Which card should I use? A pandemic-era guide to maximizing card perks and benefits

Apr 1, 2021

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the latest information.


If you’re a bit overwhelmed by which credit cards to use to maximize your rewards in 2021, you’re not alone. In the past year, credit card companies have announced a myriad of changes to cater to spending behaviors that involved less travel and more time at home than before. However, it can be a challenge to keep up with it all — especially if you have multiple cards in your wallet and truly want to maximize your purchases.

TPG is here to help.

While we have existing guides to the best rewards credit cards and a handy tracker to maximize your Amex credits, the information below is a general guide to ongoing coronavirus-related benefits and bonuses. Curious about limited-time, pandemic-era perks on consumer cards? Just click on your spending category in the table of contents below.

Without further ado, let’s find out which card(s) you should be using during the pandemic.

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In This Post

What to use for in-store and online grocery orders

In 2020, grocery spending surged as shoppers ate at home more than before. In some cases, they also spent more than before to have their grocery essentials dropped off on the doorstep of their homes via Instacart and similar grocery delivery services.

While some consumers have returned to in-store shopping, card issuers have continued to offer a select number of in-store and online grocery shopping bonuses.

Online grocery companies include Instacart, Amazon Fresh, Shipt and Peapod, and they typically trigger the grocery point bonuses on most relevant major credit cards. Here’s what you need to know about temporary grocery benefits.

Limited-time perks on:

Related: Here are all the ways you can earn bonus points with Chase cards right now

The information for the Citi Prestige and Amex EveryDay 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.

On top of all that, those who have been able to get in on the welcome bonus for The Platinum Card® from American Express that offers 10x points at U.S. supermarkets on the first $15,000 spent in the initial six months of card membership can do very well by maximizing that deal.

And to be clear, that 10x grocery bonus comes on top of the 75,000 welcome offer points after hitting the $5,000 spending requirement in the first six months making it one of the best offers out there.

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

What to use for dining (including takeout and delivery)

While many dining establishments have now reopened with outdoor or distanced dining arrangements, you may still be more comfortable with takeout or delivery.

These are the cards you should be paying attention to whether you want to sit down at the restaurant, get your meal to go or have it delivered to your house. There are some existing, permanent benefits that you need to remember, such as the up to $200 annual Uber credit for U.S. services (which can be used towards Uber Eats) on The Platinum Card® from American Express or the up to $120 Uber Cash in the U.S. (distributed via $10 monthly credits) on the American Express® Gold Card. Remember, you must add the Gold card to the Uber app to receive the Uber Cash benefit.

But there are some additional limited-time benefits to know, too.

Limited-time perks on:

*Must activate through Amex Offers and be a cardholder as of Jan 1, 2021. Eligibility for this offer is limited. Enrollment is required in the Amex Offers section of your account before redeeming.

Related: Amex unveils limited-time perks on Delta, Hilton and Marriott cards

The information for the Hilton Aspire 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.

What to use for streaming

Last year during the pandemic when everyone found themselves at home without much to do, streaming became one of the most hotly contested categories among card issuers. It’s no surprise considering the average U.S. consumer has 12 subscription streaming services. These cards will help you maximize your latest binge-watch.

Limited-time perks on:

Related: Your credit card has you covered if you forget to cancel a subscription service

The information for the Capital One Savor Cash, Wells Fargo Propel and the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

What to use for gas

Hitting the road instead of taking to the skies? That will continue to be a popular option in the months to come. Whether you’re just driving around town or the country, these are the limited-time and permanent bonuses that you should know about when it comes to gas.

Limited-time perks on:

Related: Going on a road trip this winter? Consider using these credit cards

Bottom line

Even if you’re not traveling again quite yet it pays to be strategic about earning points, miles and cash back. To help cut through some of the clutter, refer to this guide if you need to figure out what card to use and when.

To get the most out of your card portfolio, you have to know when to use the right card for each respective purchase. Be willing to swap cards in and out of your wallet and weigh the opportunity cost of using one card over another. For instance, if you’re looking to earn a sign-up bonus and need to hit a minimum spending requirement, consider using that card instead of one that may give you a few bonus points on the purchase.

And if you’re looking for all card benefit changes broken down by issuer, we have you covered for that too.

Like all things related to the pandemic, card benefits are constantly evolving. Feel free to bookmark this page. It will be updated with new information as we receive it.

Featured photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy

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.