The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Wednesday, February 26, 2020

15 Best Credit Cards for Cash Back & Travel

15 Best Credit Cards for Cash Back & Travel

credit card advice

Matt Walker
By: Matt Walker
Posted: February 13, 2020
Advertiser Disclosure

Trying to decide whether a cash back or a travel rewards card is right for you? The truth is you don’t have to choose. The best credit cards for cash back and travel allow you to earn and redeem your rewards in a way that fits your individual needs.

Cash back credit cards let you earn back a percentage of your spending in the form of a reward that can be used for whatever you want, including travel. Similarly, rewards earned using travel cards can be redeemed for cash instead of travel, although this may not always be the most efficient use of rewards points.

In either case, the fact is there’s flexibility in how you can redeem your rewards — as long as you choose the right card. Here are our choices for the best cards that can be used for both cash back and travel.

Cash Back | Travel | Business | FAQs

Best Cash Back Cards with Travel Redemption Options

The truth is you can’t go wrong with cash back rewards; they can be used to offset spending on anything, including travel. Cash back cards are a great option if you don’t travel often enough to justify a dedicated travel rewards card, or if you prefer to use budget airlines and hotels.

That’s because most travel cards are affiliated with major airlines and larger hotel chains, while cash back cards have no affiliate limitations. If you want a rewards card that can pull double-duty, here are the ones we recommend.

  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49 - 25.24%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5
  • No annual fee
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
16.49% - 25.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

In addition to its 1.5% cash back on all purchases, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card also offers a signup bonus for spending a nominal amount within the first three months of having the card. That’s extra cash that you can redeem for travel using the Chase Ultimate Rewards® web portal.

Trips can be booked using your card, your points, or a combination of both. There’s also no annual fee for this card, and your cash rewards never expire.

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • Earn a $150 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!
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49 - 25.24%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
16.49% - 25.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

If you’re looking to maximize your cash rewards, the Chase Freedom® card offers 5% back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases on rotating bonus categories each quarter. You can also earn a signup bonus after spending a certain amount on purchases within the first three months of having the card.

All of the cash back rewards you earn can easily be redeemed for travel using the Chase Ultimate Rewards® redemption portal. As with other Chase Freedom® cards, cash back rewards never expire and can be redeemed in any amount.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card Review

at Bank Of America'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

0.0/5.0
  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings
  • Plus, earn 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 1% cash back on everything else
  • Bonus rewards capped at $2,500 is combined bonus category purchases each quarter
  • No annual fee
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 Billing Cycles
0% Intro APR for 15 Billing Cycles (for balance transfers made in the first 60 days)
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

The Bank of America® Cash rewards Credit Card lets you earn 3% cash back in a category of your choice, making it a flexible option for cash back rewards and for travel. Depending on how you use your card, maximum rewards can be earned for gas, online shopping, dining, travel, or other categories.

This flexibility lets you quickly earn cash back that can be used to book travel or to offset travel expenses. This card has no annual fee, and you can earn a bonus cash back reward for spending a minimum amount within the first 90 days of account opening.

4. Blue Cash Preferred® Card from Amex

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

With one of the most generous cash back reward percentages in the industry, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express® lets you earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 a year.

You can also earn 6% back on select streaming services, 3% back on taxi, rideshare, and other transit options, 3% back on gas, and 1% on everything else. It’s the perfect card for busy families, and can also be used to book travel through American Express Travel Services. This card has a $95 annual fee, which can be easily offset by the generous cash back rewards.

5. Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa Card

Wells Fargo Cash Wise VisaIf you’re looking for an all-around credit card that lets you earn unlimited 1.5% cash back, the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card is hard to beat. This card comes with no annual fee and a lengthy introductory APR period for purchases and balance transfers.

But the real advantage of the Wells Fargo Cash Wise card is its simplicity. No rotating categories, no quarterly activations, just unlimited 1.5% cash back that can be used for anything, including travel. There’s no annual fee, and you could even earn a cash bonus for meeting a minimum spending requirement in the first 90 days.

Best Travel Cards with Cash Back Redemption Options

Travel reward cards are a great way to rack up the mileage points, but what if you need to cash them in? Although these cards deliver their maximum benefits when used for travel-related expenses, redeeming points for cash is also a viable option.

Many premium travel cards let you accrue more points per dollar spent than with a standard card, meaning they’ll deliver the rewards faster. Here’s our list of travel cards that let you redeem for cash when needed.

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
18.49% - 25.49% Variable
$550
Good/Excellent

A card for frequent travelers who have excellent credit, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card offers exceptional travel benefits and a generous rewards program. However, consider the $550 annual fee when calculating whether it’s the right choice for you.

The card earns 3X points on travel and dining, and there is a $300 annual travel credit to help offset the fee. Points earned with the Sapphire Reserve® card can be redeemed for cash at a 1:1 ratio, meaning each point is worth one cent. Redeeming 10,000 points will get you $100, however, if you redeemed the same amount of points for travel, you’d get $150 in value, at least.

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.49% - 24.49% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

Similar to the Sapphire Reserve card but with an annual fee of just $95, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card is a great way to accumulate a lot of reward points. Aimed at less frequent travelers, the Sapphire Preferred card earns 2X points on travel and dining expenses.

When redeeming for cash, points transfer at the same 1:1 ratio, but when used for travel 10,000 points will equal $125 in value.

Discover it® Miles Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • UNLIMITED BONUS: Discover will match ALL the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. That’s $700 towards travel! The more you earn, the more you get.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases - with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates. Simply pay for travel purchases like airlines, hotels, rental cars, and more with your Discover it® Miles card.
  • Miles Pay You Back. Easily redeem Miles as a statement credit for travel purchases. Or get cash.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
10.99% for 14 months
13.49% - 24.49% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

If there’s a single word to describe the Discover it® Miles credit card, it is simplicity. The card earns 1.5X miles for every dollar spent on anything, and the rewards never expire. There’s no annual fee to consider, and no blackout dates or airline restrictions when redeeming for travel.

If you choose to redeem for cash, again it’s a simple 1:1 ratio — one point is equal to one penny. Miles can be redeemed in any amount and can be issued as a statement credit or as cash. One thing to note is the first-year bonus, where Discover will match all miles earned at the end of your first year.

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 15+ leading travel loyalty programs
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.24% - 24.49% (Variable)
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Excellent, Good

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card lets you earn an unlimited 2X miles on every purchase made. There’s also an opportunity to earn big bonus miles if you meet the minimum spending requirement in the first three months. The annual fee is waived the first year, which is more than offset by a $100 credit for global entry or TSA Pre-check.

Reward points can be redeemed in several ways, including for cash, gift cards, or statement credits. Redemption value is one penny per point when redeemed for cash or cash equivalent.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card Review

at Bank Of America'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

0.0/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time and no expiration on points
  • 25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days — that can be a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want — you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
  • Comes with chip technology for enhanced security and protection at chip-enabled terminals
  • Get an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 12 billing cycles
N/A
17.24% - 25.24% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good
Another card with a focus on simplicity is the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card. If unlimited 1.5X points for every dollar you spend appeals to you, this card is worth considering. It also comes with no annual fee and points that never expire.

Plus, if you’re a Preferred Rewards® member, you can automatically earn 25% to 75% more points. When it comes time to redeem all of those points for cash, you can simply log in to your card account and transfer any amount over $25 to your Bank of America checking or savings account at a penny-per-point rate.

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates and fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Transfer your miles to over 15+ leading travel loyalty programs
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
N/A
14.49% - 24.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

Although the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card doesn’t offer the most miles for your dollar at just 1.25X, it does have a lot of useful features for infrequent travelers. New cardmembers enjoy a low introductory APR, along with bonus miles for meeting minimum spending requirements, all with no annual fee.

Capital One Venture Miles® never expire, and you can redeem them for cash or a statement credit anytime.

Best Business Cards for Cash Back & Travel

Business travelers know what’s important when it comes to choosing a credit card for cash back and travel, and that’s flexibility. You want a card that offers top performance no matter what you happen to use it for.

The best of these cards offer rewards for the categories in which you spend the most, and the cards let you choose how to redeem them as you need. Here are our choices for the best cash back and travel business cards.

BUSINESS CARD RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases - with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more - your points don't expire as long as your account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.49% - 22.49% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

With its huge potential signup bonus and 3X points on major business purchases, the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card from Chase is one of the best business cards for cash back and travel. And, to make this card an even better deal, the points you earn are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

That means 80,000 points are equal to $1,000 toward travel. The card charges an annual fee, which is more than compensated by business perks like zero foreign transaction fees, free employee cards, and the option to redeem points for cash back.

Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BUSINESS CARD RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year
  • Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other card purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 12 months
N/A 12 months
14.74% - 20.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

Offering similar business benefits to those of its sibling but without the annual fee, the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card gives cardholders 5% cash back on up to $25,000 in business purchases annually. It also provides 2% cash back on up to $25,000 in purchases made at gas stations and restaurants annually, and unlimited 1% back on everything else.

Cash back can be used for travel or redeemed as cash, for gift cards, or as a statement credit.

BUSINESS CARD RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5X miles per dollar on every purchase, everywhere, no limits or category restrictions, and miles won't expire for the life of the account
  • Earn a one-time bonus of 20,000 miles – equal to $200 in travel – once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5X miles on hotel and rental car bookings through Capital One Travel℠ using a Spark Miles Select card
  • Save on interest with 0% intro APR on purchases for 9 months; 14.49% - 22.49% variable APR after that
  • No annual fee
  • Transfer your miles to 10+ leading travel loyalty programs like JetBlue™, Air Canada, and Emirates™
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 9 months
N/A
14.49% - 22.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

As business travel cards go, the Capital One® Spark® Miles Select for Business card is a solid partner for small business owners. With its unlimited 1.5X miles on all purchases, you don’t have to worry if you’re using the right card. Plus, you’ll earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars when you book through Capital One Travel.

An introductory low APR offer and a welcome bonus may be available for new cardholders. There’s no annual fee for this card, and miles can be redeemed for flights, hotels, vacations, or transferred within the travel partner network.

BUSINESS CARD RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase made for your business
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • No Annual Fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 12 months
N/A 12 months
14.74% - 20.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

The Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card combines features of the company’s other two Ink business cards with no annual fee, a potential cash back welcome bonus, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on purchases. There’s also a low introductory APR on purchases for new cardmembers.

Rewards can be redeemed for cash, gift cards, or travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Additional employee credit cards for authorized users are also available at no extra cost.

Which Credit Card Gives the Most Cash Back?

When choosing a cash back card, you want the one that gives you the biggest reward; but since we all use our cards differently, understanding which one gives the most cash back isn’t so straightforward.

There’s bonus cash back if you meet minimum spending requirements, rotating bonus categories, and, of course, category-specific cards that give maximum rewards for travel, entertainment, groceries… you get the picture.

What we can help identify, however, are the cards that give you the most cash back for certain common spending scenarios. Here are some of the best cash back cards we’ve identified for specific situations.

  • Best Introductory Cash Bonus: The Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card currently offers a $500 intro bonus for spending $3,000 within the first 90 days of account opening. That’s cash you can use as a statement credit, or you can transfer it to your bank account and use it however you want (bonus offers change frequently, and you should verify the status of any promotional offer).
  • Best Category-Specific Rewards Card: The Blue Cash Preferred® card from American Express currently offers 6% cash back rewards on up to $6,000 in purchases at U.S. supermarkets annually. This 6% back offer is also available on select streaming services.
  • Best Cash Back in Rotating Categories: The Chase Freedom® card and Discover it® Cash Back card both offer 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter in rotating categories that you must activate. Discover also offers a first-year Cashback Match, and Chase has an introductory cash offer (promotional offers can change, so check with the card issuers for current offers).
  • Customizable Cash Back Rewards: The Bank of America Cash Rewards® Credit Card allows you to choose your own 3% cash back category, from gas to online shopping, dining, travel, home improvement, etc. This lets you maximize your cash back based on how you use your card.

Which Credit Card Gives the Best Travel Rewards?

Similar to cash back cards, travel reward cards also come in different forms. There are cards that earn lots of miles, cards that offer signup bonus miles, cards for frequent travelers, and, of course, cards for those who take only the occasional trip or vacation.

The point is no single travel card is the best choice for everyone. With that said, some cards stand out in a few common travel mile scenarios.

  • Best Travel Card Signup Bonus: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® card currently offers 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. That’s worth $750 when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards (bonus offers like this change frequently, so check the current status of any offers).
  • Best Card for Frequent Travelers: The Chase Sapphire Reserve® card offers 3X points on travel and dining, while also giving a huge signup bonus, a $300 annual travel credit, and 50% more value per point when redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
  • Best Card for Infrequent Travelers: The Capital One® Venture Rewards® Credit Card lets you earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase and waives the annual fee for the first year. You’ll also get a $100 annual credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre-check, and won’t be charged foreign transaction fees.
  • Best Card for Business Travelers: The Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card earns business travelers 3X points on business purchases (on up to $150,000 spent annually) plus a massive 80,000 bonus points for spending $5,000 in the first three months (this bonus offer can change, so check current status for this card).

Is it Worth Getting a Cash Back Credit Card?

Cash back credit cards may seem like an awesome deal — you get paid for buying things you need anyway. But the truth is most of us either don’t take full advantage or don’t use our cash back cards correctly.

Deciding on a cash back credit card requires a lot more thought and analysis than most people put in. For example, in choosing whether a card is right for you, it’s important to understand what you use your card for, how often you use it, and whether you will carry a balance.

Types of Cash Back Credit Cards

You should also consider whether the card charges any fees that can completely wipe out your cash back rewards. That includes annual fees, late payment fees, transaction fees, etc. Then there are considerations such as cash back redemption options and restrictions.

Here are a few more things that people contemplating a cash back card may want to keep in mind.

First, the APR for cash back cards tends to be higher than for cards that offer fewer or no rewards. That means if you carry a balance and are paying interest on it, your cash back is for naught.

If your card has a 23% APR, your 2% cash back simply reduces your rate to 21%. You could find a card without rewards that charges 16% interest and be better off.

Second, many cards with high cash back rewards only pay the maximum on purchases made in specific categories. Others pay only up to a certain amount, then the maximum payout drops to 1% or less. Be sure to thoroughly read any restrictions in the cardholder agreement.

Finally, holders of these reward cards tend to spend more simply because they know they’re earning cash back. However, spending $100 to earn $2 back rarely makes sense.

Make the Most of Your Spending

When all things are considered, if you’re a disciplined card user that pays off your balance each month and is not susceptible to frivolous spending, a cash back or travel reward card can be a good choice. Many of these cards offer rewards that are quite lucrative.

The best credit cards for cash back and travel let you make the most of your spending while earning something extra along the way. Just be sure to use them wisely.