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: Robin Saks Frankel | Last Updated: August 15, 2018


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How we chose our favorite cash back credit cards

Cash back credit cards have become increasingly popular as banks and issuers continue to offer attractive cash back rates and sign-up bonuses. Bankrate’s credit card experts have analyzed 680 cash back credit cards to identify the best options for multiple scenarios. We have given each card a Bankrate score out of 100, and our editors have identified what situation each card is best for. These objective scores paired with expert recommendations will help you find the cash back credit card that is right for you.

Review criteria

The scoring criteria created specifically for cash back credit cards evaluates each card on its cash back rate, sign-up bonus, and annual fee. We have done the heavy-lifting to transparently review the best cash back cards on the market and help you find the card that best suits your lifestyle!

  • Cash back rate – Cardholders interested in cash back are looking to get the maximum return on their spending. We review the cash back rewards structure to find the best rates of return, identify the highest-value spending categories, and the easiest redemption system.
  • Sign-up bonus – In order to attract new cardholders, many credit cards offer bonuses upon signing up for the card. As long as you hit a required spending limit within a set period of time you become eligible for extra cash back, points, or miles. Our experts at Bankrate analyze the value of the bonus and clearly outline what you need to do to earn it.
  • Annual fee – Great cash rewards rates don’t mean much if a cards annual fee is too high. Many cards charge a fee to cardholders each year. The Bankrate score takes the annual fee into account. We also signal when there’s a promotional discount on the annual fee, where an annual fee is worth the expense, and explain how much you would need to spend on your card to cover the annual fee with your rewards.

Editor’s review: Bankrate’s favorite cash-back credit cards of 2018

Capital One Quicksilver Card

For anyone who wants a cash-back card that’s a breeze to understand, the Capital One Quicksilver delivers. There are no changing categories to pay attention to or remembering to use this card over another for the maximum value. Every purchase made with this card will earn 1.5% cash back. It’s that simple.

Card Details:

  • Best For: No fees
  • Bankrate Score: 93/100
  • Cash Back Rate: 1.5% cash back on everything

Editors Take: The Capital One Quicksilver is a good choice for anyone looking for a cash back credit card that will reward them without having to think about it. This card is ideal for earning rewards on activities like paying bills. However, heavy spenders in categories such as gas and groceries will find better rewards rates on other cards.

Read Bankrate’s full Capital One Quicksilver Card review.

Discover it® Cash Back

Compared with the other cash-back cards on the market that offer rotating bonus categories, no one even comes close to the Discover it® Cash Back first-year offer. At the end of the first year, Discover will match all of your accumulated earnings. Enroll every quarter to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases made in various categories throughout the year. That’s as good as it gets.

Card Details:

  • Best For: Rotating 5% cash back categories
  • Bankrate Score: 93/100
  • Cash Back Rate: 5% cash back on rotating categories

Editors Take: The Discover it® Cash Back is an excellent choice for consumers who are willing to put in the work to keep up with and enroll for Discover’s bonus cash back categories each quarter. The value of this card shines in the first year, as Discover will match all of the cash back that you earned at the end of the year.

Read Bankrate’s full Discover it® Cash Back review.

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

If you love food, whether it be high-end restaurant gourmet or late-night trips to the drive-thru, this card could be the one for you. The Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card offers an unlimited 4% back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on everything else. Depending on your spending habits this could really supercharge your cashback returns. Better still, Capital One is offering a generous sign-up bonus of $500 cash back when you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months of opening the card, for average spenders that shouldn’t be a problem. Although this card has a $95 annual fee (waived for the first year), if you are already spending heavily in the dining and entertainment category you will have no trouble making back the expense.

Card Details:

  • Best for: Dining, entertainment, and groceries.
  • Bankrate score: 97/100
  • Rewards rate: 4% on dining and entertainment, 2% at the grocery store, 1% back on all other purchases
  • Welcome offer: A $500 sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of opening the card.

Editor’s take: Anyone who already allocates a large portion of their monthly budget to eating out could benefit from this card. The cash back returns are generous if your spending falls into the dining and entertainment categories, and the 2% back at the grocery store is pretty competitive too. For anyone who frequently carries a balance, this card’s high-APR rates mean this card is not a great choice. For foodies who frequently eat out over 3 or 4 times a week, this is a clear contender as the best cash back rewards card for you.

Read Bankrate’s full Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card review.

Citi Double Cash

When it comes to rewards value, the Citi Double Cash Card ranks among the very best cash-back credit cards that charge no annual fee. We love this card for its simplicity. Citi Double Cash pays 1% cash back when you make a purchase and another 1% back as you pay for that purchase. There’s no cap on how much you can earn back, making this card a leader in the cash-back category.

Card Details:

  • Best For: Flat-rate cash back
  • Bankrate Score: 94/100
  • Cash Back Rate: 1% cash back when you buy, 1% cash back when you pay

Editor’s Take: The Citi Double Cash Card offers one of the best flat-rate cash back rates on the market today. If you are a consumer who pays their bill on time and in full every month, this cash back card is an excellent choice.

Read Bankrate’s full Citi Double Cash review.

Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card

If you’re like most American households and are caught up in an endless spending loop of buy groceries, buy gas and repeat, there’s a lot to like about the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card. The card pays 3% cash back on gas purchases and 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs up to $2,500 in combined spending per quarter. You’ll earn 1% on all other purchases.

Card Details:

  • Best For: Relationship bonuses
  • Bankrate Score: 87/100
  • Cash Back Rate: 3% back on gas, 2% back at groceries and wholesale clubs (on up to $2,500 in combined spending per quarter), 1% back on all other purchases

Editor’s Take: The Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card really shines with Bank of America’s relationship bonus program, called Preferred Rewards. You’ll get a least a 10% rewards bonus when you deposit your rewards into an eligible account. If you have an active account with Bank of America, you should have this card.

Read Bankrate’s full Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card review.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

We believe this card is just as good as the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. It’s ideal for the busy cardholder who doesn’t have time to worry about spending on bonus categories.

Card Details:

  • Best For: 1.5% cash-back on everything
  • Bankrate Score: 92/100
  • Cash Back Rate: 1.5% cash back on every purchase

Editors Take: The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a fantastic first cash-back credit card. This card’s straightforward, unlimited, cash back reward structure makes it a great choice for anyone looking for a hassle-free cash back card.

Read Bankrate’s full Chase Freedom Unlimited review.

Chase Freedom

For those who enjoy the thrill of tracking rotating bonus categories to earn maximum rewards, the Chase Freedom will deliver. The card offers categories that change every three months and pay 5% back, up to a quarterly maximum of $1,500. If you max out the bonus possibilities, you’ll earn at least $300 cash-back annually, plus all of your other spending will earn 1% cash back.

Card Details:

  • Best For: Flexible reward redemption
  • Bankrate Score: 90/100
  • Cash Back Rate: 5% cash back on rotating categories

Editors Take: The Chase Freedom is the best choice for consumers who are willing to keep up with rotating categories each quarter and who would appreciate the flexibility of being able to redeem their cash back as Chase Ultimate Rewards Points. If you crave a cash back credit card that can adapt to your preferred redemption method, this card is for you.

Read Bankrate’s full Chase Freedom review.

Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express

The Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express is an easy-to-use card with a simple rewards structure for everyday spending. The card’s 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year, then 1%), 2% cash back at gas stations and select department stores and 1% on all other purchases makes it ideal for families on the go. Cash back can be easily redeemed as statement credit, gift cards, and merchandise so this cash back card really can put money back in your pocket with no rotating categories to keep track of and no complicated miles or points structure.

Card Details:

  • Best for: Gas and groceries spending.
  • Bankrate score: 89/100
  • Rewards rate: 3% cash back at U.S. Supermarkets (up to $6,000, 1% after that), 2% at gas stations and select U.S. department stores, and 1% on everything else.
  • Welcome offer: One-time $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 within your first 3 months of opening the card.

Editor’s take: This is an ideal card for busy families who want generous rewards on relevant categories and uncomplicated redemption. The easily attainable sign-up bonus of $150 for those who spend $1,000 within the first three months of opening the card isn’t the most generous welcome offer but it is a nice perk. Depending on your personal high-spend categories there are other cash back cards that might deliver a higher rate of cashback returns on certain spending categories. If you travel outside the U.S. for vacations, it’s worth noting that this card charges a foreign transaction fee of 2.7%. However, busy families looking for a good all-rounder that rewards them for groceries and gas, then this is a great option.

Read Bankrate’s full Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express.


Cash back rates

One percent back on all purchases used to be routine, but now several issuers offer a flat 1.5 percent or even 2 percent back on all purchases. Even better offers are available through credit union memberships. For example, Alliant is offering an impressive 3% cash back for one year, followed by 2.5% cash back in years two and beyond.

There are also bonus category cash-back cards which reward you with higher percentages when you spend within certain parameters. For example, one card may offer 3 percent back on grocery store purchases but drops to 1 percent on all other spending. Another type of card may offer as much as 5% cash back, but only within certain categories and within a certain time frame.

Cash back cards vs. travel rewards cards

Think of cash-back cards as a basic type of rewards card. Although the amount of cash-back and ways to earn bonus cash back can vary greatly from each card, they all give one reward back: cash.

But with travel rewards cards, there are usually multiple ways to use those rewards. Some travel rewards cards give you the option to redeem the rewards for travel or take cash-back, Other cards offer you airline miles. Some premium rewards cards will give you a greater redemption value if you use the accrued rewards to book travel through their portal.

Just as there is no one best cash-back credit card for everyone, the same is true of travel rewards cards. Someone who only travels once a year by car will benefit more from a different type of card then a globetrotting wanderer.

How to choose the right cash back card

Apply for a cash back credit card that offers rewards for items you frequently purchase. Each credit card company offers different rewards, and some have larger cash-back perks for spending in specific categories. It’s important to apply for the card that best suits your lifestyle or the card may not be as beneficial. In addition to comparing cards by rewards, compare interest rates, cash-back percentages and bonuses offered.

There’s no one-size-fits-all cash back card. If you’re considering adding a cash-back card, consider the areas your household is likely to spend the most.

A busy suburban family, for example, will likely benefit more from a card that offers greater rewards on gas and groceries than a single urban dweller who frequently dines out and doesn’t own a car.

Frequent warehouse shoppers may find that a co-branded card to their favorite location will give them the most bang for the buck.

If you can’t pinpoint an area where you spend the most, it’s hard to go wrong with a general purpose cash-back card — it’s like getting a discount every time you spend on the card.

Cash-back cards are best for disciplined spenders who consistently pay off their credit card balance each month. Doing so can maximize the benefits of this type of card, boosting savings on budgeted expenses. Otherwise, interest charges incurred on a balance can eat into the rewards earned on your spending habits. These cards can also be beneficial to those who frequently spend money on specific items like gas or groceries.

Pros and cons of cash back cards

Pros

  • These cards typically don’t charge an annual fee.
  • Flat rate cash-back cards are an effortless way to earn money back for spending the way you would normally.
  • If you’re highly organized and up for the challenge, combining a flat-rate cash-back card with one that offers rotating bonus categories, can net you some serious savings.
  • You can redeem the savings as a statement credit on your card.
  • Using one of these cards can cut back the bill for your regular monthly spending, helping to make extra room in your budget.

Cons

  • There may be caps on how much cash back you can earn.
  • Cash-back cards typically have meager or no sign-up bonuses.
  • There are different levels of complexity with different types of cards.
  • If you don’t pick the right type of card for your spending habits, you won’t maximize the value.

Recap: Bankrate’s best cash-back credit cards

Card Name Bankrate Score Best For
Capital One® Quicksilver® Card 93/100 No fees
Discover it® Cash Back  93/100 Rotating 5% categories
Citi® Double Cash Card 94/100 Flat-rate cash back
Chase Freedom Unlimited®  92/100 1.5% cash back on everything
Chase Freedom® 90/100 Flexible reward redemption
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card 87/100 Banking relationship bonuses

Author Spotlight: Robin Saks Frankel is a credit cards journalist with multiple years of experience in card reviews, breaking news, points guides and editorial advice. Robin has written content for Bankrate, Nerdwallet, and multiple other financial publications. You can find her on Twitter @robinsaks.

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