The goal for earning cash back, points, or miles is to earn the most on each transaction. Once you look beyond the bonus, which temporarily alters the earning potential (in the sense of points/dollar), you will want to make sure you are using the right card in the right situation. There is a big opportunity to earn points when your purchases do not fall into a bonus category.
Top Credit Cards for Non-Bonus Spend
As banks keep trying to one up each other, while also becoming more restrictive, we have seen better offers on cards for non-bonus spend. These have caused minimum earnings threshold to change in our favor, which is always good.
There are many cards that could easily be your main non-bonus card, but here are ones I think are top contenders. These are in no particular order.
American Express Blue Business Plus
This card just seemed to pop up and it is actually one of the best point earning credit cards for non-bonus spend.
The American Express Blue Business Plus earns 2x Membership Reward points on all purchases, up to $50,000 a year. Meaning you can earn up to 100,000 Membership Reward points a year on all non-bonus spending. That is definitely enough for quite a bit of travel!
There is an offer that comes with a 20,000 point bonus that comes and goes, so I’d definitely keep an eye out.
One of the best things about this card is it comes with NO annual fee. The American Express Blue Business Plus earns real Membership Reward points, so you will be able to transfer to one of their many partners.
In addition to no annual fee, you also have access to Amex Offers which is probably one of my favorite perks about their cards.
This card does come with foreign transaction fees, so while this card earns a pretty solid rate here in the US, I’d leave this behind when traveling abroad.
Chase Freedom Unlimited
If Ultimate Rewards is your currency of choice, currently this is card is a must for your non-bonus spend. This could change depending on what Chase next move will be. There are some rumors the transfer rate from fee-free cards to premium Chase cards could change. If so, this could really change the equation.
This card by itself, isn’t anything special since it earns 1.5% (or 1.5x Ultimate Reward points) on all purchases. To really make this card valuable, you need one of the premium Chase cards (Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, Ink Plus, or Ink Preferred). This will unlock the ability to transfer to partners, like Hyatt, to make your points more valuable.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited comes with a sign up bonus of $150 (15,000 Ultimate Reward points) after spending $500 in the first 3 months. You can even earn an extra $25 (2,500 Ultimate Reward points) by adding an authorized user.
There is the possibility the Chase Freedom Unlimited bonus increases to $200 (20,000 Ultimate Rewards), because we have seen that for the Chase Freedom.
This card does fall under Chase 5/24 rule and adding an authorized user for $25 will count against them as well.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited has no annual fee, but it also does come with foreign transaction fees.
Alliant Cashback Visa Signature
When this card was first released, it received a lot of attention. It is very hard to argue that 3% cash back is not a top contender for your non-bonus spend.
After year 1, the amount of cash back drops to 2.5%, still a very solid amount. Although the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature card has a solid earning rate, it does come with a $59 fee after the first year.
Once the fee is due, you will need to run some numbers, because the $59 fee could actually cause you to earn less money than a 2% cash back card.
The Alliant Cashback Visa Signature comes with NO foreign transaction fees, so this would be a card to take abroad.
If you spend less than $11,800 on non-bonus spend in a year, this card is not a card for you after year 1. If you spend more than $11,800 in a year on non-bonus categories, you will come out ahead when compared to a 2% cash back card.
- $59/0.005 = $11,800
We all want to earn the most, but depending on our spending habits, larger percentages might not work in our favor. Always run the numbers to make sure you are earning the most.
Citi Double Cash
There is a growing number of 2% cash back cards, so while I mention the Citi Double Cash you can replace it with your favorite no fee 2% cash back card. I have personally used the Citi Double Cash and it doesn’t require any special account or requirements, which is why I put it on the list.
The Citi Double Cash might not bring about first class travel, or airport lounge access, but it does earn 2% cash back on all purchases. Earning a flat 2% might sound boring, but I’m ok with boring if it brings me a solid return.
One of the big downfalls is the lack of a sign up bonus. The Citi Double Cash has no annual fee, so this is a good card for people who don’t have enough spend to justify a card with an annual fee.
The 2% earning break down, is really 1% earned on amount spent, and 1% when you make a payment. You should be treating your cards as cash if you are playing this game.
As I mentioned above in the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature, if you aren’t a big spender, this could be a better option for you.
The Citi Double Cash does have foreign transaction fees, so it is best to leave this behind if you are traveling out of the country.
Discover It Miles
Discover has an interesting way of enticing people to use their cards. I think it’s pretty smart how they reward you in year 1. Discover makes it so you have to use their card to be rewarded. It’s not a quick bonus, followed by sock drawer.
The Discover It Miles earns 1.5x miles (it’s really 1.5% cash back) on all purchases. At the end of year 1, Discover will double all the cash back you have earned (and redeemed). This includes referrals you have received credit for and all the spending on the card.
The Discover It Miles has no annual fee, and no foreign transaction fees. In my experience, Discover doesn’t have a larger footprint outside of the US. While no foreign transaction fees are a plus, you might find it harder to use when traveling abroad.
After year 1, I think this card is harder to keep in your rotation, since it doesn’t earn 2%, which I consider the floor earning for cash back. I personally keep it around for the $30 WiFi credit annually. That is a pretty great perk for a card with no annual fee.
The public offer doesn’t comes with a sign up bonus, but if you use a referral link it comes with a $50 bonus, which will double after your first year. This is my personal referral link, where we each earn $50 in Discover Cash. If you do use my link, thank you very much I do appreciate it
I realize that not everyone is eligible for this card. If you are, then you really need to consider this card. This is my current non-bonus spend card and right now, it is very unlikely to be dethroned in my wallet.
Although the USAA Limitless comes with no sign up bonus,it makes up for it with a 2.5% cash back earning rate on all purchases. To make it even better, it has NO annual fee.
One feature of this card I really like, there is no waiting for the reward cash to post. The cash back post once the transaction post! I’m way to impatient and like their approach on this.
There is a stipulation requiring $1,000 in a single direct deposit payment each month to earn 2.5%, if not you earn 1.5%. This idea of offering better rewards for banking customers is something I see coming down the pipeline.
The USAA Limitless has no foreign transaction fees and has Chip and Pin capabilities. Making the USAA Limitless a a great option when you are traveling abroad.
I happen to notice that this week marks 1 year since I have been contributing to Running with Miles.
I truly enjoy writing about different credit cards, loyalty programs, and even trip reviews (which I have a few tips planned, so expect a few more of those). Although my view points might be a little different than many, some of you actually agree with me 😛
It’s great to interact with readers and I try to answer all the comments that are left on any article I write. I really appreciate you taking the time to read my articles 🙂
To say thank you, I am going to give-a-way a $25 gift card to Amazon.
To enter you’ll need to:
- Follow me on Twitter/ like me on Facebook (put the link in your comment)
- Leave a comment, telling me what card is your go to for non-bonus spend and why
I will select a winner on 9/13/17.
There are some pretty fantastic cards in the market that are great for non-bonus spend. A card that has a solid earning rate for non-bonus spend should be in your wallet (and part of your long term strategy). There are a couple of points cards, but I think some of the cash back cards offer a great return for non-bonus spend. This is especially true if you aren’t loyal to any one program and fly coach.
I can’t believe it has already been a year since I started contributing to the blog, but I am excited to be a part of the blog. Also, I look forward to what the next year brings in points and miles. T
Do you agree with my selection? What is your go to card for non-bonus spend?
Editorial Note - Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.
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