Advertiser Disclosure

Looking for a cash back credit card with stellar rewards? Some of the best cards out there pay out in dead presidents. Whether you’re a family man with a family van, a young adult looking for ease and simplicity, a jet-setter or, well, anyone, it doesn’t get much better than a cash back credit card. We’ll break down the best options for you and explain why we love them.

Here are NerdWallet’s top cash back cards:

Best for bonus categories

Chase Freedom®

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Pros

  • Bonus 5% cash back categories
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • Qualify with Good credit

Cons

  • If you value simplicity, a flat rate cash back card may be better

Bonus Offer

Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR Promotions

0% for 15 Months on purchases and 0% Intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers

APR

  • APR: 14.24-23.24% Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn a $25 Bonus after you add your first authorized user and make a purchase within this same 3-month period
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After the intro period, a variable APR of 14.24-23.24%
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months like gas stations, restaurants, and select grocery stores
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • Cash Back rewards never expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee

$0 annual fee. 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in spending in quarterly rotating bonus categories, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. 0% for 15 Months on purchases and 0% Intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 14.24-23.24% Variable. 3% foreign transaction fee.

Benefits of the Chase Freedom®:

  • The 5% rotating bonus categories tend to be things you probably spend money on anyway (think grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants and Amazon.com) so you probably won’t have to change your habits to take advantage of the higher cash back.
  • It’s hard to beat an annual fee of $0.
  • The card has a great sign-up bonus: Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • There’s a long introductory APR period for a cash back card: 0% for 15 Months on purchases and 0% Intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 14.24-23.24% Variable.

Drawbacks of the Chase Freedom®:

  • The 3% foreign transaction fee makes this card less than ideal for traveling abroad.
  • The bonus categories max out at $1,500 in spending. If you’re shopping for a big family, you might burn through that before the quarter ends.
  • Rotating bonus categories are hard for some people to track. If you prefer a flat cash back rate, this isn’t the card for you.

Bottom line:

The  Chase Freedom® is a solid cash back card. We like that the rotating bonus categories are mostly common everyday expenses (see our full Chase Freedom® review for a complete list), and it’s great that the cash back rewards never expire.

Best for everyday spending

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Apply Now on American Express's secure website

Pros

  • Leading cash back rewards for groceries
  • Sign-up bonus
  • 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

Cons

  • Has annual fee - but if you spend more than $27/week the rewards offset the fees
  • American Express isn’t accepted at as many merchants as Visa or MasterCard

Bonus Offer

Get $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive $150 back in the form of a statement credit.

Annual Fee

$75

Intro APR Promotions

0% on Purchases for 15 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 15 months

APR

  • APR: 13.24%-22.24% Variable
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.49%, Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.49%, Variable

Card Details

  • Get $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive $150 back in the form of a statement credit.
  • Earn Cash Back: 6% U.S. supermarkets up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 3% U.S. gas stations & select U.S. dept stores, 1% other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
  • With the Blue Cash Preferred® Card, you can start earning cash back. No rotating reward categories. No enrollment required.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit. Cash back is earned only on eligible purchases.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then a variable rate, currently 13.24% to 22.24%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.
  • Terms and limitations apply.
  • View Rates and Fees

$75 annual fee. 6% cash back at supermarkets, up to the first $6,000 spent annually (then 1%), 3% back on gas and select department store spending, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Get $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive $150 back in the form of a statement credit. Introductory APR of 0% on Purchases for 15 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.24%-22.24% Variable. 2.7% foreign transaction fee.

Benefits of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express:

  • The rewards rate at the supermarket is hard to beat, especially if you average $500 or less per month in supermarket spending (after which, you’d meet the $6,000 annual cap and your rewards rate would return to 1%).
  • Earning 3% back on gas station purchases can significantly lower the cost of your commute.
  • While the $75 annual fee is fairly steep, you only need to spend $25 per week at the supermarket before this card pays for itself. (A sister card, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, has an annual fee of $0 but carries a lower rewards rate of 3% at supermarkets. If you spend $50 or more a week on groceries, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is the better deal).
  • There’s a nice sign-up bonus: Get $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive $150 back in the form of a statement credit.
  • You can purchase gift cards at supermarkets for Amazon.com, Starbucks and many other chains, giving you an effective 6% cash back at those stores.
  • You don’t have to keep track of rotating bonus categories.

Drawbacks of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

  • While 2.7% is lower than the typical 3% foreign transaction fee, it’s still not great.
  • American Express isn’t as widely accepted as Visa or MasterCard.
  • Even though the rewards may cover the annual fee of $75, we tend to favor credit cards that don’t cost as much to keep in your wallet.

Bottom line:

The rewards on this card are really fairly amazing. Earning 6% back at supermarkets can only help your budget stretch further, and there’s no cap on the 3% back you’ll earn at the gas pump. Unless you’re a purist who hates paying an annual fee under any circumstances, this card might be well worth adding to your wallet.

Best for flat-rate rewards

Citi®Double Cash Card

Apply Now on Citibank's secure website

Pros

  • High rewards rate
  • No annual fee
  • 0% if you qualify for 15 mos on transfers

Cons

  • Needs excellent credit

Bonus Offer

The only card that earns you cash back twice on every purchase

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR Promotions

0% on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months*

APR

  • Min APR: 13.24%, Variable
  • Max APR: 23.24%, Variable
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.99%, Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.49%, Variable

Card Details

  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers and Purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.24%-23.24%, based on your creditworthiness*
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • The only card that earns you cash back twice on every purchase with:
  • 1% cash back when you buy
  • Plus 1% cash back as you pay for those purchases, whether you pay in full or over time*
  • No Category Restrictions, No Caps, No Enrollments in Rotating Categories
  • No Annual Fee

$0 annual fee. Earn 1% cash back on purchases, then an additional 1% back when you pay them off. Introductory APR of 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 13.24% - 23.24% Variable . 3% foreign transaction fee.

Benefits of the Citi®Double Cash Card:

  • The rewards rate is effectively double the 1% offered by many other cards, with no limit.
  • No rotating bonus categories to worry about.
  • There’s a long introductory APR period: 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 13.24% - 23.24% Variable .
  • You can redeem your rewards when your balance is as low as $25, and choose between statement credit, a gift card or a check.

Drawbacks of the Citi®Double Cash Card:

  • No sign-up bonus.
  • The 3% foreign transaction fee, though standard, means this card isn’t great for globe-trotters.

Bottom line:

The Citi®Double Cash Card beats most of its competitors by offering a high total cash back rate: 1% when you make a purchase and 1% when you pay it off. It’s great if you pay your balances in full every month, because you’ll get the whole amount almost immediately. It’s also a good bet if you aspire to pay off purchases quickly, but need a little extra motivation.

Best for debt payoff & rewards

Discover it®- 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer

Apply Now on Discover's secure website

Pros

  • Bonus cash back categories
  • No annual fee
  • 0% on purchases for 6 months and 0% on balance transfers for 18 months
  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • Slightly less merchant acceptance for Discover in US - acceptance outside of US can be an issue
  • If you value simplicity, a flat rate cash back card may be better

Bonus Offer

We'll DOUBLE all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year. So if you earned $101 cash back, we'll double it to $202—Automatically. Only for new cardmembers.*

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR Promotions

0% on purchases for 6 months and 0% on balance transfers for 18 months

APR

  • APR: 11.24% – 23.24% Variable*
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • We'll DOUBLE all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year. So if you earned $101 cash back, we'll double it to $202—Automatically. Only for new cardmembers.*
  • 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter like gas, restaurants, home improvement stores and more -up to the quarterly maximum when you sign up.* 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • 0% intro APR* on balance transfers for 18 months—then a variable purchase APR applies, currently 11.24% – 23.24%. A 3% fee applies to each transferred balance.
  • Freeze It℠ on/off switch lets you prevent new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers on misplaced cards in seconds by mobile app & online.* Plus get 100% U.S.-based service.
  • Track your recent FICO® Credit Scores for free in one easy-to-read chart on monthly statements & online.*
  • No annual fee.* No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. No late fee on first late payment & paying late won't raise your APR.*
  • Each Discover purchase is monitored. If it's unusual, you're alerted by e-mail, phone or text and you're never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover card.
  • Click "Apply Now". *See rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms & other information.

$0 annual fee. Earn 5% back on rotating bonus categories, up to $1,500 in spending, and 1% back on all other purchases. We'll DOUBLE all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year. So if you earned $101 cash back, we'll double it to $202—Automatically. Only for new cardmembers.* Introductory APR of 0% on purchases for 6 months and 0% on balance transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 11.24% – 23.24% Variable. No foreign transaction fees.

Benefits of the Discover it®- 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer:

  • The introductory APR period on balance transfers is super long, giving you extra time to chip away at that balance — while continuing to earn cash back rewards.
  • There are a number of other great perks, like free access to your FICO score, a way to suspend your card quickly if it’s stolen, and low overall fees.

Drawbacks of the Discover it®- 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer:

  • If you’re using the card to pay down debt, some of the money you save in interest will be lost to balance transfer fees.
  • You’re getting a comparatively short 0% APR period on new purchases. If you want more time than that, you might be better off with another Discover card.
  • Some people dislike keeping track of rotating bonus categories, preferring a flat cash back rate like that offered by the Citi®Double Cash Card.

Bottom line:

Many of the best balance transfer cards are very stripped-down, but the Discover it®- 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer still offers a high rewards rate even if you’re using the card to reduce your overall credit card balances. For a long introductory balance transfer APR paired with generous cash back, this card is hard to beat.

Best for fair credit

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Apply Now on Capital One's secure website

Pros

  • Qualify with average credit
  • High rewards rate
  • 0% intro on purchases until November 2016 and 0% intro on balance transfers until November 2016
  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • Has annual fee

Bonus Offer

Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day

Annual Fee

$39

Intro APR Promotions

0% intro on purchases until November 2016 and 0% intro on balance transfers until November 2016

APR

  • APR: 23.24% (Variable)

Card Details

  • 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 doesn’t expire and there’s no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases until November 2016; 23.24% variable APR after that
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Fraud coverage if your card is ever lost or stolen

$39 annual fee. Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day. APR: 0% intro on purchases until November 2016 and 0% intro on balance transfers until November 2016, and then the ongoing APR of 23.24% (Variable). No foreign transaction fees.

Benefits of the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card:

  • You don’t need excellent or even good credit to qualify for the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card. Fair credit should be adequate, defined as a FICO score between 630 and 689.
  • The cash back rate is pretty great, especially for people without perfect credit. We love that there’s no limit.
  • No foreign transaction fees makes us want to hit the road.
  • Capital One could bump your credit limit up after your first five on-time payments in a row.

Drawbacks of the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card:

  • The introductory APR period is relatively short.
  • The annual fee of $39 isn’t very high, but it will still cost you something to have this card.

Bottom line:

The reality is that not everyone has credit scores above 800. The Nerds appreciate that Capital One understands that, and offers a credit card with an extremely competitive 1.5% rewards rate for people still building their credit scores. Because your credit limit could go up when you’ve paid on time for a while, you might not need a card especially for people with fair credit for very long.

Methodology

NerdWallet’s credit cards team selects cards in each category based on overall consumer value. Factors in our evaluation include fees, promotional and ongoing APRs, and sign-up bonuses; for rewards cards, we consider earning and redemption rates, redemption options and redemption difficulty. A single card is eligible to win in multiple categories.  

Last updated January 7, 2016. 

Virginia C. McGuire is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: virginia@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @vcmcguire.