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Best rewards credit cards for October 2021

Earn cash back, travel points, welcome bonuses and more with these credit cards.

A rewards credit card helps you get the most out of your everyday spending. When used responsibly -- meaning you don't spend more than you can pay off each month -- a rewards credit card can be extremely lucrative. Every time you purchase something with your rewards card, you can earn points, cash back or miles for travel (though you could get a designated travel card for that). On top of that, they often come with a welcome bonus and other perks.  

Before you apply for any credit card, you'll want to make sure you understand the system so that you can maximize your rewards potential. Be sure you're aware of potential fees, like a foreign transaction fee, as well as factors like a variable APR. Each card and card issuer is different. Further, be sure you can pay your balance in full each month -- only paying the minimum could negate any credit card rewards you earn. We always recommend paying your balance in full no matter what, but if you want to get the most out of a rewards card, especially one with an annual fee, paying in full each month as you use the card for everyday purchases is important.

If you're looking for the best rewards credit card to help you earn points, get more cash back or save money while traveling, you've come to the right place. Here are our top picks for the best rewards credit card in every category. We'll update this list periodically. 

Read more: Cash advances: How they work and what they cost

Best overall cash-back rewards card

Card Highlights
Intro BonusEarn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
APR14.99 - 23.74% Variable
Recommended Credit Excellent/Good
Reward Rates
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 3% on dining and drugstores.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APR0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Additional Details
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Balance Transfer APR14.99 - 23.74% Variable
Foreign Transaction Fees 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars
Penalty APR Up to 29.99%
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 3% on dining and drugstores.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Our Take

If you're in the market for a credit card with great overall cash-back rewards plus extra incentives for travel and dining, we think the Chase Freedom Unlimited card is a top choice. With 5% cash back on travel purchases through Chase, 5% on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year, 3% on dining, 3% on drugstore purchases and a 1.5% flat-rate cash back on all other purchases, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card offers all-around great rewards, with one of the highest flat credit card rewards rates out there. 

New card members will earn a $200 bonus if you spend $500 or more during your first three months of card membership -- one of the lowest bonus thresholds among the cards profiled here. Note that the 5% cash back on travel is only for trips booked through the company's Chase Ultimate Rewards service. Though it offers a lower standard rate (1.5%) than the Citi® Double Cash Card (up to 2% cash back; 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay for those purchases), we think that flat 1.5% rate plus the higher category spending rates makes it the better card overall for most people. 

This rewards credit card works well whether it's the only card in your wallet or used to supplement a specific category card, like a travel credit card, which may offer higher bonuses for a particular type of purchase.

Best travel rewards card

Card Highlights
Intro BonusEarn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
APR16.99%-23.99% Variable
Recommended Credit Excellent
Reward Rates
  • Earn 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 5X total points on air travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 3X points on other travel and dining.
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Annual Fee$550
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Additional Details
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each balance transfer, whichever is greater
Balance Transfer APR16.99%-23.99% Variable
Foreign Transaction Fees $0
Penalty APR Up to 29.99%
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 5X total points on air travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 3X points on other travel and dining.
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Our Take

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a general travel rewards credit card, meaning you earn points on any travel or dining purchase, not just with a single airline and your redemption options are much more flexible and transferable. The Chase Sapphire Reserve rewards card is even better for those who value the additional travel perks like travel insurance, hotel benefits through The Luxury Hotel and Resort Collection and lounge access. This travel card offers great value for anyone spending around $12,000 or more annually on travel (flights, hotels, rental cars, trains, buses, taxis) and dining (restaurants, cafes, bars) combined.

Cardholders earn unlimited 10x points on hotel and car rental purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 5x points on air travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards and 3x points on other travel purchases (earn elevated rewards on travel purchases after earning the $300 annual travel statement credit). Plus, earn 3x points on dining purchases, 1x points on all other eligible purchases and 10x points on Lyft rides through March 2022. While the $550 annual fee is on the high side, an annual $300 statement credit for travel purchases essentially brings the yearly commitment down to $250. The signup bonus earns you 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months (worth $750 when redeemed for travel in the Chase portal). Chase Sapphire Reserve card holders also get a statement credit reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck (worth $100 for Global Entry or $85 for TSA precheck, both of which are valid for five years) plus a number of VIP-style travel perks.

Best dining and entertainment rewards

Card Highlights
Intro Bonus$300 after you spend $3000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
APR15.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
Recommended Credit Excellent, Good
Reward Rates
  • Earn unlimited 4% cash back on dining, entertainment and popular streaming services
  • Earn 3% at grocery stores
  • Earn 1% on all other purchases
Annual Fee$95
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APRN/A
Balance Transfer Fee None for balances transferred at the Transfer APR.
Balance Transfer APR15.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
Late Payment Fee Up to $40
Foreign Transaction Fees None
Penalty APR None
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn unlimited 4% cash back on dining, entertainment and popular streaming services
  • Earn 3% at grocery stores
  • Earn 1% on all other purchases

Our Take

We think the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card* is one of the best rewards credit card options available, with a $300 welcome bonus (after spending $3,000 in the first three months) that effectively cancels out the annual fee for the first three years. 

The Savor card's headline rate is the 4% you get on dining and entertainment, which includes bars and restaurants for dining and "tickets to a movie, play, concert, sporting event, tourist attraction, theme park, aquarium, zoo, dance club, pool hall or bowling alley" for entertainment. If you're like most American consumers who spend more on dining than entertainment, then note the emphasis on that part of the bonus. 

This rewards credit card makes sense if you're spending more than $300 per month on dining and entertainment. If that's the case, I recommend only putting those purchases on it. There's no reason to take the 1% cash back on nondining and entertainment purchases. For those, use your 1.5% or 2% card.

Another worth considering

Card Highlights
Intro BonusEnjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel
APR15.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
Recommended Credit Excellent, Good
Reward Rates
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.
Annual Fee$95
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APRN/A
Balance Transfer Fee $0 at this Transfer APR
Balance Transfer APR15.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
Late Payment Fee Up to $40
Foreign Transaction Fees None
Penalty APR None
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.

Our Take

For anyone planning a big trip this summer, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card* offers $600 to $1,020 in value with the current welcome bonus (60,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months of opening your account). Not only does the Venture Rewards have a large welcome bonus, it also has a comparatively modest $95 annual fee.

*The value of Capital One miles depends on how you redeem them. If you redeem your miles through Capital One, either as a statement credit or for travel, they're worth 1 cent each. If you transfer your miles to an affiliate travel partner, they can be worth up to 1.7 cents apiece, according to The Points Guy's valuation, depending on the specific flight or hotel stay.

Card Highlights
Intro BonusUp to $150 Amazon Gift Card instantly upon approval
APR14.24% to 22.24% Variable
Recommended Credit N/A
Reward Rates
  • 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market with eligible Prime membership*
  • 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores*
  • 1% back on all other purchases*
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Additional Details
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Balance Transfer APR14.24% to 22.24% Variable
Late Payment Fee Up to $39
Foreign Transaction Fees None
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market with eligible Prime membership*
  • 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores*
  • 1% back on all other purchases*

Our Take

The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card* earns you 5% cash back on purchases at Amazon and Whole Foods, which is pretty sweet if you're a regular shopper at those stores. This Amazon card also offers a few other compelling benefits. First, new members can earn up to a $150 gift card upon approval, plus you can score up to 10% back in bonus rewards on select rotating Amazon products.

The card also throws in 2% at restaurants, gas stations and drug stores, plus 1% on all other everyday purchases. While Amazon offers a basic, non-Prime member card (Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card*) with 3% back on Amazon purchases, I'm focusing on the Prime rewards card since I assume that if you're making a significant amount of purchases each month (over $250) at Amazon or Whole Foods, you're most likely a Prime member.

If you shop a ton at Amazon and Whole Foods and most of the rest of your spending is at restaurants and on gas, the Amazon Prime Rewards card could be your only cash-back card. Outside of that specific spending profile, though, I recommend using this rewards credit card like the others -- as a supplement to a flat-rate card to earn cash for Amazon and Whole Foods purchases.

Best Apple rewards

Card Highlights
Intro BonusN/A
APR10.99% to 21.99% (Variable)
Recommended Credit N/A
Reward Rates
  • Apple Card gives you unlimited 3% Daily Cash back on everything you buy at Apple
  • With every purchase you make using your Apple Card with Apple Pay, you get 2% Daily Cash back
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Apple Card gives you unlimited 3% Daily Cash back on everything you buy at Apple
  • With every purchase you make using your Apple Card with Apple Pay, you get 2% Daily Cash back

Our Take

To be honest, the Apple Card offers very few benefits outside of Apple purchases, but if you're in the market for a new MacBook for a college student or upgraded iPhone, this rewards credit card does boast some impressive Apple perks. 

The Apple Card has a unique rewards program structure, offering 3% on Apple, Uber and Walgreens purchases (an eclectic combination of categories to say the least), 2% on purchases made with Apple Pay and 1% on everything else. Unless you're an Apple super shopper and everyday Uber user, the 3% category isn't going to stand out much. Plus, having to use Apple Pay to hit 2% compares poorly with the Citi Double Cash Card, which offers up to 2% on everything (1% when you buy, plus 1% when you pay for those eligible purchases), no matter how you pay. There are some advantages to Apple's card, though.

If the primary 3% category (Apple, Uber and Walgreens) applies to a lot of your purchases, this is a good cash-back option. But the 2% for Apple Pay is a little flimsy given not all retailers accept Apple Pay, while the Citi Double Cash Card offers up to 2% no matter what. This card is primarily for those who are interested in the card's privacy policy and instant credit card rewards.

More credit card recommendations

*All information about the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card, Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, and the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.