The 30-Second Review

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 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 6% Card

An impressive 6% cash back on groceries, coupled with 3% back on gas and department stores, and 1% on everything else makes this card a no-brainer for anyone with mouths to feed and a car to drive.

The 5% Cards
  • January 23, 2018 - We've updated this page to reflect new perks and terms of our top picks. We’ll be doing a complete overhaul of this review in the coming months to delve deeper into the best cash back credit cards for different lifestyles.

The Best Cash Back Credit Cards

The secret to getting the most cash out of a cash back credit card is knowing where you spend your money. Many cards offer their highest cash back percentages only for purchases in certain categories, like groceries, restaurants, or gas. Other cards offer high cash back percentages in categories that rotate each quarter, which means you might not always be able to take advantage of them (like 5% cash back on gas this quarter when you don’t own a car).

So get really familiar with your spending habits before you apply for a cash back card. 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 — then you can use those learnings as a roadmap to the card that will give you the most for your money. Keep in mind, you want a card that matches your lifestyle — a card with cash back on travel expenses is unlikely to make you a regular traveller if you aren’t already, it just means you won’t get the most rewards for where your money does go.

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express gets an unbeatable 6% back on up to $6,000 of groceries per year, 3% on gas and department stores, and 1% on everything else. Those rewards are good enough that, if your spending habits align, you can likely pay off its $95 annual fee and still have more cash back than any other card.

Some of our other top picks include the Chase Freedom®, the Discover it® Cashback Match™, and the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card, which all offer 5% cash back on categories that rotate each quarter, and 1% on everything else. These cards are great if your spending habits are varied: you may get 5% back on gas during the summer months of road trips and then 5% back on Amazon.com during holiday shopping.

Our Top Picks for the Best Cash Back Credit Cards

The 6% Card

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American ExpressA massive 6% back on groceries and 3% back on gas makes this a go-to card for lots of people.

Let’s start with the card offering the highest cash back percentages in the most relevant categories. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers an unbeatable 6% cash back on groceries purchased at US supermarkets, for up to $6,000 in purchases per year. In other words, if you spend $500 on groceries every month, you can earn $30 cash back every month, an extra $360 per year. Plus, you’ll 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.

Here’s an example of how much you could earn with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express over the course of a year, if you max out the highest categories and spend $1,000 in each of the other categories:

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
6% cash back on $6,000 in grocery purchases $360
3% cash back on gas and department store purchases $60 ($30 for $1,000 in gas purchases, $30 for $1,000 in department store purchases)
1% cash back on all other purchases $10
$250 bonus cash back after making $1,000 in purchases in the first three months $250
TOTAL CASH BACK $680
Minus $95 annual fee $585

It’s not a perfect card. AmEx is still not accepted at all retailers, and the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express comes with a $95 annual fee. It’s not a huge amount considering the rewards potential, but annual fees are a dealbreaker for some.

Finally, your cash back 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.

The 5% Cards

Chase Freedom®Bonus rewards, like $150 cash back after $500 in purchases, make this card a great pick for smaller spenders.

The Chase Freedom® card offers 5% cash back in rotating categories, include everything from “wholesale clubs” (think Sam’s Club and Costco) to “local commuter transportation” (think subways and buses) — as well as more familiar categories like restaurants, gas, and certain department stores. The Chase Freedom® has no annual fee and two bonuses that you can earn in the first three months of opening your account: $25 after you add an authorized user and make your first purchase, and $150 after you make $500 in purchases.

Discover it® Cashback Match™A good card for bigger spenders: Discover will double your cash back at the end of your first year.

The Discover it® Cashback Match™ card is much like the Chase Freedom®: 5% cash back on rotating categories each quarter and no annual fee. It also lives up to its name by matching your cash back at the end of your first year as a cardmember. The Discover it® Cashback Match™ could get you the highest cash back of any of these cards (at least for the first year you use it), but it all depends on your spending habits.

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® CardThere's no limit to how much you can spend — and earn — in whichever 2% "everyday" category you choose.

The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card allows you to choose which categories get you 5% cash back. Their category options are predominantly themed around stores: clothing retailers, sporting goods stores, bookshops, and so on. The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card doesn’t put a limit on how much cash back you can earn on your chosen 2% “everyday category,” so if you spend $500 on groceries every month (or $6,000 in a year, as opposed to the $1,000 in our example below), you could earn $120 cash back in just that category by the end of the year. You can redeem all of this cash back as deposits into your account, if you want; you’re not limited to just earning statement credits. Plus, there’s no annual fee.

Here’s an example of how much you could earn with each of these cards over the course of a year, if you max out the highest categories and spend $1,000 in each of the other categories:

Chase Freedom® Discover it® Cashback Match U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card
5% cash back on up to $1,500 every quarter in rotating categories $300 ($75 per quarter) $300 ($75 per quarter) -
5% cash back on up to $2,000 every quarter in two categories you choose - - $400 ($100 per quarter)
2% cash back on your choice of one everyday category - - $20
1% cash back on all other purchases $10 $10 $10
$25 bonus after you add your first authorized user and make your first purchase (Chase only) $25 - -
$150 bonus after you make $500 in purchases (Chase only) $150 - -
Cash back doubled at the end of your first year (Discover only) - $310 -
TOTAL CASH BACK $485 $620 $430

What’s the catch? All three of these cards require you to enroll in their 5% cash back programs every quarter. You have to visit each credit card’s website and click a few buttons to say, “Yes, I want 5% cash back in this quarter’s categories” — or, in the case of U.S. Bank, you have to manually choose your 5% cash back categories. If you procrastinate or forget, you won’t get your high cash back rewards.

The 3% Cards

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American ExpressYou only get 3% back on groceries and 2% on gas, but unlike the Blue Cash Preferred® Card, there's no annual fee.

The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is a lot like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. Think of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express as the junior version; you’ll get slightly less cash back overall, but you don’t have to pay an annual fee.

Here’s an example of how much you could earn with the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express over the course of a year, if you max out the highest categories and spend $1,000 in each of the other categories:

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
3% cash back on $6,000 in grocery purchases $180
2% cash back on gas and select department store purchases $40 ($20 for $1,000 in gas purchases, $20 for $1,000 in department store purchases)
1% cash back on all other purchases $10
$250 bonus cash back after making $1,000 in purchases in the first three months $250
TOTAL CASH BACK $480

Is there a catch? You could earn significantly more cash back, minus the $95 annual fee, with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. This is where knowing your spending habits comes in handy. Take a look at how much you spend on groceries, gas, and department stores every month, multiply it by 12, and see how much cash back you’d earn with both the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express and the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. We’ve made an example chart that you can reference to use with your own numbers:

Blue Cash Everyday Card® from American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card® from American Express
$400 monthly grocery expenses ($4,800 per year) 3% - $144 6% - $288
$120 monthly gas expenses ($1,440 per year) 2% - $28.80 3% - $43.20
$200 monthly department store expenses ($2,400 per year) 2% - $48 3% - $72
TOTAL CASH BACK $220.80 $403.20
Minus annual fee $220.80 $308.20

*$403.20 minus $95 annual fee.

In this example, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express will get you more cash back overall, even with the $95 annual fee.

BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit CardThis no-annual-fee card isn’t as high-earning as some of our other cash back cards, but has perks for existing Bank of America customers.

There’s also the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card, which deserves an honorable mention. This card is valuable if you’re already a Bank of America customer, because your cash rewards jump up by 10% if you redeem your cash back into a Bank of America® checking or savings account.

Here’s an example of how much you could earn with the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card over the course of a year, if you max out the highest categories and spend $1,000 in each of the other categories:

BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card
3% on $1,000 in gas purchases per quarter* $120 ($30 per quarter)
2% cash back on $1,500 in grocery and wholesale club purchases per quarter* $120 ($30 per quarter)
1% cash back on all other purchases $10
$100 bonus after making $500 in purchases in the first 90 days $100
10% bonus for redeeming your cash into a Bank of America® checking or savings account $35
TOTAL CASH BACK $385


*Hitting your quarterly maximum of $2,500 in combined gas, grocery, and wholesale club purchases.

The 2% Cards

Discover it® chromeA decent 2% cash back on gas and restaurants for students who may not have the credit history to qualify for a higher-rewards card.

The Discover it® Chrome is unique in that it’s a card for students, who may not yet qualify for a higher-rewards card. You get 2% cash back on gas station and restaurant purchases, and 1% cash back on everything else. There’s no annual fee, and unlike other cards, the Discover it® Chrome even lets you redeem your cash back at Amazon.com, if you’re looking to buy that used textbook or new pair of jeans. Discover it® Chrome also gives you $20 cash back every school year that you keep your GPA above 3.0, for up to five years, and it’ll match all of the cash back you earn in your first year as a new cardmember.

Citi® Double Cash CardThis card incentives staying debt-free: You get 1% back for every purchase and another 1% when you pay it off.

The Citi® Double Cash Card has a fun incentive to help you pay off your balances as quickly as possible: You earn 1% on each purchase when you make the purchase, and another 1% when you pay the balance off. It’s ideal to pay off your balance in full every month, but if that’s a pain point for you, the Citi® Double Cash Card can turn it into a pleasure. This card also has no annual fee and lets you earn your cash back as actual cash as well as statement credits.

Here’s an example of how much you could earn with these cards over the course of a year, if you max out the highest categories and spend $1,000 in each of the other categories:

Citi® Double Cash Card Discover it® Chrome
2% cash back on gas and restaurant purchases, for up to $1,000 every quarter (Discover only) - $80 ($20 every quarter)
1% for all other purchases (Discover only) - $10
2% cash back for all purchases (Citi only, and we’re going to say you spent $5,000 total) $100 -
$20 GPA bonus (Discover only) - $20
Cash doubled at the end of your first year as a cardmember (Discover only) - $110
TOTAL CASH BACK $100 $220

The catch, as you can probably tell, for both these cards is that you can earn much more from one of our other cash back credit card options. However, if you’re a student, check out these and other options at in our best credit cards for students.

Other Rewards Cards to Consider

Just because a card isn’t labeled “cash back” doesn’t mean that it doesn’t offer rewards. The best travel credit cards all give you points or miles that can be redeemed toward future travel purchases or as statement credits toward previous travel purchases. Two of our favorite travel cards are the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers 2x miles on travel and restaurant purchases and 1x mile on everything else, which you can then redeem toward any purchase through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® is the same in reverse: It offers 2x rewards on any purchases, which you can then redeem to pay off travel expenses.
Here’s a chart comparing how much you could earn if you put $5,000 on each card and earned both cards’ intro bonuses:

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®
Base rewards for $5,000 in purchases 7,500 points, assuming you spend $2,500 on travel and restaurant purchases and $2,500 on all other purchases 10,000 miles
Plus bonus rewards 57,500 points 60,000 miles
Plus 25% more value if you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards® (Chase only) 71,875 points -
Plus 5% redemption bonus (Barclaycard only) - 63,000 miles
TOTAL REWARDS VALUE* $718.75 $630


*Based on $2,500 spent on travel and restaurant purchases and $2,500 on all other purchases.
**Both cards redeem 1 cent per point/mile.
Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® have annual fees — $95 and $89, respectively — but both of these fees are waived for the first year, which gives you a full year to earn rewards before you have to pay for the privilege.

The Best Cash Back Credit Cards: Summed Up

Cash Back Credit Cards
The Best...
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Best Overall at 6%
Chase Freedom®
Runner-Up at 5%
Discover it® Cashback Match™
Runner-Up at 5%
U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card
Runner-Up at 5%