Updated on Sep 21, 2017

Best Cash Back Cards for 2017

Reward yourself with a card that puts money back in your pocket.
Andy Bowen
By
Advertiser Disclosure

This page includes analysis of our favorite cards from The Simple Dollar’s advertisers and the marketplace. Visit our advertiser disclosure to learn more.

Earning cash back can be fun and rewarding — as long as you choose a card that coordinates with your spending habits and financial goals. Take a look through our list of this year’s top best cash back cards to find out which one has the right set of rewards and perks for you. And once you find it, you can apply online in just minutes.

Summary

The best cash back cards of 2017

The best cash back cards for 2017

Best overall

Discover it® - Cashback Match™
Cash back details 5% cash back in rotating categories; 1% on all other purchases
Redeem for... eDeposit, statement credit, charitable donation, or Amazon purchases

Signup bonus First year cash back match
Annual Fee $0
Highlights Provided by Discover Show Highlights
Card Highlights Provided by Discover:
  • New! Free Social Security Number alerts, we’ll monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.*
  • You could turn $150 into $300 with Cashback Match™. Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like gas stations, Amazon.com, restaurants, wholesale clubs and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Redeem your cash back for any amount, any time. Cash rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • Get your FICO® Credit Score for free on monthly statements, on mobile and online.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
  • Issuer: Discover
  • Rewards Details: 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like gas stations, Amazon.com, restaurants, wholesale clubs and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3%
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.99% Variable
  • Introductory APR: 0%
  • Introductory APR Period: 14 months
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: 0%
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: 14 months
  • Ongoing APR: 11.99% – 23.99% Variable

Our two cents

Who should get it

If you want to earn cash back rewards without having to meet a spending requirement for a bonus, the Discover it® Cashback Match™ is for you — Discover will match your first-year cash back earnings dollar for dollar. It’s also a great pick for those who don’t use their card every day thanks to its high-rate rewards. (You don’t have to use it as much as you would with a flat-rate 1.5% cash back card to earn rewards at a similar pace.)

How to use it
  • Earn 5% cash back on rotating categories on up to $1,500 worth of purchases, then it drops to 1%. (Past categories have included restaurants gas stations, and wholesale clubs.)
  • Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year thanks to Discover’s Cashback Match™ program.
  • Redeem your cash back for eDeposits, statement credits, charitable donations, or Amazon purchases.
  • Use the above-average 14-month 0% intro-APR period to pay for larger purchases without incurring any interest.
Consider this

If you don’t want to wait until the end of the year to get your Cashback Match™ bonus, consider the Chase Freedom®. It earns 1.5% cash back on every purchase (compared to the Chase Freedom®’s 5% rotating categories), but if you spend $500 in the first three months you’ll earn a $150 signup bonus that you can redeem for a statement credit, cash back, or travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Why you'll love it

The Discover it® Cashback Match™ has high-earning rotating categories and a solid 14-month 0% intro APR period for purchases and balance transfers. And since this card will match your year-end cash back earnings dollar for dollar, you won’t have to meet a certain spending requirement to earn the bonus.

Start your application now

Best special offer

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
See Rates & Fees
Cash back details 6% at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%); 3% at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores; 1% on other purchases (Terms apply)
Redeem for... Reward Dollars (redeemed as a statement credit)

Signup bonus $200
Annual Fee $95
Highlights Provided by American Express Show Highlights
  • $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) - that means spending $60 a week at U.S. supermarkets could earn over $180 back per year.
  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 13.99% to 24.99%.
  • Expanding merchant acceptance: Over 1 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in the last year.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Issuer: American Express
  • Rewards Details: 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) - that means spending $60 a week at U.S. supermarkets could earn over $180 back per year.
  • Annual Fee: $95 See Details
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: 26.24% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 2.7% of each transaction after conversion to US dollars.
  • Introductory APR: 0%
  • Introductory APR Period: 12 months
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: 0%
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: 12 months
  • Ongoing APR: 13.99% - 24.99% Variable
  • Penalty APR: 29.99% Variable

Our two cents

Who should get it

If you want a cash back card with high-rate rewards that don’t change every quarter, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is for you. Shoppers and commuters will also benefit thanks to its competitive rewards at U.S supermarkets, U.S. gas stations, and select U.S. department stores.

How to use it
  • Earn humongous rewards for grocery shopping: 6% cash back on grocery purchases at U.S. supermarkets (for up to $6,000 per year, then it drops to 1% cash back). You’ll also get 3% unlimited cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months to get a $200 statement credit.
  • Redeem your Rewards Dollars as statement credits that you can apply to any purchase.
Consider this

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express earns really high rewards on some great everyday categories, but in most cases you can only redeem your cash back as a credit statement. (American Express offer details mention other options such as gift cards or merchandise being available “from time to time.”) If you’d like more flexible redemption options, the Chase Freedom® could be a better pick because rewards can be redeemed for a statement credit, cash back, or discounted travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Why you'll love it

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express has some of the highest U.S. supermarket rewards in the industry (6%), plus above-average cash back earnings at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores. There’s also the signup bonus of a $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months.

Start your application now

Great for Bank of America customers

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Cash back details Earn 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas
Redeem for... Cash Back

Signup bonus $150
Annual Fee $0.00
Highlights Provided by Bank of America Show Highlights
  • No annual fee
  • $150 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter
  • No changing categories and no expiration on rewards
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases AND for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days, then, 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR. 3% fee (min $10) applies to balance transfers
  • Get a 10% customer bonus every time you redeem your cash back into a Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%
  • Issuer: Bank of America
  • Rewards Details: 10% customer bonus every time you redeem your cash back into a Bank of America® checking or savings account. 1% cash back on every purchase. 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter. 3% cash back on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter.
  • Sign Up Bonus: $150 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Annual Fee: $0.00
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3% of the amount of each transaction or $10, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: See Terms
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%
  • Introductory APR: 0% Introductory APR on purchases
  • Introductory APR Period: 12 billing cycles
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: 0% Intro APR for 12 billing cycles for balance transfers made in the first 60 days
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: 12 billing cycles
  • Ongoing APR: 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • Penalty APR: up to 29.99% APR

Our two cents

Who should get it

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card is a great entry-level card for Bank of America customers — especially if you have over $20,000 in a Bank of America®, Merrill Edge® or Merrill Lynch® account. If so, you’ll qualify for the Bank of America® Preferred Rewards program. And depending upon your status, your rewards rates can climb up to 75% higher. For example, gas rewards rates jump from 3% cash back to 5.25% cash back if you’re a Platinum honors member.

How to use it
  • Earn 3% cash back on gasoline, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 1% on all other purchases (for up to $2,500 in combined purchases every quarter)
  • Spend $500 or more in the first 90 days to get a $150 cash back bonus.
  • Redeem cash back rewards.
Consider this

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card has incredible rewards rates for Bank of America customers— especially those with more than $20,000 in their account. If that’s not you, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is another great cash back card that has similar categories with comparable rewards rates. Most notably, it earns a much higher 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%), compared to the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card’s 2% cash back at grocery stores, but those earnings come at the price of a $95 annual fee.

Why you'll love it

The rewards structure, signup bonus, and no annual fee all make the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card an attractive choice. However, the key to getting the most value is the customer bonus. If you have a Bank of America® account or a qualifying Merrill Lynch Cash Management Account® — and especially if you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards client — the potential for customer bonuses make this card an obvious choice.

Start your application now

Best for fixed-rate cash back

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Cash back details Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
Redeem for... Statement credit or check

Signup bonus One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Annual Fee $0
Highlights Provided by Capital One Show Highlights
  • One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Use your Quicksilver card and get 50% back as a statement credit on your monthly Spotify Premium subscription, now through April 2018
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 9 months; 13.99%-23.99% variable APR after that
  • Balance transfers also have a 0% intro APR for 9 months; 13.99%-23.99% variable APR after that; a 3% fee applies to each balance transferred
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
  • Issuer: Capital One
  • Rewards Details: 1.5 % Cash Back on every purchase, every day. 150 Cash Back after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3%
  • Cash Advance APR: 23.99% (Variable)
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Introductory APR: 0% intro on purchases
  • Introductory APR Period: For 9 Months
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: 0% intro on balance transfers
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: For 9 Months
  • Ongoing APR: 13.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card takes a straightforward approach to cash back: there’s no limit to how much you can earn and no changing categories. With this card, you’ll earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase — and let’s not forget the $150 signup bonus!

How to use it
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • Spend $500 in the first three months to earn the $150 signup bonus.
  • Take advantage of Visa Signature® Benefits like travel and emergency assistance, auto rental coverage, and fraud coverage.
Consider this

If you want to transfer a balance or make a large purchase, the Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard® is a great flat-rate alternative because it earns the same unlimited 1.5% on all purchases and offers 0% interest for the first 15 months of purchases and balance transfers. Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card only has a 9-month 0% intro APR period for purchases and balance transfer.

Why you'll love it

Using the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card couldn’t be any more simple: You get unlimited 1.5% cash back on every single purchase you make. There’s no annual fee, and its signup bonus is one of the easiest to earn: $150 cash back after you spend $500 in the first three months. (That’s an average of $170 a month on purchases.)

Start your application now

High-reward bonus categories

Chase Freedom®
Cash back details Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
Redeem for... Statement credit, cash back, travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Signup bonus $150
Annual Fee $0
Highlights Provided by Chase Show Highlights
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 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 like gas stations, restaurants and drugstores
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.99-24.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee
  • Issuer: Chase
  • Rewards Details: 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.
  • Sign Up Bonus: Earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.99% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars
  • Introductory APR: 0%
  • Introductory APR Period: 15 months
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: 0%
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: 15 Months
  • Ongoing APR: 15.99% - 24.74% Variable
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

The Chase Freedom® is a great choice if you’re an eclectic spender who doesn’t mind focusing your card use on a different category each quarter, like gas stations, U.S. restaurants, and U.S. grocery stores. Yes, keeping up with rotating categories takes some discipline, but the 5% cash back rewards rate is well worth it.

How to use it
  • Earn 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories (on up to $1,500) and 1% cash back on everything else.
  • Spend $500 within the first three months to get a $150 cash back bonus.
  • Redeem your cash back reward points for statement credits, cash back, and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards® — and there’s no minimum to redeem!
Consider this

The Chase Freedom® offers some incredibly high reward rates — just remember to adjust your spending to line up with rotating categories each quarter. If you want a simpler rewards program, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® earns unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. You’ll get the same redemption flexibility and $150 signup bonus (if you spend $500 in the first three months) without having to keep up with bonus categories that change every quarter.

Why you'll love it

With its extra-flexible redemption options and high-rate rewards, the Chase Freedom® is a staple of the cash back arena. Just focus your spending on the rotating categories and you can earn 5% on rotating categories on up to $1,500 per quarter. This card is also one of the only high-earning cash back cards that lets you redeem rewards toward travel (when booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®).

Start your application now

Best cash back redemption bonus

Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard®
Cash back details Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on every purchase
Redeem for... Statement credit, bank deposit, or gift card

Signup bonus $200
Annual Fee $0
Highlights Provided by Barclaycard Show Highlights
  • Get a $200 cash rewards bonus after you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days after account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on every purchase. Every time you redeem, get a 5% cash rewards redemption bonus to use toward your next redemption
  • Redeem your cash rewards for a deposit into a U.S. checking or savings account, a statement credit or gift cards. Redemptions start at $50
  • Cash rewards do not expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • Enjoy a 0% introductory APR for the first 15 months on purchases.
  • Plus, you'll get a 0% introductory APR for 15 months for each balance transfer made within 45 days of account opening. After that a variable APR will apply, 15.99%, 20.99% or 25.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Please note, there is a fee for balance transfers
  • No annual fee
  • Issuer: Barclaycard
  • Rewards Details: Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on every purchase. Every time you redeem, get a 5% cash rewards redemption bonus to use toward your next redemption
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3% of each balance transfer; not less than $5
  • Cash Advance APR: 26.24% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%
  • Introductory APR: 0%
  • Introductory APR Period: 15 months
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: 0%
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: 15 months (on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening)
  • Ongoing APR: 15.99%, 20.99% or 25.99% Variable

Our two cents

Who should get it

Want flat-rate rewards and an above-average cash back signup bonus? Take a look at the Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard®. It earns unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, and you’ll get a 5% cash rewards bonus toward your next redemption every time you redeem your rewards. It’s also a top pick for balance transfers and large purchases thanks to its 15-month 0% intro APR in both categories.

How to use it
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back rewards on all purchases.
  • Redeem points for gift cards, statement credits or direct deposits into a U.S. bank account.
  • Spend $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account to earn the $200 signup bonus.
  • Use the 15-month 0% introductory APR to pay for big purchases or pay off balance transfers without interest. (There’s a fee of 3% for every transfer.)
Consider this

The Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard® has a solid $200 signup bonus, but if you’re a frequent card user, you might have more to gain with the Discover it® Cashback Match™. Thanks to Discover’s Cashback Match™ program, you’ll receive a dollar-for-dollar match of your cash back earnings at the end of your first year. It’s worth nothing that you’ll have to adjust your spending to fit rotating categories to do so, whereas the Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard® earns a simpler, unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

Why you'll love it

The Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard® is a tough one to beat — we’re talking about no annual fee, a $200 signup bonus (after you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days), unlimited rewards, and versatile redemption options. It also has a 15-month 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers. Finally, you get a 5% cash rewards bonus every time you redeem.

Start your application now

Best 0% intro APR

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Cash back details Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase – it’s automatic
Redeem for... Statement credit, cash back, travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Signup bonus $150
Annual Fee $0
Highlights Provided by Chase Show Highlights
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.99-24.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee
  • Issuer: Chase
  • Rewards Details: Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.99% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars
  • Introductory APR: 0%
  • Introductory APR Period: 15 months
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: 0%
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: 15 Months
  • Ongoing APR: 15.99% - 24.74% Variable
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

Considering a balance transfer? Want unlimited flat-rate rewards without having to worry about rotating categories? The Chase Freedom Unlimited® excels in both categories, all with no annual fee. There’s also an easy-to-earn $150 cash back signup bonus to smile about.

How to use it
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase. No categories, no activations.
  • Pay off large purchases or balance transfers during the 15-month 0% intro APR period to avoid interest.
  • Redeem your rewards at any time, for any amount — there’s no minimum to redeem!
  • Spend $500 in your first 3 months to earn $150 cash back bonus.
Consider this

The Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard® is another great choice if you’re going to make a significant purchase or transfer your balance from a high-APR card. Like the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, it offers unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases and has a 15-month 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers. Its redemption options are a bit slimmer, but it does have a lower balance transfer fee (3% compared to 5%).

Why you'll love it

With the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, simplicity is the name of the game. Not does it earn a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases; it offers one of the easiest-to-earn signup bonuses around. Plus, you can redeem your cash back for at any time, for any amount (there’s no minimum).

Start your application now

Best for average credit

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Cash back details Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
Redeem for... Statement credit or check

Signup bonus None
Annual Fee $39
Highlights Provided by Capital One Show Highlights
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Use your QuicksilverOne card and get 50% back as a statement credit on your monthly Spotify Premium subscription, now through April 2018
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Fraud coverage if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
  • Issuer: Capital One
  • Rewards Details: 1.5 % Cash Back on every purchase, every day.
  • Annual Fee: $39
  • Balance Transfer Fee: $0
  • Cash Advance APR: 24.99% (Variable)
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 24.99% (Variable)
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

If you’re worried about getting approved for a cash back credit card, the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card is a great option because it’s rated for people with average or “fair” credit. It earns 1.5% unlimited cash back on all purchases, and with responsible use you can improve your credit score as you earn cash back rewards.

How to use it
  • Use this card to build positive credit history and earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase.
  • Redeem your cash back rewards for statement credits or checks.
  • Use this card for your Spotify Premium subscription and get 50% back as a statement credit. (Offer valid through April 2018.)
  • Use CreditWise® from Capital One® for unlimited access to your credit score.
Consider this

If you have excellent credit, you should also consider this card’s sibling, the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card. It has the same unlimited 1.5% cash back rewards structure, but without the $39 annual fee. (A FICO® Score of 750-850 is considered excellent.) Plus, it has a signup bonus: $150 cash back after you spend $500 within the first three months.

Why you'll love it

The Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers many of the benefits of the popular Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card — but with more relaxed approval standards. Used correctly, it offers both unlimited cash back earning potential and the opportunity to improve your credit score over time.

Start your application now

The best cash back cards for 2017: summed up

Maximize your cash back card with the right strategy

Since cards with rotating category bonuses have already announced their selections for the entire year, summer and fall is the perfect time to come up with a cash back strategy. Here are a few tips to consider as you look for ways to rack up as much cash back as you can this year:

Max out your bonus categories if your card offers them – With the Chase Freedom® card, for example, you’ll earn 5 points per dollar on categories that rotate every quarter, including gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and holiday shopping. By taking note of those categories, you can use your cards strategically and earn more points over time.

Decide whether you want 5% back in rotating categories or a higher rate across the board – With newer cards like the Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard® offering a flat 1.5% back on all of your purchases, it’s smart to at least consider this option. While 5% in certain categories is nice, cards that offer this perk dole out just 1% back on your regular purchases. In that respect, a card that offers a flat 1.5% back on all of your spending might help you earn more cash back over time.

Put all of your travel spending on your rewards credit card – With the biggest travel season of the year underway, it makes sense to use your rewards card whenever you can. That could mean using your Chase Freedom® to score 5% back on restaurants if your travel falls between July and September. For your other travel expenses, use a card that offers at least 1.5% cash back to earn the most you can.

Use your card for daycare – Many families face the extra expense of putting their kids in day camp or full-time daycare while they work. If you’re able, put your seasonal childcare expenses on credit to boost your rewards. Then, pay your bill in full to avoid paying interest charges.

Sign up for a new card for the signup bonus – Even if you’re already happy with your rewards credit card, it doesn’t hurt to have an additional choice. By signing up for one of the best cash back cards mentioned on this page, you can score a nice signup bonus. As long as you pay your bill in full and never pay interest, this is the closest thing to “free money” you’ll ever find.

Pair two cash back cards with different earning tiers for more rewards – If you want to earn the most cash back over time, consider using different cards for different types of expenses. The Chase Freedom® card, for example is offering 5% back on your first $1,500 spent at grocery stores until the end of June. By using this card at the grocery store, you can earn an extra $75. But since this card offers only 1% on the rest of your purchases, you’ll be better off using a card that offers a flat 1.5% back for everything else. Remember, you don’t have to pick just one card – you can have several and use each one in whatever way suits your needs.

While the perfect card is different for everyone, nearly anyone could benefit from a no-fee card that offers cash back on everyday purchases. To help you narrow down your choices, we highlighted some of the top cash back cards in this space. By studying the benefits and perks of each, you can find the right card for your goals and spending style.

Managing your money with a credit card

Although the use of credit is sometimes looked down upon in the world of personal finance, credit cards can actually be a valuable tool if harnessed properly. Not only do certain types of cards let you earn valuable rewards and gain certain consumer protections, but they can help you stay on budget too. The following rules can help you secure the valuable perks credit cards offer without straying from your financial goals:

Rule 1: Always treat credit like cash

When credit is a problem for someone, it is usually because they used it as an excuse to spend more money than they planned. In order to avoid overextending yourself, you should always “treat your credit card like cash.” In other words, never charge more than you would if you were paying with cash in your bank account. Don’t forget that the bill is coming due – whether you like it or not.

Rule 2: Track your credit spending in real-time

Many people get in trouble with credit because they lose track of how much they spend. The card isn’t “real money,” so they learn to disassociate it from the dollars in their bank account. If you want to stay on top of your spending, and stay on budget, you need to keep track of all of your expenses as the month progresses. To do this, sign up for online account management with your credit card company. Then use your log-in and password to check in with your spending at least once per week. Staying on top of your spending this way can benefit you by helping you stay on budget and forcing you to recognize any problem spending areas you may have.

Rule 3: Pay your bill before it is due (or several times per month)

If you set aside a certain amount of money for bills and expenses, and want to stay on track, it can be immeasurably helpful to pay your bill credit card bill a few times a month. At the very least, you should always pay your credit card off at least once before it is due. Letting your account balance grow over the month without paying it off can cause you to disassociate your spending from actual money you have, whereas paying it off a few times per month causes you to part from your dollars and feel the impact right away. And if you truly want to use credit as a tool instead of a crutch, you should feel the pain of paying your bills as often as possible.

Rule 4: Never pay interest

If you want to manage your finances with a credit card, it is essential that you never pay interest on any of your purchases. To accomplish this goal, follow the steps above and pay your bill before it is due – or multiple times per month. Paying interest on your purchases is a sign that you cannot handle credit responsibly at this time. If that’s the case, consider stashing your credit card away in a drawer for the time being. You could always revisit the issue in the future if you feel that your habits have changed for the better.

The benefits of using a credit card as a budgeting tool

While a lot of people tout cash-only budgets, there are a lot of benefits to gain by opting for credit-only instead. Here are a few of the biggest benefits that come with using credit as a budgeting tool:

Insurance and plenty of perks

Credit cards offer a slew of consumer protections that other forms of payment simply do not. The specific perks depend on the card you choose, but they can include things like Purchase Protection, Extended Fraud Protection, Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance, Free FICO scores, Primary or Secondary Auto Rental Coverage, and more. These coverages are yours free just for choosing a card that offers them.

A digital paper trail

When you use cash for all of your purchases, there are only a few different ways to keep track of your spending; you either have to keep receipts or write all of your purchases down. If that sounds like a hassle to you, consider how easy it would be to track your spending with a credit card. Your online account and paper statements will do the hard work for you by listing all of your expenses in order by date. Some credit cards even go the extra mile and lump all of your spending into general categories for your convenience.

You can go back months or even years of your spending history in the blink of an eye, and many credit cards offer online budgeting tools that track your category spending over time.

Cash-back rewards

When you use cash or debit for all of your spending, you’re really missing out. The truth is, cash-back credit cards can offer a huge rebate on your spending if used responsibly. This often amounts to between 1 and 5% back. If you pay your card off in-full each month and never pay interest, those rewards are truly “free money.” If you use cash instead, you’re simply out of luck.

Safety and fraud protection

If cash is stolen out of your purse, you have little recourse other than filing a police report. Meanwhile, protections for debit cards aren’t much better. According to the Federal Trade Commission, your liability for fraudulent debit card purchases is $50 if you report within 2 business days after you learn of the loss or theft, $500 if you report the charges more than 2 business days after you learn of the loss or theft, but less than 60 calendar days after your statement is sent to you, and unlimited if you report the charges after 60 days. In other words, scammers and thieves can drain “all the money taken from your ATM/debit card account, and possibly more; for example, money in accounts linked to your debit account. if you don’t notice the charges within 60 days.”

With a credit card, however, your liability is only limited to $50 maximum at any time, and most credit card issuers even waive that requirement. So if someone gets a hold of your credit card and runs up a bunch of charges, you are completely off the hook. In most cases, your card issuer will just close your account and issue you a new card with a new number.

Money-saving tips for cash back cards

Using the right credit cards in the right situations can save you some significant cash. Depending on your situation, there are specific credit cards tailored to your everyday purchases where you can earn rewards in the form of cash back for spending your hard-earned money.

Basic tips

Create a detailed list of your monthly and yearly spending

This is the first thing you should do prior to signing up for any credit card. In order to find the best cash back credit card or combination of cards, you have to know where your money is spent. To determine which cash back card is your top choice, create a list of what you buy each month and each year.

The monthly breakdown will help calculate any spending that could potentially happen while using a rotating category cash back card. A list of your yearly spending will help determine if you spend enough to maximize the rewards for a designated category cash back card.

Look for a rewards program that matches your spending habits

Once you have an itemized list of what you spend your money on, use that information to look for a cash back credit card. As I outlined here, there are three top cards worth considering for the majority of people. Look into the Chase Freedom®, Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer, and the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, as those are likely your best options.

Use your credit card statement to keep track of spending

When you actually have your credit card, you’ll be able to access your monthly statements. This will help ensure your original calculations were correct when you created a list of what you buy each month.

You should also use your statement to review the current status of your cash back categories so you’re aware of how much you’ve spent and how much more you can spend before hitting any caps.

Advanced tips

Plan ahead to take advantage of cash back categories

When you select a cash back card, make sure you become familiar with the rewards program of that card. If you go with a rotating category card, it’s smart to plan ahead and make any larger purchases when your 5% category is in effect. For example, you can wait to make any large purchases or holiday purchases until October – December to capitalize on 5% off your online shopping. If you’re looking to make some home improvements, you can plan on buying everything when a home improvement store shows up in the rotating category.

When using any cash back card, you also want to be aware of where your spending is at so you stop once you hit your rewards caps. For example, if you can only earn 6% cash back on groceries up to $6,000, you don’t want to be spending beyond that because everything drops to 1% cash back. At that time, you’ll want to use a different 2% rewards card or higher.

Redeem your rewards for cash, not luxury items

Many cards offer the ability to redeem rewards for things other than cash or statement credit. You can get gift cards from various retailers or restaurants and reward yourself for the money you’ve spent.

However, if you really want to feel see the impact of cash back rewards on your everyday life, I advise you to simply take the cash or statement credit. It’s the best way to actually “save” your rewards versus using them to purchase luxury items or meals out. I’m not saying you have to deprive yourself of such things but, if you’re truly looking to save, this is the best way to do it.

Additionally, you may have the opportunity to use your rewards to get a gift card for something that’s a necessary purchase you would make anyway. In this case, it’s fine to exchange your cash back for a gift card to a place where you shop for necessities frequently. Also, once in a while, the cards will offer higher redemption for certain retailers and you might be able to take advantage if one of your common purchases is there.

Buy gift cards to maximize remaining rewards

After three months, the rotating category cash back cards will change categories. In some cases, a time may come where you did not hit the $1,500 spending limit to maximize your 5% cash back category in the quarterly period. Prior to the expiration date of the rotating category, you should assess whether or not there is something within the category you will use in the future.

For example, if the 5% cash back category happens to be restaurants, maybe you didn’t hit the $1,500 rewards cap in the three months. For the sake of this, let’s say you only spent $1,000 at restaurants on the card within the three-month period. However, you know that you’ll be eating out for the rest of the year and likely be spending more than $500. You can go to your favorite place or several restaurants of your choice and buy $500 in gift cards.

This might take some adjustment and planning within your budget, which is why I recommend this as a more advanced technique to save money. Basically, you just saved 5% on your next 50 meals (assuming you pay $10/meal), which isn’t so bad of a deal.

Compensate for fluctuations in gas prices

With a rewards credit card that offers cash back on gas, you’ll be less susceptible to high gas prices than the average consumer. While it may only be a consolation prize, the more gas prices rise, the more rewards you earn on gas purchases.

Using a cash back card that earns you 3% or more on gas like the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card will help take the sting away a little when gas prices rise. You may have to pay more out of pocket, but you’re also getting more in return. Again, just be sure you’re always earning more than 1% cash back on your gas purchases. You can always ensure that by combining a cash back card with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Research the 14 best cash back credit cards

Listed below, you will find a directory of the most popular cash back credit cards available. This directory was used as a starting point for my research and analysis, which is based on the data derived from each card. The directory is updated weekly to reflect any new changes, to add new cards, and to remove expired cards.

The cash back credit cards directory is a sub-directory of rewards credit cards. This custom directory highlights the most important features for cash back cards specifically and displays all important information about each card. The directory is maintained and updated on a weekly basis to ensure it is always current.

Cash back credit cards directory

The cash back rewards credit card directory lists every cash back credit card and the vital information for that card. In order to rank and value each of these cards, certain features were weighted accordingly based on overall importance to the prospective cardholder.

Sort, filter, or search for what matters most to find the best cash back credit card for you.
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Rating methodology

The most heavily weighted (and most important) elements of a cash back credit card are introductory APR, sign-up bonus, ongoing rewards, and benefits. Depending on your situation, you might want to be aware of the ongoing APR as well.

Based on these important features and other data, I developed a Cash Back Card Rating for each card. This rating takes the features that matter most for a cash back card and combines them together to rate each card based on a group of important features. I also included an Overall Rating, which displays the card rating as an overall credit card, comparing it to every other credit card type on the market.

There are a number of factors that went into rating each card and the most important are described below.

Rewards

To analyze rewards, I assessed each cash back credit card on its ongoing rewards and rewards categories.

Ongoing rewards

Ongoing rewards refers to the actual rate at which you can earn rewards using the cash back card. The very best cash back credit cards will always offer a rate of 3% or higher on select categories. The majority of cash rewards cards have a base rewards rate of 1%, while some reach 1.5% but don’t offer higher incentives for specific categories. It’s important to note that the 1% base is just the starting point for earning rewards and you should always aim to earn more than 1% on any purchase you make.

The top cards, like the Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer and Chase Freedom®, offer rotating categories that enable you to earn 5% cash back on a variety of common purchases each quarter. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers 6% cash back on purchases from U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000, then 1%).

The important thing to note regarding rewards rates for cash back credit cards is that any card with a rewards rate of 5% or higher will certainly have limitations or caps on the amount you can earn within a specific time period. For the 5% rotating category cards, the cap is normally $1,500 per quarter. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is capped at $6,000 on purchases from U.S. supermarkets but has no cap for the 3% at U.S. gas stations.

Rewards categories

As a part of the rewards, I also analyzed the rewards categories, which highlight the versatility of each cash back card. This accounts for the various ways you can earn rewards that are greater than 1%. The more ways you can earn greater than 1% in rewards, the better a card will be.

For example, the 5% cash back rewards credit cards that offer rotating categories every three months are versatile and score among the highest cards. These cards offer 5% cash back on things like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, home improvement stores, Starbucks, and more. The categories rotate every three months, so you always have something new to capitalize on.

The American Express cash back cards offer higher percentages in designated categories that don’t change but are very broad. These cards will also score high because you can capitalize by making common purchases, such as groceries and gas.

Perks

There are some additional perks of owning a cash back credit card beyond earning rewards, but this category is not as important as those listed above. Some cash back cards, like the Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer, provide cardholders with a free FICO® credit score on monthly statements, which is a nice bonus.

Additional benefits include 24/7 customer service, car rental insurance, and emergency travel assistance. The Discover it® even has no foreign transaction fees, which is normally common among travel cards but not most cash back cards.

Sign-up bonus

As a rule, the sign-up bonuses aren’t as high for cash back credit cards in comparison to the best rewards credit cards or airline credit cards. Cash back credit cards offer a higher rewards percentage as the main selling point instead of a large sign-up bonus.

However, every dollar counts and you can still get a decent sign-up bonus from a cash back card. The largest sign-up bonus you’ll find with the most popular cash back cards will be $100. To collect that bonus, you’ll likely have to spend around $500 in the first three months.

Intro APR

The introductory APR for the best cash back credit cards is usually very generous. Intro APR holds an average importance level when ranking all the top cash back cards simply because some people value the feature a lot while others don’t care.

Many of the cash back credit cards I consider to be the best will have a 0% introductory APR for at least 12 months. Some cash back cards go as high as 14 or even 15 months.

What this means for a prospective cardholder is you can sign up for a new card prior to making a large purchase you know is coming, but choose to pay it off over the course of the next year or so. I always recommend you never carry a balance, but taking advantage of 0% APR deals can be a way to make yourself feel more financially comfortable if you anticipate a large purchase.

Ongoing APR

Cash back cards have some of the lowest APRs, so you could say these cards are a top choice for people who don’t pay off their balance each month (although no card is good for that). As I mentioned many times, you shouldn’t be getting a credit card if you plan on carrying a balance. But, if you must carry a balance, a cash back card may hurt you the least of any rewards card.

Cash back cards have ongoing APRs that range as low as 10.99% and go beyond 20%. The key determinant of your ongoing APR is your credit score and history. If you have good credit, the APR rate for you will be on the lower end. APR differs from Intro APR because it is the more permanent rate. Once you get beyond the designated time period for any introductory APR offers, the credit card will default to the ongoing APR rate.

APR is not factored into our ratings as a very important category because it nullifies the ability to earn rewards. You won’t be able to capitalize with any rewards credit card if you’re carrying a balance each month and making high payments. Remember, I ranked the best cash back credit cards based on the features that matter to the people who use the cards the right way.

The truth about cash back cards

The best cash back credit cards have unique structures to their rewards programs. Generally speaking, cash back cards offer the highest rewards percentages of any credit cards for specific or rotating categories. Due to the high rewards earning potential, cash back credit cards also come with caps on the amount you can earn in those categories.

Key takeaways

  1. Cash back credit cards are the best second cards to own.
  2. Rewards for cash back cards are very high but have caps.
  3. Be sure to maximize your cash back categories each quarter or year.
  4. If you want a big sign-up bonus, don’t get a cash back card.
  5. Never use a cash back card for any 1% cash back purchase.

Case study: rotating vs. designated categories

This case study will break down the difficult choice between the two popular styles of cash back cards. Some of the top cash back credit cards offer rotating 5% cash back categories while others have designated categories where you earn cash back.

There is no overlying consensus on which type of card is best for everyone. The best cash back card type is the one that offers the most rewards on the purchases you make. The other element that factors into the decision is which other credit cards you already own.

To show these cash back rewards programs in action, this case study will analyze the difference between the two types of cards when both cash back categories are maxed out. It will also detail which cash back card is the best choice for you depending on the type of credit cards you already own.

I’m going to compare the best rotating 5% cash back category card, the Chase Freedom®, and the top designated cash back card, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. Using the top cards from each of the two types will help illustrate what your best choice is. First, let’s look at a brief comparison of the rewards programs for these cards.

Rewards breakdown

Chase Freedom®

You earn a $150 bonus after you make $500 in purchases in your first three months from account opening. Also, you’ll enjoy new 5% categories every three months like gas stations, restaurants, and grocery stores. You get 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases. If you do the math, that’s 5% cash back on $6,000 in purchases in variable categories over a full year. There is no annual fee and rewards never expire.

Knowing that you can get 5% cash back in categories is great, but you also want to know what those categories actually are prior to committing.

Here is a quick breakdown of the current cash back schedule for the Chase Freedom® (rewards for the second half of the year will be announced at a later date):

  • January – March 2017: Gas Stations, Local Commuter Transportation
  • April – June 2017: Grocery Stores
If you can look at these categories right now and say with certainty that you don’t make many purchases on these items, then this card isn’t worth getting. In my opinion, Chase made some major improvements in 2015 regarding the rotating categories by adding grocery stores.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

With the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, you also get a $200 statement credit, but it takes $1,000 in purchases with your new card in the first three months to get it. The cash back rewards are as follows: 6% at U.S. supermarkets for up to $6,000 per year (then 1%) in purchases, 3% at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, and 1% on other purchases.

It’s pretty clear this is the card to own if you spend a lot of your money on groceries. It’s also a top card for consistent gas purchases, as there is no cap on the 3% cash back you can earn.

Maximizing each cash back category

Creating a single fixed scenario to judge these cards is next to impossible. Instead, let’s look at each card at a category level to examine the the return you could get from the rewards program. The table below shows an overview of the best type of cash back card to get for each of the various purchases you might make. Continuing on, you’ll find more details on using these cards for each type of purchase.

Type of purchase Best cash back card type
Groceries Designated category card
Gas (less than $6,000/year) Rotating category card
Gas (more than $6,000/year) Designated category card
Shopping Rotating category card
Dining and entertainment Rotating category card
Variety of purchases Rotating category card
Household purchases Designated category card
 
Groceries

By now, you know the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is the winner on groceries with 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). The Chase Freedom® now has groceries in one 5% cash back category.

Assuming you spend enough to hit the $6,000 cap on the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, you’ll get $360 per year back on that spending. At 1% cash back, that same $6,000 only gets you $60 back. Using a 2x card, you would get $120 cash back.

Gas

This is where the battle really heats up. While this head to head comparison is really for Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express vs Chase Freedom®, remember that newcomer Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card also earns 3% on gas.

Both the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express and the Chase Freedom® have decent gas rewards. For one quarter of the year or three months, the Chase Freedom® offers gas stations as a 5% cash back category. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers 3% at U.S. gas stations consistently with no limits, year round.

Since the Chase Freedom® offers cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases, let’s assume you max out this category for gas. In a full year, you’ll earn 5% of $1,500, which is $75 cash back.

Obviously, using the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express and spending the same amount will earn you less money. Getting 3% of $1,500 only comes to $45. However, it’s safe to assume you wouldn’t simply buy gas for three months out of the year and then skip out on the other nine months.

For the sake of this comparison, assume your spending remains consistent each quarter at $1,500. Projecting that out over a year shows that you’ve spent $6,000 on gas. With the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, you earn $180 cash back from purchases at U.S. gas stations.

You would never want to do this, but if you continued to use the Chase Freedom® on gas at 1% cash back for the other nine months, you would earn an additional $45. Doing the math brings the rewards total for the year on gas purchases to $120 — ending up as a less favorable option than the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express.

Therefore, following my rules of cash back cards, you would never make these remaining purchases on gas with the Chase Freedom®; instead, you would use a 2x card and earn $60 in rewards vs. $30. This methodology vaults the Chase Freedom® slightly ahead of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express using the spending model I outlined here. Of course, if you spend way more on gas over the course of a year, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express will come out ahead.

Shopping

Both cards offer some solid rewards for those of you who like to shop. The Chase Freedom® – offers much more variety compared to the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. With the Chase Freedom®, you’ll have the ability to earn 5% cash back gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants throughout the year in different quarters. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers a consistent 3% at U.S. gas stations.

Food and entertainment

The Chase Freedom® comes out on top here again simply because the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express doesn’t offer any rewards relating to dining or entertainment.

The Chase Freedom® has cash back categories that include restaurants, Starbucks® stores, and movie theaters. The great thing about earning 5% cash back at these locations is that you can maximize your rewards with one key strategy even if you don’t think you’ll hit your $1,500 cap for the month. All you have to do is buy gift cards from restaurants, movie theaters, or Starbucks® and you can capitalize on your rewards.

Case study conclusion

This case study clearly illustrates that all cash back credit cards are not created equal — even when you compare two of the best. If you’re looking to decide between the rotating category cash back card (Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer or Chase Freedom®) and the designated cash back category card, the top choice depends on how you can best earn the maximum rewards.

For a variety of purchases, the rotating category cash back cards are the way to go. If you have a set spending budget and you know things like groceries and gas are your main purchases, then you should go with the designated category cash back credit card.

Case study: annual fee vs. no annual fee

It’s important to note that only one popular cash back card charges an annual fee. That card is the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. If you ever encounter another cash back card that charges an annual fee, make sure it is at least comparable to the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express.

However, the question remains whether or not paying the $95 annual fee for the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is worth it when the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express charges no annual fee. The question will be answered in this brief case study and comparison of the two cards.

Rewards breakdown

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
  • $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) - that means spending $60 a week at U.S. supermarkets could earn over $180 back per year.
  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 13.99% to 24.99%.
  • Expanding merchant acceptance: Over 1 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in the last year.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
  • $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • No annual fee.
  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%).
  • 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 13.99% to 24.99%.
  • Expanding merchant acceptance: Over 1 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in the last year.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

Looking at the details of the two cards above, you can see the rewards earning potential for the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is double the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express for buying groceries (6% vs. 3%). The $6,000 spending cap at U.S. supermarkets applies for both cards.

You can earn 3% at U.S. gas stations with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express and 2% with the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. There are no caps for either card on the amount you can earn from purchases at U.S. gas stations.

At the surface, it might be tough to tell which card to get given that you have to pay a $95 annual fee for all the extra rewards that come with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express.

Real-life spending scenario

Let’s take a look at a quick comparison between the two cards. I created a hypothetical spending scenario for someone who makes $10,000 in purchases within the two important rewards categories for these cards.

Here’s the spending breakdown we’ll use to analyze the two cards:

  • You spend $6,000 on groceries in a year.
  • You spend another $4,000 per year on gas.
  • Your spending remains consistent over four years (for the purpose of standardization).
  • You make no purchases at the standard 1% rate.
The sign-up bonus and annual fee are factored in each year because this is a cumulative measurement of how much you earn in rewards (over a four-year time period). Those amounts carry over, while the rewards earnings compound year after year. (For example, by the fourth year, you’ve still only accumulated the first year’s sign-up bonus).

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
1 Year 2 Years 3 Years 4 Years
Sign-up bonus $200 $200 $200 $200
Rewards earned $480 $960 $1440 $1920
Annual fee -$95 -$190 -$285 -$380
Cumulative earnings $585 $970 $1355 $1740
  Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
1 Year 2 Years 3 Years 4 Years
Sign-up bonus $150 $150 $150 $150
Rewards earned $260 $520 $780 $1040
Annual fee -$0 -$0 -$0 -$0
Cumulative earnings $410 $670 $930 $1190
 

Case study conclusion

As you can see, even after factoring in the annual fee, it’s well worth getting the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. However, this only holds true if you maximize the 6% cash back rewards category by spending at least $6,000 at U.S supermarkets.

The only reason you’d want to go with the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express over the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is if your annual spending in these categories is going to be minimal. In that case, you probably shouldn’t get either card and go with one that matches your spending better.

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