Compare The Best Rewards Credit Cards 2021

Tens of millions of Americans miss out on extraordinary opportunities to get valuable benefits by putting their spend on credit cards that work for them.

Those who enjoy travel should consider opening a travel rewards card that can earn hotel points, such as the World of Hyatt card or airline miles, such as the United Club Infiniti card. Some of favorite cards, however, earn transferable points that can be transferred to an airline or hotel program or redeemed for cash credits later. These cards include the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and the American Express Platinum card.

You can compare all of the best travel rewards cards here.

Many Americans who don’t aspire to travel or who want immediate cash back will prefer to use cash back cards. You can learn more about cash back cards here where we compare the best cash back cards including the Chase Freedom Unlimited card and the American Express Blue Cash Everyday card.

Small business owners and some non-small business owners should consider small business cards here. Some small business cards offer - such as the Chase Ink Business Cash card and the Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express offer such compelling value that they should be considered by those who may not have a business but are trying to segregate business expenses (although the may not offer the same purchase protection as personal cards).

BestCashCow examines the value of each loyalty program here.

As you try to decide which card is best for your practices and interest, we have developed this handy tool below that enables you to explore which cards may be most valuable to you based on your estimated annual spend and your objectives. Please have a look.

Estimate Annual Category Spend to Find Maximum Rewards
$
$
$
$
$
$
$
$
$
$
Advertiser Disclosure



 


Capital One Venture X is Probably Not a Replacement for Amex Platinum or Chase Sapphire Reserve

Capital One announced the Venture X card last month to great fanfare.   They paid the credit card bloggers handsomely to promote it with many of them obliging all too easily and changing the background of their sites to Capital One wallpaper.

The Venture X card is not a bad card and should have great appeal at once to many of the affluent readers of sites like OneMileAtATime or ViewFromTheWing.

It offers 100,000 points for signing up and 2x points on all spend.  It is instantly a top travel rewards card, accruing points that can then be transferred to a host of airline partners (although no major US airlines are included), and the $395 annual fee is well within reason, especially since it comes with a $300 travel credit for bookings on Capital One’s own travel portal.   It also comes with all the frills that travelers seek – a full featured Priority Pass with restaurant credits, Global Entry, primary automobile rental insurance coverage (only Chase Sapphire Reserve also offers that) and no currency exchange fees. 

The unveiling of the Venture X comes at a great time.   The Platinum Card from American Express now has a much higher price and was converted in the early stages of COVID-19 into a sort of coupon book that benefits those who also patronize American Express’s partners.  Amex had already begun cutting the benefits that most savvy travelers rely on prior to the pandemic (they had already converted the $200 travel credit into a heavily restricted incidental credit and offered a less than full featured version of the Priority Pass), and the Venture X card gives them back similar features at a lower fee.

Venture X also targets the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.   Not only is Capital One offering a larger sign-up bonus, it is offering all the same frills at a lower cost ($95 versus $250 after netting out all direct travel credits that most will be able to use).   While it offers 2x on all spend, it does not offer 3x on travel and restaurant spend.   It also doesn’t have Hyatt and United as travel partners which barring some sort of massive devaluation in point values will always be more appealing to most US-based cardholders than Capital One’s limited partners (Singapore, Air France, British Airways, etc.)

As attractive as Venture X is, here are the three reasons why I would still prefer to have an Amex Platinum or a Sapphire Reserve card in my wallet when I travel, especially internationally.

First, Capital One is not known for its customer service.   Even if I am only likely to call my credit card company once every year or two about a questionable charge or some other matter, I want to be able to get in touch immediately with someone who is competent and able to address my concern.  This is especially true if I am calling from Ushuaia.   I know that I get that with Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Second, the Venture X doesn’t even say that it comes with emergency evacuation coverage.   If I am in some sort of remote corner of Vietnam and have a medical emergency, I want to be able to call someone and try to get medevaced to Singapore or Hong Kong.   This may be more of a “peace of mind” thing, but for the travel that I do, Platinum and Reserve give me this, and Venture X does not.

Third, the Venture X card is just too heavy.   It weighs in at twice the weight of the Sapphire Reserve and more than twice the Amex Platinum.  This heavy card thing may have been attractive a decade ago, but it is the 2020s and it smells of unnecessary excess and indifference to the reality that we all need to limit consumption of everything going forward.  It would be obnoxious to hand the card to a waiter in Paris or Rome; it screams “stupid American”.

So, while Venture X is interesting, I for one will just keep it on my desk and use it to pay taxes and other large expenses for which I cannot get 2x the points on any other personal credit card.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

Advertising Disclosure: This site may be compensated for hosting offers.

Two Credit Cards Stand Apart With Outstanding Reward Rates Across All Personal Spend

Over the last several years, all major credit card companies have gotten into the business of promoting spend in certain categories by issuing cards that provide extra points (or cash back) in certain spend categories.   It started when most airline cards and hotel cards incentivized spend in the attached brand through bonus points.  Now many credit issuers offer cards with bonuses across entire categories – for example, Chase’s Sapphire Reserve card offers 3x Chase Ultimate Rewards points for all travel and dining and Chase’s Ink Cash card offers 5x cash back (or UR points) for spend at office supply stores.

The whole game of getting the most bonus points for your spend has become a sport for many, and now borders on an addiction for some.     BestCashCow helps you determine which card or cards will maximize your rewards or your cash back with the handy tool on this page (https://www.bestcashcow.com/credit-cards).

It is clear that there are some people who do not want to play the game of seeking the best bonuses in each category and who just want to carry the single card that rewards them the most across all of their spend.

There are others who play the game, but find that a lot of their credit card spending is in categories for which no credit card offers a bonus.  Taxes, for example, is never a category for bonuses is taxes and service fees for paying them online are close to 2% for federal taxes on sites like pay1040.com and as high as 2.50% for some state and local taxes (usually through their websites).   While taxes could easily be the largest spend category for many high earners, it is hard to justify paying them online with a credit card (instead of by check in the mail) when you pay these service fees to get back only 1 airline or hotel point per dollar or 1% cash back.

There are now two cards that stand out by offering an outstanding return on all spend, and that can be (and should be used) used for tax spend as well.   One offers travel rewards (https://www.bestcashcow.com/credit-cards/cards-for-spend) and the other offers cash back (https://www.bestcashcow.com/credit-cards/cash-back).

The first is the Capital One Venture X card.   This card is a new offering that gives 100,000 Capital One points after spending $10,000 in the first 6 months.  It has a $395 annual fee, but also has a $300 travel credit for travel booked on the Capital One travel portal.  The card gives 2x Capital One Venture points for all spend, regardless of category.  The points can now be converted to Singapore Krisflyer, British Airways or Air France at 1 point to 1 point where more than a penny and half per point of value can be achieved when redeeming for Business class long haul travel.

Many people, however, are wondering whether they will be traveling as much in the Coronavirus and climate crisis era (and whether that travel will be international on partners like Capital One’s).   At some point, there also becomes an issue relating the viability of some of these airlines and/or whether their points will continue to be significantly devalued.   The second card by Bank America may be more suited to these folks.

The Bank of America Premium Rewards Visa Credit Card is a cash back credit card offering 2.625% cash back to cardholders holding at least $100,000 in an account at either Merrill Lynch or Bank of America.   The card carries a $95 annual fee and usually offers some sort of bonus.  It also offers a $100 incidental air travel fee (for checked bags) that you may or may not be able to use.   (After your first year, you can also “downgrade” the card to another card that will give you 2.625% back with no fee, but also no travel credits).

Both of these cards have drawbacks – Capital One and Bank of America have inconsistent customer service that routinely falls below the level that customers of Chase or American Express have grown to expect.    I suspect that many will wind up getting these cards and using them just for taxes and maybe other occasional and large purchases for which they cannot get bonuses, but will continue to keep Chase and Amex cards as their primary go-to cards in their wallets.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

Advertising Disclosure: This site may be compensated for hosting offers.

Five Realities About Earning Hotel and Airline Points in the Post Pandemic World

BestCashCow launched its section on travel rewards and cash back cards a few years ago.   We have always aimed to provide insightful information for credit card users about how to maximize the rewards you receive on your credit card spend.

I myself am older than most of the youngsters running blogs designed to tell flippers how to flip cards for signing bonuses.  Our advice, therefore, is not for flippers or those willing to abuse they system.   It is realistic advice for how to approach points and miles from years of following this area and seeing its changes and evaluating the post-pandemic travel and credit cards landscape.   So, here are five general things we see and some strategies around them. 

1.   Chase is the best credit card issuer.   Amex is a close second.   Bank of America, Barclays, Capital One and Citibank have rewards programs and partners that are attractive, but I think that customers need to understand that they are getting an entirely different level of service when you open a credit card account with one of these banks.  If you are going to be traveling in Africa or Latin America or Southeast Asia, you want to have a Chase Reserve or an Amex Platinum card in your wallet, and not someone else’s card.

2.  American Airlines has the best airline loyalty program among the US airlines and you can rack up a ton of American points through opening Citibank and Barclays personal and business cards.   If you are a flipper, this is a great deal, but it is such a waste or time and energy that most people shouldn’t bother with this.  An easier way to rack up American Airlines miles is to open a Bask Bank account that gives you 1 mile for every dollar you keep on deposit every year.   That also enables you to open more flexible cards, cards with more valuable sign-up bonuses and to stay below Chase’s rule that you can only open 5 personal cards every 24 months (Chase’s 5-24 rules).

Compare sign-up bonuses here.

Learn More about Bask Bank here.

3.  When flying, you are most likely going to get the most value redeeming points only for long-haul business class fares.   I view points and miles as aspirational, and use them to enjoy a class of service that I might not be able to otherwise afford.   Flying business class between New York and Southeast Asia on Singapore in Business Class is extremely expensive, but using points transferrable from Chase, Amex, Citibank (or Brex) makes a family trip there realistic and achieves tremendous value from the points.   One exception to this rule is British Airways (also a Chase, Amex and Citibank transfer partner) where great value can often be achieved through redemptions on short-haul travel on partner airlines (American in the US, Cathay, Qantas or JAL in Asia, Iberia or Finnair in Europe). 

4.   Hotel programs, other than Hyatt, have become largely worthless.   Radisson may be doing something with their program, but it will unlikely ever have the value that it had a decade ago.   And, unfortunately, Arne Sorensen’s legacy was to kill any loyalty value in Marriott and Sheraton.  And, the French failed to understand the loyalty that Fairmont had (expiring Club Accor miles in the middle of a pandemic was ridiculous).   Hilton and IHG never had programs to speak of.   If you seek to convert your spend to hotel points, you should focus on Hyatt or Chase points (convertible to Hyatt points), but there is no other hotel chain that seems to value your loyalty at the moment.

Compare travel and reward cards here. 

5.   You might not be traveling as much in the post-pandemic world.   Unless you really see yourself traveling on trips where you can get more than 2 cents per point in value from your points, you may want to consider cash back cards.   The Bank of America Premium Rewards card, for example, gives 2.625% cash back to those with $100,000 in assets at Bank of America or Merrill Lynch.   Unless you are traveling a lot and actively seeking out great redemption values for your points, you might have a hard time extracting as much value from your airline and hotel points.

Compare cash back cards here.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

Advertising Disclosure: This site may be compensated for hosting offers.