If you want to master the art of earning credit card rewards, there’s one essential rule you need to follow: Never spend extra money on your quest for points. Instead, successful credit card reward hacking consists of earning points, miles or cash back from purchases you’d need to make anyway.
Once you open a rewards credit card, and you’re comfortable managing it, it’s smart to become familiar with credit card bonus categories. Some cards offer higher rewards when you spend money on specific types of purchases. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve gives you 3X points when you use the card to pay for dining or travel.
There are also credit cards that offer higher rewards for another common expense: grocery shopping. According to the USDA, the cost of feeding a family of four a nutritious diet can run between $565 to $1,286 per month. If you use the right rewards credit card to pay for those purchases (and pay off your full balance each month), you could enjoy some valuable perks.
These credit cards might be an excellent fit for your next trip to the supermarket.
1. American Express Gold Card
It’s hard to beat the rewards you can receive for grocery shopping with the American Express Gold Card. The card offers you the chance to earn 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets. It also features other bonuses and perks that can help offset its annual fee.
- Grocery Rewards: Earn 4X points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 in purchases per year.
- Other Rewards: Dining purchases earn 4X points. Earn 3X points when you book travel directly through an airline or with amextravel.com. Earn 1X points on all other purchases.
- Welcome Offer: Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. (Offer valid at the time of publishing.)
- Annual Fee: $250
- Other Perks: Enjoy up to a $120 annual dining credit ($10 per month at eligible restaurants) and $100 airline fee credit per calendar year.
2. Blue Cash Preferred from American Express
Do you prefer the simplicity of cash back over a rewards credit card that offers you points or miles? If so, the Blue Cash Preferred from American Express might be a good fit. Like the popular Blue Cash Everyday Card, the Blue Cash Preferred Card is regarded as the best cash back card from American Express
- Grocery Cash Back: Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases per year (then 1%). You can also earn 6% cash back for eligible streaming subscriptions.
- Other Cash Back: Gas station purchases and transit purchases (taxis, rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, etc.) earn 3% cash back. Receive 1% on all other purchases.
- Welcome Offer: Earn $300 statement credit after you spend $1,000 within the first three months. (Offer valid at the time of publishing.)
- Annual Fee: $95
3. Citi® Double Cash Card
The Citi® Double Cash Card is another solid cash back option for grocery purchases and, actually, for purchases in any other spending category as well. The card doesn’t offer a bonus rewards category, though. Rather, the Citi Double Cash consistently gives you the opportunity to earn 2% cash back on every purchase you make. Read our full review of the Citi Double Cash credit card.
- Cash Back: Earn unlimited 1% cash back rewards as you make purchases. Then, receive another 1% cash back when you pay for those purchases later.
- Welcome Offer: New card holders can take advantage of a balance transfer with 0% APR for 18 months. There is a fee of $5 or 3% for the balance transfer (whichever is higher) and the transfer must take place within four months after opening your account.
- Other Perks: You have the option to transfer the cash back you earn on your Citi Double Cash to ThankYou Points. You can redeem points for travel, gift cards, and more. By transferring cash back to points, you could potentially get more value from the rewards you earn.
- Annual Fee: $0
4. Citi Rewards+℠ Card
The Citi Rewards+℠ Card offers 2X rewards at supermarkets and gas stations (on the first $6,000 in purchases per year). Although other cards can beat this reward rate, the Citi Rewards+ has two interesting perks worth mentioning: 10% points back per year and a round-up feature. Read our full review of the Citi Rewards+ credit card.
- Grocery (and Gas Station) Rewards: Earn 2X points at supermarkets and gas stations on up to $6,000 in purchases per year (then 1 point per $1 spent).
- Other Rewards: Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
- Welcome Offer: The card features an initial balance transfer offer with 0% APR for 15 months. There’s a fee of $5 or 3% for the balance transfer (whichever is higher), and the transfer must take place within four months after opening your account.
- Other Perks: Get 10% points back on the first 100,000 ThankYou Points you redeem each year. Also, when you earn points for a purchase, they’re rounded up to the nearest 10 points. For example, a $32 grocery bill would earn you 80 points instead of 64.
- Annual Fee: $0
5. Chase Freedom
Another rewards card you might want to consider for grocery shopping is the Chase Freedom credit card. The card features rotating 5% bonus categories that change once a quarter. For the past few years, grocery stores have made an appearance on the Chase Freedom’s 5% cash back calendar multiple times.
- 5% Cash Back: Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases (combined) in bonus categories. Note: You have to activate your bonus categories each quarter.
- Other Cash Back: Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.
- Welcome Offer: Receive $200 cash back after you spend $500 in the first three months from opening your account.
- Other Perks: Your cash rewards can also be redeemed as Ultimate Rewards Points. One dollar cash back equals 100 points. If you hold a premium Chase rewards card, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve, you can transfer your points from the Chase Freedom to your premium account and redeem them for more value. Points become worth 50% more if you redeem them through a Sapphire Reserve or 25% more if you redeem them through a Sapphire Preferred account.
- Annual Fee: $0
6. Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi is a must have for all Costco members. Not only do cardholders earn 4% cash back on eligible gas purchases, but they also earn 3% cash back on dining and travel, and 2% on all Costco in-store and online purchases.
- Warehouse and Online Rewards: Earn unlimited 2% cash back on purchase made at Costco and costco.com.
- Other Cash Back: Earn 4% cash back on eligible gas purchases (up to $7,000 annually) and 3% cash back on dining and travel.
- Welcome Offer: No welcome offer
- Other Perks: Get extra purchase protections with an extended 2-year warranty for purchase made with the card.
- Annual Fee: No fee with paid Costco membership
How to Compare Rewards Credit Cards
Still not sure about which rewards cards are right for you? We get it. Choosing a credit card that meets your needs is important, which is why Slickdeals’ Credit Card Hub helps you compare the benefits of different cards, search credit cards by rewards categories, and explore cards by their issuers — all to find the best fit for your wallet.
What Is a Rewards Credit Card?
A rewards credit card is one that gives users incentives when they make qualifying purchases. Rewards vary by card issuer and a card user’s spending habits. Some cards reward you more for spending in specific categories. Many rewards credit cards offer cash back on select spending and come with a special sign-up bonus offer after users hit the stated spending limit.
How Cash-Back Rewards Work
Many cash rewards credit cards offer special rewards bonuses on specific types of purchases. These vary by card, so it is smart to look for one that will reward you the most for your spending habits. Cash back cards offer rewards in three different ways:
Flat-rate cards have a set rate, usually 1% or 1.5%. You earn this flat-rate on virtually all of your purchases, from groceries to gas to airline tickets. This type of credit card earning simplifies the process, but it also leaves a lot of rewards on the table when compared to other cards.
Tiered rewards cards offer both a flat-rate spending rate of 1% or 1.5% on some categories and a higher reward rate for select categories, such as 2% back on dining or 4% back on gas purchases. These cards are extremely beneficial for maximizing certain areas of your spending, like regular purchases from grocery stores and wholesale clubs. One downside with these cards is that if you apply for a card that offers higher cash back in a category you don’t spend a lot of money in, such as travel, you aren’t going to see a huge difference over a flat-rate reward card.
Rotating credit cards offer rotating bonus percentage on specific categories during specific times of the year. These cards usually come with a standard 1% rewards rate and a 5% reward rate on the quarter’s special category. This could look like 5% back on gas January through March and then 5% back on groceries April through June. These rewards are also capped at a certain purchase amount, such as $1,500.
How to Redeem Cash-Back Rewards
Cash back gives card users the most flexibility and most cards offer this option. Of course, if a point- or mile-based card offers the chance for you to trade in your points/miles for cash, you will probably see a lower monetary value over using the points/miles towards travel. Card issuers make it easy to get your cash-back rewards.
Here are a few options they allow:
- Statement credit
- Cash transfer directly into your bank account
- Some cases a check mailed to your home (this might require special contact or an additional fee)
- The ability to use your cash reward on popular retailers, like Amazon, once you link your card
How Travel Rewards Work
With a travel rewards credit card, you’ll earn points or miles with every purchase, which can then be redeemed for your future travel plans. General travel cards will earn points or miles back on virtually every purchase, regardless of the airline or hotel chain.
Co-branded travel cards, the ones that align with a specific airline or hotel, will reward users with more points for loyalty spending. This is beneficial if you are loyal to one airline or hotel chain or if you want to reap the additional benefits these co-branded cards bring, such as free checked bags or a free hotel stay on your card anniversary.
Travel reward cards are best for those who travel frequently because they will earn more points on trip expenditures and have an easier time redeeming earned points for their desired destinations. If you love the idea of using your points to travel more but don’t actually travel much yet, stick with a popular rewards card instead to rack up the points faster.
How To Redeem Travel Rewards
Many cards will allow you to redeem your travel rewards one of three ways:
- Cash back/statement credit
- Travel purchased through the card
- Transfer points to partner hotel or airline
These three methods are what distinguish the card users who get a few hundred dollars back in cash each year with those who go on trips for free. If you request your travel rewards as cash, you aren’t going to see the best return on your points. Travel purchased through your card issuer’s portal can result in great travel deals, but take time to research the current transfer partners.
Some cards offer one-to-one transfers on travel partners, which means you can move all of your points over to an airline. Booking a flight directly through the airline using airline points could cost you fewer points than booking the same flight through your card’s travel booking site. Transferring points to partners is also a great way to pool together points.
How To Choose the Reward Card That Is Right for You
With so many different reward cards and travel rewards cards out there, how do you know which is right for you? The easiest way to know which card is best is to evaluate your spending.
Where do you spend the most money? Once you know where your money is going, you can choose a card that will reward you the most in that category of spending.
It is also a good idea to consider how much time you want to invest in your reward card. Do you want to keep up with rotating category bonuses and make sure you are getting the best flight deals for your points? Or would you rather something easier like a card that earns 1% cash back on every purchase?
There is no wrong answer, but you need to know these answers to understand which card will best benefit your lifestyle.
Reward Credit Card Risks
Earning rewards for spending money you were already going to spend — what could go wrong? While credit card perks are an amazing way to stretch your spending power, it is also easy to go overboard with buying.
If your reward credit card is going to put you into debt or, there is a good chance the interest paid on the debt will negate any rewards. This pressure to spend is multiplied when you are trying to meet a spending limit for a sign-up bonus.
Dropping $5,000 in three months on purchases you wouldn’t have made otherwise can create more financial stress. You might have earned $500 worth of free travel, but is it worth scrambling to pay off $5,000 of debt?
Consider if you are in a healthy place financial to complete sign-up bonuses before committing to a card.