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The best airline credit cards: Best if you're not loyal to one airline: Chase Sapphire...The best airline credit cards: Best if you're not loyal to one airline: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Get maximum points on flights plus great lounge access: Platinum Card® from American Express Best for American Airlines flyers: AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® Best for Delta flyers: Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card Best for United flyers: United℠ Explorer Card Best for Southwest flyers: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card Best for Alaska flyers: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card Best for JetBlue flyers: JetBlue Plus Card Best for Hawaiian Airlines flyers: Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard If you want to book free flights, a credit card from an airline or a bank that partners with frequent flyer programs is a must. Not only will you earn miles on every purchase you make, but you can also earn a welcome bonus that can jump-start your frequent flyer account balance and help you book an award flight sooner than you'd think. Depending on the card you choose, you can also get benefits like a free checked bag or an airline companion ticket, too. There isn't simply one best airline credit card; the right option for you depends on what airline you fly, whether you're a loyalist or want flexibility, how you want to use your miles, how much of an annual fee you're comfortable paying, and several other factors. That said, it is possible to find the best airline credit card for you by zeroing in on the benefits you want. Table of Contents The best airline credit cards Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Earn rewards you can use with any airline: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns Ultimate Rewards points that you can use to book travel directly through Chase, which gives you access to virtually every airline. You can also transfer Chase points to various airline and hotel partners, including United, British Airways, JetBlue, and Marriott. This card offers a very strong lineup of perks and rewards in exchange for a relatively moderate annual fee. You'll earn 2x points on travel and dining, and travel includes everything from airfare to parking to hotels, while dining includes restaurants, delivery services, and even some bars. The Sapphire Preferred also offers one of the best sign-up bonuses among consumer credit cards, and you get some valuable coverage benefits as well, including trip delay insurance and primary car rental insurance. If you apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and find that you're a fan of earning and redeeming travel points, remember that you can always upgrade to its higher-end sibling, the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, after your first year. The Reserve has a $550 annual fee, but it also earns 3x points on travel and dining (vs. 2x) and offers up to $300 in annual travel credits that apply to virtually any travel purchase. American Express Platinum Card® from American Express Luxury travel benefits and bonus rewards on flights: Platinum Card® from American Express With a $550 annual fee, the Platinum Card® from American Express doesn't make sense if you only travel once or twice a year. However, if you're on the road frequently, the card's many premium benefits — from airport lounge access to up to $200 in airline fee credits each year — make it a useful pick. The Platinum Card® from American Express earns a spot on our list of the top airline credit cards because it earns 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel. The Amex Membership Rewards points you earn let you book travel directly through Amex or transfer them to more than a dozen airline partners to book flight awards. Best for American Airlines flyers: AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard The AAdvantage Aviator stands out for offering a generous sign-up bonus that only requires making one purchase in the first three months. It's one of two American Airlines cards at this price point — the other is the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®. The Aviator card is currently offering a higher sign-up bonus. Beyond those introductory benefits, the card offers some perks that can improve your experience flying American, such as a free checked bag, preferred boarding, and discounts on in-flight purchases. American Express Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card Best for Delta flyers: Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card You may wonder why we're recommending a Delta credit card that recently increased its annual fee from $195 to $250. Even with the higher fee, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card offers the best value among Delta credit cards — and the fee increase comes along with some improved benefits. The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card now earns 3x miles on hotels and eligible Delta purchases, plus 2x miles at restaurants and US supermarkets. This makes the card a valuable option for everyday spending, not just for earning bonus miles on your Delta purchases. Plus, the card now offers an application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, which is worth up to $100. That benefit alone can make up for the increase in annual fee. Other Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card benefits that make it a standout pick for Delta loyalists are a first checked bag for free, an annual companion certificate, and priority boarding. Chase United℠ Explorer Card Best for United flyers: United℠ Explorer Card The United℠ Explorer Card offers the perks you'd expect from an airline credit card — a free checked bag (you need to pay for the United flight with your Explorer card to get this perk), priority boarding, discounts on in-flight purchases, and bonus miles for purchases with the airline — but also some very valuable extras. If you have this card (or any other United card), you get expanded access to United's lowest-priced "saver" awards, which could help you save miles on an upcoming flight booking. The United℠ Explorer Card also offers two one-time United Club passes each year, and an application fee credit of up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. Best for Southwest flyers: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card This is another instance of a higher annual fee being warranted due to the value you get. Thanks to annual benefits like up to $75 in statement credits for travel on Southwest and four upgraded boardings where available, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card could be well worth it if you're a regular Southwest flyer. The statement credit for up to $75 toward Southwest purchases each year effectively lowers the annual fee to $74 — lower than the annual fee for the next-cheapest Southwest consumer card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card ($99). Plus, the Priority card offers a bonus of 7,500 Southwest Rapid Rewards points each year after your account anniversary (you can use these points to book award flights), and you'll get 20% off in-flight purchases. If you fly Southwest more than once or twice a year, this card can easily be worth the annual fee. Best for Alaska Airlines flyers: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card Alaska Airlines doesn't have the largest route network among US carriers, but if you live in the Pacific Northwest or another area where the airline offers extensive service — or if you fly Alaska to Hawaii — this is a great card to have. The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card not only offers a companion fare as part of its sign-up bonus, but you can also get one each year on your account anniversary (also starting at $121). You can use this fare to bring someone along on an Alaska flight, with no blackout dates, and this benefit alone makes the card worth having if you frequently fly with this airline. You also get the standard airline credit card benefits like a free checked bag, 20% off in-flight purchases, and bonus miles on Alaska purchases — but in this case it's 3 miles per dollar spent with Alaska rather than the more standard 2x miles bonus on airline purchases available on other cards. Best for JetBlue flyers: JetBlue Plus Card The standout benefits of the JetBlue Plus card are points earning — you get 6x points on JetBlue purchases, 2x points at restaurants and grocery stores, and 1 point per dollar on everything else — and a 5,000-point bonus each year after your account anniversary. Cardholders also get a free checked bag and 50% off in-flight purchases. Beyond that, the card offers an incentive for big spenders: If you spend $50,000 or more on purchases on the JetBlue Plus card in a calendar year, you'll get JetBlue Mosaic status, which gets you free drinks on board, waived change and cancellation fees, two free checked bags, and more. Best for Hawaiian Airlines flyers: Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard If you frequently visit Hawaii, or if you live on the islands, having a card that earns you Hawaiian Airlines miles could make a lot of sense. The Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard offers a solid sign-up bonus — enough miles for a round-trip flight to Hawaii — along with a free checked bag and 3x miles on Hawaiian Airlines purchases. You'll also get 2x miles on gas, dining, and grocery store purchases, and 1 mile per dollar on all other spending. This card also offers a one-time companion discount of 50% for round-trip coach travel between Hawaiian and the mainland US. And every year after your account anniversary, you'll get a $100 discount for round-trip coach airfare between the mainland and Hawaii as well. How we chose the best airline credit cards Personal Finance Insider chose the top airline cards based on the value each card offers in relation to its annual fee. To make sure we were considering the best airline credit cards from every perspective, we also researched the recommendations and methodology of top airline card lists from other websites, including CreditCards.com, NerdWallet, The Points Guy, and Wirecutter. In many cases, each publication had a different pick for the best credit card for a given airline — and in that situation we arrived at our selection by returning to the question of which card offers the most value in return for its annual fee, excluding benefits that require spending extra money to unlock. Note that we focused on credit card options for flying with major US airlines — including the "big three" of American, Delta, and United, as well as smaller popular carriers like Alaska, JetBlue, Southwest, and Hawaiian Airlines. If you frequently fly with another airline like Frontier, you may want to look into its co-branded credit card options. Popular airline credit cards that just missed the cut To keep things simple, we limited our list of the best airline credit cards to one definitive pick per airline, plus a few top options that aren't affiliated with a particular airline. However, if you're open to doing some deeper comparison-shopping, these cards are also worth a look. Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card — While the Venture card is another solid option for earning miles than can be redeemed with a variety of airline partners, the partners themselves aren't necessarily the most convenient for US travelers, and the transfer ratios can get a bit confusing. Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card— This card has a lower annual fee than the Platinum Delta Amex, but also fewer benefits. Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® — With a $450 annual fee, it doesn't necessarily make sense for all American Airlines flyers, but if you want access to American's Admirals Club airport lounges, this card fits the bill, offering Admirals Club membership along with the usual perks like a free checked bag and priority boarding. Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card — If you want to earn Delta miles on your spending without paying an annual fee, give this card a look. It earns 2x miles at worldwide restaurants and offers 20% off in-flight Delta purchases. Frequently asked questions What credit card offers the best airline miles? There isn't one "best" airline credit card or one type of airline mile that's categorically better than the others, because it depends on which airline is most convenient for you. For example, if your home airport is small, you could have limited options when it comes to which airline you fly, so you'll likely want to earn whatever miles you need to fly from your hometown. If you live near a large airport where your airline choices are plentiful and you have more options for loyalty, you may want to investigate how much different airline miles are worth. We recommend The Points Guy's valuations, which attach a value (in cents) to the major airline currencies based on the types of award flights you can book through each. You'll see that Delta miles are generally worth less than Alaska miles, but keep in mind all points and miles are only valuable if you can use them — so if you don't travel to destinations served by Alaska or its airline partners, earning its miles probably isn't your best bet. Is an airline credit card worth it? If you're loyal to a particular airline, it could make sense to apply for one of its co-branded cards. For instance, United offers the United℠ Explorer Card, which gets you benefits like a free checked bag and priority boarding on United. If you aren't loyal to a particular airline and you simply book with whichever carrier is offering the cheapest airfare, an airline co-branded card may not be the best option. You could consider a travel rewards card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Platinum Card® from American Express instead. This way, you'll earn points that can be used to book airfare through Chase and Amex, respectively, as well as through specific airline transfer partners affiliated with the two programs. How do airline credit cards work? Airline credit cards that earn you miles in a particular frequent flyer program require you to add your frequent flyer number to your card account. You're usually asked to do this during the credit card application process. Then, you'll earn miles on all your eligible credit card spending, and those earnings will be reflected in your frequent flyer account. You'll be able to access the miles you earned from your credit card directly through your frequent flyer account and use them to book award flights. What's the difference between airline credit cards and travel rewards credit cards? Airline credit cards earn you miles in a specific frequent flyer program, such as JetBlue TrueBlue or United MileagePlus. These airline co-branded cards are best for travelers who are loyal to one airline, since your main option for using miles will be for flights on that airline or its partners. Travel rewards cards, on the other hand, earn transferable points — rewards that you can transfer to a variety of airline and/or hotel partners. With travel rewards cards, you aren't locked into using your points with only one airline, but you also won't get airline-specific benefits like a free checked bag or priority boarding. Do airline miles expire? Many airline miles expire, but there are some notable exception. Delta, JetBlue, and United miles never expire, but with other programs like American Airlines AAdvantage, miles do expire if you don't have any qualifying activity within a certain period (18 months, in the AAdvantage program). Keep in mind that earning miles from using a co-branded airline credit card counts as qualifying activity and can prevent your miles from expiring. Related Content Module: More Credit Card Coverage Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why thoroughbred horse semen is the world's most expensive liquid
The best cash-back credit cards from Citi, Amex, Wells Fargo, and more — with input from 4 top experts
The best cash-back credit cards in 2020: Best overall: Citi® Double Cash Card Best for bonus...The best cash-back credit cards in 2020: Best overall: Citi® Double Cash Card Best for bonus categories: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card Best for intro APR offer: Chase Freedom Unlimited® Best for cash back on dining: Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card Best for families: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express Highest cash back — if you work for it: Chase Freedom® Best for lower credit scores: Discover it® Secured Want an in-depth answer? Check out our cash-back credit card guide below. Travel rewards credit cards can be incredibly lucrative — you can use them to earn enough points to book a first-class flight or a luxury hotel stay. But not everyone wants to travel, and there are a lot of hoops to jump through if you want to maximize your rewards to get the best travel redemptions. That's why there's a great case to be made for cash-back credit cards. Even if the 3 points per dollar you earn from the Chase Sapphire Reserve® can score a higher redemption value, cash is simpler, more flexible, and offers real, immediate value, rather than the perceived value you can get redeeming points for a flight you'd never, ever actually pay for with money. With cash-back cards, 1% back will always be 1 cent back, no matter what. Best of all, many cash-back credit cards don't charge annual fees, so they can be a great way to put money back in your wallet while minimizing your out-of-pocket expenses. The experts on cash-back credit cards We consulted top credit card, travel, and financial experts to weigh in on this list of the top credit cards for earning cash back and to provide their tips for finding the best cash-back card for you. You'll find the full transcript of our expert interviews at the bottom of this article. Best overall: Citi® Double Cash Card Welcome bonus: None Cash back: 2% cash back on every purchase — 1% when you make the purchase, and 1% when you pay your bill Annual fee: $0 In terms of spending rewards, the Citi® Double Cash Card is the best single cash-back card, with 1% back as spend, and 1% back as you pay your bill. Since you should be paying your bill in full each month, you should earn 2% back on purchases each billing cycle. However, there are a few potential downsides. First, there's no sign-up bonus. Second, while it offers a 0% introductory APR for 18 months, that's only on balance transfers, not purchases, so you can't use it to fund a major expense without interest. After those 18 months, it's a variable 13.99% - 23.99% APR. Note that the Citi® Double Cash Card has a minimum redemption amount of $25, and if you don't have any account activity for 12 months, unredeemed rewards can expire. Still, 2% across the board is a good earning rate, and the $0 annual fee is attractive, if not uncommon. Whether that's worth passing on a sign-up bonus is up to you. What the experts love: "Getting 2% cash back is a strong rate, and there are no bonus spending categories to keep track of, so it's perfect for those who love simplicity," says Sarah Silbert, credit cards editor at Personal Finance Insider. What the experts don't love: Other cards offer more cash back, but usually only for specific spending categories. Rathner also points out that the Citi® Double Cash Card doesn't offer a sign-up bonus, while most other cash-back cards do. Citi Citi® Double Cash Card Best for bonus categories: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card Welcome bonus: 20,000 Go Far points, worth $200, after you spend $1,000 in the first three months of account opening Cash back: 3x points (essentially 3% cash back) on all travel, dining, and select streaming services (and 1x point on everything else) Annual fee: $0 This card from Wells Fargo has one of the more attractive rewards programs you'll find from a no-annual-fee card. While it's marketed as earning "points," those points are worth 1¢ each and can be redeemed for cash, essentially making it a cash-back card. The $200 welcome bonus, combined with the high 3% earning rate on popular spend categories including all dining and travel (and 1% on everything else), as well as the $0 annual fee, makes this a stellar option for a cash-back card. If you're solely interested in earning cash back, not travel rewards, this card would make a good go-to. What the experts love: Sara Rathner, a travel and credit card expert at NerdWallet, notes that the Wells Fargo Propel has high earning rates, especially for a no-annual-fee card. What the experts don't love: "This card lacks the benefits of other travel cards with an annual fee, like reimbursement for Global Entry or the ability to transfer points to airline or hotel partners," Rathner points out. Best for 0% intro APR: Chase Freedom Unlimited® Welcome bonus: $150 (15,000 points) after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening Cash back: 1.5% back on all purchases Annual fee: $0 The card has no annual fee and often has 0% APR for the first 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After that, there's a 14.99%–23.74% variable APR. If you have a major purchase ahead of you, that introductory offer can be useful. While Chase markets the Chase Freedom Unlimited® as "cash back," it actually earns Ultimate Rewards points that you can redeem for cash (1 point = 1 cent). That means that if you also have a premium card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you can pool your points from the two cards. Then, you'll be able to transfer the whole body of points to partnering frequent flyer programs or use them to book travel through Chase with a bonus. What the experts love: The ability to convert your cash back into Ultimate Rewards points if you have another Chase card What the experts don't love: If you don't pair this card with another Chase card, you'd do better with another cash-back card that earns more than 1.5% back. Chase Chase Freedom Unlimited® Best for cash back on dining: Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card Welcome bonus: $300 after you spend $3,000 in the first three months of account opening Cash back: Unlimited 4% cash back on all dining and entertainment, 2% back at grocery stores, and 1% on everything else. Annual fee: $95 If dining and cooking are your thing, the Capital One Savor is the winner. The Savor makes it easy to earn cash back quickly, but the downside is that it has a $95 annual fee —at least it's waived the first year. The earning rate may make up for the fee in some cases, though. What the experts love: Rathner and Silbert both applaud the card's strong earning rate for dining and entertainment, as well as the relatively generous sign-up bonus for a cash-back card. What the experts don't love: Silbert notes that unlike many cash-back cards, the Savor has an annual fee, while Rathner points out that the 2% cash-back rate for groceries isn't the best for this category of spending. Click here to learn more about the Capital One Savor card » Best for families: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express Welcome bonus: $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in the first three months of account opening Cash back: 6% cash back at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases per year (and 1% after that), 6% cash back on select US streaming services and 3% back on all transit, 3% back at US gas stations, and 1% cash back on everything else. Annual fee: $95 If you're looking for an American Express cash-back card, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is the best option. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months, before switching to a variable 12.99%-23.99% APR. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express comes with a handful of travel and purchase protections as well. Cash back comes in the form of a statement credit, so effectively you can use it to "erase" purchases. What the experts love: "6% cash back at supermarkets is the highest rewards rate around for grocery spending," says Rathner. "I also love that you get 3% cash back on not just gas, but also public transit. You can get rewarded for all the ways you commute to work!" What the experts don't love: "There's a $6,000 annual spending cap on getting 6% cash back on groceries — you'll only earn 1% cash back after that. Any household with high grocery bills might want to keep that in mind and switch to another card that earns more than 1% after hitting that threshold," Rathner says. American Express Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express Highest cash back, if you work for it: Chase Freedom® Welcome bonus: $200 cash back (15,000 points) after you spend $500 in the first three months of account opening Cash back: 5% cash back each quarter you activate on a few different categories that change quarterly, on the first $1,500 of purchases. The card earns 1% on all other purchases, and on those bonus categories after you pass $1,500. Annual fee: $0 The Chase Freedom® is the older sibling of the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, and is essentially the same exact card except for how it earns cash back. Sometimes there's just one major category per quarter, while other times there can be a few different ones. Past categories have included gas stations, local commuter transportation, department stores, grocery stores, drug stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and event Amazon. This quarter, Q2 2020, the Chase Freedom®'s 5% categories are grocery stores and fitness clubs. The usefulness of the categories varies each quarter, with some being better than others. If I had to choose one, I'd stick with the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. However, there's no denying the potential value of the bonus categories, and fortunately, Chase lets you hold both cards. Like the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, the regular Chase Freedom®has no annual fee, offers a 0% introductory APR on purchases for the first 15 months (and a 14.99%–23.74% variable APR after), and cash back can be combined with points earned from other Chase cards. What the experts love: "You can earn the equivalent of 5 points per dollar on the rotating quarterly bonus categories if you also have a card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points," says Silbert. What the experts don't love: Rathner notes that "there's a $1,500 spending cap on earning 5% back, and after that you'll only earn 1%." Chase Chase Freedom® Best for lower credit scores: Discover it® Secured Welcome bonus: None Cash back: 2% back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 each quarter, 1% back on everything else Annual fee: See Terms If you have a lower credit score or a limited credit history, you may not be approved for some of the cash-back credit card options outlined above. In that case, the Discover it Secured could make the most sense. Since it's a secured credit card (meaning you put down money as a refundable deposit to "secure" your account), it's easier to get approved for this card. Plus, even though it's a secured card, you can earn bonus cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 each quarter — and Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year. What the experts love: There's no annual fee (beyond your initial security deposit). Also, as Rathner notes, Discover reports your activity to the three major credit bureaus, and you can earn cash-back rewards. What the experts don't love: "There are two potential barriers for consumers seeking a secured card: a $200 minimum deposit and the requirement to fund that deposit from a bank account," Rathner says. And if you can get approved for a non-secured card, you could get more cash back with another option. Frequently asked questions How did we choose the best cash-back credit cards? We narrowed down the dozens of cash-back credit cards currently available to new applicants by looking at a few factors: Ease of use — Are there any hoops to jump through, like needing to be a member of a specific bank? Cash-back earning potential — How much cash back can you earn with this card, and how broad are the bonus categories? Annual fee — Many cash-back cards waive an annual fee, but for the few that do charge a fee, is it justified based on the card's rewards? Options for various types of consumers — We wanted our top cash-back card picks to reflect different types of users, from families looking to maximize grocery spending to those looking to rebuild their credit score. What are the different types of cash-back cards? Flat rate — These cards earn the same rate of cash back on all purchases. For example, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® earns 1.5% back on all spending. Select bonus categories — Many other cash-back cards offer bonus cash back (more than 1%) on select spending categories. For example, with the Capital One Savor card, you'll earn 4% back on dining and entertainment, and 2% back at grocery stores. Rotating categories — A few cards, including the Chase Freedom®, offer bonus cash back on a selection of spending categories that changes every quarter of the year. These cards have a cap on how much bonus cash back you can earn each quarter — with the Freedom, you'll earn 5% back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter. All purchases above that cap will earn just 1% back. Some cards are starting to offer yet a fourth format for delivering cash-back rewards: pick your own bonus categories from a list of options. These cards include the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card and the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card. What credit card offers the most cash back? If you don't want to overthink it, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card is a good go-to. It offers 3% back on a wide variety of categories, including travel and eating out. That's not to say you couldn't earn more cash back with another card, though. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express earns 6% back on the first $6,000 you spend each year at US supermarkets (then 1% back), and 6% back on select US streaming services, for example, and the Capital One Savor is the most rewarding pick for dining out with 4% back. How does earning cash back work? Cash-back credit cards earn you a percentage of cash back — usually at least 1%— on every dollar you spend (or more with cards that have bonus cash-back categories). You can transfer the cash back you earn from these cards to a bank account or use them to wipe charges from your credit card statement. Credit card issuers also allow you to redeem the cash back you earn for gift cards and merchandise. If you're trying to put money back in your wallet, our top recommendations are to transfer your cash back to a banking account or use it to reduce the amount owed on your credit card statement. Do cash-back cards actually give you cash? Cash-back credit cards do give cash, but that's not to say you'll necessarily see the physical cash. You're typically awarded cash back as a credit that you can use to cancel out purchases from your credit card statement, or to redeem for gift cards or merchandise online. Should I earn cash back or points? It depends on what you want to do with your rewards. If you want to put money back in your bank account, a cash-back credit card will help you accomplish just that — and you usually won't have to pay a very high annual fee, if you have to pay one at all. On the other hand, if you're hoping to earn rewards that you can redeem for travel, a card that earns points is more up your alley. Our picks for best points-earning rewards cards earn either Amex Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, or Capital One miles. You can transfer all three of these currencies to travel partners and redeem them for things like free flights. (Note that while Capital One calls its rewards currency "miles," they aren't miles with a given airline program.) If you're willing to juggle multiple credit card accounts, there's value in having both cash-back and points-earning cards. If you prefer a single-card strategy, evaluate your goals and consider how much you're willing to pay in annual fees to make the best decision for your situation. The experts' advice on choosing the best cash-back card for you We asked credit card and travel experts, along with a certified financial planner, for their best advice on choosing a good cash-back credit card. Generally, what features make a cash-back card good? Sara Rathner, travel and credit cards expert at NerdWallet: Much like travel cards, you want to find a cash-back card that rewards you more where you spend the most. Redemptions should be easy, too. Most cash-back cards grant you a statement credit, but some will mail a check or deposit your cash back into your bank account. Luis Rosa, certified financial planner: Cards that offer an additional category in addition to the standard categories like gas, groceries or restaurants are very appealing. If you're loyal to a specific brand for example and use it often, a cash-back that offers additional cash back at that specific brand is a good option. Summer Hull, director of travel at The Points Guy: More cash is better than less cash. Look for those cards that award the most back in the categories you spend money in most frequently. 2% back is the standard these days, but aim for more in categories that are important to you. Sarah Silbert, credit cards editor at Personal Finance Insider: A good cash-back card is one with generous bonus categories, since the goal is to earn as much cash back as possible on your spending. The more bonus categories, the better, and the higher the cash-back rate, the better. How can someone identify whether a cash-back card is good for them? Sara Rathner, NerdWallet: If you want ultimate flexibility when it comes to your credit card rewards, it's hard to beat cold, hard cash. That makes cash-back cards a solid option for consumers who simply want to save money on every purchase, rather than rack up rewards to eventually use on travel. Think of using a cash-back card as using a coupon every time you shop. Luis Rosa, CFP: If you spend a lot in general categories such as groceries, restaurants, and gas, having a cash-back credit card might be beneficial to you. In addition, If you are loyal to a specific brand and the credit offers a higher cash back percentage for shopping with that particular brand, then this provides an even greater incentive to consider a cash-back card. Summer Hull, The Points Guy: Cash is never a bad thing, but if you like to travel, then sometimes travel rewards can be more valuable, but just be realistic with your goals and go with what seems like the best idea at the time. You can always change your mind later. Sarah Silbert, Personal Finance Insider: If you don't want to spend time learning how to maximize travel rewards and transferring your points to travel partners, a cash-back card could be a great option. It allows you to maximize your spending with minimal work, since you don't have to jump through lots of hoops with cash back; you simply use the card and you'll get money back in your account. What should someone consider when selecting a cash-back card? Sara Rathner, NerdWallet: If travel cards aren't of interest to you and you qualify for a rewards card, then you should at least be using a flat-rate cash-back card that earns the same rewards rate on every purchase. If you stick to that no-frills card without rewards, you're literally leaving money on the table. Luis Rosa, CFP: You should really understand how to redeem you cash back. Get familiar with the features. For example, can you apply the cash back toward your balance? Can you use the cash for anything or only in certain predetermined places? Is the cash back a flat rate, is it tiered? Another thing to consider is whether or not you carry a balance. If you do carry a balance, you should also consider the interest that you'll be paying on that balance in order to ensure that you're not paying more in interest than the cash back you're receiving. Summer Hull, The Points Guy: Annual fee, earn rate, whether there are any bonus categories, and how easy is it to cash out your earnings. Sarah Silbert, Personal Finance Insider: Take a look at a card's bonus categories. You'll want to pick a card that earns you more than 1% cash back on the categories where you spend the most, such as dining, groceries, and travel. Or if you don't spend a lot in a specific category, look for a card that offers 1.5% cash back or more on every purchase. And make sure you do your research so you don't miss out on a higher sign-up bonus. If the card has an annual fee, decide whether you will use it enough for it to be worth it. 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5 credit cards with welcome bonuses of 50,000 points or more, so you can get a head start on your warm-weather travel plans
Credit card welcome bonuses of 50,000 points or more can get you a free round-trip flight,...Credit card welcome bonuses of 50,000 points or more can get you a free round-trip flight, several hotel nights, or more, depending on how you use them. While most credit card bonuses have minimum purchase requirements to earn, the payoff can be worth a thousand dollars or more. If you're going to sign up for a new credit card anyway, make sure to shop around for the best bonuses so you get as many rewards as possible. See Business Insider's list of the best travel rewards credit cards » Most people choose a rewards credit card that will help them earn miles or points for a favorite travel brand or program. Earning miles and points for each purchase can lead to huge value, and many rewards credit cards also offer new cardholders an intro bonus that could get you a free flight, hotel night, or more. Here's a look at seven of the best bonuses that can get you 50,000 points or more. If you want even higher welcome offers, be sure to check out Business Insider's list of the best credit card offers for 100,000 points or more. Business Insider also regularly updates this list of the best credit card welcome offers currently available — keep that page bookmarked if you want to see what limited-time bonuses are currently running. Keep in mind that we're focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It's important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back. The best credit card offers for 50,000 points or more: 60,000 points (after you spend $4k in the first 3 months): Chase Sapphire Preferred Card 50,000 miles (after you spend $3k in the first 3 months): Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card 50,000 points (after you spend $4k in the first 3 months): Chase Sapphire Reserve 60,000 points (after you spend $5k in the first 3 months): The Platinum Card® from American Express Up to 65,000 miles (40k after you spend $2k in the first 3 months, and 25k after you spend $10k in the first six months): United Explorer Card 1. Chase Sapphire Preferred: 60,000 points One of the best bonuses right now will earn you 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points. The Sapphire Preferred card, which charges a $95 annual fee, currently features a bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. That's conservatively worth $750 toward free and discounted travel when you use those points to book through Chase's Ultimate Rewards travel portal. The Sapphire Preferred card earns 2 points per dollar on dining and travel purchases, 5 points per dollar on Lyft purchases, and 1 point per dollar everywhere else. You can redeem points for 1.25 cents each on most major airlines and hotels through the Chase website. You can also transfer Ultimate Rewards points to a list of travel partners for potentially more value per point. Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred card » 2. Capital One Venture card: 50,000 miles The Venture card from Capital One offers 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months. The card charges a $95 annual fee, which is waived the first year. Capital One miles are worth 1 cent each when you use them to offset travel purchases, which makes the Venture card's bonus worth $500. However, transfer partners can make these points more valuable in some cases. With this card, you earn 2 miles per dollar on every purchase with no limits. Capital One makes these among the easiest travel reward miles to redeem with its Purchase Eraser tool. Just make any travel purchase with the card like usual, then log into Capital One to reimburse yourself for the purchase with miles. It essentially wipes the purchase off of your statement so you never have to pay. Click here to learn more about the Capital One Venture card » 3. Chase Sapphire Reserve: 50,000 points The ultra-premium Chase Sapphire Reserve card now charges a $550 annual fee (recently increased from $450) and features a 50,000-point bonus after $4,000 in purchases in the first three months. The bonus isn't as good as the 60,000-point offer on lower-tier Sapphire Preferred, but points are worth 1.5 cents each when you redeem through Chase with the premium version instead of 1.25 cents. That makes the bonus worth at least $750 toward travel. It includes airport lounge access, a $300 statement credit on travel purchases, and extensive travel benefits and protections. You'll earn 3 points per dollar on travel and dining purchases, and 10 points per dollar on Lyft rides. Newly announced benefits include complimentary memberships to Lyft and DoorDash that offer discounts and additional benefits with those services. Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve » 4. American Express Platinum: 60,000 points The Platinum Card from American Express offers 60,000 points after $5,000 in purchases in the first three months. It charges a $550 annual fee, which includes access to a wide array of airport lounges, elite status with Hilton and Marriott, and other premium travel benefits. Amex points are worth about 2 cents each, according to The Points Guy, which makes this bonus worth $1,200. The Amex Platinum card earns 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel as well as 5x on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com. It gives you 1 point per dollar everywhere else. Click here to learn more about the Amex Platinum card » 5. United Explorer card: 65,000 miles (limited-time offer) For a limited time, the United Explorer card is running an increased sign-up offer of up to 65,000 United bonus miles. You'll get 40,000 miles after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months and another 25,000 after spending a total of $10,000 on the card in the first six months. United recently moved away from its fixed award chart, but 60,000 miles is roughly enough for a round-trip award flight to Europe. The card is great for regular travelers on United. It gives you 2 miles per dollar for purchases at United, restaurants, and hotels. You get 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases. Benefits include a first bag checked free, 2 United Club one-time passes per year, priority boarding, 25% back on in-flight purchases, and more. It charges a $95 annual fee, but it's waived the first year. Click here to learn more about the United Explorer card » Don't let a bonus go to waste If you don't typically spend enough to reach the bonus, consider making a few future purchases early to get over the hurdle. Stocking up on non-perishable groceries, household items, or even a gift card for a favorite airline or restaurant that you know you'll use in the future could get you over the line to earn your bonus. Once it's in your account, it's up to you to decide how to put it to the best use. Whether you're jetting off for an adventure, kicking back at a relaxing hotel, or want to take the family on an extra trip to visit grandma and grandpa, miles and points make it all a lot more affordable. Just remember to pay your balance in full each month, because interest fees will more than cancel out the value of any rewards you earn. See Business Insider's list of the best credit card offers for 100,000 points or more » More credit card coverage What's the best airline credit card? The best cash-back credit cards Southwest credit card review Best rewards credit cards Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: The surprising reason Americans drop a ball on New Year's Eve