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10 Best Cash Back Credit Cards – Reviews & Comparison

By Christina Majaski

credit card cash pocketAmong rewards credit cards, cash back cards are the most popular. Instead of offering bonuses that can only be redeemed for airline miles or hotel stays, cash back cards reward you for your purchases with actual cash that, for the most part, can be used however you like.

An important factor in determining which cards are the best cash back credit cards is how much cash is received per dollar spent, and whether it is possible to earn enough cash back to compensate for the cost of carrying the credit card. Keep in mind that in order to maximize your earning potential on any reward card, it is recommended that you pay your balance in full each month in order to avoid paying interest on purchases.

If you consistently carry balances on your credit cards, you should instead consider a credit card with a low APR, rather than a card which earns rewards. However, if you believe that you’d benefit most from a cash back credit card, there are 10 cards that stand out above the rest.

Best Cash Back Credit Cards

1. Discover it

5% Cash Back in Rotating Categories Every Quarter; 1% on Everything Else

discover itThe Discover it card is the newest version of the Discover More card, but it allows better cash back opportunities than its predecessor. However, the Discover it card is one of the only credit cards that does not offer a sign-up bonus. Instead, you are offered a credit card with one of the highest cash back rates of 5% on quarterly categories, and very few fees. The Discover it card is also one of the only no-annual fee cash back rewards cards that does not carry a foreign transaction fee.

  • Sign-up Bonus. Discover it features no sign-up bonus.
  • Fees. There is no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee. There is also no late fee on the first late payment. The balance transfer fee is 3% of the transfer.
  • Introductory APR. The APR is 0% on purchases and balance transfers for the first 14 months following account opening. After that, the APR is 10.99% to 22.99% depending on your credit worthiness and the prime rate.
  • Cash Back Rewards. The rewards program is based on quarterly rotating categories that you sign up for each quarter to get the higher cash back amount. These include purchases such as home improvement, gasoline, and meals at restaurants. These categories earn 5% cash back and generally have a cap of $1,500 in purchases for each quarterly category. After you have reached the cap (or if you do not sign up for the bonus categories each quarter), you earn an unlimited 1% on those purchases. All other purchases made outside of those quarterly categories earn an unlimited 1%. With just the bonus category at 5%, you could earn $75 in cash back per quarter, or $300 per year.
  • Redemption. Cash back can be redeemed in increments of $50 for a statement credit or direct deposit into your bank account.

See our Discover it Card Review for more information.

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2. Chase Freedom

5% Cash Back in Rotating Categories Every Quarter; 1% on Everything Else

chase freedomThe Chase Freedom credit card offers a cash back rewards program similar to Discover it with quarterly rotating categories that earn as much as 5% cash back. Unlike the Discover it card, however, the  Chase Freedom card includes a sign-up bonus. On the downside, Chase Freedom has a foreign transaction fee.

  • Sign-up Bonus. You are awarded a bonus of $100 cash back when you spend at least $500 in purchases during the first three months after opening the account.
  • Fees. There is no annual fee. The foreign transaction fee is 3%, and the balance transfer fee is $5 or 3%, whichever is greater.
  • Introductory APR. The APR is 0% on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months after opening the account. After that, the APR is 13.99% to 22.99% depending on your credit worthiness and the prime rate.
  • Cash Back Rewards. The Chase Freedom card awards 5% cash back on rotating categories that you need to activate each quarter to get the higher cash back amount. The cap on rotating categories is set at $1,500 per category while all other purchases earn 1% cash back. Although there are quarterly caps on the rotating categories, the 1% cash back category is unlimited, as well as the 1% you earn after you reach the cap.
  • Redemption. Although similar, one of the differences between the Discover it and Chase Freedom is that the Chase Freedom credit card allows redemption of a minimum of $20 for a statement credit, direct deposit, or paper check. Chase also awards an additional bonus of 10% on the points earned in the previous year if you have a Chase checking account.

See our Chase Freedom Card Review for more information.

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3. Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

3% Cash Back at Supermarkets; 2% at Gas Stations & Department Stores; 1% Elsewhere

amex blue cashIf you would like to earn cash back rewards on every day purchases (such as gasoline, groceries, and department stores) without the requirement of managing quarterly rotating categories, the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express returns as much as 3% for these purchases. While there  is no annual fee for the Blue Cash Everyday, there is a cap on supermarket purchases of $6,000 per year. The American Express Blue Cash Everyday card is considered one of the best cash back credit cards with no annual fee that rewards day-to-day purchases.

  • Sign-up Bonus. When you spend $1,000 or more within the first three months of opening the account, you receive a bonus of 50 Reward Dollars, which can be redeemed for a $50 statement credit. You also receive a free year of Amazon Prime for meeting this spending threshold (for new Prime memberships only).
  • Fees. There is no annual fee. The foreign transaction fee is 2.7%, and the balance transfer fee is $5 or 3% of the total transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Introductory APR. The APR is 0% on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months of account opening. After that, the APR is 12.99% to 21.99% depending on your credit worthiness and the prime rate.
  • Cash Back Rewards. American Express Blue Cash Everyday awards 3% on the first $6,000 spent annually on supermarket purchases in the U.S. (1% thereafter), 2% on gas purchases and U.S. department stores, and 1% on all other purchases. The cap of $6,000 only applies to supermarket purchases, allowing you to earn approximately $180 in cash back per year just in grocery stores. There is no cap on gas purchases, U.S. department stores, or the the “all other purchases” category.
  • Redemption. Cash back is awarded in Reward Dollars, with one Reward Dollar being equal to $1. Your Reward Dollars can be redeemed anytime at a minimum of 25 Reward Dollars.

See our Review of Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express for more information.


4. Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

6% Cash Back at Supermarkets; 3% at Gas Stations & Department Stores; 1% Elsewhere

amex blue cash preferredAlthough the American Express Preferred card is similar to the American Express Blue Cash Everyday card, there are several significant differences that also make it an equally competitive cash back credit card. There is an annual fee for the Preferred version, but – depending on your spending habits – it may provide larger rewards than the standard no-annual fee rewards cards. This, along with a program that rewards spending on everyday purchases, establishes the American Express Blue Cash Preferred as one of the best cash back credit cards available.

  • Sign-up Bonus. When you spend at least $1,000 with your card in the first three months of membership, you receive a bonus of 100 Reward Dollars, which can be redeemed for a $100 statement credit. You also receive a free year of Amazon Prime for meeting this spending threshold (for new Prime memberships only).
  • Fees. The annual fee is $75. The foreign transaction fee is 2.7%, and the balance transfer fee is $5 or 3% , whichever is greater.
  • Introductory APR. The APR is 0% on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months. After that, the APR is 12.99% to 21.99% depending on your credit worthiness and the prime rate.
  • Cash Back Rewards. The American Express Blue Cash Preferred card rewards purchases with Reward Dollars at 6% cash back for U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases and then 1% thereafter), 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and U.S. department stores, and 1% everywhere else. While the cap on grocery store purchases is similar to the Blue Cash Everyday card, you earn 6% cash back rather than 3% on those purchases. In comparison, this allows you to earn $360 in cash back on your grocery purchases each year with the Preferred card – double what you would earn with the Blue Cash Everyday card. The amount you spend at supermarkets, gas stations, and U.S. departments stores with your card determines whether the annual fee of the Preferred card is worth the rewards earned. There is no cap on the 1% category or the 1% earned after you reach the cap on grocery store purchases.
  • Redemption. Cash back is awarded in Reward Dollars, which can be redeemed anytime at a minimum of 25 Reward Dollars. One Reward Dollar is equal to $1.

5. Citi® Dividend Platinum Select® Visa®

5% Cash Back in Rotating Categories Every Quarter; 1% on Everything Else

citi dividend platinum selectMany of the Citi credit cards offer rewards in the form of ThankYou points, which can be redeemed for merchandise, gift cards, and cash back. However, rather than providing ThankYou points, the Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa offers cash back in the form of Dividend Dollars; additionally, it offers some of the best cash back opportunities of all credit cards through the Citi Bonus Cash Center.

  • Sign-up Bonus. You are awarded a bonus of $100 cash back when you spend at least $500 in purchases within the first three months of opening the account.
  • Fees. There is no annual fee. The foreign transaction fee is 3%, and the balance transfer fee is $5 or 3%, whichever is greater.
  • Introductory APR. The APR is 0% on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months after opening the account. After that, the APR is between 12.99% and 22.99% (variable) depending on your credit worthiness and the prime rate.
  • Cash Back Rewards. The Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa awards cash back in the form of Dividend Dollars. You are able to earn 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories that you must enroll in, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. There is a cap of $6,000 per year in purchases, which allows you to earn $300 in Dividend Dollars annually in all categories in total. Unlike many other cards, once you reach the cap, you don’t earn 1% on purchases. However, there is no cap on purchases made through the Citi Bonus Cash Center, Citi’s online portal of retailers, which offers cash back specials of at least 5% – sometimes up to 10%, depending upon the retailer. This Citi card also rewards you with $5 cash back on each balance transfer of at least $1,500.
  • Redemption. Dividend Dollars can be redeemed for checks in increments of $50, with one Dividend Dollar being equal to $1.

See our Citi® Dividend Platinum Select® Card Review for more information.

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6. Bank AmeriCard Cash Rewards

3% Cash Back on Gas; 2% on Grocery Store Purchases; 1% on Everything Else

bank americardThe Bank AmeriCard Cash Rewards credit card is a great cash back credit card if you have accounts with Bank of America or Merrill Lynch and do not want to bother with rotating categories. This card rewards you for everyday purchases, and provides a bonus if you have a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch Cash Management account.

  • Sign-up Bonus. You earn a bonus of $100 cash back when you spend at least $500 with your card within the first 90 days of opening your account.
  • Fees. There is no annual fee. The foreign transaction fee is 3%, and the balance transfer fee is $10 or 3%, whichever is greater.
  • Introductory APR. The APR is 0% on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months. After that, the APR is 12.99% to 22.99% depending on your credit worthiness and the prime rate.
  • Cash Back Rewards. BankAmericard Cash Rewards credit card awards 3% cash back on gasoline purchases, 2% on grocery store purchases, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. The cap is set at $1,500 in combined gasoline and grocery store purchases per quarter, which do not have to be activated. After that, all purchases earn an unlimited 1%.
  • Redemption. Rewards can be redeemed for a statement credit or direct deposit into a Bank of America checking or savings account. If you have an account with Bank of America or Merrill Lynch Cash Management, you receive a 10% bonus when you redeem directly into your account.

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7. Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards

1.5% Cash Back on All Purchases

capital one quicksilverThere is something to be said for simplicity, which is why the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards credit card is one of the best cash back cards available – especially if you outspend the caps that other cash back credit cards offer. Purchases earn a flat 1.5% cash back, which can be redeemed for any amount as an account credit, check, or gift card. There also no limits to the amount of cash back that can be earned on eligible purchases, so regardless of which category of purchase you make – or whether you spend entirely within one category for a few months – you always earn 1.5% cash back. Additionally, since you can redeem anytime you like, you don’t have to wait until you have a certain amount built up.

  • Sign-up Bonus. You earn a bonus of $100 cash back when you spend at least $500 with your card within the first three months of opening an account.
  • Fees. There is no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee. The balance transfer fee is 3% on balances transferred through November 2014.
  • Introductory APR. The APR is 0% on purchases and balance transfers until November 2014. After that, the APR is 12.9% to 20.9% depending on your credit worthiness and the prime rate.
  • Cash Back Rewards. The Capital One QuickSilver Cash Rewards card awards 1.5% cash back on all purchases – there are no rotating categories or specific purchases that earn more or less. Furthermore, there is no limit to the amount of cash back that you can earn, and rewards do not expire. If you spent $2,000 per month with your card, you would earn $360 in cash back per year – you don’t have to concern yourself with caps or signing up for bonus categories every few months.
  • Redemption. Cash back can be redeemed for statement credits, checks, or gift cards in any amount. There is no minimum amount that you need to acquire before you are able to redeem your rewards.

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8. U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature

5% Cash Back in Two Categories of Your Choice; 2% in Another Category; 1% on Everything Else

us bank cash plusThe U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature card offers an excellent rewards program for diligent cardholders who spend above annual or quarterly caps. The rewards program allows you to choose the categories you receive the highest amount of cash back in each quarter such as grocery stores, car rentals, hotels, and movie theaters. If you are able to plan your spending, you will earn 5% and 2% cash back each quarter in the categories you choose, without any limits in the 2% and 1% cash back categories or worries of expiring rewards. There is also an extra annual bonus of $25 each year, as well as the convenience of redeeming cash back at any time you choose. However, you need to apply in a U.S. Bank branch in order to be considered for approval.

  • Sign-up Bonus. There is no sign-up bonus, but you do earn an additional bonus of $25 each year that you redeem $100 or more in a single rewards redemption.
  • Fees. There is no annual fee for the card. The foreign transaction fee is 2% for U.S. dollars, and 3% for foreign currency. The balance transfer fee is 3%.
  • Introductory APR. The APR on purchases is 13.99% to $23.99%. There is an introductory offer of 0% on balance transfers for the first six months after opening the account, after which the APR will be 13.99% to 23.99% depending on your credit worthiness and the prime rate.
  • Cash Back Rewards. The U.S. Bank Cash+ card awards you 5% cash back on your first $2,000 in combined purchases in two categories each quarter that you select (such as restaurants or department stores). The categories may change each quarter, and you must be sure to choose your categories – otherwise, those purchases will earn a mere 1%. There is a spending cap of $2,000 for the 5% categories, after which you earn 1%. You also earn 2% cash back on one everyday category that you choose quarterly (such as gas or groceries) and 1% cash back on all other purchases. There is no cap on purchases made in the 2% or 1% categories, and rewards do not expire.
  • Redemption. There is no minimum redemption requirement. You can redeem your cash back at any time to a checking or savings account or as a statement credit.

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9. Fidelity® Investment Rewards American Express® Card

2% Cash Back on All Purchases

fidelity investment rewardsThe Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express is another cash back credit card for those who would rather not manage quarterly categories or plan ahead in order to take advantage of bonus categories. The Fidelity Investment Rewards card offers a simple program for earning points on everyday purchases without limits or rotating categories. There are no special spending categories; you earn two points on all purchases, and you can redeem for cash straight into your account rather than just a statement credit.

  • Sign-up Bonus. There is no sign-up bonus.
  • Fees. There is no annual fee for the card. The foreign transaction fee is 1%, and the balance transfer fee is $10 or 4% , whichever is greater. This is the lowest foreign transaction fee available, except for the Discover it and Capital One cards which don’t charge any foreign transaction fee at all.
  • Introductory APR. The APR on purchases is 13.99%. There is an introductory offer of 0% on balance transfers for seven months, after which the APR becomes 13.99% and varies with the prime rate.
  • Cash Back Rewards. You are able to earn a flat two points on each dollar spent (equaling 2%). There are no caps or limits to the amount of cash back that can be earned.
  • Redemption. You need a Fidelity account for this card, whether investment or just banking. You can choose to redeem your points as cash deposits into your Fidelity account, or you can redeem them through the WorldPoints  program for airline travel, gift certificates, cash, car rentals, or hotel stays. If you choose automatic deposit, $50 will be deposited each time you make $2,500 in purchases.

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10. Barclaycard Rewards for Excellent Credit

This offer is no longer available.

2% Cash Back on Gas, Groceries, and Utilities; 1% on Everything Else

barclaycard rewardsWhen it comes to rewards cards, the Barclay’s line is often overlooked. However, the Barclaycard Rewards card for Excellent Credit is among the best cash back cards. There is a version with slightly different benefits if you have “good” credit rather than excellent credit, but the version for excellent credit is obviously the better card among the two.

  • Sign-up Bonus. You receive 5,000 bonus points with the first purchase posted to your account. This is equal to a $50 cash back statement credit. This is one of the lowest sign-up bonuses offered by cash back cards (besides Discover it, which doesn’t offer a sign-up bonus at all), but the advantage is that it isn’t a bonus that requires you spend a certain amount in the first three months.
  • Fees. There is no annual fee for the card. The foreign transaction fee is 3%, and the balance transfer fee is $10 or 4% , whichever is greater.
  • Introductory APR. The APR is 0% on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months after sign-up. After that, the APR will be 14.99%, 17.99%, or 24.99%, depending on your credit worthiness and the prime rate.
  • Cash Back Rewards. The Barclaycard Rewards for Excellent Credit awards two points for each dollar spent (or 2%) on gas, grocery, and utility purchases, and one point for all other purchases. The points do not expire, and there is no limit to the amount that can be earned. If you spent $36,000 per year in purchases (or $3,000 per month), you would earn $720 in rewards for the year. In comparison, cards that award 5% for each quarter up to $1,500 in purchases or 5% per year up to $6,000, would only earn $600 – $300 per year in bonus categories and $300 in 1% rewards on all other purchases.
  • Redemption. You can redeem your points beginning at 2,500 (equal to $25) for statement credit, gift cards, or merchandise. This is one of the cash back cards that does not allow redemption of points for straight-out cash, but you can apply the dollar amount to your statement.

Final Word

It is important to consider everything involved with cash back credit cards – often, you are able to redeem for merchandise and gift cards at a higher rate than the actual cash back. Consider the purchases you make and will make in the future when determining whether you can maximize a card with rotating categories or fixed categories, or a card that just offers a flat cash back amount on any purchase you make. And to get the most of any rewards credit card, be sure that you are able to at least pay it off in full most of the time – otherwise, you will have a difficult time getting your money’s worth.

What is your experience with cash back credit cards?

Editorial Disclosure: This content is not provided or commissioned by any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, or airline. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Christina Majaski
Christina Majaski has written for online and print publications since 2003 on topics related to personal finance, legal matters, parenting, and careers. She lives in the Minnesota tundra, where in her free time she enjoys reading, writing, interacting via social media, and hanging out with her daughter.

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  • Anonymous

    I refuse to use any credit card with an annual fee. Our favorite cash back card is the HSBC Platinum Cash MasterCard which is not still available for others, but still works for us. It gives an amazing 5% back on all gas, groceries, and drug store(non-prescriptions only) purchases but stops the yearly rewards after it reaches $500.00. It does not have any annual fee. We always reach the maximum and get $500 each year which we apply against our next statement when awarded. I have a feeling that they will drastically change or eliminate this card soon since their credit card division has recently been sold to another company. We also have a straight 1% cash back MasterCard for purchasing anything from Bank of America that does not limit how much you can earn. It also includes ShopSafe software that we use for all internet purchases since we can assign temporary credit card numbers with amount and expiration date adjustable. We also have a third card from Capital One that gives 1% on most stuff and 2% on gas which we got mainly for travel outside the US so we will not have to pay the 3% transaction fee that is common for our other cards.

  • http://markwilson.webstarts.com/travel_money.html Vernon Groston

    I just signed up for the $200 cash back Chase Freedom card. I spent $500 on some much needed things (i.e. new tires, car maintenance), and now I can receive my $200 cash back. Not to mention….I am getting 5% cash back on all these purchases.

  • http://lifelaidout.com/ Roger

    I’ve always been torn with the Chase Freedom card (and cards that act like it). On the one hand, you can get up to 5% cash back on bonus categories in a particular quarter (up to a limit). However, I hate how you have to keep track of the changing categories each quarter and I may not even spend much money in those bonus categories. The Fidelity and US Bank cards seem very interesting though.

  • 2-copper-coins.com

    I’ve been on the fence about the Discover It card, but your review definitely pushes me one step closer to signing up. It was recommended by a friend of mine who swears by it. Are any of these cards in your wallet? Any personal preference?

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