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Credit Cards

The best cash-back credit cards of March 2024

We analyzed 50 of the most popular cash-back credit cards using an average American's annual budget and digging into each card's perks and drawbacks to find the best of the best based on your spending habits.

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When it comes to cash-back credit cards, it literally pays to do your homework.

Using the right cash-back card strategically can earn you hundreds of dollars a year and thousands of dollars over time. But the best choice isn't always obvious.

Cash-back cards earn rewards at different rates, and the fees and benefits vary wildly. Some cash-back cards have no annual fee and others offer bonus spending categories that reward you for specific types of purchases.

When you're trying to pick a cash-back card, you'll want to pay attention to:

CNBC Select analyzed 50 of the most popular cash-back cards to determine the best cash-back credit cards in a variety of categories (See our methodology for more information on how we choose the best cards).

Best cash-back credit cards

Best overall and best for no annual fee

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

On Chase's Secure site
  • Rewards

    Enjoy 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services, 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; and 3% cash back on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus

    INTRO OFFER: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    20.49% - 29.24% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Intro fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater, on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that, either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

  • Member FDIC. Terms apply.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Rewards can be transferred to a Chase Ultimate Rewards card
  • Generous welcome bonus

Cons

  • 3% fee charged on foreign transactions

Who's this for? The Chase Freedom Unlimited® Card is ideal for anyone who wants a robust rewards card with no annual fee. It's also excellent for those who have another Ultimate Rewards® card, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, as they'll be able to convert their cashback into fully transferrable Ultimate Rewards® points.

Standout benefits: Cardholders can enjoy discounts and special perks with Lyft, Instacart, Gopuff and more — all for no annual fee.

Introductory APR: This card offers a 0% intro APR for the first 15 months from account opening on new purchases and balance transfers (after, 20.49% - 29.24% variable APR). There's an intro balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater, on transfers made within 60 days of account opening (after, either $5 or 5%, whichever is greater).

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Check out CNBC Select's best no annual fee travel credit cards.

Best for flat-rate cash back

Citi Double Cash® Card

  • Rewards

    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. Plus, for a limited time, earn 5% total cash back on hotel, car rentals and attractions booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through 12/31/24

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn $200 cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 18 months on balance transfers; N/A for purchases

  • Regular APR

    19.24% - 29.24% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    For balance transfers completed within 4 months of account opening, an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer ($5 minimum) applies; after that, a balance transfer fee of 5% of each transfer ($5 minimum) applies

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Fair/Good/Excellent

  • See rates and fees, terms apply.

Pros

  • 2% cash back on all eligible purchases
  • Simple cash-back program that doesn't require activation or spending caps
  • One of the longest intro periods for balance transfers at 18 months

Cons

  • 3% fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $443
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,213

Who's this for? The Citi Double Cash® Card is a solid choice if you're looking to maximize your money without having to worry about rotating reward categories. Earn 1% cash back on purchases and 1% when you pay off your bill. That makes the card's appeal almost universal, as you won't have to miss out on reward opportunities.

Standout benefits: There's no annual fee and an easy-to-use rewards program with no activation required and no limit to how much cash back you can earn.

Introductory APR: Cardholders receive 0% intro APR for the first 18 months on balance transfers (then an 19.24% - 29.24% variable APR) initiated within 4 months of opening an account.

[ Jump to more details ]

Check out CNBC Select's best welcome bonuses currently available.

Best for rotating bonus categories and welcome bonus

Chase Freedom Flex℠

  • Rewards

    5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate (then 1%), 5% cash back on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on drugstore purchases and on dining (including takeout and eligible delivery services), 1% cash back on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, earn 5% cash back on combined gas station and grocery store purchases (excluding Target and Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    20.49% - 29.24% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Intro fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater, on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that, either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

  • Member FDIC. Terms apply. Information about the Chase Freedom Flex℠ has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Generous welcome bonus
  • Opportunity to earn up to 5% cash back in select categories upon activation
  • Rewards can be transferred to a Chase Ultimate Rewards card

Cons

  • Bonus categories must be activated each quarter
  • 3% fee charged on foreign transactions

Who's this for? If you're looking to maximize rewards, consider a rotating bonus category card like the Chase Freedom Flex℠. This card offers 5% cash back on combined gas station and grocery store purchases (excluding Target and Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. The cash-back calendar changes every quarter. (Learn more about how Chase classifies bonus category purchases.)

Standout benefits: In addition to rotating rewards, you can discounts and special perks with partners like Lyft, Instacart and Gopuff.

Introductory APR: This card offers a competitive 0% intro APR for the first 15 months from account opening on new purchases and balance transfers (after, 20.49% - 29.24% variable APR). There's also an intro balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater, on transfers made within 60 days of account opening (after, either $5 or 5%, whichever is greater).

[ Jump to more details ]

Check out CNBC Select's best rewards credit cards and best travel credit cards.

Best for 0%-APR offer

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

On Wells Fargo's secure site
  • Rewards

    Unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate

  • Regular APR

    20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% intro for 120 days from account opening then BT fee of up to 5%, min: $5

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

Pros

  • Unlimited cash rewards
  • $200 cash rewards welcome bonus
  • No annual fee
  • Introductory APR period for first 15 months
  • Access to Visa Signature® Concierge
  • Get up to $600 cell phone protection (subject to a $25 deductible)

Cons

  • 3% fee charged on foreign transactions

Who's this for? The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card is ideal if you're looking for a cash rewards card that offers a long intro APR for purchases and balance transfers.

Standout rewards: You won't need to juggle specific or limited bonus categories with this card because it earns 2% cash rewards on all purchases.

Introductory APR: The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card offers new members a 0% intro APR on purchases and qualifying balance transfers for 15 months from account opening (20.24%, 25.24% or 29.99% variable APR thereafter). For a balance transfer to qualify for the intro APR, it must be made within 120 days from account opening, and an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of the amount transferred applies ($5 minimum). The standard balance transfer fee for transfers you make after 120 days is 5% of the amount transferred ($5 minimum).

[Jump to more details]

Best for students

Discover it® Student Cash Back

On Discover's secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases-automatically.

  • Welcome bonus

    Discover will match all the cash back earned for all new cardmembers at the end of your first year

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for 6 months on purchases

  • Regular APR

    18.24% - 27.24% Variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Fair / New to Credit

  • *See rates and fees, terms apply.

Pros

  • Cash-back program
  • Generous welcome bonus

Cons

  • Cash-back categories must be activated each quarter
  • Cash-back program limits earnings: Enroll every quarter to earn 5% cash back in various categories on up to $1,500 in quarterly purchases, then 1%
  • You must be a U.S. citizen and college student to apply for this card

Who's this for? A student card, like the Discover it® Student Cash Back, can help you build credit while also earning cash back. To qualify, you need to meet a few requirements: attend a two- or four-year college, be over 18 and a U.S. citizen.

Standout benefits: The Discover it® Student Cash Back has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, which makes it a good choice for students studying abroad.

Introductory APR: If you need to finance textbooks or dorm room essentials, you can take advantage of the introductory 0% APR for the first six months on new purchases. After the intro period, there's a 18.24% - 27.24% variable APR. We always recommend you pay your balance on time and in full to avoid interest charges.

[ Jump to more details ]

Check out CNBC Select's best credit cards for college students.

Best for average credit

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

On Capital One's secure site
  • Rewards

    Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, up to 6 months of complimentary Uber One membership statement credits through 11/14/2024

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $39

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    30.74% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    $0 at the Transfer APR, 4% of the amount of each transferred balance that posts to your account at a promotional APR that Capital One may offer to you

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Average, Fair, or Limited

See rates and fees, terms apply.

Pros

  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase
  • Redeem cash back at anytime and for any amount
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.

Cons

  • $39 annual fee
  • High variable APR
  • No welcome bonus

Who's this for? Many of the best cash-back cards require good or excellent credit, but there are some cards for people with fair/average credit that offer good cash-back rates. Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card (see rates and fees) gives consumers a competitive 1.5% cash back on all purchases, with no limit on the amount of cash back you can earn.

Standout benefits: The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card (see rates and fees) charges **no foreign transaction fees and comes with access to CreditWise, as well as six months of Uber One membership.

Introductory APR: **None.

**(See rates and fees)

[ Jump to more details ]

Check out CNBC Select's best credit cards for building credit and best credit cards for average and fair credit.

More on our top cash-back credit cards

Chase Freedom Unlimited® Card

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card is CNBC Select's best overall cash-back card because of its solid earning rate on all purchases, generous welcome offer and the way it compliments other Chase credit cards.

Rewards

On up to $20,000 spent in the first year:

  • 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery service)
  • 3% on all other purchases

After your first year or $20,000 spent:

  • 5% back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 5% back on Lyft rides (through March 2025)
  • 3% back at drugstores
  • 3% back on dining at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery services)
  • 1.5% on all other purchases.

Welcome bonus

Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Annual fee

$0

Notable perks

Earn 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2025. Other perks include up to $10 in Instacart credits each quarter, three months of complimentary Instacart+ membership and up to $10 back in statement credits each month on Gopuff orders.

Although the Chase Freedom Unlimited earns cash back, it can be paired with other cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points. If you have certain Chase credit cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, you can transfer your cash-back rewards to those cards. This greatly expands the options you have for redeeming your rewards because you'll be able to transfer those points to all of Chase's airline and hotel partners.

[ Return to card summary ]

Citi Double Cash® Card

The Citi Double Cash Card is CNBC Select's choice for the best flat-rate cash-back card because it earns an unlimited 2% back on all purchases.

Rewards

Earn 2% cash back: 1% when you make a purchase and 1% when you pay. Plus, for a limited time, earn 5% total cash back on hotel, car rentals and attractions booked on the Citi TravelSM portal through 12/31/24.

Welcome bonus

Earn $200 cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.

Annual fee

$0

Notable perks

Cardholders can redeem cash back for checks, direct deposits, statement credits, gift cards and more. You can also transfer rewards to three of Citi's travel partners: Wyndham, JetBlue and Choice Privileges.

The rewards you earn with the Citi Double Cash are more valuable when you pair this card with the Citi Premier® Card (see rates and fees). If you have both cards, you can transfer the points you earn with the Citi Double Cash card to all of Citi's partner travel programs, including Turkish Airlines, Avianca and Singapore Airlines.

In addition to the rewards, there are a number of special cardmember programs, including Citi Entertainment℠, which gives cardholders first access to purchase tickets for thousands of concerts and events. The card also provides access to Citi® Identity Theft Solutions, a service that will help you if you're a victim of identity theft.

[ Return to card summary ]

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Depending on your spending habits, the Chase Freedom Flex could be the most rewarding cash-back card because of its valuable rotating bonus categories and easy-to-earn welcome bonus.

Rewards

  • 5% back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in rotating bonus categories you activate each quarter
  • 5% back on Lyft rides (through March 2025)
  • 5% back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3% back at drugstores
  • 3% back on dining at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery services)
  • 1% back on all other purchases.

Welcome bonus

Earn a $200 bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Annual fee

$0

Notable perks

Earn 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2025. Plus, Freedom Flex cardholders receive benefits on Instacart deliveries, such as up to $10 in statement credits each quarter and three months of free Instacart+ membership.

If you maximize the Freedom Flex card's rotating quarterly bonus categories you'd earn an extra $300 cash back throughout the year. But if you have a Chase card that enables Ultimate Rewards points transfers (like the Chase Sapphire Preferred), you can pool your rewards onto that card and have the potential to dramatically increase their value.

[ Return to card summary ]

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card is a no annual fee card that can help you pay less interest on your credit card debt and earn cash rewards at the same time.

Rewards

  • 2% cash rewards back on all purchases

Welcome bonus

Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Annual fee

$0

Notable perks

When you pay your wireless phone bill with your Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card, you can qualify for cell phone protection. This insurance covers damage, theft and loss of a cell phone and has a $25 deductible. You can be reimbursed for up to two claims per 12 months and up to $600 per claim.

[ Return to card summary ]

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Student credit cards aren't known for being rewarding, and being able to earn 5% back on certain purchases makes the Discover it Student Cash Back stand out.

Rewards

  • 5% back for up to $1,500 in purchases in rotating quarterly bonus categories you activate (then 1%)
  • 1% back on all other purchases

Welcome bonus

Discover will match the cash back you earn during the first year with no minimum spending requirement or cap on the match.

Annual fee

$0

Notable perks

The Discover it Student Cash Back card has few useful benefits outside of its cash-back earnings. But it doesn't have foreign transaction fees, which comes in handy if you're planning to study abroad or take a spring break trip.

[ Return to card summary ]

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One QuicksilverOne card is a solid choice if you're working on improving your credit score and are interested in earning cash-back rewards at the same time.

Rewards

  • 1.5% cash back on every purchase

Welcome bonus

None

Annual fee

**$39

Notable perks

The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card has **no foreign transaction fees and comes with access to CreditWise, a service that monitors your TransUnion and Experian credit reports. Cardmembers are also eligible for six months of complimentary Uber One membership (through Nov. 14, 2024), which comes with discounts on eligible Uber Eats orders and member pricing on Uber rides.

**(see rates and fees)

[ Return to card summary ]

Types of cash-back credit cards

There are many types of credit cards that offer a range of perks and rewards programs, especially when it comes to cash-back credit cards. The three main types are flat-rate, bonus rewards and rotating category.

  • Flat-rate cash-back cards offer the same amount of cash back on all purchases.
  • Bonus rewards cash-back cards offer extra rewards on select purchases, such as gas, groceries, dining and travel.
  • Rotating category cash-back cards offer higher cash-back rates on certain categories that change every month or quarter.

Depending on your spending habits, you can benefit from having one or more cash-back cards.

Find the best credit card for you by reviewing offers in our credit card marketplace or get personalized offers via CardMatch™.

FAQs

How to choose a cash-back credit card

It can be hard to select just one cash-back card since there are so many to choose from. To choose the best card for your needs, you'll need to consider several factors. Here are some tips on how to choose a credit card:

1. Consider the annual fee: While many cash-back cards have no, or low annual, fees, consider if you're willing to pay for your credit card.

2. Do you want to take advantage of a 0% APR: Many cash-back cards provide an introductory 0% APR period that can save you money on interest charges. If you have large purchases coming up, or debt to refinance, consider a card with no interest for over a year, such as the Freedom Flex card with an intro 0% APR for the first 15 months on purchases and balance transfers (then 20.49% - 29.24% variable APR).

3. Review your spending habits: Taking the time to consider how you use your card, can help you narrow down the type of cash back you want to earn. If you spend a lot at the supermarket, consider a grocery rewards card, such as the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. Terms apply. But if your spending habits are unclear, stick with a flat-rate cash-back card, like the Citi Double Cash.

Find the best credit card for you by reviewing offers in our credit card marketplace or get personalized offers via CardMatch™.

How to compare cash-back credit cards

If you're having trouble narrowing down the best cash-back card for you, it can be helpful to compare credit cards. You should first list the benefits you're looking for and any deal breakers, such as an annual fee. Then make a list of cards that offer those benefits so you can do a side-by-side comparison.

For instance, if you want a simple cash-back card that doesn't require bonus activation, consider the flat-rate Citi Double Cash. But if you don't mind activating new categories every quarter and want to maximize rewards, opt for the Chase Freedom Flex.

Making the most of your card

To make the most of your cash-back card, you should familiarize yourself with the various credit card benefits and fees. Review the annual fee, foreign transaction fees and the APR. Plus consider the cash-back rates and redemption options.

Once you're familiar with the terms of your card, you can begin to optimize them. Set up autopay to ensure payments are made on time and consider how you want to redeem cash back. If there's an automatic redemption option, that can be a simple way to cash out your rewards.

And if you have multiple credit cards, make sure you know the best time to use each card. Let's say you have the Citi Double Cash Card and the Chase Freedom Unlimited Card. Use the Freedom Unlimited card for all your Chase Ultimate Rewards travel purchases (5% cash back), dining (3% cash back) and drugstore (3% cash back) expenses, then use the Double Cash for all your other purchases to earn an effective 2% cash back.

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Why trust CNBC Select?

At CNBC Select, our mission is to provide our readers with high-quality service journalism and comprehensive consumer advice so they can make informed decisions with their money. Every credit card review is based on rigorous reporting by our team of expert writers and editors with extensive knowledge of credit card productsWhile CNBC Select earns a commission from affiliate partners on many offers and links, we create all our content without input from our commercial team or any outside third parties, and we pride ourselves on our journalistic standards and ethics. See our methodology for more information on how we choose the best credit cards.

Our methodology

To determine which cards will put the most money back in your pocket, CNBC Select evaluated 50 cash-back credit cards offered by the biggest banks, financial companies and credit unions that allow anyone to join. We compared each card on a range of features, including cash-back rewards, annual fee, welcome bonus, introductory and standard APR, balance transfer fee and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available.

CNBC Select teamed up with location intelligence firm Esri. The company's data development team provided the most up-to-date and comprehensive consumer spending data based on the 2019 Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can read more about their methodology here.

Esri's data team created a sample annual budget of approximately $22,126 in retail spending. The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). General purchases include items such as housekeeping supplies, clothing, personal care products, prescription drugs and vitamins, and other vehicle expenses.

CNBC Select used this budget to estimate how much the average consumer would save over a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee.

It's important to note the value of a point or mile varies from card to card and based on how you redeem them. When we calculated the estimated returns, we assumed that cardholders are redeeming cash back for a typical maximum value of 1 cent per point or mile. (Extreme optimizers might be able to achieve more value.)

Our final picks are weighted heavily toward the highest five-year returns, since it's generally wise to hold onto a credit card for years. This method also avoids giving an unfair advantage to cards with large welcome bonuses.

While the five-year estimates we've included are derived from a budget similar to the average American's spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your shopping habits.

Catch up on CNBC Select's in-depth coverage of credit cardsbanking and money, and follow us on TikTokFacebookInstagram and Twitter to stay up to date.

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

For rates and fees of the Discover it® Student Cash Back, click here.

For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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