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Best cash-back credit cards for October 2021

Earn more rewards every time you spend.

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The right cash-back credit card (and some cards with hidden perks) can help you get the most out of your everyday purchases. If you already use a credit card at the grocery store or gas station, you can earn a nice chunk of bonus cash with a cash-back credit card. The money you get back is then deposited straight into your bank account or applied as a credit on your monthly bill. No need to transfer points, convert or strategically redeem anything to get your rewards. If you spend money on eligible purchases, you earn real dollars and cents. It's that simple.

Depending on the card issuer, the rewards rate and the level of your spending, you can earn anywhere from 2% to 5% overall on your combined purchases -- sometimes even more. So if, say, you spend $15,000 annually, that can translate to between $300 and $750 in credit card rewards per year. And depending on the card, you could be eligible for bonus rewards, a cash advance or a sign-up bonus -- there are plenty of options out there, especially if you have good credit. Check out our picks of the best cash-back credit cards below. This list, which we'll update periodically, starts with cards with the most straightforward rewards structures and ends with those that are more complex. 

Best overall cash-back card

Card Highlights
Intro BonusEarn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
APR14.99 - 23.74% Variable
Recommended Credit Excellent/Good
Reward Rates
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 3% on dining and drugstores.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APR0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Additional Details
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Balance Transfer APR14.99 - 23.74% Variable
Foreign Transaction Fees 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars
Penalty APR Up to 29.99%
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 3% on dining and drugstores.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Our Take

Most of the best cash-back cards offer a simple flat rate and no annual fees. Until recently, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card gave you all of that -- a flat rate of 1.5% cash back on all purchases, without a spending limit, no annual fee and flexible redemption policies. In September 2020, however, Chase improved on that deal, adding a little bit of worthwhile complexity and ratcheting up the reward rates on travel through Chase (5%), dining (3%) and drugstore purchases (3%). While it's no longer the simplest, we think it's the best cash-back card for most people.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers a $200 bonus if you spend $500 or more during your first three months -- that's one of the lowest bonus spending thresholds among the cards profiled here. New card members also get 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (on up to $12,000) during the first year (not including Target or Walmart purchases). Note that the 5% cash back on travel is only for trips booked through the company's Chase Ultimate Rewards service. Though it offers a lower standard rate (1.5%) than the Citi® Double Cash Card (up to 2%; 1% when you buy, plus an additional 1% when you pay for those purchases), we think that flat 1.5% rate plus the higher category spending rates makes it the better card overall for most people. 

When to use this card

The Chase Freedom Unlimited delivers the goods whether it's the only card in your wallet or used to supplement a specific category card, like a travel credit card, which may offer higher bonus rewards for a particular type of purchase. Keep in mind that cards that offer higher rates on certain categories -- like the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card's* 4% for dining and entertainment -- may offer lower rates on other categories. As such, it pays to have that flat 1.5% cash back from the Freedom Unlimited for everyday purchases that don't fall into your other card's bonus categories.

Best flat-rate card for higher spenders

Card Highlights
Intro BonusN/A
APR13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)
Recommended Credit Excellent, Good
Reward Rates
  • Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APR0% intro for 18 months on Balance Transfers
Balance Transfer Fee 3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.
Balance Transfer APR13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)
Late Payment Fee Up to $40
Foreign Transaction Fees 3%
Penalty APR Up to 29.99% (Variable)
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.

Our Take

The Citi Double Cash Card is as simple as the Chase Freedom Unlimited, but it's one of the few cards that doesn't offer a sign-up bonus. The trade-off with the lack of a welcome bonus is an above-average cash-back rate.

When to use this card 

Like the Freedom Unlimited, the Citi Double Cash Card can be the only card in your wallet, or your preferred card for whenever you buy something outside of a bonus category.

Worth noting is that this card does have a 3% transaction fee for anytime you make a foreign transaction. It does offer a cash advance, but the fee is either $10 or 5% of each cash advance, whichever is greater.

Best category card/best for online shopping

Card Highlights
Intro Bonus$200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
APR13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Recommended Credit Excellent/Good
Reward Rates
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases)
  • Earn automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases)
  • Earn unlimited 1% on all other purchases.
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APR0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APR0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any BTs made in the first 60 days. A 3% fee (min. $10) applies.
Balance Transfer Fee Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
Balance Transfer APR13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Late Payment Fee Up to $40
Foreign Transaction Fees 3%
Penalty APR up to 29.99% APR
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases)
  • Earn automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases)
  • Earn unlimited 1% on all other purchases.

Our Take

The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card* is one of the "rotating bonus category" cards, meaning that the category that generates the 3% reward can be changed over the course of the year. However, unlike most other bonus cards that have set quarterly rotations or a rewards program, the Bank of America version lets you choose your category (up to once a calendar month) from a list of six: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement and furnishings. 

When to use this card 

Given the flexibility of the rewards program, I recommend using this cash rewards credit card to fill a gap in your spending strategy. If you have a flat-rate card, a card for groceries and one for dining and travel, but you spend over $100 a month shopping online, you can sign up for the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card, choose "online shopping" and treat it as your online spending card. I use the online shopping category as an example because it's less common than categories like gas or dining, but you can obviously pick the category that makes the most sense for your spending habits.

I don't recommend this cash rewards credit card if you're doing a lot of overseas travel. It has a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Rewards comparison

Other bonus category cards, like the Chase Freedom Flex℠ or Discover it® Cash Back*, rotate through different quarterly categories over the course of the year, making it difficult to maximize rewards or pair the card with other cards. That makes the flexibility and choice of the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card stand out.

Best for Amazon and Whole Foods shoppers

Card Highlights
Intro BonusUp to $150 Amazon Gift Card instantly upon approval
APR14.24% to 22.24% Variable
Recommended Credit N/A
Reward Rates
  • 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market with eligible Prime membership*
  • 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores*
  • 1% back on all other purchases*
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Additional Details
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Balance Transfer APR14.24% to 22.24% Variable
Late Payment Fee Up to $39
Foreign Transaction Fees None
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market with eligible Prime membership*
  • 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores*
  • 1% back on all other purchases*

Our Take

The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card* is a must-have for anyone who shops regularly on Amazon. I'm not even going to offer a minimum recommended threshold as there's no downside and few other cards offer Amazon-specific discounts.

Given that you can buy just about anything on Amazon, 5% back on the popular online retailer is pretty sweet. The card also throws in 2% at restaurants, gas stations and drug stores, plus 1% on all other everyday purchases. While Amazon offers a basic, non-Prime member card, the Amazon Rewards Visa Card*, with 3% back on Amazon purchases, I'm focusing on the Prime rewards card since I assume that if you're making a significant amount of eligible purchases each month (over $250) at Amazon or Whole Foods, you're most likely a Prime member.

When to use this card 

If you shop a ton at Amazon and Whole Foods and most of the rest of your spending is at restaurants and on gas, the Amazon Prime Rewards card could be your only cash-back card. Outside of that specific spending profile, though, I recommend using this card like the others -- as a supplement to a flat-rate card to earn cash for Amazon and Whole Foods purchases. 

Rewards comparison

The only other card you might want to use for Amazon purchases is the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card, which offers 3% back on online shopping (if you select that bonus category; 3% cash back on up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases, then 1%) and includes Amazon and a bunch of other online retailers. The percentage is 2% less than Amazon's card, but if you shop at a variety of online retailers, this could make more sense. With some quick math, you'll see that if more than half of your online shopping is non-Amazon, the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card reaps the most rewards. Alternatively, to get the most cash back, sign up for both no-annual-fee cards and use the Bank of America version for non-Amazon shopping.

Best for regular Apple shoppers, instant rewards and privacy

Card Highlights
Intro BonusN/A
APR10.99% to 21.99% (Variable)
Recommended Credit N/A
Reward Rates
  • Apple Card gives you unlimited 3% Daily Cash back on everything you buy at Apple
  • With every purchase you make using your Apple Card with Apple Pay, you get 2% Daily Cash back
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Apple Card gives you unlimited 3% Daily Cash back on everything you buy at Apple
  • With every purchase you make using your Apple Card with Apple Pay, you get 2% Daily Cash back

Our Take

The Apple Card has a unique rewards program structure, offering 3% on Apple as well as at select merchants, such as Uber and Walgreens, when you use Apple Card with Apple Pay (an eclectic combination of categories to say the least), 2% on purchases made with Apple Pay and 1% on everything else. Unless you're an Apple super shopper and everyday Uber user, the 3% category isn't going to stand out much. Plus, having to use Apple Pay to hit 2% compares poorly with the Citi Double Cash Card, which offers up to 2% cash back on everything (1% when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases), no matter how you pay. There are some advantages to Apple's card, though.

The Apple Card's privacy policy states that it will "never share or sell your data to third parties for marketing or advertising," a significant gesture for those concerned about their personal data. The Apple Card's reward structure is also distinct in that the cash back appears immediately in your account, hitting your balance at the end of each day. So if you can't wait a month or two to redeem points and another four to five days for a statement credit to post to your account, the Apple Card's instant rewards could be appealing. 

When to use this card 

If the primary 3% category (Apple, Uber and Walgreens) applies to a lot of your purchases, this is a good cash-back option. But, the 2% for Apple Pay is a little flimsy given that not all retailers accept Apple Pay, while the Citi Double Cash Card offers up to 2% no matter what. This card is primarily for those who are interested in the card's privacy policy and instant rewards. 

Finally, I should point out that Apple has made a big deal out of the low APR and lack of fees for things like late payments, but given our operating assumption that you're paying off your balance every month on time anyway, I see that as less of a differentiating factor. Note that the Apple Card doesn't report credit activity to all three major credit bureaus (only TransUnion), so if you're trying to build your credit score, it will have less of an impact.

Best for big grocery shoppers

See Rates and Fees Terms Apply
Card Highlights
Intro BonusEarn a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
APR13.99%-23.99% Variable
Recommended Credit Excellent,Good
Reward Rates
  • 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%)
  • 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions
  • 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more
  • 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations
  • 1% Cash Back on other purchases
Annual Fee$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
Intro Purchase APR0% on purchases for 12 months
Additional Details
Balance Transfer Fee N/A
Late Payment Fee Up to $40
Foreign Transaction Fees 2.7% of each transaction after conversion to US dollars.
Penalty APR 29.99% Variable
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%)
  • 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions
  • 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more
  • 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations
  • 1% Cash Back on other purchases

Our Take

The headline rate is 6% at US supermarkets, with a cap limit of $6,000 annually, after which the rate goes to 1%. If you're hitting the limit, that 6% will reward you with $360 a year. The rewards cap is a little annoying, but given that it works out to $500 per month on groceries, it usually won't come into play unless you're a family of three or more. The Blue Cash Preferred card also offers 6% cash back on select US streaming subscriptions, but with most Americans maxing out at about $40 to $50 a month on streaming services (and many spend less than that), that part of the reward only amounts to around $35 of annual value. 

For most, the $300 statement credit bonus threshold is easy to hit (spend $3,000 in the first six months), so you can basically count it as a sure thing.

When to use this card

Given the generous 6% cash-back rate, you only need to spend about $140 a month on US supermarket purchases to make up for the ongoing annual fee and about $200 a month to earn the same amount of rewards as you would with a 2% cash-back card. So if you spend more than $200 a month on groceries and streaming subscriptions, this becomes a profitable card. The real sweet spot is between about $350 and $500 monthly grocery spend at US supermarkets, where you're maxing out that 6% cash back (on up to $6,000 annually, then 1%). 

I should also note that there's a no-annual-fee version of the Blue Cash Preferred card, called Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. But considering the bonus difference ($300 statement credit after spending $3,000 in the first six months for Preferred versus $200 statement credit after you spend $2,000 in the first six months for Everyday) and the huge cash-back difference (6% at US supermarkets versus 3%, respectively), I was hard-pressed to find many situations where the no-annual-fee card would be better.

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

Best for dining and entertainment

Card Highlights
Intro Bonus$300 after you spend $3000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
APR15.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
Recommended Credit Excellent, Good
Reward Rates
  • Earn unlimited 4% cash back on dining, entertainment and popular streaming services
  • Earn 3% at grocery stores
  • Earn 1% on all other purchases
Annual Fee$95
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APRN/A
Balance Transfer Fee None for balances transferred at the Transfer APR.
Balance Transfer APR15.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
Late Payment Fee Up to $40
Foreign Transaction Fees None
Penalty APR None
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn unlimited 4% cash back on dining, entertainment and popular streaming services
  • Earn 3% at grocery stores
  • Earn 1% on all other purchases

Our Take

The $300 bonus on the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card* is a nice incentive to sign up and effectively cancels out the annual fee for the first three years. But keep in mind that the $3,000 bonus threshold in the first three months is fairly high, so you might need to use the card for nonbonus category spending in those initial months to make sure you hit it. You'll be sacrificing a few percentage points of rewards from other cards, but it's worth it to make sure you don't forgo $300 -- just do the math to ensure it makes sense.

The Savor card's headline rate is the 4% you get on dining, entertainment and popular streaming services, which includes bars and restaurants for dining and "tickets to a movie, play, concert, sporting event, tourist attraction, theme park, aquarium, zoo, dance club, pool hall or bowling alley" for entertainment. If you're like most American consumers who spend more on dining than entertainment, then note the emphasis on that part of the bonus. 

When to use this card

This card makes sense if you're spending more than about $300 per month on dining and entertainment. If that's the case, I recommend only putting those purchases on it. There's no reason to take the 1% cash back rate on nondining and entertainment purchases. For those, use your 1.5% or 2% card.

FAQs

What are the best cash-back credit cards?

With a minimum of unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, Chase Freedom Unlimited is our pick for best cash-back card overall. Citi Double Cash Card earns the highest marks as the best flat-rate card for higher spenders.

How do cash-back credit cards work?

Cash-back credit cards offer cardholders rewards on their spending in the form of statement credits or cash. A statement credit is a reduction in the amount due to the credit card company on your monthly bill. Note that rewards are not always available the month you earn them -- they are usually applied to your balance by credit card issuers after one or two billing cycles.

The redemption process for cash-back credit cards is either automatic or very simple. Some cards, like the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card, automatically apply cash rewards to your statement balance each month. Others require you to log in and redeem available rewards points for statement credits. Most points don't expire, but you will lose them if you close the account before redeeming them. Some, like Citi, expire only after one year of account inactivity. 

Cash-back credit cards generally fall into four primary categories: flat-rate, tiered, rotating or choose your own. 

Flat-rate cards offer the same rate for every purchase. Those are cards like the Citi Double Cash, which offers 2% back on every purchase (1% when you buy plus an additional 1% when you pay for those purchases).

Tiered cards offer a different rewards rate for different categories of spending. One example is the Amazon Prime Rewards credit card, which offers 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% at restaurants, drug stores and gas stations and a 1% rewards rate on everything else. 

Rotating category cards offer different rewards each quarter, determined by the card issuer. Choose-your-own category cards allow you to choose your rewards category, like the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card, which offers 3% back on the category of your choice, 2% back on grocery stores and wholesale clubs (on up to $2,500 per quarter in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases, then 1%), and 1% on everything else.

Should you get a cash-back credit card?

We recommend cash-back credit cards for everyone. Given that even the best cards don't charge an annual fee, most of them offer a sign-up bonus and the redemption process is very simple, there are essentially no downsides to holding a cash-back credit card. 

The principal drawbacks are paying interest on a statement balance (which we strongly advise against) and feeling compelled to increase your spending due to the rewards structure. Studies have shown that when paying with a credit card, consumers tend to spend substantially more than when paying with cash, up to 83% more in some cases. This is why it's important to carefully monitor whether or not you're spending more when you use a credit card. If you spend 50% more on dining after getting 4% cash back on a dining credit card, you're ultimately not doing yourself any good.

Cash-back credit cards are also ideal for those who want just one type of rewards card versus many. For instance, one of the flat-rate credit cards, like the Citi Double Cash card, would serve you well as the only credit card in your wallet. On the contrary, if you're OK with paying multiple bills and using different cards for different purchases, cash-back cards are complementary to other types of rewards cards. Say you have a travel rewards credit card, for example, that gives you 5x points on flights. You can use that card for your flight reservations, and your flat-rate cash-back card for everything else.

How to choose a cash-back credit card

To choose the best cash-back credit card for you, the most important thing is to have a clear idea of how you're already spending money each month. We recommend you chart your spending over the past three to six months and break out expenditures into categories, such as dining, groceries and gas. (Budgeting sites like Mint -- or even your current bank -- do this tracking automatically.) Once you identify the categories in which you have the highest, most consistent spending, use the charts in our list to determine which card will net you the highest return. Then, after signing up for a credit card, compare your spending across the same time period with the period before having the credit card. If you notice discrepancies, especially large ones, consider using cash for those purchases or simply take note of how you used to spend and match it up. 

Only after you determine which card has the best reward rate for your categories should you take a look at the additional perks and offers, like sign-on bonuses, foreign transaction fees or rental car coverage, and determine which -- if any -- of them apply to you and how important they are. Some might seem valuable but not actually save you any money, like a card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees when you never travel abroad. 

Annual percentage rates determine the amount of interest you'll pay over the course of the year on any balance you keep on your credit card. Given that our advice is to use your rewards credit card in place of cash and to never carry a balance, APRs are the least influential factor. Most credit cards offer a variable APR in the 15% to 25% range depending on the card and your particular credit score. Compared with reward rates, those numbers are high. Like five to 10 times higher than average rewards rates. If you maintain a balance on your credit card statement, you're erasing those rewards and then some, which is why we recommend paying off your balance in full each month.

However, 55% of Americans don't pay off the balance of their credit card every month. If you have any trouble paying off your credit card bill each month, prioritize that before all else. Only after you've relieved yourself of debt and no longer pay interest fees should you consider a rewards card. 

Your credit card choice may also be affected by your credit score. Most of the cards we recommend require a good or excellent credit score, which is typically around 670 or higher. If you don't meet the credit criteria required, there are credit cards available that are specifically for those trying to rebuild credit, like secured credit cards.

How to maximize cash-back rewards

The most important strategy for maximizing cash-back rewards might be surprising: Don't overspend. Once you start earning points and bonuses and rewards for spending, you may be tempted to try to rack up your rewards, but that will get you further away from your financial goals, not closer. Cash-back rewards are a great way to earn a little money back on current spending, but as soon as you spend more than you normally would just to get rewards, the net value will be negative. One way to avoid overspending is by using a budgeting app that keeps you honest, like You Need A Budget

The second tip is to never miss a payment. If you have to pay a late payment fee or an interest payment for an outstanding balance, your losses will eclipse your rewards very quickly. We recommend paying off your credit card bill twice a month to be safe, or opting in to automatic payments.

Finally, to maximize cash-back rewards, consider adding two or three different credit card offers to your wallet. Cards often target just one or two categories, so you may need to enlist several cards to maximize the returns on your spending. That being said, you also need to factor in the time and energy you spend focusing on credit card rewards. At a certain point, the perfect strategy may be too time-consuming and stressful.

Different types of credit cards to consider

Cash-back credit cards are good for the majority of consumers, but there are also other types of reward credit cards to consider. Travel rewards credit cards, for example, are great for those who travel often or who want to upgrade their travel experience with perks like airline lounge access or upgrades. Travel credit cards reward cardholders with points or miles, like Chase's Ultimate Rewards points or American Express' Membership Rewards points, that can be redeemed for travel purchases. 

For those who need to build or rebuild their credit score, secured credit cards and student credit cards are the best options. While many cash-back and travel rewards cards require good-to-excellent credit, these other types of cards help those with lower scores build your credit over time. Secured credit cards require an up-front deposit in the amount of the credit line, so you're basically making a loan to the bank in exchange for credit history. Student cards are designed to help young people without a credit history build credit for the first time. Both usually come with a low credit limit and higher likelihood of approval.

Read more: Best credit cards for back-to-school shopping

There are also "club" credit cards that are only available to people who are members of a credit union, brokerage or other type of membership club. Those include credit union credit cards like the Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card, retail cards like the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi, the Target RedCard and the Sam's Club® Mastercard® or the Fidelity cash-back credit cards for Fidelity account holders. 

Finally, business cards, like the Chase Ink Business line of cards or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, are for small businesses and even contractors and freelancers and geared toward logging business expenses. A business credit card will usually offer rewards for categories such as internet and phone bill expenses, office supplies and other business-related purchases.

How we picked the best cash-back credit cards

To determine the best cash-back credit cards, we researched 18 popular cards and looked for those that offer the best overall financial value. This means we looked at net overall value for each rewards credit card, rather than prioritizing perks or offers that quickly lose value after the initial sign-up. In the end, the rewards credit card with the largest sign-on offer will not always be deemed the best card. 

We prioritized the cash-back credit cards that reward broad spending categories where Americans tend to spend significant amounts of money (like dining, travel and grocery shopping), instead of narrow categories like streaming services or "home improvement." Then we compared reward offerings with potential returns based on hypothetical spending budgets. Those hypothetical budgets are based primarily on the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Expenditure Survey, with subjective input from several members of CNET's staff, as well. 

In the end, we chose eight high-value options from the crowded market. Some are no-annual-fee, flat-rate credit cards that earn the same amount on all purchases. Some require you make a certain qualifying purchase to start earning cash-back rewards. Some offer a sign-up bonus reward as well as cash back. Some are limited to specific spending categories (such as whether it's a grocery purchase, gas purchase, dining, transit or travel) but have a higher rewards rate, while others charge an annual fee. We then outlined important information for each card, including whether it has a transfer fee, bonus redemption thresholds and introductory APR. We also specified general credit requirements for eligibility (if you find you aren't eligible for a card that offers cash-back rewards, try a student credit card first). 

More personal finance advice

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, click here.

*All information about the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card, Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, Amazon Rewards Visa Card, Discover it Cash Back, and the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

Disclaimer: The information included in this article, including program features, program fees and credits available through credit cards to apply to such programs, may change from time to time and are presented without warranty. When evaluating offers, please check the credit card provider's website and review its terms and conditions for the most current offers and information. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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