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It can be easy to focus only on credit cards that offer outsized bonus categories like 5x on travel or 4x on dining. For most people, most of the purchases they make don’t fit neatly into any bonus category. Whether you’re indulging in some online retail therapy, buying a bottle of wine or picking up a snack at a convenience store, it’s crucial to have a card that rewards you well for these everyday, non-bonus expenses.
What’s the best card to use for everyday purchases when you’re not trying to meet minimum spending requirements on a top travel credit card to unlock a generous sign-up bonus? From an uncomplicated cash-back card that earns 2% on all expenses to valuable travel rewards cards, here’s a list of the cards that offer the best return on everyday non-bonus spending.
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Best credit cards for everyday spending in 2020
The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited card and the Amex EveryDay Preferred has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Here’s a rundown on the best cards, assuming $10,000 in non-bonus spend in the first year in addition to the value of the sign-up bonus:
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Comparing the best cards for everyday spending
Not to be confused with the Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants) that offers 5x points on rotating quarterly bonus categories, the Chase Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5 points per dollar spent on everything, with no bonus categories to memorize or annual limits to worry about. Points earned from the Chase Freedom Unlimited can be converted into Ultimate Rewards points if you have a premium Chase credit card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card, or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card. If not, you can redeem your cash back as a statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts, or in the Ultimate Rewards portal for travel, for shopping at Amazon.com or buying gift cards.
TPG values Ultimate Rewards points conservatively at 2 cents each, making the Chase Freedom Unlimited welcome offer of $200 worth at least $300 or 30,000 points when transferring to one of Chase’s full-fledged Ultimate Rewards cards.
The Freedom Unlimited is a perfect starter card and a perfect pairing with one of Chase’s premium cards but it is subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule — which means that you’ll be automatically denied if you’ve opened five or more new cards in the previous 24 months.
Read our full card review for more information.
The information for the Chase Freedom has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Capital One Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Long before the Capital One Venture began adding hotel and airline transfer partners, the card was a fan favorite (and Brian Kelly’s favorite), thanks to a strong earning rate of 2 miles per dollar on all purchases. While you can still redeem miles at a fixed rate of 1 cent each to erase eligible travel purchases made in the last 90 days, you also have the option to transfer them to some truly exceptional frequent flyer programs — including Avianca LifeMiles, Air Canada Aeroplan, Flying Blue and more — to unlock outsized value.
In addition to the fixed 2x earning rate on everyday spending, the card now offers five miles per dollar spent on hotels and rental cars booked with the card on Capital One Travel. Based on TPG’s valuations of Capital One miles at 1.4 cents each, this means you’re looking at a 2.8% return on everyday spend and a 7% return on hotels and rental cars if you leverage Capital One’s transfer partners.
Read our review of the Capital One Venture card for more details.
The Amex EveryDay Preferred card is a lucrative option only if you can commit to 30 transactions monthly. That’s because, in addition to earning valuable Membership Rewards points on popular everyday bonus categories (1 point per dollar spent on non-bonus spending), you’ll earn 50% more points in each billing cycle if you make 30 or more purchases.
Related reading: How to redeem American Express Membership Rewards for maximum value
If this is your only credit card or one of only a few and you use for everyday purchases, you should be able to earn 50% bonus points every month for the life of the card. You’ll effectively be earning 1.5 Membership Rewards points per dollar on everyday non-bonus spending.
Despite the $95 annual fee, you can earn even more points, thanks to the card’s popular bonus categories such as 3x points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1 point per dollar spent) and 2 points per dollar spent at U.S. gas stations, making it a solid choice for an everyday card. Remember that the 50% bonus makes those bonus categories even more valuable.
Read our review of the Amex EveryDay Preferred card for more details.
The information for the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
The Blue Business Plus card is a favorite among Membership Rewards enthusiasts because it’s one of the only no-annual-fee cards (see rates and fees) to earn fully-fledged transferable points. The credit card earns 2 points per dollar spent on all purchases, up to $50,000 in a year, then 1 point per dollar spent. TPG values Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each, meaning this card provides a 4% return on all spending.
Potentially, you could net 100,000 Membership Rewards points a year by spending $50,000, which TPG values at $2,000. There are many ways to redeem Membership Rewards points for maximum value.
The only downside of this card is that it’s a business card, not a personal card, so not everyone can apply for it (though you may be more eligible than you think).
Read the full Blue Business Plus card review for more details.
As the lone Bank of America card on our list, the Bank of America Premium Rewards card packs a punch, with a booming welcome bonus worth 50,000 points ($500). It also includes a $100 annual airline incidental fee credit, meaning you come out ahead every year you keep the card open after paying the $95 annual fee.
Points can be redeemed for travel, cash back or even a cash deposit into a linked Bank of America or Merrill Lynch account. The card earns 1.5x on non-bonus spending and 2x points on travel and dining, which means this is a decent but not exceptional card for everyday purchases. However, the card becomes more attractive when combined with Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program.
To significantly increase the value of your spending return, you’ll need an eligible Bank of America checking account with an average daily balance of at least $20,000. The largest bonus is available to customers with a balance of $100,000 or more — at that level, you’ll earn 3.5 points per dollar spent on dining and travel, and an impressive 2.62 points per dollar spent on non-bonus spending.
Read the Bank of America Premium Rewards review for more details.
The Citi Double Cash card comes with a competitive 2% cash back on everything — 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay it off. With no annual fee to worry about, you can keep it forever. The card increased in value when Citi allowed the cash back earned on the Double Cash card to convert into Citi ThankYou Points.
The card has substantial stand-alone value but paired with Citi’s more premium cards, such as the Citi Premier℠ Card or Citi Prestige® Card, you could extract incredible value for travel. That’s because Citi allows you to transfer points to their airline partners and book flight awards. With the added flexibility, the Citi Double Cash is a great option for everyday expenses.
The information for the Citi Premier and the Citi Prestige Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Read the Citi Double Cash card review for more details.
The Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card earns 1.5% cash back on every purchase. The card is an excellent addition to the Chase small-business lineup and currently offers a large sign-up bonus of $500 that is unusually large for a cash-back card with no annual fee.
You can qualify for a business credit card, whether you sell stuff online or work as a sole proprietor. Many freelance jobs or side hustles are considered businesses and eligible for a business credit card.
What makes the Ink Business Unlimited a phenomenal everyday card is that beyond earning 1.5x points, you can also combine your rewards with Chase Ultimate Rewards credit cards (Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve and Ink Business Preferred). This gives you the ability to transfer points to travel partners or receive between 1.25-1.5 cents (depending on whether you have the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve) when you redeem points toward travel reservations made through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
This card is incredibly similar to the popular Chase Freedom Unlimited, except it offers a sign-up bonus worth more than times more. The only drawback is that you may have a tougher time getting approved for the Ink as a business card than for the personal Chase Freedom Unlimited.
Related: Ink Business Unlimited card review
This card only earns 1% cash back on everyday expenses. However, the real reason the Blue Cash Preferred is a top everyday spending card is for its incredibly lucrative bonus categories that hit home with many people.
The categories are as follows:
- 6% back on U.S. streaming subscriptions (Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, etc.)
- 6% back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 a year) then 1% after that
- 3% back on transit (parking, tolls, ride-share, subway, etc.)
- 3% back at U.S. gas stations
- 1% everywhere else
- Terms apply
If you are looking for a true cash-back card and have everyday expenses typical for an American household today, the Blue Cash Preferred card might be a suitable card for you. Keep in mind it has a $95 annual fee (see rates and fees) and is best for U.S.-based purchases since it does impose a 2.7% foreign transaction fee (see rates and fees).
See the Blue Cash Preferred card review for more details.
There is no single best card for everyday spending — just the best one for your situation.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a wonderful starter card to begin accruing treasured Ultimate Rewards points. The Blue Business Plus offers an impressive 4% return on general spending with a limit of $50,000 each year to earn 2x points. In comparison, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers a valuable sign-up bonus paired with more than a 2% return on everyday spending long-term.
The Citi Double Cash card earns 2% cash back (1% when you buy, plus 1% as you pay), which can be converted to ThankYou Points via a linked ThankYou account. And the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card is a superb option if you have a high-balance relationship in Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program.
Ultimately, all cards on this list are valuable for everyday spending. Which one you choose will be determined by your spending habits and goals.
Related credit card guides
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus card, please click here.
Featured photo by Thomas Barwick/Getty
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.