You get cash back when you use your credit card offering a cash-back rewards program. Simply use the credit card to pay for qualifying expenses and get rewarded with cash back. With some cards all purchases qualify, whereas others may limit the cash back to certain types of purchases or pay variable rates depending on the type of purchase. The cash back you receive is generally a percentage of the amount you charge to the card. For example, the BankAmericard Cash Rewards credit card offers 3 percent on gas, 2 percent on groceries and 1 percent on everything else.
Earning Cash Back
Common Cash Back Categories
Sometimes the amount of cash back in a rewards program depends on the category, and these can change. For example, Discover offers a 5 percent cash back bonus in a different category every quarter. Categories in 2015 include gas and ground transportation, and restaurants and movies. The category, such as "gas stations," appears on your credit card statement along with the amount of cash back you earned on the purchase. Keep in mind that there might be a maximum amount you can earn each month or quarter. For example, Discover offers a 5 percent bonus cash back, but only on the first $1,500 in qualifying purchases each quarter.
Bonus or Promotional Cash Back
Some credit cards come with a one-time bonus cash-back offer. For example, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express offers $150 back after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months. Your credit card might also offer bonus cash-back promotions when you shop with certain retailers. Cardholders who shop through the Citi Bonus Cash Center can earn up to 10 percent cash back, or even more in some cases. Citicard offers a new card that pays cash back twice, once when you make a purchase and once when you pay for it.
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Redeeming Cash Back Rewards
How you collect the cash back you earn depends on the terms of your credit card. Some cards allow you to choose how you get your cash back, such as a statement credit, paper check or a transfer to your bank account. Other cards may pay the cash back as a credit to a particular retailer or allow you to redeem it for gift cards, merchandise or services. Check with your credit card company to find out what options are available.