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The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express has long been a NerdWallet favorite with its industry-leading 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 in spending per year). It also offers 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, plus a generous 3% back on transit and at U.S. gas stations, and 1% cash back on everything else. Terms apply (see rates and fees).
It has an annual fee: $0 intro for the first year, then $95. If you use the card regularly, your rewards should more than make up for the annual cost. To be certain you earn enough to pay the annual fee and far more, here’s how to maximize value when carrying this card.
Make the supermarket your mall
The 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets from the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express applies to the first $6,000 in annual spending; after that, it gives customers 1% cash back. Terms apply. Cardholders with big or ravenous families might have no problem maxing out their 6% rewards — but if you spend less than $100 a week at the supermarket, you can still get the full benefit of these rewards by treating your local supermarket like a shopping mall.
Buy more than food. This card's 6% rewards category is U.S. supermarkets, not groceries. So if you buy it at the supermarket, you can get 6% cash back on it, whether it's a rump roast from the meat department, bear claws from the bakery, or a box of bunion pads from the health aisle. Cleaning supplies, floral arrangements, prepared food from the deli counter, party supplies, you name it — it qualifies.
Shift spending. Unless it’s 6% cheaper to shop at drugstores, warehouse clubs, specialty food stores or superstores like Target and Walmart, you might be better off buying the same items at the supermarket instead. Those other merchants don’t qualify for the 6% back.
Give yourself a gift. Most supermarkets sell gift cards for various merchants. Depending on how your supermarket handles gift card sales (more on that below), you may be able to extend the 6% rewards to retailers, restaurants, online app stores and more. Say you're eyeing a $200 toilet at Home Depot. You could go to the supermarket, buy four $50 Home Depot gift cards with your Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express and use those gift cards to buy your new throne. When your cash-back rewards come through, you'll have gotten that toilet for just $188.
Now for the qualifiers: Some supermarkets don't let you buy gift cards with a credit card — only cash or debit. Others require you to purchase gift cards separately from other items, and they are not processed as supermarket transactions. But if your store lets you buy them at the register, and they appear on the same receipt with everything else, they're likely eligible for the 6%.
Stream your video and music payments to this card
Switch all your streaming services — Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, Spotify and more — to the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better payment card to use, offering 6% back. Terms apply.
If you were thinking about cutting the cord and ditching cable for streaming video services, this card means more savings.
Transition to this card for gas and more
The high cash-back rate at U.S. gas stations also makes this card one of the best gas credit cards. Consider making every driver in the household an authorized user on the account to take full advantage.
If you fill up at warehouse clubs, superstores or supermarkets that sell gas, make sure you’re getting a 3% better deal. For this card, those places don’t count as gas stations.
But gas is only part of the transit benefit. The 3% cash back also applies to rideshares, tolls, taxis, buses, trains and parking. Terms apply. So log this card in your Uber app and your toll transponder account. And if you buy monthly passes for bus rides or parking garages, this is your card.
» MORE: How to choose a gas credit card
Supplement with another card, or cards
If you prefer to carry only one card, and you spend a lot on groceries and gas, then the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is an ideal go-to card. But if you don't mind carrying a few cards and using them strategically, you can enhance your cash-back benefits.
Use a bonus-category card
Cards with rotating 5% cash-back categories — such as the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and the Discover it® Cash Back — often offer bonus rewards on groceries during at least one quarter of the year, on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter (activation required). All other purchases earn 1% cash back. Your math teacher can confirm that 6% is still higher than 5% — but there's the $6,000 annual spending cap on the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express to think about. So let's consider an example:
With the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, if you spend $150 per week at the grocery store — not an unreasonable amount if you've got a few mouths to feed — that's $7,800 a year. Your total grocery rewards for the year will be $378: $360 for the first $6,000 at 6%, plus $18 for the next $1,800 at 1%.
By comparison, if you used your Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express at U.S. supermarkets for nine months of the year and a 5% rotating category card during the three months when it offers a bonus on groceries, your annual grocery rewards would total a little over $430. Who'd sneeze at an extra $50 a year?
Plus, 5% cards often feature gas as a bonus category, too, which means that for three months of the year you could bump your rewards at the pump from 3% on the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express to 5%.
Mix in a flat-rate card
Outside of its bonus categories, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers 1% cash back. Terms apply. That's nothing special. If you've got room in your wallet (and in your head), consider carrying a card with a higher flat rate as your "everything else" card. The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, for example, gives customers 1.5% cash back on every purchase, while the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer gives 2% back: 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay it off.
How to redeem rewards on the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Redeeming rewards on the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is simple. Log in to your American Express account online and click "Use Reward Dollars." Cash back comes in the form of a statement credit, which directly reduces your account balance. You can redeem in increments of $25, with a $25 minimum. You can also redeem for gift cards or merchandise. Terms apply.
To view rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, see this page.