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Wells Fargo Active Cash Card

Best for earning the same cash-back rate on every purchase

  • 2% cash rewards on all purchases

  • $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 for the first three months

  • No annual fee

  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

With unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases, the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card gives you the opportunity to shop across categories — groceries, gas, school supplies, plane tickets — without having to ask yourself how much cash you’re earning per category.

A $200 welcome bonus for new cardholders who spend $500 in the first three months sweetens the deal, and 15 months of 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers gives you the option to carry a short-term balance without accruing interest charges.

Pros

  • Industry-leading flat rate cash back rewards
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months

Cons

  • No opportunity to earn bonus category cash back rewards

Want one more reason to consider the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card? If you pay your monthly phone bill with your Wells Fargo card, you’ll get up to $600 of cell phone protection against damage or theft (subject to a $25 deductible). You can apply for two claims ($1,200) over a 12-month period.

Not all credit cards offer this kind of benefit, so keep that in mind as you’re deciding where to apply.

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Citi Double Cash Card

Best for people who pay off their balances in full

  • 1% cash back on all purchases, plus an additional 1% cash back when you pay off those purchases

  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months

  • No annual fee

Since the Citi Double Cash Card offers unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases plus an additional 1% cash back when you pay off those purchases, you have the potential to earn as many rewards with the Citi Double Cash as you would with the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card — provided, of course, that you pay off your balances.

Fair warning, though: after your introductory 18-month introductory period ends, you'll have a variable APR between 19.24% and 29.24%, depending on your credit score.

You'll also pay a 3% balance fee per transfer (minimum transfer $5) for the first four months you're a customer, after which you'll pay a fee of 5% per transfer.

Pros

  • Industry-leading flat rate cash back rewards
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months

Cons

  • No welcome bonus
  • No opportunity to earn bonus category cash back rewards
  • Must pay off card in full to maximize rewards

Responsible credit users may want to consider combining the Citi Double Cash with a bonus category cash-back credit card, such as the American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card, which offers 3% cash back at supermarkets (for the first $6,000 in purchases) for the first three months, 3% for U.S. online retail purchases and 3% for gas.

Use the AmEx Blue Cash Everyday card for those purchases, use your Citi Double Cash card everywhere else, then pay off both statements in full every month.

Best for budget shoppers looking to optimize their spending

  • 5% cash back rewards on first $5,000 of eligible purchases on gas, groceries, and internet, cable, satellite TV and mobile phone services each year, then 1% thereafter

  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

  • Additional 10% More Cash Back Rewards when you buy from some of the nation’s top retailers

  • Rewards automatically redeemed as statement credits

  • Free credit monitoring included

  • Customizable payment due dates

  • $95 annual fee

The Credit One Bank Platinum X5 Visa is a cash back rewards credit card that offers high reward rates, member perks and useful features, all without the high credit score requirements of many competitors.

If you’re working on your credit and your score is merely average, you still have a good chance to qualify and turn everyday spending into a chance to save.

And with the Platinum X5 Visa, you can save pretty big. You’ll earn 5% cash back rewards on the first $5,000 you spend each year on eligible gas, grocery, internet, cable, satellite TV and mobile phone service expenses. After that, you’ll still get 1% cash back rewards in these categories. And 1% cash back rewards on all other purchases.

Pros

  • Strong cash back rewards on common expenses
  • Doesn’t require a perfect credit score

Cons

  • No sign-up bonus
  • Higher than average APR

These are impressive reward rates compared to other credit cards with similar eligibility requirements. Plus, you can get up to 10% cash back rewards when you buy from some of the nation’s top retailers, both in store and online as part of the More Cash Back Rewards program.

As you accumulate cash back rewards with the Platinum X5 Visa, they’re conveniently redeemed as statement credits. You can track this and more — including your credit score and spending — with an easy-to-use app.

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American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card

Best for cash back at grocery stores + no annual fee

  • 3% cash back at grocery stores (for the first $6,000 spent per year, then 1%)

  • $200 bonus after spending $2,000 in the first six months

  • 3% cash back on gas (for the first $6,000 spent per year, then 1%)

  • Enjoy a Buy Now, Pay Later plan and 0% intro APR on purchases for the first 15 months

  • $84 Disney Bundle credit

  • No annual fee

With the American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card, you’ll earn 3% cash back on the first $6,000 in supermarket purchases per year, as well as 3% cash back on gas.

Online retail purchases also earn 3% cash back, and new cardholders who spend $2,000 in the first six months can receive a $200 statement credit. Plus, you get 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months — giving you plenty of time to pay everything off.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months

Cons

  • High spending requirement to earn welcome bonus

While the Amex Blue Cash Everyday Card offers decent rewards on grocery store purchases, you can get higher cash back percentages on your grocery trips if you upgrade to the American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card. Is it worth it to skip the annual fee and earn less cash back on every purchase? That’s up to you to decide.

American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card

Best for maximum cash back at grocery stores

  • 6% cash back at grocery stores (for the first $6,000 spent per year)

  • 6% cash back on select streaming subscriptions

  • 3% cash back at gas stations and on transit

  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

  • $250 statement credit after spending $3,000 in the first six months

  • $95 annual fee, waived the first year

  • $0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months

With the American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card, you’ll earn 6% cash back on the first $6,000 in supermarket purchases per year, as well as 6% cash back on select streaming subscriptions — both of which are industry-leading rates that you’re unlikely to find with other cash-back credit cards.

Plus, you’ll earn 3% cash back not just at gas stations, but also on transit — giving you many more reward-earning opportunities than you might get with the AmEx Blue Cash Everyday Card.

Also, Preferred Card carriers get insurance for both car rental loss and damage, as well as access to their Global Assist Hotline — if you're travelling and have an emergency, you can contact them for help with medical referrals, missing luggage, and emergency cash wires.

You’ll eventually pay a $95 annual fee (it's waived the first year).

Pros

  • Industry-leading rewards on groceries
  • Industry-leading rewards on subscriptions
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months

Cons

  • High spending requirement to earn welcome bonus

Want one more reason to consider the American Express Blue Cash Preferred? Right now, enrolled cardholders can receive up to $120 annually in Equinox+ statement credits. Get your groceries, get your workout in and earn your rewards.

Capital One Savor Rewards Credit Card

Best for cash back on dining and entertainment

  • 4% cash back at restaurants, entertainment and select streaming services

  • 3% cash back at grocery stores

  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

  • $300 cash bonus after spending $3,000 in the first three months

  • $95 annual fee

Whether you’re going out or staying in, the Capital One Savor Rewards Card is ready to help you have a good time. With unlimited 4% cash back on restaurants (including takeout and delivery) as well as entertainment and select streaming services, you can earn rewards while enjoying yourself — and if you decide you want to cook your own dinner for a change, you’ll get 3% cash back at grocery stores.

Pros

  • Industry-leading rewards on restaurants and entertainment

Cons

  • High spending requirement to earn welcome bonus

If the $95 annual fee is too much for you right now, consider the Capital One SavorOne Rewards Card instead. This no-annual-fee card offers unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, select streaming services and grocery stores; it has a $200 bonus if you spend $500 in the first three months; and 0% APR on both purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months.

It could be exactly what you’re looking for.

Discover it Cash Back Credit Card

Best for unlimited welcome bonus potential

  • 5% cash back on bonus categories that rotate quarterly (for up to $1,500 in combined bonus category purchases per quarter)

  • $1% cash back on all other purchases

  • Discover will match all cash you earn during your first year as a cardholder, with no limit

  • No annual fee

  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

The Discover it Cash Back Credit Card is one of a small number of cash-back cards that offers industry-leading rewards on spending categories that rotate every quarter. While Discover’s Cashback Calendar changes every year, cardholders can expect to see popular spending categories such as gas stations, gym memberships and Amazon.com.

If you like the idea of earning 5% cash back on different bonus categories throughout the year, the card could be a good match — especially because Discover’s Cashback Match automatically matches all the cash you earn during the first year as a cardholder. This gives you unlimited welcome bonus potential with no minimum spending requirement.

Pros

  • Unlimited welcome bonus potential
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

Cons

  • Must activate 5% rewards every quarter
  • Can only earn 5% cash back on the first $1,500 in combined bonus category purchases per quarter

If you like the idea of Discover’s Cashback Match but are less interested in the rotating cash back categories, you might want to consider the Discover it Chrome Card — which happens to be the next card on our list.

Discover it Chrome Card

Best for people who want the benefits of Discover without rotating category rewards

  • 2% cash back on restaurants and gas (for up to $1,000 in combined purchases per quarter)

  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

  • Discover will match all cash you earn during your first year as a cardholder, with no limit

  • No annual fee

  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

If you are looking for a Discover cash-back card that offers the same set of bonus cash back categories throughout the year, take a look at the Discover it Chrome Card. This card offers 2% cash back on restaurants and gas, for up to $1,000 in combined purchases per quarter — and, just like the Discover it Cash Back Card, Discover will match all of the cash you earn during your first year as a cardholder.

Discover’s Cashback Match is one of the best welcome bonuses in the industry, but that isn’t the only benefit you’ll get from having a Discover card in your wallet. Not only is Discover accepted at more than 99% of retailers nationwide, but you can also redeem your Discover cash back for statement credits, gift cards, Amazon.com and PayPal purchases and more.

Pros

  • Unlimited welcome bonus potential
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

Cons

  • Can only earn 2% cash back on the first $1,000 in combined restaurant and gas purchases per quarter

You may also want to consider the Discover it Miles card, which we recently highlighted on our list of top travel credit cards. Like the Discover it Cash Back and Discover it Chrome cards, the Discover it Miles card also matches all of the rewards you earn during your first year as a cardholder.

Chase Freedom Flex

Best for cash back on travel

  • 5% cash back on bonus categories that rotate quarterly (for up to $1,500 in combined bonus category purchases per quarter)

  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards

  • 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases

  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

  • $200 bonus after spending $500 in the first three months

  • 5% cash back on the first $6,000 in gas purchases made during your first year as a cardholder

  • No annual fee

  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

There are a lot of reasons to love the Chase Freedom Flex, but we’ll start with the 5% cash back.

As a cardholder, you not only earn 5% cash back on bonus categories that rotate every quarter, but you’ll also have the opportunity to earn 5% cash back on all travel bookings made through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

In addition to all of the 5% cash-back opportunities, you’ll also earn 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases — and a bonus $200 after spending $500 in your first three months as a new cardholder. That’s a lot of cash-back potential, especially for a no-annual-fee credit card.

Perhaps the best news of all is that the cash back rewards never expire.

Pros

  • Industry-leading rewards on travel bookings
  • Opportunity to earn 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories, travel and gas
  • Low spending requirement to earn welcome bonus
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

Cons

  • Must activate 5% rewards every quarter
  • Can only earn 5% cash back on the first $1,500 in combined bonus category purchases per quarter

Like the Discover it Cash Back card, the Chase Freedom Flex focuses its rotating bonuses on popular spending categories, such as grocery stores and Amazon.com. If you’re trying to decide between the two cards, keep in mind that you can always apply for both — just remember to activate your bonus categories every quarter to ensure you earn your 5% cash back.

Petal 2 Visa Card

Best for earning rewards while building credit

  • 1% cash back on every purchase, with the potential to increase up to 1.5% when you pay on time

  • 2% to 10% bonus cash back at select merchants

  • No annual fee

The Petal 2 Visa is designed for people who have less-than-excellent credit, giving you the opportunity to earn cash-back rewards on every purchase while proving that you can use credit responsibly.

While the Petal 2 Visa doesn’t offer a lot in terms of flat-rate cash-back rewards, you do have the opportunity to earn as much as 10% bonus cash back when you shop with select merchants. Plus, you can increase your cash-back rewards to as much as 1.5% when you pay your credit card bill on time — which will also help you build a better credit score. Check out our full Petal 2 Visa review.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Designed to build credit

Cons

  • No welcome bonus

Not sure whether your credit is good enough to qualify? The WebBank Petal 2 Visa Card uses alternate methods of evaluating creditworthiness, including your income and your spending history — and you can always request to be preapproved before you apply.

SoFi Credit Card

Best for people who want to invest their cash back

  • 2% cash back on all purchases

  • Make 12 consecutive on-time payments, and SoFi will lower your APR by 1%

  • No annual fee

How do you plan on redeeming your cash-back rewards? Some people automatically turn their rewards into statement credits or redeem them for online purchases, but the SoFi Credit Card lets you turn your cash-back rewards into investment opportunities.

With SoFi, not only will you earn industry-leading 2% cash back on all purchases, but you also have the option to redeem your rewards toward SoFi loan payments, a SoFi savings account or a SoFi investment account. You can even invest your SoFi rewards in cryptocurrency.

Want even more cash back? Set up direct deposit with SoFi Checking and Savings to earn 3% cash back for a year. You’ll also get a cash bonus worth as much as $250 depending on how much money is direct-deposited into your account during the first three months.

Pros

  • Industry leading flat-rate cash-back rewards
  • No annual fee
  • Year-long welcome bonus with no minimum spending requirement

Cons

  • To get the full value of your rewards, you must redeem your cash back toward SoFi loan repayment, savings or investing

It’s worth noting that the full value of your cash-back rewards only applies if you redeem your rewards toward SoFi loan repayment, savings or investing. If you want to redeem your rewards for a statement credit, you’ll only get half the value of your eligible rewards.

What is a cashback credit card?

Simply put, cashback credit cards are cards that offer actual dollars and cents instead of points or frequent flyer travel miles as rewards. Your reward amount will be based on how much you spend – usually as a percentage of every transaction. And unlike other rewards programs, you can use that cash for anything you want: your bills, a dinner out, a new tattoo… anything! (However, we always recommend that you use your spare money for investing.

Should I get a cashback credit card?

It’s always a good idea to have a cash-back credit card in your wallet — but which cash-back rewards card is right for you?

Ask yourself whether you want the same flat-rate cash back on every purchase, or whether you’re interested in taking advantage of bonus category cash-back rewards. You may also want to compare credit card welcome bonuses — and ask yourself whether you spend enough money every month to qualify for the bonus cash-back rewards.

Once you’ve gotten used to your new cash-back credit card, you may want to apply for another cash-back card that offers even more earning opportunities — or you may want to pair your cash-back card with a travel or airline card that offers not only rewards but also additional benefits like free checked bags.

No matter what you choose, make sure you get the most out of your new credit card by earning your bonuses, redeeming your rewards and paying your bills on time.

The pros and cons of using a cashback credit card

Pros: The pros of using a cashback credit card are pretty obvious: You get cash back whenever you use your card! That's like saving an extra percentage on each transaction made and is an incentive for using your card, rather than, say, cash, for large purchases.

In addition, many credit card issuers offer cash bonuses for using your card for more than a specific amount over a certain period. So if you use your card for practically everything and pay off your balance every month, you could be saving a substantial amount of money.

Cons: How about the cons of using a cashback credit? Well, for starters, a lot of these cards charge significant APRs – as much as 30%! – which add up. It's best to use a cashback card only if you're certain you can pay off your balance every month.

In addition, some cashback credit cards charge annual fees. In that case, you want to make sure you're earning enough rewards to make the card worth it.

How to redeem your cashback rewards

How you redeem your cash back may differ, depending on what bank is issuing your card. However, here are the most popular redemption options:

  • In many cases, you have to contact the issuer via the phone or website to request either a direct deposit into your bank account, a check by mail or a statement credit.
  • Some cards allow you to set up automatic reward redemption.
  • Or you can use your rewards right on the issuer's website to buy gift cards or other items.

The different types of cashback credit cards

Just as there are different kinds of credit cards that offer travel rewards, there are also several types of cashback credit cards.

  • The simplest ones are those that offer a flat rate of cash back on all purchases. For example, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers 1.5% cash back everywhere, and the Citi® Double Cash features 1% cash back when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay for it, for a total of up to 2%.
  • Another type of cashback credit card offers you bonus points on purchases from particular categories of merchants, such as restaurants, supermarkets or travel. And while some of these cards can offer you as much as 6% cash back on particular kinds of transactions, there are two potential disadvantages to this type of cards. First, there can be a limit to the amount of purchases that are eligible for the bonus, and transactions beyond that amount won't qualify. But also, most of these cards offer just 1% cash back on all non-bonus purchases. This is less than the 1.5% or 2% cash back that you can expect from a competitive card with a flat rate of cash back.
  • Finally, there are a few cashback credit cards available that offer rotating bonus categories. Cards like the Chase Freedom® and the Discover it® offer 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent each quarter at merchants in featured categories and 1% cash back on all other purchases. The featured merchant categories change each quarter, and you have to go online to “activate” them in order to receive the bonus.

How to maximize your cash rewards

With so many different kinds of cashback credit cards offered, it makes sense to decide on a strategy for using them. This depends totally on your goals.

For example, you might want to earn the most cash back by using just a single card for all of your purchases. If this is your goal, then you'll probably want to find a card with the highest rate of cash back available for all purchases, with no limits.

Other folks are willing to carry multiple credit cards in order to maximize the amount of cash back they can earn. For example, you can use one or more cards that offer bonuses for certain purchases and another card for all non-bonus purchases.

While this strategy will maximize the cash back that you can earn, it can be a bit confusing. In fact, some cardholders go so far as to place a piece of tape on their cards and label it with the merchant category that they use the card for, such as “gas” or “groceries.”

Another thing to consider is whether you're willing to pay an annual fee for your card. Most flat-rate cashback cards don't have an annual fee, but some of the cards that offer the most generous bonus cash back will charge annual fees of up to $99.

Now, paying this fee can be well worth it when the bonus cash back that you earn is greater than the annual fee. But you shouldn't just compare your cash back to the annual fee. Compare the cash back to what you could have earned with a no-fee card. If the difference is greater than the annual fee, then it's worth paying.

How to compare and choose a cashback credit card

Once you've decided on a strategy for earning cash back, you then have to choose a card.

In addition to the cashback rewards offered, there are some other considerations. For example, you could look for a card with a large signup bonus. There are cards that offer new applicants as much as $300 cash back, usually after completing a minimum spending requirement.

Plus, beyond the annual fee, there are other fees that you might want to consider, such as foreign transaction fees. These are fees that are imposed on all transactions processed outside the United States. Many credit cards still impose a 3% fee on these charges, but an increasing number don't.

Another consideration could be interest rates. However, you really shouldn't be using a cashback card if you plan on carrying a balance. Like all reward cards, cashback cards will have higher interest rates than similar cards that don't offer rewards.

If you need to carry a balance, then you should be looking for a card with the lowest interest rate, not a cashback card. However, some cashback cards come with a 0% APR promotional financing offer on new purchases, balance transfers or both. These can be valuable offers, even if you don't plan on carrying a balance once they expire.

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1 To qualify for the PenFed Honors Advantage Program you must 1) be in an active military service status, a member of the Reserves or National Guard, an honorably discharged U.S. Military Veteran or retired from such service OR 2) the member must be the primary owner on both the credit card and checking accounts of any existing open PenFed product, excluding PenCheck Limited accounts, or open a new Access America Checking or Free Checking account with PenFed. Members with a qualifying Free Checking account must also 1) maintain a minimum $500 daily balance OR 2) set up monthly direct deposits of $500 or more in order to maintain Honors Advantage Eligibility. A minimum balance or direct deposit is not required to maintain a Free Checking account.

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Nicole Dieker Freelance Contributor

Nicole Dieker has been writing about personal finance for over a decade. Her work has been published in Bankrate, CreditCards.com, Haven Life, Lifehacker, Vox and more. Dieker also spent five years as a writer and editor for The Billfold, a personal finance blog where people had honest conversations about money.

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