How to Pick the Best Rewards Credit Card

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Last update: 1/4/2016

Black-credit-card

America is becoming a more plastic driven economy. Even the smallest of merchants can accept credit cards with an inexpensive Square credit card reader. People start getting credit cards when they are in college, with the majority of the public possessing several credit cards in their wallet. There are safety advantages paying with a credit card over cash or a debit card. It is time to make the best of this situation.

Everyone loves to get rewarded for spending money. This is kind of an absurd statement, but a reward helps lessen the damage from paying your insanely high credit card bill.

We wrote this article because BuyVia is focused on helping you save money and shop smarter. A Google search looking for the best credit cards will inevitability bring you to websites, which promote cards that pay them referral fees, rather than the truth. There is no need to worry about that bias factor with this article, we do not receive any kickbacks if you apply for any of these cards.

Getting 1% back on your purchases is way too boring and miniscule. Our goal was to find the best credit cards and apply for them ourselves.

Credit Card Criteria

Here are some assumptions that we made in selecting the best rewards credit card.

  • We tried to minimize the total number of cards
  • No annual fee unless it is worth paying the fee
  • We pay off bills every month in full
  • We are not looking for the best APR or balance transfer deal
  • Cash back, not points
  • No caps on rewards

Credit Score

Our goal is to maximize rewards, but we understand people with differing credit scores will affect which credit cards they can get approved for. If you are trying to build up your credit score, you will probably want to apply for all these cards at the same time, minimizing the impact. Older credit cards should be stored away even if they are not used, this helps with your credit score.

Each category has a different optimal rewards card. We will now examine the most popular areas of spending and show you which credit card BuyVia has deemed the best.

Smartphone Deals

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    iPhone 7 Plus Unlocked 32GB Smartphone Sale $749.99 + Free ShippingeBay

    Over 900 bought. eBay (alldayzip, 5,000 feedback) has an iPhone 7 Plus Unlocked 32GB Smartphone Sale, $749.99 free shipping. Tax only in NH. 2% back in eBay bucks. Silver, Black, Gold, Rose Gold, Jet Black (Sold Out). Sells for $760 from unknown 3rd parties on Amazon.

    Save up to $100 over the Apple store when you factor in sales tax.

    • Optical Zoom Camera
    • Faster
    • Better Battery Life
    • Waterproof
    • New and improved camera (f1.8)
    • Optical image stabilization
    • No Headphone Jack (Comes with adapter cable)

    Important Information:

    Perfect for T-Mobile, StraightTalk or AT&T Wireless. Add a line or replace and older phone.

    Consider purchasing an unlocked cell phone if you are on AT&T or T-Mobile and want a new Smartphone without a contract. Unlocked Smartphones allow you to subscribe to low cost carriers mentioned below and function internationally, so you can use the same phone abroad.

    Learn: No-Contract Plans, Unlocked Smartphones

    Choosing the right plan for you is time consuming and can also be a hassle. We've done the research and you may save over $1,000 each year! Be sure to check out our no-contract Smartphone plan article: How to Find the Best No Contract Smartphone Plans where we compare all of the major network carriers. Check out our How to Buy an Unlocked iPhone article to learn what it means to have an "Unlocked" Smartphone.

    About Apple iPhone 7 Plus:

    The Apple iPhone 7 Plus comes with a new faster Apple A10 Fusion processor and runs on iOS 10. It has a a longer, larger 5.5" Retina display with a fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating. Cnet calls the redesign "sharp, slim, and feather-light."

    Apple iOS 10 includes Airdrop, Siri, Family Sharing, QuickType Keyboard and more.

    However the iPhone 7 Plus's new improved Lightning connector makes older docks and chargers obsolete. On the plus side, the new connector is a bit smaller, a little more rugged and easier to use than the previous one.

    Reviews:
    CNet gives the Apple iPhone 7 Plus a 4.5 out of 5 rating.

    Apple iPhone 7 Plus Specifications:

    • 12Mpixel iSight rear camera f1.8, 12Mpixel Facetime camera
    • 1080p HD video recording (30 fps or 60 fps)
    • 4K video recording at 30 fps
    • Apple A10 Fusion quad-core  2.34 GHz processor
    • Apple M8 motion coprocessor
    • iOS 10
    • 5.5" Retina HD 1920x1080 resolution touchscreen @ 401ppi
    • Wide color display (P3)
    • Bluetooth 4.0
    • 1400:1 contrast ratio
    • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
    • NFC
    • IP67 Rating: Splash, Water & Dust Resistant
    • upto 14 hr talk time on 3G, upto 10 days standby
    • 188 g (6.63 oz)
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    • 4G Network: LTE Band 1(2100) / 2(1900) / 3(1800) / 4(1700/2100) / 5(850) / 7(2600) / 8(900) / 12(700) / 13(700) / 17(700) / 18(800) / 19(800) / 20(800) / 25(1900) / 26(850) / 27(800) / 28(700) / 29(700) / 30(2300) / 38(2600) / 39(1900) / 40(2300) / 41(2500)

    Low Cost Service Plan with Unlimited Talk, Text, and Data

    T-Mobile offers a web exclusive pre-paid plan great for unlocked phones:

    • $40/mo for Unlimited Talk & Text with 3GB of LTE Data

    Straight Talk, a prepaid carrier that is owned by Tracfone and Walmart, sells micro SIM cards for the that cost $14.99 + Free Shipping.  You can pop these into any AT&T-compatible, T-Mobile-compatible, or unlocked GSM phone.

    • $45 a month buys you unlimited talk, text and 5GB high speed data with no contract or credit check
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    Sales tax in: Depends on seller
    Posted: February 20, 2017 9:07 AM PST


Which Card to Use?

We place a little Post it note behind each credit card noting its rewards amount and categories. There are also apps that can give you this information.

There are several credit cards including the Chase Freedom card and a Discover Card, which rotate between 5% bonus categories every quarter. There is usually a limit of $1500, severely reducing the potency of the card.

Grocery – Supermarket

The average consumer spends $3800 on groceries every year. Let us get some money back, beyond the usual couponing and buying sale items.

American Express Blue Cash Preferred

 

American Express Blue Cash Preferred

  • $75 per year
  • 6% back from supermarkets on the first $6000
  • 3% back from gas stations, department stores
  • 1% back from everything else
  • It does charge a foreign transaction fee

If you do not want to pay an annual fee or you spend less than $4000 on groceries, sign up for the American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card. It pays:

  • 3% back from supermarkets on the first $6000
  • 2% back from gas stations, department stores
  • 1% back from everything else

Gas

$2000 is spent on average every year for gas. A typical household blows through $4400 annually. Here are some ways to get a little back.

Sam’s Club MasterCard

Sam’s Club MasterCard

  • Free with a Sam’s Club Membership ($45/year)
  • 5% back from gas stations on the first $6000
  • 3% back on dining and travel
  • 1% from everything else

Even though the closest Sam’s Club is over an hour away from the San Francisco area, we signed up for a Sam’s Club membership just to use this credit card. You can apply online and join their membership online. You will also have access to purchasing items on samsclub.com. The downside is that they send a rewards certificate that needs to be redeemed in store, even if you want to credit your account.

TrueEarnings Business Card from Costco and American Express

Free with Costco Membership. This relationship is ending soon.

  • 4% back from US gas stations and on gasoline at Costco on the first $7000 per year
  • 2% back on US dining, and eligible travel purchases
  • 1% from everything else including Costco

If you shop at Costco, this card is almost as good as the Sam’s Club Rewards credit card.

For those without a business account, the regular card is slightly lower in rewards.

TrueEarnings Card from Costco and American Express

TrueEarnings Card from Costco and American Express

Free with Costco Membership. This relationship is ending in 2016.

  • 3% back from gas stations on the first $4000 per year
  • 2% back on US dining, and eligible travel purchases
  • 1% from everything else including Costco

Restaurants

Eating out costs a lot of money. The following credit card helps reduce the $2800 an average person spends on restaurants every year.

Sam’s Club Mastercard

  • Free with a Sam’s Club Membership ($45/year)
  • 5% back from US and Puerto Rico gas stations on the first $6000 per year
  • 3% back on dining and travel purchases (Excluding purchases at wholesale clubs other than Sam’s Club)
  • 1% from everything else

With one card, you can save on gas, dining, and travel!

Department Stores

It makes sense to apply for a credit card from a specific store, if you purchase many items from them every year. Here is a list of the top department store credit cards due to their rebate or coupon policy.

Airline Miles

If you are loyal to a specific airline, you should sign up for the rewards card tied to that airline. Other credit cards that you should consider include those, which have transferrable miles. Also be on the lookout for special credit card offers which include a bunch of miles for spending a certain amount of money within the first couple of months.

sapphire_preferred_card

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

  • Free for the first year, $95 per year there after
  • Get 40,000 points when you spend $3000 in the first 3 months. That is worth $500 in travel from the Chase Ultimate Rewards site.
  • Get 5000 points when you add an authorized user and they make a purchase within the first 3 months
  • 2X points on travel and dining
  • 1X points on everything else
  • 1:1 point transfers to leading frequent flyer programs
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • 20% off travel when booked through Chase

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite offers a very similar reward profile but costs $89 per year after the first year is free. You do get a free copy of TripIt pro ($49/year value), access to a no fee travel planner and discounts on hotels.

Best Rewards Card for Hotel Points

This specific hotel chain credit card offers great rewards if you like their hotel brands. These include: Westin, Sheraton, W, The Luxury Collection, and more

American Express Starwood Preferred Guest

  • Free for the first year, $65 thereafter
  • Sign on bonus of 10,000 points after first purchase, additional 15,000 for spending $5000 within 6 months
  • Up to 5 reward points on their hotels
  • 1 point for everything else
  • Transfer points directly to miles

The Best General Rewards Credit Cards

For regular consumers, we recommend:

Citi Double Cash Card

  • No annual fee
  • 2% cash back on all purchases

You get 1% reward after you make a purchase and the other 1% after you pay.

If you own a small business, we recommend:

spark_cash_select_business_credit_card-300x184

Capital One Spark Cash for Business

  • Free for the first year, $59 per year there after
  • 2% back on all purchases

If you do not own a business, consider this Capital One credit card:

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • No annual fee
  • 1.5% back on all purchases

For those who like American Express and visit stores that accept it:

Fidelity Investments Rewards Visa Card

  • No annual fee
  • 2% back on all purchases

They deposit rewards into a Fidelity Investment account, so this is a major requirement. This is a great way to save for retirement though. This transitioned from an American Express card in 2016. A Fidelity 529 rewards credit card is also available.

US Bank Cash Plus Visa Signature Card

  • No annual fee
  • 5% cash back on first $2000 in combined net purchases each quarter on 2 categories of your choice (cell phone plans, gym membership, restaurants, and more)
  • 2% cash back on your choice of 1 everyday category (gas, drug stores, or groceries)
  • 1% cash back on rest

Must apply in a US bank branch.

Conclusion

With a little bit of effort, you can really maximize the rewards you receive from a credit card. We hope you enjoy this list of the best rewards credit cards. If you have other favorites please be sure to leave a comment below.

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One response to “How to Pick the Best Rewards Credit Card”

  1. Valerie Acosta says:

    Thought the information was very interesting and valuable.

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