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Here are the best credit cards to earn cash, travel rewards

HOUSTON – If you whip out your plastic at every cashier, you better be getting something back for all of the purchases you put on your credit card. Cards offer some rich rewards these days. Choosing the right one can be confusing.

“What you might be looking for is going to be different from friends, your family, your neighbors,” explained NerdWallet credit card expert Sara Rathner. “It might even be different from what you were looking for a few months ago.”

Rathner and her team evaluated hundreds of credit cards to name the 17 best rewards cards of January 2020.

The two biggest categories of rewards cards are travel rewards and good old cashback.

For travel, Rathner recommends Chase Sapphire Preferred. It does have a $95 annual fee; but because you earn two points per dollar on travel and dining expenses, she said you can easily get that back in rewards.

The Wells Fargo Preferred American Express card has no annual fee and lets you earn three points for every dollar you spend on travel, dining out, streaming services and gas.

For cashback and no hassle, you can’t beat the Citi Double card. You get 2% cashback on everything you buy.

The cards that made Nerd Wallet’s list also make it easy to get the rewards that you earn.

“Sometimes you can get a check mailed to you,” Rathner explained. “Some cards even let you get your points redeemed for cash back at an ATM.”

If you are loyal to certain airlines or hotel chains, you might want a co-branded card. Rathner said some of them offer some great benefits that go beyond what you would expect.

“You can also redeem for free flights, free hotel stays,” said Rathner. “And they often come with extra perks that make you feel like a VIP.”

NerdWallet’s top picks for cobranded cards include these:

A word of caution

You will need good to excellent credit to qualify for the best rewards cards. If you carry a lot of debt, rewards cards aren’t for you. They have high-interest rates and are really only worth it if you can pay off your credit card each month.

On NerdWallet’s credit card comparison site, you can search for the best card for you using things like your credit score and shopping habits and preferences.