Cashback reward program

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A cashback reward program is an incentive program operated by credit card companies where a percentage of the amount spent is paid back to the card holder. Many credit card issuers, particularly those in the United Kingdom, Canada and United States, run programs to encourage use of the card where the card holder is given points, frequent flyer miles or a monetary amount. This last benefit, a monetary amount, is usually known as cashback or cash back reward.


Where a card issuer operates such a program, card holders typically receive between 0.5% and 3% of their net expenditure (purchases minus refunds) as an annual rebate, which is either credited to the credit card account or paid to the card holder separately.[1]

When accepting payment by credit card, merchants typically pay a percentage of the transaction amount in commission to their bank or merchant services provider. Merchants are often not allowed to charge a higher price when a credit card is used as opposed to other methods of payment, so there is no penalty for a card holder to use their credit card. The credit card issuer is sharing some of this commission with the card holder to incentivise them to use the credit card when making a payment.

Rewards based credit card products like cash back are more beneficial to consumers who pay their credit card statement off every month. Rewards based products generally have higher Annual percentage rate. If the balance were not paid in full every month the extra interest would eclipse any rewards earned. Most consumers do not know that their rewards-based credit cards charge higher "interchange" fees to the vendors who accept them.[2]


In the 1990s, major card issuers in the US raised the cash-back percentage up to 5%. The 5% cash back rate usually applies only to purchases made at grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations for 6 months.[citation needed] This high rate of cash back was set to grab the attention of potential applicants for them to consider applying for the card. Typically the cash back rate for all other purchases is around 1%.[citation needed]

A 2010 public policy study conducted by the Federal Reserve concluded cash back reward programs result in a monetary transfer from low-income to high-income households. Eliminating cash back reward programs would reduce merchant fees which would in turn reduce consumer prices because retail is such a competitive environment.[3]

In 2012 in the United States, due to increased gasoline (gas) prices, gas cash back cards or gas rebate credit cards became very popular among consumers. Companies provide an average of 3% APR on new gas credit cards. The main idea behind gasoline discount cards is that cardholders obtain a sure percent of the sum they consume on gasoline each month in the form of a rebate check at the end of the year. It works similarly to a cashback discount recognition card with one noteworthy exception: the gasoline discount is frequently applied each month, whereas most cashback cards ship away discount checks formerly a year.[citation needed] This makes the savings easier to view for most consumers.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cash Back". Investopedia. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  2. ^ Couch, Christina. "Do Merchants Hate Rewards Credit Cards?". Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  3. ^ Who Gains and Who Loses from Credit Card Payments? Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, 31 August 2010