How to maximize flat-rate cash back credit cards
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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 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 be willing to take a few extra steps.
Here are six ways to maximize rewards with a cash back credit card from any of the major issuers.
1. Use your card to pay bills
When you’re earning rewards with a flat-rate cash back credit card, you’ll inevitably earn more cash back the more you charge. 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.
Beyond basic expenses like groceries, gas and dining, see if you can pay for other bills with credit. For example, you may be able to pay your insurance premiums with your card, as well as your utility bills, mortgage payment, rent, subscriptions and even daycare expenses.
2. Double up with a cash back portal
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.com. 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 TopCashBack, Cashback Monitor and Ibotta.
3. Utilize card issuer shopping portals
Some card issuers also have their own shopping portals that let you earn additional cash back.
If you have the Chase Freedom Flex℠ or Chase Freedom Unlimited®*, for example, you can click through the Shop through Chase 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.
4. 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) 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 do so, they can simply log in to their Capital One account and navigate to the shopping portal. From there, they can 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.
5. Never carry debt on your account
Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine how you could maximize cash back without keeping your eyes 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 racking 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.
This part isn’t as exciting as earning cash back, but staying out of debt is much more important.
6. Pair with a rotating bonus category card
Finally, you can consider pairing your flat-rate card with one that offers more rewards in bonus categories — but only if you really want to. 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, you should 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 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 in purchases 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 value, but they’ve historically included useful categories like Amazon.com, grocery stores, gas stations and Walmart. The Chase Freedom Flex also offers 5 percent cash back on Lyft rides (through March 2025) and 3 percent cash back on dining (including restaurants, takeout and eligible delivery services) and drugstore purchases.
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 select streaming services).
Another one 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, including if you just don’t want to juggle more than one card. After all, flat-rate cards let you earn a higher-than-average rewards rate on all your purchases and bills. In the meantime, they can also help you simplify your life and finances.
You can still try to earn as much cash back as possible, 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, the difference could add up to hundreds of dollars in additional cash back each year.
*The information about the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.