By Adam Jusko, ProudMoney.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated October 1, 2021 – Below we list the very best credit cards on the market, including cash back and travel rewards cards. See the cards’ applications pages for further details as well as information on introductory bonus offers and any exclusions on rewards & perks.
Best Cash Back Credit Cards
“Flat” Cash Back (Same Rebate Percentage on All Purchases):
- Wells Fargo Active Cash Visa – You get 2% “flat” cash back, meaning you get the same 2% cash back on every purchase with the card. Plus, you can earn a bonus as a new cardholder, something most other 2% cards do not offer. (Right now that bonus is $200 if you spend $1000 or more with the card in the first three months after account opening.
- Citi Double Cash – 2% “flat” cash back, meaning you get the same 2% cash back on every purchase with the card. No annual fee.
- SoFi Credit Card – Earn 2% cash back on all purchases, but only if you deposit your earnings into a SoFi account. No annual fee & no foreign transaction fees.
- Other 2% “flat” cash back credit cards: Fidelity Visa, PayPal Cashback Mastercard
Cash Back Cards with Enhanced Purchasing Categories:
- Citi Custom Cash – Get 5% cash back in the category where you spend the most each billing cycle (on up to $500 in purchases in that category); 1% cash back elsewhere. No annual fee.
- Capital One SavorOne Card – 3% cash back on dining, groceries, entertainment purchases, and most streaming services, 1% elsewhere. No annual fee.
- Blue Cash Preferred from American Express – 6% cash back on groceries & streaming services, 3% on gas & transit, 1% elsewhere. No annual fee first year, $95 per year after that.
- Blue Cash Everyday from American Express – 3% cash back on groceries, 2% on gas and at certain department stores, 1% elsewhere. No annual fee.
- US Bank Altitude Go – 4% cash back on dining purchases, 2% on groceries, gas, and streaming services, and then 1% anywhere else. No annual fee.
- Chase Freedom Unlimited – 3% cash back on dining purchases, 3% at drugstores, 5% at Chase’s own travel booking site, and 1.5% on all other purchases. No annual fee.
- Chase Freedom Flex – Get 5% cash back on purchases in certain categories that change every calendar quarter. Also get 3% on dining, 3% at drugstores, 5% at Chase’s own travel booking site, and 1% elsewhere. No annual fee.
- Navy Federal Credit Union More Rewards American Express Card – 3% cash back at grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations, 1% elsewhere. No annual fee. Must qualify as member of the credit union.
- Navy Federal Flagship Rewards – Earn 3% cash back on travel, 2% everywhere else. There is a $49 annual fee. Must qualify as member of the credit union.
- US Bank Cash+ – Get 5% cash back in your choice of two purchasing categories from a list that US Bank provides, then 2% cash back on your choice of gas, groceries or dining. 1% back everywhere else. No annual fee.
- Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards – Get 3% cash back in a purchasing category of your choice, 2% at grocery/wholesale stores, 1% elsewhere. No annual fee.
- Discover it – Get 5% cash back on purchases in certain categories that change every calendar quarter. All other purchases earn 1%. No annual fee.
- Also worth mentioning: Verizon Visa, Apple Card, Venmo Credit Card
Best Travel Credit Cards
Travel credit cards are more difficult to rank than cash back cards because there are many different types of travelers in terms of budget, frequency of travel, loyalty to an airline/hotel, perks desired, etc. Cards have a wide range of annual fees as well. That said, here are cards worth looking at:
Luxury Travel Credit Cards (Big Perks & Big Annual Fee):
- Chase Sapphire Reserve – Has a big $550 annual fee, and hopes to justify it with a range of rewards and perks, including a $300 annual travel credit, 3 points per dollar on dining and travel purchases, airport lounge access, travel insurances, etc. Maybe most important, for some people this card is the linchpin to a larger Chase “trifecta” strategy in which people get two other Chase cards and transfer the points from those other Chase cards into their Sapphire Reserve card account, thus taking advantage of this card’s 50% boost on the value of your points when redeemed through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards travel booking site, or the ability to transfer those points into the loyalty programs of Chase partners including United, Southwest, Hyatt, Marriott and more.
- American Express Platinum – A very large $695 annual fee, but rewards and perks include 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar on airline and hotel purchases, an extensive airport lounge network that you get access to as a cardholder, credits on purchases from Uber and Saks Fifth Avenue, travel insurances/protections, and more. Be sure to study the limitations on some of these rewards and perks, though, because you could assume you are getting rewarded at times when you are not.
- US Bank Altitude Reserve – A $400 annual fee on this card is a little easier to swallow than the cards above, and it still has plenty of rewards and perks, including up to $325 in credits on travel and dining purchases, 5 points per dollar on hotels and car rentals (when booked through US Bank’s travel booking site), 3 points per dollar on purchases made with a mobile wallet (Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, etc.), airport lounge access (first year only), more.
Other Travel Credit Cards (with lower annual fees):
- Chase Sapphire Preferred – This $95 annual fee card recently beefed up its rewards (including 3 points per dollar on dining purchases and 5x/10x on most travel when booked through Chase’s travel portal), making it more attractive as an everyday credit card. It’s probably still most attractive, though, as the foundation to a larger strategy of obtaining multiple Chase cards and combining points to redeem at a 25% premium through Chase’s travel booking site or to get access to Chase travel transfer partners including United, Southwest, Hyatt, Marriott and more. Plus, the card has a huge 100,000-point bonus opportunity (worth at least $1000) for new cardholders.
- American Express Gold Card – This is sort of a hybrid card in that its everyday rewards are not highly travel-focused, but it gives points in the Membership Rewards program, which most people end up redeeming for travel rewards. This card has a $250 annual fee, but lots of point-earning opportunities and perks/credits, including 4 points per dollar on groceries and dining out. You’ll have to do the math to see if it fits your spending patterns.
- Capital One Venture Rewards – Gives you 2 points per dollar on all purchases, and has a $95 annual fee. In the past, we have not been fans of this card, since the points were essentially the same as cash back, meaning you were paying $95 to get the equivalent of a 2% cash-back card, when there were other no-annual-fee 2% cash cards around. While we haven’t totally come around on Capital One in the travel arena, they have added some airline partners that would allow you to transfer points from this card into those programs to get greater value for your points. Plus, as of this writing, the card has a nice bonus opportunity of 60,000 points that makes the annual fee much easier to swallow, at least in the first year.
- US Bank Altitude Connect – This is another hybrid card in that it rewards you for travel purchases, but it may be more appealing to redeem for cash back than anything else. Here’s what you get: 5 points per dollar (5% if redeemed for cash back) on hotels and car rentals through the US Bank travel booking site, 4 points per dollar on other travel purchases, 4 points per dollar on gas, 2 points on groceries and on streaming services, 1 point per dollar elsewhere. Also includes a $30 streaming services credit and a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry credit when you use the card to purchase those things. No annual fee the first year, but then a $95 annual fee every year after that.
Airline-Specific & Hotel-Specific Credit Cards
All the major airlines and hotel chains have pretty good credit card options, oftentimes multiple card options. The miles or points you earn from airline-specific or hotel-specific cards are less flexible than the points you can earn from the cards listed above, but if you have loyalty to an airline or hotel chain already from your travels, it can be a great way to earn more points or to get “status” with these travel companies to make your flights and hotel stays more enjoyable. Use the following links to see credit cards from Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Hilton Hotels, Hyatt Hotels, Marriott Hotels, Wyndham Hotels, Choice Hotels, IHG Hotels