The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the way people use credit cards, particularly when it comes to redeeming rewards.
Before the pandemic we saw a huge focus on travel reward credit cards, but once travel plans were suddenly put on hold, these cards weren’t quite as lucrative for many cardholders. In response to this, credit card issuers have really stepped up their game with cash-back credit card offers. Points and miles are great for vacation plans, but cold hard cash is beneficial even in the worst of times. Cash back or statement credits can help offset the cost of everyday expenses such as groceries, bills, or, your monthly supply of toilet paper. The market is flooded with cash-back credit cards to choose from, but several banks have recently made moves to make cash-back rewards even more appealing to new applicants.
Below are just a few of our top picks for the best cash-back credit cards that have standout programs designed to appeal to the serious cash-back credit card user:
The Chase Freedom Flex℠ card is new to the market, but it has already become a leader in the cash-back credit card realm. This no-annual-fee card offers 5% cash back in rotating, quarterly categories, but it also offers rewards in static categories all year long.
Cardholders earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases that rotate quarterly, plus 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% when dining at restaurants, including takeout orders, 3% on drugstore purchases, and 1% on everything else. Additionally, new cardholders can earn 5% cash back on up to $12,000 spent at grocery stores (excluding Target and Walmart) during the first year of membership, and can also earn $200 cash back once spending just $500 within three months of opening an account.
Because of the rotating categories, earning rewards with the Freedom Flex℠ takes some diligence because you must activate new 5% cash-back categories every three months. The requirement is designed to keep customers informed of quarterly category changes so that they can maximize rewards. If you miss the activation period, you’ll have to wait until the next quarter, but signing up for Chase’s text message or email reminders can help you avoid missing out.
Another great feature of this card is its intro 0% APR offer on new purchases. Cardholders can enjoy 15 months of interest-free spending, but keep in mind that after this promotion ends, regular 14.99% - 23.74% Variable APR will apply.
Chase Freedom Unlimited® also has an introductory 0% purchase APR offer for 15 months (then, 14.99% - 23.74% Variable). The big difference here is that Freedom Unlimited® earns 1.5%, a step up from the usual 1%, on all non-bonus spend. New cardholders can earn a $200 cash back bonus once spending $500 within three months of opening an account and 5% cash back on up to $12,000 spent at grocery stores (excluding Target and Walmart) during the first year of card membership. On an ongoing basis, earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining at restaurants and on drugstore purchases, and 1.5% on all other purchase. Like the Freedom Flex℠, there's also no annual fee to cut into your savings.
Redeem your Freedom Unlimited® rewards for cash back or combine your points with those earned through the Freedom Flex℠ card's 5% cash-back rotating rewards opportunities. Or, if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®, transfer your points to get more value when you redeem them through Chase’s travel portal. You won’t find this kind of flexibility with most cash-back cards, but it’s a smart strategy to amass rewards—and cash in on their value—more quickly.
With the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express there aren't rotating rewards categories, but it does have a tiered rewards structure featuring a few categories many people are sure to find valuable right now. Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 a year, 6% on select U.S. streaming services, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit purchases, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Plus, for a limited time, earn a $300 bonus statement credit after you spend $3,000 in the first six months of account membership (offer expires 12/10/20). American Express is a CardRatings advertiser.
Though the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express works if you prefer more straightforward rewards, it does have the drawback of an annual fee— there's a limited time $0 introductory annual fee for one year, then $95 (offer expires 12/10/20). This annual fee can eat into your rewards if you don't spend at least $135 a month on groceries, so this is an ideal choice for frequent credit card users who can easily offset this cost. (See Rates and Fees)
If you like the sound of the Blue Cash Preferred® card but aren't interested in paying an annual fee, you might consider its no-annual-fee sister, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, instead. (See Rates and Fees)
The Blue Cash Everyday® earns a bit less at U.S. supermarkets, 3% up to $6,000 annually, then 1%, but remember, there's no annual fee to offset. It also doesn't earn bonus rewards on streaming services or transit purchases, but it does offer 2% cash back at participating U.S. gas stations as well as at select U.S. department stores, and 1% back on all other purchases.
This card also offers a solid welcome offer for a card with no annual fee— a $200 statement credit earned once spending just $1,000 in the first three months of card membership, plus new cardholders can enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months (then 13.99% - 23.99% Variable). (See Rates and Fees)
The no-annual-fee Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer is unique in that it offers 1% cash back when you make a purchase, and an additional 1% cash back when you pay for your purchases. Just make sure to pay at least the minimum balance due in time in order to receive your rewards. This is a great perk as it encourages responsible credit card use, and rewards cardholders for doing just that. What really makes this card stand out though is its 18-month intro period of 0% APR on balance transfers. This is a lengthy period of time to pay off existing balances interest free, which could be an invaluable perk for some of us right now. Just remember that regular 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable) APR will apply to any unpaid balances once this intro period expires. Citi is a CardRatings advertiser.
This is a great card for anyone who wants to earn cash back on every purchase, without having to worry about categories or spending caps. Simply make a purchase and earn, and then pay for those purchases and earn some more. It's as simple as that.
The Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers bonus rewards on something many of us are doing a lot of these days– ordering takeout and cooking at home. Cardholders of this no-annual-fee card earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining (including takeout) and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases. There are no rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards, plus cash back earned won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn. There's also a one-time $200 cash bonus for new cardholders who spend $500 on purchases within the first three months of opening an account, as well as 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months (then 15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)).
Business owners may want to take note of the great perks offered by the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card. For starters, this card offers new cardholders the chance to earn $500 just for spending $3,000 within the first three months of opening an account, which could really go a long way for some business owners. On an ongoing basis, cardholders earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent annually in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services; 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent annually in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants; and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. Keep in mind that office supply store purchases means so much more than just paper and ink cartridges. New computers, software, office furniture, etc. can all earn bonus rewards when purchased at a qualifying store. This can be huge for some people right now, especially as home offices become the norm.
Additionally, this card features 0% introductory APR for 12 months on new purchases (then 13.24% - 19.24% Variable), no annual fees, and free employee cards.
The best cash-back credit cards cater both to those who enjoy the gamesmanship of maximizing rewards as well as those who'd rather avoid all the fuss. Decide which category you fall into and thoroughly research the rewards structure and redemption options before you get lured in by an attractive sign-up bonus. Doing this due diligence will help you find a card that will work for you long after the flashy intro offers expire.
To see the rates and fees for the American Express cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express (See Rates and Fees); Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express (See Rates and Fees)