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Q: Good cash-back credit cards?

dealwagger
10
I am shopping around for a good cash-back credit card; I plan on applying for one next summer. I don't like annual fees but the APR hardly matters to me since I've never paid interest on a credit card in my life (yes, it builds my credit slower). 

Anyone have suggestions? TIA!
dealwagger posted May 04, 2012
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5 Comments
erick99
These folks seem to have done a good job for spring 2012.
erick99 (rep: 16.8k) posted May 04, 2012
10
dealwagger
Thanks erick99!
dealwagger (rep: 10.2k) posted May 04, 2012
00
fluffy
Chase Freedom is my favorite, followed by Discover More. In addition to cash back on every purchase, both have categories like Groceries, Restaurants, Travel, etc. that change quarterly which earn 5% cash back. Both cards require you to "activate" these bonus categories via their web site every quarter, otherwise you'll get only the standard cash back. Discover will only give you bonus earnings from the date of activation, while Chase Freedom works retroactively to the start of the bonus period, even if you activate on the last possible day.

You earn a minimum of 1% on every purchase with Chase Freedom, while Discover More uses a tiered rate outside of the bonus categories. You have to spend around $3000/year just to earn a full 1% on non-bonus purchases with Discover, and that 1% is only on the amount over $3000/year. You earn a fraction of a percent in a couple of tiers before that. The tiers don't apply to bonus categories. You earn the stated percent bonus regardless of your yearly spending.

Chase has the "Ultimate Rewards Mall" and Discover has "Shop Discover" which give you additional bonus earnings for online purchases when you go to the retailer through the respective card's web site, kind of like Ebates. Both have sabotaged using their bonus sites in conjunction with many other discount links. You used to be able to get away with using both Ebates and one of these sites, or E-mailed discount links, but many of these don't work together any more, so you have to see what gives you the bigger discount.

Of course Amazon't Visa card earns you 3% on all Amazon purchases and at least 1% elsewhere, so that's good to have if you do a lot of shopping there.

I also have the Costco Amex card, one of the few cash-back Amex cards with no fee other than Costco's membership fee. It always earns at least 1%, but gives 2% on travel and 3% on gas year round, but only pays out once a year. If you cancel your membership or the card, you'll lose any accumulated cash back.

Cash back cards almost universally have limits on how much you can earn on the bonus categories. Both Chase Freedom and Discover More typically give you the bonus rate only on up to $1500 in spending each quarter. Costco Amex gives you 3% on all gas purchases up to $3000/year, beyond that you still earn 1%.

Chase Freedom and Discover from time to time Email their cardholders additional short term bonus offers, such as for paying cellular, cable, or insurance bills, or a bonus for all purchases during your birthday month. I once got $100 with such an offer from Chase just for paying my car insurance with their card.

I guess the take away from all of this is that you really have to keep aware of which card is currently doing what to maximize your cash back.
fluffy (rep: 2.17k) posted May 04, 2012
30
bbattag
Ive always used Chase Freedodm and have been happy with it. Their customer service has always been good too.

I also like that you can often use your points for discounted giftcards. For example, I recently got $10 amazon giftcards for $9 worth of points. And I got AMC giftcards for $8 worth of points.

These point "specials" come and go, but they do have some good deals
bbattag (rep: 6.74k) posted May 04, 2012
10
dealwagger
Thanks, fluffy and bbattag. I also like that Chase Freedom is a VISA card, because I've noticed that is accepted most anywhere while Discover is not.
dealwagger (rep: 10.2k) posted May 04, 2012
00