Why the Amex Blue Cash Preferred is the best cash-back card right now
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the latest information.
Whether travel is back on your personal radar or not, now may be a great time to save for your next getaway … or perhaps just earn some cash back to use however you wish.
One way to do that is to collect points and miles to prepare for the journey ahead. But there is also the simplicity and appeal of cash back, too. If you prefer to be rewarded in cents instead of points — or find yourself at least currently prioritizing cold hard cash — a cash-back card may be the best rewards card choice.
And there’s a cash-back card that has captured my attention more than any other during the pandemic: the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. While it carries a $95 annual fee, waived the first year (see rates and fees), this is more than offset by its generous (and timely) category bonuses.
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If earning cash back is more your current style than miles or points, here are three reasons why the Blue Cash Preferred might become your new go-to card.
Bonus categories perfect for being close to home
In my view, no card has a better permanent combination of cash-back category bonuses during the pandemic than this one. The Blue Cash Preferred has bonus earnings on U.S. supermarkets, select U.S. streaming services, U.S. gas stations and transit. In every single one of those categories, it’s made our list of best credit cards. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed for statement credits.
Let’s break it down further.
The Blue Cash Preferred earns 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 of spending each calendar year, then 1%). While it’s a bit frustrating to have the $6,000 annual cap, you would still get $360 in cash back if you fully maximized this bonus category.
While it’s leveled off in recent months, grocery spending has seen a tremendous surge over the past year. It’s not just an overall increase in grocery spending, but also an increase in the percentage as compared to other consumer categories, like travel and retail.
Related: Best credit cards for groceries
Next up, you’ll also get 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions with the Blue Cash Preferred.
A 2020 study from Deloitte highlighted just how prevalent streaming and subscriptions have become. Prior to the start of the pandemic, the average U.S. consumer had 12 paid entertainment subscriptions. That number jumps to 17 subscriptions if we’re talking specifically about millennials.
For months, streaming was a primary source of entertainment. Here is the latest list of qualifying stream services from Amex for that 6% back:
Amazon Music Unlimited, Apple Music, Apple TV+, AT&T TV Now, Audible, CBS All Access, Disney+, ESPN+, Fubo TV, HBO Max, HBO (standalone streaming subscription only, formerly known as HBO Now), Hulu, iHeartRadio, Kindle Unlimited, Luminary,, NBA League Pass, Netflix, , Pandora, Peacock, Prime Video, Showtime, Sling TV, SiriusXM Streaming and Satellite, Spotify, Stitcher, Tidal Music, YouTube Music Premium, YouTube Premium and YouTube TV
Related: Best credit cards for streaming
With this card, you’ll receive 3% back at U.S. gas stations for running around town. And if you’re ready for a spring or summer road trip, you’ll be all set too. As you might have guessed, this card is indeed on our list of best credit cards for gas.
While fewer U.S. residents are commuting, the transit category can still be worthwhile since it covers some expense types not just in the realm of public transit, but also for when you are driving your own car. The Blue Cash Preferred earns 3% cash back on transit, including parking, tolls, ride-sharing, subway, etc.
Bike-share and other mobility-related expenses might also count toward earning 3% back. There’s a reason why this card made it onto our permanent list of best cards for transit.
No confusing temporary categories
If it seems like there is a new card update or bonus category change or every month or two during the pandemic, you’re not far off. Thankfully, we have a guide to card benefit changes that breaks it all down. However, you might just prefer something simple (instead of keeping track of limited-time perks and when they kick in or expire).
The Blue Cash Preferred is ideal for that. It has bonus categories that are relevant to our current environment and has the ease of cash-back earning. To redeem, you can receive a statement credit (my preferred choice), get gift cards or shop directly with your rewards.
Higher welcome offer
New Blue Cash Preferred applicants now receive 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the card within the first six months of card membership, up to $200 back. Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the card within the first six months of card membership. You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits.
While you have to spend more to earn the bonus than with the previous welcome offer, you’ll also get a bigger statement credit. Additionally, the first-year annual fee is waived (then $95; see rates and fees).
Creating a viable 2021 points, miles or cash-back strategy is smart. If cash back happens to be more up your alley right now — and these bonus categories align with your spending — then you can’t go wrong with the Blue Cash Preferred.
Just remember there are pros and cons to picking a cash-back card over a travel rewards card, but if you don’t travel frequently and want the flexibility to spend your rewards in other ways, the Blue Cash Preferred might be right for you.
Featured photo by The Points Guy.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred, please click here.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: $Up to 350 Cash Back Terms Apply.
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION: $350
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Earn 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services and 3% cash back on transit. Plus earn 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%) and 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed for statement credits.
- Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership, up to $200 back.
- Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership. You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits.
- $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.
- 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%).
- 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
- 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more).
- 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
- Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, 13.99% to 23.99%
- Plan It® gives the option to select purchases of $100 or more to split up into monthly payments with a fixed fee.
- Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees