Best for Travel Rewards: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Freedom Flex®

Why we picked them. The Chase Ultimate Rewards® program is one of the most versatile rewards programs on the market, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Freedom Flex® can help you get closer to unlocking its full potential.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a perennial favorite among travel rewards enthusiasts. It offers an impressive welcome bonus, above-average rewards rates on common spending categories, and flexible redemption options. Cardholders who use their points to book travel through Chase Travel℠ will get 25% more value. They can also opt to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to more than a dozen frequent flyer and hotel rewards partner programs.

The Chase Freedom Flex® offers an impressive 5% cash back on quarterly rotating categories, but it doesn’t give you a bonus on travel redemptions or access to transfer partners. The good news is that owning both cards means you can transfer points earned with the Freedom Flex to your Sapphire Preferred account, giving you those rewards benefits on both cards.

What else you should know. Both cards offer additional perks that add value to your everyday spending and travel, though some of them overlap. For example, you’ll get perks with DoorDash, Lyft and Instacart with both cards, and you’ll also get some shopping and trip protections—although the Sapphire Preferred offers more robust trip insurance options. In contrast, only the Freedom Flex offers an introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers.

That said, the base rewards rate for both cards is low. If you want to earn a higher rate on purchases that aren’t in bonus categories, you may consider swapping out the Freedom Flex for the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. However, if you want even more value on travel redemptions and better travel perks, you may want to choose the Chase Sapphire Reserve® instead of the Sapphire Preferred. Note though that the Reserve’s annual fee is significantly higher than the Preferred at $550.

Best for Perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express and the American Express® Gold Card

Why we picked them. If your priority is premium perks, The Platinum Card® from American Express and the American Express® Gold Card separate from the competition.

The Platinum Card® from American Express (terms apply, see rates & fees) offers over $1,500 in potential annual credits toward purchases like airline incidental fees, hotel stays booked through Amex Travel, digital entertainment, a Walmart+ membership, Uber Cash good for Uber rides and Uber Eats food delivery and more. You’ll also get access to several airport lounge networks when you fly, elite status with hotel and car rental rewards programs and several other perks. Enrollment is required for select benefits.

With the American Express® Gold Card (terms apply, see rates & fees), you’ll enjoy dining credits and Uber Cash throughout the year with enrollment, along with stellar rewards rates on dining, groceries and flights.

What else you should know. Between the two cards, you’re paying nearly $1,000 in annual fees. While you can offset that cost with each card’s potential credits, it’s still an out-of-pocket expense you’ll need to budget for. Additionally, if your lifestyle doesn’t align with the cards’ benefits, you may not be able to get enough value to make it worth the yearly cost.

Best for Cash Rewards: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express and Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

Why we picked them. If you prefer the simplicity of cash-back rewards and you want to earn the most on every purchase you make, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express (terms apply, see rates & fees) and the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card are a match made in heaven.

With the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, you’ll earn a fantastic 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more) and 1% cash back on other eligible purchases. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit on Amazon.com at checkout.

The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card, on the other hand, earns 2% cash rewards on purchases everywhere. By using the Blue Cash Preferred for its bonus categories and the Active Cash for all of your other expenses, you can make the most of every dollar you spend.

What else you should know. Both cards offer an introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers, so it could make sense to stagger your applications to take full advantage of those features.

The Blue Cash Preferred charges an annual fee after the first year. You can get most of that cost back with up to $84 annually in credits toward a Disney Bundle subscription, which includes Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ (enrollment required). But if you don’t want the hassle of an annual fee, you could consider the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express (terms apply, see rates & fees) instead.

Best for Everyday Spending: Citi Strata Premier℠ Card and Citi Double Cash® Card

Why we picked them. The Citi Strata Premier℠ Card and the Citi Double Cash® Card each have strong rewards on different kinds of spending and cardholders can pool their ThankYou® Points together. When used in tandem, you can get outsized value on virtually all your purchases.

The Citi Strata Premier℠ Card earns 10 points per dollar spent on hotels, car rentals and attractions booked on CitiTravel.com, 3 points per dollar on restaurants, supermarkets, gas & EV stations, air travel and other hotel purchases and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. With the Citi Double Cash® Card, you’ll earn 2% cash back on all purchases—1% when purchases are made and another 1% when they’re paid off. To get the most out of this pairing, you should use the Strata Premier for its bonus rewards rates and the Double Cash for everything else.

Both cards offer flexible redemption options, but if you want to transfer your rewards to one of Citi’s airline or hotel program partners, the Double Cash only gives you access to a few of them. Adding the Citi Strata Premier card expands that access to Citi’s full list of transfer partners.

What else you should know. The Citi Strata Premier Card offers $100 off a single hotel stay each calendar year when you book through Thankyou.com, but you have to spend $500 to earn the discount (excluding taxes and fees), which could be difficult for some cardholders. The Double Cash offers an introductory APR on balance transfers, but the benefit doesn’t extend to purchases made with the card.

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Last Update: June 21, 2024

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