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

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

5%
Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time 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
14.24% - 25.24% variable

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

3%
Earn 3% cash back on all purchases in your first year up to $20,000 spent.
1.5%
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases after initial $20,000 spend in your first year.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
Double Cash Back
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
17.24% - 25.99% variable

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

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

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
$150
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
16.24% - 26.24% variable

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

3%
Earn 3% cash back on gas or your choice of one of five other popular categories.
2%
Earn 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
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
16.24% - 26.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

3%
Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment
2%
Earn 2% at grocery stores
1%
Earn 1% on all other purchases

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
$150
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
16.24% - 26.24% variable
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

Apply Now

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
14.99% - 25.99% variable

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

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.
1%
Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
$150
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
17.24% - 25.99% variable

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

Apply Now

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
15.99% - 25.99% (Variable)

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

4%
Earn unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment
2%
Earn 2% at grocery stores
1%
Earn 1% on all other purchases

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
$300
Annual Fee
$95, waived first year
Regular APR
16.74% - 25.74% variable

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

1.8%
Enjoy 1.8% cash rewards on qualified digital wallet purchases, like Apple Pay® or Google Pay™, during the first 12 months from account opening
1.5%
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
$150
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
15.99% - 27.99% 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.


Comparing Cash Back Credit Card Offers

Updated: August 21, 2019

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 on which is best for your spending habits. Choosing a credit card is an important financial decision, so we lay out the pros and cons for you all in one place. We evaluated over 600 credit card offers using the criteria below to come up with our list of the top cards for cash back. Here are our findings.

Whether you want to know what to look for in a cash back card or how to use it, we can help.


best cash-back credit cards of 2019

Best Cash Back Credit Cards

The best credit card for you will depend on your personal needs and preferences. Here's our take on 2019'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!

Discover it® Cash Back

Pros

If you like the idea of working towards maximum rewards, this card is a good choice for you, because you could potentially earn up to $600 at year end by earning 5% back on select rotating categories for up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter (activation required) and the cash back match at the end of the first year. 5% categories can include Amazon.com and grocery stores. You can also receive free Social Security number alerts, a special feature of Discover cards.

Cons

While competitive, Discover as a network is not as robust as Mastercard and Visa and is accepted at fewer locations abroad. Also, you'll need to decide if rotating categories are for you as they require a bit more legwork than a flat-rate cash back card. Finally, there's no sign-up bonus.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Pros

Other cards chase the Freedom Unlimited's first-year and ongoing cash back rewards, but this card is a tough one to beat. It offers 3% back the first year for the first $20,000 spent – in fact, we found that Americans love 3% cash back the best of rewards, at 31%. The Freedom Unlimited can be partnered with a Chase Sapphire card to take advantage of the travel boost those cards offer through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

Cons

The Freedom Unlimited may not be the best choice for world travel, with its 3% foreign transaction fee. Also, the balance transfer fee is high, at 3% or $5, whichever is higher. The go-to rate also starts out high.

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Pros

If you're looking for a card with all the boxes checked, you'll want to eye the Capital One Quicksilver Card. It has competitive ongoing rewards as well as a decent sign-up bonus. With the 1.5% back on all purchases, you don't have to deal with the hassle of rotating categories or quarterly sign-ups. Also, you won't have to choose between an introductory APR and rewards, because this card has both. Finally, there is no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee.

Cons

The sign-up bonus isn't the highest, with the BofA Cash Rewards card now offering $200 back with a $1,000 spend within the first 90 days, while some luxury cards offer even larger sums. And the required credit of good to excellent is a high bar for someone whose credit isn't the best.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Pros

The Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card recently switched its 3% back offer at gas stations to a monthly option of one of 6 categories, which frees things up considerably. (That's with a $2,500 maximum quarterly spend when combined with the 2% categories.) This card has a nice little sign-up bonus, and there's also a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 billing cycles (it's 16.24%-26.24% variable after that).

Cons

The tiered rewards can be beaten by other cards, if you know in advance how you tend to spend. Also, because of the varied tiers, this card takes a little organization, including changing your 3% category each month if you want to maximize your earnings.

Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

The SavorOne is the little brother of the Savor card. While it comes with some lower cash back and a smaller sign-up bonus, the SavorOne still packs a mighty punch and is great for daily use.

Pros

The SavorOne offers a hearty 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, as well as 2% back at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases. It's ideal if you lead an outgoing lifestyle and are looking for a card without an annual fee. It also has no foreign transaction fee, which makes it suitable for use abroad.

Cons

The sign-up bonus and cash back rate on dining and entertainment are lower than its big brother, the Savor card, but this is to be expected in exchange for no annual fee.

Blue Cash Preferred®Card from American Express

Pros

The Blue Cash Preferred Card has recently introduced some unique new cash back categories like 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions (including Netflix, Hulu and Spotify, among others), and 3% cash back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, buses and more. Not to mention, this card offers an unprecedented 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 annual, then 1%).

Cons

This is the one of the few cards on our list of top cash back cards that requires an annual fee, and it is not waived the first year, unlike the Capital One Savor.

Chase Freedom®

Pros

With competitive rotating categories and a nice little sign-up bonus, this card is a good choice for the cardholders who like positioning their purchases strategically to maximize cash back.

Cons

Unfortunately, the Chase Freedom has foreign transaction fees, making it an unfortunate option for international travel or making purchases that go through a foreign bank.

Citi® Double Cash Card

This card is exceptional in a number of ways, from its ongoing rewards offer to its balance transfer offer. Be sure to include this card in your lineup of cards to eye before making a decision.

Pros

The Double Cash's unique ongoing rewards offer pays you 1% back when you purchase, then another 1% back when you pay your bill, which beats many of the other cash back cards out there. There's also no annual fee, as with most other cash back cards.

Cons

There's no sign-up bonus, and while there's a 0% APR balance transfer offer for 18 months (it's 15.99%-25.99% variable after that), no such luck with purchases.

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

The Savor card from Capital One is one of our favorite cash back cards. Not only does it offer high percentages in desirable categories, but it also comes with a competitive intro bonus offer.

Pros

The Savor's sign-up bonus of $300 for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months is one of the best offers in the cash back card category. Additionally, if you frequently find yourself eating at restaurants or ordering food to dine in, you'll love the Savor's 4% back on dining. That 4% also extends to entertainment purchases such as movies, concerts, sporting events, and more. There's also 2% back at grocery stores.

Cons

Although it is waived for the first year, you'll be looking at a $95 annual fee after that.

Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa®

Pros

This card's sign-up bonus is competitive, and it comes with the standard 1.5% back on all purchases of many cash back cards. There's also a higher cash back rate of 1.8% on qualified digital wallet purchases during the first 12 months on account opening. (Alternatively, the Apple Card offers 2% back on Apple Pay.) With the Cash Wise, you can get protection for your cellphone, and excellent credit may not be necessary, which means you might be accepted with a score as low as 670. Finally, there's no hassle of quarterly sign-ups or changing categories.

Cons

The 0% intro APR offer is 15 months on purchases and qualifying balance transfers (then variable APR of 15.99% - 27.99% applies), the latter of which must be made within 120 days to enjoy the low 3% balance transfer fee. There's also a foreign transaction fee of 3%, which may not be the best choice for overseas travel. And there are cards that offer a better cashback rate on everyday purchases, such as the Blue Cash products from American Express.

Compare the Best Cash Back Credit Cards

Credit CardBest For:Cash Back %CreditCards.com RatingAnnual Fee
Discover it® Cash BackEveryday spending5% on rotating categories each quarter*4.3 / 5$0
Chase Freedom Unlimited®No annual fee3% first year (up to $20,000), then 1.5%3.8 / 5$0
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit CardYour first cash back card1.5%3.4 / 5$0
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit cardChoice of cash back category3% on a chosen category3.4 / 5$0
Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit CardDining and entertainment3% on dining and entertainment3.7 / 5$0
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American ExpressU.S. supermarket purchases6% at U.S. supermarkets**4.3 / 5$95
Chase Freedom®Rotating cash back categories5% on up to $1500 in bonus categories3.1 / 5$0
Citi® Double Cash CardFlat-rate cash back2% (1% as you buy, 1% as you pay)3.8 / 5$0
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit CardSign-up bonus4% on dining and entertainment4.8 / 5$0 first year, then $95
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® CardCell phone protection1.5%3.8 / 5$0

*On up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter after enrollment, then 1%
**For the first $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1 point per dollar

Research methodology: how we arrived at the best cards

Cash back credit cards analyzed: 682

Criteria used: Cash back rate, other rewards, redemption options, redemption flexibility, cash back categories, credit needed, miscellaneous benefits and features, security, ease of application, sign-up bonus, customer service, rates and fees

After analyzing 600+ card offers, we've hand-selected the 10 best cash back credit cards. The Discover it Cash Back card offers generous cash back and is our top pick due to its high rewards value and flexibility in redeeming cash back.

What are cash back cards and how do they work?

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.

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. Here's how it works: 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.



CreditCards.com Poll: Cash back leads cards pack in 2019

It's clear that Americans love their rewards cards, according to our July 2019 poll, which notably shows a jump in cash back from 43% last year to 49% this year. Also notable is that the number of consumers holding a business credit card has more than doubled from 8% in 2018 to 18%.

Americans' favorite types of cards...

  • 49%
  • Cash back
  • 29%
  • Gas/retail
  • 20%
  • Airline/hotel
  • 19%
  • General travel
  • 18%
  • Business

CreditCards.com July 2019 Favorite Cards Survey

We found that cash back cardholders were the most likely to redeem rewards (88% did so at least once, including 30% at least monthly and 13% weekly).

We also learned that:

  • Gas/retail rewards were the most likely to be redeemed frequently (43% of cardholders redeemed at least monthly and 23% weekly).
  • Northeasterners are the biggest cash back fans (56% have at least one of these cards as opposed to 51% in the West, 47% in the South and 43% in the Midwest).
  • Parents are much more likely than non-parents to have a cash back card (54% vs. 43%).

"The math says that transferable travel rewards are the most valuable, but it takes time and effort to maximize them, whereas cash back offers simplicity and universal appeal," said CreditCards.com industry analyst Ted Rossman. "At the end of the day, the best reward for you is one that you’re going to use and enjoy. I’m pleased that the vast majority of rewards cardholders took advantage of their points and miles over the past year."



Comparing 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, each with their own advantages.

Ongoing rewards

Rewards can vary widely, sometimes with maximum spends 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.

Here we put it all together.

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

CardWelcome bonusU.S. supermarketsU.S. gas stationsSelect U.S. streamingDigital wallet purchasesOther spendingAnnual feeTotal first year
Blue Cash Preferred$250 after $1,000 spend/3 mths$500*12 mths*6%=$360$200*12 mths*3%=$72$100*12 mths*6%=$72$100*12 mths*1%=$12$200*12 mths*1%=$24$95$695
Cash Wise Visa$150 after $500 spend/3 mths$500*12 mths*1.5%=$90$200*12 mths*1.5%=$36$100*12 mths*1.5%=$18$100*12 mths*1.8%=$21.60$200*12 mths*1.5%=$36$0$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. Here are other factors to consider when choosing a cash back card.

Special features and benefits

Some cards have features like damage and loss insurance on cellphones, such as the Cash Wise, which will reimburse you for up to $600 (with a $25 deductible) if you pay your bill each month with your card. Other cards offer 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.

0% intro APR

If you are looking for a cash back card with a 0% intro APR on balance transfers and purchases, some of the cash back products offer that. For example, while the Blue Cash Preferred's 0% offer for purchases and balance transfers is 12 months (it's 14.99%-25.99% variable after that), the Cash Wise Visa has a 0% offer for 15 months on balance transfers and purchases (it's 16.24%-28.24% variable after that).

Which are the best cash back card companies?

Several card issuers offer products with some stand-out qualities, such as:

  • Discover – The Discover it cards match your cash back at the end of your first year instead of a sign-up bonus.
  • Chase – The Freedom and Freedom Unlimited can be partnered with Sapphire cards, giving you a boost when you book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • Bank of America – BofA offers several competitive cash back cards which can be especially lucrative if you are a Preferred Rewards client.
  • Wells Fargo – This bank's cash back cards, such as the Cash Wise, offer cellphone protection, up to $600 (subject to a $25 deductible), when you pay your cell phone bill with the 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 cards typically offer 1.5% on all purchases, allowing you to not worry about maximum spends or quarterly sign-ups. However, the rewards are lower, which is the tradeoff for not having to think about what and where you are making purchases. Examples of flat rate cards include:
    • Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards
    • Chase Freedom Unlimited
    • Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa
  • 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 required. For example, the Blue Cash Preferred earns you 6% at U.S. supermarkets, although there is a maximum of $6,000 a year (then it's 1% after that). Examples of a tiered cash back card include:
    • Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express
    • Bank of America Cash Rewards
  • 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 3 months. You have to sign up for the categories each quarter and you have to pay attention to when and where you make purchases. Examples of cash back cards with rotating categories include:
    • Chase Freedom
    • Discover it Cash Back
    • Discover it Student Cash Back
  • Hybrid. The U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature offers a unique rewards program that combines the tiered program with the rotating categories program. You earn 5% back on 2 categories of your choice each quarter, and there's the added advantage that you get a slightly higher maximum spend of $2,000 a quarter compared to its competitors. Then, you earn 2% back on your choice of one type of everyday purchase, such as gas stations or grocery stores, and 1% back on all other eligible net purchases.

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%
  • Amazon.com, Target, Walmart.com: Discover it Cash Back – 5% up to $1,500 spend in the 4th quarter (then 1%, enrollment required), plus another 5% at the end of first year
  • All spending: Chase Freedom Unlimited – 3% back up to $20,000 spend the first year

What are common 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.

Consumers have figured out that they can really earn with groceries: Spend $500 a month for a year with 3% cash back and earn $180 back – enough to pay for a week's groceries!

Interestingly, each region dominates a different category: While the Midwest is at the top with groceries, consumers in the West like travel, gas stations are most popular in the South, and the Northeast goes for dining.

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."

Most popular rewards categories...

All cash back cards are not created equal. While certain kinds are more popular, the choices can include:

  • Restaurants
  • Gas stations
  • Grocery stores
  • Travel, including airlines, hotels and rental cars
  • Wholesale clubs
  • Home improvement stores
  • Department stores
  • Ridesharing and transit

There are also business cash back cards, which reward you for spending on advertising, utilities, software and hardware, travel, and more.

What is the average cash back rate?

According to our annual cash back survey, the average cash back card offers a cash back rate of around 1.25 percent per dollar. Here is the spread of cards that we found:

  • 1 percent base cash back: 31 cards
  • 1.5 percent cash back: 18 cards
  • 2 percent cash back: 3 cards

Why should I use cash back card?: Benefits and drawbacks

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. In fact, polls show that people prefer cash back cards by a ratio of 3-to-1.

While many people prefer cash back cards because of their simplicity, the cards also have their drawbacks, so we've compiled a shortlist 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.

Benefits

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 work with – Cash back cards may be the simplest way to earn rewards since cardholders know exactly how much they will earn back from each purchase without having to convert a point or mile into an equivalent cash value.

Lots of redemption choices – Cash back rewards can be redeemed in a variety of ways, including statement credits, checks, bank deposits, gift cards and charitable donations.

Sign-up bonuses – More than 60 percent of the cards surveyed offered sign-up bonuses – of up to $200 cash back – after spending a certain amount within a specific timeframe. Some of the best sign-up bonuses on the market are offered by cash back cards.

Good cards for everyday spending – These are good cards for earning rewards on restaurants, groceries, gas and other everyday expenditures.

Can keep building credit – If you pay in full and on time each month, you can continue to build your credit, allowing you to eventually graduate to a premium rewards card.

Makes for good practice – These cards are a great way to practice using a simpler rewards card until you feel ready to move on to a more ambitious rewards product.

No annual fee – Most cash back cards have no annual fee, yet they often have sign-up bonuses of $150 and more. Out of the 52 cards polled in our yearly cash back survey, only four had annual fees.

Choice in benefits – Increasingly, cash back cards offer such benefits as purchase protection and extended warranty.

Limited expiration dates – Although some cards place restrictions on the amount of time you have to redeem your cash back rewards, the vast majority do not. Only eight out of 52 cards had expiration dates.

Added bonus – If you load your cash back rewards back onto your credit card, it will earn its own cash back when you spend it.

Drawbacks

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 – When you choose a cash back card over a travel rewards card, you typically lose out on such features as airport lounge access and annual travel credits. Also, cash back cards often have foreign transaction fees, making them not ideal for foreign travel or shopping online with companies that use foreign banks.

Not ideal for travel – Unlike many travel rewards cards, cash back cards often have foreign transaction fees, making them not ideal for foreign travel or shopping online with companies that use foreign banks.

Cash back may expire – Some issuers may require you to redeem within a specific amount of time.

Maximum spend requirements – Most cards with rotating categories cap you with a maximum spend.

Sign-ups required – Some cards require you to sign up each quarter to qualify for the increased rewards.

Minimum spend requirement – To earn cards' sign-up bonuses, you are typically required to spend a minimum of up to $1,000 within a set amount of time.

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. For instance, a late payment on a $500 balance can add up to more than $40 in penalties and interest.

4. Never carry a balance

Even if you make your minimum payment on time, the interest that you have on a rotating balance can easily outmatch the cash back that you earn. Over time, you may find yourself owing more than you earn.

5. Pick a sign-up bonus you can meet

Cards that offer sign-up bonuses usually have a minimum spend requirement that needs to be met within a certain amount of time. So, with the Chase Freedom cards, you have to spend $500 within the first 3 months of card membership to get the $150 bonus. Make sure you pick a card that has a requirement you can meet.

6. Earn more cash back

Some cards reward for signing on an authorized user or referring new cardholders, so check for that.

7. Choose cards that match your spending

Look at your spending before choosing your card. If you find that you spend a disproportionate amount on, say, groceries or restaurants, let that inform your decision. If you love to shop at Amazon, then a card that rewards for shopping there may be best.

8. Maximize your cards’ spending categories

If you have a card with 5 percent rotating quarterly categories – such as the Discover it Cash Back card or the Chase Freedom 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 shopping early

9. Call your card issuer

After your first year of card membership, if there is an annual fee, consider calling your card issuer and asking if they'll waive the annual fee a second year. Our study shows that when cardholders ask for better terms on their cards, chances are they'll get it.

Ways to redeem cash back

The most common redemption options for cash back cards are statement credits, checks mailed to you, bank deposits, prepaid gift cards and charitable donations. To redeem your cash back, you can go online or call the issuer directly to specify in what form you want to receive the cash back. Some issuers will allow you to opt to have the rewards automatically applied each month, while others require you to request the rewards each time you want to use them.

The amount of cash back needed to redeem your rewards varies depending on the specific card and the redemption option. Read on to see what options are available for Discover, Citi, Chase and American Express cardholders.

Redeeming Discover cash back

Discover allows the following redemption options:

  • Redeem for gift cards from more than 100 popular brands, starting at $20. At least $5 free will be added to each gift card.
  • Pay with rewards at Amazon checkout with no minimum.
  • Make a charitable donation, starting at a penny.
  • Deposit any amount into your bank account or apply to your Discover bill as a statement credit, starting at a penny.

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 for at least $25 up to the total cash rewards balance at the time you redeem.
  • Redeem for a statement credit to your card account for at least $25 up to the total cash rewards balance at the time you redeem.
  • Get a gift card in preset denominations from the available inventory.
  • Redeem for a credit to your linked Citi savings or checking account or to a checking account from which you have paid a Citi credit card bill at least two times.

Your cash rewards balance will expire if you have not earned cash back from purchases or payments for 12 months. If you close or convert your card account, you must redeem any eligible cash rewards prior to account closure to avoid forfeiting your rewards. If your card account is closed by Citi, you cannot redeem cash rewards and you will forfeit any accumulated cash rewards.

Redeeming Chase cash back

Chase cardholders can redeem cash back rewards at a 1:1 value for gift cards, travel and more through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

  • Redeem for cash at any time, for any amount.
  • Redeem cash back for a wide variety of gift cards.

Your cash back will not expire as long as your account remains open. However, if Chase closes your account due to fraudulent activities, failure to pay or other reasons, you will immediately lose all rewards.

Redeeming American Express cash back

American Express offers cash back in the form of Blue Cash Reward Dollars, which can be redeemed in the following ways:

  • Redeem as statement credits in increments of $25 whenever your available balance is $25 or more.
  • At times, AmEx may offer alternative redemption options, such as gift cards or merchandise.

We recommend that you familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions of your credit card’s rewards program. To avoid losing any rewards, be sure to use rewards before they expire or prior to closing your credit card account and pay your bill on time each month.


Check out our reviews

Interested in learning more about each card? We’ve reviewed several cash back credit cards – check them out in our reviews section.

All information about The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express is no longer available through CreditCards.com.


Robin Ratcliff is the managing editor for reviews on CreditCards.com. Before CreditCards.com, she worked as a analyst and editor, and still brings that same analytical rigor to her card recommendations today. You can reach Robin at robin.ratcliff@creditcards.com.
Tracy Brackman is a credit card news editor at CreditCards.com, writing breaking news stories on card updates and new card launches. You can reach Tracy at editors@creditcards.com.
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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