Updated Best Rewards Card for Each Category of Spending

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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.

If you drive a ton you want a card that maximizes gas spend. If you eat out a lot, there are cards that bonus restaurant spend. Since I travel a lot it’s air, hotel, and dining. Some cards are great for multiple categories.

I’ve been a big fan and user of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card for many years which gives you double points for both travel and dining. It’s the best all-around card for people getting started seriously collecting miles and points. Sapphire Reserve can be tough to get approved for so getting Chase Sapphire Preferred, waiting a year, and then product changing may be the best strategy to get it.

I’ve compiled a list of what I consider to be the best card for several spend:

  • Best for gas: Citi Premier℠ Card earns 3 ThankYou points per dollar on gas. Those points transfer to a variety of airline frequent flyer mileage programs. I value that like a 4.8% rebate. PenFed’s Platinum Reward Visa Signature earns 5x on gas.

  • Best for groceries: The American Express® Gold Card earns 4 points per dollar at US supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year) and I value that as a 7.2% rebate.

  • Best for dining: Citi Prestige Card earns 5 points per dollar and those points transfer to a variety of airline programs. I value American Express points more and the American Express® Gold Card earns 4 points per dollar at restaurants.

  • Best for airline tickets:Platinum Card by American Express earns 5 points per dollar on airfare booked directly with airlines. So does the Citi Prestige Card but American Express points are far more valuable in my view.

  • Best for Car Rentals: Chase Sapphire Reserve Card 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar and the card offers primary collision when you rent with it.

  • Best for hotels: Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve 3 points per dollar. Although individual hotel cards may be better, for instance Chase points transfer 1:1 to Hyatt but the World Of Hyatt Credit Card earns 4 points per dollar on Hyatt spend and that’s more lucrative.

  • Best for shipping: Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card 3 points per dollar.

  • Best for Social and Search Advertising: Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card 3 points per dollar on Facebook ads, Google advertising, etc.

  • Best for Office Supplies and for internet, telephone, and cable TV: If you have a Chase card whose points transfer to airline miles like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card — the best strategy is to get the Chase Ink Cash Card which offers 5 points per dollar (but whose points don’t transfer to miles), move those over to your Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, and from there to miles or points in your preferred program.

  • General purchases: The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express earns 2 points per dollar on all spend for your first $50,000 in purchases per year (1 point thereafter). At two points per dollar on all spend this the best most rewarding card for otherwise-unbonused spend.

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.


  1. For general spending I am not sure the Citi Double Card is best. I rather put spending on the Chase Freedom Unlimited that gives me 1.5 points on all spending and then transfer them to the CSR.
    Another option is to put all spending that can be done via Apple Pay on the Altitude US Bank card and get 3 points for everything. Does anybody agree?

  2. Oh no, another article touting using credit cards for gas. If you are not getting a minimum of 10% back in cash from buying discounted gift cards with a cash back CC, you have failed.

  3. @Sam, problem is that it’s hard to use an AMEX card everywhere. I just spent a month away mostly in northern Spain. I spent a lot on meals and drinks (over $2000 in 48 transactions) and NOT ONE restaurant or cafe I went to would accept AMEX, so I used a Chase Sapphire Reserve card for 3 points per $1 which I consider slightly better than 4x MR points.

    Only negative was that a number of restaurants coded as something else and earned only 1 point per $1 spent.

    Not to mention that earlier I was in Australia and the Hilton Hotel in Melbourne would not accept my Hilton Aspire card! Pathetic.

  4. @Frank I know what you mean. Every now and then that find Amex accepted places abroad, but not often. Last time I was in Europe though, my Chase Sapphire Reserve wouldn’t work at any restaurant. They kept telling me I needed to use a different card after several unsuccessful attempts at each place. I replaced the card when I got home just in case it was due to damage, but still… It sucked that I couldn’t get any bonused spend for dining anywhere.

  5. Shipping – 4x Amex Business Gold (if one of highest 2 spending categories monthly)
    Social and search advertising – 4x Amex Business Gold (if one of highest 2 spending categories monthly)
    Groceries – 4.5x Amex EveryDay Preferred (if 30+ total transactions per month)
    Gas – 3x Amex EveryDay Preferred (if 30+ total transactions per month)
    – 4x Amex Business Gold (if one of highest 2 spending categories monthly)
    Hotels – 10x Capital One Venture Card on Hotels.com (promo thru 1/20, hopefully will be extended; stacks with Hotels.com stay 10 nights get 1 night free)

  6. If I were to get all the cards listed in this post, I would be a mile wide and an inch deep with points sprinkled across MR, UR, TYP, Hyatt, and PenFed. It would take me years to have enough points for a redemption in any of those ecosystems. Better to pick one points currency and put together a combination of cards that all earn in that currency. That’s what I call optimization.

    By the way, the PenFed 5x on gas only equals 4% on gas because the points are worth less than one cent each.

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