Wealth and Wants

The best cash back credit cards for parents


Parents with young children can maximize their cash back earnings by identifying where they spend the most with credit cards. For many families, it’s the supermarket and the gas station.

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of our partner offers may have expired. Please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

I love cash back credit cards because they give me free money on everything I buy.

In fact, I earned $1,602 worth of rewards last year.

Cash back cards particularly appeal to people like me. I’m married with a four-year-old daughter, and while I travel occasionally, it’s not a passion of mine. I prefer using cash back to offset everyday spending. And I always pay my bills in full to avoid interest (that’s key to any credit card rewards strategy).

In this post, I’ll take a deeper look at how fellow parents of young children can maximize their cash back earnings. Step one is identifying your top credit card spending category, and for most families that is (drumroll please) …

See related: Best cash back cards of 2019

The supermarket

My family and I spend nearly $900 a month on groceries, making it our second-largest expense behind our mortgage (which we can’t pay via credit card). We earn 3 percent cash back on up to $6,000 of annual grocery spending at U.S. supermarkets (then 1%) with the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. That’s $180 in savings per year. There’s also the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, which gives 6 percent back, also on up to $6,000 on purchases at U.S. supermarkets every year (then 1%), and charges a $95 annual fee for a net savings of $265 yearly.

If you buy your groceries at a big-box store such as Target, Costco or Walmart, you need to know that those purchases are not typically eligible for American Express’ grocery bonuses. People who buy a lot of items from those retailers should consider the stores’ co-branded cards.

  • The Target REDcard is my favorite out of those three. It gives 5 percent off every dollar you spend at Target stores and (you even get free two-day shipping online). This is a great deal, especially considering how many other kid-oriented things Target sells (clothes, toys, medicine, etc.).
  • The Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi is a great choice for gas purchases (4 percent back on up to $7,000 each year), and you can rack up 3 percent off eligible restaurant and travel spending. It’s not as generous at Costco itself, though (2 percent cash back).
  • The Walmart Mastercard isn’t nearly as appealing – it offers 3 percent back at, but just 1 percent in-store. If you buy your groceries at a Walmart brick-and-mortar location, your best bet is to use a flat-rate cash back card such as the Citi Double Cash Card, which essentially gives 2 percent back on everything – 1 percent when you charge and another 1 percent when you pay your bill on time.

Another card worth mentioning here is the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card. Cardholders get 5 percent cash back at Whole Foods and

Finally, you can earn 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 annually, then 1x) with the American Express® Gold Card, but it charges a much higher annual fee than any of the other cards I’ve mentioned ($250). And while points can be redeemed for cash back, this one is a better fit for people who want to exchange their points for free travel.

See related: A week at the ‘most magical place on Earth’

Don’t forget about gas

The good news for parents who play the credit card rewards game is that many of the best gas credit cards also offer solid value in other key categories. The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card, for example, gives 5 points per dollar on gas at the pump and 3 points per dollar on supermarket purchases.

The aforementioned American Express Blue Cash Preferred supplements its industry-leading 6 percent back at U.S. supermarkets with 3 percent back at U.S. gas stations. The Chase Freedom has given 5 percent back on gas in three of the past five quarters (and groceries in another). And the Costco Anywhere Visa (also mentioned above) is another solid choice at the pump.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the average American household spent $1,968 on gas in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available. You’d get about $100 in free money if you earned 5 percent cash back on that amount. And that’s the real point of cash back credit cards: getting something extra for money you would have spent anyway.

See related: 2018 gas card survey: Gas cards trail in the race to fill up your wallet

Paying with credit at the pump can cut into your rewards savings

Keep in mind that many gas stations charge a higher price for credit card transactions, as opposed to cash. Last night, I filled up for $2.69 per gallon with my Chase Freedom card (I would have paid $2.63 per gallon with cash). I still came out ahead – the effective price was about $2.50 per gallon after subtracting my 5 percent cash back – but the higher credit card price cut into my savings.

Here’s a workaround: you pay the cash price when you buy gas with a gas station gift card. So it’s a good idea to stock up on these cards when you can get them at a discount using an eligible credit card.

For example, a Chase Freedom cardholder might buy gas gift cards at the gas station itself this quarter, since they qualify for 5 percent cash back. But if the 5 percent category switches to groceries next quarter (as it did last year), then you should buy your gas gift cards at the supermarket. Always be maximizing!

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

What’s up next?

In Wealth and Wants

These rewards cards can help you book a free summer vacation

While snow and cold are gripping much of the country, it’s a perfect time to think ahead to a summer vacation. And right now is the perfect time to apply for a credit card with a handsome sign-up bonus.

See more stories
Credit Card Rate Report Updated: April 1st, 2020
Cash Back

Questions or comments?

Contact us

Editorial corrections policies

Learn more

Join the Discussion

We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, do not disclose confidential or personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers. Anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

The editorial content on is not sponsored by any bank or credit card issuer. The journalists in the editorial department are separate from the company’s business operations. The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by any company mentioned in our editorial content. Additionally, any companies mentioned in the content do not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.