Best cash back credit cards

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Rewards cards range from basic, flat-rate cash back credit cards to luxurious travel rewards cards that come packed with exclusive membership perks. With so many options on the market, the editors at Bankrate have compiled advice and reviewed our favorite rewards credit cards of 2018. Keep reading to compare rewards cards and find the right one for you.

In this Article

The best rewards credit cards of 2018
Editor’s reviews: Bankrate’s best rewards credit cards of 2018
What is a rewards credit card?
Types of rewards cards
How to redeem credit card rewards
Finding the right rewards card for your credit score
Recap: The best rewards cards of 2018

The best rewards credit cards of 2018

How we chose our favorite rewards cards of 2018

The editors at Bankrate reviewed over 300 credit cards to determine the best 10 rewards credit cards of 2018 from our partners. The most meaningful features that we considered were rewards rates, ease of redemption, annual fees, and sign-up bonuses. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card took our top rewards credit card spot because of its generous welcome offer, flexible rewards redemption, and competitive rewards rate on both travel and general purchases.

Editor’s reviews: Bankrate’s best rewards credit cards of 2018

Best overall rewards credit card: Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card


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Wells Fargo just relaunched their revamped version of the Propel rewards card. With 3X points earned on dining, travel, gas and streaming services, this card has a ton of reward-earning potential. What really sets this card apart, though, is that it has no annual fee. While you won’t find some of the luxury perks that cards with high annual fees typically offer, the Propel Card goes toe-to-toe (and in many cases wins) against other cards that carry $95 annual fees.

Card Details:

  • Issuer: American Express
  • Best for: No annual fee
  • Bankrate scrore: 97/100
  • Credit score needed: Excellent/good
  • Rewards rate: 3X points on dining, travel, gas, and streaming services; 1X on other purchases
  • Welcome offer: 30,000 bonus points afters spending $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months
  • Annual fee: $0
  • APR: 14.24%-26.74% (Variable)

Editor’s take: If you are looking to add a card to your wallet that offers straightforward, generous rewards, we recommend the Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card.

Best for travel: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

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Using the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card will allow you to earn miles without paying an annual fee. The Venture card earns 2 miles for every $1 spent. The Venture card is a great starter’s travel card for simple earning and predictable rewards.

Card Details:

  • Issuer: Capital One
  • Best for: Travel
  • Bankrate scrore:94/100
  • Credit score needed: Excellent/good
  • Rewards rate: 2 miles per dollar spent
  • Welcome offer: 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months of of card ownership
  • Annual fee: $95, waived in the first year
  • APR: 14.74% to 24.74% (variable)

Editor’s take: If you are looking for a travel rewards card, we recommend the Venture card. You’ll earn flat-rate miles on every purchase you make and have the ability to score big on bookings through hotels.com. You won’t get all the perks found in other rewards cards, but you’ll earn no-frills miles without having to worry about categories, spending limits, or fees.

Best for everyday spending: Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

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Consumers with large grocery bills can benefit from the huge cash back rewards on U.S. supermarket spending offered by the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express. No other card offers as high a cash back rate in this category, making it worth the $95 annual fee.

Card Details:

  • Issuer: American Express
  • Best for: Everyday spending
  • Bankrate scrore:92/100
  • Credit score needed: Excellent/good
  • Rewards rate: 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%), U.S. gas stations, and select U.S. department stores.
  • Welcome offer: $200 after spending $1,000 in the first three months
  • Annual fee: $95
  • APR: 0% for the first 12 months, then 14.74%-25.74 (variable)

Editor’s take: The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express will take you to a new level of cash rewards on everyday expenses. If you are spending significantly at the grocery store and gas pump, you’ll find the annual fee well worth it. Meeting the annual $6,000 spend on groceries will net you $360 cash back.

Best for Dining: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

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Among the best starter cards for collecting points and miles, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has some great perks. You’ll earn 2X points on dining and travel and 1X points on all other purchases. This card really shines when it comes to redeeming points through Chase’s Web portal, where their value jumps 25%. This means 50,000 points are worth $500 if you use them as a statement credit, but $625 if you use them to book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Card Details:

  • Issuer: Chase
  • Best for: Dining
  • Bankrate scrore:95/100
  • Credit score needed: Excellent/good
  • Rewards rate: 2X on dining and travel, 1X on all other purchases
  • Welcome offer: 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months
  • Annual fee: $0 the first year, then $95
  • APR: 17.74%-24.74% (Variable)

Editor’s take: The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a favorite among travel enthusiasts because of its valuable sign-up bonus and points flexibility. Transferring points to partner airlines can actually boost their value even more, making your rewards even better than you bargained for.

Best for first year rewards: Discover it® Cash Back

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The Discover it® Cash Back credit card is a rotating category cash back card that allows you to enroll every quarter to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases made in various categories throughout the year. Additionally, Discover will match your first year cash back rewards at the end of the year. This means that if you earned $300 in cash back throughout the year, Discover will give you another $300 after your one year anniversary of card ownership.

Card Details:

  • Issuer: Discover
  • Best for: First year rewards
  • Bankrate scrore:93/100
  • Credit score needed: Excellent/good
  • Rewards rate: Enroll every quarter to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases made in various categories, 1% back on all other purchases
  • Welcome offer: Discover will match all the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Annual fee: $0
  • APR: 0% for 14 months, then 13.74%-24.74% (Variable)

Editor’s take: The Discover it® Cash Back credit card is one of Bankrate’s favorites due to it’s generous welcome offer. While the rewards structure is a bit more complicated than some of its flat-rate cash back counterparts, but with no annual fee and a generous, 14-month interest-free introductory period, this card stands up with the best of them.

Best for flat-rate cash-back: Citi Double Cash Card

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If tracking categories and spending caps seem like too much work for you, the Citi Double Cash Card keeps it simple. It gives 1% cash back on every purchase and an additional 1% when you pay your bill. The net total of 2% cash back is one of the highest unlimited rewards rates available on a rewards card.

Card Details:

  • Issuer: Citi
  • Best for: Flat-rate cash back
  • Bankrate scrore:94/100
  • Credit score needed: Excellent/good
  • Rewards rate: Unlimited 1% cash back on every purchase and an additional 1% when you pay your bill
  • Welcome offer: None
  • Annual fee: $0
  • APR: 15.24% to 25.24% (Variable)

Editor’s take: The Double Cash Card is essentially an unlimited 2% cash back card. You’ll get that rate for every purchase you make, which puts this card in its own rewards category for flat-rate rewards. If you’re an experienced points and rewards cardholder, the Double Cash Card is a great complement to other rewards cards. If you’re a newbie to rewards cards, it’s still a safe bet for getting a solid return on your spending.

Best for bonus category cash-back: Chase Freedom

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For those who are up to the task, the Chase Freedom card has plenty of rewards potential. The card pays 5% back on up to $1,500 quarterly spending in rotating categories like supermarkets, gas stations, and movie theaters. All other spending earns 1% back. If you have the discipline to keep track of your spending, you can score some solid rewards with this card.

Card Details:

  • Issuer: Chase
  • Best for: Rotating category cash back
  • Bankrate scrore:90/100
  • Credit score needed: Excellent/good
  • Rewards rate: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in quarterly rotating categories. 1% cash back on other purchases
  • Welcome offer: $150 after spending $500 in the first three months
  • Annual fee: $0
  • APR: 16.74%-25.49% (Variable)

Editor’s take: The Chase Freedom gives you the opportunity to earn $75 each quarter before the rewards rate drops from 5% to 1%. Maximizing the 5% cash back categories will net you at least $300 per year, which makes it a worthwhile no-annual-fee card. The Freedom does its best work though if you’re also a Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve cardholder. Having one of those premium Chase cards allows you to convert your Freedom cash into much more valuable rewards points.

Best for business: The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN


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Great for business owners whose biggest expenses are in just a few areas, the Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN offers 3X points on purchases in the category of your choice. You’ll earn 2X points on remaining categories, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Categories to choose from include airfare, media/advertising, gas, shipping and computer hardware and software.

Card Details:

  • Issuer: American Express
  • Best for: Business
  • Bankrate scrore:88/100
  • Credit score needed: Excellent/good
  • Rewards rate: 3X points in one of five categories of your choosing, 2X points on remaining four categories, 1X points on all else.
  • Welcome offer: 50,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first three months.
  • Annual fee: $0 for the first year, then $175
  • APR: No APR, as this is a charge card and must be paid in full every month. Cardholders may be eligible for the Pay Over Time feature.

Editor’s take: If you are a business owner with sizable yearly expenses, note that this card’s bonus categories are capped at $100,000 spending. Amex points are flexible, though, and the perks of the card, which includes a 5% discount at FedEx, Hertz, etc., are seriously valuable. If most of your expenses are in one or two key categories, this card will help you reap bigger rewards than you’ll find elsewhere.

Best for bad credit: Discover it® Secured

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The Discover it® Secured is Bankrate’s top pick among secured credit cards. We love that Discover will review your account after eight months to see if you qualify to “graduate” to an unsecured account. We also appreciate that there aren’t any of the predatory set-up or application fees that are common among cards designed for those with little to no credit.

Card Details:

  • Issuer: Discover
  • Best for: Bad credit
  • Bankrate scrore:95/100
  • Credit score needed: Bad credit/No credit
  • Rewards rate: 2% cash back on up to $1,000 in quarterly spending at gas stations and restaurants, 1% cash back on every other purchase.
  • Welcome offer: Discover will match all the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Annual fee: $0
  • APR: 24.74% (Variable)

Editor’s take: When it comes to secured cards, the Discover it Secured offer is tough to beat. Most secured cards have annual fees, application fees, and low credit limits with no rewards offered. The it Secured Card requires a $200 deposit and carries a $2,500 maximum credit limit, but the benefits it provides are undeniable. You’ll not only build credit, you’ll earn cash back at a respectable rate.

Best for retail stores: Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

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Much like the Blue Cash Preferred Card, the Blue Cash Everyday Card offers cash back rewards on purchases made at grocery stores, gas stations, and department stores. The Everyday Card has lower rewards rates but also comes without an annual fee. With a simple earning structure and better cash back rates than a lot of rewards cards, it’s a great option for families and everyday spending, while avoiding annual fees.

Card Details:

  • Issuer: American Express
  • Best for: Retail store spending
  • Bankrate scrore:89/100
  • Credit score needed: Excellent/Good
  • Rewards rate: 3% cash back at grocery stores (on up to $1,000 per year, then 1%), 2% cash back at gas stations and select department stores, 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Welcome offer: N/A
  • Annual fee: $0
  • APR: 14.74%-25.74% (Variable)

What is a rewards credit card?

Simply put,a rewards card is a credit card that gives you something in exchange for making a purchase. The amount you’ll be rewarded varies greatly from card to card but it’s nearly always based on a percentage of what you just spent. For example, if you charge $100 on a rewards card that has a flat 2% rewards rate, you’ll get 2 points, 2 miles or 2 units of whatever the reward is that’s offered by your card.

Types of Rewards Credit Cards

Rewards cards come in many flavors. Here are some of the most common types:

  • Cash back rewards cards. This type of card earns you cash back on every purchase. You typically redeem your earnings as a statement credit towards your bill, or in some cases deposited into your checking or savings account.
  • Travel rewards cards. Whether it’s a co-branded card with an airline or a general-purpose travel rewards card that gives you multiple choices for redemption, travel cards are aimed at those who want to earn free or discounted trips, upgrade their airline experience or save up for a once-in-a lifetime adventure.
  • Hotel rewards cards. Great for road warriors and other frequent travelers, hotel cards give users an opportunity to work towards elite status and enjoy the perks that go along with it, as well as earn free nights for future stays.
  • Store rewards cards. These cards are best for loyalists to a particular brand or store. You can earn perks like discounts, free shipping and members-only access events. Retail store cards often have less-stringent approval requirements, but in turn charge typically higher-than-average interest rates.

How to redeem credit card rewards

A stash of rewards is only meaningful if you redeem them. Redemption options run the gamut from a simple statement credit, to using rewards to book travel, to transferring rewards from your card to an airline or hotel’s loyalty program often for an increased value. Consider all the way rewards can be used, but keep in mind that your particular card may only allow you to redeem your rewards in one type of way. Some of the most common methods or redemption are:

  • Take your rewards as a cash-back statement credit or have them deposited into your bank account.
  • Redeem your rewards for travel through your card’s travel portal.
  • Book travel and get a statement credit back for all or a partial credit for the cost of the trip.
  • Trade in your rewards for a gift card to select retailers.
  • Use your rewards to upgrade your flight or hotel room.
  • Transfer your rewards to an authorized user for them to redeem.
  • Use your rewards as a credit for purchase at your favorite store.
  • Donate your rewards to a partner charity.

Finding the right rewards credit card for your credit score

Luxury cards with exclusive perks and bonuses may be restricted to consumers with excellent credit scores, but there are multiple credit cards on the market today that will reward you for spending on and managing your credit card responsibly regardless of your credit score. Our experts have identified our top and runner-up rewards cards for each credit band.

The best rewards credit card for excellent credit: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

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If you have excellent credit, you will likely get approved for the best credit cards on the market, including credit cards with massive sign-up bonuses, impressive rewards rates, and exclusive member bonuses. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is perfect for consumers with excellent credit who dine out regularly and travel frequently. This card is also known for its massive sign-up bonus worth $625 in travel rewards if you spend $4,000 within the first three months of card ownership. There is a $95 annual fee for owning this card, but it is waived in the first year and will pay for itself as you collect and redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Runner-up: The Platinum Card from American Express

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American Express is known for its extravagant perks for premium card holders. The Platinum Card from American Express is the standard in luxury rewards credit cards, especially in the travel category. One of the most enticing perks that this card offers is its access to premium airport lounges across the country. While the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is a great choice for both restaurants and travel, consumers who spend lots of money and travel very frequently may want to give the Platinum Card a second look.

The best rewards credit card for good credit: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

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Consumers looking for a straightforward rewards card with a solid sign-up bonus and rewards rate should consider applying for the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. While you will miss out on the premium perks that luxury and branded travel credit cards offer, you won’t have to worry about rotating categories, spending limits, or high annual fees.

Runner-up: The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

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Consumers with good credit that are looking for a cash back credit card that will reward them for basic everyday spending, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express is hard to beat. You won’t earn bonus points for travel, but the impressive 6% cash back at U.S supermarkets and 3% back at U.S gas stations makes this card the leader in cash back rewards. Spending $3,000/yr on groceries ($250/mo.) will net almost double the $95 annual fee in cash back. Add the 3% rewards rate at the pump and this card is well worth the cost of ownership.

The best rewards credit card for fair or average credit: Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

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The Capital One QuicksilverOne credit card offers consumers the opportunity to earn cash back rewards while building credit. You won’t get enticing sign-up bonuses, rewards rates, and perks that rewards cards for good and excellent credit offer, but you will earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase that you make. Responsible credit card use is one of the best ways to build or rebuild credit, and this card will give you the opportunity to be rewarded along the way.

Runner-up: Discover it® Student Cash Back

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Healthy credit-building behavior is a skill that you should start developing as early as possible. The Discover it® Student Cash Back card has no annual fee, offers up to 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter, offers bonus rewards for good grades, and matches all of the cash back that you have earned at the end of your first year. If you are a student in a position where you feel comfortable with your ability to spend responsibly and pay your bill off on time each month, you should consider this rewards credit card.

The best rewards credit card for bad credit: Discover it® Secured

Discover it® Secured
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There are still a handful of options that, with good payment behavior, can help you repair your credit and earn rewards. Bankrate’s favorite rewards credit card for bad credit is the Discover it Secured, which offers 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants, and 1% back on all other purchases. If you have a credit score lower than 600, you will be hard-pressed to find another card that offers cash back rewards with no annual fee.

Runner-up: Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® for Rebuilding Credit 


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If your heart is set on a cash back credit card, and your credit score is too low to get approved for the Discover it Secured, the Credit One Bank Platinum card is another option. With this card you will earn 1% cash back on “eligible” gas and grocery purchases. However, this card comes with an annual fee anywhere between $0 and $99 depending on your credit score. In sum, the Credit One Bank Platinum Card is a rewards card for bad credit, but not one that we would strongly recommend.

Recap: The best rewards cards of 2018

Card Name Best for Bankrate Review Score Rewards Rate
Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card Rewards with no annual fee 97/100 3X points on dining, travel, and gas
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card Travel 94/100 2 points per dollar spent
Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express Everyday Spending 92/100 6% at US supermarkets($6,000/yr, then 1%)(Terms Apply)
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Dining 95/100 2X points
Discover it® Cash Back  First year rewards 93/100 5% back on up to $1,500 each quarter,  in rotating categories, enrollment required; 1% on everything else
Citi Double Cash Card Cash-Back 94/100 1% cash back when you buy, plus 1% cash back when you pay
Chase Freedom Rotating Cash Back 90/100 5% back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter
Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN Business 88/100 3X points in one of 5 categories (Terms Apply)
Discover it® Secured Bad or limited credit 95/100 2% back on dining and gas up to $1,000 in spending per quarter
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express Retail Stores 89/100 2% back at US gas stations and dept stores (Terms Apply)

This editorial content is not provided or commissioned by any of the referenced financial institutions or companies. Opinions, analysis, reviews or recommendations expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any financial institutions or companies, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any such entity. All products or services are presented without warranty. Bankrate.com is an independent, advertising-supported publisher and comparison service. This post contains references to our partners, and Bankrate may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or your clicking on certain links posted on this website.