Best cash-back credit cards of 2023

Written by Robin Saks Frankel / January 13, 2023
Reviewed by Glen Luke Flanagan

Cash-back credit cards are the gift that keeps on giving. Like an automatic coupon, when you pay for something with a cash-back card, you’ll get a percentage back on your spending every time. But choosing the right cash-back card for your particular needs is not as clear cut. 

The best cash-back card for you typically will depend on a combination of where you spend the most money, how much you typically spend on a credit card and what other perks and benefits might be of value to you. 

We analyzed a broad swath of cash-back credit cards from a variety of issuers, to curate a list of the very best. Here’s how we ranked the best cash-back cards across several categories for all types of card-seekers.

Inside this article

  1. Best cash-back credit cards of 2023
  2. Best cash-back card overall: Chase Freedom Flex- Ratings: 5.0
  3. Best cash-back card for warehouse clubs and gas stations: My BJ’s Perks Elite Mastercard- Ratings: 4.5
  4. Best for big welcome bonus: Chase Freedom Unlimited- Ratings: 4.0
  5. Best for customized rewards: U.S. Bank Shopper Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card- Ratings: 3.9
  6. Best for Walmart shoppers: Capital One Walmart Rewards Card- Ratings: 3.6
  7. Best cash back for big spenders and best for credit union cash-back card: Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card- Ratings: 3.6
  8. Best cash-back card for Amazon Shoppers: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card- Ratings: 3.3
  9. Best for simple flat-rate cash back: Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card- Ratings: 2.9
  10. Best for grocery shopping: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express- Ratings: 2.9
  11. Best for fair credit: Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card- Ratings: 1.9
  12. Compare the best credit cards for cash back
  13. Should you get a cash-back credit card?
  14. Guide to cash-back credit cards
  15. Pros and cons of cash-back cards
  16. What to think about when choosing a cash-back card
  17. How to make the most of your cash-back card
  18. How to pick the best cash back card for you
  19. Methodology
  20. Frequently asked questions

Best cash-back credit cards of 2023

  • Best overall: Chase Freedom FlexSM

  • Best for warehouse clubs and gas discounts: My BJ’s Perks® Elite Mastercard

  • Best for big welcome bonus: Chase Freedom Unlimited®

  • Best for customized rewards:  U.S. Bank Shopper Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card

  • Best for Walmart shoppers: Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Card

  • Best cash back for big spenders and best for credit union cash-back card: Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card

  • Best for Amazon shoppers: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

  • Best for simple flat-rate cash back: Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

  • Best for grocery shopping: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

  • Best for fair credit: Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best cash-back card overall: Chase Freedom Flex- Ratings: 5.0

Why it’s the best

The no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Flex offers an impressive array of elevated rewards categories, outearning several premium cards. The card earns 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in categories that rotate quarterly (requires activation), 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstores and 1% on all other purchases.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • High rewards in multiple categories 

  • There’s an introductory 0% APR offer on purchases and balance transfers

  • Perks include cell phone, travel and purchase protections

Cons:

  • The rotating bonus categories require activation each quarter

  • Rewards structure may be too complicated for some

  • There’s a foreign transaction fee

More details

  • Annual fee: $0

  • Rewards: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in categories that rotate quarterly (requires activation), 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstores and 1% on all other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus: Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (excluding Target® and Walmart®) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year 

  • Intro APR: 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers. After the intro period, a variable APR of 18.74%–27.49%.  

  • Balance transfer fee: Intro fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater, on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that, either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%

  • Perks and benefits: Secondary auto rental coverage, purchase protection, extended warranty coverage, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, and cell phone protection.

Best cash-back card for warehouse clubs and gas stations: My BJ’s Perks Elite Mastercard- Ratings: 4.5

Why it’s the best

For those who shop frequently at the warehouse club, there’s no beating the rewards rate offered by the My BJ’s Perks Elite Mastercard. In addition to a generous 5% cash-back rate on BJ’s spending, you’ll also get 10 cents off per gallon at BJ’s pumps, or earn 2% back when you pay with the card at a non-BJ’s gas station. 

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • High rewards on spending at BJ’s

  • 10% discount on BJ’s gas

Cons:

  • Rewards are issued in $10 increments to be used at checkout and expire 6 months after issue

  • Must call to request cash back in the form of a check

  • Expensive membership requirement

More details

  • Annual fee: $0 but a $110 BJ’s Perks Rewards membership is required. If you currently have the lower tier Inner Circle membership, you can pay a $55 fee to upgrade your membership so you’re eligible for the Perks Elite Mastercard.

  • Rewards: 5% cash back on most in-club and BJs.com purchases, 2% cash back on dining out and on non-BJ’s gas purchases and 1% cash back everywhere else.

  • Welcome bonus: None

  • APR: 18.74% - 28.74% variable

  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%

  • Perks and benefits: 10% off at the pump at BJ’s gas stations. Rewards can be used at checkout (in $10 increments)

Best for big welcome bonus: Chase Freedom Unlimited- Ratings: 4.0

Why it’s the best

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® card earns high rewards across a broad swath of categories that are likely to appeal to just about anyone, making it an ideal choice for busy households who want one card to do it all. The sizable welcome bonus only sweetens the appeal.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • High rewards in multiple categories 

  • Intro 0% APR offer on purchases and balance transfers

  • Rewards don’t expire

Cons:

  • The best rates on travel have to be booked through Chase

  • There’s a balance transfer fee

  • 3% foreign transaction fee

More details

  • Annual fee: $0

  • Rewards: 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on eligible dining and drugstores and 1.5% on all other purchases. 

  • Welcome bonus: Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (excluding Target® and Walmart®) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. 

  • APR: 0% introductory APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 18.74% - 27.49% applies. An intro transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater, applies in the first 60 days of account opening. After that, a fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer applies.

  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%

  • Perks and benefits: Travel and purchase protections include secondary auto rental collision damage waiver coverage, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, purchase protection and extended warranty coverage.

Best for customized rewards: U.S. Bank Shopper Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card- Ratings: 3.9

Why it’s the best

The card offers industry-leading rewards of 6% cash-back from two categories of your choice—and that includes rarely-bonused retailers like Target and Walmart—up to a quarterly maximum of $1,500. The rewards rate on other spending is above-average, too.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • Choose your own two 6% categories

  • Get 3% back on an everyday category

  • There’s a welcome bonus

Cons:

  • The rewards system can be complicated to track

  • There’s a $95 annual fee after the first year

  • The 6% and 3% earn rates both have $1,500 caps

More details

  • Annual fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first 12 months, after that $95

  • Rewards: 6% cash back each quarter on combined eligible purchases from two retailers of choice ($1,500 spending limit), 5.5% cash back on prepaid car and hotel reservations booked through the Rewards Center, 3% cash back each quarter in one everyday category of choice ($1,500 spending limit) and 1.5% cash back on everything else

  • Welcome bonus: Get a $250 bonus after you spend $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 120 days of account opening

  • APR: 18.74% to 28.74% variable

  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%

  • Perks and benefits: As a Visa Signature card, it comes with some basic protections including ID theft protection and access to travel and emergency assistance, U.S. Bank’s Real-Time Rewards feature lets you redeem earnings from this card when you make a purchase.

Best for Walmart shoppers: Capital One Walmart Rewards Card- Ratings: 3.6

Why it’s the best

Those who spend significant sums on Walmart.com can earn big rewards with the Capital One Walmart Rewards Card. It notches above-average earnings on dining, travel and in physical Walmart stores, too, making it a card to use for nearly everything given that Walmart carries nearly everything you can buy.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • No annual fee

  • Rewards can be redeemed for cash or to cover a purchase

  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons:

  • No 0% APR period

  • 5% rewards only for Walmart online purchases

  • Base rewards rate is only 1%

More details

  • Annual fee: $0

  • Rewards: 5% cash back per dollar spent on Walmart.com and in the Walmart app, including grocery pickup and delivery, 2% cash back on restaurants and travel, and at Walmart Stores, Walmart & Murphy USA fuel stations and 1% back everywhere else.

  • Welcome bonus: 5% cash back in Walmart stores for the first 12 months after approval when you use your Capital One Walmart Rewards® Card with Walmart Pay.

  • APR: 17.99% or 28.99% variable 

  • Foreign transaction fees: None

  • Perks and benefits: Rewards don’t expire as long as your card account is open, the issuer offers a pre-approval tool.

Best cash back for big spenders and best for credit union cash-back card: Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card- Ratings: 3.6

Why it’s the best

For those who can meet the card’s requirements, the flat rewards rate of 2.5% on the first $10,000 in spending each month is unbeatable. But the hoops to jump through include joining the credit union, maintaining an Alliant High-Rate checking account with an average daily balance of at least $1,000 (with at least one qualifying deposit per month) and opting in to receive electronic statements.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • For those who qualify, stellar flat-rate rewards

  • No annual fee

  • Travel and purchase protections

Cons:

  • Have to meet multiple requirements to get the best rate

  • No welcome bonus or 0% APR offer

  • $50 minimum required to redeem your earnings

More details

  • Annual fee: $0

  • Rewards: Earn up to 2.5% cash back with no categories to track on up to $10,000 in purchases each billing cycle with qualifying accounts. All other purchases earn 1.5%. 

  • Welcome bonus: None

  • APR: 15.24% - 25.24% variable

  • Foreign transaction fees: None

  • Perks and benefits: Visa Signature benefits including ID theft protection, purchase security, travel accident insurance, secondary auto rental collision damage waiver coverage and access to roadside dispatch.

Best cash-back card for Amazon Shoppers: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card- Ratings: 3.3

Why it’s the best

If there’s something you want to buy, chances are you can find it on Amazon. The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card earns a generous 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market with an eligible Prime membership, 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores and 1% back on all other purchases—all for no annual fee.

Pros and cons

Pros: 

  • High rewards rate on Amazon spending

  • Above-average rewards in several everyday categories

  • Visa Signature perks include travel and purchase protections

Cons:

  • A Prime membership, which starts at $139 a year ($69 for students), is required to apply

  • If you spend more in areas outside of Amazon, other cards earn greater rewards

  • Subject to the Chase 5/24 rule when applying

More details

  • Annual fee: $0 (but an Amazon Prime membership is required)

  • Rewards rate: 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market with an eligible Prime membership, 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores and 1% back on all other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus: $100 Amazon gift card

  • APR: Choose 5% back or 0% promo APR for 6-18 months on purchases $50 or more. After the 0% promo period, a variable APR of 17.99% to 25.99% applies.

  • Foreign transaction fee: None

  • Perks and benefits: Visa Signature benefits include secondary car rental insurance coverage, travel accident insurance, baggage delay insurance, purchase protection and extended warranty protection.

Best for simple flat-rate cash back: Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card- Ratings: 2.9

Why it’s the best

When you want to earn simple cash back without having to track different categories or rewards caps, the Wells Fargo Active Cash delivers. The card earns 2% rewards per dollar spent on everything you buy, and without an annual fee to boot.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • Simple and generous cash-back rewards

  • No annual fee

  • 0% APR offer

Cons:

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Balance transfer fee

  • No travel transfer partners

More details

  • Annual fee: $0

  • Rewards: Unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases

  • Welcome bonus: $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months

  • APR: 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, then a 19.24%, 24.24%, or 29.24% variable APR applies. Balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee of 3%, later a fee of up to 5%, with a minimum of $5 applies.

  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%

  • Perks and benefits: Up to $600 of cell phone protection against damage or theft when you pay your monthly cell phone bill with your eligible Wells Fargo card (subject to a $25 deductible). Terms apply. Redeem your rewards to offset a purchase or for gift cards, redeem as a credit to a qualifying Wells Fargo credit card, checking account, or mortgage or in $20 increments from a Wells Fargo ATM.

Best for grocery shopping: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express- Ratings: 2.9

Why it’s the best

For households who spend a good chunk of their budgets on filling up the fridge and filling up their time, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express can help them save. The card earns an eye-popping 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), plus huge rewards on streaming and above-average rewards on gas and transit.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • High rewards in multiple categories 

  • Travel and purchase return protections

  • Welcome bonus

Cons:

  • Cap on 6% supermarket spend

  • Annual fee after the first year

  • Foreign transaction fee

More details

  • Annual fee: $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.

  • Rewards: 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more) and 1% cash back on other eligible purchases.

  • Welcome bonus: Earn $300 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on  your new card within the first six months of card membership.

  • APR: 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers requested within the first 60 days of account opening, followed by a variable APR of 18.24% - 29.24%. A balance transfer fee of $5 or 3%, whichever is greater, applies.

  • Foreign transaction fee: 2.7% of each transaction.

  • Perks and benefits: Up to a total of $10 in statement credits each month on membership fees for a stand-alone monthly membership to the Equinox+ app (enrollment required), up to $84 dollars per year towards a qualifying Disney Bundle subscription (enrollment required), access to Amex Offers, return protection, secondary car rental loss and damage insurance, extended warranty and purchase protections.

Best for fair credit: Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card- Ratings: 1.9

Why it’s the best

Although the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card is aimed at those with fair credit and charges a $39 annual fee, it earns the same robust 1.5% back on every dollar spent as its no-annual-fee sibling, the Capital One Quicksilver Credit Card.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • Possible to qualify with fair credit

  • Simple 1.5% cash-back rewards

  • Potential for higher credit line after six months

Cons:

  • $39 annual fee

  • No sign-up bonus

  • No intro APR offer

More details

  • Annual fee: $39

  • Welcome bonus: None

  • Rewards: Earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase and 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel

  • APR: 29.24% variable

  • Foreign transaction fee: None

  • Perks and benefits: Up to six months of complimentary Uber One membership through 11/14/2024, redeem your rewards for a check, a statement credit, to cover a recent purchase or to buy gift cards.

Compare the best credit cards for cash back

Annual feeWelcome bonus Rewards APRForeign transaction feeOther benefits
Chase Freedom Flex$0Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (excluding Target® and Walmart®) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in categories that rotate quarterly (requires activation), 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstores and 1% on all other purchases0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers. After the intro period, a variable APR of 18.74%–27.49%3%Secondary auto rental coverage, purchase protection, extended warranty coverage, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, and cell phone protection
My BJ’s Perks Elite Mastercard$0None5% cash back for Perks Elite and 3% cash back for Perks Plus on most in-club and BJs.com purchases, 2% cash back on dining out and on non-BJ’s gas purchases and 1% cash back everywhere else18.74% - 28.74% variable3%10% off at the pump at BJ’s gas stations. Rewards can be used at checkout (in $10 increments)
Chase Freedom Unlimited $0 Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (excluding Target® and Walmart®) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on eligible dining and drugstores and 1.5% on all other purchases. 0% introductory APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 18.74% - 27.49% applies. An intro transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater, applies in the first 60 days of account opening. After that, a fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer applies 3%Secondary auto rental collision damage waiver coverage, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, purchase protections and extended warranty coverage
U.S. Bank Shopper Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card $0 introductory annual fee for the first 12 months, after that $95 Earn a $250 bonus after you spend $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 120 days of account opening 6% cash back each quarter on combined eligible purchases from two retailers of choice ($1,500 spend limit), 5.5% cash back on prepaid car and hotel reservations booked through the Rewards Center, 3% cash back each quarter in one everyday category of choice ($1,500 spend limit) and 1.5% cash back on everything else 18.74% to 28.74% variable3%ID theft protection and access to travel and emergency assistance
Capital One Walmart Rewards $0 5% cash back in Walmart stores for the first 12 months after approval when you use your Capital One Walmart Rewards® Card with Walmart Pay 5% cash back per dollar spent on Walmart.com and in the Walmart app, including grocery pickup and delivery, 2% cash back on restaurants and travel, and at Walmart Stores, Walmart & Murphy USA fuel stations and 1% back everywhere else17.99% or 28.99% variable NoneRewards don’t expire as long as your card account is open
Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card$0 NoneEarn up to 2.5% cash back with no categories to track on up to $10,000 in purchases each billing cycle with qualifying accounts. All other purchases earn 1.5% 15.24% - 25.24% variable NoneVisa Signature benefits including ID theft protection, purchase security, travel accident insurance, secondary auto rental collision damage waiver coverage, access to roadside dispatch
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature$0 $100 Amazon gift card 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market with an eligible Prime membership, 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores and 1% back on all other purchases Choose 5% back or 0% promo APR for 6-18 months on purchases $50 or more. After the 0% promo period, a variable APR of 17.99% to 25.99% appliesNoneSecondary car rental insurance coverage, travel accident insurance, baggage delay insurance, purchase protection and extended warranty protection
Wells Fargo Active Cash$0 $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months Unlimited 2% cash rewards 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, then a 19.24%, 24.24%, or 29.24% variable APR applies. Balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and a fee of 3%, then a fee of up to 5%, with a minimum of $5 applies3%Up to $600 of cell phone protection against damage or theft when you pay your monthly cell phone bill with your eligible Wells Fargo card (subject to a $25 deductible)
American Express Blue Cash Preferred $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95. Earn $300 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first six months of card membership 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more) and 1% cash back on other eligible purchases 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers requested within the first 60 days of account opening, followed by a variable APR of 18.24% - 29.24%. A balance transfer fee of $5 or 3%, whichever is greater, applies 2.7%Up to a total of $10 in statement credits (enrollment required) each month on membership fees for a stand-alone monthly membership to the Equinox+ app, up to $84 dollars per year (enrollment required) toward a qualifying Disney Bundle subscription, access to Amex Offers, return protection, secondary car rental loss and damage insurance, extended warranty and purchase protection
Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card$39NoneEarn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase and 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel 29.24% variableNoneUp to six months of complimentary Uber One membership through 11/14/2024

Chase Freedom Flex 

Annual fee: $0

  • Rewards: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in categories that rotate quarterly (requires activation), 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstores and 1% on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus: Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (excluding Target® and Walmart®) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year

  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%

  • Other benefits and drawbacks: This workhorse of a card earns elevated rewards across a broad swath of categories and without an annual fee, making it a fit for nearly anyone who wants a cash-back credit card. One exception, however, is for use abroad as the card carries a 3% foreign transaction fee.

My BJ’s Perks Elite Mastercard 

  • Annual fee: $0

  • Rewards: 5% cash back on most in-club and BJs.com purchases, 2% cash back on dining out and on non-BJ’s gas purchases and 1% cash back everywhere else.

  • Welcome bonus: None

  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%

  • Other benefits and drawbacks: BJ’s is known for consistently low prices and the BJ’s Perks Elite Mastercard can help you save even more off those low prices. Plus, the 10 cents per gallon discount at BJs gas stations can help shave down your expenses at the pump.

Chase Freedom Unlimited  

  • Annual fee: $0

  • Rewards: 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on eligible dining and drugstores and 1.5% on all other purchases. 

  • Welcome bonus: Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (excluding Target® and Walmart®) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. 

  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%

  • Other benefits and drawbacks: For a no-annual-fee card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited comes with a slew of money-saving insurances and protections including auto collision damage waiver coverage, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, extended warranty and purchase protection. But outside of the bonus categories, the ongoing rewards rate of 1.5% can easily be bested by other cards. 

U.S. Bank Shopper Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card 

  • Annual fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first 12 months, after that $95

  • Rewards: 6% cash back each quarter on combined eligible purchases from two retailers of choice ($1,500 spending limit), 5.5% cash back on prepaid car and hotel reservations booked through the Rewards Center, 3% cash back each quarter in one everyday category of choice ($1,500 spending limit) and 1.5% cash back on everything else

  • Welcome bonus: Get a $250 bonus after you spend $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 120 days of account opening

  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%

  • Other benefits and drawbacks: Although the card offers exceptional rewards potential at several retailers like Walmart and Target, the earning structure and bonus earning caps can be confusing. And the card’s $95 annual fee after the first year means you’d have to spend about $1,590 in the 6% categories annually to break even with the card’s carrying cost.

Capital One Walmart Rewards 

  • Annual fee: $0

  • Rewards: 5% cash back per dollar spent on Walmart.com and in the Walmart app, including grocery pickup and delivery, 2% cash back on restaurants and travel, and at Walmart Stores, Walmart & Murphy USA fuel stations and 1% back everywhere else.

  • Welcome bonus: 5% cash back in Walmart stores for the first 12 months after approval when you use your Capital One Walmart Rewards® Card with Walmart Pay

  • Foreign transaction fee: None

  • Other benefits and drawbacks: Those who tend to shop online can score big savings at the big-box retailer which is already known for its everyday low prices. But the rewards become lackluster when you shop in the physical store.

Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card

  • Annual fee: $0

  • Rewards: Earn up to 2.5% cash back with no categories to track on up to $10,000 in purchases each billing cycle with qualifying accounts. All other purchases earn 1.5%. 

  • Welcome bonus: None

  • Foreign transaction fee: None

  • Other benefits and drawbacks: The terms to earn up to 2.5% cash back require some effort, but for those who routinely spend in the vicinity of $10,000 a month on a credit card, the rewards are stellar.

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

  • Annual fee: $0

  • Rewards: 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market with an eligible Prime membership, 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores and 1% back on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus: $100 Amazon Gift Card

  • Foreign transaction fee: None

  • Other benefits and drawbacks: Anyone with an Amazon Prime membership who regularly shops with the online retailer can find benefit in owning the Amazon Prime Rewards card. It offers an unlimited 5% back on purchases on Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market spending and solid rewards in several other everyday categories. But an Amazon Prime membership is required to apply, which starts at $139 a year ($69 for students). You’d have to spend at least $2,800 a year on purchases earning 5% to make it worth the full Prime membership fee.

Wells Fargo Active Cash Card

  • Annual fee: $0

  • Rewards: Unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases

  • Welcome bonus: $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months

  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%

  • Other benefits and drawbacks: The Active Cash Card’s easy-to-earn, easy-to-redeem rewards structure make it a great cash-back card. Perks like a 0% intro offer on purchases and balance transfers, and Wells Fargo’s cell phone protection when you pay your bill with the card, make it even better.

Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express  

  • Annual fee: $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.

    Rewards: 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more) and 1% cash back on other eligible purchases.

  • Welcome bonus: Earn $300 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on  your new card within the first six months of card membership.

  • Foreign transaction fee: 2.7%

  • Other benefits and drawbacks: Although it has an annual fee after the first year, the card is ideal for households who spend a good chunk of their budget at the supermarket and on getting around. 

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • Annual fee: $39

  • Welcome bonus: None

  • Rewards: Earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase and 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel

  • Foreign transaction fee: None

  • Other benefits and drawbacks: For those seeking a cash-back card, but don’t have the credit profile to qualify for premium rewards, the Capital One QuicksilverOne hits that sweet spot. You’ll earn above-average rewards and the issuer will automatically consider you for a higher credit line in as little as six months, which in turn can give your credit a boost..

Should you get a cash-back credit card?

“Cash-back cards are fantastic because the reward, cash, is something that everyone understands. There is no need to worry about understanding how points or miles are converted into a reward"---John Ulzheimer, consumer credit expert, founder of CreditExpertWitness.com

Cash-back credit cards can be a great way to score savings on your everyday spending. But there is a catch. If you tend to carry a balance, the amount you’ll pay in interest will likely be greater than the value of any cash-back rewards you earn. For those who can and do pay off their balance each month, using a cash-back credit card is like getting a discount every time you shop.

For example, consider one of our top picks for cash-back cards: the Wells Fargo Active Cash card. It earns an unlimited 2% cash-back on every dollar spent. If a household spends $25,000 a year on this card, they’ll earn $500 in cash-back rewards just for spending the way they normally would.

When it comes to cash-back cards with different earnings in different categories, you’ll have to determine if you’re willing to put in the work to track different categories as well as any limits on an earning rate. For example, if you spend significantly less than $6,000 a year—which breaks down to $500 a month—at the supermarket, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express may not be the best choice for you, given that the card carries an annual fee of $95 after the first year and caps the 6% earnings on U.S. supermarket spending at $6,000 annually.

If you currently are using a credit card that doesn’t offer any rewards, a cash-back credit card can be a straightforward way to get started earning a percentage back on your spending. We’ve done the work and selected the top cash-back cards in a variety of categories to help you narrow down which one might be right for you.

Guide to cash-back credit cards

What is a cash-back card?

A cash-back card is a credit card that earns a percentage back on your spending. If you spend $100 on a cash-back card that earns 2%, you’ll “earn” $2 back on your spending. This is different from a rewards card that earns, say, 2 points per dollar spent as the value of a point will vary wildly between various loyalty programs.

Common cash-back categories

Cards that earn high rates of cash-back in certain categories of spending tend to be geared towards busy households or those who spend in typical everyday areas. For example, groceries, dining and gas are common cash-back categories, but you’re far less likely to find a card that offers high rewards on auto repairs, dentist appointments or artwork.

Types of cash-back cards

Cash-back credit cards generally come in one of three varieties: Flat-rate, rotating categories and tiered rewards. Here’s how each type works:

Flat-rate cash-back cards

A flat-rate cash-back card is one that earns the same rate on every purchase. For example, the Capital One QuicksilverOne Card earns 1.5% on everything you buy, so there’s no change in what you earn whether it’s spending on groceries, dining or matching pajamas for you and your pet.

Rotating category cash-back cards

Cards with rotating categories can be a great way to score maximum cash-back in certain areas of spending. Typically, these cards will offer 5% cash back up to a quarterly maximum, and then once that spending cap is reached, the rewards will drop down to 1% cash back. An example of a card like this is the Chase Freedom Flex, which earns 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in categories that rotate quarterly. Past categories have included Amazon, warehouse clubs and gas stations. 

The challenge with rotating categories is remembering to “activate” the bonus (which just means logging in to your account and selecting to earn the extra rewards) and tracking when you’ve hit the spending cap in a particular quarter. However, those with the patience to do so can enjoy high rewards in the quarterly categories beyond what a flat-rate card might earn them. 

These types of cards can also be terrific when paired with another flat-rate cash back card to earn maximum rewards on all your spending. But, you’ll have to keep track of which card to use and when.

Tiered rewards cash-back cards

Cash-back cards that earn tiered rewards also can provide generous returns in exchange for a little work. For example, the Amazon Prime Visa Signature Card earns rewards in different “tiers”—earning 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods spending, 2% back at restaurants and gas stations and 1% back on all other spending. 

These types of cards can also be terrific when paired with another flat-rate cash back card to earn maximum rewards on all your spending. But, you’ll have to keep track of which card to use and when. Those with the tolerance for tracking more than one card and spending category may also find that pairing a tiered rewards cash-back card with a flat-rate rewards card can help them squeeze maximum earnings out of their credit card spending.

Pros and cons of cash-back cards

Pros:

The main benefit to cash-back cards is that they can help you save money on your spending by earning a little something back on purchases you’d have to make anyway. Cash-back cards often don’t carry annual fees and, depending on the particular card, can come with other valuable perks as well like travel or purchase protections. In addition, some of the best cash-back cards come with generous welcome bonuses if you spend a certain amount in the first few months after opening the account.

Cons:

Knowing which cash-back card is a fit for your spending patterns can be tricky, as there’s no one-size-fits-all solution and you’ll have to anticipate how you might spend in the months ahead. Also, be aware that many cash-back cards have foreign transaction fees, making them a poor choice for use abroad.

What to think about when choosing a cash-back card

There are a few considerations to keep in mind when choosing a cash-back card:

1. Do you plan on carrying a balance? Most cash-back cards earn between 1% and 6% on purchases. But carrying a balance on these cards typically comes with an interest in the double digits, which means you’ll pay more interest to carry a balance then you’ll earn back on your spending.

2. Does the card’s rewards structure match up with your spending habits? There’s no point in getting a card that earns high rewards on grocery spending if you rarely use your kitchen. Choose a card that aligns with where you tend to spend the most money.

3. If you’re comparing two near-identical cards, does one have additional features you can benefit from? Two competing cards may have the same rewards structure but one may offer you useful perks like cell phone insurance or extended warranty protections if you pay with the card.

How to make the most of your cash-back card

To maximize the value of your cash-back card, aim to do the following:

  • Choose the right card for your spending habits. Pick a card that aligns with the way you spend your money.

  • Try not to carry a balance. Interest charges will eat away at the value of any cash-back earnings.

  • Make sure you redeem your rewards. There’s no point in earning rewards if you aren’t going to use them.

  • Consider pairing your card with another. There’s no such thing as one perfect card for all your spending needs and it may make sense to own more than one card to extract the maximum value on every dollar you spend.

How to pick the best cash back card for you

Choosing the best cash-back card for you typically will depend on a combination of where you spend the most money, how much you typically spend on a credit card and what other perks and benefits might be of value to you.

Methodology

Sound Dollar’s credit cards team has spent hours analyzing hundreds of credit cards. We took a deep dive into the details of each product and that analysis, combined with our years of experience covering credit cards, informed us as we developed these credit card rankings.

Frequently asked questions

How do cash-back credit cards work?

Cash-back credit cards earn a percentage back on your spending, typically 1% to 5% depending on the card. For example, if you have a card that earns a flat-rate 2% cash back and you spend $100, you’ll “earn” $2 back on that purchase. Earning rewards is automatic, but redeeming rewards generally requires you to log into your account and take action. You can typically apply your cash-back as a statement credit to your balance or, if your card offers it, redeem your rewards in other ways like a check mailed to you, a gift card or to book travel.

Is cash back on a credit card taxable?
Do cash-back rewards expire?
How can I get cash back on my credit card?

About the Authors

Robin Saks Frankel

Robin Saks Frankel

Robin Saks Frankel is a credit cards and personal finance writer and editor for Sound Dollar. Previously, she covered credit cards and related content at other national web publications including Forbes Advisor, NerdWallet, Bankrate and HerMoney. She's been featured as a personal finance expert in outlets including CNBC, Business Insider, CBS Marketplace, and has appeared on or contributed to The New York Times, Fox News, CBS Radio, ABC Radio, NPR, International Business Times and NBC, ABC and CBS TV affiliates nationwide.

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Glen Luke Flanagan

Glen Luke Flanagan

Glen Luke Flanagan is a deputy editor on the credit cards team at Sound Dollar. Prior to joining Sound Dollar, he covered credit cards, credit scoring and related topics as a deputy editor at Forbes Advisor and a senior writer at LendingTree. He’s passionate about helping people understand personal finance so they can make the best decisions possible for their wallet.

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