Parenting comes with lots of expenses. As long as you can pay your credit card bills in full, it’s smart to put that spending on the right cards to earn maximum rewards. Here are my recommendations by category:
A growing family can’t beat the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. It gives 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1 percent after that). Not to get ahead of myself, because this is the grocery category, but this card has other family-friendly rewards as well (6 percent cash back on select U.S streaming subscriptions and 3 percent cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit). There’s a $95 annual fee.
Honorable mention goes to the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. It doesn’t charge an annual fee. You only get 3 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets with the Blue Cash Everyday (it has the same $6,000 annual cap before the earn rate is reduced to 1 percent). The tipping point is $3,167 in annual grocery spending (about $61 per week). If you spend more than that, your grocery rewards will be higher with the Blue Cash Preferred, even after accounting for the annual fee.
The Ducks Unlimited Rewards Platinum Edition Visa Card offers 5 percent cash back on gas (and sporting goods stores) with no annual fee. This is one of the most underrated cards on the market and is worth serious consideration if you spend a lot of time driving your family here, there and everywhere.
Another option: The Chase Freedom® gave 5 percent cash back on gas in two of the four quarters in both 2018 and 2019. We don’t yet know what the 2020 calendar will hold. This card switches its 5 percent categories every three months (and that return applies on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter after activation, then cardholders earn 1 percent after that). While your annual gas return will be lower on the Freedom than the Ducks Unlimited card, the Freedom card presents more upside in other categories, and many people are reluctant to carry too many cards. Grocery, department and drug stores have been fixtures on the Chase Freedom calendar in recent years, so there’s a lot to like for families.
This is a category on the rise. As issuers continue to shift away from massive welcome bonuses in favor of more sustainable long-term value, transit is one of those habitual categories in which they’re offering higher earn rates (restaurants and streaming services are other examples of this trend). Besides the Blue Cash Preferred, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card, the Citi Premier℠ Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® are additional examples that grant 3 percent cash back or 3 points per dollar on public transit and/or travel spending. The Propel card is the only one of these that does not charge an annual fee.
Clothes (and more)
Because they sell just about everything, and because there’s a good chance you already have a Prime membership, I’m going with the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card. Cardholders earn 5 percent cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods, plus 2 percent cash back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores. There’s technically no annual fee for the card, but you do need to be a Prime member. That normally costs $119 per year (there are discounted rates for students and those receiving government assistance).
The Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card lets cardholders earn 4 percent cash back on entertainment (theme parks, tourist attractions, aquariums, zoos, bowling alleys, movie theaters, concerts, plays, sporting events and more), as well as dining. Plus, it gives 2 percent cash back at grocery stores. There’s also a really amazing 8 percent return when you buy concert, theater or sports tickets from Vivid Seats (through May 2020). The $95 annual fee is waived the first year.
The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card has a unique structure. Cardholders choose two categories each quarter that earn 5 percent cash back (up to $2,000 in combined purchases). The options are varied and not available on many other cards: streaming services, fast food, cell phone providers, department stores, home utilities, select clothing stores, electronics stores, sporting goods stores, movie theaters, gyms/fitness centers, furniture stores and ground transportation. This card also lets you choose one of the following 2 percent cash back categories: grocery stores, gas stations or restaurants and 1% on all other purchases.
The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card is another choose your own adventure card. Each month, you can select one of these 3 percent cash back options: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores or home improvement and furnishings. Cardholders also get 2 percent cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (the 3 percent and 2 percent categories are capped at a combined $2,500 in spending each quarter, and the earn rate reverts to 1 percent after that). This card really shines if you earn the 25, 50 or 75 percent rewards bonus by keeping at least $20,000, $50,000 or $100,000, respectively, in savings or investments with Bank of America.
Determine where your family spends the most money and decide how much work you want to put into your credit card rewards strategy. By choosing the best cards for you, you can earn hundreds — maybe even thousands — of dollars each year in cash back or travel rewards.
The information about the Citi Premier Card and the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.
Ted Rossman is the industry analyst and columnist at Bankrate.com and CreditCards.com. He has been interviewed by hundreds of media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, NBC Nightly News, CBS News, CNBC and Fox Business. Ted also writes the Wealth and Wants column for CreditCards.com, which focuses on cash back cards. He previously spent seven years as a member of the award-winning communications department at CreditCards.com and its sister sites, The Points Guy and Bankrate.com.