Tired of using a two credit card system to maximize his cash back returns, I did an analysis to determine the single best cash back credit card. Here’s what I found:
* Even using one card, a 2% total return should be the minimum you receive back (versus the 1% that many cards tout as “standard”.)
* Which card is best for you personally depends on how much you charge, where you charge, and when you charge.
* To make cash back cards work financially, you have to follow the other rules for good credit card management — no annual fee, pay off card every month, only buy stuff in your budget, etc.
* There are other factors you need to consider other than earning the most money. For instance, convenience.
I looked mainly at three cards in particular. Here’s what’s best depending on your circumstance:
* Chase Freedom — Much of your spending is concentrated in a few of Chase’s 15 bonus (3%) categories (again, assuming you already have one of these cards and can get the 3%.)
* Blue Cash from American Express — You charge a lot each year (at least $15k, but more is better) and most of the charges are in the gas, grocery, and drugstore categories and occur later in the year (once you’ve gotten to the level-two rewards.)
* Schwab Bank Invest First Visa Signature — Most of your spending is not in any of the Chase or Amex Blue bonus categories and/or you want the simplicity of knowing you’re getting a certain percentage back (2%) no matter what you charge or where.
Watch for the bait and switch. For instance, the Chase Freedom card recently lowered its rewards for new accounts. Instead of the once solid 3% cash back on certain transactions, 1% is the new norm. I go into my findings in more depth in the “The Best Cash Back Credit Card” on my blog Free Money Finance.