Can You Get Cash Back on a Credit Card?

Rewards and cash at the cashier are two completely distinct alternatives

Cash-back credit cards are one of the most popular forms of credit cards. With each swipe, you have the possibility to gain money back on your purchases. Not to be confused with cash back on a debit card—which you may collect at the register while you're checking out—cash-back credit card rewards accrue until you elect to redeem them.

Understanding the distinction between cash-back incentives and cash back at a shop makes a major impact when you're deciding which method to pay. Unless you need real cash, using your rewards credit card is the best choice for most transactions.

Key Takeaways

  • Cash-back rewards are earned when you make qualified purchases on your cash-back credit card.
  • Only a debit card may be used to obtain cash back at the register.
  • Many credit cards offer cash advances from an ATM, however the process is often more costly.

Cash-Back Rewards vs. Cash Back at the Register

Earning cash-back rewards is quite different than receiving cash back at the cashier with a debit card. Cash-back incentives are earned via the purchases you make on your credit card. You may redeem your rewards as a deposit to your bank account, statement credit, or a few more choices, depending on your credit card. The benefits don't contribute to your ongoing credit card debt and don't need to be repaid.

Getting cash back at the cashier using your debit card, however, is like making a withdrawal from your bank account. The total transaction amount includes your purchase and the amount of cash back you've chosen. For example, if your purchase is $5 and you elect to earn $20 cash back, the total transaction will be $25. Some banks and businesses may impose a fee when you collect cash back at the register.

Note

Even though you may pick the "credit" or "debit" option for debit card transactions, you must choose "debit" and enter your PIN to obtain cash back during a transaction.

How Cash-Back Rewards Work

Start by picking a cash-back rewards credit card, preferably one with a rewards structure that suits your purchasing patterns. For example, if you spend extensively on groceries each month, a cash-back rewards card that pays larger benefits on groceries is an appropriate alternative.

Note

A credit card that offers a fixed rate of rewards on all transactions is perfect for earning a specific amount of points on all purchases.

Each time you make a qualified purchase on a cash-back card, you'll receive rewards. Let's assume your credit card gives 3% cash back on groceries. Spending $300 per month on groceries would earn you $9 in points each month. Rewards build with each transaction and many card issuers don't expire your rewards as long as your account is active and in good standing. In this instance, you may make $108 yearly (assuming your food expenditures total $300 per month for a year).

Once you're ready to take advantage of your cash back, check out your redemption options with your credit card issuer. Depending on your credit card, you may be able to redeem for a deposit into your bank or savings account, a statement credit to your credit card, a gift card to a restaurant or business, or have a check addressed to you. But remember that unlike when you earn cash back at checkout with a debit card, you won’t get most cash-back benefits in a useable form straight soon.

Note

Paying your credit card debt in full is desirable as interest fees diminish the value of the incentives you obtain.

Using a Credit Card for a Cash Advance

Many credit cards may also be used for cash via a cash advance, but you'll have to visit an ATM and make a withdrawal using your PIN to take advantage of the option. Credit card cash advances are levied a fee, either a fixed cost or a percentage of the transaction, whichever is greater.

Cash advance transactions are often charged a greater interest rate than purchases, and the interest starts to accumulate straight away, making cash advances more costly. Unlike purchases, you won't have a grace period in which you may avoid paying interest, even if you paid your debt in full the previous month.

If you need cash, you’re typically better off using your debit card to make withdrawals than obtaining a credit card cash advance.

The Bottom Line

Earning cash back with a rewards credit card is considerably different than receiving cash back from your debit card at a grocery store checkout. Both have their uses. If you need cash and don’t want to make an additional trip to a bank or ATM, you can earn cash back from your debit card while you’re shopping. Otherwise, making the most of your purchases with a cash-back credit card is a terrific way to earn a little bit of additional money on purchases you’d make anyway, but normally, you won’t have that cash in hand immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are there limitations to cash-back incentives on credit cards?

Most cash-back credit cards do not restrict the aggregate amount of points you may receive. However, some may restrict the amount of cash back you may receive on higher tier incentives. For example, a credit card may restrict the 3% cash back received on supermarket purchases at $3,000 per year. Once you hit the maximum, your purchases will receive a basic amount of rewards, normally 1%.

Do you still earn cash-back benefits when you return the item you purchased?

Cash-back benefits normally apply to just net purchases, which exclude returns. Cash-back on returns is normally removed from your rewards balance. Or if the reward has already been granted, your card issuer may reserve or cancel the rewards deposit, or post a cash advance for the rewards to your credit card balance.

What retailers will offer you cash back at the cashier using a debit card?

Many gas stations, pharmacies, grocery shops, discount stores, home improvement, and general goods businesses enable you to earn cash back at the register using a debit card. This includes: Target, Walmart, Gristedes, Fred Meyer, Publix, The Fresh Market, Whole Foods, CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreens, 7-Eleven, ExxonMobile, Family Dollar, Dollar General, The Home Depot, and Lowes.