Key takeaways

  • Use your flat-rate cash back card to pay utility bills, rent, mortgage payments and other monthly expenses in order maximize your rewards.
  • Buy through your issuer portal and special cash back apps to earn additional cash back when shopping. Take advantage of issuer-specific offers at designated retailers.
  • Avoid carrying debt on your account. Interest on this debt can cut into your cash back earnings.
  • Pair your flat-rate card with one that offers more rewards in bonus categories such as dining or groceries. This can help you earn a higher rate of cash back on your spending.

Flat-rate cash back credit cards definitely have their advantages — especially for people who have no desire to keep track of rotating categories or earning caps. With the right flat-rate card, you can earn 2 percent cash back (or more) on all purchases with no annual fee. And with no bonus categories to keep track of, you won’t have to wonder if you’re using your rewards card the “right way.”

Still, there are ways to boost rewards earned with a flat-rate cash back card. For the most part, you’ll just have to be strategic with your shopping and willing to take a few extra steps.

Here are six ways to maximize rewards with a flat-rate cash back credit card from any of the major issuers.

1. Use your card to pay bills

When you’re earning cash back rewards with a flat-rate cash back credit card, you’ll inevitably earn more cash back the more you charge. That’s what makes paying for recurring expenses like bills a great option. Although not all bills will earn rewards (it depends on the type of bill), it makes sense to look for new bills you can pay with a credit card. For example, you may be able to pay your insurance premiums with your card, as well as your utility bills, mortgage payments, rent, subscriptions and even daycare expenses.

Just be careful about this strategy’s impact on your credit utilization ratio — the measure of how much you owe compared to your available credit. Having a high utilization ratio can harm your credit score. Ideally, your credit utilization ratio should stay under 30 percent. So, if your credit limit is $10,000, you should try to keep your balance under $3,300. Pay off your balances promptly to keep this number low.

2. Never carry debt on your account

Keep in mind that it’s impossible to maximize the value of your cash back if you aren’t also keeping an eye on your balance and monthly payment. After all, the high interest rates credit cards charge can cost you a lot more than you’re earning in cash back.

If your goal is to rack up as much cash back as possible, you really do need to stay out of debt and avoid carrying a balance. You can do this by only charging purchases you can afford to pay off, tracking your spending throughout each billing period and faithfully paying your entire balance in full and on time each month.

3. Double up with a cash back app

Any time you pay for something online with a credit card, you also have the opportunity to earn rewards with a cash back site. For example, Rakuten lets you earn additional cash back when you click through the website before you shop with stores like Kohl’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Old Navy and Priceline. And remember, the cash back you earn with this portal is offered on top of the cash back you earn with your credit card.

Other cash back apps and portals to check out include Dosh, Cashback Monitor and Ibotta.

Boost your rewards with a cash back app
Shopping online with a cash back site is a great way to boost the cash back you’re already earning when you use your credit card.

4. Try card issuer shopping portals

Some card issuers also have their own shopping portals that let you earn additional cash back.

If you have theChase Freedom Flex® or Chase Freedom Unlimited®, for example, you can click through the Shop through Chase Travel℠ portal before you shop to earn more cash back on all your purchases. While stores in the Chase shopping portal can vary, they frequently include options like Walmart, Sephora, Best Buy and Macy’s.

Meanwhile, Barclaycard has its own shopping portal known as RewardsBoost, and Capital One has Capital One Shopping.

5. Capitalize on issuer-specific offers

You can also check for additional cash back offers if you have a credit card from American Express, Chase or Capital One. Each of these card issuers have additional programs (Amex Offers, Chase Offers and Capital One Offers, respectively) through which you can opt in to earn additional cash back from select retailers.

For example, with Capital One Offers, individuals with cash back credit cards like the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card or Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card can earn more cash back with particular retailers. To access these perks, simply log in to your Capital One account and navigate to the shopping portal. From there, click “Save Now” to be taken to a retailer’s site to shop and earn additional rewards at check out.

Cash back percentages vary from store to store, and there are usually limits that cap how much additional cash back you can earn. Either way, these special offers are all given on top of the cash back you would normally earn with your credit card. They’re also easy to add to your card and use, so try to take advantage if you can.

6. Pair with a rotating bonus category card

Finally, you can consider pairing your flat-rate card with a bonus category card offering additional rewards. This strategy can make it more complicated to earn rewards, but it can help you earn a higher rate of cash back on your spending.

To pair cards without overcomplicating your life, pick one other rewards credit card to go with your flat-rate card. Specifically, you should pick a card that offers boosted rewards in the categories you spend the most in or a 5 percent rotating bonus category card that offers heightened cash back in new categories each quarter.

  • If you do a fair bit of cooking at home, you’ll probably benefit from a credit card that rewards grocery purchases. One of the best credit cards for groceries is the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, which awards cardholders 3 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1 percent) for no annual fee. It also offers 3 percent back at U.S. gas stations and on U.S. online retail purchases (with the same $6,000 limit per category). With such practical bonus categories, the Blue Cash Everyday is a favorite of families and bargain-seekers alike.

    Another card with wide-appealing bonus categories is the Chase Freedom Flex, highlighted above. This card doesn’t charge an annual fee, yet you’ll earn 5 percent cash back on activated bonus category purchases each quarter (up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1 percent). The bonus categories are announced quarterly, so it’s tougher to predict their value, but they’ve historically included useful categories like, grocery stores, gas stations and Walmart.
  • If you spend a lot on dining and entertainment, you could consider the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card* due to its 4 percent cash back rate on those purchases (as well as on select streaming services).

    Another of the best credit cards for restaurants is the Citi Custom Cash® Card, which offers 5 percent cash back on your top eligible spending category (up to $500 per billing cycle, then 1 percent). One of those categories is restaurants, so foodies would do well to make this their go-to dining card.

    There are many options to consider, all of which have different features and earning rates. Make sure to compare all the best cash back credit cards on the market today if your goal is to find a few cards to pair together for optimal rewards.

The bottom line

There are plenty of reasons to pick a flat-rate cash back credit card. After all, flat-rate cards let you earn a higher-than-average rewards rate on all your purchases and bills, while also helping you simplify your life and finances.

Regardless of the card you choose, there are always opportunities to maximize the cash back you earn, even if that just means finding a few more bills you can easily pay with your rewards credit card. By clicking through shopping portals, taking advantage of special card issuer offers and pairing your flat-rate card with a card with bonus categories, these strategies could add up to hundreds of dollars in additional cash back each year.

Issuer-required disclosure statements:
*Information about the Chase Freedom Flex and Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate. Card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply.