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.
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.
Pros and Cons of Unlimited Cash Back
Before signing up for an unlimited cash back credit card, consider the advantages and disadvantages first.
|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.
Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card
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 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.
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.
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.
The SoFi Credit Card offers unlimited 2% cash back on all eligible purchases. There are no spending categories or reward caps to worry about.1
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
1Members earn 2 rewards points for every dollar spent on purchases. No points will be earned with respect to reversed transactions, returned purchases, or other similar transactions. When you elect to redeem rewards points as cash deposited into your SoFi Checking and Savings account, as a statement credit to a SoFi Credit Card account, as fractional shares into your SoFi Invest account, or as a payment toward your SoFi Personal Loan or Student Loan Refinance, your rewards points will redeem at a rate of 1 cent per point. For more details please visit the Rewards page. Brokerage and Active investing products offered through SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. SoFi Securities LLC is an affiliate of SoFi Bank, N.A.
SoFi cardholders earn 2% unlimited cash back rewards when redeemed to save, invest, a statement credit, or pay down eligible SoFi debt.
1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.
The SoFi Credit Card is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A. 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.