No credit card reward is more flexible than cash. That’s why cash back credit cards are the favorite type of card for most people. You might prefer a card that gives you a nice, generous flat rate on all of your purchases, as much as 2%, or you might prefer cards that give greater rewards for certain purchase categories. Some people are willing to juggle multiple cards to always get the maximum, as much as 5% on some purchases. 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 unless otherwise noted:
- 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’d 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 that be a deterrent if this card’s cash back formula makes sense for you.
- American Express Cash Magnet Card – 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. You can also earn another $100 bonus if you use the card for at least $7000 in purchases in the first year.
- 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. (There are other cards that offer 4% on dining, but those have annual fees that lessen your rebate.)
- 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. (If you spend more than $3000 on groceries per year, it would be worth it to pay a $95 annual fee and instead get the Blue Cash Preferred Card that offers 6% back at grocery stores.)
- 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.)
- Best All Around: While the Wells Fargo Propel Card doesn’t necessarily offer the highest rebate in any one important category, it offers a 3% rebate on so many purchases that it deserves mention. You’ll get 3% back at restaurants, on gas, rideshares (Uber/Lyft), flights, hotels, homestays (Airbnb, for example), streaming services (Netflix, etc.) and more. You can also earn a 30,000-point bonus (worth $300 in cash) if you spend at least $300 with the card in the first three months after opening the card account.
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.