This article was updated on June 25, 2018.

Cash-back reward offers are no longer reserved for the highest-spending cardholders. As competition in the industry heats up, even secured credit cards with no annual fees are doling out cash-back rewards as banks look for ways to encourage card use.

Here's how to get cash back from your credit card, and what you should know about cash-back cards before applying for one.

1. The two types of cash back

Cash-back credit cards typically accrue rewards based on a percentage of the cardholder's spending. By far the most popular types are flat cash-back cards that reward cardholders with 1.5% or 2% cash back on all types of spending.

Flat cash-back credit cards are a great choice for people who want to earn a high return on their spending without having to juggle several different credit cards. Using just one card can have its perks, particularly that using one card means you'll hit the minimum redemption for cash faster than dividing your spending across several cards.

For those who want to go deeper and use multiple cards, category cards can be a great fit. Some popular programs include 1% cash back on all purchases, plus 2%-5% bonus cash back in rotating categories (gas, restaurants, groceries, and so on) on a quarterly basis.

Cardholders who max out the bonus categories throughout the year can typically earn about $300 per year in bonus rewards on category cards and put all other spending on a different card that offers a higher flat cash-back rate. One downside to category cards is that the bonus cash back is typically limited to a certain amount of spending each quarter. Don't expect to be able to get 5% cash back on $100,000 of spending; most are limited to the first $10,000 of spending or less per year.

Photo of hands holding a credit card and $1 bill

Paying by credit card is an easy choice when you get cash back on each purchase. Image source: Getty Images.

2. Mind the minimum redemption

While higher spenders generally won't find the minimum redemptions to be a problem, lighter spenders should tread more carefully. It's our view that rewards are best when they can be redeemed the fastest thanks to low- or no-minimum redemption requirements.

In the following table, I've compared the minimum redemption requirements on some of the best cash-back cards on the market today to show you how minimums can vary greatly from card to card, and issuer to issuer.

Cash-Back Card

Minimum Redemption

Discover it® Cash Back

$0.01 minimum for Amazon purchases, statement credits, or charity donations. $20.00 for gift cards. 

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

No minimum

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

No minimum

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card


Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard®


Data source: card issuers.

This table shows why minimum redemptions are an important consideration for smaller spenders. The Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard® has a lot of awesome features. It offers one of the highest new cardholder bonuses and one of the highest ongoing rewards rates when its 5% bonus on redemptions is taken into consideration. That said, its high minimum redemption requirement may make it a bad choice for smaller spenders.

Cardholders would have to spend about $3,333 to meet its minimum redemption requirement without the redemption bonus. Spending that much may take mere days or weeks for some, but others who spend less might choose a card with a lower bonus and rewards rate if it means they can make redemptions more frequently. 

3. Get cash back, even if you have bad credit

Historically, cash-back rewards programs were offered only to people with excellent credit and high spending needs. That's quickly changing, as cash-back rewards are now offered across the credit score spectrum, from top to bottom.

Some secured credit cards, which are designed for people who have low credit scores and lower spending needs, offer pretty attractive cash-back rewards programs. The Discover it® Secured offers 1% cash back on most types of spending, plus 2% cash back on restaurant and gas purchases on up to $1,000 of spending in bonus categories each quarter.

For this reason, the Discover it® Secured is one of the best secured cards we've ever seen, particularly since it doesn't carry an annual fee. In contrast, most secured credit cards carry a hefty annual fee and offer no rewards programs whatsoever. 

Frankly, I never thought we'd see the day when a no-annual-fee secured card also offered a compelling rewards program, but it just goes to show that we're clearly in the glory days of credit card reward programs. There has never been a better time to start collecting cash back on card purchases than right now.

Jordan Wathen has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon.The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. The Motley Fool receives compensation from some advertisers who provide products and services that may be covered by our editorial team. It’s one way we make money. But know that our editorial integrity and transparency matters most and our ratings aren’t influenced by compensation. The statements above are The Motley Fool's alone and have not been provided or endorsed by bank advertisers. Review The Motley Fool’s ratings methodology to uncover how we pick the best credit cards.