Best Credit Cards for Cash Back Rewards

Americans love cash back cards and have access to some of the best cards and the most generous rewards in the world. American Express, Visa, MasterCard, Discover—all major credit card issuers offer some kind of cash back rewards scheme, and in this guide, we’ll look at the best of them.

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Features to Consider

Choosing the best cash rewards credit card isn’t simply about selecting the card with the highest rate and then signing up. In addition to the interest rate, which is key for any new credit card, you need to think about all the following features:

  • Welcome Offer: A welcome offer is used to entice new customers and typically includes a cash back boost when you spend a specific amount of money during your first three billing cycles.
  • Bonus Categories: A bonus category offers a cash back boost when you spend money on specific purchases, including US gas stations, US supermarkets, grocery stores, and streaming services. There are fixed and rotating categories, with the latter referring to ones that change regularly.
  • Annual Fees: A fee charged every year to keep the card active. This fee is occasionally waived for the first year and typically ranges from between $35 and $95, with the more premium cards (including a few American Express travel cards) charging between $250 and $500 a year.
  • Other Fees: Credit cards also charge foreign transaction fees, cash advance fees, and penalty fees, and these can significantly add to the cost of a credit card.
  • Intro APR: An introductory APR offered for the first few months of use. Cardholders can receive a 0% APR on purchases for a fixed period, which means they won’t be charged interest on the first purchases they make.
  • Balance Transfer APR: A balance transfer APR may be set at 0% for the first 6 to 21 months. This means that the cardholder will not pay interest on balances they transfer across to their new credit card.
  • Special Offers: Additional perks and benefits offered to all new account holders, from account opening benefits that offer free gifts to regular benefits such as free credit checks and access to credit monitoring services.

To give you a head start, we have included this information on all our top cash back credit cards, but it’s still worth digging a little deeper and looking at the terms and conditions of your chosen card.

The Best Cash Back Credit Cards

We’ve compared dozens of top reward cards, looking at cash back rates, annual fees, interest rates, and more to create a list of the best cash back cards on the market today.

Take a look at the rates and bonus categories; look into redemption options, rates, and fees; compare and contrast, and only apply when you’re sure you’ve found the right cash back credit card for you.

Discover It Cash Back

Each time you activate, there is a quarterly maximum limit on the Discover It Cash Back card, offering 5% on a host of quarterly rotating categories. For all other purchases, there is a fixed cash back rate of 1%. What’s more, at the end of your first year Discover will double all the cash back you have earned. 

This cashback match welcome bonus is one of the best available and can net you several hundred dollars extra at the end of the year.

  • Credit Card Issuer: Discover
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 13.49% to 24.49% variable APR
  • Intro APR: 0% on purchases for the first 14 months
  • Flat Rate Cash Back: 1%
  • Bonus Rates: 5%
  • Redemption Options: Gift cards, Amazon checkout, bank account deposit, statement credit
  • Sign-up Bonus New cardholders can double their cash back at the end of their first year

Quicksilver® from Capital One® Cash Rewards

The Quicksilver® from Capital One® doesn’t have a huge welcome bonus or generous categories, but it has a solid cash back rate of 1.5%, which is 50% larger than typical unlimited rates. You can also secure a 0% interest APR for the first 15 months, with no annual fee. 

It’s also a good choice as a balance transfer card, with a 3% balance transfer fee and 0% APR for the first 15 months.

  • Credit Card Issuer: Capital One
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 15.49% to 25.49% variable APR
  • Intro APR: 0% on purchases for 15 months
  • Flat Rate Cash Back: 1%
  • Bonus Rates: N/A
  • Redemption Options: Redeem via the Capital One mobile app
  • Sign-up Bonus: $150 welcome bonus when you spend $500 in first three months

Citi Double Cash Card

The Citi Double Cash Card doesn’t offer bonus cash or an extended 0% APR on purchases, but much like the Capital One Quicksilver, it makes up for these with low-interest charges and a high unlimited cash back rate of 2%. Apply now to secure one of the highest unlimited rates of any cash back card.

  • Credit Card Issuer: Mastercard
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 15.49% to 25.49% variable APR
  • Intro APR: N/A
  • Flat Rate Cash Back: 2%
  • Bonus Rates: N/A
  • Redemption Options: Check, statement credit, gift card, Citi checking account
  • Sign-up Bonus: No welcome bonus currently available

American Express Blue Cash Everyday Rewards

Get between 2% and 3% cash back in department stores and supermarkets, with 1% offered for all other purchases. You can also secure a cash bonus of $150 and an APR offer of 0% on purchases for the first 15 months.

  • Credit Card Issuer: American Express
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 14.49% to 25.49% variable APR
  • Intro APR: 0% for first 15 months
  • Flat Rate Cash Back: 1%
  • Bonus Rates: 2% and 3%
  • Redemption Options: Statement credits in increments of $25; occasional gift cards and travel rewards
  • Sign-up Bonus $150 when you spend $1,000 within 90 days of account opening

American Express Blue Cash Preferred Rewards

With the Amex Blue Cash Preferred card, you can get up to 6% cash back on select US streaming subscriptions, as well as all money you spend in US supermarkets. Note that the money you spend in US supermarkets that the 6% cash back only applies up to $6,000 per year in purchases. There are 3% spending categories as well, covering gas stations and travel (rideshares, trains, and even tolls), with 1% for everything else. 

The annual fee is fixed at $95, so it’s a little more expensive than the Blue Cash Everyday, but if you have generous spending habits it could be worth the extra cost.

  • Credit Card Issuer: American Express
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 14.49% to 25.49% variable APR
  • Intro APR: 0% for 12 months
  • Flat Rate Cash Back: 1%
  • Bonus Rates: 3% to 6%
  • Redemption Options: Statement credits in increments of $25; occasional gift cards and travel rewards
  • Sign-up Bonus: $250 in statement credit when you spend $1,000 in first three months

Chase Freedom Unlimited

One of the most popular cash back cards, the Chase Freedom has a 1.5% cash back rate, with 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months and no annual fee. Combine this with some low-interest rates and favorable terms, as well as the backing of one of America’s favorite banks, and it’s easy to see why the Chase Freedom Unlimited is such a popular choice.

  • Credit Card Issuer: Visa
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 16.49% to 25.24% variable APR
  • Intro APR: 0% on purchases for 15 months
  • Flat Rate Cash Back: 1.5%
  • Bonus Rates: N/A
  • Redemption Options: Cash and gift cards
  • Sign-up Bonus: $150 when you spend $500 in the first three months

Bank of America Cash Rewards

With the Bank of America cash rewards credit card, you can get 3% on the category of your choice, as well as 2% on wholesale clubs and grocery stores. There is a $200 welcome bonus and an additional offer for all preferred members.

  • Credit Card Issuer: Mastercard
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 15.49% to 25.49% variable APR
  • Intro APR: 0% on purchases for 15 months
  • Flat Rate Cash Back: 1%
  • Bonus Rates: 2% and 3%
  • Redemption Options: Check, bank account, statement
  • Sign-up Bonus: $200 when you spend $1,000 in the first three months of account opening

Wells Fargo Propel American Express

Earn between 1x and 3x reward points when you use your Wells Fargo credit card on everything from travel to dining out and groceries. The welcome bonus offers 20,000 in points when you spend $1,000 over the first three months and these points have a $200 cash value.

  • Credit Card Issuer: American Express
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 15.49% to 27.49% variable APR
  • Intro APR: 0% on purchases for 12 months
  • Flat Rate Cash Back: 1x points
  • Bonus Rates: 2x to 3x points
  • Redemption Options: Statement credits in increments of $25; occasional gift cards and travel rewards
  • Sign-up Bonus: 20,000 points when you spend $1,000 in first three months of account opening

How do Credit Card Companies Cover Reward Programs?

Many cardholders assume that reward cards cover their benefits by charging higher fees and interest. Many of these cards do charge slightly higher rates, but those rates are not used to offset the costs. Instead, credit card issuers charge higher merchant fees. 

Merchant fees are charged every time a credit card is used, with the costs covered by the merchant. By adding a couple of extra percentage points to these fees, issuers can recover their costs for the rewards program.

Different Types of Cash Back Credit Card

Cash back credit cards offer several different types of cash back. The first of these is known as “flat rate” or “unlimited” cash back. It’s often fixed at a lower percentage and means you can earn that percentage every time you spend, regardless of what you purchase or how much you purchase.

Others offer higher payouts for specific categories. These are either fixed, rotating or user-selected, with the latter referring to categories that the user chooses from a set list. Available categories can include:

  • Groceries
  • Travel 
  • Gas
  • Restaurants
  • Streaming Services and Subscriptions
  • Utility Bills

How to Get a Better Rewards Card

Were you rejected for one of the credit cards listed above, does your chosen credit card come with a high APR? Your credit score is one of the main considerations; the higher it is, the better your credit card offers will be. Good credit scores lead to lower rates, better terms, and a greater likelihood of being accepted for the best cash back cards.

Many of the cards mentioned above require a credit score of at least 650, and the closer you are to 700, the more likely you are to be accepted. If you have anything less than 650, there’s a good chance you will be rejected, while any credit scores below 600 may have to look elsewhere or focus on building that score.

Attaining an excellent credit score can take several years, but with a few simple tricks, you can boost your credit score is just a few months.

Clean up your Credit Report

The first step is to pull a free credit report from one of the three credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian, Equifax) and make sure everything is in order. If there are any accounts that shouldn’t be there or any personal details that are incorrect, you need to report them, dispute them, and have them removed.

Mistakes can happen, and they can be costly when they do, decimating your credit score and your chances of getting lines of credit or loans in the future.

Increase Your Credit Limits

By increasing your credit limits, you can improve your credit utilization ratio, which accounts for 30% of your credit score. This score compares your total debt to your total available credit; the lower the former and the higher the latter, the better this ratio will be.

By increasing your credit limits, you can improve your credit utilization ratio without adding additional accounts to your credit report. Just contact your current credit card provider, request an increased credit limit, and you’re good to go.

Pay-off Debts

Increasing your credit limit isn’t the only way to improve your credit utilization ratio. You can get the same benefit by paying off your debt. You don’t need to clear the debt in full, just know that every dollar less on a loan or credit card is a potential credit score boost.

Limit Your Applications

Every time you apply for a new credit card or loan, you’ll receive a hard inquiry, which can reduce your FICO score by between 2 and 5 points. 

With loans, something known as “rate shopping” will group all inquiries into one providing they take place over a fixed period (generally between 14 and 45 days, but can differ depending on the credit scoring system). However, this doesn’t happen with credit cards and you’ll receive a hard inquiry for every new card.

Wait

Time is on your side when it comes to improving your credit score. 35% of your score is based on your payment history, which you can improve by consistently making your payments on time. A significant percentage of your score is also based on the total age of your accounts, which is something that will also improve with time.

What’s more, derogatory marks, hard inquiries, and other negative issues will all fade in time and eventually disappear from your card entirely. Even just a few months may be enough for you to see a significant improvement in your credit score, although it all depends on what you do in those months.

Become an Authorized User

By adding yourself as an authorized user on a parent’s credit card, you could give your credit score a quick and significant boost, enough to add several essential points to your total and potentially help you secure a better rewards card.

Settle Outstanding Balances

Contact your creditors and negotiate a settlement amount on your remaining balances. This likely won’t work if you have been meeting your minimum payments on time, but if you have missed several payments and tested the patience of your creditor, they will be more willing to accept a settlement amount.

You can also use a balance transfer credit card. These cards will essentially move your balance onto a new card, one that offers a 0% APR rate for up to 21 months, allowing you to clear your balance without worrying about high-interest costs.

Are Cash Back Cards Worth it?

Reward credit cards are certainly worth the extra effort, as cardholders can earn a couple of hundred dollars extra every year on purchases they were going to make anyway. However, those benefits may be offset by annual fees and higher interest rates. 

You may also receive much less than you think. The average unlimited rewards rate is just 1.5% and the average monthly spend is around $800, which equates to just $12 a month or $144 a year. If you’re paying an annual fee of $95 and your balance is rolling over every month, you could pay three or four times that amount.

In fact, if your interest rate is just a few points higher, and your balance rolls over every month, it may be enough to offset even the most generous of rewards schemes.

If you pay your balance in full every month and are confident you’ll avoid all penalty fees and cash advance fees, a rewards card is definitely worth looking into. If you spend several thousand dollars a month, it may even be worth looking into the more premium options. However, if your balance is constantly rolling over and you’re always chasing debt, we recommend focusing on low-interest cards first, as well as those with extended 0% introductory rates.

Cash Back vs Airmiles

Assuming you do spend a lot of money every month and clear your balance in full, cash back cards are a great option, but you may benefit more from cards that offer air miles and travel points. These cards can be tied to specific airlines or general air mile programs, and in exchange for spending money on the card you’ll receive points you can use on flights, hotels, and car rentals.

These cards offer a host of additional incentives as well, including access to VIP airport lounges, TSA credits, free baggage checks, and more. They are aimed at frequent flyers, including families who take at least 1 major vacation a year and business travelers who hit the skies for several short-term annual flights. 

You’ll often get more bang for your buck with these programs, but only if you travel frequently and spend a lot of money on flights, accommodation, and other travel essentials.

Take a look at our guides to airline credit cards (offered by specific airlines) and airmile credit cards (general travel programs) to learn more.

Cash Back Cards vs Store Cards

Everyone seems to offer store cards these days. You can get them from wholesale clubs like Costco; online retailers like Apple and Amazon; department stores like Walmart, and even drug stores. The benefits they provide and the rates they charge differ greatly, but generally, they offer less favorable terms than cash back cards and reward cards.

These cards do serve their purpose, however. The best store cards, including those offered by Best Buy, Amazon, and Costco, offer a wealth of benefits, discounts, and statement credit, and are perfect if you spend a lot of money at those stores and clear your balance in full every month. When used in combination with a general cash back card, these store cards will ensure you get a sizeable cash back return on every dollar you spend.

For instance, if you use Amazon for all your electronics, clothing, and media needs, the Amazon card can provide you with a cash back boost every time you purchase in these categories. If you also have a cash back or rewards card that offers a boost when you spend on streaming subscriptions and utility bills, and at grocery stores and gas stations, you’ll get a high rate of return for nearly every cent you spend.

Just be careful, as these cards always have high-interest rates and if your balance isn’t paid in full, you could find yourself with serious amounts of debt, not to mention a host of penalty fees. What’s more, they encourage you to spend money you don’t have on items you can’t afford, and to shop at specific stores when you might be offered a better price elsewhere. 

Bottom Line: The Best Credit Cards

While some cash back credit cards charge slightly higher rates on average, others don’t, and a list of the lowest interest and fee credit cards is likely to include many of these cards. For instance, the Discover It and the Chase Freedom Unlimited are included on pretty much every list of the best credit cards, with great rates, account opening benefits, and a solid flat-rate cash back scheme on top of additional cash back categories.

Whatever card you choose and however you plan to use it, just remember to shop carefully, compare as many cards as you can (without accumulating hard inquiries) and use that card sensibly once it is activated.