Best Cash Back Credit Cards

Cash back credit cards are a useful tool to get paid back for the things you buy every day. Many cards offer flat cash back for all purchases, while others offer higher cash back across rotating categories like dining, groceries and shopping. We researched 682 cash back card offers and narrowed them down to our top recommendations. Browse our editor’s picks for the 10 best cash back offers from our partners and find a card that fits your spending habits.

Cash back credit cards are a useful tool to get paid back for the things you buy every day. Many cards offer flat cash back for all purchases, while others offer higher cash back across rotating categories like dining, groceries and shopping. We researched 682 cash back card offers and narrowed them down to our top recommendations. Browse our editor’s picks for the 10 best cash back offers from our partners and find a card that fits your spending habits.

Summary

Best Cash Back Credit Cards of 2020

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

5%
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
1%
Earn 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
Cashback Match™
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
11.99% - 22.99% variable

Excellent

Credit Recommended (740-850)

Learn More

Rewards Rate

2%
Earn cash back twice. Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
No current offer
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
13.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

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
$250
Annual Fee
$95
Regular APR
12.99% - 23.99% variable
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

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% back on other purchases

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
$150
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
12.99% - 23.99% variable
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

Rewards Rate

1.5%
Unlimited 1.5% Cash Back on your purchases.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
$150
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
12.99% - 23.99% variable

No Credit History

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

5%
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
1%
Earn 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
Cashback Match™
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
12.99% - 21.99% variable

Fair to Good

Credit Recommended (580-740)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

1%
Earn unlimited 1% cash back rewards on all purchases, terms apply.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
No current offer
Annual Fee
$39
Regular APR
23.99% variable

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

2%
2% cash back rewards on eligible gas and grocery purchases as well as mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV services. Terms apply.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
No current offer
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
23.99% variable
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Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by CreditCards.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank's website for the most current information.

All information about Bank of America Cards, Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card, Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card, Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card, Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card, Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Chase Freedom, Alliant Visa Signature Card and Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer.


Comparing the best cash back credit cards

Updated: May 6, 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. With the current uncertainty surrounding the economy, the comfort of earning cash back can add tremendous value to your finances and peace of mind in knowing you’re earning cash back for your daily purchases. 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 editors@creditcards.com if you have any questions!


best cash-back credit cards of 2020

Best Cash Back Credit Cards

Discover it® Cash Back

Why it’s the best cash back credit card for rotating categories

Discover’s rotating cash back categories give you the option to earn a generous 5% cash back bonus on everyday, useful categories (up to $1,500 upon enrollment each quarter, then 1%). If you stay on top of it and remember to enroll each quarter, your rewards could really accrue from the purchases you’re already making.

Pros

Along with the versatile and high rewards structure, the ultra generous sign-up bonus just adds to the cash back value of this card. Discover will match all of your cash back earnings at the end of the first year—automatically.

Cons

Other than the cash back rewards, this card doesn’t yield too many benefits. Plus, if you’re a hefty spender in certain categories, there is a $1,500 quarterly limit on the 5% cash back category, so that could cut into your earnings. If this is the case, then a flat rate cash back card like the Citi® Double Cash Card may be a better option for your spending habits.

Citi® Double Cash Card

Why it’s the best cash back credit card for flat rate cash back

The Citi® Double Cash Card boasts one of the highest earning options available for cash back cards. Offering 1% on general purchases (excluding gift cards) and then a 1% additional cash back as you pay off those purchases, the rewards can really add up. If you regularly pay off your balance from month to month, this card could be an ideal option for the cash back enthusiast.

Pros

If you’re not planning on receiving your rewards as exclusively cash back, you can transfer them to Citi ThankYou points. ThankYou points are flexible and can be redeemed for future travel purchases, gift cards and more for a rate of $1 cash back to 100 ThankYou points.

Cons

Other than the rewards structure, this card doesn’t offer too much in the way of extra benefits. Also, the awards will expire if the card isn’t used in over 12 months, so it’s imperative that you use the card consistently to maximize earnings.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Why it’s the best cash back credit card for U.S. supermarkets

Through everyday spending, you could really rack up the rewards with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card. Offering one of the highest cash back rates (6% for up to $6,000 each year, then 1%) for U.S supermarkets and 6% for select U.S streaming subscriptions, this could be an ideal option for the family that frequently grocery shops and streams.

Pros

The introductory offer of $250 after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months is a great way to easily get some extra cash back in the bank. Plus, this card comes with a slew of other benefits that are great for frequent supermarket shoppers, like a free ShopRunner membership, purchase protection and extended warranty.

Cons

The annual fee of $95 could be a setback for some people, but it’s to be expected for a card with such a high rewards structure. Also, this card is designed for users with good to excellent credit, so if your credit falls below that, the Capital One QuicksilverOne is geared for average and fair credit, so that could be a card worth considering.

American Express Cash Magnet® Card

Why it’s the best cash back credit card for no annual fee.

This card’s perks are especially impressive considering it charges no annual fee. Among other benefits, you’ll enjoy free shipping at dozens of online stores with a complimentary ShopRunner membership and a chance at no-interest financing through Amex’s “Pay It Plan It” program.

Pros

Offering unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, the Amex Cash Magnet should be a great fit if you’re looking for a hassle-free, “set-it-and-forget-it” cash back card. It also comes with a respectable introductory bonus of $150 when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months and a competitive 0% intro APR offer on both balance transfers and new purchases (0% for 15 months, then 12.99%-23.99% Variable).

Cons

This card only earns cash back, not points, so you’re out of luck if you’re hoping to earn Amex Membership Rewards. Even worse, you can’t redeem until you’ve earned a minimum of $25 in cash back.

Chase Freedom

Why it’s the best cash back credit card for sign-up bonus

The rewards rate on the Chase Freedom card can be very lucrative, but only if you don’t mind enrolling each quarter and keeping track of the rotating group of bonus categories that offer 5% cash back (up to $1,500, then 1%). For Q2 2020, you’ll earn bonus cash back at grocery stores and select streaming services (runs April 1 to June 30).

Pros

You have options for how you redeem your rewards to things like future travel purchases, merchandise or gift cards. If you’re planning ahead for future travel and trips, you’ll have better travel options when paired with a premium Chase Ultimate Rewards card.

Cons

Due to the rotating categories, you have to keep up with the rotating categories and enroll online each quarter. There also is that $1,500 spending cap, so if you foresee yourself spending more than that a quarter, a flat rate cash back card may better suit your spending habits.

Alliant Visa Signature Card

Why it’s the best cash back credit card for 2.5% cash back

The Alliant Visa Signature card could be a great option if you’re looking to put most or all of your spending on one card due to the unlimited 2.5% cash back on every purchase. If you’re looking for a simple, straightforward card with no categories to keep track of, this card checks those boxes.

Pros

You’ll gain access to numerous benefits like roadside assistance, rental car collision coverage and purchase protection. Also, the annual fee is waived for the first year, so that won’t cut into your earnings.

Cons

In order to qualify for the card, you must be a member of the Alliant Credit Union. There are also no other redemption options like gift cards or merchandise, and there’s an annual fee of $99 after the first year, which can decrease the overall value of the card.

Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card

Why it’s the best cash back credit card for business

This card’s exceedingly simple rewards earning scheme should appeal to small-business owners too busy to deal with tracking bonus categories. You’ll earn unlimited cash back at a flat rate of 1.5% on every purchase – no matter where, when or what you buy. You can also get employee cards at no additional cost and set individual spending limits.

Pros

You’ll score a $500 sign-up bonus if you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months, which shouldn’t be too hard for most small-business owners. The card is also a great choice if you need to free up cash flow or pay off a large business expense over the course of a year: It comes with a 0% introductory APR on new purchases for the first 12 months, after which the APR is 13.24%-19.24% Variable.

Cons

The Ink Business Unlimited does not offer a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers. If you’re carrying debt on another card and are looking for a way to hit pause on interest charges while earning cash back, consider a business card that offers balance transfers with cash back rewards.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Why it’s the best cash back credit card for choice of cash back category

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card gives you the extremely flexible option to choose your own bonus category and change it up to once a calendar month. You’ll be able to choose from a list of categories that include options like gas, online shopping and drug stores. This choice in categories is a great perk if your spending habits change monthly.

Pros

The cash you earn won’t expire for the life of your account, there’s a low minimum redemption amount ($25) and you can even set up an automatic redemption into your Bank of America account.

Cons

Although the freedom to choose your bonus category each month is a great perk, there is a $2,500 spending cap each quarter, which limits the amount that you can earn. It’s also important to keep in mind that the only redemption option is cash back, which can decrease the value of the card if you plan on using your rewards for options like future travel purchases or gift cards.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Why it’s the best cash back credit card for tiered cash back

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 select department stores and then 1% on general purchases. The Blue Cash Everyday® Card makes it easy to earn lucrative cash back for the purchases you make every day. As added benefits, the cash you earn won’t expire for the length of your account, there’s no limit on the 2% or 1% cash back categories and there’s no rotating categories to keep track of.

Pros

Along with the great rewards rate, this card comes with a lengthy introductory APR period for new purchases as well as balance transfers: 0% for 15 months (12.99%- 23.99% variable). This could be a useful tool in paying down any debt while also letting cash back rewards accrue. Just make sure you have a plan for paying down your debt.

Cons

There is a yearly $6,000 limit on the 3% purchase category, so if you spend more than $6,000 at U.S supermarkets, this could cut into your potential earnings.

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Why it’s the best cash back credit card for restaurants

Supporting local restaurants through takeout and delivery has never been more rewarding. The Capital One® Savor® card offers 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases, making this a great card for foodies. Plus, this card is a Mastercard World Elite card, meaning you qualify for extra perks and benefits.

Pros

The sign-up bonus of $300 once you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months is a great way to earn some extra cash back.

Cons

The cash back rate at supermarkets is lower than alternative cards such as the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express.

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

Why it’s the best cash back credit card for gas purchases

With this card you’ll get rewarded for the everyday purchases you’re already making with your Costco membership, like gas and groceries. This also could be an ideal card if you’re looking ahead to making travel purchases in the future, as you’ll get 3% cash back on eligible travel purchases worldwide.

Pros

When it comes to getting cash back benefits for gas purchases, this card has an offer that’s hard to beat. You’ll earn 4% cash back on eligible gas worldwide, including gas at Costco (for the first $7,000 in purchases annually, 1% thereafter). You can also use your Costco Anywhere Visa® as your membership card, you can redeem your cash back for merchandise at U.S Costco warehouses and you’ll get 2% cash back on Costco purchases.

Cons

You’ll only get your cash back once a year as a certificate in February, and the certificate expires 12/31 of the same year. You also must redeem this at a Costco warehouse, and you must redeem your cash back before you close your account, or you’ll lose your earnings. So, in all, this is not the most convenient or simple way to redeem and use your cash back.

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Why it’s the best cash back credit card for fair credit

It can be difficult to find a card that offers a generous cash back structure for fair to average credit. However, the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® fills that gap by offering many of the benefits that you’d find with a card for excellent credit, like an unlimited cash back bonus on every purchase, as well as travel accident and car rental insurance.

Pros

The rewards rate of 1.5% unlimited cash back on every purchase is a great perk, especially for a card designed for fair credit. Along with the opportunity to earn cash back, QuicksilverOne offers benefits that encourage good credit habits like unlimited access to your credit score and the ability to increase your credit limit.

Cons

While this card offers a generous rewards structure, there is no welcome bonus offered and you’ll be charged an annual fee of $39.

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Why it’s the best cash back credit card for students

This card offers students a unique feature that rewards you for getting good grades. You’ll get a $20 statement credit each year your GPA is a 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years. Plus, Discover matches all of the cash back that you earn at the end of the first year, which you can use instantly on Amazon.com.

Pros

The cash back offer is a hard one to beat, especially for a student card. You’ll earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter after you enroll (up to $1,500 quarterly maximum, 1% on all purchases thereafter). For example, from April-June that cash back bonus applies to everyday purchases at places like gas stations, wholesale clubs and rideshare services like Uber and Lyft.

Cons

While the rewards structure is one of the most lucrative for a student card, you’ll have to remember to enroll each quarter to maximize your potential earnings. Also, the APR (12.99%-21.99% variable) can be quite high based on your creditworthiness.

Summary of the Best Cash Back Credit Cards

Credit card Best for: Cash back % Annual fee CreditCards.com rating
Discover it® Cash Back Rotating categories 5% rotating cash back $0 4.3/5
Citi® Double Cash Card Flat rate cash back 1% on purchases; 1% as you pay off the purchases $0 3.8/5
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express Groceries/ U.S supermarkets 6% at U.S supermarkets $95 4.3/5
American Express Cash Magnet® Card No annual fee 1.5% on every purchase $0 2.9 / 5
Chase Freedom Sign-up bonus 5% on rotating categories $0 3.1/5
Alliant Visa Signature Card 2.5% cash back 2.5% on every purchase $99; $0 first year 4.1/5
Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card Business cash back 1.5% on every purchase $0 3.5/5
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card Choice of cash back category 3% on a chosen category $0 4/5
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express Tiered cash back 3% at U.S supermarkets $0 4.3/5
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card Restaurants 4% on dining and entertainment $95 4.8/5
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi Gas 4% at gas stations $0 2.5/5
Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card Fair credit 1.5% on every purchase $39 4.1/5
Discover it® Student Cash Back Students 5% on rotating categories $0 4.3/5

Research methodology: How we arrived at the best cash back credit cards

We know just how important it is that you have the perfect cash back card for your specific spending habits to maximize your potential rewards. That is why we analyzed 682 cards to bring you the top 13 cash back cards. For a list of detailed criteria and more detail on our review scores, see our ratings process for cash back credit 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

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

Flat-rate cash back cards typically offer 1.5% back 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 Credit Card – This card gets you 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make, charges no annual fee and comes with a sign-up bonus of $150 if you spend $500 in the first 3 months. Redeem cash back for a check, statement credit, gift cards and more in any amount, any time.
  • Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa card – Another 1.5% flat rate cash back card that comes with a $150 bonus if you spend $500 in the first 3 months. What really sets it apart is its included cellphone insurance: Pay your monthly cellphone bill with the card and you’ll get $600 worth of protection against covered cellphone damage and theft (subject to a $25 deductible).

Multiple tiers

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. Examples of a tiered cash back card include:

  • Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express – Even with an annual fee of $95, this card is a great choice for families and lovers of home cooking, offering 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%) and 6% back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions. You’ll also earn 3% back at U.S. gas stations, 3% back on transit and 1% back on everything else.
  • Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express – Another practical choice for earning cash back on everyday spending, this card gets you 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%), 2% back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores and 1% back on everything else, all without paying an annual fee.

Rotating categories

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 bonus 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– Enroll in rotating bonus categories and score 5% cash back on the first $1,500 you spend in a quarter (1% back after that). From April through June, the Chase Freedom’s bonus categories include select streaming services (perfect for staying in) grocery stores, gym memberships and fitness clubs. With many gyms and fitness clubs currently closed, rest assured that online purchases made to qualifying grocery stores and fitness clubs still earn rewards fit for your home workout.
  • Discover it Cash Back – Like the Chase Freedom card, the Discover it Cash Back lets you enroll in rotating bonus categories and earn 5% cash back on the first $1,500 you spend in a quarter (1% back after that). Discover’s full 2020 cash back calendar is now live and features categories like grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, Amazon.com and Walmart.com. You’ll also enjoy the famous Discover cashback match at the end of your first year.
  • Discover it Student Cash Back – This card is almost identical to the Discover it Cash Back, but designed for students. It offers the same rotating bonus cash back categories and first year cashback match, plus a $20 statement credit every year you earn a GPA of 3.0 or higher (for up to the next 5 years).

Customizable choice of category

A new type of cash back card opportunity has appeared in the last year that allows you to choose your own bonus category. 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 – You get 3% cash back in a category of your choice and 2% cash back on grocery store and wholesale club purchases (on up to a combined $2,500 in spending per quarter, then 1%). Choose from 3% bonus categories including gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores and home improvements/furnishings. Plus, you can change your bonus category choice once per calendar month.
  • U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature Card – It also lets you customize your rewards, offering 5% cash back in 2 bonus categories of your choice (on up to $2,000 in spending per quarter) and 2% back in an everyday spending category of your choice. Listed among the card’s 5% bonus categories are department stores, fast food restaurants, furniture stores, movie theatres and more. You can change your bonus category once per quarter.

Which is better – cash back or points?

If you’re still getting your feet wet in the world of credit card rewards, it can be hard to tell what sort of card – cash back or points — fits you best. When comparing the value of cash back and points, you should weigh annual fees, bonuses and perks, as well as reward redemption and flexibility.

Fewer cash back cards charge annual fees, but travel cards that use points or miles usually offer large sign-up bonuses and more valuable travel perks like lounge access and credits for expedited security screening. Additionally, cash back cards generally make redeeming rewards as a statement credit, check or direct deposit simple, while redemption can be more complicated with travel cards, as well as less rewarding if you aren’t redeeming for travel. That being said, when things pick back up and we’re able to think about travel again, travel rewards cards can help you squeeze extra value out of your rewards via redemption through a travel portal or transfer to airlines and hotel loyalty programs.

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.

  • U.S. supermarkets: Blue Cash Preferred – 6% up to $6,000 a year
  • Gas: 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
  • All categories: 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…

  • Groceries
  • 35%
  • Travel
  • 27%
  • Gas
  • 23%
  • Dining
  • 14%

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.

Ongoing rewards

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.

Welcome bonus

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

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.

Here we put it all together.

Comparison of Blue Cash Preferred and Cash Wise Visa, first year…

Card: Blue Cash Preferred
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Cash Wise Visa
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card
Welcome bonus $250
after $1,000 spend/3 mths
$150
after $500 spend/3 mths
U.S. supermarkets $500*12 mths*6%=
$360
$500*12 mths*1.5%=
$90
U.S. gas stations $200*12 mths*3%=
$72
$200*12 mths*1.5%=
$36
Select U.S. streaming $100*12 mths*6%=
$72
$100*12 mths*1.5%=
$18
Digital wallet purchases $100*12 mths*1%=
$12
$100*12 mths*1.8%=
$21.60
Other spending $200*12 mths*1%=
$24
$200*12 mths*1.5%=
$36
Annual fee $95 $0
Total first year $695 $351.60

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.

Pros

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: Rather than keeping track of the monetary value of point or mile conversions, cash back cards simply give a percentage of your purchase back. If you want a card for all occasions, flat percentage cards offer cash back on all purchases — usually 1.5% — but bonus category and tiered rewards cards offer much higher cash back on specific purchases.
  • Sign-up bonuses are usually available: The best cash back sign-up bonuses can reach up to $300 and generally begin at $150, which is fantastic for covering things like balance transfer fees. Sign-up bonuses for cash back cards are great incentives since they’re usually accessible within a large purchase or two.
  • Everyday spending or boosted rewards: Whether you want to maximize your money back on essentials like groceries and gas, or you need a versatile card that earns rewards where your other cards don’t, cash back cards can adapt to any wallet.
  • Build and maintain credit score: Cash back cards encourage healthy credit card spending by rewarding a paid balance with straightforward rewards on consistent purchases to avoid interest.
  • Practice to get a more rewarding travel card: Although some cash back cards don’t offer benefits as varied as travel cards, bonus category and tiered cards can prepare you for building miles with similar rewards structures you won’t have to micromanage. Meanwhile, you may be able to earn rewards that can pool or convert for travel down the road.
  • Frequently no annual fee: Cash back cards typically don’t charge an annual fee, which is great for boosting your reward earnings! However, if you feel you can spend money to make money, some cards offer premium cash back for an annual fee.
  • Cash back rewards frequently don’t expire: Some cash back card rewards never expire for the life of your account (barring other terms) – perfect for anyone wanting to save their rewards without redemption windows breathing down their neck.

Cons

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: Don’t expect many travel benefits outside basic auto rental insurance with cash back cards, but cash back may prove more valuable than travel features for now.
  • Cash back rewards could expire: Most cash back card rewards don’t expire for the life of your account, but you could lose them if your account is closed, you fail to pay your balance or you don’t use your card for periods ranging from 12 to 18 months.
  • Some cash back cards have maximum spend limits on certain categories: Bonus category and tiered rewards cards might have a quarterly or annual spending cap before your higher cash back returns to 1%. For instance, you may have a combined purchase max of $1,500 per quarter or $6,000 per year. If you think you might exceed the bonus spending cap, beginners should consider flat percentage cards that can earn unlimited cash back at a lower rate. Consumer who want to maximize their spending may want combinations of cash back cards.
  • You may have to sign up each quarter to qualify for boosted cash back rewards: Activating each your rewards category each quarter is common for bonus category cards. Cardholders who could forget quarterly deadlines – or don’t like dealing with them – may not find these higher-earning cards to be worthwhile.
  • Sign-up bonuses usually require a minimum spend within 3 months: Unfortunately, sign-up bonuses aren’t immediate. They typically require spending $500 to $1,000 within 3 months, which could disqualify certain cards you might be looking at, depending on your budget.
  • Carrying a balance negates any rewards you earn: Because rewards credit cards do pose an interest rate higher than the rewards rate, it’s key to pay off your balance each month or your interest will eat your cash back.

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.
These rules of thumb will make sure your card is operating at peak performance while avoiding these common cash back credit card mistakes.

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, American Express, Capital One, Bank of America and Wells Fargo cardholders.

Redeeming Discover cash back

Discover allows the following redemption options:

  • Redeem for gift cards (sometimes with an added $5 value)
  • 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
  • Convert cash back to points for Citi ThankYou Rewards

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 (as a check or direct deposit)
  • Redeem for gift cards
  • Redeem for a statement credit
  • Pay with rewards at Amazon checkout

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.

Redeeming Capital One cash back

Capital One allows cash back to be redeemed at any time and amount as the following:

Capital One cash back doesn’t expire for the life of your account, however you will lose any rewards not redeemed if your account is closed. You can also conveniently set up automatic redemptions.

Redeeming Bank of America cash back

Bank of America cash rewards can be redeemed at any time and amount (barring a few terms) as the following:

  • Redeem for a check (starting at $25)
  • Redeem for a statement credit
  • Direct deposit into a Bank of America checking or savings account
  • Redeem for a credit to an eligible Merrill account

Bank of America’s cash rewards don’t expire for the life of your account, but rewards redeemed as checks will expire in 90 days if you don’t cash them. Additionally, check and qualifying Merrill 529 account contribution redemptions start at $25. Automatic redemptions are also available only for eligible Bank of America, Merrill accounts, also starting at $25.

Bank of America Preferred Rewards members could also earn up to 25%-75% more rewards across all categories.

Redeeming Wells Fargo cash back

Wells Fargo cash back can be redeemed as the following:

  • Cash back redemptions at Wells Fargo ATMS (only in $20 increments)
  • Direct deposit into Wells Fargo checking or savings accounts
  • Redeem for a credit toward qualifying Wells Fargo mortgage principal balances
  • Redeem for a Wells Fargo credit card statement or personal loan credit
  • Redeem for a variety of merchandise, travel, or gift card rewards through the Wells Fargo GoFar Rewards

Wells Fargo cash rewards don’t expire for the life of your account, and the redemption options are mainly beneficial if you already have a Wells Fargo banking account.


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 laura.mohammad@creditcards.com.


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