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If you're a dedicated shopper at one of the many stores in the Kroger "family," you might be considering the grocer's co-branded store credit card — the Kroger Rewards World Elite Mastercard — for your frequent supermarket sweeps.
But loyalty to Kroger isn't necessarily a good reason to apply for this credit card. That's because, for a co-branded product, it offers a relatively underwhelming rewards rate for actual shopping done within the Kroger brand.
The $0-annual-fee card, issued by U.S. Bank, does offer a high rate in the somewhat unique category of mobile wallet purchases, but there's a cap on that spending, as well as some other limitations to be aware of.
Here are five things to know about the Kroger credit card.
1. Rewards are a mix of good news ...
On the plus side, unlike some other store cards, the Kroger Rewards World Elite Mastercard earns rewards both at Kroger and outside the brand. It offers:
5% cash back on eligible mobile wallet purchases on up to $3,000 spent per calendar year, then 1% after.
2% back at Kroger-owned stores, Kroger online and transactions through Kroger Pay, the brand's own mobile payment app. (Kroger fuel centers are not eligible to earn 2% back.)
1% back on all other spending.
Discounts on eligible gas purchases.
Purchases made through Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay, Garmin Pay and LG Pay mobile wallets will earn the card’s highest rate.
2. ... and not-so-good news
For starters, the mobile-wallet bonus category is subject to an annual spending cap of $3,000. If you maxed it out, you'd earn $150 in cash back before dropping down to the 1% rate for the rest of the year. That's not bad, and spending caps are common among the best credit cards for groceries. But some of those cards feature much higher caps.
A much bigger caveat, however, is that it can be difficult to impossible to find a Kroger that accepts mobile wallets beyond Kroger Pay. But as noted above, Kroger Pay is not eligible for the card’s 5% cash back, so you can’t earn that elevated rate by using a mobile wallet inside a Kroger store. You'll have to settle for the card's 2% rate, a somewhat disappointing return given that some store cards earn up to 5% back for in-brand purchases.
Many cash-back cards offer better rewards specifically for grocery spending and are far less restrictive in terms of where and how you can earn them. Take the $0-annual-fee Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. It earns 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 spent per year (then 1% back). Terms apply — see rates and fees. That $6,000 spending cap is well above what the average U.S. household spends on groceries.
3. Redemption comes with some rules
Cash back earned with the Kroger Rewards World Elite Mastercard can be redeemed for statement credit, Kroger gift cards or Real-Time Rewards. (Real-Time Rewards allow you to redeem for statement credit against your Kroger purchase immediately at checkout.) But there are a few things to note:
There are redemption minimums: You’ll need a minimum of $10 in rewards to redeem your cash back for statement credit or Real-Time Rewards. To redeem for a Kroger gift card, you’ll need at least $25 in rewards.
You're on the clock: Rewards expire after three years, so if you don’t use them to make a purchase within that time frame, you’ll lose them.
4. There's a separate fuel rewards program
If you get the Kroger Rewards World Elite Mastercard, you'll automatically be enrolled in Kroger's shopper loyalty program. (Credit card or no, membership is free and you can enroll online or in a Kroger-owned store.)
As a member of the program — and, again, independent of the credit card — you'll earn 1 "fuel point" for every $1 you spend on groceries (with some exceptions) at any store in the Kroger network. You’ll also earn 2 points per every dollar you spend on most gift card purchases. Here's how the fuel point program works:
Fuel points can be redeemed at Kroger fuel centers and participating Shell gas stations. At Kroger fuel centers, you can redeem up to 1,000 fuel points for $1 off per gallon. (You can redeem in 100-point increments, up to 35 gallons.) At eligible Shell stations, you can redeem 100 fuel points for 10 cents off per gallon.
There’s no limit to how many fuel points you can earn each month. But these points don't carry over and instead expire the last day of the month after they're earned.
5. The card offers a first-year gas bonus (and the potential to extend it)
New holders of the Kroger Rewards World Elite Mastercard can get 25 cents off per gallon of gas during the first year of using the card. To receive the discount, you’ll have to redeem at least 100 fuel points when you scan your card at eligible Kroger fuel centers.
If you spend up to $6,000 in the first 12 months of having the card, the 25 cents off per gallon of gas will be extended for the remainder of that calendar year and through the next calendar year as well, until the following Jan. 31.
After that, you’ll have to spend up to $6,000 every year to keep the 25-cents-off benefit. (If you don’t meet the spend requirement in the first year of having the card, the discount drops down to 5 cents per gallon after.)
For those who drive a lot, this bonus can add up to fairly big savings on gas whether they meet the spending requirement or not — although keeping track of and redeeming fuel points can be high-maintenance.
For more information about other options, see NerdWallet's roundup of best credit cards to have.
To view rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, see this page.
Information about the Kroger Rewards World Elite Mastercard® has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been provided or reviewed by the issuer of this card.