Whether you rely on a credit card, a debit card or a combination of both, chances are, you have some plastic in your wallet. Credit and debit cards make it easy to buy items online and in stores as well as make travel arrangements while having the peace of mind that you won't be held responsible for unauthorized charges. But another big benefit of credit and debit cards is that, with the right ones, you can earn cash back as you spend, saving you a little money every year.
Best Limited Cash Back Cards
Some of the best cash back deals you’ll get are with limited cash back cards. There are pros and cons to this type of card. The con is that you’ll earn the higher cash back amount on spending only in select categories. But the biggest pro is that you’ll earn a higher rate than you’d get with other cards.
- The Citi Custom Cash Card is tough to beat when it comes to cash back. You’ll get 5 percent cash back in the category in which you spend the most in each quarter. Eligible categories are dining, fuel, groceries, travel, transit, streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs and live entertainment. You’ll also earn 1 percent back on all other purchases.
- The American Express Blue Cash Preferred® Card can really pay off for those who spend heavily on groceries and streaming services. You’ll earn 6 percent back on up to $6,000 per year on groceries and 6 percent cash back on select streaming services. This is in addition to a steady 1 percent back on all other purchases.
Best Unlimited Cash Back Cards
With many limited cards, you’ll still earn a small amount of cash back on purchases that aren’t in special categories. But there are some cards that give you a higher rate than 1 percent no matter what you’re buying.
- The Wells Fargo Active Cash Card offers a bonus to kick off your membership. You earn a $200 cash reward bonus if you spend at least $1000 during your first three months. After that, you’ll earn 2 percent cash back on all purchases you make using your card.
- The Citi® Double Cash Card lets you earn 2 percent cash back on every dollar you spend. You get 1 percent when you make the purchase, followed by 1 percent when you pay it off. This does extend the cash back period a little, but as long as you pay your balance each month, you likely won’t notice the slowdown.
Read More: Credit Cards: How Do They Work?
Cash Back Debit Cards
You don’t have to sign up for a credit card to earn cash back on your expenses. There are some debit card options that will let you spend without having to worry about interest.
- The Discover Cashback Debit Card provides a simple, quick way to earn cash back. You’ll earn 1 percent cash back on up to $3,000 in purchases each month.
- The Empower Debit Card allows you to earn up to 10 percent cash back by taking advantage of special offers. You’ll have to look at the current offers in the app and choose the one you want to activate.
Introductory Credit Card Offers
Some cards give you bonus points during your earliest months as a cardholder. These can be limited-time offers, so they’re subject to change at any time. Make sure you take a look at annual fees, APR and the points you’ll earn after that term is up to get the best deal.
- The American Express® Gold Card issues points that you can redeem for gift cards or merchandise and even use to book travel. It issues 75,000 points as long as you spend at least $4,000 in the first six months that you have the card. Additionally, you’ll earn 4 points for every dollar spent on dining and groceries, 3 points for flights booked through American Express and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
- The American Express Platinum Card® gives you 125,000 points with $6,000 in purchases in the first six months. that you have the card. You’ll also get 10 points for every dollar you spend on up to $25,000 in purchases with certain restaurants and small businesses in the first six months.
Cash Back on Everyday Expenses
If you’re limited to certain categories in the cash back you’re earning, it’s important to make sure those categories are useful to you. Cards that issue rewards for gas purchases or food purchases, for instance, will typically give you bigger benefits than those that offer rewards for clothing or streaming service subscriptions.
- The Savor Rewards Card from Capital One really pays off for dining and groceries. You’ll get 4 percent back on dining, entertainment and streaming services and 3 percent on groceries.
- The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card allows you to earn 5 percent back on your Amazon Prime purchases, as well as any purchases you make at Whole Foods with this card. You can even power up to 10 percent cash back on select Amazon Prime limited-time offers.
Credit-Building Cash Back Cards
No matter where your credit score stands, chances are you can benefit from an improvement. Credit-building cards give you the tools you need to make sure your score is going in the right direction.
- The QuicksilverOne Card from Capital One gives you 1.5 percent cash back on all your purchases while helping you build credit. In as little as six months after getting your card, your account will be reviewed for a credit line increase. Your Capital One account also gives you access to monitor your credit score.
- The Discover It® Student Cash Back Card is good for college students who might have a tough time getting a credit card. This card is designed specifically to give young people a chance to start building credit. You’ll earn 5 percent with student-friendly categories like Amazon, grocery stores and gas stations, along with an end-of-year dollar-for-dollar match for all the cash you’ve earned.
- The Petal 2 Visa Credit Card is designed specifically for building credit, giving you access to credit without requiring a credit history. Credit lines start at $500. You’ll earn 1 percent cash back on all purchases, with up to 1.5 percent cash back for on-time payments. They also issue 2 to 10 percent cash back with select merchants.
Read More: How to Build Credit When You Are 17
Travel Rewards Cards
Jetsetters typically rely heavily on their credit cards. But whether travel is for work or leisure, you can earn cash for every dollar you spend.
- The Chase Freedom Flex Credit Card is for travelers who are flexible in their planning. You’ll earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in self-activated bonus categories, but you’ll also get 5 percent back on any travel you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
- The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Credit Card is a good choice if you don’t mind the $95 annual fee. It gives you 5 points for every dollar spent on travel booked through them. You’ll also earn 3x points for each dollar you spend on dining and 2x points on travel you purchase outside of Chase.
- The Chase Ink Business Preferred® Card is for business travelers. You’ll earn 3 points for every dollar spent on shipping, advertising, internet, as well as utilities and travel. All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar.
Mobile Wallet-Friendly Cards
You can add any credit card to your mobile wallet, so there are plenty of other types that fit in this category. But these cards stand out by being geared toward mobile users.
- The Apple Card has no fees, a simple design and is made for your phone. You’ll earn 3 percent cash back on all your Apple purchases, along with 2 percent cash back on purchases you make using your iPhone or Apple Watch. There are also special cash back offers with select retailers.
- The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card lets you take advantage of extra cash back whether your phone is Android or iOS. You’ll get 3 points for each dollar you spend using your mobile wallet on Apple Pay®, Google Pay™, Samsung Pay or LG Pay®. You’ll also get 3 points for every dollar you spend on travel.
Read More: Adding a Card to Apple Pay
No Annual Fee Cards
While many cash back cards don’t come with an annual fee, you may find some do. It’s important to pay close attention before applying for a card.
- The Chase Freedom Unlimited® Card has no annual fee and lets you earn 3 percent back on dining and drugstores and 5 percent on up to $12,000 in grocery purchases made in the first year. You'll get 1.5 percent cash back on all other purchases.
- The Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Credit Card will give you an unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases along with no annual fee.
Low Interest Rate Cards
It’s important, as you’re considering a new credit card, to look at how much you’ll pay in interest. A high APR might negate any cash back you’re earning. Some cards keep the interest rate low while also helping you earn rewards.
- The Citi Rewards+® Card gives you a full 15 months with no interest. After that, you’ll pay between 13.49 and 23.49 percent APR based on your creditworthiness. As for cash back, you’ll earn 2 points per dollar on spending at grocery stores and gas stations and 1 point on all other purchases.
- The Upgrade Visa® Card with Cash Rewards provides a lower interest rate if you’re willing to set up autopay. Interest rates go as low as 8.99 percent, topping out at 29.99 percent, so it’s worth checking out the interest rate for which you'll qualify.
There are many things to consider before choosing a credit card. Points can be great, but make sure you understand eligibility requirements before you sign up for a card. You may find that points are only available in certain spending categories. Also look closely at any annual fees or higher interest rates to ensure any savings won’t be negated by what you’re spending each month.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Credit Cards
- Citi: Citi Custom Cash Card
- American Express: Blue Cash Preferred® Card
- Wells Fargo: Wells Fargo Active CashSM Card
- Citi: Citi® Double Cash Card
- Discover: Checking Account
- Empower: One Card With All the Right Moves
- American Express: American Express® Gold Card
- American Express: • American Express Platinum Card®
- Capital One: Savor Rewards from Capital One
- Amazon: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
- Capital One: QuicksilverOne from Capital One
- Discover: Discover It® Student Cash Back Card
- Petal: All Rewards No Fees
- Chase Credit Cards: Chase Freedom FlexSM Credit Card
- Chase Credit Cards: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Credit Card
- Chase Credit Cards: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
- Apple: Apple Card
- U.S. Bank: U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card
- Chase Credit Cards: Chase Freedom Unlimited® Credit Card
- Bank of America: Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Credit Card
- Citi: Citi Rewards+® Card
- Upgrade: Upgrade Card
Stephanie Faris has written about finance for entrepreneurs and marketing firms since 2013. She spent nearly a year as a ghostwriter for a credit card processing service and has ghostwritten about finance for numerous marketing firms and entrepreneurs. Her work has appeared on The Motley Fool, MoneyGeek, Ecommerce Insiders, GoBankingRates, and ThriveBy30.