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The Best Cash Back Credit Cards for Every Category – 3% and More in December 2017

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Note from the Editor: The information related to SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express credit card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

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 and $0 annual fee:

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Annual fee

$0*

Cashback Rate

1% when you buy, 1% when you pay

APR

14.49%-24.49%

Variable

APPLY NOW Secured

on Citibank’s secure website

Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Annual fee

$0

Cashback Rate

2% on all spend

APR

14.99%

Variable

APPLY NOW Secured

on Fidelity’s secure website

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 – 4.25%

PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card

Annual fee

$0

Rewards

5x points on airfare purchases, 1x on all other purchases

APR

9.74%-17.99%

Variable

APPLY NOW Secured

on Penfed’s secure website

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 – 3%

AAA Member Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Annual fee

None

Cashback Rate

3 points for eligible travel & AAA purchases, 2 points on gas, grocery store, and drugstore purchases, and 1 point per $1 for all other purchases

APR

13.24%-23.24%

APPLY NOW Secured

on Bank Of America’s secure website

While the PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card wins for airfare spending, the AAA Member Rewards Visa Signature® card 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 – 2.55%

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Rewards

5x points on gas at the pump, 3x points at supermarkets, 1x points on all other purchases

APR

9.74%-17.99%

APPLY NOW Secured

on Penfed’s secure website

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 Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers 6% back on the first $6,000 each year. Terms Apply – See Rates & Fees. The $95 annual fee on this card is a better deal vs the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® 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 Credit Card from Golden 1 Credit Union.

Gas – 5%

Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

5% back on all gas station spending, 1% on all other purchases

APR

10.25%-15.25%

Variable

APPLY NOW Secured

on Fort Knox Federal’s secure website

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.

Other options include the NRA Complete Rewards® Visa® Card also offering 5% cash back (no NRA membership required), and the Sam’s Club MasterCard® with 5% at the pump on up to $6,000 worth of gas purchases a year, but you need to be a Sam’s Club member to hold the card.

Dining – 4%

Uber Visa Card

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

4% back on dining, 3% back on hotel and airfare, 2% back for online purchases, and 1% on everything else

APR

15.99%-24.74%

variable

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.

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

If you’re willing to pay an annual fee, the Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card 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 Limitless™ Cashback Rewards Visa Signature® 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 Marukai Premium JCB Card gives you up to 3% cash back points 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® Cashback Match™. 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® Plus Business Credit Card – up to $25,000 in purchases in bonus categories. Terms Apply.

Airfare

Unlimited

With limits

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: Nusenda Credit Union Cash Rewards – Oct – Dec 2017 – 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

Bookstores

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

    • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
    • 5%: SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card – up to $50,000 in bonus purchases a year. Terms Apply.

Cellular Phone / Landline / Internet / Cable TV

Clothing Stores

With limits

Commuting, Taxis

Unlimited

Department Stores

Select U.S. department stores. See the list here.

With limits

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: Citi Dividend – October – December 2017 – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)

Discount stores

Drug stores

With limits

Education

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: Nusenda Credit Union Cash Rewards – July – Sept 2017 – 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

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: (Best Buy only) Citi Dividend – October – December 2017 – 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 2017 – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)

Gas

Unlimited

With limits

Quarterly category in 2017

Supermarket Spending

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

Quarterly category in 2017

Hotels

Unlimited

With limits

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5% – Nusenda Credit Union Cash Rewards – Oct – Dec 2017 – up to $1,500
  • 5%: (Hilton Hotels only) Citi Dividend – July – September 2017 – 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

Restaurants

Unlimited

With Limits

Quarterly category in 2017

Shipping

  • 3%: SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card- up to $25,000 in purchases in bonus categories. Terms Apply.

Sporting Goods Stores

Unlimited

With limits

Target

Unlimited

Trains, Cruises, Other Vacation

Unlimited

With limits

Utilities

Walmart

Warehouse Clubs

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

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