Best Rewards Credit Cards for Non-Bonus Category Spend in 2019

AwardWallet receives compensation from advertising partners for links on the blog. The opinions expressed here are our own and have not been reviewed, provided, or approved by any bank advertiser. Here's our complete list of Advertisers.

Offers for The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express and Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® are not available through this site. All information has been independently collected by AwardWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer. Some offers may have expired. Please see our card marketplace for available offers.

One of the key factors in developing a successful points and miles strategy is to make sure every dollar you spend is getting you closer to your travel goals. The choice of which card to use for bonus category purchases is pretty straightforward. But which is the best credit card to use for non-bonus category spend? Do you go for a straight cash back card offering 2% back on every purchase? Or do you go straight for a card from your preferred flexible rewards currency?

The reality is, there is no #1 best card for everyday spend because the answer is tied directly to your current travel goals. Where are you planning to go, how do you plan to get there, what are the accommodation options?

Best credit cards for non-bonus purchases

If your travel goal is to experience one of Amtrak's Transcontinental rail journeys, airline miles aren’t likely to be of much use, and you’ll get more value out of the Amtrak Guest Rewards Platinum MasterCard. If you're only 2,000 Membership Rewards shy of a redemption you plan to complete after transferring your MR points to miles, and redeem for your dream trip, then the Amex card that earns the highest number of points for any given purchase is the best everyday spend card in your wallet.

The goal with non-bonus category spend should not be to extract every tenth of a cent out of potential value from your everyday spending, but to focus your household efforts on earning the best possible return–in a rewards currency that will help you achieve your travel goals.

Use Cards that Earn Flexible Rewards Currencies

When deciding between a flat 2% cash back card and a card that earns a maximum one point per dollar on everyday spend, the flat earning rates can be a little misleading. While earning at just one point per dollar looks the worse deal, you can transfer flexible currencies to airline and hotel partners with a specific redemption in mind and often amplify the value of your points well beyond what you receive with a cash back rewards card.

Keeping it simple, the decision of which card to use for your everyday spend can be summed up in two steps:

  • Pick the rewards program that offers the best options to reach your  travel goals
  • Work out which of their credit cards will earn the most points on non-bonus category spend (in some cases, this will be a combination of cards).

The Best Credit Card for Everyday Spend

Each of the flexible rewards programs has either one card or a combination of cards that offer a solid return on everyday spend.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Chase offers up a few different options for earning a decent return:

Paired with …

The Freedom Unlimited and Ink Business Unlimited have the highest earn rate on non-bonus spending if you're collecting Ultimate Rewards, but if you pair them with any of the three cards above you can combine those rewards and redeem them as you would points earned on the higher tier card. Plus, transfer points to one of Chase's 12 transfer partners, and you can achieve much greater returns! As the Unlimited cards charge no annual fee, you're essentially adding half a point per dollar in earning capacity to your everyday spend, without adding any additional cost.

American Express Membership Rewards

While the Amex EveryDay Preferred only earns one MR point per dollar spent on non-bonus category spend, if you make a minimum 30 transactions in a month you get a 50% bonus, so the card earns an effective 1.5 points per dollar if you meet the criteria. The Blue Business Plus is an Amex business card and earns 2X Membership Rewards® points on everyday business purchases such as office supplies or client dinners. The latest card to join Amex's lineup of rewards cards is the Blue Business Cash which earns a solid 2% cash back on all eligible purchases on up to $50,000 per calendar year, then 1%.

Membership Rewards are a highly flexible rewards currency and include airline partners ANA, Air France/KLM, and Singapore as transfer options. Those 30 transactions don't have to be of any specific dollar value; yes, even your daily cup of coffee counts.

Citi ThankYou Rewards

The Citi Premier earns a standard 1 point per dollar on everyday spend. Points can be redeemed for 1.25¢ per point through the ThankYou Travel Center, and potentially much more when you transfer points out to Citi’s airline and hotel partners. ThankYou Rewards lags behind the other three flexible currencies in the value of its US transfer list, but they are a fantastic option for flying in the Asia/Pacific region.

Capital One Venture Miles and Spark Miles

  • Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
  • Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business

Credit cards without a link are are not available on this site. If you would like to support AwardWallet through an affiliate link, you can find more offers from Capital One on our partner site.

Capital One is the latest bank to unveil a flexible rewards program, allowing cardmembers to transfer Venture Miles and Spark Miles to 15 airline partners. The majority of partners receive a transfer ratio of 2 points to 1.5 airline miles, with Singapore, JetBlue and Emirates copping a 2:1 transfer ratio. In addition to adding transfer partners, Capital One has retained the ability to redeem Venture and Spark miles against any travel purchase for a fixed-value of 1¢ per piece, making these some of the most versatile points available to points and miles across any loyalty program.

Barclaycard Miles

The Arrival Plus earns a solid 2X miles on all purchases, and miles are worth a penny apiece when redeemed for travel expenses over $100. Cardholders also get 5% miles back every time you redeem points, so in reality, you earn 2.1 points for every dollar spent. Note that Barclaycard Miles can be redeemed against any $100+ expense that codes as travel which includes hostels, campgrounds, and airline taxes & fees, making it a fantastic card for travelers that like to get off the beaten track. The $100 minimum threshold equates to a minimum of 10,000 miles per redemption.

Best Cash Back Cards for Everyday Spend

We’ve got to give a solid mention at this point to the best cash back cards. They may not have the ability to offer higher value by transferring out to partners or give awesome travel perks, but they offer the least complicated way of earning a noteworthy return on everyday spend without needing partner cards or any specialized knowledge of points and miles.

  • Citi® Double Cash Card – earns a solid 2% on all purchases, 1% on purchase, 1% on paying your account
  • Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business – Earns an unlimited 2% cash back on every business purchase. Our favorite business cash back card.

Final Thoughts

If we had to choose between Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards as the best flexible rewards currency to focus on, we’d be likely to come down on the side of UR, if only because points transfer faster in the majority of cases for UR than MR and that can make a big difference in redeeming points for your chosen award. It's worth keeping in mind, if you don’t want the added expense of the Sapphire Reserve’s $450 annual fee, you’ll still get excellent value pairing the Chase Freedom Unlimited® up with the Ink Preferred, or Sapphire Preferred as your preferred combination of cards.

As far as the best card, we are going to pin that honor on one of the latest rewards card to join the ranks of top everyday spend cards, the The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, which earns a solid 2X Membership Rewards points on everyday business purchases, and with no annual fee to offset has a big jump on the opposition. (Rates & Fees.)

Any cards we’ve missed off the list? Let us know in the comments which card and why it should have made the cut.

For rates and fees of the cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees)

Best Rewards Credit Cards for Non-Bonus Category Spend in 2019
4.5 (89%) 20 votes
AwardWallet Tip of The Day
Did you know that for each airline within one of the global alliances you can view the balances across all carriers in this alliance? Click the alliance icon in the list of accounts next to any airline in an alliance to see the details.
Show me how

The comments on this page are not provided, reviewed, or otherwise approved by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Comments

  • I use my Chase Freedom for the 5x category spend and my Chase Sapphire Reserve for everything else. My Ultimate Reward points offer me a lot of flexibility when redeeming for awards.

  • SPG or Chase Sapphire Reserve are generally my go to usually for generic spend. But, as the initial paragraph pointed out, there’s definitely no one shoe fits all option.

  • It’s good to review what’s the best non-bonus category card every now and then.

  • Rob Arias says:

    Currently trying to decide between SPG and CFU for my daily purchases, still not sure what I want most

  • Mary Whitcomb says:

    Amex platinum eans 5 points per dollar for airfares and 3 pints per dollar on amazon.

    • Mary, where do you see the 3x earning with Amazon on your Amex Platinum? There was an offer last year for such a thing temporarily, but nothing permanent that I’ve seen.

  • Great tips. I’ve been flirting with getting the SPG card for a while but mostly have stuck with Chase to stay within 5/24, so I currently put everyday spend on either my Chase Freedom of CSP.

    I really like the Freedom *sometimes.* Like right now, with grocery shopping as a bonus category, I’m cleaning up. But often times the bonus categories aren’t places I spend my money and I get only 1% of my purchases back. Reading this makes me wonder if I really need to add the CFU to my arsenal to get that extra half percent on those “none of the above” purchases. That’d translate to a few thousand UR points every year for me, nothing to shake a stick at. The only trick is finding the right time to open a new account that offers practically no initial bonus without screwing up the 5/24 cycle…

    • Rob Arias says:

      I had the same issue so I got SPG biz, it was a breeze and I’m glad I did it.

      • Just looking at that card….not a bad idea. Kinda splits the difference well and not under the dreaded 5/24 canopy…thanks!

  • SikhFlyer says:

    SPG is the clear favorite for me as it not only provides 1.25X when transferring 20,000 miles, but the the significant number of airlines partners provides a significant amount of flexibility and options.

  • For non-bonus category, I use new cards to fulfill minimum spending requirement. With powerful Chase Freedom,it’s hard to find non-bonus category.

  • Points require redemption. I like cash and use 5 cards:
    – Chase Amazon VISA for 5% on Amazon purchases (Nothing else. I don’t even keep it in my wallet.)
    – Discover occasionally for their quarterly 5% category (but they limit it and it’s a pain to keep track of).
    – Costco VISA for 4% on gas and 3% on restaurants, airlines, and hotels.
    – Amex Blue Cash for 3% on Groceries.
    – Citi Double Cash for 2% on EVERYTHING ELSE.

    It sounds like a lot to manage but it’s really not. I mostly just use the last 3 cards.

    • Excellent plan. I already had Fidelity 2% no fee Visa before Citi started advertising their 2% cash back card. (BTW Fidelity 2% card has lower than average foreign transaction fee, in case you don’t have a good points card without foreign transaction fee, or you’re traveling to Europe where Discover (no foreign transaction fee) is probably Not In Their Vocabulary.)

      I use AmEx Blue Cash Preferred, which has an annual fee but worth it to me to get 6% back on groceries ($6k purchase limit).

      Buy gift cards for restaurants, Home Depot, etc. at Kroger, get effective 6% off on the gift cards, plus 2x gas points (sometimes 4x or 6x)…for which I buy Kroger gift cards with the AmEx Blue Cash Preferred to get 6% back on the [discounted, when using gas points] cost of fuel.

      Buy Walmart gift cards at Walmart Neighborhood Market for 6% rebate, then use the gift card at any Walmart, or Walmart gas pumps (for additional discount if you use WM gift card) or at Sam’s Club…or at Walmart.com…for which you can earn additional cash back by browsing through a portal site…see evrewards.com for current good recommendation for the online retailer you are shopping at.

      Main caveats with gift cards is (a) don’t lose em (maybe you want to take a pic including the PIN before that happens), and (b) for purchases where extended warranty or purchase protection are important, it might be better to use your 2% card and lose the additional 4% you’d have by using the “AmEx Blue Cash Preferred plus gift card” method.

      Many happy returns,
      Steve

  • I randomly alternate between SPG and CFU. Value both points a lot

  • I use the Citi Double Cash Card where category bonuses on other cards is not available.

    • amzsinger@gmail.com says:

      Me too! I know what I’m getting (2% no matter what) so I feel comfortable. Sometimes my family jokes about how I use different cards for different things, but certainly enjoy the benefits of my plan!

  • Chase Freedom Unlimited for 1.5 UR/$ is my favorite everyday, combined with Sapphire Reserve for 1.5 cents per point to travel (or better with transfers).

  • I use my Chase Freedom Unlimited because 1.5 UR points on everything gets me that much closer to my next big trip. Every point counts!

  • You failed to note on the Citi Thank You Premier card that you do earn 3x for travel including gas and 2x for dining and entertainment besides 1x on every other spend.

  • I use the Amex EP for all my non bonus spend plus I get a bonus for groceries and gas, which I dont get from other cards. If we didn’t hit 30 charges a month and if gas/groceries werent such a big expense I’d consider Chase Freedom. But there are a ton more perks in my opinion with AMEX EP like Amex offers and the transfer partners. But to me the Freedom is only good if you have the CSR. Also if you use any AMEX as your non bonus spend card it is good to have a backup.

  • JonKarol says:

    I’ve been using SPG for non-bonus spend because the points can be worth a lot more. At the very least, I know I can transfer 20k to AA and get 25,000 miles, as opposed to using my AA card and earning 20k miles for the same spend.

    For straight value, your best bet though is probably to use the Citi Double Cash and earn a flat 2% back that you can use for whatever you want. I’d rather do that than use something like the Arrival Plus, where I’m limited to applying it to travel expenses in the amount of $100 or more.

  • Jacqueline parsons says:

    A great review of cards for everyday spends. Personally I switch between 2
    or 3 cards depending on what my goals are at the time. Spg being one of my most favoured for those luxury EY flights.

  • rodney ross says:

    Looks like Barclays Award Plus might be the best travel card for me. I have already received bonus miles for AA and have cancelled that card, not paying the fee. We also fly SouthWest quite a bit so I took them up on their 50000 mile offer, and will refer someone so can get extra bonus.

  • I use Starwood SPG AmEx card for everyday spend. Whenever applicable, Chase Freedom rotating categories also works great. I’m looking to the AmEx Everyday card to see if it makes sense.

  • The Bank of America is always overlooked here. For a small $100,000 ira transfer to merrill edge you get a 75% bonus on the 1.5% cash back on everything for a total of 2.625% back. There is no annual fee, zero foreign tranaction fees, and u can get get a pin for the chip for Europe. Yes, You get rewards only on statement credits for travel purchases, but you can redeeem partial amounts as long as you $25.00 worth of rewards. And the catagory is at least as broadly defined as chase, and has includes wine clubs, zoo tickets, fall festivals and other entertainment as well as all forms of travel. I put all my travel expenses on a sapphire reserve, or my wifes citi prestige, but Since you can redeem travel for up to a year I still have plenty of charges to redeem. Aside from the 3% for the first year this card is very hard to beat, and I used a spg for everyday for years. Of course have 250,000 spg points in the bank allows me to diversify from pure cash back.

  • My go to is Chase Reserve as most of my spend is travel related.

  • I use the Costco Citi card for gas, restaurants and travel. Get 2% and 3% cash back and then use Capital One for everything else getting back 1 1/2% cash back. Love the cash!

  • Kevin Harris says:

    AMEX Business Blue!!! Signed up when they had the special offer of 2x on EVERY purchase for the first year and 10x on dining for the first 6 months! Such a great offer! Plus, the extra point per dollar posts the day after the transaction posts to your account and the other point posts as usual at statement.

    • knick1959 says:

      +1 on the AMEX Biz Blue. Don’t forget the 30% bonus on spend after the first year (on top of the 2x and dining extra). Have another 6 months to go.

  • Leonard Chan says:

    Fidelity no fee 2% cashback VISA also works.

  • Nathaniel says:

    Citi Double Cash Back, which offers 2% cash on everything.

  • great.. it’s always a challenge to figure out the best deal.. thanks!!

  • Daryl Ann Jones says:

    It depends on what spending requirements I am trying to meet. This month it’s the Hilton Honors Surpass from American Express.

  • I find you can sometimes maximize rewards on cards that have quarterly bonus catagories, by buying gift cards for businesses you will patronize during the bonus period (keeping in mind the risk of certain companies going bankrupt before you use them).

  • I have a ton (400K+) of AA miles (from when they merged with USAir and I lived on the east coast). AA doesn’t fly to my local airport or anywhere very close. The Citi Prestige card is often the best one to use, for bonused and non-bonused spend, but I usually say WHY, and go back to my Amex cards. I’ve had Delta gold for many years, from the 25K spend bonus there, and that has been SO helpful so many times (dedicated help desk for Medallion), and the Everyday card piles up MR points really fast, and right now I have the Blue for Business card with double everything PLUS 30% bonus the first year. Just can’t beat that. (Chase “terminated our relationship” suddenly last year — WHILE I WAS TRAVELING — with no explanation and no recourse — many many calls resulted in nothing — so UR points are not a choice for me. ) I pretty much stare at my wallet every purchase I make — especially all the deals at Staples/Office Depot and online gift cards — can’t get the 5x INK deals anymore, so what to use?? I also really value the Flex Perks 20K points for $400 ticket — I search hard to find those deals out of Montana and jump on them — when you have a free ticket AND get the miles, that’s a great deal.

  • David Toste says:

    I’m currently more focused on cash back and the Citi Double Cash has been my card of choice for unbonused spending.

  • ^^^ That right there. Well thought out plan and nicely done John!

  • My favorite card to use for everyday spend is my Barclaycard Arrival Plus MasterCard because I earn 2 points per purchase and the points are flexible.

  • Tried the Amex Everyday, but kept missing the 30 transaction bonus by one or 2. Went back to the Fidelity Visa to keep things as simple as possible.

  • SHERRY PRINS says:

    Depending on the purchase, I generally use my JetBlue card. I also use my Barnes and Noble card for purchases.

  • SHERRY PRINS says:

    Depending on I am purchasing generally use my JetBlue card. I also use my Barnes and Noble card for purchases.

  • khalid Syed says:

    I have citi double cash and earn double points for each dollar I spent. The good thing is that there is no special category. It allows double points on everyday purchase.

  • My go to card is the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

  • I recommend the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Preferred augmented with the Freedom and Freedom unlimited (no annual fee on Freedom family). With this, you get to convert your cash back from freedom cards into Ultimate Rewards points and utilize the redemption bonuses that come from the CSR/CSP. The breakdown is that I use:
    – Everyday Spend: Freedom Unlimited
    – Bonus Categories: Freedom
    – Travel/Dining: CSR/CSP

  • Chase Freedom Unlimited…but only when paired with a Chase Sapphire Reserve. 1.5x Chase UR points in spending, multiplied by 1.5x Sapphire Reserve bonus = 2.25% for everyday spending.

    For those playing a pure cash back game, Citi’s Costco 4% gas, 3% restaurants/travel, 2% Costco, 1% everything else is a nice set-and-forget card. Citi’s DoubleCash with 2% back on everything is another great card, especially if you’re not spending a lot on gas & restaurants.

  • Right now I’m just using my Citi AAdvantage card for non bonus categories and my Barclays Aviator for bonuses.

  • Chase Sapphire is what I use, combined with Chase Freedom to exploit the rotating categories. Transfer points to BA Avios.

  • If you are self-employed the best is Chase preferred Ink. Notwithstanding the $95 annual fee, you accumulate a ton of points for travel and everyday business needs. You can transfer 1:1 to most airlines and purchase travel at 1.25c a point – still a great deal.

  • Mara D Rice says:

    At the moment…Barclay Arrival Plus for all other.

  • Joe Cherner says:

    The Amazon.com card by chase is the only one that gives you a minimum of 2% Cashback on all purchases.

  • Mara D Rice says:

    Barclay Arrival Plus with 2x gor me.

  • Just got Marriott card, so $5K spend in 3 months will get me 100K Marriott points. Then, SPG AmEx for the point value, plus $30K spend in calendar year will get me SPG/Marriott gold status through the year after.

  • Still loving the USAA Limitless Cashback Rewards Visa Signature for non-category spend. 2.5% posts as soon as the transaction clears, so you can use the cash immediately (no waiting for the statement to close or after paying the bill). It doesn’t seem to get as much attention as the 2% cards, since it requires one to be eligible for USAA membership and have a $1k monthly direct deposit or ACH push to a free USAA checking account. It also may still not be offered in all states, though my understanding is that it will eventually be. I do alternate with the SPG Business card, especially when they’re offering promos (like the current spend 10k and get a 10k bonus).

  • You could look at the CSR’s 1x pts for everyday spending as actually 1.5x pts, because of the 50% redemption bonus on travel.

  • The one downside of getting into this hobby is the increased marital stress: I have no trouble keeping straight what card to use when, but my wife would sure appreciate this decision tree being made simpler!

  • SPG if they take Amex, CSP if not.

  • Russell Snow says:

    SPG for me. Trying to go for an Alaskan award to make use of the free layover.

  • I use the SPG Amex for now, though I generally prefer UR. Eventually I’ll get a Chase Freedom Unlimited and switch to that

  • Freedom Unlimited for sure. 1.5 UR per dollar is better than 1 Starpoint (SPG AMEX) and is better than 1.5 MR (EveryDay Preferred). Plus the latter two have an annual fee, and the Freedom Unlimited doesn’t.

  • Maryjane says:

    I’m currently using the SPG business Amex to make the minimum spend. It would likely be my go-to card for no bonus point spend also but it is never really an issue: I’m always working on the minimum spend of some card or another!

  • discover it and amex blue. i keep it simple. and use other temporary cards when the bonus is big enough

  • I use my Premier Rewards Gold Card for just about everything because of the value of the rewards and the value of the benefits associated with the card like purchase protection. Another great card for non bonus spend that I use would be the Discover It card (I don’t have the Miles card) because of the price protection. Another would be the Quicksilver card from CapOne. 1.5% Cashback and no FX fees and MasterCard is accepted at more places than Discover.

  • Cindi Anderson says:

    I agree, it depends on goals. Since the question was about NON-BONUSED spend I like Freedom Unlimited at 1.5x UR, Delta Platinum (always in $25k increments to get the 10k point bonus for 1.4x Delta miles), SPG at 1.25x converted to airlines (I personally constantly find use for these compared to much less often for UR), and Alliant 2.5% cash back (this just came out and replaced my Arrival Plus on this list, and I’d still on my first year 3%).

  • Love the ultimate rewards portal so My main cards are saphire and preffered

  • Freedom Unlimited is the card is use most when not spending in a category that earns more or needing to meet minimum spend for bonus.

  • Freedom Unlimited. I used Freedom unlimited’s 1.5x along with CSR to make it 2.25% cashback for travel!

  • Janet Simonitsch says:

    I use whatever card I need to get a minimum spend for to get the bonus. It seems like I get a new credit card every several months and since I’m retired and on a fixed income I don’t spend that much money so in order to meet my minimum spend I use the newest credit card I have.

  • Am I the only one that is so busy meeting minimum spends that I consistently miss good everyday spend opportunities?! Only exception is Chase Freedom. I always maximize the 5% categories.

  • I use AMEX SPG now, but not sure about next year as SPG won’t exist anymore…

  • Still learning the ropes here, but it sounds like I need the CFU to pair with my CSR. Didn’t realize CFU earned/ could redeem for UR’s, so this has been really helpful. Does it make sense to carry the regular CF for the bonus categories? So far it seems like I capture a bonus on my main expenses through my AmEx (supermarkets & gas) or CSR (travel & dining), so I had not really considered it. I was leaning toward an airline card from this city hub (Southwest or AA) for the daily grind. Will UR points really be more valuable if I usually redeem on those airlines? Just nervous about having the wrong points, so to speak.

    • Frank, you won’t go wrong with Ultimate Rewards. Remember, they transfer 1:1 to Southwest, so the Freedom Unlimited (which you can combine with the Sapphire Reserve, which can transfer to Southwest) earns you effectively 1.5 Southwest Rapid Rewards/dollar spent (if you transfer from Ultimate Rewards to Southwest.

      You can redeem Ultimate Rewards linked to a Sapphire Reserve for 1.5 cents/point through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal or through an Ultimate Rewards travel agent on your airline/hotel/rental car/activity of choice.

      As for adding a CF to the mix — if you’re up for the quarterly 5x earning rotation it is worth it.

      • Interesting… Guess I should look into this quarterly 5x rotation to see if I can make it work. The CFU seems like a no brainer, though. Thanks for all the info!

  • Anytime the earn rate is less than 2 points per dollar spent and you are going to redeem those points for cash at 1c per point it makes sense to use the citi double card since thats a flat 2c per dollar.

  • As I find the most use for UR, my choice is the Freedom Unlimited.

  • Like many on here, I use the Chase Freedom Unlimited because of the 1.5 UR points on everything! Hard to beat!

  • UR is my main, then MR, sometimes even BOA

  • I find starwoods points overrated.

    • amzsinger@gmail.com says:

      Interesting you say this. Most people seem to love this card. I don’t have it either, but I’ve considered it

  • Almost forgot … and I have my Internet and Mobile phone service on a Chase Ink card. I also use that card for any purchases in stationary stores.

  • if the place takes amex, then i use the spg card
    otherwise the chase freedom preferred.

  • I’m currently switching between SPG & Amex gold at present. The different redemption partners offered on amex is my greatest pull towards them out of all as it offers the flexibility to redeem your points to so many places, airlines or hotels.

  • Bertrand say says:

    Best would be cash back cards

  • charli gregory says:

    I use chase freedom for category bonuses, and then other cards based on my travel goals. Obviously, from reading this article, I still have a lot to learn about maximizing earnings on my every day spend.

  • I use the CF/CFU combination paired with my CSR. 5% categories/1.5% non-bonus spend and 3% travel & dining, then transferred to CSR in Ultimate Rewards Portal, effectively gets me 7.5% categories, 2.25% non-bonus, and 4.5% travel and dining, if redeemed for travel through the UR Portal. LOVE IT!

  • I love, love, love my Chase Sapphire Preferred! I thought they transferred to Amtrak too? Maybe that was something else or an old partner. I had been looking at getting the card for awhile. Would love if they added anybody or alt partners in the mix, however, I can redeem my points for cash too. So who know if they’ll add any more partners. Anyone hear anything in the grapevine?

  • I use SPG whenever possible for non bonus categories, Starpoints have been very valuable to me the past few years !

    I also have 2 Freedoms and 2 Ink Cash, so 30K UR (min) from Freedom and 20K UR per month from Ink , I’m set with UR!

    And Amex offers makes it easy to earn MRs and save cash.

  • I go hot and cold on the credit card game, mainly because I have a hard time keeping track of everything. For that reason, I use Fidelity 2% back for everyday spend (unless I am trying to meet the minimum of a new card) and Chase Sapphire Reserve for overseas travel, just to avoid any FX fees. Does anybody have a good system for managing cards and which to use? It would be great if there were an app for example that kept track and optimized usage, particularly when trying to meet minimum spend for introductory awards.

  • khalid Syed says:

    Citi thank you reward is one of the good reward card. Points do not expire and can be earned on any purchase.

  • Christine says:

    I’m not sure why capital one venture is so routinely overlooked on these blogs. It offers 2 points/miles cash back on everything, which can be used retroactively after a trip for drinks/meals in a hotel bar, provided the charge comes across as a hotel charge. This is awesome as we had several nice meals totally paid for on our last trip abroad. We used UR points for the actual hotel reservation and then the venture “miles” for the drinks/ meals. It’s a great system. We also used the same plan to pay for meals at our last Disney hotel, as all the meal charges come across as a hotel charge.

    • Cindi Anderson says:

      I suspect they don’t offer referral $ to bloggers… I used Cap One for years for the reasons you mention. Then I switched to Barclay Arrival + because they give 2.1% instead of 2% and also are one of the few cards which are chip & pin so they work in European unattended machines.

      But as much as you’re puzzled, I even more puzzled that I keep mentioning the 2.5% cash back card (3% the first year!) and nobody seems interested in it. The minute that became available, those others both became obsolete. Why get 2% or that you have to apply to travel when you can get 2.5% that you can use for anything? (Alliant Credit Union by the way, low annual fee as well)

      • Christine says:

        If you aren’t a member of Alliant’s credit union, you can’t get their credit card. I don’t qualify to join. I switched away from Barclay because you can only redeem in increments of 2500 points. With CapOne you can get credit for as small a transaction as you need. I think you are right about the reason some bloggers don’t advertise some of the best cards…. it’s important to do your own research on non- affiliate sources.

        • Cindi Anderson says:

          Not true. Anybody can join the credit union by donation $10 to a charity they support. The information is on their website.

  • I think the Chase Freedom Unlimited card is the best card for non-bonus category spend.
    It’s a visa card so it’s accepted virtually everywhere, and you earn 1.5 UR points per dollar spent, assuming you have either the Sapphire Preferred or Reserve card.

  • I’ve always wondered how Citi can keep going with the 2% cashback card.
    Given how points, miles etc are always headed to devaluation every few years, the Citi Double Cash card is a safe bet.

  • I used to put most of my un-bonused spend on the Amex EveryDay Preferred but have switched over to using the Chase Freedom Unlimited almost exclusively. Chase simply has the best lineup these days, in my opinion. Amex provides earning potential across many bonus categories, but you have to pay several annual fees in order to take full advantage. With Chase, a single annual fee will buy you access to 5x on office supply store and telecom purchases, 5x in rotating categories, 3x on dining and travel purchases, and 1.5x on everything else.

  • I like using my Barclaycard Arrival Plus Mastercard for everyday spending because it gives me back 2x points on all purchases and I can use the points flexibly.

  • For everyday purchases SPG card if they take Amex. Then category card, gas, grocery etc. Otherwise cap one venture is the best for me. I guess they don’t pay the gang @ AwardWallet to talk about it. Rarely hear it mentioned

  • I fully agree, exactly as the article states: earning transferable points ‘amplifies the value’ one can realize when redeeming, particularly if one is interested in premium class travel. The value I can get from 1.5 UR points (earned with the Freedom Unlimited) is well over the fixed value of 2 Barclays Arrival points any day.

  • Maybe I need to think more seriously about cashback cards.

  • Outside of earning the signup bonus for travel I use a lot of different cards regularly to save money in general. I don’t bother with general spending to earn towards travel because I don’t spend enough.

    My regular cards are the following:
    Penfed visa for 5% off gas,
    Amex Blue for 3% off groceries
    Chase Amazon for 3% off amazon
    Chase Freedom for 5% off rotating categories
    Discover for 5% off rotating categories and 5% discounts
    Citi Double Cash Bank for all other purchases.

    It’s almost too much to keep track of.

  • khalid Syed says:

    Capital one gives you 1.5 points for every dollar and goid thing is you dont have to wait to redeem points. You can redeem whatever you accumulated on next statement.

    • To which card are you specifically referring? The Quicksilver?

      • Christine says:

        Capital One Venture gives a straight 2 miles/points per dollar spent but has a $59 AF. The Venture One and Quicksilver give less than that (1.25 or 1.5) with no AF. Spending habits dictate if Venture is worth the AF. As a side note, I’ve called 2 years in a row and gotten them to waive the AF since I use the card heavily.

    • I have a Quicksilver, I like how the cashback is instantly available any amount.

      That’s the thing I don’t like about the Citi and Amex cash back cards.

  • What is everyone’s preference between Amex Platinum vs Chase Sapphire Reserve? I have both at the moment but will given one up before annual fee comes up again in January.

    • I’d say it all depends on how you spend and how you redeem. For me, the Sapphire Reserve is my choice as I have it paired with a Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, and Ink Cash card. Redeeming through Hyatt, United and Korean have been my go to redemptions of late.

  • I use my Sapphire Reserve for all dining and travel; I use my Freedom Unlimited for almost anything else except I use my Ink card for telephone and other bonus spends. I may change this if I get a bonus offer from another card such as Aviator.

  • Unless I am trying to meet the minimum spend on a new card, I use my Chase reserve for most of my everyday spend except for those Chase cards that offer bonuses for particular spend ( the Ink and Freedom )

  • Favorite free card is Chase Freedom for revolving bonus categories. I always top up near the end of the quarter buying gift cards to use for the rest of the year.

  • I started using US Bank Altitude Reserve (3x = 4.5% towards travel) as my non-category default card for transactions with Samsung Pay and Android Pay. For online purchases I use Citi AT&T Access More (3x TYP). I also buy Visa/MC/Amex GCs with Chase Ink in OS stores to get even better return, but then I need to deal with managing GCs. This basically covers everything non-category.

  • Chase, Chase, and more Chase. Sapphire Reserve/Freedom/Ink and I’m a whirling dervish with them.

  • amzsinger@gmail.com says:

    Sapphire Reserve all the way for me!!

  • I like the Blue for Business card, but Arrival+ has also caught my eye.

    • I have Blue for Business with 2x up to $50k per year. It was recently updated to Blue Business Plus. I think it’s the best non-category card right now, Altitude Reserve is a bit better, but it’s effective AF of $75 defeats the deal. So hard to beat 2x Amex MR points with no AF.

  • The US Bank Cash+ Visa Signature is my go to card. It offers generous cash back options and maybe most important, it’s website is user-friendly.

  • I love using my Chase Sapphire Reserve. I use it for almost everything. Knowing I’m getting triple points for travel (plus the points for that travel program), and that my trip is protected with automatic insurance is great! The TSAPre Screen is worth the price.

  • Guess its now the Business Blue Card from Amex that gets 2X points on everything.

  • I put most of my non-bonus spending on the Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Visa until I get to the $10k spending I need for a free night (which can be worth a ton of money in NYC or at premium properties). After that I am using my USAA Limitless Visa, which pays 2.5% cash back with a checking account and direct deposit.

  • khalid Syed says:

    I keep using my Citi AAdvantage card to earn miles every month so my AAdvantage miles do not expire.

  • Milton Grinberg says:

    Chase Reserve or Spg. Depends what I am trying to accomplish at any one time.

  • Also a Capital One Venture user for most things. Just plain easy, and great customer service. When I feel like playing the bonus quarter game, I’ll use Chase Freedom. And Hyatt is my go-to chain, so their card is an easy number three in my wallet.

  • The new Amex Blue Plus card is another good alternative, too…

  • I currently have the Ink Preferred. I was trying to decide which card to pair with it. I had read somewhere that you should never apply for the Freedom card because you can get the CSR/CSP first and then just downgrade to the Freedom afterwards. Do you agree with that strategy, Howie?

    • *never* — I would not say never; it really depends on your goals and what your strategy dictates. For me, it made sense to convert my CSP to a Freedom as I now use a CSR as my travel/dining card. It isn’t a bad strategy to take, but I’d never say never — the value of a conversion is that it gives you access to the perks of the Freedom Card without having an impact to your 5/24 count.

    • Another Ink of flavor of course! Otherwise its not really pair, :))

      I have a “Pair” of Freedoms and a “Pair” of Ink Cashes

      Along with my CSP they all belong to Chase UR.

      The only other “Pair” I consider to be a pair I hold are my SPG and SPGB.

      All of my Amex MR cards are individual to me, not a pair, well I guess my Platinum and Business Platinum are a pair.

  • Crawford says:

    My go-to’s are my CSR and Chase Freedom.

  • Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express is the best and most versatile card out of them all in my opinion given how flexible SPG loyalty program actually is!

  • khalid Syed says:

    Chase ultimate rewards gives you 1.5 points for every purchase and points add up fast the more you use.

  • I use my citi thankyou card to earn 1points/dollars on everyday purchases.

  • I use the SPG card (if not working on sign-up bonus points) since they have more flexible uses and the bonus when transferring miles to airline programs.

  • Faye Heffele says:

    We have been very happy with the Discover card program. Although it doesn’t offer miles directly, we get a lot of “cash back” that we can convert to gift cards, discounts, and sometimes miles as well.

    • This is the great benefit of Discover card that allows to earn cash back on everyday purchases regardless of any specific category.

  • I use Chase freedom to maximize the 5% bonus category for that quatrter.

  • My Delta skymilew fron AMEX keeps getting me closer to reward travel on my everyday purchases earning 1 mile per dollar.

  • Ruth Felt says:

    WE usually use the Chase Sapphire Preferred card for everyday spend when we’re not working toward the minimum spending limit on a new card.

  • Citi double cash rewards 1 pct each dollar on spending and payment.

  • The great benefit for Capital one quick silver is that the points earned can be redeemed anytime. No need to wait to accumulate certain number of points.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

**You may receive 5 bonus AAdvantage miles for leaving a comment (Details/FAQ)