The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Card and the Discover More Card show that these issuers aren’t content to let American Express Zync stand alone as one of the best rewards credit cards of the past few years. Both card issuers leveraged their existing systems to offer unprecedented degrees of customization. Both lenders also offer something American Express Zync can’t match: the ability to carry a balance beyond a statement cycle.

In 2007, Capital One launched the “Card Lab,” an ambitious online experiment that let prospective customers design their own rewards credit cards. Card Lab customers mix and match account features, even customizing the images on their own cards. As with Zync, annual fees go up as customers add extra rewards. However, customers who match earning opportunities to their lifestyles can collect enough merchandise, miles, or cash rebates to cover the cost of their cards and then some.

Discover took a different approach to reinventing its classic rewards credit card for Generation C. In late 2009, the company issued a challenge on its Facebook page to help redesign its Student Card. Over 200,000 site visitors selected the image of a cassette mix tape for a retro look.

Like other Discover Card accounts, the Discover Student Card earns a 1 percent CashBack Bonus on all purchases. However, students can select additional rewards of up to 5 percent on purchases in rotating categories, such as travel, fashion and restaurants.

Best credit cards for customer-selected rewards

Discover and Capital One may not offer a selection of customizations as diverse as Zync from American Express, but all three cards offer consumers the chance to personalize their cards and optimize their rewards. Each card comes with its own pros and cons.

Capital One’s Visa and MasterCard offerings enjoy the widest acceptance and carry some of the most lucrative rewards, but could also tempt customers to carry balances at higher than average APRs. More retailers accept Discover than ever before, but many of the card’s rewards offers include earning caps.

Zync, like other American Express charge cards, doesn’t allow cardmembers to carry a balance month to month. For customers who are comfortable paying off their balances each month, this feature makes Zync an attractive alternative to debit and prepaid cards.