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When you get your morning latte and bagel, how do you pay for it ⁠— cash or credit? According to a survey from CreditCards.com, while most people in the U.S. still use cash for small purchases, the number of folks opting to swipe a credit card is increasing.

That increase is even more pronounced among rewards credit card holders. The survey noted that 26% of them preferred to use their rewards card for small purchases, which is a 3% increase from last year.

Over 25% of rewards card users pay for small purchases (under $10) with their credit.

Among the rewards credit card holders surveyed, 40% said the reason they might choose cash or a debit card for small purchases was that they were easier or quicker to use than a credit card. However, this is likely to change in upcoming years, as contactless cards and mobile payments become more streamlined and commonplace.

Should You Put Small Purchases on Credit Cards for Rewards?

Cash and credit cards each come with their own set of perks and downsides. Using cash for small purchases might keep your budget in line, but you also miss out on potential rewards. Additionally, tracking expenses for self-run businesses is easier with a credit card.

From the survey, 24% of respondents who hold rewards credit cards relied on cash because they feared credit card debt. It’s a valid concern. It can be easier to rack up debt when putting small purchases on your credit card.

For example, a $5 latte each morning and a $9 sandwich for lunch doesn’t seem significant, but after a month of work, you’ll have a $280 bill. If you are unable to pay off your balance in full each month, then what you pay in interest voids any rewards earned with your card.

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On the other side, credit cards come with an added layer of protection that debit cards still lack. If you use your debit card at a shady gas station, those $10 purchases could end up costing you a few hundred dollars if your info gets into the wrong hands.

Banks will work with you to reverse fraudulent charges, but sometimes this can take days or weeks. And in the meantime, your main source of money is tied up. When your credit card is compromised, you’re able to report fraudulent spending immediately, and you will not be responsible for the charges. Your bank account remains untouched.

So, should you use a rewards credit card for purchases under $10? Ultimately, the answer is yes. But that’s only if you can pay off your balance and avoid late fees. And you should especially consider always using a credit card when shopping online or at establishments you don’t fully trust.

Best Credit Cards for Small Purchases

If you are going to use a credit card for small purchases, then choose one that rewards your spending. For example, if you spend more money on food than anything else, look for a card that gives the most cash back for grocery stores and dining expenses like takeout and delivery. For many shoppers, the following cards will offer the most rewards for all types of spending.

Citi Rewards+® Card

This product is currently not available via Slickdeals.

  • Our Rating 4.0/5 Read the review
  • APR17.74% – 27.74% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee$0
  • 20,000 20,000Citi ThankYou Points More Info

    Earn 20,000 bonus points after you spend $1,500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening Dollar Equivalent: $360 (20,000 Citi ThankYou Points * 0.018 base)

This is a unique Citi card from our partner Citi that earns ThankYou points, all for no annual fee. Your purchases will automatically round up to the nearest 10 points, making every little purchase count.

Overview

The Citi Rewards+ Card,  from our partner Citi, may be ideal for people who want to earn cash-back rewards for everyday spending, but do not want to pay an annual fee. It’s also a strong option for people who make frequent small purchases, since this credit card rounds each purchase to the nearest 10 points — even buying a $0.75 candy bar will earn you 10 points.

Pros

  • Great for small purchases: All transactions round up to the nearest 10 points
  • Get 10% of your redeemed points back each year (for the first 100,000 points redeemed annually)
  • No annual fee

Cons

  • 3% foreign transaction fee, don’t use this card abroad if you don’t have to

Citi® Double Cash Card

Citi Double Cash

This product is currently not available via Slickdeals.

  • Our Rating 4.5/5 Read the review
  • APR18.24% – 28.24% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee$0

The Citi® Double Cash Card, from our partner Citi, offers attractive and uncomplicated cash back for people who value a flexible credit card reward program.

Overview

The Citi Double Cash Card, from our partner Citi, offers attractive and uncomplicated cash back for people who value a flexible credit card reward program. The Citi Double Cash Card gives you the chance to earn 2% cash back on your purchases. You can receive 1% cash back when you make a purchase and an additional 1% cash back once you pay your bill.

Pros

  • No category bonuses to remember, unlimited 2% cash back on everything
  • Earns ThankYou Points, which gives the potential to unlock valuable travel rewards

Cons

  • Foreign transaction fees are applied
  • Limited perks

Chase Freedom Flex℠

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Secure application on issuer’s website

  • Our Rating 4.5/5 Read the review
  • APR19.24% – 27.99% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee$0
  • $200 $200Cash Bonus More Info

    Receive a $200 bonus after you spend $500 in the first three months.

The Chase Freedom Flex card is an excellent cash-back credit card for people who are looking to maximize rewards. Cardmembers can take advantage of 5% cash back on rotating categories, 5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% back on dining, including takeout and delivery, 3% back on drugstore purchases and 1% back on everything else.

Overview

Getting more in cash back is a clear win for anyone who is considering the Freedom Flex card. This card is ideal for anyone who want to maximize cash-back rewards with the option to get more value with travel redemptions.

Pros

  • Generous earnings on select rotating categories each quarter
  • Cellphone and trip insurance coverage
  • No annual fee
  • Ability to convert rewards to transferable Ultimate Rewards points

Cons

  • Can’t transfer Chase points to travel partners unless paired with select products

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

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Secure application on issuer’s website

  • Our Rating 4.5/5 Read the review
  • APR19.24% – 27.99% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee$0
  • 1.5% 1.5%Extra Cash Back More Info

    Earn 1.5% bonus cash back (up to $20,000 in purchases) during your first year. Worth up to $300 in cash back.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® card has been one of the top cash-back credit cards since it first came on the scene, with an easy 1.5x return on almost everything. It’s especially useful since it earns versatile Ultimate Rewards points.

Overview

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card is unique for a couple of important reasons. First, it comes with purchase protection and extended warranty protection you don’t see with some other no-fee cash-back cards. Second, you earn cash back in the form of points (Chase Ultimate Rewards) when paired with another annual-fee earning Chase product, you can get even more value if you love to travel by transferring to partners.

That’s because while the Freedom cards are marketed as cash-back credit cards, they actually offer points. You can use those points to book travel through Chase at a rate of 1 cent per point. But if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® or Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you’ll get 25% and 50% more value on those travel redemptions, respectively. (Plus, the ability to transfer your points, too.)

 

Pros

  • No category bonuses to remember; earn at least 1.5% back on everything
  • No annual fee
  • Generous travel and purchase protection benefits

Cons

  • Can’t transfer Chase points unless paired with another annual-fee Chase product

Credit cards have a reputation for causing people to go into debt. Yet the idea that opening credit cards is a bad financial choice isn’t fair or accurate. You get to decide how you will use your credit cards, just as you get to decide how you’ll use the money in your bank account.

Our card roundups help people maximize their credit card rewards earnings for planned, everyday spending. Here are a few to get you started:

If you feel confident that you can manage your credit cards responsibly (paying on time and in full every month), your accounts can be an asset instead of a burden. A well-managed credit card may help you to establish better credit scores over time and can help you take advantage of some amazing rewards.

RT

Ryan Tronier

Ryan Tronier is a personal finance expert and writer. His work has been published on NBC, ABC, USATODAY, The Mortgage Reports, Yahoo Finance, MSN, and more. Ryan is the former managing editor of the finance website Sapling, as well as the former personal finance editor at Slickdeals. Find him online at ryantronier.com.