Forget those credit card rewards that come in the form of gift cards, travel or odd gadgets. You want cash. Cash is unbiased, versatile and unhindering. That’s why so many people want to get cash back credit cards, including you.
When a cash back credit card is right for you:
- You pay off your balance every month.
- You want something back for your card spending.
- You don’t want to deal with counting points, like other rewards cards.
On your search for the best cash back credit card, look back at how you are spending. Identify your largest and most common purchase categories, so that you know which cash back program you can take advantage of the most.
After combing through the web and analyzing various cash back cards, these are MyBankTracker’s recommendations for the best cash back credit cards:
1. Discover it®
Apply for this card if: You want the best all-around cash back credit card.
Great cash back rates. Great fee policy. Great perks. That pretty much sums up the ideal cash back credit card program that anyone would want. And you can get it with the Discover it® card.
The major attraction is the 5% cash back that you get on certain categories that change every quarter, after you sign up. Typically, the categories match the season (e.g., home improvement stores during the spring). There are limits to how much cash back you can earn per quarter in these 5% categories — usually, it is $1,500 in spending (1% cash back thereafter).
Meanwhile, all other purchases earn 1% cash back.
Discover it® also has a consumer-friendly fee policy that waives the first late-payment fee and all foreign transaction fees. You’ll never face a penalty APR as well (when you make a late payment), while other cards will easily hike up your interest rate to around 30%.
The final noteworthy perk is the free FICO® Credit Score you get online and on monthly statements. You’re going to want it to track your credit, and you get to laugh at everyone else who has to pay $19.95 for every time they retrieve their FICO® score.
- Pros: Get 5% cash back on rotating categories after you sign up; lenient fee policy
- Cons: Bonus cash back categories are unpredictable
2. Citi Double Cash Card
Apply for this card if: You want a simple, yet generous, cash back program.
Some cards offer more cash back on “this” while others more cash back on “that” — for some people, it can become complex and tedious. They just don’t want to put in the time or effort. Their motto: Keep it simple, stupid.
Is this your attitude toward rewards? Then you should get the Citi Double Cash Card because it has the simple, yet generous, cash back program.
For no annual fee, you get an unlimited 1% cash back on everything you purchase. Plus, whenever you pay your balance, get another 1% cash back on the payment amount (e.g., a $1,000 payment toward your card balance means you get $10 cash back). No bonus categories to track. No spending limits to avoid.
Other cool perks include the first late payment fee waived, free personal concierge, EMV chip technology and travel protections.
In the end, though, the simple cash back program should be the primary reason that you go with the Double Cash card.
Tip: Do not redeem the cash back as statement credit, which is pretty much a refund toward your card balance. Because the statement credit is reducing your card balance, you are not actually making a payment on that balance. Effectively, you lost the opportunity to earn that cash back. Instead, redeem your cash back as a check.
- Pros: Earn up to 2% cash back on all purchases with no limits
- Cons: Must get cash back as a check to maximize the card
3. American Express Blue Cash Preferred
Apply for this card if: You want the most cash back possible on groceries.
Are you regularly slugging a cart-full of groceries down the aisles of your local supermarket? If so, you must be dreading that grocery store bill at the register… and the financial dent on your wallet.
But don’t fret, there’s the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card — a cash back credit card that is a must for any big-time grocery shopper.
For an annual fee of $75, you get a whopping 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on the first $6,000 spent per year on grocery purchases (1% cash back thereafter). Additionally, get 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores while all other purchases earn 1% cash back.
If you actually spend the $6,000 per year in groceries, you’d get $360 in cash back — much more than the annual fee. But, really, you just need to spend $1,250 on groceries for the year (or a little more than $24 per week) to recoup that annual fee.
Also — want to really maximize this card? There are credit card hacks that help you earn cash back on more than you think.
- Pros: Amazing bonus cash back program for grocery shopping
- Cons: Has a $75 annual fee
4. Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express
Apply for this card if: You want to earn above-average cash back to beef up your retirement savings.
Generally speaking, spending is bad. Saving for retirement is good. So, what if that spending also helped you save for retirement? That’s what the Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express card can do for you — it can actually force you to save for retirement.
It’s a no-annual fee credit card that lets you earn 2% cash back on all purchases. However, you have to redeem the cash back into an eligible Fidelity account. You put that cash back into a brokerage account, 529 account or IRA, if you’re trying to boost your retirement savings.
To be honest, you don’t have to use that money for retirement. There’s an eligible Fidelity account that is much like a checking account (called the Cash Management Account) to which you can deposit the cash back and then use it as you wish.
If you don’t mind opening another account to earn 2% cash back on everything you buy, get this card. If you already have a Fidelity account, you have no excuse for not having this card in your wallet.
- Pros: Above-average 2% cash back on every purchase
- Cons: Requires an eligible Fidelity account
5. U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature
Apply for this card if: You want control over your bonus cash back categories.
Would you like to “design” your own cash back program? The U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature lets you do just that, so you are earning bonus cash back on your most common purchases.
The card’s cash back program allows you to designate two 5% cash back categories (on up to $2,000 spent per quarter; 1% thereafter) and one 2% cash back category from a preset list of categories for each cash back rate. Every quarter, you can change these categories in anticipation of your spending pattern. All other purchases earn 1% cash back.
As an example, you can opt to receive 5% cash back on cell phone bills and restaurants while you get 2% cash back at gas stations. (Examples of other 5% cash back categories include gym memberships, electronics stores, car rentals, charities and more.) The next quarter, let’s say you’re about to move into a new place, you can change one of the 5% cash back categories to furniture stores.
However, there is the worry that U.S. Bank will change out popular bonus cash back categories from quarter to quarter. And, probably the biggest barrier to getting this card is that you can only apply for it at a U.S. Bank branch. If you are thinking about this card, but can’t apply for it, your next best option would be the Discover it® card.
- Pros: Personalized cash back program
- Cons: Must apply in person at a U.S. Bank branch
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