MoneyGeek's Credit Card Cash Back Calculator

Updated: July 2, 2024

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How to Calculate Credit Card Cash Back

Calculating cash back rewards is straightforward: multiply your spending by the cash back rate. However, the way cash back actually works may be more complicated for some cards due to bonus categories, which cap your bonus rates after you spend a certain amount. In some cases, they may also require activation.

Here’s how to use our cash back calculator to help you estimate your cash back:

Select a Spend Category

Choose from options like Groceries, Dining, Transportation, Shopping, Utilities, Health and Wellness, Entertainment or Other.

Enter the Cash Back Rate

Input the percentage rate your card offers for the selected category.

Input Your Expected Spending

Enter the amount you expect to spend in that category.

Add or Remove Categories

Use the "Add a Category" button to include more spending categories or the "delete" button to remove any.

As you enter your details, the cash back amount will automatically update.

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If your card has a cap on higher cash back rates, enter two lines: one for spending up to the cap at the higher rate and another for spending beyond the cap at the lower rate (usually it’s 1%).

Example Cash Back Calculations

To help you understand how the cash back calculations work and how much you can earn, we've provided example calculations for two popular credit cards. These examples will show you the potential rewards based on typical spending patterns.

We’ll use a spending profile that’s similar to a typical American household:

  • Groceries: $8,000 annually or about $150 per week
  • Gas: $3,000 annually or about $57 per week
  • Online Shopping: $1,000 annually
  • Everything else: $10,000 annually or an additional $800 per month of credit card expenses for expenses like phone bills, dining out, etc.

This totals $22,000 of credit card spending annually or $1,833 per month.

Capital One Quicksilver

The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card is a great example for understanding how to calculate cash back rewards. This card offers unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day.

To estimate the cash back from the QuicksilverOne in the calculator for the everyday 1.5%:

  1. Change the first line category and select "Other Spending" from the drop-down menu.
  2. Enter "1.5" as the cash back rate (%).
  3. Input your expected spending amount. For our spending profile, you’ll enter $22,000.

With this simple setup, the calculator will calculate $330 as your cash back rewards for the year.

Blue Cash Everyday Card From American Express

The Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express card is a great example of a cash back card with multiple bonus categories.

The Blue Cash Everyday card’s cash back earnings structure is:

  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%.
  • 3% cash back on U.S. online retail purchases up to $6,000 per year, then 1%.
  • 3% U.S. gas stations, up to $6,000 per year, then 1%.
  • 1% cash back on other purchases.
  • The cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit or on at checkout

To estimate the rewards in the cash back calculator with our spend profile, follow these steps:

Enter your grocery spending For groceries, select "Groceries" as the spend category, enter "3" for the cash back rate and input your expected spending up to $6,000. Since the grocery spending from our example profile exceeds $6,000, we would add another line for "Groceries," enter "1" for the cash back rate and input the amount over $6,000.

Enter your online shopping spending For online retail purchases, select "Shopping," enter "3" for the cash back rate and input the $1,000 from our sample profile. Even though there’s a cap on the bonus reward, since we're not spending more than $6,000, we don’t need a second line like we did for groceries.

Enter your gas spending Similarly, for gas, select "Transportation," enter "3" for the cash back rate and input the expected spend of $3,000.

For all other purchases, select "Other Spending," enter "1" for the cash back rate and input the expected spending of $10,000.

You should have an estimated cash back of $420.


In this example, the Blue Cash Everyday provides better cash back than the Quicksilver. However, if your spending were different, you may conclude differently. For example, if you dine out often, you may find the Quicksilver to be the better card for rewards.

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When we did our full head-to-head review of the Quicksilver vs. Blue Cash Everyday we found these two cards to be evenly matched.

But what if you had both cards? You could get 1.5% cash back on all of your purchases that weren’t included in the 3% categories of the Blue Cash Everyday. To calculate this, you’d go back to what you entered for the Blue Cash Everyday card and change the 1% values to 1.5%.

This pairing can be a smart move, but you’d only make $50 more. Ask yourself if it's worth the trouble to juggle an additional card — it may or may not be, depending on your spending and financial management habits.

In our experience, 2–3 credit cards in active use increases your rewards without adding too much complexity. However, make sure you can pay off your cards each month in full, no matter how many you have. Interest charges will quickly wipe out any cash back earnings if you're running a balance.

Comparing Credit Card Cash Back Cards

Our cash back calculator can help you evaluate potential cash back earnings, but you should also consider these other factors when choosing a cash back credit card:

Annual Fee: Some cards offer higher cash back rates but come with an annual fee. Ensure the rewards you earn outweigh this cost.

Credit Score Requirements: Make sure your credit score aligns with the card’s recommended credit.

Penalties: Look at the penalty rates and fees. A card with high penalties can quickly erode your rewards.

Intro Purchase APR: Some cards offer a 0% introductory APR on purchases, which can be beneficial if you plan to carry a balance initially.

Issuer: Some card issuers offer better customer service and overall experience. American Express is the standout in this category for customer satisfaction.

Welcome Offer: You don’t want to chase welcome offers, but they can help you make your decisions.

If you’re looking for cash back card ideas, our ranking of the best cash back cards can help you narrow down your options.

Cash Back FAQ

How do I calculate cash back rewards on my credit card?
What if I don't see the spending category in the calculator drop down?
How do I include a card's annual fee in the cash back calculator?
Is 5% cash back a good reward rate?
How can I maximize my cash back rewards?
How do I compare different cash back credit cards?
Are cash back credit cards better than other rewards cards?

About Doug Milnes, CFA

Doug Milnes, CFA headshot

Doug Milnes is a CFA charter holder with over 10 years of experience in corporate finance and the Head of Credit Cards at MoneyGeek. Formerly, he performed valuations for Duff and Phelps and financial planning and analysis for various companies. His analysis has been cited by U.S. News and World Report, The Hill, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and many other outlets.

Milnes holds a master’s degree in data science from Northwestern University. He geeks out on helping people feel on top of their credit card use, from managing debt to optimizing rewards.

*Rates, fees or bonuses may vary or include specific stipulations. The content on this page is accurate as of the posting/last updated date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. We recommend visiting the card issuer’s website for the most up-to-date information available.
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