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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 tout 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 rewards, including points, price discounts and cash back, to users.

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% 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% 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 as 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.

SunTrust Bank Delta SkyMiles World Debit Card

Why we picked it: For travelers who favor Delta Air Lines and its SkyMiles program, the SunTrust Bank Delta SkyMiles World Debit Card offers additional opportunities to earn miles. This debit card awards you with 5,000 bonus miles after your first signature-based or PIN-based purchase and up to 1 mile per dollar on all future PIN- or signature-based purchases.

Your earnings rate depends on your connected account. For a SunTrust Advantage Checking account, cardholders accrue 1 mile for every $2 spent on eligible purchases. For a SunTrust Exclusive Checking or Signature Advantage Checking account, the earning rate is 1 mile per dollar.

A few caveats to keep in mind with this debit card: It caps your rewards at 4,000 miles per month, and it has an annual fee of up to $95, which may be discounted based on your relationship with SunTrust Bank.

Also, note that a SkyMiles World Debit Card is available only to Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington, D.C., residents.

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • Caps your rewards at 4,000 miles per month
  • Annual fee of up to $95
  • Only available in certain states

Who should apply: Those who bank at SunTrust, don’t want a credit card, are members of Delta SkyMiles and/or qualify for the for SunTrust Advantage Preferred account 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 American Express Serve card 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% back on all their purchases, but the card has a $7.95 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.

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 checking account.

Who should skip: If you have 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: PayPal’s Business Debit Mastercard lets you spend the money you have with PayPal. Cardholders can earn unlimited 1% 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 and/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.

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.

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Credit Card Rate Report
Reward
16.35%
Student
17.07%
Airline
16.04%
Business
14.59%
Cash Back
16.47%

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