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The Best Cash Back Credit Cards of 2016

Cash Back Credit Cards are ideal for those who want solid rewards without a lot of hassle. Rather than trying to churn miles or points cards, there are several cash rewards cards that offer significant benefits.

There are three types of cash back cards:

1 One Reward Rate: The most simple approach is a card that pays the same reward percentage on all purchases. The industry standard is 1%, but for those with good credit, you can nab 1.5% or even 2% on every purchase.

2 5% Rotating Categories: These cards offer 5% cash back on specific categories of purchases that change every three months. There are spending caps eligible for the 5% cash back, typically $1,500 each quarter. All other purchases typically earn 1% cash back.

3 Bonus Categories: Finally, some cards offer bonus rewards for certain categories of purchases, such as restaurants, groceries, or gas. The bonus rates can vary based on the categories, with some cards offering multiple bonus categories. Purchases outside of the bonus categories typically pay 1%.

As we look at the top cash back cards, we’ve organized the cards below based on these categories:

Best Overall Cash Back Credit Cards

Editor’s Pick: The best cash rewards card in my opinion is the Citi Double Cash MasterCard. It offers 1% on all purchases + 1% when you pay for those purchases. There are no rotating categories to worry about, and the total 2% cash back is excellent. It’s the card I carry and use for everyday purchases (and our daughter’s college education!):  Citi Double Cash Review.

Here is a comparison of the top picks in this category:

Credit Card Cash Back Rewards Sign-Up Bonus Annual Fee
Citi Double Cash MasterCard 1% on every purchase + 1% as you pay for the purchases N/A $0
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card 1.5% on every purchase $100* $0
Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard® 1.5% Cash Back on all purchases $100** $0

*One-time $100 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months

**Get a $100 cash rewards bonus after you spend $500 in purchases in the first 90 days after account opening

Best 5% Cash Back Cards

Editor’s Pick: Today there are only two credit cards offering 5% cash back on rotating categories. While the top pick is a close call, it goes to the Discover it card by a nose. Why? Because for new cardmembers Discover will double the cash back you’ve earned during the first year.

Here is a comparison of the top picks in this category:

Credit Card Cash Back Rewards Sign-Up Bonus Annual Fee
Discover it® 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter like department stores, Amazon.com and more—up to the quarterly maximum when you sign up. 1% cash back on all other purchases. Double Cash Back** $0
Chase Freedom® 5% cash back on rotating categories up to the quarterly maximum when you sign up; 1% on other purchases $150*** $0

**Discover is offering double cash back on its Discover it card. As the company explains:

New! We’ll double all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year. So if you earned $100 cash back, we’ll double it to $200—Automatically. Only for new cardmembers.

***Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

For both the Discover it and Chase Freedom cards, the quarterly 5% cash back is limited to a combined $1,500 in purchases. Any purchases over this amount earn 1% cash back.

Note that Citibank once offered a 5% card. It’s called the Citi® Dividend Platinum Select® Visa® Card, but is no longer available to new card applicants.

Best Multiple Category Cards

Editor’s Pick: Our top pick goes to the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. With up to 3% cash back, a $100 sign-up bonus, and no annual fee, it offers excellent features with low fees. It also helps that the 3% cash back, it’s top tier, applies to purchases at U.S. supermarkets. We all need food.

Here is a comparison of the top picks in this category:

Credit Card Cash Back Rewards Sign-Up Bonus Annual Fee
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets up to $6,000 per year in purchases, 2% U.S. gas stations & select U.S. dept stores, 1% other purchases. $100* $0
BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card 3% on Gas, 2% on Groceries, and 1% on all other purchases  $100** $0
Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard® 2 points per $1 on gas, grocery & utility purchases; 1 point per $1 on all other purchases N/A $0
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express 6% U.S. supermarkets up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 3% U.S. gas stations & select U.S. dept stores, 1% other purchases. $150*** $75

*Get $100 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive $100 back in the form of a statement credit.

**$100 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening

***Get $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive $150 back in the form of a statement credit.

  • LOIS J TUTTLE

    I have a USBANK FLEXPERKS VISA CARD. HOW DO I CASH IN REWARDS FOR MONEY SPENT AND GET A GIFT CERTIFICATE?