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The best cash-back credit cards of March 2021

This article is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. It has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of the issuers listed. Some of the offers you see on the page are from our partners like Citi and American Express, but our coverage is always independent. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page.

Cash-back credit cards earn points on your spending that can be redeemed as cash, either transferred to your bank account or applied as credit to your bill.

Depending on the card you use and the purchase you're making, cash-back credit cards can earn anywhere from 1% to 6% back. Even better, many cash-back cards have no annual fee, so you don't have to pay for the privilege of earning rewards.

The best cash-back credit cards in 2021:

Cash-back credit cardWho is this card best for?Editors' rating (out of 5)Annual feeLearn more
Citi® Double Cash CardAnyone5.0$0Details »
Discover it® SecuredLower credit scores5.0$0Details »
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® cardMost bonus categories4.85$0Details »
Chase Freedom Flex℠Highest cash back by category4.65NoneDetails »
Chase Freedom Unlimited®Strong intro APR offer4.60$0Details »
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American ExpressFamilies4.30$95 (waived the first year)Details »
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit CardCash back on dining4.25$95 Details »

If you're new to rewards credit cards and aren't interested in earning travel points or miles, a cash-back card is the best option for you. With cash-back cards, 1% back will always be 1 cent back, no matter what, and you can use your cash back to lower your monthly bill or transfer it to your checking account, among other options.

We're focused here on the rewards and perks that come with each card. These cards won't be worth it if you're paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it's important to pay your balance in full each month, make payments on time, and only spend what you can afford to pay.

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
13.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
Credit Score
Recommended credit score. Note that credit card lenders may use many different variations of credit score models when considering your application. A tooltip
Recommended credit score. Note that credit card lenders may use many different variations of credit score models when considering your application.
Excellent
A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star
5 out of 5 Stars
Editor's Rating
Our editor's ratings are primarily based on 3 things: simplicity, affordability, and value. Our credit card editor takes those factors into account, and comes up with a rating to best reflect how the card performs in that criteria - relative to other products we've reviewed. A tooltip
Our editor's ratings are primarily based on 3 things: simplicity, affordability, and value. Our credit card editor takes those factors into account, and comes up with a rating to best reflect how the card performs in that criteria - relative to other products we've reviewed.
Chevron icon It indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
13.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
Credit Score
Recommended credit score. Note that credit card lenders may use many different variations of credit score models when considering your application. A tooltip
Recommended credit score. Note that credit card lenders may use many different variations of credit score models when considering your application.
Excellent
A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star
5 out of 5 Stars
Editor's Rating
Our editor's ratings are primarily based on 3 things: simplicity, affordability, and value. Our credit card editor takes those factors into account, and comes up with a rating to best reflect how the card performs in that criteria - relative to other products we've reviewed. A tooltip
Our editor's ratings are primarily based on 3 things: simplicity, affordability, and value. Our credit card editor takes those factors into account, and comes up with a rating to best reflect how the card performs in that criteria - relative to other products we've reviewed.
Featured Reward
1% when you buy, plus 1% as you pay A tooltip
1% when you buy, plus 1% as you pay
2% cash back on all purchases
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Chevron icon It indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.
  • Details
  • Pros & Cons
    • Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
    • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
    • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
    • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
    • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
    • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
    • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.99% - 23.99% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
    Pros
    • No annual fee
    • Simple earning structure without confusing bonus categories
    Cons
    • Some cards earn higher rates of cash back on rotating categories
    • No sign-up bonus
    • If you don't have any account activity for 12 months, unredeemed rewards can expire
    • While it offers a 0% introductory APR for 18 months, that's only on balance transfers, not purchases, so you can't use it to fund a major expense without interest. After those 18 months, it's a 13.99% - 23.99% (Variable) APR.
    Read Our Review Read Our Review A looong arrow, pointing right

    Citi® Double Cash Card

    Best cash-back credit card overall

    In terms of spending rewards, the Citi® Double Cash Card is the best single cash-back card, with 1% back as you spend, and 1% back when you pay your bill. Since you should be paying your bill in full each month, you should earn 2% back on purchases each billing cycle. 

    Note that the Citi® Double Cash Card has a minimum redemption amount of $25, and if you don't have any account activity for 12 months, unredeemed rewards can expire. Still, 2% across the board is a good earning rate, and the $0 annual fee is attractive, if not uncommon. Whether that's worth passing on a sign-up bonus is up to you.

    Annual Fee
    See Terms
    Regular APR
    See Terms
    Credit Score
    No Credit History
    A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star
    5 out of 5 Stars
    Editor's Rating
    Annual Fee
    See Terms
    Regular APR
    See Terms
    Credit Score
    No Credit History
    A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star
    5 out of 5 Stars
    Editor's Rating
  • Details
  • Pros & Cons
    • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
    • It's a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
    • Establish your credit line with your tax return by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200 after being approved. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
    • Automatic reviews starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
    • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
    • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score
    • Intro Offer: We automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year.
    • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
    Pros
    • Offers cash-back rewards, which isn't a given for secured credit cards
    • Discover matches cash back after your first account year
    Cons
    • Other secured cards let you start with lower minimum security deposits
    • You must fund the security deposit from a bank account

    Discover it® Secured

    Best cash-back card for lower credit scores

    If you have a lower credit score or a limited credit history, you may not be approved for some of the other cash-back credit card options outlined in this article. In that case, the Discover it® Secured could make the most sense. 

    Since it's a secured credit card (meaning you put down money as a refundable deposit to "secure" your account), it's easier to get approved for this card.

    Annual Fee
    $0
    Regular APR
    14.49% to 24.99% variable
    Credit Score
    A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star
    4.84 out of 5 Stars
    Editor's Rating
    Chevron icon It indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.
    Annual Fee
    $0
    Regular APR
    14.49% to 24.99% variable
    Credit Score
    A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star
    4.84 out of 5 Stars
    Editor's Rating
    Featured Reward
    20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
    Intro APR
    0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months from account opening
    Chevron icon It indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.
  • Details
  • Pros & Cons
    • The information related to the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card has been collected by Business Insider and has not been reviewed by the issuer.
    • 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months
    • Earn 3x points o : Eating out and ordering in; Gas stations, rideshares, and transit; Flights, hotels, homestays, and car rentals; Popular streaming services.
    • Earn 1x points on other purchases
    • Intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months from account opening
    • Points that do not expire while your account remains open
    • No foreign currency conversion fees
    Pros
    • No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
    • Earns 3x points on a wide variety of purchases
    • Comes with a cell phone protection benefit
    Cons
    • While rewards are called points, they're effectively cash back
    Read Our Review Read Our Review A looong arrow, pointing right

    Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card

    Best cash-back card for bonus categories

    This card from Wells Fargo has one of the more attractive rewards programs you'll find from a no-annual-fee card. While it's marketed as earning "points," those points are worth 1 cent each and can be redeemed for cash, essentially making it a cash-back card.

    This card is not a travel card, and lacks many travel-centric perks you might see on other cards with an annual fee, like reimbursement for Global Entry or the ability to transfer points to airline or hotel partners.

    The welcome bonus, combined with the high 3% earning rate on popular spending categories including all dining and travel (and 1% on everything else), as well as the $0 annual fee, makes this a stellar option for a cash-back card. 

    Annual Fee
    None
    Regular APR
    14.99% – 23.74%
    Credit Score
    Good to Excellent
    A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star
    4.65 out of 5 Stars
    Editor's Rating
    Chevron icon It indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.
    Annual Fee
    None
    Regular APR
    14.99% – 23.74%
    Credit Score
    Good to Excellent
    A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star
    4.65 out of 5 Stars
    Editor's Rating
    Featured Reward
    $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
    Intro APR
    0% for the first 15 billing cycles
    Chevron icon It indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.
  • Details
  • Pros & Cons
    • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
    • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
    • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.
    • No annual fee.
    • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
    • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.
    Pros
    • No annual fee
    • Generous bonus cash-back categories
    • Great welcome bonus
    Cons
    • Booking through Ultimate Rewards portal can restrict outside earning potential
    • Varying percentages and rotating calendar categories require extra attention
    • 3% foreign transaction fees

    Chase Freedom Flex℠

    Highest cash back card, by category

    The Chase Freedom Flex℠ replaced the Chase Freedom in Chase's lineup of cash-back cards, and the good news is that it's even better than the original. Unlike the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, it earns 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in combined purchases within certain bonus categories each quarter of the year (activation is required).

    Sometimes there's just one major category per quarter, while other times there can be a few different ones. Past categories have included gas stations, local commuter transportation, department stores, grocery stores, drug stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and even Amazon. 

    The Chase Freedom Flex℠ also earns 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% back on dining and drugstores, and 1% back on everything else. These other bonus categories are exactly what you'll find on the Chase Freedom Unlimited®.

    Annual Fee
    $0
    Regular APR
    14.99%–23.74% variable APR
    Credit Score
    Good to Excellent
    A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star
    4.6 out of 5 Stars
    Editor's Rating
    Chevron icon It indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.
    Annual Fee
    $0
    Regular APR
    14.99%–23.74% variable APR
    Credit Score
    Good to Excellent
    A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star
    4.6 out of 5 Stars
    Editor's Rating
    Featured Reward
    $200 after spending $500 in the first three months from account opening
    Chevron icon It indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.
  • Details
  • Pros & Cons
    • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
    • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
    • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
    • No annual fee
    • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
    • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
    Pros
    • Solid flat cash-back rate
    • You can combine cash-back rewards with Ultimate Rewards points if you have an eligible card
    • No annual fee
    Cons
    • Some other cards offer a higher rate of cash back on certain types of purchases
    Read Our Review Read Our Review A looong arrow, pointing right

    Chase Freedom Unlimited®

    Best credit card for 0% intro APR

    The Chase Freedom Unlimited® has no annual fee and often has 0% APR for the first 15 months on purchases. After that, there's a 14.99%–23.74% variable APR. If you have a major purchase ahead of you, that introductory offer can be useful.

    If you also have a premium card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you can pool your points from the two cards. Then, you'll be able to transfer the whole body of points to partnering frequent flyer programs or use them to book travel through Chase with a bonus.

    Plus, there are new bonus categories that can earn up to 5% cash back.

    Annual Fee
    $95 (waived the first year)
    Regular APR
    13.99% to 23.99% variable APR
    Credit Score
    A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star
    4.3 out of 5 Stars
    Editor's Rating
    Chevron icon It indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.
    Annual Fee
    $95 (waived the first year)
    Regular APR
    13.99% to 23.99% variable APR
    Credit Score
    A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star
    4.3 out of 5 Stars
    Editor's Rating
    Featured Reward
    $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months
    Intro APR
    0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from account opening
    Chevron icon It indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.
  • Details
  • Pros & Cons
    • Earn a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
    • $0 introductory annual fee for one year, then $95.
    • 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 at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more).
    • 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
    • Plan It® gives the option to select purchases of $100 or more to split up into monthly payments with a fixed fee.
    • Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
    • Terms Apply.
    Pros
    • Generous bonus rewards, especially at US supermarkets
    • One of a small handful of credit cards that offer bonus rewards on select streaming services
    • Intro APR offer
    Cons
    • Unlike many other cash-back cards, it charges an annual fee
    • If you spend more than $6,000 at US supermarkets each year, you'll want to use another card once you reach that cap
    Read Our Review Read Our Review A looong arrow, pointing right

    Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

    Best cash-back card for families

    If you're looking for an American Express cash-back card, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is the best option. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers a 0% intro APR on purchases for the first 12 months, before switching to a 13.99% to 23.99% variable APR (See rates).

    The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express comes with a handful of travel and purchase protections as well.

    The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers the highest rewards rate available for grocery spending, although there is a $6,000 annual spending cap on that 6% rate. After that, you earn 1%.

    Annual Fee
    $95
    Regular APR
    15.99% - 24.99% variable APR
    Credit Score
    Excellent
    A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star
    4.25 out of 5 Stars
    Editor's Rating
    Chevron icon It indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.
    Annual Fee
    $95
    Regular APR
    15.99% - 24.99% variable APR
    Credit Score
    Excellent
    A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star A five pointed star
    4.25 out of 5 Stars
    Editor's Rating
    Featured Reward
    Earn a one-time $300 cash bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months
    Chevron icon It indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.
  • Details
  • Pros & Cons
    • Unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®) and 1% on all other purchases
    • No Foreign Transaction Fees
    • One-time $300 cash bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
    Pros
    • High cash-back rate for dining and entertainment
    • No foreign transaction fees
    Cons
    • Many other cash-back cards don't charge an annual fee (but at least this one's waived for the first year)
    Read Our Review Read Our Review A looong arrow, pointing right

    Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

    Best card for cash back on dining

    If dining and cooking are your thing, the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card is the winner. The Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card makes it easy to earn cash back quickly.

    The downside of this card is that it has a $95 annual fee. The earning rate may make up for the fee in some cases, though. 

    Frequently asked questions

    How do I choose the best cash-back card?

    A good cash-back card is one with generous bonus categories, since the goal is to earn as much cash back as possible on your spending. The more bonus categories, the better, and the higher the cash-back rate, the better.

    That said, the best cash-back card is different for everyone. To find the best one for you, you'll want to look for a few things:

    • The cash-back rate for your common spending categories. Extra cash back for gas isn't much use if you don't drive. Consider how you intend to use this card, and look at the rate for those spending categories.
    • How you redeem your cash back. Make sure you're clear on what you're earning. Is it statement credit? Cash? Points? If points, can they be combined with or transferred to other cards you have, or brands you like?
    • The annual fee. An annual fee may make or break your choice. Are you willing to pay one? And more importantly, can you afford it comfortably — or will it be effectively wiped out by the cash back you'll earn in a year?

    We don't mention the APR because the rate only applies if you're carrying a balance on your credit card. We recommend applying for a cash-back credit card intending to pay off the balance in full each month. For other categories of credit cards, like balance-transfer cards, the APR might be a more important consideration.

    If this all sounds too complicated, you can't go wrong by using the Citi® Double Cash Card, which has no annual fee and a flat earning rate of 1% upon spending, then another 1% upon paying your bill.

    What are the different types of cash-back cards?

    • Flat rate — These cards earn the same rate of cash back on all purchases. For example, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® earns 1.5% back on most spending (the Freedom Unlimited also recently started offering bonus cash back on eligible travel, grocery, and drugstore purchases).
    • Select bonus categories — Many other cash-back cards offer bonus cash back (more than 1%) on select spending categories. For example, with the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card, you'll earn 4% back on dining and entertainment, and 2% back at grocery stores.
    • Rotating categories — A few cards, including the Chase Freedom Flex℠, offer bonus cash back on a selection of spending categories that changes every quarter of the year. These cards have a cap on how much bonus cash back you can earn each quarter — with the Chase Freedom Flex℠, you'll earn 5% back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter (then 1%).
    • Some cards are starting to offer yet a fourth format for delivering cash-back rewards: pick your own bonus categories from a list of options. These cards include the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card and the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card.

    What credit card offers the most cash back?

    If you don't want to overthink it, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card is a good go-to. It offers 3% back on a wide variety of categories, including travel and eating out.

    That's not to say you couldn't earn more cash back with another card, though. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express earns 6% back on the first $6,000 you spend each calendar year at US supermarkets (then 1% back), and 6% back on select US streaming services, for example, and the Capital One Savor is the most rewarding pick for dining out with 4% back.

    How does earning cash back work?

    Cash-back credit cards earn you a percentage of cash back — usually at least 1%— on every dollar you spend (or more with cards that have bonus cash-back categories). You can transfer the cash back you earn from these cards to a bank account or use them to wipe charges from your credit card statement.

    Credit card issuers also allow you to redeem the cash back you earn for gift cards and merchandise. If you're trying to put money back in your wallet, our top recommendations are to transfer your cash back to a banking account or use it to reduce the amount owed on your credit card statement.

    Do cash-back cards actually give you cash?

    Cash-back credit cards do give cash, but that's not to say you'll necessarily see the physical cash. You're typically awarded cash back as a credit that you can use to cancel out purchases from your credit card statement, or to redeem for gift cards or merchandise online.

    Should I earn cash back or points?

    It depends on what you want to do with your rewards. If you want to put money back in your bank account, a cash-back credit card will help you accomplish just that — and you usually won't have to pay a very high annual fee, if you have to pay one at all.

    On the other hand, if you're hoping to earn rewards that you can redeem for travel, a card that earns points is more up your alley. Our picks for best points-earning rewards cards earn either Amex Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Rewards points, or Capital One miles. You can transfer all three of these currencies to travel partners and redeem them for things like free flights. (Note that while Capital One calls its rewards currency "miles," they aren't miles with a given airline program.)

    If you're willing to juggle multiple credit card accounts, there's value in having both cash-back and points-earning cards. If you prefer a single-card strategy, evaluate your goals and consider how much you're willing to pay in annual fees to make the best decision for your situation.

    Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.

    Please note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they're subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.

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

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