OT: Best Credit Card for Perks?

Submitted by maineandblue on May 3rd, 2013 at 12:33 PM

Was hoping to get some advice on a topic that I haven't seen come up here before, but figured it could hopefully also be useful for others. 

What's your favorite credit card? I've had an REI Visa for years, but now own pretty much all of the outdoorsy stuff I really need. I've also had the U of M Alumni card, which somehow changed from a Visa to an Amex with no warning, but I'm not impressed by the point system perks. Mostly it's just there to look beautiful in my wallet. 

Would love to hear from those who get great rewards from their credit cards. Personally I'd like to get as many airline miles and as much free gas as possible, but would be curious to hear what others get from their cards. Thanks!



May 3rd, 2013 at 12:57 PM ^

I also have Capital One Venture and if memory serves, the double points is for a yearly fee.  If you're not into the fees, the card without any will give 1.25 miles/points per dollar spent.   The nice thing about Venture is that you can earn miles for travel OR have those points converted to rewards at most stores.  My wife cashed in about $250 for Lowes not too long ago.  

MMB 82

May 3rd, 2013 at 5:14 PM ^

is also one of the few credit cards that doesn't charge an exchange fee if you travel abroad. If you pay for something that is 10€, it will be $13.05 (the exchange rate at this exact moment) and that's it. I also like that they are really on top of any unusual activity regarding the use of your card.


May 3rd, 2013 at 8:54 PM ^

I have the Amazon card,as well, and buy a ton of stuff on Amazon (58 orders in the last 6 months, I just checked).  I don't use it anywhere else though, just Amazon because you get triple points on the site (basically 3 points for every dollar spent). In the last year and a half I have built up about $180 (18,000 points) in credit, even with all those purchases. So not bad, but not amazing either.

I also have to utilize the Prime shipping to make the most out of this option. It is $79 annualy, but getting everything in 2 shipping days for free is nice, and worth it when you are making those many purchases. I would have paid much more than $79 in shipping costs in the last year, had I not had Amazon Prime, and I didn't have to waste gas or time by dredging out to local stores to buy the stuff, just shows up on my doorstep magically.

I also have a Delta Sky Miles. That one is a little more generous with the return. However, there is an annual fee of $95 dollars. I use it enough to get one free first class flight a year to basically anywhere in the continental U.S (about 50,000 miles). Not a bad deal for $95.

However, I don't like paying fees, and I love cold hard cash. Therefore my favorite card is my Chase Freedom. I get anywhere from 1%-5% cash back on the card. They run specials every quarter letting you know what places are offeriing the 5% back. Every quarter or so I redeem the points for cash, that gets added directly to my checking account. Comes out to about $150-$175 a quarter, with no annual fee. So to me it is the best.

It all comes down to what you are looking for though. I basically use the Chase Freedom and Amex the same amount, and buy everything with one of those two cards, excluding Amazon purchases of course. So you can see the difference in what you get with those 2 cards. Wanted to give some real world examples so you could compare and contrast.

Also, I pay everything with a credit card and pay it off at the end of the month, so I don't pay any interest. I do mean everything, I try not to carry much money on me, just enough for emergencies, so I am always getting some kind of reward when purchasing something. I also, do automatic payments on them for my gas, electric, cell, cable, and any other bill I can automate.

Hope that helps. As you can tell, I love getting rewards, if you have to spend your hard earned money why not maximize the benefit.


May 3rd, 2013 at 12:45 PM ^

Has a $75 annual fee, but if you primarily use your credit card to buy stuff (as opposed to cash/checks) and you buy groceries or gas, you more than make up the difference (6% cash back on groceries, 3% on gas, 1% on everything else)

Of course it is an AMEX so you have to deal with some places not taking it.


May 3rd, 2013 at 12:58 PM ^

from grocery store to grocery store somewhat, but I can tell you Trader Joes is included as are some smaller co-ops I have used (in San Francisco).  It has to do with how they are registered with AMEX (ie as a "grocery store" or not).  I would suspect that if they take AMEX they would probably fall within the 6% grocery store thing. 

The 6% is only on the first $6,000 a year at grocery stores, but thats a fairly large amount of groceries and equals $360 cash back on that amount as compared to $60 (1%) or $120 (2%) you would get from other cards


May 3rd, 2013 at 12:57 PM ^

I've actually done some relatively recent research into this, because my fiancé and I decided that we should start doing finances like grown-ups and stop putting everything on our debit cards. We got a few rewards cards between us that we use for different things. A lot of cards are doing targeted rewards now, so you can get more back by using certain cards for specific things instead of one card for everything.

AmEx Blue Cash Preferred

This is my favorite, because its returns are highest on gas and groceries, which are huge recurring purchases. It does 6% back on groceries and 3% back on gas.

Chase Amazon Visa

Pretty much any "stuff" I buy is online, and usually through Amazon. This card does 3% back on any Amazon purchases, and rewards can be applied directly to future Amazon purchases.

Citi Forward

The drawback with this one is it uses Citi's "Thank You Points" system, which kind of sucks, but if you always redeem for gift cards or loan payments they work out to the same '1 point == 1 cent' that makes for good return value. That said, this card does 5 points/dollar on restaurant purchases, so if you eat out a lot, this is a good one.

Capital One Venture

The one in all the commercials! This is our fallback card for buying things that don't fall into any of the above categories. It doesn't do any targeted rewards that I'm aware of, but it does 2% back on everything. Most rewards cards do 1% back as their catch-all, so this card basically doubles that.


May 3rd, 2013 at 2:05 PM ^

I don't recommend this advice, because a significant portion of your credit score concerns the average length of your accounts as well as the length of time of your oldest account.  Having accounts in good standing for a long time is a surefire way to build credit, and canceling credit cards on a rotating basis hinders that pretty significantly.

Victor Hale II

May 3rd, 2013 at 1:03 PM ^

For gas, I use the BP Visa from Chase, which essentially gives you 5% back on your BP purchases and 1% on all other general purchases.  As stated above, gas is a continuous expense for me, and they double your rewards on holiday weekends.  I've played it correctly a couple of times earlier this year and got $80+ worth of gas for free.


The Amazon Visa is one that I got just recently, simply to score the free $50 gift card.  However, I am actually considering keeping it this time and ditching my Cabela's Visa, which is good for only 1% on general purchases and 2% on Cabela's purchases.


May 3rd, 2013 at 1:05 PM ^

As a frequent business traveler and self-described "points whore," I do just about everything in my arsenal to rack up as many points and miles as possible. Here are some great options:

  • Delta Platinum American Express - $150 annual fee, but every year you have the card, Delta gives you a free companion certificate so that someone else can fly with you for free within the continental US. That's worth more than the $150 fee right there. Also, your first checked bag is free. Also, discounts on other Delta accoutrements. After $25K in annual purchases, you'll get 10K bonus qualifying miles toward airline status as well. If you fly places and are based near a Delta hub airport, it's a no-brainer.
  • Priority Club (Holiday Inn) Visa - No annual fee the first year, then $49/year after. You get a free night certificate every year and the card has no foreign transaction fees when used abroad. You'll get 60K bonus points when you spend $1K in the first 3 months and other perks are available as well. 
  • Chase Sapphire Ultimate Rewards - I don't have this one, but I've heard it's fantastic.

If you're looking for more in-depth info, this is an amazing blog that I read religiously. Take some time and dig through the posts about CC sign-ups. Believe me, it's worth it.



May 3rd, 2013 at 4:38 PM ^

I have the Delta card and the Chase Sapphire.

If you're a regular flier, and fly Delta a lot, the Amex is great.  Otherwise, as mentioned in another post, the Amex cash back card is great, too.

We then use the Sapphire in those circumstances when AMEX isn't accepted.


May 3rd, 2013 at 1:05 PM ^

Personal: AMEX Starwood, haven’t paid for a hotel in years, plus get to pick up rooms when family is visiting.

Business: AMEX Plum 1.5% cash bank on everything with no cap…. Unreal they must be losing money.

If merchant doesn’t take AMEX then my credit union debit card gives 2% back but caps at like $200.

Chester Cheetah

May 3rd, 2013 at 1:08 PM ^

I have a Costco American Express.  3% back on gas and 2% back on travel purchases, including at Costco, and at US restaurants.  $0 annual fee with a paid Costco membership (50ish dollars? i think)

Then for places that don't take AMEX I have a Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards CC that is 1 point per dollar.  


May 3rd, 2013 at 1:57 PM ^

This card is great.  The $50 is what you would pay for a Costco membership anyways (a must in my family).  Last year I did quite a bit of traveling for work on the card and got $600 cash back.  CASH!  You just go to Costco and at the cashier you exchange your end of the year coupon for cash.  Between Amex Costco and Amex Blue Perfered (6% cash back on groceries and 3% gas) you have likely over 50% of your yearly purchases at at least 2% cash back or higher between these cards (6% groceries, 3% gas, 2% resturants, 2% travel).  I've done extensive research on this in case you can't tell :)

Never had a single issue with Amex either.  The one time I went over my spending limit and realized it, they called me to let me know, and then RAISED my spending limit on the spot!

Edit: A nice little trick too - grocery stores have gift cards for everything.  So if you know you are going to spend a certain amount somewhere, buy a giftcard at the grocery store.  6% cash back on EVERYTHING this way! 


May 3rd, 2013 at 1:11 PM ^

If you are looking for free travel (since you mentioned tons of airline miles), the Capital One Venture card may be the card for you in that it doesn't chain you to a specific airline or alliance, and review-wise has high marks for availability, and you can double dip in that flights via Capital One WILL earn you points through a frequent flier program, but redeemed flights via a frequent flier program WILL NOT earn you more miles.

However, if you travel a lot (for business or fun) and are married to a specific airline/alliance (Delta-Skyteam, Uni-ental/StarAlliance, American/OneWorld) you may be better off getting a card for that airline, or even better, a card for a foreign partner within a US alliance.  Foreign carriers typically have better redemtion availability than the US carriers.  However, most of the higher end airline cards (Delta Reserve, United whatever) will give you both lounge access, and frequent flier-qualifying miles for hitting spending thresholds.

Finally, if you travel LOTS, you can always get the Amex Platinum.  Free lounge access for yourself all over the place, 2-1 flight vouches (on expensive flights), flexibility in transferring membership reward points to many hotel and airline chains, reimbursement for your Global Entry permit, and $200/yr in flight expenses reimbursed.  Downside is it costs $495 a year.

I have a Hilton card (free gold ie free breakfast, sporadic upgrades), an Amex Plat that I will be getting rid of since we won't be traveling as much, and my old AT&T Universal Card I signed up for as an undergrad at Michigan.  hhaha


May 3rd, 2013 at 1:24 PM ^

I work in the credit card industry and it is really tough to beat the capital one venture card if you're willing to pay the $59 annual fee. Whether or not this card makes sense for you depends on your annual spend. If you spend enough to make this back in rewards then I highly recommend this card. 

The chase freedom is another good card as they have given 5% back on gas for 6 months a year plus other revolving categories like food, groceries, amazon, lowes etc. Also, if you have a chase bank account that you deposit your rewards into you get another 10% back on those rewards (BoA does this with their 3-2-1 card as well). 

Unless you really, really want airline miles and free bags I would stay away from any of the airline cards. Almost all rewards card allow you to redeem points for airline travel as well so this really limits your options on rewards. 

I personally use the amex blue, chase freedom and chase sapphire cards for all my spend. I probably average about 3% back on all my purchases by mixing the cards right. I will probably end up ditching either the sapphire and switching to a capital one venture in the next month or two if they come out with a spend bonus for it. 

Two Hearted Ale

May 3rd, 2013 at 5:12 PM ^

Chase Freedom gives you money which you can spend on pretty much anything. 1% back on everything and 5% back on rotating quarterly categories (restaurants, movie theaters, and Lowes right now) with no fee is pretty good.

If you set up a mint.com account they can look at all of your past purchases and tell you exactly how much you would have saved. That is how I ended up with the Chase Freedom.      

Mabel Pines

May 3rd, 2013 at 1:34 PM ^

Is that they are totally on top of security.  Any strange transaction, they are calling you.  My number has been stolen twice (card still in my possession) and both times, they caught it.  (In a Walgreens in Ohio!)  Also, I uploaded a super cute photo of my three kids at the stadium on my card, so your card could still look good in your wallet, OP.


May 3rd, 2013 at 1:42 PM ^

I have two: a basic Capital One card (don't even remember the name) that gives 2% back on just about all purchases. It's really not that great, since it has a $35 annual fee, but I've more than made up the annual fee in rewards dollars for the time I've had it. It was my first credit card though, so it was a starting point.

My wife and I also just got the Visa Hilton Honors card. We've only had it for about a week, but I think I'm going to like it. Gives us points that we can redeem at any Hilton hotel, and there's no annual fee on it.

My advice to anyone considering a card: determine what defines "best" to you. Is it the awards? The APR? Low annual fee? To me, I don't really care at all about the APR, because I've always paid off my balance in full each month. So it really boils down to the awards and low annual fee for me.

Wenham Wolverine

May 3rd, 2013 at 1:42 PM ^

if you spend and/or travel a lot, the amex platinum has a bunch of little perks that make you feel like a baller. rewards aren't bad, either.
overkill for a lot of people, though. amex blue cash preferred is a good alternative.


May 3rd, 2013 at 1:54 PM ^

Wow, really helpful advice, thanks! I prefer to buy stuff on Amazon, so will definitely get that card. Will probably pick up the Cap One Venture, and will look into the other options when I have time. Wish I'd asked for this advice sooner!


May 3rd, 2013 at 2:42 PM ^

I have the Capital One Venture card (2 points for every dollar spent) and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Both are excellent choices if  you travel and eat out a lot.

I also have a Chase Freedom card, which has nice cash back perks as well.


May 3rd, 2013 at 2:49 PM ^

I use a Discover for most purchases.  The cashback bonus adds up and can be redeemed online at a lot of places, including Amazon.


May 3rd, 2013 at 4:34 PM ^

If you're talking about how you can redeem your rewards balance when making purchases on Amazon and such, I would advise against it. I bought into the idea too until I realized that it is basically a tricky way for them to not give you cash back on your purchases. For example, if you buy something with $25 in rewards, you get $0 in rewards for that purchase. If you pay for the item as usual, you earn rewards on the purchase and can take the $25 as a statement credit.


May 3rd, 2013 at 3:07 PM ^

Contrarian here.

Credit Card perks is THE LAST thing I look for when selecting a credit card. What I want from CC is good rate, especially if you carry balance. Next, I look to see how honest the company is. Do they have tendencies to load you up with penalties? Do they change terms with little or no reason? These are MUCH important to you than any perks, which you will be paying for anyway. Capitol One is one of the WORST company to deal with. If I were you I would stay away from them as far as possible.

I highly recommend getting a card from your local bank, or even better, you local credit union. They are most likely to provide the best service and rates.


May 3rd, 2013 at 4:40 PM ^

If you don't carry a balance (as no one should in non-life-or-death situations) then the rate should be the last thing you look at. I will take perks over rate all day everyday, which I don't pay for because there is no annual fee, and I pay my bill. Also I've had Capital One for several years and have never had a problem. Their perks aren't the greatest, but I like the lack of foreign transaction and currency exchange fees when traveling abroad.


May 3rd, 2013 at 3:31 PM ^

If you cared to read that post today or in the past:

I got a CapOne rewards card last summer after getting denied a Chase Freedom.  The Cap One gives me 1% cash back plus 50% of cash back at the end of the year (so basically 1.5%).  It comes with a $39 annual fee which I have already obliterated.  I plan to call them near the 1 year anniversary and ask for that fee to be waved because I believe I can now get a PNC Cash Rewards card which is 1.5% anytime (not just the end of the year) and is my bank. Hopefully they give in and I don't lose the #39 and am still able to get 50% on my current cash rewards.

A couple months ago (after 6 months with CapOne) I get a letter saying I was pre-approved for the Freedom card, so score!

By the time I take a trip in July I will have accumulated about 175-200 on my CapOne Cash Rewards and another $25-50 on Chase (plus a $100 bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months).

That's $350 of free money from rewards because I pay the balance every month that will  get spent on dinner, booze, and other fun things while on vacation.


May 3rd, 2013 at 4:17 PM ^

There's a Detroit-based (soon to be Ann Arbor-based) startup that built an app and website that peruses your spending history and tells you what card would be best for you.

Beyond that, every time you're about to make a payment, it will tell you which of your pre-entered credit cards will maximize your rewards.


Disclosure... a good friend is one of the co-founders. But seriously, I highly recommend, and so have Fortune, Tech Crunch, etc.




May 3rd, 2013 at 6:11 PM ^

when I was flying Delta a lot and it was pretty awesome. Free checked bags, always zone 2 (or zone 1 or whatever it is now) boarding, and you earn miles. Easily paid for itself every year