The best cash-back credit cards for each bonus category

Aug 19, 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 rewards credit cards. That is particularly true when it comes to the outsized sign-up bonuses offered by premium travel credit cards.

Related: The best travel rewards credit cards for each bonus category

But cash-back cards have been making some noise lately on category bonuses, with some cards offering returns of up to 6% on certain categories — all while charging nominal annual fees. And with more people putting travel on hold for the foreseeable future, cash back is a great alternative rewards currency. In part two of a three-part series, we look at some of the best cash-back cards for select spending categories.

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Best cards for each cash-back rewards credit card category

The information for the Cap One Savor, Wells Fargo Propel and Chase Freedom 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 credit card category

Card Best in which 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%*) $0
Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express Groceries from U.S. supermarkets (6% on up to $6,000 per year then 1%) $0 introductory annual fee for one year, then $95. Offer Expires 12/10/2020 (see rates & fees)
Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi Eligible Gas (4% for the first $7,000 per year, then 1% thereafter) $0, 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) $0
Chase Freedom Rotating categories (5% return on up to $1,500 each quarter) $0

*Points are normally worth 1 cent each but are worth 1.5 cents if you also have a Wells Fargo Visa Signature® Card and are worth 1.75 cents if you spend $50,000 a year or more on the Wells Fargo Visa Signature. 

Although the above table shows our top cash-back rewards card for each spending category, often multiple cards perform well — and may even perform better — depending on your particular spending patterns and lifestyle. As such, for each spending category we’ll present the cards you should consider if you spend a significant amount in that spending category.

Best cards for dining and entertainment

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

Winner: Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card

Return: Earn unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment.

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

Why it’s the best option: Earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and 1% cash back on all other purchases. 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 reading:

Top cash-back cards for dining and entertainment

Card Dining category return
Entertainment category return Annual fee Welcome 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 after you spend $500 in the first three months
Sony Visa Credit Card 2% or less 5% or less None $50 when you use the card within the first 60 days, plus $50 more after you spend $500 within the first 60 days
Uber Visa Card 3% (5% on Uber Eats) 1% None $100 after you spend $500 in the first 90 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

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

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)

Return: Earn 3x points on travel, including flights, hotels, homestays, car rentals, transit, gas station purchases and ride hailing services. Rewards can be redeemed for more than just cash back, but all redemption options generally are worth the same. Other options include travel, gift cards and charity donations.

You can redeem rewards for airfare at 1.5 cents each on the Wells Fargo travel portal when you own another card that earns Go Far Rewards points, such as 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, which would make 3x points worth as much as 5.25 cents per dollar when redeemed for airfare.

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

Benefits: You’ll also earn 3x points on dining and select streaming services, and 1x on all other purchases. You’ll also enjoy cell phone protection.

Annual fee: $0

Related reading:

Top cash-back cards for general travel

Card Travel category return Annual fee Sign-up 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® 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 in the first 90 days
Uber Visa Credit Card 3% on hotels and airfare None $100 after you spend $500 in the first 90 days
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card 2x, worth 2% – 3.5%** $95 50,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days

*Points are normally worth 1 cent each but are worth 1.5 cents if you also have a Wells Fargo Visa Signature® Card and are worth 1.75 cents 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

(Photo by The Points Guy)
(Photo by The Points Guy)

Return: Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%).

Current bonus: Earn a $300 statement credit after spending $3,000 in purchases within the first 6 months. Offer Expires 12/10/2020

Benefits: You’ll also earn 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit and 1% back on other purchases. This card is eligible for enrollment in Amex Offers and offers return protection for recent purchases.

Annual fee: $95, waived the first year (see rates and fees)

Related reading:

Top cash-back cards for groceries

Card Grocery category return Annual fee Sign-up bonus/welcome offer
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) $300 statement credit after spending $3,000 in purchases within the first 6 months. Offer Expires 12/10/2020. Terms Apply.
Chase Freedom Unlimited  5% on up to $12,000 spent on groceries your first year $0 $200 after you spend $500 in the first three months
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card 5% at Amazon and Whole Foods 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. supermarket, then 1% None (see rates & fees) $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months. Terms Apply.

The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited 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)

Return: Earn 4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year (1% thereafter). This is available worldwide, not just at Costco gas stations. The 4% bonus rate will not be applied to gas purchased at superstores, supermarkets, convenience stores and warehouse clubs other than Costco, or for fuel used for non-automobile purposes.

Current sign-up bonus: None

Benefits: Earn 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases, 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco (in-store and online) and 1% cash back on all other purchases. You’ll also enjoy extended warranty protection and there are no foreign transaction fees. 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 reading:

Top cash-back cards for gas

Card Gas category return
Annual fee Welcome bonus
Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi 4% on up to $7,000 per year, then 1% (on eligible gas) None, but requires Costco membership None
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 three months.
Bank of America 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 the first 90 days
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express 3% at U.S. gas stations $95, waived the first year (see rates & fees) $300 statement credit after spending $3,000 in purchases within the first 6 months. Offer Expires 12/10/2020. Terms apply.

*Points are normally worth 1 cent each but are worth 1.5 cents if you also have a Wells Fargo Visa Signature Card and are worth 1.75 cents if you spend $50,000 a year or more on the Wells Fargo Visa Signature.

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)

Return: 2% cash back (1% when you buy and 1% when you pay) on all purchases, with no limits.

Current sign-up 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 — you can convert your Double Cash rewards into ThankYou Points if you have one of these cards. Don’t use it for non-bonus spending outside of the U.S., since it charges a 3% foreign transaction fee.

The information for the Citi Prestige 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.

Annual fee: $0

Related reading:

Top cash-back cards for non-bonus categories

Card Non-Bonus Return
Annual Fee Welcome Bonus
Citi Double Cash Card 2% (1% when you buy, plus 1% when you pay) None None
Chase Freedom Unlimited 1.5% None $200 after you spend $500 in the first three months
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card 1.5% None $200 after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months from 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 the first 90 days
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

Best cards for rotating bonus categories

Winner: Chase Freedom

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

Return: You’ll earn 1% cash back on all purchases. That’s not very appealing. But the big appeal for Chase Freedom is the 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases at merchants in the card’s quarterly bonus categories. To qualify for the 5% cash back, you’ll need to activate the bonus categories every quarter. Chase offers numerous activation options, including a one-click email activation the issuer will send you every quarter.

Current sign-up bonus: Earn $200 cash back after you spend $500 on purchases during your first three months after account opening

Benefits: As part of the current bonus, you’ll also earn 5% back on the first $12,000 spent at grocery stores in your first year. Plus, earn 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022. Finally, you’ll have access to purchase protection and extended warranty protection when you pay for an eligible item with your card.

Annual fee: None

Related reading:

Top cash-back cards for rotating bonus categories

Card Rotating category bonus Annual fee Welcome bonus Notes
Chase Freedom 5% on up to $1,500 in bonus category purchases each quarter None $200 cash back after you spend $500 on purchases during your first three months after 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 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

 

Bottom line

Whether you enjoy earning travel rewards or cash back, it’s important to choose the best card for your top spending habits. There are so many card options out there, so hopefully this series helps you narrow down the list of the best credit cards out there that will help you hit your financial goals — whether that means saving up for a luxury redemption in the future or earning cash back to help you build up your savings.

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.