Which are the best cards for everyday spend? Many credit cards are great for spend within certain categories, but not great for spend everywhere else. For example, the Citi Prestige card offers 5X ThankYou Rewards for airfare, dining, and most travel agencies, and 3X for hotels and cruise lines. That’s great. But, I don’t recommend using the card for spend outside of those categories where it only earns 1 point per dollar. You can do better.
Separately we posted: Best Category Bonuses: Which card to use where? There, you’ll find the best cards to use for many different types of purchases: grocery, dining, travel, etc.
Here, you’ll find the cards to turn to for spending everyday, everywhere else.
Special Mention: Altitude Reserve
The US Bank Altitude Reserve card deserves special mention. This card offers two 3X categories and then offers just 1 point per dollar everywhere else. Points are worth 1.5 cents each towards travel. So, as a pure “everywhere else” card, the Altitude Reserve is actually not great at all. You can do much better than 1.5 cents per dollar value. The reason I’m highlighting it here though is that one of its 3X categories is “mobile wallet payments” (travel is the other 3X category). Mobile wallet payments include all payments made with Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Samsung Pay. That’s an incredibly broad category.
Mobile Wallet payments, such as Apple Pay, are accepted at a huge number of stores around the world. And, everywhere you use the Altitude Reserve in this way, you get the equivalent of 4.5% back towards travel. That’s awesome! Within the US, you can use mobile payments at most big-box stores, most supermarkets, most warehouse stores (such as Costco), and much more. Those with certain Samsung devices (with MST technology) can even use Samsung Pay at terminals not equipped for mobile payments. Nick previously wrote about using his Samsung watch in this way. Caution: US Bank has been known to shut down accounts of those who buy large value gift cards (e.g. $500) or large numbers of gift cards via mobile wallet payments with their Altitude Reserve card.
Now, back to the show…
The Best Cards for Everyday Spend
|Card Info Name and Earning Rate (no offer)|
The above cards (at least the top 25 or so in the list) offer great rewards regardless of where they’re used. Our entire database of credit cards is contained above, shown 10 cards at a time, and sorted with the best everyday everywhere-else rewards on top. For the purposes of this post, please train your eyes on the boxes titled “Base”. These show the base earning rate (aka “everywhere else” earning rate) for each card.
For cards that earn points instead of cash back, we’ve listed the “X” which is the number of points per dollar earned. For example, “2X” means that the card earns 2 points per dollar.
Cards are sorted by the value of the “Base” rebate in descending order based on our Reasonable Redemption Values (RRVs), or by their fixed redemption value with cash back cards.
As we analyze the best cards for everyday spend, it’s worth noting that transferable points are assigned higher Reasonable Redemption Values since they make it possible to cherry pick the best value awards. In some cases this will be unintuitive:
- Fixed Value Cards: Capital One Venture and Spark Miles cards earn Capital One “miles” that are worth exactly 1 cent each when redeemed for travel. So, when you look at a card that earns 2 “miles” per dollar you would expect to see 2% as the base rewards rate. Instead, you’ll find a higher percentage because Capital One Miles are transferable to airline miles at a rate up to 2 Capital One Miles to 1.5 airline miles.
- Cash Back Cards: Some cards are advertised as cash back cards, but actually earn points that can be converted to airline miles or hotel points. For example, the Chase Freedom card is advertised as a cash back card where points are worth 1 cent each. However, if you (or another household member) has a premium Chase card (Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, Ink Business Plus, etc.), you can move points from the Freedom card to the other card and then transfer those points to airline or hotel programs as needed.