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: 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
  • Merchandise

Redeeming cash back as a statement credit

One of the most common ways to redeem cash back is as a 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, you’d 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 Preferred® Card from American Express, for example, requires you to have earned $25 in cash back before you can redeem as a statement credit.

  • The Chase Freedom Unlimited®card lets you redeem rewards as a statement credit in any amount, anytime.
  • Once you’ve met your card’s 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 “true” 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 “locked” 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 don’t already have a banking relationship with your credit card issuer.

    • The Bank of America® 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.
    • The Citi® 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 you’ve 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, there’s no minimum to redeem as a direct deposit.

    Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card lets you claim your cash back via an ATM (in $20 increments only) if you have a Wells Fargo Bank account.