The Six Best Credit Cards for Everyday Spending

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Many of us know what to do when we have an expense that falls within a bonus category on one of our credit cards –  we clearly use that card for that purchase in order to earn as many points as possible. That may mean earning 3x on dining or travel thanks to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, or 5x on airfare booked directly with the airlines on The Platinum Card®, 5x this quarter on Paypal via the Chase Freedom, or earning 6% back at US supermarkets thanks to the Blue Cash Preferred® Card. Many of those cards and benefits have annual bonus limits, terms apply, and so on, but the concept of putting those types of expenses on a card that awards a bonus is pretty well understood.

The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express

What can actually be more difficult is determining which credit card is the right one to use for your everyday expenses that don’t fall within a prescribed bonus category. This is especially true thanks to the coming changes to the SPG Amex cards where their everyday earning power will drop effective August 1, 2018, from the current equivalent of 3x Marriott Rewards points per dollar to just 2x Marriott Rewards points per dollar.

Whether you are in the market for a new everyday credit card because of the upcoming earning changes to the SPG cards, or simply because you aren’t sure which card is best, let’s look at a few top contenders for that everyday spot. The good news is that there are lots of new solid contenders for the best everyday credit card, but the bad news is there is no one clear-cut winner.

Earn 1.5x points per dollar with the Chase Freedom Unlimited 

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is probably my top personal everyday credit card recommendation for those who like to transfer their points to hotel and airline partners. This card has no annual fee and earns 1.5x Ultimate Reward points on your purchases across the board.

If you also have a premium Ultimate Rewards Card such as the Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred, on Ink Business Preferred, then the points you earn on the Freedom Unlimited can transfer to the Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline partners such as United, Hyatt, British Airways, Marriott, Singapore, Southwest, and more. I value transferrable Ultimate Reward points north of 1.75 cents per point each, so that valuation means that you are earning more than 2.625 cents in points for every dollar charged on the card.

Learn more.

Earn 1.5x points per dollar with the new Ink Business Unlimited 

The Ink Business Unlimited is a brand new card that is essentially the small business version of the Freedom Unlimited as it also earns 1.5x Ultimate Reward points on your purchases with no annual fee. Just like with the Freedom Unlimited, you can transfer these points to hotel and airline partners if you also have one of the premium Ultimate Rewards cards.

One unique perk to the Ink Business Unlimited is that the welcome bonus is currently quite high for a card with no annual fee at 50,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months. That could be a nice incentive to give this card a try as your everyday spending small business card.

Learn more.

Earn 2x points per dollar with the Blue Business Plus Credit Card

The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card has no annual fee and earns a staggering 2x Amex Membership Reward points per dollar on all purchases, up to the first $50,000 per year. If you value transferrable Membership Reward points at 1.75 cents each, that is like getting 3.5 cents in points per dollar charged, up to the first $50,000 charged annually. After that, you would earn 1x point per dollar on purchases charged to the card.

Amex Membership Rewards points don’t get as much love as Ultimate Reward points, but they are just as valuable to me. You can transfer Membership Reward points to ANA, British Airways, Delta, Singapore, Hilton, and more in order to maximize a variety of award charts.

There is no other American Express Card with or without an annual fee that has a stronger everyday earnings rate than the Blue Business Plus Credit Card. This is a small business card, so it won’t be for everyone, but it shouldn’t impact your Chase 5/24 status, which is a factor worth considering if you apply for more than one or two new cards per year.

Earn up to 3x points per dollar with the Barclays Arrival Premier World Elite Mastercard

The new Barclays Arrival® Premier World Elite Mastercard is a unique card in terms of its everyday earnings potential. The card earns 2x ‘miles’ per dollar spent, but if you hit certain spending thresholds each year then you earn bonuses that essentially increase the everyday earnings on the card.

If you spend $15,000 on purchases on the card in a year you get 15,000 bonus miles. If you spend an additional $10,000 on purchases on the card in the same year, you get an additional 10,000 miles. Say you target $15,000 on the card each year, which is an average of $1,250 per month, then at the end of the year, you would have earned 30,000 miles for the normal 2x on purchases plus an extra 15,000 miles for hitting the spending threshold. That means a potential average of 3x miles per dollar spent, if you charge right at $15,000 or $25,000 on the card each year.

Those points are then worth one cent each towards travel in the form of statement credits, meaning you earn up to 3 cents in travel for every one dollar charged to the card. There are also some transfer partners you can send your miles to, and those details are outlined here.

See Rates & Fees

Earn up to 2.65x with the Bank of America Premium Rewards Card

The Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card does not get enough love in this space. For Bank of America customers, this card should get serious wallet consideration. For all customers, the card earns 2x on travel and 1.5x per dollar spent on other non-bonused charges. It also has a strong welcome bonus of 50,000 points after you make $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days. There is a $95 annual fee, but you get a $100 annual airline incidental fee credit and also a $100 TSA/Global Entry application fee statement credit every four years.

What makes this a strong contender for the best everyday credit card is that for Bank of America customers, you can earn up to a 75% bonus on the points earned by this card based on your status level within the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program. There are three levels in the Preferred Rewards program that are assigned based on the total assets you have on deposit with Bank of America and Merrill Lynch. This amount is based on a three-month average of assets, and once you hit a tier it is valid for at least one year.

  • Gold level requires $20,000 in assets and awards a 25% rewards bonus
  • Platinum level requires $50,000 in assets and awards a 50% rewards bonus
  • Platinum Honors level requires $100,000 in assets and awards a 75% rewards bonus

At the highest level, this means that the Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card doesn’t earn just 1.5x on everyday spending, but for Bank of America Platinum Honors customers, it actually earns 2.625 points per dollar. These points are worth one cent per point towards statement credits, so that is 2.625 cents in rewards earned per dollar at the highest tier.

Earn 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay with the Citi Double Cash

Finally, at the very least, I recommend trying earn at least 2% cash back with your everyday spending that doesn’t fall within a bonus category. One popular card that may make sense is the Citi Double Cash Card that gives you 1% cash back when you make a purchase and another 1% back when you pay that charge off. You would think that 1 + 1 = 2%, but they want to be sure it is referenced as a 1% + 1% card. Still, getting cash back is a very simple concept to understand, so this card with no annual fee is a top contender for people who want to keep it as simple as 1 + 1 = 2.

These are six of the best credit cards for everyday spending that I’m aware of, but I’d love to hear your everyday favorites whether they are on my list or not.

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. Isn’t the American Express SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card a cash back card and doesn’t earn Membership Rewards?

  2. How are you evaluating MR points to be worth 1.75? MR points for cash are worth 1. I just don’t see the redemption rates unless you are booking tickets way in advance overseas. What am I missing here?

    • Dave, you can substitute in your own valuation. I’d say they are worth at least 1.75 cents each to me when I redeem with partner airlines to fly round trip business class to Europe on ANA for 88,000 miles or even transferring to BA for short-haul American flights from 7,500 points, but adjust the math based on how you redeem for sure.

      • Some of the best deals I’ve seen for overseas travel have been cash + points.

        I’ve found BA Avios sound better on paper than they actually are for a couple of reasons.

        1. The booking system is broken so you need to wait 30 minutes on hold to check availability and make reservations.
        2. You likely aren’t getting a seat unless there are mile saver spots which are far and few unless you are booking way in advance.

        • Dave, both true, with #1 being particularly annoying as it really is a preventable problem. That said, I’ve had much better success with AA saver availability in the last 12 – 18 months than I was having a couple of years ago, especially if I am planning in advance and have even a little flexibility.

  3. For roughly the next year, I’m using a different strategy to maximize my non-category bonus spend. I got the British Airways 100K Avios card last month. For those that don’t know, that card provides a bonus of 50K bonus after 3 months, but then allows a full 12 months to reach a tiered bonus of an additional 25K Avios for more spend, and then another bonus of 25K after another spending threshold is reached. I intend to place all my non-category bonus spend on that card. I likely won’t get to the 100K bonus, but I should have no problem hitting the 75K bonus just paying insurance, medical bills and utilities on the card.

    Just another strategy for folks to consider in the non-bonus categories.

    • It is very strong indeed. If I included even one more card on here, that would be it. It didn’t quite make it on simply because of the high annual fee (though I know there are lots of included credits) and to get the best value from it you need to be into mobile wallet, which I know not everyone is quite yet. But make no mistake it is a great card for those who travel and use mobile wallets. I need to get it myself!

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