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Author: Robin Saks Frankel | Last Updated: August 15, 2018
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|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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