I enjoy writing about credit card sign up bonuses. And for good reason. They’re awesome. They allow you to get a nice pile of bonus cash (or points or miles) for buying stuff on your credit card that you normally do. If you can get past the silly temptation to use your cards more than you need, you can easily get at least a few hundred dollars worth of rewards in a year without much effort. Put some effort into the sign up bonus game and you can get rewards in the thousands. But what about those times you’re not chasing a bonus? Should you just use any card for any type of purchase?
The answer is, of course, no! There are certain cards that are very good for certain categories and some that are good for everyday spending. I always say there should be a reason you pull out a certain credit card for a certain purchase. Just using a card for no reason is selling yourself short. After a while using the best credit card for your particular purchase will become second nature. Here are what I think are some of the best current cards to use for different categories:
(By the way, none of these are affiliate links so I don’t get any commission if you sign up for these cards. These are my honest to goodness recommendations from the bottom of my heart).
Money spent on groceries is a huge expense for everyone so I think getting a good rewards card for groceries should be the first thing on everyone’s list. And not just because of food. You can buy household stuff, greeting cards and gift cards and get the same great cash back as you would on food. My favorite card for this is the Blue Cash Preferred from American Express. This card gives you 6% cash back on grocery store purchases on the first $6,000 you spend on groceries in a calendar year. That’s $360 cash back for the year right there. The card does have a $75 annual fee which eats into that, but that’s still a decent amount of cash back for making your regular purchases. You also get 3% cash back on gas with no yearly limit which is nice as well. If you search around on Google you should be able to find a deal with a good sign up bonus. I got one with a $150 sign up bonus but your results may vary.
Gas is another expense that many people incur regularly, so you might as well get some cash back for it. As I just mentioned, the Blue Cash Preferred is probably the best gas card as well since it gives you an unlimited 3% cash back on gas purchases. The Chase Freedom gives you 5% cash back on gas, but only during certain months of the year. This year, for example, there are 2 quarters where 5% back on gas is offered. The Freedom is a good card to have in general so I recommend it because it gives 5% cash on other categories throughout the year as well such as movie theaters and Amazon. It also has no annual fee so it’s a nice card to keep around to help improve your credit score over time.
Driving around the other day I came to one of those intersections that attract panhandlers. Before pretending I dropped something on the car floor and needed 3 minutes to look for it, I noticed one of the panhandlers was on his cell phone. An iPhone no less. This shows how ubiquitous cell phones are in our society nowadays. And that can come with a price tag of course. While I haven’t really found any good personal credit cards that give cash back on wireless purchases, there is a great business credit card from Chase called Ink Cash. It gives you 5% cash back on your wireless bill as well as your cable bill. It gives you 5% cash back on office supply stores as well. The card also has no annual fee. You can currently sign up and get a $200 bonus when you spend $3,000 in 3 months.
And most people actually do qualify to get a business card. If you dabble in something on the side or sell things on eBay or Amazon, that’s technically a business. (Here’s a great step by step guide to a business card application from Million Mile Secrets).
There are a lot of times when you have to buy things that don’t fall under a certain category. Random stuff like parking garage fees, medications etc. crop up from time to time. For things like these it’s best to have a good everyday spend card. My card of choice is the Fidelity Investment Rewards card. It gives you 2% cash back on every purchase with no annual fee. There are some hoops to jump through to get this card which I have already written about. But if you’re able to get it, it will serve you well.
The Fidelity card is an American Express card, which means it won’t be welcome everywhere. In that case, an alternative card to have for everyday spending is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus card. While this could technically be considered a travel card, if you make any type of travel purchase throughout the year (like plane tickets, rental cars etc.), this card can serve as your everyday spend card. It gives 2 “miles” on every dollar you spend and you can use those “miles” to get rebates on your travel purchases. It is essentially a 2% cash back card used towards your travel purchases. It has a great sign up bonus of 40,000 miles as well. You do need a pretty good credit score to get approved for a Barclaycard credit card, so make sure you have all that sorted out before hand. And this card also has an annual fee of $89 after the first year so it might not be worth it for some people after a year.
For people that hardly ever travel, the next best everyday spend card will be the Capital One Quicksilver. The one Samuel L. Jackson really wants us to get. It gives you 1.5% cash back on everything with no annual fee. No frills and pretty simple.
Those are my picks for best credit cards. I have all the cards that are mentioned here and they all work very well for their intended use. It’s always important to remember that if you’re in credit card debt or would like to get into it sometime soon, reward cards are not for you. You first need to not incur debt and then possibly switch to a low interest card via a balance transfer. Most reward cards have very high interest rates so you don’t want to get into debt with those. And remember to keep an eye on your credit score. A great credit score will not only allow you to sign up for these great cards, but will give you the best interest rates for any type of loan you may have to take in the future.