Americans also are leaning on credit cards as a tool to help navigate through COVID-driven financial hardships.
Team Clark is here to help if you’re changing your spending habits because of the pandemic.
There are a variety of rewards credit cards that can pad your wallet as you buy your essentials. And this article will highlight some of the top choices based on your shopping habits.
Getting the Most Out of Your Grocery Shopping
If you’re using a credit card to buy groceries and other household essentials, it’s important to understand which cards can bring you the biggest return in rewards.
As a general rule, you want to make sure that the card you’re using has rewards geared toward the stores you frequent most often. After all, you’re much more likely to change your credit card to fit your shopping habits than you are to change your grocery store just to get credit card rewards.
To achieve optimal rewards, you have three options:
- Pick a card that specializes in supermarket or grocery rewards
- Go with a brand-specific card for your favorite store
- Simply pick an everyday cash back card that lets you earn rewards no matter where you shop
Remember: Generally speaking, stores like Walmart, Target and Costco are not considered “supermarkets” for the purposes of credit card rewards. These would fall into the superstore or wholesale club category, respectively. Credit card companies usually limit “supermarket” rewards to more traditional grocery stores — like Kroger, Publix or Albertsons.
To be sure about this, you’ll want to check with each individual card issuer to see if your favorite store qualifies. Team Clark has a guide to help with that here.
Best Credit Cards for Spending in U.S. Supermarkets
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
If you’re serious about getting the most cash back from your grocery shopping, the 6% the Blue Cash Preferred card offers is going to be extremely hard to beat. Though this card does carry a $95 annual fee, you’ll make that money back — and then some — if you’re a regular shopper at U.S. supermarkets like Safeway, Sprouts and Trader Joe’s.
The cap for annual spending on the 6% cash back reward is $6,000. If you spend an average of $500 per month, you’ll earn $360 in a year. Once you’ve crossed the $6,000 threshold, rewards drop to 1% on grocery purchases.
This card also offers 6% cash back on streaming subscriptions as well as 3% on gas and transit. You can read Team Clark’s full review of the Blue Cash Preferred here.
Other Cards to Consider: If you’re a Whole Foods shopper, you may want to consider the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card. Purchases at Whole Foods with this card are eligible for 5% cash back if you’re an Amazon Prime member.
Another card worth considering is the Blue Cash Everyday from American Express. It carries a similar name to the Preferred card recommended above, but there’s no annual fee. However, instead of getting 6% cash back for purchases at U.S. supermarkets, you’ll earn just 3%.
Best Credit Cards for Spending in Superstores
Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Card
If you’re a Walmart shopper, you should consider using the Capital One Walmart Rewards Card. But there’s a catch: You have to make your purchases through the Walmart app or website. If that’s OK with you, you can get 5% cash back on purchases. The card comes with no annual fee.
If you use the card in-store, you’ll get only 2% cash back. That’s a little disappointing, but Walmart offers a 12-month introductory period that earns you 5% back on purchases you make in the store if you use the app’s Walmart Pay feature.
In the past few years, Target has made an investment in expanding grocery offerings in many of its stores. And that makes grocery shopping with the RedCard a pretty enticing idea for Target loyalists.
The mega-retailer offers a 5% discount on most purchases made with its RedCard both online and in-store. Unlike Walmart, there are no strings attached to the purchase method. And you get the savings immediately because the card awards you a discount rather than cash back reward or points.
Best Credit Cards for Spending in Wholesale Clubs
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
Money expert Clark Howard loves saving money at Costco, and you can save plenty by buying your groceries in bulk. So if you’re a Costco member, using this store-branded credit card is likely the way to go. Costco gives an unlimited 2% back on every purchase you make with the card, both in-store and online.
Purchases made with the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi also can qualify for special Costco rewards, and the credit card itself serves as your membership ID card. You’ll also get 4% back on gas purchases and 3% on restaurant and travel purchases.
Sam’s Club® Mastercard®
The Sam’s Mastercard is an option for those who prefer doing their shopping at “the other” major wholesale club. However, it’s important to note that Sam’s awards only 1% back on in-store purchases. While the card is great for gas at Sam’s (5% back) and dining or travel (3% back), its grocery purchasing power is somewhat limited. However, like Costco, there are some potential rewards for using the store-branded credit card and it does serve as your membership ID.
Other Cards to Consider: You may find you’re better off using an everyday 2% cash back card, such as the Citi Double Cash,. Keep in mind that Costco accepts only Visa credit cards in the store, so your options may be limited there (The Citi Double Cash is a Mastercard). We’ll take a closer look at 2% cash back card options later in this article.
Best Credit Cards for Online Grocery Shopping
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
If you like doing your grocery shopping from the comfort of your couch, it makes sense to consider adding the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card to your wallet. This card gets you 5% off on purchases made through the Amazon Prime Grocery Pantry service (and other Prime purchases), as well as purchases made through Amazon-owned Whole Foods.
Other Cards to Consider: If you’re using an online delivery service like Instacart, the Blue Cash Preferred from American Express mentioned earlier in this article (the one that gives 6% back at U.S. supermarkets) could be the ideal choice.
Also keep in mind that the Capital One Walmart Rewards Card (referenced earlier in this article) awards 5% back for grocery pickup and delivery orders placed online.
Best Cash Back Credit Cards for Grocery Shopping
Rotating 5% Cards
The Discover it® Cash Back and the Chase Freedom cards have become famous for their rotating 5% cash back rewards. Each features four different 5% cash back categories each year, giving you three months to earn up to $75 in cash back rewards in the featured category. Groceries are typically one of the categories each year. If you carry both cards and the three-month periods don’t overlap, you could theoretically enjoy 5% cash back on groceries six months out of the year.
Some cards, such as the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card, will let you choose your own year-round 5% cash back categories. However, groceries are typically a category that is restricted for this type of card. For example, U.S. Bank limits users to 2% cash back on groceries.
Steady 2% Cards
If you don’t want the hassle of sorting through which credit card is worth the most at each store, your best strategy may be to pick an unlimited 2% cash back credit card.
Money expert Clark Howard prefers the Citi Double Cash card for its straightforward rewards policy: an unlimited 1% cash back when you purchase, and then another unlimited 1% reward when you pay your bill. Other cards that offer 2% cash back on grocery purchases include the Capital One Savor Rewards card and the Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card.
When picking the best credit card for your grocery purchases, it’s important to analyze your spending habits.
Do you buy your groceries consistently at one store, or do you shop around for the best prices? The answer to that question should help you decide which type of credit card is right for you.
If you regularly grocery shop at Walmart, Target or Whole Foods, snagging that 5% back with their branded cards is an easy choice.
But if you find that you shop around for groceries, a brand-related credit card may not be your best choice. Instead, you may want to consider using the Blue Cash Preferred from American Express at supermarkets and then a standard 2% cash back card at other grocery sources.