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Cashback credit cards earn money back on your spending at flat rates, in bonus categories or across specific types of purchases. They come with fewer redemption rules than cards involving points or miles — with many allowing rewards deposits to an account. Learn what to look for when narrowing down the best for you, including expert tips to leveraging your benefits and answers to five questions you’re bound to have about these flexible rewards cards.
Best cashback credit cards
- U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card: Best cashback card for rotating categories
- Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Best cashback card for groceries
- Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best cashback card for unlimited cash back
- Citi® Double Cash Card: Best cashback card for dining
Best cashback card for rotating categories: U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card
Instead of a basic rotating category system, the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card lets you earn a higher cashback rate on your top two spending categories for that quarter, up to a cap of $2,000. After that, you’ll still earn 1% back on purchases in that category, making this a terrific rotating category card for flexibility (see rates & fees).
|Purchase APR||15.49% to 24.99% variable|
|Balance transfer APR||0% intro for the first 12 billing cycles (then 15.49% to 24.99% variable)|
|Welcome offer||$150 after spending $500 in the first 90 days|
|Rewards||5% on up to $2,000 each activated quarter on two categories combined (1% after), 2% on one everyday category and 1% on all other purchases|
|Rates & fees||rates & fees|
- Earn cash back. Earn 5% cash back on two categories of your choosing on up to $2,000 in combined purchases each quarter you activate, then 1%. You’ll also earn unlimited 2% back on one everyday category of your choosing, like gas or groceries. For all other purchases, you’ll get 1% back.
- Signup bonus. Score a $150 bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of card membership.
- No annual fee. Pay no annual fee to own the card.
- Categories vary.Since categories rotate, you aren’t guaranteed one that you can use well.
Best cashback card for groceries: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
|Purchase APR||0% intro for the first 12 months (then 14.49% to 25.49% variable)|
|Balance transfer APR||0% intro for the first 12 months (then 14.49% to 25.49% variable)|
|Welcome offer||$250 after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months|
|Rewards||6% on select US streaming services, 3% on transit and US gas stations, 6% at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 annually, then 1% after that and on all other purchases|
|Rates & fees||rates & fees|
- Earn cash back. Earn 6% cash back at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year. After that, you’ll earn 1% back. You’ll also earn 6% on select US streaming services and 3% on transit purchases. At US gas stations you’ll earn 3% back. For everything else you buy, you’ll get 1% back.
- Welcome offer. Get $250 in statement credit after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of card membership.
- Intro APR. Enjoy a 0% intro APR period on balance transfers and purchases for the first 12 months of account opening (see rates & fees). After that, a variable APR of 14.49% to 25.49% applies.
- Annual fee. You’ll pay $95 annually to use this card.
Best cashback card for dining: Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card
This card offers a market-leading 4% cash back on dining. It also offers accelerated rewards on entertainment and at grocery stores. If you don’t want to pay an annual fee, consider the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card or Uber Visa Card.
|Annual fee||$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)|
|Purchase APR||15.99% or 24.99% variable|
|Balance transfer APR||15.99% or 24.99% variable|
|Welcome offer||$300 after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months|
|Rewards||4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases|
|Rates & fees||rates & fees|
- Earn cash back.
Earn 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other spending.
- Signup bonus.
Earn a $300 cash bonus after you make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
- $0 intro annual fee.
After that, the annual fee is $95.
- Annual fee. After the intro period, you’ll pay $95 annually to use this card.
Best cashback card for unlimited cash back: Citi® Double Cash Card
|Purchase APR||15.49% to 25.49% variable|
|Balance transfer APR||0% intro for the first 18 months (then 15.49% to 25.49% variable)|
|Rewards||1% cash back when you make purchases and 1% cash back when you pay off your card|
- Earn cash back. Earn cash back twice on everything you buy — 1% when you make the purchase and 1% when you pay your balance.
- Intro balance transfer APR. Enjoy 18 months of a 0% intro APR period for balance transfers. Compared to similar cards, this is one of the longest intro periods you can get. After that, a variable APR of 15.49% to 25.49% applies.
- No annual fee. All of the card’s perks and benefits come without an annual fee.
- High late payment fees. Pay late and you could face up to $39 in penalty fees.
How we selected our top cards
When choosing our cashback picks, we looked at a few features, including cashback rate, cashback limitations, earning categories and any other perks that a consumer might find appealing in a cashback card. Those cards that outperformed the others in a given category were chosen for our list.
What’s changed in 2020
We previously listed the Uber Visa Card as the best cashback product for dining. Barclays recently revamped the card, offering a stellar 5% back on Uber, Uber Eats and JUMP spending but lowering the dining rate to 3%. That means the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card now offers the highest cashback rate for foodies.
- Why trust us? Finder’s credit card experts live and breathe credit cards, spending close to 400 hours each week researching and writing on the latest credit card happenings. When it comes to recommending cards, we know what makes a card stand out for a certain kind of consumer. We want to share our expertise and help consumers find a card that best fits into their life. Plus, our editorial guidelines keep our content unbiased and accurate for your benefit.
Compare cashback cards by credit card issuer or bank
Our pick for a cashback credit card
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American ExpressRead more
Compare cashback credit cards
How do cashback cards work?
With a cashback credit card, your card provider 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.
Despite the name, you don’t actually receive physical cash back for using this kind of card. Instead, you can redeem your cash back as statement credit, deposits into your bank account or other items such as merchandise and gift cards.
Depending on the issuer, your card provider may redeem cash back for you automatically, 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.
There are three types of cashback cards:
1. Flat rate cashback cards
These simple cards earn the same percentage for everything, no matter what type of purchase it is. Look for a card that earns 1.5% or 2% cashback.
2. Tiered cashback cards
Tiered cards earn elevated cashback on set purchases, which are generally everyday spending areas such as gas and groceries. These cards can earn up to 6% cashback on the bonus categories!
3. Rotating category cards
These cards earn up to 5% on categories that change each quarter. You’ll earn 1% on spending outside the bonus categories.
When is a cash back card worth it?
Given the nature of most cashback cards, its rare that adding one to your wallet won’t be worth your time. The main consideration you’ll want to think about before applying for one is what kind of cashback card do you want: a flat rate card, or category card. This will most determine whether a cashback card is worth it.
Which you pick ultimately comes down to your spending habits. Do you want to earn a flat-rate on all purchases? Or do you want to earn a higher rate on specific purchases, albeit on categories that rotate throughout the year? Here’s how your earnings could pan out after one month of spending using the Citi® Double Cash Card and Chase Freedom® as examples.
Flat-rate: Citi® Double Cash Card
|Purchases||Amount spent||Cash back earned|
|Double cash perk total||$16|
Categories: Chase Freedom®
Unlike the Citi® Double Cash Card, the Chase Freedom® can earn up to 5% cash back on eligible purchases. However, the categories eligible to earn 5% change on a quarterly basis and you can only earn this rate up to a certain spending cap.
Outside of these bonus categories, you earn 1% back on everything else. As of this writing, the card’s quarterly bonus categories included gas stations, internet, cable and phone services, and select streaming services.
|Purchases||Amount spent||Cash back earned|
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.
Consider a card with no 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?
Think about the areas you spend the most and pick a card that earns more cashback in those areas.
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 within a certain time period.
Do you travel?
If you travel, a cash back card might not offer the greatest value for your spending needs.
Some cashback cards might come with intro APRs or forgo foreign transaction fees.
You asked, we listened: Top 5 common questions
Cash back on purchases sounds straightforward, but there can be a few caveats. Here are the five most common questions we receive on the subject.
- Do cashback cards actually give cash? No. Instead, you’ll receive a statement credit on your card account.
- What credit score do I need? Generally, many cashback credit cards require good credit or better for qualification.
- Do I owe taxes on cash back? No. Cash back is treated as a discount for the purpose of taxes.
- Which is better: cash back or reward points? This depends on what you ultimately want to use your rewards points on. While you can potentially get more value out of reward points, cash back is also worth it if you personally find it valuable.
- What types of cashback cards are there? Cashback cards fall into three earning categories: flat rate, tiered and rotating categories.
Read more about cashback credit cards
Credit Cards Writer
Hi, I’m Kevin! I think a cashback card — especially one that offers flat-rate rewards — is an excellent choice to start out with. I still have mine and use it every week. Here are a few articles that’ll give you the scoop on cashback products.
Ask the experts
- Lee Huffman
- Budget Travel Blog
When should you get a cash back card over a rewards card?
If you don’t travel frequently or primarily fly Economy on domestic flights, then a cash back 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. You can 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 does not 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. Typically, these types of cards can be less desirable because they require more of your everyday spending to go on a single card. This behavior forces you into a very 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 are willing to keep track of bonus categories and use the right cards for each purchase, you can get big rewards from categories that go up to 5% cash back or 5 points per dollar spent. However, that is 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 cash back card. They are 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 cashback?
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 is a form of the balance trap: individuals might equate the “saving” with the spending, whereas the quantity massively differ, 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.
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.Back to top
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