The 7 Credit Cards That Offer A Return Of Over 2% On All Spend

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Update: The special welcome offer for the The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express has expired, but you can learn more about best available offers here.

In order to maximize your return on everyday spend you should use a combination of cards. This includes using cards with lucrative category bonuses, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, and also involves using a card that helps you maximize your non-bonused spend.

Getting at least a 2% return on spend

Not factoring in any spend category bonuses, you should at least be earning a return that equates to about 2% on your everyday spend. Why? Because that’s what you could get in cash for that spend.

The Citi® Double Cash Card has no annual fee and offers unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.

As far as business cards go, the Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business offers unlimited 2% cash back. The card does have a $59 annual fee (which is waived the first year), though it also offers a $500 cash bonus once you spend $4,500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.

For many consumers and small businesses — especially those who don’t really understand miles & points too well — these are great cards to use for everyday spend.

What cards offer a return of better than 2%?

Those who are savvy should be able to achieve a return that’s better than 2% on non-bonused spend. Note that in some cases there are restrictions associated with these, so be sure you understand these cards before signing up.

Furthermore, I’m basing the return of being over 2% on my valuations of points currencies. Your valuations may very well be higher or lower, so adjust the numbers so they work for you. With that in mind, here are the cards that earn a return of over 2%, roughly ranked:

The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express

Annual fee: $0
Return on spend: 2x Membership Rewards points on the first $50,000 spent annually
Value of those points: 1.7 cents each

This card offers a return that I value at ~3.4% on the first $50,000 spent annually, which is incredible.

Chase Freedom® Unlimited

Annual fee: $0
Return on spend: unlimited 1.5x points
Value of those points: 1.7 cents each

The catch here is that this is a cash back card, though if you have it in conjunction with a card that accrues Ultimate Rewards points — like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardInk Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, etc. — then these can be converted into Ultimate Rewards points. That equates to a return of 2.55% on spend.

Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card

Annual fee: $95
Return on spend: unlimited 1.5x Membership Rewards points, assuming you make 30 transactions per billing cycle
Value of those points: 1.7 cents each

With this card you only receive 1.5x points per dollar spent if you make 30 transactions per billing cycle. Assuming you’re able to do that, I value the return at ~2.55%.

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

Annual fee: $95, waived the first year
Return on spend: unlimited 1x Starpoints per dollar spent
Value of those points: 2.2 cents each

I consider Starpoints to be the single most value points currency on a per point basis, given how flexible they are. They can be redeemed towards hotel stays, converted into Marriott Rewards points at a 1:3 ratio, or can be converted into airline miles at a 1:1 ratio, with a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred (meaning you’re potentially getting 1.25 airline miles per Starpoint).

Therefore I value the return on this card at 2.2%.

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

Annual fee: $0
Return on spend: unlimited 1.2x Membership Rewards points, assuming you make 30 transactions per billing cycle
Value of those points: 1.7 cents each

With this card you only receive 1.2x points per dollar spent if you make 20 transactions per billing cycle. Assuming you’re able to do that, I value the return at ~2.04%. That’s just a bit over 2%, so the value here is marginal compared to a cash back card.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

Annual fee: $89, waived the first year
Return on spend: unlimited 2x miles, plus 5% of your miles back when you redeem them
Value of those points: 1 cent

Each mile can be redeemed for one cent towards the cost of a travel purchase, so in the end you’re getting up to ~2.1 cents of value per point. However, what that doesn’t factor in is the minimum redemption requirement (you have to redeem a minimum of 10,000 points at a time), and also the points you’re forgoing by redeeming points for a ticket, rather than paying cash and earning 3-5x points on your credit card. However, this card does have an excellent sign-up bonus of 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 within 90 days, which may be a deciding factor.

Bottom line

Having a credit card that maximizes your non-bonused spend is an important part of having a good credit card strategy, though it’s only one part of maximizing points. You’ll also want to be sure you take advantage of cards with great category bonuses.

Hopefully at a minimum you’re earning 2% cash back on all your purchases, and if you’re good with miles and points, then using one of the above cards could make even more sense.

What’s your go to card for everyday, non-bonused spend?

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Comments

  1. Why not mention the BA card with 100,000 sign-up bonus during the promotional period? The 50k after $2k in spend is really the sign-up bonus, but the additional 25k after $10k and 25k after 10k is like earning 2.5 avios/dollar up to $20,000 of spend, which is worth mentioning alongside the Amex Blue Business card since it essentially plays out the same way in practice. I realize this isn’t repeatable year after year like the Amex but it’s worth mentioning for putting a bit of spend on for the same goal.

  2. Lucky,

    This article really got my attention. Reliably exceeding a 2% no annual fee cash back rewards credit card return with a travel rewards credit card without extraordinary effort is indeed the challenge. Can you expand on this subject accounting for total annual spend, % annual spend in bonus categories, annual credit card fee, and (most importantly) point redemption value and how to redeem points efficiently for maximum value. I would be most grateful for further detail on this subject.

  3. @enthusiast, I agree re: the BoA Travel Rewards card of you are a BoA preferred customer. That’s the card I use for my non-category spend when I’m not working on a sign-up bonus. 2.625% return with no annual fee is really strong!

  4. The easiest one of these to make a case for, especially for someone who doesn’t want to do a lot of work, is the Freedom Unlimited combined with the CSR, and then use the FU points as 1.5 cents against travel bookings. Even people averse to complicated miles & points arrangements should be able to figure that one out.

  5. @Lucky …. of course there is also targeted spend, like the Amex Platinum specifically for air travel purchases. With an MR being worth somewhere between 1.5 and 2.0 cents, depending, and the 5X bonus for the air travel category, means a 7.5%, or better, return on that targeted spend. Same thing with CSR and dining and travel categories …. UR’s are worth about 2 cents and the 3X bonus means I try to put all my dining, hotels and rental cars on the CSR.

    Of course, the BBP may change that completely. $50K at 2X plus all my air travel on my Amex Plat at 5X is a really attractive strategy and gives me a return of something like 4.25% (max out my $50K on BBP and about $20K air on AP) across both MR cards. I’m looking at about 300K of MR annually, not counting signup bonuses on MR earning cards. That’s two biz class tix from SEA->Europe for my wife and I 🙂

  6. The USAA credit card has unlimited 2.5% cash back and no yearly fee. If anyone in your family has been in the service grab this one. No bonus signup but really nice for everyday spend.

  7. Lucky, small mistake. The AmEx Everyday (basic) only requires 20 transactions per billing cycle to get the bonus.

  8. Agree with the BofA comments. This card is my goto at 2.625 and no annual fee. Nothing I have seen has come close to that.

  9. Regarding Arrival Plus: “the points you’re forgoing by redeeming points for a ticket, rather than paying cash and earning 3-5x points on your credit card”.

    You still earn 2 points per dollar on the ticket purchase and the statement credit doesn’t reduce your points earning. Yes, not 3-5x but not a total loss as when using airline miles.

  10. This is a very strange list heavy on referrals and light on actual 2% cashback options. Doctor of Credit lists 22 options on his list. “Best Credit Cards for Everyday Spend”

  11. Don’t use Arrival Plus for airline tickets. Use for non-bonus travel categories like car rentals, train tickets, etc.

  12. Hi Lucky,

    You may want to point out that the Amex EveryDay, EveryDay Preferred, and SPG cards all have bonus categories as well. This is to differentiate from the other cards listed which do not have bonus categories. I realize this article is about non-bonused spend, but I feel that it’s worth mentioning that the values you cite here are minimum redemption values for the three aforementioned cards. No need to go into detail, but it should be mentioned.

  13. @stvr this isn’t a list of best cards for everyday spend. This is a list of cards that will always get you more than 2% on all your spend. There’s a couple cards that should be included, which aren’t. But we are talking about getting OVER 2% on everything.

  14. Another vote for BofA travel reward card. Plus if you book through BofA for Travel, bonus goes up to 4.125%. No FTF, no annual fee. You just need to drop some money with Merrill to get to these levels. If you have it, this is the best card out there imo.

  15. My favorite card is still the Citibank Costco card. They offer 4% back on gasoline purchases at any gas station and 3% back on travel which includes airlines, trains, taxis, and hotel charges. They also offer 3% back on restaurant purchases and 2% back on money spent at Costco, excluding alcohol and cigarettes. Everything else is 1% back. You receive a check every year that you can cash at any of the cashiers or the front desk. They hand you the money and then you can start charging again.

  16. Seems to be missing the new Alliant CU card: 2.5% back (3% first year), $59 AF (waived first year), no FTF, no additional strings attached

    Of course, the USAA Limitless is even better than that because it’s no AF, but not everyone can get it.

    For that matter, the BofA Travel Rewards is the ultimate winner at 2.625%+ back with no AF if you can invest $100K with Merrill Lynch.

  17. USAA Limitless. Shocking that Lucky didn’t mention it. 2.5% with no annual fee. No FTF. Sure you need to be a USAA member to get it, but to not mention it is a bit odd. It is my non-bonus spend choice.

  18. This post seems somewhat disingenuous. The cards Lucky listed are certainly not the only ones that offer an effective 2% return. I agree with the previous commenters regarding the BoA Travel Rewards Card with Preferred Rewards Platinum Honors, which I use for all my unbonused spending, in addition to the Cash Rewards Card for gas/groceries.

    Incidentally I commended Gary Leff just a few days ago for mentioning the BoA Travel Rewards Card, which seems to get far less attention from travel bloggers than it deserves. At minimum it is far better than the Barclaycard Arrival Plus for ongoing spend (not considering the sign-up bonus).

    Lucky, perhaps it would be worthwhile to write a post discussing premium banking products (Citigold, BoA Preferred Rewards, Chase Private Client etc.)?

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