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Cashback credit cards
Take advantage of flexible rewards with a card that fits the way you live.
Compare cashback credit cards
Want to compare cashback cards? Use our filter to select up to four cards to start sizing up your choices side-by-side.
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4 cashback credit card features
There are a few particular features you’ll want to look at when comparing cashback credit cards.
- Earning rates. Earning rates on all three types of cashback credit cards can vary wildly, even between two cashback cards of the same type. Keep an eye out for unusual categories or the presence of categories not typically found on a specific type of cashback credit card (like the Chase Freedom Unlimited®).
Why it matters. Knowing which card offers the highest rewards in a particular category means you can gauge which card best fits your purchasing needs.
- Signup bonus. Signup bonuses are modest if not nonexistent on many cashback cards, so the presence of one is noteworthy.
Why it matters. A signup bonus can significantly up your rewards, especially if you plan on use the card to make a large purchase within the first three months of account opening.
- Intro APR. An intro APR on a cashback card offers some great upfront value if you can take advantage of it.
Why it matters. This will allow you to pay off a large purchase over time without worrying about interest during the intro period.
- Annual fee. If a cashback card has an annual fee, make sure the rewards or features can make up for the cost of the card.
Why it matters. If you don’t think you’ll use the card’s perks enough to outweigh the fee, you’ll want a no-annual-fee option.
Cashback cards earn back a percentage of your purchase
A cashback credit card pays you back a small portion of what you spend. For example, if it offers 1% cash back, you’ll receive $1 in rewards for every $100 you spend. This makes cashback cards one of the simplest card types when it comes to earning value on your credit card purchases. Here’s a small breakdown of how it all works.
- Choose your cashback credit card. There are three types of cashback credit cards to choose from, each offering a different method of earning cash back.
- Start making purchases. As you spend on reward categories with your cashback card, you’ll start accruing cashback automatically. This usually comes in the form of a statement credit.
- Redeem your cash. For most credit cards, you won’t have to do anything to redeem your cash: it will post automatically to your account as you earn. Some cards however require you log in to your card account for redemptions.
4 types of cashback cards
There are four types of cashback cards:
1. Flat-rate cashback cards
These simple cards earn the same percentage for nearly every type of purchase. The average flat-rate cashback card earns 1.5% back on each purchase, though the highest you can find on the market is 2% back.
2. Tiered cashback cards
Tiered cards earn higher cashback on specific categories than you could earn with a flat-rate cashback card. Typical categories include everyday spending areas such as gas and groceries. These cards can earn anywhere from 3% to to 6% cashback on the bonus categories, though the most lucrative categories often have annual earning caps. Anything purchased that isn’t included as part of a tiered category will earn you just 1% back.
3. Rotating category cards
These cards earn up to 5% on select categories that change each quarter. These categories also typically feature earning caps, though they refresh during the category change each quarter. Like the tiered cashback cards, you’ll earn 1% on any spending outside the bonus categories.
4. Crypto cards
Crypto cards are the newest form of cashback card to hit the market and work quite differently than a traditional cashback credit card. Purchases made on these cards earn rewards in the form of a select cryptocurrency rather than cash and require knowledge of cryptocurrencies to prove worth it. Read more about the handful of cards available at our full crypto card guide.
Pair up your cashback cards to earn more
The secret to really ramping up your cash back is to create a credit card earning strategy. Here’s a simple breakdown of how it works.
- Apply for several cashback cards of differing types. This means cards that earn on different categories, such as flights, groceries, hotels, dining, entertainment and more.
- Use the right card for the right purchase. When making eligible category purchases, use whatever card will earn you the biggest cash back on that specific purchase based on your cashback credit card arsenal.
- Fill in the gaps with a flat-rate card. For any purchases that don’t fall into a typical earning category, use an unlimited 1.5% or 2% rewards card to maximize your rewards on those purchases.
Ideally, you’ll have two or three cashback cards that can cover any reward category “gaps” that you might otherwise have with just one or two cards.
A cashback credit card is almost always worth it
Because they’re so straightforward and easy to use, cashback credit cards are nearly always worth a spot in your wallet. Here’s a quick rundown of whether you might consider adding one to your card collection.
Get a cashback card if you…
- Want to earn straightforward rewards on your purchases
- Don’t want to fuss around with rewards programs
- Want a card type that commonly features intro APRs on purchases
Pick something else if you…
- Want to redeem your rewards on things other than statement credits
- Want a card that offers a larger set of perks and features
- Are a heavy traveler — in this case, a travel card will ultimately provide more value
What are the pros and cons of cashback credit cards?
Cashback credit cards can be an excellent financial tool, but there are also some drawbacks to consider.
- High rewards rate.
Earn 6% cash back when you use some credit card on select categories, such as purchases made at US supermarkets or US streaming services. Also, a lot of cashback cards come with 5% back on rotating categories.
- Variety of cashback categories.
Earn accelerated rewards on almost every category of purchases, including groceries, gas, dining, online purchases and streaming services.
- Simple rewards structure.
Enjoy a simple rewards structure that doesn’t require you to calculate how many points each redemption option requires; You always know how much you get from your purchases.
- Signup bonus.
Earn a decent signup bonus with most cashback cards once you meet particular spend requirements. Depending on the card, the bonus can be up to $300.
- No annual fee.
Pay a $0 annual fee for most cashback credit cards. Of course, there are exceptions, but it’s unlikely that you’ll find a cashback card with a higher annual fee than $99.
- High APR.
Watch out for high APR that applies after your intro APR period ends. To make the most of your card’s rewards, pay your balance in full before it’s due.
- Foreign transaction fees.
Pay foreign transaction fees between 1% and 3% on all purchases made abroad or online with foreign merchants. This makes cashback cards poor international traveling companions compared to dedicated travel cards.
- Cashback limitations.
Watch out for cashback caps as some cashback cards that offer high reward rates limit the amount of cash back you can earn. For example, you can earn 5% cash back on select categories up to $2,500 in a quarter. After that, your rate reverts to 1%.
How to compare cashback credit cards with no foreign transaction fee
If you’re traveling abroad and you want to avoid paying foreign transaction fees while also earning cash back on your purchases, consider the following:
- Do you want to earn unlimited cashback on all purchases?
The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card or the PayPal Cashback Mastercard® are strong choices. The PayPal Cashback Mastercard® offers slightly higher cash back, but the Quicksilver card has a long intro APR period on balance transfers and purchases.
- Do you want an intro APR period on purchases?
If you do, the Quicksilver could be worth considering.
- Do you mostly spend on gas?
The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi offers accelerated cash back on gas purchases throughout the year, which makes it a good choice in this case.
- Do you make purchases at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market?
If you’re an Amazon Prime member, the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card could earn you a lot of cash back on Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market purchases.
Ask the experts
- Lee Huffman
- Budget Travel Blog
When should you get a cashback card over a rewards card?
If you don’t travel frequently or primarily fly Economy on domestic flights, then a cashback credit card might be a better choice for you than an airline or hotel card. Even then, I usually recommend getting a flexible currency card (like Chase Freedom or Citi Double Cash) whose points give you options. Redeem for cash to pay for travel or transfer the rewards to airline and hotel partners.
- Eliot Buchanan
- Co-Founder and CEO
For the average consumer, is flat cash back or tiered/category more valuable?
It’s the perennial debate that flares up on every points and miles blog: whether flat versus category rewards are better. There’s complex math, passionate opinions, and industry insights that get thrown around to prove one reward type is better than another. But one thing is for sure, category cards require you to put some thought into how you spend and where you use the card.
If you’re someone that doesn’t want to put that much thought into maximizing your bonus rewards earning, then a flat cash back card may be a better bet for you. However, there are fewer opportunities to maximize your rewards earning with a flat cash back card than a category card.
There is also a third type of rewards card that has become more popular in recent years, tiered reward cards. Typically, they either provide bonus rewards at various spending thresholds or the rewards earning rate accelerates the more you spend. Cards like these can be less desirable because they require more of your everyday spending to go on a single card.
Behavior like this forces you into an undesirable decision: Do you spend more on on a tiered rewards card to achieve the next spending milestone and give up the opportunity for a better earning rate on a flat or category card? Or do you spend on another type of rewards card and give up moving to the next reward tier?
- Tim and Amy Rutherford
- Award Travel Professionals
Is there anything you should avoid when choosing a cashback card?
Avoid the temptation to sign up for a cashback card without reading the fine print. Is there a maximum earning potential allowed in any category? Are there complex redemption requirements? Are there annual fees that erode your savings?
Look at all of the details and understand the options. It’s possible to get a no-annual-fee card that provides a 2% return on unlimited spending. This may be better than a card that earns 6% on dining with a limitation of $6,000 in spending and an annual fee.
- Eric Rosenberg
- Personal Finance Expert
Should I get a cashback card with tiered rewards or a flat rate for all purchases?
Both types of cards work well, it just depends on your spending habits and preferences. If you’re willing to keep track of bonus categories and use the right cards for each purchase, you can earn big rewards from categories that go up to 5% cash back or 5 points per dollar spent.
But that’s a lot to remember for some people. If that sounds too tough to keep track, you can get some great rewards from flat-rate cards as well.
- Malcolm Robinson
- Professor and Chairperson of Economics
- Thomas More University
When is it worth getting a cash back credit card?
It is always worth it to get a cashback card. They’re popular for good reason.
The card essentially offers you a discount every time you make a purchase. Companies are willing to give you a discount each time you use their card because they make a profit every time you use it. The incentive to use the card more than makes up for the fact that their profit margin gets reduced.
Also, you don’t have to pay attention to the dollars that get refunded to you — unlike points where you need to track your points to use them.
- Scott Wysong
- Associate Professor
- University of Dallas
How should a consumer choose between points, miles and cash back?
Of course, consumers should pick what best suits their needs. If they like to travel, then maybe miles are best for them.
Having said that, from my own experience and research, I think cash back is the best deal for a consumer. Credit card companies can often disguise the true value of the points and miles.
Take for instance my own situation. I had the option to get $500 cash back or use my points to get a TV through their third-party vendor. That same TV was $400 at a national retailer. So, cash back it was (and I bought the TV for $400).
- Boris Vallee
- Assistant Professor of Finance
- Harvard Business School
Why might credit rewards make you spend more?
Credit rewards might nudge people into spending more as they feel that they are getting something back. What people usually forget however, is that the rewards/cash back is tiny compared to the incremental spending that creates it.
It’s a form of the balance trap: individuals might equate the “saving” with the spending, whereas the quantity massively differs, as the typical program offers 2 cents back on every dollar spent. No-one would be interested in a 2% sale! So the key is not to have your spending behavior being dictated by whatever credit card reward you might get. You should keep your spending the same, and get cash back as you can.
More guides on Finder
- Best cashback credit cards
The top cards often have cashback rewards of 5% or more. But which one is the best for you depends on how you spend.