Best Cash Back Credit Cards 2019

Brendan Harkness

Author

Brendan Harkness

Updated Feb 22, 2019

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A cash back card is a great way to save a little bit of money when you shop. 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.

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.

Cash back cards are one type of rewards credit card, meaning they provide some monetary benefit when you spend with them. Unlike other rewards cards that offer points for purchases, cash back cards tend to have simpler redemption options that let you get your cash back quickly and easily.

Credit cards like these should be a convenient way to save some money. If you’re spending more on interest and annual fees than you’re earning from the rewards, you’re probably using your card wrong!

If you’re worried about switching to a credit card from a debit card, read up on what it means to be a responsible card user. And understand how paying a credit card works. You’ll learn how to make credit cards work for you, instead of the other way around.

Best pick for

Flat-Rate Cash Back

Why we picked this card

The Citi® Double Cash Card (Review) is your best cash back option if you want a card for all-around, general spending.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 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. The signup bonus is not bad at all, providing a 20% return on your spending.

This card offers an 18-month 0% intro APR for balance transfers, which is quite a good offer compared to most cards. If you have a large balance on a different card that’s under a high interest rate, you could transfer it to the Double Cash and pay it off at zero interest. After that you’ll get a regular rate of 15.74%–25.74% Variable.

These are the card’s main features. It’s fairly simple, but it’s a strong offer nevertheless. A general-use rewards 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.

Other Key Terms & Features

  • No annual fee
  • None intro APR for balance transfers for None, then 15.74%–25.74% Variable
  • Basic shopping and travel protections
  • Monitor your FICO Score 8 based on your Equifax credit report
  • First late payment fee will be waived

 

Runners Up

  • No annual fee
  • 1.5% cash back for all purchases
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in first 3 months
  • 0% intro APR for 0% on purchases and balance transfers, then 17.24%–25.99% Variable

 

  • No annual fee
  • 1.5% cash back for all purchases
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in first 3 months
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, then 15.24%–25.24% Variable

 

  • No annual fee
  • 1.5% cash back for all purchases
  • $200 cash bonus for spending $1,000 in first 3 months
  • 0% intro APR for 12 months, then 16.24%–27.24% Variable

 

  • No annual fee
  • 2% cash back only if you redeem into a Fidelity bank account
  • Visa Signature benefits

Best pick for

Rotating Reward Categories

Why we picked this card

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.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 5% cash back on the first $1,500 spent per quarter (then 1%), in categories that rotate throughout the year (see calendar below)
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • Cashback Match: new cardmembers get double the cash back earned in the first year

The 5% cash back calendar for the Discover it for 2019 is:

Quarter 5% Cash Back Category
January – March Grocery Stores
April – June Gas Stations, Uber, Lyft
July – September Restaurants
October – December Amazon.com

The Cashback Match makes this rewards program twice as good for that first year, with 10% back in the bonus categories and 2% back for other purchases. This is a great offer that you won’t find elsewhere. And it’s still pretty rewarding after that first year.

You’ll need to go online to activate your cash back category for each quarter. This is quick and easy, and you can activate a month or so in advance. But if you forget to activate you won’t earn cash back at the 5% rate!

You can redeem your cash back as a statement credit as normal with this card. But if you redeem it for a gift card you’ll get at least $5 added, so this could be a better option for you.

Other Key Terms & Features

  • 0% intro APR for both purchases and balance transfers, which is pretty good compared to many cards, followed by a regular rate of 14.24%–25.24% Variable
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • If you don’t enroll in a quarterly category, you won’t earn cash back at the 5% rate
  • Basic shopping and travel benefits
  • Monitor your FICO Score 8 based on your TransUnion credit report
  • 100% U.S.-based customer service

 

Runners Up

  • No annual fee
  • Different 5% cash back rotating reward categories than the Discover it
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months

 

  • No annual fee
  • 5% cash back in your choice of two categories per quarter
  • 2% back in one category of your choice
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 90 days

Best pick for

Groceries and Gas

Why we picked this card

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 at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 in purchases per year
  • 3% cash back at:
    • U.S. gas stations
    • select U.S. department stores
  • 1% cash back for all other purchases
  • Signup bonus: $200 cash bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
  • Discounts of various sizes through the Amex Offers program

The 6% back you can earn on groceries with this card is the best base rate we’ve seen for that category. You can get better than that with the Discover it above (10%), 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 of gas 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. And you’ll also get that much back at certain department stores, which includes brands like Bloomingdales, Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Nordstrom, among others.

The Amex Offers shopping portal will provide other deals at specific retailers, letting you earn more cash back outside those bonus categories. A couple of current examples include $10 back for spending $30 or more at H&R Block, and $200 back for spending $1,000 or more at select Hilton properties.

Other Key Terms & Features

  • $95 annual fee
  • The annual fee can be offset by spending $1,584 on groceries per year ($95 is 6% of $1,584)
  • 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers for 12 months
  • Slightly better than average benefits, like complimentary ShopRunner membership
  • Monitor your FICO 8 Credit Score based on your Experian credit report

Runners Up

  • Like the Preferred but no annual fee
  • 3% back at U.S. supermarkets
  • 2% back at U.S. gas stations
  • 15-month 0% intro APR, then 15.24%–26.24% Variable
  • $150 introductory bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months

 

  • No annual fee
  • 3% back for gas
  • 2% back for groceries
  • 0% intro APR for 12 months, then 16.24%–26.24% Variable
  • $150 introductory bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months

 

  • Costco membership required
  • 4% back on gas
  • 3% back on restaurants and travel
  • 2% back at Costco
We're currently unable to link directly to an application for this card.

Learn more about Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express »

Best pick for

Dining at Restaurants

Why we picked this card

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 nice discount at restaurants along with some other bonus categories.

This card offers:

  • 4% cash back on dining at restaurants, including takeout, bars, and UberEATS
  • 3% cash back on:
    • airfare
    • hotel bookings, including vacation home rentals
  • 2% cash back for online purchases, including Uber and video/music streaming services
  • 1% cash back for all other purchases
  • Signup bonus: $100 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 90 days after account opening

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.

Other Key Terms & Features

  • $50 annual credit for online subscription services after spending $5,000 or more with the card in a year
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees, making it even better for traveling
  • No introductory interest rates
  • Monitor your FICO 8 Credit Score, based on your TransUnion credit report
  • Basic shopping and travel protections, including cell phone insurance

Runners Up

  • No annual fee
  • 3% cash back on dining and entertainment
  • 2% cash back at grocery stores
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months

 

  • No annual fee
  • You can choose to get 5% cash back for fast food and 2% back at other restaurants
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 90 days

 

  • No annual fee
  • 3% cash back at restaurants and gas stations
  • $200 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months

Best pick for

Shopping at Amazon.com

Why we picked this card

A lot of people are spending a lot of money at Amazon, and the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature (Review) gives you a way to save on every purchase you make from the online superstore. The Prime card is made of metal, an unusual feature to find outside of premium credit cards.

It offers:

  • 5% back on purchases from:
    • Amazon
    • Whole Foods Market
  • 2% back at:
    • restaurants
    • gas stations
    • drugstores
  • 1% back on every other purchase
  • A $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 survey from September 2017 reported that the average Prime member spends $1,300 per year at Amazon. If you spent that much you’d get $65 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.

Whole Foods was recently added as another category, after Amazon bought the grocery chain in 2017. If you already shop there you’ll probably be grateful for this discount. But if you don’t already shop at Whole Foods because of the prices, that 5% cash back probably won’t be enough to entice you to start.

To be eligible for this card you’ll need to have an Amazon Prime membership, which has an annual fee of $99. If you’re not a Prime member you can apply for the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card (Review), which is less rewarding but there’s no fee involved (3% back at Amazon).

However, if you spend enough with Amazon to want a credit card with them, it might make sense for you to go ahead and buy a Prime membership. You’ll save money with free two-day shipping and a variety of member-only deals and promotions. If you think you need a credit card for all your Amazon spending, take some time to calculate how much you could save with a Prime membership too.

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.

Other Key Terms & Features

  • No annual fee, but must be an Amazon Prime member
  • If you cancel your Prime membership you’ll get the basic Amazon Rewards card
  • No introductory APRs
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Visa Signature benefits, which are a bit of an upgrade compared to what you typically get

Runners Up

  • No annual fee
  • No membership required
  • 3% back at Amazon and Whole Foods
  • 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores

 

  • Can only be used on Amazon
  • No annual fee
  • 5% back at Amazon for Prime members, no cash back for non-Prime members
  • Special financing options available for large purchases

 

  • No annual fee
  • 5% cash back in rotating categories which usually includes Amazon for 3 months out of the year (usually holiday season)
  • Double cash back the first year

 

  • No annual fee
  • 2% cash back on all purchases
  • 18-month 0% intro APR for balance transfers, then 15.74%–25.74% Variable

 

  • No annual fee
  • 4% back on dining
  • 3% back on hotels and airfare
  • 2% back for online purchases
  • $100 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 90 days

Best pick for

Choosing Your Own Categories

Why we picked this card

The US Bank Cash+ Visa Signature is interesting, one of very few cards that let you choose your own bonus reward categories. This may be the only no-fee consumer card that lets you pick your own cash back categories.

  • 5% cash back in your choice of two categories, on the first $2,000 in combined spending per quarter
  • 2% cash back in your choice of one “everyday” category
  • 1% cash back for all other purchases
  • Signup bonus: $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months after account opening

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.

There are quite a few categories to choose from, letting you customize your rewards program as you go. If you tend to buy different kinds of things at different times of year, this card would be a good way to keep earning a high amount of cash back.

There’s one set of categories to choose from for the 5% rate, and another set for the 2% rate.

Pick any two of these:

5% Cash Back Categories
Car Rentals Cell Phones 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

Take note that these categories may change throughout the year, and the current offering may not exactly match what you see here. In some cases one category may be replaced for a different one.

If you want flexibility in your cash back, it will be hard to beat the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature.

There are some other cards with choose-your-own-rewards programs, but they aren’t cash back consumer cards:

Other Key Features & Terms

  • No annual fee
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months for balance transfers made within 60 days of opening the account
  • Visa Signature benefits, which are a bit of an upgrade from the standard level
  • If you don’t activate your quarterly categories, you won’t earn 5% or 2% cash back for those purchases

Best pick for

Fair or Average Credit

Why we picked this card

If you don’t have good credit, you may not be approved for some of the cards on this page. But the Capital One Journey Student Credit Card (Review) is one of the few rewards credit cards that are designed specifically for fair or average credit (a FICO Credit Score of around 660–699).

Even though this is a “student card,” anyone can apply for it. That makes it a good starter card, whether you’re a student or not. And it’s also an option for anyone who doesn’t have the best credit.

You’ll get:

  • 1% cash back on every purchase
    • Pay on time and that goes up to 1.25% cash back

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 bills on time. We recommend paying your entire balance off each billing period, to help your credit utilization. It will also help you stave off credit card debt because you won’t accrue interest 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.

Other Key Terms & Features

  • Access a higher credit line after making the first 5 monthly payments on time
  • No 0% introductory rates
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Basic shopping and travel benefits
  • Monitor your VantageScore 3.0 based on your TransUnion report with Capital One’s CreditWise tool

Runners Up

  • $39 annual fee
  • 1.5% cash back on all purchases
  • higher credit line after first 5 on-time monthly payments

 

  • A better chance of approval because they check factors like education and income potential
  • No annual fee
  • 3% back on travel and entertainment
  • 2% back at restaurants
We're currently unable to link directly to an application for this card.

Learn more about Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® »

Best pick for

Bad or Limited Credit

Why we picked this card

If you have bad credit (a FICO score of 660 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 apply for an unsecured card and get your deposit back.

The Discover it Secured (Review) is the best secured card available, in our estimation. Secured cards usually have no rewards and few benefits. 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 combined spending at:
    • restaurants
    • gas stations
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Cashback Match: get double the cash back in your 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 credit and your account 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. They’ll be checking your overall credit with the credit bureaus, 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.

Other Key Terms & Features

  • No annual fee
  • Requires a security deposit of $200 to $2,500 to fund the credit limit
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Monitor your FICO Score 8 based on your TransUnion credit report
  • Basic shopping and travel protections
  • 100% U.S.-based customer service

Runner Up

  • Unsecured card but designed for people with limited credit, will take more factors into account when applying
  • 3% back on travel and entertainment
  • 2% back at restaurants

Is a Cash Back Credit 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. Some cash back cards are for any kind of spending, while others provide their best rates for certain types of purchases (these are called bonus reward categories).

Cash back cards are relatively flexible and easy to use. Other rewards cards that offer points sometimes have more complicated redemption systems. The same is true for travel credit cards, some of which offer miles or points that can only be redeemed through a co-branded airline or hotel.

Unlike cards that earn points, the rewards you earn with cash back cards can easily be credited back to your card account, through a statement credit. In some cases you can also have it directly deposited into a bank account, or redeem it for certain gift cards or merchandise.

So these cards are appealing if you don’t want to spend time trying to redeem points or miles for their best possible value. You’ll know exactly how much you’ll be getting back right when you make a purchase.

Whether you spend a lot or a little, a cash back card could be a good way to constantly get a bit of a discount. And by using it responsibly you’ll be improving your credit too, which won’t happen if you use cash or a debit card.

Rewards cards usually require pretty good credit, but there are also options for fair or average credit, and even poor 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.

Consider a cash back card if you:

  • Are using cash or a debit card for most of your spending
  • Want to save a bit of money
  • Often make purchases of a certain type, like gas, groceries, or dining
  • Make many different types of purchases
  • Want to redeem your rewards for statement credits to reduce your balance, rather than deal with point redemption systems or transfers
  • Will use the card responsibly, so it’s profitable rather than a cost to you

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 that much with the card, it could be a good choice for you.

You’ll want to spend more than that to make the card actually profitable, 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 completely offset the annual fee, 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.

Selection Criteria: What Makes a Great Cash Back Credit Card?

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.

  • High cash back rate for purchases you make often
  • Rewards program you can easily understand and use
  • Retailer marketplace where you can earn rewards outside the bonus categories
  • Valuable signup bonus
  • 0% intro APR on purchases, balance transfers, or both
  • Extra perks and benefits to protect your purchases, travel, and more
  • No annual fee (or a reasonable fee for your amount of spending)

The cash back cards above are all excellent options, but there are even more rewards credit cards out there, some of which might be perfect for you.

Learn more about the best:

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