Here Are The Best Cash Back Credit Cards And How To Maximize Their Benefits

Follow our Facebook page Credit Card 101 for latest in the world of credit cards

No matter how much we love the rewards from Airlines and Hotel programs, “Cash is King”. There are many cards in the market that offer Cashback as a reward for your spends.

Here is a quick comparison of all the popular Cashback credit cards available.

Cashback on purchases 5% Rotating Categories? Annual Fee Redemption Options
Consumer Cards
Citi Double Cash 2% No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer
Chase Freedom Unlimited 1.50% No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Gift Cards
Chase Freedom 1% Yes $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Gift Cards
Discover it 1% Yes $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Gift Cards
Discover it Miles 1.50% No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Gift Cards
American Express Blue Cash Everyday 3% cash back at US supermarkets,
2% cashback at US gas stations and select US department stores
1% cashback on all purchases.
No $0 Statement Credit
American Express Blue Cash Preferred 6% cash back at US supermarkets,
3% cashback at US gas stations and select US department stores
1% cashback on all purchases.
No $95 Statement Credit
Bank of America Cash Rewards 1% cash back on all purchases,
2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs,
3% at gas stations
No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Check
Bank of America Premium Rewards 1.5 – 3.5% No $95 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Check
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa card 1.50% No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer
US Bank Cash+ Visa Signature card 1% Yes $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer
Capital One Quick Silver card 1.5% No $0 Statement Credit, Check, Gift cards
Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Credit Card 3% First year, 2.5% after No $0 for first year and $59 after that Statement Credit, ACH Transfer
Small Business Cards
Capital One Spark Cash 2% No $0 for first year and $95 after that Statement Credit, Check, Gift cards
Capital One Spark Cash Select 1.50% No $0 Statement Credit, Check, Gift cards
Capital One Spark Classic 1% No $0 Statement Credit, Check, Gift cards
Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card 5% cash back at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services.
2% cashback at Gas Stations and Restautants
1% cashback on other purchases
No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Gift Cards, Better value by redeeming for Travel
Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard credit card 1% cash back on all purchases,
2% at Restaurants and wholesale clubs,
3% at gas stations
No $0 Statement Credit, ACH Transfer, Check
American Express SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card 5% at U.S. office supply stores, 3% on a select category you choose and 1% on all other purchases No $0 Statement Credit
  • Citi Double Cash Credit card:

Citi DoubleCash

$0 Annual fee and earn 1% cashback when you buy and an additional 1%  cashback when you pay for the purchases.

  • Chase Freedom Unlimited:

Freedom Unlimited

$0 Annual fee and earns 1.5% cashback on all purchases.

  • Chase Freedom

Chase Freedom

$0 Annual fee and earn 1% cashback on all purchases. You can also earn 5% on rotating categories that change every quarter, up to a maximum of $1,500 in combines purchases.

chase 5%

5% Cashback calendar for Chase Freedom card holders

  • Discover it:

Discover it

$0 Annual fee and earns 1% cashback on all purchases. You could also earn                         5% cashback on purchases when you activate and spend at different places that change every quarter, up to a maximum of $1,500 in purchases.

Discover 5%

Discover 5% Cashback calendar for 2018

For the first year of card membership, Discover will match the Cashback.

Also, when redeeming your cashback, Discover offers the option of buying various merchant Gift cards at a discounted price.

Discover_Gift_Cards

Some of the gift cards you could buy with your Discover Cashback

  • Discover it Miles:

Discover it Miles

Even though this card is called as Miles card, it is effectively a cashback card that 1.5% on all purchases.

Similar to Discover it card, your rewards will be matched by Discover at the end of your first year membership.

  • American Express Blue cash Everyday:

Blue Cash Everyday

3% cashback at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%) and 2% cashback at US gas stations and select US department stores and 1% cashback on all purchases.

$0 Annual fee

  • American Express Blue cash Preferred:

BLuecash Preferred

6% cashback at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%) and 3% cashback at US gas stations and select US department stores and 1% cashback on all purchases.

$95 Annual fee

  • Bank of America Cash Rewards:

BankofAmerica Cash Rewards

1% cash back on purchases everywhere, every time, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/ wholesale club/ gas purchases each quarter.

No annual fee

Get a 10% customer bonus every time you redeem your cash back into a Bank of America checking or savings account.

  • Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card:

BofA Premium Rewards

2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

$95 Annual fee

Preferred Rewards customers get an additional 25%-75% rewards bonus on every purchase

BofA Preferred

Three tiers of Bank of America relationship

If you could maintain a balance of over $100K+, you can enjoy 75% rewards bonus for being a Platinum Honors member. That means you could earn up to 3.5 % per $1 on travel and dining purchases and up to 2.62 % per $1 on all other purchases.

Remember this is tax season, you could pay taxes using credit card using services like Pay1040.com for a fee of 1.87%. When you compare 1.87% fee with the possibility of earning of 2.62% cashback, you could make money on your tax payments.

  • Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa card:

Cash Wise

Unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on net purchases

$0 Annual fee

  • US Bank Cash+ Visa Signature card:

US bank Cash+

5%cashback on your first $2,000 in combined eligible net purchases each quarter on two categories you choose.

2% cashback on one everyday category, like gas or groceries and 1% on all other net purchases.

$0 Annual fee

  •   Capital One Quicksilver card
   Capitalone Quick Silver

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

$0 Annual fee

  • Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Credit card:

Alliant

Earn 3% cashback on all purchases during the first year of membership and 2.5% after that

$59 annual fee, waived for the first year

 

Small Business Credit cards

If you own a small business, you could get one of the small business credit cards that earns Cashback.

 

  • Capital One Spark Cash credit cards

There are three variants of this card and offers varying amounts of cashback.

Capitalone business

Three variants of Capital One Spark Cash credit cards

  • Chase Ink Business Cash Credit card

chase Ink

Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year.

Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year. Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases–with no limit to the amount you can earn

No Annual fee

 

  • American Express SimplyCash Plus Business Credit card

Amex Business card

5% at U.S. office supply stores, 3% on a select category you choose. On purchases up to $50,000 at 5% and 3% per calendar year, then 1%

No Annual fee

 

How to maximize the benefits?

All the above mentioned cards offer cash back on all purchases ranging from 1-3.5% on all purchases. However, there are a few cards that offer additional cashback on purchases that falls in specific categories like Gas stations, Grocery stores etc..

For example, Discover it and Chase Freedom card offers 5% cashback on rotating categories that change every quarter. You could earn 5% cashback on  up to $1,500 in purchases when you activate.

Here are a few tips you could consider to maximize the

  1. Purchase Gift cards – Many Grocery stores sell gift cards of various merchants like Restaurants, Gas stations, Amazon, prepaid visa/Master gift cards etc. You could purchase gift cards and buy stuff from that merchant, effectively earning 5% cashback on that purchase.
  2.  Many gas stations also sell gift cards and could be a great opportunity to maximize your purchases.
  3. If you purchase regularly, you may consider stocking up the gift cards of that merchant for future use or you could buy items in bulk for future use.

Which cashback credit card do you hold and how do you maximize the benefits?

 Follow our Facebook page Credit Card 101 for latest in the world of credit cards

Comparison of Amex Membership Rewards vs. Chase Ultimate Rewards vs. Citi ThankYou Points.

It is a known fact that Amex, Chase & Citi are big players when it comes to issuing credit cards. These banks not only have co-branded cards but also issue cards under their  proprietary rewards program. These are considered as flexible currency as they offer a lot of flexibility in terms of how we can spend these points.

Here is a comparison of all the features of the three programs – Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards & Citi ThankYou points.

  Amex Membership rewards Chase Ultimate Rewards Citi ThankYou points
Cards that will earn the reward points
  • Amex Platinum Card
  • Amex Business Platinum
  • Amex Premier Rewards Gold card
  • Amex Business Gold Rewards Card
  • Amex Everyday
  • Amex Everyday Preferred
  • Amex Blue Business Pus Credit Card
  • Amex Green Card
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Chase Freedom
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited
  • Chase Ink business preferred
  • Chase Ink business cash
  • Citi ThankYou Premier
  • Citi Prestige
  • Citi ThankYou Preferred
  • AT&T Access Card From Citi
  • AT&T Access More Card from Citi ( possible with product conversions only)
Airline Transfer Partners (1:1 except as noted)
  • AeroMexico Club Premier: 1,000 MR points =  1,600 Premier points
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Flying Blue
  • Alitalia MilleMiglia
  • ANA
  • Asia Miles
  • British Airways
  • Delta SkyMiles
  • El Al: 1,000 MR points = 20 Matmid points
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Etihad Guest
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia Plus
  • TrueBlue points (250 MR Points = 200 TrueBlue Points)
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • United MileagePlus
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards
  • Singapore KrisFlyer
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Flying Blue
  • JetBlue TrueBlue: 1,000 TY points = 800
  • Turkish Airlines Miles & Miles
  • Asia Miles
  • Avianca Life Miles
  • Etihad Guest
  • Eva Air
  • Flying Blue
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Jet Privilege
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Royal Orchid Plus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Hotel Transfer Partners (1:1 except as noted)
  • Choice Privileges
  • Starwood Preferred Guest (1000:333)
  • Hilton  Honors (1000:1500)
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • World of Hyatt
  • Marriott Rewards
  • Ritz Carlton Rewards
None
Cash Redemptions 0.6 Cents per point towards Statement Credit 1 Cent per point towards statement credit or ACH transfer 1 Cent per point towards statement credit
Redeem towards travel (Air travel, Hotel and Car Rental on the respective portal) 1 Cent per point. (Get 35% of the points back if you hold Business Platinum card and booked with qualifying airline) 1.5 Cents/Point with Sapphire Reserve or 1.25 Cents/Points with Sapphire Preferred 1.25 cents per point (with Prestige or Premier card)
Points Sharing Points Sharing not allowed Points can be shared with another household member Can be shared with anyone holding ThankYou card. Transferred points expire after 90 days of transfer

 

Key Things to note:

Some of the cards offer all the features when combined with a premium card. For example, Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited alone can not unlock the full potential of Chase Ultimate Rewards program, but when combined with Chase Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve. Similarly, Citi ThankYou preferred offers full value when combined with ThankYou premier or Prestige card

It is generally not a good idea to redeem points towards Merchandise or gift cards

Singapore Airlines Krisflyer, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club & KLM/Airfrance – Flying Blue are common transfer partners for all 3 reward programs – so you could pool points from the three rewards programs for something big.

Which rewards program is best?

The true answer is “It depends“.  Each program has its own advantage depending on your requirement and type of cards held. For example, if you have Chase Sapphire Reserve card – you get more value when redeeming towards travel rewards like flight, hotel & car rentals.

You should also consider that the card issuers have recently tightened the rules around the new card approvals, so it may be worthwhile to invest in all the 3 programs.

But, here are some of the strong aspects of each program in different scenarios:

Best program for transferring points to Hotel loyalty programs:

World of Hyatt is associated with Chase Ultimate Rewards and could offer great value when redeemed thoughtfully.  Transferring to Marriott Rewards, Ritz Carlton Rewards and IHG Rewards Club is not generally NOT recommended as it is very easy to earn these  points at less than 1 cent/point.

Best program for transferring points to Airline loyalty programs:

This is very tough one, as there are sweet spots with each airline loyalty program. But, here are our recommended Airline transfer partners for each program that could offer great value

Amex Membership Rewards: Air Canada -Aeroplan, Delta Sky Miles, British Airways Executive Club, ANA Mileage Club, Singapore Krisflyer, Asia Miles

Chase Ultimate Rewards: United MileagePlus, British Airways Executive Club, Southwest Rapid rewards, Singapore Krisflyer

Citi ThankYou points: Avianca Life Miles, Singapore Krisflyer, Etihad Guest, Asia Miles

Best Program for Travel rewards:

All three programs allowing Flight, Hotel & Car rental bookings through their respective portal. In this case, the best program would be Chase Ultimate Rewards (If you hold the Chase Sapphire Reserve – 1.5 cents/points) or Amex membership Rewards  (If you hold Amex business platinum cards – 1.54 cents/point).

If you do not hold the premium cards, then Citi ThankYou Points (1.25 cents/point) and Chase Ultimate Rewards (1.25 cents/point) offer great value.

What is your favorite program and your consideration for choosing that program?

 

 

Chase 5/24 Rule, Cards Exempted And Exceptions

Every bank has a set of unpublished rules when it comes to approving for credit cards. It is always important to know these rules so we could maximize the return of the hard pulls in the credit pulls.

What is Chase 5/24 rule?

Around 2 years ago, Chase  tightened rules when it comes to approving for certain credit cards in their portfolio. With this 5/24 rule, a credit card application will not be approved if the applicant had opened more than 5 new cards in the last 24 months from not just Chase but ANY bank.

Even Authorized User (AU) cards could impact your ability to get the new card as this also shows up as a new account in your credit report. However, there may be a chance that this can be pleaded and your application may be approved if you are over 5 account due to AU cards

This rule does not account for the number of hard inquires on the credit report, but the number of new accounts (across all banks) added to the credit report in the last 24 months, which means that this new rule is intended to limit the number of sign up bonuses received.

How to Check your 5/24 status?

There is an easier way to check, if you have opened more than 5 cards in the last 24 months.

Step 1: Login to Credit karma

Credit karma is free service which provides credit monitoring and credit scores from your Transunion and Equifax.  If you dont have an account yet, you could sign up in a few minutes.

1.login

Step 2:  View Score details

Once you login, you would be able to see a Dashboard showing your TransUnion and Equifax credit score details.  Click on the “View Score details” on the bottom of either score.

2.Dashboard

Step 3:  View “Credit Usage”

On this page, you will see all the factors impacting your credit score.  Click “View Details” below the credit usage section.

3.Details

Step 4: Count the number of accounts in the last 24 months

Here you could see all the open credit card accounts. You could count the number of cards opening in the last 24 months.

4. Count the numbers

If you have 5 or more cards opened in the last 24 months, you could not get selected Chase cards.

One more thing you could notice is that business cards are not reported to the credit bureaus. This is true with most business cards and business cards would not impact your 5/24 status as long as it is not showing up in your credit report.

Which Business cards do not show up on credit report?

Several banks do not report business cards in your credit report unless there is an issue with your business card account.  As of the day of writing this post, only CapitalOne and Barclayard (conflicting reports) seem to report business cards to credit bureaus.

Here are a couple of flyertalk threads for more information and datapoints

A list of Business cards which earns miles and points

5/24 – Chase  & non-Chase churning strategy

If you had applied for business cards in the last 24 months, you could exclude the business cards, when you count your 5/24 status as mentioned above.

Which Chase cards are exempted from this rule?

Thankfully, there are several Chase cards that are not covered by the 5/24 rule.  This flyertalk thread has all the current updates and data points. As of today, the following Chase travel rewards cards are exempted from this 5/24 rule.

British Airways Visa Signature card

The Hyatt credit card

IHG Rewards Club Select Credit card

Ritz-Carlton rewards credit card

Marriott Rewards Premier Business credit card

If you are less than 5/24, you should focus on other chase cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred etc.. before applying for the above listed cards.

What are the potential exceptions to this rule?

Note that the below listed options are not guaranteed to by-pass this 5/24 rule, but will improve your chances significantly.

  • The most probable approach for by-passing the 5/24 rule is, if you are pre-approved for a card. This is usually informed by the  the teller during the branch visit.
  • If you are 5/24 due to Authorized user cards (AU) in the last 24 months, it may be a good idea to ask the primary card holder to cancel these AU cards issued against your name and request these bank to notify the bank to remove these cards
  • If you received a targeted mailer with an exclusive invitation code, you could potentially get away with the 5/24 limitation
  • In the past,  having Chase Private Client status used to by-pass the 5/24 rule, as the relationship manager used to work with the credit analyst and get you approved. However, recent data-points suggest that it does not work any more.

Conclusion:

Chase has  an unpublished rule, which is famously called 5/24 rule. As per this rule, a Chase credit card will not be approved if the applicant has opened 5 or more cards with any issuer (according to the credit report) in the last 24 months.

There may be limited exceptions to this rule, if you apply for pre-approved offer in the branch or through a targeted mailer.

If you have opened less than 5 credit cards in the last 24 months, you may want to prioritize Chase cards before getting other cards.

Credit Cards With Lounge Access Benefit

During Air travel, there are instances beyond our control where we end up with a long layover or the flight gets delayed at the last moment and we end up having to wait for a long duration at the gate.

To ease the discomfort, Lounge access could come to the rescue. While US domestic Airline lounges may not offer huge value, there are several lounges that offer attractive amenities including complimentary drinks, snacks, food, showers etc..

Unless we are an elite member or flying in business/first  class, access to lounges is not complimentary and the cost multiplies when we are traveling as a group. Fortunately, there are several credit cards that offer complimentary lounge access as one of the benefit. This benefit is often offered through Priority Pass membership. For starters, Priority Pass does not own lounges, but is affiliated with over 1,000+ lounges across the globe and provides you complimentary access or negotiated rates depending on your plan.

If you were purchase Priority Pass membership on your own dime, here is what it would cost you. There are several types of membership you could get with Priority Pass depending on your requirements.

Priority Pass Memberships

Standard membership costs you $99 per year, then you could enjoy a flat fee of $27 for every visit, while the Prestige membership costs $399 per year and would get you unlimited free visits to its affiliated lounges. Note that none of the plans offer complimentary visits for our guest.

The cost effective option would be to get the lounge access through these credit cards. There are several cards that offer premium membership plan Priority Pass Select as one of the benefit. We will discuss the details and the weigh the cost of the card membership fees when compared to the Priority Pass Membership fees. A few airport restaurants recently got added to Priority Club – Corona Beach between Gates D23 and D24 at Miami Airport, Timberland Steaks and Grill at Denver Airport , Capers Cafe Le Bar, Capers Market , House Spirits Distillery and Alaska Lounge at Portland Airport.

Citi Prestige Card:

Citi Prestige card is one of the premium travel credit card in the market with several benefits and one of the key benefit is the Complimentary Priority Pass Select membership that offers unlimited access to its affiliated lounges including 2 guests or immediate family members.

Other key benefits of the card include $250 travel credit every year and 4th Night free. This card comes with an annual fee of $450 and each authorized user card will be an additional $50. If any of your friends, family member needs lounge access, you could add them as an authorized user and simply share the Priority Pass Select card only. The lounge access benefit for the authorized user would be same as the primary card holder, which means one could get lounge access at $50 per year.

HK

Plaza Premium Lounge – Hong Kong

American Express Platinum Card:

American Express Platinum card revamped its benefits recently and one of the key change is the enhancement to lounge access benefit. You now get Priority Pass Select membership which gives unlimited lounge access to the primary card holder and 2 additional guests.

The other feature of this card is the access to Amex centurion lounges that are probably one of the best domestic lounges you could find in the US. You get great food, drinks and facilities.

As of today, Centurion Lounges are currently at the following US Airports

  1. Las Vegas (LAS)
  2. Dallas (DFW)
  3. Houston (IAH)
  4. New York (LGA)
  5. Miami (MIA)
  6. San Francisco (SFO)
  7. Seattle (SEA)

You could find Centurion Lounges outside of US as well,

  1. Mumbai (BOM)
  2. Delhi (DEL)
  3. Buenos Aires (EZE)
  4. Mexico City (MEX-3)
  5. Monterrey (MTY-2)
  6. Sydney (SYD)
  7. Toluca (TLC)

The next upcoming locations are Hong Kong (HKG) and Philadelphia (PHL)

Centurion Lounge

Centurion Lounge – Las Vegas

You also get access to the Delta sky club lounges when flying with Delta.  The annual fee for the card is $550 as it offers several other benefits like $100 incidental travel expenses like Baggage fees, seat selection fees etc. and $200 in Uber credits and more…

Chase Sapphire Reserve:

In the past, Chase used to offer co-branded premium credit cards only. About a year ago, this has changed with the introduction of Chase Sapphire Reserve card. The annual fee for this card is $450 and one of the key benefit of the card is the $300 in travel credit.

This card also offers Priority Pass Select membership as a benefit, which grants lounge access to you and your guests. As per the terms, there seems to be no set limit on the number of guests that could accompany you.

Siem Reap

Plaza Premium Lounge – Siem Reap

Ritz Carlton Rewards credit card:

Ritz Carlton Rewards credit card also offers Priority pass select membership that grants complimentary lounge access to you and its guests. The annual fee of this card is $450 and offers $300 towards incidental travel credits like baggage fees, seat selection fees. You could even purchase lounge access passes towards this travel credit.

KAL Lounge

KAL Lounge – LAX

US bank Altitude Reserve card:

This card is probably the newest card in the premium cards segment. Currently, this card is available for the current US bank customers only. This card offers priority pass select membership which gets you 4 complimentary visits and an additional 4 visits for your guests at participating lounges.

Given that this card comes with a $400 fee, Lounge access benefits is mediocre. But there are other card benefits like up to $325 annual travel credit that may be interest a few.

Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard:

This card is for someone, who primarily travels with American Airlines and have access to more than 50 Admirals clubs across the globe.

This card comes with an annual fee of $450 and gives unlimited access to Admirals club to the primary card holder and up to 2 guests or immediate family members. Authorized users also get unlimited access to the Admirals club.

United MileagePlus Club card

This card offers United MileagePlus club membership as the key benefit that lets you , as the primary card member, and your eligible travel companions will enjoy access to all United Club locations and participating Star Alliance affiliated lounges worldwide.

Annual fee for this card is $450.

Crystal Visa Infinite Card

This is probably the least known credit card issued by City National Bank.  getting this card is through a paper application and may not be straight forward, you may check this flyertalk thread for more data points. Annual fee for the card is zero for first year and $400 from the second year of membership

This card offers lounge access through Priority Pass Select Membership. Card holder can choose up to 2 members that can get Priority Pass Select membership and there seems to be no restriction on the number of guests each member can take as long as the  specific lounge accepts.

 

Conclusion:

There are several premium  cards in the market that offer lounges access as one of the key benefit through the Priority Pass Select membership or membership to the respective lounge club.

It may be tough to rank the best card with respect to the lounge access benefit as the individual circumstances may vary. Which card would you like to hold for the lounge access?