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Best Cash Back Credit Cards of 2021

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Cash back credit cards are often favorites because of their simplicity. Unlike with many points and miles rewards programs, you can use cash for just about anything you want. Cash back cards also tend to be inexpensive, with very few charging annual fees.

But like other types of rewards cards, they're not all created equally. If you're in the market for a new card and you're considering one that provides cash back on your purchases, here are some excellent choices to help you get started on your search.

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Our Top Picks for Best Cash Back Cards
Chase Freedom Flex℠

Chase Freedom Flex℠

5% cash back on rotating categories
5% cash back on travel
3% cash back on dining
1% cash back on all other purchases

Chase Freedom Unlimited<sup>®</sup>

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

5% cash back on travel
3% cash back on dining
1.5% cash back on all other purchases

Capital One Walmart Rewards<sup>®</sup> Mastercard<sup>®</sup>

Capital One Walmart Rewards® Mastercard®

5% cash back on Walmart.com
2% cash back on dining and travel
2% cash back on Walmart in-store purchases
1% cash back on all other purchases

Chase Freedom Flex℠

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is the new-and-improved version of the original Chase Freedom® Card. Like the old card, which is no longer available for new applications, it offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in certain rotating categories each quarter you activate. In the first two quarters of 2021, those categories have included wholesale clubs; internet, cable and phone services; select streaming services; gas stations; and home improvement stores.
Where the new card really shines is in its new bonus categories, which includes 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards and 3% back on drugstore purchases and on dining, including takeout and eligible delivery services. All other purchases will net you 1% back.
On top of the card's standout rewards program, you'll get an introductory 0% APR on new purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR is 14.99% to 24.74%. New cardholders will earn a $200 cash bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months with the card. There's no annual fee.

Read full review
Apply

on Chase's website

Good - Exceptional

APR

14.99% - 24.74% Variable

Intro APR

0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months

Rewards

5% cash back on Rotating Categories

5% cash back on Travel

3% cash back on Dining

1% cash back on All Other Purchases

Intro Bonus

Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. And earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

Annual Fee

$0

Card Details
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • 3% cash back on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, and 1% on all other purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99% - 24.74%.
  • No annual fee.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is similar to the Chase Freedom Flex℠ in many ways. Neither charges an annual fee, and both offer the same intro bonuses, 15-month introductory 0% APR promotions and ongoing APRs.
Even the rewards programs are similar. The difference is that instead of earning 5% cash back on rotating categories and 1.5% on all non-bonus spending, this card offers a flat 1.5% cash back as a base rewards rate.
That said, you'll still earn 5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards and 3% back on drugstore purchases and on dining, including takeout and eligible delivery services.
If you like the Freedom cards but prefer a simpler approach, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is likely the better choice for you.

Read full review
Apply

on Chase's website

Good - Exceptional

APR

14.99% - 24.74% Variable

Intro APR

0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months

Rewards

5% cash back on Travel

3% cash back on Dining & Drugstores

1.5% cash back on All Other Purchases

Intro Bonus

Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. And earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

Annual Fee

$0

Card Details
  • $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • 3% cash back on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99% - 24.74%.
  • No annual fee.

Capital One Walmart Rewards® Mastercard®

If you're a regular Walmart customer, it'll be difficult to find a reason not to have the Capital One Walmart Rewards® Mastercard®. The card offers 5% cash back on Walmart.com purchases, including pickup and delivery; 2% back when you shop in Walmart stores, as well as on travel and restaurant purchases; and 1% back everywhere else Mastercard is accepted.
Instead of offering a traditional welcome bonus, the card gives you 5% cash back on purchases made in Walmart stores for the first 12 months from account opening when you use the card via Walmart Pay.
Also, because it's a Capital One credit card, there is no foreign transaction fee, making it a solid choice to bring with you on a trip abroad—many cash back cards charge up to 3% on each international transaction. The card doesn't offer an introductory 0% APR promotion, but like the others on our list, it charges no annual fee. It's also available to people with fair credit.

Capital One Walmart Rewards® Mastercard®

Apply

on Capital One's website

Fair - Exceptional

Capital One Walmart Rewards® Mastercard®

APR

17.99% - 26.99% (Variable)

Intro APR

N/A

Rewards

5% cash back on Walmart.com

2% cash back on Dining & Travel

2% cash back on Walmart In-store Purchases

1% cash back on All Other Purchases

Annual Fee

$0

Card Details
  • Earn 5% cash back on Walmart.com purchases, including pickup and delivery
  • Earn 2% cash back on purchases in Walmart stores and fuel stations, 2% cash back on restaurants and travel purchases, and 1% cash back on all other purchases everywhere else Mastercard® is accepted
  • Introductory offer: Earn 5% cash back on purchases in Walmart stores when you use this card with Walmart Pay for the first 12 months after approval
  • Redeem rewards for cash back, statement credits, recent purchases in and out of Walmart, travel, and gift cards
  • $0 annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

How to Decide Which Card Is Right for You

There are several things to keep in mind as you shop around for a credit card. The first is that there is no single best credit card out there for everyone. While many have some strong rewards and perks, these cards differ just enough that the right one for you comes down to your own preferences.
For example, would you prefer the simplicity of a flat rewards rate, or do you want to maximize your rewards through rotating bonus cash back? Also, do you want an upfront cash bonus, or do you care more about long-term value?
It's also important to think about your spending habits. Even if you prefer simplicity, if you opt for a card that offers higher rewards on purchases in one of your top spending categories, you'll be able to maximize your rewards more quickly.
Finally, your credit score is an important factor in determining whether you'll be approved for a credit card in the first place. Most top cash back credit cards require good or excellent credit, but some solid options are also available for fair- and poor-credit consumers.
Take your time to consider your situation, credit score and goals to determine which cash back credit card belongs in your wallet.

How Do Cash Back Credit Cards Work?

Cash back credit cards offer straight cash every time you make an eligible purchase. Depending on the card, the rewards can be flat-rate, tiered or rotating.
When it's time to redeem your rewards, you may have a lot of options or just a few—again, terms can vary quite a bit with different credit cards. However, here are some redemption options you should watch for as you shop around:

  • Direct deposit
  • Statement credit
  • Paper check
  • Gift cards
  • Travel
  • Charitable donations
  • Merchandise

Depending on your preferences, pick the card that best aligns with how you want to spend your rewards.

How to Maximize Cash Back Rewards

Maximizing your cash back rewards can be easy with the right approach. Here are some tips to help you get started with your strategy:

  • Meet the minimum spend requirement to earn the card's sign-up bonus.
  • Use your card for everything that doesn't charge extra to use credit—as long as you can pay off your purchases each month.
  • Open multiple credit card accounts that complement each other's rewards rates, so you can earn more on your top spending categories.
  • Pay your bills on time and in full every month to avoid credit score damage and interest charges.
  • Avoid redemption options that give you less value than others—merchandise, for instance, usually doesn't offer much.

Prepare Your Credit for Your Next Credit Card

Even if you've determined a certain card is the best for you based on your spending habits and preferences, it's not worth applying if your credit isn't good enough to get approved.
Check your credit score to get an idea of where you stand. Again, most of the top cash back credit cards are designed for people with good credit or better—that starts at a FICO® Score of 670 or higher.
If you're not where you need to be, or you're worried about being barely over the line, review your credit report to determine whether you can address any issues directly. While it can take time to build credit, certain actions can improve your credit faster than others.
Finally, consider using a tool like Experian CreditMatch™ to get prequalified for cash back cards based on your credit profile. While it doesn't guarantee approval, it can give you a general idea if you might qualify for a particular card. Also, it uses just a soft credit check, which doesn't hurt your credit score.