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If you’re looking for a good secondary credit card to your travel credit card or would simply rather have the bonus cash instead of the travel points (though some of these cards also earn cash rewards while traveling), this list can help you pick out one of the best cash back credit cards 2021. You may want a no annual fee, easy-to-use option or you may prefer earning more rewards on everyday spending, such as on groceries, gas, and streaming services.
Plus, these different types of credit cards may even improve your credit score! Here are some of the best cash back credit cards for 2021.
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
The Best Cash Back Credit Cards for 2021
Here are this year’s picks for the best cash back credit cards. Use this table to jump to a specific card:
- Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
- Citi® Double Cash Card
- The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
- Chase Freedom Flex℠
- Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
- Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
Tips for Getting the Most from Cash Back Credit Cards
- Spending, Converting, and Getting Cash Back for Rewards
- Choosing Your Rewards
- Using Multiple Cards
- Taking Advantage of Credit Card Offers
- Utilizing Rewards Benefits
- Being Flexible with Rewards
Each one of the cards listed below has its own benefits and earning possibilities.
The Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express
Good For: Gas and Grocery Spending
Two of your largest weekly expenses can be buying groceries and putting gas into your car. If so, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express can be your best friend. It earns the following purchase rewards:
- 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (1% after your first $6,000 spent annually)
- 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores
- 1% cash back on everything else that is eligible
Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed for statement credits. Plan It® gives the option to select purchases of $100 or more to split up into monthly payments with a fixed fee (terms apply).
New cardholders can earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the Card in the first 6 months of Card membership, up to $150 back. Plus, earn $100 back after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months of card membership. You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits.
The annual fee is $0 (See Rates & Fees).
Protip: If you’re looking for more ways to save on gas and grocery expenses, check out our posts on the best gas credit cards and the best credit cards for groceries. The credit cards included in these lists come with a variety of benefits.
Learn more: Cash Back Credit Cards
Citi Double Cash Card
Good For: Flat-Rate Cash Back and Simplicity
If you prefer the simplicity of earning the same cash back rate on every purchase, you will earn up to 2% cash back on every single purchase with the Citi® Double Cash Card. With each purchase, Citi will give you the first 1% when the transaction is completed and the remaining 1% after the payment is made. To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
There are no earning limits and no categories to track or remember to activate. Another unique benefit is that your first late fee is waived if you accidentally forgot to make a payment once. Still undecided? Our Citi Double Cash review can show you how this might be the perfect card for you.
Learn more: Citi® Double Cash Card
The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express
Good For: Supermarket purchases
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is a good rewards credit card for much of our everyday spending. Cardholders earn:
- 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) and on select U.S. streaming subscriptions
- 3% cash back on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses, and more) and at U.S. gas stations
- 1% cash back on other purchases
Note that cash back is received in the form of reward dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit. Also, Plan It gives cardholders the option to select purchases of $100 or more to split up into monthly payments with a fixed fee and no interest (terms apply).
There is a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95 (See Rates & Fees).
The welcome bonus is the ability to earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership, up to $200 back. Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership. You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits.
Learn more: Cash Back Credit Cards
Chase Freedom Flex
Good For: Earning Chase Ultimate Rewards with tiered cash back rewards
If you own the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you already earn 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Owning the Chase Freedom Flex℠ lets you earn 5 points on everyday purchases with rotating quarterly spending categories, up to $1,500 (once activated). This helps you earn double the Ultimate Rewards points that can be redeemed for 1.25 cents each for award travel with the Sapphire Preferred.
Pay attention to the 5% rotating categories as they are updated quarterly. You also have to activate them (usually by clicking a link in your email or on the account website) in order to benefit. You can then earn 5% (instead of 1%) on the first $1,500 in quarterly purchases for expenses.
Chase Freedom Flex cardholders also earn 5% cash back on travel purchases in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, 3% cash back on restaurants, including takeout and delivery services, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases, and 1% cash back on everything else.
New Chase Freedom Flex℠ cardholders can earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, they can earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
There is no annual fee.
It’s important to note that if you own the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve® or Ink Business Preferred® credit card (all some of the best Chase credit cards), you can combine your Freedom points so you can transfer them out to a travel partner.
Chase Freedom Unlimited
If you like the sound of the Chase Freedom but don’t want to worry about activating categories or special spending in those bonus rotating categories, you may want the Chase Freedom Unlimited® credit card instead. It earns at least 1.5% cash back on all purchases. And, there is no annual fee to worry about.
New Chase Freedom Unlimited cardholders also have the opportunity to earn a $200 bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, they can earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
Cardholders also earn unlimited:
- 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 3% cash back at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services
- 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
- 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
You can compare the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited to learn more about each.
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card is a no annual fee card that earns an unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase. There are no rotating categories to activate or worry about activating. This card is straightforward in its earning potential.
And as long as you have an account, your cash back won’t expire.
There are also no foreign transaction fees to worry about. New cardholders can earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Learn more: Cash Back Credit Cards
Bonus: Capital One Savor Cards
The information for the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by Johnny Jet. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Both the Capital Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card and the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card have new bonus categories. The Capital One Savor Cards’ new perks include earning more cash back on popular categories.
The Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card earns unlimited:
- 8% back at Vivid Seats (through January 2023)
- 4% back on select streaming services (including Hulu, Disney+, and Netflix)
- 4% back on dining and entertainment
- 3% back at grocery stores (excludes superstores like Walmart and Target)
- 1% back on all non-bonus purchases
It’s possible to redeem the purchase rewards for cash back, gift cards, PayPal purchases, and Amazon.com. There is a $95 annual fee and no foreign transaction fee.
Alternatively, the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card has no annual fee or foreign transaction fee and earns unlimited:
- 8% back on ticket purchases at Vivid Seats (through January 2023)
- 3% back on dining, entertainment, Grocery stores (not eligible at superstores like Target and Walmart), and popular streaming services
- 1% back on everything else
Learn more: Cash Back Credit Cards
Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi
If you’re a Costco member, the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi may be a good option for you. Cardholders of this no annual fee credit card (as long as you have a paid Costco membership) earns:
- 4% cash back on eligible gas purchases (for the first $7,000 annually, then 1% thereafter)
- 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases
- 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com
- 1% cash back on all other purchases
Cardholders receive cash back as an annual credit card reward certificate, which is redeemable for cash or merchandise at U.S. Costco warehouses, including Puerto Rico. If you shop frequently at Costco, this may work for you, especially as it has no annual fee. Otherwise, you may want a card with a bit more flexibility.
If you’re a business owner, there’s also the Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card by Citi that earns the same as the Costco Anywhere Visa Card (up to 4% back in select categories). It also is fee-free, so long as you have a paid Costco membership. But, if you aren’t a frequent Costco shopper, you may prefer one of the other small business credit card options available.
Cash back credit cards can be a good option as you know your points can always be worth at least one cent each. Whereas, some travel credit card points might only be worth half a cent. You might also consider adding a cash back credit card to maximize the value of your non-travel purchases. In some cases, your points can be redeemed for a higher value for award travel instead of receiving a cash back reward.
Credit Card Rewards Help You Get the Most Out of Your Travel Goals
We all know that the rewards that come with some of the best credit cards for travel rewards – whether in the form of cash back, miles, or points – are an excellent way to get something back for the things you buy. For many, these credit card rewards can add up quickly over the months, leaving you with a modest balance of rewards that you need to utilize. What better way to use them than to meet your travel goals?
Spending Rewards, Converting Them, or Getting Cash Back on Them
No matter which travel credit card you carry or how your rewards are earned, they can be cashed in, converted, or directly spent on travel-related expenses. Airline points, hotel stays, and even car rentals are fair game for credit card rewards. Plus, many credit card reviews allow you to simply cash in your rewards for a statement credit, essentially canceling out the payment for that Caribbean cruise or Airbnb stay.
When you start planning how to earn as many points as possible and then redeem them for your desired travel, things can get a bit confusing. How much do I have to spend? What are the loyalty program’s rules? How much can I get by converting these miles to my favorite airline?
Luckily, there are ways to really optimize this travel rewards booking process, getting as much bang for your buck as possible. It just takes a little bit of planning ahead, and even setting goals ahead of time.
Here is how you can combine your travel goals with your credit card rewards.
Pick Your Rewards – Travel Points/Miles or Cash Back
Deciding what you want to do, and what you need to earn, is the first step.
Do you dream of a free round-trip flight to Paris with your sweetheart? A first-class seat to NYC over the holidays? Your first step is to look at the airlines that fly your airport of choice. Then, see if those airlines have co-branded cards that will allow you to easily earn miles.
You may already have a travel credit card that earns points or miles, so that’s always an option. Be sure to see what the point conversion and rewards-earning rates are. That way, you know whether you’re getting the most for your money.
Depending on how you spend throughout the year, you may wind up getting more with a general cash back credit card that allows you to redeem earnings in the form of a statement credit. For instance, a product like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express will net you 6% on groceries (up to $6,000 annually, then 1% thereafter).
Don’t Be Afraid of Using More Than One Card
It often makes sense to utilize a few different credit cards for rewards. Let’s say that you have three rewards credit cards in your wallet. One card offers 6% on grocery stores, one gives 3% on dining (like the Chase Sapphire Reserve review), and another earns 2% on all other spending. It only makes sense to use all three depending on your spending, in order to maximize your earned rewards.
You should also pay close attention to point conversion rates, which could amplify your rewards even further. For instance, when you redeem your points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, you’ll get 1.5 cents per point for travel. This is a 50% bump from some other rewards programs! Certain programs will convert better for your preferred companies than others.
You may get 40% more points by flying on a specific airline compared with others.
Take Advantage of Credit Card Offers
If you are considering a new credit card for rewards, look for one offering a sign-up bonus, or a limited-time credit card offer. That way, you’ll receive a large chunk of points/miles/cash back off the bat, just for being a new customer.
These bonuses typically require the cardholder to spend a specific amount of money in a set time frame (i.e., earn a $200 bonus after spending $1,000 on the card in the first three months). As long as you meet that minimum, though, that’s extra cash or rewards in your pocket for buying things that you would likely buy anyway.
Occasionally, you can even find bonus offers for adding authorized users to the count. By simply putting a willing friend, family member, or your significant other on the account (even if you don’t plan to get them a physical card), you can snag yourself even more.
Lastly, if you think that you probably won’t be able to completely cover your travel with earned rewards, you can take advantage of introductory APR offers to prepay for the things that you know you’ll need. If you’re taking the family to Disney, you could buy your park tickets in advance with a 0% APR offer. Then, pay them off throughout the year without any interest.
Plus, that purchase will then earn you extra cash back or points if you use your rewards card — a double win.
Utilize Cards for Rewards Benefits
In addition to rewards, some rewards credit cards also come with travel-friendly benefits that don’t have to be earned. It’s smart to take advantage of these when you can, to squeeze out every free penny for your travels.
Other cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Citi Prestige® Card, offer annual credits that are a bit more flexible. The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year, for instance. This can go towards airfare, hotel stays, and even taxi rides or tolls — anything deemed a “travel” expense.
The information for the Citi Prestige Card has been collected independently by Johnny Jet. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Other cards offer benefits covering things like Global Entry application fees by issuing statement credits (the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, for one). Or, they may offer free checked bags. Mix and match the use of your credit cards where you can. That way, you can truly maximize all of the free benefits available to you!
If you’re trying to optimize your credit card rewards for exciting travel this year, there are ways to get more bang for your buck. However, you may need to be a bit flexible, in addition to planning ahead with your spending.
Let’s take using points for airfare or hotels, for instance. With these, your rewards may go much further if you schedule travel a week or two in either direction. Be sure to check dates in your redemption portal to see when your points will go further.
You’ll also need to be flexible and intentional in your spending. This means planning which rewards credit card to use when grocery shopping and which card to pull out at the pump. Some credit cards for rewards will earn you more for paying your monthly bills, and the like.
Pre-planning your travel for the year will help you to optimize your credit card rewards and benefits. That way, you can cut your expenses down substantially, or even make entire adventures happen without anything out of pocket.
This might mean signing up for new credit cards to take advantage of introductory rewards. Or, you might use different credit cards to pay for different aspects of your trip.
Getting the Most Out of Your Credit Cards, Including the Best Cash Back Credit Cards
Many travel credit cards offer free travel benefits each year, and it’s smart to take advantage of these whenever you can. Cash back credit cards can also help you save money, depending on how much you spend and where you spend it. But they also can be used for travel. With a little bit of planning and intentional earning, you can make your travel goals happen without draining your bank account.
- Best Travel Credit Cards for 2021
- Airline Credit Cards With the Best Hotel Booking Perks
- Best Hotel Credit Cards
- Best Gas Credit Cards
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, please click here.
For rates and fees of The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, please click here.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Our best offer ever! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- Enjoy new benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 100,000 points are worth $1,250 toward travel.
- With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
- Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
The comments on this page are not provided, reviewed, or otherwise approved by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered. Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
- 1 The Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express
- 2 Citi Double Cash Card
- 3 The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express
- 4 Chase Freedom Flex
- 5 Chase Freedom Unlimited
- 6 Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
- 7 Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi
- 8 Summary
- 9 Spending Rewards, Converting Them, or Getting Cash Back on Them
- 10 Pick Your Rewards – Travel Points/Miles or Cash Back
- 11 Don’t Be Afraid of Using More Than One Card
- 12 Take Advantage of Credit Card Offers
- 13 Utilize Cards for Rewards Benefits
- 14 Be Flexible
- 15 Getting the Most Out of Your Credit Cards, Including the Best Cash Back Credit Cards