The credit cards I’m maximizing now for a great redemption later
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Just like for virtually everyone else, our spending patterns shifted quickly and dramatically this spring. We traveled less, did less, socialized less, stopped eating out, ordered more food delivery, stocked up on groceries and streamed online content.
And while earning points, miles and cash back weren’t immediately the most important factors on our minds when things first changed, maximizing rewards did eventually filter back into the mix. That meant a bit of a shake-up in which cards were in my wallet and getting regular use.
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Some cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, that awards 3x points on dining and travel and The Platinum Card® from American Express, with its 5x points on flights (booked directly with the airline or through American Express Travel; up to $500,000 spent on these purchases per calendar year starting Jan. 1, 2021) moved to the back of the wallet for awhile. Meanwhile, I added a new everyday workhorse, the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card.
While some things have normalized a bit since the spring months, we’re still a ways away from “normal”, so here’s a look at the rewards credit cards I’m using the most right now.
Groceries and food delivery services
Suffice to say, business at grocery stores has been brisk this year. I can say with 100% certainty that my pantry and fridge has never been as stocked in any previous year as they have been in 2020.
I’ve also never placed this many online grocery orders — ever. Money that was going to eating out, travel and entertainment shifted dramatically to grocery stores and online grocery delivery services.
Cards I’m using for groceries
Amex Membership Rewards points are typically valued by TPG at 2 cents each when used with hotel and airline partners, so I’m happy to earn these and sit on them until the time is again right for big travel redemptions. This card is also a smart choice if you’re more interested in having dinner delivered, since it also awards 4x on restaurants.
Related: Best credit cards for food delivery
The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express: Earn 3x points on up to $6,000 per calendar year at U.S. supermarkets, then 1x, plus a 50% bonus when you use the card 30 times a billing cycle. Terms apply. 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.
In some months where I have lots of transactions, I actually use the card, which has a $95 annual fee, the most for groceries as you can actually earn 4.5 points per dollar on groceries with 30 or more transactions in a billing cycle (more on that in a moment).
Other great cards for groceries
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Earn 6% cash back on up to $6,000 per calendar year at U.S. supermarkets; $95 annual fee (see rates and fees). Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed for statement credits.
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card: Earn 2% back on groceries, but that can jump up to 3.5% with status in the Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program. That’s not bad for a card with no annual fee. (Note: The 2% back on groceries is on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then earn 1%)
Related: Best credit cards for groceries
Additionally, several Chase cards have temporarily added groceries as a bonus category through April 2021. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve will award 3x points on groceries during this limited-time bonus, up to $1,000 in monthly grocery store purchases. Others, like the United Club Infinite Card and United Explorer Card are awarding some cardholders who register up to 5x points on groceries through the end of 2020, up to $1,500 total on bonused spending.
I’ve done my fair share of online shopping this year. I’m not buying the same things as I did in 2019, but I’m still getting my family what we need online more than in-person.
Cards I’m using for online shopping
The no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Flex is offering a very valuable 5% (5x points) bonus from Oct. 1 – Dec. 31, 2020, on PayPal purchases, up to $1,500 spent on the card. A very large number of online purchases can be made by checking out with the PayPal option. New cardholders also earn a $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first three months with the card; they also get 5% back on the first $12,000 spent at grocery stores in the first year.
I’ve recently received a few bonuses on some cards that have made the cards the most attractive options for online shopping. Specifically, I have a 5x bonus in many shopping categories with the Citi Premier® Card.
Another good option for online shopping is the no-annual-fee Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card. This card lets you choose your own 3% cash back category, one of which is online shopping. If you selected 3% back on online shopping and had the highest tier of Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program, you could earn 5.25% cash back on eligible online shopping (note: The 3% back is on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then earn 1%).
Home office and entertainment
We now work, live, play and educate in our homes more than we used to, so if you didn’t spend much on internet or television services before, it’s possible that’s changed in 2020. I actually use my Chase Ink® Bold (which is no longer open for applications) to earn 5x points on many of these expenses, but you have other options.
Good cards to use for internet and TV services
Ink Business Cash Credit Card: Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent on assorted business categories each account anniversary year, including internet, cable and phone services. Cash back can be converted to Ultimate Rewards points when paired with a premium Ultimate Rewards credit card, such as a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Sapphire Reserve.
Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Earn 3x points per dollar on the first $150,000 on assorted business categories each account anniversary year, including internet, cable and phone services with this no-annual-fee card.
Look for Amex Offers to save money: In addition to using cards to earn bonus points, scan your Amex Offers for ways to save on bills such as cable and cell phone payments.
There are lots of ways to save money or earn bonus points on streaming services, such as on my personal favorite service —Disney+.
Cards I’m using for streaming
If you have The Platinum Card® from American Express, you’ll get a $20 monthly streaming credit from May through December 2020, so be sure and use that card to cover at least $20 in services each month.
Other great cards for streaming
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: This card is a great choice, since it offers 6% back on select U.S. streaming services.
U.S. Bank Cash+™Visa Signature® Card: This card lets you pick your 5% cash-back bonus category and one choice is streaming services. Head here to see some other options. The information for the U.S. Bank Cash Visa 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.
Related: Best credit cards for streaming
The one all-new application I made for a credit card this year was done with everyday purchases in mind. From medical bills, to insurance payments, school payments and more, it all adds up.
Cards I’m using for everyday purchases
The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card awards 1.5x points on non-bonused spending, but that can go as high as 2.625x points per dollar on everyday charges if you qualify for the highest Platinum Honors tier in Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards Program. This card gets the bulk of my otherwise non-bonused spending.
Amex Everyday Preferred: Because more of my purchases are in the categories of either grocery or “other,” I’ve used my Amex Everyday Preferred more than normal this year and hit at least 30 transactions in some billing cycles. When that happens, I earn a 50% points bonus on all purchases, which will bring grocery earnings up to 4.5 points per dollar and otherwise non-bonus earnings to 1.5 Membership Rewards points per dollar.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: This card, with a $95 annual fee, awards 2x miles on purchases, so it’s great for those everyday spending categories that aren’t common bonus categories.
Other great cards for everyday purchases
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express: Earn 2x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on up to $50,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1 point per dollar.
Citi® Double Cash Card: This no-annual-fee cards lets you earn 2% cash back (1% cash back when you buy and another 1% back as you pay). You can even convert your cash back earnings to Citi ThankYou points for maximum rewards if you also hold a Citi Prestige® Card or Citi Premier card. The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Chase Freedom Unlimited: Earn 1.5% cash back on purchases — which is the same as 1.5x Ultimate Rewards points if you also have a card such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.
2020 has had all of us rearranging priorities when it comes to virtually everything, including our spending patterns.
While how many points you earn isn’t the most important thing in the world right now, every little bit still helps. Even if travel isn’t in your near-term future, you can redeem points for non-travel things, including for groceries, dining and home improvement store charges.
Featured image by Lisa Weatherbee/The Points Guy
Updated on 5/3/21.
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