Top Ten Cash Back Cards
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Member rewards programs are some of the best, and sometimes only, reasons to use a credit card. After the 0% APR has passed, they're a terrible way to take a loan, and credit builders are generally better off not using their card most of the time since a low debt-to-limit ratio is good for your score. Rewards points, however, are a good reason to pull a credit card out of your wallet instead of the debit card.
Of the many schemes out there, cash back programs are the most straightforward. Spend some money, get a percentage of it back. Easy. Recently, consumer information site NextAdvisor decided to figure out how well those cash back rewards program actually work for their users. They came up with the ten best cards for making your money back.
The number one card was the Blue Cash Preferred from American Express, with an average $672 return over two years to its users. This beat second place BankAmericard Cash Rewards by a wide margin, which gives back an average $522 every two years.
In third place, also from American Express, is the Blue Cash Everyday. This card has an average return of $507 -- not far off the BankAmericard, but certainly far short of the AmEx Blue Preferred.
NextAdvisor created its list from 7,500 pieces of user data collected over 15 months.
"We've had this calculator out there for a while, which is on the study as well, where people can enter in their monthly spending on different categories and then we'll tell them how much cash back they can earn with ten different cards," Larson said. "So we just took that real data that people had entered and asked, for the average person how much does each card earn?"
According to Larson, NextAdvisor did have to control for outliers, such as people who entered minimal income or clearly abnormal spending. Once they dropped the abnormal data, however, they had over a year's worth of consumer data about how people use their cards.
"This is not necessarily the average American," Larson said. "But we thought that the people who are entering data in the calculator are exactly the kind of people who are looking for one of these cards."
From the information, some fairly clear patterns emerged.
Larson was unsurprised that the American Express Blue came out the clear winner among available credit cards.
"If you look at its cash back percentages, it's really higher than anything else," he said. "It's got 6% cash back for shopping at supermarkets and groceries... areas people regularly use their credit cards for."
Still, like many of the best rewards programs, the Blue Preferred is only available to consumers with excellent credit. Shoppers with average credit need to choose more carefully from among fewer options. For them, Larson recommended the Capital One Quicksilver.