Best for: Consumers who prefer a flat cash-back rate on every purchase and enjoy maximizing point value.
Rewards: Hidden behind the 1.5% cash back rate on all purchases, the Freedom Unlimited might seem fairly basic, but it packs a mighty punch in with its bonus offer and point-earning potential. As a bonus, Chase offers 3% cash back on the first $20,000 spent in the first year, rewarded in the form of points. Those 60,000 points are worth $600 in cash with the Chase Freedom Unlimited, but cardholders can maximize point value by transferring them to another Chase card. For example, those 60,000 points are worth $900 with the Chase Sapphire Reserve when redeemed for travel purchases through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
Other perks: Aside from the simple rewards structure (which doesn’t require tracking of bonus categories), this card offers purchase protection, an extended warranty, and no expiration on points as long as your account is open and in good standing.
Annual fee: $0
Bonus: 3% on the first $20,000 spent within 12 months of account opening.
Best for: Avid travelers who prefer flexible rewards.
Rewards: This card rises to the top due to its high rewards rate. Cardholders earn 3 points on every dollar spent on travel (including flights, hotel stays and gas), restaurants (including delivered orders) and streaming services. Then, you earn 1 point on all other purchases. Each point is worth 1 cent when you redeem it for a statement credit, gift cards, charity donations or travel. The sign-up bonus is a nice draw, too, with the potential to collect 50,000 points in the first year.
Other perks: Cellphone protection; no foreign transaction fee
Annual fee: $0
Bonus: 30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, then another 20,000 bonus points after making $15,000 in purchases in the first year.
Best for: Consumers who don’t mind switching bonus categories every three months.
Rewards: The robust rewards and benefits on this card could make it a worthy addition to your wallet. 5% cash back on the first $1,500 spent in rotating categories, when you activate them each quarter; unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. Matching of all cash back earned during the first year, with no cap on how much you can collect.
Other perks: Free credit monitoring and Social Security alerts; no fee on first late payment; redemption of any amount of rewards at any time.
Annual fee: $0
Bonus: Matching of all cash back earned in first year.
Best for: People who spend a lot on groceries, dining and entertainment.
Rewards: Capital One bakes two of the best ingredients into this credit card: unlimited rewards — even in the bonus categories — and no annual fee. Many other no-fee cards either limit rewards in the bonus categories or offer a low flat rate on all purchases. Not this one: Cardholders earn 3% cash back on all dining and entertainment purchases, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases.
Other perks: Extended warranty, price protection, special access to sports and music events, travel accident insurance and car rental insurance.
Annual fee: $0
Bonus: $150 after spending $500 within three months of account opening.
The Discover it Cash Back card might bring the biggest welcome bonus (if you max out the bonus categories), but if you spend a lot on dining and entertainment, then the SavorOne Rewards from Capital One might be the best card for you. The best card will reward you for your everyday spending — and all the better if it doesn’t cost a penny to use.
Here’s something to watch: While all of these cards lack an annual fee, they still charge a handful of other fees and an APR. However, these fees are usually avoidable. Your best bet is to pay off your balance every month, always make payments on time, and avoid balance transfers and cash advances (unless you can afford them).
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