Advertiser Disclosure

Best of, Earning Cashback

Best Cash Back Cards for Grocery Shopping in 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.

groceries_lg

Shopping for groceries typically does not rank highly on the to-do list. Unless the excitement stems from sampling the foods at the demo stations, grocery shopping just is not thrilling. Cash back on the other hand, that’s worth getting pumped up over. Now you can inject some enthusiasm into a rather mundane task by using one of the best cash back cards for grocery shopping.

Unlimited Cash Back

PenFed Platinum Rewards – 2.55%

349_card.349_card.PenFed_Platinum_Rewards_Visa_Signature_CardWith unlimited cash back on groceries, this card can certainly help reduce the overall grocery budget. If you spend about $700 a month on average for groceries, this reward equals about an $18 cash back reward. That does not seem like much, but it means an extra $216 in a year. Tuck that away in a top saving accounts with a 1.00% interest rate, and you can pad your earnings even more.

Caveat: PenFed is a credit union, so you must first become a member of the credit union in order to be eligible. Fortunately, anyone can join by making a one-time donation to National Military Family Association ($15) or Voices for America’s Troops ($14).

If you live in California. The Golden 1 Credit Union offers a no annual fee card with unlimited 3% cash back on groceries.

Cash Back with Limits

Amex Blue Cash Preferred – 6%

695_card.695_card.Blue-Cash-Preferred-Card-from-American-ExpressIf you spend $600 or less per month on groceries, then the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card may the best choice for you. The Amex Blue Cash Preferred offers 6% cash back on groceries and 1% on everything else. The annual cap is $6,000 for grocery spending. That’s an average of $500 a month in grocery spend. You would earn $30 a month just in the groceries category. That’s an extra $360 just from cash back. Plus, there is a $150 bonus when you open the card and spend $1,000 in the first three months. That’s $510 of cash back in year one, before the annual fee.

Caveat: There is a $95 annual fee. With the right spending, this fee is easily covered by the rewards. However, if you allow the card to collect dust in your wallet, the fee is an unnecessary expense.

NUSENDA Credit Union Visa Platinum Rewards – 5%

This Visa Platinum Rewards card offers 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter.

From January – March, groceries are one of the 5% categories. You can earn 5% back on up to $1,500 in purchases a quarter, and there’s no annual fee for the card. Anyone can become a member of NUSENDA – just ask about it when you apply.

Consumers Credit Union Visa Signature Cash Rebate Card – 3%

Consumers Credit UnionThis Visa Signature cash back card from Consumers Credit Union offers credit union members 3% cash back for grocery and convenience store purchases. However, anyone can become a member of the credit union by paying a one-time, non-refundable $5 fee to CCU’s sponsor, the Consumers Cooperative Association, and then depositing and maintaining a minimum $5 in a Membership Share/Savings Account. The card also gives 2% for gas purchases and 1% for all other purchases. There is a $100 bonus for making $1,000 worth of purchases in the first 60 days.

Caveat: There is a cash back maximum of $6,000 per year, which, if you were spending in groceries only, would equate to $200,000 of spending. And the cash back is credited to the VISA each month, preventing you from depositing that cash and earning interest.

Huntington Voice – 3%

175_card.175_card.Huntington_Voice_Credit_CardThe Huntington voice card allows you to boost your earnings and choose your 3% cash back category. In this case, you could choose grocery spending and earn up to 6,000 points ($2,000 of spending) equaling $60 back per quarter. If you spend $2,000 a quarter (every 4 months) on groceries, you could earn up to $240 a year. Cash rewards work out to 1% for all other non-boosted categories.

Caveat: The ability to change categories and the point system can get a little confusing. Don’t hesitate to call Huntington if you need an explanation on your account.

Amex Blue Cash Everyday – 3%

381_card.205_card.blue_Cash_Everyday_Card_from_American_ExpressThis Amex card comes with no annual fee and a $125 bonus after the first $1,000 spent within 90 days. For grocery spending up to $6,000, you’ll earn 3% and if you go over $6,000 you will still earn 1% on all grocery spending. That’s a potential to earn $305 in year one. The card also offers an unlimited 2% on gas spending and select department stores.

Caveat: The bonus cash back in grocery stores and gas merchants depends on the merchant category code. If you buy groceries at Wal-Mart, Target, and Amazon be aware that these retailers do not count as supermarkets.

Santander Bravo – 3%

697_card.697_card.SANTANDERBRAVOThe Santander Bravo card offers a $100 bonus after the first $1,000 spent within 90 days. You will also earn up to 15,000 points ($5,000 of spending) per quarter for grocery, gas station, and restaurant spending. This works out to a 3% cash back rate and the potential to earn $600 a year. The points can be redeemed for gift cards and airline tickets.

Tip: The 3% only applies to the first $5,000 spent per quarter, around $1,700 per month. There is also an annual fee of $49.

BankAmericard Cash Rewards – 2%

161_card.161_card.U.S._Pride_BankAmericard_Cash_Rewards_Visa_cardThe BankAmericard cash rewards card from Bank of America offers 2% cash back on grocery spending up to $1,500 per quarter. There is no annual fee and you can redeem this cash directly into a Bank of America checking or saving account. The card also offers 3% on gas related spending. The rewards never expire and if you apply online and spend $500 in the first 90 days, you also receive a $100 cash rewards bonus.

Caveat: The $1,500 limit per quarter applies to both grocery and gas spending. After you hit that limit, all other purchases earn 1% cash back.

Last Piece of Advice

Make sure your grocery store is included as an appropriate merchant by a company before applying for one of these credit cards. You don’t want to think you’re earning 6% back and then realize it doesn’t report as a grocery store to your credit card company!

promo-cashback-wide

LaTisha Styles
LaTisha Styles |

LaTisha Styles is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email LaTisha at LaTisha@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: ,

Advertiser Disclosure

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

APPLY NOW Secured

on Ally Financial’s secure website

Ally CashBack Credit Card

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
2% on certain categories, 1% on everything else
APR
13.74%-23.74%

Variable

Credit required
excellent-credit

Excellent

  • No annual fee
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and grocery stores
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Receive a $100 bonus when you make $500 in eligible purchases during the first 3 billing cycles
  • Get a 10% Ally Deposit Bonus when you deposit your cash rewards into an eligible Ally Bank account
  • 13.74%-23.74% purchase APR
  • 0% Intro APR for 12 months from account opening on balance transfers, then a variable APR of 13.74%-23.74%. Balance transfer fee is 4% of the amount transferred, $10 minimum
  • 3% foreign transaction fee

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 Amex Blue Cash Preferred card is one of our top picks for gas and grocery shopping rewards. This card gives you a huge 6% cash back on groceries and 3% cash back on gas. 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

TAGS: , ,

Advertiser Disclosure

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

APPLY NOW Secured

on Alliant CU’s secure website

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
10.99%-23.99%

Variable

Credit required
good-credit

Good

  • Exclusively designed for those spending $50,000+ a year on their card
  • Rates as low as 10.99%APR
  • $59 annual fee, waived the first year
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • A true cashback card: 3% cash back in year one & 2.5% cash back after

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

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

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

  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter like gas stations, restaurants and drugstores
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.99%-24.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee

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:

July to September

Restaurants

Movie Theaters

The bonus categories for October will be announced in September.

Last Year’s Cash Back Calendar

Since you may have to wait several months for the holiday bonus category to be announced for 2017, here’s a look at the 5% categories for 2016 as a reference of what could be to come:

Keep in mind, the quarters can change annually, so the summer and fall categories for 2016 may not be the same for 2017. Although one thing you can be pretty sure of is the last quarter of the year will be a category that’s holiday shopping friendly. We’ll update cash back categories for 2017 when they’re announced.

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; you can redeem for cash starting at 2,000 points

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 $150 after spending $500 in the first 90 days. 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% category until September 2017 is restaurants.

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

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

Earning Cashback

Citi Double Cash Review: Twice The Cash, No Limits

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.

Citi Double Cash offers the highest no-fee flat-rate cash back credit card on the market. If you pay your balance in full and on time every month, you can earn up to double cash back on everything you spend. You earn 1% cash back when you spend, and then 1% cash back when you pay. If you pay your statement balance in full and deposit the cash back into your checking account, you will have earned a nice 2%.

There is no cap on the cash back you can earn, and there are no rotating categories or requirements to opt into every quarter. If you are looking to earn a lot of cash back without a lot of work, this card could be right for you.

Citi®Double Cash Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Citibank’s secure website

Citi®Double Cash Card

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
1% when you buy, 1% when you pay
APR
14.49%-24.49%

Variable

Credit required
good-credit

Good

  • Earn cash back twice on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back
  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.49% - 24.49% based on your creditworthiness
  • Click 'Apply Now' to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases.
  • No categories to track, no caps on cash back, no annual fee

How the Citi Double Cash Card works

To get double cash back, you must emulate the habits of the savviest credit card holders: use your card, and pay it off in full each month. Do anything else, and you won’t get the full benefit of the double cash back reward.

With the Citi Double Cash Card, you receive your first 1% when you purchase something, but Citi holds onto the second 1% cash back reward until you pay them back. So you get 1% cash back for every dollar you spend, and another 1% cash back for each dollar you pay off on your balance — on time — each month.

To get the maximum double cash back quickly, you should pay off your entire balance. However, as long as you pay the minimum each month, you’ll eventually receive the double cash back, although you’ll pay a lot more than 1% in interest each month.

How to redeem cash back with Citi

When your balance reaches $25, you can choose to redeem your cash reward through a gift card, check, direct deposit, or statement credit to your Citi account. Beware: if you redeem with a statement credit, you won’t get exactly double cash back, but just shy of it depending on the size of the reward.

If you redeem via gift card, you’ll select from retail, restaurant, entertainment, and electronic gift cards in Citi’s gift card marketplace. Choosing the direct deposit option will allow you to transfer your cash back directly to your bank account whether it’s a Citi account or not. If you redeem via check, you should receive a paper check at the address you have on file in 7 to 10 business days.

You can also redeem with a statement credit, but you might notice you don’t get quite double cash back. Since a $25 credit on your statement reduces the amount you’d need to pay back by some amount, you technically get a little less than 2% cash back.

For example, if you redeem $1,000 in cash back for the year, you’ll be shorted about $10 if you redeem your rewards with a statement credit. Assuming you paid off your balance each month, your cash back is reduced to about 1.98%. If you don’t want to miss out on that gap, redeem via check or direct deposit. Also, remember Citi does not count a statement credit as a payment, so you still need to make at least your minimum monthly payment by the due date or you’ll be charged a late fee.

For more details on how to get your cash back, check out this article, where we show you step-by-step how to redeem your cash back with Citi.

Disclaimer: Your rewards will expire if you don’t use your card for 12 months, so be sure to swipe at lease once a year, or redeem your cash before it expires.

How to qualify for the Citi Double Cash Card

Borrowers with good or excellent credit scores are likely to get approved for the Citi Double Cash Card. That means you can still get approved with a few marks on your credit report. That’s unusual as rewards cards with a 0% introductory balance transfer offer like the Citi Double Cash Card are rare for those who lack excellent credit.

Overview of card benefits

The Citi Double Cash Card offers the following benefits and protections to cardholders:

  • No penalty for your first missed payment. Citi won’t charge you a late fee on a first missed payment. This benefit forgives those who usually pay on time, but may miss a payment by accident. Careful, you WILL be charged a fee if you miss a second payment.
  • Citi Private Pass. Citi customers get special access to purchase presale tickets and VIP packages to events such as concerts, sporting events, dining experiences, and complimentary movie screenings.
  • Citi Price Rewind. If you notice a price drop on the big-ticket item you just bought, Citi may have already refunded you the difference. Citi Price Rewind will look for a lower price on any registered items you purchase for 60 days. If the system finds a lower price, you may be refunded the difference.
  • 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.
  • Citi Concierge. Citi Concierge sets you up with trained experts to help you plan your travel, shopping, dining, entertainment, and other parts of your next trip.
  • Protection against interrupted trips. If your travel plans are interrupted for some reason, Citi will reimburse you for part of your hassle. The bank will reimburse any nonrefundable travel expenses such as change fees if you paid for the ticket with your Citi Double Cash Card.
  • Car rental and collision insurance. You can skip paying extra for the rental company’s collision loss and damage insurance if you use your Citi Double Cash Card. Citi will cover you against any theft or damage done to the rental as long as you used your Citi card to pay for it.
  • Zero liability protection. You won’t be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card or account information. This is a fairly common credit card benefit.
  • Purchase protection covers repairs or refunds for your new purchases in case of damage or theft within 120 days of your making the purchase.
  • Lost wallet service. If you happen to lose your wallet and everything in it, take some comfort in knowing your Citi card, at least, will be replaced within 24 hours. Citi can also give you emergency cash up to your available cash advance limit to help out between losing your card and receiving a new one.

Why we like the Citi Double Cash Card

It has the highest no-fee flat rate reward in the market.

The clearest advantage of the Citi Double Cash Card is that it offers the highest flat rate cash rewards program without an annual fee on the market. The card’s double cash back feature can be a valuable feature for those known to make most everyday purchases on a credit card, and pay the card balance off each month.

The flat rate on all purchases keeps earning rewards simple.

If you like things simple, the card’s flat rate on everything will make keeping up with rewards a breeze. You’ll earn 1% on everything you buy, so there won’t be any need for you to fumble through a stack of credit cards for a specific cash back card at the grocery store. It also eliminates stressing over when or by how much rewards categories might change on your current go-to card each quarter.

It’s a good balance transfer card, too.

The card’s 18-month introductory 0% balance transfer offer makes it a good choice for those seeking to consolidate debt, too. The cash back rewards won’t apply to your balance transfer, but you’ll get 18 billing cycles to pay off the balance interest-free before the card’s higher ongoing interest rate kicks in.

It comes with other great cardholder benefits.

The Citi Double Cash Card’s other benefits aren’t bad either. The card also grants you free access to view your Equifax FICO® Score, and the Citi Price Rewind benefit automatically reimburses you the difference on purchases made with your card if the price changes within 60 days.

What to watch out for with the Citi Double Cash Card

You have to pay off your balance in full to reap the full reward.

You could pay the minimum each month and eventually see you’ve redeemed your cash back. However, the reward really only benefits you if you pay your balance in full each month. If you don’t, the full interest you’ll be charged on your purchases will eclipse the double cash back benefit.

It charges a 3% balance transfer fee.

Although the balance transfer isn’t the main perk the card has, it’s important to note Citi charges you a 3% fee to transfer your balance. Granted, the charge isn’t much compared to the 16% on average you’d be charged in interest on your balance each month if you don’t transfer, but there are many, no-fee balance transfer alternatives (like the Discover it or Chase Slate cards) you could qualify for instead.

You get charged 3% to use it overseas.

You’ll pay to use this card overseas, and the fee isn’t worth it if you can avoid doing so. The 3% foreign transaction fee you’ll be charged to swipe makes the potential double cash back you’d receive on the purchase trivial.

It doesn’t come with a sign-on bonus.

With the Citi Double Cash Card, you won’t get a sign-on bonus like you’d get with other competing cash back cards like Fidelity’s Rewards Visa Signature ($100) or the Capital One Quicksilver card. It’s not a huge pitfall among the card’s best-in-class cash back offer and other perks, but it’s something to consider when weighing your options.

Your rewards will eventually expire.

Take care to redeem your cash back before you stop using the card! If you don’t earn cash back on rewards with your Citi Double Cash Card for 12 months, your rewards will expire. If you plan to stop using the card — maybe you accepted the offer for a specific purchase, or simply for the balance transfer offer — make sure to redeem your cash back before adding it to your credit card graveyard.

Alternatives to the Citi Double Cash Card

The Citi Double Cash Card has the highest no-fee flat rate cash back reward on the market, but it might not be the best cash back card for you, depending on your spending habits.

Cards that only earn cash back in certain categories, for example, may work better for you. You might find you spend most of your income in a category such as groceries or gas, so you’d earn a greater reward with a card that earns cash back only in specific spending categories or enjoy keeping up with rotating categories.

Next we compare how the Citi Double Cash Card compares to four other cash back credit cards:

  • Fidelity’s Rewards Visa Signature – the other 2% cash back credit card
  • Alliant Cashback Visa Signature – the 2.5%-3% cash back credit card with a fee
  • Chase Freedom — the rotating category alternative
  • Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express — the bonus category alternative

Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature

Fidelity’s Rewards Visa Signature card earns cardholders 2% cash back on all purchases with no annual fee. The card is best for existing Fidelity customers, as the funds you earn must be deposited into a Fidelity account.

Borrowers with “good” credit need not apply for this card. Your credit score has to be above 700 to get approved for a line of credit with the Fidelity Visa. Even then, you may be disappointed if you’re not a big Fidelity customer as Fidelity bases its credit limits on the total amount of assets it’s managing on your behalf.

Alliant Cashback Visa Signature

If you don’t mind paying an annual fee, the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature card could be a viable alternative to the Citi Double Cash Card.

Alliant’s Cashback Visa Signature card offers an unlimited 3% on all purchases in the first year and 2.5% cash back on all purchases in the years following. You’ll also forgo a foreign transaction fee if you use the card overseas. The catch is, cardholders pay a $59 annual fee to hold the card. Only those with excellent credit and high income will qualify for this rewards offer.

Chase Freedom — the rotating category alternative

With Chase Freedom, you’ll automatically earn 1% back on all purchases, 5% on purchases you make in the categories you’ve activated. The card also offers a $150 signing bonus when you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months the account is open.

The Chase Freedom card rotates rewards categories each quarter, so you’ll need to look out for changes and opt in to the quarter’s categories before you can start earning rewards in them. You also won’t be charged interest on purchases or balance transfers made in the first 15 months. You can also earn a $25 bonus when you add an authorized user and make your first purchase within the first three months.

If you qualify for the Citi Double Cash Back Card, you have a good chance of qualifying for Chase Freedom, too. Borrowers with good or excellent credit scores have the best shot at getting approved for the Chase Freedom card.

Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express — the bonus category alternative

With a card like the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, you’ll earn a larger amount of cash back, but only in one fixed category. The card awards holders 6% cash back at all supermarkets, on up to $6,000 worth of spending. You also get 3% cash back on gas station spending. So, if your household spends big on gas and groceries, the rewards you’d earn with a card like the Blue Cash Preferred Card will likely be greater that what you could earn with the Citi Double Cash Card.

The Blue Cash Preferred Card also awards a $250 sign-on bonus to cardholders who spend $1,000 within the first three months of opening the account, and you won’t be charged interest on your first 12 months of purchases, boosting your rewards in the first year. You won’t be charged any interest on a balance transfer for the first year either, but you will be charged 3% to transfer your balance over in the first place. The main downside to this card’s offerings is that it charges a $95 annual fee, so unless the cash back you’d earn makes that amount negligible, you should steer clear of this card.

Try using this tool to figure out which cash back card has the best ongoing program for your needs. Fill in how much you tend to spend each month in each spending category, and the system will generate recommendations based on your spending habits.

Who benefits the most from the Citi Double Cash Card

Overall, cash back cards can be a great way to put some extra money in your pocket, as long as you remember to pay your statement balance in full each month. Interest and late fees can eclipse your cash back earnings pretty quickly.

The Citi Double Cash Card is best for borrowers with good or excellent credit, who make everyday purchases with a credit card and have great payment habits. The double cash back feature is great if you already have the discipline to pay your statement balances off in full each month, and it’s the only way the card’s reward offer is valuable. If you don’t think you can consistently pay off your card each month, it’s best to get the habit set in stone before trying a rewards credit card.

If you’ve never had a rewards card, the Citi Double Cash Card’s simple terms and flat rate cash back rewards make for a great starter rewards card and — so long as you pay your balance off each month — it can be a great way to earn extra pocket change without going into debt.

Citi Double Cash Card FAQs

You’ll get up to double cash back on all of your purchases, which is the logic behind advertising the card as “Double Cash” and not “2% Cash.” You’ll earn your first 1% on all purchases, then another 1% when you pay off the purchase, but if you choose to redeem your cash back via statement credit on your account, you’re technically getting just shy of 2% cash back.

Yes, the cash back on the Citi Double Cash expires if you haven’t used your card for 12 months.

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).

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: , , ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Earning Cashback

Best Rewards Credit Cards: Double miles, 5% cash, and more

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.

DiscoRewards Credit Cards Illustration

Looking for a rewards credit card to earn cash or travel from the spending you’re already doing? There are hundreds of rewards cards out there, and we’ve combed through our database to hand pick the very best rewards credit cards, most with no annual fee.

If you’re just looking for one card to earn cash rewards, your best bet is to use our calculator to get a personalized recommendation based on your spending habits. Otherwise, read on for our top picks. This guide will help you understand whether you are ready to earn rewards, and whether earning cash back or miles for travel rewards is your best bet.

1. Cash back rewards credit cards

Start here: No annual fee, 2x cash

The most important recommendation we can make is to start with either the Citi Double Cash or Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature in your wallet.

Both earn double cash on everything you purchase and pay off with no limits, and no annual fee.

If you prefer MasterCard or have less than perfect credit, go with the Double Cash. If you prefer Visa or plan to use the card abroad, go with the Fidelity (it has a low 1% foreign transaction fee).

If your credit is fair or you have no credit history, then consider one of these options with a slightly lower cash back rate.

Once you have one of these base cards, you can look at our other favorite cards to earn 3%, or even 5% on some of your other spending. You can scroll down this page to see our top picks, or go to our full directory of dozens of cards that earn 3% or better cash back in many categories.

 

Citi Double Cash Card

Easy double cash rewards

Citi Double Cash Card

The Citi Double Cash card offers easy double cash rewards with no annual fee.

You get 1% cash back when you make a purchase, and another 1% when you pay your bill, so it’s easy to earn double cash on everything you buy with the card.

And since there’s no annual fee, you don’t have to miss out on the seductive 5% cash back you sometimes see on other cards. Just keep the Citi Double Cash in your wallet for most of your spending, and if you have a card that earns 5% in special categories, just use it for that spending, so you can really rack up the cash rewards.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Earning cash back is simple – there are no special categories or limits
  • There is a fee on foreign transactions, so only use this card for purchases in the U.S.

Tip: You need to earn or use rewards at least once every 12 months, or else your rewards will expire.

LEARN MORE

Alliant Visa

2.5% cash back with an annual fee

Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card

If you’re willing to pay a $59 annual fee, this card offers a big 2.5% unlimited cash back on everything you spend. Alliant is a credit union anyone can join online and you don’t need to be a member to apply. There’s also a special 3% cash back rate for your first year, with no annual fee either. If you travel abroad there are no foreign transaction fees to worry about. So is the fee worth it? Basically, if you spend more than $1,000 a month on the card, you’ll earn more than the annual fee in cash back compared to the Citi Double Cash.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Good disclosure: they tell you what they need to know
  • Simple introductory bonus
  • Impossible to know your interest rate until you apply

Tip: Be aware this card is only for people who are eligible for high credit limits, so it’s harder to get than the Citi Double Cash. You’ll need excellent credit and a good income to qualify.

LEARN MORE

Up to 5% rewards with a little effort

Once you have a double cash rewards card in your wallet, you’re ready to start considering cards that earn 5% cash back in special categories. If you’re really serious about earning the most cash from your spending, you can get all of these rotating category cards and leverage the fact they earn 5% in different categories. Then, use your base double cash rewards card for everything else.

All of these cards have a limit on how much cash back you can earn at 5%, so you’ll want to pay attention to that, and some of them require you to enroll each quarter to activate your 5% cash back, so if you miss the deadline you’ll earn just 1%.

Our pick for small spenders & travelers

Chase Freedom Card

With Chase Freedom you can 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.

If you spend the full $1,500 in bonus categories each quarter all year long, you could earn $300 cash back a year from your bonus category spending.

A good introductory bonus for small spenders. Earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. That’s like earning 30% cash back on your first $500 in purchases with the card and gets you off to a fast start.

Boost your travel rewards. If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card for travel rewards, you can combine your points with those from the Chase Freedom, letting you turn your Chase Freedom points into real airline miles with Ultimate Rewards partners like United MileagePlus and Southwest Rapid Rewards, which can make your points worth even more.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • There’s a nice, simple sign on bonus
  • You have to enroll every quarter to earn 5% in bonus categories
  • There are late payment and cash advance fees.

Tip: You generally have about 2 and a half months during the quarter to activate your 5%. For example, for January – March 2016, you can activate by March 14, and still get the 5% in your bonus category spending for the whole quarter, even if you made purchases in the category before you activated.

LEARN MORE

Best 5% cash for bigger spenders

Discover it® – Cashback Match™

The Discover It and Chase Freedom are pretty similar when it comes to rewards, but if you spend more than about $1,000 a month, the Discover It is your better bet if you’re looking to choose just one.

Double cash back better for big spenders. As an introductory offer for new cardmembers, Discover will give you a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned during your first year (new cardmembers only). So big spenders get more out of this than the introductory offer on the Chase Freedom.

Plenty of 5% categories. Earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like gas stations, Amazon.com, restaurants, wholesale clubs and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. All other purchases get 1% cash back.

From July until September of 2017, the bonus category is restaurants.

If you spend the full $1,500 in bonus categories each quarter all year long, you could earn $300 cash back a year from your bonus category spending.

 

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • There’s a nice, simple sign on bonus
  • You have to enroll every quarter to earn 5% in bonus categories
  • There are late payment and cash advance fees.

Tip: One gotcha about the Discover It is that you only get the 5% in bonus categories for spending you do after you activate your bonus each quarter. For example, for the January – March 5% categories, if you activate on February 15, only spending from February 15 to the end of March will qualify, even if you made purchases in a 5% category before then.

LEARN MORE

Platinum Rewards Card By Nusenda CU

Best 5% with no enrollment hassle

Platinum Rewards Card By Nusenda CU

If you want 5% in rotating categories each quarter without having to enroll each quarter, consider the NUSENDA Credit Union’s Platinum Cash Rewards card.

Automatic 5% categories. You’re automatically eligible for 5% cash rewards each quarter, up to $1,500 worth of spending across the categories each quarter. Currently that’s typically a $1,500 per quarter maximum, like the Chase Freedom. But the categories where you can earn 5% are a bit broader.

For 2017 the 5% cashback bonus categories include:

  • January – March: Groceries and Gas
  • April – June: Restaurants, Movies, and Home Improvement
  • July – September: Gas and Education
  • October – December: Restaurants, Hotels, Airfare

The introductory bonus is the weakest of the bunch, and offers 2% on all your purchases for the first 90 days. You’d have to spend $15,000 in 90 days to beat the Chase Freedom’s $150 offer.

 

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • No need to enroll every quarter to earn 5% in bonus categories
  • You need to join a credit union, though anyone can join NUSENDA

Tip: When you apply, you’ll be asked where you live or work to determine your eligibility to join NUSENDA Credit Union. If you don’t live in one of the New Mexico counties listed on the application, just enter the company you work for, and they’ll call you to offer you a non profit organization you can join for a small one time fee to be eligible.

LEARN MORE

Cash back for frequent diners

What’s better than 2% cash rewards? 3%.

While you can get 5% cash back on dining some quarters with the 5% foursome cards above, to get consistently good cash back on dining all the time, read on.

You can also check out our full list of the best cards for dining cash back.

Chase AARP Visa Card

Best unlimited dining cash back rewards

Chase AARP Visa Card

You don’t need to be over 55 to be a member of AARP, and in fact you don’t have to be a member of AARP to get this card.

If offers unlimited 3% cash back rewards on purchases at restaurants and 3% cash back rewards on purchases at gas stations, along with 1% cash back rewards on all other purchases.

You can learn more about the card (including the most recent product specifics) at AARP.org.

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.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • There’s no annual fee.
  • There is no limit to the cash back rewards you can earn.
  • There are late payment fees.

Tip: You get your choice of cash rewards via direct deposit or a statement credit.

Grocery cash rewards

Groceries are one of the most popular spending categories, and you can check out our full list of the best cards for grocery cash back.

But if you’re out to earn the most possible cash back from your grocery shopping, here is our pick:

Blue Cash Preferred Card

Best grocery cash back for heavy shoppers

Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

The Amex Blue Cash Preferred is the card that can earn the most straight cash from supermarket purchases, at 6%, but there are two big hoops to deal with.

  1. There’s a cap of $6,000 a year in supermarket spending that earns 6%, so you can get a maximum of $360 a year in rewards at the 6% rate.
  2. There’s a $95 annual fee. So, this is really offering 4.4% cash back on supermarket spending if you spend the full $6,000 a year at supermarkets and take the annual fee out of your rewards.

So the rule is this: if you spend about $300 – $800 a month at supermarkets, consider this card. Otherwise, get 3% back at supermarkets with no annual fee with the Amex Blue Cash Everyday or Consumers Credit Union Visa Signature Cash Rebate Card (anyone can join their credit union).

Transparency Score
TRANSPARENCY SCORE
  • The biggest supermarket cash back rate.
  • There is a $95 annual fee and a cap on the supermarket cash rewards you can earn at 6%.

Tip: If you shop at big box stores like Walmart or Target, those aren’t considered supermarkets, even when you’re buying groceries, and spending there won’t earn the grocery cash back bonus.

LEARN MORE

Cash rewards for less than perfect credit

If you’re credit’s not perfect, but you’re now able to pay your cards in full each month, you won’t yet qualify for the very best cash rewards, but you can do well with no annual fee.

Best cash rewards for rebuilding credit

Discover It® Secured Card – No Annual Fee

If you have little or no credit history, or are rebuilding credit, the Discover It Secured Card is the best way to do it while earning rewards.

You can earn 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations (on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter). Plus, get 1% cash back on all your other purchases. There is no annual fee. A security deposit of $200 or more will establish your credit line (up to the amount that Discover can approve). There are automatic monthly reviews starting at 8 months to see if you can be transitioned to an account with no security deposit.

Transparency Score
TRANSPARENCY SCORE
  • No annual fee.
  • The Regular APR is 23.99% variable.

Tip: You will get your official FICO credit score for free with this card. Watch it closely, because the goal of a secured card is to graduate to an unsecured card as quickly as possible.

LEARN MORE

2. Travel Rewards Cards

Real airline miles

If you’re serious about travel, you want points that give you the option to turn them into real airline miles. Yes, there are ‘no hassle’ cards out there that promise to avoid the rules and traps of airline miles, but you’ll often pay more in points if you use those cards, especially if you’re flying on expensive international flights.

Amex Everyday

Best real airline miles with no annual fee

Amex EveryDaySM Credit Card By American Express

The Amex Everyday earns Amex Membership Rewards points.

With Membership Rewards points, you can turn your points into real airline miles with several frequent flier programs, including Delta SkyMiles, JetBlue True Blue, Virgin America Elevate, and British Airways Avios.

If you fly Delta and use SkyMiles this is a no brainer way to build on the SkyMiles you already have without a fee. Real airline miles are the best way to get expensive international flights and you can check here to see if focusing on convertible points that can turn into real airline miles is a good plan for you.

Even better, if you don’t want to deal with airline miles, you have the flexibility to use your points for travel on almost any airline. Just book your flight via the American Express website and pay for it with points.

 

Transparency Score
TRANSPARENCY SCORE
  • No annual fee.
  • There are late fees and a wide range of APRs you may be charged depending on your credit profile.
  • You get 2x points per dollar on gas spending, and a 20% bonus on all of your spending each statement period when you use your card to make 20 or more purchase in any category.

Tip: Some people find the Chase Sapphire Preferred we mention below (which has an annual fee) has more useful travel partners, because it lets you transfer points to both United MileagePlus and Southwest Rapid Rewards.

LEARN MORE

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Best for serious travel rewards

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

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

Serious travel rewards are all about being able to earn points you can transfer into real airline miles or hotel points with several travel partners, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s roster of partners is one of the most useful round. It’s why so many travel enthusiasts love this card.

Transfer to real airline miles and hotel points. You can transfer your points into you accounts with United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Hyatt Gold Passport, and more anytime you want. Between United and Southwest you’re covered for getting around in the U.S. or just about anywhere in the world at attractive point prices. And as you learn more about travel rewards you can take advantage of other partners like Singapore KrisFlyer and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.

A fallback for when mile seats aren’t available. You always have the option to book flights directly via Chase on most airlines without the restrictions of frequent flier programs. Every 10,000 points is worth $125 in flights, hotels, or rental cars booked via the Chase website.

A big introductory bonus. The Sapphire Preferred comes with a big introductory bonus offer that can earn you award travel fast.

2x points on dining and travel. You get double points on all dining and travel purchases you make, even cab rides, fast food, and subway tickets.

Check to see if trying to convertible points that can turn into real airline miles makes sense for your habits, but if it does, this is a great card to get started earning big travel value fast.

Transparency Score
TRANSPARENCY SCORE
  • There are no foreign transaction fees.
  • There is a $95 annual fee, after a $0 introductory fee the first year.

Tip: For a real powerhouse combo, pair this up with a no annual fee Chase Freedom. The points you earn from the Chase Freedom can be added to those from your Sapphire Preferred, letting you take advantage of the fact the Freedom earns 5x points in special bonus categories.

And if you really want to turbocharge rewards, but can deal with a higher annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 3x points on travel and dining.

LEARN MORE

Points that work like cash for travel

If you don’t want to put in the work to get the extra value real airline miles can offer, but like rewards for travel, consider a card that earns points that work like cash. With these cards you just pay for your flight or hotel with the card, and then use points to get statement credit.

 

Venture Rewards Credit Card

Best for not messing with miles

Venture® Rewards Credit Card

If you’re a big traveler, the action is with real airline miles. But if you don’t want to keep track of rules, and still want great rewards for travel, the Venture® Rewards Credit Card is one of the biggest earners available.

Pay for travel, get it reimbursed. Instead of using an airline mile program, with the Venture® Rewards Credit Card you just pay for travel with your card, then use your Venture® miles to get it reimbursed on your statement. 10,000 miles is worth $100 toward any travel.

2x miles on everything. Everything you buy with the card earns 2x miles, so you can earn up to twice as fast as many airline cards.

A big introductory bonus. The Venture® Rewards Credit Card comes with a big introductory bonus offer that can save you hundreds on your next trip.

 

Transparency Score
TRANSPARENCY SCORE
  • There are no foreign transaction fees.
  • There is a $59 annual fee, after a $0 introductory fee the first year.

Tip: You can’t mix and match Venture® miles with any regular airline miles you already have. Venture® miles are simply like cash you can use to pay for travel charged to your card.

LEARN MORE

Bank of America Travel Rewards

Best for savers with no fee

BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card

This card has a pretty basic 1.5x points per dollar on everything you spend, and you can use those points to cover any travel purchase. There is no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee.

$50,000+ in Bank of America accounts = big earning. Where it gets interesting is if you have $50,000 or more in retirement, savings, checking, or other account balances with Bank of America. That qualifies you for the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program which lets you earn 2.25x – 2.6x points per dollar with no limits.

That’s because Platinum and Platinum Honors level members of Preferred Rewards get a 50% – 75% bonus on all the points earned with many Bank of America credit cards, including the Travel Rewards card.

You can rollover any of your 401k or IRA accounts to a Merrill Edge account with no maintenance fees, so you don’t need a huge checking or savings account balance to get this benefit.

No other card offers so much straight cash for travel earning potential off your spending across any category.

Transparency Score
TRANSPARENCY SCORE
  • There are no foreign transaction fees.
  • You need a big balance in Bank of America accounts to get the most out of the card.

Tip: Bank of America cards have the option to request a PIN that you can use for foreign purchases at places that don’t accept a signature.

LEARN MORE

3. Learn more

Are you ready to earn rewards with a credit card?

Rewards credit cards can be great, and earn you hundreds of dollars a year in savings, but they are still credit cards, with all the dangers that come with them.

 

Answer these questions

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you’re not ready for a rewards credit card.

  • Are you unsure if you’ll be able to pay your balance in full every single month?
  • Do you plan to do a balance transfer to your card?
  • Do you sometimes make late payments?
  • Do you tend to max out your current credit limit, even if you pay it off?

 

Even if you can safely say ‘no’ to the questions, be aware that the lure of rewards can cause you to spend more than you otherwise would.

 

Credit card companies make money every time you spend on the card, so they want you to spend more. And the more you spend, the greater the chance you spend more than you can afford, which makes them even more money in interest payments.

 

How rewards work

This video explains how rewards work, and why banks offer them.

Cash back or miles for travel?

We don’t think most people should be messing with travel rewards.

Cash rewards cards are more generous than ever and choosing our favorite cash rewards cards will earn you 2% or better on your spending, which is hard to beat even with travel rewards.

You’ll get rewards you can use anywhere – to pay down bills, give a gift, or whatever you want – all with the same good value.

Travel rewards require extra effort, and they tend to penalize you if you use your rewards for something besides travel.

If you already travel twice a year or more, then travel rewards can sometimes offer you more rewards than straight cash back and you should read on.

We’ll cover cash back for travel, real airline miles, and a newer development, convertible points that can turn into real airline miles, but give you more flexibility.

 

Cash back for travel

Cards with cash rewards let you book travel with any airline or hotel, any time.

You don’t have to think about award rules or restrictions, but you get less value for your points if you try to use them for rewards that don’t involve travel, but you’re usually better off just earning straight cash rewards via a card like the Citi Double Cash.

Best for: People who want to keep it simple (but a regular cash rewards card Is usually better)

Pros

You can use the rewards for any travel. You can pay for travel with your card and use points to get credit back. No worrying about airline award seats or

There are lots of special category bonuses. If you’re really into maximizing things, cash rewards have the biggest array of extra points you can earn from special categories like grocery, gas, or dining spending. We keep a full list of them here.

Usually no annual fee. Cash rewards cards mostly have no annual fee to worry about.

Cons

They don’t have the biggest intro bonuses. The very biggest introductory offers are typically reserved for cards that earn airline miles or other travel rewards.

Expensive tickets aren’t as good a deal. If you spend a lot and can earn a lot of airline miles, you can save a lot on tickets that are expensive in cash, like big international trips or first class tickets.

 

Real airline miles

These are cards that earn miles directly into your account with one airline, like a Delta SkyMiles American Express. They’re usually not the fastest way to earn miles, but they often come with other benefits like a free checked bag.

Our rule of thumb is you should only consider airline miles if you typically spend $2,000 or more in a month on a credit card, so you can earn enough miles for an award in a reasonable amount of time. Otherwise, stick with a cash back rewards card.

But spending $2,000 a month isn’t the only factor. You should also be able to answer YES to at least one of these three questions:

  1. Do you have 5,000 or more existing airline miles?
  1. Are you planning to fly in business or first class?
  1. Do you want to go to expensive destinations like Asia, Europe, Africa, South America, or Australia?

If you can answer YES to one of them, then airline miles are a good choice for getting the most out of your card spending.

Pros

They can get you luxurious flights. If you’re really flexible with dates and times, a good chunk of real airline miles can get you flights that would otherwise cost thousands of dollars in cash.

You can build on miles you earn from flying.

If you fly more than a few times a year, this can be really lucrative since the miles you earn from your credit card get to build on the ones you already have, getting you to an award ticket a lot faster than spending on a card that just earns regular cash rewards.

They have big intro bonuses

Often, the most generous deals that offer you a bonus to open a new account are on cards that offer travel rewards, rather than regular cash rewards. That’s because travel rewards are more restricted, and not appealing to everyone.

Cons

If you don’t have a big balance, they can be hard to use. To get the most out of airline miles, you really need to pay attention to things like what airline partners you can use with which miles, where to search for award seats, and how many miles is a ‘good’ price to pay.

They can expire. Many airline miles expire after a year or so if you leave your account dormant. It’s easy to avoid it by earning or spending just one mile, but a lot of people forget and end up losing their miles, so unless you’re willing to make them a habit, stay away from regular airline miles.

You need a lot of them to get a good value award. Here’s how much you can expect to pay for flights with miles:

  • 25,000 – 50,000 miles: domestic roundtrip ticket in Economy class (typical value: $300 – $1,000)
  • 50,000 – 100,000 miles: domestic roundtrip ticket in First Class (typical value: $500 – $1,500)
  • 60,000 – 100,000 miles: international roundtrip ticket in Economy Class (typical value: $800 – $1,500)
  • 100,000 – 200,000 miles: international roundtrip ticket in Business Class (typical value: $2,500 – $5,000)

That’s a lot of miles. And if you’re just sticking to one credit card, don’t fly much, and

They have annual fees. Most cards that can earn you real airline miles carry a hefty annual fee, which isn’t worth it if you don’t travel much.

You’re locked into one program. Miles you earn via a traditional airline miles card are stuck in that one program, so if the airline suddenly raises prices or changes rules you’re stuck. Instead, consider convertible points (below) which we prefer over plain airline miles.

 

Convertible points

These are the newest kind of rewards on the block, and cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred earn points you can convert into real airline miles with certain airlines anytime.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred will let you convert points into miles with United MileagePlus and Southwest RapidRewards, so you’re not locked into just one airline program.

Best for: People who want to take advantage of real airline miles, but want extra flexibility

Pros

You get all the advantages of airline miles. With convertible points like Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards, you can turn your points into real airline miles with several airline programs at any time. The catch is once you turn points into real airline miles, you can’t convert them back.

You’re not stuck with one airline. Convertible points cards let you turn points into real airline miles with several participating airlines, so you have even more options than a traditional airline miles card.

You get some of the cash rewards benefits. Points from convertible points cards can be used for a lot of things besides travel, like gift cards, merchandise, and sometimes statement credit, though your points tend to go much further using them for travel.

Cons

Cash rewards aren’t as generous. If you don’t have a need for airline miles at all, don’t go for a convertible points card. Stick to a straight up cash rewards card and your points will stretch further. Convertible points cards tend to be less generous for straight cash rewards because they use the savings there to help fund the cost of being able to convert your points into real airline miles.

There are usually annual fees. You’ll generally have to pay an annual fee to get a card that earns convertible points. The Amex Everyday card is a notable exception. So again, only use these cards if you can answer “yes” to the 3 questions you should ask before earning airline miles with a credit card.

 

Questions and Answers

With most cash rewards credit cards, your rewards won’t expire as long as you keep your account open. But some like the Citi Double Cash require you to either earn or use rewards at least once every so often. For the Citi Double Cash that’s once every 12 months.

With cash rewards, you may lose all of your unused rewards if you close your account, so make sure you use them before closing. With travel rewards, miles you hold in an airline program aren’t affected if you close your credit card account, but they will be subject to whatever expiration rule the airline has.

No – you can earn rewards, even if you pay off your entire balance each month before it’s due.

Most cash rewards cards have no annual fee. But if you have an annual fee card, and don’t want to pay the fee, you can sometimes ask your bank to ‘downgrade’ you to a version with no fee. It might earn fewer rewards, but you can avoid the hassle of closing your account altogether.

Many cards won’t give you the rewards from your spending in months where you are late on your payment, so always make your payments on time with a rewards card.

Usually mortgage servicers and other loan providers don’t accept credit card payments. Some companies will make payments on your behalf with a credit card, but you’ll be charged a fee, and often that fee is more than the rewards are worth.

Most cards don’t offer rewards for ‘cash equivalent’ transactions like using a cash advance. Some will offer you rewards for completing a balance transfer, but you’re likely to get hit with fees or a less favorable deal than if you use a good card designed for balance transfers..

If you have cash rewards, just send the cash to whomever you want. If you have travel rewards, many cards will let you combine your points with your spouse or domestic partner. Otherwise, you can just book tickets for someone else using your points if you want to make a gift. Airline miles usually can’t be shared with other people unless you want to pay a fee.

You shouldn’t be carrying a balance month to month on rewards cards, because the interest rates on them is sometimes higher than on cards with no rewards. But if you do end up carrying a balance over from one month to another, your rewards won’t disappear as long a you make your payment on time.

5% cards are designed to catch people who aren’t paying attention. So if your card has an enrollment requirement to earn 5% each quarter, and you miss it, you’ll be out of luck for earning 5%.

Yes, many cash rewards cards offer rewards in the form of statement credit, and that reduces the balance you need to pay on your account.

Some cards require you keep your account open for a certain number of months, or else you will lose any sign on bonus you earned. It’s usually best to keep a card open for about a year or more.

Usually authorized users earn rewards in the same account as the primary user.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at nick@magnifymoney.com

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

Earning Cashback, Reviews

Is the Amazon Rewards Visa Card or Amazon Prime Store Card Better for Your Amazon Purchases?

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.

Review - Amazon Rewards Visa Card or Amazon Prime Store

For loyal Amazon shoppers, a credit card that will give you money back for spending only makes sense. There are now three options:

  • New: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card (from Chase) – 5% back, and our top choice
  • Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card (also from Chase) – 3% back
  • Amazon Prime Store Card (from Synchrony, can only be used at Amazon) – 5% back

The good news: if you are an Amazon Prime member, it is easy to get 5% cash back from all of your Amazon spending all year long. And if you spend a lot of money at Amazon, the savings can be significant.

Note: The information related to the Amazon Prime and Rewards Visa Credit Cards has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

5% at Amazon: The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Card 

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Card
With this credit card, you get 5% back at Amazon.com with an eligible Prime membership.

You also earn 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drug stores. And you will earn 1% back on everything else.

There is no annual fee, no earning caps and no foreign transaction fees.

How the points work

When you use your card, you will actually be earning points.

You would earn 5 points for every $1 you spend at Amazon.com, 2 points for every $1 spent at restaurants, gas stations and drug stores and 1 point for every $1 spent everywhere else.

You can choose to redeem those points at Amazon (during checkout) or through Chase.

When you check out at Amazon, you will see your point balance and would be able to apply those points to your purchase. Every 100 points = $1.

But you can also redeem those points through Chase and get cash back, gift cards or travel. If you want cash back or gift cards, the value is the same as using the points at Amazon to shop. Every 100 points = $1.

There is also a lucrative sign-on bonus of $70. You will receive a $70 Amazon.com gift card instantly upon approval. Unlike many other sign-on bonuses, you do not have to spend a certain amount of money in order to get the offer.

If you are already enjoying the benefits of Amazon Prime, this card is an obvious choice.

But if you are thinking about Amazon Prime, this card is a great way to try it out.

If you spend $99 for Amazon Prime membership and then apply for this card, you will immediately get $70 of it back in the form of an Amazon gift card. You can learn more about the card at Amazon.

3% at Amazon: Amazon Rewards Visa Card

Amazon.com Rewards Visa Card from Chase Bank
You can also get 2% back at gas stations, drugstores and restaurants. On other purchases you get 1% back. So everything is the same as the Prime Rewards card, except you earn only 3% at Amazon instead of 5%.

Just like the Prime Rewards credit card, cash back is tracked with a point system. 1 point equals $0.01. For example, if you spend $100 on Amazon.com, you’ll get $3 in cash back, which equals 300 points. You can trade in points for statement credit, travel or gift cards. Points never expire unless your account is closed and there’s no rewards cap.

The card doesn’t have an introductory deal. As a rule of thumb, you should avoid transferring a balance to a card you want to use for rewards. This card has an exceptionally high balance transfer fee (5%) and no introductory deal; two major red flags for a balance transfer.

For a sign on bonus, the card gives a $50 Amazon.com gift card loaded to your Amazon.com account once your application goes through. The Amazon.com Rewards Visa Card has no annual fee and you can learn more here.

5% at Amazon: Amazon Prime Store Card

Amazon Prime Store Card
The card can be used on Amazon.com and on other merchant sites that have the Amazon Prime Store Card option activated for payment. However, the card can’t be used to buy digital newspapers and magazines, games or software downloads on Amazon.com.

You can redeem cash back for statement credit until instructed otherwise. In the fine print, Amazon reserves the right to change the cash back program into a rewards program where you redeem points for products instead.

If you end your Amazon Prime Membership, your Amazon Prime Store Card will become a regular Amazon Store Card that doesn’t earn 5% cash back. There’s no annual fee on the card, but Prime membership does cost $99 per year.

Pros and Cons

Amazon.com Rewards Visa Cards

Pro: Multiple bonus categories. Sure, you shop on Amazon.com, but you probably shop elsewhere too. With this card you’ll get an extra bonus for shopping online plus cash back in other areas that fulfill everyday needs like filling up your gas tank. You also have flexibility to redeem cash back in multiple ways.

Pro: No annual fee. Earning cash back from each category is free, no annual fee.

Pro: A sign on bonus. When you get approved you’ll get either a $70 (Prime Rewards) or $50 (Rewards) gift card right away you can use to shop.

Pro: 3% or 5% cash back when you pay for Amazon Prime Membership. Amazon Prime Membership comes with free two-day shipping and unlimited TV and movie screening with Prime Video. What devoted Amazon shopper doesn’t want that? An added benefit with this card is double-dipping. You get the Prime perks and cash back for paying for them.

Pro: High cash back for Prime members. If you’re a Prime member, you can get 5% cash back. You likely won’t be able to beat that rate.

Con: No intro APR. Since most credit cards have some type of introductory interest rate, a card that doesn’t have one stands out. You’ll need to pay off the balance each month starting from the very beginning to benefit from rewards earned.

Con: Tougher approval. You may need better credit to get these cards from Chase than the Amazon Store Card from Synchrony, which has a much higher interest rate.

Amazon Prime Store Card

Pro: 5% cash back. This is a huge amount of cash back for faithful Amazon shoppers. You’ll get rewarded handsomely for spending. And the redemption process is easy; your cash back is used for statement credit. One thing to keep in mind is it may take up to two billing cycles for the money to appear on your account.

Pro: Easier approval. This is a store card limited to Amazon purchases, so you might find it easier to get approved for this card with less than perfect credit.

Pro: No annual fee. The Amazon Prime Store Card doesn’t have an annual fee.

Con: A very high APR for everyone: This card charges a 26.24% APR for everyone, regardless of credit score. Yes, even an 850 FICO would still get you a horrible 26.24% interest rate. Never borrow with this card.

Con: Fine print. The fact that you can’t use this card for software downloads on Amazon sticks out as a negative. Amazon sells software downloads including TurboTax, QuickBooks and Norton Security. These products aren’t cheap and purchases you would want to get 5% cash back on.

Con: Requires Amazon Prime Membership. To use this card you have to be an Amazon Prime Member so in some respects there is a fee involved even though it’s not an annual fee specifically for the card. Amazon Prime Membership costs $99 per year. If you’re not already a member and want to become one for the card, you must spend enough to pay for membership.

Con: Exclusive to Amazon. A gift and a curse. You’ll have to follow up with another card for cash back on other things like groceries, gas, dining or travel.

Other Cards for Amazon Spending

Chase Freedom is another excellent option.

With the Freedom, you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. In the past, Amazon has been included as one of the 5% categories, typically around the holidays. 

Discover it® - 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer
gives you the chance to earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter.

You’ll get 5% back in categories like gas stations, restaurants, Amazon.com, wholesale clubs and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.

From January until March 2017, the bonus categories are gas stations, ground transportation and wholesale clubs

All other purchases get an unlimited 1% cash back. You can redeem cash back for gifts cards, statement credits, charitable donations, deposits to an account or merchandise.

Which Card Should You Choose?

The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa is a good one to consider if you already have an Amazon Prime account. It’s not worth getting an Amazon Prime account just to get this card unless you plan on spending big in the future on the site. If you spend moderately throughout the year, the basic Amazon.com Rewards Visa Card is a better choice between the two. You’ll get rewarded for more diverse spending in addition to your online shopping.

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

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

TAGS: ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Best of, Earning Cashback

7 Best Cash Back Credit Cards for Dining Out in 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.

food_lg

Updated July 5, 2017

Getting a deal at your favorite restaurant doesn’t have to be restricted to happy hour or an early bird special. Thanks to certain credit cards rewarding restaurant spending, foodies can enjoy a good meal while cashing in on cash back anytime.

Even better, rewards earned can be redeemed for cash value so that you can enjoy your bonuses however you like- whether that’s with more restaurant spending, traveling the world, or simply paying off your every day expenses

After scouring our database of some 2,000 credit cards, here are Magnify Money’s top picks for best restaurant cash back rewards cards in 2017. 

Unlimited Cash Back 

Chase AARP Visa – 3% Cash Back

AARP Credit Card from Chase Bank

Get 3 percent cash back on all restaurant purchases with the Chase AARP Visa. While you must be 50 or over to enjoy most benefits of AARP membership, this cash back card is available to anyone who meets the credit score and qualification criteria (age not being one of them). The 3 percent cash back bonus applies to gas as well as restaurant spending, with all other purchases earning 1 percent cash back. There are no cash back limits and is no annual fee, so this card tops the list when it comes to restaurant rewards.

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.

Sam’s Club Mastercard – 3% Cash Back

Sams Club MasterCard

You get (almost) unlimited 3% dining cash back with the Sam’s Club Mastercard. The catch is you can earn a maximum of $5,000 in cash back rewards a year, but that’s a huge amount. You’d have to spend over $160,000 on the card in a year to hit that cap, so it’s unlikely you’ll need to worry about the maximum.

The card also earns 3% cash back on travel and 5% cash back on gas, though that’s capped on the first $6,000 in gas purchases a year. And while there’s no annual fee for the card, you do need to be a Sam’s Club member to hold the card.

Costco Anywhere Visa – 3% Cash back

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card from Citi

Like the Sam’s Club card, you can get a full 3% cash back on restaurant purchases with the Costco Anywhere Visa. The card also earns 3% back on travel purchases, 2% on Costco purchases, and 4% on gas for the first $7,000 in purchases a year.

There’s no annual fee for the card, but you need to be a Costco member to hold the card, so if you don’t have a membership already, you’ll be paying extra to get this card.

Cash Back with Limits

Huntington Voice Credit Card – 3% Cash Back

Huntington Voice Credit Card

You can earn 3 percent cash back, up to $2,000 every quarter, on a spending category of your choice with the Huntington Voice Credit Card. If you know you want indulge in dining out next quarter, just select “restaurants” to activate your bonus cash back. You’ll still earn 1 percent cash back on all other spending and not have to worry about an annual fee.

SimplyCash Business Credit Card from American Express – 3% Cash Back

SimplyCash Business Credit Card from American Expres

Like the Huntington Voice card, the SimplyCash Business Credit Card allows users to choose their 3 percent cash back category. Additionally, card members get 5 percent cash back at office supply stores and wireless telephone service providers and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases. Bonus cash back is automatically credited to cardholder’s statements and capped at $25,000 annually. The card has no annual fee.

Santander Bravo MasterCard – 3% Cash Back

Santander Bravo MasterCard

Earn 3 points (up to 15,000 points per quarter) for every dollar spent on gas, groceries and restaurants and 1 point per dollar on all other spending with the Santander Bravo MasterCard. Points can be redeemed for airline tickets or gift cards. 10,000 points= $100 gift card, which means cash back bonus categories are capped at $5,000 worth of spending per quarter. This card comes with an annual fee of $49.

Quarterly Cash Back

Discover it® Cashback Match(TM)  – up to 5% Cash Back

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

You can earn 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories (on up to the quarterly maximum of $1,500 of spend, each time you activate). From July until September 2017, the bonus category is restaurants. You must opt in to receive the quarterly cash back bonus boost. All other purchases get 1% cash back. Earned cash back can then be redeemed as a statement credit, a deposit in your bank account, shopping on Amazon or even as a gift card to a large number of retailers. This card has no annual fee.

Chase Freedom

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. 

Earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. There is a $0 annual fee. 

Nusenda Cash Rewards – 5 % Cash Back

Cash Rewards Card from Nusenda CU

The New Mexico Educators Cash Rewards card is offered by Nusenda Credit Union (formerly the New Mexico Educators Credit Union) and provides 1 percent cash back on all purchases with no limit and 5 percent cash back on rotating categories each quarter, which includes restaurants from April to June and October to December of 2017. The bonus in rotating cash back categories is limited to $1,5000 in purchases per quarter. This card has no annual fee.

Are these deals the best for you?

Cash back rewards should only be pursued by responsible credit users who have no trouble paying off their balance on time and in full each and every month. If you’re a credit all-star who also has an affinity for dining out, these cash back cards will provide the best perks. If you carry a balance, check out our other picks for the best credit cards that can help you pay it down faster.

As always, check the fine print on each card before signing up, making special note of any fees. With those things in mind, decide which rewards structure best serves your typical spending activity and enjoy the benefit of cash back on all your restaurant spending.

promo-cashback-wide

Stefanie O
Stefanie O'Connell |

Stefanie O'Connell is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Stefanie at stefani@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: , , ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Best of, Earning Cashback

The Best Cash Back Credit Cards for Every Category – 3% and More in 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.

credit card and dollar close-up

MagnifyMoney keeps a database of over 2,000 credit cards and their features, including cash back cards you can compare with our tool. We used it to find the absolute highest cash back rewards you can earn in each category, more than the standard 1-2% you usually see.

If you’re ready for cash back there are over 25 categories where you can earn 3% or more in pure cash back on your credit card purchases.

Scroll down and you’ll find links to the best cash back credit cards we’ve found that earn more than 2% cash back in special categories. These are cards that let you get pure cash value, not complicated points that can be used only for travel.

Before you dig into categories, every cash rewards wallet should have one of these cards, with double cash back on everything you spend:

Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card
Citi®Double Cash Card

Once you have one of these, you can add other cards that earn more than 2% in special categories to really boost your cash rewards.

The best cash back credit cards with no limit rewards

Maybe you don’t want to mess with rotating categories or remembering limits on cash back. If that’s you, there are only a handful of cards that you need to carry to get the most in totally unlimited cash back.

As you’ll learn below, you may be leaving about $500 a year or more on the table by not holding at least some of these cards.

They are all no annual fee cards, and they ensure you will earn more than 2% cash back on your total spending with absolutely no limits. Some cards have higher cash back rates with limits, and you can see those below this list in our review of cards for each category

Airfare: PenFed Premium Travel Rewards – 4.25%

PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card

This card advertises 5x points on airfare, but there is a bit of a catch. When you redeem the points it earns for the closest thing to cash, a prepaid Visa card, your points are worth about 0.8 cents each, so that 5x points is really about 4.25% cash back on your airfare spending.

Travel: AAA Member Rewards Visa – 3%

AAA Member Rewards Card from Bank Of America

While the PenFed Premium Travel Rewards wins for airfare spending, the AAA Member Rewards Visa offers 3% back on airfare, plus  all kinds of travel, including hotels, car rentals, and cruises. You don’t have to be a AAA member to get the card.

Supermarkets: PenFed Platinum Rewards – 2.55%

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature®Card

The card earns 3x points on supermarkets, but the points are worth about 0.85 cents each when you redeem them for a prepaid Visa gift card, so the real unlimited cash back rate is about 2.55%.

If you spend less than $6,000 a year ($500 a month) on groceries, then the Amex Blue Cash Preferred offers 6% back on the first $6,000 each year. The $95 annual fee on this card is a better deal vs the PenFed Card if you spend about $3,000 a year in groceries (about $250 a month).

Note that if you live in California, you may earn 3% unlimited cash back on groceries with the Platinum Rewards card from Golden 1 Credit Union.

Gas: Fort Knox Credit Union Platinum Visa – 5%

Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

You might not have heard of this credit union, but anyone can join. You just need to pay $5 to join the American Consumer Council / Kentucky and you’re eligible.

The Sam’s Club MasterCard also offers 5% at the pump on up to $6,000 worth of gas purchases a year at any gas station, plus 3% on travel and dining, but you need to be a Sam’s Club member to hold the card.

Dining: Chase AARP Visa – 3%

AARP Credit Card from Chase Bank

You don’t have to be 55+ to hold this card, it’s available to anyone who is interested and meets the credit standards. So you can enjoy your ‘senior discount’ on dining any time. Capital One also offers a Premier Dining Rewards card with 3% back on dining and 2% on groceries.

(The information related to the AARP Visa and Chase Ink Cash Business credit cards has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of these cards.)

Everything else: Citi Double Cash (up to  1% + 1%) or Fidelity Investment Rewards Visa (2%) 

If you’re willing to pay an annual fee, the Alliant Visa Signature card earns 2.5% cash back unlimited. The $59 fee is worthwhile if you spend over $1,000 a month on the card. Alliant is targeting this card to people with high income who spend $10,000 or more a month, so it might be tough to get approved.

If you have a military affiliation, USAA offers some members the USAA Limitless cash back card, with 2.5% unlimited cash back if you make $1,000 a month in direct deposits to USAA. This card is only targeted to select members, so you won’t see it advertised on their website and no guarantees you will be offered the card.

Or if you live in California, the JCB Marukai Premium card gives you 3% cash back on all purchases beyond $3,000 in yearly spending.

Just mark each of the cards you pick in your wallet with a sticker for each category so you remember which to use, and you’ll rack up lots of cash with minimal hassle. And afraid to have more than one card? Well if you’re responsible with credit, a few additional inquiries might have less of an impact than you think. See our experience with scores and getting several cards for the rewards.

For unlimited retailer-specific discounts, also consider:

If you want to maximize absolutely everything, read on…

We’ve organized cash back cards for each of the over 25 spending categories that are currently eligible for more than 2% in cash back rewards.

They include both year round and quarterly rotating categories like those on the Discover It. Pick the categories that matter most to you, and you’ll see the opportunities you have to earn 3-5% if you’re willing to keep track of some limits and quarterly changes.

Remember, these are all cards that let you earn cash value rewards, with no restriction on where you spend the rewards, unlike travel points.

You’ll find three flavors of cash back rewards, in the order of hassle factor:

  • Unlimited cash back – This is the simplest form. You usually won’t find the very highest 5%+ rewards this way, but we’ve found some great cards that get you 3% or more in some popular categories.
  • Cash back with limits – This is where a card limits the cash back you earn by putting a cap on the spending which earns the cash back in the specific category, on a combination of categories, or the card as a whole.
  • Quarterly rotating categories – These are the cards with the big headline 5% rates. Don’t be fooled. While you can earn the 5% rate, you may have to opt in to categories each quarter manually and be hit with caps on how much you can earn.

Advertising Services

With Limits

3%: SimplyCash Business Credit Card from American Express – up to $25,000 in purchases in bonus categories

Airfare

Unlimited

With limits

  • 3% – Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: Nusenda Cash Rewards – Oct – Dec – up to $1,500 – Anyone can join the Nusenda Credit Union (formerly the New Mexico Educators Credit Union) by becoming a member of the La Montanita Food Co-op.

Amazon.com

Unlimited

5% Quarterly Category in 2017

  • 5%: Discover it – up to $1,500 – dates to be determined

Book stores

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose

Car Rentals

Unlimited

With limits

Cell phone

With limits

Cable / Satellite / Landline Phone / Internet

Clothing Stores

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Commuting, Taxis

Unlimited

Quarterly category in 2017

Department Stores

Unlimited

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: Citi Dividend – October – December – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)

Discount stores

  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Drug stores

With limits

Education

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: Nusenda Cash Rewards – July – Sept – up to $1,500 – Anyone can join the Nusenda Credit Union (formerly the New Mexico Educators Credit Union) by becoming a member of the La Montanita Food Co-op.

Electronics

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: (Best Buy only) Citi Dividend – October – December – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)

Furniture

With Limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose

Quarterly Category in 2017

  • 5%: Citi Dividend – January – March – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)

Gas

Unlimited

With limits

Quarterly category in 2017

Grocery Stores

Unlimited

With limits

Quarterly category in 2017

Gyms

With Limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose

Home improvement

No limits

With limits

  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: Nusenda Cash Rewards – April – June – up to $1,500
  • 5%: (Home Depot only) Citi Dividend – January – March – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)
  • 5%: Discover it – up to $1,500 – July – September

Hotels

Unlimited

With limits

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5% – New Mexico Educators Cash Rewards – Oct – Dec – up to $1,500
  • 5%: (Hilton Hotels only) Citi Dividend – July – September – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)

Movie Theaters

With Limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose

Quarterly category in 2017

Office Supply Stores

With limits

Online Retail

Unlimited

Restaurants

Unlimited

With Limits

Quarterly category in 2017

Shipping

Sports

With limits

Target

Unlimited

Trains, Cruises, Other Vacation

Unlimited

With limits

Utilities

  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Walmart

  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Warehouse Clubs

 

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at nick@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: , ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Best of, Earning Cashback

10 Best 5% Cash Back Credit Cards for 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 only need to have earned $20 (or 2,000 points) in order to redeem your reward. 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>

LEARN MORE Secured

on Chase’s secure website

Discover it: The Original 5% Cash Back Card

How it works: With the Discover it 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: TBA.

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>

LEARN MORE Secured

on Discover’s secure website

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 from a list of categories you can choose from, 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

LEARN MORE Secured

on Target’s secure website

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

LEARN MORE Secured

on Fort Knox Federal’s secure website

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 supermarkets excluding superstores and warehouses up to $6,000 per year. You also earn 3% cash back at gas stations and select 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 $150 cash back.

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

The Fine Print: This card is the only one to make our list with an annual fee which is currently $75. In August, the fee will bump up to $95 per year. If you get your application approved before the fee increases, you need to spend a little more than $100 per month on groceries for the fee and cash back earnings to break even. Once the fee goes up to $95 per year, you need to spend about $132 per month on the card to break even.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

LEARN MORE Secured

on American Express’s secure website

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

TAGS: ,