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In the miles and points world, it’s often credit cards that offer the best welcome bonuses or travel benefits that grab the headlines at the expense of the other cards out there but while 100k bonuses and access to great airport lounges are nice things to be offered, the bread and butter of the miles and points world are the cards that earn us the best returns in the spending we do in our day-to-day lives.
With that in mind, this is an article in which I take a brief look at the four credit cards that, in my opinion, are the best cards to use when it comes time to pay at the supermarket checkout and that are currently still open to new applicants.
The best cards for grocery spending
- The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
- The American Express® Gold Card
- Citi Premier® Card
- Citi Custom Cash℠ Card
Check out what each of these cards offers in the section below.
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card offers 6% cash back on up to $6,000 of spending at US supermarkets per year (terms apply) and that’s the highest rate of cash back offered by any card in this category. That alone makes this a fantastic card to use when you’re next at the supermarket.
On top of this stellar rate of cash back at US supermarkets, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card also offers 6% cash back on select streaming services, 3% cash back on transit purchases and gas station spending, and 1% cash back on spending in all other categories (terms apply).
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card is currently offering new applicants $350 back in statement credits after they spend $3,000 in the first 6 months (terms apply) so $500 of spending per month (for 6 months) will trigger the welcome offer. That should be a reasonably straightforward target for most people to hit and when you consider the fact that US supermarkets sell a lot more than just groceries, this is a bonus that can probably be earned without moving any spending away from the card’s key bonus category.
Note: The welcome bonus is only available to applicants who have not held this card before.
The American Express® Gold Card
The American Express® Gold Card is a card that’s worthy of consideration if you’re looking for a strong return on your spending at US supermarkets because no other Membership Rewards card can match the Gold Card’s earnings.
Cardholders will earn 4 points/dollar on up to $25,000 of spending at US supermarkets per year (terms apply) so as I value Membership Rewards Points at 1.5 cents each (based on the value I know I can get out of them with very little effort), that effectively sees the American Express® Gold Card offering a fantastic 6% rate of return.
The Gold Card’s strong earnings don’t end there as it offers 4 points/dollar at restaurants and 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com (terms apply) – no Amex card offers stronger earnings in both categories.
The American Express® Gold Card comes with a $250/year annual fee (rates & fees) but to help cardholders offset this fee, the card also offers up to $120/year in dining credits at select restaurants and food delivery services, a $100/year Hotel Collection credit and $10/month in Uber Credits (enrollment may be needed for some or all of the card’s benefits).
Just in case all of that isn’t enough to tempt you into making sure that the Gold Card is part of your portfolio, American Express currently has a welcome bonus on this card which offers new applicants 60,000 bonus points (which I value at $900) when they spend $4,000 on their new card in the first 6 months of card membership, and the Rose Gold version of the card is now a permanent option too.
Citi Premier® Card
Holders of the Citi Premier® Card earn 3 points/dollar on all grocery store and supermarket spending regardless of where in the world the spending is made with no cap on the number of points that can be earned. That makes this my favorite card to use when I’m doing the family’s grocery shopping.
I value Citi’s ThankYou Points at 1.5 cents each (based on the value I know I can get out of them with very little effort) and that, effectively, sees the Citi Premier® Card offering me a return of 4.5%.
Also, it’s important to note that the benefits of the Citi Premier® Card don’t end with the good return that it offers on spending at grocery stores and supermarkets.
In return for an annual fee of just $95, this card also offers 3 points/dollar at restaurants worldwide, 3 points/dollar on air travel booked directly with airlines, 3 points/dollar on stays booked directly with hotels/hotel chains, and 3 points per dollar on gas station spending as well.
To top it all off, successful new applicants for the Citi Premier® Card are currently being offered the chance to earn a fantastic 80,000 point welcome bonus when they spend $4,000 on their card in the first three months of account opening.
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card
The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card is a no annual fee card that’s little different to the other cards that I’ve listed in this article. This is a card that doesn’t single out supermarkets or grocery stores as a shopping category in which it offers a bonus. Instead, the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card earns 5% cash back on a cardholder’s highest eligible spend category in each billing cycle on up to $500 of spending and then unlimited 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases.
The shopping categories eligible for the 5% cash back are as follows: Restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs, and live entertainment.
Cash back is earned in the form of Citi’s ThankYou Points* and this means that at the end of each billing cycle, a cardholder will earn 5 points/dollar on up to $500 of purchases in their top eligible spend category and if that happens to be spending in supermarkets and grocery stores, that’s a great return to get on your weekly food shopping.
*ThankYou points can be redeemed for cash back as a statement credit, a direct deposit, or a check but if a holder of a Custom Cash Card also holds the Citi Premier® Card (mentioned earlier), the ThankYou points the card earns can be transferred to a variety of other loyalty programs where, potentially, they can be worth a lot more.
Lastly, keep in mind that the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card is currently offering successful new applicants a welcome bonus of $200 cash back (20,000 ThankYou Points) when they spend $750 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months following the opening of their new account.
The Amex limitation
Before you decide which card you should be using when grocery shopping (or which card to apply for), it’s important to consider a limitation that the American Express cards have – unlike the cards issued by Citi, American Express cards only offer bonuses for spending at U.S. supermarkets.
There are two key takeaways from that statement:
- American Express has been very careful to state that bonus points are earned for spending made at stores that it categorizes as “supermarkets”. This can mean that some smaller local establishments will not be recognized as a supermarket and spending at such establishments will not earn bonus points or cash back (whichever your card earns).
- If you find yourself shopping outside of the United States, an Amex card will not earn you a bonus for supermarket spending. This point is currently considerably less important than the first, but it’s one that’s worth keeping in mind if you travel abroad with any great frequency.
For most people, this doesn’t diminish the value of the American Express cards at all but it’s something to bear in mind when deciding which card is best for you.
All of the cards discussed above are great cards to hold in your wallet if you’re trying to maximize your returns when shopping for groceries. I have chosen not to suggest which card I consider to be the best as each has its own merits, and a card that’s best for one person may not be best for another person’s circumstances – that’s part of the fun of the miles and points world.
What card do you use when you’re paying for your groceries?