There are plenty of other credit cards that do offer bonus rewards in specific categories, though. If you’re looking for a rewards credit card with bonus categories, a good place to start your search is WalletHub’s list of the best rewards credit cards.
A rewards card is a credit card that gives points, miles or cash back, either for making purchases with the card or as a bonus for meeting a spending threshold in a certain time period. People with any level of credit can qualify for a rewards card, but you’ll need at least “good” credit to be approved for the … read full answerbest credit cards with rewards. Rewards cards also have a wide range of annual fees. Some of the best rewards cards have no annual fee, while others charge hundreds of dollars per year.
What you should know about rewards cards:
Credit card rewards come in three basic currencies – cash back, miles and points. Cash back credit cards give you a certain percentage of your purchases back. Miles credit cards offer miles that are either tied to a specific airline or are generic miles that can be used for any travel-related expense. Points credit cards either offer hotel points or generic ones that can be redeemable towards various products and services. Generic points and miles credit cards make for the best travel credit cards on the market.
Rewards Program Structure
Regardless of the rewards currency that your rewards credit card offers, you will generally earn them as initial/sign-up bonuses (often offered as a lump-sum rewards bounty after spending a certain amount in a specified time period), spending-based rewards (flat or different earning rates for various sending categories) or anniversary bonuses (such a free hotel nights, free flights, or a certain amount of points, miles or cash back each year).
Redemption and Value
Common ways of redeeming your rewards include statement credits (crediting your rewards balance to your account), checks, gift cards, merchandise, charities and special experiences. All these redemption methods will have different values, so your goal should be to redeem your rewards in a way that get you the highest dollar-value. While cash back is straightforward, always consider what you can redeem miles and points for and what they’re ultimately worth.
Some cards implement monthly, quarterly or annual earning limits in certain spending categories or across. Always make sure to check what they are and consider whether they may affect your situation.
Some credit cards offer certain earning rates for spending categories that may change in a given time frame (e.g.: quarterly) and you have to sign up to earn that rate whenever that happens.
Devaluation and Expiration
Points and miles may have certain plateaus you have to reach in order to redeem them for goods and services. These plateaus aren’t guaranteed to be static and if your credit card issuer increases them, your accumulated points/miles may be worth less by the time you can redeem them. In terms of rewards expiration dates, most issuers have done away with them, but always check to make sure that is the case.
In addition to paying for purchases with rewards credit cards, consumers can save money using a loyalty rewards card when shopping. Many resorts, hotels, and retailers have loyalty programs, and they’ll often have a corresponding loyalty card or number that you can present when you make a purchase. CVS and Office Depot are two retailers with good loyalty card programs. The loyalty card keeps track of your eligible purchases and any rewards you’ve earned. Loyalty cards aren’t credit cards, but they are a good way to rack up rewards for hotels or retailers you visit often.
Store credit cards and co-branded credit cards – which are affiliated with specific retailers and organizations – can also be used in conjunction with loyalty rewards cards to help you save as much as possible with your favorite brands.
Finally, you might hear gift cards referred to as reward cards, especially those awarded as a prize or incentive, or as credit in lieu of a refund.
The difference between cash back and points is that the former is the most versatile type of credit card rewards, as it can be redeemed for anything, and there’s never any doubt about how much it’s worth. Points, on the other hand, have a value set by the credit card company and tend to be worth the most when redeemed for travel. Credit card companies won’t always clearly disclose points values, and those values can change over time. It’s possible that points could be worth 1 cent apiece one day and 0.8 cents each the next.… read full answer
You can spend points for many different things. Usually, you can trade them for travel, gift cards, unique experiences, charitable donations or even cash. There are no restrictions on what you can use cash for. You can typically redeem cash back for a statement credit, paper check, or direct deposit to a bank account. One thing credit card shoppers should watch out for are cards advertised as offering cash back that really provide points. For example, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers “5% cash back” in certain bonus categories. But what it actually gives is 5 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1, which cardholders can then trade for cash back at a rate of 1 cent each.
Earning rate: Usually at least 1% cash back or 1 point per $1 spent.
Devaluation: Points can be devalued by the issuer, while cash back can’t.
Redemption options: Statement credit, check or deposit for cash. Travel, merchandise, gift cards, cash and more for points.
When it’s the best choice: Points for frequent travelers. Cash back for everyone else.
Let’s take a look at two high-profile cards in a battle of cash back vs. points.
Citi Double Cash Card tops the cash back offerings with 2% cash back on all purchases and an introductory APR of 0% for 18 months on balance transfers, with a balance transfer fee of 3% intro fee ($5 min) for each transfer in first 4 months, after that 5% ($5 min) for each transfer. It also chases a $0 annual fee and requires good credit to get.
But if you’re a frequent traveler, Chase Sapphire Preferred is a more attractive option. It gives 5 points per $1 spent on travel purchased through Chase, 2 points per $1 on all other travel purchases, 3 points per $1 on dining and online grocery purchases, 3 points per $1 on select streaming services, and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. It has an initial bonus of 60,000 points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. This card’s points are worth 1 cent each toward cash back or gift cards or 1.25 cents each toward travel. There’s a $95 annual fee and the card requires good credit.
For both cash back and points cards, you can expect to lose your rewards if your account closes for any reason. Most cards don’t let your rewards expire over time. But Citi Double Cash Card’s cash back expires if you don’t use your card for 12 months. And on points cards alone, your points can be devalued if the issuer decides to charge more points for its rewards. So, frequent redemption is essential.
So, the bottom line is that frequent travelers should check out points cards. Otherwise, cash is king.
You can generally redeem your credit card rewards online or through the issuer’s mobile app, depending on the card. Some credit card issuers also let you redeem rewards over the phone. Credit card reward points may be redeemable for cash back, travel purchases, gift cards, and more.
Once you redeem your credit card rewards, they’ll be subtracted from your rewards balance immediately and your account will be credited within 1-3 weeks, if applicable. In some cases, rewards will expire if you do not use them by a certain time.… read full answer
Here's how to redeem credit card reward points online:
Log in to your online account and head to “Account Summary”. Specifics will vary by issuer, but your rewards will usually be featured on a main account page.
Click on “Rewards Balance”. The exact wording may differ depending on the issuer. Once you click on your rewards balance, you’ll be taken to a page with your total amount of unredeemed rewards, and information about your redemption options.
Select how you’d like to redeem your rewards. You may be able to redeem your rewards for travel purchases, cash back in the form of a check or statement credit, merchandise, or gift cards, depending on the rewards card.
Redeem your rewards. Once you redeem your credit card rewards, the points, miles or cash back will be deducted from your rewards balance immediately. If you’re redeeming for statement credits or covering past purchases, your account will usually be credited within a week. If you redeem your rewards for gift cards or merchandise, you can expect them to arrive in the mail within 2-3 weeks.
While many rewards cards will let you choose from multiple redemption options, you’ll usually get the most value with one in particular. For example, travel rewards credit cards will often give you the most when you redeem your rewards for travel purchases. And your rewards may be worth less if you redeem them for cash back or gift cards.
On average, credit card reward reward are worth 1 cent each. Most major credit card issuers (like Chase, Capital One, and American Express) advertise that your rewards will not expire as long as your account remains open. But you should check the exact terms and conditions of your specific credit card to make sure you don’t lose any rewards you’ve earned.
WalletHub Answers is a free service that helps consumers access financial information. Information on WalletHub Answers is provided “as is” and should not be considered financial, legal or investment advice. WalletHub is not a financial advisor, law firm, “lawyer referral service,” or a substitute for a financial advisor, attorney, or law firm. You may want to hire a professional before making any decision. WalletHub does not endorse any particular contributors and cannot guarantee the quality or reliability of any information posted. The helpfulness of a financial advisor's answer is not indicative of future advisor performance.
WalletHub members have a wealth of knowledge to share, and we encourage everyone to do so while respecting our content guidelines. This question was posted by WalletHub. Please keep in mind that editorial and user-generated content on this page is not reviewed or otherwise endorsed by any financial institution. In addition, it is not a financial institution’s responsibility to ensure all posts and questions are answered.
Ad Disclosure: Certain offers that appear on this site originate from paying advertisers, and this will be noted on an offer’s details page using the designation "Sponsored", where applicable. Advertising may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). At WalletHub we try to present a wide array of offers, but our offers do not represent all financial services companies or products.