American Express Blue Cash Showdown: Everyday or Preferred?

If an annual fee isn't a dealbreaker, the Blue Cash Preferred will earn you the highest rate on groceries around, plus elevated rates in several other areas.

American Express Blue Cash Showdown: Everyday or Preferred?

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Choosing between the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express and the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express used to boil down to one basic question: Are you willing to pay an annual fee in exchange for best-in-class rewards rates on groceries and gas, or not? And that's still a core part of the decision.

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express comes with higher cash-back rates at U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations, but it also has a $95 annual fee. The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express has a $0 annual fee, but the cash-back rates on groceries and gas are lower.

But a May 2019 makeover of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express changed the calculus. Now, it doesn't merely offer higher rates than its cousin, but it also offers more rewards categories. The additions of best-in-class rates on eligible streaming and transit spending might make your decision on the annual fee easier.

Comparing the cards

Here's how the two cards' rewards categories break down. (Note that non-bonus-category spending on either card earns only 1% back. Terms apply.)

Grocery rewards 

  • The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express gives you 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in spending annually, and 1% back beyond that.

  • The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express gives you 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 a year in spending, and 1% back beyond that.

  • Terms apply.

Nerd tip: Many supermarkets sell gift cards for a variety of retailers, restaurants and other merchants. Buying gift cards with either of the Blue Cash cards, then using those gift cards, means you can effectively extend your bonus cash back to a much wider range of categories.

Transit and department store rewards 

  • The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express earns 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and other types of transit including trains, buses, parking, tolls, taxis and rideshares, with no cap on spending. The U.S. department store benefit for new cardholders was discontinued May 9, 2019. (Existing cardholders will still earn it until July 31, 2019, AmEx confirms.)

  • The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express earns 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and also offers 2% back at select U.S. department stores. There are no elevated rewards on other forms of transit.

  • Terms apply.

Rewards on streaming services

  • The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express earns 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services including Hulu, Netflix, Pandora and Spotify.

  • The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express doesn't offer bonus rewards on streaming, so spending in this category earns 1% back.

  • Terms apply.

Bonus offers for new cardholders

Both cards come with a welcome bonus, with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offering a bit more.

  • The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.

  • The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express$150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.

Making the choice

The additional bonus categories on the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express certainly sweeten the deal, but it's the eye-popping rewards on U.S. supermarket spending that make the card so distinctive and attractive. The chart below uses grocery spending to illustrate the relative value of carrying the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express and paying the annual fee. It shows three scenarios:

  1. The amount you would need to spend with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express to break even on the $95 annual fee.

  2. The amount you would need to spend with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express to earn more cash back than you would with the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, taking into account the cost of the $95 annual fee.

  3. The total amount of bonus cash back on the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express when you max out the 6% U.S. supermarket bonus category. (All spending over this amount earns 1% back on either card.)

Comparing your own spending to this chart helps determine whether you should choose the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express or the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express — but it doesn't paint the whole picture since you also have to take into account commuting costs, plus gas and department store spending.

And the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express still has pluses going for it. If you're dead-set against any kind of annual fee, if you drive yourself to work rather than rely on public transit and if you happen to spend a bunch of money at qualifying U.S. department stores, it could still be the right pick.

Use our calculator below to see which card is the better deal for you based on your monthly spending patterns.

Note: U.S. supermarket rewards on both the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express and the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express apply only at stand-alone grocery stores and supermarkets — not warehouse clubs (e.g., Costco, Sam's Club) or big-box stores with grocery sections (e.g., Target, Walmart). Gas rewards apply only at U.S. gas stations — not superstores, supermarkets or warehouse clubs that also sell gasoline.

» PRE-QUALIFY: NerdWallet now offers American Express Pre-Qualification. See whether you're eligible for a better offer.

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