After 18 hours of research evaluating 75 products, we picked Chase Freedom Unlimited® as our top choice.
Cash back credit cards typically offer a set percentage rate (usually 1%) to be rebated back to you when you pay your bill.
These credit cards are more popular than gas credit cards or travel rewards cards, because some banks allow you to earn actual cash and not just rewards points.
The best cash back credit cards will allow you to earn, in some cases, even more than 1%, under certain situations.
Here's the deal:
Not all cash back cards are created equally. Some offer higher cash back rewards on certain spending categories. Others offer different kinds of rewards, and different ways to redeem cash back.
The good news? The power of choice is in your hands when picking from the best cash back credit cards for your own particular needs.
Cash back credit cards might be a perfect fit if you spend a lot of money on everyday purchases like:
As such, it's hard not to imagine an individual who couldn't benefit from a cash back credit card. Unless you live under a rock (or live a severely minimalistic life), each of these options will help you to end the month with a lower credit card bill.
Even if you don't spend a lot in a specific category, most of these options offer at least 1% in cash back on all purchases. The idea behind using any of the best cash back credit cards is that you're making money on the money you spend, automatically. Who wouldn't get behind that?
The variable APR rates on these cards will definitely cost you more than what you'll earn if you can't pay off your bill each month, so these are most beneficial when used responsibly.
Most cash back cards require a good credit score, but we've reviewed one that would be perfect if you're just getting started with building credit, or if you have an average credit score.
What's the bottom line?
Before considering a new credit card, read our article about how many credit cards you should have (hint: it all depends on you). But if you're ready to diversify the cards in your wallet, there's really something on this list for everyone.
Ready to go? Let's find the best cash back credit card for you.
Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.
This article was last updated September 4, 2018 but some terms and conditions may have changed or are no longer available. For the most accurate and up to date information please consult the terms and conditions found on the issuer website.
Application Process: Apply online, and get a decision within 60 seconds or less.
Rewards: Earn 1.5% cash on all purchases. Also, get a 10% anniversary bonus on all cash rewards earned each year, effectively increasing your rewards rate to 1.65%.
Annual Fee: None.Details:HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® Credit Card »
Application Process: Apply online with American Express and get a response within 60 seconds.
Rewards: Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%), 3% back at U.S. gas stations and on transit services, and 1% back everywhere else.
Annual Fee: $95.Details:Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express »
Discover It Cashback Match offers a whopping 5% cash back on rotating categories each quarter (for up to $1,500/quarter). Cash back categories have included many regular areas of spending, like gas stations, restaurants, home improvement stores, and even purchases on Amazon.com. Besides useful rotating categories, cash back redemption terms are extremely flexible. The Points Guy sees this credit card as a lucrative opportunity for earning double cash back.
If you're using credit cards primarily for groceries, you're better off with another of the best cash back credit cards on this list. Discover It Cashback Match has not offered grocery stores as a bonus category as of yet, and it's not looking good for the future. As is the case with cash back credit cards of this type, it can be a hassle to activate categories quarterly (and remember them when looking through your wallet for credit card to use for each purchase you make!), so avoid this card if that's not something you can commit to.
Application Process: Apply online in minutes, with an answer in 60 seconds.
Annual Fee: Absolutely none! More money for you to maximize.
APR: 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 14 months (that's a long time compared to the standard intro offer). Then, a 11.74% to 23.74% variable APR depending on your credit score, with a 3% fee for balance transfers.
Rewards: Rewards options are numerous and flexible to fit your lifestyle, with a few options you won't see on any other card on our list of the best cash back credit cards:
Bonus Offers: No specific sign up bonuses are available to the general public. However, if you refer friends, you get an additional $50 cash back when their account is approved.Details:Discover It Cashback Match »
Application Process: Apply online, and get a decision within 60 seconds or less.
Rewards: Earn 4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year, then 1% after that. Also earn 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases, 2% back on all other purchases at Costco and Costco.com, and 1% back everywhere else.
Bonus Offers: None.
Annual Fee: $0.Details:Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi »
Application Process: Apply online, and get a decision within 60 seconds or less.
Rewards: Earn 1% cash back when you make a purchase, then 1% back when you pay it off. You can claim your rewards as a statement credit, gift card, or a check in the mail, with a minimum cash back redemption amount of $25 required.
Annual Fee: None.Details:Citi® Double Cash Card »
There's a lot to love about the Chase Freedom Unlimited cash back credit card. It provides a high rewards rate with no nonsense in terms of rotating spending categories - just a flat 1.5% back on every purchase you make with the card. With responsible use, you won't have to pay a penny to use this card, as there's no annual fee.
As far as actually getting the cash back you've earned, there's no minimum required for redemption, and cash back earnings can be redeemed for any amount (unlike the Chase Freedom card, which requires a minimum $20). On top of that, there's a relatively small minimum spend required to earn the lucrative account opening bonus.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited card doesn't offer any specific bonus categories, due to its nature as a flat-rate cash back credit card. So those who know their high-spending categories (like groceries, for example) may want to opt instead for a cash back credit card that caters to their spending habits.
While going through this list, you'll also notice that it's not the highest flat-rate cash back card around. There's also a foreign transaction fee, so if you want a credit card specifically for international travel you should look into opening a credit card that caters specifically to travelers.
Application Process: Online, over the phone, or at a branch. Online is the easiest method, but it's nice to know that you have options!
Annual Fee: No annual fee! How's that for maximizing the money in your pocket? Balance transfer fees are $5 or 5% of the transferred amount (whichever is greater).
APR: 0% for the first 15 months, then a variable APR of 16.24% to 24.99%.
Rewards: You can redeem your rewards as cash back in the form of:
Or, you can also redeem rewards using the Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1 cent each and may be claimed through the Ultimate Rewards portal for:
Bonus Offers: Earn a $150 bonus after spending $500, within 3 months after opening a new account. Additionally, you can also earn $25 if you opt to add an authorized user of the card, and that person makes their first purchase within the 3 month period.Details:Chase Freedom Unlimited® »
Cash-back credit cards are fairly popular with consumers, and it’s easy to see why. After all, who doesn’t want to get paid to shop?
However, it’s easy to get in over your head if you don’t understand how cash-back credit cards work. We’ve got the scoop on everything from the application process to redemption methods, so keep scrolling for important information from our trusted team of experts!
General Questions About Cash-Back Credit Cards
A cash-back credit card is a credit card that offers cardholders cash incentives. Some cards offer these rewards for every purchase, while others require that cardholders purchase goods or services from specific categories or locations. The details are outlined in your cardholder agreement so there are no surprises.
A cash-back credit card lets you earn cash-back rewards, but we don’t know of any cards that actually mail out wads of cash. Expect to receive a paper check or digital disbursement of your cash-back rewards. You might also have the option to buy gift cards or merchandise from the credit card company, or an approved third party, using your cash-back rewards.
Yes, you typically need good credit - sometimes even excellent credit - to get a cash-back credit card. Credit card companies often save their best perks for cards geared toward people with excellent credit.
However, there are some cash-back credit cards you can get without perfect credit. We discuss those in detail below.
Your options are limited, but people with bad credit often have good luck scoring an approval for the Credit One Cash Back Rewards Visa. This card offers 1% cash back on qualifying purchases. Yes, that figure is low compared to other credit cards, but keep in mind that your options are limited with bad credit.
You can also apply for the Capital One Quicksilver One Rewards Card if you have less-than-stellar credit. The company’s website classifies the Quicksilver One as a card for “average credit” but doesn’t specify what average means. We’ve heard reports of folks getting approved immediately after a discharged bankruptcy, and there are numerous cardholders with scores in the mid-to-high 500s.
We consider the Chase Freedom Unlimited Card to be the Best Overall Cash Back Credit Card. You can get the detailed scoop on this awesome card in the review above, but here’s some basic info:
We’ve also got some other cash-back credit cards we recommend. Here our are favorites:
With the exception of the Capital One Quicksilver One, these cards generally require good or excellent credit.
The Application Process for Cash-Back Credit Cards
It’s sooooo easy to get a cash-back credit card (assuming you qualify)! Here are some ways you can get one:
During your application process, you’ll provide basic information about your income and rental history. The application might also ask about military involvement, lawsuits, and bankruptcies, as well as request information about a coapplicant if applicable.
Some applicants receive an instant decision regarding their application. If you don’t, you should receive a response within a couple weeks.
Let’s start with the basics. A cash-back credit card is not a gift card; you can’t just buy what you want and continue on with your life. When you pay for things with your credit card, you’re responsible for the full balance plus interest.
You can pay your balance in full each month or make payments. If you make payments, interest accrues. Cardholders typically don’t determine their monthly payments; the credit card company decides how much you should pay and when you should pay it.
It’s important to remember that most cash-back credit cards have annual fees. If you max out your credit card, you’ll end up going over your limit when you get hit with an annual fee. This can damage your credit.
Anyone who qualifies! To qualify, you typically must meet the following requirements:
You should also have a Social Security number and reside in the United States (unless you’re temporarily overseas for work, school, or the military).
Many people receive an instant approval when they apply online. If you didn’t, it’s because something in your application triggered a manual review. That means a real human has to look at your application because the computer couldn’t decide whether to approve or deny you.
Here are some common factors that trigger a manual review:
You probably received a generic message that said you’ll get an answer in 7 to 10 days, right? You can get an answer sooner by calling the credit card company a few days after you apply.
Unfortunately, we have no idea since we don’t personally know you or have any idea which card you tried to get. However, we can offer some guesses based on factors that often lead to rejections:
The good news is that most of these issues won’t permanently keep you from getting a card. Pay off some debts, dispute inaccurate information on your credit report, and work hard to boost your FICO score.
Information About Cash Rewards
That’s subjective. If you like cash more than gift cards, airline miles, or free stays at hotels, then yes, cash-back credit card rewards are better than other credit card rewards.
If you want the best of both worlds, look for a cash-back card that lets you trade points for gift cards or vacation-related expenses.
By doing the things you’re probably already doing! Most cash-back credit cards tally your total automatically, so all you have to worry about is paying for the goods and services you want.
Some cards have restrictions (no gambling or lottery tickets are common ones), but there are many cards that let you earn rewards for everyday purchases. We’ve seen some cards with rotating reward categories (we’re looking at you, Discover it Credit Card), so make sure you opt in each quarter to avoid missing out on cash rewards.
Depends on the card, but many offer digital disbursements. You can also request a paper check in the mail or ask for a gift card.
Once you’ve got your reward, you’re free to spend it however you like. Keep in mind that some credit cards make you wait until you’ve reached a minimum balance (usually $20 or $25) before you can redeem your rewards. You also have to keep your account in good standing.
They might, but you should have plenty of time to use them. Most credit cards give you 1 to 2 years to redeem cash-back rewards, and some of them offer rewards that never expire.
Sometimes you can transfer rewards, but it depends on the policies of the credit card company.
Possibly. Many cards offer multiple reward options, so you can choose cash one time and airline miles or hotel rooms next time.
Rates and Fees
Most credit cards charge a variable interest rate that’s determined by your credit history. People with excellent credit typically have low APRs, while people with low FICO scores end up paying hefty interest fees. That’s because you’re more of a risk when you’ve got bad credit, so credit card companies charge extra to protect themselves if you bail on payments.
The credit cards on our list of the best cash-back credit cards have APRs ranging from 11.74% to 24.99%. If you don’t want to pay interest, look for a card with an interest-free promotional period for new cardholders. We’ve seen these grace periods run anywhere from a few months to more than one year.
Yeah, some cash-back credit cards have annual fees. If you choose a card with a fee, you’ll probably pay between $39 and $99 per year. This fee is added directly to your billing statement, so you don’t have to worry about keeping track of it yourself.
The Credit One Cash Back Rewards Visa, Citi Double Cash Card, and Discover it Credit Card don’t have annual fees.
Sometimes, but it won’t be cheap! If you’ve got a credit card that works at ATMS, expect to pay a cash advance fee and additional interest. Cash advances usually carry an APR that falls between 25% and 30%, and that doesn’t even include the cash advance fee (typically around 5% of the advance total).
Pay your bill on time, every time! If you’re late, you run the risk of getting hit with a penalty APR.
If you have an issue with the regular APR rather than the penalty APR, contact your credit card company. Sometimes companies lower the APR for cardholders who demonstrate a lengthy history of paying their monthly bills (for everything, not just the credit card) on time.
APR is generally determined by creditworthiness, which basically refers to the state of your credit. Credit card companies love that term, so you can find it in the terms and conditions for pretty much every cash-back card.
Simply put, people with good credit get good APRs. People with bad credit have high APRs.
Your friend’s FICO score might be lower than yours, but you might have a recent history of collections or lawsuits. You might also have a high credit utilization rate or a lot of recent inquiries. These are all red flags to a credit card company, so they jack up your APR.
Common Concerns Regarding Cash-Back Credit Cards
Yikes! You probably have a cash-back card because you want cash back, so it’s frustrating when you don’t get the rewards you deserve. Here are a few possible scenarios:
If you’re missing cash-back rewards, notify the credit card company immediately. They can explain what happened and then fix the error if it’s on their end.
Nope, you shouldn’t have to do that! We recommend doing it anyway if you’re worried you might miss out on rewards, but most - if not all - credit card companies track rewards for you.
You can usually view the status of your cash-back rewards online or on a paper statement.
Online shopping always carries a slight risk, so take a few steps to protect yourself:
Monitor your account regularly so you can make sure nobody is going on a shopping spree with your credit card number. If you notice something suspicious, report it immediately by contacting your credit card company. You may also want to contact the local police department.
Look for it quickly. If you don’t find it right away, contact your credit card company. You don’t want to waste any time when it comes to a lost or stolen card.
If someone else finds your card before you do, request a new one - even if you don’t see any suspicious charges on your account. The other party might just be saving your credit card information for future transactions, and you don’t want to take that chance.
Know your rights when your card disappears. Many cards offer fraud protection, which means you aren’t liable for purchases made by someone else.
We hate to tell you this, but you’re probably going to get stuck with the balance. It’s a bummer, but that’s what happens when you share an account.
The outcome depends on a lot of factors, though. Not all debts are dischargeable in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, so the other account holder might still be liable for the debt. It doesn’t mean they’ll pay, but it means they are responsible for the debt.
If the joint account holder racks up a lot of credit card debt shortly before filing for bankruptcy, those debts won’t be excused. The other cardholder may also have to continue making payments if they file Chapter 13 bankruptcy or fail to complete the required paperwork for any type of bankruptcy in a timely manner.