Which Is the Right Reward Card for You?

The answer depends on many things: how much you charge on your reward card each month, what types of purchases you make, and the amount of any fees you have to pay. Rather than try to pick a one-size-fits-all card that is best for everyone, the cash back credit card comparison tool lets you find the card that is best for you because it maximizes your rewards based on your individual spending habits. When you provide an estimate of the amount of money you spend every month in five spending categories, our card adviser ranks available reward cards, then tells you which is the most generous for you in terms of annual cash back and which is the least.

Reward cards come in many shapes and sizes. Some give you a percentage back in cash for your purchases, and others reward you with points or miles. Some give you one flat rate no matter what you buy; some are a little more generous with certain types of purchases, such as gas or groceries. Some cards are free, and others have an annual fee that may or may not be waived in the first year. And some cards offer lucrative sign-on bonuses for spending a certain amount within the first few months. The credit card adviser comparison tool converts non-cash rewards into their cash equivalent and takes the many differences into account to give you an apples-to-apples comparison of the cards. For combined categories we assume that the use of the cards is proportional to the total amount spent. Because waived fees and sign-on bonuses can make some cards look much more lucrative in the first year, Consumer Report's card adviser allows you to compare cards over a longer time period.

How We Calculate

Most reward cards offer the same reward rate for an individual spending category (e.g., gas purchases or groceries) for a specified period, usually one year. Those cards usually offer a lower reward rate for all other spending categories. In our calculations we assume that the cash-back rates remain fixed from year to year. We also assume that your spending rates remain the same from day to day, month to month, and year to year. For some cards cash-back categories change each quarter. In those cases we use the reward information for the previous four quarters and sum across the quarters.

Converting Miles and Points to Cash Back

Some cards provide rewards in cash. Others offer rewards in terms of miles or points, the value of which may vary depending on how they are redeemed. For those cards the miles or points are converted to their cash equivalent. If a card offers one rate when you redeem miles for a statement credit and another rate when you redeem them for cash, we assume that you will choose a redemption for your miles or points that will maximize your cash back.