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Earn 5% cash back on online shopping and more with these no-annual-fee cards

By , Site Editor

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5 percent

Another quarter, another chance for Chase Freedom® and Discover it® Cash Back cardholders to rack up 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories.

So what are the categories for Oct. 1-Dec. 31, 2019? Well, if you have holiday shopping on your list and Black Friday and Cyber Monday circled on your calendar, you'll be pleased:

AMAZON.COM, TARGET
and WALMART.COM

Discover it® Cash Back

DEPARTMENT STORES, PAYPAL
and CHASE PAY

Chase Freedom®

 

*Terms apply

If you have either of these cards in your wallet, don't miss out on the opportunity to earn up to $75 cash back in the bonus categories. You'll earn 5% back on the first $1,500 in combined spending at department stores and on Paypal and Chase Pay purchases with Chase Freedom® and 5% back on the first $1,500 spent at Amazon.com, Target and Walmart.com with Discover it® Cash Back. Remember for both cards that you'll only earn that bonus if you activate each quarter – that's easy to do through your cardholder account online.

Given that these categories don't overlap at all, it's a good quarter to talk about the benefits of carrying BOTH cards in order to maximize your cash back earning opportunity. Neither card carries an annual fee, so you can certainly have them both in your wallet without worrying about offsetting that fee. But there are some other things to consider as well:

Bonus offers

Both cards feature new cardholder bonus opportunities, but they're dramatically different.

Chase Freedom® offers news cardholders a $150 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months of card ownership. That's a nice bonus, but it could pale in comparison to the Discover it® Cash Back offer. 

For new Discover it® Cash Back cardholders Discover will MATCH every dollar of cash back you earn during your first year as a cardholder. That means if you max out the 5% bonus categories in just two quarters you'll earn $150 that will then become $300 thanks to the match after your first year. As you can see, it wouldn't be difficult to far exceed the intro bonus offered by the Chase card, though you do have to wait until the end of your first year to see the match.

Introductory APR periods

Both of these cards feature introductory 0% APR periods, which could certainly come in handy if you're planning a spring road trip or a costly home improvement project.

Chase Freedom® offers an introductory 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (then, 16.74 - 25.49% Variable), which means this card could be a money-saving addition to your wallet whether you're planning a big purchase or already have some credit card debt on another card that you're looking pay off interest-free for a time.

Discover it® Cash Back also has a 0% introductory offer: 14 months no interest for both purchases and balance transfers (then, 13.74% - 24.74% Variable).

Chase Freedom® offers the opportunity to combine rewards

Earning 5% back on your department store, Paypay and Chase Pay purchases is awesome, sure, but what if you could also make those rewards have even more value when it comes time to redeem them? Turns out, that's pretty simple to do with Chase Freedom®

That's because Chase Freedom® rewards accumulate as Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, the same points that cardholders of Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase Freedom Unlimited® and the Chase Ink family of small business cards earn as well. The key is understanding that you can combine all of your Chase Ultimate Rewards® points into a single bucket and some of those buckets mean your points are worth more when you redeem them for travel through the Ultimate Rewards® portal.

For example, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card members enjoy 25% more value when they redeem their points for travel through Ultimate Rewards®, and Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders can take advantage of 50% more value when redeemed that way.

True, both of those cards charge annual fees – $95 for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and a hefty $450 for Chase Sapphire Reserve® – but they also offer you excellent rewards, perks and features, especially if you happen to enjoy traveling. Furthermore, neither Chase Freedom Unlimited® nor Chase Freedom® charge annual fees, so you won't be losing money if you carry those cards in addition to one of the more premium cards.

Use your cards strategically to earn the highest possible rewards for each purchase and then combine all your points under your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve® to make those rewards take you even further. For more info about making these points work for you, check out our Chase Ultimate Rewards® points guide.

EDITOR'S NOTE:

For more details about the cards above, head over to the full Discover it® Cash Back review and/or Chase Freedom® review. For some additional cash-back rewards options, keep reading.

OTHER CASH REWARDS CREDIT CARDS

If you like the idea of earning big cash back but don't like the unpredictability of categories that rotate based on what the credit card issuer wants to do, you might be the perfect candidate for a "cardholder choice" rewards card.

These types of cards are still fairly unusual in the consumer credit card market (they're more common among small business cards), but here are a couple of options you can consider:

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Bonus: Earn a $200 online cash back bonus after you spend $1,000 on your new card within the first 90 days of account opening.

Rewards: Earn 3% cash back in a category of your choice from among the following list: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement/furnishings. Earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice/grocery store/wholesale clubs purchases each quarter). You earn 1% on everything else. You can change your choice category once per calendar month or do nothing and it stays the same. Read our full Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card review.

Annual Fee: $0

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

Bonus: Earn a $150 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 90 days of opening your account.

Rewards: Earn 5% cash back on the first $2,000 in combined purchases you make across two categories that you choose. Earn 2% cash back on one "everyday" category of your choice, such as gas station or grocery store purchase. Rake in 1% on all your other purchases. Read our full review of the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card.

Annual Fee: $0*

Intro 0% Offer: Enjoy an introductory 0% APR on balance transfers for 12 billing cycles (then, 15.74% - 25.24%* Variable).

EDITOR'S NOTE

For even more cash-back rewards options, explore all of our picks for "Best Cash-Back Credit Cards."

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