Updated every Monday!   Subscribe to free weekly newsletter.

Does Your Cash Back Card Pay You Back Like This?

In 2019, Capital One ran a TV commercial with a woman claiming she redeemeded $115,000 in cash back rewards in just one year with her Spark business credit card.


The unreadable fine print says:

The actual amount of cash back will depend on your credit limit, payment history and purchase activity.

Well, this person must have one heck of a credit limit to have earned $115,000 with her two-percent cash back card. In fact, she would have had to have put $5,750,000 on the card that year to earn that kind of rebate.

Fast forward to 2021. Capital One is running a new commercial with another business owner claiming he redeemed $21,000 in cash back last year.

This time the fine print has changed, is more readable, and remains on the screen longer.


Rewards depicted represent higher than average rewards for customers with this card and were accumulated over multiple years. The actual amount of cash back will depend on your credit limit, payment history and purchase activity.

Nonetheless, his very words, “last year, I redeemed $21,000 in cash back… seriously, $21,000” imply that that is what he earned that year when in fact he did not.

We asked Capital One why they continue to advertise what we believe to be misleading cash back claims.

A spokesperson for Capital One replied:

“[Both] commercials speak to redemption stories rather than rewards earned in any particular period, [and] the Happy Howie’s disclosure does further clarify that the rewards themselves were earned over multiple years…”

This implies that the woman in the flowers commercial also earned her $115K over many years.

In not so many words, the spokesperson also referenced a case brought against the bank by Chase on these very issues. In the 2020 decision of the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Better Business Bureau, the bank was told the fine print on the first commercial was unlikely to be noticed or understood. It also found that the examples shown could not be achieved by over 90% of their cardholders, and that the ad did not state the typical results an average cardholder could expect.

You can judge whether the disclosure the bank made in the second commercial above (which was created after the NAD decision) complied with the recommendations made.

Share this story:
All comments are reviewed before being published, and may be edited. Comments that are off-topic, contain personal attacks, or are otherwise inappropriate will be deleted.

7 thoughts on “Does Your Cash Back Card Pay You Back Like This?”

  1. Capitol One is always sending me stuff in the mail. I heard bad things about them years ago. Would NEVER enroll in their C/C’s today.

  2. Well I would say that Farmgirl flowers is full on legit business. They did at least 23 Million in sales for 2019 alone.

    Do not know how well they did for 2020 though.

  3. The average person getting caught up in chasing rewards is the problem, at least for personal cardholders vs. business. I won’t be manipulated like some lab rat, for a few pieces of cheese. I’ve had a Capital One card for about 20 years and only treat it as the instrument it is: cash that is indentured one month and paid off in full the next, buying me 26 days of grace. And every once in awhile I “earn” a few reward bucks, which I quickly apply as a credit on the next bill. I ignore the bells and whistles marketing hype and only charge what I can pay off when the next bill arrives.

    • Same here with my Chase card. I’ve been handling credit cards this way for more than 50 years, and I’ve never paid a lick of interest.

    • I’ve been paying off the balance of my credit cards every month and avoiding interest charges. I choose the card to maximize the reward (2%, 3%, 5%, etc). I’ve earned thousands in cash back rewards over the last 20 years. Don’t chase the rewards, but don’t write them off as not amounting to anything.

Comments are closed.