Consumer Reports: These Credit Cards Offer Best Cash Back Deals

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Over the past few years, the percentage of credit cards that offer cash back reward programs has doubled. About half of all credit cards now offer some cash back reward program.

If you don’t currently use a card with a cash back program, you could be missing out on some serious loot. And there are plenty of you out there who have never changed their preferred card or haven’t changed in the past 10 years — about 43 million of you according to a survey done last year by CreditCards.com.

Some cash back credit cards return a fixed percentage of your purchases in the form of a statement credit, a check or a deposit to your bank account, according to a report published Wednesday by Consumer Reports. The terms vary, as do annual fees and, sometimes, other requirements, such as having an account with a specific financial institution.

The Consumer Reports story points out a detail that may not have occurred to many: card users can earn up to 40% more cash back rewards by “strategically using two cards instead of one.” Jeff Blyskal, Consumer Reports senior editor commented:

Using the right combination of cards and sticking to a smart strategy can help a family shave hundreds of dollars off its budget annually and thousands over the long term. The rewards are there for those willing to invest a little time and effort.

Consumer Reports has calculated six card pairings based on different family types and spending habits that pay back the most over three years. For example, a high-income family that spends about 21% of their monthly $6,000 credit card spending on travel and 17% on entertainment would earn cash back rewards of $4,940 over three years from a combination of the Citi Costco Anywhere Visa and the Discover It Miles cards.

A second example: A retired couple that charges $2,000 a month to their current cards could save $2,000 over three years from a pairing of the American Express Blue Cash Preferred and the PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature cards.

The full story, along with a calculator to help you figure out which cash back card would serve you best, is available at the Consumer Reports website.