The Best Type Of Credit Card To Own Is A Cash Back Credit Card

I only have two credit cards. A personal cash back rewards credit card and my Chase Ink Business Cash credit card. Any more cash back credit cards and my wallet starts getting too fat. When the wallet gets too fat, it's hard to sit and type Financial Samurai articles. Then my world would start crumbling down.

There used to be a time when I was young, dumb, and broke. I'd buy a lot of things on a 0% introductory interest credit card. I'd then transfer the balance to a new 0% introductory interest credit card a month before the old card's new usurious rate kicked in.

Getting an interest-free loan for a year felt great and I kept on doing the balance transfer routine until I started making money. Once I was no longer poor, I realized spending all this time opening up new credit cards, keeping track of expiration dates, and purchasing things to get points was a suboptimal use of my time. So I stopped around age 24.

Focus On The Best Credit Cards

Once I started traveling a lot for work, I also cancelled my travel rewards credit cards. Why bother when I was already traveling a fair amount to the coolest places in Asia paid for by my company. The AMEX points racked up into the hundreds of thousands, just waiting for me to buy something I didn't really need from their selection of goods online.

To demonstrate how much I didn't care about redeeming my reward points, I made a grave mistake by cancelling my corporate card before redeeming over 400,000 points when I negotiated my severance!

It was only after I had cut up my card and left the office for good did I realize my mistake. Thankfully, I called up AMEX to explain what I did and they let me redeem. I ended up getting a bunch of gas cards and some gifts for my in-laws.

Just Give Me A Cash Back Rewards Credit Card

A Cash Back Credit Card Is the Best Type Of Credit Card To Own

As a busy parent now, I don't have much spare time to go shopping anymore. Nor do my wife and I have a desire to travel by plane before our boy turns five.

Traveling long distances with kids is no fun, no matter what your latest Instagram influencer tries to tell you. There are already enough amazing places to visit within a four hours drive of San Francisco.

Give me the credit card with the highest percentage of spending towards cash back as possible. I'll simply use the cash back as credit to pay down my upcoming credit card bill.

Cash Is The Best Reward

A cash back credit card is the most efficient use of the rewards points because I know I've got a credit card bill due every month. I put as much as possible on my credit card due to the rewards points, one-month interest-free loan, and insurance.

Although it sounds alluring to redeem points for miles, nowadays I only average about two plane rides a year (round-trip). The other common allure is using your points for electronics, which everybody loves.

My wife and I probably use our laptops and mobile phones more than 90% of users out there because we have Financial Samurai.

Despite operating a busy site, I've still got an absolutely fine laptop I've owned since 2015. My iPhone 7+ is from 2016. I changed the battery in early 2019 and don't plan to change my phone for another couple years.

As older folks now, we just don't desire the latest and greatest things anymore. We're fine with continuing to use everything we have until they break. What we always want most is time, followed by more energy.

The Best Cash Back Credit Cards

Financial Samurai has partnered with QuinStreet, a local firm in the Bay Area, to offer the best selection of credit cards on the market today. They analyze the latest and best credit cards for consumers.

Here are the top three cash back credit cards from their menu of cards in addition to my Chase Ink Business Cash credit card I've currently owned for the past five years.

1) Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

Simple and straightforward, the Capital One Quicksilver offers flat rate cash back rewards. Cardholders earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases without any spending caps.

Key Benefits

  • 1.5% cash back on every purchase
  • Rewards are unlimited, ie no spending caps
  • Zero foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee
  • Sign on cash bonus reward offer

Read more and learn how to apply

CapitalOne Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

2) Chase Freedom Unlimited

If you're looking for a flexible cash back rewards credit card that isn't complex, this is it. The Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card offers great flat rate rewards.

Key Benefits

  • Earn 3% cash back on every purchase the first year ($20,000 cap)
  • Get unlimited 1.5% cash back for year 2 and beyond
  • Introductory 0% APR for first 15 months on purchases and balance transfers (3% balance transfer fee applies)
  • No annual fee
  • Redeem cash back with no minimums

Read more and learn how to apply

Chase Freedom Unlimited

3) Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card

This is a tiered cash back rewards credit card by Capital One that offers an impressive 4% on dining and entertainment without any spending caps.

Key Benefits

  • Unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment
  • 2% cash back on groceries with no spending caps
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on gas and all other purchases
  • Sign on cash bonus reward offer
  • $0 waived annual fee for the first year

Read more and learn how to apply

CapitalOne Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card

I hope everybody has at least one cash back credit card in their wallet. Just make sure to never carry a revolving balance and don't go overboard with your spending. Use credit cards to your advantage for the rewards points, insurance protection, and one-month interest-free balance. Never let credit cards take advantage of you.

Anybody currently a holder of the Capital One Quicksilver, Chase Freedom Unlimited, or Capital One Savor credit card? I'm planning on upgrading my personal cash back credit card to one of these. Feel free to recommend other great cash back cards and their respective terms.

It looks like Citibank (currently in the penalty box for baiting and switching my mortgage refinance) and Fidelity have great ones too based on reader feedback.

About the Author

Sam worked in finance for 13 years. He received his undergraduate degree in Economics from The College of William & Mary and got his MBA from UC Berkeley.

In 2012, Sam was able to retire at the age of 34 largely due to his investments that now generate roughly $250,000 a year in passive income. He spends time playing tennis, taking care of his family, and writing online to help others achieve financial freedom too.

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 and has grown it to be one of the largest independently owned personal finance sites in the world. You can sign up for his free private newsletter here.

Disclosure: Financial Samurai has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Financial Samurai and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

49 thoughts on “The Best Type Of Credit Card To Own Is A Cash Back Credit Card”

  1. Cash back rewards is what i have been planning instead of racking up travel rewards, especially when you’re not constantly traveling. Cash is king for me right now so i’m taking advantage of 2 of my cards that has the highest cash back rewards for my normal spending. Will optimize cash back rewards soon when i apply for chase freedom.

  2. Timely article! I am currently considering a second credit card. (ok third if you consider corporate charge card)

    My BofA Cash Rewards card has been great as my only card for 6 years. With investment assets over a certain threshold, I get a 75% bonus on ALL rewards. So,

    1% on everything is actually 1.75% on everything (no limit, no restriction)
    2% on grocery stores is actually 3.5% on grocery stores.
    3% on a category of my choice is actually 5.25% on a category of my choice.

    I chose restaurants and dining for my 3% category but there are several others. Someone above mentioned a 3% fee for international charges….yikes. So, domestic only!

    Currently considering Chase Sapphire Reserve or Capital One Savor (and then change BofA category to gas or online shopping)

    1. If you travel at all, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is pretty perfect. You get an annual membership to Priority Pass, access to the private lounges. I’ve saved so much on foregoing airport meals, coffee by eating at the lounges and its such a more comfortable way to go. The rewards are similar to what you mention, 3% on Travel, Restaurants, 1% on everything else. You can take the cash back, buy items like electronics, or transfer to most airlines for miles. Booking through their travel portal has been challenging for me, they screwed up a trip to South Africa and didn’t refund it for 3 months.

    2. Ninja Capitalist

      I’m in a similar boat to you. I have the BofA premium rewards card that I use for travel/dining/random purchases and the BofA cash rewards card for groceries and gas (. I’m surprised Financial Samurai hasn’t talked about this combo, probably the best out there with the 75% rewards boost. I also get free stock trades through Merrill Edge. Anyhow, with those two cards I basically get a minimum of 2.65% cash back on all purchases and upwards of 5.25% on gas.

  3. Like others have mentioned, my Fidelity card at 2% on everything is my main card. The cash back goes directly into my Fidelity check account. Easy.

    I do have an Amazon Prime card as its hard to pass up the 5% on those purchases. It also has no foreign transaction fee unlike the Fidelity card.

    I’m not going to keep other cards to get another percentage point on gas/groceries. I will though open new airlines cards every now and again if I have a big purchase coming up to get the miles.

  4. We Want the FIRE

    I use the Quiksilver as my main card at the moment, but Capital One has a new card rolling out soon (Walmart Rewards Card) that I think will be highly sought after as well ( for many of us Samurais. We use their grocery pick up option for probably 90% of our groceries and misc purchases now as we’ve worked to optimize our monthly spend:

    With the new Capital One Walmart Rewards Mastercard, cardholders will earn unlimited:

    5% back on purchases at, inclusive of Walmart Grocery Pickup and Delivery.
    5% back on in-store purchases when using Walmart Pay for the first 12 months after approval as a special introductory offer.
    2% back on Walmart purchases in stores outside of the introductory offer.
    2% back on restaurants and travel.
    1% percent back everywhere else.
    No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.
    The ability to redeem rewards at any time for travel, gift cards, during online checkout at, for recent purchases, and statement credits.

    It maximizes where we spend most of our monthly money. Yes its less than Savor on restaurants/entertainment, but we have young kids and don’t get out much right now. Maybe down the road a different card will better align to our needs/wants, but this will be the best card for probably a good 10 years…

  5. I have been preaching cash back credit cards to my family and friends for years! I prefer the basic ones that return the same amount of money on all purchases. No one wants to go through a wallet full of cards to figure out which one had the higher percentage on gas vs groceries etc. Also using one single card you can pool all the rewarded money on one centralized account and do not have to worry about expiration or lagged gains. I am fortunate to be affiliated with a military banking institution. I found an amazing promotional offer for a cash back credit card that I use that offers 2.5% Cash back on every purchase.

  6. Cash back credit cards make sense because it saves you time and it doesn’t limit you on how to spend those cash rewards.

  7. I recently swept my credit cards to make sure each one has a specific purpose. I currently have these no annual fee, chip&signature cards and have listed what I believe are PROs and CONs relative to my purchase habits:

    Capital One Quicksilver
    PRO – 1.5% flat cashback, no foreign trans fee, contactless
    CON – no PIN support for chip&PIN transactions in Europe and Asia ie still needs signature

    BofA Cash Rewards
    PRO – 3% category of choice, 2% gas and restaurants – combined purchase total of $2500, 1% cashback beyond that cap, has PIN support for European and Asian chip&PIN transactions
    CON – 3% foreign trans so POOR choice outside of US

    Discover IT
    PRO – 5% on rolling categories per quarter, no foreign trans fee
    CON – not a chip&PIN card and really NOT as accepted outside of US, oddly accepted well in Japan and Taiwan

    BofA Travel Rewards (overall great backup card for foreign travel)
    PRO – great signing bonus + 1.5% travel rewards, PIN backup which came in handy when we had to pay at unmanned kiosks in London and Paris, no foreign trans fee
    CON – not contactless

    Amazon Prime Visa (great backup card but I mainly use it for Amazon purchases)
    PRO – 5% cashback on, WholeFoods, no foreign trans fee
    CON – not contactless

    Andrews Platinum Rewards Visa
    PRO – no foreign trans fee, true chip&PIN with PIN priority card which makes it a great international card for those unmanned kiosks in Asia, Canada and Europe
    CON – weak rewards program at 1% and it’s not a true cashback

    Paypal Cashback MC
    PRO – flat 2% cashback, no foreign trans fee, PIN support but have not tested
    CON – zero signing bonus, must have Paypal account, support Google Pay but NOT Apple Pay – annoying but not a dealbreaker

    Of these cards, I think I will cancel BofA Travel Rewards. After benefiting from a good signing bonus, it’s pretty much at par with CapOne Quicksilver at 1.5% cashback which makes it redundant. I also found that depending on the terminal, it will accept a contactless credit card like CapOne but not necessarily Apple Pay or Google Pay. So CapOne QuickSilver is a better card to keep.

    I was actually surprised at how useful the BofA CashRewards card is for domestic use (A definite NO-NO for foreign travel at 3% foreign transaction fee). You can switch categories every month. I’m replacing iPhones this year so I will switch the reward to “online store” and buy the phones via I get 3% cashback there which makes it par with Apple Card. However, after reaching 2500 cap, it’s pretty much meh at 1% for all other purchases until the next quarter.

    I wish I had the Chase Sapphire Reserve during my days of 100% consulting work. I would have racked up points and the company would have paid for all the travel expenses anyway. The $400+ annual fee would have been worth it. But I don’t travel as much anymore and I find much more use for cashback rewards.

    As far as dining out, we just don’t eat out enough to be enticed by rewards for dining. Same thing with gas since we have EV and PHEV.

    I think Fidelity Visa and CitiDouble were mentioned above. I’ll throw in the Paypal Cashback MC. For a straightforward 2% cashback, it does the job and it has no foreign trans fee. Of course if you don’t really travel outside of the US often and you have other cards, then that point is moot.

    Looking forward to reading up on what card(s) you pick.


    1. Wow, thanks for the detailed run down! I’m going to first open a Capital One Quicksilver® card. Seems pretty straight forward with no annual fee.

      I’m then going to open various Chase credit cards to complement my existing Chase Business Ink Preferred card. My goal is to rack up as many points/miles as possible to get free flights to Hawaii for my family.

      I racked up 345,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points with my business card. And with the Chase 5/24 rule, I learned that my Business Ink card doesn’t count as one of the 5 card limits over a 24 month period.

      Therefore, I’ll probably open up a Chase Freedom Unlimited and a Chase Freedom card to start, as both don’t have any annual fees.

      I’ve been a Chase business client for almost 10 years.

  8. Alliant Credit Union has a 2.5% cash back credit card with annual fee and also a 2% version as well with no annual fee.

  9. I recently applied for the Capital One SavorOne. It has a slightly lower reward at 3% back on dining/entertainment but there is no annual fee to keep it open. The 2% and 1% categories are the same.

    Furthermore, you still receive a sign up bonus ($150 after $500 spending in first 3 months) and no foreign transaction fees. It has been a great addition to my wallet and I’m really glad I got it.

    I opened it when I planned on purchasing a DIY security system for the house, so I basically got $150 off of the system. Not a bad deal!

    1. I should clarify…this is a comparison between the Capital One SavorOne (which I have) and the Capital One Savor. They’re two distinct cards. Great article!

  10. I love cash back rewards credit card! I have the Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card and I love it. I put everything on the card and it has given me a lot of cash credit over the years.

    The Capital One Savor card looks great. I never heard of it before and we eat out at least twice a week. I’m gonna get that one.

    I’m happy you are partnering up with new businesses. I feel great supporting you after so many years of breeding such great content. Thanks!

    1. If you’re thinking of getting the Capital One Savor for eating out only, consider the Barclays Uber Visa. 4% back on dining, 3% back on hotel and airfare, 2% back on Uber rides and online purchases, 1% back on everything else. No annual fee.

  11. Isn’t it funny that us older folks used to have old school credit cards before all these rewards and cash back programs existed? Now it’s crazy to have a credit card without a rewards program. I love rewards points cards that have flexibility on how and what to redeem. I’ve done mostly gift card and cash back redemptions.

  12. I will take points over cash at any time. You just need to know how to maximize the points. It’s a lot of work, but the rewards are good.

    In our situation, we charge around $100k per year on the credit cards. I have a combination of Chase cards were we directed the spending based on the points.

    That yields enough points to take my family of four to Europe every summer at peak time. Tickets are about $5-6k, so effectively a 5-6% return, much better than any cash back card.

  13. I personally like the Citi double cash back. 2% cash back on every purchase. No limits. No yearly fees. Can get cash direct deposited, as taking it off next bill would actually eat up 1% of the cash back. No thinking about categories etc.

      1. I also have the citi double cash back card.

        I believe this is because you get 1% cash back on all purchases and then an additional 1% when you pay your statement. If you use the “rewards” as a statement credit, you don’t receive the additional 1% on the balance that the rewards are applied to.

        For example. I put $2500 on the card, and receive $25 in rewards when I get my statement. If I redeem the rewards for a statement credit, I only have to pay $2475 to pay off the statement. Doing so would give me an additional $24.75 in rewards. If I redeem my rewards for cash (direct deposit), the $25 is deposited in my account and I pay the $2500 statement and get the full $25 (netting $50 in total rewards, or 2%)

        1. You got me worried because I often apply my cash back balance to my account balance. When I saw this I contacted Citi to ask them if this was the case and they said no. They confirmed that you receive the 1% cash back even if you pay using your cash back rewards balance. So, even better. FYI.

    1. Second Citi Double Cash. If you want to keep things simple, then this is your card. Almost all my purchases go on this card.

      Of note, there are foreign transaction fees with this one, so for foreign purchases, I go with Citi Costco (since I am a member anyways).

      Full disclosure: I am not advocating for Citi as a bank. Costco’s credit card changed over to Citi Visa in the last few years. I also have a Chase Amazon card for Amazon and the occasional Whole Food purchases (that will give me the 5%)

  14. I second the vote for the Fidelity 2% cash back card. It’s my go-to. I do play the credit card game, but Sam is right – properly managing our time ought to free us up to be more productive for other activities/priorities.

  15. For a Bank of America customer who can qualify for Platinum Honors status with $100K in assets (investment accounts count), their Premium Rewards card will yield 2.625% cash back on all purchases. It comes with an annual fee of $95 which is easily offset by travel perks, not to mention the best in class rewards rate.

    1. Shucks, not a BoA customer. Actually, I guess I am b/c my vacation property is with them. Does having a mortgage over $100K qualify for their Platinum Honors status?

      I love all this status customer names… Citigold etc.

          1. Grateful Everyday

            I use the Bank of America Premium Rewards. If you have 100k in assets at BofA or Merrill then you get 3.5% on dining out and travel and 2.62% on everything else. it has a $95 annual fee but you get it back if you have $100 in travel incidentals, like bags, earlybird, etc. Plus you get TSA Pre for free and no foreign transaction fees. I haven’t found any other rewards card that comes close to this and now its the only one we use. Plus we got $500 reward for signing up after spending.

    2. I have two fidelity visa credit cards. One for me and one for my business. It’s 2% cash back, no limit that I’ve seen, no fee. Nice and easy.

  16. Hmm, I don’t agree that these are the best cash back credit cards. The BofA deal is the best. Become Platinum Honors through their Preferred Rewards program. To do that, you need $100k or more with BofA and/or Merrill Edge. Just move $100k worth of investments to Merrill Edge.
    Get the Cash Rewards and Travel Rewards and/or Premium Rewards credit cards. You’ll get 2.625% cash back on everything with no limits on the Cash Rewards card and then 5.25% cash back on a category of your choice and 3% back on groceries and wholesale clubs with the other 2 cards. Or something like that. My memory is fuzzy on it and I don’t feel like looking it up at the moment.

    1. That’s right, but the Cash Rewards card caps 5.25% at $2,500 in spend per quarter. Well worth doing, but if you’re going to max out then I wouldn’t advise watering down your return on the 3% grocery/clubs which also count towards the cap.

  17. That’s pretty interesting Sam. I have simplified my life too but keeping in play 3 credit cards (only 2 in my wallet though). I have the Sam’s card which gives me the best rewards on restaurants (3%) so I use it to that when I eat out (and no international fee which comes in handy when traveling).

    I do have the chase freedom card which is excellent and I use for pretty much everything else except Amazon purchases (that’s where the 3rd card which is a chase Amazon card comes in, gives 5% on Amazon purchases).

    I name a couple of online friends who have written extensively about travel hacking and sometimes I get FOMO feelings about how they can get business class tickets internationally and I much redeem for cash back. So for the part 5 months or so I have not been redeeming my points and let the balance grow (not sure if I come out ahead or not when I do redeem for airline tickets). But so far I am too lazy to do what gets them the biggest point return which is to do credit card churning and opening accounts for bonus miles.

  18. Fidelity’s 2% cash back card is also great. 2% on everything and they often have promotions to earn more. I have been using it for years!

  19. Traveling with kids is no fun, but travel is sometimes necessary with family and friends spread out.

    Airline and Hotel points have value. Sometimes its used to differentiate business travels on expense accounts that need to pay cash versus leisure travelers with points.

    Cash back is a fixed return. Transferable points generally deliver value far in excess.

    Bonus categories also vary by person and spend. They probably value dining and restaurants versus grocery and gas bonuses.

    The list here isn’t great and misses some potentials.

    Bank of America has a 2.625% cash back card for everything with 100k in a low cost Merrill edge self directed brokerage.

    Amex’s everyday preferred with 30 transactions a month gives 4.5x points for groceries and 3x points for gas and 1.5x points on everything else. You could use it for cash back but also for travel.

    Amex has a blue preferred card for business that is 2x points for the first 50k that can be 1 for 1 cash back but generally better with points.

    The Chase sapphire reserve is 450/year with an easy 300 rebate for travel (Uber, lyft, transit all count). 150/year with priority pass which is great for lounges or $28 per person at restaurants (including 2 in San Francisco). 3x points for dining and travel. 1x points elsewhere and points are 1c for cash back but 1.5c if you use it to book travel. Combinable with the chase freedom that gives you 1.5x points on everything.

  20. I’ll take cash back over points any day. I paid for 55% of my kid’s first year of college and 85% of her second year of college using 2% cash back rewards from my Capital One Spark Business card. Now in her third year, I think we’ll be able to cover the entire expense this year, due to increased business spending on the card.

  21. Travelling with small children isn’t easy but it can be fun. We’ve been to Singapore and Netherlands-Finland-Sweden-Japan with our eldest who is now 3.5 years. We’re planning on New Zealand in February (we live in SE Australia) with him and the second child (now 3 months). It can be easier sitting next to them on the plane tahn having them strapped in the back of the car for hours.

    I have two credit cards – my Australian one allows gift cards to department stores and supermarkets. I just get a supermarket gift card and get free groceries. I’m not sure what my US one offers but I don’t use it much.

    1. Trust me everyone around you was pissed off that you brought your brats on international flights. These days people are just to weak to tell you to your face.

      1. What a rude and obnoxious thing to say. But I bet you’re a strong man to say it over the Internet hey, Mike ?

  22. Sam, Citi double cash is the way to go. The cards above have some nice perks (I’ve had each) and bonuses but I prefer the flat 2% cash back on all purchases. No reward tiers, no special categories to entice you to spend more, no gimmicks and no annual fee!

    1. Tom, I agree with you that the Citibank double cash back is the way to go! I was surprised it didn’t make the list when a card that earns you 1.5% cash back did. Maybe because they don’t offer a sign up bonus or that they charge foreign transaction fees? I use a Bank of America travel rewards card for travel as it charges no foreign transaction fees or annual fees and offers the equivalent of 1.5% cash back (statement credit towards travel related charges). The BofA card offers the equivalent of a $250 sign up bonus if you spend $1000 in the first 90 days.

        1. Sam,

          Chase is on my permabanned list for a similar reason (although it involved their credit cards) over a decade ago.

        2. jim mcgarry

          chasing rewards on multiple cards for 1,2,3 % can be self defeating if they are capped at any limit. my favorite is the td ameritrade client rewards card.2018 example. Note you have to have a td brokerage account. 40k spend at 1.8 % cash back was $720 if you send it to your broker acct. every month you pay balance to -0- then send your cash back to your checking acct, then send the cash to Wealthfront. 2.03$
          so bottom line….. 720 plus average balance on that amount is $360
          equals interest of an additional 7 bucks.
          that’s not bad for free money. also no 1099 for the 720, as it it recognized as points not cash.

    2. Yeah I have CitiDouble Cash as well. Better than all of the above. Flat 2% back on everything and no limit. But it does have foreign transaction fees so when I go out of the country I use the capital one quicksilver 1.5% cash back card.

    3. I had someone tell me that the Citibank card is the best card. If that is that really the case, why doesn’t it dominate and why are there so many others? There’s a choice for everybody.

      Thanks everybody for highlighting what they like and why they don’t like.

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