Skip to main content

What are rewards credit cards & how do they work?

minute read

    Rewards credit cards let you earn points, miles or cash back points from every dollar you spend. The value of your accumulated rewards can vary depending on the type of credit card you have. Many credit cards offer reward programs that offer flexible earning options through department store, grocery and/or dining purchases. Rewards credit cards can also offer generous cardmember bonuses (also known as sign-up offers), which can give you a head-start on accumulating reward points by meeting a certain spend requirement within the first few months of signing up for the card.

    When deciding on the best rewards credit card for you, consider which credit cards and programs align most with your reward preferences and spending habits.

    What kinds of rewards can I get from a credit card?

    Rewards credit cards can provide some of the following perks:

    • Cash back points
    • Miles
    • Travel vouchers
    • Statement credit or reimbursements
    • And more...

    What is the best kind of rewards credit card?

    These types of rewards credit cards can help you earn you points or miles based on various earn programs. You may want to research the rewards programs best for you based on your shopping and spending habits.

    General credit cards

    Your credit card may allow you to earn reward points through everyday spending. You can typically earn 1-3 points for every $1 spent, usually through department store, restaurants, grocery store, gas station, and travel purchases. Traditional credit cards may offer cash back, mile or reward point programs. The rewards earned through a general card may have flexible redemption options in the form of gift cards, statement credit, and cash back.

    Travel credit cards

    Travel, airline and hotel credit cards may offer many earning opportunities from travel-related purchases. With a travel card, you can earn anywhere from 2-5 points for every $1 spent on flights and hotels. You can also earn points on non-travel related purchases at a lower rate, say 1 point for every $1 spent. The value-per-mile and point redemption systems can vary greatly depending on the type of travel credit card and the types of rewards you are looking to redeem. Travel cards may also offer partner-specific cards with select airline or hotel chains as well as loyalty and elite membership offerings.

    Cash back cards

    Cash back credit cards offer flexibility for earning rewards on everyday purchases. Making purchases with a cash back credit card allows you to earn points from purchases in select categories. Your credit card may offer promotional cash back opportunities in rotating categories, such as 5% cash back in department store purchases one quarter and 5% cash back on gas station charges the next quarter. You can usually also leverage your cash back points as a statement credit toward your credit card balance. You can also request a check or direct deposit for the cash back value of your points or redeem them for gift cards on the rewards portal platform.

    What is the best rewards card?

    You'll get the most out of a rewards credit card by choosing one that allows you to earn the most rewards based on your lifestyle and spending habits. If you are a frequent traveler who is consistently booking flights, hotels, car rentals and more, you may benefit from a travel, airline or hotel credit card. You'll earn generous point and mile accumulation on travel-specific purchases that can be redeemed towards flights or hotel stays.

    If you typically use your credit card for everyday spending and don't plan on traveling frequently, you can rack up points from your usual purchases to redeem for gift cards to restaurants and retailers and other perks. Rewards credit cards can be a great way to accumulate around your unique spending habits and allow you to enjoy some perks like travel upgrades when it is most convenient for you.

    What to read next