Top credit cards for cash-back rewards and statement credits
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Travel rewards are great, but there’s a lot to be said for earning cash-back rewards from your credit cards as well. Cash-back rewards can be used to pay for the taxes and fees not covered by your points or miles, to pay other bills or to save money.
The market for cash back credit cards is just as competitive as it is for travel rewards, with all of the major card issuers fighting for a share. Today, I will look at the top cash-back cards, as well as their close cousins — credit cards that offer rewards in the form of travel statement credits, to see which products offer the best value.
The Double Cash card earns 1% cash back when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay your balance, for a total of up to 2% on all purchases, with no limits. Cash rewards are available once you earn $25 in rewards. There’s no annual fee for this card, but unfortunately there’s no sign-up bonus either.
An advantage of this card is that you can now transfer your cash-back rewards to the Citi ThankYou program. This gives you the flexibility to receive cash back or use it for frequent flyer miles, whichever makes the most sense for you.
This card isn’t a cash-back card, but it does offer miles that are worth 1 cent apiece as statement credits toward travel purchases. You earn double miles for each purchase, and new cardholders can earn 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. It also comes with a $100 credit towards the application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
You also have the option of transferring your rewards to airline partners, mostly at a 2:1.15 ratio. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.
While the other cards listed here offer the same percentage of cash back on all purchases, this card offers some serious bonus categories that make it well worth considering. You’ll receive an impressive 6% cash back from spending at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 spent each calendar year; then 1%) and unlimited 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions. It also offers you 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit purchases, and 1% cash back everywhere else.
Blue Cash Preferred currently offers an outstanding welcome bonus of $250 cash back in the form of a statement credit when you make $1,000 in purchases within three months of account opening. The card has a $95 annual fee (see rates and fees). The bonus is relatively easy to earn, and effectively covers three years of annual fees. It’s clearly one of the top options for U.S. supermarket purchases, and a worthy contender for gas purchases as well.
Like the American Express Blue Cash Preferred, this card offers you strong bonus rewards on specific purchases, but just 1% on all charges that don’t qualify for a bonus. You earn 4% cash back on all dining and entertainment, and 2% back at grocery stores. It also offers new applicants $300 after they spend $3,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year.
While this card offers 1.5 Discover Miles per purchase, these rewards are worth 1 cent each when redeemed as cash back, the same as they’re worth as statement credits towards travel rewards. Better yet, Discover will match the miles you’ve earned during your account’s first year, effectively giving you 3% cash back and the end of your first year. There’s no annual fee for this card.
Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card
This credit union offers a card that it claims is designed for high spenders with excellent credit. It offers you 3% cash back in your account’s first year, and 2.5% cash back after that. It does have an annual fee of $99, but that’s waived the first year.
PayPal Cashback Mastercard®
This relatively unknown card offers you an easy 2% cash back on all purchases, with no limits and no annual fee. It’s that simple.
Which card is best?
If you’re looking for the highest level of cash back on all purchases, the Alliant card comes out on top. Its offer of 3% cash back during your first year is equal to the Discover it Miles with the first year matching, but Alliant doesn’t require you to wait a year to get the full 3%. Furthermore, Alliant continues to offer 2.5% back after year one, which is better than all the other competitors, which only reach 2% at best.
Those competitors that offer 2% (either in cash back or travel statement credits) include Citi Double Cash, Capital One Venture, Fidelity Visa and the Paypal CashBack Mastercard. Of these, I appreciate the Capital One Venture’s flexibility to transfer rewards to airline miles, but the simplicity of the Fidelity Visa and the Paypal card make them excellent choices as well.
If you’re looking to earn bonus cash back beyond 3%, consider the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, which really gets your attention with 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets and on select U.S. streaming services, even with its $6,000 annual cap on the U.S. supermarket category (then 1% after the cap is reached). Capital One’s Savor card’s 4% cash back on dining and entertainment could be a better choice for those who go out more than they stay in.
By considering the top cash-back credit cards, you can supplement your travel rewards with the most valuable currency of all.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred card, click here.
Feature photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
SIGN-UP BONUS: 50,000 Miles
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $700
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Miles are now transferrable to over a dozen airline partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
- Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day.
- Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
- Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
- Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
- Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
- No foreign transaction fees
- $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that