Best Cash Back Credit Cards for 2020

What really sets a cash back credit card apart from other cards is the ability to earn dollars for daily spending. But with so many options, it can be hard to narrow down which are the best cash back credit cards on the market and which one might be right for you. Check out our top picks for the best cash back credit cards.

Cash back credit cards make it incredibly easy to earn rewards. Instead of points that you have to figure out how to redeem or might not be able to redeem for things you want — you can earn back real money.

Some cash back cards offer flat cash rates, while other cards earn higher cash back rewards across rotating categories like dining, groceries, gas and other common purchases. The competition among credit card issuers remains fierce, as more credit card customers continue to trade their usual credit cards for better rewards programs, according to the J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study. The 2019 study also finds that 36% of cardholders say they don’t fully understand the rewards available to them, making it apparent that cardholders benefit from better education regarding their benefits.

“The average credit card customer today has roughly 16 different benefits available, yet only about one-third of customers say they completely understand all of the benefits available to them,” said John Cabell, director of wealth and lending intelligence at J.D. Power.

In this article

    Best for U.S. Supermarkets and U.S. Gas Stations

    Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
    Partner offer
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    Who should get it

    If you spend a lot on gas, groceries, or 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 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%) and 6% on select U.S. streaming subscriptions and 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit.

    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 $3,000 on purchases in the first three months to earn a $300 statement credit (limited time offer expires 12/10/2020), and redeem your rewards as statement credits that can be applied to any purchase you make.

    Consider this

    • Annual fee of $95 ( See Rates & Fees ).
    • American Express isn’t as widely accepted as cards in the Visa or Mastercard networks.
    • $25 minimum redemption for cash back.

    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 $3,000 on purchases within the first three months, you’ll qualify for a $300 statement credit that you can use to pay down your balance (limited time offer expires 12/10/2020).

    Best for Flat-rate Cash Back

    Chase Freedom Unlimited® Learn more

    Who should get it

    The Chase Freedom Unlimited® ideal for cardholders who are happy with 1.5% cash back on all purchases, earning points that don’t expire. That means you can be extremely flexible in how you redeem rewards, and you don’t have to worry about rotating bonus categories.

    How to use it

    The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is great for everyday spending, helping you rack up extra points on purchases that don’t fit into a specific bonus category.

    Consider this

    • No category bonus options.
    • Foreign transaction fee.
    • Assesses a balance transfer fee.

    Why you’ll love it

    With Chase Freedom Unlimited®, you can earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. With no annual fee, it’s a card you can keep open for many years without paying a penny for it, and rewards never expire as long as the account remains open.

    Pro tip: If you like to keep your rewards structure simple, Chase Freedom Unlimited® is easy to use and will give you consistent rewards.

    The best cash back cards for 2020: summed up

    Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
    Partner offer
    Best for U.S. Supermarkets and U.S. Gas Stations
    Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
    Chase Freedom Unlimited®
    Best for Flat-rate Cash Back
    Chase Freedom Unlimited®

    Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

    Who should get it: The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card will quickly become your go-to card for cash back rewards. With a simple rewards structure and no annual fee, you can cash in on your everyday expenses no matter where life takes you.

    How to use it: You can earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases with the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card. There is no cap to the amount of rewards you can earn on purchases, and your cash back can be automatically applied as a statement credit when it reaches a specific amount ($25, $50, $100 or $200) through Capital One’s auto-redemption feature.

    Why you’ll love it:

    No matter how often you use the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card, it will earn you 1.5% cash back on every purchase. Plus, there aren’t any rotating bonus categories or annual fees to worry about.

    Things to consider:

    • Other cards have longer 0% APR intro periods.
    • No category bonus options.
    • Requires good to excellent credit.

    Discover it® Cash Back

    Who should get it: The Discover it® Cash Back is ideal for cardholders looking for an easy-to-earn sign up bonus with no minimum spending requirement and the ability to earn more rewards with rotating bonus categories.

    How to use it: With the Discover it® Cash Back, you can earn up to 5% cash back each quarter at various places including grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases..

    Why you’ll love it:

    The Discover it® Cash Back doesn’t have a spending requirement for its sign up bonus. For new cardmembers, you’ll automatically get a dollar-for-dollar match at the end of your first year.

    Things to consider:

    • Limit on how much you can earn.
    • Rotating bonus categories require activation.
    • Discover isn’t as widely accepted as cards in the Visa or Mastercard network.

    Pro tip: The Discover it® Cash Back is the crown jewel of the Discover it cards, matching all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.

    What does cash back mean?

    Credit card cash back refers to the rewards program offered by certain credit cards that allows you to earn a percentage of “cash” back on your purchase. This usually ranges from 1% to 6%, depending on the card.

    If you’re trying to receive cash from an ATM, bank teller, or convenience check with your credit card then that’s actually considered a cash advance. In those cases, you’ll need to contact your card’s customer service center to set up a PIN number. Once you have a PIN, you can withdraw money from your credit card as you would a debit card.

    How do cash-back credit cards work?

    Depending on the structure of your card’s rewards program, you’ll earn a certain percentage back (usually 1% to 6%) on purchases you make with your cash back rewards card. The cash back you receive from your purchases will show up on your next credit card statement and your online account.

    Once your cash back rewards hit your account, you can redeem them in a few different ways. The simplest is to lower your monthly credit card bill with a statement credit. So if your credit card bill is $500 for the month, and you earned 5% cash back on all of it, you could redeem that $25 toward your balance, and you’d only have $475 left to pay.

    But if you want actual cash back, you can usually have the cash rewards deposited directly into your bank account, or even receive a paper check in the mail.

    Some of the best cash back credit cards also allow you to redeem your cash back rewards as gift cards.

    Other credit cards allow you to donate your points to charity. One caveat to keep in mind, though: A lot of credit cards take a small (roughly 2%) interchange fee from money going to a charity. So if you’re paying a charity with your credit card, not all of it will actually get to the nonprofit, in case that affects your decision.

    What credit card gives the most cash back?

    Your spending habits will determine which cash back card is the best for you, but here are a few popular spending categories and the top credit cards that fall under those clusters:

    • U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express – 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations. 1% Cash Back on other purchases.

    Three types of cash back cards

    Cash back credit cards come in three varieties: flat-rate, bonus category and tiered. No single cash back card is a good fit for everyone. Make your choice based on how you spend money.

    • Flat-rate cash-back cards: Unlimited, flat-rate rewards on all purchases (between 1-2%) card, but you have the flexibility of using whenever, and however you want.
    • Tiered cash-back cards: Rewards in specific categories, often with an earning limit, and a lower rate (usually 1%) on all other purchases.
    • Bonus category cards: High-rate rewards (5-6%) on spending categories that change periodically, and a lower rate on all other purchases (usually 1%).

    Pros and cons of cash back credit cards

    ProsCons
    They’re easy to understand.
    It’s easy to keep up with how much you’ve earned and what your rewards are worth, because you don’t have to convert a point or mile into the equivalent cash value.
    Not everyone will qualify, based on creditworthiness.
    The best cash back credit cards usually require a “good” FICO credit score – 700 or more.
    Easy to redeem cash back.
    Redeeming cash back is as simple as connecting your bank account for a direct transfer. Gift cards and statement credits are also options. (It’s important to note that some cards have a minimum redemption requirement.)
    Chasing signup bonuses.
    Cards with sign up bonuses generally have a minimum spending requirement. It can be tempting to spend more than you can afford to earn the bonus, resulting in a monthly balance and interest charges.
    A wide range of bonus categories.
    Some cash back cards earn high-rate rewards on categories that rotate throughout the year. Others earn unlimited flat-rate cash back on all types of purchase.
    Tracking bonus categories.
    Keeping track of rotating bonus categories takes discipline. If you prefer keeping things simple, consider a flat-rate cash back card..

    Points vs. cash back: which is better?

    The points versus cash back debate is ongoing, and it’s important to take each into consideration when choosing a rewards credit card. Both exemplify strengths and weaknesses – cash back is flexible and the rewards come in dollars, whereas points might help pay for that next vacation, and sometimes, offer a higher reward value per dollar spent.

    Unfortunately, more than one-third of credit card customers do not understand rewards programs, according to the J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study. Credit card customers who fully understand how to earn and redeem rewards spend an average of $307 more per month than those who do not fully understand their rewards ($1,291 vs. $984, respectively). Despite this, 36% of credit card customers say they do not fully understand the rewards available to them.

    If you’re stuck between a rewards credit card that focuses on points or a cash back credit card, your decision will come down to your lifestyle and which one you find more valuable.

    What is rotating cash back?

    There are strategies you can use to win even more cash back rewards. If you have a credit card with rotating bonus categories.

    Rotating bonus categories change every quarter, and can apply to a variety of different stores and services including gas stations, tolls, drugstores, grocery stores, home improvement stores streaming services, Uber and Lyft purchases, restaurants and more.

    For example, if gas stations are the category for a certain quarter, you want to make sure every dollar you spend on gas is with your credit card. If it’s groceries, it may be best to do your grocery shopping with the credit card in that quarter – and possibly even stock up on some nonperishable items you know you’ll use if you’re approaching the end of the quarter and haven’t maxed out the bonus yet.

    If paying attention to the rotating categories sounds like too much work and not all fun, then you may be better off with a credit card like Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card or , which doesn’t have rotating fees. You just earn 1.5% back on everything, no matter what.

    How do I redeem cash back?

    Redemption options vary from card to card. 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 — 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.

    Does it make sense to pay an annual fee?

    Applying for a credit card with an annual fee doesn’t always make sense. If your spending habits don’t align with its reward structure, you might net a loss — even if you earn the signup bonus.

    Can I get my interest rate lowered on my credit card?

    Your credit card interest rate isn’t written in stone. In face, 69% of people who asked their issuer for a break got a lower rate.

    If you pay your balance in full every month (which we highly recommend), interest rates don’t matter. But if you’re trying to pay down debt, asking for a lower rate could save a significant amount of money in the long run.

    Before you call, look for better offers from other lenders that you can use as leverage. If you get a “no” the first time, don’t give up. Instead, ask to speak to a manager and try again.

    Please Note: Information about the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card and Discover it® Cash Back have been collected independently by TheSimpleDollar.com. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

    For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, please click here

    Editorial Note: Compensation does not influence our recommendations. However, we may earn a commission on sales from the companies featured in this post. To view our disclosures, click here. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by our advertisers. Reasonable efforts are made to present accurate info, however all information is presented without warranty. Consult our advertiser’s page for terms & conditions.

    Andy Bowen

    Senior Editor

    Andy Bowen joined The Simple Dollar in 2014 to help people in every state find the right car insurance. Now, he writes about everything personal finance while aggressively paying off his student debt with side hustles, trimming his budget, and racking up rewards points for family trips to Disney. You can find his work on Engadget, AOL, Bankrate, Reviews.com, and AskAudio.