The Top Ten (Family-Friendly) Rewards Credit Cards of 2018

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reward credit cards

Are you wondering if a rewards credit card is worth your time? Today we are going through and reviewing the Top 10 Rewards Credit Cards of 2018. To read about each of our individual card reviews, simply click through our individual review section in the table below. 

Here Are The Best Reward Credit Cards of 2018!

Product Image

Product Name

Reviews

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Capital One Venture Card

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Chase Sapphire Reserve

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Discover It Miles Card

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US Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature Card

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Wells Fargo Rewards Card

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Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

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Chase Freedom

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Citi Double Cash Card

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Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

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American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

What is a Rewards Credit Card? 

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A rewards credit card will give you incentives and monetary rewards for the amount of money you place on your card.   Reward credit cards come in many different forms.  But all will give you a benefit of some type or another for spending money and putting it on their card.  You earn a certain number of rewards for each dollar that you charge on each particular card.  Each type has its own rules and system for what they will reward you with. They also may have rules for how you need to spend the points earned.  For example, some rewards cards will give you incentives for spending money in certain areas or on specific purchases.

There are dozens upon dozens of rewards cards out there to choose from.  So how do you know which one or ones to choose?  I'm so glad that you asked. That is exactly what we are discussing in our article today.  Not all reward cards are created equal.  The trick is finding the best rewards card to match your interests and give you the best benefits. 

Different Kinds of Rewards Cards

Cash Rewards

They usually have the simplest terms and are easiest to understand and use.  Some credit cards only allow you to redeem your cash rewards as a credit to your account. Other cards will make a deposit into your bank account or send you a check when you want to collect your rewards.  You also may be able to use your rewards to purchase gift cards to stores.  Some credit cards have rules like you have to redeem your rewards in certain increments such as $20 or with a minimum amount.

Point Rewards

These are based on the given dollar amount that you spend.  For example, you may get 1 point per every $1 that you spend.  Points can be redeemed for merchandise in a rewards program online website.  Depending on the credit card, you may be able to redeem your points for cash, travel, or gift cards.  Some merchants then partner up with the credit card company and give you an additional incentive to spend your point rewards with them.  For example, a merchant may offer you 15% off if you spend your points with them.  Point rewards cards may also include auto and hotel rewards cards.

Mile Rewards

These will give you miles that you can redeem for airline tickets.  With each dollar that you spend, you will earn points by the certain distance (in miles) that you traveled.  Each credit card will have their own set number of miles that you can earn and travel with according to how much you spend on their card.  If you are a frequent flier and don't have a rewards card, it really may be worth your time to get a mile rewards card.

What is the Most Popular Rewards Card? 

U.S. News conducted a study to learn about reward preferences with card holders.  The survey revealed that cash back was the most popular type of rewards card out there.  Next in line was travel rewards.  Gift card rewards were the third most popular type of rewards card.  In that same study, they found out that though people are good at earning rewards, many are not very good at maximizing their values.  Many were carrying a balance from month to month.  Rewards cards are not the type of card that you will want to carry a balance on because of the high interest rates that you will be paying monthly.

Pros and Cons of Having a Rewards Credit Card

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Pros

Sign up Bonuses

Some credit cards offer sign up bonuses.  The card issuers do this to attract new customers.  These bonuses can include money bonuses, free airline tickets, and more.  Most card issuers that give sign up bonuses will require that you meet certain spending thresholds within the first few months of opening the account.  Some cards require no annual fees and offer money back for signing up.  Other cards have a smaller annual fee, but offer great rewards for airline travel.

Cash Back

Who wouldn't want cash back for money you spend.  Ideally, I'd like $1 back for every dollar I spend.  Well, that is a nice thought but unfortunately there is not a rewards card that good.  But, you can get some money back for every dollar you spend.  And every penny adds up.

Cons

Annual Fees

When annual fees cost more than the amount of rewards you will get back, it really makes no sense to get a rewards card in the first place.  Annual fees can range from no fee to $500 or more a year.  This may sound silly to pay a fee just to get rewards, but if you will be getting more rewards back than the fees that you pay, it may just be worth it.  When deciding if a fee is too high or not, make a list of everything the card offers specifically for you and what you already spend, and then compare it to the fee you will pay.  If the rewards you will receive don't equal up to the annual fees you will pay, then it will makes no financial sense to get a card with that particular annual fee. 

Interest

 If you are not careful and let spending add up on your card without paying it off each month, you could fall into some debt.  A little debt has a way of accumulating into a higher debt.  It's important to keep an eye on your spending and be diligent on paying it back or you will be charged interest.   The more spending on your card that is not paid back, the higher amount you will be throwing away in interest. 

Best Credit Cards for Cashback

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  • 1
    Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express
  • 2
    Chase Freedom
  • 3
    Citi Double Cash Card

Best Credit Cards for Airline and Travel

  • 1
    Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
  • 2
    Barclayard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

Best Credit Cards for Gas Rewards

  • 1
    Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express
  • 2
    Chase Freedom

Things To Have Before Getting a Rewards Credit Card

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Before you get your first rewards credit card, ideally you will have built up some credit.  You can build up credit by showing that you've paid off loans and kept up to date on bills.  If you've been turned in to a collections agency for a utility bill or any other reason, your credit history will need to be rebuilt.  Some credit cards may require you to put cash in equal to your credit limit until you have built up a positive credit score.

Once you get a credit card and pay your bill in full each month, you will build a credit history and restrictions will be released.  It helps to be over 21 years of age and have a steady income in order to get a credit card.  If you are under the age of 21, a parent or guardian may be required to co-sign your application.

Where To Start To Get a Rewards Credit Card

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You can apply for a rewards card whenever you feel you are ready to apply.  For most of the rewards cards you can apply online.  There are some exceptions.  For example, with the Wells Fargo Rewards Card, you must have a Wells Fargo Deposit Account or apply in person to get a card from them.  You will want to make sure you have a good enough credit score or you may be turned down for some of the cards.

How To Stay Out of Debt

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One of the pitfalls for many people is finding that they are in serious credit card debt. There are ways to stay out of credit card debt.  I'm going to go over some of those ways.

  1.  Pay off your bill each month.  If you do need to carry a debt, try to do it for a short amount of time and then pay it off.
  2. If you must carry credit card debt, don't carry it on a rewards card.  Rewards cards are known for their high interest rates.  If you need to put a purchase on a credit card that you know you won't  be able to pay off in a month, then put it on a low interest credit card, not on a rewards card.
  3. Don't carry too many rewards cards until you're out of debt.  If you have a large amount of rewards cards, try to go through and find some that you could do without.  If you are paying an annual fee on ones that you are not using, then by all means get rid of those first.
  4. Try to avoid rewards cards with monthly fees unless you are certain that you will get paid back more in rewards than the fee that you are paying.
  5. Get creative.  I've heard of some people who have framed bills and debt amounts that they have climbed out of. They did this to remember and be motivated to not go into that kind of debt ever again.
  6. Say No To Temptation.  Sometimes you need to stop and count to 10 and ask yourself if you really need another rewards card.  You also may need to pause and ask yourself if you truly need an item that you know you won't be able to pay off in a month's time.
  7. Watch that you aren't spending more on a purchase just to accumulate rewards points.  Points are there to reward you for purchases that you were going to buy without the incentive of a rewards card. Don't fall into the trap that so many people have fallen into by spending more so that that they can see reward points accumulate.

Our Top 10 Rewards Credit Card Picks

Capital One Venture Card

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This card is very straightforward to use.  It also has a good rewards structure that is also user friendly.  The sign up bonuses are generous and it has some good travel rewards. This is a good card for those who travel a lot and want to earn extra miles without having to jump through hoops.  You need to have excellent credit to get this card.  A disadvantage to this card is that there is a $95 annual fee, though they waive the first year's fee.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

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This card is meant for individuals who qualify for the high sign on bonus.  It's a good card to have for people who are frequent flyers and people looking for a Chip and Pin credit card to use in Europe.  It's also good for people who like a lot of brand exclusive bonuses and elite status with hotels.  A big disadvantage to this card is the huge $450 annual fee.  If you will be using this card a lot, it does have some great advantages.  Chase Sapphire Reserve provides users 3x the points on travel and dining at restaurants, and 1x the points everywhere else. To qualify for this card, you must spend at least $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.  According to this card issuer, the bonus is worth up to $750, when redeemed for travel.

Discover It Miles Card

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With most rewards cards, you must choose between cash back or miles.  But with Discover It Miles Card they allow you to redeem miles for either travel credit or cash back at the same rate. This card has no annual fee and you get 1.5 miles per dollar spent.

A disadvantage to this card is that this card is not accepted internationally as widely as many other cards are.  Also, if you are not a big spender, this card is not going to be your best option.  A card with a higher rewards rate and a fee would offer more value to those who plan on spending a lot.  For the occasional vacationer this card may be a perfect option, but for those who spend more than $5,000 each year on travel and dining out, a Chase Sapphire Reserve would be a better fit.

U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature Card

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The U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature card has a $49 annual fee and offers one of the highest airfare redemption rates that you can get.  It also offers an airline fee credit towards rewards-funded flights and several other perks.  With this card you will have over 150 airlines to choose from. There are no redemption fees and no blackout dates.  You can redeem your points for travel, gift cards, and merchandise.

This card does impose some restrictions though.  A disadvantage to this card is that it has a lower redemption value for non-flight related rewards purchases.  This card also has a tight redemption structure.  You can only book travel in units of 100 and there is no point transfer to other frequent flyer programs.  Another disadvantage to this card is that points are reduced to 0.5.1 after you spend $120,000.

Wells Fargo Rewards Card

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With this card there is no annual fee.  Cardholders earn what is called "Go Far Rewards," which is Wells Fargo's rewards currency.  Because of favorable redemption rates on airline fees, this card is good for travelers who aren't loyal to one specific airline.  This card offers a wide range of redemption options including cash.  A sign up bonus favors grocery and gas spending.  You also will get a long introductory APR.

There are some disadvantages to this card.  After the 6-month bonus window, this card earns rewards at just 1 point per $1 spent.  Another disadvantage is that you must have a Wells Fargo Deposit Account or apply in person to get a card from them.  This card has some requirements such as you must accumulate at least $25 in Go Far Rewards before you can redeem for bank account deposits and statement credits.  You must have $20 in rewards before you can redeem at the ATM. This card also has a 3% foreign transaction fee for anyone who travels outside of the U.S. with regularity.

Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

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With this rewards card you can get cash back rewards on common household supplies and foods at U.S. grocery stores and U.S. gas stations.  You earn 6% cash back for your purchases at U.S. Supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases) and then 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select department stores.  A disadvantage is that after a year the percent of cash that you get back drops to 1%.  A lot of people sign up because you get a $200 statement credit if you spend $1,000 with this card within the first 3 months of opening the account.

There is restrictions on what is considered a supermarket.  Big stores that also sell electronics and camping supplies, etc. are not considered supermarkets according to this card.  So, Walmart and Target are excluded from the list of supermarkets that you can earn cash back points from.  Another disadvantage with this card is that there is a $95 annual fee and it's not as widely accepted as Visa and Mastercard.  A 2.7 foreign transaction fee is another downside to this card if you happen to be an overseas traveler.

Chase Freedom Rewards Card

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The Chase Freedom credit card was designed for people who want to earn cash rewards on their credit card spending.  People who have fair to excellent credit with a credit score of 660 or better can qualify.  In addition to the rewards with this card, Chase Freedom offers 0 percent interest for the first 15 billing cycles on spending and also balance transfers. Then you get between 12.99 to 22.99 APR after the introductory period ends.  The APR will depend on your credit history.  Cash advances carry a higher APR.  The card's penalty is very high at 29.99%.

The Chase Freedom Card doesn't have any annual fees and it has higher than average cash back rewards.  Rewards can also be redeemed for merchandise, travel, and gift cards. The unlimited rewards never expire.  A con is that you must sign up to get the 5 percent cash back premium.

Citi Double Cash Card

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This card gives you 1% cash back on all purchases.  Then you get another 1% cash back when you pay them off.  There is no limit on how much you can earn.  There is no annual fee.

A disadvantage to this card is that it has no sign-up bonus. It also doesn't offer ways to earn more that its based rewards rate.  Another disadvantage to this card is that if you quit using the card, your reward balances will expire in 12 months.  If you want to keep your rewards in place, you will need to at least make minor purchases with the card at least once every 12 months to prevent expiration of your rewards. 

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

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​​​​This rewards card is a travel credit card designed for people who want a flat-rate rewards credit card that earns miles on every expense you place on it.  Cardholders earn 2 miles on all purchases made with the card with no limit and also 5 percent miles back when earned miles are redeemed.  The miles with this card never expire.  Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard cardholders can earn 40,000 bonus miles after $3,000 in purchases are made on the card within the first 90 days.  There is an annual fee of $89 but it is waived for the first year.  Card holders of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard do not pay foreign transaction fees.

A disadvantage to this card is that cardholders must have at least 5,000 miles accumulated before redemption can be requested.  Another disadvantage to the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard is that there is a flat rate of 2 miles per dollar for purchases made with the card. However, there are no bonus categories that give you the opportunity for higher earnings.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card

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With this card, you can earn 25,000 membership reward points after you use your new card to make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.  With this rewards card you will get 3 times the points for flights booked directly within airlines.  You will get 2 times the points at US restaurants, gas stations, and supermarkets.  Points on other purchases will earn 1 times the points.  Other perks are that you will receive $100 on airline fee credits and up to $100 a calendar year for baggage fees at one airline.  You will also receive a $75 hotel credit on qualifying charges, plus room upgrade when you arrive.

The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is not without some disappointments.  First, there is the large annual fee of $195.  This fee is waived for only the first year and then you will incur the hefty charge every year.  Another disappointment is that this is only a charge card.  You can't carry a balance on it. The amount spent must be paid off each month.

Tiered vs. Flat Rewards

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Tiered Rewards Programs

Tiered rewards programs give higher rewards to people who spend more using their card.  The credit card provider will set different spending thresholds to which reward earning rates apply.  Tiered rewards can be confusing to customers because of the way the credit card companies tries to explain them.  Sometimes it may even seem like they are trying to make it as confusing as possible.  Just take your time and read the fine print before deciding if a card is right for you or not.

Flat Rates Rewards Programs

Flat rates rewards programs will give you a certain percentage on each purchase.  Flat rates are a very popular choice because you get money back and a solid reward for carrying a card.

How Rewards Credit Cards Operate

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The best rewards card program are available to people who apply and have the best credit card scores.  If your credit card score is low, you most likely will not qualify for any reward cards at all.  If your credit card score is mediocre, then you may qualify for some rewards cards, but not the best ones.

Rewards cards most often have higher fees and cost more than regular credit cards. Annual fees are more common in rewards cards than in regular credit cards. Reward card fees can be as high as $200 and sometimes even more.  Rewards cards also typically have higher interest rates than regular credit cards.  It's wise to not carry a balance on a rewards card.

Understanding how reward programs work, however, is usually fairly simple.  Just make sure to always read the fine print.  For example, a program may say that you will earn a certain percent as cash back.  But, the fine print may explain that this only applies after you've spent a certain amount on the card that year.  There may also be restrictions, caps, and minimum redemption amounts that make it hard to get your rewards.

Credit card rewards programs may change their rewards programs without directly informing the cardholder with a phone call.  It's important to read everything that comes with your bill each month.  They may say that they've informed you, but the changes could be unexpected and hidden with your billing statement.

Be aware that some rewards may expire if you don't use them in a certain amount of time. Some rewards programs have rewards that will not expire.  But those rewards programs are few and far between.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Rewards Cards

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With so many different rewards cards, it may get confusing to choose the card that is in your best interest.  There are dozens upon dozens of reward cards to choose from.  How do you pick the right one for you, and where do you start?  I'm going to give you some tips for not only choosing, but for getting the most out of your rewards card.

  1.  Align your rewards with what you like - Rewards cards will allow you to accumulate points towards gift cards, travel miles, merchandise, cash back, and more.  Think about what your interests are and align those interests with a rewards card that matches them.  If you are always dreaming about traveling to far off places, than pick a card that will give travel rewards.  Whatever you do, do not pick a rewards card that you aren't likely to use.  And don't pick rewards cards that entice and tempt you to spend more money.
  2. When in Doubt Go For Cash Back Cash-back reward cards give you the most choices available of all the cards.  That is because you will get to choose how you will spend the money that you get back.  If you like to travel, then you don't necessarily need a travel card.  A cash back card might help you to save up for that trip you've been wanting to take.  Cash back rewards cards will give you the most freedom in deciding how and when you want to spend your rewarded money.
  3. Minimize and Dump Less Rewarding Cards - If you have a whole purse or wallet filled with rewards cards that you seldom use, it may be time to get rid of some of them.  Evaluate carefully if you are using the rewards cards that have annual fees to see if they are truly worth keeping.  If you decide to get rid of some, you may not want to close them all out at once, because it could impact your credit score.  Consider keeping one or two of your oldest cards open.
  4. Try To Get By With One Rewards Card - If possible, try to narrow down the number of cards that you are using to one card.  Then put all of your spending on that one card.  That way you are maximizing what you will get from that rewards program.
  5. Manage Your Cards by Making Weekly Payments - If necessary, you may want to make weekly payments online, so you don't come up with unexpected surprises all at once.  This little trick may help you keep your spending under control.  It also may help you budget your money better.
  6. Make Sure To Keep An Eye On When Your Rewards Expire - There's nothing quite as wasteful or disappointing to find that all of the points that you accumulated have expired before you got to spend them.  Make sure to keep a watchful eye on those expiration dates in the fine print.  Many rewards expire every 12 to 18 months.  Some will continue to accumulate and not expire for 24 months.  The best cards have rewards that never expire.  Make sure to know when your rewards expire.  Mark it on your calendar if that's what it takes to remember the dates.
  7. Keep Track of Changes in Terms - Credit card companies change terms frequently and quietly.  They are required to notify you, but that notification may show up in fine print on your monthly statement.  Be diligent about reading your monthly statements and also any notifications that they send you.

Conclusion

Having a rewards card can make a lot of sense.  You get rewards ranging from airline miles to cash back on everyday spending.  Not all rewards cards are created equal.  Some have high annual fees, while others have no fees and sign on bonuses.  Each have their own sets of pros and cons.  I've gone over a lot of what you need to know when looking for a rewards card.  The card should fit your interests and your spending.  I've also talked about how rewards programs operate and what to watch out for.  Be careful that you don't accumulate too many rewards cards that you aren't using.  Especially be wary of rewards cards with annual fees.  Only get those if you are sure that the amount of rewards you will get will surpass the annual fee. The goal for me in writing this article is to help you pick a rewards card and get the most out of it.  I hope I've helped you in both of those areas. Happy shopping!

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Mariann Foster is one of our content writers here at OurStart. Mariann is a certified reading specialist who enjoys homeschooling her daughter and taking care of her alpacas in her spare time. She lives in Wyoming on an alpaca farm with her daughter and their various collection of big and small animals. Being a mother is her greatest gift, so she hopes she can help to encourage other moms through her writing.

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