How to choose the right rewards credit card for you

March 17, 2021

Rewards-based credit cards offer a variety of benefits like travel perks, retail discounts or cash back, so it’s important to find the card that fits your interests and spending habits best.


Credit cards are easy to carry and use, and cardholders who have a rewards credit card can reap additional benefits. Rewards cards might offer travel perks, access to discounts or even give you cash back, and they are becoming more and more common among major credit card companies. According to a 2017 study, the majority of U.S. consumers – 75 percent – have a rewards program attached to their favorite card, compared to 58 percent in 2015. 1

There is no “one size fits all” credit card, and with the variety of rewards credit cards on the market, there are plenty of options to consider.


Types of rewards credit cards

Before you sign up for a rewards credit card, decide which type of rewards you want. Your choices will likely include travel, retail merchandise, points, and cash back. All of these cards have advantages and finding the best card for you will depend on your personal spending habits and needs. Your goal is to choose a credit card with the most relevant rewards for you. Calculators are a great way to see how reward points add up. Use our convenient calculator to see your U.S. Bank reward points.


1. Cash rewards credit cards

Every time you use a cash rewards credit card, you can get back a portion of what you spent. For example, the U.S. Bank Cash+ credit card offers up to 5 percent cash back. Many cash rewards credit cards also come with extra benefits, like access to emergency or travel assistance. Look for extra deals your card might offer. These might include more cash back when you shop at certain stores or buy certain things, like food or gas. You can typically choose to receive the cash as a deposit in one of your bank accounts or as a deduction from your credit card bill.


2. Points rewards credit cards

For those seeking variety and choice in their credit card rewards, points cards are a great option. These cards, such as the U.S. Bank Altitude GO credit card, allow you to accumulate points with each purchase you make. While you can acquire points every time you use the card, certain categories of purchases offer additional points. The U.S. Bank Altitude card offers four times the points for takeout and food delivery expenses, and two times the points for groceries and gas stations. When signing up for a points rewards card, find out the parameters to make sure it fits well your lifestyle and purchase habits.


3. Travel rewards credit cards

If you travel frequently, a travel rewards credit card may be the right fit for you. When you use this type of credit card, you generally earn points that can be redeemed specifically for travel-related expenses, such as airline tickets, seating upgrades, hotel stays, rental cars and travel insurance. Some travel rewards credit cards also offer access to exclusive airport lounges.


4. Retail rewards credit cards

Retail or merchandise rewards cards typically offer extra savings or deals on particular merchandise, such as gas, groceries and goods at favorite retail stores. Retail rewards cards often offer special bonus deals, so understanding all the details can help you maximize your rewards.


5. Premium rewards credit cards

Premium cards, like the Altitude Reserve Visa credit card, tend to include the same type of rewards discussed above, but the rewards are usually expanded. For instance, a premium travel card may also include exclusive benefits like a 24/7 travel concierge. In exchange for these premium rewards, premium cards may have more eligibility requirements and higher fees.


Credit card annual fees, explained

Many rewards credit cards charge an annual fee for the benefits that come with the card, though the amount varies. It’s important to consider these fees when evaluating which rewards cards might be right for you. 

If you anticipate earning more rewards than the cost of the fee, the expense may be worth it. Premium cards usually charge a higher-than-average annual fee in order to provide exclusive services and benefits.


How credit card rewards work

Each time you use your rewards credit card for eligible purchases, you earn points that correspond to the amount spent.

For example, you might earn one point for every dollar. When you accumulate enough points for a credit card reward, you redeem those points based on the parameters of the card you’ve chosen.

Some credit card rewards have certain dollar amount spend limitations per period and expiration dates on credit card reward points earned. Be sure to check for disclosures and fine print to completely understand how the credit card rewards,redemptions and categories work.


Bonus credit card rewards

Rewards credit cards often offer opportunities to earn bonus credit card benefits. When you open a credit card account, you could automatically earn extra bonuses for spending a certain amount in the first few months.

For example, the U.S. Bank Cash+ card provides a special rate for cash back on the first $2,000 spent. For some points-based credit cards, you might also receive more points than normal during the introductory period or for spending a certain amount every quarter or year.

Additionally, some rewards credit cards offer point multipliers when you shop at certain retailers or use the card to pay certain bills.

So, the answer to which credit card has the best rewards comes down to your wants and needs. The most beneficial rewards credit card for you will have a rewards system and categories that fit your unique interests and spending habits.


Ready to find the types of credit card rewards that are right for you?  See what’s possible with a U.S. Bank credit card.

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Loan approval is subject to credit approval and program guidelines. Not all loan programs are available in all states for all loan amounts. Interest rate and program terms are subject to change without notice. Mortgage, home equity and credit products are offered by U.S. Bank National Association. Deposit products are offered by U.S. Bank National Association. Member FDIC.