The Best of Credit Card Rewards Programs
Assuming the best credit card habits from our readers - having a decent credit score, paying credit card bills in full and avoiding cash advances or balance transfers - we’ve compiled a list of the best rewards programs available for each of your specific needs. These credit cards all have varying sign up bonuses that you can take advantage of and have little to no sign up fees and no annual fees.
Gas: The best gas card we have is the PenFed Platinum Rewards [penfed.org] Visa that offers 5% cash back for gas, 3% for groceries and 1% for everything else, regardless of what month it is or how long ago you signed up. There are two minor caveats in the deal: If you’re not affiliated with the military, there’s a $20 sign up fee, and the cash back comes in Visa cards that have to be redeemed in $50 increments ($1,000 worth of gas purchases).
Groceries and Books: The first of the two Sallie Mae cards that made it to our list is the Sallie Mae 5 Percent [salliemae.com] Visa, which gives 5% cash back for groceries up to $500, 5% on bookstores up to $1,000 and 1% on everything else. Percent cash back for this card is tiered until you can redeem $100 ($2,000 worth of groceries).
Dining, Books, Movies, and Music: The Citi Forward [citi.com] Visa offers 5 rewards points on dining and restaurants, books, movies and music and 1 point for everything else. The reason why the offer specifies ‘rewards points’ for this card is because Citi ThankYou points are not as easily redeemable and actually exchange for 6,500 points for $50.
Other credit cards that offer 5% cash back deals are Chase Freedom and Discover [discovercard.com], which have rotating categories quarterly. Until the end of March, Chase Freedom offers 5% cash back on Gas and Amazon purchases, while Discover offers the same deal for Gas and Entertainment. For the second quarter of the year, the categories switch to Groceries and Movies for Chase Freedom and Restaurants and Movies for Discover.
It’s also worth mentioning a few of the retailer-specific cards that have more than your regular card’s cash back. The Target REDCard [target.com] offers 5% cash back on all Target purchases including free shipping on online purchases. Amazon [amazon.com] and Buy.com [buy.com] cards each provide 3% cash back on the respective online stores and are also Visa cards, which give 1% cash back for all other purchases. For Costco shoppers who by now know that Costco only takes AMEX credit cards, there’s also the Fidelity American Express [applyonlinenow.com] card, which offers 2% cash back on all purchases.
If you only carry a money clip and have space for just one card, the default card to go with is the Sally Mae 2 Percent [salliemae.com]Visa Signature, which offers 2% cash back on everything. Just like the Sallie Mae 5 Percent however, this 2% card also has a tiered cash back program, where you have to accumulate 25,000 points be you’re able to redeem the full 2%.