5 credit cards to turn your wallet into a workhorse
August 6, 2012
By: Curtis Arnold
Pay for your everyday purchases with a plain vanilla debit or credit card, and you could be leaving as much as 6 percent of your household budget in the cashier’s till each month. Our survey of the market’s best cash back credit cards reminds us that you can earn some significant rebates, just by focusing your spending through the right account.
Best cash back card for busy families: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Your high credit score can earn you an invitation to one of the most consistently generous cash back credit cards ever offered. "Preferred" cardmembers enjoy 6 percent cash back at US supermarkets on purchases up to $6,000 per year, 3 percent cash back on gasoline at US gas stations and 3 percent cash back at select US department stores, 1 percent cash back on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply. New cardmembers can earn 150 Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit after making $1,000 in purchases during the first three months of Cardmembership. There's a $75 annual fee with this card. If you determine the benefits you'll receive by using this card offset the annual fee, it may be worth a closer look. Terms and Restrictions Apply.
Don't lose hope if you've got one or two dings on your credit report. You may still qualify for the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. This no annual fee card features a cash back structure that still rivals the best credit cards on the market. Cardmembers can get 3 percent cash back at US supermarkets on purchases up to $6,000 per year, 2 percent cash back on gasoline at US gas stations and 2 percent cash back at select US department stores, 1 percent cash back on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit. Terms and Restrictions Apply.
Best "hands-off" cash back cards: Capital One Cash Rewards
While many cash back credit cards require you to opt-in for the biggest rebates, Capital One Cash Rewards caters to consumers who like to "set it and forget it." Build your reward's base with a consistent, 1 percent rebate on all of your purchases, all year long. Capital One will kick in a 50% bonus on the 1% cash back you earn on purchases throughout the year every year on your anniversary.
That's a great reward if you don't want to follow any specific purchasing pattern. Best of all, Capital One's website makes it easy for you to cash in your rewards for statement credits, anytime. With no annual fee, this card makes a great companion to Blue Cash for those times when your merchant doesn't accept American Express.
Best cash back card with flexible rewards: Chase Freedom Visa
Chase has spared no expense over the past few years, educating consumers about the benefits of its flagship cash back credit card. In building Freedom's rewards structure, it swiped the best elements of the Discover Card rotating bonus categories. As a result, you get a no annual fee card with a consistent 1 percent rebate and up to 5 percent cash back on featured spending categories.
But that's only part of the picture. You can exchange your cash rewards for gift cards or merchandise. If you're a really savvy shopper, you can even earn extra cash back with merchants at Chase's online mall. A $100 signup bonus for spending $500 in your first three months on the Chase Freedom Visa sweetens the deal.
Best cash back card for focused shoppers: U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature
This year's hottest rookie cash back card has already made a play to swipe market share from Discover and Chase. Every three months, U.S. Bank sends its Cash+ Visa Signature cardholders a text message reminder to choose two spending categories for 5 percent cash back and another for a 2 percent rebate. Although you have to pick gas, groceries or drug stores for your 2 percent quarterly bonus, U.S. Bank gives you a wide selection of merchant categories for your 5 percent deal.
Time your purchase of airline tickets, appliances, or computers to enjoy some of the biggest possible rebates. If you can stand to let your cash back rebate grow, U.S. Bank will even bump your maximum reward to 6.25 percent. Just wait to request a statement credit until you've accrued $100 in rebates. Ask for your reward after that, and the bank will kick in a bonus $25 gift card. With no annual fee and no earning restrictions, this card could end up paying out some of the biggest rebates on the market.
Best cash back card for back-to-school shopping: Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa Card - $100 Cash Back
Citi's cash back credit card uses a reward structure similar to Chase's and Discover's, but ups the ante for families with high school and college students. From April 1, 2013 through June 30, 2013 Citi's offering 5 percent cash back from Citi on eligible purchases at Home Depot, Home furnishing stores and home and garden stores, enroll each quarter for new categories that earn additional cash back.
After that deal expires, Citi keeps the 5 percent cash back rebate rolling with quarterly promotions on featured spending categories. In addition, everyday purchases earn 1 percent cash back. Citi sweetens the deal for new cardholders, adding a $100 cash back bonus after you spend $500 on purchases with your new card in the first three months of account opening. That's one of the lowest sign-up bonus thresholds in the business. Combined with a strong balance transfer deal and no interest on purchases for a year, the Dividend Platinum Select Visa proves that Citi's hungry to welcome back customers that defected to their competitors.
Cash back credit cards come with their own set of ground rules. Especially when you're not paying an annual fee, banks will usually notch your APR toward the high end of the spectrum. You'll really only get the most from these cards when you pay your bill in full at the end of each statement cycle. Otherwise, finance charges will eat most of your rebate. Pay your bills on time, too. Missing a payment could mean losing your accrued rebates. Just treat your new cash back credit card like it's the debit card connected to your checking account. That way, you'll enjoy bonus cash throughout the year.
Important Note! The information in this article is believed to be accurate as of the date it was written. Please keep in mind that credit card offers change frequently. Therefore, we can not guarantee the accuracy of the information in this article. Please verify all terms and conditions of any credit card prior to applying.
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