Updated on Nov 15, 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.

The best cash back card for you is the one that maximizes your spending habits; not one that changes them. Compare this year’s top offers and apply online for your perfect match in a matter of minutes.

The best cash back cards for 2017

Best overall

Discover it® - Cashback Match™
Cash back details 5% cash back at Amazon.com and Target; 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:
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Earn 5% cash back at Amazon.com and Target now through December 2017, on up to $1,500 in purchases when 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 free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • New! Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
  • Issuer: Discover
  • Rewards Details: 1% cash back on all other purchases. 5% cash back at Amazon.com and Target now through December 2017, on up to $1,500 in purchases when you activate.
  • 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

The Discover it® Cashback Match™ is great if you’re looking for an easy-to-earn bonus because there’s no minimum spending requirement — you’ll get a dollar-for-dollar match of your first-year earnings automatically. It’s also ideal if you have a big purchase in mind thanks to its 14-month 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers.

How to use it
  • Earn 5% cash back at Amazon.com and Target now through December 2017, on up to $1,500 in purchases when you activate. Plus, 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all your earnings at the end of your first year.
  • Use the above-average 14-month 0% intro-APR period to pay for larger purchases without incurring any interest.
Consider this

If your spending habits don’t line up with rotating bonus categories, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® will help you maximize your earnings. It has a 1.5% rewards rate for all purchases and no annual fee. (It also offers a longer 15-month 0% intro APR for balance transfers and purchases.) Note: You’ll have to spend $500 in the first three months to earn the $150 signup bonus.

Why you'll love it

The Discover it® Cashback Match™ doesn’t have a spending requirement for its bonus — you’ll get a dollar-for-dollar match of your earnings at the end of the first year. This card also offers a 14-month 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers.

Start your application now

Best for families

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
See Rates & Fees
Cash back details 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000, then 1%) (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%). Terms Apply.
  • 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 See Rates & Fees
  • Penalty APR: 29.99% Variable

Our two cents

Who should get it

If you have a large family, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is an excellent choice — spending just $60 a week at U.S. supermarkets could earn over $180 cash back per year. It also earns unlimited rewards at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, which is also a big win for shoppers.

How to use it
  • Use this card when you’re grocery shopping and filling up your tank to maximize your earnings.
  • Plan to spend at least $1,000 on purchases in the first three months to earn a $200 statement credit.
  • Redeem your Rewards Dollars as statement credits that can be applied to any purchase you make.
Consider this

If you don’t want to pay an annual fee but still want high-rate rewards for grocery shopping, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express can be a better fit. It earns 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets and 2% at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, all without an annual fee. It’s also important to note that this card has a longer 0% intro APR (15 months) than Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express.

Why you'll love it

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express’ extremely high-rate rewards make it a first-rate choice for frequent shoppers or large families. And if you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months you’ll qualify for a $200 statement credit that you can use to pay down your balance.

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: 3% cash back on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter. 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.
  • 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. Depending on your Bank of America® Preferred Rewards program status, your rewards rates could climb up to 75% higher.

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

If you don’t bank with BofA, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is worth considering. Most notably, it earns a much higher reward rate at U.S. supermarkets than the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card, but it does have 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. If you have a Bank of America® account or a qualifying Merrill Lynch Cash Management Account®, the potential for customer points 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 is for those who love simplicity. It has a flat 1.5% rewards rate, no annual fee, and a $150 bonus if you spend $500 in the first three months on any type of purchase. And when you earn rewards, you can redeem them for any amount.

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

The Discover it® Cashback Match™ has a much higher rewards rate (5% on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter), though you’ll have to focus your spending on rotating bonus categories, like restaurants and gas stations. One perk: There’s no spending requirement to earn a bonus — Discover will award you a dollar-for-dollar match of your first year earnings automatically.

Why you'll love it

There aren’t any rotating categories or annual fees to worry about, so you’ll earn 1.5% cash back no matter how you use your Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card. And if you spend around $170 a month for the first three months (over $500 in total), you’ll earn a one-time $150 cash bonus.

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® rewards credit card makes it easy to maximize your earnings with rotating 5% bonus categories — one of the highest rewards rates out there. It’s also great if you want versatile redemption options. This is one of the few cards of its kind that gives you the option to redeem your points for travel rewards (via Chase Ultimate Rewards®).

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 Sapphire Preferred® Card doesn’t have the same high-rate rewards, but it does earn unlimited 2X points on travel and dining worldwide. It also offers a signup bonus of 50,000 bonus points, worth $625 for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards®. However, you will have to spend a lot more on purchases in the first three months ($4,000) to earn that more valuable reward.

Why you'll love it

With its extra-flexible redemption options and high-rate rewards, the Chase Freedom® is a staple of the industry. Just focus your spending on the rotating categories and you can earn 5% on rotating categories on up to $1,500 per quarter.

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 on each balance transfer made within 45 days of account opening. After that a variable APR will apply, 15.99%, 20.99% or 23.99%, 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 23.99% Variable

Our two cents

Who should get it

The Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard® is a great way to learn the ropes of credit. It’s simple: there’s no annual fee; it earns flat, unlimited rewards on all purchases, and it has a great signup bonus. You’ll also get a 5% cash reward bonus toward your next redemption every time you redeem your rewards. (For example, if you redeem $100, your next redemption will get a $5 bonus.)

How to use it
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back rewards on all purchases.
  • 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

If you’re a frequent card user, you might have more to gain with the Discover it® Cashback Match™ because you’ll receive a dollar-for-dollar match of your earnings at the end of your first year. It’s worth nothing that you’ll have to adjust your spending to fit rotating categories, 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 one of the best cash back flat-rate cards out there — 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% 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 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 bonus.
Consider this

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express gets unlimited 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores. Plus, you’ll can earn 6% back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 a year, and 1% thereafter. If you want high-rate rewards without rotating categories, this is the card for you.

Why you'll love it

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is one of the most simple flat-rate cards in the game. Not only 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 rewards 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 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 also earns 1.5% unlimited cash back on all purchases, and with responsible use you can improve your credit score as you earn rewards.

How to use it
  • Use this card to build positive credit history and earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase.
  • Redeem your 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 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 cash back rewards and the opportunity to improve your credit score over time.

Start your application now

The best cash back cards for 2017: summed up

Where can I get cash back on my credit card?

Since cards with rotating bonus categories have announced their selections for the rest of the year, fall is the perfect time to come up with a rewards strategy. Here are a few tips to consider as you look for ways to rack up as many rewards as you can before 2017 is over:

  • 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. 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. 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 over time.
  • 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. Most of the cards on this page offer a nice signup bonus for new cardholders.

How do I use my cash back credit card?

Cash back cards offer great rewards potential, but not if you’re constantly paying interest on an outstanding balance. Here are two rules that you should follow to maximize your rewards, avoid accruing interest, and stay focused on your financial goals:

Rule 1: Track your credit spending in real-time

The best way to keep up with your spending is to sign up for online account management with your credit card company. Then use your login 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 2: Pay your bill before it is due (or several times per 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.

Research the best cash back credit cards

Use our directory to find the cash back card that benefits you the most:

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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.

There are a number of factors that went into rating each card, including:

  • Rewards
  • Rewards categories
  • Perks
  • Signup bonus
  • Intro APR
  • Ongoing APR

How does a cash back credit card work?

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

Key takeaways

  • Cash back credit cards are the best second cards to own.
  • Rewards are very high, but have caps.
  • Be sure to maximize your categories each quarter or year.
  • Minimize your spending in 1% categories.

You can earn cash back in several ways

Some cards earn flat-rate rewards — you get the same cash back percentage no matter what you purchase. For example, the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card earns 1.5% cash back for every dollar you spend. There aren’t any categories to worry about, and there’s no limit on how much you can earn. Other cards offer different rates of cash back for different purchase categories. Take the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, for instance. It earns a super-high rate of 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, but that rate drops down to 1% if you spend more than $6,000 annually in that category. Other categories like U.S. gas stations and U.S. departments stores earn unlimited 3% cash back.

How do I redeem cash back?

Redemption options vary from card to card, but here are the most common methods for redeeming rewards:

  • Bank Deposit. All the cash back that you earn goes straight into a checking or savings account.
  • Statement Credit. This form of cash back is only applied to your credit card balance — you can’t spend it anywhere else.
  • Gift Cards. Some credit cards offer cash back in the form of physical gift cards or eCertificates for popular retailers and merchants.
  • Charitable Donations. Other cards offer you the opportunity to donate your earnings to charities and disaster relief programs.
It’s important to remember that some of the best cash back cards have limits on how much you must redeem, and when you can redeem it. For example, the Discover it® Cashback Match™ matches your first-year earnings dollar-for-dollar, but you won’t get access to them until the end of your first account year. Be sure to read the terms and conditions before you pull the trigger on a card.

What type of cash back card do I need?

The best cash back card helps you earn rewards without disrupting the way you spend your money — no lifestyle changes and no hassles.. Here are our top picks for cash back credit cards, and some best practices to follow when you’re shopping around.

Summary

The best cash back cards for 2017

All the top credit cards on our list use one of two rewards systems: rotating rewards categories or designated rewards categories. To determine which one offers the most earning potential, you need to evaluate your spending in a variety of common categories.

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 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.

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

A real-life spending scenario

Consider this: The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is one of the best choices for big-time shoppers because it offers a designated 6% rewards category for U.S. supermarkets (groceries) on up to $6,000 per year. It’s also a top card for U.S gas station purchases, as there is no cap on the 3% you can earn.

If you were to consistently spend $10,000 in purchases per year with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express in the card’s two best rewards categories ($6,000 on groceries and $4,000 on gas) without spending anything at the standard 1% rate, your four-year earnings would look something like this:

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

With a rotating category card — even one that doesn’t have an annual fee — the earning potential is much lower for this spending arrangement because you’d probably only earn high-rate rewards on groceries for one quarter of the year.

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