If you want a cash-back credit card without an annual fee, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express and the Chase Freedom® are both appealing choices. The first clocks in with bonus rewards at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores. The latter brings in high rewards on rotating bonus categories. But which one deserves the title of everyday spending champion?
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
- 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 spent annually, then 1%)
- 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores
- 1% cash back everywhere else
- 5% cash back in quarterly rotating bonus categories (up to $1,500 spent per quarter, then 1%)
- 1% cash back on all other spending
|Chase Freedom® bonus rewards categories for 2017 and early 2018|
|Q1 2017 (Jan. 1 - March 31)||Gas stations and local commuter transportation (not including parking, tolls or Amtrak)|
|Q2 2017 (April 1 - June 30)||Grocery stores and drugstores|
|Q3 2017 (July 1 – Sept. 30)||Restaurants and movie theaters|
|Q4 2017 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31)||Walmart and department stores|
|Q1 2018 (Jan. 1 - March 31)||• Gas stations
• Internet, cable and phone service
• Purchases via Chase Pay, Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay
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Groceries: If you spend a lot of money at the supermarket, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is the clear choice. However, if you spend more than about $3,175 a year there (about $61 a week), consider the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. It has an annual fee of $95 and offers double the rewards — 6% back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in spending, then 1%).
The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express wins this round!
Gas: In the past, the Chase Freedom® has offered gas rewards for one or two quarters out of the year, giving you an effective 2% or 3% average rewards rate on gas. Of course, this is assuming you spend less than $1,500 on gas per quarter. Once you go over the quarterly bonus rewards cap, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is generally the better deal.
If you don’t spend the same amount each quarter, you’ll have to take your predicted quarterly gas spending and multiply by the rewards rates to find out which card gives you the best value. Remember to consider the Chase Freedom®’s rewards cap — all bonus spending above $1,500 per quarter is rewarded at the normal rate of 1% — and check to see if your local gas stations accept American Express.
The winner of this round will depend on your gas spending habits, but assume that if you spend more than $1,500 quarterly and your gas station accepts AmEx, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is the winner. If you spend less, but spend equal amounts per quarter, the effective rewards rates are the same. If your gas spending is heavier during the quarter that Chase offers 5% rewards, the Chase Freedom® wins.
Clothing: You’ll get 2% rewards year-round at select U.S. department stores with the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. In past years, the Chase Freedom® has also offered 5% department store rewards during certain quarters. If it offered that category once a year, your average rewards rate for the year would be 2%, also. That said, we’re giving this one to the Chase Freedom®, which gives you access to the Chase Ultimate Rewards site. With Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can get up to 10% cash back at most clothing stores, including those that aren’t considered department stores.
Acceptance: American Express isn’t as widely accepted as Visa or MasterCard. So while the Chase Freedom® will be taken almost everywhere that accepts credit cards, you’ll probably want to keep a Visa or MasterCard as a backup if you choose the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express.
The final round
The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is best for supermarket shoppers and high gas spenders, while the Chase Freedom® is better for clothing purchases and higher-than-normal gas spending when gas is a bonus category. It’s also the better choice for acceptance, as AmEx still isn’t accepted as widely as Visa and MasterCard.
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