Advertiser Disclosure

Best of, College Students and Recent Grads, Credit Cards

Best Student Credit Cards January 2019

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Getting a credit card while you’re in college can set you up for financial success, provided you avoid racking up unnecessary charges. If you are over 18 and have a steady income, applying for a card now will kick start your credit history, and you can start building that all-important credit score.

Learning how to choose and use the right student credit card is relatively simple. Make sure you avoid annual fees and go with a bank or credit union you can trust. When you get the card, make sure you use it responsibly and pay the balance in full and on time every month. If you do these things consistently over time, you can leave school with an excellent credit score. And if you want to rent an apartment or buy a car, having a good credit score is very important.

Our Top Pick

Discover it® Student Cash Back

APPLY NOW Secured

on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

Read Full Review

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants or Amazon.com up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
Regular APR
15.24% - 24.24% Variable
Credit required
fair-credit
Fair Credit

Magnify Glass Pros

  • Good Grades Reward program: Did you study extra hard this year? If you’ve gotten a 3.0 GPA or higher for an entire school year, Discover will reward you with an extra $20 statement credit. You can get this reward for up to five years in a row as long as you’re still a current student when you apply.
  • Free FICO® score: Just like how you have grades for your classes, your FICO® score is your “grade” for your credit. Credit cards have a huge effect on your FICO® score. You can watch how your new credit card affects your score over time with a free FICO® score update on your monthly statement.
  • 5% cash back : You can earn up to 5% cash back at different places that change each quarter, on up to $1,500 in purchases every quarter that you activate. Past categories have included things like Amazon purchases, restaurants, and ground transportation. Even if you don’t buy something in the bonus category, you’ll still earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Cash back match at end of your first year: In addition to rotating 5% cash back categories, new cardmembers will also get an intro bonus. When your first card anniversary comes around, Discover will automatically match your cash back rewards you earned during your first year.

Cons Cons

  • Remember to sign up for bonus places: Even though this card comes with a great cash back rewards program, it comes with a catch: you’ll need to manually activate the bonus places each quarter. You can do this by calling Discover or logging in to your account online. If you forget, you’ll still earn 1% cash back if you make any purchases in the qualifying categories.
  • Gift certificates only available at certain levels: You can redeem your rewards for many things such as Amazon purchases, a statement credit, or a donation to a charity, to name a few. But, if you’d like to get a gift card instead, you’ll need a cash back balance of at least $20 saved up in your account.
Bottom line

Bottom line

The Discover it® Student Cash Back offers great perks for college students, such as a rewards program for good grades and a free FICO® score so you can learn about your credit firsthand. Its cash back rewards program is our favorite. No other card for students (that we could find) offers the opportunity to earn up to 5% cash back. And with no annual fee, this is our top pick.

Read our full review of the Discover it® Student Cash Back

Best for Commuter Students

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students

APPLY NOW Secured

on Bank Of America’s secure website

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
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.
Regular Purchase APR
15.49% - 25.49% Variable
Credit required
good-credit

Good

Magnify Glass Pros

  • Cashback program: You’ll earn 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 higher rate you get for gas purchases is great for students who commute to class.
  • Redemption bonus: If you’re a Bank of America customer, you’ll receive a 10% customer bonus every time you redeem your cash back into a Bank of America® checking or savings account. The bonus is even better if you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards client — you could get a 25-75% bonus. Cardholders who redeem this way will maximize their cash back.
  • Free FICO® Score: A large part of getting a credit card in college is to build your credit score. The hope is that monitoring your FICO® Score on a monthly basis will let you see your score rise through proper credit behavior.

Cons Cons

  • Foreign transaction fee: This card has a foreign transaction fee of 3% of the U.S. dollar amount of each transaction, not suitable for students who travel abroad. You will negate any cash back earned while using this card outside the U.S.
Bottom line

Bottom line

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students is a great option for students who commute to class and spend on groceries. This card has an added redemption bonus for Bank of America® checking or savings accountholders that is a great way to increase your cash back.

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

APPLY NOW Secured

on Capital One’s secure website

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
1% Cash Back on all purchases; 0.25% Cash Back bonus on the cash back you earn each month you pay on time
Regular Purchase APR
26.96% (Variable)
Credit required
bad-credit
Average/Fair/Limited

Magnify Glass Pros

  • 1.25% cash back if you pay on time: Each purchase you make earns a flat-rate 1% Cash Back on all purchases; 0.25% Cash Back bonus on the cash back you earn each month you pay on time. This makes it handy for people who want as simple a card as possible. And it rewards great behavior.
  • Higher credit lines after on-time payments: If you’re approved for this card, you’ll receive a credit line of at least $300. If you make five on-time payments in a row, you can call Capital One and ask them to increase your credit line.
  • No foreign transaction fee: This is a great card to take overseas, because you won’t have to pay any foreign transaction fees. Most cards charge an average 3% foreign transaction fee, but Journey allows you to use your card abroad without being charged extra fees.

Cons Cons

  • High APR: This card carries an APR of 26.96% (Variable). That’s almost twice as high as some other student credit cards, such as the Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card with a rate as low as 12.90% - 22.90% Variable APR. It’s just one more incentive to pay off your bill in full each month.
Bottom line

Bottom line

We really like this card because it actively rewards you for developing good credit-management behavior by offering a small cash back bonus for on-time payments. In addition, the cash back program is straightforward with no confusing categories to remember or opt into, making this card a good option for students who want a simple, flat-rate card.

Read our full review of the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Best Intro Bonus

Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
3% cash rewards on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first 6 months, 1% cash rewards on virtually all other purchases
Regular Purchase APR
12.90% - 22.90% Variable
Credit required
excellent-credit
Good/Excellent

Magnify Glass Pros

  • Interest rates as low as 12.90% - 22.90% Variable APR: Depending on your credit, your interest rate could be between 12.90% - 22.90% Variable APR, but there is no guarantee you’ll receive the lower rate. This is a lower variable APR range than most student cards, and can help if you aren’t able to pay your balance in full one month.
  • Intro Rewards Bonus: 3% cash rewards on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first 6 months, 1% cash rewards on virtually all other purchases
  • Access to credit education: Wells Fargo provides you with all sorts of tools and information to learn about things like credit, budgeting, and expense tracking. While this is a nice feature, it’s not exclusive to Wells Fargo. You can get this information from free tools such as Mint, or even reading books and blogs. But it is pretty handy having it right at your fingertips when logged in to your account.

Cons Cons

  • Need to be a Wells Fargo member to apply online: You can go into any one of the 6,000+ branches and apply for the card. You can also apply online, but you’ll need to be an existing Wells Fargo customer. However, anyone can open a checking account online with a minimum deposit of $25.
  • High bars for some cash back redemption options: There are a lot of redemption options available through Wells Fargo’s own online cash back rewards mall. However, if you’d just like straight cash, you have a few options. You can request a direct deposit into your Wells Fargo checking account, savings account, or Wells Fargo credit card (if applicable) in $25 increments, or request a paper check in $20 increments. That can take a long time to accumulate if you’re not spending much with your card.
Bottom line

Bottom line

The Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card is a relatively simple card with a great intro bonus of 3% cash rewards on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first 6 months, 1% cash rewards on virtually all other purchases In addition, the low variable APR is handy for those who think they’ll be carrying a balance on their credit card from month to month at some point in the future. This is generally something we recommend against, but if you can’t avoid it, the Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card is your best bet.

Read our full review of the Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card

Altra Federal Credit Union Student Visa® Credit Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Altra’s secure website

Read Full Review

Altra Federal Credit Union Student Visa® Credit Card

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Earn double Reward Points on every dollar of purchases in the first 60 days after opening your new account, then 1 point per dollar spent.
Regular Purchase APR
15.65% Fixed

Magnify Glass Pros

  • $20 reward for good credit card usage: If you can maintain your account in an “exceptional way” for your first year, you’ll get a bonus $20 reward on your card’s anniversary. All you have to do is not have any late payments, don’t charge over your card’s limit, and use your card for at least six out of twelve months.
  • Up to $500 random winner each quarter: It’s like playing the lottery, except you don’t have to buy a lottery ticket. Each quarter Altra will choose one student cardholder at random and pay back all of their purchases from the previous month, anywhere between $50 to $500.
  • Earn rewards: For the first 60 days after you open your account, you’ll earn 2 points per dollar spent. After that you’ll earn 1 point per dollar spent. You can redeem these points for cash back, merchandise through their online rewards mall, or travel.
  • Redeem points for a lower interest rate: If you’ll need a car in the future, this might be a good credit card to get. You can trade in 5,000 points for a 0.25% reduction, or 10,000 points for a 0.50% reduction on an auto loan through Altra Federal Credit Union. That could end up saving you a ton of cash in the long run.

Cons Cons

  • 1% foreign transaction fee: This is definitely one card to leave at home if you’ll be traveling or studying abroad. Most credit cards charge a 3% foreign transaction fee, so this is on the low side. Still, it’s not too hard to find a student credit card with no foreign transaction fee, such as the Discover it® Student Cash Back or the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® card.
  • Must join Altra Federal Credit Union: Luckily, anyone can join, but it might take a bit of legwork on your part compared to a bank. If you don’t meet certain membership eligibility criteria, you can join the Altra Foundation for $5. Then you’ll need to open a savings account with a minimum $5 deposit that must remain in the account while you have your card open.
Bottom line

Bottom line

If you’re a student who doesn’t mind working with a credit union, Altra provides a card that has several rewards benefits. This card is a good option if you may be taking out an auto loan in the next few years, since you’ll benefit from a reduced interest rate by trading in your rewards points. In addition to earning rewards, using this card responsibly can help you build credit.

Read our full review of the Altra Federal Credit Union Student Visa® Credit Card

Best for Studying Abroad

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

APPLY NOW Secured

on Bank Of America’s secure website

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time and no expiration on points.
Regular Purchase APR
17.24% - 25.24% Variable
Credit required
good-credit
Excellent/Good

Magnify Glass Pros

  • Chip + PIN technology: Most credit cards have chip + signature technology, and while this is good inside the U.S. you may face issue when traveling abroad. That’s where a card with chip + PIN functionality is the safest bet when traveling outside the U.S.
  • No foreign transaction fees: When you travel abroad you will not be charged additional fees like other cards.
  • Cashback rewards: You will earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time and no expiration on points. This is a decent flat-rate that isn’t limited to bonus categories.
  • Redemption bonus: Bank of America customers will receive a 10% customer bonus every time cash back is redeemed into a Bank of America® checking or savings account. The bonus is even better if you’re a Bank of America® Preferred Rewards client — you could get a 25% – 75% bonus. Redeeming this way allows you to maximize your cash back rewards.
  • Free FICO® Score: The main reason to get a credit card as a student is to boost your credit score. So, actually being able to see your credit score is a huge help, especially as you can watch it climb over time with good credit management.

Cons Cons

  • Subpar cashback rate: The cash back rate for this card is lower than other cards. However, cards with higher cash back rates often charge foreign transactions fees, not making them ideal for students traveling abroad.
Bottom line

Bottom line

Students who are interested in studying abroad should consider the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students. You’ll earn a good cash back rate on all purchases and will not be charge a foreign transaction fee on purchases made outside the U.S.

Best Secured Card

Discover it® Secured

APPLY NOW Secured

on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

Read Full Review

Discover it® Secured

Annual fee
$0
Minimum Deposit
$200
Regular APR
25.24% Variable
Credit required
bad-credit
Poor/New to Credit

Magnify Glass Pros

  • Cashback program: This card has a feature uncommon to other secure cards — a cashback program. You earn 2% cash back at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus 1% cash back on all other credit card purchases.
  • Cashback Match™: Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There’s no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched (new cardmembers only). This is a great added bonus that increases your cash back in Year 1.
  • Automatic monthly reviews after eight months: Discover makes it easy for you to transition to an unsecured card with monthly reviews of your account starting after eight months. Reviews are based on responsible credit management across all of your credit cards and loans.

Cons Cons

  • Security deposit: You need to deposit a minimum of $200 in order to open this card. This will become your credit line, so a $200 deposit gives you a $200 credit line. If you want a higher credit limit, you need to increase your deposit. The security deposit is refundable, meaning you will receive your deposit back if you close the card, as long as your account is in good standing.
Bottom line

Bottom line

The Discover it® Secured is great for students who want to build credit. This card easily transitions you to an unsecured card when the time is right, and you can earn cash back. With proper credit behavior, you’ll soon be on your way to an unsecured card.

Read our full review of the Discover it® Secured

Best for No Credit History

Deserve® EDU Mastercard

APPLY NOW Secured

on Deserve’s secure website

Deserve® EDU Mastercard

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
1% unlimited cash back on ALL purchases
Regular Purchase APR
20.99% Variable
Credit required
bad-credit
Fair/Good Credit or No Credit

Magnify Glass Pros

  • No credit history required: You can qualify for this card without any credit history, making this a great option for students new to credit. You don’t even need a Social Security number when applying.
  • Reimbursement for Amazon Prime Student*: This card will reimburse you for the cost of a year of Amazon Prime Student (valued at $49). You need to charge your membership to this card to qualify, and you will not be reimbursed for subsequent years’ membership fees.
  • No foreign transaction fee: Whether you travel abroad or study abroad, you can rest easy: There are no foreign transaction fees with this card.

Cons Cons

  • Low cash back rate: The rewards program has a subpar 1% unlimited cash back on ALL purchases. You can do better with some of the other cards mentioned in this post. Though as a student, rewards shouldn’t be your primary focus — instead, build your credit so you can qualify for better non-student cards.
Bottom line

Bottom line

The Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students is a great choice for students who are looking to build credit. Deserve markets their cards for those who may have trouble qualifying for credit, and students who fall into this category may more easily qualify for this card than for cards from traditional banks. You can earn cash back, and receive a great promotional offer of a year of Amazon Prime Student for free*.

Also ConsiderAlso Consider

Golden 1 Platinum Rewards for Students

Golden 1 Credit Union Platinum Rewards for Students:

This credit card offers a snazzy rewards program: rather than accumulate points, you’ll get a cash rebate instead. All you have to do is make a purchase. At the end of the month, you’ll get a rebate of 3% of gas, grocery, and restaurant purchases, and 1% of all other purchases deposited back into your Golden 1 savings account at the end of the month. You can join Golden 1 by joining the Financial Fitness Association for $8 per year and keeping at least $5 in a savings account.

What should I look for in a student credit card?

The most important thing to consider when looking for a student credit card is that it charges no annual fee. You should never have to pay to build your credit score. Fortunately, most student cards don’t charge you an annual fee, but it’s still something to watch out for.

The second most important thing you should keep an eye out for are tools that help you learn about credit or even promote good credit-building habits. For example, some student credit cards will give you a free monthly FICO® score update. You can use this freebie to see in real time how your credit score changes as you build credit history by keeping the card open, or paying down your credit card balance, for example.

The last thing you should be considering when picking out a student credit card is the rewards program. I know, I know, it seems counterintuitive. But stick with me — I’ll show you why in the next question.

Why shouldn’t I be concerned about maximizing my rewards while in college?

Rewards cards are nice to have. But if you’re a college student, here’s the truth: you probably won’t spend enough to earn meaningful rewards.

Why? With a good rewards program, you can earn points or cash back. A small percentage of your monthly spending can add up quickly. However, given the tight budget that most college students live on, it will probably take a while to earn meaningful rewards. For example, if you earn 1.25% cash back and spend $300 a month on your card, you would earn $45 of cash back during the year.

College students are very good at making good use of $45. And our favorite card offers a great cash back rewards program. Just don’t expect to earn a lot of cash back, given the tight budget of a college student.

Why should I get a credit card as a college student?

There are a lot of great reasons why you should get a credit card, as long as you can commit to using it responsibly.

The single biggest reason why you should get a credit card as a college student is because you can start establishing a credit history now. When you graduate from college, you will need a good credit score to get an apartment. And your future employer will likely check your credit report. Building a good credit history while still in college will help prepare you for life after graduation.

Getting a credit card while in college can also train you to develop good credit habits now. But you need to be honest with yourself. If you find that you can’t avoid the temptation of maxing out your credit card, you might want to switch to a debit card or cash.

Finally, getting a credit card now can be the motivation you need to start learning about credit. These skills aren’t hard to learn, and they could save you thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars later in life (when you want a mortgage, for example).

What is the CARD Act and why should I care about it?

Many years ago, credit card companies would market on college campuses. You could get a free beer mug or t-shirt in exchange for a credit card application. And you would be able to qualify for a credit card without having any income. The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act was signed into law in May 2009 to change a number of practices.

How did the CARD Act change student credit cards?

The CARD Act made a lot of changes in how credit card issuers do business with students. One of the biggest changes was requiring students to be able to demonstrate an ability to pay. If you are under 21 and do not have sufficient income (a campus job, for example), you would need to get a co-signer.

In addition, colleges must now limit the amount of credit card marketing on campus. The days of free t-shirts and pizzas in exchange for credit card applications are gone. But that doesn’t mean it is impossible for a college student to get a credit card. Some highly reputable banks and credit unions still offer student cards. And building a good credit score while still in college is still highly recommended.

How can I protect myself from racking up debt?

When used properly, credit cards are a very convenient method of repayment. However, when not used properly, you can end up deep in credit card debt. It is important to establish a healthy relationship to credit now, with your first credit card.

You should try to ensure that you pay off your credit card bill in full and on time every month. Ideally, you should set up an automatic monthly payment. And to keep yourself on track, take advantage of alerts offered by most credit card companies. You can even get daily text messages reminding you of your balance.

How can I automate my credit card usage?

If all of this sounds confusing, don’t worry. There’s actually a way you can automate your payments so you never even have to bother with the hassle of using a credit card. All it takes is a few minutes of upfront work.

First, you’ll need at least one recurring monthly bill of the same amount, such as Netflix or Spotify. Log in to your account and set up an automatic payment each month using your credit card. Make a note of how much your monthly bill costs.

Next, log in to your bank account. Set up a second automatic payment to go to your credit card each month for the same amount as the bill. If your bank doesn’t offer the option to set up automatic payments, you may also be able to set up your credit card to automatically withdraw the amount of the bill from your bank.

Because you know this bill will be for the same amount each month (barring any price increases), you can literally just leave this running in the background each month on autopilot. You don’t even have to carry your credit card in your wallet if you don’t want to. Then, when you graduate, you’ll automatically have an improved credit score!

What happens to my student credit card when I graduate?

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the finish line. But what about your student credit card? You will have a few options once you graduate and we detail them here.

Here is a summary of our favorite cards:

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Lindsay VanSomeren
Lindsay VanSomeren |

Lindsay VanSomeren is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lindsay here

TAGS: , ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Best of, Earning Cashback

10 Best 5% Cash Back Credit Cards for January 2019

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication. This site may be compensated through a credit card partnership.

Cash Back Credit Cards for 2017
iStock

Credit card reward programs come in so many varieties that it can be difficult to 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 write home about either.

There are even better cash back rewards offerings out there, some as high as 5%. But with these high-reward cards, there’s almost always a catch, since most 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 wholesale 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 for the higher reward.

The key to maximizing these great cashback card offers is to find ones that offer cash in the categories you use the most. We dug around and found 10 cards that offer at least 5% cash back in some of the most common spending categories including gas, groceries and entertainment.

Access to bonus 5% Categories: Chase Freedom®

Chase Freedom®

APPLY NOW Secured

on Chase Bank’s secure website

Chase Freedom®

Regular Purchase APR
16.99% - 25.74% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
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.

How it works: The Chase Freedom® card lets you 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. 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% categories change 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 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points. Every $1 equals 100 points. You can easily use the cash and apply it to your monthly statement. Or you can convert them into points and use them on travel, gift cards, merchandise, and other services through the Chase Freedom® rewards dashboard.

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

chasefreedommobileapp

Plus, you can stack the points earned on your Chase Freedom® card with your points on other Chase rewards cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. 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.

The original 5% cash back card: Discover it® Cash Back

Discover it® Cash Back

APPLY NOW Secured

on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

Discover it® Cash Back

Regular APR
14.24% - 25.24% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

How it works: With the Discover it® Cash Back you earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate ($1,500). 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 2019:

  • January to March: Grocery stores
  • April to June: Gas stations, Uber and Lyft
  • July to September: Restaurants
  • October to December: Amazon.com

Using your rewards: Cash back from the Discover it® Cash Back 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% unlimited cash back automatically on all other 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 you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There’s no signing up and no limit to how much is matched.

Best for gas and restaurants in 2019: Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card from Nusenda Credit Union

Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card from Nusenda Credit Union

APPLY NOW Secured

on Nusenda ’s secure website

Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card from Nusenda Credit Union

Regular Purchase APR
10.75% - 14.75% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Earn 3 bonus points, or 5% cash back, respectively, for every dollar they spend on purchases for movies, restaurants, and home improvements (up to $1,500 per quarter).

How it works: The Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card from Nusenda Credit Union lets you Earn 3 bonus points, or 5% cash back, respectively, for every dollar they spend on purchases for movies, restaurants, and home improvements (up to $1,500 per quarter). Notably, it offers both gas and restaurants in two quarters. As a bonus New card holders earn 10,000 bonus points for $500 in purchases during first 90 days.

Earn 5% cash back in these categories through the end of 2019:

  • 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® Cash Back, you can maximize cash back in different areas during one quarter.

For an example, you can turn to the Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card from Nusenda Credit Union for 5% on gas and school expenses in Q3. Then pull out the Discover it® Cash Back for dining out 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.

Pick your own cash back categories: U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on US Bank’s secure website

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

Regular Purchase APR
15.99%-24.99% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
5% cash back on your first $2,000 in combined eligible net purchases each quarter on two categories you choose, 2% cash back on one everyday category, like gas or groceries and 1% cash back on all other net purchases.

The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card has a revolving cash back program that’s unique in comparison to the others above because you get options.

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

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

  • Gas stations
  • Restaurants
  • Grocery stores

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

  • Home utilities
  • Ground transportation
  • Select clothing stores
  • Cell phone providers
  • Electronics stores
  • Car rentals
  • Gyms/fitness centers
  • Fast food
  • Sporting goods stores
  • Department stores
  • Furniture stores
  • Movie theaters

Using your rewards: You can redeem cash back for gift cards, statement credit or a deposit into a U.S. bank savings, checking or money market account. The first time you redeem $100 in cash back in a single transaction, you get a $25 Cash+ Bonus.

The Fine Print: The same opt-in revolving category applies here, except you must also remember to choose your categories. There is no annual fee. The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card 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+™ Visa Signature® Card is worth considering.

Ideal for typical business expenses: SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express

How it works: The SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express* gives 5% cash back on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. office supply stores, 3% cash back on the category of your choice from a list of eight, 1% cash back on other purchases. 5% and 3% apply to the first $50,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1% applies thereafter. The eight categories are:**

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

**Terms and conditions apply.

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 maximum spend 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. The SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express card has No annual fee, so you’ll earn cash back with a generous annual maximum of $50,000 (see Rates & Fees).

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.

*The information related to the SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

5% cash back for the Amazon Prime enthusiast: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card

The information related to Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card

Regular Purchase APR
16.24% - 24.24% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Earn 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market with eligible Prime membership, 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores, and 1% back on all other purchases.

How it works: The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card is open to Amazon Prime Members, so it’s somewhat exclusive. Earn 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market with eligible Prime membership, 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores, and 1% back on all other purchases. 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 or at Whole Foods Market. You need to spend $2,380 per year at Amazon.com for the 5% cash back to cover the $119 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 a lot at Whole Foods Market or on Amazon.com often and stick to the rules, you’ll see a nice return from this card. There’s no annual fee for the card, but you must be an Amazon Prime member, which costs $119 a year ($59 for students).

Good fit for the regular Target shopper: Target REDcard™ Credit Card

Target REDcard™ Credit Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Target’s secure website

Target REDcard™ Credit Card

Regular Purchase APR
24.65% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
5% at Target & Target.com

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

  • Prescriptions, over-the-counter items located behind the pharmacy counter and clinic services
  • Target Optical™ eye exams
  • Target gift cards and prepaid cards, Stockpile, Gift of College and lottery gift cards
  • Previous purchases
  • Certain restaurant merchants in Target stores, such as D’Amico & Sons Italian Kitchen and Pret A Manger
  • Target credit account payments, Target Debit Card cash back and cash advances on the Target Mastercard
  • Shipt membership fees
  • Gift wrap and shipping and handling charges on Target.com purchases
  • Wireless protection program purchases and deposits required by mobile carriers

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.

Most straightforward 5% rewards card just for gas: Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Fort Knox Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

Regular Purchase APR
11.25% - 18.00% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Earn an unlimited 5% cash back on gas and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

How it works: The Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card 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.

6% cash back for the heavy grocery shopper: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

APPLY NOW Secured

on American Express’s secure website

Terms Apply

Rates & Fees

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Regular Purchase APR
15.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual fee
$95
Rewards Rate
6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 1% cash back on other purchases.

How it works: The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is our top pick for cardholders who want to maximize cash back on groceries. With this card, you get 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 1% cash back on other purchases.

Welcome offer: $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.

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.

Only advantageous for military service members living on base: USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card

USAA®Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on USAA Bank’s secure website

USAA®Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card

Regular Purchase APR
13.90% - 27.90% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Earn 5% cash back on your first $3,000 in gas and military base purchases annually on these categories combined. Earn 2% on your first $3,000 on supermarket purchases per year. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

How it works: USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card lets you Earn 5% cash back on your first $3,000 in gas and military base purchases annually on these categories combined. Earn 2% on your first $3,000 on supermarket purchases per year. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. USAA membership is available to active and former military and their eligible family members.

Earning cash back: You Earn 5% cash back on your first $3,000 in gas and military base purchases annually on these categories combined. Earn 2% on your first $3,000 on supermarket purchases per year. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. 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 American Express® Card is light on the fine print. Just remember, the 5% category yearly maximum is $3,000 for combined gas and military base purchases per year and not per quarter. There is no annual fee.

The key to earning from any cash back card

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

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Benét J. Wilson
Benét J. Wilson |

Benét J. Wilson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Benét J. at benet@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: ,