These Credit Cards Earn 2% Cash Back on Purchases

|
Advertisement

Are you trying to get the best cash back rewards for your credit card purchases?

Money expert Clark Howard has long recommended an unlimited 2% cash back credit card with no annual fee as the everyday credit card for your wallet.

“My favorite reward cards are ones that actually pay you money. I want cash, because nobody can tell you when you can or can’t spend your cash,” Clark says.

Clark has a Citi Double Cash in his wallet that earns 2% on all purchases.

And since 2% is generally accepted as the top non-promotional rate of return for cards that don’t charge annual fees or restrict purchase categories, I’ve decided to take a closer look at this segment of the cash back credit card market.

For this article, Team Clark reviewed cash back credit cards both for the strength of their rewards programs and other perks, in search of the best deal for your wallet.


Table of Contents


What Is a 2% Cash Back Credit Card?

Since this whole article is about the merits of a 2% cash back card in your wallet, it would make sense that I first define that kind of card.

2% back credit cards reward your purchases made with the card by giving you $0.02 back as a reward for every $1 that you spend. Many times these cards come with no annual fee and include some non-rewards related perks.

Think of 2% back cards as a subcategory within the cash back credit card category. Those, of course, are a subcategory of their own in the overall scheme of the credit card market.

Maybe it would help to visualize these as a set of subfolders on your computer:

In this article, I’m getting extremely precise to help you pick between the cards that would be stashed in that 2% back credit cards folder at the bottom.

Advertisement

For a more detailed description of our process for analyzing the cards for this review, you can read our methodology.


Best 2% Cash Back Credit Cards

CardBest ForReviewCard Site
Citi Double CashEveryday PurchasesTeam Clark ReviewOfficial Site
PayPal Cashback MastercardOnline ShoppingTeam Clark ReviewOfficial Site
Fidelity Rewards VisaInvesting RewardsTeam Clark ReviewOfficial Site
SoFi Credit CardPaying Down DebtTeam Clark ReviewOfficial Site
Fifth Third PreferredCell Phone ProtectionTeam Clark ReviewOfficial Site
TD Bank Double UpWelcome Bonus PerksTeam Clark ReviewOfficial Site

Citi® Double Cash Card: Best for Everyday Purchases

Citi Double Cash Card - Citi's Best Cash Back Credit Card

What To Know About This Card

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rewards Program Highlights: Earn unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay your bill).
  • Introductory Offers: 0% APR on balance transfers for the first 18 months of card membership
  • Top Perks: $0 fraud liability and access to the Citi Entertainment portal
  • Team Clark Card Review

Why We Like It: It’s incredibly simple. There are no limits to the amount of 2% cash back you can earn with this card, so you can spend it anywhere Mastercard is accepted and know exactly what you’ll get in rewards each time. This no-annual-fee card is in Clark’s wallet, so it has his stamp of approval.


PayPal Cashback Mastercard: Best for Online Shopping

PayPal Cashback Mastercard

What To Know About This Card

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rewards Program Highlights: Unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases accessible through an active PayPal account
  • Introductory Offers: There is no introductory 0% APR and there’s no standard welcome bonus, but PayPal does send targeted offers to attract new card users. For example, I’ve seen promotional periods of increased cash back, such as 4% back for your first three months.
  • Top Perks: Identity Theft Protection program and microchipped technology for touchless on-the-go payment methods.
  • Team Clark Card Review

Why We Like It: There’s no minimum balance required to claim your rewards from PayPal, so this one is really easy to use for those who already frequently use PayPal for online transactions.


Fidelity Rewards Visa: Best for Investing Rewards

What To Know About This Card

  • Annual Fee: None
  • Rewards Program Highlights: Unlimited 2% cash back awarded as $50 credit to your Fidelity account for every $2,500 in spending
  • Top Perks: No rewards cap, limits or expiration, and flexibility to redeem for travel, merchandise, gift cards or statement credit
  • Team Clark Card Review

Why We Like It: Much like the Citi Double Cash, this card offers a simple and straightforward path to 2% cash back on every dollar you spend. And since we’re big proponents of making sure you stay on top of your retirement savings, having this reward dump straight into your Fidelity investment account is a stress-free way to add to your long-term savings. This card is on our list of best credit cards for savings and investments.


SoFi Credit Card: Best for Paying Down Debt

Sofi Credit Card

What To Know About This Card

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rewards Program Highlights: You can earn points that are worth 2% cash back on every purchase you make, provided that you use the points on a SoFi product (loans, investment accounts, etc.). You can use the reward points for other things, such as a statement credit, but the value dips below 2%.
  • Introductory Offers: The card does not have a promotional APR period, but welcome bonus offers do pop up occasionally. For example, the card recently had a promotion that offered new users $100 worth of reward points for making their first purchase.
  • Top Perks: 12 consecutive on-time payments will result in an interest rate reduction of up to 1%. You can also get cell phone protection by paying your wireless bill with this card.
  • Team Clark Card Review

Why We Like It: If you’re someone who is already plugged into the SoFi product network with a loan or investing, this card is an easy way to get 2% toward something that could be important to your financial life.

SoFi is an increasingly popular student loan and personal loan distributor, so this could be a chance for many to accelerate the elimination of that debt — provided you are spending responsibly with the card and paying the balance in full each month, of course.

Advertisement

Fifth Third Preferred: Best for Cell Phone Protection

Fifth Third Preferred Cash/Back Credit Card

What To Know About This Card

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rewards Program Highlights: Unlimited 2% cash back with no categorical restrictions or spending caps. You get this in the form of rewards points, which can be converted to cash, statement credit or other benefits.
  • Introductory Offers: There are no welcome bonuses or introductory APR periods for this card.
  • Top Perks: Cell phone protection plan and no foreign transaction fees
  • Team Clark Card Review

Why We Like It: This card is a really strong 2% back option for Fifth Third customers. You must have a qualified banking account with them to qualify for this card.

But when you do, you can get coverage for a lost or damaged cell phone as long as you pay your wireless bill with this credit card each month. You can receive up to $800 per claim, but there is a $50 deductible and a $1,000 yearly limit to the benefit.


TD Bank Double Up Card: Best for Welcome Bonus Perks

TD Double Up Credit Card

What To Know About This Card

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rewards Program Highlights: Earn 1% cash back on purchases, plus earn 1% cash back when you redeem into an eligible TD Bank Deposit Account. No spending caps or category restrictions.
  • Introductory Offers: 0% APR on balance transfer for 15 months, plus earn $75 cash back in the form of a statement credit when you spend $500 within the first 90 days after opening the account.
  • Top Perks: Zero fraud liability guarantee and digital wallet accessibility
  • Team Clark Card Review

Why We Like It: This is one of the rare 2% cards that offers both a welcome bonus and an introductory 0% APR period.

Those are temporary benefits, but if you already have a TD Bank account, the cash back returns on this card match any on the list.


Comparison Chart

Here are some of the defining characteristics of the 2% cards detailed above:

Card CharacteristicCiti Double CashPayPal Cashback MastercardFidelity Rewards Visa SignatureSoFi Credit CardFifth Third PreferredTD Bank Double Up
Annual FeeNoneNoneNoneNoneNoneNone
Cash Back RateUnlimited 2% (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay your bill)Unlimited 2%Unlimited 2%Unlimited 2%Unlimited 2%Unlimited 2% (1% when you buy, 1% when you redeem in TD Bank account)
Cash Back Redemption OptionsCheck, statement credit or credit for linked Citi bank accountPayPal balance creditInvestment account credit, travel, merchandise, gift cards, statement creditMust use toward qualified SoFi product for full value, drops to 1% as statement creditCheck, statement credit, credit for a connected Fifth Third account or loanMust deposit rewards into TD Bank account to receive full 2%, value drops to 1% otherwise
Welcome BonusNoneNoneNoneNoneNone$75 if you spend $500 or more within the first 3 months
Intro APR Offer for New PurchasesNoneNoneNoneNone NoneNone
Intro APR Offer for Balance Transfers0% for 18 monthsNoneNoneNoneNone0% for 15 months
Foreign Transaction Fee3% in U.S. dollars per transactionNone1%NoneNone3% in U.S. dollars per transaction
Cell Phone ProtectionNoNoNoYesYesNo

Things To Look For When Picking a 2% Cash Back Credit Card

Still not sure which 2% card is best for you?

You may find that using the comparison chart above to answer some of the following questions is helpful in finding the right fit for your wallet.

1. Are There Category or Spending Limits?

We tried to a good job of weeding out all the cards that require you spend your money a certain way in order to receive the 2% benefits.

Advertisement

But if you look outside this review, you may come across some cards that apply one or both of these restrictions to your rewards.

A couple of cards you may find that require spending a certain way to receive 2% rewards are the Apple Card (must use Apple Pay to get 2%) and the Spark Cash for Business from Capital One (must be a small business owner).

2. What Are the Cash Back Redemption Methods?

Clark likes the Double Cash card because the redemption policy makes it easy for him to convert his rewards into cash.

As you can see on the comparison chart, that’s not always the case. Some cards require you to invest your rewards with their company or spend it on their products in order to receive the full 2%.

If you’re funding a retirement account or paying off a student loan with your rewards, that’s no issue. But if you need flexibility with your rewards, it may be a deal breaker.

3. What Do the Fees Look Like?

You won’t find any cards with annual fees on this list because it was important to Clark that we offer options for 2% back without worrying about an annual fee cutting into your returns.

But just because we avoided annual fees doesn’t mean you can forgo analyzing fees altogether.

Each card has fees for things like balance transfers, cash advances, late payments or returned payments. If you’re paying your bills on time and not using the card for anything but new purchases, this should go pretty low on your list of priorities.

4. Are There Other Perks That Make This Card Worthwhile?

Do you need a 0% APR period on balance transfers to bring an existing balance over and pay off debt? There are a couple of cards on this list that you could use for that purpose first and then keep as an everyday spending card.

That’s just one example of a perk that could make one of these cards more valuable to you than the others.

Advertisement

Welcome bonuses and issuer-specific perks, such as cell phone protection or fraud protection, could be benefits that sway your decision.


Clark Howard’s Credit Card Strategy

Money expert Clark Howard believes it is important to have a credit card for the purposes of building and maintaining a solid credit history so you’ll have it when big life events, like a home purchase or job application, require a credit check.

He also believes that focusing on a rewards credit card — like a good cash back credit card — should be something you consider only if you plan to pay your balance in full each month. If that’s not your plan, Clark would point you to the credit card with the lowest possible interest rate or advise you to avoid a credit card altogether.

Assuming you’re here because you are in search of the maximum benefits from your cash back credit card decision, Clark strongly suggests that you start with an unlimited 2% cash back card to assure that you get a solid rewards return on every purchase you make.

There are cards that offer higher rates of return, but they’re usually restricted to categorical spending and may have rewards caps.

“Really think through your charge patterns and whether or not those rewards really give you a bang for your buck.”

Clark, for example, carries the Costco Anywhere Visa card in his wallet because he’s a frequent Costco shopper.

But he does so knowing he also has the Citi Double Cash card to get him 2% back on all of his non-Costco purchases.


Methodology

For the purposes of determining which cards are “best” in this category, we took input from Clark and sought to find cards that best fit his credit card strategy.

Team Clark spent many hours reviewing the available cash back credit cards on the market, assessing them for:

  • Annual fees
  • Welcome bonuses
  • Introductory APR periods
  • Spending categories for maximum cash back earnings
  • Additional fees (transaction or otherwise)
  • Perks offered to cardholders

We did not factor in non-introductory APR as a part of the evaluation, because interest rates will vary based on your individual financial circumstance. Clark recommends not carrying a balance on these cards, so that should curb any concern over the interest rate.

Advertisement

We also did not include offerings from local or regional banks and credit unions, because they’re not available to everyone. Often, local institutions will have desirable cards, so I do recommend that you compare your local bank or credit union’s cash back credit cards to the ones that made this list.


Final Thoughts

Have I talked you into adding a 2% card to your wallet yet?

If you’re still on the fence, here are some pros and cons to consider:

Pros and Cons for Getting a 2% Cash Back Card

ProsCons
Certain, steady rewardsWelcome bonuses are rare
No spending caps or category limitsAPR on the cards may be high
Usually come with no annual feeNo high-return rewards like rotating 5% cards or category bonus cards

Bottom Line

Whether you’re looking for your first credit card or are an experienced spender, there’s a spot in most everyone’s wallet for a 2% cash back card.

New credit card users can take advantage of the steady rewards plans to make sure they’re getting a solid reward for all of their spending.

More experienced credit card users can use the 2% card as a safety net to ensure that their rewards never dip below the 2% threshold.


More Clark.com Content You May Like:



  • Show Comments Hide Comments