Updated: February 13, 2020
It’s clear that Americans love their cash back cards, according to our July 2019 poll, which notably shows a jump in cash back from 43% in 2018 to 49% in 2019. Cash back beat out gas/retail (29%), airline/hotel (20%), general travel (19%) and business (18%).
Want to know more? Our experts at CreditCards.com have pulled together the best cash back credit cards for you in various spending categories. Each card has different rewards and fees, but we make it easy for you to decide which is best for your spending habits. Choosing a credit card is an important financial decision, so we lay out the pros and cons for you all in one place.
The best credit card for you will depend on your personal needs and preferences. Here’s our take on 2020’s best cash back cards with pros and cons to consider for each offer. Feel free to email us at email@example.com if you have any questions!
Best Cash Back Credit Cards
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Why it’s the best cash back credit card for no annual fee
While most cash back cards offer no annual fee, the Chase Freedom Unlimited’s sign-up offer and ongoing rewards make it stand out.
Other cards chase the Freedom Unlimited’s ongoing cash back rewards, but this card is a tough one to beat. It offers 1.5% unlimited cash back on all purchases. The Freedom Unlimited can be partnered with a Chase Sapphire card to take advantage of the travel boost those cards offer through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
The Freedom Unlimited may not be the best choice for world travel, with its 3% foreign transaction fee. Also, the balance transfer fee is high: 3% when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open. After that it’s 5% or $5, whichever is greater. The go-to rate also starts out high.
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card
Why it’s the best credit card for cash sign-up bonus
The Bank of America’s Cash Rewards card offers a $200 cash rewards bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening – a nice incentive when paired with the card’s generous rewards structure.
The Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card recently switched its 3% back offer at gas stations to a monthly option of one of 6 categories, then you can earn 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs. (That’s with a $2,500 maximum quarterly spend when combining the 3% and the 2% categories.).
The tiered rewards can be beaten by other cards, if you know in advance how you tend to spend. Also, because of the varied tiers, this card takes a little organization, including changing your 3% category each month if you want to maximize your earnings.
Discover it® Cash Back
Why it’s the best credit card for rotating cash back categories
Through everyday spending and maximizing the Discover it Cash Back’s 5% rotating categories on up to $1,500 in purchases quarterly upon activation (then 1%), the earnings really add up over the first year.
If you like the idea of working towards maximum rewards, this card is a good choice for you, because you could potentially earn up to $600 at year end by earning 5% back on select rotating categories for up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter (activation required) and the cash back match at the end of the first year. 5% categories can include Amazon.com and grocery stores. You can also receive free Social Security number alerts, a special feature of Discover cards.
While competitive, Discover as a network is not as robust as Mastercard and Visa and is accepted at fewer locations abroad. Also, you’ll need to decide if rotating categories are for you as they require a bit more legwork than a flat-rate cash back card. Finally, there’s no sign-up bonus.
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Why it’s the best credit card for your first cash back card
If you’re looking for a card with all the boxes checked, you’ll want to eye the Capital One Quicksilver Card. From waived fees to straightforward rewards, this card is a fine first choice.
If you’re looking for a card with all the boxes checked, you’ll want to eye the Capital One Quicksilver Card. It has competitive ongoing rewards as well as a decent sign-up bonus. With the 1.5% back on all purchases, you don’t have to deal with the hassle of rotating categories or quarterly sign-ups. Also, you won’t have to choose between an introductory APR and rewards, because this card has both. Finally, there is no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee.
The sign-up bonus isn’t the highest, with the BofA Cash Rewards card now offering $200 back with a $1,000 spend within the first 90 days, while some luxury cards offer even larger sums. And the required credit of good to excellent is a high bar for someone whose credit isn’t the best.
Citi® Double Cash Card
Why it’s the best credit card for flat-rate cash back
The Double Cash’s unique ongoing rewards offer pays you 1% back when you purchase, then another 1% back when you pay your bill, which beats its competitors in the flat-rate field.
This card is exceptional in a number of ways, from its ongoing rewards offer to its balance transfer offer. Be sure to include this card in your lineup of cards to eye before making a decision.
There’s no sign-up bonus, and while there’s a 0% APR balance transfer offer for 18 months (it’s 15.49%-25.49% variable after that), no such luck with purchases.
Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Why it’s the best cash back credit card for restaurants
You’ll be hard pressed to find a no-annual-fee card that beats the dining and entertainment rewards of the Capital One SavorOne. Also, Capital One now partners with OpenTable with its Premium Access program, which allows you to make fee-free reservations at select, elite restaurants throughout the U.S.
The SavorOne offers a hearty 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, as well as 2% back at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases. It’s ideal if you lead an outgoing lifestyle and are looking for a card without an annual fee. It also has no foreign transaction fee, which makes it suitable for use abroad.
The sign-up bonus and cash back rate on dining and entertainment are lower than its big brother, the Savor card, but this is to be expected in exchange for no annual fee.
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Why it’s the best cash back credit card for travel
This card’s unlimited 3X points bonus on dining, travel and transit, gas station purchases, and select streaming services should help you quickly rack up points for your next trip. Plus, its sign-up bonus – 20,000 points if you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months – is among the best you can get without paying an annual fee.
You can choose from a number of redemption options, including cash back, statement credits, travel and more without sacrificing point value. The card also carries no foreign transaction fee, making it a smart choice for travel abroad.
You can’t transfer points to airline and hotel rewards programs to boost their value. Additionally, while the card’s low-end APR of 15.49% (variable) is well below average for a cashback card, you could end up with an APR as high as 27.49% (variable) if your credit is less than stellar.
Blue Cash Preferred®Card from American Express
Why it’s the best cash back credit card for U.S. supermarket purchases
The Blue Cash Preferred offers an unprecedented 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 annually, then 1%). Try to find that elsewhere.
The BlueCash Preferred Card has recently introduced some unique new cash back categories like 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions (including Netflix, Hulu and Spotify, among others), and 3% cash back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, buses and more. Not to mention, this card offers an unprecedented 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 annual, then 1%).
This is one of the few cards on our list of top cash back cards that requires an annual fee, and it is not waived the first year, unlike the Capital One Savor.
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card
Why it’s the best cash back credit card for cellphone protection
The Wells Fargo Cash Wise is one of the few credit cards that offers cellphone protection, in this case it’s up to $600 protection for covered damage or theft (with a $25 deductible) when you pay your monthly cell bill with this card.
This card’s sign-up bonus is competitive, and it comes with the standard 1.5% back on all purchases of many cash back cards. There’s also a higher cash back rate of 1.8% on qualified digital wallet purchases during the first 12 months on account opening. (Alternatively, the Apple Card offers 2% back on Apple Pay.) With the Cash Wise, you can get protection for your cellphone, and excellent credit may not be necessary, which means you might be accepted with a score as low as 670. Finally, there’s no hassle of quarterly sign-ups or changing categories.
The 0% intro APR offer is 15 months on purchases and qualifying balance transfers (then variable APR of 15.49%-27.49% applies), the latter of which must be made within 120 days to enjoy. There are cards that offer a better cash back rate on everyday purchases, such as the Blue Cash products from American Express.
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Why it’s the best cash back credit card for families
You’ll get 2% back at U.S. gas stations with the Blue Cash Everyday Card, making it a great option for that daily commute or for shuttling the kids to music lessons.
Unlike the Blue Cash Preferred, there’s no annual fee with this card, and the ongoing rewards at U.S. supermarkets are quite good with 3% back (on up to $6,000 each year in purchases, then it’s 1%).
This card doesn’t have the heightened category features of the Blue Cash Preferred, which could be a deal-breaker if you have an ever-growing family.
Summary of the Best Cash Back Credit Cards
||Cash Back %
|Chase Freedom Unlimited®
||No annual fee
||3.8 / 5
|Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card
||Cash sign-up bonus
||3% on a chosen category
||3.4 / 5
|Discover it® Cash Back
||5% on rotating categories each quarter*
||4.3 / 5
|Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card
||Your first cash back card
||3.4 / 5
|Citi® Double Cash Card
||Flat-rate cash back
||2% (1% as you buy, 1% as you pay)
||4.0 / 5
|Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
||3% on dining and entertainment
||3.7 / 5
|Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
||3% on dining and travel
||3.5 / 5
|Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
||U.S. supermarket purchases
||6% at U.S. supermarkets**
||4.3 / 5
|Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card
||Cell phone protection
||3.8 / 5
|Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
||3% at U.S. supermarkets; 2% at U.S. gas stations; 1% on everything else
||3.5 / 5
*On up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter after enrollment, then 1%
**For the first $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1% cash back
Research methodology: how we arrived at the best cards
Cash back credit cards analyzed: 682
Criteria used: Cash back rate, other rewards, redemption options, redemption flexibility, cash back categories, credit needed, miscellaneous benefits and features, security, ease of application, sign-up bonus, customer service, rates and fees
After analyzing 600+ card offers, we’ve hand-selected the 10 best cash back credit cards. The Discover it Cash Back card offers generous cash back and is our top pick due to its high rewards value and flexibility in redeeming cash back.
What are cash back cards?
Cash back cards are pretty straightforward – they allow you to earn cash for spending on your favorite card. Once you build your credit and know how to manage your credit cards, it’s time to think about rewards. And cash back rewards can be among the most straightforward of the rewards cards out there, making them a great starter product. According to our 2019 cash back survey, the average cash back card offers a cash back rate of around 1.25 percent per dollar, though you can easily exceed that amount with careful card selection and usage.
How do cash back credit cards work? Whether you choose a card with a flat rate or a product with rotating categories, this is a great way to earn cash while making purchases. For example: Let’s say you spend $500 a month and the cash back rate is 5% on specific categories. That means you are earning $25 a month just for card loyalty. There are sometimes spending requirements and sign-up rules, though.
Cash back cards will usually also have a sign-up bonus of up to $300 back, so be sure to shop around. However, as with all rewards cards, you need to be sure to pay in full each month, because otherwise, you’ll pay interest charges on the balance each month, and that would defeat the purpose of having a rewards card.
What are the different types of cash back cards?
Cash back cards can be a little confusing when you are shopping around because each one has a slightly different rewards plan. The best plan for you is the one that matches your past spending habits. Here are some different types:
Flat-rate cards typically offer 1.5% on all purchases, allowing you to not worry about maximum spends or quarterly sign-ups. However, the rewards are lower, which is the tradeoff for not having to think about what and where you are making purchases. Examples of flat rate cards include:
- Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards
- Chase Freedom Unlimited
- Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa card
Some cards offer boosted cash back on specific categories. The rate is year-round in this case, but there may be a maximum spend limit. For example, the Blue Cash Preferred earns you 6% at U.S. supermarkets, although there is a maximum of $6,000 a year (then it’s 1% after that). Examples of a tiered cash back card include:
- Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express
- Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express
This type of cash back card requires the most thinking because select categories reward you with, for example, 5% back for a specific amount of time (typically 1% cash back after a $1,500 maximum spend each quarter). You have to sign up for the categories each quarter and you have to pay attention to when and where you make purchases. Examples of cash back cards with rotating categories include:
- Chase Freedom
- Discover it Cash Back
- Discover it Student Cash Back
Customizable choice of category
A new type of cash back card opportunity has appeared in the last year that allows you to choose your category for a premium percentage. There can be a requirement to sign up for a boosted category with some cards, and you need to keep track of which category you are currently signed up for to maximize your rewards. These kinds of cards include:
- Bank of America Cash Rewards
- U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature Card
What credit card gives the most cash back?
The best cash back card for you depends on how you’ll use the card, but here are some of the favorite categories and the top credit cards in those groups.
Blue Cash Preferred – 6% up to $6,000 a year
Bank of America Cash Rewards – 3% up to $2,500 a quarter including 2% categories
Dining out and entertainment:
Capital One Savor Cash Rewards – 4%
Grocery stores, Walgreens, CVS
Discover it Cash Back – 5% up to $1,500 spend in the 1st quarter (then 1%, enrollment required), plus another 5% at the end of first year
Citi Double Cash Card – 2% cash back on all purchases. Earn 1% as you make purchases and 1% as you pay them off.
Popular cash back categories
When we asked consumers in November 2018 what their favorite rewards categories are, we were a little surprised to find that time and again, they turn to groceries overall, with travel following close behind.
Favorite cash back categories…
Our own CreditCards.com analyst, Ted Rossman, reminds us that you want to make sure the card you choose matches your lifestyle. “Whether you’re planning a family vacation, stocking up at the grocery store, enjoying a dinner out with friends, or refueling your car on the way home, credit cards can reward you for things you’re planning to purchase anyway.”
Comparing two cash back credit cards
With so many options to choose from in the way of cash back cards, it helps to know how to compare them. Here, we look at the Blue Cash Preferred from American Express and the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa card, each with their own advantages.
Rewards can vary widely, sometimes with maximums on spending and sometimes unlimited. For example, the Cash Wise Visa offers 1.5% back on all spending, while the Blue Cash Preferred has boosted rewards at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and more (for the U.S. supermarkets, it’s up to $6,000 a year, then 1%). The Cash Wise Visa also offers 1.8% cash rewards on qualified digital wallet purchases, like Apple Pay or Google Pay, during the first 12 months from account opening.
Most have a welcome bonus, typically of $150 after a set amount of spend, however, cash back cards with an annual fee may have a higher offer. For example, the Blue Cash Preferred offers $250 after a $1,000 spend within the first 3 months, while the Cash Wise Visa offers $150 after a $500 spend within the first 3 months.
Annual fees can stop you in your tracks, but they don’t have to. Sometimes, they are worth the cost, whether there are certain benefits or particularly rich rewards. While the Blue Cash Preferred’s annual fee of $95 is not waived the first year, the rewards at U.S. supermarkets can be unbeatable for the large family. Meanwhile, many of the cash back cards on the market have no annual fee, such as the Cash Wise Visa.
Special features and benefits
Some cards have features like auto rental insurance, price protection and more. Look at your lifestyle and see if there is a benefit that makes the card worth your while. For example, the Cash Wise’s famous cellphone protection is a great find, while the Blue Cash Preferred’s travel benefits such as auto rental insurance may be worth your attention.
0% intro APR
The Capital One Quicksilver has competitive ongoing rewards as well as a decent sign-up bonus. With the 1.5% cash back on all purchases, you don’t have to deal with the hassle of rotating categories or quarterly sign-ups. Also, you won’t have to choose between an introductory APR and rewards, because this card has both. Finally, there is no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee..
Here we put it all together.
Comparison of Blue Cash Preferred and Cash Wise Visa, first year…
||Blue Cash Preferred
|Cash Wise Visa
after $1,000 spend/3 mths
after $500 spend/3 mths
|U.S. gas stations
|Select U.S. streaming
|Digital wallet purchases
|Total first year
As you can see, if you are a big spender on groceries, the Blue Cash Preferred is best, but if you favor all types of spending, the Cash Wise Visa might be the right choice.
Why I should get a cash back card: pros and cons
Cash back cards appeal to customers for a number of reasons, but mainly due to their ease and flexibility: Because they offer cash back rewards, there’s no need to convert points and miles to dollar values.
While many people prefer cash back cards because of their simplicity, the cards also have their drawbacks, so we’ve compiled a short list of the advantages and disadvantages of using a cash back rewards card. If you’ve ever contemplated whether a cash back card can help you, here are some key considerations to keep in mind as you make a decision.
Whether you are treating your new cash back card as a starter card or if you want redemption options, a cash back product has a number of benefits:
- Easy to earn rewards
- Sign-up bonuses are usually available
- Everyday spending or boosted rewards
- Build and maintain credit score
- Practice to get a more rewarding travel card
- Frequently no annual fee
- Cash back rewards frequently don’t expire
Cash back cards aren’t for everyone. For example, the world traveler may want to look elsewhere, and some cash back cards can have onerous rules.
- Lack of travel benefits
- Cash back rewards could expire
- Some cash back cards have maximum spend limits on certain categories
- You may have to sign up each quarter to qualify for boosted cash back rewards
- Sign-up bonuses usually require a minimum spend within 3 months
- Carrying a balance negates any rewards you earn
How to maximize cash rewards
1. Use credit cards for most of your spending
To quickly bulk up rewards earnings or meet the minimum spend requirement for a sign-up bonus, you should use your cash back cards for as many of your everyday purchases as possible. A large purchase – such as furniture or another major purchase – can help you meet a spending threshold and score a large amount of cash back in one swoop.
However, using cards for your everyday spending – including groceries, gas and utility bills – is the best way to go if you want to earn a large amount of cash back over time. Note that you need to watch out for merchants that tack on a convenience fee, since this can negate the value of your cash back.
2. Use multiple cash back cards
If you sign up for multiple cash back cards that offer bonuses in different spending categories and rotate them to earn bonuses in each of the spending categories, you can increase the rate of cash back that you earn.
3. Keep a close eye on deadlines and fees
You need to take care to pay your card by the due date, since the late fees and penalties from a missed payment can quickly negate any cash back that you earn.
4. Find other ways to earn cash back
Some cards reward for signing on an authorized user or referring new cardholders, so check for that.
5. Maximize your cards’ spending categories
If you have a card with 5% rotating quarterly categories – such as the Discover it Cash Back card – there are a few tricks you can use to reach the $1,500 spending cap each quarter:
- Stock up on larger quantities of items that won’t spoil
- Pay your annual bills in advance
- Do your Christmas and birthday shopping early
6. Call your card issuer
After your first year of card membership, if there is an annual fee, consider calling your card issuer and asking if they’ll waive the annual fee a second year. Our study shows that when cardholders ask for better terms on their cards, chances are they’ll get it.
Ways to redeem cash back
The most common redemption options for cash back cards are statement credits, checks mailed to you, bank deposits, prepaid gift cards and charitable donations. To redeem your cash back, you can go online or call the issuer directly to specify in what form you want to receive the cash back. Some issuers will allow you to opt to have the rewards automatically applied each month, while others require you to request the rewards each time you want to use them.
The amount of cash back needed to redeem your rewards varies depending on the specific card and the redemption option. Read on to see what options are available for Discover, Citi, Chase and American Express cardholders.
Redeeming Discover cash back
Discover allows the following redemption options:
- Redeem for gift cards
- Pay with rewards at Amazon checkout
- Make a charitable donation
- Deposit into your bank account
- Apply to your Discover bill as a statement credit
Discover rewards never expire; however, if your account is closed or not used within 18 months, Discover will credit your account with your rewards balance.
Redeeming Citi cash back
Once your Citi rewards balance equals $25 or more, you can redeem your cash rewards as follows:
- Request a check
- Redeem for a statement credit
- Get a gift card
- Redeem for a credit to your linked Citi savings or checking account
- Redeem to a checking account from which you have paid a Citi credit card bill at least 2 times
Your cash rewards balance will expire if you have not earned cash back from purchases or payments for 12 months. If you close or convert your card account, you must redeem any eligible cash rewards prior to account closure to avoid forfeiting your rewards. If your card account is closed by Citi, you cannot redeem cash rewards and you will forfeit any accumulated cash rewards.
Redeeming Chase cash back
Chase cardholders can redeem cash back rewards at a 1:1 value for gift cards, travel and more through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
- Redeem for cash
- Redeem for gift cards
The Chase cash back cards offer a unique feature in that you can transfer your rewards to certain higher-end Chase cards, then use those rewards for a higher award by redeeming for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.
In general, your cash back will not expire as long as your account remains open. However, if Chase closes your account due to fraudulent activities, failure to pay or other reasons, you will immediately lose all rewards.
Redeeming American Express cash back
American Express offers cash back in the form of Blue Cash Reward Dollars, which can be redeemed in the following ways:
- Redeem as statement credits in increments of $25 whenever your available balance is $25 or more.
- At times, AmEx may offer alternative redemption options, such as gift cards or merchandise.
We recommend that you familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions of your credit card’s rewards program. To avoid losing any rewards, be sure to use rewards before they expire or prior to closing your credit card account and pay your bill on time each month.
Check out our reviews
Interested in learning more about each card? We’ve reviewed several cash back credit cards – check them out in our reviews section.
Laura Mohammad is an editor and writer at CreditCards.com. She regularly covers the best credit cards and works to bring you the most up-to-date analysis and advice. You can reach Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org.