Looking for the best credit cards? Read this updated article.
Liz Pulliam Weston asked credit card experts for their recommendations for making the most of the rewards that the issuing companies offer. I’ve done well with my Citi Dividend Platinum Select and now my American Express Blue Cash for Business, but it’s interesting to see what is recommended by those who live and breathe credit cards.
For travel programs, the winners were American Express Starwood Card and the Diners Club MasterCard. With the Starwood Card, you earn 10,000 points after the first purchase which can be redeemed for up to 3 nights at a hotel. More rewards come quickly afterward. Read about all the benefits here.
The runners up in the travel category were the American Airlines AAdvantage® MasterCard, United Mileage Plus Visa, Choice Privileges Visa, and Citi PremierPass Elite MasterCard.
Cash back rewards
Cash back is my personal favorite type of reward. The top card picked by the experts is the American Express Blue Cash, which offers 5% cash back on “everyday purchases” and 1.5% cash back on everything else. In order to reach this level of reward, the card requires a total yearly charge of at least $6,500. As Liz points out, if you charge less than $2,500 on the card each month, the Chase Freedom Visa (no longer available) will be a better choice with its offer of 3% cash back on each month’s most charged category and 1% on all other purchases. With this card, you’ll also receive an additional $50 cash back after your first purchase. MSN claims 200 points earns you $250 cash back with this card, so the cash back rebate is effectively 1.25%, but I can’t find any evidence of this.
The runners up in the cash back category include the Citi Professional Cash Card and Discover Motiva. I still run across some stores that don’t accept Discover Cards, so that wouldn’t be my choice if you intend on carrying only one card.
If you’re saving for a child’s future education, a number of cards offer options that provide savings incentives each time you charge. The Fidelity Investments 529 College Rewards American Express Card is the clear winner, particularly for an investor with a 529 education savings account at Fidelity. 1.5% of your purchases, up to $1,500, are credited to your 529 account annually.
I formerly used a Citi Upromise MasterCard, the runner up in this category. With this card, 1% of all purchases is deposited into a holding account at Upromise which can later be invested in a 529 or returned to you in the form of a check. The latter was my option. In addition to the 1% rebate, the Upromise card is also now offering 2% on ExxonMobil purchases and 10% cash back on certain supermarket and grocery store items.
Cards honorably mentioned by the experts on MSN include the Citi Home Rebate Platinum Select MasterCard, GM Flexible Earnings and NestEggz Platinum Visa Card. This is the first I’ve heard of the NestEggz Card, which offers a 1% rebate and a $25 incentive for using the card, to be deposited into a qualifying retirement account.
Summary: MSN’s 15 credit cards with the best rewards
- American Express Starwood Card (Travel)
- Diners Club MasterCard (Travel)
- American Airlines AAdvantage® MasterCard (Travel)
- United Mileage Plus Visa (Travel, no longer available)
- Choice Privileges Visa (Travel)
- Citi PremierPass Elite MasterCard (Travel)
- American Express Blue Cash (Cash Back)
- Chase Freedom Visa (Cash Back, no longer available)
- Citi Professional Cash Card (Cash Back)
- Discover Motiva (Cash Back)
- Fidelity Investments 529 College Rewards American Express Card (Savings)
- Citi Upromise MasterCard (Savings)
- Citi Home Rebate Platinum Select MasterCard (Savings)
- GM Flexible Earnings (Savings)
- NestEggz Platinum Visa Card (Savings)
For more current information, view the best credit cards available today.
Updated May 9, 2011 and originally published January 8, 2008. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.