Best Cash Back Credit Cards of 2018

Review the best cash back credit cards to reward your spending habits.

Mike Brown
Mike Brown
Updated: September 3, 2018

Note from the editor: Our research, news, ratings, and assessments are scrutinized using strict editorial integrity. In full transparency, our company may receive compensation from partners listed on our website. Learn more about how we make money by visiting our advertiser disclosure.

When it comes to credit cards, big banks and credit unions compete to claim their share of the consumer customer base. There are various methods to distinguish the best credit cards from others. One way to do this is by offering services such as roadside assistance or free credit score monitoring. But many credit cards today offers some form of cash back. Credit card providers offer rates of return on purchases anywhere from 1% or more, and these returns can be converted to cash toward a credit statement, a checking account, or even a gift card.

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.

We’ve rounded up the top cash back credit cards on the market. The first few require excellent credit in order to obtain and offer the best cash back rates. The next tier of cards have good benefits and also require good credit. 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 best cash back credit card.

LendEDU’s 11 Best Cash Back Credit Cards

Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

$95 annual fee $200 statement credit after $1,000 spent in 3 months

Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

  • Intro bonus: $250 statement credit after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • 6% cash back on first $6,000 spent per year on groceries
  • 3% back on gas and department stores
  • 1% cash back on everything else
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on American Express's secure website

Intro APR

0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 12 months

Regular APR

14.74% – 25.74% Variable APR

Annual Fee

$95

Credit Needed

Good/Excellent

Card Highlights

While American Express credit cards specialize in travel benefits for its customers, it actually provides one of the best 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 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 spend at least $1,000 within three months of getting the card. This is effectively an introductory cash back rate of 25%.

APR & Fees

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 $38 or less, but there is no overlimit fee.

Upon receiving the Blue Cash Preferred Card, cardholders get a 0% APR on regular purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months. After that introductory period, the APR is increased to between 14.74% and 25.74%, depending on creditworthiness and the market rate. The cash advance APR is 26.99%, and the penalty APR is 29.99%. These APRs are variable.

Bottom Line

The Blue Cash Preferred Card rewards cardholders who make more purchases on groceries, gas, and on department store items. Even though it has an annual fee, the cash back rate could make up for it, especially if you meet the spending requirements and pay your balance in full every month to avoid interest charges. If you expect to spend big in these categories, this card could make sense for you.

Discover it Cash Back Credit Card

Discover it Cash Back Credit Card

$0 annual fee 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories

Discover it Cash Back Credit Card

  • Cashback Match on all the cash back earned by the end of the first year
  • 5% cash back rate is applied to purchases that fit within a quarterly category
  • 5% on purchases from partner companies
  • 1% on all other purchases
  • No annual fee
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on Discover's secure website

Intro APR

0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 14 months

Regular APR

13.74% - 24.74% Variable APR

Annual Fee

$0

Credit Needed

Good/Excellent

Card Highlights

The Discover it Cash Back credit card offers many ways to earn cash back, and it has a large variety of select deals. This card is meant for people with very good to excellent credit, so it can be a hard credit card to obtain. The headline cash back deal is the Cashback Match feature.

Throughout the first year after opening an account, Discover matches all of the accrued cash back and awards a bonus. For example, if you have $500 in cash back 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 has several cash back 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.

APR & Fees

The card 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 don’t 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 14 months. This converts to the wide range of 13.74% to 24.74% for both types of transactions. While there is no penalty APR, the cash advance APR is 26.74%. These APRs are variable.

Bottom Line

If you qualify for the Discover it Cash Back, you can earn great rewards – especially with the first-year Cashback Match. You’ll need to coordinate your spending for the rotating categories to maximize the amount of cash back you can earn. The no annual fee, the 0% introductory APR, and the potential for a low interest rate also help make this a desirable cash back credit card.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Card

Chase Freedom Unlimited Card

$0 annual fee $150 bonus after $500 spent in 3 months

Chase Freedom Unlimited Card

  • Sign-up bonus of $150 statement credit for spending $500 in first 3 months
  • Flat rate 1.5% cash back rate on all purchases
  • 0% intro APR for regular purchases and balance transfers for 15 months
  • No annual fee
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on Chase's secure website

Intro APR

0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months

Regular APR

16.49% – 25.24% Variable APR

Annual Fee

$0

Credit Needed

Average/Good

Card Highlights

For people with average or good credit, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card can be a solid option for earning cash back. First off, if they spend $500 during the first three months of opening the account, they are eligible for a $150 statement credit.

Unlike the Chase Freedom card, the Freedom Unlimited Card does not have a special quarterly cash back deal. Instead, 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.

The rewards never expire as long as the account is open, and there is no minimum required for redeeming rewards. Just like the Chase Freedom, points can be redeemed on Amazon, as cash back in a statement credit or direct deposit, to buy gift cards, or to pay for travel.

APR & Fees

This card does not charge an annual fee. But the fees that do exist include an up to $37 charge for late and returned payments, a 3% foreign transaction fee, a $5 or 5% fee for balance transfers, and a $10 or 5% fee for cash advances

The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers a 0% intro APR for regular purchases and balance transfers for 15 months; then the rate is 16.49% and 25.24% APR. The cash advance APR is 26.49%.

Bottom Line

If you’re trying to choose between the Chase Freedom and the Chase Freedom Unlimited cards, the Unlimited can be a good choice if you don’t want to be restricted to spending in categories. At 1.5 points per dollar on all purchases – with no annual fee and a decent sign-up bonus – you can start earning cash back pretty quickly. However, if you travel in foreign countries and want to spend on this card, be aware that the foreign transaction fees can quickly add up.

BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card

BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card

$0 annual fee $150 bonus after $500 spent in 3 months

BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • After spending $500 during that period, cardholders earn back $150, which is an effective cash back rate of 30%
  • 3% cash back on gas
  • 2% on grocery stores
  • 1% on all other purchases
  • No annual fee
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on Bank of America's secure website

Intro APR

0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 12 months

Regular APR

14.99% – 24.99% Variable APR

Annual Fee

Card ​​Annual Fee

Credit Needed

Good/Excellent

Card Highlights

Bank of America offers one of the best cash back credit cards. Holders of the BankAmericard Cash Rewards 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 $150, which is an effective cash back rate of 30%. These returns are credited back to the cardholder’s account.

There is another bonus that is applied when redeeming cash back. An extra 10% is added to every redemption amount provided the cardholder has a Bank of America checking or savings account. Bank of America Preferred Rewards clients can get a bonus of 25% to 75%.

There are a few different cash back rates available to users of the BankAmericard Cash Rewards card. Users can get 3% cash back for purchases at gas stations, 2% cash back for purchases at grocery stores or convenience stores with food, and 1% cash back for all other purchases. Bonus rates are only applicable for the first $2,500 of purchases per quarter in those niche categories.

APR & Fees

As far as annual fees go, the BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card lacks this yearly nuisance. Still, there are still plenty of transaction fees to note. 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 $38 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 between 14.99% and 24.99% after that initial year. A range of 17.99% to 26.99% APR applies to cash advances. The avoidable penalty APR is a hefty 29.99%. All of these rates are variable.

Bottom Line

The BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card is a product that is on par with the competition. Cash back rates, interest rates, and fees all factor into the Bank of America reputation, which is the driving factor for its place on this list. Since it is a desirable credit card, it’s geared toward applicants with excellent credit.

Chase Freedom Card

Chase Freedom Card

$0 annual fee $150 statement credit for spending $500 in first 3 months

Chase Freedom Card

  • Cardholders get a $150 statement credit for spending $500 during the first three months
  • 5% cash back rate on the first $1,500 of quarterly spending in bonus categories
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • No annual fee
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on Chase's secure website

Intro APR

0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months

Regular APR

16.49% – 25.24% Variable APR

Annual Fee

$0

Credit Needed

Good/Excellent

Card Highlights

The Chase Freedom credit card is geared toward consumers with excellent credit. And though it bears some resemblance to the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, this cash back credit card has its own features that make it worth considering.

Cardholders get a $150 statement credit for spending $500 during the first three months, plus a 5% cash back rate on the first $1,500 of quarterly spending in bonus categories. Purchases outside these niche categories are eligible for 1% cash back.

Even better: Rewards don’t expire as long as the account is open. And there is no minimum required to redeem for cash back. Points can be redeemed when shopping on Amazon, as cash back in a statement credit or direct deposit, to book travel, or buy gift cards.

APR & Fees

This card carries no annual fee, but it does charge a 3% foreign transaction fee. Balance transfer fees are $5 or 5% of the transaction, and cash advance fees are $10 or 5% of the transaction. Late payments and returned payments are charged up to $37.

There is an intro APR for regular purchases and balance transfers starting at 0% for the first 15 months. After that, the rate increases to between 16.49% and 25.24%. The cash advance APR is 26.49%.

Bottom Line

This card offers strong quarterly rewards and many ways to redeem them, and it’s a strong contender because it has no annual fee. But the foreign transaction fees will add up if the card is used for spending while traveling in other countries. For foreign travel, consider choosing a credit card for cash back that does not charge that fee. However, the sign-up bonus and low APR introductory period are decent perks for new cardmembers.

Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express

Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express

$0 annual fee $200 statement credit for spending $1,000 in first 3 months

Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express

  • Introductory bonus: $200 statement credit for spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months
  • 3% cash back at grocery stores
  • 2% on gas stations and department stores
  • 1% on all other purchases
  • No annual fee
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on American Express's secure website

Intro APR

0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months

Regular APR

14.74% – 25.74% Variable APR

Annual Fee

$0

Credit Needed

Good/Excellent

Card Highlights

Already mentioned on this list is the Blue Cash Preferred Card, but its counterpart, the Blue Cash Everyday Card also earns its spot among some of the best cash back credit cards. People who are unable to qualify for the Preferred version might qualify for the Everyday version of the card. Applicants with moderate to good credit may qualify for this card.

The three-month introductory bonus on this card consists of a $200 credit for spending at least $1,000. The intro cash back for the Everyday Card is 20% compared to the Preferred Card's effective 25% introductory cash back.

Just like its more exclusive counterpart, the Everyday Card has multiple cash back rates, but these are slightly reduced. Purchases at the supermarket garner 3% cash back, 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 very competitive.

APR & Fees

Another key difference between the two Amex cash back cards is the annual membership fee. While the Preferred Card’s annual fee is $95, the Everyday Card charges no 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 charged up to $38 for each.

There is no difference in APR for these two cards. Balance transfers and regular purchases have an APR range of 14.74% to 25.74%, but the APR is 0% for the first 12 months of opening an account. Cash advance APR is 26.99%, and the penalty APR is 29.99%. The APR is variable.

Bottom Line

People who want the Blue Cash Preferred Card but don’t qualify for it might want to consider applying for the Blue Cash Everyday Card. The Everyday card offers a good intro bonus, competitive rewards – without the cost of an annual fee. But if you travel abroad and plan to spend with the card, watch out for the foreign transaction fees.

Citizens Bank Cash Back Plus World Mastercard

Citizens Bank Cash Back Plus World Mastercard

$0 annual fee 1.5% cash back on all purchases

Citizens Bank Cash Back Plus World Mastercard

  • 1.5% cash back rate on all purchases with no restrictions
  • 10% bonus on accrued rewards when you make at least one purcase per month for 6 consecutive months
  • Earn an additional 10% bonus if redemptions are deposited into a Citizens Bank account
  • No annual fee
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on Citizens Bank's secure website

Intro APR

0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months

Regular APR

14.99%–22.99% Variable APR

Annual Fee

$0

Credit Needed

Good/Excellent

Card Highlights

There are a couple of unique aspects to the cash back system with the Citizens Bank Cash Back Plus World Mastercard. 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 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 back.

APR & Fees

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. 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%, 18.99%, or 22.99%; 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 24.24%. There is no penalty APR.

Bottom Line

The cash back credit card offered by Citizens Bank is meant for applicants with decent credit. This is an obtainable product that offers some good opportunities for increasing cash rewards. It can be a decent stepping stone to building credit while capitalizing on cash back.

Quicksilver Rewards from Capital One

Quicksilver Rewards from Capital One

$0 annual fee $150 bonus after spending at least $500 in the first three months

Quicksilver Rewards from Capital One

  • Receive $150 back after spending at least $500 in the first three months
  • 1.5% cash back on all purchases
  • No annual fee or foregin transaction fees
  • 0% intro APR on regular purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months
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on Capital One's secure website

Intro APR

0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months

Regular APR

14.74% – 24.74% Variable APR

Annual Fee

$0

Credit Needed

Good/Excellent

Card Highlights

The Quicksilver rewards credit card offers an introductory bonus deal that can be earned through early expenditures with the card. Cardholders receive $150 back after spending at least $500 in the first three months.

The Quicksilver card has only one standard cash back 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 back card. Rewards do not expire unless the account is closed.

APR & Fees

There is no annual fee for holding the Quicksilver Rewards 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 $38 as a maximum late fee.

There is a 0% APR in place for the first 15 months on regular purchases and balance transfers. After the introductory deal ends there are three possible interest rates; either 14.74%, 20.74%, or 24.74%. Cash advance APR is 24.74%, and there is no penalty APR to worry about, aside from late fees. Of course, these rates fluctuate depending on the market.

Bottom Line

The Quicksilver Rewards card is a good, mid-tier cash back credit card offering a flat cash back rate for all purchases. This can help simplify your rewards-earning if you don’t like to deal with rotating categories or your spending doesn’t fit neatly in a rotating calendar. This card is geared toward users with excellent credit, so keep that in mind if you apply.

Citi Double Cash Credit Card

Citi Double Cash Credit Card

$0 annual fee $150 cash back bonus after $500 in purchases within the first 3 months

Citi Double Cash Credit Card

  • Earn $150 cash back bonus after $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • 1% cash back on all purchases; doubles when paid off
  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers and Purchases for 15 months
  • No annual fee
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on Citi's secure website

Intro APR

0% APR on Balance Transfers and Purchases for 15 months

Regular APR

15.24% – 25.24% Variable APR

Annual Fee

$0

Credit Needed

Good/Excellent

Card Highlights

The Citi Double Cash Card’s cash back system is simple and straighforward. 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 12 months, the cash back points are taken away.

APR & Fees

This card has 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. 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 15.24% to 25.24% is applicable for balance transfers and regular purchases, but there is an introductory period of 18 months where the balance transfer APR is 0%. The cash advance APR is 26.99% while the penalty APR is 29.99%. All of these rates are subject to change since they are variable with the market.

Bottom Line

Citibank offers a credit card with some modest rewards compared to other cards on this list, but it is an obtainable product that offers a decent rate of return. The Citi Double Cash card is a good starting credit card due to its cash rewards system. It is meant for people with good credit. This card is relatively straightforward and easy to understand, which can also make it a great beginner card.

Discover it Student Chrome

Discover it Student Chrome

$0 annual fee Cashback Match on rewards earned in the first year

Discover it Student Chrome

  • 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on first $1,000 every quarter
  • 1% on all other purchases
  • Discover awards a $20 credit to a student account for maintaining a GPA of 3.0 or more.
  • No annual fee or foreign transaction fee
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on Discover's secure website

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

14.74% – 23.74% Variable APR

Annual Fee

$0

Credit Needed

Average/Good

Card Highlights

The Discover it Student Chrome 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 toward students, credit requirements are not too strict, so applicants can look forward to building credit with Discover while enjoying cash back.

Multiple 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 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.

APR & Fees

What would a credit card be without its fees and pricing terms? Since students do not necessarily have stacked bank accounts, it’s a good thing it has no annual fee. Balance transfers are charged a 3% fee. Cash advances are charged 5% of the transaction amount, with a $10 minimum. 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.

Regular purchase APR ranges between 14.74% and 23.74%, 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 14.74% to 23.74%. The cash advance APR is 25.24%, and there is no penalty APR.

Bottom Line

The Discover it Chrome card can offer students the opportunity to build credit and earn cash back. With no annual fee and a low introductory rate, students can avoid costly fees as new cardholders. The good grades reward is also a nice perk for students. Overall, it can be a good first card for someone who’s in college.

Discover it Secured Credit Card

Discover it Secured Credit Card

$0 annual fee 2% back at gas stations and restaurants, 1% on all other purchases

Discover it Secured Credit Card

  • 2% at gas stations and restaurants on first $1,000 every quarter
  • 1% on other purchases
  • Cashback Match on rewards earned in the first year
  • Introductory APR of 10.99% on balance transfers is in place for six months
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on Discover's secure website

Intro APR

0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months

Regular APR

24.74% Variable APR

Annual Fee

$0

Credit Needed

Poor/Fair

Card Highlights

Since this is a secured card, it is primarily meant for people with bad credit or no credit. 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 rates. This characteristic makes it one of the best secured credit cards.

There is no bonus deal. Most cards offer a bonus for spending a certain amount within three or four months. This is not the case for this credit 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. All other purchases get 1% cash back. The best part about this card is the Cashback Match feature, which essentially doubles the accrued cash back on an account after the first year.

APR & Fees

One of the most attractive aspects of this 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 24.74% on all regular purchases. For balance transfers, an introductory APR of 10.99% is in place for six months; afterward, this rate increases to 24.74% to match the regular APR. Luckily, there is no penalty APR, which is rare for a secured credit card.

Bottom Line

If you’re establishing or rebuilding your credit, the Discover it Secured credit card is a strong contender. The cash back and no annual fee set this card apart. The low introductory APR and no penalty APR are also standout features.

Best Cash Back Credit Cards Comparison

Card Bonus Offer Annual Fee
Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express $200 statement credit after $1,000 spent in 3 months $95
Discover it Cash Back Credit Card Cashback Match on all the cash back earned by the end of the first year $0
Chase Freedom Unlimited Card $150 statement credit for spending $500 in first 3 months $0
BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card $150 bonus after $500 spent in 3 months $0
Chase Freedom Card $150 statement credit for spending $500 in first 3 months $0
Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express $200 statement credit for spending $1,000 in first 3 months $0
Citizens Bank Cash Back Plus World Mastercard 1.5% cash back on all purchases $0
Quicksilver Rewards from Capital One $150 bonus after spending at least $500 in the first three months $0
Citi Double Cash Credit Card $150 cash back bonus after $500 in purchases within the first 3 months $0
Discover it Student Chrome Cashback Match on rewards earned in the first year $0
Discover it Secured Credit Card N/A $0

What You Need to Know About Cash Back Credit Cards

Three Types of Cash Back Credit Cards

Cash back credit cards have grown in popularity over the years as cardholders appreciate the ability to earn flexible rewards on purchases large and small. These types of credit cards come in several different forms, including flat-rate cash back, tiered cash back, and bonus category credit cards. Each has its own degree of appeal as well as downsides to consider.

  • Flat-rate cash back credit cards are the most straightforward of the three categories. No matter the category of the purchase or the amount, flat-rate cash back credit cards earn a set percentage of the amount spent. For example, a cardholder may earn 1% of the dollar amount spent on a purchase as cash back. A $1,000 transaction then earns the cardholder $10 in cash back. Rates for flat-rate cash back credit cards may not seem high, but their simplicity and, generally, unlimited earning potential is attractive to some credit card users.
  • Tiered cash back credit cards differ from flat-rate cards because they offer higher rates on certain purchase categories than others. For example, a tiered cash back card may offer 3% on purchases made at gas stations or grocery stores, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. The tiered categories may impose limits on the total amount of cash back earned for a set timeframe, such as a billing cycle or a calendar year. Typically, the “all other purchases” cash back rate does not have a maximum potential.
  • Bonus category cash back credit cards are similar to tiered cards in that they offer higher earnings on specific purchase categories. However, the bonus categories differ from the tiered categories because the bonus categories change every quarter. For example, a bonus category credit card may offer 5% cash back on gas station or department store purchases for the first quarter of the year, and then switch to travel or online shopping for the next quarter. All other purchases made on a bonus category cash back card earn a flat rate, typically 1% or less. There are limits on the total earning potential for each bonus category per quarter, but no limit imposed on all other purchases.

How to Redeem Cash Back Earnings

All cash back credit cards offer flexibility in how cash back earnings can be redeemed as they accumulate. In most cases, there are four main strategies for redeeming cash back, including statement credits, direct deposits, gift cards, and donations.

Statement Credits

Statement credits are available from many cash back credit card issuers. The benefit is an easy choice if there is a balance on your credit card at the end of the billing cycle. As long as the amount of cash back you have earned meets the minimum redemption amount, you can request to have the cash back credited to your statement to offset the amount owed. Statement credits appear as a negative on your statement whenever a redemption is made, just like a normal payment would. It is important to note that statement credits often do not satisfy the minimum payment amount due, so remitting a payment is still required.

Direct Deposits

Another option for cash back redemption is through direct deposit. Unlike a statement credit, cash back may be redeemed for cash to a linked checking or savings account. A direct deposit redemption is not available from all credit card issuers offering cash back, but it can be a nice perk when it is offered. Similar to statement credits, card issuers may require a minimum cash back amount be met before a direct deposit redemption is available.

Gift Cards

A common cash back redemption option is a gift card purchase directly from the credit card issuer. When cash back accumulates, you may be able to purchase a gift card in the amount of your cash back from a variety of retails, like Amazon, Target, or Starbucks. Each credit card company offers different gift card redemption options, and minimum cash back amounts may be required before redemption for a gift card is an option.

Donations

Over the last several years, credit card companies have added another option for cash back redemption in the form of charitable donations. Instead of redeeming cash back as a statement credit, direct deposit, or a gift card purchase, you may have an option to convert your cash back to a donation for a specific charity.

In most cases, this charitable donation is not tax deductible for the cardholder, and minimum cash back accumulation amounts still apply. You may also have the option of donating cash back to a friend or family member who has the same credit card or rewards program available.

Cash Back Credit Cards and Annual Fees

There are many credit card issuers offering cash back credit cards to qualified borrowers, but some are more advantageous than others. One of the drawbacks of some cash back credit cards is the annual fee cardholders pay to simply own the card.

Annual fees for cash back credit cards range from zero to more than $400 per year, depending on the card issuer, the perks and benefits offered with the credit card, and the rewards potential cardholders can maximize throughout the year.

In most cases, paying an annual fee for a cash back credit card makes sense if the amount earned is far higher than the fee charged. This is typically only the case when cardholders spend a significant amount on the cash back card each year. If credit card spending is minimal or the cash back has low earning potential, paying an annual fee isn’t usually a smart financial move. Several of the best cash back credit cards on this list don't have an annual fee, and these are best suited for cardholders who use their cards sparingly. You can also check out the best no annual fee credit cards we have reviewed.

Can You Negotiate for Better Cash Back Rates?

Credit card companies design cash back programs to meet the needs of a large number of consumers. While there are varied programs available, the card you select comes with a set cash back plan that cannot be altered. Credit card companies do not design cash back rewards specific to individual cardholders, and therefore, you cannot negotiate for better rates once you have a credit card established.

However, if the cash back credit card you initially selected is no longer meeting your needs or wants, you can always change to another cash back card from a different issuer or the same company. Be sure to check your eligibility for getting a new cash back credit card before applying, and check with your current card issuer to see what other options may be available.

Are There Drawbacks to Cash Back Credit Cards?

Although cash back credit cards are appealing to many, they do come with some drawbacks of which you need to be aware. First, many consumers utilize cash back credit cards for everyday purchases, both big and small, up to their available credit limit.

While this strategy is beneficial for accumulating a substantial amount of cash back, it can be detrimental to your overall financial picture. Without a spending plan in place, and a repayment strategy to quickly follow, you could end up overdoing it with your cash back card and owe far more than you could initially afford.

The other major caveat to cash back credit cards is the potential for an annual fee. Again, if the rewards do not outweigh the fee each year, a cash back credit card is not worth the hassle. Also, credit card holders need to recognize the limitations on cash back earning potential, as well as minimums that must be met in order to redeem earned cash back balances.

Managing Multiple Cash Back Credit Cards

If you are planning to open several different cash back credit cards in an effort to extract the maximum value based on your spending, be sure to do so with caution. So long as your credit history is strong, you have the option to apply for and use many different cash back credit cards with varied programs.

Some cardholders have a flat-rate card used for everyday purchases, a tiered card used only for the higher-level categories, and a bonus card to maximize rotating categories. This strategy can work well in earning the most cash back over time, but it requires some work.

Always have a plan in place for making on-time payment if you have multiple credit cards, and have a set spending limit for each credit card, each month. Taking these simple steps can make all the difference in managing your cash back credit cards responsibly or getting in over your head with credit card debt.

Multiple Cash Back Credit Cards and Credit Score

Having multiple cash back credit cards also impacts your credit score, both at the time you apply and as you manage spending and repayment over time. Taking out multiple credit cards in a short period of time (typically, less than six months) has the potential to drop your credit score by several points. Creditors view an influx of new credit as a negative because it gives the appearance that you are in need of cash you do not have on hand. Make sure to wait between applying for credit cards.

After the initial credit score drop with multiple new credit cards, your credit may also take a hit if you are utilizing a heavy portion of your available credit limits with each card consistently. Utilization needs to be around 30% of your available credit lines, across the board, if you want to keep your credit score strong.

Cash Back Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses

Many cash back credit card companies offer sign-up bonuses to new cardholders. Sign-up bonuses are an incentive to establish a new credit card account, and while the value of each bonus varies from company to company, they can be lucrative when used correctly.

A sign-up bonus is typically structured like this: when a cardholder spends a minimum amount within the first few months after establishing an account, the credit card issuer credits a large cash back bonus to their account. Minimum spending can range from $500 up to several thousand, with cash back bonuses ranging from a few to several thousand in rewards.

Many credit card issuers restrict the sign-up bonus to cardholders who have not had an active account with the company for at least the last 12 months. Additionally, sign-up bonuses may have restrictions as far as when the cash back can be used and how long the account needs to remain open and in good standing before earnings are credited to the account.

Timing for Cashing in Cash Back Rewards

Just like cash back earnings differ from issuer to issuer, so do the rules around rewards redemption. Credit card companies may impose a minimum cash back balance before rewards can be redeemed, often between $10 and $25. So long as cash back is available above the minimum amount, cash back can be redeemed for whatever you’d like. However, waiting to accumulate a substantial amount of cash back can be beneficial in planning for large purchases, major expenses, or travel.

It is also important to recognize that most credit card companies apply an expiration date to cash back earned. Some cardholders may have rewards expire one year after they are issued, while others may have up to five years. If you wait to redeem your cash back, be sure to determine if an expiration date applies so you do not miss out on your benefits.