Cash Back Credit Cards: The Best, Low Maintenance Options for Earning Credit Card Points

Cash Back Credit Cards FAQ

Now, pretty much any credit card you go with is going to have some kind of point system based on spending. Cash back credit cards are popular, but not always as common as a more general rewards program. Sometimes, credit card points can seem pretty gimmicky, as if they’re not really worth the trouble. Some seem to entice cardholders to buy things they wouldn’t otherwise purchase in order to get money back. While it can be easy to fall into this trap, there are a number of great rewards programs that are worth your while.

What is a Cash Back Credit Card?

First things first, a cash back credit card is a credit card that lets you earn points on qualifying purchases. Those points can either be redeemed for cash — either as a statement credit or as cash deposited into your bank account — or other rewards.

Cash Back Credit Cards vs Points: Do All Rewards Programs Offer Cash Back?

Unfortunately, no. While all cash back programs are rewards programs, not all rewards programs are cash back programs. Check the details of any credit card program you apply to in order to determine whether you can get actual cash back, rather than simply covering statement charges. Notably, American Express doesn’t offer cash back, but you can use points to cover qualifying purchases on your bill.

How Do Credit Card Rewards Work?

As I mentioned, credit card rewards can be redeemed for statement credits, cash back, airline tickets, or even for physical products. Personally, I prefer the cash back options. However, people who travel a lot may find cards with travel-focused reward program more useful.

The Best Cash Back Credit Card Options

Previously, I really liked the Uber Visa Credit Card from Barclays US. Since Barclays got rid of the cash back option (and has since stopped offering this card all-together), Chase has replaced it as my favorite rewards program. In my opinion, the Chase Freedom cards are some of the best cash back credit cards.

I really like both the Chase Freedom card and the Case Freedom Unlimited card. I’ve found that, with these programs, I am able to pretty seamlessly get cash back on things I’d be buying anyway.

Plus, unlike other credit card options, Chase doesn’t have a minimum amount of points necessary in order to redeem for cash back or however you want to withdraw the rewards.

What Can Chase Points be Used For?

Besides cash back, Chase points can be used in a variety of ways. You could put your points towards a trip, for example, or use them to buy things from Amazon. I still prefer the cash back option, even over using points for Amazon purchases. The exchange rate for Amazon credits isn’t great. For example, 800 points is worth $8 cash back or about $6.40 on Amazon.

Do Chase Points Expire?

As long as you keep your account open, your Chase rewards points won’t expire.

Do You Lose Rewards on Returned Purchases?

If you return a product, those points will be deducted from your rewards balance. This is typical of any cash back program.

What Are the Chase Credit Card Rewards?

Chase Freedom Card

If you’re looking for a no-nonsense rewards card without too many frills, the Chase Freedom card is a great option. Fundamentally, the Chase Freedom card earns 1% cash back on all purchases that do not qualify for their quarterly 5% cash back categories. I love this card for the 5% categories, though. I generally only use it when I know I’m shopping somewhere within the categories.

For example, during the first quarter of 2020, purchases from gas stations, phone service subscriptions, and select streaming services received 5% cash back. As someone with a SUV that take premium gas, I really appreciate this cash back!

In the last quarter of 2019, the 5% cash back category included department stores. This was fantastic for me, particularly in light of Christmas shopping!

The downside of the 5% categories is that, depending on the category, it’s fairly easy to max out the cash back. Each quarter, you’ll earn 5% cash back up to $1,500 in purchases. If you spend over $1,500 in the category, starting at the $1,501 dollar, you go back to earning 1% back. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but something to consider, especially for some of the broader categories, like when groceries and other monthly mainstays are the featured category.

You can get bonus points with the Freedom card by shopping through Chase. You may do so by clicking through the account interface the retailer you’re planning to buy from. Sometimes, these bonuses are worthwhile — particularly around holidays, I’ve seen the cash back percentages increase. However, I rarely bother with this (especially since I prefer, as I discussed in a previous post, Rakuten).

For more details on the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, along with terms and conditions, click here. This will open the referral screen, which you may proceed through if you’re interested in applying, but it also has a bunch of great info about the card generally.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Card

Whereas the Freedom card has rotating categories, the Freedom Unlimited card gives you 1.5% back on every dollar you spend. This card is a great option for someone who wants their spending to work for them, but doesn’t want figure out when and where to use which card.

With both the Chase Freedom and the Chase Freedom Unlimited cards, you can earn cash back with “Shop Through Chase,” as described above.

Besides the points, you can get a $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first three months of opening the Freedom Unlimited account. Some terms and conditions apply, but overall, this is not a terribly difficult threshold to meet.

For more details on the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, along with terms and conditions, click here. This will open the referral screen, which you may proceed through if you’re interested in applying, but it also has a bunch of great info about the card generally.

Check out my review of the American Express Gold Card to compare the Chase rewards program structure with that of Amex!