How to Pick the Right Rewards Credit Card


4 minute read

When used correctly, credit cards can be a great way to earn cash back or points from money you are already spending. Of course, credit cards can also be financially dangerous if not used properly. Before you apply for a rewards credit card, ask yourself these two things:

  1. Can you pay off your credit card bills in full each month? If not, the rewards you receive will likely be negated by the interest you will pay for carrying a balance.
  2. Will you be able to meet the minimum spend? Most rewards credit cards that come with big bonuses require you to spend a specific amount of money on the card within 3-6 months. So, if you’re planning to scale back on your spending, it might not be the best time to apply for a new card.

What is the Best Credit Card?

If you considered the above questions and still feel ready to apply for a new credit card, you might be wondering which credit card to apply for. The true answer here is it depends on your own spending, goals, and objectives. There is no catch all approach that will work for everyone, nor should there be since each person spends their money differently. For example, a young, single professional in NYC will likely spend a lot on restaurants, food delivery, bars and clubs, rideshares such as Uber and Lyft, and way less on groceries, gas, and wholesale stores. Meanwhile, a head of household living in the suburbs with a young family typically spends more on groceries, gas, and home improvement stores, and way less on restaurants, bars, and rideshares.

These two types of people require vastly different credit cards to maximize their reward earnings. Here we break down the credit cards that would best suit each.

Young Professional

  • Best served by the American Express Gold card and/or the Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Both earn highly on restaurants and bars and food delivery (Gold 4x, Sapphire 3x)
  • Both earn 3x on flights
  • Sapphire earns 3x on Ubers and other travel 
  • These cards both come with a high annual fee ($250 for Gold and $550 for Reserve), but the fees are offset by additional perks
    • The $250 annual fee for the Gold card is offset by $10 a month in Uber credits, $10 a month in Seamless credits, and a $100 airline fee reimbursement. 
    • The Sapphire’s annual fee of $550 is offset by $300 in travel credits (during COVID grocery store and gas stations purchases also count). 

Suburban Family

  • Best served by the AMEX Blue Cash Preferred Card as it earns 6% cash back on groceries and supermarkets, 6% cash back on streaming, and 3% back on gas and other transit.
  • The annual fee is waived the first year, then $95 a year with a $300 signup bonus, so the annual fee is offset for the first 4 years. 

All of this is simply helping the user maximize their rewards from the spend they are already doing. It is not factoring in their goals and objectives. Do they want to maximize cash back? Do they want to maximize points and miles? Or do they have a specific trip in mind they want to save for? All of these factors will change the best card to use for an individual. 

How to Determine The Best Credit Card for You

We built Card Curator with a bespoke algorithm to take the guesswork out of maximizing credit cards for your unique goals. The app examines a user’s spending patterns when they integrate their transactions with our secure banking partner MX and asks them what their goals are so it can tell you exactly how to maximize your credit cards in order to reach your goal.

The app at its simplest level tells the user which card is the best to use for a given purchase, and at its most complex will tell the user which cards they need to get, in the right order, to achieve their dream vacation. You can also use the handy checklist below to help you determine what is most important to you.

  • Do you need flexibility? If so, a transferable program travel card such as an American Express or Chase is probably your best option.
  • Do you have a favorite airline you fly regularly? If you have an airline that you fly regularly by choice (or its the main airline from your hometown hub), you could massively benefit from airline card benefits. All of the major airlines have credit cards that offer a variety of benefits.
  • Do you have a favorite hotel chain? Much like airline credit cards, having a credit card for a specific hotel chain can offer you benefits that a more flexible card, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, cannot offer.
  • Do you greatly value lounge access? If so, cards with a heftier annual fee such as the American Express Platinum, provide you access to the Centurion lounges.

Ready to start earning more from your credit cards? Download the app in the Apple App Store or Google Play and you’ll be on your dream trip in no time.

Written by John Garner
John Garner is the founder & CEO of Card Curator. John spent 5+ years as a volatility trader for Merrill Lynch before deciding to start Card Curator and follow his real passion: credit card rewards and travel. To date, he has visited almost 90 countries by using rewards earned from 100+ credit cards. He’s an expert in all things related to credit cards and free travel, and loves helping others crack the code in the points and miles game.

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