The Best Cards for Toasters

Jan 30, 2019

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If you’re a fan of the Morning Toast, you’ve likely heard Claudia talk about how she exclusively used a debit card before she learned about The Points Guy and was introduced to the world of credit cards, travel rewards and travel status.

Credit cards can seem overwhelming when you’re just getting started. With so much information and so many options, how do you know which card to choose? We’re here to make it easy for you, Toasters.

We know you like to go out, eat well and travel (especially to go see Claudia’s Dirty Jeans Tour) so here are the top 5 cards that we recommend for you.

Best Cards for Toasters 

  • American Express® Gold Card: Best for Dining
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best for Hotels.com
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Best Starter Credit Card
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best for Travel Perks & Points
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best Cash Back

American Express Gold Card

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Bonus Categories Annual Fee Perks
35,000 points after you spend $2,000 within the first 3 months. $700 4x points at US restaurants, 4x points at US supermarkets (up to $25k annually; then 1x), 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines $250 Up to $120 in statement credits each year when you pay with the Gold card at participating dining partners. $100 airline fee credit.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Bonus Categories Annual Fee Perks
50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months $700 10x miles at Hotels.com, 2x miles on all other purchases $95 waived the 1st year N/A

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Bonus Categories Annual Fee Perks
60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months $1,200 2x points on travel, 2x points on dining $95 N/A

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Bonus Categories Annual Fee Perks
50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months $1,000 3x points on travel, 3x points on dining $450 $300 annual travel credit

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Bonus Categories Annual Fee Perks
$150 after $500 in purchases within the first 3 months $150 1.5% unlimited cash back on all purchases $0 N/A

**Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer.

1. American Express Gold Card

Best For: Dining

Current Bonus: Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.

Current Bonus Value: $700

Standout Benefits:

  • Earn 4x points at US restaurants
  • Earn 4x points at US supermarkets, on the first $25,000 spent each year; then 1x
  • Earn 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com
  • Up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold card at participating dining partners
  • $100 annual airline fee credit
  • Terms Apply

Annual Fee: $250

Why it’s worth it: Amex revamped its Premier Rewards Gold Card and reintroduced it as the Amex Gold Card, with new bonus categories and a strong focus on dining. With 4x points at US restaurants, the card now offers the most competitive return on dining spending (7.6% based on our valuations), though you’ll want to use another card to earn bonus points when you eat abroad. The card also earns 4x points on the first $25,000 spent per year at US supermarkets (then 1x), and 3x points on flights. With this card, Amex finally has a strong option for dining purchases. The annual fee is now $250 and not waived the first year, but thanks to the new earning rates and benefits it could be worth it for you.

APPLY HERE: American Express Gold Card

2. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Best for: Hotels.com purchases, diversifying your transferable point currencies

Current Bonus: Earn 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months.

Current Bonus Value: $700

Standout Benefits:

  • Earn 10x miles on Hotels.com purchases at Hotels.com/Venture
  • Earn 2x miles on all other purchases
  • Get a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit
  • Starting in December, transfer your miles to a selection of airline partners at a 2:1.5 ratio

Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first year)

Why it’s worth it: The Venture Card was already a very strong value proposition with 10x miles at Hotels.com and a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee. Plus, you are able to transfer the miles you earn with this card (as well as the VentureOne card and Capital One’s two Spark Miles cards) to airline transfer partners including Avianca, Etihad and Aeroplan. The transfer ratio is 2:1.5, meaning for every dollar you spend on this card you’re getting 1.5 points or miles with a partner airline. This greatly enhances the potential value you can get with this card, as miles are no longer worth a fixed 1 cent apiece.

APPLY HERE: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

3. Chase Sapphire Preferred

Best For: Beginners

Current Bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That’s $750 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Current Bonus Value: $1,200

Standout Benefits: 

  • Earn 2 points per dollar on all travel purchases and on dining at restaurants and 1 point per dollar on everything else
  • Transfer points to 13 different travel partners
  • Primary auto rental insurance
  • Trip cancellation coverage
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Read the full card review here.

Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first year)

Why it’s worth it: It doesn’t offer the bells and the whistles of the much more expensive Chase Sapphire Reserve card, but the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a great pick for earning bonus points on travel and dining, and for enjoying some solid travel protections in the process. I’ve utilized Ultimate Rewards points with partners such as United, which I used to book an emergency ticket home in Lufthansa first class, but you can also redeem the points directly through the Chase travel portal for 1.25 cents apiece. Whether you simply don’t want to spend $450 a year to get the Sapphire Reserve or if your credit score currently isn’t high enough to qualify for that premium card, the Sapphire Preferred remains a very solid option.

APPLY HERE: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

4. Chase Sapphire Reserve

Chase Sapphire Reserve
(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

Best For: Travel perks and points earning on travel and dining

Current Bonus: Earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months.

Current Bonus Value: $1,000

Standout Benefits: 

  • Earn 3 points per dollar on travel (excluding $300 travel credit) and dining at restaurants and 1 point per dollar on everything else.
  • Redeem points directly through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal at a rate of 1.5 cents apiece
  • $300 annual travel credit
  • Priority Pass Select lounge access
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Trip cancellation coverage
  • Primary car rental insurance
  • Read the full card review here

Annual Fee: $450

Why it’s worth it: The Sapphire Reserve won our battle of the premium credit cards for a reason: It offers a stellar selection of perks, from a $300 annual travel credit that can be used toward a wide variety of purchases, to the ability to redeem points for 1.5 cents apiece through the Chase travel portal. Best of all, if you have this card, the Ultimate Rewards points you earn on other Chase cards can also be redeemed at the 1.5-cent rate. You also get an impressive 3x points on travel (after $300 travel credit exhausted) and dining purchases, which equates to a 6.3% return based on my valuations. This card is a prime example of benefits more than making up for a steep annual fee.

APPLY HERE: Chase Sapphire Reserve

5. Chase Freedom Unlimited

Best For: Cash back

Current Bonus: Earn $150 cash back after $500 in purchases within the first 3 months

Current Bonus Value: $150

Standout Benefits:

  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 17.24 – 25.99% . Balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase – it’s automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee
  • Read the full card review here.

Annual Fee: $0

Why it’s worth it: You’re not likely to get approved for a more premium card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve Card if you’re just starting out or only have a single credit card to your name so far, but a good alternate entry point into the Chase ecosystem could be the Chase Freedom Unlimited. Aside from the $150 cash back bonus, the real beauty of the Freedom Unlimited is if you hold off on redeeming your cash back and instead get a Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve down the line once your credit is more robust, all your cash back from this card can be turned into much more valuable Ultimate Rewards points that can be redeemed at a higher rate for travel, or even transferred to Chase’s airline and hotel partners.

APPLY HERE: Chase Freedom Unlimited

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.