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Cash-Back Credit Card Bonuses: Up to $750 Cash in October 2021

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Biggest Cash-Back Credit Card Bonuses in October 2021

Cash-Back CardCash-Back BonusBonus EligibilityAnnual Fee
Chase Freedom Flex℠ Card$200Spend $500 during the first 3 months of account opening$0
Chase Freedom Unlimited® card$200Spend $500 during the first 3 months of account opening$0
Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card$750Spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening$0
Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card$750Spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening$0
American Express Cash Magnet® Card$200 statement creditSpend $1,000 or more in purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.$0
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express$200 statement creditSpend $1,000 or more in purchases on the Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.$0
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express$300 statement creditspend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months.$95
Capital One® Quicksilver® Card$200Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.$0
Capital One® Savor® Rewards Card$300Earn a one-time $300 cash bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.$95
Capital One® SavorOne® Rewards Card$200Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.$0

>> Review the methodology our credit card experts use to determine the best credit products in various categories.

Cash-back credit cards offer some of the most valuable benefits consumers can want. Their rewards are extremely flexible — you can use cash for just about anything — and many of the best cash-back credit cards don’t charge an annual fee, including the popular Citi® Double Cash Card. And, if you’re looking for an introductory 0% APR promotion for new purchases or balance transfers, you’re more likely to get it with one with a popular cash-back credit card than with a card that offers points or miles.

Finding the best rewards credit card for you can be time-consuming if you don’t know where to look. To help, we’ve put together a list of the best cash-back credit cards to make it easier to narrow down your search. There’s no one credit card out there that’s best for everyone. The right one for you depends on your preferences and spending habits. Here are our top choices:


Chase Freedom Flex℠ Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $0
Bonus: $200
APR: Variable APR After Intro 0% APR Period
Rewards Rate: 1%-5% Cash Back
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $0

Intro APR: New cardholders can enjoy an introductory 0% APR on purchases for the first 15 months.

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness. See terms for details.

Rewards Rate: Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent each quarter in rotating categories (when you activate), 5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% back on dining, including takeout and delivery, 3% back at drugstores and 1% back on everything else.

Sign-Up Bonus: Receive a $200 bonus after you spend $500 in the first three months. Additionally, receive 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target and Walmart) on up to $12,000 during the first year.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? People who want to maximize cash-back rewards with the option to get more value with travel redemptions.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Chase Freedom Flex® Card

We love that the Chase Freedom Flex card expands on an already lucrative offering from Chase. The original Chase Freedom card was already a solid choice for cash-back enthusiasts, and this one raises the bar.

The Freedom Flex also gives cardholders access to Chase Ultimate Rewards, which is arguably the most versatile credit card rewards platform available. You’ll get plenty of redemption options at good rates. Plus, if you have one of the program’s travel credit cards, you can transfer points from your Chase Freedom Flex to your travel card account and get even more value and flexibility with how you redeem.

For a cash-back credit card, the sign-up bonus is already impressive, but add the grocery store bonus and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better offer with no annual fee attached.

Why We Like the Chase Freedom Flex Bonus

We love that the Chase Freedom Flex card expands on an already lucrative offering from Chase. The original Chase Freedom® card was already a solid choice for cash-back enthusiasts, and this one raises the bar. As a new cardholder, you’ll also earn a $200 sign-up bonus after you spend $500 in the first three months. Additionally, you will get 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. Read our Chase Freedom Flex Card review.

Chase Freedom Flex Benefits

The Chase Freedom Flex card is an excellent cash-back credit card for people who are looking to maximize rewards. Cardholders can take advantage of its excellent rewards rate: 5% cash back on rotating categories when you activate (up to $1,500 each quarter), 5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% back on dining, including takeout and delivery, 3% back at drugstores and 1% back on other purchases. New cardholders can also take advantage of a 0% APR on purchases for the first 15 months with the card (balance transfers are not included in this offer). Plus, receive a complimentary DashPass subscription for three months on DoorDash and Caviar. The Chase Freedom Flex offers all of this without any annual fee.

Credit needed: Good, excellent.


Chase Freedom Unlimited® card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $0
Bonus: $200
APR: Variable APR After Intro 0% APR Period
Rewards Rate: 1.5%-5% Cash Back
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $0

Intro APR: This card allows new cardholders to save money with an introductory 0% interest rate on new purchases for the first 15 months of account opening.

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: Earn 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% back at drugstores and on dining purchases (including takeout and eligible delivery services) and 1.5% back on everything else.

Sign-Up Bonus: New cardholders can receive $200 in cash after spending $500 within the first three months of account opening. Additionally, earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases up to $12,000 spent during the first year. Note that big box retailers including Target and Walmart do not qualify for this bonus category.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? Households that prioritize cash-back rewards for everyday spending and Chase loyalists who are looking to maximize Ultimate Rewards earnings.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Chase Freedom Unlimited® Card

You don’t need excellent credit to get the Chase Freedom Unlimited. In fact, many cardholders report getting approved with good credit. We like that the card offers a high flat rewards rate but also provides accelerated rewards on some common everyday spending categories. You’ll also get access to the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, which allows you to use your cash-back earnings for travel rewards, gift cards and more.

And that sign-up bonus? It’s pretty easy to reach the spending requirements, assuming that you can spend $500 in purchases within the first three billing cycles. Add the fact that there’s a 0% introductory APR for 15 months, bonus rewards on grocery store purchases during the first year and no annual fee, and you’ll see why the Chase Freedom Unlimited is among our favorite flat-rate cards.

Why We Like the Chase Freedom Unlimited Bonus

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card is a great all-around card with no annual fee. New cardholders can take advantage of its big $200 sign-up bonus and an introductory 0% APR on purchases for the first 15 months. Read our Chase Freedom Unlimited Card review.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Benefits

This card earns a rewards rate of 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% back at drugstores, 3% back on dining, including takeout and eligible delivery services and a flat-rate 1.5% back on other purchases. There are no rotating categories to track, caps on how much you can earn or excluded purchase categories. Additionally, the Freedom Unlimited awards 5% cash back on grocery store purchases up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

The card also allows new cardholders to save money with an introductory 0% interest rate on purchases for the first 15 months of account opening. However, balance transfers are not eligible for this introductory offer. Plus, receive a complimentary DashPass subscription for three months on DoorDash and Caviar. The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers all of this without any annual fee.

Credit needed: Good, excellent.


Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $0
Bonus: $750
APR: Variable APR After Intro 0% APR Period
Rewards Rate: 1%-5% Cash Back
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $0

Intro APR: New accounts enjoy an introductory 0% APR for purchases during the first 12 months.

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: You earn an amazing 5% cash back on your first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year. That can add up to 125,000 points per account year. It also offers you 2% cash back on your first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year.

Sign-Up Bonus: This card offers you $750 in cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases within three months of account opening. The $750 bonus comes in the form of 75,000 Ultimate Rewards points, which can be redeemed for cash, gift cards or travel.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? Small business owners and sole proprietors who want flexibility in their credit card rewards

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card
The Ink Business Cash is legendary for its offer of 5% cash back for purchases at office supply stores and on many telecommunications services, with no annual fee. And while 5% cash back sounds great, these rewards can be much more valuable when paired with another Chase credit card that allows transfers to airline miles or hotel points. In addition to earning excellent cash-back rewards, it also includes competitive introductory offers and provides cards for employees at no additional charge.

This an incredibly valuable card for anyone who owns a small business and makes frequent purchases at office supply stores, which can include furniture, electronics, school supplies, gift cards and printing services. The Ink Business Cash is also a great card to use when paying for your internet service, phone bill or television service. It might not seem like much, but earning 5x rewards on these bills every month will add up to serious rewards very quickly. You earn one point per dollar spent elsewhere.

Why We Like the Ink Business Cash Credit Card Bonus

The Ink Business Cash Card is a great option for entrepreneurs of all types. The $750 cash bonus comes in the form of 75,000 Ultimate Rewards points. As a new cardholder, get $750 in bonus cash back when you make $7,500 worth of purchases within the first three months of account opening. Earn an impressive rewards rate of 5% cash back on select business purchases. These include the first $25,000 you spend each account anniversary year at office supply stores and on phone, cable and internet services. The card also offers 2% cash back on up to $25,000 in combined purchases at restaurants and gas stations. You’ll earn 1% cash back on virtually all other purchases.

Ink Business Cash Credit Card Benefits

The rewards points you earn from this card are worth one cent each as either cash back or another option such as a gift card. But you can potentially earn much more if you also have another Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards points by transferring your rewards into miles with Chase’s 10 airline partners or into points with its three hotel programs. And when you can redeem their points and miles for expensive flights or hotel reservations, they can be worth far more than a penny each.

Other travel benefits include an auto rental collision damage waiver, travel and emergency assistance and roadside dispatch. Additionally, this no-annual-fee card offers an introductory 0% APR during the first 12 months of account opening on new purchases (balance transfers are excluded from this intro APR offer). Read our full review of this card.

Credit needed: Good, excellent.


Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $0
Bonus: $750
APR: Variable APR After Intro 0% APR Period
Rewards Rate: 1.5% Cash Back
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $0

Intro APR: New accounts enjoy an introductory 0% APR for purchases during the first 12 months.

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: This card offers 1.5 cents (as 1.5 Ultimate Rewards® points) per dollar spent on all purchases, with no limits.

Sign-Up Bonus: This card offers you $750 in cash back in the form of 75,000 Ultimate Rewards® points after you spend $7,500 on new purchases within three months of account opening.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? This is a valuable card for those who aren’t interested in bonus categories, or for those who are, but want a separate card just for purchases that don’t qualify for a bonus.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card

Here’s a card that you can use to earn a strong rate of return on all of your business purchases, with no annual fee. The Ink Business Unlimited is technically a cash-back card, but the rewards can be transferred to travel partners when you have another qualifying Chase card that offers this feature. If you want cash back that you can drive back into your business or use for personal expenses, this card could be a great option.

The card has no annual fee but offers an incredible $750 cash bonus after you spend $7,500 in the first three months. You’ll also earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make.

Additionally, if you have some purchases coming up and need some time to pay them off, the card’s 0% APR on purchases for 12 months can help you save a lot on interest. And, if you need employee cards, you can get them at no additional charge.

Why We Like the Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card Bonus

Here’s a card that you can use to earn a strong rate of return on all of your small business purchases. The card has no annual fee but offers an incredible $750 cash bonus after you spend $7,500 in the first three months. The $750 cash bonus comes in the form of 75,000 Ultimate Rewards points. The Ink Business Unlimited also doesn’t allow point transfers by itself, but the points can be combined with rewards from other Chase accounts that do allow transfers. It also has travel benefits including an auto rental collision damage waiver, travel and emergency assistance and roadside dispatch. You’ll also earn a rewards rate of 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card Benefits

This this no-annual-fee card does not feature a special or promotional balance transfer APR. Instead, it offers an introductory 0% interest rate on new purchases made during the first 12 months of account opening. So if you have some business-related purchases coming up and need some time to pay them off, the card’s intro 0% APR can help you save a lot on interest. And, if you need employee cards, you can get them at no additional charge.

Credit needed: Excellent


Best American Express Cash-Back Credit Card Bonuses

Cash Back CardWelcome Bonus†Bonus EligibilityAnnual Fee
American Express Cash Magnet® Card$200 statement creditSpend $1,000 or more in purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.$0
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express$200 statement creditSpend $1,000 or more in purchases on the Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.$0
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express$300 statement creditspend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months.$95

† Welcome bonuses are awarded in the form of a statement credit.

American Express offers some of the best cash rewards credit cards on the market. While it offers many co-branded airline and hotel credit cards, its flagship credit cards offer some of the best value you can get. In fact, two of Amex’s flagship credit cards don’t charge an annual fee — that’s the Cash Magnet and the Blue Cash Everyday — and the annual fees for the other cards range from $95 to $550. Of course, you can get enough value from each card to make up for its annual fee.

Similar to the Citi Double Cash Card, American Express cash rewards credit cards don’t make you fuss with quarterly bonus categories. Instead Amex cards offer accelerated earnings on popular household spending categories like U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations.

  • Cash Magnet: Get a flat 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make.
  • Blue Cash Everyday: Earn 3% cash back on the first $6,000 spent per calendar year at U.S. supermarkets (then 1%), 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores and 1% back on other purchases.
  • Blue Cash Preferred: Get 6% cash back on the first $6,000 spent per calendar year at U.S. supermarkets (then 1%), unlimited 6% back on select U.S. streaming services, 3% back at U.S. gas stations and on transit and 1% back on other purchases.

The credit needed for most American Express cards is good to excellent.

Biggest Capital One Cash-Back Bonuses

Cash Back CardCash BonusBonus EligibilityAnnual FeeForeign Transaction Fees
Capital One® Quicksilver® Card$200Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.$0No
Capital One® Savor® Rewards$300Earn a one-time $300 cash bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.$95No
Capital One® SavorOne® Rewards$200Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.$0No

Capital One offers several popular cash-rewards credit cards. Both the Quicksilver Card and the SavorOne Rewards feature no annual fee and an introductory 0% APR for new purchases and balance transfers. However, both cards charge a 3% balance transfer fee for transferred balances for the duration of the promotion.

The Quicksilver Card is especially popular with people who want simplicity in their cash-back earnings. Similar to the Citi Double Cash Card, the Quicksilver Card doesn’t make you keep track of quarterly bonus categories and offers flat rate for every dollar spent.

The credit needed for most Capital One cash-back cards is a FICO score of excellent.

Methodology: How We Select the Best Cash-Back Credit Cards

We chose our best cash-back credit cards based on the total value they offer based on certain spending categories, preferences (flat rate versus rotating categories), sign-up bonuses, rewards rate and other features like no-interest offers for new purchases and balance transfers. Because everyone has a different idea of what they want from a credit card, we included as many different angles and issuers as possible.

While most cash-back credit cards don’t charge an annual fee, we included a few that do, but only because the card issuers offer enough value to make up for the fee on an ongoing basis. As you consider which card is right for you, compare these cards, as well as other top credit card offers, to make sure you get the best fit for you.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cash-Back Credit Cards

Are you ready to start saving money on groceries, gas, travel, dining and just about any other place you spend money, but you’re still uncertain about how cash-back credit cards work? No problem! Scroll through some of the most common questions people have about cash-back credit cards.

How Cash Rewards Credit Cards Work

Unlike travel rewards credit cards, you don’t have to be a pro at playing the credit card game to benefit. Cash-back cards are easy to keep track of and user-friendly. These types of cards typically fall in one of the following categories:

  • Flat Rate: A flat rate card usually offers 1.00–2.50% back on all purchases, whether you buy a trip to Italy or a gallon of milk. The Citi Double Cash Card is a good example, as it offers 2% back for every dollar spent. The benefit of flat-rate cash back is that you can keep a minimal wallet and have an easier time keeping track of your credit card spending.
  • Tiered: Tiered cards vary the cash-back rewards based on what you purchase. A tiered card might offer a flat 1% cash back on the majority of purchases and 3% back on gasoline spending. Many times, the higher-earning tier is capped. A tiered card can help you earn more, as long as you select a card that rewards you the most for what you spend the most on.
  • Rotating Categories: Credit cards with rotating cash-back categories usually have a set 1% cash-back rate and then a higher rate, like 5% back on select categories. These categories rotate with the quarters of the year. For example, you might earn 5% back on all grocery purchases in the first quarter of the year.

Common Cash Rewards Categories

New cards are released frequently and some issuers like to get noticed with attention-grabbing interest-free promotions, dollar-for-dollar rebates on rideshares and cash-back offers, like offering 6% back for your favorite streaming service. Most cards, however, offer year-round cash rewards in the same core categories:

  • Supermarkets (Spending at U.S. supermarkets only for American Express cards)
  • Restaurants
  • Gas stations (Spending at U.S. gas stations only for American Express cards)
  • Transportation
  • Wholesale
  • Entertainment

To find the best cash-back credit card, you need to keep track of your spending. Where do you spend the most money? If you spend more money on restaurants than groceries each month, then look for cards that will give you more back for dining out. If your spending is even throughout the cash-back categories, then a higher, unlimited, flat-rate, cash-back card might be a better choice for your finances.

Cash Rewards Credit Cards Versus Travel Credit Cards

Cash-back credit cards and travel cards are very similar. With travel-branded credit cards, you will earn more back when you spend on travel-related purchases, such as airfare or hotels. Most travel cards also offer the best reward rate when you redeem your rewards toward travel, either through the credit issuer’s travel platform or by transferring points to a travel partner.

Many times, redeeming travel rewards card points for cash means you are getting a lower cash-back rate. It is wise to know how far points will go toward travel versus cash before redeeming them. Travel credit cards can also come with more travel perks, such as access to airport lounges or travel insurance. With these perks can also come annual fees, so it is best to weigh the fee with the perks before signing up.

When trying to decide which card is best for you, consider how much travel you plan on doing. If you love the idea of traveling but aren’t gung-ho to explore the world just yet, a cash-back card, like the Citi Double Cash Card, might be an easier card to start with.

How to Compare Cash Rewards Credit Cards

Not all cash-back credit cards are the same. The card that your friend can’t stop raving about might not be a good fit for your spending habits. Here’s what you need to look at before deciding which card is for you:

  • Annual Fee: If the card has an annual fee, is it worth paying? Some annual fees seem expensive up front, but when you consider how much cash back you receive, along with other perks, you might realize it is worth paying. Remember, even if a card has $1,000 worth of perks that make a $250 annual fee seem worth paying for, it is only worth it if you actually use those perks. However, some credit cards, such as the Citi Double Cash Card, offer a lot of value without the expense of an annual fee.
  • Bonus Offer: Sign-up bonuses sweeten the pot. However, make sure you can afford to meet the sign-up bonus. If spending $4,000 in three months will put you into financial hot water, look for a card with a lower bonus offer spending requirement.
  • Redemption: How easy is it for you to redeem your cash back? Look for cards that make it easy to transfer your rewards back to your bank account or that will allow you to spend them on Amazon for the same redemption rate.
  • Intro APR: Looking to make a big purchase up front? A 0% intro APR can save you money on interest and give you more time to pay off your purchases or balance transfers.
  • Special Features and Benefits: Do the cards come with special perks that will save you money throughout the year?
  • Ongoing Rewards: Look for cards with regular opportunities to earn more back rather than choosing a card that only has amazing rewards during the first year.

Pros and Cons of Using a Cash-Back Card

Everything in life has its pros and cons, and cash-back cards are no different. Consider these points before making your decision:

Pros:

  • Simplicity: Cash-back cards are easy to keep track of and it is quick to convert your rewards to cash back in your bank account.
  • No or Low Annual Fees: Most cash back cards are no-annual-fee cards. The Citi Double Cash Card is a good example of a credit card with no annual fee.
  • Low Bonus Requirements: You won’t have to dish out a lot of cash to get the sign-up bonus.
  • Builds Credit: Credit cards can be used to improve your credit score.

Cons:

  • Lack of Travel Benefits: Travel perks usually come with the best travel cards.
  • Cash Back Can Expire: Some cards say cash back never expires but this is only true if you use your card regularly.
  • Low Sign-Up Bonuses: While you won’t have to spend a lot up front to earn the bonus, the sign-up bonus is also a lot smaller than what popular travel cards offer.
  • Fewer Perks: Travel and rewards cards usually offer more benefits.

How To Make the Most of a Cash-Back Card

Once you have decided on the right cash-back card for your wallet, you want to make sure you get the most out of the card. Here are a few tips to increase your perks after approval:

  • Plan to get the bonus. Divide the spending requirement by the sign-up bonus time frame to ensure you are spending enough each month. For example, if you must spend $3,000 in 90 days, plan how you will spend $1,000 each month without messing with your budget.
  • Use the shopping portal. Don’t forget to browse the card issuer’s shopping portal to increase how much cash back you can receive on a purchase. If you were already planning to send your mom flowers for Mother’s Day, you might as well use a vendor through the shopping portal that is offering 10-15% cash back when you use your card.
  • Look for rewards bonuses and multipliers. Keep your eye on special rewards bonuses offered throughout the year. For example, some cards were giving a $100 credit for spending $500 on select cruises.
  • Take advantage of rotating bonus categories. If your card offers rotating bonus offers, then spend a few minutes of planning to capitalize on them each year. For example, if your first quarter bonus category is 5% for groceries, consider spending more on groceries during those first three months. Buy extra pantry staples and meat to deep freeze, so that you can shop less in the months to come.

What Is a Foreign Transaction Fee?

A foreign transaction fee is what your credit card issuer — such as Chase or American Express — charges when a transaction you make with your card processes in a foreign currency or passes through a foreign bank. To process these foreign transactions, your card issuer charges you a percentage of the amount of this transaction, typically 3%. You’ll commonly see foreign transaction fees listed on your card statement as a separate charge.

What Is a Statement Credit?

A statement credit is money paid to your account by your card issuer. It essentially works the same as a cash payment to your account. Some rewards card issuers like American Express often offer statement credits as a payout for cash rewards or other point redemption. Statement credit can be used to pay down your card balance or they can remain on your statement as a positive account balance for future purchases.

What Does ‘Other Purchases’ Mean?

With rewards cards, the term “other purchases” typically refers to purchases made outside of bonus categories or spending categories. As an example, the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express earns 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores and 1% back on other purchases. Cash rewards rates are usually lowest on spending categorized as “other purchases.”

What Are Bonus Categories?

The terms “bonus categories” and “spending categories” are often used interchangeably. But with cash rewards cards, bonus categories refer to any spending category that offers a cardholder accelerated earnings.

While some card issuers offer permanent bonus categories, others feature rotating bonus categories that often change every quarter. As an example, the Discover it Cash Back Card offers 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.

What Is a Flat Rate Card?

Flat-rate cards have a set rate, usually 1%, 1.5% or 2%. You earn this flat-rate on virtually all of your purchases, from groceries to gas to airline tickets. This type of rewards card earning simplifies the process, but it also leaves a lot of rewards on the table when compared to other cards.

Both the Citi Double Cash Card and the Quicksilver One Card offer a flat rate on all spending. The Citi Double Cash Card offers 2% cash back on all eligible spending; whereas the Quicksilver One offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

What Are Annual Fees?

An annual fee is a set charge that occurs yearly. For cards with annual fees, the charge is applied to your account as soon as you are approved. You will see that same charge on your card anniversary. If you do not pay the annual fee in the billing statement you receive it, you will start to pay interest on it.

Since your annual fee is applied to your charge account automatically, that will affect your credit limit. For example, if you applied for a card with a $5,000 credit limit and the annual fee is $95, your new credit limit will be $4,905 until you pay your bill. Keep this in mind if you are hoping to use your new card for a big purchase right after signup.

Annual fees do not count for sign-up bonuses and they do not earn points or cash back. Occasionally, some card issuers refer to no annual fee cards as no-fee cards. However, this isn’t entirely correct as even a no annual fee card will still have fees for late payments and cash advances.

Annual fees vary by card, with most fees starting at $95. Some cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, charge a larger annual fee at $450, but the card also comes with more rewards like $300 in annual travel credit. Other credit cards, such as the Citi Double Cash or the Chase Freedom Flex, do not charge an annual fee at all.

What Is a Credit Score?

A credit score tells lenders about your creditworthiness (how likely you are to pay back a loan based on your credit history). It is calculated using the information in your credit reports. FICO® Scores and Vantagescore are the standard for credit scores.

Good credit can be a valuable asset. It can help you save money and access affordable financing when you need it. Even if you have a sizable emergency fund, high credit scores can provide you with an extra safety net during times of economic uncertainty. The following tips can help you manage your credit during the current crisis.

Understand what affects your credit score

Certain actions can result in credit score damage — during the COVID-19 pandemic or at any other time. The following credit mistakes might lower your credit score and could make it harder to qualify for financing now and in the future.

  • Late Payments: The majority of your FICO Score (35% to be exact) is based on your payment history. Under normal circumstances, late payments can remain on your credit reports for up to seven years.
  • High Credit Utilization: Another important credit score factor is your credit utilization ratio. Credit utilization is a term that describes the connection between your credit card limits and balances. If your balance-to-limit ratio starts to climb on your credit report, your credit score may go down as a result.
  • Not Monitoring Your Credit: It’s a mistake to sit back and assume that your credit reports contain accurate information. Credit reporting errors are common. If errors appear on your credit report, they might lower your credit score even though you did nothing wrong.

To avoid late payments, don’t overspend and aim for at least the minimum

Whether you pay your bills on time or late is the single biggest factor that influences your FICO Score. So, if you want to keep your credit scores in good shape throughout the pandemic, it’s imperative to keep up with your payments.

Due to financial limitations, you might not have the means to pay off your full credit card balances right now. However, if you can keep up with at least your minimum monthly payments, you can safeguard your credit scores from late payment damage.

Of course, not paying your full balance will likely lead to more money out of your pocket in interest fees. If you want to avoid this extra cost, a balance transfer credit card might be a temporary solution. Just be sure to manage the process carefully and make sure the potential savings will outweigh any balance transfer fees.

To avoid high credit utilization, consider an out-of-the-box strategy.

If you’re living on a reduced income during the pandemic, it may be necessary to revolve a balance on your credit cards for a few months. While making at least your minimum credit card payments can help you to steer clear of late payments, higher credit card balances can lead to higher credit utilization. Unfortunately, an increase in your credit utilization rate might trigger a decrease in your credit score.

Yet even if you can’t pay off your credit card balance right now, there are other strategies you can use to keep your utilization as low as possible. First, if your credit is in decent shape, you might ask your card issuer for a credit limit increase. You can also consider asking a loved one to add you as an authorized user on an existing credit card with a high limit and a low balance.

What Is a Balance Transfer?

A balance transfer is a way to move your existing balance onto another credit card that has a lower introductory interest rate. A balance transfer is an efficient option to help pay off debts faster.

What to Look for in a Transfer Offer

When considering a transfer offer, it’s important to pay attention to what matters to you, and what is likely to help you to reach your goals. Some features to pay attention to include:

  • Introductory period: Pay attention to how long the intro period lasts. Many cards come with a period of 15 months. If you need longer, though, you can look for a card with an 18-month or 21-month intro period.
  • 0% APR: Most balance transfer offers come with a 0% APR, but there are some with low rates of up to 3.99% regular APR.
  • No or low transfer fee: Your best results come when there’s no transfer fee. If you have a big balance, look for a card with no fee, or one that charges a lower 3% fee instead of a 5% fee.
  • 0% APR purchase APR: When possible, look for a card that also offers 0% APR on purchases. You might not get a purchase period as long as the transfer offer, but it can be a way to put off paying interest on purchases, especially if you’re making a large purchase.
  • Rewards and signing bonuses: Don’t forget to consider rewards and signing bonuses that can make cards more efficient. You can earn cash back that can then be put toward paying down your debt with credit cards like the Citi Double Cash. As long as you work toward paying off what you spend each month and have a plan to pay off your balance before the end of the intro period, you should come out ahead.

Prioritize different features based on your immediate needs so that your most pressing issues are handled first. You might have to make trade-offs in order to get the best result.

While we work hard on our research, we do not always provide a complete listing of all available offers from credit-card companies and banks. And because offers can change, we cannot guarantee that our information will always be up to date, so we encourage you to verify all the terms and conditions of any financial product before you apply.

Ben Luthi
Ben Luthi is a personal finance and travel writer and credit card expert. He has a degree in finance from Brigham Young University and worked in financial planning, banking and auto finance before writing full-time for NerdWallet and Student Loan Hero. Ben is now a full-time freelance writer and enjoys traveling and spending time with his two kids. His work has appeared in several publications, including U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, Money, Success and Slickdeals.