The best rewards credit card isn’t a Chase Sapphire Reserve, after all

Which one loves you back?
Which one loves you back?
Image: AP Photo/Elise Amendola
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People obsessed with credit card rewards have turned the business mantra “you have to spend money to make money” into a rigorous daily practice.

But how much are they really getting back for all those avocado toasts and other purchases? A new study by personal finance website WalletHub found a sleek, premium rewards card isn’t always the best bet for consumers. The site analyzed credit card issuers’ rewards programs and 79 credit cards to determine how easily cardholders could earn, redeem, hold onto points, and how transparent the banks were about their policies. The study left out co-branded cards such as those that are tied to an airline.

The famed Chase Sapphire Reserve, a favorite of globetrotting millennials who pay $450 a year for the privilege of big travel rewards, didn’t edge out its lower-cost competitors. Consumers had lined up in such numbers for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card that the issuing bank had to scale back perks to cardholders.

WalletHub gave the Sapphire Reserve’s cheaper cousin, the $95-a-year Chase Sapphire Preferred, a top score, followed by the zero-fee Venture Rewards from Capital One. The website found how much in rewards customers would get over two years, based on annual spending of $28,523, stripping out fees for each issuer’s top-rated card. Globetrotters rejoice. Redeeming points for travel offered the best value, compared with merchandise, the study said.

Here’s how the the cards stack up: