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The American Express Blue Cash Preferred: Blue is Best

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If you’re looking for unparalleled rewards for your everyday purchases, look no further than Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express to fulfill your rewards needs. You earn top-notch rewards on gas and department stores, plus an unparalleled 6% rewards on groceries up to $6,000 spent annually. And since it pays out in cash, you don’t have to contend with gimmicky rewards programs or unwieldy airline miles. So if you eat food, wear clothing and drive cars – which, I venture to say, is a good portion of us – the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express has the best rewards rate out there.

American Express Blue Cash Preferred Credit Card
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At a glance
Annual fees $75
Foreign transaction fee 2.7%
Rewards program Cash back
Signup bonus Get $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive $150 back in the form of a statement credit.
Verdict: If you spend money on gas and groceries, this is the card for you.
Good for:
  • Someone who spends a lot on gas or groceries
  • Someone who spends money at places that sell gift cards at grocery stores (we’ll explain later)
  • Someone looking for a solid cash back credit card
Bad for:
  • Someone who spends less than $50 a week on groceries
  • Someone who travels often

In this article:

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express basics
Bluebloods: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express vs. other cash back credit cards
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express vs. Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Where the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express shines
Where it falls short
What is a standalone grocery store anyway?

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express Basics

This is pretty much one of the best credit cards out there for gas and grocery spending, and the rewards rate is unparalleled. It gives a full 6% rewards on groceries up to $6,000 spent annually, plus an unlimited 3% on gas and department stores and 1% elsewhere. The 6% rewards is pretty much the best we’ve seen anywhere on any bonus category.

American Express Blue Cash Preferred Credit Card

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Apply Now on American Express's secure website

Pros

  • 0% for 15 mos on transfers

Cons

  • Has annual fee

Sign-up Bonus

Get $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive $150 back in the form of a statement credit.

Annual Fee

$75

Intro APR Promotions

0% on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months

APR

  • Min APR: 12.99%, Variable
  • Max APR: 21.99%, Variable
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.24%, Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • Get $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive $150 back in the form of a statement credit.
  • Hassle-free cash back: no enrollment required, the same great reward categories year-round.
  • Earn Cash Back: 6% US supermarkets up to $6,000 per year in purchases, 3% US gas stations & select US dept stores, 1% other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then a variable rate, currently 12.99% to 21.99%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.
  • Terms and limitations apply.

The card’s 6% rewards on groceries opens up an opportunity for a neat trick: you can purchase gift cards for Starbucks, Exxon, the Gap, whatever, at the checkout line, thus securing 6% rewards on virtually anywhere you spend – just keep in mind the $6,000 annual cap.

Don’t be deterred by the $75 annual fee – spend just $25 a week on groceries and you’ve made up for the fee, not to mention the signup bonus. If you’re anti-annual fee, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is a no-fee, lesser-rewards version of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. That card gives 3% rewards on groceries, also up to $6,000 annually, plus 2% on gas and department stores. You can read more about the tradeoff between the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express and Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express here.

Alright, sound good to be true? Nope, it’s real – there are just a few caveats.

First off, there’s the $6,000 a year cap on groceries. Spending past the $6k threshold earns just 1% cash back – an unlimited 6% cash back was just too good to last. Another letdown of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is simply that: its name. Unfortunately, Amex isn’t as widely accepted as other credit card networks, so we recommend having a no-fee Visa or MasterCard as a backup. Also, world travelers be warned: there’s a 2.7% foreign transaction fee. If you frequently travel abroad, check out these cards with no foreign transaction fee.

Bluebloods: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express vs. Chase Freedom®

Time for the big leagues: How do the Blue Cash cards stack up the cash-back contender?

Chase Freedom Credit Card
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The Chase Freedom® offers 5% cash back in bonus categories that change every quarter and can range from gas and drugstores to Amazon.com and Macy’s. It has an annual fee of $0 and comes with a signup bonus: Earn a $100 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. It comes with a cap: bonus rewards are limited to the first $1,500 spent every quarter. Basically, if a hefty chunk of your money goes to groceries, go blue; if not, go with a bit more variety.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express vs. Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

American Express Blue Cash Everyday Credit Card
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on American Express's
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How do you know whether to get the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express or the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express? It’s pretty simple. Looking only at grocery rewards, you should get the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express if you spend at least $50 a week on groceries (or gift cards at grocery stores). At that spending level, the extra 3% in grocery rewards outweighs the annual fee. If you can’t meet that threshold, go with the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express.

Where the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express shines

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is at its best when used by households – people who spend the bulk of their money on feeding the family and shuttling the kids around. If you’re spending $50+ a week on groceries, or if you’re filling up your tank often, this is the ideal card for you.

Where it falls short

As we mentioned above, if you spend less than $50 a week on groceries, you’re better off with the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. Another case where the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express isn’t ideal is if you travel often, particularly if you travel internationally. Frequent travelers might want to forgo cash back for potentially more valuable travel points, or aim for a card that gives bonus rewards on travel spending. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express carries a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, and American Express’ international acceptance lags behind Visa and MasterCard’s. You can check out our list of the best travel credit cards to find an ideal card.

What is a standalone grocery store anyway?

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express earns 6% rewards at stand-alone grocery stores, and the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express earns 3%, up to the first $6,000 spent. But what counts at a grocery store? Generally speaking, if the main product is food, you’re in the clear – this means Safeway, Whole Foods and Stop & Shop. These do not include superstores and warehouses (such as Costco). Amex Canada’s site can give some color into what consitutes a grocery store:

Purchases at merchants where [grocery] sales are not their primary business (including superstores, wholesale clubs, alcohol retailers and general merchandise retailers) and purchases at sponsors do not qualify for the earn rate in this category.

Per the Blue Cash’s website, though, we can see what Amex considers to be department stores:

Bealls, Belk, Bloomingdale’s, Bon Ton Stores., Boscov’s, Century 21 Department Stores, Dillard’s, J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Sears, and Stein Mart

  • Dean Rod

    I am an American Express Blue Cash Preferred card member and you CANNOT…I repeat CANNOT, use this card to receive 6% cash back when you purchase gift cards in grocery stores. It is expressively forbidden in the cardmember agreement and I phoned Amex customer service recently to confirm this after reading the incorrect information in the article above. The agent I spoke with made it clear that gift cards are coded differently and are immediately identified in the billing process. I can’t remember if they qualify for even the 1% “everything else” cash back rate, or are excluded because of their “cash-like” nature.

    Nevertheless, it’s a GREAT card. If you charge $1,000 in the first 3 months (which we did easily) you will earn $150 cash back which will cover 2 years of the $75 annual fee. My wife and I pretty much just use it for groceries and gas. We also recently received the Citi Double Cash Mastercard that we’re using for most other stuff with a 2% cash back rate. (1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay.)

    • Kevin

      It’s not surprising….it’s not like they WANT you purchase GCs and do that for the 6%. It’s intended for actual grocery spend. And they have certainly shut people down who violate this.

      But yes – for actual reasonably high grocery spend, it’s a great card

    • duketg

      I’m just curious here — how do they know? If you buy a load of groceries and get a gift card at the same time, I don’t see how AMEX would have any idea.

      • Dean Rod

        I’m not sure. I haven’t tried it yet. I might try it as an experiment.

  • Dean Rod

    This review sounds fake. The representatives I’ve spoken with in India (3 so far) have been the most polite group of people I’ve dealt with in decades over a telephone. They were positively gushing with good vibes, positivity and appreciation for my patronage.

    Why would Amex want to scr*w you over for paying your balance in full when the card has a 0% interest rate for the first 15 months? They also make a transaction fee from the vendor every time you make a purchase, so they’re making money on your card activity anyway without needing your interest too.

    I can only assume that you left a major part of your story out, or made the whole thing up.

    • Mac

      Nope, 100% true. In fact I had the Costco Amex at the same time as this card and was given an unsolicited credit line increase days after this incident. Annex contracts out with a third-party for any kind of a credit line dispute. It is literally impossible to talk to an Amex employee for any credit line decrease issues. If you haven’t had this problem happened to you and you haven’t talked to the department that I’m talking about in my review. However if you look at all the reviews here I think you’ll find that this is not an uncommon occurrence and that American Express seriously need to consider and how it treats its customers when they make a mistake like this.

  • Kevin

    Your math is kind of incorrect here, nerdwallet. If you spend $25 a week on groceries (just that alone, not counting other spend), you will net $78 in rewards at the end of the year. Take the fee out and you made a measly 3 bucks.

    The BCE would make more sense with that spend level as you’d net 39.

    The calculation needs to be how much it takes to EARN more than the BCE. Not just to pay for the AF. We’re talking about net rewards here, right? Nobody should be mislead – the BCP takes a good amount of spend to justify. A single person probably doesn’t spend enough for it for example (though obviously there are exceptions).

  • JoeC

    Isn’t paying for gas with a credit card costlier than paying with cash?

  • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

    If you’re really dissatisfied with the Blue Cash but don’t want to close the account, consider downgrading to the Blue Cash Everyday (which has no annual fee) and sticking the card in the drawer.

  • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

    Hi Dennis,

    Wegman’s, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are all grocery stores.

  • Dean Rod

    See my review from today 6/25. ^^^ Gift cards are expressly excluded from the 6% grocery store cash back rate.

  • Dean Rod

    It sounds like your fault. ALWAYS look at every bill to make sure everything is in order. Just open the envelope and look at it.

  • Dean Rod

    It all depends on how an individual store “codes” their credit card sales. If they code as a supermarket or grocery, the 6% applies.

  • Brian Lewis

    Dean, this is misinformation. Amex does not get any sort of coding from the purchases the gift cards are included in the 6%.

  • Dean Rod

    Brain, you might be successfully scamming AMEX for 6% on gift card purchases, but if you take the trouble to read your cardmember agreement, and/or talk to a customer service representative, you will learn that gift cards are specifically and expressly EXCLUDED from the 6% grocery discount. It’s interesting to hear that you don’t think that gift cards are coded any differently and according to you, slip through the cracks and do get discounted.