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The Best Rewards Credit Cards, 2018

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If you're not taking advantage of a rewards credit card, you could be leaving a heap of money on the table.

The total value of points or miles earned in the first year with a travel rewards card is $901, on average (taking into account both initial bonuses and rewards for each dollar spent and subtracting any first-year annual fees), according to a study from personal finance site NerdWallet. From the second year on, annual rewards average $277.

Whether you choose to play the travel rewards game or stick with a simple cash-back card, your own payback could be even more lucrative, depending on how much you spend and how dedicated you are to maximizing your rewards. To help you sort through the many options, we've divided the universe of rewards cards into categories and selected winners and honorable mentions in each.

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Use Our Tool: Credit Card Payoff Calculator

To give you an idea of how much you may earn in rewards, we've calculated a typical annual rebate for each card, using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey to determine average spending patterns. Except where otherwise noted, the typical annual rebate assumes total spending of $22,000 on the card each year. We exclude sign-up bonuses from the rebate total, and with one exception we subtract annual fees from the rebate if they're not waived the first year. Also, unless noted otherwise, rewards do not have caps or expiration dates, and the travel cards do not have foreign-transaction fees.

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