Cash back credit cards can help consumers practice responsible spending while earning a little extra for their efforts when used properly. The days of earning 5 percent cash back for all credit card purchases may be just a memory, but the smart use of credit cards can still be profitable for diligent consumers. You may be able to find some credit cards offering a high level of cash back in certain spending categories, but these are often subject to maximums.
Most of today’s better cash back credit cards offer 1 percent to 2 percent cash back on purchases. However, if you look hard enough, you’ll find a number of credit cards with higher cash rebates. Keep in mind that in order to make credit card with rewards programs worthwhile, you must pay your bill on time and in full every single month to avoid interest charges and late fees.
This ever-changing list reflects the best cash back credit cards currently available. Weighing in with his expert feedback is Curtis Arnold, CardRatings.com founder and editor in chief, and nationally recognized consumer educator and advocate. Want to learn more about any of the cards listed below? Click through below to read Arnold’s full reviews of these top cards, see CardRatings.com Cash Back Credit Card Comparison Table or visit the CardRatings.com list of hand-picked list of best cash back credit cards.
Discover® recently announced a tempting offer for anyone considering a new cash-back card— they’ll double all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year automatically on this card. This offer is only intended for new cardmembers and is only available for a limited time. That applies to the 5 percent cash back in quarterly categories as well as the 1 percent cash back on all other purchases.
With the new New Freeze It® on/off switch, you can prevent new purchases, cash advances and balance transfers on misplaced cards in seconds by mobile app and online. You can also get your free FICO® Credit Score on statements, online and by mobile app, and will pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees.
Besides this bonus, with Chase Freedom® you can:
- Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
- Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months like gas stations, restaurants, and wholesale clubs
- Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
So that means that all other purchases — purchases in other categories or purchases in the 5% category beyond $1,500 — earn unlimited 1% cash back. It’s automatic! And cash back rewards never expire as long as your account is open. It’s free and simple to activate your bonus each quarter.
Chase Freedom® has a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months from account-opening — then the APR goes to 14.24% – 23.24% variable. There is no balance transfer fee during the introductory period; but after 15 months, the balance transfer fee is either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater. The cash advance APR is 25.24% variable, but a cash advance fee of either $10 or 5% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater, does apply.
So while the most you can earn from the 5% bonus cash back rate is $75, your cash back at the 1% rate is unlimited. Plus, Chase Freedom® carries no annual fee. The foreign transaction fee is 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars. See the issuer for terms, of course.
Fidelity’s card is regularly cited as a Consumerism Commentary readers’ favorite. For the first $15,000 you spend on this card in a year, you will earn 1.5 points. After you hit the $15,000 threshold, each dollar will earn 2 points. Every time you pass 5,000 points, Fidelity will deposit $50 into your account.
This card requires a linked account at Fidelity, but these accounts are free and can be good choices for savers and investors. A few years ago, I chose to rollover a former company’s 401(k) into a Fidelity IRA, and I use Fidelity as the servicing company for my charitable gift fund. Their index mutual funds are some of the lowest cost in the business, but for most of my own investing I prefer Vanguard. Vanguard, however, does not offer a similar credit card offer.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express.
I recommend this card as the one whose bonus categories are most likely to overlap the spending habits of parents.
Earn $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months. You will receive the $150 back in the form of statement credits.
With the Blue Cash Preferred® Card, you can get cash back. There are no rotating reward categories. No enrollment is required. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit. Cash back is earned only on eligible purchases (Terms and limitations apply):
- 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases
- 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations
- 3% cash back at select U.S. department stores
- 1% cash back on other purchases
There is a 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months. Then a variable rate, currently 13.24% to 23.24%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors. Terms and conditions apply.
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Earn $100 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months.
The rewards program is simple and straightforward: With the Blue Cash Everyday® Card, you can start earning cash back. There are no rotating reward categories. No enrollment is required. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit. Cash back is earned only on eligible purchases:
- 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases
- 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations
- 2% cash back at select U.S. department stores
- 1% cash back on other purchases
There is no annual fee. Terms and conditions apply. Compare this card with others in its category and apply here.
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards.
There are a lot of advantages with the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card.
Here is their current offer: (Updated on 7-27-16)
- A one-time $100 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months
- Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
- Every 10th Uber ride is free up to $15 when you pay with your Quicksilver® card through March 31, 2017
- No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards (plus, cash back doesn’t expire and there’s no limit to how much you can earn)
- Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card is also offering:
- 0% intro APR on purchases for 9 months, with 13.24% – 23.24% variable APR after that
- Balance transfers also have a 0% intro APR for 9 months; 13.24% – 23.24% variable APR after that; a 3% fee applies to each balance transferred
Compare this card with others in its category and apply here. You’ll need good to excellent credit to be considered for this credit card.
With Discover it® Chrome, you can earn 1% cash back on every purchase, but Discover® offers an opportunity to earn double cash back on certain categories. The double cash back is limited to $1,000 in combined purchases, though, which adds up to only $100 extra. Still, that’s $100 you wouldn’t have otherwise.
The categories for double cash back with Discover it® Chrome are gas stations and restaurants. In order to make using the cash back points even easier, Discover® allows you to pay for items on Amazon.com using points instead of dollars. That could come in handy during the holiday seasons.
Yes, this is a business card, but sole proprietors can open an account too. Not only is this a good cash back card, but it’s the card I recently chose to open for a side business. Chase is currently offering new customers a $200 account cash back bonus after you spend $3,000 on purchases across the first three months from account opening.
Beyond the opening bonus, Chase offers cardholders 5% cash back on purchases at office supply stores, telephone (mobile and landline) payments, and cable and internet bills, up to a total of $25,000 in combined purchases each account anniversary year. The next tier is a 2% cash back rate on combined purchases up to $25,000 at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year. These bonus cash back tiers include points that aren’t added to your account until the anniversary of your card opening, so that’s a little inconvenient.
Otherwise, all other purchases earn an unlimited 1% cash back. Always see issuer’s terms regarding APR.
If you’re holding on to a cash back credit card that you feel deserves to make this list, let me know by leaving your thoughts in the comments below. If the offer is good, I’ll add it to this best cash back credit cards list.
Updated July 27, 2016 and originally published March 22, 2016. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.