Best Credit Cards For Everyday Spending (2021)

Filed Under: American Express, Bank of America
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For those in the United States with good credit, the best way to rack up points is through credit cards. This can include the welcome bonuses offered by cards, the points offered for spending on 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 spending. This can include things ranging from doctors visits to paying taxes by credit card to purchases made through Plastiq 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 credit cards nowadays for everyday, non-bonused spending. 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 on spending 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 Spending In May 2021

There are lots of great credit cards for maximizing your everyday, non-bonused personal spending. From a straightforward 2% cash back card, to cards that potentially get you a lot more value with a few tricks, you’re probably leaving money on the table. Here are some of my favorites:

Citi® Double Cash Card

Citi Double Cash annual fee: $0
Citi Double Cash return on spending: 2x points, which I value at 3.4%

What you need to know about the Citi Double Cash: The Citi Double Cash is now in a league of its own when it comes to personal credit cards for everyday spending. On the most basic level, the card offers 1% cash back on every purchase, and then an additional 1% cash back when you pay for those purchases. However, if you have the card in conjunction with the Citi Premier or Citi Prestige, then points can be transferred to Citi ThankYou at a ratio of one cent per point, meaning you can earn 2x transferable points per dollar spent.

Learn more about the Citi Double Cash.

Transfer Citi points to Emirates Skywards

Bank Of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card

Premium Rewards Card annual fee: $95
Premium Rewards Card return on spending: 1.5x points, which I value at up to 2.625%

What you need to know about the Premium Rewards Card: The Bank of America Premium Rewards earns 1.5x points, but there’s a trick to really maximizing value with the card, and it won’t be for everyone. While each point is usually worth one cent, Bank of America has the Preferred Rewards Program, where you receive bonuses if you have certain amounts deposited with the bank. For example, if you have at least a $100,000 balance with Bank of America you get a 75% bonus, for an incredible 2.625% back on all purchases.

Learn more about the Bank of America Premium Rewards.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture Card annual fee: $95
Capital One Venture Card return on spending: 2x miles, which I value at 2.6%

What you need to know the Capital One Venture Card: The Capital One Venture offers 2x Venture miles per dollar spent. Each mile can be redeemed for one cent towards the cost of a travel purchase, or can be transferred to an airline or hotel partner at a ratio of up to 1:1 (though transfer ratios vary). Since I value Capital One miles at 1.3 cents each, that’s the equivalent of a 2.6% return.

Learn more about the Capital One Venture.

Redeem Capital One miles towards the cost of virtually any hotel stay

Chase Freedom Unlimited® 

Chase Freedom Unlimited annual fee: $0
Chase Freedom Unlimited return on spending: 1.5x points, which I value at 2.55%

What you need to know about the Chase Freedom Unlimited: The Chase Freedom Unlimited 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® Card (review), Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card (review), or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (review). I value Ultimate Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, which is how I come up with this valuation.

Learn more about the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card

Amex EveryDay Preferred Card annual fee: $95
Amex EveryDay Preferred Card return on spending: 1.5x points, which I value at 2.55%

What you need to know about the Amex EveryDay Preferred Card: The Amex EveryDay Preferred 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 spending. I value Membership Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, which is how I come up with this valuation.

Learn more about the Amex EveryDay Preferred.

Transfer Amex points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Best Business Credit Cards For Everyday Spending In May 2021

The above are what I consider to be the best personal credit cards for everyday spending, but what about the best business cards? Getting a business card with a good return on non-bonused spending could be hugely valuable, regardless of whether you’re looking to earn cash back rewards or points. Here are some of my favorites:

Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express

Blue Business Plus Card annual fee: $0 (Rates & Fees)
Blue Business Plus Card return on spending: 2x points, which I value at 3.4%

What you need to know about the Blue Business Plus Card: The Amex Blue Business Plus is pretty unbelievable, given that it offers 2x Membership Rewards points on the first $50,000 spent every calendar year. This is the best business card for your first $50,000 of non-bonused spending annually. I value Membership Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, which is how I come up with this valuation.

Learn more about the Amex Blue Business Plus.

Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business

Capital One Spark Miles Card annual fee: $95, waived the first year
Capital One Spark Miles Card return on spending: 2x Spark miles, which I value at 2.6%

What you need to know about the Capital One Spark Miles Card: Each Spark mile can be redeemed for one cent towards the cost of a travel purchase, or miles can be transferred to select airline partners at a ratio of up to 1:1.

Learn more about the Spark Miles Business.

Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card

Ink Business Unlimited Card annual fee: $0
Ink Business Unlimited Card return on spending: 1.5x points, which I value at 2.55%

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

Learn more about the Ink Business Unlimited.


Transfer Chase points to World of Hyatt

Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

Capital One Spark Cash Card annual fee: $95, waived the first year
Capital One Spark Cash Card return on spending: 2%

What you need to know about the Capital One Spark Cash Card: The Spark Cash Business is one of the best cash back business credit cards, as the card offers 2% cash back.

Learn more about the Spark Cash Business.

Blue Business Cash™ Card from American Express

Amex Blue Business Cash Card annual fee: $0 (Rates & Fees)
Amex Blue Business Cash Card return on spending: 2% cash back on all eligible purchases on up to $50,000 per calendar year, then 1%.

What you need to know about the Amex Blue Business Cash Card: The Blue Business Cash is one of the best cash back business credit cards, as the card offers 2% cash back on the first $50,000 spent every calendar year. The $50,000 cap is restrictive for some businesses, but then again, the card also doesn’t have an annual fee.

Learn more about the Amex Blue Business Cash.

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

Amex Business Platinum Card annual fee: $595 (Rates & Fees)
Amex Business Plus Card return on spending: 1.5x points on purchases of $5,000 or more, which I value at 2.55%

What you need to know about the Amex Business Platinum Card: The Amex Business Platinum 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.

Learn more about the Amex Business Platinum.

Transfer Amex points to Air France-KLM Flying Blue

The Cards I Use For Non-Bonused Personal Spending

Of the above, which cards do I use for my non-bonused spending?

Nowadays the Citi Double Cash is my go-to card, given that rewards can be transferred to Citi ThankYou, meaning I’m earning the equivalent of 2x ThankYou points per dollar spent.

My backup card for personal spending is the Chase Freedom Unlimited, which allows me to earn up to 1.5x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent, in conjunction with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

These cards also perfectly demonstrate why it can make sense to pay your taxes by credit card. There are services that will let you pay your taxes for a fee of under 2%. Being able to pick up 1.5x Ultimate Rewards points or 2x ThankYou points for under two cents is an incredible value, if you ask me.

The Cards I Use For Non-Bonused Business Spending

For business spending, my go-to card is the Amex Blue Business Plus, for the ability to earn 2x Membership Rewards points. The only downside of this card for many businesses is that you’re capped at earning 2x points on the first $50,000 spent annually.

Therefore my backup card for non-bonused business spending is the Ink Business Unlimited, which allows me to earn 1.5x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent.

Bottom Line

Not only are credit card bonus categories better nowadays than ever before, but the value you can get from your non-bonused spending is also better than ever before.

You truly can’t go wrong with any of the above cards. As a general rule of thumb, just be sure you’re earning at least 2% cash back or a minimum of 1.5x transferable points per dollar spent in non-bonused categories. Ideally you’d earn 2x transferable points, possible with cards like the Citi Double Cash and Amex Blue Business Plus.

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

The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), The Business Platinum® Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), and American Express® Blue Business Cash Card (Rates & Fees).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
Comments
  1. You should do a post on whether it makes sense to prioritize cashback/transferable points with everyday spend or whether it makes sense to prioritize spending for status, free nights, or other rewards. For example, many people put everyday spend on cards like

    Hilton Ascend (free weekend night at $15,000 in annual spend)
    Delta Platinum / Reserve (MQM boosts at $25,000/$30,000K in spend)
    World of Hyatt Card (free nights, elite status nights with more spend)
    etc

    I myself am using a Delta Amex Platinum for nonbonus spend this year to help reach Gold status and will likely switch to the Reserve next year. I also use CFU and CapOne Venutre…

  2. @ Anthony

    I’ve addressed this before, but taking into account everything — points per dollar, point value, award availability, award charts, status perks and buying points with money earned cash-back — my current conclusion is that the best non-exotic cards for non-bonused everyday spend are the Amex Blue for Business Plus (2x for first $50,000 each year), the BA Visa (2-for-1 award ticket if you spend $30,000), the Virgin Atlantic Black MC (2.1x for first $25,000 each year, plus a 2-for-1 economy award ticket and access to Delta awards at reasonable prices), and the Merrill Edge Platinum (2.625% cash back, which is enough to buy roughly two Iberia Avios or Avianca Lifemiles per dollar spent, under recurring special offers).

  3. I think it would be good to note that you’d have to spend an additional $15,200/year on the Bank of America premium rewards card before you broke even on the $95 fee vs something like the Citi double cash back card with no annual fee. I know you can’t analyze everything on every card for everyone 🙂

  4. @ David — Thanks for bringing that up. Admittedly I can’t analyze everything in posts like this, though I’d note that I actually think the carrying costs of this card are next to nothing. That’s because the card offers a $100 airline incidental statement credit annually for qualifying purchases, which I more or less value at face value.

  5. @Lucky

    Thank you for mentioning the Bank of America Premium Rewards card. A couple of notes…

    Dining and travel are 3.5x points with the top tier Platinum Honors. All other spend is the usual 2.625%

    The $100 yearly airline incidental credit can be easily maximized thus covering the annual fee.

  6. Capital One needs to drop their annual fee in order to be more compelling. At least on the 2% cashback card. Why would anyone get that when you can do 2% with no fee or 2.5% with a fee?

  7. “Virgin Atlantic Black MC (2.1x for first $25,000 each year, plus a 2-for-1 economy award ticket”…
    This looks pretty interesting but other sites say the companion ticket matches the class you buy. Which is right?

  8. @ CSUE

    As far as I know, the Virgin Atlantic card allows 2-for-1 only on economy award tickets. It’s the British Airways card that allows 2-for-1 for any class of service,

  9. Hi Ben, can you recommend a card that gives more than 1.5% on grocery and doesn’t have foreign transaction fee?

    Thanks.

  10. @Eddie,
    The American Express Blue Preferred has no foreign transaction fees and gives 6% back in groceries and 3% on gas but it is cash and not points. And a $95 annual fee.

    Apparently that card is ignored around here.

  11. @CSUE
    The highest class you can redeem depends on status with VA.
    No status, economy. Silver, premium. Gold, Upper Class.

  12. Best card by far for miscellaneous mobile pay spending is US BANK Altitude Reserve. It’s a great card. Highly recommend it. 4.5% yield (3x points redeemable for 1.5x travel)

  13. @Eddie: Capital One Quick Silver (2 versions, but choose the no annual fee version). 1.5% back on everything, not only grocery. No annual fee + no foreign transaction fee.

    Only downside- Capital One customer service is horrible. Requires very good/excellence credit to get this one. Otherwise, will have to choose the $39 annual fee version

  14. Amex Everyday Preferred has been my go-to for years, but I am now tempted by the Amex Gold. The Amex Gold seems like a higher-end version of the Everyday Preferred, except when it comes to non-bonus spend. Very annoying.

  15. The Fidelity 2% card seems to always be overlooked. It’s strict cash back, but it’s 2% up front. I wonder if bloggers rarely mention it because there aren’t any affiliate kickbacks?

  16. Quick question – why did you decided to to CSP + Citi Double instead of CSP + Chase Freedom Unlimited for your daily spending? Are the citi thank you points that much more valuable than getting the extra UR points from the Freedom? Also on that note, how much more valuable are the Citi Thank You points rather than just getting the 2% cash back that is standard from the Citi Double Cash? I have these 3 cards and I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to combine them, so any insight is helpful.

  17. Do all of the cards mentioned have a foreign exchange fee? (FOE)

    I know the Chase Freedom unlimited does so I use in US exclusively…

    Is there one that does not (have FEF) that would give me MORE than 1 point per dollar for everyday using it overseas

  18. @Thomas

    I use Bank of america travel rewards, has no annual or foreign transaction fee , Gives 1.5% to 2.625% statement credit

  19. I list 7 cards with a straight 2% cash back. No limits, no restrictions. My favorite is the State Department Federal Credit Union card, because it is the only one that does not charge the rip-off foreign transaction fee.

  20. There are also other cards that are overlooked, too. Your return does not matter because it depends on the redemption options and the other cards you have. For example, the freedom unlimited card at 1.5% is really 2.25% if you have the reserve card and redeem for travel through Chase.

  21. Any thoughts on best card to use for home remodeling project, which will mostly be things like furniture, fixtures, professional fees?

  22. @ rich- Amex Blue Preferred has 2.7% FTF (foreign transaction fees). It also caps grocery spend at $6k per year. It’s otherwise a great card for gas and streaming, and if you don’t go over $6K per year on groceries.

    @ Eddie- Citi Premier offers 3x on groceries worldwide! (No FTFs!)

  23. @Santastico:

    Citi Costco is 1% cash back on all other purchases not in a bonus category, which, using my elite math skills, I value at 1%. 😛

    It’s well behind using a 2% cash back card for unbonused spend.

  24. Everyday spending does not always equal unbonused spending. It would be more clear to only refer to unbonused spending in this post, since many people consider groceries and gas to be “everyday” spending categories.

  25. My question is if I transfer my chase points to Eva air what is the value. Eva is not one their partners airlines. Thank you.

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