Edited by: Kellie Jez
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The points and miles we earn on credit cards are great for booking travel, but cash-back is king when it comes to flexible rewards that boost your financial bottom line.
While earning and redeeming can be simple, there are plenty of variables between cash-back credit cards (just like with cards that earn points or miles). For that reason, it takes some research to match up your own major spending categories to a credit card that earns the most on those purchases.
In this article, we cover how you earn cash-back, the different ways cards pay out your rewards, and our recommendations for some of the best cash-back credit cards.
Best Cash-back Credit Cards — Comparison Table (2023)
|Card||Best For||Welcome Bonus and Annual Fee||Cash-back Rewards|
|Chase Freedom Flex℠||Everyday purchases||
|Chase Freedom Unlimited®||Rotating bonus categories||
|Citi® Double Cash Card||Everyday purchases||
|Citi Custom Cash® Card||Your top spend category||
|Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express||Grocery and gas purchases||
|Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card||Dining and grocery purchases||
|Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card||Your choice category||
|Ink Business Cash® Credit Card||Office supply store, and on internet, cable, and phone service purchases||
|Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card||Everyday business expenses||
|Capital One Spark Cash Plus Card||Everyday business expenses||
The 7 Best Cash-back Personal Credit Cards
In no particular order, here are our favorite personal credit cards that offer a great balance of rewards and perks to cardholders.
Top Reasons To Get the Card
- 5% in rotating quarterly bonus categories up to $1,500 spending per quarter
- 5% on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 3% on dining and drugstore purchases
- Cell phone protection, purchase protection, and extended warranty coverage
The Freedom Flex card is one of our favorite cards thanks to its quarterly rotating bonus categories such as grocery stores, gas stations, wholesale clubs, home improvement stores, and more. You’ll earn 5% on these purchases, on up to $1,500 in spend each quarter, allowing you to rack up $75 back each quarter.
Further, you can pair your card with a premium Chase credit card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve® and receive access to the Chase transfer partners, or redeem your points for a 25% to 50% bonus through the Chase travel portal.
Your card also offers cell phone insurance coverage, purchase protection, rental car insurance, and more.
Top Reasons To Get the Card
- 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 3% at drugstores and on dining
- Unlimited 1.5% on all other purchases
- Travel and purchase protection
The Freedom Unlimited card is perfect for those who are looking to have 1 card to use for pretty much every purchase, as you know you’ll always get an uncapped 1.5% on all non-bonused purchases you make with the card.
That said, the card also offers some solid bonus categories, too, like 5% on travel purchased through Chase and 3% on dining and drugstore purchases.
As with the Freedom Flex card, those who pair their Freedom Unlimited card with a premium Chase card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred card or Chase Sapphire Reserve card can redeem their points for an increased value of up to 50% more through the Chase travel portal or transfer to one of Chase’s airline and hotel partners, as well.
The Freedom Unlimited card also comes with rental car insurance, purchase protection, and extended warranty coverage.
Top Reasons To Get the Card
- Earn a total of 2% cash-back on every purchase: 1% when you make the purchase and 1% when you pay it off (earned as ThankYou Points)
With the Double Cash card, you’re going to earn a flat rate of 2% on all purchases you make with the card. As far as non-bonused cash-back rewards cards go, 2% on all purchases is about as good as it gets!
This card’s cash can be used for a statement credit, a direct deposit, a check, or on gift cards. Because your cash-back is earned as ThankYou Points, you can also redeem your points for travel by transferring them to Citi’s transfer partners — access the full suite of partners when pairing your Double Cash card with a premium ThankYou Rewards card such as the Citi Premier® Card.
Top Reasons To Get the Card
- 5% cash-back (on up to $500 each billing cycle) from your largest purchase category (includes restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs, and live entertainment)
Each month, you’ll get 5% on whichever bonus category you spend the most on from a list of 10 options on up to $500 in spend. This allows you to adapt your 5% rewards month-to-month based on spending, and there is no need to preselect a category.
Plus, the card has no annual fee, offers a cash welcome bonus offer and 0% intro APR offer (as mentioned above), and no minimum redemption is required.
Top Reasons To Get the Card
- 6% at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in spend each year
- 6% on select U.S. streaming subscriptions
- 3% on transit purchases
- 3% at U.S. gas stations
Those who have expenses that often fall within one of the card’s 4 bonus categories can really rake in the rewards with the Amex Blue Cash Preferred card. While the card does charge an annual fee, you could earn $360 in cash-back alone each year just by meeting the $6,000 threshold on U.S. supermarket purchases.
Top Reasons To Get the Card
- 10% cash-back for Uber and Uber Eats purchases
- 8% cash-back on Capital One Entertainment
- 5% cash-back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
- 4% on dining, entertainment, and popular streaming services
- 3% at grocery stores
Earning an uncapped 4% on all dining, entertainment, and popular streaming services, along with 3% at grocery stores, is an excellent combination … even more so when you consider that many people have expenses that regularly fall within these categories.
Top Reasons To Get the Card
- 3% on the category of your choice (gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings)
- 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
Another card that lets you optimize for the items you spend the most on, the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card lets you earn 3% in the category of your choice from gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores, or home improvement/furnishings.
That said, your 3% and 2% are limited to the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then earn 1%.
The 3 Best Cash-back Business Credit Cards
Top Reasons To Get the Card
- 5% on up to $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services each account anniversary year
- 2% on up to $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants
- Travel and purchase protections and benefits
The Ink Business Cash card is a compelling option thanks to its combination of 5% and 2% cash-back bonus categories, large welcome bonus, travel and purchase protections, and no annual fee.
Plus, those who hold other premium Chase Ultimate Rewards-earning cards will be able to pool their points together to then use the Chase travel transfer partners.
Top Reasons To Get the Card
- Unlimited 1.5% cash-back on every purchase
- Travel and shopping protections and benefits
Earning a solid 1.5% on every purchase, regardless of the category, makes earning lots of rewards an easy task. You can then redeem those rewards for what your business needs most — cash, travel, gift cards, Amazon purchases, or transfer to premium Chase cards for increased redemption value.
Top Reasons To Get the Card
- Unlimited 2% on every purchase
- 5% on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
While the card charges an annual fee, which might seem steep for a cash-back card, earning an uncapped 2% on all purchases can be well worth it for business owners who have a high level of spending each year.
How Do Cash-back Credit Cards Work?
Cash-back credit cards have relatively simple rewards-earning and redemption structures. You spend on your card and get a rebate on a percentage of your purchases in the form of cash-back.
Some purchase categories earn more than others. For example, on one credit card, you might receive 5% on office supply purchases, 3% on gas, and 1% on all other purchases. On another, the percentages and categories could be totally different, so selecting a cash-back credit card that rewards your greatest spending categories is key. There can also be limits on the amount you can receive in a given category.
Many cards offer introductory welcome bonuses, such as $150 for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months after card approval. These bonus offers fluctuate and are specific to each card, but can be another consideration when selecting your credit card.
Additionally, how you receive your rewards can differ. You may earn points that can be redeemed for cash-back, receive an automatic statement credit, or accumulate earned rewards in a separate account.
Let’s take a look at examples of some of the redemption processes you’ll find on different cash-back credit cards:
Cash-back Earned as Points
Certain credit cards — such as the Freedom Unlimited card — actually earn rewards as points that can be redeemed for cash-back.
Cash-back Automatically Applied as a Statement Credit
Some credit cards automatically apply the earned cash-back you earn each month as a statement credit, but this is relatively uncommon. There is no opportunity for accumulation and no manual redemption process.
Cash-back Accumulates in an Account
Credit cards like the Amex Blue Cash Everyday card allow the cash-back you’ve earned to accumulate in your account. You can request to use it whenever you’re ready.
Which Is Better: Earning Cash-back or Points/Miles?
Is earning cash-back better than earning points/miles? This question is not easily answered, because the reward that is most valuable to you will be the one you can use to realize your goals.
If travel is your goal, points and miles can get you where you want to go using award tickets and hotel stays and offsetting travel-related purchases. While cash is undeniably flexible, you’ll need a strategy in place to collect the cash and apply it appropriately to those travel goals.
For example, if your goal is to use your earnings toward a family Disney vacation, you may want to purchase Disney gift cards, restaurant gift cards, or gas cards with each cash-back distribution.
This method works especially well if you’re using a credit card that applies the earnings as a statement credit automatically.
However, note that earnings may have a fixed value, while points/miles might be transferred to airline/hotel partners and used creatively for increased value. Conversely, cash-back is extremely liquid, but it may be difficult to liquidate points or miles for exactly what you want when you want it.
Types of Cash-back Credit Cards
For the most part, there are 4 types of cash-back credit cards:
Flat-rate cards offer a flat rewards rate on every purchase you make, with no unique bonus categories. Cards in this category usually offer 1.5% to 2% on all purchases.
These cards have predetermined bonus categories that offer elevated rewards. An example might be a card that offers 3% on dining and groceries and 1% on all other purchases.
Rotating Bonus Categories
Some cards offer rotating bonus categories that are not predetermined for you when you sign up for the card. An example of this is the Freedom Flex card, which offers 5% on a quarterly rotating category such as gas or purchases at Amazon.
Customizable Bonus Categories
Customizable cards offer a list of bonus categories for you to choose that you’d like to be your increased earnings. An example of this is the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card, which offers 3% in the category of your choice between gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores, or home improvement/furnishings.
Common Cash-back Bonus Categories
When it comes to cash-back credit cards, the bonus categories that they offer can vary quite a bit. That said, some of the most popular cash-back bonus categories include dining, grocery stores, gas stations, utilities, or cards that offer a flat cash-back rate for every purchase made with the card.
Further, some cash-back cards like the Freedom Flex card offer rotating bonus categories, and others like the Citi Custom Cash card adjust your top cash-back bonus category based on what eligible categories you spend the most on from month to month.
Factors To Consider When Choosing a Cash-back Card
Cash-back credit cards come in so many different varieties, so here are a few helpful guidelines to help you narrow down your search.
Are You Willing To Pay an Annual Fee?
While cash-back credit cards are mostly known for not charging an annual fee, there are also more premium options that can offer better cash-back rates and additional perks but do come with an annual fee.
Given that, you’ll want to weigh the value proposition of each card option to see which would stand to benefit you more.
He is an example to illustrate our point. Let’s take the Amex Blue Cash Everyday card, which charges no annual fee and offers 3% cash-back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, and the Amex Blue Cash Preferred card, which charges a $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95 annual fee and offers 6% cash-back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases.
If you are confident that your household would meet $6,000 in supermarket spend in a year, then you’d probably be better off opting for the Amex Blue Cash Preferred card as you’d earn $360 in cash-back, minus the $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95 annual fee, for a net savings of $265. Whereas with the no annual fee Amex Blue Cash Everyday card you’d earn $180 in cash-back — $85 less than the Amex Blue Cash Preferred card. Of course, you should also consider what other bonus categories and perks each card has to offer.
What Bonus Categories Do You Spend the Most On?
If you want to earn as much cash-back as possible, you want to make sure your new cash-back card offers bonus categories that reward the items you frequently spend the most on.
For instance, if you regularly go out to try new restaurants with friends, then you’d benefit from a card that offers dining as a bonus category. If you have a rather lengthy commute to work each day, then perhaps you should opt for a credit card that rewards gas purchases. That said, most cards offer more than 1 bonus category, so it is likely you’d be able to choose a card that offers bonus categories for the top 2 or 3 items you spend the most on.
If you value simplicity or your purchases vary from month to month, then you could opt for a flat-rate cash-back card, like the Double Cash card, which offers an uncapped 2% cash-back on every purchase made. Similarly, other cards like the Citi Custom Cash card, adjust your top 5% cash-back category to the eligible category that you spent the most on in the previous billing period.
What Perks Are You Looking For?
Cash-back cards aren’t known for offering as many perks as their travel rewards card counterparts, but if there are certain perks you’re looking for then you’ll want to make sure that your new card offers them.
Consider benefits like purchase protection, extended warranty coverage, rental car insurance, cell phone insurance, trip cancellation insurance, and more.
Who Should Get a Cash-back Card?
You should get a cash-back card if:
- You currently using a debit card or cash for more of your purchases and leaving valuable rewards on the table
- You aren’t interested in travel rewards cards and prefer the flexibility of cash-back.
That said, you should only get a cash-back credit card if you are able to pay your bill on time and in full each and every month. If you don’t, the interest that your balance will accrue will negate the value of any cash-back you earned for making the purchases.
What Credit Card Gives the Most Cash-back?
The credit card that would offer you the most cash-back depends entirely on your unique spending habits. While one person might spend more at supermarkets, another person might spend more on dining.
Given that, when it comes to deciding which cash-back card is best for you you’ll want to examine your monthly budget and see what areas you regularly spend the most money on, and then select a card that provides the best cash-back rates for those purchases.
Pros and Cons of Using a Cash-back Card
The biggest pro of using a cash-back credit card is that it earns you rewards on every purchase that you make. This is a great way to earn some added savings on your expenses, as this cash can really add up throughout the year.
Beyond that, most of these credit cards don’t have an annual fee, include added perks like purchase protection, and might even offer a welcome bonus.
The downside to these credit cards is that there isn’t as much upside as you’d find with certain travel rewards cards. Further, they can also have caps on the amount of cash you can earn, and they often charge foreign transaction fees.
Alternatives to a Cash-back Card
If you’re looking for an alternative to a cash-back credit card, then you could opt for cards that offer a flexible rewards currency.
Take the Chase Sapphire Preferred card that earns 5x points per $1 on purchases made through the Chase travel portal, 3x points per $1 on dining, online grocery store purchases, and select streaming services, 2x points per $1 on all other travel purchases, and 1x point per $1 on all other purchases.
Once you’ve built up a stash of Chase Ultimate Rewards points you have multiple good options when it comes time to redeem them. You can transfer them at a 1:1 rate to any of the great Chase travel transfer partners like World of Hyatt, you can redeem them for any purchase through the Chase travel portal with a 25% bonus, or even redeem them for cash-back if you prefer at a rate of 1 cent per point.
Having a card that offers flexible redemption options can help you get as much value as possible each time you decide to redeem some of your hard-earned points.
How To Compare Cash-back Cards
Deciding which cash-back card is right for you is a personal decision.
The first thing you will want to consider is the card’s bonus categories. Are you hoping to maximize the cash you earn on certain types of purchases like groceries? Or do you prefer to earn a flat cash-back rate on all purchases?
Once you know which rewards setup is best for you, then you should consider what type of benefits you might be looking for in a card … perhaps one that offers perks like purchase protection and extended warranty coverage to help cover the items you buy with your card.
You’ll also want to consider other key features like whether or not the card offers a lucrative welcome bonus, and whether or not it charges an annual fee.
Methodology – How We Selected the Best Cash-back Credit Cards
At Upgraded Points, we evaluate which credit cards are best based on how much value the card can provide to you. We make this determination by analyzing each factor that makes up a card, including its benefits, earnings structure, welcome bonus, redemption value/rewards program, fees, and more.
Here is some insight into our thought process when selecting the best cash-back cards:
One thing that can really help a card stand out from the crowd is the benefits that it offers. These could be benefits such as purchase protection, extended warranty protection, travel insurance, and more. This is why we give extra points to cards that include benefits that offer more value to cardholders.
Perhaps the most important aspect of a cash-back credit card is how much cash you can actually earn back. Usually, cards will either offer a flat rate on all purchases or will offer certain bonus categories such as gas and groceries. In either case, we evaluate how compelling the card’s rates are when deciding on the best cards.
Some of the best cards offer a cash welcome offer after meeting a minimum spend requirement. This can be a great way to get some extra cash in your pocket, as these welcome bonuses can be upwards of $200 to $300 at times. Given that welcome bonuses are a one-time bonus, and because of how lucrative these bonuses can be, they are a factor in how we evaluate cards.
We’ve provided you with the current welcome bonus information available for each card, but we encourage you to confirm the welcome bonus and review any earnings offers before applying for any card.
Of course, another important factor is the fees it does or does not charge. These can include annual fees, foreign transaction fees, late payment fees, and more.
When it comes to cash-back cards, most often your cash-back options will be limited to a statement credit or having cash deposited into your checking account. However, there are other cards that offer a flexible rewards approach and expand your redemption options beyond just this method.
Hot Tip: While the most desired benefits and features of a card will vary by person, our holistic approach gives readers the full picture of what they can expect from every card we review. To learn more about how we review cards, read through our methodology page.
Credit cards that earn cash-back rewards are great for consumers who pay off their credit card balances each statement period. Carrying over a balance and being charged interest would dissolve any benefit of these earnings.
Also, we don’t focus on welcome bonuses for these cards because they’re constantly changing — but these initial bonuses can help you jump-start your earnings and should definitely be considered when selecting a cash-back credit card!
And finally, we’ve mentioned a lot of great cards here, but the list is not all-encompassing, as there are just too many to mention. We’ve also abbreviated any benefit descriptions, so you’ll want to click on the links provided for a more in-depth review of cards you’d like further details on.
The information regarding the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Capital One SavorOne Card Rewards Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Capital One Spark Cash Plus Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Chase Freedom Flex℠ was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Chase Freedom Unlimited® was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, click here.
Featured Image Credit: Upgraded Points
Frequently Asked Questions
Cash-back credit cards give you a rebate back on your purchases. For example, if you make a purchase of $100 on your card and the cash-back percentage is 3%, you’ll receive $3 on that purchase.
The rewards may be received as a statement credit or accumulate in an account until you redeem it, and limits on how much you can receive may apply.
Earning percentages differ between cards and also by category. You may receive 3% on purchases at gas stations or 2% on dining, for example.
The best way to maximize a cash-back credit card is to select a card that rewards the purchases on which you spend the most.
The best cash-back credit card for you is the one that earns the most in the category of purchases on which you spend the most.
If you spend a lot at U.S. supermarkets, for example, you might consider a card that rewards those purchases, such as the Amex Blue Cash Preferred card that pays 6% on up to $6,000 in purchases per year and 1% thereafter.
Each cash-back credit card has its own process for delivering the rewards you have earned on the card.
One card may apply the earnings automatically as a statement credit, while another may deposit it into an account attached to your credit card and let you request it manually by logging into your account.
Some card issuers will transfer the cash to your bank account or send you a paper check.
It’s good to know upfront how a credit card you’re considering delivers the cash-back so you can plan accordingly.
Each cash-back credit card has limits on how much bonus cash you can earn, but many allow unlimited earnings on the lower 1% category purchases.
On higher percentage purchases, card issuers may limit the number of purchases that can receive 5%, 3%, or even 2%.
For example, the Amex Blue Cash Preferred card offers 6% on purchases at grocery stores but limits the amount of rewards-eligible purchases to $6,000 annually.
Your rewards from your credit card will usually not expire so long as the account is open and active.
Most credit card issuers will allow you to redeem your rewards as a statement credit on your account to offset purchases you’ve made, as a deposit into your checking or savings account, or even as a check mailed to your address.
No, credit card rewards are treated as a rebate, and so they are not taxable.
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