Best Credit Card Benefits of 2021

Best Credit Card Benefits of 2021 loading="lazy"

At Experian, one of our priorities is consumer credit and finance education. This post may contain links and references to one or more of our partners, but we provide an objective view to help you make the best decisions. For more information, see our Editorial Policy.

Credit cards can be powerful financial tools for consumers. In addition to their primary function—letting you make purchases you can then pay off over time—many credit cards offer other valuable perks simply for using them. The best credit cards offer a wide variety of benefits, which might include earning rewards such as cash back or airline miles, or providing protection against unauthorized charges so you're not on the hook if your card is stolen or goes missing.

Here are some of the best credit card benefits, and how you can use them to your advantage.

The Ability to Earn Rewards

One of the most important benefits any credit card can offer is the ability to earn rewards. Credit card rewards can help you save money on everything from your monthly statement and travel expenses to purchases at the gas pump and more.

Credit Card Rewards

Here are some of the different types of rewards you might be able to earn using credit cards.

  • Credit card points: Certain issuers, including American Express, Chase, Capital One and Citi, field their own proprietary points programs with rewards you can earn by using their credit cards. Depending on the particular credit card you carry, you might be able to redeem your rewards for statement credits you use to pay your bill, for specific types of purchases such as travel, or even transfer them to airline and hotel partners.
  • Cash back: If you're interested in using your rewards to help pay off bills, you might want to stick to a card that earns cash back. With cash back, you earn a certain percentage back on your purchases, which you can then redeem against charges on your statement, among other options.
  • Airline miles and hotel points: Finally, you might pick up a credit card that earns miles with a specific airline or hotel chain. For example, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® from our partner earns American Airlines miles on purchases that you can then redeem for award tickets.

Earning on Everyday Spending and Bonus Categories

While earning 1 or 2 points per dollar on most of your purchases is a great way to rack up rewards, some credit cards earn even more points at specific merchants, such as grocery stores or restaurants. For instance, the Citi Premier® Card earns 3 points per dollar spent at restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations, as well as on air travel and hotels, then 1 point per dollar on everything else. By using your card specifically for those types of purchases, you can really up your earning.

Earning an Introductory Bonus

The other great way to rake in tons of extra rewards is to apply for a credit card with a generous introductory bonus.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is currently offering 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in your first 3 months with the card.

Don't get too tempted by especially large welcome offers, though. You should only apply for a card to get a bonus offer if you can meet its spending requirements responsibly and pay your statement off on time. Otherwise, you'll risk racking up interest charges and fees that might offset any benefits you earn.

Special Financing Offers With Introductory 0% APR

Speaking of welcome offers, some credit cards include an introductory 0% annual percentage rate (APR) on balances and balance transfers for several months from account opening. Taking advantage of one of these promotions can allow you to pay off new purchases over time, or even help you get out of debt from other credit cards.

0% APR Offers on Purchases or Balance Transfers

At the moment, there are two particularly excellent credit card welcome offers that include intro 0% APR terms.

  • Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer: This card includes 0.00% intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers. Once the introductory period ends, a 13.99% - 23.99% variable APR will apply to any transferred balances. The balance transfer fee is 3% of the transferred amount, with a $5 minimum. Cardholders can earn up to 2% cash back—1% cash back on purchases and then another 1% back when you pay that purchase off. There is no annual fee.
  • Chase Freedom Flex℠: The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is offering 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases (14.99% - 23.74% variable APR after the intro period). New cardholders can earn a $200 bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. The card earns 5% cash back on rotating categories and on travel booked through Chase, 3% back at drugstores and dining at restaurants, and 1% back on all other purchases. There is no annual fee.

Beware Balance Transfer Fees

Before you make any decisions, remember that transferring a balance might also incur fees—usually 3% or 5% of the amount of each transfer or a minimum such as $5, whichever is greater.

Certain credit cards, including some store cards, offer what's known as deferred interest, which means 0% interest for a set period of time, but if you aren't able to pay off your balance in full by the end of it, you may owe interest on the full amount retroactively.

Annual Statement Credits on Travel and Dining

Another fantastic credit card benefit to be on the lookout for is statement credits that can save you money on specific purchases. These are two great cards that offer this benefit:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®: In addition to many other benefits, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® comes with $300 in annual credits as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year. Through December 31, 2021, gas and grocery store purchases also count toward this total.
  • American Express® Gold Card: Cardholders can get up to $120 in Uber Cash on Gold toward U.S. Uber rides and U.S. Uber Eats orders each calendar year (enrollment required). When you connect your Gold Card with your Uber account in the Uber app and use it to pay, you receive up to $10 back each month. You can also enroll your American Express® Gold Card for up to $120 in dining credits—again, $10 per month—each calendar year when you use it to pay at Grubhub, Seamless, Boxed and other participating partners. Unlike typical credit cards, however, the American Express® Gold Card only allows you to carry a balance for certain charges—not all. Terms apply.

By taking advantage of annual statement credits, you may reap hundreds of dollars in rewards value from your card each year.

Protection Against Unauthorized Charges

One of the best reasons to use credit cards for purchases is that it limits your liability for unauthorized purchases.

Under The Fair Credit Billing Act, you are not responsible for any charges made to your credit card if they occur after you report it lost or stolen, or if just your card number rather than the physical card itself was stolen. Your liability is capped at $50 in case you report your card lost after fraudulent charges appear on your account.

That said, many credit card issuers, including Capital One and Chase, offer zero-liability protection against unauthorized charges on many of their credit cards. So even if you haven't reported your card lost or stolen, but you see fraudulent transactions on your statement, you can report them to your card issuer and shouldn't be held responsible for paying for them.

Compare that to a lost or stolen debit card, where your responsibility can range from no money all the way up to all the cash taken from your account, depending on your bank's policies and when you report your card missing.

The Bottom Line

In addition to being useful for everyday purchases, many credit cards offer other valuable benefits that make carrying them worthwhile. These may include advantages like earning cash back or travel rewards, introductory offers that extend 0% APR for several months so you can pay off your balances over time, and statement credits on specific expenses, such as food delivery services or travel bookings. Think about the types of benefits you are most likely to use and will get the most value from so that you can find the right credit card for your specific needs. Then check Experian CreditMatch™ for personalized options.