This fan-favorite travel card is now one of the best to use for groceries

Jul 2, 2020

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Editors note: The post has been updated with the latest information. While Chase limited-time grocery bonuses ended on June 30, 2020, the issuer announced new benefits for Instacart purchases that began on July 1. 

An increase in grocery spending is one of the biggest shifts in consumer behavior that we’ve seen during the coronavirus pandemic. Credit card issuers have responded to these changing spending patterns, with temporary grocery bonuses and statement credits.

For those of us with an arsenal of cards to choose from – especially with many recent grocery bonuses announced – it can be a bit overwhelming to figure out which card to use for grocery spending right now. Here is a breakdown of all the cards you should be using right now.

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Most valuable cards for groceries during the pandemic

With credit card companies scrambling to remain top-of-mind for cardholders, consumers can benefit when it comes to essential items like groceries. For instance, instead of sockdrawering that premium travel card (or canceling it), card issuers would rather you use it to buy the basics.

Using TPG’s points valuations as a guide, here are my top picks for the best cards to use on groceries right now. In terms of criteria, this list includes cards that offer the following:

  • A temporary or permanent grocery bonus and the dates it’s valid for
  • At a minimum, a return of 6 cents per dollar spent
  • A mix of cash back, transferable, or specific airline or hotel points
Card Grocery Bonus per dollar Earning TPG Valuation** Temporary or permanent?
Chase Sapphire Reserve
5x, up to $3,000 from July 1 through Sept 30.

Only eligible if purchased through Instacart

Ultimate Rewards points 10 cents Temporary, through Sept. 30
American Express® Gold Card 4x, up to $25,000 per calendar year (then 1x) at U.S. supermarkets Membership Rewards points 8 cents Permanent
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
12x at U.S. supermarkets Hilton Honors points 7.2 cents Temporary, through July 31
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card 12x at U.S. supermarkets Hilton Honors points 7.2 cents Temporary, through July 31
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express 6%, up to $6,000 per calendar year (then 1x) at U.S. supermarkets Cash back 6 cents Permanent

Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express^

3x, up to $6,000 per calendar year (then 1x) at U.S. supermarkets Membership Rewards points 6 cents Permanent

^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.

**Bonus valuation based on TPG valuation and not provided by issuers. 

Several cards that deserve an honorable mention but are not in my top picks include:

Related reading: Guide to maximizing rewards on grocery spending

The case for the Chase Sapphire Reserve

(Photo by Yagi Studio/Getty Images)
(Photo by Yagi Studio/Getty Images)

While typically reserved for premium travel and dining perks, Chase Sapphire Reserve gets top billing on this — with a caveat.

Instacart 5x bonus and Instacart Express statement credit

Chase announced updated, limited-time perks and benefits for Sapphire cards, including the premium Sapphire Reserve. Among them are 5x Ultimate Rewards points on Instacart purchases, along with $50 in statement credit on an Instacart Express membership. Instacart partners with hundreds of retailers nationwide, including many grocery stores. This is valid from July 1 through Sept. 30, 2020.

Use your travel credit towards groceries

Now through Dec. 31, 2020, gas and grocery spending will qualify for the Sapphire Reserve’s $300 annual travel credit. Of course, this only pertains to you if you haven’t used some or all of the credit yet, but it is automatically applied for any future grocery or gas purchases.

Although travel is slowly beginning to re-emerge, this is a win for cardholders who may have questioned the value of this travel credit given the current environment.

Use Ultimate Rewards points to pay for groceries

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Chase also launched “Pay Yourself Back,” a program that allows you to redeem Ultimate Rewards points at an elevated rate to cover purchases on groceries, dining and home improvement through September 30, 2020.

You might notice that these are the same rates that are typically offered for purchases made on the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. With travel demand still low, Chase is now allowing you to use your points to offset everyday purchases, like groceries, at a higher rate.

While TPG values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents apiece, there certainly are situations where redeeming at 1.25-1.5 cents a pop makes sense. If you have an abundance of points or simply want to minimize your living expenses, then redeeming your points toward a grocery haul can be worthwhile.

Related reading: Chase adds limited-time and permanent Sapphire card perks

The cards I’m personally using

In a normal world, the Amex Gold has typically been my go-to grocery option. However, things have changed now with temporary bonuses.

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

The wrinkle in all of this for me is the Hilton Aspire card, with an impressive 12x points per dollar. While I usually would not use this card on groceries, the temporary bonus now makes for an interesting value proposition.

I am hopeful for future travel plans in 2021 (including a dream trip to South America and Patagonia), and padding my Hilton points balance doesn’t hurt for domestic road trips I plan to take this summer. Here’s how I plan to divide out my grocery spending:

  • From July 1 through July 31, I’ll use the Hilton Aspire
  • From Aug. 1, I’ll go back to my regular habit of buying groceries at U.S. supermarkets with the Amex Gold

What counts as a grocery store?

Each credit card issuer “codes” your purchase under a certain category, and not all of your grocery store trips will be coded as such.

Chase and Amex don’t count warehouse clubs

You won’t get bonus points for grocery shopping in warehouse clubs such as Sam’s Club. (Photo by Shutterstock)

None of the cards above will count warehouse clubs (Costco, Sam’s Club, B.J.’s) as grocery stores. However, the exception to this are grocery delivery services such as Instacart. If you use these services to order items from warehouse clubs, your purchases should be categorized as groceries.

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

Bottom line

These are the six best cards to use for groceries in the midst of the pandemic. Before deciding which card to use, it’s important to think about what rewards you value right now.

Do you feel optimistic about the future of travel and want to collect more points with a specific redemption in mind? Or would you rather earn transferable credit card points that offer flexible redemption options? Finally, straight cash back is another viable alternative, given the current environment.

Related reading: Your guide to online grocery delivery services

Featured photo by Yagi Studio/Getty Images

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 worldwide, 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.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery.
  • 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 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.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
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.

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