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How to earn the maximum points for alcohol purchases

June 16, 2020
8 min read
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The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average American spends 1% of their budget annually on alcoholic beverages, and that number is probably higher with so many people in quarantine. So it’s important to take advantage of loyalty programs and credit cards that reward you with bonus points for alcohol purchases.

Unlike categories like dining and entertainment, there is no credit card that offers extra points specifically for buying alcohol. Still, that doesn’t mean you can't earn more than 1 point per dollar on these purchases. Continue reading to learn how you can maximize your alcohol purchases.

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Factors to consider

Alcohol is a broad spending category. Besides liquor stores, bars and restaurants, you can also buy booze from grocery stores, drug stores and gas stations — even online. As such, purchases could fall under the categories of dining, groceries, gas or general non-bonus spending. So the number-one factor to consider is what type of vendor you're purchasing from.

Beyond that, it could be worth familiarizing yourself with the merchant codes of the vendors you frequent most. For instance, some gas stations have different coding for their pumps and the convenience stores attached to them. Likewise, bars don't always code as restaurants.

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

(Photo by Cavan Images/Getty Images)

Utilize shopping portals

If you're ordering wine online, you'll want to go through a cash-back or shopping portal. These are online hubs that allow you to earn extra rewards for shopping at various merchants by clicking through them to the retailer’s site. Payouts change frequently and vary between programs. Your best bet is to use a shopping portal aggregator like CashBackMonitor or EVReward to find the best bonuses

Below are the current offers for purchasing through on CashBackMonitor. After comparing the value of the points with the cash back value, we can tell that the best option would be to shop through Top Cashback. Just beware that the payouts change from time to time, so you'll want to check CashBackMonitor again before placing your order.

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(Screenshot courtesy of CashBack Monitor)

Activate Amex and Chase Offers

If you’re an American Express or Chase cardholder, be sure to check which Amex Offers and Chase Offers you are eligible for and add them to your card. These programs offer bonuses for spending with certain merchants. It doesn't matter if you have a premium card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or a no-annual-fee one like the Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants). As long as you have a card from these issuers, you'll have access to offers.

You’ll need to log in to your online accounts to see which offers you are eligible for (offers tend to vary by cardholder and credit card), but some Amex Offers we've seen before include:

  • Chateau St. Jean Winery: Spend $125+, receive a $25 statement credit
  • Spend $100, receive 2,000 Membership Rewards points, up to three times
  • Sterling Vineyards: Spend $125+, receive a $25 statement credit
  • Vinfolio Fine Wines: Spend $250+, receive 5,000 Membership Rewards points
  • Wine Country Gift Baskets: Spend $75+, receive a $20 statement credit
  • Spend $20_, receive a $20 statement credit, up to three times
  • Spend $100+, receive a $30 statement credit
  • Spend $150+, receive a $50 statement credit
  • Winc Wines: Spend $50+, receive a $15 statement credit, up to three times

Choosing the right credit card

Given all the types of vendors you could buy booze from, the best credit card will ultimately depend on where you're purchasing it and what type of rewards you're after. In general, bars typically code as restaurants, while liquor stores code as grocery stores and gas station convenience stores code as gas stations. Below are some examples of how you can maximize points at different establishments.

Merchant CategoryPoints and Miles CardsEarning / Return Based on TPG valuationsCash-back CardsReturn
RestaurantCiti Prestige® Card5x points / 8.5%Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card4%
GroceryAmerican Express® Gold Card4x points / 8% on up to $25,000 per calendar year (then 1x) at U.S. supermarketsBlue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express6% on the first $6,000 per calendar year (then 1%) at U.S. supermarkets. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed for statement credits.
Gas Station Citi Premier® Card3x points / 7.0%Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi4% on the first $7,000 in eligible gas per year (then 1%); requires Costco membership
Targetn/an/aTarget REDcard5%
Convenience Store / Other Non-Bonus MerchantChase Freedom Unlimited1.5% cash back (1.5x points) / 3% (if you have a card that earns Ultimate Rewards points)Citi® Double Cash Card2% ( 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay)

The information for the Chase Freedom, Citi Prestige, Capital One Savor card, TargetRed, has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

As you can see in the table above, there's no one card that's perfect for all alcohol purchases. Fortunately, each card listed is good for more than just buying booze so there's a good chance you'll want one for each category. However, if you'd rather keep things simple, then there's one card in particular that stands out.

The Freedom Unlimited doesn't have an annual fee, though you'll need to pair it with a premium Chase Ultimate Rewards earning card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card to get the maximum value from your points. This way, you’ll be able to convert your cash back into full-fledged transferable Ultimate Rewards points. Plus, new cardholders can currently get a $200/20,000-point sign-up bonus by spending $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Related reading: The power of the Chase Trifecta: Sapphire Reserve, Ink Preferred and Freedom Unlimited

Another solid option is the Citi Double Cash Card. Similar to the Freedom Unlimited, as of late 2019, cash back earned with the Citi Double Cash Card could be converted to transferrable Citi ThankYou Rewards points when paired with the Citi Premier® Card or the Citi Prestige® Card. This gives you the ability to transfer your points to airline partners and redeem for flights.

TPG values ThankYou points at 1.7 cents each, meaning this card could effectively get at 3.4% return on alcohol and all other purchases.

Bottom line

There are many ways to make the most of your alcohol purchases. You'll need to carry multiple credit cards and familiarize yourself with merchant codes to fully maximize your expenditures. Taking the easy road and sticking to one card that offers a solid overall return on everyday spending isn't a bad option either.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.