Best Cash Back Credit Cards July 2024

Trying to compare the best cash back credit cards? These cards may pay hundreds of dollars, with minimum hassle.

Disclaimer

This article covers only some of our picks for the best cash back credit cards. We may get compensation if you visit partner links on our site. We may not cover every available offer. Our relationship with advertisers may impact how an offer is presented on our website. However, our selection of products is made independently of our relationship to advertisers. We calculate a typical annual reward for each card, assuming $34,000 spent annually and less any annual fee. Interest rates, fees, rewards and other terms listed in this article are subject to change. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more. Rates and bonus offers were checked as of July 1, 2024.

Are you eying cash back credit cards to counter inflation? You're not alone. Most people comparing rewards credit cards opt for those that provide cold, hard cash over points and miles. 

To help you search, we have compiled a list of great cards that provide cash back on every purchase (or reward you with points that you can easily trade for cash at a strong value). 

Know what kind of cash back card you want? Jump to these sections to see our top three picks in each category.


Interest rates, fees, rewards and other terms listed in this article are subject to change. Before you apply for a credit card, check its current terms and conditions with the issuer.

Best Flat-Rate Cash Back Cards

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Citi Double Cash® Credit Card

Sign-up bonus: $200 cash back if you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first six months. And earn 5% total cash back on hotel and car rentals booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through 12/31/24.

Get a total of 2% cash back on everything you buy: 1% when you make a purchase and an additional 1% when you pay the bill. Plus, through the end of 2024, get 5% back on hotel and car rentals booked through Citi’s travel portal. Rewards are tracked as Citi ThankYou points, which you can exchange at a rate of 1 cent apiece for a statement credit, direct deposit into your bank account or a check. The card also offers a generous 18-month, 0% interest deal on balance transfers, with a 3% fee.

The Kiplinger Readers' Choice Awards 2024: Cash Back Credit Cards named the Citi Double Cash credit card as a winner for overall satisfaction and most recommended.

  • Sign-up bonus: There are two ways to get a boost. First, earn $200 cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first six months of your Citi Double Cash® card account opening. Second, earn 5% total cash back on hotel and car rentals booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through 12/31/24.
  • Top rewards rate: A total 2% back on all spending  — 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% when you pay.
  • Redemption: Rewards come in the form of Citi ThankYou® points, which can be redeemed for a statement credit, check or direct deposit into a bank account; or exchange points for gift cards, travel and other options through the ThankYou program, but point values vary for those redemptions.
  • APR:  The APR for purchases is a variable 19.24% to 29.24%. 
  • Balance transfer only offer: 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months; after that, the variable APR will be 19.24% to 29.24%, based on your creditworthiness.  If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • Annual fee: None.

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Farmers Insurance Federal Credit Union Crystal Visa

Sign-up bonus: $100 back if you spend $5,000 in the first three months.

Joining a credit union can take a bit more time than opening an account at a national bank. To entice new customers, Farmers is offering a whopping 3% cash back on all spending in the first year. After that, you get 2.5% back — a strong rate that makes the annual fee worthwhile for those who spend enough to justify it. The amount of spending that exceeds $10,000 each month does not earn rewards, which are provided as points that you can trade at a rate of a penny each for cash back. Anyone can join the credit union by becoming a member of the American Consumer Council and depositing $5 into a savings account.

  • Sign-up bonus: $100 back if you spend $5,000 in the first three months.
  • Top rewards rate: 3% back on every purchase the first year, and 2.5% back on all spending from the second year on; the amount of spending that exceeds $10,000 each month does not earn rewards.
  • Redemption: You collect rewards in the form of points, and they’re worth a penny each for a bank account deposit or statement credit ($50 minimum redemption).
  • Membership: Anyone can become a member of Farmers Insurance FCU by joining the American Consumer Council and depositing $5 into a savings account.
  • Interest rate: 0% on all purchases for the first six months, then 12.99% to 18% variable APR. This interest rate is much lower than commercial bank competitors.
  • Annual fee: $99, waived the first year.

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Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card 

Sign-up bonus: $200 back if you spend $500 in the first three months.

This card keeps it simple: Cardholders get 2% cash back on everything they buy. Redemption options include statement credits on purchases, a credit to other qualifying Wells Fargo accounts (including a checking account or mortgage) and gift cards.

Skip this card if you are planning significant travel outside the U.S., as there is a 3% foreign transaction fee.

  • Sign-up bonus: $200 back if you spend $500 in the first three months. 
  • Top rewards rate: 2% cash rewards on purchases.
  • Redemption: Statement credit, cash at the ATM with a Wells Fargo debit or ATM card (in $20 increments), gift cards ($25 increments), or a credit to a qualifying Wells Fargo credit card, checking account or mortgage.
  • Other benefits: Up to $600 per claim of protection for your cell phone against damage or theft if you pay your monthly wireless bill with the card.
  • Interest rate: 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, then 20.24%, 25.24% or 29.99% variable APR.
  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%
  • Annual fee: None.

Best Cards for Cash Back in Rotating Categories

Earn top rewards in categories that may change each month or quarter. These cards are a good fit for people who can keep track of and plan their charges in categories like online shopping, streaming, and travel.

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Chase Freedom Flex®

Sign-up bonus: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening. Get 5% back on grocery store purchases on up to $12,000 spent in the first year (excluding Target and Walmart). 

Cardholders get 5% back on up to $1,500 spent each quarter in rotating categories. Second-quarter 2024 categories include Amazon.com, restaurants and hotels. On top of that, you get year-round rewards of 5% back on travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program, 3% on restaurant and drugstore purchases, and 1% on all other spending. You can trade the Ultimate Rewards points that you earn at a rate of a penny each for cash back, gift cards or travel bookings.

  • Sign-up bonus: $200 back if you spend $500 in the first three months. Get 5% back on grocery store purchases on up to $12,000 spent in the first year (excluding Target and Walmart). 
  • Rewards rates: 
    • 5% back up to $1,500 for combined purchases in bonus (rotating) categories that you activate. The April through June 2024 bonus category includes purchases at Amazon.com, hotels and restaurants.
    • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, the premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more.
    • 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 31, 2025; that's 4% cash back in addition to the 1% cash back you already earn.
    • 3% back on dining at restaurants and drugstore purchases.
    • 1% back on all other spending.
  • Redemption: Cash back rewards are redeemed as statement balances or to accounts; travel rewards are tracked as Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which you can redeem at a rate of 1 cent each for cash back, travel bookings or gift cards.
  • Interest rate: 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 20.49% to 29.24%.
  • Annual fee: None.
  • Member FDIC

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Discover it® Cash Back Credit Card

Sign-up bonus: An unlimited dollar-for-dollar match of cash back earned after your first year.

This card’s strength lies in its generous bonus offer, which doubles your rewards in the first year. Cardholders get 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent quarterly in rotating categories, such as grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and more, and earn 1% cash back on all other purchases. You can redeem cash back as a statement credit or a deposit to an external account.

This card is also a good choice for balance transfers through October 10, 2024.

The Kiplinger Readers' Choice Awards 2024: Cash Back Credit Cards named the Discover It credit card a winner for outstanding customer service.

  • Sign-up bonus: An unlimited dollar-for-dollar match of cash back earned after your first year.
  • Rewards rates: Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter up to the maximum when you activate. The current 5% bonus category includes purchases at gas stations, electric vehicle charging stations, home improvement stores and public transportation. Plus, earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Redemption: Deposit cash back directly into your bank account or apply it as a statement credit on your Discover card balance.
  • Pay with cashback bonus: Use your rewards at checkout at Amazon.com and Paypal.
  • Interest rate: 0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers and 3% Intro Balance Transfer Fee until October 10, 2024. Then, 17.24% to 28.24% Standard Variable Purchase APR and up to 5% fee for future balance transfers will apply.
  • Annual fee: None.

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U.S. Bank Shopper Cash Rewards™ Visa Signature® Card

Annual fee: $95, waived the first year.

Sign-up bonus: $300 back if you spend $2,000 in the first 120 days.

This card from U.S. Bank provides an outstanding 6% cash back on the first $1,500 of combined quarterly spending at two retailers you choose. Recently, cardholders could select from 24 major stores, including Amazon.com, Apple, Home Depot, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Target and Walmart. You also get 3% back on the first $1,500 in quarterly spending in one category you choose; the options are gas and electric-vehicle charging stations, wholesale clubs, and bills and utilities. 

Plus, you earn 5.5% back on prepaid travel reservations through the U.S. Bank travel portal and 1.5% on all other spending — a higher rate than the 1% that most cards offer outside their maximum-rebate categories. You can redeem cash back as a statement credit, a prepaid debit card or a deposit into a U.S. Bank account. 

  • Sign-up bonus: $300 back if you spend $2,000 in the first 120 days.
  • Top rewards rate:  Get 6% cash back on the first $1,500 of combined quarterly spending at two retailers you choose from 24 major stores, including Amazon.com, Home Depot, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Target and Walmart; you also get 3% back on the first $1,500 in quarterly spending in one category you choose; the options are wholesale clubs, gas and EV charging stations, and bills and utilities. 
  • Other rewards: Earn 5.5% back on prepaid travel reservations through the U.S. Bank travel portal and 1.5% on all other spending — a higher rate than the 1% most cards offer outside their maximum-rebate categories.
  • Sign-up bonus: Get $250 back if you spend $2,000 in the first 120 days.
  • Redemption: Redeem cash back as a statement credit, a prepaid debit card or a deposit into a U.S. Bank account.
  • Interest rate:  Variable 19.74% to 29.74 APR for purchases and balance transfers.
  • Annual fee: No annual fee in the first year, then $95 thereafter.

Best Cash Back Credit Cards for Savers

You get the best value with these cards if you stash rewards in a bank or investment account. We excluded cards that require large deposits in accounts that do not have competitive interest rates. 


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Fidelity Rewards Signature® Visa

Customers of Fidelity Investments earn 2% back on each purchase with this card if they deposit rewards into qualifying Fidelity accounts, including brokerage and cash management accounts, 529 college savings plans, retirement accounts, donor-advised funds, and health savings accounts. You can also direct your rewards into a friend’s or family member’s account (excluding donor-advised funds). Although Fidelity does not offer savings accounts, it does provide money market mutual funds and other investment vehicles with low to moderate fees.

This card won the 2024 Kiplinger Readers' Choice Award for Best Cash Back Credit Card.

  • Sign-up bonus: None.
  • Top rewards rate: 2% back on every purchase when you deposit rewards into an eligible Fidelity account.
  • Other rewards: For Fidelity Wealth Management clients, cash back rates are higher: 2.25% for those with at least $250,000, on up to 3% for those with $2 million or more.
  • Redemption: You can divide rewards among up to five accounts — including a brokerage account, cash management account, 529 college-savings plan, retirement account, donor-advised fund, Fidelity Go robo-adviser account and health savings account. Note that redemptions to a tax-advantaged account (such as a 529 Plan or IRA) may count as a standard contribution. A redemption to a Fidelity Charitable account may be tax-deductible. Be sure to consult your tax adviser if you have questions.
  • Interest rate: 19.24% variable APR.
  • Annual fee: None.

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SoFi Unlimited 2% Credit Card

Sign-up bonus: 3% cash back on up to $12,000 in purchases the first year if you have a qualifying monthly direct deposit into a SoFi Checking and Savings account.

This credit card from financial technology company SoFi offers 2% cash back on all spending if you deposit your rewards into a SoFi investment or banking account or apply them to a SoFi student loan or personal loan. 

Earn 3% cash-back rewards on purchases through SoFi Travel, the company’s travel-booking portal. SoFi’s Checking and Savings account is an attractive choice for rewards deposits, recently yielding a healthy 4.6% on the savings component of the balance and 0.5% on the checking portion if you have a monthly direct deposit into the account of at least $5,000.

  • Sign-up bonus: 3% cash back on up to $12,000 in purchases the first year if you have a qualifying monthly direct deposit into a SoFi Checking and Savings account. That's a benefit of up to $360.
  • Top rewards rate: Earn unlimited 3% cash back rewards when you use your SoFi Credit Card to book trips through the new SoFi Travel powered by Expedia; get 2% cash back on all spending if you deposit your rewards into a SoFi investment or banking account or apply them to a SoFi student loan or personal loan.
  • *Other benefits:  SoFi’s Checking and Savings account is an attractive choice for rewards deposits, yielding up to 4.6% APY on the savings component of the balance and 0.5% APY on the checking portion if you have a monthly direct deposit into the account of at least $5,000. 
  • Redemption: Points may be redeemed for statement credits or rewards offered through the SoFi Member Rewards Program.
  • Interest rate: 20.24% to 29.99% APR variable on purchases and balance transfers.
  • Annual fee: None.
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TD Double Up Visa

Sign-up bonus: TD recently raised the sign-up bonus amount from $100 to $150 back if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days. 

Earn cash back at a rate of 2% on each purchase. You can redeem points for a statement credit or a deposit into the bank account of your choice. If you trade points that you earn for statement credits, travel or gift cards, you get a 1% payback on spending. Recently, a TD Bank Signature Savings account with a minimum balance of $10,000 had no monthly fee and a 2% yield.

The card charges a 3% foreign transaction fee, so use another card for international travel.

  • Sign-up bonus: $150 back if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days.
  • Top rewards rate: 2% back on all spending.
  • State residence requirement: This card is only available to customers residing in Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
  • Redemption: Each purchase you make earns one point per dollar; you can redeem points for a statement credit or a deposit into the bank account of your choice.
  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%.
  • Interest rate for purchases: 20.24%, 25.24% or 30.24% variable APR.
  • Balance transfer offer: 0% introductory APR on balance transfers for first 15 billing cycles, then 20.24%, 25.24% or 30.24% variable APR. The balance transfer fee is 3% or $5, whichever is the greater amount.
  • Annual fee: None

Best Cash Back Cards for Groceries

These cards offer ample cash back on purchases at grocery stores. 

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American Express® Gold Card

Annual fee: $250.

Intro bonus: Up to 60,000 points if you spend $6,000 in the first six months.

Earn four points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets (but not superstores such as Walmart or Target), on up to a whopping $25,000 spent per year. Cardholders also earn four points per dollar on dining or food delivery, three points on air travel, and one point on other spending. The most lucrative way to redeem points is for airfare booked through Amex Travel, or as transfers to hotel or airline partner programs. 

When you use your Gold Card as a payment option on your Uber account, you get $10 in Uber Cash each month toward Uber Eats or Uber rides. To receive this benefit, you must have downloaded the latest version of the Uber App and your eligible American Express Gold Card must be a method of payment in your Uber account. The Amex Benefit may only be used in the United States. You can also get $10 in monthly statement credits for purchases at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack restaurants.

See rates and fees.

Terms apply.

  • Intro bonus: Up to 60,000 points if you spend $6,000 in the first six months.
  • Top rewards rate: Earn four points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets (but not superstores such as Walmart or Target), on up to $25,000 spent per year. Also earn four points per dollar on dining or food delivery.
  • Other rewards: Earn three points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or with Amex Travel; two points per dollar on other eligible Amex Travel purchases; and one point per dollar on other spending.
  • Redemption: Points are redeemable at a rate of 1 cent each for flights booked through Amex and certain gift cards (points are worth less for most other redemption options).
  • Interest rate: Pay Over Time APR: 21.24% to 29.24%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors as determined at the time of account opening. See rates and fees.
  • Annual fee: $250.
  • Terms Apply.
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Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express 

Annual fee: $95, waived the first year. 

Intro bonus: Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases on your new Card within the first six months.

The typical American household spent about $5,700 on groceries in 2022, according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. So many consumers could benefit from the exceptional 6% cash back that this card provides on up to $6,000 of supermarket spending annually. (Big-box stores such as Walmart and Costco are excluded.)

The card also offers 6% cash back on select streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at gas stations and on transit (such as ride-sharing services and tolls), and 1% cash back on other spending. Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit or at Amazon.com checkout. 

The Card has a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, so select another credit card for travel abroad. See rates and fees

The Kiplinger Readers' Choice Awards 2024: Cash Back Credit Cards named the Blue Cash Preferred credit card a winner for outstanding customer service and most recommended.

  • Intro bonus: Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases on your new Card within the first six months. 
  • Rewards rates
    • 6% cash back on up to $6,000 in annual U.S. supermarket spending, then 1%.
    • 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services.
    • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit.
    • 1% cash back on other spending.
  • Subscription discounts: $84 Disney Bundle Credit: With your enrolled Blue Cash Preferred Card, spend $9.99 or more each month on an auto-renewing Disney Bundle subscription to receive a monthly statement credit of $7. Valid only at Disney Plus.com, Hulu.com or Plus.espn.com in the U.S.  
  • Redemption: Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit or at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Interest rate: Low Intro APR:  0% on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months from the date of account opening. After that, your APR will be a variable APR of 19.24% - 29.99%. See Rates and Fees.
  • Annual fee: $95, $0 introductory annual fee. See Rates and Fees.
  • Terms Apply.

Best Cash Back Cards for Gas and EV Charging

If you drive an electric vehicle, see our article on getting cash back on your credit card for charging an EV. We can also point you to credit cards that cover rental car insurance


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Costco Anywhere Visa® Card By Citi

Members of Costco Wholesale ($60 annually for a Gold Star membership or $120 annually for an Executive membership) can apply for this card, which provides 4% cash back on up to $7,000 per year spent at gas and EV charging stations. 

Cardholders also get 3% on restaurant and travel spending, 2% on Costco purchases and 1% on other spending. You receive cash back as a certificate each year after your February billing statement closes, and you can exchange it for cash or merchandise at Costco warehouses. Certificates are redeemable through December 31 each year.  

The Kiplinger Readers' Choice Awards 2024: Best Cash Back Credit Cards named the Costco Anywhere Visa Card By Citi outstanding for overall satisfaction.

  • Sign-up bonus: None.
  • Rewards rates: 
    • Get  4% cash back on up to $7,000 per year spent at gas and EV charging stations (worth up to $280), then 1%.
    • Get 3% on restaurant and travel spending worldwide. 
    • Earn 2% on Costco purchases.
    • Get 1% on other spending.
  • Redemption:  One downside of the card is that points can only be redeemed at physical Costco stores, not online. Moreover, points are not delivered to you throughout the year but at the end of the year. You receive cash back as a certificate each year after your February billing statement closes, and you can exchange it for cash or merchandise at Costco warehouses; certificates are redeemable through December 31 each year.
  • Membership: Anyone can be a Costco member; the cost is $60 annually for a Gold Star membership or $120 annually for an Executive membership.
  • Interest rate: Variable APR of 20.49% for purchases and balance transfers.
  • Annual fee: None for Costco members, but see annual membership fees.

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PNC Cash Rewards® Visa® Credit Card

Sign-up bonus: $250 back if you spend $1,000 in the first three months.

You can apply for this card if you have a new or existing PNC Bank checking or savings account. Get 4% back on gas station purchases, 3% on dining, 2% on grocery stores (on the first $8,000 combined in those categories per year) and 1% back on other spending. Redeem cash back as a statement credit or deposit in your PNC account.

The card is limited to customers who can qualify for a minimum of a $500 credit line.

  • Sign-up bonus: $250 back if you spend $1,000 in the first three months.
  • Rewards rates
    • 4% back on gas station purchases
    • 3% on dining
    • 2% on grocery stores (on the first $8,000 combined in those categories)
    • 1% back on other spending
  • Redemption: Redeem cash back as a statement credit or deposit in your PNC account. 
  • Interest rate: 20.24% to 30.24% variable APR.
  • Balance transfer rate: The card offers 0% for the first 15 months, then the purchase rate (20.24% to 30.24% variable APR). The balance transfer fee is 4% of the transfer amount or $5, whichever is larger, for the first 90 days. Since you can find other cards with lower balance transfer fees (typically 3%), we do not recommend this card for balance transfers.
  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%, so don't use this card for international travel.
  • Annual fee: None.
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Sam’s Club® Mastercard®

If you’re a member of Sam’s Club, consider this card for the 5% cash back it provides on up to $6,000 spent each year on gas. After that, you earn 1% back on gas until the end of the year.

You can get the 5% back on your card at any gas station that accepts Mastercard, and you can also get 5% for EV charging.

Cash back is redeemable only at Sam's Club stores or online site, so be sure you can spend enough at Sam's Club to make the rewards worth it.

  • Interest rate: For new cardholders, variable APR of 20.90% to 28.90% for purchases.
  • Annual fee: None, but see annual membership fees.
  • Rewards rates:  
    • Get 5% cash back on up to $6,000 spent each year on gas or EV charging (worth up to $300 per year), then 1% for the remainder of the year.
    • Restaurant spending earns 3% back, as do Sam’s Club purchases if you’re a Plus member.
    • All other spending (including Sam’s Club purchases for Club members) earns 1% back.
  • Redemption:  Rewards are issued as Sam’s Cash, which you can redeem for purchases at Sam’s Club stores.
  • Sign-up bonus: Get a $30 statement credit when you open a new account and make
    $30 in Sam’s Club purchases within 30 days.
  • Membership:  Anyone can be a member of Sam's Club; it costs $50 annually for a Club membership or $110 annually for a Plus membership. For a limited time, Sam's Club is offering a new Club membership at 50% off for $25. To get a discount code, search the internet for "Sam's Club membership" and "discount." Other membership discounts include those for students and college graduates and seniors (55+).

How Does a Cash Back Card Work?

Like other rewards credit cards, a cash back credit card offers rewards on everyday purchases. Depending on the card, here are a few different ways your rewards can be structured.

Flat-rate rewards

These cards offer a flat rewards rate on every purchase you make — typically between 1% and 2% cash back. These cards are best for people who prefer simplicity, but they can limit your opportunities to maximize your rewards on some of your top spending categories. These cards used to offer only one percent back for each dollar spent, but that reward level has ticked up to 1.5% to 2% recently. According to Ted Rossman of creditcards.com, “two percent cash back is kind of like the gold standard for keeping it simple.”  

Tiered rewards

Tiered rewards cards offer different rewards rates based on where you spend your money. For example, you may earn 3% cash back on gas or groceries, 2% back on travel and 1% back on all other purchases.

These cards offer the chance to rack up a lot of cash back on some of your top spending categories, but it's likely that most of your spending will earn the lowest rewards rate, so it doesn't necessarily mean you'll get more rewards compared to a flat-rate card.

Rotating rewards

Just a few cash back credit cards offer rotating rewards. For example, you may earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent each quarter in categories that rotate every few months. In one quarter, it may be groceries and department stores, and in the next, it could be specific retailers like Target, Walmart or Amazon.

Rotating-rewards credit cards make it possible for you to earn a high rewards rate on a variety of spending categories. But again, the base rewards rate for these cards is usually 1%, and that's what most of your spending will earn. 

Pros and Cons of Cash Back Cards

Pros of cash back cards

  • Cash back cards are easy to understand and use. When it comes to simplicity and clarity, cash back cards are second to none among rewards cards. Cash back is expressed as a percentage of the amount you spend, so you know the exact value of your rewards. With travel rewards cards and other cards that provide points or airline miles for each dollar you spend, the value per point or mile may vary depending on which redemption you choose.
  • They put cash in your pocket. Cash back is hard to beat if you want extra money to spend. You can often redeem cash-back rewards for a bank-account deposit, check or statement credit that reduces your credit card account balance. Or, as with some of our best cash back cards for savers, you may even be able to put the cash back in an investment account.
  • You get good rewards for everyday spending. With a cash back card, you could get a healthy flat rate of about 2% back on everything you buy, or earn as much as 5% or 6% back on staples such as gas and groceries. Travel rewards cards tend to offer the highest rates on purchases of flights, hotels, dining out and other spending that usually falls into the non-essential category.

Cons of cash back cards:

  • They don’t always offer the highest payback. If you prefer to get the maximum possible value out of the rewards you earn with a credit card, a cash back card may not be for you. With travel rewards cards, sometimes you can earn outstanding rewards rates by putting in some legwork. With a card that pays out airline miles, for example, you may squeeze out extra value by combing through flight schedules to find the best redemption rates.
  • Sign-up bonuses are smaller. Travel rewards cards are known for offering hefty initial bonuses to draw in customers. Premium travel card Chase Sapphire Reserve, for example, recently provided 60,000 bonus points — worth $900 in travel redemptions — to new cardholders who spent at least $4,000 on the card in the first three months. Many cash back cards offer initial bonuses, but their values typically aren’t as high overall.
  • Interest rates are high and variable. As with other rewards cards, the annual percentage rate on a cash back card is usually stiff. Average card rates run close to 20%, and some cards charge maximum rates closer to 30%. Plus, most cards have a variable interest rate tied to an index — often the prime rate. When the Federal Reserve raises short-term interest rates, the APR on your credit card increases, too.

Who Should Use Cash Back Cards?

A cash back card may be right for you if…

  • You pay off your balance in full each month. For a disciplined spender, a cash back card can be a powerful tool, allowing you to collect hundreds of dollars per year in rewards. But if you carry a balance on the card from month to month, the interest you pay on the balance will likely erase the advantage of cash back rewards. Cash back cards are best suited to those who pay off their balance monthly and owe no interest. 
  • You like to keep it simple. With a cash back card, you typically don’t have to think much about redemption values. As long as you redeem rewards for cash back, you should get the advertised percentage payback.
  • You prefer to use a single card. Some cash back cards, including our winners for flat-rate cash back, provide 2% or more on every purchase. If you’d rather not carry several rewards cards in your wallet — which involves keeping track of which one offers the best rewards at each merchant you visit — choose a great flat-rate card instead. That said, you can certainly have more than one rewards credit card, just be sure to understand how many credit cards you should have to safeguard your credit score. And be sure to keep your credit cards active.
  • You spend a lot on budget staples. If essentials such as groceries and gas eat a big part of your budget, you may get the most bang for your buck from a cash back card that provides top rewards in those categories.

Which Cash Back Card Is Best for You?

You have a lot of great options among cash back credit cards. As you narrow down the selection, take stock of the following:

  • In what categories do you spend the most money? Take a look at your spending patterns to see where your cash typically flows, and match your top spending categories to a cash back card that supplies bountiful rewards in those areas.
  • Should you pay an annual fee? Reviewing your budget will also help you determine whether the amount of cash back you could earn with a card would overcome the annual fee if it has one. If you don’t think you’ll gain enough in rewards to outweigh the fee, consider a no-fee card instead.
  • Can you keep up with rotating categories? Some cards offer the top reward in a category that adjusts each quarter, or they allow you to select the top-earning category each quarter or month. That can be a lucrative strategy, but you’ll have to remember which types of purchases provide the best rewards at a given time. Plus, you may have to activate the maximum-reward category each quarter to earn the heightened cash back. If you’d rather not make the effort to keep it all straight, a simpler cash back card may be the best choice.
  • Can you meet the initial bonus spending requirement? If a card offers a sign-up bonus, check how much you need to spend to earn it. You’ll typically need to spend at least a few hundred dollars — and often $1,000 or more — within a few months of opening the card to get an extra helping of cash back.
  • Do you want to finance a large purchase interest-free? Several cards provide an initial period during which purchases (and balance transfers, in some cases) for new card members aren’t subject to interest — often, it lasts 12 months or more. If you’re thinking of making a large purchase, check whether the card offers a 0% balance transfer window. To avoid interest charges, make a plan to pay off your balance before the 0% offer ends.

How to Pick the Best Cash Back Card for You

There's no single cash back credit card that's best for everyone, so it's important to shop around and compare several factors to determine which is the right one for you: 

  • Rewards rates: If you don't want to keep track of different rewards rates, consider a flat-rate rewards card. If you want to maximize rewards on certain purchases, find a tiered or rotating rewards card with rewards categories that align with your spending.
  • Welcome bonus: Consider the amount of each card's cash bonus, as well as the minimum spending requirement you need to meet to earn it. Only get a card if you can afford to meet that spending threshold without overspending.
  • Redemption options: While cash back credit cards tend to offer more straightforward redemption options compared to travel cards, your redemption options can still vary. For example, some cards may only offer statement credits, while others may offer direct deposit, paper checks, gift cards, travel, online shopping and more.
  • APR promotion terms: If you're after a 0% APR promotion, look at the length of each card's promotion and which transactions are included — purchases, balance transfers or both. If you want to do a balance transfer, look at each card's balance transfer fee.
  • Other card benefits: Depending on your lifestyle, you may want to take advantage of other card benefits. For example, some cards may offer credits or complimentary subscriptions with popular retailers, travel and shopping protections and more.
  • Annual fee: While most cash back credit cards don't charge an annual fee, there are some that do. If a card does charge an annual fee, look at the rewards program and other benefits to determine whether you can get enough value to make up for the yearly charge.

Take your time to research several options to determine the right fit for you. In some cases, it could make sense to use more than one cash back credit card to take advantage of the different bonus rewards categories and benefits. 

Can You Earn Cash Back Rewards With Bad Credit?

Most cash back credit cards require a good credit score or better, but there are some credit cards available that you can get with bad credit. However, it's essential to look at more than just the rewards program to determine whether such a card is a good fit for you. Here are some other things to consider: 

  • Security deposit: Some cash back credit cards for bad credit are secured cards, meaning you need to put up a security deposit — usually equal to your desired credit limit — to get approved. Depending on the card, you may not get that money back until you close your account.
  • Fees and interest: Some cash back credit cards for bad credit may charge an annual fee and a sky-high interest rate. 
  • Credit-building features: Make sure the card issuer reports your account activity to all three credit bureaus; otherwise, your credit-building efforts won't have as much of an impact. Also, check to see if the card issuer offers credit line increases.

Take your time to consider several options before you make a decision. 

Cash back vs. travel credit card: which is better?

Both cash back and travel rewards credit cards can offer a lot of value, but the right one for you may depend on your travel habits, budget and preferences. Here's a quick comparison: 

  • Annual fee: Most cash back credit cards don't charge an annual fee, while the opposite is true for travel credit cards.
  • Welcome bonus: If a cash back credit card offers a welcome bonus, it may range from $100 to $300 in most cases. With a travel credit card, a bonus can range from $200 to $1,000 or more.
  • Rewards: Cash back credit cards can offer flat-rate, tiered or rotating rewards, while travel credit cards only offer flat-rate or tiered rewards. When it comes to redeeming rewards, travel points or miles aren't as flexible as straight cash back, but you could potentially get more value with certain programs. 
  • Intro APR: Many cash back credit cards offer a 0% APR promotion on purchases, balance transfers or both. On the flip side, travel rewards cards typically don't offer this feature.
  • Other benefits: Cash back credit cards generally don't offer a lot of additional value beyond rewards and a 0% APR promotion (some exceptions exist). In contrast, some travel credit cards may offer hundreds of dollars in value each year in the form of travel perks. 

Disclaimer

As an independent publication dedicated to helping you make the most of your money, the article above is our view of the best deals and is not the opinion of any entity mentioned such as a card issuer, hotel, airline etc. Similarly, the content has not been reviewed or endorsed by any of those entities.


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Ellen Kennedy
Personal Finance Editor, Kiplinger.com

Ellen writes and edits personal finance stories, especially on credit cards and related products. She also covers the nexus between sustainability and personal finance. She was a manager and sustainability analyst at Calvert Investments for 15 years, focusing on climate change and consumer staples. She served on the sustainability councils of several Fortune 500 companies and led corporate engagements. Before joining Calvert, Ellen was a program officer for Winrock International, managing loans to alternative energy projects in Latin America. She earned a master’s from the U.C. Berkeley in international relations and Latin America. 

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