The best credit cards for each bonus category

Nov 2, 2020

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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new card details and information. 

At this point, it’s pretty much gospel that cash-back credit cards aren’t nearly as lucrative as travel credit cards. That is particularly true when it comes to the outsized sign-up bonuses offered by the best credit cards.

But cash-back cards have been making some noise lately on category bonuses. And if you’ve put travel on hold for the foreseeable future, there are many reasons why you need a cash-back credit card in your wallet. So, today I’ll discuss some of the best cash-back cards for several of the most popular spending categories.

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Best cards for each credit card category

The information for the Capital One Savor and Wells Fargo Propel has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

In This Post

Comparison of the best cards for each cash-back rewards card category

Card Category Annual fee
Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card Dining and entertainment (4%) $95
Wells Fargo Propel American Express card Select travel expenses (3-5.25%*) None
Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express Groceries from U.S. supermarkets (6% on up to $6,000 in purchases per calendar year then 1%) $95, waived the first year (see rates & fees)
Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi Eligible gas (4% for the first $7,000 per year, then 1%) None, but requires Costco membership ($60 a year for Gold)
Citi Double Cash Card Non-bonus spending (2% return. 1% cash back when you buy and 1% as you pay) None
Chase Freedom Flex Rotating categories (5% return on up to $1,500 each quarter you activate) None

*Points are generally worth one cent each but are worth 1.5 cents towards flights if you also have a Wells Fargo Visa Signature Card and are worth 1.75 cents towards flights if you spend $50,000 a year or more on the Wells Fargo Visa Signature.

The above table shows my favorite cash-back rewards card for several popular spending categories. But for some categories, multiple cards perform well. So, depending on your particular spending patterns and lifestyle, a different card may be better for you. As such, for each spending category I’ll present the cards you should consider if you spend a significant amount in that spending category.

Related: Best ways to use the cash back from your credit card

Best cards for dining and entertainment

Winner: Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card

(Photo by John Gribben / The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

Earning rates:

  • 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through Jan 31, 2022
  • 4% on dining and entertainment
  • 2% at grocery stores
  • 1% on all other purchases

Current bonus: Earn $300 after you make $3,000 on purchases in the first three months after opening the account

Benefits: You’ll pay no foreign transaction fees on purchases outside the U.S. And you’ll receive protective benefits such as an extended warranty provision.

Annual fee: $95     

Related:

Top cash-back cards for dining and entertainment

Card Dining category return
Entertainment category return Annual fee Current bonus
Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card 4% 4% $95 $300 after you spend $3,000 in the first three months
Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card 3% 3% None $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening
Sony Visa Credit Card 2% or less 5% or less None 5,000 points when you use the card within the first 60 days, plus a $50 statement credit after you spend $500 within the first 60 days
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card 3x, worth 3% to 5.25%* 3x on popular streaming services, worth 3% to 5.25%*

1x on other entertainment, worth 1% to 1.75%*

None 20,000 bonus points when you make $1,000 in purchases in the first three months
U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card 5% back on fast food (on up to $2,000 per quarter) if you select fast food as one of your two 5% bonus categories

2% back at restaurants if you choose restaurants as your 2% bonus category

5% back on select streaming services and movie tickets (on up to $2,000 per quarter) if you select these categories as your two 5% bonus categories None $200 rewards bonus after you apply online and spend $500 in eligible purchases within the first 90 days of account opening

*Points are generally worth one cent each but are worth 1.5 cents towards flights if you also have a Wells Fargo Visa Signature Card and are worth 1.75 cents towards flights if you spend $50,000 a year or more on the Wells Fargo Visa Signature.

The information for the Sony Visa Credit Card and U.S. Bank Cash+ Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Best cards for general travel

Winner: Wells Fargo Propel American Express card

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Earning rates:

  • 3x points on eating, ordering in, gas stations, rideshares, transit, flights, hotels, homestays, car rentals and popular streaming services
  • 1x points on all other purchases

You can redeem points at a rate of one cent per point for cash back or several other types of rewards. However, you can also redeem rewards for airfare at 1.5 cents each on the Wells Fargo travel portal if you also have the Wells Fargo Visa Signature® card. And if you spend $50,000 in a calendar year on the Wells Fargo Visa, that redemption rate jumps to 1.75 cents per point.

The information for the Wells Fargo Visa Signature card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Current bonus: Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first three months

Benefits: This card doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees. You’ll also enjoy cell phone protection, car rental loss and damage insurance, purchase protection and extended warranty protection.

Annual fee: None

Related:

Top cash-back cards for general travel

Card Travel category return Annual fee Current bonus
Wells Fargo Propel American Express card 3x, worth 3% to 5.25%* None 20,000 bonus points when you make $1,000 in purchases in the first three months.
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card 3% if travel is your chosen category (on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club  purchases each quarter; then 1%) None $200 after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card 2x, worth 2% – 3.5%** $95 50,000 points after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening

*Points are normally worth one cent each but are worth 1.5 cents towards flights if you also have a Wells Fargo Visa Signature Card and are worth 1.75 cents towards flights if you spend $50,000 a year or more on the Wells Fargo Visa Signature.
**Preferred Rewards members get a 25% to 75% bonus on earnings

Best cards for groceries

Winner: Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

American Express Blue Cash Preferred
(Photo by The Points Guy)

Earning rates:

  • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1%)
  • 6% on select U.S. streaming subscriptions
  • 3% on transit
  • 3% at U.S. gas stations
  • 1% on all other purchases

Current bonus: Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the card within the first six months of card membership, up to $200 back. Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the card within the first six months of card membership. Cash back received in the form of statement credits.

Benefits: This card is eligible for Amex Offers. You’ll also get return protection for recent purchases and car rental loss and damage insurance when you use your card to rent a car.

Annual fee: $0 introductory annual fee for one year, then $95 (see rates and fees)

Related:

Top cash-back cards for groceries

Card Grocery category return Annual fee Current bonus
Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express 6% on up to $6,000 per year at U.S. supermarkets, then 1% $95, waived the first year (see rates & fees) Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the card within the first six months of card membership, up to $200 back. Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the card within the first six months of card membership. Cash back received in the form of statement credits.
Chase Freedom Flex N/A None $200 after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card 5% at Amazon and Whole Foods with an eligible Prime membership None $100 Amazon gift card upon approval
Target REDcard 5% at Target None None
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express 3% on up to $6,000 per calendar year at U.S. supermarkets, then 1%

Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed for statement credits.

None (see rates & fees) Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the card within the first six months of card membership, up to $150 back. Plus, earn $100 back after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card within the first six months of card membership. Cash back received in the form of statement credits

The information for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card and Target REDcard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Best cards for gas

Winner: Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

Earning rates:

  • 4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year, then 1%
    • Available worldwide, not just at Costco gas stations
    • The 4% bonus rate doesn’t apply to gas purchased at superstores, supermarkets, convenience stores and warehouse clubs other than Costco, or for fuel used for non-automobile purposes
  • 3% on restaurants and eligible travel purchases
  • 2% on all other purchases from Costco (in-store and online)
  • 1% on all other purchases

Current bonus: None

Benefits: You’ll enjoy extended warranty protection and there are no foreign transaction fees. But you must be a Costco member to be eligible for this card. And, although this is a cash-back card, you can’t earn statement credits or redeem your rewards at any time. Instead, you’ll receive a reward coupon annually, redeemable for cash or merchandise at U.S. Costco warehouses.

Annual fee: $0 with your paid Costco membership ($60 for Gold Star and business members and $120 for Gold Star Executive members)

Related:

Top cash-back cards for gas

Card Gas category return
Annual fee Current bonus
Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi 4% on up to $7,000 per year, then 1% None, but requires Costco membership None
Sam’s Club Mastercard 5% on up to $6,000 per year, then 1% None, but requires Sam’s Club membership $45 statement credit when you open a new account and use your new card to make at least $45 in Sam’s Club purchases within 30 days
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card 3x, worth 3% – 5.25%* None 20,000 bonus points when you make $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months
Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card 3% if gas is your chosen category (on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club  purchases each quarter; then 1%) None $200 after you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express 3% at U.S. gas stations $95, waived the first year (see rates & fees) Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the card within the first six months of card membership, up to $200 back. Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the card within the first six months of card membership. Cash back received in the form of statement credits. Terms apply.

*Points are generally worth one cent each but are worth 1.5 cents towards flights if you also have a Wells Fargo Visa Signature Card and are worth 1.75 cents towards flights if you spend $50,000 a year or more on the Wells Fargo Visa Signature.

The information for the Sam’s Club Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Best cards for non-bonus spending

Winner: Citi Double Cash Card

(Photo by Josh Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Josh Gribben/The Points Guy)

Earning rates: Up to 2% cash back on all purchases, provided as 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay

Current bonus: None

Benefits: The Citi Double Cash earns an industry-high 2% back across all purchases for a no-annual-fee credit card. And for those who know you’ll be traveling eventually, this card is pairable with Citi ThankYou cards such as the Citi Premier® Card and Citi Prestige® Card. After all, you can convert your Double Cash rewards into ThankYou Points if you have one of these cards. Don’t use this card outside of the U.S. though, since it charges a 3% foreign transaction fee.

The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Annual fee: None

Related:

Top cash-back cards for non-bonus categories

Card Non-Bonus Return
Annual Fee Current bonus
Citi Double Cash Card Up to 2% (1% when you buy and 1% when you pay) None None
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card 1.5% None $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card 1.5x, worth 1.5% to 2.625%* $95 50,000 points after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
Discover it Miles 1.5% None Cash back is matched at the end of your first year

*Preferred Rewards members get a 25% to 75% bonus on earnings

The information for the Discover it Miles has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Best cards for rotating bonus categories

Winner: Chase Freedom Flex

Earning rates:

  • 5% cash back on up to $1,500 on combined purchases at merchants in the card’s quarterly bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 5% on Lyft rides through March 2022
  • 3% at restaurants
  • 3% on drugstore purchases
  • 1% on all other purchases

Current bonus: Earn $200 cash back after spending $500 on purchases during your first three months after account opening.

Benefits: You’ll have access to purchase protection and extended warranty protection when you pay for an eligible item with your card. Plus, you’ll get cell phone protection when you pay your monthly cell phone bill with your card.

Annual fee: None

Related:

Top cash-back cards for rotating bonus categories

Card Rotating category bonus Annual fee Current bonus Notes
Chase Freedom Flex 5% on up to $1,500 in bonus category purchases each quarter you activate None $200 after you spend $500 in the first 3 months of account opening No choice of categories; categories change quarterly
Discover it Cash Back 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases in rotating bonus categories each quarter you activate None Cash back is matched at the end of your first year No choice of categories; categories change quarterly
U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card 5% (for the first $2,000 spent per quarter in your two chosen categories combined, then 1%) None $150 after you spend $500 in the first 90 days Categories you choose from may rotate quarterly
Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card 3% – 5.25% (for the first $2,500 spent per quarter in your 3% and 2% categories combined, then 1% – 1.75%) None $200 cash bonus after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening Preferred Rewards members get a 25% to 75% bonus on earnings; categories you choose from quarterly don’t change

The information for the Discover it Cash Back has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Bottom line

Whether you enjoy earning travel rewards or cash back, it’s important to choose the best card for your spending habits. A simple way to start is to consider the categories in which you spend the most money. Then, make sure you have a card that earns bonus rewards in these categories.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday, please click here.

Additional reporting by Madison Blancaflor.

Featured image by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy. 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.