The Best Cash Back Credit Cards of 2016

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Some savvy consumers only use credit cards to enjoy the cash back. No need for travel rewards or other perks. They just want a percentage back on their purchases. And they want this percentage back to come in the form of a cash back check whenever they want. It wasn’t long ago that the best cash back credit cards were going unused. Now, many consumers are playing the cash back game.

I cash in at least $200 annually in rewards from cash back credit cards and I never pay a dime in credit card interest. So how do you find the best cash back card? Well, it really depends on a few factors: how you earn the points, access and thresholds, as well as any fees or interest charges that might negate the use of the card.  In the below list of cash back credit cards, I’ve tried my best to consider all the factors above and give you a thorough review of each of the cards.

PT’s Pick for Best Cash Back Card

Citi® Double Cash Card

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Citi Double Cash Card – A simple name with a simple and terrific rewards program, the Citi Double Cash Card is a brand new cash back credit card that offers the best rewards package in the industry.

Cardmembers will receive 1% cash back on all purchases made PLUS another 1% cash back when they pay their credit card bill.

Also included is a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, after that the APR becomes 13.24%, 16.24%, 19.24%, 21.24%, and 23.24% variable.

Amex Blue Cash Everyday

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Blue Cash Everyday from American Express – The best card on the market today for everyday purchases, the Blue Cash Everyday from American Express offers 3% cash back on groceries (up to $6,000 spent annually), 2% cash back at gas stations and select department stores and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

A $100 statement credit is also included for new cardholders after they spend $1,000 in the first three months of card ownership along with a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for a full 15 months. And unlike most AMEX cards, the Blue Cash Everyday from American Express carries NO annual fee.

Chase Freedom

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Chase Freedom Visa – The only card on our list that offers a nice up front bonus, the Chase Freedom Visa starts off w/ a $150 cash bonus for new cardholders after they spend $500 on purchases in the first three months.

The rewards program can be quite lucrative if you hit the quarterly 5% cash back categories; all other purchases will receive 1% cash back.  And for a limited time, you can earn 10% cash back on all 4th quarter 2015 categories (starting 11.23).

An introductory 0% APR is also included that last for 15 months on both purchases and balance transfers and there is no annual fee to keep the Chase Freedom Visa in your wallet.

Discover it Card

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Discover it – Very similar to the Chase Freedom Visa above, the Discover it is another top notch cash back credit card that offers 5% cash back on select categories throughout the year (each quarter) and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

A 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months is included and from today until the end of the calendar year (2015) every Discover it cardmember that uses Apple pay in stores will receive 10% cash back on top of the normal 1% – 5%; so if you own or apply for this card, make sure to check department stores in your area to take advantage. This card has no annual fee.

Barclay Rewards MasterCard

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Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard® – For those without the perfect credit score, the Barclay’s Rewards MasterCard® is a great cash back card that offers double points on all gas, grocery and utility purchases.

All other purchases will receive a single point per dollar spent, and the rewards program breaks down to your standard 100 points = $1 in cash; so you’ll find a 2% cash back card on some of your everyday purchases (no spending limits or tiers).

The Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard® provides cardholders a complementary FICO credit score and does not have an annual fee.

Optimize Your Cash Back Rewards

Here are my tips for making the most of your credit card cash rewards:

Analyze the Annual Fees – As a general rule, I try and stay away from a card that has an annual fee. However, you should also compare the upside of the rewards vs the annual fee. As an example, if a card with a $25 annual fee gives 3% cash rewards, it’s going to easily beat a no fee card with 1% cash back rewards.

Don’t Chase Rewards – Don’t let the fact that you might get increased rewards for cash back if you spend in a certain category drive your use of the card. If you need something then by all means take advantage of the card cash back rewards. But don’t spend simply to get rewards.

Avoid Carrying a Balance – By carrying a credit card balance, unless you have a 0% card, you will be incurring credit card interest. This interest will likely negate any cash back you could earn by using the card.

Beware of Reward Expiration Dates – Some credit card cash back rewards expire if you don’t use them, or the card after a certain period. Don’t let this happen to you. Set a date on the calendar each year to cash out.

Know Your Cash Back Thresholds – My last tip is to realize when it would be most beneficial to cash out your rewards. Most cash back programs have a threshold at 25,000 points, where your points can be cash out at a dollar for 100 point level. For one of my cards, the $250 cash back is that threshold.

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Last Edited: January 25, 2016 @ 8:42 am The content of is for general information purposes only and does not constitute professional advice. Visitors to should not act upon the content or information without first seeking appropriate professional advice. In accordance with the latest FTC guidelines, we declare that we have a financial relationship with every company mentioned on this site.
About Philip Taylor

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a CPA, financial writer, FinCon CEO, and husband and father of three. He created PT Money back in 2007 to share his thoughts on money and to meet others passionate about managing their finances. All the content on this blog is original, and created or edited by PT. Read more about Philip Taylor, and be sure to connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, or view the Philip Taylor+ Google profile.