2% Cash Back Credit Cards — 17 Best Unlimited Cash Back Offers (2017)

By: Brittney Mayer • July 10, 2017

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As early as the 18th century, merchants were rewarding customers with free products in exchange for brand loyalty. One of the first programs required customers to send in proofs of purchase from a specific product or line in exchange for a premium promotional item. The success of these programs caused a wide range of businesses to adopt them. When the credit card industry saw rapid growth in the latter half of the 20th century, major card issuers experimented with their own loyalty programs.

Among the most popular credit card loyalty programs have been cash back rewards. At their peak, some companies offered flat 5% rates on every purchase. That’s not common today, but a wide variety of great cash back credit cards still exist, including some offering up to 2% unlimited cash back on everything and 5% back in rotating quarterly categories.

5% in Rotating Categories | 2% on Everything | $100 – $500 Cash Bonus

Cards with 5% Cash Back in Rotating Categories

In addition to having no annual fee, these cards offer higher cash back rewards in specific categories — up to a limit — with categories rotating every quarter. For those whose spending fits into these categories, a card based on the category system may be more profitable than one that offers only flat-rate rewards.

For Consumers

Does your spending change depending on the season, increasing around the holidays, or centering around home improvement in the spring? A card with rotating categories is often a great way to increase rewards for those whose purchasing aligns with the set categories.

Each card will also come with its own issuer perks and bonuses, so be sure to compare the different offers for what fits your spending habits. Additionally, no annual fee does not mean no fees at all. Make sure to read your cardholder agreement carefully to determine additional card and service fees.

For Businesses

4. SunTrust Business Credit Card

If the clerks at the local office supply store know you or your office manager by name, the SunTrust Business Credit Card may be for you. Cardholders earn 5% cash back on the first $2,000 they spend on office supplies and fuel for the first year, then 3% for those categories.

  • 5% cash back on office supply and fuel purchases in first 12 months
  • 1% unlimited cash back on all qualifying purchases
  • No annual fee
  • Introductory 0% APR for first 12 months

Signing up is quick and easy, requiring a simple online application. The process takes just minutes for the majority of qualified applicants.

For Students

Being a college student often comes with many new experiences, like being away from home for the first time or doing your own laundry. It’s also a great time to start building credit. This card was designed with students — and their undeveloped credit histories — in mind. It has no annual fee and offers the same 5% rotating category perks as the consumer cards.

No matter which type of cash back program you choose, make sure to pay your bill in full and on time every month. Not only will you avoid late fees, but you’ll start building a good credit history.

Cards with 2% Cash Back on Everything, Everywhere

While 2% may not sound like a lot, that little bit can add up fast. In fact, if you’re looking for a flat-rate, unlimited cash back rewards program, 2% is the cream of the crop — and it can only be found with a handful of issuers for consumer and business credit cards.

For Consumers

The Citi Double Cash Card not only totals at 2% unlimited cash back but also encourages good credit card habits by rewarding bill paying.

Depending on when you make your payments, it may take two or more statement cycles to see the full 2% reward, so factor that in when comparing cash back cards.

7. Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card

This rewards card is a great fit for anyone who already has an eligible Fidelity account (or would like to open one). The flat-rate 2% bonus applies to any rewards redeemed into a Fidelity account.

  • Unlimited 2% cash back when redeemed into Fidelity account
  • Rewards have no cap and never expire
  • No annual fee
  • Access the Visa Signature® Concierge

Users will get the most out of their Fidelity Rewards card if they have a Fidelity account, but you don’t need an account to apply. In most cases, the process can be completed in just minutes online by filling out an application on Fidelity’s site.

For Businesses

For some business owners, the various business expenses are easy to categorize — but for others, it isn’t quite as easy. The Capital One Spark Cash credit card is a great option if your business expenses don’t fit into typical categories and you’d rather have a solid flat-rate rewards program.

Make sure to note the annual fee, which is waived the first year but kicks in afterward.

For Students

Unfortunately, there aren’t any cash back cards for students that offer unlimited 2% cash back on everything. However, there are still a lot of great cash back student cards available, some with even more cash-earning potential for those who do well in school and have at least a 3.0 GPA.

Cards with $100 – $500 Cash Bonuses

Regardless of where you do the bulk of your purchasing, a one-time spending bonus of $100 or more can turn just about any card into a money-maker. Match a great initial bonus with solid cash back and no annual fee and you’ve got yourself a winner.

For Consumers

With many popular perks becoming standard across the field, a strong initial bonus can be a point of differentiation for a particular card. Start the comparison shop with our top choices.

Be aware of the spending requirement for each initial bonus. Don’t spend more than you can pay off simply to get an initial bonus, as you may end up paying more in interest than the bonus is worth.

For Businesses

The top dog of initial bonuses also has one of the best flat-rate cash back rewards percentages: that’s right, the Capital One Spark Cash credit card not only offers 2% unlimited cash back but a giant one-time $500 bonus when you hit the spending requirement.

Need a more attainable spending requirement or to ditch the annual fee? Try the Capital One Spark Cash Select credit card instead.

As always, pay your bill in full and on time every month to avoid costly late fees and interest charges that eat into your profits.

For Students

17. Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students

Though plenty of issuers are happy to take a chance on the non-existent credit history of many students, few of those issuers go so far as to offer a signup bonus — except for the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students. While not a direct cash bonus, Citi ThankYou points can be easily redeemed for cash.

  • Earn 2,500 bonus ThankYou points after spending $500 in the first 3 months, redeemable for cash
  • 1 point per dollar on all other spending
  • No annual fee
  • Introductory 0% APR for first 7 months

For most, applying takes just minutes through Citi’s website. Simply fill out the online application to see if you’re approved.

Make the Most of Your Cash Back

For more than 200 years, merchants have used loyalty and rewards programs to draw in — and keep — customers. Today, just about every business seems to offer some type of rewards program, with credit card issuers leading the pack. Of course, when it comes to credit card rewards, there is no one-size-fits-all program.

Choosing the best card for your personal spending habits, be it category-based or flat-rate, will ensure you can maximize your earning potential. Also check for any redemption bonuses, such as an extra percentage for redeeming into a branded bank account, to really make the most of your cash back.

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

About the Author

Brittney Mayer

Brittney is a Contributing Editor for Digital Brands, Inc., where she uses her extensive research background to develop comprehensive guides and in-depth company profiles for BadCredit.org and CardRates.com. Brittney specializes in translating complex ideas into readable, engaging content for B2C and B2B audiences.