Skip to content

Which card should I use? A pandemic-era guide to maximizing card perks and benefits

May 31, 2021
6 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here..

If you're a bit overwhelmed by which credit cards to use to maximize your rewards in 2021, you're not alone. Over the past 14 months, credit card companies announced myriad changes to cater to spending behaviors that involved less travel and more time at home than before. Now, that's all changing with travel returning.

However, there are some remaining limited-time, pandemic-era bonuses that you should be aware of. That's especially true if you have multiple cards in your wallet and truly want to maximize your purchases.

While we have existing guides on the best rewards credit cards and a handy tracker to maximize your Amex credits, the information below is a general guide to ongoing coronavirus-related benefits and bonuses. Curious about what these perks on consumer cards are? Just click on your spending category in the table of contents below.

Without further ado, let's find out which card(s) you should be using now.

Want more credit card tips and travel news from TPG? Sign up for our daily newsletter.

What to use for in-store and online grocery orders

In 2020, grocery spending surged as shoppers ate at home more than before. In some cases, they also spent more than before to have their grocery essentials dropped off on their doorstep via Instacart and similar grocery delivery services.

While consumers have returned to in-store shopping, card issuers have continued to offer a select number of in-store and online grocery shopping bonuses.

Online grocery companies include Instacart, Amazon Fresh, Shipt and Peapod, and they typically trigger the grocery point bonuses on most relevant major credit cards. Here's what you need to know about temporary grocery benefits.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Limited-time perks on:

The information for the Citi Prestige have been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

The information for the Amex EveryDay cards have been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: The best grocery credit cards for 2021

On top of all that, those who have been able to get in on the welcome bonus for The Platinum Card® from American Express that offers 10 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (and at U.S. gas stations) on the first $15,000 in combined spend in the initial six months of card membership can do very well by maximizing that deal.

And to be clear, that 10x U.S. supermarket bonus comes on top of the 75,000 welcome offer points after hitting the $5,000 spending requirement in the first six months, making it one of the best offers out there.

Related: How to ensure you earn bonus points for grocery purchases

What to use for dining (including takeout and delivery)

While most dining establishments have now reopened, you may still be more comfortable with takeout or delivery.

These are the cards you should be paying attention to whether you want to sit down at the restaurant, get your meal to go or have it delivered.

There are some existing, permanent benefits that you need to remember, such as the up to $200 annual Uber Cash for U.S. services (which can be used towards Uber Eats) on The Platinum Card® from American Express or the up to $120 Uber Cash in the U.S. (distributed via $10 monthly credits) on the American Express® Gold Card. Remember, you must add the Gold card to the Uber app to receive the Uber Cash benefit. Enrollment required for select benefits.

But there are some additional limited-time benefits to know, too.

Limited-time perks on:

  • Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card*
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card*
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card*
  • Hilton Honors American Express Card*
  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card*
  • Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card*
  • Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card*
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card*
  • Citi Prestige® Card

The information for the Hilton Honors Aspire card have been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

*Must activate through Amex Offers and be a cardholder as of Jan 1, 2021. Eligibility for this offer is limited. Enrollment is required in the Amex Offers section of your account before redeeming.

Related: Dining out, taking out and ordering in: These are the best cards for foodies

What to use for gas

Hitting the road instead of taking to the skies? That will continue to be a popular option in the months to come. Whether you're just driving around town or the country, these are the limited-time and permanent bonuses you should know about when it comes to gas.

Limited-time perks on:

Related: Here are the top 5 ways to save on gas

Bottom line

Even if you're not traveling right now, it pays to be strategic about earning points, miles and cash back. To help cut through some of the clutter, refer to this guide if you need to figure out what card to use and when.

To get the most out of your card portfolio, you have to know when to use the right card for each respective purchase. Be willing to swap cards in and out of your wallet and weigh the opportunity cost of using one card over another. For instance, if you're looking to earn a sign-up bonus and need to hit a minimum spending requirement, consider using that card instead of one that may give you a few bonus points on the purchase.

And if you're looking for all card benefit changes broken down by issuer, we have you covered for that, too.

Like all things related to the pandemic, card benefits are constantly evolving. Feel free to bookmark this page. It will be updated with new information as we receive it.

Featured image by There are all sorts of cards you can apply for, so make sure you pick a few that align with your spending habits. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers