7 Best Rewards Credit Cards for 2019

Best rewards credit cards
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Rewards credit cards pay rewards on your credit card spending. You can use these rewards for cash back, a credit to your account, flights, hotel, and a ton of other perks. The best rewards credit cards fall into two categories: travel and cash rewards credit cards. Travel rewards credit cards pay higher rewards on travel purchases and allow the best redemption on travel purchases. Cash rewards credit cards pay cash rewards usually as a statement credit to your account or a deposit into a checking or savings account.

The best rewards credit cards for 2019 were chosen based on the signup bonus, ongoing rewards rate, redemption options, annual fee, and other credit card perks. Our list includes:

  • Best Cash Rewards Credit Card: American Express Blue Cash Preferred
  • Best 5% Cash Back Credit Card: Chase Freedom
  • Most Flexible Cash Back Credit Card: Capital One Quicksilver Rewards
  • Best for Building or Rebuilding Credit: Discover It Secured
  • Best Travel Rewards Credit Card: Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Best No Annual Fee Travel Rewards Credit Card: BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card
  • Best Premium Travel Rewards Credit Card: Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Best Co-Branded Retail Credit Card: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature

    We didn't consider APRs, including promotional APRs, in the criteria for best rewards credit cards since paying in full and avoiding interest completely is the ideal way to capitalize on a rewards credit card.

    If you're looking to add a new rewards credit card your wallet this year, check out this list of the best rewards credit cards on the market right now.

    Best Cash Rewards Card: American Express Blue Cash Preferred

    What we like: The American Express Blue Cash Preferred card offers a $250 reward if you spend $1,000 in the first three months of opening your credit card. Ongoing, the card pays 6% cash back on U.S. supermarket purchases, capped at $6,000 per year. That's $360 cash back in one year if you max out spending in this category alone, which is doable if you spend an average of $500 on groceries each month.

    Cardholders will also earn 3% cash back at gas stations, 3% back on ground transportation, 6% back on select U.S. streaming services. There's no limit on the amount of cash back you can earn in the 3% category. All other purchases, including supermarket purchases over $6,000 annually, earn 1% cash back.

    American Express comes with additional benefits like car rental loss and damage insurance, travel accident insurance, roadside assistance, extended warranty, return protection, and purchase protection.

    What we don't like: Grocery store purchases do not include purchases made at superstores and warehouse stores. Gas station purchases do not include gas purchases made at supermarkets, superstores, and warehouse stores. These purchases will earn the 1% reward rate. Cash back is paid only in Blue Cash Reward Dollars in increments of $25.

    • Minimum Credit Required: Excellent
    • Annual Fee: $95
    • Intro APR: 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months
    • Ongoing APR: 14.99% to 25.99% variable
    • Balance Transfer Fee: $5 or 3% of the transfer amount
    • Cash Advance Fee: $10 or 5% of the cash advance
    • Foreign Purchase Transaction Fee: 2.7% of the amount after conversion to U.S. dollars
    • Welcome Offer: $250 back when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months

    View details about this card.

    Best 5% Cash Back Rewards Card: Chase Freedom

    What we like: The Chase Freedom Credit Card offers a $150 cash back bonus if you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of opening your account.

    Chase Freedom cardholders earn 5% cash back on purchases in specific categories that rotate each quarter and 1% on all other purchases. From April to June 2019, for example, cardholders earn 5% cash back on grocery stores and home improvement stores. Cash back at the 5% rate is capped at $1,500 each quarter. Once you've reached the threshold purchases will earn 1% cash back.

    You must activate your 5% cash back rewards each quarter to ensure qualified purchases earn the maximum cash back.

    There's no limit to the rewards you can earn, but you must redeem a minimum of $20 each time. Redemptions can be made as a statement credit, an electronic deposit into an eligible checking or savings account, or for gift cards or other redemption options through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

    What we don't like: You can only earn the signup bonus if you haven't earned a bonus from Chase within the past 24 months. You might also be ineligible for the bonus if you've opened more than five credit cards in the past 24 months.

    • Minimum Credit Required: Good
    • Annual Fee: None
    • Intro APR: 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months
    • Ongoing APR: 17.24% to 25.99% variable
    • Balance Transfer Fee: $5 or 3% of the transfer amount
    • Cash Advance Fee: $10 or 5% of the cash advance amount
    • Foreign Purchase Transaction Fee: 3% of the amount in U.S. dollars
    • Signup Bonus: $150 bonus after you spend $500 in the first three months

    Most Flexible Cash Back Credit Card: Capital One Quicksilver Rewards

    What we like: The Capital One Quicksilver makes it easy to earn rewards. Your purchases earn unlimited 1.5% cash back. That means there's no limit on what you can earn and you don't have to adjust your spending to get cash back in certain categories. Spend $500 on purchases in the first three months and you'll earn a $150 bonus.

    Rewards never expire and can be redeemed for cash back at any time and in any amount. There's no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee on the Capital One Quicksilver Rewards card giving you the opportunity to enjoy your rewards without paying any extra cost.

    What we don't like: While 1.5% rewards is easy to keep up with, you may be leaving rewards on the table if your biggest spending falls in one or two categories.

    • Minimum Credit Required: Excellent
    • Annual Fee: None
    • Intro APR: 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months
    • Ongoing APR: 16.24% to 26.24% variable
    • Balance Transfer Fee: 3% of the transfer amount for the first 15 months; None after the first 15 months.
    • Cash Advance Fee: $10 or 3% of the cash advance
    • Foreign Purchase Transaction Fee: None
    • Signup Bonus: $150 cash bonus when you spend $500 in the first three months.

    Best for Building or Rebuilding Credit: Discover It Secured

    What we like: Most rewards credit cards require you to have excellent credit to qualify. Discover has an excellent option for consumers who don't have the best credit score.

    Discover it Secured pays 2% cash back on up to $1,000 combined grocery and gas purchases and 1% cash back on everything else. As a bonus, Discover matches all the cash rewards you earn in the first year your account is open. You can redeem your rewards for cash (a statement credit) at any time, use your rewards for gift cards in Discover Deals, or even apply your rewards toward purchases on Amazon.com.

    There's no annual fee on the Discover it Secured card, but you do have to make a refundable security deposit of at least $200. The deposit is a feature of all secured credit cards and secures the credit limit for cardholders who are otherwise unable to qualify for a credit card.

    A perk that will appeal to people trying to rebuild their credit: Discover reports your account activity to the three major credit bureaus. And, after you've had your account for seven months, Discover will review your account periodically to see if you qualify for an account that doesn't require a security deposit.

    What we don't like: Your credit limit - and therefore your ability to spend and earn rewards - is limited by the amount you can afford to pay for a security deposit.

    • Minimum Credit Required: Poor
    • Annual Fee: $0
    • Intro APR: 10.99% for six months from the date of transfer on transfers made by August 10, 2019.
    • Ongoing APR: 25.24% variable
    • Balance Transfer Fee: 3% of the transfer amount that posts to your account by August 10, 2019; 5% of the transfer amount after that.
    • Cash Advance Fee: $10 or 5% of the cash advance amount
    • Foreign Purchase Transaction Fee: None
    • Signup bonus: None offered

    Best Travel Rewards Credit Card: Chase Sapphire Preferred

    What we like: The Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card has one of the biggest signup bonuses of all rewards credit cards. Cardholders earn 60,000 bonus points (worth up to $750 toward travel) after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Plus, if you add an authorized user and make a purchase in the first three months, you'll earn 5,000 bonus points. The 55,000 point total is worth up to $687.50.

    Ongoing, cardholders earn two points for every dollar spent on dining and travel and one point for every dollar spent on everything else. Rewards points are worth 25% more when you redeem them through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

    Because Chase Sapphire Preferred is not tied to any airline or hotel brand, you have more flexibility in using your rewards for travel. Plus, Chase will allow you to transfer your points to its partner brands at a 1:1 ratio, which means you'll lose no points in the transfer.

    What we don't like: The annual fee means you'll have to between $3,800 and $7,600 annually to break even on the annual fee. Otherwise, if you're not a big spender, the card may not benefit you much beyond year one. You can only earn the bonus if you haven't earned another bonus from Chase in the past 24 months.

    • Minimum Credit Required: Excellent
    • Annual Fee: $95
    • Intro APR: None offered
    • Ongoing APR: 18.24% to 25.24% variable
    • Balance Transfer Fee: $5 or 5% of the transfer amount
    • Cash Advance Fee: $10 or 5% of the cash advance
    • Foreign Purchase Transaction Fee: None
    • Signup Bonus: 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months

    Best No Annual Fee Travel Rewards Credit Card: Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card

    What we like: The BankAmericard Travel Rewards Card pays 25,000 bonus points - worth $250 - after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days of opening your credit card.

    All your purchases earn 1.5 miles per dollar, regardless of the spending category. And, if you have other accounts with Bank of America, you can increase your rewards. Cardholders with an active Bank of America checking or savings account will receive 10% customer bonus points on all purchases. Bank of America Preferred Rewards clients receive a 25% to 75% bonus increase depending on their benefit level.

    There are no blackout dates or restrictions on when you can redeem your rewards. You have freedom to book your travel on any airline or website and can redeem rewards as a statement credit used toward flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees.

    What we don't like: The flat-rate rewards may not be the most valuable for big travel spenders, who can earn more with a credit card that pays higher rewards on travel purchases.

    • Minimum Credit Required: Excellent
    • Annual Fee: None
    • Intro APR: 0% on purchases for 12 billing cycles
    • Ongoing APR: 17.24% to 25.24% variable
    • Balance Transfer Fee: $10 or 3% of the transfer amount
    • Cash Advance Fee: $10 or 3% of the cash advance
    • Foreign Purchase Transaction Fee: None
    • Signup Bonus: 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months

    Best Premium Travel Rewards Credit Card: Chase Sapphire Reserve

    What we like: The Chase Sapphire Reserve pays 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months of your account opening. The Chase Sapphire Reserve pays 50% more on rewards when they're redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards, making the bonus worth $750.

    Your purchases will earn 3 points for every dollar spent on travel and dining purchases (versus 2 points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred) and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

    The rewards are just the beginning of what the Sapphire Reserve has to offer. You'll receive a $300 annual travel credit to automatically reimburse for any travel purchases made to your card.

    Chase will give a $100 application fee credit toward an application for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. Your card gives you complimentary Priority Pass Select membership giving you access to 900+ airport lounges.

    What we don't like: The steep annual fee may be a turnoff for some. Cardholders must take advantage of all the rewards and perks to get enough value from the card to justify paying the steep annual fee. Plus, you can only receive the signup bonus if you haven't received another bonus from a Chase card in the past 24 months.

    • Minimum Credit Required: Excellent
    • Annual Fee: $450 for the primary cardholder; $75 for additional authorized users
    • Intro APR: None offered
    • Ongoing APR: 19.24% to 26.24% variable
    • Balance Transfer Fee: $5 or 5% of the transfer amount
    • Cash Advance Fee: $10 or 5% of the cash advance
    • Foreign Purchase Transaction Fee: None
    • Signup Bonus: 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months

    Best Co-Branded Retail Credit Card: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature

    What we like: Approved cardholders will earn a $70 Amazon.com gift card instantly when the account is approved. There's no minimum spending requirement or waiting period for earning the bonus and you can use the bonus right away.

    Ongoing, the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature pays 5% cash back on Amazon.com purchases (you'll need an eligible Prime membership); 2% at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores; and 1% back on everything else.

    Because this is a co-branded credit card, meaning it's sponsored by a retailer and a major credit card network, you can use the card outside of Amazon to maximize your rewards. Once you link your card to your Amazon.com account, you can redeem your rewards at any time in any amount for all or part of your Amazon.com purchases. 

    The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature comes with several other great perks including no foreign transaction fees, travel accident insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, baggage delay insurance, travel and emergency assistance, purchase protection and extended warranty protection.

    What we don't like: You must have an eligible Amazon Prime membership to qualify for the card.

    • Minimum Credit Required: Good
    • Annual Fee: None
    • Intro APR: None offered
    • Ongoing APR: 16.49% to 24.49% variable
    • Balance Transfer Fee: $5 or 5% of the transfer amount
    • Cash Advance Fee: $10 or 5% of the cash advance
    • Foreign Purchase Transaction Fee: None
    • Signup Bonus: $70 Amazon.com Gift Card upon approval

    How Should You Pick the Best Rewards Credit Card?

    Consider the type of rewards you want to earn, the annual fee you're willing to pay, and your typical spending habits. For example, if you want to primarily earn cash rewards, you're not willing to pay an annual fee, and you don't want to change your spending habits, the Capital One Quicksilver Reward is a great option since it pays a flat rate on all purchases.

    You might choose more than one credit card to maximize the rewards you can earn. For instance, if you can spend enough to offset the annual fee, you might use the American Express Blue Cash Cash Preferred for your supermarket and gas purchases and the Chase Sapphire Preferred for travel and dining purchases.

    No matter which card you choose, make sure you pay your balance in full and on time each month. Otherwise, carrying a balance means paying interest that offsets your rewards. Paying late adds a late fee to the cost of your credit card and puts you at risk of forfeiting your rewards.

    Keep in mind also that balance transfers and cash advances do not earn rewards. These transactions often incur fees and reduce the credit available for making purchases that will earn rewards. It's best to use a rewards credit card solely for making purchases that earn rewards and keep balance transfers for a non-rewards credit card.

    Be careful also that you spend only what you can afford. Maintaining your credit and staying out of debt beat earning rewards any day.

    We are committed to researching and recommending the best financial solutions and products for our readers. Jacara has partnered with CardRatings and may receive commissions from links within our content, but these have no bearing on our reviews or recommendations. The above content has not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any card issuers prior to publishing.