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The best reward cards right now

Reward credit cards offer points, miles, or cash back for each dollar you spend, and some toss in additional perks. So if you pay your balance in full and on time every month, you can make money.

How much? Depends on what you buy the most. Here are the five best reward cards on the market today.

1. Barclaycard Arrival

The perks: This is just like an airline or hotel reward card, but with an important difference: The miles can be redeemed as “statement credits” towards any travel purchase including airfare, lodging, car rentals, tours, or cruises. You earn two miles per dollar spent, and each mile is worth one cent.

Annual fee: $89 annual fee, but that’s waived the first year.

Bottom line: Since you also receive a 10 percent mileage rebate on all redemptions, the rate of return is effectively 2.22 percent of spending.

2. American Express Blue Cash Preferred

The perks: Receive 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 in eligible purchases each year), 3 percent at U.S. gas stations and select department stores, and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases. New cardholders even enjoy a free year of Amazon Prime, which offers free two-day shipping as well as video streaming services.

Annual fee: $75

Bottom line: That 6 percent cash back on up to $6,000 spent at the grocery store is worth as much as $360 per year. Add in the 3 percent at gas stations and department stores, and this card offers the most cash back for most people.

3. American Express Platinum

The perks: This do-everything travel reward card offers value all over the place. You receive a $200 annual credit towards airline fees and a $100 credit towards the Global Entry program offered by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol – which offers expedited customs when entering the country and makes you eligible for streamlined airport screenings with the TSA.

You also receive membership to the Delta SkyClub and Priority Pass lounge programs, which allows you to access hundreds of airport lounges around the world for free. And for each dollar you spend, you earn a point in the American Express Membership Rewards program.  Those can be redeemed for merchandise, gift cards, and travel reservations, or be transferred to miles with 17 different frequent-flier programs.

Annual fee: A steep $450, the highest on this list by far, and among the highest in the industry.

Bottom line: If you’re a frequent traveler, the array of benefits will more than make up for that eye-blinking fee.

4. Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express

The perks: Earn one point per dollar spent, and points can be redeemed for all sorts of rewards – including free hotel stays at Starwood hotels, which include Westin, Sheraton, and other brands. Free nights begin at 2,000 points, are available for any unsold standard room, and you receive your fifth night free when you redeem four consecutive nights.

Points can also be transferred to miles among 30 different frequent-flier programs, and you receive a 5,000-point bonus when you transfer 20,000 points at once.

Annual fee: $65, but that’s waived the first year.

Bottom line: With no blackout dates or capacity controls, your hotel awards easy to redeem. And the ability to transfer points to miles with so many airlines is invaluable.

5. Chase Sapphire Preferred

The perks: Receive one point per dollar spent on all purchases, double points spent at restaurants and on travel, and triple points for travel booked through Chase. You also receive a 7 percent points bonus each year.

Points can be redeemed for cash back, gift cards, and merchandise, or transferred to nine different airline or hotel programs, plus Amtrak Guest Rewards.

Annual fee: $95 that’s waived the first year.

Bottom line: Flexible points and great bonus offers make this one of the most versatile reward cards on the market.

Every Wednesday, Debt.com researches the nation’s best credit card offers and shares the results in plain English. Unlike other sites, we don’t get paid to recommend any card. Please note that perks and fees can change on a moment’s notice and without warning. Got a credit card question? Email editor@debt.com.


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