CreditDonkey is a credit card comparison and reviews website. This website is made possible through financial relationships with card issuers and some of the products and services mentioned on this site. Advertiser Disclosure†

Updated June 16, 2016

Which Cash Back Credit Card is Right for You?

Read more about Cash Back Rewards
Editorial Note: This content is not provided by the card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.
This article contains references to products from our partners. We receive compensation if you apply or shop through links in our content. You help support CreditDonkey by reading our website and using our links. (read more)

We think you'll agree with us when we say:

It's REALLY hard to figure out which cashback credit card to apply for.

Or is it? Read on.

Here are the cash back credit cards you should not ignore:

1.5% Cash Back (with Signup Bonus)

Chase Freedom Unlimited
Apply for Chase Freedom Unlimited
Do you have excellent credit? Chase Freedom Unlimited lets you earn a $150 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. You earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase. There is also a 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%. The balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum. The cash back rewards will not expire as long as your card account remains open. There is no annual fee.

5% on Rotating Bonus Categories

If you don't mind being a bit strategic in your spending, these kinds of cards could offer some of the best value because you can get up to 5% cash back (which is a huge return in the credit card world).

Basically, every three months, there are new categories (or merchants) for which you can receive 5% cash back for purchases (up to a quarterly maximum). You need to do a bit of homework to keep track of the changing categories and make sure you're charging all purchases appropriately. You must remember to activate the categories every quarter, or you'll only receive the 1% cash back rate.

Consider this kind of card if the spending categories match your current lifestyle (in other words, don't get this card and spend money you usually wouldn't spend just to get the 5% back) and if you will remember to activate the categories every quarter.

Here are your options for this kind of reward card:

  • Chase Freedom lets you earn a $150 bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. There is a 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%. The balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum.

    This is the fun part: You can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. The cash back rewards do not expire as long as your card account remains open. There is no annual fee.

    Is Chase Freedom Hard to Get? You need excellent/good credit to get Chase Freedom or Chase Freedom Unlimited. There are also strict Chase credit card application rules on how many new credit cards you can open in the past 24 months.

  • Discover It will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year. This offer is only for new customers. This card earns 5% cash back in bonus categories that change each quarter (up to the quarterly maximum; requires free activation each quarter). All other purchases earn 1% cash back.

    Still in College? Discover Student It Card will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year. This offer is only for new customers. This card earns 5% cash back in bonus categories that change each quarter (up to the quarterly maximum; requires free activation each quarter). All other purchases earn 1% cash back. Plus, you earn a $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.

High Cash Back (No Signup Bonus)

If keeping track of rotating categories seems like too much of a hassle, these cards below have a more straightforward rewards structure that doesn't require much planning.

They offer a good overall reward rate, and if you don't think you'd spend much in the 5% rotating bonus categories above, you could generally get more cash back with these cards. But the drawback is the lack of a sign-up bonus.

  • Citi Double Cash earn cash back twice on every purchase. You earn 1% cash back when you buy, and an additional 1% cash back as you pay for those purchases. There is no annual fee.

    Is Citi Double Cash Card a Visa? No, Citi Double Cash is a MasterCard. Most merchants accept both Visa and Mastercard. But Costco only takes Visa.

  • Fidelity Rewards Visa earns unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases. 2% cash back credit cards are rare. The catch is that you need a Fidelity account in order to qualify for this card.

How a Cash Back Credit Card Works

Cash back cards are a great way to earn something back for your purchases. They make a great first reward card. They're easy to use and easy to redeem cash back rewards.

  1. How cash back cards work
    Usually, cash back cards will give you a base of at least 1% cash back on all purchases. Some cards will have special categories that gives you extra cash back, such as at grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, etc. Some cards may actually deposit money into your bank account, while others give you statement credit.

  2. Pick one that matches your lifestyle and spending habits
    To get the most cash back as possible, choose a card that earns bonus cash back in the categories you spend most on. If most of your expenses go towards groceries and gas, then choose a card that focuses on those areas. If your spending is very varied, then you may like a cash that offers a flat reward rate on all purchases.

  3. Pay attention to any extra features
    A lot of cards will give you a one-time bonus if you spend a certain amount after account opening. This sign-up bonus is a great incentive to open a card and get a nice chunk of cash fast. Some cards will also offer an introductory 0% APR period. This is great if you are planning some large purchases soon.

Bigger Bang for the Buck

© CreditDonkey

Don't settle for just 1% when you can be smart with what credit card you use.

Which category is most important to you?:

Gas

© CreditDonkey

Look for a card that offers a higher percentage back on purchases at gas stations. See if the rewards it offers match your spending habits.

Here are the two cards we like in particular, both from American Express (a CreditDonkey partner).

  • Blue Cash Preferred Blue Cash Preferred: Earn 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations (such as Shell, Mobil, and Exxon). This card has a $95 annual fee, so we recommend you consider this card if you spend at least $9,500/year ($791.67/month) at U.S. gas stations.

    Look at this way: Spending $9,500 at U.S. gas stations with the Blue Cash Preferred would earn you $285 cash back vs $190 cash back with the Blue Cash Everyday, which has no annual fee.

    If you don't spend $9,500 a year at U.S. gas stations, you may still want to consider the Blue Cash Preferred if you spend a lot at U.S. supermarkets (read the section below on cashback cards for groceries for more information).

  • Otherwise, consider the Blue Cash Everyday, which offers 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and has no annual fee.

Tip: If you spend less than $833 per month on combined purchases at grocery stores, wholesale clubs, and gas stations, consider this: Bank of America Cash Rewards offers $200 online cash rewards bonus if you spend at least $500 on purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account. This card earns 1% cash back on all purchases, 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas (up to the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter). There is no annual fee.

Get More Cashback on Groceries

© CreditDonkey

When charges at the supermarket make up a big part of your budget, you could see some big savings with a groceries-focused credit card. You'll need to weigh the pros and cons of getting more rewards in exchange for an annual fee vs. fewer rewards and no annual fee.

  • Blue Cash Preferred Blue Cash Preferred: Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6k/year in purchases, then 1%). This card has a $95 annual fee, so we recommend you consider this card if you tend to spend at least $3,167/year (about $263.92/month) at U.S. supermarkets (such as Vons, Winn-Dixie, and Whole Foods). Spending $3,167 at U.S. supermarkets with the Blue Cash Preferred would earn you $190.02 cash back vs $95.01 cash back with the Blue Cash Everyday.

  • Blue Cash Everyday Blue Cash Everyday: If you don't spend at least $3,167/year at U.S. supermarkets, consider the Blue Cash Everyday, which has no annual fee. The Blue Cash Everyday earns 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6k/year in purchases, then 1%).

Tip: Your definition of a supermarket may not match your credit card companies. Check out the American Express Supermarket List before you go ahead with one of these cards to make sure the place you buy groceries is included. Even though warehouse clubs like Costco sell groceries, they are not supermarkets.

Restaurants: Rewards for Dining Out

© CreditDonkey

Spend more time in a restaurant than at the supermarket checkout line? You can also save on your food consumption by getting the right kind of credit card. Take a look at our extensive guide on credit cards for restaurant rewards.

  • Discover it Chrome will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year. This offer is only for new customers. This card earns 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (on up to $1k in combined purchases every quarter with no quarterly activation required). All other purchases earn 1%.

Credit Cards for Small Businesses

© CreditDonkey

You can find lucrative rewards when you choose a business credit card. These cards can be used for a range of business types, including side businesses.

  • Ink Business Cash lets you earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year. Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year. Earn 1% cash back on all other card purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn. There is no annual fee.

    Plus, there is a 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months. After the intro period, a variable APR applies, currently 14.99% - 20.99%.

  • Capital One Spark Cash offers a one-time bonus of $500 if you spend $4,500 on purchases within three months of account opening. This card earns 2% cash back on every purchase. There is a $95 annual fee ($0 intro annual fee for the first year).

Travel More

© CreditDonkey

Travelers can get more out of their credit cards if they forget cashback and opt for a travel rewards credit card that earns miles.

If you do not have a particular airline or hotel preference, look for a credit card rewards program with miles that you can redeem toward travel with any airline and any hotel. That way, you'll have more flexibility.

Cash Back Credit Cards with No Foreign Transaction Fee: Did you know, Capital One and Discover has no foreign transaction fees on all their credit cards?

Excellent Credit: You Have More Choices

© CreditDonkey

You have been responsible with your credit. You pay your bills on time, every time. So why use an average credit card? Take a look at our list of credit cards for people with excellent credit.

You'll find deals reserved for the most creditworthy applicants.

Don't have excellent credit? If you have good credit, consider this: Capital One Quicksilver offers a one-time bonus of $150 if you spend $500 on purchases within three months of account opening. This card earns 1.5% cash back on all purchases. There is a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months. After that, a variable APR, currently 14.74% to 24.74%. There is a 3% balance transfer fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months. There is no annual fee.

If you have average credit, consider this: Capital One QuicksilverOne earns 1.5% cash back on all purchases. After making your first 5 monthly payments on time, you can be eligible to receive a higher credit line. There is a $39 annual fee.

High Spenders: Pause Here

© CreditDonkey

Are you a big spender? Do you routinely spend thousands a month on your credit card? Take a look at our list of credit cards for high spenders.

Yes, many of these offers have annual fees. But for high spenders, the rewards you'll reap from a premium credit card may offset the annual fee.

But wait. Are you a big spender who routinely carries a balance? Then instead of a rewards credit card, focus on low interest rates instead.

For any type of spender, it does not make sense to chase after rewards if you usually have a balance. The interest rates you will pay over time will wipe out any savings you earn. Focus instead on getting the lowest interest rate you can and try to pay down your debt.

How to Choose a Cashback Credit Card

Compare rewards, annual fees and interest rates to determine the best one for you. Narrow your comparison by reading reviews on the credit card offers with cash back, such as:

Be sure to pick a card that fits your current spending pattern. You will save money with a cash back card as long as you limit your purchases to those you would have made anyway. These types of cards are best for people who both like deals and can pay off their balance each month but also spend responsibly.

© CreditDonkey

Cash Rewards
Does the credit card rewards structure match your lifestyle?

Some credit cards with cash back earn more on specific purchase categories, such as gas, restaurants, or groceries. Some have rotating categories of up to 5% cash back that often change every few months and require free enrollment, while others offer a lower, but consistent reward rate year-round.

Annual Fees
While most consumers should opt for a cash back credit card with no annual fee, don't let an annual fee scare you away.

Some credit cards with annual fees offer lucrative introductory bonuses that pay for the annual fee and more. Plus, they often include generous benefits and reward structures that are favorable for big spenders or frequent travelers.

Interest Rates
Reward credit cards generally have higher interest rates.

Terms and conditions apply.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

Disclaimer: The information for the Chase Freedom, Discover it® Cash Back, Citi® Double Cash Card, Ink Business Cash Credit Card, Discover it® Student Cash Back, Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card, Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card, Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business, Discover it® chrome, and Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

More Articles in Reviews

Cash Back Credit Cards

Infographics: Where Does All My Money Go

Household Spending Statistics

Where does all the money go? See what typical Americans make and spend in a month.

Leave a comment about Which Cash Back Credit Card is Right for You?

Name
Email (won't be published)


Chase Freedom Unlimited

With 1.5% cash back and no annual fee, does Chase Freedom Unlimited live up to the hype? Read this in-depth review to see how it stacks up.

    Credit Card Deals with No Annual Fees

    For your next credit card, you want a lucrative deal. What you don't want is to pay for the privilege with an annoying and pricey annual fee. We canvassed current offerings by credit card companies on CreditDonkey for the cash back, reward points, balance transfers, low interest, and small business offers you should consider.

    Airline Rewards

    The best airline credit card racks up miles fast with reasonable fees and amazing rewards.

    Credit Card Deals

    Applying for a card with a bonus or an introductory offer can be a great way to get a head start on earning rewards or to get a handle on your debt.

    Credit Card Bonus Offers

    Take advantage of credit card bonuses for new customers, including bonus cash, reward points, and airline miles.

    Best Credit Cards

    Here are the CreditDonkey picks for "Best Credit Cards" from our partners in the following categories ...

    Credit Card Rewards

    So you've decided you want to earn rewards for your spending but aren’t sure how to pick the right card?

    Balance Transfer

    Here are three factors to keep in mind when choosing the right balance transfer credit card for your wallet ...
    How to Pay Off Credit Cards

    How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt Fast

    Balance transfers can help you pay off credit card debt faster. Read on to learn how to shrink your balance and pay less interest.

    Passive Income: Practical Ideas to Build Wealth

    Want to make passive income? Here are 24 passive income opportunities and investments you can start today. Find the best ideas to build real wealth.

    Best Credit Card for First-Time Applicants

    Learn how to get a credit card for the first time. Read this guide to find out which cards are the best and how to avoid common mistakes beginners make.

    23 Best Ways to Use Chase Ultimate Rewards

    Redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for the most value. This guide highlights some of the best redemption opportunities with Chase points and airline transfer partners.

    Chase Credit Limit Increase

    Need a higher credit limit on your Chase card? It's easier than you think. Here are the different ways you can get a credit line increase.

    Walmart Credit Card Review

    Is the Walmart Credit Card worth applying for? Read this expert review and comparison of the Walmart store card and Walmart MasterCard before you apply.

    Credit Cards for Young Adults

    The best credit cards for young adults have good rewards and benefits but low fees. Use this must-read guide to help narrow down your search.

    Chase 5/24 Rule: What You Need to Know

    Applying for a new Chase card? Not so fast. The 5/24 rule can make you ineligible. Learn what the Chase 5/24 rule is and which credit cards are impacted.

    Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve: Which Should You Get?

    Is Chase Sapphire Reserve or Preferred better? See how they compare in annual fee, rewards, and benefits. Find out which travel credit card is best for you.

    Chase Ultimate Rewards: What You Need to Know

    Get the most out of Chase credit cards. Read this in-depth guide to Chase's Ultimate Rewards program. We'll explain how to get the maximum value.

    Best Chase Credit Card

    Find the best Chase credit card in our rankings of top offers and promotions. Read the latest reviews and score the best deals with this guide.

    Review: Chase Freedom Unlimited vs Chase Slate

    Looking to make a large purchase or pay down credit card debt? Chase Slate or Chase Freedom Unlimited might be for you.

    Review: Chase Freedom vs Freedom Unlimited

    Does Chase Freedom or Freedom Unlimited make more sense? Read this in-depth comparison of these cashback cards to learn which is better. The answer may surprise you.
More Articles in Reviews

About CreditDonkey®
CreditDonkey is a credit card comparison website. We publish data-driven analysis to help you save money & make savvy decisions.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed on this page are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

†Advertiser Disclosure: Many of the card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which CreditDonkey receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CreditDonkey does not include all companies or all offers that may be available in the marketplace.

*See the card issuer's online application for details about terms and conditions. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However, all information is presented without warranty. When you click on the "Apply Now" button you can review the terms and conditions on the card issuer's website.

CreditDonkey does not know your individual circumstances and provides information for general educational purposes only. CreditDonkey is not a substitute for, and should not be used as, professional legal, credit or financial advice. You should consult your own professional advisors for such advice.