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1% or Better Cash Back Cards with No Annual Fee

Photo of a credit card machine. The receipt printer is dispensing dollar bills instead of a receipt.
Money Back Every Time You Swipe Your Card

Some cash back cards pay more than others do, especially in certain categories. A combination of cards helps maximize your rewards.

A buck or more back on every hundred dollars you spend. It will never make you rich but why walk away from free money? With the right combination of cards, $400 back per year for the average family is quite realistic.

The cash back cards in our chart meet the following criteria:

  • Cash!  In this comparison, we're not talking about free hotel stays, airline tickets or gift certificates to Disneyland. We're talking about U.S. currency. Since you're unlikely to get actual cash from your credit card company, a check, statement credit, transfer to your checking account or any other means by which you can turn the reward into the equivalent amount of cash will suffice.
  • No annual fee.  With the cards below, you won't risk a loss if your rewards don't equal your annual fee.
  • 1% or more cash back.  Not all cards pay 1% right from the start, but as long as the cash rewards hit 1% or better at some point, you'll find the card below.

Just ahead: The Internet's largest catalog of 1% or better cash rebate credit cards.

 

Contents

 

Credit Card Companies

 

Cash Back Reward Cards Offering 1% or Better
Chart #1: Rewards Program Details
CardCash Back Tiers / Earning Method / ResetBonus Categories / Bonus % / Average %Bonus MallCash Out EventReward CapsSign Up
American Express
Blue Cash Everyday1%
Groceries: 3%
Gas: 2%
Department Stores: 2%
$25NoneApply
Bank of America
Cash Rewards
1%
Groceries: 3%
Gas: 2%
None$25$6,000 max. bonus category spending ($180 max. reward) per year.19Apply
Visa Signature
$0 - $7,500: 0.5%
$7,501 - $25,000: 0.8%
$25,000+: 1% /
None
Up to 30%
$12.50Points expire 5 years from day earnedApply
CapitalOne
Cash1% + annual 50% bonus of reward earnings20None
Up to 15%
AnytimeNoneApply
Excellent credit21
Chase
Amazon.com Rewards Visa1%
Amazon.com: 3%
Dining: 2%
Drug Stores: 2%
Gas: 2%
Office Stores: 2%
No$50NoneApply
Freedom
1%
Gas Stations
Airlines
Amazon.com
Best Buy
Grocery Stores
Hotels
Kohl's
Movies
Restaurants
Up to 20%
$20$6,000 max. 5% bonus category spending ($300 reward) per year.2Apply
Sapphire1%None
Airlines: 2%
$50NoneApply
CitiBank
Dividend Platinum Select MasterCard for College Students1% (purchases, cash advances and balance tranfers)
Clothes
Dining
Department Stores
Electronic Stores
Hotels
Jewelery
Travel
and more...
Up to 35%
$50Max. $300 bonus reward per year. Rewards forfeited if card is inactive for a year.4Apply
Student
Dividend World MasterCard1% (purchases, cash advances and balance tranfers)
Airlines
Car Rentals
Hotels
Up to 35%
$50Max. $300 bonus reward per year. Rewards forfeited if card is inactive for a year.4Apply
$500 Cash Back22
Apply
$100 Cash Back22
Discover
More Card*
$0 - $3,000, 0.25%
$3,000+: 1% /
Movies
Gas Stations
Department Stores
Electronics Stores
Museums
Restaurants
Toy Stores
Theme Parks
5% - 20%
$50$2,200 max. 5% bonus category spending ($110 reward) per year.7, 17Apply
Good Credit
Apply
Student
Motiva Card*
$0 - $3,000, 0.25%
$3,000+: 1% /
5% cash back on monthly interest charge.
5% - 20%
$20NoneApply
Open Road*
$0 - $3,000, 0.25%
$3,000+: 1% /
Dining: 2%
Gas: 2%
5% - 20%
$20$250 max. 2% bonus category spending ($5 reward) per month.9Apply
Standard
Apply
Student
Emigrant Direct
Visa Signature1%NoneNo?NoneApply
Fidelity
Investment Rewards American Express
$0 - $3,750: 1%
$3,751 - $12,499: 1.6%
$12,500+: 2% /
12
None
Up to 20%
$12.50Points expire 5 years from day earnedApply
Excellent Credit
Investment Rewards Visa Signature
$0 - $15,000, 1.5%
$15,000+, 2% /
None
Up to 20%
$50Points expire 5 years from day earnedApply
Excellent Credit
First National Bank of Omaha
BucksBack Platinum Edition1%None
Up to 15%
$25Points expire 3 years from day earned. $750 maximum reward per year.Apply
Maximum Rewards Platinum Edition
$0 - $2,333: 1.07%
$4,000 - $5,666: 1.25%
$5,666 - $7,333: 1.32%
$7,333 - $33,333: 1.36%
$33,333+: 1.5% /
NoneNo$25Points expire 5 years from day earned.Apply
Visa Signature with Maximum Rewards
$0 - $2,333: 1.07%
$4,000 - $5,666: 1.25%
$5,666 - $7,333: 1.32%
$7,333 - $33,333: 1.36%
$33,333+: 1.5% /
NoneNo$25Points expire 5 years from day earnedApply
Iberiabank
Visa Gold*1%NoneNoYearlyNoneApply
Navy Federal Credit Union
cashRewards
$0 - $10,000, 1%
$10,000+, 1.5% /
NoneNo$20NoneApply14
Penatgon Federal Credit Union
PenFed Visa Platinum Gas/Cash Rewards*0.25%Gas: 5%11NoMonthlyNoneApply13
PNC Bank
CashBuilder Visa
$0 - $2,000, 1.25%
$2,000 - $4,000, 1.25%
$4,000+, 1.75% /
NoneNo$50NoneApply
Priceline
Priceline Visa Signature2%Priceline Name Your Own Price Purchases: 5%None$25
Points expire 4 years from day earned
Must make at least 1 purchase every 6 months
Apply
Quorum Federal Credit Union
Visa Cash Back1.25%NoneDreampoints$50NoneApply
Sovereign Bank
Visa Signature / WorldPoints MasterCard
$0 - $7,500: 0.5%
$7,501 - $25,000: 0.8%
$25,000+: 1% /
None
Up to 45%
$12.50Points expire 5 years from day earnedApply
TD Bank
Cash Rewards Visa1%NoneNo$25NoneApply
Union Bank
Maximum Rewards Platinum Edition
$0 - $2,333: 1.07%
$4,000 - $5,666: 1.25%
$5,666 - $7,333: 1.32%
$7,333 - $33,333: 1.36%
$33,333+: 1.5% /
NoneNo$25Points expire 5 years from day earnedApply
U.S. Bank
Cash+ Visa1% + $25 bonus for $100+ redemptionPick 2 5% categories and 1 2% category every 3 months. See demo for examples.No$25NoneApply
Wells Fargo
Cash Back Visa1%NoneNo$25NoneApply
Standard
Apply
Student

Remember: Chart #2 Follows

Legend

Cash Back Tiers / Earning Method / Reset  The cash rebate percentage for normal credit card spending. Where applicable, details on the "spending tier" levels.

Cards with spending tiers offer more cash back as you spend more on the card. For example, American Express Blue Cash pays 0.5% cash back on the first $6,500 spent on the card. Purchases after spending $6,500 earn 1.25%.

Tiered reward programs revert to the lowest paying tier upon a "reset event." Rewards programs that reset every year are marked "Reset Annually." Programs that reset upon redemption are marked "Reset on Cash Out."

The "Earning Method" describes whether you have the chance to earn more money by waiting longer to cash out.

The "as you spend" earning method always pays the cash back percentage of the spending tier, regardless of when you cash out. With this earning method, it makes sense to cash out as often as allowed by the reward program.

The "accumulated" method pays the cash-out tier's percentage rate for all spending. The accumulated method pays better than "as you spend," assuming the tier spending levels and percentages are the same. However, you'll likely wait longer, maybe years, between reward redemptions to earn the better rate of return.

Check the "Rewards Cap" column to ensure reaching the top tier is realistic. Rewards often have an expiration date in cumulative cash back programs.

Bonus Categories  The card may offer more cash back for various spending categories. The percentage shown is the total cash back these purchases earn; it is not in addition to the standard cash back percentage shown in the first column.

"Rotating" indicates the spending category is only available during certain months of the year. Knowzy publishes the bonus category calendar for each card under its footnote.

Earn better returns by timing your purchases to coincide with bonus category months.

 "Average" (the percentage on the right side of the slash) applies to rotating categories. It indicates the percentage of cash back if you were to spend consistently in the rotating bonus category over a year.

The average percentage is calculated by dividing the actual bonus cash back percentage by 12 (months) and multiplying the result by the number of months the bonus is available. For example, Chase Freedom offers 5% cash back on groceries for 3 months out of the year. 5 percent divided by 12 is 0.42 and 1/3 percent times 3 is 1.25 percent.

You must sign up for rotating bonus categories in most rewards programs. Failure to sign up means your purchases will earn the standard cash back percentage. The credit card company usually allows you to sign up a month before the offering the bonus category.

The merchant, not the credit card company, declares the category to which it belongs. You can look up what category a retailer reports itself as on Visa's web site (of course, the category may vary for MasterCard, American Express or Discover).

Bonus Mall  Many companies offer additional cash back at major online retailers. Where available, we provide a link to the complete list of stores and cash back bonus. To earn the additional cash rebate, you must start shopping from the credit card's bonus mall; you do not earn the bonus if you go directly to the online store.

Cash Out Event  Describes when you can turn your accumulated rewards into cash. Most cards have a minimum threshold, such as $25 in earned rewards, before you can cash out. Others, like American Express Blue Cash, automatically give you a statement once per year. CaptialOne's No Hassle Rewards lets you cash out any time.

Reward Caps  If rewards expire or are limited to a certain amount, it is listed here. Some cash back cards, like CitiBank's Platinum Select, limit the total amount of cash rewards you can earn in a year. Others, like Chase and Discover, limit the amount you can earn in bonus categories. On a few cards, the cash you earn can expire if you don't redeem it in a timely fashion.

 

Footnotes

1  Chase Freedom offers 5% cash back on all categories listed in the chart. However, Chase only offers each category for 3 months out of the year. This means each category averages 1.25% cash back unless purchases are timed for better returns.

2  See full details on the Chase Freedom 5% bonus cash back categories.

3  This is not a complete set of categories. Knowzy is still trying to get the complete 2010 bonus category calendar from Citi's public affairs department. CitiCard offers as much 5% cash back in categories that rotate throughout the year. 1.25% represents the average cash back bonus over the course of a year. Timing purchases to coincide with bonus categories will yield better returns. Learn more about how the average is calculated in the Legend section under Bonus Categories. You must enroll in the cash back bonus program every 3 months.

4  You can earn no more than $300 in rewards per year ($30,000 in spending). This limit doesn't apply to bonus mall purchases- they always earn rewards. You must make at least one purchase every 12 months in order to maintain your rewards balance.

5  Purchases from stores categorized as "warehouse clubs" always earn 0.25%, regardless of spending tier. Call Discover at 1-800-347-7896 for the current, complete list of stores. As of March 11, 2012, these stores are:

  • Walmart
  • Walmart Neighborhood Market
  • Sam's Club
  • Costco
  • BJ's Wholesale Club
  • Supermercado Amigos
  • Core Mark

Grocery stores affiliated with these warehouse clubs also earn 0.25% cash back. Affiliated gas stations earn the full reward.

6  Discover More offers 5% cash back on all categories listed in the chart but not for the entire year. The percentage listed represents the cash back bonus when averaged out over the year. Timing purchases to coincide with bonus categories will yield better returns. Learn more about how the average is calculated in the Legend section under Bonus Categories. You must sign up for each set of categories to earn the 5% cash back bonus.

7  Discover limits the total reward you can earn in the 5% Cashback Bonus categories. After the cap is reached, purchases in these categories earn the standard cash back rate, which is 1% if your spending has exceeded $3,000 for the year or 0.25% if you've spent less.

Full calendar and more details on Discover's bonus category program are on Knowzy's 5% Cash Back Bonus Categories for Discover More Card.

9  2% cash back bonus only applies to the first $250 in spending on gas and restaurants per month. Any spending in these categories beyond $250 earns the standard cash back rate of 1% (or 0.25% if total spending for the year is below $3,000).

10  Tiers are based on the balance maintained in a companion savings account, not on spending. The required Emigrant Direct American Dream savings account must have an average balance of over $10,000 for 6 months to qualify for 1.4% cash back on purchases made with the Emigrant Direct World MasterCard.

11  Groceries no longer earn 2% beginning March 1, 2011.

12  If you link your Fidelity American Express to a Fidelity brokerage account or a Fidelity Cash Management (money market account), you can earn 2% without spending tiers. You must accumulate $50 or more in rewards to cash out to a Fidelity account. Fidelity Cash Management has no minimum deposit to open or monthly fees.

13  Eligibility to join the PenFed credit union doesn't guarantee you will be approved for the Platinum Rewards Cashback card. Approval is based on your credit worthiness. See footnote 6 in Chart 2 to learn more about becoming eligible to apply for the card.

14  Joining the Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) doesn't guarantee your approval for the cashRewards card. Approval is based on your creditworthiness. See footnote 8 in Chart 2 to learn more about becoming eligible to apply for the card.

16  CapitalOne conceals the retailers offering a cash back bonus in its Perk Central mall. You must log in to a CapitalOne online account to see the list. The majority of stores in the ShopDiscover mall also participate in CapitalOne's Perk Central.

17  Discover doesn't announce their quarterly bonus category spending limits until shortly before the categories are offered to customers. The chart uses the previous year's spending limits when the current year's limits are not available. Historically, these limits do not change drastically from year-to-year, if at all.

18  Bank of America pays a bonus of 10% of the redemption value when redeemed into a linked BofA checking or savings account. For example, if you redeem $50 in rewards, Bank of America deposits $55 in your account.

19  Only the first $1,500 in bonus category spending per quarter earns 3% or 2% cash back. This is a $45 cash back bonus maximum every three months. You earn 1% cash back for spending in bonus categories after exceeding the $1,500 cap.

20  Every year on your sign-up anniversary date, CapitalOne pays a bonus of 50% of last year's earnings. For example, if you earned $200 in cash rewards in a year, CapitalOne credits you another $100 in rewards at the end of the year. It's equivalent to 1.5% cash back but with a long wait between redemptions for 0.5% of the 1.5%.

21  You must have excellent credit for CapitalOne Cash. The Cash Rewards for Newcomers and Journey Student Rewards cards offer 1% back to applicants with "Average Credit."

22  Earn $500 cash back by spending over $5,000 in the first 3 months on your new Citi Dividend World MasterCard. This is a limited time offer.

If that's too rich for you or you missed your chance to apply, the $100 cash back cash back offer only requires you to spend $500 on your Dividend World card in the first three months.

23  You must have a Chase checking account to earn an extra 10% and 10 cents per card swipe. You must enroll in the Chase "10 and 10" program to receive the benefit. The extra cash back begins 90 days after enrolling, according to a Chase customer service representative.

 

 

Cash Back Reward Cards Offering 1% or Better
Chart #2: Credit Card Offer Details
CardPrerequisites?Intro. OfferFine PrintSign Up
American Express
Blue Cash EverydayNone6 or 12 mo. 0% intro ratePricing & TermsApply
Bank of America
Cash RewardsNone
12 mo. 0% intro rate
12 mo. 0% balance transfer rate
$250 cash back3
Pricing & TermsApply
Visa SignatureNone
12 mo. 0% intro rate
$50 cash back12
Pricing & TermsApply
CapitalOne
CashNone
12 mo. 0% intro rate
12 mo. 0% balance transfer rate
Pricing & Terms, Rewards ProgramApply
Excellent Credit1
Chase
Amazon.com Rewards Visa CardNone$30 creditPricing & Terms, Reward ProgramApply
FreedomNone
$100 cash back10
12.99% to 22.99% APR
15 mo. 0% intro. rate
15 mo. 0% balance transfer rate
Pricing & TermsApply
SapphireNone$100 cash backPricing & TermsApply
CitiBank
Dividend Platinum Select MasterCard for College StudentsMust be enrolled in college for student card.
7 mo. 0% intro. rate
Pricing & Terms, Rewards ProgramApply
Student
Dividend World MasterCardNone
15 mo. 0% intro. rate
15 mo. 0% balance transfer rate
Pricing & Terms, Rewards ProgramApply
$500 Cash Back11
Apply
$100 Cash Back11
Discover
More Card*Must be enrolled in college for student card.
Good Credit:
15 mo. 0% intro. rate
15 mo. 0% balance transfer rate
Student:
9 mo. 0% intro. rate
Pricing & TermsApply
Good Credit
Apply
Student
Motiva Card*None
15 mo. 3.99% intro rate
15 mo. 3.99% balance transfer rate
Pricing & TermsApply
Open Road*Must be enrolled in college for student card.
Standard:
15 mo. 0% intro rate
15 mo. 0% balance transfer rate
Student:
9 mo. 0% intro. rate
Pricing & TermsApply
Standard
Apply
Student
Emigrant Direct
World MasterCardNone
6 mo. 0% intro rate
6 mo. 0% balance transfer rate
Pricing & Terms, Rewards Program Apply
Fidelity
Investment Rewards American ExpressNoneNoneFAQ, Rewards Program, Apply to read Pricing & TermsApply
Excellent Credit
Investment Rewards Visa SignatureNoneNoneFAQ, Rewards Program, Apply to read Pricing & TermsApply
Excellent Credit
First National Bank of Omaha
BucksBack Platinum EditionNone6 mo. 0% intro ratePricing & Terms, Rewards ProgramApply
Maximum Rewards Platinum EditionNoneNonePricing & Terms, Rewards ProgramApply
Visa Signature with Maximum RewardsNoneNonePricing & Terms, Rewards ProgramApply
Iberiabank
Visa Gold*None
6 mo. 0% intro. rate
Pricing & Terms, Agreement, EnhancementsApply
Navy Federal Credit Union
cashRewardsCredit union. Must meet eligibility requirements.8None Apply to read Pricing & Terms, Rewards ProgramApply9
Pentagon Federal Credit Union
PenFed Visa Platinum Gas/Cash Rewards*Credit union. Must meet eligibility requirements.6
9.99% intro rate until June 30, 2014
24 month 1.99% balance transfer rate
Pricing & TermsApply7
PNC Bank
CashBuilderNone1.75% cash back for first month.Pricing & TermsApply
Priceline
Priceline Rewards Visa SignatureNone
$50 cash back
15 mo. 0% intro rate
Pricing & Terms, Rewards InfoApply
Quorum Federal Credit Union
Visa Cash BackCredit union. Must be eligible to join.NonePricing & Terms (Apply to read), Rewards InfoApply
Sovereign Bank
Visa Signature / WorldPoints MasterCardNone12 mo. 0% intro ratePricing & Terms, Rewards Info (Apply to read)Apply
TD Bank
Cash Rewards VisaNone
6 mo. 0% intro. rate
Pricing & Terms, Rewards ProgramApply
Union Bank
Maximum Rewards Platinum EditionNoneNonePricing & Terms, Rewards ProgramApply
U.S. Bank
FlexPerks Cash Rewards VisaNone6 mo. 0% intro. ratePricing & TermsApply
Wells Fargo
Cash Back VisaMust be enrolled in college for student card.
Excellent Credit:
6 mo. 0% intro. rate
6 mo. 0% balance transfer rate
Student:
6 mo. 6% - 14% intro. rate
Agreement, Rewards,Agreement (Student), Rewards (Student)Apply
Standard
Apply
Student

Legend

Prerequisites  You might need to meet certain requirements before you can apply for some cash back cards. Fidelity cards require a brokerage account. You must be eligible to join the Pentagon Federal Credit Union before you can apply for their card. Meeting the prerequisites does not guarantee your approval for the reward card; approval is based on your credit history.

Introductory Offer  More often than not, credit card companies offer an enticement to sign up with them. It might be a low or 0% introductory interest rate for a period, a balance transfer with favorable terms or even some cash. An introductory offer could be the deciding factor between two similar cards.

Fine Print  Includes links to cardmember agreements, details on reward programs, required disclosures, Schumer's box, legalese and any other small print the credit card company makes available online. Some companies are more forthcoming than others are.

 

Footnotes

1  You must have excellent credit for CapitalOne Cash. The Cash Rewards for Newcomers and Journey Student Rewards cards offer 1% back to applicants with "Average Credit."

2  Requires an Emigrant Direct American Dream savings account, which is paying 1% interest as of January 11, 2011. The 1.4% cash back rate on the Emigrant Direct World MasterCard requires a $10,000 balance in the savings account.

3  You must spend $100 on the BankAmerica Cash Rewards card in the first 60 days to earn $50 bonus.

6  Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed) is open to members of the military and their families, certain US government agencies and members and volunteers of the American Red Cross. Another option is joining National Military Family Association (NFMA) for a $20 annual fee. It is not necessary to maintain membership in NMFA once PenFed membership is established. Full details are on PenFed's How to Join page.

7  Eligibility to join the PenFed credit union doesn't guarantee you will be approved for the Platinum Rewards Cashback card. Approval is based on your credit worthiness. See footnote 6.

8  Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) is open to members of the armed forces, including the National Guard, Department of Defense employees and family members. See complete details on the NFCU web site.

9  Joining the Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) doesn't guarantee your approval for the cashRewards card. Approval is based on your creditworthiness. See footnote 8.

10  Must spend $500 in the first three months on the Chase Freedom card to qualify for $100 or $200 cash back. Reward shows up 6 to 8 weeks after it is earned.

11  Earn $500 cash back by spending over $5,000 in the first 3 months on your new Citi Dividend World MasterCard. This is a limited time offer.

If that's too rich for you or you missed your chance to apply, the $100 cash back cash back offer only requires you to spend $500 on your Dividend World card in the first three months.

12  Must spend $500 in the first 90 days on the BankAmericard Cash Rewards Visa Signature card to qualify for $250 cash back. Reward appears as statement credit 8 to 12 weeks after it is earned.

13  Must spend $500 in the first 90 days on your CapitalOne Cash card to qualify for $100 cash back.

 

 

 

Talk About It

Do you know of any cash rebate cards we missed? Do you have experiences you'd like to share about a credit card company? Do you have questions about a card or reward program that we didn't answer?

Chime in on our Credit Card Chat page. We'd love to hear from you.

 

Disclosures

* Knowzy has a financial relationship with cards marked with a * and Knowzy may be compensated if you sign up. We appreciate your support.

 

Originally Published:  Sunday, September 12, 2010, 5:00 PM PT

Last Updated:  Wednesday, January 9, 2013, 11:59 AM PT

Version 28

 


 

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