Contactless credit cards are a faster and safer way to pay for purchases in-store, especially during the current climate with health and safety concerns top-of-mind.
In fact, the majority of Americans (51%) use contactless payments, such as tap-to-pay credit cards and mobile wallets, due to concerns over the cleanliness of signature touchpads and paying with cash.
Most major card issuers began issuing all new cards with contactless capability last year and promoted tap-and-go transactions with initiatives like installing contactless payment systems at NYC subway terminals.
However, if your card doesn't have the contactless indicator (a wave-like symbol on the front), you may want to consider opening a contactless card and benefiting from tapping to pay.
6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 3% cash back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more and 1% cash back on other purchases
$250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 on eligible purchases on your new card within the first 3 months
0% APR for the first 12 months on purchases and balance transfers
12.99% to 23.99% variable
3%, $5 minimum
Who's this for? If you prefer to cook at home versus order takeout, it's a good idea to use a grocery rewards card to save money. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers the highest cash-back rate at U.S. supermarkets at 6% (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). This card can earn you a significant amount of cash back when shopping at qualifying supermarkets, such as Whole Foods Market and Stop & Shop.
Beyond a high cash-back rate on groceries, you earn an industry-leading 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, which is great for Netflix, Hulu and over a dozen other eligible subscriptions. Plus you earn 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and transit and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
This card also provides access to Amex Offers, which provides limited-time discounts via a statement credit or additional cash back at a variety of dining, retail and travel merchants.
While the Blue Cash Preferred Card has a $95 annual fee, it can be offset by the cash back you earn and any shopping discounts you receive through the Amex Offers. (See rates and fees.)
5X points on gas, 3X points on groceries, 1X points on all other purchases
$100 statement credit when you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days from account opening
0% promotional rate for the first 12 months on balance transfers
13.49% to 17.99% variable
Who's this for? If you frequently commute to work with your car or drive to the local grocery store, the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card can help you maximize rewards on refueling your car. This card offers the highest rewards rate at gas stations with 5X points per dollar spent, which is why it ranks as our best gas rewards card.
In addition to a great rewards rate on gas, this card offers a decent 3X on groceries. Plus you can benefit from no annual fee.
Keep in mind, membership is required to open this card since PenFed is a credit union, though anyone can join. Simply complete these three steps: Apply, open a savings account with a $5 deposit and maintain a $5 account balance.
4X Membership Rewards® points when you dine at restaurants worldwide and shop at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, 1X points on all other purchases
35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
See rates and fees
See rates and fees
Who's this for? Food delivery and takeout are great services that let you enjoy meals from your favorite restaurants in the comfort of your own home. Credit cards that earn rewards at restaurants, such as the American Express® Gold Card, are a great choice for foodies.
The Amex Gold Card earns 4X Membership Rewards® points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide, including takeout, fast food and food delivery services. The 4X rewards rate also applies to U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X), which may come in handy if you alternate takeout and food delivery with cooking at home.
This card also stands out for its annual $120 dining credit ($10 a month) at select restaurants and food delivery services, including: Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed and participating Shake Shack locations. This credit helps offset some of the costs of ordering takeout or food delivery.
Similar to the Blue Cash Preferred Card mentioned earlier, Amex Gold Card members receive money-saving Amex Offers that can earn you a statement credit or additional points at select retailers, which may include restaurants and food services, such as Grubhub and Seamless.
The Gold Card does have a pretty steep $250 annual fee, but annual $120 dining credit can effectively reduce it to $130. (See rates and fees.) And you can recoup more of the annual fee through rewards, Amex Offers and the card's $100 annual airline fee credit (for transactions like seat upgrades and checked bags).
2% cash back: 1% on all purchases and an additional 1% after you pay your credit card bill
No current offer
0% for the first 18 months on balance transfers; N/A for purchases
13.99% - 23.99% variable on purchases and balance transfers
3%, minimum $5
Who's this for? The Citi® Double Cash Card is a simple and straightforward cash-back card that allows you to maximize rewards with little effort. There are no rotating reward categories or activation to keep track of. Instead, cardholders earn a competitive 2% cash back: 1% cash back on purchases and 1% when you pay off your bill.
This card also has no annual fee and waives your first late fee — which is a great reminder to set up autopay and payment reminders.
While the Citi Double Cash Card doesn't offer a welcome bonus, you can benefit from no interest for the first 18 months from account opening on balance transfers (then a 13.99% to 23.99% variable APR). There is a 3% balance transfer fee (minimum $5).
You can maximize rewards by pairing the Citi Double Cash Card with another rewards card such as the Blue Cash Preferred Card. You can use the Blue Cash Preferred Card for all the categories it earns more than 2% cash back in, such as eligible U.S. supermarkets, U.S. streaming subscriptions, U.S. gas stations and transit. Then use the Double Cash Card for everything else.
0% for the first 21 months on balance transfers and 0% for the first 12 months on purchases
14.74% to 24.74% variable
5%, minimum $5
Who's this for? Whether you're looking to get out of debt or finance new purchases, you can benefit from an intro 0% APR card. The Citi Simplicity® Card offers the longest balance transfer intro period at 0% for the first 21 months from account opening, as well as no interest on new purchases for the first 12 months (after, 14.74% to 24.74% variable APR).
This provides you with nearly two years to pay off debt, which can save you hundreds of dollars compared to leaving debt on a high interest card. And the intro period for purchases can help you repay upcoming transactions over the course of a year with no interest.
Keep in mind that 0% APR cards like the Simplicity typically require good credit or excellent credit (scores above 670). And like many other balance transfer cards, this card charges a fee of 5% per transfer (minimum $5). But the fee can be worthwhile if you're paying high interest charges. (Check out the best no-fee balance transfer cards.)
This card does have no annual fee, no penalty APR (meaning your interest rate won't increase if you pay late) and it never charges late fees (though we recommend you pay your balance on time and in full to avoid harm to your credit score).
To determine which credit cards offer the best value, CNBC Select analyzed popular credit cards available in the U.S. We compared each card on a range of features, including rewards, welcome bonus, introductory and standard APR, balance transfer fee and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available. We also considered additional perks, the application process and how easy it is for the consumer to redeem points.
CNBC Select teamed up with location intelligence firm Esri. The company's data development team provided the most up-to-date and comprehensive consumer spending data based on the 2019 Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can read more about their methodology here.
Esri's data team created a sample annual budget of approximately $22,126 in retail spending. The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). General purchases include items such as housekeeping supplies, clothing, personal care products, prescription drugs and vitamins, and other vehicle expenses.
CNBC Select used this budget to estimate how much the average consumer would save over the course of a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee.
While the five-year estimates we've included are derived from a budget similar to the average American's spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your shopping habits.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.