Best credit cards to use for groceries

I have shared recently the big changes that have been happening in my life. Long story short, I have relocated to the Washington DC area and more recently moved in to a new apartment.

I was more or less bumming it with family for a few months, so now that I have my own place I have more spending. Of course, in the eyes of a credit card monger like myself that just means more points.

While I am spending in many different areas, and apartment complexes make it difficult to use credit cards, there is one area where I’m definitely spending incredibly more than I did before — grocery stores.

And with my current inventory of credit cards, I’m not receiving any kind of spending bonus at grocery stores. So unfortunately all these extra dollars at grocery stores are now just getting me one point on the dollar. So I knew I needed to make an upgrade.

In this post I’m going to walk through the different options of credit cards for spending at grocery stores with a focus on the 3 major points currencies as well as airline and hotel cards.

American Express Membership Rewards

EveryDay Preferred Credit Card

Maybe the heavyweight favorite when it comes to grocery stores.

This card not only offers 3 points back per dollar spent at grocery stores and supermarkets, up to $6000/year, but also 2 points back at gas stations –another area I’m lacking. So let’s take a look at the card overall:

  • $95 annual fee
  • 20,000 points sign-up bonus after $1,000 in spend in the first 3 months (sign up at link above!)
  • 3x points at supermarkets, up to $6,000 per year*
  • 2x points at gas stations*
  • Other perks like travel insurance or car rental coverage when using the card
  • Access to Membership Rewards travel partners

*There is a unique opportunity to earn 50% extra points when you use the card 30 times in a month. So the 3x points at grocery stores would actually be 4.5%!

I haven’t talked as much about AMEX cards on this blog, but get ready! AMEX Rewards boasts the largest number of travel partners with 17 airlines and 2 hotels. With the unfortunate exclusion of Korean Air SkyPass from Chase Ultimate Rewards, I may now put AMEX rewards slightly ahead of its Chase sibling.

Taking all of this into account, you could receive a maximum of 27,000 Membership Rewards points just by using this card at grocery stores! Looking at all the potential transfer options, that is some awesome value.

EveryDay Credit Card

The younger sibling to the Preferred, this card has a similar benefits structure to the EveryDay Preferred with just a little bit less overall.

The main differences are that there is no annual fee, and the daily spending bonuses are not as generous, but let’s take a look.

  • No annual fee
  • 10,000 points sign-up bonus after $1,000 in spend in the first 3 months (potentially higher depending on referral link)
  • 2x points at supermarkets, up to $6,000 per year*
  • Similar perks to the EveryDay Preferred as mentioned above
  • Access to Membership Rewards travel partners

Similar to the Preferred card, there is a special opportunity to earn a 20% points bonus when you make 20 purchases in a month. This would increase your grocery store earning to 2.4%!

I personally find the increased earning potential of the Preferred card to be worth the $95 annual fee, but I totally understand not wanting to add another $95 to my annual fee tab. Focusing solely on the points potential through grocery store spend, you could earn as much as 14,400 Membership Rewards points from grocery store spending alone. Still, a pretty great opportunity.

While both are great options, I find the EveryDay Preferred card’s ~13,000 more points potential to be worth the $95 annual fee. But that’s just me..

Chase Ultimate Rewards

A little hint into some potential future posts on the blog, I strongly considered one of the AMEX cards above basically for this bonus that we are talking about here. And in reality, I’d probably have a Chase card with supermarket bonuses if one existed. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.

But that doesn’t mean that there are some great opportunities for earning Chase Ultimate Rewards at grocery stores.

Chase Freedom

The Chase Freedom offers rotating quarterly bonuses at a myriad of different categories, but there are somewhat consistent themes year to year. The basics of the card are as follows:

  • No annual fee
  • 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories up to $1,500
  • Ability to transfer cash back points to Ultimate Rewards portal (i.e. $150 cash back is 15,000 Ultimate Rewards)– making these points redeemable for travel depending on the Chase credit card you pair it with

While I guess I can’t say for certain, it is close to 100% certainty that there will be a bonus category of “supermarkets/grocery stores” during one of the quarters every year. This year we already saw the grocery store bonus in the previous quarter.

2018 Chase Freedom Calendar

If am using the analytical side of my brain, Grocery Stores should come back in the final quarter given the repeat of the gas stations category — but we all know that probably won’t happen.

Going back a few years there has always been at least one quarter when you can earn 5% cash back at grocery stores, up to $1,500 in that quarter. So if we consider only one quarter when this is available you are looking at a maximum of 7,500 Ultimate Rewards points. If not for the minimum, this card would obviously have incredible value.

I think the true power of this card comes with the cards that you can pair it with.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Unlimited has an even more straightforward structure than the Freedom.

  • No annual fee
  • 1.5% cash back on all purchases
  • Ability to transfer cash back points to Ultimate Rewards portal (i.e. $150 cash back is 15,000 Ultimate Rewards)– making these points redeemable for travel depending on the Chase credit card you pair it with

While this card is not nearly as exciting as the Freedom, it is a great complement to really all Chase credit cards. As you earn 2 to 3 points back per dollar spent on a ton of different categories, a lot of people miss all the other categories. This card helps fill that gap. You aren’t earning a ton more than you would on say the Chase Sapphire Reserve (1.5 vs 1), but it is a bonus.

In evaluating the potential earning on this card from grocery store spend, I will say that $6,000 is the max I would spend on grocery in a year (to easily compare it to the AMEX cards). There are a few different scenarios with this card, though:

Scenario 1 – Chase Freedom Unlimited ONLY: Assuming $6,000 spent at grocery stores, you’d earn 9,000 points in a year. Not bad.

Scenario 2 – Chase Freedom Unlimited paired with Chase Freedom: Assuming $6,000 again, you are earning 7,500 during the quarter with the rotating bonus, then 6,750 points for the rest of the year. Altogether, you’d be earning 13,500 points on that same $6,000. A lot better!

Scenario 3 – Chase Freedom Unlimited w/ high grocery spend: A bit of a hypothetical for me, but I know maybe not for some people. This card has no cap on the amount you can earn from a bonus on spend at grocery stores (unlike all other cards we’ve talked about). So in the event that you spend a substantial amount of money at grocery stores I think it’s worth mentioning. In order for this card to be as valuable as the AMEX EveryDay Preferred card you’d have to spend at least $13,500 a year in groceries, which is $1,125 a month. Now that I look at the numbers, maybe this isn’t that crazy.

For me, Scenario 2 is the best option. I don’t spend a ton on groceries every year, but I definitely think that I could (and do) benefit from the Chase Freedom quarterly bonus.

Airline and Hotel Credit Cards

I lumped these two together because it is a bit hard to say one card is significantly better than another — also, when you focus on the US brands, there isn’t a ton of different options when looking only at grocery bonuses.

AAdvantage MileUp Card

American easily offers the widest variety of credit cards, as they have both Barclays and Citi offering a portfolio of credit cards. I wouldn’t consider this card the go-to for American AAdvantage miles by any means, but for the sake of this article it does have some decent upside.

  • No annual fee
  • 10,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after $500 spent in the first 3 months
  • 2 AAdvantage miles per dollar spent at grocery stores or American Airlines directly
  • 25% off in-flight purchases

As mentioned, there are plenty of other American Airlines cards, with a lot more thorough airline benefits, so I’d say that this card is a great complement. If you are focusing solely on earning American miles, this card would be a great addition.

Personally, I’d rather earn Chase points, transfer them to British Airways and use those points to book the same travel.

JetBlue Card

I probably don’t give JetBlue enough credit on this blog. With most of my childhood years spent in the FLL area, and family up north, I spent many a summer vacations flying up and down the east coast with JetBlue (I’m hopeful my mom took advantage of the family pooling option). I flew JetBlue recently and have found that their subtle charms still remain — like seat back entertainment and real snack options.

And honestly, there is something about their rewards program that has always intrigued me — which is why I kind of loved seeing that this card offered a bonus.

  • No annual fee
  • 10,000 bonus points after $1,000 spent in the first 3 months
  • 3x points on JetBlue purchases
  • 2x points at restaurants and grocery stores
  • 50% off in-flight purchases

Once again, this is more of a niche card, as JetBlue doesn’t have the most robust route network or partnerships, but for someone who may fly JetBlue a lot it offers great value. If you are someone who sees a lot of travel on JetBlue as a possibility, and maybe only on JetBlue, I would definitely recommend this card.

If anything, just to fly on JetBlue Mint.

Hilton Honors Card from American Express

This card, as well as the Hilton Aspire card offer pretty generous spending bonuses for grocery stores and super markets. The Hilton Honors Card offers just a bit higher potential in this specific category.

  • No annual fee
  • 50,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after $1,000 spent in the first 3 months
  • 7x points spent at Hilton properties
  • 5x points at US gas stations, supermarkets and restaurants
  • 3x points on all other purchases

Of course, I don’t value Hilton Honors points anywhere close to the other points on this list, but this is still a pretty impressive card. I wouldn’t necessarily get this card only for the bonus on grocery spend, but it is definitely a good option if you’d like to focus on earning on hotel points.

For shits and giggles, the lowest award night at a Hilton property is 5,000 points. So all you have to do is spend $1,000 at grocery stores (or gas stations or restaurants) and you got yourself a free night!

Honorable Mention: Cash Back Cards

My focus on this blog is to earn points to travel. Because, one, I love to travel, and two, I find the value when redeeming points for travel far outweighs the cash value you get from either those points, or cash back directly. But I totally see the value that a lot of people get in earning cash back from their purchases — and similar to the points bonuses we mentioned above there is a ton of potential in cash back cards as well.

I think it is at least worth nothing though the opportunities that are out there for cash back at grocery stores, though.

AMEX Blue Cash Preferred or Blue Cash Everyday Cards

Once again, AMEX takes the cake here. The AMEX Blue Cash Preferred and the Blue Cash Everyday cards offer 6 dollars cash back and 3 dollars cash back respectively on up to $6,000 in purchases per year made at grocery stores. The main difference in these cards is the annual fee, but I would definitely say that the added value in the Preferred card more than makes up for it.

From a grocery store spending point of view, the Preferred card has a max of $360 back per year on the $6,000 spent on groceries alone, and the Everyday card has a potential of $180 back per year. It is also worth noting that each card offers 2% cash back on purchases made at gas stations and department stores. Which, altogether offer a ton of value.

Discover It Card

The Discover It card is arguably the best cash back card on the market. Like the Chase Freedom card, the Discover It card offers 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories up to $1,500. The real differentiation here, and I think why people regards this card so highly, is the fact that Discover will match 1:1 whatever you earn cash back on the card in the first year, with no maximum.

Which, if you are able to maximize the quarterly bonus each quarter, you would get a minimum of $600 cash back, without all the other cash earned. Of course, after the first year is a different story.

Citi Double Cash Card

The Citi Double Cash card may not receive the most attention, but the pure simplicity of the card has my attention. Like the Chase Freedom Unlimited, this card offers 2% cash back on all purchases. No maximum, no category restrictions, nothing. Whatever you buy (with the card), you get 2% cash back.

I think this is a great card for beginners. And in reality, there is some serious earning potential on this card as well.

Final Thoughts

Like anything else I post on here you’ll have to decide for yourself which one of these cards works for you. I think each have their advantages and disadvantages, but either way, if you are spending any kind of money at grocery stores and not receiving some kind of bonus you need to upgrade! Don’t let the points walk right by you.

Which cards did I miss?

Tucker is an avid points and miles enthusiast. Being fully involved in the world of credit cards and frequent flying for only a few years now, he brings a very fresh and unique perspective to the world of travel.

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