The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Best Flat Rate Cash Back Credit Cards of 2021

Best Flat Rate Cash Back Credit Cards

credit card advice

Adam West
By: Adam West
Updated: July 20, 2021
Advertiser Disclosure

The best flat rate cash back credit cards take away the hassle of dealing with rotating categories, changing rewards rates, and difficult redemption processes. Instead, you can easily claim rebates for everyday purchases you make using your card.

And with these flat rate cash back credit cards, you don’t have to worry about a bank capping your rewards earnings or having them disappear from your account. With unlimited rewards potential and no expiration date, these cards truly put the earning power in your hands.

We’ve compiled a list of our favorite flat rate cash back credit cards in multiple categories to help you decide which card is best for you. Whether you’re a student, a business owner, or just looking for a good rewards card, there’s something for everyone listed below.

Best Cards | Business Cards | Student Cards
FAQs

Best Flat Rate Cash Back Cards

With a flat rate cash back card, you’ll earn a set amount of cash back for every eligible purchase you make with the card. Your cash back rewards rate will depend on the card you qualify for.

For example, a 1.5% cash back card will return that percentage of every purchase you make using the card. That equates to $1.50 in cash back for every $100 spent.

  • One-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 15.49%-25.49% variable APR after that
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
N/A
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card remains our favorite cash back credit card because it offers a no-strings-attached cash back rewards rate with a great variable APR and no hurdles to jump to redeem your rewards.

This card also regularly offers a signup bonus for meeting specific spending criteria during your first three months with the card. New cardholders may also qualify for an interest-free introductory period after card activation. This is truly a hassle-free card that has it all.

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • 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 unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining 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%.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is unique in that it pays out a nice flat rate on all purchases that is on-par with the rest of the cards on this list. But it doesn’t stop there — it also has tiered categories and the opportunity to earn even more cash back when you book travel through Chase online.

And like the Capital One card listed above, you may also qualify for a signup bonus that offers even more cash back, as well as an introductory period with 0% APR during your first months with the card.

Cash Magnet® Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • Earn $200 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months. You will receive the $200 back in the form of a statement credit.
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months from the date of account opening, then a variable APR applies
  • Rental car loss and damage insurance when you use your eligible card to reserve and pay for the entire rental and decline the collision waiver at the rental company counter
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
N/A
13.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

You don’t have to worry about rotating categories with the Cash Magnet® Card from American Express. Instead, you’ll earn a simple flat rate of cash back that’s easy to redeem through the card’s mobile application or website interface.

You can also expect all of the benefits that come with an American Express card, including a sign-up bonus and introductory APR period of 0% for 15 months (15 months) for new cardholders. This card is a great entry point into the American Express card portfolio.

4. Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card

This card is currently not available.

Cash Back Rating

★★★★★
N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

Your Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card rewards never expire as long as you have an active account. That’s important if you want to save up your cash back rewards for a big purchase. And, as you’d expect from Wells Fargo, this card is packed with security features that keep your account safe.

You can even take advantage of cellphone insurance that covers your mobile device against theft or damage when you pay your monthly bill using your card.

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Earn cash rewards without signing up for rotating categories
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No limit to how much cash back you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$39
Average, Fair, Limited

The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card has many of the same benefits as its Quicksilver sibling that tops our list. The main difference is that this card charges a small annual fee for membership.

But for that fee, you could potentially qualify for a cash back card despite having fair credit. This card is Capital One’s entry-level rewards card and offers a great way to improve your credit score and eventually earn an upgrade to a more lucrative (and fee-free) card from Capital One.

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn cash back twice! 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 and will have a fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • 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.
  • 24/7 access to customer service representatives
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% for 18 months
13.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Excellent/Good

The Citi® Double Cash Card is a flat-rate cash back card that allows you to earn your rewards twice. You’ll earn cash back when you make a purchase and again when you pay off your purchase.

That double dose of cash back makes this card potentially more lucrative than the others above it on this list. Just make sure that you pay your balance in full each month to maximize your earnings and negate any interest charges that could offset your rewards.

Upromise® Mastercard® Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★
4.4

OVERALL RATING

4.2/5.0
  • Earn $100 cash back after spending $500 on purchases in the first 90 days
  • Earn 1.25% Cash Back Rewards on every purchase
  • Earn 1.529% Cash Back Rewards on your purchases when your Upromise Program account is linked to an eligible College Savings Plan
  • 0% introductory APR for 15 months on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening (balance transfer fee applies), then a variable APR applies
  • Free online access to your FICO® Score
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% for 15 months
14.99%, 19.99%, or 24.99% variable, based on creditworthiness
$0
Good

The Upromise® Mastercard® has a slightly lower cash back earnings rate when compared with the cards ranked above it on this list. Still, this card offers potentially lucrative rewards with more forgiving approval standards than many other cards listed here.

The card comes with a variable APR that’s based on your credit history and may also include an intro APR deal and sign-up bonus when you meet specific spending criteria. And with very few fees on this card, you could make up for the lower rewards rate quickly.

Best Flat Rate Business Cash Back Cards

Running a business is hard enough. There’s no reason to also juggle rotating categories and other timed promotions on your credit card. Instead, consider a flat-rate cash back card that will automatically calculate your rewards and store your cash back until you’re ready to redeem your earnings.

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • Earn a one-time $500 cash bonus once you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 2% cash back for your business on every purchase, everywhere, no limits or category restrictions
  • Purchase above your credit limit with no hassle and no over-limit fees
  • $0 annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
  • Free employee cards, which also earn unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases
  • $0 Fraud Liability if your card is lost or stolen
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
20.99% (Variable)
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Excellent, Good

Capital One’s Spark line of business cards have an accessible entry point for new business owners and offer an easy-to-use rewards system. The rate of cash back offered for all cardholders on the Capital One Spark Cash for Business makes it simple to earn enough rewards to offset the annual fee.

You’ll also receive year-end itemized reports of your spending to simplify your tax filings, as well as a list of merchants that charge your business credit card each month.

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • Earn a $500 bonus when you spend $4,500 in the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back for your business on every purchase, everywhere — with no limits or category restrictions
  • No annual fee
  • Rewards won't expire for the life of the account
  • Redeem your cash back rewards for any amount
  • Free employee cards, which also earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
13.24% - 19.24% (Variable)
$0
Excellent

The Capital One Spark Cash Select – $500 Cash Bonus offers a slightly lower cash back rate than its sibling card listed above it. But in exchange, you won’t pay an annual fee, and you may qualify for a lower interest rate.

And you could still qualify for a sign-up bonus that makes it easy to afford that big purchase you’re saving up for.

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase made for your business
  • No Annual Fee
  • Redeem rewards for cash back, gift cards, travel and more through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn rewards faster with employee cards at no additional cost. Set individual spending limits for greater control.
  • With Fraud Protection your card transactions will be monitored for possible signs of fraudulent activity using real-time fraud monitoring.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 12 months
N/A 12 months
13.24% - 19.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

The Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card tracks cash back as points, and each $1 in cash back rewards earned is equal to 100 points. You can redeem your points for cash, gift cards, travel accommodations, or merchandise, among other things.

Redemption values for reward options vary, and your points don’t expire as long as your account remains open.

Blue Business Cash™ Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $5,000 in qualifying purchases on your Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn an additional $250 statement credit after you spend an additional $10,000 or more in qualifying purchases on your Card within the first year of Card Membership.
  • Earn 2% cash back on all eligible purchases on up to $50,000 per calendar year, then 1%. Cash back earned is automatically credited to your statement.
  • Buy above your credit limit with Expanded Buying Power. Make business purchases over your credit limit with no penalty or enrollments, and still earn cash back on those purchases. Terms apply.
  • 0% introductory APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable APR applies
  • Get a decision in as little as 30 seconds
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
N/A
13.24% - 19.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

The Blue Business Cash™ Card is best for business owners who charge less than $50,000 on their card each year, after which the card awards a lesser-rate of cash back.

Something nice about this card is that American Express will automatically apply your cash back earnings as a statement credit each month to cover a portion of your current card balance. This means you never have to worry about your rewards and redemption options — it’s all handled for you by the card issuer.

12. Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card

This card is currently not available.

Cash Back Rating

★★★★★
N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

The Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card is not only a rare secured business card, but it’s an even more rare secured card that offers cash back rewards. That’s a big deal if you’re just starting your business and can’t provide a personal guarantee that qualifies you for unsecured business credit cards.

Just be aware that, as a secured card, you’ll have to place a refundable security deposit for approval. The amount of your deposit will equal your new card’s credit limit.

Best Flat Rate Student Cash Back Cards

College is a time for learning and growing. But it’s also a time to consider building a positive credit score so you have a leg up on your peers after graduation. With a good cash back student credit card, you can build your credit history while earning some money back for those late-night pizza runs that fuel your study sessions.

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★
4.3

OVERALL RATING

4.2/5.0
  • Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month
  • Earn $5 per month for 12 months on Select Streaming Subscriptions when you pay on time. *Exclusions Apply
  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • You can help build your credit with responsible use of a card like this
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

Capital One is a great bank to start your financial journey with. And with the Journey Student Rewards from Capital One, you can earn cash back while building a business relationship with the Virginia-based bank. That means you could qualify for a card upgrade after graduation.

But in the meantime, you can take advantage of all of the perks this card offers — many of which are specifically built with students in mind. That includes statement credits each month when you charge certain streaming subscriptions to your card. You can also choose the monthly payment due date that works best for you.

Deserve EDU Mastercard Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★
4.0

OVERALL RATING

4.2/5.0
  • Earn 1% cash back on all purchases + Amazon Prime Student on us for 1 year
  • Cellphone protection up to $600
  • Prequalify in just seconds with no impact to your credit score
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No Social Security number required for international students to apply
  • $0 Annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
18.74% (variable)
$0
None/Limited

The Deserve EDU Mastercard is a great student credit card with a solid flat-rate cash back rewards rate. It’s an especially handy card if you’re an international student — as this is a rare card that doesn’t require a Social Security number for approval.

But whether you’re studying at home or abroad, you can take advantage of the cellphone insurance, no foreign transaction fees, and other perks that make this card a solid addition to your wallet.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

POINTS & GIFTS RATING

★★★★
4.4

OVERALL RATING

4.4/5.0
  • Earn 25,000 bonus points ($250 value) if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere
  • No blackout dates or restrictions apply, and points never expire
  • 0% introductory APR on new purchases for 12 billing cycles, then a variable APR applies
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 billing cycles
N/A
13.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
None/Limited

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students doesn’t use a traditional cash back percentage rate for its rewards. Instead, you’ll earn points you can redeem for cash back, gift cards, and travel discounts.

And if you’re already a Bank of America account holder, you can potentially increase your rewards rate depending on your account status.

What is Flat Rate Cash Back?

a flat rate cash back credit card is a form of reward that allows you to earn a preset percentage of cash back as a rebate for everyday purchases you make using the card.

There are several types of credit card rewards programs. Each is based on a per-dollar value that combines all of your credit card charges. A card may allow you to earn points, miles, or cash back that you can redeem through the card’s mobile application or desktop website.

With a cash back credit card, you receive a portion of every purchase back as a rebate for using your card. The amount you earn will vary based on the credit card you choose.

Some cards maintain a bonus category structure that provides varying amounts of cash back based on the type of purchase you make. For example, a card may offer 5% cash back at grocery stores and gas stations, 3% cash back at office supply stores and drugstores, and 1% back on all other purchases. The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is an example of a tiered-rewards cash back card.

Types of Cash Back Cards

Other cards may provide you with a list of rotating bonus category options that you must opt in to every quarter to get your additional cash back. If you fail to activate the category, you opt out of the bonus earnings for that quarter, and all purchases will earn the lesser rewards rate (usually 1%).

This bonus category structure is quite lucrative for many cardholders — but only if the categories offered are those you regularly use. Cards that offer category-based incentives often have a lower rate of cash back for everyday purchases. Be sure that you can capitalize on the category spending, or else you’ll waste an opportunity to make the most out of your cash back earnings.

The best flat rate cash back credit cards don’t require you to sign up for quarterly categories or alter your spending to get added cash back incentives. Instead, these cards offer a defined percentage of cash back for every purchase — no matter where you make it.

For example, a card may offer 2% cash back for every eligible purchase. This means you’ll receive 2% back for every purchase you make using the card. That adds up quickly and requires no additional work on your part.

A points rewards credit card will pay out a specific number of points based on the type of purchase and how much money you spend. You can typically redeem your rewards for a host of options — including a gift card, travel discounts, or even cash back.

Many consumers enjoy these cards because they offer flexibility in how you can redeem your earnings. Keep in mind that different options have different values. For example, you can typically get much more bang for your buck when you redeem your points for travel discounts than if you were to redeem them for cash back.

A miles rewards credit card focuses specifically on travel discounts or rebates and has multiple program types. One form will allow you to redeem your miles to cover all, or part, of an upcoming trip booking. These cards may provide an online method to book your travel and use your points during the checkout process.

Another miles rewards program is popularized by Capital One and Discover and allows you to save up your miles and use them as a statement credit to cover all, or part, of a previous travel expense. So, for example, you can charge a flight to your card and then apply your earned miles to your account balance to erase a portion of the expense.

The latter has more flexibility because you don’t have to worry about any travel restrictions when it comes time to redeem your miles. When using your miles to book travel through a credit card issuer, you may be limited to only using the carriers that the card issuer partners with. This may also come with blackout dates or other rules.

How Do I Redeem My Cash Back Rewards?

A credit card company wants to make it as easy as possible to redeem your rewards. That’s how the bank keeps your business and encourages you to keep swiping, tapping, or inserting your card when you make purchases.

You can redeem your cash back rewards in multiple ways. Your credit card company may allow you to choose from all of these methods or limit you to one or two of them.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Many issuers allow you to redeem your rewards in several ways.

In most cases, you can choose to have your cash back rewards transferred directly to a linked checking account or savings account. This happens fairly quickly and usually results in your having the money in your bank account in a few business days.

You can also have your rewards applied as a statement credit to reduce your card’s current balance. For example, if you have $35 in rewards saved up, you can have it instantly applied to your credit card balance to remove $35 in debt. This does not take the place of a monthly payment.

Some banks will also allow you to receive your cash back rewards through a paper check that is sent to your address within seven to 10 business days. This is a more time-consuming process that a bank will typically charge you a small fee to do.

It’s not as common, but a few banks will allow you to directly transfer your cash bonus to a nonprofit as a tax-deductible donation. This option may limit you to only donating to charities that partner with the bank, but it’s still an easy and traceable way to donate to a cause that’s near and dear to your heart.

You can choose your option and redeem your rewards through your card’s mobile application or desktop website. In most cases, your card account will prominently display the amount of cash back you’ve earned and have saved.

When you click or tap on that amount, your bank will forward you to a website where you can choose how you’d like to receive your rewards and how much you’d like to redeem. Unless your bank has a minimum amount requirement that limits when, and how much, you can redeem, you should be able to use all or part of your rewards whenever you choose.

Banks rarely allow cash back credit card rewards to expire as long as your account is open and in good standing. You can let your rewards build in your account for as long as you’d like and redeem them when you choose.

What Credit Score Do You Need for a Cash Back Card?

The popularity of cash back rewards has inspired banks to create bonus cash cards for just about every credit history level. As a result, there’s no minimum credit score needed for a cash back rewards credit card.

Each credit card issuer has its own standards for approval. Not every applicant will receive a cash back credit card. But even if you do, that doesn’t mean that these cards are your best choice if you have poor credit or fair credit.

Some cards even allow you to earn cash back with poor credit. These cards often provide a flat rate of 1% or 1.5% cash back through an unsecured credit card that does not require a security deposit for approval. One such example is the Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards.

Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards

This card is currently not available.

Bad Credit Rating

★★★★★

N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

Like most subprime credit cards, cash back cards for bad credit typically come with an annual fee and high interest rate. Some have even higher fees tacked on to offset the cost of the rewards that the card issuer pays out.

You may also find that cashback rewards cards for bad credit have lower overall credit limits. All of these factors are important to consider when you’re deciding whether a card is right for you.

Let’s consider an example card for bad credit that has a $300 credit limit, 1% flat rate cashback, and a $99 annual fee. This card rewards you with $1 in rewards for every $100 you charge to your card. That means you have to charge at least $9,900 each year just to recoup the amount you spent on your annual fee.

With a $300 credit limit, that means you’ll have to max out your card 33 times (or nearly three times each month) just to break even with this card. And that’s if you pay all of your charges in full each month.

If you don’t pay your balance off, you’ll have to pay interest charges that can be 20 times higher than the cash back rewards rate you’re earning. That negates your rewards very quickly.

There are more affordable ways to rebuild your credit in the short term. Consider a credit card for bad credit that does not charge an annual fee. These cards will help you work your way toward that cash back rewards card that won’t break the bank.

As you get into fair credit cards (a score of 580 to 669), you’ll find an expanded selection of cash back cards for you to consider. These cards may still charge an annual fee or have other costs that make them pricey.

Credit cards for good credit (a score of 670 to 739) have a wide selection of cash back, points, and miles rewards options — many of which don’t charge an annual fee or other hidden charges.

These cards may also include elevated rewards rates, signup bonuses, 0% intro APR deals that give you interest-free financing for a period of time after activating your card, or balance transfer offers that let you move debt from an existing card with a higher interest rate over to your new card. The welcome bonus is especially lucrative with many of these cards if you pay your debt in full each month.

Those who have excellent credit (a score of 740 or higher) have their choice of dozens of rewards cards with great interest rates, tremendous rewards, and unbeatable perks. The sign up bonus offers on these cards are often more lucrative as well.

But even if you have great credit, you aren’t guaranteed any card you want. Some ultra-exclusive credit cards operate on a by-invitation-only basis. Also, some banks set rules that limit who can qualify for their cards that may even disqualify people who have excellent credit.

Capital One, for instance, only allows consumers to have two of its credit cards at a time. If you apply for a third, you’ll be rejected — no matter how great your credit is.

The Chase 5/24 rule states that if you have five or more new bank card accounts (credit or charge cards) opened within the last 24 months, you’ll most likely be rejected for a new Chase credit card even if you otherwise qualify.

If you have multiple credit cards with a specific card issuer, be sure to research the bank’s rules before applying for another.

Do Cash Back Cards Actually Give You Cash?

Yes, you can earn actual cash through most cash back credit cards.

Chase Cash Back

Chase offers cash back at a rate of $1 per 100 points earned.

When you link a bank account to your credit card account to make online payments, the bank will store your account information and, in most cases, can directly deposit any cash back rewards earnings you accrue directly into that account. Many banks will also send you a paper check for your total amount of cash back rewards earnings for a fee.

Some cards that offer bonus point rewards instead of cash back will also allow you to redeem your earned points for cash back. The Chase Ultimate Reward point program is a popular example of this.

If you decide to use points for cash back, keep in mind that your redemption rate may be lower than if you choose a different reward. Cash back is the most expensive reward for banks to offer, so they often keep the rate of return lower than those for travel discounts or gift cards.

Some credit card issuers only allow you to use your cash back earnings as a statement credit. American Express has several cards in its portfolio that work like this. With these cards, you can apply for earned rewards to your card balance to erase all, or part, of your debt.

How Do I Apply for a Cash Back Credit Card?

You can easily apply for a cash back rewards credit card online in a matter of minutes. Every major bank that offers consumer credit cards maintains an online application system that uses automated underwriting to make near-instant credit decisions.

You can access a card application on the card issuer’s website — or through the links provided in each card listing above. Each application is short and typically takes less than five minutes to complete. You should receive your credit decision in 30 seconds or less.

A cash back credit card application won’t differ from any other consumer credit card application. You’ll have to provide several basic pieces of information that help the bank confirm your identity, access your credit report, and decide whether you qualify for the card you’re applying for.

This information can include:

  • Your name
  • Your address (physical and email)
  • Your phone number (home/cell/work)
  • Your Social Security number
  • Your employment information
  • Your income information
  • Your monthly rent or mortgage payment
  • Time spent at that residence
  • How much you typically spend each month on your credit card (estimations are fine)

Once you submit this information, the bank will begin the underwriting process and update the screen shortly after with its credit decision. If you’re approved, the bank will show you your new account information and credit limit.

You’ll receive your new card in the mail within seven to 10 business days and can begin using it as soon as you activate the account.

If the bank declines your application, you’ll receive an adverse action notice in the mail within seven to 10 business days that outlines the reasons why you were not approved for the credit card.

If your card includes a sign up bonus — also known as a welcome bonus — that provides additional cash back if you meet certain spending requirements, your time clock on those requirements will begin as soon as you activate your new card.

You can typically activate your card online, through the bank’s mobile application, or over the phone. The card will come with a sticker across the front that notifies you of your activation options.

Which Credit Card Gives The Most Cash Back?

The answer to this question depends on your spending habits and financial goals. The card that gives the most cash back is typically the Discover it® Cash Back or the Chase Freedom Flex℠ — but there’s a catch.

Although these cards offer up to 5% cash back, you only earn that percentage in specific, quarterly rotating categories you activate, such as grocery stores or office supply stores, and the bonus cash back rate is usually limited to a spending cap. If you don’t shop within those categories or exceed the spending limit, your cash back rate will be lower, usually the standard 1% cash back.

Some cards may offer a flat rate of 2% cash back on all purchases, which is a very good offer in the current marketplace. Others may offer 2% or more with a few strings attached.

The Citi® Double Cash Card, for example, pays out 1% cash back when you make your purchase and another 1% when you pay it off. The combined haul makes it a great cash back card if you avoid interest by paying off your debt each month. But if you carry a balance, you’re really only earning 1% and paying interest, which makes it a bad choice.

Discover’s credit cards all take part in the bank’s popular Cashback Match program that matches the total amount of cash back you earn during your first year with the card. The match comes as one lump sum shortly after your first anniversary with your card.

While the Cashback Match® only happens during your first year with the card, it essentially doubles the already generous cash back rewards rates for those 12 months. This makes Discover cards some of the most lucrative cash back rewards credit cards on the market.

Are Cash Back Credit Cards Worth It?

A cashback credit card is a great way to earn rebates for your everyday purchases — as long as you don’t carry debt from month to month.

If you can pay your balance in full each month, stay disciplined with your spending, and take advantage of any bonus categories or other offers, you could actually make money off your cash rewards credit card.

Cash Back Rewards

The key is to avoid interest by paying your charges off during your grace period — which usually lasts 25 to 30 days after the date of purchase. If you satisfy the debt in full during this time, you’ll pay no added fees for the transaction.

Many cash back cards come with a slightly higher interest rate to offset some of the costs of paying out rewards. Those charges can quickly negate your cash back earnings, as your interest rate may be 10 to 20 times higher than your cash back rewards rate.

But when you settle your balance each month, you’ll still accrue your full cash back earnings and can use them to build a savings nest egg, pay bills, or any other use you can think of. Cash bonus rewards are a way to get money back for doing something that you’d do anyway — making purchases. Why pay full price when you can get a small rebate?

What Fees Do Cash Back Credit Cards Charge?

Any fees, and the amount of those fees, that your credit card charges are solely up to the discretion of the bank that issues your credit card.

Some credit cards may charge all of the fees that you see below, while others may only charge a few. Some fees are standard on all cards — including late fees, cash advance fees, and balance transfer fees. Others, such as annual fees and foreign transaction fees, aren’t added to some cards.

Be sure to check out your credit card disclosure document before you officially submit a card application to know what the card will cost you.

Some fees you may encounter include:

  • Annual fee: Some cards do not charge an annual fee, but you may find that subprime credit cards, or cards that include unusually high rewards rates will likely include some sort of membership fee.
  • Balance transfer fee: If you transfer an existing credit card balance from an old card to your new card, you can expect to pay a balance transfer fee that typically equates to a percentage of your transferred amount. This fee may be worth your while if you’re moving a balance to a card with a lower interest rate or a card that has a balance transfer promotional rate or intro APR deal.
  • Foreign transaction fee: Some cards will charge a balance transfer fee if you conduct a transaction in a currency other than your own. This fee typically equals a percentage of the transaction total and covers the cost of converting the currency. If you’re traveling overseas, this can get expensive — as every time you swipe your card, you can pay as much as 3% more to convert your currency.
  • Late payment fee: Just about every credit card will charge a late payment fee if you submit your payment after the due date. Some cards may also impose a penalty APR that increases your interest rate after a late payment.
  • Cash advance fee: This fee occurs when you withdraw cash from your card account at an ATM machine or bank teller’s window like you would with a debit card — also known as a cash advance. The fee is typically a set amount that varies by card type. A cash advance also has a higher interest rate than a regular purchase and no grace period — which means you start accruing interest charges as soon as you have cash in hand.
  • Returned payment fee: If you submit a payment that isn’t approved by your bank — often because of insufficient funds in your checking account — you should expect this fee.
  • Over-limit fee: Many credit cards will decline any transaction that brings you over your credit limit. Some cards will provide a purchase cushion that lets you exceed your limit — for a fee.

While most banks are pretty set in the structure of their fees and rates, you may still have some leverage if you have a good credit score or a positive working relationship with the bank. By using your financial history as a tool, you can attempt to negotiate your annual fee or other charges in your favor.

Banks can’t make money if they don’t issue credit, and they’d rather lower an annual fee than lose you as a customer.

There’s no guarantee that this will work for you, but it’s been successful with enough consumers in the past that it’s certainly worth your time to try. After all, lowering just your annual fee alone can create substantial savings over the life of your card account.

Can Reward Points be Converted to Cash?

In most cases, you can convert credit card bonus points into cash back — but that may not be the best option for your earned rewards.

Many popular points rewards programs give you several options when it comes time to redeem your rewards. For example, you can use your Chase Ultimate Rewards points on gift cards, merchandise, travel bookings, cash back, and other perks.

You’ll find that, depending on how you use them, points have different values based on the bank’s cost of providing the reward. Travel discounts are offered through partners at a deep discount. Since the bank doesn’t pay as much for these rewards, it can lower the cost of offering the perk.

Points Values

Banks often acquire gift cards and merchandise at discounts as well, which makes them an affordable option for your points.

As you’d expect, a bank can’t get cash at a discount. Since this is the most costly option for a bank, you’ll get less of it for your points. Some banks don’t even offer the option of redeeming your points for cash back because of the cost.

If you want to earn cash back, your best bet is to apply for a top-notch card that focuses solely on cash back rewards. This card may have bonus categories that offer elevated rates of cash back or you can go for a flat-rate card that’s easy to manage and predictable to use.

Either way, you’re almost always guaranteed to maximize your cash back earnings by applying for a dedicated cash back card. While points rewards come with great flexibility and have many more redemption options, they’re usually the least valuable when redeemed for cash rewards.

Is it Better to Earn Cash Back or Rewards Points?

The decision to apply for a points credit card or cash back credit card should depend on your current and future financial goals.

Points rewards credit cards offer a wide array of redemption options, but will severely limit your ability to earn cash back. But if you’re interested in travel or mixing up your redemption choices, you can maximize your points and get more bang for your buck with one of these cards.

Cash back rewards cards are a one-trick pony — but that one trick is a great one. You can only earn cash back with these cards, but they’re easy to use and even easier to redeem for a statement credit, paper check, or directly deposited cash.

And if you can boost your cash back earnings potential with a flat rate rewards card that offers a high rate of return, you can get a sizable rebate on every purchase you make.

Cash back rewards are best suited for people who aren’t frequent travelers or don’t want to worry about researching redemption values and options. These are no-nonsense cards that deliver great value with no strings attached.

Points, on the other hand, allow you to accrue your bonus for as long as you’d like and redeem it in a host of ways. Aside from the credit card issuer’s website, you can often use your points just like cash while you’re checking out at major online retailers such as Amazon.

Some points cards also allow you to use your points like cash through Paypal. Many banks make it easy to transfer your points with a 1:1 ratio to popular airline loyalty programs.

Neither your cash back nor your points will ever expire as long as your account remains open and in good standing. If you have a cash back or points card and decide you want to switch, you can contact your card’s issuing bank to see whether you qualify for a product switch, which would place you in a new credit card with a different rewards scheme that fits your needs, wants, and goals.

Is Cash Back Better Than Miles Rewards?

Like the question above, the preferred rewards between cash back and miles are dependent on your goals and lifestyle.

A miles rewards credit card is a great way to lower the cost of many personal or business travel expenses. Consumers can choose between two main types of miles rewards credit cards that both have great value, but different redemption methods.

A traditional miles-based rewards card works very similar to points rewards credit cards. These cards allow you to accrue miles that you eventually redeem through a travel booking website that’s operated by the credit card issuer and connects to partner travel providers.

Through this portal, you can use your miles to pay for all or part of your airfare, hotel stays, rental cars, cruises, excursions, or other common travel-related expenses. Your miles will automatically reduce the cost of your trip and you can use your card to pay for the remainder of the booking.

This is a popular way to reduce your cost before your trip, but it’s also a potentially limiting redemption method. Since you can only book through companies that partner with your card issuer, you may have limited available dates or other travel restrictions.

Another form of miles rewards allows you to pay for your trip after it’s over. With these cards, you redeem your miles as a statement credit that’s applied automatically to your card balance to cover all or part of recent travel expenses.

Redeem Capital One Venture Miles

Capital One’s popular travel cards allow you to apply your miles to cover the cost of previous eligible travel purchases. Photo credits: The Points Guy

These cards have a very broad definition of travel expenses that can also include ride-sharing services, meals, and other less-common charges.

And since you’re paying after the trip is over, you can use the accrued miles from the trip to cover your charges, and you don’t have to worry about choosing from partnered airlines or accommodations providers. These cards are great if you travel frequently or have a goal to see more of the world.

But if you’re not a travel buff, you may find that miles have very little value to you. In this case, you’re better served with a cash back card that will give you cash as a rebate for all of your purchases. You can redeem your rewards easily and use your cash in any way that you like — even to fund a rare vacation.

What Can You Do With Credit Card Rewards Points?

There’s no single portal for redeeming your credit card rewards points, as each card issuer has its own options for how you can use your accrued rewards. At the most basic level, you can expect that most points rewards cards will give you access to gift cards and travel discounts. Many also allow you to redeem your points for cash back (at a lesser point value).

The most robust points program belongs to Chase and the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. There’s a seemingly endless number of options that constantly grow and expand for all cardholders. You can typically redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards points for:

  • Gift cards
  • Travel deals (hotels, resorts, rental cars, flights, cruises, and more)
  • Travel upgrades
  • Experiences
  • Merchandise
  • Cash Back
  • Discounted financial products through Chase Bank

The experiences may be the most unique aspect of this group. While using the Unlimited Rewards portal, you can book flights on a fighter jet, tables at ultra-exclusive restaurants, or seats at high-demand sporting or concert events.

The value each point holds will vary depending on the option you choose. High-demand experiences may require more points than everyday discounts. More expensive options — such as cash back — may not yield as much value as gift cards or merchandise.

The key to maximizing your points potential is to research all of your options before you redeem and figure out what redemption choices meet your needs and goals while stretching your points the furthest.

When Should I Redeem My Cash Rewards?

The beauty of cash back rewards is that they allow you to redeem your earnings whenever you choose. You can decide to save them up over time and redeem them to pay for a large purchase, or you can cash them in to cover a small charge or to reduce your current credit card balance.

Amex Rewards Balance

You can redeem your rewards whenever you want, but make sure they don’t expire.

Some cards don’t allow you to cash in your rewards until you reach a minimum amount — typically around $20 — of cash back. Many others don’t limit you and will let you cash in even the smallest amount of rewards.

One strategy some consumers use is to set a goal or plan for their rewards. Let’s say you have a big trip planned in the future. You can allow your rewards to sit in your account until you’re ready to book the trip and redeem them to cover the cost of the trip or add some spending cash to your budget.

Discover’s popular Cashback Match program can give new cardholders another way to expand on this strategy. Through this program, the bank will match all of the cash back you earn during your first year with the card. The match occurs as one lump sum of cash back that’s added to your account shortly after your first anniversary with the card.

You can allow your cash back to accrue in your account then have the amount doubled after your first year, which gives you a nice large amount to do with as you please. But even if you withdraw your cash back incrementally throughout the year, Discover will still match all that you earned in your first year of card membership.

If you don’t have a pressing need for the cash, you may want to remove it regularly and place it in a high-yield savings account where the money can grow on its own. The one downfall of storing your cash back earnings for later use is that you won’t earn interest on those funds as they sit idly by in your credit card account.

Can I Ever Lose My Cash Back Rewards?

Your cash back rewards won’t expire as long as you maintain your cash back rewards account in good standing and with a major bank. Some smaller subprime cash back cards may place expiration dates on your earnings, and others may have more broad rules that could result in the loss of your cash back.

Of the major card issuers, American Express, Bank of America, Barclays, Capital One, Chase, and Wells Fargo will never let your rewards expire as long as your account is open and in good standing. As for the others:

  • Citi credit card rewards will expire if you don’t earn any cash back on the card for 12 consecutive months.
  • Discover cash back will never expire. However, if you close your account or if you don’t use it for 18 consecutive months, the bank will close your account and credit you with any cash back balance you hold.
  • USAA cash back will expire 90 calendar days after you close your account for any reason. You can contact the bank at 800-980-8722 during this time to access your rewards.
  • U.S. Bank cash back expires 36 months after the billing cycle in which it was earned.

To maintain your cash back balance, you must keep your account open and active while making on-time payments. None of the ranked cards above currently have late payment penalties that include loss of rewards, but rules and limitations are always subject to change.

If you’re thinking about closing a credit card account, make sure you redeem all of your rewards before canceling your account. If you still have an active balance on your account when you close it and also have cash back rewards stored away, the bank may choose to apply those rewards to your balance.

Is it Worth Paying an Annual Fee For a Credit Card?

Many people see a credit card annual fee as a bad thing. But some cards pack so much value into their perks that the fee is worth the cost of membership.

Consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card, for example. While some may balk at the $550 annual membership fee, there’s actually a lot of power under the hood that warrants that charge.

Every year, cardholders receive a $300 travel credit as reimbursement for travel charges. That perk alone covers more than half of the annual fee. You get even closer to breaking even when you add the $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®. All cardholders also receive free access to luxury travel lounges in more than 1,000 worldwide airports.

After those credits, you can top it off with some of the best rewards rates in the industry — including a nice welcome bonus and the chance to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points for everyday purchases. And did we mention that the card is an attention-getter? It weighs 13 grams and is made of metal.

Many top-shelf points rewards cards offer travel benefits in exchange for higher annual fees. These can include airport lounge access and travel credits. If you aren’t a heavy traveler, this may not be worth the price of admission.

You may want to skip the annual fee for a simple flat rate cash back credit card. This fee can eat away at most of your annual earnings and make it hard to maximize your rewards.

Cash Back Annual Spend

For example, a card that offers 1.5% cash back on all eligible purchases and charges a $99 annual fee will require you to charge at least $6,600 to your card each year (or $550 per month) just to break even.

That break-even point gets even worse if you don’t pay your balance during your grace period and end up tacking on interest charges to your total. Since the average credit card interest rate currently hovers around 17%, you’re going to pay far more in finance charges than you’ll earn in cash back.

Only consider an annual fee if the perks make the card worth it to your lifestyle. Otherwise, find the card that offers the best rewards at the lowest cost. This enables you to rack up your cash back, points, or miles and make money off your credit card.

The Best Flat Rate Cash Back Cards Can Add Utility to Your Wallet

Getting money back for your everyday purchases is never a bad thing, and the best flat rate cash back credit cards can get you a lot.

These cards provide a set percentage return on your charges and make it easy to redeem your rewards for cash, a paper check, or a statement credit.

The amount you earn will depend on the card you choose. Just remember that not every cash back card is a flat rate rewards card. Some cash back cards may provide a bonus category structure that pays out more cash back for spending at certain types of stores.

The key to maximizing your cash back potential is to pay your balance in full each month. Interest charges can quickly eat away at your cash back earnings and put you in the red. By staying debt-free, the cash back you earn will remain in your pocket and go to good use — in any way that you choose to use it.

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