The best credit cards to use in New York City

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The best credit cards to use in New York City

Category Credit card
Best card for ridesharing Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Best card for subway and commuter train rides Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Best card for drugstores Chase Freedom Flex℠
Best card for restaurants, takeout, and delivery American Express® Gold Card
Best card for groceries American Express® Gold Card
Best card for entertainment Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Best card if you fly Delta Air Lines Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
Best card if you fly United United℠ Explorer Card
Best card if you fly American Airlines Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®
Best card if you fly JetBlue JetBlue Plus Card

If you live in or visit New York City, you know there’s so much to see and do — and just as many ways to spend your money. While you’re exploring the city, you might notice a pattern in what you’re purchasing. Residents and visitors alike tend to partake in the best things the city has to offer, like excellent restaurants, taxis or rideshares, and top-notch entertainment.

Within those categories, there are certain credit cards that will reward your spending with miles, points, or cash back on purchases.  Of course, there isn’t one best credit card to use in New York City. The one or two you choose should maximize your rewards on what you’re already spending.

As a New York resident for 11 years, I found there were a few cards that rewarded me more richly than others. The right one for you will depend on the benefits you’re looking for, where you often spend, the annual fee you’re willing to pay, and many other factors. 

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We’re focused here on the rewards and perks that come with each card. These cards won’t be worth it if you’re paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it’s important to pay your balance in full each month, make payments on time, and only spend what you can afford to pay.

Best credit card for rideshares: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase’s definition of “travel” is broad. You’ll earn 3x points per dollar spent on flights, hotels, tolls, parking garages, taxis, and rideshare services like Uber and Lyft. Plus, you’ll earn 3x points on dining, including takeout and delivery. These are all popular spending categories for New Yorkers. 

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® has an annual fee of $550, but you’ll get up to $300 in annual travel credits that apply to most travel purchases, including rideshares, which offsets over half the fee. Because of the pandemic, up to $300 in travel credits also apply to grocery and gas station purchases through December 31, 2021, which makes it even easier to maximize. 

You’ll get other valuable benefits like primary car rental insurance and trip delay and cancellation insurance. I had this card when I lived in New York and found it worth keeping for the lucrative points earning alone. 

If you only use rideshares occasionally, The Platinum Card® from American Express is another good premium card option. You’ll receive up to $200 in Uber Cash credits per year (up to $15 per month plus up to a bonus $20 in December), and they’re valid for Uber Eats purchases as well.

Best credit card for subway and commuter train rides: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

In New York City, you’ll likely find yourself on the MTA subway or a commuter train like Amtrak or NJ Transit at some point, if not daily. You can earn 3x Chase Ultimate Rewards points on every dollar spent on tickets with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card, because train rides are included within Chase’s broad travel category. 

Even better, you can use the up to $300 annual travel credits from the Chase Sapphire Reserve® toward a subway or commuter train pass or tickets, which helps to offset the card’s annual fee. Plus, you’ll earn bonus points for most other travel and for dining. It’s a handy card to have when you purchase train tickets to move about the city. 

If you’re not sure you can make the most of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card’s benefits, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, with a$95 annual fee. It earns 2x Chase Ultimate Rewards points on travel and dining (instead of 3x). Either card is ideal to use in New York City. 

Best credit card to use at drugstores: Chase Freedom Flex℠

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Chase Chase Freedom Flex℠

The cash back is actually earned in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points. With the Chase Freedom Flex℠, 1 point is worth 1 cent, but your points are potentially worth much more if you pair the Chase Freedom Flex℠ with another Chase Ultimate Rewards card, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card. 

Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.8 cents apiece, on average, based on Insider’s points and miles valuations, but the return you’ll get depends on the cards you have and how you redeem your points.

Best credit card to use at restaurants, takeout, and delivery: American Express® Gold Card

American Express® Gold Card

American Express American Express® Gold Card

The American Express® Gold Card comes with a welcome bonus of 60,000 points after you spend at least $4,000 in your first 6 months of account opening. It’s the best card to use for dining out, takeout, and food delivery in New York City because you’ll earn 4 American Express Membership Rewards points per dollar spent. Plus, you’ll get up to $120 in dining credits each year that are easy for New Yorkers to use. 

After enrollment, you can use up to $10 in statement credits each month for purchases at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. Even if you don’t like the restaurants on the list, most New Yorkers can make good use of Grubhub and Seamless delivery once per month when they’re not dining at favorite local restaurants. This helps to cover the card’s $250 annual fee (See Rates). 

Best credit card to use for groceries: American Express® Gold Card

Do New Yorkers buy groceries? It seems they’re always out and about but actually, there are many amazing supermarkets throughout the city, from Fairway in the Upper West Side to Sahadi’s in Brooklyn Heights to Key Food locations throughout the city.

If you spend a lot on groceries, consider the Amex Gold Card, which earns 4x American Express Membership Rewards points per dollar up to $25,000 in spending per year (then 1x) at U.S. supermarkets. The card also earns 4x points for restaurant purchases worldwide and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel. You can then transfer the points to a variety of airline and hotel partners for travel experiences. 

There’s a $250 annual fee, but you can make up for it with up to $120 in dining credits each year, up to $120 in Uber Cash credits annually, and of course, the strong earning potential at U.S. supermarkets. 

Best credit card to use for entertainment: Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

There aren’t a lot of cards that reward entertainment purchases. You’ll also earn 4% cash back on dining, 2% cash back at grocery stores, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. The Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card comes with a $95annual fee, but if you spend a lot in the bonus categories, you can easily cover it. Run the numbers and see if your entertainment spending is enough to make this card worthwhile. 

Best credit card if you fly Delta: Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

American Express Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

With it, you’ll get a free first checked bag on Delta flights for yourself and up to eight companions traveling on the same reservation, Zone 1 Priority boarding, and a 20% discount on inflight purchases as a statement credit. Considering it costs $30 to check a bag each way, you can recover the card’s annual fee of $99, waived for the first year (See Rates), in a single trip traveling with friends or family. 

The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card also earns 2x Delta miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide (including takeout and delivery), and at U.S. supermarkets, which are bonus categories most New Yorkers can appreciate. 

Best credit card if you fly United: United℠ Explorer Card

United℠ Explorer Card

Chase United℠ Explorer Card

The card also mimics lower-level elite status by providing a free first checked bag for you and one companion on the same reservation when you pay for your ticket with the card, priority boarding, 25% back as a statement credit for United inflight purchases, and two United Club passes each cardmember anniversary.

All combined, the card is easily worth its annual fee of $95, waived the first year, especially if you make the most of its generous perks. It’s also one of the rare cards that offer primary car rental insurance. 

Frequent United flyers should also consider the United Club℠ Infinite Card, which comes with United Club airport lounge membership and additional benefits.

Best credit card if you fly American Airlines: Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®

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

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

Along with a welcome bonus of 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening, the card also gets you a free first checked bag on domestic American Airlines flights, as well as for up to four companions traveling on the same itinerary. That perk alone can cover the card’s annual fee of $99, waived for first 12 months. You’ll also get preferred boarding when you fly on American Airlines and a 25% discount on inflight food and beverage purchases. If you fly American Airlines a few times per year, this is the best credit card for American Airlines flights. 

Best credit card if you fly JetBlue: JetBlue Plus Card

JetBlue Plus Card

Barclays JetBlue Plus Card

It earns 6x points on JetBlue purchases, 2x points at restaurants and grocery stores, and 1 point per dollar everywhere else. You’ll also receive 5,000 bonus points on your account anniversary each year. The JetBlue Plus Card also comes with a free first checked bag for you and up to three companions on the same reservation when you use the card to pay for your tickets, and 50% off inflight cocktails and food purchases. 

JetBlue points are worth, on average, 1.4 cents each according to Insider’s points and miles valuations, which means the 5,000 anniversary bonus points are worth about $70 toward JetBlue flights each year. Between that and the first free checked bag benefit, the JetBlue Plus Card is easily worth its $99 annual fee if you like flying with JetBlue.

Harlan Vaughn is a freelance writer who has written about credit card rewards, personal finance, points and miles, and travel loyalty programs for nearly a decade.

Chase Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardChase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit CardChase Chase Freedom Unlimited®

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Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.

Please note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they’re subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.

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