How Do Cash Back Rewards Work?

You may not realize that the debit or prepaid card you use regularly may come with benefits when you make purchases at certain businesses. Some banks offer cash back programs or cash back rewards, which give you back a percentage of your purchase.

The form of the reward varies by bank, but common methods include crediting your account, awarding points that can be converted to cash, or mailing you a gift card. Some cash back programs are tailored to your personal shopping activity, and unlike rebate coupons that require you to fill out and mail in forms, cash back programs make it easy to get started and automate the process.

Still unsure? Check out answers to some of the most common questions around cash back programs.

How Do Cash Back Programs Work?

Depending on the type of cash back program you are using, you may earn a certain percentage of rewards on your purchase, usually up to a certain dollar amount per transaction or year, or you may earn cash back with participating merchants by activating deals presented to you through your online banking portal or mobile banking app. Just be sure to check whether the offer is valid in-store or online. For most programs, the reward will be automatically credited to your account within two months. 

What Should I Look for in a Cash Back Program?

When looking for the best cash back program for your needs, consider the program's ease of use. Does it provide cash back on all purchases? Does it provide alerts via email or text about new offers, and can you activate those offers through your mobile device if you're on the go? Make sure you use frequently offer cash back through the program.

How Do I Get Started with a Cash Back Program?

If you're already using a debit or prepaid card to make purchases, ask a representative from your bank whether they offer a cash back program. If they do, find out how you can start earning rewards when shopping. Look for a program that is easy to participate in so you can begin receiving cash back offers from businesses based on purchases you are already making with your card.

How Can I Make Sure the Cash Back Offers Are Relevant to Me?

In merchant-funded programs, the deals you'll have access to are from businesses that have partnered with your bank. In some cases, the more frequently you use your card, the stronger your shopping profile will be, which may help the partner businesses provide more relevant offers you can use. For example, if you often use your card to shop for pet food at one store, another pet shop might offer cash back for purchases at its business.

"Participating retailers who seek your business advertise offers based on spending profiles of customers that spend money in targeted merchant categories," says Bryan Shimko, Vice President, Rewards and Loyalty Program Management for Regions Bank. "These offers are typically not tied to a specific product, but they act like coupons that reward you for your overall purchase at that retailer."

Although merchants receive aggregate information on your shopping patterns, they shouldn't receive any of your personal details. 

Some deals are online only, while others may be used with in-store purchases. When you're looking at available offers, read the description to ensure you understand how the offer works.

How Much Can I Save Through a Cash Back Programs?

While the initial savings may only be a few dollars per purchase, over the course of a year you might see a substantial amount add up in your account. "It's really like having a built-in benefit for using your card," Shimko says. "In the long-term you are saving money on everyday purchases without having to do anything extra."

What are Some Limitations of a Cash Back Program?

Depending on the cash back program you're using, there may be a limit on the amount you can get back per year, or you may only earn cash back on certain items or at certain merchants participating in the program. Also, if you forget to activate deals presented to you, you won't receive the credit, and you'll want to make sure you activate and use any deals before they expire. By reading and understanding the program terms, you'll be able to maximize your rewards.

Find out how you can participate in Regions Cashback Rewards®, so you can get money back when you use your debit or prepaid card to make purchases and watch your Cashback Rewards add up.


This information is general in nature and is provided for educational purposes only. Information provided and statements made by employees of Regions should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal, or tax advice. Regions encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation. Information provided and statements made by individuals who are not employees of Regions are the views, opinions, or positions of the individual who made the statement and do not necessarily reflect the policies, views, opinions, and positions of Regions. Regions makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information presented.