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

Nov 4, 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.

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 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. 

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: How to ensure you earn bonus points for grocery purchases

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. 

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)

Earlier this year, Chase updated the Freedom Unlimited with new bonus categories

You now earn 5% back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% back on dining and importantly, 3% back on drugstore purchases.

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

Sign-up bonus: Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening

Annual fee: None

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

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 on purchases 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: $100 gift card automatically loaded into your Amazon.com account

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

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 at U.S. supermarkets.

American Express® Gold Card: Best for earning points at U.S. supermarket 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 at U.S. supermarkets and pharmacies within U.S. supermarkets would be the Amex Gold card. You can earn 4x Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per calendar 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 at restaurants, as well as 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com. 

Welcome offer: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you make $4,000 in purchases in your first six months.

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

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Best for cash back at U.S. supermarkets 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 U.S. supermarkets. With this card, you’ll earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per calendar 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 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the card within the first six months of card membership, up to $200 back. Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the card within the first six months of card membership. Cash back received in the form of statement credits.

Annual fee: $0 introductory annual fee for one year, then $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 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 else 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: New cardholders will get a $50 bonus after spending $300 in the first three months after approval. This offer is valid for applicants at Walmart stores beginning Nov. 1, 2020, through Dec. 26, 2020, and for those who apply online from Nov. 17, 2020, through Dec. 1, 2020.

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)

Honorable mention: Rotating category cards 

Both the Chase Freedom Flex and Discover it Cash Back cards offer quarterly rotating category bonuses where you can earn 5% cash back (up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter when you activate). For instance, one quarter could be 5x on drugstores, and the next quarter could be 5x on grocery stores. The current 4Q rotating categories for the Freedom Flex are PayPal and Walmart; for Discover, it’s Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com.

If you don’t mind keeping track of quarterly categories and spending caps, you can get a lot out of the Chase Freedom Flex. The bonus categories chosen are typically seasonally relevant and easy to maximize. The information for the Discover it Cash Back 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: Best cash back credit cards

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

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

Featured photo by Kirsty O’Connor/PA Images via 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.

American Express® Gold Card

With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com.

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More Things to Know
  • Rose Gold is back. You can now choose between Gold or Rose Gold.
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, including takeout and delivery, and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
  • Get up to 12 complimentary months of an Uber Eats Pass subscription when you enroll with your Gold Card by 12/31/21.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
See Pay Over Time APR
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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.