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What could be easier than getting a little money back on the things you buy every day? That’s how cash back credit cards work and what makes them appealing to some consumers.
Cash back cards come in a variety of flavors â bonus category, tiered rewards and flat percentage cash back cards â but they all pay you back. Flat percentage cash back cards are ideal for the âset it and forget it” crowd, but bonus category and tiered rewards cards can offer more rewards â if you’re willing to put in a little legwork to maximize your cash back in select spending categories.
Here we take a look at the different types of cash back cards and how they work, the key benefits of cash back cards, how to redeem cash back and how to choose the best cash back card for you.
See related:Â How to choose a credit card
How cash back cards work
So how do all of these cash back cards work? It’s simple: Cash back is essentially a rebate of a percentage of the purchases you make on the card. With flat-rate cash back credit cards, every purchase earns the same percentage cash back, while with category bonus cards and tiered bonus cards, different types of spending earn more cash back.
Card issuers can afford to pay cash back because merchants pay an interchange fee on each transaction. âWhen you pay a merchant $100 with a credit card, the merchant only receives about $97,â says Daniel Mahoney, a certified financial planner in Atlanta.
For example, a TV that costs $700 would net you $14 with a 2% cash back card. The merchant, meanwhile, paid a transaction fee of around $21 when you paid with your credit card.
âRewards or rebates may also be funded by deals between the credit card issuer and specific merchants,â Mahoney adds. An example of this is cash back earned through card-linked offers.
How do card issuers know what types of spending qualifies for which percentage of cash back? Merchant category codes are four-digit numbers denoting a business type, such as a gas station or grocery store. Merchant category codes are used by credit card networks to categorize and track purchases.
How to redeem cash back
There are a number of ways to redeem your cash back rewards, including asÂ a statement credit, check or deposit to a bank account, toward travel, to purchase gift cards or merchandise or as a donation. How many options you have and what requirements must be met before you can redeem will vary from card to card and issuer to issuer.
Statement credits are the most common cash back redemption method and, as the term implies, act as credits against your existing card balance. For example, if you earned $20 in cash back and redeemed your rewards as a statement credit, your card balance would be reduced by $20.
Statement credits give you a simple, convenient way to save money over time, but since they’re tied to your card account, they offer a bit less flexibility than “true” cash back in the form of a check or direct deposit, which you can save or spend however you like.
Generally speaking, redeeming your rewards is as simple as choosing your redemption method, specifying the amount you want to redeem and hitting submit. Some cards also offer automatic cash back redemption in the amount and via the method you specify once you’ve reached a specific earnings threshold.
While statement credits, checks and direct deposits tend to get you full value for your rewards (with $1 earned yielding a $1 credit or direct payment), other redemption methods like gift cards and donations may only net you a fraction of your rewards value.
On the other hand, pairing a cash back card with a higher-tier travel or rewards card can sometimes boost the value of your cash back rewards, as in the case of the so-called “Chase trifecta“.
Check with your card issuerâs rules on cash back redemption amounts and options, as some cards offer more restrictive redemption schemes than others. For example, while a card like the Chase Freedom Unlimited allows you to redeem your cash back as a statement credit, check or direct deposit in any amount, anytime, the Costco Anywhere VisaÂ® Card by CitiÂ only issues rewards annually as a certificate with the February statement.
Benefits of cash back credit cards
Along with the obvious benefit of allowing you to earn a bit of money back on most â if not all â of your spending, cash back cards offer a number of advantages for experienced and newbie cardholders alike.
To start, cash back cards can offer more simplicity than other rewards credit cards. Since you get back a percentage of your card spend, you’ll always have a pretty good sense of how much money you’re earning. Cards that earn points or miles, by contrast, often require you to calculate point values and weigh redemption options to be sure you’re getting the most out of your rewards.
âThe primary benefit of a cash back card is the simplicity,â says Roman Shteyn, owner and CEO of RewardExpert.com.
âYou donât have to think too much about how much youâre earning while using the card, and when it comes to redemption,Â the best cash back credit cardsÂ are pretty straightforward. Most people just deduct their cash back from their statement balance or redeem for gift cards.â
Cash back cards also stand out as a low-effort savings tool. Indeed, the typical savings account earns a measly 0.05% annual yield, while nearly all cash back cards offer at least 1% back on every purchase. Your return is even greater with cash back cards offering a flat 1.5%, 2% or more on every purchase.
And unlike the interest on your bank account, cash back comes tax-free.
âThe IRS has historically viewed credit card cash back as a nontaxable rebate on the purchase price, rather than as a taxable form of income,â says Mahoney.
Something else to think about: Cash back, if loaded back on your card, also earns its own cash back when you spend it, adds financial planner Andrew Feldman of Chicago. âItâs a fraction, but itâs still a little more cash,â he says.
Factor in that some cash back cards offer sign-up bonuses of $150 or $250, and that is even more cash for you for using the card.
See related:Â Cash back vs. points
Types of cash back cards
There are three main types of cash back credit cards: Category bonus cash back cards, which offer a high cash back rate in spending categories that change throughout the year; tiered rewards cash back cards, which offer consistent cash back in specific categories of spending; and flat-rate cash back cards, which get you cash back at the same rate on all purchases.
Category bonus cash back cards
Overview: Category bonus cash back cards offer the lure of 5% cash back from revolving spending categories. These categories are typically set by the issuer every quarter and are usually released a few months before the new quarter starts. Five percent back can be a nice haul if youâre able to max out the spending categories each quarter, but it takes a bit of work.
First, you have to register for the bonus categories every three months, and spending in the categories is capped at a set amount each quarter (typically $1,500 in purchases). Since any purchase not in the bonus category earns 1%, you may not be getting the average return you think you are.
Pros:Â These cards allow you to earn cash back at an impressive rate in a variety of different spending categories, which could be ideal for cardholders whose spending varies from month to month. If your spending habits are flexible and you’re strategic about when and where you buy, category bonus cards can offer lucrative returns.
Cons: They can be a headache to keep up with, often requiring you to manually enroll in a category each quarter and track your spending to ensure you’re maximizing your cash back in a given category. You’re also at the mercy of the issuer when it comes to which categories are eligible for bonus rewards, and categories may not line up with your spending habits or may be tough to maximize.
Top cards: Discover and Chase each offer popular category bonus cards, including the Discover itÂ® Cash Back, Discover itÂ® Student Cash Back and Chase Freedom Flex cards.
The Discover 2021 bonus categories have already been released and include grocery stores, gas stations, wholesale clubs, restaurants and online shopping at stores like Amazon, Target and Walmart. Chase Freedom Flex bonus categories, on the other hand, are only announced on a quarterly basis.
The U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card is a variation on the rotating bonus category theme, but the cardholder picks the bonus categories that will earn the most cash back for the types of purchases they make most.
See related:Â Chase Freedom Flex vs. Discover it Cash Back
Tiered rewards cash back cards
Overview: Like category bonus cards, tiered rewards cards offer more cash back in select spending categories, but to maximize your earnings you have to think about which card to use with each purchase.
For example,Â Feldman puts all his business expenses on his tiered rewards American Express SimplyCash Plus business card and his own personal expenses on a CitiÂ® Double Cash Card that delivers a flat 2% (1% when you buy and 1% as you pay for your purchases).
His Amex business card rewards 5% on office supply stores and wireless telephone service, 3% on gas (cardholders choose from eight categories for this tier) and 1% on everything else.
At the end of each year, Feldman calculates the rewards delivered on the total amount he spent. He says both of his cards end up delivering the same cash back on average.
âThe Amex works out to about 2%, maybe slightly under,â Feldman says. âI just donât spend enough on office supplies to max out that 5% category.â
âCould I get back another couple dollars at the end of the year by using a credit card targeted to each category of my spending?â Feldman asks. âItâs possible, but Iâd have to think about which card to use every time I made a purchase and that would make my life crazy.â
Pros: Tiered rewards cash back cards may offer a bit more consistency than category bonus cards, as bonus categories are the same year-round. You’ll know before you apply if an elevated rewards rate in a given category like travel or dining makes sense based on your spending, and you can pair a tiered rewards card with a flat-rate card to ensure you’re maximizing your earnings.
Cons: These cards tend to earn a low rate on general purchases, and people often overestimate how much they spend in a given category, like gas or airfare. You’ll have to take a close look at your spending habits to determine whether a tiered bonus category card really makes sense for you or if you’d be better off with a card that earns the same flat rate in cash back on every purchase.
Top cards: While the best choice for you will depend on how you spend, one of our top picks is the Blue Cash PreferredÂ® Card from American Express, which offers 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%), 6% back on select U.S. streaming service subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and 1% cash back on all other spending.
Supermarket purchases make up a big chunk of the average person’s spending habits, so a card that offers bonus rewards in this category should be useful to the majority of cardholders.
Flat-rate cash back cards
Overview: With simple cash back cards, also called flat-rate cash back cards, you earn a flat percentage with every purchase. Thereâs no need to track and activate bonus categories. You earn the same cash back on every purchase.
Mahoney carries theÂ Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit cardÂ which earns 1.5 points per dollar (effectively 1.5% cash back) plus a 75% bonus for being part of the bankâs Preferred Rewards Platinum Honors program.
âThatâs effectively 2.625% cash back*,â Mahoney says (2.625% cash back referencing 1.5 points per dollar plus 75% boost for Preferred Rewards program). âThe caveat is the cash back must be used as a reimbursement for travel purchases**, but lots of things count for that, even Uber and Lyft.â
Feldman recently switched from the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, which offers 1.5% cash back, to the CitiÂ® Double Cash Card, which earns up to 2% cash back (1% when you buy and 1% as you pay for your purchases).
Why did he switch? â2% is better than 1.5%,â he says.
Also, âI miss the convenience of being able to log in and get my rewards in one sweep or set it up for an automatic $25 or $50,â he adds. âI like to cash in my points immediately so I donât forget about them.â
Frequent-flyer expert Gary Leff likes the Fidelity Rewards Visa and Citi Double Cash cash back cards.
With theÂ Fidelity Rewards Visa, cardholders earn 2% on all purchases, but you need to be a Fidelity account holder with excellent credit to qualify for the card.
âMost people arenât going to beat 2% cash back, even with travel rewards,â says Leff, who blogs at View from the Wing.
Pros:Â You won’t have to track spending or enroll in bonus categories. You can simply use your card for every purchase and rest assured you’re earning cash back at a consistent rate. This makes flat-rate cards ideal for those who want to avoid the hassle of juggling multiple cards or someone who’s looking to supplement their current tiered rewards or category bonus cash back card.
Cons: While these cards offer consistent rewards on every purchase, you may be missing out on bonus rewards in a category of high spend, like groceries or dining.
Top cards:Â A top pick in this category is the Citi Double Cash card, as it offers one of the highest flat cash back rates available, charges no annual fee and can pair with a premium Citi card to make earning travel rewards a breeze. It also encourages responsible card use by only giving you the second 1% back once you’ve paid off your purchases.
Types of cash back cards compared
We ran the numbers to see how flat rate, category bonus and tiered bonus cash back earnings would break down based on an average Americanâs spending (drawn from a Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer expenditures survey):
|2% flat percentage||5% category bonus*||6% tiered bonus**|
|$21,897*** at 2%||$14,645 at 1% ($14.65)||$16,596 at 1% ($16.59)|
|$6,000 at 5% ($300)||$4,464 at 6% ($267.84)|
|$437.90 in cash back per year||$314.65 in cash back per year||$284.43 in cash back per year|
|* This assumes the category bonus cardholder maxes out the $1,500 in qualified quarterly spending, which is difficult to do every quarter.
** The Blue Cash Preferred from American Express offers 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets and other tiered rewards, so total cash back will be higher.
*** This includes expenses on food, gas and oil changes, vehicle expenses, apparel and services, entertainment and other expenditures
â CreditCards.com research, March 2020
How to choose a cash back credit card
Which cash back card is right for you depends on how much thought you want to put into which card to use where.
While some cash back cards offer outsized bonuses on specific types of purchases or in rotating bonus categories, you’ll have to remember to use the right card at the right time and place. Not only will you need to pay attention to your account to see how your issuer categorized your purchase, but you may also need to manually enroll in a bonus category each quarter to reap the benefit of certain cards.
This makes such cards less than ideal if you’re looking for more of a “no-fuss” way to earn rewards. Additionally, most tiered and category bonus cards only get you 1% cash back on general purchases. This means that unless you spend heavily in a card’s bonus categories, you could be missing out on maximizing rewards on the majority of your spending.
Flat-rate cards, on the other hand, may offer a lower rewards rate in a specific category like dining or groceries, but will help you score extra rewards on general purchases that don’t fall into a specific category, boosting your average cash back rate overall. This is why it’s also worth considering pairing a flat-rate cash back card with a tiered bonus card that fits your spending habits.
Whether you opt for a flat-rate, tiered rewards or category bonus cash back card, you can enjoy earning cash back on all (or nearly all) of your purchases, often with minimal effort.
You may be surprised at just how much 1% or more cash back adds up to at the end of each month. Just be sure to take a close look at your spending habits and each issuer’s terms to be sure the cash back card you’re considering is a good fit for you.
*2.625% cash back referencing 1.5 points per dollar plus 75% boost for Preferred Rewards program.
**Travel or dining purchases
Surveys consistently show that no credit card reward is more popular than cold, hard cash. Indeed, cash back cards came out well ahead of other types of rewards cards in a recent CreditCards.com survey, which found that close to half of U.S. adults own a cash back credit card.
And for good reason: Instead of having to decipher a complex redemption scheme, you can opt for a simple, straightforward reward and use it in the way that fits you best.
Here we take a look at some of the most common types of cash back redemption, along with some of the restrictions you may encounter when redeeming your rewards.
How cash back cards work
Cash back cards come in a variety of flavors, but they all fundamentally work the same way: As you make purchases with your card, you earn cash rewards at a set rate. There are three major types of cash back cards.
- Flat-rate cash back cards offer the same percentage of cash back for all purchases, usually between 1% and 2%.
- Bonus category cash back cards typically reward some purchases, like groceries or dining, at a higher rate, while rewarding general purchases at 1%.
- Rotating bonus category cash back cards have dynamic bonus categories that automatically change or allow you to select a different bonus category after a certain length of time.
See related:Â What is cash back?
Ways to redeem cash back
Depending on your card and issuer, you may have a variety of choices in how you redeem your cash back rewards. Some issuers even allow you to set up an automatic redemption, meaning your redemption would automatically initiate after a set number of days or after you earn a certain amount in rewards.
The most common ways to redeem cash back are:
- A statement credit
- A direct deposit to a bank account
- A check
- Gift cards
Redeeming cash back as a statement credit
One of the most common ways to redeem cash back is as aÂ statement credit. A statement credit is money credited to your account that reduces your card balance. For example, if you were to spend $1,000 with a card that offers 1.5% cash back on every purchase, youâd earn $15 in cash back rewards; and if you were to redeem this cash back as a statement credit, your balance would decrease by $15 to $985.
Blue Cash PreferredÂ® Card from American Express, for example, requires you to have earned $25 in cash back before you can redeem as a statement credit.
Once youâve met your cardâs redemption requirements, you can simply choose a statement credit as your preferred cash back redemption.
Redeeming cash back as a check or direct deposit
A slightly smaller number of credit card rewards programs let you redeem your rewards for âtrueâ cash back in the form of a check or direct deposit to your bank account. Claiming your cash back in this way gives you a bit more leeway since you can save or spend your rewards however you like instead of having them âlockedâ into a particular card account.
As with statement credits, the requirements for requesting a check vary from card to card, with some issuers requiring you to have earned a minimum amount of cash back before you can request a check and others imposing relatively few restrictions.
Direct deposits tend to be a bit trickier across the board, especially if you donât already have a banking relationship with your credit card issuer.
- TheÂ Bank of AmericaÂ® Cash Rewards credit card, for example, will only let you redeem cash back as direct deposit if you have a checking or savings account with Bank of America.
- TheÂ CitiÂ® Double Cash Card lets you redeem your cash back as a direct deposit only if you have a linked Citi account or a checking account from which youâve paid a Citi credit card bill at least twice. While the Double Cash card requires you to have earned at least $25 in cash back to redeem as a statement credit, thereâs no minimum to redeem as a direct deposit.
Wells Fargo Cash Wise VisaÂ® cardÂ lets you claim your cash back via an ATM (in $20 increments only) if you have a Wells Fargo Bank account.
Automatic cash back redemption
Along with manually requesting a statement credit, check or direct deposit, a number of cards allow you to set up automatic cash back redemption. If your card allows automatic redemption, your cash back is generally distributed at set times or after youâve earned a certain amount.
- TheÂ Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card and, for example, allow you to schedule automatic cash back redemption via statement credit or check at a set time once per year or once youâve reached a cash back earnings threshold ($25, $50, $100, $200, $500 or $1,500).
- Even some cards designed for credit-builders, like theÂ Credit One Bank American ExpressÂ® Card, allow automatic redemption as a statement credit, offering those looking to improve their financial habits a âset-it-and-forget-itâ cash back savings tool that will periodically knock off a chunk of their credit card balance.
Travel, gift cards and merchandise on an issuerâs online portal
Most credit card issuers also give you the option of redeeming your cash back through a rewards portal for online shopping or as gift cards to select department stores, restaurants, video streaming services and more.
- TheÂ Discover itÂ® Cash Backcard, for example, lets you redeem your cash back for gift cards from shopping partners once youâve earned $5 in cash back (gift cards range from $5 to $200, in increments of $5).
- TheÂ Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card*lets you redeem your points for purchases on Amazon.com, as a statement credit or deposit, or for gift cards and travel â all at a rate of 1 cent per point.
Having the option to use your rewards for travel allows you to enjoy the benefits of travel rewards with a cash back card and is especially common among cash back cards that use points or allow you toÂ choose between cash back and points.
- The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a great example. You can earn unlimited cash back at a rate of 5% cash back on every purchase, which translates to 1.5 points per dollar if redeemed for travel in theÂ Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
- Similarly, the Citi Double Cash Card lets you transfer your cash back toÂ Citi ThankYou Rewards and redeem for travel rewards, as well as gift cards, merchandise and other purchases through the Pay with Points program.
Cash back redemption options on popular rewards cards
As you can see, cash back redemption options vary considerably from issuer to issuer and card to card. Hereâs a closer look at how cash back redemption breaks down with some of the most popular cash back credit cards.
|Card||Redeem as a statement credit?||Redeem as a check?||Redeem as a direct deposit?|
|Blue Cash PreferredÂ® Card from American Express||Yes (once youâve earned $25 in cash back)||No||No|
|Bank of AmericaÂ® Cash Rewards credit card||Yes (once youâve earned $25 in cash back)||Yes (once youâve earned $25 in cash back)||Yes (into a Bank of America checking or savings account, once youâve earned $25 in cash back)|
|Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card||Yes, anytime||Yes, anytime||No|
|Chase Freedom UnlimitedÂ®||Yes, anytime||Yes, anytime||Yes|
|CitiÂ® Double Cash Card||Yes (once youâve earned $25 in cash back)||Yes (once youâve earned $25 in cash back)||Yes (to a linked Citi savings or checking account or to a checking account from which youâve paid your Citi credit card bill at least twice)|
|Discover itÂ® Cash Back||Yes, anytime||No||Yes|
Best cash back redemption options
With all those options for redeeming for cash, which one is best?
The key point to consider is whether your rewards lose any value when redeemed in a certain way. You want to make sure you are getting the most value back, so be careful if you redeem for merchandise, which can be worth less than rewards redeemed for straight cash.
That said, unless your issuer offers a bonus for claiming your rewards as a statement credit instead of âtrueâ cash back, you should simply stick to whichever option is most convenient.
One drawback to cash rewards is they often donât feel like actual rewards because they get swept up into your ongoing finances. If that bothers you, you might consider taking note of how much you are receiving in cash rewards, then rewarding yourself by spending that amount on something you want, so that you feel like youâre getting a reward.
Either way, thatâs the best aspect of cash back rewards: Itâs your decision.
Choosing the best cash back credit card for you
Your redemption options are just one consideration when choosing a credit card. Consider these factors:
When shopping around for cash back cards, find the card that will work the hardest for you, not the other way around. In other words, a cash back rate of 5% at restaurants is great, but not if you rarely eat out. Bottom line: Find a credit card that matches the largest portions of your budget.
Also, be honest about how much thought you want to give to your credit card. If you prefer a âset and forgetâ approach, a flat-rate card is a better choice than a rotating bonus category card.
With so many great no annual fee cards, you might wonder why you would ever get a card with an annual fee. But often, the rewards rates are so much better that it actually makes sense to get the card with the annual fee. For example, comparing the Blue Cash EverydayÂ® Card from American Express and the Blue Cash PreferredÂ® Card from American Express, we found that consumers who spend more than $3,200 annually at U.S. supermarkets ($267 per month) were actually better off with Blue Cash Preferred, which has a $95 annual fee.
From redemption options to bonus categories, each cash back card is designed for a different type of consumer. If you havenât found your perfect match yet, try our CardMatchâ¢ tool, which can deliver personalized credit card offers in seconds with no impact on your credit score.
All information about the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card and the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuers did not provide the content, nor are they responsible for its accuracy.
Sometimes a credit card purchase that seemed like a great idea when you made it turns out to be a huge mistake.
While you may be able to return a product or cancel a service and get a refund, make sure you understand the refund process, or your credit could take a hit.
There are many reasons why you may want to return a purchase. You may have splurged on a new table only to find it is slightly too large for your space. Perhaps the necklace you bought online arrived with a broken clasp. Or maybe you just changed your mind and decided you didn’t want to spend $999 on an online course so you took the retailer up on its money-back guarantee.
Regardless of why you decide to return an item, “make sure you understand the return policy,” says Rod Griffin, senior director of consumer education and awareness for Experian.
The steps you take after you request a refund to your credit card could hurt your credit or protect it.
See related: What is a credit card chargeback, and how does it work?
How credit card refunds work
When you make a purchase with cash, the transaction involves two parties – you and the retailer. If you get a refund after making a cash purchase, the retailer can simply give you back the cash from the purchase.
However, when you make a purchase with a credit card, the credit card issuer is involved in the transaction as well. In fact, the credit card issuer extends the payment to the retailer with the understanding that you will pay the card issuer back when you pay your credit card bill. Since the card issuer serves as something of a middleman in the original transaction, the card issuer must serve as a middleman again when you are issued a refund.
That means if you ask for a refund, the retailer must refund the party that paid them, which is the credit card company. The credit card company would then issue the refund to you in the form of a credit on your credit card statement.
Unfortunately, there is no universal rule that determines how long it takes to get a refund. For one thing, retailer policies differ. One retailer may take 15 days to issue a refund while another may take 30 or 45.
“In many if not most states retailers are required to post their refund policies,” says Linda Sherry, director of national priorities for San Francisco-based advocacy organization Consumer Action.
However, “not all these laws require online merchants to do the same,” Sherry adds. Therefore, some merchants may not be obligated to tell you when you can expect a refund at all.
It may take even longer to get a refund if you have to return an item purchased online via mail. For example, according to Amazon’s refund policy, “it can take up to 25 days for an item to reach us once you return it.” It’s not until after the item is received that Amazon would process the refund.
Once the retailer issues the refund to the credit card company, it may take a couple more days for your card issuer to apply your credit.
See related: How do credit cards work?
Can a credit card refund affect your credit?
The way you handle a credit card refund can have implications for your credit score.
If you’re waiting for a refund, you may be tempted to hold onto your money rather than pay your credit card bill since you know the refund is coming. However that would be a mistake, says Griffin.
“If you’re waiting for a refund and you’re not sure if it’s going to be there before the payment is due, make at least the minimum payment,” he said. That way you avoid a late payment, which could not only hurt your credit score but leave you on the hook for a late fee.
Another mistake that could hurt your credit score is believing the refund counts as a credit card payment. Say you are carrying a balance on your credit card and the minimum credit card payment due is $25. Before you make your payment, you see that a refund of $30 is applied to your account for a product you returned.
You may believe you don’t have to pay your bill that month because the credit is for more than the minimum payment due. But that’s not necessarily the case. You could still be obligated to pay the bill because the refund does not count as a payment, Griffin says.
credit utilization ratio – the balance on your credit card in relation to the credit line – goes up. A higher credit utilization ratio can hurt your credit. On the other hand, once a refund is applied, the utilization ratio goes down, which can boost your score.
quickest ways to improve your score, since credit card balances typically get reported to credit bureaus on a monthly basis.
Refunds, negative balances and rewards
Say a refund comes late and you pay your credit card bill to avoid making a late payment. If you paid for part or all of the refunded item when you paid the credit card bill, you may end up with a negative balance on your credit card once the credit is applied.
That simply means your card issuer owes you money. They may either apply the credit the next time you buy something using the card or they may issue you a check if you request it. From a credit standpoint, a negative balance on your credit card won’t hurt you, Griffin says. Rather, the account would be reported to credit bureaus as having a zero balance.
While getting a refund for a purchase you no longer want can be a relief, there could be a downside. If you have a rewards card and you earned rewards on that purchase, those rewards are forfeited if you get a refund on the purchase, according to a Chase spokesman. That means the card issuer will take the rewards back, or if you have already cashed them in, you will have a negative value in your reward balance.
See related: When should I redeem my rewards?
If you’re confused in any way about an expected refund, it doesn’t hurt to give your card issuer a call to let them know you’re expecting a refund as soon as you request it from the retailer, Griffin says. That way you are less likely to run into any surprises, and you can ask directly what they expect from you.