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If you find yourself cooking at home more than going out right now, groceries are probably a significant part of your monthly budget. That means you’ll want to earn as much cash back or travel points on your supermarket purchases as you can. The good news is that not only are there a number of great credit cards for grocery shopping, some cards currently even feature limited-time bonuses on groceries.
But which credit card is best for groceries right now? CNN Underscored has picked our current favorite credit cards to use at the supermarket. The right card truly depends on your needs and shopping habits, but rest assured — there’s a card for everyone.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Best for cash back at US supermarkets
American Express® Gold Card: Best for points
Chase Freedom Flex: Best for flexibility
Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for everyday use
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi: Best for groceries and gas
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature: Best for Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh
Target REDCard: Best for groceries at Target
Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express: Best for travel rewards with no annual fee
Let’s dive into the details of each of these cards and see how they compare to one another.
If you spend more money at grocery stores than anywhere else, then the Blue Cash Preferred from American Express is the card for you. Although some other cards are currently offering increased bonuses on groceries for a limited time, this card will always give you a great return on your supermarket purchases 365 days a year.
The Blue Cash Preferred offers 6% cash back at US supermarkets for up to $6,000 in purchases per year (then 1% cash back after that). There’s no other card that offers this much cash back on groceries on an ongoing basis, so this is truly the best card when it comes to getting cash into your pocket.
Aside from the 6% cash back, the Blue Cash Preferred also offers a strong 6% cash back on select US streaming subscriptions. While being stuck at home, there’s a good chance you’ve upped these subscription services, so this is one way to save some money in that department.
You’ll also receive 3% cash back at US gas stations and on transit with the Blue Cash Preferred. Although those are probably a smaller portion of your budget right now, when life gets back to normal, this is an ideal card to use on those categories as well.
Keep in mind that the Blue Cash Preferred does carry a $95 annual fee, but if you’re maxing out the 6% cash back at US supermarkets — $360 per year on $6,000 in purchases — then the annual fee pays for itself quite quickly.
However, if your grocery expenses aren’t that high, you might consider the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express instead. The no-annual-fee Blue Cash Everyday earns 3% cash back at US supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year, then 1% cash back). That means if you spend less than about $3,166 in grocery purchases annually, you’re better off with the Blue Cash Everyday instead of the Blue Cash Preferred.
Related: Is the Amex Blue Cash Preferred or Amex Blue Cash Everyday best for you?
Learn more and apply now for the Blue Cash Preferred card.
The American Express Gold Card is a top-notch card for groceries, as you’ll not only get a relatively high return, but also some incredible baked-in benefits. It’s not a cheap credit card with a $250 annual fee, but you might find that the perks outweigh the fee.
With the Amex Gold, you’ll earn 4 points per dollar spent at US supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1x), 4 points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide, 3 points per dollar spent for flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else.
CNN Underscored’s partner The Points Guy values Amex Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each. That means you’re looking at an effective 8% return at US supermarkets, which is the highest total return you’ll see for groceries on any credit card on an ongoing basis, even if other cards on our list are better for a limited time.
Aside from earning a lot of points, the Amex Gold also offers several annual statement credits. Right now, the easiest one to take advantage of is the up to $120 in dining credits. With this perk, you’ll get up to $10 in statement credits each month when you use your card to pay at select merchants, including Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed and participating Shake Shack locations.
With both Grubhub and Seamless on this list, if you’re ordering out regularly these days, you can easily use up these credits each month. And starting early in 2021, the Amex Gold will also come with $10 each month in Uber Cash, which can be used for either Uber rides or Uber Eats deliveries.
Finally, while it’s difficult to use at the moment, another money-saving benefit of the Amex Gold is its up to $100 in annual airline fee credits that are available in 2021. These can be used on your airline of choice for incidental fees, such as checked bag fees and carry-on pet fees, and will be valuable once air travel starts up again.
Related: CNN Underscored’s review of the American Express Gold card.
Learn more and apply now for the American Express Gold Card.
If you have significant grocery expenses, the brand new Chase Freedom Flex credit card might be a great choice. That’s because right now through January 13, new Freedom Flex card holders earn a whopping 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) in the first year you have the card, up to a maximum of $12,000 in spending.
New card holders can also earn $200 in bonus cash back after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months after you open the account. And the Freedom Flex has a set of bonus categories that rotate each quarter, along with a trio of fixed bonus categories, so it’s possible to earn even more cash back just by using the card in many of the places you normally shop.
But if you want more value for your rewards, there’s a way to get even more from this card. When you pair the Chase Freedom Flex with a premium Ultimate Rewards card — such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve — you can convert your cash back from the Freedom Flex into Chase Ultimate Rewards points at a ratio of 1 cent for 1 point, then transfer the points to your premium Chase card.
Once you’ve converted your rewards to points, you can redeem them based on the options available on your premium card. That means you can use them at the Chase travel portal — where your points are worth between 1.25 cents apiece with the Chase Sapphire Preferred and 1.5 cents apiece with the Chase Sapphire Reserve — or with Chase’s “Pay Yourself Back” tool, which lets you redeem points for purchases you’ve made in eligible categories, including grocery stores, dining establishments (including delivery and takeout) and home improvement stores.
Learn more and apply now for the Chase Freedom Flex.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited currently features the same sign-up bonus offer as its sister card, the Freedom Flex. That means now through January 13, new card applicants earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) in the first year you have the card, up to a maximum of $12,000 in spending, and can also earn $200 in bonus cash back after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months after you open the account.
But you’ll also find this is a great card to have even when you’re not grocery shopping. That’s because the Chase Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5% cash back on all your purchases, and also now has three permanent bonus categories: 5% cash back on travel purchases made via Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back on dining — including takeout and delivery — and 3% cash back at drugstores. These new categories add a ton of value to an already very solid offering.
Even better, if you want to earn points for travel down the road when borders reopen and planes get back in the air more broadly, you’re already in good shape with the Chase Freedom Unlimited. That’s because just like the Freedom Flex, you can pair this card with another premium Chase travel credit card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred and redeem your rewards for travel at a higher value than if you just took the cash back.
The one downside is that if you already have the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you now have the trio of new bonus categories but not the 5% cash back on grocery store purchases, as that’s part of the card’s sign-up bonus for new card holders only.
Learn more and apply now for the Chase Freedom Unlimited.
If you like to buy in bulk — and save money along the way — there’s a good chance that you’re frequently at Costco. And if you drive regularly, you probably spend a lot of money on gas as well. People who fall into this bucket may find that the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi is a great option for both your grocery and gas needs.
With this card, you’ll earn 4% cash back on eligible gas purchases (for the first $7,000 per year, then 1% thereafter), 3% cash back on restaurant and eligible travel purchases and 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and costco.com. This is a no-annual fee card, but it does require you to have a Costco membership, which starts at $60 per year.
You’ll notice that the strong suit for this card is actually on gas purchases. Yes, you’ll earn 2% cash back on groceries, but that only matches what you’d get on CNN Underscored’s benchmark credit card, the Citi® Double Cash Card, which earns 1% cash back when you make a purchase, and another 1% cash back when you pay it off.
However, Costco only takes Visa cards at its stores, and since the Citi Double Cash is a Mastercard, it’s not an option for your in-store Costco purchases (though you can use it at costco.com, which accepts credit cards other than Visa).
Outside of your grocery purchases, purchase protection is another reason to use the Costco Anywhere Visa. With this benefit, you’ll be covered if any item you buy with the card is damaged or stolen within 120 days of purchase (90 days for New York residents). The coverage is good for up to $10,000 per item and $50,000 annually — a high cap for a credit card with no annual fee.
Related: CNN Underscored’s review of the Costco Anywhere Visa Card.
Learn more and apply now for the Costco Anywhere Visa Card.
If you’re shopping solely through a delivery service right now, there’s a good chance that Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh are your go-to apps. Although the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card requires that you be an Amazon Prime member, this is a no-annual-fee card that earns 5% cash back at Amazon and Whole Foods, and that includes Amazon Fresh deliveries.
Aside from the 5% cash back you’ll receive on all of your Amazon and Whole Food purchases — both in-store and through the apps — you’ll earn 2% cash back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores. Also, unlike some other cards on our list, there’s no cap to the amount of cash back you can receive for grocery shopping at Whole Foods or Amazon Fresh.
Related: Are you using the best credit card to buy on Amazon?
The Amazon Prime Visa card also offers purchase protection, which covers you against damage or theft within the first 120 days of your purchase, up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account. Although this benefit doesn’t matter much for groceries, it could come in handy for your other Amazon purchases. Just keep in mind that if you’re making a purchase larger than $500, you might want to consider another card that offers higher protection limits.
Learn more and apply now for the Amazon Prime Visa card.
For those who shop at Target and buy groceries there as well, the Target REDCard should hold a special place in your wallet. With this card, you’ll receive an immediate 5% discount on most of your Target purchases. No need to wait to receive cash back or a rewards certificate — the amount paid during checkout will be instantly reduced by the discount simply by using the Target REDCard.
One thing to know is that the Target REDCard is what’s known as a “closed-loop” card, which means you can only use it at Target — either in-store or online — and nowhere else. However, Target sells many third-party gift cards for other stores and restaurants, and you can get the 5% discount on those gift card purchases. This theoretically allows you to get a 5% discount at many other merchants as well.
Aside from the 5% discount, there are other perks that come along with the Target REDCard. For example, on an annual basis, card holders receive a 10% discount coupon that can be used during a single Target shopping trip. You’ll also get free delivery for most items bought at target.com without the $35 minimum usually required for free delivery.
Additionally, in past years, card holders received other exclusive Target discounts and extra promotions. There’s no telling what offers we’ll see in 2021, but typically there are a number of opportunities to save money with the Target REDCard.
Although travel is restricted at the moment, it’s not a bad idea to accrue points and miles now to redeem for travel in the future. The Amex EveryDay Credit Card earns 2 points for every dollar you spend at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (1x thereafter). You’ll also earn an extra 20% bonus on all points earned after you use your card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period.
The points earned on the Amex EveryDay are Membership Rewards points, which can be redeemed for up to 1 cent apiece via Amex Travel, or for potentially even more value when you transfer them to any of Amex’s 21 airline and hotel partners. Since The Points Guy values Amex points at 2 cents apiece, assuming you use your card 20 or more times each billing cycle, you’ll earn 2.2 points per dollar at US supermarkets, giving you an effective 4.4% return on those purchases.
Now, if you buy a lot of groceries, you might find that having the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express is a better option. Although the EveryDay Preferred card comes with a $95 annual fee, you’ll earn a higher 3 points for every dollar you spend at US supermarkets (again up to the same $6,000 per year cap, then 1x point thereafter).
You’ll also receive a 50% bonus on all points earned after you use your card 30 or more times on purchases in a billing period, which means you’d get 4.5 points per dollar on those US supermarket purchases. And another benefit to the Amex EveryDay Preferred is that you’ll earn 2 points per dollar at US gas stations.
Whether the Amex EveryDay or Amex EveryDay Preferred is right for you ultimately comes down to your monthly budget in these two categories. If it’s high enough, paying an annual fee could be worth it. But if not, stick with the no-annual-fee version of the card.
If you want a credit card that maximizes the cash back you earn on groceries, then the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express is your best bet — always. If you’re more interested in travel points for future trips, the Amex EveryDay and the Amex Gold are also great for earning rewards throughout the year.
But one thing to keep in mind with these three cards is that only purchases made at US supermarkets qualify. This means shopping at specialty stores, superstores and warehouse clubs won’t earn bonus points. So if most of your purchases are made at superstores or warehouse clubs, you might want to focus on their store-specific credit cards such as the Costco Anywhere Visa for Costco, the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature for Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh or the Target REDCard at Target.
And when it comes to new card holders, the credit cards that gives you the absolute best value on groceries are the Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited, with their bonus rewards at grocery stores for the first 12 months you have either card. With such a high return, these cards are hard to beat at the supermarket right now, especially since when you also have one of the premium Chase credit cards, you can transfer the cash back the Freedom cards earn into Ultimate Rewards points and get even more value for your rewards.
Looking for the best overall credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as its best credit cards of 2021.
Get all the latest personal finance deals, news and advice at CNN Underscored Money.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they’re subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.
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