I really do love credit cards. That’s because I avoid credit card debt like the plague and I like to use rewards to the max. A recent trend I’ve been noticing is that many reward programs (especially hotel and airline programs) are devaluing their rewards. Meaning, they are making it tougher to get certain rewards by either getting rid of them completely or increasing the amount of points you need to get them. Here is a post about the recent devaluation by United Airlines, which will affect travelers trying to travel abroad in first class.
These devaluations can be depressing, especially for those who have been collecting points from a certain program for a long time. Obviously, these companies are trying to save/make more money by making it harder for you and me to reach certain rewards. This means we would have to spend more to get the reward we want. This seems to be the trend as the economy is making companies buckle down and save money any way they can. This does not mean the death of rewards programs by any means, just that we have to be a little more judicious in how we rack up points.
With reward programs not being as valuable as before, cash back cards seem a lot more appealing. It is the simplest type of reward with hardly any hoops to jump through. And it seems they might be capitalizing on that as there are some great cash back cards out there with nice sign up bonuses. I have some experience using all of the cards I’ve listed, and they all have their strong points. Cash back offers are always changing, but these are what I think are the best offers as of December 2013. None of these links are affiliate links, so you can use them or search on your own and it won’t affect me the least bit.
Here are my top 3 cash back card offers:
1. Chase Freedom: Chase Freedom is one of my favorite cards, as it is linked with Chase Ultimate Rewards which can give you cash back as well as gift cards and travel. It has a base cash back rate of 1%. Here are some of the cool features of the Freedom:
-$200 sign up bonus when you spend $500 in the first 3 months. This is for a limited time only as the usual sign up bonus is $100.
-5% cash back on different categories each quarter. They have some pretty good categories on stuff most people already spend money on such as gas, restaurants, Starbucks and Amazon.com. They usually send you an email before each quarter and you just have to do one click to activate that quarter’s bonus. Not that you should, but you can spend a max of $1,500 on the 5% categories each quarter.
-No annual fee
-0% intro APR on the first 15 billing cycles. Helpful if you have a big purchase coming up and you don’t want to go into credit card debt. Just remember to pay it off in full because once the promo rate is over, the interest rate on this card (and most reward cards) is very high.
2. Discover It: Just signed up for this card recently and it has some really good perks. It is my first Discover card EVER. Discover doesn’t usually have great reward cards, but the It is definitely an exception. It has a base cash back rate of 1%, including some of the following features:
-Maximum $150 sign up bonus when you spend $750 in 3 months. You won’t find this bonus by going straight to Discover’s site. Just Google around and you can find affiliate offers with $100 or $150 cash back. The bonus is what made me sign up for the card.
-Similar to Freedom, has rotating 5% cash back categories that need to be activated. It also has a similar max of $1,500 per quarter. There are some pretty good categories like online stores, gas, restaurants and movie theaters.
-No annual fee
-0% into APR for the first 14 months.
3. BankAmericard Priveleges with Cash Rewards: This card kind of goes under the radar, but it has some pretty good benefits. I had to do some digging on the Bank of America website just to find it. It has a base rate of 1% cash back as usual. It also has some other cool perks:
-$100 bonus after making $500 in purchases in the first 3 months.
-2% cash back at grocery stores and 3% cash back at gas stations. There is a $1,500 max per quarter on these categories.
-A cool feature on this card is that if you have your rewards deposited in your Bank of America account, you receive a 50% bonus. So if you have $40 in rewards that you deposit into your account, you will get a $20 bonus on top of that. Not bad at all. If you decide to redeem as a check or statement credit, you don’t get the 50% bonus.
-The major drawback of this card is the $75 annual fee. It is waived in the first year, but after that you have to pay $75 or have at least $50,000 in investment accounts with Merrill Lynch. If you don’t already have that much with ML, not sure this card will be worth it after the first year.
Honorable mention: Capital One Quicksilver: This is the ultimate no nonsense cash back card. No annual fee, no rotating categories. Just plain 1.5% cash back. It also has a $100 bonus if you spend $500 in 3 months, which is what I got it for. For those people who just want to use a card for cash back and not think about it.
There you have it. My favorite cash back cards at the moment. Most reward cards require a pretty clean credit report and a decent credit score. And as always, remember not to get into debt with these. The interest rates are crazy high. Have fun getting cash back!