Banks are able to give customers credit card rewards thanks to interchange fees. Typically, banks charge merchants a two percent interchange fee for the convenience of swiping a credit card. Then the banks incentivize customers to apply for and use a card by offering some of that interchange fee in the form of a reward.
Knowing this, we often caution people to be wary of cash back rewards over two percent. So when you see a deal for 5% cash back – your bogus radar should go off. Sure, you might receive 5% for a quarter, but there is often lots of red tape, earning limits and categories that don’t even apply to your spending habits. If you aren’t doing home improvement work, how often are you really going to Home Depot?
But there is a catch: you have to have a Fidelity account if you want the full 2% back.
The cash back goes into an eligible Fidelity account, which could be a brokerage account, a cash management account, a retirement account or a Fidelity-managed 529 account, and you can set up the account to automatically deposit the rewards each month you reach 5,000 points worth of rewards (the minimum you can redeem).
Any other way of using your rewards like statement credit, gift cards, or travel won’t guarantee you the full 2% rewards rate that depositing rewards into your Fidelity account offers.
The good news is you don’t need any money at all to open the account. Fidelity’s ‘cash management‘ account is basically a no fee checking account where your cash back rewards can be deposited, though you’ll get better rates from a good online savings account.
People have various strategies for their credit cards, so see if your style is below and whether this card is right for you.
One is enough: If you’re overwhelmed at the prospect of having too many credit cards in your wallet, then this credit card is hard to be beat. You won’t consistently earn higher than 2% cash back with any other card.
Bonus game: If you’re a rewards seeker dedicated to finding the best sign-on bonus, then this card is going to disappoint you. There is no bonus to sign up, though a prior version of the card that was an American Express offered $50 if you spend $500 in the first 60 days.
Bring on the categories: Some people actually like gaming the category system to maximize their spending habits. Perhaps you carry one card for gas, another for groceries and a third for travel. Odds are all these cards only get 1% cash back in non-category spending, so you might as well add Fidelity Investment Rewards to your line-up for all other purchases.
When Fidelity would lose to Citi Double Cash back:
You have to have a Fidelity account for 2%: This may be a deal breaker for some people who don’t want to take the time to set up a new account. You could simply set up a cash management account and then consistently transfer your cash back over to another bank account, but that also takes an extra step.
This is managed by US Bank: While Apple Pay and other modern features are available, US Bank isn’t known for having the best online interface for customers. Citi isn’t perfect either, but If all you want is 2% back and have no loyalty to Fidelity, you might prefer the Citi website and Citi Double Cash.
Stricter approval: Fidelity has historically considered total assets under management in their underwriting, so if you’re not already a Fidelity customer, you may not see the same credit line you could receive from Citi. Additionally, US Bank pulls your scores from two lesser known credit bureaus (SageStream, formerly known as IDA, and Advance Resolution Services, “ARS”) which may have a different history for you than the major bureaus. Citi typically uses one of the major bureaus that’s easy to keep track of. Our sense is you’ll likely be rejected with a credit score under 700, but you could have a chance with Citi.
Automatic redemption: You can link your Fidelity account so that every month that you rewards balance reaches 5,000 points or more ($50 in rewards), the rewards are automatically deposited.
As with all financial products, you need to pay close attention to the fine print. We do like that this card offers 2% cash back with no hoops to jump through and no rotating categories. There is also no annual fee and foreign transactions have a 1% fee.
However, there are a few things to look out for.
You have to be a Fidelity customer or open a Fidelity account in order to be eligible for this card.
The interest rate for cash advances is much higher than that for purchases, but you really shouldn’t be using this card if you’re carrying a balance
Your credit line might be based in part on investable assets – so if you don’t have anything invested with Fidelity, you may receive a lower credit line.
Don’t expect 2% forever: Fidelity is committed for now to 2% based on its recent switch from American Express to Visa, but we wouldn’t be surprised if in a few years the cash back level is reduced or just reduced for those without assets under management. But right now, it’s a good deal. You can always search for another 2% cash back card, if and when Fidelity changes the rules.
We’re fans of this card for offering 2% cash back, but it may not be the best fit for you unless you’re an existing Fidelity customer. Those with 401(k)s, IRAs or other accounts already linked to Fidelity could help fund their futures with this cash back card.
Credit card reward programs come in so many varieties that it can be difficult find the best cards for your spending habits. A basic, flat-rate card that earns you a certain percentage cash back on all purchases is probably the simplest bet out there. Typically, rates range from 1-2%. Not shabby, especially if you use that card exclusively. But it’s not exactly something to call home about either.
There are even better cash back rewards offerings out there, some as high as 5%. But with these high rewards cards, there’s almost always a catch. Most of the cards don’t offer 5% cash back across the board. Every few months, they pick a few select shopping categories that can earn 5% cash back. Once those few months are up, the categories change. For example, a card could offer 5% cash back on groceries, gas and airfare from January to March, then switch those categories to whole sale stores, restaurants and gyms from April to June.
Additionally, there are sometimes caps on how much of your spending can qualify for the 5% reward. So if the cap is $1,500, for example, everything past that amount won’t qualify.
The key to maximizing these great cash back card offers is to find the cards that offer cash back in categories you use the most. We can help there.
We dug around and found 10 cards that offer at least 5% cash back in the three most common spending categories: gas, groceries and entertainment.
Chase Freedom®: Access to a Special Option 5% Category
How it works: The Chase Freedom® card offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. This translates to a maximum return of $75 per quarter on the 5% bonus category. You earn an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases outside of the bonus categories. You can also earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
The 5% category changes every quarter.
Another area where the Chase Freedom shines is in how it allows customers to redeem their rewards. The cash you’ve earned converts into Ultimate Rewards points. Every $1 equals 100 points. You can easily use the cash and apply it to your monthly statement. Or you can convert them into points and use them on travel, gift cards, merchandise, and other services through the Chase Freedom® rewards dashboard.
They make it super simple to redeem points on the go through the Chase Freedom® Mobile app. While you’re shopping, you can pick the merchant from the list on of eligible merchants on your app (popular ones include Nike, Regal Cinemas, Lowe’s, Starbucks and Best Buy). Then tell the app how much cash you want to use. You’ll get a custom e-gift card that you can present at checkout to pay for your purchases.
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.
Discover it® Cashback Match™: The Original 5% Cash Back Card
How it works: With the Discover it® Cashback Match™ you can earn 5% cash back in rotating categories on up to the quarterly maximum ($1,500 of spend). You need to activate every quarter to get the 5% cash back rate. All other purchases get 1% cash back.
Earn 5% cash back in these categories through the end of 2017:
January to March: Gas stations, ground transportation, and wholesale clubs.
April to June: Home improvement stores and wholesale clubs.
July to September: Restaurants.
October to December: Amazon.com and Target
Using your rewards: Cash back from the Discover it® Cashback Match™ 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: As an Intro Offer, Discover will match ALL the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically..
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:
The categories for 5% cash back up to $2,000 (choose two each quarter) are:
Select clothing stores
Gyms and fitness centers
Fast food restaurants
Sporting goods stores
Using your rewards: You can redeem cash back for gift cards, statement credit or a deposit into a U.S. Bank Savings, Checking or Money Market account. The first time you redeem $100 in cash back in a single transaction, you get a $25 Cash+ Bonus.
The Fine Print: Same opt-in revolving category spiel applies here except you must also remember to choose your categories. There is no annual fee. The U.S. Bank Cash+ is another good example of a card you may want to couple with another that gives you higher cash back for necessities i.e. groceries. But, for diverse spenders who can benefit from the 5% category options, the U.S. Bank Cash+ is worth considering.
SimplyCash Plus Business Card from Amex: Ideal for Typical Business Expenses
How it works: The SimplyCash Plus Business Card gives 5% cash back on office supply and wireless telephone provider services. You also get 3% cash back on the category of your choice from a list of eight, including:
Airfare purchased directly from airlines
Hotel rooms purchased directly from hotels
Car rentals purchased from select car rental companies
U.S. gas stations
U.S. 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 Rewards Visa Signature Card: 5% Cash Back for the Amazon Prime Enthusiast
How it works: The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature 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 Rewards Visa Signature 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 $1,980 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
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.
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.
Blue Cash Preferred from Amex: 6% Cash Back for the Heavy Grocery Shopper
How it works: The Blue Cash Preferred® is our top pick for cardholders that want to maximize cash back on groceries. With this card, you get 6% cash back at US supermarkets excluding superstores and warehouses up to $6,000 per year. You also earn 3% cash back at US gas stations and select US department stores and 1% cash back on everything else.
Bonus offer: In addition to the recurring cash back program, if you spend $1,000 within the first three months of signing up for the card you’ll get $200 cash back.
Using cash back: Cash back builds as Rewards Dollars you can redeem for statement credit in increments of $25.
The Fine Print: There is an annual fee of $95 per year.
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.
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.
Shopping for groceries can be a painful experience. There are numerous aisles, thousands of items and long checkout lines to contend with. Then there’s one more blow: watching the dollars add up at the register.
But signing up for a solid cashback credit card can be a good way to earn a percentage of your grocery purchases back and take some of the sting out of that shopping trip.
Here are the best cashback cards for grocery shopping.
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
$0 For First Year
3% at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 2% at U.S. gas stations & select U.S. department stores, 1% on other purchases
The Blue Cash Everyday® Card, offers 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) with no annual fee. This is a great rate for habitual shoppers so long as you spend up to $3,167 a year at supermarkets. If you spend more than that, then you might be better off with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, which comes with an annual fee but higher cashback potential.
In addition to a high cash back rate on groceries, you earn 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, and 1% on other purchases. The Welcome Offer of a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 within the first three months is a good way to maximize your rewards.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
$95 For First Year
6% at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 3% at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, 1% on other purchases
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card offers the highest cashback rate for big grocery spenders — 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). This card does come with a $95 annual fee and you need to spend $1,584 a year on groceries to break even. If you spend $3,167 a year ($264 a month) or more on groceries you will benefit from this card more than the Blue Cash Everyday® Card. You’ll also earn a high 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores and 1% back on other purchases. There’s an added bonus of a $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases within the first three months.
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card
$0 For First Year
1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter
The Bank of America® Cash Rewards card offers a decent cashback rate for groceries, however it is lower than what you’ll find with competing cards. You’ll earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter. All other spending will earn 1%. There is no annual fee and you can redeem your cash back directly into a Bank of America checking or saving account for a 10% bonus. People who will benefit most from this card are those who are Bank of America Preferred Rewards clients. As a Preferred Rewards client, you could increase your bonus to 25-75%, making your grocery cash back an effective 2.5-3.5%. If you apply online and spend $500 in the first 90 days, you also receive a $150 online cash rewards bonus.
Huntington Voice Credit Card®
$0 For First Year
3X points in one of 13 categories (capped at $2,000 each quarter or 6000 points), and all other purchases earn 1X points
The Huntington Voice Credit Card® has no annual fee and earns you 3X points in one of 13 categories. Simply choose to earn 3X points at grocery stores once you open your account. The rewards you earn at the 3X rate are capped at $2,000 each quarter or 6000 points, with all other purchases earning 1X points. You also have the freedom to change your 3X category every quarter to suit your spending. But be aware that if you switch from grocery stores to another category, you’ll only earn 1X points on grocery spending.
Which card is the right fit for me?
With numerous credit cards available to help maximize your grocery rewards, it can be confusing to know which to choose. Some cards provide unlimited rewards at a high rate, while most have caps on grocery spending.
The table below breaks down which grocery card may be a good fit for you when factoring in annual grocery spending, cashback rate and annual fee. (Sign-on bonuses are not reflected.) Keep in mind: This only factors in spending on grocery purchases and doesn’t consider if you
spend in other categories or at the other cashback rates.
Here are a few key takeaways:
If you spend about $3,000 a year on groceries, you will benefit more from the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express or the Huntington Voice Credit Card®.
If you spend more than $4,000 a year, you will benefit more from the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express.
The Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card earns you subpar cash back unless you have $100,000 in a Bank of America checking or savings account.
Huntington Voice Credit Card®
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card: without BofA checking/
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card: with $100,000 in BofA checking/
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:
Alliant Visa Signature Card (2.5% cash back, no limits, $59 annual fee after the first year – good if you spend $1,000 or more a month)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This card earns 4% back on dining purchases which includes restaurants, takeout, bars and UberEATS. You will also earn 3% back on hotels and airfare, including vacation home rentals, 2% back for online purchases including Uber, web shopping, video and music streaming services; and 1% on all other purchases.
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.
Do you normally use your credit card for making every day purchases? Can you manage your money responsibly and pay off your balance in full every month? If so, you should be using a rewards credit card to take advantage of the free cash back and bonuses that are offered.
Many credit card companies are offering cash back rewards and sign-up bonuses these days. You can earn an equivalent of $400 or more just keeping to your regular spending. It’s essentially free money, as long as you use your credit card correctly.
Let’s take a look at how you can be a responsible consumer first, and then we’ll review the credit cards with the best cash back sign-on bonuses.
How to Be Responsible With Your Credit Card
Before we recommend credit cards with the best sign-on bonus, we want to make sure you understand exactly how rewards credit cards should and shouldn’t be used.
You shouldn’t try and take advantage of a rewards credit card by charging anything and everything to it. Yes, you acquire cash back or points based on your purchases, but you’re also acquiring debt if you charge more than you can afford.
You should use a rewards credit card exactly as you would use any other credit card (or your debit card). Only swipe for what you can afford to pay at the end of your billing cycle.
While many of these cards have 0% introductory APRs, after the introductory period is over, you’ll have high APRs (in the 14% – 24% range). If you carry a balance, any cash back you receive will be negated by the interest you’ll have to pay.
Only charge your necessary expenditures and stick to your budget. Don’t look for extra opportunities to pay more just for the sake of getting points.
You want to take advantage of credit card companies – not have it the other way around.
Best Cash Back Sign-On Bonuses
Now that you know how to use rewards cards, let’s review the best options out there.
Uber Visa Card
You have to spend $500 on purchases in the first 90 days to receive the $100 bonus.
There is no annual fee.
Earn 4% back on restaurants, takeout and bars, including UberEATS; 3% back on hotel and airfare, including vacation home rentals; 2% back for online purchases including Uber, online shopping, video and streaming music services; and 1% back for everything else.
Earn up to a $50 credit for online subscription services after you spend $5,000 or more on your card per year.
The variable APR is 15.99%, 21.74% or 24.74%.
There is no foreign transaction fee.
This card is not only great for its sign-up bonus requiring a low spend, but also for the great 4-3-2-1 rewards program.
You have to spend $3,000 in the first 3 months to receive the 20,000 bonus points
There’s an annual $45 fee, which is waived for the first year
You earn 3x the points at U.S. gas stations, 2x the points at U.S. restaurants, and 1x the points on all other net purchases
You can redeem points for travel, merchandise, cash back, gift cards, and more
Points can be redeemed for cash by applying them to your qualifying Wells Fargo account or requesting a paper check. Cash redemption options are available by phone and online in increments of $25 only.
You can get an additional annual bonus of 10%, 25%, or 50% on non-bonus rewards points if you have a qualifying consumer Wells Fargo Checking or Savings Account
There’s an introductory APR of 0% for the first 12 months on balance transfers and purchases, and after that, the variable APR ranges from 14.99% – 22.99%
There are no foreign currency conversion fees
There’s a late and returned payment fee up to $37
Up to $100 off qualifying air + hotel packages at destinations worldwide
This card is a great option if you’re already a customer with Wells Fargo because of the relationship bonus offered.
You have to spend $2,000 in the first 3 months for 20,000 points
Those 20,000 points are redeemable for travel, merchandise, gift cards, and more. These points are not redeemable for a cash equivalent
You earn 1.25 points per $1 spent, which can be redeemed for travel, merchandise, gift cards and more
The points to cash option allows members to use points to make a NEFCU Visa Signaure Elite Credit Card payment or a cash deposit to their NEFCU accounts. There is a $25 minimum per conversion.
Rates range from 11.99% – 17.99% APR on the Visa® Signature Elite Card
No annual fee
This card requires a membership to NEFCU, a credit union located on Long Island, NY. If you live, work, worship, attend school, or regularly conduct business in Nassau or Suffolk County, you’re eligible for membership. If a relative is already a member, he or she can sponsor you.
You have to spend $1,000 in the first 3 months to receive 20,000 bonus points (note this is an online only offer)
You can earn 5% cash back for every $1 you spend on groceries, gas, and drugstore net purchases for 6 months on up to $12,500 spent, plus 1% for every $1 spend on all other purchases
You can redeem points for travel, merchandise, cash back, gift cards, and more
Points can be redeemed for cash by applying them to your qualifying Wells Fargo account or requesting a paper check. Cash redemption options are available by phone and online in increments of $25 only.
There’s no annual fee
There’s a 0% introductory APR for the first 12 months on balance transfers and purchases. The variable APR then ranges from 18.15% – 26.99% based on your creditworthiness
There’s a late fee and returned check fee up to $37
The foreign exchange currency conversion fee is 3%
This is a good “every day” rewards card to carry with you. You’re automatically enrolled in the Wells Fargo Rewards Program when you get this card.
You need a Wells Fargo account to apply online, though you can also apply at a branch.
As you can see, some of these cards come with annual fees and introductory APRs that are great for the first year. However, some of the benefits might not be good enough to warrant keeping the card once that year is over.
Keep in mind that “credit card churning” – canceling your cards after the first year and applying for a new one – will have an effect on your credit score. It might not be huge, but it’s a good idea to avoid this practice if you’ll be making an important purchase in the near future (like buying a home).
Otherwise, take advantage of credit card companies and save money on travel, gift cards, and more. You should absolutely earn points on your regular purchases by spending with a rewards credit card.
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.
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 Card 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.
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 Card.
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%.
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.
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.
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 intro offer for new cardmembers, Discover will match ALL the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically.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 October until December of 2017, the bonus categories are Amazon.com and Target.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There is no annual fee with this card. The Uber Visa Card offers 4% back on dining purchases, including UberEATS. Then there’s 3% back on hotel and airfare, including vacation home rentals; 2% back for online purchases that run the gamut from Uber and web shopping to video and music streaming services; and 1% on everything else.
This rate is great for people who dine out, whether it’s through a restaurant, a bar, a takeout joint on the corner or UberEATS.
There is a great sign-up bonus: Spend $500 within 90 days from account opening to earn $100 in Uber credits. Also, you can earn up to a $50 credit for online subscription services after you spend $5,000 or more on your card per year.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 at US supermarkets (up to $6,000), 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® Card 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.
The information related to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® 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® Card’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 Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card 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.
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 Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, 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.
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.
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 Capital One® 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 Capital One® 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 Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card comes with a big introductory bonus offer that can save you hundreds on your next trip.
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.
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.
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 Card.
Best for: People who want to keep it simple (but a regular cash rewards card Is usually better)
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.
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:
Do you have 5,000 or more existing airline miles?
Are you planning to fly in business or first class?
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.
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.
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.
These are the newest kind of rewards on the block, and cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earn points you can convert into real airline miles with certain airlines anytime.
For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card 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
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.
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® credit 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.
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 Card require you to either earn or use rewards at least once every so often. For the Citi® Double Cash Card 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.
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.
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.
If you’re someone who frequently dines out, cashback credit cards that reward you for it are a great way to put money back in your pocket. Cashback cards for dining can earn you rewards for purchases made through restaurants, bars and takeout establishments. This is a great way for foodies to reap extra rewards just by doing what they love — eating!
We picked the following cards because they offer competitive cashback rates above 2% for dining-related purchases, as well as have low or no annual fees. As with most rewards credit cards, you may lose your cashback rewards if your account is not in good standing.
Uber Visa Card – 4% cash back
$0 For First Year
4% back on dining, 3% back on hotel and airfare, 2% back for online purchases, and 1% on everything else
The Uber Visa Card offers unlimited 4% back on dining purchases that will benefit the biggest foodies. Additionally, earn 3% back on hotels and airfare, including vacation home rentals; 2% back on online purchases that include Uber, online shopping and video and music streaming services; and 1% back on all other purchases. Dining purchases include those made at restaurants, fast-food restaurants, bars and UberEATS. Your rewards come in the form of points with a value of $0.01 per point (so 2,500 points can be redeemed for a $25 statement credit, for example). Another cool perk: There is a great sign-up bonus of 10,000 points (worth $100) if you spend $500 within the first 90 days of account opening. You can read our full review here.
Don’t be led astray by the name: This card isn’t limited to people over 50 — anyone can apply. The AARP® Credit Card from Chase offers 3% cash back at restaurants (including fast food) and gas station purchases, and all other purchases will earn 1%. There is a great sign-up bonus of $200 after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
The information related to the AARP® Credit Card from Chase has been collected by MagnifyMoney.com and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.
Sam’s Club Mastercard® – 3% cash back
$0 For First Year
5% cash back on gas (on first $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%), 3% on dining and travel, and 1% on other purchases
The Sam’s Club Mastercard® offers 3% cash back on restaurant purchases (excluding purchases at wholesale clubs other than Sam’s Club). You will also earn 5% cash back on gas (on the first $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%), 3% on travel and 1% on other purchases. From now until Dec. 31, you can receive a $45 statement credit if you open your card online and make a $45 purchase on Samsclub.com on the same day you open your account. However, you do need a Sam’s Club membership to apply, and current membership fees start at $45 per year.
Take note that you’re limited to earning a maximum of $5,000 in cashback rewards in a calendar year. Checks are issued each February for the cash back earned during the previous calendar year. You will lose any cash back you earned if you end your membership or let it lapse, or if you accumulate less than $5 cash back in a calendar year.
Costco Anywhere Visa® by Citi – 3% cash back
$0 For First Year
4% on eligible gas worldwide, including Costco (for the first $7,000 per year and then 1%), 3% on restaurant and eligible travel worldwide, 2% on all other purchases at Costco and Costco.com and 1% on everything else
The Costco Anywhere Visa® by Citi requires a Costco membership (currently, annual memberships start at $60) and offers 3% cash back on restaurant purchases, including at cafes, bars, lounges and fast-food restaurants. Take note that purchases made at bakeries and certain restaurants/cafes in department stores, groceries or warehouse clubs will only earn 1%. In addition, earn 4% on eligible gas worldwide, including Costco (for the first $7,000 per year and then 1%), 3% on eligible travel worldwide, 2% on all other purchases at Costco and Costco.com and 1% on everything else, including the nonqualifying purchases listed above.
Cash back comes as an annual credit card reward certificate in February billing statements, redeemable for cash or merchandise at U.S. Costco Warehouses. You must maintain your Costco membership to receive rewards, and you will also lose rewards if you accumulate less than $1 in cash back or if you don’t redeem them by the end of the year.
Capital One® SavorSM Cash Rewards Credit Card – 3% cash back
$0 For First Year
3% on dining, 2% on groceries, 1% on all other purchases
The Capital One® SavorSM Cash Rewards Credit Card enables you to earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, as well as 2% on groceries and 1% on all other purchases. Also, there is a one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. (The card website specifies that the one-time bonus is available by applying through the site, and may not be available if an applicant navigates away from the page. Also, the bonus may not be available for existing or previous accountholders.)
The Chase Freedom® card offers rotating bonus categories that earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter (then 1%). All other purchases will earn 1% cash back. This past July through September, the bonus category was restaurants. Through the rest of this year, October-December, is Walmart. You must activate the bonus category to earn at the higher rate. You can also earn a $150 bonus after you spend $500 within the first three months from account opening.
Cashback rewards should only be pursued by responsible credit users who have no trouble paying off their balance on time and in full every month. If you’re a credit all-star who also has an affinity for dining out, these cards will provide the best perks.
If you’re apt to carry a balance, check out our picks for the best credit cards that can help you pay down debt faster.
As always, check the fine print on each card before signing up, taking special note of any fees. With those things in mind, decide which rewards structure best serves your typical spending activity and enjoy the cashback benefits — and the good eats.
When I moved to the U.S. from my hometown, Hangzhou, an eastern Chinese city, in 2012 to pursue my undergraduate degree, the thought of establishing a credit history wasn’t even on my radar. I was, after all, an international student from China, where day-to-day credit card use has only recently caught on.
It wasn’t until I returned to the U.S. a few years later to pursue my master’s in Chicago that I realized I’d need to establish credit if I planned to launch my career in the States.
It’s been only a year since I opened my first card last September, and I already have a solid FICO score – 720, the last time I checked. That’s not a perfect score by any means, but it lands me safely in the “good” credit range, meaning I probably won’t have trouble getting approved for new credit in the future. I still have work to do if I want to get into the “very good” credit category, which starts at 740, according to MyFICO, but for a credit card newbie I’m not disappointed in my progress so far.
Here’s how I did it:
I selected the right card for my needs
I wish I could say I diligently researched credit cards to choose the best offer and best terms, but honestly, I just got lucky:
Shortly before graduate school started, I visited friends in Iowa. When we were about to split the bill after dinner at a Japanese restaurant, I noticed that all my friends had a Discover card with a shimmering pink or blue cover. The Discover it for Students card was known for its high approval rate for student applicants, and had been popular among international students.
I thought, “Oh, maybe I should get this one, too.”
One of the friends sent me a referral link that very night. I applied and got approved quickly. We both received a $50 cash-back bonus after I made my first purchase — an iPhone — using the card through Discover’s special rewards program. I even received 5 percent cash back from the purchase.
Besides imposing no annual fee, the card has other perks, like rewarding me with a $20 cash-back bonus when I reported a good GPA, letting me earn 5 percent cash back on purchases in rotating categories, and matching the cash-back bonus I earned over the first 12 months with my account. For me, it was a great starter card, but there are plenty of other options out there.
I also could have explored other options of establishing credit, like opening a secured card, for example, which would have been a smart option if I hadn’t been able to qualify for the Discover it student card.
I never missed a payment
Despite my very limited financial literacy at the time, I attribute my current stellar credit score to the old, deeply ingrained Chinese mentality about saving and not owing.
I never missed payments, and I always paid off my balance in full each month, instead of just making the $35 minimum payment. I didn’t want to pay a penny of interest.
Credit cards carry high interest rates across the board, but student credit cards generally have some of the highest APRs. This is because lenders see students like me — consumers without much credit history — to be risky borrowers, and they charge a higher interest rate to offset that risk.
It wasn’t until much later when I learned that payment history is critical to credit establishment. In fact, it is the biggest factor there is. It accounts for as much as 35 percent of my FICO score. Naturally, I felt like I dodged a bullet!
I was careful not to use too much of my available credit
My friends with more experience advised me to use as little of my available credit as possible. They warned me that overuse had hurt their credit scores in the past. This didn’t much sense to me, but I followed their advice, for the most part diligently..
I later learned this is almost as important as paying bills on time each month. Your utilization rate is another 30 percent of the FICO score. Credit experts urge cardholders to keep their credit utilization ratio below 30 percent.
That means if you have three credit cards with a total available limit of $10,000, you should try never to carry a total balance exceeding about $3,000.
Keeping in mind the importance of not maxing out my credit card, I never considered paying my rent with the card. In fact, some landlords charge credit card fees for tenants who try to pay with plastic.
But I did find a way to establish credit by paying rent using my checking account.
I paid rent to my Chicago landlord through RentPayment, an online service. RentPayment gave me the option of having my payments reported to TransUnion, one of the three major credit-reporting agencies. Because I knew I’d always pay bills on time, I signed up for the program.
This likely helped me improve my credit mix, another key factor influencing one’s credit score. The more types of accounts you show on your report, the better your score can be — providing you make all your payments on time.
Yes, I made mistakes. This was my biggest one.
My first foray into the world of credit wasn’t completely blip-free.
The only thing that hurt my credit, besides my short credit history, was that I had tried signing up for a Chase credit card and other ways to finance my iPhone just a few days before I applied for my Discover card.
None of the other banks approved my applications, and my score went down from the very beginning due to the number of “hard inquiries” against my report. Hard inquiries occur when lenders check your credit report before they make lending decisions, and having too many inquiries in a short period of time can result in several dings to your credit score.
I’ve learned my lesson, though. And I haven’t applied for a new credit card since. Today, as I said, my FICO score is a healthy 720, and I am on the lookout for a second credit card now that I’ve graduated and gotten a job.
For people with “average” or “fair” credit, Capital One offers QuicksilverOne Rewards. Every credit card issuer has a different definition of what “average” or “fair” credit means. Generally speaking, it means a FICO score between 580 and 669.
The QuicksilverOne Rewards card gives you an unlimited 1.5% cash back, which is a pretty sweet opportunity for consumers with less-than-perfect credit.
Just beware of the two catches: There’s a $39 annual fee and a high purchase APR.
The QuicksilverOne Rewards program is low maintenance.
Unlike other programs with revolving categories and spending caps, this card doesn’t hold you to either. You will earn 1.5% cash back every time you swipe.
You can redeem cash back at any time for a check, account credit, or gift card. Cash back you earn never expires for the life of the account.
What We Like About This Card
We like that the cash back program terms are uncomplicated. There are no preset bonus categories that you have to adapt your spending to each month. You can also redeem cash back at any time without having to wait for the balance to reach a certain threshold.
Low credit score requirement.
The QuicksilverOne is one of the only cash back rewards cards around town for average credit. If you’re having trouble getting approved elsewhere, this is a card you need to seriously consider.
What We Don’t Like About This Card
The annual fee.
Since this card costs $39 per year, you need to spend at least $2,600 per year (or $217 per month) for the cash back to break even with the fee. Ideally, you’ll want to spend more than just the bare minimum for the rewards card to be worthwhile.
This is a high interest rate. Avoid carrying a balance at all costs if you choose this card.
Who This Card Is Best For
Again, the QuicksilverOne is our top unlimited cash back pick for consumers who have trouble getting approved for other cash back cards.
According to Capital One, you may qualify for this card if:
You have defaulted on a loan in the past five years
You have limited credit history
You have had your own credit card or other credit for less than three years (this may include students, people new to the U.S., or authorized users on someone else’s credit card)
Keep in mind, these are just guidelines to give you a general sense of whether you’ll qualify. Your income, debt, and other credit limits are also factors used to make a decision.
Keep an eye out for the Quicksilver alternative while checking offers as well.
Quicksilver Rewards is the “big brother” of the QuicksilverOne card. It has no annual fee, and it’s for people with excellent credit. There’s no harm in checking to see if you prequalify for the Quicksilver card.
Is the QuicksilverOne card good for rebuilding credit?
Despite the lenient qualifying criteria, the QuicksilverOne card is not our top recommendation if you’re rebuilding credit, because of the annual fee.
Your focus should be keeping your credit utilization very low when rebuilding credit. You shouldn’t worry about having to earn enough cash back each month to cover a card’s annual fee.
Travel accident insurance and 24/7 roadside assistance. Travel insurance for death or loss of limbs. You can call in for help if your car breaks down.
Auto rental insurance. Insurance covers rental damage from collision or theft.
Extended warranty. Purchases made on your card will get an extended warranty.
Price protection. You can get reimbursed the difference if you find items you purchased on sale within 60 days.
Fraud coverage. Covered by $0 fraud liability if your card is lost or stolen.
Alternatives to the QuicksilverOne
QuicksilverOne doesn’t have much competition since it’s the best card for consumers with average credit. The following no-fee cash back cards officially require good to excellent credit but allow you to prequalify without a hard inquiry.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited card gives you an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all spending without category restrictions or caps. What’s great about Chase is it’s another credit card issuer that lets you prequalify for offers without a hard pull. Check out offers you may prequalify for here.
You can redeem cash back from your Chase Freedom Unlimited card at any time, and cash back never expires as long as you keep your account open. At times there is an intro APR deal or cash back bonus offer that add benefits to this card, and ongoing rates are sometimes lower than what you’d see on the QuicksilverOne.
The Citi Double Cash card is another good choice for low-maintenance cash back rewards. It gives double cash back on all purchases. You earn 1% cash back when you spend on the card and another 1% cash back when you pay off the bill.
This is a card that members report qualifying for with a credit score in the high 600s. Citi lets you shop for prequalified offers on the website as well. If you’re interested in this card, see if you can get prequalified here. In addition, there are changing intro APR deals for this card that allow you to save interest early on, and ongoing interest rates are sometimes lower than with the QuicksilverOne.
The QuicksilverOne Rewards is a good rewards card for those with average credit. If you have had difficulty being approved for other higher cash back rewards cards, you may be approved for the QuicksilverOne Rewards, which offers unlimited 1.5% cash back. Be aware that this card comes with an annual fee and high APR, so make sure to do your research and see if this card is right for you.
You should not keep a balance on this credit card to benefit from the cash back. The high APR is a large amount of interest to be paying on purchases. If the interest charges you experience on this card coupled with the annual fee surpass the cash back you earn, this card is pointless.
No. You’re free and clear to spend money on anything, and it’ll earn 1.5% cash back. This is the beauty of an unlimited cash back card. However, cash advances and balance transfers will not qualify for cash back.
You can, but not with average credit. The QuicksilverOne card is the best unlimited cash back card there is specifically targeting people with fair credit. Another option you have is working to improve your credit first before applying for a credit card to qualify for a card that gives you more cash back.
Discover offers the Discover it® Secured Card – No Annual Fee for people who are looking to build credit and establish good credit history. Secured credit cards are an excellent way to build your credit with responsible use. With this product, Discover has created one of the best secured cards on the market. You do need to make a security deposit of $200 or more to establish your credit line (up to the amount that Discover can approve). If you are unable to afford the $200 deposit, you should consider the Capital One Secured MasterCard, which only requires a $49 deposit. But if you can afford the $200 deposit, this card is clearly one of the best no fee secured credit cards available.
No annual fee: There is no annual fee on this card. You do need to make a security deposit of at least $200. If you want a bigger limit, you will have to make a bigger deposit.
Automatic monthly reviews starting at 8 months: After just eight months, Discover will start monthly automatic reviews of your account to see if you can be transitioned to an account with no security deposit. With an 8-month review, Discover has one of the best upgrade policies in the market.
Earn cash back: Most secured credit cards do not offer any rewards. With Discover it, you have the opportunity to earn cash back while earning rewards. You can earn 2% at restaurants and gas stations (on up to $1,000 of combined purchases each quarter). Plus, get 1% cash back on all your other purchases. Earning cash back is not the primary reason to select a secured credit card, but it is a nice option to have available.
Free FICO Credit Score: Discover will provide you with a copy of your official FICO credit score. If you use a secured credit card properly, you should expect to see your score increase over time. And by providing your FICO score for free, you will be able to watch your improvement.
Monitor Your Social Security Number: Discover will monitor your Social Security Number and alert you if they find your Social Security Number on any of thousands of risky websites. Activate for FREE. This is a great feature that will help alert you of possible fraud.
You can learn more and apply by clicking on the link below:
A secured credit card is an excellent way to build or rebuild your credit history. In order to gain the most number of points in the shortest amount of time, you need to have a strategy. We recommend the following strategy (and describe how it helped someone build an excellent score in one year here):
Avoid spending more than 10% – 15% of your available credit limit. Yes, that means if your credit limit is only $200, you should not spend more than $20 – $30 a month. Utilization is a very important part of your credit score. To calculate utilization, divide your statement balance by your available credit. People with the best credit scores have utilization well below 20%. Because you want to build an excellent credit score, you should keep your utilization low.
Pay your statement balance on time and in full every month. To ensure your payments are made on time every month, you should consider automating the monthly payments. At the Discover website, you can sign up to have your monthly payment debited automatically from your checking account.
Just continue to repeat Step #1 and Step #2. Your credit score should improve over time, which will help you qualify for a standard credit card.
According to disclosures on the Discover website, you are eligible to apply if:
You are at least 18 years old.
You have a Social Security Number.
You have an address in the United States.
You have a bank account in the United States. Note: You will need to provide your routing number and account number when you apply. If your account is overdrawn, it is highly unlikely that you will be approved.
Your credit history will be reviewed, and not all applications will be approved. The card is best for those with no credit, or scores of 670 or less.
The Application Process
You can apply online and Discover usually provides a decision instantly. You will need to make your security deposit as part of the application, which is why Discover asks for the routing number and account number of your bank.
Please remember that when you apply for the secured credit card, you will have an inquiry on your credit report just like an application for a normal credit card.
Alternate Secured Credit Cards
Discover it has one of the strongest offerings in the market. However, it might not be right for everyone. Here are some other good options.
If you cannot afford the $200 minimum deposit, you should consider the Capital One Secured MasterCard. There is no annual fee and a minimum deposit of $49. You will also be able to receive your FICO score for free. Capital One is known for accepting people with more adverse credit histories. So, if you are rejected by Discover, you might want to consider trying Capital One instead.
You should also consider a secured credit card from your local credit union. MagnifyMoney has a list of some of the best no fee secured credit cards offered by credit unions here.
Build Your Score, Not Your Balance
Secured credit cards are a great way to build your credit score. And, with this product, Discover has created an excellent tool. Just make sure you don’t use your credit card to build a balance and borrow money. Keep your balance well below 20% of your available credit, and pay your statement balance on time and in full every month. If you do that, you should start to see real improvement in your score.