Bookmark This Chart: Most Lucrative Rewards Card For Each Kind Of Spending

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Never earn just one mile per dollar spent. If you want to earn the most points for your spending — beyond just earning a big signup bonus — you need to pay attention to what you spend the most money on and which cards give you the best juice for that specific spending – whether you spend a lot on airfare, on gas, or groceries.

Here are the cards I believe offer best value in each of the major bonus categories. Information about the Ink Cash card is neither provided or reviewed by its issuer.

Category Card Earn
Groceries American Express® Gold Card 4x (up to $25k/ calendar yr)
Dining Citi Prestige Card 5x
American Express® Gold Card 4x
Air Tickets Platinum Card by American Express 5x
Citi Prestige Card 5x
Car Rentals Chase Sapphire Reserve Card 3x + Primary CDW
Hotels Chase Sapphire Reserve Card 3x
American Express® Green Card 3x
Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card 3x
Hyatt Hotels World Of Hyatt Credit Card 4x
Advertising Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card 3x
 (Soc media/Search)
Office Supplies Chase Ink Cash Card  5x
Telephone/Cable/ Chase Ink Cash Card  5x
Internet
Gas Citi Premier 3x
Fitness/Gym Memberships World Of Hyatt Credit Card 2x
General Purchases Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express 2x
Citi® Double Cash Card 2x

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give separate attention to the American Express® Business Gold Card. It isn’t included in the chart because its bonus categories ‘float’ based on whatever you’re spending the most on.

The card earns 4x points on the two categories you spend the most in each month out of:

  • airfare purchased directly from airlines
  • U.S. purchases for advertising in select media
  • U.S. purchases at gas stations
  • U.S. purchases for shipping
  • U.S. computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers

This is available for the first $150,000 in combined purchases in bonused categories each calendar year. And in addition to points transferring to Membership Rewards airline and hotel partners you receive a 25% rebate on points after you redeem for an eligible flight booked with Amex Travel (up to 250,000 points back per calendar year).

Personally I like the Platinum Card by American Express for flights;  American Express® Gold Card for restaurants and groceries; Chase Ink Cash Card for office supplies, cell phone and internet; and I stay at Hyatts most often paying with the World Of Hyatt Credit Card.

I especially value the World Of Hyatt Credit Card for the additional category 1-4 free night (on top of the annual free night) at $15,000 spend and the elite nights earned. You can earn Hyatt top tier Globalist with spend alone, 5 nights for having the card and 2 additional nights for each $5000 spend on the card each year.

Of course that’s largely because I’ve already spent enough on the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card to earn the card’s initial bonus and then enough more to earn a companion pass for the rest of 2020 and all of 2021.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of advertisers Citibank, Chase, American Express, Barclays, Capital One or any other advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.

Comments

  1. Otherwise unbonused spend if you can use mobile wallet: US Bank Altitude 3x points worth 1.5 cents each in US Bank travel portal.

  2. Great summary. But I’ll still offer a couple of quibbles:

    1. Citi Prestige and Premier cards also offer 3x on hotels.
    2. Citi Premier card offers 3X on most other travel categories, in addition to the ones you mentioned. (E.g., I believe Citi Premier offers 3X on parking, public transit, etc.)

    Regardless, thanks for this list.

  3. great, thank you for the reminder and additional info i did not recognize. I wish I could print this list out easily.

  4. You can get 5x Chase UR points pretty much everywhere by buying Visa gift cards at office supply stores dining their frequent fee-free offers and then using them for your regular spend.

  5. @LarryInNYC I thought the same until having to go through documentation/proof wars when my VGCs were twice drained at CA Starbucks and Whole Foods by the time I got them home. Never again.

  6. USB Altitude Reserve gets 3x on travel (and mobile wallet, as another poster already mentioned).

    Also, Wells Fargo Propel gets 3x on gas, and can be turned into 1.5cpp towards travel with their Signature card (both no-AF!)

  7. Gary,

    You ignored general travel (Uber/lyft, taxi, rail, cruise, Airbnb, etc), which is quickly becoming a category that can be as big or larger than airfare and hotels.

    The relevant cards are

    Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x on travel, 10x on Lyft)
    Citi Premier (3x on travel)
    Amex Green (3x on travel)
    Chase Sapphire Preferred (2x on travel, 5x on Lyft)

    Also, you left out Amex Platinum 5x on prepaid (but fully refundable) hotels

  8. Seems strange that even though VFTW does a weekly plug for the Awesome and amazing Chase Sapphire Preferred card, it doesn’t show up as the best card in any category above.

  9. Agree with everything except cellphone bill. I love the 5x on the Chase Ink Cash, but I put my cellphone bill on my Chase Ink Business Preferred for the $500 coverage per cellphone ($600 minus $100 copay), and I have 5 cellphones on my plan, plus and I get 3x.

  10. So I need to apply for the Chase Ink Cash to get gift cards at office supply stores — especially if we have some home improvement projects in the near future? Does this card count on 5/24? (I think not, can’t remember).

    We have a pretty useless Amex Delta card (I can never seem to find a good redemption for Delta miles here in the SF Bay Area even on partners). Should I close and apply for the Amex Gold?

    We have CSR, Chase Business Ink, some southwest cards, United Explorer.

    Thanks Gary.

  11. A big missing piece for airfare and other major purchases: trip insurance coverage and extended warranty.

    That alone disqualifies Citi Prestige for airfare.

    Also the value of transfer partners should be included, I don’t value Citi ThankYou the same as Chase Ultimate Rewards as Amex Membership Rewards. ThankYou is much lower value than the others.

  12. @James Kunz : “14x = 5.6% return even if valuing Hilton points at 0.4” should read:

    “14x = 5.6% return ONLY if valuing Hilton points at 0.4”

  13. Thanks for the list Gary. Could you point out which card bonuses are only applicable if spending in the US and which have foreign transaction fees? For example, the Amex Gold Card only has 4x on groceries in the US and the Citi Double Cash Card has FTF. As a large part of your audience travels for months outside of the US or lives internationally, this would be quite helpful!

  14. Amex Platinum FHR hotel bookings earn 5x points if you choose to prepay (the cancellation policy is still refundable if the “pay at hotel” rate is).

    I’ll often book hotel and airfare on Amex Platinum and get IAP discount, FHR benefits and earn 5x points on both!

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