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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, this list can help you pick out one of the best cash back credit cards 2021. Some of these cash back credit cards can help you earn cash rewards while you travel.
But, because of the global pandemic, traveling may not be on your mind right now. Fortunately, you can still earn rewards with these cards now. If you want to use them for future travel, you can. But, if you could use these cash back rewards sooner rather than later, you’ve got that option as well.
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.
The Best Cash Back Credit Cards for in 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
- 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
Here are some of the best cash back credit cards for 2021. Each one has its own benefits and earning possibilities which can help you save money for your everyday spending.
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
Plan It® gives the option to select purchases of $100 or more to split up into monthly payments with a fixed fee.
Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed for statement credits. You can also earn a $100 cash bonus as a statement credit after spending $1,000 in purchases within your first 6 months of account opening. Plus, earn 20% back on amazon.com purchases, up to $200 back, in the first 6 months of card membership.
There is no annual fee either (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
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.
The annual fee is $95 (See Rates & Fees). The welcome bonus is the ability to earn a $250 statement credit after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
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 cardholders can earn a $200 signup bonus. Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
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.
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
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 as 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.
The information for the Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card by Citi has been collected independently by Johnny Jet. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Good For: Cash statement credit for travel aficionados
There are many perks that come with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. The Chase Sapphire Preferred bonus includes letting you redeem your points for statement credits. Each point is worth 1-cent (1,000 points=$10) and can be redeemed for cash statement credits. Though Ultimate Rewards points are more valuable for travel, the option is still available if you prefer cash back.
New cardholders can earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. The 60,000 point sign-up bonus for the Chase Sapphire Preferred is worth $600 in statement credits or $750 in award travel. Plus, as mentioned with the Chase Freedom card above, the Preferred is part of the Chase trifecta, along with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card.
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.
For example, you can earn 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points when applying for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of card membership. The premium Chase Sapphire Reserve® comes with a bonus of 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening.
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.
With the Citi Prestige, you’ll get $250 in travel credit each year, which can also be used towards airfare, hotels, and the like. If you were to carry both cards, you would get a total of $550 a year in free credits alone, which could be combined to cover a number of your travel expenses.
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.
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 Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express
- 2 Citi Double Cash Card
- 3 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 Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
- 9 Summary
- 10 Spending Rewards, Converting Them, or Getting Cash Back on Them
- 11 Pick Your Rewards – Travel Points/Miles or Cash Back
- 12 Don’t Be Afraid of Using More Than One Card
- 13 Take Advantage of Credit Card Offers
- 14 Utilize Cards for Rewards Benefits
- 15 Be Flexible
- 16 Getting the Most Out of Your Credit Cards, Including the Best Cash Back Credit Cards