Compare cashback credit cards: Get 5% on popular categories | finder.com

The beginner’s guide to cashback credit cards

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Breeze through the basics and learn how to earn lucrative rewards.

If you’ve been looking for a rewards card, you’ve more than likely come across something called a cashback credit card. This is the most basic type of rewards card, easier to track points than travel rewards cards. And if you know how to use cashback cards to your advantage, you can see fantastic rewards.

Our pick for cash back on groceries: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

  • $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. 1% cash back on other purchases.
  • 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
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Compare cash back credit cards

Name Product Filter values Annual Fee APR for Purchases (Purchase Rate) Intro APR for Balance Transfer
$0
16.99% to 25.74% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 16.99% to 25.74% variable)
0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers.
$0
16.99% to 25.74% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 16.99% to 25.74% variable)
0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers.
$95
14.99% to 25.99% variable
0% for the first 12 months (then 14.99% to 25.99% variable)
Earn $200 bonus cash back after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Rates & Fees
$0
14.99% to 25.99% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 25.99% variable)
Earn a $150 bonus statement credit after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Rates & Fees
$0
14.99% to 25.99% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 25.99% variable)
Earn up to $250 back. Earn $150 back after you spend $1,000 or more in purchases with your new card within the first 3 months of card membership. Plus, earn an additional $100 back after you spend an additional $6,500 in purchases within your first 12 months. Rates & Fees
$0
14.99%, 18.99% or 24.99% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.99%, 18.99% or 24.99% variable)
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. See Rates and Fees.
$0 to $99
19.99% to 25.99% variable
Get 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchase, terms apply.
$0
15.49% to 25.49% variable
0% for the first 18 months (then 15.49% to 25.49% variable)
Earn 1% cash back when you pay off your card, on top of the 1% cash back you earn when you make purchases. No annual fee.

Compare up to 4 providers

What are cashback credit cards?

With a cashback credit card, your card provider pays you back a small portion of what you spend. You can redeem your cash back as statement credit or deposits into your bank account.

How do cashback cards work?

A cashback card pays you a percentage of your spending. For example, if it offers 1% cash back, you’ll receive $1 in rewards for every $100 you spend.

Despite its name, the card won’t pay you with physical cash. Rather, you’ll redeem your rewards for things of monetary value. These might include:

  • Statement credit.
  • Deposits into your bank account.
  • Travel rewards — hotels, airfare, car rentals, etc.
  • Merchandise.
  • Gift cards.
  • Charitable donations.

Your card provider may redeem cash back for you automatically, typically applying it to your account as statement credit. Some providers require you to have a minimum amount of cash back before you can redeem — often $25 or more.

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Highest cashback credit cards for every type of purchase

If you want to earn strong cash back for spending in categories you use most, check out these products offering top cashback rates for general purchases, gas, groceries, dining and travel.

Best for flat-rate cash back

  • Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card: 3% cash back on all purchases for the first card year; 2.5% cash back thereafter.
    This is the highest flat-rate cash back on the market. Look out for the $59 annual fee starting the second year, which will eat into your rewards. This card is best if you spend more than $11,800 a year; otherwise, you might earn better rewards from the Citi® Double Cash Card.
  • Citi® Double Cash Card: 1% cash back on all purchases and another 1% back as you pay them off.
    This card is a mainstay in the flat-rate cashback category. It offers excellent cash back as long as you consistently pay off your purchases.

Best cash back for gas

  • Fort Knox VISA® Platinum Card: 5% cashback on gas.
    Earn 1% cash back on all retail purchases. However, you’ll need to join the Fort Knox Federal Credit Union to apply. If you don’t meet the eligibility requirements, you can qualify by joining the American Consumer Council of Kentucky for $5.
  • Sam's Club® Business Mastercard®: 5% cash back on the first $6,000 per year in gas purchases, then 1%.
    The card also offers a great 3% cash back on dining and travel and 1% on other eligible purchases. To apply, you’ll need a Sam’s Club membership, which costs $45 a year.

Gas rewards credit cards

Best cash back for groceries

  • Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: 6% cash back at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases annually, then 1%.
    This card is best if you spend a little under $500 a month at US supermarkets. You’ll also earn a solid 3% cash back at US gas stations and 1% back on other eligible purchases.

Best cash back for dining

  • Uber Visa Card: 4% cash back on dining.
    The card also offers 3% back on hotel and airfare purchases, 2% on online and Uber purchases and 2% back on everything else.
  • Savor® Rewards from Capital One®: 4% cash back on dining and entertainment.
    You’ll also earn 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases. The key difference from the Uber Visa Card is its elevated rewards on groceries — an everyday category. Watch out for the Savor® Rewards from Capital One® annual fee, which is $95 starting the second year.

Best cash back for travel

  • Uber Visa Card: 3% back on hotel and airfare.
    Three percent cash back is a very strong rate for travel, especially for a no-annual-fee card. To compare, the fan-favorite Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card — which has a $95 annual fee starting the second year — offers up to a 2.5% rewards rate on travel.
  • AAA Member Rewards Visa Signature® Card: 3% cash back on eligible AAA and travel purchases.
    You’ll also earn 2% cash back on gas, groceries and drugstore purchases. Earn 1% cash back on all other types of purchases. You must be a member of AAA to apply for this card.

Compare travel rewards credit cards

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Ask the experts

Andy Shuman
Andy Shuman
lazytravelers.net
Travel and Personal Finance

How do you get the most rewards out of a cashback credit card?

Amy and Tim profile picture
Tim and Amy Rutherford
gowithless.com
Award Travel Professionals

Is there anything you should avoid when choosing a cashback card?

Eric Rosenberg
Eric Rosenberg
personalprofitability.com
Personal Finance Expert

Should I get a cashback card with tiered rewards or a flat rate for all purchases?

Which cashback card is best for you?

Get our recommendation in two clicks.


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Types of cashback cards

There are three types of cashback cards: flat-rate, tiered and rotating-bonus-category.

Flat-rate cashback cards

You’ll receive the same rewards rate on all purchases, regardless of category.

Here’s an example
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
So, if you spend $10,000 on the card, you’ll earn $10,000 x 1.5% = $150 cash back.

Tiered-cashback cards

You’ll receive a different rewards rate for different categories.

Here’s an example
The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card offers:
  • 3% cash back on gas.
  • 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs.
  • 1% cash back on everything else.

The 3% and 2% cash back applies to the first $2,500 in combined grocery, gas and wholesale-club purchases each quarter. After you hit the spending cap, you’ll earn 1% back in these categories for the rest of the quarter.

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card heavily rewards certain types of spending

Notice the different cash back you’ll earn for spending in different categories:

Category Spending Cashback rate Cashback
Gas $4,000 3% $120
Groceries and wholesale-club purchases $4,000 2% $80
All other purchases $4,000 1% $40

Rotating-bonus-category cashback cards

You’ll receive a higher rewards rate for certain categories during certain months. Bonus categories usually rotate quarterly, and you typically have to sign up for the category each quarter.

Here’s an example
Discover it® Cash Back is one of the top rotating-bonus-category cashback cards. It offers:
  • 5% cash back in quarterly rotating categories, typically on up to $1,500 in purchases a quarter, then 1%.
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Rotating categories often include gas, groceries, restaurants and wholesale-club purchases.
The Chase Freedom® credit card is another great product in this category, with very similar reward terms. But it could be hard to keep track of your categories to make the most of these cards.

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While the opportunity to earn cash back may sound appealing, cash back credit cards aren’t for everyone. Based on what you spend the most money at — groceries, gas, travel purchases, flights — you can choose between a cashback, a points or a miles card.
A cash rewards credit card is ideal for you if you:

  • Use your card for everyday spending. Depending on the card you get, spending money on groceries, gas, dining or purchases at department stores usually tend to have the highest cash back.
  • Want to pay a low annual fee or no annual fee at all. Cashback credit cards have either no annual fee or an annual fee of up to $95.
  • Want an intro APR period. With this type of cards, you’ll often enjoy an intro APR period on either balance transfers or purchases, or sometimes even both.
  • Pay your balance in full every month. Paying interest on a cash back credit card, or any rewards credit card, is one of the worst mistakes you can make. Spending money on interest negates the rewards you’ve earned on your credit card.
  • Frequently use your credit card responsibly. Earning the maximum amount of cash back rewards means using your credit card as frequently as possible. You must be disciplined enough to spend only what you can afford to pay back and to use your income to pay off your credit card balance rather than to make additional purchases.
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Cash back vs. points vs. miles: Which one should I pick?

Cash back is a great choice if you want simple rewards. A card’s cashback percentage makes it easy to gauge the rewards you’ll earn.

Points and miles can be a bit trickier, though they can also be more powerful. For example, a card with 2x points on travel isn’t necessarily offering a 2% rewards rate.

In the case of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, points are worth 25% more when you redeem them through Chase Ultimate Rewards. That gives you up to a 2.5% rewards rate on travel.

Ultimately, points and miles are best if you want to use your rewards for travel — and you have the patience to maximize your rewards.

What type of rewards card is best for me?

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How to compare cashback cards

As you compare credit cards, certain features may stand out to you. Here’s what to look for as you find your next cashback card.

  • Annual fee. If you choose a card with an annual fee, make sure you can earn enough rewards within a year to offset the fee.
  • How much cash back will you earn? While flat-rate cards are easiest to understand, you may earn more rewards through a tiered-cashback or rotating-bonus-category cashback card. Choose a card that pays the most cash back for the categories you spend most in.
  • Signup bonus. Cashback cards commonly offer signup bonuses to new cardholders. If a card has a bonus, consider whether you can meet the spending requirement in time.
  • Earning or spending caps. Some cashback cards cap the amount of rewards you can earn. The maximum may apply to certain categories over certain periods of time — for example, $1,500 in gas and grocery purchases each quarter. Or it may apply over a year — for example, $100,000 in purchases each year.
  • Reward restrictions. Check if the provider sets a minimum of cash back you must have to redeem. Also, look through the card’s terms to see if your rewards expire.
  • APR. Interest rates tend to be higher for cards with rewards than cards without. With a cashback card, pay your balance in full each month to maximize your rewards. If there’s a chance you will carry a balance, consider a card with a lower interest rate.
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How to maximize your rewards

  • Spend enough to earn the signup bonus. You may need to make purchases more aggressively to reach the spending requirement by the bonus’s expiration date. The clock starts ticking the day you open your account, which may be a few days before you receive your card in the mail. If your credit limit isn’t high enough, you may have to pay off your balance a few times to make room for additional spending.
  • Sign up for special categories in advance. If you choose a rotating-bonus-category cashback card, you may need to activate your categories before you earn elevated rewards.
  • Spend more in categories that earn more rewards. If you won’t earn elevated rewards for certain purchases, consider using a different card.
  • Pay your balance in full each month. Paying interest on a cashback credit card eats into your rewards. Also, avoid late fees by setting up automatic payments.
  • Use your credit card for purchases only. Cash advances and balance transfers don’t earn rewards. In addition, they usually start accruing interest immediately.
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Bottom line

Cashback cards are typically pretty easy to understand. At the same time, they can offer attractive rewards.

Consider your spending to figure out which kind of card might reward you most. Then, compare your cashback options to find the best product for you.

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Important Information*
Deserve® Classic Card
Deserve® Classic Card

APR

24.49
variable

Annual fee

0 For the first year
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Luxury Card Mastercard® Gold Card™
Luxury Card Mastercard® Gold Card™

APR

16.74
variable

Annual fee

995 For the first year
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First Access Visa Card®
First Access Visa Card®

APR

29.99
variable

Annual fee

75 For the first year
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Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card
Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card

APR

23.9
variable

Annual fee

75 For the first year
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US Credit Card Offers

Important Information*
Deserve® Classic Card
Deserve® Classic Card

APR

24.49
variable

Annual fee

0 For the first year
More info
Luxury Card Mastercard® Gold Card™
Luxury Card Mastercard® Gold Card™

APR

16.74
variable

Annual fee

995 For the first year
More info
First Access Visa Card®
First Access Visa Card®

APR

29.99
variable

Annual fee

75 For the first year
More info
Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card
Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card

APR

23.9
variable

Annual fee

75 For the first year
More info
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