What To Consider While Choosing a Cash Back Credit Card

Editorial Note:

The draw of a cash back credit card is very appealing. You can earn money back at the end of the month from your purchases, in addition to other benefits. The cash back earned is maximized when you pay off your balance each month. We want you to select the best card available for your needs. Use this article to make sure you’re considering the right factors when choosing a cash back credit card.

Decide On the Type of a Cash Back Credit Card

Not all cash back cards are created equally. There are three main varieties of cash back cards, each of which handles cash back differently. You should pick a credit card that matches your purchasing style.

  • Flat-Rate Cash Back Cards

Flat-rate cash back cards are best if you just want your cash back card to work simply. You’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to chase revolving categories or determine which tier a purchase belongs. All you want to do is to make the purchase. For every purchase, a flat-rate cash back card offers the same benefit, usually without an earning cap. The rates may be a little lower on your flat-rate card than on another card. Yet, used for everyday purchases (and paying your bill in full every month), these bonuses can add up.

With a flat-rate card, you should choose a cash back credit card that earns 1.5% or higher. An annual fee would just eat into the cash back benefits, so look for a card without one. Finally, apply for cards which have a sign-up bonus of $100 or more.

  • Tiered Cash Back Cards

Tiered cash back cards are best if you want to get the most out of your frequent purchases. These cards offer higher cash back rates in certain categories while giving lower rates on all other purchases. In many cases, the higher tiers may be capped at a spending limit. If most of your purchases are in a higher rate category, like groceries and gasoline, go for a tiered card. A card that earns 3% on groceries and 2% on gasoline would be more beneficial to you. This would be true up until you hit the spending cap at that level. After this point, all of your purchases in a maxed out category would generate 1% cash back.

If you’re in the market for a tiered card, get one with a top tier of at least 3%. The card’s tiers should match the top two categories that you spend the most in. Your card should either not have an annual fee, or have very high cash back tiers to compensate for it. It should also come with a bonus for signing up of at least $100.

  • Rotating Category Cash Back Cards

Rotating category cash back cards offer high cash back rates for categories that change periodically (usually quarterly). Purchases outside of the specified category qualify for a low flat rate. As is with other high rate cards, the spending in the category is capped. Customers must activate (opt-in) a high rate category before it can be used for the quarter. While this is more work for the customer, it can earn more money.

Rotating category cards work if your annual spending patterns match the featured categories of the cards. This is the only way to maximize the bonuses efficiently. You can boost the effectiveness of the card by using it in conjunction with a flat-rate card for non-featured categories. When selecting a rotating category card, pick a cash-back credit card with no annual fee. Make sure the sign-up bonus is $100 or more. Most importantly, you need to confirm that the feature categories match your spending in terms of type and timing.

Then Consider the Following Factors

Once you have decided which card type(s) you want to apply for, you must assess other factors of the card. This will confirm which card is the most appropriate for your finances and your lifestyle. You should look at:

  • Reward Programs and Rates

What are the requirements of the program? Will your spending in a given category at the top rate be enough to earn substantial rewards? How can you use the remaining cards in your wallet (and their rewards) to strategically increase earnings beyond the cap? These are some of the things you should think about these things before you commit to a card. You must review the credit card terms to see what rules govern the rewards program. In this same agreement, you’ll see the cashback rates stated as well. If the reward program rules are hard for you to follow, choose another program.

  • Annual Fees and APR

While cash-back cards don’t usually charge annual fees, a few of them do. If one of the cards you’re considering charges an annual fee, consider what you’re getting in return. It could be that you’ll use the rewards often enough the fee is barely an inconvenience. You may find the fee is unappealing due to the difficulties you will endure to use the card’s benefits.

Pay attention to the credit card’s APRs. Some cash back cards have 0% or other low APR offers for an introductory period. It is important for you to know what the non-promotional rate is as well. You may not intend to carry a balance, but if you do, it will be subjected to the current APR. Paying interest reduces the effect of cash back.

  • Redemption Options and Flexibility

You can redeem your cash back; it will just be at the convenience of the credit card company. They may only allow you to redeem cash back once it accumulated to a certain amount like $25. You may have to redeem cash back in specific increments. Consider how you’d like to receive cash back. It can come as a statement credit, a bank deposit, a gift card or a check. As the card user, you need to decide if you’re okay getting your cash back on these terms. If not, find a card that allows you to redeem your cash back how you want it.

  • Sign-Up Bonus

You should aim for the highest amount that you can afford to earn. The sign-up bonus should not cost more than you can pay off comfortably during each month of the introductory period. It should not exceed your preplanned spending limit. While the sign-up benefit is more cash in your wallet, remember that it is a one-time payment. Instead, you should consider your long-term card usage and what categories best fit your lifestyle and financial habits.

Choosing a Cash Back Card

Be Careful In Choosing a Cash Back Card

Choosing a cash back credit card should be done with careful thought. You let all the factors listed above guide you in selecting a card that meets your needs. The card’s highest rewards categories should match what you purchase most. If they do not match, or if you want to keep the rewards process simple, get a flat-rate card. Your cash back card can be either your primary credit card or a specialty card to help maximize rewards. With your cash back credit card, keep using your good spending habits. Pay off your monthly bill on time, and keep your utilization low.

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