One of the best things about rewards credit cards is getting money back on everyday purchases you have to make anyway. Card issuer US Bank has one of the best rewards programs around — a whopping 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories — on a wide variety of spending categories with its Cash+ credit card. However, it’s important to understand how this card works so you can maximize your spending and earn the most rewards this card offers.

US Bank Credit Card Rewards

How the rewards work

How to maximize the 5% cash back categories

Bottom line

How the US Bank Cash+™ Rewards work

There’s no question this credit card offers some lucrative rewards. However, you’ll need to do a bit of work to earn them. This rewards card offers two tiers of bonus categories: There’s a rotating list of spending categories that earn 5% back, and another group that earns 2%. Each quarter, you’ll choose which rotating categories you want to earn your 5% and 2% rewards on. Although you have to remember to activate the category of your choice a few times a year, it’s a great way to make sure your rewards always match your evolving spending habits.

The amount of rewards you can earn isn’t quite unlimited. You’ll earn 5% back on your first $2,000 in combined eligible purchases in your chosen categories. If you can max out the 5% cash back, that’s $100 in cash rewards for the quarter, and you’ll have earned $400 in the first year of being a cardholder. You can earn unlimited cash back on eligible net purchases within your 2% cash back categories. The 2% categories in 2019 are U.S. gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. And finally, you’ll receive 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases with no limit.

women shopping and getting rewards from US Bank Cash Rewards Card

How to maximize the 5% cash back categories

Since you are limited in how much cash back you can earn in the highest-value cash back tier, you want to make sure you spend strategically. So what are some ways you can earn higher cash back at the maximum rewards rate of 5%? Below are the spending categories available to choose from and some ideas to capitalize in those areas.

TV, internet & streaming services: Whether you still watch cable or cut the cord in favor of streaming services, you can pay your bill with your Cash+ credit card to earn 5% back. Merchants such as Time Warner Cable, DirectTV, Hulu, Netflix, and Spotify are just some that qualify.

Fast food: If you ever hit up the drive through after a long day, know that you can earn the top rewards on your purchase. Restaurants such as Burger King, In-N-Out Burger, Subway, and Taco Bell all earn 5% back. If you tend to eat at home, you can also choose to get 2% back at grocery stores.

Cell phone providers: These days, everyone has a cell phone. So if you have to pay for this expense, you might as well earn money back on the bill. Whether you belong to AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Boost Mobile, or a host of other cell phone providers, your spending in this category will qualify for 5% back.

Department stores: Need to take the kids back-to-school shopping? Want to get a little something for yourself? Purchases at department stores such as Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Sears qualify for 5% back. However, discount department stores such as Target and Walmart aren’t included in this category.

Home utilities: Bills, bills, bills: You have to keep the lights on and water running. At least you can earn cash back rewards for it. Utilities companies like Duke Energy, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and Puget Sound Energy are included in this category.

Select clothing stores: In addition to department stores, purchases from other clothing retailers qualify as well. Shopping at stores such as Banana Republic, Forever 21, and JoS. A. Bank will earn you 5% back.

Electronics stores: If you need to make a big ticket purchase such as a new TV or laptop, earning 5% back on that purchase eases the financial burden a little. You can choose to earn 5% rewards from stores such as Apple, Best Buy, Fry’s Electronics, and

Sporting goods stores: If you have an athlete in the house, this spending category is for you. Earn 5% cash back on purchases made at sporting goods stores such as Big Five, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and REI. More of an outdoorsy type? Hunting and camping gear from Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Camping World, and others also qualify.

Movie theaters: Going out to the movies has become a pretty expensive activity these days. But if you can earn 5% cash back, you might be more tempted to splurge on the big screening instead of waiting for the DVD release. Merchants in this spending category include AMC Theaters,, and Regal Cinemas.

Gym/fitness centers: Staying in shape is good for your health, but 5% cash back is a pretty good incentive to hit the gym, too. Whether you belong to 24 Hour Fitness, Equinox, SoulCycle, or a number of other fitness centers and gyms, you can get top tier rewards for your membership there.

Furniture stores: Whether you’re moving into a new place or just need to update the furniture that you have, purchases made at stores such as Ashley Furniture, IKEA, and Living Spaces will qualify to earn 5% cash back.

Ground transportation: Finally, you can earn some cash back on your next travels by placing ground transportation expenses on your Cash+ card. Whether you’re taking a bus, train, rideshare, or ferry, there are plenty of merchants that fit in this spending category.

Bottom line

Of course, it’s never a good idea to spend money just to earn some rewards back — you should make sure that the purchases you make on your Cash+ card are for expenses you need to cover anyway. And always check that you can pay off the full balance at the end of each billing cycle. Otherwise, you’ll rack up a balance and lose your earnings to interest charges. You can also apply your cash back rewards as statement credit, helping you pay that balance off directly. And with no annual fee, and a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for the first 12 months, the US Bank Cash+ card is still an attractive option when compared to an unlimited cash back card like say, the Capitol One® Visa Signature card.