Best flat-rate cash back cards for 2018

These cards pay more than 1 percent cash back on every purchase

Tony Mecia
Personal finance writer
Rewards expert who writes the "Cashing In" reader Q&A column for CreditCards.com

Best flat-rate cash back cards

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date. Please see the bank’s website for the most current version of card offers.

A lot of times, people’s strategies to wring the most rewards out of their credit cards can become pretty complicated. 

One common approach is to have several cards with different category bonuses, then use those cards at just the right places. For instance, using one card for groceries, another card for dining out, another card for travel purchases. 

Another common strategy is to orient your spending on a single card – one that gives rewards you like, such as airline miles or flexible bank points. These cards, too, often have bonuses for spending on certain categories.

 

Video: Creditcards.com Cash back survey 2017

There’s nothing wrong with either of these approaches, or with using cards with category bonuses. The challenge comes with what to do with all your monthly spending that doesn’t fit into a bonus category. You might have a card that gives 2 percent on travel and dining and 1 percent on everything else ... and there is typically a lot of “everything else.”

The most sensible solution is to find a card that gives you a higher-than-usual rate of return on all that other spending. Or if you don’t like monkeying around with all these category bonuses, just find a card that gives you a solid and consistent return on all your spending and use that one card everywhere. 

In these situations, it is best to explore cash back cards that offer a flat rate on all purchases.

Many cash back cards come with category bonuses or rotate category bonuses each quarter (see our products page to find the current bonus categories). But there is also a class of cash back cards that give you a flat and predictable percentage back on everything you charge. Using one of those, either in combination with other cards or by itself, can be a smart way to increase the amount of rewards on all kinds of miscellaneous spending.

As of January 2018, here are the cards that offer a flat rate of more than 1 percent on all purchases. 

Cash back cards that pay a flat rate of more than 1 percent

 
Capital One Quicksilver
Annual fee
None
Cash back rate
1.5%
Sign-up bonus
$150 after spending $500 in the first 3 months
Notes: There is a similar card, called Quicksilver One, for people with average credit. It is $39 a year and has no sign-up bonus.
 
Citi Double Cash
Annual fee
None
Cash back rate
Effecively 2%
Sign-up bonus
None
Notes: You receive 1 percent back when you charge a purchase, plus 1 percent back when you pay your bill on time.
 
Capital One Spark Cash
Annual fee
$95 (waived 1st year)
Cash back rate
2%
Sign-up bonus
$500 after $4,500 in purchases in first 3 months
Notes: This is a business card, though remember that the definition of a business can be flexible.
 
Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature
Annual fee
None
Cash back rate
2%
Sign-up bonus
None
Notes: Cash back must be deposited into a Fidelity account.
 
Alliant Visa Signature Card
Annual fee
$59, waived first year
Cash back rate
3% first year, 2.5% after that
Sign-up bonus
None
Notes: Must be a member of the credit union
 
PenFed Power Cash Rewards
Annual fee
None
Cash back rate
1.5% on every purchase; 2% for current/former military members or with Access America checking account
Sign-up bonus
$100 after $1,500 in purchases in first 3 months
Notes: All applicants must be members of PenFed credit union in order to qualify, but there are options for nonmilitary applicants to join.

You can see that there are a number of attractive options, most with no annual fees, and some with significantly more in rewards than a meager 1 percent. 

The most rewarding is the Visa from Alliant Credit Union in Illinois. The credit union serves mostly employees of certain companies in Illinois, although anybody can join by making a donation of $10 or more to Foster Care to Success, a charity based in Cleveland.

That might sound like an unusual hoop to jump through, but a card that offers 3 percent cash back for a year and 2.5 percent after that is an unusual find. 

By using a solid flat-rate cash back card, you can boost your average rate of return and make even everyday expenses more rewarding.

See related: Cash back or miles? Ask yourself these 6 questions first



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Updated: 04-22-2018