I’m a full credit card nerd and juggle at least five cards on a daily basis optimized for earning categories, rewards currency and benefits. Here’s why the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express is my favorite card of the pandemic.
When I first started working at CreditCards.com a couple of years ago, I had three cards – a gas card as an authorized user on my parents’ account (which I hardly used and was mostly to build credit), a student credit card that was also sitting unused and the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card as my first “real” step into the travel credit card card landscape.
Two and a half years later, I’m a full credit card nerd and juggle at least five cards on a daily basis optimized for earning categories, rewards currency and benefits. I’ve pulled my partner into my obsession too, strategically pairing his card applications with mine so we have a balanced household.
But with so many cards to my name, how do I choose a favorite? I have cash back cards, flexible travel cards and cards for specific loyalty programs. I earn rewards in at least four different currencies.
The truth is my most treasured credit card changes with my priorities. And for 2020, there was no question that the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express was the winner.
I signed up for the Blue Cash Preferred in 2019, and it was one of my favorites from the get-go. Then 2020 happened. COVID-19 and the transition to work from home turned my budget upside down. I was spending nothing on travel but found myself spending much more on groceries than I used to. No more relying on office snacks for breakfast and lunch!
Plus, like so many others, my quarantine hobbies included baking and trying new recipes to keep life interesting. If I was going to be stocking up on the nice flour for my sourdough starter, an Ethiopian spice that only came in one expensive brand or a drawer full of snacks to fuel working from home – I might as well be earning big on it.
Easy to say, my BCP – with its standout rate on U.S. supermarket purchases – went from having an already reverent space in my wallet to being my favorite card of the pandemic. I earned $500 in cash back last year alone on food I would have bought anyway.
Blue Cash Preferred Card: At a glance
The Blue Cash Preferred is best known for its generous earning rates on U.S. supermarket purchases, select U.S. streaming services and transit. Here’s what else it has to offer.
Why should you get this card?
Despite its high annual fee after the first year, the Blue Cash Preferred card is one of our favorite cards for families. It helps take the sting out of carpool lines and long commutes by offering a generous rewards rate on U.S. gas station spending, and it offers one of the highest cash back bonuses you can get when you use your card at U.S. supermarkets.
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
Other things to know
Most of my cash back on this card comes from grocery shopping, though I do have it set as my default on any streaming subscriptions that qualify. Since I live in just a two-person (and two-cat) household, spending above the U.S. supermarket purchases cap isn’t too much of a concern for me. If you split it down, you can spend $500 a month on groceries before hitting the cap – which I was able to hit almost exactly last year. (I resorted to buying gift cards once or twice, but generally, I didn’t need to alter my budget.)
With a fuel-efficient car and nowhere to go during the pandemic, gas and transit are also not high-spending categories for me right now. That’s what makes the earnings I’ve gotten with the Blue Cash Preferred so impressive – it’s really one category that’s doing the heavy lifting. Groceries made up about half of the spending on my card last year, and the other half was spread between the additional earning categories and a few strategic large purchases to earn cash back from Amex Offers.
Other reasons I love the Blue Cash Preferred
Considering the rewards rate, it’s easy to see why the Blue Cash Preferred can be a valuable card for grocery shopping or stocking up on quarantine supplies. But that’s only one of the reasons why I love this card. Here are a few more:
Like many other Americans, I’ve been embracing touch-and-go payments during the pandemic. Not only are contactless payments incredibly secure, but tapping to pay also saves me time (no need to swipe or dip) and means I’m touching fewer grimy surfaces.
It’s valuable beyond the first year
As you can see from my $500 earnings in 2020, I brought in plenty of cash back without having to rely on the initial welcome bonus I earned in 2019. Not many cash back cards boast such high returns. The Blue Cash Preferred does charge a $95 annual fee ($0 intro annual fee for the first year), but I easily offset that with how much I earn.
Amex has great customer service
I have cards from Capital One, Chase and American Express, so I’m well-versed in navigating issuer apps and customer service lines to get questions answered. While I can’t speak for every cardholder, I can say that I’ve had by far the most seamless experiences when I’ve had to reach out to American Express. Whether it was to increase my credit limit, inquire about eligibility for a new offer or fix a mistake with my address on my account, talking to American Express reps over the phone or online chat has always been quick and painless. (This seems to be a common experience too – American Express ranked at the top of the list for customer service among major card issuers in a 2020 J.D. Power survey.)
Beyond rewards, there are other Amex benefits that save me money
American Express card benefits are known to be some of the most comprehensive, money-saving perks on the market. While my American Express® Gold Card (which I signed up for toward the end of last year) is now my go-to for extra card perks, the lower-cost Blue Cash Preferred is not without its valuable benefits; I was able to save quite a bit with these before adding the Gold to my wallet. For instance, I’ve saved on shipping with a complimentary ShopRunner membership and tried out apps like Calm and obé for free for a limited time (some of these offers are no longer available).
It keeps me active with my passion
Cooking and baking are by far my favorite hobbies, and the Blue Cash Preferred rewards me for sticking to them. I earn way more on groceries than I do on dining out, and sometimes that’s the little kick of motivation I need to try something new for my foodstagram (instead of taking the easy way out and ordering takeout).
Why you should get the Blue Cash Preferred too
They say nothing is guaranteed but death and taxes. But let’s be honest – groceries are a big part of almost all of our budgets. Even if you prefer to eat out, you can stock up on all kinds of household staples at grocery stores. Why not earn a little cash back at the same time?
Plus, cash back is incredibly flexible, and you can put anything on your card to cover with a statement credit. The Blue Cash Preferred doesn’t require any of the rewards program-savviness or deal-hunting that many points-based programs do.
With my $500 last year, I was able to buy Christmas presents for my partner and still have money left over to get myself a little something special. It’s so nice to see these rewards accumulate and treat myself at the end of the year. And I didn’t even have to change my spending habits to do so!