Capital One Venture Rewards Card. This card is also a winner in the travel category. It offers two miles per dollar on every purchase, with unlimited miles, and you can buy any airline ticket or hotel room you want with no blackout dates. "I've had this card for about a year and really like the flexibility of being able to get airline seats and hotel rooms without hassle," says Liz Weston, author of Your Credit Score. "Also, it has no foreign transaction fees, which made it a great choice for a recent trip to Europe."
Users can earn 10,000 miles if they spend $1,000 in the first three months. The card's $59 annual fee is waived the first year.
Blue Cash Preferred American Express Card. Weston and Detweiler recommend this card for its high cash-back rewards. Users get $150 cash back if they spend $1,000 in the first three months. The cash back varies by category: 6 percent at supermarkets, 3 percent at gas stations and department stores, and 1 percent on all other purchases. There's no cap on the rewards you can earn and the rewards categories don't rotate, which means you don't have to enroll each time if the rewards were to change in each category every few months, as they do with some cards. The card has a $75 annual fee.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Detweiler likes this card's sign-up bonus: Users can earn 40,000 bonus points if they spend $3,000 in the first three months. The card also offers two points per dollar spent on travel and dining, and one point per dollar on all other purchases, with no cap on the rewards that can be accrued. Users get 20 percent off travel redeemed through Chase's Ultimate Rewards website. They also automatically get a 7 percent annual points dividend on all the points earned throughout the year. There are no foreign transaction fees, and the $95 annual fee is waived the first year.
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card. Users automatically earn 10,000 Starpoints after their first purchase, and earn an additional 20,000 points when they spend $5,000 in the first six months. There are no blackout dates for redeeming points, and there are more than 1,000 hotels and more than 350 airlines to choose from. The card's $65 annual fee is waived the first year.
Chase Freedom Credit Card. Hardekopf and Harzog say Chase Freedom is one of the best cash-back cards. Cardholders earn 5 percent back on up to $1,500 spent in specific categories like gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores, and movie theaters. However, the cash back for these categories changes every three months, and users have to sign up each time, which takes a lot of effort. Users receive $100 cash back when they spend $500 within the first three months. The rewards are unlimited, and there's no annual fee.