Several mono- and bimetallic Pd, Pt, Rh and Ru supported on alumina and active carbon catalysts were characterized by CO chemisorption, nitrogen adsorption, XPS and XRD and acidity titrations were performed for active carbon supported catalysts. These catalysts were tested in oxidation of two sugars, namely lactose and rhamnose, at 60 °C and at 70 °C under slightly alkaline conditions (pH 8) with molecular oxygen. The results revealed that there is an optimum metal particle size in a range of 3-10 nm giving the highest initial TOFs for both oxidations. Furthermore, the catalytic activities and conversions were related to other catalyst properties, such as the type and amount of promoters and the presence of different phases. In situ catalyst potential measurements revealed that there is an inverse correlation between the increase of catalyst potential as a function of sugar conversion and the catalyst activity after prolonged reaction times. This method is a valuable tool for in situ characterization of catalysts correlating well with their activities.