We ranked the best cash back cards available today. Here’s what made the top 5

0
97
we-ranked-the-best-cash-back-cards-available-today.-here’s-what-made-the-top-5

Credit cards can be a valuable tool for managing your cash flow and financing big purchases so they aren’t going away anytime soon. In fact, the average person has about four credit cards.

So if you’re going to be making purchases on credit, why not get rewarded for it by using a cash back card?

Maybe you’re not sure how to pick the right one. If so, don’t worry, because we did all the hard work for you. The Fortune RecommendsTM team evaluated more than 50 cash back credit cards available today and ranked them based on factors such as annual fee, rewards structure, annual percentage rate (APR), consumer benefits, and more. Read on to see our top picks.

See our full methodology here.

All interest rates, cash back rewards, and fees are accurate as of October 16, 2023.


Best overall cash back card 

The Navy Federal Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards credit card has a lot to offer, with a large sign-up bonus, competitive rewards structure, and a host of valuable extras.

Navy Federal Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Card 

Key numbers
Welcome bonus 40,000 bonus points (a $400 value)
Annual fee $49
Regular APR 15.24%–18%
Recommended credit score Good to excellent

Why we like this card 

The Navy Federal Visa Signature Flagship Rewards card checks all the boxes when it comes to what you’d want in a cash back card. For one, it offers a lucrative base rewards rate of 2x points per dollar spent. Plus, avid travelers can earn 3x points on travel purchases, from flights and car rentals to campgrounds and amusement parks. To add to the travel perks, the card also comes with a statement credit (up to $100) for Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership and no foreign transaction fees.

There’s also a generous sign-up bonus of 40,000 bonus points (a $400 value) when you spend $4,000 within 90 days of opening your account. And as an added bonus, cardholders get a free year of Amazon Prime—a $139 value. Not to mention, the card comes with a competitive APR, especially for applicants with great credit. 

Considering these many benefits, the $49 annual fee is a drop in the bucket compared to the value cardholders get back. 

Pros

  • Low APR
  • Large sign-up bonus
  • High base rewards rate

Cons

  • Annual fee 
  • Must be a member of the credit union to open

Card details 

  • Balance transfer APR: 15.24%–18.00% variable
  • Cash advance APR: 2% above your variable APR
  • Penalty APR: 18.00%
  • Late payment fee: up to $20
  • Foreign transaction fee: None
  • Rewards: 3x points on travel, 2x points on everything else
  • Consumer benefits: Purchase protection, travel accident insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver, lost luggage reimbursement
  • Additional perks/benefits: Statement credits (up to $100) for Global Entry or TSA Precheck, free year of Amazon Prime
  • JD Power customer satisfaction rating: 876

Best cash back card for those who want the most value

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® credit card is all about giving you more for your money. 

Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card

Key numbers
Welcome bonus $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
Annual fee $0
Regular APR 20.49%–29.24% Variable
Recommended credit score Good to excellent

Why we like this card 

If you’re looking for a card with a high rewards rate and tons of freebies—without an annual fee—the Chase Freedom Unlimited card is an excellent option. It awards an unlimited 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cash back on all eligible purchases. Cardholders also earn 5% cash back on Lyft purchases (through March 2025).

You can save big in your first year as a cardholder. There’s a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, you can earn 5% cash back on combined gas station & grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. And pay 0% interest on all purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months of account opening.

What’s more the card comes with a number of valuable protections, including extended warranty, purchase protection, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, and rental car coverage. You also get a complimentary three months of DashPass and Instacart+ membership. If you enroll in Instacart+ after those first three months, you’ll earn a statement credit up to $10 each quarter through July 31, 2024 when you make eligible Instacart purchases with your Chase Freedom Unlimited card.

Pros

  • $0 annual fee
  • $200 sign-up bonus
  • 0% APR for 15 months

Cons

  • Foreign transaction fee

Card details 

  • Balance transfer APR: 20.49%–29.24% Variable, plus a 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.
  • Cash advance APR: 29.99% Variable, plus a fee of either $10 or 5% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.99%
  • Late payment fee: Up to $40
  • Foreign transaction fee: 3% of the amount of each transaction in U.S. dollars
  • Rewards: 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 5% cash back on Lyft purchases (through March 2025), 3% cash back on dining (including takeout and eligible delivery service), and 1.5% cash back on all eligible purchases
  • Consumer benefits: Purchase protection, extended warranty protection, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver, 
  • Additional perks/benefits: Complimentary Dashpass and Instacart+ memberships
  • JD Power customer satisfaction rating: 813

Best cash back card for the household CFO

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ card is designed to help you match cash back rewards to your spending habits.

Chase Freedom Flex Credit Card

Key numbers
Welcome bonus $200 cash bonus after spending $500 on purchases within your first three months
Annual fee $0
Regular APR 20.49%–29.24% Variable
Recommended credit score Good to excellent

Why we like this card 

Do you manage the money in your household? Are you responsible for shopping and making the most of your family’s budget? If so, you’ll appreciate what the Chase Freedom Flex card has to offer.

The Freedom Flex is similar to the Freedom Unlimited. The rewards structure is nearly identical: 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% back on dining and drugstores, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. You also get the same $200 bonus and 5% gas and grocery store offer, along with a 15-month 0% APR period, Dashpass and Instacart+ benefits, and no annual fee.

The big difference is that the Freedom Flex card also includes bonus categories that allow you to earn 5% back in certain categories, up to $1,500 in total combined purchases each quarter. Bonus categories include gas stations, wholesale clubs, gyms and more—the exact categories available depend on the Chase cash back calendar. (You’ll need to activate your bonus categories each quarter.)

Finally, in addition to extended warranty, purchase, and travel protections, the Cash Freedom Flex card also comes with cell phone insurance.

Pros

  • Up to 5% cash back on select spending categories
  • 0% intro purchase APR for 15 months from account opening (after that, the variable APR will be 20.49%–29.24%)
  • $0 annual fee

Cons

  • Bonus categories have quarterly limits on cash back
  • Bonus categories require activation
  • Foreign transaction fee

Card details 

  • Balance transfer APR: 20.49%–29.24% Variable, plus a 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.
  • Cash advance APR: 29.99% Variable, plus a fee of either $10 or 5% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.99%
  • Late payment fee: Up to $40
  • Foreign transaction fee: 3% of the amount of each transaction in U.S. dollars
  • Rewards: 5% cash back on activated bonus category purchases each quarter (up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1 percent), 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 5% cash back on Lyft rides (through March 2025), 3% cash back on dining (including restaurants, takeout and eligible delivery services), and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Consumer benefits: Purchase protection, extended warranty protection, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver, cell phone protection
  • Additional perks/benefits: Complimentary Dashpass and Instacart+ memberships
  • JD Power customer satisfaction rating: 813

Best cash back card for students

The Chase Freedom® Rise card is a great option for students who are just starting out with managing their finances and credit.

Chase Freedom RiseSM credit card

Key numbers
Welcome bonus N/A
Annual fee $0
Regular APR 26.99% variable
Recommended credit score Thin credit file/no credit history required

Why we like this card 

If you’re new to the world of credit cards, the Chase Freedom RiseSM card is sure to make your first experience a great one. Whether you’re buying books for class or concert tickets for the weekend, you’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all your spending, plus 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 31, 2025. And there’s no annual fee to worry about.

New cardholders will also earn a $25 statement credit after signing up for automatic payments within the first three months of opening an account. And forget cafeteria food: you’ll also get three months of DashPass and Instacart+ membership for free. The Freedom card also comes with extended warranty protection, purchase protection, and trip cancellation/interruption insurance.

If you’re worried about qualifying for this card with little to no credit, know that this card is designed for those who are new to managing credit. You can also increase your chances of approval by having a Chase checking account with at least $250 before applying. If approved, you’ll be evaluated for a credit line increase in as soon as 6 months. 

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Excellent credit not required to get approved

Cons

  • No welcome bonus
  • No introductory 0% APR

Card details 

  • Balance transfer APR: 26.99%, plus a fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Cash advance APR: 29.99%, plus a fee of either $10 or 5% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
  • Penalty APR: up to 29.99%
  • Late payment fee: up to $40
  • Foreign transaction fee: 3% of the amount of each transaction in U.S. dollars
  • Rewards: 1.5x cash back on all purchases
  • Consumer benefits: Purchase protection, extended warranty protection, trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • Additional perks/benefits: $25 statement credit for signing up for automatic payments within the first 3 months of account opening
  • JD Power customer satisfaction rating: 813

Best cash back card for paying off existing debt

The Fifth Third 1% Cash/Back Card comes with no annual fee and a long 0% APR introductory period, making it a great option for those aiming to eliminate their balance.

Fifth Third 1% Cash/Back Card

Key numbers
Welcome bonus $0
Annual fee $0
Regular APR 16.24%–27.24%
Recommended credit score Good to excellent

Why we like this card 

At face value, the Fifth Third 1% Cash/Back Card is pretty average when it comes to the competition, with a modest 1% back on all purchases. However, where this card really shines is its incredibly long, 21-month 0% APR introductory period on purchases and balance transfers. With nearly two years of zero interest, those who are carrying a big balance will have plenty of time to pay it down without racking up new interest charges.

As an added bonus, the Fifth Third 1% Cash/Back Card comes with cell phone insurance. And  it has no annual fee, ensuring there’s no added cost to take advantage of these great benefits. 

Pros

  • 0% APR for 21 months
  • No annual fee
  • Cell phone insurance

Cons

  • Low flat rewards rate compared to other cards
  • No welcome bonus

Card details 

  • Balance transfer APR: 16.24%–27.24%, plus a fee of either $5 or 4% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • Cash advance APR: 29.99%, plus a fee of either $10 or 5% of the amount of each Cash Advance, whichever is greater
  • Penalty APR: N/A
  • Late payment fee: up to $40
  • Foreign transaction fee: None
  • Rewards: 1x points on all purchases
  • Consumer benefits: Cell phone protection
  • Additional perks/benefits: N/A
  • JD Power customer satisfaction rating: 806

Cash back credit card comparison 

Key cash back credit cards resources 

What is a cash back credit card?

A cash back credit card is a type of credit card that allows users to earn a percentage of their spending back in the form of cash rewards. Depending on the card, cash back rewards can be a flat rate (e.g., 1.5% on all purchases) or can vary by purchase category (e.g., 3% on dining, 2% on groceries, and 1% on all other purchases). Some cards may also offer promotional periods with higher cash back percentages or bonuses for spending certain amounts within a specified timeframe. Learn more about how cash back cards work.

Can you get cash back with a credit card?

Yes many credit cards offer cash back, where you earn a percentage of your purchases back as a reward. For example, a card might offer 1% cash back on all purchases. If you spend $100, you’d earn $1 back in rewards. 

Over time, these rewards add up and can be redeemed in various ways, such as a statement credit, check, or deposit into a bank account. However, it’s essential for cardholders to be aware of any potential annual fees, interest rates, and reward expiration or limitations to ensure they maximize the benefits while minimizing costs. Learn more about maximizing cash back rewards.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Are cash back cards a good idea?

If you rely on credit cards to manage your expenses, using a cash back card is a smart way to earn money back on the spending you have to do anyway. However, if you struggle with debt and paying your credit card bill on time, it’s a good idea to avoid credit cards in general.

What credit card gives you 3% back?

There aren’t any credit cards that provide a flat 3% back across the board. However, several cards offer 3% back in certain spending categories, including the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card, Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card, and Capital One SavorOne Rewards.

How do you get 5% cash back on everything?

There is no cash back card that provides 5% back on all purchases. However, several cards offer 5% cash back on popular spending categories like groceries and gas, including the US Bank Cash+  Visa Signature ® Card, Credit One Bank Platinum X5 Visa, and Discover it Cash Back card.

How much is 1.5% cash back on $1,000?

If you spend $1,000 in eligible purchases on a card that offers 1.5% back, you’d earn $15 in cash back.

Is there a downside to cash back?

There is no downside to earning cash back. However, it’s not a good idea to spend money on a credit card that you can’t afford to pay back just to earn cash back. Missing payments results in late fees and harm to your credit.

Our methodology 

To bring you our top picks for the best cash back credit cards, the Fortune Recommends team compared approximately 50 rewards cards available from major issuers. 

We ranked each account in these nine core categories: 

  • Annual fee (10%): Some credit cards charge an annual fee, which can range from $50 to several hundred dollars. Usually, the more valuable the rewards and perks associated with a card, the higher the annual fee. However, many cards do not charge a fee at all. Fee-free cards were prioritized in our rankings. 
  • Base rewards rate (15%): This is the minimum amount of cash back awarded on everyday purchases, not considering any specific or rotating categories that may earn a higher rewards rate. 
  • Welcome bonus (15%): It’s common for credit card issuers to entice new customers by offering a bonus when they spend a certain amount of money within a few months after opening an account.   
  • 0% APR intro term (15%): Another feature that some card issuers offer to attract new business is an introductory period when the APR is 0%, meaning you won’t accrue any interest charges on purchases or balance transfers during this time (though balance transfers may be subject to fees). After this period, the interest rate reverts to the regular purchase APR on new charges. 
  • Purchase APR (20%): We examined the lowest available rate (10%) and highest available rate (10%) on regular purchases. (The exact interest rate you’re offered within that range will depend on your individual credit and financial profile).
  • Foreign transaction fee (5%): Some credit cards charge a fee for transactions made overseas. Cards that charge foreign transaction fees were docked in our rankings. 
  • Statement credits (5%): A handful of cash back cards also offer monthly, quarterly, or annual statement credits to offset the cost of certain purchases.
  • Customer service (5%): We included the J.D. Power 2022 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction rating for all card issuers.
  • Consumer benefits (5%): Cards were awarded 0–4 points based on which consumer benefits/protections were included: purchase protection, extended warranty, cell phone insurance, car rental/trip insurance.
  • Mobile app rating (5%): We averaged the star rating for each issuer’s mobile app in the Apple Store and Google Play.

Keep in mind that the rewards, interest rates, and fee structures for the cards mentioned are available for limited periods and subject to change, which could impact how much cash back you earn. 

In addition to our best overall ranking, we evaluated the same credit cards and chose our top pick based on the following metrics: 

Category 1: Value seekers 

  • Annual fee
  • Welcome bonus
  • 0% APR intro period term
  • Statement credits
  • Base rewards rate
  • Highest rewards rate
  • Complimentary membership/subscription
  • Foreign transaction fee
  • Consumer benefits

Category 2: Household CFO 

  • Annual fee
  • Welcome bonus
  • 0% APR intro period term
  • Complimentary membership/subscription
  • Statement credits
  • Consumer benefits
  • Rewards rate (travel, grocery, dining, gas, entertainment, retailers)
  • Whether rewards are capped

Category 3: Students 

  • Annual fee
  • 0% APR intro period term
  • Purchase APR
  • Base rewards rate
  • Customer service
  • Maximum late payment fee

Category 4: Paying off debt

  • Annual fee
  • 0% APR intro period term
  • Purchase APR

Please note that card details are accurate as of the publish date, but are subject to change at any time at the discretion of the issuer. Please contact the card issuer to verify rates, fees, and benefits before applying.