The Best Cards For Everyday Spending

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Update: These offers for the Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business and the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card have expired. Learn more about the current offers here.


For those in the US with good credit, the best way to rack up points is through credit cards. This can include the welcome bonuses offered by credit cards, the points offered for spend on the cards, and all kinds of other offers.

I’ve written in the past about the credit cards I use for each major bonus category. Nowadays it’s possible to earn 2-5x points on many of the things we spend most on, ranging from travel to dining to supermarkets to gas stations.

However, there are some things we all spend money on where you just can’t earn bonus points for spend. This can include things ranging from doctors visits to paying taxes by credit card to buying points through points.com, just to give a few examples.

In this post I wanted to share what I consider to be the best cards nowadays for everyday, non-bonused spend. I’ll be sharing both personal and business cards, and the “return” I calculate on these cards will be based on my valuation of various points currencies.

Within each category I’ll rank the cards based on the return they offer, though in all cases these cards offer a return of 2% or more, based on my calculations.

Best personal credit cards for everyday spend

Chase Freedom Unlimited® 

Annual fee: $0

Return on spend: 1.5x points, which I value at 2.55%

What you need to know: This card earns 1.5x points per dollar spent, and those points can be converted into Ultimate Rewards points if you have it in conjunction with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardChase Sapphire Reserve® Card, or Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card. I value Ultimate Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, which is how I come up with this valuation.

Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card

Annual fee: $95

Return on spend: 1.5x points, which I value at 2.55%

What you need to know: This card earns 3x points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, 2x points at U.S. gas stations, and 1x points per dollar spent on everything else. However, if you make at least 30 transactions per billing cycle then you earn a 50% points bonus, meaning you earn 1.5x points on your non-bonused spend. I value Membership Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, which is how I come up with this valuation.

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

Annual fee: $0

Return on spend: 1.2x points, which I value at 2.04%

What you need to know: This card earns 2x points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, and 1x points per dollar spent on everything else. However, if you make at least 20 transactions per billing cycle then you earn a 20% points bonus, meaning you earn 1.2x points on your non-bonused spend. I value Membership Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, which is how I come up with this valuation.

Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard® (see terms)

Annual fee: $89, waived the first year

Return on spend: 2x miles, plus 5% of your miles back when you redeem, which I value at 2.1%

What you need to know: This card earns 2x miles per dollar spent, and each mile can be redeemed for one cent towards the cost of a travel purchase. That would be the equivalent of a 2% return. On top of that, the card offers 5% of your miles back every time you redeem, which can be used towards your next redemption, which is why the real value is closer to 2.1%.

Citi® Double Cash Card

Annual fee: $0

Return on spend: 1% + 1%

What you need to know: If you just want a simple cash back card without an annual fee, this is a great option. The card offers 1% cash back on every purchase, and then an additional 1% cash back when you pay for those purchases.

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Annual fee: $95, waived the first year

Return on spend: 2x miles, which I value at 2%

What you need to know: This card offers a big welcome bonus and 2x miles per dollar spent, with each mile redeemable for one cent towards a travel purchase. So while I’d prefer the Citi Double Cash, this is still a good option if you’re willing to pay an annual fee but are looking for a big bonus and a card that has no foreign transaction fees.

Best business credit cards for everyday spend

The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express

Annual fee: $0

Return on spend: 2x points, which I value at 3.4%

What you need to know: This card is pretty unbelievable, given that it offers 2x Membership Rewards points on the first $50,000 spent every calendar year. So this is the best card period (personal or business) for your first $50,000 of non-bonused spend annually. I value Membership Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, which is how I come up with this valuation.

Ink Business UnlimitedSM Credit Card

Annual fee: $0

Return on spend: 1.5x points, which I value at 2.55%

What you need to know: This card earns 1.5x points per dollar spent, and those points can be converted into Ultimate Rewards points if you have it in conjunction with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardChase Sapphire Reserve® Card, or Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card. I value Ultimate Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, which is how I come up with this valuation.

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

Annual fee: $450

Return on spend: 1.5x points on purchases of $5,000 or more, which I value at 2.55%

What you need to know: This bonus category is only useful if you have a business where you’re consistently making very big purchases. The card offers 1x points on most purchases, but offers 1.5x points on purchases of $5,000 or more in a single transaction, for a total of up to a million bonus points per year.

Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

Annual fee: $95, waived the first year

Return on spend: 2%

What you need to know: This is one of the best cash back business credit cards, as the card offers 2% cash back and a great welcome bonus.

The cards I use for non-bonused spend

Of the above, which cards do I use for my non-bonused spend? For personal spend, my first choice is the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, since it offers 1.5x Ultimate Rewards points (in conjunction with my Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card). That’s pretty awesome.

Maybe this also demonstrates why it can make sense to pay your taxes by credit card. There are services which will let you pay your taxes for a ~1.87% fee. Being able to pick up 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points for a 1.87% fee is like picking up Ultimate Rewards points for ~1.25 cents each. That’s a bargain, if you ask me

For business spend, my go-to card is The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express. The only downside of this card for many businesses is that you’re capped on earning 2x points on the first $50,000 annually.

In just over a week I plan on picking up the Ink Business UnlimitedSM Credit Card, which will complement that nicely, and is essentially the business version of the Chase Freedom Unlimited®.

Bottom line

Not only are credit card bonus categories better nowadays than ever before, but the value you can get from your non-bonused spend is also better than ever before. You truly can’t go wrong with any of the above cards, though if you’re into miles & points you should be earning at least 1.5x points on both your personal and business spend, in my opinion.

What cards do you use for your everyday, non-bonused spend?

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Comments

  1. Great article,

    One of my pet peeves with group tours (single or multi-day) is the visit to the local “cultural center” aka flea market/souvenir store. Total waste of time as well as a ripoff. But the guides often get a kickback:-(

  2. What about for non-bonused international spend? I think most of these cards have foreign transaction fees.

  3. Your Everyday spending should be on your next sock-drawer card you just opened for the sign up bonus…an extra point here or there on this or that card is not worth the effort. Even an extra 20,000 points is worth maybe $350. Any signup bonus exceeds that.

  4. Freedom Unlimited has a 3% foreign transaction fee. But while traveling, most of your charges are likely to be travel or dining, which you can put on the Sapphire Reserve or Preferred.

  5. @ Bake — Of these cards, neither the Arrival Plus, Capital One Venture, Business Platinum, nor Spark Cash have foreign transaction fees, so you have some good choices.

  6. The B of A premium rewards if you have platinum honors at 2.62% cash back is the best for intl everyday spend.

  7. Barclays Arrival Premier was a fantastic choice for int’l. non-bonus spend – happy I snagged it when it was available!

  8. Can you do a similar post about non-cashback cards for non-bonus int’l. spend?

    There are some cards that offer 1.5 miles per dollar with no FX fees (but not transferrable points), like the Virgin Atlantic card and Asia Miles card.

  9. Why would you open the Ink Unlimited if you already have the Freedom Unlimited? Beyond the sign up bonus (which you don’t mention) is there any benefit (which you don’t mention)?

  10. I would add the Virgin Atlantic Mastercard, because you get 1.5 miles per dollar plus bonuses, which means that you get 2.1 miles per dollar if you spend exactly $25,000 each year.

    I would also add the British Airways Visa, because if you spend $30,000 in a year you get an award companion pass. Use that on a 160,000-mile first-class RT ticket to Europe and you’re basically getting 160,000+30,000 miles for spending $30,000. I concede that the $1700 in fees on that second ticket dilutes that benefit significantly.

    I would give thought to adding the Avianca credit card, because Avianca allows you to triple the miles on that card if you pay an additional 1.2 cents per mile.

    I would consider adding the new Air France credit card, which gives 1.5 miles per dollar and a large boost toward Silver status on Air France.

  11. Ben, Where do you see the Starwood Business AMEX now? My understanding is everything changed once the value of star points decreased?? Thanks

  12. @Duane sez: “Freedom Unlimited has a 3% foreign transaction fee. But while traveling, most of your charges are likely to be travel or dining, which you can put on the Sapphire Reserve or Preferred.”

    That assertion is spot on, at least for me: the CSR for everything while overseas! Which is why the touting of the AMEX Gold/Pink new 3x earn rate on “travel” and 4x on “dining” just drew a big yawn out of me, especially with the claims that the card had the CSR on the defensive or on the run. Yawn…

    Have you closely looked at the fine print on the AMEX Gold/Pink benefits page? Well, I have:
    _______________

    “DINING”

    “You will earn one point for each dollar charged for an eligible purchase in each billing period on The American Express Gold Card. You will earn:

    — 3 additional points (for a total of 4 points) for each dollar charged at restaurants LOCATED IN THE U.S [emphasis added].

    — 3 additional points (for a total of 4 points) on the first $25,000 of eligible purchases per calendar year at supermarkets LOCATED IN THE U.S [emphasis added].”

    THE BENEFIT IS GOOD ONLY ON THE US! To make sure that the above was absolutely clear, the terms reiterate: “To earn additional points for a restaurant purchase, ***the purchase must be at a restaurant located in the United States****. You will NOT earn additional points for purchases made at a restaurant owned by a U.S. company but located outside the U.S. (e.g. Hard Rock Café in Paris).”

    How does the CSR define “dining”? This broadly….

    “Merchants in the restaurants category are merchants whose primary business is sit-down or eat-in dining, including fast food restaurants as well as fine dining establishments.”

    …ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD!

    __________

    How about “travel”? Here’s what’s on the Gold card page:

    “TRAVEL”
    you will earn:
    — 2 additional points (for a total of 3 points) for airfare on a scheduled flight charged directly with passenger airlines (charter flights and private jet flights are excluded) and airfare charged directly with amex travel.com.

    For the AMEX Gold card travel means “airfare”, that is.

    Now compare that with the CSR’s definition of travel…

    ” airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages”

    …ANYWHERE AROUND THE GLOBE!

    In addition, any one of the items above that qualifies as “travel” is eligible for the CSR’s $300 travel credit.

    The AMEX Gold does offer up to $100 statement credits for “TRAVEL” under this condition:

    “To receive statement credits of up to $100 per calendar year toward incidental air travel fees, Card Member must select one qualifying airline at http://www.americanexpress.com/selectafc.”

    That is, one is locked in with incidental spend incurred with a single airline!

    Wait, that is not all. The AMEX Gold card also offers a $120 “dining credit”, but to earn it you must dine with these this highlly select group of participating AMEX partners:

    — Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and participating Shake Shack locations. Excludes Shake Shack locations in ballparks, stadiums, airports and racetracks.

    Got that? I’ve never heard of any of the partners and had to struggle to suppress an uncontrollable urge to laugh hysterically in the San Diego UA Club where I was reviewing the new amd much-touted AMEX Gold card “benefits”.

    Bottom line: this card is no threat to the CSR among “savvy” world travelers. It is a joke…

    G’day!

  13. What about the Bank of America Premium Rewards Card for people who have $100,000 assets with BofA or Merrill Lynch? 2.625% on every purchase and 3.5% on travel.

  14. the first comment posted by me somehow ended up attached to this post rather than James’s post on group travel.

    Sorry for the confusion

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