Americans love to eat out—the average U.S. household spends $242 per month at restaurants, according to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data available, for the year ending in June, 2015. And prices at restaurants may be heading up, partly due to pressure on restaurants to pay their employees higher wages.

Smart consumers, however, can reduce the impact of high prices by paying for their meals with cash-back credit cards that give you money back on dining purchases.

"It's a good idea for consumers to do everything they can to save money" says Michael Saccucci, Consumer Reports' director of statistics. "Getting the right cash-back card is like found money."

To find out which cash-back credit cards are best, we used the data from the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics and plugged it into our Credit Card Adviser Comparison Tool. Our calculations take into account not just the various cash-back percentages a card may offer, but also the fees, waivers, and rebate rules that come with the card.

For the average family spending $242 per month eating out, the best rewards card we found was the Chase Freedom card, which paid back $324 over three years. This card provides just 1 percent cash back for restaurant expenses but comes with an extra kick—5 percent cash back on restaurant expenses from July through September. There's also no annual fee.

The Navy Federal Go Rewards card came in second in our comparison. It offers 3 percent cash back all year on restaurant charges. That meant that our average family would get back $261 over the first three years. Like the Chase Freedom card, there's no annual fee.

Six other cash-back credit cards without annual fees provided cash back of about $230 over three years: Discover It, Discover It Chrome, Discover It Chrome for Students, Barclaycard CashForward, CapitalOne Quicksilver, and Amazon.com Rewards. These cards typically paid 1.5 to 2 percent for restaurant charges, though Discover It pays 5 percent at restaurants from April through June and 1 percent the rest of the year.

Boost Your Earnings

Use our Credit Card Adviser Comparison Tool to find out which cash-back credit cards are best for your particular needs. Then, make that your primary card for use in restaurants, bars, and fast-food chains.

But you might want to use a different cash-back card that could give your more back for other kinds of purchases. If you're shopping for groceries, for instance, a good choice would be the American Express Blue Cash Preferred. For gasoline purchases, you might want to use the PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Plus Visa. Those cards performed well in our comparisons of the best cash-back cards for groceries and gasoline.

To calculate how much cash back you'll receive, our tool assumes that you are paying your credit card balance in full each month. If you carry a revolving balance, the finance charges can wipe out any cash-back benefits.

Also, keep in mind that some cards have been excluded from our consideration because they place restrictions on how you can receive the cash back. For example, a cash-back card could give you 2 percent back, but only if you accept it as a statement credit exclusively for travel purchases.

Update: Please note that the Credit Card Comparison Advisor Tool is not currently available.