Credit Card Issuer Rewards Programs Comparison

A credit card reward program can be lucrative if you use it correctly. While most work in the same basic manner, there are notable differences too.

Advertising & Editorial DisclosureLast Updated: 11/18/2022
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Last Updated: 11/18/2022

It is common for credit card issuers in the U.S. to reward cardholders in different ways, one of which is by running their own rewards programs. For example, American Express has the Membership Rewards program, Chase offers the Ultimate Rewards program, and Citi runs the ThankYou Rewards program.

One common benefit of the best credit card reward programs is that they let you transfer your points to popular airline and hotel loyalty programs. Redeeming your points for cash back is also usually an option. Before deciding on a specific program, determine how you wish to redeem your points because some methods can be specific to a particular rewards program.

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MoneyGeek’s Takeaways

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Leading credit card providers such as Amex, Citi, Chase and Capital One run their own rewards programs.

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Credit card rewards programs let you redeem points in different ways, such as cash back, gift cards and travel bookings.

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The top credit card rewards programs let you transfer your points to various airline and hotel loyalty programs.

American Express Membership Rewards Overview

Several American Express credit cards are linked to the Membership Rewards program. The number of points you earn per dollar and the annual fees you need to pay will depend on the card you select.

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  • Amex EveryDay Credit Card. The no-annual-fee Amex EveryDay Credit Card offers 2X points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets on spending of up to $6,000 per year as well as when you make travel bookings through Amex Travel. You earn 1X points per dollar on all other purchases. And when you make at least 20 purchases in a billing cycle, you'll receive a 20% bonus on the points earned. As part of the card’s welcome offer, you earn 10,000 Membership Rewards points by spending 2,000 on purchases in the first six months. A 0% APR offer applies on purchases for the first 15 months.
  • American Express Green Card. The American Express Green Card comes with a $150 annual fee. It offers 3X points per dollar on travel and transit purchases as well as at U.S. restaurants (including takeout and delivery). All other purchases earn 1X points per dollar. If you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first six months, you will receive a welcome bonus of 45,000 Membership Rewards points. Additional benefits include no foreign transaction fees and statement credits toward LoungeBuddy and CLEAR purchases.
  • The Platinum Card. The Platinum Card from Amex comes with a $695 annual fee. Using the card to book flight tickets directly through airlines or through Amex Travel earns 5X points per dollar on spending of up to $500,000 each year. You get 5X points when you book prepaid hotel stays through Amex Travel. You earn 1X points per dollar on all other purchases. Spending $6,000 on purchases in the first six months earns a welcome bonus of 125,000 points. You get up to $200 as airline fee credit and $200 Uber Cash annually. This card also offers statement credits to cover purchases from brands such as Walmart+, Equinox and Saks Fifth Avenue. All cardholders get free access to the Amex Global Lounge Collection.

Who Is American Express Partnered With?

If you have an Amex card that is linked to the Membership Rewards program, you may transfer your points to any of its 20 partner airline or hotel loyalty programs. In most cases, transfers take place at a 1:1 ratio.

Top Airline and Hotel Partners

  • Top Airline and Hotel Partners
    Explanation of Benefits
  • British Airways Executive Club

    You may use the Avios you get in return for your Membership Rewards points to book domestic flights with American Airlines and Alaska Airlines, both being oneworld alliance partners. While the miles-to-points ratio can vary, it’s sometimes possible to find flights of up to 600 miles that require just 7,500 Avios.

  • Delta SkyMiles

    Delta has a good route network within the U.S. and is popular for its promotional sales on award flights.

  • Singapore KrisFlyer

    This is the only program that lets you book premium cabin awards on Singapore Airlines flights. You can often find flights from just about anywhere in the U.S. to Hawaii for around 17,500 miles.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Overview

The Chase Ultimate Rewards program lets you transfer points between different cards to maximize their value. Transferring the cash back you earn through a Chase card to the Ultimate Rewards program is an option, in which case one dollar in cash back is valued at 100 Ultimate Rewards points.

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  • Chase Freedom Flex℠ Credit Card. The no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Flex℠ Credit Card lets you transfer your cash back to any Chase travel card. You get 5% cash back on up to $1,500 you spend on rotating bonus categories each quarter and on travel purchases made through Chase Ultimate Rewards. You earn 3% cash back on dining (including delivery and takeout) and at drugstores. All other purchases come with 1% cash back. This card comes with a spend-based welcome bonus.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Credit Card. The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Credit Card charges a $550 annual fee. You get 10X points per dollar on hotel and car rental purchases through Ultimate Rewards (after the first $300 you spend on travel each year) as well as on Chase Dining purchases. You get 5X points per dollar on flight tickets booked through Ultimate Rewards (after the first $300 you spend on travel each year). Dining at restaurants (including takeout and delivery) comes with 3X points per dollar. All other purchases earn 1X points per dollar. When you redeem your points for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal, you get 50% extra value. This card comes with a spend-based welcome bonus.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Credit Card. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card comes with a $95 annual fee. You earn 5X points per dollar when you use the Ultimate Rewards platform to make travel purchases (other than on purchases that qualify for the $50 annual hotel credit). All other travel purchases earn 2X points per dollar. Spending on online grocery purchases, dining (including delivery and takeout) and select streaming services comes with 3X points per dollar. You get 1X points per dollar on all other purchases. Points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards. This card comes with a spend-based welcome bonus.

Who Is Chase Partnered With?

The Chase credit card reward program lets you transfer your points to 14 partner airline and hotel loyalty programs. All transfers take place at a 1:1 ratio.

Top Airline and Hotel Partners

  • Top Airline and Hotel Partners
    Explanation of Benefits
  • British Airways Executive Club

    Converting Ultimate Rewards points to Avios might work well for international travelers. The British Airways Executive Club is part of the oneworld alliance, which offers good connectivity to Asia. Using your points for domestic travel within the U.S. is possible with American Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

  • United MileagePlus

    United MileagePlus gives you access to a wide array of destinations and probably the most number of reward seats in economy because of its Star Alliance membership. Besides, it does away with fuel surcharges.

  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards

    What works in favor of Southwest is its extensive low-cost domestic network. Getting to check two bags free is a plus. However, check if you might get better value through the Ultimate Rewards platform for Southwest flights before making the transfer.

Capital One Rewards Overview

Whether you’re looking for a personal or a business rewards card from Capital One, you will have a few options linked to the card issuer’s rewards program. The features and benefits vary based on the card you get.

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  • VentureOne Rewards Card for Excellent Credit. The VentureOne Rewards Card for Excellent Credit comes with no annual fees. It offers 5X miles per dollar when you make hotel or car rental bookings through Capital One Travel. You get 1.25X miles per dollar on all other purchases. If you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months, you get an early spend bonus of 20,000 miles. This card comes with an intro 0% APR offer on balance transfers and purchases for the first 15 months. The VentureOne Rewards Card for Good Credit comes with largely the same features, although it does not have a welcome bonus or an intro 0% APR offer.
  • Venture X Rewards Card. The Venture X Rewards Card comes with an annual fee of $395. It lets you earn 10X miles per dollar when you use Capital One Travel to make hotel or car rental bookings, and you get 5X miles per dollar when you use the platform to book flight tickets. You earn 2X miles per dollar on all other purchases. If you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months, Capital One gives you an early spend bonus of 75,000 miles. All cardholders get a $300 Capital One Travel credit. You also get a 10,000 miles anniversary bonus each year. Other benefits include Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credit, complimentary Priority Pass membership and free access to Capital One lounges.
  • Spark Miles Select Card. The Spark Miles Select Card charges no annual fees. This business card lets you earn 1.5X miles per dollar on all purchases. If you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months, Capital One gives you an early spend bonus of 20,000 miles.

Who Is Capital One Partnered With?

You may transfer your Capital One rewards points to over 15 airline and hotel partners. You get a 1:1 transfer ratio with most partners.

Top Airline and Hotel Partners

  • Top Airline and Hotel Partners
    Explanation of Benefits
  • Air Canada Aeroplan

    When you use Air Canada Aeroplan to book flights, you pay no carrier-based fuel surcharges. Given its Star Alliance membership, you may also use your points to book domestic flights with United Airlines.

  • Avianca LifeMiles

    Using Avianca LifeMiles ensures you pay no fuel surcharges. Besides, you benefit through competitive redemption rates with Star Alliance members.

  • Air France-KLM Flying Blue

    This rewards program also partners with Citi, Amex and Chase, so you may transfer miles/points from different cards. You may expect notable savings when you use your miles for monthly promo rewards.

Citi ThankYou Rewards Overview

Depending on the Citi card you have, you may or may not earn ThankYou points. In addition, cards that offer ThankYou points have different earn rates, welcome bonuses, benefits and annual fees.

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  • Citi Custom Cash℠ Card. The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card offers cash back in the form of ThankYou points. The card offers 5% cash back on your highest eligible spend category on spending of up to $500 every billing cycle. All other purchases earn 1% cash back. If you spend $750 on purchases in the first three months, you earn $200 cash back. This card comes with no annual fees.
  • Citi Double Cash Credit Card. The Citi Double Cash Credit Card offers cash back in the form of ThankYou points. You may get up to 2% cash back on all purchases — 1% upon making a purchase and 1% more upon making your payment. This card does not charge any annual fees.
  • Citi Rewards+® Card. The Citi Rewards+® Card offers 5X ThankYou points per dollar on air travel and hotel purchases up to a combined total of $6,000 in the first 12 months. Using the card at supermarkets and gas stations comes with 2X ThankYou points per dollar on combined spending of up to $6,000 each year. You get 1X points per dollar on all other purchases. You earn 20,000 bonus points by spending $1,500 on purchases in the first three months. This card charges no annual fees.
  • Citi Premier® Card. The Citi Premier® Card lets you earn 3X ThankYou points per dollar on air travel and hotel bookings as well as at restaurants, gas stations and supermarkets. All other purchases come with 1X points per dollar. Spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months comes with 60,000 bonus points. An annual $100 hotel savings benefit is also there for the taking. This card charges a $95 annual fee.

Who Is Citi Partnered With?

The Citi ThankYou Rewards program lets you choose from 17 transfer partners, which include airlines, hotels and one retailer. Most transfers take place at a 1:1 ratio.

Top Airline and Hotel Partners

  • Top Airline and Hotel Partners
    Explanation of Benefits
  • Flying Blue (Air France and KLM)

    You might benefit by looking at what Flying Blue promo rewards have to offer. These come with 25% to 50% discounts on mileage costs. You may also find some good deals on one-way economy fares from the U.S. to Europe.

  • Emirates Skywards (Emirates and flydubai)

    Emirates Skywards is the way to go if you plan to enjoy Emirates' top-of-the-line first-class cabins. You may also use your miles to book domestic flights with JetBlue.

  • Etihad Guest

    This rewards program gives you the ability to book flights with American Airlines, ANA and Royal Air Maroc. You may expect some good deals when flying from the U.S. to different parts of Asia.

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MONEYGEEK EXPERT TIP:

When choosing a reward program, look at which transfer partners are available. Choose the program that offers the greatest earnings for the way you spend and offers hotel and airline partners that align with your travel preferences. — Lee Huffman, credit card expert at BaldThoughts.com

How to Choose Between Different Rewards Programs

If you're wondering what the best credit card reward program is, the answer is it depends. To choose the right program among the top ones, you must consider your spending patterns and the features/benefits you're after. For instance, transfers to all Chase partners occur at a 1:1 ratio, whereas this is not the case with Amex and Citi partners. However, Amex has the most transfer partners of any bank.

Ideally, you should look at the categories in which you spend the most and your preferred redemption method before you choose a rewards credit card or a rewards program. The Amex Membership Rewards program is among the best credit card reward programs for restaurants, especially if you have the right Amex cards. If you’re looking for more bonus category options, turning to Chase cards and its rewards program might work well for you.

1

Look for credit cards based on your spending patterns.

2

Select cards that offer bonus points/cash back on categories in which you spend the most.

3

Meet any spend-based criteria to earn bonus points/cash back.

4

Redeem your points/cash back for travel rewards to get the best value.

5

If you wish to transfer your points to a specific loyalty program, make sure it's part of your desired reward program's list of transfer partners.

6

Compare the value of your points through your reward program’s travel portal and your desired transfer partner to make a decision.

7

Make sure your points don’t expire/lapse.

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MONEYGEEK QUICK TIP

If you don't plan to redeem your rewards for travel purchases, you might be better off getting a cash back card that offers higher-than-usual cash back on category-based spending.

FAQs About Issuer Rewards Programs

Take a look at answers to other commonly asked questions about the best credit card reward programs to determine which of them might work well for you.

Next Steps

Now that you know how different credit card rewards programs work and how much their points/miles can be worth, determine if joining one or more might be in your favor. If you plan to apply for a new credit card in the process, make sure you compare your top alternatives based on factors such as annual fees, reward rates, welcome offers, APRs and added benefits.

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About the Author


Rajiv Baniwal has been writing about different financial topics for over 15 years. Meticulous in his research, he makes sure he provides accurate and up-to-date information. His areas of expertise include mortgages, personal loans, credit cards, insurance and international money transfers.


*Rates, fees or bonuses may vary or include specific stipulations. The content on this page is accurate as of the posting/last updated date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. We recommend visiting the card issuer’s website for the most up-to-date information available.
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