Last October, I upgraded one of my Amex cards to the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express. Its bonus cash back categories have matched up well with my pandemic-era spending, and I even tried out Plan it for the first time. Here’s how I use the card to earn cash back.
We’re less than five months into 2021, and I’ve already earned $208 in cash back on a single credit card.
Back in October, I decided to upgrade my long-dormant Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express to its more costly – but higher-earning – sibling, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express.
Like many Americans, my wife and I largely stopped dining out last year due to the pandemic and started spending a lot more on groceries. We also have subscriptions to several streaming services.
Shifting our grocery and streaming spending from my no-annual-fee Chase cash back cards to the $95-per-year* Blue Cash Preferred made sense due to the latter’s bonus cash back categories. And it didn’t hurt that Amex offered me a $150 statement credit for upgrading from the Blue Cash Everyday and meeting a manageable spending requirement.
*$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
How I earn cash back with my Blue Cash Preferred card
Cooking at home and caring for cats
The Blue Cash Preferred offers 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, up to $6,000 in spending per year, then 1% after that. As of May 6, 2021, I’ve earned $149.94 in this category.
How do we spend so much at the store? Aside from our renewed focus on cooking at home, we get most of our cleaning supplies and self-care items at our local supermarket, along with food and litter for our eight cats.
That’s not a typo or an autocorrect mistake. We have eight cats.
And these fancy felines, who range in age from four to 17, won’t settle for just any generic store-brand kibble or soap-scented clumping clay. They eat the grain-free stuff, and they’re accustomed to doing their business in the World’s Best Cat Litter (actual brand name).
Watching TV and listening to musicEven before the pandemic, my wife and I were big-time streamers. We’ve been members of both Spotify and Netflix for years. A couple of years ago, we cut the cable cord and upgraded our Hulu account to Live TV, which saved us around $100 per month. And in early 2021, we added Peacock, mostly so we could continue watching reruns of The Office while doing stuff around the house.
The Blue Cash Preferred offers 6% back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, and fortunately all the ones I’ve mentioned here count. So far this year I’ve earned $20.68 from my streaming subscriptions – essentially two free months of Peacock.
A little bit of driving
While the Blue Cash Preferred card also offers 3% at U.S. gas stations and transit, we are just not traveling that much these days. The CreditCards.com team has been working remotely since March 2020, so I’m not commuting at all. The most time I spend in my truck is the 45 minutes or so I drive to and from my friend’s house for band practice on Saturdays. So my total cash back haul in these categories so far is $6.57.
Buying other stuff
Purchases that don’t fall into the bonus categories still get you 1% cash back, and I’ve earned $31.33 in the “everything else” bucket to date. That’s enough to pay for a delivery from our favorite poke joint if we’re not up to cooking.
My first “Plan it” purchase
During the day, I edit and publish stories from talented personal finance writers and credit card experts. By night, I’m a singer and guitarist in a rock band.
Or at least I used to be when live music performances were a thing.
But as vaccinations trend upward and COVID cases fade, my hometown of Austin, Texas, may soon get to reclaim its title as the “Live Music Capital of the World.” I’m starting to gear up in anticipation of taking the stage once again.
A few weeks ago, I got an offer in my Amex account to plan a purchase using the Plan it feature without paying the usual fee on top of the monthly payment amount. Around that same time, I also noticed while scrolling through Reverb.com that a guy in Orlando, Florida, was selling a mint-condition speaker cabinet that matches my main guitar amp at a reduced price.
So I pulled the trigger on the cabinet, and instead of having to pay off a somewhat hefty balance later this month, I can spread it out over a few months while I sell some unused gear to defray the total cost. I still earned cash back for my purchase, and I won’t have to worry about interest charges or fees in the meantime.
Why you should get the Blue Cash Preferred too
I can’t guarantee that you’ll get all the same offers I mentioned if you’re new to Amex. I’ve been a loyal and responsible customer since 2009 when I signed up for my first American Express® Gold Card.
But if you don’t already have the Blue Cash Preferred, now’s a great time to apply. It’s currently offering 20% back on Amazon.com purchases in your first six months, up to $200 back. And you can also earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in those first six months. What’s more, you won’t pay the $95 annual fee in your first year ($0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95).
If you spend a lot on groceries, streaming and gas, you’re guaranteed a haul of cash back that you can use for statement credits, charitable donations, gift cards or shopping online. So far, I’ve used all my cash back rewards as statement credits, but being able to buy gift cards with it could come in handy during the holidays or those months that are packed with family birthdays.
Don’t want to pay the annual fee? The Blue Cash Everyday gets you 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 in spending, then 1%), 2% back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores and 1% back on everything else.
But you don’t have to be a crazy cat person or a rock-and-roll weekend warrior to save big with the Blue Cash Preferred.