Not every cash back credit card is created equal. Most commonly, cash back cards offer either tiered rewards on specific categories (often between 2% and 5% cash back), or a lower, flat rate on every purchase (typically 1.5% to 2%).
Either type of cash back card can be valuable, but your spending habits can help determine which rewards structure — along with card details like fees, interest, and added benefits — works best for you. To help you decide, we’re putting two of the best options in each category head-to-head: the Citi® Double Cash Card and the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express.
|Citi Double Cash Card||Blue Cash Preferred from American Express|
|Annual Fee||$0||$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95|
|Welcome Offer||None||Earn $150 back after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 6 months of card membership|
Also earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases for the first 6 months of card membership, up to $200 back
|Cash Back Rewards||2% back on all spending — 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay it off||• 6% back on up to $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1% back)|
• 6% back on select U.S. streaming services
• 3% back at gas stations and on transit
• 1% back on other purchases
|Other Benefits||• 0% APR on balance transfers for 18 months, followed by a variable APR of 13.99% to 23.99%|
• Citi Entertainment benefits
|• 0% APR on purchases for 12 months, followed by a variable APR of 13.99% to 23.99%|
• Secondary auto rental coverage, Global Assist hotline, and return protection
The Blue Cash Preferred is the clear standout in this category. It offers a huge welcome bonus, while Citi Double Cash has no offer for new cardholders.
With the American Express Blue Cash Preferred, you’ll earn $150 back after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership, which is a pretty standard cash back welcome bonus.
However, you can also earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases for the first 6 months of card membership, up to $200 back. That’s equal to a maximum $1,000 in Amazon.com spending over your first six months (or about $166 per month). If you use the online retailer to buy household supplies or electronics, or even order groceries for delivery, you can easily max out that cap. In total, that makes this card’s welcome bonus worth $350.
Both of these cards offer great rewards rates, but the savings you earn will depend on your spending habits and the kind of purchases you charge.
The Citi Double Cash Credit Card offers 2% back on all spending — 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay it off. That means you must pay your balances off in full to maximize your rewards.
Meanwhile, the American Express Blue Cash Preferred racks up 6% back on up to $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1% back), 6% on select U.S. streaming services, 3% back at gas stations and on transit, and 1% back on other purchases.
Let’s say you spend the following amounts in these bonus categories annually, loosely based on average consumer spending data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- $5,000 spent ($416 per month) at U.S. supermarkets
- $1,200 spent ($100 per month) on Amazon.com
- $500 spent ($41 per month) on streaming services
- $2,400 spent ($200 per month) at U.S. gas stations and on transit
- $10,000 spent ($833 per month) on miscellaneous purchases (dining, utilities, online shopping, superstores, etc.)
Provided you paid your credit card bill in full throughout the year, the Citi Double Cash Credit Card would net you $382 in cash back rewards on this spending.
Meanwhile, the American Express Blue Cash Preferred would net you $628 in cash back the first year — $300 in rewards at U.S. supermarkets, $126 in rewards at Amazon.com, $30 in streaming rewards, $72 in rewards at U.S. gas stations and on transit, and $100 in cash back on regular purchases. And that’s on top of the $150 welcome offer you can earn within the first 6 months of account opening.
But while your Citi Double Cash rewards will remain the same in subsequent years, don’t count on such eye-popping savings past year one with the Blue Cash Preferred. You’ll earn less on Amazon purchases without the 20% welcome offer, and the $95 annual fee — which kicks in after the first year — will also lower your net rewards.
Even still, you can score hundreds in savings with the Blue Cash Preferred. Look at your past credit card statements and store receipts to get a better idea of where exactly you spend most each month. If your spending aligns with grocery, gas, and streaming categories, the big rewards from Blue Cash Preferred may be a no brainer. Otherwise, an all-encompassing, flat cash back offer like Citi Double Cash will likely leave you better off.
Both the Citi Double Cash Credit Card and the American Express Blue Cash Preferred come with an introductory APR, but their uses differ.
The Citi Double Cash Credit Card gives you 0% APR on balance transfers for 18 months, followed by a variable APR of 13.99% to 23.99%. This makes it better for consumers who want a long introductory rate for paying down existing debt balances — in fact, it’s among our favorite balance transfer offers available today.
Conversely, the American Express Blue Cash Preferred offers 0% APR on purchases only for 12 months, followed by a variable APR of 13.99% to 23.99%. If you have a large upcoming purchase that you want to pay down without interest over time, this offer can help. But it won’t be of any use for consolidating high-interest debt from other cards.
The no annual fee Citi Double Cash wins this category. American Express Blue Cash Preferred does charge an annual fee of $95, though it’s waived for the first year.
They both charge similar costs for purchases you make abroad — a 3% foreign transaction fee for the Citi Double Cash Credit Card and a 2.7% foreign transaction fee for the American Express Blue Cash Preferred — and incur the same late payment and returned payment fee amount of up to $40.
Not only does the American Express Blue Cash Preferred not have an intro offer for balance transfers, but it doesn’t allow them at all, so it doesn’t list a fee for this option. If you transfer a balance to the Citi Double Cash Credit Card, you’ll pay a balance transfer fee of 3% (minimum $5).
Citi® Double Cash Card
- Intro offer:N/A
- Annual fee:$0
- Regular APR:13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)
- Recommended credit:670-850 (Good to Excellent)
- Learn more At our partner’s secure site
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Deciding Between Citi Double Cash and Amex Blue Cash Preferred
The American Express Blue Cash Preferred is slightly more rewarding than the Citi Double Cash despite its annual fee. If your monthly budget is largely spent on everyday staples like groceries and gas, this card will maximize your spending best.
However, there is something to be said for picking a credit card without any fees. And the simplicity of flat cash back can help you maximize spending outside of common rewards categories — like trips to the mall or utility bills. Plus, the Citi Double Cash is easily the best option if you’re hoping to consolidate and pay off other debts.
Can’t decide between the two? You can really maximize your savings by adding both to your wallet and getting competitive cash back rates on every single thing you buy. Use the Blue Cash Preferred for its bonus categories to maximize your rewards there, then switch to the Citi Double Cash for non-bonus purchases so you earn 2% back on all regular spending. Since you can add the Citi Double Cash to your wallet without adding an annual fee, this cash back duo could give you the best of both worlds.