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55% of rewards credit cardholders are missing out on rewards—here's how to use credit cards to your advantage

More than half of rewards credit cardholders are missing out on the rewards they've earned. CNBC Select recommends the best credit cards for groceries, restaurants, airfare, hotels and gas so you can maximize your earnings.

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The right credit card can earn you bonus rewards in common spending categories, such as groceries, dining, gas, and travel, which can add up to hundreds of dollars in rewards each year. However, more than half (55%) of rewards credit card holders who pay their bills in full each month are missing out on rewards, according to a new Bankrate survey, because they are opting to use cash or debit instead.

Cardholders are most likely to favor cash or debit over credit cards when buying groceries (44%) and paying for a meal at a restaurant (43%). On the contrary, airfare (85%), hotel (84%) and gas (63%) purchases are most likely to be charged to a credit card.

How rewards cardholders pay for these purchases

Rewards category Credit card Debit card or cash
Groceries56%44%
Restaurants57%43%
Gas63%37%
Airfare85%15%
Hotel84%16%

If you use a debit card or cash to pay for everyday expenses, you're missing out on rewards that can help offset the cost of groceries or dining out at your favorite restaurant. Rewards cards can offer up to 6% cash back in common spending categories, allowing you to benefit from paying with credit over cash or debit.

Rewards credit cards may also provide additional perks including travel insurance, purchase protection and annual credits that can add up to more savings and security.

CNBC Select recommends some of the best credit cards for groceries, restaurants, airfare, hotels and gas so you can maximize rewards.

Credit cards for groceries

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

  • 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

  • Welcome bonus

    $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 on eligible purchases on your new card within the first 3 months

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    0% APR for the first 12 months on purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    14.49% to 25.49% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    3%, $5 minimum

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2.7%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

  • See rates and fees, terms apply.

On American Express's Secure Site

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

  • Rewards

    5% cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market; 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores; 1% back on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    $70 Amazon.com gift card upon approval

  • Annual fee

    $0 (but Prime membership is required)

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    15.74% to 23.74% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, $5 minimum

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

  • Terms apply.

Information about the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Credit cards for restaurants

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • Rewards

    4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn a one-time $300 cash bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $95, waived the first year

  • Intro APR

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

  • Regular APR

    16.24% to 25.24% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% for promotional APR offers; none for balances transferred at regular APR

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

  • Terms apply.

Information about the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

American Express® Gold Card

  • Rewards

    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

  • Welcome bonus

    35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $250

  • Intro APR

    Not applicable

  • Regular APR

    See rates and fees

  • Balance transfer fee

    See rates and fees

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

  • See rates and fees, terms apply.

On American Express's secure website.

Credit cards for airfare

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • Rewards

    10X points on Lyft rides through March 2022, 3X points on travel worldwide (immediately after earning your $300 annual travel credit), 3X points on dining at restaurants worldwide, 1X point per $1 on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening — worth up to $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

  • Annual fee

    $550

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    18.49% to 25.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent

  • Terms apply.

On Chase's secure site

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

  • Rewards

    5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠, 2X miles per dollar on every other purchase

  • Welcome bonus

    50,000 bonus miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0 first year, then $95

  • Intro APR

    N/A for purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    17.24% to 24.49% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% for promotional APR offers; none for balances transferred at regular APR

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

  • Terms apply.

Information about the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Credit cards for hotels

Chase Sapphire Preferred®

  • Rewards

    5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022, 2X points on travel and dining worldwide, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening — worth up to $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    17.49% to 24.49% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

  • Terms apply.

On Chase's secure site

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

  • Rewards

    5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠, 1.25X miles per dollar on every purchase

  • Welcome bonus

    20,000 bonus miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% APR for 12 months

  • Regular APR

    13.49% to 23.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% for promotional APR offers; none for balances transferred at regular APR

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

  • See our methodology, terms apply.

Information about the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Credit cards for gas

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

  • Rewards

    3X points on dining out and ordering in; gas, rideshares and transit; flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals; and popular streaming services. 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% APR for 12 months on purchases and qualifying balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    15.49% to 27.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Introductory fee of 3% ($5 minimum) for 120 days, then 5% ($5 minimum)

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

  • Terms apply.

Information about the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Citi Premier℠ Card

  • Rewards

    3X points on travel including gas stations, 2X points at restaurants and on entertainment, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    60,000 bonus points after making $4,000 in purchases with your card within the first 3 months of account opening (worth $750 in airfare)

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    17.49% to 25.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3%, $5 minimum

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent

  • See our methodology, terms apply.

Information about the Citi Premier℠ Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the cards prior to publication.
Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.