These 3% Cash Back Credit Cards Will Make Your Wallet 3% Thicker

CREDIT CARDS - CASH BACK CREDIT CARDS
What if you could earn money back on all your purchases? You could be leaving hundreds of dollars on the table each year right now.
Updated May 13, 2024
Fact checked

We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Earning cash back with a credit card is a great way to get rewarded for your everyday spending. The key is to maximizing your rewards is picking cards that align with your spending habits and personal finance goals and then using them responsibly. A card that offers 3% cash back rewards in a category you spend on regularly (like gas or groceries) will give you a good earning rate on the stuff you buy the most. 

We like the rewards that the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers on everyday expenses. But if you spend in a variety of categories and want a card with a bit more flexibility, you should opt for a card like the Citi Custom Cash® Card or the Chase Freedom Flex℠. 

Here are some of the best 3% cash back credit cards you could add to your wallet.

In this article

How cashback rewards work

When you use a cashback rewards card, you get some of your purchase amount back. For example, if you have a card that gives you 3% cashback rewards on gas and you spend $200 on gas this month, you’ll receive $6 back. That might not seem like a lot but think about how much you spend on all the purchases you make, and 3% back starts to seem like a decent chunk of change.  

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average consumer spent $21,638 on food and transportation in 2022. If you’d earned 3% cash back on all of those purchases, that'd be $649.14 extra in your bank account. Sounds pretty good, right?

As long as you pay off your balance each month so you don’t have to pay credit card interest, cashback rewards provide a way to earn a little extra money off the stuff you'd be buying anyway. And while people love to talk about miles and points you can earn on the best travel credit cards, the of earning cold, hard cash (back) instead of miles or points sounds great if you don't want to put a lot of effort into maximizing your credit card rewards. 

While not every credit card offers a great cashback rate, good cash back credit cards are plentiful, and there's surely one out there that will fit your typical spending. Take a look at the best cash back credit cards we recommend that offer at least 3% — and learn how to maximize their use.

Compare credit cards that earn (at least) 3% cash back

Card name Best for Welcome bonus Rewards rate Annual fee
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Groceries Earn a $250 statement credit after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 6 months 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (for first $6,000 per year, after that 1%) and on select U.S. streaming services, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on eligible transit, and 1% cash back on other eligible purchases $0 intro annual fee for the first year, $95 per year thereafter (Terms apply)
Citi Custom Cash® Card
Flexible categories Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $1500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back 5% cash back in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle (up to the first $500 spent, then 1% cash back), plus unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases; plus, as a special travel offer, earn an additional 4% cash back on hotels, car rentals, and attractions booked on Citi Travel℠ portal through 6/30/2025 $0
Chase Freedom Flex℠ Rotating categories Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories you activate (on up to $1,500 spent) and travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal; 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery service); and 1% cash back on all other purchases $0
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card(Rates and fees) Dining and entertainment Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening 3% cash back on dining and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), popular streaming services, and entertainment; 5% back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel; 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment purchases; 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats (through 11/14/2024); and 1% cash back on all other purchases $0
Chase Freedom Unlimited® Bonus offer Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases $0

Best for groceries: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

One of the most generous cash back cards out there, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (for first $6,000 per year, after that 1%) and on select U.S. streaming services, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on eligible transit, and 1% cash back on other eligible purchases. 

Plus, this welcome offer: Earn a $250 statement credit after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 6 months. That’s a fairly generous offer that only enhances the value of this card.

Even though this card has a $0 intro annual fee for the first year, $95 per year thereafter, the expense can be well worth it. In fact, if you spend $6,000 on purchases at U.S. supermarkets during the year, you’ll be eligible for $360 in cash back in the form of statement credits — more than enough to offset the annual fee. Additional spending in other categories can make that cashback amount even bigger, making it one of the best credit cards for groceries.

If you don’t like the annual fee, though, you still have the option of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, which comes with a $0 annual fee and allows you to earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations, and U.S. online retail purchases (up to $6,000 per year on purchases in each category, then 1%); and 1% cash back on other eligible purchases.

Learn how to apply or read our full Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express review

Best for flexible categories: Citi Custom Cash® Card

With the Citi Custom Cash® Card, you can automatically earn generous cash back in the category of your choice. It offers 5% cash back in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle (up to the first $500 spent, then 1% cash back), plus unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases; plus, as a special travel offer, earn an additional 4% cash back on hotels, car rentals, and attractions booked on Citi Travel℠ portal through 6/30/2025. 

Spending categories include restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, qualifying travel and streaming subscriptions, drugstores, home improvement stores, and fitness centers. With this card, you reap the benefits of bonus cash back in your highest spending category — it's simple and flexible.

This card has a $0 annual fee, and cardmembers have the option to earn a welcome offer. Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $1500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.

Apply now or read our full Citi Custom Cash® Card(Rates and fees) review. 

Best for rotating categories: Chase Freedom Flex℠

With the Chase Freedom Flex℠, you can earn 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories you activate (on up to $1,500 spent) and travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal; 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery service); and 1% cash back on all other purchases. 

Each quarter, the Chase Freedom Flex offers different spending categories. You’ll want to check the calendar each quarter to see which purchases provide a higher earnings rate. 

For example, one quarter might result in bonus cash back at gas stations and home improvement stores, while another might earn extra cash back at wholesale clubs and on select streaming services. Just be aware of the quarterly maximum. 

This card also comes with a $0 annual fee, and a welcome bonus: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

Read our full Chase Freedom Flex review

Perspectives
Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®
Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®
Writer and Travel Enthusiast

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®, is credit cards specialist. For over a decade, he's leveraged credit card points and miles to travel the world. His expertise extends to other areas of personal finance — including loans, insurance, investing, and real estate — and you can find his insights on The Washington Post, Debt.com, Yahoo! Finance, and Fox Business.

WHY I LIKE THIS CARD

The Chase Freedom Flex is a must-have card for me because it has a high rewards rate and earns flexible Chase rewards. There are very few cards that can match its unique earning potential, though its rotating categories can be a double-edged benefit.

It's amazing when your everyday purchases align with the rotating categories, but not so much when they don't. Fortunately, it's not a big deal since the Freedom Flex has a $0 annual fee and is worth keeping over the long term.

Best for dining and entertainment: Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

If you do a lot of your spending on dining and entertainment, the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card might be the right choice for you. 

Cardholders earn 3% cash back on dining and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), popular streaming services, and entertainment; 5% back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel; 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment purchases; 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats (through 11/14/2024); and 1% cash back on all other purchases. 

On top of that, you can earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.

If you don’t mind paying an annual fee of $95, you can apply for the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card* instead, which offers 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats (through 11/14/2024); 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment; 4% cash back on dining, entertainment, and select streaming services; 3% at grocery stores (excluding superstores such as Walmart® and Target®), and 1% cash back on all other purchases. 

Plus, you can earn a $300 cash bonus after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.

* Information for the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card was collected independently and not reviewed for accuracy or provided by the credit card issuer.

Apply now or read our full Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card(Rates and fees) review. 

Best bonus offer: Chase Freedom Unlimited®

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers generous cash back in several popular spending categories, but its easy-to-earn welcome bonus is what makes it really stand out: Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). This could be valuable if you want to earn big cash back on your everyday purchases.

In addition to its welcome bonus, this card also offers 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases. 

The Freedom Unlimited comes with a $0 annual fee and has the benefit of a 0% introductory APR (annual percentage rate) offer for 15 months (then 20.49% - 29.24% Variable) on new purchases. If you want to earn a sweet welcome offer and cashback rewards while paying off a large purchase, this card might not be a bad choice.

Apply now or read our full Chase Freedom Unlimited® review

Multiple cash back cards could get you 3% cash back more often

If you really want to make the most of your cash back cards, then you should create a strategy where you use multiple credit cards based on where you’re most likely to earn maximum rewards.

To make this work, you need to look at your spending and plan ahead for when rotating bonus categories are scheduled. For example, you might apply for the American Express Blue Cash Preferred® and plan to spend a maximum of $6,000 at U.S. supermarkets. 

But what about if you know you’ll probably spend more than $6,000 in groceries for the entire year? In that case, you could check to see which quarter your Chase Freedom Flex Card is offering a 5% cashback category that includes online stores where you could buy groceries. For that quarter, you use the Chase card. The rest of the time, you use the American Express Blue Cash Preferred®. 

Once you reach the $6,000 limit for the American Express Blue Cash Preferred®, and the bonus category quarter has passed with Chase, you can swap in another card to keep earning 2% on groceries. (2% is a good rewards rate, and there are many cards out there that offer 2% cash back on purchases.) 

How to choose a cash back credit card

The best way to choose a card that earns 3% cash back is to figure out what categories you spend the most money on.

Before you choose which new card to apply for, review your spending habits and the card's details. What categories are you most likely to spend in? Do you spend most of your money at the grocery store or on dining out? What about your other spending categories, like streaming subscriptions or drugstore purchases?  Match the category you spend the most in with a card that offers a good rewards rate for that category. 

Keep in mind
Your credit history will also affect the card you're able to get. Many of the best cash back credit cards, including several of the ones we've mentioned above, require a good to excellent credit score. If you're working toward improving your creditworthiness, check out the best credit cards for fair credit.

It’s also important that you be honest with yourself. How likely are you to be organized about your credit card spending? Are you willing to go through the hassle of remember spending caps and rotating bonus categories, or would you do better with a set-it-and-forget-it method? For example, earning 5% in rotating bonus categories might sound nice, but it's useless if you never remember to log in each quarter to check the categories and register for the higher earnings. 

If you want a hassle-free option, then you're better off getting a couple of different cards that offer higher year-round tiers in your most-used categories, or just opting for a flat-rate cash back card instead.

The bottom line

No matter which 3% cash back card you choose, be sure to use it responsibly by paying your balance in full each month. Don’t make extra purchases just to earn the cash back — the rewards you earn won't come anywhere close to canceling out the amount of interest you would pay for carrying a balance. 

To choose the best 3% cash back card for you, create a spending plan to assess your everyday expenses, then find a card that offers at least 3% back on the purchases you make the most. Make sure you only use your credit cards to buy what you planned to buy — and pay off the balance every month.

Once you get into the habit of maximizing your cashback rewards, you’ll be surprised at how easily you can earn.

Cash Back at U.S. Supermarkets

5.0

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Current Offer

Earn a $250 statement credit after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 6 months

Annual Fee

$0 intro annual fee for the first year, $95 per year thereafter

Rewards Rate

6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (for first $6,000 per year, after that 1%) and on select U.S. streaming services, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on eligible transit, and 1% cash back on other eligible purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Author Details

Miranda Marquit Miranda Marquit has covered personal finance for more than a decade and is a nationally-recognized financial expert and journalist, appearing on CNBC, NPR, Forbes, Yahoo! Finance, FOX Business, and numerous other outlets.

Want to learn how to make an extra $200?

Get proven ways to earn extra cash from your phone, computer, & more with Extra.

You will receive emails from FinanceBuzz.com. Unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy

  • Vetted side hustles
  • Exclusive offers to save money daily
  • Expert tips to help manage and escape debt