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Saturday, May 27, 2017

No One Owes You Anything

I recently ran across a letter written by the writer, investment advisor, and politician Harry Browne. It was a letter intended for his nine-year-old daughter and was published as part of his syndicated newspaper column. I want to share it in its entirety:

* * *

It’s Christmas and I have the usual problem of deciding what to give you. I know you might enjoy many things — books, games, clothes.

But I’m very selfish. I want to give you something that will stay with you for more than a few months or years. I want to give you a gift that might remind you of me every Christmas.

If I could give you just one thing, I’d want it to be a simple truth that took me many years to learn. If you learn it now, it may enrich your life in hundreds of ways. And it may prevent you from facing many problems that have hurt people who have never learned it.

The truth is simply this:

No one owes you anything.

How could such a simple statement be important? It may not seem so, but understanding it can bless your entire life.

No one owes you anything.

It means that no one else is living for you, my child. Because no one is you. Each person is living for himself; his own happiness is all he can ever personally feel.

When you realize that no one owes you happiness or anything else, you’ll be freed from expecting what isn’t likely to be.

It means no one has to love you. If someone loves you, it’s because there’s something special about you that gives him happiness. Find out what that something special is and try to make it stronger in you, so that you’ll be loved even more.

When people do things for you, it’s because they want to — because you, in some way, give them something meaningful that makes them want to please you, not because anyone owes you anything.

No one has to like you. If your friends want to be with you, it’s not out of duty. Find out what makes others happy so they’ll want to be near you.

No one has to respect you. Some people may even be unkind to you. But once you realize that people don’t have to be good to you, and may not be good to you, you’ll learn to avoid those who would harm you. For you don’t owe them anything either.

No one owes you anything.

You owe it to yourself to be the best person possible. Because if you are, others will want to be with you, want to provide you with the things you want in exchange for what you’re giving to them.

Some people will choose not to be with you for reasons that have nothing to do with you. When that happens, look elsewhere for the relationships you want. Don’t make someone else’s problem your problem.

Once you learn that you must earn the love and respect of others, you’ll never expect the impossible and you won’t be disappointed. Others don’t have to share their property with you, nor their feelings or thoughts.

If they do, it’s because you’ve earned these things. And you have every reason to be proud of the love you receive, your friends’ respect, the property you’ve earned. But don’t ever take them for granted. If you do, you could lose them. They’re not yours by right; you must always earn them.

A great burden was lifted from my shoulders the day I realized that no one owes me anything. For so long as I’d thought there were things I was entitled to, I’d been wearing myself out — physically and emotionally — trying to collect them.

No one owes me moral conduct, respect, friendship, love, courtesy, or intelligence. And once I recognized that, all my relationships became far more satisfying. I’ve focused on being with people who want to do the things I want them to do.

That understanding has served me well with friends, business associates, lovers, sales prospects, and strangers. It constantly reminds me that I can get what I want only if I can enter the other person’s world. I must try to understand how he thinks, what he believes to be important, what he wants. Only then can I appeal to someone in ways that will bring me what I want.

And only then can I tell whether I really want to be involved with someone. And I can save the important relationships for those with whom I have the most in common.

It’s not easy to sum up in a few words what has taken me years to learn. But maybe if you re-read this gift each Christmas, the meaning will become a little clearer every year.

I hope so, for I want more than anything else for you to understand this simple truth that can set you free: no one owes you anything.

* * *

There is a lot of very wise financial truth contained in that letter, principles that apply brilliantly to the personal finance journey (and life journey) that we all find ourselves on.

No one owes you anything.

No one owes you the money to retire on. Yes, you’re due some money from Social Security, but only if you’ve paid into it. If you’re lucky, your organization might have some kind of pension plan for you, but that’s part of your compensation for working there.

Everything else is up to you. It’s up to you to save for your retirement if you want to have a comfortable retirement. You need to be putting money aside in a 401(k) or a Roth IRA or a similar plan.

No one owes you great treatment. People are free to treat you however they like.

What you do control, however, is who you choose to associate with. You can choose to associate with people who treat you well in return for you treating them well. You can choose to associate with people who are doing great things and can inspire you to make better choices in your own life. You can choose to associate with people who are sources of great advice and wisdom and insight and knowledge.

You can also choose not to associate with people who don’t treat you well. You can choose to avoid people who offer paths full of poor decisions.

You decide who you spend your time with. No one else decides that but you.

No one owes you a job. A job means that someone is giving you money in exchange for your efforts. If you don’t want to put forth the effort, no one is required to put forth the money.

Remember, no one is going to give you a job unless the person paying you is going to, at some point, bring in more money than they’re paying you (and the cost of the items you’re using). Jobs aren’t charities. A job is a situation someone else has set up where you can both make some money – you invest your time and effort for some of that money, while the person who bought the location and all of the equipment and figured out all the job protocols for you is making some of that money. If you’re not an efficient part of that, you won’t have a job.

You decide whether you want a job or not, and you show whether you want that job with your efforts.

The same thing is true for a promotion. No one owes you a promotion. It’s up to you to make the case that you’re more deserving of that promotion than anyone. If you can’t make that case, then that promotion shouldn’t be yours anyway.

Yeah, sometimes people get promotions that don’t “deserve” them. Again, whatever the reason was for that other person getting the promotion, it comes down to the fact that you didn’t make a good enough case to earn that promotion for yourself. It wasn’t owed to you.

The same thing is true for business. No one owes you business success. You earn it by working your tail off and proving you have the knowledge and the talent to produce a product that people want and are willing to pay for in some fashion or another.

This is true for everyone from Bill Gates to a person making YouTube videos. They all make money from their business by making – or having made – things that people want. If you can’t put together some system for doing that, you aren’t going to have success in business. It is not owed to you.

No one owes you courtesy or friendship or respect. Those things are earned, not given. You choose for yourself whether or not you want to behave in a way that earns courtesy or friendship or respect. Even then, you might not necessarily receive it, though the odds go up greatly.

These statements may seem like negative things. They might seem like a list of hard truths about life.

However, the opposite is true.

For starters, things that you haven’t earned in some fashion are relatively valueless. Think about friendship, for starters. When someone that you barely know begins acting like your best friend, it feels completely unnatural. On the other hand, when you’ve known someone for years and they act like your best friend, it feels completely natural.

What’s the difference? Your real best friend earned that status. They have shown you friendship and kindness for a long time. This new person? They may have shown you friendship and kindness really recently, but the idea that you’ve got a long-term friendship feels hollow because it is hollow. That friendship – that thing that really means something and has real value in your life – has to be built up. It has to be earned. Things that have real value are things that you’ve actually earned.

That false friendship isn’t going to feel like a major loss to you if it disappears. However, if that close friend you’ve had for years disappeared, you’d know it. It would hurt. Why? Because that close friendship has value. That value isn’t owed to you. That value is built over a long period with a lot of little efforts that add up to something big.

Another truth: You are largely in control of your own destiny. Yes, outside events can and do happen, but you decide whether or not you have a good shot at that promotion or whether you’re never going to get it. You make that choice through your regular actions. Have you earned that promotion? Undoubtedly, decisions are made outside of your control that are sometimes completely unfair, but that still doesn’t make it okay for you to not make the best case for yourself.

You decide what you think about. You decide what you do with your time. You decide what you do with your money. You decide how much effort to put in. You decide whether to keep bearing down on that task or to get distracted by social media or to get into a conversation at the water cooler.

Those are your decisions. No one else makes them but you. Over the course of a lot of those decisions, you shape what kind of a life that you have.

A person with a great career has done things to build that great career. They’ve gone the extra mile to get their foot in the door. They’ve done their homework to keep their skills sharp. They’ve leapt at every opportunity to step forward and succeed.

Can you say the same about yourself?

A person with a lot of friends has done things to earn those friendships. They’ve put themselves in social situations. They’ve reached out to others with common interests and values. They’ve coordinated countless social events for themselves and others. They’re there when their close friends need them.

Can you say the same about yourself?

A person with sustainable wealth has done things to preserve that wealth and often to earn that wealth. They’ve spent less than they’ve earned over many years. They’ve made smart financial choices year after year after year.

Can you say the same about yourself?

A person with great fitness and a healthy looking body has done things to preserve that health and look. They’re careful about almost everything they eat – you might see them eating treats sometimes, but it’s likely that most of their other meals are extremely healthy. They devote time to exercise and getting in better shape.

Can you say the same about yourself?

A person who is considered wise has done things to cultivate that wisdom. They have spent a lot of time observing people and situations and then counterbalancing that with the teachings of great teachers and readings from great books. They’ve thought carefully about their own experiences and what they’ve learned and can combine all of that together into sage advice.

Can you say the same about yourself?

You see, the truth is that the big picture of your life is made up of how you use each day, each hour, each minute.

You decide whether you’re building a valuable career with nearly every workplace choice.

You decide whether you’re building a healthy financial portfolio with every dime you spend.

You decide whether you’re building a strong family with every single choice you make to spend time with them or to do other things.

You decide whether you’re building a strong social network with every single choice regarding whether you choose to be social or curl up in a safe ball in a comfortable chair.

You decide whether you’re building wisdom with every single choice regarding whether you reflect on life and face challenging materials and ideas or whether you watch a reality television marathon.

Those are choices that you make. No one else makes those choices but you. You decide whether you want to find success in the areas of your life that you want. That success is not owed to you. It is the outcome of all of your little choices about how you live your life, how you act toward others, how you use your time.

If you want to succeed at finances – or at anything else in your life – that success is going to be borne solely out of a long series of positive choices. That doesn’t guarantee success, of course, but it is a required ingredient. If you aren’t making positive choice after positive choice, if you aren’t taking positive action after positive action, the success you want isn’t going to happen. Success is not owed to you.

Whenever you feel unhappy about the state of things in some aspect of your life, remember that no one owes you anything. Instead, the things you want are largely earned. Yes, unfortunate events happen, but it is entirely in your court as to whether that cloud has a silver lining or not. Yes, great events happen, but it is entirely in your court as to whether that advantage does to waste.

The ingredient that matters is you. What are you going to choose to do?

Are you going to buy that silly thing at the gas station? Are you going to whip out your plastic at that big clothing sale? Or are you going to keep your wallet in your pocket? Making the right choice again and again is the foundation of financial success.

Are you going to sit there and browse social media for a while? Are you going to spend an hour pretending to work so that your boss will leave you alone? Or are you going to knuckle down and do the work? Are you going to spend some focused time sharpening your skills? Are you going to build some great workplace relationships or connections to people in your field? Making the right choice again and again is the foundation of career success.

Are you going to just toss the first idea you have out there and expect customers to come to your door? Are you going to instead hone that idea over and over again until it’s rock-solid? Are you going to research every single cost and write an effective business plan for your idea? Are you going to get feedback on your plans and revise them and get more feedback until you feel ready to launch? Making the right choice again and again is the foundation of a successful side gig.

Are you going to sit on your couch and wonder why your phone isn’t dinging constantly with texts? Are you going to go out to some kind of community event tonight? Are you going to make it your goal to connect with at least five people in the room well enough that you exchange contact info? Making the right choice again and again is the foundation of a great social network.

Even if bad events happen, you’ll overcome them with these steady good choices. If great fortune happens, then these little choices will just accelerate it.

On the other hand, if you make a steady flood of bad choices, unfortunate events will just accelerate the collapse. Even good fortune will eventually be devoured by lots of little bad decisions.

You are not owed financial success. You are not owed career success. You are not owed business success. You are not owed social success. You are not owed success. You make it with a flood of these little choices.

No one owes you anything. It’s up to you to make the things you want.

What are you going to do today?

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Best Rewards Credit Cards of 2017

If you’re a homebody who’s into family stay-cations, a credit card that focuses on travel rewards just doesn’t fit. Likewise, a cash back card with no travel rewards isn’t an ideal match for frequent flyers. Choosing a credit card with a rewards structure that aligns with your spending habits will ensure your rewards stack up quickly. You’ll also want to carefully consider redemption options. Do you want to earn rewards you can redeem for free travel? Is cash back more your style? Or maybe you’d prefer a super-flexible card that does both?

We’ve researched the top rewards credit cards so you don’t have to. Keep reading to find your perfect match.

The Best Rewards Credit Card Combo for 2017

To maximize your earning potential for travel points and cash back rewards, we recommend pairing the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card with the Chase Freedom®. Here’s how.

Apply Now on Chase's secure website
Apply Now on Chase's secure website

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers exceptional rewards, including 2X points on travel and restaurants worldwide and 1:1 points transfer to airline and hotel loyalty programs. With the Chase Freedom®, you’ll earn 5% cash back in rotating categories, along with 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases. When you pair these cards, you can maximize your rewards in several rotating categories and, even more importantly, maximize the benefits of the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program — points are transferrable between the two cards.

Combine your rewards on both cards to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards® points even faster. Redeem your points for a wide range of rewards, including travel, cash back and gift cards. You can even redeem points on the go, online or with the Chase Mobile banking app.

The Simple Dollar’s Best Rewards Credit Cards for 2017

2017’s Best Rewards Credit Cards:
An In-Depth Look at Our Top Picks

From travel and cash back rewards to concert tickets, these rewards cards have earned our top honors in their respective categories. Find your category, find your card, and apply online in minutes.

Most Versatile Rewards Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the Swiss Army Knife® of rewards cards — it does a lot of useful things. Use the card to earn a variety of rewards including travel, gift cards and statement credits. (Note: points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®!) You can also take advantage of a 1:1 point transfer to leading hotel and airline loyalty programs and consolidate points with select Chase cards.

This card’s versatility also comes into play with travel and restaurant purchases. The 2X points earned for travel purchases covers not just airfare and hotels but also several types of ground transportation, including passenger trains, taxis, buses, limos and ferries. You also get 2X points on dining worldwide, which means you can earn rewards points at restaurants overseas as well as stateside. The $0 foreign transaction fee is another good reason to use the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for international dining.

Highlights
Highlights
How To Use It
Best Use
Consider This
Consider This
Our Verdict
Our Verdict
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Earn 2X points per dollar on travel and dining worldwide and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
  • Spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months to earn 50,000 bonus points, worth $625 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Pair with the Chase Freedom® to transfer points between cards and combine them to earn free trips faster.
  • Redeem points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® to receive 25% bonus.
While the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card scores high marks for versatility, it’s short on travel perks. If you want even more travel benefits, we recommend the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express. It offers 3X points on airfare booked directly with airlines and 2X points at U.S. restaurants, gas stations and supermarkets. Plus, you’ll enjoy high-value perks like Personalized Travel Service, a $100 airline fee credit, and Premium Roadside Assistance.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has just about everything you could want in a no-nonsense, multi-purpose rewards card. Its flexibility makes it easy to earn points toward a variety of rewards, and the ability to use the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card with travel loyalty programs and other Chase cards, combining or consolidating points, can add even more dimensions to your rewards strategy.

Best Cash Back Rewards

Chase Freedom®

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Are you a cost-conscious shopper who can visualize your monthly credit card statement growing larger with every swipe? The Chase Freedom® can offer relief with high-rate cash back you can redeem for a statement credit to lower your monthly balance. Flexible rewards redemption gives you other ways to use your points too, including travel and gift cards. Also, you’ll earn 5% cash back each quarter on rotating categories like gas stations, grocery stores and department stores, and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Highlights
Highlights
How To Use It
Best Use
Consider This
Consider This
Our Verdict
Our Verdict
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.74-24.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee
  • Activate your 5% bonus category every quarter when the categories change to maximize your rewards.
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories per quarter and 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases.
  • Redeem points for cash back through an electronic deposit into your checking or savings account, gift cards, or an account statement credit.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to activate the 5% bonus every quarter when the categories change. If you prefer an option without rotating categories — even if it means earning rewards less quickly — the Discover it® Miles might be more to your liking. It offers unlimited 1.5X Miles for every $1 spent on all purchases, any time of year, and you can redeem your Miles for travel statement credits in addition to cash.
The Chase Freedom® offers great opportunities to earn high-rate cash back and other rewards at a brisk pace, without a lot of moving parts to keep track of. It’s our top choice for a simple, no-annual-fee cash-back card that helps you convert purchases into rewards with ease.

Best No Annual Fee Rewards Card

Discover it® Miles

Apply Now on Discover.com's secure website

For some cardholders, there are three magic words: no annual fee. The Discover it® Miles is our top recommendation in that category of rewards cards. In addition to generous travel and cash back rewards, this card offers a few features that aren’t available from some key competitors. For instance, there’s no late fee on your first late payment. In the area of security, you get $0 Fraud Liability for unauthorized purchases. The Discover it® Miles also differentiates itself from similar cards by offering 100% U.S.-based customer service available any time.

Highlights
Highlights
How To Use It
Best Use
Consider This
Consider This
Our Verdict
Our Verdict
Card Highlights Provided by Discover:
  • Bonus Miles - For example, if you earn 20,000 Miles, you get 40,000 Miles. We'll match all the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year.
  • Unlimited 1.5x Miles per dollar on all purchases, every day, with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates - fly any airline, stay at any hotel.
  • Redeem your rewards in any amount for cash or a travel credit.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your FICO® Credit Score for free on monthly statements, on mobile and online.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Discover Match® details & other information.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases, from airfare and hotels to groceries and online shopping.
  • Book your travel with Discover it® Miles and redeem your Miles as a statement credit toward the purchase. Eligible travel purchases include airfare, hotel stays, rental cars, and more.
  • Get an automatic match of all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year.
You can get a higher rate per dollar spent with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® — 2x miles compared with 1.5x miles — although it would mean paying an annual fee after the first year. Also, if your goal is earning rewards for overseas travel, cards from issuers such as Visa and MasterCard are more widely accepted internationally (and among small businesses domestically).
The Discover it® Miles is a user-friendly card that requires little effort on your part — and no annual fee, of course — to earn generous rewards. You also get considerable flexibility in earning and redeeming your rewards. You’re not locked in with booking travel through a particular airline or staying at a particular hotel, and you don’t have to deal with blackout dates. If you’d rather have cash than a statement credit for travel purchases, you can redeem your Miles for cash at any time.

Best Fixed-Value Travel Credit Card

Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

Apply Now on FindMyBarclayCard.com's secure website

For travelers who like simplicity and flexibility with their fixed-value credit cards, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® makes it easy to earn miles, redeem your rewards and go. You don’t have to keep track of rotating categories. The 2X miles per dollar rewards rate, 5% miles back redemption reward, and 50,000-mile signup bonus are the icing on the cake. And speaking of miles and rewards redemption, your miles never expire as long as your account remains open, active and in good standing.

In addition to travel awards, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® gives you other ways to get your money’s worth. With the annual fee waived for the first year, the card offers a solid initial value. You can also take advantage of the 0% Introductory APR on balance transfers to pay off another card and save on interest.

Highlights
Highlights
How To Use It
Best Use
Consider This
Consider This
Our Verdict
Our Verdict
  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days - that's enough to redeem for a $500 travel statement credit
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • Redeem for travel or cash back statement credits, gift cards and merchandise. Redemption values vary
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • Miles don't expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • No foreign transaction fees on anything you buy while in another country
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 16.74%, 20.74% or 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Please note, there is a fee for balance transfers
  • Redeem your miles for travel statement credits starting at 10,000 miles for $100 toward all or a portion of your travel purchases. (Terms apply.)
  • Spend $3,000 in your first 90 days to earn the 50,000 bonus miles, redeemable for a $500 travel statement credit.
  • Get 5% miles back every time you redeem to use toward your next redemption.
  • If you choose to transfer a balance from a high-APR card, pay off the balance during the intro APR period to avoid interest payments.
Remember that with cards in this category, you’re simply earning points for travel reimbursement at a fixed rate. Although you have flexibility in redeeming your points for travel, they’re non-transferrable to frequent flyer or hotel loyalty programs. For 1:1 point transfer to popular travel rewards programs, we recommend our top pick, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® may not be flashy, but some cardholders will see its simplicity as the key benefit. For those who want to earn points at a steady fixed rate without adjusting their spending habits to coincide with bonus categories, this card provides a clear path to their objective. Also, the 2X miles rate is superior to that of many other fixed-value cards.

Best BofA Card

BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card

Apply Now Learn more about this card

With no annual fee and 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card has a lot going for it. Cardholders who also have a Bank of America checking or savings account will find even more to like, since they’re eligible for a 10% customer points bonus on every purchase. If they’re also Preferred Rewards clients, the potential bonus ranges from 25% to 75%. BofA banking customers can maximize their ability to earn points with this card, points they can easily redeem for travel statement credits.

Highlights
Highlights
How To Use It
Best Use
Consider This
Consider This
Our Verdict
Our Verdict
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
  • 20,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days - that can be a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want – you’re not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
  • Comes with chip technology for enhanced security and protection at chip-enabled terminals
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases, then 15.74% - 23.74% Variable APR
  • Get an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • If you’re a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%
  • Use the card to earn unlimited 1.5 points per dollar on all purchases.
  • Make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days for 20,000 online bonus points worth a $200 travel statement credit.
  • Redeem your points to get a statement credit on travel expenses including flights, hotels, rental cars, baggage fees and more.
  • Combine the card with a BofA checking or savings account for an additional 10% customer bonus points. (Preferred Rewards clients can increase this bonus to 25-75%.)
You don’t have to bank with BofA to get a travel card with a high rewards rate. Consider the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, for example. Frequent travelers may find that the annual fee — waived for the first year, then $195 — is worth the money for benefits such as 3X points on airfare and a $100 airline fee credit.
The BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card has solid baseline benefits, including travel booking flexibility and the signup bonus. However, the potential to earn bonus rewards points increases for cardholders who also do their banking with BofA and are enrolled in the Preferred Rewards program. The potential to earn customer points bonuses anywhere from 10% to 75% on each purchase offers a strong incentive for account holders to make this card part of their Bank of America portfolio.

Best Cash Back Bonus

Discover it® Cashback Match™

Apply Now On Discover.com's secure website

The Discover it® Cashback Match™ offers a variation on the old saying — good things come to [cardholders] who wait. At the end of your first year, the card automatically delivers a dollar-for-dollar cash back match. Also, cash rewards never expire and are redeemable at any time, in any amount. With no annual fee and free FICO Credit Score on monthly statements, the card offers a lot of value. Thanks to Cashback Match™ and all its other useful features, the Discover it® Cashback Match™ receives our top recommendation for Best Cash Back Bonus.

Highlights
Highlights
How To Use It
Best Use
Consider This
Consider This
Our Verdict
Our Verdict
Card Highlights Provided by Discover:
  • You could turn $200 into $400 with Cashback Match™. Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like gas stations, Amazon.com, restaurants, wholesale clubs and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Redeem your cash back for any amount, any time. Cash rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • Get your FICO® Credit Score for free on monthly statements, on mobile and online.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
  • Activate every quarter to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in rotating categories like gas stations, restaurants, wholesale clubs and Amazon.com.
  • Remember that the more you purchase with the card during your first year, the bigger the Cashback Match™ you’ll receive at year’s end.
  • If you choose to transfer a balance to Discover it® Cashback Match™, be sure to pay it off during the 14-month introductory 0% APR to avoid interest. (A 3% fee applies to each balance transfer.)
  • Use your rewards instantly at Amazon.com checkout.
For consumers who want travel rewards as the main course and cash back as a side dish, we recommend the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®. The card offers 2X miles on every purchase, with no rotating categories. In addition to redeeming miles as a travel statement credit, it also allows you the flexibility to redeem for gift cards and merchandise. (Note: redeeming miles for travel statement credit offers the best value.)
The Discover it® Cashback Match™ is a solid choice for anyone interested in a cash back bonus. It could also make a useful “starter card” for first-time cardholders. With no annual fee, it has a low barrier to entry, and access to free FICO® Credit Scores on the monthly statement can help young cardholders monitor their credit as they’re building it.

Best Perks

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

Apply Now on AmericanExpress.com's secure website

Frequent air travelers who like to arrive, dine and relax in style will enjoy our pick in the Best Perks category, the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express. Generous points for many everyday purchases coupled with bonus points on airfare booked directly with airlines ensure that the points, and the easily-redeemable rewards, add up quickly. The Membership Rewards® program lets you use points for rewards from more than 500 brands and transfer points to select frequent traveler programs — Hilton Honors, JetBlue, Starwood Preferred Guest and more.

Highlights
Highlights
How To Use It
Best Use
Consider This
Consider This
Our Verdict
Our Verdict
  • Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines. 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and US supermarkets. 1X points on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit. Up to $100 a year in baggage fees and more at one airline.
  • Get a $75 hotel credit on qualifying charges, plus a room upgrade upon arrival, if available with The Hotel Collection at americanexpress.com/hc. Terms apply.
  • $0 Intro Annual Fee for the 1st year, then $195.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Book flights directly with airlines to earn 3X points.
  • Earn 2X points for purchases at U.S. restaurants, gas station and supermarkets and 1X points on all other purchases.
  • Use the card to book lodging through The Hotel Collection and earn benefits including hotel credits and room upgrades when available.
  • Use on international trips to take advantage of $0 foreign transaction fees.
With the 3X airfare bonus, frequent air travel is the key to maximizing your rewards with the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express. Fully utilizing features like access to The Hotel Collection — plus a $75 hotel credit when you stay two or more consecutive nights at a participating property — will also help you get the most value out of the card. If you’re a globe-trotting gourmet who travels strictly for the food, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers 2X points on travel and restaurants worldwide.
For frequent flyers, the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express comes very close to being the ideal full-service rewards card. You can earn points and rewards in just about every phase of your trip, from airfare and lodging to incidentals such as baggage fees. The generous travel perks put this card in a class by itself.

Best Rewards Credit Cards: Summed Up

Rewards Credit Cards Best For…
1 Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Travel
2 Chase Freedom® Cash Back Rewards
3 Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® Fixed-Value Travel Credit Card
4 BankAmericard Travel Rewards® No Annual Fee
5 Discover it® Cashback Match™ Cash Back for New Members
6 Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express Perks

Research the 92 Best Rewards Credit Cards for 2017

The rewards credit cards directory shown below is a comprehensive listing of every rewards credit card worth considering. It started as a list of nearly 1,630 cards. I created this directory and used it as a starting point for all of my research so that I could review all cards on the same criteria and reduce the list to a more manageable number. It’s updated weekly and reflects any new changes to the credit cards as well as new card additions and removals.

Using both the information shown in the directory and other features, I took a data-driven approach to select the top rewards credit cards. Multiple factors were taken into account, as I wasn’t looking for just the highest rewards alone. I wanted to find the card that has the best combination of the elements that are most important to the majority of people seeking a rewards card.

Rewards Credit Cards Directory

The directory also includes all the various types of rewards credit cards. You can use the rewards credit card directory to sort and filter by the components that are most important to you. To rank the cards, I rated each rewards credit card feature in order of importance based on my research.

When evaluating rewards credit cards in general, you’ll see that so many categories have an impact on rating each card. I took nearly 14 different components into account. Based on all of the features and data collected, I developed a Rewards Credit Card Rating, which is essentially a summary of how a card performs as a rewards card. The Overall Rating is a measure of the card compared to every single type of card.

Sort, filter, or search for what matters most to find the best rewards credit card for you.

Sort By Card Name
Rewards Type
Sign up Bonus Tier Level
Common Filters Great Signup Bonus
No Annual Fee
No APR for 12+ Months
Search Do you know of a card that is not in our directory? Suggest a Card Here
Credit Card
Rewards Type
Annual Fee
Sign up Bonus Tier Level
Apply Online
Credit Card
Rewards Type
Annual Fee
Sign up Bonus Tier Level
Apply Online
Travel
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Excellent
* (?)
Travel
$89 - Waived first year
Excellent
Cash Back
$0
Below Average
* (?)
Travel
$59 ($0 for first year)
Average
Miles
$0
Excellent
Cash Back
$0
None

Rating Methodology

To better describe the data and overall rating, I’ll explain each valuable component below. These aren’t the only factors that went into rating each card, but these are some of the most valuable and the features that you’ll want to understand before getting any rewards card.

Rewards Rate

Rewards Rate refers to the actual rate at which you can earn rewards using the rewards credit card. Most of the consistent rewards credit cards will offer 2x points, miles, or cash back on common purchases without any limits. These cards are very versatile and are the best credit cards to own as your primary card.

Cash back credit cards offer higher rewards rates in specific categories, but have limits on the amount you can earn. The rotating category cash back credit cards enable you to earn 5% cash back every quarter on something different, but once you hit the $1,500 limit each quarter your rewards rate drops down to 1%. This is why owning a consistent 2x rewards card is important — to pick up the slack and continue earning double the points.

Then, there are rewards credit cards that are tied to one brand. Again, Rewards Rate as a whole measures the rewards you can earn, plus the places where you can earn those extra rewards. An airline credit card, hotel credit card, or brand loyalty (affinity) credit card will enable you to earn high rewards with that specific brand.

However, if you make purchases away from the brand, it’s likely that you’ll only earn at a 1% or 1x points rate, which means you’re missing out. This is generally why I only recommend these cards in special circumstances or if you’re looking to add a third, fourth, or fifth credit card and you spend a lot of money.

Perks

There are many benefits to owning a rewards card beyond what’s advertised. First off, many of the top cards have travel insurance benefits, car rental insurance, and purchase protection insurance. Beyond that, premium cards offer you special VIP services, access to exclusive events, and use of airport lounges.

Airline credit cards are probably near the top when it comes perks for a rewards credit card. Since the cards only offer rewards for purchases made on the airline (in most cases), they compensate by offering priority boarding, free checked bags, companion fares, and other travel benefits on the airline. These can be great perks for people that travel often, especially the companion fare.

Sign-Up Bonus

The consistent all-around rewards credit cards tend to offer some of the largest sign-up bonuses in the industry. Often, you’ll have to spend a certain amount of money to get these bonuses dropped into your account. Usually, it’s anywhere between $1,000 and $3,000 spent in the 90 days. The top cards offer sign-up bonuses of up to $400, while others go up to $200. The key here is to make sure you capitalize on your sign-up bonus!

Airline credit cards also have large bonuses in the form of air miles. Essentially, it’s the same monetary value as, say, a $400 statement credit bonus. However, in my experience, it’s much less straightforward booking a flight with air miles than it is to get $400 to show up on your statement as a credit.

Cash back credit cards have some of the smallest bonuses in the industry, likely because the rewards rate on purchases is so high (even though there’s a limit to the amount you can earn). Still, the bonuses on these cards are nice and tend to be around $50 to $100, although I’ve seen special offers as high as $200.

Intro APR

Introductory APR isn’t too important as it relates to earning rewards, but it gives you the flexibility and freedom to make purchases without having to worry about carrying a balance as a new cardholder. For example, some of the best introductory offers in the industry can go as high as 0% APR for 18 months. That means you don’t have to make a payment for 18 months. Of course, you still need to pay attention and keep up with your payments so you aren’t left with a massive balance a year and a half after signing up for the card!

An Intro APR can be a dangerous tool or a wise tool depending on how you look at it. If you know you need to make a major purchase in the next few months and you can pay it off without hesitation in the next year, it’s fine to take advantage of these offers. However, if you’re signing up for a card and spending way more than you should because you don’t have to pay interest, you might get into trouble.

I advise you to tread cautiously and carry the least amount of balance possible if you plan on taking advantage of a 0% intro APR deal.

Ongoing APR

I included ongoing APR because it’s important to think about. You shouldn’t sign up for a rewards credit card if you plan on carrying a balance. Any way you look at it, the amount you’ll earn in rewards won’t be able to offset the high costs of paying off a balance that’s accumulating interest each month.

Sometimes, things happen and you might get into a situation where you have to carry a balance. In that case, cash back cards generally have the lowest ongoing APRs. Again, you really want to avoid this at all costs. A credit card is a great financial tool if used the right way. You can be paid back for making purchases in the form of rewards and build your credit.

If used the wrong way, your credit can be destroyed. You’ll be stuck making high interest payments and you’ll trigger a financial downward spiral. Make sure you pay off your balance each month or cut back on your spending. (Side note: I’ll probably hammer this point home at least one more time as you continue reading.)

Choosing the Right Rewards Card

Credit cards aren’t one size fits all. Here’s how to find one that fits just right.

Step 1: Analyze your spending.

If your spending often falls within popular categories like groceries, gas, or online shopping, look for a card that offers bonus rewards on those types of purchases. If it doesn’t, consider a flat-rate rewards card.

Step 2: Choose your rewards type.

Cash back rewards are redeemable for statement credits or gift cards, while travel rewards are good for airfare, hotel stays, and more. Some cards even offer both, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • Do you want to earn travel rewards?

If you travel often or plan to travel more, a travel rewards card could be just what you’re looking for. Would you rather earn hotel loyalty points or frequent flyer miles – or both?

  • Would you rather earn cash back?

Our favorite cash back cards allow you to earn rewards on everyday purchases, then redeem them for cash, gift cards, or statement credits. Popular rewards categories include groceries, gas, online shopping, and more. If travel rewards aren’t a priority for you, check out our favorite cash back cards.

  • Is flexibility most important?

For maximum flexibility, consider a card like the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express. This card allows you to redeem points for gift cards, travel, merchandise, or entertainment.

The Truth About Rewards Credit Cards

There’s so much data to consider when choosing a rewards credit card. With all the data points, it’s often hard to distinguish what’s most important because much of this information is geared toward people who aren’t using credit cards the right way. When you use a credit card responsibly, finding the right rewards credit card is relatively simple: nothing else matters except rewards, bonuses, and benefits.

Most credit card review sites look at the following data points:

  • Introductory APR
  • Standard APR
  • Sign-up bonus
  • Rewards rate
  • Additional bonus rewards
  • Introductory balance transfer rate
  • Standard balance transfer rate

These data points are all worth knowing. I also looked at each of these. The problem is when you don’t carry a balance, APR doesn’t matter, balance transfer rates don’t matter, and fees don’t matter. All that’s left is to analyze are the rewards, bonuses, and perks as well as how they can be used.

The key factor of rating a rewards credit card lies below the surface-level details. How can you redeem your rewards? Are there extra advantages and amenities not included in the data points above? The answer is yes.

To get a better feel for each card, I put myself in the position of the cardholder. I dove into the nuances of the best rewards credit card programs to find the truth about rewards credit cards.

The Golden Rule: Don’t Carry a Monthly Balance on Your Credit Card

I mentioned this already, but I’m making a point of highlighting it here because of how important it is. If you want a rewards credit card, avoid carrying a balance at all costs. Your interest payments will completely wipe out your point accumulation and cost you too much money, time, and headaches. It’s simply not worth it.

If you currently have a balance and you want to pay it down, consider a balance transfer card to get back on track.

If you adhere to this rule, you will never need to worry about what ongoing APR your card offers. A lower APR is clearly better, but you shouldn’t be concerned about the APR unless you carry a balance.

Annual Fees Are an Investment to Earn More Rewards

Most people cringe at the thought of coughing up dough for the privilege of using a rewards card, but the truth is that paying the annual fee is usually worth it. Many of the best rewards cards have annual fees that are normally waived in the first year. Given the extra rewards you can earn for using the card and the massive sign-up bonuses, annual fees won’t turn out to be an additional cost. It really depends on how much you plan on spending on the card, though.

Think of it this way: If you spend $20,000 per year and get 1x point per dollar spent with a no annual fee card, you’ll receive $200 worth of points. If you spend the same amount with a rewards card that earns 2x per dollar but has a $95 annual fee, you’ll get $305 worth of points ($400 minus $95). That’s a 52.5% increase!

Your annual fee investment is $95 and your increase is $105. This amounts to a “return on investment” (ROI) of $105/$95, or 110.5%. No investor on Wall Street can match that return year in and year out.

There are plenty of great rewards credit cards out there with no annual fee. I’m just advising that you shouldn’t make your choice solely based on the fee because the bonus and additional rewards you earn will usually offset the fee.

Capitalize on Sign-Up Bonuses

Almost every top rewards credit card has a great sign-up point bonus. This is serious free money you don’t want to miss out on when signing up. You’re defeating the purpose of signing up for a top rewards credit card if you don’t meet the spending requirements to collect your sign-up bonus.

These bonuses can reach values of $400 or more, so make sure you collect on it. In most cases, when you meet the required spending,

Ways to Redeem Points Are As Valuable As Ways to Earn Points

One of the key benefits of a great rewards card is being able to redeem points the way you want to. Your points don’t do you any good if you can’t use them. This applies across the board for different types of rewards cards. We talk a lot about general rewards, but some of the airline cards and hotel credit cards are able to offer you a higher rewards earning potential for purchases with their brand.

The two premier rewards platforms that give you the most flexibility when redeeming points are Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Points. You can’t go wrong with either of these platforms when redeeming points for travel, entertainment, gift cards, or cash back.

If you carry more than one rewards credit card like I do, it can really pay off to have them on the same rewards platform. That way, you can combine points and take advantage of special point dividends, bonuses, or deals. Always think about how you’ll redeem points before signing up for a rewards card.

How To Save More Money By Maximizing Rewards

I’ve talked at length about the benefits of using a rewards credit card. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all card that delivers superior rewards on every conceivable spending category AND has the most flexible point redemption options.

Given the limitations, many people will want to employ some strategies to get the most out of their rewards. My recommendation is to use at least two rewards credit cards. Using more can help, but the added annual fees may eat away at the benefits of carrying an additional card if you don’t spend enough.

Let’s assume you want to completely max out your rewards earning potential without owning an excessive amount of cards. Owning two or three cards is the right number to get the most rewards and still keep the cards active (assuming you’re paying off the balances). You’ll be able to take advantage of the bonuses and ongoing rewards without major limitations.

There are many strategies to maximizing your rewards cards while keeping the number of credit cards you own down to a minimum. Here are a few examples:

  • Overlap categories on the same rewards platform (like Chase Ultimate Rewards).
  • Combine business and personal rewards credit cards.
  • Use a consistent rewards card and a cash back card.
  • Overlap two types of travel rewards cards

Case Study #1: Overlap Categories on the Same Rewards Platform

The goal of this strategy is to take two or more rewards cards that earn bonus points in different categories and combine them to earn more than you would by just earning 1% on all other purchases. The ideal situation is to keep both cards on the same rewards platform so you can easily combine the points from each card when you want to redeem them.

My favorite way to do this right now is to use the Chase Ultimate Rewards platform. If you used the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to earn 2x points on travel and dining, you could add the Chase Freedom® to take care of rotating bonus categories like groceries, gas, and department stores.

There are a couple added benefits to using these two cards. First, the Chase Freedom® card does not have an annual fee, so you can employ this strategy for just $95 per year (the annual fee on Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card). Second, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card points are worth 20% more when redeemed for travel on the Ultimate Rewards platform. The Chase Freedom® points are not eligible for this benefit as a standalone card.

Here’s the good news: Chase Ultimate Rewards lets you combine card points, so you can transfer your Chase Freedom® points to your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, and those additional points will be worth 20% more when redeemed for travel!

The Power of the Platform

Let’s say you accumulate 50,000 points on your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and 20,000 points on a second card on a different rewards platform. You then decide to take that Caribbean vacation you’ve always wanted and use Chase Ultimate Rewards to book your trip. You see that two flights cost a combined $750. Your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card points when redeemed for travel will cover $625 of the cost, but you have to pay out of pocket for the remaining $125 because you can’t combine your points.

Now, let’s say you’re in the same scenario except your “other card” is the Chase Freedom®. You decide to combine your points with your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card points, so you now have 70,000 points to use. On most other rewards platforms, 70,000 points equal $700. However, with the 20% bump you get with Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, your combined 70,000 points now are worth $875 — enough to cover your airfare for your vacation!

Case Study #2: Combine Business and Personal Rewards Cards

If you run a small business or are self-employed in some way, you can use one of the best business credit cards as your secondary card. Business cards often have better rewards in different categories that can be overlapped. My colleague uses the Chase Ink® business cards for his business and combines points with his personal credit cards on the Chase Ultimate Rewards platform to get maximum value.

For example, he puts all of his gas and hotel stays on his Chase Ink Bold® for 2x points. He also charges his cell phone bill, Internet service, and landline to that card to earn 5x points. Then, he books any travel or dining on his Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to earn 2x points.

Redeeming is easy because both cards will get you 20% more when redeemed for travel through Chase. All he has to do is combine the points and book his tickets.

Case Study #3: Consistent Rewards + Cash Back

When you want a simple strategy for rewards and you’re not as concerned with your cards being on the same platform, you can split up your cards. Your goal here is to earn a straight 2% back on all purchases while giving yourself a boost of 2% in certain spending categories.

One way to do this is to sign up for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® to earn 2x miles on all purchases. From here, you have several options to add a cash back card that earns high rewards in rotating categories.

This selection will largely be situational depending on what you spend your money on. My favorite cash back card is the Chase Freedom®, just for the variety alone. You have more choices here because you can open your options to cards on different rewards platforms.

You most likely will not use your cash back card as much as your Barclaycard, so I would use those cash back points either as statement credits, spending money, or to redeem for gift cards. Then, use all of your Barclaycard points for travel-related or larger purchases.

You can’t maximize your rewards by only owning a cash back card. Even the best cash back card must be used in combination with another rewards credit card to ensure you earn greater than 1% back on every purchase you make.

Remember, you won’t be able to combine points in this scenario, so make sure you have options for redeeming each set of points. Since you’ll be using your cash back card in limited situations, it might not make sense to pay an additional annual fee, which is why I recommend the Chase Freedom®.

Case Study #4: Overlap Two Travel Rewards Cards

If you travel often, you may want a little extra juice in your rewards program. Here, you need to take into consideration frequent flyer programs, preferred airlines or hotels, and point transfer partners so you can use your points in the most efficient way possible.

What I recommend is pairing a solid, general rewards card with an airline or hotel card.

What’s important to remember:

  • Most airline and hotel cards don’t earn higher than 1x points away from their own brands.
  • The best general rewards cards have frequent flyer transfer partners.
  • Your rewards are attached to the airline or hotel rewards program and changes do happen.
  • Most rewards cards and airline cards carry annual fees, so don’t sign up for all of them!

Keeping those points in mind, there are many ways to execute this strategy. Below is an example to illustrate how you could maximize your rewards points.

Travel Card + Airline or Hotel Card = Max Travel Rewards

Sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to get a great sign-up bonus and solid rewards on travel and dining, plus capitalize on the 20% bonus point redemption. This is your starting point for earning travel rewards.

Next, choose your preferred airline or hotel. This is much more difficult since it depends on your preferences and geography. One way to choose is to look at your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card point transfer partners. With this program, you can transfer your points to partners such as United, British Airways, Southwest, Hyatt, and Marriott. Points transfer on a 1:1 basis, so you should first consider any of these specialty cards.

If you fly one airline a lot you can double dip on points and miles, then transfer credit card points to airline miles. Adding the United MileagePlus® Explorer card won’t net you any immediate points difference since both cards earn 2x on United purchases. However, you might travel United enough to take advantage of mileage deals by transferring Ultimate Rewards points from your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Finally, with these two cards, you’ll be paying two annual fees. Consider adding a no annual fee cash back card to boost your points on rotating categories that aren’t covered by Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. You might need gas or groceries while traveling, and cash back cards can cover you in these categories.

Research Recap

The marketplace for rewards credit cards is enormous. I collected data on 1,630 credit cards for this project. It’s been an ongoing effort that I’ve been a part of for nearly two years.

One priority for me is to make sure this page is continuously updated. I get emails daily about changes and updates directly from the credit card issuers so we’re able to make the changes fast, keeping everything current. This page can be updated as often as daily or weekly, so you’ll see some details change from time to time.

Beyond simply presenting the research and the numbers, I looked for strategies to help you make the best decision and use your credit cards wisely.

Many of the tips and practices outlined here are things I actually put into practice on a daily basis. I made an effort to put myself in your position — the position of the cardholder — in order to create something useful. Luckily, I own several of these cards myself and I’m able to speak from personal experiences.

While this article mainly focuses on overall rewards credit cards, I also completed several other pieces that discuss each rewards type more specifically. If you’re interested in credit card rewards, I encourage you to check out some of the other articles, as each piece offers more depth on the individual card types.

You can take a look at my article on cash back credit cards. I also wrote another detailed article on airline credit cards, which you’ll find useful if you fly on one airline or travel often. My colleague wrote a great piece on travel credit cards that sums up any credit card you should consider for travel, including general travel cards and various types of brand credit cards.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below. I do my best to respond to everyone!

The post Best Rewards Credit Cards of 2017 appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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How to Celebrate Personal Success Without Breaking the Bank

Personal success often translates into a time for celebration.

You just got a promotion at work. You just got a great new job. You just got engaged. You found out you’re expecting a child. You paid off your car. You paid off your house. You sold your house. There are lots of reasons that life offers us for a celebration of some kind or another.

However, celebration often translates into expense in the modern world. When we think of celebrating a major personal event like those things, we tend to think of going out for a nice dinner or buying a treat for oneself. In other words, we tend to think of a celebration of personal success as being centered around spending money.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

There are a multitude of ways to commemorate a special event in your life without breaking the bank with a huge expensive meal or an overpriced treat that you don’t really want or need. Here are some free or very low-cost ways to celebrate momentous events in your life.

Give yourself a day or two off.

This is my absolute favorite way to celebrate a big life event. I “treat” myself to some time off from typical responsibilities.

I’ll clear my schedule, burn a vacation day (in my world, that means using some backup articles), and devote that day to simply doing something that I enjoy that I rarely have time for. I’ll spread some elaborate six hour long board game out on the table and play it with a few friends. I’ll spend the entire afternoon curled up with a book. I’ll hike a thirteen mile trail. I’ll make some crazy complicated recipe I’ve been yearning to try.

To me, that’s a celebration. A celebration is about doing something outside of the norm, and for busy people, the thing that’s typically outside of the norm is extra time, not extra money. We effectively “celebrate” by spending money on treats most days of our lives, so why not make an authentic celebration by not spending money and instead spending another valuable resource, time?

Have a potluck dinner party.

People often want to celebrate a special occasion by having a special meal with friends. Why not make the celebration a little more low-key and simply have a potluck dinner party?

Just plan a main course for everyone and ask friends to bring sides and drinks. You’ll find that you’re each spending far less than you would if you went out for a celebratory meal, but that you’re all together around the table laughing and sharing ideas and memories.

The goal of this is to center the focus of the celebratory meal around the people and not around the service or food. At a potluck, the focus really is on the people gathered around the table, the connections they have, the connections they’re growing, the conversations, the laughter, and the communal environment. That, to me, is celebration, and it can happen around my kitchen table with a pot of slow cooked soup, some dinner rolls that a friend brought, and a bottle of wine brought by another friend.

Take some photos.

On my last day at my previous job, I spent an hour or so taking pictures of some of the specific things I wanted to remember.

I took some pictures of my office before I packed up my personal belongings. I took some pictures of my coworkers around the office. I took a picture of the basement server room that I often visited. I took some pictures of the outside of the building, too.

Those pictures were a perfect kind of closure and, honestly, I look at them far more than I do at any of the “going away” gifts that my coworkers gave to me. Those pictures from that last day at work show up sometimes on my photo screensaver and it reminds me of the aspects of that job that I really loved.

It was a great “going away” gift to myself, and since then I’ve taken lots of pictures of things on the cusp of change. I wish now I had pictures of my great-grandmother’s house, for example, because I knew the last time I was in her house was going to be the last time I was there. I’d love to have some pictures of her dining room armoire or of her china cabinet, or of her favorite chair in her front room.

Taking a bunch of photographs is a great way to mark and celebrate a rite of passage or a change in your life, and you’ll often be surprised how meaningful those photographs are later on in life.

Plant a commemorative tree.

Another powerful way to celebrate a life change is to simply plant a tree. Plant a tree when you have a child. Plant a tree when you leave a job. Plant a tree when you get engaged, or when you get married. Plant a tree the day you move into a new house.

The simple act of planting the tree can feel like a celebration, but it’s actually far more than that. That tree will grow over time, and as time passes, you can visit that tree and see the changes in it. Those changes often serve as a great mirror of the changes in your own life since that celebratory event.

Not only that, picking a sapling and heading out to a place to plant it with a few friends and a few tools, and then turning over the soil and placing the sapling in the ground, then perhaps putting up a small fence to protect it… all of it feels very much like a ritual, a moment where you’re really commemorating some kind of change in your life.

Make a collective journal.

If you know someone else is about to go through a major life change, one thing you can do to make for a very special celebration of that moment is to make a collective journal for that person.

It’s easy. Find a cheap journal or a notebook and start it off by writing an entry in it congratulating them on their life change and offering whatever advice you can for their upcoming changes. If someone is about to become a parent, write down some parenting advice. If someone is about to change jobs, offer some advice on establishing yourself in a new workplace.

Then simply pass that journal around to several thoughtful people who might also sensibly contribute to such a journal. Encourage each person to take a page and offer congratulations and advice.

I’ve received a journal like this at one point in the past, and I’ve organized the giving of such a journal many times before. Each time, that journal became a centerpiece of the celebration. I’ve had people write to me years later and mentioning the shared journal they received.

All you need for this is an inexpensive notebook or journal. If you have an old unused one laying around, that’s absolutely perfect for this kind of project. Just get it started well in advance (if you can) and write the first entry yourself to give others some kind of template.

Save something meaningful.

In the back of a cabinet at our house, I have a bottle of one of the best wines I’ve ever shared with my wife. We shared it together at a winery in the Pacific Northwest in 2004 and it’s still sealed.

That was our last vacation together as a childless married couple, and I’ve wanted to save it to drink with her when our last child moves out of the house. Wine typically ages very well, so I’m sure it will be just fine when the time comes.

That bottle of wine didn’t cost very much – less than $20, I’m sure – but it is going to be an incredibly meaningful part of a celebration in a few years. It will be part of how we mark a transition back to living in a house with just the two of us, with our children out on our own.

When you’re taking on a life change that you know will wind down someday, like buying a house together or having a child that will someday move out, put aside something inexpensive now that you can use to celebrate when that period comes to an end. A bottle of wine is perfect for this. Get an inexpensive bottle that you both enjoy and stick it in a cupboard somewhere. Simply opening that bottle together will be all the celebration you need when the time comes.

Celebrations can be special and momentous without breaking the bank. It just takes a little bit of thought and sometimes a little bit of planning. May your next celebration be wonderful and memorable, and may it not hamper your financial plans.

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The post How to Celebrate Personal Success Without Breaking the Bank appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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