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For those of us who love collecting points or cash back towards our next great adventure, we often find ourselves asking the question “what is the single best card to maximize my rewards?” Often times though the answer is “it depends.” When you play the great points game and you often end up with a wallet full of cards. This can sometimes cause doubt on which card is best for a specific purchase. In this article I detail the top credit cards based on major spending categories that we spend the most on each day.
The difference between earning a single point per dollar on a purchase and earning five points per dollar on a purchase can be as simple as just having the correct card in your wallet when you go to pay. Sometimes the credit card world, isn’t a fair fight. With new products being introduced everyday it can seem overwhelming to know which is the best card for each of my daily spending categories.
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Keep in mind, that there is not necessarily a “wrong” answer. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t have the right card at the time and change your yearly strategy. This guide is intended to help you make more informed decisions. Rather than cart around an entire rubber band full of cards when you leave the house, hopefully this will help you narrow down your choices to a few cards to keep in the wallet.
Top Cards by Category
Citi Prestige Card – 5x ThankYou points
The Citi Prestige earns 5x points at restaurants, not just in the US, but globally. It’s one of, if not the reason to have this card in your wallet. There isn’t a more compelling card for eating out at restaurants. While other cards can remain very competitive on this front, with rotating categories, it is hard to match the value on this one.
Card annual fee: $495
Visit our Top Credit Cards Page for our favorite cards!
American Express® Gold Card – 4x MR points
The American Express® Gold Card can earn 4x Membership Rewards points at restaurants worldwide, with no spending cap or rotating category, making it an excellent choice for every day dining. With this card, restaurants are coded fairly liberally and the category includes everything from fast food to fine dining. This even includes delivery and takeout, which are increasingly popular ways to get food from restaurants in this era.
An added bonus to this card is the annual $120 Dining Statement Credit. This is paid out in $10 monthly increments if you use the card at specific venues including the Grubhub & Seamless apps. Enrollment Required.
Card annual fee: $250 (Rates & Fees)
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend an eligible $4,000 in the first 6 months on purchases. This equals $600+ in value and is one of our favorite mid-tier cards which includes perks such as:
- Earn 4x on restaurants worldwide, including on takeout, delivery, and Uber Eats.
- 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1x)
- For a limited time, you can pick between the Rose Gold or Gold card.
- $250 annual fee. (Rates & Fees).
- Terms Apply.
Office Supplies / Home Improvement
Chase Ink Business Cash – 5x or 5%
The Chase Ink business cash is unique because you can earn 5% cash-back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supplies stores. (and on internet, cable and phone services). Transferring your cash back to a card that earns Chase UR points, this would also net you 5x points in that situation.
As an added bonus, the business card isn’t affected by 5/24 status. If you are well over, or want to save that coveted last slot for something else, you can consider this card.
Card annual fee: $0
Grocery Store / Supermarkets
The Amex Everyday Preferred earns 3x points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year. (Only 1x after you hit the cap.) If you make 30+ purchases during a billing period on a specific category, you will earn a 50% bonus on points from those purchases. This means you could potentially earn 4.5x points on your purchases at U.S. supermarkets.
Card annual fee: $95 (Rates & Fees)
All information about Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card Card has been collected independently by basictravelcouple.com
Chase Freedom Flex – 5% Cash Back
If you haven’t heard already, Chase has absolutely stepped up their game during this pandemic.
This card bonus includes Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases. (not including Target or Walmart purchases) This is on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. This offer has expired.
Earn $200 cash back once you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. This card also comes with no annual fee which is always a win in our book. We even like the extra 5% cash back on up to $1,500 each quarter you activate in combined purchases on rotating categories.
Card annual fee: $0
General ‘Everyday’ Purchases
Chase Freedom Unlimited Card – 1.5% Cash Back
The Chase Freedom Unlimited card offers a solid 1.5% cash-back (or 1.5x points) on purchases outside of its bonus categories. When it comes to top credit cards, it doesn’t get more solid than this choice.
The rewards you earn are cash-back, but holding another Chase card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred card that offers transfers to Ultimate Rewards allows you to consolidate your rewards and redeem them as points.
Card annual fee: $0
Citi Double Cash Back Card – 2x Points
Sporting a $0 annual fee and offering a 2% cash on every purchase, the Citi Double Cash Back card is a great every day cash back card to keep in the wallet. The 2% comes from a combination of two things, 1% when you make the purchase, and another 1% when you pay the balance of the card.
In conjunction with a card earning ThankYou points, cash back rewards can be converted straight into ThankYou points. In this situation you are essentially earning ‘2x’ on all purchases.
Card annual fee: $0
I think there is a lot of value in strategically reassessing what cards you use on a daily basis. Taking time to make sure you are meeting the best fit for each category. Make sure you check out our list of the best cards by month before making any decisions for cards you don’t currently carry!
How does this compare to the cards you use to maximize your spending? Let us know in the comments below!
More Basic Reading
- Chase Sapphire Preferred: Updated 80,000 points or $1,000!
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- Basic Strategies to earn Credit Card Bonuses
Disclosure: Basic Travel Couple, LLC has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Basic Travel Couple, LLC and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Editorial Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.
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