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Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard® Review: Generous cash back without worrying fees

Keeps it simple by skipping fees in place of perks and a welcome offer

 /  8 min
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Snapshot

3.4

Bankrate rating
Info
Rating: 3.4 stars out of 5

Bottom line

This card earns the same generous 2 percent cash back that leading cards in this category earn and waives common fees that can sometimes add up throughout the year. Although it lacks a welcome offer, this option can be a great way to fill gaps in a more nuanced cash back strategy or act as your everyday cash back card.

Image of Ally Unlimited Cash Back

Ally Unlimited Cash Back

Rewards rate

2%
Info

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

N/A
Info

Regular APR

19.99% Variable

Recommended Credit Score

N/A
Info

Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard Overview

The Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard is a no-annual-fee, flat-rate cash back card that earns unlimited rewards at a rate of 2 percent on all purchases. Like most 2 percent cards, it’s a great choice for cardholders who spend nearly the same amount annually across several categories or who make a few key, large purchases each year.

The card is currently available by invitation only, so you’ll need a mail-in or online offer before exploring this option. However, for those who have received an offer, it can be a great choice if you’re looking for a low-maintenance cash back card with few fees, no cash back limits, no expiration dates and no penalty APRs.

While these are all great factors to consider, you should also keep in mind that there is no sign-up bonus and you’ll need to have good-to-excellent credit (a FICO score between 670 and 739). Additionally, 2 percent cash back cards can be restrictive for some cardholders. Despite their value for large and uncategorized purchases with unlimited earnings, cardholders who spend reliably in certain categories may earn more with a tiered rewards card.

If you’re in the good-credit range, you qualify for a host of great tiered rewards cards that you can use to develop a more nuanced and rewarding cash back strategy. That is, if you don’t mind having your overall rewards or cash back split between multiple issuers.

What are the pros and cons?

Pros

  • Checkmark

    Unlimited 2 percent back on all purchase makes it a great choice for general and large purchases

  • Checkmark

    No minimum redemption requirements let you access your cash back when you want it

  • Checkmark

    Ally won’t charge late fees or increase your APR after you make a late payment, giving cardholders peace of mind when they’re in a financial pinch

Cons

  • Like all cash back cards, you might be able to find more value with a tiered rewards card if you can handle the extra maintenance

  • This card is invitation only, so you need to receive an online or mail offer before applying

  • No sign-up bonus for new cardholders makes this a lackluster option in a competitive cards landscape

A deeper look into the current card offer

Quick highlights

  • Rewards rate: Unlimited 2 percent back on all purchases
  • Welcome offer: N/A
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Purchase intro APR: N/A
  • Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
  • Regular APR: 17.99 percent to 28.99 percent

Current welcome offer

Ally Bank’s recently launched cash back cards, the Ally Everyday Cash Back Mastercard and the Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard each lack a welcome offer. This can be disappointing since sign-up bonuses are a standard perk found with many of the best cash back cards But since there is no annual fee on the Unlimited Cash Back card and the card doesn’t come with several other fees or penalty APRs, some cardholders might see the money they potentially save from fees as a fair trade for the lack of a welcome offer.

Rewards rate

This flat-rate cash back card compares well with leading competitors in this category, like the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card and the Citi® Double Cash Card. Cardholders with good credit are saturated with options for earning rewards, so a newcomer to the flat-rate world can draw plenty of criticism. That said, Ally comes through for cardholders by bringing another 2 percent cash back card to a landscape that seems dominated by Wells Fargo (earns cash rewards) and Citi.

How you earn

The Ally Unlimited Cash Back card earns an unlimited 2 percent back for every dollar spent on all purchases. This is one of the highest rates around. And while it doesn’t match the 2.5 percent flat rate of the Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card, the Ally Unlimited card doesn’t force you to open a savings account and maintain a minimum account balance to earn such a great rate.

If you value simplicity and don’t want to juggle multiple cards at once, if you have a budget that’s balanced in all areas of your expenses, you can earn a solid amount of cash back just by using the Alliant Unlimited Cash Back for all purchases. And unlike tiered or rotating category cash back cards, you’ll keep this rewards rate for every purchase you make. This places flat-rate cards like the Ally Unlimited in a unique position to reward cardholders for purchases they make outside of common categories. For example, certain categories like furniture, utilities, thrift shops and flea markets (that accept credit cards) may fall outside of common categories that earn bonus rewards, making them a better fit for a flat-rate card.

How to redeem

You can redeem your cash back earnings online or in the Ally Mobile App for a statement credit without any minimum requirement. This is a simple redemption model compared to other cash back cards and your best option if you don’t want to spend time tracking the value of points and miles. But if you prefer to have a variety of redemption options, like direct deposit, gift cards, travel or the chance to pay with points, another rewards card would be a better fit.

How much are the rewards worth?

Your cash back rewards are worth 2 percent (or 2 cents) of every dollar you spend, no matter what you purchase. So you’ll earn $5 back every time you spend $250. If you spend $16,000 in a year with all of your spending, then you’ll earn a total of $320 cash back.

Other cardholder perks

The Ally Unlimited Cash Back card comes up short when it comes to additional perks. It offers a number of standard features that make it safer to use than a debit card, like zero fraud liability. It also has a card lock feature in case your card is lost or stolen but lacks a number of features you may find with other cash back cards, like cellphone protection or Mastercard benefits.

Rates and fees

Ally Bank credit cards skip some of the unnecessary fees found with other rewards cards. There are no annual fees, foreign transaction fees, over-the-limit fees, returned payment fees, and you won’t be subjected to interest hikes in the event you make a late payment. This is where the Ally cards really show a competitive edge compared to other cards that come with welcome offers but include a host of various fees.

The absence of fees for the lifetime you hold the card is an impressive feature to watch out for, especially if you are worried about making a late payment. Combined, Americans pay up to $120 billion in credit card fees and interest each year. According to 2021 Consumer Credit Market Reports, late fees comprised the majority of all fees paid for credit cards; annual fees followed closely behind.

Ally Bank’s exclusion of fees makes using credit low-risk and for some, carries more value than cards that come loaded with perks. However, Ally doesn’t include the same introductory APR offers available on other cash back cards. It also comes with a variable APR of 17.99 percent to 28.99 percent, which could cause problems, especially if you end up at the high end and are unable to pay your balance in full.

How the Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard compares to other cash back cards

The Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard is a good, low-risk alternative to other flat-rate cash back cards but may not be your best option. If you want a flat-rate card with more perks or a chance to earn higher rewards in specific categories, here are two alternatives to consider.

Image of Ally Unlimited Cash Back

Ally Unlimited Cash Back

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

N/A

Rewards rate

2%
Info

Recommended Credit Score

N/A
Info
Image of Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
Bankrate Score
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply
Apply now Lock
On Wells Fargo's secure site

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

$200 cash rewards
Info

Rewards rate

2%
Info

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info
Image of Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Bankrate Score
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply
Apply now Lock
On American Express's secure site

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

$250
Info

Rewards rate

1% - 3%
Info

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info

Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard vs. the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card

The Wells Fargo Active Cash card has everything the Ally Unlimited Cash Back card offers and more. On top of the 2 percent flat cash rewards rate, the Active Cash card also has a generous welcome offer with a spend requirement that’s much lower than what you’ll find with many other rewards cards. It also comes with cellphone protection and an introductory APR on qualifying balance transfers and new purchases.

Like the Ally Unlimited card, the Active Cash card doesn’t charge an annual fee, over-the-limit fee or returned check fee and won’t hit you with a penalty APR if you make a late payment. Even though it does charge a foreign transaction fee of 3 percent, this is only a drawback if you travel abroad or make online purchases with foreign merchants.

Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard vs. the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

The Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express is a tiered cash back card that earns 3 percent for purchases at U.S. supermarkets, at U.S. gas stations, on U.S. online retail purchases (up to $6,000 per year per category, then 1 percent) and 1 percent back on all other purchases. It carries no annual fee and comes with a number of perks you won’t find with the Ally Unlimited card, including a welcome offer and credits for the Disney Bundle (including Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+) and Home Chef meal kits.

Compared to the flat rate offered by the Ally Unlimited Cash Back card, the Blue Cash Everyday offers far more cash back potential, even with the spending limits in each bonus category.

Here’s an example: Based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average household spends $8,500 in combined spending on groceries, gas and online purchases. That comes out to $255 cash back with the Everyday card’s bonus categories ($8,500 x 3 percent = $255). If you spend that same amount with the Ally Unlimited card, you’d only receive $170 cash back ($8,500 x 2 percent = $170). As long as most of your spending earns triple points, the Everyday card can help you rake in more cash back than the Ally Unlimited card.

Card The Blue Cash Everyday Card Ally Unlimited Cash Back Card
Amount spend $8,500 $8,500
Cash back rate 3% 2%
Total cash back $255 $170

But the Ally Unlimited card will be a far more appealing option if you spend more in areas that fall outside the Everyday card’s bonus categories. If you spend $6,000 in categories that only earn 1 percent cash back, you’ll only earn $60 with the Everyday card ($6,000 x 1 percent = $60) but would rake in double that amount with the Ally Unlimited card ($6,000 x 2 percent = $120). As these examples show, the right card for you comes down to your spending habits.

Card The Blue Cash Everyday Card Ally Unlimited Cash Back Card
Amount spend $6,000 $6,000
Cash back rate 1% 2%
Total cash back $60 $120

Best cards to pair with this card

Flat-rate rewards cards are almost always better when used to support a tiered cash back or rewards card. Instead of using a 2 percent flat-rate card for all purchases, a rotating bonus or tiered rewards card that fits your spending habits can help you maximize your rewards.

For example, combining both the Blue Cash Everyday card and the Ally Unlimited will give you more optimal cash back coverage. Based on the previous example, if you were able to fit $8,500 of spending in the Everyday card’s bonus categories and spend $6,000 using the Ally Unlimited card, you’d earn a total of $375 cash back. A strategy like this uses the strengths of both cards to give you a 2 percent bottom line on cash back earnings.

Bankrate’s Take — Is the Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard worth it?

Overall, the Ally Unlimited is a solid cash back card and can certainly rub shoulders with the top 2 percent cards despite the lack of additional perks. While welcome offers on other flat-rate cards are solid incentives, there is a place for the Ally Unlimited Card and its waived fees that, on other cards, can amount to massive amounts of debt for some cardholders.

However, if you prefer welcome offers and introductory APRs, then you might want to go with the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card. Or consider a multi-card strategy to maximize your cash back earnings. Pairing the Ally Unlimited card with a tiered rewards card that has many of perks missing with this Ally card could also provide a rewarding experience.

Written by
Brendan Dyer
Credit Cards Editor

Brendan Dyer holds a Master of Fine Arts in Journalism from Western Connecticut State University and worked previously as a content editor for Regional News Network, a hyper-local TV news station contracted by Verizon FiOS1 News. As a national service volunteer, Brendan exercised a passion for helping underserved communities and demographics through direct, community service. He constantly seeks to apply his expertise as a journalist to the field of personal finance with the goal of helping people navigate the complexities of the credit card industry.

Edited by Editor

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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.