Best Cash Back Credit Cards for February 2020

Matt is a Certified Financial Planner® and investment advisor based in Columbia, South Carolina. He writes personal finance and investment advice, and in 2017 he received the SABEW Best in Business Award.

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We’ve put together an in-depth guide to the best cash back credit cards and how to pick the right cash rewards program for your needs. Whether you are looking for the best cash back credit card offer for a sign-up bonus, groceries, and/or gas, we’ve got you covered. Learn more about how cash back credit cards work, and which picks make the most sense for your goals.

Ratings Methodology
Discover it® Cash Back

Apply Now

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On Discover's Secure Website.

Apply Now

On Discover's Secure Website.

Rewards

Earn 5% cash back in rotating quarterly categories you activate ($1,500 quarterly spending cap), 1% back on all else

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR

Purchases: 0%, 14 months
Balance Transfers: 0%, 14 months

Ongoing APR

13.49% - 24.49% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

Double cash back in the first year -- that's worth up to 10% back, FICO score for free

Highlights
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • No annual fee.
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

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On Bank of America's Secure Website.

Great for: Cash back of your choice Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Why Apply

Includes a market-leading 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 0% intro APR offer makes this card a standout among its peers. Read Full Review

Apply Now

On Bank of America's Secure Website.

Rewards

3% cash back on gas or in your choice category, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases), 1% on all else.

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR

Purchases: 0%, 15 billing cycles
Balance Transfers: 0%, 15 billing cycles for balance transfers made within first 60 days

Ongoing APR

15.49% - 25.49% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

$200 after spending at least $1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening, 25% to 75% more rewards for Preferred Rewards members

Highlights
  • 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 all other purchases
  • 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, 15.49% - 25.49% Variable APR will apply. 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
Chase Freedom Unlimited®

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On Chase's Secure Website.

Apply Now

On Chase's Secure Website.

Rewards

Unlimited 1.5% cash back, no minimum to redeem, rewards don't expire

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR

Purchases: 0%, 15 months
Balance Transfers: 0%, 15 months

Ongoing APR

16.49% - 25.24% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

$150 after spending $500 within three months, free credit score monitoring

Highlights
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49 - 25.24%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5
  • No annual fee
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
Chase Freedom®

Apply Now

Apply Now

On Chase's Secure Website.

Apply Now

On Chase's Secure Website.

Rewards

5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate, 1% on all else

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR

Purchases: 0%, 15 months
Balance Transfers: 0%, 15 months

Ongoing APR

16.49% - 25.24% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

$150 after spending $500 within three months, free credit score monitoring

Highlights
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49 - 25.24%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

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On American Express' Secure Website.

Apply Now

On American Express' Secure Website.

Rewards

6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets ($6,000 spending cap per year), 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 1% back on all else

Annual Fee

$95

Foreign Transaction Fee

2.7% of each transaction after conversion to US dollars.

Intro APR

Purchases: 0%, 12 months
Balance Transfers: 0%, 12 months

Ongoing APR

14.49%-25.49% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

$250 statement credit after spending $1,000 within three months, get free 2-day shipping on eligible items at a growing network of 100+ online stores with ShopRunner.

Highlights
  • Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • NEW 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
  • NEW 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more.
  • 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%). 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations. 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
  • Over 3 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017 and 2018.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.49% to 25.49%
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Apply Now

Apply Now

On Capital One's Secure Website.

Apply Now

On Capital One's Secure Website.

Rewards

Unlimited 1.5% cash back, no minimum to redeem

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR

Purchases: 0%, for 15 months
Balance Transfers: 0%, for 15 months

Ongoing APR

15.49% - 25.49% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

$150 after spending $500 within first three months of account opening, free credit monitoring

Highlights
  • One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • 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 for 15 months; 15.49%-25.49% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 15.49%-25.49% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

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On Capital One's Secure Website.

Great for: Restaurants and groceries Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Why Apply

Unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment makes this the ideal option for spending nights out on the town. Pair that with the big sign-up bonus and 2% back at grocery stores and you’ve got the ingredients for a top-rated rewards card. Read Full Review

Apply Now

On Capital One's Secure Website.

Rewards

4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases

Annual Fee

$0 intro for first year; $95 after that

Intro APR

Purchases: N/A
Balance Transfers: N/A

Ongoing APR

15.99% - 24.99% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

$300 cash bonus after spending $3,000 on purchases within three months, free credit score monitoring

Highlights
  • Earn a one-time $300 cash bonus after you spend $3000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases. Plus, earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through May 2020.
  • 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
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Capital One cardholders get access to premium experiences in dining, entertainment and more
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, $95 after that
Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Apply Now

Apply Now

On Capital One's Secure Website.

Apply Now

On Capital One's Secure Website.

Rewards

3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR

Purchases: 0%, for 15 months
Balance Transfers: 0%, for 15 months

Ongoing APR

15.49% - 25.49% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

$150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months, free credit score monitoring

Highlights
  • Earn a one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases
  • 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 for 15 months; 15.49% - 25.49% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 15.49% - 25.49% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee
Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Apply Now

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On Citi's Secure Website.

Apply Now

On Citi's Secure Website.

Rewards

2% cash back: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR

Purchases: N/A
Balance Transfers: 0%, 18 months

Ongoing APR

15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)

Bonuses & Perks

FICO score for free

Highlights
  • Earn cash back twice. 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 Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.49% - 25.49%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • 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 a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.49% – 25.49% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
American Express Cash Magnet® Card

Apply Now

Apply Now

On American Express' Secure Website.

Apply Now

On American Express' Secure Website.

Rewards

Unlimited 1.5% cash back

Annual Fee

$0

Foreign Transaction Fee

2.7% of each transaction after conversion to US dollars.

Intro APR

Purchases: 0%, 15 months
Balance Transfers: 0%, 15 months

Ongoing APR

14.49%-25.49% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

$150 statement credit after spending $1,000 within three months, get free 2-day shipping on eligible items at a growing network of 100+ online stores with ShopRunner

Highlights
  • Earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 or more in purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Unlimited 1.5% Cash Back on your purchases.
  • Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.49% to 25.49%.
  • 0% introductory plan fee for plans set up during your first 15 months of Card Membership with Plan It®, a feature that lets you split up big purchases into monthly payments with a fixed fee.
  • Over 3 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017 and 2018.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
Discover it® Student Cash Back

Apply Now

Apply Now

On Discover's Secure Website.

Apply Now

On Discover's Secure Website.

Rewards

Earn 5% cash back in rotating quarterly categories you activate ($1,500 quarterly spending cap), 1% back on all else

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR

Purchases: 0%, 6 months
Balance Transfers: 10.99%, 6 months

Ongoing APR

19.49% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

Double cash back in the first year -- that's worth up to 10% back, FICO score for free

Highlights
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 19.49%.
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card

Apply Now

Apply Now

On Well Fargo's Secure Website.

Apply Now

On Well Fargo's Secure Website.

Rewards

3X points for eating out and ordering in, gas stations, rideshares, transit, flights, hotels, and more, 1x points on all else

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR

Purchases: 0%, 12 months
Balance Transfers: 0%, 12 months on qualifying balance transfers

Ongoing APR

15.49%-27.49%, variable

Bonuses & Perks

Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months, mobile phone protection

Highlights
  • Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – that’s a $200 cash redemption value
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign currency conversion fee
  • Earn 3X points on eating out and ordering in
  • Earn 3X points on travel including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals
  • Earn 3X points on gas stations, rideshares and transit
  • Earn 3X points on popular streaming services
  • Earn 1X points on other purchases
  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms and conditions
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It’s little surprise that cash back cards are some of the best credit cards on the market. Cardholders earn rewards for using their cards to make purchases, and can qualify for new cardholder bonuses that pay out as much as $200 in the first few months after opening an account. Whether you want flat cash back on all of your spending, or a card that doles out bonuses for spending on gas, groceries, restaurants, and other categories, there’s a credit card out there that’s perfect for you. Best of all, very few cash back cards carry an annual fee, making them suitable for people with all levels of spending needs.

How do cash back credit cards work?

Card issuers earn fees from merchants every time you use your card to make a purchase, which helps them afford to pay rewards to cardholders who use a particular type of card.

A cash back credit card gives cardholders cash back when they make a purchase with the card. Cash back is usually accrued as a percentage of the amount a cardholder spends on purchases, typically ranging from 1% to as high as 10% on select purchases.

A 2% cash back credit card would reward you with $0.02 per $1 spent. A 3% cash back credit card would reward you with $0.03 in rewards per $1, and so on.

Different types of cash back credit cards

Cash back credit cards generally fall under one of three different categories of rewards programs. Which one is best for you depends on what you spend, where you spend, and how much effort you want to put into collecting cash back on every swipe of your card.

Flat cash back credit cards -- These are the simplest cash back cards, because they offer flat cash back rewards every time you make a purchase. These cards usually offer unlimited cash back equal to 1% to 2% of your purchases. The key advantage of these cards is that all spending earns rewards at the same rate, making them a great pick for a “one-card” wallet. Rewards are typically unlimited, so you earn the same cash back rate whether you spend $10 or $10 million.

Bonus category cards -- Some cash back cards offer enhanced rewards rates on certain types of spending. Bonus category cards are best for people who spend a disproportionate amount in a particular category (groceries or gas, for example).

Rotating bonus category cards -- These cards offer a high cash back bonus approximating 5% on certain types of spending, in addition to a flat amount of cash back around 1% on all other types of spending.

How to pick a cash back credit card

There are five basic features that tend to separate the best cash back cards from the worst. These details are often lost in the fine print, but we’re here to shine light on the things that can guide you toward picking the best card for you.

Here are five features you want your cash back card to have:

  1. A low minimum redemption threshold -- Cash back rewards don’t have any value unless you can cash them in. Some cards require you to earn as much as $50 in rewards before they can be redeemed, whereas other cards have no minimum redemption requirement. People who have lower spending needs may be smart to prioritize a card that offers a no minimum redemption feature, even if it offers a lower cash back rate per $1 of spending.
  2. New cardholder bonus -- Qualifying cardholders can get a new cardholder bonus that offers as much as $150 in bonus cash back for opening an account and meeting a minimum spend requirement. For example, many of our favorite cash back cards offer $150 in bonus cash back after spending $500 in the first 90 days after account opening.
  3. 0% intro APRs -- Some cash back credit cards offer up to 12 months of 0% intro APRs on purchases and balance transfers. This is a valuable perk that can save you hundreds of dollars in interest compared to carrying a balance at a typical APR of 18%. (This isn’t a “must-have” feature if you don’t carry a balance.)
  4. FICO® scores for free -- It’s becoming more common for credit cards to offer free access to your real FICO® credit score. This is a useful feature for people who value being able to watch their credit score rise or fall over time.
  5. No annual fees -- Luckily, annual fees are relatively rare in the world of cash back credit cards.

How to make the most of a cash back card

Following some best practices can help ensure that you earn the highest possible rewards from a cash back credit card without paying fees or interest to do so. Here’s a quick guide to using a cash back credit card responsibly:

  1. Get a new cardholder bonus -- Sign-up bonuses add a lot of upfront value to cash back credit cards, as many offer as much as $150 in bonus rewards for spending as little as $500 within 90 days of account opening. To put that in perspective, you’d have to spend $10,000 at a flat 1.5% cash back rate to earn $150 in ordinary rewards.
  2. Use an issuer’s shopping portal -- Many card issuers have an online portal that pays bonus rewards when cardholders use it to navigate to an online retailer. These bonus rewards can add up fast, as many offer 3% to 10% cash back on purchases you’d make anyway. Before you shop online, see if your card issuer has a relevant bonus offer.
  3. Look for rewards bonuses and multipliers --Customers who are Preferred Rewards clients with Bank of America, for example, can score an even larger bonus of 25% to 75% on their rewards. Depending on your status with the card issuer, these bonuses can substantially increase the effective rewards yield of a cash back credit card. This is just one example of how having a banking relationship across multiple products (not just credit cards) can increase the value of a cash back card.

Is a cash back credit card right for you?

Our handy checklist can help you decide if a cash back credit card is right for you. If most or all of these statements apply to you, you’re probably a good candidate for a cash back credit card.

You have good credit -- Cash back credit cards typically require a better credit score than credit cards that do not have rewards programs, but you don’t need perfect credit to qualify. Fair credit (scores above 650) are generally good enough for most cash back offers.

You don’t travel much -- Cash back credit cards are an excellent alternative to travel credit cards because they offer rewards that can be redeemed for cash, which can be spent however you’d prefer. That said, travel cards can offer more financial value for travelers, and tend to carry features (such as no foreign transaction fees) that cash back rewards cards don’t always offer.

You won’t carry a balance -- As a rule of thumb, a single month of interest is roughly equal to the amount of rewards earned by a 1.5% cash back card. For this reason, it doesn’t make sense to spend heavily to accrue rewards if it means carrying a balance at a double-digit interest rate. Carrying balances is a losing strategy.

You can maximize bonus categories -- Bonus categories are the real killer feature of cash back rewards cards. Many cards offer bonus cash back for spending on gas, groceries, restaurants, Amazon.com purchases, and more. These bonuses can be very lucrative considering some pay out as high as 5% to 10% on purchases.

FAQs

  • The highest cash back cards yield upwards of 5% back in some bonus spending categories such as groceries, online shopping, and restaurants. But you won't earn these rates for all purchases. 1.5% to 2.0% is very competitive for cash back cards that offer unlimited rewards on all purchases.

    The credit card that gives you the most cash back will depend on your spending habits. Since cash-back cards can have all kinds of different bonus categories, you'll get the most value by choosing a card with high cash back rates in the categories where you spend the most. Or, if you don't have any particular areas where you spend more, you could earn the most back from a card that earns one flat cash back rate on all your spending.

  • The key to maximizing your cash-back credit card is to use it as much as possible. Whenever you have a bill or any other expense that you can pay with a credit card, use your cash-back card. That way, you'll earn the most possible cash back.

    It's also important to ensure that you're using the right cash-back card (or cards), because the card you use makes the biggest difference in how much cash back you earn. To do this, you can review the current card offers every three to six months.

    Make sure that you can pay off the card in full every billing cycle and that you don't change your spending habits because you're paying by credit card. If you start paying interest or spending more money than usual, it will cost you far more than you earn in cash back.

  • Cash back isn't better than rewards points, but it is easier to manage. With rewards points, you need to understand your redemption options and spend time figuring out the most valuable way to redeem those points. When you have a cash back card, there's not much you need to learn. You just choose how you want to receive your cash back and process the redemption. Many cash back cards also let you set up automatic redemptions, so there's no time required on your part.

The Ascent's picks for top cash back credit cards:
Card Cash back rate Great For…
Discover it® Cash Back Graphic of Discover it® Cash Back Cash back rate:

Up to 5%

Great For:

Bonus cash back and no annual fee

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card Graphic of Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card Cash back rate:

Up to 3%

Great For:

Cash back of your choice

Chase Freedom Unlimited® Graphic of Chase Freedom Unlimited® Cash back rate:

1.5%

Great For:

Flat-rate cash back and no annual fee

Chase Freedom® Graphic of Chase Freedom® Cash back rate:

Up to 5%

Great For:

Bonus cash back and no annual fee

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express Graphic of Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express Cash back rate:

Up to 6%

Great For:

U.S. supermarkets and gas

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card Graphic of Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card Cash back rate:

1.5%

Great For:

Flat-rate cash back and 0% intro APR

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card Graphic of Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card Cash back rate:

Up to 4%

Great For:

Restaurants and groceries

Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card Graphic of Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card Cash back rate:

up to 3%

Great For:

Restaurants and groceries with no annual fee

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer Graphic of Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer Cash back rate:

Up to 2%

Great For:

Balance transfers

American Express Cash Magnet® Card Graphic of American Express Cash Magnet® Card Cash back rate:

1.5%

Great For:

Unlimited cash rewards and 0% intro APR offer

Discover it® Student Cash Back Graphic of Discover it® Student Cash Back Cash back rate:

Up to 5%

Great For:

Students

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card Graphic of Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card Cash back rate:

up to 3x points

Great For:

Travel and dining

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