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

AP Photo/Elise Amendola
Which one loves you back?
By Leslie Josephs
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

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:

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
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US Bank
Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card
Alliant Credit Union
Alliant CU Visa Platinum Awards Card
Capital One
Venture Rewards
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Citi Thank You Premiere Card
Bank of America
BankAmericard Travel Rewards
Pentagon Federal Credit Union
PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Credit Card
Navy Federal Credit Union
Cash Rewards Credit Card
PNC Bank
PNC Premier Traveler Visa Signature Credit Card
American Express
Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express
First National Bank
First National Bank American Express® Card

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