annual 30% point bonus. Transfer points to airline miles for best value. Important: This card must be paired with another Membership Rewards card to make points transferable to airlines (the no-fee Everyday card is a good choice).  Amex Business Platinum cardholders can get 2 cents per point value when using points to pay for flights within preferred airline (or for a premium ticket).
Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card $59 2.3% Earn 3% cash back first year, then 2.5% cash back everywhere in ongoing years. No foreign transaction fees. $25 minimum redemption. Join Alliant by donating at least $10 to Foster Care to Success
BankAmericard Travel Rewards with Platinum Preferred Rewards  $0 2.25% Redeem your miles for any travel expense. Base earning is 1.5 points per dollar, but you will get an additional bonus through the BOA Preferred Rewards program. Platinum status (50% bonus) requires $50K to $100K invested in BOA and Merrill Edge / Merrill Lynch.
The Amex EveryDay Credit Card from American Express (requires 20+ uses per billing cycle) $0 2.18% This card earns 2x points at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x) and 1x points on other purchases.  Key feature: Use your Card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period and get 20% more points on those purchases less returns and credits.  This means that the card earns at least 1.2 points per dollar on all spend as long as you use the card 20 or more times per billing cycle.  Transfer points to airline miles for best value.  Amex Business Platinum cardholders can get 2 cents per point value when using points to pay for flights within preferred airline (or for a premium ticket).
Citi Double Cash $0 2% Get 1% cash back for purchases + 1% cash back when paying your bill.
Fidelity Investment Rewards Visa $0 2% This card earns 2% back when points are deposited to an eligible Fidelity investment account.

Most of the calculations for this page can be found in this Google Docs Spreadsheet.  If you would like to change assumptions or calculations, open the spreadsheet, click File… Make a Copy….

Comments

  1. I currently have all the cards your recommend, except for the Discover Miles. I use the Freedom appropriately, as well as the Sapphire, Ink and Arrival. I put the maximum amount in my Prepaid Target every month. I take at least 2 international trips a year, in addition to several domestic ones.
    In addition, my husband has most of the same cards. Both my husband and I have been turned down, occasionally, the reason given as having applied for too many cards. Should I get the Discover Miles card?

    • How high are your airline mileage and/or transferable points balances? If you fly internationally a few times per year in business or first class and pay with miles, then you’ll want to make sure that your balances are high enough to support several more such trips. Discover card rewards aren’t the ideal currency for those types of trips. If you want to use rewards for coach travel or just cash back then the Discover card can make a lot of sense, especially if you put a lot of spend on it the first year. I don’t think there’s any reason to get two of those cards though. Instead, get one for yourself and get an authorized user card for your husband (or vice versa)

      • Thanks for the info. Presently, my balances are high: 600,000 UR, 390,000 BA, 500,000 AA, 100,000 Delta, 60,000 UA, 60,000 Lufthansa,
        80,000 SW, 22,000 Citi TY, 20,000 Barclay Arrival, plus hotel points. I think I will skip the Discover card and pay my taxes with the Arrival card.

  2. Arrival $89 annual fee can be waived if you spend a lot. I just got both my wife’s and mine waived within the past month. Both arrival cards are over 80K each yearly. I also got my flexperks annual fee waived by using over 35K.

    I mainly use Fia for AGC purchase so I will not put too much monthly charge on my two arrivals, and my BOA travel(2.62%). I also have Chase freedoms, Ink plus and flexperks. I only used ink plus on Staples/office depot/max. I am not going to pay $95 for Ink plus if I cannot waive annaul fee by end of June. I used flexpoint for RBs sometimes. I charged old blue cash within 45K each year ( try to under Amex radar).

    • Update:

      I am going to spenf both of my arrivel+ points and close both cards at March & April since there is no incentive for me to use them anymore. I have 2 BoA 2.625% travel cards. Mainly use for daily spend, and new bank account deposit. I also a Fia Amex card which is no use for now due to useless Serve cards. I also have 1 Fia Visa and 1 Fia Mastercard which I haven’t use them for years. Not sure if I will get three new Fidelity Visas after June.

  3. I have Fidelity Amex and Arrival+.
    Arrival+ annual fee is not refund for 2nd year renewal. Its not worth keeping Arrival+ card as recovering cost of annual fee is very high.
    You have not listed Capital One Venture and Fidelity Visa. I am debating on applying for one of below to replace Arrival+ for MS activity.
    Any comment, recommendation?

    1. Capital One Venture
    down side is it will pull credit report from all 3 credit agency and no 5% bonus on travel resumption. Good part is, its universally accepted as its a Master cad and 40,000 signon bonus.
    2. Citi® Double Cash Card
    downside is few transactions are identified as cash advance or no reward earning. Good part, no annual fee.
    3. BOA Travel Rewards with Platinum Honors Preferred Rewards
    downside is to make it meaningful 2%+ reward, one need to have 50k+ asset with Merrill Lynch for at least first 3 months of the year.
    4. Fidelity Visa:
    downside, 2% after 15k spend.

    • How about Capital One Spark Business? That offers 2% everywhere for $59 and you don’t have to worry about using it against travel expenses as you would with the Venture card. $500 signup bonus.

  4. Please correct me if I am wrong but some of the data needs to be updated. For example, Sallie Mae no longer offer World MasterCard. They now offer UPromise MasterCard.

    • Thanks. You’re right. I’ve updated the page to indicate that the card is no longer available to new accounts. The uPromise card is very different. It is good for certain things, but not a top card for everyday spend.

  5. What is your take on the Orbitz card? How does it stack up against the cards in your list? What is its estimated value?

    • I’m not a fan of earning Orbucks rewards through a credit card. You can only redeem Orbucks for hotels, and not all hotels are available for that. You’re much better off with a 2% cash back card or a 2X bank points card.

  6. Hi,
    Just recently got debt free from CCs, but would like to begin using CCs responsibly and begin to earn points/miles .. I have next to no points/miles with any program.

    Cards i currently have are SPG(personal), Amex Blue Cash Everyday, Chase SP, Discover IT, Chase BA, and Citi Preferred. Three areas most spending is done are groceries, gas, and amazon. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  7. In talking about the Cap One Spark Bus vs the Venture, you say “you don’t have to worry about using it against travel expenses as you would with the Venture card” – what exactly do you mean?

  8. I like my Hilton Honors Surpress American Express card. I get 6 points for every dollar I spend in restaurants, grocery stores & gas stations & three points for all other spending. This card automatically gives me Gold status at Hilton Hotels.

    • Good question! This is due to the fact that I include the card’s annual fee. That lowers the card’s effective rebate. I wrote “To account for annual fees, I assumed a total of $30,000 spent per year and subtracted the annual fee from the total rebate value before calculating the overall percent rebate offered by each card.” This brings the SPG rebate to just under 2%.

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