Reward points can provide immense value for those who know how to maximize their earnings. However, this requires a lot of work and knowledge, and often the resulting savings do not justify the effort required to obtain them. Therefore, for many people, cash is king.
For the average consumer, cash-back cards offer the most benefits as they earn cash that can be spent on anything later. But not all are created equal. There are dozens of cash-back cards on the market targeting different types of consumers. Add in reward locations and changes in an uncertain economy, and it can be difficult to know which cards offer the most value.
Best Cash-Back Cards of 2024
The best cash-back card for you is the one that aligns most with your spending habits, credit health, and goals. For more information, see our guide on choosing a cash-back card.
Some cards are known for solid offers due to a combination of earning potential and additional benefits. With no major changes announced for these cards, it’s likely they will maintain their top-tier status in the coming year.
Chase Freedom Flex℠*
The Chase Freedom Flex℠* is a no-annual-fee card that offers excellent cash back in various categories. There’s a limit of 5% earnings each quarter, but still, if you can maximize it, you can achieve significant savings. Add in additional benefits like purchase protection, extended warranty protection, select travel protection, and cell phone protection, and it’s easy to see why this card is a winner.
In addition to all these benefits, the card has the potential to become more than a cash-back card. If paired with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve® or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, the Freedom Flex earns points that can be transferred and burned through Chase Ultimate Rewards® at 25% to 50% more value. Pay yourself back.
Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card is a flat-rate card, meaning it earns 2% cash back on all purchases without any limits or categories. This can be great if your spending doesn’t align with a category or you’re just looking for a hassle-free way to earn cash back. Additionally, the card offers cell phone insurance and an introductory APR on account opening and qualifying balance transfers for 15 months, then a variable APR of 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% applies. There’s an initial fee of 3% on balance transfers made within 120 days, then a fee of up to 5% applies with a minimum of $5. The combination of the intro APR offer and straightforward rewards make this card a solid option for various types of consumers.
American Express Blue Cash Preferred® Card
The American Express Blue Cash Preferred® Card (terms apply, see rates and fees) earns industry-leading rates in supermarkets: 6% cash back on up to $6,000 per year in purchases at US supermarkets (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more), and 1% cash back on other eligible purchases. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit. While the grocery reward is limited to $6,000, this is how much the average family spends on groceries per year. If you reach that limit, you’ll earn $360 on groceries alone before considering rewards earned in other categories. This beats the rewards capabilities of many similar cards.
This card has an introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $95, but this is easily offset by earned rewards and included additional benefits such as return protection1, secondary car rental loss and damage coverage2, and up to $120 annual statement credit for Equinox+ (in monthly statement credits of $10, enrollment required).
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card is a no-annual-fee cash-back card and one of the few cards offering cash back on entertainment expenses. The card earns 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 8% cash back on Vivid Seats through January 2023, and 1% on all other purchases. Compared to similar cards, this is a solid rewards rate, plus it has an introductory purchase APR: 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers; after that a variable APR of 19.99% – 29.99%; balance transfers made within the first 15 months are subject to a fee of 3% (rates and fees).
SavorOne does not charge foreign transaction fees and also offers extended warranty, 24-hour travel assistance services, and a concierge service. However, it undoubtedly offers fewer benefits and consumer protections compared to some competitors.
Discover It® Cash Back
Discover It® Cash Back cardholders have access to one of the most unique welcome bonuses in the game: Discover will automatically match all the cash back earned at the end of your first year as a card member. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. This can represent significant value for those who put most of their spending on a credit card. In addition, the card earns 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter up to the quarterly maximum of $1,500 when activated, and automatically unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. It also has an intro APR offer: 0% introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers; then a standard variable APR of 17.24% – 28.24% applies. Balance transfers are subject to a fee of 5% of the amount transferred. It’s important to remember that Discover is less widely accepted overseas compared to Visa or Mastercard. But for those looking for straightforward cash-back rewards, this card is a strong offer.
Noteworthy Points for 2024
Interest rates have become a problem not just for credit cardholders but for all consumers, and economists don’t expect any significant changes in rates anytime soon. The Federal Reserve’s estimated federal funds rate at the end of 2024 is 5.1%, which is roughly in line with its current rate. However, economic ups and downs are an unfortunate part of life, and staying informed always benefits you, and you should never take on more debt than you can handle.
However, the big news is the recently unveiled Credit Card Competition Act, a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate, which is expected to be voted on by December. This bill aims to end Visa and Mastercard’s monopoly by forcing credit-issuing banks to offer merchants a minimum of two networks, one of which will be outside Visa or Mastercard.
The Supporters’ Claim
Supporters of the bill claim that it will create competition among issuers, which should reduce credit card transaction fees and thus save consumers money. However, credit issuers argue that it will harm consumers, and many fear that this law could completely end credit card rewards as credit card companies are looking for ways to offset the losses caused by this law.
This fear is not unfounded. It is well known that Senator Richard Durbin, the sponsor of the CCCA, created a similar bill in 2010 – the Durbin Amendment (part of the Dodd-Frank Act) – and in doing so ended debit card rewards. But it remains to be seen what the actual impact of this bill will be on consumers. That is, assuming it actually passes.
Although predicting the economy and its ups and downs is difficult, cash-back cards will continue to generate value for consumers. The value can vary from person to person, and it can change a bit with economic and political factors. But as a baseline, we can say that if you have a cash-back card and are able to avoid accruing interest (by paying your bill each month or using an intro 0% APR offer), then you are in a good position to earn a return. This holds true for 2024 and beyond.