Best Cash Back Credit Cards

7 Best Cash Back Credit Cards: Students, Dining, Flat Rate

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Remember that one time you found $20 in the pocket of your jeans right out of the laundry?

It felt like you won the lottery, right? But in reality, it was already yours to begin with. Now imagine losing that same $20 every single month, but you never get the money back. That’d be terrible huh? If you don’t have one of the best cash back credit cards and use your debit card or cash for everything instead, that is exactly what is happening.

With the right cash back credit card, you could be getting a lot of money back in your pocket without paying any more money than you usually do each month. We searched high and low and found the best cash back credit card out there: the Blue Cash Preferred American Express credit card.

The Cash Back Credit Cards We RAVE About

Best Flat Rate Cash Back Card
Citi Double Cash Credit Card
Citi Double Cash Credit Card
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Best Cash Back Card for Bonus Category Choice
Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card
Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card
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Best Cash Back Card for Dining and Entertainment
Capital One Savor Credit Card
Capital One Savor Credit Card
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Getting back to our “losing a $20 bill in the pocket of your jeans” example, let’s take a look at what is happening here. But instead of laundry, we will talk about how not using a credit card could be costing you money every time you buy something.

Most of the time, when you go out to dinner, shop for groceries, or buy new clothes, you pay the same amount whether you pay with cash, debit, or credit. Seems simple enough right? But actually, if you pay with cash or a debit card you are effectively paying more for the exact same things as your friend who pays with his cash back credit card.

Banks charge merchants fees (usually a small percentage of the payment) whenever you use a credit card to buy products or services. The amount you pay the business usually has that small fee incorporated into it. So when you pay with cash or a debit card, you pay for that fee without ever getting anything back. With a rewards credit card, you will get a small percentage back from the bank and come out ahead.

However, the exception to this rule is when businesses charge a fee or a higher amount for their product or service if you buy it with a credit card. In that instance, you will want to check if your rewards card will earn more cash back than the business will charge you. If the cash back you earn on the card won’t equal or exceed the extra amount you pay, it is more beneficial to use cash. This isn’t a very common occurrence in our experience but it does happen on occasion.

Choosing the Right Cash Back Credit Card

Not every cash back card is created equal and not every card is ideal for everybody. So how do you know which card will benefit you most? First, you should address your monthly budget (hopefully you have one of these—if not, start now). Be aware of how much you spend on various “categories” throughout the month.

Work out how much you spend on things like groceries, gas, entertainment, restaurants, etc. each month. Look at cash back credit cards that give a larger percentage back for the categories in which you spend the most. You’ll get the most back each month this way, without spending a single cent more than you already do.

Once you have established some front runners, look at the various benefits, perks, and annual fees of these cards. Establish how much of an annual fee you are willing to pay. However, don’t be afraid of an annual fee if the rewards will exceed the cost of the fee—just calculate approximately how much cash back you will earn throughout the year and make sure it outweighs the annual fee.

You might be inclined to incorporate the regular APR or variable APR into the equation. We recommend paying off your balance in full and on time every month, so you won’t need to worry about paying any interest or the interest rate. If you can’t pay your balance in full every month, the interest you pay will severely outweigh the value of your cash back quicker than you know it.

Now this might seem like a fair bit of work to find the best credit card. But luckily for you, we have done most of the research for you and narrowed down the huge list of cash back cards to some of the best available. Take a look at the list of RAVE’s best cash back credit cards, find the best one for you, and apply now.

Methodology

Cash back credit cards are some of the most popular types of credit cards opened. That’s because they are simple, allowing you to get statement credit or cash back without worrying about any difficult programs. But with so many of them on the market, it can be difficult to figure out which one is best for you.

We looked high and low through most of the cash back credit cards on the market to find the best ones. We looked at cards with fees and no fees, assessed their rewards potential, and analyzed all of the different benefits they carry. When evaluating cash back credit cards, we considered the following criteria:

  • Annual fee: Does this card have an annual fee and how much is it? Is the reward potential worth paying the annual fee?
  • Sign-up bonus: Does this card come with a cash back bonus for opening the card? What do you have to do to earn the sign-up bonus?
  • Bonus earning categories: What percentage cash back will you earn in various purchase categories?
  • Other benefits: Does this card have other perks worth noting? Do other cards have similar types of benefits?

Best Overall Cash Back Credit Card

Blue Cash Preferred American Express Card

  • Annual fee: $95
  • Sign-up bonus: $250 statement credit after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Bonus earning categories: 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases annually); 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions; 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations; 3% cash back on transit (taxi, rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, etc); 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Other benefits: 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months; car rental loss and damage insurance; return protection; purchase protection
  • Pros: Large sign-up bonus; broad bonus categories; 0% intro APR offer
  • Cons: Annual Fee

The Blue Cash Preferred American Express card is a jack of all trades when you consider all of its bonus categories. It does come with an annual fee, but the amount of cash back you could earn with this card easily offsets the fee.

The sign-up bonus for this credit card yields a 25% return on your expenses for the first $1,000 you spend on the card. You will earn $250 cash back (which can be used as a statement credit) after you spend just $1,000 on the card within the first 3 months after opening the account. Although $250 isn’t extremely high for a $95 annual fee card, the fact that you only have to spend $1,000 to get it makes it a great sign-up bonus.

For bonus categories, this card has quite a few with some higher earning rates. You will earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in expenses each year) as well as 6% back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions. You would be hard-pressed to find many cards that have just one category that offers 6% cash back on anything; this card offers two categories with this kind of return.

You will also earn 3% back at U.S. gas stations as well as transit, including things like rideshare apps, taxis, public transit, and tolls, among others. These bonus categories are absolutely mind-blowing. All other purchases on the card earn 1% cash back.

While this card can be lucrative for anybody (thanks to a wide selection of bonus categories), it can be especially appealing if you have a family. You will naturally have a higher grocery bill each month as well as a higher gas bill shuttling everybody around. You could easily max out the grocery store category each year—that’s $360 back just on groceries annually.

The card does feature some other benefits, but nothing that isn’t a typical credit card perk. You will get 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months. Although we don’t recommend carrying a balance from month to month, this offer can give you a bit of leeway in a pinch. You will also get return protection and a car rental loss and damage waiver.

As you can see, this card stands out among the rest thanks to its extremely high earning rates on regularly used categories. The Blue Cash Preferred American Express card is RAVE’s choice for the best overall cash back credit card.

Best Cash Back Credit Card for Rotating Bonus Categories

Discover it Cash Back Credit Card

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Sign-up bonus: Cashback Match at the end of the first year of card membership
  • Bonus earning categories: 5% cash back in quarterly rotating categories (up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter at grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, online shopping, etc); 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Other benefits: Free monthly FICO score; 0% intro APR for 14 months on balance transfers and purchases; free social security number monitoring
  • Pros: No annual fee; cash back match
  • Cons: Minimal additional benefits

Discover doesn’t offer quite as many credit card products as other credit card issuers, but it does offer some great no annual fee cash back cards like the Discover it Cash Back card. This card features rotating bonus categories and a unique sign-up bonus.

The Discover it Cash Back credit card doesn’t have a traditional sign-up bonus, which can be good or bad depending on your goals and spending habits. However, this sign-up bonus is great because it can end up being very lucrative. At the end of your first year of card membership, your total cash back earned up to that point is doubled without any limits. So whether you only earn $5 or $5,000 cash back over the first year, it will be doubled.

The bonus earning on this card is also unique in that it offers quarterly rotating bonus categories. Each quarter there is a different bonus category (or categories) that offer 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases. If you are able to max out the category each month, you will earn a minimum of $75 four times a year. The categories are things you actually purchase regularly like groceries, online shopping, or gas. Everything else, as well as the bonus category after maxing it out, earns 1% cash back.

This card also comes with some other features worth mentioning: First off, you will get a free monthly FICO score, which can definitely come in handy as many free credit score services don’t show a true FICO score. Lenders use this scoring model most. This perk can also help you keep track of your score and stay on track into the future.

The card also has a 0% intro APR offer that lasts 14 months on both balance transfers and purchases. As always, we don’t recommend carrying a balance from month to month (pay your bill in full and on time every billing period) but this offer could help you out if you’re initially short on cash.

The Discover it Cash Back card is great not only for its generous rotating categories but also its limitless cash back match at the end of the first year.

Best Cash Back Credit Card for Bonus Category Choice

Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Sign-up bonus: $200 cash back bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days from account opening
  • Bonus earning categories: 3% cash back in a category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement and furnishings; 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs; 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Other benefits: 0% intro APR offer on balance transfers and purchases for 15 billing cycles; earn 25-75% more in cash back rewards based on banking relationship with Bank of America; free monthly FICO credit score
  • Pros: No annual fee; solid sign-up bonus
  • Cons: Limit on bonus rewards

If you are somebody who likes the flexibility to choose which expenses earn you bonus cash back each month, the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card is likely the card for you. It is a no annual fee card, comes with a great sign-up bonus, and solid bonus cash back earning.

The sign-up bonus on this card is $200 cash back after you spend $1,000 on the card within the first 90 days from account opening. A 20% return for a sign-up bonus on a no annual fee card is hard to beat.

The bonus categories are the best part about this card, though. You will earn 3% cash back in one of the following categories of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement and furnishings. You also aren’t locked into this category forever, as you can change it from month to month. If you know you will have big expenses in one of the categories for a month (but not on a regular basis), you can switch categories.

You will also earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs every month. All other purchases earn 1% cash back. Just be aware that there is a limit to the bonus rewards on this card: You will only earn the 3% and 2% cash back up to $2,500 in combined expenses in those categories per quarter. Despite the limit, you can still earn some great cash back each quarter.

If you are already a Bank of America customer, you could also increase the amount of rewards you earn. Depending on how much money you have with the bank and your Preferred Rewards tier, you could earn 25% to 75% more in rewards each month.

The card also comes with an extended 0% intro APR offer that lasts 15 billing cycles on both purchases and balance transfers. You will also get a free monthly FICO score. If you like the freedom to change up your rewards each month, this is the card for you.

Best Cash Back Credit Card for Students

Discover it Student Cash Back Credit Card

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Sign-up bonus: Cash back match at the end of the first year of card membership
  • Bonus earning categories: 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories like restaurants, grocery stores, gas, and Amazon (up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter); 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Other benefits: Good Grade Reward $20 statement credit; 0% APR for 6 months; free monthly FICO score; free social security number monitoring
  • Pros: No annual fee; lucrative rotating categories; good grades rewards
  • Cons: Non-traditional sign-up bonus

Discover is known for having some of the best no annual fee cash back credit cards, and that holds true for student credit cards. The Discover it Student Cash Back card has rotating bonus categories, and your rewards can really increase in your first year of card membership.

This card does not come with a traditional sign-up bonus where you spend a certain amount of money in a certain amount of time. Instead, like other Discover cards, it has a Cashback Match at the end of the first year. You will double your rewards from the first year without any limits or a cap on rewards. That could lend itself to a nice big payout when your first year of card membership comes to a close.

This card features rotating quarterly categories that earn 5% cash back on things you normally buy. The bonus categories often include things like groceries, gas, restaurants, and online shopping. However, just be aware that there is a limit to the cash back on the 5% category. You will 5% cash back for up to $1,500 spent in purchases each quarter on the bonus category. All other purchases earn 1% cash back, including the bonus category after maxing out the $1,500.

This student cash back card also has a nice feature called a Good Grade Reward. You will earn $20 each year that your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to 5 years in a row. Although it’s not a huge bonus, any additional bonus is welcome.

You will also get a few other perks with this card, like a free monthly FICO score and Social Security number monitoring. These benefits are both great to keep you on track financially in college and prevent any worry about fraud happening under your name.

Although we don’t recommend carrying a balance from month to month due to high interest rates on credit cards, the card does come with a 0% intro APR offer for 6 months. This benefit is handy if you absolutely need it, but be sure to pay off the balance before 6 months, as you will get hit with a lot of interest.

Because this card is designed for students, you will have a higher likelihood of being approved with a thin credit profile or a lower credit score. If you are a student, the Discover it Student Cash Back card should be your first credit card.

Best Flat Rate Cash Back Credit Card

Citi Double Cash Credit Card

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Sign-up bonus: None
  • Bonus earning categories: 2% cash back on everything, everywhere with no limits (1% after making purchases and additional 1% after paying)
  • Other benefits: 0% Intro APR on balance transfer for 18 months
  • Pros: No annual fee; no limit on rewards
  • Cons: No sign-up bonus; minimal additional benefits

If you like a simple, no-frills approach to your credit card rewards but still want the most bang for your buck, you should seriously consider the Citi Double Cash credit card. This card has high flat rate cash back without any hoops to jump through.

This credit card doesn’t carry an annual fee and unfortunately doesn’t come with a sign-up bonus either. That shouldn’t deter you from opening this credit card, though. This card shines thanks to the high 2% flat rate cash back on all purchases.

The 2% cash back works a little differently than other cards though. You will get 1% cash back whenever you make a purchase and another 1% cash back when you pay your bill. This shouldn’t make too much of a difference since you shouldn’t carry a balance from month to month anyway (nobody likes high interest rates).

In order to get your cash back, you will need to reach $25 in total rewards beforehand. Once you reach $25 in rewards, you can get the money as cash back, a statement credit, or sent to your Citibank account, if you have one.

The card also features a 0% intro APR offer on balance transfers for 18 months. If you are struggling with keeping up with current credit card debt, this can come in handy to help keep interest at bay until you can pay off your balances.

If you have one of Citi’s ThankYou points-earning cards (Citi Premier Card, Citi Prestige Card, or Citi Rewards+ Card), you can convert your cash back rewards into ThankYou points. The reason you would want to do this is to get more value out of your rewards. ThankYou points can be transferred to multiple airline loyalty programs which can increase the value of your rewards. The 2% cash back on the Citi Double Cash could actually be worth more like 3-4% return.

For simple high rate cash back, it doesn’t get much better than the Citi Double Cash credit card.

Best Cash Back Credit Card for Dining and Entertainment

Capital One Savor Credit Card

  • Annual fee: $0 for the first year, $95 each year after
  • Sign-up bonus: $300 cash bonus after spending $3,000 on the card within 3 months from account opening
  • Bonus earning categories: 4% cash back on dining and entertainment; 2% cash back at grocery stores; 1% cash back on everything else
  • Other benefits: No foreign transaction fees; extended warranty; travel accident insurance
  • Pros: Waived annual fee first year; good sign-up bonus
  • Cons: Annual fee after first year

If you like going out on the weekend for dinner, drinks, and a show, you could bring in some big cash back with the Capital One Savor credit card. With the annual fee waived for the first year and high bonus rewards on restaurants and entertainment, this card is definitely one you should consider having in your wallet.

The sign-up bonus on this card is $300 cash back after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months from account opening. This sign-up bonus isn’t the absolute best, but it is pretty good especially considering that the $95 annual fee is waived for your first year.

When it comes to the rewards on this card, entertainment and dining earn a whopping 4% cash back. That is an extremely high cash back rate for dining and entertainment—one of the highest you will find among all credit cards. The kicker is that it is an unlimited 4% so that it applies to every dollar you spend on dining and entertainment.

This card also earns 2% cash back at grocery stores and 1% cash back on everything else. These benefits are nice to have, but it’s really the 4% category that puts this card on our list of the best cash back credit cards.

Because this card is mid-tier it has some additional benefits, but nothing too major. It doesn’t have any foreign transaction fees, comes with travel accident insurance, and offers extended warranty for eligible items you purchase with it.

If you like to go out with friends or on date nights, the Capital One Savor card should definitely be on your radar as your next credit card. You could be racking up some solid cash back for your usual expenses on food and fun.

Best Small Business Cash Back Credit Card

Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Sign-up bonus: $500 cash back after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Bonus earning categories: 5% cash back at office supply stores and internet, cable, and phone services (up to $25,000 in combined purchases each year); 2% cash back on gas stations and restaurants (up to $25,000 in combined purchases each year); 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Other benefits: Free employee cards; car rental collision damage waiver; purchase protection; extended warranty protection; 0% intro fixed APR on purchases for 12 months
  • Pros: No annual fee; large sign-up bonus
  • Cons: Cap on rewards earning

Chase continues to wow cardholders when it comes to the value so many of their credit cards offer. The Chase Ink Business Cash Back credit card is no exception, earning our pick as the best cash back credit card for small businesses.

One of the things that can make any credit card really lucrative, especially in the first year, is having no annual fee but featuring a huge sign-up bonus. This card has a sign-up bonus of $500 after spending $3,000 on the card in the first three months from account opening. For a no annual fee credit card, $500 is almost unheard of. Business cards can tend to have higher sign-up bonuses than personal cards, but this one is next level.

This card will give 5% cash back at office supply stores and internet, cable, and phone services. For a lot of businesses, this bonus category is assuredly going to be used with regular frequency. One thing to be aware of is that the 5% back is capped at $25,000 in combined expenses each year. If you are able to max out this category every year, that’s a minimum $1,250 cash back annually.

You will also earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants. This category is also capped at $25,000 in combined expenses each year. All other purchases earn 1% cash back. If you are able to max out the bonus categories on this card each year, you will get a ton of money back.

The card also comes with free employee cards and a 12-month 0% intro APR offer for purchases. You will also get car rental collision damage waiver, purchase protection, and extended warranty protection.

Although this card doesn’t specifically earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, if you have one of Chase’s cards that does (such as the Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred) you can pool your rewards. Your cash back can then be turned into Ultimate Rewards points and used to book travel or transfer to airline or hotel partners. This can effectively increase the value of your rewards by 50%.

If you are a small business owner, you should strongly consider applying for the Chase Ink Business Cash Back credit card.

What kind of credit score do I need to be approved for a cash back credit card?

This heavily depends on each specific card and the types of rewards and benefits it offers. Generally speaking, the more rewards, benefits, and perks, the higher the credit score required to be approved. To have a good chance of being approved for rewards cards like these it would be ideal to have a score of 650 or higher.

If you are in the unfortunate position of having poor credit, start with a secured credit card to help improve your credit score first.

How do I receive my cash back with these credit cards?

More often than not, cash back credit cards give you cash back in the form of statement credit. This means that your cash back balance will be applied to your monthly statement and cover purchases you have made.

Sometimes credit card issuers give the option of sending a check for your balance or directly sending the money to your bank account. You will want to look at the options for each specific card. No matter what way you get it though, it’s effectively the same as getting cash in hand.

 Can I open multiple cash back cards to try and earn bonus points on every purchase?

Absolutely. As you can see, each card offers bonus cash back for specific spending categories. It can be a really great strategy to have multiple credit cards to make sure that most of your expenses earn more than the standard 1% cash back.

Just keep in mind which cards have annual fees and if it makes sense to pay them each year. The rewards from each credit card should be able to cover the annual fee at a minimum, but hopefully much more.

What is the best overall cash back credit card?

The best overall cash back credit card is the Blue Cash Preferred card from American Express. This card offers an outstanding 6% back on groceries and select U.S. streaming subscription services. You will also get 3% on gas and on transit—things like tolls, parking, rideshare apps, and others. These are some pretty phenomenal rewards. 

Not only do you get great rewards for every dollar you spend, you will get $250 just for spending $1,000 on the card in the first 3 months from account opening. This card is going to be hard to beat for a lot of people!

RAVE Recommends

  • Moneyspire: Check out Moneyspire, a great personal finance software (that can be used for businesses too) that gives you all of the tools to keep you money on track. Moneyspire provides budgeting templates, bill tracking, and puts all of your accounts in one place.
  • HIMI RFID-blocking wallet: This wallet is just like the wallet you use, but it protects the information on your new credit card from being stolen. It is RFID-blocking so any scammers that try to lift your information won’t be able to do so.
  • SoFi Personal Loans: If you are in a pinch and need a personal loan with a better interest rate to consolidate some high interest debt, check out SoFi’s fixed rate personal loan. You can find out the rate for which you qualify without a potentially harmful hard pull on your credit. They also are free from fees.
Patrick Beckman

Patrick Beckman

Patrick Beckman is the Contributing Finance Editor for RAVE Reviews. Leveraging his educational training in engineering, Patrick has developed his own consumer finance strategies for household saving and credit card optimization. A centerpiece of his approach is his Travel-for-Free philosophy: Decide where you want to travel and what you want to do, and then reverse-engineer your credit card sign-ups and bonuses in order to travel to and stay in your destination of choice for free.