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Citi ThankYou® Premier Card or Discover it® Cash Back: Which Offers Better Value?

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.

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Getting inundated with credit card offers is overwhelming. Points versus cash back, signup bonuses versus dollar-for-dollar matches, how do you know if you’re making the right choice for your reward credit card? What features makes one card more valuable than another?

We’ll get into the details of how to evaluate reward cards with a head-to-head match of two heavyweight credit card competitors: the Citi Premier℠ Card and Discover it® Cash Back.

Citi Premier℠ Card

Citi provides three different options for its ThankYou® cards, but the one providing the most rewards for your spending is the Citi Premier℠ Card. You earn points each and every time you spend, but will be rewarded more generously for certain purchases: Earn 3X Points on Travel, Including Gas Stations, Earn 2X Points on Dining Out & Entertainment, Earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases.

Unfortunately, opting to redeem your points for cash back only nets you .5 cents per point, making your cash back percentage between 0.5%-1.5%.

Points hold more value when you choose to redeem them for travel. Typically, your points are worth 1 cent each in this category, but when you have a Citi Premier℠ Card, their value is bumped up to 1.25 cents each. You can also transfer your points to a partner airline miles program to redeem them at a 1:1 ratio. You can get the same 1:1 redemption ratio if you cash in for certain gift cards or call Citi to use the cash back for a mortgage or student loan payment. Some redemption options, however, don’t hold much value such as cash back and statement credit. Both of which are redeemed at 0.5 cents per point.

The Citi Premier℠ Card has an annual fee of $95, waived for first 12 months.

Citi Premier℠ Card

Discover it® Cash Back

While point-earning power is fixed with Citi Premier℠ Card, Discover rotates the categories and is one of the best options for 5% cash back. Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like grocery stores, gas stations, Uber and Lyft, restaurants, and Amazon.com up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. The 5% is limited to $1500 spending per quarter, 1% after that. Activation is required.

  • January – March 2019 – Grocery Stores
  • April – June 2019 – Gas Stations, Uber and Lyft
  • July – September 2019 – Restaurants
  • October – December 2019 – Amazon.com

All other purchases get unlimited 1% cash back automatically. With Discover it® Cash Back, your cash back holds the same value regardless of whether you choose to redeem it via a statement balance, deposit into an outside account, or gift cards.

As of publication, Discover has a special introductory offer for new customers. 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.

Discover it® Cash Back

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Rates & Fees

Pros & Cons

There are positives and negatives to each program, depending on your primary goal when opening an account.

Citi Premier℠ Card

Pro: Earn 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Points are redeemable for $625 in airfare on any airline, anytime with no blackout dates when booked through the ThankYou® Travel Center, or $500 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com.

Con: Points aren’t worth very much. If you opt to get cash back in the form of a check, you’ll only get .5%-1.5% back on all of your purchases. Spending on travel will earn you the most, and when you redeem points for travel you’ll be getting the best redemption value.

Pro: Categories don’t rotate. Earning points with Citi Premier℠ Card doesn’t require a calendar or alarm. Because you don’t have to register for higher-grossing categories, you can spend how you normally would without having to think a lot about strategy.

Con: More expensive. Citi’s card comes with a steep annual fee of $95, waived for first 12 months.

Discover it® Cash Back

Pro: The new cardmember offer is worth waiting for. You have to wait until the end of your first year to receive it. However, a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you have earned during the year is worth the wait.

Con: Have to register to earn 5% cash back. In order to get 5% cash back in the rotating bonus categories, you’ll have to remember to register at the beginning of each quarter. If you’re not organized enough to remember, you could blow the biggest earning opportunities with this card.

Pro: Rewards are more valuable. 1 reward point with Citi ThankYou® is only worth 0.5 cents. Even if you spend completely outside of bonus categories, you’d be earning 1 cent for every dollar spent with Discover it® Cash Back.

Pro: Less expensive. Discover it® does not have an annual fee, and offers an introductory APR of 0% for 14 months on purchases. Discover also offers an intro APR of 0% for 14 months on balance transfers, then 14.24% - 25.24% Variable APR. Although a 3% balance transfer fee applies.

Other Cash Back Card Options

There are other cash back card options on the market that are more competitive with Discover it® Cash Back. One is the Chase Freedom® card. Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. Earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

Chase Freedom®

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Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card presents a different type of advantage. You earn unlimited 2% cash back on everyday purchases. This eliminates the need to strategize when to buy the things you need, and figure out point conversions.

Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card

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Just keep in mind, all of these cash back options are only valuable if you pay off your card on time and in full each month. Once you start paying interest it voids the return of earning cash back.

Cash Back Winner

In this head-to-head battle, Discover it® Cash Back dominates when it comes to cash back. The only time Citi ThankYou® points are worth more is when you are spending on travel, and in some cases when you redeem for travel through their Travel Center. For almost all other purchases, Discover it® Cash Back is the better deal.

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.

Brynne Conroy
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Brynne Conroy is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brynne here

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

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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 prior to publication.

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 spending category, more than the standard 1-2% you usually see.

In our analysis, 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 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

The information related to Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Annual fee
$0*
Rewards Rate
Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay
Regular Purchase APR
15.74% - 25.74%* (Variable)

Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card

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Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Unlimited 2% cash back on everyday purchases.
Regular Purchase APR
16.24% Variable

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 – 3%

Uber Visa Card

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

Uber Visa Card

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
4% back on dining, 3% back on hotel and airfare, 2% back for online purchases, and 1% on everything else.
Regular Purchase APR
17.24% - 25.99% Variable

The Uber Visa Card* earns 4% back on dining, 3% back on hotel and airfare, 2% back for online purchases, and 1% on everything else. There are also no foreign transaction fees — great if you travel outside the U.S.

Travel – 3%

The AAA Member Rewards Visa® Card offers 3 points for eligible travel & AAA purchases, 2 points on gas, grocery store, wholesale club and drugstore purchases, and 1 point per $1 everywhere else. You don’t have to be a AAA member to get the card.

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

U.S. Supermarkets – up to 6% (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%)

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

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Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Regular Purchase APR
15.24%-26.24% Variable
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 12 months
Intro BT APR
0% for 12 months
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.
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Credit required
good-credit
Excellent/Good

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers the highest rate we could find for U.S. supermarket shopping: 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. This card does have a $95 annual fee, but if you spend $1,584 a year at U.S. supermarkets, you’d earn enough cash back to recoup the annual fee.

Gas – 5%

Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

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Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Earn an unlimited 5% cash back on gas and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Regular Purchase APR
11.50% - 18.00% Variable

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.

Another option includes the Sams Club® Mastercard® with 5% at the pump on up to $6,000 worth of gas purchases a year, then 1%, but you need to be a Sam’s Club member to hold the card.

Dining – 4%

Uber Visa Card

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

Uber Visa Card

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
4% back on dining, 3% back on hotel and airfare, 2% back for online purchases, and 1% on everything else.
Regular Purchase APR
17.24% - 25.99% Variable

*This card earns 4% back on dining, 3% back on hotel and airfare, 2% back for online purchases, and 1% on everything else.

Everything else: Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer (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 Card card earns Unlimited 3% cash back during the first year; 2.5% cash back afterwards. There is a $99 annual fee, waived the first year. This offer 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.

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® Cash Back. 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.

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With Limits

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

Airfare

Unlimited

With limits

  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – 3X points in one of 10 categories (capped at $2,000 each quarter or 6000 points), and all other purchases earn 1X points.

Quarterly category in April 2019

  • 5%: Nusenda Credit Union Cash Rewards – Oct. – Dec. April 2019 – 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

Quarterly category in April 2019

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 from American Express– up to $50,000 in bonus purchases a year. Terms Apply.

Cellular Phone / Landline / Internet / Cable TV

  • 5%: Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card – up to $50,000 in bonus purchases a year

Clothing Stores

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – 3X points in one of 10 categories (capped at $2,000 each quarter or 6000 points), and all other purchases earn 1X points.

Commuting, Taxis

Unlimited

Department Stores

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

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – 3X points in one of 10 categories (capped at $2,000 each quarter or 6000 points), and all other purchases earn 1X points.

Discount stores

With limits

  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – 3X points in one of 10 categories (capped at $2,000 each quarter or 6000 points), and all other purchases earn 1X points.

Drug stores

With limits

  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – 3X points in one of 10 categories (capped at $2,000 each quarter or 6000 points), and all other purchases earn 1X points.

Quarterly category in April 2019

  • 5%: Chase Freedom® – up to $1,500 when you activate – January – March April 2019

Education

Quarterly category in April 2019

  • 5%: Nusenda Credit Union Cash Rewards – July – Sept. April 2019 – up to $1,500 – Anyone can join the Nusenda Credit Union (formerly the New Mexico Educators Credit Union) by becoming a member of the La Montanita Food Co-op.

Electronics

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – 3X points in one of 10 categories (capped at $2,000 each quarter or 6000 points), and all other purchases earn 1X points.

Furniture

With Limits

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

Gas

Unlimited

With limits

Quarterly category in April 2019

Supermarket Spending

Unlimited

With limits

Quarterly category in April 2019

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 April 2019

Hotels

Unlimited

With limits

Quarterly category in April 2019

Movie Theaters

With Limits

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

Quarterly category in April 2019

Office Supply Stores

With limits

Restaurants

Unlimited

With Limits

Quarterly category in April 2019

Shipping

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

Sporting Goods Stores

With limits

Trains, Cruises, Other Vacation

Unlimited

With limits

Utilities

Walmart

Warehouse Clubs

*The information related to the Uber Visa Card and Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

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.

Alexandria White
Alexandria White |

Alexandria White is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Alexandria at [email protected]

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

Rewards Credit Cards Illustration

Looking for a rewards credit card to earn cash or free travel from the spending you’re already doing? Because there are hundreds of rewards cards on the market, we’ve hand-picked the very best ones, most with no annual fee.

If you want a card to earn cashback rewards, your best bet is to use our calculator to get a personalized recommendation based on your spending habits. Otherwise, read our guide, created to help you understand if you’re ready to earn rewards and whether earning cash back or points/miles for travel rewards is your best bet.

Intro 0% for 15 months and rewards

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express is a $0 annual fee card that earns 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x), 1x points on other purchases.

 

With Membership Rewards® Points, you can turn your points into real airline miles with several frequent flier programs, including Delta SkyMiles, JetBlue True Blue, Virgin America Elevate and British Airways Avios. If you fly Delta and use SkyMiles this is a simple way to build on the SkyMiles you already have without a fee (since the Delta branded cards all have a fee). Check here to see if focusing on convertible points that can turn into real airline miles is a good plan for you.

 

Even better, if you don’t want to deal with airline miles, you have the flexibility to use your points for travel on almost any airline. Just book your flight via the American Express Travel website and pay for it with points. Other redemption options include gift cards, merchandise, pay with points at checkout and statement credit.

 

This card also comes with an intro 0% for 15 Months on purchases that allows you to carry a balance without racking up interest (after the intro period, 15.24%-26.24% Variable APR). And, you earn Membership Rewards® points on those purchases!

 

The information related to The Amex EveryDay® 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.

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  • Simple Welcome Offer
  • You need 20 transactions each month to get the 20% bonus

Tip: Make any large purchases or balance transfers as soon as you can so you can benefit from the intro 0% for 15 Months on purchases and intro 0% for 15 Months on balance transfers (after, 15.24%-26.24% Variable APR).

Read our full review of The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express here.

1. Cash back rewards credit cards

Start here: No annual fee, 2x cash

The most important recommendation we can make is to start with either the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer or Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card in your wallet.

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

If you prefer MasterCard or have less than perfect credit, go with the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer. If you prefer Visa or plan to use the card abroad, go with the Fidelity (it has a low 1% foreign transaction fee).

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

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

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Easy double cash rewards

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has easy double cash rewards with a $0* annual fee.

You Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay, so it’s easy to earn double cash on everything you buy with the card.

And since there’s a $0* 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 – 18 month BT offer 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.

The information related to Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

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

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

Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card

2.5% cash back with an annual fee

If you’re willing to pay a $99 annual fee, waived the first year, this card offers an unlimited 3% cash back during the first year; 2.5% cash back afterwards. Alliant is a credit union anyone can join online and you don’t need to be a member to apply. 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 – 18 month BT offer.

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

Tip: Be aware this card is only for people who are eligible for high credit limits, so it’s harder to get than the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer. You’ll need excellent credit and a good income to qualify.

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Up to 5% rewards with a little effort

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

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

Chase Freedom®

Our pick for small spenders & travelers

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 Chase Ultimate Rewards® partners like United MileagePlus® and Southwest Rapid Rewards®, which can make your points worth even more.

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

Tip: You generally have about 2 and a half months during the quarter to activate your 5%. For example, for January – March 2019, 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.

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Discover it® Cash Back

Best 5% cash for bigger spenders

The Discover it® Cash Back 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® Cash Back 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 you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There’s no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.So big spenders get more out of this than the introductory offer on the Chase Freedom®.

Plenty of 5% categories.  Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like grocery stores, gas stations, Uber and Lyft, restaurants, and Amazon.com up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. The 5% is limited to $1500 spending per quarter, 1% after that. Activation is required. Earn 1% unlimited cash back automatically on all other purchases.

  • January – March 2019: Grocery stores
  • April – June 2019 – Gas stations, Uber and Lyft
  • July – September 2019 – Restaurants
  • October – December 2019 – Amazon.com

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.

 

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

Tip: One gotcha about the Discover it® Cash Back 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 April – June 5% categories, if you activate on April 15, only spending from April 15 to the end of June will qualify, even if you made purchases in a 5% category before then.

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Rates & Fees

Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card from Nusenda Credit Union

Best 5% with no enrollment hassle

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 2019, the 5% cashback bonus categories include:

  • January – March: Groceries and gas expenses
  • April – June: Restaurants, movies, and home improvement
  • July – September: Gas and education expenses
  • October – December: Restaurants, hotels and 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 sign on-bonus (Earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.)

 

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  • 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.

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on Nusenda ’s secure website

Cash back for frequent diners

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

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

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

Uber Visa Card

Best unlimited dining cashback rewards

There is a $0 annual fee with this card. The Uber Visa Card offers 4% back on dining, 3% back on hotel and airfare, 2% back for online purchases, and 1% on everything else. You can earn points through UberEATS and web shopping to video and music streaming services.

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: Earn $100 after spending $500 on purchases in the first 90 days. 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.

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

Tip: Use this card for all dining, hotel and airfare purchases to maximize your rewards at the higher percentage rate.

Grocery cash rewards

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

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

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Best grocery cash back for heavy shoppers

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is the card that can earn the most cash from U.S. supermarket purchases at 6% up to $6,000 per year, then 1%, but there are two big hoops to deal with.

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

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

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

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

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on American Express’s secure website

Terms Apply | Rates & Fees

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card

Best grocery cash back for Whole Foods Market

The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card offers cardholders to 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. The rate you earn at Whole Foods Market rivals other grocery cards and is great considering there is no cap on the amount you can spend and no annual fee. However, keep in mind a Prime membership is required — annual plans cost $119 or $59 for students.

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  • Earn a high cash back rate on Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market purchases
  • Prime membership is required to earn the 5% back on Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market purchases

Tip: Remember to tie your Amazon.com account to your card in order to earn the top points per dollar spent at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market.

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

Cash rewards for less than perfect credit

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

Discover it® Secured

Best cash rewards for rebuilding credit

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

You can earn 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations (on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter). Plus, get 1% cash back on all your other purchases. There is a $0 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.

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  • $0 annual fee.
  • The Regular APR is 25.24% Variable.

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

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on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

2. Travel Rewards Cards

Real airline miles

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

 Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Best for serious travel rewards

The information related to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

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 to nine airline and three hotel partners: Aer Lingus AerClub, British Airways Executive Club, Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM, Iberia Plus, JetBlue TrueBlue, Singapore Airlines, Southwest Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Bonvoy and World of Hyatt.

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. Earn Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening..

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

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

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  • There are no foreign transaction fees.
  • There is an annual fee of $95.

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 Chase 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.

Points that work like cash for travel

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

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Best for not messing with miles

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.

Transfer miles earned. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is one of four Capital One® cards that allow you to transfer the miles you earn to 14 airline loyalty programs, with more partners to be announced in the future. Transfers can be done at a rate of 2 Venture miles to 1.5 airline miles with most participating airlines. Miles are transferred at a rate of 2:1 to the Emirates Skywards and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer programs.

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 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day, 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.

 

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  • There are no foreign transaction fees.
  • Annual Fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that annual fee.

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

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on Capital One’s website

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Best for savers with no fee

This card has a pretty basic. You Earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, and you can use those points to cover any travel purchase. There is a $0 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.

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

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

The information related to Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

3. Learn more

Are you ready to earn rewards with a credit card?

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

Answer these questions

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

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

 

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

 

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

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 – 18 month BT offer.

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

Pros

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

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

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

Cons

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

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

 

Real airline miles

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

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

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

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

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

Pros

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

You can build on miles you earn from flying.

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

They have big intro bonuses

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

Cons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Convertible points

These are the newest kind of rewards on the block, and cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® 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

Pros

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

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

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

Cons

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

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

 

Questions and Answers

With most cash rewards credit cards, your rewards won’t expire as long as you keep your account open. But some like the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer require you to either earn or use rewards at least once every so often. For the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer that’s once every 12 months.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 [email protected]

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