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Your Ultimate Cash Back Wallet

The Basics - Who Should Build the Ultimate Cash Back Wallet

Earning rewards can be hard. First you have to figure out the battle between cash back vs rewards points. Even once you've figured out that cash back is the answer for you the journey doesn't get much easier. The number of cash-back credit cards on the marketplace can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned credit seekers. If you're just looking for one credit card to do your heavy lifting, head over to our best credit cards page to find the option that's best for you.

Good. Now that that's out of the way, let's set some ground rules:

  • You need to have good to excellent credit to optimize your wallet. If you're still building your credit, or recovering from a past credit mistake, keep on that path.
  • We've left room in our wallet for one card with an annual fee.
  • Keep in mind that each credit inquiry will lower your credit score 3-5 points. Assuming you are approved for the cards you are after your score should recover nicely. New lines of credit will increase your available credit, which generally has a positive impact on your credit.  

Consumers tend to spend in a couple of general category buckets that are eligible for increased rewards. For this post we're going to focus on common household needs: groceries, dining out, travel, gas, and entertainment. Anything that falls outside of this bucket will be grouped into an other group. This doesn't mean that if you have a weird niche thing you spend a lot of money on you shouldn't look to supplement your spending with a card to fit that hobby. 

Reminder: If you're just looking for one credit card, this post is not for you. Head over to our best credit cards page to find the cash back card for your style. This post, friends, is not for the feint of heart. It is for the credit warrior. The excel wizard fanatic. The attention to detail leader of the household. This post is for the consumer that will get 3-5 credit cards to optimize their cash back with every swipe.

The Staple 2% Card

Let's start in an easy place. Your wallet is going to need a go-to for those instances where there is no bonus category. This will be your default card. You have three main options here, the Fidelity Rewards Visa, the Alliant Credit Union Visa Signature card, or the Citi Double Cash. We opt to use the Citi Double Cash because of its simplicity, and the intro APR periods can come in handy. We also don't necessarily love being tied to fidelity or a credit union. 

Citi Double Cash

Citi Double Cash
  • Earn 1% cash back when you purchase and another 1% cash back when you pay
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • 15.74% - 25.74% APR
  • 0% intro APR for purchases for 12 months
  • 3% foreign transaction fees
  • No welcome bonus for new customers

The Double Whammy - Travel and Dining Out

Dining and travel are two big spend categories, and the two things most likely to make you Insta-famous. Cue the Uber card. Even if you don't live in an area where Uber is super popular, this card is a no-brainer. You'll earn 4% cash back on dining, which includes restaurants, takeout, and bars. In addition to the generous cash back on dining, you'll also net 3% cash back on hotel and airfare.

Uber Visa

Uber Visa
  • Earn 4% cash back on dining out, and 3% on travel
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • 17.24% - 25.99% APR
  • 0% foreign transaction fees
  • Earn a $100 bonus after you spend $500 in your first 3 months as a cardholder

Get Your Entertainment On

The Savor One card from Capital One can double as a dining card, where it earns 3% cash back. Not enough to beat out Uber, but it's 3% cash back on entertainment is where the party is at. Capital One defines entertainment as movie theaters, record stores (those still exist?), aquariums, amusement parks, tourist attractions, zoos, dance halls, billiard and pool establishments (okay, we really want to meet the Capital One exec that picked this one), bowling alleys, and ticketed events. We reached out to ask if ticketed events includes speeding tickets, but we have not heard back. :(

Savor One from Capital One

Capital One Savor Image
  • Earn 3% cash back on an entertainment
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months
  • 15.24% - 25.24% APR
  • 0% foreign transaction fees
  • Earn a $150 bonus after you spend $500 in your first 3 months as a cardholder

The Household Necessities - Groceries and Gas

We said there would be one card with an annual fee, and here it is. If you're going to shell out an annual fee, let's make it worth it, shall we? The Blue Cash Preferred comes with a $95 annual fee, but its rewards on groceries can't be touched. You'll earn 6% cash back on U.S. grocery store purchases up-to $6,000 in spend annual. That equals $360 in cash back annually if you hit the max. Additionally, Blue Cash Preferred burns the competition when it comes to gas rewards, clocking a 3% earn rate. Non-bonuses spend will earn a flat 1% cash back. 

Amex Blue Cash Preferred

Blue Cash Preferred Image
  • Earn 6% cash back at US gas stations on up-to $6,000 in purchases a year
  • Earn 3% as U.S. gas stations
  • $95 Annual Fee
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months
  • 15.24% - 26.24% APR
  • 0% foreign transaction fees
  • Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $1,000 in your first 3 months as a cardholder

Show Me the Money (Math)!

Okay. Let's say you've decided to dive in and take advantage of all of these offers to build an enviable stockpile of cash back rewards. First off, you're looking at banking about $450 in bonuses from signing up. This will require that you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months of this journey, or around $700 a month. If you're not spending that much on cards, you probably shouldn't be looking at this strategy to being with and just stick with one card. 

Category Weekly Spend Cash Back Rate Card Annual Earnings
Grocery $100 6% Blue Cash Preferred $312
Gas $303% Blue Cash Preferred$55
Entertainment $503% Savor One $78
Dining $654% Uber $135
Travel $253% Uber$40
Other $1002% Double Cash$104

Let's crunch some numbers. If your spending patterns line up with the
numbers below, you'd capture around $725 dollars a year in cash back
from your everyday spending. Once you take out the annual fee from the
Blue Cash Preferred since that is an expense, you still net $629
annually with this four card strategy. If you stick to a single 2% cash
back card, you'll earn $384.80 throughout the year. Still not a bad take
home amount, but an extra $250 a year sounds nice to us.