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What are miles and points worth? Valuation for airline and hotel programs

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Assigning a value to the miles and points you earn from your travels or a rewards credit card can be challenging, especially if you’re trying to compare them to cash rewards. What you save on travel will depend on the price in points at the time you travel, which can vary widely, and the amount you’d save in cash by using rewards points for travel. That can depend on your own tastes and preferences, in addition to the prevailing rates at the time you travel.

With that said, here are our estimates for what miles and points in major U.S. airline and hotel programs are worth for travelers willing to be flexible when making a redemption. We assumed the cash value was the cost to take the same flight, or stay in the same hotel as the one you’re booking with miles or points.

The values are in a ‘cents per point’ metric for easy comparison if you’re considering an intro bonus or choosing between programs for a reward. For example, a program where points are worth 1 cent each would require about 10,000 points to get $100 in travel value.

These values are not intended to be cash values, are illustrative, can change at any time, and may not be what you ultimately achieve, so consider them accordingly.

Airline Miles

Alaska MileagePlan – 2.0 cents. If you like to use international awards, Alaska has some of the most lucrative options available, and we value them at over 2 cents each if you save them for big business and first class awards. For standard domestic travel, the value is closer to 1.25 cents each. Alaska charges for awards based on a menu of prices, and has three levels of prices for its own flights, which dilutes value during popular times.

American AAdvantage® – 1.7 cents. Award prices are based on a menu of Saver and Anytime awards, with a separate menu for partner awards. We value AAdvantage miles at about 1.8 cents each, which is about the price you can often buy these miles when American puts on special buy miles promotions. You can sometimes get more value by being flexible and booking Saver or partner awards when cash tickets are expensive. The big drag on value for American miles for international flights are fuel surcharges on British Airways, which often cost more than just buying the cheapest economy fare outright.

If you’re not flexible, expect the miles to be worth closer to 1 cent each.

Delta SkyMiles® – 1.5 cents. There’s no published award chart for Delta miles, and we value them at about 1.5 cents each. Delta tends to tie award prices more closely to the actual cash airfare than American or United, making getting outsized value harder. But there are still decent deals like Economy Class to Europe and some domestic awards for as few as 5,000 miles one way. At minimum, you can get 1 cent per mile in value from Delta SkyMiles if you hold a Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card and use the Pay With Miles feature. That lets you use miles to pay for some or all of the cost of a cash ticket, with 10,000 miles worth $100.

JetBlue True Blue – 1.4 cents. JetBlue prices award tickets based on the cash cost of a ticket, though because of leverage on taxes and fees you can get better value booking cheaper tickets with points. You’ll also find economy class fares on less popular flights have a more favorable value than Mint first class seats on peak flights.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® – 1.3 cents. Southwest awards are priced directly based on the cash price of tickets. Every dollar of airfare requires about 78 points, which works out to a value of about 1.3 cents per point. The actual travel savings you realize will be higher because Southwest calculates the price in points only using the base airfare. It doesn’t charge you points for most of the taxes and fees on award tickets, which boosts your savings. 10,000 Southwest points can get you about $130 – $150 in travel value when the tax and fee savings are factored in.

Spirit FreeSpirit™ – 1.0 cents. Spirit has a complicated pricing structure for awards, and while it advertises some very low point prices that can yield great value if you’re very flexible and patient, more often you’ll end up getting close to 1 cent per mile in value.

United MileagePlus® – 1.8 cents. We value these miles at almost 2 cents each, so if you’re flexible expect to get around $200 in flight value out of 10,000 miles. For example, United’s 60,000 mile Saver Economy award to Europe with no fuel surcharges can often save you around $1,200 in airfare during peak travel season with good availability on Star Alliance partners. International Business Class awards are harder to come by, but can yield a value of 2 to 4 cents per mile. Domestic awards might get you less value, and closer to 1 cent per mile if you’re not flexible and travel at peak times.

Hotel points

Hilton Honors – 0.4 cents. Honors points generally get you about 0.4 cents in value, including when you use the feature that lets you pay in a mix of cash and points on any hotel rate. Some hotels may offer closer to 0.55 cents per point in value, and some luxury properties may offer much less value, but 0.4 cents is the most common value you’ll see.

Hyatt Gold Passport – 1.25 cents. Hyatt doesn’t have as many hotels in its portfolio as Hilton, IHG, or Marriott, so it offers more value with every point. You can often get 1.5 cents per point in value using Hyatt points, but there are also a lot of cases when you end up getting only 1 cent per point or lower in value, so we tend to benchmark them around 1.25 cents each.

IHG® Rewards – 0.4 cents. Most hotels are available at a rate of about 0.4 cents per point, with some getting closer to 0.55 cents per point like Hilton. You can also get much more value via IHG PointBreaks awards, which are available at a rotating list of hotels for 5,000 points a night. The catch is those hotels tend to be in less popular destinations during less desirable times to travel.

Marriott Bonvoy™ – 0.6 cents. Marriott Bonvoy points tend to get you a little more value than Hilton or IHG points, especially if you use them when rates are high. That could change as Marriott moves toward a peak and off peak based price chart in 2019, but for now expect to get more out of a Marriott point than an IHG or Hilton point.

Radisson Rewards – 0.5 cents. You can get about a half a cent per point in value out of Radisson points, but beware the hotel footprint is pretty limited in the United States. Europe and Asia are the stronger suits for Radisson.

Starwood Preferred Guest® – 2 cents. Marriott and Starwood are merging, and every Starpoint® will turn into 3 Marriott points as of August, 2018 (See Marriott Bonvoy™ details above). Until they merge, they’re worth around 2 cents or more, thanks to Starwood’s low award prices, and good opportunities to convert Starpoints to Marriott points.

Wyndham Rewards – 1.3 cents. Every Wyndham hotel is available for one price – 15,000 points a night. That means if you save your points for hotels that cost $200 or more a night in cash, you can get over 1.3 cents per point in value, but if you use them on cheaper hotels you’ll get much less value.

 

 

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The Best Cash Back Credit Cards for Every Category – 3% and More in May 2020

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In our analysis, there are over 25 categories where you can earn 3% or more in cash back on your credit card purchases. In this post, you’ll find the best cash back credit cards that earn more than 3% cash back in popular spending categories, such as dining, gas, airfare and groceries.

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
12.99%-23.99% Variable
Intro Purchase APR
0% on purchases for 12 months
Intro BT APR
0% on balance transfers 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%). 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions and 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%). 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions and 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.

To see rates & fees for the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, please click here.

Gas – 5%

Platinum Visa® from Abound Credit Union

Platinum Visa® from Abound Credit Union

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Unlimited 5% cash rewards for gas and 1% cash rewards for other eligible purchases.
Regular Purchase APR
10.75% - 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®. You earn 5% cash back on eligible gas worldwide, including gas at Sam's Club (on the first $6,000 per year, then 1% after). Earn 3% cash back on dining and travel. Earn 1% cash back on other purchases at Sam's Club and wherever Mastercard is accepted. You need to be a Sam’s Club member to hold the card.

Dining – 4%

The Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers unlimited 4% Cash Back on dining; 4% Cash Back on entertainment; 2% Cash Back at grocery stores; 1% Cash Back on all other purchases. Plus, earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through May 2020. The card also lets you earn a one-time $300 cash bonus after you spend $3000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.

Cardholders will be charged an annual fee of $0 intro for first year; $95 after that.

Airfare – 3%

Uber Visa Card

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The information related to Uber Visa Card has been independently 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
5% back in Uber Cash on Uber, Uber Eats, and JUMP, 3% back in Uber Cash on dining, hotels, and airfare and 1% back in Uber Cash on all other purchases
Regular Purchase APR
17.24% - 27.99% Variable

The Uber Visa Card earns 5% back in Uber Cash on Uber, Uber Eats, and JUMP, 3% back in Uber Cash on dining, hotels, and airfare and 1% back in Uber Cash on all other purchases. The foreign transaction fee is 0% of each transaction in U.S. dollars. So it’s great if you travel outside the U.S.

General purchases: Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card

The Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card card earns Unlimited 2.5% cash back on all purchases (note, this does not include certain categories, such as gift cards). The card also comes with a $99 annual fee, waived the first year.

Keep in mind that Alliant is targeting this card to high spenders with excellent credit, so it might be tough to get approved.

Earning cash back in other popular spending categories

We’ve organized cash back cards for each of the over 25 spending categories that are currently eligible for 3% or more in cash back rewards. They include both year-round offers and quarterly rotating categories.

You’ll find three types 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.

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.

Amazon.com

Unlimited

  • 5%: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card* (Prime members only)
  • 3%: Amazon Rewards Visa® Signature Card*

Bookstores

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card* up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose

Car Rentals

Unlimited

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card 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.
  • 3%: Visa Rewards Credit Card from InFirst FCU (no annual fee -join FAPAC at a reduced rate of $10 using discount code INFIRST)

Cell phone

With limits

  • 5%: Chase Freedom® – up to $1,500 when you activate – Jan – March 2020
  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card – up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 5%: Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card* – on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year

Clothing Stores

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card* 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

  • 3%: Citi PremierSM Card* ($95 annual fee)

Department Stores

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

  • 3%: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express ( $95 annual fee). See Rates & Fees.

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card* 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.

Drugstores

With limits

  • 5%: Discover it® Cash Back – up to $1,500 when you activate – Jan – March 2020 (CVS and Walgreens)
  • 3%: Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card* – 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, 1% on all other purchases
  • 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.

Electronics

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card* 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+™ Visa Signature® Card up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card – 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, 1% on all other purchases

Gas

Unlimited

  • 5%: Platinum Visa® from Abound Credit Union (anyone can join the credit union by becoming a member of the American Consumer Council for $5)
  • 4.25%: PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card (anyone can become a member of PenFed paying a one time dues to Voices for America’s Troops for $14 or National Military Family Association for $15)
  • 4%: Visa Rewards Credit Card from InFirst FCU (no annual fee – can join FAPAC at a reduced rate of $10 using discount code INFIRST)
  • 3-5%: PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card
  • 3%: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express ( $95 annual fee). See Rates & Fees.
  • 3%: AARP® Credit Card from Chase Bank*
  • 3%: The Farmers® Rewards Visa® Card from Comenity Bank
  • 3%: Coastal Credit Union, Apple Credit Union, Vystar, and several other credit unions
  • 3%: Citi PremierSM Card* ($95 annual fee)

With limits

  • 5%: Chase Freedom® – up to $1,500 when you activate – Jan – March 2020
  • 5%: USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card – up to $3,000 a year in purchases
  • 5%: Sams Club® Mastercard® – up to $6,000 cash back a year
  • 5%: Visa® Platinum Cash Rewards credit card from Nusenda Credit Union – Jan – March 2020 – up to $1,500
  • 4%: Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi* – for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter
  • 3%: U.S. Pride® Credit Card* – on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter
  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice
  • 3%: Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card* – on the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter

Supermarket Spending

Unlimited

  • 5%: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card* – Earn 5% at Whole Foods Market
  • 3%: Amazon Rewards Visa® Signature Card* – Earn 3% at Whole Foods Market

With limits

  • 6%: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express – Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). Terms apply.
  • 5%: Discover it® Cash Back – up to $1,500 when you activate – Jan – March 2020
  • 5%: Visa® Platinum Cash Rewards credit card from Nusenda Credit Union – Jan – March 2020 – up to $1,500
  • 3%: Visa Signature Cash Rebate Card from Consumers CU – up to $6,000 rebate per year – anyone can become a member of the credit union
  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – up to $2,000 a quarter
  • 3%: Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express – Earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). Terms apply.

Gyms

With Limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card* up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose

Home Improvement

No limits

  • 3%: The Farmers® Rewards Visa® Card from Comenity Bank*

With limits

  • 3%: Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card* – 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, 1% on all other purchases
  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Hotels

Unlimited

  • 3%: Uber Visa Card*
  • 3%: AAA Member Rewards Visa Signature® Card*
  • 3%: Citi PremierSM Card* ($95 annual fee)
  • 3%: Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi* (need to be a Costco member)
  • 3%: Visa Rewards Credit Card from InFirst FCU (no annual fee – can join FAPAC at a reduced rate of $10 using discount code INFIRST)
  • 3%: Sams Club® Mastercard®

With limits

  • 3%: Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card* – 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, 1% on all other purchases
  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Movie Theaters

With Limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card* up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose

Office Supply Stores

With limits

  • 5%: Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card* – up to $50,000 in bonus purchases a year
  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Restaurants

Unlimited

  • 3%: Uber Visa Card*
  • 3%: AARP® Credit Card from Chase Bank*
  • 3%: Sams Club® Mastercard®
  • 3%: Marvel Mastercard®*
  • 3%: Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi* (need to be a Costco member)
  • 3%: Visa Rewards Credit Card from InFirst FCU (no annual fee – can join FAPAC at a reduced rate of only $10 using discount code INFIRST)

With Limits

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

Sporting Goods Stores

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card* up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – up to $2,000 a quarter

Target

Unlimited

  • 5%: Target REDcard™ Credit Card

Trains, Cruises, Other Vacation

Unlimited

  • 3%: AAA Member Rewards Visa Signature® Card*
  • 3%: Citi PremierSM Card* ($95 annual fee)
  • 3%: Visa Rewards Credit Card from InFirst FCU (no annual fee – can join FAPAC at a reduced rate of $10, using discount code INFIRST)
  • 3%: Sams Club® Mastercard®

With limits

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

Utilities

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

*The information related to this offer has been independently collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply to American Express credit card offers. See americanexpress.com for more information. These offers and/or promotions may have since changed, expired, or are no longer available.

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.

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10 Best 5% Cash Back Credit Cards for May 2020

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners. This site may be compensated through a credit card partnership.

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Cash Back Credit Cards for 2017
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Credit card rewards 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 of 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-rewards cards, there’s almost always a catch, since most don’t offer 5% cash back across the board.

Every few months, the cards offer 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 often caps on how much of your spending can qualify for the 5% rewards rate. 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®

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

Chase Freedom®

Regular Purchase APR
16.49% - 25.24% 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: 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 up to $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.

Earn 5% back in these categories in 2020 (quarterly categories are announced throughout the year):

  • January to March 2020: Gas stations, select streaming services and internet, cable and phone services.
  • April to June 2020: Gym memberships, fitness clubs and grocery stores.
  • July to September 2020: To be announced.
  • October to December 2020: To be announced.

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

How it works: With the Discover it® Cash Back you earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at
different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.The 5% is limited to $1500 spending per quarter, 1% after that. Activation is required.

Earn 5% cash back in these categories throughout 2020:

  • January through March 2020: Grocery stores, Walgreens, CVS
  • April through June 2020: Gas stations, Uber and Lyft, wholesale clubs
  • July through September 2020: Restaurants and PayPal
  • October through December 2020: Amazon.com, Target.com, and Walmart.com (Activate now)

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 the spending limit, 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: 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.

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

Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card from Nusenda Credit Union

Regular Purchase APR
11.00% - 15.00% 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% at restaurants in Q4. Then pull out the Discover it® Cash Back to make purchases at Amazon.com 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

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

Regular Purchase APR
13.99% - 23.99%* (Variable)
Annual fee
$0*
Rewards Rate
5% cash back on your first $2,000 in combined eligible net purchases ($100 per quarter) on two categories you choose. That adds up to $400 cash back!

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: Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card

How it works: Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year. Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year. Earn 1% cash back on all other card purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn.

Earning cash back: Along with the rewards rate, cardholders earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Using your rewards: You can redeem your cash back as statement credits, which can be applied toward your card balance or directly deposited into most U.S. checking and savings accounts. You can also redeem cash back for travel, gift cards or Apple purchases through Ultimate Rewards.

The fine print: Although the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card offers a generous rewards rate on select business expenses, you can only earn the higher cash back rate on the first $25,000 in combined purchases in those categories each account anniversary year.

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 independently 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
15.74% to 23.74% 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

Target REDcard™ Credit Card

Regular Purchase APR
25.15% 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: Platinum Visa® from Abound Credit Union

Platinum Visa® from Abound Credit Union

Platinum Visa® from Abound Credit Union

Regular Purchase APR
10.75% - 18.00% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Unlimited 5% cash rewards for gas and 1% cash rewards for other eligible purchases.

How it works: The Platinum Visa® from Abound Credit Union makes our list with the most straightforward, no cap rewards program. You can Unlimited 5% cash rewards for gas and 1% cash rewards for other eligible 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.

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

USAA®Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card

USAA®Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card

Regular Purchase APR
13.40% - 27.40% 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.

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