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Best Cash Back Credit Cards for May 2022

Many or all of the products here are from our partners that pay us a commission. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation. Terms may apply to offers listed on this page.

With cash back credit cards, you can save money when you shop. These cards give you a set percentage back on purchases, and that money can be used to lower your credit card bill or boost your bank account. A big part of maximizing your cash back is choosing the right card. The best cash back credit cards could help you secure lucrative rewards. In the list below, you'll find our favorite cash back credit cards on the market today.

Great for: Bonus cash back and no annual fee

Apply Now for Discover it® Cash Back

On Discover's Secure Website.

  • Includes a robust rewards program and rich sign-up bonus offer that has unlimited upside. Somehow this card also packs in a great intro APR offer for no annual fee. Read Full Review

    • Rotating bonus categories
    • Sign-up bonus offer
    • Great intro APR offer
    • No annual fee
    • No foreign transaction fee
    • No fixed bonus categories
    • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
    • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
    • Redeem cash back in any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
    • NEW Intro APR: Get a 0% intro APR‡ for 15 months on purchases. Then 12.24% to 23.24% Standard Variable Purchase APR applies, based on credit worthiness.
    • No annual fee.
    • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.

Great for: Unlimited cash back

Apply Now for Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

On Wells Fargo's Secure Website.

  • A standout cash back card with one of the highest unlimited rewards rates we've come across. The inclusion of a hefty sign-up bonus and versatile 0% intro APR offer are the cherries on top. Read Full Review

    • Unlimited 2% cash rewards
    • Long 0% intro APR offer
    • Generous cash rewards sign-up bonus
    • No annual fee
    • No bonus categories
    • Foreign transaction fees
    • Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months
    • Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases
    • 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, then a 15.74%, 20.74%, or 25.74% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee of 3% then a BT fee of up to 5%, min: $5
    • $0 annual fee
    • No categories to track or remember and cash rewards don't expire as long as your account remains open
    • Enjoy a premium collection of benefits at a selection of the world's most intriguing and prestigious hotel properties with Visa Signature Concierge
    • Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
    • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms and conditions

Great for: U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas

Apply Now for Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

On American Express' Secure Website.

Terms apply

Apply Now for Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

On American Express' Secure Website.

Terms apply

  • The U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations rewards are clear standouts, in addition to a big welcome bonus and a nice 0% intro APR offer. Read Full Review

    • Big welcome bonus
    • U.S. supermarkets rewards
    • U.S. gas stations rewards
    • Streaming subscription rewards
    • Annual fee
    • Foreign transaction fee
    • Earn a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
    • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.
    • Buy Now, Pay Later: Enjoy $0 intro plan fees when you use Plan It® to split up large purchases into monthly installments. Pay $0 plan fees on plans created during the first 12 months after account opening. Plans created after that will have a monthly plan fee up to 1.33% of each purchase amount moved into a plan based on the plan duration, the APR that would otherwise apply to the purchase, and other factors.
    • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, 14.74% to 24.74%
    • 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%).
    • 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
    • 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more).
    • 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
    • Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
    • Terms Apply.

Great for: Unlimited cash back and 0% intro APR

  • This card includes a lineup of features that makes it a great option for one-card-wallet simplicity. The unlimited cash back makes it easy to earn rewards. The sign-up bonus and long 0% intro APR offer are the cherries on top. Read Full Review

    • Innovative sign-up bonus
    • Travel rewards
    • Robust rewards program
    • Great intro APR
    • No annual fee
    • Foreign transaction fee
    • Enjoy 5% cash back on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
    • Earn 5% cash back on gas station purchases on up to $6,000 spent in the first year.
    • No minimum to redeem for cash back. You can choose to receive a statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open!
    • Enjoy 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.24% - 23.99%.
    • No annual fee – You won't have to pay an annual fee for all the great features that come with your Freedom Unlimited® card
    • Keep tabs on your credit health, Chase Credit Journey helps you monitor your credit with free access to your latest score, real-time alerts, and more.
  • Includes a big bonus in the no-annual fee category and a flexible cash rewards program that enables you to earn premium cash back in a category of your choice. Plus, the long intro APR offer makes this card a standout among its peers. Read Full Review

    • Competitive sign-up bonus
    • Bonus cash back in a category of your choice
    • No annual fee
    • 0% intro APR offer
    • Foreign transaction fee
    • Limit on bonus cash back
    • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
    • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases.
    • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% - 75% more cash back on every purchase. That means you could earn up to 5.25% cash back on purchases in your choice category.
    • No annual fee and no expiration on rewards.
    • 0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 14.24% - 24.24% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers.
    • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
    • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.

Great for: Cash back versatility

  • The high cash back rate, big sign-up bonus, and flexibility to choose what purchases earn bonus cash back make this a compelling offer. All the better that there's no annual fee. Read Full Review

    • Sign-up bonus
    • Bonus categories of your choosing
    • No annual fee
    • 0% intro APR offer
    • No 0% intro APR on purchases
    • New! $200 bonus after spending $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 120 days of account opening.
    • 5% cash back on your first $2,000 in combined eligible purchases each quarter on two categories you choose
    • 5% cash back on prepaid air, hotel and car reservations booked directly in the Rewards Travel Center
    • 2% cash back on one everyday category, like Gas Stations/EV Charging Stations, Grocery Stores or Restaurants
    • 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases
    • 0% Intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 billing cycles. After that, a variable APR currently 14.74% - 24.74%
    • No Annual Fee
    • Pay over time by splitting eligible purchases of $100+ into equal monthly payments with U.S. Bank ExtendPay™ Plan.
    • Terms and conditions apply.

Great for: Restaurants and groceries

  • Dining and grocery spending will earn premium rewards, but that's not the only showstopper. The sign-up bonus, no annual fee, and a 0% intro APR offer can add a ton of value. Read Full Review

    • Sign-up bonus
    • Dining rewards
    • Entertainment rewards
    • No annual fee
    • Great intro APR for purchases
    • Balance transfer fee
    • Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
    • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), plus 1% on all other purchases
    • Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply
    • Earn 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment purchases and tickets at Vivid Seats
    • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
    • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months; 15.24% - 25.24% variable APR after that
    • No foreign transaction fee
    • No annual fee

Great for: Customizing cash back

  • A leading cash-back card that includes a big sign-up bonus, great rewards program, and long 0% intro APR offers, all with no annual fee. Read Full Review

    • Cash back rewards
    • Sign-up bonus
    • No annual fee
    • 0% intro APR offer
    • Bonus cash back limits
    • Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $750 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.
    • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness.
    • Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, 1% cash back thereafter. Also, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
    • No rotating bonus categories to sign up for – as your spending changes each billing cycle, your earn adjusts automatically when you spend in any of the eligible categories.
    • No Annual Fee
    • Citi will only issue one Citi Custom Cash℠ Card account per person.
  • The lucrative cash rewards program is a welcome benefit that's rare in this category. We only wish you didn't have to pay an annual fee to take advantage of those rewards. Read Full Review

    • Solid cash back rate
    • No foreign transaction fee
    • Flexible credit score requirements
    • Annual fee
    • No sign-up bonus
    • No intro APR offer
    • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
    • No rotating categories or limits to how much you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account. It's that simple
    • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
    • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
    • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
    • Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply
    • Monitor your credit score with CreditWise from Capital One. It's free for everyone
    • Check out quickly and securely with a contactless card, without touching a terminal or handing your card to a cashier. Just hover your card over a contactless reader, wait for the confirmation, and you're all set
  • Earn up to 2% on all purchases - 1% when you buy, and 1% when you pay the minimum each month. Add that to no annual fee and an 18 month 0% intro APR offer on balance transfers and this card is a winner. Read Full Review

    • Industry-leading cash back
    • 0% intro APR balance transfer offer
    • No annual fee
    • Free credit score monitoring
    • No sign-up bonus
    • Foreign transaction fee
    • No 0% intro APR on purchases
    • Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
    • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
    • Balance Transfer Only Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness.
    • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back. Intro APR does not apply to purchases.
    • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
    • There is an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer (minimum $5) completed within the first 4 months of account opening. After that, your fee will be 5% of each transfer (minimum $5).
    • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
  • This card is a great place to start when building your credit history. It offers perks rarely found in secured cards, including cash back, no annual fee, and Discover's innovative sign-up bonus. Read Full Review

    • Cash back rewards
    • Great sign-up bonus offer
    • No annual fee
    • Can graduate to an unsecured card
    • Minimum deposit amount
    • No credit score required to apply.*
    • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
    • Using your secured credit card helps build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, prepaid and debit cards can’t do that.
    • Establish your credit line with your tax return by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200. That means a $200 deposit for a $200 credit line. Or a $500 deposit for a $500 credit line. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit, and the security deposit equals your credit limit.
    • Automatic reviews starting at 7 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.*
    • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
    • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
    • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
  • A leading student credit card with a rewards program that goes toe-to-toe with some of the top rewards cards we've come across. Read Full Review

    • Rotating bonus categories
    • Great sign-up bonus offer
    • No annual fee
    • Credit score monitoring
    • No fixed bonus categories
    • No credit score required to apply.*
    • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
    • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
    • No annual fee and build your credit with responsible use.
    • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 13.24% - 22.24% applies.
    • Refer-a-Friend: Once you become a Discover it® Student cardmember, you can earn a statement credit each time you refer a friend and they’re approved. Over half a million students got Discover Cards from their friends' recommendations.
    • Get your free Credit Scorecard that includes your FICO® Credit Score and important details that help make up your score.
    • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.

Great for: Students

  • This student credit card has it all. You'll have a hard time finding a student card with a cash back program this lucrative to go along with a sign-up bonus. Read Full Review

    • Competitive sign-up bonus
    • Bonus cash back in a category of your choice
    • No annual fee
    • 0% intro APR offer
    • Foreign transaction fee
    • Limit on bonus cash back
    • No annual fee.
    • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
    • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on other purchases.
    • 0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days, then 14.24% to 24.24% variable thereafter. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers
    • No expiration on rewards.
    • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% - 75% more cash back on every purchase.

What is a cash back credit card?

A cash back credit card is one that gives you a certain percentage of money back on your purchases. The amount you earn depends on the card and the spending category. Some cash back cards earn the same amount on purchases, such as a flat rate of 1.5%. In that case, $1,000 in spending would get you $15 back. Others have bonus categories where they earn extra, such as 4% back on dining.

How does a cash back credit card work?

Here's a complete look at the entire process behind how cash back credit cards work:

  1. You use your cash back card. Whenever you use your cash back card to pay for eligible purchases, you earn cash back. Many of these cards also have bonus categories where you'll earn a higher rewards rate.
  2. The credit card issuer deposits your cash back. Your card has a cash back balance, and all the cash back you earn will go there to start. Card issuers automatically calculate your cash back as you use your card. They then deposit that cash back to your card's cash back balance. This usually happens at the end of every statement period, although there are some card issuers that deposit cash back daily.
  3. You redeem your cash back rewards. Once you're ready, you can redeem your cash back through your online account or by calling the card issuer. Depending on your cash back card, you may be able to use rewards as a statement credit on your credit card bill, deposit them to a bank account, or request a check. Note that some cards have redemption minimums, such as $20 or $25. Fortunately, many of the best cash back credit cards don't have redemption minimums.

Cash back vs. points

Cash back and points are two types of credit card rewards. Points tend to offer more redemption options than cash back does. While you can only use cash back for cash, you may be able to use points for travel, a gift card, cash, or merchandise. The exact options depend on the rewards credit card you have. The advantage of points is that there are more ways to use them, but this also makes them more complicated.

Different types of cash back credit cards

There are three basic types of cash back credit cards: Flat-rate cash back cards, bonus category cash back cards, and rotating bonus category cash back cards. By understanding how each type works, you'll be able to figure out the best credit cards for maximizing your cash rewards.

Flat-rate cash back cards

A flat-rate cash back card earns the same rate on purchases, typically 1.5% or 2%. This type of cash rewards credit card is ideal if your spending is fairly balanced and you don't have any particular big spending categories among your everyday purchases.

Consumers who do the math often find that they'll earn the most with a flat-rate cash back card. If you're interested in getting one, the ERROR: review_url not found for object:wells-fargo-active-cash is hard to beat. It can get you 2% cash rewards on purchases.

Bonus category cash back cards

A bonus category cash back card offers a higher cash back rate in one or more categories, such as groceries, dining, or gas.

Those who spend a lot in certain categories could collect more cash back with the right bonus category card. For example, the ERROR: review_url not found for object:american-express-blue-cash-preferred earns an industry-leading 6% back at U.S. supermarkets for up to $6,000 per calendar year. Terms apply. That's an extremely valuable offer, even with the card's annual fee (see rates and fees). There are bonus category cards to fit just about everyone, whether you need the best credit cards for gas, dining, or a different category.

On eligible purchases outside of bonus categories, these cards have traditionally earned 1% back. But not all bonus category cards are like this anymore.

Rotating bonus category cash back cards

A rotating bonus category cash back card offers a higher cash back rate in a changing mix of categories. You typically get new bonus categories every quarter with this type of card. In most cases, cardholders must activate their bonus categories before or during the quarter to earn the bonus rate.

The advantages with these cards are a very high cash back rate in bonus categories and the fact that you get new bonus categories regularly. But the latter can also be a downside, because you may occasionally get stuck with bonus categories that you won't spend much money in.

Two of the most popular rotating bonus category cards are the ERROR: review_url not found for object:discover-it-cash-back and the ERROR: review_url not found for object:chase-freedom-flex. Each offers 5% back on your first $1,500 spent in rotating bonus categories you activate every quarter. The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is unique in that it also offers several fixed bonus categories.

Highest cash back credit cards

Bonus categories are a popular feature with cash back credit cards. To provide more info on them, we're going to explain how some of the most common bonus categories work and the highest cash back rates you'll find in each one.

Groceries: These credit cards earn higher rates in merchants classified as grocery stores or supermarkets. This is a good time to clarify that bonus categories are based on the retailer, not the exact product you're buying. If you go to the grocery store and buy shampoo, paper towels, or any non-food items, it still counts as a grocery store purchase.

Grocery credit cards offer cash back rates of up to 6% on supermarket purchases. Since this is one of the biggest spending categories for many consumers, a grocery cash back card can be a great choice.

Gas: These credit cards earn higher rates at gas stations. They usually only offer bonus cash back at traditional gas stations, not gas stations tied to supermarkets or warehouse clubs.

Gas credit cards offer up to 4% on gas station purchases. Although they can be a good fit if you have a lengthy commute or a driving job, the typical consumer spends more in other areas, like groceries.

Dining: These credit cards earn higher rates at any type of restaurant, including fast food, sit-down dining establishments, and everything in between. That also covers deliveries and carryout orders with restaurants. Food delivery apps, such as DoorDash and Grubhub, may or may not qualify, so you'll need to check each card's terms to see.

Dining credit cards offer up to 4% on restaurant purchases. They work well if you're the type who prefers going out to eat and placing delivery orders over cooking at home.

Travel: These credit cards offer bonus cash back on either certain types of travel purchases or travel as a whole. If it's certain types of purchases, the card issuer will specify what qualifies, such as hotels or air travel. If it's travel as a whole, then anything the card issuer considers a travel category will qualify for bonus cash back.

Most credit cards that earn bonus rewards on travel spending are travel credit cards, not cash back cards. Among those travel cards, rewards rates can be as high as 10% on certain types of travel purchases. Some cash back cards offer bonus rates as high as 5% on certain types of travel purchases.

How to compare cash back credit cards

As you shop for reward credit cards, there will probably be multiple cards that you like. To pick the best one, you'll need to compare them. The Ascent's tool to compare credit card offers can help with this. You'll be able to get a feature-by-feature comparison of multiple cash back cards. Here's what to look at to decide on the right card:

  • Cash back rate: This is the most important feature. A higher cash back rate will save you more money whenever you use your card. The card you choose should have either bonus categories that match your spending habits or a high flat rate on purchases.
  • Annual fee: Most cash back cards are no annual fee cards, although there are some exceptions. Cash back cards with annual fees tend to have higher cash back rates. Those higher rates can make up for the annual fee if you spend enough, but you'll need to do the math on the rewards you'll earn to make sure.
  • Sign-up bonus: Quite a few credit cards include introductory bonus rewards, such as $100 to $200 when spending a certain minimum in the first three months. A welcome bonus like this is an easy way to collect cash back. If there are a couple cards you like, you may want to pick the one offering the most bonus cash.

There are other things you may want to consider. You could look for cash back cards that also have 0% intro APR offers, free credit score monitoring, or any other perk that would be useful to you. But the three features above usually determine which cash back card offers the most value.

Check out the video below to learn more about how to choose the best cash back card.

What credit card gives the most cash back?

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card earns the highest flat-rate cash back we've come across at 2% for purchases.

Counting bonus categories, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is the winner. It earns 6% back at U.S. supermarkets, up to a spending cap of $6,000 per calendar year. We've not found a bigger cash back rate among grocery credit cards.

Are cash back credit cards taxable?

In most cases, cash back credit cards aren't taxable. If you earn the cash back by using your card for purchases, then it's not taxable, because the IRS considers it a rebate on those purchases and not income.

That means any type of cash back that requires spending money is treated as a rebate and isn't taxable. For example, if your card earns 4% on dining or an unlimited 2% cash back on purchases, you wouldn't need to pay taxes on that. This also includes welcome bonuses you need to spend money to earn, such as a bonus of $200 if you spend $500 in the first three months.

While cash back usually isn't taxable, it could be treated as income if it doesn't require any spending on your part. The most common example would be a bonus you get for opening a credit card that doesn't have a spending requirement tied to it.

Should I get a cash back credit card?

A cash back rewards card could save you money. If you have good or excellent credit and can qualify for the best cash back cards, then they're definitely worth checking out. But this type of credit card has its perks and its drawbacks.

Pros

  • Cash back on purchases
  • Easy to use
  • Most cash back cards don't charge an annual fee

Cons

  • Usually have smaller sign-up bonuses
  • Fewer travel perks and other extras
  • Can't get any extra value on cash back redemptions

The great thing about cash back cards is how simple and affordable they are. Anyone can benefit from cash back, and there's no learning curve involved like there can be with travel credit cards. You can find plenty of no annual fee cards that earn cash back. Even the ones with annual fees usually cost less than $100 per year.

There is a tradeoff to those benefits. Cash back cards are affordable, but they also generally have smaller bonuses and fewer features than you could get from a higher-priced travel rewards card. And while cash back means rewards redemptions are a breeze, there's no way to get more value out of cash back. With rewards credit cards that earn points, it's sometimes possible to extract more value from those points if you know how to use them.

How to maximize your cash back rewards

Earning more cash back is a great way to save more money every month. Here are the best tips to help you maximize cash back rewards:

Always pay with your cash back credit card. Since you're earning cash back on purchases, take full advantage. Put as much of your spending as you can on your cash back card. There's no reason to pay with cash or a debit card and leave cash back on the table.

Don't carry a balance. The key to saving money with a cash back card is to pay your credit card bill in full by the due date. If not, the card issuer can charge you credit card interest. That will likely cost you as much or more as the cash back you earned.

Get multiple cash back cards to earn more bonus rewards. Instead of using a single cash back card, open a few different cards that earn bonus cash back in separate categories. That way, you could have your gas and groceries card, your restaurant card, your Amazon card, and a card with a high flat rate for all those other expenses.

Complete the welcome bonus requirements. Welcome bonuses are some of the biggest cash back offers you can find, so it's important not to miss out. Whenever you get a new card with a welcome bonus, check how much you need to spend and how long you have.

Check your credit card's online shopping portal for special offers. Many credit card companies have online shopping portals where you can earn up to 10% back with some retailers. Make sure to check if your card issuer offers one and, if so, what type of bonuses are available.

Alternatives to consider

Cash back cards are great, but they aren't right for everyone. You may find that one of the following alternatives works better for you.

Travel rewards credit cards: Frequent travelers usually benefit the most from travel rewards credit cards. If you go on trips multiple times per year, the travel perks and rewards that these cards offer can be big moneysavers. They also almost always have no foreign transaction fee, a benefit many cash back cards lack. And some travel cards have no annual fees.

Balance transfer credit cards: You can stop paying interest on credit card debt with balance transfer credit cards. This type of card offers a 0% intro APR on balance transfers. There's almost always a balance transfer fee, but that's well worth it to pay down your debt at zero interest.

Student credit cards: If you're attending college, then a student credit card is a good way to get started on building your credit. While some of the best student credit cards offer cash back or other rewards, they're aimed at adults who don't have much credit history yet. You won't need good or excellent credit to get them like you would with many popular cash back cards.

The Picks
Card Rating Great For
Rating image, 5.00 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Bonus cash back and no annual fee

Rating image, 5.00 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Unlimited cash back

Rating image, 5.00 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas

Rating image, 5.00 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Unlimited cash back and 0% intro APR

Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Cash back of your choice

Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Cash back versatility

Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Restaurants and groceries

Rating image, 5.00 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Customizing cash back

Rating image, 4.00 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Fair credit

Rating image, 5.00 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Balance transfers

Rating image, 5.00 out of 5 stars.
Great For:

Bad credit

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Great For:

Students

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Great For:

Students

FAQs

  • In a way, yes. You'll earn a percentage back on purchases that you make with your credit card. You can then redeem your cash back earnings. Some cardholders choose to receive their cash back as a statement credit on their credit card. Others prefer to have their cash back earnings deposited into their bank account.

    So, yes -- you can earn real money with a cash back card. You can choose the redemption option that works best for you.

  • A rate of 1.5% to 2% cash back is considered good for a cash back card that offers flat-rate rewards on purchases. Cash back rates vary though, so it's good to shop around.

    Other cash back cards reward you for making purchases in specific spending categories. Typically, these rates range from 3% to 5%. Keep in mind that some cards with a higher rewards rate may have a monthly or yearly spending cap in place, so you may not be able to earn unlimited rewards.

  • Credit score requirements vary from one card to another. The more desirable cash back cards with attractive rewards rates and new cardmember bonuses typically require applicants to have good to excellent credit -- a score of at least 670. However, approval is not guaranteed no matter your credit score. Other factors are considered when determining card approval -- such as income and credit history.

  • A cash back credit card earns a percentage back on purchases. When you pay for a purchase with your card, the card issuer calculates the cash back you've earned and adds it to your rewards balance. If you make a $100 purchase and your card earns 2% cash back, then the card issuer would give you $2.

    Cash back redemption options depend on the card. You may be able to redeem cash back as a statement credit on your credit card bill, as a deposit to your bank account, or as a check. Some cash back cards have redemption minimums, such as $25, but others have no minimum amount.

  • The Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card has the highest flat-rate cash back we've come across at 2% for purchases.

    Counting bonus categories, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is the winner. It earns 6% back at U.S. supermarkets, up to a spending cap of $6,000 per calendar year.

  • The keys to maximizing your cash back credit card are using it for every eligible purchase and always paying off the full balance. By using your card for every eligible purchase, you'll collect the most possible cash back. When you pay off your full statement balance every billing period, you never incur interest charges on your purchases. That means you're making money from your card's cash back without paying any interest to the card issuer.

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