Cash-back credit cards can add a lot of value to your shopping experience, effectively giving you a discount in the form of cash-back rewards on every purchase.
With so many cash-back options available, though, it can be tough to know which one is the right fit for you.
There’s no single best credit card out there for everyone, so it’s essential that you know what to look for in a card. Whether you want a card that offers bonus rewards on your biggest spending category, a 0% APR promotion or something else, our list of the top 10 best cash-back credit cards may help you find the best option for you.
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Our Top 10 Best Cash Back Credit Cards
Cash-back rewards offer a level of flexibility that you can’t get with travel rewards. Instead of being restricted to using your rewards for travel-related expenses, you can use your cash back for that or anything else.
We picked our top 10 best cash-back credit cards by focusing on various features, including rewards rates, annual fees and accessibility for people with less-than-stellar credit. Here are our recommendations.
Best For Groceries and Gas: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
The average U.S. household spent $4,363 on groceries and $1,968 on gas, fuel and motor oil in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If a significant amount of your budget goes toward these two categories, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express is worth considering.
The card offers 6% cash back on the first $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1%), plus 6% back on select U.S. streaming services, 3% back on transit and at U.S. gas stations, and 1% back on everything else. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
As a new cardholder, you’ll also earn a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in the first six months of card membership.
The main drawback to the card is its $95 annual fee (see rates and fees), but you do get a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year. Also, you can only redeem your rewards in the form of a statement credit or gift cards — many other cash-back cards also allow you to choose direct deposit or even a paper check.
If you spend a lot on groceries and gas, though, the card’s annual fee can be easy to stomach.
Best For Dining: Capital One® Savor® Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Savor Rewards Credit Card offers 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, making it a solid choice for people who frequently eat out. You’ll also earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and 1% back on everything else.
As a new cardholder, you’ll earn a one-time cash bonus of $300 after you spend $3,000 in the first three months.
The card charges a $95 annual fee, but it’s waived the first year, giving you some time to test it out and determine whether it’s right for you.
Best For Flexible Rewards: Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card
If your spending habits change throughout the year or you just want a little more flexibility with your bonus rewards, the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card might be a good fit.
The card offers 3% cash back on a category of your choice from a list that includes gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores and home improvement and furnishings. You can change your category once a month. You’ll also earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1% back on everything else.
The only thing to keep in mind is that your bonus rewards earned from the 3% and 2% categories are capped at $2,500 spent each quarter.
On the flip side, if you’re a Preferred Rewards client with Bank of America, you can earn between 25% and 75% more rewards, which can make up for the bonus cap.
When you first get the card, you’ll earn $200 cash back when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days. The card has no annual fee.
Best For Rotating Bonus Categories: Chase Freedom® Card
The Chase Freedom Card is great if you’re smart about managing what categories you spend in. With the card, you can earn you can earn 5% on up to $1,500 spent each quarter on everyday spending categories. The only catch is that these categories change every few months, requiring a little extra legwork to activate them. The only catch is that these categories change every few months, requiring a little extra legwork to activate them.
You’ll also earn just 1% cash back on non-bonus spending.
There is no annual fee.
Get the card if you’re looking for ways to maximize your rewards, and don’t forget to check your bonus rewards categories every quarter.
Best For an Introductory 0% APR: Chase Freedom Unlimited®
If you’re looking for a great 0% APR promotion without missing out on other valuable benefits, the Chase Freedom Unlimited should be on your radar.
Like most other cards on our list, there is no annual fee. The card is a good option if you need a long 0% APR promotion and great rewards on top of it.
Best For Fair Credit: Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Rewards Credit Card
If your credit is in the low- to mid-600s, you may have a hard time getting approved for most of the best cash-back credit cards. With the Capital One QuicksilverOne Rewards Credit Card, however, you can still get approved if you have a limited credit history or you’ve defaulted on a loan in the past five years.
The card offers 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make but does not come with a sign-up bonus. There’s also a $39 annual fee, but that can be worth it for a solid rewards program.
Best For No Credit: Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card
Petal 2 is Petal’s most advanced card. It has no fees of any kind, is designed to help you build credit, and with cash back on every swipe, competes with other prime rewards cards. With the Petal 2, you can get impressive rewards, no fees and a decent credit limit without any prior experience using credit.
The card uses alternative data to determine your spending habits and financial responsibility. And if you do have a credit history, Petal will check that too in order to make a decision.
If you’re approved, you’ll earn 1% cash back right away, then up to 1.5% cash back on eligible purchases after making 12 on-time monthly payments. The card also doesn’t charge any fees whatsoever, and your credit limit can be as high as $10,000, which can be tough to get elsewhere with no credit history.
Read our full Petal Card review here.
Best For College Students: Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®
If you’re a college student, you’ll have a tough time finding a card that will give you more cash back potential than the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®. You can earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. If you pay on time, you can boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month.
What’s more, this card helps you build your credit as it will allow for a higher credit line after you make 5 monthly payments on time.
You can also earn $5 per month for 12 months on Select Streaming Subscriptions when you pay on time (Exclusions Apply). And you can also monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise app for free.
The card has no annual fee.
Best For Small Business Owners: American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card
If you own a small business, the American Express Blue Business Cash Card can be a reliable option to provide working capital. You’ll earn 2% cash back on all eligible purchases on up to $50,000 per calendar year, then 1% cash back earned is automatically credited to your statement. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
This card can provide incredible savings as you work to build your business.
The card charges no annual fee (see rates and fees) and offers the chance to spend above your credit limit when you need it.
Best For a Flat Rewards Rate: Citi® Double Cash Card
The information about the Citi® Double Cash Card has been collected independently by The College Investor. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.
The Citi Double Cash Card doesn’t offer a sign-up bonus, but it makes up for it by offering one of the best rewards rates on the market. You’ll earn 2% cash back on every purchase you make — that’s 1% cash back for every purchase then another 1% back when you pay your balance.
Like many cash-back credit cards, this one has no annual fee.
The Citi Double Cash Card is an excellent choice if you want a simple rewards program or you don’t spend a lot in any one area. It’s also worth considering as a companion card with another card that offers bonus rewards in some areas but a low rewards rate in others.
Frequent Asked Cash-Back Credit Card Questions
How Does a Cash-Back Credit Card Work?
Cash-back credit cards work similarly to other rewards credit cards, with the only distinction being that you earn rewards in the form of cash rather than points or miles. There are some exceptions to this rule, such as the Chase Freedom cards, but you’ll typically see the rewards you earn represented in dollars.
As you use a cash-back credit card, you’ll typically earn rewards on every purchase you make. Then when those rewards are available to you, you can redeem them and use the money however you want.
What Credit Card Gives the Most Cash Back?
There’s no single card that gives the most cash back for everyone because how much you earn depends on how you spend. While a 2% cash back credit card may offer more rewards on every purchase, you may be able to get more value from a card that offers bonus rewards, especially if you spend a lot in its bonus categories.
As you compare different credit cards, take a look at your spending habits to determine which card will give you the most bang for your buck.
How Can I Redeem My Cash-Back Rewards?
How you redeem your cash back can vary by card. In general, though, options include direct deposit, a statement credit or a paper check. Some cards may even allow you to use your cash-back rewards to buy gift cards or merchandise, shop online or even book travel.
As you shop around, check each card’s terms and conditions to make sure you have the redemption options you want.
Is Cash Back Better Than Points?
While cash-back rewards and points work a little differently, neither is inherently better. Credit card points, typically offered through travel credit cards, may be more restrictive with redemption options than cash-back rewards. But depending on the card, you might be able to get more value out of points than straight cash back.
As you compare different credit cards, consider what you want out of your next card and which type of rewards program is the best fit for what you need.
Why Do Credit Cards Offer Cash Back?
Credit card issuers offer cash back as an incentive to encourage you to use your credit card regularly. While this can work in your favor if you pay your balance in full each month and avoid interest, it can work against you if you overspend and carry a balance from month to month.
In general, it’s best to use a cash-back rewards credit card only if you’re a disciplined spender and can pay off what you spend every month.
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.