Credit cards, rewards programs add up to savings at the grocery store

Points or cash back + loyalty card + in-store dining + rewards card bonuses = a cart full of savings

Get more out of grocery shopping with your credit card

John Egan
Personal Finance Writer
Writes trendy stories about credit cards.

 

We spend a lot of time – and money – at grocery stores. In 2015, Americans forked over roughly $500 billion for groceries.

That leaves us with billions of reasons to make the most of our grocery-shopping excursions. Pair your credit cards with store reward programs, in-store dining, bonus cash back and store delivery and you can bump up your card rewards while you hunt for hummus and honeydew melons.

Store reward programs
Grocery stores want to keep you as a loyal customer. That’s why they’ve set up loyalty programs that offer special deals and perks for frequent shoppers. Pair your grocery store’s loyalty card with your cash back or rewards card and you can stack your rewards (card-linked discounts at the register + loyalty card savings at fuel pump + cash back or points earned with your rewards card).

Across the country, the highest-rated grocery rewards program is the fuel rewards program at Kroger, the country’s largest grocery store chain. Pretty much every major supermarket has some sort of rewards program in place.

If you have a loyalty card issued by a Kroger-owned grocery store, you can earn one fuel point for every $1 you spend on groceries and other items. Kroger awards bonus fuel points during promotional campaigns. Those fuel points can be redeemed with your rewards card at Kroger-owned gas stations and at participating Shell stations.

For each fill-up, Kroger lets you apply points toward a one-time gas purchase of up to 35 gallons. Each 100 points earned can be redeemed for a 10-cent-per-gallon discount. So if you’ve racked up 1,000 fuel points over the course of a month, that can turn into savings of $35.

Keep in mind that Kroger fuel points don’t carry over from month to month. In other words, if you don’t use them, you lose them.

At Randalls supermarkets in Texas, shoppers can score gas reward points, too, and scanning the loyalty card at the register subtracts cents or dollars off select produce and products in your cart. Save even more with Just for U digital coupons you select and link to your loyalty card.  

The bottom line: When you head to the grocery store, your credit and debit cards shouldn’t be the only cards in your wallet. You also should be carrying the grocer’s rewards card (or key fob or coupon app) to ensure you’re maximizing your savings and rewards on every trip to the store.

In-store dining
Experts say you can thank – or blame – the millennial generation for the rise of the “grocerant.”

In an effort to appeal to the millennial crowd, supermarkets have stepped up their offerings of in-store dining and prepared take-out meals.

The menu of “grocerant” dining options is vast, including Asian, seafood, Italian, Mexican and barbecue dishes fixed by in-store chefs, according to The NPD Group, a consumer research firm. Additionally, grocers are selling more grab-and-go salads, soups, sushi and a smorgasbord of other prepared items.

You still can buy food at the grocery store and fix meals at home, but if you’re really not in the mood for that, you now can just sit back and let your local “grocerant” do the meal prep – and the dishes – for you. 

Bonus: With your rewards credit card, you are earning cash back or points with every “grocerant” purchase.

Cash-back opportunities
Grocery shopping can lead to some of the richest cash back rewards provided by credit card issuers. Some cards offer grocery rewards year-round, while others offer them on a rotating basis.

Here are examples of both types of cash back grocery rewards:

  • The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express* gives 6 percent cash back on purchases at U.S. supermarkets, maxing out at $6,000 a year. At that cap, you will have earned $360 in cash back. After you’ve reached the $6,000 limit, you’ll receive 1 percent cash back on grocery purchases.
  • From April through June 2017, the Chase Freedom card lets cardholders earn 5 percent cash back on groceries, up to $1,500 in purchases. Chase Freedom is one of several rewards cards that cycle through bonus categories, which frequently include groceries. The 5 percent spending categories sometimes vary by year and quarter, but there usually is a three-month period in which you can rake in 5 percent cash back on every trip to the supermarket.

Supermarkets offer an array of activities
These days, your neighborhood supermarket can feel more like a community center than a place to buy groceries.

Grocery store chain Albertsons, for instance, hosts Hatch chile roasting events, nutrition workshops and community baby showers. Meanwhile, organic grocer Whole Foods Market sponsors yoga sessions, cooking classes and wine tastings.

These are just a few of the numerous activities going on every day at grocery stores. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of these activities is that many of them are free and open to the public. And the ones that cost you a bit? Put that on your card and you’ll earn more rewards when you learn.

Groceries proving more rewarding
That grocery store or supermarket where you fill your cart is adding new healthier products, organic produce and in-store wine bars or growler stations. In the kitchen, chefs are cooking up hot meals and refrigerated cases include seasonal or exotic ice cream flavors (HEB’s chocolate-covered strawberry or Winter Wonderland ice cream, anyone?) all aimed at foodies.

Many groceries are rolling out online ordering and at-home delivery to spare harried parents and on-the-go millennials the time-consuming trip to the store.

At every turn, you can rack up cash back or rewards points at supermarkets – even when you have groceries delivered to your door.

*The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date. Please see the bank’s website for the most current version of card offers.

See related: 7 ways rewards cards can trim holiday costsCard-linked offers: Shopping deals you're not aware of


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Updated: 11-25-2017