Comparing cash back credit cards.
When you compare cash back credit cards, look at the rewards rates they offer relative to their annual fees. Some cards have great rewards rates that let you earn at least 2% cash back but then charge a big annual fee. You'd have to spend a lot of money on a card like that to make the premium rewards rate worthwhile.
Savvy shoppers should estimate how much money they'll spend with their cash back credit card each year and choose a card accordingly. Big spenders will benefit from premium cash back cards offering high rewards rates. Lower to middle-income consumers will find that standard cash back cards make more sense.
You should also think about the kind of items you spend money on each month. Many cash back cards offer higher rewards rates for certain categories of purchases, like gas, groceries, and recurring bills. If you spend a lot of money on one type of item, look for a cash back card that gives you an optimal rewards rate on it.
Check out our table below to see the rewards rates and benefits on some of our most popular cash back cards:
1% on gas/grocery/drug store purchases and on recurring bills.
0.5% on all other eligible purchases.
2% on recurring bills, gas/grocery/drug store purchases.
1% on all other eligible purchases and after annual $25,000 limit.
1% on all eligible purchases
4% on drug store purchases and recurring bills
2% on gas/grocery purchases
1% on other purchases and after annual $25,000 limit
19.99% after 6 months
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We put a selection of cash back credit cards head-to-head in the graph below so you can see which one comes out ahead based on the amount of money you spend annually.
A note on methodology: Because cash back rewards rates vary based on what you're buying, we used a weighted basket to represent the average cardholder's monthly spending:
- 13% on gas
- 27% on groceries
- 13% on drug store purchases
- 13% on recurring bills
- 34% on other purchases
This basket represents up to $60,000 of spending, beyond which all purchases are categorized as 'other'. After all, most families only spend so much money per year on gas, groceries, and recurring bills, no matter how big their budget is. We also included the annual fees on each card and stripped out introductory or promotional offers. Now you can get a better idea of how each card will reward you over the long term.
The graph is clear: premium cash back offerings come out ahead if you spend more than $20,000 per year on your card. If you spend less, lower-tier cards with no annual fee are a better option.