Best Cash Back Credit Cards 2018
- June 27, 2016
- Posted by: Andrew Rombach
- Category: Credit Cards
When it comes to credit cards, big banks and credit unions compete viciously to claim their share of the consumer customer base. There are various methods to distinguish some credit cards from others. One way to do this is by offering services such as roadside assistance or free credit score monitoring. Some companies try branding a certain way, while others try targeting different income brackets. The list goes on and on.
In the end, one of the best ways to secure a cardholder involves paying them back for continuous use, hence the cash back system was invented. Just about every card today offers some form of cash back. It is a simple concept. Credit card providers offer rates of return on purchases anywhere from 1% or more, and these returns can be converted to cash rewards towards a credit statement, a checking account, or even a gift card.
Plainly put, these types of rewards are enticing. Who wouldn't want to pay only 99% on everything they buy? Credit companies caught on to this trend. Cash back became a headlining benefit that most companies capitalize on. Now credit cards are advertised with all sorts of different cash back rates.
Looking for a new credit card that offers cash back?
Most cards emphasize a cash back bonus for spending a certain amount during the beginning of a membership. In addition to a big bonus, companies may provide special cash back rates for niche purchases.
Such niche categories can include fuel at gas stations, groceries from supermarkets, eating out at restaurants, and more.
These category purchases are accompanied by increased cash back rates. Other credit cards have match bonuses at the end of the first year. For instance, after the initial twelve months, some cards double the amount of accrued cash back.
All of these deals are meant to push certain credit cards ahead of the pack. This is good for consumers because they can benefit from the competition. There is one big question out of all of this; which credit card has the best cash back system? Luckily, the answer is not too hard to find.
This list is comprised of ten of the top performing cash back credit cards out on the market. The first few require excellent credit in order to obtain and offer the best rewards. The next tier of cards have good benefits, which correlates with good credit requirements. This trend continues down the list ending with lower credit requirements and cash back deals. Hopefully, this list will help with your search for the right credit card.
*All APRs listed below are current as of the date of this posting and are subject to change at any time depending on the card issuer and market fluctuation.
The Top 10 Cash Back Credit Cards for 2018
Blue Cash Preferred Credit Card from American Express
While American Express specializes in travel benefits for its customers, it actually provides one of the top performing cash back credit cards on the market. The Blue Cash Preferred Card is a tough product to get approved for, but it combines cash back rewards along with some standard American Express travel benefits.
New Blue Cash Preferred cardholders can look forward to a $250 cash back credit during the beginning stages of their membership. They are eligible for this statement credit if they manage to spend at least $1,000 within three months of getting the card. This is effectively an introductory cash back rate of 25% which is one of the highest cash back rates in the industry.
There are several specific cash back rates available with the Blue Cash Preferred Card. When spending at supermarkets, the first $6,000 of purchases per year is eligible for 6% cash back. After $6,000, this rate reduces to 1%. A 3% cash back rate is awarded to purchases made at gas stations or department stores in the United States. For all other regular purchases, a 1% cash back rate is applicable.
Since this card has so many special cash back rates and benefits, there is an annual fee of $95 to consider. There are also transaction fees to consider. Fees of $5 or 3% are charged on transactions such as balance transfers and cash advances; additionally, foreign transactions are subject to a 2.7% fee. Late payments and returned payments bring a fee of $37 or less, but there is no over-credit fee.
Upon receiving the Blue Cash Preferred Card, cardholders get a 0% annual percentage rate (APR) on regular purchases and balance transfers for the first twelve months. After that introductory period, the APR is increased to a value that falls between 13.24% and 23.24%. The cash advance APR is 25.49%, and the penalty APR is 29.49%. Each of these interest rates are variable.
Chase Freedom Card/Chase Freedom Unlimited Card
Two cards are included in this section: the Chase Freedom Card and the Chase Freedom Unlimited Card. The former is awarded to applicants with excellent credit while the latter is given to those with average or good credit history. They are both cash back credit cards that have several similarities, but their cash back system is slightly different. These two cards account for all of Chase's prominent cash back products.
The key differences and similarities of these cards revolve around their cash back benefits. Owners of both the Freedom Card and Freedom Unlimited Card benefit from the same introductory cash back deal. They are eligible for a $150 credit for spending $500 during the first three months with either card. Additionally, both cards garner an extra $25 bonus for making the first purchase during that intro period of three months. All in all, both types of cardholders can earn back $175 on the first $500 of purchases.
While the introductory period deals are exact matches, the standard cash back rates differ considerably. Starting with the Freedom Card, there is a 5% cash back rate on the first $1,500 of quarterly spending in niche categories. These categories are updated four times each year. Purchases outside these niche categories are eligible for 1% cash back. Conversely, the Freedom Unlimited Card does not have a special quarterly cash back deal; it has a flat 1.5% cash back rate on all purchases. There is more cash back potential for the Freedom Card, but the Freedom Unlimited Card has a slightly higher and more consistent flat cash back rate.
While these cards are distinguished through cash back rates, the same cannot be said for their fees and annual percentage rates.
Both cards do not have an annual fee. The same balance transfer and cash advance fees apply to both cards; $5 or 5% and $10 or 5% are charged for these transactions, respectively. Chase has a unique late payment penalty guideline. Late payments on balances less than $100 see a max fee of $15, late payments on balances between $100 and $250 are charged up to $27, and late payments on balances over $250 receive a charge of up to $37. Returned payments are charged up to $37.
These cards have the same exact APRs. There is an intro APR for regular purchases and balance transfers starting at 0% which is increased to a rate between 14.24% and 23.24%. The cash advance APR and overdraft advance APR are both 25.24%.
Bank Americard Cash Rewards
Bank of America happens to offer one of the top performing cash back credit cards. The Bank Americard Cash Rewards is a product that is on par with the competition. Cash back rates, interest rates, and fees all factor into the Americard reputation which is the driving factor for its place on this list. Since it is a pretty desirable credit card, applicants with excellent credit are the only recipients of this product.
Holders of this card can get an effective increased cash back rate during the first three months of opening an account. After spending $500 during that period, cardholders earn back $100, which is an effective cash back reward of 20%. These returns are credited back to the cardholder account. There is another bonus reward that is applied when redeeming cash back rewards. An extra 10% is added to every redemption amount provided that the cardholder has a Bank of America credit card.
There are several different cash back rates available to users of the Americard. 3% cash back is awarded when making purchases at gas stations. 2% is awarded when making purchases at any sort of grocery or convenience store with food. Finally, the standard rate of 1% is awarded for all other purchases. Keep in mind that these bonus rates are only applicable for the first $2,500 of purchases per quarter in those niche categories. There are multiple cash reward rates that set this apart from many cards, but it does not take first place in cash back rewards.
As far as annual fees go, the Americard Cash Rewards is totally lacking this yearly nuisance. Despite the nonexistent annual fee, there are still plenty of transaction fees to make note of. There is a $10 or 5% fee on wire transfer purchases. Balance transfers and cash advances have the same fee of either $10 or 3%, and foreign transactions are accompanied by a 3% fee. Late payments are charged up to $37 while returned payments are charged up to $27.
For the first year with an Americard account, the regular purchase and balance transfer APR is 0%; this rate increases to a value between 13.24% and 23.24% after that initial year. A range of 16.24% and 25.24% is applicable for cash advances. The avoidable penalty APR is a hefty 29.99%. All of these rates are variable.
Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express
Already found on this list is the Blue Cash Everyday Card from Amex, but its counterpart, the Blue Cash Everyday Card also earns its spot among some of the best cash back rewards credit cards. Those who are unable to qualify for the Preferred version can settle for the Everyday version of the card. With that being said, applicants with moderate to good credit can qualify for the this card.
The three month introductory bonus on this card consists of a $150 credit for spending at least $500. While the actual dollar amount is less than the Preferred Card, the cash back rate is actually greater. The intro rate for the Everyday Card is 30% compared to the Preferred Card's 25% rate.
Just like its more exclusive counterpart, the Everyday Card has multiple cash back rates, but these are slightly reduced. Purchases at the supermarket garner a 3% cash back reward, a rate of 2% is available on purchases made at gas stations or department stores. All other purchases earn 1% back. While these rates are reduced, they are still highly competitive.
Another key difference between the two Amex cash back cards is the annual membership fee. While the Preferred Card requires nearly $100, the Everyday Card does not charge any sort of annual fee. Balance transfer and cash advance fees are set at either $5 or 3%, while foreign transaction fees warrant a 2.7% fee. Late payments and returned payments are charge $37 for each.
There is no differences in APR for these two cards. Balance transfers and regular purchases have an APR range of 13.14% to 23.24%, but the APR is 0% for the first twelve months of opening an account. Cash advance APR is 25.49%, and the penalty APR is 29.49%. Each of these rates are subject to market fluctuation making them variable.
Discover it Cash Back Match Credit Card
The Discover it Cash Back Match Credit Card has some unique ideas when it comes to cash back rewards, and it has a large variety of select deals. This card is meant for people with pretty good to excellent credit, so it can be a hard credit card to obtain. The headline cash back deal is the cash back match feature, which is also the namesake of this product.
Throughout the first year after opening an account, Discover matches all of the accrued cash back rewards and awards a bonus. For example, if you have $500 in cash back rewards built up, then you receive $1,000 in total rewards. Additionally, cardholders can get a $50 credit for referring anyone to opening an account with Discover.
In order to keep up with the competition, the Discover it Cash Back Match has several cash reward rates for different types of niche purchases. A special 5% cash back rate is applied to purchases that fit within a quarterly category; these categories are updated four times a year. There are several select deals with partners of discover such as Apple; cardholders can get up to 5% on certain purchases with these partner companies. All other purchases earn 1% back. These rewards are redeemable for credit statements, electronic deposits, or charity donations.
The Match Credit Card from Discover does not charge an annual fee, and there are limited other fees as well. Balance transfers are charged a flat rate of 3%, and cash advance fees are charged either $10 or 5%. For the first late payment the fee is waived, but following late fees are charged up to $37. Returned payments never get waived, but they are charged the same rate as late payments ($37).
There are wide ranges for some of the annual percentage rates with this credit card, so there is good potential for a very low interest rate. First, the starting APR for balance transfers and regular purchases is 0% for the first twelve months. This converts to the wide range of 11.24% to 23.24% for both types of transactions. While there is no penalty APR, the cash advance APR is 25.24%. Like most rates, these APRs are variable.
Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Naturally, Capital One has its own cash rewards credit card. This product is known as the Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card. It has some pretty standard benefits in terms of cash back, so the qualification criteria is not as exclusive as some of the top performing cards.
There is a typical introductory bonus deal that can be earned through early expenditures with the card. The cash back rate amounts to 20% on the first three months of expenses capping out at $100. If cardholders can meet the criteria, they receive $100 back after spending at least $500.
The QuicksilverOne Credit Card has only one standard cash reward rate which is set at 1.5% on all purchases. This is not as competitive as other top cards, but it is a decent rate for mid-tier cash rewards. All cash rewards do not expire unless the relevant account is closed.
There is no annual fee for holding the QuicksilverOne Credit Card, but there are a couple of fees that come standard with a credit card. Balance transfers are charged 3% flat. The cash advance fees are slightly different; one such transaction charges either $10 or 3%. Late payments do not deviate from the accepted standard of $35 as a maximum late fee.
There are several different annual percentage rates to worry about (three in fact). First off, there is a 0% APR in place for the first nine months on regular purchases and balance transfers. After the introductory deal ends there are three possible interest rates; either 13.24%, 18.24%, or 23.24%. Cash advance APR is 23.24%, and there is no penalty APR to worry about, aside from late fees. Of course, these rates fluctuate depending on the market.
Citi Double Cash Credit Card
Citi Bank offers a credit card with some modest rewards compared to other cards on this list, but it is an obtainable product that offers a somewhat decent rate of return. The Double Cash Card is a good starting credit card due to its cash rewards system. It is meant for people with average to decent credit. This card is relatively straightforward and easy to understand, another reason it is a great beginner card.
There is not a whole lot to explain when it comes to this card's cash back system. There is no introductory bonus deal, which signals that this card is not hard to qualify for. The main headline for this product is the "double cash back" deal. Here's how it works; there is a 1% rate of return on all purchases with no category restrictions. When a cardholder pays off these purchases on their account balance, they receive an additional 1% cash back for the bill payment. The final result from the original transaction is 2% cash back. Account members need to be careful because these points expire. If there is account inactivity for twelve months, the rewards points are taken away.
Since this card is not among the top tier, it is no surprise that there is no annual fee. The transaction and penalty fees do not deviate significantly from industry standards. Foreign transactions do not get much of a respite since a 3% fee is charged per dollar. Balance transfers are charged either $5 or 3%, and cash advance transactions are charged either $10 or 5%. The first late payment is free of charge, but following infractions warrant a maximum $35 penalty. Returned payments are charged the same, up to $35.
The Citi Double Cash Card annual percentage rates vary between different types of transactions. A range of 13.24% to 23.24% is applicable for balance transfers and regular purchases, but there is an introductory period of 18 months where the balance transfer APR is 0%. There are no ranges for cash advance APR or penalty APR. The cash advance APR is 25.49% while the penalty APR is 29.99%. All of these rates are subject to change since they are variable with the market.
Citizens Bank Cash Back Plus World MasterCard
The cash back rewards credit card offered by Citizens Bank is meant for applicants with decent credit. Despite its lengthy name, the Citizens Bank Cash Back Plus World Mastercard is an obtainable product that offers some good opportunities for increasing cash rewards. It is a decent stepping stone to building credit while capitalizing on cash back.
There are a couple of unique aspects to the cash back system with this Citizens Bank product. The first standard offer is a 1.5% cash back rate on all purchases with no restrictions, which is a solid standard rate. There is also an opportunity for a 10% bonus on accrued rewards. Cardholders can capitalize on this if they make at least one purchase a month for six consecutive months.
There is one more extra opportunity for another 10%. If rewards redemptions are deposited into a Citizens Bank account, then the extra bonus is awarded. Overall, this could mean a total of 1.8% in cash rewards.
There are several fees to consider with this credit card. The annual fee is $0, there is also a 0% foreign transaction fee. There are two different rates for balance transfers and cash advances. There is either $10 or 3% charged on balance transfers during a four month intro period; afterwards, the fee is increased to either $10 or 4%. For cash advances, either $10 or 3% is charged on ATM withdrawals and cash loans, while $20 or 5% is charged for cash equivalent transactions. Finally, late payments receive a maximum $38 charge.
The annual percentage rates for the Cash Back Plus World Mastercard are fairly competitive. Regular purchases have an accompanying APR of 14.99%, 17.99%, or 20.99%; this is not the best low end APR, but is a good competitive high end. These same rates are set for balance transfers, but for the first year with the card there is a 0% introductory APR. Cash Advance APR is a little higher at 22.49%. Luckily, there is no penalty APR to worry about.
Discover it Chrome
The Discover it Credit Card is actually a student credit card; consequently, one of its main focuses is cash back, which makes it a perfect card to use during college. Since this is geared towards students, credit requirements are not too strict, so applicants can look forward to building credit with Discover while enjoying cash rewards.
Multiple different cash back rates are available for certain niche purchases, as well as a base rate for general purchases. The niche cash back rate is 2%, applicable for purchases made at restaurants or gas stations. This rate is only applied to the first $1,000 of purchases, but this limit is reset every quarter. The general cash back rate is set at a rate of 1% for all other purchases.
Opportunities to multiply these rewards present themselves as well. Discover has a cash back match system where they basically double the accrued rewards after the first year of using a Discover it Chrome Card. Students can add even more to their rewards by simply getting good grades. Discover awards a $20 credit to a student account for maintaining a GPA of 3.0 or more. This reward is applicable for a maximum of five years.
What would a credit card be without its fees and pricing terms? Since students do not necessarily have stacked bank accounts, it is a good thing that there is no annual fee for this student credit card. Balance transfers are charged just one rate of 3%. Cash advances are charged two rates of either $10 or 5% of the transaction amount. The late penalty fee is waived for the first offense, but following infractions bring up a $37 charge. Returned payments also generate a fee of $37.
There is an opportunity to have a low APR on transactions, but if credit malpractice is consistent, these rates can rise to over 20%. Regular purchase APR ranges between 13.24% and 22.24%, but there is an introductory APR of 0% for six months. Balance transfer APR starts out at 10.99% for six months, then it converts to a range of 13.24% to 22.24%. The cash advance APR is 25.24%, and there is no penalty APR.
Discover it Secured Credit Card
Since this is a secured card, it is purely meant for people with a terrible credit history, so anyone outside of this criteria should look for a different card. These types of cards are characterized by strict credit limits and a lack of benefits. The Discover it Secured Credit Card is actually a bit of an anomaly since it has good cash back rewards. This characteristic makes it one of the best secured cards to get.
There is no bonus deal. Most cards offer a cash reward for spending a certain amount within three or four months. This is not the case for this credit card or any other secured card. It requires an applicant to submit a security deposit in order to qualify; this security deposit determines the credit limit of the card. Despite these limitations, there are a couple of different cash back rates to consider.
When making purchases at gas stations or restaurants, cardholders receive 2% cash back. This rate is applicable for the first $1,000 of purchases made during each quarter. 1% cash back is awarded on all other purchases. The best part about this card is the cash reward match feature, which essentially doubles the accrued cash back on an account after the first year.
One of the most attractive aspects of this secured card is its lack of annual fees, a rare trait for a secured card. All balance transfers are coupled with a 3% fee. Cash advances are charged either $10 or 5%. $37 fees are charged for late or returned payments.
There is a standard APR of 23.24% on all regular purchases. For balance transfers, an introductory APR of 10.99% is in place for six months; afterwards, this rate increases to 23.24% to match the regular APR. Luckily, there is no penalty APR, which is rare for a secured credit card.