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10 Best 5% Cash Back Credit Cards for October 2017

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Cash Back Credit Cards for 2016

Updated April 3, 2017

Credit card reward programs come in so many varieties that it can be difficult find the best cards for your spending habits. A basic, flat-rate card that earns you a certain percentage cash back on all purchases is probably the simplest bet out there. Typically, rates range from 1-2%. Not shabby, especially if you use that card exclusively. But it’s not exactly something to call home about either.

There are even better cash back rewards offerings out there, some as high as 5%. But with these high rewards cards, there’s almost always a catch. Most of the cards don’t offer 5% cash back across the board. Every few months, they pick a few select shopping categories that can earn 5% cash back. Once those few months are up, the categories change. For example, a card could offer 5% cash back on groceries, gas and airfare from January to March, then switch those categories to whole sale stores, restaurants and gyms from April to June.

Additionally, there are sometimes caps on how much of your spending can qualify for the 5% reward. So if the cap is $1,500, for example, everything past that amount won’t qualify.

The key to maximizing these great cash back card offers is to find the cards that offer cash back in categories you use the most. We can help there.

We dug around and found 10 cards that offer at least 5% cash back in the three most common spending categories: gas, groceries and entertainment.

Chase Freedom®: Access to a Special Option 5% Category

How it works: The Chase Freedom® card offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. This translates to a maximum return of $75 per quarter on the 5% bonus category. You earn an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases outside of the bonus categories. You can also earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

The 5% category changes every quarter.

Another area where the Chase Freedom shines is in how it allows customers to redeem their rewards. The cash you’ve earned converts into Ultimate Rewards points. Every $1 equals 100 points. You can easily use the cash and apply it to your monthly statement. Or you can convert them into points and use them on travel, gift cards, merchandise, and other services through the Chase Freedom® rewards dashboard.

They make it super simple to redeem points on the go through the Chase Freedom® Mobile app. While you’re shopping, you can pick the merchant from the list on of eligible merchants on your app (popular ones include Nike, Regal Cinemas, Lowe’s, Starbucks and Best Buy). Then tell the app how much cash you want to use.  You’ll get a custom e-gift card that you can present at checkout to pay for your purchases.

chasefreedommobileapp

Plus, you can stack the points earned on your Chase Freedom card with your points on other Chase rewards cards, like the Chase Sapphire. That just increases the spending power of your points.

The Fine Print: You can’t beat 5% cash back for your spending, especially with no annual fee. The downside is you have to remember to activate the category each quarter by subscribing to the program. But, if you set a reminder to do so, you can earn money without too much effort.

Chase Freedom<sup>®</sup>

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Discover it® Cashback Match™: The Original 5% Cash Back Card

How it works: With the Discover it® Cashback Match™ you can earn 5% cash back in rotating categories on up to the quarterly maximum ($1,500 of spend). You need to activate every quarter to get the 5% cash back rate. All other purchases get 1% cash back.

Earn 5% cash back in these categories through the end of 2017:

  • January to March: Gas stations, ground transportation, and wholesale clubs.
  • April to June: Home improvement stores and wholesale clubs.
  • July to September: Restaurants.
  • October to December: Amazon.com and Target

Using your rewards: Cash back from the Discover it is tracked in dollars and cents. You can immediately apply your cash back earnings to your bank account or as a statement credit toward your bill (note: your minimum payment will still be due).There’s also no minimum rewards value if you want to redeem them for charitable donations.

The fine print: You can only earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 of spend each quarter you activate. Once you’ve hit that cap, you’ll earn 1% on the rest of your purchases. This adds up to a $75 maximum return on your rotating bonus categories. There is no annual fee.

Extra perks:  On your one-year anniversary, Discover give you a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned during your first year. The match happens automatically, and is only available to new cardmembers during their first year.

Discover it® - Cashback Match<sup>TM</sup>

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Nusenda Visa Platinum Cash Rewards: Best for Gas and Restaurants in 2017

How it works: The Nusenda Visa Platinum Cash Rewards card gives 5% in revolving categories up to $1,500 and 1% on all other purchases. Notably, it offers both gas and restaurants in two quarters. As a bonus in the first 90 days, new cardholders will earn 2% instead of just 1% on purchases outside of the 5% category.

Earn 5% cash back in these categories through the end of 2017:

  • January to March: Groceries and gas expenses.
  • April to June: Movies, restaurants and home improvement.
  • July to September: Gas and education expenses.
  • October to December: Restaurants, hotels, and airfares.

Using your rewards: This offer stands out as a decent companion card for maximizing cash back. When coupled with the Chase Freedom or Discover it, you can maximize cash back in different areas during one quarter.

For an example, you can turn to the Nusenda Visa Platinum Cash Rewards card for 5% on gas and school expenses in Q3. Then pull out the Discover it for home improvement purchases for another 5% the same quarter.

The Fine Print: Once again, you’ll need to monitor your spending habits to get the most cash back from a revolving category card. If you choose to use this card along with another one, a good practice would be labeling the cards in your wallet to ensure you use the right one for the right purchases in a given quarter.

One final caveat: While there is no annual fee, Nusenda is a credit union, so you will have to go through the process of applying for membership.

U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature: Pick Your Own Cash Back Categories

How it works: The U.S Bank Cash+ card has a revolving cash back program that’s unique in comparison to the others above because you get options.

Earning cash back: You can earn 5% cash back in two categories of your choosing each quarter limited to the first $2,000 of spend. Then you can choose another category with no cap to earn 2% cash back. On all other purchases, you earn 1% cash back.

The categories for an unlimited 2% cash back (choose one each quarter) are:

  • Gas stations
  • Restaurants
  • Grocery stores

The categories for 5% cash back up to $2,000 (choose two each quarter) are:

  • Select clothing stores
  • Cell phones
  • Electronic stores
  • Gyms and fitness centers
  • Bookstores
  • Fast food restaurants
  • Charities
  • Sporting goods stores
  • Department stores
  • Furniture stores
  • Movie theaters

Using your rewards: You can redeem cash back for gift cards, statement credit or a deposit into a U.S. Bank Savings, Checking or Money Market account. The first time you redeem $100 in cash back in a single transaction, you get a $25 Cash+ Bonus.

The Fine Print: Same opt-in revolving category spiel applies here except you must also remember to choose your categories. There is no annual fee. The U.S. Bank Cash+ is another good example of a card you may want to couple with another that gives you higher cash back for necessities i.e. groceries. But, for diverse spenders who can benefit from the 5% category options, the U.S. Bank Cash+ is worth considering.

SimplyCash Plus Business Card from Amex: Ideal for Typical Business Expenses

How it works: The SimplyCash Plus Business Card gives 5% cash back on office supply and wireless telephone provider services. You also get 3% cash back on the category of your choice from a list of eight, including:

  • Airfare purchased directly from airlines
  • Hotel rooms purchased directly from hotels
  • Car rentals purchased from select car rental companies
  • U.S. gas stations
  • U.S. restaurants
  • U.S. purchases for advertising in select media
  • U.S. purchases for shipping
  • U.S. computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers

Earning cash back: You have to choose your 3% category within two months of signing. If you don’t choose one, the default is gas stations. The combined annual cap for the 5% and 3% categories is $50,000. On all other purchases, you get 1% cash back.

Using your rewards: Cash back will appear as a credit automatically on your statement. This American Express card has no annual fee, so you’ll earn cash back with a generous cap at no cost.

The Fine Print: You must remember to choose your 3% cash back category every year. If you select one this year and forget to do so next year, you’ll be locked into the same 3% category for another 12 months until you make a switch. There is no annual fee.

Amazon Prime Store Card: 5% Cash Back for the Amazon Prime Enthusiast

How it works: The Amazon Prime Store Card is open to Amazon Prime Members, so it’s somewhat exclusive. The perks of this card is 5% cash back on eligible purchases made on Amazon.com. Buying items on other merchant websites that have the Amazon Prime Card payment option enabled will not earn you 5% cash back.

Using your rewards: The cash back you rack up will apply as a credit to your statement.

Do the math: If you’re not already an Amazon Prime Member, it’s probably not worth signing up to become one just for the card unless you intend to spend big bucks on the site. You need to spend more than $2,000 per year at Amazon.com for the 5% cash back to cover the $99 annual membership fee.

The Fine Print: The fine print of what you can and can’t buy to earn 5% is the only gotcha here. But, if you shop on Amazon.com often and stick to the rules, you’ll see a nice return from this card. There’s not an annual fee for the card, but you must be an Amazon Prime member, which costs $99 a year.

REDcard: Only a Good Fit for the Regular Target Shopper

How it works: For Target shoppers, there’s the REDcard. It gives you a 5% discount on your purchases at Target (minus any other discounts or promotions). Purchases that won’t earn 5% cash back include:

  • Target eye exams
  • Target gift cards and prepaid cards
  • Previous purchases
  • Target credit account payments, Target Debit Card cash back and cash advances on the Target MasterCard
  • Gift wrap and shipping and handling on Target.com purchases
  • Wireless protection program purchases and deposits required by mobile carrier

Earning and using rewards: The program is pretty simple as far as how Target gives you money back. Your 5% will apply to eligible purchases in your shopping cart at checkout. In addition to 5% cash back, this program includes free shipping from Target.com and 30 extra days for returns.

The Fine Print: No red flags with the REDcard other than watching out for the purchases excluded from cash back listed above. For faithful Target shoppers, this no annual fee card with the 5% discount may be a no brainer.

REDcard from Target

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Fort Knox Visa Platinum Card: Most Straightforward 5% Rewards Card Just for Gas

How it works: The Visa Platinum Card from the Fort Knox Credit Union makes our list with the most straightforward, no cap rewards program. You can earn an unlimited 5% cash back on gas and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Using your rewards: Cash back will appear on your statement as a credit.

The Fine Print: This rewards program is offered by a credit union in Kentucky. You’ll have to take a few extra steps to qualify for membership. If you don’t live in Kentucky or have family in Kentucky, membership is open to anyone that joins the American Consumer Council. There is no annual fee for the card, but you will need to become a member of the credit union.

Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

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Blue Cash Preferred from Amex: 6% Cash Back for the Heavy Grocery Shopper

How it works: The Blue Cash Preferred® is our top pick for cardholders that want to maximize cash back on groceries. With this card, you get 6% cash back at US supermarkets excluding superstores and warehouses up to $6,000 per year. You also earn 3% cash back at US gas stations and select US department stores and 1% cash back on everything else.

Bonus offer: In addition to the recurring cash back program, if you spend $1,000 within the first three months of signing up for the card you’ll get $200 cash back.

Using cash back: Cash back builds as Rewards Dollars you can redeem for statement credit in increments of $25.

The Fine Print: There is an annual fee of $95 per year.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

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USAA Cashback Rewards Plus Amex: Only Advantageous for Military Service Members Living On-Base

How it works: The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus Amex gives 5% cash back on gas and military base purchases including commissaries, exchanges, and shopettes. The cap for the 5% category is $3,000 per year.

Earning cash back: In addition to the 5% back on gas and military base purchases, you’ll also earn 2% cash back on groceries up to $3,000 annually. On everything else, there’s 1% cash back. You can redeem cash back in increments of $1 through the USAA Rewards Service Center online or over the phone.

The Fine Print: The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus Amex card is light on the fine print. Just remember, the 5% category cap is $3,000 for combined gas and military base purchases per year and not per quarter. There is no annual fee.

The Key to Earning from Any Cash Back Card

In closing, regardless of which cash back card you choose, be sure to pay off your bill in full each month. That’s one underlying trap of any card rewards program. If you carry a balance over time, adding interest into the equation means you may end up paying the credit card company more than what you’re making in cash back.

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor at taylor@magnifymoney.com

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10 Best NO FEE Rewards Credit Cards of October 2017

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

There are an abundance of no fee rewards credit cards available, so how do you best determine which one to keep in your wallet? Most earn a measly 1% on your spending, while others have no rewards at all. To help, we’ve dug deep into our database of thousands of rewards cards to find the very best no annual fee rewards credit cards of 2017 for each category.

While you might find rewards credit cards with an annual fee can give you the best rewards, we’re sticking to no fee cards that are available even if you don’t have truly excellent credit (good credit should be fine for most of these).

The first cards we list here offer unlimited double rewards on everything you purchase, while the remaining offer 3% or better rewards on spending in popular categories so you can mix and match to maximize your rewards, or they offer the chance for better earning if you use your rewards for travel.

1. Double Rewards on Everything, NO FEE – Citi® Double Cash Card

Citi® Double Cash Card Citi offers you rewards twice. First, you get 1% cash back when you make a purchase. Then, you get another 1% cash back as you pay it off. All with no annual fee and no spending cap. If you pay off in full each month, you’ll get both rewards at the same time. That lets you earn rewards twice as good as standard reward cards.

If you like to maximize things and want to earn more rewards in special spending categories, consider pairing this with one of the no fee cards we list below.

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2. Honorable Mention: 2% Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature, NO FEE

Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card Fidelity provides no annual fee 2% cash rewards on purchases if you deposit the cash you earn into a Fidelity account. But you don’t need to have any stocks or investments to have an account. Fidelity has no fee cash accounts where you can deposit your rewards, then withdrawal when you’re ready to spend. Be aware this card is designed for people with Excellent credit, while the Citi Double Cash might be easier to get.

Both cards offer you the flexibility to earn double rewards on anything you purchase; so either one of these is a nice addition to a rewards strategy. The advantage of the Fidelity card over the Citi Double Cash is that its foreign transaction fees are just 1% versus 3% for the Double Cash. But setting up the Fidelity card and rewards is more cumbersome than the dead simple Citi Double Cash.

If you want to earn more than 2% rewards here’s a rundown of the best no fee rewards credit cards that earn 3% or more in the most popular categories. You can click on each category for our take and details:

And if you’re interested in traveling, here are the best no fee rewards credit card deals:

If you like to dig, we also have a complete (and long) list of cards that earn more than 3% on purchases in many more special categories, including cards with an annual fee.

3. Restaurant Spending: Chase AARP Visa – 3% Rewards, NO FEE

AARP Credit Card from Chase Bank Although AARP is known for serving Baby Boomers, foodies of any age can sign up for this card – AARP membership not required. You get 3% cash rewards at restaurants as well as gas stations. You also earn 1% rewards on all other purchases.

The information related to AARP Visa credit card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

Learn more at AARP.org

4. Travel Spending: AAA Member Rewards Visa – 3% Rewards, NO FEE

AAA Member Rewards Card from Bank Of America No need to be an AAA member to take advantage of this rewards card. You earn cash back when you shop at travel merchants including airlines, car rental agencies, hotels, cruise lines and travel agencies. Along with the 3% cash rewards for travel, you earn 2% cash rewards on gas, grocery and drugstore purchases. On everything else you get 1% rewards.

5. Gas Spending: Fort Knox Credit Union Visa Platinum – 5% Rewards

Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card Spend a lot of cash at the pump? The Fort Knox Credit Union Visa Platinum offers 5% cash back for gas. On all other retail purchases, you get 1% cash back. Anyone can join the Fort Knox Credit Union by becoming a member of the American Consumer Council for $5.

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6. Grocery Spending: Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express – 3% Rewards

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express offers 3% cash back on US supermarket purchases up to $6,000 per year. You also get 2% rewards at US gas stations and select US department stores. On everything else you earn 1% rewards.

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7. Honorable Mention: Golden 1 Credit Union Platinum Rewards – Unlimited 3% Grocery Rewards

Golden 1 Platinum Rewards Credit Card If you live in California, the Golden 1 Credit Union Platinum Rewards card will give you 3% cash rewards for purchases on groceries without the caps on the Blue Cash Everyday, along with gas and restaurants and 1% rewards on all other purchases. Also in California, the JCB Marukai Premium card offers unlimited 3% cash rewards on all purchases after your first $3,000 in spending each year. The catch is there’s a $15 annual fee on the card.

5% Cash Rewards in Rotating Categories: NO FEE

Cards with a rotating reward program can give you 5% cash rewards with no annual fee, but you’re limited to spending in special categories each quarter and there’s a cap on how much spending earns the 5%. You also have to opt into the 5% cash back rewards program each quarter.

8. Chase Freedom® – 5% in rotating categories, $0 ANNUAL FEE

Chase Freedom<sup>®</sup> Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

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9. Discover it® Cashback Match™ – 5% in rotating categories, $0 ANNUAL FEE

Discover it® - Cashback Match<sup>TM</sup> With Discover, you can earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter on up to the quarterly maximum ($1,500 of combined purchases) when you activate. All other purchases get 1% cash back. You can redeem your cash back for any amount at any time. And your cash back never expires. Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year on the credit card – only for new cardmembers.

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10. Platinum Cash Rewards Visa from the Nusenda Credit Union – 5% in rotating categories, NO FEE

Cash Rewards Card from Nusenda CU 5% cash rewards on groceries, gas expenses, movies, restaurants, home improvement, education and travel. This quarter, cardholders will earn cash back on restaurants, hotels and airfare purchases. There’s a cash back cap of $1,500 per quarter. Anyone can join the Nusenda Credit Union by donating $10 to the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance; contact a customer representative for details. The advantage of this card is that its categories tend to be more broad, and not store-specific like those on the Chase Freedom and Discover It, so it’s a great way to get you closer to 5% rewards on everything you spend.

If you’re going to go through the effort of enrolling in a rewards program, consider all three cards

to see which categories will benefit you the most. But, if you’re looking for freedom to spend without restrictions, sticking with the Citi Double Cash card may be your best simple bet.

Honorable mentions for travelers

No foreign transaction fees with plain cash back: Quicksilver from Capital One – 1.5% Rewards

Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card Capital One’s Quicksilver gives you 1.5% cash back on all purchases. And like all Capital One credit cards, there are no foreign transaction fees. Even though you earn less rewards than the Citi Double Cash or Fidelity American Express, this card is a better option for your international spending, since you avoid fees of 1 to 3%.

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Real airline miles: Amex EveryDay Card

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express is a no annual fee rewards credit card that earns Amex Membership Rewards points, which you can turn into real

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express airline miles with several airlines, including Delta SkyMiles, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, JetBlue True Blue, and Virgin America Elevate. It’s the only no annual fee card you can apply for online that can net you real Delta SkyMiles. When you want to convert points to Delta miles, just go to the Amex site, and transfer your points to Delta or the other participating airline programs any time.

Points for travel on any airline: Bank of America Travel Rewards

BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card The Bank of America Travel Rewards card earns a base 1.5x points per dollar you spend, and you can use the points to erase travel purchases from your statement. Every 10,000 points is worth $100 when you use them for travel, so each point is worth one cent. Where the card gets interesting is if you’re a Bank of America customer with a checking, savings, or IRA account. If you are, you’ll get a 10% bonus on what you earn each year, so the card effectively earns you 1.65x points per dollar. Even better, if you’re a Platinum level member of Bank of America Preferred Rewards (which you get by keeping a lot of your money with them), you can earn up to 2.625x points per dollar, which is an incredible deal. There are also no foreign transaction fees to worry about.

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How can you get the most value from a rewards credit card?

In order to best benefit from no annual fee rewards credit cards, follow these tips:

  • Narrow your focus: Before choosing a no annual fee rewards credit card (or cards), take a look at your budget and several months’ worth of bank statements. Then, pick cards that’ll offer you the most cash back for things you already buy. You shouldn’t change your spending habits to match a rewards program.
  • Give your rewards cards a job: Don’t spread out your spending onto too many cards without a purpose or you risk making less cash back overall. Choose a few cards and assign them a job so you know what purchases to make on each one to maximize your cash back.
  • Don’t get overzealous: Rewards shouldn’t justify overspending, especially if you’re struggling with debt. It’s a reward for making legitimate purchases. After all, you won’t make enough back to put a big dent in your monthly statement. For instance, $2,500 spent on the Fidelity American Express card equals a $50 deposit. It’s a great perk, but it shouldn’t be your sole reason for buying something.
  • Read the fine print: Understand the implications of each rewards program. For the rotating category cards, you get a huge amount of cash back, but you’ll have to strategize your spending each quarter to earn it. And you have to enroll into the program by the deadline to qualify. Set a reminder on your smartphone or calendar if necessary. You don’t want to miss out on a cash back category for an entire quarter.
Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor at taylor@magnifymoney.com

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Credit Cards, Reviews

Blue Cash Preferred® Card Review: The Perfect Cash Back Card for Grocery Shoppers?

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

If you’re looking for a cash back program that will reward you handsomely for grocery shopping, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is one to check out. Although this card has an annual fee, the amount of cash back you have the potential to earn can easily cover the fee.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

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Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Annual fee
$95 For First Year
$95 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
6% at US supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases), 3% at US gas stations and select US department stores, 1% on other purchases
APR
13.99%-24.99%

Variable

Credit required
good-credit

Good

How to earn cash back with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card

1. Earn 6% cash back at US supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year of purchases).

The supermarket category excludes superstores and warehouses. Specialty retailers like wine stores and convenience stores likely won’t earn 6% cash back either. The annual cap for the supermarket category is $6,000 – after you earn 1%.

2. Earn 3% cash back at US gas stations and select US department stores, 1% cash back on everything else.

There’s no annual spending cap for the 3% and 1% cash back categories. The following department stores are examples of those that qualify for 3%:

  • Bealls
  • Belk
  • Bloomingdale’s
  • Bon-Ton Stores
  • Boscov’s
  • Century 21 Department Store
  • Dillard’s
  • JCPenney (JCP)
  • Kohl’s
  • Lord & Taylor
  • Macy’s
  • Neiman Marcus
  • Nordstrom
  • Saks Fifth Avenue
  • Sears
  • Stein Mart

3. Earn an extra introductory bonus.

You can earn $200 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.

How redeeming cash back works

Cash back earned converts into Blue Cash Rewards Dollars. You can redeem Blue Cash Rewards Dollars for a statement credit in increments of $25.

Word of warning: A cash back statement credit does not get applied to your minimum payment. To keep your card in good standing, you need to make at least the minimum payment each month even if you redeem cash back.

Overview of card benefits

These are the American Express perks:

  • Car rental loss and damage insurance. You can decline the rental agency’s collision damage waiver because you’re covered if your rental car is damaged or stolen when you pay with this card, though some countries like Australia and Italy aren’t covered.
  • Global assist hotline. When traveling you get 24/7 access to legal, emergency, and financial assistance.
  • Travel accident insurance. You get coverage for accidental death or dismemberment during travel.
  • Extended warranty of up to an additional year after your manufacturer’s warranty expires.
  • Roadside assistance for emergencies if your car needs to be towed, you need to fix a flat, or you need a battery jump. Third-party service costs may apply.

What we like about this card

6% cash back at US supermarkets up to $6,000.

Despite the annual fee and category restrictions, we’re still big fans of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card. You only need to spend $1,583 per year (or $132 per month) on groceries to earn enough cash back to cover the $95 fee.

Since the supermarket spending cap is a generous $6,000 per year, you still have plenty of room to earn cash back beyond this break-even point, and if you spend a full $6,000 on groceries in a year, you’ll earn $360 in cash back before the annual fee is deducted.

Unlimited 3% cash back at US gas stations.

You’ll be able to earn 3% cash back in the gas category without any cap, which can serve you well on your commute.

No revolving categories.

This card is simple to use. You don’t need to enroll in the bonus categories quarterly or annually. You just need to remember to pull out this card when you shop at major grocery stores, gas stations, and department stores.

What we don’t like about this card

Store restrictions in 3% and 6% categories.

Category restrictions are common for most cash back cards, but still a piece of fine print you should be aware of. American Express uses merchant codes to determine how much cash back you get on each purchase.

Stores like Amazon, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Target, and Walmart won’t qualify as supermarket spending.

Furthermore, you can’t earn 3% cash back by pumping gas just anywhere. You have to buy gas at places with a gas station merchant code. Gas purchases at supermarkets or warehouse clubs will not qualify unless otherwise noted.

This restriction on gas spending may be the biggest deal-breaker for savvy gas shoppers since supermarkets and warehouses often have competitive gas prices with minimal markup.

Before you apply for the card, contact American Express if you pump at discount locations to see if the spending qualifies. American Express has a short list of example stores that fall into each cash back category here.

Who the Blue Cash Preferred® Card is best for

Whether the Blue Cash Preferred® Card is or isn’t for you will depend on how much you spend in the bonus categories.

Here’s why:

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card has a sister card that comes with no annual fee called the Blue Cash Everyday® Card.

The Blue Cash Everyday® Card gives:

  • 3% cash back at US supermarkets
  • 2% cash back at select US department stores and US gas stations
  • 1% cash back on everything else

Pick the Blue Cash Everyday® Card (no fee) instead of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card ($95 annual fee) if you spend less than $3,200 per year on qualifying groceries (about $300 a month).

If you spend more than $3,200 on groceries per year (about $300 a month), the Blue Cash Preferred® Card with the $95 annual fee outperforms the free Blue Cash Everyday® Card.

Another thing to consider is where you do your shopping.

If you live in a city where major groceries stores are few and far between, neither the Blue Cash Preferred® Card nor Blue Cash Everyday® Card will serve you well. You won’t get 6% for food purchases at corner markets and specialty stores.

Shoppers who stock up for groceries at warehouse or superstores like Walmart will also get less use from these American Express cash back cards since that spending doesn’t qualify.

Consumers who’ll get the most out of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card are those who spend at places that are eligible for bonus cash back like Whole Foods, Safeway, and Kroger.

Approval chances

You have the best chance of getting approved for the Blue Cash Preferred® Card with good to excellent credit (a score that’s 670 or above).

Alternatives

You can find our ultimate roundup of cash back cards for every category in this post.

Here we’ll cover four alternatives to compare against the Blue Cash Preferred® Card:

  • Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
  • Chase Freedom®
  • Citi® Double Cash
  • Alliant Visa® Signature
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

-

APR

13.99%-24.99%

Variable

As mentioned, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card is the free version of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card. It offers:

  • 3% cash back at US supermarkets
  • 2% cash back at US gas stations and select US department store spending
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

Again, this is the card to go with instead of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card if you spend less than $3,200 per year on qualifying groceries.

But, let’s be honest: $3,200 or $267 per month spent on groceries is a pretty small sum even for a one- or two-person household. For this reason, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card is what we prefer of the two supermarket cards.

Chase Freedom<sup>®</sup>

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

-

APR

15.99%-24.74%

Variable

A revolving category cash back card is an alternative if you spend pretty evenly across multiple areas. The Chase Freedom® card gives you 5% cash back in bonus categories that change quarterly.

There’s a $1,500 quarterly spending cap on the 5% category. You earn 1% cash back on all other spending. The bonus category for October through December this year includes Walmart and department stores, but categories change every quarter, and there’s no guarantee these will be a bonus category in the future.

Citi® Double Cash Card

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

-

APR

14.49%-24.49%

Variable

An unlimited flat-rate cash back card such as the Citi® Double Cash is good to pair with any of the category cards we discuss above. The Citi® Double Cash offers unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases with no fee, making this a great card to earn a consistent cash back rate. Citi® also does not charge an annual fee for this card.

Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$59 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

-

APR

11.24%-24.24%

Variable

The Alliant Visa® Signature offers 3% cash back on all purchases during your first year as a cardholder. After the first year, you will earn 2.5% cash back. There is an annual fee for this card, however it is waived the first year. A good rewards strategy is partnering a high cash-back rate category card with one of these unlimited cards for non-category spending.

FAQ

The acceptance of American Express is worse than for Visa and MasterCard – especially outside of the United States. However, the network continues to expand every year, and it is much more difficult to find places in the US that don’t accept Amex.

Anything you spend over the $6,000 cap on groceries will earn only 1% cash back. Fortunately, the 3% cash back at gas stations and department stores is unlimited, so you’ll always get bonus cash back for that spending.

No, Blue Cash Rewards Dollars do not expire as long as your account remains open.

Yes, the minimum amount to redeem Blue Cash Rewards Dollars is $25.

Blue Cash Rewards Dollars can only be redeemed for statement credit. They can’t be redeemed for merchandise or gift cards.

Blue Cash Rewards Dollars are redeemable for statement credit, while Membership Rewards® Points are redeemable for statement credit, travel, gift cards, merchandise, or entertainment. With the Blue Cash Preferred® Card you receive Blue Cash Rewards Dollars. You would need a different American Express credit card, such as the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card, to receive Membership Rewards® Points.

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor at taylor@magnifymoney.com

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Reviews, Student Loan ReFi

Laurel Road (formerly DRB) Student Loan Refinance Review

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Students throwing graduation hats

Updated August 14, 2017

Laurel Road (formerly know as DRB – rebranded on June 15) is a division of Darien Rowayton Bank that offers a highly competitive student loan refinance product. In addition to a competitive interest rate, Laurel Road offers some decent loan perks that sets it apart from others.

According to Laurel Road, someone who refinances $100,000 has the potential to save up to $15,000 over the life of a 10 year loan. And in special circumstances like disability or financial hardship, the bank might completely forgive loans or allow for partial payments. Read on for the ins and outs of a Laurel Road loan to see if it’s the right refinance for you.

Loan Details

Laurel Road will refinance up to 100% of Federal, private and Parent PLUS loans. The minimum amount you can refinance is $5,000 and loan terms are available for 5, 7, 10, 15 and 20 years.

Fixed interest rates are available from 3.95% to 6.99% APR. Starting variable interest rates are available from 2.99% to 6.42% APR. If you choose a variable interest loan, the rate will fluctuate throughout the loan term depending on market conditions. Only consider variable interest if you can pay off your student loan refinance quickly. Otherwise, you might be taking too much interest rate risk since your interest has the potential to increase over time.

The interest rates above include a 0.25% discount for using auto-pay. You just need to set up automatic payment from any checking account in order to get the auto-pay discount.

[Look into refinance options on our table here.]

Loan Qualifications

You must be a working U.S citizen or permanent resident with a degree from an accredited U.S. school program to be eligible. In terms of creditworthiness, Laurel Road does not disclose its underwriting requirements. The requirements can change over time. However, Laurel Road is targeting people with good credit.

To have the best chance of approval, your existing student loans should be in good standing. You should be able to demonstrate affordability and have limited negative marks on your credit report.

A cosigner is not required to be eligible for refinancing although you’ll probably need one if you only meet the minimum credit score or income requirements above. Laurel Road does not have an official co-signer release program. However, a representative of Laurel Road confirmed to MagnifyMoney that Laurel Road will consider a co-signer release upon request of the borrower on a case by case basis.

Laurel Road will ask for documents to backup the details of your application like photo ID, pay stubs, proof of graduation and student loan pay off statements.

Fees & Gotchas

Laurel Road is very transparent with fees. There are no fees for origination or loan prepayment. There’s a late fee of 5% or $28 (whichever one is less) for payments that are over 15 days late. Laurel Road also charges $20 for returned checks or electronic payments whether it’s due to insufficient funds or a closed account.

Pros and Cons

Low interest is the major pro of refinancing with Laurel Road. Loan benefits like forbearance, deferment and loan forgiveness are other advantages. Laurel Road may forgive loans if you die or if you can prove a significant reduction in income due to disability. Hopefully these situations don’t occur, but it’s good to know you and your family is covered if it does.

On a less morbid note, Laurel Road offers full or partial forbearance of payments if you can prove that you’re going through financial hardship. You may also qualify to pay just $100 per month while you complete a full-time post-graduate training program like an internship, fellowship or residency. If you graduate less than 6 months before refinancing, Laurel Road may allow you to defer payments for up to 6 months.

There aren’t many disadvantages of going with Laurel Road other than it not having an official co-signer release program with explicit qualification terms. This may be a turnoff for cosigners since your loan will likely appear on his or her credit report until it’s repaid.

Student Loan Refinance Alternatives

How does Laurel Road stack up to other available student loan refinances?

SoFi has a higher rate cap for fixed interest and a higher starting rate cap for variable interest than Laurel Road. SoFi currently offers variable rates from 2.815% APR and fixed rates from 3.35% APR(if you sign up for autopay). However, the SoFi refinance does come with a benefit comparable to Laurel Road called unemployment insurance. If you’re laid off, SoFi will pause your payments and help you find a new job.

SoFi

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CommonBond has similar rates to Laurel Road. Fixed interest rates are available from 3.35% APR and variable interest rates are available starting at 2.81% APR (if you use autopay). Although to qualify for the CommonBond refinance you must have obtained a degree from one of the graduate programs on its eligibility list. On the other hand, Laurel Road will refinance any loan (graduate or undergraduate) from an accredited program in the U.S.

Who Will Benefit Most From This Refinance?

The Laurel Road refinance may work out really well for people who need to complete a post-graduate training program before finding a job in their profession. Since Laurel Road allows for reduced payments in this circumstance, you’re given some leeway until you can earn your full professional salary. Still, you should compare the benefits of any Federal loans you have to the benefits of a refinance before making a decision.

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Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor at taylor@magnifymoney.com

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Building Credit, Credit Cards, Earning Cashback, Reviews

QuicksilverOne Review: Unlimited 1.5% Cash Back for Average Credit

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

For people with “average” or “fair” credit, Capital One offers QuicksilverOne Rewards. Every credit card issuer has a different definition of what “average” or “fair” credit means. Generally speaking, it means a FICO score between 580 and 669.

The QuicksilverOne Rewards card gives you an unlimited 1.5% cash back, which is a pretty sweet opportunity for consumers with less-than-perfect credit.

Just beware of the two catches: There’s a $39 annual fee and a high purchase APR.

QuicksilverOne® Rewards from Capital One

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QuicksilverOne® Rewards from Capital One

Annual fee
$39 For First Year
$39 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
up to 1.5%
APR
24.99%

Variable

Credit required
fair-credit

Average

QuicksilverOne Card Overview

The QuicksilverOne Rewards program is low maintenance.

Unlike other programs with revolving categories and spending caps, this card doesn’t hold you to either. You will earn 1.5% cash back every time you swipe.

You can redeem cash back at any time for a check, account credit, or gift card. Cash back you earn never expires for the life of the account.

What We Like About This Card

No fuss.

We like that the cash back program terms are uncomplicated. There are no preset bonus categories that you have to adapt your spending to each month. You can also redeem cash back at any time without having to wait for the balance to reach a certain threshold.

Low credit score requirement.

The QuicksilverOne is one of the only cash back rewards cards around town for average credit. If you’re having trouble getting approved elsewhere, this is a card you need to seriously consider.

What We Don’t Like About This Card

The annual fee.

Since this card costs $39 per year, you need to spend at least $2,600 per year (or $217 per month) for the cash back to break even with the fee. Ideally, you’ll want to spend more than just the bare minimum for the rewards card to be worthwhile.

High APR.

This is a high interest rate. Avoid carrying a balance at all costs if you choose this card.

Who This Card Is Best For

Again, the QuicksilverOne is our top unlimited cash back pick for consumers who have trouble getting approved for other cash back cards.

According to Capital One, you may qualify for this card if:

  • You have defaulted on a loan in the past five years
  • You have limited credit history
  • You have had your own credit card or other credit for less than three years (this may include students, people new to the U.S., or authorized users on someone else’s credit card)

Keep in mind, these are just guidelines to give you a general sense of whether you’ll qualify. Your income, debt, and other credit limits are also factors used to make a decision.

Capital One has a nice feature where you can get preapproved online for offers without a hard credit inquiry. See if you prequalify for the QuicksilverOne card here.

Keep an eye out for the Quicksilver alternative while checking offers as well.

Quicksilver Rewards is the “big brother” of the QuicksilverOne card. It has no annual fee, and it’s for people with excellent credit. There’s no harm in checking to see if you prequalify for the Quicksilver card.

Is the QuicksilverOne card good for rebuilding credit?

Despite the lenient qualifying criteria, the QuicksilverOne card is not our top recommendation if you’re rebuilding credit, because of the annual fee.

Your focus should be keeping your credit utilization very low when rebuilding credit. You shouldn’t worry about having to earn enough cash back each month to cover a card’s annual fee.

Try a no-fee secured card like the Capital One Secured MasterCard or the Discover it Secured Credit Card instead.

QuicksilverOne Credit Card Benefits

QuicksilverOne offers:

  • Travel accident insurance and 24/7 roadside assistance. Travel insurance for death or loss of limbs. You can call in for help if your car breaks down.
  • Auto rental insurance. Insurance covers rental damage from collision or theft.
  • Extended warranty. Purchases made on your card will get an extended warranty.
  • Price protection. You can get reimbursed the difference if you find items you purchased on sale within 60 days.
  • Fraud coverage. Covered by $0 fraud liability if your card is lost or stolen.

Alternatives to the QuicksilverOne

QuicksilverOne doesn’t have much competition since it’s the best card for consumers with average credit. The following no-fee cash back cards officially require good to excellent credit but allow you to prequalify without a hard inquiry.

1.5% cash back, no fee

Chase Freedom Unlimited<sup>®</sup>

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

-

APR

15.99%-24.74%

Variable

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card gives you an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all spending without category restrictions or caps. What’s great about Chase is it’s another credit card issuer that lets you prequalify for offers without a hard pull. Check out offers you may prequalify for here.

You can redeem cash back from your Chase Freedom Unlimited card at any time, and cash back never expires as long as you keep your account open. At times there is an intro APR deal or cash back bonus offer that add benefits to this card, and ongoing rates are sometimes lower than what you’d see on the QuicksilverOne.

Double cash back, no fee

Citi® Double Cash Card

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

-

APR

14.49%-24.49%

Variable

The Citi Double Cash card is another good choice for low-maintenance cash back rewards. It gives double cash back on all purchases. You earn 1% cash back when you spend on the card and another 1% cash back when you pay off the bill.

This is a card that members report qualifying for with a credit score in the high 600s. Citi lets you shop for prequalified offers on the website as well. If you’re interested in this card, see if you can get prequalified here. In addition, there are changing intro APR deals for this card that allow you to save interest early on, and ongoing interest rates are sometimes lower than with the QuicksilverOne.

Bottom Line

The QuicksilverOne Rewards is a good rewards card for those with average credit. If you have had difficulty being approved for other higher cash back rewards cards, you may be approved for the QuicksilverOne Rewards, which offers unlimited 1.5% cash back. Be aware that this card comes with an annual fee and high APR, so make sure to do your research and see if this card is right for you.

FAQ

You should not keep a balance on this credit card to benefit from the cash back. The high APR is a large amount of interest to be paying on purchases. If the interest charges you experience on this card coupled with the annual fee surpass the cash back you earn, this card is pointless.

No. You’re free and clear to spend money on anything, and it’ll earn 1.5% cash back. This is the beauty of an unlimited cash back card. However, cash advances and balance transfers will not qualify for cash back.

No, cash back does not expire as long as your account remains open.

You can, but not with average credit. The QuicksilverOne card is the best unlimited cash back card there is specifically targeting people with fair credit. Another option you have is working to improve your credit first before applying for a credit card to qualify for a card that gives you more cash back.

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor at taylor@magnifymoney.com

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Credit Cards, Earning Cashback, Reviews

Ally CashBack Credit Card Review: Is it Worthwhile if You Don’t Bank with Ally?

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Last year, Ally Bank rolled out the Ally CashBack Credit Card with a rewards program that offers 2% cash back on gas and groceries with no cap.

In addition to the cash back you earn from spending, Ally gives you a special 10% Ally Deposit Bonus when you deposit cash back earned into an eligible Ally Bank account.

Ally CashBack Credit Card

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Ally CashBack Credit Card

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
2% on certain categories, 1% on everything else
APR
13.99%-23.99%

Variable

Credit required
excellent-credit

Excellent

The Ally CashBack Credit Card Offer

1. Earn up to 2.2% cash back at gas stations and grocery stores.

Factoring in the 10% Ally Deposit Bonus, you have the potential to earn a total of 2.2% cash back in the gas and groceries category.

You have to deposit cash back earned into a qualifying account to get the 10% bonus. Qualifying accounts include:

  • Ally Money Market accounts
  • Non-IRA Online Savings accounts
  • Interest Checking accounts

Fine print alert: Discount stores, superstores, and warehouses are not included in the groceries category. Stores like Target, Walmart, BJ’s, and Sam’s Club specifically may be off limits for 2% cash back.

Ally Bank qualifies your purchases for cash back using merchant codes. You can call up a store directly to see if it has a merchant code within one of these eligible 2% cash back categories:

  • Grocery
  • Bakery
  • Dairy
  • Service stations
  • Automated fuel dispensers
  • Fuel dealers

2. Earn up to 1.1% cash back on all other purchases.

Purchases outside of groceries and gas earn 1% cash back. You can earn a total of 1.1% if you add in the 10% Ally Deposit Bonus.

3. Earn an introductory incentive.

There’s an introductory bonus of $100 if you spend $500 within the first three months of having this card.

How to Redeem Cash Back

You can redeem cash back in two ways. As mentioned, you get the extra 10% bonus if you deposit cash back into an eligible Ally Bank account.

The second option is redeeming cash back for statement credit. You need to build a balance of at least $25 before you can redeem cash back.

What We Like About the Ally CashBack Credit Card

You guessed it — we think the most attractive feature of the Ally CashBack Credit Card is the 10% Ally Deposit Bonus. We also like that this card has no spending cap for the 2% categories.

Other benefits are that there’s no annual fee and the interest rate range is reasonable.

The card even has a 0% APR introductory deal on balance transfers, although the 4% balance transfer fee is something to consider before moving your money.

The Ally CashBack Credit Card Fine Print

One of the major drawbacks of this card is the merchant code restrictions.

Don’t get us wrong — the Ally CashBack Credit Card isn’t the only cash back rewards program that uses merchant codes to qualify purchases. Pretty much every niche category card has some fine print related to what you will and will not earn bonus cash back on.

Before shopping at a warehouse or specialty food store with this card (or any category card for that matter), double-check the merchant code to see if the purchase will be eligible for 2%.

One more spot where the Ally CashBack Credit Card has fine print is the program termination policy. If your account is canceled for any reason, by you or Ally Bank, you forfeit the cash back balance. Ally Bank also reserves the right to change terms or cancel the cash back program. If this occurs, you may give up your balance.

To avoid losing out on money, keep the card in good standing and cash out whenever you hit the $25 mark just in case Ally Bank should change terms in the future.

Who the Ally CashBack Credit Card Is For

This card is best suited for current Ally Bank customers, but even people who bank with Ally should explore other options.

For non-Ally Bank customers, the 2.2% on gas and groceries is not worth opening two new accounts (the credit card account and a qualifying savings or checking account) to earn maximum cash back.

There are too many other category cards to consider ahead of this one that can give you more than 2.2% on gas and groceries.

There are even a few cards that offer you 2%+ cash back on all spending with no pesky category restrictions to keep up with.

We’ll share two alternatives with you in the next section.

But first, here’s an example to give you an idea of how much you can earn with the Ally CashBack Credit Card:

Say you spend $4,000 per year on groceries and $2,000 on gas. You can earn up to $132 in cash back for the year. (This includes the 10% Ally Deposit Bonus.)

Keep this scenario in mind because we’ll reference it next when reviewing a competitor.

For eligibility criteria, Ally Bank doesn’t get specific about the type of credit history or score you need to get approved.

However, some applicants have reported getting declined because of too many recent inquiries or new accounts. These are factors to be mindful of that could hurt your chances of getting approved.

Cash Back Alternatives

We have a list of the top cash back cards for all categories in this post. Here are two alternative cards from that roundup to take a look at:

Amex Blue Cash Preferred

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is one of our top picks for gas and grocery shopping rewards. This card gives you a huge 6% cash back at US supermarkets (up to $6,000 in spending a year) and 3% cash back at US gas stations and at select US department stores. You get 1% cash back on all other purchases. The Amex Blue Cash Preferred card has a $95 annual fee.

Back to our example scenario from above:

If you spend $4,000 annually on groceries and $2,000 annually on gas, you earn $300 in total cash back from the Amex Blue Cash Preferred. Subtract the $95 annual fee, and you still net $205 in cash back. Remember — the Ally CashBack Credit Card only gives you up to $132 in this same spending scenario. The moral of the story is, rewards cards that have an annual fee can still outperform cards with no annual fee. So don’t let a fee deter you from reviewing an offer.

Alliant Visa Signature

If you do most of your shopping at wholesale stores or you prefer a non-category card, the Alliant Visa Signature card is another option we recommend. The Alliant Visa Signature card gives you an unlimited 3% cash back for the first year with no fee. After the first year, you earn 2.5% cash back on all purchases with a $59 annual fee. If your spending is all over the map, an unlimited cash back card like the Alliant Visa Signature can give you more flexibility than the Ally CashBack Credit Card.

Rewards Cards: Frequently Asked Questions

No, Ally cash back does not expire as long as your account remains open and in good standing. There is no limit to the amount of cash back rewards that may be earned.

Anything over 1.5% cashback is a good deal. There are some cards that offer more — as much as 5 or 6% cash back on purchases. But sometimes those offers are too good to be true. Banks don’t like to lose money, and will pepper the fine print with all sorts of limitations. For example, they may offer 5% cash back on only purchases at certain types of retailers and only for certain periods of time. And those categories may change every quarter, which can make it hard to keep track.

Don’t let those cash back promises pressure you into spending more than you can afford. If you don’t pay your statement balance in full each month, you could get slapped with sky high interest charges. That would totally negate any benefit you might get from earning cash back. Cash back cards are only valuable if you can pay your bill in full and capture the entirety of your cash back rewards.

It depends on the card. Some cards allow you redeem cash back dollar for dollar as a statement credit, which can help lower your total balance. Just keep in mind that applying cash back to your card statement does not count as a monthly payment. Other cards will increase the value of your cash back if you spend on certain categories, like travel. Review your terms carefully to be sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

Find the card that fits your day-to-day spending needs best, beyond the flashy sign-up bonus offers and cash back promises. Pay your bill in full each month (spend only what you can afford to pay off).

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor at taylor@magnifymoney.com

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Credit Cards, Earning Cashback, Reviews

Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Review: 2.5% Unlimited Cash Back

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Few credit cards offer unlimited 2.5% cash back on all spending without caps or complicated category restrictions. Alliant Credit Union recently rolled out its Cashback Visa Signature Card, which may very well be the “holy grail” of unlimited cash back cards.

The Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card gives cardholders 3% cash back the first year and 2.5% back subsequent years. This card does have an annual fee, but the fee is waived for the first 12 months.

Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card

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Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$59 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
Unlimited 3% cash back during the first year; 2.5% cash back afterwards
APR
11.24%-24.24%

Variable

Credit required
good-credit

Good

How the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card works

Alliant Credit Union is an online credit union that anyone can join. If you don’t meet the standard credit union qualifying criteria (being a relative of a member or working for a select organization), you can join by making a $10 donation to Foster Care to Success.

If you choose to apply for this card, be sure to swipe it as much as possible during the first year to make the most of the free 3% cash back. This is a great deal.

The annual fee after the first year is $59. Aside from the annual fee, the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card has extra costs within the card terms that are pretty typical of any credit card.

Most notably, there’s a 3% balance transfer fee and no foreign transaction fee.

Redeeming Your Cash Back

You can redeem cash back earned through statement credit when your cash back balance reaches $25. Cash back expires after five years. Cash back also expires if your credit card account is closed voluntarily or involuntarily.

Who This Credit Card Is Best For

We highly recommend the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card if you hate keeping up with revolving category cards. Category rules can be a pain. This card makes earning cash back painless.

On the other hand, if you’re someone who likes using category cards (airline, grocery, gas, etc.), this card also partners nicely with others. Keep it in your wallet to maximize rewards in areas that your category cards don’t cover.

Alliant Credit Union has very lenient member-qualifying criteria, so non-members can join today. If you already have an Alliant Credit Union card, call credit card services to request an upgrade.

Cardholders report that you can get approved with a score in the high 600s, although credit card services states qualification is based on more than just your credit score.

For example, you may qualify for this card with less-than-perfect credit if your income is high. Since this is a Visa Signature card, credit limits are higher than traditional cards, and that requires having enough income to support a good-sized limit.

What we like about the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card

We like this card a lot because it’s one of few credit cards that give you 2% cash back without a long list of rules on what you can and can’t buy.

Until now, the Citi Double Cash card has been our top recommendation for no-fuss 2% cash back on all spending. However, the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card is giving the Citi Double Cash card some stiff competition.

The 3% cash back without an annual fee the first year is very hard to beat. And if you spend at least $1,000 per month on the card after year one, 2.5% cash back with the annual fee still outperforms the Citi Double Cash card.

We’ll discuss why the magic number for spending is $1,000 in our credit card comparison below.

What we don’t like about the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card

There’s not too much to discuss that’s negative about this card. The one thing to be mindful of is that it does not have an interest-free intro deal on new purchases or balance transfers.

This means you shouldn’t take out this card intending to go on a crazy shopping spree or to finance big life events like a wedding, relocating, or traveling unless there’s a repayment plan in the strategy.

You’ll get a great deal of cash back from large purchases the first 12 months, but you need to pay off the balance promptly to avoid many interest charges.

Three Alternative 2%+ Cash Back Credit Cards

We started out this post mentioning that there aren’t too many unlimited 2%+ cash back cards available, so let’s dive into the three main alternatives:

  • Citi Double Cash
  • Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature
  • USAA Limitless Cashback Rewards Visa Signature

Citi Double Cash

The Citi Double Cash card is usually our “go-to” pick for unlimited 2% cash back with no category restrictions.

The Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card clearly has the Citi Double Cash card beat in the first year. Things get a little less clear-cut when the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card starts costing $59 annually.

As mentioned, when taking the fee into consideration, you need to spend over $1,000 per month on the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card to earn more from it than the Citi Double Cash card.

Here’s the calculation breakdown:

  • Citi Double Cash: $12,000 (spent) x 2% (cash back) = $240
  • Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card: $12,000 (spent) x 2.5% = $300 – $59 (fee) = $241

The more you spend beyond $12,000 per year, the more the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card outperforms the Citi Double Cash card.

Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature

The Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature card is another 2% cash back option with no fee, but this card comes with conditions. You can only earn 2% cash back when you direct deposit rewards into a Fidelity Investment account.

This is still a decent deal for Fidelity Investment customers. If you plan to spend less than $12,000 per year on your rewards card, consider this one or the Citi Double Cash card.

USAA Limitless Cashback Rewards Visa Signature

Lastly, the Limitless Cashback Rewards Visa Signature card from USAA offers an unlimited 2.5% cash back with no annual fee. This card also has restrictions.

You have to keep a certain amount of cash in a connected USAA checking account to qualify for 2.5% cash back. Plus, the card is only made available to select USAA members who live in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington.

In comparison to these cards, the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature card is a rare bird with its over 2%+ cash back program and very limited fine print.

Rewards Cards: Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, the Alliant cash back rewards expire after 5 years, and you also forfeit your unused rewards if you close your account. It’s important to note that cash back doesn’t expire exactly 5 years from the date you earn it. Cash back rewards expire on a rolling, annual basis; cash back earned in a calendar year will expire on the December cycle date of the fourth calendar year in which it was earned. For example, any unredeemed cash back earned in 2017 will expire on the December cycle date in 2021.

Anything over 1.5% cashback is a good deal. There are some cards that offer more — as much as 5 or 6% cash back on purchases. But sometimes those offers are too good to be true. Banks don’t like to lose money, and will pepper the fine print with all sorts of limitations. For example, they may offer 5% cash back on only purchases at certain types of retailers and only for certain periods of time. And those categories may change every quarter, which can make it hard to keep track.

Don’t let those cash back promises pressure you into spending more than you can afford. If you don’t pay your statement balance in full each month, you could get slapped with sky high interest charges. That would totally negate any benefit you might get from earning cash back. Cash back cards are only valuable if you can pay your bill in full and capture the entirety of your cash back rewards.

It depends on the card. Some cards allow you redeem cash back dollar for dollar as a statement credit, which can help lower your total balance. Just keep in mind that applying cash back to your card statement does not count as a monthly payment. Other cards will increase the value of your cash back if you spend on certain categories, like travel. Review your terms carefully to be sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

Find the card that fits your day-to-day spending needs best, beyond the flashy sign-up bonus offers and cash back promises. Pay your bill in full each month (spend only what you can afford to pay off).

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor at taylor@magnifymoney.com

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Earning Cashback, Reviews

Chase Freedom Review: Is 5% Easy?

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

If you’re on the hunt for a new rewards card, you’ve probably come across the Chase Freedom card during your search. The Chase Freedom card offers 1% cash back on all purchases and the opportunity to earn additional cash back if you spend money within revolving quarterly bonus categories.

Chase Freedom<sup>®</sup>

APPLY NOW Secured

on Chase’s secure website

Chase Freedom®

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
5% on certain categories, 1% on everything else
APR
15.99%-24.74%

Variable

Credit required
good-credit

Good

How to Earn Cash Back with the Chase Freedom Card

You automatically earn 1% cash back on all purchases as soon as you start using the card.

Every quarter, Chase introduces bonus categories where you can earn 5% cash back. In order to earn 5%, you need to activate the bonus category every quarter. If you don’t activate, you will only earn at the 1% cash back rate. You can only earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 of spending every quarter.

Here are the current 5% bonus categories for 2017:

October – December

Walmart and Department Stores

How to Activate the Quarterly 5% Cash Back Categories

Now that you know the type of spending that will earn you 5% cash back, let’s touch on how it all works.

To earn 5% cash back each quarter, you must activate the quarterly bonus categories before the deadline. The activation deadline appears on the cash back calendar.

There are six easy ways to activate. Just choose the one that’s best for you.

  1. Online – Once you are a Chase Freedom cardholder, you can activate online at the Ultimate Rewards portal.
  2. Text message – Sign up for Chase Freedom 5% text reminders at online. You’ll get a text reminding you when it’s time to activate.
  3. Email – You can also sign up for email reminders from Chase.
  4. Phone – Call the number on the back of your card to let one of the specialists activate your 5% cash back.
  5. Chase location – Visit any Chase Bank and see a personal banker.
  6. ATM – Chase checking customers can activate their 5% cash back with one click via the ATM while making a cash withdrawal.

The base 1% cash back will always apply first to purchases on your statement. Each quarter you activate, spending that qualifies for an extra 4% cash back will appear in a separate section broken down by category.

What we like about the card

Up to 5% cash back if you are on top of things.

It’s hard to beat 5% back on spending you’re already doing, and if you pay attention and enroll in the categories every quarter, you can earn up to $300 in cash back a year compared to the base 1% cash back you earn on all purchases.

A good selection of 5% categories.

Chase comes up with fresh categories that sometimes include tie-ins with big retailers like Amazon so it’s not hard to find a way to earn 5% on your spending throughout the year.

You can pair it up with other Chase rewards.

If you have another card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can combine the rewards you earn from the Freedom with your other Ultimate Rewards points anytime.

What we don’t like about the card

Need to enroll manually.

There’s no automatic enrollment in the 5% categories, so you need to remember to take care of that every quarter. Chase lets you sign up for alerts so it’s not hard to get reminded, and you can enroll right from your phone. This is a card for maximizers, not people who want to set it and forget it.

A cap on 5% earning.

You only earn 5% back on up to $1,500 worth of spending in the designated categories each quarter. That’s $1,500 total across all the categories, not $1,500 for each category.

Right off the bat, you can probably tell a card with changing quarterly categories like the Chase Freedom card isn’t for the passive cash back rewards earner. There’s a lot involved here.

You need to activate the 5% cash back bonus each quarter. The cash back categories can change each year. And you must be a mindful spender who remembers when to swipe the Chase Freedom card to earn 5% back.

There’s a fair amount of fine print that dictates what will and won’t qualify for 5% cash back. As the new categories roll out, you’ll want to pay close attention to the type of purchases that are eligible.

A noticeable category from 2016 that’s not yet on the 2017 calendar is wholesale clubs. The category may be included later, but it’s a notable exclusion that may impact wholesale club shoppers who previously relied on the Chase Freedom card for cash back on that spending.

How Much Are Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Worth?

The Chase Freedom card is part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, so the Ultimate Rewards portal is where you go to manage and redeem points. Cash back earned from the Chase Freedom card is tracked in Ultimate Rewards points – $1 in cash back equals 100 points.

When you redeem points for rewards, for the most part, 100 points also equals $1 (and 1 point equals $0.01).

The true value of points earned varies slightly. Here’s the breakdown:

Statement credit or cash deposit redemption: 100 points = $1

Gift card redemption: 100 points = $1

Travel redemption: 100 points = $1; you can use a combination of points and your credit card for bookings

Amazon product redemption: Below is a sample conversion, but it’s subject to change

If you do choose the Chase Freedom card, make sure to redeem your points in a way that you’ll get the most value. Choosing Amazon products may not be the way to go.

Combine with a Chase Sapphire Credit Card

If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, you can combine your Freedom Ultimate Rewards points with your Sapphire Ultimate Rewards points. That means you would have all of the redemption opportunities associated with the popular Sapphire cards, including the ability to transfer your points to frequent flier programs like United and Southwest.

How to Qualify for the Chase Freedom Card

You need to have good or excellent credit in order to be approved for the credit card. In addition to having a good credit score, Chase will consider your employment status and income to ensure that you would be able to afford any new debt.

Overview of Card Benefits

For benefits and protections, the Chase Freedom card offers:

  • Zero liability protection means you won’t be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card or account information. This is a fairly common credit card benefit.
  • Chip-enabled card. Just one warning: this is a chip and signature card (and not a chip and pin card). While that should be fine for all of your spending in America, it might make using the card overseas a bit more difficult when only chip-and-pin is accepted.
  • Purchase protection covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.
  • Price protection provides that if a card purchase you made in the U.S. is advertised for less in print or online within 90 days, you can be reimbursed the difference up to $500 per item, $2,500 per year.
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver means you can decline the rental company’s collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card. Coverage is provided for theft and collision damage for most cars in the U.S. and abroad. In the U.S., coverage is secondary to your personal insurance.

Alternatives to Chase Freedom

How does Chase Freedom stack up versus the competition? It really depends upon how you use your card. 5% cash back is one of the highest rates on the market, but you need to activate and spend in that category to earn rewards. Otherwise you would be earning a not very exciting 1%.

We will now compare Chase Freedom to three other types of cash back credit cards:

  • Discover it – a credit card that offers rich cash back rewards
  • Flat rate cash back credit cards, where you can earn 2%
  • Bonus category cards

Discover it® Cashback Match™

There are a lot of similarities between Discover it and Chase Freedom. Both cards have no annual fee and pay a base cash back rate of 1%. Both cards offer 5% cash back in rotating categories. Both cards require you to opt in to the 5% cash back categories and cap the 5% cash back to the first $1,500 of spend. But there are two areas where these cards are different.

The first big difference is the intro bonus. With Chase Freedom, you can earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Discover, on the other hand, will match all of the cash back that you earned during the first year – at the end of your first year as a new cardmember. There is no cap to the sign-on bonus. If you are a big spender (especially in the bonus categories), you would earn much more during Year 1 with Discover. Here is a comparison of first year earnings:

  • You spend $1,000 a month in 1% categories
  • You spend $500 a month in 5% categories
  • The sign-on bonus at Chase would be $150
  • The sign-on bonus at Discover, at the end of the first year, would be $420

While you get the intro bonus much quicker at Chase – for big spenders, it pays to wait until the end of Year 1 at Discover.

The second big difference is the categories. Each quarter Discover and Chase announce their bonus categories, and they can be different. At Discover, the 5% categories until December 2017 are Amazon.com and Target.

If you are a big spender, the Discover it first year bonus makes it a good choice. If you are constantly looking for good deals, having both cards in your wallet to take advantage of the bonus categories might be a good choice.

Flat Rate Cash Back Cards

If opting into bonus categories every month sounds painful, you might want to consider a card that pays a flat rate on all of your spending. Whereas Chase Freedom offers a combination of 5% on bonus categories and 1% on everything else – you can get 2% flat cash back with some credit cards.

Citi Double Cash

Citi Double Cash pays 1% cash back as you spend and 1% cash back as you pay your bill. If you pay your statement balance in full every month and claim the cash back as a check or deposit into your checking account, you can earn double cash back.

Alliant Cashback Visa

Another new option is from Alliant, a credit union that anyone can join. With the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature card, you can earn 3% cash back during the first year (with no annual fee) and then 2.5% cash back thereafter. Just be warned: after the first year, there is a $59 annual fee. If you spend more than $1,000 a month on the card, the Alliant card will be a better deal than Citi Double Cash.

Bonus Category Cash Back Credit Cards

If you spend a lot of money in a single category every month, you might want to consider a credit card that pays a higher rate on just that category. For example, if you spend a lot of money on gas, you can find a card that pays 5% cash back on gas. If groceries are your biggest expense, you can find a card with 6% on groceries. You can find the best cash back credit cards by category here.

Who the card is best for

Cash back credit cards are great ways to put a little extra money in your pocket. Just remember to pay the statement balance in full and on time every month. Interest and late fees can quickly eat away at the cash back that you earn.

Chase Freedom is a good choice for people who are willing to opt in to the bonus categories each quarter and actually spend a lot of money in the bonus categories. If you don’t take advantage of the generous 5% bonus categories, you will be left with a card paying only 1%, which is not very exciting.

Rewards Cards: Frequently Asked Questions

The Ultimate Rewards points you earn from the Freedom don’t expire as long as you keep the account open. If you close your account, you will forfeit your points, though if you keep another Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards open you can transfer your points to that account before you close your Freedom, and keep them alive.

Credit card companies rely on merchant codes provided by payment networks to determine the category of a purchase. Some stores might have a merchant code that doesn’t fit what you might think the purchase will be. For example, buying groceries at a Walmart isn’t a grocery purchase because Walmart doesn’t code itself as a grocery store. There’s no way to know for sure in advance what category a merchant falls under, so be aware of that before relying on the cash back for a category from a merchant you haven’t shopped at before.

Don’t let those cash back promises pressure you into spending more than you can afford. If you don’t pay your statement balance in full each month, you could get slapped with sky-high interest charges. That would totally negate any benefit you might get from earning cash back. Cash back cards are only valuable if you can pay your bill in full and capture the entirety of your cash back rewards.

It depends on the card. Some cards allow you redeem cash back dollar for dollar as a statement credit, which can help lower your total balance. Just keep in mind that applying cash back to your card statement does not count as a monthly payment. Other cards will increase the value of your cash back if you spend on certain categories, like travel. Review your terms carefully to be sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

Find the card that fits your day-to-day spending needs best, beyond the flashy sign-up bonus offers and cash back promises. Pay your bill in full each month (spend only what you can afford to pay off).

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor at taylor@magnifymoney.com

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Reviews

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express Review: Good For Grocery Shoppers

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is a cash back rewards credit card with no annual fee. It gives 3% cash back for US supermarket spending (up to $6,000 of spending per year), 2% cash back for spending at US gas stations and select US department stores, and 1% cash back on everything else.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

APPLY NOW Secured

on American Express’s secure website

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
up to 3%
APR
13.99%-24.99%

Variable

Credit required
good-credit

Good

How to Earn Cash Back Rewards

For an introductory deal, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card offers $200 in statement credits after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 3 months. The rewards program includes a decent amount of fine print for each cash back category.

Here’s what you need to know:

3% cash back at US supermarkets up to $6,000 per year

Fine print: Superstores, warehouses, and specialty stores are not included. So keep in mind, if you visit your local fishmonger or butcher a few times a month, the cash you spend there probably won’t count as grocery shopping. Also, spending money at Amazon, Target, and Walmart specifically won’t earn you 3% cash back.

Here are samples of grocery stores that will earn you 3% cash back:

  • Foodtown
  • Gristedes
  • Meijer
  • Pathmark
  • Shoprite
  • Stop and Shop
  • Vons
  • Whole Foods
  • Winn-Dixie
  • Online supermarkets such as FreshDirect

2% cash back at US gas stations and select US department stores

Fine print: Superstores, supermarkets, and warehouse clubs that happen to sell gas are not included in the 2% cash back category. American Express gives examples of gas stations and a list of department stores that qualify for 2% cash back.

Here are some examples of gas stations:

  • Exxon
  • Gulf
  • Hess
  • Mobil
  • Murphy Express
  • Murphy USA
  • Shell

Here are the department stores:

  • Bealls
  • Belk
  • Bloomingdale’s
  • Bon Ton Stores
  • Boscov’s
  • Century 21 Department Stores
  • Dillard’s
  • J.C. Penney (JCP)
  • Kohl’s
  • Lord & Taylor
  • Macy’s
  • Neiman Marcus
  • Nordstrom
  • Saks Fifth Avenue
  • Sears
  • Stein Mart

1% cash back on all other purchases

Fine print: The 1% cash back applies to all purchases that don’t qualify for 2% or 3% and grocery shopping you do beyond the $6,000 annual cap.

How does American Express determine cash back for each purchase?

American Express uses merchant codes to determine how much cash you earn for each purchase. Merchant codes (or MCCs) are four-digit codes assigned to merchants that classify their business. You need to buy gas and groceries from stores that have an eligible merchant code to get 2% or 3% cash back. For full cash back category terms, head here.

The cash back you earn can also be impacted by the way you choose to process your payments. According to the American Express terms and conditions:

“Purchases made through a third-party payment account or on an online marketplace (with multiple retailers) will not receive a higher percentage reward. A purchase may not receive a higher percentage reward if the merchant submits the purchase using a mobile or wireless card reader or if you use a mobile or digital wallet.”

By “higher percentage reward,” American Express means more than the basic 1% back. The best bet at making sure you get the highest reward possible from your spending is keeping things super simple.

Focus on shopping at the supermarkets, gas stations, and department stores American Express has on the example lists above. At checkout, swipe yourBlue Cash Everyday® Card the old-fashioned way to pay for your shopping haul.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card vs. Blue Cash Preferred® Card

At first look, the 3% cash back on groceries seems legit because you’re earning cash back with no fee. However, shoppers who spend any more than $3,000 per year on groceries should take a look at the upgraded Blue Cash Preferred® Card instead to see if it offers a higher reward.

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card gives 6% cash back on groceries and has a $95 annual fee, but you shouldn’t let that cost deter you.

If you spend just $3,200 on groceries per year with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card, the 6% cash back minus the $95 fee offers a greater amount of cash back than what you would earn spending the same amount on the free Blue Cash Everyday® Card.

Here’s how it works out:

  • Blue Cash Everyday® Card – $3,200 x 0.03 = $96 cash back
  • Blue Cash Preferred® Card – $3,200 x 0.06 = $192 – $95 annual fee = $97 cash back

Yes, the difference initially may seem small.

But as you spend more on groceries, the cash back earned from the Blue Cash Preferred® Card surpasses the Blue Cash Everyday® Card at a higher margin. Plus, the Preferred card offers a higher 3% cash back on gas and department stores as well.

How I got $3,200.

In this review, we’ll first explain the basics of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card rewards program. Then, we’ll give you a scenario of when it still makes sense to apply for the Blue Cash Everyday® Card instead of other cash back cards, including the Blue Cash Preferred® Card.

How Cash Back Works

Cash back earned from the Blue Cash Everyday® Card is tracked in Rewards Dollars. You can redeem cash back through the account dashboard for statement credit in increments of 25. You can’t use cash back to make your monthly minimum payment.

How to Qualify for the Blue Cash Everyday® Card

American Express products are best for people with good or excellent credit.

Who the Blue Cash Everyday® Card Is Best For

Your goal with the Blue Cash Everyday® Card is to spend enough in the higher cash back categories to beat the flat 2% on all purchases you can get with a card like the Citi® Double Cash Card.

To throw another variable in the mix, if you plan to shop big in the grocery category, you should compare the Blue Cash Everyday® Card against the Blue Cash Preferred® Card before making a decision.

So, how do these cards stack up against each other?

Here’s a real-world example of when the Blue Cash Everyday® Card will benefit you more than the Blue Cash Preferred® Card or the Citi Double Cash Card.

For a quick recap:

  • Blue Cash Everyday® Card– 3% cash back at US supermarkets up to $6,000 annually, 2% cash back at US gas stations and select US department stores, 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Blue Cash Preferred® Card – $95 annual fee, 6% cash back at US supermarkets up to $6,000 annually, 3% cash back at US gas and select US department stores, 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Citi Double Cash – 2% cash back on all purchases with no cap

The sample scenario

Marc is a family of one and lives a simple life. He commutes 30 minutes to and from work each day. He’s not a big credit card user. He uses the card primarily to feed himself, to fill up his gas tank, and to take his partner out to an affordable dinner at a place of her choosing once or twice a month.

Here are Marc’s spending specs:

  • $2,000 per year on groceries
  • $2,400 per year on gas
  • $1,500 per year on miscellaneous purchases

This is the cash back he would earn from the Blue Cash Everyday® Card, Blue Cash Preferred® Card, and Citi Double Cash Card:

Marc is a pretty reserved spender, so he’ll earn more cash back with the Blue Cash Everyday® Card compared to the Blue Cash Preferred® Card because there’s no annual fee eating away at his earnings.

Cash back from the Citi Double Cash Card comes close to the Blue Cash Everyday® Card, but the 3% on groceries is more of a benefit to him than unlimited 2% cash back because of his spending habits.

Now, let’s say Marc had his partner move in and the grocery bill increased to $3,000 per year.

Here’s the updated specs:

  • $3,000 per year on groceries
  • $2,400 per year on gas
  • $1,500 per year on miscellaneous purchases

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card with the $95 annual fee would take the earnings edge away from the Blue Cash Everyday® Card in this second scenario. So, again, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card may not be the best cash back deal available for someone who spends in the $3,000 range on groceries per year.

Although, every situation is unique, and small fluctuations in spending habits can make a huge difference in cash back potential. Do a similar cash back comparison on your own before settling on a rewards card.

Other Card Benefits

Besides cash back rewards, American Express cardholders get to take advantage of the following premium benefits:

  • Car rental loss and damage insurance
  • Roadside assistance
  • Global assistance hotline
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Extended warranties
  • Return protection
  • Purchase protection
  • Fraud protection

If you decide to apply for the Blue Cash Everyday® Card, know that American Express is a card that you may have difficulty getting accepted by smaller retailers and abroad. However, American Express having limited acceptance may not be too problematic for Blue Cash Everyday® cardholders.

Mom-and-pop corner markets that don’t accept American Express may not have a merchant code that qualifies for 3% cash back anyway. Plus, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card has a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, so it’s probably not a card you’re going to take abroad frequently as your travel companion either.

That said, consumers who will benefit the most from this cash back card are ones who plan to shop primarily stateside at major supermarkets, gas stations, and department stores that qualify for the highest reward.

Rewards Cards: Frequently Asked Questions

No, Blue Cash points do not expire as long as your account is open and in good standing. So, you can save your points for higher value rewards including electronics and travel.

Anything over 1.5% cash back is a good deal. There are some cards that offer more — as much as 5% or 6% cash back on purchases. But sometimes those offers are too good to be true. Banks don’t like to lose money and will pepper the fine print with all sorts of limitations. For example, they may offer 5% cash back on only purchases at certain types of retailers and only for certain periods of time. And those categories may change every quarter, which can make it hard to keep track.

Don’t let those cash back promises pressure you into spending more than you can afford. If you don’t pay your statement balance in full each month, you could get slapped with sky-high interest charges. That would totally negate any benefit you might get from earning cash back. Cash back cards are only valuable if you can pay your bill in full and capture the entirety of your cash back rewards.

It depends on the card. Some cards allow you to redeem cash back dollar for dollar as a statement credit, which can help lower your total balance. Just keep in mind that applying cash back to your card statement does not count as a monthly payment. Other cards will increase the value of your cash back if you spend on certain categories, like travel. Review your terms carefully to be sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

Find the card that fits your day-to-day spending needs best, beyond the flashy sign-up bonus offers and cash back promises. Pay your bill in full each month (spend only what you can afford to pay off).

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor at taylor@magnifymoney.com

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Featured, Strategies to Save

How to Use Truebill to Identify & Cancel Recurring Subscriptions

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

 

Have you ever forgotten to cancel a subscription that charges you automatically each month? Me, too.

Thanks to Apple Music album exclusives, I’ve racked up quite a few charges from a subscription that I initially planned to cancel right after the free trial.

Truebill is an app that wants to make you aware of all the seemingly low-cost subscriptions that can add up to a lot of money spent. Truebill uses an algorithm to help you identify and cancel recurring payments made from your credit cards and bank accounts so you can find savings.

We tried out the app to see whether or not using it to cut costs is worthwhile. In this post, we’ll cover:

  • How it works
  • Truebill extra features
  • The cost
  • Pros and cons

How Truebill Works

You need to download the Truebill app from iTunes or GooglePlay to get started. The app lets you sign up for a Truebill account by email or Facebook.

Truebill mobile interface

After you create an account, the next step is signing into your credit card and bank accounts through Truebill so that it can review your account data. I signed into one bank account and one credit card account for this trial.
Truebill mobile interface connect accounts

The results of the Truebill statement scan

Truebill scan of bills

The results of the account scan will appear in your app dashboard within a few minutes.

Recurring transactions found are broken down into three categories — subscriptions, recurring bills, and miscellaneous recurring payments.

Here’s what Truebill found from my accounts:

For subscriptions:

  • A recurring Express Scripts prescription charge
  • Payments for monthly services I use to run a business including:
    • ConvertKit
    • FreshBooks
    • Grammarly
    • GoDaddy

For recurring bills and utilities:

  • An annual credit card membership fee
  • A Comcast bill
  • An insurance bill

For recurring miscellaneous payments: 

  • A Bluehost monthly service charge
  • An iTunes (Hulu) monthly subscription

All of the above are current recurring payments that I’m making periodically.

Truebill also has a section that lists your inactive recurring payments.

Inactive payments are for past recurring items that are no longer posting to your account regularly.

In my inactive section, Truebill has recurring transactions and subscriptions from as far back as 2013, including old student loan payments, car note payments, and more.

If you discover that Truebill is missing a subscription, there’s an option to enter the service name, and Truebill will perform another search on your account.

Truebill no results screen show

You can reach out to a customer service representative for extra help if Truebill still can’t locate a subscription after doing this search.

Does Truebill Find All the Sneaky Costs?

The current auto-payments that show up for me are ones I already know about. I’m also someone who pays pretty close attention to every account transaction so I didn’t expect any surprises.

Despite being aware of these auto-payments, I still find it impressive how many past and present recurring transactions the algorithm picked up on. I can see how this tool can be a shortcut for catching pesky auto-payments in one fell swoop for someone who monitors their statements a little less frequently.

I did learn something new related to very old charges.

Truebill found a questionable Home Depot Project Loan transaction from 2013 and was unsure whether or not to mark it as an old inactive recurring payment.

Truebill Home Depot loan

I’ve never taken out a Home Depot Project Loan, so that’s a charge I plan on researching.

How to Cancel Recurring Payments

The second key feature of Truebill is that it helps you cancel these services.

You’re able to terminate many subscriptions within the app itself. When you click on a specific subscription, there’s an “Options” link, and then a red button to “cancel” the subscription appears.

Truebill cancel ConvertKit

However, the option to cancel isn’t available for all services on auto-payment. This is the case for my Express Scripts recurring payment below.

Truebill cancel subscription

If cancellation isn’t an option, you can head over to the Truebill cancellation page for additional instructions.

On this page, there’s a mega list of companies with directions on how to cancel services from each one. The list includes insurance companies, telephone companies, music streaming services, gyms, and more.

You need to fill out more information about yourself for Truebill to move forward with the cancellation of Express Scripts. The site gives a phone number you can call to cancel on your own. For some companies, Truebill even has video instructions on how to cancel a service.
Truebill form to cancel subscriptions

Truebill Extras to Lower Your Bills

Canceling isn’t the only action you can take to cut costs. The app also notifies you of opportunities to renegotiate contract terms for bills like cable, internet, and insurance to save money.

According to the app, my Comcast bill is high, and it recommends using the BillShark service to negotiate a lower bill. BillShark is a partner of Truebill and renegotiates contracts for consumers. If BillShark can lower your bill, it takes a 40% cut of the savings as a service fee. You do not have to pay a dime if BillShark isn’t able to reduce your bill.

I got a notification that my insurance bill seems high as well. The app refers me to a third party called SolidQuote to shop for competitive insurance rates.

We’ll talk a little bit more about these recommendations in the next section.

The Cost of Truebill

The Truebill app is entirely free to download and use. The one extra service that you may have to pay for is BillShark if you choose to use it to renegotiate your bill contracts. Technically, you’re not paying out of pocket for this service either. You will only pay if BillShark is able to find you savings.

How Does Truebill Make Money?

On the terms and conditions page, there’s mention of Truebill having sponsored links to third parties and advertisements. Truebill may receive compensation from recommending other companies to you.

For example, under the suggestion to shop for competitive insurance quotes with SolidQuote, there’s a link to an advertiser disclosure stating Truebill can get paid for the referral.

Truebill advertiser disclosure

You do not have to sign up for any of these third-party offers to use the service for free. You can simply avoid offers throughout the app and still benefit from using it.

Truebill Security

Truebill uses 256-bit encryption and bank-level security to protect your information. The account history used from your financial institutions to manage auto-payments is read-only, and your information is not stored by Truebill servers. Find out more about Truebill security here.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Truebill is free for users.
  • The app is simple to use and reviews your accounts for subscription information quickly.
  • It shows you both active and inactive recurring payments.
  • You may be able to cancel bills with one click on the app. If you can’t cancel through the app, there are instructions on how you can terminate contracts with many companies on the website. Some cancellation instructions even include step-by-step video tutorials.

Cons:

  • There are advertisements to special offers on the app. These offers are not too distracting, but you should be aware that recommendations may be from paid affiliates.
  • The Truebill algorithm works by analyzing your account data. You need to sign in to your financial accounts for it to do its magic. If that’s a turnoff, you won’t get much use from this app.

The Final Verdict

The Truebill app is easy to use and definitely one to consider if you might be flushing money down the toilet with random subscriptions and services. The fact that it shows both current and past subscriptions is a highlight because it’s also helpful to review how much you’ve spent on these recurring payments in the past few years.

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor at taylor@magnifymoney.com

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