The best cash back card?

I don’t usually get excited about cash back credit cards.  I prefer to earn points and miles that can be used for first class travel around the world.  No matter how much cash I earn from credit cards, I can’t imagine ever spending $10,000 or more for an international first class flight, but I’ll gladly spend 135K miles or more.  That being said, cash is the right solution for most other things, so if a credit card company wants to give me lots of money, I’ll take it.

Several months ago, U.S. Bank launched their Cash+ Visa Signature Card.  Let’s look at its benefits:

  • Earn 5% cash back on two categories that you choose, like department stores, restaurants…plus many more.
  • Earn 2% cash back on gas, groceries or drug stores – choose one.
  • Earn 1% cash back on everything else.
  • Get a $25 Cash+ Bonus each time you redeem $100 or more cash back in a single redemption.
  • No Annual Fee

2X and 5X Categories

Similar to the Chase Freedom and Discover cards, each quarter you’re required to enroll in bonus categories.  Unlike either of those cards, though, the Cash+ lets you pick your own categories!  As you can see below, you are allowed to pick one 2X category, and two 5X categories.  For 2X you can choose gas stations, grocery stores, or drug stores.  For the 5X categories there are many more options including department stores, restaurants, charities, etc.  These categories may change in the future, but I’ve been told that they have held steady for two quarters now.

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Unlimited Earnings

Unlike the Freedom and Discover cards that cap 5X categories to $1500 in spend per quarter, the Cash+ has no caps or limits!

25% Bonus

For each $100 or more in points that you redeem, U.S. Bank will throw in a $25 bonus.  This means that if you redeem points for cash in $100 increments (and you should!), you’ll earn 25% more cash.  By doing so, 5X categories equate to 6.25% cash back, 2X categories equate to 2.5% cash back, and everything else becomes 1.25% cash back.  Not bad!

No Annual Fee and Visa Acceptance

Arguably, the best rival cash back card is the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card which offers 6% cash back at supermarkets, and 3% cash back at gas stations and department stores.  However, the Amex comes with a $75 annual fee and is not accepted in as many places as a Visa card.  If you spend a lot at grocery stores and gas stations, I’d still recommend the Amex, but there would be no harm in getting both cards.  Use the Amex for groceries and gas.  Use the Cash+ elsewhere.

Taking it Further

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you know what I’m thinking.  How can we leverage the 5X categories to earn 5X everywhere?  As a start, I know that my local Sears (which is classified as a department store) sells merchant gift cards including BP cards.  So, right there, that’s a quick and easy way to earn 5X (6.25% cash back) on gas!  Even better, go through an online cash back or points earning portal to Sears and use the Cash+ card to buy Sears gift cards.  Then, go through the portal again to use the gift cards for merchandise, or go to Sears to use the gift cards to buy BP and other merchant gift cards.  The possibilities are endless.  I don’t have this card yet, but once I do it will be fun to conduct experiments like these within various categories.

What’s not to like

The card offers no signup bonus.  Also, I’m not thrilled that you’re required to signup for bonus categories each quarter.  However, those are small nits.  Overall, this card appears to be a winner.

Hat Tip to Readers

I keep receiving emails and comments from readers about this card.  I’ve had this on my to-do list for quite a while, but it took two recent comments for me to finally give this card a proper look.

For example, on Wednesday, MAC wrote:

One card IMO worth getting right now is the US BANK Cash+ card. You pick categories quarterly. One 2% category and 2 5% categories. Right now, I have Hotel and Bill Pay as the 5% categories. Airlines is another 5% category. Bill Pay includes satellite/cable/phone/electric/gas but also includes insurance when paid via their cc. You need to repick categories every quarter and they are subject to change but the choices have not changed since the card came out around June 2012. They used to have a $50 signup bonus via FB but not sure if it is still available.

And, on the same day, RestlessLocationSyndrome wrote:

The US Bank Cash+ Visa card will give up to 6.25% cash back. They give purchases from their 5% cash back category but when $100 in cash back is requested, they give an additional $25 bonus in cash back.

You’re right guys, this card is worth a look!


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Comments

  1. I have the AMEX Blue Cash Preferred, but I’m defintely intrigued by this one as a no-fee card. Right now, I’m definitely taking advantage of the AMEX by making a lot of gift card purchases at grocery stores, but now that I have the free Hilton AMEX (6 HH pts/$ at grocery and drug stores), I probably won’t renew the AMEX next year. This card might fill that gap.

    Right now, I’m looking at the categories and wondering which ones I would choose. I spend a lot on food (dining as well as fast food; unfortunate they take up 2 different categories), but I could cover that with the Citi Forward. Airlines and hotels, maybe? But the category that really has me wondering is the “bill pay”. It was mentioned that utilities and wireless, etc count, but what about mortgages and taxes? Student loans? If I can get 6.25% back on those (even with the ~3% fee they charge for CC payments), I will get this card without question.

  2. I don’t see much value in the 5% categories–undoubtedly by design. I could see hotel or airlines being big if you got to book a lot of travel for work. I find it odd that restaurants and fast food are different categories–they aren’t for me. For most people, I think Bill Pay and Departments Stores (gift cards) are probably best. This only tempts me because it’s from US Bank, so it’s a new issuer and not Chase/AMEX/Citi.

  3. Just be aware that US Bank is very conservative and more likely to deny apps with no reconsideration to those with lots of inquiries, like many FM readers. I have many cards already, and this was only one of 7 apps (across all the major issuers) that I did not get upon recon in my last AOR.

  4. I still prefer the AMEX Blue Cash and the Priceline Visa. The Priceline Visa gives 2% cash back on everything. Also, you get $50 cash back after first purchase and it has no annual fee.

  5. Very interesting card. I’m currently switching my credit card strategy to more cash back cards instead of rewards cards (since I’m mainly doing domestic, family travel). AMEX Blue Cash Preferred is still more useful in that all grocery stores sell gift cards and prepaid Visa cards (~5% cash back when you consider the fee for purchasing the prepaid card). If you eat at home a lot and aren’t single, you the $75 fee is worth it for the AMEX. The 5% on Bill Pay for the Cash+ is interesting however, as using prepaid cards online is challenging sometimes.

  6. I am also curious about bill pay. I pay my son’s UCLA tuition online with a credit card – would that be considered a “bill pay” expense? So many unanswered questions here.
    .
    I am still kind of upset at US Bank for screwing me over on the Olympics Flex Perks card that I applied for a received a lower end card. But this offer might redeem them in my mind.

  7. There is talk on FT that BCP is going to be capped at 6% on $6K per year starting in 2013. Really inhibits its usefulness since my natural spend is double that.

    But I think for cash-back folks the weapons include BCP, US Bank C+, Citi Forward, Ink Bold – then the quarterly chameleons – Freedom and Discover.

    • Dave: Thanks for the info. I hope they don’t cap it to $6K, but I’d understand if they did.

      All: Regarding Bill Pay, they state the following:

      Get cash back every month when you use your U.S. Bank Cash+™ Card to pay for the following common household bills — phone, internet, cable/satellite TV, utilities and insurance. Please note: Purchases made outside of these specific categories do not qualify

  8. Thx FM, no tuition is a deal breaker for me. I try not to spread out my spending so wide and have small bonuses in multiple cards.

  9. Hmm… so tuition and loans don’t apply for Bill Pay? I figured not, but I’m curious about “insurance”. I take it this means all forms of insurance– health insurance for those who are self-employed, auto insurance, all forms of home insurance (fire, natural disasters, etc.)? If so, that adds up to a lot of money.

  10. I mentioned this card back in July in the comments section when TPG first reviewed the Flexperks card here: http://thepointsguy.com/2012/07/card-review-us-bank-flexperks-visa-signature/. I argued as “fixed-value” reward card, Cash+ is better than the Flexperks in the long run. Cash+ even had a whopping $50 sign-up bonus back then too. Of course nobody paid attention to me back then because I’m a nobody. Now, exactly 3 months later, let’s see what FM can stir up.

  11. You can always just cash out UR points so there’s not much value to having a separate card. Or you can pay for flights/hotels directly at 1.25-cents. I’m assuming most of the readers here do at least some travel during every year otherwise they wouldn’t be reading these blogs and FT.

  12. I’m curious. Long ago I was getting rebate cards for buying gas, and these cards were good for gas only. A friend pointed out that there was a problem with this … the gas you bought with the card was at full price. In essence, I wasn’t getting my 3% discount on award gas. I’m now getting 5% back on gas, taken right off my credit card bill (PenFed card).

    Faced with meeting spending limits these days, and a complex scheme for which card to use for what, I wonder how the cash bones cards here can be used. I’ve always liked being able to use Discover cash back to pay the Discover bill itself; I’m not getting any points for paying this bill, nor losing spend that can be allocated elsewhere, so it works well.

    Can you use the Bonus/Rewards card to pay your US Bank Bill? Is there a known scheme for using these kinds of cards for spends that don’t count anywhere else, anyway??

  13. “Earn 5% cash back on two categories that you choose, like department stores, restaurants…plus many more.”

    What are the “many more”? Is one of them Office Supply stores such as Office Max? Do you know if this can be chosen each month or will it cycle?

  14. GET as many as you can in the same family . nice to have family on 5 % on many categories ALL YEAR AROUND.
    Again, as memtioned already by other readers US bank turns you down cold if you have been busy and happy applying cards away irregardless how good your credit score is

  15. I have this card and had my water bill set to auto bill on this card. I assumed that I would get 5% under the utility category but only got 1% since US Bank said that the city billed under Govenmental services.

    It left me with a sour taste and I’d suggest making a small test purchase to ensure that the merchant is categorized at the 5% level rather than relying on the listed category.

  16. Thanks Frequent Miler. It was so big I didn’t see it. : )

    Next question: What exactly does “electronics stores” mean? Does anyone know if that includes amazon.com and office max and best buy? and if so, do you think gift card purchases at those places will count?

  17. I have the Cash Rewards Visa Signature card from B of A… but I can’t find on their website where to select your categories you want to earn the higher rates at. Can anyone point me in the right direction? Thanks.

      • Thanks for the quick response. Not sure what my problem was last night to misread the great post you had! I always enjoy your postings… Thanks again for the help!

  18. FM- Have you gotten this card yet? I’m really intrigued by this card because the Lowe’s in my area carries SOOO many gift cards to different places, including amazon and newegg. Love to hear if there are any experiments pending.

  19. Bill pay is a category?! If it’s broadly defined, it seems that the rewards available for this card exceed the Bluebird–any details on their definition of bill pay?

    • Jenn: unfortunately, bill pay is really just a way of classifying credit card use with the following billers: phone, internet, cable/satellite TV, utilities and insurance. Useful, but not the game changer it could have been

  20. I applied on Nov 9th and I got “Pending Review”. I immediately called the reconsideration and was told they didn’t even review my application yet and would do so on Wed Nov 14th and that I should call back then. I called back on Mon Nov 12th and was told that I had been denied based on too many recent accounts opened (7 cards in the past 6 months). I asked how many is more appropriate and he said the max should be 2-3 cards in the last 6 months. I made all the standard arguments, but to no avail. (FYI I had a 758 Experian score according to their denial letter I received the following week.)

  21. Just took a look and they’re still only taking apps in person at their branches, which kills it for me because they don’t seem to have branches anywhere outside, like, Chicago. Anyone have luck applying over the phone? I know I’ll easily qualify for this, and I’ve been looking for a 5% bill paying card for a long time.

  22. Just took a look and they’re still only taking apps in person at their branches, which kills it for me because they don’t seem to have branches anywhere outside, like, Chicago. Anyone have luck applying over the phone? I know I’ll easily qualify for this, and I’ve been looking for a 5% bill paying card for a long time.

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