Best Cash Back Credit Cards of 2019

With the right cash back card, you can earn rewards that put money in your pocket. Take a look at some of the best cash back cards available from Bankrate's partners and start maximizing the money you spend on eligible purchases, from gas and groceries to dining and travel.

Bankrate's Top Cash Back Cards of 2019

Need more information?

Skip down to read our card profiles and expert advice.

Best for no annual fee

Capital One Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Capital One's secure website

Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment Earn 2% at grocery stores Earn 1% on all other purchases
Welcome Offer:
$150 after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% intro on purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% intro on balance transfers for 15 months
Regular APR:
16.24% - 26.24% (Variable)

Card Details

  • Earn a one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 16.24% - 26.24% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 16.24% - 26.24% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for flat-rate cash back

Citi Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Citi's secure website

Citi® Double Cash Card

Rewards Rate:
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.
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% for 18 months on Balance Transfers*
Regular APR:
15.99% - 25.99% (Variable)

Card Details

  • 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.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.99% - 25.99% based on your creditworthiness.
  • Click "Apply Now" to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.99% - 25.99% based on your creditworthiness.*
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for 1.5% cash back on everything

Chase Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Chase's secure website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Rewards Rate:
Earn 3% cash back on all purchases in your first year up to $20,000 spent. Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases after initial $20,000 spend in your first year.
Welcome Offer:
Earn 3% cash back on all purchases in your first year up to $20,000 spent. After that earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months
Regular APR:
16.99% - 25.74% Variable

Card Details

  • New Offer! Double Cash Back: Earn 3% cash back on all purchases in your first year up to $20,000 spent. After that earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.99-25.74%. A Balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for your first rewards card

Capital One Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Capital One's secure website

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
Welcome Offer:
$150 after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% intro on purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% intro on balance transfers for 15 months
Regular APR:
16.24% - 26.24% (Variable)

Card Details

  • One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 16.24%-26.24% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 16.24%-26.24% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best first-year cash back earnings

HSBC Image

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent to Good (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On HSBC's secure website

HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card

Rewards Rate:
10% Anniversary Bonus on all Cash Rewards earned once a year Earn an Introductory 3% Cash Back on all purchases in the first 12 months from Account opening, up to the first $10,000 in purchases Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
Welcome Offer:
Earn an Introductory 3% Cash Back on all purchases in the first 12 months from Account opening, up to the first $10,000 in purchases
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% Introductory APR on credit card purchases for the first 12 months from account opening
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% Introductory APR on balance transfers for the first 12 months from account opening
Regular APR:
Variable APR of 14.99% - 24.99% will apply after the Introductory Period

Card Details

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • Earn an Introductory 3% Cash Back on all purchases in the first 12 months from Account opening, up to the first $10,000 in purchases
  • 10% Anniversary Bonus on all Cash Rewards earned once a year.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a 14.99% - 24.99% variable APR.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $0 liability for unauthorized purchases.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

Best for banking relationship bonuses

Bank of America Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Bank of America's secure website

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 3% cash back on gas or your choice of one of five other popular categories. Earn 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) Earn unlimited 1% on all other purchases
Welcome Offer:
$200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% Introductory APR on purchases for 15 billing cycles
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days
Regular APR:
15.99% - 25.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Card Details

  • No annual fee
  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 3% cash back on gas or your choice of one of five other popular categories, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases
  • 0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 15.99% - 25.99% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers
  • No expiration on rewards
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% - 75% more cash back on every purchase
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for cash back bonus

Discover Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Discover's secure website

Discover it® Cash Back

Rewards Rate:
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. Earn 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Welcome Offer:
Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% for 14 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% for 14 months
Regular APR:
13.99% - 24.99% Variable

Card Details

  • Intro Offer: Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • 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.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • No annual fee.

Best for dining and entertainment

Capital One Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Capital One's secure website

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment Earn 2% at grocery stores Earn 1% on all other purchases
Welcome Offer:
$300 after you spend $3000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Annual Fee:
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
16.74% - 25.74% (Variable)

Card Details

  • Earn a one-time $300 cash bonus after you spend $3000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases. Plus, earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through May 2020.
  • Receive a monthly statement credit for a Postmates Unlimited monthly membership through Dec. 2019 with the Capital One Savor Card
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Capital One cardholders get access to premium experiences in dining, entertainment and more
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, $95 after that
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for earning points in rotating categories

Amalgamated Bank of Chicago Image

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent to Good (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Amalgamated Bank of Chicago's secure website

ABOC Platinum Rewards Mastercard®

Rewards Rate:
Earn 5x rewards on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter in popular categories such as dining, groceries, travel, and automotive Earn Points on Every Purchase! It’s simple: $1 = 1 Point
Welcome Offer:
Earn $150 Statement Credit after you spend $1,200 on purchases within the first 90 days from account opening
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers
Regular APR:
15.15% - 25.15% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Card Details

  • 0% Intro APR on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 12 months; after that the variable APR will be 15.15% - 25.15%, based on your creditworthiness
  • Earn $150 Statement Credit after you spend $1,200 on purchases within the first 90 days from account opening
  • Earn 5x rewards on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter in popular categories such as dining, groceries, travel, and automotive
  • No upper limit on the points you can accumulate, and since points never expire, you can save up for a big award!
  • Earn Points on Every Purchase! It’s simple: $1 = 1 Point
  • No Annual Fee
  • Select Your Rewards Your Way
  • No Foreign Transaction Fee
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for personalized rewards

U.S. Bank Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good Credit to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On U.S. Bank's secure website

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

Rewards Rate:
5% cash back on your first $2,000 in eligible net purchases each quarter on the combined two categories you choose. 2% cash back on your choice of one everyday category, like gas stations or grocery stores. 1% cash back on all other eligible net purchases.
Welcome Offer:
$150 after you spend $500 in eligible net purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
Annual Fee:
$0*
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0%* intro on BTs for 12 billing cycles
Regular APR:
15.99% - 25.49%* (Variable)

Card Details

  • Earn up to $550 cash back in the first year.
  • $150 bonus after spending $500 in eligible net purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.
  • 5% cash back on your first $2,000 in combined eligible net purchases ($100 per quarter) on two categories you choose. That adds up to $400 cash back!
  • 2% cash back on your choice of one everyday category, like gas stations or grocery stores.
  • 1% cash back on all other eligible net purchases.
  • No limit on total cash back earned.
  • 0% Intro APR* on balance transfers for 12 billing cycles. After that, a variable APR currently 15.99% - 25.49%
  • No annual fee*
  • Great Offer from U.S. Bank, a 2019 World's Most Ethical Company® - Ethisphere Institute, February 2019

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.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.


Author: Barry Bridges | bbridges@bankrate.com


Details about the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card were last updated on 09.03.2019.

Bankrate helps you cash in on cash back credit cards

Looking to earn cash back on credit card purchases? We can help you pick the right card for it. Before you make your decision, take a look at what you need to know about cash back credit cards.



Bankrate’s top picks for cash back credit cards

Card Name Bankrate Score Best For
Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card 4.6/5 No annual fee
Citi® Double Cash Card 4.3/5 Flat-rate cash back
Chase Freedom Unlimited® 4.6/5 1.5% cash back on everything
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card 4.7/5 Your first rewards card
HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card 4.3/5 Cash back earnings in the first year
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card 4.4/5 Banking relationship bonuses
Discover it® Cash Back 4.7/5 Cash back bonus
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card 4.6/5 Dining and entertainment
ABOC Platinum Rewards Mastercard® N/A Earning points in rotating categories
U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card 4.5/5 Personalized rewards

Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

What we love:

  • Unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% on grocery stores and 1% on everything else
  • Earn $150 when you spend $500 in your first three months
  • 15-month 0% introductory APR offer on purchases and balance transfers (16.24% – 26.24% variable APR thereafter)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee

This card isn’t for you if: You don’t regularly spend on entertainment and eating out.

Bottom line: The SavorOne by Capital One is a great no annual fee cash back card for earning unlimited rewards.

Read the full review and apply on Capital One’s secure website.

Citi® Double Cash Card

What we love:

  • Earn an unlimited 1% on every purchase as you buy and another 1% as you pay off your purchase.
  • 18-month 0% introductory APR offer on balance transfers (15.99% – 25.99% variable APR thereafter)
  • The Lost Wallet® Service will replace your lost card within 24 hours
  • No annual fee

This card isn’t for you if: You have the ability to spend more, especially in specific categories.

Bottom line: The Double Cash card is a great tool for keeping practicing healthy card habits due to its 1% cash back incentive after paying off a purchase.

Read the full review and apply on Citi’s secure website.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

What we love:

  • 3% cash back offer for your first year on all purchases (up to $20,000, then 1.5%)
  • Redeem for cash back, travel, gift cards or shop with points on Amazon.com
  • 15-month 0% introductory APR offer on purchases and balance transfers (16.99% – 25.74% variable APR thereafter)
  • No annual fee

This card isn’t for you if: You prefer a cash back welcome offer.

Bottom line: The Freedom Unlimited is a solid no annual fee cash back card with flexible redemption options.

Read the full review and apply on Chase’s secure website.

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

What we love:

  • Earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no limit on how much cash back you can earn
  • $150 sign-up bonus when you spend $500 in your first three months
  • 15-month 0% introductory offer on purchases and balance transfers (16.24% – 26.24% variable APR thereafter)
  • No annual fee

This card isn’t for you if: You’re looking for a high-earning cash back card.

Bottom line: The Quicksilver from Capital One is a great starter cash back card for earning rewards on everyday purchases.

Read the full review and apply on Capital One’s secure website.

HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card

What we love:

  • 3% cash back on up to $10,000 spent within the first year of opening your account and 1.5% unlimited cash back on all purchases afterward
  • 10% anniversary bonus on all cash rewards earned at the end of every year as an account holder
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 0% introductory APR on credit card purchases and balance transfers for 12 months (14.99% – 24.99% variable thereafter)

This card isn’t for you if: You’re looking for another no annual fee card with higher cash back rewards rates for long-term value.
Read the full review and apply on HSBC’s secure website.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

What we love:

  • Bank of America Preferred Rewards clients receive up to a 25% to 75% cash back bonus on purchases, adding value to an already robust rewards program.
  • Having the choice of six categories for 3% cash back (travel, gas, online shopping, dining, drug stores and home improvement/furnishings on the first $2,500 in combined 2% and 3% category purchases each quarter) provides a ton of flexibility for earning rewards.
  • 0% intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 15.99% – 25.99% variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers.
  • The sign-up bonus — $200 in online cash rewards after you make $1,000 in purchases during the first 90 days — is easily obtainable.

This card isn’t for you if: Your spending habits don’t align with the quarterly earning limits. The $2,500 cap on combined spending for your 3% choice category and the 2% grocery store and wholesale club category could limit the earning potential of big-time grocery shoppers.

Bottom line: The banking bonuses help make this card an attractive companion for BofA account holders who make a fair amount of household-oriented purchases.

Read the full review and apply on Bank of America’s secure website.

Discover it® Cash Back

What we love:

  • Enroll to earn 5% cash back at different places every quarter (up to $1,500 per quarter) and 1% on everything else
  • Discover will automatically match all of the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year
  • 14-month 0% introductory APR offer on purchases and balance transfers (13.99% to 24.99% variable APR thereafter)
  • Your first late payment fee is waived (up to $39 thereafter)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee

This card isn’t for you if: You have trouble remembering to activate bonus categories.

Bottom line: The Discover it Cash Back’s welcome bonus is an excellent way to double your cash back earnings for your first year.

Read the full review and apply on Discover’s secure website.

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

What we love:

  • Get an unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on everything else
  • $300 cash bonus when you spend $3,000 in your first three months
  • $95 annual fee waived your first year
  • No foreign transaction fees

This card isn’t for you if: You don’t get out often.

Bottom line: As the sibling to the SavorOne, the Savor card is a stellar way to earn a high level of cash back rewards on your dining and entertainment purchases.

Read the full review and apply on Capital One’s secure website.

ABOC Platinum Rewards Mastercard®

What we love:

  • $1 spent equals 1 point; points never expire, and there’s no limit on how many you can earn
  • No annual fee, no foreign transaction fee
  • Earn 5x rewards on up to $1500 in purchases per quarter (categories include: dining, travel, auto, home improvement, and groceries)
  • $150 statement credit after spending $1,200 within the first 90 days as an account holder
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months (variable APR afterward of 15.15% – 25.15%, based on your creditworthiness)

This card isn’t for you if: You do not think you can spend up to the quarterly cap in the 5x reward category.

Read the full review and apply on Amalgamated Bank of Chicago’s secure website.

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

What we love:

  • Pick two out of 12 categories each quarter to earn 5% cash back in (up to $2,000 in combined purchases per quarter) and one out of three categories to earn an unlimited 2% cash back in. You’ll earn 1% on all other purchases.
  • Redeem your cash back for statement credit, direct deposit into your U.S. Bank checking/savings account or as a rewards card
  • No annual fee

This card isn’t for you if: You want a simple, cash back card without category caps.

Bottom line: The U.S. Bank Cash+ card was made to give cardholders a say in where they earn rewards, but you must remember to log in and select your category choices.

Read the full review and apply on U.S. Bank’s secure website.


What is a cash back credit card?

Just as the name says, this kind of card lets you earn cash back rewards on eligible purchases. For every $1 spent on those purchases, you earn a percentage back.

For example, a 3% cash back rate means 3 cents for every dollar in eligible spending. For a cardholder with a $4,000 annual grocery bill, earning 3% at the supermarket could mean up to $120 in cash back rewards.

Cash back cards are different from other types of rewards cards, like those that offer points or miles for travel purchases. Instead of complicated redemption programs, a cash back card typically offers a few simple ways to redeem your rewards, including:

  • Statement credits
  • Check payable to you
  • Direct deposits into one of your bank accounts
  • Gift cards

Depending on the card and the issuer, you also may be able to donate your cash back rewards to charity. Some travel cards allow charitable donations of points or miles, as well.

How can a cash back card save you money?

Cash back is essentially a discount on eligible purchases. You may not see it immediately at the register, but the payoff comes when you redeem your rewards.

Rewards rates: Flat, tiered and rotating bonus categories

Cash back cards come in a variety of forms. Flat-rate cash back cards, for example, give you the same rewards rate on every purchase. Cards with rotating categories or tiered cash back cards have categories that offer more cash back within certain spending groups (such as restaurants and gas stations).

Cards like the Discover it® Cash Back have rotating bonus categories that take a bit of effort to navigate in part because of the required quarterly sign-up. But with these cards, you’ll have the chance to earn a high level of rewards in a variety of categories throughout the year. With tiered rewards, you earn a set amount year-round for specific categories, such as 6% at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 annually, then 1%) with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express.

When deciding which type of cash back card is best for you, it’s important to know all of the options available to you.

Flat-rate

Flat-rate cash back cards offer the same rewards rate for each eligible purchase. These cards are great for those who aren’t keen on activating and tracking bonus categories each quarter. The Citi® Double Cash Card is a prime example of a flat-rate cash back card, as it offers 1% cash back for every purchase and an additional 1% for paying of that purchase.

Tiered

Tiered cash back cards earn you more cash back the more you spend — or in some cases, the more money you have available in your associated account. For example, the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card offers higher rewards rates based on your Bank of America checking, savings or investment account value. If your account is worth $20,000-$49,999, you’ll get 2.5X points back on travel and dining and 1.875X on everything else, compared to the normal 2X on travel and dining and 1.5X on everything else. And it only goes up from there — you’ll earn 3.5X on travel and dining and 2.625X on everything else with an account value of $100,000 or more.

Rotating bonus categories

With rotating categories, you’ll often get higher rewards rates, but a majority of these cards require enrollment in order to receive cash back in the category. This can be a problem for forgetful cardholders. Normally, if you forget to enroll, the issuer defaults your earnings in that category to 1% cash back.

Also, take category caps into consideration. Cards with rotating bonus categories tend to set caps on how much you can earn in high rewards categories. For example, the Discover it® Cash Back offers 5% cash back on rotating categories when you activate and enroll, but it caps the bonus rate earnings at $1,500 in purchases per quarter. After that, you’ll earn an unlimited 1%.

Figuring out which card is right for you

Review your spending for the past few months to see which categories you purchased the most in, and make sure to have your credit score handy to know which cards you have a chance at being approved for.

A busy family of four would most likely benefit more from a card that offers greater rewards on gas and groceries, such as the 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 annually, then 1%) and 3% at U.S. gas stations offered by the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, than a cash back card focused on travel. Frequent warehouse shoppers may find that a co-branded card, such as the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi, would give them the most bang for the buck.

If you can’t pinpoint an area where you spend the most in, go with a general-purpose cash back card that will get you earn rewards on most any kind of eligible purchase.


Pick a card that’s aligned with how you spend money. Some cards give you 2% cash back on all purchases while others may provide 5% cash back in rotating categories (like restaurants or travel) and 1% on everything else. Find the card that will give you the maximum benefit based on which categories you tend to spend the most amount of money in each month.

— Priya Malani, Founding Partner Stash Wealth


Pros of owning a cash back card:

  • Most cash back cards offer an unlimited 1% cash back on purchases outside of bonus categories.
  • Many offer cash back bonuses for hitting certain spending requirements within a time period.
  • You can normally redeem your cash back for things like merchandise, airfare, hotel stays, statement credits and more.

Cons of owning a cash back card:

  • Some cards require enrollment to receive a high level of cash back each quarter.
  • It’s not unusual for issuers to put a cap on how much you can earn within higher rewards categories.
  • You may have trouble maxing out your bonus categories if they aren’t relevant to your lifestyle.

Things to watch out for with cash back cards

With a cash back card, the amount you accrue is simple and easy to follow — it’s essentially a rebate on everything you spend. However, owning any kind of credit card means being aware of some potential pitfalls.

APR that cancels out rewards

When you run a large balance on your credit card, APR (annual percentage rate) could cancel out the rewards you’ve earned.

As long as you consistently pay off your balance each month, you can avoid paying these interest charges. But if you tend to carry a balance, your top priority when researching cash back cards should be looking for cards that offer lower APR or a pass on your first late payment.

Overspending for a bonus

Many cards offer sign-up bonuses that require you to spend a specific amount of money within a specific time-frame. You might feel tempted to sign up for a card just for the welcome offer, but be careful. By acting impulsively, you could overspend to qualify for the offer and end up carrying a balance.

Make sure the spending requirement is in line with how much you normally spend with a credit card. Running up a balance you can’t pay off in time could subject you to high APR, potentially making the sign-up bonus a net loss.

Letting your points expire

Above all, remember to redeem your cash back. If you don’t, there’s no use in getting a cash back card in the first place.

A number of cards offer rewards that don’t expire, but don’t assume every card does. Check the fine print and keep an eye on the rewards you’ve earned. If you have a big purchase planned, consider stockpiling your rewards for a while.

How often cash back is redeemed 2016 2017
Once a month or more 15% 24%
A few times a year 30% 32%
Once a year or less 20% 25%
Infrequently or never 35% 19%

Source: 2017 TSYS U.S. Consumer Payment Study


I have always chosen cash back credit cards over travel rewards cards for the one reason of simplicity. It is so much easier to know that for every $1,000 I spend I am getting $20 cash back (2%) rather than accumulating miles that have to be used to purchase a flight based on credit card companies’ conversion factors. If I want to travel, I can spend my cash back rewards on flight purchases, it’s so much simpler this way.

— Phillip Christenson, CFA, Portfolio Manager & Financial Advisor at Phillip James Financial


How to maximize bonus categories

Let’s break down how you can get the most out of rotating bonus categories using the Discover it® Cash Back as an example. You can try a similar strategy with any card as long as it matches up with the respective rewards structure.

Enroll/activate each quarter

Rotating category cards typically require you to enroll or activate (the language varies) the bonus categories for the upcoming quarter to earn the higher bonus rate. If you don’t, you’ll earn the standard rate.

With the Discover it Cash Back, upon enrollment you’ll earn 5% cash back in quarterly, rotating bonus categories on up to $1,500 in purchases and an unlimited 1% cash back on everything else.

Target your spending

In order to get the most out of a bonus category, try to max out the spending limit for the quarter. Depending on the card, it could be in the neighborhood of $3,000. After you reach the limit, the rewards rate typically returns to the standard percentage.

Be aware that it may be difficult to maximize your rewards if the bonus category covers the kind of purchases you don’t normally spend a lot of money on.

Discover’s 2019 bonus categories include grocery stores, gas stations, Uber, Lyft, Paypal, restaurants, Amazon.com, Target and Walmart.com. By maxing out all four of the Discover it Cash Back bonus categories throughout the year (capped at $1,500 in spending each quarter), you’ll earn $300 in cash back — not including spending you’d do in the 1% cash back category; activation required. Say you spend an additional $500 each quarter on non-category spending; that’s an extra $20 in cash back for the year.

Consider combining cards

A combination of cards might serve you best. Some rewards credit cards offered by the same issuer let you use different cards to suit your needs and combine points.

Consider the Chase Freedom®, Chase Sapphire Reserve and Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. Consumers who spend across a wide variety of categories can pick up this combination of cards and combine Chase Ultimate Rewards® points when they’re ready to redeem. By having all three cards, consumers can utilize bonus categories efficiently to maximize rewards for the year.

You can try the same kind of strategy with cards that earn American Express Membership Rewards or Citi ThankYou Points. The key is, once again, choosing cards that make sense with your regular spending patterns so you can maximize the rewards you earn.

Explore the card’s ‘online mall’

Some card issuers feature online shopping portals that offer cash back incentives, discounts or both. Examples include Chase Ultimate Rewards® and Barclaycard RewardsBoost.


Make sure you understand what the terms are for receiving cash back, like which purchases are eligible and if you’re going to be paying an annual fee for the card. Don’t let attractive offers lead you into opening a credit card unnecessarily. It’s not worth damaging your credit simply to chase down rewards. Find what works best for you, be disciplined and stick with it.

— Douglas A. Boneparth, CFP®, President of Bone Fide Wealth, LLC

Additional reviews and research

For more information on the best cash back credit cards for, read our expert reviews on individual cards.


Barry Bridges is a senior editor for Bankrate. Before he started writing about personal finance, he was an award-winning newspaper journalist in his native North Carolina. Send your questions about credit cards (and fantasy baseball) to bbridges@bankrate.com.

Have more questions for our credit cards editors? Feel free to send us an email, find us on Facebook, or Tweet us @Bankrate.

* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, is accurate as of the publish date. All products or services are presented without warranty. Check the bank’s website for the most current information.