No credit card reward is more flexible than cash. That’s why cash back credit cards are our favorite kind of credit card. We prefer a card that gives you a nice, generous flat rate on all of your purchases, and a number of cards exist that do just that — with a 2% cash back rate. However, some people like cards that give greater rewards for certain purchase categories. They’re willing to juggle multiple cards to always get the maximum, as much as 5% on some purchases. It’s more work than most of us want to do, but you might be an exception. Below we offer our picks for the best cash back cards on the market today, starting with flat-rate cards. All of these have no annual fee:
- Citi Double Cash – Get 2% cash back on all your purchases. You get a 1% rebate when you make the purchase, and get the other 1% when you pay it off. If you’re paying your balance in full each month (and you should), you’ll get the 2% right away; if not, you’ll still get 2% as long as you eventually pay off your purchases.
- PayPal Cashback MasterCard – Get 2% cash back on all purchases, but note that the 2% rebate is deposited into your PayPal account. It’s easy enough to transfer it out to your bank account if you’d like, but it does require an extra step.
- Alliant Credit Union Signature Visa – This card offers a flat 3% cash back rate in the first year, then a 2.5% flat cash back rate on all your purchases every year after that. So why isn’t it #1 on this list? Because it has a $59 annual fee (though that is waived for the first year). So, how it stacks up to other cards will depend on how much you spend with it; you’ll need to do some math. For example, you’ll need to spend at least $6000 per year to make this one worth it in comparison to other cards (that would get you to a 1.5% cash back rate after taking into account the annual fee). However, if you’ll spend more than that, the deal gets better and better — if you spend $12,000 or more per year, you’ll actually end up making more than the two cards listed above, even after paying the annual fee. While this is a credit union card, membership is essentially open to anyone, so don’t let be a deterrent if this card’s cash back formula makes sense for you.
- Capital One Quicksilver – The cash back rate with this card is less at 1.5%, but you can earn an easy $150 bonus that the cards above don’t have, provided you spend at least $500 with the card in the first 3 months of having it.
- Chase Freedom Unlimited – Essentially the same offer as the Capital One Quicksilver: 1.5% cash back on all purchases, with the opportunity to earn a $150 bonus if you buy at least $500 worth of stuff with the card in the first 90 days.
- Discover It Miles – Earn 1.5 “miles” per dollar, which translates to a 1.5% rebate if you choose to redeem them for cash. A unique bonus opportunity here: your first-year rebate earnings will be doubled, meaning you essentially get 3% back on all of your purchases in Year 1.
Credit Cards with Higher Rate Purchase Categories:
- Best For Eating Out: The Uber Visa gives you 4% cash back on dining purchases, plus 3% on hotels and airfare, 2% on most online purchases (including Uber), and 1% back everywhere else.
- Best For Gas: The Ducks Unlimited Credit Card gives you a 5% rebate on gas purchases (as well as on sporting goods purchases), and 1% everywhere else. (Surprised that this is the best card for gas purchases? So are we. But it’s true.)
- Best For Groceries: The Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express offers a 3% rebate on supermarket purchases, 2% at gas stations, and 1% everywhere else.
- Best For Cell Phone / Wireless Service: The US Bank Cash+ Visa allows you to choose two spending categories each quarter in which you will earn 5% cash back, and one of those potential categories is cell phone service. (You’ll also get 2% cash back in one other spending category and 1% back on everything else.)
Credit Cards with Rotating 5% Categories:
NOTE: These cards can be lucrative for the chosen categories, but you must pay attention to the changes each calendar quarter, and you must remember to “opt in” to get the 5% rebate on that quarter’s bonus categories.
- Chase Freedom Card – Not to be confused with the Chase Freedom Unlimited, this card gives you 5% on purchase categories that change each quarter, on up to $1500 of those purchases. All other purchases earn just 1% cash back. 5% categories through December 31, 2018: Purchases at warehouse clubs, department stores, and purchases made with the Chase Pay service.
- Discover it Card – This card gives you 5% cash back on purchase categories that change each quarter, on up to $1500 of those purchases. All other purchases earn just 1% cash back. 5% categories through December 31, 2018: Purchases at Amazon.com and at wholesale clubs. NOTE: At the end of your first year having this card, Discover will double all of the cash back you earned in that first year.