There are generally two types of people who use credit cards: those who like having revolving credit, getting charged interest on their balances every month, and those who maximize their rewards while paying off their credit card bill every month. Now there are some people who fall in the middle and of course some outliers, but in general, these are the two camps.

I have always been in the camp that pays of their credit card bill every month, but until I started working, I didn’t try maximizing my rewards. But why not? I didn’t know any better.

Now my wallet consists of some pretty good rewards cards which I highlight below:


PenFed is a credit union that is generally affiliated with the military. Membership is basically restricted to family members of those who work as civilians, active duty, or retired military personnel. More details about membership restrictions can be found here.

PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards – 5% Cash Back on Gas

 PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Visa Card

  • 5% cash back on gas applied automatically to statement
  • 0.25% cash back on everything else applied automatically to statement
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee

PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards – 5 points on gas, 3 points on groceries

 PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa® Card

  • 5 points on gas, 3 points on groceries, 1 point on everything else
  • Generally 100 points = $1 cash back
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • I also got 5000 points for first spending bonus. Might not be active anymore.

Capital One

High Yield Checking Debit Card

Not so much a rewards card, but I get reimbursed for ATM fees up to $15 a month.

Premier Rewards Debit Card (and Account)

In order to get these rewards, you must have a Premier Rewards Checking account at Capital One. The rewards are distributed in “miles” which can be exchanged for  various rewards, airline miles, and cash back. For small transactions on a debit card, you are essentially making 20 cents per swipe. For me, it makes sense to use this card for transactions less than about $4.

I earn:

  • 20 miles for non-PIN purchases
  • 10 miles for PIN purchases
  • 10 miles for checks (great for rent which doesn’t accept anything else)
  • 10 miles for ATM Withdrawals and/or some ACH transactions
  • 20 miles for online BillPay

Cash Rewards

Since I have excellent credit, I don’t pay an annual fee. Great general-use card.
Cash Rewards

  • 1% cash back on everything
  • 0.5% cash back bonus annually (works out to 1.5% total)
  • $100 bonus when you spend $500 within 3 months
  • No annual fee (for excellent credit)


You always see commercials on TV for the Capital One Venture card with 2X the rewards. Depending on your credit rating and whether you want to pay an annual fee of $59 after one year, you may prefer the Venture card’s little sister, the VentureOne. As with Premier Rewards above, you earn “miles” which can be exchanged for various things including cash back. I mostly use this card as a dump for my points earned through Premier Rewards so that I can then use the “Purchase Eraser” on my travel expenses.

  • 1.25 miles per transaction
  • 10,000 miles for $1000 spent in 3 months
  • No annual fee


United MileagePlus® Explorer Card

This is fantastic card that I’m going to regret cancelling soon since the one-year mark is coming up and I don’t want to be charged with the $95 annual fee that is waived for the first year. What makes this card worth it is: 1) It earns miles which is one of my favorite airlines in the US. 2) An airline mile is worth essentially 1.4 cents so that’s 1.4% cash back for travel.

  • 2 miles per $1 spent with United, 1 mile per $1 spend on everything else
  • Annual fee waived for first year, then $95
  • 30,000 miles for $1000 spend in 3 months
  • 5,000 miles for adding an authorized user
  • 2 United club passes annually
  • Priority boarding

Chase Freedom

This card has 3 categories in which you get 5% cash back in the form of points that can be redeemed for gift cards, etc. Every quarter, the categories change. At the time of this posting they are: Lowe’s, Restaurants, Movie Theaters.

  • 5% cash back on eligible quarterly categories, 1% cash back on everything else
  • No annual fee
  • $100 cash back if you spend $500 in first 3 months

Amazon Rewards Visa

I always shop on Amazon so it was a no-brainer to get this card. Fantastic rewards for purchases. Just make sure when you buy something, the page says “Sold by” or you won’t get the 3x rewards. Points are redeemable for discounts on Amazon purchases at the going-rate of 100 points = $1.

  • 3 points for purchases, 2 points for restaurants, 1 point for everything else
  • No annual fee

American Express

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card

Although I am not a huge fan of Delta as an airline, I got 50,000 miles for just spending $500 in the first 3 months.

  • 1 mile per $1 spent, double miles on Delta purchases
  • Annual fee waived for first year, then $95
  • Priority boarding
  • 30,000-50,000 miles for $500 spend
  • Free checked bag

Starwoods Rewards

Holly at Club Thrifty has been getting some good mileage from the Starwoods Rewards card:


If you ever need assistance in choosing the right credit card for you, I highly recommend They can recommend the best credit cards for your situation based on criteria you provide.