The credit cards I’m maximizing at home now for a great redemption later
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Normally, I fly a couple times every month for a mix of both work and pleasure. Normally, we eat out several times a week, and maybe go to the theater to see a show every month or so. Normally, we see friends. Normally, my kids are in 95 different activities that take place on 10 night per week (or maybe that’s just how it feels?). But right now, days feel like weeks, weeks feel like years and we rarely leave our house. Naturally, no one is traveling or flying right now.
In a matter of weeks, everything has changed — including our spending patterns.
That means the credit cards in my wallet that were getting the most work just a few weeks ago (the Chase Sapphire Reserve for 3x points on dining and travel; The Platinum Card® from American Express for 5x points on flights booked directly with the airline or or through American Express Travel) are now essentially on temporary lockdown in my wallet.
Whether your rewards priority is still amassing points and miles for when the world reopens and we are all beyond ready to travel, or your strategy has shifted to earning cash back or using points for non-travel redemptions such as a new iPad or gift cards, getting the maximum value from every dollar spent matters now at least as much as before, if not more.
Here’s a look at the rewards credit cards I’m using the most right now while the world is a bit upside down.
Groceries and food delivery services
Grocery stores have likely never been busier than they are right now. I can say with 100% certainty that my pantry and fridge has never been this stocked. I’ve also never placed this many grocery orders…ever. Money that was going to eating out, travel and entertainment is now going all to grocery stores and online grocery delivery services.
Cards I’m using for groceries
American Express® Gold Card: This card awards 4x points per dollar up to $25,000 per year at U.S. supermarkets; then 1x. Terms apply.
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 world has resumed its normal rotation. This card is also a smart choice if you’re more interested in having dinner delivered than just the ingredients.
Related: Best credit cards for food delivery
The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express: Get 3x points on up to $6,000 per year at U.S. supermarkets, then 1x, plus a 50% bonus when you use the card 30 times a billing cycle. Terms apply.
I’m actually using this card even more than the Amex Gold for groceries at the moment for two reasons. First, it’s tied to my Instacart account, so it just happens that way. But second, 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).
The information for the Chase Freedom has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Other great cards for groceries
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Earn 6% cash back on up to $6,000 per year at U.S. supermarkets; then 1%. Terms apply.
Bank of America® 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
Call it retail therapy, getting things to keep the kids busy, buying basics at a discount or simply stocking up on a couple of things “just in case” they become harder to get. No matter which way you slice it, I’ve done my share of online shopping in the last few weeks.
Cards I’m using for online shopping
Citi Premier℠ Card: Thanks to a targeted offer for 5x points on clothing stores, computer and electronic stores, department stores and toy stores, it’s been easy to earn bonus points while safely shopping from home. This offer is valid on up to $500 spent in those categories by May 31.
The information for the The Amex EveryDay Preferred, Citi Premier has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Other great cards for online shopping
Bank of America 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, so if you didn’t spend much on internet or television services before, it’s possible that’s changed in recent weeks. I actually use an old, now-unavailable small business card 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 Sapphire Preferred 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.
The information for the Ink Business Cash and Ink Business Preferred has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
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.
Please don’t even start to say you are a screen-free home right now. I just can’t. We unabashedly have Disney+ on in the evenings these days and are proud of it. (Pro tip: Watch “Imagineering” — it’s great.) Thankfully, streaming is a pretty popular bonus category these days in case you are adding a service or two to your line up.
Cards I’m using for streaming
Chase Freedom: If you’re joining a new streaming service and perhaps paying for a full year upfront before March 31, then the Chase Freedom is the way to go. Streaming is a 5% cash back bonus category (up to $1,500 in 5x bonus categories) until the end of the first quarter — and those points can become fully transferrable Ultimate Rewards points when paired with premium Ultimate Rewards credit cards.
Other great cards for streaming
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: The Freedom won’t be a great choice for streaming after March, so an ongoing great choice is the Blue Cash Preferred which provides 6% back on select U.S. streaming services.
Related reading: Best credit cards for streaming
My household has been stocking up on items that typically don’t fall into bonus spending categories (including nonessential “essentials” including my favorite type of shampoo and extra dog food), and we’ve been making these everyday purchases at a faster pace than normal.
Cards I’m using for everyday purchases
Amex Everyday Preferred: Because more of my purchases are in the categories of either grocery or “other,” I’ve simply used my Amex Everyday Preferred more than normal and am on track to have 30 or more transactions this billing cycle. This means I’ll 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 awards 2x miles on all 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 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on up to $50,000 annually; 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). As of pretty recently, you can even convert your cash back earnings to Citi ThankYou points for maximum rewards.
Chase Freedom Unlimited: Earn 1.5% cash back on all 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.
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.
Coronavirus has all of us rearranging priorities when it comes to virtually everything, including our spending patterns. While how many points you earn on toilet paper and granola bars isn’t the most important thing in the world right now, every little bit still helps. I know I’ll be itching to get out there and burn some points and miles on experiences beyond my own four walls as soon as it’s safe to do so.
Featured image by Lisa Weatherbee/The Points Guy
WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.