Ask an Expert: Best Cash-Back Cards for Groceries?

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Some credit cards have very generous cash-back offers on groceries, but they're not available to everyone.

This post comes from Jason Bushey, who writes about credit cards and personal finance topics daily on Creditnet.com.

I recently received the following question from a Money Talks News reader:

My husband and I did some financial spring cleaning during tax season, and one thing we learned is that we’re spending upward of $600 a month just on groceries. We’re a family of four with two growing boys so we’re not expecting to see these expenses go down anytime soon.

I’ve seen credit cards advertised on TV that offer bonus cash back on grocery purchases. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on which cards offer the most cash back on groceries for a family that eats as much as mine. (Which is to say, A LOT.) — Jennifer B.

My response

Believe it or not, Jennifer’s family’s grocery bill is actually considered tame compared with many U.S. households. The U.S. Department of Agriculture calculates that it costs at least $634 a month to provide nutritious food for a family of four with children ages 6 and 9.

Jennifer’s family is actually on the thrifty side when it comes to grocery purchases, but there’s still an opportunity for more savings via a bonus cash-back credit card applied to groceries.

The most lucrative bonus cash-back card applied to groceries available right now is the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express. This card offers 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets for up to $6,000 a year in purchases. So for every dollar spent at the local supermarket, members can earn a whopping 6 cents back, making this easily the most productive bonus cash-back card for groceries.

It also offers 3 percent cash back at U.S. gas stations and select department stores, and another 1 percent on all other purchases.

That said, this card isn’t perfect, and it’s certainly not available to everyone. First, you may have noticed the $6,000 cap on 6 percent bonus cash back. According to the USDA, the most thrifty of American households that feed a family of four should expect to spend about $7,600 a year in grocery purchases. So the 6 percent cash back is unlikely to stick through the whole year.

That said, a maximum of $360 in bonus cash back applied to groceries is nothing to scoff at, and members still earn 1 percent cash back on grocery purchases thereafter.

The biggest downside to this card isn’t the annual fee ($75 per year), but the fact that it’s reserved for excellent credit consumers only. That’s not a knock on the card. It’s just unfortunate that not all consumers have access to such a deal when grocery expenses continue to climb.

In fact, all credit cards with bonus cash back applied to groceries are reserved for excellent credit consumers. The Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express is similar to the aforementioned Preferred card; this one has no annual fee but offers 3 percent cash back on purchases made at U.S. supermarkets, again up to $6,000 per year.

Also reserved for excellent credit consumers is the Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard for excellent credit, which offers cardholders 2 percent cash back on groceries, gas and utility purchases.

In conclusion

Earning bonus cash back will almost always require above-average credit or better, and credit cards that specialize in rewarding grocery purchases are no different. There are other credit cards with slightly lower credit standards that offer 1 percent to 2 percent cash back on all purchases, but no card offers more cash back for grocery purchases than the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express.

For more money-saving tips at the grocery store, check out 16 ways to cut your grocery bill in half from Money Talks News writer Dori Zinn.

Stacy Johnson

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