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" Card Members 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 and no quarterly enrollment required. Terms and limitations apply. New Card Members can get $150 back, in the form of a statement credit, after making $1,000 in purchases on your new Card during the first three months of Card Membership. 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. Card Members 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 and no quarterly enrollment is required. 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® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card
While many cash back credit cards require you to opt-in for the biggest rebates, Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Cards caters to consumers who like to "set it and forget it." Build your reward's base with a consistent, 1.5 percent cash back on all of your purchases, all year long. Capital One® will kick in a one-time $100 bonus once you spend $500 on purchases on the card within the first three months of card membership. That's a great reward if you don't want to follow any specific purchasing pattern. Best of all, the Capital One® 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®
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 quarterly spending categories when you activate your bonus categories and stay within $1,500 spend cap in combined purchases.
But that's only part of the picture. You can exchange your 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.
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. Your category choices include gas, groceries or drug stores for your 2 percent quarterly bonus, while U.S. Bank gives you a selection of merchant categories for your 5 percent deal like restaurants or department stores. Category purchases are subject to quarterly enrollment and 5 percent category is subject to quarterly maximum spend.
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 up. 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, limit of one per calendar year. With no annual fee, this card could end up paying out some of the biggest rebates on the market.
Best cash back card with rewards: Citi® Dividend Platinum Select® Visa® Card
Citi's cash back credit card uses a reward structure similar to Chase's and Discover's. You can earn 5 percent cash back every quarter in must-have categories when you enroll each quarter for the new categories. For the third quarter of 2014 you can earn 5 percent cash back on eligible purchases within the Hilton Portfolio, car rental agencies, movie theaters and theme parks from 7/1/14 – 9/30/14. Enrollment each quarter is quick and easy. In addition to the quarterly promotions on featured spending categories everyday purchases earn 1 percent cash back. Cash back is subject to spend cap, total cash back earned with this card is $300 per calendar year, excluding the $100 cash back with this offer. See Citi Dividend Card Reward Program Information.
Citi sweetens the deal for new cardholders, adding a $100 cash back 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. The Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa Card proves that Citi's hungry to welcome back customers that defected to their competitors. If you are interested, as with any card offer, be sure to review the terms and conditions of the offer before you apply.
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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