Here are the best cash back credit cards:

Up to 5% cash back and a unique sign-up bonus

Discover it® - Cashback Match™
Learn More on Discover's secure site

Discover it® - Cashback Match™

Learn More on Discover's secure site
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Rewards rate: Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • What our experts like about it

Up to 5% cash back and a cash sign-up bonus

Chase Freedom®
Learn More on Chase's secure site

Chase Freedom®

Learn More on Chase's secure site
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Rewards rate: Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate; Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • What our experts like about it

5% and 2% cash back you can customize

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card
Learn More on US Bank's secure site

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

Learn More on US Bank's secure site
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Rewards rate: Special Cash Back Offer: 5.5% cash back for the first year on your first $2,000 in eligible purchases each quarter on the combined two categories you choose. Thereafter, earn 5%. 2.5% cash back for the first year on your choice of one everyday category (i.e. gas or groceries). Thereafter, earn 2%. 1.5% cash back for the first year on all other eligible net purchases. Thereafter, earn 1%
  • What our experts like about it

Best flat rate for no fee: 1% + 1% cash back

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer
Learn More on Citibank's secure application

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Learn More on Citibank's secure application

1.5% cash back and a great sign-up bonus

Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card
Learn More on Wells Fargo's secure site

Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card

Learn More on Wells Fargo's secure site

1.5% cash back with 10% annual bonuses

HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card
Learn More on HSBC's secure site

HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card

Learn More on HSBC's secure site
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Rewards rate: Limited Time Offer: Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases made within 6 months of account opening, then 1.5% thereafter.
  • What our experts like about it

High rewards at U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Learn More on American Express's secure site

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Learn More on American Express's secure site
  • Annual fee: $95
  • Rewards rate: 6% at U.S supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%); 3% at U.S gas stations and at select U.S. department stores; 1% other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
  • What our experts like about it

2.5% cash back (with an annual fee)

Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card
Learn More on Alliant Credit Union's secure site

Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card

Learn More on Alliant Credit Union's secure site

1.5% cash back for those with average credit

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Learn More on Capital One's secure site

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Learn More on Capital One's secure site

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Our pick for

5% categories and a unique bonus

Benefits

The Discover it® - Cashback Match™ offers 5% cash back in categories that you activate, on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter. All other purchases earn 1% cash back. Past categories have included such common merchants as gas stations, restaurants, home improvement stores and Amazon.com, so there’s a good chance of earning bonus cash back on spending you were going to do anyway. This card puts you in charge of your sign-up bonus. Instead of a flat amount paid once you spend a certain amount of money, the bonus is based on your spending and is awarded at the end of your first year: Discover will match ALL the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically.

Activating the bonus categories each quarter can be a hassle. In recent years, the Discover it® - Cashback Match™ has not offered grocery stores as a bonus category, so if you’re feeding a family of teenagers, the Chase Freedom® might be a better option.
It’s pretty hard to beat 5% cash back, and the Discover it® - Cashback Match™ has historically offered bonus categories where many of us spend a lot. With a $0 annual fee, this card does well as either an everyday card or a backup.

Our pick for

5% categories and a cash bonus

Benefits

This card offers 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories, which in recent years have included gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants and wholesale clubs. You earn an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. The card comes with a cash sign-up bonus that’s fairly easy to reach: Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

The Chase Freedom® requires you to opt in to the bonus category each quarter. You can opt in at any time and get the bonus for the entire quarter — but if you forget, you won’t get 5% cash back. If you don’t spend enough to maximize the bonus categories each quarter, you might earn more rewards with another card.
The Chase Freedom® has one of the best rewards rates out there without an annual fee or a complicated redemption process. If you spend a lot on the 5% bonus categories — and most people do — you’ll easily earn substantial cash back with this card.

Our pick for

Customizable rewards

Benefits

The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card is a rotating category card with a twist: You get to pick your own bonus categories. You earn 5% cash back in two categories you choose, on up to $2,000 per quarter in combined spending (then 1%); unlimited 2% cash back in one other category of your choice; and 1% on all other spending. Plus, in the first year, those rewards rates are bumped up to 5.5%, 2.5% and 1.5%. There’s a decent sign-up bonus, and the annual fee is $0.

Rotating category cards involve more work than flat-rate cards, and this one adds an extra layer of effort because you have to pick your categories each quarter. Forget to do so, and you’ll earn only 1%.

 

The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card’s unique rewards system makes it worth considering for people who don’t mind (or who even enjoy) actively managing their credit card accounts.

Our pick for

Flat-rate cash back

Benefits

This card offers an industry-leading cash back rate on all purchases: You get 1% back on every dollar you spend and another 1% back when you pay off your purchases. Cash back can be redeemed as a statement credit, a gift card or a check in the mail.

This card has no sign-up bonus or categories for higher rewards. Higher cash back percentages can be had on different cards for specific categories. There’s a minimum cash back redemption of $25.
The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is one of the best rewards cards on the market, partly because it’s so simple: straight cash back — no points, no bonus categories to keep track of. Cardholders can shop as they normally would and get a fantastic rewards rate.

Our pick for

Cash sign-up bonus

Benefits

The Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card pays an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, which bumps up to 1.8% for mobile wallet purchases in the first year. It offers one of the highest sign-up bonuses of any cash-back card: Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months. Another unique benefit: up to $600 in protection on your cell phone (subject to a $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cell phone bill with the card.

You can’t redeem your cash back rewards until you’ve earned at least $25 for online redemptions, or $20 at a Wells Fargo ATM. Flat-rate cash back is hassle-free, but you’ll miss out on the extra rewards offered by cards with bonus categories.
The Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card offers unique benefits, a great bonus and solid rewards, although maximizers may want to pair it with one or more cards that offer bonus rewards.

Our pick for

Annual 10% rewards bonus

Benefits

The HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card sets itself apart from other cards that offer a flat 1.5% cash back in two ways. First, your rewards rate gets bumped up to 2% for the first six months your account is open, then goes to 1.5%. Second, you get an annual 10% bonus on all cash rewards earned in the preceding year, which makes the effective rewards rate 2.2% for the first six months and 1.65% thereafter. There’s also a nice sign-up bonus, and the annual fee is $0.

As with all flat-rate cards, there’s no opportunity to earn extra rewards on certain purchases.

 

With excellent rewards for new cardholders, annual bonuses and no annual fee, the HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card is a good option for people with good credit.

Our pick for

Families

Benefits

This card’s 6% cash back rate at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 a year in spending, then 1%) makes it a longtime favorite with the Nerds, as does its 3% rate at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores. All other purchases earn 1% back. By buying gift cards at the supermarket and using them at restaurants, retailers and other merchants, you can extend the 6% cash back far beyond just groceries. The sign-up bonus also adds to the appeal — and you may be eligible for an even better offer from American Express. Check out our American Express Pre-Qualified Offers page.

The annual fee is high for a cash back card, but if you spend at least $31 a week at the supermarket, the cash back will offset it. Because this card is an American Express, you may have trouble using it in some places.
If you spend at least $61 a week at the supermarket and are a regular at the gas pump, this is a great card. If you spend less than that, consider an alternative version of this card — the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. It has a $0 annual fee, but the cash back rates are lower.

Our pick for

High rewards for bigger spenders

Benefits

The Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card has an outstanding cash-back rate: unlimited 3% rewards on every purchase in the first year, then unlimited 2.5% cash back thereafter. The card also has no foreign transaction fee, making it a good option for international travel.

There’s an annual fee of $0 the first year, then $59. After the first year, you’ll have to spend $2,360 a year to make up for it. Also, you must be a member of Alliant Credit Union, although anyone can join with a $10 donation to Foster Care to Success.

 

The annual fee may be a turn-off for many, but if you spend more than $5,900 a year, it’s a better deal than a 1.5% card with no annual fee; spend more than $11,800, and it’s better than a no-fee 2% card.

Our pick for

Average credit

Benefits

The flat 1.5% cash back rate is pretty great, especially for people without perfect credit, and there’s no limit on the rewards you can earn. The rate is the same as that paid by the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card, which is only for people with excellent credit. There are no foreign transaction fees, and Capital One may bump your credit limit up if you make your first five monthly payments on time.

The annual fee of $39 isn’t very high, but it will still cost you something to have this card. The ongoing APR is high, so you should plan on paying your balance in full each month; otherwise, the interest will wipe out your rewards.
The reality is that not everyone has a credit score above 800. The Nerds appreciate that Capital One offers a credit card with an extremely competitive 1.5% rewards rate for people still building their credit scores.

Our methodology

NerdWallet’s credit cards team selects the best 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 be chosen in multiple categories.

Last updated Dec. 14, 2017.

NerdWallet writer Virginia C. McGuire contributed to this article. Chanelle Bessette is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: cbessette@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @crbessette