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The Blue Cash credit cards from American Express, best known for their top-notch supermarket rewards, are now courting travelers as well.
In addition to the cards’ regular introductory bonuses, which are triggered by meeting a spending requirement, new cardholders can also get 5% cash back on up to $4,000 in travel purchases. Combined, that’s a maximum of $300 or $350 in bonuses, depending on the card.
The current bonus for each of these cards:
- 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.
- Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.
This is an attractive offer for those planning a trip. There is an annual fee on the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, but it currently has a $95.
How to earn $200 cash back on travel
To get that full $200 travel bonus from AmEx, you need to:
- Apply for one of the Blue Cash cards. Existing cardholders aren’t eligible for this bonus.
- Spend $4,000 on travel with the card in the first six months after getting approved. You could use it to book holiday travel, for example, or next summer’s vacation, if you’re planning one. Note that $4,000 is the spending limit for the cash back — not the threshold. If you spend $100 on travel, you’ll get $5 cash back; spend $2,000, get $100. But for the largest bonus, the closer you get to $4,000, the better.
Note that what you consider “travel” might not always count as travel on your credit card statement. According to American Express, travel spending includes:
- Airfare purchase made directly through airlines.
- Travel agencies and tour operators (including sites like Orbitz or Expedia).
- Car rentals from Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, E-Z, Fox, Hertz, National, Payless and Thrifty.
- Cruise lines.
Unlike other major issuers, AmEx doesn’t include spending on passenger railways, timeshares, bus lines and taxicabs and limousines in its definition of “travel purchases.” But if you’re booking a big vacation soon, that might not matter. In fact, the average household reporting airfare expenses spent $3,230 in that category in 2011, according to latest information available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That alone would fetch $161.50 in rewards with this offer, if it were charged in the six-month period.
Currently, no major consumer travel cards offer a 5% rewards rate on travel. However, several travel credit cards do offer outsize sign-up bonuses.
Who should apply
For many, the idea of spending $4,000 on travel purchases in six months — even over the holidays — might seem completely bonkers. If that’s you, this isn’t a great limited-time offer. You might be better off waiting for a different deal. Last March, for example, AmEx offered 10% cash back on cell phone spending on the Blue Cash cards for a time.
But AmEx’s limited-time offer is an excellent find if you:
- Regularly spend a lot at the supermarket. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express gives you 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 in spending per year, then 1%); 3% back at U.S. gas stations and some U.S. department stores; and 1% on all other spending. The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express gives 3% back at U.S. supermarkets (with the same $6,000 cap), 2% at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, and 1% elsewhere.
- Expect to book a major trip in the next six months.
Not sure which of these cards is right for you? Read our comparison of the Blue Cash cards, which includes a calculator to estimate your rewards. And find out if you’re eligible for an even larger introductory bonus on these cards by going to NerdWallet’s pre-qualification tool.
Updated on Aug. 11, 2017.