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Get Free Money: Comparing Cash Back (Rebate) Credit Cards

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Almost all of my spending is done by credit card. It’s convenient and I receive cash back for every purchase. Since I pay the balance off every month, I never pay any interest charges or late fees. I don’t spend more than I normally would were I to use cash instead. I have a disciplined approach to spending, for the most part, so I don’t align myself with those who preach about eliminating all credit card use for a healthy personal finances. It’s like alcohol; drink your credit responsibly rather being a lush, and you’ll be fine. More on this later.

Here are six different credit cards that offer different levels of cash back. I’ve only used the Citi Dividend Platinum Select, so that’s the only card I can vouch for, but all of these are rated highly and will help earn you money… if you use them responsibly.

Citi Dividend Platinum Select MasterCard

Earn a 2% cash back rebate on purchases made at supermarkets, gas stations, drugstores, convenience stores, and utilities including cable; earn a 1% cash back rebate on all other purchases; and earn a 1% cash back rebate on cash advances and convenience check transactions. Cardholders will receive $5 Dividend Dollars for each balance transfer transaction of $1,500 or more. Cardholders can also earn an average of 5% cash back on purchases made through the Citi Dividend Merchant Network.

American Express Blue Cash

General purchases earn a .5% rebate up to $6,500, and 1.5% over $6,500; “Everyday Purchases” made at drugstores, gas stations, and supermarkets earn a 1% rebate up to $6,500, and 5% over $6,500.

Discover Platinum Card

Earn a 0.25% rebate for up to $1,500 in general spending; 0.5% for over $1,500 up to $3,000; and 1% for over $3,000. Reward is redeemable in $20 increments only. Earn a full 5% in cash rebates at participating retailers (through the Cashback Bonus reward program). Earn a 0.25% rebate at select warehouse clubs and discount stores. Earn up to double Cashback Bonus® at participating Discover Card Partners.

American Express One

The unique Savings Accelerator Plan contributes 1% of all eligible purchases into an FDIC-insured, high-yield savings account in the cardholder’s name with a special rate of 5% APY (offer valid through January 31, 2007). Note: this card has a $35 annual fee. Cards with annual fees are not recommended unless the cash you receive far outweighs the fee.

Bank of America Financial Rewards Visa Platinum Plus

Earn 1 point for every $100 in net purchases per billing cycle. One point is equal to $1 in rebates. Points are redeemable in 25-point increments (minimum 25 points) and can be redeemed for cash back checks, direct deposits made to the cardholder’s Bank of America checking or savings account, or reductions in the cardholder’s purchase APR. Earn 5 points for each $2,500 in balances transferred per billing cycle (up to 25 points per billing cycle).

American Express Costco TrueEarnings Card

Earn a 3% rebate for restaurant purchases or orders for home delivery; earn a 2% rebate for airline tickets, hotel stays, car rentals, and cruises; and earn a 1% rebate on all other purchases. The rebate will be sent each year in the card holder’s February billing statement.

As you can see, there are many opportunities to get some cash back for expenses you already encounter. Nevertheless, this isn’t a good option for everyone. For example, if someone plans on applying for a loan in the near future, applying for a number of credit cards will temporarily lower the applicant’s credit score. The higher interest rate you’ll receive on the loan or mortgage may eliminate any rebates you might earn with the cards. Otherwise, if you’re responsible with credit, not using a cash back credit card is like leaving money on the table. Consumerism Commentary readers are smart, so you know to read the terms and conditions carefully whenever applying for any credit card.

Updated October 10, 2014 and originally published December 4, 2006. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Sun

I used to use three cards to cover my day-to-day charges: Citi Dividend for gas and groceries, AMEX TrueEarning for Costco, and Fidelity 529 for everything else. The Citi card is no longer in my wallet any more after it eliminated the 5% program. There are many credit card rewards degrades recently and it looks like this is becoming a trend. If everybody else is giving back less, why should one rewards more? On one hand, these credit card companies claim they want your business. On the other hand, they will take it back whenever they feel they don’t have to be generous any more.

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avatar moneysmartlife

I’ve been using the AmEx Blue Cash for a few years now and have a word of warning that may apply to the others as well. AmEx Blue pays their rewards once annually. If you fail to meet their cash back terms one time the whole year, you lose all your rewards for the entire year.

Luckily I’ve avoided this by reading the terms and conditions closely and making sure I’m in compliance. Make sure you do the same or it’s bye-bye cash back.

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avatar Lazy Man and Money

For some reason my Citi card still gives me 5% rebates. I’m not alone, either. Boston Gal’s Open Wallet reported the same thing a couple of days ago.

Still I use my Chase Rewards which gives me 5% on gas, groceries, and drug stores. I’m surprised it didn’t make the list. Maybe it’s because it gives you points, that you can trade for cash instead of simply “cash back.”

My other favorite card is Chase Business card. I don’t know what business I have, but they offered it to me, and I took it for the rewards. It gives 3% at restaurants, office stores, and home improvement merchants.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,500 (Platinum)

I seem to be still getting 5% back on some purchases on my Citi card, though not consistently. I think my small-name gas station doesn’t report itself as such to CitiBank.

I did leave cards that gave you “points” off this list, but I’ll probably post a list for those as well sometime in the future.

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avatar dimes

I have a Discover Platinum and that’s it. While perhaps not as generous as some of the other cards out there, they don’t tend to change their rules all the time. I used to have a reward card with points that “never expired” until one day they started expiring. Very frustrating.

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avatar Ed

I just called Citi and I’m supposedly still getting 5% on gas, groceries, convenience stores, and drugstores.

Unfortunately Citi can’t do math and have totally botched rewarding me properly. Also, Citi doesn’t tell you what category your purchases go into, so you have to work harder to reconcile this.

Has anyone found a good way to take the online statement and put it into Excel so you can do quick calculations yourself? I can’t seem to do it without having to do tons of cumbersone formatting.

Thanks

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avatar ASAP Credit Card

Unfortunately, the Citi Dividend card lowered it’s cash back reward from 5% to 2%. This was a major blow; especially for existing card holders who suddenly had their program terms changed.

In my opinion, the 2 best offers left are the AMEX Blue Cash and Discover Platinum cards. Both still offer 5% cash back with unlimited rewards. But if you want a Visa or Mastercard, you’ll have to stick with the Dividend card, or possibly the Chase Freedom card.

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avatar whoDean

The Chase Cash Plus Rewards is THE absolute best rewards card out there, 5% at grocery stores, gas stations and drug stores, 1% otherwise, you earn points each month that you can redeem immediately. The Cash Plus Rewards is the best because it has a high $750 annual limit on rewards ($600 cash).

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avatar Blaine Moore (First Time Home Owner)

I use the Discover platinum when they offer 5% on gas and groceries; right now the 5% categories aren’t things I regularly spend money on.

As such, I usually use a geico rewards visa card, which gives me 3% on those categories and 1% otherwise. It is only good towards my insurance bill, but I will definately spend the money on insurance twice a year so it works out well for me.

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avatar Credit Card Cash Back Rewards Hound

To easily calculate which cash back card (or combination of cards) is best for your spending profile, I’d recommend the free rewards calculator at http://www.creditcardtuneup.com/ .

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avatar Miller

You probably left it off because its a points card, but I highly recommend the Citi mtvU card for students out there. 5% back at restaurants and book stores (includes Amazon!) and some other random stuff (movie rentals, blah blah blah). Anyway, its technically points, but you get 1:1 dollars on student loan rebates. Woohooo!!!

Since we talking about it, my Citi Plat Div Select card was also reduced to 2%, but my Chase Rewards wasn’t… its still at 5% for markets/pharm/gas. Maybe I just got lucky?? I know they offer this card new only giving 3% now… still better than Citi’s 2% though.

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avatar credit card user

“Nevertheless, this isn’t a good option for everyone.For example, if someone plans on applying for a loan in the near future, applying for a number of credit cards will temporarily lower the applicant’s credit score. ” If you are going to apply for only one credit card (i mean cash back credit card) it doesn’t lower your score much. So it isn’t a reason. But mind that cash back credit card is profitable only if you have high money tornover on your card. If you don’t spend much you cash back credit card wouldn’t give you so much advance.

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