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Best cash-back reward credit cards for 2015

By , CardRatings contributor

American Express and Citi are CardRatings.com advertisers.

Best cash-back reward credit cards for 2015

Cash-back rewards card competition is heating up this summer. Discover recently announced an innovative, new offer for new Discover it® cardmembers that doubles all the cash-back rewards they’ve earned at the end of their first year. There are no limits on how much a cardmember can earn through this offer, which is available to new cardmembers who apply by July 31, 2015.

So, what’s stopping you from applying right now? The cash-back credit card space is full of tempting offers vying for a spot in your wallet. Two cards that may have also caught your attention are

  • Chase Freedom® earn a $100 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening, and
  • Citi® Double Cash Card, the only card that earns you cash back twice on every purchase (1 percent cash back when you buy and 1 percent as you pay for those purchases)

Two of these three cards (Discover it and Chase Freedom) offer 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter, and an unlimited 1 percent cash back on all other purchases.

With the right card strategy, you could earn a nice chunk of cash-back rewards. It's important to compare cards and choose the one that best fits your needs and spending habits in order to get the most bang for your buck.

Citi® Double Cash Card

Citi® Double Cash Card
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Our Editor's Take:
The new kid on the block and we were immediately sold. If you are looking for a no-hassle cash-back card, look no further. Earn cash back twice on every purchase with – 1 percent when you buy, 1 percent when you pay for those purchases. And no rotating categories, spending caps, or annual fees.

Card Details
Credit Required Excellent
Cashback GroceriesSee Terms
Cashback Gas See Terms
CashBack Others See Terms

This innovative new card from Citi allows you to earn 1% cash back when you buy and another 1% cash back when you pay for those purchases. A high earn rate and no rotating categories or caps make this card a great choice for anyone who is in the market for a new cash back card. Although there isn't currently a signup bonus, new cardholders can take advantage of a 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 percent of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

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Chase Freedom®

Chase Freedom®
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Our Editor's Take
Excellent card for savvy spenders who want to get the most out of 5 percent cash back in multiple categories. The categories rotate quarterly, but being a little bit strategic with your spending can go a long way with this card.

Card Details
Credit Required Good
Cashback Groceries1%
Cashback Gas1%
CashBack OthersUnlimited 1% cash back on every purchase and 5% total cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter when you sign up for 5%

A frequent favorite among cash-back card lovers, Chase Freedom also uses a rotating list of quarterly bonus cash back offers. Bonus categories have included purchases at restaurants, gas stations and select department stores, where you can earn 5 percent total cash back with a quarterly spending cap of up to $1,500 in combined purchases. Beyond that, earn 1 percent cash back on every purchase with no limit. With this offer you can earn a $100 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. And after you add your first authorized user and make a purchase within this same 3-month period you can earn a $25 Bonus. This offer carries no annual fee and rewards never expire as long as your account is open.

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Discover it® card

Discover it® card
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Our Editor's Take
Double your cash back earned with a new card from Discover.  Exclusive offer: Double all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year with the card--automatically.*

Card Details
Credit Required Excellent
Cashback Groceries1%
Cashback Gas1%
CashBack Others5% cash back in categories that change each quarter up to the quarterly maximum when you sign up.* 1% cash back on all other purchases.

The credit card that helped define the cash-back rewards market reinvented itself not long ago. With more flexible redemption options and an emphasis on personal customer service, cardholders no longer have to wait to spend cash back rewards of up to 5 percent on quarterly promotional purchases when you sign up (on up to the quarterly maximum in purchases) and 1 percent on other purchases. An exclusive offer, new Discover cardholders who apply between June 1 and July 31, 2015 can earn double all the cash back they've earned at the end of their first year with the card. Be sure to note the most recent features -- access to free FICO® credit score online and on your monthly statement, and if you lose your card Freeze ItSM so you can freeze and unfreeze your account via a mobile app or Discover's website to prevent new purchases, cash advances and balance transfers.  This card allows you to redeem rewards with partners, which could give you more bang for your buck. Not as widely accepted internationally, but no foreign transaction fee will still come in handy. One thing to watch out for is lower redemption at discount stores such as Walmart or Costco.

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Fidelity® Investment Rewards® American Express® Card

Our Editor's Take
A longtime favorite for its innovative and consistent 2 percent cash back on all purchases, this simple rewards program helps cardholders make the most of their earnings. You will need to go through the extra step of opening an investment account, but at least that helps encourage savings and investing.

Card Details
Credit Required Excellent
Cashback Groceries2%
Cashback Gas2%
CashBack Others2%

If you're playing a long game with your credit card rewards, Fidelity Investments offers a generous 2 percent rebate on purchases with this account that bears the American Express logo. Once you've accrued at least $50 in rewards points, you can redeem your balance for a deposit straight to a linked Fidelity brokerage account. Zapping your rebates right into an IRA or 529 college savings account means you can convert a portion of your everyday transactions into a pillar of your retirement or education funding.

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Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card
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Our Editor's Take
This card has a great, competitive 1.5 percent cash-back earn rate. But what sets it apart is that you don’t have to wait a billing cycle before redeeming your cash-back earnings – you’ll see an updated earnings balance within days of purchase. Plus it has no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, no cap on earnings.

Card Details
Credit Required Excellent/Good
Cashback Groceries1.5%
Cashback Gas1.5%
CashBack Others1.5%

Although this card's 1.5 percent cash back isn't the biggest of the bunch, Capital One's innovative Purchase Eraser tool gives Quicksilver cardholders one of the fastest redemption paths available across all rewards credit cards. Rewards earnings get credited for use within days of most purchases, enabling you to request a statement credit against any of your qualifying purchases. In many cases, you can eliminate the cost of a small purchase within the same statement cycle, instead of waiting for weeks or months as you would with other cards.

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Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
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Our Editor's Take
In charge of all your family’s shopping needs and busing kids from one activity to the next? With this card earn 3 percent cash back on groceries at US supermarkets up to $6,000 per year in purchases, 2 percent on gas at US gas stations and 2 percent at select US department stores. Get $100 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will get your cash back in the form of Reward Dollars which can be redeemed as a statement credit. Terms apply.

Card Details
Credit Required Excellent
Cashback Groceries3% at U.S. supermarkets up to $6,000 per year in purchases
Cashback Gas2% at US gas stations
CashBack Others2% at select US dept stores, 1% on other purchases

This card, which charges no annual fee, offers a baseline cash back of 1 percent on your eligible everyday purchases. However, purchases at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores can get you 2 percent cash back. Card Members can also earn 3 percent cash back on up to $6,000 per year on purchases at U.S. supermarkets (then 1 percent). Terms and limitations apply. Your cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit. This card also provides a full slate of American Express customer service benefits, including roadside assistance hotline, dispute resolution for a fraudulent or mistaken charge on your statement and on eligible purchases you can get extended warranty and purchase protection, please be sure to read the important exclusions and restrictions that apply to these benefits. Terms and restrictions apply.

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PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Visa® Card

Our Editor's Take
Great option for road warriors – 5 percent cash back on gas is phenomenal, as is a lack of annual fee and foreign transaction fees. Even though its name is not as familiar, PenFed has a great reputation and proven leader in gas card redemptions.

Card Details
Credit Required Excellent
Cashback Groceries1%
Cashback Gas3% - 5%* (See terms)
CashBack Others1%

Pentagon Federal Credit Union Plus version of this card rewards eligible members with a cash-back credit card that offers 5 percent cash back on gas purchases at the pump. Qualifying for the Plus version of this card means also carrying a qualifying account, such as a money market savings account or a checking account with direct deposit ($250 min). If you can afford to stash some savings with one of the country's fastest growing credit unions, this card can help insulate your household against rising gas prices. Don’t have a qualifying account? Qualified applicants have a chance with the Standard version of this card to earn 3 percent cash back on gas purchases at the pump and an annual fee for the first year is $0, then an annual fee of $25. As a side note fuel purchases for airplanes and boats do not receive cash back rewards with either version of this card.

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BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card

BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card
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Our Editor's Take
3 percent cash back on gas, 2 percent at grocery stores for the first $1,500 in combined grocery store and gas purchases each quarter and 1 percent cash back on every purchases plus no annual fee. Even better, if you’re already a Bank of America customer, you can get a 10 percent customer bonus by funneling your cash back rewards into your Bank of America checking or savings account.

Card Details
Credit Required Excellent
Cashback GroceriesUp to 2% at grocery stores
Cashback GasUp to 3%
CashBack Others1%

Bank of America tagged its iconic BankAmericard brand to one of its most generous cash-back credit cards. This no-annual-fee card offers 1 percent cash back on every purchase. And for your first $1,500 in combined gas and grocery store purchases each quarter, Bank of America bumps your grocery cash back to 2 percent and your gas cash back rewards to 3 percent. Bank of America extends a 10 percent customer bonus for customers who redeem cash back into an eligible Bank of America checking or savings account. It's a great way to cash out your rewards balance when you only plan to use a card for infrequent, large purchases.

Don't plan on paying your balance in full each month? Then a cash back credit card might not be your best choice. Why? If you don't pay down your balance before the close of your monthly statement cycle, annual fees and finance charges can strip your rewards balance, or even cost you more money than if you had used a no-frills card.

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