Best Cash Back Credit Cards 2019

Brendan Harkness

Author

Brendan Harkness

Updated June 12, 2019

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A cash back credit 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 in rewards, you’re 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 - 18 month BT offer (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.

This is the card’s main attraction, along with a nice intro rate for balance transfers. 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.

Key Features & Terms

  • 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.
  • Shopping and Travel Protections: Including Price Rewind, Purchase Protection, Extended Warranties, and more.
  • Free Credit Score: Check your FICO Bankcard Score 8 for free, based on your Equifax credit report.
  • Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 18 months, then 15.74% - 25.74%* Variable (for transfers made during the first four months)
  • Annual fee: $0*

Read more in our Review of the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer.

 

Runners Up

Key Features & Terms

  • 3% cash back for all purchases in the first year, up to $20,000 spent
  • 1.5% cash back for all purchases after that
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months, then 17.24% - 25.99% Variable
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Review of the Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 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 16.24% - 26.24%
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Review of the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 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 15.24% - 26.24% Variable (for transfers requested in the first 60 days)
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Review of the American Express Cash Magnet Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 1.5% cash back for all purchases
  • $200 cash bonus for spending $1,000 in first 3 months
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 12 months, then 16.24%-28.24% Variable (for transfers requested in the first 120 days)
  • Annual fee: $0

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 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

Read more in our Review of the Capital One Spark Cash Back Business Credit Cards.

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 (awarded at the end of 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, PayPal
October – December Amazon.com, Target, Walmart.com

The Cashback Match makes this rewards program twice as good for that first year, with a 10% cash back equivalent in the bonus categories and a 2% equivalent 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 categories 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 for statement credits as normal with this card. But if you redeem it for gift cards you’ll get at least $5 added to each redemption, so this could be a better option for some users.

Key Features & Terms

  • 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 14.24%–25.24% Variable (for transfers requested in the first 90 days)
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Review of the Discover it® Credit Card.

 

Runners Up

Key Features & Terms

  • 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 17.24% - 25.99% Variable
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Chase Freedom Review – Cash Back Reward Credit Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 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 16.24% - 25.74%* Variable
  • Annual fee: $0*

Best Pick For

Gas

Why we picked this card

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.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 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.

Key Features & Terms

  • 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
Read more about our favorite gas rewards credit cards.

 

Runners Up

Key Features & Terms

  • 5% cash back in rotating categories (usually including 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 14.24%–25.24% Variable (for transfers requested in the first 90 days)
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Review of the Discover it® Credit Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 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 17.24% - 25.99% Variable
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Chase Freedom Review – Cash Back Reward Credit Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 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*

Read more in our Review of the Costco Anywhere Visa® and Anywhere Visa® Business Card by Citi.

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.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 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
    • Select U.S. department stores (former cardholders only, until 7/31/19)
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • $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.

The Amex Offers shopping portal will provide additional 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.

Key Features & Terms

  • 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% on purchases for 12 months, then 15.24% - 26.24% Variable (for transfers made during the first 60 days)
  • Annual fee: $95

Read more in our Review of the American Express Blue Cash Everyday® and Blue Cash Preferred® Cards.

 

Runners Up

Key Features & Terms

  • 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 15.24% - 26.24% Variable (for transfers made during the first 60 days)
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Review of the American Express Blue Cash Everyday® and Blue Cash Preferred® Cards.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 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

Read more in our Review of the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 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 14.24%–25.24% Variable (for transfers requested in the first 90 days)
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Review of the Discover it® Credit Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 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 17.24% - 25.99% Variable
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Chase Freedom Review – Cash Back Reward Credit Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 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*

Read more in our Review of the Costco Anywhere Visa® and Anywhere Visa® Business Card by Citi.

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.

Spending Rewards
  • 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
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • $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.

Key Features & Terms

  • $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

Read more in our Review of the Uber Visa Card.

 

Runners Up

Key Features & Terms

  • 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

Read more in our Review of the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 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

Read more in our Review of the Capital One® SavorOne℠ Cash Rewards Credit Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 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*

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 3% cash back at Restaurants and Gas stations
  • $100 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Annual fee: $0

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 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.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 5% back on purchases from:
    • Amazon
    • Whole Foods Market
  • 2% back at:
    • Restaurants
    • Gas stations
    • Drugstores
  • 1% back on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • $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.

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.

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.

Key Features & Terms

  • 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)

Read more in our Review of the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature and Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature.

 

Runners Up

Key Features & Terms

  • 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)

Read more in our Review of the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature and Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 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.

Read more in our Review of the Amazon.com Store Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 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 14.24%–25.24% Variable (for transfers made in the first 90 days)
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Review of the Discover it® Credit Card.

 

The “Online shopping” category with this card will give you 3% back at Amazon, equal to the non-Prime Amazon Rewards card but with more flexible categories and a better signup bonus.

Key Features & Terms

  • 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

Read more in our Review of the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 2% cash back on all purchases
  • Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 18 months, then 15.74% - 25.74%* Variable (for transfers made during the first four months)
  • Annual fee: $0*

Read more in our Review of the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer.

 

This card earns a decent 2% on Amazon, which isn’t as high as either Amazon Rewards card, but it applies to other online purchases too. The Uber Visa will earn more than double what the Amazon Rewards card do on dining, though, and 4% on dining is high for a card with no annual fee.

Key Features & Terms

  • 4% cash back on Dining
  • 3% cash back on Hotels and Airfare
  • 2% cash back for Online purchases
  • $100 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 90 days
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Review of the Uber Visa Card.

Best pick for

Choosing Your Own Categories

Why we picked this card

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 reward 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).

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 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
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 90 days

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
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

Take note that these categories may change throughout the year, and the current offering may not exactly match what you see here. Categories may be added or removed, or one category may be replaced for another.

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

Key Features & Terms

  • 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%* intro on BTs for 12 billing cycles on balance transfers*, then 16.24% - 25.74%* Variable
  • Annual fee: $0*

 

Runners Up

Key Features & Terms

  • 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

Read more in our Review of the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card.

 

The SimplyCash Plus is a business credit card, designed for small business owners making purchases for their companies. You can choose your 3% category when you get the card, and it can be changed once per year.

Key Features & Terms

  • 5% cash back at U.S. office supply stores and U.S. providers of wireless phone services
  • 3% cash back in your choice of one category (chosen once per year):
    • Airfare purchased directly from airlines
    • Hotel rooms purchased directly from hotels
    • Select car rentals
    • U.S. gas stations
    • U.S. restaurants
    • U.S. purchases for advertising in select media
    • U.S. purchases of shipping
    • U.S. computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases from select providers
  • Spending limit: 5% and 3% categories are limited to the first $50,000 in combined spending per year (then 1%).
  • Purchase APR: 0% on purchases for 15 months, then 14.49% - 21.49% Variable
  • Annual fee: No annual fee

Read more in our Review of the SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express.

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 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.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 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 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 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.

Key Features & Terms

  • 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

Read more in our Review of the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®.

 

Runners Up

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.

Key Features & Terms

  • 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

Read more in our Review of the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 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

Read more in our Review of the Deserve Pro Mastercard.

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 just an applicant’s credit history.
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 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.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 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
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 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 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.

Key Features & Terms

  • 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

Read more in our Review of the Discover it® Secured Credit Card.

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 statement credits. In some cases you can also have it directly deposited into a bank account, or redeem it for certain gift cards or merchandise. But in general, the best option for most people will be statement credits.

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 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.

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 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.

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.

  • 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 credit cards offer introductory bonuses, sometimes up to $500 or more.
  • Promotional interest rates: Many cash back cards provide introductory 0% APRs 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 your 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.

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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