There are 1.5 billion credit cards in use in the United States. Nearly 180 million of us pull out a card to make purchases, with an average of 3.5 active cards per person.
All that plastic flying around facilitates more than convenience — with the right cards, regular use can add up to major rewards.
With so many credit card companies competing to win your business, reward programs are sweeter than ever. In fact, if you manage to avoid interest fees by paying off your full balance every month, you can actually profit — in a big way — from credit card ownership.
Let’s take a look at some cards with the best rewards for purchases you make everyday: groceries, gas, and general shopping. (For travel rewards, please refer to our Best Travel Credit Cards piece.)
Best Grocery Rewards Cards
An average American family of four with young children spends over $182 dollars per week on groceries with a moderate-cost plan.
That adds up to more than $9,500 dollars per year.
With the top grocery rewards credit card we found, you could get up to $360 back. That’s two weeks’ worth of groceries for a family of four.
Here’s a look at the top cards in random order:
- American Express: Blue Cash Preferred
With 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in annual purchases, this would save our average family of four $360 over 12 months.
The American Express Blue Cash Preferred card is routinely classified as the top grocery rewards card on the market. The catch? That rewards cap of $6,000 — along with a fairly steep $75 annual fee.
If you spend at least $115 per week on groceries, this option is hard to beat.
- MasterCard: Barclaycard Rewards
Listen up, those of you with exceptional credit ratings: the Barclaycard MasterCard has your name all over it.
With no annual fee, double rewards points on groceries (as well as on utilities), and no limits on how much cash back you can earn, the exclusive Barclaycard Rewards card is a credit-savvy consumer’s dream.
You’ll also receive a generous bonus of 5,000 rewards points — equivalent to $50 — after your first purchase. The drawback of this card: without a stellar credit score, you’re out of luck.
- Citi: Thank You Preferred
If instant gratification is your method of operation, the Citi Thank You Preferred Card is the way to go. You can receive an impressive quintuple rewards points on groceries (as well as gas stations and drugstores) — but only for the first twelve months, so start spending right away with this one!
While the grocery rewards disappear after a year, you still benefit from no annual fee.
- American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card
If you’re a super-spender, you might be willing to tolerate a higher annual fee. The American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card’s $175 annual fee carries some sticker shock, but it can be offset if you spend enough.
You’ll earn double Membership Rewards points on groceries as well as a slew of other perks — including 15,000 bonus points if you cough up $30,000 within a single calendar year. To give you an idea of what those points are worth, 28,000 will get you an Amazon Kindle Fire eReader.
Best Gas Rewards Cards
Are gas prices driving you crazy? It’s no wonder: the average American burns through 558 gallons of gas in a single year, adding up to more than $2,100 per year — and that’s only if gas stays at $3.80 per gallon! You could spend even more if you log heavy mileage.
With our top-earning option, you could snag over $100 of that back — enough for 27 gallons of gas. At just shy of 30 miles per gallon, that will get you from New York City to Chicago!
- PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa
Our top pick is a bit unconventional: it’s through the Pentagon, which means you need to join the PenFed credit union to become a cardmember. Application standards are high, but once you’re in, you can earn 5% cash back on gas purchases — with no cap on how much you can earn. That can make a massive difference for frequent drivers.
That’s practically unheard of — and there’s no annual fee. The downside? Gas perks eat up the bulk of card-based rewards, and the credit union membership may dissuade some consumers.
- American Express Blue Cash Preferred
Along with top-notch grocery rewards, the Blue Cash Preferred card from American Express is a standout at the gas pump as well.
This card offers 3% back on U.S. gas purchases, and — unlike the grocery rewards — there is no cap on how much you can earn. Drive on, friends!
There is that $75 annual fee to consider, but this is still a solid choice for drivers and big spenders.
- American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card
Not a fan of the annual fee? Try the Blue Cash Preferred card’s younger sister, the Blue Cash Everyday Card. This card offers no annual fee and unlimited 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations.
- BankAmericard Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card
Spending a lot of time in the grocery aisle — and at the pump? The Bank Americard Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card may be right up your alley.
This card offers 3% back on gas purchases and 2% back on groceries for the first $1,500 in combined gas and grocery purchases each quarter.
That means anywhere from $120 to $180 cash back per year — with no annual fee.
Best Shopping Rewards Cards
Is your motto: “I’d rather be shopping?” If so, you could benefit big time from a rock solid shopping rewards card.
After all, who doesn’t want an extra reason to drop some cash at your favorite stores? The best rewards cards turn every shopping experience into a sale day.
- Discover it
Small name, big rewards. With the Discover it card, you’ll earn 1% on all purchases and 5% on broad, rotating “bonus” categories throughout the year, like home improvement, restaurants or holiday shopping.
This card scores high on customer service, with access to a concierge. The 5% only applies to $1,500 worth of purchases in the bonus categories. Good thing there’s the 1% to fall back on, and no annual fee. Pay attention to the bonus category schedule to maximize rewards.
- Chase Freedom
Do you spend money on a little — or a lot — of everything? Take advantage of Chase Freedom’s rotating 5% cash back program.
Categories shift every three months, so one quarter you might be earning 5% cash back (on up to $1,500 of purchases) on restaurants while the next quarter might be on Amazon.com. No annual fee sweetens the deal.
It takes a bit of planning to truly capitalize on the rewards, so start making those shopping lists now!
- American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card
For a simple, straightforward shopping rewards program with no annual fee, the Blue Cash Everyday Card presents a compelling offer.
This card offers 3% back on groceries (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases), 2% on gas, and 1% on everything else.
- Capital One Cash Rewards
What’s better than 1% cash back on every purchase? How about a 50% bonus on the cash back you earn each year?
Perhaps Capital One should simply advertise what they’re really offering: a flat, unlimited 1.5% cash back program with rewards that never expire. That’s enough to earn high marks in the industry. No annual fee rounds out the perks.
- #5: U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature
If you know exactly which type of shopping burns a hole in your pocket, the customizable U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card can earn you major rewards.
While many cards offer top rebates on a rotating array of categories, this card allows you to choose — and change — which categories you’d like to earn top points (5% or 2%) in. You’ll still get 1% on everything else, with no limits.
So if shoes or fishing equipment are calling your name, make sure you designate the category as your rewards winner.
- Amazon.com Rewards Visa
Can’t seem to stop filling up your virtual cart at online retail giant Amazon.com? Consider the Amazon.com rewards Visa card, which offers 3 points per dollar spent on Amazon, 2 points per dollar at select retailers (including gas stations, office supply stores, and drugstores), and 1 point per dollar everywhere else.
Points can be used at Amazon.com, with 100 points equaling $1. You can cash out your points as well, but they won’t be as valuable. This card is obviously best for Amazon.com aficionados, but the unlimited, never-expiring points will appeal to many.
- American Express: Costco True Earnings
Calling all Costco members: there’s no annual fee for this card with a Costco membership.
Earn an impressive 3% back (on up to $4,000 in annual purchases) at nationwide gas stations — including Costco gasoline — along with 2% on U.S. restaurants and 1% cash back on other purchases.
Your annual reward payout can be redeemed for cash or merchandise at Costco, so if you’ve had your eye on a big ticket Costco item, this might be the card for you.
- REDCard from Target
If you’re one of those people who seems to go into Target for one item and walk out $300 later, the Target REDCard was made for you.
With the REDCard, it’s not about cash back: it’s about discounts. You’ll receive 5% off on unlimited purchases at Target.
The downsides? Target dropped its association with Visa, so now the card is only accepted at Target. Also, the discount doesn’t apply to prescription purchases at Target Pharmacies.
Rewards credit cards can be your best friends, especially if you’re hoping to save big on specific types of purchases. However, as always when using credit cards, be sure to pay off your balance each month and carefully read the fine print when applying.