Best Cash Back Rewards Credit Cards – 2016

Brendan Harkness

Brendan Harkness | Editor's Best Card Picks

Jan 11, 2016 | Updated Jul 13, 2016

The cards on this page have been chosen from the widest possible selection of cards that we could find when the page was last updated on July 13, 2016. Although Credit Card Insider does receive compensation from some card issuers as advertisers, this does not in any way influence our choice of cards or the order that cards appear on the page. We have attempted to determine the best cards in this category, regardless of our advertising relationship with the issuers.

Learn more about how we rate credit and charge cards.

Rewards credit cards can be a great way to earn some cash back and access special services while taking care of the shopping you already do.

When used responsibly, credit cards should only be a convenience, and never a cost. If your credit cards are costing you money, you’re using them wrong!

Rewards cards come with a variety of reward plans and features, and, for this summer, we have a few different kinds:

  • One card for general spending
  • One card with reward categories that rotate every 3 months
  • One card for gas and groceries

Best Card for General Spending

Citi® Double Cash Card

The Double Cash card is pretty unique among credit cards, providing a flat 2% cash back for every purchase you make. You’ll get 1% back when you make the initial purchase, and then another 1% when you pay your bill.

The 2% back for all spending is about the best rate available for regular consumer credit cards, which typically offer 2% or 3% back in certain categories and then just 1% for all other purchases.

Using this card means you won’t need to think about spending categories, and won’t wonder if you’re using the right card when you shop.

You’ll also get an introductory APR of 0% for purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, which is almost as long as these offers come.

The Double Cash card also comes with some valuable extra benefits, like the Concierge Service, which you won’t usually find on basic rewards cards. There are also protections and insurances available like Purchase Protection, Price Rewind, and Travel Accident Insurance.

Insider Tips:

  • Use the Double Cash card to pay your taxes. The 2% cash back could be more than the fee for paying with a credit card, depending on the service you use.
  • Use the free Concierge Service to find the best prices on important purchases and services, or for travel agent advice.

Citi® Double Cash Card

For People with
Excellent Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 13.24% - 23.24% *Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • The only card that earns you cash back twice on every purchase with: unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% cash back as you pay for those purchases*
  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers and Purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 12.99%-22.99%, based on your creditworthiness*
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • No Category Restrictions, No Caps, No Enrollments in Rotating Categories
  • No Annual Fee

Best for Spending in Rotating Categories

Discover it®

This is a popular card, thanks to its valuable reward categories and generally excellent customer service. It makes the list for the categories and card terms, but what really puts this card over the top is an offer currently available to new cardholders: Discover is offering to double the cash back you earn in your first year (available for all Discover cards).

This card provides 5% cash back in categories that rotate every 3 months, and then 1% for all other purchases you make. You’ll need to activate the categories yourself every quarter by going online and logging into your account. The categories are:

Quarter Reward Category
January to March Gas and Ground Transportation
April to June Restaurants and Movies
July to September Home Improvement Stores, Department Stores, and Amazon.com
October to December Amazon.com and More

Use this card when making these types of purchases throughout the year, and consider another credit card for other types of spending.

Since Discover is doubling the cash back, you’ll earn 10% cash back for those categories, and 2% back for all other purchases. This promotional offer makes the Discover it the most rewarding card on the market, but it probably won’t last forever.

This card comes with a 0% introductory APR for purchases and balance transfers for 12 months, and you’ll get good customer service: Discover recently tied with American Express for highest customer satisfaction.

Insider Tips:

  • If you shop at Amazon a lot, you can buy gift cards there while the 5% cash back category is active, and then use those gift cards throughout the year to make your normal purchases.
  • Check out the Discover Deals shopping portal, available after you log in to your account. You’ll find more discounts and cash back opportunities at many retailers here, including Apple, Sears, Samsung, Kmart, Gap, and Six Flags. These deals will be especially valuable considering the double cash back offer.

Discover it®

For People with
Good Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 11.24% – 23.24% *Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Double all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year automatically - only for new cardmembers*
  • 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter like gas, restaurants, Amazon.com and more - up to the quarterly maximum when you sign up.* 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases & balance transfers for 12 months-then a variable purchase APR applies, currently 10.99% - 22.99%. A 3% fee applies to each transferred balance.
  • New Freeze ItSM on/off switch lets you prevent new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers on misplaced cards in seconds by mobile app & online.*
  • Free FICO® Credit Score on statements, online & by mobile app.* And 100% U.S.-based service any time.
  • No annual fee. No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. No late fee on first late payment & paying late won't raise your APR.*
  • Each Discover purchase is monitored. If it's unusual, you're alerted by e-mail, phone or text and never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover card.
  • *See rates, rewards, free FICO® Credit Score terms & other info by clicking “Apply.”

Best for Groceries and Gas

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express®

You may be surprised to see a card with an annual fee make this list, but the Blue Cash Preferred has the benefits to outweigh the fee. This is the most rewarding card you’ll find for grocery shopping, and the cash back for gas is very good too.

For an annual fee of $75, you’ll get:

  • an introductory bonus of $150 for spending $1,000 in 3 months (offer subject to change)
  • 6% cash back at grocery stores, up to $6,000 in purchases per year
  • 3% cash back at gas stations and select department stores
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

So, if you spend the full $6,000 on groceries you’ll earn $360, and if you add that to the $150 introductory bonus, you’re already at $510.

This is well above the annual fee, and we didn’t even factor in purchases of gas or anything else.

You can enjoy the introductory 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, and you can be confident that you’ll get the best customer service with American Express.

Insider Tips:

  • Some grocery stores sell gift cards to other retailers. You can usually buy them with your card for the 6% cash back, effectively giving you that discount at other retailers.
  • American Express offers cardholders some extra deals and discounts through the Amex Offers & Benefits program. There aren’t many, but you may find a good deal on a product, service, or hotel room you need.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express®

For People with
Excellent Credit

  • Annual Fee: $75
  • Interest Rate: 13.24% - 22.24% (Variable)
Quick Card Facts
  • 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.
  • Hassle-free cash back: no enrollment required, the same great reward categories year-round.
  • Earn Cash Back: 6% US supermarkets up to $6,000 per year in purchases, 3% US gas stations & select US dept stores, 1% other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then a variable rate, currently 12.99% to 21.99%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.
  • Terms and limitations apply.

Applying For A Cash Back Rewards Credit Card

Want to apply for these cards or learn more? Just click the name below.

Citi® Double Cash Card

For People with
Excellent Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 13.24% - 23.24% *Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • The only card that earns you cash back twice on every purchase with: unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% cash back as you pay for those purchases*
  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers and Purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 12.99%-22.99%, based on your creditworthiness*
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • No Category Restrictions, No Caps, No Enrollments in Rotating Categories
  • No Annual Fee

Discover it®

For People with
Good Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 11.24% – 23.24% *Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Double all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year automatically - only for new cardmembers*
  • 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter like gas, restaurants, Amazon.com and more - up to the quarterly maximum when you sign up.* 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases & balance transfers for 12 months-then a variable purchase APR applies, currently 10.99% - 22.99%. A 3% fee applies to each transferred balance.
  • New Freeze ItSM on/off switch lets you prevent new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers on misplaced cards in seconds by mobile app & online.*
  • Free FICO® Credit Score on statements, online & by mobile app.* And 100% U.S.-based service any time.
  • No annual fee. No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. No late fee on first late payment & paying late won't raise your APR.*
  • Each Discover purchase is monitored. If it's unusual, you're alerted by e-mail, phone or text and never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover card.
  • *See rates, rewards, free FICO® Credit Score terms & other info by clicking “Apply.”

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express®

For People with
Excellent Credit

  • Annual Fee: $75
  • Interest Rate: 13.24% - 22.24% (Variable)
Quick Card Facts
  • 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.
  • Hassle-free cash back: no enrollment required, the same great reward categories year-round.
  • Earn Cash Back: 6% US supermarkets up to $6,000 per year in purchases, 3% US gas stations & select US dept stores, 1% other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then a variable rate, currently 12.99% to 21.99%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.
  • Terms and limitations apply.
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