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Survey of Cash Back Credit Cards


This CNN article claims that most reward credit cards are more trouble than they're worth. However, if you are diligent in not carrying a balance and you don't overspend, I think many of these credit cards can be good deals. just came out with a survey of cash back credit cards from American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citi, Discover, HSBC, Wells Fargo and USAA Federal Savings.

The Bankrate survey didn't identify the best credit card for everyone. It provided a few tips such as considering "tiered cards if you charge more than $1,000 a month and cards that have flat percentage cash back if you spend less than that. Watch out for caps lower than $500."

One cash-back credit card not mentioned is the Visa Platinum Gas Cash Reward credit card from Pentagon Federal Credit Union. This offers 2% cash back on supermarket purchases, 5% cash back from gas paid at the pump and 1.25% cash back on all other purchases. There's no annual fee, and cash rewards are credited each month. My last post on this credit card was in January when they increased the cash back from supermarkets to 2%.

Anyone can qualify for membership into PenFed. For these details and my experience with PenFed, please refer to my Pentagon FCU review.

There have also been some pretty cash back credit cards at online banks such as Countrywide (see post), FNBO Direct (see post) and EmigrantDirect (see post).

Another good resource for cash back credit cards is this Fatwallet thread.

What's your favorite cash back credit card? Leave a comment and let us know.

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Punny Money
Punny Money   |     |   Comment #1
I could never pick just one card. I have one each for 5% back on groceries, gas, restaurants, and a few other categories. For everything else without a 5% card, I use the Orchard Bank MasterCard which can be tricky to get and usually comes with a low credit line, but it does give you 2% cash back on absolutely everything.
Deb   |     |   Comment #2
I consistently scour many of the finance blogs for good cash back card deals. Right now, I have a Citibank Dividends card which pays me 5% cash back at supermarkets and at the pump, but that was good for only six months. I have the Pentagon Federal card of which you speak, and I absolutely love that card as well. I also just applied for and received a Chase Hess Visa, which gives me 10% back on all Hess gasoline purchases for the first 90 days, 5% thereafter; you don't get cash back, but you do redeem the rebates on the statement for the following month, much the way the Pentagon FCU one works, the money comes right off of the statement balance due.

I agree with Punny; sometimes you have to have different cards for different needs. I tend to buy a lot of groceries, so I always focus on cards that give me the most cash back at the grocery store, and of course, gas rebate cards.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #3
I have the Chase Freedom, and while it doesn't have the largest percentage of cash back on things, what I really like is if you wait until you reach $200 in rewards, they give a $50 bonus. I'm sure some math whiz could figure out what percentage you're actually getting back with that factored in but I'm not going to bother :)
Here are the other details:

You'll earn a 3% cash back rebate or 3 points for every $1 in eligible purchases made in the top three bonus categories where you spend the most. The bonus categories are: grocery stores, gas & convenience stores, quick service payment/fast food restaurants, telecommunications, cable/satellite TV/Internet service providers, video rentals, department stores, dry cleaners, drugstores, movie theatres, local and suburban commuter passenger transportation, pet supply stores and veterinary services, utilities, beauty shops (salons and spas) and gym/recreation memberships. Following are additional details.

* You will earn a 1% base rebate or 1 base point for each $1 of net purchases.
* Each billing cycle, in addition to the base reward you will also earn an additional 2% bonus rebate or 2 bonus points for each $1 of eligible net purchases made at merchant locations in the 3 bonus categories where you have spent the most.

Rest of the details here:

Anonymous   |     |   Comment #4
I have two Chase cards that rebate 3-5% on gas purchases. One problem I've found is that some gas stations don't code their credit card charges properly. One station was coding their card purchases as "Tires" so I was not getting the bonus rebate. Check your statement carefully. It's easy not to notice.
Bill M
Bill M   |     |   Comment #5
I have two ccs that i use at most

Amex SimplyCash - 5% gas, cell phone, office supplies and a bunch of other stuff i can't remember
1% everything else

Chase FreeDom - 3% groceries, and two of another category that you spend the most, let it accumulate to $200 and get a $250 check, an additional 25% bonus..
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #6
It may be easy to join Pentagon FCU but not equally easy to get their card. I have CDs there but they still refussed to give me card.
I do have several other card issued before and after their refusal.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #7
I've been using the Citi Platinum AMEX card for most things and the Fidelity VISA for 1.5% back at places that don't take AMEX. The Citi AMEX card gives 5 ThankYou Points for every $1 spent on purchases made at supermarkets, drug stores and gas stations and 3 ThankYou Points per $1 spent on all other purchases for the first 24 months
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #8
Capital One has a reward card that permanently pays out 5% on gas/grocery/drug purchases, it has a $29 annual fee but you end up making more per year in rebates compared to a 3% card even after deducting the fee. I'll be replacing my Driver's Edge Citi card with this one.

I applied for the previously mentioned Citi Platinum AMEX card and they declined me with an income of only $45K and excellent credit (it's considered an Elite card with high income requirements) sounds like a great deal tho.

I'd also recommend the Orchard Bank 2% for everything card mentioned earlier. Household Bank does a similar card (both issued by HSBC)
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #9
also the mtvU card from citibank has some good rebates, 5% on restaurants, bookstores, record & video stores, movie tickets. You don't need to be a current student really, I just gave them my alma mater's name and they didn't even question it. For real students you can submit your transcripts for good GPA reward points.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #10
My favorite of several is Chase Freedom Visa.
The 3% on gas & groceries is just the way I spend most (w/ 1% on everything else).
The $50 extra reward on top of an earned $200 bonus is a an additional 25%, and can not be matched or beat anywhere.
If you've got the spending pattern and discipline to take advantage of this, it's a no brainer.

The worst is Discover Gas Card that narrowed the maximum purchases elgible for 5% rewards from $1200 ANNUALY to no more than $100 MONTHLY.
They pulled a fast one on existing card holders, and probably thought no one would notice.
Avoid this card and tell them why.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #11
I wonder if there're any cards that pay better than 3% on groceries. Thanks.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #12
Another Chase Freedom fan here. At first I thought I would never spend enough to get the $50 bonus (since $200 would represent $20,000 in spending at 1%), but the rewards have added up quickly. Part of this is because I regularly use the Chase Rewards Plus website - when you click to a merchant through their website, you get an additional cash back on top of your 1% or 3% you get with the card. For example, if you buy something from, you'll get an additional 9% cash back.

I imagine other credit cards have similar sites, but it is a nice perk, and it helps you get to the $200 much quicker.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #13
From what I can tell, ThankYou points do not translate directly to % cash back (as in, getting 5 ThankYou points per dollar spend is not the same as getting $0.05 back per dollar, as people have been mentioning from above).

That's what I can tell from the website anyway - the cost of a $50 check is 8,000 ThankYou points and the cost of a $50 statement credit is 7,500. So that would represent 3.125% cash back and 3.333% cash back respectively.

Or perhaps someone can enlighten me otherwise? I was all ready to sign up for the mtvU card, but now I feel like it's no better than my Chase Freedom...
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #14
If you get a student loan reimbursment check from the thank you network it sure is .05 cent or .03 cent cash back for ever 1 dollar spent (depending on category). The student loan reimbursement check is made out to your bank; and you can cash a check made out to your bank. I put it through the ATM and it never fails.

Or if you use it for certain types of travel eligible for fixed point flight awards; it's even better than .05 per dollar.

Lastly some $100 gift cards are still offered at 10,000 points.

The Citi platinum express card is by far the best card out there during the initial 24 months that you have the card (24 month promo)! It beats the Chase Freedom card quite a bit in terms of overall return. You just have to know the tricks. Go to fatwallet and find the thread about the Citi Platinum Express card for more info.

The only card better is the Citi Cash Returns card which gives you 5% for three months; but it's only good for three months. So if you want to keep a card longer than that, get the Citi Platinum American Express.

It's only downside is that not everyone takes American Express

Anonymous   |     |   Comment #15
i'm confused at anonymous June04 9:27pm. If you get $50 from spending $8000, the % cashback is 0.625% or 50/8000. If you get $50 giftcard from spending $6000, it's 0.833%; if you get $100 for spending 10000, it's 1.000%. Regarding the last commentor, the Citi Platinum AmericanExpress card, currently unfortunately has a $125 annual fee (waived for first year; and first year you get promotional 15k thankyou points when you spend $300 purchases first 3 months); 5ty points for ever $ on supermarkets, drugstores, and gasstations and 3ty for all other purchases for first 24 months... but after first 12 months, your annual fee is $125!?! Please read all terms and disclosures, additional ones, and ever deal. Also, the Citibank Cash Returns card no longer gives 5% cash back on all purchases for first 3 months...that deal dead in late April 2008; you'll have to seee their current offer.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #16
@anonymous on June 05 -

I was doing the calculation for 5 ThankYou Points, not just 1. Some people were equating getting 5 ThankYou Points to getting 5% cash back, so I did the calculation for what 5 points actually means:

(50/8000)*5 = 0.03125 = 3.125%
(50/7500)*5 = 0.03333 = 3.333%

I should have been more clear about that.

Regardless, I'm not a huge ThankYou point fan, because they obviously are trying to make this as complicated as possible. Probably sometime in the past 5TY points really meant 5% cash back (and I guess it does if you want to say you have a student loan or get certain gift cards), but I'm sticking with Chase Freedom for now - far fewer restrictions.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #17
I don't think anyone mentioned my favorite card. A chase rewards card which pays 5% on gas, groceries and drug stores. `1% on everything else. No fee. Maybe they don't offer it any more?

I have pen fed card and just had an incident. MY cable bill is automatically sent there and they did not pay it the last time... because their site was down when it was sent in. I still have not resolved this. Bright House said they never heard of such a thing either.
Fumio   |     |   Comment #18
I have been using MtvU card by Citibank and loved it. However, I just noticed that they started charging interest on the VERY day I used it. Can you believe it?
They changed the rule recently.

I guess I will stop using this card and wait it to expire since it is for students and should expire after 5years. Just wanted to warn students who want to apply for this card.

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