Every year I review my credit cards to make sure I'm earning the most rewards for my spending patterns. My monthly spending are relatively consistent, which makes this a trivial exercise. If you are not familiar with your spending patterns I recommend you take some time to get familiar, and I'm here to help. There are a number of apps that will help you track spending over time. My two favorite apps for expense tracking are Mint and Clarity. Both apps will offer suggested cards for your financial profile, with Clarity being a little more streamlined for expense tracking and Mint having a few other features which make it valuable. Both of these apps will recommend cards to you based on your spending pattern, but they appear to be sponsored recommendations and come with an advertiser disclosure. If you aren't interested in tracking expenses and creating budgets, Birch is a great option which allows you to plug in your credit cards to track your current spending and it will recommend cards to you to maximize your rewards. Birch currently has a product called "Wallet Recommendations" which recommends multiple credit cards to you to maximize your reward potential. It looks promising, but is still in beta at time of writing.

If you are concerned about these companies having your spending data, or you just want to know the best cards for different spending categories, keep reading.

Here is a quick breakdown of what is included in our evaluation criteria:

  • Rewards rate
  • Redemption Value
  • Annual reward maximums
  • Annual Fee

Here are some things which we did not include in our evaluation:

  • Interest rates (hopefully we are paying off our statement each month to avoid interest altogether!)
  • Website/App quality for the entity/bank offering the card
  • Sign up bonus (excluding this as we want to highlight cards worth keeping for long periods of time)
  • Credit rating requirements/Approval Odds
  • Balance Transfer Offers
  • Other miscellaneous offers (travel insurance, rental car insurance, foreign transaction fees, etc.)

Now that we've established our evaluation criteria, here is a breakdown of our recommended rewards card by category.

Cash Back On Groceries

My family tends to spend a lot on groceries. My wife is a fantastic cook, and she often buys premium ingredients for cooking, organic when possible. This leads to a likely higher-than-average grocery bill for yours truly, and I found a great way to offset this.

American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card
Sign up for the card with the best cash back on groceries

The Amex Blue Cash Preferred Card offers 6% cash back on groceries up to a maximum of $6000 per year. The annual fee is $95, so to offset this cost on groceries alone your monthly grocery spending would need to exceed $130 per month. If you have a family like mine, this monthly threshold is likely exceeded in a single trip to the grocery store. To make the annual fee a little easier to manage, the card also offers 6% cash back on streaming services, 3% cash back on most forms of transportation (including gas purchases), and 1% on everything else.

For the sake of comparison, let's compare the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card with the Citi Double Cash Card (2% cash back on everything, no annual fee).

$200/month grocery spend

Annual Grocery Spend Rewards Rate Annual Fee Net Rewards Earned
Blue Cash Preferred $2400 6% $95 $49
Citi Double Cash $2400 2% $0 $48

500/month grocery spend

Annual Grocery Spend Rewards Rate Annual Fee Net Rewards Earned
Blue Cash Preferred $6000 6% $95 $265
Citi Double Cash $6000 2% $0 $120

$1000/month grocery spend

Annual Grocery Spend Rewards Rate Annual Fee Net Rewards Earned
Blue Cash Preferred $12000 6% $95 $420
Citi Double Cash $12000 2% $0 $240

Since the Blue Cash Preferred card only offers 6% cash back on groceries for the first $6000 per year, there is a break even point where the 2% card becomes the better deal. If your monthly grocery budget exceeds $2500/month then the Blue Cash Preferred is no longer the best option for you here.

Cash Back on Gas/Transportation

The Wells Fargo Propel Card

The Wells Fargo Propel card has been one of our favorite gas/transportation cards for a while. It offers great rewards with no annual fee. The rewards include 3% back on gas, rideshares, public transit, and car rentals. Other rewards include 3% back on hotels, flights, and streaming services. All other purchases earn 1% cash back.

Runner Up: The Costco Visa Anywhere card offers 4% back on gas with no annual fee, however it does require that you have a Costco membership which starts at $60/year. If you already have a Costco membership, we recommend you check out this card!

Cash Back from Restaurants/Dining

The Uber Visa Card

An unexpected winner here is the recently released Uber Visa credit card. The primary benefit of this card is the meaty 3% cash back reward on restaurants and bars. This also includes ordering via Uber Eats if you're too lazy to leave the house. Other benefits include 3% back on hotels/airfare and up to $600 for mobile phone damage/theft if you pay your monthly phone bill with this card. It should be noted that these cash back rewards can only be redeemed for Uber Cash, which is great if you often use Uber or Uber Eats.

Runner Up: The Capital One Savor Rewards card offers 4% back on dining, but has a $95 annual fee after the first year.

Best All-Around Rewards Card

Citi Double Cash Card
The best card for every day purches, no annual fee.

The Citi Double Cash card is our favorite due to the simplicity of the reward system. Every purchase qualifies for 2% back (1% when you purchase, and 1% when you pay your statement). There are no rewards categories to speak of, and no annual fee. This is a great card to carry and use for purchases that might not fit into a high rewards category offered by your other credit cards. Alternatively, you can use this for all of your credit purchases and you would do pretty well with your rewards. One note worth mentioning is that this card does have foreign transaction fees. I became so accustomed to my cards not having a foreign transaction fee that I used this once abroad, and paid for it. Other than this minor downside, nothing negative comes to mind here.

Revolving Rewards

There are a number of cash back cards that offer 5% revolving reward categories. Every quarter the reward category changes. Every year the calendar may update.The reward categories are fairly standard between the cards, with some slight variations.

The Best Revolving Rewards Card

Our recommendation here is to go with the Chase Freedom Card. It offers 5% on categories that everyone will use. While the reward calendar does have the potential to change every year, it does seem to consistently include restaurants, gas/transportation, groceries, and online shopping (often during the holiday season).

Runner Up: The Discover it card has similar 5% revolving categories, however I have personally tried to use the Discover Card at two restaurants that would not accept it. The Chase Freedom Card is a Visa, which is more universally accepted.

Best Travel Rewards Card

We've tried a number of travel rewards cards, and due to the nuances and variations in travel cards, we feel this should be dedicated to a standalone post. It will be lengthy, and we hope to release it soon.

The Winner's Circle

If you skipped straight to the bottom of the article, here's a recap of the best reward credit cards for 2020:

Groceries: The American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card

Restaurants: Uber Visa Card

Gas/Transport: Wells Fargo Propel Card

All Around Cash Back: Citi Double Cash

Revolving Rewards: Chase Freedom

Travel: Winner TBD ;)