I receive compensation for content and many links on this blog. Citibank is an advertising partner of this site, as is American Express, Chase, Barclays and Capital One. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners. I do not write about all credit cards that are available -- instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same). Terms apply to the offers and benefits listed on this page.
Rewards credit cards deliver value in three distinct ways:
- Initial bonus offer, a big up front offer that lets you earn rewards quickly
- Benefits for having the card, might include lounge access, elite status, trip coverage
- Rewards for ongoing spend, a valuable currency hopefully earned faster than one mile at a time
And banks make money offering these cards in three distinct ways:
- Merchant swipe fees, the amount they take from each purchase to process the charge
- Customer revolve, interest on balances when you don’t pay off your card in full
- Fees, most notably annual fees
Customers who pocket big bonuses, use their rewards, and spend most heavily in the fastest earning spending categories — all while paying off their card in full each month — may not wind up being a profitable customer for a bank.
That’s especially true with the richest rewards cards, however those also come with the heftiest annual fees. I have several high annual fee cards, but I get value out of each one. I’ve worked out how much I get from the benefits, and I’ll only get and keep the card if the spread between benefits and cost isn’t even close.
Not everyone is willing to apply for a $450 or $550 annual fee credit card. So here are some of the best value cards with annual fees less than $100 that deliver the strongest benefits and rewards.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card lets you earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. The card earns 2 points per dollar on travel and dining at restaurants. It has a $95 annual fee.
Points transfer to United, Hyatt, Southwest, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines, Air France KLM, JetBlue, Aer Lingus, Iberia, Marriott, IHG Rewards Club.
- Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card has a huge offer to earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. The card has a $95 annual fee, and offers cell phone coverage.
It earns 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year. And points also transfer to United, Hyatt, Southwest, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines, Air France KLM, JetBlue, Aer Lingus, Iberia, Marriott, IHG Rewards Club.
Park Hyatt Vendome Paris
- Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card. This is a no annual fee Visa card that has an initial bonus offer to earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Ongoing spend earns 1.5% cash back on every purchase made for your business — or treat is as 1.5 points per dollar, and transfer those points to a Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred Card and then you can transfer the points to airline miles or hotel points. That means your spend never has to earn less than 1.5 miles per dollar that deposit into a choice of programs.
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card has an initial bonus of 125,000 Hilton Honors points after $2,000 in eligible purchases with the product in your first 3 months of card membership.
Each year you spend $15,000 on the card you’ll earn a weekend night reward, and $40,000 in a calendar year earns Hilton Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year.
Ongoing earn is 12 Hilton points per dollar on purchases directly with a participating hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio; 6 per dollar at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations; and 3 per dollar for all other eligible purchases.
The real winner here is that it’s just a $95 annual fee card (See Rates & Fees) and still offers Priority Pass airport lounge access, 10 free visits every year.
Escape Lounge, Reno
- Citi® Double Cash Card is one of the absolute strongest cash back cards. It has no annual fee and earns 2% back on purchases (1% when you buy and 1% as you make payments for those purchases). This card’s points have become transferable to ThankYou points.
- The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express is the strongest points-earning no annual fee card (See rates and fees). You earn 2 points per dollar on your first $50,000 in purchases per year, and those are full Membership Rewards points that transfer to airline miles.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, click here.