I get asked variations of this question all the time. “Which credit card should I get?,” “What’s the best credit card?, “What’s the most rewarding card?” There is no single answer to these broad questions. But I’ll do my best here to answer them anyway.
First, though, if your goal is to earn as many rewards as possible, then you’ve asked the wrong question altogether. The best way to earn rewards, in my opinion, is to sign up repeatedly for credit cards in order to earn signup bonuses. Most people are surprised to find that their credit score increases when they start this process (really!). If you’re interested in earning rewards through credit card signup bonuses, then I highly recommend using the free Travel Freely tool. Travel Freely will walk you through the steps of signing up for cards, meeting the spend requirements, and cancelling or downgrading before paying the next year’s annual fee. Here’s our affiliate link to Travel Freely (thank you for supporting us!)
Another approach, which this article is not about, is to juggle many different cards, each with its own purpose. You might use one card that offers the best rewards for grocery purchases, another for travel, another for restaurants, another for gas, and so on. If you’re interested in pursuing that type of approach, please see: Best Category Bonuses: Which card to use where?
This article is for those who are looking for that one ideal card (or maybe two) that will offer great rewards for spend, and maybe some nice perks too.
Top 6 Credit Cards
Given the above constraints, here are my top 6 answers to the question “What is the best credit card?”
- Capital One Venture Rewards
- Chase Sapphire Reserve + Chase Freedom Unlimited
- Bank of America Premium Rewards with Platinum Honors Preferred Rewards
- US Bank Altitude Reserve
- Citi Double Cash + Uber Card
- CNB Crystal Visa Infinite Credit Card
Now, here’s more info about each:
Capital One Venture Rewards
The Venture Rewards card made the top of the list because it is good for those who want the simplicity of being able to use rewards for any travel any time, and it is also useful for those who know how to maximize value by transferring points to airline miles. This is the only all-in-one card that I can think of that offers solid value for both type of uses. You can do better by juggling multiple cards, but if you want the one card that does it all, this is it (along with its business twin: Spark Miles for Business).
Chase Sapphire Reserve + Chase Freedom Unlimited
This combination is still one of my favorites. Yes, the Sapphire Reserve is expensive at $450 per year, but with its annual $300 travel rebate it’s not as expensive as it sounds. By combining with the no-fee Freedom Unlimited, it’s possible to get 3X for travel & dining (from the Sapphire Reserve) and 1.5X everywhere else (from the Freedom Unlimited card). Those points are then transferable to airline & hotel programs, or can be used for 1.5 cents per point value towards travel booked through the Chase portal. When used this way, the card earnings are effectively 4.5% for travel & dining and 2.25% everywhere else. The Sapphire Reserve also has excellent travel protections.
Bank of America Premium Rewards with Platinum Honors Preferred Rewards
If you can handle the $100K requirement (more here about that), this card offers an amazing return of 3.5% back for travel and dining, and 2.62% everywhere else. The only downside to this card, besides the $100K requirement to maximize earnings, is that points are not transferable to airline miles or hotel programs. Still, if you an qualify for Platinum Honors with Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program, this is an awesome card.
US Bank Altitude Reserve
This is another expensive card ($400), but it is relatively cheap after the annual $325 travel rebate. Since points are worth 1.5% each towards travel booked through the US Bank portal or via Real Time Mobile Rewards, the card earnings are effectively 4.5% for travel and mobile wallet payments (things like Apple Pay), and 1.5% everywhere else. The Altitude Reserve also has very good travel protections. There are two things that keep this card from making it to the top of the list: 1) it’s not very rewarding for spend outside of its 3X categories; and 2) there are no options to transfer points to airline or hotel programs.
2% Cash Back Card + Uber Card
The Citi Double Cash Card is really just an example here. There are lots of no-fee 2% cash back cards. For those who don’t hate Paypal, their 2% card may be a better option since it has no foreign transaction fees. Anyway, the combination of a 2% cash back card and the Uber card gives you very high cash back rewards with no annual fees.
CNB Crystal Visa Infinite Credit Card
This card is absolutely loaded with high end perks and is unmatched in its many 3X categories. If you can get the card, get it. But you will want another card for your non 3X spend, since this one is not too rewarding at 1X. Full details here: The amazing CNB Crystal Visa Infinite Card. A deep dive.