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Please note: the offers mentioned below are subject to change at any time and some may no longer be available.
It’s been another busy year in the world of rewards credit cards, with lucrative offers of five- and six-figure welcome bonuses dangled to tempt new sign-ups, new perks added to existing cards, new cards launched, and so much more. It can certainly be daunting to keep track of it all, especially if you’re an ordinary consumer who wants to start earning points and miles for the simple act of swiping a piece of plastic while trying to make sense of it all and figure out where to start. That’s why, as the year winds down, we thought we’d take a moment and offer a look back at some of the card options that we think are not only solid all-around rewards cards but perfect for first-time card owners — specifically, first-timers to the world of points and miles who want to start racking up rewards for their purchases.
If you fit that bill, then read on for this guide’s introduction to five cards from Chase, Capital One, and American Express that we think deserve a closer look from you.
Let’s get right into it. First up on our list of 5 cards perfect for newbies is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. From there, we’ll then move to these four:
- The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
- American Express® Gold Card
- Chase Freedom Unlimited
- American Express Green Card
One important point worth mentioning right off the top — if you do decide to take the plunge with these or any other rewards credit card that strikes your interest, we cannot stress this enough: Pay your card on time and if at all possible in full every single month. If you don’t, and if you carry a balance from one month to the next, you’re letting interest negate the value of points you earn.
Now, let’s have a look at the cards.
Annual fee: $95
Welcome offer: 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
- 2x points on travel (flights, Uber, etc.) and restaurants
- 1x points on everything else
Who should get this card: Hands down, this is one of the best credit cards on the market for anyone looking to up their points game. The 2x points you earn on dining and travel add up quickly — and an especially nice benefit is the fact that the travel category covers a broad spectrum of expenses ranging from Uber rides to public transport and, obviously, flights. The points you’ll earn are also transferable, so you can use them for free flights or hotels from Chase’s various partners, which include Hyatt, JetBlue, Marriott, and Southwest, among others.
Annual fee: $95 (but it’s waived the first year)
Welcome offer: 50,000-mile bonus after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months
- 2x miles on all purchases
Who should get this card: Reasons why this card is such a solid choice for anyone on the hunt for their first rewards card include the 50,000-mile bonus, as well as the addition of 15 airline transfer partners — and the perks don’t stop there. Users can also enjoy 2x miles on purchases, an up to $100 credit to cover Global Entry/TSA PreCheck enrollment fees, travel accident insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver and an extended warranty. There are also no foreign transaction fees, something that it’s easy to rack up without realizing it when you’re out of the country for the first time.
Annual fee: $250
Welcome offer: 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
- 4x on global dining and US supermarkets (the 4x on up to $25,000 spent at US supermarkets each year; then 1x)
- 3x on airfare, either booked directly with the airline or through
- 1x points on everything else
Who should get this card: Frankly, this card doesn’t carry the biggest bonus out there, so it’s not on the basis of that alone that we recommend it. But people who especially love dining out on the regular will get a ton of value out of this card, thanks to the impressive earnings potential of 4x on dining — not to mention the 3x on travel. You can also use your Amex Membership Rewards points on 19 airline and three hotel partners, including Aeroplan, Delta, and Marriott, and while the card does carry a $250 annual fee, it can be offset by the up to $100 airline statement credit and the up to $120 yearly dining statement credit you get with this card.
Annual fee: There isn’t one!
Welcome offer: $150 after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
- 1.5% cash back on all purchases
- Transferable Ultimate Rewards points
- No cash-back minimum
Who should get this card: This is the perfect card for anyone who just wants to rely on one piece of plastic for both their purchases as well as earning cash back (whereas some savvy card owners use different cards for those distinct purposes). Unlike many cash-back cards, the Freedom Unlimited also allows you to earn Ultimate Rewards points — and if you get the Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve and the Ink Business Preferred you can pair these three with the Freedom Unlimited card, transfer the points you earn on it and redeem them in the Chase portal.
Annual fee: $150
Welcome offer: 30,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in your first three months.
- 3x on dining worldwide, travel and transit
- 1x on all other purchases
Who should get this card? Among the other perks that come with this excellent mid-tier travel rewards card, besides the points we mentioned above on dining and travel you can also enjoy an up to $100 LoungeBuddy annual credit, as well as an up to $100 Clear annual statement credit — two benefits that could wipe away the $150 annual fee right off the top. Additionally, if you apply by January 15, 2020, you’ll also be eligible for up to $100 in statement credits for eligible Away purchases made within the first three months of account opening, and you can use your accumulated points for things such as Delta Air Lines flash sales as well as 19 hotel and airline programs.