[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are reviewed below.]
When it comes to earning credit card rewards, you have plenty of options to choose from. Many rewards points can be redeemed for gift cards or travel while others offer perks like airport lounge access and free checked bags. Still, many credit card users prefer a simple cash-back option, in which a percentage of what they spend is paid back.
How to Choose a Cash-Back Credit Card
It may seem easy to choose the best cash-back card — just look for the one that offers the highest rate of return for your spending. But in the highly competitive credit card industry, some card issuers offer high return rates on certain merchant categories in addition to a cash-back rate for all purchases. So the trick is to pick a credit card that offers the best combination of returns for bonus categories and general spending.
Some cards place limits on the amount of rewards you can earn in bonus categories. Yet many credit card users overestimate how much they spend on bonus categories. For example, they may consider gas a major expense. But with gas prices as low as they’ve been in more than a decade, some drivers are spending less than $1,000 a year on gas. For some, a credit card offering 3% cash back on gas will only realize $30 a year in rewards. So it’s important for you to consider your actual spending on bonus categories when choosing a cash-back card.
There also are other aspects to consider. Some of these cards offer generous signup bonuses that can dramatically increase the cash back you earn during your first year as a cardmember. In addition, some of these cards feature 0% APR introductory financing on new purchases, balance transfers or both. It’s also important to consider annual and foreign transaction fees.
Of course, cash-back credit cards aren’t for everyone. And while there are increasingly more options available for those with fair or bad credit, the best rewards credit cards are generally available to those with good or excellent credit. (Not sure where you stand? You can check two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)
Here are the the best cash-back credit cards on the market right now, selected by the Credit.com editorial team for high rewards and best overall terms.
The Best Cash-Back Credit Cards
Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer
- Earn cash back twice on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
- Balance Transfers do not earn cash back
- 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.49% - 24.49% based on your creditworthiness
- Click 'Apply Now' to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases.
- No categories to track, no caps on cash back, no annual fee*
Card Details +
Why We Picked It: Citi Double Cash rewards you twice — once with 1% back when you make a purchase, and 1% back after payment. The Citi Double Cash also features strong benefits such as trip cancellation and interruption protection, extended warranty coverage, and a damage and theft purchase protection policy.
Rewards Details: As we mentioned above, this card offers 1% cash back at the time of purchase and another 1% cash back after payment. There is no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn, and you can redeem your rewards as a check, statement credit or gift card.
(Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
- Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase – it's automatic
- Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
- 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.99-24.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
- No minimum to redeem for cash back
- Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
- No annual fee
Card Details +
Why We Picked It: Chase Freedom offers strong rates of return and a generous signup bonus — new applicants receive $150 after they spend $500 on new purchases within three months of opening an account. This card also offers new applicants 15 months of interest-free financing on new purchases and balance transfers.
Rewards Details: Cardholders receive 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent each quarter at merchants in featured categories in addition to 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
- $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
- 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) – that means spending $60 a week at U.S. supermarkets could earn over $180 back per year.
- 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
- Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 13.99% to 24.99%.
- Expanding merchant acceptance: Over 1 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in the last year.
- $95 annual fee.
- Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
- Terms Apply.
Card Details +
Why We Picked It: This card offers impressive cash-back rates on bonus categories and a large signup bonus — new account holders can earn up to $200 back after spending $1,000 within the first three months of opening an account. The standard purchase APR applies immediately.
Rewards Details: Blue Cash Preferred offers 6% cash back on up to $6,000 spent each year at U.S. supermarkets, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Annual Fee: $95
APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then 13.99%-24.99% Variable
At publishing time, the Citi Double Cash Card, Chase Freedom and American Express Blue Cash Preferred cards are offered through Credit.com product pages and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.
This article was updated September 21st, 2017