The credit cards I’m maximizing now for a great redemption later

Nov 14, 2020

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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.

Related: How TPG staff’s credit card strategies have changed during the pandemic

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.

(Photo by d3sign / Getty Images)
(Photo by d3sign / Getty Images)

Cards I’m using for groceries

American Express® Gold Card: This card, with a $250 annual fee (see rates and fees), awards 4x points per dollar up to $25,000 per calendar 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 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).

Related: Ultimate guide to the best cards for each bonus category

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; $0 introductory annual fee for one year, then $95 (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.

Online shopping

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.

Woman in cafe shopping online with laptopPhoto by filadendron/Getty Images
(Photo by filadendron/Getty Images)

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%).

Related: How to earn bonus points while shopping online

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.

(Image courtesy of Maskot/Getty Images)
(Image courtesy of Maskot/Getty Images)

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.

Related: Best credit card for paying cell phone bill

Streaming

There are lots of ways to save money or earn bonus points on streaming services, such as on my personal favorite service —Disney+.

PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 08: In this photo illustration, the Disney + logo is displayed on the screen of a television on November 08, 2019 in Paris, France. The Walt Disney Company will launch its streaming service (Svod) Disney plus in the United States on November 12, 2019, for Europe, it will be necessary to wait until the beginning of the year 2020. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

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 

Everyday purchases

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.

(Photo courtesy of Maskot/Getty Images)
(Photo courtesy of Maskot/Getty Images)

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. Plus, earn 2 points for every $1 spent on grocery store purchases- now through 12/31/21. 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.

Bottom line

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.

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

Featured image by Lisa Weatherbee/The Points Guy

Updated on 5/3/21.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
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.