Cash back credit cards

By updated on April 15, 2014

Cash back credit cards rebate a percentage of your purchase amounts right back into your account. They are popular rewards cards for a very good reason: they pay you back based on the dollars you spend every day. Cash back rewards cards are a great way to save money as long as you stay within your budget and don't use them as a reason to spend more.

Many cash back rewards cards do charge interest, so you'll save more if you have an excellent to good credit score and especially if you pay your balance in full each month. Shopping around--by comparing credit cards online and reading the terms and conditions--is the key to choosing the best cash back credit card that meshes with your lifestyle.

Cash is king … especially if you can earn cash with a cash back credit card. While it may seem counterintuitive to use a credit card to earn money, you can earn as much as 1 to 5 percent on your regular purchases with a cash back rewards card.  If you use your card for gas and groceries, you plan to pay all or most of your balance every month, and you like the incentive of gaining a little something in return for your credit card loyalty, a cash back credit card could be a good bet.

Is a cash back credit card best for me?

The most important thing to think about when you try to decide on the best credit card is your personal spending habits. If you are disciplined enough to pay your credit card bill each month and won't be tempted to spend more on your rewards credit card, a cash back card can be a good deal.

But if you have trouble staying within budget from time to time, or you carry a balance from month to month on your credit card, a cash back card may not be the best choice for you since these cards typically charge higher interest rates than non-rewards credit cards.

Can I qualify for a cash back rewards card?

A cash back rewards card typically requires excellent to good credit to qualify. Before applying, get your free credit report and check it for black marks and errors.

If you have good credit, you may qualify for a cash back rewards card, but you should check the interest rate to make sure it is not too high in case you need to carry a balance. Generally, the cards with the best rewards are limited to customers with high credit scores.

If you are ready to consider applying for a cash back credit card, compare the cash back credit card offers on this page to see which one is the best choice for you.

How much can I earn with a cash back credit card?

It all depends on your spending patterns and how well the card matches your lifestyle. Some cash back credit cards offer big incentives when you sign up, sometimes amounting to hundreds of dollars if you meet reasonable spending limits. Other cards offer as much as 5 percent on specific purchase categories.

Sometimes cash rewards can be converted to points, which can then be used for a wide variety of incentives, including retailer discounts or airline miles. This handy list of cash back credit cards is a good place to learn more.

Are cash back credit cards a gimmick?

Nope! The cash back programs are very real, and can reward you with a nice chunk of change with regular use of your card. However, keep in mind that cash back cards can have many limitations and caveats, so it pays to pay attention to that little notice that comes with your credit card statement. Don't forget to take a good look at the interest rates, too; cash back credit cards can have much higher interest rates than a regular card.

Choosing the best cash back rewards card

Each credit card company offers something a little different for cash back rewards, and often the amount you earn depends on what you are buying with the card. Cash back credit cards often give bonus points based on the category of your purchase. Some cards offer bonus cash back on particular purchase categories for a limited time. Choose the right card and pay attention to the ever-changing rules to get the most bang for your buck.  Here are some items to compare when you look at credit card offers with a cash back rewards program:

  • Choice of rewards: While cash may seem like all you want right now, some rewards credit cards offer you the option of switching your points to things like airline miles, gift cards or gas whenever you want.
  • Interest rate: If you plan to pay your bill in full each month, interest rates may be less of a factor in your decision. If you think you might have to carry a balance from time to time, be sure to compare the rates on various card offerings.
  • Bonus cash: Some companies offer a bonus for new customers who meet a certain spending minimum within the first few months.
  • Percent you can earn: Of course you want the card with the highest percentage of cash back rewards, but make sure these rewards are on the items you buy, like gas or groceries, and that you can meet the requirements to earn the maximum.

Before you choose your cash back credit card, make an estimate of how much you will charge and what you will purchase to figure out which cash back credit card matches your spending pattern best. Then estimate how much you will earn in cash back and compare that with the annual fee you'll pay for the card. Some cash back credit cards do not charge any annual fee.

credit card

See How Your Card Stacks Up

Could you be getting better rewards and rates with another card? Find out.

Can't find my card

Discover it® card

Editor's Rating

  • Fair. No annual fee. No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. Pay up to midnight ET online or by phone on your due date without a fee. Plus, paying late won't raise your APR.*
  • Generous. 5% cash back at Home Improvement Stores, Furniture Stores and Bed Bath & Beyond® on up to $1,500 in purchases from April through June 2014.*
  • Human. 100% U.S.-based customer service available any time. *Click "Apply" to see rates, rewards, and free FICO® Credit Score terms and other information.
Apply Now Credit Needed Excellent

Cashback on Gas

1%*

Cashback on groceries

1%*

Cashback on other

Up to 5% in categories that change* and 1% on all other purchases*

Purchase APR

10.99% - 22.99% Variable*

Annual Fee

$0 

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Editor's Rating

  • One-time $100 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories and no sign ups needed to earn cash rewards
Apply Now Credit Needed Good

Cashback on Gas

1.5%

Cashback on groceries

1.5%

Cashback on other

1.5%

Purchase APR

12.9% - 22.9% (V) 

Annual Fee

$0 

Chase Freedom®

Editor's Rating

  • Earn a $100 Bonus after you make $500 in purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn a $25 Bonus after you add your first authorized user and make a purchase within this same 3-month period
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After the intro period, a variable APR of 13.99%-22.99%.
Apply Now Credit Needed Good

Cashback on Gas

1%

Cashback on groceries

1%

Cashback on other

1%

Purchase APR

13.99% - 22.99% Variable

Annual Fee

$0 

Discover it®

Editor's Rating

  • Fair. No annual fee. No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. Pay up to midnight ET online or by phone on your due date without a fee. Plus, paying late won't raise your APR.*
  • Generous. 5% cash back at Home Improvement Stores, Furniture Stores and Bed Bath & Beyond® on up to $1,500 in purchases from April through June 2014.*
  • Human. 100% U.S.-based customer service available any time. *Click "Apply" to see rates, rewards, and free FICO® Credit Score terms and other information.
Apply Now Credit Needed Excellent

Cashback on Gas

1%*

Cashback on groceries

1%*

Cashback on other

Up to 5% in categories that change* and 1% on all other purchases*

Purchase APR

10.99% - 22.99% Variable*

Annual Fee

$0 

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Editor's Rating

  • Get 100 Reward Dollars, redeemable for a $100 statement credit, after you make $1,000 in purchases with your new Card in the first three months.
  • Plus, get one year of Amazon Prime after you sign up for a new membership with your Card and meet the spending requirement in the same time period.
  • As an Amazon Prime member, you get unlimited FREE Two-Day Shipping on millions of items. Terms and Restrictions Apply.
Apply Now Credit Needed Excellent

Cashback on Gas

3%

Cashback on groceries

Up to 6%

Cashback on other

3% at select US dept stores, 1% on other purchases

Purchase APR

12.99% - 21.99% Variable

Annual Fee

$75 

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Editor's Rating

  • Get 50 Reward Dollars, redeemable for a $50 statement credit, after you make $1,000 in purchases with your new Card in the first three months.
  • Plus, get one year of Amazon Prime after you sign up for a new membership with your Card and meet the spending requirement in the same time period.
  • As an Amazon Prime member, you get unlimited FREE Two-Day Shipping on millions of items. Terms and Restrictions Apply.
Apply Now Credit Needed Excellent

Cashback on Gas

2%

Cashback on groceries

Up to 3%

Cashback on other

2% at select US dept stores, 1% on other purchases

Purchase APR

12.99% - 21.99% Variable

Annual Fee

$0 

Citi® Dividend Platinum Select® Visa® Card

Editor's Rating

  • Earn $100 cash back after $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back every quarter in must-have categories. Right now, on purchases at The Home Depot®, home furnishing and home and garden stores from 4/1/14 through 6/30/14.
  • Enrollment each quarter is quick and easy
Apply Now Credit Needed Excellent

Cashback on Gas

1%

Cashback on groceries

1%

Cashback on other

1%

Purchase APR

12.99% - 22.99%* Variable

Annual Fee

$0* 

TrueEarnings® Card from Costco and American Express

Editor's Rating

  • 3% Cash back at US gas stations and on gasoline at Costco up to $4,000 per year in purchases, then 1%
  • 2% cash back at US restaurants; 2% cash back on eligible travel purchases, including at Costco; 1% cash back on other purchases, including at Costco
  • Terms and limitations apply; You will receive your cash back annually in the form of a reward coupon. Terms and restrictions apply.
Apply Now Credit Needed Excellent

Cashback on Gas

Up to 3%

Cashback on groceries

Cashback on other

1%

Purchase APR

15.24% variable

Annual Fee

No Annual Fee with your paid Costco Membership 

Capital One® QuicksilverOneSM Cash Rewards Credit Card

Editor's Rating

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories and no sign ups needed to earn cash rewards
  • Redeem the cash back you earn for any amount, any time
Apply Now Credit Needed Average/Fair

Cashback on Gas

1.5%

Cashback on groceries

1.5%

Cashback on other

1.5%

Purchase APR

22.9% (V) 

Annual Fee

$39 

PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Visa® Card

Editor's Rating

  • Plus Card: 5% cash back on gas paid at the pump with a qualifying PenFed product.* No annual fee.
  • Standard Card: 3% cash back on gas purchases paid at the pump. $0 First Year, then $25 Annual Fee.
  • No foreign transaction fee
Apply Now Credit Needed Excellent

Cashback on Gas

Up to 5%**

Cashback on groceries

N/A

Cashback on other

N/A

Purchase APR

9.99% Variable

Annual Fee

See terms 

Mutual of Omaha Bank Platinum Rewards MasterCard®

Editor's Rating

  • 5000 Reward Points bonus on first purchase
  • 2X Rewards for First 60 days
  • $1 purchase = 1 reward point
Apply Now Credit Needed Excellent

Cashback on Gas

N/A

Cashback on groceries

N/A

Cashback on other

N/A

Purchase APR

9.99%-20.99% Variable

Annual Fee

None 

These quotes are from credit card issuers which have paid for a link to their website. Offers are subject to change without notice and may not be the same for all consumers.