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Best Cash Back Credit Cards of October 2021

Written by: Tracy Stewart | Edited by: Jeanine Skowronski | Reviewed by: Ted Rossman
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October 25, 2021

Best Cash Back Credit Cards of October 2021

BEST FOR AUTOMATICALLY MAXIMIZING CASH BACK
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card
Our rating:4.1 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

5%
Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, 1% cash back thereafter.
1%
Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro bonus
$200 Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $750 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
13.99% - 23.99% variable
Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST FOR INTRODUCTORY APR ON PURCHASES
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Our rating:4.5 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Rewards rate

5%
Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
5%
Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®.
3%
Earn 3% on dining and drugstores.
1.5%
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro bonus
$200 Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
14.99% - 23.74% variable
BEST FOR DINING AND ENTERTAINMENT
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
Our rating:4.4 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

8%
Earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through January 2023.
3%
Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®).
1%
Earn 1% on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro bonus
$200 Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
14.99% - 24.99% variable
Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST FOR U.S. SUPERMARKETS
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Our rating:4.0 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Rewards rate

6%
6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%).
6%
6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
3%
3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more.
3%
3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations
1%
1% Cash Back on other purchases

At A Glance

Intro bonus
$300 Earn a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
Annual fee
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
Regular APR
13.99% - 23.99% variable
BEST FOR ROTATING CATEGORIES
Discover it® Cash Back
Our rating:4.5 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Rewards rate

5%
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
1%
Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

At A Glance

Intro bonus
Cashback Match™ Intro Offer: Unlimited Cashback Match - only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year! There's no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
11.99% - 22.99% variable
BEST FOR FLEXIBLE CASH BACK CATEGORIES
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card
Our rating:4.2 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Rewards rate

3%
Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases).
2%
Earn automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases).
1%
Earn unlimited 1% on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro bonus
$200 $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
BEST FOR CASH BACK ON ELIGIBLE TRAVEL
Chase Freedom Flex℠
Our rating:4.2 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Rewards rate

5%
Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
5%
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!
5%
Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®.
3%
Earn 3% on dining and drugstores.
1%
Earn 1% on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro bonus
$200 Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
14.99% - 23.74% variable
BEST FOR UNLIMITED REWARDS
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
Our rating:3.1 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

1.5%
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day

At A Glance

Intro bonus
$200 One-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
14.99% - 24.99% variable
Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST FOR UNLIMITED CASH BACK FOR PREFERRED REWARDS MEMBERS
Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card
Our rating:3.3 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Rewards rate

1.5%
Earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every time.

At A Glance

Intro bonus
$200 $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
BEST FOR TIERED CASH BACK
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Our rating:3.4 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Rewards rate

3%
3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%).
2%
2% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores.
1%
1% Cash Back on other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro bonus
$200 Earn a $200 statement credit after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
13.99% - 23.99% variable
BEST FOR STUDENTS
Discover it® Student Cash Back
Our rating:4.1 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

(No Credit History) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Rewards rate

5%
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
1%
Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

At A Glance

Intro bonus
Cashback Match™ Intro Offer: Unlimited Cashback Match - only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There's no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
12.99% - 21.99% variable
BEST FOR HOME IMPROVEMENTS
Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa®
Our rating:3.0 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

3%
Unlimited cash back on payments - 3% on Home, Auto and Health categories
1%
1% on everything else

At A Glance

Intro bonus
No current offer
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
8.99% - 29.99% variable
Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
Back to top

All information about the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card, U.S. Bank Cash+™️ Visa Signature®️ Card and Alliant Visa®️ Signature Credit Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuer did not provide the content, nor is it responsible for its accuracy.


A guide to cash back credit cards

It’s clear that Americans love cash back, according to a recent survey by Bankrate. Of those rewards cardholders surveyed, 56% said they redeemed for cash back versus only 15% who redeemed for travel.

With so many credit card offers on the market, it can be tough to decide which cash back card is going to give you the most value. To make it easier for you, our experts at CreditCards.com have pulled together the best cash back credit cards for every lifestyle. Choosing a credit card is an important financial decision, so we lay out the pros and cons for you all in one place.


Best cash back credit cards compared

Credit cardBest forCash back %Annual feeCreditCards.com rating
Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card2% cash rewards2% cash rewards$03.6 / 5
Citi Custom Cash℠ CardAutomatically maximizing cash back5% on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, then 1% $04.1 / 5
Chase Freedom Unlimited®Introductory APR on purchases3% cash back on dining 5% cash back on grocery store purchases on up to $12,000 in first year (excluding Target and Walmart), 5% cash back on travel through Chase; 3% cash back on drugstore purchases; 5% cash back on Lyft purchases (through March 2022); 1.5% cash back on all other purchases $04.5 / 5
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit CardDining and entertainment3% on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores$04.0 / 5
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American ExpressGroceries/ U.S supermarkets6% at U.S supermarkets For the first $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1% cash back $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $954.0 / 5
Discover it® Cash BackCash back5% in rotating categories On up to $1,500 in purchases quarterly, then 1% cash back, activation required $04.5 / 5
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit cardFlexible cash back categories3% on category of your choice Also 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases $04.2 / 5
Chase Freedom Flex℠Cash back on eligible travel5% in rotating categories On up to $1,500 in purchases quarterly, then 1% cash back, activation required $04.2 / 5
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit CardUnlimited rewards1.5% cash back on every purchase$03.0 / 5
Citi® Double Cash CardFlat rate cash back2% 1% on purchases; 1% as you pay off the purchases $03.5 / 5
Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit cardUnlimited cash back for Preferred Rewards Members1.5% cash back on every purchase$03.3 / 5
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American ExpressTiered cash back3% at U.S supermarkets For the first $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1% cash back $03.9 / 5
Discover it® Student Cash BackStudents5% in rotating categories On up to $1,500 in purchases quarterly, then 1% cash back, activation required $04.1 / 5
Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa®Home improvements3% cash back on eligible home, auto and health payments 1% cash back on everything else. $03.0 / 5

best cash-back credit cards of 2021

Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card: Best for 2% cash rewards

Why we picked it: The Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card lets you maximize earnings on everyday spending with its unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases. That’s pretty high for a card with no annual fee. And unlike similar cards in this space, the Wells Fargo Active Cash℠  Card offers an introductory bonus of $200 cash rewards when you spend $1,000 within the first three months. Another reason to consider this card: qualifying balance transfers and purchase APR are set at a 0% introductory rate for 15 months from account opening, then 14.99% to 24.99% variable APR.

Pros: There are no rotating categories to keep track of and no enrollments required. Cash rewards never expire so long as your account remains in good standing. The card includes perks like cellphone protection and Visa Signature Concierge benefits at select hotel properties worldwide.

Cons: Those who fall at the higher end of the variable APR could be stuck with hefty interest charges if carrying a balance at the end of the introductory APR period. Ancillary benefits and card perks are limited compared to other cards.

Who should apply? Anyone looking for an uncomplicated way to earn rewards on routine spending will appreciate this unlimited cash rewards card from Wells Fargo.

Who should skip? If you’re seeking a high-end suite of benefits, you’ll likely find more value from other cards in this category.

Read our Wells Fargo Active Cash℠  Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card: Best for automatically maximizing cash back

Why we picked it: This brand new no annual fee credit card from Citi lets you earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent (after that, 1% cash back). You also earn unlimited 1% cash back on general purchases. You don’t have to enroll in rotating bonus categories or guess which category you might spend the most in to maximize your rewards. Instead, as your spending changes each billing cycle, your earnings adjust automatically. Eligible categories include restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs and live entertainment.

Pros: The card touts a generous sign-up bonus: Earn $200 in cash back (paid out in ThankYou points) after you spend $750 in your first three months of account opening. Plus, there’s a 15-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers and purchases (variable 13.99% to 23.99%, after that).

Cons: The $500-per-billing cycle cap on your 5% cash back (then 1%) limits the card’s value. (It’s comparable to the $1,500 quarterly cap associated with popular rotating cash back credit cards that don’t charge an annual fee like the Discover it Cash Back or Chase Freedom Flex.) You’ll pay a steep 5% balance transfer fee (or $5, whichever is greater) if you take advantage of that offer.

Who should apply? If your spending habits tend to change from month to month and you don’t want to worry about strategically using different credit cards to earn extra cash back, this Citi card is an option.

Who should skip? If you spend big on your selected 5% cash back category, this card’s $500-per-billing cycle cap can limit its viability.

Read our Citi Custom Cash Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Best for introductory APR on purchases

Why we picked it: It’s safe to say you have plenty of opportunities to earn cash back with the Chase Freedom Unlimited. You’ll earn a standard 1.5% on all purchases, plus boosted rewards in practical everyday categories, including 5% cash back on grocery store purchases on up to $12,000 spent in the first year (excluding Target and Walmart), 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back on dining, 3% cash back on drugstores and 5% cash back on Lyft purchases (through March 2022). As a welcome bonus, you can earn $200 after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months of opening an account.

Pros: A newly spruced-up rewards model and a favorable cash back rate on general purchases make it easy to rack up rewards. Plus, there are no caps on cash back and rewards don’t expire. There’s also a lengthy 15-month 0% introductory APR on purchases (then variable 14.99% to 23.74%).

Cons: There’s no annual bonus, though that may not deter many considering the lack of rewards limits and the competitive return rate.

Who should apply? This is a solid rewards card for anyone hoping to earn cash back on everyday purchases, with generous bonus opportunities on Ultimate Rewards travel, dining and drugstore spending.

Who should skip? While this is a very versatile card, the lack of an annual bonus could be a turn-off for some.

Read our Chase Freedom Unlimited® review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for dining and entertainment

Why we picked it: Capital One recently sweetened the rewards associated with both of its popular Savor cards. The SavorOne now offers a hefty 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and grocery store purchases (excluding superstores like Target® and Walmart®), 1% cash back on all other purchases plus, earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through January 2023 and a $200 welcome bonus after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months of opening an account.

Pros: The card doesn’t charge an annual fee. Rewards don’t expire for the life of the account and there are no limits on cash back.

Cons: Depending on how much you spend, you might be better served by the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card, which offers higher rewards to the tune of 4% cash back on dining, entertainment and popular streaming services, 3% cash back at grocery stores and 1% cash back on other purchases, but charges a $95 annual fee. (Learn how to decide what Capital One Savor card is right for you.)

Who should apply? Foodies will like the SavorOne for its generous cash back on dining, grocery store purchases and entertainment purchases. Big spenders will appreciate the lack of spending caps for these categories.

Who should skip? Cardholders who prefer to put all their spending on one card might be better off opting for a card with a flat rate of cash back.

Read our Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Best for U.S. supermarkets

Why we picked it: Offering supreme cash back rates (6% for up to $6,000 each year, then 1%) for purchases at U.S. supermarkets as well as 6% back on select U.S. streaming services, this card is a fantastic option for those who prefer their dinner-and-a-movie at home. The introductory offer of a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in the first six months of card membership is a great way to help pay for some of those groceries.

Pros: The 6% cash back rate at U.S. supermarkets (for up to $6,000 each year, then 1%) is incredibly high. Plus, there are no rotating categories or enrollment to worry about, and rewards can be redeemed on past purchases. There’s also a 12-month 0% introductory APR on purchases (then variable 13.99% to 23.99%).

Cons: Some may find the annual fee of $95 ($0 introductory annual fee for the first year) a tad steep, but it’s worth remembering the high rewards rates. We estimate a Blue Cash Preferred cardholder needs to spend $3,200 per year on groceries (or $267 per month) to beat the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, which offers lower rewards in exchange for no annual fee. (Learn how to decide which Blue Cash card is right for you.)

Who should apply? Families, foodies, and anyone with a daily commute can benefit from this card’s excellent cash back rates on groceries and gas.

Who should skip? While this card comes with a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, modest spenders could be deterred by the recurring $95 annual fee.

Read our Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Discover it® Cash Back: Best for rotating categories

Why we picked it: With the Discover it Cash Back, you’ll have the opportunity to earn a generous 5% cash back bonus on everyday, useful categories (up to $1,500 upon enrollment each quarter, then 1%) that rotate each quarter.

Pros: Discover will automatically match all of your cash back earnings at the end of the first year. There’s a 14-month 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers (then variable 11.99% to 22.99%). Discover has a few consumer-friendly policies attached to its popular credit cards, including no foreign transaction fees, a free FICO credit score and no fee for a first missed payment (up to $40 for any payment missed after that).

Cons: The 5% cash back rate is limited to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter (then 1%). (If you anticipate spending more than that, consider a flat-rate cash back card like the Citi® Double Cash Card.) You don’t get to choose bonus categories; Discover sets them each year. (See the Discover it Cash Back 2021 calendar.) You must remember to enroll each quarter in order to earn that bonus cash back.

Who should apply? If you’re strategic enough in your spending to take advantage of its rotating bonus categories, the Discover it® Cash Back offers a lot of potential to maximize rewards.

Who should skip? As Discover sets a calendar for bonus categories each year, those who want to dictate their own will be unable to do so.

Read our Discover it® Cash Back card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card: Best for flexible cash back categories

Why we picked it: The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card, you have the freedom to change your bonus category once per calendar month, allowing you to tailor your rewards to your spending habits. That’s especially handy when your summer budget may skew more heavily toward gas or travel, but you spend more on online shopping during the holidays. Bonus categories include gas, online shopping, travel, drug stores, dining and home improvement/furnishings. If you plan ahead, this card can be exceptionally valuable, especially since there’s no annual fee.

Pros: Cardholders earn 3% cash back on the category of their choice, plus 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (on first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then earn 1%). There’s a competitive sign-up bonus: Earn $200 if you spend $1,000 in your first 90 days. That amount matches the highest current cash back bonus, though some cards, like the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, have a lower required spend ($200 if you spend $500 in your first three months.) Bank of America customers with at least $20,000 across checking or savings accounts can qualify for a 25% to 75% rewards boost through the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program.

Cons: Rewards are limited to cash back. There’s also a $2,500 combined spend cap on 2% and 3% reward categories for each quarter. Frequent travelers may be put off by the 3% foreign transaction fee and lack of travel benefits.

Who should apply? This straightforward cash back card offers plenty of flexibility for moderate spenders who prefer to change up their bonus categories every so often. Bank of America account holders should also consider this card, given the potential for a rewards boost.

Who should skip? Frequent travelers will need to consider the lack of travel benefits and the 3% foreign transaction fee this card carries.

Read our Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Chase Freedom Flex℠: Best for cash back on eligible travel

Why we picked it: The 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards® can really add up. You can also earn 5% cash back on eligible purchases in rotating categories (up to $1,500 per quarter with quarterly activation required, then 1%), 5% cash back on grocery store purchases on up to $12,000 spent in the first year (excluding Target and Walmart) and 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants.

Pros: Reward rates are relatively high for a card with no annual fee. There’s a lucrative sign-up bonus: earn $200 when you spend $500 in your first three months, a nice return for meeting a low spending threshold. You can also take advantage of a lengthy 15-month 0% introductory APR on purchases (then variable 14.99% and 23.74%).

Cons: If the idea of keeping track of all of the cash back categories and the rules that come with each makes your head spin, you might want to look for a different cash back card. That, along with remembering to enroll in the 5% bonus category each quarter, requires some attention and may not be ideal for everyone. If you’re looking for something more low-maintenance, consider a flat-rate cash back card, like the Chase Freedom Unlimited. (Learn how to decide between the Chase Freedom cards.)

Who should apply? Frequent travelers can really benefit from the high cash back rate on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Who should skip? Individuals looking for a straightforward system for earning rewards will want to consider other options.

Read our Chase Freedom Flex℠ review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for unlimited rewards

Why we picked it: For those who prefer to keep it simple, this great gimmick-free card has no annual fee and offers unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

Pros: Rewards remain valid for the life of the account and there are no caps on how much you can earn. There’s also no minimum you have to meet to start redeeming cash back. You can earn $200 if you spend $500 in your first three months of card membership. There’s also a 15-month 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers (then variable 14.99% to 24.99%).

Cons: While unlimited rewards are an attractive offer, note that the Citi Double Cash earns a higher flat-rate cash back at 2% (1% when you buy and 1% as you pay off the purchase) without charging an annual fee (though that card doesn’t include a welcome offer).

Who should apply? While there are plenty of other cards out there offering much higher cash back rates, the unlimited 1.5% back on every purchase has the potential to offer major value for anyone in the market for a pared-down cash back card.

Who should skip? If you want to maximize your rewards earnings, there are many other cards out there with much higher earning rates.

Read our Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Citi® Double Cash Card: Best for flat-rate cash back

Why we picked it: Offering 1% on general purchases (excluding gift cards) and then an additional 1% cash back as you pay off those purchases, the Citi Double Cash boasts one of the most competitive rewards rates of all cash back cards and is a clear standout among flat-rate cash back cards that don’t charge an annual fee.

Pros: Cash back rewards can be converted to ThankYou points, which can be redeemed for travel purchases, gift cards and more for a rate of $1 cash back to 100 ThankYou points. Plus, there’s a lengthy 18-month 0% introductory APR on balance transfers (then variable 13.99% to 23.99%).

Cons: There’s no sign-up bonus. Also, the rewards expire if the card isn’t used in more than 12 months. You’ll pay a balance transfer fee of 3% or $5, whichever is greater.

Who should apply? This uncomplicated flat-rate cash back card would be a good match for someone who values flexibility, particularly for existing Citi customers already earning ThankYou points. The 18-month intro APR is also a solid option for anyone mulling over the idea of a balance transfer.

Who should skip? Anyone looking for a lucrative sign-up bonus will want to evaluate other options.

Read our Citi® Double Cash Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card: Best for unlimited cash back for Preferred Rewards Members

Why we picked it: If you’re an existing Bank of America customer with assets in savings, checking or investment accounts, you could come out ahead with this new cash back credit card, which offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases, plus a potential 25% to 75% rewards boost for Preferred Rewards members (actual value of the boost varies, depending on how much is in your Bank of America accounts).

Pros: On top of the base rewards, you can earn $200 online cash rewards after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. You can also take advantage of an introductory APR: 0% on purchases and balance transfers made in the first 60 days for 15 billing cycles, then 13.99% to 23.99% variable APR.

Cons: You’ll need at least $20,000 across Bank of America and/or Merrill accounts to be eligible for any Preferred Rewards boost.

Who should apply? Bank of America customers with at least $20,000 across accounts may want to take advantage of the rewards boost the bank offers through its membership rewards program.

Who should skip? Unless you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member with a large balance across your checking, savings and eligible investment accounts, the card will likely fall short of other flat-rate cash back options.

Read our Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express: Best for tiered cash back

Why we picked it: This card offers 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases annually, then 1%), 2% at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores and then 1% on general purchases.

Pros: As a welcome offer, you’ll earn $200 in statement credits if you spend $2,000 with your card during your first six months of card membership. There’s also a 15-month 0% introductory APR on new purchases (then variable 13.99% to 23.99%).

Cons: The yearly $6,000 limit on the 3% purchase category could cut into your potential earnings. Depending on your spending habits, you could earn more with the Blue Cash Preferred, which offers higher rewards, but charges a $95 annual fee ($0 introductory annual fee for the first year).

Who should apply? The Blue Cash Everyday is all about rewarding essential purchases, which is why it’s a great addition to nearly anyone’s wallet.

Who should skip? Bulk shoppers that stock up at superstores and wholesale clubs will also want to consider another card since these big grocery vendors don’t count toward the Blue Cash Everyday’s U.S. supermarket category.

Read our Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Discover it® Student Cash Back: Best for students

Why we picked it: This product is a top-notch student credit card: There is no annual fee and you can earn 5% cash back on rotating categories (then 1%; activation required each quarter and $1,500 limit each quarter), up to $300 a year on the 5% offer.

Pros: At the end of your first year, Discover matches your earnings to get up to $600. Plus, there’s no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

Cons: For students who are new to credit cards, the rotating categories may be too confusing to use to their full potential.

Who should apply? This card is an ideal match for students hoping to establish credit while also earning cash back rewards.

Who should skip? Students looking for a no-frills method for earning rewards will want to seek out a more straightforward option.

Read our Discover it® Student Cash Back review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa®: Best for home improvements

Why we picked it: People with fair credit could potentially earn rewards with this card, which offers unlimited 3% cash back on eligible home, auto and health payments. Its big draw, however, is the unique payment structure, which lets you convert your remaining balances at the end of the month to a fixed-rate loan with a potentially low interest rate.

Pros: The card doesn’t charge an annual fee, foreign transaction fees, late fees or a penalty APR.

Cons: You could wind up with a low interest rate … or you could wind up with a high interest rate, depending on your credit, given the card’s wide APR range (variable 8.99% to 29.99% APR).

Who should apply? Anyone who spends frequently on home improvement projects can earn a best-in-category return on that spending (after making payment on those purchases). This card could also be a good fit for people with fair credit who are trying to improve their scores by demonstrating responsible use, given the unique payment structure and lack of common fees.

Who should skip? If you’ve got good credit, you could qualify for more favorable financing in the form of a 0% introductory APR offer on purchases or balance transfers, and you’re likely to qualify for a more lucrative rewards program, though that will at least partially depend on your personal spending habits.

Read our Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa® review or jump back to this card’s offer details.


What are cash back credit cards?

Cash back credit cards are a type of rewards credit card. Unlike other rewards credit cards, which offer redeemable points or miles on purchases, cash back credit cards give a particular dollar amount of each eligible purchase back to the cardholder. Cash back essentially works like a rebate. Because reward points often come with a lot of restrictions in terms of how they can be redeemed, some people may prefer the simplicity of a cash back rewards card.

Exactly how much cash you earn back per purchase will vary depending on the terms of your card and the type of purchase you make. Let’s say you spend $500 each month in a category with a cash back rate of 5%. That means you earn $25 a month, just for card loyalty ($500 X .05 = $25). Sometimes there are spending limits, which is why it’s important to read through a card’s terms before applying.

How do they work?

When you redeem your cash back, you’ll probably have several options. Most cards allow you to redeem your cash back as a statement credit, which will lower your credit card balance. Direct deposits to your bank account, gift cards and checks are also common redemption options.

You’ll usually need at least fair credit to get a cash back card, so make sure you meet the credit requirements before applying. Cash back cards are best for people who can spend responsibly and pay their bill in full each month. If there’s a chance you might carry a balance from time to time, you’re probably better off with a low interest credit card.

Read our full guide to how cash back credit cards work to learn more.


Types of cash back credit cards


Pros and cons of cash back cards

Cash back credit cards are a popular type of rewards card, given their return on spending and ease of use. But, depending on your financial goals, they’re not always the best fit for your wallet. Understanding the big draws and disadvantages of cash back credit cards can help you pinpoint if one is right for you.

Pros

  • Flexibility. Earning and redeeming rewards is generally straightforward and easy to master. You can typically cash in rewards as a statement credit and there are low-to-no minimums for redemption across popular cards.
  • Affordability. Many cash back cards carry low-to-no annual fees.
  • Non-onerous welcome offers. Cash back sign-up bonuses tend to have low spending requirements. For instance, some cards let you score bonus points by spending as little as $500 in your first three months. Travel credit card spend requirements tend to run much higher.

Cons

  • Pricey APRs. Cash back credit cards are rewards credit cards, meaning their APRs tend to be higher than no-frills credit cards. As such, they’re not ideal for people prone to carrying a balance.
  • Limited value. You can’t really stretch the value of cash back in the same way you can stretch the value of travel points or miles. For instance, you generally can’t transfer to or pool rewards with airline partners.
  • Less lucrative sign-up bonuses. Cash back sign-up bonuses are generally less lucrative than the big sign-up bonuses you see associated with travel or business credit cards.

How to choose a cash back credit card

Who should get a cash back credit card

  • The strategic spender. If you’re aiming to maximize cash back earnings, you can combine the strengths of flat-rate and tiered cards. With this helpful strategy, pair a credit card that offers a high rewards rate for your large, frequent purchases with a straightforward flat-rate card to cover everything else.
  • The minimalist. Those who strive for simplicity can see a lot of benefit from a good cash back credit card. A flat-rate cash back credit card that carries no annual fee is a great choice for someone who wants to earn rewards without much additional thought. Certain cards in this category can help you “set and forget” by automating bill payments and reward redemptions.

Who should skip a cash back credit card

  • The luxury traveler. While cash back is relatively universal, frequent travelers may want to consider a travel, airline or hotel credit card that offers high-end perks and discounts when booking with their favorite travel brands.
  • The overspender. The concept of getting cash back on all or most of your purchases is enticing, but it may tempt you to spend more than necessary, especially if you anticipate carrying a balance from month to month.

How to make the most of your cash back credit card

  • Match yourself with a card that best suits your spending habits. Before you choose a card, take a hard look at your budget and identify the areas where you’re spending the most. If a good portion of your budget goes towards groceries, it makes sense to seek out a card that offers a high cash back rate for supermarkets. If in the course of a month you spend a lot of money on a broad range of purchases, a flat-rate card with no cap might offer you the best value.
  • Strategize spending on bonus categories. With some cards offering cash back rates from 4% to 6% in the higher ranges, bonus categories can be an enormous boon to your rewards earnings. But rotating bonus categories aren’t always easy to keep track of, especially when spending across multiple credit cards. Luckily, many credit cards release bonus categories annually or sometimes quarterly, which gives you a time to strategize. Match these categories with your personal calendar, identifying occasions where you’re most likely to spend such as birthdays, holidays, vacations and weekend getaways.
  • Pair cards to fill in reward gaps. Even the most robust rewards program will have its limitations. You can fill in those gaps by adding another card in your rotation. Let’s say you have a great flat-rate cash back card like the Citi Double Cash Card and earn 2% on general purchases (1% when you buy combined with an additional 1% cash back as you pay off those purchases) but feel like you’re missing out on potential travel rewards. With its 5% cash back on travel (purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards® ), the Chase Freedom Flex would provide much more value when booking travel.

Learn more on how much you can make with a cash back credit card.

Are cash back credit cards worth it?

  • Identify which type of rewards suits you best. For as long as different types of credit card rewards have existed, there has been debate about which type of rewards are best. The reality is that it very much depends on your spending habits. If you travel a lot, you’ll probably want to choose a points or miles card to maximize redemptions and take full advantage of travel-related perks. Plus, if you’re loyal to one particular hotel or airline chain, you could get a lot of value out of a co-branded card. But, if you’re looking for a no-fee rewards card, you may want to choose a cash back card instead, which could be a better choice if you don’t travel often or you value a simple rewards structure.
  • Evaluate your spending habits. The best cash back credit cards, which offer the most lucrative sign-up bonuses and rewards rates, will often come with higher annual fees. Before deciding on a card, you’ll want to determine how much you plan to spend and if you can use that cash back to offset the annual fee. If the card does not carry an annual fee, that cash back is going right back into your wallet, so long as you don’t accrue any interest.

How to use cash back rewards during the holidays

Holiday shopping can be a stressful experience: The crowds, the spending and the myriad choices can be downright overwhelming. It’s no wonder 62% of people surveyed in CreditCards.com’s recent poll said they planned on making their purchases online. That figure, which represents more than three out of five shoppers, is down from 71% in 2020 but up from 51% in 2019. The most common reasons for shopping online include convenience (70% of shoppers who plan on making most of their purchases online), avoiding lines and crowds (62%), getting better deals and prices online (46%) and fear of COVID-19 (45%).

Of the 38% of shoppers who said they will make in-person purchases, the most common reason was being able to touch and see merchandise (67%), followed by immediate access to purchases (45%) and then supporting local businesses (44%). While entirely rational concerns exist about COVID-19 and inflation, many experts, such as Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst for CreditCards.com, think this will be a strong holiday shopping season for retailers. “Most Americans have boosted their savings and paid down debt over the past year and a half, and there’s still a lot of pent-up demand and a desire for a happy, traditional holiday season,” he said.

If you plan on shopping online this holiday season, perhaps consider using a cash back rewards credit card to maximize your purchases and rack up rewards. Cash back cards can permit you to build a financial reserve for gift giving, large purchases or even an additional windfall for after the holiday season. Plus, you can gain additional rewards when buying groceries in preparation for a holiday meal or at the gas pump if you plan on visiting friends or family. Also, individuals planning on supporting a local business or charity can use cash back proceeds towards a gift card or donation.

Wherever you choose to do your holiday shopping, safety should always be a prime consideration. While online shopping has gotten a lot safer, there are still a lot of scams, threats and disreputable websites out there—meaning that you still need to be aware of how to shop online safely. Here are some tips to ensure you can shop online safely during the holidays:

  • One of the best ways to shop online safely is to stick to major retailers, which have the infrastructure in place to ensure that your transactions are as secure as possible.
  • Make sure you only make online purchases on a private, password-protected Wi-Fi network. And if you can’t access your home Wi-Fi network (or are online shopping while you’re out and about), use your phone’s data plan instead of connecting to public Wi-Fi.
  • Consider setting up a virtual wallet. When you use a digital wallet to make online payments, your credit card data is both encrypted and tokenized, meaning that no actual credit card numbers are shared during the online transaction.
  • Set up mobile credit card alerts to help you track your purchases and keep an eye out for potential fraud. While most credit card issuers will automatically notify you when a purchase appears fraudulent, mobile alerts provide an extra layer of protection by allowing you to monitor your credit card transactions in real time.

Read about more findings from our holiday shopping poll.

How we picked the best cash back credit cards

  • Cash back rate and categories: Of course, the best cash back credit cards make it easy to earn cash back. That’s why we chose credit cards that offer high rewards rates on common purchases. We understand that “everyday spending” looks different for various lifestyles, so we chose a variety of bonus categories, from travel to groceries to entertainment.
  • Redemption options: What’s the use of cash back if you can’t redeem it in a way that’s valuable to you? Most cash back cards allow the option to redeem as a statement credit, but some also allow you to redeem as a bank direct deposit, gift card, charitable donation or even a credit toward a loan balance. Since these alternative redemption methods can sometimes add value to your cash back earnings, we weighed all methods of redemption. We also considered ease of redemption since some cards require a minimum cash back balance in order to redeem.
  • Sign-up bonus: When analyzing a credit card’s overall value, we always think long-term: ongoing rewards rate, fees, etc. But a sign-up bonus is a nice way to kickstart your cash back earnings. The ideal sign-up bonus rewards you generously for a low spending threshold.
  • Rates and fees: Here, we dug into a few costs that may cut into the card’s potential value. When assessing cards with annual fees, we did the math to ensure that cardholders’ cash back and other benefits could likely surpass that cost. We also avoided cards with sky-high interest rates.
  • Miscellaneous benefits and features: Additional perks and benefits are rarely the main attraction, but they can be tie-breakers when comparing two similar offers. Features like auto rental insurance and price protection are often overlooked but can save you hundreds if you remember to use them.

Additional information on cash back credit cards

For more information on all things cash back cards, continue reading content from our credit card experts:


Frequently Asked Questions