How to Choose the Best Cash Back Credit Card for You
Key points about: comparing cash back credit cards
Confirm the percentage of cash back rewards you can earn for each card, including lower rates for all purchases and higher rates for specific spending categories that may rotate.
Look for restrictions on earning and redeeming rewards, like limits to the rewards you can earn.
Determine which cards have an annual fee and whether the fee is worth the rewards.
There’s no overall best cash back credit card—the best cash back card is the one that’s right for you. But if you don’t know where to start, we can help. So let’s compare cash back credit cards, including the rewards and features that best align with how you plan to use your card.
Compare different cash back rewards
Cash back rewards credit cards generally use one of three rewards structures:
- Fixed-rate rewards. Fixed-rate rewards cards offer the same cash back rewards rate on every eligible purchase.
- Tiered rewards. Cards with a tiered-rewards structure offer a different cash back rewards rate depending on where you shop. Often, there’s a fixed rate for everyday purchases and a higher rate for purchases in bonus categories.
- Rotating rewards. Some cash back credit cards have tiered rewards with one tier that rotates different spending categories throughout the year. Often, you can earn bonus rewards up to a certain amount each quarter.
Compare features and fees
Simply looking for a cash back card with a high rewards rate might not be the best approach. Consider how a card’s features and fees may impact your overall earnings. For example, rewards redemption rules may limit what you earn, and based on a card’s fees, you’ll need to consider whether you’ll earn enough cash back rewards to offset the fees.
You can review a card’s terms and conditions for the following:
- Rewards redemption rules. There may be limitations on how and when you can redeem your cash back rewards. Look for a minimum-reward redemption requirement and check to see how you can redeem cash back rewards, such as redeeming for a statement credit or gift card.
- Introductory Interest Rates. Some cards offer an introductory 0% interest rate for purchases or balance transfers. These may be beneficial if you plan on making a large purchase or want to transfer a balance from a higher-interest credit card to a lower-interest card.
- Bonus rewards. Some credit cards also offer introductory bonus cash back rewards for a set period, like the first year you have the card.
Did you know?
New cardmembers may be eligible for extra cash back rewards as a perk for opening a credit card. The bonus eligibility, amount, and length of the promotion can vary by the card issuer and card. You may have to charge a minimum amount to start earning bonus cash back rewards, and there may be a limit to the cash back rewards you can earn. With Discover get an unlimited dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year, automatically. There is no limit to how much we’ll match.1
- Annual fee. Some card issuers charge a yearly fee to use their cards.
- Foreign transaction fee. Some card issuers charge aforeign transaction fee for purchases made outside the U.S. or online in a foreign currency.
- Balance transfer fee. Many balance transfers (transferring a balance from one or more credit cards to another credit card) are subject to a fee, often a percentage of the amount transferred.
- Cash advance fee. You can expect to pay a fee if you withdraw cash from your credit card account, sometimes a flat fee but usually a percentage of the cash advance amount.
- Late payment fee. If you don’t make your minimum payment by the due date, your card issuer will likely charge a late fee.
Consider how you’ll use your cash back credit card
Choosing the right cash back credit card is about finding a card that fits you. Before you decide, think about how you plan to use your card. Are you looking for a rewards program that pays out no matter how much or how little you spend? Or maybe you’re looking for a card that offers a higher cash back rewards rate for specific spending categories, like groceries or gas.
Determine if you prefer tracking your spending to earn a higher rewards rate for rotating categories or earning a flat rate on all purchases. If rotating categories align with your usual spending, you might earn the most cash back rewards with a tiered- or rotating-rewards card. But a fixed-rate cash back rewards card could be best if you don’t typically shop at the same stores or don’t want to keep track of different spending categories.
Also, if you don’t use your credit card frequently, consider a cash back credit card with no annual fee to maximize your savings.
Check your credit score
Your credit score can impact your ability to get a credit card, even influencing the offers and rates you receive. Knowing your credit score could help you determine which cash back credit card you may qualify for. Some cash back cards require good to excellent credit. But other options exist if you’re new to credit or rebuilding your credit, such as secured credit cards. Build your credit history with the Discover it Secured Credit Card.2
Applying for a cash back credit card
Applying for a cash back credit card isn’t any different from applying for other types of credit cards. Before applying, you can see if you’re pre-approved for a credit card based on your current credit score and other financial factors. Once you know what you may qualify for, you can apply for the cash back card that makes the most sense for you.
It’s essential to compare different cash back credit cards to understand the details of their rewards programs, features, fees, and introductory promotions. No matter which cash back card you choose, you’ll want to read the terms and conditions to make the most of your new card.
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