The 7 Credit Cards That Earn Me The Most Points Per Dollar Spent

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One of the best ways to maximize the points you can earn with credit cards is by using the right cards for the right spend categories. Over the past few years we’ve seen so many lucrative new cards introduced with great bonus categories, so just having the right cards can help you earn lots of points.

Admittedly I pay a lot in credit card annual fees, though I’d like to think I get value out of each card I choose to renew each year. I spent a bit of time crunching the numbers on the cards I have to figure out the average number of points I earn per dollar spent.

To do the math I added up the spend on each card and divided it by the number of points earned, to figure out the average points earned per dollar spent. However, I removed any sort of sign-up bonuses, Amex Offers bonuses, etc. There’s a chance I may have made a slight miscalculation on some of these, but I feel pretty good about my math.

With that in mind, here are the seven credit cards that personally earn me the most points per dollar spent:

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Average points per dollar: 4.96

For years the Amex Platinum Card is one I’ve held onto for the perks, which more than justify the annual fee, in my opinion. This includes a $200 annual airline credit, $200 Uber credit, a Priority Pass membership, access to Centurion Lounges, access to Delta SkyClubs, etc.

However, last year the card added 5x points on airfare purchased directly with airlines, which is a huge benefit based on my spend patterns. So I almost exclusively use this card for airfare purchases, while I find other Amex cards to be more rewarding for everyday spend.

Chase Freedom® Card

Average points per dollar: 4.93

I use my Chase Freedom to complement the other cards I have that earn Ultimate Rewards points. The Freedom offers 5x points in rotating quarterly categories, on up to $1,500 of spend per quarter. I do my best to maximize these bonus categories, and don’t find it especially worthwhile to put other spend on the card, since the no annual fee Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers a better return on non-bonused spend.

Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ Card

Average points per dollar: 2.81

The Sapphire Reserve offers triple points on dining and travel. Travel and dining is just about what I spend all my money on, so this covers a vast majority of the categories on which I make purchases on the card. For non-bonused spend I instead use the Chase Freedom Unlimited®.

The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express

Average points per dollar: 2.00

This no annual fee card offers double Membership Rewards points on the first $50,000 spent annually. We haven’t yet passed that spend threshold, so up until now we have earned two Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on this card.

Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card

Average points per dollar: 1.86

This no annual fee card offers 5x points on the first $25,000 spent each account anniversary year in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services, plus 2x points on the first $25,000 in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants.

While I don’t pay for cable, I do get quite a bit of value out of the 5x points on cell phone purchases. There are some purchases I should probably put on other cards, but I find it more convenient to just keep those business purchases on a business card, even at the cost of some points. Oh well.

Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card

Average points per dollar: 1.77

This card offers 3x points at US supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases), and 2x points at US gas stations. On top of that, the card offers a 50% points bonus when you make at least 30 transactions per billing cycle, meaning you can earn up to 4.5x points at supermarkets, 3x points at gas stations, and 1.5x points on everything else.

Personally I don’t spend all that much on gas and supermarkets, so I don’t get quite as much value out of this card as some others may. However, I still find it worthwhile for daily spend, and use it whenever I’m at a supermarket or gas station.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Average points per dollar: 1.5

This card offers a flat 1.5x points per dollar spent in all categories. Ordinarily this is a cashback card, meaning you’re really earning 1.5% cashback.

However, if you have this card in addition to one of the cards that accrues Ultimate Rewards points, you can transfer these points to Ultimate Rewards. Cards that accrue Ultimate Rewards Cards include the:

Bottom line

Using the right credit card to maximize your daily spend can be a great way to boost your points balance. However, always do the math about whether or not you’re getting value out of a card compared to the annual fee. As you’ll see above, four of the seven cards that earn me the most points per dollar are actually no annual fee cards, which is pretty awesome.

What cards earn you the most points per dollar spent?

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Comments

  1. @ Gene — What’s misleading? The point of the post is to show the bonus categories I use, and as a result, the points per dollar I earn. I’m not saying these are the seven credit cards that will earn someone with a general spend profile the most points, but rather how I use cards to maximize bonus categories. I think I explained the methodology pretty clearly at the beginning of the post, no?

  2. Makes perfect sense to me – on each card you are approaching the max bonus level, 5x, 3x, etc.

  3. @ Kevin — That’s because I overspent a bit on the $1,500 bonus category. It’s tough to get it right exactly to the dollar. 😉

  4. I’m sure you value amex points high enough to justify the everyday preferred,but I have to wonder if the math in your case is more in favor of the no-fee version, as you’re valuing it so low on your points per dollar. Or perhaps dump it for freedom unlimited for that category?

    Still putting spend on your SPG amex?

  5. @ Ben — My apologies. I mis-read your headline. My brain skipped right over the “Me” part. Just wait until your 29 like me and you’ll start losing it, too… 🙂

  6. @ Lucky: Platinum does not offer 5x rewards anymore – I think 2x or 3x but what makes it a drawback is if you redeem the points they do not offer as much back, both of these combining to make the Reserve Card better use.

  7. Good post Lucky, thanks! Do you ever find yourself thinking, “Damn, I should have put — insert purchase here — on some other card?”

  8. @ Iamhere — Huh? Just as Ben says above, the Platinum AMEX gives 5x points on airfare booked directly with airlines. If I wasn’t putting a giant portion of my annual credit card spend on cards which provide exemptions/reductions of elite EQD requirements with US airlines, I would probably get and keep the Platinum AMEX just for this benefit.

  9. The Amex Everyday Preferred is such an underrated card. If you spend a lot on groceries and gas, 4.5x and 3x points respectively is awesome plus 1.5X on everyday spend. You must meet the 30 transactions per month which is really easy to do.

  10. Do you ever do a year end type post that talks about how many points you earn in a calendar year? Would be interesting…got to be in the millions right?

  11. 5X on all airlines with Amex Platinum is definately great but I always have to use Citi prestige for its excellent travel protection. Perhaps the best offered by any card hands down. So I could never figure out when to use Amex Platinum for air travel

  12. Hi Lucky, you end your post by saying that four of the seven cards that earn you the most points per dollar are actually no annual fee cards. But unless I’m missing something, it’s only three of the seven cards…the Chase Freedom, Chase Freedom Unlimited, and the Blue Business Preferred. All the others charge an annual fee. I think the mistake might arise from Amex Everyday Preferred card…the Everyday card does not charge an annual fee, but the Everyday Preferred card does ($95 annual fee).

  13. @lucky: Could you show a table with most of the spending categories and list the best card for each one? I struggle on the everyday spending when it is not airfare, hotel, travel, etc… I usually tend to use either my Amex SPG or Chase Reserve when shopping at stores, Amazon, etc… but not sure they are the best options.

  14. Since the value of an SPG point is greater than the value of a UR point, and since SPG points are harder to earn than UR points, I divide my non-bonused spend as follows:

    -SPG Amex (1x on everything) with merchants who accept Amex.
    -CFU (1.5x on everything) for merchants who don’t

  15. Hard to justify using the SPG Amex on non bonused spend since I have the old Amex Business Blue earning 2.3x per dollar on everything…..only time I don’t use that card is when its phone/cable on the Ink Bold or 5x on the Freedom or buying gas/petco/etc gift cards at office supply stores for 5x with the Ink Bold….or of course 5x airfare with Platinum

  16. Why are you putting non bonus spen on the freedom unlimited over the amex blue? You get 2 pts per dollar on the amex blue and at least with my version i get an end of the bonus on all my soend. Is yours the new amex blue?

  17. @ Lucky:

    I think that this article is one sided. What I mean is that you only look at the side of how many points that you can earn (e.g. Platinum American Express you can earn 5x for airlines) but that is useless because it also depends on redemption as to the value of the points.

    American Express tends to be more “expensive” when redeeming points for travel, requiring more points for a ticket as compared to JP Morgan Chase with the Reserve points. Also, JP Morgan Chase’s rate on cash and points tickets are better. Furthermore, although Platinum gives a lower percentage back, it still makes more sense. Combining making those points more valuable than American Express.

  18. He’s been pimping the Everyday preferred hard for well over an year now even though we all know he hardly does groceries and only takes Uber being the rich boy he is. It’s probably because the commission from Amex is higher and they must give him a certain thresold to achieve as compared to the no annual fee version. We all know the $95 is not worth generally, especially for someone like him who lives in hotels and chauffeurs.

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