Updated: June 16, 2014

We've all seen the commercials for cash back credit cards where they pitch how much money you'll make once you have their particular card in your wallet. It's important to know that although a card can sound good on TV (or the radio), it may not be the big money-maker you expect. Cash back cards are often subject to complicated terms and conditions, earning limitations and quarterly signup requirements. Plus, a cash back card that works for one person's spending profile may not work as well for another's.

We took a close look at the popular cash back cards, evaluating exactly how users earned rewards and researching potential earning limitations or other hassles.  We based each card's earnings on real-life data we've collected over the past 15 months. Over 7,500 users have told us they spend on average the following amounts on their credit card each month: $300 on groceries, $180 on gas, $150 on eating out, $25 at department stores and $444 on everything else. We took those numbers and applied them to each credit card, using the individual card earning percentages to calculate how much cash back each card would generate. We also included cash back bonuses, subtracted any annual fees and took into account earning limitations (To personalize the results for your spending, you can also try our cash back calculator).

After all the number crunching, the winners of our 2014 Cash Back Analysis are:

#1 :  Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express  |   APPLY NOW
Our #1 Cash Back Analysis Credit Card stood head and shoulders above the pack, earning $722 cash back over the course of 2 years. With an enormous 6% cash back at supermarkets (on up to $6K in purchases annually), 3% at gas stations and select department stores and 1% on everything else, the Blue Cash Preferred (a NextAdvisor advertiser) earned over $150 more than our #2 rated card. It also features $150 bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months (redeemed as statement credit) and a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months. There is an annual fee of $75, but this is already accounted for in the 2-year earnings of $672.

#2: BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card
Second place goes to the BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card, which earned $522 over a 2 year time period. Users will earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and 3% on gas for the first $1,500 in combined grocery and gas purchases each quarter (after the limit is reached, users earn the standard 1% cash back). All other purchases earn 1% cash back. Plus, you'll get an additional 10% bonus each time you redeem your cash back rewards into a Bank of America savings or checking account (not taken into account in our analysis). This means if you redeem $100 you'll receive a bonus $10. It's the bonus that keeps on giving! Additionally, you'll earn $100 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in the first 90 days and there is no annual fee. Overall, this is a strong work-horse of a cash back card and our top choice if you don't want to pay an annual fee.

#3:  Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express  |  APPLY NOW
In third place is the Blue Cash Everyday Card – the sister card to our #1 ranked Blue Cash Preferred Card. It earned $557 during the 2 year period. You'll earn 3% at supermarkets (on up to $6K per year in purchases), 2% at gas stations and select department stores and 1% on everything else. You'll also enjoy a $100 bonus (redeemed as statement credit) after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days and a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months. Plus, there is no annual fee.

The other cards included in our analysis, in order of most cash back earnings to least were: Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, Chase Freedom, Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa – $100 Cash Back, Discover it Card, Journey Student Rewards from Capital One, Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card, TrueEarnings Card from Costco and American Express.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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