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Cash back cards have gained in popularity over the past decade as banks seek new ways to reward customers for keeping their cards top-of-wallet. A cash back card functions like an automatic rebate—spend on your card and get a certain percentage back, typically anywhere from 1 percent to 5 percent.
Before signing up for a cash back card, make sure that you consider which card aligns best with your household’s spending patterns, so that you can maximize the value of that card’s rewards program.
Table of contents:
Bankrate’s best cash back credit cards from our partners
Expert takes on our favorite cash back credit cards from our partners
Pros and cons of cash back cards
Cash back credit card rates
Cash back cards vs. travel rewards cards
How to choose the right cash back card
Reviews of our 10 favorite cash back cards
Bankrate’s best cash back credit cards from our partners:
- Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Best for everyday spending
- Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Best for reward redemption.
- Discover it® Cashback Match™: Best for first-year rewards
- Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards: Best for no fees
- Chase Freedom: Best for bonus reward categories
- Costco Anywhere Visa Card from Citi: Best for gas rewards
- Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for relationship bonuses
- Citi® Double Cash Card: Best for flat-rate cash back
- Capital One® SavorSM Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for dining
- Discover it® MilesTM: Best for travel
Recap: Expert takes on our top cash back credit cards from our partners
|Card Name||Bankrate Score||Best For|
|Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express||92/100||Everyday spending|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited®||92/100||Reward redemption|
|Discover it® Cashback Match™||93/100||First-year rewards|
|Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards||93/100||No fees|
|Chase Freedom||90/100||Bonus reward categories|
|Costco Anywhere Visa Card from Citi||88/100||Gas rewards|
|Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card||87/100||Relationship bonuses|
|Citi® Double Cash Card||94/100||Flat-rate cash back|
|Capital One® SavorSM Cash Rewards Credit Card||96/100||Dining|
|Discover it® MilesTM||95/100||Travel|
Reward yourself today. Apply for a cash-back credit card now.
Pros and cons of cash back cards
- 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.
- 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.
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 percent 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 among each card, they all give one reward back: cash.
But with travel rewards cards, there are usually more than one way 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
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.
Keep in mind that, unless you’re paying the balance in full and on time every month, the value of any rewards associated with the card is likely to be outweighed by what you’ll pay in interest charges. If you typically carry a balance, a low-interest credit card may be an overall better choice.
In review: Our 10 favorite cash back cards from our partners
For anyone who spends heavily at the supermarket, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express is a must-have for any big grocery shopper. The 6% cash-back reward at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) is the most lucrative available in this category.
- For those who can max out the rewards, the $95 annual fee is worth it.
- The card also pays 3% back at U.S. gas stations—that’s among the highest gas rewards available. And,
- Cardholders can also earn 3% cash back at select U.S. department stores.
CreditCards.com says this card is just as good as the Blue Cash Preferred. It’s ideal for the busy cardholder who doesn’t have time to worry about spending on bonus categories.
- Rewards can be redeemed as a statement credit or transferred to an eligible Chase rewards card to potentially increase in value.
- Earn a $150 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.
- 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, after which a standard variable APR will apply.
Compared with the other cash-back cards on the market that offer rotating bonus categories, no one even comes close to the Discover it® Cashback Match™’s first year offer. At the end of the first year, Discover will match all of your accumulated earnings. So if you earned 5% in a bonus category, you’ll get another 5% at the end of the year, effectively earning you 10% cash back on your spending. That’s as good as it gets.
- In addition to the bonus categories, all other spending on this card earns 1%-which means at the end of the first year you’ll get an additional 1% back on those purchases.
- If you miss or make a payment late, the first penalty fee is waived.
- There’s an introductory 14-month 0% APR offer on purchases and balance transfers, after which a variable APR will apply.
For anyone who wants a cash-back card that’s a breeze to understand, the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards delivers. There’s 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.
- There are no annual fees or foreign transaction fees.
- Travel and auto insurances are included with this card.
- This card has an introductory nine-month 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers. After which, the standard variable APR will apply.
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 four 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 plus all of your other spending will earn 1% cash back.
- If you’re up for the challenge of pairing this card with another Chase rewards card, it can net you some serious savings.
- There is a lengthy 0% APR offer for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers.
- This card doesn’t have an annual fee.
If you’re a frequent Costco shopper you know that the warehouse club isn’t typically eligible for the kind of cash-back or reward opportunities offered by other credit cards. The Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi is the only card that will earn you cash-back on everything you buy at the shopping behemoth. It’s also got the best rewards rate on gasoline spending of any card out there.
- Earn 2% back on every $1 spent at Costco or on Costco.com.
- There’s no annual fee, but you do have to have a Costco membership.
- At 4% cash back, up to an annual spending cap of $7,000, the card pays phenomenal rewards on gasoline.
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. Where this card really shines is 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.
- Those who have combined eligible deposit account balances with the bank, can earn an additional 25% to 75%.
- There’s no annual fee with this card.
- This card comes with comes with an introductory 0% APR for the first 12 billing cycles on purchases and on balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After that, a variable APR of 14.49% to 24.49% will apply.
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.
- Earn cash back twice: 1 percent on general purchases and 1 percent when you pay your bill on time. Two percent cash-back on everything makes this one of the most generous everyday spending rewards cards we’ve seen.
- The Citi Double Cash Card comes with travel perks, including trip insurance and purchase protection.
- Register your purchases online through the Citi Price Rewind program and the company will search for lower prices on those items and refund you the difference on better deals.
For anyone who is planning their next meal while still finishing the one they’re on, this card is like a dream come true. It’s tailor-made for foodies and aspiring chefs with cash back rewards of an unlimited 3% cash back on all dining and 2% back at the supermarket.
- Like all Capital One credit cards, there’s no foreign transactions fees, making this card ideal for globetrotters who likely eat most of their meals out.
- There’s an introductory nine-month 0% APR offer on balance transfers.
- This card has no annual fee and rewards never expire for the life of the account.
Do yourself a financial favor and ignore the “Miles” in the title. While this card is ho-hum by travel rewards standards, as a cash back card its first-year benefits are best-in-class.
The card earns 1.5 miles for every dollar spent. But, at the end of the first year, Discover will match the amount you’ve earned through the year, effectively earning you a total of 3 miles for every dollar spent. If you redeem the miles for cash, that’s the highest cash back rate currently available on a no-fee card today.
- Rewards can be redeemed in any amount as a statement credit or against a travel purchase.
- There’s an introductory 14-month 0% APR offer on purchases.
- This card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
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