Chase Sapphire Reserve℠

Maximizing Credit Card Bonus Categories to Earn More Points

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here: The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN, Blue Cash Preferred from American ExpressBlue Cash Everyday from American Express

Many of the best points-earning credit cards offer cardholders the opportunity to earn bonus points or miles in certain merchant categories, whether they be grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, or others. With the diversity of credit cards out there and the sheer variety of purchases the average person makes over the course of a year (or even a month), you should be earning multiple points on nearly every dollar you spend.

Granted, even the most devoted points enthusiasts might not be able to earn bonus points on every single purchase. For cases where none of your cards earns a category bonus (or if you’ve hit the cap on a bonus like the Chase Freedom rotating quarterly categories or Amex EveryDay Preferred grocery category), you can fall back on a card that earns valuable points, like the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express.

Still whenever possible, you should try to maximize your points on each and every purchase. To help you do so, I’ve compiled this list of cards that earn bonus points in the most popular merchant categories. Not every single card or category is represented here, so if any of your favorites are missing, please let me know in the comments so I can add them. Aside from this list, you can always consult the TPG Wallet Maximizer for help deciding which card to use for a given purchase.

Credit cards are listed in descending order of the points per dollar earned, and cards that earn multiple points per dollar on all purchases (like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus or the Capital One Venture Rewards Card are not included. I also excluded co-branded airline and hotel cards that earn bonuses with only their particular brand.

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Many credit cards earn bonus points at grocery stores. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Groceries

American Express Blue Cash Preferred: 6x per $1 at standalone US supermarkets up to $6,000 in purchases annually.
Hilton Surpass Card from Amex: 6x per $1 at US supermarkets.
Hilton HHonors Amex: 5x per $1 at US supermarkets.
American Express Blue Cash Everyday: 3x per $1 at standalone US supermarkets up to $6,000 in purchases annually.
American Express EveryDay Preferred: 3x per $1 at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases annually.
Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card: 3x per $1 at US supermarkets.
American Express Premier Rewards Gold: 2x per $1 at US supermarkets.
American Express EveryDay: 2x per $1 at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases annually.
IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card: 2x per $1.

Gas stations are another popular bonus category.
Gas stations are another popular bonus category.

Gas

Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from Amex: 6x per $1 at US gas stations.
Hilton HHonors Amex: 5x per $1 at US gas stations.
American Express Blue Cash Preferred: 3x per $1 at standalone US gas stations.
American Express Simply Cash Business: 3x per $1 on standalone US gas stations.
Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card: 3x per $1 at US gas stations.
Chase Ink Bold: 2x per $1 up to $50,000 in purchases annually.
Chase Ink Plus: 2x per $1 up to $50,000 in purchases annually.
Chase Ink Cash: 2x per $1 up to $25,000 in purchases annually.
American Express True Earnings Costco: 2x per $1 on gasoline purchases at standalone US stations.
American Express Blue Cash Everyday: 2x per $1 at standalone US gas stations.
American Express EveryDay Preferred: 2x per $1 at US gas stations.
Business Gold Rewards Card from Amex: 2x per $1 at US gas stations.
IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card: 2x per $1.
Chase United Explorer Business Card: 2x per $1.

Dining out can mean tons of bonus points depending on which credit card you have.
Dining out can mean tons of bonus points depending on which credit card you use.

Restaurants/Dining

Hilton Surpass Card from Amex: 6x per $1 at US restaurants.
Hilton HHonors Amex: 5x per $1 at US restaurants.
Citi ThankYou Premier: 3x per $1 on dining.
Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card: 3x per $1 at US restaurants.
Chase Sapphire Preferred: 2x per $1 at restaurants (3x on First Fridays each month).
Chase Sapphire: 2x per $ at restaurants.
Chase Ink Cash: 2x per $1 up to $25,000 in purchases annually.
Chase United Explorer Business Card: 2x per $1.
Chase Hyatt Credit Card: 2x per $1.
IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card: 2x per $1.
Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card: 2x per $1.
American Express True Earnings Costco: 2x per $1 on dining out at US restaurants.
Citi Prestige: 2x per $1.
Citi ThankYou Preferred: 2x per $1.
Barclaycard Arrival No Fee: 2x per $1.

Note: Amex just offered targeted cardholders the opportunity to earn up to 3 points per $1 at US restaurants.

Entertainment: Movies, Music, Books, Etc.

Citi ThankYou Premier: 3x per $1.
Citi Prestige: 2x per $1.
Citi ThankYou Preferred: 2x per $1.

Earning 5X points at office supply stores is a great reason to carry these cards.
Office supply stores offer some of the highest category bonuses.

Office Supplies, Cable, Internet, Communications

Chase Ink Bold: 5x per $1 at office supply store and on telecommunications up to $50,000 in purchases annually.
Chase Ink Plus: 5x per $1 at office supplies store and on telecommunications up to $50,000 in purchases annually.
Chase Ink Cash: 5x per $1 at office supplies store and on telecommunications up to $25,000 in purchases annually.
American Express Simply Cash Business: 5x per $1 on up to $25,000 in purchases at US office supply stores and wireless telephone service providers.
Business Gold Rewards Card from Amex: 2x per $1 on select computer hardware, software and cloud computing providers, including Apple.
Chase United Explorer Business Card: 2x per $1.
CitiBusiness AAdvantage World Mastercard: 2x per $1 at office supply and telecommunications merchants.
US Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature: 2x per $1 on merchant locations that classify themselves as having telecommunications services/products.

 

Round-the-World Award Tickets will not be issued on or after January 1, 2015
Some cards earn up to 6 points per dollar on airfare.

Airfare

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve: 5x per $1.
Citi Prestige: 3x per $1.
Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express: 3x per $1.
Business Gold Rewards Card from Amex: 3x per $1.
Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Visa: 2x per $1.
Chase Hyatt Credit Card: 2x per $1.
Chase Fairmont Visa Signature: 2x per $1.
Citi ThankYou Premier: 2x per $1.

Hotels

Citi Prestige: 3x per $1.
Chase Ink Bold: 2x per $1 on up to $50,000 in purchases annually.
Chase Ink Plus: 2x per $1 on up to $50,000 in purchases annually.
Citi ThankYou Premier: 2x per $1.

Off airport rentals can save you money.
Car rentals present some great bonus points options.

Car Rentals

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve: 5x per $1.
Citi Prestige: 3x per $1.
Chase Hyatt Visa: 2x per $1.
Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Visa: 2x per $1.
Chase Fairmont Visa Signature: 2x per $1.
Citi ThankYou Premier: 2x per $1.
CitiBusiness AAdvantage World Mastercard: 2x per $1.

General Travel

Chase Sapphire Preferred: 2x per $1.
Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard: 2x per $1.
The Enhanced Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN: 2x per $1 on eligible purchases made through Amex Travel.

Other

Simply Cash Business Card from Amex: 3x per $1 in your category of choice on up to $25,000 in purchases annually.
Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express: 2X per $1 on advertising with select media (graphic design, tradeshows and advertising services), and shipping (in the US for courier, postal, and freight services).
US Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature: 3x per $1 on charitable donations. This card also earns 2x per $1 on your highest spending category among gas, airfare or groceries.

Some cards like the Freedom offer rotating bonus categories.
Some cards like the Freedom offer rotating bonus categories.

Rotating Categories

Several credit cards offer potentially lucrative spending bonuses of up to 5 points per $1 on categories that change each quarter.

Chase Freedom: This is a great, basic card from Chase that earns points that you can redeem as cash back, or use like Ultimate Rewards points if you also have a premium Chase card like the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus. Each quarter, this card offers a 5x bonus on certain merchant categories up to $1,500 in purchases. From October 1-December 31, those merchants are Amazon.com, Zappos, and select department stores. Past categories (that you can likely expect again in the future) include gas stations, movie theaters, Starbucks, restaurants, Lowe’s, Kohl’s and more. Find more info here.

The DiscoverIt also offers rotating bonus categories.
The DiscoverIt also offers rotating bonus categories.

Discover It: Like Chase Freedom, the DiscoverIt card offers quarterly rotating category spending bonuses of up to 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases. This year’s bonus merchants have included restaurants and movie theaters, home improvement stores, gas stations, and online shopping and department stores. Find more info here.

With additional reporting by Eric Rosen.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 16.24%-23.24% Variable Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95 0% Excellent Credit