Best Credit Cards for Shopping Rewards: Top Picks for 2024

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All information about the Capital One Walmart Rewards® Card and Prime Visa has been collected independently by Clark Howard Inc.

You’ve seen the commercials, so you know there’s a wide variety of rewards credit cards out there that offer cash back or rewards points for your purchases in 2024.

But in order to maximize your shopping rewards, you need to pick the right card for your personal spending habits.

Team Clark has analyzed the rewards credit card market to spotlight some of the best options. We have broken things down into three different card categories and have highlighted the top options within each category.

This article was updated in June 2024 and I review it every three months. Detailed notes on all updates can be found here.


Table of Contents


Different Ways To Earn Credit Card Rewards While Shopping

There are three basic types of cards that will reward your shopping: everyday spenders, those that reward spending in certain categories and those that reward you for shopping at specific stores.

It’s up to you to evaluate your spending habits to see which card could provide you with the most benefits.

Let’s take a brief look at all three strategies before getting into specific cards.

Everyday Spending Rewards Credit Cards

When you sign up for one of these cards, you’re aiming to get a set, specific amount of compensation for each of your purchases.

This casts a wide net for your rewards, but it can limit bonus opportunities.

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Many of the top cards in this category offer as much as 2% cash back on each purchase that you make. This won’t necessarily get you the highest rate of return on every purchase, but it could prove to be the winner over time by rewarding more of your purchases than a category or store-specific card.

Category Spending Rewards Credit Cards

Signing up for one of these cards will get you top-tier bonuses for category-specific spending.

This spending doesn’t have to be done at a specific store, but it usually has to be done within the parameters of a couple of categories.

Some credit cards award as much as 5% cash back in one spending category such as grocery stores, department stores or restaurants.

Store-Specific Rewards Credit Cards

Applying for one of these cards is mostly for the hardcore brand-loyal shopper. The perks can be really nice, but they’re usually limited to one store chain or brand.

Retail giants including Amazon, Walmart and Target reward up to 5% cash back for transactions made with their branded cards and often offer discount promotions to their cardholders.


Everyday Spending Rewards Credit Cards

Advantages of this type of card for shopping rewards:You can easily predict the shopping rewards you’ll get each month, and you can earn at least 2% on all purchases.
Disadvantages of this type of card for shopping rewards:Your options for big bonuses will be limited, and you’re not likely to get any brand-specific shopping discounts.

While there are several comparable cards on the market, we’ve chosen three everyday spending rewards credit cards for you to consider.

Two of them offer 2% cash back on all purchases with no annual fees, while the third offers 2.5% cash back in exchange for jumping through some additional hoops.


2% Cash Back on All Purchases: Citi Double Cash® Card

Why We Like It: It’s incredibly simple. There are no limits to the amount of 2% cash back you can earn with this card, so you can spend it anywhere Mastercard is accepted and you’ll know exactly what you’ll get in rewards each time. This no-annual-fee card is in Clark’s wallet, so it has his stamp of approval.


Up To 3% Cash Back on All Purchases: PayPal Cashback Mastercard

Why We Like It: If you shop online often, using the “pay with PayPal” button gives you a chance to make unlimited 3% cash back on your purchases. You can also earn it by using this card within the PayPal app. Even if you don’t use it to pay with PayPal, this card is still a no-nonsense way to earn 1.5% back on every purchase you make.

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2.5% Cash Back on Everyday Purchases: Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card

Why We Like It: It brings all the simplicity of the Citi Double Cash, but it gives you an extra half-percent on your cash back returns. There are some hoops to jump through, though. They include signing up for a checking account and maintaining a “Tier One” status to receive the 2.5% rewards. This card is on our list for best cash back credit cards.


Category Spending Rewards Credit Cards

Advantages of this type of card for shopping rewards:You can earn as much as 6% on purchases made within a single category, and some of these cards will let you customize the spending category that best fits your shopping habits.
Disadvantages of this type of card for shopping rewards:Many of these cards have a low rewards rate for purchases made outside of the targeted category, meaning that you may need another credit card to get top rewards rates on some purchases.

We have identified three cards that we feel are good fits for shopping rewards within the category spending bonus card options.

One of them is specific to grocery shopping, while the other two are slightly more customizable.


Why We Like It: The cash back for supermarket spending and U.S. streaming services is the best in the market. 3% at U.S. gas stations is competitive as well. If you view the welcome bonus as a way to cover your annual fee for the first few years of card membership, you could see some really good returns with this card as your primary grocery shopping rewards card. Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit or on Amazon.com at checkout. Terms apply.


Choose Two 5% Cash Back Categories: U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card

Why We Like It: You get access to two 5% cash back categories each quarter on the first $2,000 in purchases and 2% on one everyday category. The 5% categories rotate, but you get the option to choose from retail categories like department stores, clothing stores, electronics stores and sporting goods stores. You’ll also be able to use your 2% category on shopping at grocery stores.


Automatic 5% Back on Top Category: Citi Custom Cash® Card

Why We Like It: This card can earn you 5% back, up to the first $500 on your biggest shopping category each month without any special effort. The reward categories are Restaurants, Gas Stations, Grocery Stores, Select Travel, Select Transit, Select Streaming Services, Drugstores, Home Improvement Stores, Fitness Clubs and Live Entertainment. So all you have to do is pick one of your big spending categories (grocery stores are a big one, for example) and use this card exclusively for that purpose each billing cycle. Anything spent outside of your top category is rewarded at 1% cash back, so it’s best to avoid spending in multiple categories with this card.


Store-Specific Rewards Credit Cards

Advantages of this type of card for shopping rewards:If you’re loyal to a specific shopping brand, you can earn 5% rewards with a store-branded credit card from several of the nation’s top retailers.
Disadvantages of this type of card for shopping rewards:The rewards for shopping outside of the “ecosystem” of these retailers can be limited, rendering the cards ineffective in a variety of shopping situations.

We have identified branded credit cards from four of the nation’s top retailers as reasonable shopping rewards card options.

Your return with these cards will depend on your willingness to narrow your shopping experience to one retailer. But the rewards level on these kinds of cards is usually pretty high.


Up to 5% Back on Select Purchases: Capital One Walmart Rewards® Card

Why We Like It: Walmart is a “catch-all” shopping experience that could include groceries, clothes and a tire rotation all in the same trip. Being able to snag up to 5% on your purchases here has the potential to be a big win. This card is one of our top picks for rewards credit cards of any type.


5% Back for Prime Members: Prime Visa

Why We Like It: If you need to buy something online, there’s a good chance that Amazon has it and will deliver it to your front door in a matter of days. So if you have to pick just one card for your online shopping, getting unlimited 5% off everything you buy from Amazon and Whole Foods seems like a sound strategy.

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5% Off on Select Target Purchases: Target Circle Card

Target Circle Card

What To Know About This Card

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rewards Program Highlights: 5% off on purchases made at Target or Target.com (and 5% off on Starbucks purchases in Target stores
  • Introductory Offers: At the time of this writing, Target was offering $50 off a future qualifying purchase of $100 or more with approval for a Circle Card.
  • Top Perks: Free home delivery on most purchases from Target.com and additional discount opportunities on things like gift cards and clearance items
  • Team Clark Card Review

Why We Like It: If you’re a Target enthusiast, the Circle Card offers a chance to meet that same 5% off threshold that you’re able to clear with the Amazon or Walmart cards mentioned above. The one disadvantage of this card is the fact that it limits you to shopping at Target (unless you’re offered the branded Mastercard). Clark is not a fan of store cards (more on that later), but he does make an exception for the Target card thanks to its discount and delivery perks.


2% Back at Costco: Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

Why We Like It: Being the Costco fanatic that he is, Clark has this card in his wallet. This card doesn’t offer much in the way of welcome bonuses or introductory APRs, but it does have a strong list of spending categories for earning rewards. And while it may be disappointing that Costco purchases themselves are worth only 2% cash back, at least that rate holds consistent whether you’re shopping online or in the store. This card is also on our list of best cards with no annual fee.


Clark’s Warning on Store Specific Cards

By now, you may have noticed that we have not suggested store-specific cards as a good option for maximizing shopping rewards.

While they can offer intriguing retailer-specific discounts and perks, many of them do not carry a Visa or Mastercard logo, so you can’t use them outside of that specific retailer’s ecosystem.

What’s the Difference Between a Store-Specific Card and a Store-Branded Credit Card?

Store-specific cards are designed solely for purchases made at a specific retailer. If you apply for one of these, it will have no spending power beyond that particular store and its app or website. Clark generally advises against this type of card.

Co-branded cards are credit cards that give discounts and benefits for a specific store but also can be used as a normal credit card at other retailers. Clark is a fan of this type of card in the right situation, and he carries the Costco-branded credit card in his wallet.

Why Clark Doesn’t Like Store-Specific Cards

Store cards often offer a short-term benefit such as a term for 0% financing or cash back on purchases. But they also can be a long-term threat to your financial well-being because of retroactive interest policies and exorbitantly high-interest rates.

Clark refers to these as “boomerang charges” and recommends avoiding them.

He also says that cards offering “buy now, pay later” deals put some consumers at risk of taking on more debt than is financially healthy.

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“I hate for people to buy on 0% plans, because what tends to happen is that people buy on those with money they don’t have. And they expect they’re going to have this interest holiday, but then the clock catches up on them and they can’t pay that off,” Clark says.

You can read more about Clark’s philosophy on store credit cards here.


Final Thoughts

If you are looking for a credit card that gives you the best rewards for your shopping, you basically have three paths.

Whether you should go for an everyday spending card, a category-specific card or a store-branded card depends on your spending habits and your rewards goals.

Clark Howard is a proponent of carrying an everyday spending card in your wallet that earns 2% back in rewards on every purchase that you make. So that’s a good place to start if you’re looking for a versatile option for all your shopping trips.

If you’re loyal to one retailer or know that you’ll be spending a bunch on one specific shopping category over time, it could make some sense to add an additional credit card for the purposes of enhanced shopping rewards.


Do you have a favorite shopping credit card? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the Clark.com community.

To see the rates and fees for the American Express cards featured, please visit the following links: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: See Rates and Fees

Article Updates
  • January 2024: Updated title image, credit card information and formatting for updates.
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