January 23, 2024
Since 2018 investor.com has served Americans as a trusted resource for researching, comparing and vetting financial advisors and products. As a Certified B Corp™, we adhere to the high verified standards of social and environmental performance and public transparency. Consumer advocacy comes first in every review and guide we produce.
An important part of investor.com’s mission is shining a spotlight on industry standouts through our Annual Awards.
Based on our meticulous year-round data collection and rewards program analysis by our on-staff subject matter experts, the investor.com Annual Awards recognize credit card providers that help push the industry forward while delivering excellent value to U.S. consumers across a variety of rewards card categories (further detail below). Read more about how we test.
Leading our credit card awards selection team is industry veteran and investor.com Senior Writer Dayana Yochim. She has been a financial journalist for more than 25 years, covering banking and investing products and services. Read more about Dayana.
Our congratulations to this year’s winners of the investor.com Annual Awards for cashback credit cards.
Consumer Credit Card Awards
#1 No-Fee, No-Hassle Cashback Card
Winner: Wells Fargo Active Cash Card
Methodology: This award recognizes the no-annual-fee credit card that makes it exceedingly easy for cardholders to earn a competitive cashback rate on all purchases without requiring active hands-on card management. The “no-hassle” requirement meant cards with complex reward structures (e.g., rotating bonus categories; opt-in requirements) were not eligible for the award. “No-fee” meant cards that charged an annual fee were excluded. The winner delivers the highest total rewards value based on annual cashback earning potential for the average consumer. We also considered additional card features, such as the size and spending requirements to earn a welcome bonus and terms of any 0% interest offer for cardholders.
"A flat-rate, unlimited cashback card is a fantastic choice for consumers looking for an unfussy cashback card — as in, no reward spending tiers to manage or earnings caps to track. The Wells Fargo Active Cash Card offers all that and more. The low spending requirement to snag its welcome bonus, lengthy intro 0% APR period on purchases and balance transfers, and bounty of reward redemption options helped Wells Fargo rise above the competition." — Dayana Yochim, Senior Writer, investor.com
#1 5% Rotating Rewards Category Card
Winner: Chase Freedom Flex
Methodology: For this award we focused on programs that offered cardholders the opportunity to earn an elevated cashback rate of 5% or higher on a rotating roster of spending categories on an opt-in or automatic enrollment basis. We evaluated past bonus categories to ensure that they applied to an average cardholder (e.g. not too nichey; included multiple choices). We also took into account the cashback rates paid out on permanent/non-rotating spending categories, as well as sign-up bonuses and other card features.
#1 Customizable Cashback Card
Methodology: Otherwise known as the “choose-your-own rewards category card,” this award recognizes the credit card that offers the greatest flexibility for consumers seeking to maximize their rewards-earning potential each month. We looked for the card that offered the widest array of bonus category choices and the freedom for customers to easily switch in and out of bonus categories based on their spending plans.
#1 Unlimited 2% Cashback Card
Winner: Wells Fargo Active Cash Card
Methodology: Among the handful of providers marketing flat-rate 2% cashback credit cards with no annual fee — a great choice for hands-off cardholders that don’t want the bother of tracking reward spending categories — the winner was chosen based on the value of additional cardholder perks on offer (e.g. a welcome bonus, limited-time 0% APR offer on purchases, access to premium benefits).
#1 No-Hassle 5% Cashback Card
Winner: Citi Custom Cash Card
Methodology: The top pick in this category offers cardholders an effortless way to earn a high cashback rate (5%) on their highest-dollar monthly purchases. Only cards that automatically applied the rate to qualifying purchases were considered. (Cards that required users to opt in to earn the bonus rate were not eligible due to the “hassle factor.”) We assessed cards based on their lineup of eligible bonus categories, favoring those that rewarded purchases the average household makes (e.g. gas, groceries, dining, etc.).
"Because the Citi Custom Cash Card’s 5% cashback rate applies to only the first $500 you spend in a single spending category per month, you’ll want to be strategic about when to play the card. Consider making it your go-to card for groceries or gas, for example, and using another rewardier card — one that pays more than Citi’s 1% base cashback rate — for all other purchases." — Dayana Yochim, Senior Writer, investor.com
#1 Cashback Card for Foodies
Winner: Capital One SavorOne Rewards
Methodology: Here’s our recipe for the best cashback card for foodies: 1. Tasty reward rates on food-related purchases for home chefs (groceries) and fine/fast-food diners (restaurants), 2. Hearty portions (no reward spending caps/limitations), and 3. Drool-worthy extras, like access to exclusive gastronomical experiences for gourmand cardholders. For this award we chose a card that delivered all three on a platter while charging no annual fee.
Because a lot of other dining cards shortchange the "grocery" category rewards rate, we like that the SavorOne card offers an unlimited 3% cash back on both. Chow down to your heart’s content; no bonus caps here! — investor.com Best Credit Cards for Foodies Guide
#1 Cashback Card for Date-Nighters
Winner: Capital One Savor Rewards
Methodology: This award highlights the cashback card that delivers swoon-worthy unlimited rewards on classic date-night activities — dinner (dining purchases, including takeout) and a movie (entertainment purchases). Extras, like access to memorable experiences (concert tickets; help with hard-to-get reservations) and a sign-up bonus, were also considered.
#1 Cashback Card for Home Chefs
Methodology: The average consumer spends roughly $200 a month on groceries, with many households far exceeding that amount. This award recognizes the card with an industry-leading default cashback rate on grocery store purchases.
"If you spend an average of $500 or less per month on groceries, the Blue Cash Preferred Amex is a great go-to card for all of your supermarket shopping trips. The 6% cashback rate on groceries handily beats the 3% many other rewards cards pay out in this category." — Dayana Yochim, Senior Writer, investor.com
#1 Cashback Card for Road Warriors
Methodology: Contenders for this award were evaluated primarily on the card’s default cashback rate on gas purchases. Issuers that required cardholders to opt-in to the gas spending category to earn an elevated rewards rate were not considered. Other factors included annual gas reward spending caps and card eligibility requirements.
The PNC Cash Rewards Visa is engineered with drivers in mind. The top 4% bonus tier applies to gas purchases. The card’s 3% cashback rate on dining is handy for pit stops, and 2% on groceries covers you when stocking up on staples for your destination Airbnb. — investor.com Best Gas Rewards Cards Guide
#1 Cashback Card for EV Drivers
Winner: Sam’s Club Mastercard
Methodology: With this award, we celebrate credit card issuers that reward environmentally conscientious drivers on the cost of charging an electric vehicle (EV). EV charging must be a permanent (e.g. non-rotating) cashback category, apply to charging stations across the U.S., and with a rewards rate equal to or greater than what’s offered on gas station purchases. To pick the winner, we calculated the annual reward potential, factoring in reward spending caps in the EV charging category and any annual fees.
#1 Everyday Essentials Cashback Card
Methodology: For this award we looked for a top-of-wallet rewards card offering competitive cashback rates on common, everyday purchases. A few requirements: no need to opt in to earn the bonus rate, a high annual reward spending cap (if applicable), and no annual fee. Extra credit was awarded to providers that offered new cardholders generous sign-up goodies.
#1 Most Generous Year-One Rewards Card
Winner: Discover it Cash Back
Methodology: This award recognizes the credit card that pays new cardholders the most generous and easy-to-earn bonus on top its standard cashback program. The absence of a minimum spending requirement to earn bonus cash is what set the winner apart from the also-rans — meaning all cardholders benefit from the offer, regardless of how they use the card during the bonus rewards period. This is why we did not consider welcome bonuses when evaluating contenders for this award, since the majority of welcome bonuses are paid out only after cardholders spend a certain amount within a set timeframe.
#1 Healthy Habits Rewards Card
Winner: Citi Double Cash Card
Methodology: This award is designed to recognize the credit card that incentivizes healthy financial habits. Up for consideration were cards that pay a higher cashback rate when cardholders use earnings to pay down debts or deposit money in savings. Easy redemption rules, unlimited earning potential (no rewards caps) and other card features were analyzed to choose the winner.
#1 Cashback Card for Credit Builders
Winner: Petal 2 Visa Card
Methodology: Rewards credit cards often have higher approval standards than non-rewards cards, preventing countless consumers with thin credit files or less-than-sparkling bill payment histories from accessing this valuable savings tool. This award highlights the card that best serves this market. We considered factors such as approval requirements that went beyond an applicant’s credit score (e.g., an applicant’s banking and savings history), potential fees (such as annual, late- or returned-payment fees), cashback rates, the availability of credit tracking/management tools, and if/how cardholders could qualify over time for better terms (such as higher rewards rates, increased line of credit).
#1 Cashback Card for Military
Methodology: Although standard reward cards are useful for members of the armed forces and civilians alike, this award highlights the cashback card that provides features and benefits designed specifically for those in the military and their families. In addition to cashback rates and reward redemption options, we evaluated card fees ($0 foreign transaction fees are a must for those traveling or based overseas), travel benefits, and built-in cardholder protections.
#1 Bank Loyalty Rewards Card
Methodology: Brand loyalty has its rewards — specifically, elevated cashback rates for cardholders who have a deeper banking relationship with a single institution (e.g., checking, savings and investment accounts). For this award we focused only on cashback cards that offered loyalty incentives for bank customers. We calculated reward booster rates (using average cardholder spending data), ease of meeting preferred status requirements, and the availability and value of other card features.
"A 25% to 75% cashback rate booster is B of A’s way of saying, ‘Thanks for letting us handle your other saving and investing needs!’ You’ll want to aim for achieving Platinum Tier status in the bank’s Preferred Rewards program for the bumped up rate to really start paying off. At that level the card’s 1.5% unlimited cashback rate shoots up to a double-take-worthy 2.25%. If the $50,000 minimum account balance requirement to qualify Platinum-level rates seems heady at first, consider that eligibility is based on your combined balances in both Bank of America deposit accounts and Merrill Edge investment accounts." — Dayana Yochim, Senior Writer, investor.com
#1 Credit Union Cashback Card
Methodology: Rewards cards issued by credit unions are an attractive option for consumers looking beyond offerings from traditional for-profit banks. Because these nonprofit cooperatives have membership requirements, we narrowed the pool of award candidates to those that consumers across the country could easily join. As with all of our awards, cashback earning potential — from both bonus rates and base/default rates — was the main data point we considered.
"The 2.5% cashback rate on Alliant’s credit card doesn’t just stand out among cards offered by its fellow credit unions; it handily outshines nearly every other flat-rate rewards card out there." - Dayana Yochim, Senior Writer, investor.com
#1 Cashback Card for Couch Potatoes
Methodology: With this award, investor.com celebrates the credit card that prioritizes in-home entertainment purchases within its rewards program, paying die-hard binge watchers an exceptional cashback rate on streaming, cable TV and satellite services.
"For those who identify as ‘immersive entertainment marathoners’ (raises hand), BMO Harris Bank Cashback Mastercard’s 5% cashback rate on binge-watching essentials takes some of the sting out of adding yet another must-see channel to the viewing menu. It also pays a respectable 3% on gas and groceries, but pro couch potatoes may want to reserve the card solely for streaming costs to stay well below the quarterly rewards spending cap." — Dayana Yochim, Senior Writer, investor.com
Business Credit Card Awards
#1 Cashback Card for Small Businesses
Winner: Chase Ink Business Cash Card
Methodology: To crown the winner of the best rewards card for small-business owners, we looked for a provider that offered an exceptional cashback rate on essential work-related expenses (e.g., connectivity charges and office supplies), competitive rewards on secondary bonus categories, above-average sign-up incentives (a sizeable welcome bonus and 0% APR on new purchases), and a compelling rewards redemption program. We also took into account reward spending caps to eliminate cards with caps so low that the average small business would have limited cashback earning potential.
#1 2% Unlimited Cashback Business Card
Methodology: Requirements for winning this award include unlimited rewards earning potential (i.e., no rewards spending caps), a competitive flat cashback rate that applies to all purchases, multiple redemption options, and no annual fee.
"What makes the TD Business Solutions Credit Card stand out among other 2% cashback cards is that it doesn’t cap the amount of cash back cardholders are eligible to make. Unlimited rewards-earning potential — and a competitive welcome bonus — make it a compelling offer for small businesses seeking a simple and profitable cashback card." - Dayana Yochim, Senior Writer, investor.com
#1 No-Hassle Small Business Rewards Card
Methodology: For small-business owners already juggling a lot, a flat-rate cashback credit card (which pays the same rewards rate on all purchases, regardless of spending category) is the ultimate no-hassle solution for earning money back on every expense put on plastic. This award recognizes the no-annual-fee credit card that pays a competitive cashback rate on all purchases without requiring active hands-on card management. The winner’s no-hassle reward redemption setup — earnings are automatically applied as a statement credit — helped it snag the win.
#1 Business Rewards Card for Credit Builders
Methodology: This award is focused on the cashback business card that provides higher approval odds for applicants with limited or less-than-stellar credit histories. (The consumer profile for someone with “fair credit” is defined as someone with less than three years of reported credit activity and no loan defaults within the past five years.) We took into account that reward cards aimed at credit builders tend to pay out lower cashback rates and lack extras like welcome bonuses. Therefore, our criteria for judging contenders focused on low card fees, flexible payment terms, and access to additional network benefits.
#1 Most Flexible Business Rewards Card
Methodology: For small businesses with expenses that vary from month to month, a cashback card that offers a flexible rewards program is a must. For this award we assessed candidates based on the number and range of bonus categories on offer, the frequency with which cardholders were permitted to adjust them to align with spending needs, and cashback rates on permanent (non-adjustable) rewards categories. New cardholder offers (0% intro APR; a welcome bonus) were also award factors.
"The ‘customized’ in the card name of this tiered rewards business card means you get to decide each month which one of six business-y spending categories will earn 3% cashback. That’s great for strategizers who want to rack up maximum rewards by switching categories when your spending needs shift (e.g., travel one month, computer services the next)." — investor.com Bank of America Business Advantage Customized Cash Rewards review
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