The general advice about which credit card is best is going to vary somewhat by individual circumstances — what rewards do you want and just as importantly, what do you spend money on?
Because different card products reward different kinds of spending differently.
It’s been more than six months since I’ve looked at the best credit cards for different types or categories of spending. Since that time American Express has announced changes to their bonus categories for the Hilton cards, and has also capped the cash back earning in bonus categories for Blue Cash (making its 6% rebate far less rewarding at grocery stores).
So as you read this post, consider what you spend the most on? 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. If you buy office supplies (or gift cards at office supply stores), you want a card that gives you the biggest rewards for that category of spending.
So I’ve compiled a list of what I consider to be the best card for several spend:
- Best for gas: Ink Bold® Business Card or Ink Plus® Business Card both offering 2 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar, American Express Premier Rewards Gold 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar. American Express Hilton Surpass card 6 HHonors points per dollar which I do not consider quite as good.
- Best for groceries: American Express Premier Rewards Gold 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar, American Express Hilton Surpass card 6 HHonors points per dollar.
- Best for dining: Chase Sapphire Preferred® 2.14 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar, Citi Forward Card has historically earned 5 Thank You points per dollar but the landing page for the card now says just 2 Thank You points (I marginally preferred the Sapphire Preferred card even when the offer was 5 points for Forward). American Express Hilton Surpass card offers 6 HHonors points per dollar though I consider that inferior as well.
- Best for airline tickets: American Express Premier Rewards Gold 3 Membership Rewards points per dollar
- Best for Car Rentals: Chase Sapphire Preferred 2.14 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar (but I use Diners Club and some will use United Explorer for the primary collision damage waiver)
- Best for hotels: Chase Sapphire Preferred 2.14 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar, although domestic Starwood properties the Starwood Amex makes most sense and domestic Hiltons the Hilton American Express Surpass card earns 12 HHonors points per dollar. Neither card waives foreign transaction fees, so outside the U.S. Sapphire Preferred is still best even for Starwood and Hilton properties.
- Best credit card for online travel purchases: Travelocity American Express can earn up to 10% cash back on purchases made at Travelocity.com.
- Best for office supplies: Ink Bold® Business Card or Ink Plus® Business Card 5 Ultimate Chase Rewards points per dollar, and it’s amazing how many things you can buy from office supply stores including gift cards for iTunes, Starbucks, and Amazon.com and apparently Staples will soon start carrying Apple products.
- Best for telecommunications: Ink Bold® Business Card or Ink Plus® Business Card each earns 5 points per dollar on land lines, cell phones, internet, and cable television.
- Best credit card for foreign transactions: Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 1.07 points per dollar and doesn’t add a foreign transaction fee.
- General purchases: Starwood American Express has a transfer bonus of 5000 miles whenever moving 20,000 miles into an airline program, effectively earning 1.25 miles per dollar, so for everything not bonused by another card this has the highest earn.
For the purpose of ‘best’ in each category I’m ignoring limited-time promotions like Chase Freedom quarterly bonuses. I’m asking the question of which card’s fundamental features are best.
I welcome vigorous challenge, so please let me know in the comments where you disagree with my list, it will help me build an even better list going forward or at least help to flesh out the reasons behind our disagreements which will help readers to figure out what works best for their own circumstances.
Note that some of the cards on the list above do offer me referral credit if you use the links provided. As always I only offer the best offers I’m aware of. And I do very much appreciate it when you use these links, so thank you in advance.