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Best Credit Cards for Points 2019

Last Updated: 12. September 2019
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If you’re a sensible spender and always repay your outstanding balances in full each and every month – then it is well worth obtaining a credit card that comes with a points program.

In a nutshell, every time you use your credit card – whether that’s at the gas station or to buy groceries, you’ll receive a number of rewards points. In doing so, you get to exchange these points for a range of perks, such as flight tickets, hotels, gift cards, and even cash.

If this sounds like something that interests you, then be sure to read our in-depth guide on the Best Credit Cards for Points in 2019. On top of covering the best five credit cards for points, we also show you how you can maximize your potential earnings, as well as some of the things you need to avoid.

Note: Credit card points are an excellent way to earn perks such as cash, gift cards, and free travel. However, they are only worthwhile if you are able to pay your entire balance off every month. If you don’t, the interest payments will cost you more than what the rewards are actually worth!

What are credit card points?

First and foremost, let’s make sure that we understand what credit card points actually are. In its most basic form, credit card points are a type of reward that the card issuer gives you for simply using your card. As we will discuss further down, this can come in a range of shapes and sizes. However, in most cases, this will either be linked to air miles (for the purpose of booking flight tickets), cashback, or gift cards. 

Points are usually based on the dollar value of your transaction. For example, if the credit card offers 100 points for every $1 that you spend – and the transaction amounted to $50, then you would be awarded 5,000 points.

However, it is important to note that the specific number of points that you are awarded can depend on a number of factors. Typically, each credit card will offer different rates for different spending categories. For example, while you might get 300 points per dollar when you use your card at a gas station, you might only get 100 points per dollar at supermarkets.

Let’s take a quick look at some examples of how credit card companies might calculate rewards points when you use your card.

💳 Supermarkets, gas stations, and travel: 3x points per dollar

💳 Restaurants and Amazon.com: 2x points per dollar

💳 Everything Else: 1x point per dollar

As you can see from the above example, credit card companies will offer different rewards, depending on where you spend your card. As such, while a $100 transaction at a gas station would yield 300 points ($100 x 3), a $100 purchase at Amazon.com would only yield 200 points ($100 x 2).

Calculating introductory points offers

One of the best things about the over-saturation of the rewards credit card space is that most providers now offer very generous introductory promotions for new customers.  This typically centers on an increased amount of points/dollars for a fixed number of months.

For example, a credit card provider might offer you 40,000 points when you initially spend $1,000 within the first month. Those 40,000 points can then be exchanged for a $400 gift card. However, in order to assess the value of the offer, we need to calculate what each point is worth in real money.

This is simple, as all you need to do is divide the dollar amount of the reward ($400) by the number of points required to get it (40,000). In this example, one reward point would equate to 1 cent.

What can I exchange my credit card points for?

One of the most important factors that you need to consider when obtaining a new points credit card is what you can actually redeem the points for. After all, you don’t want to go through the hassle of using your credit card with the purpose of accumulating more points, only to find that the reward is something you have no use for.

Below we have listed some of the most popular rewards that credit card points can be exchanged for.

✔️ Air Miles: There is a significant number of credit card providers that offer you air miles every time you use the card. For those unaware, air miles are essentially credit card reward points that can be exchanged for flight tickets, or flight-related perks such as an upgraded seat, or airport lounge access.

For example, let’s say that a credit card offers 10 air miles every time you spend $1. This means that upon spending $1,000, you would have accumulated 10,000 air miles. Over at the airline, 10,000 air miles is the equivalent of a flight from New York to Vancouver. As such, instead of paying for the flight with cash, you can simply redeem your 10,000 credit card air miles to pay for it!

✔️ Gift Cards: Some credit card companies will instead allow you to exchange your credit card points for a gift card. This typically includes popular retailers such as Amazon, eBay, Overstock, Wallmart, or Apple. These are fairly simple to calculate, as each gift card value will require a certain number of points.

For example, let’s say that you’re interested in a $50 Apple gift card that requires 1,000 points. If the credit card company offers you 10 points per dollar, this means that you would be required to spend $100 to get the $50 gift card (10 points x $100 = 1,000 points).

✔️ Cashback: One of the most sought after credit card points program is that of a cashback offer. Essentially, the credit card company will allow you to exchange the points for cash. The cash isn’t paid back to you per-say, as this is typically reduced from the amount that you owe.

For example, let’s say that you are offered 1 point for each dollar that you spend on your card. The credit card provider allows you to redeem $10 once you reach 1,000 points. This means that you would need to spend $1,000 to get your $10 cashback ($1 x 1,000 points = $1,000), which would be reduced from your next monthly statement.

Tips to maximize your credit card points

Before you apply for a points-based credit card, it is crucial that you understand the ins and outs of how it works. Otherwise, you stand the chance of spending more money than what the points are worth. Below we have listed some key factors to consider.

1. Always pay your balance in full

The most important thing to consider when obtaining a points credit card is that you must repay your balance in full every month. In doing so, you will never pay any interest on your purchases – irrespective of the underlying APR rate. For example, if you rack-up $1,000 worth of purchases on your card in the month of September, but you repay the entire $1,000 before the statement due date, then you won’t be accustomed to any interest.

On the contrary, if you only pay the minimum, then interest will kick-in. This will effectively make it a pointless task, as the interest payments will all-but-certainly wipe out any rewards that you might have made.

2. Use your credit card whenever you can

In order to maximize your potential earnings, you should try to use your credit card at every possible opportunity. As long as the purchase is eligible for points, you should proceed to use your card. Whether it’s to buy your weekly groceries or your monthly parking pass, use your points credit card!

Ultimately, as long as you plan to pay the balance off in full every month, this will allow you to earn the maximum amount of points possible. However, it is also important to note that you should never use your credit card to buy things that you wouldn’t have otherwise bought with cash. For example, don’t go and purchase a new TV just because you want to earn the 3x points that the credit card offers!

3. Make sure eligible purchases are things you typically buy

It is also important that you spend some time assessing what purchases qualify for points, and at what rate. For example, it is all good and well if the credit card offers triple points when you use your card at a gas station. However, if you don’t drive, then obtaining a points credit card of this nature would be a pointless task!

Instead, focus on credit cards that come with eligible purchases on things you always buy. This should cover everyday consumer spending, such as in supermarkets, utilities, transportation, and eating out.

4. Understand what rewards you are going to get

As we briefly noted earlier, it is also important for you to understand what your credit card points can be exchanged for. In this sense, you want to find the perfect balance between eligible purchases, and the rewards themselves.

For example, if you find yourself spending heaps of money every year on flights, then you are best off focusing on an air miles credit card. Alternatively, if the vast bulk of your money goes on groceries, then attempt to find a points card that allows you to redeem your points for a supermarket gift card, such as Wallmart.

Pros and cons of points credit cards

The Pros

  • Get rewarded for purchases you would have made anyway
  • Rewards include cashback, gift cards, and travel 
  • Choose a card that suits your lifestyle
  • No interest payments as long as you clear your balance each month
  • Some cards have no points limits

The Cons

  • Only worthwhile if you can clear your statement every month 
  • The best offers are reserved for those with good or excellent credit

Criteria used to rank the best credit cards

❓ How the rewards are paid (cashback, points, air miles, etc)

❓ What purchases are eligible

❓ What introductory rate the card comes with

❓ Whether there is a limit on the number of monthly points you can earn

❓ The real-world value of each credit card point

❓ Eligibility requirements

1. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
 

If you have the required credit profile, then one of the best points credit cards currently available on the market is that of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. First and foremost, the card comes with a super generous intro offer. This amounts to a whopping 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 within the first 90 days of receiving the card. In real-world terms, 60,000 points amounts to $750 worth of travel-related spending.

What we also like about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is that its standard points system is fairly generous, too. You will get 2 points per dollar when you use the card on a dining or travel-related purchase. Not only does this cover purchases in the US, but also overseas. This is especially beneficial when you consider that the card comes with no foreign transaction fees.

For spending outside of the dining/travel categories, you will get 1 point per dollar. Whichever spending category you do opt for, the great news is that there are no limits. Importantly, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card does come with a standard APR rate of between 17.99% and 24.99%. However, this should be irrelevant if you always pay your monthly balance in full – which you should do anyway. The only gripe that we have with the card is that it comes with a $95 annual fee.

Key Points:

💳 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months

💳 60,000 points equates to $750 in travel rewards

💳 2 points per dollar on travel and dining

💳 1 point per dollar on everything else

💳 APR rate of between 17.99% to 24.99% once the offer expires 

💳 Annual fee of $95

2. Citi Rewards+

In a very close second is that of the Citi Rewards+ credit card. Much like in the case of the Chase Sapphire card, Citi Rewards+ comes with a very generous introductory points offer. When you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months, you will get 15,000 points. In real terms, this amounts to a $150 gift card. You should have no issues meeting the $1,000 threshold, especially if you are using your credit card to pay for everyday purchases.

Once you have got through the intro offer, the standard points system will pay you 2 points for every $1 that you spend on groceries or gas. Outside of this, you will get 1 point per $1 for all other purchases. Take note, the 2 points/dollar rate is capped at $6,000 annually, although the 1 point/dollar rate is unlimited.

What we also like with the Citi Rewards+ option is that it comes with 15 months 0% interest period on both balance transfers and purchases. If you wanted to be really shrewd, you could get the card to make a large-scale purchase (that you were going to make anyway). In doing so, not only could you spread the cost over 15 months and subsequently avoid any interest, but you would accumulate a huge amount of points.

Key Points:

💳 Intro offer of $150 gift card when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days

💳 2 points per dollar on supermarket and gas station purchases ($6,000 max per year)

💳 1 point per dollar on all other purchases

💳 Unlimited amount of cashback when claiming the 1% rate

💳 0% interest on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months

💳 No annual fees

💳 Standard APR rate of between 15.49% and 25.49% once offer expires 

3. Wells Fargo Propel American Express

Although the Wells Fargo Propel credit card is issued by American Express – meaning that it is accepted in fewer places than a traditional Visa or MasterCard, the points reward system that the card comes with more than makes up for this. In a nutshell, you will get 3 points for every dollar that you spend on a number of pre-defined spending categories. This covers everyday purchases such as gas, groceries, restaurants, and travel.

 

If your purchase doesn’t qualify for the 3 points, then you will get 1 point per dollar for everything else. The great thing about the points offered by Wells Fargo is that they can be redeemed for a range of different rewards, including cash. Each point equates to 1 cent, meaning that 1,000 points would be worth $10.

In order to entice you in, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express card will offer you a whopping 30,000 points when you spend $3,000 within the first three months. This amounts to a real-world value of $300. On top of its $0 annual fee, you will also get 12 months of 0% purchases. After that, the standard APR sits between 15.99% and 27.99%.

Key Points:

💳 30,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months (worth $300)

💳 3 points/$1 on eligible spending categories

💳 1 point/$1 on everything else

💳 No annual fees

💳 APR rate of between 15.99% and 27.99% once offer expires 

4. Chase Sapphire Reserve

If you are in possession of an excellent credit rating of at least 720, then you might want to consider what the Chase Sapphire Reserve has to offer. Before we unravel the benefits, it is important to note that the card does come with an annual fee of $450. If you maximize the points system on offer, you can more than cover this expense, although you need to ensure you can do this before applying.

Nevertheless, the credit card offers $300 in travel rewards every four years, and you will also get a refund on TSA PreChecks. Collectively, this is worth $385. In terms of the standard points system, travel and dining purchases come with 3 points per $1 spent, and everything else is at a point/dollar.

Each point that you earn has a real-world value of 1.5 cents if you make a travel-related booking through Chase. Otherwise, the points are worth 1 cent. Ultimately, this particular credit card is best suited if you typically spend a lot on travel. This can be anything from flights, hotels, airport lounges, or visa applications.

Key Points:

💳 $450 annual fee

💳 $300 in travel credit every four years

💳 TSA PreCheck refund (worth $85)

💳 Excellent credit score required (720+)

💳 3 points per $1 for travel and dining purchases

💳 1 point per $1 for everything else

5. Discover It Secured - Our Pick for Bad Credit Borrowers
 

Although the best points credit cards are reserved for those with either good or excellent credit, a number of options still exist if your credit profile is less than ideal. If this sounds like you, then we would point you towards the Discover It Secured credit card. The issuer accepts applicants with bad credit because you will be required to put up a security deposit of $200.

 

If you are OK with this, then you will have the chance to earn 2% cashback every month, up to a maximum of $1,000. If used correctly, then this would allow you to save $20 per month. Although this might not sound like a lot, it’s worth doing, not least because you will also get to rebuild your credit profile by always paying your balance in full.

However, if you don’t think you can do this, then you shouldn’t apply for the card, as it comes with a standard APR rate of 24.99%. As an added bonus, the card doesn’t come with an annual fee.

Key Points:

💳 Points are paid in cashback

💳 2% cashback up to $1,000 per month

💳 No annual fees

💳 Perfect if you have bad credit

💳 Required to put up a $200 security deposit

FAQs

What is a points credit card?

A points credit card refers to a credit card that awards you points every time you use the card to make purchases. These points can then be exchanged for a number of benefits, such as cashback, gift cards, or flights.

How do air mile points work?

If your credit card provider offers you points in the form of air miles, then this means that the points can only be used on flight-related purchases. On top of paying for flight tickets, they can also be redeemed against airport lounges, hotels, or business class upgrades

What purchases qualify for credit card points?

This will vary depending on the credit card you apply for. While some cards allow you to earn points on any purchases, some will specify a specific category such as travel or dining.

Won't the APR interest make the points rewards counter-intuitive?

The simple answer to this is ‘no’. As long as you always pay your monthly account balance in full every month, then you won’t need to worry about interest. On the contrary, if you don’t pay your balance in full, then you will pay interest and thus, this will cost more than the points are worth!

Can I get a points credit card if I have bad credit?

On the one hand, the best points credit cards are only available if you have good or excellent credit. However, a number of bad credit lenders are now offering rewards, albeit, these are usually secured credit cards. This means that you will be required to put up a security deposit. 

How much do points credit cards cost?

The costs associated with a points-based credit card will vary wildly depending on the issuer. This can range from nothing, up to a whopping $450 per year! If you do need to pay an annual fee, you need to assess whether the points rewards are lucrative enough to make the fee worthwhile.

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Kane Pepi

Kevin holds academic qualifications in the finance and financial investigation fields. With a passion for all-things finance, he currently writes for a number of online publications.