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Credit Cards

Best contactless credit cards of May 2021

Contactless credit cards provide a safer, quicker way to pay in store. Here are the best contactless cards for cash back, groceries, gas, food delivery and 0% APR.

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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.

Below, Select rounds up the best contactless credit cards in five main categories, so you can choose the best card based on your spending habits.

Best contactless cards

Best contactless card for groceries

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    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. Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the card within the first six months of membership, up to $200 back. Plus, earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first six months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0 introductory annual fee for one year, then $95

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 12 months on purchases, N/A for balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    13.99% to 23.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2.7%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Pros

  • High 6% cash back at U.S. supermarket spending (up to $6,000 a year, then 1%)
  • Unlimited 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions
  • Unlimited 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit

Cons

  • 2.7% fee on purchases made abroad
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $679
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,397

Rewards totals incorporate the cash back earned from the welcome bonus

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 (waived in the first year), it can be offset by the cash back you earn and any shopping discounts you receive through the Amex Offers. (See rates and fees.)

Best contactless card for gas

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

On PenFed's secure site
  • Rewards

    5X points on gas, 3X points on groceries, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    $100 statement credit when you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Promo APR

    0% promotional balance transfer rate for 12 months on transfers made from now until September 30, 2021*

  • Regular APR

    13.49% to 17.99% variable on purchases; 17.99% non-variable on balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    3%

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Good/Excellent

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • High 5X points on gas at the pump and 3X on groceries
  • No bonus category activations
  • Good special financing offer on balance transfers

Cons

  • 3% balance transfer fee
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $513
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,167

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus.

*After the promotional balance transfer period, the APR for the unpaid balance and any new balance transfers will be 17.99%. A 3% balance transfer fee applies to each transfer. This transaction is subject to credit approval. If you take advantage of this balance transfer, you will immediately be charged interest on all purchases made with your credit card unless you pay the entire account balance, including balance transfers, in full each month by the payment due date.

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.

Best contactless card for food delivery and takeout

American Express® Gold Card

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    4X Membership Rewards® points on restaurants worldwide (including takeout and delivery, plus, Uber Eats purchases) and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 6 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $250

  • Intro APR

    Not applicable

  • Regular APR

    See Pay Over Time APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees and our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Up to $120 dining credit annually ($10 a month) for purchases made with Grubhub, Seamless and eligible restaurants (after a one-time enrollment)
  • Up to $120 Uber Cash annually ($10 a month) for U.S. Uber Eats orders and U.S. Uber rides (card must be added to Uber app to receive the Uber Cash benefit)
  • Strong rewards program with 4X points earned on dining worldwide and 3X points earned on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com
  • Baggage insurance plan covers up to $1,250 for carry-on baggage and up to $500 for checked baggage that is damaged, lost or stolen
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.

Cons

  • No introductory APR period
  • $250 annual fee
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $1,074
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,969

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus

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. 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 the annual $120 dining credit can effectively reduce it to $130. (See rates and fees.) Plus, you can recoup more of the annual fee through rewards and Amex Offers.

Best contactless card for cash back

Citi® Double Cash Card

On Citi's secure site
  • Rewards

    2% cash back: 1% on all eligible purchases and an additional 1% after you pay your credit card bill

  • Welcome bonus

    No current offer

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 18 months on balance transfers; N/A for purchases

  • Regular APR

    13.99% - 23.99% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    3%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Good/Excellent

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • 2% cash back on all purchases
  • Simple cash-back program that doesn't require activation or spending caps
  • One of the longest intro periods for balance transfers at 18 months

Cons

  • No welcome bonus, so you can’t maximize rewards during the first few months of card opening
  • Minimum cash-back redemption of $25
  • 3% fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $443
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,213

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. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit. Then use the Double Cash Card for everything else.

Best contactless card for 0% APR

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever

Information about the Citi Simplicity® Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    None

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 18 months on purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    14.74% to 24.74% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Balances can be transferred within 4 months from account opening
  • One of the longest intro periods for balance transfers at 18 months

Cons

  • 3% foreign transaction fee
  • No rewards program

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 one of the longest new purchase and balance transfer intro periods at 0% for the first 18 months from account opening (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).

Best contactless credit cards

Category Best for groceries Best for gas Best for food delivery and takeout Best for cash back Best for 0% APR
Credit Card
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card
American Express® Gold Card
Citi® Double Cash Card
Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever
Rewards6% 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 purchases5X points on gas, 3X points on groceries, 1X points on all other purchases4X 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 purchases2% cash back: 1% on all purchases and an additional 1% after you pay your credit card billNone
See below for our methodologyLearn MoreOn the American Express secure siteLearn MoreOn PenFed's secure siteLearn MoreOn the American Express secure siteLearn MoreOn Citi's secure siteLearn MoreInformation about the Citi Simplicity® Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Our methodology

To determine which credit cards offer the best value, 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.

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.

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.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.