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Test Your Knowledge: Do You Know the Top Credit Card For Every Spending Category?

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Test Your Knowledge: Do You Know the Top Credit Card For Every Spending Category?

Chris CampbellTest Your Knowledge: Do You Know the Top Credit Card For Every Spending Category?Million Mile Secrets Team

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Insider Secret: To maximize your points, choose a credit card with a high earning rate in the categories where you spend the most.

One of the best ways to maximize your points is to use credit cards that have good earnings in your top spending categories. Who wants to earn 1X points per dollar when you could be earning 5X points per dollar just for using the right card?

In this post, we’ll look at the best credit card for each major spending category.

Keep in mind that while a credit card’s earning rate is important, the value of the points earned is also a useful consideration. Some cards have a very high earning rate in certain categories, but if the value of those points is lower, your rate of return will be less. We’ll recap the best card to use for spending in each bonus category based on earning rate while also considering the average redemption value of different types of points.

If you value one type of point higher than another, you may find other cards are better for your specific situation. As always, do the math to determine which credit cards and which types of points are best for your situation.

Consider applying for cards that have strong earning rates in categories where you spend the most. (Photo by Teerasak Ladnongkhun/Shutterstock)

Top Credit Card For Every Spending Category

Airlines

Winner: The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card from American Express earns a whopping 5X points per dollar on airfare. Membership Rewards points are among the most valuable of all points, so this is a great card for folks who fly frequently. Note that to earn the 5X points, you must book your travel directly with the airline or through American Express travel.

In addition To 5x points on airfare, The AMEX Platinum Card gives you access to all Centurion Lounges. (Photo by designs by Jack/Shutterstock)

Runner-up: Citi Prestige

The Citi Prestige comes in a close second, as it also earns 5X points per dollar on airfare. Citi ThankYou points are typically a little less valuable than AMEX Membership Rewards points, but this will depend on how you use them. One nice feature of the Citi Prestige is that the 5X points is not limited to purchases directly with the airline, so if you book your airfare through a travel agent, you can still earn the extra points. The Prestige also has substantially better travel protection benefits than the AMEX Platinum.

Cell Phone, Internet and Cable Providers

Winner: Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card

The Ink Business Cash card earns 5% cash back on cell phone, landline, internet and cable TV purchases, up to $25,000 per calendar year. For many folks, these services can run $200+ per month, meaning you can literally earn thousands of points per month in just this category. While the 5% cash back is good, the best way to use the Ink Cash card is to transfer the points to your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which then allows you to use the points at any of the Chase transfer partners.

The Chase Ink Business Cash has the best earning rate on cell phone bills, but you might want to consider the Ink Business Preferred for the excellent insurance benefits. (Image by kasarp studio/Shutterstock)

Runner-up: Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

The Ink Business Preferred Card earns 3X Ultimate Rewards points on cell phone, internet and cable purchases, but the main draw is the excellent cell phone insurance coverage. With the Ink Preferred, you have up to $600 in cell phone insurance for you and any employees listed on your monthly bill after paying a $100 deductible.

Dining

Winner: Citi Prestige

With the 2019 revamp, the Citi Prestige now earns 5X points per dollar on dining. Citi ThankYou points are especially valuable if you can take advantage of one of the 15 transfer partners.

Foodies will love earning 5X points on dining with the Citi Prestige card. (Image by coldsnowstorm/iStock)

Runner-up: American Express® Gold Card

The American Express Gold Card earns 4X Amex Membership Rewards points per dollar on dining purchases worldwide. Similar to ThankYou points, the best use of Membership Rewards points is typically to transfer them to one of the 21 AMEX transfer partners.

Entertainment

Winner: Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Savor card earns an impressive 4% cash back on entertainment purchases. The entertainment category is pretty broad on the Savor card and includes movie theaters, plays, concerts, sporting events, tourist attractions, theme parks, aquariums, zoos, dance clubs, bowling alleys, pool halls, record stores and video rental locations.

The Capital One Savor Card earns 4% cash-back on a wide range of entertainment purchases, including summer music festivals. (Image by Gutesa/Shutterstock.com)

Runner-up: U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

The US Bank Cash+ card earns 5% cash-back on your first $2,000 in combined eligible net purchases each quarter on two categories you choose. There are a number of categories that would fall under entertainment, depending on your interests:

  • TV, Internet and Streaming Services
  • Fast Food
  • Movie Theaters
  • Department and Select Clothing Stores
  • Electronic Stores
  • Sporting Goods Stores
  • Gyms/Fitness Centers

While the Cash+ card has a higher earning rate, the 5% cash back only applies for two categories and up to $2,000 in spending per quarter. The Capital One Savor card earns 4% cash back on all entertainment categories and does not have a limit on the number of points you can earn.

The information for the U.S. Bank Cash+ card and the Capital One Savor card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Gas

Winner: American Express® Business Gold Card

The Amex Business Gold Card allows you to earn 4X points in your top two spending categories each month (up to $150,000 in combined purchases each calendar year) including at U.S. gas stations. So if gas is one of your top expenses each month, the Business Gold is a no-brainer.

Don’t pass up the chance to earn 4x points on gas by using the AMEX Business Gold Card. (Image by aabejon/iStock)

Runner-Up: Citi Premier℠ Card

The Citi Premier card earns 3X points on all travel purchases, including gas. The Premier card earns Citi ThankYou points which can be transferred to one of the Citi transfer partners or redeemed with a 25% bonus through the Citi ThankYou travel center.

Grocery Stores

Winner: Tie between Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express and Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express

Both the Amex Blue Cash Preferred and EveryDay Preferred cards are excellent for shopping at grocery stores, so you should pick one based on your preferences. If you prefer cash back, the Blue Cash Preferred earns 6% cash back at US supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). But if you prefer travel rewards, the EveryDay Preferred is the way to go, as it earns 3X points at US supermarkets (on up to $6,000 each year; then 1X, plus a 50% points bonus each statement period during which you make 30 or more transactions).

If you maximize the value of AMEX Membership Rewards points by transferring to travel partners, this could be a huge return on your spending. The information for the Amex EveryDay Preferred card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Both the AMEX Blue Cash Preferred and EveryDay Preferred are great options to use at the grocery store. (Image By George Rudy/Shutterstock.com)

Hotels

Winner: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

With the Capital One Venture Rewards card, you earn 10X miles on hotels booked and paid through a dedicated Hotels.com link. If you combine this with the hotels.com rewards program, where you get one free night for every 10 nights that you book, you are getting the equivalent of up to 20X miles on your hotel spending. Keep in mind that you may not receive elite benefits or credit for stays with the hotel loyalty program when you book through hotels.com until January 31, 2020 .

The Capital One Venture Rewards Card is great for folks who want the flexibility to stay at multiple hotel brands. (Image courtesy of Marriott)

If you are loyal to a particular hotel brand or have elite status, there may be better cards for your specific situation. For example, if you stay exclusively at Hilton hotels, the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express gets you 14X points on Hilton stays at participating locations. And since the card come with complimentary Hilton Diamond status, you’ll earn an extra 20X points on most Hilton stays, for total earnings of 34X points.

Other hotel chains like Marriott and Hyatt have similar branded credit cards, so be sure to do the math if you are loyal to a particular brand. But if you prefer the flexibility of being able to stay at any hotel you want, the Capital One Venture Rewards card is hard to beat.

Runner-up:  The Platinum Card® from American Express

The AMEX Platinum card earns 5X points on prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com. While this is significantly less than the Capital One Venture Rewards Card, AMEX Membership Rewards are much more valuable. If you can redeem AMEX points for a good value and don’t mind pre-paying your hotel stay through amextravel.com, the Platinum card is a great option for hotel stays.

Bottom Line

Almost every travel rewards credit card earns bonus points in certain categories. One of the keys to maximizing your points earnings it to use the right card for the categories where you have the most spending.

Of course, the best card for you will depend on both your spending habits and how you want to use your points. Do the math to determine which card is best for your specific situation.

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The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Terms Apply | Rates & Fees

More Info

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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Sorry to hear that Citi Master Card will lose the following travel benefits: Baggage delay, Lost Baggage, Medical Evac, Trip Cancellation Insurance among other benefits.

Yeah, it’s definitely sad news with Citi credit cards losing some perks. It will be interesting to see how it affects their user base.

The Amex Gold earns 4X at grocery stores, regardless of the number of transactions. If you keep a deep wallet like me, it’s preferable to the EveryDay Preferred, as I’m unlikely to get to 30 transactions between gas (->3X), groceries (->4.5X), and uncategorized (->1.5X) spending. If you disagree with that, i.e. if you’re assuming 30+ transactions/month for maximum earning, at least put the EveryDay Preferred in the gas category, above or in line with the Citi Premier.