10 Best 5% Cash Back Credit Cards for November 2017

Cash Back Credit Cards for 2016

Updated April 3, 2017

Credit card reward programs come in so many varieties that it can be difficult find the best cards for your spending habits. A basic, flat-rate card that earns you a certain percentage cash back on all purchases is probably the simplest bet out there. Typically, rates range from 1-2%. Not shabby, especially if you use that card exclusively. But it’s not exactly something to call home about either.

There are even better cash back rewards offerings out there, some as high as 5%. But with these high rewards cards, there’s almost always a catch. Most of the cards don’t offer 5% cash back across the board. Every few months, they pick a few select shopping categories that can earn 5% cash back. Once those few months are up, the categories change. For example, a card could offer 5% cash back on groceries, gas and airfare from January to March, then switch those categories to whole sale stores, restaurants and gyms from April to June.

Additionally, there are sometimes caps on how much of your spending can qualify for the 5% reward. So if the cap is $1,500, for example, everything past that amount won’t qualify.

The key to maximizing these great cash back card offers is to find the cards that offer cash back in categories you use the most. We can help there.

We dug around and found 10 cards that offer at least 5% cash back in the three most common spending categories: gas, groceries and entertainment.

Chase Freedom®: Access to a Special Option 5% Category

How it works: The Chase Freedom® card offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. This translates to a maximum return of $75 per quarter on the 5% bonus category. You earn an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases outside of the bonus categories. You can also earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

The 5% category changes every quarter.

Another area where the Chase Freedom shines is in how it allows customers to redeem their rewards. The cash you’ve earned converts into Ultimate Rewards points. Every $1 equals 100 points. You can easily use the cash and apply it to your monthly statement. Or you can convert them into points and use them on travel, gift cards, merchandise, and other services through the Chase Freedom® rewards dashboard.

They make it super simple to redeem points on the go through the Chase Freedom® Mobile app. While you’re shopping, you can pick the merchant from the list on of eligible merchants on your app (popular ones include Nike, Regal Cinemas, Lowe’s, Starbucks and Best Buy). Then tell the app how much cash you want to use.  You’ll get a custom e-gift card that you can present at checkout to pay for your purchases.

chasefreedommobileapp

Plus, you can stack the points earned on your Chase Freedom card with your points on other Chase rewards cards, like the Chase Sapphire. That just increases the spending power of your points.

The Fine Print: You can’t beat 5% cash back for your spending, especially with no annual fee. The downside is you have to remember to activate the category each quarter by subscribing to the program. But, if you set a reminder to do so, you can earn money without too much effort.

Chase Freedom<sup>®</sup>

LEARN MORE Secured

on Chase’s secure website

Discover it® Cashback Match™: [DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus]The Original 5% Cash Back Card[/DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus]

How it works: With the Discover it® Cashback Match™ you can [DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus]earn 5% cash back in rotating categories on up to the quarterly maximum ($1,500 of spend). You need to activate every quarter to get the 5% cash back rate. All other purchases get 1% cash back[/DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus].

[DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus]Earn 5% cash back in these categories through the end of 2017:[/DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus]

  • [DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus]January to March: Gas stations, ground transportation, and wholesale clubs.
  • April to June: Home improvement stores and wholesale clubs.
  • July to September: Restaurants.
  • October to December: Amazon.com and Target[/DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus]

Using your rewards: Cash back from the Discover it is tracked in dollars and cents. You can immediately apply your cash back earnings to your bank account or as a statement credit toward your bill (note: your minimum payment will still be due).There’s also no minimum rewards value if you want to redeem them for charitable donations.

The fine print: You can only [DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus]earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 of spend each quarter you activate. Once you’ve hit that cap, you’ll earn 1% on the rest of your purchases[/DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus]. This adds up to a $75 maximum return on your rotating bonus categories. [DiscoverCashbackAnnualFee]There is no annual fee[/DiscoverCashbackAnnualFee].

Extra perks:  On your one-year anniversary, [DiscoverCashbackCompliance]Discover give you a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned during your first year[/DiscoverCashbackCompliance]. The match happens automatically, and is only available to new cardmembers during their first year.

Discover it® - Cashback Match<sup>TM</sup>

LEARN MORE Secured

on Discover’s secure website

Nusenda Visa Platinum Cash Rewards: Best for Gas and Restaurants in 2017

How it works: The Nusenda Visa Platinum Cash Rewards card gives 5% in revolving categories up to $1,500 and 1% on all other purchases. Notably, it offers both gas and restaurants in two quarters. As a bonus in the first 90 days, new cardholders will earn 2% instead of just 1% on purchases outside of the 5% category.

Earn 5% cash back in these categories through the end of 2017:

  • January to March: Groceries and gas expenses.
  • April to June: Movies, restaurants and home improvement.
  • July to September: Gas and education expenses.
  • October to December: Restaurants, hotels, and airfares.

Using your rewards: This offer stands out as a decent companion card for maximizing cash back. When coupled with the Chase Freedom or Discover it, you can maximize cash back in different areas during one quarter.

For an example, you can turn to the Nusenda Visa Platinum Cash Rewards card for 5% on gas and school expenses in Q3. Then pull out the Discover it for home improvement purchases for another 5% the same quarter.

The Fine Print: Once again, you’ll need to monitor your spending habits to get the most cash back from a revolving category card. If you choose to use this card along with another one, a good practice would be labeling the cards in your wallet to ensure you use the right one for the right purchases in a given quarter.

One final caveat: While there is no annual fee, Nusenda is a credit union, so you will have to go through the process of applying for membership.

Cash Rewards Card from Nusenda CU

LEARN MORE Secured

on Nusenda ’s secure website

U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature: Pick Your Own Cash Back Categories

How it works: The U.S Bank Cash+ card has a revolving cash back program that’s unique in comparison to the others above because you get options.

Earning cash back: You can earn 5% cash back in two categories of your choosing each quarter limited to the first $2,000 of spend. Then you can choose another category with no cap to earn 2% cash back. On all other purchases, you earn 1% cash back.

The categories for an unlimited 2% cash back (choose one each quarter) are:

  • Gas stations
  • Restaurants
  • Grocery stores

The categories for 5% cash back up to $2,000 (choose two each quarter) are:

  • Select clothing stores
  • Cell phones
  • Electronic stores
  • Gyms and fitness centers
  • Bookstores
  • Fast food restaurants
  • Charities
  • Sporting goods stores
  • Department stores
  • Furniture stores
  • Movie theaters

Using your rewards: You can redeem cash back for gift cards, statement credit or a deposit into a U.S. Bank Savings, Checking or Money Market account. The first time you redeem $100 in cash back in a single transaction, you get a $25 Cash+ Bonus.

The Fine Print: Same opt-in revolving category spiel applies here except you must also remember to choose your categories. There is no annual fee. The U.S. Bank Cash+ is another good example of a card you may want to couple with another that gives you higher cash back for necessities i.e. groceries. But, for diverse spenders who can benefit from the 5% category options, the U.S. Bank Cash+ is worth considering.

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Credit Card

LEARN MORE Secured

on US Bank’s secure website

SimplyCash Plus Business Card from Amex: Ideal for Typical Business Expenses

How it works: The SimplyCash Plus Business Card gives 5% cash back on office supply and wireless telephone provider services. You also get 3% cash back on the category of your choice from a list of eight, including:

  • Airfare purchased directly from airlines
  • Hotel rooms purchased directly from hotels
  • Car rentals purchased from select car rental companies
  • U.S. gas stations
  • U.S. restaurants
  • U.S. purchases for advertising in select media
  • U.S. purchases for shipping
  • U.S. computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers

Earning cash back: You have to choose your 3% category within two months of signing. If you don’t choose one, the default is gas stations. The combined annual cap for the 5% and 3% categories is $50,000. On all other purchases, you get 1% cash back.

Using your rewards: Cash back will appear as a credit automatically on your statement. This American Express card has no annual fee, so you’ll earn cash back with a generous cap at no cost.

The Fine Print: You must remember to choose your 3% cash back category every year. If you select one this year and forget to do so next year, you’ll be locked into the same 3% category for another 12 months until you make a switch. There is no annual fee.

SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express

LEARN MORE Secured

on American Express’s secure website

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card: 5% Cash Back for the Amazon Prime Enthusiast

How it works: The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card is open to Amazon Prime Members, so it’s somewhat exclusive. The perks of this card is 5% cash back on eligible purchases made on Amazon.com. Buying items on other merchant websites that have the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card payment option enabled will not earn you 5% cash back.

Using your rewards: The cash back you rack up will apply as a credit to your statement.

Do the math: If you’re not already an Amazon Prime Member, it’s probably not worth signing up to become one just for the card unless you intend to spend big bucks on the site. You need to spend $1,980 per year at Amazon.com for the 5% cash back to cover the $99 annual membership fee.

The Fine Print: The fine print of what you can and can’t buy to earn 5% is the only gotcha here. But, if you shop on Amazon.com often and stick to the rules, you’ll see a nice return from this card. There’s not an annual fee for the card, but you must be an Amazon Prime member, which costs $99 a year.

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card

LEARN MORE Secured

on Amazon’s secure website

REDcard: Only a Good Fit for the Regular Target Shopper

How it works: For Target shoppers, there’s the REDcard. It gives you a 5% discount on your purchases at Target (minus any other discounts or promotions). Purchases that won’t earn 5% cash back include:

  • Target eye exams
  • Target gift cards and prepaid cards
  • Previous purchases
  • Target credit account payments, Target Debit Card cash back and cash advances on the Target MasterCard
  • Gift wrap and shipping and handling on Target.com purchases
  • Wireless protection program purchases and deposits required by mobile carrier

Earning and using rewards: The program is pretty simple as far as how Target gives you money back. Your 5% will apply to eligible purchases in your shopping cart at checkout. In addition to 5% cash back, this program includes free shipping from Target.com and 30 extra days for returns.

The Fine Print: No red flags with the REDcard other than watching out for the purchases excluded from cash back listed above. For faithful Target shoppers, this no annual fee card with the 5% discount may be a no brainer.

REDcard from Target

LEARN MORE Secured

on Target’s secure website

Fort Knox Visa Platinum Card: Most Straightforward 5% Rewards Card Just for Gas

How it works: The Visa Platinum Card from the Fort Knox Credit Union makes our list with the most straightforward, no cap rewards program. You can earn an unlimited 5% cash back on gas and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Using your rewards: Cash back will appear on your statement as a credit.

The Fine Print: This rewards program is offered by a credit union in Kentucky. You’ll have to take a few extra steps to qualify for membership. If you don’t live in Kentucky or have family in Kentucky, membership is open to anyone that joins the American Consumer Council. There is no annual fee for the card, but you will need to become a member of the credit union.

Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

LEARN MORE Secured

on Fort Knox Federal’s secure website

Blue Cash Preferred from Amex: 6% Cash Back for the Heavy Grocery Shopper

How it works: The Blue Cash Preferred® is our top pick for cardholders that want to maximize cash back on groceries. With this card, you get 6% cash back at US supermarkets excluding superstores and warehouses up to $6,000 per year. You also earn 3% cash back at US gas stations and select US department stores and 1% cash back on everything else.

Bonus offer: In addition to the recurring cash back program, if you spend $1,000 within the first three months of signing up for the card you’ll get $200 cash back.

Using cash back: Cash back builds as Rewards Dollars you can redeem for statement credit in increments of $25.

The Fine Print: There is an annual fee of $95 per year.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

LEARN MORE Secured

on American Express’s secure website

USAA Cashback Rewards Plus Amex: Only Advantageous for Military Service Members Living On-Base

How it works: The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus Amex gives 5% cash back on gas and military base purchases including commissaries, exchanges, and shopettes. The cap for the 5% category is $3,000 per year.

Earning cash back: In addition to the 5% back on gas and military base purchases, you’ll also earn 2% cash back on groceries up to $3,000 annually. On everything else, there’s 1% cash back. You can redeem cash back in increments of $1 through the USAA Rewards Service Center online or over the phone.

The Fine Print: The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus Amex card is light on the fine print. Just remember, the 5% category cap is $3,000 for combined gas and military base purchases per year and not per quarter. There is no annual fee.

Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card from USAA

LEARN MORE Secured

on USAA’s secure website

The Key to Earning from Any Cash Back Card

In closing, regardless of which cash back card you choose, be sure to pay off your bill in full each month. That’s one underlying trap of any card rewards program. If you carry a balance over time, adding interest into the equation means you may end up paying the credit card company more than what you’re making in cash back.

The post 10 Best 5% Cash Back Credit Cards for November 2017 appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

The Best Cash Back Credit Cards for Every Category – 3% and More in November 2017

credit card and dollar close-up

MagnifyMoney keeps a database of over 2,000 credit cards and their features, including cash back cards you can compare with our tool. We used it to find the absolute highest cash back rewards you can earn in each category, more than the standard 1-2% you usually see.

If you’re ready for cash back there are over 25 categories where you can earn 3% or more in pure cash back on your credit card purchases.

Scroll down and you’ll find links to the best cash back credit cards we’ve found that earn more than 2% cash back in special categories. These are cards that let you get pure cash value, not complicated points that can be used only for travel.

Before you dig into categories, every cash rewards wallet should have one of these cards, with double cash back on everything you spend:

Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card
Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Once you have one of these, you can add other cards that earn more than 2% in special categories to really boost your cash rewards.

The best cash back credit cards with no limit rewards

Maybe you don’t want to mess with rotating categories or remembering limits on cash back. If that’s you, there are only a handful of cards that you need to carry to get the most in totally unlimited cash back.

As you’ll learn below, you may be leaving about $500 a year or more on the table by not holding at least some of these cards.

They are all no annual fee cards, and they ensure you will earn more than 2% cash back on your total spending with absolutely no limits. Some cards have higher cash back rates with limits, and you can see those below this list in our review of cards for each category.

Airfare: PenFed Premium Travel Rewards – 4.25%

PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card

This card advertises 5x points on airfare, but there is a bit of a catch. When you redeem the points it earns for the closest thing to cash, a prepaid Visa card, your points are worth about 0.8 cents each, so that 5x points is really about 4.25% cash back on your airfare spending.

Travel: AAA Member Rewards Visa – 3%

AAA Member Rewards Visa Signature® Card

While the PenFed Premium Travel Rewards wins for airfare spending, the AAA Member Rewards Visa offers 3% back on airfare, plus  all kinds of travel, including hotels, car rentals, and cruises. You don’t have to be a AAA member to get the card.

Supermarkets: PenFed Platinum Rewards – 2.55%

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature®Card

The card earns 3x points on supermarkets, but the points are worth about 0.85 cents each when you redeem them for a prepaid Visa gift card, so the real unlimited cash back rate is about 2.55%.

If you spend less than $6,000 a year ($500 a month) on groceries, then the Amex Blue Cash Preferred offers 6% back on the first $6,000 each year. The $95 annual fee on this card is a better deal vs the PenFed Card if you spend about $3,000 a year in groceries (about $250 a month).

Note that if you live in California, you may earn 3% unlimited cash back on groceries with the Platinum Rewards card from Golden 1 Credit Union.

Gas: Fort Knox Credit Union Platinum Visa – 5%

Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

You might not have heard of this credit union, but anyone can join. You just need to pay $5 to join the American Consumer Council / Kentucky and you’re eligible.

The Sam’s Club MasterCard also offers 5% at the pump on up to $6,000 worth of gas purchases a year at any gas station, plus 3% on travel and dining, but you need to be a Sam’s Club member to hold the card.

Dining: Chase AARP Visa – 3%

AARP® Credit Card from Chase Bank

You don’t have to be 55+ to hold this card, it’s available to anyone who is interested and meets the credit standards. So you can enjoy your ‘senior discount’ on dining any time. Capital One also offers a Premier Dining Rewards card with 3% back on dining and 2% on groceries.

(The information related to the AARP Visa and Chase Ink Cash Business credit cards has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of these cards.)

Everything else: Citi Double Cash (up to  1% + 1%) or Fidelity Investment Rewards Visa (2%) 

If you’re willing to pay an annual fee, the Alliant Visa Signature card earns 2.5% cash back unlimited. The $59 fee is worthwhile if you spend over $1,000 a month on the card. Alliant is targeting this card to people with high income who spend $10,000 or more a month, so it might be tough to get approved.

If you have a military affiliation, USAA offers some members the USAA Limitless cash back card, with 2.5% unlimited cash back if you make $1,000 a month in direct deposits to USAA. This card is only targeted to select members, so you won’t see it advertised on their website and no guarantees you will be offered the card.

Or if you live in California, the JCB Marukai Premium card gives you 3% cash back on all purchases beyond $3,000 in yearly spending.

Just mark each of the cards you pick in your wallet with a sticker for each category so you remember which to use, and you’ll rack up lots of cash with minimal hassle. And afraid to have more than one card? Well if you’re responsible with credit, a few additional inquiries might have less of an impact than you think. See our experience with scores and getting several cards for the rewards.

For unlimited retailer-specific discounts, also consider:

If you want to maximize absolutely everything, read on…

We’ve organized cash back cards for each of the over 25 spending categories that are currently eligible for more than 2% in cash back rewards.

They include both year round and quarterly rotating categories like those on the Discover It. Pick the categories that matter most to you, and you’ll see the opportunities you have to earn 3-5% if you’re willing to keep track of some limits and quarterly changes.

Remember, these are all cards that let you earn cash value rewards, with no restriction on where you spend the rewards, unlike travel points.

You’ll find three flavors of cash back rewards, in the order of hassle factor:

  • Unlimited cash back – This is the simplest form. You usually won’t find the very highest 5%+ rewards this way, but we’ve found some great cards that get you 3% or more in some popular categories.
  • Cash back with limits – This is where a card limits the cash back you earn by putting a cap on the spending which earns the cash back in the specific category, on a combination of categories, or the card as a whole.
  • Quarterly rotating categories – These are the cards with the big headline 5% rates. Don’t be fooled. While you can earn the 5% rate, you may have to opt in to categories each quarter manually and be hit with caps on how much you can earn.

Advertising Services

With Limits

3%:  SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express– up to $25,000 in purchases in bonus categories

Airfare

Unlimited

With limits

  • 3% – Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: Nusenda Cash Rewards – Oct – Dec – up to $1,500 – Anyone can join the Nusenda Credit Union (formerly the New Mexico Educators Credit Union) by becoming a member of the La Montanita Food Co-op.

Amazon.com

Unlimited

5% Quarterly Category in 2017

  • [DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus]5%: Discover it – up to $1,500 – October – December[/DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus]

Book stores

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose

Car Rentals

Unlimited

With limits

Cell phone

With limits

Cable / Satellite / Landline Phone / Internet

Clothing Stores

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Commuting, Taxis

Unlimited

Quarterly category in 2017

  • [DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus]5%: Discover it – up to $1,500[/DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus] January – March

Department Stores

Unlimited

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: Citi Dividend – October – December – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)

Discount stores

  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Drug stores

With limits

Education

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: Nusenda Cash Rewards – July – Sept – up to $1,500 – Anyone can join the Nusenda Credit Union (formerly the New Mexico Educators Credit Union) by becoming a member of the La Montanita Food Co-op.

Electronics

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: (Best Buy only) Citi Dividend – October – December – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)

Furniture

With Limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose

Quarterly Category in 2017

  • 5%: Citi Dividend – January – March – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)

Gas

Unlimited

With limits

Quarterly category in 2017

  • [DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus]5%: Discover it – up to $1,500 January – March[/DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus]
  • 5%: Nusenda Cash Rewards – July – September – up to $1,500

Grocery Stores

Unlimited

With limits

Quarterly category in 2017

Gyms

With Limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose

Home improvement

No limits

With limits

  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5%: Nusenda Cash Rewards – April – June – up to $1,500
  • 5%: (Home Depot only) Citi Dividend – January – March – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)
  • [DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus]5%: Discover it – up to $1,500 – July – September[/DiscoverCashbackCategoryBonus]

Hotels

Unlimited

With limits

Quarterly category in 2017

  • 5% – New Mexico Educators Cash Rewards – Oct – Dec – up to $1,500
  • 5%: (Hilton Hotels only) Citi Dividend – July – September – up to $300 total cash back on card (no longer open to new applicants)

Movie Theaters

With Limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose

Quarterly category in 2017

Office Supply Stores

With limits

Online Retail

Unlimited

Restaurants

Unlimited

With Limits

Quarterly category in 2017

  • [DiscoverCashbackIntroBonus]5%: Discover it – up to $1,500[/DiscoverCashbackIntroBonus] – July – September
  • 5%: Nusenda Cash Rewards – April – June & Oct – Dec – up to $1,500

Shipping

Sports

With limits

Target

Unlimited

Trains, Cruises, Other Vacation

Unlimited

With limits

Utilities

  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Walmart

  • 3%: Huntington Voice – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Warehouse Clubs

 

The post The Best Cash Back Credit Cards for Every Category – 3% and More in November 2017 appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Best Cash Back Cards for Grocery Shopping in November 2017

groceries_lg

Shopping for groceries can be a painful experience. There are numerous aisles, thousands of items and long checkout lines to contend with. Then there’s one more blow: watching the dollars add up at the register.

But signing up for a solid cashback credit card can be a good way to earn a percentage of your grocery purchases back and take some of the sting out of that shopping trip.

Here are the best cashback cards for grocery shopping.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

APPLY NOW Secured

on American Express’s secure website

The Blue Cash Everyday® Card, offers 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) with no annual fee. This is a great rate for habitual shoppers so long as you spend up to $3,167 a year at supermarkets. If you spend more than that, then you might be better off with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, which comes with an annual fee but higher cashback potential.

In addition to a high cash back rate on groceries, you earn 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, and 1% on other purchases. The Welcome Offer of a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 within the first three months is a good way to maximize your rewards.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

APPLY NOW Secured

on American Express’s secure website

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card offers the highest cashback rate for big grocery spenders — 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). This card does come with a $95 annual fee and you need to spend $1,584 a year on groceries to break even. If you spend $3,167 a year ($264 a month) or more on groceries you will benefit from this card more than the Blue Cash Everyday® Card. You’ll also earn a high 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores and 1% back on other purchases. There’s an added bonus of a $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases within the first three months.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Bank Of America’s secure website

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards card offers a decent cashback rate for groceries, however it is lower than what you’ll find with competing cards. You’ll earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter. All other spending will earn 1%. There is no annual fee and you can redeem your cash back directly into a Bank of America checking or saving account for a 10% bonus. People who will benefit most from this card are those who are Bank of America Preferred Rewards clients. As a Preferred Rewards client, you could increase your bonus to 25-75%, making your grocery cash back an effective 2.5-3.5%. If you apply online and spend $500 in the first 90 days, you also receive a $150 online cash rewards bonus.

Huntington Voice Credit Card®

Huntington Voice Credit Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Huntington Bancshares’s secure website

The Huntington Voice Credit Card® has no annual fee and earns you 3X points in one of 13 categories. Simply choose to earn 3X points at grocery stores once you open your account. The rewards you earn at the 3X rate are capped at $2,000 each quarter or 6000 points, with all other purchases earning 1X points. You also have the freedom to change your 3X category every quarter to suit your spending. But be aware that if you switch from grocery stores to another category, you’ll only earn 1X points on grocery spending.

Which card is the right fit for me?

With numerous credit cards available to help maximize your grocery rewards, it can be confusing to know which to choose. Some cards provide unlimited rewards at a high rate, while most have caps on grocery spending.

The table below breaks down which grocery card may be a good fit for you when factoring in annual grocery spending, cashback rate and annual fee. (Sign-on bonuses are not reflected.) Keep in mind: This only factors in spending on grocery purchases and doesn’t consider if you
spend in other categories or at the other cashback rates.

Here are a few key takeaways:

  • If you spend about $3,000 a year on groceries, you will benefit more from the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express or the Huntington Voice Credit Card®.
  • If you spend more than $4,000 a year, you will benefit more from the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express.
  • The Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card earns you subpar cash back unless you have $100,000 in a Bank of America checking or savings account.
  

Card

Huntington Voice Credit Card®

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card: without BofA checking/
savings

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card: with $100,000 in BofA checking/
savings

Spending

$1,000

$30

$30

-$35

$20

$35

$2,000

$60

$60

$25

$40

$70

$3,000

$90

$90

$85

$60

$105

$4,000

$120

$120

$145

$80

$140

$5,000

$150

$150

$205

$100

$175

$6,000

$180

$180

$265

$120

$210

$7,000

$210

$190

$275

$140

$245

$8,000

$240

$200

$285

$160

$280

$9,000

$250

$210

$295

$180

$315

$10,000

$260

$220

$305

$200

$350

The post Best Cash Back Cards for Grocery Shopping in November 2017 appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

I Got My First Credit Card One Year Ago – Here’s How I Already Have a Good FICO Score

iStock

When I moved to the U.S. from my hometown, Hangzhou, an eastern Chinese city, in 2012 to pursue my undergraduate degree, the thought of establishing a credit history wasn’t even on my radar. I was, after all, an international student from China, where day-to-day credit card use has only recently caught on.  

It wasn’t until I returned to the U.S. a few years later to pursue my master’s in Chicago that I realized I’d need to establish credit if I planned to launch my career in the States.  

It’s been only a year since I opened my first card last September, and I already have a solid FICO score – 720, the last time I checked.  That’s not a perfect score by any means, but it lands me safely in the “good” credit range, meaning I probably won’t have trouble getting approved for new credit in the future. I still have work to do if I want to get into the “very good” credit category, which starts at 740, according to MyFICO, but for a credit card newbie I’m not disappointed in my progress so far. 

Here’s how I did it:  

I selected the right card for my needs
 

I wish I could say I diligently researched credit cards to choose the best offer and best terms, but honestly, I just got lucky: 

Shortly before graduate school started, I visited friends in Iowa. When we were about to split the bill after dinner at a Japanese restaurant, I noticed that all my friends had a Discover card with a shimmering pink or blue cover. The Discover it for Students card was known for its high approval rate for student applicants, and had been popular among international students. 

I thought, “Oh, maybe I should get this one, too.”  

One of the friends sent me a referral link that very night. I applied and got approved quickly. We both received a $50 cash-back bonus after I made my first purchase — an iPhone — using the card through Discover’s special rewards program. I even received 5 percent cash back from the purchase.  

Besides imposing no annual fee, the card has other perks, like rewarding me with a $20 cash-back bonus when I reported a good GPA, letting me earn 5 percent cash back on purchases in rotating categories, and matching the cash-back bonus I earned over the first 12 months with my account. For me, it was a great starter card, but there are plenty of other options out there.

Check out our guide on the best credit cards for students. 

I also could have explored other options of establishing credit, like opening a secured card, for example, which would have been a smart option if I hadn’t been able to qualify for the Discover it student card.

I never missed a payment

Despite my very limited financial literacy at the time, I attribute my current stellar credit score to the old, deeply ingrained Chinese mentality about saving and not owing. 

I never missed payments, and I always paid off my balance in full each month, instead of just making the $35 minimum payment. I didn’t want to pay a penny of interest. 

Credit cards carry high interest rates across the board, but student credit cards generally have some of the highest APRs. This is because lenders see students like me — consumers without much credit history — to be risky borrowers, and they charge a higher interest rate to offset that  risk. 

Best Student Credit Cards October 2017 

It wasn’t until much later when I learned that payment history is critical to credit establishment. In fact, it is the biggest factor there is. It accounts for as much as 35 percent of my FICO score. Naturally, I felt like I dodged a bullet! 

A Guide to Getting Your Free Credit Score 

I was careful not to use too much of my available credit

My friends with more experience advised me to use as little of my available credit as possible. They warned me that overuse had hurt their credit scores in the past. This didn’t much sense to me, but I followed their advice, for the most part diligently.. 

I later learned this is almost as important as paying bills on time each month. Your utilization rate is another 30 percent of the FICO score. Credit experts urge cardholders to keep their credit utilization ratio below 30 percent.  

That means if you have three credit cards with a total available limit of $10,000, you should try never to carry a total balance exceeding about $3,000. 

A Guide to Build and Maintain Healthy Credit 

I beefed up my score with on-time rent payment 

Keeping in mind the importance of not maxing out my credit card, I never considered paying my rent with the card. In fact, some landlords charge credit card fees for tenants who try to pay with plastic.  

But I did find a way to establish credit by paying rent using my checking account. 

I paid rent to my Chicago landlord through RentPayment, an online service. RentPayment gave me the option of having my payments reported to TransUnion, one of the three major credit-reporting agencies. Because I knew I’d always pay bills on time, I signed up for the program.  

This likely helped me improve my credit mix, another key factor influencing one’s credit score. The more types of accounts you show on your report, the better your score can be — providing you make all your payments on time.  

Yes, I made mistakes. This was my biggest one.

My first foray into the world of credit wasn’t completely blip-free.  

The only thing that hurt my credit, besides my short credit history, was that I had tried signing up for a Chase credit card and other ways to finance my iPhone just a few days before I applied for my Discover card.  

None of the other banks approved my applications, and my score went down from the very beginning due to the number of “hard inquiries” against my report. Hard inquiries occur when lenders check your credit report before they make lending decisions, and having too many inquiries in a short period of time can result in several dings to your credit score. 

I’ve learned my lesson, though. And I haven’t applied for a new credit card since. Today, as I said, my FICO score is a healthy 720, and I am on the lookout for a second credit card now that I’ve graduated and gotten a job. 

The post I Got My First Credit Card One Year Ago – Here’s How I Already Have a Good FICO Score appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

QuicksilverOne Review: Unlimited 1.5% Cash Back for Average Credit

For people with “average” or “fair” credit, Capital One offers QuicksilverOne Rewards.Every credit card issuer has a different definition of what “average” or “fair” credit means. Generally speaking, it means a FICO score between 580 and 669.

The QuicksilverOne Rewards card gives you an unlimited 1.5% cash back, which is a pretty sweet opportunity for consumers with less-than-perfect credit.

Just beware of the two catches: There’s a $39 annual fee and a high purchase APR.

QuicksilverOne® Rewards from Capital One

APPLY NOW Secured

on Capital One’s secure website

QuicksilverOne® Rewards from Capital One

Annual fee
$39 For First Year
$39 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
up to 1.5%
APR
24.99%

Variable

Credit required
fair-credit

Average

QuicksilverOne Card Overview

The QuicksilverOne Rewards program is low maintenance.

Unlike other programs with revolving categories and spending caps, this card doesn’t hold you to either. You will earn 1.5% cash back every time you swipe.

You can redeem cash back at any time for a check, account credit, or gift card. Cash back you earn never expires.

What We Like About This Card

No fuss.

We like that the cash back program terms are uncomplicated. There are no preset bonus categories that you have to adapt your spending to each month. You can also redeem cash back at any time without having to wait for the balance to reach a certain threshold.

Low credit score requirement.

The QuicksilverOne is one of the only cash back rewards cards around town for average credit. If you’re having trouble getting approved elsewhere, this is a card you need to seriously consider.

What We Don’t Like About This Card

The annual fee.

Since this card costs $39 per year, you need to spend at least $2,600 per year (or $217 per month) for the cash back to break even with the fee. Ideally, you’ll want to spend more than just the bare minimum for the rewards card to be worthwhile.

High APR.

This is a high interest rate. Avoid carrying a balance at all costs if you choose this card.

Who This Card Is Best For

Again, the QuicksilverOne is our top unlimited cash back pick for consumers who have trouble getting approved for other cash back cards.

According to Capital One, you may qualify for this card if:

  • You have defaulted on a loan in the past five years
  • You have limited credit history
  • You have had your own credit card or other credit for less than three years (this may include students, people new to the U.S., or authorized users on someone else’s credit card)

Keep in mind, these are just guidelines to give you a general sense of whether you’ll qualify. Your income, debt, and other credit limits are also factors used to make a decision.

Capital One has a nice feature where you can get preapproved online for offers without a hard credit inquiry. See if you prequalify for the QuicksilverOne card here.

Keep an eye out for the Quicksilver alternative while checking offers as well.

Quicksilver Rewards is the “big brother” of the QuicksilverOne card. It has no annual fee, and it’s for people with excellent credit. There’s no harm in checking to see if you prequalify for the Quicksilver card.

Is the QuicksilverOne card good for rebuilding credit?

Despite the lenient qualifying criteria, the QuicksilverOne card is not our top recommendation if you’re rebuilding credit, because of the annual fee.

Your focus should be keeping your credit utilization very low when rebuilding credit. You shouldn’t worry about having to earn enough cash back each month to cover a card’s annual fee.

Try a no-fee secured card like the Capital One Secured MasterCard or the Discover it Secured Credit Card instead.

QuicksilverOne Credit Card Benefits

QuicksilverOne offers:

  • Travel accident insurance and 24/7 roadside assistance. Travel insurance for death or loss of limbs. You can call in for help if your car breaks down.
  • Auto rental insurance. Insurance covers rental damage from collision or theft.
  • Extended warranty. Purchases made on your card will get an extended warranty.
  • Price protection. You can get reimbursed the difference if you find items you purchased on sale within 60 days.
  • Fraud coverage. Covered by $0 fraud liability if your card is lost or stolen.

Alternatives to the QuicksilverOne

QuicksilverOne doesn’t have much competition since it’s the best card for consumers with average credit. The following no-fee cash back cards officially require good to excellent credit but allow you to prequalify without a hard inquiry.

1.5% cash back, no fee

Chase Freedom Unlimited<sup>SM</sup>

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

1.5%

APR

14.24%-23.24%

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card gives you an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all spending without category restrictions or caps. What’s great about Chase is it’s another credit card issuer that lets you prequalify for offers without a hard pull. Check out offers you may prequalify for here.

You can redeem cash back from your Chase Freedom Unlimited card at any time, and cash back never expires as long as you keep your account open. At times there is an intro APR deal or cash back bonus offer that add benefits to this card, and ongoing rates are sometimes lower than what you’d see on the QuicksilverOne.

Double cash back, no fee

Citi®Double Cash Card

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

1% when you buy, 1% when you pay

APR

14.49%-24.49%

Variable

The Citi Double Cash card is another good choice for low-maintenance cash back rewards. It gives double cash back on all purchases. You earn 1% cash back when you spend on the card and another 1% cash back when you pay off the bill.

This is a card that members report qualifying for with a credit score in the high 600s. Citi lets you shop for prequalified offers on the website as well. If you’re interested in this card, see if you can get prequalified here. In addition, there are changing intro APR deals for this card that allow you to save interest early on, and ongoing interest rates are sometimes lower than with the QuicksilverOne.

Bottom Line

The QuicksilverOne Rewards is a good rewards card for those with average credit. If you have had difficulty being approved for other higher cash back rewards cards, you may be approved for the QuicksilverOne Rewards, which offers unlimited 1.5% cash back. Be aware that this card comes with an annual fee and high APR, so make sure to do your research and see if this card is right for you.

FAQ

You should not keep a balance on this credit card to benefit from the cash back. The high APR is a large amount of interest to be paying on purchases. If the interest charges you experience on this card coupled with the annual fee surpass the cash back you earn, this card is pointless.

No. You’re free and clear to spend money on anything, and it’ll earn 1.5% cash back. This is the beauty of an unlimited cash back card. However, cash advances and balance transfers will not qualify for cash back.

No, you can redeem cash back for any amount at any time.

No, cash back does not expire as long as your account remains open.

You can, but not with average credit. The QuicksilverOne card is the best unlimited cash back card there is specifically targeting people with fair credit. Another option you have is working to improve your credit first before applying for a credit card to qualify for a card that gives you more cash back.

The post QuicksilverOne Review: Unlimited 1.5% Cash Back for Average Credit appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

The new Discover it Secured Card wins: No fee, Free FICO and up to 2% cash back

Discover it Secured Credit Card Review

Updated August 1, 2017

Discover has just launched a new product, the Discover it® Secured Card – No Annual Fee . Secured credit cards are an excellent way to build your credit with responsible use. With this product launch, Discover has created one of the best secured cards on the market. You do need to make a security deposit of $200 or more to establish your credit line (up to the amount that Discover can approve). If you are unable to afford the $200 deposit, you should consider the Capital One Secured MasterCard, which only requires a $49 deposit. But if you can afford the $200 deposit, this new card is clearly one of the best no fee secured credit cards available.

Learn More

Key Product Features

Here are the key product features:

No annual fee: There is no annual fee on this card. You do need to make a security deposit of at least $200. If you want a bigger limit, you will have to make a bigger deposit.

Automatic monthly reviews starting at 8 months: After just eight months, Discover will start monthly automatic reviews of your account to see if you can be transitioned to an account with no security deposit. With an 8-month review, Discover has one of the best upgrade policies in the market.

Earn cash back: Most secured credit cards do not offer any rewards. With Discover it, you have the opportunity to earn cash back while earning rewards. You can earn 2% at restaurants and gas stations (on up to $1,000 of combined purchases each quarter). Plus, get 1% cash back on all your other purchases. Earning cash back is not the primary reason to select a secured credit card, but it is a nice option to have available.

Free FICO Credit Score: Discover will provide you with a copy of your official FICO credit score. If you use a secured credit card properly, you should expect to see your score increase over time. And by providing your FICO score for free, you will be able to watch your improvement.

Monitor Your Social Security Number: Discover will monitor your Social Security Number and alert you if they find your Social Security Number on any of thousands of risky websites. Activate for FREE. This is a great feature that will help alert you of possible fraud.

You can learn more and apply by clicking on the link below:

LearnMore

How to Use a Secured Credit Card

A secured credit card is an excellent way to build or rebuild your credit history. In order to gain the most number of points in the shortest amount of time, you need to have a strategy. We recommend the following strategy (and describe how it helped someone build an excellent score in one year here):

  1. Avoid spending more than 10% – 15% of your available credit limit. Yes, that means if your credit limit is only $200, you should not spend more than $20 – $30 a month. Utilization is a very important part of your credit score. To calculate utilization, divide your statement balance by your available credit. People with the best credit scores have utilization well below 20%. Because you want to build an excellent credit score, you should keep your utilization low.
  2. Pay your statement balance on time and in full every month. To ensure your payments are made on time every month, you should consider automating the monthly payments. At the Discover website, you can sign up to have your monthly payment debited automatically from your checking account.
  3. Just continue to repeat Step #1 and Step #2. Your credit score should improve over time, which will help you qualify for a standard credit card.

If you have less than perfect credit and need to borrow money, you should consider shopping for a personal loan.

Who is Eligible to Apply?

According to disclosures on the Discover website, you are eligible to apply if:

  • You are at least 18 years old.
  • You have a Social Security Number.
  • You have an address in the United States.
  • You have a bank account in the United States. Note: You will need to provide your routing number and account number when you apply. If your account is overdrawn, it is highly unlikely that you will be approved.

Your credit history will be reviewed, and not all applications will be approved. The card is best for those with no credit, or scores of 670 or less.

The Application Process

You can apply online and Discover usually provides a decision instantly. You will need to make your security deposit as part of the application, which is why Discover asks for the routing number and account number of your bank.

Please remember that when you apply for the secured credit card, you will have an inquiry on your credit report just like an application for a normal credit card.

Alternate Secured Credit Cards

Discover it has one of the strongest offerings in the market. However, it might not be right for everyone. Here are some other good options.

If you cannot afford the $200 minimum deposit, you should consider the Capital One Secured MasterCard. There is no annual fee and a minimum deposit of $49. You will also be able to receive your FICO score for free. Capital One is known for accepting people with more adverse credit histories. So, if you are rejected by Discover, you might want to consider trying Capital One instead.

Capital One Secured MasterCard

Go to site

You should also consider a secured credit card from your local credit union. MagnifyMoney has a list of some of the best no fee secured credit cards offered by credit unions here.

Build Your Score, Not Your Balance

Secured credit cards are a great way to build your credit score. And, with this product launch, Discover has created an excellent tool. Just make sure you don’t use your credit card to build a balance and borrow money. Keep your balance well below 20% of your available credit, and pay your statement balance on time and in full every month. If you do that, you should start to see real improvement in your score.

The post The new Discover it Secured Card wins: No fee, Free FICO and up to 2% cash back appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Ally CashBack Credit Card Review: Is it Worthwhile if You Don’t Bank with Ally?

Last year, Ally Bank rolled out the Ally CashBack Credit Card with a rewards program that offers 2% cash back on gas and groceries with no cap.

In addition to the cash back you earn from spending, Ally gives you a special 10% Ally Deposit Bonus when you deposit cash back earned into an eligible Ally Bank account.

Ally CashBack Credit Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Ally Financial’s secure website

Ally CashBack Credit Card

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
2% on certain categories, 1% on everything else
APR
13.74%-23.74%

Variable

Credit required
excellent-credit

Excellent

  • No annual fee
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and grocery stores
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Receive a $100 bonus when you make $500 in eligible purchases during the first 3 billing cycles
  • Get a 10% Ally Deposit Bonus when you deposit your cash rewards into an eligible Ally Bank account
  • 13.74%-23.74% purchase APR
  • 0% Intro APR for 12 months from account opening on balance transfers, then a variable APR of 13.74%-23.74%. Balance transfer fee is 4% of the amount transferred, $10 minimum
  • 3% foreign transaction fee

The Ally CashBack Credit Card Offer

1. Earn up to 2.2% cash back at gas stations and grocery stores.

Factoring in the 10% Ally Deposit Bonus, you have the potential to earn a total of 2.2% cash back in the gas and groceries category.

You have to deposit cash back earned into a qualifying account to get the 10% bonus. Qualifying accounts include:

  • Ally Money Market accounts
  • Non-IRA Online Savings accounts
  • Interest Checking accounts

Fine print alert: Discount stores, superstores, and warehouses are not included in the groceries category. Stores like Target, Walmart, BJ’s, and Sam’s Club specifically may be off limits for 2% cash back.

Ally Bank qualifies your purchases for cash back using merchant codes. You can call up a store directly to see if it has a merchant code within one of these eligible 2% cash back categories:

  • Grocery
  • Bakery
  • Dairy
  • Service stations
  • Automated fuel dispensers
  • Fuel dealers

2. Earn up to 1.1% cash back on all other purchases.

Purchases outside of groceries and gas earn 1% cash back. You can earn a total of 1.1% if you add in the 10% Ally Deposit Bonus.

3. Earn an introductory incentive.

There’s an introductory bonus of $100 if you spend $500 within the first three months of having this card.

How to Redeem Cash Back

You can redeem cash back in two ways. As mentioned, you get the extra 10% bonus if you deposit cash back into an eligible Ally Bank account.

The second option is redeeming cash back for statement credit. You need to build a balance of at least $25 before you can redeem cash back.

What We Like About the Ally CashBack Credit Card

You guessed it — we think the most attractive feature of the Ally CashBack Credit Card is the 10% Ally Deposit Bonus. We also like that this card has no spending cap for the 2% categories.

Other benefits are that there’s no annual fee and the interest rate range is reasonable.

The card even has a 0% APR introductory deal on balance transfers, although the 4% balance transfer fee is something to consider before moving your money.

The Ally CashBack Credit Card Fine Print

One of the major drawbacks of this card is the merchant code restrictions.

Don’t get us wrong — the Ally CashBack Credit Card isn’t the only cash back rewards program that uses merchant codes to qualify purchases. Pretty much every niche category card has some fine print related to what you will and will not earn bonus cash back on.

Before shopping at a warehouse or specialty food store with this card (or any category card for that matter), double-check the merchant code to see if the purchase will be eligible for 2%.

One more spot where the Ally CashBack Credit Card has fine print is the program termination policy. If your account is canceled for any reason, by you or Ally Bank, you forfeit the cash back balance. Ally Bank also reserves the right to change terms or cancel the cash back program. If this occurs, you may give up your balance.

To avoid losing out on money, keep the card in good standing and cash out whenever you hit the $25 mark just in case Ally Bank should change terms in the future.

Who the Ally CashBack Credit Card Is For

This card is best suited for current Ally Bank customers, but even people who bank with Ally should explore other options.

For non-Ally Bank customers, the 2.2% on gas and groceries is not worth opening two new accounts (the credit card account and a qualifying savings or checking account) to earn maximum cash back.

There are too many other category cards to consider ahead of this one that can give you more than 2.2% on gas and groceries.

There are even a few cards that offer you 2%+ cash back on all spending with no pesky category restrictions to keep up with.

We’ll share two alternatives with you in the next section.

But first, here’s an example to give you an idea of how much you can earn with the Ally CashBack Credit Card:

Say you spend $4,000 per year on groceries and $2,000 on gas. You can earn up to $132 in cash back for the year. (This includes the 10% Ally Deposit Bonus.)

Keep this scenario in mind because we’ll reference it next when reviewing a competitor.

For eligibility criteria, Ally Bank doesn’t get specific about the type of credit history or score you need to get approved.

However, some applicants have reported getting declined because of too many recent inquiries or new accounts. These are factors to be mindful of that could hurt your chances of getting approved.

Cash Back Alternatives

We have a list of the top cash back cards for all categories in this post. Here are two alternative cards from that roundup to take a look at:

Amex Blue Cash Preferred

The Amex Blue Cash Preferred card is one of our top picks for gas and grocery shopping rewards. This card gives you a huge 6% cash back on groceries and 3% cash back on gas. You get 1% cash back on all other purchases. The Amex Blue Cash Preferred card has a $95 annual fee.

Back to our example scenario from above:

If you spend $4,000 annually on groceries and $2,000 annually on gas, you earn $300 in total cash back from the Amex Blue Cash Preferred. Subtract the $95 annual fee, and you still net $205 in cash back. Remember — the Ally CashBack Credit Card only gives you up to $132 in this same spending scenario. The moral of the story is, rewards cards that have an annual fee can still outperform cards with no annual fee. So don’t let a fee deter you from reviewing an offer.

Alliant Visa Signature

If you do most of your shopping at wholesale stores or you prefer a non-category card, the Alliant Visa Signature card is another option we recommend. The Alliant Visa Signature card gives you an unlimited 3% cash back for the first year with no fee. After the first year, you earn 2.5% cash back on all purchases with a $59 annual fee. If your spending is all over the map, an unlimited cash back card like the Alliant Visa Signature can give you more flexibility than the Ally CashBack Credit Card.

Rewards Cards: Frequently Asked Questions

No, Ally cash back does not expire as long as your account remains open and in good standing. There is no limit to the amount of cash back rewards that may be earned.

Anything over 1.5% cashback is a good deal. There are some cards that offer more — as much as 5 or 6% cash back on purchases. But sometimes those offers are too good to be true. Banks don’t like to lose money, and will pepper the fine print with all sorts of limitations. For example, they may offer 5% cash back on only purchases at certain types of retailers and only for certain periods of time. And those categories may change every quarter, which can make it hard to keep track.

Don’t let those cash back promises pressure you into spending more than you can afford. If you don’t pay your statement balance in full each month, you could get slapped with sky high interest charges. That would totally negate any benefit you might get from earning cash back. Cash back cards are only valuable if you can pay your bill in full and capture the entirety of your cash back rewards.

It depends on the card. Some cards allow you redeem cash back dollar for dollar as a statement credit, which can help lower your total balance. Just keep in mind that applying cash back to your card statement does not count as a monthly payment. Other cards will increase the value of your cash back if you spend on certain categories, like travel. Review your terms carefully to be sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

Find the card that fits your day-to-day spending needs best, beyond the flashy sign-up bonus offers and cash back promises. Pay your bill in full each month (spend only what you can afford to pay off).

The post Ally CashBack Credit Card Review: Is it Worthwhile if You Don’t Bank with Ally? appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Review: 2.5% Unlimited Cash Back

Few credit cards offer unlimited 2.5% cash back on all spending without caps or complicated category restrictions. Alliant Credit Union recently rolled out its Cashback Visa Signature Card, which may very well be the “holy grail” of unlimited cash back cards.

The Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card gives cardholders 3% cash back the first year and 2.5% back subsequent years. This card does have an annual fee, but the fee is waived for the first 12 months.

Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Alliant CU’s secure website

Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$59 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
Unlimited 3% cash back during the first year; 2.5% cash back afterwards
APR
10.99%-23.99%

Variable

Credit required
good-credit

Good

  • Exclusively designed for those spending $50,000+ a year on their card
  • Rates as low as 10.99%APR
  • $59 annual fee, waived the first year
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • A true cashback card: 3% cash back in year one & 2.5% cash back after

How the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card works

Alliant Credit Union is an online credit union that anyone can join. If you don’t meet the standard credit union qualifying criteria (being a relative of a member or working for a select organization), you can join by making a $10 donation to Foster Care to Success.

If you choose to apply for this card, be sure to swipe it as much as possible during the first year to make the most of the free 3% cash back. This is a great deal.

The annual fee after the first year is $59. Aside from the annual fee, the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card has extra costs within the card terms that are pretty typical of any credit card.

Most notably, there’s a 3% balance transfer fee and no foreign transaction fee.

Redeeming Your Cash Back

You can redeem cash back earned through statement credit when your cash back balance reaches $25. Cash back expires after five years. Cash back also expires if your credit card account is closed voluntarily or involuntarily.

Who This Credit Card Is Best For

We highly recommend the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card if you hate keeping up with revolving category cards. Category rules can be a pain. This card makes earning cash back painless.

On the other hand, if you’re someone who likes using category cards (airline, grocery, gas, etc.), this card also partners nicely with others. Keep it in your wallet to maximize rewards in areas that your category cards don’t cover.

Alliant Credit Union has very lenient member-qualifying criteria, so non-members can join today. If you already have an Alliant Credit Union card, call credit card services to request an upgrade.

Cardholders report that you can get approved with a score in the high 600s, although credit card services states qualification is based on more than just your credit score.

For example, you may qualify for this card with less-than-perfect credit if your income is high. Since this is a Visa Signature card, credit limits are higher than traditional cards, and that requires having enough income to support a good-sized limit.

What we like about the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card

We like this card a lot because it’s one of few credit cards that give you 2% cash back without a long list of rules on what you can and can’t buy.

Until now, the Citi Double Cash card has been our top recommendation for no-fuss 2% cash back on all spending. However, the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card is giving the Citi Double Cash card some stiff competition.

The 3% cash back without an annual fee the first year is very hard to beat. And if you spend at least $1,000 per month on the card after year one, 2.5% cash back with the annual fee still outperforms the Citi Double Cash card.

We’ll discuss why the magic number for spending is $1,000 in our credit card comparison below.

What we don’t like about the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card

There’s not too much to discuss that’s negative about this card. The one thing to be mindful of is that it does not have an interest-free intro deal on new purchases or balance transfers.

This means you shouldn’t take out this card intending to go on a crazy shopping spree or to finance big life events like a wedding, relocating, or traveling unless there’s a repayment plan in the strategy.

You’ll get a great deal of cash back from large purchases the first 12 months, but you need to pay off the balance promptly to avoid many interest charges.

Three Alternative 2%+ Cash Back Credit Cards

We started out this post mentioning that there aren’t too many unlimited 2%+ cash back cards available, so let’s dive into the three main alternatives:

  • Citi Double Cash
  • Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature
  • USAA Limitless Cashback Rewards Visa Signature

Citi Double Cash

The Citi Double Cash card is usually our “go-to” pick for unlimited 2% cash back with no category restrictions.

The Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card clearly has the Citi Double Cash card beat in the first year. Things get a little less clear-cut when the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card starts costing $59 annually.

As mentioned, when taking the fee into consideration, you need to spend over $1,000 per month on the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card to earn more from it than the Citi Double Cash card.

Here’s the calculation breakdown:

  • Citi Double Cash: $12,000 (spent) x 2% (cash back) = $240
  • Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card: $12,000 (spent) x 2.5% = $300 – $59 (fee) = $241

The more you spend beyond $12,000 per year, the more the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card outperforms the Citi Double Cash card.

Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature

The Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature card is another 2% cash back option with no fee, but this card comes with conditions. You can only earn 2% cash back when you direct deposit rewards into a Fidelity Investment account.

This is still a decent deal for Fidelity Investment customers. If you plan to spend less than $12,000 per year on your rewards card, consider this one or the Citi Double Cash card.

USAA Limitless Cashback Rewards Visa Signature

Lastly, the Limitless Cashback Rewards Visa Signature card from USAA offers an unlimited 2.5% cash back with no annual fee. This card also has restrictions.

You have to keep a certain amount of cash in a connected USAA checking account to qualify for 2.5% cash back. Plus, the card is only made available to select USAA members who live in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington.

In comparison to these cards, the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature card is a rare bird with its over 2%+ cash back program and very limited fine print.

Rewards Cards: Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, the Alliant cash back rewards expire after 5 years, and you also forfeit your unused rewards if you close your account. It’s important to note that cash back doesn’t expire exactly 5 years from the date you earn it. Cash back rewards expire on a rolling, annual basis; cash back earned in a calendar year will expire on the December cycle date of the fourth calendar year in which it was earned. For example, any unredeemed cash back earned in 2017 will expire on the December cycle date in 2021.

Anything over 1.5% cashback is a good deal. There are some cards that offer more — as much as 5 or 6% cash back on purchases. But sometimes those offers are too good to be true. Banks don’t like to lose money, and will pepper the fine print with all sorts of limitations. For example, they may offer 5% cash back on only purchases at certain types of retailers and only for certain periods of time. And those categories may change every quarter, which can make it hard to keep track.

Don’t let those cash back promises pressure you into spending more than you can afford. If you don’t pay your statement balance in full each month, you could get slapped with sky high interest charges. That would totally negate any benefit you might get from earning cash back. Cash back cards are only valuable if you can pay your bill in full and capture the entirety of your cash back rewards.

It depends on the card. Some cards allow you redeem cash back dollar for dollar as a statement credit, which can help lower your total balance. Just keep in mind that applying cash back to your card statement does not count as a monthly payment. Other cards will increase the value of your cash back if you spend on certain categories, like travel. Review your terms carefully to be sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

Find the card that fits your day-to-day spending needs best, beyond the flashy sign-up bonus offers and cash back promises. Pay your bill in full each month (spend only what you can afford to pay off).

The post Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Review: 2.5% Unlimited Cash Back appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Chase Freedom Review: Is 5% Easy?

If you’re on the hunt for a new rewards card, you’ve probably come across the Chase Freedom card during your search. The Chase Freedom card offers 1% cash back on all purchases and the opportunity to earn additional cash back if you spend money within revolving quarterly bonus categories.

Chase Freedom<sup>®</sup>

APPLY NOW Secured

on Chase’s secure website

Chase Freedom®

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
5% on certain categories, 1% on everything else
APR
15.99%-24.74%

Variable

Credit required
good-credit

Good

  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter like gas stations, restaurants and drugstores
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.99%-24.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee

How to Earn Cash Back with the Chase Freedom Card

You automatically earn 1% cash back on all purchases as soon as you start using the card.

Every quarter, Chase introduces bonus categories where you can earn 5% cash back. In order to earn 5%, you need to activate the bonus category every quarter. If you don’t activate, you will only earn at the 1% cash back rate. You can only earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 of spending every quarter.

Here are the current 5% bonus categories for 2017:

July to September

Restaurants

Movie Theaters

The bonus categories for October will be announced in September.

Last Year’s Cash Back Calendar

Since you may have to wait several months for the holiday bonus category to be announced for 2017, here’s a look at the 5% categories for 2016 as a reference of what could be to come:

Keep in mind, the quarters can change annually, so the summer and fall categories for 2016 may not be the same for 2017. Although one thing you can be pretty sure of is the last quarter of the year will be a category that’s holiday shopping friendly. We’ll update cash back categories for 2017 when they’re announced.

How to Activate the Quarterly 5% Cash Back Categories

Now that you know the type of spending that will earn you 5% cash back, let’s touch on how it all works.

To earn 5% cash back each quarter, you must activate the quarterly bonus categories before the deadline. The activation deadline appears on the cash back calendar.

There are six easy ways to activate. Just choose the one that’s best for you.

  1. Online – Once you are a Chase Freedom cardholder, you can activate online at the Ultimate Rewards portal.
  2. Text message – Sign up for Chase Freedom 5% text reminders at online. You’ll get a text reminding you when it’s time to activate.
  3. Email – You can also sign up for email reminders from Chase.
  4. Phone – Call the number on the back of your card to let one of the specialists activate your 5% cash back.
  5. Chase location – Visit any Chase Bank and see a personal banker.
  6. ATM – Chase checking customers can activate their 5% cash back with one click via the ATM while making a cash withdrawal.

The base 1% cash back will always apply first to purchases on your statement. Each quarter you activate, spending that qualifies for an extra 4% cash back will appear in a separate section broken down by category.

What we like about the card

Up to 5% cash back if you are on top of things.

It’s hard to beat 5% back on spending you’re already doing, and if you pay attention and enroll in the categories every quarter, you can earn up to $300 in cash back a year compared to the base 1% cash back you earn on all purchases.

A good selection of 5% categories.

Chase comes up with fresh categories that sometimes include tie-ins with big retailers like Amazon so it’s not hard to find a way to earn 5% on your spending throughout the year.

You can pair it up with other Chase rewards.

If you have another card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can combine the rewards you earn from the Freedom with your other Ultimate Rewards points anytime.

What we don’t like about the card

Need to enroll manually.

There’s no automatic enrollment in the 5% categories, so you need to remember to take care of that every quarter. Chase lets you sign up for alerts so it’s not hard to get reminded, and you can enroll right from your phone. This is a card for maximizers, not people who want to set it and forget it.

A cap on 5% earning.

You only earn 5% back on up to $1,500 worth of spending in the designated categories each quarter. That’s $1,500 total across all the categories, not $1,500 for each category.

Right off the bat, you can probably tell a card with changing quarterly categories like the Chase Freedom card isn’t for the passive cash back rewards earner. There’s a lot involved here.

You need to activate the 5% cash back bonus each quarter. The cash back categories can change each year. And you must be a mindful spender who remembers when to swipe the Chase Freedom card to earn 5% back.

There’s a fair amount of fine print that dictates what will and won’t qualify for 5% cash back. As the new categories roll out, you’ll want to pay close attention to the type of purchases that are eligible.

A noticeable category from 2016 that’s not yet on the 2017 calendar is wholesale clubs. The category may be included later, but it’s a notable exclusion that may impact wholesale club shoppers who previously relied on the Chase Freedom card for cash back on that spending.

How Much Are Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Worth?

The Chase Freedom card is part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, so the Ultimate Rewards portal is where you go to manage and redeem points. Cash back earned from the Chase Freedom card is tracked in Ultimate Rewards points – $1 in cash back equals 100 points.

When you redeem points for rewards, for the most part, 100 points also equals $1 (and 1 point equals $0.01).

The true value of points earned varies slightly. Here’s the breakdown:

Statement credit or cash deposit redemption: 100 points = $1; you can redeem for cash starting at 2,000 points

Gift card redemption: 100 points = $1

Travel redemption: 100 points = $1; you can use a combination of points and your credit card for bookings

Amazon product redemption: Below is a sample conversion, but it’s subject to change

If you do choose the Chase Freedom card, make sure to redeem your points in a way that you’ll get the most value. Choosing Amazon products may not be the way to go.

Combine with a Chase Sapphire Credit Card

If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, you can combine your Freedom Ultimate Rewards points with your Sapphire Ultimate Rewards points. That means you would have all of the redemption opportunities associated with the popular Sapphire cards, including the ability to transfer your points to frequent flier programs like United and Southwest.

How to Qualify for the Chase Freedom Card

You need to have good or excellent credit in order to be approved for the credit card. In addition to having a good credit score, Chase will consider your employment status and income to ensure that you would be able to afford any new debt.

Overview of Card Benefits

For benefits and protections, the Chase Freedom card offers:

  • Zero liability protection means you won’t be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card or account information. This is a fairly common credit card benefit.
  • Chip-enabled card. Just one warning: this is a chip and signature card (and not a chip and pin card). While that should be fine for all of your spending in America, it might make using the card overseas a bit more difficult when only chip-and-pin is accepted.
  • Purchase protection covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.
  • Price protection provides that if a card purchase you made in the U.S. is advertised for less in print or online within 90 days, you can be reimbursed the difference up to $500 per item, $2,500 per year.
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver means you can decline the rental company’s collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card. Coverage is provided for theft and collision damage for most cars in the U.S. and abroad. In the U.S., coverage is secondary to your personal insurance.

Alternatives to Chase Freedom

How does Chase Freedom stack up versus the competition? It really depends upon how you use your card. 5% cash back is one of the highest rates on the market, but you need to activate and spend in that category to earn rewards. Otherwise you would be earning a not very exciting 1%.

We will now compare Chase Freedom to three other types of cash back credit cards:

  • Discover it – a credit card that offers rich cash back rewards
  • Flat rate cash back credit cards, where you can earn 2%
  • Bonus category cards

Discover it Cashback Match

There are a lot of similarities between Discover it and Chase Freedom. Both cards have no annual fee and pay a base cash back rate of 1%. Both cards offer 5% cash back in rotating categories. Both cards require you to opt in to the 5% cash back categories and cap the 5% cash back to the first $1,500 of spend. But there are two areas where these cards are different.

The first big difference is the intro bonus. With Chase Freedom, you can earn $150 after spending $500 in the first 90 days. Discover, on the other hand, will match all of the cash back that you earned during the first year – at the end of your first year as a new cardmember. There is no cap to the sign-on bonus. If you are a big spender (especially in the bonus categories), you would earn much more during Year 1 with Discover. Here is a comparison of first year earnings:

  • You spend $1,000 a month in 1% categories
  • You spend $500 a month in 5% categories
  • The sign-on bonus at Chase would be $150
  • The sign-on bonus at Discover, at the end of the first year, would be $420

While you get the intro bonus much quicker at Chase – for big spenders, it pays to wait until the end of Year 1 at Discover.

The second big difference is the categories. Each quarter Discover and Chase announce their bonus categories, and they can be different. At Discover, the 5% category until September 2017 is restaurants.

If you are a big spender, the Discover it first year bonus makes it a good choice. If you are constantly looking for good deals, having both cards in your wallet to take advantage of the bonus categories might be a good choice.

Flat Rate Cash Back Cards

If opting into bonus categories every month sounds painful, you might want to consider a card that pays a flat rate on all of your spending. Whereas Chase Freedom offers a combination of 5% on bonus categories and 1% on everything else – you can get 2% flat cash back with some credit cards.

Citi Double Cash

Citi Double Cash pays 1% cash back as you spend and 1% cash back as you pay your bill. If you pay your statement balance in full every month and claim the cash back as a check or deposit into your checking account, you can earn double cash back.

Alliant Cashback Visa

Another new option is from Alliant, a credit union that anyone can join. With the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature card, you can earn 3% cash back during the first year (with no annual fee) and then 2.5% cash back thereafter. Just be warned: after the first year, there is a $59 annual fee. If you spend more than $1,000 a month on the card, the Alliant card will be a better deal than Citi Double Cash.

Bonus Category Cash Back Credit Cards

If you spend a lot of money in a single category every month, you might want to consider a credit card that pays a higher rate on just that category. For example, if you spend a lot of money on gas, you can find a card that pays 5% cash back on gas. If groceries are your biggest expense, you can find a card with 6% on groceries. You can find the best cash back credit cards by category here.

Who the card is best for

Cash back credit cards are great ways to put a little extra money in your pocket. Just remember to pay the statement balance in full and on time every month. Interest and late fees can quickly eat away at the cash back that you earn.

Chase Freedom is a good choice for people who are willing to opt in to the bonus categories each quarter and actually spend a lot of money in the bonus categories. If you don’t take advantage of the generous 5% bonus categories, you will be left with a card paying only 1%, which is not very exciting.

Rewards Cards: Frequently Asked Questions

The Ultimate Rewards points you earn from the Freedom don’t expire as long as you keep the account open. If you close your account, you will forfeit your points, though if you keep another Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards open you can transfer your points to that account before you close your Freedom, and keep them alive.

Credit card companies rely on merchant codes provided by payment networks to determine the category of a purchase. Some stores might have a merchant code that doesn’t fit what you might think the purchase will be. For example, buying groceries at a Walmart isn’t a grocery purchase because Walmart doesn’t code itself as a grocery store. There’s no way to know for sure in advance what category a merchant falls under, so be aware of that before relying on the cash back for a category from a merchant you haven’t shopped at before.

Don’t let those cash back promises pressure you into spending more than you can afford. If you don’t pay your statement balance in full each month, you could get slapped with sky-high interest charges. That would totally negate any benefit you might get from earning cash back. Cash back cards are only valuable if you can pay your bill in full and capture the entirety of your cash back rewards.

It depends on the card. Some cards allow you redeem cash back dollar for dollar as a statement credit, which can help lower your total balance. Just keep in mind that applying cash back to your card statement does not count as a monthly payment. Other cards will increase the value of your cash back if you spend on certain categories, like travel. Review your terms carefully to be sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

Find the card that fits your day-to-day spending needs best, beyond the flashy sign-up bonus offers and cash back promises. Pay your bill in full each month (spend only what you can afford to pay off).

The post Chase Freedom Review: Is 5% Easy? appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Citi Double Cash Review: Twice The Cash, No Limits

Citi Double Cash offers the highest no-fee flat-rate cash back credit card on the market. If you pay your balance in full and on time every month, you can earn up to double cash back on everything you spend. You earn 1% cash back when you spend, and then 1% cash back when you pay. If you pay your statement balance in full and deposit the cash back into your checking account, you will have earned a nice 2%.

There is no cap on the cash back you can earn, and there are no rotating categories or requirements to opt into every quarter. If you are looking to earn a lot of cash back without a lot of work, this card could be right for you.

Citi®Double Cash Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Citibank’s secure website

Citi®Double Cash Card

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
1% when you buy, 1% when you pay
APR
14.49%-24.49%

Variable

Credit required
good-credit

Good

  • Earn cash back twice on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back
  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.49% - 24.49% based on your creditworthiness
  • Click 'Apply Now' to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases.
  • No categories to track, no caps on cash back, no annual fee

How the Citi Double Cash Card works

To get double cash back, you must emulate the habits of the savviest credit card holders: use your card, and pay it off in full each month. Do anything else, and you won’t get the full benefit of the double cash back reward.

With the Citi Double Cash Card, you receive your first 1% when you purchase something, but Citi holds onto the second 1% cash back reward until you pay them back. So you get 1% cash back for every dollar you spend, and another 1% cash back for each dollar you pay off on your balance — on time — each month.

To get the maximum double cash back quickly, you should pay off your entire balance. However, as long as you pay the minimum each month, you’ll eventually receive the double cash back, although you’ll pay a lot more than 1% in interest each month.

How to redeem cash back with Citi

When your balance reaches $25, you can choose to redeem your cash reward through a gift card, check, direct deposit, or statement credit to your Citi account. Beware: if you redeem with a statement credit, you won’t get exactly double cash back, but just shy of it depending on the size of the reward.

If you redeem via gift card, you’ll select from retail, restaurant, entertainment, and electronic gift cards in Citi’s gift card marketplace. Choosing the direct deposit option will allow you to transfer your cash back directly to your bank account whether it’s a Citi account or not. If you redeem via check, you should receive a paper check at the address you have on file in 7 to 10 business days.

You can also redeem with a statement credit, but you might notice you don’t get quite double cash back. Since a $25 credit on your statement reduces the amount you’d need to pay back by some amount, you technically get a little less than 2% cash back.

For example, if you redeem $1,000 in cash back for the year, you’ll be shorted about $10 if you redeem your rewards with a statement credit. Assuming you paid off your balance each month, your cash back is reduced to about 1.98%. If you don’t want to miss out on that gap, redeem via check or direct deposit. Also, remember Citi does not count a statement credit as a payment, so you still need to make at least your minimum monthly payment by the due date or you’ll be charged a late fee.

For more details on how to get your cash back, check out this article, where we show you step-by-step how to redeem your cash back with Citi.

Disclaimer: Your rewards will expire if you don’t use your card for 12 months, so be sure to swipe at lease once a year, or redeem your cash before it expires.

How to qualify for the Citi Double Cash Card

Borrowers with good or excellent credit scores are likely to get approved for the Citi Double Cash Card. That means you can still get approved with a few marks on your credit report. That’s unusual as rewards cards with a 0% introductory balance transfer offer like the Citi Double Cash Card are rare for those who lack excellent credit.

Overview of card benefits

The Citi Double Cash Card offers the following benefits and protections to cardholders:

  • No penalty for your first missed payment. Citi won’t charge you a late fee on a first missed payment. This benefit forgives those who usually pay on time, but may miss a payment by accident. Careful, you WILL be charged a fee if you miss a second payment.
  • Citi Private Pass. Citi customers get special access to purchase presale tickets and VIP packages to events such as concerts, sporting events, dining experiences, and complimentary movie screenings.
  • Citi Price Rewind. If you notice a price drop on the big-ticket item you just bought, Citi may have already refunded you the difference. Citi Price Rewind will look for a lower price on any registered items you purchase for 60 days. If the system finds a lower price, you may be refunded the difference.
  • Chip-enabled card. Just one warning: this is a chip and signature card (and not a chip and pin card). While that should be fine for all of your spending in America, it might make using the card overseas a bit more difficult when only chip-and-pin is accepted.
  • Citi Concierge. Citi Concierge sets you up with trained experts to help you plan your travel, shopping, dining, entertainment, and other parts of your next trip.
  • Protection against interrupted trips. If your travel plans are interrupted for some reason, Citi will reimburse you for part of your hassle. The bank will reimburse any nonrefundable travel expenses such as change fees if you paid for the ticket with your Citi Double Cash Card.
  • Car rental and collision insurance. You can skip paying extra for the rental company’s collision loss and damage insurance if you use your Citi Double Cash Card. Citi will cover you against any theft or damage done to the rental as long as you used your Citi card to pay for it.
  • Zero liability protection. You won’t be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card or account information. This is a fairly common credit card benefit.
  • Purchase protection covers repairs or refunds for your new purchases in case of damage or theft within 120 days of your making the purchase.
  • Lost wallet service. If you happen to lose your wallet and everything in it, take some comfort in knowing your Citi card, at least, will be replaced within 24 hours. Citi can also give you emergency cash up to your available cash advance limit to help out between losing your card and receiving a new one.

Why we like the Citi Double Cash Card

It has the highest no-fee flat rate reward in the market.

The clearest advantage of the Citi Double Cash Card is that it offers the highest flat rate cash rewards program without an annual fee on the market. The card’s double cash back feature can be a valuable feature for those known to make most everyday purchases on a credit card, and pay the card balance off each month.

The flat rate on all purchases keeps earning rewards simple.

If you like things simple, the card’s flat rate on everything will make keeping up with rewards a breeze. You’ll earn 1% on everything you buy, so there won’t be any need for you to fumble through a stack of credit cards for a specific cash back card at the grocery store. It also eliminates stressing over when or by how much rewards categories might change on your current go-to card each quarter.

It’s a good balance transfer card, too.

The card’s 18-month introductory 0% balance transfer offer makes it a good choice for those seeking to consolidate debt, too. The cash back rewards won’t apply to your balance transfer, but you’ll get 18 billing cycles to pay off the balance interest-free before the card’s higher ongoing interest rate kicks in.

It comes with other great cardholder benefits.

The Citi Double Cash Card’s other benefits aren’t bad either. The card also grants you free access to view your Equifax FICO® Score, and the Citi Price Rewind benefit automatically reimburses you the difference on purchases made with your card if the price changes within 60 days.

What to watch out for with the Citi Double Cash Card

You have to pay off your balance in full to reap the full reward.

You could pay the minimum each month and eventually see you’ve redeemed your cash back. However, the reward really only benefits you if you pay your balance in full each month. If you don’t, the full interest you’ll be charged on your purchases will eclipse the double cash back benefit.

It charges a 3% balance transfer fee.

Although the balance transfer isn’t the main perk the card has, it’s important to note Citi charges you a 3% fee to transfer your balance. Granted, the charge isn’t much compared to the 16% on average you’d be charged in interest on your balance each month if you don’t transfer, but there are many, no-fee balance transfer alternatives (like the Discover it or Chase Slate cards) you could qualify for instead.

You get charged 3% to use it overseas.

You’ll pay to use this card overseas, and the fee isn’t worth it if you can avoid doing so. The 3% foreign transaction fee you’ll be charged to swipe makes the potential double cash back you’d receive on the purchase trivial.

It doesn’t come with a sign-on bonus.

With the Citi Double Cash Card, you won’t get a sign-on bonus like you’d get with other competing cash back cards like Fidelity’s Rewards Visa Signature ($100) or the Capital One Quicksilver card. It’s not a huge pitfall among the card’s best-in-class cash back offer and other perks, but it’s something to consider when weighing your options.

Your rewards will eventually expire.

Take care to redeem your cash back before you stop using the card! If you don’t earn cash back on rewards with your Citi Double Cash Card for 12 months, your rewards will expire. If you plan to stop using the card — maybe you accepted the offer for a specific purchase, or simply for the balance transfer offer — make sure to redeem your cash back before adding it to your credit card graveyard.

Alternatives to the Citi Double Cash Card

The Citi Double Cash Card has the highest no-fee flat rate cash back reward on the market, but it might not be the best cash back card for you, depending on your spending habits.

Cards that only earn cash back in certain categories, for example, may work better for you. You might find you spend most of your income in a category such as groceries or gas, so you’d earn a greater reward with a card that earns cash back only in specific spending categories or enjoy keeping up with rotating categories.

Next we compare how the Citi Double Cash Card compares to four other cash back credit cards:

  • Fidelity’s Rewards Visa Signature – the other 2% cash back credit card
  • Alliant Cashback Visa Signature – the 2.5%-3% cash back credit card with a fee
  • Chase Freedom — the rotating category alternative
  • Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express — the bonus category alternative

Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature

Fidelity’s Rewards Visa Signature card earns cardholders 2% cash back on all purchases with no annual fee. The card is best for existing Fidelity customers, as the funds you earn must be deposited into a Fidelity account.

Borrowers with “good” credit need not apply for this card. Your credit score has to be above 700 to get approved for a line of credit with the Fidelity Visa. Even then, you may be disappointed if you’re not a big Fidelity customer as Fidelity bases its credit limits on the total amount of assets it’s managing on your behalf.

Alliant Cashback Visa Signature

If you don’t mind paying an annual fee, the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature card could be a viable alternative to the Citi Double Cash Card.

Alliant’s Cashback Visa Signature card offers an unlimited 3% on all purchases in the first year and 2.5% cash back on all purchases in the years following. You’ll also forgo a foreign transaction fee if you use the card overseas. The catch is, cardholders pay a $59 annual fee to hold the card. Only those with excellent credit and high income will qualify for this rewards offer.

Chase Freedom — the rotating category alternative

With Chase Freedom, you’ll automatically earn 1% back on all purchases, 5% on purchases you make in the categories you’ve activated. The card also offers a $150 signing bonus when you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months the account is open.

The Chase Freedom card rotates rewards categories each quarter, so you’ll need to look out for changes and opt in to the quarter’s categories before you can start earning rewards in them. You also won’t be charged interest on purchases or balance transfers made in the first 15 months. You can also earn a $25 bonus when you add an authorized user and make your first purchase within the first three months.

If you qualify for the Citi Double Cash Back Card, you have a good chance of qualifying for Chase Freedom, too. Borrowers with good or excellent credit scores have the best shot at getting approved for the Chase Freedom card.

Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express — the bonus category alternative

With a card like the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, you’ll earn a larger amount of cash back, but only in one fixed category. The card awards holders 6% cash back at all supermarkets, on up to $6,000 worth of spending. You also get 3% cash back on gas station spending. So, if your household spends big on gas and groceries, the rewards you’d earn with a card like the Blue Cash Preferred Card will likely be greater that what you could earn with the Citi Double Cash Card.

The Blue Cash Preferred Card also awards a $250 sign-on bonus to cardholders who spend $1,000 within the first three months of opening the account, and you won’t be charged interest on your first 12 months of purchases, boosting your rewards in the first year. You won’t be charged any interest on a balance transfer for the first year either, but you will be charged 3% to transfer your balance over in the first place. The main downside to this card’s offerings is that it charges a $95 annual fee, so unless the cash back you’d earn makes that amount negligible, you should steer clear of this card.

Try using this tool to figure out which cash back card has the best ongoing program for your needs. Fill in how much you tend to spend each month in each spending category, and the system will generate recommendations based on your spending habits.

Who benefits the most from the Citi Double Cash Card

Overall, cash back cards can be a great way to put some extra money in your pocket, as long as you remember to pay your statement balance in full each month. Interest and late fees can eclipse your cash back earnings pretty quickly.

The Citi Double Cash Card is best for borrowers with good or excellent credit, who make everyday purchases with a credit card and have great payment habits. The double cash back feature is great if you already have the discipline to pay your statement balances off in full each month, and it’s the only way the card’s reward offer is valuable. If you don’t think you can consistently pay off your card each month, it’s best to get the habit set in stone before trying a rewards credit card.

If you’ve never had a rewards card, the Citi Double Cash Card’s simple terms and flat rate cash back rewards make for a great starter rewards card and — so long as you pay your balance off each month — it can be a great way to earn extra pocket change without going into debt.

Citi Double Cash Card FAQs

You’ll get up to double cash back on all of your purchases, which is the logic behind advertising the card as “Double Cash” and not “2% Cash.” You’ll earn your first 1% on all purchases, then another 1% when you pay off the purchase, but if you choose to redeem your cash back via statement credit on your account, you’re technically getting just shy of 2% cash back.

Yes, the cash back on the Citi Double Cash expires if you haven’t used your card for 12 months.

Anything over 1.5% cash back is a good deal. There are some cards that offer more — as much as 5% or 6% cash back on purchases. But sometimes those offers are too good to be true. Banks don’t like to lose money and will pepper the fine print with all sorts of limitations. For example, they may offer 5% cash back on only purchases at certain types of retailers and only for certain periods of time. And those categories may change every quarter, which can make it hard to keep track.

Don’t let those cash back promises pressure you into spending more than you can afford. If you don’t pay your statement balance in full each month, you could get slapped with sky-high interest charges. That would totally negate any benefit you might get from earning cash back. Cash back cards are only valuable if you can pay your bill in full and capture the entirety of your cash back rewards.

It depends on the card. Some cards allow you to redeem cash back dollar for dollar as a statement credit, which can help lower your total balance. Just keep in mind that applying cash back to your card statement does not count as a monthly payment. Other cards will increase the value of your cash back if you spend on certain categories, like travel. Review your terms carefully to be sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

Find the card that fits your day-to-day spending needs best, beyond the flashy sign-up bonus offers and cash back promises. Pay your bill in full each month (spend only what you can afford to pay off).

The post Citi Double Cash Review: Twice The Cash, No Limits appeared first on MagnifyMoney.