Posted by William Charles on April 17, 2017
Credit Cards

Published on April 17th, 2017 | by William Charles


Best Credit Cards For Every Day Purchases

We’ve recently looked at credit cards that earn at a high rate on specific categories, but one of the most important cards to have is one that earns at a high rate on all purchases. This should be used as your baseline card, below we’ve outlined your best options when it comes to these purchases.

This post is affiliate link free. If you think we’re missing any cards then please let us know in the comments section or by using the contact us page.

It’s also important to keep in mind that you can often earn at a higher rate by employing some basic manufactured spending strategies (e.g purchasing prepaid Visa, MasterCard or AmEx gift cards or similar with a card that has a high category bonus).


Personal Credit Cards

American Express Starwood Preferred Guest, 1x Point & $95 Annual Fee

Card only earns 1x on all purchases, but some people highly value these points (either for redeeming on SPG properties or for the ability to transfer to many airline partners at a rate of 1:1 and get a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred).

AmEx Everyday No Annual Fee, 1-1.2 Membership Rewards Points, No Annual Fee

This card earns membership rewards points on all purchases at a rate of 1x point per $1 spent, if you make more than 20 purchases per month you get a 20% bonus on all points earned meaning this card would earn at a rate of 1.2x points on all purchases.

You’d need to value these points at 1.67¢ or more for it to beat out a card that earns at 2% cash back.

Capital One Quicksilver, 1.5% Cash Back, No Annual Fee

This card earns at a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases and has no annual fee. It’s a decent card, but the cards below offer better value.

AmEx Everyday Preferred, 1-1.5x Membership Rewards Points $95 Annual Fee Waived First Year

Our full review

This card earns membership rewards points on all purchases at a rate of 1x point per $1 spent. If you make more than 30 purchases per month you get a 50% bonus, meaning this card would earn 1.5x points on all purchases. It does come with a hefty annual fee of $95 per year which is waived the first year.

You’d need to value membership rewards points at 1.34¢ each or more to beat out a card that earns at 2% cash back. This isn’t taking into account the annual fee of $95.

 Chase Freedom Unlimited: 1.5x Chase Ultimate Rewards, No Annual Fee

This card earns 1.5x Chase Ultimate Rewards per $1 spent with no annual fee. These points are worth 1¢ each when redeeming for cash and you can transfer them to travel partners if you have a premium Chase card (e.g Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Ink Plus)

Capital One Venture Miles Rewards: 1-2% Cash Back, $59 Annual Fee

This card earns 2 miles per $1 spent on all purchases. When you redeem for cash or statement credit these points are only worth 0.5¢ each. When you redeem against travel expenses points are worth 1¢ each which would make it a 2% cash back card. You can also redeem for gift cards and get the same 1¢ in value. There is an annual fee of $59.

Barclays Arrival Plus: 1-2.1% Cash Back, $89 Annual Fee Waived First Year

Our full review

This card earns 2 miles per $1 spent. These miles are worth differing values depending on what you redeem them for. If you redeem these miles against charges that are not travel related they are only worth 0.5¢ each which would make this a straight 1% cash back card and rather ordinary.

If you redeem these miles against charges that are travel related you get 1¢ per mile in value and you also get a 5% rebate. This makes this card 2.1%+ cash back on all purchases when redeeming against travel expenses. Obviously you should only use this card if you’ll have enough travel expenses to redeem against. You can view what Barclays considered as travel here.

It has a hefty annual fee of $89 which is $30 higher than the Capital One Venture. We discuss why this is worse than a straight 2% cash back card here.

Bank of America Travel Rewards – 1.5%-2.625% No Annual Fee

This card earns 1.5x points on all purchases (points are worth 1¢ each). With Bank of America Preferred Rewards Program you can get up to 2.625% back though.

Alliant Visa Platinum Rewards Credit Card – 2%, No Annual Fee

Earns 2x points (worth 1¢ each) and has no annual fee. Also comes with a $50 sign up bonus currently. Our full review here.

Citi Doublecash: 2% Cash Back, No Annual Fee

The Citi doublecash card has no annual fee and can earn up to 2% cash back on all purchases. You earn 1% cash back when you make the purchases and another 1% when they are paid off. You can view more information on this card here.

Visa Fidelity: 2% Cash Back, No Annual Fee

This is the best no nonsense card in our opinion. It earns a flat 2% cash back on all of your purchases and there is no annual fee to worry about. There is also no need to worry about having any travel expenses to redeem against (although you can get slightly more value out of this card by exchanging cash back for world points). It’s currently possible to get a bonus of $100 on this card as well.

Paypal Cashback Mastercard: 2% Cash Back, No Annual Fee

Paypal’s Cashback Mastercard has no annual fee and earn a flat 2% cash back on all purchases into your Paypal account. No minimum redemption. Our full review here.

Blispay: 2% Cash Back, No Annual Fee

Read our full review

This is better than the other 2% cash back cards on the market due to the fact that it comes with free financing on purchases over $199 and there is also no minimum redemption amount (it’s applied as statement credit at the end of each month).

USAA Limitless – 2.5% Cash Back

Read our full review

Issue with this card is actually getting it as you need to be a USAA member. The actual card is available in most (but not all) states at the moment. The other thing to remember is that you only get the 2.5% rate when you have a $1,000 monthly direct deposit into your USAA checking account.

[CA, CT, HI, IL, NV, NJ, NY, OR, and WA] Mitsuwa JCB Up To 3% Cash Back, No Annual Fee

Our full review

Similar to the Marukai card listed below, but earning structure is:

  • First $2,000 spent annually will earn 1 point per $100 in spend (1% cash back)
  • $2,000 – $5,000 spent annually will earn 2 points per $100 in spend (2% cash back)
  • $5,000 – $50,000 spent annually will earn 3 points per $100 in spend (3% cash back)
  • $50,000+ spent annually will earn 1 point per $100 in spend (1% cash back

Comes without the annual fee, but also without the spending bonuses. Only recommended to those who can’t apply for the Marukai due to the location restrictions.

[CA, NV, OR, WA, HI only] JCB Marukai Premium Up To 3% Cash Back, $15 Annual Fee Waived First Year

Our full review

This card has a tiered earnings structure as follows:

  • Earn up to 1% Cash Back Points on first $1,000 spent yearly
  • Earn up to 2% Cash Back Points on next $2,000 spent yearly
  • Earn up to 3% Cash Back Points on over $3,000 spent yearly

It also has an annual fee of $15 per year, waived for the first year. The also have the following on annual spend bonuses:

  • Earn an additional $15 bonus when you spend $1,000 or more yearly
  • An additional $50 bonus when you spend $5,000 or more yearly

The reason you don’t hear about this card more often (aside from the fact that it doesn’t offer an affiliate commission to bloggers) is that it’s only available in the following states: California, Nevada, Oregonm, Hawaii or Washington. You would need to spend $5,000 annually on this card for it to give you more cash back than a 2% card without an annual fee. You can see this jump in the table below: You might not have heard of the card network JCB before, but they are the biggest operator in Japan and as such this card is mostly geared to Japanese expats. JCB also have an agreement with Discover and as such JCB cards are accepted where ever Discover is accepted (although it can sometimes be difficult to explain to cashiers that this is the case. This is also not the case with a lot of online merchants).

Discover it Miles 3% Cash Back For First Year, No Annual Fee

This card earns 1.5 miles on all purchases and at the end of the first year all of the miles you have earned are doubled. Miles are worth 1¢ each which means that this card basically earns 3% cash back for the first year and then 1.5% thereafter. Obviously it only makes sense to use it in the first year.

Alliant Cash Back 3% Cash Back First Year, Then 2.5% ($59 AF Waived First Year)

Read our full review

Card is the same as the Discover it Miles mentioned above (but you get the 3% straight away rather than waiting a year). Year two onwards you get 2.5% cash back but have to pay an annual fee of $59. This means you need to spend $11,800 per year to be better off with this card compared to a 2% cash back card with no annual fee.

Honorable Mentions

U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve 3x Points On Mobile Wallet Transactions, $400 Annual Fee

Read our full review here

This card earns 3x points on all mobile wallet transactions, including MST transactions. If you have Samsung Pay then this means you can basically earn 3x points on almost all purchases. Points are worth up to 1.5¢ each as well. $400 annual fee is somewhat offset by the fact that you get $325 in travel credits as well.

Proponent Federal Credit Union Visa Signature Card 2x Points (Up To 2.5% Back In Airfare), No Annual Fee

Read our full review here

Card earns 2x points per $1 spent when you spend $1,000 or more per month. You can use the points for:

  • FlexPass travel discounts: Start at $100 for 8,000 points (1.25¢)
  • Gift cards: Start at 1,500 points for $10 gift card (0.67¢ per point)

This means at best you’re getting 2.5% back but can only redeem it for airfare and must book through their portal.

BB&T Spectrum Rewards Up To 4.05% For The First Three Months, No Annual Fee

This card can earn up to 4.05% cash back on all purchases for the first three months. It earns at a base rate of 3% for the first three months, you can also get a 30% bonus on all cash back earned annually if you spend $50,000 or more and you get an additional 5% bonus as an anniversary bonus.

It’s only available in the following states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia or D.C and only earns 1% cash back after the introductory three month period. More information can be found here.

Business Credit Cards

Capital One Spark Cash 2% Cash Back, $59 Annual Fee Waived First Year

This business card earns at a flat 2% cash back on all purchases and it’s annual fee of $59 is waived for the first year. I’d only recommend this card over the American Express Fidelity card if you have a lot of purchases that cannot be put on AmEx or JCB.

You’d probably be better off putting these expenses on a 1.5% personal card unless you’re spending more than $11,800 per year.

Amex Blue Business Plus 2x MR, No Annual Fee

Read our review

This card earns a flat 2x Membership Rewards points on all purchases and has no annual fee. There is an annual cap of $50,000 which can earn 2x, subsequently it earns just 1x, so keep that in mind.

BECU 3% Cash Back For First Six Months, No Annual Fee [WA only]

Read our full post

Card earns 3% cash back on all purchases with no cap or annual fee, downside is that this is only for the first six months and the card is only available in WA and also requires joining the credit union.

Cards That Didn’t Make The Cut

The following cards did not make the cut for our best everyday list for various reasons. We’ve listed them below as they still might be of interest to some readers.

  • Hilton HHonors cards: Hilton has continually devalued their points to the point where you will struggle to get 0.5¢ per point in value. You’d need to get 0.67¢+ per point in value on a card that earns 3x Hilton points to beat out a 2% cash back card.
    • Hilton HHonors Surpass From AmEx: 3x points on all purchases
    • Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve: 3x points on all purchases
    • Hilton HHonors From American Express: 3x points on all purchases
    • Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature
  • We didn’t include cards that earn at a high rate on specific categories.

If you’d like to see what the best credit cards are for purchases in other categories, click on one of the following links:


80 Responses to Best Credit Cards For Every Day Purchases

  1. Mike says:

    Surprised to not see the Sallie Mae credit card mentioned here. Am I missing something?

    • Sallie Mae card earns 1% on all purchases and 5% in specific categories. It’s mentioned in the best cards for specific categories. This post is about non category bonuses.

    • Aahz says:

      Sallie Mae no longer exists. New apps were stopped over a year ago and all remaining Salle Mae’s were converted to the FAR inferior Commence card as of March 1st, 2017.

  2. Randall says:

    By using this card over a flat 2% cash back card you’d be forgoing $750 in cash back before you hit the $15,000 threshold to earn 2% on all purchases.

    Looks like you accidentally added a zero to $75.

  3. Barry Kryshka says:

    “By using this card over a flat 2% cash back card you’d be forgoing $750 in cash back before you hit the $15,000 threshold to earn 2% on all purchases.”

    That gave me a scare, I use this card daily and hate the though of losing $750 a year. But $15,000 x 0.5% = $75.

  4. chuck says:

    “you’d be forgoing $750 in cash back before you hit the $15,000 threshold to earn 2% on all purchases”. Should read “$75”.

  5. Carol says:

    Hi William,

    I want to apply Lufthansa, SW and SPG cards using your affiliate links…….but before that, please tell me how do I meet the minimum spending to get the sign up bonus since we cannot load Vanilla gift cards into BB at WM anymore. I checked around my area and all the Office Depot and Staples are out of the $200 fixed about Visa gift card, only the $100 one available but I don’t want to buy a lot of $100 visa gc because it’s a hassle to load them one by one at WM (besides amazon payment, using the gc for regular spending and evolve, since I want to pay my credit card bills with bluebird)……I don’t want to be stuck with many GC that cannot be liquidated ……..please advise so I can use your link to apply before the offer expires.

  6. Paul says:

    The JCB cards are notorious for meager CL so not useful for MS. And as I understand their T&Cs (vaguely worded is an understatement), your CB % is reset every statement and isn’t cumulative. So if you made $3K in purchases in one month and $1K the next, you only earn 1% on the second month spend. And that first month would be 1% on $1K ($10), 2% on second thousand ($20) and 3% on third thousand ($30), for total of $60 on $3K = 2% effective. If they offered sizable CL, would be one of the best CB cards for MS as you could easily get your average spend above $3K per month and get effective CB closer to 3%.

    You missed the Carlson card that gets 5x everywhere. Not that I’d ever put any spend on the card but it is an option for those who might want a cheap roof over their heads.

  7. univs says:

    I think it would be worth mentioning that the Quicksilver card does not come with a foreign transaction fee. Most (if not all) no-annual-fee cards listed here can not boast this.

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  9. Jonathan says:

    If you can park 100K in BoA or Merrill Lynch Edge, you can get 2.625% no fee BoA travel. I put my Roth IRA to Merrilllynch Edge account, I have 30 commission free trade each month, free checking account, free safety box, and 2.625% back.

    • Jeremy says:

      This card gets no love. It’s honestly one of the best non-bonused cards. No FTF, no AF, and an earning rate that rivals or beats SPG. DOC, you should also include SPG on this list.

      • Sam says:

        There is that big if you can park 100K. Not many have 100K laying around hence I assume these cards dont get the mention.

  10. Hypnos says:

    I am surprised not seeing the Priceline Visa card. Though the card image is ugly, it has a flat 2% CB as well.

    • Only for old cardholders that were grandfathered in.

    • Dave says:

      3.3% when redeemed for Priceline purchases! I travel a bunch and often there are no points options but almost always Priceline. I pay my taxes and anything where there’s a fee for using your card since the return covers the fee. I lost my shatner card and now just have the plain Jane, sad.

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  13. Ian says:

    It may be worth mentioning that the Barclay Arrival/ Arrival Plus, Capital One Quicksilver/Venture/Venture One, and BOA Travel Rewards and PNC Travel credit cards have no FTF (foreign transaction fees).

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  18. Jeff H says:

    Besides the Fidelity Visa 2% now managed by Elan (being careful of the older 1.5% version
    I have for honorable mention
    First National Bank of Omaha (FSBO) BUCKSBACK PLATINUM EDITION Visa at a flat 2% cash back no limit. Collect at $25.00 rewards level. Unfortunately that card is no longer offered.
    Worthy of consideration for honorable mention IF you use other FNBO services like a checking, savings account Complete Rewards℠ Visa® Card which doubles the normal 1% to 2% if instead of a statement credit, deposit into your FNBO checking, savings, mortgage or NEST 529 account for a higher value of 2% back.

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  22. Charlie says:

    Chase Freedom Unlimited gives you 1.5x Ultimate Rewards points on all purchases.

  23. Erik says:

    Maybe proof-read your text?
    I read: “Visa Fidelity: etc etc… The one downside is that AmEx isn’t accepted everywhere… etc”..
    So let’s decide, is it Visa or is it Amex??

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  25. Jeff H says:

    Honorable mention is a now First National Bank of Omaha – FNBO pure 2% cash back card. They did a similar card (Bucksback) last winter for a limited time.

    CashBack Visa® Card Earn 2% Unlimited Cash Back1 on purchases
    Apply by December 28, 2016

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  29. Mser says:

    Cap1 will waive the $59 AF on their Spark 2% cards with decent spend. I have 3 and put $50K or more on each and always get the AF refunded (with a quick 3 min call to CS). Bigger spenders can get permanent AF waiver. Honestly, I’m very impressed with cap1 – easy to deal with, no BS, and good customer service. I’d recommend for every business. Plus they offer $500 signup bonus. Rarely gets mentioned because no blogger commision which shows how scummy most of the CC shills truly are.

    • Curmudgeon says:

      This is good info. I have my annual fee coming up later in the year so I’ll definitely ask for a waiver. My spend probably won’t be more than $30k though.

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  34. Dave_B says:

    Shouldn’t Blispay be on this list? Automatic 2% cashback on all purchases, no annual fee.

    On top of that, no interest on purchases of $199 or more for 6 months, and it only reports to Experian (so you can keep a high balance on the card without hurting the utilization part of your Equifax and TransUnion credit scores).

  35. Bill says:

    I have a question, don’t these cash back cards assume you pay off your balance every month? If a card carries say a 13% interest rate doesn’t that wipe out any assumed cash back if you don’t pay off?


  36. NoonRadar says:

    Thank you for the recap Will.

    Maybe is asking too much and requires a lot more work to display it on your site, but resources like this in a table/spreadsheet would be even better.

  37. WR says:

    Surprised SPG cards fidn’t make the cut. 2.2-2.7% return depending on your starpoint valuation.

    • You’d need to value SPG points extremely highly for that sort of valuation (unless you’re talking about transfering to miles with the bonus and even then CFU or Amex Everyday Preferred will be a better option for most).

      • WR says:

        Yes, valuations are subjective, but if transferring to partners is your game, SPG should be valued more than UR even without 25% bonus, due to large number of partners, many unavailable to UR or MR, and also Marriot 3:1. It’s certainly better than a 2% cashback card, but yeah CFU is probably marginally better.

        However, the best everday spend card though is also not on your list, and that is whichever card you are working towards minimum spend on.

        • > SPG should be valued more than UR even without 25% bonus, due to large number of partners, many unavailable to UR or MR, and also Marriot 3:1

          Sure, but the earning rate on the CFU is 0.5x higher. I’ve added in the SPG card as it’s requested.

  38. SkayDk says:

    If you started with 1.2 and 1.5% cards, then there is definetly place in the list for BoA Travel rewards (and Cash rewards too IMO) – 1.5 base rate for Travel with easy bonus of 10% for checking, and not so easy 25%-75% bonus still gets it over 2% comparing to other travel rewards cards in the list.

  39. Dave P says:

    SPG Amex is a glaring commission from this list, especially if you’re including cards as weak as the Amex Everyday, at 1.0-1.2 MR per dollar. Starwood points are generally accepted to be worth at least 2c each, plus have more flexibility.

    • Dave P says:

      Omission, not commission…

    • > Starwood points are generally accepted to be worth at least 2c each

      Disagree strongly, you also need to account for the AF on the card. I’ll add it to the list as some people love it, just don’t think it’s as strong as some make it out to be.

      • Adam says:

        For me at least the AF (going into my second year) was offset by a 10K point retention offer. I think they’re fairly generous if you call the right number (which I recall I found on Flyertalk).

  40. Blue says:

    Where accumulating Hilton and (especially) SPG points can make a lot of sense is if you are intending to book multiday stays in some international locations–remember that Hilton and SPG both have fifth night free options. So, for example, I have five nights booked in the Xi’an China Hilton for 115,000 Hilton points. Booking on the Hilton site that would be 5,538 Chinese Yuan with taxes and fees–about $800 USD or about 0.7 cents per point. I got even better value at hotels in Egypt in 2015. Hotel points can also often give good value at airports. One additional big benefit on hotel points is that they don’t generate ancillary costs in fees and taxes and it is very easy to redeem them.

  41. Eric says:

    For the Citi Double Cash you have “You can view more information on this card here.” but forgot to provide the link. Also, it’s not a big deal but you have “Doublecash” shown as 1 word when it’s actually 2 words.

  42. DT says:

    I got tired of the best card for the best category and completely switched to pay majority of every day spend and bills with gift cards/money orders.

    Of course those GC are acquired for 5X, 3X, 1.5X or cash back offers combined with portals CB or OM/OD/Staples offers etc.

    Also somewhat cumbersome but I am in a control which rewards I acquire at the best possible rate.

    Exceptions might be high end electronics for extended warranty, EDP to get 30 small transactions, airfare, travel.

    • Ryan says:

      Nice strategy. Where do you buy your gift cards from?
      Also do you buy money orders with them?

      • DT says:

        Giftcard Mall, Staples, OM/OD, Kroger and corresponding CC (Citi ATT, AMEX EDP, Chase Freedom, Chase INK and SPG).
        I buy MOs and pay bills and deposit the rest to Charles S. brokerage.
        My Estimated taxes are high and I used PPMDC for that but it appears it will be only MOs from now on as PP CVS link is broken now.

  43. LagerBack says:

    What’s the link to best cash back of credit cards on specific categories?

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  45. Jeff H says:

    I was hoping this would be an updated list …. alas it is not. Personally, IMO, every day cards should be by definition free of annual fee and be listed starting with the highest cash back in cash. Honorable mentions go to cards that are no longer available to be applied for such as FNBO Bucks Back full 2% card.

  46. Ryan says:

    So the consensus is to keep MO deposits to under 10k a month with one bank?

  47. Eli says:

    Could you maybe amend the post (or make a different post) that details the best general spend card with no foreign transaction fees?

  48. Don says:

    Great content as always. Air Force Officer select that will hopefully be stationed in CA and be able to apply for the Marukai (not the only reason I want to live in CA). Just wanted to point out that I think you meant to inbed a link at the end of the section for the Citi DC that links to your review of it.

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