Advertiser Disclosure

Earning Cashback

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

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.

iStock

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.

 

 

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.

MagnifyMoney
MagnifyMoney |

Have a question to ask or a story to share? Contact the MagnifyMoney team at [email protected]

Advertiser Disclosure

Earning Cashback

Citi Double Cash Review: Twice The Cash, No Limits

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.

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has the highest no-fee flat-rate cash back credit card on the market. If you pay your balance in full and on time every month, you can earn up to double cash back on everything you spend. You Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay. If you pay your statement balance in full and deposit the cash back into your checking account, you will have earned a nice 2%.

There is no cap on the cash back you can earn, and there are no rotating categories or requirements to opt into every quarter. If you are looking to earn a lot of cash back without a lot of work, this card could be right for you.

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
15.99%– 25.99% (Variable)
Credit required
good-credit
Excellent, Good

How the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer works

To get double cash back, you must emulate the habits of the savviest credit card holders: use your card, and pay it off in full each month. Do anything else, and you won’t get the full benefit of the double cash back reward.

With the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer, you Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay.. So you get 1% cash back for every dollar you spend, and another 1% cash back for each dollar you pay off on your balance — on time — each month.

To get the maximum double cash back quickly, you should pay off your entire balance. However, as long as you pay the minimum each month, you’ll eventually receive the double cash back, although you’ll pay a lot more than 1% in interest each month.

How to redeem cash back with Citi

When your balance reaches $25, you can choose to redeem your cash reward via check, direct deposit or statement credit to your Citi account. Beware: if you redeem with a statement credit, you won’t get exactly double cash back, but just shy of it depending on the size of the reward.

Choosing the direct deposit option will allow you to transfer your cash back directly to your bank account whether it’s a Citi account or not. If you redeem via check, you should receive a paper check at the address you have on file in 7 to 10 business days.

You can also redeem with a statement credit, but you might notice you don’t get quite double cash back. Since a $25 credit on your statement reduces the amount you’d need to pay back by some amount, you technically get a little less than 2% cash back.

For example, if you redeem $1,000 in cash back for the year, you’ll be shorted about $10 if you redeem your rewards with a statement credit. Assuming you paid off your balance each month, your cash back is reduced to about 1.98%. If you don’t want to miss out on that gap, redeem via check or direct deposit. Also, remember Citi does not count a statement credit as a payment, so you still need to make at least your minimum monthly payment by the due date or you’ll be charged a late fee.

Additionally, beginning in the fall of 2019, cardholders will be able to convert cash back rewards into Citi ThankYou points — which can be redeemed for gift cards, travel purchases at select retailers and more.

For more details on how to get your cash back, check out this article, where we show you step-by-step how to redeem your cash back with Citi.

Disclaimer: Your rewards will expire if you don’t use your card for 12 months, so be sure to swipe at lease once a year, or redeem your cash before it expires.

How to qualify for the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Borrowers with Excellent, Good credit scores are likely to get approved for the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer. That means you can still get approved with a few marks on your credit report. That’s unusual as rewards cards with a 0% introductory balance transfer offer like the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer are rare for those who lack excellent credit.

Overview of card benefits

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has the following benefits and protections to cardholders:

  • No penalty for your first missed payment. Citi won’t charge you a late fee on a first missed payment. This benefit forgives those who usually pay on time, but may miss a payment by accident. Careful, you WILL be charged a fee if you miss a second payment.
  • Citi Private Pass. Citi customers get special access to purchase presale tickets and VIP packages to events such as concerts, sporting events, dining experiences, and complimentary movie screenings.
  • Chip-enabled card. Just one warning: this is a chip and signature card (and not a chip and pin card). While that should be fine for all of your spending in America, it might make using the card overseas a bit more difficult when only chip-and-pin is accepted.
  • Citi Concierge. Citi Concierge sets you up with trained experts to help you plan your travel, shopping, dining, entertainment, and other parts of your next trip.
  • Protection against interrupted trips. If your travel plans are interrupted for some reason, Citi will reimburse you for part of your hassle. The bank will reimburse any nonrefundable travel expenses such as change fees if you paid for the ticket with your Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer.
  • Car rental and collision insurance. You can skip paying extra for the rental company’s collision loss and damage insurance if you use your Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer. Citi will cover you against any theft or damage done to the rental as long as you used your Citi card to pay for it.
  • Zero liability protection. You won’t be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card or account information. This is a fairly common credit card benefit.
  • Purchase protection covers repairs or refunds for your new purchases in case of damage or theft within 120 days of your making the purchase.
  • Lost wallet service. If you happen to lose your wallet and everything in it, take some comfort in knowing your Citi card, at least, will be replaced within 24 hours. Citi can also give you emergency cash up to your available cash advance limit to help out between losing your card and receiving a new one.

Why we like the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

It has the highest no-fee flat rate reward in the market.

The clearest advantage of the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is that it offers the highest flat rate cash rewards program without an annual fee on the market. The card’s double cash back feature can be a valuable feature for those known to make most everyday purchases on a credit card, and pay the card balance off each month.

The flat rate on all purchases keeps earning rewards simple.

If you like things simple, the card’s flat rate on everything will make keeping up with rewards a breeze. You’ll earn 1% on everything you buy, so there won’t be any need for you to fumble through a stack of credit cards for a specific cash back card at the grocery store. It also eliminates stressing over when or by how much rewards categories might change on your current go-to card each quarter.

It’s a good balance transfer card, too.

The card’s 0% for 18 months on Balance Transfers offer makes it a good choice for those seeking to consolidate debt, too. The cash back rewards won’t apply to your balance transfer, but you’ll get 18 billing cycles to pay off the balance interest-free before the card’s higher ongoing interest rate kicks in, currently at 15.99%– 25.99% (Variable) APR.

It comes with other great cardholder benefits.

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer’s other benefits aren’t bad either. The card also grants you free access to view your Equifax FICO® Score, and the Citi® Price Rewind benefit automatically reimburses you the difference on purchases made with your card if the price changes within 60 days up to $200 per item, and up to $1,000 per year. Terms apply.

What to watch out for with the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

You have to pay off your balance in full to reap the full reward.

You could pay the minimum each month and eventually see you’ve redeemed your cash back. However, the reward really only benefits you if you pay your balance in full each month. If you don’t, the full interest you’ll be charged on your purchases will eclipse the double cash back benefit.

It charges a balance transfer fee.

Although the balance transfer isn’t the main perk the card has, it’s important to note Citi charges you a balance transfer fee of 3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum. Granted, the charge isn’t much compared to the 16% on average you’d be charged in interest on your balance each month if you don’t transfer, but there are many, no-fee balance transfer alternatives (like the Discover it® or Chase Slate® cards) you could qualify for instead.’

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

You get charged 3% to use it overseas.

You’ll pay to use this card overseas, and the fee isn’t worth it if you can avoid doing so. The 3% foreign transaction fee you’ll be charged to swipe makes the potential double cash back you’d receive on the purchase trivial.

It doesn’t come with a sign-on bonus.

With the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer, you won’t get a sign-on bonus like you’d get with other competing cash back cards like Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card ($100) or the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card. It’s not a huge pitfall among the card’s best-in-class cash back offer and other perks, but it’s something to consider when weighing your options.

Your rewards will eventually expire.

Take care to redeem your cash back before you stop using the card! If you don’t earn cash back on rewards with your Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer for 12 months, your rewards will expire. If you plan to stop using the card — maybe you accepted the offer for a specific purchase, or simply for the balance transfer offer — make sure to redeem your cash back before adding it to your credit card graveyard.

Alternatives to the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has the highest no-fee flat rate cash back reward on the market, but it might not be the best cash back card for you, depending on your spending habits.

Cards that only earn cash back in certain categories, for example, may work better for you. You might find you spend most of your income in a category such as groceries or gas, so you’d earn a greater reward with a card that earns cash back only in specific spending categories or enjoy keeping up with rotating categories.

Next we compare how the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer compares to four other cash back credit cards:

  • Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card – the other 2% cash back credit card
  • Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card – the 2.5%-3% cash back credit card with a fee
  • Chase Freedom® — the rotating category alternative
  • Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express — the bonus category alternative

Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card

The Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card earns cardholders Unlimited 2% cash back on everyday purchases. There is a $0 annual fee. The card is best for existing Fidelity customers, as the funds you earn must be deposited into a Fidelity account.

Borrowers with “good” credit need not apply for this card. Your credit score has to be above 700 to get approved for a line of credit with the Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card. Even then, you may be disappointed if you’re not a big Fidelity customer as Fidelity bases its credit limits on the total amount of assets it’s managing on your behalf.

Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card

If you don’t mind paying an annual fee, the Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card could be a viable alternative to the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer.

The Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card offers an Unlimited 3% cash back during the first year; 2.5% cash back afterwards. You’ll also forgo a foreign transaction fee if you use the card overseas. The catch is, cardholders pay a $99 annual fee, waived the first year to hold the card. Only those with excellent credit and high income will qualify for this rewards offer.

Chase Freedom® — the rotating category alternative

With Chase Freedom®, you’ll automatically 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. The card also lets you Earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

The Chase Freedom® card rotates rewards categories each quarter, so you’ll need to look out for changes and opt in to the quarter’s categories before you can start earning rewards in them. You also enjoy 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months and a 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months (16.99% - 25.74% Variable, thereafter). You can also earn a $25 bonus when you add an authorized user and make your first purchase within the first three months.

If you qualify for the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer card, you have a good chance of qualifying for Chase Freedom®, too. Borrowers with Excellent/Good credit scores have the best shot at getting approved for the Chase Freedom® card.

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

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express— the bonus category alternative

With a card like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, you’ll earn a larger amount of cash back in certain categories. The card awards holders 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), and 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations. The card also offers – NEW 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions & 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more. So, if your household spends big on gas and groceries, the rewards you’d earn with a card like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express will likely be greater that what you could earn with the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer.

Try using this tool to figure out which cash back card has the best ongoing program for your needs. Fill in how much you tend to spend each month in each spending category, and the system will generate recommendations based on your spending habits.

Who benefits the most from the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Overall, cash back cards can be a great way to put some extra money in your pocket, as long as you remember to pay your statement balance in full each month. Interest and late fees can eclipse your cash back earnings pretty quickly.

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is best for borrowers with Excellent, Good credit, who make everyday purchases with a credit card and have great payment habits. The double cash back feature is great if you already have the discipline to pay your statement balances off in full each month, and it’s the only way the card’s reward offer is valuable. If you don’t think you can consistently pay off your card each month, it’s best to get the habit set in stone before trying a rewards credit card.

If you’ve never had a rewards card, the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer’s simple terms and flat rate cash back rewards make for a great starter rewards card and — so long as you pay your balance off each month — it can be a great way to earn extra pocket change without going into debt.

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer FAQs

You’ll get up to double cash back on all of your purchases, which is the logic behind advertising the card as “Double Cash” and not “2% Cash.” You’ll Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay., but if you choose to redeem your cash back via statement credit on your account, you’re technically getting just shy of 2% cash back.

Yes, the cash back on the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer expires if you haven’t used your card for 12 months.

Anything over 1.5% cash back is a good deal. There are some cards that offer more — as much as 5% or 6% cash back on purchases. But sometimes those offers are too good to be true. Banks don’t like to lose money and will pepper the fine print with all sorts of limitations. For example, they may offer 5% cash back on only purchases at certain types of retailers and only for certain periods of time. And those categories may change every quarter, which can make it hard to keep track.

Don’t let those cash back promises pressure you into spending more than you can afford. If you don’t pay your statement balance in full each month, you could get slapped with sky-high interest charges. That would totally negate any benefit you might get from earning cash back. Cash back cards are only valuable if you can pay your bill in full and capture the entirety of your cash back rewards.

It depends on the card. Some cards allow you to redeem cash back dollar for dollar as a statement credit, which can help lower your total balance. Just keep in mind that applying cash back to your card statement does not count as a monthly payment. Other cards will increase the value of your cash back if you spend on certain categories, like travel. Review your terms carefully to be sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

Find the card that fits your day-to-day spending needs best, beyond the flashy sign-up bonus offers and cash back promises. Pay your bill in full each month (spend only what you can afford to pay off).

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.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at [email protected]

Advertiser Disclosure

Best of, Earning Cashback

10 Best 5% Cash Back Credit Cards for September 2019

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.

Cash Back Credit Cards for 2017
iStock

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 collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Chase Freedom®

Regular Purchase APR
16.99% - 25.74% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

How it works: Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. This translates to a maximum return of $75 per quarter on the 5% bonus category. You earn an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases outside of the bonus categories. You can also Earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

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

  • January to March 2019: Gas stations, tolls and drugstores
  • April to June 2019: Grocery stores and home improvement stores
  • July to September 2019: Gas stations and select streaming services
  • October to December 2019: Department stores, Chase Pay, Apple Pay

Another area where the Chase Freedom® shines is in how it allows customers to redeem their rewards. The cash you’ve earned converts into Chase Ultimate Rewards® points. Every $1 equals 100 points. You can easily use the cash and apply it to your monthly statement. Or you can convert them into points and use them on travel, gift cards, merchandise, and other services through the Chase Freedom® rewards dashboard.

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

chasefreedommobileapp

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

The Fine Print: You can’t beat 5% cash back for your spending, especially with no annual fee. The downside is you have to remember to activate the category each quarter by subscribing to the program. But, if you set a reminder to do so, you can earn money without too much effort.

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

Discover it® Cash Back

APPLY NOW Secured

on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

Discover it® Cash Back

Regular APR
13.99% - 24.99% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

How it works: With the Discover it® Cash Back you earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like grocery stores, gas stations, Uber and Lyft, restaurants, or Amazon.com up to the quarterly maximum. The 5% is limited to $1500 spending per quarter, 1% after that. Activation is required.

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

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

Using your rewards: Cash back from the Discover it® Cash Back is tracked in dollars and cents. You can immediately apply your cash back earnings to your bank account or as a statement credit toward your bill (note: your minimum payment will still be due). There’s also no minimum rewards value if you want to redeem them for charitable donations.

The fine print: You can only earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 of spend each quarter you activate. Once you’ve hit that cap, you’ll earn 1% unlimited cash back automatically on all other purchases.. This adds up to a $75 maximum return on your rotating bonus categories. There is no annual fee.

Extra perks: As an Intro Offer, Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There’s no signing up and no limit to how much is matched.

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

Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card from Nusenda Credit Union

APPLY NOW Secured

on Nusenda ’s secure website

Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card from Nusenda Credit Union

Regular Purchase APR
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

APPLY NOW Secured

on US Bank’s secure website

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

Regular Purchase APR
15.99% - 25.49%* (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: SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express

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

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

**Terms and conditions apply.

Earning cash back: You have to choose your 3% category within two months of signing. If you don’t choose one, the default is gas stations. The combined annual maximum spend for the 5% and 3% categories is $50,000. On all other purchases, you get 1% cash back.

Using your rewards: Cash back will appear as a credit automatically on your statement. The SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express card has no annual fee, so you’ll earn cash back with a generous annual maximum of $50,000 (see Rates & Fees).

The fine print: You must remember to choose your 3% cash back category every year. If you select one this year and forget to do so next year, you’ll be locked into the same 3% category for another 12 months until you make a switch. There is no annual fee.

*The information related to the SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Note that this offer is no longer available.

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

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card

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

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card

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

How it works: The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card is open to Amazon Prime Members, so it’s somewhat exclusive. Earn 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market with eligible Prime membership, 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores, and 1% back on all other purchases. Buying items on other merchant websites that have the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card payment option enabled will not earn you 5% cash back.

Using your rewards: The cash back you rack up will apply as a credit to your statement.

Do the math: If you’re not already an Amazon Prime Member, it’s probably not worth signing up to become one just for the card unless you intend to spend big bucks on the site or at Whole Foods Market. You need to spend $2,380 per year at Amazon.com for the 5% cash back to cover the $119 annual membership fee.

The fine print: The fine print of what you can and can’t buy to earn 5% is the only gotcha here. But, if you shop a lot at Whole Foods Market or on Amazon.com often and stick to the rules, you’ll see a nice return from this card. There’s no annual fee for the card, but you must be an Amazon Prime member, which costs $119 a year ($59 for students).

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

Target REDcard™ Credit Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Target’s secure website

Target REDcard™ Credit Card

Regular Purchase APR
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: Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Fort Knox Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

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

How it works: The Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card makes our list with the most straightforward, no cap rewards program. You can Unlimited 5% cash back on gas and 1% cash back on all retail purchases.

Using your rewards: Cash back will appear on your statement as a credit.

The fine print: This rewards program is offered by a credit union in Kentucky. You’ll have to take a few extra steps to qualify for membership. If you don’t live in Kentucky or have family in Kentucky, membership is open to anyone that joins the American Consumer Council. There is no annual fee for the card, but you will need to become a member of the credit union.

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

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

APPLY NOW Secured

on American Express’s secure website

Terms Apply | Rates & Fees

Read Full Review

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Regular Purchase APR
14.99%-25.99% Variable
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 12 months
Intro BT APR
0% for 12 months
Annual fee
$95
Rewards Rate
NEW 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions & 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

How it works: The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is our top pick for cardholders who want to maximize cash back on groceries. With this card, you get 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, along with 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and transit (e.g., taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more). Cardholders also earn – NEW 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions & 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more.

Welcome offer: $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.

Using cash back: Cash back builds as Rewards Dollars you can redeem for statement credit in increments of $25.

The fine print: There is an annual fee of $95 per year.

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

USAA®Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on USAA Bank’s secure website

USAA®Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card

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

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

Earning cash back: You Earn 5% cash back on your first $3,000 in gas and military base purchases annually on these categories combined. Earn 2% on your first $3,000 on supermarket purchases per year. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. You can redeem cash back in increments of $1 through the USAA Rewards Service Center online or over the phone.

The fine print: The USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card is light on the fine print. Just remember, the 5% category yearly maximum is $3,000 for combined gas and military base purchases per year and not per quarter. There is no annual fee.

The key to earning from any cash back card

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

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

Benét J. Wilson
Benét J. Wilson |

Benét J. Wilson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Benét J. at [email protected]