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2019

Best Cash Back Credit Cards

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Credit Card Insider is an independent, advertising supported website. Credit Card Insider receives compensation from some credit card issuers as advertisers. Advertiser relationships do not affect card ratings or our Editor’s Best Card Picks. Credit Card Insider has not reviewed all available credit card offers in the marketplace. Content is not provided or commissioned by any credit card issuers. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information, though all credit card information is presented without warranty. When you click on any ‘Apply Now’ button, the most up-to-date terms and conditions, rates, and fee information will be presented by the issuer. Credit Card Insider has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Credit Card Insider and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. A list of these issuers can be found on our Editorial Guidelines.

If you’re going to spend money, why not get some of it back? A cash back card won’t make you rich, but saving two or three percent here and there will add up over time. If you’re using cash or a debit card instead of a credit card, you could switch over and start earning rewards every time you make a purchase.

Best Cash Back Credit Cards
Brendan Harkness

By Brendan Harkness

Our Selection Criteria

The right cash back card for you will easily fit into your spending and shopping habits, without being a hassle to use and pay off. Consider these key features if you’re in the market for a new card.

  • Bonus categories that fit your spending habits: Look for a high cash back rate for the types of purchases you make most often.
  • A rewards program that works for you: You should be able to easily understand and redeem your rewards.
  • Valuable signup bonus: The best cash back rewards cards offer signup bonuses, sometimes up to $500 or more.
  • Promotional interest rates: Many cash back cards provide introductory 0% APR intro offers on purchases, balance transfers, or both.
  • Extra perks and benefits: Credit card benefits can come in very useful in some situations, and may provide exclusive services or insurance for eligible purchases and while traveling.
  • A reasonable annual fee: If you’re going to pay an annual fee for a rewards card, be sure to get your money’s worth.
Is a Cash Back Card Right for You?
Best Cash Back Credit Cards
Brendan Harkness

By Brendan Harkness

Is a Cash Back Card Right for You?

When used responsibly, cash back cards are a great way to earn rewards and enjoy extra perks when shopping and traveling. Most people can benefit from carrying at least one cash back card, for a number of reasons:

  • To save a bit of money: You won’t get rich from credit card rewards, but you could earn enough for a fancy dinner each month or even a fantastic vacation.
  • Cash back is easy to redeem: Cash back is easy to redeem for statement credits or bank deposits, which work like direct deposit. Other rewards cards may have more complicated redemption systems, especially travel rewards cards like airline and hotel cards.
  • Many options to choose from: You’ll find cash back cards designed for all kinds of spending. Some provide extra cash back for certain types of purchases (called bonus categories) while others offer the same flat rate for every purchase.
  • Designed for all levels of credit: The best cash back cards tend to require good or excellent credit, but there are options for fair or average credit too, and even bad or limited credit. Most people should be able to find a card that suits them in some way, even if it’s not a perfect fit for all their spending.
  • A more secure payment method: If you’re using cash or a debit card for most of your spending, you’re missing out on valuable security measures and fraud protections.
Our Selection Criteria
BEST PICK FOR

Flat-Rate Cash Back

Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer

Our rating
Credit range Good
Details
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR 15.74%– 25.74% (Variable)
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer (Review) is your best cash back option if you want a card for all-around, general spending. The rewards are the main attraction, but you’ll also get a nice introductory APR for balance transfers before its variable APR kicks in.

  • 2% cash back for every purchase you make
    • 1% back when you make a purchase
    • 1% back when you pay for that purchase

You can earn unlimited cash back with this card, though it won’t come all at once. You’ll get the remaining 1% when you pay off your purchases, whether that’s immediately or later on.

It’s fairly simple, but a strong offer nevertheless. A general-use, flat-rate cash back card like this can be paired with a different rewards card that has bonus categories, like the others on this page. You can use that other card whenever you spend in the bonus categories, and pay with the Double Cash for all other purchases.

  • Citi Concierge: Call for non-emergency help whenever you need it, like assistance making travel reservations.
  • ShopRunner membership: Use ShopRunner to get free two-day shipping and returns at participating retailers.
  • Free Credit Score: Check your FICO Bankcard Score 8 for free, based on your Equifax credit report.
  • Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 18 months on Balance Transfers, then 15.74%– 25.74% (Variable) (for transfers made during the first four months)
  • Annual fee: $0

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

  • 1.5% cash back for all purchases
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months, then 16.74-25.49% Variable
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • 1.5% cash back for all purchases
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% intro on purchases for for 15 months, then 15.74% - 25.74% (Variable)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details

American Express Cash Magnet® Card

  • 1.5% cash back for all purchases
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% on purchases for 15 months, then 14.99% - 25.99% Variable (for transfers requested in the first 60 days)
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details

Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card

  • 1.5% cash back for all purchases
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in first 3 months
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 months, then 15.74%-27.74% Variable (for transfers requested in the first 120 days)
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details

Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

  • 2% cash back for all purchases
  • $500 cash bonus for spending $4,500 in the first 3 months
  • Annual fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that
View card details
2 5
BEST PICK FOR

Rotating Reward Categories

Discover it® Cash Back Credit Card

Our rating
Credit range Good
Details
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR 13.74%–24.74% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The Discover it® Cash Back Credit Card (Review) is one of the best cash back credit cards available, thanks to a unique offer from Discover. It has rotating reward categories, which switch every three months, but you’ll need to activate your spending categories each quarter before you can use them.

  • 5% cash back on the first $1,500 spent per quarter (then 1%), in categories that rotate throughout the year
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Cashback Match: New cardmembers get double the cash back earned in the first year (awarded at the end of the first year)

You can find the Discover it’s 5% cash back categories here.

  • Free Credit Score: Track your FICO Score 8 over time, based on your TransUnion credit report.
  • Social Security Number Alerts: Get notified if your SSN is found on any thousands of risky websites.
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 14 months, then 13.74%–24.74% Variable (for transfers requested in the first 90 days)
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0

Chase Freedom®

  • 5% cash back in rotating reward categories, up to $1,500 spent per quarter (then 1%)
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months, then 16.74 - 25.49% Variable
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

  • 5% cash back in your choice of two categories per quarter, up to $2,000 per quarter (then 1%)
  • 2% cash back in one category of your choice per quarter
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 90 days
  • Balance Transfer APR: 0%* intro on BTs for 12 billing cycles on Balance Transfers*, then 15.74% - 25.24%* Variable
  • Annual fee: $0*
View card details
BEST PICK FOR

Gas

Ducks Unlimited Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Our rating
Credit range Good
Details
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR 21.24% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The Ducks Unlimited Rewards Visa Signature® Card is the best all-around gas card, with an excellent 5% cash back category that lasts all year and has no spending limit.

  • 5% cash back at:
    • Gas stations
    • Sporting goods stores
  • 1% cash back for every other purchase

The Ducks Unlimited is a pretty simple card, with no signup bonus, but if you spend a lot of money on gas every year this is your most rewarding option.

This card can be very valuable, but it’s issued by a smaller bank and the online services may be a bit behind the times. But we’ve found customer support to be knowledgeable and helpful.

  • Free Credit Score: Check your FICO Bankcard Score 9 for free, whenever you’d like.
  • Visa Platinum Benefits: Basic Visa Platinum protections may include Roadside Dispatch and an Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver.
  • Possible Visa Signature Benefits: Upgraded Visa Signature benefits may include Purchase Protection, Return Protection, Trip Delay Reimbursement, and others.
  • Annual fee: $0

Discover it® Cash Back Credit Card

  • 5% cash back in rotating categories (usually including gas), up to $1,500 spent per quarter (then 1%)
  • Cashback Match: New cardmembers get double cash back earned in the first year (awarded at the end of your first year).
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 14 months, then 13.74%–24.74% Variable (for transfers requested in the first 90 days)
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details

Chase Freedom®

  • 5% cash back in rotating reward categories (usually including gas), up to $1,500 spent per quarter (then 1%)
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months, then 16.74 - 25.49% Variable
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

  • 4% cash back on Gas, including gas at Costco (up to $7,000 per year, then 1%)
  • 3% cash back for Restaurants and Travel
  • 2% cash back at Costco
  • Annual fee: $0*
View card details
2 3
BEST PICK FOR

Groceries and Gas

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Our rating
Credit range Good
Details
(Rates & Fees)
Annual Fee $95
Regular APR 14.74–25.74% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Groceries and gas are common expenses for many people, and it’s convenient to have one card you can use for both. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express (Review) is an excellent choice to fill that need.

  • 6% cash back for:
    • U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000, then 1%)
    • Select U.S. streaming services
  • 3% cash back for:
    • U.S. gas stations
    • Transit
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • $250 cash back for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Return on spend: 25%

The 6% back you can earn at U.S. supermarkets with this card is the best base rate we’ve seen for that category. You can get better than that (10%) with the Discover it, but only for a few months during the first year with the card.

You’ll be limited to $6,000 in spending per year at that 6% rate, but that’s still $360 in cash back, which is not bad at all. To hit that limit in a year you’d need to spend about $115 on groceries per week.

Purchases at U.S. gas stations will get 3% cash back, with no limit. That’s competitive with most other rewards cards, which don’t usually offer any more than that at gas stations.

  • Amex Offers: Find significant discounts at a changing selection of merchants and websites, like TurboTax, SamsClub.com, Etsy, and many more.
  • ShopRunner membership: ShopRunner provides free two-day shipping and returns at participating online retailers.
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 12 months, then 14.74–25.74% Variable (for transfers made during the first 60 days) (Rates & Fees)
  • Annual fee: $95

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 in purchases per year (then 1%)
  • 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores
  • $150 cash back for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% on purchases for 15 months, then 14.99% - 25.99% Variable (for transfers made during the first 60 days)
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • 3% cash back in your choice of one category every month:
    • Gas
    • Online shopping
    • Dining
    • Travel
    • Drugstores
    • Home improvement/furnishings stores
  • 2% cash back at Grocery stores and Wholesale clubs
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Spending limit: 3% and 2% categories are limited to the first $2,500 in combined spending per quarter (then 1%).
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 12 billing cycles, then 16.24%–26.24% Variable (for transfers made during the first 60 days)
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details

Discover it® Cash Back Credit Card

  • 5% cash back in rotating categories (usually including groceries and gas), up to $1,500 spent per quarter (then 1%)
  • Cashback Match: New cardmembers get double the cash back earned in the first year (awarded at the end of the first year).
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 14 months, then 13.74%–24.74% Variable (for transfers requested in the first 90 days)
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details

Chase Freedom®

  • 5% cash back in rotating reward categories (usually including groceries and gas), up to $1,500 spent per quarter (then 1%)
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months, then 16.74 - 25.49% Variable
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

  • 4% cash back on gas, including gas at Costco (up to $7,000 per year, then 1%)
  • 3% cash back for Restaurants and Travel
  • 2% cash back at Costco
  • Annual fee: $0*
View card details
2 5

American Express is a Credit Card Insider advertiser.

BEST PICK FOR

Dining at Restaurants

Uber Visa Card

Our rating
Credit range Good
Details
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR 17.99%, 23.99% or 28.74% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Whether you’re an Uber driver, a passenger, or have never even used the service, you can use the Uber Visa Card (Review) to get a surprisingly nice discount at restaurants, along with some other bonus categories.

  • 4% cash back on Dining, including restaurants, bars, and UberEATS
  • 3% cash back on Hotels and Airfare, including vacation home rentals
  • 2% cash back for Online purchases, including Uber
  • 1% cash back for all other purchases
  • $100 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 90 days after account opening
    • Return on spend: 20%

If you’re always going out to eat or ordering in, you could save 4% on all that spending with this card. Uber rides only get 2% back, but the 4% category does include UberEATS along with other meal delivery services, like Grubhub.

These categories cover dining, travel, and online shopping. That’s quite a nice variety to have on just one card. You can use the Uber Visa to pay for travel, and for food when you get to your destination.

The 2% category does not include utilities or contracted services. But it does include most other online purchases, including those from online retailers, purchases of mobile apps in the Apple App Store and Google Play, and services like Netflix, Pandora, and the Amazon Prime subscription fee.

  • $50 Online Subscription Credit: A $50 annual credit for online subscription services after spending $5,000 or more with the card in a membership year.
  • Free Credit Score: Check your FICO Score 8 for free, based on your TransUnion credit report.
  • Shopping and Travel Protections: Including Cell Phone Insurance, Price Protection, Extended Warranty Protection, and more.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $0

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • 4% cash back on Dining and Entertainment
  • 2% cash back at Grocery stores
  • $300 cash bonus for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • Annual fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that
View card details

Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • 3% cash back on Dining and Entertainment
  • 2% cash back at Grocery stores
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

  • 5% cash back in your choice of two categories per quarter (including Fast food), up to $2,000 per quarter (then 1%)
  • 2% cash back in one category of your choice (including Restaurants)
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 90 days
  • Annual fee: $0*
View card details

AARP® Credit Card From Chase

  • 3% cash back at Restaurants and Gas stations
  • $100 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details
2 4
BEST PICK FOR

Shopping at Amazon.com

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

Our rating
Credit range Good
Details
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR 16.49%–24.49% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

A lot of people are spending a lot of money at Amazon, and the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card (Review) gives you a way to save on every purchase you make from the online superstore. The Prime card is made with metal, an unusual feature to find outside of premium credit cards. To be eligible for this card you’ll need to have an Amazon Prime membership, which has an annual fee of $119. If you’re not a Prime member you can apply for the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card (Review), which is less rewarding (3% back at Amazon) but there’s no fee involved.

  • 5% back on purchases from:
    • Amazon
    • Whole Foods Market
  • 2% back at:
    • Restaurants
    • Gas stations
    • Drugstores
  • 1% back on all other purchases
  • $70 Amazon Gift Card when you’re approved for the card

Frequent Amazon shoppers can use this 5% discount to save a tidy sum. A study from Consumer Intelligence Resource Partners reported that the average Prime member is spending $1,400 per year at Amazon in 2018. If you spent that much you’d get $70 in cash back, enough for a nice gift. The $70 gift card offer is a nice bonus too, and you won’t even need to meet a spending threshold to earn it.

If you don’t think you need Prime, you could always start with the regular Amazon Rewards card. Then, if you ever decide to get a Prime membership, you’ll automatically be upgraded to the Amazon Prime Rewards card. And likewise, if you ever cancel your Prime membership, you’ll be downgraded to the regular Amazon Rewards card.

  • Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection: Perks at eligible hotels, including complimentary WiFi, room upgrades when available, a $25 food and beverage credit, and more.
  • Visa Signature Concierge: Call any time for non-emergency assistance.
  • Shopping and Travel Protections: Including Purchase Protection, Extended Warranties, Baggage Delay Insurance, and more.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $0 (Amazon Prime membership required)

Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card

  • 3% cash back at Amazon and Whole Foods
  • 2% cash back at Restaurants, Gas stations, and Drugstores
  • $50 Amazon Gift Card when you’re approved for the card
  • Annual fee: $0 (Amazon Prime membership not required)
View card details

Amazon.com Store Card

  • 5% back at Amazon for Prime members; no reward for non-Prime members
  • Special financing options available for large purchases
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Closed-loop card: This card can only be used at Amazon.
View card details

Discover it® Cash Back Credit Card

  • 5% cash back in rotating categories (usually including Amazon), up to $1,500 spent per quarter (then 1%)
  • Cashback Match: New cardmembers get double the cash back earned in the first year (awarded at the end of the first year).
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 14 months, then 13.74%–24.74% Variable (for transfers made in the first 90 days)
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • 3% cash back in your choice of one category every month:
    • Gas
    • Online shopping
    • Dining
    • Travel
    • Drugstores
    • Home improvement/furnishings stores
  • 2% cash back at Grocery stores and Wholesale clubs
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Spending limit: 3% and 2% categories are limited to the first $2,500 in combined spending per quarter (then 1%).
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 12 billing cycles, then 16.24%–26.24% Variable (for transfers made during the first 60 days)
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details
2 4
BEST PICK FOR

Choosing Your Own Categories

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

Our rating
Credit range Good
Details
Annual Fee $0*
Regular APR 15.74% - 25.24%* Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

A fairly unique entry in the U.S. Bank family of credit cards, the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card is one of very few cards that let you choose your own bonus cash back categories. It’s a good deal too, offering quite a bit of cash back and a wide variety of categories to choose from (some of which are rarely seen on credit cards).

The card features a tiered rewards program, and there’s a $2,000 quarterly maximum on spending for its 5% category.

  • 5% cash back in two categories of your choice per quarter, on the first $2,000 spent per quarter (then 1%)
  • 2% cash back in one category of your choice per quarter
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 90 days
    • Return on spend: 30%

So you’ll get two 5% categories and one 2% category, and you can pick each one. You’ll need to sign up for the categories each quarter before you’ll start earning cash back at the 5% or 2% rates.

Pick any two of these:

5% Cash Back Categories
TV, Internet, Streaming Services Cell Phone Providers Department Stores Electronics Stores
Fast Food Furniture Stores Ground Transportation Gyms/Fitness Centers
Home Utilities Movie Theaters Select Clothing Stores Sporting Goods Stores

And one of these:

2% Cash Back Categories
Gas Stations Grocery Stores Restaurants
  • Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection: Perks at eligible hotels, including complimentary WiFi, room upgrades when available, a $25 food and beverage credit, and more.
  • Visa Signature Concierge: Call any time for non-emergency assistance.
  • Shopping and Travel Protections: Including Purchase Security, Extended Warranty Protection, Roadside Dispatch, and more.
  • Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 12 billing cycles on Balance Transfers*, then 15.74% - 25.24%* Variable
  • Annual fee: $0*

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • 3% cash back in your choice of one category every month:
    • Gas
    • Online shopping
    • Dining
    • Travel
    • Drugstores
    • Home improvement/furnishings stores
  • 2% cash back at Grocery stores and Wholesale clubs
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Spending limit: 3% and 2% categories are limited to the first $2,500 in combined spending per quarter (then 1%).
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 12 billing cycles, then 16.24%–26.24% Variable (for transfers made during the first 60 days)
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details

Bank of America® Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard® Credit Card

  • 3% cash back in your choice of one category each month:
    • Gas
    • Travel
    • Office supply stores
    • TV/telecom & wireless services
    • Computer services
    • Business consulting services
  • 2% cash back on Dining
  • Spending limit: 3% and 2% categories are limited to the first $50,000 in combined spending per year (then 1%).
  • Purchase APR: 0% for 9 billing cycles, then 14.49%–24.49% Variable
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details
BEST PICK FOR

Fair or Average Credit

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Our rating
Credit range No Credit
Details
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR 26.46% (Variable)

If you don’t have good credit, you may not be approved for some of the cards on this page. But the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® (Review) is one of the few rewards credit cards that are designed specifically for fair or average credit (a FICO credit score of around 580–669).

Even though this is named like a student credit card, anyone can apply for it. That makes it a good starter card, whether you’re a student or not. And it’s also a solid option for anyone who doesn’t have the best credit and is trying to rebuild.

  • 1% cash back on every purchase
    • 1.25% cash back when you pay on time

That’s about it, pretty simple. But you shouldn’t expect to find the most impressive rewards programs on cards like these.

Use this card responsibly, always paying your credit card bills on time. We recommend paying your entire statement balance each billing period, to help your credit utilization. It will also help you stave off credit card debt because you won’t accrue interest charges on purchases with this strategy. And you’ll ensure that you always get the full 1.25% cash back.

Eventually, as your credit improves, you’ll be able to qualify for the more rewarding cards on this page. You could go for the Citi Double Cash, for example, which is similar to this card but offers more cash back (2%). Or you could apply for a card with bonus reward categories. Or both! With good credit, you’ll have many options.

  • Higher credit line: Access a higher credit line after making your first five monthly payments on time.
  • CreditWise: Monitor your VantageScore 3.0 based on your TransUnion credit report with Capital One’s CreditWise tool.
  • Shopping and travel protections: Including Extended Warranties, Travel and Emergency Assistance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waivers, and more.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $0

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

The QuicksilverOne isn’t our top pick because of its $39 fee, despite earning more cash back than the Journey Student Rewards card. Because of that fee, you’d have to spend over $15,000 per year with the QuicksilverOne to make it more rewarding than the Journey Student Rewards, after subtracting the annual fee.

  • 1.5% cash back on all purchases
  • Higher Credit Line: Access a higher credit line after making your first five monthly payments on time.
  • Annual fee: $39
View card details

Deserve Pro Mastercard

  • A better chance of approval because Deserve checks factors like education and income potential
  • 3% cash back on Travel and Entertainment
  • 2% cash back at Restaurants
  • Limited one-year Priority Pass Select membership for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days after account opening ($27 fee per visit)
  • Annual fee: $0

Take note that Deserve will need to connect to your bank account to verify your balance. If you have privacy or security concerns this might worry you, but it seems reasonable because Deserve bases its decision on more than the typical credit approval criteria.

View card details
BEST PICK FOR

Bad or Limited Credit

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Our rating
Credit range Bad
Details
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR 24.74% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

If you have bad credit (a FICO score of 579 or less) you’ll have trouble qualifying for most credit cards, especially those with rewards programs. You will have some options, however.

Secured credit cards are designed for people with poor or limited credit. They require a refundable security deposit when you apply for them, which will fund the credit limit.

You can use a secured card to improve your credit, building up a history of positive activity and on-time payments. When your credit is good enough you can close the card, get your deposit back, and apply for a better unsecured card.

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card (Review) is the best secured card available, in our estimation. Secured cards usually have no rewards and few benefits, and sometimes come with high fees. But not only does the Discover it Secured have generally favorable terms, it also comes with a solid cash back program — the kind you might expect to find on an unsecured rewards card.

  • 2% cash back, on up to $1,000 in spending per quarter (then 1%), at:
    • Restaurants
    • Gas stations
  • 1% cash back for all other purchases
  • Cashback Match: Get double the cash back in your first year, awarded at the end of the first year

So not only can you earn cash back, you’ll actually get double that amount in your first year. That makes the Discover it Secured stand out among secured cards, providing cardholders with a way to build credit and earn rewards at the same time.

Discover will also review your card account and overall credit every eight months. If you’ve been a responsible credit user, always making on-time payments, they may consider returning your security deposit and allowing you to continue using the card. Discover will be checking your overall credit with the credit bureaus, including how you use other credit cards, not just your usage of this card.

This is a great feature to have, and you won’t find it on every secured card. As long as you continue using it responsibly and maintain good credit habits in general, you can expect to eventually get your deposit back and later on graduate to an unsecured rewards card.

  • Free credit score: Check your FICO Score 8 for free, based on your TransUnion credit report.
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Security deposit: $200 to $2,500

Cash Back Cards With Annual Fees

Some cash back cards have annual fees, but this shouldn’t necessarily stop you from getting one of them. You’ll just need to make sure that you’ll get enough out of the card to justify that fee, from the cash back and other benefits.

An easy way to figure this out is to calculate how much spending it would take to earn enough cash back to offset that annual fee for one year. If you’ll spend at least that much with the card, it may be a good choice for you.

You’ll want to spend more than that to make the card actually profitable, of course, rather than just offset the fee. And you should also make sure that you won’t be able to get more value from a different card with the same level of spending.

For example, consider two hypothetical credit cards:

  • Card A has an annual fee of $100 and provides 2% cash back for all purchases
  • Card B has no annual fee and provides 1.5% cash back for all purchases

Which card is more rewarding overall? That would depend on how much you spend.

To offset the $100 fee of Card A, you would need to spend $5,000, earning at the 2% rate. That would give you $100 in rewards, completely offsetting the annual fee, and leaving you at zero profit. That’s because $100 is 2% of $5,000.

If you spent that same $5,000 with Card B, you’d only get $75 in cash back, earning at the 1.5% rate. But that would be all profit, because there’s no annual fee to pay.

This shows how you’ll actually earn more profit overall with Card B if you spend $5,000 per year, even though it offers a lower cash back rate. You’ll need to factor in annual fees like this when considering the value of a card.

If you do the math, you’ll find that you actually need to spend $20,000 per year before you’ll earn an equal amount of cash back with these cards, after subtracting the annual fee. If you spend less than that per year, Card B is the more profitable choice. If you spend more than that, Card A finally becomes more profitable.

Amount Spent Annually Cash Back Earned (Card A) Cash Back Earned (Card B)
$2,500 -$50 $37.50
$5,000 $0 $75
$10,000 $100 $150
$20,000 $300 $300
$30,000 $500 $450

This is a simple example, and it doesn’t take into account any value you might get from the other card benefits. But some calculations like these will work to compare cards in most cases, including most of the cards on this page.

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