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Maximize Monday: Earning Points and Miles on Groceries

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here: Blue Cash Preferred from American ExpressBlue Cash Everyday from American Express

Maximize Monday is a new weekly series, where I’ll dig into different topics and offer my suggestions on how you can change your habits in order to get the most bang for your buck (and points). If you have any topic ideas, please feel free to Tweet me @thepointsguy or email me at info@thepointsguy.com. For the first week, I thought I’d write about maximizing miles and points when purchasing airfare, since this is one of my big expenditures and there are many different ways to be savvy along the way.

For today’s Maximize Monday post, I wanted to cover another aspect of everyday life that we all spend money on and which presents opportunities to maximize your points-earning potential. We’ve all got to eat, but since we already covered the best ways to maximize points on dining, I thought it would be a good idea to cover grocery stores this time around since no one can go out to restaurants to eat every day (though I come close!).

Many credit cards earn multiple points per dollar at grocery stores - and you should be taking advantage of them!
Many credit cards earn multiple points per dollar at grocery stores – and you should be taking advantage of them!

One of the great things about grocery stores is that they count as a bonus spending category for tons of different credit cards out there, and whether it’s miles, points or cash back that you’re looking for, there’s a card (or several) that can earn you multiple points per dollar spent at grocery stores. Here are the top earners:

American Express

Hilton Surpass: 6 HHonors points for every dollar spent at supermarkets. $75 annual fee. I value Hilton points at about 0.7 cents each, so your net return here is 4.2 cents per dollar.

Hilton Amex: 5 HHonors points for every dollar spent at  supermarkets, no annual fee, same 4.2 cents per dollar return as the Surpass card.

Amex Blue Cash Preferred: Get 6% cash back at U.S. stand-alone supermarkets so a net rebate of 6 cents per dollar, and an annual fee of $75.

Amex Blue Cash Everyday: Get 3% cash back at U.S. stand-alone supermarkets, and this card carries no annual fee.

American Express Premier Rewards Gold: You get 2x points on groceries and gas. I value Membership Rewards points at about 1.8 cents apiece, so you’re getting a return of 3.6 cents per dollar on your spend here. Annual fee of $175 is waived the first year.

Citi

Citi Hilton HHonors Visa: 3 HHonors points for each dollar spent at supermarkets and grocery stores, so a net rebate of 2.1 cents per dollar since I value Hilton points at about 0.7 cents each, and no annual fee.

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve: 3 HHonors points for every dollar spent on all purchases (including grocery stores) so 2.1 cents per dollar return and an annual fee of $95.

Citi ThankYou Premier: Earn 1.2 ThankYou Points per dollar spent when you use your card at supermarkets, earning a 1.2 cents per dollar rebate with cash back or about 1.6 cents per dollar in value if you redeem for travel at a rate of 1.33 cents per point. $125 annual fee waived the first year.

Capital One

Capital One Venture: 2 points per dollar on everyday purchases (including grocery stores), so a rebate of 2 cents per dollar, and an annual fee of

Capital One LSU Tigers Mastercard: Earn 2 points per dollar on purchases at major grocery stores which you can redeem for cash back at 1 cent each for a net rebate of 2 cents per dollar. No annual fee.

Other

US Bank FlexPerks Visa: You earn 2x points on groceries (as well as airline travel and cell phone purchases), and since you can redeem these points for between 1.33 – 2 cents each in travel, I’d value this rebate at 2.66 – 4 cents per dollar. Annual fee is $49.

Disney’s Premier Visa: Earn 2% in reward dollars on card purchases at grocery stores and restaurants, so a rebate of 2 cents per dollar back. $49 annual fee.

You could be earning bonuses on all this!
You could be earning bonuses on all this!

Gift Cards

A person or family can only go through so many groceries in a week or a year, though, so to boost your points earning even further, you could consider perusing the grocery store rack that carries gift cards to various merchants. I know I’m going to get comments on this, so before I continue, let me say that yes, I realize that many of these cards specifically preclude the purchase of gift cards from earning bonuses in their terms, but many readers have reported earning them anyway, so I wanted to mention them.

For instance, on its cards, Amex states: “Eligible Purchases means purchases for goods and services minus returns and other credits. Eligible purchases do NOT include fees or interest charges, balance transfers, cash advances, purchases of travelers checks, purchases or reloading of prepaid cards, or purchases of other cash equivalents. Additional terms and restrictions apply.”

However, as I said, many readers report success at earning the category spending bonuses anyway, so you can try it with small amounts and see how you are credited – I’d actually recommend this anyway since purchasing high denominations could raise red flags with the credit card. Feel free to report your success or failure below.

It might not be apparent, but this actually could represent a huge earning boon for a lot of cardholders since instead of earning the 1 point per dollar or however much the baseline per-dollar earning is on everyday purchases on your card, you could effectively earn the same spending bonus you get at grocery stores on everyday purchases you make by using your credit card to buy Amex or Visa gift cards and then using them to make your everyday purchases.

I don’t condone any illicit or sneaky behavior, but if you can be earning bonuses on every dollar that you spend, I don’t see why you shouldn’t.