There are many kinds of credit cards that offer points, cash rewards, and other benefits. They are tailored for travel; for daily purchases such as food, groceries, gas, etc.; for conveniences; and others.
For travel, you want to look for points towards airlines and $0 foreign transaction fees. Because they’re for travel, most only offer points towards airline reservations. Some may expand to travel-related expenses such as hotels and rental cars. Travel credit cards should all offer no foreign transaction fees–meaning you can use it internationally and not be charged for the conversion of international currency to US Dollars. This is, of course, from the perspective of being from the United States.
Some credit cards come with an annual fee, but many do not. Many of the nicer travel credit cards require a fee after using it for the first year. The average person does not need to get a credit card that comes with a fee. However, once you start spending a large amount regularly, it may be beneficial for you to get one with a fee.
For cash-back rewards credit cards, some benefits have become such as no expiration of rewards, unlimited earning of rewards, and redeeming of any amount of a reward anytime (rather than a minimum of say $20 or in $20 increments). You’ll see these benefits from the larger credit card providers but not from smaller ones.
Another benefit becoming standard is a view of your credit score from one of the three credit bureaus–Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian. You will typically be able to see what score one of the bureaus has for you, and it will be updated monthly. Each credit card may offer some more features related to either credit checking or monitoring as part of the included service.
Capital One is a larger financial services entity that offers many of these kinds of credit cards. Theirs usually come with the benefit of not charging any foreign transaction fees. They offer travel cards with points redeemable towards airlines of your choosing. They also offer credit cards that offer cash back for any and all purchases while offering no transaction fees. One that I acquired was the Capital One Quicksilver; it offers 1.5% back on all purchases. Their travel credit card, the Capital One Venture Card, allows you to earn points that can be redeemed at any airline of your choice.
Discover has improved over the past decade. Although their rewards program is dynamic and changes every few months–you earn rewards based on a rotating rewards program, 5%–they allow you to redeem cash back at any time and the cash rewards do not expire. If you purchase something not in the category, then you will get 1% cash back. The Discover It card currently does this and allows you to redeem the points directly as a credit, as direct cash, or as a gift card to a variety of places. I found out that redeeming from certain places will even give you additional rewards. For example, I found a discount at Enterprise Rent-a-car where I could use $20 of my cash back towards a $40 credit at Enterprise. You can also redeem your cash back directly at Amazon.
Others are providing great rewards too. Let me know if you’re curious about any!