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The Best Rewards Credit Cards in 2021

In the finance world, credit card usage can get somewhat mixed reviews. Some people, like Dave Ramsey, insist that you should never use a credit card for any reason whatsoever. Others, like myself, enjoy the cash-back rewards from credit card purchases I would be making anyway. If you’re someone who likes earning rewards from your credit card, here are my recommendations of the best rewards credit cards in 2021

This post is written by our talented staff writer, Kate Underwood!

Related: What Dave Ramsey Got Wrong

Guidelines for Smart Credit Card Use

Before we get into the best rewards credit cards in 2021, let’s review a few rules that can help you rack up rewards, not debt. 

  • the best rewards credit cards 2021Aim to pay off your statement balance in full every month. 
  • Don’t spend money you don’t have. 
  • Track your spending. A credit card can be a blessing because it lists your purchases and can even itemize each purchase by category, showing you where you’re overspending each month. 
  • Use all your credit card rewards; don’t let them expire on you!
  • For a few more guidelines on wise credit card usage, check out this great post! 

Figuring Out What You Need In a Rewards Card

To get the most out of a rewards credit card, you need to be strategic. Make sure that when you pick the best rewards credit cards for 2021, that card — and its rewards — will be worth it. 

  • Know your spending habits. 
  • Decide what types of rewards will be most useful (travel, cash, gift cards). 
  • Commit to responsible card use — paying it off in full and on time. 
  • Aim for a no-annual-fee rewards card, unless benefits far outweigh the fee.

Alright, now it’s on to the top rewards credit cards! 

1) Chase Freedom Unlimited 

For a no-fuss, simple rewards credit card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is a solid choice. This is one of the best rewards cards for 2021, paying a flat 1.5% cash back in rewards.  No need to flip-flop between rewards categories or worry that you’re paying more to use the card than the rewards. 

Here are some of the essentials:

  • 1.5% cash back rewards in all categories
  • Flexible reward options
  • No annual fee
  • $200 bonus after you spend $500 in your first three months as an account holder
  • Introductory 0% APR for 15 months (afterward: variable 14.99-23.74% APR)
  • Cash back rewards do not expire

The bonus is easy to qualify for, with only $500 in purchases in 3 months. Most of us can reach that threshold easily with groceries and gasoline purchases.

The rewards are flexible and useful with Chase Freedom Unlimited. Even if you just opt for cash back or a statement credit, it’s almost a no-brainer to use this card to get a few rewards. You’ll earn 1.5% unlimited rewards on all purchases, in every category. 

Types of Rewards

  • Cash back (with no minimum amount)
  • Use points for Amazon shopping
  • Gift cards for restaurants, entertainment, and more
  • Book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards for discounts

2) Chase Freedom 

The Chase Freedom Credit Card is similar to the Chase Freedom Unlimited, but with the potential to earn higher rewards.

Some of the key features of the card are identical to the Chase Freedom Unlimited:

  • No annual fee
  • $200 bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months 
  • 0% APR for 15 months; then variable 14.99-23.74% APR after that
  • Points do not expire while your account remains open

Here’s the key difference (and benefit) with this card: you earn an unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases, but you also earn a whopping 5% cash back on categories that rotate on a quarterly basis. This is limited to $1,500 in purchases, or $75 worth of rewards. 

The bonus 5% categories are usually common spending locations, like supermarkets, gas stations, restaurants, or major retailers. While the categories rotate every quarter, you’re almost guaranteed to earn 5% in rewards on groceries and gas for at least six months of the year. 

FYI, this is the primary card I use. It’s so simple to activate the bonus categories when they switch — they send me an email and I click a link. 

do you need a credit cardTypes of Rewards

  • Cash back/statement credit
  • Use points toward Apple purchases
  • Over 150 gift card brands
  • Use points to book travel, often with great deals
  • Transfer points to IHG Rewards Club Points to book free nights at their 5,600 partner hotels
  • Use points for exclusive Experiences 

3) Capital One Quicksilver Cash Back Card

The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Back Card is another one of the best rewards credit cards for 2021 that makes earning rewards easy. You get 1.5% cash back on all purchases, plus a $150 signup bonus when you spend $500 in your first three months. 

Key Features

  • 1.5% cash back on all purchases
  • $150 bonus after you spend $500 in the first three months as an account holder
  • Introductory 0% APR for 15 months, then 15.49%-25.49% variable APR after that
  • No annual fee
  • No international transaction fees
  • 24-hour travel assistance services
  • No expiration on rewards for the life of the account

Types of Rewards

  • Cash back/statement credit
  • Use points on Amazon purchases
  • Access to Premium Experiences like 5-star meals, backstage concert passes, and more
  • Variety of gift cards

4) Citi Double Cash Card

The Citi Double Cash Card has been one of the best rewards credit cards ever since it stormed the market just a few years ago. It offers 2% cash back on all purchases – 1% when you make the purchase, and 1% when you pay the balance. The typically isn’t a signup bonus, but occasionally they offer $100 rewards if you go to a Citi branch and signup in person. 

Key Features

  • 2.0% cash back on all purchases (1% at purchase, 1% for payment)
  • Introductory 0% APR on balance transfers for 18 months, then 13.99%-23.99% variable APR after that
  • No annual fee
  • No caps and no restricting categories in order to earn points

Types of Rewards

  • Cash back/statement credit
  • Use points for gift cards
  • Payments toward mortgage or student loans
  • Charity

5) Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card 

This is the only card with an annual fee I’m including today. For travelers, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card is a great bet. 

Key Features

  • $69 annual fee
  • Double points on all Southwest purchases
  • 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first three months as a cardholder 
  • 15.99-22.99% variable APR
  • No blackout dates on reward flights

You can likely earn enough rewards to easily balance the cost of the (fairly low) annual fee. Your 40,000 bonus points are a great benefit just for opening an account. Their reward flights have no blackout dates, making it much easier to make the most of your travel rewards.  

Types of Rewards

  • Use points to book flights at 
  • Book hotels and travel
  • Experiences
  • Merchandise
  • Gift cards 

For more on travel rewards cards, check out this post!

Earning Rewards With Credit Cards

The cards listed here are a few of the best rewards cards in 2021 – perfect for people who don’t have a high spending threshold. You can certainly check out other cards that charge an annual fee or offer more complex rewards programs, but these will give you a good start and allow you to earn rewards on your purchases with very little stress!

What do you think of the best rewards credit cards in 2021? Would you add any to the list? Tell us below!  

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My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.

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