Should I shop at Whole Foods if I have an Amazon credit card?

Cashing In with Tony Mecia

Tony Mecia is a business journalist who writes for a number of trade and general-interest publications. Every week, he answers readers’ questions about credit card rewards programs in his “Cashing In” column.

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Should I start shopping at Whole Foods if I have an Amazon credit card? 

If you already shop at Whole Foods, the 5 percent back with the Amazon Prime Rewards Signature Visa and now and 10 percent off specially marked items is a good deal. The discounts, though, don’t make Whole Foods cheaper than other grocery stores. 

Expert Q&A

Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

Dear Cashing In,
I have an Amazon credit card and just saw it now also gives 5 percent back at Whole Foods. I have never been to Whole Foods, but heard it is expensive. Is it worth it to shop there with the credit card? – Audrey

Dear Audrey, 
When Amazon bought Whole Foods in 2017, experts speculated the technology giant would move quickly to integrate with the upscale grocery store chain. And it has. It cut Whole Foods’ famously high prices, turned stores into distribution centers and is taking big steps into the booming market of online grocery delivery services.

On May 16, Whole Foods rolled out a new loyalty program for Amazon Prime customers, which includes an additional 10 percent off on “hundreds of sale items” and weekly deep discounts on select best-selling items. On May 30, the new loyalty program, which initially launched in Florida, expanded to Whole Foods stores in 12 states and all U.S. Whole Foods 365 stores, according to a news release.  

Two different Amazon credit cards

The merger is also paying dividends for credit card rewards. Chase used to offer credit cards that gave big category bonuses for shopping at Amazon. Now, those cards have big category bonuses at both Amazon and Whole Foods. Here are the details on those cards:

Amazon Rewards Visa Card
Annual fee
: None
Sign-up bonus
: $50 Amazon gift card.
Earning: 3 percent on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases; 2 percent at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores; 1 percent on all else.
Redemption: On Amazon for any item, or with Chase for cash back, gift cards and travel. 

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card
Annual fee
: None ($119 annual Amazon Prime membership required). 
Sign-up bonus: $70 Amazon gift card. 
Earning: 5 percent for purchases made at Whole Foods; 5 percent on Amazon purchases; 2 percent at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores; 1 percent on all else.
Redemption: On Amazon for any item, or with Chase for cash back, gift cards and travel.

When it makes sense to get an Amazon credit card

Are either of these cards right for you? Usually, a retail credit card will make sense if you shop at the stores enough to take advantage of the discount the card offers.

With Whole Foods, the Amazon Prime Visa card give you essentially a 5 percent discount, applied to future purchases in the form of points that are converted to Amazon credits. For instance, if you spend only $500 a year with Amazon, you’re receiving 3 percent back ($15) with the regular card and 5 percent back ($25) with the Amazon Prime card. That’s probably not worth it.

If you spend a bunch more with Amazon, and you spend a bunch at Whole Foods, then that money back can start to add up, especially with the Amazon Prime card. However, also note that Amazon Prime in 2018 upped its annual membership price to $119 from $99.

Throw in another 10 percent off select items in your cart (with the new Whole Foods loyalty program rolling out across the U.S. in coming months) and that 5 percent or 3 percent off on everything at checkout, and maybe the math works out that it is worthwhile for you to do your shopping at Whole Foods.

Tip

Tip: A retail card is only really worth it if you spend enough for the discount to make a difference. 

Savings at Whole Foods

As to whether shopping at Whole Foods is now economical because of a 5 percent discount there, it is going to depend on what you buy. The typical Whole Foods stocks more than 30,000 items. In some cases, they might be about equal to a traditional supermarket, while in other cases, they are likely to be more expensive. Organic food typically costs more than food that is not organic.

CreditCards.com and others have recently tried to answer the pressing question of how much more expensive Whole Foods is than its competition.

CreditCards.com writer Mike Cetera went to Whole Foods and Kroger to compare prices on 17 items in February 2018. His verdict in his piece, “Can 5 percent cash back help Whole Foods compete?”: Whole Foods’ prices were generally higher on the groceries he chose than similar items at Kroger – even when accounting for the 5 percent cash back when paying with the Amazon Prime Visa.

For a basket of 10 items, The Miami Herald in 2017 found Whole Foods was about 5 percent higher than Trader Joe’s, but 20 percent less than Publix, which is a large supermarket chain in Florida.

A 2018 report by investment firm Morgan Stanley found that with a basket of 60 items, Whole Foods was 27 percent more than Kroger, 22 percent more than Sprouts and 10 percent more than regional food retailers.

Your answer to your question of whether you should start shopping at Whole Foods since you have an Amazon credit card is that it depends. If you are buying items that are close in price to a competitor’s, then taking a 5 percent discount with your Amazon credit card could save you money. If not, then you’re probably best sticking with your usual grocery store.

Something else to consider: If you have a Blue Cash Preferred card from American Express, you could be saving more than with the Amazon Prime Visa at Whole Foods. Why? Blue Cash Preferred cardholders earn 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1 percent). 

Bottom line: Now you can stack your rewards at Whole Foods, earning cash back or points when you pay with a rewards card, and you can get extra savings from the new loyalty program when it is available at your store. Whether it makes sense to shop at Whole Foods, even with rewards cards and the new loyalty program, is up to you.

See related: Amazon offers prime members 5 percent back at Whole Foods, How to earn more points making Amazon purchases


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Updated: 10-22-2018