Personal Finance

Credit Cards That Give Instant Rewards

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Thanks to free two-day shipping, delivery apps and curbside pickup at stores, it’s never been easier to attain instant gratification. Credit card rewards have been a notable exception, though, often requiring you to wait until the end of a billing cycle to finally get what you’re owed. 

Some credit cards are reducing that wait time to as little as the day after you make a purchase. If you want your rewards ASAP, here are some card options that won’t take their time.

Top credit cards that give instant rewards

Apple Card

Our pick for: Fans of the brand

Why we like it

The Apple Card earns 3% cash back on Apple purchases, and at select retailers when you use Apple Pay. Earn 2% back on other purchases when you use Apple Pay, and 1% back when you use the physical card. Managing the card and tracking your spending and cash-back earnings through Apple Wallet is a user-friendly experience, and you can see if you’d qualify for the card without affecting your credit score. However, you need to be a frequent Apple Pay user to get the greatest benefit out of the Apple Card.  

How to use instant rewards

Cash back is earned in the form of Daily Cash, which becomes available to you once a transaction posts in your account. If you add a co-owner or participant to your account through Apple Card Family, everyone earns Daily Cash on their purchases. This is different from some other authorized user arrangements, where only the primary cardholder can use earned rewards.

Capital One Cards

Our pick for: Speedy rewards

Why we like them

Officially, your earned rewards will appear online within 10 days and may take up to two billing cycles to post to your account, but anecdotally, cardholders’ points become available more quickly. 

How to use instant rewards

For cash-back cards, it simply means you could redeem points faster — it’s more money back in your pocket, so to speak. Plus, unlike some cards, there’s no minimum redemption threshold. For travel cards, this can help you reach a miles goal — and book award travel — sooner.

Bilt Mastercard

Our pick for: Rewards on rent payments

Why we like it

Rent can eat up a big portion of your budget, so you may as well get some rewards out of it. When you use it at least five times during a statement period, the Bilt Mastercard earns 3 points per $1 on dining, 2 points per $1 on travel, 1 point per $1 on rent payments (you can earn up to 50,000 points in this category per calendar year), and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. On the first of every month, you’ll earn double the points on dining, travel and other (non-rent) purchases. Unlike some other third-party payment processors you can use to pay rent with a credit card, the Bilt Mastercard charges no transaction fees. 

How to use instant rewards

Points post to your account within five business days. Redeem points by:

  • Transferring them to travel partners

  • Spending them on fitness classes, art, decor and apparel.

  • Applying them toward next month’s rent payment.

  • Saving them up to put toward a future down payment on a home.

U.S. Bank cards

Our pick for: Opt-in text redemptions

Why we like them

How to use instant rewards

Enroll in U.S. Bank’s real-time rewards program online or on the bank’s mobile app. When you make an eligible purchase, you’ll receive a text asking if you’d like to redeem earned cash rewards from that purchase immediately (you can’t redeem combined rewards earned from multiple purchases via text). You can reply ‘REDEEM’ to get a statement credit.

American Express cards

Our pick for: A quicker welcome bonus

Why we like them

Technically, cards earning American Express Membership Rewards will post your welcome bonus eight to 12 weeks after you hit the required spending minimum, even if you still have a month or two left to reach that point. But many cardholders report that points post to their accounts within a day or two of reaching that spending requirement. 

How to use instant rewards

You may have up to six months to hit a spending minimum with eligible American Express cards, but if you applied for a card knowing a major purchase was coming, you can potentially earn that welcome bonus more quickly. You can redeem Membership Rewards points for travel, statement credits, gift cards, merchandise and more (point values can vary based on how you choose to use them).

Select store cards

Our pick for: Discounts at checkout

Why we like them

Some store credit cards, like the Target REDcard™ Credit Card and the Lowe’s Advantage Card, provide rewards in the form of a 5% discount at checkout on eligible purchases. Unlike other cash-back cards, where you accumulate rewards and eventually request a redemption, the savings are effortless. It’s like using a coupon, without actually having to.  

How to use instant rewards

Simply use your store credit on eligible purchases. Note that there can be restrictions. The Target REDcard™ Credit Card, for example, doesn’t offer 5% off on some purchases including Target Optical eye exams or the purchase of Target gift cards.

Barclays Arrival cards

Our pick for: Existing cardholders

Why we like them

How to use instant rewards

With both cards, you’ll earn miles as transactions post to your account. Miles are worth 1 cent each when you redeem them as a statement credit against eligible travel expenses. With the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®, you’ll get 5% of your redeemed miles back to use on a later redemption.

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