Best Cash-Back Credit Cards – Fall 2013

When strategically used, a credit card that offers cash-back rewards can minimize expenses associated with owning and using a credit card. In the best-case scenario a card that offers cash-back rewards will actually pay you for using it. 

Choose a Card Network

After comparing the rewards and bonuses offered by individual cards you can check out the differences between the Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover networks to see if the perks offered by the card network affect your decision.

We looked for a combination of low interest rates and high reward rates to find the best cards in each category.

Best with No Annual Fee

Card Annual Fee Reward Rate Sign Up Bonus Additional Features

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card


$0 1.5% cash back on everything – higher than any other standard reward
  • $100 cash back when you spend $500 within three months of opening the account
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Visa Signature benefits
Review: This is one of the best general spending cards available. There are no categories to remember and you can claim your reward at any time in the form of an account credit, gift card or a personal check. There is no limit to the rewards you can earn. You must have an excellent credit score to qualify for this card.

Blue Cash Everyday – American Express


  • 3% cash back at most supermarkets up to $6,000
  • 2% cash back at most gas stations
  • 2% cash back at certain department stores
  • 1% cash back on everything else
$100 cash back if you spend $1,000 within three months of opening the account None
Review: This is great for anyone who shops often at standalone supermarkets and gas stations. There is also a nice incentive for first time customers. American Express is well known for its excellent customer service and solid network benefits.

Chase Freedom – Visa


  • 1% cash back on everything
  • 5% cash back on rotating categories every three months
  • 5% Cash Back on up to $1,500 spent between October 1 and December 31, 2013 at and select department stores
$200 cash back when you spend $500 within three months of opening the account None
Review: This is a great card for the average consumer. You receive a solid 1% return on everything, plus get a 5% on special, rotating categories such as restaurants, gas stations, theaters, departments stores, etc. The $200 bonus is for a limited time. The standard bonus is $100 after spending $500 in three months.

Discover it – Discover


  • 1% cash back on everything
  • 5% cash back on rotating categories
No late fee the first time your payment is late No foreign transaction fee
Review: Like the Chase Freedom, this is a great card for the average consumer. While there is no sign up bonus, the first late payment is forgiven with no late fee charged. Discover also promises better services for their customers.

PNC Cashbuilder Card – Visa


  • 1.75% cash back on everything for the first month
  • 1.25% cash back when under $2000 is spent per month
  • 1.5% cash back when under $4000 is spent per month
  • 1.75% cash back when $4000 or more is spent per month
  • 1.5% or 1.75% cash back can also be earned when you take out a checking account with PNC and keep a minimum balance of $1,500 or 5,000.
None None
Review: This card rises above most other cards in its cash-back program. The 1.25% base return is higher than most other cards – great for those who use their card regularly. This card is geared for those with a good to excellent credit score and is typically given to those with scores starting in the high 600s.

Fidelity American Express® Rewards Cards Platinum


  • 2% cash back on purchases that can be deposited into the eligible Fidelity account of your choice. Eligible accounts include your retirement account, Fidelity-managed 529 savings account, brokerage account or cash management account.
  • Merchandise protection for retail purchases
  • Identity theft recovery service
  • Zero liability fraud protection
Review: This card is an excellent card for Fidelity customers. The 2% cash back reward is deposited directly into your investment account making this an effortless way to save.

Best with some annual fee

Card Annual Fee Rewards Rates Signup Bonus Additional Features

AARP Card – Visa from Chase


$16 – Refers to annual AARP membership fee. There is no fee for the card itself.
  • 3% cash back on restaurant purchases
  • 3% cash back on gas station purchases – at the pump or inside
  • 1% cash back on everything else
$100 Cash Bonus when you spend $500 in the first three months
  • Purchase Protection – if your item is lost, stolen or damaged you may file a claim up to $250
  • Price Protection – If there is a markdown or sale you can get a refund of the difference up to $250
  • Return Protection – If a retailer will not take a return on an item you can be reimbursed up to $250
Review: This is a great card for general expenses. It is aimed at the retired, but can be used effectively by anyone. This card is for members of AARP, but the membership fee is only $16 per year.

Blue Cash Preferred Card – American Express


  • 6% cash back from stand-alone supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year)
  • 3% cash back from stand-alone gas stations
  • 3% cash back from certain department stores
  • 1% cash back on everything else
$100 cash back and a year of Amazon Prime when $1000 is spent in the first three months
  • Purchase Protection against theft or breakage for up to 90 days from the date of purchase
  • Return Protection of up to $300 per item with a limit of $1000 per year
  • Extended Warranty by up to a year on purchases
Review: Besides the higher rewards, this card also carries benefits such as Roadside Assistance, Car Rental Insurance, Global Assist Hotline, and Travel Accident Insurance. As would be expected with such a card, applicants should have an excellent credit score.

First National Bank of Omaha Graphite – American Express


$99 after the first year
  • 3% cash back on airfare
  • 2% cash back on groceries and gas
  • 1% cash back on everything else
$100 cash back when you spend $1000
  • No foreign transaction fee
Review: This card provides some nice cash back incentives along with a $100 sign-on bonus. The free first year and the sign-on bonus essentially provide two years free.

TrueEarnings Card from Costco – American Express


$55 Annual Costco Fee
  • 3% cash back on stand-alone gas stations and at Costco up to $4000 per year, then 1% thereafter
  • 2% cash back at restaurants and at Costco
  • 2% cash back on certain travel related purchases
  • 1% cash back on everything else
None Serves as Costco membership card
Review: For individuals and businesses who enjoy the wholesale services of Costco, the TrueEarnings card is a great choice. It is free for Costco members, but non-members can purchase a yearly membership of only $55 to enjoy the card along with shopping privileges at Costco. The cash back rewards are competitive and are given as an annual coupon to be redeemed for cash or merchandise at any Costco location. An excellent credit score is needed for this card.

Getting the most out of your card

To maximize the benefits of your card, put all of your spending on it and pay it off each month. Carrying a balance will more than likely eliminate all benefits of having a cash back card. On the other hand if you must carry a balance keep your interest rate low by paying on time and choose the highest value reward card without a fee.