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Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard Review

Dayana Yochim

Written by Dayana Yochim
Fact-checked by Andrea Coombes
Edited by Carolyn Kimball

February 22, 2024

Why trust us? Investor.com has no financial relationship with any of the credit card providers whose products we analyze and review. Our opinions are based solely on data and our own extensive independent research — that means unbiased guidance for consumers. Rewards cards in our cashback credit card calculator are listed in descending order according to how much money they pay out annually based on the inputs.

Ally’s no-annual-fee, by-invitation-only cashback card offers an easy-peasy 2% cash back on all purchases, but not a lot of extra perks.

It’s likely only a matter of time before Ally rolls out the red carpet to those of us milling about awkwardly on the wrong side of the velvet rope. Until then, only those who have received an invitation — either online or by mail — are eligible to apply for the Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard.

The good news is that other flat-rate unlimited 2% cashback credit cards are standing by to accept applications, no secret handshake required. Two Ally card competitors that scored high are the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card and the PayPal Cashback Mastercard. Like the Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard, neither charges an annual fee. Plus, each offers perks (a welcome bonus at Wells; an elevated 3% cash back when on PayPal card purchases made through its app) that outshine Ally’s current program.

For comparison: Ally also offers a bonus-category card: The Ally Everyday Cash Back Mastercard which pays 3% cash back at gas stations, grocery stores and drugstores, with 1% cash back on everything else. Compare, contrast and judge for yourself: Ally Everyday Cash Back vs. Ally Unlimited Cash Back.

The basics: With the Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard earn unlimited 2% cash back on all your purchases, with no exceptions or expirations. Also available is the Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard for Nurses and Educators.

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Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard

Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard Logo
Cashback Per Year
$...
Annual Fee
$0
Welcome Bonus
N/A
Want to compare more cards? Use our full calculator.

Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard pros and cons

thumb_up_off_alt Pros

  • Unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases
  • No minimum redemption requirements
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No APR hike for tardy payments

thumb_down_off_alt Cons

  • Requires an online or mail-in invitation from Ally to apply
  • No sign-up bonus or 0% intro APR balance transfer offer
  • Lacks extra cardholder perks

Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard cashback rewards spending categories

The following table shows the cashback rewards rate per $1 spent in the six most common spending categories. The “Bonus Rate” refers to the amount you can earn in excess of the card’s standard rewards rate.

Some cashback cards limit the spending amount eligible for the bonus rate (aka the “Spend Cap”). Once you hit that cap (e.g., $1,500 spending in a particular category during a defined time period), the rewards rate on future purchases in that category reverts to the lower “Default Rate.”

Category Default Rate Bonus Rate Bonus Spend Cap Bonus Spend Period (Months)
Gas 2.00% - - -
Travel 2.00% - - -
Dining 2.00% - - -
Entertainment 2.00% - - -
Pharmacy 2.00% - - -
Groceries 2.00% - - -
Other Purchases 2.00% - - -

What we like

Automatic 2% cashback on purchases. The Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard sports a flat-rate rewards structure, versus a tiered-rate card that pays different cashback rates based on spending categories. That makes it ideal for cardholders whose purchases aren’t concentrated in specific reward categories, such as dining and groceries or gas.

Unlimited rewards earning potential. There is no cap on how much you can rack up in cash back.

2% beats 1.5% cash back, obviously. But context is key: The field of cards offering 1.5% cash back is crowded. But I've noticed more cards offering unlimited 2% cash back on everything, which is one of my favorite rewards card setups.

Fuss-free cashback redemption. Ally offers one rewards redemption option: applying the cash back you earn as a statement credit. This is ideal for those who don’t want to fuss with managing points and other more complex rewards programs.

Cashback redemptions have no minimum, unlike its most direct competitor — the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card — which only allows access to rewards cash after you amass $20-$25, depending on the redemption option you choose.

Ally doesn’t penalize cardholders for common slip-ups. Go over your credit limit? No worries, you won’t get hit with an over-the-limit fee. Same deal on returned payments. And if you do make a late payment, Ally won’t hike your interest rate, though you may be assessed a $29 late fee for your first infraction, and up to $40 each time it happens within six billing cycles.

You won’t pay foreign transaction fees when using an Ally credit card overseas or purchasing exotic collectibles from online sellers operating from faraway lands.

We can imagine a time when Ally Bank tosses in some extra perks for customers with deeper connections to the bank. Ally Bank has a full suite of products — it offers loans, checking, savings vehicles (including CDs and a high-yield savings account we review), and investment accounts that are well-suited to mutual fund investors and beginning traders via Ally Invest (see our review on sister site StockBrokers.com).

What we don't like

Not just anyone can apply for an Ally credit card. Ally’s four credit card offerings — Ally Platinum, Ally Everyday Cash Back, Ally Unlimited Cash Back, Ally Unlimited Cash Back for Nurses & Educators — are only available if you’ve received an online or by-mail invitation to apply. Sit tight: Wording on Ally’s website hints that a broader rollout is coming to those of us whose hand-engraved invitation was clearly lost in the mail.

There are currently no sign-up goodies. The Ally Unlimited Cash Back card doesn’t try very hard to gussy up its offering. There is no welcome bonus, 0% intro APR balance transfer offer, or introductory no-interest period on purchases. C’mon, not even a free toaster, Ally?

Just one rewards redemption option is offered — applying the money as a statement credit. Limited redemption options won’t be an issue for most. But you’ll have to look elsewhere if you’re looking for a card that allows you to rack up points, donate the money to charity, or purchase stuff you didn’t know you absolutely needed from the credit card’s version of the SkyMall catalog.

The 4% balance transfer fee (minimum of $5) is on the higher end of what other rewards cards charge. Same with the 5% (or $10 minimum) fee on cash advances.

Offers just Standard Mastercard network benefits — zero liability protection, ID theft protection and Mastercard Global Service for account assistance when traveling. All good, but cards with Mastercard World and World Elite benefits provide extras like cellphone protection, retail partner discounts, and access to travel and concierge services.

The bottom line

Is the Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard the best rewards card for your wallet? The answer depends entirely on your spending patterns. Let the numbers speak for themselves: Use the investor.com Cashback Credit Card Calculator to see which credit card pays back the highest rewards based on how much you spend each month.

Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard fine print

All the specifics — credit line, APR on purchases, balance transfers and cash advances — are revealed once you’re approved for the Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard. General terms and conditions for all Ally credit cards can be found in its cardmember agreement.

Does the Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard charge an annual fee?

No, there is no annual fee for the Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard.

tips_and_updates Trivia time!

Roughly 14% of the consumer cashback cards we track in our database charge an annual fee. The average annual fee is $72.60, while the median is $95.

Does the Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard offer a welcome bonus?

No, the Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard card does not currently offer a welcome bonus.

tips_and_updates Fun fact

Of the more than 60 cashback credit cards in our database, 66% offer a welcome bonus. Currently, the average sign-up bonus on a new cashback card is $210.71, with the median being $200.

How much cash back can I earn with the Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard?

The average American that spends $1000 per month will earn $240.00 in cash back per year using the Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard. For comparison, the average annual rewards payout from the cashback credit cards in the investor.com database is $191.26, and $180 is the median.

These calculations are based on average consumer spending data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the reward payout rates from the providers we track. Of course, you’re so much more than an average data point (aka “consumer unit,” in BLS parlance). The amount you can earn in cashback rewards using the Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard depends entirely on your unique spending habits.

Find out exactly how much you’ll rake in with the Ally Unlimited Cash Back Mastercard by tailoring the spending inputs in the calculator above.

Even more good stuff



Methodology

The results of the investor.com Credit Card Rewards Calculator are based on the monthly spending amounts you enter and the annual dollar value of the rewards each credit card program pays per $1 spent. Credit card companies often express this payout amount as a percentage (e.g., 1.5% of every dollar spent) or on a points basis (e.g. ,1.5 points for every dollar spent). We converted all of them to a dollar amount (“Cash Back Per Year”) to make comparing offers easier.

To calculate the amount of cash back you could earn per year, we factored in:

  • Spend category inputs: The default dollar values for each “Spend Category” in the Best Cashback Credit Cards tool — gas, groceries, travel, restaurant, entertainment, pharmacy, other — are based on average American spending data from the Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. We also include additional spend categories (such as streaming services, online shopping, utilities, transit, Amazon and more) to help you see which rewards cards are most closely aligned with your actual spending patterns. We encourage you to customize the monthly spend inputs for the most accurate results.
  • Tiered rewards rates: If a rewards credit card pays higher cashback rates on certain spending categories (also called “Bonus Rewards”), that difference is reflected in the total “Cash Back Per Year” tally.
  • Rewards spending caps: Some cards impose category- or time-based limits (monthly, quarterly, annually) that affect the amount of rewards you can earn. For example, a card may pay 3% cash back on groceries on up to $1,000 of spending each quarter, then revert to the base/default rewards rate until the following quarter. We accounted for bonus spending caps and timeframe in the calculations.
  • Default rewards rates: Purchases that exceed a spending cap are usually subject to a lower default rewards rate (e.g., 1% or 1.5%). We mathed that out too.
  • Annual fees: If a rewards card charges an annual fee, we deducted that amount from the “Cash Back Per Year” total to provide a true accounting of a card’s annual rewards payout.

What’s not included in the “Cash Back Per Year” total is the cash value of any sign-up/introductory bonus. We highlight any Welcome Bonus separately. While sign-up bonuses can be the most lucrative part of getting a new cashback rewards credit card, not everyone will want or be able to do what it takes to earn the extra cash. (It usually requires spending a certain amount in a specified time period after the card is activated.)

About the Editorial Team

Dayana Yochim
Dayana Yochim

Dayana Yochim has been writing (articles, books, podcasts, stirring speeches) about personal finance and investing for more than two decades, focusing on bringing clarity and the occasional comedic aside to what is often a murky, humorless topic. She’s written for NerdWallet, The Motley Fool, HerMoney.com, Woman’s Day, Forbes, Newsweek and others, and been a guest expert on "Today," "Good Morning America," CNN, NPR and wherever they’ll hand her a mic.

Andrea Coombes
Andrea Coombes

Andrea Coombes has 20+ years of experience helping people reach their financial goals. Her personal finance articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, MarketWatch, Forbes, and other publications, and she's shared her expertise on CBS, NPR, "Marketplace," and more. She's been a financial coach and certified consumer credit counselor, and is working on becoming a Certified Financial Planner. She knows that owning pets isn't necessarily the best financial decision; her dog and two cats would argue this point.

Carolyn Kimball
Carolyn Kimball

Carolyn Kimball is Managing Editor for Reink Media Group and the lead editor for content on investor.com. Carolyn has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at major media outlets including NerdWallet, the Los Angeles Times and the San Jose Mercury News. She specializes in coverage of personal financial products and services, wielding her editing skills to clarify complex (some might say befuddling) topics to help consumers make informed decisions about their money.

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