A Closer Look at Top Cash Back Credit Cards
What is a Cash Back Credit Card?
Cash Back credit cards reward you for eligible purchases by giving you a percentage of your purchase price back as cash. For example, a 3 percent cash back rate means you earn 3 cents back for every dollar in eligible spending. For someone with a $4,000 annual grocery bill, earning 3 percent with a Cash Back card for groceries could mean up to $120 in cashback rewards. Cash Back is essentially a discount on eligible purchases — you may not see the discount at checkout, but the payoff comes when you redeem your rewards.
Wells Fargo Active Cash Card: Best for 2% cash rewards with an intro APR
- The aspects of the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card that appeal to us: Apart from the impressive rewards rate, there is another noteworthy attribute of the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card, which is its cellphone protection. By using the card to pay your monthly cellphone bill, you can receive coverage of up to $600 (with a $25 deductible) for eligible damages or theft
- Who this card is good for Simplicity seekers and people planning to make a large purchase. Thanks to the card’s intro APR offer, you can earn consistent cash rewards and minimize interest charges on new purchases.
- Alternatives: If you’d like to earn a higher rate of rewards in a variety of spending categories, the Discover it Cash Back Card earns up to 5 percent cash back in different bonus categories that rotate each quarter (upon enrollment, on to $1,500 in purchases, then 1 percent).
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for restaurants
- The aspects of the SavorOne Cash Rewards Card that appeal to us: The entertainment category of this card encompasses a diverse range of qualifying purchases, including but not limited to, tickets for concerts, movies, sports events, theme parks, and tourist attractions. These transactions would typically only earn a 1 percent cash-back rate with most other cash-back cards.
- This card is good for Restaurant-goers, grocery shoppers, and even social butterflies who can find something to love about this card.
- Alternatives: While the SavorOne Cash Rewards Card earns generously at grocery stores, some cards earn more on these purchases. Plus, the card’s 3 percent back on dining is outpaced by the Citi Custom Cash card’s 5 percent back in your top eligible spend category, including restaurants (on up to $500 in spending each billing cycle, then 1 percent).
Discover it Cash Back: Best for rotating cash back categories
- The aspects of the Discover it Cash Back Card that appeal to us: This card offers 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 spent in categories that rotate each quarter, then 1 percent (activation required). This can be especially rewarding for cardholders who can flex their spending to align with the Discover-boosted cash back categories each quarter.
- Who this card is good for People who can adjust their spending to maximize cash-back earnings across various categories and aren’t troubled by keeping up with Discover’s 2023 cash-back calendar.
- Alternatives: If you value simplicity or your spending stays consistent throughout the year, you may prefer a card that doesn’t require you to enroll in new bonus categories each quarter. Opting for a flat-rate cash rewards card like Citi Double Cash or Wells Fargo Active Cash can make it easier to earn more cashback consistently.
Citi Custom Cash Card: Best for automatic bonus category
- The aspects of the Citi Custom Cash Card that appeal to us: There are 10 eligible bonus categories to choose from and many of them conveniently fit into a cashback or rewards strategy.
- This card is good for Someone looking for a high rate of cashback who doesn’t want to remember to activate bonus categories.
- Alternatives: You’ll only earn 5 percent back on the first $500 you spend in a single category each billing cycle (after that, 1 percent), so you may stunt your monthly cash back if you only use the Citi Custom Cash. Consider supplementing this card with a tiered cash-back card that earns at a consistent rate in your biggest spending categories. For example, Capital One SavorOne earns 3 percent back on dining, eligible streaming services, grocery stores, and entertainment, with no limit to how much cash back you can earn.
Citi Double Cash Card: Best for up to 2% cash back
- The aspects of the Citi Double Cash Card that appeal to us: The rewards structure incentivizes you to stay on top of your payments. You’ll only earn the full 2 percent cash back on your purchases once you’ve paid them off — 1 percent back when you buy, 1 percent when you pay off purchases.
- This card is good for Hands-off rewards earners. Cardholders get a straightforward cash-back card for no annual fee without tracking or enrolling in tiered categories.
- Alternatives: If you have large purchases coming up and want a promotional period to save money on interest charges, consider the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card. It earns the same flat rate on purchases but comes with a long intro APR offer for purchases and balance transfers.
U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card: Best for customizable rewards
- The aspects of the US Bank Cash+ card that appeal to us: It’s a rare treat to find a card that lets you choose which categories will earn bonus cash back. Along with its fixed travel rewards category, the Cash+ card lets users pick two categories that will earn 5 percent cash back each quarter (up to $2,000 in combined purchases per quarter, then 1 percent) and one everyday category that will earn 2 percent cash back.
- Who this card is good for People eager to maximize cash-back earnings with a multi-card strategy. This card’s flexibility and high earning potential make it a particularly great option for people who don’t mind juggling multiple credit cards to get as much value out of them as possible.
- Alternatives: If you don’t like strategizing and tracking rewards categories, a flat-rate card like the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card may be a better fit. You’ll earn 2 percent cash rewards on your purchases, without needing to track spending or enroll in bonus categories.
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for 1.5% cash back
- The aspects of the Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card that appeal to us: For a no-annual-fee card, the Quicksilver offers quite a few protections, including travel accident insurance, 24-hour travel assistance services, and extended warranty protection.
- This card is good for Cashback beginners. With a flat rate and no annual fee, this card is a solid low-maintenance option for someone just getting started earning cash-back rewards.
- Alternatives: If you spend heavily on purchases like groceries and gas, you’re likely to earn more cashback with a card that has a higher rewards rate in those categories. The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Card is a worthy alternative, as it retains a generous cash-back rate in multiple categories and gives cardholders the option to change their highest cash-back category once per calendar month.
Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express: Best for groceries
- The aspects of the Blue Cash Preferred Card that appeal to us: Few cash-back cards offer rates as high as 6 percent, much less in a rewards category as valuable as U.S. supermarkets (6 percent on up to $6,000 in purchases at U.S. supermarkets per year, then 1 percent).
- Who this card is good for People with a moderate-to-large grocery budget who can offset the card’s annual fee and still rake in a considerable amount of cashback.
- Alternatives: The Citi Custom Cash Card is an underrated grocery card that doesn’t charge an annual fee. Pair it with the Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card (for dining, gas station, travel, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans) or another cash-back card to help you score as much or more cash back on your groceries and other everyday essentials than what you’d earn with the Blue Cash Preferred Card.
Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card: Best for customizable 3% category
- The aspects of the Customized Cash Rewards Card that appeal to us: The ability to pick from six bonus categories is pretty great. Even better is the fact that you can change your pick once per calendar month to match your spending habits.
- This card is good for People looking for flexibility. If you want the freedom to choose and change your bonus rewards category, this card is a great option.
- Alternatives: This card’s cash-back limits may hold you back. Heavy spenders may earn more with a card that offers an unlimited flat rate on all purchases, such as the Citi Double Cash Card — no matter how much you charge to the card, you can earn up to 2 percent back (1 percent when you buy and another 1 percent when you pay off purchases).
Upgrade Cash Rewards Elite Visa: Best for personal loan alternative
- The aspects of the Upgrade Cash Rewards Elite Visa that appeal to us: Every time you make a payment, this card rewards you with one of the highest flat cashback rates on the market. It also charges fewer fees than the typical credit card and comes with a sign-up bonus (not always found on flat-rate cash-back cards).
- Who this card is good for: Fans of flat-rate cards who can pay their balances in full and people looking for a low-interest card who can qualify for the low end of the card’s ongoing APR range.
- Alternatives: One of the most unique traits of the Upgrade Cash Rewards Elite Visa is its emphasis on making card payments to earn your cash back rewards. If you want the best of both worlds and to earn when you spend and when you pay, the Citi® Double Cash Card allows you to do just that, since you’ll earn 1 percent cash back when you spend and another 1 percent when you pay. Just keep in mind that you’ll earn marginally less with the Double cash.
Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for the sign-up bonus
- The aspects of Chase Freedom Unlimited that appeal to us: This card offers bonus rewards for far more travel-related purchases than the typical cash-back card. Its 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases that fall outside bonus categories is also higher than the typical 1 percent offered by other bonus category cash back cards. It comes with one of the most valuable sign-up bonuses around, though the spending requirement to earn maximum value is far higher than you’ll find with other sign-up bonuses.
- Who this card is good for People who want to stick with a single everyday rewards card and frequent travelers who want to avoid annual fees and earn rewards at a high rate on more than just airline, hotel, and rental car bookings.
- Alternatives: A few cards also have a high rewards rate in travel and other everyday categories, but their welcome offers may be easier to maximize. The Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards card earns bonus rewards in a variety of travel and everyday categories. It also comes with a welcome offer of $200 after just $500 in spending in your first three months.
Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for fair credit
- The aspects of the QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Card that appeal to us: You’ll automatically be considered for a higher credit line in as little as six months with on-time payments, which can help you keep your credit utilization in check.
- This card is good for Credit-builders who want to earn cashback.
- Alternatives: Although 1.5 percent cash back is a decent rate, it may not be worth the card’s annual fee based on your spending habits. If you want to avoid both an annual fee and a security deposit, consider a no-annual-fee, unsecured credit-building card like the Petal® 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa® Credit Card or the Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card.
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card: Best for online shopping
- The aspects of the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa that appeal to us: Retail cards aren’t known for their sign-up bonuses or perks, but new Amazon Prime Rewards cardholders receive a $150 Amazon gift card upon approval, with no minimum spending requirement. Your purchases are also covered by an extended warranty and purchase protection.
- This card is good for Whole Foods shoppers and Amazon Prime members. Earning 5 percent back for both online purchases and groceries is a rare offer, making the card ideal for Amazon customers who are looking for new ways to save.
- Alternatives: If you prefer Walmart over Amazon for online shopping, the Capital One Walmart Rewards® Mastercard® charges no annual fee and offers 5 percent cash back at Walmart.com. A general-purpose cash-back card like the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards card or the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express could also be a better fit if you’re looking to earn cash back for select online purchases.
Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Credit Card: Best for 2.5% cash back
- The aspects of the Alliant Cashback Visa that appeal to us: This card offers a cash back rate that’s almost unheard of: 2.5 percent back on all purchases (on up to $10,000 in qualifying purchases per billing cycle, then 1.5 percent).
- This card is good for Rewards maximizers willing to join Alliant Credit Union and keep an average daily balance of $1,000 in your Alliant High-Rate Checking account every month of the preceding calendar quarter to maintain your 2.5 percent cash-back rate.
- Alternatives: If you don’t want to sign up for a credit union and maintain an account balance at Alliant, a no-annual-fee flat-rate card like the Wells Fargo Active Cash can be a great alternative despite earning at a lower rate of 2 percent cash rewards back.
Discover it Secured Credit Card: Best for bad credit
- The aspects of the Discover it Secured Card that appeal to us: Welcome bonuses are rare among credit cards for bad credit, but the Discover it Secured stands out for automatically matching all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.
- This card is good for People with bad or no credit who want to earn rewards while they work on their scores.
- Alternatives: If you aren’t able to pay your balance in full each month, a low-interest secured card like the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card or the Merrick Bank Secured Credit Card could make it easier to pay down your balance and avoid missteps like late payments, which can hurt your credit score. Or if you aren’t able to afford a security deposit of $200, the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card may offer you a credit line of $200 with a deposit of $49 or $99, based on creditworthiness.