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Tax Benefits of Points vs. Cash Back Credit Cards: Maximizing Your Savings

Tax Benefits of Points vs. Cash Back Credit Cards: Maximizing Your Savings

November 13, 2023

Credit cards offer various financial benefits, from rewards and cash back to travel perks and protection. While the primary purpose of credit cards is to make payments convenient, they can also have tax implications, particularly when it comes to rewards earned. In this blog post, we'll explore the tax benefits of points-based credit cards versus cash-back credit cards, helping you understand how to maximize your savings while staying on the right side of the IRS.

Tax Benefits of Cash Back Credit Cards

Cash-back credit cards are straightforward when it comes to taxes. The money you receive as cashback is generally considered a purchase rebate and is not subject to income tax. Here are some tax benefits of cash-back cards:

  1. Non-Taxable Rewards: Cash back earned from credit card purchases is not considered income. This means you won't have to report it on your tax return, and it won't increase your taxable income.
  2. No Complex Valuation: Cash back rewards have a clear cash value, making them easy to understand and report. You receive a percentage of your purchase amount back in cash.
  3. Simple Record Keeping: There's no need to track or calculate the value of your rewards, making record-keeping for tax purposes straightforward.
  4. No Impact on Tax Deductions: Cash-back rewards do not impact your eligibility for tax deductions or credits since they don't count as taxable income.

Tax Benefits of Points-Based Credit Cards

Points-based credit cards can be more complex from a tax perspective, as the IRS treats the value of the points differently:

  1. Taxation on Bonuses: If you receive a bonus of points when signing up for a credit card (e.g., 50,000 points for spending a certain amount within a specified period), the IRS may consider the value of those points as taxable income.
  2. Redeemed Points: Points earned from everyday spending are generally not taxable. However, when you redeem these points, their value could be subject to taxation. The taxability depends on how you use the points.
  3. Valuation: Valuing points can be challenging since their worth can vary depending on how they are redeemed (e.g., for travel, gift cards, or merchandise). The IRS may require you to estimate the value of the redeemed points for tax reporting.
  4. Business Expenses: If you use credit card points to cover business expenses, the IRS may consider the redeemed points as a non-taxable reduction of your business expenses rather than taxable income.


Both points-based and cash-back credit cards offer valuable financial benefits, but they have different tax implications. Cash-back rewards are generally non-taxable, straightforward, and easy to understand. Points-based rewards can be more complex, with potential tax implications for bonuses and redemptions.

To maximize your savings and stay tax-compliant, it's essential to keep records of your credit card activities, especially if you use points for travel or other expenses that may be subject to taxation. Consult with a tax professional for specific advice on your credit card rewards and how they might affect your tax situation. Ultimately, choosing the right credit card should be based on your financial goals and preferences, with an awareness of the potential tax implications.