The Best Cash Back Credit Cards

A cash back credit card rewards you for certain purchases, either as statement credits or actual cash in hand, and the best for you is the one that matches your personal spending habits. Our finalists all offer at least 2% cash back on certain purchasing categories, like gas or restaurants, with our favorite offering a whopping 6% for groceries.

The 4 Best Cash Back Credit Cards

Best for Groceries and Gas
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
American Express
A massive 6% back on groceries and 3% back on gas make this a go-to card for everyday purchases
Pros
High rewards percentages
Extra travel and shopping benefits
Cons
Not widely accepted
Annual fee
Limited redemption options

Why we chose it

High rewards percentages

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers an unbeatable 6% cash back on groceries purchased at U.S. supermarkets, for up to $6,000 in purchases per year (and then 1% after that). No other card offered this much cash back for any category. Basically, if you spend $500 on groceries every month (the USDA says the average couple actually spends $625 on groceries each month), you can earn $30 cash back every month or an extra $360 per year. You’ll also earn 3% cash back in two more popular categories — gas stations and select department stores — as well as 1% cash back on all other purchases. You also get a $200 rewards bonus after putting $1,000 on your Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express within the first three months of opening your account.

Extra travel and shopping benefits

American Express lets you travel stress-free with travel accident insurance, support from the Global Assist® and Roadside Assistance Hotlines, as well as car rental loss and damage insurance. In terms of shopping, American Express can take care of you if a manufacturer’s warranty runs out and extend the dead warranty’s life by up to two years, as well as help you get a refund from a reluctant retailer.

Points to consider

Not widely accepted

With 1.5 million more merchants started accepting American Express in 2017, you won’t be left out in the cold with this card, but it’s worth noting that this card is still not accepted at all retailers — in fact, it has one of the lowest merchant acceptance rates across the U.S. So if this is your card of choice, you and the other 11 million Amex cardholders will likely need to carry a backup card just in case.

Annual fee

This card comes with a $95 annual fee, which is pretty standard for the industry. However, it’s important to make sure you’re not paying more in fees than you are earning rewards. But as long as you spend at least $1,600 (a mere $133 a month) on groceries, you’ll easily pay off that fee with your rewards money. If you don't want to foot an annual fee, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is fee-free, but only gives you 3% on groceries and 2% on gas. It's worth doing the math to see whether you're better off saving the fee, or if the higher cash-back percentages make that extra payment worthwhile.

Limited redemption options

Your cash back with the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express is only available as statement credits, which means you can only use your cash back to pay off purchases you’ve made on your card. If you want cash in hand instead of cash to put toward your credit card balance, this card is not for you.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express Highlights
  • $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) – that means spending $60 a week at U.S. supermarkets could earn over $180 back per year.
  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.74% to 25.74%.
  • Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees.

Best for Rotating Categories
Discover it® Cash Back
Discover
A good card if you want different rewards categories each quarter, plus Discover will match your cash back at the end of your first year
Pros
Variety of spending categories
Dollar-for-dollar matching
Cons
No sign-up bonus

Why we chose it

Variety of spending categories

For those who don’t want to be tied to a particular category, rotating cards let you earn cash back on a wider variety of stores and purchases. Discover offers 5% cash back on participating companies, including gas stations, wholesale clubs, grocery stores, restaurants, and even Amazon. What’s more, like our other contenders, Discover will offer an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Dollar-for-dollar match bonus

This is where Discover stands out — it’s the only one of our rotating cash back cards that offers a dollar-for-dollar match on all your cash back earnings within the first year. This could be an asset to those who plan on hitting the quarterly maximum in each of the 5% categories.

Points to consider

No sign-up bonus

With this Discover card, you won’t get a sign-up bonus (read: extra points or a generous statement credit to your account) after spending a certain amount within 90 days — something offered by all our other picks. While you can get a dollar-for-dollar cash back match at the end of your first year — you will have to wait a year for the payoff.

Discover it® Cash Back Highlights
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There’s no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.

Best for Customizing Spending Categories
U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card
U.S. Bank
Another great option for big rewards on rotating categories, plus an unlimited 2% cash back on an "everyday" category of your choice (think: groceries or gas)
Pros
Bonus category customizability
Generous maximum spending limits
Cons
Categories require early activation

Why we chose it

Bonus category customizability

You can tailor your bonus categories to your personal spending needs in two ways with the U.S. Bank Cash +™ Visa Signature®Card: You can select one everyday category (e.g. gas or groceries) for 2% cash back and then two other 5% cash back categories for other expenses (e.g. select clothing stores, cell phone providers, gym memberships, etc). The ability to mix and match categories at different rates gives you a greater opportunity to maximize your rewards on the various types of purchases that best fit your lifestyle.

Generous maximum spending limits

This card has no spending maximum for the 2% “everyday categories” like gas and groceries, so no matter how much you spend at the checkout or the pump, you’ll continue earning 2% all year round. While there is a $2,000 spending maximum for the higher 5% categories, after which your cash back will drop down to 1% for that category for the rest of the year, this is still higher than our other two rotating cards, both of which have $1,500 maximums.

Points to consider

Categories require early activation

The categories do change every quarter, and you need to remember to activate your bonus category each quarter in order to receive the higher reward rate. You have up to five days before each new quarter to make your selections, otherwise you’ll just get 1% for everything. You’ll need to stay on top of activation dates, although U.S. Bank will also notify you in advance.

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card Highlights
  • 5% cash back on your first $2,000 in combined net purchases each quarter on two categories you choose.
  • 2% cash back on your choice of one everyday category (like gas or groceries).
  • 1% cash back on everything else.
  • No limit on total cash back earned.
  • 0% Introductory APR* for the first 12 billing cycles on any balances transferred within 60 days from account opening. After that, a variable APR, currently 14.99% – 23.99% based on your creditworthiness.
  • No annual fee.

Runner-Up
Chase Freedom®
Chase
Almost identical to our top pick for rotating categories, but without the rewards matching for the first year
Pros
Variety of spending categories
Flexible redemption options
Late activation option
Cons
Extra fees

Why we chose it

Variety of spending categories

The Chase Freedom® offers 5% cash back on rotating categories, including everything from wholesale clubs (think Sam’s Club and Costco) to transportation (think buses, taxis, Lyft, toll roads), as well as restaurants, gas, and certain department stores. For example, for July-September 2018, you earn rewards for purchases at gas stations, Lyft, and Walgreens. This variety gives you plenty of earning potential on up to $1,500 worth of purchases across all categories each quarter. Plus, you’ll get an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases and a bonus of $150 after spending $500 within the first three months of opening your account.

Flexible redemption options

Chase lets you choose between a statement credit or direct deposit into (most) U.S. checking and savings accounts, and you don’t have to reach a certain amount in order to redeem your rewards. You can also redeem your cash back in the form of a gift card toward a favorite restaurant, or apply it towards the cost of your next vacation, with Chase Ultimate Rewards. Plus, if you love Amazon, you can use your cash back rewards to pay for your orders.

Late activation option

If you forget to activate your 5% bonus category before the quarter starts, Chase doesn’t cut you off or lower your earning rate, which is what happens with most other rotating cards. In fact, you can activate your 5% cash back earnings up until almost the end of the quarter, and it’ll apply your 5% retroactively to all the purchases you made for the entire quarter (up to $1,500).

Points to consider

Extra fees

While the card has a low intro APR of 0% for the first 15 months, Chase does have a few ways to take extra money out of your pocket. Notably, the card has a 5% balance transfer rate — which is higher than our other rotating cash back card contenders (with rates at 3%). This means that if you want to transfer any form of debt to another card with a lower interest rate, Chase will charge you a little more for you to do so (5% of the amount being transferred, to be exact). The card also has the highest potential interest rate of any of our rotating picks with a range of 16.74%–25.49%, so if you forget to make a payment after that first year, you could be paying over 25% back in interest.

Chase Freedom® Highlights
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum.
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate.
  • Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter.
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – it’s automatic.
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠.
  • No annual fee.

Guide to Cash Back Credit Cards

How to find the best cash back credit card for you

Think about your spending habits

If you’re not a frequent flyer or traveler, earning cash back might be a viable rewards option for you. But before becoming invested in a certain cash back credit card, you should analyze how you spend your money within a month’s (or year’s) time. Do you eat out at restaurants a lot? Cook up a storm at home? Rack up the miles in your car? Or are your expenses pretty even and you just want a little back on everything? We recommend using a personal finance app, like Mint or YNAB, to track your spending by category so you can choose a cash back card that suits your lifestyle.

Decide how you want to redeem your cash

Cash back cards usually offer a variety of ways to let you redeem earnings, including statement credits, checks, direct deposits, gift cards, or charitable donations. Make sure your card is earning you rewards you actually want. It’s also important to see if you need to earn a minimum amount, or wait a certain amount of time, before you’re able to collect rewards.

Calculate potential earnings

Once you have a good idea of how much you spend (and where you spend it), it’s best to analyze how these habits fit into a potential cash back credit card. This means you’ll want to factor in how much money you could make by reaching the maximum rewards thresholds of each card and then subtract any fees. You’ll also want to prepare yourself for a lower number (earning wise) by the second year, as sign-up bonuses bolster total earnings for the first year.

Know your credit score (and interest rates)

Your credit score essentially allows credit card companies insight into how trustworthy you’re going to be when using their card. The best cash back cards usually require at least a “good” credit score. Before applying, you should tailor your credit card search to your credit score. The Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) uses this scoring method:

Exceptional: 800+
Very good: 740 - 799
Good: 670 - 739
Fair: 580 - 669
Poor: <580 Cash back cards tend to have high interest rates of around 16-25%, although your individual interest rate will be calculated based on your credit score — the higher your credit score, the higher your Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will be. While we recommend paying off your balance in full and on time to avoid paying interest altogether, that isn’t always possible, so it’s important to know what rates the lender will charge you for carrying over a balance month to month. For example, if your APR is 24.74%, a $2,000 balance would earn around $500 in interest after a year. It’s definitely worthwhile to check out the APR for your card to make sure the interest fees won’t negate your rewards earnings.

The best cash back credit cards: Summed Up

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Discover it® Cash Back
U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card
Chase Freedom®
Best for Groceries and Gas
Best Rotating Card
Best for Customizing Spending Categories
Runner-Up
Annual fee
$95
$0
$0
$0
APR
14.74% – 25.74%
0% intro for 14 months, then 13.74% – 24.74%
15.74% - 24.74%
0% for the first 15 months, then 16.74% - 25.49%
Cash back
6% at supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%)


3% at gas stations and select department stores


1% on all other purchases
5% for rotating categories (on up to $1,500 per quarter in combined purchases)

1% on all other purchases

5% for two rotating categories (on up to $2,000 per quarter in combined purchases)


2% on one everyday category of your choice


1% on all other purchases
5% for rotating categories (on up to $1,500 per quarter in combined purchases)


1% on all other purchases
Perks
$200 cash back when you spend $1,000+ within the first three months
Dollar-for-dollar matching on cash back earned throughout the first 12 months
$150 cash back when you spend $500 within the first three months
$150 cash back when you spend $500 within the first three months
Redemption options
Statement credit
Statement credit, gift card, Amazon purchase, direct deposit, or charitable donation
Statement credit, direct deposit (U.S. Bank account only), or rewards card
Statement credit, direct deposit, Amazon purchase, gift card, or travel costs

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