Super Combos Cash Back Credit Cards

Cash Back Credit Cards

It’s time to cover cash back credit cards.  There are many great cash back credit cards available, with repeatable earning rates up to 2.6% everywhere.  But it gets better if you’re willing to carry a few cash back cards.  In that case, you should find one great “everywhere” card, but also add a few cards with up to 5% cash back within your common categories of spend (grocery, gas, restaurants, etc.).  Below you’ll find what I think are the best cash back cards that are widely available.

In previous posts, I covered options to earn oodles (yes, oodles) of transferable points by holding combinations of credit cards:

  • Super credit card combos: This post covered several great combinations of cards to use when you want to earn points that can be redeemed for outsized travel value by paying for travel or by transferring points to airline or hotel programs to book high value awards.
  • Super mixed credit card combo: This post discussed the ideal combination of cards to keep in your wallet if your goal is to earn transferable points, but you’re OK with earning points in multiple programs.

Personally I tend to prefer earning transferable points instead of cash back.  Transferable points give you the opportunity to get far outsized value if you manage to snag just the right awards.  That said, my current transferable points balances currently count in the millions so cash back is looking pretty good until I manage to spend down my point fortune…

The best “everywhere” cash back credit cards

Everyone should have a great “everywhere” card.  Regardless of whether you want just one card for all spend or a George Costanza wallet full of cards so that you can pick just the right card for each situation, it’s great to have a card that earns great rewards everywhere.  What follows are my picks for the best “everywhere” cash back cards.  You should choose the one that works best for you.

Bank of America Premium Rewards with Platinum Honors Preferred Rewards

2.6% everywhere. $95 annual fee. $100 annual airline incidentals fee reimbursement.

On its own, this card isn’t much use.  It only earns 2% back for travel & dining and 1.5% back everywhere else.  That said, Bank of America offers their banking customers additional rewards through their Preferred Rewards program.  With this program, the more you have invested with Bank of America banking and/or Merrill Edge and Merrill Lynch investment accounts, the more rewards you get.  With $100K invested, you get top tier perks as a Platinum Honors Preferred Rewards member.  It’s like having elite status with the bank.  Note that retirement accounts do count towards this total, so the $100K threshold is not as far of a reach as it may otherwise sound.  It’s often possible to move your investment holdings to Merrill Edge without having to sell any shares.

Once you have Platinum Honors status, you get a 75% rewards bonus on certain Bank of America cards.  You also get free stock and ETF trades, free out of network ATM transactions, waived fees on a number of banking services, etc.

With your 75% rewards bonus, the earnings on this card become significant:

  • 3.5% back for travel & dining
  • 2.62% back everywhere else

Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card

2.5% everywhere. 3% cash back first year. No Annual Fee First Year, Then $59.

Earn 3% cash back first year, then 2.5% cash back everywhere in ongoing years. No foreign transaction fees. $25 minimum redemption.  Note that after the first year, you’ll have to spend approximately $12,000 per year to do better with this card than with a no-fee 2% cash back card.

Paypal Cashback Mastercard

2% everywhere. No minimum redemption.

There are other good 2% cash back cards (such as the Citi Double Cash), but this is the only one I can think of that’s available nationwide and has no foreign transaction fees.

The Cash Back Credit Cards by Spend Category

Once you have a great “everywhere” card, you may be interested in adding in one or more cards to get even more rewards for the type of spend you do the most.  Below are my picks (hyperlinks will take you to more information about each card)…

  • Grocery 4.4%: Amex Blue Cash Preferred: 6% cash back at US grocery stores, up to $6K per year, then 1%. After the $95 annual fee, you can net 4.4% back on $6K of grocery spend.  Alternatively, a few credit unions offer 3% cash back with no annual fee (details here).
  • Dining 4%: Uber Visa Card: 4% cash back for dining, 3% for travel. No annual fee. No foreign transaction fees.  Alternatively, the Capital One Savor card also offers 4% cash back for dining, but its $95 annual fee (after the first year), makes this card less valuable than the Uber card.
  • Gas 5%: Ducks Unlimited: 5% cash back at gas stations & sporting good stores. No annual fee.  There are a number of cards that offer 5% cash back when you pay at the pump (details here), but this one offers 5% at gas stations in general.
  • Travel 3.5%: Bank of America Premium Rewards with Platinum Honors Preferred Rewards. $95 annual fee. $100 annual airline incidentals fee reimbursement.  A good alternative is the no annual fee Uber Visa Card which offers 4% cash back for dining, and 3% for travel.
  • Phone/Internet/Cable 5%: Chase Ink Business Cash: 5% back for phone, internet, cable, and office supply store purchases, up to $25K per year.  No annual fee.
  • Rotating categories 5%: Both the no annual fee Chase Freedom card and the no annual fee Discover It Card (or Discover It Student Card) offer different 5% cash back categories every quarter on up to $1,500 spend.

Putting it all together

The best combination for you depends upon how many cards you’re willing to carry, where you tend to spend the most money, and whether or not you can conveniently park $100K with Bank of America / Merrill Edge / Merrill Lynch.  Here are some example combos that I think make sense:

  • One great card: Bank of America Premium Rewards with Platinum Honors Preferred Rewards. 3.5% back for travel & dining; 2.62% back everywhere else.
  • Two great cards: Bank of America Premium Rewards with Platinum Honors Preferred Rewards + Uber Visa4% cash back for dining, 3.5% for travel, 2.62% everywhere else.
  • The two card no-fee combo: Uber Visa + Paypal Mastercard.  No annual fees. 4% cash back for dining, 3% for travel, 2% everywhere else.
  • The Costanza: Bank of America Premium Rewards with Platinum Honors; Uber Visa; Ducks Unlimited; Blue Cash Preferred; Ink Business Cash; Chase Freedom; Discover It.  Altogether you would get 4.4% grocery (on first $6K US spend per year and after accounting for annual fee); 4% dining; 5% gas; 5% phone, internet, and cable; 5% office supply stores; 5% rotating categories; 3.5% travel; and 2.6% everywhere else.

My take

Personally, I’m ready to move to the Bank of America Premium Rewards card as my “everywhere else” card.  It’s really hard to beat 2.6% cash back everywhere (unless the Zerocard ever really appears).

If I visited gas stations a lot more than I do today I’d consider getting the Ducks Unlimited card too.  Elsewhere, though, I can do just as well or better with transferable points:

  • Grocery: I prefer 4X Membership Rewards on up to $25K per year (then 1X) with the Amex Gold Card.
  • Dining: Soon we’ll be earning 5X with the Citi Prestige card.  Until then, 4X with the Amex Gold Card or 3X with a Sapphire Reserve is excellent too.
  • Gas: I’m happy with earning 3X with my Citi Premier card (or 3X with my Altitude Reserve when the gas station takes mobile wallet payments)
  • Travel: I’m earning 3X with my Sapphire Reserve and will soon earn 5X on airfare with the Citi Prestige
  • Phone/Internet/Cable/Office Supply: The Chase Ink Business Cash card acts both as a cash back card and as a transferable points card when it is paired with a premium Ultimate Rewards card (such as the Sapphire Reserve).
  • Rotating categories 5%: The Chase Freedom card acts both as a cash back card and as a transferable points card when it is paired with a premium Ultimate Rewards card (such as the Sapphire Reserve).

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

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Darcy
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Darcy

Any recommendations for phone/internet/cable spend when you’re not eligible to get a business Visa? I’m not willing to monkey around with pretending to have an ebay “business” to get an Ink card.

Blue
Guest
Blue

I go with my WF card for the cell phone insurance.

Kasey
Guest
Kasey

If you can get it, the Vantage West Connect Rewards Visa offers 5% (up to $1500/quarter) on a category of your choosing, one of which is utilities. You have to live in a pretty specific area though to get it, although it might still be possible to join the Greater Arizona Bicycle Association and join that way (that’s how I joined, but it might not be doable now).

Marc
Guest
Marc

U.S. Bank Cash+ has a 5% Cell Phone category that I’ve been using monthly (up to $2K / quarter, I believe). Obviously, that won’t cover cable and Internet unless you get them through your cell provider somehow, but it’s something.

Steve
Guest
Steve

Greg, I appreciate articles like this because they quantify the opportunity cost of transferable points, ie: they let you know how much you are “paying” for points in the form of forgone cash back. One thing, is it worth keeping the premier assuming you keep the the prestige and the Sapphire Reserve? $95 a year for 3x on gas essentially. Or are you getting the annual fee waived?

Just a Note
Guest
Just a Note

If not working on minimum spend, we just use the Premium Rewards card, as it’s a lot simpler than keeping track of other cards, and most of our spend is on dining – and that extra bit of reward in other categories doesn’t add up to much in the scheme of things. Juggling another card for $20 a year? Just not worth it, but whatever works for everyone’s own situation.

Jags
Guest
Jags

Interesting you prefer 2.62% CB over 2X MR with BBP.

Also I think it should be noted that Citi Double Cash should be preferable to any other 2% card since you get Price Rewind which allows sneaky things like buying something at not necessarily the cheapest price but through a high portal earning store then rewinding back to the cheapest price.

Patrick Lenow
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Patrick Lenow

I would add the Citi Costco Anywhere card. No annual fee and 4% back on the first $7,000 in gas per year.

Hari
Guest
Hari

Thanks for the breakdown, Greg!

Dee
Guest
Dee

Is there another card besides the sapphire reserve to ensure transferable UR points if I want to switch a Chase ink plus to ink business cash to avoid the annual fee? Would the only card be the sapphire preferred? Hmm…should probably review Greg’s UR transfer infographic.

Thanks for answering if you know the answer! Or a link to the graphic….!

And I second Citi Costco card. Price protection, extended warranty, rewind (although I never use it), 4% gas, 3% travel and dining, 2% Costco. If I didn’t care about transferable points, I’d use this one and another high everyday % cashback card and be done with the game!

Steve
Guest
Steve

Speaking as someone who product changed from the plus to the cash, I wish I had never done that. The plus pulls double duty as a 5x card that also ensures transferability. Any sapphire card to me is just a potential one year card that I would product change to another freedom…any you can never have too many freedoms.

Dee
Guest
Dee

Thank you, Steve, that’s super helpful. I’ve been holding on to the ink plus since when it was the bold, but I don’t have any freedoms yet. Wondering if better to downgrade the reserve to a freedom or cancel and get a new freedom at some point in the future for the sign up bonus. Am I missing something if I don’t have the trifecta of chase UR cards? I sort of hate the rotating category thing and the more I get into the game the less complicated I want things to be. On the other hand, I don’t like the rinse and repeat of signing up for cards. Banks are getting really tight on offers and such so signing up for and canceling a card has to be really worth it.

I like the reserve for primary rental car insurance, and 1.5 redemption but then I don’t use either that much so who needs a $150 fee ($450-$300), right?

Really appreciate your previous comment and thoughts in general on UR strategy.

Steve
Guest
Steve

The Sapphire to me isn’t worth keeping past year one. While the effective annual fee of $150 isn’t outrageous, you can get similar benefits from putting travel on another card like the Citi Prestige or Premier, the Atitude Reserve, or the Propel. Unlike the Sapphire Reserve, these cards either don’t have an annual fee, have benefits that more than make up for an annual fee, or are sponsored by banks which give significant retention offers which more than offset the annual fee. But I wouldn’t cancel the Sapphire Reserve, given that one can downgrade to a Freedom or Freedom Unlimited. You could still get a bonus if you decided apply fresh for a freedom unlimited, even if you had the same card, so long as you got the first card by downgrading. If you aren’t into the rotating category thing, an everyday spend card such as the Ink Biz Unlitd, the Freedom Unlimited, the Amex Blue Biz Plus, the Amex EDP, or the B of A travel or premium rewards (if you had 100k) would give you good coverage. Throw in your Ink plus for gas, cell, and office supplies, and you’ve got your own trifecta. Cheers.

Dee
Guest
Dee

Thanks, Steve, very helpful. I’m going to have to reevaluate my card holdings. It’s time to clean up and simplify especially as mentioned below with player 2 or in my case, player 4, 5 and 6. Sigh.

OR97
Guest
OR97

Us bank altitude reserve — 4.5% on mobile wallet transactions

Dan
Guest
Dan

No love for the Citi double cash 2% (no annual fee) card?

Tyler
Guest
Tyler

If able to qualify for BoA Platinum Honors, the Cash Rewards card can earn 5.25% cash back on gas (up to $2500/quarter), which I believe makes it the best available.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

+1 this. Ducks is unnecessary if you are Platinum Honors. Cash Rewards is 3x gas, 2x grocery and warehouse up to $2500/quarter. Unless you spend more than this, which I don’t think most would do without business spend or MS, I’d prefer Cash Rewards to Ducks. Also this sets your floor at Costco and Sam’s at 3.5%.

Dee
Guest
Dee

What do you guys think is the best strategy for household where primary spend is at grocery stores and Costco? And where the annual spend at groceries is easily $12K+ and Costco for groceries and items that don’t need purchase protection could be another $10K? Given that almost all grocery stores and Costco take Samsung pay which also gives another 1% back in rewards.

For example, is it worth dumping Costco exec membership and paying for everything with altitude reserve via Samsung pay (except when purchase protection or extended warranty a factor)?

Does premier rewards factor here when spend is higher than $2500 quarterly cap? Of course maybe one could get more than one premier rewards card, but for the sake of argument, let’s say only one card.

Currently, household has two exec memberships, two Costco cards, two amex cash preferred cards earning 6% on groceries with $6K cap.

Fees are about $430ish. Return is 6% groceries, 4% costco.

Thanks for your thoughts!

Yuri
Guest
Yuri

For groceries – Amex Gold
For Costco – Altitude Reserve or AT&T Access More (buy Costco cash cards online)
This will give you 6.5% or 3x TYP + 2% at Costco
And 4.5% or 3x TYP at Costco gas station. Ducks Unlimited should also give 5% at Costco gas station, but I just got the card, didn’t try it yet, since I switched to using Exxon/Mobil with Amex offer till end of November.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

I use the Square Cash debit card at Whole Foods and Old Blue Cash at groceries. I use Cash Rewards at Costco when it’s not a 5% category with Chase Freedom or Discover. For gas I use Cash Rewards, except for the Blue Business Plus deal at Exxon right now.

Brutus
Guest
Brutus

It would have been interesting to see how much cash back a family spending $35K annually (as in your mixed point combo article) using the Costanza method would earn.

Lucinda
Guest
Lucinda

Why the Ducks Unlimited card for gas? If you’re at the top tier of BofA’s preferred customer program, you can get 5.25% back at gas stations with the Cash Rewards card.. You can also get 3.5% back on groceries. All with no fee.

It’s a great complement to the Premium Rewards Card.

Dee
Guest
Dee

No fee? Is this because the $100 travel reimbursement offsets the $95 annual fee or am I missing something?

Lrdx
Guest
Lrdx

You’re mixing Cash Rewards with Preferred Rewards

Yuri
Guest
Yuri

There is also Travel Rewards card with no fee, which is the same as Premium Rewards.

Lucinda
Guest
Lucinda

You’re missing that the Cash Rewards card has no fee.

toomanybooks
Guest
toomanybooks

Is Old Blue Cash still available?

Yuri
Guest
Yuri

deleted.

Yuri
Guest
Yuri

For me personally I use Altitude Reserve for all in-person transactions (non category spend). You can also use it for in app, and online with some stores which accept Apple Pay. (4.5% cashback)
For online I use either Amex BBP, Citi AT&T Access More, or Priceline 2x/5x (3.33% cashback)
I would add another few cards into the mix: US Bank Cash+, Vantage West Connect Rewards Visa, where you can chose some interesting 5% categories.
Another interesting card is Nusenda Platinum Cash Rewards.

Rob
Guest
Rob

Another great article; I love these types of analysis. BofA Premium is my choice for non-bonus spend.

I forgot about the “free out of network ATM transactions” being part of BofA Preferred Rewards program. Sadly, the no fee is for ATMs in the U.S. and U.S. territories. Guess I got to stick with First Republic Bank’s ATM Rebate Checking for free worldwide ATM transactions; only issue keeping at least $3500 to waive the monthly fee. There is Schwab Checking for free ATMs but want to separate my other Schwab holdings.

Ben
Guest
Ben

How much incremental value do you think a comprehensive solution like this generates, after considering real-world spend and annual fees, when compared to something like Citi Double Cash?

I have a hard time getting excited about optimizing ongoing spend with cash back cards because it feels like a perfect strategy will generate ~$100 incremental per year, in exchange for a lot of work.

Nick Reyes
Editor

It totally depends on what “real world spend” is for you. If you spend $1,000 per month ($12,000 per year), earning an extra 0.62% would make a $74.40 difference. If you play the category game and you’re able to average, say, 3.5% overall (by buying GCs at 5% stores, etc), that’s a $180 difference on the same amount of spend.

If you spend $2K per month, double those numbers. Using the $35K number mentioned in comments above brings those numbers up to $217 / $525.

Some people spend a good deal more than those numbers per month, some less. You’re right that you should run your numbers and see what makes sense for you.

Ben
Guest
Ben

Right… before factoring in any annual fees. And buying GCs at 5% stores has other costs (foregoing CC protections, ending up with orphaned GC balances, etc.). This seems like penny-pinching, rather than some of the big wins in the travel CC space.

The real limiting factor is player 2’s patience. I get a bit of leeway for each first class flight I book, but giving her a Costanza wallet would be game over 🙂

Steve
Guest
Steve

Ditto re: player 2

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[…] that Greg wrote a post yesterday about the best cash back credit card options on the market (See: Super Combos Cash Back Credit Cards). It’s important to remember that the opportunity cost of collecting points over cash […]

Paul
Guest
Paul

Hey Greg, is it an oversight that the Citi Premier 60K offer info is missing from your Best Offers page?

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[…] Some Super Combo Cash Back Credit Cards. […]

Sam
Guest
Sam

It is true to say that for Alliant that after the first year you would have to spend $12,000 a year to make the extra (2.5%-2.0%) worth the $59 fee.

But I start at day one: I put $30k on this card in year one and earned 3%, which is an extra (1%x $30k) $300 over a 2% card. That’s covers 5 years of fees.