Credit card incentive programs or rewards give back to you for every dollar you spend doing shopping or paying for a service. They reward you in cash backs, hotel and airline points, free gas and more.
To benefit from the incentives, you are supposed to spend responsibly and pay your balances in full every month. So, before deciding which credit card to apply for, ask yourself, what are your spending habits? How many categories do you like spending on? What types of rewards would be more beneficial to you? With the answers to these questions, you will be able to pick the right credit card for you.
What to Know About Credit Card Rewards
Before diving into the rules, it’s important to understand what entails a rewards card. If a card offers you the opportunity to earn points, miles, or cash backs, it’s a reward card. They either provide you with flat-rate rewards (rewards of the same amount) or bonus rewards on specific categories, for instance, increased rates on dining out or groceries.
Reward credit cards, therefore, encourage you to pay via credit cards instead of cash or debit card. Rewards, however, have rules. One of them is that it becomes confusing to navigate your card’s program if you are allowed to redeem rewards. Also, if you have up to four credit cards like the average American, it will be hard to understand the ins and outs of multiple incentive programs, especially if there is a mix of points, cash backs and mile cards. Let’s review credit cards that offer hard to find incentives.
1. American Express® Gold Card
If your heart beats for food, then the American Express® Gold Card is best suited for you. Whether you love preparing terrific dishes at home or dining out, this card rewards you a competitive 4X points for every dollar you spend on any restaurant worldwide or U.S. supermarkets (for up to $25,000 annually in purchases, then 1X). Travelers can also benefit from the 3X point rewards on flights, but they have to book directly with airlines or use Amextravel.com to get these rewards.
However, the value of the points depends on how you redeem them. There are many ways you can spend them. You can use them to pay retailers like Amazon or redeeming for gift cards. You can use them to redeem statement credit to book travel.
Travelers get an annual $100 airline fee credit, which covers in-flight beverages, food, seat upgrades, and baggage fees. What’s more, there is a $120 annual dining credit. This totals to $220 in annual rewards. The card has a $250, meaning the rewards you earn help “pay” the card.
• Strong incentive program with 4X points on dining and 3X on flights.
• 35,000 Membership Rewards points welcome bonus for spending $4,000 within the first 3 months.
• Up to $120 in dining credits and $100 in airline fee credit. They also have a $100 hotel credit.
• No purchase fees charged outside the US.
• Doesn’t come with an introductory APR period.
• $250 annual fee.
• It’s a charge card, and it requires you to pay your balance fully in each billing cycle.
2. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Compared to Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has a broader appeal and similar features and a high-sign up bonus but at a lower annual fee of $95. Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with a yearly fee of $550, and we don’t recommend it.
The Sapphire Preferred® Card gives 2X Ultimate Rewards points on dining and travel, while Reserve offers 3X points. Preferred Card also offers 5X points on Lyft and 1 point for every dollar spent on anything else.
Each point is worth a lower 1.25 cents a piece on every travel booked via Chase, but they can be transferred to hotel loyalty or frequent flyer programs. The credit card does not provide annual travel credit, but it has a car rental primary coverage as well as purchase protection and trip delay protection.
You earn 80,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 or more on purchases in the first three months since the account opening. You get $1,000 toward travel when you redeem those points.
Many people prefer Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card because of the incredible sign-up bonus, the travel perks, and other benefits at a lower price. If you eventually decide to try Reserve, you can upgrade from Preferred.
• High sign-up bonus with lots of points.
• A powerful travel coverage
• Has partnered with major airlines and hotel brands
• Comes with a bonus category for consumers who aren’t spending on air travel at the moment.
• The card doesn’t offer any statement credit benefits, including Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit.
• Earns points more slowly that Reserve.
• No annual travel credit.
3. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
When it comes to flexibility, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards takes the airline medal. The airline also offers two free checked bags for every passenger without the need for a credit card. Many families prefer Southwest Airlines because of these benefits.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card earns 2 points for every dollar spent on Southwest flight on their Rapid Rewards program. It also earns 2 reward points for every dollar spent on other purchases.
They charge an annual fee of $149 and earns 40,000 points for $1,000 spent on the first three months from the date of opening your account. Another benefit of this credit card is that you can rebook your flights after prices go down. The only drawback is the Southwest’s lack of assigned seating, which is a turn off for most passengers.
The Priority Card also offers a $75 Southwest travel credit annually. They also add 7,500 bonus points on your cardmember anniversary every year and 20% cashback on inflight purchases.
What’s more, if you combine the rapid rewards card with a business card, you will come close to earning 125,000 point total required to get a Southwest Companion Pass. This gives you the ability to take a loved one or friend with you without paying a cent, and it could save you thousands of dollars.
• You earn 2 points for every dollar you spend
• 40,000 points upon spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.
• A more convenient annual fee of $149.
• Rewards you with $75 Southwest travel credit every year.
• You get 7,500 bonus annually on cardmember anniversary.
• No credits for an expedited airport security program.
• Southwest doesn’t have a smaller international reach.
4. Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
If you are not super excited about earning reward points which are valuable but tricky to redeem, and you prefer cash back, then Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is the best option for you, even though it has a $95 annual fee.
The added much-needed features in 2019, which included valuable bonus categories due to the changing consumer habits. They also launched a new streamline service, which gives cardholders a 6% streaming, a category which other cards don’t recognize. That was an addition to already existing categories of 6% cashback on US supermarket purchases.
The card from American Express comes with other packs, including several travels and purchase protections. Cash backs are in the form of a statement credit, which can be used to “erase” purchases. To earn more cashback instead of points and miles, you can refer to their website for more information.
This card is every commuter’s dream, thanks to its unlimited 3% cashback on gas or transit (including taxis, tolls, ride-shares, trains, buses, and more). The card does not earn membership rewards points, but it remains a simple way of earning rewards on the things you spend every day.
• A $250 statement credit upon spending $1,000 on purchases within the first three months.
• Bonus cash backs on useful categories.
• Generous bonus rewards at US supermarkets.
• Intro APR offer.
• Unlike many cash-back cards, they charge an annual fee.
• If you exceed $6,000 in expenses at US supermarkets every year, you may need to use another card.
5. Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Capital One’s travel incentive program is not as lucrative as the offer from other banks, but they recently expanded their credit benefits. They added airline transfer partners and launched transfer bonuses. Even though the transfer value is not as great as the one with Chase, Capital One miles are easy to earn and use.
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card earns 2 miles for every dollar spent on purchases. The miles can then redeemed as a statement credit and used to “erase” travel purchases. For instance, if you buy a flight ticket, let’s say of $500, you can cancel it with 50,000 miles.
Ventura comes with a $95 annual fee, which is lower compared to other rewards cards. Also, cardholders receive a credit for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application after every four years, for up to $100. This is a perk that can save you a lot of money if you not just time but also money.
The card doesn’t have any foreign transaction fees and also includes additional travel perks, which include 24-hour travel assistance services, travel accident insurance, and auto rental collision damage waiver.
• 5X miles on rental cars and hotels booked via Capital One Travel.
• TSA PreCheck application or Global Entry credit of up to $100 every 4 years.
• Annual fee waived in the first year.
• No bonus categories you need to follow.
• Other credit cards have higher rewards.
• No introductory APR.
6. Wells Fargo Propel American Express card
If you are looking for the best option for gas rewards, Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card is the best choice. What’s more, it’s completely free, and there’s no annual fee. Propel offers an affordable way of earning a fixed value points on all categories you spend on daily.
Earning a 3X on so many categories is like a free ticket to heaven for a no-annual-fee card, making this card the best option for beginners who have not tried the rewards game yet.
If you have the Wells Fargo Visa Signature card, which is yet another no-annual-fee card, every point could be worth 1.5 cents. However, this is not a better reward card than Propel for travel experts. It lacks transfer partners, and Propel helps beginners a lot out of it.
This card offers zero interest on every purchase or balance transfers for a whole year. It then provides 14.49% to 24.99% variable APR in the following year.
Lastly, they also offer cell phone protection against theft or damage for up to $600 per claim or $1,200 per 12-month period. However, to get this reward, you must pay your bills with a Wells Fargo Propel Card.
• No annual fee
• 0% APR in the first year.
• No blackout dates on air travel.
• No fees are charged on all purchases made internationally.
• Balance transfer charged 3% fee.
• You can only redeem a minimum of 2,500 points.
Credit cards have quite a few hidden perks that save you money and offer more protection. Here are some of them.
Credit Card Price Protection
If you buy an item only the price to drop after a few weeks, you may be pretty disappointed. Luckily, some of these credit cards, such as Citi® Double Cash Card or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, may come through for you. They offer more than 60 days of protection. If they find a lower price in the offer, the difference is credited back to your account.
Cell Phone Coverage
How many times have you dropped your phone or lost it, never to find it again? Luckily, credit cards offer cell protection as an added perk.
Some coverage will only cover a stolen phone with a police report for proof. Others pay damage costs.
Delayed/Lost Luggage Protection
Some cards offer protection for lost or damaged baggage while others cover both. When you lose your luggage after a flight, you are never offered much help.
If you have this type of coverage, and you have an essential meeting to attend, but you lost your luggage, you can pass by the suit shop instead and head to the meeting right away.
There you have it. There are so many rewards and benefits you can get from your credit card. However, you need to apply for a credit card that is better suited for your needs. If you are a beginner, the Wells Fargo Propel is the best choice for you. However, if you have a mix of cash backs, miles, and points from different issuers, you will not be able to combine the rewards.