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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.
Best cashback credit cards
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).
- 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.
Best cashback card for groceries: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
- 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.
Best cashback card for dining: Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Earn cash back.
Earn 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other spending.
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.
Best cashback card for unlimited cash back: Citi® Double Cash Card
The Citi® Double Cash Card is a great choice if you want a simple “fire and forget” cash back card. This tried-and-true consumer favorite features one of the highest cash back rates among unlimited cash back cards and sports no annual fee to boot.
- 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.
- 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
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 2019
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.
Our pick for a cashback credit card
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American ExpressRead more
Compare cashback credit cards
Compare cashback cards by credit card issuer or bank
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.
How to choose a cashback credit card
While the opportunity to earn cash back may sound appealing, cashback credit cards aren’t for everyone. Still, this type of card can serve you well if you carefully choose the right product.
Decide whether a cashback card is the right choice.
A cashback credit card may be a good fit if you want rewards that are easy to redeem and you’re okay with not having top-of-the-line perks such as travel credits and elite status in loyalty programs. If you want a card with more features, consider a premium travel card.
Decide if you want to pay an annual fee.
Cards with the highest cashback rates may have annual fees. However, you can find many excellent cashback cards with no annual fees. If you decide to pay this cost, consider whether you’ll earn enough rewards to cover what you pay.
Analyze your spending and find a rewards structure that fits.
Think about what you typically spend on. If your spending is concentrated in certain categories, you might like a card that offers bonus rewards for those purchases. If you spend relatively evenly throughout many categories, a flat-rate cashback card might fit the bill. This is a card that offers the same cashback rate on all purchases, no matter the category.
Look at other benefits.
When you’ve narrowed your potential picks, look into other features such as signup bonuses, 0% intro APRs and no foreign transaction fees. You may be able to easily pick a winner among cards that are seemingly identical.
Read more about cashback credit cards
Credit Cards Writer
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.
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