Yes, believe it or not, it is possible to get a credit card with 2% cash back. When you think about it, this is a must have for everyone. Why? Because even if you have a card that gives you higher rebates on certain categories (i.e. groceries, gas, airfare, etc) you are likely only getting around 1% (or less!) on everything else you buy. You’re basically losing easy money that you could be getting with 2% cash back credit cards.
Which cards give you 2% cash back? (or a 2% rebate?)
Over the past decade or so, there have been a very small handful. Unfortunately many of them are no longer available. For example, the popular Schwab 2% cash back card was discontinued for new applicants in 2010 (and then in 2011 existing cardholders were switched over). HSBC used to have the “weekend card” that gave 2% but only on Saturday and Sunday… that too was discontinued. Fortunately there are still a few 2% cards that are going strong in 2013 if you know where to look. (Updated for Nov/Dec 2013).
#1 Top Pick: Barclaycard Arrival (it’s 2.2% on everything!!!) – Forget 2% because now you can do even better! This new credit card offers you an unlimited 2 miles per dollar on everything you buy. Since 1 mile = 1 cent statement credit that can be used to offset the cost of virtually any travel purchase, your 2x miles is the equivalent of a 2% rebate!
But wait it gets better because when you redeem your miles, you get back 10% of them to use again. That means you’re earning 2.2% on everything you buy!
And as of 10/10/2013 for a VERY limited time when you apply you get 40,000 bonus miles (worth $440.00) just for spending $1,000 or more within the first 90 days. So not only is Arrival the best rewards program, but as of right now it is also the best signup offer.
#2: Capital One® Venture® Rewards – Let me be clear that this isn’t a true “cash back” card because if you redeem for cash, the value will be lower (so you will not be getting 2% on your spending). However if you spend your rewards on travel, it’s like earning 2% on all your spending.
You see the card gives 2 miles per dollar spent. Those miles can be redeemed to offset travel purchases you make with the credit card, at a rate of 1 mile = $0.01 credit towards the travel purchases.
Right now this is the best 2% card on the market since there are no foreign transaction fees and no limits to the amount of rewards you can earn. To learn more and to see the current promotional offer check out my Capital One Venture Rewards credit card review.
#3. Fidelity American Express – Unfortunately you can’t apply for this unless you have a Fidelity account. It is a 2% cash back credit card and the rewards are deposited into your Fidelity account (brokerage account, IRA, etc.). While the Schwab card is no longer in existence, this one from Fidelity is now the best brokerage affiliated cards on the market. The major drawback with this card is that if your rewards are deposited into your retirement accounts, the amount will be counted against your annual tax-exempt contribution limit (so in other words, your rewards may basically be taxable).
#4. Discover Escape – [2013 update: No longer available] Towards the end of last year Discover announced that this card offer would no longer be available.
This little known gem is hard to beat. It gives 2 miles for every dollar spent. Each mile equals $0.01 that can be used to pay for virtually any travel related purchase you make. So you are essentially getting a straight 2% cash back on everything.
For example, let’s say you bought a plane ticket on Expedia… afterwords you could call up Discover and have them credit your account for the value of that purchase, using your accumulated “miles”. The only drawback is that while Discover’s domestic acceptance is now strong, using it outside of the U.S. will be tough in most parts of the world (for that reason, the Venture is a better choice).
#5. Household Bank Rewards – [updated:: Now discontinued for everyone] This card was available years ago and it was re-launched in summer 2011. It gave a flat 2% on everything you buy and if you have good credit, there is no annual fee. The downside was that this card was geared towards those with mediocre credit, so there wasn’t exactly stellar service or benefits. The credit limits weren’t fabulous either. But that aside, it was the only 2% card that didn’t have an annual fee and anyone could apply for it. Back in 2011 they stopped accepting new applicants and now the old existing accounts are being phased out for 2013.
Honorable Mention: The new Blue Cash Preferred – This card is not 2% but it gets an honorable mention and here’s why – you get 3% to 6% cash back on eligible category spending. Depending on your spending patterns, your average cash back might very well reach or even exceed 2%. To learn more check out my American Express Blue review.
I constantly update this post if/when any new 2% cash back credit cards hit the market and anytime changes occur.
This review was written or last updated November 12, 2013