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The cash-back credit card market is heating up

By , CardRatings contributor

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Cash-back credit cards make you money as you shopThere's nothing like getting rewarded every time you swipe.

The market is flooded with cash-back credit cards for consumers to choose from, but several companies have recently made moves to make cash-back rewards even more appealing to new applicants.

Below are just a few of our picks for best cash-back credit cards that have stand-out programs designed to appeal to the serious cash-back credit card user:

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card 

Dining out is already exciting on its own, but it's especially more so when you know you're earning cash back while doing so. The Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card doubles the fun (well, quadruples it actually) when dining out or enjoying a night on the town, with four percent earned on every dining and entertainment purchase made. That means every time you swipe your card at your favorite restaurant, museum, or for Broadway tickets, you're earning four percent on every dollar you spend, with no caps on how much you can earn. Additionally, you'll earn two percent for every dollar you spend on groceries, and one percent for every dollar spent on gas, bills, office supplies, and anything else you might use your card for outside of the dining, entertainment, and grocery categories.

The Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card allows users to have a little fun, rewarding them for both the exciting things in their life, and the mundane, like buying groceries and filling up the car with gas. However, the rewards don't stop there. New cardholders are also eligible for a $500 welcome bonus once spending $3,000 within the first three months of account membership, putting more money in your pocket for things like dessert or concert tickets. This card also has no international transaction fees, making it the prefect travel companion.

One downside of the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card is that there is an annual fee ( $0 intro for first year; $95 after that), however, Capital One does offer a no annual fee version, the Capital One® SavorOne℠ Cash Rewards Credit Card. The Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers unlimited three percent cash back on dining and entertainment purchases, two percent at the grocery store, and one percent on all other purchases, plus a sign up bonus of $150 once spending $500 in the first three months.

Chase Freedom®

Offering a slightly different rewards structure than the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card, the Chase Freedom® offers 5 percent cash back in rotating categories, but it also has a cash bonus welcome offer: new cardholders earn a $150 bonus after they spend $500 in the first three months, so it's a relatively quick cash-back bonus. Chase Freedom®'s intro offer also includes 0 percent APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months (then, 17.24 - 25.99% Variable), making it an attractive option if you currently have a high-interest rate balance on another card or need to make a major purchase.

Cardholders earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases that rotate quarterly and an unlimited 1 percent cash back on all other purchases, for up to $75 cash back that's redeemable as cash, statement credit or electronic deposit. Because of these rotating categories, earning rewards with Chase Freedom® takes diligence because you must activate new 5 percent cash-back categories every three months. The requirement is designed to keep customers informed of quarterly category changes so they can maximize their rewards. If you miss the activation period, you'll have to wait until the next quarter, but signing up for Chase's text message or email reminders can help you avoid missing out.

Chase Freedom® has no annual fee but there is a 3 percent foreign transaction fee and a 5 percent balance transfer fee.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Unlimited® also has a $150 cash sign-up bonus and 0 percent purchase and balance transfer APR offers (then, 17.24 - 25.99% Variable). The big difference here is that Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a flat-rate cash-back card. You earn unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase, every day and there's no annual fee that will cut into your earnings. Other benefits include zero fraud liability, price and purchase protection and rental car insurance.

There's a 3 percent foreign transaction fee and 5 percent balance transfer fee, but it's flat-rate rewards system is perfect for consumers who'd rather not track a calendar or think too hard about which credit card to use in each situation. It's also a great option if you are an existing Chase® cardholder. As part of the Chase® Ultimate Rewards program, you can transfer rewards points from one card to another if you carry multiple Chase® cards.

Redeem your Chase Freedom Unlimited® rewards for cash back or Ultimate Rewards points (worth 1 cent each for cash back and travel), which you can combine with points earned through Chase Freedom® card's 5 percent cash-back rewards opportunities. Or, transfer your points to your Chase Sapphire Preferred® card and get more value for your points when you redeem them through Chase®'s travel portal. You won't find this flexibility with most cash-back cards, but it's a smart strategy to amass rewards -- and cash in on their value -- more quickly.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

With Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, there aren't rotating rewards categories, but it does have a tiered rewards structure. You earn 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 a year, 3 percent cash back at U.S. gas stations and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases. Though the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express card works if you prefer more straightforward rewards, it has drawbacks. There's a $95 annual fee, a 2.7 percent foreign transaction fee and 3 percent balance transfer fee (with a $5 minimum). The annual fee alone can eat into your rewards if you don't spend at least $105 a month on groceries, so this card is best for everyday spending if you pay off your balance in full every month. Terms apply. See Rates and Fees

The best cash-back credit cards cater to both types of consumers: those who enjoy the gamesmanship of maximizing their rewards and those who'd rather avoid all the fuss. Decide which category you fall into and thoroughly research the rewards structure and redemption options before you get lured in by an attractive sign-up bonus. Doing this due diligence will help you find a card that will work for you long after the flashy intro offers expire.

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