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 2.5% cash back rate on all your purchases. So why isn’t it #1 on this list? Because it has a $99 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. If you spend more than $20,000 with the card in a year, you’ll actually end up making more than the two cards listed above, even after paying the annual fee. But that’s a high bar for many people, so this card is worth noting, but it’s not for everyone. 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 a $200 bonus that the cards above don’t have, provided you spend at least $1000 with the card in the first 3 months of having it.
- Chase Freedom Unlimited – Offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases, with the opportunity to earn a $200 bonus if you buy at least $500 worth of stuff with the card in the first 90 days.
- Capital One Quicksilver – The cash back rate with this card is less at 1.5%, but you can earn an easy $150 bonus upfront, provided you spend at least $500 with the card in the first 3 months of having it.
- 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 (and Best All Around): The Wells Fargo Propel Card offers the best cash-back rate you’ll find for dining on a no-annual-fee credit card, plus you’ll get 3% back in a ton of other purchase categories: gas, rideshares (Uber/Lyft), flights, hotels, homestays (Airbnb, for example), streaming services (Netflix, etc.) and more. Plus, you can also earn a 20,000-point bonus (worth $200 in cash) if you spend at least $1000 with the card in the first three months after opening the card account. (You can find 4% cash back on dining with cards such as the Capital One Savor and American Express Gold Card, but those cards have annual fees that eat into (pun intended) that cash back, so they are only worth looking at if you are a big enough spender to make the annual fees worth it.)
- 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.)
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.
- 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. 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.