Best credit cards for groceries in 2021
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Groceries are a significant part of the monthly budget for most American households, which means you want to earn as much cash back or travel points on your supermarket purchases as you can. Fortunately, not only are there a number of great credit cards for grocery shopping, but some cards 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 U.S. supermarkets
American Express® Gold Card: Best for travel rewards
Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best sign-up bonus
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
All information about the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express has been collected independently by CNN. The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express is not currently available through CNN.
Why did we pick these as our best credit cards for groceries this year? 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 for you. Although some other cards are currently offering more rewards 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 as a statement credit at U.S. 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 U.S. streaming subscriptions. There’s a good chance you’ve upped these subscription services in recent years, so this is one way to save some money in that department.
You’ll also receive 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit with the Blue Cash Preferred. As life gets back to normal, these will undoubtedly become a larger portion of your monthly budget again, so this is an ideal card to use on those categories as well.
All cash back earned with the Blue Cash Preferred comes in the form of reward dollars that can be redeemed as statement credits, so getting your cash is easy.
Depending on how much you spend on groceries, paying an annual fee for the Blue Cash Preferred card after the first year could make sense.
Keep in mind that the Blue Cash Preferred currently has a $0 introductory fee for the first year, but after that it carries a $95 annual fee (see rates and fees). However, if your family makes at least $6,000 in purchases at US supermarkets each year — which is an average of $500 per month — then the annual fee pays for itself quite quickly.
But if your grocery expenses aren’t that high, you might consider the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express instead. The Blue Cash Everyday is a no-annual-fee card (see rates and fees) and earns 3% cash back at U.S. 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 after the first year.
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 (see rates and fees), but you might find that the perks outweigh the fee.
With the Amex Gold, you’ll earn 4 points per dollar spent at U.S. 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 at amextravel.com and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else.
Frequent flyer website The Points Guy values Amex Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each. That means you’re looking at an effective 8% return at U.S. 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 earn 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 (enrollment is required before you use this benefit).
If you’re ordering regularly via Grubhub, you can get up to $120 in annual dining credits with the Amex Gold card.
With both Grubhub and Seamless on this list, if you order out regularly, you can easily use up these credits each month. And with the Amex Gold, you’ll also get $10 each month in Uber Cash, which can be used for either Uber rides in the U.S. or Uber Eats deliveries (enrollment required).
If you have significant grocery expenses and don’t already have a Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card, this might be the perfect time to consider one. While it’s already a top-notch no-annual-fee credit card with potentially flexible rewards, Chase’s recently launched sign-up offer on the Freedom Unlimited really makes it a no-brainer.
Right now, new Chase Freedom Unlimited card holders can earn $200 in bonus cash back after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months after you open the account. But in addition, if you get the card now, you can also earn a whopping 5% cash back on your 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.
On top of 5% cash back on groceries as part of the sign-up offer, you’ll also earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 5% on Lyft rides (through March 2022), 3% on dining at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery services), 3% on drugstore purchases and 1.5% on all other purchases. So even after the first year is over, you’ll continue to earn strong rewards.
Along with its other bonus categories, the Chase Freedom Unlimited earns 3% cash back at drugstores.
But if you want more value for your rewards, there’s a way to get even more from this card. If you pair the Chase Freedom Unlimited 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 Unlimited 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.
Now, if you want a card with quarterly bonus categories, the Chase Freedom Flex is a great option as well. Its sign-up offer is exactly the same as the Chase Freedom Unlimited, but instead of earning 1.5% cash back on all your non-bonus category purchases, you instead earn 1% cash back with the Freedom Flex but have access to a rotating set of 5% bonus categories, as well as cell phone protection.
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).
Costco only accepts Visa credit cards in its stores, making the Costco Anywhere Visa card a solid choice.
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.
If you’ve gotten used to shopping through a delivery service, 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.
If you buy groceries at Whole Foods, you’ll earn 5% cash back on them with the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa card.
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.
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.
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.
Almost anything you buy at Target will get a 5% discount with the Target REDcard.
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 this year, but typically there are a number of opportunities to save money with the Target REDCard.
If you’d like to accrue points and miles to redeem for travel but don’t want to pay an annual fee, The Amex EveryDay Credit Card could be a great fit. It 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 American Express 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 earn 4.5 points per dollar on those U.S. supermarket purchases. And another benefit to the Amex EveryDay Preferred is that you’ll earn 2 points per dollar at U.S. 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. Or, with its current sign-up bonus in hand, the Chase Freedom Unlimited can blow the other cards out of the water for the first 12 months after you open the account.
But one thing to keep in mind with those options is that shopping at specialty stores, superstores and warehouse clubs won’t earn bonus points. So if most of your grocery purchases aren’t made at supermarkets, 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.
Looking for the best overall credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as its best credit cards of 2021.