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By Jason Steele
August 6, 2020
Money; Getty Images

Before 2020, travel rewards cards were incredibly popular. But now that people have curtailed or eliminated their travel schedules due to the coronavirus pandemic, many cardholders are focusing on cash back rewards.

The best cash back credit cards make it easy to earn 1% to 6% back on your purchases, particularly when it comes to popular bonus categories like groceries and dining. But not all cash back credit cards work the same way, which is why you need to do your research to select the card that’s right for you. While some cash back credit cards offer a flat rate of cash back on everything you buy, others come with bonus categories that reward you with more points for certain types of purchases. Some popular cash back cards even offer bonus points in categories that rotate every quarter, so you may have to stay on your toes and periodically shift spending in order to maximize the rewards.

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If you’re looking for a new cash back credit card this year, the cash back credit cards on this list offer an excellent place to start.

Important Things to Know About Cash Back Credit Cards

  • Most cash back credit cards don’t charge an annual fee. However, you may want to consider getting a card with an annual fee, as the additional rewards to make up for it.
  • Some cash back credit cards come with 0% APR introductory financing offers. These offers can be valid for new purchases, balance transfers or both. However, cash back rewards cards will have higher standard interest rates than similar cards that don’t offer rewards.
  • Find out how you can redeem your rewards. Keep in mind that some cash back credit cards only let you redeem points for statement credits, while others will directly deposit cash into your bank account. Many also give you the option to redeem your rewards for gift cards, cash back, travel or merchandise.
  • Most cash back credit cards require very good or excellent credit. To qualify for the best cards, you typically need a credit score of 740 or higher.

Best Cash Back Credit Cards of 2020

These cash back credit cards offer some of the most lucrative rewards rates and signup bonuses without charging exorbitant fees. If you can’t seem to settle on a cash back card for your wallet, any of the cards on this list would leave you ahead.

  • Chase Freedom®: Best Cash Back Card with Rotating Categories
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Cash Back: Best for First-Year Rewards
  • Blue Cash Preferred®: Card from American Express: Best for Groceries
  • Capital One® Quicksilver®: One Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for Fair Credit
  • Citi® Double Cash Card: Best for Flat-Rate Rewards
  • Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for Dining and Entertainment

Best Cash Back Credit Card Reviews

The best cash back credit cards of 2020 offer rewards for each dollar you spend, but they don’t all offer the same earning rate, bonus categories, or cardholder perks.

Chase Freedom®: Best Cash Back Card with Rotating Categories

The Chase Freedom® is an incredibly popular card that offers a strong rate of return, but only if you’re willing to keep up with rotating categories. Not only can you earn a $200 bonus when you spend $500 within three months of opening your account, but you earn 5% back on up to $1,500 spent in rotating quarterly bonus categories — a perk worth up to $300 year — and 1% after that, as well as 1% back on all other purchases.

Bonus categories frequently include groceries, gas, and department stores, which are easy to maximize. For example, in Q3 of 2020 (July-September) the bonus categories are Amazon.com and Whole Foods Markets. New cardholders also receive 15 months of 0% APR financing on new purchases. There’s no annual fee for this card, and you can redeem your rewards for travel, gift cards, statement credits, merchandise, and more through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.

Summary of benefits:

  • Earn $200 when you spend $500 on your card within three months of account opening.
  • Rack up 5% back on up to $1,500 spent in quarterly bonus categories (and 1% after that) and 1% back on other purchases
  • 15 months of 0% APR introductory financing on new purchases.
  • No annual fee

Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Best for First Year Rewards

This version of the Chase Freedom does away with the rotation bonus categories and offers you 1.5% cash back on all purchases. However, it retains the offer of a $200 bonus when you spend $500 within three months of opening your account, and includes an incredibly valuable addition. New applicants receive 5% cash back at grocery stores on up to $6,000 spent during their account’s first 12 months. There’s no annual fee for this card, and it also includes 15 months of 0% APR introductory financing on new purchases.

Summary of benefits:

  • Earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no limits
  • Receive a $200 bonus when you spend $500 on your card within three months of account opening.
  • Earn 5% back on up to $12,000 spent at grocery stores during your accounts first 12 months
  • Enjoy 15 months of 0% APR on new purchases
  • No annual fee

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Best for Groceries

In 2020, many Americans have been spending a lot money at the grocery store and on entertainment streaming services. This can make the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express the ideal card for the world we find ourselves in.

It gives you 6% back on select streaming services and on the first $6,000 you spend at U.S. grocery stores each year. These bonuses are worth up to $360, plus you’ll also receive 3% cash back on transit (taxis, tolls, rideshares, buses, trains, and more) and U.S. gas station purchases. You get 1% back on all other purchases made with your card.

A $95 annual fee applies, but that’s less than half of the first-year welcome bonus on this card, which is $250 after you sign up and spend $1,000 within three months of account opening. You can cash in rewards earned for statement credits, which can be more convenient than having them deposited in your bank account. Also note that this card comes with unique perks like travel accident insurance, extended warranties, secondary auto rental coverage, and cell phone protection.

Summary of benefits:

  • Earn 6% back on up to $6,000 in spending each year at U.S. grocery stores and select streaming services
  • Earn 3% back on transit and U.S. gas station spending and 1% back on everything else
  • Earn $250 when you spend $1,000 on your card within three months of account opening
  • $95 annual fee

Capital One® Quicksilver® One Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for Fair Credit

The Capital One® Quicksilver® One Cash Rewards Credit Card stands out among other cash back cards because you only need “average” credit to qualify. This typically means having a credit score that’s at least considered “fair,” or any FICO score of 580 or above. The ongoing rewards rate is lower than other competing cards due to that fact, but you can still use this card to rack up cash back and boost your credit score in one fell swoop.

Once you sign up for this card, you’ll earn a flat 1.5% back on everything you buy. You’ll also qualify for cardholder benefits like extended warranties and travel accident insurance. While there is a $39 annual fee, this card doesn’t impose any foreign transaction fees.

Summary of benefits:

  • Earn a flat 1.5% back on all purchases
  • Only “average” credit required
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $39 annual fee

Citi® Double Cash Card: Best for Flat-Rate Rewards

If you’re someone who doesn’t want to bother keeping track of credit card bonus categories or earning caps, you’ll love the Citi® Double Cash Card. This card gives you 2% back on everything you buy — 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay it off. There’s no annual fee to pay, and you can redeem your rewards for cash back or statement credits.

This card also offers new accounts 18 months 0% APR on both new purchases and balance transfers for 18 months, with a balance transfer fee of 3%.

Summary of benefits:

  • Earn 2% back on everything you buy — 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay it off
  • Redeem your rewards for statement credits, cash back or Citi ThankYou points
  • Qualify for 0% APR on balance transfers for 18 months
  • No annual fee

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for Dining and Entertainment

If you spend a lot on entertainment and dining, including takeout and delivery services, then you might consider the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card. This card starts you off with a $300 cash bonus when you spend $3,000 on your card within three months of opening the account. You can also earn an unlimited 4% back on dining and entertainment, 2% back at grocery stores, and 1% back on everything else you buy.

You will have to pay a $95 annual fee, but this fee is waived for the first 12 months. Also note that you can redeem rewards for cash back in any amount you want rather than increments of $25 or more, and that you’ll get cardholder perks like travel accident insurance, concierge service, and extended warranties. There are no foreign transaction fees, either.

Summary of benefits:

  • Earn an unlimited 4% back on dining and entertainment and 2% back at grocery stores
  • Earn 1% back on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $95 annual fee; waived the first year
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How We Found the Cash Back Credit Cards of 2020

We compared all cash back credit cards available today from major card issuers to find which ones offer the best package of benefits and rewards for cardholders at the lowest possible cost. Here are all the factors we considered:

Generous Rewards

The most important factor to consider with cash back credit cards is their overall earning rates, including any bonus categories they offer. We gave preference to cards that offer high ongoing rates, appealing bonus category opportunities and, of course, initial sign-up or welcome bonuses.

Low or No Fees

While credit card annual fees aren’t a deal-breaker, we looked for cash back credit cards with no fees or fees that were easy to justify. Cards on this list that do charge an annual fee only made the cut because their earning rates were exceptionally high, or because they had some other benefit that competing cards don’t.

Excellent Customer Service

We also considered customer service, including rankings from third party agencies. All the card issuers on this list ranked in the top half of issuers in J.D. Power’s 2019 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study (the most recent one available).

Cardholder Perks

Finally, we compared credit cards to look for cardholder perks that can help consumers save money or protect their purchases. The most important features we looked for were purchase protection, extended warranties, and travel insurance products.

What You Need to Know About Cash Back Credit Cards

Cash back credit cards aren’t overly complicated, but it still pays to understand these products inside and out. Here are some of the most important factors to consider before you sign up for a new cash back credit card and start using it for purchases.

Signup Bonuses Can Help You Boost Your Rewards Earned

It’s easy to focus only on the ongoing rewards rate these cards offer, but don’t forget to check for signup bonuses you can earn in the first few months. These bonuses can boost the rewards you earn in a hurry, and let you rack up a high rate of rewards on your initial credit card spending.

Many cash back credit cards, including ones without an annual fee, let you earn $150 to $200 when you sign up and spend $500 or more within three months. If you want to rack up rewards right away, these initial bonuses can help.

Pair More Than One Card to Rack up More Rewards over Time

Remember that you don’t have to stick to a single rewards credit card for all your spending. Some people pair cards with different earning structures so they can maximize their rewards.

For example, it’s common to pick up a flat-rate card that offers a high rate ( like the Citi® Double Cash Card) and pair it with another card that lets you earn more rewards in bonus categories you frequently shop in, like the Capital One Savor or the American Express Blue Cash Preferred.

Some Cash Back Credit Cards Pair Well with Travel Credit Cards

Consider how you might pair cards from the same issuer if you travel from time to time. Many consumers pair credit cards within the Chase Ultimate Rewards program to optimize their rewards, for example, then pool all their points in the account with the best redemption options.

An example of this is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® and the Chase Freedom®. You could sign up for the Chase Freedom® to maximize its 5% categories, then use your Chase Sapphire Preferred® to rack up 2x points on travel and dining. Once you have enough rewards, you could pool them in your Chase Sapphire Preferred® account to get 25% more travel through the Chase portal, or for 1:1 transfers to popular airline and hotel partners like British Airways, Southwest Rapid Rewards, World of Hyatt, IHG Rewards, and more.

Summary: Best Cash Back Credit Cards of 2020

 

Best Rewards Cards of 2020 Best For
Chase Freedom® Cash Back Card with Rotating Categories
Chase Freedom Unlimited® First Year Rewards
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express Groceries
Capital One® Quicksilver® One Cash Rewards Credit Card Fair Credit
Citi® Double Cash Card Flat-Rate Rewards
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card Dining and Entertainment

More From Money:

Best Travel Credit Cards of 2020

This Week’s Best Credit Card Deal: Get 5% Cash Back on Groceries for a Whole Year

Why Citi Double Cash Is One of the Best and Simplest Cash Back Credit Cards You Can Get

Advertiser Disclosure

Money has partnered with CardRatings.com and ConsumersAdvocate.org, among other companies, for our coverage of credit card products. Money, CardRatings.com, and ConsumersAdvocate.org may receive a commission from card issuers. For example, Money receives a commission from Citi when you apply and are approved for a Citi product through the links on this site.

Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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