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This fan-favorite travel card is now one of the best to use for groceries

Dec. 29, 2020
9 min read
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Earlier this year, an increase in grocery spending was one of the biggest shifts in consumer behavior during the coronavirus pandemic. Credit card issuers responded to these changing spending patterns with temporary grocery bonuses and statement credits.

While increased supermarket spending has leveled off, there are still several cards that are offering limited-time bonuses. And for those of us with an arsenal of cards to choose from, it can be overwhelming to figure out which card to use for grocery spending right now. Here is a breakdown of all the cards you should be using for grocery purchases.

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Most valuable cards for groceries during the pandemic

With credit card companies scrambling to remain top-of-mind for cardholders, consumers can benefit when it comes to essential items like groceries. For instance, instead of putting that travel card in your sock drawer during a period of slower travel, card issuers would rather you use at least use it to buy the basics.

Using TPG's points valuations as a guide, here are my top picks for the best cards to use on groceries right now. In terms of criteria, this list includes cards that offer the following:

  • A temporary or permanent grocery bonus and the dates they are valid for
  • A mix of cash back, transferable, or specific airline or hotel points
CardGrocery Bonus per dollarEarningTPG Valuation**Temporary or permanent?
The Platinum Card® from American Express10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.Membership Rewards points20 centsTemporary, new cardholders only for first six months of card ownership
Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited5x back on the first $12,000 spent at grocery stores in the first year (excluding Walmart and Target when not included as a 5% quarterly category for the Freedom Flex)Cash back or Ultimate Rewards points10 centsTemporary, first year for new cardholders only
American Express® Gold Card4x, up to $25,000 per calendar year (then 1x) at U.S. supermarketsMembership Rewards points8 centsPermanent
Chase Sapphire Reserve
3x, up to $1,000 per monthUltimate Rewards points6 centsTemporary, through April 30, 2021
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express6%, up to $6,000 per calendar year (then 1x) at U.S. supermarkets.Cash back

Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed for statement credits.

6 centsPermanent

Amex EveryDay®
Preferred Credit Card from American Express^

3x, up to $6,000 per calendar year (then 1x) at U.S. supermarketsMembership Rewards points6 centsPermanent
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card


2x, up to $1,000 per monthUltimate Rewards points4 centsTemporary, through April 30, 2021

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

**Bonus valuation based on TPG valuation and not provided by issuers.

Related: Guide to maximizing rewards on grocery spending

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Grocery bonuses as part of a welcome offer

As you can see, temporary bonus categories are part of the welcome offer or sign-up bonus for several cards listed above.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express currently has a two-tiered welcome offer.

First, you get a generous welcome offer: a sizable 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in your first six months of card membership. But the truly unique element of the offer is a bonus multiplier on non-travel items.

New cardholders will now be able to earn 10x points on up to $15,000 in combined purchases at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets during the same first six months of card membership. That’s an additional 9x points on top of the 1x point you earn for these purchases.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Chase’s Freedom credit cards — the Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited — are also among cards that are offering temporary bonus categories as part of the sign-up bonus. With either of these cards, you’ll earn $200 in cash back after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening, plus get 5% back on the first $12,000 spent at grocery stores in the first 12 months.

Related: Are temporary categories here to stay as part of sign-up bonuses?

The case for the Chase Sapphire Reserve

(Photo by Yagi Studio/Getty Images)
(Photo by Yagi Studio/Getty Images)

While typically reserved for premium travel and dining perks, Chase Sapphire Reserve gets high marks for groceries. With a temporary 3x bonus (up to $1,000 per month through April 30, 2021), this is a solid return for a card that already gets 3x on dining and travel.

Use your travel credit towards groceries

Now through June 30, 2021, gas and grocery spending will qualify for the Sapphire Reserve's $300 annual travel credit. Of course, this only pertains to you if you haven't used some or all of the credit yet (or don't plan on using it in 2021), but it is automatically applied for any future grocery or gas purchases.

Although travel is beginning to re-emerge this holiday season, this is a win for cardholders who may have questioned the value of this travel credit given the current environment.

Use Ultimate Rewards points to pay for groceries

Chase also launched "Pay Yourself Back," a program that allows you to redeem Ultimate Rewards points at an elevated rate to cover purchases on groceries, dining and home improvement through Sept. 30, 2021.

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: Each point is worth 1.5 cents
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Each point is worth 1.25 cents

You might notice that these are the same rates that are typically offered for purchases made on the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. With travel demand still low, Chase is now allowing you to use your points to offset everyday purchases, like groceries, at a higher rate.

While TPG values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents apiece, there certainly are situations where redeeming at 1.25-1.5 cents a pop makes sense. If you have an abundance of points or simply want to minimize your living expenses, then redeeming your points toward a grocery haul can be worthwhile.

What counts as a grocery store?

Each credit card issuer "codes" your purchase under a certain category, and not all of your grocery store trips will be coded as such.

Chase and Amex don't count warehouse clubs

You won't get bonus points for grocery shopping in warehouse clubs such as Sam's Club. (Photo by Shutterstock)

None of the cards above will count warehouse clubs (Costco, Sam's Club, B.J.'s) as grocery stores. However, the exception to this are grocery delivery services such as Instacart. If you use these services to order items from warehouse clubs, your purchases should be categorized as groceries.

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

Bottom line

These are some of the best cards to use for groceries in the midst of the pandemic. Before deciding which card to use, it's important to think about what rewards you value right now.

Do you feel optimistic about the future of travel and want to collect more points with a specific redemption in mind? Or would you rather earn transferable credit card points that offer flexible redemption options? Finally, straight cash back is another viable alternative, given the current environment.

Related: Your guide to online grocery delivery services

Featured image by Getty Images
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.

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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.
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