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The world of miles, points and credit cards can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re just starting out. There are so many cards out there from multiple issuers, it can be hard to figure out which card to get, or which card to use where.
While there are some cards that offer a flat rate of miles, points or cash back on ALL purchases, it seems like the majority of cards have different tiered bonus amounts on different categories. Depending on where you do the majority of your shopping, this can make a big difference in the rewards you get from your spending.
While I try to take the maxim to not sweat the small stuff if you accidentally use the “wrong” card one day (it isn’t really THAT many points), if you’re looking to get a new card, taking a few minutes to consider what card makes the most sense for the spending categories that you use the most is a wise move.
Here are a few of my favorite credit cards for different categories of spending:
Best cards for groceries
Grocery stores are one of the biggest monthly expenses for most families, so it’s no surprise that many credit card issuers offer cards that incentivize grocery stores. When it comes to the best credit cards for grocery shopping, American Express stands out.
- Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express Comes with a $0 introductory annual fee for one year, then $95. It earns 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%). Another option is the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, which offers 3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) but no annual fee. You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits. Terms Apply. Rates and Fees.
- American Express® Gold Card – Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X). However, it also comes with a hefty $250 annual fee. $120 Dining Credit: Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required. Unlike typical credit cards, the Card allows you to carry a balance for certain charges, but not all. Terms Apply. Rates and Fees.
If you shop at Target or Amazon / Whole Foods, you might also consider their co-branded credit cards as another option.
Best cards for dining
Dining is another popular category for credit card issuers; here are a couple popular cards that give bonus at restaurants:
- American Express® Gold Card – in addition to 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (see above), the Gold Card earns 4 points per dollar while dining as well. It does have a $250 annual fee, but you also get $120 each year at either: Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, or participating Shake Shack locations. Terms Apply. Rates and Fees.
- CapitalOne Savor Rewards – offers an unlimited 4% cash back on dining.
Best cards for travel
Deciding on the best cards for travel is an exercise in choosing whether you value earning points when BOOKING travel vs. perks WHILE you’re traveling. Many travel-focused cards offer perks both while booking and traveling, but you do have to strike the balance. If you find yourself always flying on one particular airline or staying at one particular hotel brand, then you’re likely going to want to get that brand’s card as it will often offer perks specific to that hotel or airline. Just remember that your United credit card does you no good when you’re flying Delta!
For those of us who are free agents, here are a few of the best cards for all-around travel:
- CapitalOne Venture Rewards card – 50,000 Venture miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. CapitalOne Venture miles can be used straight up as cash ($500) on just about anything travel related or transferred to a variety of airline partners.
- Chase Ink Business Preferred – 80,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. The Ink Preferred earns 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and a $95 annual fee.
Best cards for gas
Here are some of the best cards for use at gas stations:
- American Express EveryDay Preferred – Earns 2 Membership Rewards points at gas stations and also gets a 50% bonus each month that you use the card at least 30 times. $95 annual fee. Terms Apply. All information about the American Express EveryDay Preferred has been collected independently by Mint . The American Express EveryDay Preferred is no longer available through Mint.
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card – Get 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership, plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend a total of $10,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 6 months. Earn 6 Hilton points per dollar spent at U.S. gas stations. $95 annual fee. Terms Apply. Rates and Fees.
Best cards for everyday purchases
Finally we come to the best cards on everyday (non-bonused) spending. These are typically cards that don’t offer category bonuses but instead give a solid reward for ALL purchases. Use these cards for spending that doesn’t fall into one of the above categories.
- American Express Blue Business Plus – Earn 2 Membership Rewards points for every dollar spent up to the first $50,000 per calendar year. No annual fee. Terms Apply.
- Chase Freedom Unlimited – Earn 1.5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar spent on all purchases. Combine the Freedom Unlimited with a premium Chase card such as the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Preferred or Sapphire Reserve to unlock higher value redemptions and transfers to Chase’s hotel and airline partners to maximize the value.
What are some of your favorite credit cards? Let us know in the comments!
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