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What Does Unlimited Cash Back Mean? Is It Worth It?

By Sarah Li Cain · September 28, 2022 · 6 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

What Does Unlimited Cash Back Mean? Is It Worth It?

There are lots of different credit card types to choose from, especially if you have a high credit score. In an attempt to earn your business, many card issuers offer rewards every time you use their card, including unlimited cash back for qualifying purchases.

What unlimited cash-back means is you can earn uncapped rewards using the card — in other words, your earning potential isn’t limited to a certain amount. While this might sound too good to pass up, there are both pros and cons to consider to determine whether unlimited cash back is worth it for you.

What Is Cash Back?

Cash back is a type of reward that a credit card issuer may offer through its rewards credit cards. Depending on the terms, cardholders can earn a certain percentage back on qualifying purchases (cash advances typically don’t qualify). For instance, you may be able to earn 2% cash back on purchases at gas stations, or 3% back at grocery stores.

Some cards may put caps on how much cash back you can earn. As an example, a card may limit cardholders to 2% cash back for up to $5,000 in purchases in a calendar year. While cardholders may still be able to earn cash back after they’ve hit their certain earnings threshold, they may earn rewards at a lower rate thereafter.

Recommended: Can You Buy Crypto With a Credit Card

Cash in on up to $300–and 3% cash back for 365 days.¹

Apply and get approved for the SoFi Credit Card. Then open a bank account with qualifying direct deposits. Some things are just better together.


What Is Unlimited Cash Back?

Unlimited cash back means that your credit card offers cash-back rewards with no caps or limits on how much you can earn. In most cases, you can earn cash back on all of your purchases, though some cards may only offer unlimited cash back on certain spending categories.

For most credit cards, your cash-back rewards don’t expire as long as you keep your card open. This means that if you continue racking up rewards, you may be able to redeem your accumulated cash-back rewards for a sizable statement credit or other perk.

How Unlimited Cash Back Credit Cards Work

How credit cards work that offer unlimited cash back is that they allow cardholders to earn cash back on their purchases with no earning cap. In other words, there is no limit as to how much you can earn on qualifying purchases with these types of credit cards.

As you earn these rewards, you can redeem them in several ways. This includes as a statement credit or actual cash via a check or bank transfer.

In general, you’ll need good or excellent credit (meaning a score of 670 or above) to qualify for an unlimited cash back card. That being said, there are also cash back credit cards with less stringent credit card requirements, meaning you may be able to qualify even if you have a fair credit score or limited credit history. In general, however, the higher your score, the better the rewards tend to be.

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Pros and Cons of Unlimited Cash Back

Before signing up for an unlimited cash back credit card, consider the advantages and disadvantages first.

Pros

Cons

Can earn money back on purchases, with no caps on earnable rewards Generally need at least good credit to qualify for top rewards programs
Don’t have to worry about hitting spending thresholds or other caps May need to pay an annual fee
Simple and straightforward to earn and redeem rewards Like other rewards credit cards, may have a higher APR than standard credit cards
Can help to build credit with responsible usage Not as lucrative of a rewards option for frequent travelers

Is Unlimited Cash Back Worth It?

Getting an unlimited cash back credit card might be worth it if you’re confident you can maximize its rewards. For instance, if you continually make purchases in higher rewards categories, you can save some serious cash due to the rewards earnings. Ideally, you’d be able to earn enough rewards to entirely offset the annual fee, if your card has one.

An unlimited cash back card may not be a great fit if you continually carry a balance on your credit card, given what a credit card is and how you’ll accrue interest. Your interest rate will likely be higher than the cash back rate you’ll earn, which means carrying a balance could cancel out rewards earnings.

Another reason to think twice about an unlimited cash back card is if you’re a frequent traveler. A travel rewards program may be a better choice since you can earn free flights, hotel rooms, and even cash back. Plus, you might earn more lucrative rewards on travel-related spending than a cash back card would offer.

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Categories of Unlimited Cash Back Credit Cards You Can Choose From

There are several ways credit cards give you cash back, including flat rate and through different spending categories.

Flat Rate

Flat-rate rewards allow you to earn the same cash-back rate across all purchases made using a credit card. For instance, you might earn 3% cash back on all purchases made with the card. Some may issue you a certain percentage cash back when you make a purchase, and then another amount you pay off your credit card bill. Regardless, your specific spending category won’t matter for earning with a flat-rate rewards card.

Rotating Categories

Your credit card may offer several spending categories each quarter that you can select from to earn cash back. For instance, you might be able to choose to get 5% cash back on purchases at gas stations or office supply stores for the first quarter. After the quarter is over, you can choose a different spending category.

While rotating categories can allow you to maximize your rewards-earning potential, this setup does require some strategizing. You’ll need to stay on top of choosing a new category each quarter. Plus, you’ll then have to make sure you adequately take advantage of spending within that category.

Fixed Spending Categories

Instead of choosing different categories every quarter, some credit cards offer fixed cash-back earnings for various spending categories. For instance, a card may allow you to earn 3% cash back for purchases at grocery stores, and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

While fixed spending categories require much less planning ahead for, you will want to ensure the card you sign up for rewards you in a category you regularly spend in. Otherwise, you could end up forgoing valuable rewards.

Maximizing Unlimited Cash Back Earnings

If you want to make the most of earning unlimited cash back, here are some general credit card rules to keep in mind:

Select the Right Card

It’s a good idea to do your research and find a card that matches your spending habits. For example, if you use your credit card a lot at gas stations, it might not be the best choice to sign up for a card that doesn’t offer cash back rewards for this category.

Time Your Spending

If you sign up for a credit card with a sign up bonus, consider timing your card opening with a major purchase you’d been planning. Doing so will help ensure that you meet the minimum spend requirements in order to earn the bonus.

Or, if your credit card is about to have extra earnings for a rotating category, you might think about waiting until that time to make a planned purchase.

Note Spending Categories

After signing up for a card, pay attention to how much cash back you’ll earn in different categories if it’s not a flat rate card. That way, you can be sure to use that card exclusively for certain spending categories, or make sure you sign up for rotating categories well within the deadline.

Review Credit Card Terms

Looking over your credit card terms can help to ensure that you know what does and doesn’t count toward earnings. You might also discover through your card’s terms that you can earn enhanced rewards by taking certain actions, such as holding a certain amount of money in an associated bank account.

The Takeaway

A cash-back credit card is a great way to earn rewards that doesn’t necessarily require a complicated redemption process. Even better is when the card doesn’t place limits on the amount of cash-back rewards you can earn, which is the meaning of unlimited cash back.

Still, you’ll need to make sure you avoid carrying a balance and take steps to maximize your rewards to ensure you don’t negate your cash-back rewards earnings.

Looking for an easy way to earn cash back? Check out the SoFi credit card. For a limited time, new credit card holders† who also sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings with direct deposit can start earning 3% cash back rewards on all eligible credit card purchases for 365 days*. Offer ends 12/31/22.

Take advantage of this offer by applying for a SoFi credit card today.

FAQ

How does unlimited cash back work?

If you have a credit card with unlimited cash back, that means there are no limits on the amount of rewards you can earn through qualifying purchases.

Is unlimited cash back better than points?

Whether cash back or points is better really depends on your preferences. Cash back is straightforward to track and redeem. Meanwhile, points may translate to a greater range of redemption opportunities, including for travel-related purchases. However, the value of points can vary depending on the card and the way the points are redeemed.


Photo credit: iStock/AsiaVision

SoFi cardholders earn 2% unlimited cash back rewards when redeemed to save, invest, or pay down eligible SoFi debt. Cardholders earn 1% cash back rewards when redeemed for a statement credit.1
1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.
†SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS PROSPECTIVELY BASED ON MARKET CONDITIONS AND BORROWER ELIGIBILITY. Your eligibility for a SoFi Credit Card Account or a subsequently offered product or service is subject to the final determination by The Bank of Missouri (“TBOM”) (“Issuer”), as issuer, pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated. Please allow up to 30 days from the date of submission to process your application. The card offer referenced in this communication is only available to individuals who are at least 18 years of age (or of legal age in your state of residence), and who reside in the United States.

*You will need to maintain a qualifying Direct Deposit every month with SoFi Checking and Savings in order to continue to receive this promotional cash back rate. Qualifying Direct Deposits are defined as deposits from enrolled member’s employer, payroll, or benefits provider via ACH deposit. Deposits that are not from an employer (such as check deposits; P2P transfers such as from PayPal or Venmo, etc.; merchant transactions such as from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.; and bank ACH transfers not from employers) do not qualify for this promotion. A maximum of 36,000 rewards points can be earned from this limited-time offer. After the promotional period ends or once you have earned the maximum points offered by this promotion, your cash back earning rate will revert back to 2%. 36,000 rewards points are worth $360 when redeemed into SoFi Checking and Savings, SoFi Money, SoFi Invest, Crypto, SoFi Personal Loan, SoFi Private Student Loan or Student Loan Refinance and are worth $180 when redeemed as a SoFi Credit Card statement credit.

Promotion Period: The Program will be available from 10/1/22 12:01 AM ET to 12/31/23 11:59PM ET

Eligible Participants: All new members who apply and get approved for the SoFi Credit Card, open a SoFi Checking and Savings account, and set up Direct Deposit transactions (“Direct Deposit”) into their SoFi Checking and Savings account during the promotion period are eligible. All existing SoFi Credit Card members who set up Direct Deposit into a SoFi Checking & Savings account during the promotion period are eligible. All existing SoFi members who have already enrolled in Direct Deposit into a SoFi Checking & Savings account prior to the promotion period, and who apply and get approved for a SoFi Credit Card during the promotion period are eligible. Existing SoFi members who already have the SoFi Credit Card and previously set up Direct Deposit through SoFi Money or SoFi Checking & Savings are not eligible for this promotion.

The SoFi Credit Card is issued by The Bank of Missouri (TBOM) (“Issuer”) pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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