These are the 8 best cards to use for your next pharmacy run

Jun 10, 2020

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With more than 62,000 retail pharmacies across the country, the U.S. spends the most per capita on prescription medicines in the world. With all those dollars being spent, what credit card should you be using for pharmacy purchases? Well, the key to the right card isn’t what you buy, but where you buy it.

In fact, there are no credit cards that offer bonus earnings specifically on pharmacy purchases. However, if that pharmacy is in, let’s say a grocery store, warehouse club or drugstore, then you’ll be able to reap the benefits of a particular rewards credit card bonus category.

From prescription to over-the-counter medications, let’s take a deep dive into which credit card to use for your pharmacy-related purchases.

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Best cards for pharmacy purchases

The information for the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card, Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature, and Capital One Walmart Rewards 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.

In This Post

Where do you make your pharmacy purchases? 

MOUNT PROSPECT, IL - SEPTEMBER 21: A woman shops in the pharmacy area of a Wal-Mart store September 21, 2006 in Mount Prospect, Illinois. Wal-Mart announced today they plan on reducing prices for nearly 300 generic prescription drugs, starting the program in the Tampa Bay, Florida area. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

This is the big question to ask yourself. There are a number of options — from in-store pickup to at-home delivery — when it comes to how you get your pharmacy items. For the sake of simplicity, here are the various ways that I am categorizing where you can buy from a pharmacy:

  • Drugstore: CVS, Walgreens, an independent pharmacy, etc. 
  • Grocery store: Kroger, Shoprite, Stop & Shop, etc.
  • Superstore: Target, Walmart, etc. 
  • Warehouse club: Costco, Sam’s Club, etc. 
  • Digital pharmacy: Capsule, Care/of, etc.

There can be a variety of nuances to each of these retail categories that affect how you may — or may not — earn a category bonus. Sometimes it’s simple. If you buy from the pharmacy at Walmart and know that your card always earns a bonus at Walmart, your points would easily come through. 

However, transactions are not always so straightforward. For instance, many brick-and-mortar stores, such as Costco, offer some type of pharmacy delivery service. Costco partners with Instacart to fulfill deliveries so your card statement may reflect this. Typically, Instacart has a merchant code that labels it as a grocery purchase — and not a warehouse club purchase. 

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

Best for a grocery store pharmacy 

Generally speaking, pharmacies that are within a grocery store will earn you the most bonus points per dollar spent. 

If you’re buying pharmacy goods in a grocery store — whether that be prescription or over-the-counter, — then you should earn the category bonus that the specific retailer falls under. Here are two of my favorite high-earning cards for grocery purchases.

American Express® Gold Card: Best for earning points at grocery store pharmacies

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

If you want to earn transferable points, my go-to card for groceries (and pharmacies within grocery stores) would be the Amex Gold card. You can earn 4x Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per year in purchases (then 1x). According to TPG valuations, that’s an 8% return on your spending. 

Besides groceries, you’ll earn 4x points on dining, as well as 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com. Other perks include a $10 monthly dining credit at participating retailers and an up to $100 annual airline fee credit. 

Welcome offer: Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you make $4,000 in purchases in your first three months — though be sure to check the CardMatch Tool to see if you’re targeted for a higher welcome offer.

Annual fee: $250 (see rates and fees).

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Best for cash back at grocery store pharmacies

(Photo by The Points Guy)
(Photo by The Points Guy)

This is my ideal pick for a cash-back credit card for anything within the walls of a grocery store. With this card, you’ll earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases — then 1%).  

You’ll also earn 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services (perfect for at-home entertainment), 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 3% cash back on transit and 1% back on other purchases. 

Welcome offer: You’ll receive a $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. 

Annual fee: $95 (see rates and fees).

Note: Neither of these two cards above would earn bonuses at drugstores, superstores, or warehouse clubs. For more options, here is a full list of the best cards at grocery stores

Best for a drugstore pharmacy 

There are more than 23,000 independent pharmacies in the U.S. and thousands more that are part of larger chains. Here are my top picks for cards to use at a drugstore pharmacy. 

Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card: Best for flexible earning at drugstore pharmacies

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

If you want flexibility with your drugstore purchases and combine it with other bonus categories, this card may be the way to go. You’ll get 3% back in the category of your choice (gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores, or home improvement and furnishings) and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs on the first $2,500 in combined bonus category purchases each quarter (then 1%). You can change your 3% category once a month.

Sign-up bonus: $200 bonus after you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days of account opening.

Annual fee: None

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature: Best for Amazon, Whole Foods and drugstore pharmacies

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)

Besides an impressive 5% cash back on all Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, you’ll get 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores and 1% back on all other purchases. This is how Chase categories drugstores, directly from their website:

Merchants in the drugstores category specialize in selling prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines, supplements and various health-related items. These merchants may also sell cosmetics, toiletries, greeting cards, and various household items such as cleaning supplies and packaged foods and drinks. Please note that some merchants that sell a wide variety of goods including these items, and which may contain an onsite pharmacy, for example, warehouse clubs, discount stores, or grocery stores, are not included in this category.

Sign-up bonus: $70 gift card automatically loaded into your Amazon.com account

Annual fee: None but must be Amazon Prime member ($119 a year)

Best for a superstore pharmacy 

Capital One Walmart Rewards Card: Best for Walmart pharmacies

(Photo by John Gribben/he Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

If your neighborhood Walmart or Walmart.com is your go-to pharmacy destination, then this card could very well be a fit for you. The big-box behemoth — the world’s largest retailer — sells nearly everything too. 

A major caveat is that to receive the full 5% back benefit on Walmart purchases after the first year, you have to shop at Walmart.com.

Sign-up bonus: None

Annual fee: None

Target REDcard: Best for over-the-counter Target purchases

(Photo by Eric Helgas/ The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas/ The Points Guy)

This is the card to get for non-pharmacy, over-the-counter drug purchases at a Target store. Unfortunately, prescriptions will not trigger the 5% back benefit on this card — a major caveat of this card. 

Keep in mind you can only use this card at Target and the card is offered as either a debit or credit card. The debit version can often make more sense as it won’t add to your 5/24 count with Chase.

Sign-up bonus: None

Annual fee: None

Best for a warehouse club pharmacy 

Costco Anywhere Visa® by Citi: Best for the in-store Costco pharmacy 

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Pharmacy purchases at Costco will earn 2% back with this card. Here are the full earnings: You’ll earn 4% cash back on eligible gas (on up to $7,000 per year; then 1%), 3% back at restaurants and on eligible travel purchases, 2% back on in-store and online Costco purchases and 1% on everything else.

Keep in mind that if you get your prescriptions or other over-the-counter medications delivered with Costco, you’ll likely trigger the grocery category bonus since the delivery is fulfilled by Instacart. 

Sign-up bonus: None

Annual fee: None (but you must be a Costco member; $60 a year for a Gold Star membership)

Best for digital pharmacies 

(Image by Sereja.Filippov/Shutterstock)

In recent years, digital pharmacies have appeared on the scene, offering convenient, quick delivery of medical and prescription essentials. Companies such as Capsule, ZipDrug and Care/of go directly to the consumer, without the need to stop and see a pharmacist. This is especially beneficial during a time when people may be trying to limit unnecessary contact. 

However, most of these services likely do not trigger any extra earnings so the best card to use is one that earns the most returns for everyday spending

Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for digital pharmacies earning Chase points

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

This card earns 1.5% cash back (1.5 points per dollar) spent on just about everything. Points earned from the Chase Freedom Unlimited can be used for cash back, or converted into Ultimate Rewards points if you have a premium Chase credit card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

TPG values Ultimate Rewards points at two cents each, making the Chase Freedom Unlimited welcome offer of $200 (after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening). The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Annual fee: None

Citi® Double Cash Card: Best for digital pharmacies earning Citi points

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

The Citi Double Cash card comes with a competitive 2% cash back on everything — 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay it off. With no annual fee to worry about, you can keep it forever. The card increased in value when Citi allowed the cash back earned from the Double Cash card to convert into Citi ThankYou points.

Welcome bonus: None

Annual fee: None 

Honorable mention: Rotating category cards 

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Both the Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants) and Discover it Cash Back cards offer quarterly rotating category bonuses where you can earn 5% cash back (up to $1.500 per quarter when you activate). For instance, one quarter could be 5x on drugstores, and the next quarter could be 5x on grocery stores. 

If you don’t mind keeping track of quarterly categories and spending caps, you can get a lot out of the Chase Freedom. The bonus categories chosen are typically seasonally relevant and easy to maximize. The information for the Chase Freedom 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.

Related reading: Best cash back credit cards

What about pharmacy delivery from brick-and-mortar stores?

Photo by Shutterstock
Photo by Shutterstock

If you don’t want to go into a retailer — whether for the sake of convenience or health and safety — some companies may offer a delivery service. Depending on the service, you may still earn a bonus for the purchase. 

For instance, Instacart delivers pharmacy items, medications, and groceries from thousands of local grocery stores and both Amex and Chase typically code these purchases as groceries. 

Related reading: Your definitive guide to online grocery delivery services

Bottom line

If there’s one thing to take away from this, it’s that your pharmacy purchases are all about where you buy, not what you buy. This guide will steer you towards how to best earn points or cash back towards necessary items you were going to purchase anyway. 

Featured photo by Longhua Liao/Getty Images

For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred, please click here.

Citi® Double Cash Card

This card offers 2% cash back - 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.99% – 23.99% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
13.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
Annual Fee
$0
Balance Transfer Fee
3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.
Recommended Credit
Excellent

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.