The 15 Best Mastercard Credit Cards for Points & Rewards [2021]


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If your credit card boasts a Visa or Mastercard logo, you can have confidence knowing your card will be widely accepted throughout the world.

And while Visa and Mastercard are both brands that are recognized globally, these companies do not actually issue credit cards, but rather serve as payment processors that facilitate the purchases you make with your affiliated card.

Visa and Mastercard credit cards are actually issued by financial institutions, and that’s where the majority of benefits found on your card are derived.

For this reason, Visas and Mastercards end up being issued with varying levels of features and benefits. We’ve written previously on some of the best credit cards that utilize the Visa network so today we’re turning our focus to seeking out some of the best cards that can be found in the Mastercard network.

There are so many types of Mastercards that it’s impossible to list all of the available options, however, in this article we’ve selected some of the best to share with you today.

But first, let’s briefly look at how the Mastercard network works.

How Does the Mastercard Network Work?

Without diving too deep into the topic of credit card association networks, allow us to take just a minute to explain how the Mastercard credit card network relates to your credit card.

First, Mastercard does not issue credit cards, it simply serves as the payment processor between the merchant from which you’re purchasing and the financial institution that issued your card.

Mastercard also offers a menu of benefits from which the financial institution can select to pass on to the cardholder.

There are 3 levels of Mastercard benefits — Mastercard Standard core benefits, elevated Mastercard World benefits, and the highest level Mastercard World Elite benefits.

Most of the cards mentioned here will offer Mastercard World or Mastercard World Elite benefits.

The financial institution decides which benefits it wants to pass on but could also add its own level of benefits. For example, a card issuer may choose to offer additional benefits such as bonus earnings, airport lounge membership, or statement credits for food delivery services.

That’s where the diversity comes in, and the reason different Mastercards have different levels of benefits.

Let’s now look at some of the Mastercard versions that stand out.

Bottom Line: Mastercard does not issue credit cards; it serves as a network that facilitates the processing of payments between the merchant and the card issuer. Mastercard also provides a collection of benefits that the financial institution can select to pass on, or not, to the cardholder. 

Best Mastercard Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Intrepid Family Tours
Travel rewards cards can provide accelerated rewards earnings, travel redemption options, and travel-related benefits. Image Credit: Intrepid Travel

Travel rewards credit cards are commonly referred to as such because the earnings, redemption options, and benefits tend to be travel-related. While the Mastercard network issues a lot of co-branded travel-related cards (we’ll cover those shortly), the network does not host a large collection of general travel rewards credit cards compared to Visa or American Express.

You will, however, find worthy Mastercard travel rewards cards from which to select.

Citi Premier℠ Card

Travelers who are looking for a travel rewards credit card with a lower annual fee, bonus rewards on everyday and travel purchases, plus flexible redemption options, might want to look closer at the Citi Premier card.

Here’s why we like this Mastercard for travel rewards:

Citi Prestige® Card

Hot Tip: At this time, the Citi Prestige card is no longer available for new applicants.

The Citi Prestige card lost some of its luster when Citi removed a good portion of its travel benefits. However, the card still has a few sweet spots that can deliver value for the right traveler.

In addition to a generous welcome bonus and higher earnings on airfare, restaurants, hotels, and cruise lines, you’ll find the following benefits on this Citi-issued Mastercard:

Both of these cards come with shopping benefits such as purchase protection, extended warranty, and Shoprunner membership. The cards also have access to World Elite Mastercard Travel and Lifestyle Services that you can register for here.

Bottom Line: While Citi markets several cards as travel rewards cards, the card issuer has removed several travel-related benefits such as trip cancellation, trip interruption, trip delay, car rental insurance, and more. You’ll still find several Citi-issued cards that offer stellar earning levels and valuable redemption options for travel but be sure to compare benefits with other travel rewards cards if travel protections/benefits are a priority for you. 

Best Mastercard Cash-Back Credit Cards

Couple eating takeout delivery food
The cash-back earned on everyday purchases such as dining, groceries, gas, and more, can add up quickly. Image Credit: Syda Productions via Shutterstock

There’s no shortage of cash-back-earning Mastercards. Here are a few of the most popular cards — some that do not even charge an annual fee.

Chase Freedom Flex℠ Credit Card

Credit CardBenefits & Info

Chase Freedom Flex℠ Credit Card

Freedom Flex℠ Credit Card
Learn More
(at Chase's secure site)

  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.
  • Good to Excellent Credit Recommendation (670-850)
  • Annual Fee: $0

Packed with more earnings at grocery stores and quarterly bonus categories, flexible redemption options, and benefits you can use, the no annual fee Freedom Flex card offers easily-recognized value.

We also like its collection of additional benefits:

Citi® Double Cash Card

For those who reach out for simplicity, the Double Cash card will match that requirement perfectly.

  • Simply earning structure
  • No limit on the amount of rewards you can earn
  • Introductory 0% APR on balance transfers for 18 months (fees apply)
  • Redeem cash-back for a statement credit, check, or gift cards, transfer to a bank account, or convert to ThankYou Points

Capital One® Savor® Rewards Card

If you enjoy dining out, ordering carryout, or indulging in regular restaurant delivery, receiving unlimited cash-back on those purchases could make the CapOne Savor card a wallet necessity. Add in more bonus earnings at grocery stores and on entertainment and cash-back rewards will accumulate quickly.

Plus, there are additional reasons this Mastercard offers value:

  • Secondary car rental insurance
  • Shopping benefits such as purchase protection, price protection, and extended warranty
  • No foreign transaction fees

Bottom Line: Cash-back rewards are normally simple to earn and redeem. It’s also common to find Mastercard cash-back cards that do not charge an annual fee or charge a lower annual fee yet still deliver good earning levels and in some cases, benefits you can utilize. 

Best Mastercard Business Credit Cards

Man Holding A Brown Shipping Box
A Mastercard business credit card can help you earn rewards on every purchase your business makes. Image Credit: Bench Accounting via Unsplash

Bank of America® Business Advantage Cash Rewards Card

For those business owners who have a qualifying existing relationship with Bank of America, the earnings offered on this World Mastercard could be a game-changer.

The card is best for small businesses, however, as there is a $50,000 limit on purchases for 3% and 2% bonus categories combined.

Here is an overview of the benefits offered by the card:

  • Welcome bonus
  • No annual fee
  • 3% cash-back on your choice of category each month including travel, purchases at gas stations, office supply stores, TV/telecom/wireless, business consulting services, or computer services
  • 2% cash-back on dining
  • 1% cash-back on all other purchases
  • Qualifying business banking customers earn up to 5.25x points per dollar via Preferred Rewards for Business
  • Redeem points for statement credits, transfer to a Bank of America bank account, or receive a check
  • Introductory 0% APR on purchases for 9 billing cycles
  • Trip interruption, trip cancellation, trip delay
  • Lost baggage reimbursement

Hot Tip: Bank of America issues several personal and business credit cards, check out our complete overview here.

CitiBusiness®/AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®

If you’re a business owner and American Airlines is your preferred airline, you’ll find value in an American Airlines-branded credit card that focuses earnings toward business expenses.

You’ll also find benefits that save you money and make your journey more comfortable when flying on the airline:

  • Preferred boarding and 1 free checked bag for the cardholder and up to 4 traveling companions
  • 25% statement credit for in-flight purchases including food, beverages, and Wi-Fi
  • Spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year and receive a $99 companion ticket
  • Add authorized users at no charge
  • Shopping benefits such as purchase protection, extended warranty, and Shoprunner membership
  • World Elite Mastercard Travel and Lifestyle Services (register here)

Bottom Line: There are a limited number of business credit cards that utilize the Mastercard card network. To view a more expansive collection, and compare options, check out our recommendations for the best small business credit cards.

Best Airline and Hotel Branded Mastercard Credit Cards

InterContinental Le Moana Bora Bora beach bungalow bedroom
Airline and hotel-branded Mastercards can provide perks such as free checked bags, priority boarding, upgraded hotel rooms, and other benefits. InterContinental Le Moana Bora Bora. Image Credit: IHG

IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
Learn More
(at Chase's secure site)
  • Earn 150,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn up to 25 points total per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel
  • Earn 2x points on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants; then 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.
  • Enjoy a Reward Night after each account anniversary year at eligible IHG hotels worldwide. Plus, enjoy a reward night when you redeem points for any stay of 4 or more nights
  • Platinum Elite status as long as you remain a Premier card member
  • Good to Excellent Credit Recommend (670-850)
  • Annual Fee: $0 for the first year, $89 thereafter

IHG loyalists will find tremendous value with the IHG Rewards Club Premier card. If you frequent IHG properties and enjoy instant elite status, free hotel nights, and a nice collection of travel benefits, the card can easily earn a place in your wallet.

  • IHG Rewards Platinum Elite status
  • Free hotel night each card anniversary, worth up to 40,000 rewards points
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee statement credit
  • Fourth consecutive award night free
  • 20% discount on IHG point purchases
  • Redeem points for free hotel nights, starting at 5,000 points
  • Secondary car rental insurance
  • Trip interruption and trip cancellation insurance
  • Baggage insurance
  • Cell phone protection, purchase protection, and extended warranty

Citi®/AAdvantage® Platinum Select World Elite™ Mastercard®

American Airlines travelers will welcome the benefits offered on this AAdvantage-branded card that aligns well with the American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flyer program.

  • Generous welcome bonus
  • $99 fee is waived the first year
  • 2x miles earned per dollar spent on American Airlines, at restaurants, gas stations
  • Free checked bag and priority boarding for the cardholder and up to 4 travel companions
  • 25% statement credit for in-flight food, beverage, and Wi-Fi purchases
  • $125 airfare certificate after spending $20,000 each cardmember year

Both cards come with Mastercard and World Elite shopping benefits such as purchase protection, extended warranty, and Shoprunner membership. In addition, cardholders may register for World Elite Mastercard Travel and Lifestyle Services here.

Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®

If you’re a frequent Hawaiian Airlines traveler or just want to earn HawaiianMiles for that annual vacation to Hawaii, the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite card may offer some appealing attributes.

  • Welcome bonus
  • 3x miles per dollar spent on Hawaiian Airlines
  • 2x miles gas, dining, grocery store purchases
  • 50% discount on companion roundtrip airfare purchase
  • $100 off a companion ticket at each card anniversary
  • Free checked bag on Hawaiian Airlines
  • Access to discount award flights
  • Share miles between family members and friends at no charge

Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard®

Best Western has nearly 4,700 properties in over 100 countries worldwide, so you’re sure to find convenient and affordable lodging when you travel. Cardholders of the Best Western Rewards Premium card earn big at hotel properties and receive complimentary elite status just for having the card.

The card does charge an annual fee of $89 but comes with these additional benefits:

  • Generous welcome bonus worth several free hotel nights
  • Complimentary Best Western Rewards Platinum elite status
  • 20 points per dollar spent at Best Western (10x for using the card, 10x for status bonus)
  • Spend $5,000 on the card each 12 billing cycles and receive 40,000 Rewards points (the average price of a reward night is 16,000 points)
  • 2 points per dollar for all other purchases
  • 10% rate discount
  • No foreign transaction fees

Bottom Line: If you have loyalty preferences when it comes to specific airlines or hotel brands, a branded card is a great way to elevate the benefits you receive when utilizing that brand. Most airline and hotel-branded cards align well with the loyalty programs to provide accelerated earnings, perks, and even a faster path to elite status. 

Best Mastercards for No Credit or Poor Credit

You’ll generally need a good to excellent credit score to secure the cards mentioned previously in this article. But having no credit or even bad credit won’t eliminate the possibility of securing a card that utilizes the Mastercard network.

Here are several Mastercard options for those with no credit or bad credit:

Fortunately, there are so many options to choose from when you decide to start building credit or rebuilding poor credit. We’ve discussed the topic in-depth in several articles on secured cards, and cards for no credit or bad credit.

Final Thoughts

Knowing the differences between card processing networks can help you diversify your credit card holdings to be sure you always have a card the merchant will accept.

Having cards that use various networks is also imperative if you’re a frequent traveler as not all networks are widely accepted globally.

While Visa and Mastercard are the largest card networks, American Express and Discover are growing quickly and in third and fourth place respectively.

It’s worth noting that we’ve only mentioned a sampling of available Mastercards here, and even the cards we’ve featured may have additional benefits not listed. We have also abbreviated the benefit descriptions, so you’ll want to access any Guide to Benefits for complete information, including the applicable terms and conditions.

When comparing card options, pay close attention to the benefits offered as many Mastercards, especially those issued by Citi, do not offer a full collection of travel benefits.

Finally, finding the right Mastercard for you will involve determining your highest expenditures and making sure the card you’re considering will earn well on those purchases. The right card should also have an appropriate annual fee that matches your situation, redemption options that deliver value, and benefits that can be easily utilized.

The information for the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®, and Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® has been collected independently by Upgraded Points. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Frequently asked questions

Which is better Mastercard or Visa?

Fortunately, both Mastercard and Visa are widely accepted globally, so selecting a card that utilizes either network will serve you well.

American Express and Discover are next in line when it comes to card network acceptance. Having a diverse selection of cards that utilize most of these networks, especially if you travel, can be a good strategy to ensure that you have a card that the merchant will accept.

How does Mastercard work?

Mastercard is a card network that serves as a link between the merchant from which you make a purchase to the financial institution that issued your credit card.

Mastercard only facilitates card transactions and does not issue credit cards.

However, Mastercard does offer benefits that the financial institution can choose to pass on to the cardholder.

What are Mastercard benefits?

Mastercard offers 3 levels of benefits — Standard core benefits, World benefits which are broader, and the highest level, World Elite benefits.

The bank that issues your credit card can select benefits from these options and pass those benefits on to the cardholder, or choose not to. The bank can also add its own benefits beyond what it is offered by Mastercard.

Which is the best Mastercard?

The best Mastercard for you may be different than the best Mastercard for another consumer.

Compare Mastercards based on to what extent the card you’re considering rewards your highest expenses, if the redemption options result in added value to your business or household, and if the offered benefits are ones you will actually use.

Additionally, you’ll want to select a Mastercard with an annual fee you’re comfortable paying.

There are so many Mastercards with varying benefits that no 1 card is the best for every consumer.

Christine Krzyszton

About Christine Krzyszton

Christine, who lives in Northern Michigan, travels about 300,000 miles a year despite her remote location. Her expertise is traveling the world on a weekend with no pre-determined destination in mind, letting the cost of the airfare determine where she will go. She has over four million flown miles and elite status on all three major domestic carriers.

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