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Best Cash Back Cards for Grocery Shopping in September 2019

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Shopping for groceries can be a mundane experience. There are numerous aisles, thousands of items and long checkout lines to contend with. Then there’s one more blow: watching the dollars add up at the register.

But signing up for a solid cashback credit card can be a good way to earn a percentage of your grocery purchases back and take some of the sting out of that shopping trip.

Here are the best cashback cards for grocery shopping.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

The information related to Blue Cash Everyday® 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.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Regular Purchase APR
14.99%-25.99% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores. 1% cash back on other purchases.

The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, offers 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores. 1% cash back on other purchases. It comes with a $0 annual fee. This is a great rate for habitual shoppers so long as you spend up to $3,167 a year at supermarkets. If you spend more than that, then you might be better off with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, which comes with a $95 annual fee but higher cashback potential.

The Welcome Offer allows you to $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months. This is a good way to maximize your rewards.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

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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.

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers the highest cashback rate for big grocery spenders — 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). This card does come with a $95 annual fee and you need to spend $1,584 a year on groceries to break even. If you spend $3,167 a year ($264 a month) or more on groceries you will benefit from this card more than the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. You’ll also earn a high 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more, and 1% back on other purchases. There’s an added Welcome Offer: $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.

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.

The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card grocery cashback program is geared toward Whole Foods Market shoppers. You’ll 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.. This is a great rate if you frequently shop at Whole Foods Market and easily rivals offers from competing cards. There is no annual fee, but you must have a Prime membership to get the 5% rate — currently, annual plans cost $119 or $59 for students.

Amazon Rewards Visa® Signature Card

Amazon Rewards Visa® Signature Card

The information related to Amazon 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 Rewards Visa® Signature Card

Regular Purchase APR
16.24% to 24.24% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Earn 3% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market, 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores, and 1% back on all other purchases.

The Amazon Rewards Visa® Signature Card is similar to the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card, but doesn’t require a Prime membership. This card also has a $0 annual fee but offers a lower rate at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market. Earn 3% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market, 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores, and 1% back on all other purchases.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card - $200 Cash Rewards Offer

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card - $200 Cash Rewards Offer gives cardholders more flexibility when it comes to earning bonus rewards. The card lets you select one of six “choice” categories to earn 3% cash back in each month: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement/furnishings. You’ll earn 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. The ability to change the bonus cashback category each month is unique since many cards only allow you to select new bonus categories every quarter, or don’t allow you to choose at all.

There is a $0 annual fee. As a Preferred Rewards member, you could increase your bonus to 25-75%, making your grocery cash back an effective 2.5-3.5%. If you apply online, you can earn a  $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

The information related to Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card - $200 Cash Rewards Offer has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Huntington Voice Credit Card®

Huntington Voice Credit Card®

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Huntington Voice Credit Card®

Regular Purchase APR
13.99% - 27.99% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
3X points in one of 10 categories (capped at $2,000 each quarter or 6000 points), and all other purchases earn 1X points.

The Huntington Voice Credit Card® has a $0 annual fee and earns you 3X points in one of 10 categories (capped at $2,000 each quarter or 6000 points), and all other purchases earn 1X points. You also have the freedom to change your 3X category every quarter to suit your spending. But be aware that if you switch from grocery stores to another category, you’ll only earn 1X points on grocery spending. Points can be redeemed for cash and 1 point equals $0.01, therefore 5,000 points is equal to $50 cash rewards.

Which card is the right fit for me?

With numerous credit cards available to help maximize your grocery rewards, it can be confusing to know which to choose. Some cards provide unlimited rewards at a high rate, while most have caps on grocery spending.

The table below breaks down which grocery card may be a good fit for you when factoring in annual grocery spending, cashback rate and annual fee. (Sign-on bonuses are not reflected.) Keep in mind: This only factors in spending on grocery purchases and doesn’t consider if you spend in other categories or at the other cashback rates.

Here are a few key takeaways:

  • If you spend about $3,000 a year on groceries, you will benefit more from the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, Amazon Rewards Visa® Signature Card or the Huntington Voice Credit Card®.
  • If you spend around $4,000 – $7,000 a year, you will benefit more from the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express.
  • If you spend on average $8,000 or more a year at Whole Foods Market, you will benefit more from the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card.
  • The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card - $200 Cash Rewards Offer earns you subpar cash back unless you have $100,000 in a Bank of America checking or savings account.
  

Card

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card

Amazon Rewards Visa® Signature Card

Huntington Voice Credit Card®

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card - $200 Cash Rewards Offer: without BofA checking/
savings

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card - $200 Cash Rewards Offer: with $100,000 in BofA checking/
savings

Spending

$1,000

-$69

$30

$30

$30

-$35

$20

$35

$2,000

$-19

$60

$60

$60

$25

$40

$70

$3,000

$31

$90

$90

$90

$85

$60

$105

$4,000

$81

$120

$120

$120

$145

$80

$140

$5,000

$131

$150

$150

$150

$205

$100

$175

$6,000

$181

$180

$180

$180

$265

$120

$210

$7,000

$231

$210

$210

$190

$275

$140

$245

$8,000

$281

$240

$240

$200

$285

$160

$280

$9,000

$331

$270

$250

$210

$295

$180

$315

$10,000

$381

$300

$260

$220

$305

$200

$350

*We included the $119 Prime membership fee into our calculations for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card and the $95 annual fee for the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express.

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Alexandria White
Alexandria White |

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

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Earning Cashback

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

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 TrueBlue and British Airways Executive Club. 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, 14.99%-25.99% 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, 14.99%-25.99% 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.

See the Chase Freedom® 2019 calendar:

  • January – March 2019: Gas stations, tolls and drugstores
  • April – June 2019 – Grocery stores and home improvement stores
  • July – September 2019 – Gas stations and select streaming services
  • October – December 2019 – Holiday: TBA

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 or a Chase Sapphire Reserve® 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.

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.

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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 two 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.

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 and PayPal
  • October – December 2019 – Amazon.com, Target, and Walmart.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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  • 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 July through September 5% categories, if you activate on Aug. 15, only spending from Aug. 15 to the end of September will qualify, even if you made purchases in a 5% category before then.

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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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Cash back for frequent diners

What’s better than 2% cash rewards? 4%.

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, including UberEats, 3% back on hotel and airfare, 2% back for online purchases, Uber and music streaming services, 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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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 24.99% 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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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 airline hotel travel partners. You can transfer your points to 10 airline and three hotel partners: Aer Lingus AerClub, British Airways Executive Club, Emirates Skywards, Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM, Iberia Plus, JetBlue TrueBlue, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, 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 allows 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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Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Best for savers with no fee

This card has a pretty basic. You Earn unlimited 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 services 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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Building Credit, College Students and Recent Grads, Credit Cards, Earning Cashback

How You Can Have a Good FICO Score Just One Year After Opening a Credit Card

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

When I moved to the U.S. from my hometown of Hangzhou, in China, to pursue my undergraduate degree, the thought of establishing a credit history wasn’t even on my radar. I was, after all, an international student from China, where day-to-day credit card use had only recently caught on.

It wasn’t until I returned to the U.S. a few years later to pursue my master’s degree in Chicago that I realized I’d need to establish credit if I planned to launch my career in the States.

Just one year after I opened the card, I already had a solid FICO score – 720, to be exact. This score landed me safely in the “good” credit range, meaning I probably would not have trouble getting approved for new credit. I still had work to do if I wanted to get into the “very good” credit category, which starts at 740. But as a credit card newbie, I was not disappointed in my progress. 

Here’s how I did it.

I selected the right card for my needs

I wish I could say I diligently researched credit cards to choose the best offer and best terms, but honestly, I just got lucky.

Shortly before graduate school started, I visited friends in Iowa. When we were about to split the bill after dinner at a Japanese restaurant, I noticed that all my friends had a Discover card with a shimmering pink or blue cover. The Discover it® Student Cash Back was known for its high approval rate for student applicants, and had been popular among international students.

I thought, “Oh, maybe I should get this one, too.”

One of the friends sent me a referral link that very night. I applied and got approved quickly. We both received a $50 cash-back bonus after I made my first purchase — an iPhone — using the card through Discover’s special rewards program. I even received 5% cash back from the purchase.

Besides imposing no annual fee, the card had other perks, such as rewarding me with a $20 statement credit when I reported a good GPA (up to five consecutive years), letting me earn 5% cash back on purchases in rotating categories and matching the cashback bonus I earned over the first 12 months with my account. For me, it was a great starter card, but there are plenty of other options out there.

Check out our guide on the best credit cards for students.

I also could have explored other options of establishing credit, like opening a secured card, for example, which would have been a smart option if I hadn’t been able to qualify for the Discover it student card.

I never missed a payment

Despite my very limited financial literacy at the time, I attribute my strong credit score to the old, deeply ingrained Chinese mentality about saving and not owing.

I never missed payments, and I always paid off my balance in full each month, instead of just making the minimum payment. I didn’t want to pay a penny of interest.

Credit cards carry high interest rates across the board, but student credit cards generally have some of the highest APRs. This is because lenders see students like me — consumers without much credit history — to be risky borrowers, and they charge a higher interest rate to offset that risk.

Best Student Credit Cards September 2019

It wasn’t until much later that I learned payment history is critical to good credit. In fact, it is the biggest factor there is, accounting for 35% of my FICO score.

A Guide to Getting Your Free Credit Score

I was careful not to use too much of my available credit

My friends with more experience advised me to use as little of my available credit as possible. They warned me that overuse had hurt their credit scores in the past. This didn’t much sense to me, but I followed their advice, for the most part diligently.

I later learned this is almost as important as paying bills on time each month. Your utilization rate is another major factor in your FICO score. Credit experts urge cardholders to keep their credit utilization ratio below 30%. The lower, the better.

That means if you have three credit cards with a total available limit of $10,000, you should try to never carry a total balance exceeding $3,000, and you really should aim for much lower than that.

A Guide to Build and Maintain Healthy Credit

I beefed up my score with on-time rent payments

Keeping in mind the importance of not maxing out my credit card, I never considered paying my rent with the card. In fact, some landlords charge credit card fees for tenants who try to pay with plastic.

But I did find a way to establish credit by paying rent using my checking account.

I paid rent to my Chicago landlord through RentPayment, an online service. RentPayment gave me the option of having my payments reported to TransUnion, one of the three major credit-reporting agencies (the other two are Experian and Equifax). Because I knew I’d always pay bills on time, I signed up for the program.

This likely helped me improve my credit mix, another key factor influencing a credit score. The more types of accounts you show on your report, the better your score can be — if you make all your payments on time.

Yes, I made mistakes. This was my biggest one

My first foray into the world of credit wasn’t completely blip-free.

The only thing that hurt my credit, besides my short credit history, was that I had tried signing up for a Chase credit card, along with other ways to finance my iPhone, just a few days before I applied for my Discover card.

None of the other banks approved my applications, and my score went down at the very beginning, due to the number of “hard inquiries” against my credit report. Hard inquiries occur when lenders check your credit report before they make decisions regarding your application. Having too many inquiries in a short period of time can result in a ding to your credit score.

I’ve learned my lesson, though, and I’ll be cautious in the future when it comes to applying for a lot of credit in a short time period. Overall, it should be noted that you should not be afraid to apply for new credit — even when hard inquiries do hurt your score in the short term, it typically isn’t disastrous, and your score should recover fairly quickly as long as you are a responsible user of credit. Having more available credit can also help your utilization rate — as long as you don’t increase your charges, of course.

You can also check to see if you have prequalifed for any credit cards without triggering a hard inquiry.

If you’re new to the world of credit cards, consider taking the steps I outlined above, and you, too, may have a healthy credit score before you know it.

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.

Shen Lu
Shen Lu |

Shen Lu is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Shen Lu at [email protected]

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