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Are cash back debit cards worth it?

See what kind of rewards you can earn with cash back debit cards — and which card is right for you

Summary

As credit card issuers face a more competitive marketplace, banks are expanding offers and incentives in the debit card arena. Now, several debit cards are poised to offer rewards to users, including cash back.

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Many experts suggest using a credit card rather than a debit card because it offers better protection against fraud and can give the cardholder access to comprehensive rewards programs. In general, debit cards can’t compete with these perks.

As credit card issuers face a more competitive marketplace, banks are expanding offers and incentives in the debit card arena. Debit cards, which draw money directly out of a checking account, are now poised to offer users rewards, including points, price discounts and cash back.

A cash back debit card may be a great option for consumers with poor credit or limited credit card choices.

Are cash back debit cards worth it?

Consider your situation and goals. Are you a rewards-seeker with no credit history or a poor credit score? It can be challenging to get approved for an unsecured credit card that offers benefits like points, miles or cash back rewards, especially with thin or damaged credit. By opting for a cash back debit card, you can still earn rewards on your spending.

Additionally, if you have a penchant for overspending, a cash back debit card may be the perfect choice for you — it offers rewards but also limits your spending to what you can afford.

Best debit cards for earning cash back

For consumers with limited credit card choices, a viable option is a debit card. You have several great options to consider. Here are four debit cards that are standouts for cash back and miles benefits.

Discover Cashback Debit

Why we picked it: With the Discover Cashback Debit card, users can earn up to $30 cash back per month, thanks to a rate of 1 percent back on a maximum of $3,000 in purchases per month. Discover does not require a minimum deposit to open your checking account, but cardholders must make a deposit into their accounts within 45 days from the opening date.

Rewards don’t expire as long as the account is open and in good standing with Discover. This card’s redemption options include an auto-deposit to a savings account or a credit in the checking, savings or money market account you hold with Discover. You’ll also have access to more than 60,000 no-fee ATMs.

Pros:

  • No monthly maintenance fees
  • Access to more than 60,000 no-fee ATMs
  • 1 percent cash back

Cons:

  • No physical branches
  • Can’t deposit cash
  • 24/7 customer service

Who should apply: If you don’t mind doing all of your banking online, this card could be right for you because there are no physical Discover branches. You’ll also receive 24/7, U.S.-based customer service.

Who should skip: If you want to visit a brick and mortar branch or you prefer to use credit cards for your everyday purchases, this card probably isn’t for you.

Delta SkyMiles Debit Card

Why we picked it: For travelers who favor Delta Air Lines and its SkyMiles program, the Delta SkyMiles® Debit Card offers additional opportunities to earn miles. This debit card rewards you with 5,000 bonus miles after your first signature-based or PIN-based purchase and up to 1 mile per every $2 on all future PIN- or signature-based purchases. While this debit card has a $95 annual fee, you can earn additional miles on Direct Delta Purchases depending on your status with Trusit — who issues this debit card. Truist Wealth, Truist Asset Management Account and existing Signature Advantage clients can earn 1 additional mile per $1 for Direct Delta Purchases.

Pros:

  • 5,000 bonus miles after your first signature-based or PIN-based purchase
  • Miles earned when you sign for transactions, shop online or use your PIN

Cons:

  • Annual fee of up to $95
  • Must fly Delta a lot to benefit

Who should apply: Those who bank at Truist, don’t want a credit card, are members of Delta SkyMiles or who are Truist Wealth, Truist Asset Management Account and existing Signature Advantage clients, are all good candidates for the card.

Who should skip: If you don’t want to pay a fee or you want to earn more miles for purchases, a credit card might be a better fit.

American Express Serve Cash Back

Why we picked it: The Serve® American Express® Prepaid Debit Account is slightly different from others on this list, as it’s a prepaid debit card. Essentially, funds are not tied to a checking account. Rather, the consumer loads funds onto the card, and spending is deducted from that preloaded balance.

Cardholders can earn an unlimited 1 percent back on all their purchases, but the card has a $6.95 monthly fee. Additionally, you’ll pay a $3.95 fee to add more cash to the card.

You can earn cash back for both in-person and online purchases. Unlike some debit cards that may make you wait until the end of the month to access your earnings, this cash back prepaid card gives you access to your rewards immediately. To access your cash back rewards, log in to your online account portal or the mobile app.

Plus, Amex is known for superlative fraud protection, and this card doesn’t disappoint. American Express Serve cards offer purchase protection benefits typically seen only in credit cards. If an item you buy with the card is damaged or stolen for up to 120 days from the date of purchase, Amex may reimburse you up to $1,000 per incident (not to exceed $50,000).

Pros:

  • Immediate access to rewards
  • Excellent fraud protection
  • Possible free reloads at participating locations

Cons:

  • Monthly fee
  • Must use MoneyPass® ATMs for free transactions

Who should apply: If you’re looking for a way to limit your spending and don’t want to carry cash with you, this card could be a good choice. In addition, it’s a convenient way to bank without having a checking account.

Who should skip: If you make a lot of international transactions, you use out-of-network ATMs or you want to build up your credit, you should probably consider another option.

PayPal Debit Business Mastercard

Why we picked it: The PayPal Business Debit Mastercard® lets you spend the money you have with PayPal. Cardholders can earn unlimited 1 percent cash back on eligible purchases, including any made from a linked bank account, which is a unique benefit. This card also charges no annual fee.

This card from PayPal also offers the superior benefits that come with any Mastercard, including worldwide acceptance and ATMs, online account management and protection with zero fraud liability.

Pros:

  • No annual fee
  • Benefits that come with Mastercard
  • Fraud protection

Cons:

  • $1.50 ATM withdrawal fee
  • No sign-up bonus
  • PayPal transfers limited to $400 per day

Who should apply: If you want a debit card linked to your PayPal business account, automatic accruing cash back rewards or the ability to transfer funds between your PayPal account and your bank account for free, this could be a great fit.

Who should skip: If you want a sign-up bonus, no ATM fees and bonus rewards on certain spending categories you might want to look elsewhere.

Cash back credit cards

If you want to build credit while earning cash back, then you may want to apply for a cash back credit card. A number of cash back cards come with a flat rate of cash back, while others offer higher percentages of cash back for select purchase categories (such as dining, travel or gas) and then a flat rate of cash back for all other purchases.

For example, a cash back credit card may offer 3 percent cash back for grocery and gas purchases, but 2 percent cash back for all other purchases.

Be careful with cash back credit cards — if you can’t pay off your balance in full by the due date, then you’ll risk paying much more in interest than you stand to earn in cash back rewards.

Bottom line

If you don’t want to use a credit card, a cash back debit card can be a valuable addition to your wallet. Although it won’t offer as many benefits and perks as a rewards card, it can still help you limit your spending, and it’s a good alternative for those with poor credit. If you do opt for a cash back debit card, just make sure you find the one that offers you the highest rewards rate as well as the benefits you’d like most.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

Credit Card Rate Report
Reward
18.26%
Student
18.78%
Airline
18.08%
Business
16.47%
Cash Back
18.16%

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